Monday, December 28, 2009

It's a day

Today was my annual PC clean up day. Every year after Christmas I spend at least one whole day cleaning up a years worth files, reinstalling a desktop OS or rebuilding a Linux fileserver at home.

We used to have a saying at my old job that went like this "Anytime you touch your PC, it's a day". True.

This year I finally replaced my creaking HP Pavilion desktop circa 2002 with 3/4 of a Gig of ram with a laptop. I bought a middle of the road HP laptop for about $650 at Best Buy on Saturday and then spent Sunday copying the Music files from the old Pavilion over the network.

Today was the big day to move in to the laptop.

First up was iTunes. Since I had quite the unique configuration on the Pavilion with the "My Music" folder on the server and the Music on a D: disk, this wasn't easy. I literally spent the entire morning trying different tactics to get the Music and Library lined up so the I wouldn't have those dreaded ! marks next to every file and have to recreate the entire iPod universe all over again.

Finally I got all lined up by simply changing the Media directory in iTunes on the laptop.

The absolute coolest part of the new laptop? The HDMI interface.

I have it connected to the 52" LCD TV and "borrowed" Youngest sons wireless keyboard and mouse. I felt like I should have put on a tie and reviewed the family budget in front of the entire family (and here you can see the 27 cents we saved using CFL lightbulbs)

From there, it was all downhill. One task caused four new ones. It was brutal. Let's just say it was a wasted after noon of disk clean ups, roaming profiles and loading Microsoft Security Essentials 5 times. The easiest disk clean up decision? Removing the gigs and gigs of space eaten up by perl script I had that has been running since 2006 capturing a Web-Cam in Santorini, Greece EVERY TEN MINUTES. I am not making this up. I had forgotten all about it. It was pretty cool to see the time lapse of ships leaving the harbor. It was not worth 20 Gig of space.

I shut off the script.

I can't wait to get back to work tomorrow. I need a break.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

If the fates allow.

Another Christmas is in the books and this was a good one.

Christmas Eve was my mother-in-law's 80th birthday which we celebrated at the Melting Pot in King of Prussia. The boy's girlfriends went and my wife felt obligated to point out the parts of the Mall to the girls as if they were components of her home town (and here's the mall and over there is court).

She wasn't too happy when I pointed out the Mattress Giant. (What? I happen to like Mattress Giant).

The Melting Pot has a whole Robert Evans, seventies feel to it to me because of the whole fondue thing again. My parents went through a fondue fad in my teen aged years. Everyone gave fondue forks and pots for Christmas one year and we all sat around boiling oil with forks with meat on them in the boiling oil. Yep, nothing dangerous about that.

I felt like saying "I have many books bound in leather" or "That reminds me of the time Dyan Cannon and I shot smack with Soupy Sales, baby" all night.

At the Melting pot they use boiling broth, which I'm sure has something to do with the insurance coverage. For the second course they brought out the broth in a medivel looking contraption that both kept a tight seal on the broth and yet had a convenient carry handle.

I looked at it and thought, this thing has to have a name, right?

I asked the waiter and he told us it was a Rommulator and spelled it on the spot. I think he was making it up but the spelling of the word just made the whole thing seem legit. That is how Rommulator became the word of the night, ohh and "Happy Birthday, Fondue".

Christmas morning was at home with the boys. We had purchased suits for them this week and had them convinced that is what their big gift was going to be this year. My wife had put all the smaller gifts under the tree and after they opened all those sweaters, socks, hats and gloves, they thought Christmas was over.

My wife had put one more gift each under the auxiliary trees upstairs, which they found about a 1/2 hour later. They opened the large boxes only to find smaller boxes with iPhones in them.

It was quite a surprise and a hit. I was sure we had them convinced that iPhones were not in the plan and then here they were opening them. (Data plan? what? You need a data plan with those things? no way)

From there it was full press tech support for me. First move the sim and then transfer the addresses in the sim card, get them on the wifi network, open ssl imap on the outbound firewall.... it was never ending. On top of that I had accidentally erased the pictures from the Melting Pot on my SD card so I needed to find a utility to unerase them and put the finishing touches on my secret project. It was stressful.

I quickly discovered that people with iPhones go a little nuts when they first get them. It's as if they have to find an app for everything in their lives. I was first onto this when I caught youngest son rifling through the hall closet looking for Lord-knows-what using his "flashlight app" instead of simply turning on the light. Now my wife is downloading levels and coupon generators as if she is going to out in the garage and start some wood working project with her new level.

So another happy Christmas is in the books and now onto My sisters wedding on New Year's eve.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Secret Project

I can finally discuss the secret project I've been working on now that Christmas has past.

It's amazing how I got on secret project. For some strange reason I started looking for a picture of my Father's old 1963 Bonneville sedan and ended up converting all the family slides to digital format. It's like looking on the Internet for a recipe for chocolate chips cookies and getting mesmerized by the 1922 Rochester Jeffersons. It's easy to get lost out there.

Once I started looking at the slides I knew I had to build "the contraption". The contraption held the point and shoot digital camera still, held the slide still and back-lit the slide. I then took a macro picture of the actual slide. When I was building it that first Saturday, I had no idea how crazy it must have looked, me with this wooden thing with a gooseneck desk lamp attached, a mousetrap holding the slide and a camera mounted to the wood.

I looked like Dr Brown from "Back to the future" when Youngest son came home that Saturday. All I needed was a spaghetti strainer on my head.

Once the contraption was built came the tedious conversion work. I shot each slide 4 times at different exposures to try and capture the best results and organized each roll into a different directory.

After spending weeks looking at these priceless family heirlooms, I can only reach one of three conclusions:

  • In the 1950s and 1960s, people were actually blurry.
  • My father was the worst photographer of all time.
  • Photography 50 years ago was really hard.
I'm going to have to go with the last one.

My Father had an Agfa Silette. Silette of course is German for "bad depth of field". The Silette Pronto was completely manual. You needed a separate light meter to establish what F-stop and shutter speed combination to use which left a lot of room for error.

Here is the complete photographic process from "gee I'd like a picture of that" to the viewing:

  1. Fill the camera with a roll of 24 or 36 exposure 35 mm Kodachrome slide film.
  2. Hold the light meter towards the subject.
  3. Obtain a reading from the meter in lumens.
  4. Rotate a calculator dial on the lightmeter to the value in lumens.
  5. Read the F-stop and shutter speed combo off the calculator.
  6. Set the F-stop and shutter speed.
  7. Guess at the distance to the subject.
  8. Set the focus to the guess.
  9. Look through the viewfinder and shoot the picture.
  10. When finished with the roll, send the pictures off for development to a lab somewhere.
  11. Wait two weeks.
  12. Set up the slide project and screen in darkened room.
  13. View each slide.
God forbid if you needed to take a flash picture with a bulb full of who knows what kind of explosive mixture.

Given the above, it's actually amazing how many pictures came out properly exposed and in focus.

Now, fifty years later I am taking the descendant of that Agfa Silette and taking a digital picture 70 cm from the subject and getting the exposure perfect every single time. I was amazed by the advancement.

On Christmas, I showed the slides to the enjoyment of all. I'll post a few when I get a chance.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Siege, Day two

Day two of the great snowstorm siege of 2009.

We tag teamed periodic shoveling expeditions until 11:30 last night. It was still coming down heavy when we went to bed at midnight.

Oldest sons friend stopped by in the early in the evening and is now digging his Camry off the street before the plows make him a permanent fixture on the final Cul De Sac.

Questionable judgment wasn't limited to youth but perhaps it is to Camry onwers. On the final leg of the shoveling marathon I was shoveling the driveway when another Camry started making it's way down the final Cul De Sac. Surprise! it got stuck. From there is was a dance of going forward, backing up, shoveling out and pushing until they got out of the final Cul De Sac.

"Pete" told me they were going to a party when they got stuck. He said that and I turned and looked to the end of the street for wild activity. Except for Christmas lights there was nothing. Hmmm what kind of party was that going to be? That had to be one heck of a party, "Pete".

Now to one to the big dig.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


It's snowing. It's winter and somehow this is news. Big news.

I woke at 6 and decided it was best to do the food shopping before the snow really hit. I was there as the Shoprite that used to be Stop-n-shop but was a Giant before that opened at 7. It was kind of a mad rush as people were just throwing things in carts and heading to check out as fast as they could. One guy had a entire shopping cart full of firewood and he was getting lunch meat. It was the kind of supermarket firewood that comes in the pre-packaged net bags and is perfect. It had to cost $1000 a cord. I didn't check what type of lunch meat it was. Planning is everything.

It was world record shopping pace at $205 in 50 minutes. I have no idea what I bought. I know what I didn't buy though, syrup. I heard about that when I got home and Shreck and his brother were makin' waffles.

After that was the crisis with the dog. The male doggie had a bit of surgery on Thursday on his paw and today was supposed to be his first visit back to the Vet to dress bandages. Now the snow was starting to come down pretty hard and it was a perilous trip skidding through intersections, spinning tires and fish tailing. I did better than the lady that pulled out of the Vet's parking lot onto the country crown road and drove off into the ditch. Me and the Vet's neighbor were helping her get out of the ditch in her two wheel drive Volvo and having a heck of time at it. Is the wheels were spinning she said "I knew I should have taken my Husbands Jeep."

Ya think? So given the choice, you took the comfort of the Volvo over the four wheel drive.
Great. We finally got her out when two good ol' boys who were out on a hunting trip pulled over and helped push her out.

We safely made it home by ten and by then it was really starting to come down. The minivan is safely back in the garage now. It'll be Monday before that things sees the road again.

We live on a cul de sac that my Township plows absolutely last.

My cars are parked in the snow configuration. This is a habit I've inherited from my Father. He has very strict rules about were the cars are to be parked with the threat of snow and now so do I.

The rest of the day has been about keeping up the shoveling and Beatles rockband.