Sunday, May 27, 2007

1936 Nash/Lafayette Engine

Originally uploaded by gparmer
The craftsmanship from 1936 is nice. No computers were harmed in the production of this engine. Almost every nut here is fine threaded. Note the safety wire on rod and main caps. The prominent plumbing is the oil feed to the main and rod bearings. Apparently they hadn't mastered the art of drilling internally through the length of the block yet. I've got 2 of these now, and hoping to build one that runs. Why? I don't know, other than preservation of history. The second engine has one *very* busted cylinder. Oh well.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Free HDTV -- Telecommunications' Best Kept Secret

Cable television companies and Satellite TV providers have managed to grab such a large percentage of the TV viewing market that people have forgotten free Over the Air (OTA) transmissions exist. It still wouldn't be worth mentioning *if* the FCC weren't forcing TV stations to switch to a digital signal. What it means for consumers is that if you're willing to put up with a 1960s style outdoor antenna you can get free HDTV.

Since we are deep into the transition phase (analog is set to go away completely by Feb 17, 2009) most stations seem to already be broadcasting a digital signal. Actually, most of the stations in Montgomery, AL and Columbus, GA are broadcasting at least 3 digital signals. There is typically a High Definition version, a Standard Definition version, and an all weather version for each station.

Still not convinced to put up an antenna? Consider this. Our local cable company charges several dollars extra per month for the HD package. They have a total of 6 possible HD channels, none of which are as clear as that provided via an OTA antenna. The cable company doesn't distribute the "extra" channels which stations are broadcasting. The Satellite providers offer more HD channels at an even higher price, but my ignorant legistors won't let me waste my money on local channels at all, let alone HD versions. To top it off, the best looking channel on our TV, bar none, is Alabama Public Television. It's shocking, when you consider I'm comparing to the high end HDTV signal offered by Dish Network...including HD Discovery.

FWIW--I bought a Samsung DLP TV from because it was relatively cheap and I had no expectation of getting an HD signal. Even the TVs at Best Buy looked pretty crappy relative to our old Standard Definition set (as in, they didn't look much better...Standard Def on a widescreen can even look worse!). It seemed like it'd be a waste of money to get a really nice tv and then feed it a crappy signal. Well...(especially) with the OTA antenna...the Samsung looks as good as any I've seen, including sets that cost much more and are fed a paid-for signal from the cable company. If you pass a rusted mobile home and think how well off you are, check to see if there's an antenna. They just might be laughing at YOU! Now you have 2 reasons to be ashamed.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Very Slow WinXP

The automagic update service in WinXP has been causing users fits. Machines are so bogged down they appear to be locked up. The latest from ComputerWorld--

"Microsoft swears Automatic Updates lockup fix works"
The "svchost/msi issue" issue has plagued Windows users, particularly those running Windows XP, for months. For more info...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Urban Chickens

Apparently my better half was attracted to my agrarian roots. She's decided we need fresh eggs. Google tells me she's far from alone in this desire for "city chickens". When she shared with the kids we all got quite a laugh. Our son said, "Let's name them Chicken Nugget, Chicken Tender, and Chicken Finger." He's my boy alright. He was convinced it was like the Alpaca and sheep suggestions (which thank goodness never happened) until we built an 8x8x8 chicken coop. There's no turning back now. My wife says we can't eat any pet that has a name, so we'll have to eat the eggs only. Time will tell.

(Warning: non-PETA approved material follows!)
We've agreed to purchase 1/4th of a 4H Steer any day now. Don't you know that calf had a name too. I can hardly wait for one of those tender pampered steaks.

If you see pictures of chickens scattered amongst our family photos, now you know why. There's plenty of Redneck left in this Network guy. Aren't you glad you're not our neighbor?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Introducing the Book

Most of us have seen this already, but it fits in with the "Shiny New Penny" concept soooo well...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Shiny New Penny Syndrome

My supervisor gets credit for the term "shiny new penny syndrome," but I'll help spread it. If you're in IT, you probably know someone with this issue. He loves the new gadget, the neat gizmo, the cool idea, the latest buzz. He's always excited about what he's found and looking for a way it can solve a problem (oftentimes a problem we don't even have!). After he's played with the penny a while it begins to tarnish, he gets bored, and he moves on in search of another new penny.

IT professionals must be careful not to let social trends and "the shiny new penny syndrome" affect the way we conduct our professional lives. If every new and fun thing we find gets touted as a must-have technology then we lose our credibility. It makes us no better than the boy who cried wolf. It also means we can't give full support to the technologies which we have in place and working.

That leads to my cardinal rule of IT. "Everyone Comes Around At Their Own Pace." I'll save that for a later post, but I'm sure you can figure out what it means without explanation.

Friday, May 18, 2007

ESPA Conference Trip

We blew right through Mobile hoping for a few hours of socializing on some of the nicest beaches in the US...what we found was an afternoon of rain, so the balcony had to suffice for a nice visit and discussion of work.

Lab setup in conference room went pretty well, but they had to lock up at 10pm, and we needed food, extension cords, and some final prep for the presentation.

'Bout 1am I thought..."It really would be nice to have the presentation printed for handouts." I connected the VPN, installed the network printer for the nearest office, and printed 60 double sided, collated, and stapled copies of the presentation. Damn it's nice to be a Network Redneck and know how to do that so quickly and easily. Anne picked up the handouts and final bits of equipment from that office about 7:15am, and we were all set to go before 8 o'clock. 30mins to spare was just about right for stress prevention.

The presentation went great. It was nice to put faces with the voices we talk to on the phones. We even had some attendees from North Carolina...I wonder if John put them up to it? :)