Thursday, June 29, 2006

Upgrading the wrt54g

I recently ordered the Linksys WRT54G v5 because I heard that there are some incredible tools out there to play around with this router, specifically loading linux and a new web console to this device. However, when it arrived and I started doing some research it turned out that without tearing the thing open, and using a JTAG connector, you were stuck with it's out of the box settings.

So after letting it sit for a while (until my other wireless router started acting flaky) I decided to see how far the community had come. It turned out that the day before I decided to check back, someone had cracked it and they now a load.

In about an hour of time (which I spent most of it watching Miranda play), I was able to reflash it to the new software. I am definitely impressed by the options that are available on this router with the new flash. Out of the box, I was barely able to make a connection on the far side of the house, but now am able to set how powerful a signal it has (be careful) and can get 4 bars.

Now if you are thinking about doing the same, I would recommend finding a version 4 wrt54g, or paying more to the wrt54gl (L is for linux). Using the micro version of the flash for the 54g (because it has half the memory), leaves out a number of cool features. But for the price and power and toy factor, this is an endeavor I highly recommend for the geek at heart.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Finish a heat wave and one more book review

Well, it seems that over the last couple of days the west coast of the United States has been covered in some sweltering heat. This wouldn't be so bad if we had air conditioning, but "you don't need that in the Northwest". Whatever. It was darn hot (95 F) and we weren't handling it too well. Miranda seemed fine for the most part but we were giving her the nicest parts of the house to keep her cool.

I almost got down to the last ditch efforts in cooling devices. One is the ever popular spritzing bottle filled with water and a fan. This really works well if you can a humidifier as well, but does tend to leave the house a little more water logged. The other option is use a bucket of ice and a fan. We decided to tough it out over the couple of days and managed to be fine, although tigger spent a lot of time laying on the floor in the kitchen.

miranda 002

The Universe in a Single Atom : The Convergence of Science and Spirituality

The Universe in a Single Atom is a book by Dalai Lama XIV which goes into how he feels Buddism and the scientific method meet. His Holiness has had the opportunity to meet with some of the greatest scientific minds and has used those times to gain a greater understanding of state of science and attempt to apply them to philosophies and manuscripts within his faith. At times, I found this book to feel like a sales pitch for how Buddism is a religion that works hand in hand with science through the use of first person, introspective studies whereas science utilizes the third person, observant methodologies. But there are other times in this book, that he is able to bring about a real focus on some of the issues that we will soon have to face as a result of the great advances we have made in science.

I enjoyed this book. I attribute that to the fact that I enjoy the exercise of thinking on various focused topics. His Holiness is talks on the topics of Quantum Mechanics, the Big Bang, Evolution, Genetics, and Consciousness, and puts them in context of his beliefs and faith which provides an interest context in which to work though. One example is where the Dalai Lama shows how the Big Bang can be applied to one of manuscripts of Buddist teachings where the universe is of a cyclical nature and that the scientific studies have made many conjectures where this is a possibility where the universe will collapse the spin out yet another universe for the matter that once created the old.

Based on this, I recommend this to those that enjoy this sort of mental exercise and would like to learn a little of Buddism along the way.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Miranda's getting bigger

Well today she had her first baby and me yoga with Michelle. I am sure she will say more on that matter. Otherwise Miranda is doing well. I think for the first time we really feel like there is a routine which is very very nice.


I picked this one out for the commentability of the photo. I hope you enjoy Andy "Star Trek rules my world".

Thursday, June 22, 2006

More reviews: Flight of the Nighthawks, 4400 Season 1, and Sunbox for your deck

Flight of the Nighthawks

This book by Raymond Feist is very much part of his normal formula for books. His books tend to focus around the creation of young male characters and how they develop their talents to move the world in there own ways. Feist continues the adventures in the fantasy world of Midkemia with visits from some original characters and various other characters that have appeared in his other works. Pug makes another appearance as well as Nakor to continue Feist's exploration into the balance of good and evil.

This book is just a plain fun fantasy book. If you have liked Feist's other works you will most probably like this one as well. I did find this one to be less worthy of praise than his others works. Magician was by the best of the books produced and the Serpentwar Saga was probably the best series, this just doesn't stand in the same league.

The 4400 - Season One

This series was recommended to me by a friend of mine and never got around to picking it up or renting it. I had the occasion to catch a few of the episodes on TV and was impressed by the writing and the acting done in this series. So I picked it up and am glad I did.

The story is about 4400 people who have disappeared over the last 70 years and how they are suddenly deposited back, but have not aged a day. It shows, but doesn't center around the bigotry that such an outsider group would encounter. The actors who play the main characters do a good job overall with some very interesting performances from the supporting cast as well.

In comparing with another recent sci-fi show, Firefly, I think this had a much stronger beginning, but a weaker overall "universe" to exist in. The acting in this series starts strong, with little need for the actors to get comfortable with their characters whereas Firefly really took a couple episodes to find who they were.

I would recommend this to folks who like science fiction but are looking for something more than just the Star Trek.

Suncast DB5000 Deck Box

I saw this item for 50% off at amazon and decided it was worth the risk to pick up and try out. Out of the box, this is comprised 6 poly-resin panels and seem fairly rigid. There is zero hardware needed for assembly and I was able to put this together in less than 10 minutes. It has now been outside for over a week with no discoloration or weathering.

The main drawbacks really are the cheap assembly, the hinges don't feel strong and the bottom isn't really secured by anything other than gravity. Also there really isn't a way to do a padlock on this. In the end it was slightly overpriced at 50% off and way overpriced if you paid full...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

DS Lite and DS games reviews

Nintendo DS Lite

I initially wasn't sold on the idea of having two screens and using touch screens in gaming. I was wrong. Adding the touch screen doesn't remove the ability of games to use the normal set of buttons, so there is a good set of traditional games out that will work on the DS. Speaking of older games, if you have any gameboy advance games, they will work in the DS as well. Now as to the additional real estate, it really depends on the game to take advantage of it, but having the two screens separated by white plastic is a bit of a hinderance, especially when I saw pinball on the DS using both screens. But otherwise, it allows for status screens plus play screens, or a myriad of other configurations.

I have only used this for about 1 week and the touch screen in holding up with no scratches and the Mac like shell is also scratch free. The setup screens were easy to handle, although everytime you change a setting, you have to power the device back on. Pretty annoying. Also the time is in 24 hour clock, so make sure to take that into factor when initially configuring the DS. All in all, the best way to put it is if this were stolen, I would buy another in a heartbeat. Great gaming system!

Worms: Open Warfare

I was a huge fan of the worms series back 5 years ago, but have yet to find a good version come out since Worms Armageddon. This one is no different. The display is blissfully back to 2d side scrolling instead of the recent 3d versions. But with the small screen and poor cross hairs it is nearly impossible to aim anything. But that isn't the only thing that makes this game feel unfinished and buggy, there is the menu system which you can't use the buttons or d-pad. Also the enemy worms think forever! The weapons are limited and the challenges are not terribly challenging. Don't waste your money.

Brain Age

Here is a game that is a lot of fun. But take that with a grain of salt. I really enjoy math and tests and puzzles which this game seems to include. The controls are easy however, sometimes the games doesn't recognize the numbers you write and the microphone really has trouble with the word blue. But with 100 games of sudoku and tons of tests and quizes this will bring many months of challenges and fun, and maybe a little brain exercises too.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

How to smoke pork ribs

First off, Michelle picked up some pork ribs from Safeway foods a couple days ago so that I could smoke them using my Brinkmann Charcoal Smoker which I have talked about previously. Again they came out fantastic with little work. In fact, the biggest amount of work involved was getting the darn thing started (never been great with charcoal). But once it was hot, and the meat was finished with it's dry rub, on it went for the next 3 1/2 hours with some thoroughly soaked mesquite chips.

grillday 010

  • Couple of full racks of ribs (pork)
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Black pepper
  • Salt (kosher or season)
  • Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 can of beer
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 bulb of garlic
  • Soaked Mesquite or Hickory wood

First start your wood chips soaking for at least 30 minutes, I tend to go with an 1 1/2 hours. While that is soaking, start up the charcoal at some point. No need to rush this as the chips are soaking and the meat is still refrigerated (or not, your choice). Next start powdering the ribs in the dry spices (salt, peppers, and garlic) and gentle push them into the meat (no need to rub as most of the time, you just rub them off). Next pour the 3 cups of water and the 1/2 can of beer into the water basin for the smoker. Crush the cloves of garlic with your hands and put into the water basin as well. Next put the meat on the racks, and the basin and racks in the smoker. Drink the rest of the beer (probably the rest of the 6 pack too) as this will now cook for 3-7 hours depending on how hot your grill gets going and how thick the ribs are. What you are waiting for really is a deep red color to the meat and that it is firm to the touch/press. Serve and enjoy with your favorite barbeque sauce.

Along with this dish I also served a creamy port asparagus. Take some washed fresh asparagus and cut in half. Heat up a skillet with some butter and olive oil in it. Next sautee the asparagus with a little salt, pepper, and garlic powder (fresh would be better). Once you are starting to get a little bit of brown on the asparagus (but it should still be firm) add about a shot of port to deglaze the pan. Once that is complete add half a cup of milk or creme and use some flour to thicken. Enjoy.

Tons of smiles

Thanks Dustin for the aspirin before idea. We were just taken a little bit by surprise when she did so well and then was angry later. So she is getting better, but I can definitely tell when she is tired, but refuses to go down. We now have two more roll-over events. So she is starting to realize how to get from her tummy to her back. But all the smiles and looking around really is a joy.

So, everything is going well.

So Michelle and I snapped off some more shots to load up.

miranda 0191

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Grillin' Crab

So Michelle went out and picked up some Alaskan King Crab for me to cook. Knowing this ahead of time, I did a quick search for crab and the grill and found that it only takes about 4-6 minutes a side and medium high heat. And I can say it turned out fabulous. I recommend you trying this sometime...

As for Miranda, she has been fussy every since the shot, not sure what is going on. Just trying to make it...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

2 months

Yesterday was the 2 month mark for Miranda and along with it came her 2 month checkup and shots. As I was not there for it, all this is coming second hand from Michelle. As for the basics, Miranda is now 21.5 inches and 10 lbs 13 oz. So we are up about 3.5 lbs and about 2 inches. Although she definitely feels like she has grown in "height" more than what the doc says, but that could be just because of her stretching out more and not curled in the fetal position. Her birthmark seems stable, so are just keeping an eye on it.

As for her shots, it sounds like the took them in stride (better than her old man). But any discomfort from the shots must have happened later on in the evening as she was just wailing. You could tell that where the shots were given was starting to swell up, so we gave a little bit of baby aspirin and just kept rocking her till she calmed down and now seems to be holding up just fine.

miranda close 029

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Three book reviews

A Feast for Crows

Just recently finished this book and found this to not be as good as the others in the series. The pacing of this Crows is much slower but still has a few high tension chapters. This book continues the stories of the ruling families of Westeros but the focus this time is primarily around Oldtowne, King's Landing, Braavos, and the Vale. We see a brief bit with Jon Snow but none of Dany or Tyrion, but then again, this book was much longer but cut into two books by the author.

Again Mr. Martin is able to continue to craft a story where everyone gets punished and shaped by the strife and conflict. Pain and punishment is a central theme throughout his books, but this leads to hope with certain characters and justice for others. The most attractive part of his works centers around the different characters and how they are going to fit into the whole picture. Mr. Martin is able to obscure his direction, yet leave little tantalizing clues. Is the Hound really dead? Who will be the three heads of the dragon? Who was Jon Snow's parents? All these things are finely woven into a beautifully crafted story that you hate to take the journey through because it is fraught with suffering, but cannot deny for the climax may be worth that trip.

Joel on Software

I finished Joel Spolsky's book on software practices. This book is a collection of blog entries from Joel's site that talk about various software "war stories" and various rants on software practices and processes. I don't think I would recommend this book to anyone looking for the answer to the problems involved with software design, project management or development. But I definitely would recommend this book to anyone working in the software industry. Joel presents various topics that are often brought up along the lines of design time, testing, agile methodologies, and politics and is able to distill them into many of the main issues and talk about them. The book really is able to help one think about the little things we do when we create. But above all else, the writing in this book is very engaging and is just a sheer joy to read.

The Art of Project Management

I recently finished "The Art of Project Management" by Scott Berkun. The book tries to create a basic set of guidelines for project management based on Scott's learnings from working at Microsoft creating boxed software. I feel this book does a good job in creating a broad overview of the principles and problems that will be faced over the entire cycle of creating product that can be sold (software, stereo equipment, cars, appliances, etc). However, it really does not cover one vital important topic which is handling problems after launch. But overall Scott is able to cover the rest of the roles of project management and it's responsibility to creating project and maintaining that focus.

The book's chapters are centered around a good set of chapters so that you can easily flip to the chapter that you currently are interested in or if you are reading through, will maintain an easy flow from one to the other. Each chapter has a summary, but I didn't find the summary particularly helpful. Felt is was more of a teaser for the chapter put at the end and that it didn't contain enough of the meat that really described the point. The book's writing is a little dry but is able to cover alot of topics thoroughly.

If you have gone through PMI certification or have a great deal of PM experience, this book is not for you. But it will give a good set of ideas about the role that is project management and setup a good ethical stake as to how it can be used effectively.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

7.5 weeks and smiles

Of course it isn't always smiles, but when they appear, they make anything worth it.

miranda smiles

When is overtime something you should do?

Typically I don't like mentioning work on my blog. I like to use this as a space to talk about life outside of work. Plus that way, I also don't have to watch my mouth about giving away trade secrets. Course, I don't talk about my pet projects either. So here I am, on a weekend, debating whether I should work this weekend to try and catch up on my timeline. Working weeks is a two edged sword, that more often than not, will lead to more problems later.

So here are some things that you should weigh when you are thinking about working a bit from home. First off, as I made I list, it really distilled down to one pro and one con. The main pro, is that you are going to stay closer to any deadlines and thereby impress friends and coworkers as well as reduce deadline stress. But the con is equally insidious as you are effectively reducing your work stamina. Sprints just lead to longer rest periods where your brain, no matter how many pep-talks you give it, refuses to be productive. For the most part, I think most of you all recognize this.

The one that I personally worry more about is your velocity. I am borrowing this term from eXtreme Programming (which I am sure found in one of the many volumes of project planning).
So let's say that you have created an estimate of 3 weeks to project completion. You get to the last week and put in a lot of effort to get it across the finish line. In the worst of cases, you have now created an expectation in the eyes of others, that this is how you operate. Even in the best case, you are going to forget that effort in your next planning round, and put out another inaccurate estimate.

Doesn't it seem weird that we never overestimate? I don't really believe this is because we are lazy about our work. I think that we are going to make better products with the time we have. We add in additional tests. We add in better error checks and handling. We add in new buggy features and fancy crap too. It seems to be the nature of the beast. Usually the best cases are the ones that are made from short iterative design steps. And those deadlines are the ones that carry weight. This in theory, reduces the impact of late timelines, but only if you don't plan the next iteration till the current is done. However planning dependencies is a good thing as these drive the completion of the current deadline.

Ok, I am starting to ramble, so that is a sign to stop. Maybe I will compile this into something more guideline, process oriented. Probably not though.