Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
2006-01-30
  Danger! Professionals at work
I don't know if the "professionals" are alergic to safety devices, or just lazy; but I've never seen a carpenter with the blade cover not permanently disengaged on their saw, or a framer with the safety still on his nailgun, or a shop with the guards still on the grinders. I was helping out over at a mechanics shop and asked for some safety glasses before using a hand grinder and it took some serious looking around for them to fine a pair. Sigh.

Combine no safety guard with a location with a view, and the outcome is of little surprise. I mean, how many times have you been grinding or buffing a small part and you press a little to hard for a moment and the part is whipped away out of your hand? Happens to me all the time.

At least nobody was watching through the window.

 
2006-01-28
  Why testing is a good thing.
In a quote to a customer today I said:
Not even my code is so good that I can't screw it up entirely when making changes.
Unfortunately I spend quite a lot of time writing code that can't really be unit tested easily. Its quite a challenge to be writing asynchronous communication code for external boxes I don't even have. Any unit test I came up with would be pure guesswork, and with my luck, probably wrong. So instead the customer runs full tests on new releases and sends back error logs & other diagnostic bits of information which I use to guess the problem and possible fixes for it.

Welcome to the dark side of engineering.

 
2006-01-18
  No help at all
While my new laptop is very nice out on the road, and having a working battery makes it possible to even use it on a plane; there just isn't really enough space to open up and be comfortable with a full size screen and keyboard. So I'm still using my Treo quite a bit for reading, playing games, and watching movies. Unfortunately my wife also wants lots of things to watch when I leave on trips, so she's stolen my high capacity 2GB card. I used to have several of the smaller cards, but on a trip last year I managed to lose several of them and trying to get the hotel custodial staff to look for something that's less than one inch square, as thin as a piece of cardboard, and the same color as a bed spread is next to impossible.

4gb sd Looking online I discovered that the 4GB cards are actually around, though not from any major players. The prices aren't that unreasonable (though others might argue that a data card costing almost as much as a Treo is by definition unreasonable). And the added benefit is that I'm always short about 30 or 40MB to get that last episode or movie on the card, so while I can fit 2 shows on a 1GB card, I can fit 5 shows on a 2GB card, and 11 shows on a 4GB card. Actually I'd probably use 1GB for my music collection, and the rest for shows/movies; avoid un-necessary card shuffles, and possibly prolonging the time till I lose my next SD card.

The only problem is, nobody else is using them yet, and I can't find anything that says that they'll work. The universal oracle Google just points me at six month old discussion board traffic where third hand knowledge was being traded around were the general consensus (if you can call it that) was that it wouldn't work. Of course someone pointed out that the Life Drive is 4GB, so maybe the Tungsten T|X would at least understand it. Then someone made some bizarre statement about how SD 1.1 doesn't have enough pins to do 4GB and there's going to be a SD 2.0 spec with more pins to support larger formats. (I hate it when you run out of pins). I called my gizmo friend at Palm Source, but he didn't have any idea. So finally I broke down and put in a support request to Palm themselves. This is what I got back:

palm logo Subject: Palm Support [Case ID #: 911350]

Thank you for contacting Palm Technical Support. My name is Edmund and I will be addressing your inquiry about support for the 4 GB SD card.

I understand that you would like to know if the Palm T|X and the Treo 650 will support the full capacity of a 4 GB SD card. We have tested 2GB SDIO, MultiMediaCard and SD expansion cards with these devices and can say that they will work in these devices.

We hope this issue has been resolved to your satisfaction.

HuH? Did I miss something? Did the part of the email where they actually answer my question with a yes, no, or we'll know the answer by X get lost or eaten by yahoo mail? Do I dare even attempting to reply to this message to explain that they have not answered my question by any stretch of the imagination?

So not wanting to be the most macho man on the net (I spent $300 on a SD card that doesn't work!). I decided to punt and just get a 2GB card. Also, since I was short on USB card readers I decided to splurge and get a PCMCIA card reader which would sit in my laptop all the time, ready at the waiting for when I needed to shuffle files around. I had had a prior bad experience with an off brand reader (only recognizing cards 512mb or smaller, yuk) and so I spent the big bucks and bought the SanDisk model, thinking to myself, there's no way a Sandisk Ultra II 2GB is not going to work in a Sandisk reader.

Surprise.

windows xp error Cannot copy the file you were trying to copy.
The drive cannot find the sector requested.
So it seems like it will acknowledge that a 2GB card is there. It will even copy files onto the card while it can find a block in the lower 1GB. But as soon as you cross the line---splat. The product information didn't know about this, the FAQ didn't even recognize the question, tech support didn't know about it ... finally level 2 support looked up sector in the index for their book of seldom used arcane knowledge. Yup, there it was. 2GB cards don't work.

To their credit, Sandisk did offer to fix the problem. Their solution? They would exchange my 2GB card for two 1GB cards. Argggggh!

I feel kind of like I'm living the Google Quote for today:
Genius might be described as a supreme capacity for getting its possessors into trouble of all kinds.
  - Samuel Butler

 
2006-01-05
  Gone Flying
Back into the travelling circuit and my opinion of commercial flying is back to its typical rock bottom. The only upside is my expectations are so low, and my level of preparedness is so high; that its not really that bad.

Weather delays on the way out left me stuck in the airport for hours and hours, with no clear picture at any time when I was going to be going. A 30 minute delay stretched out six times is just worse than a three hour delay. With the larger block of time I could have made plans, seen a movie, gone to get a snack. With 30 minutes to go (on a perpetual basis), I'm stuck poking at my phone or maybe breaking out my laptop; munching my way through my emergency supplies of cold pizza, animal crackers and gatorade. My puzzles and movies keep the time occupied, but after the fourth sudoku puzzle and third day of the Daily Show, I just start getting antsy. Its like being on one of those international flights overseas and actually having enough battery life to last the whole time. What would you do? Who can stare at the computer for 12 hours straight. (I'm talking without internet)

bart train

Arriving on the ground at San Francisco wasn't much of a relief, as the connection between the bart and caltrain was to its usual level of precision (the bart train arriving at exactly the same time as the caltrain), and thanks to a closed stairway I missed the one train stopping at the station for at least an hour. Nothing like trying to think straight and maybe code something while sitting outside in the cold and rain, with your legs going asleep/numb under you while you stare at a washed out screen running X Windows over a dialup cellphone link.

That why when we decided to go up to Sacramento to check out things in the colo center and meet with another one of our distributed programmers, it was a relief to go private. Al has his own plane, a 1977 cessna turbo, and it moves at a good clip. We got to the hanger, did pre-flight, loaded up, ran through the check-list, and a few minutes later we were on the go. I even got to steer for a while (thought the autopilot would have handled the job just as well the entire time).

Driving back to the airport in the rental car was so hilarious. Both Tim and I have travelled enough that we have this ingrained sense of urgency as we run through the typical foreign city return. Unable to find an open spot at the gas station, oh-no, we're going to be late. Wouldn't want to miss our flight. Even saying it out loud and laughing at it wasn't enough to entirely dispell the tension.

But after a few loops and turns, we got to the gate. Paid $3 for parking the plane, loaded up and were on our way. What a relief. The view was especially nice as Al had just put in a new windshield, so I got a couple of half-decent pictures out the side of the front window where it wasn't covered with bug splat. That's about all I could do with the camera phone.

 
2006-01-01
  Still keeping warm
Well, December has come and gone, so that means its time to go count how many pellets I used last month. Lets see: 1..2..3..4.. Only 1,720 pounds. Could have been better, but could have been a lot worse. Course there were a couple days last week were in only got down to 22°F at night and so I didn't light the pellet furnace at all those nights. And I had it taken apart for re-wiring, and it was still smoking from some leaks so I wasn't using the auto-start.

Still, I'll take the credit for only using it at needed (and only having the propane heat go one once), and tally up.

November1,200 December1,720 January? February? March?/2
Brought home another 1,600 pounds from Home Depot in my Highlander the other night (with just enough room for me to drive and Max to wiggle his right pinky). Max thought it was funny being burried in pellets up to his eyebrows. The car took it well, though if it had been any farther I might not have chanced it. Luckily HD is only about 3 miles away. With the 1,360 pounds in the garage, I think we have enough for about six weeks, then I'll need another load. Maybe next year I'll rent the HD truck for 90 minutes (only $20), the clerk said it would hold 3,000 pounds.

We'll see what happens after my trip this week. With the way jonmarie likes the house heated, I still may need another 3,000 pounds this winter.

 
Life in the middle of nowhere, remote programming to try and support it, startups, children, and some tinkering when I get a chance.

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Blogroll
Paul Graham's Essays
You may not want to write in Lisp, but his advise on software, life and business is always worth listening to.
How to save the world
Dave Pollard working on changing the world .. one partially baked idea at a time.
SnowDeal
Eric Snowdeal IV - born 15 weeks too soon, now living a normal baby life.
Land and Hold Short
The life of a pilot.

The best of?
Jan '04
The second best villain of all times.

Feb '04
Oops I dropped by satellite.
New Jets create excitement in the air.
The audience is not listening.

Mar '04
Neat chemicals you don't want to mess with.
The Lack of Practise Effect

Apr '04
Scramjets take to the air
Doing dangerous things in the fire.
The Real Way to get a job

May '04
Checking out cool tools (with the kids)
A master geek (Ink Tank flashback)
How to play with your kids

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