Posts from December 2009.

n+1 sides to every story

Fender Bender

My car is completely payed off this February.

Where N equals the number of participants or observers to an event there will always be n+1 accounts of what happened.

This is my account.  I was driving in a parking lot.  Traveling between 10 and 15 miles per hour when at approximately 3:50 p.m. a woman in a silver Taurus backed into my path and collided with my vehicle.  I had no time to react.  Boom!  And the event was over.  Our cars hit perfectly on the corners of the vehicle.  My right front corner was hit by her right rear corner as she backed out of the parking space.  My car stopped moving, and my windshield wipers turned on.  My hand must have hit the lever on impact.  That has no bearing on anything aside from I thought it was very strange.

I jumped out of the car to make sure everyone inside was OK.  Yeah, it was only a 10 mph crash… but a kid could have poked an eye out with a crayon or something I guess.  No injuries.  I don’t even think you could fake one either.  My airbag didn’t even deploy.

She was obviously a Nurse of some kind, deduced by her attire: scrubs.  It was obviously a new car, deduced from the dealer tag in the window.  And just three days after Christmas, no one needs that.  I offered my condolences.  She was obviously mad as hell, so I said no more.  I observed her scream several times at the child who was in the back seat.  And when I say scream I mean she shrieked.  She shrieked so nastily, which such hostility and hatred, that each time I felt a flight or fight response and all I could think was “poor kid.”

I called 911 and reported the accident.  They gave me a 30 minute ETA for an officer to arrive.  I called home to tell my wife I was involved in an automotive altercation and then I called my insurance company to report the incident and make sure they knew I wasn’t paying a dime because she was at fault as far as I was concerned.  I snapped a few photos for documentation purposes and waited.  And waited.  And waited.

The Officer arrived about 45 minutes later.  Remember how I said I was originally sympathetic to this woman’s misfortune?  Well, my sympathy completely ended after the Officer asked me my account of the situation and she acted out, yelling and hostilely denying the beginning of my diatribe after only uttering several words.  The Officer commanded her to go stand by her vehicle in that way Police do.  I swear Police have Jedi mind powers!  And doesn’t everyone know not to raise your voice to a police officer? That poor guy didn’t want to stand out in the cold and do all that paperwork because of her stupidity.  And he definitely didn’t want to do all that AND get yelled at.

I was given a sheet of paper to fill out by the officer.  When I gave the paperwork back to him, he informed me that her story was quite different.  I told him she popped right out of the space and I had no time to react.  He said OK, and went to his car and told me I could sit in my vehicle to get out of the cold.  So I waited some more.  Finally he gave me her paperwork, that she would receive mine, and he told me I was free to go.  I had checked my lights and most of them worked.  I lost a running light and asked him if that would be OK to drive with.  He said it should be fine.  He asked if I had any other questions.  I asked if he had determined fault or if fault was determined in a parking lot and he shared that he had not determined fault at this time, but I could check the report in two or three days to see if that changed.  He mentioned that the insurance companies could and would work it out.  In parting he did tell me that the woman who hit me was driving with a revoked license, so she’d be getting a ticket for that, which was ultimately in my favor.  I thanked him for his time and apologized for the inconvenience to him — I have a lot of respect for police, they don’t get paid enough, and they deal with everyone on the worst possible days of their lives, it’s a tough job and I respect the people who chose it as a profession.

That was it… I was free to go. Now here’s the really strange thing.  You know that sinking feeling you get when you see the blue lights in your rear view mirror?  Or the blue and red lights in NJ and just the red lights in NY?  Or the sinking stomach feeling when you get in an accident or something really bad happens?  I didn’t get that at all.  I was completely apathetic to the direct consequences of the events of this afternoon.

Gmail and Apple Mail with Parental Control

Santa Clause brought a new 13″ macbook for my eldest daughter this year.  He was kind enough to set up most of the laptop for her, but left a few tasks for me to tackle after the holiday.  One of which was email.

Apple Mail has some wonderful Parental Controls allowing the parental units to define a white list of who the child can exchange email with.  Fantastic Stuff!  But my problem was my daughter has an email address from one of my google apps domains.  I needed to figure out a way for her to ONLY use Apple Mail and not login to Google via the web to circumvent those Apple parental protections.

I decided just on a monster password that she doesn’t know.  One that she will not be able to remember or type in.  We’re talking 35 characters long, upper case, lower case, numbers, and special characters.  It’s not a perfect solution.  The password is saved in the Keychain, and she can get it out of there, when she figures it out, but it seemed like a good compromise for now.

I could blacklist the URL for gmail so she can’t access her email via the web on her computer.  But, that won’t stop her from accessing her email  from another computer if she can figure out how to get the password off her macbook.

I’ll do some more investigation around this later.  It would be nice if Google allowed an account to ONLY be accessed via IMAP.  I’ll look into if that’s an option today, and if not, I’ll ask Google for the feature.  I think it would be a nice option to have.

Yesterday we also set up iChat, so now we have a video intercom in our house.  It’s funny to video chat when your kids just down the hall.  She is completely enamored with the Alpha Channel options in Snow Leopard’s iChat.  We need to get a green screen now.

All Day Installs and Upgrades

The chair, desk and apple macbook are all new for Christmas.

My eldest Daughter got a MacBook from Santa this year.  A little 13″ solid plastic uni-body MacBook with a clear protective cover.  Yes, she’s only 9 years old.  Yes, she really does need it for school.  She attends a magnet school and is currently making straight A’s in one of the toughest/best public schools in the state. Santa did right by her this year.

In comparison, I was 12 years old when I purchased my very first computer, a Commodore Vic 20, back in 1981.  I got it from K-Mart for $125.  Money I had earned working paper routes with the Atom Tabloid and Star Ledger — my mother lied for me so I could get the Atom Tabloid job a year early.  In NJ the child labor laws mandated a kid be 12 before they could earn an official taxable wage.  Meh!

So, I got a computer at 12 years old and taught myself to program.  By 13 I was an old hack.  By 14 I was soldering external sensors to my Vic 20’s RS232 serial port.  I think having that computer experience got me where I am today — from the Vic 20 to Facebook.  I had to poke fun at Facebook, I just had to.  ;-)

I didn’t grow up with a computer, like both of my kids did.  I didn’t figure out how a mouse worked at the age of two just from sitting on my father’s lap and watching him work like my kids both did.  It’s intuitive to them.  It’s second nature.  Plus they’ve been hogging my wife’s PC and my Mac far too much for far too long.  I think Santa did my wife and me right.

So, it’s now the day after Christmas 2009 and I’m looking through my employee benefits sites at work trying to find the “$10 Office 2008 for Mac” deal that a co-worker told me about this past summer.  All of my daughter’s school work is done in Word, Excel or Power Point.  She knows Power Point so well, she’s been tutoring her fourth grade teacher on how to use it.  I got her hooked on the Mac with iLife.  I knew I wasn’t going to win any awards forcing her to learn iWork.  So I just got her the Microsoft Programs for the Mac.  She even agreed to split the $10 licensing fee I had to pay.  What a good kid.

But it took me ALL DAY!  The house was a mess.  Leslie and I are both sleep deprived.  I’m fighting a cold.  Holidays are getting rougher in our old age.  The kids were acting bratty.  There were 100+ interruptions — to a computer geek interruptions are like ice picks in the eyes; nothing is more annoying than an interruption when you are trying to get something complex done right.  Ugh!

Finally though, I finished installing all of the work on her computer.  I’m pretty proud of myself too.  Aside from the programs for school she also has the iLife suite, Voice Candy, and two Luxor games to play with.  It’s under complete Parental Control.  I’m using the Mac Parental Controls in conjunction with Open DNS which will also filters out nasty domains (phishing and maleware as well as sites that are not child friendly).  With a little Remote Desktop magic I can also view her screen in a window on my iMac’s 2nd monitor to make sure she’s doing her homework when she should be doing her homework.  Time limits keep her from spending more than 4 hours a day on the machine and will force her to logout at bed time, and she can’t login again till morning.  So there will be no late night net parties in her room any time soon.

My next plan is to show her the address book on the machine.  I’ll have her convert our old paper address book to the Mac format, then I’ll be able to port it into my machine with ease.  It’s a win-win.  She’ll love typing in all the information and using the Address Book program.  She’ll love having all that contact information at her fingertips.  And I’ll get to benefit from her labors.

Tomorrow we have to work on integrating Google email with Snow Leopard’s Mail and resolving the Parental Permission issues around that.  Tomorrow should be both fun and interesting.

I joined Facebook ?!?

The world has officially come to an end.  The seas have turned blood red, the sky is on fire, and I hear the hoofs of the four horsemen approaching.  I joined Facebook today.

I have always felt that Facebook has it’s place for those who are not gifted with mad-uber-tech and zen-computer-fu skillz.  I never felt a need to join Facebook because I figured that if you knew me, you knew this is my web site (it’s on the bottom of all of my personal emails — just a click away) and you had all my contact information… if  you wanted to talk you just had to send me an email, video chat with me (skype, AOL or Yahoo!), or just use the phone — I’m in the book.  And here, on my own personal domain, in my own little electronic kingdom, I control my privacy completely.  If you don’t know me, my personal information on this site is pretty sparse and I feel confident that you’re not using this site as a resource to stalk me or my family.

Over the years I’ve gotten many friend requests for Facebook and for one reason or another I didn’t join.  Reasons included requests sent to my work email address, personal privacy issues, my impression that Facebook was just another re-branded version of MySpace, and Facebooks own EULA.  My content, whether you find it to be inane drivel or not, is mine and I will not grant license to any company or organization to use it as their own.  Ever!  The only thing left that we can honestly claim as our own is what we think, feel and say.  There’s no way I’m giving that up to a corporation.  Then again, I’m jaded.  I’ve seen people lose their reputations on-line.  I’ve seen people lose their jobs on-line.  I’ve seen people lose their identities on-line.  I’ve seen people lose their life savings on-line.  I’ve seen people lose their children on-line.  The Internet is a lot like New Jersey, it’s got it’s really nice parts, and it’s got drawbacks, and it’s got it’s really bad parts… except the bad parts of the Internet are way worse than Newark ever was.

So, now that you know my true, honest feelings about Facebook, I’m sure you are wondering, “Why the hell did you sign up?” Well, my brother came over for Christmas and, as a Facebook addict, he had to get on my iMac to tag someone’s wall.  I gave him the bah-humbug-facebook-shpil and he said, “Naw! You gatta look here… check this out.” So he gave me the tour.  Everything I’ve seen before except one thing.  One thing made me say, “Crap!  I have to join Facebook now!”

My 89 year old Aunt was on Facebook!

So, I read the EULA again, and three sections of it turned my stomach.  But, my 89 year old Aunt Edna on Facebook outweighed the drawbacks enough to make me join.  So I’ve joined, but there is no way I’m uploading any content of any considerable value to their site.  If you desire anything of substance from me, if you want to read anything other than a “LOL! you goof!” or a “Yeah, we need to grab a beer this weekend.” you’ll have to read it here.  Where, for whatever it’s worth, I own it.  It’s mine, all mine.

With that said, Facebook gets a minimum amount of personal information about me.  If you know me and friend me on Facebook, you’ll always have a quick, easy link to this website and you’ll always have a link to my photo gallery.

Well, that all happened.  It’s all true.  But there was something else.  Aunt Edna was the #1 reason I joined Facebook.  But there was one more thing that tipped the scales in favor of signing up at Facebook — Google Wave.  Google Wave integrates with Facebook.  So I don’t actually have to login to Facebook to participate in the conversations there.  I can do it all remotely, from Google Wave.  That to me is just cool.  I’ve grown to be a google fanboy of sorts, and anything that makes me use Google Wave more, can’t be a bad thing.

Google Wave might actually get me to sign up for Twitter too…

Google me this Batman…

If you haven’t heard, the next big WAVE in computing has hit.  Google Wave, that is.  I got my invitation this week and jumped in.  I found several of my uber-techie friends had also been invited and were already there, active, in my contacts list.  It’s amazing what they have done.

Check out the link which describes what Google Wave is.  And request an account from Google — you’ll be glad you did.