Thursday, December 21, 2006

Props to Blogger

Blogspot has finally rolled out their new version. Good job. Better administration, tagging, faster publishing. Only suggestion: spellcheck. I've upgraded my template to take advantage of these new features, and I've even tagged most of my posts. I'll update Cameron's blog soon. I've been posting more to my blog internal to our company, but hopefully this new year I'll find the time to blog more. More pictures too. If you find yourself reading this, leave comments -- they're encouraging and a good prod in the butt to write more. Incidentally, I've got lots of posts I've started but haven't finished. I should get those out, shake off the dust and post 'em.... even if they are several years old.

Software and the Metropolis

Update: the link has changed to: I attended the VS Live conference back in 2004, where Pat Helland gave this really interesting talk about how IT and Software are experiencing the same trends as the evolution of major cities. The parallels are really interesting. According to Pat, we're in 1880 I've referred to this talk many times, so I'm posting a link to it now. I can't believe that was over two years ago. One of the interesting anticdotes made is that after the railroads were invented (the internet), we needed a way to package our stuff up and send it between places. Hence, the invention of cardboard in 1880. XML is Cardboard. Ever buy a memory stick from dell? The cardboard it shipped in probably weighed more than the RAM stick. The cardboard had your name on it, where it came from, a shipping number, a customs tag on it, etc, etc -- but in the end, the contents of the package were more important than the package.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Geeking with Greg: Talk on eBay architecture

Cool post on e-bay architecture. Vertical scalability is where it's at. Interesting that XSLT and local file storage are used.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rogers Digital Cable

I guess the picture's okay, but I can't get over how cluegy their guide is. Half the screen is taken up by their logo, the picture in picture looks like a stretched gif and the responsiveness of the menu is sloooooow. Thankfully, with my media center, I don't have to worry about that. I download the guide settings off the internet and then use the ever-so-user-friendly user-interface of media center to browse the guide. I can scroll through the channels (all of them) in under 15 seconds, plus I can remove channels from the listings that I don't want to see. Now, the big bonus is that I can multiple receivers (finally) hooked up to the media center so I can record one show while watching another live program.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

About Friggin Time

Since February, the Internet connection at home has been flakey.  There had also been a lot of static on the phone line, maybe from a recent snow storm, so I figured this could be interrupting the DSL service. I called Bell to come out and take a look at the phone lines. They claimed they dispatched someone, but I never heard from them.

For a short while, the Internet seemed better and the phone line service wasn't so static-y. But sure enough, the Internet got worse and the static returned. So I called Bell. I asked why they never came by the house; they claimed they had a service technician splice the phone lines. This time, they dispatched someone. They tested the outside phone lines and determined everything was great. They tested the line going into the house and determined there was something wrong.

Aha, admist all the confusion of our new son being born, I had forgotten that we had activated our alarm system. Surely, it must be the alarm system that was interfering.

So I called ADT and asked. It took them a while to get me to a technician (they don't have anybody who can answer these questions on the phone outside of 9-5 PM Monday-Friday).

So I called Bell. Bell ran some diagnostics from their helpdesk and determined that it sounded like an "unfiltered telephonic device". Is it my alarm system? Maybe. Or, it's the new 3-in-1 handset cordless phone. Apparently, they draw a lot of current on the phone line.

So, Bell recommended:

  1. Disconnect the alarm.
  2. Disconnect the phone.
  3. Good luck.

So I decided to disconnected the cordless phone, and well... nothing happened. For about one week, the Internet worked great. After that, well. It was like 14 baud. Not 56,000 baud or even 14,000 baud. 14. Bruuuuutal.

So by about May, I was able to finally get someone from ADT to come by the house. Thankfully, those bastards charged me $150 bucks to install a phone-line adapter which they should have done during the install. (Thanks F#@#ers!!) Surely now, this would resolve the unfiltered-telephonic device.

Unfortunately, no. However, between June and July, every so often, the Internet would work for a few minutes at a time. In September I was able to use a bit-torrent client for about a week before I went back to 14 baud.

So November rolls around and I've had it. Time to get off DSL and onto Cable. Make the switch from dreaded Monopoly Bell to dreaded Monopoly Rogers. We hum and haa about switching, but eventually decide to switch everything: cell, TV, Internet, home phone. We feel glad we've made the purchase, and the installer is coming the following week. Great!

For the next week, every single day Rogers calls and leaves an automated message reminding me to be there for the 8-11 am install. Every frikking day.

Sure enough, at 10:50 the installer arrives. He's bright, cheerful. The first set back is that he can't get into the cable box, so he used a sledge-hammer to annihilate the existing box. He plugs holes and installs new metal clips to hold down the cables. Fantastic.

When it comes time to hook things up inside, it took me a while to convince him that I know where I want everything installed:

"Everything's in the basement.", I say.

"How about on the main floor?", he asks.

My main floor is devoid of technology.  "You see any TVs?"

Somehow the fact that there aren't any computers, phones or TVs on the main floor doesn't phase him.  Puzzled he asks, "So... main floor?"

This guy has been great so far, so I politely assert, "Why not put it in the basement with the TV, Wireless router and phone jacks?"

Obviously, he's either not listening to me or has a fear of finished basements. "We could just move stuff on this shelf and put it next to this phone. Most people do."

I walk over to the basement.  "Okay, so how about the basement then?"

Eventually, several hours later -- everything's hooked up. The installer makes some comment like, "it's not going to work right away. You know some people freak out because it doesn't work right away." I somehow let that slide. I wonder why people would think this?  Maybe because your automated voice-messaging system has been harassing people about the install??

Just as he's leaving, he mentions that there's a provisioning problem and it should be cleared up in a few hours. Not sure what he meant by this, I call Rogers about an hour later and ask for them some clarification. We sit on hold for nearly 30 minutes before the tech suggests that he can call me back when he knows. Gee, why didn't you offer that suggestion seconds after me calling you?? So the voicemail says, "there's a problem with getting the home phone number from Bell. Everything's backed up. We don't know how long. Maybe 24 hours."

So 24 hours later, I'm on the phone again. I'm put on hold for a very long time before someone comes back and tells me that "24-48 hours."

So 72 hours after the install, I get the impression that I'm working for Rogers now. I call in, yell at their stupid automated-voice system. The story I get is "... The work-order is showing as pending. So until we get the home-phone installed, we can't activate the TV or the Internet." This blows me away. Technically, the Internet and TV are hooked up correctly, and should work. But, because the paper work says the home-phone hasn't been hooked up -- technically, nothing can be activated.  So the best they can do, is schedule someone to come out to my house and finish the install in another week. But, he can make sure I get free TV for a month. Arrrgh!!

So they book the install for 5-8 a week later.  Which they show up at 5:01 for.  My wife got home from work (I was away on business) around 5:05 to find the "you weren't here note." Bastards!!

So I book the next install, now nearly three weeks since the original install. We get home at 4:58 to find two nearly identical messages on our phone: "Hello, this is Rogers installer. I want to do install. Please call me back."

Hmmm, maybe I would call you ...if you left your phone number!  So 5:01 he's knocking on the door. The entire home-phone installation takes 1 minute: snip the wire from bell. Plug the modem into the phone jack.

24 hours later. It works.

About Friggin Time.