Currency regained

This past Sunday I finally made it back up into the air to get my flight currency back up to par. The weather was fantastic – light winds, light clouds and a beautiful sunset, the likes of which you can only see from the air.

There is something about doing touch and goes against the backdrop of a blood-red sun silhouetting the Atlanta skyline. I only did 6 touch and goes, one of which was a short field takeoff and landing and I loved doing every one. Each is different as things are always changing. In my case the sun was getting lower and lower on the horizon with each subsequent exercise. Plus there was the occasional jet or traffic element to offer some challenge.

One thing I got to see while waiting for takeoff clearence that I’ve never witnessed before was watching one of those banner-towing planes make its approach and drop its banner on one of the unused taxiways at KLZU. I’d read about how they do this in the AOPA magazine but it was a thrill to watch the pilot skillfully drop off his trailing banner right in front of me.

Posted under Aviation

This post was written by Marc
on January 31, 2006 at 7:44 pm

Lenovo X41 Tablet PC Review

I have to say that I’m impressed. The Lenovo Tablet PC, like any of IBM’s products is not the most inexpensive offering on the market. But, as I expected from my other IBM ThinkPad experiences, it is rock solid and works as advertised.

The package I purchased includes the biometric fingerprint scanner as well as the X4 Dock. The fingerprint scanner, frankly, has me giddy. I’m pretty security minded and was interested to see if this new technology would be an asset to somebody wanting to properly protect their machine or a kludgy add on that caused more problems than it solved.
I’m happy to report that it seems the former is the case with the biometric fingerprint scanner. I have separate and distinct passwords for power-on, my hard drive access and my account access on the machine. All of which are navigated by a single swipe of my finger on the scanner.
If you are interested in more than just the most basic security (Account login password) it takes a little knowledge or, in my case, research on Lenovo’s site to figure out what is needed and how to implement it. I have to say that all the information was there so I didn’t have to go scouring the ‘net to find what I needed.

Writing with the Digitizer pen couldn’t be easier, my handwriting has actually improved over the past few years as I’ve been making an effort to adhere to my philosophy that “if it’s worth writing down, it’s worth being able to read again” so I have had very few issues with my handwriting being recognized accurately. Even more astonishing to me is the fact that my cursive handwriting is also being recognized with no effort at all on my part. I am writing as quickly, if not faster, than I would write on a piece of paper and the well-thought-out software reliably figures out what I’m trying to put down.
I don’t know what the digitizer surface is made of, but the resistance to the stylus is surprisingly similar to writing on a sheet of paper. Not at all like some of the experiences I’ve had trying to put my signature down for a credit card purchase where it feels like you are using a ball-point pen on a mirror.
One hint – don’t get too obsessed with trying to watch the intermediate guesses at your final word that show up as you are writing, that will only slow you down and it will magically sort itself out by the end of the word in nearly all cases.
The only issue I have is that corrections can be a little slow. Say it inadvertently capitalizes (or doesn’t) a word because I was a little sloppy with my handwriting, going back and correcting words requires figuring out a very different way of thinking for me at least. Even after coming from many, many years of PDA use. Oh by the way, unlike PDAs you don’t need to re-learn how to write, it recognizes REAL letters.
An article I read on the ThinkPad handwriting recognition said that if you dedicate yourself to using only pen-based input for the first little while (I’d say about 2 or 3 weeks) you’ll become so proficient at it that the keyboard will become practically reserved for true marathon messages.

I would certainly not want to hand write a lengthy email using just the pen, my hand would probably seize up with a writer’s cramp, but for a single paragraph or entering a search term in Google it’s absolutely fine.
A hint, you’ll want to switch to the little digitizer keyboard to enter passwords.

I also have the larger 8 cell battery with my unit. I think it’s a stretch, though not a huge one, to claim 6.5 hours of use is possible with this battery. But I find, using the “ThinkPad Default” power setting that I can see 4+ hours from the unit easily. There are nearly a dozen included settings, everything from “Maximum Performance” through to “Timers Off (Presentation)” to “Maximum Battery Life”. I have played with most of them now and can see where the “Maximum Battery Life” may actually get you much closer to the claimed 6.5 hours of usability but, with the screen that dim, why bother? The battery longevity that I’m seeing is ample for my intended uses for this unit. If I can get through a feature length movie and still have enough power to surf the web and deal with my email for a couple of hours, I’ll be a happy camper indeed.

Probably the only downside to the unit is the lack of a built-in CD ROM drive. The package that I bought included such in the dock, and the lack of a CD drive in the actual unit itself no doubt is part of the reason it is so compact but this makes it very challenging to be useful for movies, which I think is a need any traveller has for their laptop – be it in the airport, on the plane or in the hotel room. I have plenty of shows and movies that I would like to watch during that down time.
Included with the unit is “Virtual Drive” software. It will let you copy an image of just about any number of CDs and DVDs and store them on your hard drive for access later. It is supposed to completely emulate the DVD/CD drive so you can access any of those images without the need to keep swapping in and out the physical disks. One catch though, it can’t deal with CSS encrypted disks which is how the vast majority of Movie DVDs are “protected”.
So the Luddite-inspired MPAA has managed another coup – they can keep me from the content that I have purchased yet again (My Roku Soundbridge can’t play any DRM protected content from iTunes either).

So, even though I consider myself an honest sort of fellow, it looks like I’m going to have to look to one of the peer-to-peer networks to try to acquire a copy of the movies that I already own so that I can use them in a manner that I wish to.

This is not the worst problem in the world, and is a small ‘nit in an otherwise wonderful notebook experience but it’s something you need to consider should you often require the ability to receive and access CDs on the spot. I can see this being an issue perhaps at conferences such as Lotusphere and the like where you might want to follow along with the presenter with your own copy of the slides for greater visibility or to annotate them as the presentation proceeds. If that’s that case, then this may be a consideration for you. If you can get back to your hotel room and rip the DVD/CD to your HD before attending the presentations then there may be no issue.

Again, I’m very pleased with the X41 so far.

Posted under Opinions, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on January 30, 2006 at 9:21 pm

Outlook Duplicate Personal Folders

I had a problem where my Outlook PST was duplicated and showed up twice in the “All Mail Folders” list. I found a similar issue on the site (read it here) but I could not post a follow up. In case the link fails, here is a quick summary of the original problem and of the entry that helped me out. Hopefully this can help others:

Original issue:

Name: Jet (by luckypingudog)
Date: July 19, 2005 at 13:57:54 Pacific
Subject: Outlook Duplicate Personal Folders
OS: Win XP Pro SP2
CPU/Ram: 2GHz 1GB

I recently installed Office 2003 Professional on a computer which previously didn’t have Office installed.

I then copied my PST file from Outlook 2000 on another computer onto the new computer, pasting this PST file into:

C:\Documents and Settings\Username\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook, replacing the PST file that was there already.

Then when I opened Outlook 2003 (on the new computer) for the first time, it said something along the lines of “PST File cannot be found” (I can’t remember sorry), and it prompted me to browse to my new PST file (in the above directory), which I did. I selected this new PST file then Outlook 2003 opened and all my emails where there.

The problem is that I have two duplicate “Persoanl Folders” in the “All Mail Folders” list on the left of my screen.

Every time I receive a new email, it appears in the inboxes of both of these duplicate “Personal Folders”. Everytime I delete an email from either folder, it is also deleted from the duplicate folder.

My PST file is approximately 1.5GB in size and I have approximately 100 custom sub-folders in each “Personal Folders” list – and each one of these is totally duplicated in each list!

Another seemingly related issue, is that when I click “Send/Receive”, Outlook 2003 does two sends and two receives. As if it’s doing one for one “Personal Folders” and the other for the suplicate “Personal Folders”.

If I right-click on each of the “Personal Folders” and choose “Properties”, the properties for each are 100% identical – even when I click “Folder Size”. When I click “Advanced” in the properties dialogue box, I get the error message:

“The Operation Failed. An object could not be found.”

If I right-click each of the two “Personal Folders” and choose “Open Outlook Data File…” – they BOTH browse to:

C:\Documents and Settings\Username\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook and show ONLY “outlook.pst” in that folder.

(I have ‘show hidden files and folders’ turned ON, so I’m sure there’s nothing else there).

If I right-click on the two “Personal Folders” then the “Close Personal Folders” option is disallowed (it’s grey and unavailable).

I have tried doing a repair of office 2003 professional, and I’ve also uninstalled it, reinstalled it, and performed an Office Update – but still the problem persists.

Can anyone help? I’ve hunted on the net and it seems a few people have this issue, but I’ve tried following suggestions and so far none apply and/or work.

luckypingudog at

Here is the helpful response:

Name: kdpape
Date: January 04, 2006 at 17:40:25 Pacific
Subject: Outlook Duplicate Personal Folders

i get this all the time (don’t know what causes it – but – it’s easy to fix (temporarily – for a week or so)

-close outlook
-go to control panel
-go to mail
-select ‘data files’
you’ll see two listed – although only one has a full path

-highlight the one that doesn’t have a path

– select ‘Remove’

– reopen outlook and all is peachy –

… now if i could just figure out why it happens randomly every couple weeks!


And my attempted response:

Thanks kdpape,

I had the same issue and your response just helped me clean up this annoyance.

In my case it was some sort of problem with SynchPST that resulted in an issue with my outlook. For some reason my Desktop outlook started trying to open the PST file that resides on my laptop. When I tried opening laptop on the desktop when the laptop was turned off Outlook complained as described in the first message above. I naively navigated to my existing desktop pst file and ended up “double opening” it and then couldn’t get rid of the 2nd entry or the annoying fully qualified folder names in the favorite folder section.

Again Thanks for the quick solution!


Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on January 29, 2006 at 11:24 pm

Middle Age Spread : A For Better or for Worse Collection

Middle Age Spread : A For Better or for Worse Collection Middle Age Spread : A For Better or for Worse Collection

I can’t believe that I read this comic strip every day and can still find these collections where I have not seen any of the stips before! These ones are from a time in my life where I did not have quite as much interest in following the trials and tribulations of the Pattersons.

Always relevant and sometimes poignant I’m never disappointed with Lynn Johnston’s earlier works.

Lately she’s been taking up causes and harping on issues such as the impending loss of the Native American culture. Relevant to be sure, but not terribly entertaining in the context of Lynn’s canvas.

Posted under Comic Books

This post was written by Marc
on January 28, 2006 at 9:56 pm


Contact Contact by Carl Sagan

Well written and consistent with Dr. Sagan’s espoused views in his other works. The movie that it inspired was similar but, of course, much more superficial as movies are wont to be.

I would highly recommend this as an intriguing look at some of the issues and implications that would surely arise should we someday find ourselves faced with proof that we are not alone in this vast cosmos.

Posted under Books

This post was written by Marc
on January 26, 2006 at 7:46 pm

D-Link DI-524

 *Update* check out this posting. I do NOT recommend this router.

D-Link DI-524I’m sitting here now with a new D-Link DI-524 on my desk. I ordered this to replace my venerable WRT54G. The WRT54G is generally a well regarded wireless router but if you search my blog for “WRT54G” you’ll see some of the interesting issues I’ve faced with it over the past couple of years. I’ll shortly be configuring the D-Link. My hope is that I’ll be able to re-enable WEP and 802.11g wireless communications. My primary motivation for replacing my existing router is that it seems to periodically “stall” which can be very irritating. Not only does your web surfing grind to a halt, but any VPN connections your are maintaining drop like hot potatos. Most of the time it seems resetting the WRT54G has resolved these outages but I have my suspicions about my Comcast Motorola modem and the Vonage Linksys RT31P2. I’m not an expert on networks so there are probably plenty of tools out there that could help me accurately determine where the failure lies when I have problems, but the wireless encryption issue helped push the WRT54G to the head of the list. It was very difficult to decide on a replacement router. Reading the reviews on CNet and other sources yielded no obviously superior products out there. They ALL seem to have their issues. The up and coming “N” standard has some appeal, but I don’t have a lot of faith that the “Pre-N” offerings would conform to the standards without a lot of monkeying about. Not only does the router need to be upgraded but also any wireless cards would need to be flashed or somehow updated too. One thing that seems very obvious to me is that the lay-user doesn’t stand a chance if they wish to purchase one of these devices and really be safe. For instance, my WRT54G allows you to use WAP as well as WEP encryption schemes, but the associated Linksys wireless drivers do not implement WAP on my laptop and Desktop. WEP can only be implemented using the 1st of the 4 possible keys generated from the passphrase on one of my devices (I *think* the other device will allow me to use other than the first one). I’m sure the D-Link will have its share of quirks so I’ll post a quick review of how it compares with the WRT54G when I install it. But I have high hopes that its particular quirks will be for things that I don’t need or care about.

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on January 24, 2006 at 7:05 pm

D-Link DI-524 – so far I’m impressed

 *Update* check out this posting. I do NOT recommend this router.

Just finished configuring my DI-524, WEP enabled, MAC filtered and all and so far I’m very impressed. Performance seems to be MUCH better than my Linksys WRT54G.

I have a machine in my den at the front of the house (about 45 feet from the router plus going through about 4-5 interior walls) which, using the WRT54G I usually maxed out at 18 Mbps and more often hovered in the 5.5 – 11 range. With the new router I seem to be holding steady at 24 Mbps and it flirts with 36 (instead of with 18…) on a regular basis.
Since that machine is usually unattended the speed was never really an issue but I see it as an indicator.

Also, all my devices appear to be happy with the WEP encryption turned on. My little Roku soundbridge is merrily putting out my favorite songs with nary a hiccough.
Even more impressive to me is that I recycled the DI-524 and none of my devices complained. Not even the extra-sensitive Roku.

So far the only outstanding issue apppears to be that my BitTorrent client (Azureus) doesn’t seem to be able to get through the new configuration properly. I’ll post an update if I figure it out, the directions from D-Link for port forwarding are pretty straightforward but this doesn’t seem to help.

More Details – This Article indicates how to set up a virtual server port forwarding to the machine you run Azureus on. You also should choose a different port from Azureus’ default (6881) since it seems ISPs like to block it. I also have a Vonage Linksys RT31P2 router sitting between the D-Link and my cable modem so I also needed to forward the port I chose through that router too.

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on January 21, 2006 at 12:26 pm