Archive: February, 2007

Reflections after almost a year since switching to Mac

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 28, 2007, 1:53 PM | comments: 4

OK, so it really has only been about 11 months, but with the new Parallels release yesterday, I do feel like one era has ended for me, and another has begun. Keep in mind that I'm an ASP.NET developer, I've built every one of my desktops ever, and generally well adapted to Windows, as most geeks are. That said, here are some observations. I won't say they're free of passion, because frankly the shiny metal boxes have made me enjoy using computers again.

Macs are more expensive, sort of.
Let's just get this out there now. The cost of entry into the Mac world is a little more expensive. It's just not more expensive where you think it is. Part for part, most Macs end up pricing out about the same as any Dell, give or take a hundred bucks. It's just that, unlike Dell, there are no low-end Macs. When I bought my Mac Pro a few months ago, with its dual dual-core Xeons, the equivalent Dell was actually about $50 more.

The expense for me has been in other related areas, mostly software. I had to buy Parallels so I could run Windows. I had to switch to a different off-site backup service (oddly enough, .Mac is least expensive for my needs). I did have to buy the Mac version of Office, though I admit I don't use it much. You bet I'll buy the OS X update too. Again, in terms of hardware, I feel I got more than what I paid for compared to a Windows machine, but I am paying for some quality software that I already had on Windows.

OS X is more than eye candy, it's just "better."
I have a very hard time trying to nail down why I like OS X better than Windows. Sure there is the stability, security and lack of virus threats thing, but there is something just less offensive about it. Widgets, Expose, the dock, clean lines and textures... it all just adds up. One tangible thing is the way that you don't really have to tweak it. Windows was always about getting TweakUI and doing registry hacks to make it work the way you wanted, where as I don't really do anything to OS X other than shrink the dock. Navigating the settings is so much easier.

Windows on a Mac.
The switch to Intel was huge, and the reason I own Macs today. BootCamp was a great start, Parallels rocked my world, and now with coherence, I have the best of both worlds. I doubt Visual Studio will ever ship as a Mac native version, but in this arrangement, it almost doesn't matter.

The right-click issue, delete key and scrolling.
Holding down Ctrl to do a "right-click" in certain apps is not a big deal. In Parallels you just hold the button down slightly longer to do the same thing. You get used to it. And keep in mind too that this only applies to the laptop. My Mac Pro has a standard Microsoft wireless mouse on it. I don't understand why scrolling on the touch pad, by dragging two fingers horizontal or vertical, isn't a standard feature on every laptop. It's so common sense and simple. It is weird that there is no dedicated delete key, but again, not an issue if you're using a non-Mac keyboard.

Stunning hardware design.
This is really a bigger deal than I thought. I liked my last Dell laptop, but the MacBook Pro is so elegant. It has smooth edges, it's not plastic all over, it's thin and it doesn't have ports on four sides. It feels good in your hands. I know that doesn't make it more useful, but consumer electronics devices are more appealing when they're pretty and functional.

There are some minor things I don't like, like not being able to override the sleep mode when you close the lid, but I did get over that awhile ago. It was also annoying that the initial units had those giant blobs of thermal paste that sucked at getting the heat out, but I did resolve that on my own without much drama.

Very few "What the hell is going on?" moments.
You know what I'm talking about. Those instance where Windows is churning away at you hard drive for reasons not clear to anyone. That never happens in OS X. The OS is responsive almost all of the time. Sure, there is weirdness now and then, but it's not frequent. I'm not suggesting that Windows XP isn't stable, it just does stuff that you can't explain. When I boot my Windows machine at work, it's time to go off and get a beverage or use the restroom. OS X boots quickly, without loading ten thousand little things into the task bar thingie.

Final Cut Pro.
I wanted to edit HD, and Avid's constant compatibility nonsense, dongles and daily updates got annoying. This was my first motivator for switching.

Office compatibility.
I've read of people having issues with using Windows Office documents on the Mac version, but I haven't run into any problems. Granted, I don't use it much, but I do have a Word template with crazy macros (a screenplay template) that works exactly the same without issue.

General Web compatibility.
Stuff on the Web is almost universally functional on the Mac, the only serious exception being Windows Media stuff. I don't know why Apple doesn't work out a deal to put Flip-4-Mac on pre-installed. That's the only issue that I've run into.

The included iApps.
The Apple marketing makes a lot of noise about the iLife apps. I use iTunes, obviously, and beyond that, the only one I use regularly is iPhoto. And I have to tell you, the app is awesome. I'd like it if it could do some tagging tricks more effectively, but I suppose they'd like you to buy Aperture. I played with iDVD once just to get a Windows Media file from my DVR to a DVD, and it just worked. iChat also just works, even with video chat to other Mac users. I did a three-way with the same AIM screen name I've had for almost ten years. Everything "just works" for the most part.

Crazy stuff that isn't well documented.
I learned a couple of days ago that I can type Command-Shift-4, and the cursor turns into a cross hair. Drag and lasso a part of the screen, release, hear camera shutter noise, a PNG of what you roped is created on your desktop. That's one of all kinds of things baked into OS X that I just didn't know about.

Battery life.
I generally get about three hours on a charge, which is usually adequate. That assumes of course that you aren't running your screen at full brightness. I used to get about the same on the Dell, so that sounds about right.

So overall, I'm really happy living in a Mac world. I have beautiful hardware running uncluttered UI, and I can still do the Windows stuff when I need to. I'm a happy camper.

New Parallels Desktop for Mac... coherence final and awesome!

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 28, 2007, 12:46 PM | comments: 0

A little over a year ago, the day that Apple announced BootCamp for the Intel-based Macs, I left work at lunch and went to the Apple store to buy a MacBook Pro. I could finally enjoy the wonders of Final Cut Pro and HD editing with more than enough power for Windows-based development.

That was only a half-way step though, and when Parallels released their product shortly thereafter, the game was changed. Big time. No more rebooting, and I was able to do my Visual Studio stuff right there in a virtual machine. However, even this arrangement made me feel a little dirty, being a big fan of OS X.

Well, with the new release of Parallels, I won't feel dirty anymore. Through a feature called coherence, once you boot that virtual machine, all your stuff can run in a window on the OS X desktop, with a dock icon. Even the start menu can be reached from the dock. Seeing as how Mac users tend to be more window driven anyway, it's nice to not have things obscured by the Windows desktop. And that makes things like Expose work better too. F10, and you see every window, including Windows windows, tiled on screen. Sweet.

Check out the video...

Up with the sick cat (again)

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 28, 2007, 12:39 AM | comments: 4

As positive as life generally is right now, I'm dealing with a very sad reality at home.

Luna has been throwing up for about the last two days. Honestly I don't even know how many times at this point. I know she woke me up at least three times last night, and I was dragging ass today at work. She hasn't kept down food in two days either.

Of course she's being very needy and affectionate, which makes it all that much harder that I'm planning to put her out of her misery this weekend. I've always said that if she's sick more than she's well, it will be time. That has certainly been the case the last few weeks.

God knows I've been patient over the years. Thousands of dollars seeing vets, the destruction of all the carpet in my house... I'd like to think I was a good father t her. I'm glad that Stephanie is in Colorado with her own cat, because she loved Luna even more than I do. It's heartbreaking, and it sucks because it's nobody's fault. She just got a raw deal.

So I'm trying to keep her comfortable. While very sad, it'll be a relief when she's finally able to rest. And I'm thankful that I have the support to deal with it.

I need to get out and play

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 27, 2007, 11:03 PM | comments: 2

I really wanted to get out of town to a warmer place before the end of March, but honestly I'm not sure if it's going to happen. The issues of taking the right days off, the right days for cheap flights, the rights days for cheap hotel rooms, and to a lesser degree, finding a good travel buddy, are making things harder than they should be.

But still, I really need to get out of town in the worst way. I'm absolutely off the charts getting the shakes. I have this explosion of energy that I need to release. I'd like to go to Vegas for a few days, but that in particular is more fun with other people (I don't wanna be one of "those guys" at a casino bar).

Oddly enough, the Blue Man Group opening night in Orlando is only three months and change away. That one I really need a travel buddy (or girlfriend) for, or I'll be pimping the imaginary friend in the empty seat. I can't wait that long though for an escape. I need something sooner.

Last year at this time I had little volleyball trips to keep me busy. Plus there was the long weekend in Orlando and the conference in Vegas. It was a good start to the year in terms of travel.

Holy tax refund

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 26, 2007, 11:54 AM | comments: 3

My accountant gave me an estimate for my tax refund... Oh. My. God.

Seriously, 2006 was the craziest year in terms of finances I've ever had, in a good way. This just wraps it all together. I feel better financially than I ever have, in my entire life. Credit card debt is nearly gone, I'm banking (investing) more than ever, I'm able to buy things I want, travel, and generally not concern myself with money. It's very liberating.

And it's exactly what I need to concentrate on things that really matter, like my emotional health.


posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 25, 2007, 8:30 PM | comments: 3

I saw Breach today, the more or less true story of the spy they busted back in 2001. Overall, not a bad film, but honestly the entire strength of the screenplay rested on the guy being a creepy bastard. If it's based on the facts, they guy didn't really do visibly naughty things, leaving only his creepiness to make a movie.

Anyway, the leads were forgettable if you ask me. What I liked was all of the peripheral characters. Laura Linney was bad ass as the FBI director. Dennis Haysbert was another FBI guy, who of course you can't not watch. And the big surprise was that Caroline Dhavernas, yes, the Wonderfalls girl, was in it playing with a Russian accent as Ryan Phillipe's wife. I dig her, I hope she gets more work.

Time to struggle through the Oscars...

Lucious Jackson Greatest Hits and new Jill Cunniff

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 25, 2007, 12:34 AM | comments: 0

Right around 2000, I was all about Luscious Jackson, and was fortunate enough to see them in one of the last few shows they did. There's a new Greatest Hits album with a good selection of stuff. Buy it.

Also new this week was a new album from Jill Cunniff, the former lead singer of LJ. I don't know how to describe her as anything other than "cute" sounding. Sure she has been married and a mom for ages, but she's still adorable. The new album is significantly better than anything LJ did. She has really developed as a musician. I'm crossing my fingers that she tours.

Oven free

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 25, 2007, 12:10 AM | comments: 0

I went to Home Depot tonight to find a replacement oven ignitor, and of course they didn't have any. At first, this condition really kind of upset me. Like I was really getting depressed over not being able to use my oven. How strange is that? Anyway, I did find it online, and hopefully I'll have it by the end of the week.

Then I watched A Life Less Ordinary, a movie I Netflix'd awhile ago. 1997 flick with Cameron Diaz and Ewan McGregor. Strange, but in a good way. Reminded me about things that I like about movies.

Shortly after watching that, a new friend called, and we bullshit'd about stuff for more than an hour. Funny how you can connect with someone over the strangest things and suddenly your mood is much better.

My first Maverick on-ride photo

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 24, 2007, 10:13 AM | comments: 7

Love hotel? Karaoke machine?

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 23, 2007, 10:31 AM | comments: 3

You find the weirdest shit in the Japanese press. I found this gem in a news search because it had "amusement park" in the text.

If I'm to understand this right, there are hotels intended for sex, and they're stocked with karaoke machines and video games? That's really odd.


posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 22, 2007, 1:14 PM | comments: 2

The annual bonus at work is calculated as a percentage of your salary, then given a multiplier based on the health and performance of the company, between 0 and 2. They give you half based on a low-ball multiplier in December, and the rest some time in the first quarter. They guessed really low.

Let me put it this way... money doesn't make you happy, but holy crap, it sure doesn't hurt.

Where I work: in the news

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 22, 2007, 9:53 AM | comments: 1

Where I work:

The Plain Dealer

(they describe my environment on page 3)

Where is the time going?

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 21, 2007, 4:12 PM | comments: 2

Between being busy at work and bitching to people about the weather, it seems time is just flying by.

And I need to figure out what I'm going to do to get out of town at some point in March, before I go completely fucking batty. I need a retreat.

POP Forums: Milestone I

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 20, 2007, 12:44 PM | comments: 0

So it's a month and a half later than I had hoped (or several years, depending how I choose to look at it), but I finally got POP Forums to the first milestone in the ground-up rewrite.

My goals for M1 were pretty straight forward:

  • Let go of the legacy that dates back to 2001 and my lack of skill at the time.
  • Be a lot faster.
  • Use template controls whenever possible, even if I had to roll my own.
  • Log moderation and security actions.
  • Include as much of the original functionality as possible.
  • Create search that actually works and doesn't rely on SQL's FullText.

I'm happy to say that I'm there. I'm sure there is some lint, but I'll deal with that. I'm getting the list together now for M2, which will also be the first beta, and I'll let that out into the wild. In the mean time, I'm starting to build a new version of CoasterBuzz around this version, so I can begin "dog-fooding" it as soon as possible.

Something happened this year that I didn't expect: I got a day job that I liked. For all of the contracting and indie work I was doing, I'm surprised at how satisfying it is. For that reason, I didn't act on the forum as quickly as I would've liked.

Still, there were some lessons. The first of which was to ditch the whole Membership/Profile thing. It was too restrictive and slowed me down. It's certainly possible to write a thin wrapper around the forum for these API's, but making the forum itself adhere to it was an exercise pain-in-the-ass-ed-ness. I also learned that unit testing and TDD is a good thing, but making it religion also slows you down and reduces value in the process. Most importantly, I realized that starting at the UI is a really good idea for a Web app. Building this grand class library and making the UI consume it is really stupid because you build code you don't need, or miss the code you do need.

So in a few weeks, when CB is up and running, I'll revisit to finish out the feature list. At that point, I'm not sure what I'll do, but I think I'm going to go back to selling it for some reasonable price. Of course I'll include the code, and use the honor system in terms of downloading it.

There's an instance of a recent build here, complete with data from CB:

Bad vibes

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 19, 2007, 10:45 PM | comments: 0

The last day or two, I've had this welling sense of negativity that's really bringing me down. This negative energy has manifested itself this evening by causing the igniter in my oven to stop working. Although maybe that's some force telling me not to pacify my fat ass with food.

There is no one thing that's really causing the bad vibes. It's a whole series of things. I'm unhappy with my personal life lately, I'm doing stuff at work that feels like busy work, and this fucking cold weather and lack of sun is really, really starting to get to me. The secondary effects are that I don't feel motivated to do much of anything, whether it's work on my projects or exercise (not to mention look at personal ads, which could help with the personal life). It's just this cascading funk that I can't get out of.

I need a vacation, but I'm not really the type to do that by myself. I've noticed that I don't really process negativity, as much as I try to just ignore it. So it festers and builds because I haven't disposed of it.

There are steps I can take to resolve the issues, I just don't have the energy and courage right now to take those steps. I've gotta work on that.

X-Play is still on?

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 18, 2007, 11:52 AM | comments: 0

TechTV is like a distant memory now. It's funny how I watched "The Screen Savers" every day. I really miss that show.

I was flipping around through channels today and saw that "X-Play" was on G4, the last remnant of TechTV. I remember reading somewhere that it's the most watched show on the shitty network. And what kills me about that, is that the show has essentially held the same format it had when it was on TechTV. You have to wonder how many executives at Comcast were fired for tanking an entire network that generally got it right, and had the geek cred to appeal to people expensive advertisers wanted to reach.

As the show I peeked in on ended, another one started, and it was a musical. Big sets, singing, dancing... the whole bit. I was a little horrified, but I supposed it wasn't that bad. Making Adam and Morgan sing was funny enough.

I remember when Morgan was just a quirky producer on "The Screen Savers." She had short bleached hair with dark roots, had that whole alt-chick pixie thing going, and really struggled to talk on camera. It was very charming. Now she's got long black hair, off the charts hot in a mainstream way and delivers on camera like she was doing it for ten years. I hope she's still a geek, and still plays the games. That's what made her persona work, seeing as how a cute gamer girl is probably every teenager's dream.

Short screenplay progress

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 18, 2007, 12:05 AM | comments: 2

I cranked out about five pages to my short the other day, and it was a good start. I have the ending in mind too. It's the in between part that I'm struggling with.

Because I'm not clever enough to write total fiction, it's about two college friends, male and female, who are graduating. They're talking about why they never hooked up. This is something loosely taken from my life, though not from any specific conversation.

I picked this topic because I have college friends who would do it, it's an easy single location to shoot, it's almost entirely dialog and it frankly doesn't have to be all that good. The idea is to get something shot, cut and in front of people. I'm not going for an Oscar or anything.

I happened to watch Just Friends today (Amy Smart and Ryan Reynolds), which is a much bigger take on the phenomenon of guys stuck in the "friend zone." I had so many friends in high school and college that I wanted to date and never got anywhere. It's a horrible feeling. You want to shake that girl and tell her to find some common sense. The worst part of it is that you'll go for years in that circumstance just to maintain the friendship, even though it tears you up to see her. I have a long history of doing that in my life. Obviously, I can't really capture that in a short film, but it's certainly on my mind in the dialog.

I need to crank out about ten more pages, and then I can shoot it.

I'm getting served

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 15, 2007, 11:59 AM | comments: 1

Federated Media finally has a campaign almost sold that I'm included in. Thank God for that! It's not a huge dollar figure, but it's a good start.

I really need to get the CoasterBuzz redesign into high gear, because right now the current design doesn't deliver enough of the right advertising formats. I'm strongly considering ditching the skyscraper ads entirely, because they just don't pay adequately. The leaderboards and rectangles are where it's at these days. And hey, if FM really delivers going forward, maybe I can even ditch the pop-ups. That would be nice.

Fucking American Idol

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 14, 2007, 10:11 PM | comments: 4

I almost never channel surf, and rarely watch anything unless it's premeditated. But I was flipping this evening, and I landed on American Idol, and it sucked me in.

Annoyed with myself, I started to think about what it was that people love about this show. I think it's the intensity that these people feel pursuing their dream. Even the people that get cut, for them to experience something like that... you have to admit it would make you feel very alive. Who can't connect with that?

I was impressed that the judges kept the "freaky girl" and the "fat kid," though I'm sure that going forward the voting public will toss them out on their asses. And that's a shame because they're both very good.

What Jeff is listening to these days

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 14, 2007, 7:45 PM | comments: 5

After a bleak January in terms of music, I got some decent new stuff last week.

First off... best soundtrack since Veronica Mars, The Last Kiss. Leaving Zach Braff in charge of soundtracks is a good idea. There are a number of great songs on there, from people you probably know like Snow Patrol, Coldplay, Imogen Heap and Aimee Mann, and people you don't know like Joshua Radin. Lots of good stuff that fit well with the very emotional movie.

Kara suggested Mute Math to me after seeing them live, and it's one of the few albums I've had in awhile that I listen to over and over. The song "Typical" just screams to everything I feel about life right now. Think Radiohead meets Filter, but not as dark as either one. Great stuff.

Loving female vocalists, I got the new album from Norah Jones. I give a lot of credit to anyone who can convey so much feeling with so little instrumentation to back it up. She's amazing. You have to be in the right mood to listen, but I like it a lot.

I've stopped fighting the fact that I kinda like John Mayer and bought Continuum. It honestly didn't do it for me at first, but the more I listen, the more I like.

Other random songs... "Teardrop" by Massive Attack, which Stephanie pointed out to me (it's the theme to House). It's old, and it's odd that I've never bought a Massive Attack album. Also got "In The Waiting Line" from Zero 7. Also an older song, and was also in House. Can you tell I like that show? I swear it's not just because of Jennifer Morrison's bangs.

I need a warmer climate

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 14, 2007, 6:04 PM | comments: 5

I don't need to live in Florida (Hawaii might be OK), but this is about as much as I can deal with.

It's not that I've been inconvenienced really. I stayed home today. I've had to snow blow my driveway four times so far. The news is showing a gas station canopy that collapsed under the weight of the snow. I'm worried about the ice in my gutters. The cul de sac across the street has a fifteen-foot mountain in the middle of it. It's all kind of neat.

However, I'm itching to be out in the sun, wearing shorts and being active outside. It's driving me nuts. We've had a fairly mild winter and yet I'm already tired of it. I don't know what happened... I used to love winter!

I need to go somewhere warmer in March, even if it's just for a weekend.

Obligatory snow pictures

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 14, 2007, 3:04 PM | comments: 2

Everybody's doing it...

I made it home alive

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 13, 2007, 5:11 PM | comments: 6

They were predicting the worst for this winter storm moving through, and at the end of my meeting, at 2pm, I could tell things were getting crappy. They got me a laptop and I can VPN in, so I figured, screw this, I'm out.

A block away from work I couldn't stop the car, going down hill, toward a stopped car and a red light. I managed to slide around the car and run the light, turning left. Close call. It was not a good sign.

I-271 was ugly, but drivable for the most part. For some reason I decided to get off the at SR 303, which I knew was stupid given the hills. Sure enough, at the Summit/Medina County line, where there is an enormous 17% grade hill, the road was closed, presumably because something didn't make it up.

The alternate route is frankly just as bad, if not worse, and throwing a bunch of traffic on it didn't help. And of course, every ass hole soccer mom in an SUV thinks they don't need to give you safe distance. I nearly didn't make it up one hill, and red-lined my car a few times trying. Mind you this is at 3... it can only get worse.

What sucks about this all is that it's coming down so fast, and the wind blowing so hard, that no number of trucks are going to be able to keep up with this. I suspect I'll be working from home tomorrow.

24: Aquateen Hunger Force

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 13, 2007, 10:31 AM | comments: 1

Screw you, Yahoo!

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 12, 2007, 2:26 PM | comments: 3

For the better part of the last two years, Yahoo! Messenger has worked like crap for me. Basically, I talk to three people with it: Stephanie, Catherine and recently the designer I hired to do some work for me.

For the longest time, Steph would never show up in my buddy list. (I jokingly blame our divorce on this. :)) Then one day, poof, there she was every time. Then last week, she's gone again.

Then today, I get an IM from Jenna (the designer) with some questions, and while in my list, she appears not to be online. What the hell? Yahoo sucks. At least I'm using third-party clients instead of their big bloated piece of crap.

Fear, change and risk

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 11, 2007, 9:59 PM | comments: 1

I've noticed an emerging theme in a lot of the conversations I've had with friends, and in movies. While we often compartmentalize the areas of our lives into things like career, financial security, health and relationships, our ability to figure these out is influenced universally by fear, change and risk.

Fear is easy enough to identify, as it's the emotional component to the other two. Fear is a crippling emotion that prevents us from acting on so many things. On the flip side, it also goes a long way toward preventing us from doing really stupid things.

Change is the inevitable force of nature that can push us out of our comfort zone, or drop us into it. It's a force that we often think of as entirely external, and fear sometimes keeps us from realizing that change can also be a choice.

Risk is the odds that you may suffer loss or failure by your action. People often talk about a "calculated risk," as if there's some other kind. Fear can stop us from taking risks. Change is frequently a result of taking a risk, whether it's good or bad.

These three constructs together can keep us stagnant. At some point, at least I hope, they push you to a point where you absolutely must move forward, oddly enough because of fear that you'll miss something, overlook a positive change or pass up a risk that will never be available again.

Despite the negatives associated with these phenomena, they are indeed positive motivators when you choose to make them positive. It seems to get harder and harder in your life when you feel a comfort in your life, regardless of the fact that you might be missing something better. That's one of the things I like about having a lot of younger friends, that most seem better able to cope with fear, change and risk, and make their lives better because of it. It's funny how the people you inspire can in turn inspire you that way.

Where am I going with this? Just that you need a reminder from time to time to turn fear, change and risk into positive forces that will improve your life. Living in fear isn't living at all.

Ms. Pac-Man Master

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 11, 2007, 8:02 PM | comments: 0

Post something, while contemplating life

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 10, 2007, 8:30 PM | comments: 3

Kara said that I should post something. So here's something.

Saw Catch and Release today. I'll take the time tomorrow to really get into it and review it.

I feel like I'm learning more and more about what the critical things are in life to be happy. Maybe that's why I am, generally speaking, reasonably happy. I have my moments of panic, loneliness and other negative feelings, but I'm learning to process these faster.

For example, I realized that I was getting so bent out of shape about hitting certain goals, that I neglected to consider that I was doing the best I could all along. I know that's all Four Agreements and stuff, but can you really beat yourself up if you do your best, not more, and not less?

I have the high score at Ms. Pac-Man in Okemos, MI.

Hot shit

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 7, 2007, 10:33 PM | comments: 2

"You think you're hot shit in a champagne glass, but you're really cold diarrhea in a Dixie cup!"

-The Monarch
Venture Bros. Season 1, "Return to Spider-Skull Island"

A code monkey "ah ha!" moment

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 7, 2007, 3:49 PM | comments: 0

I've been forcing myself to focus on really diving into the meat of the ASP.NET AJAX framework, and today I had a breakthrough moment.

In the most basic sense, the framework allows you to declaratively contain normal ASP.NET stuff in a special panel container, and the post-back stuff that normally happens on a page, refreshing the whole thing, automagically just updates a little area of the page instead. Almost no new learning required. Sweet.

But the real strength comes in the ability to hook into the plumbing and do even more cool stuff. There are a ton of samples. I wanted to try something simple, to extend a TextBox control that would update a Label control's text with every single keystroke, via processing on the server. (Yes, I know this is easily done client-side in Javascript, but this was more of a proof of concept.)

At first I was a little frustrated, because the documentation isn't great. It lacks context and direction. If I can find a little bit of time I fully intend to write a tutorial on this. But with enough screwing around, I finally made it work. About 30 simple lines of Javascript, coupled with a fairly simple C# class, and off I went.

The code for use in the page is simple, and every key stroke in the text box calls the server, and the server redraws the contents of the Label:

<asp:TextBox ID="MyText" runat="server" AutoComplete="off" AutoPostBack="true" OnTextChanged="MyText_TextChanged" />
<sample:KeypressExtender ID="KeyPressExtender" runat="server" TargetControlID="MyText" MinimumCharacters="2" />
<asp:UpdatePanel ID="MyUpdate" runat="server" RenderMode="block">
<p><asp:Label ID="Result" runat="server" /></p>
<asp:AsyncPostBackTrigger ControlID="MyText" />

The trick is really getting in touch with Javascript events, and understanding the fairly detailed way in which Microsoft has created an object model. Then it's just a matter of tying together how the client and server get along.

Now that I really get it, I feel confident I can move forward to make neat stuff. :)

Tapper... finally!

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 7, 2007, 12:39 PM | comments: 2

One of my favorite, if rare, arcade games is out today on the 360.

Jobs on DRM

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 6, 2007, 3:56 PM | comments: 1

Steve Jobs says we should ditch DRM...

I'm right behind him on that front. I think that being the third or fourth largest music retailer, it lends some credibility to what he says. DRM gets in the way for legal customers, but doesn't prevent pirates from doing anything. It absolutely floors me that the record companies don't get this. It's very unfortunate, and I doubt Jobs can convince them otherwise.


posted by Jeff | Monday, February 5, 2007, 8:37 AM | comments: 5

Documentary film views

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 4, 2007, 6:18 PM | comments: 4

In the last few days, I watched three documentaries. All interesting, some disturbing.

First was This Film Is Not Yet Rated, which exposes the scam that the MPAA really is when it comes to its ratings system. It's a totally arbitrary system that has nothing to do with rating content, it has to do with putting a box office expectation on a film. The best thing about it though was that the filmmaker hired an investigator to figure out who the ratings board members were. Then he submitted the film itself to them, which is hilarious.

Who Killed The Electric Car? tells the story of the development and disappearance of all-electric cars. It draws some solid conclusions about why they got killed off, and it does partially blame consumers. Still, it's the car companies, the oil companies and governmental units that piss you off the most. It also draws a very important conclusion that hybrid enthusiasts already get: That the plug-in hybrid is the next logical step in terms of fuel efficiency. I'd certainly buy one.

I watched about two-thirds of Jesus Camp before I had to stop. Unlike the other two, this one is not narrated, it just follows the kids and the whacko evangelicals around. I couldn't watch the entire thing because it's too disturbing. These young kids crying and speaking in tongues and being told they've gotta repent or go to hell... that's just screwed up. This crazy "youth pastor" thinks that Muslims all do this same thing with their kids, and she wants to breed an "army" to fight that. What she's doing isn't any different from the jihadists who talk kids into terrorism. In a lot of ways, she's worse, because she's right here under our noses. These people pervert the true message of Christianity the way terrorists do the true message of Islam.

Florida tornadoes

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 4, 2007, 5:27 PM | comments: 1

The tornadoes that hit Florida last week you'd think was like the end of the world by watching TV. Indeed, 19 deaths was bad, but relatively speaking it was a tiny hit.

Since much of my family now lives in The Villages, I was a little worried when I saw the damage on TV, especially one set of homes next to a golf course, which my mom showed me when I was there in December. She said that the damage was pretty limited to a couple of specific places, and given the cooperative nature of the people who live there, everyone was helping out.

I have to say that while the whole concept of The Villages struck me as a developer's ploy to exploit retirees and older people, it totally works. People hang out, the nightly entertainment is a big deal. No one goes there to die, they go there to live.

The girl in the yellow dress

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 3, 2007, 11:59 PM | comments: 0

I was catching up on DVR'd TV shows today, and was struck by a scene on Boston Legal. Alan (James Spader's character) sees the "new girl," Vanessa (very attractive), in a yellow dress. The character is kind of a pervert, so at first you think it's just that.

Then she confronts him and asks what it was about. He describes an instance in his sophomore year of high school where he sees some pretty girl in a yellow dress. While contemplating asking her to dance, he realizes that she's gone, and he never sees her again.

He explains that, from that point on, everything he really hopes for in a woman is attached to the image, and the idea, of that girl. Seeing her appears to make him realize that in all of his less meaningful encounters, he's forgotten what he really wants and needs in a relationship.

Something about that, and the delivery of the scene, really made me think. I didn't relate exactly, because I've had no shortage of very meaningful relationships. Rather, I thought a lot about the concept of ideals in a partner. How do you figure out what you can compromise, and what you can't live without? It's such a strange balance, you know? If you can't meet those conditions, do you have the courage to break to keep looking?

I wish they issued a manual when you hit puberty for this stuff. :)

The Indian Don Henley

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 2, 2007, 9:35 PM | comments: 0 joins Federated Media

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 2, 2007, 3:27 PM | comments: 1

While this is largely something that satisfies my ego, I wanted to share that is now "out" as a Federated Media partner, the firm that represents Digg, Ars Technica, and the ever popular Ask A Ninja. It’s pretty exciting to be in the company of sites like that, even though mine is so much smaller in scale.

Here's the press release...

So close, but not quite there

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 1, 2007, 9:06 PM | comments: 3

I'm inches away from the first milestone for POP Forums v8. All that's left in this iteration is to get the search query right. It's mostly right, but the paging and total row counting is causing me some grief. Grrrr. I put some questions out there in one of the Microsoft forums, but no love yet.

So I'm almost where I wanted to be about a month ago. I'm trying to just let myself go with it and not be bothered by the fact that my progress isn't coming along as fast as I'd like, but it's important to me. I'm just getting a little burned out with the intense meeting schedule at work, so when I get home, I want to play video games or talk to people. Anything more right brained.

Still, I'm close, and I do have the excitement for it. Just gotta let it happen when it does.