Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Just to give you all an idea...

Just to give you all an idea of how hard working on computers can still be some times, my good friend Steph came to me today complaining about how her computer wouldn't boot.

Well, I put the hard drive from that in my desktop as a slave, and then my computer wouldn't boot.

In fact, her drive really wanted to be master and wouldn't relinquish control of the computer to my hard drive, no matter how I configured it.

So I had to play with jumpers. But I don't have laptop jumpers around. So instead I used speaker cable (pulling a single strand out at a time) to create a connection on the jumpers. I'm losing them all the time - but they still work thankfully.

So I can get it to boot and recognize a cd-r, my hard drive, and Steph's hard drive - so I downloaded Knoppix (let me tell you, it's a lifesaver) and I'm booting linux on that to get it to recognize her disk.

Until I realize that Knoppix hates NTFS. In fact, I can't blame it.

So I have to use Partition Magic to convert NTFS to Win 32, to copy her files onto my hard drive.

So the break down of hacks:
1. Using speaker wire strands as hard drive jumpers
2. Booting from knoppix
3. Converting my machine's second partition to Fat32 to be able to copy files onto it

Slowly but surely it seems to be working...

EDIT: the drive seems to be deteroriating while I pull files down. Maybe it's overheating? I'll try again in the morning. I've never, ever been this frustrated working on a computer issue

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

You always said I was backwards....

Arabic is written Right to Left (a woman today in the Pitt book store said "Hey, this book's cover is on backwards!"... had to inform her it's an Arabic book, and that's why it opens the other way)

I've been answering questions on tests backwards for quite a few years - which I believe lends itself to having Arabic writing come more naturally - I thought writing right to left would be odd, but it really isn't

The food

Dinner the last two nights has been Spinach and plum tomatoes with grilled salmon (tonight with some cajun seasoning) and balsamic vinaigrette from Moat Mountain.

Yeah, it's diet food. Yeah, it's really good.

I've also been eating Sabra baba ganouj lately. It seems a little odd there's mayonaisse in it. I really like their hummus though.

More things I'd like to see from technology...

I did my taxes in California last year by way of filling out a PDF online, and doing the calculations manually. Which really bugged me - I'm not sure if there's a way to embed simple math into a PDF, but there should be if it will be used like that.

That gets me to thinking - we don't really have that much choice on our tax returns, basically 2 people would write the same return if they had the same w-4s, right?

So let's have a system where a tax return program synthesizes files - perhaps transparently. The user can make choices when need be, but instead of my employer sending me paper, how about they send me a file, digitally signed (and probably encrypted in transit to me). I then use a program to merge all of these files and it does my tax return. Kind of like Turbo-Tax, but with additional integration with these tax-files. This saves me time from reading directions, and it saves the IRS time from people making mistakes. It could even present what appears to be a 1040 to people, so they can understand why they get a refund or owe more.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


Can I borrow the latest Harry Potter book from someone in Pittsburgh?


More tech stuff that would be nice

The Optimus keyboard is pretty awesome, with remappable displays under the keys. But it'll cost as much as a "good mobile phone". Probably $500+

I'm starting to get RSI in my hands. The Natural keyboards alleviate that - but I can't find a Mac layout, USB natural keyboard. Plus, I don't like the random buttons on the top of most Natural keyboards.

There's a company that sells unprinted keyboards, but not natural ones.

I suggest a new marketing strategy for keyboards: a company sells personalized keyboards - you can select what keys are where - for only $5 more than everyone else sells keyboards. They have several form factors - regular, natural - several base keyboard layouts per language - Mac, Windows, Solaris, and several options about having the custom buttons at the top.

Kind of keyboards, on demand. I'd buy one.

Good food

So one thing I found in Raleigh-Durham that I miss (never thought I'd say that) is this little place called "Spice & Curry". It's an Indian restaurant - pretty authentic and very good.

I haven't found a similar place around here - any CMUers found a good, cheap Indian place in Pittsburgh?

EDIT: I'm looking for Rogan Gosh, biryani, etc. I'll try to find the region of what I'm looking for.

EDIT #2: Northern Indian, but any good Indian

Also, does anyone know a good place to get shawarma? or a good Lebanese & Mediterranean grocer? I'll try the middle east place in the strip soon

Saturday, August 27, 2005

More things I want to see from technology

1. Right now, when I get a call, my computer pauses music, turns off the sound, and displays the caller id info for the person calling. When I hang up, it undoes everything it did. I'd like my car to pause / mute my music and roll up my windows when I get a call, and then return them to the original state when I hang up.

can't figure any other out right now. Oh yeah, back in Pittsburgh!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Things I want in a weather site

Features I would like to see in a weather site:
1. More historical data. What was the weather on any given day the data exists?
2. Weather along a route. Kind of a combination of Google Maps and weather. Give a starting time and location, and it shows you the weather at about when you'll head through a city every 60 miles or so.
3. A different way of visualizing data. I'd like to have ad-hoc queries & reports against historical and forecasted weather. My random one is being able to specify a line on a map, then left to right show the temperature across a period (either across a day, or highs across a year). This would be cool to see if one area has a shorter period where it's at its high temperature, or which states have more excessive temperatures, and how that varies by region.

Tomorrow's the 12 hour trip to Pittsburgh

From a friend

My friend Andrew, from high school, took this summer off to spend some time with his dad, who was sick. I knew Andrew's dad pretty well - he went to New York with us when we were in high school, and was a really nice guy. My mom worked with him for a while and always found him to be a good guy.

I hope he doesn't mind me sharing this - it was really moving. I'm going to the visiting hours really soon.

Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005
From: Andrew
Subject: news


Yesterday morning, my dad, Ed, passed away after a three year battle with renal cell carcinoma. I thought I should let you know.

Visiting hours will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Brackett Funeral Home, 29 Federal St., Brunswick.

A Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Charles Borromeo Church, McKeen St., Brunswick.

Later in the day yesterday, a very large end-to-end rainbow with another faint rainbow above it appeared in the sky facing my house. It was the most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen. I couldn't fit the whole thing in my camera, but I thought I would send a few pictures of it anyway. You can see the middle of it in the first picture and the right tail in the second. I don't think the rainbow was a coincidence.

I am sorry if I forgot anyone.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

BNAS: Closed

So I got lots of notes yesterday about the base closings - thanks everyone for knowing how much this means to me.

However happy I am Portsmouth stays open, Brunswick Naval Air Station, which is no more than 3 miles away, has not made the cut. It has been slated for full closure.

Originally it was slated to be "realigned". That meant that the Navy didn't want to pay to keep it open, but didn't want to lose the runway either. The board decided it would be better to return the land to the community, and therefore decided to close the base.

20% of the kids in school around here are military kids. The base adds a lot of money to the community, and a lot of diversity. I've never had a problem with people from the base - they've always been an excellent part of the community.

I'm interested in seeing how everything reacts around here - the big box stores, the small stores, the schools, the housing prices, and how the land is used.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Did I ever tell you about the time...

Back when I was 3, my dad used to do his reserve duty in Washington, DC. My mom, sisters, and I would go down and meet him halfway through the two weeks. I would sit by my mom, and my sisters would sit behind us (they were older, and honestly better behaved!).

Back in the day, you used to get planes with a 3 and 3 configuration from Maine to DC - I'd sit at the window, my mom would sit in the middle, and a random person would sit on the isle.

One time, I wanted to try the middle seat. My mom implored me not to, but I wanted to, so she let me.

She woke up to hear me saying "tickle, tickle, tickle!" She looked over to see me tickling a very unamused Ralph Nader.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Ideas while stranded in LaGuardia

1. The subway system signage in NY should be replaced by LCD or projected displays. At one point, we got off a J train because the J train said "all passengers must get off". There was a sign to take another train, on the weekends, down to where we were going. So we got to that platform, only to learn that this other train wasn't the right way to get there on the weekends.
2. How hard is it to do the plane reassignments in storms? I could imagine it's all done by computers, and I could also imagine it's all done by hand. Our plane has been diverted to Baltimore, instead of landing here - does a human say which people get which planes in a situation like this? Does a computer suggest alternatives? There are hundreds of flights to keep track of, but how much planning is automated?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Things I learned

First and foremost: you reserve a room at a hotel, but you request the type of room. We reserved a room at the Grand Central Hyatt, but requested 2 double beds. we got one king. SOL says the hotel.

Saw all the typical NY things yesterday & today - saw the Empire State Building, Times Square, Rockefeller center, St. Pat's, Central Park, the Met, Battery Park, Statue of Liberty from afar, Wall Street, Ground Zero, Chinatown, etc. Led people around - I know how to navigate this city pretty well now. I still haven't mastered subways, but when they change things up all bets are off.

By the way: the idea of All you can eat sushi is amazing.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Apple customer support: 4/5. Apple repair facilities: 2/5

Got the laptop back. I'm impressed with the turnaround time - but the repair place is in Tennessee, so now I get why fedex got it there so quickly

Plus on repair: they replaced the front face that I decided to drop this summer, without me asking.

Minus on repair: the left half of my monitor is still dim. They also told me it wasn't covered under warranty and therefore I should expect to be billed in 5-7 days.

Apple customer support assured me when I called this morning to say "I'm not paying" that I wasn't paying.

Downsides on customer support: they take forever to get stuff done when you call.

Upsides: they said my repair'd be free and they actually don't try to get you to go away

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The fun of Apple

Fun things Apple said

"You didn't specify this as the problem when you left it at the store." (a. But I did? b. What did I say then? c. Why'd you notice it if I said something else?)

"You didn't damage your laptop, we see the problem, and it's under warranty, but it's not a manufacturer's defect." (uhh, what's the definition of manufacturer's defect?)

"I'm sorry, I was on hold" (man, but I was on hold)

"Repairing your monitor costs $1256" (but the laptop only cost $1299)

They're repairing it, but after 2 marathon sessions with customer support. Good game, Apple, good game.


I actually like Pittsburgh. I like the start of the school year - each start has felt special, due to running CIA or starting school or having someone to see. I like September and the smell in the air at school, and the walk to campus.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Hero of the Day

Hero of the Day: Traci, for lending me Rustic Overtone's hard to find 1994 release Shish Boom Bam. Well, now you can't find any Rustic Overtones stuff, but this CD was hard to find even 5 years ago.