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Journal: Moving to News Goat

Journal by bmabray
Well, News Goat and Blog Goat are both ready for full time use, so I'm making the move. That means this will be my last entry in the Slashdot journal. I like the Slashdot journaling system, and over time I'll probably implement more of their features, but this is the sort of thing I like being able to do myself. It gives me complete control over the look and feel. So, if anybody is actually reading this, here is the new location for my infrequent weblogging:

It's nothing fancy, but I'm happy with it. Hope to see ya there... :-)

User Journal

Journal: Blog Goat -- FindFirstFile 1

Journal by bmabray
Found the answer to a problem I'm having with Blog Goat:

WIN32_FIND_DATA fileData;
hFile = FindFirstFile(strFiles, &fileData);

I could have found this last night if our DSL was working... :-(

User Journal

Journal: Weekend 3

Journal by bmabray
Pretty productive weekend. I got a lot done on News Goat. Once I get a couple of things finished in Blog Goat, I'll be ready to make the move.

We completed the latest issue of the Mensokie. It's a lot of work, but once it's done, you've got something that looks really good. Angela does such a great job of making that look nice.

I tried to wire the house with CAT5, but didn't make any progress. Basically, I want to run a couple of wires from the upstairs computer room to the downstairs kitchen and family room. In theory, the kitchen should be easy -- the phone jack in the kitchen is directly below the phone jack in the computer room. I know there are wires running between the two already, so I should be able to run the CAT5 along the same path. But I can't find the path. When I try to run the wire down, I keep running into stuff, like insulation. I may have another path, but it involves cutting holes in floors and walls, something I was trying to avoid. We'll see... I'd switch to a wireless network, but there aren't any wireless adapters that work with Audrey, and that's the main reason I'm doing this.

I'm also done with the FTPGoat project. :-) Matt's suggestion led me down the path to finding the right options in WS_FTP, so I no longer have to write my own FTP client.

User Journal

Journal: FTPGoat 3

Journal by bmabray
New project: FTPGoat. This is one of those projects that should be at the bottom of my list, but because it would be useful, I may put off everything else and do it. :-)

FTPGoat is an FTP client similar to WS_FTP. So, why do I need it when WS_FTP is free? Because I can't get WS_FTP to function from work, thanks to our company's proxy. Two things do work, however: the built-in Windows command line FTP program (yuck) & Blog Goat. I'm guessing that programs created with Visual C++ are told the secret password to function properly through a proxy. Or something like that. Anyway, if that's what it takes to get a decent FTP program, that's what I'll do.

The Almighty Buck

Journal: Work And Play 1

Journal by bmabray
Friday was a very, very bad day.

Just before 11, every department had their own meeting. We were told that the people who were not in the meeting (in our case, just 1 guy from our department) were in another meeting -- where they were being fired. The supervisors had only found out about it a couple of hours before the rest of us did. Our company is being sold by its parent company, and the "reorganization" requires "streamlining." This is the polite way of saying the company had to screw some people. Fortunately, Angela had called me just before the meeting started (asking if I knew what was going on), so I knew she wasn't in the group getting fired. Everybody was to leave at 11 and not come back til 2 (or not come back for the rest of the day, if they wanted), so that those fired could clean out their stuff and leave without embarrassment (and for security reasons, I'm sure).

No exact numbers on how many were layed off, but it was somewhere between 30 and 50. It seems our area faired pretty well -- my team lost 1, the other development team lost 1, Angela's department lost 1, and the business analysts lost 3. Our company recently signed a big contract for some major development work (the new project I wrote about before), so that's probably why we were spared.

It made for a horrible day -- and I still have my job. I can't imagine what it must have been like for those who were fired. It's sad, and scary, and unfair... and there's nothing I can do about it. I hate that feeling. And I don't like wondering when it will be my turn... Even though that's not very likely any time soon... at least, that's what I'm telling myself. Oh well... it's one of those things that I have no control over, so I refuse to worry about it.

All of this was in sharp contrast to the wonderful weekend we had just a few days before. Angela & I celebrated our 2 year anniversary this past Tuesday. We took off Monday & Tuesday, and with our long weekend, decided to spend a couple of days in a cabin in Southeast Oklahoma. It made for a perfect weekend. On our way back, we took the scenic route through the Ouachita National forest and the Kiamichi mountains. It's a good thing winding mountain roads have such beautiful scenery, or they wouldn't be worth the near-death experience. :-)

Blog Goat is coming along nicely. It nows saves settings to the registry. I need to finish FTP support, file directory selection, and password encryption before I'll be ready to use it all the time.

User Journal

Journal: Weblog In Beta 1

Journal by bmabray
My new weblog is now in beta -- that doesn't really mean anything, it's just fun to say. I will continue to update this one until I iron out some of the workings of the new one.

The whole idea behind this new weblog is to be able to write new entries anywhere, whether I have access to the Internet or not. That's why HandX's Weblog for PalmOS program seemed perfect -- I could write on my PDA, and upload it whenever.

Well, I realized this weekend, it's not perfect. HandX puts all the entries for one day into a single file. That's fine if you're only making entries from your PDA, but if you're writing & uploading from different sources, things are going to get out of order. I could write the script to open each file, look for a date/time stamp for each entry, put all the entries in a huge array (or hash, or whatever), sort them, then print them, but that seems overly complicated, and it could get slow. It also makes it impossible to have permanent links to individual entries.

Also, HandX has another program -- WinLog. This one is for writing entries on a Windows computer. Problem is, it works just different enough from the Palm version to make using them both almost impossible.

Here's how things basically work. Each entry is in a separate file, the name of which contains the date & time when it was written. These files are opened by my script and printed in order by date -- with the newest on top. This system makes various features I have in mind easier to implement. And it will be easier to transition to a database version, whenever I do that.

The tricky part is writing and uploading the entries, but I've also created some solutions for that. On Audrey, I have a text editor and script that automatically uploads the files. For Windows computers, I've created something even better -- Blog Goat! I wrote a simple text editor that automatically generates the proper file names for the entries. I also have a batch file that uploads the files. I should be able to combine the two (along with some other features) to make Blog Goat a very simple way to create weblog entries.

I'm not sure yet how the HandX program is going to fit into this. My best idea right now is to write a program that, after I upload the entries using HandX, would download them, split them into separate files, and upload them again. This seems messy, but I don't see much else I can do, other than learn how to write my own PalmOS applications. I don't think I'm quite ready for that... :-)

I know, I'm sure there is software out there that will do all that I am doing, but what fun would that be?

User Journal

Journal: Workin' Hard or Hardly Workin'?

Journal by bmabray
Last time, I promised a story about work. But first, a little background...

For those who don't know, I am a programmer for a company whose primary business is handling billing for telecom companies. Our biggest client is our sister company -- their wish is our command.

The team I am on works on what is known as the Customer Care Module (CCM). This software is what everyone uses to add/change/delete customer data. It's a Windows program (written in Visual C++), and it's primary interface is a whole bunch of tabs (21, currently). Each tab contains different information about the customer -- billing, address, etc.

On Wednesday, we were informed that our sister company wants a complete re-design of the CCM. New user interface, some new features, everything different. It's understandable -- it's not the prettiest program ever, and it can be confusing. Oh, and could we also write it in Java, make it accessible via the Web, and have it all done by July 1?

Fortunately, we were able to talk them out of the Web thing. It would be cool, and something that might should be done someday, but by July 1? Not going to happen, my friend. Moving what is already there to a new user interface is one thing -- rewriting the whole system, when none of us are Java programmers, is quite another.

When it's done, it should be very nice -- I think our users will be happy. For those familiar with Microsoft's Visual Studio, it's going to have an interface similar to that. It should also be pretty profitable for our company -- special requests like this cost extra, even for family. :-)

And it should be a fun project. Fixing bugs isn't nearly as fun as creating new stuff. Part of my job on this will be tying the new CCM into some new software our company bought for tracking customer problems. I like that I'll have my own project within the project.

Hopefully, we'll also have time to put an MP3 player into it... :-)

The Internet

Journal: Another Weblog Idea

Journal by bmabray
I just learned how to automate an FTP session using a UNIX script. Why is this important? Because, Audrey has a UNIX-like OS. That means, once the new weblog is in place, I'll be able to write entries on Audrey (using the GUI editor I just installed) & upload them as easily as the HandX program for the Palm. Another piece of the puzzle falls into place...

Also, things are getting interesting at work, stay tuned...

User Journal

Journal: Happy New Year!

Journal by bmabray
Happy New Year, Everybody! We had a nice holiday weekend -- we decided to stay home this year, since it was so cold and the roads were a little icy. So, we played pool, played darts, and toasted the new year.

We also rented Swordfish. Not bad. If you can shut off your brain for a couple of hours and just enjoy it as an action flick, it's not bad. As a programmer, I found the scene where the guy was writing the 'super virus' quite amusing. I'm no cracker, but I know enough to know it ain't like that... :-)

It was a pretty productive weekend. We got to do some more 'moving in' -- finding places for things that had not found homes yet. I got to work on the new weblog some. I'm pretty much done with the layout, I just need to add a few elements and decide how many 'features' I want the thing to have.

And I got to play with Audrey. :-) The ethernet adapter arrived Monday. Only 3COM's "official" USB ethernet adapter is supposed to work with Audrey, but a few others will, if you modify some of their internal settings. When I tried to make the changes using Gertrude, the program locked up, but it worked with no problems on Della. (Our two computers are named Gertrude and Della. They require names for networking, anyway, and it's easier for referring to them than "old computer" and "new computer." As you can see, Audrey fits right in. :-) )

So far, everything I've tried on Audrey has been easy. I updated the software so I could get shell access, and I've been able to tweak some settings, mount network shares, and play MP3s. A big round of applause goes out to the Audrey hacking community. They've found some clever ways to make these things fun toys that are actually useful. My next step is to do some exploring in the attic so I can find places to put network connections for this thing. I'd like to at least be able to connect in the family room & the kitchen.

There was one weird thing, though. When we checked e-mail Monday night, we had a message from AOL saying our message was undeliverable because the user was not found. But, we hadn't sent anything to anybody at AOL! It had the message attached, and it had a March 2001 date on it, and it said "This is an Ergo attachment." Since Ergo is another name used for the Audrey, I thought maybe something strange had happened during the software update. I looked at the e-mail program on Audrey and it did have that message in it's sent box. I noticed that Audrey also has a "Sending Later" box, which was empty. That's when I realized what probably happened: The person who owned this before us wrote the e-mail, saved it to send later, then stopped using the Audrey before that message ever got sent. When Audrey got a valid e-mail setting again, it went ahead and sent the message.

One thing I did not do this weekend is make New Year's resolutions. They may work for other people, but they don't work for me. Setting an arbitrary date of when I'll change something just gives me an excuse to put it off ("Oops, I wasn't supposed to do that anymore. Oh well, I'll try again at the Chinese New Year."). For anyone trying to keep resolutions this year, I wish you all the luck...

Hope everyone else had a good end of 2001, and that y'all have an even better 2002. Last year was pretty good for us, personally, even though it pretty well sucked for the rest of the world. Hopefully, everything will improve this year.

User Journal

Journal: Audrey, Weblogs, & Toilets

Journal by bmabray
A quick update on some projects. I started Audrey for the first time last night. It works. I also ordered a USB ethernet adapter for it. This is not the "official" Audrey ethernet adapter -- it requires modification of the EEPROM to get it to work. We'll see how well that goes... :-)

I've been able to spend a little time working on the new weblog. I'm designing the layout as a static HTML page first, so I can get it to look the way I want it before I script it. I'm not entirely happy with the layout, yet -- what can I say, I'm a programmer, not a designer.

Ok, I promised toilets, so here it is... Last night, Angela & I were doing some odd jobs around the house. One of them was replacing a toilet seat. Simple job, right? Wrong... Apparently, many years ago, there was a major problem with people stealing toilet seats. So, they installed them with metal bolts that have plastic molded to the head -- molded in such a way that the two are almost inseparable. That is the only explanation I can come up with for why someone would use something like that. First of all, to the surprise of no one (except, I suppose, the designer), the metal bolts rust, making the nut impossible to remove. And, although the metal bolt does not want to be separated from its plastic case, it doesn't mind turning inside there when you try to remove the rusted nut. After much cutting, melting, pulling and prying, I ended up pulling the first bolt up through the hole in the toilet. After that, I went to work on the second one, with some instructions Angela found on the internet. I was able to get the plastic off, but I couldn't get the bolt out, so I decided to try to pry it up through the hole like the other one. And, of course, that's the point where I broke the toilet -- cracked the ceramic right there on the side. *sigh* Oh well... that means we have a new project this weekend... :-)

Christmas Cheer

Journal: Christmas Weekend

Journal by bmabray
Christmas weekend has come & gone, and now we're back at work. All in all, it was a good Christmas. We had a nice visit with Angela's family in Texas, then came home and hosted a pretty good Christmas for my family.

In between the family get-togethers, we found time for our own Christmas. Angela got me an Audrey. This will be a fun toy. I've got all kinds of plans for the thing, and I haven't even turned it on yet. :-) I gave Angela a free-standing punching bag. There's something oddly satisfying about having something to hit after the holidays are over... :-)

We also bought a "present" for the house -- a pool table. That was quite an adventure. :-) We started looking for one shortly after buying the house -- we thought it would be fun to have in the sun room. Even the used ones, though, are way too expensive. Luckily, we found one on sale at Sears for a good price. It's a cheap model, but it's good enough for two people who are lousy pool players. :-)

So, we bought it. It had to be ordered, so we figured, since we were getting a good price (and the fact that pool tables are huge) we would just have it delivered. When we asked about having it delivered, the sales guy told us we didn't want to do that -- delivery would be about $65... and besides, it would fit in the back of our car. Oh, ok then, we'll just come back & pick it up...

Well, we come back the next week to pick it up, and two guys bring it out to our car on a big cart. And, lo & behold, the thing is huge! Oddly enough, it's as long & as wide as a pool table, & very heavy. So, there we were, with 2 stock boys looking at us like we're nuts for bringing a small SUV, and us looking at that pool table, wanting to strangle the sales guy. Obviously, he'd never even seen one of these pool tables -- if he had, he wouldn't tell everybody "it will fit in the back of your car." We did manage to get it in, with just a few inches hanging out the back. The stock boys got us some rope, and we started tying it up as best we could. We decided not to chance getting on the interstate, so we drove about 10 miles down one of the main OKC streets with that thing hanging out the back. It was quite a stressful trip -- if that pool table had decided it wanted to leave, there wouldn't have been anything we could do about it, and I didn't have much faith in that flimsy rope they gave us. But, we did make it home, and we finally got to put it together yesterday. It'll be fun to have -- definitely worth the trouble. But, if I ever see that sales guy again... ;-)

We also went to see Lord of the Rings last night. Great movie. Visually, it's very impressive, and the themes and characters are faithful to the book. Some people have said this trilogy will be the next Star Wars, and I agree. It has that same "galaxy far, far away" feel to it -- it creates a complete world that is totally different from our own. I think I'll do a review of it on the COM website.

Oh yeah, work... I knew there was a reason I was here... :-)

Christmas Cheer

Journal: Christmas Shopping

Journal by bmabray
I believe I've finished all my Christmas shopping -- I'll have to take inventory before I know for sure. I'm exhausted, but it's one of those good exhausteds, if you know what I mean. I should be getting ready for bed, but I wanted to jot down a couple of thoughts before I do.

I've never been one of those people who get depressed during the holidays. In fact, I'm the exact opposite. But this year, in the middle of all the fun of buying people stuff, I did feel a little sad. I was trying to figure out what to buy for people, and I realized how little I know about the people I care so much for. It's a shame, and the only reason I don't know what they want/need is because I don't spend much time with them. Hopefully, that's something I can correct before next Christmas.

And then there's the person I know too well. :-) I kept thinking of more things to get for Angela... I finally had to remind myself that there were two other gift-giving occasions coming up soon.

I haven't had time to work on any of my projects, but I have given the weblog some thought. I was trying to figure out how I could create entries using HandX on my PDA and have those somehow get automatically loaded into a database. Well, here's how: I can create an update page that will take any entries not already in the database and save them there. Then, I make that page an AvantGo page. When I sync the Palm, HandX will upload the entries, then the update page will be run by AvantGo to load the entries into the database. Seems like that will be the easiest way to do it. Of course, by the time I get around to doing this stuff, they'll have the technology where I can beam the entries directly from my brain... :-)

Christmas Cheer

Journal: Movin' Right Along

Journal by bmabray
(Somehow, my last journal entry got lost somewhere in the depths of cyberspace. If anyone sees it, please give it money for a phone call so I can come pick it up. Until that happens, here is my attempt at recreating it.)

Well, things are slowly returning to normal. The plumber has finally finished the repairs -- and I can't tell you how happy that makes me. The windows should be done this week, and that will be the last of the repairs that the previous owner is paying for. Our Internet service is working again, and the good people at Dell are sending someone to replace the motherboard that did not survive the move. Things are finally starting to fall into place.

Which means it must be time for Christmas! I love Christmas -- even if I am horribly behind on my shopping. I actually haven't even started yet. I had it all planned out, too -- I was going to do nearly all my shopping on the Internet this year. But, it's hard to have things delivered when you don't know where you are going to live. I do have my list mostly done, though, so it's just a matter of going out and doing it. And, I don't really mind Christmas crowds. Crowds any other time of year drive me insane, but there's something about Christmas shopping that makes it not so bad. Maybe it's all the eggnog coursing through my system... :-)

In other news, I now have 3 projects I hope to eventually find time for. One is the new weblog, which I've already mentioned here. I think the first version will be a simple perl script, which will allow me to update it via the PDA. The next version, after we (hopefully) move Smart Goat to a new host, will feature PHP & MySQL, so I can have comments on each entry, just like the Slashdot system -- even though that feature has yet to be used on my entries (*sniff*).

The next project I'm researching is an MP3 server. I want something I can connect to my TV and control via IR remote. I'm about ready to give up on finding a set-top box that would look nice in the entertainment center and just settle for a computer hidden behind the entertainment center with an IR sensor sitting on a shelf. I can build one relatively cheap, with either new or used parts. Above all, I want it to be Linux. Eventually, I want this to be part of a wireless network, with (for lack of a better term) dumb terminals in various locations that would simply accept streaming sound and output it to speakers.

My other project is stuff for the sun room. We're already planning to put a pool table out there. If there's room, I'd also like to build a MAME cabinet and possibly an MP3 jukebox (connected to the network mentioned before). All of these things will be very cool, when and if I ever find time for them...

User Journal

Journal: Just so you know...

Journal by bmabray
I couldn't be more proud... :-)

If I were a work of art, I would be Claude Monet's Waterlilies .

I am soft and gentle, but very colourful. Although based in reality, I look at the world through a filter of impressions which shape how I see things. Splashes of light help to define my presence and bring an endearing quality.

Which work of art would you be? The Art Test

If a 6600 used paper tape instead of core memory, it would use up tape at about 30 miles/second. -- Grishman, Assembly Language Programming

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