Monthly Archives: January 2006

Wow

Sometimes I worry about the future of America. Really, I do.

I’m around young people all day and I often get the sense that they just don’t care about what’s going on around them. Their willingness to blindly accept whatever they see on television or read on a website is frightening. I thought teenagers were supposed to reject the ideas of previous generations and blaze a new path.

Thankfully, I came across a story on Boing Boing that reaffirmed my faith in the youth of America, at least a few of them. It seems that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave a speech to law students at Georgetown University. During the speech, he attempted to justify President Bush’s domestic surveillance program.

During the speech, these future lawyers stood and turned their backs to the Attorney General in protest. Other students came in to the room wearing black cowls and carrying a sign with paraphrase of a quote by Benjamin Franklin:

Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.

For all of the details, check out Future American Lawyers to be Proud Of or any major news site, like CNN. This picture sums it up pretty well:

Georgetown Student Protest

I hope to see more like this in the future.

Virus Update

One more thing about the Blackmal.E virus…

On the third day of every month, it will destroy all Word Documents, Excel Spreadsheets, PowerPoint Presentations, Access Databases, Zip Files, and more on your hard drive.

So if there’s even a chance you might have the virus, you might want to run the removal tool sometime in the next week or so.

There are going to be a lot of really upset people on February 3rd.

Yet Another Windows Virus

Has your computer been acting a little funny lately? Maybe it locked up so bad you had to turn if off. Now it’s working again but it seems to be running a little slow.

If this sounds familiar, you might have the latest virus that’s going around – W32.Blackmal.E. This virus was first discovered on January 17. We started getting it at the school district on Thursday.

This one is a little more tricky than the average virus. Not only does it spread via e-mail attachments, it can also spread over the network through shared folders.

Symantec has a page about the virus. They also have an easy to use removal tool.

My old advice still holds true – don’t open any attachments unless you know exactly what it is and why it was sent to you. Just recognizing the sender’s e-mail address is not enough.

Of course, there is to protect yourself from all of these Windows viruses…

Three Day Weekend

I love three day weekends. Even better is the four day week that follows. I really wish I could work four days on and three days off every week.

I was actually quite productive yesterday. I usually spend my days off goofing around on the computer and watching TV.

Instead of doing nothing, I broke the time down into one hour blocks. I spent about an hour eating breakfast and watching TV. Then I spent an hour checking all of my e-mail accounts and RSS feeds. After that, I got to work.

I spent the next hour sketching an entity-relationship diagram for one of the programs I’m working on as well as drawing a few paper prototypes for different parts of the system.

The next hour was spent cleaning up and organizing things in my office and around the house. The office is far from complete, but at least I made some progress.

The next two hours were spent having lunch and then doing a little shopping. I picked up some things at Wal-Mart and Office Max. I also avoided buying any more books at Hastings.

Finally, I spent the rest of the afternoon doing some light house work and helping a friend with computer problems.

Overall, this was much better than my usual schedule – sleeping until Paige comes home for lunch around noon and then watching Star Trek until she comes home from work at 5:00pm.

Refresh Dallas

I spent last Wednesday in Plano attending the second meeting of Refresh Dallas. This is a group of web designers who all get together once a month and share the tricks of their trade. I was a little out of place here considering I’m more of a programmer, but I still feel like I learned a lot.

The presentation was by Josh Williams of Firewheel Design. He’s the guy behind sites like IconBuffet and . The topic was Branding Web 2.0. It was a great discussion about how he designs and develops brands for web applications.

If you’d like to see pictures, there’s a RefreshDallas tag on Flickr.com. You can see me hanging out at the back in this picture. I actually took a solid page of notes during the presentation, but I left them in my office. I plan on typing them up when I get a chance. In the mean time, I think Alex Muse took a picture of every slide.

Next weekend, I’ll be attending BarCamp Dallas. I’m thinking this will be a little more my style. I don’t plan on sitting at the back at BarCamp. That’s actually one of the requirements for BarCamp – active participation. Everyone is expected to participate. It should be a lot of fun.

MacWorld San Francisco

Steve Jobs gave his annual keynote at MacWorld San Franciso today. This is usually when he tells all of the Apple computer lovers what they’ll be doing with all of their money for the next few months. This year’s speech was no exception.

First off, he introduced new versions of all of the iLife applications. Right now I’m most interested in playing around with the new version of iPhoto. We still mainly use Picassa on Paige’s PC for all of our digital pictures, but I think this update to iPhoto might change that. Also, there’s a new program called iWeb that makes it easy to set up your own website with picture galleries, movies, and podcasts.

Next up, the new iMac with an Intel processor. This is the Intel Core Duo – basically two processors in one. The new iMac is the same design and cost as the old iMac, only it’s 2-3 times faster. It’s everything you could want in a computer starting at $1299. Sounds good to me. I’ll take two.

Finally, he closed with the best news of all – the new MacBook Pro. A 15″ laptop with the new Intel Core Duo processor starting at $1999. Again, it’s the same basic design as the PowerBook G4 and the same price, only the MacBook Pro is 4-5 times faster.

I imagine both of these computers will be flying off the shelves for quite some time. The 15″ PowerBook was always my dream computer and now it’s about 4 times faster. Maybe one will fall off a truck in front of our house, or maybe I’ll convince the school district to buy me one…

Geekier Than Thou

Just how geeky are you? Take The Geek Test and find out. It’s pretty long, but if you’re really geeky you probably won’t mind.

Reading the questions even brought back some memories for me.

I scored 46.35108% which means I’m a Super Geek. I was a little surprised that I did so poorly. I’m the geekiest person I know.

On the other hand, anything above 75% is considered a Dysfunctional Geek, so maybe I’m right where I need to be…

Reducing Expenses

The other day I mentioned reducing monthly expenses in my New Year’s Resolutions. Here are a few of the things we’ve done so far:

Last year, we had Cox Cable and DirecTV. I had to have a cable modem, and we needed all of the good channels to watch. So every month we paid about $50 to Cox and $55 to DirecTV.

A few months ago Cox added some channels to their line up. They now have every channel that we actually watch except for one. I did some research and found that the better plan at Cox would cost us about $80 per month.

That means we were paying $25 per month for one channel. Obviously, that’s been taken care of.

Now not only are we saving $25 per month, we don’t have a satellite box taking up space in the entertainment center anymore. That means less electricity being used and less wires tangled up behind the TV.

The next problem was a little more interesting.

A while back, Paige and I got cell phones. We rarely use our home phone anymore, so we considered canceling it. But, we’ve had that same number forever and everyone knows it.

So we kept our $40 per month phone bill from SBC. We could’ve reduced this bill quite a bit, but we really like having Caller ID and Call Waiting.

Lately, I’ve been seeing more and more commercials for Vonage. Finally, something in one of those commercials really caught my attention – “Transfer your current number to Vonage.” That’s just what we were looking for.

Their unlimited plan is only $24.99 per month, but we didn’t really need unlimited minutes. On their website they also have a 500 minute per month plan for $14.99. I think that’ll be more than we’ll ever use.

So as of sometime tomorrow, our old number will be transferred to Vonage and we’ll be saving another $25 per month. This is actually a better deal than SBC since Vonage has all of the nice features we had before (Caller ID, etc.) as well as free long distance anywhere in the US.

I’ve also been looking for other small expenses to get rid of.

At one point last year I was to subscribed to four different magazines. They were all interesting to read, but they mostly just ended up in a pile somewhere. These have all been let go. This means a little extra money each year and fewer things to clutter up my office.

I was also a member of the Scientific American book club and the Columbia House DVD club. Trouble is I rarely watch movies, and I already have more books than I’ll ever be able read. The book club membership has already been canceled, and the DVD club will be canceled as soon as I buy one more.

There’s a certain thrill that goes along with telling someone “I don’t need your services anymore.” DirecTV kept me on hold for about 20 minutes yesterday evening, but I persevered and eventually talked to a rather nice guy who canceled my service.

This seems to be a pretty popular topic for New Year’s Resolutions. Merlin Mann has an article called Modest Change: Cancel something over at 43 Folders dealing with this exact subject.

Resolutions

I promised some New Year’s Resolutions the other day, so here they are in no particular order:

  • Earn at least $1,000 in 2006 from things not related to my day job. I’m not sure exactly how much I made last year from consulting, but I know it was less than $1,000. I’m going to try to focus on what Steve Pavlina calls “passive income” – that is, things that make money without my having to do any work. For example, a product that I can create once and then sell on a web site many times. I’ll also be reducing monthly expenses wherever possible to make this extra income really count.
  • Simplify my life and get things done. If I’m ever going to accomplish anything, I’ve got to get organized. I’ve starting using HipCal to keep up with my schedule. So far it does everything I need. I’ve got to get back into the habit of working out. My office is filled with junk that I hardly ever touch. This means all of the old computers are going away and I’ll be culling my bookshelves. There will be a huge garage sale some day soon as well as some stuff on eBay. I’ll keep you posted.
  • Network more with my peers. I’m going to get out and talk to people both online and in person. This means going to community events like Refresh Dallas and the BarCamp Dallas. I might even join the local Linux Users Group. I would like to attend at least one event per month. I’ll also be updating this site (and others) more frequently – hopefully at least 2-3 times a week. I’m also going to try to comment more on other people’s sites or use TrackBacks if I have something interesting to say.

That seems like a pretty short list, but that’s the idea. All of these are things that I can easily accomplish this year.

The idea is to develop a network of peers and a system of organization that I can use to develop my ideas and finally start launching some of the products that I have in my head and on my computer.

Check back this time next year to see how things turn out…