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April 2006 Archives

April 2, 2006

Double secret decoder ring-wearing doctors!

So I’ve been at Cisco for 3 weeks now. Short summary: it’s been a whirlwind, but it’s been good. 3 weeks isn’t nearly enough time to know weather a new job is “good” or not, but I certainly have been enjoying the ride so far. Here’s some random points:

  • I now use VPN so that it looks like I’m right there on the Cisco San Jose campus (i.e., have “local” access to all the San Jose computing resources). This is good for many reasons, but it’s bad because the Cisco VPN client (on Windoze, at least) shuts me out of my home network — I can’t see my local printers here at home, or my desktop linux box physically sitting right next to me, for example. That’s a bummer.
  • I’m learning more about InfiniBand than I ever thought I would. In many ways, it’s similar to Myrinet (but different in at least a few key/important aspects). But the concepts are at least fairly similar.
  • I may have mentioned this in a prior journal entry, but the Cisco phones are pretty cool (I admit it: I’m a little bit of a phone geek). They’re all voice-over-IP (honestly, who cares what the back end technology is?) which allows them to have all kinds of cool built-in services. You can look up anyone or any room in the company directory, you can save/retrieve your speed dials on any phone, you can [temporarily] move your extension to another phone, etc. This is on top of all the normal features that one would expect from a corporate phone service: caller ID (which is nicely cross-referenced against the entire company directory), N-way conferencing, parking, voice mail, etc. Plus, since I don’t have a physical phone yet for my home, I can use a Windoze program that looks and acts almost just like the real phone (place / answer calls, do voicemail, etc.).
  • One feature that I love about the Cisco phones is that they have a powered headset jack. I’ve been using a Platronics headset for my phone for several years, but I’ve always had to have a separate power brick, and you had to take the handset off the cradle to make the headset work. No more. The Cisco phones have a jack that supplies power to the headset and treats it like a first-class citizen (i.e., I don’t have to have the handset off the cradle to use it). I’m lovin’ it!
  • I initially got a Louisville Cisco phone number. However, due to limitations in the current version of the Cisco voice-over-IP software, I can’t transfer this number out to my cube in San Jose when I’m there (different VOIP server in San Jose vs. the midwest), which makes it significantly less useful to me. So I have to get a new San Jose phone number. Still waiting on that to happen.
  • I got a Treo 650 for a cell phone for work (read: Palm-powered, not Windoze-CE powered, thank God!). I haven’t received the secret sauce yet to connect it to my MS Exchange e-mail/groupware yet (I think that comes next week), but the phone itself is pretty cool.
  • When I requisitioned the phone, I asked for a Louisville, KY phone number. I got the phone on Friday and was surprised to find that I needed to dial a “1” to call the Treo from my home phone. So I called Verizon to ask what the deal was. Turns out that that I got a Frankfort, KY phone number (the state capitol, about an hour East of Louieville). The nice Verizon lady had to poke around a bit to get me a new phone number — apparently Verizon is running out of numbers in Louisville.
  • So, doing the math, once I get my new San Jose phone number, I’ll have had 4 Cisco phone numbers. This amuses me. ☺
  • As you might deduce from the above comments, I have a Windoze laptop. So sad. I miss my Mac powerbook. It hasn’t been too bad, I guess — but doing any interaction with Unix is fairly painful (the terminal emulation on the Windows SSH clients is horrible ☹). Cygwin, for some reason, runs like an absolute dog on my machine. I haven’t been able to figure out why (haven’t looked too hard yet).
  • My manager told me that he’d get me a Mac if I can find out how to get one through the corporate channels at Cisco (he wasn’t able to figure it out before I got hired). I’ve done some digging and found that there is a Mac subculture at Cisco. Most all of the corporate apps work just fine on Macs (e.g., use Entourage instead of Outlook), but there are two notable current problems:
    • Cisco’s intranet utilizes a proprietary extension to wireless protocols that is not natively supported by the built-in airport. Hence, to use wireless at Cisco, you have to use a Cisco PCMCIA wireless card.
    • There’s something wrong with wired VOIP traffic handling on MacBooks — it somehow stalls the TCP stack in OSX badly (sluggish performance, although wireless performance is fine). (technically, it’s not just VOIP traffic that is the problem — SNMP and other kinds of traffic can cause the problem as well — but I forget the term they used to describe the traffic)
  • I might wait until at least the wired problem is fixed before I jump back into Mac land.

Munchkin update

The munchkins are getting bigger and more expensive every day.

They’re eating with spoons these days (feeding themselves nearly everything — yay!). They’re talking quite a bit (except, of course, when other people are around — so it’s quite hard to prove). They repeat everything even if they don’t know what it means. That being said, they love to point at things and say [what they think] is the right word for it. The vocabulary is growing (several dozen words; more being added each day).

They haven’t gotten all their sounds right yet, so some words are quite amusing. “Strawberry” sounds nothing like “straw” or “berry”. They can’t quite say the “L” sound yet, so when we walked by a big clock in the Kroger supermarket the other day and Kaitlyn started yelling [her version of] “Clock! Clock! Clock!”, it got quite a few stares. Daddy had to slink away from the unfortunate scene, which is hard to do when you are pushing a massive a racing-car shopping cart that contains the instigator of the unfortunate scene (you should have seen the looks of horror on the faces of the Girl Scouts [and their mothers] selling cookies at the entrace of Kroger. Haunting).

The munchkins are running everywhere. There used to be “normal speed” and “oh, I want that now” speed, which was just slightly faster than normal speed. But now there is definitely running speed (which leads to more spectacular wipeouts, I might add). They’re also spinning in place a bunch (which, for the audience, simply leads to variations on spectacular wipeouts).

Kathryn has not been sleeping well lately — she keeps waking up in the middle of the night. We’re not entirely sure where this behavior came from. None of us are getting much sleep as a result.

Bethany has been taking them out quite a bit recently; she’s started bundling them up in the car and taking little trips (in addition to walking around the neighborhood). They go to the library, the mall (to see the piano-playing lady), parks, etc. They’ve been having a great time.

So for the most part, we’re working on sleeping and “L” sounds.

Outlook 2003 rants

There are good and bad things about Outlook. To be fair, let’s start with the good things:

  • 2003 is far better than 2000. You can clearly see that MS listened to its corporate customers and made changes to Exchange/Outlook integration to make it scale much better. There’s far less chatter between Outlook and Exchange (e.g., it downloads the entire GAL — if you want — once a day), and therefore it looks / feels / acts quite a bit faster.
  • There’s an explicit, easy-to-reach (not 3-4 clicks deep in submenus) controls for switching between online and offline states.
  • Outlook Web Access is not even in the same class as OWA 2000 (OWA 2000 = horrid, horrid horrid). OWA 2003 looks and feels much like Outlook itself. It was AJAX [long] before AJAX was cool (granted, it’s ActiveX, not Javascript, but the ideas and concepts are the same). Gotta hand it to MS on this one — OWA 2003 rocks as a web app.
  • Various little cleanups and modernisms, too numerous to mention (vs. Outlook/Exchange 2000).
  • “Search” folders to automatically display the results of a search (simple or complex). Yes, I know everyone has these these days, but Microsoft was actually on the leading wave of this one.
  • Directly related to search folders, the search capabilities are far better than OSX Mail, I have to admit (and yes, you can search multiple folders). You can do trivial searches (the default for OSX Mail), or you can select another tab and get arbitrarily complex in your search.
  • The groupware capabilities rock, especially when your entire company uses them heavily. Schedule, people, rooms, etc. You can look up the phone number of the phone in a conference room, for example. That’s surprisingly handy.
  • Someone wrote a plugin for the calendaring functionality that allows me to automatically reserve a teleconference phone bridge for an Outlook meeting (and it automatically sends around all the information to the participants about the dialin phone numbers, access code, etc.). I don’t know if it was Cisco or some 3rd party who wrote it, but that’s awesome.

But the list of things which are Bad is still fairly lengthy:

  • Integration with other mailboxes is better than 2000 (where it was not possible to mix POP/IMAP and Exchange), but still less than optimal. For example, IMAP’ing to another mailbox will still not result in a combined INBOX (or even a virtual “inbox”, similar to a search folder).
  • IMAP support is still somewhat kludgey. I have my IMAP mailbox set to automatically be included in send/receive e-mail, but it still doesn’t seem like Outlook updates it until I actually go to an IMAP folder (i.e., new messages are not displayed/downloaded until I go there).
  • Searching for names in the addressbook is klunky at best. There’s no searching for partial names; you have to start with the first name. Am I “Jeff” or “Jeffrey”? “Mike” or “Michael”? “Anju” or “Prabanjan”? It looks like they haven’t updated this searching capability since 2000.
  • When you display a 7-day week in the calendaring section, it shows up in two places: it hilights Sunday-Saturday on the mini-calendar view, but it shows Monday-Sunday in the detail view. Why are they different? It’s quite confusing when you’re trying to put events on Sundays.
  • Treatment of timezones is [still] abysmal. Example: I create an “all day event” in Eastern time. I travel to San Jose, and change my computer’s time zone to Pacific. I look at that all day event in Outlook and it now spans 2 days — 3am on the day of the event to 3am of the day after. Technically, I know that’s right — it’s being faithful to when the actual event occurs. But for “Johnney’s Birthday”, I just want it to show up on “April 17th”, not 3am-3am on April 17-18.
  • It is abysmially hard to reply in-line to someone’s e-mail. Outlook pretty much forces you to reply to a mail at the top, which is why you end up with e-mail threads where each individual message is 3 miles long (i.e., the entire thread is contained in each mail).
  • I set my Outlook to always send plain text mail. However, sometimes it still sends HTML or Rich Text mail (I don’t know/care which — it’s not plain text). I don’t know why it sometimes chooses to reply in HTML or RTF; it’s quite annoying.
  • Email address auto-completion is horrible. It does not auto-complete even from names in my own contact list all the time (I set my contact list to be the first data source it searches). It seems like there’s some kind of timeout — when you send to recipient X, it’ll stay in the auto-complete cache for some time period and then disappear. That’s annoying. Just because I haven’t sent to X in a week (for example) doesn’t mean I want to type his entire name every time I want to send a mail. This is such a small thing to fix, but yet something I have to deal with many times a day, so it’s big sore point.
  • Although Outlook mail added a “conversation view” (which is essentially a threaded index view), it still stubbornly refuses to add the “In-reply-to” header line in outgoing mails, which makes it quite difficult for most other mail clients to thread properly.
  • Outlook mail’s conversation view is pretty poor on threading. It groups mails together nicely, but it only threads my replies (i.e., indents them even further to show who replied to whom).
  • Outlook mail’s conversation view has an extra line in the index for the subject of the thread. It has a wierd dichotomy of sometimes you can select that extra line, and sometimes you can’t. It’s annoying when you’re trying to use keyboard shortcuts instead of the mouse because I haven’t figured out the precise situations when it is selectable and when it is not (i.e., this affects multi-selecting of mails when you want to perform an action on a group of mails).
  • There’s built-in junk mail handling, but it is pretty weird. It’s not clear what you’re supposed to do if a spam ends up in your inbox (as opposed to the Junk folder). If you right click on it, there’s a greyed-out option to reclassify it as NOT spam (i.e., exactly the opposite of what I want). Reclassifying erroneously marked spam as non-spam is easy — but I want to know how to tell Outlook that a piece of mail is spam. Does dragging it to the Junk folder do it? [shrug]

Are there settings where I can change some of these behaviors? Quite possibly. But I have poked around (not exhaustively, but I have spent some time on it) and not found them. Arrgh.

April 11, 2006

Donald Faultenroy Duck

Travel has consumed quite a bit of time recently, and I haven’t journaled in a while. Here’s an overview of what I’ve been doing for the last few weeks:

  • Spent time working with world leaders on the ambitious World Peace Plan. We’re close to resolution; we should have this problem solved within the next 2-3 weeks.
  • Did a bunch of research into the common cold and finally found the answer. We’re working on the legal paperwork to get this released into the public domain without any patents.
  • Negotiated with all the major news agencies to actually have them start reporting the news, not just subjects that grab attention, create fear, or provide [bad] entertainment.
  • Microsoft, Apple, and all the popular Linux distributions have agreed to an immediate feature freeze and to focus on fixing all existing bugs (vs. adding features that we don’t need).
  • Privided critical information for breakthroughs in the efficiency for solar, wind, and wave/thermal power. Cheap, virtually unlimited, clean power will shortly be available to the masses.
  • As a side effect, we discovered how to make incredibly hard, extremely form-able surfaces (such as buildings, roads, vehicles) without any oil. Molecular bonding — it’s the way to go. Should have units ready for production within 6-9 months.

So it’s been a busy few weeks. Forgive my lack of journal entries.

April 23, 2006

A bitter ray of sunshine

Travel has consumed quite a bit of time recently, and I haven’t journaled in a while. Here’s an overview of what I’ve been doing for the last few weeks:

  • We releasesd OMPI v1.0.2.
  • We branched for OMPI v1.1.
  • Grammy and Grandpa were here in Louisville; they got to see the munchkinds and did lots of house work (many thanks!).
  • I took a trip to LANL for various insundry OMPI things.
  • Since I’m doing a bunch of travel, I have invested in a good pair of headphones. By “good”, I mean ones that block out background noise. I didn’t opt for the Bose noice-cancelling headphones — they seemed like they cost a lot of money for only reducing white noise (not overall noise). Instead, I got Shure headphones that are basically like speakers embedded in ear plots. That is, they block out all external noise. So you can even wear them without having any electronic music source, and things are just much… quieter. Additionally, if you actually use them as headphones, since so much background noise is blocked out, you can have the volume set at a much lower level and still hear everything just fine.
  • On my LANL trip, I forgot my XM radio. Yoinks. That’s a long drive from ABQ to LA with horrid southwest radio stations in between (when you can get them).
  • I also forgot my current Netflix movie. Yoinks.
  • I got to see Kevin and Erin B., which was way cool.
  • I took a trip to SJ, but this entry is so darn old, I don’t remember what the heck I did when I was there.
  • While I was there, I saw D&D K, which was also very cool. I’ve never seen a dog on mood stabilizers before. But without them, he’s Mr. Spazzoid!
  • Had a blast from the past with a high school friend (John T) visit. He only stopped by for a few hours on his way driving home from Somewhere Damn South back to Philadelphia; he had dinner and drinks with us before returning to his hotel. It was great to see him and reminisce (sp?) about the Glory Days.
  • Best line from the “Thunder Over Louisville” fireworks soundtrack (which was all country music this year): “Slap your gramma.” No, I’m not kidding.
  • The hands-free device for my cell phone died very suddenly. I got a replacement from Best Buy (one that had a little auto-rewinder device for the cord), but it was a total POS. So I just started using the hands-free device that came with my Treo.
  • Per usual, when I travel, lots of problems at Epiphany. E-mail problems mostly, but McAfee virus scanning problems as well. Sigh.
  • We are moving my church to 1&1 mail hosting with Exchange / Outlook 2003 for a variety of reasons:
    • 24/7 support (vs. calling me)
    • Much much better spam protection
    • Exchange groupware functionality (shared calendars, etc.)
  • My DirectTV box got fried — twice! (once while I was in SJ, once afterwards). We had to buy a new DTV box since we didn’t get the service package and we got the original one sooo long ago. Bonk. We got the second replacement free, but it was still a bummer. I think my Tivo doesn’t talk to it 100% completely correct; there’s a bunch of functionality availabile on it until the first time the Tivo sends it a command (e.g., change the channel). Then all that functionality goes away, to be replaced with blank menus (i.e., like the menus are not coming up correctly). Oh well. We don’t use any of the functionality on the DTV box itself anyway; all of our interaction goes through Tivo.

About April 2006

This page contains all entries posted to JeffJournal in April 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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