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September 2005 Archives

September 1, 2005

Katrina

The pictures showing up on the news about the range of destruction along the northern Gulf coast of the US are truly staggering. I can only imagine what those who have lost everything are feeling, and those who are still trapped in New Orleans. This really is comprable to the 2004 tsunami.

One has to wonder — will New Orleans end up being abondoned…? I won’t even try to touch the issues involved — they’re going to be highly complex. I’m sure those debates will rage for quite a while.

The outpouring of volunteers from all over this country is a testament to the human spirit. I cannot donate my time and stength, but I can donate my money. Hopefully, it will help at least in some small way. I encourage anyone who has the means to donate something to the relief effort to do so.

One thing that bugs me is that I had to pay $3.40 for a gallon of gas yesterday. I understand that there are going to be complex economic pressures resulting from the temporarily diminished importing and refining capabilities, but to go up just about a full dollar in one day strikes me as price gouging. Don’t the oil companies have enough money already? It seems like the sudden, dramatic increase in gas prices is only fueling the fire (pardon the pun) of panic and helplessness in the wake of this tragedy. At the very least, couldn’t they have either waited a few more days before increasing their prices, and/or executed a much more gradual increase, say, over the course of a week?

Grumble.

September 10, 2005

It's not a total loss; the phone still works

It’s amazingly difficult to find a corded (i.e., not cordless) 2 line phone for the home that doesn’t suck.

A few weeks ago, I got a second phone line at home (via Vonage), mainly for work-related stuff. Since then, I’ve been looking for a reasonable 2 line phone for my desk. I had only a few requirements:

  • Not cordless
  • Caller ID built in for both lines
  • Support caller ID for call waiting for both lines
  • A bunch of speed dial buttons (15 or so)

That wouldn’t seem too difficult to meet, right?

Wrong.

I tried several phones from the local brick-n-mortars (Best Buy, Staples, Office Depot) and I returned every single one of them. I could not believe a) how poor the selection was (there’s only a small number of corded 2-line phones) nor how badly they all worked. They were all major brand phones, too, not some small company making novelty phones. The phones were either remarkably sucky (seem examples below), or they were exorbitantly expensive and had way more features than I would ever need (I don’t need a phone waterproof to a depth of 50 meters [particualrly with the 6 foot phone cord it came with] for my desk).

Here’s some of the things that were broken:

  • One phone would continually “chirp” that the second line was ringing (when the second line was not, in fact, ringing).
  • If I was on line 2 and line 1 rang, one phone would hang up on line 2 and answer line 2 (without me pressing anything).
  • Caller ID worked about 50% of the time one one phone (it would get stuck in a screen displaying “Waiting for caller information…”). I know that this was the phone’s fault because I have a small standalone caller ID device that was already showing the information at the same time as the phone would get stuck (disconnecting the standalone caller ID device made no difference).

I ended up doing some of research online (yay Froogle) and found a bunch of phone sellers, but only a few that had non-PBX multi-line phones. Of these, I found what I think is the brand of phones that they use at Indiana University (which have always been reasonable). So I ordered an Aastra 2-line phone.

I received it the other day, and it seems to be working great. It’s sad that I’m excited that my phone is working — phones are supposed to be “just work” technology. But I do like some of the features it has that I haven’t had before — a voice mail light (similar to cell phones), and even the speed dial buttons allow you to program a name in that displays on the screen for both outbound and inbound calls (i.e., it doesn’t just show names that are programmed in the directory and/or caller-ID strings).

Some sidenotes about the whole process:

  • Vonage seems to be working out well. Most of the time you can’t tell that it’s “special” — the phone just works and the phone quality is just fine. Periodically, I get a call with lots of echo or it just sounds weird, but that’s definitely fairly unusual (and that periodically happens with POTS, too, although definitely less). The best way that I can think to describe Vonage is slightly “less” than POTS, but waaay better than a cell phone. I’m not ready to switch my POTS home phone to a much cheaper long distance service (and use Vonage for everything, because it’s unlimited), but I’m getting close.
  • My Vonage phone number is actually local to Bloomington, IN (where I work). So I have a single phone on my desk that answers (and makes) calls in two different area codes. Since Cowbell South (my POTS line) doesn’t allow you to dial a 10-digit phone number for local calls, this means that any Louisville phone numbers I have in my speed dial will only work on one line or other other (depending on whether I put “1-502” on them or not). Doh!

A bowl full of mush

Random quickies:

  • ClusterMonkey has been launched. We’re still working on more content (current effort is concentrated on converting all the old ClusterWorld magazine content), but we’re getting there. W00t!
  • ND won at football against Pitt last week. Who was that team? They looked really good! Today will be a tough game, too — Michigan. We’ll see what happens (Renzo has opinions, as does Freakazoid).
  • Kathryn likes putting things in other things.
  • Kaitlyn likes opening and closing doors.
  • Submitted bugs to both Automake and Subversion this week. Yay open source.
  • Open MPI is coming along swimmingly. We’re zeroing in on our first release (but man, shared memory collective operations are complicated!).
  • Next Friday is squyres.com’s 6th birthday
  • The new squyres.com server (marvin) is online, but isn’t serving up the domains yet (the guys are working on moving everything over from wopr)
  • The “s” key on my keyboard is slowly dying (sometimes a character does not come out when I hit the “s” key).

Home LAN: followup

Following up on this entry — it seems that my “hindsight” section was correct.

The simplest solution was just to put everything on the Dlink and setup double port forwarding. That is, I setup the Linksys to forward incoming port 22 to the IP address of the Dlink. Then I setup the Dlink to forward port 22 to the IP address of my linux box. This seems to work just fine (as it should) — I can ssh into my linux box from the outside world.

And now all my machines are back on one subnet, so I don’t have to deal with printing and file sharing woes.

September 15, 2005

Hi-Fi internet

Last week, when I was driving up to Bloomington, I noticed that the hotel referenced in this entry now has a new sign up. That is, in addition to their existing sign that says “Free Hi-Fi Internet”, they now have a new sign hung right next to it that says “Free Wi-Fi Internet.”

That’s just too funny.

So they know the original sign is wrong and got a new sign that is right. BUT they left the old sign hanging in all of its wrongful glory (and quite sun-faded, as a testament to how long it has been broadcasting their Wrongness to the passerbys on I-65). Absolutely Fantastic!

I didn’t have my camera with me to take a picture, and I didn’t go to Bloomington this week (and won’t go for another 2 weeks). I hope both are still hanging the next time I drive that way — I’ll take a picture and post it here for everyone’s amusement.

Quickie

(somehow this entry never got published — it’s from about a month ago… oops…)

I know that my Vonage number has now properly circulated through the IU phone directory system. Someone from the Indianapolis campus called me today asking if I could help her setup her web page (for some IU sub-organization). Someone had “given her my name,” apparently. Too funny; I wonder who that someone was. :-)

About September 2005

This page contains all entries posted to JeffJournal in September 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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