Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What geek tools do you use?

I often have this chat with friends and family, so lets toss it out there and see what else we can add to it. These are the tools that I use/abuse/live with on a daily basis at work or at home:

jEdit - Programmer's Text Editor. Everything from XML to ASP. Best editor I've used.

Cygwin - I may live in Windows but it doesn't mean I have to suffer in it. Cygwin brings GNU tools to those of us stuck with a DOS 3.1 command processor. I left years ago and never looked back. I use too many things in this kit to list; from vi to fetchmail it can all be in there, pick and choose to get the build you need.

CRM114 - My anti-spam filter. Been using it for years now. As you'll see, I've gone to some effort to even get this working on Windows with T-bird.

FireFox - If you have to ask, you've been asleep. *grins*

Firefox Addons:
  • Sage - Nice RSS reader.
  • Download Statusbar - Instead of the download dialog box, puts them into their own status bar.
  • Tabbrowser Preferences - Tab browsing options and tweaks. Been using this since FF1.0.
  • Adblock - Best way to block what you don't want and keep what you do.
Thunderbird - I got really tired of dealing with the upgrade path when changing Windows OS' with Outlook. I now have my laptop using Cygwin, CRM114, and a local mail provider. Geek central, but I get annoyed when spam gets through instead of getting annoyed at spam.

Monday, January 30, 2006

It would have made a fun TV hand...

So I'm in a 2 table SNG on Pokerstars doing okay, meaning, for once, I'm not feeling hurried or pressured. Not sure if that was the table or my game maturing, but that's a different story. I'm on the button with 8 people at the table. Limits are 50/100.

I get dealt an As 10h. Four players fold, one calls, I raise. The small blind folds, big blind calls, and the original caller stays in. Down to three players. The two I am left with are the short stack and the 2nd largest stack. I'm the 3rd smallest stack at the table.

Flop comes down: 5h Ac Ad

I can hear the announcer making comments about the music going off in my head. Indeed there are a lot of things going off in my head, but none of them are music. Both players check around to me, and I almost toss out a 100 chip bet, but think the better of it and check.

Turn: Ah

At a live table I'd be controlling my breathing and trying not to have my eyes bug out. This is my first quad, and aces to boot! Once again it checks around to me. I'm pretty sure that they have not put me on the 4th ace, so I lead out with 100.

The player to my left calls, and the next player raises to 200. Now I'm psyched, they must have caught a good hand. I re-raise to 1000. The player to my left folds, and the remaining player goes all in. I call.

Me: Ah 10s
Them: Kh 5s

River: 5d

Aces full of 5s loses to Quad Aces. Definitely a WPT TV moment. Not often you are in position, up against the right players, and flop the perfect hand to trap with.

It was a fun night. I did manage to win the SNG to boot.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

News or Spam?

I got this one earlier in the week and have been puzzling over it since;
Subject: Reilly Announces Campaign for Governor

Dear Friends,

I wanted to write to you today to share some exciting news.

Today, it's official. I am a candidate for Governor.
A few of my friends, and perhaps a few readers, have also gotten it. It's serious, Mr. Reilly is running for governor (Globe Article here) in Massachusetts. First I'd heard of it, and what's more interesting I'm not sure why I'm hearing about it in this manner.

I thought about the obvious question for a few days; "Is this Spam?" Although the email is unwanted, it's not Spam by my mental filters. It's just unwanted mail, I'm not sure why the system thought I would be interested. I vote independent (as in I make my mind up without following what any single party tells me) so it is unlikely it was party based, especially since they list no party-affiliation in my record. So where did they get my email?

To continue the intrigue the site tells me "You have already been opted-in to the system". That much I knew, question is - how? That is still no where to be found. I don't like the idea of a candidate opting me in, via a service. If I gain interest in your campaign, I'll opt-in myself, thank you. I have written to the company, we'll see what I get for a response.

For the curious, I traced the emails websites to DCS Congressional whom offer services like the one Mr. Reilly used. I'll leave it to the curious to go read more.

Mr. Reilly, if your staff is scanning blogs, you were better off letting me find you. I can handle opting-in, without help, to interesting candidates.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Okay, I was surprised. I had to do some clean up on my work system and decided to do my monthly IT (defrag, ASR backup, etc.) as well. While I was poking around I ran into the {WinDir}\$NtUninstallKB* directories and their associated {WinDir}\KB*.log files.

These are the undo and installation logs for your Microsoft Automatic Updates. They just hover around on your disk. You can look in Add/Remove but you wont find them listed as removable and you can try to do a disk clean but it wont remove them.

How much space? 400meg in directories and 6 meg in log files.

There is almost half a Gigabyte of files floating around that I have no obvious way to clean up (did I miss something?). It turns out you can delete them for no ill-effect, but you still need to know to do that.

I can only imagine what a system in a few years will accumulate in mandatory undo and install information. Go look, see what you have. I'm curious to see who wins the "most space obscured by Microsoft" award.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Do you read the lore?

Got into an interesting side discussing with my wife this weekend. We both play WoW and enjoy questing and PvE (at least for the moment I haven't dragged us into a BG yet *evil smile*). As we started the War Banners quest in the Wetlands we got to talking about the history involved in the quest. I started talking about the fall of the Dragonlords and while my wife seemed curious, I could see that familiar "Do I really care?" glaze forming.

We started talking about how I really dive into quests that have a story or give background/history on the world around me. It helps me to get hooked into caring about the pixels in front of me. I recently had a lot of fun doing the Missing Diplomat, Legend of Stalvan, and Sven's Revenge. All of which told a story about a person or gave hints about the lore of the area.

Each, now that I look back at it, got me hooked with the "innocent event leading to a big finale" style story. For Stalvan, for example, you open a chest to find a letter and get jumped by a "Forlorn Spirit" who doesn't want you looking into the legend. Sven has you helping him recover things he lost when fleeing his farm, avenging his families death, and then taking on something much more sinister.

For me, these quests pulled me in and got me curious to see what would happen next. Similar to the history of the Dragonmaw and their loss of their Dragon mounts and the fall of their empire. The story catches my attention and draws me in. For my wife, they're quests. The story is nice, but she's there to get it done and move on.

As with any good game, doesn't matter what you want, both options exist - but I'd be curious to hear from more folks about what grabs them. Do you go for the FPS with the interesting story (Half Life, FEAR, etc.) or just prefer to frag at will (DOOM).

Friday, January 20, 2006

You put it where?

As I alluded to earlier, I've been doing a lot of QA work at work helping to get a replacement module I've written out into the world. It's been a lot of sitting and staring and numbers and error logs. Nothing new there...

The module itself is in ATL COM+ to fit in with the rest of the product. My test app, however, is in C# .NET 1.1. During my testing I had these odd hangs and crashes of the test app (caught and reported) that I was chasing. The first had to do with me overwhelming my Dell laptop and SQL server, some cool down code and SQL memory tweaks fixed that one. This last one led me to an interesting set of changes.

The test program had been reporting a "SQL Timeout" but there was nothing in the logs about any type of SQL error. So I eventually remember to look at the SQL Connections, and sure enough my test programs were ramping them up to infinity.

The fun part of that statement is that my test programs were doing this by ignoring the ADODB.Recordset that was being returned. Yes, you read that right. The ATL object is returning a Recordset that the C# program isn't using, doesn't put into an object, never touches. I would have thought it would be instantly garbage collected, but I was wrong.

It seems that you have to catch the return value, close it, and mark it cleanable (set to null was sufficient) to get DotNet 1.1 to clean it up. After that, works as expected.... mostly. The ramping connections made it very fast, now it slogs along.

There's always something to fix... lol.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Go WoW!

I'm amazed that I'm still having fun in this game, and leveling well while doing it. Go Blizzard!

Okay, cheap plug aside I just had a lot of fun with my Night Elf Druid. I was delivering some goods from Menethil Harbor to the Church in Stormwind. As I'm leaving there's a level 1 alter boy with a quest. Curious, I talk to him. What a wild ride, he started the "Missing Diplomat" quest (you can read the spoilers here). Took me all over Azeroth with a good story that kept me guessing.

This was one of those movie/book themed quests. Starts simple, and ends you in hot water. It was a lot of fun and I'm glad that some upper levels grouped with me to tackle the last guy. The reward worked out well with some other upgrades I had landed, but my recommendation would be to do it because it was fun - toss the reward.

Although the reward and XP was nice... lol

Friday, January 13, 2006

What's in a word?

It's amazing to me how much of the games I've played have crept into common conversation. Well, it helps that I hang with a bunch of gamers, but still you hear people talking about Camping their coworker (he's a rare spawn in the cube), or about how some project got fragged. It's almost easier to explain some things in gaming terminology than normal terms - assuming you know the reference.

My normal example is when explaining that something is doable, but very, very rare. Say, for example, your chasing a royal straight flush. They are possible, they do show up, but they are very, very rare. In these circumstances you are definitely "Camping Raster" (be happy if you don't get that reference!).

Still, why does it come into play so easily? The wife and I will talk about "Grinding" out certain family functions or spawn-camping the 2 year old so she doesn't get into something she shouldn't. Okay, we're weird - but if you didn't know that you wouldn't have read this far. *grins*

I wonder if its not unlike reading books, watching movies, etc. and picking up on things that click and moving them on. "I'll be back", "Do you feel lucky?" all evoke similar responses - assuming you've seen or been around people who use the sayings so you can pick them up in context. Perhaps gaming is entertainment.

Either that or we're all just pulling one huge "Jilad at Tenagra".

(Curious about that last one? Look here.)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Lessons from the kids...

No, I didn't fall off the edge of the world. I do a lot of my research and blogging while at work as part of my normal routine. Lately, I've been running 100+ hour test sets on our latest project which has me looking for things to do sans PC.

I noticed today my youngest Daughter doing something my eldest Daughter used to do. Each morning I get up take my shower, and get dressed for work. My youngest has decided that Daddy needs help with this and the moment I shut off the water she's in the bathroom helping me get ready.

"Towel! Dry! Socks!"

It's like having my own personal cheerleader. Not bad for an almost 2 year old. However, she does have that "Daddy you look different than Mommy" stare that still gets me. When my eldest first did this, around the same age, it struck me as interesting - up until that point I "understood" why women complained that their eyes were not on their breasts, but I had never experienced it. I'm a guy - people don't usually stare at my chest when talking to me.

My daughters, however, stared elsewhere. It was disconcerting at first, but I'm not one to miss a lesson. I'm now very aware of where I look when I talk to people. Don't know if I did it or not, but if having a 2 year-old staring south-of-the-border is unsettling I can only imagine what it feels like to have 20 or 30 year-olds doing that.

Another lesson learned from the kids. Go Kids!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Drip.... Drip...

Amazing how little time it takes to wake up when your really tired. Last year was the winter from hell. It was a snowy winter and my roof decided that anything over 5 inches was going to create puddles in the cellar - hello ice damns (no I spelled it right, trust me)!

So, over last year we got the roof redone and the proper venting put in. It's been fine, but that hasn't helped my built-in paranoia shut up. Was that a drip? Where? Do I have to clean the roof again? *sigh* Kept me up last night again.

Such a little thing... but man, its easy to let it get you all wound up. Its fine, nothing leaking, no problems.... but that one season of hell.... oof.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Having fun with Technology....

Some sites are just too much fun to mess around with. I recently discovered the Slut-o-Meter from a link on ProgrammableWeb.com. The idea is simple, determine a given search terms promiscuity by comparing the number of hits you get with and without safe-searching enabled on Google. You can find the full explanation here.

So, for example...
Paris Hilton got 84.07%
Microsoft gets 58.03%
RIAA got 5.19%
SCO got 1.72%
This blog has 0%

So Paris beat out Microsoft, but not by much. I felt a little let down that the RIAA and SCO scored so low - then I realized that anyone that put a site up was likely sued for copyright infringement or intellectual property theft and quickly shut down.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Hello 2006!

One question I kept getting last year was if my weight loss was a new years resolution. In a word; No. I don't make new years resolutions as I've never seen anyone follow through with them. However, I do tend to set yearly goals for myself. Last year it was to lose 35 pounds and tone up. Made it, took the whole year too! Sounds the same, but I keep track of the goals and work toward them. *shrugs* Semantics in the end.

So what's on tap for this year? Continuing to learn Spanish. I hope to be fluent enough by the end of the year to be able to speak with my wife's family and not feel like some geek tourist with a translation AI. That will be on top of keeping the weight off and working toward a new running goal.

Should be a fun year. Now to get on top of practicing my Spanish daily! *laughs*