Friday, July 29, 2005

New assignment, new apartment, new computer, new TV

A lot's been going on in my life. I got assigned to a new client recently for work. Last week I went through an interview for this new project and was asked to come on board! After some bench time, it was a welcomed change to get back into the routine of work. It involves me traveling to and from Salt Lake City weekly which (so far) isn't as bad as it sounds. This is my first week out here. That's about all that I can say. Oh…there appear to be oodles of great-looking twenty-something females in this city. It's like I'm in bizarro land.

Last weekend I signed a lease for a new apartment. It's in Lincoln Park, on the corner of Lincoln and Belden (Belden is one block south of Fullerton). I'm pretty jazzed about it. The location is perfect (less than a half mile to the Fullerton El stop (Red, Brown and Purple stop there), a little over a half mile to Lincoln Park Zoo, and steps away from nightlife, restaurants and tons of entertainment). It's a one bedroom, one bath, has a nice kitchen and it has five big east-facing windows, three of which are in a bay configuration. The only thing that's odd is that it's carpeted. (In Chicago nearly everything is hardwood.) Oh well. The positives greatly outweigh that oddity. The lease starts 8/1 (but that's a Monday and I'll be in Utah).

On Monday all of the parts for my new HTPC arrived. I'll post more on that later as I build it. I didn't have time to mess with it since I had an early morning flight on Tuesday (though I did open every box and look at every piece). It's just sitting there at home, taunting me from a thousand miles away.

In related news, Windows Vista Beta 1 has been released, including an x64 binary. I might have to add a second partition on my HTPC for playing with it!

Last weekend I also placed an order for a new TV. It's a sexy, thin, 37-inch LCD flat panel by Philips. It's supposed to come in today or tomorrow for pickup at Best Buy. Now I get to move in to the new place and get all these fun electronics set up. It's pretty exciting!

GPRS is cool

I have an unlimited data plan with T-Mobile. I've installed the modem driver so that I can use my Audiovox SMT5600 phone as a modem. If you create a dialup connection to *99# the phone connects directly to GPRS and streams that Internet connection to your computer. How cool is that? It supports a max connection speed of 230 Kpbs, although at my current location it's no better than modem speeds. a pinch, it gets me online. Cool!

Monday, July 18, 2005


I spent last week in Seattle for a training program that Avanade sends all new hires to called QuickStart. The week was a ton of fun! I met some really great people from all over the world, including the UK, Germany, Spain and Canada. Plus people from all over the US.

View my pictures from the week!

I flew in Sunday morning so that I'd have time to do some sightseeing. I wandered around and found some random cafe for lunch and had a falafel sandwich. Then I went on the Underground Tour. Seattle was built on a flood plain, so twice a day when the tide came in there were serious sewage issues (if you flushed while the tide was in, the toilets flushed up). They backfilled the entire area, making the old first stories of the building underground. What you see now as the first story is actually the original second story.

After that I wandered around Pike Place Market and took in the sights, including the Original Starbucks (the logo is a bit more revealing there). I bought some fresh fruit and watched the dudes throw fish around.

Class began on Monday. The focus of the training is on how to be a good consultant: meeting skills, questioning skills, assessing risk, stuff like that. That evening I had dinner at Marco's Supperclub and had an amazing tuna dish.

Tuesday after class we had a team building event at Blue Ribbon Cooking School. Beer and wine provided while you cook under the guidance of professional chefs. This was a great time! Afterwards a few of us went to a pool hall and kept the night going.

After class Wednesday, about a dozen of us went to the international district (the PC way of saying Chinatown) for dinner. Followed by bubble tea and a round of beers (African Amber) back at the Edgewater Hotel (where Avanade put us up for the week).

Thursday was our last day of class. Afterwards thirteen of us went out for sushi. Talk about a great mix of cultures! Japanese food and people from all over Europe and North America. Some beer, some sakegood times! Then we went to the Seattle Mariners baseball game. What's more American than baseball? Of the thirteen of us, only three were American. When the international folks started asking me about the rules (How many tries does he get? What are those lines for? So a foul ball is only a strike sometimes? Don't those people die from boredom standing there waiting for a ball to get hit?), I realized how convoluted baseball is. It's such a simple premise with a huge pile of rules.

After the game we went to a bar called Cowgirls Inc. You know the movie Coyote Ugly? It's like that. Bartenders dancing on the bar. Drinks and dancing made for a good time.

The week was great! I'm glad I got to know so many fun people, and I'm feeling inspired to be part of this organization.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Coming soon: HTPC

I'm getting excited. I'm going to build a Windows Media Center Edition box and buy a 37" LCD flat panel display. I would make the purchase right now were it not for the fact that I'll be out of town next week.

System highlights (as it's currently spec'd out): AMD x64 3200+ Venice, GeForce 6600-based video card (fanless), ABit AX8 motherboard (fanless), Silverstone LC-10M HTPC case, Silverstone NT01v2.0 fanless heat pipe CPU heat sink (looks really cool), Silverstone 30NF fanless power supply, DViCO FusionHDTV 5 tuner (supports ATSC and NTSC in a single card), and a Westinghouse LVM-37w1 display (37" LCD flat panel, 1920x1080 native resolution; I looked at one in person at Best Buy and was impressed!).

Since the computer is going to be a home theater component, I decided to make it as quiet as possible. You know how loud all those fans can be. Imagine watching a movie with a quiet dialog...but all you hear is a bunch of fans that sound like an airplane taking off. The only fans are in the case. Hopefully I'll be able to minimize the usage of those. Oh, man, I'm so excited!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


I was reading a blog from a guy on the Monad team and saw this snippet. Monad (or MSH) is the next command-line from Microsoft. It's a dynamic scripting language. It reminds me of some sort of mix of Bash, PHP, Perl and .NET. I just had my ah-ha moment:

foreach ($f in $feeds) { 


    # read the content from $feeduri as XML 

    $wc = new-object System.Net.WebClient 
    $s = $wc.OpenRead($feeduri) 
    $sr = new-object System.IO.StreamReader($s) 
    $rssdata = [xml]$sr.ReadToEnd() 

    # display title 
    write-host $

    # display title and date of each item 

    $ | 
        foreach-object { 
            write-host "-" $_.title 
            write-host "     " $_.pubDate 


Look at how Monad allows you to use .NET objects. Also note the implicit xml support; you can navigate the DOM as if it were an object ($ Very cool.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

New bookmarklet

The following bookmarklet, when clicked, will prompt you to enter a tag query. Enter something like "blog+friend" to be taken to the view of those tags. This is faster than going to your page, waiting for it to load, clicking in the address bar and then typing the tags.

javascript:location.href=''+prompt(' tag query', '');

Funny Situation

The doorbell rang; Paul answered.

A kid selling something asked Paul if his parents were home.

"No," Paul said, "my parents aren't home." The kid left.

Paul's 28 and he owns the house.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Chicago Reader plus Google Maps

I'm joining the club of coolpeople who hack Google Maps.

Late last night (like from 1 to 4, I don't know why) and this afternoon I hacked together a merging of Google Maps and Chicago Reader rental classifieds. I give you the result (it takes a while to load).

I like a lot, but Chicago Reader (so I've been told) is one of the best ways to find a place to live in Chicago. Craigslist is so-so. Compare the results on the two maps and you'll see that it's true.

Step one: Perform a search and copy-and-paste the resulting URL into my code. You're looking at 1 bedrooms in 60613, 60614 and 60657, priced between $600 and $1000.

There are two ways to find the location of a property. If the classified ad has a map link, I don't need to find the address. I can follow the link; it redirects me to a new URL that has the GPS coordinates in the query string.

Method two involves me parsing: "Street1 and Street2" or "#### (Direction) StreetName". It's not perfect, but it's pretty good. I can then ask Google to attempt find the coordinates from the address I harvested. In total, I can find the coordinates of about 80% of the ads.

After that, I generate some javascript (ads.js) that defines the coordinates and descriptions in a giant array. I can manually upload that to my hosting provider, and index.html references it. Tada!

If anyone's interested in the source (C#), drop me a line.

Kudos to Google Maps on such an excellent and interoperable product.