Camera Memory

We have a 2-Megapixel digital camera that we like to use for all of our picture taking needs. Back when we got it, 2-Megapixel was a very nice camera, and it still is. In the high resolution mode, we can print out an 8x10 picture and it looks great. Unfortunately, memory for the camera was really expensive at the time, and we stuck with the original 8MB card. We can only fit 10 pictures on it in high-res mode. We've turned into real shutterbugs with Corbin, and 10 pictures is really limiting. Jenn asked me to check out a bigger card for the camera. I was very happy to see that prices have come way down. I just ordered a 128MB card from Computer-Memory-Store for $20. They carry a lot of flash, magnetic, and other memory devices. Now we'll be able to take 150 pictures at a time. I doubt we'll ever take that many in one outing, but it is nice to not worry about memory limits anymore.

Another One Down...

I promised myself that I wouldn't buy any new video games until I had gone through and completed all of the ones I already have. There are a handful of games down here in the basement that I've played up to a point, and then either got distracted, frustrated, or lost interest in for one reason or another. Tonight I put one of those games to bed. Metroid Prime 2 is one I received for Christmas, so it really hasn't had much time to collect dust. I received MP:2, and Paper Mario this holiday, and Paper Mario won out for my play time first. Once that was done, I switched over to MP:2. The game plays identically to the first Metroid Prime game, and so it was very easy to jump right in. For some reason, this one just didn't grab my attention like the first one did though. With the first one, I was amazed at what Nintendo had done wth the GameCube both in terms of graphics and gameplay. First person shooter type games are incredibly difficult to pull off without a mouse, but Metroid Prime did a great job with its targeting system. Metroid Prime 2 was just as good, but it wasn't better at anything over the first one. I suppose I sort of expected progress. Not that I was disappointed with the game, I loved playing it and really enjoyed it from start to finish.

I still have some others to finish up. I'm taking a business trip to St. Louis later this month, so I figure I can finish up Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem on the GameBoy during that trip. Until then, I'm pretty close to finishing Neverwinter Nights. I've had this one for a little over a year now. It is a really engrossing game. I would sit down to play for an hour and end up spending four or five. I think that is why I quit playing for a while, it was just too much of a commitment to sit down and play. I had to rebuild my laptop (re-install the OS, all software, etc.) over the weekend, so while some of the installs were running on the laptop I played NWN on our home PC. I really started to get into it again. I think I'm on the final chapter, so I'll make that my next game to complete.

Speaking of finishing things up, my MBA is getting close to the finish line. Last week was the final class for Advanced Mangerial Economics. I really got a lot out of that class. It was an eleven weeks course, one of the longer ones in the curriculum, and it provided a lot of good information on pricing, competition, and... well, economics. Today I'll be starting on Organizational Development. I had an Organizational Behavior course as part of my management minor at Purdue, and it was the biggest blow-off class I ever took. I'll be going into class with low expectations, so hopefully I'll get a pleasant surprise and learn something. This one is only six weeks, and then another six weeks for International Business. Once that one is over, my classwork is done and I begin work on my final paper. The final paper is sort of the equivalent of a thesis for the program, since a thesis is not required. I'm not really sure what they are looking for yet, but hopefully I'll learn more by the time classes finish up.

I'm also reading several books. I have three books for class and two for work. I'm about half-way through reading "A Stake in the Outcome" by Jack Stack for work. I really don't care for Jack, but the information in the book isn't all bad. The author has a really attitude about formal education. In short, he thinks it is worthless. He advocates getting a bunch of moderately educated folks in a room and using group think to guess at the correct course of action over formal education on the subject at hand. I take real issue with that approach. He also talks about the ideas of employee ownership programs, business mini-games, and tips for anyone running a business. Not all of it is bad, and some of the tips can be useful. However, I think that anyone who reads this as the gospel on how to run their business will be "entrepreneurially dangerous". At work, we have a term for folks we meet at manufacturing sites who have a base knowledge of computer systems but consider themselves experts. We call them "technically dangerous", because they have just enough technical knowledge to get themselves way in over their heads. I think Jack Stack's book would create a cadre of business folks that are equally entrepreneurially dangerous. One example that really got to me was when he spoke about a sales organization he formed. He spent page after page talking about how perfect his plan was for this sales organization. His plan was so perfect in fact, that they couldn't fail. The sales organization failed mightily though, and rather than look inward at the structure he created (which was the ultimate cause of failure) he instead blames the people he hired to fill the roles. That, and my previously mentioned comment about his stance on formally educated business people, really turn me off to his book. The conference I'm going to in St. Louis is put on by his organization, so hopefully some of the other folks he is associated with will improve my opinion of him and his work.

Aside from that book, I'm also reading "21 Irrefutible Laws of Leadership" by John C Maxwell. Maxwell worked as a minister here in Indiana for a time, and was in Indianapolis last year for a conference. The book isn't breaking any new ground in the leadership world, but it is always good to reinforce your knowledge on the subject. That one is for class, along with a text book and a set of example articles. Another book I'm half-way through is also for work: "Collaborative Manufacturing" by Michael McClellan. This one is fairly interesting, and it reminds me a lot of my marketing class. It deals with tightening up the supply chain by allowing more freedom of information. Suppliers, vendors, manufacturers, warehousers, and retailers all working together in a highly trusting collaborative environment. It is a nice idea, if a bit utopic, and presents a good case for unified standards in supply chain management systems.

Wow, this turned into a much longer post than I had expected. I sat down to toot my horn about beating Metroid Prime 2. Hope I didn't bore you too much!

Poker Party

Our friends Anthony and Karla threw a poker party this weekend. It was a blast! We got to meet some of their other friends whom we had only known through stories and blogsites so far. It was a really fun night. We thought we might have to leave early, as poor Corbin has had a stomach bug this week, and he wasn't feeling comfortable falling asleep in a new place. Fortunately, we were able to coax him to sleep a little after 8 and have some fun. At first, we thought we might play different games throughout the night, but we just played Texas Hold 'Em the entire time. I was fine with that, as I love playing Texas Hold 'Em. At the end of the night, it came down to Anthony and I with all of the chips between us. Anthony went all-in on a straight draw, and I called with a pair. He didn't make his straight, and I won the pot! Woohoo! That will certainly help pay for the Pedialyte that Corbin is drinking as he is on the road to recovery. No sooner had the game ended than Corbin woke up a little bit. The rest of the folks stuck around to play other games, and Jenn and I headed home with Corbin for the night. We had a great time, and now were are looking forward to the next time we can all get together. Maybe next month we can host the party.

A Geek Triumphant

Not content to simply redo the arcade, I installed a bunch of software on our home PC this week as well. I've been wanting to try a piece of software called Bugzilla, which is a open-source tool for tracking bugs in software. I thought that it might be a nice tool that we could use at work to help in tracking bugs in our projects. I wanted to try an install at home first before I ran it on a box at work, so I setup our home machine to run apache web server, MySQL database, ActivePerl, and CVSNT. I followed instructions on the Bugzilla site for installing on Windows (it works better under Linux, but I'm not going to mess with our home PC just yet). I had it up in one night, and I installed it on a PC at work today.

Once I was finished working on our home PC, I realized that I had a working web server, which meant that I could now serve web content from our home computer. So tonight I setup a free service to allow me to serve the webcam from our house. I'll be a little bit better about turning on my webcam at work now that the picture will actually update. I think serving web pages from my home machine might not fall in line with the terms of service for my ISP, but I won't be serving a lot of content. Anyway, I'm just excited that I got this to work!

Overdue Update

What a slacker I've been with this blog. I've gotta learn to post more often. A lot has been going on over the last week. I've been named project manager for a new project at work, which is exciting and stressful at the same time. I'm sure I can handle it, but my guts are churning a little bit anyway. To add flames to the fire, I have a final exam tomorrow night in Econ, as well as a final group paper and group presentation to do. The paper is ready, and our group met today to put the final touches on our presentation. Just before the meeting Jenn and I dropped into H.H. Gregg to get a new dishwasher. We found a fairly inexpensive Maytag model that was in stock and will be installed tomorrow. We're leaving all of the dishes on the counter to make a big test for the new washer :-)

Probably the most exciting part of the week was Corbin's birthday party. We had a bunch of our family in for a day to celebrate Corbin being a one-year-old. Time has really flown by, I can't believe our little boy is already one! He is so amazing. He can walk, babble, figure out things, and he is a pro at copy-catting anything I do. If I turn on the TV, he practices hitting that button to turn the TV on and off. If I use the remote or the keyboard, he is right there too. If I dunk a cookie in milk, he tries to push his food through the lid of the sippy cup. It is really fascinating the way he watches what we do, and then immediately tries to mimic it. His birthday party was a lot of fun, and we got to see a bunch of our family that we haven't had a chance to see over the last year. Corbin was on very good behavior, even without a nap! He did a great job of scarfing up some of his cake, and he tore through his presents. He got some pretty cool stuff too! A moose sleeping bag, a Weebles firetruck, a cool growth chart with his name on it, and a lot more. Thanks to everyone who came and celebrated with us!

I've also been playing throughout the week with reworking the PC that runs the arcade. As I mentioned in previous posts, I was dabbling with Suse Linux for a while in a virtual machine session. I decided to go ahead and take the plunge and reformatted the hard drive on the Arcade PC. I reinstalled the CD-ROM drive, installed the second video card, and installed the USB card. I also moved the case out of the cabinet so I could work with it more easily, as well as to hook it up to the KVM and new network router. The first time I loaded a new OS on the machine, I tried Mandrake Linux. It is currently the most popular distribution of Linux for its ease of use and nice features. It worked really well, but the Arcade PC is so old and crusty that it just couldn't handle all of the nice extra features of that distribution. So I started digging some more. I was going to load Beatrix Linux on there, but the PC BIOS does not support booting from the CD-ROM, and getting a boot floppy ready for Beatrix was going to be a real pain. Then I found Damn Small Linux. This version of linux is intended for business card CDs, which are really tiny CDs that look like business cards and can hold about 100MB of data. The whole distribution is less than 50MB, which means you can load it on most USB drives and boot from that. Not only is it small, but it doesn't need much memory or CPU speed either. That was perfect for the arcade PC, which is going on 10 years of age now. Over the years I had upgraded it to 96MB of memory, a 400MHz AMD-K6 CPU, and 4GB of hard drive space. Still, the front side bus on the PC is incredibly slow, and the whole thing just barely cranks along. Damn Small Linux was perfect for running such an tired old machine.

Even though Damn Small Linux (DSL) is intended to run from a bootable CD, the website described how to boot and install from a floppy disk as well. I got the install done (very quickly to my surprise) and was rolling within an hour. After getting DSL installed to the hard drive, I used the software install tool to find a version of MAME (the software used to run the Arcade games) and ZSNES (the super nintendo emulator). Now the arcade is back up and running and better than ever. I still need to tweak it so MAME can run full screen, but the ZSNES emulator works very well, and full screen too. An added bonus is the XMMS music system, which allows me to play streaming music from web radio stations. I'm sure I could have done that with the old Windows 98 install that the Arcade PC ran before, but XMMS came preinstalled on the DSL distribution.

So it's been a pretty busy week. Tomorrow we will get our new dishwasher and enjoy the wonders of modern technology again. I think my twiddling with the arcade PC is done for a while, except maybe to get MAME to run full-screen. I think that all that I can do now for that machine is to simply chuck it and get a faster PC to run the arcade. That will have to wait though, as there are other, higher priority items on our budget list right now. So I apologize for the long wait on this update. For now, I will retire to my La-Z-boy recliner with my bottle of Sam Adams Light in hand to play some Metroid Prime 2. Have a good night!

Dishwasher Troubles

Water intake valve

Fried Switch

Our Dishwasher went kablooey this weekend. We noticed it part way through the week. Dishes just weren't getting clean. It was barely noticeable at first, but by Friday it was obvious that something was wrong. When the cycle was finished we would open the door to find that the detergent had just spilled out of the cup instead of getting washed around during the cycle. We would start the cycle, and a couple of minutes later open the door to find the inside dry as a bone. No water was getting into the thing at all.

Jenn's dad is a pro at fixing things, so when he was here on Saturday we started taking it apart to find the problem. Jenn and I had noticed that the Heated Dry button wasn't working anymore. When we got behind the button, we found that the whole switch had arced and created a mess of melted plastic. We hoped that replacing the switch might fix the problem. We headed to Lowe's and got a replacement part. The switch worked now, but the water still wasn't coming in. We decided to let it go for the night and start work again the next day.

Sunday we took off the kick-plate and started poking around in the water works. Jenn's dad saw that the circuit had continuity all the way to the solenoid for the water intake valve. At that point, the circuit was dead. We popped the valve out to take a look, and there was no obvious damage. The screen looked clean, and the valve moved without a problem, so we had to assume that the switch wasn't working. I found a site to order a replacement, and it should be here by Wednesday. Hopefully that will do the trick and we will get away with $35 worth of repaired components rather than the $350 - $1000 expense of replacing the unit.

In with the New, Out with the Old

Our collection of computer equipment continues to slowly grow here at the house. About a week ago I was looking at the top of my desk at our networking equipment, and I started thinking. We had a cable modem, a Cable Modem Router, and a Wireless Access Point. I was thinking, "Surely I can somehow combine this equipment." And I did! I hopped on eBay and found a Netgear wireless router and 4-port switch that would do the job of the seperate router and access point I currently have. The price was right, and the new toy, I mean, piece of computing equipment vital to our network, arrived today.

Now that I have this handy little device, I don't really have any use for the other equipment. It is still in fine shape, and should work for anyone who needs it, so I decided to sell it on eBay. If you think you are in the market for something like this, just check out the listings:

If you win the auction, we might be able to work out some way for you to pick it up and avoid the shipping costs.

Taxes Suck!

I just finished filing our federal, state, and local income taxes for 2004. The process is such a pain. We got a pretty heft refund (Corbin was a huge benefit!), but it was still incredibly confusing to get filed. We had a lot of circumstances that muddied the water too. Jenn worked part of the year as a full-time employee, and part of the year as an independent contractor. As an independent contractor, we had to file the self employment forms. I have a health savings account through work, and evidently the IRS still isn't sure what forms they want you to file when you have one of those. It won't affect my return, as all of the contributions were from my employer and all of the disbursements were for qualified medical expenses, but it is still frustratingly difficult to understand how to fill out the various schedules and forms.

Starting this year, it is free to e-file your federal return. I chose to do mine through TurboTax. TurboTax was pretty good about walking me through the majority of the issues for my return, and getting all of the schedules properly filed. The only thing it didn't get quite right was the Health Savings Account, but I was able to go back and find that form later. The federal return was free, but I payed $19.95 to file the Indiana return. I could have filed the indiana return for free on the indiana site, but I've been sitting here for close to three hours answering tax questions. It was worth $20 not to have to do that again.

So we will hopefully find a nice refund deposit in our checking account soon. We can use that to fund Corbin's college fund for the year, and cushion our savings a bit more. I'm definitely going to have my exemptions increased at work though. I would much rather have a refund closer to zero dollars and be able to use that money throughout the year.

More Linux....

Boy, this week sure has flown by. We did a really good job on our international presentation on Monday night. Our group presented on Cuba. It is an economics course, and I learned some interesting things about Cuba's economy. They have a GDP per capita (a measure of productivity, roughly by person) of $2,900. Compare that to Americans who have a GDP of $37,000. Cuba is a pretty poor nation economically speaking. Still, they have a fairly good health care and education system. The literacy rate is above 96%, and average life expectancy is over 76 years. That is on par with or better than the US. Still, I wouldn't want to live there.

Volleyball was a lot of fun on Tuesday. Wednesday nights, Jenn and I have gotten into the nice habit of curling up together on the couch to read books. Jenn is doing some fun reading, and I'm catching up on my reading for the leadership program at work. Thursday night we watched the new episodes of CSI and WIthout a Trace. We also watched The Amazing Race on Tuesday. We love those shows!

I have had several meetings with customers this week, so I've been traveling a bit. I was in Connersville, Greenfield, Shelbyville, and Lafayette this week. Hopefully all of these visits will turn into purchase orders.

I've also continued to dabble in some experimenting with Linux. I read a review of a live disc called Beatrix linux. It was rated as the easiest to use of all of the live disc versions. A live disc is a cd that you stick in your computer and it boots directly to the linux operating system. I have to admit, I was pretty impressed with this little CD. Little in a physical sense too, as I was able to burn it on a 250MB mini-disc. It booted up without any problems and I could browse the web, check e-mail, write a document, and chat using MSN and Yahoo right away. Pretty impressive. I still haven't had a chance to try out Mono or any of the development tools ( I took a break and played Metroid Prime 2 for an hour last night) but maybe I'll get a chance at that some late night this weekend. Anyway, this week has just flown by and I thought I would catch you all up.

Jade Mason