welcome back to the real world

We just got back from a wonderful time down at Disney World.  They sure know how to do it right.  Not only do they have excellent customer service, they go all out to make sure their customers have a great time.

Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse

This was the first time we actually spent time on their property.  That’s how you got to do it.  I drove our van once over the entire week for a beer run. Everything else has been taken care of.

I have some observations that I’d like to share.

Tattoos

Now, I have a tattoo.  I got it when I was 18. I can hide it easily.  At Disney world, tattoos are the new goatee.  You ain’t cool unless you have a tattoo. At Disney World, one will get to see a lot of tattoos.  I saw plenty of arm sleeves, leg tattoos, and heck, I even thought about getting another one on my leg, (in college I had picked out the most awesome Japanese Shadow puppet for my calf), but there were zero neck tattoos.  That is, until we returned to Georgia. It still boggles my mind why anyone would get a neck tattoo.

Oh yeah... I am very cool

Mr. Dumas

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winxp mode, virtualbox, and VMware Player

Man, I haven’t posted in a long dang time. I’ve been working on a lot of really different and cool things at work and at home.

backdoor man

The other day, I read a post about using split tunnel vpn on WinXP Mode on Windows 7. I like this idea. Essentially, it is simply setting up a virtual machine, installing VPN software on the virtual machine, and using the virtual machine to VPN into your destination network.

I like it for a couple of reasons:

  • My host OS (Windows 7) continues to do whatever it was doing, (bitorrent, IM, etc).
  • My WinXP virtual machine can be 100% dedicated to work stuff

Don’t get me wrong. For work, I have a really nice Macbook Pro. And in the office, I have all the accessories set up so I can just “plug in” and be productive. But at home, I have a pretty beefy Win7 machine and I like using the big monitor and ergo keyboard.

keep moving forward

I was using LogMeIn to access my Mac from my Win7 desktop, but it wasn’t great. I use Virtualbox on my Win7 desktop with Ubuntu Linux and love it, but the VPN doesn’t work great, so and I really need some of the Microsoft functionality.

So, I tried to get it set up with WinXP Mode and it worked pretty well. I installed Office 2007 and use Ninite to install my typical Windows apps. It worked great.  I used WinXP Mode for a couple of days with work and it was okay; I’ve got no major complaints… except I don’t care for the Virtual PC interface and graphic performance stinks.

At first I ran the VMWare converter utility and I created a Physical to Virtual machine and stored the .vmdk on a different harddrive.  Then I installed the VMWare Player and discovered it had an option already to “import Win XP Mode Virtual Machine.” How cool, I thought!

… and so it begins

Computers sometimes suck.

Computers sometimes suck.

After a few minutes, the import completed and I tried to fire it up.  I got an error message that said, “Unable to connect to this virtual machine. Make sure you have proper permissions…. etc” or something along those lines. Uh-oh, I thought.

So then I went to open the converted image I created and got the same error.  Boo!  At that point, I tried to start Virtualbox and I got an even more cryptic error about some kernel.dll not being able to load.  I assumed it was a conflict between VMWare Player and Virtualbox.  So I uninstalled the VMWare Player.

After a reboot, (to complete the de-installation), Virtualbox started up fine, I opened the .vmdk I created and it did open!  I thought I was making progress.  Then, as I read elsewhere, WinXP Mode wants to reactivate itself under Virtualbox.  I couldn’t even get logged in. Upon attempting to activate, it said my product code was invalid.

success!

Still, I was very intriqued about the VMWare Player’s WinXP import utility so I decided to reinstall it and try again.  This time, after I installed it, I did not reboot my system as the installation process requested.  Instead I tried the import again… and it worked!

It installed VMWare Tools… the only drawback was that it was the original WinXP VM so none of my installed apps or settings were there.  That’s cool, I thought since you always can do something better the second time around!

So right now, I just finished installing my favorite free apps using NiNite, and am installing Office, Communicator, and my companies VPN software.

So far, I can say the experience with VMWare Player is much better than the original WinXP Mode.  The VM is noticably faster and the graphics is very much improved.  My host system is pretty beefy, so YMMV, but here’s my settings for my WinXP VM:

  • Memory: 768MB
  • CPU’s: 2
  • Network Adapter: Bridged
  • Sound Card and Display: Autodetect

Great Success!

You can find the links to all the software I used if you want to play along.

Windows 7 motherboard swap

This is really cool.  If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me rejoicing over my new purchase of a motherboard and AMD CPU at Fry’s this last weekend.

I’ve been upgrading parts of our home Windows desktop and handing down parts to my FreeBSD server and my (now retired) Asterisk server. (The physical hardware has been retired, but the server image lives on my VMWare ESXi server in my basement).   For the longest time, I would have considered myself an Intel man, but honestly I don’t have fanboy tendencies either way.

But I saw my deal at Fry’s this past weekend, I asked my wife if could get executive approval for the upgrade purchase, and she said yes!  Here’s what I got for $149 (plus tax) after rebate:


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Now, I had a rather old Asus Socket 775 Intel based, Via chipset motherboard and a Pentium D 820. That was a dual core CPU and I wasn’t really too happy about the Asus motherboard. I mean, it was okay, but wasn’t great.

In preparation of my upgrade I began researching on what would be the best way to handle replacing the motherboard from under my Windows 7 installation.  In the past, I would try to get a new motherboard as close to as what I was replacing, and then make the swap, and do a repair installation of WinXP.

I cruised around a couple of the more popular Windows 7 forums and the consensus I was getting was that I should do a “new installation.” The installation process would create a Windows.old and I would have to reinstall and restore my files, (yes, I do have backups).  Then I saw something that blew my mind…

One forum poster claimed that he swapped motherboard and Windows 7 impressively detected the changes and proactively installed the necessary drivers for the new motherboard and after a reboot, he was as good as new.

It’s true.

I decided to try this. With the expectation that at the worst, I would do a “new install” of Windows 7.  I made my swap of the motherboards, plugged everything in, hooked up the bare minimum, (keyboard, mouse, network, monitor), powered it on, went into the BIOS and set my C: drive to the first boot device and let it rip!

It worked.

As proof, here’s a video of my upgrade. I took the chance that it would work, and recorded it with my Flip HD.  The whole thing took 16 minutes from start to finish, but I edited my video down to six minutes.

As you can see, after the reboot I was back in business with quad-core goodness! And here’s a video of me updating my Windows 7 User Experience Index:

Notice my CPU index went from 2.2 to 7.2! Now to be clear, I did have some minor clean up issues:

  • I had to uninstall my ATI Radeon drivers since I wasn’t using that card any more.
  • I did have to install some drivers from the included CD
  • I did have to flash the BIOS to the latest
  • I did have to use the automated Microsoft Activation via the phone, but it was painless.

Overall, it was an exceptional experience!  I never thought I would have a quad-core CPU at home, and I certainly never thought Windows 7 would continue to be this awesome!

Finally, this worked wonderfully.  Here’s a comparison of what I went from and what I went to:

Old Setup New Setup
  • Intel Pentium Dual Core CPU
  • VIA Chipset
  • ATI Video Card
  • AMD Quad Core CPU
  • Nvidia nForce Chipset
  • Nvidia Onbard Video

non-traditional job interviewing advice

Following up with my previous post about non-traditional resume help, I had also given a few pointers to friends about interviewing. I’ve distilled them here:

  • In this economy, there are tons of people out looking for jobs and willing to take anything.  If you are a senior person, and you apply for a junior position, you probably won’t get the job.  Employers are savvy about this, and realize once the economy gets better, you’ll probably leave as soon as you can for a better paying job.
  • And you should, (if you got the job!)! Companies lay people off all the time; it’s a business decision. You and your family should be your number one business.  Think of it as a business decision that is good for you and your family!
  • Remember that the interview is for both involved parties. You should be interviewing your new company, boss, position, growth potential, quality of work/life balance, etc.  See how they treat you during the interview process.  Did they offer you bathroom breaks, sometime to drink or eat?
  • Are the people interviewing you qualified to assess your skills and/or qualifications?  If your hiring manager is not knowledgeable in your skill set, there will be some frustration around expectations.  I was recently asked to interview a candidate for a Cisco Network Engineer position.  I know nothing about the technology, I was brought in to evaluate the guy’s personality. But I was able to asses his ability to learn, lead, personality, and if he could get the job done if given what he needed.  I would not have been able to gauge his technical skills. I was upfront and honest about this.
  • If you get pre-screened by HR or the recruiters, they’ll ask you what you make now or what you made before. DO NOT give them a number until it comes down to an offer. If you give them a number, and it’s lower than the range for the position, they’ll give you that.  You can always say, “Before I give you a number, I want to learn more about the position. Until then, it’s hard for me to give a number that I think is appropriate…” or something along those lines.  If they press you for a number, I would give them a number around 10% above your current or last salary amount.  Don’t tell them, “I’d like to make, $XZY.”  Instead, make it a definite statement, “I am looking to make $XYZ!”
  • Remember, if you get an offer, to consider the total benefits package; vacation, sick time, work at home policy, breaks, insurances, etc, commute, along with the salary.  Work is not just about making a salary. It is also about these things, too.
  • Vacation is always a negotiation-able.  While HR says, “Nope, our standard policy is two weeks” you can always work out a deal with the hiring manager. Just get it in writing from them in case you move under a new boss or he moves out of their position.
  • Sometimes, a severance package is also something you can negotiate for.  “Since I was laid off at my last job where I was at for twelve years, I would feel more safe if some accommodations were made if I was to be let go within my first six months while I am here.”
  • When you get an offer, ALWAYS say, “Thank you.  I need 24 hours to think about it.” If they say, no, then you don’t want to work for them.  You do need to think over every offer and at least sleep on it and talk it over with the family.  Be sure to get back with them either way by the time you committed to.
  • Be prepared to ask questions or do the interview yourself.  Some people just aren’t good interviewers.  One guy I interviewed with when I was being interviewed was clearly uncomfortable so I began asking about his family, kids, etc and we talked for the whole hour about that sort of stuff.
  • This is a good one, but kind of scary.  When the interview is over, ask them if they have any reservations on hiring you. This might catch them off guard, but otherwise it will throw the door wide open for more discussion if there is any concerns. The interviewer might say, “Well, as a matter of fact, I am a little concerned about your lack of experience in XYZ…”  This gives you, as the interviewee, to specifically address this.  In this case, maybe you answer, “While I haven’t done XYZ, I have done ABC which is the same skill set…”  who knows.  But if this guy was worried and the interview ended and it never came up, it could hurt your chances when the other candidates are considered.

I hope you find these helpful.  These come from mypersonal experience as well as some other job finding groups I belong to.  If you have more ideas, I’d love to hear them!

Windows 7 is pretty slick…

Nothing fancy to see here, but I’ve been getting a lot of questions around Windows 7. I figured I’d answer them. I recently attended a Microsoft event here in Atlanta where they handed out full copies of Windows 7 Ultimate. They handed out the 32bit version but I can verify that the same key will work on the 64bit version.

Q. Do you like Windows 7?

A. I love it.  I can honestly say that “it just works!”

Q. Why do you like it?

A. Well, at work I use a Mac, and I know it sounds cliche to say that Windows 7 is very Mac-like, but it is.

Q. Will it work with my system?

A. My PC is best a “franken-puter” that I’ve rebuilt and upgraded parts of it over the years.  Not only do I see a impressive performance improvement, I have yet to manually install any drivers.  Win7 found ’em all. So yeah, I’m willing to bet it will certainly work with your system.

Q. Can you get me a copy?

A. Alas, no.  But if I get some more Google wave invites, I might be able to hook you up with that.

Q. Are you using Antivirus? If so, what do you use?

A. Yes, I am using Anti-virus. You’d be nuts not to.  I am personally using Avast.

Q. Are you aware of anything that doesn’t work with Win7?

A. Yes, I know of a few things that don’t work.  Mainly the only thing I really want to use is VMWare’s VI client.  It will not run under Windows 7, or at least the version I’m using.  I’ll check for an update after I finish this post.

Q. I heard you have to format and reinstall if you are upgrading from WinXP? Is that true?

A. Yes, it is, and you know what? I am SO glad I decided to take the plunge.  I backed up all my users Documents and Settings using the WinXP back up utility and was able to restore them and I am so glad I did. Remember, I said my computer have been rebuilt and upgraded many times. Starting “fresh” allowed me to eliminate a bunch of crap and set some things right.  No regrets! Just plan for it and you’ll be in good shape.

Q. What else have you installed on your “new” system?

A. Since I started fresh, I have installed only stuff that I need. I’ll continue to install stuff as I need ’em, but here’s what I installed so far:

If you got other questions, please let me know! I’m sorry I didn’t have a more catchy post title.

Hello my dear friend! I’m a pure student…

This cracks me up.  I have been getting a ton of spam comments from the .ru TLD, and it always begins with either:

Hello my dear friend! I’m a pure student…

Or

Interesting CMS. What software do you use?

Or some variant of the above.  C’mon, guys, if you are going to try and trick me, you got to do better than that. At this point, I am almost insulted at this feeble attempt.  But that’s not really what I wanted to write about.

Tonight I’m sort of reflective. So much as happened since I last posted. Certainly some of it is good, some of it is exciting, and some of it has certainly been a challenge.  I spent the last 30 minutes trying to find a Youtube vid that represents my mood, but unfortunately, I think the risk of misunderstanding is too high, so therefore, I refrain.

I usually post about technology or funny things, but so much has been queuing up, it’s hard for me to decide where to begin.

  • I am still madly in love with my T-Mobile G1, the Google/Android based phone.  I saw that Google had an Éclair delivered to their office: Each release of the Android OS has been named after pastries: Cupcake, Donut… Éclair is rumored to be Android 2.0…
  • I actually had my first Corny Keg experience with my homebrew in anticipation of our neighborhood Oktoberfest.  Pics and vids to follow, (it’s this weekend).
  • I’ve been rehabbing a rental house in my spare (but limited) time.
  • I’ve been learning Python, (but had to use Perl in a recent pinch).
  • More and more people are asking me for help with Trixbox and Cisco SIP phones.
  • I’ve been to HP HQ in Houston, TX for an executive briefing; I was blown away and met some really cool people.
  • I am meeting with Cisco regarding their UCS offering.
  • I’ve been meeting with Microsoft (and attend the ‘Technical Decision Makers Launch’ of Window 7, Server 2008, and Exchange 2008.
  • I am planning on attending the VMWare Users group event in Atlanta on November 5th, 2009.  Maybe I’ll see ya, there?
  • I’ve been enjoying Google Wave! (Sorry, I haven’t been able to send out invites, yet… so don’t ask!)
  • I have a new WinCE based GPS that I am hacking, (oh yeah, I forgot about this, but it’s a big ‘un!).

So I’ve been busy, but it’s been good. Any of the above items could be a separate blog post.

I’ve been really impressed with Google Wave.  It ain’t perfect yet, but I see the potential of it.  I might even go as far to say that it could be Email 2.0 but I probably need to elaborate on that.  Along the same note, I wonder if Twitter is the new USENET.  <- If you don’t get that, don’t worry about it. But if you want my highly entertaining, hand waving monologue on this, let’s meet for a beer!

PhilTap: dan listermann, I love you!

I recently got several mini-kegs and was curious about force carbonating ’em. With my initial purchase, I got a Philtap system and after weeks of Googling, I came to the conclusion that not many people were force carbonating mini-kegs.

To make a long story short, I don’t currently have any room for a corny keg and a CO2 tank, but I can fit several mini-kegs, (5L) in the garage fridge. So after hours of research, I simply removed the valve from the schrader valve on the Philtap and hooked the CO2 tank right up to it for some force carbonation action.

It worked! And it worked extremely well. I used 12PSI and shook the heck out of it several times over a 30 minute window.

One of the reasons I wanted to post this here is so it would show up in Google.

I was very please with the results!

If you’re interested, here’s the Youtube video of the first time using it!

Comments & questions are welcomed!

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return of my G1

The big update

Last night I realized that I hadn’t posted that I had gotten my T-Mobile G1 with Android on it repaired and it’s back in business, baby!  Actually, I hadn’t posted much of anything in some time.

Anyways,  I did get it fixed.  I had the broken LCD replaced by a local shop.  Apparently, most higher end cell phones can be repair.  So I had gotten it back right after Cupcake came out.  After some prodding I decided to go ahead and “root” my G1 and install some custom ROM’s.

Am I glad I did!

rooting

First off, it was really easy.  Second, you can have your apps on your SD card and just go nuts.  I have a 2GB SD card and have made a 600MB partition (using ext3) for apps.

If you are interesting in rooting your G1, here’s where you can get started:

  • Ultimate Guide 2 Root, Recovery, Partition, Radio, SPL, JACHeroski, Tips

If you follow the first three sections, you are on your way to get your custom ROM, (be sure to install the radio, too).  I couldn’t partition my SD card as described so I took the lusers way out and used a Partitioning program to make the following partitions on my SD card:

  • FAT32
  • ext3
  • Linux swap

the roms

If you were able to get through the directions, you are probably ready to install your custom ROM.   There are several to choose from, each with their loyal of armies.  The most popular seem to be:

  • CyanogenMod
  • JACHeroski
  • JesusFreke

There are a couple of others but I don’t have any experience with them.  At first, I used JesusFreke’s ROM, but now I am using Cyanogen’s ROM.

coolness

What I think is cool, is that these ROM’s unlock the true potential of the Android OS.  No one is trying to get something for free to crack the apps.  Rather, they are all adding functionality and features that were not in the original release.  For example, these guys figured out how to get the phone to use linux swap, and then they figured out how to use Linux kernel modules for even better performance.

And yes, I do like my G1 better than the iPhone.  But that’s another post!

T-Mobile G1 vs. the iPhone

I’m sorry I didn’t come up with a more catchy title and hopefully this won’t be another plan ol’ comparison between these two phones.  What, you say?  Why would this one be different?  Well, I own both phones.  More specifically, I got my G1 on launch day and have loved it ever since.  At the beginning of April, we were on family vacation and I dropped my G1 with such force, I broke it.  I had the G1 BEFORE the iPhone…

Grief

I found myself going through the “Seven Stages of Grief” over the phone.  This was the first smartphone I had bought myself and my first phone with a real dataplan.

Typically, the seven (7) stages of grief are described as:
– Shock or Disbelief
– Denial
– Anger
– Bargaining
– Guilt
– Depression
– Acceptance and Hope

Sometimes, people speak of five (5) stages of grieving, putting together:
– Shock/Disbelief and Denial
– Bargaining and Guilt

Depression

I was using a crappy Samsung phone during my “depression” phase.  I then learned that the G2 might be coming out this summer so I didn’t want to spend over $200+ for a new G1.

Acceptance and Hope

I began my search for a 1st gen / 2g iPhone.  I wanted to jailbreak and unlock it so I can use it on T-Mobile’s network.  I was able to find via Facebook from a friend and we struck a deal and I got a new (used) iPhone.

It’s been about a week and I have been playing around with the iPhone a lot.  It is jailbroken and unlocked and I am able to use it with my T-Mobile G1 account just fine.

Now that I have both, I feel that I can give a good comparison between the two.  Furthermore, I had my G1 first, before I had any iPhone experience.

T-Mobile G1

I loved this phone.   Here’s a list in particular order of things I really liked:

  • Sliding Menus
  • Run multiple apps
  • Google Gmail/Calendar/Contacts Syncing
  • Online community
  • Google Maps, Tracks, and Latitude
  • Could use most web-based iPhone apps.
  • More utility based apps in market
  • Cool GPS apps

And here’s some things I did not like about it:

  • It would “hang” switching back from using the web browser.
  • Too many “Tip Calculators” in the market.
  • No way to see if an upgrade to an once free app now costs money
  • Battery life, battery life.
  • No Exchange support.
  • Did I mention Battery life?
  • Not able to integrate with iTunes
  • Wouldn’t work with my office’s Corporate Wifi, (could only get Edge in the building).

The G1 was otherwise a killer phone, in my opinion.  The sound quality was good.  There were plenty of apps that changed default behavior.  I liked the keyboard a lot, but I wish it did have an iPhone like keyboard; it was somewhat cumbersome to slide the keyboard open and wait for the screen to refresh with the new orientation.  There were plenty of fitness-type apps, too.  Each one improved upon the previous.

2G iPhone

To be clear, I now think the iPhone is also a killer phone. A list of my likes:

  • Seems much faster than the G1
  • The internal memory is shared between apps, iTunes, photos, etc
  • iTunes!
  • All my iPod accessories work!
  • The store is easy to navigate and sort between free and paid apps
  • Twitterfon!
  • Supports Microsoft Exchange via OWA
  • WiFi works great.

And my list of dislikes:

  • Only one Exchange account can be configured.
  • Browser doesn’t default to “mobile” site

I originally had some apps on my list of “likes” that I removed since it is only a matter of time before the Android version of the apps start showing up.

And that’s about it.  I realize it looks like I like the iPhone better than the G1, but that isn’t the case.  The way I see it, the iPhone has been out way longer and has way more exsposure than the G1 and Google Android in general.

Verdict

Both phones are killer in my opinion.  But I do like Android bettern than the iPhone OS.  And that might be since it’s linux based and just sort of feels right.  But I am enjoying my iPhone and I do plan on getting a G2 but I may not be in as big as a hurry as I was before.

T-mobile G1 / Google Android… Goodbye T-mobile Wing

A moment of thanks…

First off, I’d to thank a lot of you… most of the traffic I get to my site comes from people looking for information on the T-Mobile Wing.  I had the phone for about 1.5 years and posted all sorts of information.  Most importantly, many of you posted comments and offered help and tips to myself and others, and for that I am very thankful.

One door closes, another opens…

However, earlier in the month, my Tmobile Wing suffered a tramatic episode when all three of the children ran over it, (they were chasing eash other) and it got smooshed… really smooshed with a cracked LCD and everything.   At that point, I got “executive approval” to get a new phone.  My wife suggested an iPhone and I was about to pull the trigger until I heard that the T-mobile G1 was coming out on October 22.  I decided to wait.

The countdown…

I was all nervous on launch day, the 22nd.  I was worried I couldn’t find one and then I read that Costco and Best Buy would also be carrying them, but it was unclear when.  So after my big presentation on Wednesday moring, I drove to Costco and they had ’em.  Plus, you got a free “accessory kit” which was a Jabra bluetooth headset and a car charger.  Hey, it’s better than nothing.

Final Verdict…

I LOVE this phone.  I’m not going to rehash all the reason why I like it, there are a ton of other people who give it a thumbs up, but I am really impressed with it.  And there’s been no shortage of coverage and it looks like everyone is on the same page.

Coverage…

Over at the Download Sqaud, they have some great pieces about the first hands on with the G1 and a good post about Twitteroid, (which I haven’t installed yet since the offical release comes out Monday).

Lifehacker has a hands on post.  Gizmodo has a Android App Marathon and a category to get you going.

Walt Mossberg also seems to think the T-Mobile G1 is worthy.  Btw, Walt is awesome.

There are plenty of forums dedicated to Android/G1 coverage, and they include:

G1 for three days…

I will say that I enjoy this phone way more than my T-mobile Wing.  To be fair, I did not have a data plan with my Wing since I used Wifi with it so maybe that’s not a fair comparison.  But I do like the seemless Gmail integration.

The IM’ing on the G1 is also okay, not great.  Like all other phones I’ve owned, the default IM uses SMS for IM’ing.  I’m not big on that but I don’t it will be long before someone writes a cross IM-platform client for the G1.  Here’s a list of apps I think would be killer:

  • IM: Jabber/XMPP, AIM, Yahoo!, and MSN
  • Facebook App (using mobile web interface)
  • Brightkite App (using mobile web interface)

Apps I love:

  • Google Maps:  This is totally awesome.  You can do “street view” with the GPS and enable “compass mode.”  This is too hard to explain in text but if you see it, it will blow you away.
  • Barcode reader: Yeah, yeah… I know the iPhone has this too, but I think it is really neat.
  • Various weather apps:  All very useful
  • Gmail
  • Web browser: The web browser is better than ANY WM-base browser I’ve seen, including Opera-mini.

I’m still playing with it and rumor has it a slew of new app will hit the market place on Monday.

Expect way more to come.