Monday, June 09, 2003

Hell Of Being Skinned Alive

That's where it's going to feel like you are after reading this post. Yes I've been slacking again, so this will be a long rambling article that will jump from subject to subject without any cohesiveness.

Actually, I had written this article once before, about 3 days ago. Spent an hour or so writing it, and it was witty, well written, humorous, and something everyone would want to read. Well, that's the story I am sticking to, and you can't go back and see what I typed up to prove differently, because its gone.

Long gone.

You see, I was doing the article on my laptop, like I am now, only I was running Linux. I was typing it in Blogger's interface and copying and pasting the article as I went along to Open Office Writer. Open Office is a free "Office" Suite that is very similar to Microsoft Office. It has Writer (Like Word), and also an Excel and Powerpoint Knockoff, as well as a few others. It comes in Linux and Windows versions. If you can't afford $400 for a Microsoft Office Professional License, and you aren't a student, give it a try. It will read Office formatted files, so you can still open Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents you get mailed to you.

Anyway, you are probably thinking at this point that Blogger crashed and lost my article. Nope. It was Open Office's fault, I was using the spell-checker, and it spawned a runaway process. No, the machine didn't try to run away, but the process was so bad that I couldn't do anything but reboot, and I lost the whole document.

So here I am again, going to give it the old college try again. Only this time I am in Windows 2000, and using UltraEdit as the master copy, and will paste it into Blogger once I am done. Speaking of Blogger, James over at Hell In a Handbasket has moved off Blogger and onto a Hosting Service using Movable Type. Damn, now I have to update my blogroll. I understand the draw on moving off, and I was thinking about it myself, but I've been too busy/lazy.

Speaking of laziness, that leads me into something that pisses me off to no end. I recently bought a bike, and have been tooling around the neighborhood getting some lower-body exercise, and chasing the kids around too. There's a Super-Megastore about two-miles ride from my house (much closer as the crow flies, but longer taking the back roads), and I've been biking up there. Well one day the weather looked a little dark, and so I drove up, not wanting to ride back in the pouring rain. It was about 2:00 in the afternoon on a weekday, so the parking lot was pretty empty.

Other than the shopping carts.

Meijers, like many other stores, has those 'cart corrals' where you can place your shopping cart after you empty the contents into your vehicle. The corral keeps the lot clear of those kamikaze carts that seem to be pointed in just the right direction to get blown by a slight breeze and crash into the side of your or someone else's brand new car, putting quite a dent in it.

However, as I have noticed before, there are carts left out in the open, but within six feet of the nearest corral! [That's 2 meters for those not in the US]

Now Come-on People! I'm a reasonable guy, but I'm seeing a very unreasonable thing. I mean, we're not talking about pushing an empty cart that far. OK - I'm no skinny-mini (though I'm trying to get there), but dammit, you used your carb-bloated body to push the cart full of twinkies, bon-bons, potato chips, and other sugar-laden items to your car, at least you can have some consideration and waddle your cart over to the corral. You might burn off a half a bite of that melted Snicker's bar you have in your hand. I wouldn't have been so miffed if it was one or two carts, but it had to be at least 15-20. If you're an old Granny with a walker, get one of the Meijer's baggers to take your stuff out to the car. Dammit.

Speaking of Mega-stores, why do I shop at Walmart? The parking lot is full almost everyday, but there's more teeth in a toddler's head than there is in the whole store. Maybe its for the greasy hair and tattoo show? No, dammit, its the prices. My friends over at Chaos Theory call me the "Ferengi", and I suppose its somewhat true, and I can't argue with saving the money when stuff is considerably cheaper. We even have a "Super" Walmart with Groceries as well.

(Insert your favorite Redneck joke here)

Walmart is a cultural melting pot. I can get as much culture as I can possibly stand there, though not of the kind I'd like. Maybe I'm getting to elitist - oh well, so be it.

Speaking of Culture Shock, I received an emergency call through a Sales Dude at a large Telecom provider. Seems one of his clients had a major routing problem, and it had taken one of their manufacturing centers off-line. Those if you in manufacturing know that having a plant down is a bad thing, especially if its due to computer failure. You're losing money each minute the assembly line isn't running.

This however, was a new and strange experience for me.

The company headquarters is in the Far East, and the main facility in Ohio was where I was headed after speaking with the IT Manager there. It's about a 30-minute drive from my place.

Once I arrived, I could see that the plant was run just like it is over in that country in the Far East. It was strange, there were few "offices" as most everyone worked out in the open and wore a single-colored coverall with the with company name and their surname on it. Even the executives and managers wore them, so you really couldn't tell who was who in the pecking order. There seemed also to be two distinct "chains of command" and separation depending on what language was your native tongue.

It seemed to be quite a chore to get anyone to make a decision, in fact, there was argument about replacing some defective network equipment, which along with my charges were minimal compared to the money being lost due to the connection to one of the other plants being down. Once they decided to order the equipment, it was going to be a day before the stuff got there, so they sent me on a two-hour drive to the remote plant the next day to configure the router on that end.

I discovered the "Certified" Network Admin, who kept offering excuses why he didn't know how to work on the equipment, was pretty clueless, even in the stuff he "knew". The defective routers were a different brand than his certification, however I have discovered that a router is a router is a router (at the lower levels), the interface is just a little different. So I walked him over the phone getting his side configured as well. Everyone thanked me for the job well done, and I was on my way. I have a feeling the IT Manager will be calling me straight away next time there is a critical system down.

Speaking of people calling for business, I was at my eldest daughter's last day of school pool party. She's starting 2nd grade next school year, and one of the pools local to the school opened up just for the kids getting out that day. I was headed over to the concession stand, feeling like a dirty-old man (did the Senior girls look like THAT when I was in school? Wow.), when the owner of the pool walked up and said "Hey, aren't you that computer guy?"

I had no idea who he was or how he knew me.

Feigning familiarity, I nodded in the affirmative. He asked for my business card, which I retrieved from my car. He was muttering something about a crashed computer and a family member, and he'd need my help. It was neat, I had never had that happen before, and the wife was speechless as well. She couldn't believe it either.

Speaking of the computer business (I'm trying to tie these sections together, OK?), James sent me two articles. One was about FastTCP, which supposedly was going to speed TCP/IP connections up to 6,000 times. Problem is, the author of the article either misunderstood or fell victim to some tech-speak from some money-hungry researchers. Sure, TCP/IP has some overhead, but not nearly enough to account for that much of an increase. It takes bandwidth, not just fancy packet-mangling.

The other article was about a Professor of Video Gaming. This guy wants to start a curriculum that focuses in creating and programming video games. Now you might think this is a little bit of a stretch, but in reality, computer games are about the only software that pushes current systems anywhere near their capacity to perform. However, the guy in the picture looks too young and geeky to be taken seriously.

I have been interested in High-Speed Internet Access Over Power Lines. There was a company during the hey-day of the DotComs that was working on transmitting 4Mb/s (about 2x faster than the fastest common home high-speed connection) over the nation's power grid. This would have been perfect, and allowed those out in the boonies instant access to a much faster internet experience. However, the transformers along the way blocked the signal, and they were unable to work around it. Well, they've finally come up with a solution, but it is quite expensive.

Finally, I leave you with this. Click it if you dare.

"I like da moon...."