.NET Interop

Yesterday, a coworker of mine was getting frustrated because he was trying to access a COM component from within the .NET framework, and was having no joy. I had written a small test application to access the same component (an OPC Server) a year before, so I sent him the code. He pulled the code into his visual studio project, but still no joy. After much research, we learned that the code would only work on a previous version of the framework (version 1.0). For version 1.1, the code, and in fact the entire solution architecture of using the automation wrapper, would no longer work. After much researching and quite a bit of stop and go testing, I've finally been able to access the OPC server from .NET 1.1 framework. My new test code does a lot more than my previous one did too.

The OPC foundation distributes a core components download which includes runtime callable wrappers (RCW) for the OPC components. These RCW interfaces only work in the .NET 1.1 framework. I was able to use these interfaces to connect to the server, setup I/O items, perform reads and writes, and listen for data change events from the server. This is pretty exciting for me because a lot of the software that our company writes is based off of OPC server information. This gets our foot in the door to doing more development in the .NET framework, which I am a big fan of. Of course, the OPC foundation has already developed a .NET API which will make all of this very easy to do, but you have to be a member of the foundation to get the API. Membership costs $1,500. We used to be members, but we let our membership lapse last year. Maybe we will join again, but if not, at least we have a solution for gaining access from within the framework.

Business Ethics

John C MaxwellI received information through Indiana Wesleyan that John C Maxwell will be giving a seminar in Indianapolis. He is the author of "There's No Such Thing as Business Ethics", "21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, "Thinking For a Change", and many others will be giving a seminar at St. Luke's UMC on Business Ethics. The seminar is schedule for April 23 from 1:30 - 4:30pm. Tickets are $35, but if a group purchases 10 tickets they will receive two free tickets.

New Addition

Calvin and GrandmaThere is a new addition to the Jones family. My cousin Brian and his wife Rainey were blessed with a 6 pound, 7 ounce boy on March 29th at 1:20 in the afternoon. His name is Calvin Douglass Jones. Look at all that hair!!

The Gematriculator

You may notice that the goodness (or evil I suppose) of my blog has now been scientifically calculated by the Gematriculator. Just another oddity on the web. Try it out on a couple of the websites you read to determine if they are full of wholesome goodness, or are pure evil.

This site is certified 76% GOOD by the GematriculatorThis site is certified 24% EVIL by the Gematriculator

RSS / Atom Feed

I decided to finally jump on the site syndication bandwagon and enable RSS for my blog. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Essentially, it provides a condensed list of my blog posts for anyone using a feed reader. Blogger, which is the service that provides the blog, has endorsed the Atom form of syndication. I guess this is some sort of big deal in the web community, as it isn't fully compatible with the original RSS format. In any case, if you are interested in receiving my feed, just drag the XML link in the corner to your feed reader.

Exam Passed!

I passed my exam! I've been studying for a little over a month to take the Microsoft Exam for Developing Windows Applications with Visual C# .NET (070-316). My company received a state grant that would cover some of the costs of study materials and exams for us to get our certifications. This exam is the first of five towards receiving my MCSD. Way, way back in 2001, I took the Distributed and Desktop Application exams for Visual Basic 6.0. I passed both. By passing any one exam, you are considered a Microsoft Certified Professional. Now that Microsoft has released the .NET framework and the Visual Studio .NET development tools, they are pushing for all of the certified folks to update their certifications. If I pass just two more exams (Developing Web Applications and Developing XML Web Services) I'll be considered a Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD). If I pass another two after that (Analyzing Requirements and SQL Server 2000) I'll be a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer. I used part of the government funding to get a set of study guides by Microsoft press to help prepare. I was surpised with how well they prepared me for the exam. In the past, I had used the Wrox and MS Press books to prepare for the VB exams, and they were not all that great. The Java book I used to prepare for my Java 2 Programmer certification has been by far the best book I've used. The MS Press book for C# Apps was a pretty good one though, and by far better than the VB books I had used. Hopefully I can set a pace to take a test a month, or even every other month. I think our government funds are good for two years, so I have plenty of time. Still, I'd like to get through all of my education (certifications and MBA) before Corbin gets much older. I don't want to miss out on him growing up.

Is Genetic Engineering of Crops Unnatural?

I had a really fun conversation with my coworkers this afternoon. I was so into the conversation that I abandoned my euchre game, so you know it had to be good. Somehow, the subject of genetically modified crops came up, and the idea that they were unnatural. I've read a number of articles on this, and how it has effects throughout the world, and I thought I would share my opinion. In order to do that, though, I had to say some pretty outrageous things in order to make sure that people would be interested in arguing. Keep in mind that an argument isn't necessarily a bad thing when two people with opposing viewpoints are defending their position.

My proposal was that, nothing that we do can be considered unnatural. My argument is hinged on the fact that you believe in evolution. If you don't believe in evolution, then my argument won't hold water. The reason I say that we are unable to do anything unnatural, especially with regards to genetic engineering, is that there is the possibility that in the future the same genetic mutations that we are inducing in the lab may have formed of their own accord. Right now, many people would argue that crops that are genetically engineered in the lab are unnatural, and shun those crops. Some norther african countries will not accept genetically modified food stuffs for fear that it will hurt their trade agreements with europe. So instead of feeding their people, they starve in order to avoid these "unnatural" crops.

Genetic engineering has been going on for centuries, it is only recently that we have improved the process and become much more efficient at it. For as long as men have farmed the earth, farmers have chosen among their best crop and stock to produce the next season's crop. This is genetic engineering! It doesn't involve test tubes or microscopes, but it does effect the genetic makeup of the next round of crop in much the same way. By only planting the seed of his best crop, the farmer is reinforcing the mutation, if any, that caused those particular plants to produce the best harvest. He is at the same time removing from the genetic field the crops that may have mutated to produce less at harvest. As this process is repeated season after season, the genetic makeup of the farmer's crop is mutated and modified to produce better results. Perhaps one year the farmer discovers a patch of corn in his field that the insects do not bother. He decides to use those seeds to plant his entire field the next season, and discovers that none of his crop has been eaten by insects. The farmer has effectively genetically modified his crop to be pest resistant. This is, in fact, exactly what farmers have done for centuries.

Now that we have the capability to effect these changes in a much more rapid and extreme manner, some are calling it unnatural. If more people had an understanding of genetic engineering and how it has been carried out for as long as we have tended the earth, I think fewer people would fear this type of crop. I'm not arguing that these changes are either good or bad for us, only that they should not be considered wholly unnatural on their face. After all, we are a part of nature, and if we are part of nature, how can anything we do be considered unnatural?

It is a pretty out-there argument, and I know it is hard to digest that kind of idea and accept it. The whole point of my making the argument though is just to get people to reconsider what they feel is natural and part of nature. Are we, as human beings, part of nature, or are we outside of the bounds of nature? If you consider humans to be outside of the bounds of nature, then everything we do is unnatural. However, if we are part of nature, then everything we do must be natural. Is it possible to have it both ways?

An example I brought up was to imagine that you are a chicken farmer. One day, through no interference of your own, a four legged chicken is born. Was that natural? Take it a step further and suppose that you then breed the four-legged chicken and find that all of the offspring have four legs as well. Is that natural? Can what you have done be considered genetic engineering? Is breeding different from genetic engineering? If so, how? They are tough questions. I know I'm just getting myself in trouble now, though. If I ever make an offhand comment about something being unnatural in the future, people in the office are going to jump all over me :-)


I'm in my Finance class right now, and I'm really struggling to stay awake. Not because the class is boring (which it may be otherwise), but because I didn't get any sleep last night. Saturday night I stayed up pretty late (3:30am?) with Corbin. I slept in late too, which was a mistake. I didn't roll out of bed until 11:30, and so I had a terrible time getting to sleep last night. I kept Corbin happy until 2:30, then crawled into bed and stared at the ceiling for an hour. I just couldn't sleep. I'm not sure when I actually fell asleep, but I do know that my alarm was going off at 7, which means that I got very little sleep last night. For some reason, it didn't really phase me throughout the day. I was pretty good all morning, and I was still going strong at my Dentist appointment in the afternoon. The two cups of strong coffee probably helped that out. I dropped by Jimmy John's on the way to class for yummy Billy Club on white with no tomato. They even had a no cholesterol bag of salt & vinegar potato chips, which is a rare find there. I got to class and munched down my sandwich, and was alert throughout the first hour of class. The second hour was a completely different story though. The temperature in the room was going up, and my eye lids were hanging down. I tried not to look like I was falling asleep, but it was tough! I hope we get out of here early tonight so I can go home and crash on the couch. I know Jenn will be there ready to watch Average Joe : Adam Returns, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to make it through the whole thing. Ugh, must...stay....awake....

New Phone

AT&T WirelessAnother notice I received over the weekend was that AT&T Wireless was going to upgrade my cell phone for free. They are going to upgrade me to a T226, which is a newer model than the phone I have. I looked through the feature list, and this looks a lot more like a downgrade! My current phone has calendaring functions, BlueTooth and IR communication, color screen, and lots of other nice features. The new phone does not have calendaring, it operates on fewer frequencies (850/1900 vs 900/1800/1900), half the memory, no profiles, and no voice activated dialing. The only features the t226 has over the t68i are polyphonic ringtons and twice as many colors on the screen. It has downloadable games, but I think that is a huge ripoff. Why would I want to pay $5 a month to rent solitaire?

The thing that really bothers me is that the notice that I would get a new phone requested that I send back my old phone. I paid an additional $50 as part of my plan to get an upgrade from the basic phones to the t68i. Now, they want me to trade in that phone at even cost for the t226 which is an inferior model. No thanks! Give me a shot at selling one of them on eBay or something, but don't ask me to just throw it away. My buddy at work brought up the point that, based on how my contract is worded, the t68i may not actually be my phone until the end of the contract. That would really stink. I like my phone! I drove Jenn nuts trying to figure out which plan and phone to buy. I want to keep my t68i.

Evidently I'm not the only one on the web who isn't a huge fan of the t226. A quick google search turned up quite a few other folks who were less than excited to receive a t226. I think this would have been awesome if AT&T sent a phone that was truly an upgrade from the t68i, like the t616 or some other model. I figure the reason they are doing the upgrade is to get folks using the 850 network, which is what Cingular uses as well. AT&T has a roaming agreement with Cingular in our area, and their have been talks that Cingular might buy AT&T Wireless. If that happens, my plans to switch providers in May when my plan is up will be pointless. I dunno, I'll check out this new phone, and if it has better reception, I'll use it, otherwise I'm sticking with my t68i.

Property Taxes

Over the weekend, we received a notice from the Jenn's employer. It said that we were delinquent on our property taxes and would need to pay a 10% penalty. It also said that, since Jenn was a government employee, her wages would be garnished until the tax was payed. We were both really surprised by this because our property tax comes out of an escrow account managed by our mortgage company. We got the letter on Saturday, so on Monday we made a couple of frantic calls to both the lender and the county to see what was going on. The county treasurer told us that the tax was paid in full, including the penalty, and that our current balance was $0. Great! So we called that lender, who told us that they wrote a check in the amount of the tax. Our escrow account was charged only for the amount of the tax, not the delinquency penalty. I guess the lender just ate that fee. So in the end, we got all upset over the weekend over nothing. Hopefully we don't go through the same thing again six months from now. We're thinking that what happened was that, since we refinanced last spring, the tax bill went to the old lender. The new lender never received it, so didn't pay the bill. They only paid it when they received the delinquency notice from the county. I'm just glad that it is all worked out, and no one is garnishing Jenn's wages.

Witch Hunter Robin

I've been watching a new cartoon on Cartoon Network called "Witch Hunter Robin". I saw a couple of commercials for it and it looked sort of interesting, so I setup the DVR to record it. It comes on Monday through Thursday at midnight. I missed the first couple of episodes, and so I'm still a little fuzzy on portions of the plot, but it has me intrigued. The story revolves around an organization called the STN. Specifically, it focuses on the Japanese unit of the STN referred to as the STN-J. The STN-J is responsible for hunting down people who were born with a witch gene, and to capture them before they become dangerous. Evidently, when the witch gene is awakened, the person is able to use powerful magic, and is usually overcome by the sense of power and goes on a killing spree. The STN-J has a system for tracking the folks with this gene, and attempts to get to them before or just as their power is awakened.

Robin, who is a new member of the STN-J, is called a craft-user. She has the ability to make fire at will. From what I understand, she is still struggling to understand whether she herself is a witch, and if she might eventually be hunted by the same people she works for. She is also conflicted, since she is using the same power that the targets of her hunts are captured for using. It seems a lot like the plot from Blade Runner. With each new episode, we learn a little bit more about the STN-J, Robin, and the crew she works with. In most cases, the STN-J attempts to capture the witches alive, and transport them to a place only described as the factory. The STN-J group is made up of a handful of people. Amon is the leader of the hunting party. Robin is his faithful side kick. Michael is the computer expert who mainly stays back at the office and provides the group with updates on their target. There is another craft user in the group, although her name escapes me. She has the abiliity to "scry" items. Using this power somehow lets her learn about the use and history of an object, as well as who may have been in contact with it.

The episodes are 30 minutes long, and have a very mysterious X-Files feel to them. The characters are usually outfitted in very gothic attire, and the mood of the series is very dark. Each episode focuses on the hunting of a new witch, and small bits of back information are given during each episode to help explain how Robin became part of the STN-J. For some reason, I just can't stop watching this series. If you are ever up late and looking for entertainment, check out an episode.

Game of the Moment - Metroid: Zero Mission

Woohoo, a new game! I've been drooling to get the new Metroid game since I heard about it in development. Zero Mission is the "retelling" of the original Metroid game from the NES. Essentially, it is the original game redone with the nice, new graphics that are possible on the GameBoy Advance, and with some of the newer powerups. Oh, and you can save your game and recharge your weapons, which was a feature sorely lacking from the original. It makes that game go by very quickly with these new additions. I nearly finished the game in a five hour sitting on Sunday! I reached Mother Brain, the original big bad boss from Metroid, in about three hours. I had a little trouble defeating her on the first try, so I adventured around a bit more to collect more power-ups before taking her on again. This time I defeated her with ease.

And this is where the game takes an interesting turn. I thought I would be done with the game, since this was a remake of the original and Mother Brain was the final boss. The self-destruct sequence started, and with a bit of frustration, I managed to reach my ship with just 5 seconds left to go. I was expecting credits, when a new level opened up. My ship crashed into a new area of the planet, and I was stripped of my power-suit and all weapons. All I had left was a charge pistol that couldn't kill squat. It turned into a stealth invasion, which was pretty exciting! Rather than blasting anything in sight, I had to be careful to maneuver in such a way as to avoid the bad guys, and evade the line of sight of the security systems. It was something new for me to see in this in a Metroid game, and I really enjoyed it. Throughout this section of the game, the space pirates (who in the following games use the Metroids to develop new types of weapons and enemies) were patrolling the area. If I was seen, they would give chase. I had to stun the pursuer, and then quickly find a place to hide so that they would turn the alarm off. Eventually, I reached a ruins area that was evidently part of the character's past. After defeating a very strange enemy (a knight with a mirror image of Samus in a ball), I not only got all of my power-ups back, I received a new suit (Gravity Suit). The new suit also identified some of the power-ups collected earlier in the game and only identified as "Unknown Item". One of these was the plasma rifle, which was an upgrade to my existing gun. I tracked down a new power-up, the super-bomb, and then continued through the space pirate ship. I reached Meta-Ridley, which was the souped-up version of the Ridley I had defeated earlier in the game. Ridley manages to make an appearance at least once in each of the Metroid games, and showed up twice here. I was killed, and I decided to call it a night.

I am pretty sure that Meta-Ridley will turn out to be the final boss. If it does, I have read that defeating the game turns on three new options: an image gallery, the original NES version of the game, and a HARD mode. I can already play the original Metroid from the Prime disc on the GCN. I linked up the Fusion game so I could see that gallery, which didn't really get me excited about this new gallery. I am interested in playing the hard mode though. One of the nice things about the Metroid games is that there are multiple ways to play that can keep the game interesting. You can play for time, highest collection percentage, or lowest collection win. The game tracks how long you take to win, and trying to beat your best time can be quite a challenge. Also, there are hoards of power-up items throughout the game. Trying to complete the game with 100% of all collectible items could take months. On the flip side, defeating the game while collecting the minimum number of power-ups can make the game extremely challenging. I think this game will keep me happy for quite a while!

Under the Weather

I'm not feeling very well today. I started sometime last week. I had a little tickle in the back of my throat. It hit me full force on Saturday. My throat hurt and my nose was running. Probably just a cold, but it had me beat. I was up with Corbin until 3am, and then I had a hard time falling asleep. Sunday I made DayQuil my new best friend. That night, I made a run to Marsh at 12:30 to get some NyQuil. I slept like a log, but I could have used more sleep. Hopefully I can get to bed early tonight and finally shake this thing. My big fear is that I will infect Corbin with it, which would be really bad. The last thing we need is a sick crying baby. Jenn has been absolutely amazing though. She didn't get to sleep until 4am last night, and even then only for a couple of hours before Corbin was back up again. She was just laying down with him again at 7:30 as I was getting ready for work. Hopefully one more night of rest will get me back into shape so that I can help her out more.

Martha Stewart

Martha StewartI'm really getting tired of hearing about Martha Stewart on the news. Yes, she was found guilty on all charges. Until the sentencing phase is complete, I don't need to hear anymore about this case. It doesn't effect me at all. She's just a regular person who made a bad decision. Happens all the time. Some folks are trying to make this into a lot more than it really is though. You can't hear a report on the case without someone bringing up the fact that she's a woman, and that it is because she is a woman that the courts are going after her. Please. The courts are going after her because she broke the law. That is what they are supposed to do. Last night I heard a representative from a women's rights group claim that no one else in the industry is being prosecuted for illegal financial transactions, and it was because Martha is a woman that she is being targets. Good grief, has she never heard of Enron, MCI WorldCom, or any of the hundreds of other businesses whose executives are serving jail time or paying enormous fines for their crimes? Martha isn't being prosecuted because she is a woman. She's being prosecuted because she took advantage of a situation in an illegal manner.

For anyone that isn't familiar with how the law works, I've recently completed my MBA coursework in this area and have at least a general understanding of what happened and why it is illegal. Insider trading is against the law. What is insider trading? If you are an insider to a business, meaning that you have access to records which have not been made public by the business, but are known to the business, and you make financial trades based off of that information in order to make a short term profit, you have broken the law. In this case, Martha Stewart was a stock holder in ImClone, a company that was hoping to market a new drug for treating cancer. During the FDA approval process for the drug, the FDA decided to hold the release of the drug. When the ImClone CEO learned of this, he left a message with his friend Martha to let her know. Obviously, the stock was going to lose a lot of value on this news. Rather than wait for the news to go public, both of these folks cashed out a large quantity of their stock before the price changed.

So who is the victim here? It is hard to say. Certainly Martha is not the victim, although some folks would like to paint her in that light. With securities fraud, it is difficult to pinpoint who the loser is. In this case, the victim is whoever bought the shares of ImClone that Martha was selling. Probably a mutual fund, or another investor. Fortunately, ImClone recently received approval for the use of their drug, and their stock price is higher than the price at which Martha sold her shares. Sort of ironic. Some folks dislike Martha. That's fine, but I don't need to hear about that either. The demonizing of Martha seems to be a hot topic on most networks as well. If they aren't depicting her as the victim of the good ole boy network, then they are depicting her as the bitch queen of the universe. I'm not sold on that idea either. Everyone can fall prey to making a bad decision from time to time. She's just human like everybody else.

We're Listed!

The Boilercade is now officially listed at Arcade Controls!! For now, it is on the front page of news, but when it falls off there you can find the link on the examples page under the upright cabinets section.


I finally got around to finishing up the web pages for the Boilercade. The arcade cabinet has been finished for some time, but I never got around to getting the web pages detailing the construction completed. Actually, the cabinet still has some items that I would like to add to it, such as logos on the sides and marquee, a trackball, a coin door, and maybe even a faceplate to cover the monitor. I haven't been very motivated to get those items done though, especially since it works and we can play on it now.

All of the game consoles have been installed in the cabinet, and now I spend a lot of time in the basement, playing on it. I don't spend as much time on the MAME games as I thought I might, but I'm still getting a lot of good use out of all of the effort that went into building it. I can't thank Hack enough for all of his help with the woodwork. There is no way I could have done half the job he did. I submitted the site to Arcade Controls. If we get added as a project, I'll provide an update to announce the good news.

Late Night Excitement

And no, you filthy minded perv, I'm not talking about in our bedroom. In the wee hours of Thursday morning of the week we returned from the hospital, there was quite a commotion on our little cul-de-sac. It was around 3am, and Jenn and I were both awake. Jenn was trying to sleep with Corbin in the guest bed, and I was trying to get some shut eye in our own bed. I noticed that our court was very brightly lit for such an early hour. I pulled the shade of the window to the side only to see that there was a circus of fire equipment outside. As I counted, there were four fire engines, a rescue truck, and an ambulance lined up on our little street. All of them had their lights flashing, but there were no sirens. The engine closest to us had the flood lights on, and it looked like firemen were going in and out of the house two down from our own. I checked in on Jenn to make sure everything was okay, and let her know what I had seen. Koby was very interested in all of the commotion as well. I watched for quite a while, and I could see that the men were particularly interested in the chimney of the home. I assumed that there had been a chimney fire. After a while, the lady who lived there went back into her home with her two young sons, and I thought that everything must be okay, so I went to bed.

The next day, I received an update from my neighbor as to what had happened. The family had been burning a fire that evening, and when it got to be bed time, there were still some hot embers in the fireplace. They decided to leave the flue open and go to bed. The twin boys slept in front of the fireplace, and mom went to bed. Around three, one of the boys woke as he had wet himself. He woke up his mom, and she immediately noticed that there was smoke on the ceiling. She searched the house for a fire, but couldn't find one. All of the embers in the fireplace were out, and there seemed to be no source for the smoke. She called the non-emergency number for the fire department and explained the situation. She asked if they could send out someone to check it out, and asked that they not wake everyone in the neighborhood up. The fire department said that she would need to call the emergency number instead. So she called the emergency number and again explained the situation. She asked again that someone just come and take a look, as it did not appear to be an emergency. The operator said that one truck would come out to assess the situation. It must have been a slow night in our town, because we got four engines. I guess it is normal protocol to send out a rescue truck and ambulance for any fire related 911 call, so that is why we got those, but for four engines to show up for some smoke was pretty extreme.

The firemen checked the house from head to toe, and they couldn't find any other source for the smoke. The fire marshall decided that what must have happened is the smoke became stagnant in the chimney. The weather had been pretty mild, and he said that, without enough heat, the smoke can get trapped in the chimney column. A downdraft must have occurred, forcing the smoke back into the house. Since the flue was open, there was nothing to stop it from coming back in. This caused the house to fill with smoke. I guess the house was pretty noxious with the fumes, so they used a special fan to suck out all of the smoke and carbon monoxide. I can't imagine how it must smell. Everything must be okay, though, as they installed a new swingset the next weekend, and they spent every night in the house.

Big News

My brother is going to be a daddy again! He had been holding off telling everyone until after Corbin's birth because he didn't want to steal our thunder. I thought that was really nice. They are already four months along, which means that they are going to have two little ones under 15 months of age. This explains why he recently traded in his car for a minivan. They originally wanted to have 7 kids, and at this pace it looks like they should have no problem with that. He is a little concerned about his insurance situation, and money situation. His current job doesn't provide insurance coverage, so he had to COBRA the coverage that his wife had when she left work. That will last through the birth of this child, but they will need something else after that. He has another job prospect lined up, and hopefully that one can provide him with some decent coverage.

Jade Mason