Archives » November, 2006

November 30, 2006

New Carpet

We’re getting new carpet put in at my office. Which is most definitely a good thing. Just look at the picture above to see what we’re all walking on now: ratty, low-pile industrial fabric, glued to the cement slab without so much as a layer of padding underneath. Nasty stuff. The new stuff actually has padding, which is a plus by itself, and looks more like an office out of the 21st century than out of the 80s.

The problem is that installing new carpet is chaotic. You have to remove every piece of furniture from the room. Every desk, every chair, every filing cabinet, every bookshelf. Luckily the carpet installers are doing most of the heavy lifting, but it’s still up to us to put all of our belongings into boxes or drawers so it can all be moved from room to room.

And then there are the computers. There are a total of 13 offices getting new carpet (just two floors of one of the buildings – a partial carpet job), and in those 13 offices are 17 computers. Including the main server, which runs our e-mail, our web site, and all our company data. That’s over a third of the computers in the company, and they all had to be moved today so the carpet guys could grab the desks. So I’ve spent my morning moving towers, monitors, keyboards, mice, speakers, and the dozens of wires necessary to keep the whole operation running. Not to mention cleaning out my own office and getting everything into boxes. And finding a place to hook up the main server where there isn’t any carpet work being done, so the whole company doesn’t shut down.

So it’s been quite a day so far. One thing I’m thankful for is that the guys haven’t made their way to my office yet. They seem to be saving me ’til last (one of the blessings that goes along with being in the basement), and I’m keeping my computer hooked up until the last possible second. The world may be crumbling around me, but I’m clutching onto the one thing that can keep me sane.

This is nothing, though. Teardown is easy. After the carpets are done and the desks are back in place, guess who has to go around and hook those 17 computers back up? And you know that hooking a computer up is a lot more difficult that unplugging it. It looks like my weekend is going to be full of crawling under desks and running wires. It’s enough to make me wonder what ever happened to the promise of wireless devices. Yes we have wireless Ethernet, but it runs at a fraction of the Gigabit speeds you get when you plug in. And there are wireless mice and keyboards, but you’ve got to mortgage the business in order to put one on every desk. And a second mortgage for the batteries. Wireless monitors? Pipe dream. Wireless USB? Maybe in another 10 years. Wireless power? Go dig up Tesla.

So short of putting a laptop on every desk, these wires are going to be with us for a long time to come. And I’m the one who’s going to have to put everything back together after the carpet installers leave, and try to bring the chaos back into order. Oh, joy.

November 28, 2006

The Amazing Race 10×11: We Won’t Just Die, Like Roaches

My recap of the latest Amazing Race episode is now up at

It’s also at this moment that we have the triumphant return of “Phil Points At The Horizon”. Oh, how I’ve missed you. I think this is the first time all season he’s done that. Easily the best part of the episode, right there.

Go read it all.

Episode links:
Miss Alli’s recap
TV Squad review
TV Guide review
Download the episode with BitTorrent

November 25, 2006

Implementing Tags In PHP

I want to post this link here so I can find it later. This is only for the truly geeky amongst you.

How to Implement Tags (and Tag Clouds) using PHP and MySQL

I’m working on adding tagging to the homegrown blogging system that I’m running over at Around Carson. I’ve already done most of the coding for it, but the tips on how to create a tag cloud are pretty awesome. I would have taken me ages to put that SQL together myself.

Amazing Race All-Stars

It’s official, The Amazing Race All-Stars has finally become reality. This is one of those things that has been rumored for years, and in equal parts anticipated and dreaded. All Stars versions of these shows can be a wreck sometimes, and can prevent a lot of new people from being on the show in favor of a bunch of has-beens. But with the lackluster casting we’ve been having on the Race lately, it might actually be refreshingly welcome to see some old faces back.

CBS has confirmed only that the Race is happening, not who is going to be on it. I guess the Race is actually being run right now, so that’s the kind of thing they like to keep quiet until we’re closer to the premiere date. And they don’t want this news to overshadow the current Amazing Race, which is slowly limping to the finish line as we speak. So all we’re left with is speculation and airport sightings to get our casting news from. The spoiler threads at TWoP and RFF have said that Rob and Amber pretty much positively confirmed as being in the race, along with Team Guido and Charla and Mirna. Plus, just about every name who was ever on the Race has been mentioned that they’re “on the show for sure,” so it’s tough to really say who’s going to be running this Race until January or February when the official list comes out.

So hopefully this will re-energize the Amazing Race. I’ve been watching it lately because I love the show, but not because I love the people on it. During the first few seasons it was just as much about enjoying the people on the show as the show itself, so maybe if we bring some of these people back some of that magic will come back

And if Kevin and Drew aren’t on it, I’m not watching.

November 21, 2006

Shut Down How?

From Joel Spolsky: Choices = Headaches. It’s all about how the Vista Start Menu has nine ways to tell the computer to log off/shut down, and how we could probably just do with one.

The biggest thing that bugs me is that the big “Off” button there really puts the computer to sleep, it doesn’t do a full shut down. And I haven’t found a way to change that yet.

Update: more from Moishe Lettvin, who worked on the team that actually built this thing:

But here’s how the design process worked: approximately every 4 weeks, at our weekly meeting, our PM would say, “the shell team disagrees with how this looks/feels/works” and/or “the kernel team has decided to include/not include some functionality which lets us/prevents us from doing this particular thing”. And then in our weekly meeting we’d spent approximately 90 minutes discussing how our feature — er, menu — should look based on this “new” information. Then at our next weekly meeting we’d spend another 90 minutes arguing about the design, then at the next weekly meeting we’d do the same, and at the next weekly meeting we’d agree on something… just in time to get some other missing piece of information from the shell or kernel team, and start the whole process again.

The end result of all this is what finally shipped: the lowest common denominator, the simplest and least controversial option.

I have no idea how much of the rest of Vista ended up like this. I think (indeed hope) my team was a pathological case; unfortunately it’s a visible one.

The Amazing Race 10×10: Lookin’ Like A Blue-Haired Lady On A Sunday Drive

My recap of the latest Amazing Race episode is now up at

After that it’s time for the Pit Stop. Tyler and James are first, and they’ve got this really odd thing going on. Phil is right in the middle of one of his trademark pauses (Patent Pending), and he’s got the eyebrow up and everything, and Tyler squeezes James’ arm. I mean, he reaches right over and grabs a chunk of flesh and pinches it. And James doesn’t even flinch at this. It’s so normal for him, he doesn’t even notice. And then Phil, awesomely, realizes that things are already so weird on the other side of the mat that it doesn’t matter anymore what he does. So he scrunches up his face, nods his head, and says, “Yeah, you’re team number one.” Tyler and James yell and high five and hug, and then Tyler is holding onto James’ hand and he won’t let go. He just won’t let go.

Go read it all.

Episode links:
Miss Alli’s recap
TV Squad review
TV Guide review
Download the episode with BitTorrent

November 19, 2006

Take The Plunge

It’s a little scary, but I did it. Today at work I upgraded my main computer, the one I’m constantly using when I’m at the office, to Windows Vista.

I’ve been fiddling with the betas for what seems like the entire year now, and for the last couple of months I’ve had a Vista computer parked full time on the workbench behind me. But now that the final release is out, it was time to go for it. As a reward for my bravery, I also treated myself to a Core 2 Duo computer so that at least Vista had a lot of horsepower to prop itself up.

I’ve gotta say that Vista is a slick little OS. Not a terrible lot of difference from Windows XP, which is good because you don’t want the learning curve to be huge. But there’s a lot of eye candy and enough little enhancements to keep things interesting. And there are some small tweaks that make a world of difference. Like when you’re copying an entire folder from one place to another, and there’s one file in there that’s locked by some other program? In Windows XP it would copy half the files, then choke on that one and throw up an error message. Then you’d have to go back and copy the other half of the files manually, spending time figuring out which files did and didn’t get copied the first time. In Vista, when it hits that locked file it throws up a simple window that lets you skip the file. I wanted to kiss the monitor the first time I saw that. And then it finishes the copy procedure like nothing ever happened. That one feature right there (actually, it can hardly be called a “feature”) was probably just a few lines of code, but it could save hours when you’re copying large amounts of files.

So Vista’s not perfect, and the one program I’ve found that doesn’t run on it is the program I use to enter my timesheet. So I still have to keep Windows XP around for one or two things. But now XP is going to be on the workbench behind me. I think this upgrade is going to be permanent, and I’m not going to look back. Just like I never looked back at Windows 98 or 95 when I moved away from them.

November 18, 2006

Windows Vista Startup Sound

I had been hearing for some time about the “Windows Vista Startup Sound”, that there would be a sound file that would play every time Vista started up. Not the usual “Log Onto Windows” sound that plays when you get into your computer, but a different one, earlier in the bootup process. And for a while this sound was going to be mandatory in Vista, but there was a bit of an outcry, so they put in a checkbox to let you turn it off. But you can’t change it; there is one built-in sound, and supposedly their whole marketing campaign is going to be built around this sound. This will be the Windows sound. It took 18 months of work to get the sound just right, and you’re going to be hearing it “everywhere”.

So why, then, is it so lame?

November 17, 2006

Bellevue Crane Collapse

A 200-foot crane toppled in Bellevue, WA, last night, just one block away from where my brother works. It fell away from his building, at least. But it did crush one office building, damage another, and come crashing through the roof of an apartment building across the street. One man in the apartment was killed, but the crane operator (who rode the crane down the whole way) survived with minor injuries.

My brother sent me a few pictures he took this morning. Look at what’s left of that office building! It’s lucky the crane fell over at night, I guess.





Update: Here’s a before picture of the crane from Flickr. In the lower left is the office building that got crushed.

Cranes of Bellevue

The Amazing Race Asia BitTorrent Files

Look out, there’s a new Amazing Race in town. And a new Phil to go along with it! The Amazing Race has been spun off into an Asian edition, featuring 10 teams of two from various Asian countries racing around for the chance to win $100,000. Yeah, they’re not going around the world, and the prize isn’t a million dollars, but it’s still a good show that captures a lot of the spirit of the original American version. I’ve already written a review of it for And since I’ve carved out my niche as being the place to turn to to download Amazing Race episodes, it would just be silly for me to ignore this new show.

So here are the download links for The Amazing Race Asia. You’ll need to install a copy of BitTorrent, or some other torrent client to download the shows. And I’m not responsible for making sure the trackers stay alive, so don’t write me with any tech support questions!

Some of these torrents only seem to work with certain client programs. I’ve had luck with uTorrent.

Episode 1, aired 2006-11-09

Episode 2, aired 2006-11-16

Episode 3, aired 2006-11-23

Episode 4, aired 2006-11-30

Episode 5, aired 2006-12-07

Episode 6, aired 2006-12-14

Episode 7, aired 2006-12-21

Episode 8, aired 2006-12-28

Episode 9, aired 2007-01-04

Episode 10, aired 2007-01-11

Episode 11, aired 2007-01-18

Episode 12, aired 2007-01-25

Episode 13, aired 2007-02-01

And don’t worry, it’s in English.