Today on Slashdot, there was a super-interesting article on Altruism. Here’s the snippet:

Dekortage writes “The Washington Post is reporting on recent neuroscience research indicating that the brain is pre-wired to enjoy altruism — placing the interests of others ahead of one’s own. In studies, ‘[G]enerosity activated a primitive part of the brain that usually lights up in response to food or sex… Altruism, the experiment suggested, was not a superior moral faculty that suppresses basic selfish urges but rather was basic to the brain, hard-wired and pleasurable.’ Such research ‘has opened up a new window on what it means to be good,’ although many philosophers over recorded history have suggested similar things.”

I have always found altruism interesting, especially since I have children. I read an article when our twins were first born that altruism was something innate. I saw the boy twin exhibit altruism time and time again right when he was two years old. It fascinated me that now they saw that this is something we are born with, (lo and behold, hope for humankind).

Here’s the link to the article that started this all.

If you read the article that’s quoted in the /. article, it suggests that we are hardwired to get pleasure from helping others.  Personally, I can relate.   In reflection, other people I am drawn too, also exhibit altruism (much to the chagrin to our wives).   This is an interesting article and since this is something I’d like to help foster in our children, I have a little better understanding.  But given other examples I’ve seen, is this something that can be unlearned so to speak?

Just as much of our characteristics are learned behavior, can being anti-altruistic also be learned behavior?  Unfortunately, I think so.

Kids are amazing.  I have learned much from them and look forward to continuing to do so.

innovation, what a show…

The other night, I was watching TV in the bed with the kids and Mel Brooke’s History of the World Part I came on. This is a classic movie, if for no other reason it shows Mel’s genius. The part we watched was the Spanish Inquisition with Mel as Torquemada.

But the Inquisition’s here and it’s here to-
“Hey Torquemada, walk this way.”
“I just got back from the Auto-de-fe.”
“Auto-de-fe? What’s an Auto-de-fe?”
“It’s what you oughtn’t to do but you do anyway.”

The remainder of the movie isn’t for kids, so we changed the station. But I can’t help but watch something like that and think about how great that movie was and the care and the thought that went into that. The next day, I was listening to the radio and Lola from the Kinks came on. It is a cold day when you hear a modern song like Lola. What makes it so great? If we were going to talk for an hour or so with a couple of beers, I could probably make my point and convince you that it’s one of the greatest songs, but if I have to explain it here, then you probably wouldn’t get it. Anyways, that’s just an aside.

So, at work, I’ve been thinking about Innovation. If you have seen my blog before, you might be aware that I like technology. There are so many things I think are cool to play with and have integrated them into mine and my family’s life. Sometimes, my wife gets frustrated when things don’t work 100% but I wonder what my kids will be like when they are my age. Will they be rushing out to get the latest tech toys or will they try to build their own? Who knows, but I do like to encourage their innovator spirit.

At work, I was writing a document on innovation and some of the challenges our company faces. I referred to an article that Guy Kawasaki wrote for one of recent issues of Entrepreneur magazine. His article really gave me food for thought. One of the most important points that I’ve been wrestling with is that you should make products that make your customers happy.

The best example I can come up with and it really drives it home for me is my wife. We have a Trixbox PBX at home. I love it. But, it doesn’t work 100% of the time; it works 99.9% of the time. And we have to dial “9” to call outside. Me, I’m willing to put up with it. Or rather, it just doesn’t seem like an issue at all for me, but for my wife… it’s a pain in the ass. “Why doesn’t our phone work like everyone else’s?” Heaven forbid if my Mother-in-law tries to use our phone. They ain’t happy!

Until I read Guy’s article, I thought that they were missing the point of having the “wonderful technology” in their lives making things better for them. Nope, I missed it. If the technology makes them happy, then we have a winner. I have a Roku Soundbridge; hands down one of the best and coolest things I ever bought myself. However, my wife is just as happy plugging her iPod Shuffle into the stereo. Her Shuffle, makes her happy.

I get it, now I understand. But there has to be some sort of middle ground, don’t you think? A product can’t be 100% fool-proof and work 100% of the time, can it? Does that mean it has to be simple or just work good? I don’t have the answers yet, but this has been what’s been inside my thoughts as of late. Somewhere in this conundrum, lies the secret sauce.

trixbox update to 2.2, part II

If you read my post last night regarding my upgrade to Trixbox 2.2, you’ll see that I was back up and running before going to bed.  It was late, and at first I thought that my upgrade went well, but I was a little disappointed to see that my UI didn’t look exactly like it did in the video.  Something didn’t look right, but I didn’t get any errors.  Upon a re-read of the forum, I realized that it looks like I upgraded the OS to the latest version, but not the UI and who knows what else.

From the forums, it appears that there are a lot of successful installs, and the degree of success depends on exactly what version/build of Trixbox you were running.  For what ever reason, I have to run the following commands to get completely updated:

  1. yum clean
  2. yum make cache
  3. yum install -y tbm-GUIcore.noarch

Now, everything looks like it should in as compared to the video on the Trixbox website.   I’ll do a reboot just to be safe.
Alas, now I am getting errors when I try to load the packages list.  This is also reported in the above mentioned thread.

Warning: fread(): Length parameter must be greater than 0. in /var/www/html/maint/includes/functions/genYumArray.php on line 21

Warning: fread(): Length parameter must be greater than 0. in /var/www/html/maint/includes/functions/genYumArray.php on line 196

A bug and fix were submitted.  Sure enough, I was missing three of the files on this page:

That indeed, fixed it.

Time to upgrade Trixbox to 2.2 tonight

I’ve mentioned recently that Trixbox released their final 2.2 version. I’m running 2.1 and have been enjoying a great amount of success with that version. If it ain’t broke, do I need to fix it? I’ve always been on the bleeding edge of things so my gut says yeah, I need to upgrade. It’s a real problem for me. I always need to try the latest firmware, software, version of whatever I have. Sometimes it has gotten me into trouble, (with my wife), but it will just gnaw away at me until I do something about. That’s the case with the recent release of Trixbox 2.2. I’ve been watching the forums and I believe tonight is the night to make the jump.

(gawd, I hate that Rhapsody’s Comcast client takes FOREVER to load; don’t they know I am trying to stuff while listening to some ‘tunes!?!?!?)

So, anyways, here’s what’s new in 2.2:

Some of the things I like is the “dashboard” that is the first thing you’d see when logging as ‘admin.’ The UI looks pretty sweet. On my existing system, I catch a memory leak from time to time that affects my system’s performance, so I like being able to see that sort of info on the front page. The Web UI to administrate the network will help a lot of people who may not know how to configure network interfaces. My setup isn’t typical for most home users. You can read about it here.

The update instructions can be found in the Trixbox forums:

You can NOT run to upgrade to 2.2!!!

Upgrade via the package manager by installing tbm-GUICore or by running yum update at the command line.

I picked the “yum update” route. Man, I wished I made a backup before I started. I had to update 177 packages at 225MB.

You see, here’s my problem. I can really only work on this stuff at home when everyone is in bed. It’s already midnight and if the family wakes up to an inoperable phone system, we might as well put in the order for a new land line; shudder! But, the downloads are flying by, this may not be too bad. Might be time to refresh my Vodka. In case you are interested, I use VNC to admin my boxes from my WinXP system upstairs; the UNIX and Linux boxes are in the basement.

While this is continuing to download, I feel like we finally have a chance to talk. You know what pisses me off? Here’s a list (unrelated to the the actual update):

  • People who don’t put shopping cars back into the cart coral at supermarket parking lots. You are one lazy mo-fo.
  • People talking on cell phones in high speed, high density traffic. Get a headset, dumbass.
  • News reporters (on TV) who use their hands too much when giving a report. By the way, does it really make a story more interesting if you are standing outside of closed office of something you are doing the piece about? Lame.

I could go on, but the downloads are almost finished. Let me refresh my drink while it finishes up. Oh man, 385 packages are now being updated! How painless will this be??? The updates are done. I am going to make the assumption that I need to reboot. I hope it comes back up!

It came up, but if I went to a web browser, it looked like the older version. What did I miss? If I go to Asterisk menu, I am getting MySQL errors like the password is wrong. However, if I go to the “Asterisk Info” page, it appears with the UI seen in the video.

[nativecode=Access denied for user 'asteriskuser'@'localhost' (using password: YES)] ** mysql://asteriskuser:XXXXXXXXXX@localhost/asterisk

This requires more investigation! I had changed the default password when I initially set all of this up, but I can’t remember what the original password was for the user.

I couldn’t find it anywhere on the web and I couldn’t log it, so I tried installing phpwebadmin, specifically tbm-phpmyadmin.noarch. I was able to reset the password to the one I had specified in:

  • /etc/asterisk/manager.conf

I rebooted once I reset the password. After the reboot, I was able to call out okay, but it was too late to try calling in, (and risk waking up the boss). So far so good.

I had installed Munin manually last go around, but now when I tried to access it via the TB interface, I got a spewload of errors. Small potatoes. I’ll worry about it later.

I’m wiped out so off to bed… and more later as I delve into this project.

EDIT: Part II of this can be found here: Trixbox Upgrade part II

mother, did it need to be so high?

Today was one of those surreal days where it takes some time to sink in. This week has been and is going to be busy since all of our children have last days of school and end of year parties. As it is, I’ve volunteered at my son’s luau on Thursday. I don’t know what to expect but I love working with children so I am looking forward to it.

The surreal stuff, is sort of hard to explain. I rear-ended a Hispanic lady in the morning after she slammed on her brakes for a lame brained reason, (no real damage it was a love tap), I got some good feedback from someone I look up to, I heard good things about myself from another person, I had to leave work early since my wife was really sick, I talked for about two hours with a Polish neighbor and walked away with some Polish cookies and showed him my framed picture of Papiez Jan Paweł II, and then I spent a fair amount of time working on my blog.

Just before this writing session, VH1 was showing “Pink Floyd, The Wall.” I had seen this almost 30 times when I was younger and Midnight Movies were the cool thing to do. Sometimes, I feel like Bob Geldof in the movie. If you’ve seen this movie, you can relate to what I am saying.

I have been busy. I have finished my Real Estate Post license class the other night and am merely waiting to take my final exam. I also got a lot of work done on my blog over the last two days since I finished my online class.I’m pretty wiped out, so I am going to go eat some Melba toast and go to bed.

is that a chumby, or are you just glad to see me?

I got a Chumby. When I first saw this thing on a friends desk, I was like, “what’s this goofy thing?” then when I got my hands on it, I was like, “holy geez, this is way cool!” I finally got this thing working at home. There is a “bug” where it freaks out if your router is doing anything besides 802.11b. Once I set my router to “b” it worked great.

This is a great idea. You should read what this is all about. Taken from Chumby’s website:

The chumby is a compact device that displays useful and entertaining information from the web: news, photos, music, celebrity gossip, weather, box scores, blogs — using your wireless internet connection. Always on, it shows — nonstop — what’s online that matters to you.


I’ve been really big on taking the Internet experience out of the computer room into your living space, and this thing suits the bill.

The widgets are all Flash-based… and i don’t know Flash… yet. But after playing with this thing for a day or two, I’m ready to learn. I got a lot of ideas for widgets that would really make this thing a necessity of life these days… at least for me.

I got this from work, specifically the Earthlink Blogmaster, Dave, (thanks, Dave!). I saw it on his desk and asked him what it was. He passed it to me and sent me packing. I think this has a ton of potential for some really cool uses. Time to find a good book on Flash.

Quick! Get me the number to the Patent Office!!!

Lo and behold, Wikipedia to the rescue…

This is what is on my Chumby, right now.

EDIT: I created a page separate from this one since it was causing huge load times.  You can find it here:

  • What’s on my Chumby!

wordpress upgrade and other things

So, with the release of WordPress 2.2, I took the leap and updated tonight. It went really smooth and I seem to think there might be a performance gain, but it could be the vodka. You might have noticed that I am using the K2 theme, which has a slight issue with WP 2.2. You can get the fix here. It worked as advertised. If you are using WP-Cache you probably need to delete your root out of the cache to see the change.

Today, I was really glad I had my GPS unit, the Mio c310x. Twice today, I had to get somewhere fast and having the GPS let me bypass traffic and cut through other neighborhoods. It was cool saying, “hey, this is a load of crap… I’ll turn here…” and get me around the BS. Today in Atlanta, there was really heavy rain around the very beginning of rush hour and that set traffic home off to a terrible start. If only we had TMC like Europe has then is would trump Google! Maps on my Treo. I don’t think the c310x has the support for TMC, but that might be something to consider in my next GPS purchase.

BTW- I’ve done a considerable amount of stuff to my Mio over the last few weeks. Unfortunately, I don’t feel comfortable talking about them here. Let’s just say I am ready for a trip to Europe…

With regards to the Cheap-o HTPC, I’ve come to the conclusion and recommended to my brother-in-law, that an original XBOX is the way to go. For roughly under $100US you can find one on Craigslist, Ebay, or at a local pawn shop and easily hack it and put XBMC on it. He’s not a big game player, so he’s really only interested in the media capabilities. I’ve suggested a couple of places for him to find one and offered to hack it for him, so I’ll update as time goes on.

I also noticed that Trixbox 2.2 is out now. My Trixbox server is 2.1. I honestly don’t know if I’ll upgrade since it’s one of those things; if it ain’t broke… don’t fix it! If you read the thread over in the Trixbox forums, there is a way to upgrade despite what the first post says. We’ll see.

I’ve also been learning a lot about the business side of this. More on that, too.

Finally, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about innovation and technology and how it affects my and my family’s life. I’ve started writing up a doc highlighting some of the key points, but I am not sure what I plan to do with it when I’m done. Maybe I’ll post it here… but I wouldn’t count on it.

using a heart rate monitor (HRM) successfully….

Man, I should be doing my real estate class or practicing my German, but since I was getting back to exercising after a couple month hiatus, I need to refresh myself and I can get on my soap box.

I’ve had three different HRM’s over the years and I think that each one has been an improvment over the other. The first one I got, I got from Aldi’s for $20. Hey, I figure that it was worth $20 bucks to try it. I was hooked. There was a little learning curve as I learned about the watch and my own body. I was able to see improvements and I minimized my injuries and colds I would get when I pushed myself too hard.

I lost the chest strap on the Aldi’s HRM, and I got a Polar A5. It was a step up but more designed for walkers. Still, I really enjoyed it. I liked being able to see how many calories I had burned on my workouts. My next watch I got on a good deal. I next got a Polar F6 and passed the A5 to my wife.

The F6 was even more impressive since you could upload your data to Polar’s website and track your goals, Lose Weight Exercises, etc. Pretty cool!

Now, using a HRM successfully depends on a strong beginning. The most confusing thing was trying to determine my base heart rate. The first two HRM’s said to simply take your age and subtract your age and multiply that times 60%, 70%, and 80% to get your zone. This is fine if you have never Lose Weight Exercised but this doesn’t take into account your level of fitness. I have been running for years and following this method I was barely breaking a sweat, It was apparent I needed a better way to determine my base HR. Now, you might want to know why the base HR is so important. Once you have your base then you can determine what zone you want to target:

Target Zones

60 – 70% of max HR Weight Loss, building endurance

70 – 80% of max HR Weight Management, improve cardio fitness

Like I said, the Age-Based formula is only good if you have been a couch potato for the last five years. If you have been doing anything… and I recommend this formula anyways, I recommend Karvonen formula. Basically, you take your heart rate in the morning as you are laying in bed for three mornings, average them together, use that number for the basic calculations and you can get dialed in to your personal fitness level.

More details can be found here:

It took me some trial and error to get it right, but I understand it now. In fact, I made a spreadsheet that I’ll share here for you to use to calculate your zones in both the traditional method and the Karvonen method. You can view the spreadsheet here:

Finally, I was suprised at how well the Polar OwnZone works. I have used it and was suprised at how close it was to the results I got from the Karvonen formula. While the OwnZone might be a no-brainer if your unit supports it, I think it is still important to know the logic behind it.

A HRM will let you maximize your Lose Weight Exercises and help you avoid getting hurt or getting sick. In the summer when I push myself on seven or eight mile runs, I would almost certainly get a little cold. A HRM and some L-Glutamine helped prevent that.

Finally, let me close with a story that I think will illustrate why I think a HRM is important for people starting out running or cycling. One day, when I was on a long run in the summer, I caught up to a guy who was walking but wearing running gear. I passed him on my steady pace only to be passed by him while he was running much faster than I. Then, about two minutes later, I passed him again while he was walking. Then he passed me again running fast. This went on another four times until finally we ended up at the same red light.

“I just started running!” he said. This novice runner didn’t have any concept of pace. He was heading down a path of injury or over excertion and didn’t know it. Typically, novice runners will go this route and get hurt or discouraged. A HRM takes the guesswork out and gives you a detailed view into how your body is doing regardless of your fitness level.

wordpress, children, and an “old fashioned”

This has been a good weekend for me. My wife had her best friend come into town this weekend so she took off and I had the kids for the whole weekend. I was planning on working from home on Friday, but I ended up taking the day off so I could just enjoy the kids and relax. It worked out pretty well and we ended up having a nice time when my son got back from school.

I didn’t have any time to work on the HTPC side project. I did install Ubuntu and upgraded to the latest version. But now the on-board video seems to be having problems. The monitor has vertical lines throughout the display. I had another video card go bad years ago and it was the memory on the card that went bad. So, it’s sitting in the basement, waiting… calling… for me… maybe this week.

I did spend a whole lot of time trying to increase performance on this blog. I have disabled several plugins and think I might have nailed it down. I’ll post my thought about the plugins this week. I’ll describe the ones I think causes worse performance and which ones helped. If you have any thoughts let me know.

Today, we had a great visit with my mother and went over to my brother-in-law’s house for sausage and corn on the cob. We had a nice time and the food was great. The twins were excited about eating corn on the cob. My brother-in-law made “Old Fashioned’s”with Maker’s Mark. It was great. He said that nobody knows how to make Old Fashioned’s:

The oldest recipe that I have found going by the name of Old Fashioned, comes from “Modern American Drinks” by George J. Kappeler, and published in 1895:

Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass; add two dashes Angostura bitters, a small piece ice, a piece lemon-peel, one jigger whiskey. Mix with small bar-spoon and serve, leaving spoon in glass.

I found this on the Drinkboy website. Reading this article, my brother-in-law made the “updated” version described after the above quote. And certainly the article isn’t complimentary to the way he made the Old Fashioned’s, but I liked it. I had two and it was perfect cocktail for a nice Sunday afternoon.

Then I watched the Sopranos and the Simpson’s.

flexing the ol’ wordpress muscle

I don’t know very much about wordpress, but I know enough to be dangerous.  I’ve been wrestling with making my blog perform a little better and I haven’t really nailed it down yet.  I got a message from a friend today that my site was coming up blank and indeed it was.  If I was logged in as admin, everything looked fine, but if I wasn’t the site did come up blank.  I had a conflicting setting between wp-cache and another plugin trying to get get some additional performance.

If you search on the interwebs, you’ll find several people have their “Top 10 WP Plugins” and for the most part, everyone has their favorites.  But, there are a core group that everyone uses.  Once I nail down the performance issues and I am sure they are not related to the plugins, I’ll publish my list, too.

Today was a good day.  I broke my fishing pole a couple of weeks ago, (I’ve been taking the kids fishing at the lake in our ‘hood), and I got a really nice on on clearance at the Sports Authority.   It was $4!  You can’t beat that with a stick.  We also went to a neighborhood block party and had a nice time with all the neighbors.  It was a nice way to spend the Saturday.

If the weather holds up tomorrow, I’ll try to take the kids fishing again