Archive for category My Life

Hi Google+

Just testing out the integration between G+ and my WP site..

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I just realized my site looks suspicious

Have you ever done a web search, and clicked on a link, only to be taken to a site that has no images, a bunch of text and an suspicious looking text? I usually gloss over the page and quickly move on. Those sites generally are just trying to get you to click on a link that will present you with an ad or something. Well, I just did that with my own site. If you look there ins’t much in the way of images on the site, its mostly text and my ramblings. To someone just coming to the site for the first time they might not recognize that the site is in fact legit, and not thinly veiled attempt by a Chinese hacker to trick you into clicking on something so I can install crapware on your ‘puter.

I don’t do much with graphics any more, so I am I am going to try to put a little more flavor into my site. Most people don’t want to see my pictures, since they are mainly of my kids. I don’t do photos of my food, so thats out, I could take some pics of my dog, but that might get old quick. I will have to look around and see what other people are doing. When in doubt, copy like a lout…. or something like that

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And now a Mac

I’ve been complaining that I can’t run Linux at work since they moved to the new VPN. I’ve tried time and again to get it to work but it is a proprietary system that only has a client for OSX and Winders. I’ve been using Win7, which all in all isn’t too bad, for about the last year. I was talking with one of the newer guys that got a shiny new MacBook Pro when he started about building our project. I told him that when I kick off a build I generally have about 17 minutes of browsing the web time since the build process basically renders the computer almost unusable. He was dumbfounded that it too me 17 minutes to build our project because it only took him around 3 minutes for a full clean and build. Surely he was misinterpreting what I was doing, there is no way the build times could be that different, hey, it’s all just Java.. Sure enough, he showed me and the project built faster than I had ever seen.

He started up IntelliJ in less than 20 seconds and I got pissed. Usually when I get in in the morning the first thing I do is start up IntelliJ, then I go get coffee, go to the bathroom then commando crawl back to my desk just in time for IntelliJ to have started up and begun indexing my project. I immediately put in a request for a Mac.

I got my shiny new MacBook Pro a couple weeks later and eagerly started setting up my development environment on it. I gleefully flipped the bird at my old PC every time I ran the native command line or built one of my projects. So far everything has been going swimmingly, I have completely transferred all my work to the Mac and I’ve been working off it exclusively for the past couple of weeks. There are only a couple of things that make me raise and eyebrow about how the Mac works

1) What the hell did Apple do to the Unix file system?? What is this /Library and /System and other odd folders doing in my root? Best just to delete them since they look erroneous (joking.. don’t really do this, it really messes with your system)

2) Task switching, I know it’s a little nit picky, but I seriously can’t Cmd+tab to a minimized program? Why show it in the list if selecting it isn’t going to do anything.

3) Does everything seriously cost money on a Mac? I guess the notion of Free as in beer hasn’t made it’s way here yet. Yes, I’m a bit on the cheap side, but hey, I use a free operating system I’m not going to pay $5.99 for a better task switcher for my work Mac.

4) The command and control keys need to be put into a ring and only one of them gets out alive. Seriously Apple, which one is it going to be? It seems Apple wanted to replace the control key at a system level with command but all the application developers disagreed and continued to use the control key for all their shortcut commands. This is an area of endless frustration for me, it usually takes me 3 tried to copy anything then another 2 to paste it.

Thats it for now, I’ll be sure to post some more annoyances in the future. So far I like the Mac better than my PC, but it isn’t as perfect as the Mac fan-boys would lead you to believe.

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Mintty to the rescue

I am stuck on a Win7 machine at work. I used to run Linux on it but then the company changed their VPN to this Windows and sorta-Mac supported only solution. I had to dump the penguin so I could have access outside the office, kinda important that. So yeah, other than my world passing me by at half the normal pace there is little difference, oh wait no, that’s completely inaccurate. The thing I miss above all else is the command line. I tried to replace it with the Windows Powershell but I seriously didn’t feel like learning everything from scratch, I did give it a concerted try though.

Just for comparison, take all the nifty bash/zsh commands you love and enjoy on a daily basis, now rename all of them, and don’t get cute by naming them something easy to remember. No, use something long, and make sure there are plenty of hyphens. Now take all the options you were used to passing to those commands and rename them too, almost there hang with me. Now close your eyes and just mash your head against the keyboard to get a rough idea of what it feels like to replace the Linux command line with Powershell.

Well I did what any self respecting Linux lover would do when relegated to Win-land, I installed Cygwin. Yes, that bastardization of *nix on a Windows shell. Or something, I couldn’t come up with anything snarky there. Regardless, running Cygwin offers a glimpse of home without actually letting you get there. It’s slow sure, but it offers enough familiarity that I actually enjoy using it over the endless point and click of a standard Windows user experience. The standard cygwin command line is terrible, running RXVT native makes it manageable. However, I just found Mintty! It’s sort of like Putty (based on some Putty code I gather) and with the proper amount of tweaking can actually result in a likeable experience. Couple that with screen and I hardly miss Linux…who am I kidding, I still go home at night and just poke around my laptop (running Xubuntu) just to feel better about myself.

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New life for an old lapdock

The thought of a ‘pocket computer’ really intrigues me. Being able to carry my computer around in my pocket but then being able to plug it into an larger dock and get a full-sized experience out of it sounds really cool. Imagine my excitement when Motorola came out with the Lapdock. I was on Verizon so I couldn’t get in on the original Atrix, but I got a Razr and immediately went out and got the Lapdock 500. Then there was the disappointment of actually running the Webtop application for the first time. From what I could tell they booted up a full linux distro then tried to run Firefox ontop of it. To say it was pokey is a complete understatement, it was unusable. However, I had heard that the Razr was due for a major upgrade in ICS and so I kept my fingers crossed.

The Ice Cream Sandwich update came and I hesitantly plugged the Razr into the Lapdock. It switched display mode and started behaving like a tablet. The keyboard worked good, and it was finally usable as a netbook. That’s all I really wanted, just a simple netbook-like experience, nothing crazy. After using it for a while I started to encounter annoyances. The trackpad was on all the time, so when I was typing I would bump it and move the cursor. Sometimes it just freezes, for no reason, so I have to reboot the phone. It was still usable in my opinion thought.

I started thinking about what is going to happen if I were to ever change my phone. Then I realized that the life of the lapdock was tied to the phone. This just wouldn’t do, it’s a nice piece of hardware and I would hate to just have to throw it away. Then I found this article: I should have never doubted the modder community, of course the Raspberry Pi could breathe life into my laptdock! There were other options I had never heard of as well. I am actually looking forward to getting this project going in the near future. We will see if I can follow-up with some articles on my experience. There have to be enough lapdocks out there that someone might find it interesting.

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Gnome 3 and new shows

I’ve been pretty much absent for a while. This is in no small part to me being in the final year of my graduate degree. I am now counting down the day by saying what activity this year will be my last whilst enrolled in school (ie. last Christmas, last January 9th, etc.) We got a one of those shiny new iMac’s for Christmas for my wife. That left the old family laptop available to be re-purposed (read:liberated) to be my own personal playground. You know what that means, I started installing Linux on it.

I tried Mint, it didn’t live up to the hype, then I tried Debian, still too rough around the edges for my liking. Then finally I installed Ubuntu, again. While it’s a very polished distro, it ran like crap on my old laptop. I tried shutting down as many desktop effects as I could but it still lagged pretty bad. I liked XFCE but I decided to give Gnome 3 another shot, or Gnome shell or what ever people call it. I remember when I first tried it out when the 3.0 version came out I couldn’t figure out how to make it work, so I quietly uninstalled it and went on my merry way. Now, version 3.8 is out and let me say I am nothing short of impressed. It does present a paradigm shift in how you interact with your desktop, but it took me about 5 minutes to get used to it and now I am zipping around faster than I ever could on Windows/Unity/Gnome2/etc. Most impressive thing for me is that I can interact with the desktop without needing to use my mouse. That’s huge for me, the less I need to use the mouse the faster I go. Rooting through menu’s and sub-menu’s and sub-sub-menu’s takes time and is really annoying. I tend to interact with the same 5-10 programs in any given day so typing their name is faster than rooting through a hierarchical menu system.

It’s snappy too. My laptop is pushing 8 years old with only 2 GB ram and an aging processor, but the whole experience feels fast and I have never experienced desktop lag. Forget what everyone said when this DE first came out, the Gnome devs have been working to make this a quality product and its showing. I installed a few extensions and now I feel right at home.

Oh, and one a side note. The whole time I was messing with this, I was watching past episodes of the CW’s new show Arrow. I didn’t start watching it since most major networks have a tendency to really screw up super hero shows. After it got a ton of really good reviews from places that I would have expected to eviscerate it, I decided to give it a shot. Long story short, this series wrocks. Finally a gritty super hero series that isn’t Melrose Place with capes. I had to pay Amazon on-demand to watch the first couple of episodes (well worth it) but then I was able to pick up the last couple episodes on Hulu. Highly recommended if you want super hero action that doesn’t suck.

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OBi100 setup part 2

In my previous post I got the OBi installed and set up with my temporary Google Voice number. Porting my number from Tracfone to Google Voice was really quick and painless, in total it took about 2 days for it to complete. My landline was now associated with my Google Voice and I discarded the old temporary number I was provisioned from GV when I began the process. I powered on the OBi and dialed my old home number, and it worked! I was now able to receive calls at our home number through Google Voice. With that I quickly cancelled the phone service I had bundles through the cable company where I have cable and internet. Oddly, for the service being a ‘free’ add on to my account, I saved $12 a month in taxes and fee and an additional $10 because I dropped the I said, odd.

One last thing I wanted to do, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do it or not. I know that Google Voice does not support 911 service. However, the first thing I do when someone tells me you can’t do something is look around and see if that is really the case. Turns out Google Voice REALLY doesn’t support 911, however, it can be configured on the OBi. First off you have to create an account with another SIP provider that does do e911 (stands for enhanced 911, which basically means more information is pushed to the dispatcher when you call). There are a number of providers, but I decided to sign up with I read some forums that most people had a fairly positive experience with them, so I signed up with them. The account was free, but e911 costed $0.8 per month or $9.2 per year, reasonable for peace of mind IMO.

First thing to do was create my free account with Anveo. I could have signed up with them rather than Google Voice at that point, they do the same thing, but everything that is free at GV costs money at Anveo. Next I had to put some money in my account so I could sign up for the e911 service, they accept Paypal. Once the funds cleared I was able to enter my home address information. Next I had to set up the Anveo account on my Obi on SP2, thankfully the Obitalk site come ready to connect to Anveo right away, I just had to choose them as a SIP provider and fill out the required information.

The final step was to make an actual test 911 call. I found my locale’s 911 call center through this site. Once I found the call center servicing my area, I called the 911 operations manager and requested a test 911 call. I read a number of horror stories about how people would just call 911 without scheduling the test and having the police show up at their front door. I got a hold of the operations manager, who surprisingly knew exactly what I was talking about when I requested the test, and scheduled the test. I have to admit I was a little nervous calling 911, I wasn’t sure if it was going to work or exactly what was going to happen. I dialed 911 and waited…and waited some more.. and continued to wait, the call finally went through after about 40 seconds of dead silence from the phone. The 911 operator picked up and I identified myself and that this was a test. The operator didn’t have address information for me, and the number showing in their system was some odd number I had never heard of before. I collected as much information as I could from the dispatcher the hung up.

I contacted Anveo support and it turns out the number the 911 dispatcher saw was in fact a callback number that they assigned me, though it wasn’t my home number. I test dialed the number and sure enough it rang my home phone. As for the long wait to connect and my information not being available to the dispatcher, I am still looking into what might have happened. One suspicion is the proxy location for Anveo was set to Dallas and I changed it to Montreal since it is much closer. I haven’t tested again to see if this makes a difference.

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Using the OBi100 for my home phone

So the plan went like this. I wanted to save a couple dollars a month by switching my house phone to use Google Voice (GV). I didn’t pay much for the house phone and I considered getting rid of it entirely, but a lot of people have that number and I didn’t want to lose it.

I weighed the pros and cons of doing this
– Free
– Manage voice mail online
– Obion software that integrates with the OBi100 is pretty cool
– Can’t use 911 from the house phone
– If the internet/power goes out, so does the house phone

I decided since we basically rely on our cellphones for most of our calling anyway the cons weren’t that bad. I couldn’t directly port my home number to GV since Google will only port mobile numbers. So there are a couple steps in this process.

First off I created a GMail account for the family. I already had a GMail account but I use GV for voicemail, so that wasn’t going to work. Then I created a GV account and let it provision me some random number. I purchased the OBi100 from Amazon. After receiving it, I hooked it up to the internet and a basic corded phone. I went through the setup on the website. I pulled out the trusty Droid RAZR and dialed the GV number. IT WORKED!

Second was porting my home number to GV. I looked at a couple different providers for the absolute cheapest plan and phone combos. I was able to find an old Tracfone and 30 minute plan for $20. I got it setup and working then initiated the number port through the Tracfone website. 4 days later my old house number was ringing on my Tracfone. The second I was informed the port was complete I went to the family GV account and initiated a number port there. One little hiccup was that Google detected my Tracfone number as being an AT&T number and wanted an account number, which I didn’t have since Tracfone doesn’t work like that. I entered the MEID number of the phone, paid my $20 for the port request and crossed my fingers.

That’s where I am currently at. Waiting for Google to complete the port from Tracfone to GV. I’ll let you know how it goes in a couple days.

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unRAID Home Server complete

In my last post I was talking about building a home server to replace my dying Linksys NAS200, which was dying from day 1 unfortunately. I priced out and built a home server for under $226 by mixing and matching retailers ( ). This price didn’t include the existing two 1 TB drives I already had from my existing NAS device however. I put it together and it worked great, the little Sempron processor easily overclocked to 3.6GHz and has been stable since I turned it on.

First I tried FreeNAS and quickly remembered why I hate BSD. As a Linux user, the slight command differences on the terminal quickly drove me to remove it. I played around with OpenFilr with little success and ended up settling on unRAID ( It’s based off of Slackware so it felt more like home than the others. The initial install WebGUI is pretty minimal and ugly, so I quickly replaced that with a plugin called SimpleFeatures, muuuuch better. The whole distro runs off of a USB key so I don’t have to use any of my array for the OS, a VERY nice feature. I got a Sandisk Cruzer micro 16GB and its working great.

unRAID limits you to only three drives on an unregistered version of the software. So with my three 1TB drives I have around 1.9TB of storage space. More than enough for my current needs. The best part is I have two paths for upgrading. 1) Upgrade each drive with a larger drive 1 by 1; 2) Purchase a license and add more drives to the array. Believe it or now #2 is actually the cheaper option. The license is $69 and a good 1TB drive is less than $100. Just adding 1 more drive gives me 2.8TB of space, and I can add 1 more if wanted. Any more than 5 drives and I would have to upgrade to the next license level, but its still cheaper than buying all new drives.

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Of dividends, stock and just finding the time

I have recently become a short timer on my degree. I am under a year and counting the seconds until I hear a giant gushing noise of free time rushing to fill the void currently taken up by the 20 hours of school work I do every week. I have been doing a fair amount of research into dividend stocks and I slowly starting to move my more stubborn stocks into investments that are paying quarterly returns rather than pining for the market to soar so I can retire at 40.

I have some good producing mutual funds, but I don’t feel like I am really in control of how those are handled. I am no investing genius by any stretch, but I do like to know how the internal of things work. All I really do know of my funds are 1) I put in money every month; 2) every quarter I get a dividend payment; 3) the list of companies the fund is invested in seems infinitely long. I want more control over where the individual funds are allocated and when they are moved. I enjoy the constant steady management of the mutual funds, they are bedrock I can build off of though. With my free time after school I want to take some of that time and start turning a discerning eye to the market and start building up my portfolio.

Listen to me throw around investing terminology like I have the slightest clue what I am doing. This is most likely how it will play out the first (couple) time. I put a conservative amount of money into what I think are good investment dividend producing stocks. I lose my shirt. I get pissed off and swear I will never do it again. 6 months later, I try again. Ah well, I wouldn’t invest it if it was going to break me if I lost it.

On a more technical note, I am starting to build out a home server. We have a little NAS box that is failing us bad, I want to build out a small home server using unRAID (thanks Steve!) and about 3 drives in Raid 5. I have been looking into unRAID and the list of plugins, functionality and community are exactly what I want in a home server. There are build-outs in the forums where people have built home servers for less than $400, but I am scouring ebay trying to build it for considerably less. I really only need 1 1TB drive, and a barebones tower computer (case,mobo,ps,cpu,ram). I have found some prospects but haven’t pulled the trigger on any yet. I keep running into that pesky time issue. I just need to stop sleeping, that would cure the issue, but probably create a raft of others I suppose.

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