It's Alive!!!

It's alive!!! The old Mac has had some life breathed back into it. The new power supply arrived today, and the old dog has been running ever since I installed it. I was a little disappointed to find that my old game (Warlords) had been deleted and replaced with Sim City 2000, but I was awash in nostalgia as I tinkered around with it. I played through all of the old Mac sounds. I thought it was really cool to find a sound that I made back in high school (a belch, how eloquent). I also discovered that my cousins (Jake and Kaitlyin, I know where you live), had added some sounds of their own, along with some "clever" jokes. The Mac still runs fantastic. It has system 7.1 loaded, along with Microsoft Word, Excel, Canvas, and the usual Mac fare. It also has some additional software for the HP printer (which I have) and the Teleport Modem (which I don't have). I'm debating if it would be worthwhile to spend another $30 to get a NuBus card and an ethernet adapter. If I did, I could put the Mac on our home network. I'm not really sure it would be worth the effort though, as I can currently sneaker net files over to it if I need to. I'm going to scrounge around the web for a while tonight to see if I can find a free download for the Warlords game. I'm sure that all of the original disks are long gone. It made me feel like a kid all over again to be playing on the old Mac!

It's alive!

The offending power supply

A Bigger Burrito

Jenn and I love QDoba. More generally, we love Mexican food, but QDoba has some awesome food. We are signed up for their e-mail coupons, and every other month we seem to get a buy one, get one free burrito offer. So today Jenn took advantage of another of those coupons for our dinner. Sometimes I just want a veggie burrito so I can enjoy all of the cilantro, rice, and beans. The steak and chicken burritos are both really good too, but the rice and beans are so good on their own that sometimes that is all you need.

Over the course of time, we've noticed that the veggie burritos are larger than the regular burritos. Not just a little bit large, but MUCH larger. Today, when Jenn got home, my veggie burrito was a good 50% bigger than Jenn's chicken burrito. I think the servers at QDoba must feel bad, like they are ripping me off or something, if they don't put any meat in my burrito. So to make up for it, they double up the rice and beans. Today's burrito was so big that it split through the tortilla. I couldn't finish the thing. It was just too much. Koby thought that was just fine, as he got to enjoy the rest of it. So if you are really hungry, go into a QDoba and ask for a veggie burrito with black beans, hot sauce, sour cream, cheese, and lettuce. You will be lucky to finish your meal.

Winter Break

Woohoo! It is vacation time! I have been feeling pretty stressed out lately with the deadlines and workload at the office. It was really getting to me over these last few weeks. Fortunately, I managed to get all of my assignments completed by the time my vacation started. I had scheduled to take off the final two weeks of the year, and now I can do exactly that without feeling an ounce of guilt. These last two days have been awesome. I've had no problem falling asleep. I've been more pleasant to be around. I've spent some quality time with Jenn and Corbin. It has been awesome.

Yesterday, I finished reading one book and made it all the way through another. I finished Patton on Leadership, a book about applying the war general's maxims to the business world. It was neat book to read. I wasn't all that familiar with Patton's exploits, and I've never seen the movie with George C. Scott. The book was broken down into several single page elaborations of quotes from General Patton. It discusses (in a very macho kind of way) how the same principals that guided Patton during the war can be applied in business. When to step in, when to get out of the way, making decisions, leading.... it's all covered. It is easy to pick the book up and flip to any page. There is no reason that it has to be read front to back. Being written this way, it is a little difficult to sit down and read in one sitting though, and there is quite a bit of redundancy as the same concept is repeated again and again.

The second book I read was Gung Ho! This is another book off of the list of reading for our leadership program at Flexware. It was another quick and easy read, and much easier to finish in one sitting. Gung Ho! covers the story of a manager who was setup to fail at a plant that was had poor production results. She had pointed out to her managers how one plant was going to fail, and was rewarded with the sink or swim job of making it profitable. Her boss had hoped it would be a convenient way of getting rid of a nuissance employee who just made him look bad. The book covers how the victim of this arrangement discovered some very effective methods through an unsuspecting source to motivate her plant to the top. I won't cover the main points of the book, as to discuss them out of context would make them sound, well, stupid. But in the context of the book and the story, the concepts are great ideas found in several texts on how to motivate your people to do their best work, and to raise the morale of any place of business.

As for other plans for the break, I hope to spend a lot of time with Jenn and Corbin. I've been working so many hours lately that I hardly see Corbin, and when I do he is really cranky and ready for bed. Jenn has been bearing the brunt of the child raising duties, and I really love her for all of the support she has been giving me, but I need to jump in there and help out. I also want to pass my next Microsoft exam. I've been putting it off for some time, but the projects I have been working on recently cover the topic that the exam focuses on (distributed computing architectures in .NET). I think with a little studying, I can be ready for it in a week or so. I need to get some Christmas shopping done too, but otherwise, I hope to just relax and enjoy my time off.

I hope everyone enjoys the holidays. If I don't get a chance to tell you in person, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Late Night

Some nights, I don't mind staying up past three in the morning. That is, if it is the weekend and I'm playing games into the wee hours of the morning. Tonight is a different story. At work, we've been fortunate enough to get a boat-load of work at the end of the year. Unfortunately, everyone is completely tapped out on time. I've been falling further and further behind on stuff that I'd like to have done, and my deadlines just keep creeping closer. So tonight I bit the bullet and pulled an all-nighter at work. I had a list of bugs to work out of one project, some analysis to do another, and initial development to do on a third. Right now I'm taking a little ciesta to stay sane, and to fix up a computer that my brother-in-law passed along from a friend. It looks like they reformatted it and reinstalled windows, but got stuck there trying to get drivers installed. So far, I've got the rest of the drivers installed, and I'm working through all of the windows patches that need to be applied. I've done my bug fixing and analysis work. After I'm done with this PC upgrade, I'll move on to my development. I've had two cups of coffee, and that has helped me to stay alert, but the effect is starting to fade. I remember all too well from my college days the effect of a third cup of coffee at this time of night. My stomach would start cramping, I'd get all jittery, and have no chance of getting anything else done. So I'm going to stay away from the cup of coffee and munch on these tasty caffeinated mints :-).

One thing I am kind of looking forward to is that Jenn said that she would come in with Corbin whenever he wakes up to have breakfast with me. I love breakfast food, and I'm looking forward to heading out to IHOP, Dennys, Papas, or wherever we go. Mmmm... breakfast.....

Vortigaunt and I, roasting a head crab on an open fire.

Sad Mac

We did some shopping today, and I picked up a 3.6V 1/2AA battery at Radio Shack. Although I'm sure it was needed, it didn't solve the greater problem of getting the thing to boot. After some more testing, I think I've determined that the root of the problem is a dead power supply. I cracked it open and watched it in operation. There is some type of electro-mechanical contact switch that is getting thrown, and immediately lost. I can see the switch move, but it never stays. Occassionally, it will stick down for a second and I'll hear the happy mac chime. So I'm pretty sure that the motherboard, hard drive, floppy, and everything else are okay. I checked out eBay, and it looks like I can get a complete Mac IIsi minus a hard drive for $6 (plus $8 shipping). I'll probably get it and use it for spare parts. I'm still not entirely sure what I'm going to do with it once it runs (other than play Warlords). Any suggestions?

Return of the Mac

Ye Olde Mac IIsi returned to me this weekend. This was our family computer while I was in high school. The Mac is now getting close to 15 years old, and might still be functional. My grandmother had been using it for the past couple of years for web access, e-mail, and solitaire. A couple of months ago she started complaining the it wouldn't boot up anymore. My dad searched on the web and got a great deal on a Dell as a replacement. She has since been setup with a DSL account, and should be back on her way. I asked my dad if I could get the old Mac, mostly out of nostalgia for it, and to see if I could get it running again.

I got it all pieced back together and turned it on. It fired up on the first try to the smiley Mac. The first thing I noticed was the smell of smoke and air fresheners. My dad told me that the Mac had been connected to an outlet that was controlled by a light switch. At first, I thought it was a simple matter of the light switch being off that caused the beast not to boot. I was playing around a bit, and noticed that it was set in Black & White mode. I knew from the years of using it that it supported color, so I opened the control panel, and switched it to color mode. Bad move. The IIsi immediately shut down. I hit the power key on the keyboard, and the power light blinked for a second, but it was right back out. This must be what my grandmother had been talking about. As the PC was very old, I wasn't sure if this could be a dust issue (dust in a PC can create shorts), a blown motherboard, or something else. It had always been connected to a very nice surge suppressor, but that didn't totally count out a massive surge causing problems. Also, smoke and spray air fresheners can eventually coat the electronics and cause a short.

I opened the case and started poking around. The first thing I noticed was how cleanly the old Mac was assembled. If you open a new Dell, you'll find that everything is neatly wire tied away, but you still end up with cables criss-crossing the case and a general look of confusion inside the case. The Mac was very clean and tidy. The connectors on the motherboard for the floppy and hard drives were located right next to the mounting position of the drives within the case. This made for a very short cable run (a couple of inches, if that). No tools were needed to dismantle it, everything had locking tabs that made it easy to remove and reinstall the parts. The power supply even snapped into position. In fact, the only power cable run in the entire case was from the motherboard to the hard drive. Kudos to Apple for a great design. After some looking around, I noticed a Lithium battery in the center of the board. This set off a flag in my mind. Most PCs have a battery that supplies power to a segment of memory on the mainboard. This can be used to store settings, keep the system clock running, or any of several other options. In the Macs case, the battery supplies power to the segment of memory that retain settings. I realized that it was when I changed settings (black and white to color) that the Mac powered down. I grabbed an LED and checked for any voltage on the battery. It was totally dead. So I'm suspecting that this is the root cause for the Mac not to boot. I can order a new batter online for $6, or pick one up at Radio Shack for $15. Of course, I could just go on eBay and buy a complete Mac IIsi for $25, but that wouldn't be nearly as fun as reviving this old dog.

My mission now is to locate a 3.6V 1/2AA size Lithium battery and attempt to revive the Mac. Once I do, I'll be happily playing Warlords again!

More of the Same

I know, it seems like all I post about is Half-Life 2, but there was another surprise this week. The multiplayer death-match version of the game was released! That was something that was sorely missing when I first installed the game. I'm glad to see that it has been added. I played for a little bit. The gravity gun is included in the game. It makes for some interesting fights. For instance, you can pull the toilet out of the stall and kill someone with it. They even have an icon for it. Killed by toilet. Talk about your embarassing ways to die.

Jade Mason