One Aging Geek

Monday, November 21, 2005

Battery management, the bane of geeks everywhere

I'm something of a gadget freak. But one with a limited budget. But I'm getting really annoyed with managing the charge on all my rechargeable devices.

On a daily basis I use several gadgets that have to be charged:

  • a laptop
  • a cell phone
  • a PDA
  • a portable MP3 player

Life isn't so bad when I'm in my dull boring day-to-day routine. The laptop spends most of the daytime hours in a docking station so it's charged there. I plug the cell phone and the PDA in beside my bed each night (and hope that LiON batteries really don't have a memory). The MP3 player gets about an hour or two a day of use so it only needs charging every three to five days, sometimes less frequently.

The annoyance level goes up a lot when I travel. Chargers. Grr... Since I'm on a budget and I don't travel all that frequently I don't really feel I can afford one of those all-in-one chargers. So I carry a charger for each device. And try to plug them in to the limited number of outlets in the average hotel room.

For personal travel I generally have to add the digital still camera and digital video camera, both with chargers.

I keep reading stories about fuel cell technology that's "just around the corner" so we could fill up our devices with water to recharge them. But I keep wondering just where the cell phone I carry in my pocket is going to exhaust the waste from such a process. Or isn't there any?

Friday, November 18, 2005

What am I listening to

This is a post I've been meaning to write for a couple of months but lacked the time to sit and do it.

There are 32 podcast feeds in my podcatcher at the moment. There are an additional 10 in a list of feeds I no longer track. The volume of stuff means two things, I'm constantly behind real time and I have no patience for things that bore me.

I listened to Doug Kaye's IT Conversations before the word podcasting was invented, downloading the MP3s "by hand" and going thru the laborious process of transferring them thru the horrible Sony software to get them on my minidisc player. But I did that work because I have a commute of between one and two hours a day and what passes for radio in these Clear Channel days ... sucks.

So. Thirty two podcasts. I don't intend to bore myself by listing them all and the list changes as my attention span wears out so a list posted today would be out of date by this time next week.

But what I find interesting is the evolution of the types of things I'm listening to. I'm not sure what it says about me or if I'm at all like anyone else.

IT Conversations remains a staple in my podcast diet. I seldom skip a 'cast from that source. Leaving them aside I find that I have slowly dropped most independent "one person show" type of podcasts. When I started podcatching that's almost all there was available. But now fully eighteen of my feeds originate as public radio programs.

So effectively I'm TiVo-ing radio here. I have been going along feeling like I was assembling a "personal radio station" from an eclectic mix of things from around the world. But like most things we want to believe of ourselves that's only partly true. I do have music feeds from both nearby and faraway places (only one of the music 'casts I get is a radio program). And I've got a lot of geek stuff in the vein of IT Conversations, none of which would ever have enough of an audience to be on radio of any kind. My biggest portion, though, is stuff from public radio that I like but that isn't available at a time I find convenient.

I'm going to have to think on this. And figure out which public radio stations I should send money to.


This was mentioned on a recent Web Talk Radio program that I happened to listen to all the way through. I have to admit that although I subscribe to their podcast I don't often make it all the way thru the program. Dana is ... just too precious and Rob seems to think that Microsoft invented everything. But memeorandum looks interesting.

Catching up

Life is feeling a bit less hectic. The product I've been working on for the last few months, since April to be precise, has passed "RTM" (Release to Manufacturing). So the development team, myself included, is winding down a bit. Nothing but paperwork from now to GA at the end of the month.

Since RTM fell so close to the Thanksgiving holiday most people are extending that to a week or more and nobody is getting wound up to tackle the next release (in the software business the reward for getting a product out the door is to get the chance to get the next product out the door).

So the calm between storms has let me catch up a bit on reading and research. And some blog posting.


No, not that google-in-a-box. A much bigger box.

Cringely writes:

The probable answer lies in one of Google's underground parking garages in Mountain View. There, in a secret area off-limits even to regular GoogleFolk, is a shipping container. But it isn't just any shipping container. This shipping container is a prototype data center. Google hired a pair of very bright industrial designers to figure out how to cram the greatest number of CPUs, the most storage, memory and power support into a 20- or 40-foot box. We're talking about 5000 Opteron processors and 3.5 petabytes of disk storage that can be dropped-off overnight by a tractor-trailer rig. The idea is to plant one of these puppies anywhere Google owns access to fiber, basically turning the entire Internet into a giant processing and storage grid.

Global Frequency (TV pilot)

A TV version of the "graphic novel" (gee, when I was a kid we called them comic books) Global Frequency was mentioned on bOINGbOING a few months ago. I managed to find an ... ahem ... download. Then it sat on my hard drive for a months unwatched. From what I recall this is a pilot but the series hasn't been picked up.

I'm not a comic reader so had never read the "parent" of the TV show so I didn't have any particular expectations. I watched it in the hotel room on a recent business trip.

It was well done and a good story. The premise (see the link to the IMDB entry or do your own google) is perfect for a TV show. A couple of continuing characters who will show up anywhere in the world.

If this ever does get picked up and more episodes get made, I'd watch it.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Paul Graham: What Business Can Learn from Open Source

This is a fascinating piece. I came across it in my listening queue from IT Conversations and only found the written version from there. I recommend the audio version if you can spend the 30 minutes to listen, Paul is an excellent speaker.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

Well, got Mrs. Aging-Geek to watch the new H2G2 movie. She is a fan of the old TV show but I don't recall if she read the books.

She hated it.

Couldn't even sit through to the end.

YMMV. :)

New podcatcher, Peapod

I tried out several Windows-based podcast receivers (podcatchers) before I decided that they were all too UI-intensive and that podcatching should "just happen". In other words it should be something that you do a simple bit of setup and then it disappears into the system and just works.

I thought about writing my own catcher from scratch but there were just too many fiddly bits for the amount of spare time I have. So I poked around and turned up bashpodder, a simple Unix script that I dropped onto my home Linux system. Bashpodder in the main worked pretty well but had a few warts. It fetched the feeds (not the enclosures, just the XML file that points to the enclosures) every time it was run. It fetched all sorts of enclosures including movies and pictures that weren't of any interest to me. And it was sensitive to the full URL of enclosures so when feed owners rehosted their feeds it tended to refetch everything.

Partly as an exercise to learn parts of the libraries I embarked on a piecemeal rewrite of bashpodder in Java. I had a weird hybrid of the original script with some calls out to Java programs to do parts of the job. It was evolving fairly nicely.

But then a few weeks ago the author of bashpodder, with whom I had exchanged a few emails, dropped me a line to announce his new podcatcher, Peapod (funny I had forgotten that was the name of a failed dot-com grocery delivery service until just now).

The author and I have exchanged emails quite a bit as I've tried out his code. It had some problems for what I wanted in the beginning but has come along quite nicely. At the moment I'm in the final stages of running a parallel test between my hacked up bashpodder and the version of peapod that's in the subversion repository.

Like bashpodder, peapod is designed for Unix and with help from the screen program can run from cron.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Podcasts out the wazoo

Holy mother of ...! When did this happen!

NPR lists 189 podcasts!

This is bad, very bad. I'm already running between two and three weeks behind real-time in my listening queue.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Hibernate fails "rarely"... HA!

In a previous post I mentioned that my work laptop had bit-rotted to the point of needing a format-and-reinstall. Since this was a company machine I at least had the advantage of an IS staff that had set up an image with all the stuff needed for the laptop. This brought me up from Windows 2000 to Windows XP.

For the most part I'm happy with XP so long as the whole activation thing is Somebody Else's Problem. There are some nice UI features, most likely stolen from Apple or someone who is innovative.

The one particular thing I was very happy about was that for the first time I had a machine that could successfully hibernate and then wake up correctly. This meant I could take the laptop to meetings instead of taking notes on paper (which I could then never find and never had time to transcribe into some searchable medium). Alas, this feature is no longer reliable.

I got a memory upgrade from 1GB to 2GB to support my extensive collection of VMWare virtual images. It seems that XP has problems hibernating if there's more than 1GB. It reserved the disk space just fine but something prevents it from actually working. I briefly thought I had found a fix for this problem but alas no. A google search for the error message I get turns up numerous people with the same problem.

Microsoft claims this happens "rarely". Which we all know means "it doesn't happen on any machine that Bill Gates uses".

So hibernate gets disabled and I'm back to having to wait for the interminable system shutdown before undocking.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

OK, I enjoyed the heck out of the new Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (H2G2). I didn't get to see it at the theater but just got it in via NetFlix. I'll admit, though, that it's probably an acquired taste. I loved the old BBC TV miniseries which was my intro to H2G2. Since then I've read all five books in the trilogy. And reread them. And had my omnibus edition More Than Complete Hitchhiker's Guide: Complete & Unabridged book swiped.

One of the first few DVDs I got via NetFlix was the DVD of the TV series.

The new movie remains pretty true to the original story. As much as anything can given that the story has evolved from radio to TV to books back to radio and probably some other versions I haven't heard of. But it's not slavishly trying to recreate the original. I liked Sam Rockwell's Zaphod better than Mark Wing-Davies. But Simon Jones' befuddlement is the essence of Arthur Dent. Martin Freeman didn't try to carry that to his version of Arthur. Zooey Deschanel's Trillian was an actual character instead of set dressing intended to attract teenage boys.

All in all a very creditable job. I'll keep this one a few more days and watch it over again. And maybe I'll hum "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish" at the office tomorrow.

Monday, November 07, 2005

WNYC - New York Public Radio

What is Radio Lab? Radio LabĀ® is an investigation. Each episode is a patchwork of people, sounds, stories and experiences centered around One Big Idea. On RadioLab, science bumps into culture... information sounds like music.

Who is it for? Radio Lab is designed for listeners who demand skepticism but appreciate wonder, who are curious about the world but who also want to be moved and surprised.

The PRX podcast feed dropped in a teaser from this series that just came to the front of my MP3 player last night. The descriptions look fascinating so I've cued the series up. At my current listening rate I'll get to it sometime around Thanksgiving. Which this year will be spent in the frozen wastelands of North Dakota.

Freedom to Tinker: CD-DRM Rootkit: Repairing the Damage

I own a Sony device, one of the first generation Minidisc players. It was useful for excercising back when I was doing that. I guess it's still in my dust-covered gym bag. The thing ran for over 50 hours on a single AA battery. And I had a set of about five discs with music that was good for excercising. I've tried using my hard-disk iRiver MP3 player for the same thing and have had two near disasters due to dropping it.

Luckily my player is too old to have this "improved" software that attempts to enforce DRM more tightly.

I heard Paula Le Dieu quoting Joi Ito in a podcast from IT Conversations that I listened to recently. He was speaking to a bunch of media executives and said to them about DRM: "You will win. You will convince your audiences that they are not to use your content." ([clip]).

SonyBMG and First4Internet are in the doghouse now, having been caught installing rootkit-like software on the computers of SonyBMG music customers, thereby exposing the customers to security risk. The question now is whether the companies will face up to their mistake and try to remedy it.

Updated to get correct source of quote, get quote correct, provide link to IT Conversations clip, and correct some screwed up HTML.

Updated a second time because it seems that Blogger and Opera do not cooperate.