We’re outta here! We’re both feeling a little less than glamorous, being down with sore throats and hoarse voices, but we’re not letting that stop us. Our bags are packed, down to the Nyquil and the humidifier. Seriously.
There will probably be no more blog postings until I return, what with the $1/minute internet charges onboard the boat, so in the meantime, here’s our current location courtesy of the Sun Princess webcam:
I’m taking my laptop (and of course the digital camera) with me, and I’ll take notes throughout the trip for posting when we return.
Right now, at this very moment, the Princess ship Sun Princess is steaming her way to Port Everglades. Why, you ask? Because she has an important date. With me! Woohoo! Erika and I rendezvous with the boat in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, and we’re off on our ten day cruise. I’m so ready.
Well not at this exact moment I’m not – I’m kinda sick. I’m recovering from a cold and sore throat. But I’ll be ready on Wednesday, by God!
Erika and I spent Christmas lounging around the house, watching movies. We had an uplifting afternoon – first Hotel Rwanda and then Sin City. Violence, genocide, sex, what more could you ask for? Happy movies make Baby Jesus cry.
We finished the celebrations with a sushi dinner at Sushi Samba Dromo. Mmmm, sushi. Very good. The waitress looked like Julia Stiles, and I got the same treatment I’d expect if I ran into Julia Stiles in real life as well.
With Microsoft touting Intellisense in just about all of their products, including Visual Studio, one would assume it’d show up in their flagship database product, SQL Server 2005. Unfortunately, the SQL Management Studio still doesn’t offer any prompting as you type in code, even though it’s based roughly on Visual Studio 2005.
Enter PromptSQL, an add-on product that offers Intellisense for SQL Server in several different editors. It supports not only Query Analyzer and SQL Management Studio, but also UltraEdit, my favorite text editor.
PromptSQL monitors your typing and helpfully pops up just like IntelliSense would. The best way to see it in action is to check out the screen shots on the home page of their web site.
It does a surprisingly good job for a standalone third-party application. You have to give it your SQL Server login information and it runs queries against your database to get the necessary information. It strikes me as a lot like Ajax, for whatever that’s worth.
It’s $50. At first, that seemed like a lot of money for something Microsoft usually includes for free in all of their products – but then if it was easy, I guess Microsoft would have included it in SQL Management Studio. I think I’ll buy it when I get back from vacation, but for now, I’m saving my money for more margaritas. 5 days and counting…
Over the last couple of years, open-source products like Linux have been gaining traction in the computing community. The term “open source” means that the programming code for the product is included along with the product. Anybody can edit it and rebuild the program with their new changes. Strongly technical end users sometimes contribute their own improvements to the programs, send them back to the author, and voila, the program as a whole gets better. Really technical users end up doing serious development on the software and make it really, really good.
One of the arguments for open source is that the more people look at the code, the easier it is to spot bugs. There are a lot of concerns about bugs in Microsoft products that don’t seem to get fixed, so there’s been some calls for Microsoft to open up the source code for Windows. Of course, the cynics among us believed that would never happen – Windows is very profitable, and if Microsoft opened the source code, anybody could build their own Microsoft Windows and sell it or give it away. It would cost them billions of dollars in revenues and profits.
Microsoft compromised by allowing some of its high-end partners to look at the Windows source code, but they have to sign non-disclosure agreements that they won’t do anything bad with the code. Even if the partners find bugs and offer to fix them, Microsoft doesn’t have to take the improvements.
Unbelievably, Microsoft heard the calls, and now they’re giving away the Source! And it’s not just to their valued partners, either – anybody can get it! All you have to do is attend four Microsoft webcasts in the month of January, and you get the Source for free! Amazing. It’s not downloadable – they send a so-called “hard copy” to you – but still, it’s the Source.
The next time some Linux propellerhead tells me Microsoft doesn’t support the open source movement, I’m going to show them the Source Fource. Take that! You don’t see Red Hat giving away that kind of Source, do you? Of course not.
I wrote a post about Flock a couple of weeks ago and encouraged you, dear reader, to try it out as a web browser along with Del.icio.us for social bookmarking.
In theory, everything that Flock can do, Mozilla Firefox can also do. Flock is actually built on top of Mozilla Firefox – that’s how open source works, people can take one program and use it to build a better program as long as they share the code they created.
Some hard-core geeks are complaining that the Flock developers should be putting their time into enhancing Firefox directly instead of building another browser. One of the Flock guys wrote a response to those complaints, and I’ll chime in with my own version.
There are two reasons why the Flock crew should continue to build their own browser.
First, you are not using Firefox. I say that with some 95% certainty because the visitors to my sites and my employers’ sites are something like 95% Internet Explorer. Firefox has a lot of hype, but at this point it’s still mostly geeks that use it, not normal people. Since you haven’t switched to Firefox yet, there’s no reason for you to pick Firefox over Flock whenever you end up changing your browser away from IE. (And I think you will, but it’ll be a matter of years.)
Second, if you decide to use Firefox and you want to get all of the functionality in Flock, you have to do a lot of thought work and planning. You have to decide which bookmarking plugin to use, which blogging plugin to use, which Flickr plugin to use, etc. All of them have their advantages and disadvantages, and going forwards, you can’t tell right away which one will be maintained or which one will die off by the roadside. When installing a browser, this is more thinking than you want to do – at least, it’s certainly more thinking than I want to do.
I put more thought into my Firefox plugin selections than I put into picking my cell phone. That’s a problem – I love my gadgets, and I spend a LOT of time picking them. I bet I spent forty or fifty hours evaluating Firefox extensions, installing them, testing them, and getting pretty frustrated at the bolt-on feel.
Installing plugins to make Firefox more like Flock reminds me of those rice boys who spend thousands of dollars turning their Honda Civic into a hot rod. At the end of the day, you do have a quick car, but it looks like a Frankenstein version – nothing matches, everything looks slightly different, and you are the only person on earth who can work on it. You’d never dream of taking it into the dealer for service. Sure, you have something completely induhvidual, but … who cares?
Firefox: Honda Civic Si.
Firefox with plugins: hot rodded Honda Civic Si with Lamborghini doors and a lime green paint job.
Flock: stock Lexus IS.
And the best part? They’re all the same price: free. They just take more or less hours of your time. Flock takes less time, and works out of the box.
The Flock guys appear to be taking the usability angle, and I’m all about usability. I’ve pimped out iPods and Tivos to my friends and family members because they’re just flat out easier to use. They’re more like appliances and less like computers. I can’t get my friends and family hooked on things like, say, Windows Media Center, because it requires constant maintenance and technical know-how. I put Firefox in that same category. I never really evangelized Firefox because it’s the browser for geeks, more of a power tool. I push Flock like a crack dealer because it’s just plain easy, and it can make anybody a blogger. Yes, even you.
Now go install it. It’s the Download for Windows.
My jaw hit the floor on this tech note from Microsoft: with SQL Server 2005 and a SAN, you can have multiple SQL servers hitting the same read-only reporting database.
This is really only a solution for reporting loads that require more work from the CPUs than they do from the drive arrays. If the report queries spend most of their time waiting on disk access, then this won’t offer much speed improvement.
However, as an example, I’ve worked with analysis functions that did math-intensive work on a relatively low number of records. We initially coded these formulas inside stored procedures and SQL functions, but the CPU load was too high relative to the amount of queries we’d need to run. When we scaled out to full production load, we would need more CPU power than was available from a single server. We ended up recoding the analysis work in standalone Delphi processing applications, adding processing queues, and so on, but it was a lot of management overhead.
With this new feature of SQL Server 2005, we’d have been able to keep the work inside SQL, make the applications faster, and reduce turnaround time for the reports.
Hi. I’m Brent. I’m the owner of the black Jeep.
I went out this morning to go to work, and I got nervous when I put the key in the passenger side door and it turned way too easily, meaning it was already unlocked. Then I noticed the pennies you scattered all over the passenger side floor. I have to admit that my first thought wasn’t a break-in, but that Erika had gotten sloppy when digging for change for a parking meter. We leave our leftover change in the Jeep’s center console, and it looks like you share our opinion on the worth of a penny.
I finally put two and two together when I started the Jeep. I usually make the same mistake morning after morning: I put the key in the ignition, start the Jeep, and then reach for the iPod in the locked center console only to realize that I have to turn the Jeep back off, take the key out, unlock the console, and get out the iPod. This morning, I was surprised to find the center console unlocked, and even more surprised to find the iPod missing. I thought maybe Erika took it inside to sync it up, copy some new songs over, but then I noticed that the cigarette lighter dock was gone too.
Evidently you took my emergency duffel bag from the back, too. I’m guessing you didn’t even look inside before you took it, and I can’t stop laughing when I think about you opening up your booty at home. I grew up in Michigan, so I always keep water, food, and some basic tools in my cars just in case I run into problems. Now you have your own emergency bag. Hope you enjoy those granola bars. I have a secret hope that you’ll return the next evening, unzip my Jeep’s windows, and put the emergency bag back complete with the water and granola bars. That would truly be funny.
I want to thank you for a few things.
First, thanks for not smoking in my Jeep. I really like that Jeep. A lot. I spent a ton of money on it specifically so I could have a nice, clean Jeep that was mine from the get-go, and it would piss me off if it smelled like smoke. I appreciate your courtesy. When I had my last Jeep parked at an apartment complex in Houston, people would sit in it, smoke, and drink beer. I kid you not. Maybe this says something about the healthiness of Miami Beach criminals. Maybe that’s why you took the water and granola bars, too. Maybe you’re a hipster, a discerning burglar. Of course, in that case, the first thing you’ll probably do when you get home is wipe out my un-hip MP3 collection.
Thank you for not slicing the windows open with a knife. I always said that if somebody broke in, I would hope they’d have the intelligence to simply unzip the windows rather than cutting them open, because those things are pretty expensive to replace. Looks like you had the good sense to unzip the back window and climb in that way, and that’s mighty nice of you.
Thanks for not trying to take the stereo out of the dash. It’s a navigation system, and I’m sure it’s worth some money on Ebay or something, but it is indeed useless without professional installation and a GPS antenna. Either you didn’t realize how expensive it was, or you realized how difficult it would be to install in a regular car, or you just didn’t have screwdriver-like tools with you to pry it out of the dash. Actually, you did have the tools with you – they were in the emergency bag. But I think we’ve established that you didn’t look in the bag before you actually stole it, or else you probably would have just left it. Anyway, thanks for not screwing up the dashboard.
Now, about your new iPod. I’d like to think you’re going down to the Apple store to pick up a dock and use the iPod yourself, as opposed to pawning it. I don’t care about the music on it, because that’s all backed up on our computer at home, but my heart sinks at the thought of Erika’s iPod in a pawn shop somewhere, all lonely, being touched by strangers.
Please do us both a favor: hang on to it. Try it out. Listen to the music on it. Give it a chance before you cast it aside. Take care of it, because it’s a physical reminder of a memory, of a point in time in your life.
That’s what the iPod was for me, anyway. I remember coming home from a Dallas trip, pulling into the driveway, and having Erika meet me at the door to help me unload the car. She wasn’t supposed to see the iPod box in the trunk, but she did, and she realized it was her birthday present. I loved seeing the look on her face – that was priceless. Every now and then, seeing the iPod would remind me of that moment, and that alone was awesome.
The iPod itself? Bah, it’s an old 3G one with 15gb of storage. Which leads me to my final thank-you – thanks for giving me an excuse to buy Erika a new gadget.
A seaplane crashed today in Miami Beach about 17 blocks from our apartment. Erika and I drive up and down the MacArthur Causeway all the time, and I drive home from work every day over it. On this map, if you follow the Venetian Causeway to the right until it meets the ocean, that’s where we live.
The eerie part to me is that a month or two ago, Erika and I were coming down the causeway and a plane landed right over us. We didn’t realize it was a seaplane at the time – we thought it was an airplane that had just taken off from Miami International, and that it was going down. We were both scared silent because it landed in the water just outside of our field of view, and we didn’t relax until we saw it taxiing back towards us in the water. Now, I’m used to seeing seaplanes around here, but back then, man, I thought I was witnessing a plane crash.
After we calmed down, we had the oddest perspective. We then knew what we’d feel like if we watched a plane crash. We were both very solemn, concerned about everyone aboard, and heartbroken that we couldn’t do anything about it. I can just imagine how people felt seeing this Chalk’s plane crash.
While I’ve got this map up, might as well tell you about the view. “Port Bld.” on the map is the Miami shipping terminal. Five or six big cruise ships can park up end to end across from MacArthur Causeway. Miami is the largest cruise ship terminal in the world. On any given afternoon, on my drive home, I pass a couple of cruise ships stopping in to switch out a new set of passengers. It’s so inspirational, so relaxing to look up and see these big boats, to remember what our cruise was like, and think about our upcoming cruise. I just love it!
I’ve been toying around with the site, trying out a few new ideas. I rarely do web work for money anymore, so I don’t have as much fun putting new look/feel stuff in here. I still get a kick out of putting in content, especially emailing in photos from my cell phone, but not so much modifying the site itself.
I’ve been trying to put up a Google Maps mashup of the places I’ve lived and traveled, and every weekend for the last couple of months I’ve sat down to do it, but just lost my attention span. This weekend, it ain’t happening either. I give up.
I also gave up trying to host my own photos because it was too much of a hassle getting them uploaded from my cell phone. Instead, I sprung for a pro Flickr account, and I’m in the process of uploading my photo archive over there. Seems like a good enough service.
As I get older, I think I become less interested in maintaining exacting control over my sites and media, and more interested in making the whole process as painless as possible. I don’t think being a geek is my true hobby. I like some geeky things, but as far as maintaining a full-blown web site with photo archive pages, interactive maps, etc., it isn’t my bag.
The photo here is our little Ernestina, who is often the subject of pranks between me and Erika. This evening, Erika dressed her up in a jacket. While the wild look in Ernie’s eyes is most likely attributable to the flash photography, you can never be too sure if she’s not turning into the devil – especially when we dress her up in clothing. Poor dog.