Moving to News Goat
It's nothing fancy, but I'm happy with it. Hope to see ya there...
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It's nothing fancy, but I'm happy with it. Hope to see ya there...
hFile = FindFirstFile(strFiles, &fileData);
I could have found this last night if our DSL was working...
We completed the latest issue of the Mensokie. It's a lot of work, but once it's done, you've got something that looks really good. Angela does such a great job of making that look nice.
I tried to wire the house with CAT5, but didn't make any progress. Basically, I want to run a couple of wires from the upstairs computer room to the downstairs kitchen and family room. In theory, the kitchen should be easy -- the phone jack in the kitchen is directly below the phone jack in the computer room. I know there are wires running between the two already, so I should be able to run the CAT5 along the same path. But I can't find the path. When I try to run the wire down, I keep running into stuff, like insulation. I may have another path, but it involves cutting holes in floors and walls, something I was trying to avoid. We'll see... I'd switch to a wireless network, but there aren't any wireless adapters that work with Audrey, and that's the main reason I'm doing this.
I'm also done with the FTPGoat project.
FTPGoat is an FTP client similar to WS_FTP. So, why do I need it when WS_FTP is free? Because I can't get WS_FTP to function from work, thanks to our company's proxy. Two things do work, however: the built-in Windows command line FTP program (yuck) & Blog Goat. I'm guessing that programs created with Visual C++ are told the secret password to function properly through a proxy. Or something like that. Anyway, if that's what it takes to get a decent FTP program, that's what I'll do.
Just before 11, every department had their own meeting. We were told that the people who were not in the meeting (in our case, just 1 guy from our department) were in another meeting -- where they were being fired. The supervisors had only found out about it a couple of hours before the rest of us did. Our company is being sold by its parent company, and the "reorganization" requires "streamlining." This is the polite way of saying the company had to screw some people. Fortunately, Angela had called me just before the meeting started (asking if I knew what was going on), so I knew she wasn't in the group getting fired. Everybody was to leave at 11 and not come back til 2 (or not come back for the rest of the day, if they wanted), so that those fired could clean out their stuff and leave without embarrassment (and for security reasons, I'm sure).
No exact numbers on how many were layed off, but it was somewhere between 30 and 50. It seems our area faired pretty well -- my team lost 1, the other development team lost 1, Angela's department lost 1, and the business analysts lost 3. Our company recently signed a big contract for some major development work (the new project I wrote about before), so that's probably why we were spared.
It made for a horrible day -- and I still have my job. I can't imagine what it must have been like for those who were fired. It's sad, and scary, and unfair... and there's nothing I can do about it. I hate that feeling. And I don't like wondering when it will be my turn... Even though that's not very likely any time soon... at least, that's what I'm telling myself. Oh well... it's one of those things that I have no control over, so I refuse to worry about it.
All of this was in sharp contrast to the wonderful weekend we had just a few days before. Angela & I celebrated our 2 year anniversary this past Tuesday. We took off Monday & Tuesday, and with our long weekend, decided to spend a couple of days in a cabin in Southeast Oklahoma. It made for a perfect weekend. On our way back, we took the scenic route through the Ouachita National forest and the Kiamichi mountains. It's a good thing winding mountain roads have such beautiful scenery, or they wouldn't be worth the near-death experience.
Blog Goat is coming along nicely. It nows saves settings to the registry. I need to finish FTP support, file directory selection, and password encryption before I'll be ready to use it all the time.
The whole idea behind this new weblog is to be able to write new entries anywhere, whether I have access to the Internet or not. That's why HandX's Weblog for PalmOS program seemed perfect -- I could write on my PDA, and upload it whenever.
Well, I realized this weekend, it's not perfect. HandX puts all the entries for one day into a single file. That's fine if you're only making entries from your PDA, but if you're writing & uploading from different sources, things are going to get out of order. I could write the script to open each file, look for a date/time stamp for each entry, put all the entries in a huge array (or hash, or whatever), sort them, then print them, but that seems overly complicated, and it could get slow. It also makes it impossible to have permanent links to individual entries.
Also, HandX has another program -- WinLog. This one is for writing entries on a Windows computer. Problem is, it works just different enough from the Palm version to make using them both almost impossible.
Here's how things basically work. Each entry is in a separate file, the name of which contains the date & time when it was written. These files are opened by my script and printed in order by date -- with the newest on top. This system makes various features I have in mind easier to implement. And it will be easier to transition to a database version, whenever I do that.
The tricky part is writing and uploading the entries, but I've also created some solutions for that. On Audrey, I have a text editor and script that automatically uploads the files. For Windows computers, I've created something even better -- Blog Goat! I wrote a simple text editor that automatically generates the proper file names for the entries. I also have a batch file that uploads the files. I should be able to combine the two (along with some other features) to make Blog Goat a very simple way to create weblog entries.
I'm not sure yet how the HandX program is going to fit into this. My best idea right now is to write a program that, after I upload the entries using HandX, would download them, split them into separate files, and upload them again. This seems messy, but I don't see much else I can do, other than learn how to write my own PalmOS applications. I don't think I'm quite ready for that...
I know, I'm sure there is software out there that will do all that I am doing, but what fun would that be?
For those who don't know, I am a programmer for a company whose primary business is handling billing for telecom companies. Our biggest client is our sister company -- their wish is our command.
The team I am on works on what is known as the Customer Care Module (CCM). This software is what everyone uses to add/change/delete customer data. It's a Windows program (written in Visual C++), and it's primary interface is a whole bunch of tabs (21, currently). Each tab contains different information about the customer -- billing, address, etc.
On Wednesday, we were informed that our sister company wants a complete re-design of the CCM. New user interface, some new features, everything different. It's understandable -- it's not the prettiest program ever, and it can be confusing. Oh, and could we also write it in Java, make it accessible via the Web, and have it all done by July 1?
Fortunately, we were able to talk them out of the Web thing. It would be cool, and something that might should be done someday, but by July 1? Not going to happen, my friend. Moving what is already there to a new user interface is one thing -- rewriting the whole system, when none of us are Java programmers, is quite another.
When it's done, it should be very nice -- I think our users will be happy. For those familiar with Microsoft's Visual Studio, it's going to have an interface similar to that. It should also be pretty profitable for our company -- special requests like this cost extra, even for family.
And it should be a fun project. Fixing bugs isn't nearly as fun as creating new stuff. Part of my job on this will be tying the new CCM into some new software our company bought for tracking customer problems. I like that I'll have my own project within the project.
Hopefully, we'll also have time to put an MP3 player into it...
Also, things are getting interesting at work, stay tuned...
We also rented Swordfish. Not bad. If you can shut off your brain for a couple of hours and just enjoy it as an action flick, it's not bad. As a programmer, I found the scene where the guy was writing the 'super virus' quite amusing. I'm no cracker, but I know enough to know it ain't like that...
It was a pretty productive weekend. We got to do some more 'moving in' -- finding places for things that had not found homes yet. I got to work on the new weblog some. I'm pretty much done with the layout, I just need to add a few elements and decide how many 'features' I want the thing to have.
And I got to play with Audrey.
So far, everything I've tried on Audrey has been easy. I updated the software so I could get shell access, and I've been able to tweak some settings, mount network shares, and play MP3s. A big round of applause goes out to the Audrey hacking community. They've found some clever ways to make these things fun toys that are actually useful. My next step is to do some exploring in the attic so I can find places to put network connections for this thing. I'd like to at least be able to connect in the family room & the kitchen.
There was one weird thing, though. When we checked e-mail Monday night, we had a message from AOL saying our message was undeliverable because the user was not found. But, we hadn't sent anything to anybody at AOL! It had the message attached, and it had a March 2001 date on it, and it said "This is an Ergo attachment." Since Ergo is another name used for the Audrey, I thought maybe something strange had happened during the software update. I looked at the e-mail program on Audrey and it did have that message in it's sent box. I noticed that Audrey also has a "Sending Later" box, which was empty. That's when I realized what probably happened: The person who owned this before us wrote the e-mail, saved it to send later, then stopped using the Audrey before that message ever got sent. When Audrey got a valid e-mail setting again, it went ahead and sent the message.
One thing I did not do this weekend is make New Year's resolutions. They may work for other people, but they don't work for me. Setting an arbitrary date of when I'll change something just gives me an excuse to put it off ("Oops, I wasn't supposed to do that anymore. Oh well, I'll try again at the Chinese New Year."). For anyone trying to keep resolutions this year, I wish you all the luck...
Hope everyone else had a good end of 2001, and that y'all have an even better 2002. Last year was pretty good for us, personally, even though it pretty well sucked for the rest of the world. Hopefully, everything will improve this year.
I've been able to spend a little time working on the new weblog. I'm designing the layout as a static HTML page first, so I can get it to look the way I want it before I script it. I'm not entirely happy with the layout, yet -- what can I say, I'm a programmer, not a designer.
Ok, I promised toilets, so here it is... Last night, Angela & I were doing some odd jobs around the house. One of them was replacing a toilet seat. Simple job, right? Wrong... Apparently, many years ago, there was a major problem with people stealing toilet seats. So, they installed them with metal bolts that have plastic molded to the head -- molded in such a way that the two are almost inseparable. That is the only explanation I can come up with for why someone would use something like that. First of all, to the surprise of no one (except, I suppose, the designer), the metal bolts rust, making the nut impossible to remove. And, although the metal bolt does not want to be separated from its plastic case, it doesn't mind turning inside there when you try to remove the rusted nut. After much cutting, melting, pulling and prying, I ended up pulling the first bolt up through the hole in the toilet. After that, I went to work on the second one, with some instructions Angela found on the internet. I was able to get the plastic off, but I couldn't get the bolt out, so I decided to try to pry it up through the hole like the other one. And, of course, that's the point where I broke the toilet -- cracked the ceramic right there on the side. *sigh* Oh well... that means we have a new project this weekend...
In between the family get-togethers, we found time for our own Christmas. Angela got me an Audrey. This will be a fun toy. I've got all kinds of plans for the thing, and I haven't even turned it on yet.
We also bought a "present" for the house -- a pool table. That was quite an adventure.
So, we bought it. It had to be ordered, so we figured, since we were getting a good price (and the fact that pool tables are huge) we would just have it delivered. When we asked about having it delivered, the sales guy told us we didn't want to do that -- delivery would be about $65... and besides, it would fit in the back of our car. Oh, ok then, we'll just come back & pick it up...
Well, we come back the next week to pick it up, and two guys bring it out to our car on a big cart. And, lo & behold, the thing is huge! Oddly enough, it's as long & as wide as a pool table, & very heavy. So, there we were, with 2 stock boys looking at us like we're nuts for bringing a small SUV, and us looking at that pool table, wanting to strangle the sales guy. Obviously, he'd never even seen one of these pool tables -- if he had, he wouldn't tell everybody "it will fit in the back of your car." We did manage to get it in, with just a few inches hanging out the back. The stock boys got us some rope, and we started tying it up as best we could. We decided not to chance getting on the interstate, so we drove about 10 miles down one of the main OKC streets with that thing hanging out the back. It was quite a stressful trip -- if that pool table had decided it wanted to leave, there wouldn't have been anything we could do about it, and I didn't have much faith in that flimsy rope they gave us. But, we did make it home, and we finally got to put it together yesterday. It'll be fun to have -- definitely worth the trouble. But, if I ever see that sales guy again...
We also went to see Lord of the Rings last night. Great movie. Visually, it's very impressive, and the themes and characters are faithful to the book. Some people have said this trilogy will be the next Star Wars, and I agree. It has that same "galaxy far, far away" feel to it -- it creates a complete world that is totally different from our own. I think I'll do a review of it on the COM website.
Oh yeah, work... I knew there was a reason I was here...
I've never been one of those people who get depressed during the holidays. In fact, I'm the exact opposite. But this year, in the middle of all the fun of buying people stuff, I did feel a little sad. I was trying to figure out what to buy for people, and I realized how little I know about the people I care so much for. It's a shame, and the only reason I don't know what they want/need is because I don't spend much time with them. Hopefully, that's something I can correct before next Christmas.
And then there's the person I know too well.
I haven't had time to work on any of my projects, but I have given the weblog some thought. I was trying to figure out how I could create entries using HandX on my PDA and have those somehow get automatically loaded into a database. Well, here's how: I can create an update page that will take any entries not already in the database and save them there. Then, I make that page an AvantGo page. When I sync the Palm, HandX will upload the entries, then the update page will be run by AvantGo to load the entries into the database. Seems like that will be the easiest way to do it. Of course, by the time I get around to doing this stuff, they'll have the technology where I can beam the entries directly from my brain...
Well, things are slowly returning to normal. The plumber has finally finished the repairs -- and I can't tell you how happy that makes me. The windows should be done this week, and that will be the last of the repairs that the previous owner is paying for. Our Internet service is working again, and the good people at Dell are sending someone to replace the motherboard that did not survive the move. Things are finally starting to fall into place.
Which means it must be time for Christmas! I love Christmas -- even if I am horribly behind on my shopping. I actually haven't even started yet. I had it all planned out, too -- I was going to do nearly all my shopping on the Internet this year. But, it's hard to have things delivered when you don't know where you are going to live. I do have my list mostly done, though, so it's just a matter of going out and doing it. And, I don't really mind Christmas crowds. Crowds any other time of year drive me insane, but there's something about Christmas shopping that makes it not so bad. Maybe it's all the eggnog coursing through my system...
In other news, I now have 3 projects I hope to eventually find time for. One is the new weblog, which I've already mentioned here. I think the first version will be a simple perl script, which will allow me to update it via the PDA. The next version, after we (hopefully) move Smart Goat to a new host, will feature PHP & MySQL, so I can have comments on each entry, just like the Slashdot system -- even though that feature has yet to be used on my entries (*sniff*).
The next project I'm researching is an MP3 server. I want something I can connect to my TV and control via IR remote. I'm about ready to give up on finding a set-top box that would look nice in the entertainment center and just settle for a computer hidden behind the entertainment center with an IR sensor sitting on a shelf. I can build one relatively cheap, with either new or used parts. Above all, I want it to be Linux. Eventually, I want this to be part of a wireless network, with (for lack of a better term) dumb terminals in various locations that would simply accept streaming sound and output it to speakers.
My other project is stuff for the sun room. We're already planning to put a pool table out there. If there's room, I'd also like to build a MAME cabinet and possibly an MP3 jukebox (connected to the network mentioned before). All of these things will be very cool, when and if I ever find time for them...
If I were a work of art, I would be Claude Monet's Waterlilies
I am soft and gentle, but very colourful. Although based in reality, I look at the world through a filter of impressions which shape how I see things. Splashes of light help to define my presence and bring an endearing quality.
Which work of art would you be? The Art Test
Unfortunately, there's one member of our family who did not survive the move -- our computer. I haven't been able to boot it up since we got it to the new house. I don't know what's wrong because I haven't had time to diagnose the problem. We didn't buy it that long ago, so hopefully it's still under warranty. That, and the lousy TV reception we get in Yukon are the only major (in my mind) problems we don't know how to fix, yet.
It's been a long time since I've updated this -- we've been pretty busy, and some things just keep dragging out. Soon (hopefully), I'll be moving to a new weblog. Although I like having this on Slashdot, I think I'll be able to update it more often if I move it to our website. For one thing, I'll be able to update it from our PDA, which is just too cool.
And now it's time to start Christmas shopping -- so don't expect another update anytime soon!
My mom has also been making stuff -- silver jewelry, mostly. So, in an attempt to make money off their talents, this past weekend we had a booth at a craft show.
What a waste of a weekend.
In better news, I passed the Mensa test. They didn't tell me my scores, of course, but I wish they would have at least told me which tests I passed. So, will I join? Yeah... I have no real desire to be a Mensan, but I've been told if I join, I get to be webmaster, so that seems worth it. And, if there's anybody else out there who would like me to pay them a yearly fee for me to be their webmaster, call me...
Speaking of... we got the site setup with Mensa. When we asked about a database, we were told they don't have that and that text files are good enough. Apparently they don't realize websites are more than brochures. So, we're going to dump them and pay to have the site hosted elsewhere. We found a place -- they're cheap, give us everything we want, and I found nothing but good reviews of them on the Internet. It sounds like a really small company, but I'm hoping it will work out. If hosting the Mensa site works out, we'll probably move Smart Goat there.
It actually consisted of two tests -- a fast 12 minute, 50 question test and a more drawn out 120 question test. All I have to do is pass one to qualify. I think I did well, but who knows? We'll find out in 2-3 weeks.
Unfortunately, I won't find out my actual score. They used to give scores, but they got sued by psychologists who realized they were losing money. Seems a lot of people would take the Mensa test just to find out their I.Q., rather than pay a lot more to a psychologist to give the test. Oh well -- if I don't pass, at least I don't have to know just how dumb I really am...
Why did I take the test? Curiosity, mostly. I've always wondered if I'd qualify. Plus, if I join, then I can help Angela with the Mensa stuff in a more official capacity. Like being webmaster, for example.
Speaking of which, we finally got our user name & password for the Mensa site. One of the things we're doing, as the new webmasters for our local group, is taking advantage of the free hosting available through the national office. It looks like we're going to have everything we need to setup a Slash site with non-Slash software. I'm really excited about that. People are going to be totally amazed by this. As far as we can tell, no other group is doing anything remotely like this. And what's great is, it's so easy. When other Mensa webmasters come asking, "How'd you do that?" we can show them how easy it is for them to do it, too. For a small fee, of course...
With the world currently being a pretty depressing place, I thought I'd share something that boosts my spirits. Go to Amazon and click on the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. It's been less than a week since the tragedies in NY, DC, and PA, and they've already raised over $6 million. They didn't hold a telethon or anything, they just put the link on their front page, and word-of-mouth has done the rest.
Now, here's something else that I find interesting about this page: Since it started, the average donation per person has been going up. That is the opposite of what I would expect. I would think that, as people see how much is raised already, they would tend to give less. It's just amazing to me.
So, if you're feeling down because of all the evil in the world, go to Amazon and see how much good there is...
As he gets to the counter, a young boy (I'm assuming his son) wheels over another basket with more things to return -- 3 bags of ice. That's right, he was returning 3 bags of half melted ice. And, of course since he had a receipt, Wal-Mart took them back.
I'm not sure which is weirder -- that someone would return ice, or that a place would accept returned ice. I stared in absolute amazement at the entire transaction. When it was my turn, I couldn't resist asking the question, "How long does a person have to return ice?" The cashier, who had been working the customer service desk alone this whole time, clearly was too tired to get the joke. She responded, "We have a 90 day return policy on most items..."
So, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to leave a bag of ice in my car for 90 days, then return it to Wal-Mart. I'm going to carry my bag of water to the customer service desk, with receipt in hand, and complain about how no where on the bag does it mention that the ice could melt...