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Little Vietnam Bounty

Little Vietnam Bounty

I dropped off the Netflix and Gamefly at the post office and took a turn towards Tien Hung. Noodles, Pocky, panang curry, and soy milk. Don't front, I know you're jealous.

Black Friday at Millenia

Black Friday at Millenia

When I found out the Apple Store was pushing the Wireless Mighty Mouse for $11 off (and no shipping when you come in and pick it up, natch), I couldn't resist. Especially given that my 2-year-old Wireless (non-Mighty) Mouse is showing its age. I'm glad I did it. I can right-click and scroll now. Getting into the mall wasn't half as tough as getting back out, but I managed.

Wii Night (Saturday, November 18)

I've almost made it. Not giddy though, just tired of waiting.

wii3

wii3

Later, I think it was around 10 or 10:30pm, they finally gave out tickets. These tickets gave us the right to wait awhile longer and attempt to purchase a Wii. They only gave out about 31 tickets. About 15-20 other brave souls waited at the back of the line without tickets, hoping one of our cards would decline. None did. Poor guys!

That's Dan proudly showing off his #29 and arousing tongue.

wii2

wii2

After I drank the champagne, I had to give some of it back to Wal-Mart. This wisdom was on the bathroom wall.

November

I'm sorta liking these wordy self-centered updates taking place monthly.

To begin with, my fitness program is still going great. It is a very simple formula: EFX for 30 minutes everyday (or in practice, most days), weight lifting every other day (just a few sets of 12 lifts). The diet is reasonable and not very indulgent (still a lot of salad, still no soda, but I still eat dessert), with an emphasis on protein on the days I don't lift. This is trimming fat and building muscle mass, but at a relatively slow pace that would be far exceeded by some of the more complex systems I've read about, but ain't gonna try. Frankly I'm happy with this pace. I have lines I never knew I had, and I bench 200, which is at least a good bit more than I weigh now, and I stay over 120 paces/minute on the EFX. So yeah, there's definitely results and people are starting to notice, but I'd say I'm only maybe halfway to my goal. The bottom line is that, between this regimen and quitting smoking, I believe my overall health, if somehow quantified, has at least doubled. The weight loss is purely secondary by comparison.

I've also managed to pay off the enormous debt incurred for dentistry, orthodontistry, and taxes, from 2005 and 2006. This crushing burden, over $30K worth at its worst, downgraded my credit scores and threatened my financial future. Now it is all over, because I worked hard, and paid it off. I can't put in words how terrible it is to wake up with such a thing over your head every day, or how joyful it is to be rid of it. The only remaining decision to make is, exactly how rude to be when drafting my letters to close the various lines of credit. I regret that I will be unable to be neutral on this matter, and FIA Card Services in particular, who lost faith in me and attempted to jack my interest rates up, will most likely be implicated in a serious family matter with their mothers.

And how bout them politics anyway? I think if you look back to 2004, you'll find me saying something along the lines of the Administration finally having enough rope to hang themselves. Since then, the Iraq situation has worsened tremendously, and the Administration has been abandoned, first by Evangelicals, then by Republicans, and finally by Neoconservatives, all of whom found a convenient scapegoat in the lame-duck president. Unfortunately for the GOP, the American public's memory isn't quite as short as they'd like to think, and not only is their legislative majority in question, but they're working overtime to draft legislation to protect themselves from prosecution for their nefarious and illegal deeds. Good luck guys, you're going to need it. I have given up publicly howling for the GOP's empire to end, in part because I realize they've screwed themselves, and so does the entire country. Unfortunately, we progressives and true conservatives have to try and do a better job at what Bush and his gang totally screwed up: The endgame. Once the GOP and their idiot-in-chief are removed from power, and carpetbagger Democrats show up to fill the vacuum, we can only hope to keep them on a tight enough leash to be fiscally responsible and keep their hands off of our firearms. At least that's easier than winning the current situation in Iraq.

So, I'm in great shape, don't owe anyone, and politics are going my way. But I'm not even remotely finished with everything I have to do. If anything, all I've done is lay the groundwork. What about Mumbai? Dubai? Berlin? Am I ever going to experience the life-changing thrill of world travel? What about my new home with countryside acreage? Should I invest in some of my friends' small companies? Maybe finish learning to fly small airplanes? Cut back on work and finally get a college degree like most smart people? At least some of these challenges are likely to be answered soon. After all, even those incestuous folks at FIA will tell you, Christopher always keeps a promise, regardless of your own faith. You can take it to the bank.

-Chris

Grace's RAZR V3m

Grace's RAZR V3m

Buzzzzz

Buzzzzz

#3 clippers everywhere. Stylist insisted on some additional trimming to keep me from looking like a total puff ball. I must remind the reader that I still work at home, and no work or bets put me up to this. So here it is, folks, cshepherd modeling The Disney Look. Remember, my Establishment Membership Card arrives in June.

October

The News:

This is October! Guavaween looms on the horizon, and although I've missed the past two, there are indications that I may be attending this one. Sadly I also missed the Diwali celebrations on this past weekend. The S2000 has been in the shop 4 weeks as of today and should be out any day between today and Friday (for the curious, it is getting a new 5/6 synchro sleeve in the manual transmission, as well as new convertible top latches and a driver's side window regulator, at a cost roughly on par with a new central air conditioning system, ug). The EFX 544 arrived last Tuesday. I've faithfully done 30 minutes of EFX, plus a few sets of almost-free-weights on Beel's Soloflex up in the loft, every single morning, as the physical-fitness routine ramps up and begins to yield small results. Consumer debt has been reduced to levels not seen since mid-2005 before my dental adventures began (speaking of which, I'm already more than halfway through orthodontic treatment). Dancin days aren't exactly here again, but we're close enough to hear the music, thanks to the toughest year I can recall. I harp on it a lot, but only because it is so true: This year tested everything I am, and I learned so much from it that I know things are going to be just fine from now on.

The Gadget:

I didn't want to write yet another self-congratulatory entry without something redeeming, so here it is: I paid a Craigslister $50 for an unlocked (originally from Broadvoice) UTStarcom F1000 Wi-Fi VOIP telephone. It it an amazing little device. It is the size of an average cell phone, and works flawlessly for making and receiving VOIP calls (me, I have an Asterisk machine in Virginia Equinix, that is provisioned via IAX2 from terravon.com, giving me a toll-free direct-dial number as well as 1.6 cents per minute to the US48, with per-second billing accuracy. What this all means is that it's dirt cheap and $20 will last you a couple months, even if you're relatively popular). Its OS is built on VxWorks, it has an HTTP administration interface, and you can telnet into it (although the much-publicized defaults from a few firmware revs ago, do not work).

Also a hint to people wishing to hack the F1000: It has an ARM processor, and the .bin.z firmware updates can be uncompressed with the standard zlib inflate() call, google for zpipe.c if you're too lazy to write an inflate() program yourself. The resulting file has all sorts of interesting things in it.

Oh yes, there will be more news soon.

-Chris

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

September Update

I have to confess, the better my content gets, the less I like these personally-oriented updates. But it does bear noting that this remains, my damn blog, and these little things are going to keep happening, although hopefully sandwiched between increasing amounts of more-interesting stuff. Remember, these rants used to be the only thing I published (ugh, there's Livejournal for that! except I don't post enough goth lyrics to have a Livejournal) ...

Anyhow, the first thing I want to talk about is personal fitness. Some time ago (as of this writing it was many weeks ago, how time passes), I stopped drinking soda (again! some of you may know that I did not drink soda from about 2000 to 2003), began eating salad almost exclusively, and started daily workouts as well as herbal energy supplements (the dietary fallacy of which I am aware, but for now I think they're okay). The results, as one would expect with so sudden and radical a change, were immediate. I'm already 10 pounds lighter, and feeling a lot more energetic, and pulling off some of my life's greatest work during the week.

But it isn't like me to find a point and get comfortable with it ("Complacency is Failure!"), so I looked for ways to press forward. Luckily, there are some. The loft is busy being transformed into a home gym, complete with crowning glory, Precor EFX 544 elliptical cross-training machine being shipped all the way from a remanufacturer in Oklahoma. Also planned are punching bags and mats. Meanwhile yesterday, I took Grace to Target, and we grabbed two gloves and a ball, and played a spirited game of catch that the staff did not seem to take any notice of. We bought the gloves and ball, and since then, we've been absolutely unable to stop playing catch. Yesterday I even stopped working several times, to go out and play more catch. What is it about that simple damn game that's so much fun?

Anyway, my personal fitness regime is in full swing and will only intensify in the coming weeks. Its focus remains primarily cardio fitness, although I'm not going to rule out weight training just yet, but it's really too early to consider that. I have to be honest, I'm excited at the prospect of turning 30 in June of next year with straight teeth and a healthy body. Frankly it isn't going to take until June though. The most dramatic results will happen by Christmas. This is such a quick and easy thing if you just keep working at it.

I'm still doing other things you might expect from me, collecting Gamecube and DS games, learning to double-clutch and heel-toe-downshift the S2000, greatly broadening my musical horizons thanks to Usenet and Unison, seeing all the new movies on Netflix and In-Demand, and trying to figure out where I'm going to parasail next. This website, you may have noticed, benefitted greatly from a recent redesign and strategic re-assessment, the sort of re-assessment I'm struggling to apply to nearly everything these days.

I just don't know what to think of 2006. Is it the inbetween-year that I spent repaying debt from massive dentistry, the IRS, 3 cars, a new air conditioner, and other pitfalls? Not really, that part's almost finished. Is it the year my career made its greatest strides ever? I guess, it's easy to see it that way too. I want to see it as the year I tried harder, not out of greed or machismo, but simply out of curiosity.

-Chris

STS-115: Atlantis Takes Off

STS-115: Atlantis Takes Off

Transition

For years now, belgo.org and my other personal domains have been hosted on colocated computers, which I personally administered to provide DNS, mail, and HTTP service. That time is now at an end.

Free, fast, geographically-distributed DNS is available through the likes of pmsdns and everydns, and that's something I'm unwilling to match with personal resources, so I'm using that. Furthermore, the burden of being a system administrator in my spare time for the sake of mail and HTTP, is simply too much to bear when I work as much as I do. For a very small price, netwisp, operated by a longtime acquaintance of mine, offers hundreds of megabytes of storage (and large files can go on Amazon S3 if I need more space and bandwidth). My cost goes down from most of $1000 a year, to under $100 a year, and the service level actually increases, while I get to spend more time concentrating on next Best Thing. Everyone wins. In fact, you wouldn't even notice this change if I didn't blab about it.

Another result of this is that I'm finally decomissioning linux-florida.com. For three years now, I've encouraged people to email me at ieee.org. Soon, linux-florida.com email will be shut off, again, to reduce the layers of complexity that I have to deal with. My current contact address will always be published on the 'about chris' page.

-Chris


Key Largo 2006, Part Three: Parasailing Sky-Cam

Key Largo 2006, Part Three: Parasailing Sky-Cam

Best self-portrait evar!@

Backup and Restore to Amazon S3, with PHP

Hello, and I hope this is the bombshell for you, that it is for me.

After learning about Amazon's S3 Service, which allows you to store data for 15 cents per gigabyte per month (compare this with the cost of a loaded 3TB ReadyNAS NV, which I was considering buying, and it certainly competes), or even transfer and/or serve it for about $63/gigabit/month, my mind was literally swimming with possibilities. I was ready to write the Next Killer App, to allow one of my clients to backup and restore their data with S3, when I noticed a real scarcity of PHP S3 support.

Geoff Gaudreault's PHP S3 class seems to be the most popular starting point for communicating with S3 using their REST API, so I started there, and created PHP classes to backup and restore data, that I'm going to share with you.

The Classes

S3_Backup will recursively backup an entire directory tree to an S3 bucket, while saving permissions, ownership, and modification times in the S3 metadata fields.

S3_Restore will restore a backup made with S3_Backup. 

S3_Prune will recursively prune data stored in an S3 bucket.

Note that although S3_Backup supports them, S3_Restore does not support block/char special devices, FIFOs, or sockets, and that is because PHP4 lacks a mknod() as far as I can see, although there's no reason you can't shell_exec a commandline 'mknod' if you're really hankering for it. I just didn't immediately see a portable way to do it.

I've used these classes to backup and restore a 15GB dataset (with directories and symlinks) perfectly. However, I provide them as-is with no implied warranty. They are free to use, although I'd appreciate attribution.

-Chris

Key Largo 2006, Part Two: Parasailing Ground-Cam

Key Largo 2006, Part Two: Parasailing Ground-Cam

That's right buddy, I'm going to go out in a freakin boat and fly from it.

Key Largo 2006, Part One: Views

Key Largo 2006, Part One: Views

A New Use for Sandvox

A New Use for Sandvox

Yesterday while looking over a rather spartan interface defined by BR's and tables, I saw an opportunity to fire up Sandvox and quickly make some (Smarty/Flexy) templates to replace what was there. For me, this is a new high point in interface design, because when you don't hire a graphics guy, you're going to get BR's and tables from me. But yeah, it doesn't even take you half an hour to reskin a templated site with a Sandvox design.

-Chris

DS Lite Stuff

DS Lite Stuff

It was a Nintendo DS Lite, she ended up getting for her birthday. She got New Super Mario Bros and a Nintendogs cartridge with it. Then some accessories arrived for it. Shown here is a Max Media Dock (and two NoPass devices, the Max Media Player and Max Media Launcher, which aren't exactly the same thing, but are amazingly similar), and an M3 Perfect CF with a 2GB CF card thrown into it.

These ended up being largely unnecessary, as you see the NoPass devices were totally unnecessary after flashing the firmware to FlashMe, and the Max Media Dock isn't the best thing to use if you've got an M3 around. So in the end, only the M3 ends up getting used.

The chair it's sitting in, recently arrived from Office Depot, where it is known as the Talega Leather Executive Chair. It is relatively cheap, stylish, and amazingly comforting for your rump.

Yeah, I'm playing with more features in Sandvox as it gets better. Hope it's catchy enough for you!

-Chris

Another July Update

Hello, I haven't blogged in awhile and this update will help test the supposedly-fixed Publish functionality of Sandvox (prior to this I'd been using rsync... I'd say that the one-click publishing should help me to blog more, but I don't want to make promises. Not here).

Re-conditioned the projector (Proxima DP6850), installed a new LAMP-017 bulb in it, put it back in place. Hopefully it will run for another 2 years, forestalling any decisions about what the next display technology should be for the bedroom. It looks really beautiful now, especially when playing XBox games on 78 inches of color.

The amateur radio station was rebuilt yet again, this time relocated to the same corner as the work Mini, where signals from Cuba, Switzerland, and Russia provide ample distraction for unwilling work days (yeah, last year's 40-meter wire dipole is still strung around the loft roof line, and the most excellent SGC antenna tuner snapped right into action after many months of disuse). And, okay, I missed listening to the ARES guys during the summer thunderstorms. I didn't spend a lot of time trying Mac OS X ham radio software, and I didn't even want to try MixW2 under Win XP via Parallels, so I threw my old Gateway laptop under the radio shelf, and used Synergy2 to make it share the Mini's keyboard and mouse. So far, it's solid.

Did a lot of hard work, but as was the case with 2005, some travel is rearing its head in this latter half of the year, including Hollywood (,Florida, again), Key Largo, and hopefully some other destinations. I sure wouldn't mind Niagara Falls again.

Tomorrow is Grace's birthday, and in just 90 minutes she will enjoy her first gift. I get the feeling she won't complain.

-Chris