WordPress’ images are working in IE!

Ok, this is cool.  I’m starting to move my blog over from my Spaces site.  One of the last things is the images.  Being able to include a photo in my posts is important.  Being able to put the photos into a photo album is SUPER important.  At first, it didn’t work with IE (but did with Firefox!  Yeah!)  Now, that’s fixed.  I like the ability to put seperate pages for stuff.  That’s where the photo collection will be shown off.

 Also, I need to find out how much space I have here on WordPress.  As long as I have unlimited blog space, I’ll be writing a LOT on here.

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My apartment complex is going condo…

This has been weighing on my heart very heavily lately.  Just before hurricane Wilma, all the residences of my apartment complex were notified that the property had been sold to a new company.  Later, it was confirmed that the new company is going to turn our complex into condos.  This would not be a bad thing for me, as I like my apartment, and have been here over 6 years. 
 
Unfortunately, the asking price is WAY out of line with my rent.  I usually don’t throw numbers out, but I have to be specific here, to give the scope of the change.  My current rent is $920 a month for a 750 square foot 1 bedroom apartment.  That’s pretty reasonable for Boca Raton.  The rumor of the price that is going to be asked for for my apartment is approximately $250,000.  I ran the numbers on a mortgage.  Putting $12,500 as a down payment, with $4,000 in taxes (that’s a guess), and use 8% for 30 years, my mortgage payment would be somewhere in the area of $2,200 a month.  This does *not* include homeowner association fees, which I’m sure are going to be high because of the nature of the complex.  That’s a *HELL* of a jump in cost of living.  I would have to *DOUBLE* my salary just to keep within shouting distance of my expenses.  And folks, I make a *damn* good salary as is.
 
I’ve got a couple of options, all of which involve moving.  I’m starting an apartment search closer to my work, as my lease is up in April.  I’ve found a couple, but they of course are going to be more expensive.  I have some other thoughts, but I do not wish to share them yet, as they will probably scare my boss.
 
What I really cannot understand is who CAN afford these places?  My salary is close to what most two income families make, and I certainly can’t afford these places.  Just up the road, they started building townhouses.  I thought I’d look at those, but they STARTED at $350,000!!!!  Are these people insane?  Searching for houses/townhouses/condos reveals that there are few places under $250,000, and anything that is less is either not in a safe area or needs a LOT of work, or both.  And, frankly, the housing down here is a pyramid scheme.  Eventually, someone’s going to be left holding the bag, and at these prices, I’m afraid it would be *me*.

Hmmm… I may switch my blog to WordPress.com

WordPress.com is out of beta, and has some pretty cool tools.  I’ve signed up, and may switch my blog over to there at some point.  There are good points about both MSN Spaces and WordPress.
 
MSN Spaces:
  1. Integrates with MSN Messenger.  It’s cool that your contacts can see when you’ve updated your space with pictures, blog entries, lists, etc…
  2. Great photo storage.  I like the way that it’s very easy to preview photos and I love the built in slide show.
  3. Nice blog editor inside of Internet Explorer.
  4. MSN Search has me at the top of the list when searching for my name!
  5. An API is being developed for external editors.
  6. Ads are not very intrusive (yet).
  7. Major corporation backing the service, so it won’t go away until the ‘fad’ does.

WordPress:

  1. It’s not Microsoft or Google.
  2. It’s not so busy on screen.
  3. Works great on non Microsoft browsers.
  4. Photo uploading has been added.
  5. Much better control of the site through the admin pages.
  6. Can add seperate pages very easily.
  7. Better statistics and notifications.

Once WordPress gets their photo stuff working, I think it’s going to be the ‘premier’ blog site.  I like MSN Spaces, too, as it’s VERY easy to use and maintain.  I think that’s important.  If it takes a lot of effort to maintain, people are not going to use a service.

Sometimes, something *IS* wrong…

I’ve complained a LOT about my motherboard that I put in my computer.  It never seemed to run right, and I NEVER could get it boot the drives correctly.  The problems were never enough to do something about it, though.  There were a couple of BIOS upgrades that seemed to help, but none ever fixed my problems with the computer.  Saturday, I tried to upgrade the BIOS once again to see if that would fix the hard drive problem.  Unfortunately, that failed so badly that the motherboard would not even boot.  This is the BEST thing that could have happened, as I went and replaced it with a board.  Compusa had an Abit NF8 in stock.  Usually, I’ll order online to save some money, but I needed this to be working now, and the price difference was not that great.  (less than $20)
 
What a great motherboard!  I didn’t realize that the Hard drive controller on the old board was bad.  I knew it was flaky, but I had *NO* idea how flaky.  My drive access is MUCH faster, and the computer seems a LOT more responsive.  WOW!  Great job Abit!

Playing the blues is a LOT tougher than it looks or sounds

I had an eye-opening experience this weekend.  Mainly it was that I have a LOT to learn on playing the guitar.  As I detailed in my previous post, I was invited out to jam with a band that was playing out on Saturday night.  The bass player and guitar player are father and son team. I used to work with the dad.  I found out that he used to do these open mic jams, so I was hanging out with him and his family quite a bit.  I knew the son when he was just starting to play…  He’s become a guitar monster, an incredible player.  I was honored that they would invite me to jam.
 
At the show, they had an awesome groove going, they played for three hours straight!  They had a couple of guests sing and play with them, and everyone was really incredible.  I almost backed out, because they had such a KILLER groove going, plus I was a little bit nervous, it’s been a while since I played in front of an audience.  I’m glad I did pull out the guitar, though.  My buddy Rick had shown up, and he wanted to see me play…  (Dude, I REALLY, REALLY appreciate the moral support!  Thanks for kicking me into playing!)
 
On to the reason for the post…  The style of ‘Blues’ is a one of the most important styles out there, as it is the core of rock’n’roll.  There are a lot of dichotomies in the blues.  It’s very expressive and very rigid at the same time.  It has very specifc chord progressions and scales.  It’s very emotional.  It’s very easy to play, but VERY difficult to get the feel right.
 
Unfortunately, what I realized it that *I* cannot play the blues.  I need a LOT more practice to be convincing.  My style is more classical, which can translate into hard rock and metal easier.  Back to my ‘Blues you can use’ books for me!

Chronicle of a wild weekend

What an unbelievable weekend!  Some incredibly good, and some incredibly bad… I’m going to break this one up into a couple of posts, as a LOT of stuff happened, and most of it is topical.  Friday started off with Harry Potter.  I posted a review here.  Next, Saturday turned into one of the days that even the things that went wrong were great. 
 
First up, my motherboard finally died.  I tried to install the latest BIOS, and it toasted the machine.  How is this good?  Keep reading.
 
Next was trying to get one of my customer’s DSL working.  To be quick (and the full story will be in another post), I was able to get Bellsouth to admit the problem was on their side, and hopefully, they will fix it Monday.
 
After racing to get a certified letter (whoever heard of a Post office that is only open 10-4 weekdays and 10-1 on the weekend?) I headed to Compusa to get a new motherboard.  Fortunately, they had the perfect board in stock.
 
Next, was a visit to my local music store, MAE, to see what the latest PRS guitars they have gotten in stock.  As I was walking in, my salesperson, Seth, was walking out to lunch.  So, I waited around, flirted with Denna (the EXTREMELY cute and nice lady who works the book section), and ended up finding a new song book with some cool songs in it.  When Seth got back, he showed me a double-necked Dragon from PRS.  Amazing!  In person, it’s easy to understand why it’s so expensive.  I went to play my McCarty that I have on layaway, and as I was noodling, a friend of mine I haven’t seen in a LONG time walked in and said hello.  He ended up buying a guitar, and invited me out to jam with him, his dad, and his band.
 
Getting back home, I installed the motherboard.  No problems with the new board.  What a difference!  Now, the computer’s working great!
 
After that, it was back out to catch up with my friend’s band.  I took my blue guitar out for it’s first action out of the house (I’ve had it over two years!!!! Far too long to not have played out).  My buddy Rick showed up, and it was a GREAT evening for a concert and general hanging out.
 
Sunday started off much worse.  I received news that one of my co-workers was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  I’ve never met someone that has had such a run of bad events as this person.  Hopefully, we can do something to help, maybe a miracle or two…  All I know is that I’ll do anything I can to help.
 
The rest of Sunday was similar, recovering from a serious sinus headache (I didn’t drink any alcohol this weekend!)  I helped one of my friends out, her mother flew in from Tampa, and we went out to lunch.  Lunch turned into a diaster, but that’s mainly because of my headache.  The remainder of the day has been spent crashed out on the couch, sleeping.
 
Well, at least this week is a short week!

Apple’s excellent support… (aka.. is a $300 computer really worth it?)

My buddy Rick has been Apple crazy lately.  He’s bought a iPod, an iPod Shuffle, a Mac mini, to finally a Powermac G5 Dual processor system.  Unforturnately, he’s had some on and off issues with his hardware.  Here’s his story about getting his problems resolved.
 
One thing that was mentioned in the comments to Rick’s article was the Indian tech support.  I’ve had my share of run-in’s with these people, and very rarely have I been able to get satisfactory answers.  The companies that I’ve dealt with that use these support centers have been major companies like Bellsouth and Dell.  Because of the lousy tech support, both companies are not high on my recommendation list anymore.  Part of the problem is the companies that hire the call centers.  To control how people interact with their support, the company gives the call center people a script to follow.  If they don’t follow the script, the tech person can get into a lot of trouble.  Take Bellsouth, for example.  Every time I call them with a problem, I get the same run around, which takes 15 – 30 minutes of time.  My problem is that I have a flaky line.  When I call, I cannot get the people on the other end to skip steps 1-30, and go directly to ‘have a tech actually LOOK at the box’.  This has been going on for a LONG time.  You’d think that they’d at least LOOK at the history…  Oh well, I guess that’s all I will get for paying $40 a month for high speed service.
 
Back to the topic…  Apple’s tech support right now is the best in the business, at least from the experiences I have seen.  They have good techs who can actually work on the computers in every store, and they make a real attempt to fix the problem.  (I’ll not go off on my Best Buy/Compusa rant about what THEY do to fix a computer).  There are several reasons that Apple is good at tech support.  One, they have very controlled hardware.  Only one company makes the computers.  Everything is DESIGNED, not just put together.  There are not too many variations on the basic models.  Finally, they are more expensive than the market norm.  This adds up to make for a computer system that is relatively easy to service, and enough money was made when the product was sold to cover the maintenance costs.
 
PC’s are different.  Everybody and their brother makes parts for PCs.  There’s no baseline standards, no standard ANYTHING…  Just being able to get some computers working is a minor miracle.  This actually means that a good PC technician must know MORE than their Apple counter part.  More knowledge = higher salary.  How is a company supposed to pay a good tech when they sell the computer for little more than the cost of the parts?
 
Something to think about when you think the price of the computer is ‘too high…’
 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ROCKS!!!!!

Wow!  I just finished watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire…  This completely makes up for ‘Prizoner of Azkaban’. 
 
First off, I have a standard statement about movies that are made off of books.  The movie is going to be different from the books.  I don’t like it any more than anyone else who is a fan of the books, but there is far too much material in the book to stuff into 2 1/2 hours of movie.  BUT, they did an EXCELLENT job of capturing the points that make the story move forward.  One of the things that really bothered me in the movie version of ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ was that there were a LOT of things in the movie that made no sense UNLESS one had read the book.  There was much significance in the symbols and events that were not even close to explained during the movie.  That’s not the case with Goblet of Fire.  The movie really captured the essense of the book.  There was only one or two places where the story hiccuped a bit, and I’ll bet every Harry Potter fan noticed.  Fortunately, it in no way, shape, or form distracted from the movie.
 
Final verdict… Awesome movie that I’ll be seeing again before the weekend is over.

Visual Studio 2005 – One step forward, two steps back…

Argh!  Why did the people who designed Visual Studio 2005 think that the following was a good idea?
 
In Visual Studio 2003, designing a DataTable was fairly easy.  The designer allowed one to type in a Column name and a datatype.  So, if you added three or four columns of different types, you could easily do it with the keyboard.  NOW, to add a column, you add the column, THEN go to the properties list to change the info… WTF!?!  Now, there’s no list of fields and their associated types.  It’s go to each field and view the type for the single field… AAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!  Have the people who wrote this NEVER created a memory table?  This DOUBLES the amount of work it required to create a table.  For absolutely NO GOOD REASON!  (at least no reason that *I’ve* heard)
 
Please add this back in for Visual Studio 2005 SP1!!!!
 
*UPDATE*
 
Apparently, the Data Designer is new in Visual Studio 2005.  The OLD editor was the XML Schema editor.  One can still use that editor by selecting the DataSet .xsd file and doing an Open With command.  My blood pressure will now drop a little bit.

Microsoft and tight coupling

One of the things that developers should strive for is loose coupling in code.  This means that code does not depend on other code.  It’s been interesting to see Microsoft violate this principal with .NET.  The recent betas, community tech previews, and actual releases have been VERY interesting… Product A only works with version 1, Product B only works with version 2, and version 1 and 2 cannot be installed at the same time.  NOT good. 
 
In fact, I ran into a problem with SHIPPING software this weekend.  A customer of mine wanted to use a piece of software with his computer.  I had run the latest updates, and installed the .NET 2.0 shipping framework on his computer.  The software he wanted to use would lock up on the computer.  Searching the company’s web site, there was a little FAQ stating that ‘product does not work with .NET runtime 2.0 beta 1 installed’.  Uh-oh.  Uninstalled the shipping .NET 2.0 runtime, and voila!, the software works.  This is NOT good. 
 
I think Java may have it right, allow for many different VM/libraries to be installed.  Part of what makes .NET interesting is that it’s NOT a virtual machine.  It’s a compiler that sits on the user’s computer and converts the precompiled byte code to machine specific language.  (if you don’t believe me, look it up)  Java’s multiple virtural machines have their own issues, as getting libraries based upon different versions of the VM to work together can be, ah, challenging.  But, it seems like this can be overcome with some creative app.config file manipulation.
 
Back to the original thought… Microsoft has made their latest API’s and products dependent on the version of the .NET runtime.  It will make it tough for them to make changes to the runtime now, as making ANY change will have VERY far reaching circumstances.
 
Good luck, I know *I* wouldn’t want to maintain it!

After a little hiatus, I’m back…

Wow, it’s been a wild couple of weeks.  First off, there was this little storm, maybe you heard about it, called Wilma?  No power for a week, no DSL for almost two weeks, and no cable for over two weeks will drive you batty.  I have nothing to complain about, though, my apartment and my car weren’t damaged.  There are lots of people I know that have had everything from minor damage to having a house (not mobile!) moved.  Plus, being able to work has been spotty.  The Friday before last, I was at the office helping to install a generator to run our computer systems while the power was out for the building.  That was ‘interesting’ to say the least.  Then, it was working from home, working from my boss’s home, and even working from our joint venture partner’s offices!  Once the office building got power restored, I was on a road trip to Tennessee to see my family for my Grandmother’s 80th birthday. Two days of driving and one day for the party, made for a LONG weekend.  Finally, Monday saw the launch of Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005.  All this is going to make for some interesting times the next couple of weeks!