Tag Archives: technology


9-14-2008 016

I went to the company meeting yesterday. Steve Ballmer reminds me of one of the uncles on my mother’s side of the family. He talks loud, has a good sense of humor, and plenty of passion. I can easily imagine him sitting at the kitchen table with a bottle of beer and a red face, discussing the Rollers’ upcoming fate, deriding the coaches, or extolling teams from the past.

I like the new advertising campaign. I got my first PC in the early 90s. It was a 386, with so little RAM you could count it on your fingertips. What a step up from my electronic typewriter! When I installed Windows 3.11, I remember getting a cramp in my shoulder trying to figure out how to operate the mouse.

Now I find I can’t get by without at least three PCs at home. I have four at work (not counting virtual machines). Sometimes Holly says she wants a Mac. She thinks everything will be easier if she gets a Mac.

I tell her, You don’t want a Mac.

She may be right. Everything may very well be easier on a Mac, but when things go wrong (as we all know they must), I will not be able to help.


Becasue I’m a PC!

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Tracking Visitors to Your Blog

Last week I was traveling for business (something I rarely have to do) and I learned that I am not the only one from my company that visits my blog. How did I know this? I use three different packages to track visits to this site. Why three? Each offers something a little bit different.

SiteMeter: Gives me immediate feedback about visits. There is even a link that tells you who is accessing the site right now(it shows visits from the last 20 minutes). Once I emailed a story submission to an editor who I knew lived in a certain town in Massachusetts. Later that week that very same Massachusetts town lit up on my SiteMeter chart. Not long after, that very same editor offered me some good news about my submission. Gotta love that kind of feedback.

WordPress.com Stats: This is an essential add-on widget for WordPress. The user interface is good for getting an idea which blog posts are most popular and seeing which strings are used in searches on your site.

Google Anylytics: Good for analyzing trends. Lovely user interface. For some reason the cities and towns that light up on SiteMeter don’t always light up on the Google Analytics map. I have no idea why this happens, but it’s annoying. I haven’t spent much time with this yet.

You never know what you’ll find when you start tracking visits to your site. I had always thought all those visits from my company’s domain where my own visits. As for you visitors from the company (you know who you are), leave some comments already. I know you’re out there.

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Hard Out Here for a Blogger


This site can be a challenge to maintain.

WordPress, the software that powers this blog, is a web application written in PHP with a MySQL backend. The nice thing about it is that it’s free and enjoys popular development of a lot of themes and widgets. The bad thing about it is that it’s free and enjoys a lot of theme and widget development. Wait, what?

Yes, you read that right: the good is the same as the bad.

Here is what usually happens: You upgrade the site to the latest version of WordPress and then realize that half your widgets don’t work and now your theme looks funky. With a local installation of WordPress, you could try stuff out before you commit to the live site. The drawback for me is that I know very little about programming in general, much less PHP programming. Worse, I’m a Windows dweeb, so Apache and MySQL are scary to me.

Enter XAMPP.

XAMPP is free software that installs Apache and MySQL so you have the infrastructure to setup a local copy of WordPress, even if you use Vista or XP. Download the Windows version of XAMPP. The installer worked fine for me; the zip file has batch files to get you running. Once you get it installed, use a broswer to go to http://localhost.

The web client for MySQL is phpMyAdmin. God only knows why it’s called phpMyAdmin. Use this tool to create a new database with utf8_unicode_ci collation.

Download the latest WordPress files and add them to the xampp\htdocs folder, wherever you installed xampp. In the WordPress files, use a text editor, like notepad.exe, to edit the wp-config-sample.php file.

Fill in the variables for DB_NAME, DB_USER, and DB_PASSWORD.

  • DB_NAME is whatever you named the database in phpMyAdmin.
  • DB_USER use root.
  • DB_PASSWORD leave blank.

Save the file as wp-config.php.

In your browser, go to http://localhost/wordpress/wp-admin/install.php and follow the instructions.

You now have a locally copy of WordPress. Feel free to mess it up. If it all comes tumbling down (as we all know it must), you can just delete the WordPress files and start over again.

Next up we’ll figure out how to get the data from the live site onto the mirror site.

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iTouch You Once, iTouch You Twice, I Just Got an iPod at the Retail Price


I am so happy with my new iPod!

It’s one of those fancy new ones that you operate using just your finger. Although I have only had mine for about a week, I find I touch it every day. On Holly’s iPod I mostly listened to podcasts, especially NPR’s This American Life and Fresh Air. But last night I was up until all hours of the morning fooling with my MP3 files in iTunes. Something about an MP3 collection really brings out the obsessive compulsive disorder in me.

Today I upgraded my Tivo software so that I can transfer television shows to my iPod. I rarely watch TV, but I like keeping up with my current favorites, like Office and Heroes. The Tivo software is a bit of a Rube Goldberg contraption, especially if you want to put video from the PC onto the device, but I finally figured it out. The screen is a little small for subtitle text, so the Japanese sequences in the Heroes season premiere were a challenge, but I was mostly able to follow along. Music videos really shine.

The interface is awesome. I love the pinch zoom, especially for photographs. My fingers are a little fat to do some web pages easily, but the wireless iTunes store is easy to navigate and generally very slick. I can see using wireless for quick look ups and reading pages, but updating my blog or sending e-mail goes better on the computer.

I wouldn’t even have this if Holly hadn’t suggested it and then pretty much insisted.

Thank you, buddy! You’re the best.


Pantyhose: Not As Easy As You Might Think

Last night during dress rehearsal for the play, I tried on a pair of tights and was astonished at how difficult it was. You have to sit down and really work one leg into them at a time. I suppose it doesn’t help that I am over two-hundred pounds.

Also, it’s not obvious how one is supposed to get the crotch of the tights to meet the crotch of the wearer. I found deep knee bends and karate kicks to be the most effective strategies. Meanwhile, tugging the waist band and lifting the crotch are futile endeavors.

Wearing tights makes you feel warm. It’s either that or it’s the level of exertion required to get the tights on that heats you up.

The tights I am wearing are borrowed, which also makes me feel uncomfortable. Here I am describing a feeling that goes beyond a saggy crotch and warm legs. I feel as if I am borrowing skivvies or using an old toothbrush. Should I spray these tights with some sort of antibacterial before I put them on?

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Great Summer Fort Project: Update Two

Here is a screen capture of the plan for the remainder of our tree fort.

I’ve been using SketchUp, Google’s vector drawing program, to draw up my plans. It’s very intuitive and fun to play with. But like all vector drawing programs, it can be maddening at times. Once you learn how to do things the SketchUp way, it’s a satisfying and powerful tool. Google offers the software free for non-business use. If you look closely, you can see Kennedy has used SketchUp to add furniture to our plans. A bit more obvious is her decision to apply bit map textures to the walls and rails.

In the real world, we put up the other two legs, the remaining 2×8 crossbeams, added joist supports, and screwed down the floorboards since our last update. We have the hole for the secret trap door, but still need to assemble the lid and the rope ladder.

My right arm has become the limiting factor. I’ve developed some sort of repetitive stress injury, where doing even an hour of screwing with the drill can become very painful. It sucks to get old.

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Shout Out: Lisa Kolarac

I got email from my cousin, who I haven’t seen in ages, after she apparently stumbled upon the site. Nice. As far as I’m concerned, this is what blogging is all about.


That View Not Available


I recently took my family to see the Disney movie Meet the Robinsons in 3D, yet I couldn’t discern any 3D. Yes, I did have my glasses on, as instructed. I still couldn’t see anything in 3D. What a rip off!

This is a terrible customer experience. I paid extra to see the movie in three dimensions, yet I was only able to view it in two. I want Walt Disney to come to my house and act out the movie for me. I can get my money’s worth and he can fulfill his contractual obligation.

I wonder if I can sue Disney? If you are a lawyer, would you please weigh-in on this?

But seriously: This was my first 3D movie, so I didn’t even realize I had this problem. Now I wish I had never gone! Instead of the comforting allure of knowing I will get around to seeing a 3D movie, I am now confronted with the cold reality of never being able to see a 3D movie. Ever.

How is this even possible? I thought seeing in three dimensions was the default view!


Why Is Photography So Hard?

7-11-2006 033

I have no idea.

But thank God for people like Philip Greenspun, who Wikipedia calls an “American computer scientist, educator, and early internet entrepreneur.” Philip is all of that, but I bring him to your attention because he is also Editor in Chief at Photo.net, where you can learn an awful lot about photography for free.

Philip caters to the advanced crowd, but he has just added two new videos that cover the basics of digital photography very well. I will refer you to his blog post, which in turn points to both videos. Although I’ve had my Canon Digital Rebel for almost two years now, I learned more watching the XTi video than I have gleaned from any other single source.

That sounds a little embarrassing, but it’s true.

Continue reading

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Tim Elhajj Knows What Time It Is

Daylight Savings Time is here and I have one clock radio that I can’t figure out how to update. It’s one of those self-setting clocks that uses some sort of heuristics to keep itself up to date. I bought it years ago at Costco, thinking it was the kind that updates itself using radio waves. When I discovered my mistake, I was disappointed but not enough to take it back. I set it so infrequently I have never been able to memorize how to do it. There is a PDF manual on my computer somewhere, but I haven’t gotten around to finding it yet.

If I can hold out three more weeks, I guess it’ll update itself A LITTLE BIT LATE THIS YEAR.

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