Well, the lone Engine Control Unit for the 1995 Integra GS-R in the US arrived, and has now been installed in my car. Pity the next person in line who has to wait for a backorder from Japan. I'm glad that wasn't me. I got it back on Monday night. I had an alarm system installed in the car the next day. Of course the alarm is set in low-sensitivity mode, so usual city stuff (rumbling bass in cars driving by, cars bumping my bumpers while parallel parking) won't set it off, but unauthorized entry will. So far so good. State Farm says I get no discount on my auto insurance premium for having an alarm, which surprised me.
I'm becoming a big fan of fancy hippie root beers, of the sort found in whole foods stores around SF. It's an expensive habit, but they are oh so tasty.
I completely disagree with Dogma 2000. Instant messaging and E-mail are notoriously bad at communicating tone, unless you go crazy with emoticons. A simple misspelling or transposition changes "no" to "on", "an" to "and", and so on. It's very easy for a tiny misspelling or grammatical mistake to confuse the meaning of an entire message, like when you forget to close a <B>bold tag<B/> in HTML and everything else on the page is shown in boldface by mistake, like this. One sentence is misinterpreted as being angry or arrogant, and the whole rest of the email comes across as sarcastic, when it's serious. I can't even count the number of times I've had to send the instant message "huh?" in response to someone, because they left out context, misspelled something, or otherwise didn't communicate clearly. The electronic equivalent of mumbling with your mouth full on the phone doesn't strike me as a good idea.
Spelling matters. Punctuation matters. Capitalization and perfect grammar can probably be thrown out the window, as long as it's clear what you mean. One need not express oneself in the erudite manner of William F. Buckley, as this sentence perhaps does. But you can certainly get your point across better when you aren't introducing noise into the data because you can't be bothered to use a spellchecker, or to proofread what you're about to send. Building up a spelling dictionary that includes all of the strange words you are likely to use isn't that hard, and if you do a bit of homework you can figure out how to carry it around with you from program to program and from computer to computer.
I'm told that there is exactly one ECU available for my car (see below for why I need one) in the US, and it has been ordered for me. It didn't show up. In the meantime I am renting a New Beetle from City Rent-a-Car. It's kinda fun but the tape deck is broken, a turn signal bulb is burned out, and the bud vase is missing. It's sorta peppy but unfortunately it came with a slushbox so it's not as fun as it could be. I think the turbo version would be a lot of fun.
Someone broke into my car last night, and stole my Engine Control Unit. This is an $800 part that lives in the passenger compartment (not under the hood), near the passenger's right foot, under a brass cover that is bolted down (and a black plastic cover that snaps over that, to make it look nice). I took a picture of what it looks like when it's been stolen. So the thief must have had not only a slim jim to unlock the door without breaking in, but also a socket wrench to undo the bolts. I called the Acura dealer and the dude in the parts department said that it may have been a Civic hot-rodder, since if you put an Integra engine in a Civic you also need the Integra ECU. Well, given that I live near the Sunset (an SF neighborhood), Daly City, and Colma, all of which are chock full of modified Honda Civics, I buy this theory 100%.
I have an ignition cutoff (which kept the same car from being stolen in May of 1999, even though someone broke in and tried to hotwire it), and a Club (which so far has prevented any more theft attempts), but they don't protect the guts of the car from being stolen. Maybe I shoulda put a LoJack on the ECU? :)
So now I'm shopping for car alarms.
It's a tradition among Linux-on-the-desktop weenies to make their UI look as pretty as possible, and then to take a screenshot and put it online... as if to say, look how sexy my computing environment is. Well, last night as we were doing stress testing on the new Calculator 1.1 product at work, there was so much neato stuff going on on my screen, I felt like I ought to take a screenshot and share it. Here it is.
Citi Financial wants to give me a home equity loan. Depending on my application, I could qualify for up to $100,000. That's really interesting, except I don't own a home. It's obvious that they picked my name up from some mailing list and (hopefully) did a credit check to decide if I'd be a good borrower, but apparently they didn't check to make sure I had a mortgage.
Ever used ImageCast or Norton Ghost? These are utilities that let you speed up mass PC installations by making an image of a hard disk of a PC you've carefully installed and configured, so you can copy that image to a whole bunch of new PCs. This is much, much faster than installing each application on each PC one by one.
Well, here's a warning: if you're doing this for a Windows-based PC (which is almost certainly the case) with Ghost (and possibly also with ImageCast), make sure that the computer image you make is set up to use Windows Networking as a member of a workgroup rather than a domain. Otherwise, you can have several computers with the same name in the same domain, which reveals some very ugly bugs in Microsoft Active Directory and Microsoft DNS Server that you really don't want to tangle with. I didn't do that and it just cost me 90 minutes of troubleshooting and futzing to fix (partially because the local administrator password wasn't set to what I thought it was, and I couldn't get a hold of the person who set it right away).
Trying to sell something and it's not selling well? Mark down the price. Why do I say this? Because some hardware I bought at an auction last year, that I couldn't seem to get rid of, sold like crazy when I made it a hell of a lot cheaper. No, I didn't make big money like I was hoping to, but what the heck... I have a job, I have too many interesting things to do with my time to try and make a few bucks reselling auctioned dot-bomb gear. This wasn't the case when I bought it all, but now it seems pretty silly to waste my time on.
Speaking of which, my job is pretty interesting. I'm learning lots of stuff about unfamiliar technologies and resource management and all the roles involved in the product development process, and I'm glad to be working on interesting software with smart people. I hope things go well for us. I started back in November as a contractor and am now a full-time employee with health insurance and options and everything.
We're also in nice office in a fairly skanky part of town, which is really what the whole startup thing was supposed to be like in the first place. Working at Viant in SF's South of Market (SoMA) neighborhood wasn't really the same, since the area was packed with absurdly-well-funded startups. There are no BMWs less than ten years old to be found anywhere near the office. The convenience store across the street, which I call The Sketchy Shack, does not sell coffee, bagels, nor crumb cake; they do not have a row of colorful bottles of Torani flavored syrups for coffee lined up behind the counter; they do not have a cheerfully decorated chalkboard detailing today's specials. They sell beer (including the full complement of malt liquor products), soda, snacks, and cigarettes. I was surprised yesterday to discover that they do not sell lottery tickets (the California Lottery prize is currently ~$115 million so I was persuaded to join a herd of ticket buyers from work yesterday). There are three high-traffic bus stops nearby. There is an interstate highway exit/entrance 1 block away. I like it.
Last weekend, Kim and I went skiing for the second time this season. I conquered the Alpine Bowl run at Alpine Meadows (it had previously foiled me). I also successfully navigated the Iron Horse trail (map) at Northstar. I'm now OK on easy black-diamond trails, where previously I was unable to ski them without panic, struggle, and lots of falling down. Lessons really make a difference. The coolest thing is that at Northstar, once you are a "level 6" skier (which I barely am), lessons are free. So now I can get somebody to teach me how to deal with those damned moguls.
My LCD projector was broken and is now fixed. Devil May Cry looks really good when it's played on a 120" diagonal projection screen.