Sunday, January 20, 2008

Geek Weekend: Part 4 Adventures with a netboot

It was bound to happen, after a few painless upgrades and installs, something was bound to go wrong.

I was trying to install Ubuntu from CDROM on the Dell Latitude C610, just like I did on the Inspiron. It would get partially into the process and then freeze and hang. It always hung at the same point: at 46%, trying to start the partitioner when it read "scanning disks". This was also a brand new unformatted drive, so my only options were that the CDROM had issues ( it was making a horrid grinding clunking noise) or my brand new hard drive had issues.

I broke down the laptop, removed the hard drive and put it back in, just to make sure there were no issues with how it was seated, or connections. It was perfectly fine. I tried booting from CD again. And Again. And Again. ( yeah, I can be stubborn in a "head to the brick wall" sort of way). I was starting to get tired and frustrated. At that point trying to boot from CDROM starting throwing FileIO errors and just complaining. I knew it was time to just shut off the laptop and take a step back. OK. At this point, I had to assume that the CD was bad. How was I going to boot? I figured it was either USB or the Network. I copied the ISO file to a USB thumb drive, but this laptop model does not have a "boot from USB" option. The Network it would be. I knew this would involve some other research and complications, so I voted to go to bed last night and approach it again $later.

After a full day of chasing kids, $later=tonight after dinner. Some research showed there were a few options:

1) mount the ISO image on a tftp server on the network and PXEboot to that
2) PXEboot using the Ubuntu netboot files and just pull the whole install over the network

Just to try something completely different, I opted for #2. It seemed like time for a change in approach and this was a good chance to learn a little more about netboot. Poking around on the web found some useful references here and here.

Now comes time for some true confessions. It has been about 7 years since I have done any serious sysadmin work, and a good 5 years since I spent time immersed in unix or linux. The command line is coming back to me as I work, but I am not even close to as comfortable as I once was. ( really, this is one of the reasons for doing the linux installs... beyond hoping for something other than VISTA to migrate to). I was prepared to do the tftpd and SHCP server installs and configs on the Ubuntu installed Inspiron and even started down that road. Then I found this site on how to use a windows box as the tftpd and DHCP server and I took the cheesy route. I wanted failures to be because there was really a problem, not because I made a typo in a config file. Remember, at this point I was still not sure if the new hard drive was good.

Bad try #1: Attempting to use the windows box as the tftpd server, and my default DHCP setup on the linksys router.

Problem #1: for some reason, my router decided to lose its brains and not let me log in. At All. Or even display the login prompt. Or re-assign DHCP when I powered it off and back on. For a moment, it looked like the router was trying to become toast. I did a restore to fosctory defaults, reconfigured it, then poked about for a good way to designate the PXE startup file. Nothing I could find easily.

Bad try #2. Attempting to use the windows box at the tftpd server and DHCP server. This came so close. I actually got to the PXE and the install started. But once I got to the menu where it prompted me for an archive, it always responded that I had a bad archive mirror or it was not available. I checked from another computer, and the archive was in act present and serving files. Sigh. This laptop was really wanting to be scrapped. Seriously.

Problem #2: A little poking around and I found this mention that although all the instructions tell you to leave the WINS setting alone, you need to put your default gateway in as the WINS server. Yep, sure enough. Woot. Now I had a full intall going nuts.

Problem #3: OK, this was not really a problem, but a momentary freak out. The install paused and ran and ran at the point where it was starting the partitioner and scanning the disk. I was convinced for about 60 seconds that the hard drive was bad after all, and all of this had been an exercise in futility. But the install cranked forward and everything was OK

Problem #4: After install over the net, I had a good install of core Ubuntu. Command line only. no Desktop or programs or..... Yikes. OK, Yes, I used to live in this world, but I do not know Ubuntu at all yet.. WTF? I really wanted a desktop and some cool applications to play with tonight. Although an unrelated cause, this link gave me the command to do the apt-get for the desktop. I really need to read up on apt-get.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch... while all this was downloading and installing over the network, I decided to run the Xubuntu install on the very old Compaq M300. The install from CDROM went smoothly for this one and was actually completed before the over the network install of Ubuntu desktop was completed.

Problem #5: D'oh- do NOT forget to reset the BIOS so that the newly installed laptop does not try to go out to the network and re-do the install.

So, I now have one laptop with Ubuntu and another with Xubuntu. I am going to go toddle off to the office, plug them both into the network and so the software updates and alternate installs. My next post may well be from Ubuntu land.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Geek Weenend: Part 3

Ubuntu 7.10 install on Inspiron 5600 with new laptop?

Wonderfully easy.
This install included a HardDrive replacement on the laptop( the old hard drive was dying) and an install of Ubuntu from CDROM. The install was fast, smooth and very easy.
I added on a Java and Netbeans install for Ogre and it is ready for basic stuff.
Things still to debug/do:

1) could not get wireless working with our current WEP setup ( it wanted a 128 bit key or nothing.. I really did not want to have to go there). I opened up the security on one of our access points( not like we have many high tech neighbors nearby, anyway...) and it connects just fine. I would like to dig into this more tonight and figure out how to get it working with WEP.

2) Still need to configure it to mount the shared drives on the network. This is probably not the most important thing, shared drives here are either media or network backup. But I want to get it set up before the weekend is over, so backups will be easy later.

3)Decide on a methodology and configure to connect to the HP InkJet Printer on the network. Still thinking on how I want to do this.

4) Get AVG on it. GOing to do rounds of AVG stuff on all computers tomorrow, so this one is just waiting.

All in all, I am pretty pleased with how it went. Now, the install on the Lattitude C610 is just not going as pretty... more on that later on. For now, I need to go back to wrestling it and cooking dinner.

Geek Weekend: part 2

Part two is short, sweet and simple. A memory upgrade for the old eMachine computer in my youngest daughter's room. It is a good little machine, really. All she does is word processing, internet ( read facebook and youtube),iTunes for music and watching DVD movies with her friends during sleepovers. It was originally a Win2000 box when we bought it new back in the day, and it got updated to XP a couple of years ago. At that point, with 256 MEG of memory, the performance got very very draggy. Since she was only using it for schoolwork and paper typing up until about 8 months ago ( is is not quite 14), it was bearable. However, as she grows into more and more video and music on the box, it was becoming painful to even listen to, much less to watch her use.
So, a fairly cheap 1 Gig memory stick to add in, and voila! now she has a box with significantly less drag and more zip.

Geek Weekend: Part 1

The weekend actually got an early start, because Dell Delivery was insanely fast, and parts for Desktop, along with both laptop hard drives, arrived late Thursday afternoon. So it was a memory and video card upgrade evening.
I was upgrading a Dell E510 to 3gig memory with an Nvidia Gforce 8400 card. It was insanely easy. Plug and chug for the memory, and a plug in and a driver install for the video card.

Life is very sweet at 1920X1200 on my desktop, and I can not believe how QUIET this computer is when it is not paging Virtual Memory off the hard drive all the time. It is a joy.

I was tempted to start on the laptops then, since it all went so smoothly, but I still had to work in the morning and was concerned it would turn into an all night affair. So- off to bed and dreaming of a world in rich rich color definition.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I told you once was not enough

Early this week, in preparation for the upcoming announcement of iTunes movie rentals, I rented a movie from Amazon through Amazon unbox. I wanted to play with the competition a little before I tested iTunes, and I am becoming more and more enamored of the Amazon mp3 store, so I wanted to see how their movie download process worked before iTunes woo'd me. ( more technical stuff after I get some sleep...)

The prices on both services are the same, and the terms are the standard, stupid watch it once within a 24 hour period some time in the next 30 days that all downloadable rentals are doing. This is the major reason I will not be doing this very often. Once is never enough in our family. I could not stand the thought of spending 3.99 to see a movie once on my computer screen ( yes, I AM cheap), so I found one of the movies on sale. It was .99 to rent at the time. Less than a bottle of pop- I can drop that without blinking. It was Waitress, a movie I had never heard of- but had the bonus that it starred Nathan Fillian.
It turned out to be a slightly sappy but wonderfully romantic, OMG almost made me cry and got me hot and bothered movie. I watched it tonight, because sleep was eluding me. It will go immediately on my Netflix queue.
Why would I put it on my Netflix queue?

1) I have two teen-aged daughters, and once you get beyond the fact that the two main characters are having an affair, this movie is about real love, and not settling. It is about how that moment of birth is transforming. It is about taking care of yourself and the ones you love. It is about having faith in yourself. It is about being able to start fresh, even if you made some mistakes and having life still turn out wonderful. It is exactly the kinds of things I want them to learn. I want them to see this movie. With Xandra's schedule, it is unlikely they will be able to see it at the same time. That is at least 2 more viewings next week. And then I want it here next weekend, so I can watch it again while Ogre is here and the kids are gone. It is incredibly romantic in a million unlikely ways, and well, it made me feel like this- I want to share that with the one I love.

So, this unlikely, movie that was just part of a small technology experiment cemented my belief that the draconic playback limitations of Rented VoD embedded in every major player will prevent this from ever taking off and being a huge success in the middle class family market. Kids will not learn this from their parents, the model does not hold for how kids watch movies. Teens will not pay the cost very often- they do not have that much money. The single, well employed folks who live alone and watch a movie once and return it will be the largest market. That is certainly enough to make some money, but it is not even close to what it would take to replace a Netflix or a BlockBuster.
Now I need to convince my body to sleep...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Weekend Forecast: Full Geek Mode

Thanks to a man with a dream, we have a long weekend coming up here in the states. I decided it was time to make some of my dreams come true, and get caught up on some hardware/software maintenance as well.

To prep for this, I have renewed my AVG licenses ( to be installed this weekend- easy peasy)
ordered new hard drives for 2 different laptops, ordered a video card and memory from two different vendors ( one batch from Dell/one batch from eMachines for an old computer we have here) and will hopefully be picking up some very old laptop SDRAM from a friend.
I need to rollback a windows bases flash only terminal box we have sitting around from an old project, as it will make a great web browsing/reference "terminal".
I need to fix an auto disc mapping issue with the shared media drive on two computers.
There should be at least 3 Ubuntu installs in the mix.
If it all goes well and nothing explodes I will end the weekend with at least 4 additional computers functional in the household. This is probably some sort of horrible sin, since it will put us at more computers than humans in the family-- but it feels worse to me having hardware just sitting around gathering dust. We frequently have folks over who borrow computer time, so this will ease some of the crunch that way.

One of them is the "terminal", one a very old but wonderfully thin and portable M300 that will have Ubuntu and be perfect for ultra portable writing anywhere. I am claiming this one as my writer's brain. It gets no games, no second life, none of the silly experimental stuff. If all the installs go well, I may even track down a USB wireless connector so that I can do the write and post thing from almost anywhere. It is a master of portability, and at 3lbs, easy to take on trips and to coffee shops to help me get significantly more writing productivity.

With 4+ kids and Ogre on a mission to get significant progress done on the office storage cupboards, this should be a geek adventure indeed. I will tag all the posts on the ups, downs and progress as I go under "admin".

The MacWorld Point people are missing

I have been having a lot of fun remotely watching the craziness and goings-on at MacWorld this week. There are a handful of liveblogs of the Steve Jobs Keynote for this event that you can go and read. It is interesting to compare the coverage and reporting in different live blogs, what people think is interesting or not. There is a little blurb in the Engadget liveblog that jumped right out at me. It was not even reported on some of the other blogs, so small and inconsequential is it to Apple specific technology and developments. It was this excerpt from the Keynote when Jim Gianopulos ( Chairman & CEO of 20th Century Fox) took the stage [emphasis added are mine]:

10:06am - "The real back story, when Steve came to us, it was a no-brainer. It was the most exciting, coolest thing we've ever heard. VoD isn't a new thing. But there was music, and then the iPod. There was a phone, then the iPhone. Apple does things in an intuitive, insightful way... this will be a transformative version of the rental model. We're incredibly excited about it."

"There's another idea we've been talking to Steve about. There are other formats -- DVD. And there are next gen formats, like Blu-ray." Laughter and applause. "People still want to buy hard media, but we don't want to deny them the benefit of watching the same movie.
So we developed a digital copy that will be on discs going forward."

Stuck in the middle of all of the hype and hoopla about movie rentals on iTunes and making this VoD for real is an interesting little tidbit. Fox intends to put a digital copy of all of its movies on the DVD. So when you buy a hard copy of the disc, you also get a digital copy you can copy to your computer, load on an iPod, put on a file server at your house and watch in a digital home video system, etc.
As far as I am concerned, this is actually a REALLY BIG deal. Some poking around on the web shows that someone with the new Family Guy DVD ( the first DVD to include this feature) confirms this functionality. There is no detail on the functionality/DRM built in. From the MacRumors report, it looks like this will require iTunes and will most likely be DRM'd. However, this is a step forward from the original Fox plan which worked only with Windows and PlaysForSure devices. It is not clear if this means they are abandoning their Windows only path, or if both types of files will be on the DVDs.

This is not the complete solution- none of this works on Linux or Unix computers, it is all still completely laden with DRM, but it is at least 5 steps in the right direction. I hate The Family Guy, but I am tempted to go buy the DVD, just to support the move. Most likely I will check the FOX releases and see what is being released soon. We are a household of media consumers, currently two of us having video capable iPods, three with laptops and 2 portable DVD players- if I can buy a disc and also get digital versions of the movie that the laptop and iPod users can play, I may actually start buying DVDs again- not just renting them. How about you?

Altering my Mental Map

I am lousy at mental geography, I am the first to admit it. But this morning I was faced with just how bad it was. It was 6:20am and I was working from my home office and talking with someone in Brazil. I am in the Eastern Time Zone in the United States. I indicated some surprise that she was also working so early ( heck, the truth is, we all work odd hours and around the clock, but it is more polite to notice it and compliment your co-worker for those sorts of things). She responded that it was not early there, it was almost 9:30 am. My brain froze. I thought I was talking with someone in Brazil, but wasn't Brazil pretty much directly south of me? Mexico is an hour to the west, and Brazil goes back east again.... in my mental map, we were pretty much aligned. Where did our company have an office that was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean? 3 hours later was 3/5 of the way to England... "I am in Brazil", she responded. "ahhh.. " I answered, my brain being too busy re-drawing mental maps to say anything witty.

We finished our call and then I sat there, pondering the huge-ness of South America and the fact that the eastern most part of South America juts out 3 Time Zones further into the the Atlantic Ocean than the East Coast of the US. True confession that some may call shameful, but I had NO clue. Somehow, with the North/South offset Between Europe and South America, their relative closeness in the East/West direction just never clicked.

In a world of teleconferenced business deals, the fact that Brazil does a tremendous amount of business with Europe suddenly makes a LOT more sense. Now, be honest-- did this reset Your mental map, too?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008 tests- come and play please

I have added a widget to the page, to test some of the interesting functionality. Feel free to send me something interesting... a poem, a picture of your dog, a virtual gift. Please do NOT upload anything you do not already own the copyright to. It WILL be deleted post haste. This is a public box, so do NOT upload anything you do not want the rest of the world to see( if you don't care if the rest of the world gets a good glimpse of your latest odd piercing, I don't mind looking- but others will see). Please remember that this is a public blog and do not upload anything explicit.

I also want to test the voice to mp3 functionality. I will probably be calling later and creating something ya'll can listen to, but you can try it out as well. Just dial 646-495-9201 x 91355 and leave me a message, or leave a message for the world.

Hmm.... this may turn into an interesting experiment into human nature, graffiti and self control....

Reviews of the technology and the experience in a future blog post. Feel free to comment and leave your thoughts about the user interface/experience.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I'll take this kind of Karma any day

The new Fiskers Karma is one sweet ride. I am not usually all about the car.. as long as it has wheels and runs without my feet touching the street through the floorboards and the heat and the tunes are functional, I am OK. But how can you not love a car like this? Pull up next to me in one of these and I would probably jump in for a ride- even if it were a deviation from my schedule. Just because it is a sweet ride, don't expect to get any further than our destination... but I bet it would make a sweet story for the Top Gear guys.

The blame game: Technology is evil

"Professor Tara Brabazon, from the University of Brighton, said too many young people around the world were taking the easy option when asked to do research and simply repeating the first things they found on internet searches." So states an article in The Argus earlier today.

This is without a doubt a true statement, what is troubling is her solution :Ban Google and Wikipedia as options for her students doing research projects. I am so very tired of the people playing the blame game and turning the blame around to the newest technology. Yes, too many educators adopt technology without thinking about how/why to use it in their classroom. But many do a great job with it- working hard late at night to update lesson plans to be sure students are learning relevant information, technologies and life skills. The fact that students are being lazy and taking short cuts on their work has nothing at all to do with the technology and everything to do with the nature of students.

Let's take a little trip back into the way back machine. Way way back when I was in grades 7-10, the xerox copier was becoming much more common place. ( told you I was old) Libraries were starting to make them available to the public for small fees. Usually the fees to copy were small enough that students could easily xerox whole pages from books at once- making the process of note taking very simple. However, some students took the easy way out and were soon turning in research papers that were copies of article out of World Book or Encylopedia Britannica. Others were blindly quoting what third level sources told them without going back and checking facts. Teachers were angry and frustrated at how this new technology was destroying the students ability to write original papers- so they banned the use of xeroxes during library time and you were required to turn in hand written 3X5 index cards with your notes on them to prove that you actually wrote notes and did not just xerox them. In some small percentage of cases, this probably discouraged students from copying whole articles from the encyclopedias- but it never did keep students from blindly quoting and writing the first references that they found and doing fact checking. As a matter of fact, it tended to discourage lots of fact checking, because the process was painfully manual.

The really good teachers incorporated the copy machine into their lesson plans and used it to free up time students would have been manually writing notes and gave lessons in how to be discriminating with sources, do good analysis of opinions and facts stated in articles and spent time helping students learn to find great sources. These teachers focused more on the process of analysis than on the process of hand writing notes.

I do not believe that this was a new story with our generation, either. I have an odd mental picture of University lecturers griping about the deterioration of their student's memorization abilities, because of the introduction of the printing press.

This is not a new idea- Neil Postman actually addressed this in his book "Amusing ourselves to Death", in which he posits that the current media format ( specifically television, but also web video, etc..)has considerably eroded our attention span. I do not argue the truth of this, or that it is a mental capability that people need to continue to work on build and enhance. The ability to hold long threads of thought, argument and discourse is part of what allows researchers to innovate and discover new things. However, the solution is NOT to become luddites and ban technology so that we can get our attention span back. There is simply too much information today for very old techniques( memorization, oral tradition) or even moderately old( card catalogs, book indexes, flipping journal pages) to suffice in a comprehensive search of information. A better approach is to first teach effective search technique and then to spend lots of time on the oldest subject around- critique and analysis of sources.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Unlimited(??!!) Streaming downloads from Netflix

The AP reports that Netflix is poised to release news that they will lift the monthly "view instantly" streaming video limits currently on their plans. A quick check over on my Netflix account does not yet show any changes or updates. Perhaps I need to wait until after midnight to see if this helps. This is seen as a presumptive strike against Apple's anticipated Movie Rental/Download service, expected to be announced at MacWorld this week.

When this service first came out from Netflix, I was very excited. And truth be told, I was really hopped up about it. But the reality quickly set in, and I have never once come close to hitting my maximum hours. This is really no big thrill. I am the perfect candidate for this service. I have a PC with a high speed connection and a Huge wide screen monitor in my bedroom, so I can tune in movies and watch them in bed. Heaven, right? Would be except the movie selection pretty much sucks. OK- corrected statement , you can not say it is full of bad movies when it contains movies like Tootsie and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, these are great movies. There are some great classics on there, but I am not a "watch this movie a million times, because I love it so" kind of gal. I watch a movie once, maybe twice and then not again for years and years. The balance of the selection is filled with Shows from the History Channel and Rock and Roll Documentaries. Again, not all bad-- but not the variety that suits the whims of my fickle movie viewing mind.

Then there are the other strange hoops and jumps to watch the movies-- first off, it only works on the Windows OS, so if you run Macs or Limux or any other OS.. You are SOL. Then, even if you have a windows box, their player requires that you be using the MS Explorer Browser. I wonder how much MS paid them for that one, or what sort of lazy hack of a programmer sold that as a good idea. Last I checked, 75% of the browser hitting up this Blog were running Firefox.

The article expresses financial concerns for this move by Netflix, as the extra load will cost them more money- but unless they fix a bunch of other things about the service, I see this as no increased burden at all. I would love some data from Netflix, showing how many users currently already max out their allotment and will be excited to hear about this option. Looks more like empty PR smoke to me. Once Apple ( or Amazon, or anyone else) starts allowing download rentals of current movies, with hotter content with an easy, cross platform portable playback option? Netflix downloads are sunk. I will still not stop getting Netflix DVDs in the mail ( at least for now...) but I will be checking out those other rental options.

Rambing, Stumbling Saturday night

I a fairly certain that my Synthroid dosage is too high, leaving me fractured, irritable and easily distracted.. blood work on Monday will show if that is true- in the meantime I am on mad house cleaning/organizing sessions and wild late night tromps around the wilds of the internet. Something good and/or interesting should come out of this, right?

Here are some of the things that might make you stop and ponder the energies that are expended in the great wild web:

I enjoy BSG. I was a big big fan early in the show, then got grumpy about the soap opera-esque turns some of the shows were taking. I admit I missed a few episodes. But this very very cool art and the hints for next season mean that I am going to have to get caught up before the new season in April. It may be marketing, but it just worked...( spoilers if you did not watch all of last season.. big huge jaw dropping ones...)

Since I have teenagers sleeping over at my house tonight, it is likely I will be making waffles from scratch tomorrow morning. ( apparently few moms do this any more, it is highly requested). It would be even more fun if I had this keyboard waffle iron. This is just way way too cool. (I do accept gifts)

If you really like to play with your food, you should consider this "how to" article on making edible Flying Spaghetti Monsters...

I had to add a link to a picture of this very cool art... insanity is about how I feel these last few nights. Imagine 99 wolves, streaming full force in a pack chase... straight into an invisible glass wall. Wow.

Then the art takes a truly twisted turn. 'nuff said.

I am not sure if this qualifies as art or not, but a life sized Christopher Walken Mask, every true fan should have one. If you do not know yet why you should be a Walken fan, comment and I will follow up.

The art having taken me down twisted and dark alleys into fear and despair, I returned to the geek... a T-Shirt from ThinkGeek that has a wi-fi detector built in. Now if we could only get shirts like this with "jerk" detectors in them....

Finally, as the late night munchies and cravings gnaw at my stomach and my mind, I leave you with an excerpt from Michael Pollen's newest book: In defense of food; whose opening lines I hold dear to my heart: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Who's a llama?

I am supposed to be writing serious things.
Solution Architecture Documents ( yes, that is SAD, I did NOT name it) are waiting for my formalization.
An Essay on the advantages of simulation for small and mid sized manufacturers, with serious quotes from the Under Secretary of State.
Instead? Here is what is stuck in my brain:

That is thanks to Toni... who posted it on her blog over here.

So of course I had to respond:

Serious now.

llama, llama, llama, llama, duck. ( truck? jack?)
Maybe sleep instead?

What is your favorite Dr. Who Mashup?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Help me Obi Wan...

R2D2 can now project video in your living room.

Unfortunately, he still needs a screen.

Somebody please make something that just blows me away this show, would you.... ( and I do not mean tasered to the floor)

There are interesting trends in the hints and pieces, but nothing that has blown me away.....

video viewing up... are we really surprised?

The online world is all a-twitter today as people work through this recent Pew Internet& American Life Survey report. The BBC first reported that "Online video sharing sites are reaping the benefits of the ongoing writers' strike in the US." in this article. That led TechCrunch to write an article that quoted the BBC article and recently released Nielsen Online numbers that show "According to Nielsen’s figures, YouTube’s audience was up 18% in the two months after the strike started and Crackle doubled its audience from 1.2 million users to 2.4 million users".

Now, I have no doubt that these numbers are correct. Gods know I watch more and more video online every day ( no it is NOT all NSFW, thank you). But to attribute this so strongly and immediately to the writer's strike is yet another example of people's misunderstanding of co-incidental events. Before I even link the two, I want to see the trends from last year. What was the growth pattern over the months of the year in 2006? After all, the Pew report very strongly shows that teens and young adults are some of the biggest consumers of video, and the November/December time frame includes long holidays, end of semester breaks, etc.. They certainly have significantly more time on their hands to cruise the net than other times when classes are in session. (yes, I do know that there are some folks who watch YouTube on laptops in lecture halls..).

Then, I want to see the numbers on a graph with a matched time pattern for other events. Hulu released in early November. YouTube released a new interface somewhere in that time frame and made it easier to subscribe. Joost did a serious push for viewers and was running strong promos in October. Presidential candidates started getting serious on YouTube, electoral coverage is live on YouTube and getting promo'd in the mainstream press more and more.

I believe that there are a myriad of reasons that online video viewing is up... but that the writer's strike is actually one on the smallest. The BBC article sounded more like it was written to make the writers on strike look strong, than by someone who atually watches video online.

What about you? Have you purposely turned to the web for video to fill a hole in your TV viewing habits??


Rather than keeping this test archive floating around on the bottom of every page, I am archiving it here.

ISPs to play big brother ?

Engadget reports that AT&T is talking with the MPAA and the RIAA about implementing network level solutions to filter pirated materials. This is a very parental position, where it has become a matter of "if you can not control your own behavior, we are going to control it for you". Studies continue to show that the majority of traffic on the internet is P2P( with some numbers as surprisingly high as 80%), and the majority of that is video. As far as I am concerned, video has the majority of the share merely because the files are so much larger. There is no good data ( nor a good way to get it) to tell if the number of music or video files is larger. Number of files would give you a better measure of the incidence of file sharing in each format. But governments, large companies and the RIAA and MPAA look at those numbers and say to themselves "there is no way that is all legal...." and are thus motivated to go after the offenders. Here is where we get into murky ground in my opinion video is split between TV and movies, with often equal splits between the two.

In my mind, Movies are easy. If you buy a movie, you should have the right to copy it to a digital format and watch it in your own home on whatever platform you want. But this in no way gives you the right to share that digital copy for use anywhere other than on your equipment. That is, you are not allowed to then give copies of that movie to your friends, neighbors or strangers on the street- no matter what the format or media you share it in. The only way you are allowed to share is if you lend them your originally purchased disc. It never ceases to amaze me that people who are very loudly supporting the writers strike also think they should have the right to give away copies of movies. Is the irony of this not obvious to everyone else?

TV is trickier. Not trickier according to the written law, of course- trickier in figuring out what the real solution should be. To understand the culture of what is acceptable and how we got here, you have to go back to VHS. The industries had complete meltdowns when home recording equipment was first released on the market, and predicted the end of all time. This end did not, as we see, come. But what happened was the birth of time/place shifting. People started recording the shows they love and watching them later. After some debate, it was determined that recording shows for your own individual usage was completely legal. But then you were at work ( or school) and talking to someone about the big episode that just aired and your cube mate says "dang, I missed that episode".
"well, didn't you tape it"
"no, I have not figured out how to work the programming on that yet, and I was not at home"
What is your response?
"well, I taped it- you can watch it and then return the tape to me".

Returning the tape in those days was important- they were not cheap. Technically, this was illegal. But should it be? Most people would answer no. Their gut tells them this is fair use. What was the difference if they came to your house and watched it with you or if they took it to their house, watched it and then gave it back? There was not much the industry could do to intervene in this sort of activity, so although it was technically illegal it was ignored.

I would contend that that TV portion of P2P is mostly this sort of behavior. Those who know how ( or who have the equipment to) recording TV shows and sharing them. Is it illegal, Yes. Should it be- probably not. The only reason that the industry is pushing for this to be controlled is that they are convinced that if people could not download, they would buy more TV shows on DVD. I contend this is not true. It does not lose them cable subscribers, because 99% of the ISPs out there who provide cable internet require you to subscribe to digital cable TV in order to receive cable internet. if you do not have high bandwidth connections, you are not going to be downloading video files- it is just too painful. The other reason for file sharing of TV shows is unavailability through normal broadcast. Our water cooler has gotten very large. It is not just folks who live in the same neighborhood- it is a global water cooler. And when people are discussing tv shows they watched last night, they want they same things everyone else is talking about. If your teammate at work now happens to be in another country ( mine are), and you are discussing tv, the whole "here, borrow my copy" issue comes up again. Only this time the copy is not a video tape, it is bits and bytes on a hard drive. Be certain, it is not just folks in other places wanting current US shows.. the folks in the US are busy downloading shows from BBC and India and China and....
If the TV portion of video sharing ( about half, give or take some depending on the region) were considered legal, how do we tackle the other half?

Why do people illegally distribute copies of movies? I can come up with a list of reasons why people might download them.. but what is the motivation for uploading them? Have you ever uploaded or illegally shared a movie you own? What was your reason/motivation?

There is a lot of discussion on this still to be had... but I need to bolt to work. Comment and let me know what you think.

Hands Off!!???

I am often confused by the world that my teen-aged daughters live in. Not the one in our house.. but the one that consists of their peers and social networks.

My daughters could not be more different on some notes: one is a serious student, the other brilliant, but not interested in spending any more time hitting the books than she has to. One is quiet, has a few close friends and even though I try to talk about a broad variety of topics at the dinner table remains fairly socially sheltered-- mostly through focus and oblivion. The other is a social butterfly, with a wide network of many casual friends and an easy way of getting to know people. She talks endlessly on the phone and on Facebook, and has a gossip network that travels faster than light. She responds strongly to peer pressure and is concerned that if she is a teenager without breaking rules she will have missed the crux of what a teenager is supposed to do.

Strangely enough, they are both very conservative when it comes to sex. I do not mean worrying over sexual orientation or gender identity. We are way beyond that in this family. I am talking conservative about the actual mechanics of sexual intimacy. The perceived "grossness" of sticking your tongue, or fingers or other body parts ( or other objects) into your own or someone else's orifices is still strong with both of them.

Don't get me wrong. There is some small part of me, as a concerned parent, who is glad that my almost 14 year old is not thrilled about the idea of sexual intercourse... she has plenty of time to get over it and still have a healthy sex life. Just because I lost my virginity at 15, does NOT mean I want my daughters to.

What concerns me is that they both have adopted from all of their peers a sort of "blinders on" attitude about the sexual parts of bodies that means that they are not gaining that crucial life long familiarity with their OWN body. Both of my daughters discovered masturbation as small children... almost every child alive does. We had a talk about how that was a private thing that was fine when you were by yourself, but NOT an OK public action. Laying in the middle of a living room full of folks and jacking off tends to be frowned upon in our current society. Then, they hit about 5th or 6th grade and apparently absorbed from their peers that masturbation was BAD. Wha??? No amount of discussion on my part or casual inclusion of the topic into discussions seems to make any difference at all ( and if you think it is easy to include the topic of masturbation casually into family dinner talk... you are mistaken).

Flash back to being 14. Life is full of crazy insane stress, your body is changing on an almost daily basis, your brain confuses and surprises you and your hormones are raging. I think the one reason I survived my teen years without completely losing my mind was that I became a connoisseur of masturbation. Not only does it feel good, but it produces a sweet endorphin rush that relaxes you way better than any glass of wine, or any smokeable product. Jacking off was sanity in a world gone complete mad, and some nights I went to bed early, just to escape into that warm haze.

Now I have teenagers of my own, one of whom often can not fall asleep. Stress rushes through her body, making muscles twitch and neurons randomly fire, startling her back awake. I remember this state.. heck some nights I still find my self in the neighborhood. And so when she plaintively says to me "Mom, I can not sleep, please can't you help me sleep?" I find myself talking about relaxation techniques and centering and calming when what I really want to do is say "For heaven's sake- just jack off - it will make you feel much better!" This is, of course, NOT an acceptable thing for a parent to blurt out to a teen offspring.

What I wonder is if this "hands off" attitude is limited to the mid-west, or if it is a nationwide or global sort of phenomenon. What do you see in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

It's a weird, weird world

After getting the kids off to school this morning, I was hit with the "alien beast trying to claw its way free from my stomach" bug. I crawled back into bed for a while and tried to sleep through the cramps and fun pain, then eventually crawled back over to my computer. What I found in my feeds when I got back up was enough to make me want to crawl back into bed again. One or two of these would not be so strange, but back to back to back??? Time for a world-wide reset button.

Here is a synopsis:

Stellar parenting:

Man Throws 4 children off bridge, because of fight with wife

4 decomposing children's bodies found in home- no one even knows whose kids they are yet.

Local Tragedy:

Rochester Indiana is about 45 minutes north of my house, and although we are a bit soggy, there are places very close by where the flooding is very bad. I can not imagine being able to save 3 kids and then getting stuck...sitting on top of an SUV and knowing 2 other children were drowning inside.

Whackos take it out on themselves:

Man cuts off his hand, fearing eternal damnation.

I am just considering going back to bed at this point and hoping the news looks better when I wake up.

The Future of Music is FUN!

I am pretty sure I just saw the future of music earning potential, and it was a blast. Tonight I attended a live webcast concert of The Maine on DeepRockDrive ( thanks to TechCrunch for the freebie tix). I dialed in for the Product Launch announcement first and then watched the concert. There is actually a second artist performing at 1am, but it is getting too danged late here in the EST timezone to watch that and THEN do a write up.

Just for kicks, I decided to do a dual trial test and did my first initial beta testing with CoverIt to "livecast" the live webcast. I was not doing this to test the interactive features of Coverit( we will play with that another time), but just to test out the mechanics of it. The archive of that transcript is saved here:

But now to focus on DeepRockDrive and the concert.

Here is the setup:
Las Vegas sound stage- a fairly big one, from the pan shots after the announcements. Not a movie set, but nice space. From here you can have Musicians, Comedians, even- god forbid- politicians perform. That performance is broadcast live over the web. In the browser window, you have the video feed, as well as a box to type "shoutOuts" to the band. These are broadcast on multiple large monitors that the band can see. There is also a listing of songs, that the audience can interactively use to vote on the next song they want to hear. You have 4 potential camera angles and you can click and switch between them live at any point. There is a slight lag when switching cameras- at times up to 3 seconds- but the audio continues through fine and it all re-synced seamlessly.

The other audience members were not at any time quiet. The shoutOuts flowed in a fast and furious continuous stream across the bottom of my screen. If you really hate that sort of thing and just want a fine concert experience, go full screen mode and the text chat disappears.

The Maine were a great pick as a first highly promoted band to show.. they have great energy and appeal and even more important, they have the interactive rock gig down pat. They paused between songs to talk to the audience, reading aloud and responding to the messages that flashed on the screen. There was even a series of marriage proposals flying back and forth! It did seem that the band had to step off stage to read the monitors well, then step back on stage to perform again. Because they had mobile cameras, you did not lose visual, but this is something some artists may not be comfortable with at first. The Maine did great, calling people by name, having running chat, and even calling for the audience to type certain messages to respond. There were so many messages flying in simultaneously that there were at times delays of a minute or longer before the message you typed made it to the display. The band did note that everyone's oddball nicknames and online handles made it very odd and difficult to talk to the by name out loud.. they suggest people use their real names.

Here is the compelling business model I see looming from this. During the product launch, they indicated that in the future real even tickets would cost $6.99. At first this seems like a lot for a web event, but this is a fraction of the cost for real concert tickets. It is even less than typical cover in a bar. This was a fun, high energy event that engaged me WAY more than I was expecting it to. And then I started imagining this with a room full of friends.. I was even standing and dancing to the show here in my bedroom at one point.. I can imagine how silly a group of us with some snacks and drinks would get. This is a concert event I would attend over and over and over again. I am ready to go and cruise the concert catalog right now and see who else interesting is going to be performing soon. They split the concert take with the artist, so the musicians get 3.50/ticket. This does not sound like a lot, but if you can get a few thousand ( or more) people attending an event, that is not a bad take for an evening's work..

I have to unwind and head for bed soon.. but I am absolutely not done with this topic yet.. Part of me is hotly curious what the web hits on the band page looked like right after this event.. and what the download of their songs does in the next 24 hours. I also have some thoughts about improvements for the deeprockdrive guys, but I am getting too tired to type coherently, my typo rate is starting to scare even me.

although part of me is very very curious if this will play over the wii browser on my tv....... 1am is not that far away, is it??

EDIT:: FYI, I really did stay up and test on the wii... no dice. I am not blaming this on the DRD guys, however- it has to do with the Flash install on the wii. Hulu will not work yet either. Hopefully Nintendo will get their acts together soon, so I do not have to break down and buy an XBox360 or something...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

iMeem me?

When first beta'd I signed up and checked it out, but it was a very sparse sight and I did not spend much time there. There was nothing that grabbed me hard and made me want to build a home. Then today I was reading this TechCrunch article about Viacom's newest anti YouTube move, and it mentioned that Viacom was going to distribute video on iMeem. Hmmm.. Maybe it was that, or maybe it was that I was wearing my nifty "dezz my jammz" schwag shirt the other day ( I am a schwag whore, I will wear tech schwag any day... send away) and Harv commented on it... but the conincidence of events made me go back and check it out again. I actually finished filling in my profile, and sniffed around a bit. Wow! the place has grown fast and filled in like a sprouting teenager. There is significantly more media that when I first poked around the neighborhood. I was playing with the playlist feature and was happy with how easy it was to create one.. then I found Tiesto stuff on the site. Mmmmmm.. When Tiesto first popped their stuff up on AmieStreet a while back, I was a happy electro-trance fangirl.. and now I can even create and share a cool video playlist with you!.
If you are into media at all, this is probably a site you want to go and check out. If you decide to set up shop in the neighborhood, be sure to add me to your friends and drop me a note!.


I responded to a promo on TechCrunch and actually won a free promo ticket to see an online concert on DeepRockDrive. This is a new online event service site, and they are launching tonight. The concert is for a group called The Maine, who by their MySpace page is reasonably good.. so at least the music has potential. I will be online for the announcement and the concert to check out the service and the review will be here either really late tonight or early tomorrow morning. After all the webcasts of the Live Earth concert, it is no surprise to see something like this launch. If you are interested, check it out and let me know if I should look for you there....( I am , of course, roguepuppet on the site...)

Digiposter — The Maine

Monday, January 7, 2008

Ready or not, here we come

Well, Sam is all tucked into bed, and we are as ready as we can be for her to start at a new school tomorrow. Swim stuff is packed in a bag ( she goes in for Gym the first day and they are swimming) and she has a brand new swimsuit ( she needed a tankini, not a bikini like she owned), spiral notebooks and folders for her classes. We went over today and she met all of her teachers ( except for computer teacher who was not there) and did another couple of spins around the school to get a bit more oriented. Part of that comfort level will just come with time.The bus driver is all set to pick here up here at 7:22am, and she will be back about 3pm. Hold your breathe and cross your fingers that this first day will go well and she will ease into things and do well.

Whoa! That'll clear up sinuses

Tomorrow Sam starts back to school at a new school, so while we were folder and notebook shopping, I bought a bag of little bags of potato chips for lunches as a treat. They are awful, they are environmentally evil, I know all of this. I never buy them, but I was just in the mood to take the sting off this whole thing for her a little bit. And they have little bags of Fritos in them. I was craving a Frito so badly I could taste it, and it has easily been over a year since I have had one.
Eating the Fritos not only would have broken the diet in an evil way, they probably would have had me doubled over in pain, because of the fat content. I was resisting, but it was making me nuts. So I decided to chaw on a piece of a sourdough pretzel to ease the craving a bit. And we have this really yummy looking stone ground horseradish mustard in the fridge that Ogre bought for NYE... it seemed a logical thing to squirt and dip the pretzel, just to kill the deep flavor craving.
Oiy. This is good mustard, but this is NOT a dipping mustard. I never had a bite of pretzel that cleared my sinuses and made my eyes water before...
It did, however, successfully kill the craving for I am pondering the 20 minute power nap.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Your future is here- will it be Blu... or just downloaded?

Well, there is quite a Kerfluffle in the DVD world this evening- especially at home at Toshiba, the backers of the HD DVD format. Earlier this weekend, Warner Bros, one of the leading DVD distributors ( I have read some figures as high as 20% of all DVDs) announced that they were switching camps and would be supporting only the Blu-Ray format. This is a huge turn-around, especially since when both Walmart and the Porn industry announced they were backing HD DVD, many had declared Blu-Ray dead. Is it over now? Will there finally be a "winner" in the next gen format wars? Some say the end is nigh, and some people say it is not over yet, but this video of Toshiba's Jodi Sally shows Toshiba is at least a bit stressed over the whole thing.

The honest truth is that I am not convinced it really matters any more. I am a true blue Gadget Geek. I love new toys. But I have refused to invest in HD technology, because I would NOT be a victim in the next format war. And so I have waited... and waited... and waited. And honestly,I have even gotten bored of the debate. It has been going on a long long time, with the dead draw broken by declared wins by both sides at alternate times. ( you will notice that one of those links actually goes to an article in 2005). A Google search for "DVD format war" returns nearly a million results. ( it may even be over a million by the time you read this). The industry has been talking and arguing about this endlessly. And a whole lot of us have been standing on the sidelines, watching and waiting for a decision to be made. And what have we been doing in the meantime? Although we have gotten very comfortable with delivered to your door DVD services ( Netflix, Blockbuster, etc..) we have also gotten more and more comfortable watching video over the web. There are several services now experimenting with HD video over the web, and they are getting good results. While I am glad that there might be an end to the war soon ( merely to stop the news articles about it), I am still probably not going to run out and buy a player for the winning format. I have watched more TV and video over the internet in the last month that I have via traditional media. I am even considering scaling back my Netflix subscription, because we watch fewer and fewer hard DVDs.
There are a lot of rumors out there tonight that Sony paid Warner Big big money to come to the Blu side, but it may be that Warner decided some decision had to be made before the hope of ANY DVD sales were lost forever.

A Geek's Wet Dream Week

This is the week of CES. This is the Gadget Geek's wet dream week. And I am at home. One of these days I will get a job that will actually pay for me to go to CES, but in the meantime I will be spending my spare moments gleaning off the broadcasts of those who are there, and the vendors promoting their wares. It is funny that a YouTube search for CES 2008 already has a flood of entries- most of them vendors with video of products they are going to demo at CES from Jan 7-10. This is the time to wish and dream and yes, even laugh at the gizmos and gadgets that corporations are trying to flood into our lives. I was over at some friends this evening, trying to be a normal person for a while and missed the Bill Gates Keynote. I am sure that someone somewhere recorded or archived it and eventually I will be able to get it caught up. ( if you know where a copy is, drop me a line, eh?)

CES is where I get to be reassured that the future of my childhood will someday come true. Look I can even buy a Dick Tracy Watch now! ( would not really want one- but someone FINALY made a watch phone... now all we need is a shoe phone....)

Viewdle testing

I am not generally a name dropper. I am not much impressed with someone just because they are famous, or their name is batted about. I have no compunctions about walking up to someone and talking to them or asking them a question, if I have something interesting to say, or have a question I really want to ask them. Actions and the person themselves tend to garner my respect more than their title or the famous-ness of their name. However, I do occasionally have reason to mention someone by name, and so the development of Viewdle as a utility intrigues me. This is my post to try it out.

The concept behind Viewdle is that the company is developing and maintain a library of pictures of the faces of famous people ( maybe someday they will allow us to upload pictures of ourselves and have ordinary people registered as well..). By some simple javascript pasting and putting a custom tag around references to people in text, hovering over that person's name should pop up a picture of the person. I like this idea, because I will often find myself reading someone's blog, they mention someone and I find myself hitting Google to look them up and remember who the Heck Robert Metcalfe is. If this database expands and the technology works, that mental mind shake in the form of a picture could come to you without ever leaving the page!.

So here, let's test it out a little bit.

At SC'07 this past November, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with lots of new people, some of them famous and some who probably should be, but aren't yet.

Dr. Raymond Orbach, the US Undersecretary of State for Science was one of the keynote speakers, and I had a chance to chat with him for a few minutes after his talk. He is very excited about the expanding use of modeling and simulation in manufacturing and wants to see it grow more. It is, he believes, what will give any manufacturer the competitive edge.

I spent a great amount of time with Dave Pokorney. We met in the Twitterverse. I had put in a watch on all Twitters mentioning "SC07" and his ( and a few others) popped up. We chatted back and forth a bit, then met in person. He is deeply involved with the team that does all of the networking for the conference, and got me some great behind the scenes interviews. Hopefully a Network World and a PMI Journal article will come out of those interviews.

All in all, SC07 was great fun and over the next month there should be a good number of publications coming out of it. Too much name dropping here will spoil the fun.

I did notice in the news this afternoon that Marc Andreessen is being a remarkable person and standing up for free speech on Ning, even though there are people up in arms about people chatting about sex on it. Come on folks, chatting sex, is NOT porn. If it were and it were really illegal, they would have to shut down every chat network in the universe. You really think there are NOT people on Yahoo or AIM or Meebo or gTalk out there chatting sex sometimes? I know I am.. being a healthy human who is often separated from her fiance for long periods of time, chat is one of the things that keeps our relationship going. Just because Ning has "networks" published where like minded people can hang out, does not make it the anti-christ. Honestly, I had not spent much time checking out Ning, but it is now on my list of things to test this week. Review and report to come.

So-- a little bit of name dropping there, though not the celebrity Madonna type of names.... so it will be interesting to see how Viewdle handles it. Give me some feedback, what do you see? What do you think?

Last Night On Earth:Review

Harv gave us this:
last night on earth game box a family copy of Flying Frog Productions' "The Last Night on Earth" game for Christmas this year. Since we actually had Christmas with Harv on New Year's day, last night was our first chance to sit down with the whole family and give it a run through. We enthusiastically give it a 6 thumbs up. We played with a group of 6 that ranged in age from 8 to 43, with a 43 year old female and a 16 year old female, the rest male. (My 13 year old daughter is currently on a rampage against the total family geekiness and shut herself in her room with a phone and 8th grade gossip while we played) The game was enough of a hit that after the first game, the next words out of most players mouth was "let's play again". We played two games in about 3 hours. Even with pauses for learning rules, the first game played in an hour. We started with the basic game ( "Die, Zombies, Die!"), and I agree with the game makers that this is a great game scenario to learn the turn rules.

The game is played with 1 or 2 zombie players and up to 4 hero players. The zombies are a team and the Heroes are a team, working together to meet their goals. If you have never seen a zombie movie in your life, but like strategy type board games, or RPG games, you will enjoy this game. If you are a fan of zombie movies, you will revel in this game. It is a cinematically rich game, with amazing graphics on all the game pieces, quotes from zombie movies and the classic zombie movie characters (the priest, the sheriff, high school sweetheart, high school hero, Jake the Drifter, the nurse, etc...). The item cards are lots of fun to play with ( revolvers, pump shotguns, pitchforks, baseball bats are some of the weapons) and the events are not only fun, but make a classic zombie movie ( teen angst, over confidence, zombies take over buildings or cut the power to make a black out, etc..). As a matter of fact, if you could record the game play for play, you would have the outline for a great B grade Zombie movie. The fun thing is, the game is so variable there are probably thousands of outlines in the box. Maybe some movie makers need to buy the game and play it to release a series of "Last Night on Earth" web flicks.

Our biggest complaints were from the zombie players- they wanted more zombies in their zombie pool. There were several times they had the ability to take over a building, but only had one zombie in the pool to place in the building. I agree that having more zombies on the board would make the game more fun and more challenging, even from the Hero Player's perspective. A small technical detail, but one that was a constant ongoing issue was the colors of the zombies. The zombies in the pool are two colors, so that two players can play on the zombie team. One group of zombies is moldy green and the others are baby poo brown. The issue we had was that one of our zombie players was color blind, and the two groups of zombies looked exactly the same to him. Different colors or markings on the zombies would be helpful. We might get bored one winter day and start painting the plastic miniatures to make them easier to distinguish.

One of the features we really like about the game was that when a hero character dies, you are not out of the game. Your Hero becomes a Zombie Hero under control of the zombies and you get to draw a new hero character out of the set to start in the game. Because the game can go for an hour and a half, this works ell to keep all players engaged and not have "I am dead" dropout boredom issues. This was a nice twist and I wish more RPG board games did something in this manner.

All in all, it was a blast of an evening. Everyone is looking forward to playing again- it is without question getting added into the Kwakcon game round up and we are already looking forward to the expansion pack being advertised to come out this year. We would even pay to just have more packs of zombies and some zombie cards to add to the game-- sort of like Heroscape expansion packs. It was a big enough hit that I was motivated this morning to clean out the hall closet and make a good space to store that and a few other family games for easy access, without putting the games in the midst of all the kid games where pieces are at risk of being lost.

Now? I am off to get lunch on the table and keep the kids from eating me...

Saturday, January 5, 2008

It's a wrap

Today is the 12th day of Christmas, and so Christmas at Sycamore House is officially packed away. I know a lot of people pack it away a lot sooner, but I am generally in no rush and like to keep up decorations for the full 12 days. Packing away Christmas is no small feat, and was about a two hour all hands on operation. All hands equals mine, Xandra's and the boys off and on. Sam, having spent the night at a new friend's house and stayed up much too late, was sound asleep through the whole process. Ogre and I have a deal. He helps me carry boxes up and down out of the attic, and then I am allowed to decorate to my heart's content, as long as he does not have to be involved in the putting up or taking down. As a matter of fact, he ghosted himself through the process. As I had the kids go and fetch back decorations, candles and gee-gaws from around the house to pile up in the dining room t be sorted and packed, I could see that look of horror growing in his eyes. I calmly told him it would be fine, just disappear for an hour and a half and everything woudl be back to normal. And sure enough, after much sorting and packing in about an hour and a half we had all the boxes moved out into the garage. That was when I got the very nice surprise that Ogre had gone out in the garage and packed up all the tree parts into the new storage box I had bought. I had planned on having Sam do that when she woke up, but he was 2 steps ahead. It was really sweet of him.
Packing away Christmas is always a mixed emotion for me, By now, I am a little tired of the extra clutter and not having my normal room to look at, but I am still a bit enthralled with the sparkle and glimmer of the lights and shinies. When I was a child, we kept up all the Christmas decorations until my Sister's Birthday- which is January 13, but by then we were just sick of them. I think it is a little better putting them away while they still have appeal, then getting them out again seems like much more fun.

Friday, January 4, 2008

How to earn a loyal customer

Let me just say up front, GooSync rocks. They have now earned my loyalty for a very long time. Here is my story:

I love and live in Google calendars. I live a life that is complex to the point of being confusing. We have a blended household. Both my fiance and I are divorced with kids from previous marriages. Both of us have shared custody situations. I have two girls, he has two sons. Currently we are in a situation where Mon-Fri during the school year he lives in a house an hour away with his two sons and on the weekends, holidays and summers he is back here with me. This means that sometimes there are 6 people who live in this house I call home and sometimes it is just me. Because the members of our clan need to access our schedule from work, from several homes and sometimes from the road- we needed something more flexible than a paper calendar hanging on the wall ( although we still have some of those.. they have such cool pictures...). Both my fiance and I also wanted to be able to have reminders sent to our treos, to keep us in line and make sure no child got left behind. Google Calendars fit this very well. We set up a joint family calendar and began filling it up. It nicely sends text messages to my phone, but it would not sync. When my work life was more crazed and I was running around the plant all day long from meeting to meeting, I used to sync my calendar with Outlook for work( yes, Outlook sucks, but I have no control over what is used from email and calendaring at work- I work for a very large corporation) and only my work appointments were on my treo. But then work shifted, and I work from home more- and do meetings more by teleconference- sitting here in front of my computer which can nicely remind me itself. No need to go through the hoops and hassles of a bluetooth sync up several times a day ( my sync cord for my treo long ago shorted out and refused to work). Before long, I was just ignoring the calendar feature on my Treo. This irritated me some... I wanted an easy way to check my schedule on the go. Besides, having technology that almost works is a pet peeve of mine.

In the meantime, our online google calendar life exploded. My fiance and his ex have a calendar for working out visitation issues- I have read access on that one, as I manage most of the family schedule. I am active in several professional arenas and have meetings for MESA, PMI-CIC IT committee and some other activities. Having all these professional commitments on the BnG Clan calendar was cluttering it up and confusing kids.. so I set up a professional calendar that has my professional commitments only in it. Besides, if I get to the point where my consulting/writing/speech giving schedule continues to grow ( one could hope) I will need a calendar like this to share on a professional website. My daughters rotate between my home and their dad's home.. so having their family stuff online is helpful to them. They are old enough now that I am working hard to get them to use this as a management tool. Hopefully they will be adding things themselves. But having things like my monthly book club, Curtain Call executive committee meetings and other items of the sort on the family calendar drives clutter that confuses them, as well as puts them at risk for kid learning curve screw ups. So all of my personal life appointments are on their own google calendar.
As time went on, I continued to test and trial new gizmos and services that would sync your google calendar- but they all only synced your main calendar. This is nice, but no longer sufficient in our world.

Then came GooSync. I discovered them a week or so before Christmas. Tested, loved it and imediately bought it so I could sync multiple google calendars and not just one. It was amazing! I could even use categories and have new appointments on my treo auto sync to different google calendars. Brilliant! This was what I had been looking for. Oh ! And look- I can sync with Outlook as well! Cool!! This is a stroke of brilliance. Finally I will be able to use my mobile device the way it was meant to. But wait... Crap. That outlook sync just took all my personal, intimate,family appointments and dumped them into outlook as well. Groan. Facepalm. This is bad. HeadDesk. I quickly cleaned up Outlook to delete them all and moved into the Holidays. OK, honestly I cleaned up most of them, but left some in..the less intimate ones that I did not care if work saw-- time was short. No more time to play with syncing gizmos when Santa was about to arrive. But the whole thing was buzzing about in my head in a semi-random way and a couple of days ago, I got the chance to test again. "What if", I thought, "I did a one way sync from Outlook to my handheld and then a bi directional sync from the handheld to google? Then I get the work appointments dumped into the handheld and the 2 way sync with google. I have no reason to add work appointments on the fly in the treo and then want them to sync with outlook any more... so this should work, right?

(Let me here interject a word of advice that I should have known well. Back up your calendars before experimenting)

Here is what I thought would happen:

Outlook overwrites to the Treo. Treo is now full of only Work Appointments. Bi directional sync via GooSync to google calendars. GooSync: hmm... you have a bunch of appointments in google not on your handheld- let me add those in for you. Result: my entire world schedule in the palm of my hand.

Here is what actually happens:

Outlook overwrites to the Treo. Treo is now full of only Work Appointments. Bi directional sync via GooSync to Google Calendars. GooSync: hmmm.... you have a bunch of appointments that were removed from your handheld.. here let me remove those from Google for you as well. Result: my entire world schedule, other than work? Deleted. Not just from my handheld, but from Google as well. The only things that remained were personal items that had gotten inserted into outlook before Christmas that I had not bothered to delete.

Now, is this normal behavior, or a remnant of the sync and delete in Outlook before Christmas? I do not know. I will not try it again to find out, either. I Twittered my despair. I IM'd my fiance my panic ( especially before he could go to check the calendar and be caught by surprise when things were GONE). This may not seem like a big deal, but it was a total of almost 1700 items. ( I told you I lead a busy and complicated life....). I wrote an email to tech support at GooSync that was really just a rant. I just needed to vent. I did not expect it to fix anything, really. A while later, I got a response " no problem, we can restore from tape. Just please tell us when this happened and stop syncing in the meantime".

Holy majoly. This was an unexpected benefit ( you can see I did not carefully read all the fine print). And you know what? They did. All of my messed up calendars have been restored. I am happy syncing again. And I came up with a new solution for getting all of everything onto my treo without risking deletions and cross contaminations. I created a new work calendar in Google. I use a free version of Syncmycal to do a one way dump of Outlook to that specific google calendar. I added the new google calendar to my list of calendars that my treo does a bi drectional sync with over the air.. and everything is in the palm of my hand again. Now that I am using my treo to manage life and events, I need to go back and re-look at RTM for my todo lists as well.

The guys at GooSync? As far as I am concerned- they rock. I will stick with them for a long time now.

Supporting the Intellectual Life

I had recently written a post here, about how frustrated I am with the publish or perish cycle and how the focus on ROI by Granting organizations was shifting pure science from research to development.

The more it rattles in the back of my brain, the more it eats at me. It is not that development is a bad thing. Development has improved YouTube, so that more and more users can watch without having it crash. Development adds new features to AmieStreet, so that now I can send 10$ gifts to my friends ( I have a couple extra still-- comment here if you are interested....). I am sure that development played a role in making the brand new Calphalon pots and pans I got for Christmas as amazing as they are. But without research, we soon stagnate and falter.

So how do we support researchers who want to do cool things, without creating another beaurocracy that slows them down? Since the Corporate mindset has invaded governments and the social ethos everywhere..( and with the recent move to block all but government sponsored video sites, I am now convinced this is even true in communist China), the current focus on ROI will prevent major funding agencies and large groups of people from supporting the sort of pure research that will take us to the next level.

At first, I thought- why not have a fund that is "Feed the Research", instead of "Feed the Children"? People will donate 3.50$/month without thinking too much about it. Set it up in paypal and get the word out, you could actually fund something interesting. But then you need an oversight board- who decides what gets funded and based on what criteria? Oiy-- back to large group mindset again. We already decided this was trouble. What about the model used by DonorsChoose, to fund small projects and the needs of teachers? Here the Teachers post what they need, donors get to choose who they want to fund and when all the money for a project is raised- voila! But these are small scale projects, and it is a whole lot easier to raise 500$ for classroom materials, than 500,000 for some seemingly whacky research project. Then there is Sellaband- a site where bands who want to record post music and fans who want them to record. Fans who like them invest in the band, until the band has raised enough( 50,000) to get a recording session. But here the fans are not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts- they get profit sharing later-- which take us back to the ROI issue.

I know there has to be a way to make this work, a way to fund pure research that will revolutionize our world over and over again. I am a child of the 60s and 70s SciFi, dang it.. I grew up on the Jetsons and I want my jetpacks and rocket cars ;-) How would you model this so that good research could thrive without the tentacles of profit and ROI strangling it?

New Home

I am a long time blogger- I have had a blog on Livejournal for some time now, but in the last few months I have found myself more and more bumping up against the limits of what I could and could not do in my blog. This is a web 2.0 world, and I live it fully. I have a PalmOS Treo 700 that sends me messages for my schedule, from my kids, and from the world. I Twitter, Flickr, Meebo, Joost, Mozes, Hulu and Digg. I hang out on Facebook, LinkedIn, AmieStreet, Vox and YouTube. I love digital music and video and it is inherently entwined in who I am and what I do. I also get up and push away from my computer and interact directly with Mother Earth in a hands on fashion. I love to garden- both flower and veggie and in the summer my life is full of all things growing, and there is dirt under my nails. I love to dance- almost all forms but hardly ever have the time I want for it. I chase/shuffle/manage two teenage girls and have a partial live in fiance with two step sons. I am a gamer and love RPGs, and try to have massive gaming sessions a few times a year- at least.

I wanted my blog to reflect the interaction of pieces and parts of me, but the technical limits of LiveJournal were preventing me from doing that. So, with much thought and pondering and some little pain, I have decided to re-locate here and send a feed back there- at least for now. I also write other blogs, and if this works out and I can find an audience here, I may shift some of them here as well. So speak up, speak out and let me know you are here- you can also email or text message me directly- I take feedback in all forms.