Sunday, September 28, 2008

Birthday Weekend at Home

Well, another year has past, and I'm now an Old Man of 49! I really don't like birthdays... they make me feel 'old'.

This year Karrissa and the two grand-daughters came up for my birthday. McKinley 'had' to get me balloons... birthdays and balloons go together don't you know...
I admit, I'm a very hard person to buy a gift for. I figured to make it easier this year, I'd order up the something I wanted (easier than trying to explain it?)

First was a Kershaw Shun 7" Santoku knife. I always wanted a blade made from 'Damascus Steel' - with the ripples in the Steel made from the folding and hammering of different types of steel. This was by far the very best, sharpest knife I've ever used. It is wonderful. (Afterwards I found out this is the exact blade recommended by Alton Brown of the Food Network)
A copy of Paolin's latest novel in the Eragon series called Brisingr, and another book from Tom Clancy on the details and processes in war. Thanks Jill! It was very enjoyable to have McKinley and Kylie around the house when I came home. We got to play with a wooden train Jill got from IKEA, and read books, and play with these little magnetic balls (NeoCube) I initially got these 'puzzle' balls to play with in my office... then the boys got into them, we then sent them to Elder Ben Hartshorn in Pittsburgh, Brent took some with him to Brazil, and now McKinley is into playing with them too! On Saturday our friends, Barry and Donna Woodbridge, from SoCal came into town to visit. (They were in Utah attending a three-day seminar on Square Foot Gardening) - I was able to record Barry on a Saturday Morning radio show as he talked about his new plan to bring Square Foot Gardening to nursing homes. Barry had asked for my Fried Rice... so I cooked it in front of them and he tooks notes on how to make it. Ryan made me a scratch cake, Chocolate Sour Cream... Thanks Ryan!

We had an enjoyable evening talking about Square Foot Gardening and renewing our friendship, and listening to some music he brought from a brilliant piano player, Jack Townsend, from their church.

It was nice to be home for a couple of days... now back on the road for a week in Ft. McMurray Canada, up in the oil shale fields.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

AM-204 Orlando

Right after Sacrament Meeting on Sunday I had to leave for a flight to Orlando. Delta had changed out the normal 757 on this run, for a smaller 737... so even as a Million-Miler, Platinum Medallion... I was all the way down to number 11 on the upgrade list... So I was not only in the 'back' (you know that area where the riff-raff sit ;-)...) but in a Window seat... arrrrgh.

But the benefit was they had for sale a Fruit & Cheese plate for dinner... I really like those and had two!

Then for three days taught the AM-204 Advanced WLAN Design class here at the Orlando Airport Fairfield Inn... not a bad place.I thought I'd try to go without a rental car. It wasn't too bad with the hotel shuttle to/from the airport and a couple of restaurants in 1/2 mile for dinner at night. (Hey, it saved nearly $200!)

Now I get to go home and see Karrissa and the G-kiddies (McKinley and Kylie!) Yea!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Computer 'maintenance'

From the time I was 'knee-high to a grasshopper' my father drilled into me the importance of proper automobile maintenance. "Oil is cheaper than steel" - Always change your oil!

But today I'm not really a 'car person' - (as many people have noted by the types of cars I drive) - but I am a 'computer person'. The same adage holds true with respect to computers. (not the oil thing... but the importance of regular maintenance)

Over the past 15 years I've worked out a method of maintaining my computers - it's not for everyone... but it works for me.

No less than once per year you need to totally 'clean out' your computer.

This means:

  1. Backup your personal files
  2. Write down all your customization of the standard interface
  3. Find all your applications original CD/DVDs
  4. FDISK the Drive
  5. Format the Hard Drive
  6. Re-install the Operating System
  7. Re-install all the applications
  8. Re-customize the interface to your specs
  9. Restore your personal files
Ok, I know this takes no less than six solid hours of work! But without it your computer continues to slow down, performance degrades and you'll start to 'hate' working on your computer.

It might be because of all those viruses and worms you get by double-clicking on e-mail attachments and 'cool' web pages. Or just that the hard drive gets filled with all sorts of useless stuff... but you NEED to do this!!!

To make these steps a little easier, I've produced a DVD with all my installation files in one place. A little DVD case with all the Operating System and Application Installer DVDs - plus my personal installation DVD - all in one easy-to-find place. I've also made a document that has all the software installation keys and codes in one place. (I've also made this into a USB stick so I can always have these with me if I need to startup a new computer while on the road or visiting friends/relatives)

A small portable Hard Drive - you can get one of these at Costco for under $100 - will allow you to keep FULL backups of all your personal files (My Documents if you keep them all in one place it will be much easier) - and do this full backup at least monthly - weekly would be better. Perhaps a reminder... each time you change the oil in your car you should do a full backup of your computer!!
It's not a matter of 'if' your computer will fail... only 'When' - so backup as often as you'd NOT like to have to loose data.

My solution is a bit easier for me. I just get a new laptop at least once per year. Then instead of doing the same steps on maintaining my old laptop... I just do the same steps and am rewarded with getting to play with a new laptop! (it really takes the same amount of work - but its just more fun this way)

My Dad likes to play with cars - getting new little items on them, and if he had the chance he'd be buying a new car every year or so because it is 'fun'. My 'issue' with buying new laptops is just a cheaper 'addiction' than cars. ;-)

All joking aside... this IS a very important bit of maintenance for computers. All computer and network professionals I know do this all the time. But you might not feel comfortable doing this work on your own. Then just like you take your car into the shop... take your computer into the shop for this same type of regular scheduled maintenance!

Somehow it is 'alright' to take cars into car maintenance people (mechanics), our bodies into body maintenance people (doctors), our teeth to teeth maintenance people (dentists), but we think computers are something 'different' and either we try (and fail) to take care of them ourselves, or think that any old neighbor should be able to help out...

ode to my iPhone

  • It wakes me up in the morning with a vibrating claxon
  • Shows me where I am and where to go on moving GPS maps
  • Reminds me of things I need to be doing
  • Lets me surf to find Wiki answers
  • Connects me with friends and family who want to talk
  • Tells me the write address or phone number I’m looking for
  • Entertains me while waiting through games
  • Keeps me current with up-to-date news
  • Lets me show off pictures of my family
  • Reminds me where I left my car in the parking lot
  • Augments my little brain with calculations and measurements
  • Informs me of the weather at home and where I’m going
  • Keeps my granddaughter occupied while waiting
  • Gently wakes me from a nap
  • Lets me take pictures of interesting things in the world around me
  • Tells me where and when I’m supposed to be somewhere
  • Surfs the Internet to see my daughters blog
  • Keeps track of my flight and travel information
  • Lists my ‘To Do’ items - organized by context
  • Keeps me synchronized with my laptop’s Calendar, To Do’s, contact list, etc.
  • Connects me with colleagues and family via e-mail
  • Keeps me in contact with my children via SMS Text messages
  • Entertains me on long flights with music and movies
  • Provides a hard drive backup of my most important files
  • On which I read my scriptures before going to sleep
Oh yea, it’s also my cell phone...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A week in Phoenix for AirMagnet - AM-105

This past week was spent in Phoenix - teaching an AirMagnet course for five days. The temperature was in the high 90s... but it's a 'dry heat'... The class had four more people than we'd planned - but it worked out alright anyway. I had a 'first time' experience on Monday morning. I went to the assigned classroom, the room was all set and ready with tables & chairs. (the previous night the clerk at the front desk gave me a key so I could setup early) So I did my 'thing' getting the classroom ready. Distributing the student manuals and disks on each table, setting up the projector and screen, and then all my 'gadgets' and stuff that I use if class. So there I was sitting in the classroom, all alone, with the course PowerPoint up on the screen... and no students!

That was a bit weird. Usually I have way to many in class early, making it a bit awkward to setup around them.
Back down to the front desk I go to see if they've posted properly where the class is to be held... and I find out I'm on the wrong floor... same room, just one floor below. And there were all the students, patiently waiting for their instructor. I had all the students come up with me and just carry all the stuff down. We were only a couple of minutes late - but a new way to start a class. (I don't recommend it though)

This week after class at night I had a chance to visit the Apple Store to ask some questions of the Geniuses, an AT&T store to get my High-Speed Internet USB device fixed, and the Mesa Temple.
I also ate at the 'tried and true' Cheesecake Factory, and a 'famous' Phoenix icon, Pete's Fish & Chips. I recommend the Cheesecake Factory, but didn't think much of the much-ballyhooed Pete's. (They even have bumper stickers proclaiming I'm Addicted to Pete's Fish & Chips)
Saturday was full of errands and 'honey do' items - but also another BYU Football game where the Cougars skunked Wyoming 44-0. It was our family's turn to clean the Church this week so we did that little bit of service with our neighbor's the Vests after the game.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Things I Like about the Macintosh

One little anecdote about why I like a Macintosh... I was working on a Windows laptop the other day (and I've had this exact same experience many times over the last month or so) and reached down to the trackpad to work on the computer and I'll either try tapping with two-fingers, or a two-finger scroll and it just doesn't work!

This is because on a Macintosh track pad a tap with two fingers brings up the 'right-click' - It too about 10 seconds to learn this gesture. Now it is so much more intuitive than the right button on the track pad that I get a bit frustrated on a Windows machine when this doesn't work.
The second is the Macintosh two-finger swipe/scroll gesture on the track pad. Just slide up or down (left and right works just as well) with two fingers on the track pad and whatever application you happen to be in will scroll up or down appropriately. I also like using a scroll-wheel on mice to do the same thing, but then you are without a mouse and just using the track pad this is a fantastic addition to screen navigation.

Good design is just good design - well done Mac team!


But I did have to learn to re-use the Apple's 'Command' and 'Option' keys instead of the Windows old standbys.

Another good thing about the Macintosh experience is changing from the Task list manager of Microsoft Outlook, over to OmniFocus. This software tool is specifically designed as a 'stand-alone' task manager. That's all it does. But it does it so very well.
It allows for 'Getting Things Done' type work (see GTD information elsewhere) including my favorite or 'context' for a todo item.

So before running out to do errands, you can get a list of all the things that need to be accomplished while out of the house... or when you have a moment by your computer, a list of all the things that need a computer to be completed... phone access the same way.
And the best... it also syncs between computers and the iPhone. So your tasks are always with you. And now with the iPhone 3G it can even use the built-in GPS to let me know how close I am to the various errands.

Apple iCal Calendar program... it allows for color-coded calendars AND the ability to sync those colors to the iPhone (via MobileMe) as well as share them with other folks. So Jill and I can share the same 'Birthdays' calendar or the 'Jill Work' calendar or the 'Keith Travel' calendar.

Built-in indexing and fast searching within the Apple Mail program is fantastic. I now just have two mail folders. One for things to work on, and the other the Mail Archive folder. If I have a question about something that was in an e-mail, even years ago, I simply search the Mail Archive folder and instantaneously I have the e-mail I was looking for at my fingertips. (this required an extra indexing program on Outlook - I used 'Lookeen' there)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mobile Me Review

Ok, Ok... I know moving to the Macintosh is a big 'switch' - but a large part of why I moved was this new service called 'Mobile Me'. It is just an update to the service Apple has offered for years now. But it is like the 'perfect storm' - all the items in this story came together at the appropriate time.

First character
- the iPhone. I picked up an iPhone last year as soon as they were available. Both because it is just way cool technology, but also because the iPhone is a GSM phone that works anywhere in the world. So when I travel I can have a cell phone with me. Plus, did I mention the technology is WAY COOL!

Great interface, good phone, all the things I need in a PDA and more. So the iPhone is the first part of this story.
The second... the 'parts' of using a computer that I just can't live without. The applications that I use not just daily, but almost hourly throughout my day with my comptuer. This was mostly inside of Microsoft Outlook. Calendar, Task List, E-mail, Archive of e-mail (very important!), and my Address Book.

Oh, I've tried lots of options - way back when it was a Franklin Planner (used religiously daily for over ten years) - then a little HP 100, Palm Pilots, then then as a laptop seemed to be with me all the time a variety of different software applications. Culminating in Microsoft Outlook. At first it wasn't what I wanted - the interface looked 'wrong' and I couldn't get it to do all the things I wanted. But over time we came together and each adjusted somewhat so that up until about 6 weeks ago I was using Outlook all day long to manage by work and family lives.

next part is my propensity to update/change laptops every year (ok, sometimes sooner) but at least once per year for the last 25+ years. (see one of the next blog entries on why this is the case)

When I'd change out a laptop/computer it was a fairly arduous event. Usually over the Christmas holidays because the IT industry is usually 'down' for the week between Christmas and New Years so I knew I'd have time to make the switch.

So when this new Macintosh MacBookAir took over it's place as 'My' computer, I had to move all my items, calendar, e-mail, archives, address book, and tasks over to the new Macintosh.

I worked for a week or so using a copy of Windows XP running in Parallels on the Macintosh so I could still stay with Outlook. It actually worked fairly well. I thought I was 'home' - the nice little MacBookAir running most things, and then the Outlook in Parallels for the 'main' items.

Then the MacBookAir's hard drive went kaput on me and I had to make a quick change as I was leaving on a trip in just a couple of hours. My simple backups easily moved to the MacBookPro and I was off and running... during that week I moved the rest of the 'main' items over to the Mac platform.

The final part to this story is the fact that much of the work on computers now days is on the Internet and the Internet really doesn't care if you are on a Mac or a PC... so with Firefox being on both platforms my user experience didn't have to change at all.

Oh, and I like the feel of the Apple Mighty Mouse with the cool scroller ball instead of a wheel - and it also is Bluetooth so I don't need a dongle any longer.

Now all the parts are now together for why Mobile Me was the great changer in this story.

Returning from the trip with the MacBookPro - I picked up the MacBookAir at the shop and it took less than 30 minutes from start to finish... everything was back in sync.

  • E-mail
  • E-mail Archives
  • 'My Documents'
  • Calendars
  • Address Book
  • Task Lists
  • Firefox with Extensions and Bookmarks
Not only was my MacBookPro's stuff transferred to my new MacBookAir - but they were both in Sync with each other as well as with my iPhone too. So now with the use of Mobile Me all my computers are in sync with each other. Better than a backup - actually in SYNC - so any machine can give me what I need.And now for the pièce de résistance..

All of those items can also be accessed via the Internet - so even if I didn't have any of my computers, I could still access mail, archives, calendars, etc.

Digital Nirvana at last...

Aruba Partner Training in Sunnyvale

On Monday morning, while getting my e-mail in my 'jammies' at my home office I received a call asking where I was... ominous no doubt.

I guess someone changed my schedule of when I was to be in Sunnyvale to teach an Aruba Partner class - without telling me - so I missed the first day of class. That was sure weird to have someone else teach the first day of a class and me to follow up. I guess it was good to have someone able to fill in at the last minute... but still no fault of my own. But it still felt a bit awkward going in on Tuesday in the middle of a class...

I had a chance after class on Thursday to stop by at AirMagnet and work on some details concerning a new course/update I'll be working on in October. I couldn't get on a flight out Thursday - well I could have at $860. So I caught the first (read 6:00am) flight back using Same Day Standby with Delta - a nice $0 option to switch flights on the same day as your original flight.

Next week is a 5-day AirMagnet class in Phoenix, so I was glad to have at least half-day back in Orem to catch up on some things. Like running errands, hair cuts, and setting up my parents two matching Macbook laptops. After hearing of my change to Mac, as well as my sister Janet and daughter Alysha... they decided to 'take the plunge' so I spent most of the afternoon getting them ready with software, updates, etc.

It was fun to watch Alysha perform again at the Timpanogos High School football game half time. I took videos of it yesterday... but here are some pictures of her last week's performance. Also, Ryan made this FANTASTIC cake last week - chocolate and pistacio nut scratch cake that was awesome. Today after running errands I was able to sit and watch three quarters of the BYU vs UCLA football game where the Cougars 'spanked' the Bruins in a 59-0 romp! I'm glad they got a shut-out... but it did get boring, even after the second and third string folks were in the game.

Tonight Alysha went with her friend Trevor to the Homecoming Dance - nice couple in Purple.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Switch to the Mac...

This will be a series of blogs detailing my 'Switch' over to Apple Macintoshs over the past couple of weeks.

One will be on the value of
Apple's 'Mobile Me' service - it's made it very easy to backup, restore, sync and access via the Internet my Mail, Address Book, Calendar and ToDo lists... plus a nice place to store photos and share large files... more later on 'Mobile Me'
Another blog entry will be on the actual transition from a Windows XP user - with ALL my use on a computer on a series of Windows based laptops - for well over a decade. Moved to a Macintosh as my sole platform in under three weeks!

Another entry... "
Things I Like on the Macintosh" Another coming blog will be some of the things I still miss from my XP laptops. (I never did feel comfortable on Windows Vista...)
And finally a short blog entry on WHY my life has had so many computers - and what it should me to you the readers of this blog!


This blog
will start with a little bit of history of me and Apple Macintosh's... Early in 1984 I was still a student at Brigham Young University (in the Business College) - and happened to see an announcent of a new computer from Apple to be held during lunch at the MARB building... so I went over to 'check it out'. I was blown away!

I 'had' to have one. Even though Jill and I were living on $350 per month... I walked right over to the BYU Bookstore and signed up to get one of the brand new Apple Macintosh computers (with a huge 9" b&w screen with 400k floppy disks and a whopping 128k of RAM) - and if I remember right they were selling with the BYU Student discount for $1,850!!!

Well over the next decade I owned/sold over 30 different Macintosh models - desktops galore, the HUGE Apple Portable (this one I went through MBA school with) - then ended on a Mac Powerbook 180 as my main machine (this was my 32nd Mac). I used this in my post MBA consulting and start of CNEPA and NPA days and it did very professional work! It became a bit too difficult to always be the 'different' one with the Macintosh. All my files couldn't be read by any of my colleagues, file formats were always difficult, and Mac's always costs a bit more than PCs. So I slowly moved away from Macintosh's to Windows based machines.

Here too I've been through at least 30 different laptops, IBMs, Toshibas, Fujitsus, HP, Compaq, and now for the last couple of years Dell. Dell Inspiron, D510, D600s, D620s, D630s, and lately a D430... I've been quite pleased and happy to work on Windows machines.

Ok, Ok, some people are 'into' cars and buy and sell cars all the time. I find car buying a pain, and car selling even worse! So I do computers instead.
Along the way I've always had a Macintosh at home for doing Video and Photo work, and I 'fixed' my Wife Jill's propensity to 'attract' viruses on her Windows machine by moving her to a Macintosh a couple of years ago.

Fast forward 15 years...

For a special project I developed at work - a lecture series on 802.11 N wireless networks, I purchased a new MacBookPro - a top of the line Apple Macintosh. It was easily the fastest computer of all those I tested.
I spent a couple of weeks on the road doing demos and experiments to show off the new wireless protocol - and kind of liked having a Mac back in my life. But... this MacBook Pro is fairly large (15" screen) and pretty heavy, especially compared with the light little Dell D430 that was my computer of choice. Then when I was thinking of moving down to a smaller Macintosh for my demos I purchased one of these new Apple Macbook Air laptops.

I've already blogged the 'metaphysical' change that happened in a previous blog.
Then after the MacBookAir became my 'main machine' I was faced with a dilemma the night it 'crashed' and had to go into the shop for a replacement Hard Drive... what to do on the next business trip? Go back to the slow D430 that was my previous main machine, return to a rebuilt (bit faster) bigger Dell D630? Then I thought perhaps I should try using the larger MacBookPro and move my stuff there for the week while the MBA was in the shop...
To my surprise this too under an hour to have all my important stuff, Mail, Calendar, ToDo's, Browser & Bookmarks, and 'my documents' all moved over and ready to go. (Thanks in a large part to Mobile Me and the ease at which the Macintosh Operating system works) Then during the week I moved over my 'final' software of choice. iTunes - is the software I use to sync my iPhone for music, audio books, movies, calendar, etc. This was the final 'hold out' on the older Dell 430 and last week while on the road teaching - I took one night and moved this too over the the MBP.

I was now fully Macintosh! And Loving it!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Side trip to Grand Coulee Dam

Jill and I had a flight from Spokane to SLC late afternoon... so we left Moses Lake early and went on a little 'side trip' to do some sightseeing on our way to the airport. We drove North to the Grand Coulee Dam, and then over to Spokane for our flight.

I really enjoy little trips like this were we can stop and learn about new things. We stopped first at the 'Dry Falls' - the world's largest falls... well they were during a flood stage in the Ice Age. Melting ice was trapped behind an 'Ice Dam' and the lake that formed covered a large area in Montana, when the Ice Dam broke, the volume of water greater than Lake Superior came flooding across Washington in a large sheet 300 feet deep, and carved out these 'Coulees' or dry canyons along its path.
This waterfall would dwarf Niagara Falls - This is the 'basin' that was left after the last flood. The base of the falls started 20 miles further away, and the cataracts eroded the face of the falls that entire way to here...

(Canyons are carved by rivers... Coulees are carved by floods and then rervert to their dry status)

Rocks and ice from this flood found their way from Montana all the way to the end of Willamette valley in Oregon...

Then we continued up the long Coulees to the Grand Coulee Dam.

A very impressive structure... it doesn't look like it though. It is so massive the mind plays tricks with what it sees. It is four times bigger than the Hoover Dam we've been to near Las Vegas... and produces three times the energy.

Just one of the three power plants produces enough energy to power all of Seattle and Portland! It has enough concrete to pave a sidewalk around the equator... twice! This large project built by the Bureau of Reclamation in the late 1930s, finished in 1941 was a huge undertaking... and resulted in not only 'taming' the mighty Columbia River, but allowing for an irrigation system to turn 600,000 acres of sagebrush into fertile fields. All of central Washington farms exist solely because of this project. The Columbia River had eroded the Upper Grand Coulee gorge some 300 feet below the Lower Grand Coulee gorge... so part of the Dam's purpose is to pump millions of gallons of water up those 300 feet and the feed a series of reservoirs that irrigate all the land south of the coulees.

This one dam is just one piece of a very large Water Management system in the Pacific Northwest.
Some quick facts about the Grand Coulee Dam:

  • 12,000 cubic yards of concrete
  • 7,000 workers for 8 years
  • nearly 7,000 Megawatts of power
  • nearly a mile long
  • Largest Dam in North America
  • The lake behind the dam is 151 miles long
  • Pumping capacity of 3,600 cubic feet per second
I enjoyed taking pictures, talking with Jill, watching the movies of the Ice Age and the Building of the Grand Coulee Dam in the visitor centers and having an enjoyable drive. After the dam, we drove across some 90 miles of 'dry farms' - non irrigated farms that are too far above the Coulee system to get much benefit... so they have these HUGE farms, square miles big... growing wheat. Mile after mile of farm after farm on our way toward Spokane.

It was a nice day together with my wife!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Photo Essay on Irrigation Circles

I have been a bit intrigued with 'Crop Circles' - those farms that exist solely because of irrigation. When I was young I worked a bit in Pocatello, ID one summer 'moving pipe' - that is hand-carrying 40' lengths of pipe - one pipe at a time, connecting them back up and turning back on the irrigation water. It was a slow tedious process and not very fun at all.

So when I had a chance yesterday to get 'up close and personal' with one of these new 'fangled' crop circle irrigation devices... I thought I'd put together a little 'photo essay'.

Here is a 'Google Earth' capture from the actual location we were 'hunting' yesterday morning.

At the center of the system is a cistern that is fed by an irrigation canal/pipe system. The pump pushes the water out through the rotating pump-head down the pipe. There are 'nozzles' that hang down. (Depending on the crop there are different densities and types of water nozzles).Each section of pipe has a self-drive unit that holds up the pipe and the contained water, but also inches the entire system forward. Being a circle, the outer sets of wheels have to travel faster/farther that the inside sets. All electronically controlled of course.
On some circles, the final outermost pipe extends and rotates on it's own allowing for crop 'circles' to have more 'squared off' corners. See first picture for an example (center bottom)

Here is a picture of the area covered by this one irrigation system... this small 'slice' of the area covered is less than 1/20th of the area covered!
All of this is possible because of a Bureau of Reclamation project back in the 1940's that brought water from the mighty Columbia River into this central Washington area. Over 600,000 acres are irrigated by this one project. (Our visit to the Dam will be in a different post)