July 2007

Post about noteswap.com

My next-action list has an item saying "Post about noteswap.com." Undoubtedly it comes from a news story I heard or read and have since forgotten. What would be interesting, however, is to look at noteswap.com as a social network. Can it do better than match.com at making matches for students across the country? I'm quite sure that wasn't my original topic but it would be interesting to look into.

Sure I know Dreamweaver, Front Page and more

As a hiring manager I'm always skeptical when I get a resume filled with "technical" classes from one of the myriad of technical schools around the country. When I've worked with graduates of these programs it seems they have a marginal, but usually satisfactory, understanding of how technology is supposed to work. The problem is I rarely need people who can work with technology that is working. If technology is working and things are simple there is little that end-users need. Even relatively simple tasks like deploying computers depends upon a specific understanding of the complex situation that is most business networks. Few organizations do a "out of the box" installation of a Microsoft Active Directory and run 100% machines that work in that environment. These complexities mean a technical manager is quickly looking for skills that don't come from these technical schools. Ironically because they do tend to come in people who are self-motivated to learn the technology any way they can often the requisite skills are stronger in those who haven't been through this sort of program.

Picks for the 2008 Tour de France

With a fantastic finish to the 2007 Tour de France behind us all eyes turn to what is next. My pick for the top team in the 2008 Tour de France is the Google pro cycling team. With the outstanding Discovery Channel Team looking for a new sponsor it would be an outstanding time for either Google or Apple to jump into the fray. The challenges facing Apple, though, would include riders typing on their iPhones instead of listening to the team car and figuring out how to reinvent the bicycle in a more aesthetic way that still complies with the rules of the sport. Google on the other hand would make a great sponsor.

EDGEing out satellite

My list of challenges with DirecWay internet service is well known to regular readers. Over the last several years I've had occasion to do the drive to the office on several extra occasions simply because it is not practical to do the work I do over a DirecWay connection. The speed is acceptable but the latency issues of satellite combined with DirecWay's broken proxy servers preventing XML-RPC calls make work impossible.

Not long ago a colleague asked about cellular-wireless connections. Having had decidedly mixed results using the Treo in this capacity I recommended against it. "It is more hassle than it is worth," I told my colleague.

When I began looking again at what was available I saw the Sierra Wireless AirCard 875U has Mac drivers out there. An express card was a consideration but that would work with only one laptop where the AirCard can go into any of the computers I have or use.

Visiting the AT&T store I confirmed that my part of the world has only EDGE networking and not the speedier 3G wireless. Having heard over and over about how the iPhone is "crippled" by EDGE I was leery and left the store disappointed. In the car a change of heart sent me back in to confirm that I have 30 days to return the card and I put down the cash. Suffice it to say that the first 15 minutes with the card, on the EDGE network, proved that it won't be going anywhere.

Photo break

Time for a Friday photo break. Regular programming will resume soon.

Important order considerations with multiple databases in Drupal

I have been working recently with a Drupal application where it is necessary to bring in some data from a non-Drupal database. Eventually these features might roll into a module and the data may move into Drupal but for the moment it sits alone in another database.

An hour or so today disappeared into trying to figure out why various theme_ functions did not work properly. Calling theme('item_list', $list); for example returned broken pages and error messages in the log. After searching for what I was doing wrong in calling theme_ it finally hit me that the error log messages were complaining about not finding the system table and not having parts of the theme. From there it was quick to find the information (which I posted as a comment as well).

The upshot is you have to return to the 'default' database before doing theme work. Read the full version for a code examples.

Time for a new look

It is time for a new look around here. Nothing amazing just a great theme or another. Expect some ongoing changes while it gets settled.

Something to do while watching the Tour 'de France. A sad day indeed. A likely podium in Paris with two Discovery Team riders is great but would have been better had it not been clouded by the auspicious withdrawl of other teams. The Discovery Channel Team riding in their last tour for this sponsor will likely win the team competition as well and while the teams eliminated have not been close contenders for the race it still taints the victory. The good news is the controls seem to be working. The really sad news is when someone expelled for lying to their team invokes the name of Lance Armstrong in their own defense.

SNWA's risky plan

There is little secret that the Southern Nevada Water Authority(SNWA) is out to suck Nevada dry. One of the real problems for Las Vegans is to figure out when SNWA is dealing with reality or when it is a SNWA magic looking glass version. For example SNWA wants us to believe it would be a good idea to spend billions of dollars (like at least tens of billions) to build a pipeline to get all that unused water.

However, other experts don't agree with SNWA's calculations of how much water is or isn't in areas like Dry Lake Valley (heh, it just sounds like a place for a pipeline to get water). See for example: "Tom Myers, a consulting hydrologist for the Great Basin Water Network, said the water authority is asking for several times the amount of water that's available, according to data compiled previously by the state engineer's office."

That's right. SNWA wants to spend billions and billions of dollars to build a pipeline. Not only will it vastly increase the security risks to Las Vegas and send Sin City deeper into its tailspin of unsupportable growth, but now they're proposing straws to places without the water they claim is there.

iPhone in the car

According to a comment in a post at Engadget it appears there may be a way to get the Belkin Auto Kit to work with the iPhone. I haven't been so fortunate. It appears (as the article suggests) to charge but it steadfastly refuses to play audio through the dock connector.

On the other hand having lived through Treo smart phones it is great to have a device that handles connecting and transferring Bluetooth calls as well as this does. Talk in the phone and press the button on the headset and the call is transfered seamlessly. A thing of beauty.