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Journal Journal: Mid-Holiday Update 6

Sure is tough coming back to work after being away 3 work days (and a weekend) away. It's nice to be back- especially since more than half the department is currently out. I actually have time to get things done! :)

Had a good Christmas. Unfortunately, my parents lost their power due to an ice storm, so we didn't make it down to see them yet. Even so, we got to spend a lot of time with friends and family on the wife's side. It was a pleasant week. Got a lot of relaxing in. Got to spend time with the wife and kid which was great... Our daughter got WAY too many toys for Christmas- so I'm thinking we're going to save some for any future kids we may have. I got a few things I have been asking for in past years- a nice kinetic watch, a waffle maker, and a laser level.

Not too much else new. I got some Halo 2 time in and I'm starting to get better- made it to level 9 in "Team Slayer". My fingers are starting to get used to the controller now...

I'm also thinking about playing around with Windows Media Center 2005. I saw a demo of it a while back when it was beta. It looks really cool and is basically a "free TIVO". You can purchase a remote for about $40, and if you have a Video In / Video Out video card you are all set (and Windows Media Center- about $100). A co-worker set it up and was amazed. You can schedule what shows you want to watch, and "pause live TV". His only complaints are that it slows down the channel changing (due to buffering) and doesn't auto-skip the commercials on playbacks (but you can fast forward). My biggest worry before was due to Satellite, but apparently it works just fine...

Before I take the plunge, I have to figure out a few things.

1- Can (and should) my Athlon 700 mhz work with Media Center 2005? (It won't take Windows XP, but can install Windows 2003).

2- If #1=yes, can I get a decent VIVO card with MPEG decoder/encoder and HDTV capability for under $200?

If I can do 1 and 2, I will probably do it. It's cheaper than buying a TIVO (at least the non-subscription price- I refuse to pay a monthly fee), I can easily use the PC with my TV (also allowing me to run some cool NES emulators), etc. My Athlon is no longer serving any purpose (I replaced with a SC420 Dell server). However, it has a Biostar motherboard that doesn't like XP. Also, I'm not real sure how the recording performance of media center will be.. thus the MPEG2 card.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Quick Poll and Update 7

Quick poll...

What do you plan on doing this week?

A. Last minute shopping- I always wait until a few days before. (PS, did you know the Sat before Christmas is the busiest shopping day of the year for males?)

B. Taking off time from work.

C. Taking advantage of the free food at work (sielwolf option).

D. Tinkering with .NET (Fortknox Option)

E. Taking pictures of kids and getting ready for the next FK contest (Bethanie option)

F. Listening to Ipod. (slothdog option)

G. Playing Halo 2 / World of Warcraft, etc.

H. Playing cheesey "100 TV game" nintendo emulator purchased from Russian mafia at a mall.

I. Loading up on eggnog, etc.

J. Going to Disneyworld.

K. Singing some Christmas carols...

I'll be doing B (off from Weds until Mon), D (may install .NET 2005 on Virtual PC), E, G, and H. My cousins (and some other slashdotters) are doing J...

Other updates- Graduated Sat. It was a pretty good ceremony. Nothing to eventfull, but more people than I expected. We opened gifts on with my wife's side. My daughter got no less than 3 different elmo toys. Dancing Elmo MUST DIE. Ugh... Her favorite toy so far was a my little mermaid scooter that makes music (less annoying than Dancing Elmo, as it actually has some variety). She also got a few leapfrog knock offs. She still has gifts from us to open.... I'll probably get her a last minute gift as well- so I guess I am doing A, too!

User Journal

Journal Journal: All done! 7

Last night was the final exam for my Object Oriented Systems Analysis and Design class. Most of it was multiple choice, with a few UML diagrams at the end. It was a piece of cake (and should have been, as I do that for a living...).

While I feel glad that I have finally achieved my MBA after 3 long years (taking classes part time can be a real drag!!), I am also somewhat bummed. I really enjoy the academic environment.

So what's next??? Well, I'm not quite to a crossroads yet. I am looking forward to relaxing a little bit over the next month or two. I am also going to be doing about 10-15 hours a month on a new "side job" with a .NET application that an old friend of mine wants help with. Kind of excited about that. Since we are building a house (that still hasn't broken ground yet) it will be good to have some time available for getting things situated on that front. Most likely, I'll have my "next big project" figured out in a few months.

I'm hoping the benefits of my new degree will become apparent at some point in the near future. My company does not directly reward the achievement. Nevertheless, I do anticipate good opportunities opening up because of it... and if not here, then most likely elsewhere.

Further down the road, I do plan on going back for a doctorate. The main reason for a doctorate is so I can easily teach at a university (I love teaching, and an intro computer programming class would be perfect). Right now I'm toying with different topics. Currently, I am interested in doing research on software estimation. I also plan on going to a different university to mix things up a little bit. Unfortunately there aren't any great Computer Science / Software Engineering doctorate programs near here. Also, my wife is interested in going back for her MS (probably Environmental Science) so she'd probably have to get through that before I go back.

Wooohoo!!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Update: Dell Server, other updates

UPS made the delivery attempt today-- fortunately my wife was home to accept it. As I type this I am running on my new SC420 Poweredge! It's running like a champ, and it is REALLY quiet. I never noticed how loud my other system was until I installed this one. Anyway, I got win2003 installed and the bare necessities. I managed to get my web site back up as well, though it's under construction until I can get a decent blog tool set up. The old one was a bit dated and was just not doing it for me.

In related news we are getting ready to redesign the NWNUG web site and put it into a more modern portal, most likely dot net nuke. It's based off of IBuySpy portal which is what NWNUG is currently running. It seems to have a lot of really good features, though the message boards really lack. That's my only gripe so far.

As far as class goes, I've got to put the finishing touches on a group project, after which I am done with all the assignments. Next week is my last final, and I am DONE- graduation is on the 18th! It will be nice to be done, but I'm sure I'll miss class. I'm already trying to figure out what I should do my doctorate on :) I'm thinking about doing something on software effort estimating as that is a topic that really interests me. (Seriously, I eventually want to teach at the university level... but probably not for a while).

That's about it for now.. hope everyone is having a good week. It seems like JE's in the "circle" have been slower lately (for whatever reason)... It's tough being this close to the holidays!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Rant: Dell / UPS

For those of you reading my JE regularly, you'll know that I recently ordered a Dell SC420 server. The day BEFORE Thanksgiving (11/24). IT STILL HASN'T ARRIVED. A friend of mine ordered his on 11/28 and got his last Friday! What's up with that? He orderd the EXACT same thing I did, same shipping, etc. I checked the order status and UPS decided to "reschedule delivery" and kick it out to 11/7 (tomrrow). No reason why, they just did. I don't want to waste time calling to find out why, either.

Anyway, I emailed Dell support. I specifically asked them what's up with the order and why it is taking longer than the promised 3-5 business days for shipping. No answer yet, but I'm betting I get url slapped to UPS's site or dell's order update that they already sent me. (I even specifically told them not to do that, instead to find out what is taking so long).

Ok, well that felt good to get it out. Yeah, it's only a computer, but the it bugs me just because. For some reason I tend to end up with a lot of mix-ups when it comes to online ordering. Last year, for instance, I ordered a laptop off E-bay that was not advertised correctly (screen was lower resolution, smaller, and the warranty had expired. Luckily I got the seller to send me a check for my troubles). Hmm, maybe I should just stick to brick and mortar. Nahh, I'd rather save the 10-50% and deal with the hassle... :)

Oh well, we'll see if it is delivered tomorrow. Most likely no one will be home to pick it up, so I won't get it until Weds... They won't deliver somewhere else (ie, work) until the first delivery attempt..

User Journal

Journal Journal: General Updates, and good deal on a cheap Dell 7

Took today off from work.. has been nice getting to relax! We had our "pre-construction" meeting today at our builder. It went really well- got to sit down and go over the final prints, all the change orders we've made, give them the permits, and pay for the final changes that were not included in the original quote. There is no turning back now! I plan on putting a few of the prints on my web site in case anyone is interested in what it will look like.

UPDATE: Here is a link to the prints (click on houseprints).

As far as building goes, they told us we will be waiting for about 4-6 weeks for all the paperwork to get through the system, the stuff ordered, etc. and after that they will dig. They are anticipating the first week of January. They need a day warmer than 25 degrees to build- and they say that shouldn't be a problem because they add plenty of additives to the concrete so it cures just fine. One nice thing is, they told us quality is most important-- so if the weather *is* bad they would rather wait than build something subpar quality. That made us feel good. After they dig they guarantee 6 months to complete, so we'll see how that goes. I'm guessing they will be done by May/June which is great for us- gives us plenty of time to get our current house ready to sell.

In other news, I found a good deal on a Dell today. A few weeks ago they had the same deal but I didn't jump on it.. It's a PowerEdge SC420 (Server class), Celeron 2.5. 512MB ram (533mhz), 80 GB drive, 48x drive, keyboard, mouse, no OS. All for $304.60 shipped! Also has PCI express (2 slots), integrated video is only 8mb though, so I have to find a cheap card. My wife is currently using my computer, which I don't like, because her 700mhz Athlon reboots randomly while she used to use it :) SO this will be a great improvement for her. I may even swap her with my Athlon XP1800 ... though it would probably take a good weekend to install everything all over again.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Poll: Thanksgiving Plans? 10

In the spirit of Em, I thought I'd post a poll. For this thanksgiving, I plan to:

A. Eat lots of turkey | duck | quail | tofu and fall into a food coma
B. Watch the lions lose
C. Play halo 2 | halflife 2 | something else
D. Shop (etail or retail)
E. All of the above
F. None of the above
G. Other
H. I'm not thankful for anything, you insensitive clod!

For me, I think it will be E) all of the above, with Turkey, halo 2 and etail options (though I may be forced to go to Easton in Columbus). Turkey multiple times, probably at least 2 (for both sides of my wife's family. My parents already agreed not to have turkey).

User Journal

Journal Journal: Looking for Developers, SQL DBA 3

My company is currently looking for an SQL DBA and software developers (ASP.NET, Windows Forms .NET, C++, C# or VB.NET background). The position would be for our Toledo, OH location and full-time. We're really looking for 4 yrs. + experience for either position.

SQL DBA- nuts and bolts DBA, someone who knows the ins and outs of SQL Server, and has experience managing highly scalable sites (2,000 concurrent users from web farms) and large systems.

Developers - Sr. Level, will be working on ASP.NET web applications, and/or windows forms applications.

Here is the company site (no info on the positions, just on the company). www.tns-global.com.

Job posting info . Please e-mail me if you want more information (I will activate my email on profile).

User Journal

Journal Journal: Return of the Evil Dead 6

Just in case the submission gets rejected... (update: it did get rejected)

Bruce Campbell will be returning in another Evil Dead movie (produced by Sam Raimi)!!! Geeks everywhere rejoice!!

What great news to start the weekend.

User Journal

Journal Journal: General Updates (Building, Halo2, Graduation) 6

Building Update....
Things are going pretty well on the new construction front. We now have everything ready, per the builders requirements, so we can have our "pre-construction meeting". This meeting kicks off the construction process. It will then take up to 6 months to complete our building project.

I spent last week gathering all the permits. Had to go to two places- the zoning department of the new city, and the water/sewer department for the county. Found out the town we are moving to has a population of around 6000 people (I knew it was small, just didn't know how much). She spoke highly of the neighborhood we are building in which made me feel good (not that I was worried!). After that, I swung by the county to pay the tapin fee. Hard to believe they can charge *that much* to hook a pipe up to water!

The only thing we have left is to finalize our brick selection. My wife really likes a particular brick, but it is a "jumbo brick" which basically means it's a little bigger. Apparently it takes 4 jumbo bricks for every 7 standard ones. Anyway, the mason at the brick company she went to said it should be the same cost overall because it takes less of them, and is less labor, mortar, etc. We are waiting to hear back from the builder if it is the same net cost as a standard brick (my guess is that it will be more..)

We are looking at having the pre-construction meeting the Weds. before thanksgiving. They are estimating to do the dig in late Dec. or early Jan. They assure me that they can build a house year round, and will go into more detail on how they do things different in the winter to ensure a good house. Hopefulyl that will be the case, but I know if I was pounding 2x4's in sub-freezing temperatures I wouldn't be as careful about getting things trued up :) Regardless, that gives me until about Feb. / Mar. to put our current house up for sale. Heh, get ready for a whole schlew of new JE's :)

Seriously though, I hope these are helpful for those of you considering building a house (it seems like I hear a lot of crickets whenever I write these). Even if not, it'll be a good way for me to remember how it went later down the road...

Halo 2 Update...
I joined a clan- a group of guys that I know through church. It's pretty cool, we really rock as a team. However, I still individually suck quite badly, especially at the slayer matches. I'm pretty good with vehicles and capture the flag type games, but not so good when it's just an all-out hack-n-slash. Maybe I need a new controller, but I'm just really having trouble aiming and generally not getting killed in a gun fight. Any more tips (Otsy?) or links to strategy/hints would be much appreciated. The ones last time really helped, BTW.

Graduation is coming up, I will be getting my MBA (Information Systems concentration for all you MBA bashers) on Dec. 18th. My last class is going real well even with a bad case of "senioritis". I am currently learning in terms of the "official way" to do UML diagrams, and some of the OO terms that I've never spoken before, but have used plenty of times (ex- "Aggregation", "Composition"). I've also done lots of use case and sequence diagrams before but I'm also getting some good exposure to all the other ones. Still, it kind of amuses me how in the business world you pretty much do what makes sense (even if it may not be perfect), but in the academic world you do it "the proper way" (even if it may not make sense). I suppose that's the core difference between academics and practicality.

XBox (Games)

Journal Journal: Halo 2 review 4

First, Amazon bungled up my order. They decided to wait until Monday (the day it was supposed to ship) to let me know the credit card they had on file was not valid (duh, I cancelled it a while ago.. would have been nice to know before the day it was going to ship). I was in a scramble on Mon to pre-order and most of the places were sold out, so I ended up pre-ordering from Worst Buy. I picked it up yesterday over lunch.

I got it home, popped it in and got an error message about my xbox not being able to download an update from Xbox Live. My first response was "great, they are maxing out the servers". However, I remembered tightening down my router and found that was the real problem. I did a factory restore (backed up the settings first) and everything was fine.

Now to the actual Halo 2 review... First off, I haven't actually played campaign mode yet. I went straight to xbox live. It's basically Halo 1 with some new weapons and the ability to steal vehicles. The new weapons are nice, but the default weapon (SGM?) is pretty worthless even if you are dual wielding. I wailed on someone within inches for several seconds with the SGM's, and they killed me with one pop from a shot gun (this happened several times). The vehicle improvements are pretty good. Most covenant vehicles (ghost, wraith, Banshee) now have "afterburners" that allow you to have a speedy getaway. I was having fun doing barrel rolls on the Banshee. Unfortunately, they took away the plasma cannon, so it's not quite as powerful. Also, the vehicles "die" pretty easily but this is probably a good thing.

The graphics are improved quite a bit. Everything seems a little smoother, and faster. It's a great gaming experience though I'm still not a big one for game controllers.

In terms of sound, I've heard the music is better but I wasn't really paying attention to that last night (probably only in campagin mode). The way voices are done on XBox live is cool. Once you are playing a game, you can only hear people that you are in close proximity to. This includes enemies. It's great for walking up to someone and beating them down with a weapon, right after you taunt them of course.

On Xbox live, you now have the ability to send "voice messages" to friends that were on (lets you record a voice mail and send it to them to listen). This is a neat little feature. I was playing against 16 other people for several hours with virtually NO lag. That is pretty amazing. When I first started out I got my butt handed to me, but after an hour or so I was doing a lot better (16+ kills per game).

I definitely think this game was worth the $50. I will be enjoying halo 2 for a while!! As I've said before, it's a great way to get your non-PC geeks involved in gaming. You can easily set up "private party" and invite your friends in by invite only. Great for avoiding the pre-teen let-me-impress-you-by-cussing crowd.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Quick Fri Update

After seeing the front page HALO 2 article, I am tempted to drive to Meijer and pick up a copy of it. (I am within 20 minutes of 3 different Meijers). However, I figure I'm getting a good deal for $36 on Amazon and if I got it today I'd be wasting study time, plus my parents are coming up tomorrow. But wasting study time due to Xbox or PC has always been a tradition... Ugh, what to do??

In other news, we closed on the new construction this morning! Was quick and simple, took all of 15 minutes to go through all the paperwork. Much easier than our last closing when we bought our current house..

Fortunately, I won't have to make a payment on anything until Jan! Woohoo. Next week I will be working on applying for all the utilities (water, sewer, storm tap ins). After that we have to do the "pre-construction" meeting and we will know for sure when they are going to get started on building. My guess is sometime in January....

Have a good weekend everyone!!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Halo 2 pre-ordered... and other updates 5

Apparently today was the last day to pre-order Halo 2 and have it shipped free overnight on Nov 8. Woohoo! I scrounged up a gift certificate for Amazon.com that had been sitting in my inbox for months, and ended up getting it for $36. Not bad. Needless to say I'm goin to be busy next week.

For those of you on XBox Live, let me know if you want to hook up. My handle is "RedHunter". And you better believe all be online Tues.

In other news, the mortgage stuff is moving forward and we are set to close tomorrow at 11AM. I am taking the day off to get that wrapped up- definitely exciting! My wife and I will be signing whats left of my financial assets away for a long long time... hopefully we can start building soon, but it may not end up being until next year after winter hits. Not a big deal if so- gives us more time to save up.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Some Updates

I've had a really crazy week. Two user group presentations- one on MSMQ .NET services, ASP.NEt, etc., and another on Quizzard and calling web services directly from the browser to make really "snappy" user interfaces. (Useful if you have dropdown A that affects dropdown B and don't want to do a postback to change the values).

Fortunately one of my classes was cancelled, and I missed the other one for the ug presentation in Findlay. We had about 15 people at the meeting which was cool- especially considering Bush was in town, and I was his competition apparently... :)

The other thing making this week crazy has been the building process. Friday was supposed to be the week we closed on our construction loan, and the last day we could to secure our land... Found out yesterday that is not going to happen. The kicker is the reason why.. (how is it I end up in these situations?! :) )

The mortgage company I am working with (a third party that works tight with the builder) decides to go with a different lender. I am the SECOND person that they decide to do it with. I am getting a great interest rate for construction- 6%. But... Since this is a new lender, and a very big one (Washington Mutual) they have some pretty set standards that have to be followed. The mortgage company, the builder, and myself are finding out that these standards don't really get changed.. We have a hold up right now because our builder is being asked to change the way they do draws because the draw schedule is too "top heavy" (meaning too much money taken out up front). The builder is reluctant to change it, and I'm somewhere caught in the middle. Really nothing I can do at this point besides wait, go with another lender, or go with another mortgage product offered by the same lender.

Anyway, I am opting to go with another mortgage product so I can close next week. It's a 15 year balloon but the rate is 5.625 which is really good. I was originally on a 30 at 6, which I'm still willing to take if they can thigns ironed out...

Also, the person selling us the land is cool with it, and willing to hold off a little bit for us to buy it. So we're still in the game for now.

Anyway that's a quick update on that side of things. Not real fun but hopefully it will get taken care of by next Fri. Maybe I'll take off tomorrow so I can relax a little..

User Journal

Journal Journal: General update 4

A lot has been going on lately! I wrote a JE the other day, but for some reason it never posted. I'm thinking I only hit preview...

As far as building progress goes, my wife and I were able to pick out all the colors both inside and out on the house last weekend. We had some more upgrades to do since we had 1-year rated carpet. Fortunately we have everything figured out from light fixtures to flooring to windows to door knobs. It took us about 6 hours (had to drive to Akron) but we got it taken care of. Woohoo!

In a few hours we will be signing the loan for our equity. Our construction loan is approved, but we have to wait three days before we can close on it. A lot of stuff came together this week- got the approval for the site plan, which was the main thing we were waiting on. Building a new home is definitely not for the faint of heart (and we're not even in the building phase yet!). Supposedly, it should be relatively smooth sailing after we close... Next steps:

1. Close on construction loan (next week)
2. Get permits
3. Get tap ins (Sewer, water, etc.)
4. Build
5. ???
6. Be in debt.

In other news, work has been borderline horrible. A development project gone south- mainly because of bad requirements and communication. It's a 1000+ hr project that we've been working on since July.. The deadlines keep slipping. Found out one of my main developers on the project is giving his two weeks notice today. So, that puts things in a bit of a tight spot. Fortunately, the project is wrapping up. The Project Manager got into a nice email flame blame game, which I decided not to get involved with... :)

We have the Harvest Fest this weekend at our church. Should be fun and will be good for me to get some relaxation in. Going to be chopping wood for the fire and cooking chili.

Next week will be pretty busy... closing on a loan and two user group presentations, and a mid term exam to study for. Not looking forward to the last one. Maybe I'll take off a day of work.. I still have 10 days to take off between now and Jan 1!

Well, have a good weekend everyone!

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