Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Yet another minute of fame

This actually happened a few days ago but the show was broadcast today. As many of you may already know I am a big fan of Tech Podcasts in general and Digital Planet in particular. I generally download this to my iPod and listen to it in the car when travelling back and forth to clients'. When I started playing around with Facebook, about a year ago, I noticed they had a system for creating discussion groups and there weren't any dedicated to my favourite show. I therefore created the Digital Planet Listeners' Group on Facebook. This was mostly an experiment to see how these groups worked on Facebook in comparison to electronic groups I already work with and managed on Yahoo and Google. It actually turned out to be quite fun and caught on quite quickly.

One of the really fun aspects of this group is that the presenter of the programme,
Gareth Mitchell, joined and even uploaded his photo. It was actually quite a strange experience to finally see what he looked like. I had been listening to his programme regularly for about a year by then and had developed a blurry idea in my head as to what he looks like. Of course he looks nothing like my idea. This was driven home even more strongly when his co-presenter, Bill Thomson joined the group and put his photo up as well. He looks nothing like I imagined!

Just last week, all of a sudden and from out of nowhere, I get an e-mail from Gareth Mitchell. They're doing a story on the programme which he thinks is relevant to our Facebook group and he wants to interview me for the programme. Luckily it was an e-mail and not a phone conversation as I probably would have fainted. I was a bit leary remembering my last experience with BBC radio and how my replies were taken completely out of context and with new voiceovers. But I felt almost as though I know Gareth and could trust him. We wrote back and forth for a while and finally set up the interview using Skype. I was first impressed with the quality of the sound over Skype and then realised just how strange it was to hear Gareth Mitchell's voice coming through my telephone. It's like listening to the radio in the telephone. It was very strange. The interview itself was absolutely perfect and went very well. I then had to wait several days for the programme to be broadcast and then uploaded as a podcast.

Finally it was released and there was a mention on their web site. I immediately downloaded the Podcast, listened through and was actually quite pleased. He used our interview exactly as it happened. No extra comments, no out of context mixing, no superfluous editing. It sounded just like our conversation. Agree or don't agree with what I have to say... that's not important. Let me express myself frankly and honestly without modification is. I played around with the MP3 file and came up with a smaller (1 minute) version you can download.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Rack

Several weeks ago I bought a new computer rack (off of eBay for only 50 Euros!) to reorganise all my equipment in the computer room / laundry room. As I was going to be taking all of the equipment out to put the rack in, and then filling the rack, Desney decided that the room had to be redone (cracks filled; frames cemented; floor, walls and ceiling painted, ...). For weeks now Desney's been working evenings, holidays, weekends and even taking some time off work to finish the room. It's finished and it looks great!

Last weekend we were finally ready to put the rack in the room. The end result was quite painful!. I've been paying the price in pain ever since.

The last part of the installation was to rewire all of the Ethernet cables for the new placement of all of the equipment in the rack. Everything fits in nicely now and I'm very pleased with, and actually quite proud of, the end result.

For those of you who are interested in this sort of thing here's the inventory from the top shelf down:

  • 16-socket Cat6 RJ45 wiring frame

  • 16-socket Cat6 RJ45 wiring frame

  • NetGear GS724T 24-port Gigabit managed switch

  • NetGear GS724T 24-port Gigabit managed switch

  • Cable modems for cable Internet connection and cable telephone connection

  • Buffalo Terastation II Pro
    1 terabyte network disk
    All of our music is on this disk and accessed through our Sonos players throughout the house

  • Iomega NetDisk
    250 gigabyte network disk
    The onsite backup of our server is on this disk

  • Dell PowerEdge 400SC
    Our home file server
    (getting old --- to be replaced sometime soon)

  • Seagate 500 GB external disk
    This is connected to the music server and holds the other copy of our music collection

  • Dell OptiPlex GX520
    This is our music server and distributes music to the Squeezeboxes in the girls' bedrooms

  • APC BackUPS ES 700 & APC BackUPS ES 500
    Uninterruptible Power Supplies
    These protect our peripherals from power cuts

  • APC SmartUPS 1500 RM
    Uninterruptible Power Supply
    This is connected to the file server, the Terastation and the Switches to keep everything running during a power cut and with remote management

  • Hidden on the top of the rack is the Siemens wireless phone which distributes the cable phone to the other 5 telephone handsets around the house and a NetGear DG834N wireless router which distributes the cable Internet connection to the network (the ADSL Internet connection is distributed via the router in my office).

What can I say? A Geek's paradise!!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A pain in the back...

Desney's been working on the laundry/computer room for weeks. She's been repairing walls, floors, filling-in holes and painting days and nights for weeks to get it up and running and ready.

All this because I got a new computer rack, off of eBay, and I took all of the computer equipment out of the room to put the rack in. I got the rack several weeks ago. Photos and info later once it's fully up and running.

Desney finally finished the room on Saturday night and I knew Sunday morning we were finally going to be able to put the rack in and I was going to be able to start putting all of my equipment back in to one place. During the waiting period I had purchased a new rack-mounted Smart Gigabit switch and a new rack-mounted UPS both of which I have been dying to put in to place.

Desney helped me get the rack down the outside stairs and we relatively soon realised that even though it fit between the walls it wasn't going to fit down the stairs with the angles it had to go through. We then tried taking it upstairs, through the front door and down the back kitchen stairs. We had the same problem. It got stuck about half way down the stairs. I then had to accept that I was going to have to take it apart, take it downstairs in pieces and put it back together again in the computer room.

Sometime during all of this process my back started hurting. During one of these upstairs, downstairs, downstairs, upstairs manouvers I had pulled something in my lower back and it was getting worse and worse as time went by. But I had disconnected all of the network in the house and I knew I had to at least get everything plugged back in even if it was only temporary. I spent a few hours building the rack again as there were no directions and the pieces all got mixed up. I finally got it back together and it was time to start putting the equipment in it. By this time I couldn't even bend down let alone pick things up. I get Alexandra to come and help and I was able to get everything connected and up and running... I spent the rest of the evening in agony as I could no longer straighten up. I could only lift my back to a position whereby my back was parallel to the floor... no higher.

After a very uncomfortable evening of restless sleep I crawled out of bed, screaming in pain all by myself, and had a huddled-over shower and breakfast and headed down to my office. I knew that if I could just get in to my chair, and in front of my screens, I would be able to work. I couldn't go anywhere as we were expecting a delivery of a compost bin for the garden and I had to be here to receive it. The delivery arrived relatively early and I crawled up the stairs, let the man drop it off in the front yard and crawled back to my office.

I desperately called my chiropractor and was lucky to get an appointment for 16:30. I worked in my office, without moving, for the rest of the afternoon and took a taxi to the chiropractor's. He was more shocked by my new moustache and goatee than by my position. He can still remember seeing my like this years ago. We went through the symptoms and I was glad to learn that it wasn't my sciatica come back to haunt me. It was "only" a pulled ligament and classic lumbago. I couldn't move without yelping in pain so he gave me an injection of anti-inflammatories so he could at least do some placement work. He put everything back in place and I could miraculously stand up and walk. I was still hurting and sore. But I was upright again. I felt as though Ernest Angley had miraculously smacked my forehead and I was healed. He put a back belt on me, the same as I have at home but couldn't get on in the morning as I couldn't move, which held me in place. He prescribed a bunch of anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants and pain killers and sent me home. He warned me that this wasn't over. I would need to wear the belt for a fortnight no matter how good I felt and I was going to feel worse before I felt better again. I have to avoid all "brusk" movements, can't lift anything, should stay horizontal or immobile as often as possible and on and on. The painful aspects are no alcohol for while I'm taking the anti-inflammatories and muscle (about 10 days) and no sex for about 5 days. Boring...

When I walked through the door I was in pain again. This was mostly due to sitting in bump and go traffic, in a taxi, for about an hour. I lied down, with a pillow between my legs, and was "ok" for dinner.

Today has been OK as I haven't had to move much... It's going to a long couple of weeks...

It ain't cancer but it's certainly a pain!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Our Alexandra the Journalist

Back in April Alexandra wrote to a magazine that she reads all the time, Geo Ado, to let them know that she is bilingual and would be interested in interviewing for their magazine. The magazine runs a monthly interview carried out by an adolescent. Of course who she really wanted to interview was Tokio Hotel. But apparently they had already been interviewed. Alexandra received an e-mail from the magazine at the end of the month and it was a bit of a shock for all of us. Apparently filming was on for a new movie with an adolescent lead and the journalist wanted Alexandra to come with her to Romania for a couple of days for the filming of The Seeker: The Dark is Rising. Needless to say Desney and I needed to check a few things out first. We met with the journalist personally at the magazine office and saw that everything was well organised and this was going to be an amazing opportunity for Alex. We ran out and got her the book, first in a series of 5 books, for her to read on the trip and off she went.

This was the first few days of May. I was in New York while she was away. When I got back I got to hear all of her wonderful stories about her adventure. We then started our months of waiting for the magazine to come out with her interview. On November 1st, yesterday, the magazine hit the newstands.

The magazine had already sent us an electronic copy of Alex' pages, so as to see exactly what her pages look like in the magazine, a couple of weeks ago and we had to keep quiet about it. It's a 2 megabyte Acrobat file but it shows everything.

Then we received our subscriber's copy of the magazine last Thursday and Alex was able to bring it to school to show everyone on Friday just before the holidays started. Now it's on the streets!

As of yesterday, and until the end of the month, the Geo Ado web site has the interview, and Alex' photo, right on the home page. As the site will only last a month I've captured everything to an Acrobat file for permanent storage.

As you can imagine we'll be buying a few copies of the magazine today and we'll all be gloating and kvelling around the world for quite some time.

Bravo Alexandra!!!