Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hot Air Balloon Ride over Park City, UT

Jill surprised me with a 2-hour Hot Air Balloon Ride over Park City for my 50th Birthday today!

It was spectacular!

The weather was perfect, the scenery gorgeous, and the fall colors out in all their glory. The company was pretty good as well - thanks Jill!

I can recommend the folks who took care of us. The pilot was professional and experienced, and the ground crew fun, helpful, and friendly.

It took the entire morning - including driving to/from Park City - but a very worthwhile experience. They also use this same balloon to go over Bryce Canyon - I think I just added something else to my list.

I brought along the big Nikon camera to capture some of what we saw and experienced today.
Here are the results:

Prepping the balloon - using fans to blow it up

Now using the propane to get lift into the Balloon

Shadow of the balloon just taking off

The Honda Element and the Chase Vehicle

The town of Park City, UT - home of the 2002 Olympics

My beautiful wife looking at the scenery

Colorful Fall Foliage

Looking down at another balloon - and the Cell Tower hill in Park City

Can you spot the plane flying below us?

Soccer players warming up in the early morning light

Coming close to the ground to observe wildlife

We saw this Coyote from the Balloon

Herd of Elk

Other Balloon above Park City

Coming into land in the sagebrush east of Park City near I-80

Down on the ground

Our outfitters

Deer Creek Reservoir and the back side of Timpanogos

Back side of Mt. Timpanogos with Fall Foliage

The front side of Mt. Timpanogos from our front yard

Our Front Yard in the Fall when we returned home

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Beta Testing & New USB Case

This week I've been working from home and the local office doing some 'Beta' testing. This involves signing Non-Disclosure Agreements and then getting a hold of some 'Pre-Release' software/hardware and being a bit of a guinea pig.

Things don't always go right - but that's what beta testing is all about. Its a chance for the developers of the product to get feedback, bugs, and final little changes prior to actually shipping to paying customers.

Documentation isn't completed, problems exist, but it's 'Fun' to be able to play with and interact with equipment and software before the general public. Plus it feels good to be able to have at least a 'smidgen' of input into how products turn out. Beta testing really helps the vendors get some 'wrinkles' out before paying customers get the stuff.

I appreciate when I have a chance to 'beta' test my course content prior to teaching for 'real'. So this is a chance for me to take a 'down week' and do something productive with my time.

I can't wait for some of these products I've been testing are released to the public! I really want to use them in my own practice - but can't until after the NDA is released. Bummer.

It's kind of like being 'teased' a bit - you get to touch, play with, and enjoy the new stuff. Even form some sort of 'bond' through fighting through the trials in pre-release beta stuff. Then, then the vendors don't let you use it. Again, bummer.

It has been nice, however, to be home every day, see the wife and kids and eat dinner together.


On an entirely different note.

I carry with me a bunch of little devices that do different, necessary at specific times, things. I've tried lots of different contraptions and cases trying to get 'just right'. Lately I've been using some cosmetic bags (don't laugh - since they are see-through, they get through TSA security at the airport easier)

But it wasn't 'just right' - So I decided to design up my own solution. I made a pattern out of paper, dummied up a cardboard version, then asked a nice neighbor lady who has sewing skills to make me one. I even went to the fabric store and crafts stores to get the components. (that was almost more embarrassing than buying the cosmetic bags)

Here is the result.
It allows me to carry lots of USB devices all at the same time. Folds right up, and velcros shut so everything stays copacetic in my shipping cases during transport. In class, or on a client's site, I just whip this out and all my tools are ready and waiting to go!

I've already got the seamstress working on a couple more. Then on to getting ones designed to hold all the PCMCIA cards I carry as well.

Here's a list of what is in the current USB Case:

- CACE Technologies -
AirPcap Nx 802.11n Packet Capture
- PowerDsine -
Power over Ethernet test tool
- CACE Technologies -
AirPcap Tx - 2.4GHz Packet Capture
- three of these so I can scan Channels 1, 6, 11 simultaneously

- MetaGeek -
WiSpy 2.4i - Spectrum Analyzer w/3D
- MetaGeek -
WiSpy 2.4x - Spectrum Analyzer with External Antenna
- MetaGeek -
WiSpy dBx - 2.4GHz and 5GHz Spectrum Analyzer
- NutsAboutNets -
AirHorn 2.4GHz Jammer w/External Antenna
- NutsAboutNets -
AirHorn 2.4GHz and 5GHz Jammer
- NutsAboutNets -
AirHorn 2.4GHz Jammer - small form factor
- Smartronix -
LinkCheck - tests 10/100 Ethernet
- Nintendo -
WiFi USB Connector - Insidious automatic Rogue AP
- Xyzel -
AG-225H - 802.11 abg WiFi Finder, NIC and Soft AP
- NetGear -
WNDA3100 802.11n Dual-Band USB Adapter
- Ubiquiti -
SR71USB 802.11n Dual-Band USB Adapter

Plus a couple of PCMCIA cards I always have with me:

- Ubiquiti - SRC 300mw abg Card

- Senao - 802.11b (with Prism Chipset)

- AirMagnet - C1060 abgn Card

- AirMagnet - Cognio Spectrum Analysis Card

Monday, September 21, 2009

Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City

After returning from Denver - Jill planned a little 'adventure' for my birthday (a week early). Just the two of us to go to Cedar City to see a few plays as part of the Utah Shakespearean Festival. She arranged a nice little Bed & Breakfast across the street from the theater. This place was quite charming. Called the Garden Cottage Bed and Breakfast - it was for all intents and purposes a British Garden Cottage. Built in the 1920s and where the proprietors raised their children, it has been a B&B for the last 13 years. Quaint, romantic, and quite 'old school' the place was very enjoyable. (far better than any hotel in Cedar City could have been) Here's their web site - check it out if you ever want to go to Cedar City! I can highly recommend it. We first saw the play 'Tuesdays With Morrie'. I had read the book years ago and thought it was full of nice 'platitudes'. But this was a very moving rendition of the story - told by just two actors on stage, with minimal, yet effective, props.For about the first 20 minutes or so, you were watching actors. But then as the play continued you were just watching the characters and the story unfold. It was a tear-jerker for me. (but I'm a wimp and will cry at just about anything) Highly recommended!

Saturday morning after a great breakfast at the B&B we drove up to see 'Cedar Breaks'. A national monument just 20 miles from Cedar City. We've driven past here on I-15 50+ times... and never took the time to check out the National Monument that close.
It wasn't a 'Bryce Canyon' - but close.

The site is above 10,000 feet. From the East you just see high-mountain meadows... then you get to the edge and it drops precipitously carving through the colored layers of soil. Quite impressive.

We then drove toward 'Brianhead' ski resort. But along the way saw the actual Brian Head Peak. Elevation 11,307 - 3,446m. Only about 400 feet lower than the mighty Mount Timpanogos behind our house.

So we drove up there. It was on a gravel road, kind of like driving to Pike's Peak in Colorado. From the top you could see into not only Utah (of course) but Nevada and Arizona as well. There was a man-made little 'hoodoo' out on a little promontory - so I hiked over there and added a couple of rocks to leave my mark.

After passing through the Brianhead ski resort, we took a left turn and traveled back over the mountains via the 'Dry Lakes Byway' a steep, gravel road that winds up and down the mountains cutting due West up and over the mountain range there. More high mountain meadows, dense forests, grand vistas, then dropping down a very steep grade for the final 5 miles to finally join back up with I-15. Good thing we took the 4WD Honda Element on this trip. We saw some amazing country that we'd never seen before.

Brian Head Peak - 11,307' - 3,446m
Here's a 'zoom in' shot of the same Brian Head Peak - Hoodoos on right

Hoodoo out on promontory

Honda Element up at 11,000ft - moonscape

Hoodoo from the side

Trees dying because of Spruce Beetle Infestation

Bristlecone Pine's also hurt by Beetles

Archway in Cedar Breaks

Cedar Breaks from Sunrise View - 10,300ft - dropping off plataeu

Looking South towards Arizona

On 'trail' cutting over mountains looking back at Cedar Breaks

Fall colors starting to show

Then in the afternoon was another play. This one was a comedy - The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) - Three actors. Ninety-seven minutes. All thirty-seven of the Bard’s plays—and the sonnets! Including large doses of clowning, street theatre, and vaudeville thrown in for good measure. This irreverent, hilarious, and lightning-paced overview of the greatest plays of all time left us laughing, jumping up and down, and waving our arms in enjoyment. Jill never had such fun! The boys would have really enjoyed it! Then after watching a very disappointing BYU vs Florida State football game (I only got to watch through half time - but that was more than enough - by the way, I don't want to talk about it) we headed back to the theater for our final play.

It was 'The Lady in Black' - well, we got two good plays out of three. Neither Jill or I enjoyed this one. It was way to slow. There was enough material for about a nice 20 mintute ghost story... and they tried to stretch it to 2 hours. I've never wanted to walk out of a play before... I didn't, but the desire was there.

Overall - it was a very nice weekend with my wife. Thanks Jill!

Denver & Books

This week I spent three days on an Advanced WLAN Design course by the Denver airport. It was a new venue for us - the Residence Inn. The place worked great - we'll be going back there again. Even without a car - there were multiple choices nearby for food.I chose the Uno Pizzaria for dinner one night. My favorite pizza! I don't understand why people go after that flat - whimpy - New York style pizza, when you could have a real 'Pizza Pie' - done up 'Chicago Style' - I like the Numero Uno!This week's class was a small class - and so we got done a bit early on Thursday. I had a chance to get home 4-hours earlier... but alas - no travel karma that day.

But with the extra time I was able to catch up on some e-mails, and then with the wonder that is the Kindle, went online and purchased Dan Brown's new book '
The Lost Symbol'. I finished it in Cedar City this weekend. I love reading on the Kindle!If you like Dan Brown's other books like Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons - you also like the Lost Symbol. This one is set in Washington DC and focuses on the Masons.

Earlier in the week I'd finished the last of the Abel Jones mysteries set in the Civil War - and was a bit disappointed the series is over. The last line of the book said something about Abel Jones will return for more adventures - but the author hasn't written any in the last couple of years. Bummer.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Manti Temple Trip & THS Football

Friday morning we stopped by and picked up Mom and Dad on our way down to Manti. Jill and I have never been through a session at the Manti Temple - and since I was home this week... we took a little road trip. The Temple there was beautiful (of course) - this was completed long ago, in 1888, about 5 years before the Salt Lake City Temple. The interior and exterior are both amazing - we even were escorted to see the 76' continuous spiral staircases that make 6 full revolutions.The food in the cafeteria wasn't all that good... but the day was.

Passing through Ephraim, we realized those going to Snow College there are living in a VERY SMALL TOWN indeed!

Then last night I again drove the Honda scooter over to the THS football game. This week was better though, they beat Lehi 44-31. I love sitting outside at the games, watching the sun set on these local mountains, and cheering on the local team. (I guess I'm one of the few folks at these games actually watching the game... most folks are chattering away, talking with neighbors, etc. - But me, I like the game.)
My nephew Michael even got a pass completion for 5 yards, as well as a few really good blocks to help others in their yards after catch.

A good day... yep, a good day.

This week was working from home week... no travel. It amazes me how many little things need to get accomplished on my week's home. Every day my list of 'To Do' items actually grew. As I'd finish one project, I'd think of others that needed to get done.

I finally setup the USB Phonograph - yes, I said "Phonograph". It allows me to 'rip' old LP and 45 records into MP3 format. So I was getting the music off of some old records I picked up in China on my mission there 30 years ago. Listening to the music brought back lots of memories of that place.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Real Free WiFi

OK, I like Free WiFi.

NOT the kind that makes you pay per minute.

NOT the kind where you watch lots of adverts.

NOT the kind where all web pages go through something that puts an advert on every page.

NOT the kind where you have to put in some special code.

NOT the kind where they block ports so you can't get your e-mail, VPN, etc.

NOT the kind where they throttle the connection to a crawl.

NOT the kind where you can only be in lobby to get net access.

Just REAL Free WiFi!

Oh, I don't mind hitting a web page and clicking 'yes' to their silly legal pages.

What I really like is the kind where you just get fast, easy access to the things you normally do with your laptop/iPhone. That's the kind that will keep me coming back again and again to your establishment.

I think it should be more like a water fountain, or a public bathroom. A service that is provided by businesses
freely for their patrons. Not just in hospitality - but in all businesses that work with the public.

Most of the hotel chains have figured this one out. (not the high-end ones - they still charge, but then again they charge a lot for everything)

Now let's get the rest of the business world to come on-board!
I've been in business a long time, have a MBA, and have run many companies. So I *do* understand there are costs involved in Free WiFi that have to be paid from somewhere.

Installation costs, maintenance costs, and of course the monthly Internet connection costs. But when you compare the actual cost per user, it will be WAY BELOW what a business would pay for getting a new client/or keeping a client. (compare to marketing and advertising costs)

So the next time you are somewhere with real Free WiFi - thank the management folks and tell them it made a difference in your choice to be there.

And for all those sites who still - "Don't Get It" - and do any of the things on the NOT list above. Remind them there is a better way to offer WiFi to their customers.

What about your own company?
Do you have REAL Free WiFi for your customers?