April 2006

What you know trumps where you tested

An article in eWeek yesterday says what many of us in technology leadership roles have long known. Namely, technical knowledge, communication and customer service skills are more important than a string of certification letters behind your name. Foote Partners released a study on Wednesday that shows this is being reflected in compensation for tech workers. Employers "are finding other qualities of IT professionals more critical to
their businesses going forward, and they are willing to pay more for
those," David Foote said in a statement.This comes as no surprise as someone who has interviewed and hired dozens of employees in the technology arena. It is far easier to teach technical skills to a great employee than to teach work ethic to a great technician.

Bicycle shopping

I've been contemplating a new bike. When we left Colorado I unloaded my disfavored Novara Aspen. At the end of the day it wasn't a horrible bike. Just not an enjoyable one. For one I've long been a fan of Cannondale bicycles. I currently have two but haven't been riding them enough. The problem is they are both road bikes and there's precious little road for riding near the house. So I've looked at the Cannondale F800 as one option but it's pricey. The Trek 6500 Disc looks to be a viable option but is still pushing the $1,000 range. The lower-end Trek bikes, however, have RockShox which the  misses  detests. It seems with all this looking that the Novara Bonanza looks like a pretty good value. Certainly not the greatest bike ever made but a nice balance between the $570 price point and features. The front fork is a Manitou so I might not be disowned for bringing it home. Novara's Ponderosa HT, in addition to a better name, has several nice features but along with those features comes a higher price and a RockShox front end. Then again Cannondale and Trek are both bikes made in the USA so that weighs in their favor.


Well it's official. I'm a switcher. Not the kind of switcher that Apple has been advertising, however. Still using the trusty OS X machine (currently an iMac G5 with built-in iSight). And when the ship bearing all the money I don't know what to do with comes in  there's a Mac Book Pro in the future and a herd of Intel-based minis for the couple dozen embeded applications I'd like to run (entertainment center, car, barn etc.)No, I'm not a platform switcher but a web-browser switcher. The last bits of the transition included moving bookmarks from Safari to Firefox. Ellipsis Productions freeware product Safari Bookmark Exporter makes this a pretty painless process. Open the program (a 152k download) and three clicks later Safari's bookmarks are in Firefox. There are still some features that Safari has that are unmatched. RSS and spelling are the two major pluses. Safari pioneered the river of news format for RSS readers. NetNewsWire (which I'm moving to for RSS but that is a different post) kind of does river of news but it's slower than the day is long in that mode. On the spelling front it's more than just spelling. First though SpellBound is pretty good and now does in-line spell checking, it fails on the suggestion front. There is no simple "right click" to see the suggestion. It's multi-step and even the multi-step process doesn't work in Performancing's extension. The other part of it though is the inability to access the Oxford English Dictionary built into every OS X machine from Firefox. In Safari if you want to check the meaning of a word a right click "look up in dictionary" gets you a pop-up window with the meaning right there.

SpellBound for Firefox

Yesterday I mentioned the need for a good spell checker for Firefox. It turns out there is one. SpellBound provides great in-line spell checking for both web-forms and extensions like Performancing's great blogging tool. Now one gripe remains - it would be great if SpellBound had the suggestions for spelling in the contextual menu instead of having to bring up the spell check dialog. That is, however, a minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things. The ability to quickly add to blog posts throughout work is a great unbelievably valuable tool.

Tools for bloggers

One of those small icons at the bottom of a web page on my morning commute through the web had a link to Performancing's website. The company puts out some interesting tools. Publish is the tool for blogging in Firefox. Dubbed the "full featured FREE Blog Editor" it lives up to its claim. While browsing through the web a press of the F8 key brings up a blog editor on the bottom half of the screen. It works well. There are some things that remain to be worked out like it doesn't support free tagging in Drupal and in the list of blog names blogs are listed by the user name - which doesn't work well for those of us who commonly use the same user name on different blogs. The big downside (and may be a deal killer for now) is the lack of spell checking.Performancing also has a metrics package that is interesting. After some more testing I'll have a post on that as well..

Smooth upgrade to Drupal 4.7

One of the last sites I had to upgrade to Drupal 4.7 was waiting for the Mailhandler module. Today I noticed that the module had been updated yesterday and decided to give it a shot. It couldn't have been a smoother upgrade. I downloaded the Mailhandler module and installed it for just that site and ran the update script and things were quite smooth. The progress bar didn't display properly but otherwise things were smooth as silk and all the functional bits worked well.

Thoughts from vacation

We spent last week traveling and relaxing. It was easily the best break I've taken since starting my present gig a couple of years ago. However I would offer some observations from the trip.

Your kids aren't that cute - Sorry to be the one to tell you but your screaming kid is not as cute as you think they are. Even if you've programmed them to scream intermittently (every 5-10 seconds) instead of continuously they are still not cute. Here's an easy test. If you think your kid does something cute multiply the cuteness by 0.1 and you'll come up with an estimation of how cute others think it is. There are plenty of parents in the world that have well-behaved polite children and you can too. However ignoring your screaming child will not make them stop, especially when they've been programmed that the only way to get attention is to scream your name repeatedly.

Also there is another part to this equation. While it is not easy to take your toddlers in and out of backpack carriers when getting on or off a shuttle bus, it is the right thing to do. Stacking them off to the far side of the bus as one more piece of baggage will not make the trip enjoyable for any of your fellow passengers.

Hotels need TiVo - I largely gave up on watching TV some time ago. However in the motel room I still tend to turn the boob tube on and see what I have (or haven't) been missing. There seems to be a rule of motel-TV scheduling, however, that says the one thing you'd like to see will be on at the only reasonable time to eat dinner, go to the pool, etc. Which of the hotel chains will be the first to add TiVo to the room?

Happy Passover/Happy Easter

I have flown on every major holiday since being deployed. I flew on Thanksgiving, flew and got stuck due to weather on Christmas, and flew today (Easter Sunday and Passover). These flights make for memorable holidays.

Our mission today was to fly a catholic chaplin to several remote bases to lead Easter Mass. The weather started out stormy and we had some concerns about not being able to get the chaplin everywhere he needed to go. The weather, however, cleared and we had beautiful flying.

One of our stops was at FOB McHenry. This is a small base populated mainly by infantry soldiers. For some reason they had cowboy hats for sale at the tiny PX on base. Larry, the Pilot-in-Command of my bird, liked the hats so much that he bought one. As you will see from the photos we had a lot of phone posing with the hat on.

Another stop was at a prison way up North in the Kurdish region of the country. It is used to hold the worst detainees and is manned by American soldiers teaching Iraqis how to run a prison. The area is very remote and very beautiful. We shut down the helicopters while the chaplin went to give mass. This gave us the chance to eat Easter lunch with the soldiers in the prison. We ate in an open air courtyard in the center of the dentention facility. They grilled steaks, hot dogs and hamburgers. There were jelly beans, chocolate bunnies, potato salad, cake, and lemonade. The detainees in their cells probably could see us eating and surely could smell the food but none of us gave that fact very much thought. We thoroughly enjoyed the cool mountain air, talking with new people, and eating freshly grilled food.

Google maps adds features

Though you might draw a different conclusion from the titles of the last several posts here this hasn't become a Google cheerleader site. However, Google is simply doing cool stuff that works well. A friend pointed out how Ask.com has better maps, but they don't work on Macintosh/Safari.

However this evening as we were sitting at home a call came out for the fire service and as I usually do I typed the address into google. In addition to the map the small locator is in the bottom corner of the map. It is handy and the arrow allows you to show and hide the locator as well as using the box to navigate the thumbnail map.