August 26, 2006

I feel dirty…

Filed under: Apple/Mac, tech — Brian @ 1:30 pm

My old laptop at work finally expired, and I got a new one, fresh from the IS folks.

It’s a Dell Latitude D620, with a 2GHz core Duo and 2Gig of RAM, running Windows XP.

And I really like it.

I feel awful.

I’ve been a Mac user since 1985 – I still have my original Mac (the 128K) in the basement. I have poked my share of fun at Windows and Windows users for the better part of 20 years, now. I use an iBook at home, and I easily converted my wife away from the dark side soon after I met her. I use Windows only when forced to. And, actually, this isn’t so much about Windows as about the hardware it’s running on.

This new Dell feels so nice. With Firefox and Vim and Cygwin and a bit more self-installed geekery, it’s *very* comfortable. I’ve never had a Windows machine before that felt good to use, but this one does.

I must be clear; it’s not Windows that’s surprising me – Windows XP is as blandly usable as it’s always been. What I’m surprised by is the hardware. The built-in keyboard feels amazingly sturdy. Every keypress gives a nice firm-but-silent clicky feedback. The iBook (12″ G4, 800MHz, 3 years old) keyboard feels cheesy and plastic next to it. The display is wide and clear – showing almost twice the real-estate width-wise as I can get on the iBook. The power adapter is about half the weight of the one it replaces.

It would be cool to see how Linux handles something like this.

Now it’s certainly an unfair comparison. A 3-year-old, well-used, cheapest-they-made-at-the-time laptop to a brand new, mid-range one. But I’m used to it being unfair in the other direction; the new Windows machine wouldn’t be as nice as the old Mac.

Have they really caught up to being less than three years behind Apple now?

I must go to the Apple store and try out the keyboards on the new MacBooks.

(Oh – and I checked: the Dell battery isn’t on the recall list. But the iBook one is! Yay, free battery!)


August 18, 2006

Gift Clustering?

Filed under: whatever — Brian @ 7:50 pm

eWeek reports that Amazon has filed for a patent on “Gift Clustering”. What’s that, you ask? Let me pull a few snippets for you:

…a process that would allow Amazon customers to use the retail Web site to gather information on other customers, including “birthday, interests, occupation, education level, income level, location, race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.”

That information would be obtained by Amazon through several means, including “from a user profile for the recipient, from past ordering patterns of the recipient or from publicly accessible databases” and Amazon would then make recommendations based on “appropriate recipients for the items (e.g., religion and race),” the patent filing said.

So, Amazon gathers as much information about you as they can in order to figure out just what kind of person you are. Then they look up your “person type” in their list of “gift clusters” and then suggest that people buy you things that appear on the list of things they think “people like you” would like.

Hmm. I think we all like to think we’re more individual than all that, but maybe it would come up with some good ideas.

And maybe not.

The filing offers an example: “Some or all individual items may have categorization information associated with them (e.g., a toy with a suggested age range or a gender-specific health product) and, if so, the categorization information for the items in a gift cluster could be combined to create an aggregate categorization for the gift cluster.

I’m just gonna say that if you’re looking to buy something for me – no, for anyone – as a surprise, and the words “gender-specific health product” enters your mind, you’re very likely to be on the wrong track.

August 17, 2006

On the Quest…

Filed under: beanquest — Brian @ 8:19 pm

I started this blog to track my progress on figuring out what my spiritual gift is, and what I’m supposed to do with it. After a little while of that, I decided to open it up to pretty much anything. Lately it’s been a lot of “anything” (for generous defintions of “a lot”) and very little of The Quest. Come to think of it, the last thing I posted about that was probably from spring soccer season.

So, here’s the next thing I’m going to try.

Our new-ish youth minister gave the sermon a couple weeks back. It was about preparing the next generation, and he had two main points: 1- the “next generation” (the teenagers) are all about “tolerance.” They don’t believe so much in “right and wrong” as “to each his own.” I see that too. Not only in the kids, but all over the place – not least in the way much of the conflict in the middle east is reported. I used to share that philosophy myself – up until around the autumn of 2001. I still do place a high value on tolerance, but I do believe that some ways are better than others, some are flat out wrong, and I haven’t yet met a human who’s flat out right.

His second point was that if we’re going to get through to the next generation, we have to connect with them. We have to be honest with them, and accepting of them. (See – “tolerance” ain’t all bad.) His example – a somewhat simplistic one – was of the kid wearing a baseball cap during sermon. Someone in the congregation told the youth minister that he should go tell that kid to take his hat off, because wearing it is disrespectful. He said “no way.” In this case, the reason was that this particular kid had been through some very rough times at home, and this was his first day in church – he finally chose to come. So, he wasn’t about to go tell that kid he wasn’t welcome the way he was. But, more generally, he described the rule that “hats indoors is disrepectful” as a kind of “generational difference.” The kid with the hat on doesn’t mean any disrepect by it, and belittling him for it isn’t going to make him feel accepted for who he is.

When he was done, and the post-sermon music starterd, he asked everyone to sit. Then asked for the people who are willing to be there for these kids – to be willing to get close to them and really do something for them – to stand up. I stood. So did Jennifer.

We e-mailed him last week to find out what we can do to get involved. His reply? Come over and let’s talk. We’ll meet with him soon to do that and see where we might fit.

I am nervous about this possibility. I resisted Christ for so long, and so recently accepted Him, that I’m not sure I’ll be a good example to hang around with these kids. They’d see right through any facade I might try to put up, so there’s no faking it. I haven’t read the whole Bible yet. I can’t answer any questions anyone might have about anything in there. Not critical or difficult questions, anyhow.

But maybe there’s something about a new person like me that’s worth listening to. Maybe there’s some 15-year old guy who needs to spend some time with a man who’s not his father more than he needs precise spiritual guidance. Maybe it’s as simple (and as difficult) as that.

I didn’t quite connect with the 6-year-old soccer players. Maybe there’s something I can do for the older kids.

We’ll find out.

Suggestions from a 3-year-old

Filed under: fatherhood — Brian @ 7:46 pm

While riding in the car in the early evening, long before the mosquitos come out…

“Ooh – Dad! I know! Instead of shooting mosquitos with water… ” inhales deeply, then shouts in the loudest possible, squeaky high 3-year-old voice … “GUNS!!!”

August 14, 2006

You Are Not in Control

Filed under: whatever — Brian @ 8:14 pm

On the way home from work today, I saw a high school-aged kid on a bike get hit by a car at a stoplight.

He had the green, but the guy in the SUV making a right turn across his path apparently didn’t look to his right before going.

I missed seeing the actual impact by the tiniest fraction of time – I did see the boy fall to the ground. The car wasn’t going very fast, and the boy got up quickly. Well, slowly, but not painfully. He did not hit his head on the pavement, and I couldn’t see any blood from across the intersection. He was with a companion, who was still on the sidewalk while this all happened.

The driver immediately got out of the car, looking almost as shaken as the kid. Two other nearby drivers also got out. One digging in her purse for her phone. By the time the light changed, and I could go, it was clear there hadn’t been any serious injury, and there were several people out of their cars to help, so I just went home.

I don’t know if the driver was on his phone at the time, but that was my first thought, after having read Jim’s commentary on the stupidity of that particular selfish act just this morning.

Since my friend Dave was killed this spring, I’ve been taken aback by how not-in-control of things we are. I got an e-mail from the CPSC (I’m on the ‘recalls’ mailing list) with details of about a dozen children who were killed in their homes or yards by simple accidents when their otherwise-attentive parents were distracted for the briefest of moments. The point was to scare you into being more attentive. And, I suppose, wrapping your children in bouyant foam rubber and a heart monitor hooked up to a loudspeaker.

It occured to me, after reading that article (which I don’t recommend doing if you have children and are at all prone to worry), that all we can do is decrease the likelihood of an accident.

But no. All we can do is not increase it.

For the rest, there’s nothing to be done but to trust in God. And maybe it’ll all make sense after we’ve each had our own little tragedy, and get to see it all from the other side.

And maybe not. But from here, I sure hope so.

If you like to talk to tomatoes…

Filed under: pointlessness — Brian @ 5:56 pm

Nobody to blame but Jim.

(Or maybe my wife, who I see has chosen the same fabulously witty title for her tomatoism).

What Veggie Tales character are you?

August 13, 2006

Sunday Ride

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brian @ 1:58 pm

The weather today is beautiful. About 80 degrees, sunny and calm. After church today, I came home & grabbed a quick lunch before heading to the bike trail along the river.

This time, I went from the head of the trail up north to downtown Columbus and back. Almost 27 miles! How very cool that we have such a long, clear, smooth trail to play on.

All of the trail north of Ohio State is in trees and shade. The river is on one side, and it’s mostly open grassland on the other. A few houses, but none closer than about 75 yards from the trail. A high school, a few parks. There’s even a small (maybe 15 acre) wetland restoration project that the trail goes through. Last time, I stopped to watch a turtle cross the path there. We’re big on turtles around here.

Past OSU, it’s a little more urban (as you might expect, approaching downtown Columbus), but still well maintained and fun to ride. One of these times I’ll have to bring the camera and take my time with the ride.

Docked on the shore of the river in downtown Columbus is a “museum-quality” replica of the Santa Maria. That’s about where I turned around to head home. It’s much smaller than I’d expected – only 98 feet long.

August 11, 2006

A Gift from Dave. And Hooray, Adaptec!

Filed under: tech — Brian @ 6:58 pm

Among the last things I ever talked about with Dave was developing a decent computer backup strategy. He had three computers he used all the time – his work laptop, his personal tower (both Windows boxes) and an iMac. The iMac was a recent acquisition, but old hardware. He was coming around to the light side, I like to think.

Anyhow, he’d bought one of those USB hard drive enclosures – the kind where you put a normal internal hard drive inside, and make a portable drive out of it. We’d talked about partitioning a single drive into a Windows side for his Windows stuff, and a Mac side for the iMac. This was the kind of thing we’d talk about quite a bit. He was my Windows tech support, and I was his Mac OS tech support. And evangelist.

So, when we were going through his stuff after he died, and I came across the hard drive enclosure, I asked to take it, and his folks agreed.

Now, he hadn’t gotten around to using it, but had gone far enough to separate the power supply from the rest of the stuff. Very unusual for Dave – he was a thoroughly organized person, and things were always and only where they belonged.

We never found the power supply.

I took the enclosure to Radio Shack (“You’ve got questions, we’ve got blank stares”) and asked if they had a power supply that would work with it. “Nope. That’s proprietary.” Both sales guys concurred. (I found out later that no, it’s not proprietary; it’s the typical power supply for these external drive enclosures.)

So, I contacted Adaptec – maker of the enclosure. I told them that I’d recently acquired this drive from a friend, but it had no power supply, and could they help me out with the specificiations, or a place to order one. I got a reply within an hour, telling me to call their toll-free customer support number, and that they might be able to help me get one.

I called. The woman who answered told me they don’t do phone support for the drive enclosures, and I should try online. Ugh. I explained that the online guy directed me to the phone, and that I didn’t really need support, just a power supply.

“Oh,” she says, “if that’s all it is, you just need to e-mail the model number, serial number, and your address to us, and we’ll ship you out a new enclosure.”

“I don’t need the whole thing – just a power supply.”

“We don’t do parts. Usually, they’ll just send you a whole new thing.”

I thanked her, and sent the e-mail.

An hour later, I had a reply e-mail saying they’d be shipping me something the next day.

That was last Friday. Today, in the mail? A complete new hard drive enclosure. New in box. Time to try it out.

Thank you, Adaptec.

And thanks, Dave. Nyah, nyah – I’ll have better backups than you!

August 3, 2006

A Search; and In The Mail (two different things)

Filed under: pointlessness — Brian @ 6:15 am

I had a visitor yesterday who had found me by searching for “gallons of mucus.”
I hope he found what he was looking for.

Update: gallons of mucous in the comments (I had to figure this one out. Hi, Gwinne Gwynne!)

In the Mail: Yesterday – the October issue of Games magazine. (No, the point is not that I’m a geek to subscribe to such a magazine, it’s that it’s barely August yet and the October issue is here.)

It’s getting to be like car model years with these magazines.

And why do they send renewal notices three months into a one-year subscription?

Create a free website or blog at