Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Thursday, 29 November 2007

Last week I arrived home one night to find a plastic bag hanging from the doorknob. It was the 2007-2008 telephone directory from Cable & Wireless. My first thought was "great, now there's going to be another 50,000 old phone directories in the landfill" but I just couldn't bring myself to throw it in the bin. It felt... wrong.

I sent an IM to a friend who works at Cable & Wireless and asked if they had any takebacks or recycling program for telephone directories. I didn't think they would, recycling is woefully non-existent in the Cayman Islands but it never hurts to ask, right?

The next day I received an email from her with the following:

Cable & Wireless has partnered with the non profit organization Global Green Caribbean to collect old telephone directories for recycling. Other partners in this initiative are CayShred and Fosters Food Fair. We have added our Anderson Square and Galleria Plaza stores as drop off points. The drive to collect old directories will last for the next week. Persons dropping off old directories will also get a green bag while quantities last. So please help support this very worthy effort and bring in your old telephone directories to either of our store locations and tell a friend.

Well shave my balls and call me Harry! I took my old telephone directory and another one I found lying around and put it in the plastic bag the new one came in and put it in my jeep to drop off. I was in Foster's Food Fair at the Strand last night getting some Borax for my running clothes (to say they smell like goats is an insult to goats the world over) and I didn't see a box, a sign, a table, anything saying "drop your old phone books here" and I forgot about it.

Today I stopped by the Galleria Plaza Cable & Wireless store to drop it off. I wandered around, no bin, no signage no nothing. I asked the cashier and she referred me to one of the CSAs, so I waited in line until it was my turn. She knew what I was talking about, took my directories and even gave me a green reusable grocery bag. Sweet!

If I had not asked someone who worked at C&W, I never would have known this program existed.. and is it over this week? They REALLY could have done a much better job of letting the public know about this... Mount Trashmore is high enough already without adding literally tons of easily-recyclable paper on top of it.

I'm glad Cable & Wireless is trying to make positive changes and offer recycling, but I'm a bit cheesed off that they didn't really make it very public. Of course, I could be wrong, it HAS happened before! It could be that they're gearing up for it this week and going to kick it off next week and advertise is in the newspapers, their website and on the radio...

Thursday, 29 November 2007 13:30:25 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman#
Sunday, 18 November 2007
I realized that the biggest gripe I had was the memory size; 16gb. Then I realized that I had been making do with 1gb on the PSP, and had even stopped carrying the PSP with me on the plane because it was getting too be too much to carry around. The only plus for the PSP was that it also played games, but I haven't used it for that in over a year.
Sunday, 18 November 2007 13:14:13 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Gadgets | Wireless | WWW#
It turns out that I'm being actively blocked from downloading any content from XBL Marketplace because my IP address identifies me as residing outside of the US and A. That's right, region coding. "This content is intended for US residents only".
Sunday, 18 November 2007 12:43:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Tech | Gadgets | Gaming | Microsoft | Wireless#
We've started receiving computers from Dell now with Vista Business edition on them. Fortunately it's only been ten so far and they're all Optiplex 755s, the new ones. Microsoft has a program in place to allow you to buy new machines with Vista Business stickers/COAs on them and then receive a free product code to "downgrade" it to XP, then when your company is ready to roll Vista out, you already have the license and don't have to pay anything to upgrade.
Sunday, 18 November 2007 12:17:02 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Rants | Tech | Microsoft#

Vista's been out almost a year, and SP1 is right around the corner. I've been running it at work on my personal machine for about seven or eight months now, just to try and get used to it so when we don't have the option of getting new computers with XP anymore, I'll be able to answer the inevitable questions from the users "where did x y and z go?" Because technically you can install an OS license on two computers if you really read into the fine print, I took the Express Upgrade disc from my computer at work home and installed it on my desktop computer.

Home Computer Work Computer
P4 2.4Ghz Core 2 Duo 2.0Ghz
1gb RAM 4gb RAM
80gb PATA OS, 2x250gb SATA data array 80gb SATA
ATI Radeon 9600 256mb nVidia GeForce 7300 256mb
Acer 22" widescreen (1680x1080) Two Dell 17" LCDs
SB Audigy+ 7.1 channel audio Intel integrated audio
LG DVD +/- RW dual layer Sony DVD +/- RW dual layer

 

My work computer rolls right along with multiple applications open, Symantec Corporate Edition 10 in the background, WMP 11 in toolbar mode playing MP3s, Outlook 2007 open, Active Directory Users & Computers MMC snap-in open, Foldershare satellite in the taskbar and then whatever else I'm working on at the moment.

My home computer runs AVG Free version in the background, uTorrent in the background, Foldershare satellite and iTunes. Generally there's an explorer window or two open, as well as iTunes minimized when I'm not there and open and playing MP3s when  I am around. That's all.

My average processor usage is around 65%. 65% of my computer's resources are used up while it's sitting "idle" or doing something I consider extremely low-key, like playing MP3s through iTunes. It's so bad that iTunes actually starts "skipping" while trying to play MP3s. Doing anything, skipping forward to another song, opening a window, changing folders in Explorer, renaming a file, ANYTHING causes the processor usage to spike to 100% and slow everything down to a crawl. Heaven forbid I try to listen to music while doing anything file intensive.

Oddly enough, as resource intensive as it is, watching videos with Nero Showtime (I'm forcing myself to use it instead of VLC right now because I paid for Nero 7... right before Nero 8 was released and offered me the chance to upgrade for a low 39.99) doesn't seem to be a problem for the system at all.

I was watching the processor usage today while iTunes was skipping, trying to see WHAT was causing the processor usage and skipping. It didn't add up... I was using maybe 30% of the processor, but the reported usage was 65-70%. I checked "show processes from all users" box and there it was: Audiodg.exe was hogging up 30-65% of the processor cycles, iTunes went between 6% and 30%. What the hell is audiodg.exe? Is it something to do with the new Sound Blaster Audigy card I put in a few weeks ago?

I looked around online and found a pretty good description of it here

The short answer is that audiodg.exe hosts the audio engine for Vista.  All the DSP and other audio processing is done in audiodg.exe.  There are two reason it runs outside of the windows audio service.

The first is that there's 3rd party code that gets loaded into audiodg.exe.  Audio hardware vendors have the ability to install custom DSPs (called Audio Processing Objects or APOs) into the audio pipeline.  For a number of reasons (reliability, serviceability, others) we're not allowed to load 3rd party code into svchost processes (svchost.exe is a generic host process for services that's used inside Windows). So we need to move all the code that interacts with these 3rd party APOs outside the audio service (that way if an APO crashes, it won't take out some other critical part of the system with it).

The second reason for using a separate process for the audio engine is DRM.  The DRM system in Vista requires that the audio samples be processed in a protected process, and (for a number of technical reasons that are too obscure to go into) it's not possible for a svchost hosted service to run in a protected process.

 

UGH. So this piggy process was introduced in Vista to allow audio processing to run in a protected process because of DRM. Double-ugh. Everything in my iTunes library are plain-Jane VBR MP3s that I ripped from my own CDs. There is no DRM on them, there does not need to be any DRM on them, but they have to be processed through this audiodg process so they CAN. Lame. All it's doing is chewing up resources and making my audio playback skip. It's what the French call "Le Suck".

Vista's vaunted new User Account Control sucks, too. I left it all on to force myself to get used to it. I installed EAC to rip a couple new CDs that I bought, and it installed fine. I navigated to C:\Program Files\EAC and created a new folder called LAME and then unzipped the LAME_enc.dll and exe files into it and told EAC to use the external compressor... but it wouldn't. It would inexplicably fail. I dropped to a command line and tried it myself and got "Access Denied". Turns out that even with an administrator account, you can't execute an .exe file in the program files folder unless Windows/msiexec has put it there itself. If you have a program that didn't come in an .msi installation file, then it won't be able to run. On a whim, I went to Control Panel and turned off UAC. It warned me three times that it was a bad idea, and then asked me to reboot. After a reboot, EAC worked as expected, and I now have a red shield with an X over it in my system tray that periodically reminds me that I've left my system open to unauthorized use and click here to turn UAC back on. At work it's even worse. I had to disable UAC right off the bat in order for ScriptLogic to even run my logon script.

There's a whole laundry list of all small, niggling things that just don't work in Vista. My USB TV Tuner is unsupported in Vista and now has been discontinued. My Microsoft(!!) branded keyboard with the integrated UareU biometric fingerprint scanner doesn't work. The keyboard works, but the fingerprint scanner doesn't.

Probably my biggest gripe with Vista at work (aside from the UAC business described above) is the lack of adequate management tools. I'm a Network Administrator. I spend a lot of time in the Microsoft Management Console (MMC). Active Directory Users and Computers in particular just doesn't work very well. I don't have icons telling me if an object is a user, group, disabled, computer, contact or anything. EVERY icon looks like a text file. Exchange 2003 System Manager won't run, so I can't do anything mailbox-related without VNC'ing to the server or using Remote Desktop to one of the Domain Controllers. ISA management doesn't work (2004 OR 2006), Websense Manager won't run and ScriptLogic Desktop Authority sort of works, but is pointing at the wrong server (although that's not a Vista gripe)

I'm at the point now where I'm ready to declare my experimentation phase with Vista over and roll back my desktop computer at home to XP SP2. Fortunately when I installed Vista, I used an extra hard drive, and I can go back as easily as opening the case, pulling the drive and putting the old one back in. There will be a little work after that, Windows updates and a few driver changes for new hardware. At work it's a little more work to downgrade, but because they're new machines, I've been proactive and made a Ghost image of the new Optiplex with XP SP2. That's another post though :)

Sunday, 18 November 2007 12:06:11 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Links | Rants | Microsoft#
Saturday, 17 November 2007

Tonight I finished Week 5 of the Couch to 5k program from Coolrunning.com. Week 5 was the first week to end with a sustained run, in this case two miles/twenty minutes without stopping. I've been apprehensive about it all week, and was almost to the point of dread and nervousness all afternoon leading up to the run tonight.

I walked over to the John A Cumber Primary school playing field and started the week five podcast, did a lap around the playing field to warm up and then started the two mile "clock" at the corner of Hell Rd and Town Hall Rd. I jogged along Town Hall Road to the fork and turned right and went up Northwest Point Road until I hit Watercourse Road (Crack Alley). I turned there and followed Watercourse back to Hell Rd and turned back up towards the school. I got to just about Club Inferno (get it? a bar in Hell called Club Inferno? no? well neither did anyone else and it's been closed for a few years now) and then walked it out from there back home.

When I got back to our carpark, I ended the workout and (not including the walk and the warm up) it came out to 2.52miles, 27 minutes, average pace of 11'09" and 330 calories burned. Once I got into the run, I started thinking ahead to finishing it, not 'oh my god I'm going to die' or 'my lungs are on FIRE!'. I planned to raise my arms up over my head and let out a big whoop when I hit two miles, but things didn't quite work out according to plan. :) Since I was running around 9:15-9:20 per mile and the podcast was timed to a 10 minute mile, my iPod clocked two miles about a minute before the podcast did, so I actually did 2.1 miles before cooling down.

By the time the podcast told me to slow it down to my brisk walking pace to cool down, I was so out of gas that I didn't have the energy to raise my arms! :) My legs were a little rubbery, and I kinda felt like puking a little. By the time I got home, stretched out and took off my shoes, my heart rate had returned to something resembling normalcy and I was able to have a little whoop!

That's the farthest I've ever run in my life.

I've also been watching what I eat lately, too. As I wrote earlier, six weeks ago when I started exercising again after the accident, I could feel my whole front: belly, moobs, everything sloshing around as I ran. Now things have tightened up a little, but I'm still clocking in at 174.5lbs and 24% body fat. I can't imagine what my stats were six weeks ago if I'm visibly skinnier now! Anyway, since tonight was a milestone (literally) I think I'm going to celebrate a little and break program and have some dessert. I'm undecided if it'll be a brownie a la mode at Legendz, or seeing if Decker's still has their almost-orgasmic chocolate fudge caramel pecan pie or maybe just pop a little further down towards town for a little gelato at Giancarlo's Antica Gelateria.

On a side note, I've had gelato all over the place, and by far the best gelato I had was at a little shop in Florence called GROM. Hands down the best gelato, ever. SECOND best gelato is a tie, between Antica Gelateria here in Cayman and Dolce Amore on Commercial Drive in Vancouver.

Tomorrow's a day of rest and then Monday I hit the road again for Week 6 of the Couch to 5k. Normally today would have been a day of rest too, but last Monday was a holiday, and I wasn't feeling well either so I switched to Tue-Thur-Sat this week. If I keep on-task, I should be hitting Week 9, which ends with the 5k/3m goal while I'm in Tampa for training, so I may repeat one week between now and then, considering i'll be on a treadmill in the hotel fitness center that week and aim for 5k before Christmas!

Saturday, 17 November 2007 16:59:23 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Sports#
Saturday, 10 November 2007

Unfortunately, I'm not talking about the g-d, f'in itchy caterpillar growing on my lip. That's only about 1/4 there.

I've been making steady progress on the Couch to 5K program. I finally passed week Two and started on Week Three last week. I was apprehensive about week three, which was: jog for 90 seconds, walk 90 seconds, jog three minutes and then walk three minutes and then repeat again.

I also had the benefit of a running coach that week. Shitbag's cousin was down for a visit, and he's an Army runner and a high school PE teacher. He was talking about something called "ultra marathons" which after looking up online, found another word for it: INSANITY!

After watching me run (he was pretty much running backwards watching my feet) he said that I pronate on my right foot and slightly supinate on my left foot(or maybe the other way around). Coincidentally, that matches up with the damage on each of my feet from the scooter accident back in August.

When we were done, he told me that I was being over-conservative and I could probably skip a rung on the program. I thought about it, but then when I looked at Week 4 and Week 5, I thought better of it. :) He showed me a few more stretches for before and after to add to what I was already doing and more importantly some other exercises to do to help re-strengthen my feet and straighten out my gait.

By the end of Week three, I was nailing the run... Week three actually seemed easier than Week two.. Week three was shorter than the other weeks, clocking in at 26 minutes and only 260-270 kcals. Week four was another story.

I did the first run last Monday and it kicked.my.ass. 32 minutes, 2.75 miles and 362 kcals. I was a wreck. Wheezing, panting and staggering home at the end of the cool down run, I made sure and stretched for a good 15 minutes before doing anything else. I went out and did it again on Wednesday before heading to Copper Falls for dinner and then did it again last night to finish off Week four. I didn't even puke, although I sure felt like it Monday night!

Week five is going to make week four look like a cakewalk. Five minutes jog, three minutes walk, five minutes jog, three minutes walk and five minutes jog again for Monday. Eight minutes on, five off, eight minutes on for Wednesday and then Friday... twenty minutes/two miles straight through. Gulp.

Each week after five is straight through runs, each getting a little longer than the previous until the end of week eight where it's three miles/thirty minutes straight through.

I've never been much of a runner, and I hated PE class with a vengeance in high school, in part because of sadistic, asshole teachers. If I had even one PE teacher like Chuck (and a little less attitude when I was a teenager) I'm sure I would have taken to running earlier. I'm aiming to hit the 5k mark before the end of the year and if I do, it will be the longest I've ever run, alligators and cannibals chasing me included.

Saturday, 10 November 2007 11:04:59 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Sports#
Friday, 02 November 2007
Wow, who knew? They managed to raise KYD$28,000 last year with all the MOvember business. There's hope for me yet, at the end of the month at the big ball at District 6 there's an "under 12" category for best moustache. Perhaps my caterpillar will be visible by then! :)

The Cayman Islands Cancer Society is doing a lot of the legwork, and there's stuff going on on X107.1 as well. The official site (for here) is www.movember.ky and of course, on Facebook as well. I need to pop by there this morning with my registration form and get registered.

-M

Friday, 02 November 2007 07:14:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Links#
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