Archive for July, 2009

Snail mail tracert

I moved a month ago, and I have yet to received any forwarded mail from the U.S. Postal Service. I filled out the Change of Address form well in advance, and even got confirmation at both my old and current addresses. But I haven’t received any forwarded mail at my new place. I’ve checked with post offices at both my old place and new place, and they swear everything is set up correctly and working. But still no mail.

As a network administrator, I know what to do when I’m not receiving or transmitting things properly on a network: I pull out the old trusty tracert to find out where things are going astray. As far as I know, the USPS doesn’t have such nice network utilties, so I’m doing the next best thing: sending a certified letter to myself to see where it ends up. Hopefully, the tracking so provided will help trace which black hole my mail is currently disappearing in.

This is not an ideal solution compared to tracert: first, the results are not instantaneous, and second, the results are far from free; this is setting me back $5. But it’s the best thing I can think of at the moment.

Computer Utility: Ultimate Boot CD

If you don’t have the Ultimate Boot CD in your CD collection, you should. It lives up to its name: its got pretty much everything you need to do maintenance on a computer: hard disk diagnostics, disk wiping tools, partitioning, memory and processor tests…it even has DOS boot disks in case you want to pull out that old DOS version of X-Wing and play it. It comes in handy quite frequently, so download and burn yourself a copy today.

Supreme Court idiocy

Like most pundits of the DC class, Howard Fineman is a tool. However, even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and again, and this column is something I can agree with: the recent Senate Judiciary hearings on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor were completely pointless, and moreover, seemed to demonstrate the fact that most people have no idea what the Supreme Court is for.

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Sick kitty

Sadly, Misha has an infected paw, so he has to take antibiotics and wear a collar so he doesn’t chew on his paw. He’s taking it very well, but it is still sad to see him lounge around all depressed…

Sad, pathetic Misha with his collar on

The free market works…except when it doesn’t

Ten years ago, I bought a standard glass tube TV with a single coax input. Today, I have an LCD flat-screen TV with more inputs than I can use.

Ten years ago, my car didn’t even have airbags. Today, cars come with all sorts of safety devices.

Ten years ago, my computer had 32 MB of RAM and a 300 MB hard drive. Today, I have half a terabyte of storage and a quad-core processor that can handle anything I throw at it.

Ten years ago, what’s a DVD player? Today, not only are DVD players a commodity, but I could have BluRay if I wanted.

I just took a week-long trip to Colorado on a plane, stayed in a nice hotel, and rented a car, and I am by no means rich.

You can walk into just about any fast-food joint and get a (admittedly unhealthy) full meal for a few bucks.

Ten years ago, my cell phone had crappy service and a two-line, monochrome dot matrix display. Today, the service isn’t quite as crappy, but my phone sure looks a lot better.

Not to mention the fact that cell phone, computer, internet, and broadband market penetration is much higher now than ten years ago, among other things.

The point of this isn’t that we’ve had great technological advances, although we have. The point is that for the most part, all of these new advances come to us at the same cost, or even cheaper, than they were not too long ago. In a huge number of arenas, the free market has worked to give us better products at less cost. The market can and has worked wonders.

So maybe, just maybe, if you look at health care, where there are more uninsured people today than ten years ago, and health care costs more than it did back then…perhaps the free market just isn’t working so well in this area.

Colorado Photos

I’ve posted photos from my trip to Colorado here. Some of my favorites below the fold…

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Computer Utility: PDF Split and Merge

I really don’t like working with PDF files. They have silly DRM that interferes with your ability to copy and paste, they crash browser, they can be huge if incorrectly generated, they are generally not accessible to people who need to use special software like screen readers, sometimes you can’t search them…in short, they usually suck. Unfortunately, sometimes you have no choice but to deal with them. Most of the time, PDFs are a read-only affair if you don’t shell out for Adobe Acrobat (another reason why they suck). But if you ever need to merge several PDFs into one, or split a PDF file into several files, PDF Split and Merge is a free, open-source utility for doing just that. The interface is Java Swing and can be a bit hard to figure out at first, but it works like a charm. It will make you stop hating PDFs, for a moment at least.

Observations on Denver

I just returned from a nice little trip to Denver, a place that I had never visited before. Actually, Denver is now the farthest west I’ve ever been in the U.S. (well, technically, it is Silverthorne, just west of the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70, the extent of our driving). I liked it, despite typically heading eastward when I want to get away. There’s something about real mountains that is impressive to somebody who has spent most of his time in flat states.

I was only there for a few days, but I found a number of amusing and confusing things while I was there (and not just the airport that is almost as large as the city of Minneapolis, and located almost as far from Denver)…

  • I-70 heading west out of Denver into the mountains is surprisingly wide. Why such a huge freeway? Seems out of place.
  • Many times on the freeways I’d see people traveling around 45 MPH for no apparent reason. It wasn’t the terrain, since this was in the flat areas. Not being Minnesota, though, they were not in the left lane.
  • Peña Boulevard, the freeway to the airport, allows bicycles on the shoulder. I didn’t see any, but bikes? On a freeway? That sounds more dangerous than the bike lanes on Hennepin in downtown Minneapolis.
  • The Chevy Cobalt is a crappy car, but it become a bit less crappy once you figure out how to move the seat back from its default recline position.
  • Suburbs look the exact same no matter where you go.
  • Hotels are much cooler when they come with a semi-tame fox that lurks in the parking lot at night.
  • States that allow grocery stores to only sell 3.2 beer should have large signs next to said beer informing people of this fact. Breweries that make 3.2 versions of decent beers should be mocked.

I took about 500 pictures while I was there, so processing them will take some time. I’ll have them up as soon as I can.

Live from Littleton

I’m coming at you live from Littleton, Colorado, where home base is currently a Marriot hotel in the foothills. Colorado is a very pretty place to be. So far we’ve driven up into the mountains and visited Colorado Springs (no, not to visit Focus on the Family, but the Garden of the Gods). Today is a trip to Boulder. Hopefully, we’ll go into Denver too sometime, since Littleton isn’t all that exciting.

Once I get back, I’ll have a ton of pictures to post.

Computer Utility: WinSCP

Every once in a while, you need a good FTP client. For Windows, I use WinSCP. It’s pretty simple to use, it allows you to save login information, and it has a good bunch of features. My only quibble with it is that it defaults to SFTP as the protocol, but as long as you remember to switch it back to FTP when appropriate, it works like a charm.

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