Just saw the James Gang in Concert…

Never turn down tickets for a show, you never know what you will see.  Today at 5:45, my friend Rich called me and said he had an extra ticket for the James Gang concert.  Now, since my only plans were to sit at home and watch the race, plus the venue being less than 6 miles from my house, I quickly agreed.

The concert was interesting.  Everyone came out to see Joe Walsh, and he didn’t disappoint.  The problem was that all they did were James Gang songs…  Joe’s been in a lot of bands, and done a lot of popular songs, but tonight I think people only recognized 3 or 4 songs that they did.  This, in turn, caused the crowd to be a little more restless than you would expect for a headlining band.  Plus, the mix was a little quiet.  The overall volume was low, and Joe’s guitar was pretty quiet too.

All in all, a good show.  (Especially for last minute tickets!)

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Locked out!

As I mentioned before, I managed to break my lock on my apartment.  When my apartment complex repainted the door, they somehow made the bolt area too tight for the bolt.  So, not paying attention to it, I continued to use the lock and just kept applying more torque to the lock to lock and unlock the door.

Yesterday, the lock decided that it had had enough.  I locked the door like I normally do, and went to work.  After a long day of setting up my new office, practicing softball in the rain, not eating, and generally being exhausted, I got home, and turned the lock.  And kept turning.  And turning. And turning.  And the lock kept spinning.  Not good.  When I pulled my key out, the tumbler came with it.  Uh-oh.  And the door was still locked.  Oh boy…

So, time to try to resolve this issue.  Thank goodness for cell phones!  First call is to the apartment complex’s main number.  Yes, they were closed, (did I mention it was 9 o’clock at night?) but they have an emergency number on their message, in which one can call for after hours emergencies.  So, I write the number down and call and page the service guy.  So, I wait.  For 20 minutes.  After no call back, I called 411 on the cell and got a locksmith to come out.  Turns out the guy had to completely remove the lock and replace it.  I’m actually OK so far, I figure I’ll call the apartment complex in the morning to discuss how I will get my money back.

When I called the office the next day, they had changed their message, which now included a different emergency number.  No wonder I never got a response!   I figured that they must have changed something over that night.  Again, no problem, I’ll get things worked out, I think.  I finally reached a receptionist.  I explained what had happened.  She immediate sent me to the manager.  Good, or so I thought.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

I start speaking to the manager.  I explained what happened.  I thought I was reasonable and calm.  Then things started to go wrong.

The manager comes back and says, ‘Didn’t you get the notice?’ 

Me: ‘Huh?  What notice?’

Manager: ‘We put notices on everyone’s door two days ago.’

Me: ‘No, but I got a notice about the gym being moved.’

Manager: ‘That was it.  It also had information about the new emergency number’

Me: ‘Ah, I didn’t see it on the memo.  The subject and main paragraph was about the gym getting moved’

Manager: ‘Well, it’s not our fault you didn’t completely read the memo’

Me: ‘Wait a second.  The memo is sitting on my counter.  Because I was *LOCKED OUT OF MY APARTMENT* I could not read the memo’

Manager: ‘Well, it’s not our fault that you didn’t read the memo.  We sent it out two days ago’

Me: ‘Uh, if you knew about the number change two days ago, why didn’t you change the message on the answering machine?’

Manager: ‘Because it was in the memo’

At this point, I gave up.  I told her what I wanted her to do about my problem.  I spent a lot of money fixing a problem that should have been handled by the complex’s maintenance team.  She indicated that it wasn’t her problem.  At that point, I asked for the phone number of the company that owned the apartment complex.  She refused to give me the number.  Fortunately, I was able to call back, and speak to another person to get the number.  I didn’t reach the office, but I will on Monday.  Also, the manager called back stating that they would credit me for the cost of the lock.

I’m still a little peeved about this.  One thing that I learned from the Raving Fans training that I received is how to deal with an upset customer.  I’m a freakin’ computer programmer, and even *I* know that this was the wrong way to handle a situation.  In fact, all the manager had to say was, ‘It appears that the number change and the message change did not happen at the same time.  I am sorry that you had to go through that experience and I will see what I can do’.  THAT’S IT.  At that point, I would have been happy.  Instead I got blamed for the lock breaking, not reading every word of a memo that was stuffed in the door crack (wind, what wind?), and generally being stupid.

The moral of the story.  Always keep the emerency repair number in you cell phone.

Week of Ups and Downs

This has definitely been a rollercoaster week!  Some good, some bad, and some, I just don’t know how to classify.

First, the good.  My company is now in our new offices.  The exact seating arrangement is not final (supposedly), but at least we are here, no more running back and forth.  Also, I started playing softball with the company team.  I’m terrible, but at least it’s exercise and some time to get to know other people at the new office.  Because of the move, I was able to get a new couch for free.  It turns out that the free couch is the exact same type of couch as my old one!  There has also been some interesting personal developments that are not going to be mentioned at this time in my blog.  More on that later <grin>.

Second, the bad. I’ll start with the petty and work my way up.  The seating arragements are horrible for me.  My cube opens up into a central walkway.  Everytime *anyone* walks by, I turn around.  It’s not very helpful at keeping my concentration going.  Next, I *almost* bought a new car.  It would have been great, except for the fact that it was already sold and gone before I got there.  <sigh>  Now my appatite has kicked in, and the search for a new ‘vette is on.  Finally, the lock in my door to my apartment broke the night I got back from softball practice.  I have another blog post going up detailing that story.

Finally, the unclassify-able.  My job is changing.  I don’t like it.  I want to be programming.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.  For the company’s sake (and my sake),  I am more valuable because I know the business.  It’s a great position to be in, but I feel like such a fish out of water.  I believe I can do the job, but it definitely is outside my comfort zone.  I guess it is time to grow up a bit, and step up.

There is a lot for me to think about from this week.

Got to jam with a band yesterday! (Thanks Rich!!!)

What a great Saturday!  My friend Rich invited me over to jam with his band yesterday. 

It didn’t start off great, though.  First off, when I was setting my amp up, the input jack fell apart!  Ack!  Fortunately, I was able to get the guitar plugged in and everything worked, as long as I didn’t jiggle the guitar chord too hard.  Then the footswitch died.  Grrr.  What really killed me was that the channel selector was on the *back* of the amp…  Oh well, at least I could change the channels. 

So, we started playing.  These guys played very well, and I haven’t worked with a band in several years.  I got nervous and self-conscious.  Plus, when I did try to change the channels on the amp, the volume on the lead channels went wacky.  I had the distortion turned to 3 times what I had the clean channel on, and I felt like I was going to tear everyone’s head off!  Since I don’t like to be overbearing when I play, I didn’t want to jump over to the lead channels.  I like to fit in and make the band sound good.  So, with my amp already on the fritz, and playing songs that I wasn’t familiar with, I kinda laid back, and just played rhythm.  I had a lot of fun, very relaxing.  Fortunately, Rich kept motioning for me to take a solo.  I finally played a little bit more, and got warmed up.  We hit a song that I knew very well, and I started to relax a bit.  Then, there were more songs that I picked up quickly, and we were able to get through.  Finally, I was trading solos with Rich, and we had a blast!

Thanks Rich!

Of (Apple) Mice And Men

When I bought my Mac Mini from my friend Rick, I went whole hog and bought the Apple keyboard and Mighty Mouse.  After putting the Mini aside for a bit, I still liked using the Mac keyboard and mouse.  I ended up using them with my PC, in direct contrast to Rick, who uses a Microsoft Keyboard and Mouse with his Mac (oh, the irony)<grin>.  Using the Apple keyboard and mouse worked great until a couple of days ago.  No, nothing failed.  What happened was that I re-installed a game that I wanted to play, FarCry.  Great game.  There was only one problem.  At certain points in the game, one needs to be able to press *BOTH* mouse buttons.  That is one feature that the Mighty Mouse can not do.  Even great designs have their limitations.  So, my solution was to buy another Microsoft mouse.  I can play my game, and I now also don’t miss my right clicks!

Having another ‘Mac Attack’

I *hate* this time of year.  WWDC from Apple happened last week, and the ‘Jobs’ reality distortion field’ hit me full force.  The new Mac Pros are what I’ve been waiting for.  Couple that with the new BootCamp 1.1, this is a great machine for someone who wants to be able to do everything.  Work with the Mac, and play with the PC.  Since it *is* a Windows Machine, games run full speed.  I’m drooling over a decent Intel Quac, espicially after seeing one in the store.  Got to wait for Christmas, though!

Finally, a happy birthday to… Me!

Normally, I’d let this slide, but today’s been a lousy day… I turned 34 today… Gawd help me.  This birthday seems to be about changes.  My job has changed considerably (same company, sorta, though).  My goals have changed.  I’m not even going to mention the changes that may happen in the girlfriend department… 

Heck, I almost went through a mid life crisis today.  I walked into an Apple store, and came dangerously close to walking out with a Mac Pro.  Why?  I’m getting bored with programming.  It feels like I’m doing the same coding I was doing 10 years ago.  Very little has changed.  I’m still doing database analysis and making legacy code work with ‘new’ software.  Bleech.  Yes, I do enjoy it, but I’m starting to get to a breaking point.  I’ve *got* to figure something out, or I’m going to go crazy.

Why is it so hard to move Microsoft Software?

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had to set up and re set up both my work machine and my home machine.  At work, I had to move to a new laptop (Oh, Darn, I got a new 17" Dell laptop, phooey… <grin>).  At home, I upgraded my machine and downgraded my OS. (See previous posts).  The one problem that I ran into on *both* machines has been migrating Microsoft software.  Why, oh, Why is it so hard to move your Outlook settings from machine to machine?  I *HATE* having to re enter my user names, passwords, and server setups.  And the .pst files?  Come on Microsoft, let’s make this a *little* easier.  Either have a *complete* export, or put everything in one place.  And, for God’s sake, get rid of any use of the freakin’ registry!

Ok, I’m calming down… Mainly because I’m working on my Mac mini at the moment <grin>

Cool new tool for posting to blogs, Windows Live Writer

Windows Live Writer is a very cool new tool.  It’s a windows based application allowing one to write Blog entries on a local computer, then publish them to a blog server.  Notice that I didn’t say ‘Window’s Live Space’ Server.  This tool can be used to post to a lot of different services.  Very cool!  Plus, an SDK has been created, allowing developers to write plug-ins to extend the program.  Sweet!

Now, if Microsoft only would have called it something different.  By tying the name to Windows Live, people will think that it only works with Microsoft products, which is certainly not the case.  One thing that I hope that they make sure of, get it to work with Sharepoint 2007’s blogging engine!

Upgrade Fever

After almost 2 years, I did an almost complete computer upgrade.  It started off simple.  My friend Rick and I had been kicking ideas around about upgrading our computers when prices got cheaper.  Well, recently, AMD lowered their prices on almost all of their chips.  So, it seemed like a good time to upgrade.  With the 4400+ chips selling for approximately $260, a cheap upgrade could be had.  My machine that I had before the upgrade wasn’t a slouch, 3200+, 1 Gig RAM, 250 gig SATA drive, ATI 9800 Pro card, but almost everything I had on the system was not compatible with the ‘latest-and-greatest’.  The motherboard I had was 754 socket, so I was going to have upgrade the motherboard to support either a 939 chip or an AM2 chip, as the chips I was interested in were only 939s or AM2s.  The motherboards that support those chips usually only supported PCIe graphics cards, so my AGP video card was going to have to be replaced.  I chose to be cheap, and went with a 939 board, so that I could at least keep the RAM that I had bought.  That allowed me to get a higher end video card and keep the upgrade ‘reasonable’.

So, I ended up replacing the processor, motherboard, and video card.  That went pretty well, but my Win XP 64-bit wasn’t real thrilled with the new combination.  I was having crashes left and right, and I thought that it must be the OS (more on this later).  So, to set up a copy of Windows XP 32-bit, I ordered a new hard drive.  I ended up getting one of the new Seagate 7200.10 drives.  What an amazing drive!  Fast and quiet.  What a nice combination!  So, I installed Windows XP 32-bit fresh, and everything seemed to be running fine. 

Until… I installed and tried to run FarCry.  I wanted to see what my brand new processor and video card could do.  I found out what it *would* do…  I had just started playing a game, when I started to smell something burning.  I didn’t really pay attention to the smell, as sometimes new components will go through ‘burn-in’.  Bad idea.  So, I’m playing, just starting, and the entire system goes dead.  Whoops.  Nothing I could do would get it back up and running.  I had bought the same case/powersupply for a friend, and his powersupply had recently died.  So, I figured it was a dead powersupply.  I had throught that a 400 watt powersupply would handle the new hardware.  Boy, was *I* wrong.  Ran to a local computer store, bought a new 520 watt powersupply.  Now, everythings happy.  And FarCry looks *amazing*.

Moral of the story?  Get a Mac Pro and forget the headaches!

Throwing in the towel with Windows XP 64

I give up.

I’ve been running Windows XP 64 for almost a year and a half (closer to two, if you count the beta period). There are a lot of great things about this OS that *many* people don’t realize. One, it’s built from Windows Server, so security is great. I love the fact that on ‘Patch Tuesday’, my XP 64 box didn’t even need a one. Great job Microsoft! Second, XP 64 is *very* stable. I can’t remember the last time the OS caused something to crash. Maybe Vista will have this kind of stability. One can hope. Finally, I *like* being able to understand what will be the next wave of technology. While the switch from 32-bit to 64-bit is nowhere near as jarring as the 16 to 32 bit transition, there are *some* differences. Most of them have been overcome, but there are some lingering issues. Which is why I’m switching back to 32-bit.

Even with all of the good things that XP 64 has, one thing that it *doesn’t* have is industry support. Few companies realize that XP 64 is even SHIPPING! Yes, you heard me, most companies do not even realize it’s shipping! Start with one that *should* know better. Microsoft. WTF!?! Don’t they actually *produce* XP 64? Yes, they do. But try to get a couple of crucial applications from them, and it’s like ‘XP Sixty-what?’. The worst team is the Windows Desktop Search/MSN Desktop Search. A 64-bit version has been requested since day one. And it’s never appeared. Not even in beta. Not even in double secret beta. How in the heck are they going to include it in Vista 64-bit if they’ve *NEVER* let anyone work with it? WDS has been out for almost 2 years! Is it *really* that hard to work with Windows XP 64’s desktop? Second is the Media Player team. For some reason WMP is a red-headed stepchild for XP 64. WMP 11 is in full beta, but it only runs on XP 32. Again, why? Isn’t it going to be included with Vista 64? Thank goodness Office ’07 works right out of the box, but even it wants the search engine.

The media players are the reason I am switching back. iTunes 6.0.5 has severe problems with XP 64; basically, it won’t install, period. The new Yahoo Music engine will not install either. In fact, the version I’m running on XP 64 *shouldn’t* be installable, but for some reason the auto updater allowed it. It works fine, so I am scratching my head as to what the issue is.

The other reason is that the music hardware companies I deal with are not doing their due diligence on their drivers. I bought an audio capture card because they were the first out of the gate with XP 64 drivers. Well, they’ve not updated those drivers in almost 2 years. There are some issues that I run into that do not look like they will get fixed anytime soon. Other companies pretend that XP 64 doesn’t exist. They’ve got Intel Mac drivers before XP 64 drivers. Grrr…..

So, after rebuilding my computer, I’ve decided to start with a clean slate, but with XP 32. Bye-bye security!