boo! and stuff…

October 31, 2005 under Life

Yesterday, Dena and I went to Fearfest at Canada’s Wonderland with Nat and John; it was Nat’s birthday gift to Dena. They really did the place up well with plenty of rotting corpses, smoke, lighting effects and such. The first thing we did when we got in there was ride Dragon Fire. I can tell it’s been a while since either Dena or myself were on a rollercoaster as we both smoked our heads in the first loop. But after that it was smooth sailing on Thunder Run, The Bat (the second time through the loops when you go backwards is killer), Vortex and Minebuster. They “frightened-up” the rides by simply turning off most of the lighting but it was still cool. The one rollercoaster that suprised me, and seemed out-of-place given the horror theme, was Italian Job. It doesn’t look like much from afar but that ride frickin’ flies, let me tell you.

We didn’t get a chance to go to many of the other attractions. Legend of the Lost was kinda kewl with plenty of creepy atmoshphere and jump-out scares. That, Slaughter Street and Friday the 13th: Jason’s Extreme Cuts (for about 30 seconds) were about the only other things we took in. And there was plenty more to see but we didn’t. Too bad we didn’t have more time.

As per usual, here are our annual pictures of cats and Jack-O-Lanterns:

/pictures.php?action=list&album=cats&dir=halloween_2005

Happy Hallowe’en!

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)
comments: 0 »

iDena

October 29, 2005 under Computers, Dena, Hardware, iPod, Life, Software

Happy birthday to my wife, Dena! She’s 29 and lookin’ fine πŸ˜‰

For her birthday gift, I bought her a 4GB iPod Mini; the silver one. It was a little hard to track down a Mini, since they’ve been replaced by the scratcherific Nano‘s, but I managed to. I know she’s gonna love it when she works out and exercises. Just wait ’till she takes a trip to Carbon Computing‘s store in downtown Kitchener and wants to accessorize πŸ™‚

However, I can just hear everyone out there that is familiar with my blog and knows about my dislike of iTunes (Exhibit A, Exhibit B and Exhibit C) laughing at me and shouting “ha ha, sucker…now you have no choice but to install iTunes!!!”. Geez, I know when I’m beat. But I still have a choice and I’m not beat yet, folks!!! πŸ™‚

The only way I’d ever consider abandoning Winamp as my media player of choice is either if AOL somehow manage to wreck it or if a disgruntled and suddenly-crazed Justin Frankel sneaks his way back into AOL headquarters (digitally or physically) reclaims the Winamp wonder that he birthed so long ago and aboloshes it from this world. And thanks to the ml_ipod plug-in for Winamp, music can be transfered to and from her iPod Mini without having to install the resource monster that is iTunes. ml_ipod is mint!

To be fair, I did try installing iTunes 6 in the hopes that Apple had tightened things up. They haven’t. Initially, iTunes 6 used 83MB of RAM when idle. I removed those Smart Playlists and simply listened to an album (Sonic Youth‘s Sister, if you’re curious). The result was 52MB being used. Dare to compare. I listened to the same album in Winamp 5.1; it only occupied 28MB. 24MB might not seem like a big difference, especially since I have 1GB of RAM. But I listen to music while I work and working can involve running beast apps like Visual Studio or Firefox with 10-20 open tabs. Call me stingy, but I like to have physical RAM ready for me to use at a moment’s notice…paging is for chumps πŸ™‚

Hooray for choice and efficient programming! πŸ™‚ And hooray for my wife, who’ll be lookin’ all geek chic! πŸ™‚

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)
comments: 4 »

i'm for rent

October 25, 2005 under Computers, Programming

I’ve posted a new project in the Code section called AlbumFolderRenamer.

Last week I was browsing RentACoder.com (a website where end users looking for custom software development can match themselves with a developer willing to do the work for a negotiable fee), looking to earn some cash to put towards paying off my always-present student loan. I stumbled across this project request. Basically, the guy was looking for a program to restructure the directories containing his music. To quote him:


I have a hard drive full of artist names (approx 500 artists)
Under each artist has numerous album title names.

I need an app that will rename all album titles automatically, according to the artist name.

For example under the Madonna folder, she has 5 albums, one is called True Blue.
The app needs to rename the True Blue folder to (Madonna – True Blue)

Very simple. Using a scripting language like Python or VBS, I could have written a program to accomplish this in no time. Then I stopped to think about the end user. He probably wants to be informed of the progress while the program is converting all of the directory names. This still isn’t a problem for the scripting languages, but the UI would boil down to the command prompt. I figured he’d like something more familiar, so I decided to use C# to create a Windows app. I’ve made plenty of Windows applications but never a multithreaded application. Inspired by a recent Code Project article that I had read, I created AlbumFolderRenamer – complete with a seperate worker thread to handle all of the updates to the GUI that dealt with providing progress feedback.

It took me a couple of hours to code, test, beautify and create the NSIS install script. The bad thing is that within those couple of hours, another developer had already bidded on the job and it was accepted. Oh well. All in all, it was a good learning experience, since I was a multithreaded programming virgin. Maybe someone will even find AlbumFolderRenamer useful…that is, if you really want your music directory to follow the same structure.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)
comments: 0 »

mall rink rats

October 22, 2005 under Life

This afternoon, Dena and I went skating at the Ice Centre in the Cambridge Centre. Dena had a firm grasp on my hand the entire time that she was on the ice, but she did well. The rink was a bit hectic – often congested with people of various skills and ages – but I had an opportunity to do a few laps at a decent speed (still far too many people to go any faster). Unfortunately, after about 6 laps, I realized that I’m terribly out of shape compared to before and ensuing laps were a challenge. That’ll change πŸ˜‰

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)
comments: 0 »

blogging about blogging about blogging…

October 19, 2005 under Computers, Internet

While scanning the News.com RSS feed, I came across a link to this article titled, “Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes”. Portions of the article make a lot of sense – some of the points should even be pretty obvious to anyone suitably familiar with the Web. However, there are a few points that I think should not be taken as gospel by the general blogging public. The author of the article is Jakob Nielsen; a reknown expert in the area of Web site interfaces and usability with a Computer Science PhD. I, on the other hand, am a shlub with a mere-by-comparisson BSc in Computer Science who hasn’t written any books or been the main attraction at a seminar. I might as well be putting up my dukes against a speeding oncoming train. What you do with the info that I present is your call.

Mr. Nielsen frowns upon mixing topics in a blog. For corporate blogs, sure, that makes perfect sense. I subscribe to the MSDN Blogs for one reason; tips, tricks and advance info on what’s coming down the pike. If an MSDN blogger writes a paragraph about hiking adventures in northern California, fine. I may or may not pay attention, since I’m there for the gritty tech info. But the Blogosphere (ugh, I haven’t learned to like that word yet) has a very large personal blog contingent. I’ve put current thoughts and ideas on my personal site since 2001, back before there was such a thing as a “blog”. It was my .plan (Unix folk know what I’m talking about). I even wrote a few Perl CGI scripts to handle archiving duties so that one long text document wasn’t served to make your scrolling finger ache; this was before services like Blogger and software like WordPress were common. Back in university, we used to leave little messages and such in our .plan files in our Unix shell accounts on the school’s student server. Most .plan entries consisted of random Simpsons quotes and rants like “omg, project 6 for CS321 sucked large!!! i failed it for sure πŸ™ “. For the most part, my .plan was about the goings on in my life and I continued to do the same when I became blog-ified. It’s my personal log, dealing with things that I’m interested in. I like computers/programming, hockey, golf and (good) music so that’s what I write about. I’m not a company with a focused set of products and services. I’m a person writing about my life, as are many of the other bloggers with personal websites. My target audience are not customers or investors. The audience I’m after are people that share my interests, people working in a similar profession (I get a lot of search engine referals containing computer programming keywords), friends, family, people I played hockey with/against, people from the old Timmins BBS scene (PS: it’s working according to this post – I’ve even received email from people from that scene) or anybody in general that may know me…or not know me.

Posting regularily is another habit that Mr. Nielsen recommends. Again, I see his point in terms of a business blog. For personal sites, blogging in a timely manner can sometimes be a chore. I know that I’m not the only one that works during the day, returns home tired in the evening and then still has things to accomplish before going to sleep. Sometimes I work late. Sometimes I go out socializing. Sometimes I’m asked to create a software application, write some SQL statements, or develop a website for side-projects away from work. Sometimes I attend Rangers games. Sometimes I’m asked to take a look at someone’s malfunctioning computer. Sometimes I chase our cats around. Sometimes I chase Dena around. Sometimes I go golfing. Sometimes I just want to unwind and do as little as possible. I call this life. My personal blog is about my life, and the frequency in which I post can represent what’s going on in said life. I’m not brave enough to make my personal blog my job like Jason Kottke has.

Mr. Nielsen believes that we should be conscious of what we blog, should any potential employers view it. He mentions that we should never show naïvity since it could come back to haunt us. Yes, the Web is archived (thanks to Archive.org and Google) so anything we say is recorded. Is it not safe to assume that employers would like to recruit those who are able to think and learn? It’s one thing to post a naïvie opinion or comment, but it’s entirely different if a subsequent post correcting that post exists. I would tend to think of that as a display of learning. In the past, I’ve posted about my hate for VisualBasic; I’m talking like four years ago. Anyone who has read my blog in the past couple of years knows that I have worked with VisualBasic more often and am able to deal with its annoyances (which I don’t find all that annoying anymore) and I’ve even learned to leverage its strengths; hell, I find VBS very handy in many situations and enjoy using it. Maybe I’m wearing rose-coloured glasses, but I’d like to think that potential employers would investigate me beyond an old blog post if they were truly intersted. Also, to me it seems as if Nielsen is suggesting that we appear omniscient at all times in order to be sought after by future employers. The Web is not the only facet of the Internet that is archived; Usenet newsgroups are as well. Take a gander at this thread on the linux.redhat.install newsgroup from back in 1998. Wow, I couldn’t get my SoundBlaster 16 (ISA) to work with RedHat Linux 5.1 right off the bat and a record of that is available for all to see. To me, it appears that I was a CS undergrad and unexperienced Linux user who was researching and seeking more knowledge by communicating with other human beings. Search Usenet archives and you’ll find other topics started by me, asking questions about developing Office add-ins with C#, Dreamweaver templates and the like. I think the old addage, “the only stupid question is the one that isn’t asked”, is very applicable in almost every situation. By Nielsen‘s logic, a potential employer should see that as a strike against me. Umm, ok, then.

I’ll summarize my point. If you have a personal website with a blog, write what you want to. That’s why it’s your personal website. Who knows what I’ll write about next? What will you write about?

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)
comments: 1 »

i've been published

October 12, 2005 under Computers, Programming

When the September issue of Queue arrived, a journal available to ACM members, I glanced over it quickly. I do this to pick out the articles that I want to read thoroughly later on. However, I usually always take a glance at the “What’s On Your Hard Drive?” section because it’s only one page – a quick fix. For WOYHD, Queue readers submit which development tools they like and which ones annoy them. Lo and behold, I saw a name that I recognized. Mine! I had totally forgot that I submitted an entry to WOYHD several months ago. I praise Python for its elegance. My teeth grind sometimes for Microsoft Visual Studio 2003 IDE. Don’t get me wrong; I’m enjoying the .NET Framework very much thus far and C# is a well-designed language. It’s just that the current Visual Studio IDE is so bloated; it bogs down far too often. I haven’t tried the Visual Studio 2005 betas or RCs yet to see if things have improved. Hopefully they have because it’s an otherwise pleasant IDE.

You can read my entry that appeared in the September 2005 issue of Queue here:

http://www.acmqueue.com/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=329

Because they used my entry in the journal, I received a mug πŸ™‚

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)
comments: 3 »

run, turkey, run

October 10, 2005 under Life

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jon Stewart was great. His material focused primarily on the folly that is US politics and their current administration. However, he also fired a few zingers at computer technology, and deservedly so. But nothing beats a topic like dogs and explosive diarrhea. I like my brow both high and low πŸ™‚ Massey Hall was a nice venue and we had good seats. Steven Page and Ed Robertson from the Barenaked Ladies were in attendence; we brushed past them. Thanks to Team Pat ‘n’ Jen for the hospitality. And I finally was able to see where Barry and Esther will not be living much longer…great timing πŸ˜‰

Long weekend + tryptohpan = g’night folks!

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)
comments: 0 »

willkommen

October 7, 2005 under Life

Today marks the beginning of Kitchener/Waterloo‘s annual Oktoberfest Festival; the world’s largest Bavarian festival outside of Germany. Eight days of beer, shnitzel, lederhosen, Bavarian traditions…did I mention beer? So to celebrate the start of Oktoberfest, Dena and I won’t be attending the traditional tapping of the oversized keg outside of Kitchener City Hall that inaugurates the begining of Oktoberfest each year. Oh no, we will instead be laughing our asses off 100 kilometres away in Toronto, courtesy of Jon Stewart. It surely will be wunderbar! πŸ™‚

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)
comments: 0 »

hockey's back

October 5, 2005 under Hockey, Sports

Finally!

Back to normal. Back to the way things should be at this time of year. There are some who say we should be firm in showing our disapproval in how the lockout went down. They say we should essentially boycott the league and ignore them. Well those people are probably the kind who make a bee-line to the Arts and Leisure section of the newspaper and aren’t NHL fans or fans of hockey in general.

Go Flames!

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)
comments: 2 »

i'm getting old, or pat byck makes me sick

October 4, 2005 under Golf, Life, Sports

Lately, it seems that everytime I will be attending some event with Pat, my well-being suffers. Last autumn, when we attended the Pixies show in Mississauga, I came down with pneumonia a few days before the concert. This Friday, Dena and I will be joining Pat and Jen at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto to see the host of The Daily Show – and a pretty freakin’ funny man to boot – Jon Stewart. This time around, I have an aggrivated tendon connecting the right rhomboideus muscle group to my spine. Wonderful.

Within the past month or so, I’ve picked up a bad habit where half the time, I hit most of my irons (I’d say 3 through 7) fat. “Hitting fat” in non-golf terms, refers to the club coming in contact with the ground behind the behind the ball. This causes a big loss in the amount of distance that the ball will travel and it’s jarring as well. To correct this, I (along with Dena) went to Wedges ‘N Woods two Tuesday’s ago to work on revamping my swing. I modified it so that my feet are barely shoulder-width apart, put more weight towards my heels. After some practice with the new swing, I began to hit my irons further and consistant. In the next couple of days, I felt a bit stiff – much like I was using muscles that I haven’t all that often. It went away by Thursday. That Saturday morning, Dena and I played Beaverdale and I shot a 90, which wasn’t all that bad for the first time with a new swing (damn, my putting). I felt fine for the rest of the day and most of Sunday. But then on Monday…owie. A wicked pain in my right shoulder blade that fired whenever I lifted my arms, bent over and turned my head. At this point, I thought that new swing really gave my muscles a workout. But by the end of last week, the pain was still there and now it was accompanied by intermittent tingling in my right hand. Friday evening, I did a lot of heavy lifting while I was helping Dena’s office move all their furniture from one floor to another in their Kitchener office. We didn’t golf Saturday but instead went to Heritage Times in Chatham to watch Dena’s boss, who was one of the re-enactors in the War of 1812. I thought the break from golfing would help, but it didn’t. So now I’m trying to figure out if I have meningitis or just really dummied my back. After reluctance on my part, Dena made me a doctor’s appointment which is where I was infomred of the tug o’ war match being played with my rhomboideus muscles.

It’s a sobering reminder that everybody ages. At 28, I don’t feel old and I think I look younger than I am. But my back seems to be on to my lil’ ruse.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)
comments: 2 »