Category Archives: Tech

Yep, It’s Load Shedding Time

Just to confirm my last post…

Yes, Guam is in the midst of load shedding again. This was a common theme throughout the 90’s on Guam, with months and months of load shedding. At the time, my response was to just stay late at the office (with backup generators) then hit a couple bars and not come home until later at night when the demand for power was less and load shedding was over. Not really an option this time around. There are kids to be fed and bathed now, homework to be done, laundry, dishes, etc.

Sunday night GPA took a couple more generators off line and finally owned up to the situation. Instead of just bonking out neighborhoods at random they have started publishing schedules for load shedding. Back in the 90’s they were terrible at keeping to their schedules, and it would appear they still have difficulties. My power went out at about 10:15 last night, so I went around and secured the house, brushed my teeth and headed to bed. As soon as I laid down however, the power came back on about 30 minutes later.

I am sure this is just going to cause havoc with my appliances and the computer, tv, etc. Time to just keep those things off indefinitely and hunker down with flashlights and candles. And here I was so excited about the new solar farm coming online. Maybe it’s time to talk to Pacific Solar or Micronesia Renewable Energy about outfitting my house for solar power. Both these outfits offer affordable plans and basically take the place of GPA as the power utility. They take the excess power harvested from my rooftop (like during the day when I am at work and all that sunlight is shining on my empty house) and sell it to GPA. Guess I should make a phone call and find out if they can help with this load shedding situation.

Three Cheers For Google

I recently picked up a couple used Google Nexus 7 tablets for the kids. My daughter had one for about a year, but it got submerged in a storm sewer last November (that’s a story for another day). With the prices being so affordable now, I picked up two about a week ago. Sure the device is three years old, but it is still plenty fast for the kids to use. One for her, one for the boy. They arrived on Saturday, and they were presented to the kids during our brief staycation at the Westin this weekend.

Barely 24 hours after getting his tablet, my son broke his screen. Argh. It was in the biggest, most protective case I could find online for the Nexus 7 too. No stopping an irate 4 year old with no parental supervision I guess.

That evening I assessed the damage and took a stab at repairing the device. I still had the water damaged Nexus 7 from last year’s fiasco; it never worked again, despite being taken apart and stowed in a ziploc bag with uncooked rice for a week to draw out all the moisture. But it was stashed away in a drawer because I figured it could be used for parts someday. I actually replaced the screen and the speakers on that old device last summer after my daughter dropped it and I was surprised at how simple it was to disassemble and replace parts on the machine. A far cry from working on Apple iOS devices like the iPod Touch and the iPad. I worked on several of those the last few years and I don’t relish the idea of doing it again.

So kudos to iFixit for their simple and easy to follow instructions. Kudos to Asus and Google for making such an easy to repair device. After about a half hour of tinkering with the two devices, I was able to cobble together a working tablet with the old device’s screen and the new one’s innards and back casing. Kudos to Asus and Google again for making such a rugged device that the screen still works after being submerged for several hours in rain water. Well done everyone.

So now the boy has a working device again – but I think he will have to wait a few days before it magically makes a reappearance, this time under constant supervision. I don’t have any more of these things just lying around.

PS – Here’s a great tip for speeding up the Nexus 7 after upgrading to Lollipop. Follow this guy’s instructions to delete the upgrade cache files to free up space and improve performance.

Talking Statues

Just caught this story on CBS this morning and it struck a nerve:

More than 30 historical figures and monuments around Chicago have been outfitted with mobile technology. It allows them to have their voice and even give their opinions, CBS News’ Dean Reynolds reports.

Basically the city of Chicago installed plaques next to the statues with QR Codes displayed. People scan the QR Code and it plays audio recorded by celebrities associated with Chicago.

Statue Stories Chicago runs for the next year and it is garnering all sorts of positive press. Hopefully this program encourages people to explore the wonderful city of Chicago and learn about the history of the city of broad shoulders. This sounds like a great idea, but I can’t help but think it seems a bit familiar somehow

Goodbye Fink > Hello Brew

Spent some time this morning trying to install some software (lynx actually – anybody remember that?) on my iMac. I tried using Fink, but apparently the repos are no longer maintained, or have shifted their location.

This led down a rathole for almost two hours as I tried to get Fink update and upgraded to use OS X 10.9 Mavericks. I originally installed Fink many many years ago on OS X 10.5 Snow Leopard. Yeah my iMac is that old. Still kicking though.

Anyway, it proved insurmountable to me. I am sure a couple more hours of tinkering and I would have set the path to the 64 bit binaries, but my frustration bucket was filled by 11:30 am. With no clear upgrade path and I ended up uninstalling Fink. And I was fine with that. But then the Mavericks distro required me to compile from source. Ugh. Fink was clearly showing its age, and a cursory examination of the packages in the 10.9 distribution was less than exciting. Too much friction, not enough payoff. Sayonara Fink.

But I felt I needed a package manager – I still wanted to scratch that geeky itch and install Lynx. And I didn’t want to compile it from source. I got two kids running underfoot this morning, I can’t focus completely on the computer.

So enter Homebrew, a more modern package manager built around Ruby and Git, two tools I am quite familiar with. Took about four minutes to download and install and now – presto – I have lynx running on my computer. And now I have htop too, my favorite activity monitoring tool these days. Gosh that was painless. Hey about another trip down memory lane with tin? Crikey that works too! I will draw the line at elm however.

Television On Guam

Let’s talk about television on Guam.

We cut the cord years ago, and got rid of cable in 2011. Been streaming Netflix and Youtube on the TV ever since, but I missed live sports. Especially football. So last year I installed a television antenna on my roof last Christmas and now I get seven glorious channels of digital content (and one fuzzy regular TV station) here on Guam.

  1. NBC affiliate KUAM NBC at 8.1
  2. CBS affiliate KUAM CBS at 8.2 (hellooo football…)
  3. PBS affiliate KGTF at 12.1 and 12.2
    1. 12.1 is the regular station; Masterpiece Theater, NOVA, Sesame Street etc.
    2. 12.2 is local content; public affairs, Jr. ROTC drills, and local documentaries produced through the years
  4. ABC affiliate KTGM at 14.1
  5. Fox affiliate KEQI-LP in regular TV full of static at 22 – This channel is supposed to be at 14.2 as it is a sister station to KTGM, but I cannot seem to get that channel
  6. Iglesia Ni Cristo programming at 26.1 and 26.2 – This used to be KTKB (The CW), but it doesn’t seem to be that anymore.

If anybody’s listening I have a couple questions I can’t seem to figure out. The audio drops in and out on 14.1 and I can’t fix it. The colors tend to drift on 12.1 sometimes, then snap back. And of course that thing with 14.2 not showing up. Anyone with any ideas, please comment below.

My kids are generally befuddled by regular television. They are used to all cartoons, all the time. On demand and streaming of anything their little heart’s desire. Lion King? Sure. My Little Pony? You betcha. Phineas and Ferb? Winx? Octonauts? Lilo & Stitch? Spider Man? All just a few clicks away. The idea of scheduled programming is beyond their ken.

And commercials? A couple months ago I took my boy to the doctor’s office for some illness or other. While we were waiting in the play room/waiting room, a television was playing Disney Jr. and on came this Toy Story Short – Toy Story of Terror. He got really into this show, but when they paused for a commercial about 10 minutes into the program, he was utterly confused. “What happened? Where’s Woody?” was all I heard until it came back on. He could not fathom what commercials where in the slightest. I guess that’s a good thing.

DBA Horror Story

Came across this story a couple weeks ago. It’s the kind of thing that makes me as a DBA cringe in horror. Basically a DBA destroyed the company he was working for after he was fired. He was caught stealing and shown the door. On the way out he destroyed the company’s SQL Server RAID array. The real disaster was the non-existant backup strategy the company had. The RAID array was their backup, a solution developed by this DBA. I think it’s fair to say this guy will never work again as a DBA. Drive mirroring is not a backup solution.

I never saw or used JournalSpace, and apparently I never will. After this debacle, the owner closed up shop and is selling the domain name. UPDATE: Looks like somebody bought JournalSpace’s domain and is trying to resurrect the site. That are taking pains to emphasize the backup solution for this new incarnation.

Incredible Visions

Take a look at this press release from NASA; it includes two time-lapse video clips taken by the EPOXI, nee Deep Impact, spacecraft. They show the earth rotating in space over the course of one day, and the highlight of the series is when the moon slides across the face of our lush blue world. That is extremely cool.

A Little Bit Of Knowledge

Like my oh so crunchy, lefty, elitist, intelligentsia peers I listen to This American Life from Chicago Public Radio. Hell at this point, it’s probably uncool to listen to it anymore or something, but I don’t care. I like it.

As far as I know, my local public radio station KPRG1 does not broadcast the radio show, but that’s okay, I download it as a podcast. Last week’s show was especially entertaining, A Little Bit of Knowledge (is a dangerous thing I guess). It was a rebroadcast, but still entertaining stories of knowing just enough to get into trouble. Give it a listen, especially the story about getting something into your head as a kid and not figuring out the truth until well into adulthood. Like the guy who always wondered why only people named Nielsen get to rate what is on television.

1Postscript: I can honestly say I don’t listen to KPRG much anymore. The iPod is so ubiquitous now I don’t have much reason to listen to any radio. And when I do tune in to KPRG, I can’t stand listening to it. I don’t know what happened, but their signal is just atrocious now. Alex Fields used to maintain it I think, but he’s no longer on island. And their signal has degraded. It sounds like a lonesome prairie wind is blowing constantly at that station, making listening to conversations or music not a pleasant experience.

Hello Firefox 3

Okay, I’ve been using Safari and/or Camino for the past couple weeks and they are both totally cool and functional programs. But I have to admit, I missed Firefox, despite the abysmal performance it gave after a few days of being open. Mostly I missed Adblock Plus and the almighty Filterset.G – I’ve got PithHelmet installed on Safari and CamiTools installed on Camino (oops, Camitools is no longer developed – how do I uninstall that now?), but neither was as extensive or configurable as Adblock Plus with Filterset.G.

So I downloaded the release candidate for Firefox 3 a couple weeks ago, and updated to the release version last week. It’s pretty nice. Spiffy look and much faster performance. I haven’t made the complete decision to jump back to Firefox yet, but it is looking good.

Treo’s Back Down

Well that fix didn’t last very long. I guess the software patch is not particularly useful after all. It needs a hardware fix, which means I’m back to the Razr and the Treo gets sent to the back burner for now. Oh well, premature excitation about my phone after all folks.

The darn thing works, but there is a problem with the audio earphone jack. The phone thinks it is always plugged in and cuts off the speakerphone and regular receiver and microphone functions. This guy will fix it, but I have to ship it to Northern California. Sigh…

Treo Resurrection

Well today was a good day. This afternoon my Treo came back from the dead. It bonked on me back in late January or early February; right around the time Lorelei was born. Luckily I had a spare Razr laying around I could swap the SIM card into, or else I would have been without a phone the last five months. But now I spent a bit of time monkeying around with the phone today, and it came back to life. Lord know how long before the speakerphone and volume drop off again, but for now I can enjoy my clunky, old Treo 650 again. Hurrah.

And yes, I still love my Treo 650 too, it’s been a good phone for me. Getting it back is like seeing an old friend again after too long an absence.

Friday Night Geekatron

Sorry, this is probably incredibly boring to most folks, but I just spent a large portion of Friday night monkeying around trying to get my Windows laptop to connect and print to my venerable Apple LaserWriter 4 600. It was not small feat; the LaserWriter only speaks Appletalk; a networking protocol unknown to the Windows machine. The LaserWriter is connected to the home network via a Localtalk to Ethernet bridge, the aging Ethermac iPrint Adapter from long extinct Farallon.

Thanks Mac Os X Hints for pointing me in the right direction. A little bit of editing to smb.conf and printers.conf on my iMac G5, turn on Samba and print sharing, download the Adobe PostScript print driver and voila, I am printing to my LaserWriter, something I have wanted to do for years and never thought possible without installing Dave or some other such Appletalk client.

And now I can go to bed a little geekier, and content in the knowledge that Macs are cool and I can print my boring spreadsheets and emails from the ThinkPad now.

Now That’s Cool

One thing I’ve discovered while feeding the baby in the early morning hours; television sucks at 4:00 am. No surprise there. An endless succession of infomercials and bad reruns populates the cable netherworld at those hours.

Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to discover something that I never really thought about before. Seems like the major networks are putting their programs up on the web these days. And not just clips or highlights – entire episodes are available to watch, commercial free. And some even sport entire seasons and even multiple seasons. I guess it’s time to finally watch Lost. And Heroes. I’m currently working through a show I’d never even heard about until last week. It’s a post apocalyptic show called Jericho, sort of in the vein of The Day After miniseries. A town in Kansas survives a nuclear attack and the troubles that appear afterwards, from disease and fire to out of control armed government contractors (a la Blackwater). I find it amazing the lengths networks will go to in their efforts to keep stuff off Youtube. Hats off to them though, it’s perfect for a geek with broadband and sporadic television watching habits.

Let Me Heap Praise Upon My Phone

I am techno-gadget geek kind of a guy; I’ve got multiple computers, ethernet in my home; wireless hubs and a couple cellphones. Yes a couple cellphones. Long story short; my old phone died last fall (after taking a swim in the Guatali River-Boonie Stomp casuality. I loved that Sanyo 8100) and I needed a phone ASAP since I don’t have a home phone anymore. I grabbed the cheapest phone at IT&E as a replacement. Unfortunately two days before the demise of my Sanyo phone, I had ordered a replacement phone – a Palm Treo 650 off of eBay. So I ended up with two phones. And the coverage for the GSM Treo is terrible non-existant in Yoña, but it has all the features I want and works in town. So at night I forward the Treo to my other phone and talk it up in Yoña.

And what a phone it is, my cheap ass Kyocera K10. It ain’t much to look at, but it works everywhere on Guam. It’s a simple phone, no camera or computer connectivity, but it does have one killer feature that makes it valuable: A built in LED flashlight. I cannot express how useful this flashlight is, I use it all the time. And I’m not the only one, Taliea had the same phone and loved it, my friend Vic had the phone and loved it so much that even after he broke the phone, he still keeps it in his truck to use as a flashlight.

And sorry for the lack of posts – or the lack of anything but stupid link lists. Been quite busy lately.

Swiss Prepared For Nuclear Holocaust

Not only do they make nice watches and tasty chocolate, the Swiss are also pretty darn good and making fallout shelters. Seriously big fallout shelters. One of those weird things you rarely hear about, but apparently Swiss law requires fallout shelters on new homes. And the municipal governments provide mass fallout shelters as well – visions of underground bunkers, full of Swiss morlocks making watches and explosive chocolates for the Mad Max overworld come to mind.

California Eyes High Speed Rail

California officials are eyeing a high speed rail connection between San Francisco and San Diego, using France’s TGV locomotives. Cool idea, but I wouldn’t ride it. I’ve seen how Amtrak operates and I know there would be a catastrophic derailment within a week of that train beginning service.

At least the French now how to operate it. The TGV made a new speed record for railroads today.