New Computer coming to Bourassa central

I’ve been chafing for a little while now to upgrade my machine to 64 bit and to take advantage of the new Windows 7 64-bit operating system.

I’ve used Vista for a couple of years and really had no complaints. Once I had the UAC disabled (took all of about 15 minutes before I tired of its intrusive confirmations) the OS was pretty solid and didn’t present me with the pains that I’ve heard described by other folks. Of course I also wasn’t trying to use it in a corporate environment.

I had some particular requirements in looking for my new box. Alienware nudged out the competition by offering a factory overclocked i7-920 cpu. They also had a deal where I was able to get the 2nd video card for no extra cost.

I thought about saving some money and putting together the computer myself with individually purchased parts but the price tag for those was going to be about 75% of the cost of having the machine assembled, tested and warranteed. I figured I’d have spent quite a few hours exchanging things that were the wrong shape or that my limited understanding of todays components led me to spec incorrectly not to mention the prospect of various dud components what I would need to troubleshoot to ensure that it wasn’t a configuration issue on my part.

No, the additional cost of having them make it for me will be money well spent.

Here’s what I’ll be picking up if you’re interested:

Overclocked Intel Core i7 920 (3.2GHz, 8MB Cache)
12GB Triple Channel 1333MHz DDR3
No Keyboard
No Monitor
Dual ATI Radeon HD 5770, 1GB GDDR5
1.2TB RAID 0 (2x 640GB SATA-II, 7,200 RPM, 16MB Cache HDDs)
Cosmic Black, Alienware Area-51 Chassis, 1KW PSU
19-in-1 Media Card Reader
Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium, 64bit, English
Alienware Optical Mouse, MG100
AlienFX Color, Plasma Purple
24X CD/DVD burner (DVD+/-RW)
Alienhead Glow
Alienware High-Performance Liquid Cooling

It’s no wonder the banks are in trouble

As you may be aware from some of my other blog posts, I refinanced my mortgage with Suntrust earlier this year.

At the end of the process I received an offer for $150 if I signed up with their Surepay system. Basically just an automated drafting service to ensure that your mortgage is paid promptly each month.

I just received my 1099-INT from them a few days ago. From my checking account I received a *whopping* $1.81 in interest (I’m still trying to decide how to spend it). But there was this item, listed as “Premium” under Account Type that showed $150 in interest income.

It took me several moments to realize where that entry was coming from. After all, at the sorry .1% interest rate that the banks are paying these days I’m sure I would have noticed the extra $150,000 hanging around in my checking account. (BTW I had to calculate that interest rate since they’re so ashamed that you can’t get it off their web site, the little rate window just blanks out after you put in your state).

I must say that this is the first time I’m going to be nailed for taxes for receiving this kind of incentive. Probably to the tune of around $35.

I just bought an alienware computer and managed to score a $300-off deal for it. I wonder if I need to look out for my 1099 form for *that* next year…

BTW, if you’re reading this as a facebook note, click through to my blog in order to see any pictures/links that I refer to.

Lotusphere 2010 – Knowledge from Concentrate!

I just got back from this year’s Lotusphere held in Orlando, Florida. As usual, it is a great opportunity to immerse myself in the world of Lotus Notes / Domino.

There is always so much available to do that you have to pick and choose what’s most important to you and some stuff you just won’t get to see. In my case, I focus on the presentations rather than the product showcase primarily since I’m not in a position to get any of those products into my organization and secondarily I develop most of my own utilities and applications anyway. I spread my attention between the developer and the Admin tracks.

Hits and Misses

As with any event there are good and bad things. In my opinion:

The Hits:

– an unexpected highlight of the conference was having Dr. Brian Cox speak at the closing session. Absolutely brilliant!

– The JumpStart sessions held on Sunday (January 17) every one of these 2 hour sessions that I attended was great. Well prepared presenters disseminating highly relevant information.

– The Show-‘n-tell sessions. A deep dive involving some end-to-end process that was like one long (1 hr 45 min) demo. I loved experiencing all the gory details of installs that I’ll implementing myself later this year first hand like this.

– The Swan and Dolphin hotel. These folks know how to manage people flow. Meals had legions of staff directing people and ensuring that food stations were kept stocked. Cleanup of tables was unobtrusive and thorough and staff were always pleasant.

– The Audio visual folks. Not sure if they are Disney or were brought in by Lotusphere but there were no glitches at any of the sessions that I could detect. When there was a question or a presenter made a comment about something that they couldn’t figure out, someone would unobtrusively show up and do what was needed.

– On Time. Sessions started on time and ended on time. Period. This is a consistent theme and one that respects both attendees and presenter’s commitments alike.

The Misses:

– The Information and assistance folks were particularly impotent. They had no idea how to escalate questions and seemed intent on just getting rid of you. My biggest peeve was that my registration never came off pending status and so my Lotus Online account was never activated. Three trips to those yahoos failed to resolve the issue.

– The BOF (Birds of a Feather) sessions were a big disappointment for me this year. The first one I tried to attend, the facilitator was detained (but sent word so we could perhaps try to find another session of interest) and the session was rescheduled for some time in the future. The second one the facilitator didn’t bother to show or send word. This was vexing as it was an early morning session that I’d dragged my not-a-morning-person butt out of bed for at 5:30 am to be there on time.  Also, the sessions exactly overlapped with breakfast – well if you were serious about attending the following normal morning sessions. I think it’s time these ceased being an afterthought and perhaps gained some more prominence in both the schedule and maybe in the minds of the hosts? Last time I was here I attended one or two of these and found them pretty valuable.

– No use of mobile device access to session evaluation. Having attended WES 2009 and seen what can be done in terms of integrating the nearly ubiquitous smartphones into the scheduling and evaluation process, it was kind of a let down to see that these technologies were not being exploited (indeed *showcased*) as part of this event.

My Sessions


BOOT103 Running with Scissors: Sharpen Your Skills for a Pain-free IBM Lotus Domino 8.5 Upgrade

Boot 101 8.5 dom admin

BOOT104 IBM Lotus Sametime 8.5 Deployment Workshop

SHOW102 Using IBM Lotus Domino 8.5 Policies to Manage Your Clients


BP108 Worst Practices

AD206 Filthy Rich User Interfaces

SHOW113 Integrating IBM Lotus Domino Data and Applications on Smartphones, Blackberry

BP306 How to Sell IBM Lotus Notes

BOF316 Managing your IBM Lotus Domino Environment with Lotus Domino (Facilitator no show)


BOF314 How to Tune Your IBM Lotus Domino Server for Maximum Performance (Facilitator no show)

AD102 Extreme Makeover — LotusScript and Java Editor Edition

AD107 Enhance Your Existing Applications with XPages

BP106 The Top 11 Tips for Keeping Your Servers Healthy

ID102 Enterprise IBM Lotus Notes Client Deployments

BP212 Delivering IBM Lotus Domino to Mobile Devices: Top 10 Mobile Browser Dev Tricks – and More!

ID615 Best Practices for Upgrading to IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5x


BP107 Real World Examples: Upgrading to IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5

SHOW201 Installation and Setup of IBM Lotus Sametime 8.5: From “Zero to Hero” in Just Two Hours

BP206 Let’s Give Your LotusScript a Tune-Up

ID604 IBM Lotus Notes and Domino in the Cloud – IBM LotusLive Notes


SHOW103 Roaming in IBM Lotus Domino 8.5: Configure the Best Choice for You

ID611 The Best-Laid Plans: Networking That Can Hurt Your Applications

GURU101 GURUpalooza!

ASK101 Ask the Developers

The Temporal Void

The Temporal VoidThe Temporal Void by Peter F. Hamilton continues his tradition of fine multi-book series. My only regret is that I read this one now rather than waiting so that I could begin the last book in this particular trilogy immediately.
Picking up right where “The Dreaming Void” left off, this book maintained the established pace and kept going. Human civilization is hundreds of years older than in Mr. Hamilton’s earlier offerings but many of the established characters are still participating due to the technological advances already established for lengthening human life AND due to the ability folks have of essentially uploading themselves into a vast network and living a non-physical (or “post physical”) existence.
As always, the characters are front and center and the absurdities and realities of human existence no matter what the level of civilization are always interestingly portrayed in this universe.
An enjoyable read and I am on tenterhooks waiting for the next installment.

The Fountainhead

The Fountainhead by Ayn RandThe Fountainhead by Ayn Rand was a worthwhile, if lengthy, endeavor.
Being too lazy to actually attack this by *reading* it, I picked up the audio version. I have listened to Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” at least a half dozen times over the past couple of decades. If you know me you’ll know that I don’t give up the time to do this lightly. “The Fountainhead” I found to be somewhat more preachy (yeah, yeah I know. Is that even possible?). Ayn’s never really been known for multifaceted and realistic characters, instead they all rather assume aspects of her ideology and remain focused in that manner throughout the book.
About halfway through “The Fountainhead” I had considered not bothering to finish it (it *is* just under 31 hours long after all) because the characters really are not at all accessible to me. The motivations the characters espouse for their apparently sociopathic behavior toward each other (protagonists and antagonists alike – although which are which is sometimes not really obvious) are absurd to a rational human. They make sense only in Ms. Rand’s relatively black and white conception of the world and the values that one needs to hold to be true to themselves within it.
But I persevered and was gratified by the way the story wound up finally.
I would say that it’s worth experiencing this book at least once just to get a sense of Ayn Rand’s philosophies. But I am unlikely to listen to the book again.
For someone interested in a more entertaining and mildly grayer (IMHO) view of the world I would suggest “Atlas Shrugged”.

Will Terrorism end our civil liberties?

A friend of mine (not sure if he wants to be named in this blog) and I were exchanging some email on the topic of terrorism. He had this to say:

I think that as terrorism gets more and more sophisticated that we will eventually have to give up some of our cherished rights just to survive. It’s even possible that one day in the future all sports events, political rallies, concerts, etc., may be too risky to attend and they all become strictly televised events. This is simply because it may be too dangerous to have a large gathering of people in one spot, especially when it’s pre-announced.

To which I respond:

I suspect the basic human need to gather in large crowds will not be thwarted by terrorism.

We waste an awful lot of time with idiotic measures that I’m hopeful will be abandoned soon in favor of more practical approaches that don’t simply pay lip service to the protections we are demanding.

But the reality of terrorism is that it’s simply not that big a player / risk even in places where it is common. It is sensational but it is not terribly effective from a damage POV. The 9/11 attacks killed only about 3,000 people – deliberately to be sure. Where 30,000 – 40,000 folks died that year on roadways throughout America. Really, where do we think further dollars spent could yield the greatest citizen safety boost?

I think, worst case, we’ll just consider it another part of the risk of going about our business. Best case, we’ll have more effective means of preventing it or ameliorating it’s impacts that won’t reduce our civil liberties. Frankly I’d rather risk getting killed going to the store than to ask a government bureaucrat for permission to do so.

I’m an optimist in that I think that people are clever enough to apply our genius to resolving the issues of our day through a combination of sophisticated social engineering and technological tools.

I’m a pessimist in that I feel that any of the solutions that we come up with need to be safeguarded from our government’s unconditional use. Already our congress is rife with foolish bills and notions, many promulgated by special interest groups which serve as our representatives’ sole source of information on many topics. It is against these narrowly educated/experienced people that we need to safeguard our government and our most basic liberties.

So, dear reader, what do *you* think?

Risk vs Reward – why are we so bad at it?

The recent cold conditions in Georgia have highlighted to me the terrible lack of discrimination folks seem to apply to what should obviously be considered a “high risk” situation.

The topic of “Risk vs Reward” has been relatively prominent in the news lately with the terrible judgment shown by our financial and other corporate institutions  in evaluating what risks should be deemed acceptable for what could only ever have been very tentative rewards down the line.

I have the luxury of working for a company that is commonsensical about inclement weather and they allow me the option of telecommuting should the weather make driving conditions too risky – BY MY OWN EVALUATION. I recognize that there are plenty of folks out there who do not work for such enlightened companies. But I also recognize that there are plenty of other folks who have a similar freedom to choose, be it telecommuting, sick days, comp time or some other alternative to actually risking their health and safety over their commute and yet they do not exercise that option.

Driving is a terribly risky activity relative to most other things we do on a daily basis. It requires focus, awareness, a sound vehicle and not a small amount of luck that others driving around you are similarly serious about the endeavor. But the benefits are generally so great that the risk / reward ratio is an acceptable one. Your livelihood often depends upon it, many leisure activities – shows, meeting with friends, kid’s play dates –  simply couldn’t happen without it. So we accept the risk. After all, what’s the point in living if you don’t enjoy it and that always comes with a risk / reward evaluation.

But we become so used to driving that we seem to mentally ascribe to the activity essentially a zero risk when evaluating additional circumstances. Never mind that you are already hurtling down the road in about a ton of metal, liquids, glass and composites at speeds that will pulp your body in under a second of inattention or misfortune. Now your are facing icy roads on top of that.

Yet the only consideration is that the roads may be “a little slippery”. But you’ve got front-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive. Our education system has failed miserably if people are unable to recognize that no tire on a vehicle that you are driving around town, without studs or chains, can gain ANY traction on ice. Snow, sure. Mud and dirt, you bet. But ice is non-tractionable and delivering even power to 4 wheels that are not gripping the road surface has only one result: No control.

In a situation like this past Friday, we do not have enough salt or sand trucks to effectively manage a “small amount of ice” (by Northern standards) in anything like the time required to allow for us to proceed as if it were a normal day.

If you’re lucky nobody ahead of you is slowing down. No kids or wildlife are crossing the street. There is no curve in the road.

I am flabbergasted by the folks who seem so focused on maintaining “life as normal” that they ignore valid common sense warnings and hurl themselves and sometimes their most precious valuables – their kids, their spouse, their parents – into the melee so that they can make it to a gym class or to do some shopping. Really, in a day or so all WILL be back to normal.

I take risk and reward very seriously. I fly light aircraft which carries with it about the same risk of driving a motorcycle (although probably safer than driving a motorcycle in Atlanta). I enjoy shooting handguns at my local range. I will, when I can get some folks together, go bungee jumping. These are all activities that have greater than normal risk associated with them, yet with the right mindset, training and equipment the risk is for me acceptable and worth it for the pleasure that I derive from these activities.

Folks need to ask themselves. You need to ask yourself – do I understand what I am risking here? Is the pleasure, service, promise kept worth this risk or do I need to do something else, to renegotiate that promise so that it is more reasonable (reschedule that play date,  have lunch with your friend tomorrow). If it is not, then please treat the one ton box of metal and the nearly tractionless roadway that you are traveling upon with the respect and attention that it deserves.

Air Fare Taxes – you think YOU have it bad?

My mother lives in Canada and recently purchased a plane ticket to fly from Toronto to Orlando, Florida.

Check out the price of the ticket and then how she gets positively hosed on the taxes and additional junk fees.

Airfare Price (Canadian Dollars): $119.00
Taxes and surcharges: $233.54
Total(Canadian Dollars): $352.54

By contrast, a single fare ticket from Atlanta, Georgia to Orlando costs this much.

1 adult:                      $178.00
Taxes & fees:               $28.39
Total:                         $206.39

1 adult:                      $178.00

Taxes & fees:                                                         $28.39


Total:                               $206.39

I don’t know if the airlines build extra charges into the fees but those Canucks are getting screwed every which way from Sunday on them.

Have I mentioned lately how much I *love* living in America? If only we can solve the horror that is our medical system.

Verizon Pushes BING to Certain BlackBerry Devices

In a shady deal that alters settings on end user devices without their permission or knowledge, Microsoft and Verizon have agreed to make BING the default search engine on certain BlackBerry devices. Those I know of for certain are the 8830, the Tour and the Storm 2.

I am told that you can select other search engines but only BING can be the default.

Also, apparently a new BING icon also appears on the devices after a hard reset (pull the battery).

This may be OK for new devices where end users expect a lot of extra stuff that they do not require and will clean up. What is NOT expected is for new stuff to show up suddenly unannounced. It is confusing and it is invasive.

I expected better of Verizon.

Insulating my house with Wilson Insulation Pt 2

Following up on my original post regarding Wilson Insulation, I spoke with Jack – the fellow responsible for the work crew – and he arranged to have them come out with instructions to “do whatever is needed to make the customer happy”.

That’s pretty damn impressive.

They came over on the scheduled day (last Tuesday – January 5) and spent a couple of hours addressing the lighting fixture (turns out an obsolete pipe left over from my hot water heater relocation was resting against the newly installed protector around one of my recessed lighting cans), installed the missing baffles that protect the soffit vents and evened out the blown insulation. The only omission was that the need for the attic hatch access dam was not communicated so they did not have it with them to install.

Yesterday – January 7 – I received a message from the installers, they were actually at my house to do that dam install (I was working in the office that day) so we had to reschedule. It’s too bad but I didn’t know they were coming.

Next Tuesday should see the installation of that final piece.

Based on the weather these past few days (especially today with the frozen roads!) I’m really happy to have that insulation up there.

Final chapter to be written shortly! 🙂