Friday, September 30, 2005

Blackberry Messenger

I replied to an e-mail that Brad ( sent me on my blackberry the other day. Since our system adds “Sent from my Blackberry …” he figured out that I was using a blackberry and pointed me to the blackberry messenger at I downloaded and installed it, and found it to be pretty cool. So far, my only conversation has been with Brad, I hope to get a little more use out of it. It’s just too bad that my blackberry doesn’t get coverage on the metro. Maybe, if I start taking the MARC train again, the blackberry can make my commute a little more interesting.

Down for Maintenance

I got the following message when I went to post a blog entry today:

Blogger is temporarily unavailable due to planned maintenance.
This downtime will last 1 hour from 4:30pm - 5:30pm (PST).

That’s interesting - I got this message at 9:40am (EST). Something must be broken.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Microsoft Support

I needed to get a hotfix for a specific issue I was having with the Active Directory Users and Computers admin tool. I knew exactly what I needed, but it was one of those hotfixes that you have to contact Microsoft to obtain. So, I called support and requested the hotfix. The support person on the other end asked me a bunch of irrelevant questions that I answered anyway just to get it over with. What came next shocked me, the technician on the phone indicated that the hotfix required Windows XP service pack 3. Of course, those of us that know anything about Windows XP know that the current service pack is only service pack 2. I tried to explain this, but the tech insisted that it required Windows XP service pack 3. Microsoft’s outsourced people in India really suck, its not the first time that I call and nobody seems to have any clue what I’m talking about. The place I’m working for really needs to get a good support contract with a technical account manager and domestic technicians that actually know what they are doing.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Car Died?

Maybe, I started it up this morning, and me, being in a rush just put it in drive and pushed the gas instead of giving it time to warm up. Anyway, it stalled and wouldn’t start again. The car has been giving me a little trouble in the stop and go traffic, occasionally stalling. I have no idea what is wrong with it. If I was forced to guess, I’d say that there is something wrong with the fuel pump or filter or something like that. I sure am glad we have the van now! The car’s imperfect operations sort of prompted me to accelerate plans to buy the van, but I’m sure glad we had it, especially after the baby shower and this weekend’s shopping trip, and of course, not to mention it got me to work this morning. Hopefully the car will start later today and I can run some fuel system cleaner through it. If not, its just another thing I’m going to have to get fixed.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Great Frederick Fair (2005)

Wow, this is my second entry on the Great Frederick Fair. Once again, Alex had a blast riding rides. This time, I took more cash with me, and he actually got to play a game, a little fishing game where you hook a plastic fish with rings on it, and get a prize. Alex would have much preferred his prize to be that he could keep fishing!

Unfortunately, Amy couldn’t ride any rides, they all had the pregnancy warning. She did get to eat a funnel cake, something she was craving, although the powdered sugar had to be substituted with splenda. I tried it, it wasn’t so bad, but still, not as good as the real thing.

All in all, it was a good night, Alex had fun, and that was the point. Of note – I wore the exact same clothes I wore last year, as you can see in the pictures. Great Frederick Fair 2004

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I Wanted to Take Off Today

I really wanted to take the day off of work today. I really need to get to the bank and close on a small home equity loan, but more importantly, Amy had a doctor’s appointment that I wanted to take her to. I’m not much for sitting and waiting at the doctor’s office, but I did say to Amy that I’d be taking off and could take her. I don’t remember it that way, but I’m sure that’s what I said. At first I was thinking about taking only half a day, but there was so much to do, I even thought about taking the whole day off. Work really gets in the way of life sometimes.

Here I am at work, it took several days for the backup guy to actually get around to installing the backup, then, and there were a few problems with it, because the wrong account was used to configure the backup software. Now if the people around here could actually do their jobs, this would have been done on Friday and all the testing would have been completed by Monday. But here I am, at work on Wednesday because the system needs to be tested and ready for production by the end of the day. What am I doing now, well, after a brief problem with another system this morning; I’m once again waiting for the back up guy to finish the required backup testing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Word Verification

For a long time, Blogger didn’t suffer from SPAM comments. Well, that long time is over. I got one a while ago, and then another, and they have been getting worse. I don’t particularly like SPAM, so, I turned on a new Blogger feature called word verification. Basically, as you can see in the example below, it’s a graphic file with a slightly deformed word that you’ll have to type into a box when commenting. I like comments, so, please, don’t let this stop you from commenting on my blog posts.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Register your SmartTrip Card

I’m so glad I registered my Washington Metro SmartTrip card. I ended up loosing it last week, and it still had about $140 left on it. I gave myself a day to find it, but when it didn’t turn up, I called the WMATA and had them disable that card and add the value to a new card and send it to me. It cost $5 of my value, that is what it costs to buy the card outright. But I’ll take loosing $5 over $140 any day. If you have a SmartTrip card that you use regularly, go on over to and register it!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

SO-50 Ham Radio Satellite

I’m going to try and work the SO-50, also known as Saudi-OSCAR 50, ham radio satellite today. I just happened to notice that it is passing almost directly overhead, just a little to the east of Frederick at about 4:35 today. BTW, OSCAR stands for orbiting satellite carrying amateur radio, just in case you wanted to know. The big problem will be actually hearing it, since it only transmits at 250mW on 436.800 MHz. Since I don’t have a beam antenna, I might not have enough receiver gain to even pick up a signal. Still, it will be fun to try.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Exchange Cluster Build

What a couple of days it has been. I dug myself into a hole when I said I could have this Microsoft Exchange cluster built by today. First, I had a hard time even finding the servers that were already racked and connected. Even then, it was tough to figure out what monitor and keyboard they were connected to. Just that wasted half a days worth of work.

Then, two days where the production servers were having various problems that took most of both days fix, monitor, and manage. So, there goes another day and a half that I should have been working on the new cluster build.

I got right back to the build of the new cluster and started having more problems, it turned out that the servers were plugged into network ports that were not configured for the right VLAN. That would have been quick to figure out, except the cables weren’t labeled with the switch ports they connected to, so when I talked to the network guy, he didn’t know what ports I was talking about, and said, find the ports or MAC addresses and give me a call back. I found the ports, and for a backup, got the MAC addresses, and about fifteen minutes later, I called the network guy back but he had left for the day. We finally got it on the network first thing the following day, yesterday.

Enter, the SAN problems. I had been used to NetApp and HP SANs for the most part, but here, they use EMC. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? Wrong. I had all kinds of version conflicts with Windows 2003, the QLogic HBA drivers, and EMC’s PowerPath software. Eventually, I had to open up a support case with EMC that took two hours for them to respond to. After much back and forth e-mail with the EMC technician, I was able to get everything just right so it would work.

Since then, its been smooth sailing. Cluster server is installed, all the disks are configured, and Exchange is setup and running. Right now, I’m just waiting for the backup guy to do his thing and I’ll finish up. I might actually be done the build today, but I’ll still need another day or two for testing and review.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Costco’s Gas Wasn’t Cheap

At least they had gas for a change, but I didn’t get gas at Costco yesterday. When I drove by Sheetz on my way to Costco, I noticed that it was $2.77, wow, I’m calling that cheap, compared to Costco’s gas at $2.85, I guess it could be called cheap. I was almost completely empty, something I don’t let happen too often. Traffic was so bad yesterday that I ended up using a lot more gas than I expected on my way to and from work. Still, I turned around and went back to Sheetz to get gas instead of Costco. I guess that’s ok, when Costco was out of gas all the time, Sheetz was my fill up spot.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Blank Trip

Last night we made what my Grandma Jackie would call “a blank trip”. Amy had talked to her mother on Saturday and she indicated that she would not be working on Sunday. Amy said that we would be coming up to visit after dropping of Andrew, not something out of the ordinary on Andrew weekends. We start by going to my mother’s house for a while, eating there, and then dropping off Andrew at five o’clock. After that, it is about a thirty to forty-five minute drive to Amy’s mother’s house. When we arrived, nobody was home. Fortunately for us, Amy has a key, so, we were able to get in. We figured Amy’s mother would be home any minute, so, we waited, and I watched some football. Alex still had a good time playing with blocks and action figures. After a while went by, we ordered pizza and waited a little long for it to arrive and after it arrived, it wasn’t very good. If I had more time I would have drove up to Dominos and demanded a refund. But, I sucked it up and ate the pizza anyway. After we ate, we cleaned up and drove to where Amy’s mother works, but she was not there and hadn’t been. Amy was worried, so, we called Brian, Amy’s brother. Once I was able to talk to him, he explained that his mother was with him, at the restaurant where he works. Mystery solved. She had left a message on our answering machine, but we had already left by then and didn’t check it. I still don’t know what it says. I suspect, since there were unopened baby shower gifts in the house, that she wanted to meet us somewhere instead of going to the house.

In all, it could have been worse, we could have been locked out and Alex could have had to go to the potty!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Worked Puerto Rico on the Ham Radio

Ok, now I never intended for my blog to be the ham radio blog, but tonight was really cool. I worked three stations on the AO-51 “Echo” ham radio satellite with my handheld radio. I just can’t get over it, I confirmed Puerto Rico and Ohio tonight, I think I may have talked to Michigan, but I’m not 100% certain on that one yet. Based on my experience trying to talk to the satellite with my old radio for transmitting and my scanner for receiving, I didn’t think I’d be able to make these contacts with such ease. The main thing is that the scanner can tune the center frequency of 435.300 MHz, but tunes in 12.5 KHz steps, while the ham radio tunes in 5 KHz steps. Since the satellite is moving so fast, the signal suffers from Doppler shift. When it is coming at me, I have to tune to 435.310 to start, then 435.305, that’s when its close enough for me to transmit. When it passes overhead you tune to 435.300 MHz, and as it moves away, drop to 435.295 MHz, and so on.

On the flip side, I’m out of the twenty-three cent stamps I use to send my QSL cards. Since the cards aren’t fancy, I just send them as post cards. I’ve been told that sending them in envelopes that also include a self addressed stamped envelope is better. I’ll see, I might do that for the Puerto Rico station.

Also on the ham radio today, I made my first contacts ever on the six meter (50 MHz) band and the one and a quarter meter (222 MHz) band. I also made my first simplex QSO on the seventy centimeter (445 MHz) band. Those contacts are because the VHF QSO party, a contest from the ARRL, which was going on this weekend, and because of my new radio that has those bands.

This is great!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

New Minivan

Yes, it has happened, I’m officially old, Amy and I have bought a minivan. Yes, a minivan. I didn’t post right away because I wanted to snap a picture of it first, then, I just didn’t get around to it. But my recent post about Costco being out of gas I mentioned that I had two cars, and everyone I know knows that I only had one car before.

The van is a Toyota Sienna LE with option package number 5. Don’t get me wrong, it is really nice, for a minivan, even though we gave up a few things to go with a Toyota over a domestic model. Toyota seemed like the right choice for a van that would take us well beyond the five year mark, the trade off was that we couldn’t afford to get it with a DVD player, power seats, or two power doors. What we get is a van with a bunch of airbags and a host of other safety features, eight passenger seating, and one power door. If you really want to know the details, Toyota’s website has a listing of standard features for the LE and everything that package 5 comes with.

Amy has been driving it a lot, she is doing quite well. Although, I’m not the greatest driving teacher in the world, progress is being made. Tonight she drove us up to the Toyota dealer to pick up our license plates. Alex sure does love sitting up high where he can see things out the window. And we all love the one power sliding door!

Costco was Out of Gas

We drove to Costco today to get gas, and there was a big sign saying that they were temporarily out of gas. It is kind of annoying that I’ve been getting my gas at Costco ever since I moved to the area, but now, that the price of gas is so ridiculous, every other yahoo out there decides that they are going to do it too, leaving none for me, a loyal customer from the start. Oh well, its just gas, I still have enough between the two cars to get me where I need to go. If they don’t have gas tomorrow night though, I’ll have to go to a regular gas station, yuck.

Monday, September 05, 2005

First Satellite Contact AO-51

After a couple of tries where I know somebody heard me because they called back to me with my call sign, I finally made a complete contact using the AO-51 “Echo” amateur radio satellite. Although I heard the call sign wrong at first, I was one letter off, I had an “M” where there should have been an “N” and it was easy enough to figure out. I’m glad he said he was in North Carolina, that was a big help because he was a WB7 call sign, since 7 is normally west coast, I knew I had the right call sign when I looked it up.

Many may not find exchanging a few sentences with a random person a few states away very interesting, but to me, it was very exciting. I had heard the satellite a few times on the scanner, but could never talk to it. With the new radio, I was able to actually complete a contact through a satellite, made by volunteers, moving at 17,000 mph, using a handheld radio. I guess it is the geek in me, but now I can say, I talked to a guy in NC with my handheld radio!

New Ham Radio - Yaesu VX-7R

I left my handheld radio, the Realistic HTX-202 from Radio Shack, on the ledge for a while, well, Alex finally decided he wanted to play with it, or at least touch it, because it fell to the floor and broke. I got the HTX-202 back in 1993 when I first got my ham radio license, and it has been a good performer over the years, I’m a little sad to see it go.

I had some clear specifications that I was looking for in a radio, most importantly, being dual band, 146 and 440 MHz bands, with dual receive capabilities. There were three that made my short list. The Icom IC-W32A a good radio with a good price, but its big drawback was the fact that it drained batteries very quickly. Next on my list was the Kenwood TH-F6A, while more expensive than the W32A, it came stock with a much better battery, the 220 MHz band, and a wide band receiver with SSB capabilities. I finally decided on the Yaesu VX-7R, it seemed to me to be the most rugged, it also had a great battery, and I figured that the addition of the 50MHz band would be a better choice than the 220 MHz band (although the VX-7R does have 220, it is really low power, 300mW).

I made a few repeater contacts with my new Yaesu VX-7R the first night, once the battery was charged. The next day I took it up on the mountain and was able to hit some six meter repeaters, make a quick contact on 146.52. I tried a 220 MHz repeater, with no luck. I also had no luck on 70 centimeter or 6 meter simplex.

I also went after the satellite, but that is for another post!