Sunday, June 29, 2008

Solar Guard Up and Running

Looks like we're generating some power here in San Carlos. Got the panels installed last week. Solar City has this very cool page where you can track your solar panels. They call it Solar Guard. Sweet.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

First 20 Panels

They delivered the first set of panels today. Will they go on the roof
tomorrow? Only SolarCity knows.

Solar panels

The install is about half way done.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Installing AT&T DSL without the Software

I got my new DSL router in the mail today. It comes with a CD that you supposedly need to get the service running. I've had bad experiences installing software from ISPs in the past so I decided to try to activate my service without the software.

At first I hoped that the software only worked on PCs and that there would be some non-software way to activate my service. No such luck. The CD had software for the Mac and the PC.

I then found this article that describes how to get going without the software. Essentially you just need to get to the right website and register for your account and then use that login and password to configure your modem.

To configure the modem you can simply connect it directly to your computer with the supplied ethernet cable and point your favorite browser to the IP address of the router.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Free WiFi at Starbucks

I'm making my first Starbucks stop since returning to the USA. While I was living in Asia, Starbucks switched their WiFi provider from T-Mobile to AT&T. T-Mobile was crazy expensive. The new deal with AT&T is pretty good. You just have to get a Starbucks card for as little as $5 and register online. You then get 2 hours of free WiFi access per day for the next 30 days. You don't pay for the access. You just have to put a minum of $5 on your card every 30 days. If you hang out at Starbucks, I can't imagine you would be spend less than $5 in 30 days.

After living in Vietnam, this seems very American to me. In Vietnam, the WiFi is just free. Sure, the speeds suck but the hassle is minimum. Most cafes don't make you register at all. (Highlands Coffee in Saigon Centre used to make you register, but they seem to have given this up.) Leave it to an American to make a complex system like this.

I am amazed that in my first 5 days back, I now have three AT&T accounts. One for my mobile phone, one for my home phone and DSL, and now one for my Starbucks WiFi.

I did notice that Starbucks seems to be running both AT&T and T-Mobile hotspots. At least all those suckers who signed up for the tres cher T-Mobile accounts can keep using them at Starbucks, for now.

Comcast Sucks (Still)

I was excited to try the new 16mbs service from Comcast. I patiently waited 4 hours for the installer to show. At the end of my service window I called Comcast to see what was happening. The rep told me that the installer was running over an hour late. I was furious. I had scheduled other meetings after my service window so I couldn't just sit around for another two hours. I asked if there was anything she could do. Maybe get someone out sooner? Maybe they could give me something to make me feel better for dissing me so. Nope, nothing. All she could do is reschedule. Unbelievable! I cancelled instead. Good riddence Comcast.

I called AT&T to get DSL service. The AT&T rep was amazingly polite. She was able to get me $150 in cash back incentives. This more than covers the $40 activation fee and $49 DSL modem. With AT&T there is no installer. They drop ship you a modem and you plug it into your phoneline.

Sure, I'll have to live with 3mbs service intead of 16mbs service. However, if my past experience with Comcast is any indication, the hours of waiting for them to install or repair my service doesn't make up for the difference in bandwidth.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Supernova 2008

Made it to the Supernova 2008 opening gala last night. Here you can see a snapshot of the Electric Sheep computer art installation at the party. This is the first time I've seen it in HD, very impressive. Had a chance to speak to Spot a bit about it. He says the next version is in beta and comping out soon for the Mac. If you haven't tried it, I highly recommend running it as your screen saver.

It was a bit of a CMU reunion. I also ran into Nick Thompson who has also done some interesting things with tessellations.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

TextMate Git Bundle

I finally got around to using git, the new hotness in source code control. I signed up for an account with github and installed the TextMate git bundle. It's great to be able to drive git through TextMate. No need to remember all those new git commands right off the bat, they are in the menu now.

I'm using git to locally commit changes to my code base, and occasionally I push the current branch to github so I have a remote copy just in case something bad happens to my local branch.

This is all just in time for my big plane ride tomorrow. I'll be able to actually do some development on the plane, while actively updating my git repository along the way. Nice.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Crazy World of Windows

Tonight I spent an hour or so trying to get my old XP laptop working with my Apple Airport Extreme base station. For some reason it would get stuck at acquiring network address and never connect to the WiFi base station.

It would work fine without the encryption, but I just don't roll that way. You won't catch me with my encryption down, especially with a Windows box on the network.

At any rate, it turns out that if you set your WPA2 password to have exactly 16 characters in it, then the XP box can connect. Note that the Apple computers and iPhones on my network have no trouble connecting with WPA2 passwords less than 16 characters long. This sounds crazy but it was easy enough to test, and sure enough, it works. So I now have a 16 character WPA2 password on my WiFi network. I suppose that's at least more secure than the shorter one I was using before. Maybe Windows really does encourage more security after all. :-)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Amazon MP3 Downloads Rock

My daughter just got a new Samsung phone and this morning we spent some time putting songs on it. A lot of the stuff she wanted I had in my iTunes library from CDs that I've ripped over the years. There were a couple of new songs that she wanted. iTunes had them but only in protected AAC format. It was then that I remembered the Amazon MP3 Download store. The selection is great, the price is right, and no DRM. I tried it a few months ago. The selection seemed pretty slim and the download manager for the Mac didn't work. Both of these problems seem to have been solved.

Besides the three songs she wanted, I ended up buying a few full albums. It turns out she wanted Barracuda from Heart. I ended up buying the entire Greatest Hits album. (I'm listening to Crazy on You right now. Wow, it takes me back). It took me a second to figure out why my daughter would want Barracuda. It's one of her favorite songs to play in Guitar Hero on the Wii. I remember listening to this when I was in grade school and staying over at my friend Michael McTall's house. I'm pretty sure he had the vinyl album but it might have been a cassette. Now she'll remember it from her year in Vietnam and playing it on the family Wii with her brother!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Linus Speaks on Git

I'm trying to use git these days for my development projects. I ran across it because I'm following the Shoes project from _why and he's moved to git.

I was a subversion fan most recently but I found it annoying that I can't check in code or do diffs when working in a disconnected mode. I try to check code in frequently since my code tends to veer off in wild tangents. It's nice to be able to easily scrap a tangent and go back to something that was working 15 minutes ago. For that to work, I need to check code in every 15 minutes or so. This is fine if you're working in an environment where you always have access to the source code repository. Unfortunately for me, I'm working in a world where I don't know if I will be able to access the Internet from moment to moment. You know, the joys of living in Vietnam. :-)

So with git it's possible to have a local version of the repository and then easily sync back up with another version somewhere else. Currently I have three repositories. One on a server in my San Carlos house, one on a machine hosted at Rackmounted, and another at github.

So for your viewing pleasure, here's a talk by Linus Torvalds on git.

[Note: I finally got around to watching the whole thing. It's pretty funny to see someone go to Google and call them stupid. Didn't realize Linus was so egotistical. Must have been a fun visit for everyone.]