Thursday, January 31, 2008

Zen Simplification

I keep forgetting to post this (even if its posted in two different places in my home office. Doh!):
Zen Simplification
1) Collect everything in one place
2) Choose the essential
3) Eliminate the rest
4) Organize the remaining neatly and nicely.
Sadly I lost the original source. I have been doing this for years. The idea is simple, when an area (desk, cellar, garage, file system) gets filled up you go and Simplify it. Take everything and put it out in the open, find those things that you use, eliminate the rest (this includes the 'but I put this here for some reason!' items) and then organize the remaining.

If you look back at my post about the cellar cleaning, this is what I did, even if I didn't call it out explicitly. Before I could get to rewiring the network I had to clean out the Christmas clutter that had accumulated. I pulled it all out, looked at what was used, what wasn't, and tossed everything in the latter category. The rest got organized, and then I dove into rewiring the network.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

That's why....

I've been playing MP3s and streaming audio since I got hooked on both in a year my kids will remind me was before they were born. I enjoy finding and purchasing music. Sorry RIAA, I have actually *bought* mine, so don't hope to get another frivolous lawsuit out of this post.

Through services like Pandora (and others who have end of lifed) I've found everything from Trans Siberian Orchestra to Nightwish and many in between. With my new found Apple addiction, I've gotten hooked on iTunes and allow myself part of my allowance each month to pick up new tunes. I'm afraid to look at the size of the folder.

It has served me well. The kids enjoy the "Music that Dad made" on car rides (CDs with at least one favorite song for everyone) and I really enjoy tailoring mixes for my running, or work. When I have bad days at work it's nice to click on the "My Top Rated" in iTunes and let those songs that I really like overwhelm my bad mood.

I'm not 100% sure the neighbors like it when I do this, as I have been known to tell friends "I can feel my keyboard vibrating" due to the volume level I'm playing things at. Still, if my idea of Zen meditation is rattling the rafters, tough. On days like that you don't want to tell me to turn it down.... encouragement to find a louder system you don't want to give me.

Haven't tried iTunes? Give it a whirl. Prior to this I was using WinAmp (PC only), but I never made a connection with the rating system (although I'm a year out on releases now) which is what I've been using to good effect on the Mac.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Winter Cleaning?

Finally this weekend I attacked my cellar. My home office and all of our computers are in the cellar. As well as anything else that gets dumped there. As we started to use the wireless connection more I had wanted to reorg the network to move the access point into a more open area. In order to do that I had to blast through the junk in the way.

Funny how there are those points in the house that accumulate clutter. For us, the cellar had been the dumping ground for wrapped presents, boxes, left over wrapping paper, and more than a few cat toys (ranging from actual cat toys to 'which one of them stole that!?'). With my Son over Grandma's and the girls playing with friends, I dug in and started moving things.

It always interests me how your mind works when your doing these things. I had been shifting and rerunning network cables while moving furniture and I had it my head that this one cable had to go. It ran from the old hub location to the new one, no need for that! No sooner had I gotten it removed than I realized I needed a wire running from one of the systems, where the hub had been, to the new hub. Could have moved it over and been done with it. Ooops. Ah well, the dust bunnies and I now have a new accord.

After having finished the cellar, my wife and I attacked our bed room, another source of clutter. I wonder how much of the house is going to survive our Winter Cleaning.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

PEBCAK?

Yes, I'm still enjoying my iPhone. Trust me, it's tweaking Verizon as much as some of you who are still shocked I bought one. Still, they did make me that amazing offer after I bought my $500 phone, that they'd take $10 off my next phone from them.

Anyway, the latest patch for the iPhone came out over the past couple of days and this morning I found myself installing that, and the latest iTunes patch. Welcome to an impromptu patch day! For those that haven't gone through updating your iPhone, here's how it normally works:

You plug in your iPhone, and iTunes lets you know that new software is available. After promising the EULA gods your first born, you start downloading. It automatically installs, restarts your phone, does some registration stuff and your good to go.

Nothing too painful.

Today, though, a new wrinkle; both the iPhone and iTunes had an update. I'm a seasoned software dude, I know this drill. Update the installer first! I aborted the iPhone update, and instead did the iTunes one. Good so far. Reboot required (rare, and still annoying).

Came around, did the normal iPhone update, and I lost all connectivity to AT&T. Weird. Maybe it's a fluke. I'll keep an eye on it.... hours pass, no change. This is very odd, not only no bars I'm now getting "no service". Uh. Good patch. Okay, one last check. Lets plug it in and see if anything new syncs down.... *whirrr buzz click* "Activation successful!"

Ah. Why didn't it do that during the upgrade like it usually does?

If you have some quirks after install iPhone 1.1.3, unplug the USB and replug it in to kick up activation.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Firefox addons I now use...

When I got the Mac for work I decided to do something weird - not install all of my FireFox addons. Given that it was a new OS and a new UI, it made sense that what I did on Windows XP may not be what I would need here.

It was the right move. My Firefox addon list now looks like:

Adblock Plus - There are Ads on the internet? You sure?
Download Statusbar - A drop in replacement for the default firefox stuff. Really useful.
Fancy Numbered Tabs - Puts a number on the tabs so you can Alt-# to them easily.
(Wish this worked with the Noia theme *sigh*)
FaviconizeTab - No surprise, for Pandora. Reduces a tab down to its favicon.

Then for work;
Firebug - Do web dev? Go get it.
YSlow - Don't use this one as much, but it has some neat data
Web Developer - I have to go see if I use this all the time and don't realize it, or never touch it.

Since the Mac menuing system does what Personal Menu does, I didn't need to do that. There were a few others that fell by the wayside as well.

What are the ones you guys live on that I don't use?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Beginnings....

Funny how things make sense at, what seem like, odd times and places. This weekend I had time to reflect as I went for a walk with my youngest daughter. Her brother and sister wanted to play in the melting snowbanks but she wanted to go off and get some exercise. So we got the dog and headed out.

Since it was just us, she had the luxury of being in control - no sister to argue with to be on point, no brother complaining. She directed the entire walk telling me when we needed to turn and where we were going. It was all she'd say - the rest of the walk was quiet and it left my mind wandering.

As you've seen rumblings of here the fall of 2007 sucked for me. Work was hard - the transition to my new role shook up the family, as was expected, but the lack of the direction we expected my career to go in threw us for a loop and left a lot of questions. That stress pushed the right buttons to place some distance between everyone and cause a lot of friction. The resulting eruption wasn't fun - but did reset us back to normal.

While all that was going on I was hitting another wall in my Martial Arts. A new plateau as I take the step from intermediate to 'advanced'. It sounds presumptuous to put it that way, but when I take my next exam I will be one rank from being Black belt. I'm not a beginner, I'm solidly an intermediate - and if you have a good term for not-intermediate and not-expert post it!

Anyway, it was very easy to see what wasn't going right, but it wasn't so easy to figure out what to do to fix it. It felt like every turn ran into one wall or another. Frustrating to say the least, until I was able to break it up and start attacking parts that needed attacking and letting go of those that didn't.

By the time of the walk, this was two months of history, and I was still puzzling over parts of it. Mentally I complained that at the start, of the job, of martial arts, it was all easier. I swear my mind has a hacked version of TiVo and Google running - instantly I heard a scene from Teen Titans where Robin was complaining about the same thing as he made his pilgrimage to find the True Master. She said to him:
Beginnings are often easier; but look at all that you have learned [from your adventures]
It got me reviewing all that I had learned over the past two years and made me realize, again, how silly I was being. Doesn't mean things are perfect, just that I've decided to look past some of the imperfections.

Bring it on 2008!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Of kittens and leaves....

As you may remember, we got a kitten in Sep '07. Spaz, as she's been named, has become a regular sibling in the family. Annoying her older sisters, attacking invading paper scraps, and using the dogs tail as an amusement ride. Lately, though, she's decided to become a regular member of my "office staff".

The office staff are those pets that are (foolish?) enough to come and hang in the dungeon. This time of year the dungeon is cold, even with the space heater going. Those who brave it out down here either have fur coats or jobs. Normally it is our middle cat, Nikki, on top of my bookcase on her cat mat and the pup that visit. And now Spaz.

As I write this Spaz is staring out the window in front of where I work. She's been there for 10 minutes, maybe 15. She started up on the shelf by her sister when something outside caught her attention. She was in the "pre pounce" look that all cats have once they've sighted in on a target.

She was smart enough to realize that she couldn't leap from there and through the window. So she got down, and with her back paws on the shelf and her front paws on the window sill - resumed her vigil.

The object, outside, that has her interest is a leaf that has its stem stuck in the snowbank from shoveling off our deck. It's wedged in enough that it wont be blown away, but it still sways randomly with the wind. In her mind, it must be some cool intruder as nothing has kept her interest this long.

She had been at the window long enough that I was used to her. Then, suddenly, a new noise. "BONG". You know the sound. It's the sound of the kittens head hitting the window as she learns that she can't leap through it.

To her credit, where her sisters would do the "I didn't do that". She glared, briefly at the window, and then resumed her watch of the leaf.

Halloo 2008!

And goodbye fall of 2007. You can leave, you wont be missed (pun unintentional).

It's been quiet here recently, I know. The problem with my set of restrictions for blogging is that you have to be careful what you write about. I don't want to put friends a family onto a stage they don't want to be on so many "cool posts" die before they go very far. Still, I'll find something.

A big theme on the blogsphere right now is, no shock, New Years Resolutions. Personally, I don't follow them. I'd rather make and update my goals as I go along. Am I dieting? Sure, I want to lose a few pounds. I'm also exercising, as both tanked during the last few months. It's nothing to do with the new year though.

I have also had some good success cleaning out the chaff in my inbox. Ever sit and figure out of all the emails you signed up for, that someone sends you, how many you read? I have been focusing on that as of late. Especially after the barrage I was getting around Christmas - that had to stop. One retailer was emailing me daily with "specials". Can't be that special if you tweak it daily guys.

Unlike postal mailed catalogs, I control my inbox (aside from Spam, but I can control that too with some effort and tools). So now, when I get a new email from some service I signed up for but never use, instead of deleting it, I opt-out. I have cut my garbage mail down over 80% already. Most of this stuff I used at one time, but no longer and never made the effort to remove myself from it.

Funny that. At 2s a delete if I get one message a week, thats one minute of wasted time a year. Doesn't seem like much, but now multiply that by all the emails you get and it adds up.

Try it. Take a week and filter through your own and remove yourself from any that you were ready to delete the moment you read the from and/or subject line.