VOIP At Home

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One of the most common objections I hear about using a VOIP phone service to replace traditional home phones is that they work when the power is out.

This is true. They have their own power running through the lines. However, I counter with this simple argument: if the power goes out, use your cell phone to call the power company. The reality is, however, that the power company probably already knows that the power is out. But everyone has a cell phone, so why not use that?

But some people, like myself, have gone the extra mile. I obtained a UPS (not the shipping company, but a battery backup) for my core infrastructure. My UPS powers the cable modem, the VOIP box, the main Linksys router (running dd-wrt) and the main switch for all the network connections. The latter does not need to be on the UPS because if the power is out, the computers won’t work. My laptops will run on battery power and they will connect wirelessly to the Linksys router anyway.

For a long time I’ve been meaning to do a real world test to see how long the phone and Internet will stay up when the power is out. So today I unplugged the power and let it run on battery.

I was surprised that after an hour everything was still working. Knowing that I needed to go shopping I decided just to plug everything back in and call it good. So I know that it will work for at least an hour.

Holy Hannah! Are You OK?!?

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Yesterday I had a funny thing happen to me that, even for me, was a little surprising.

The day started out with a trip to the dermatologist because of a “bump” my hairdressor found on my head. Normally, I don’t listen to my hairdressor but since we have been sleeping together I pretty much have to do whater she says or my life can be a living hell.

So the dermatologist decides that it isn’t a big deal but decides to take a sample just in case. So the nurse comes in, injects some kind of numbing agent and then lays out the tools of the trade. The injection hurt–until it all went numb.

The doctor then took a sample which looked to me more like a pencil eraser. The “sample” was about 3mm across and 5mm deep. Yeah, that’s pretty big–I didn’t even know my scalp was that thick. I was asked to hold some bandages on my head for 5 minutes until the bleeding stopped. I was given an informational sheet and then waved on my way.

So all day I’m very careful not to scratch my head and make it bleed again. I did pretty good all day. It didn’t even hurt.

About 5 PM I went to the restroom prepretory to my wife picking me up at work to go get some things laser etched (another story alltogether) and as I’m walking back to my desk my head starts to hurt. “Curious” I thought “I guess the numbing agent is starting to wear off.” I’m almost back to my desk and I think I feel something on my neck.

So I see Tommy Triplet just about to leave so I say “Hey, Tommy” and turn my head so he can see the back of it and I’m just about to ask if there is anything bleeding back there and he yells “Holy Hannah! Are you OK?!?!?” Obviously, there was some blood.

I put my hand back there and it comes back dripping in blood. Scalp wounds tend to bleed. A LOT! So Tommy starts to freak out and I just grab a paper towel and stick it on my head.

At that poing my boss and his boss both see me holding my head with a ton of blood all over my head, neck, and now staining my collared white shirt. Everyone started freaking out.

My wife shows up about 10 minutes later and she and the kids all went into the mens room to clean me up. I didn’t have any more incidents the rest of the night.

One other funny thing was that my wife thought I should have a very secure bandage on my head so I didn’t rub the scab off on the pillow during the night and then wake up in a pool of blood. So she took an ACE bandage and wrapped my head like a turban. I had to sleep like that. It was uncomfortable. But it worked.

Today people kept looking at the back of my head all day looking for a blood fountain. They were disappointed. But my head still hurt.

A Urinal is Smarter Than My Computer

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What a great opening line: a urinal is smarter than my computer. Certainly in the strictest way they are both idiots. One only does what I tell it to and the other one lets me pee all over it. But in one special way the urinal is smarter than my computer: the urinal knows when I’m standing in front of it and my computer doesn’t.

Why does this matter? Two big things that jump out first are screen savers and Instant Messenger. Right now, both programs rely on some kind of interaction with the computer to imply that I’m still there. So when people come to my desk and talk, or I’m on the phone, or some other activity I am still there but my computer thinks I’m gone.

Wouldn’t it be powerful if the computer really could tell if I was there or not? Then when I leave it would lock the screen and set my IM client to say “Taking care of business…” or some such thing. It would be even better if the IM could look at my calendar, see that I’m still at my desk even though a meeting has started and say “Hey, you are LATE, man!” or conversely, if someone tries to IM me while I’m in a meeting it could respond with “Nat’s currently in a finance meeting. Would you like to leave him a message?” Both of these scenarios are very plausible (and absolutely possible).

So thinking along those lines, I tried to find a urinal proximity sensor that I could use with the computer. My first challenge is even FINDING a urinal proximity sensor company to work with. Unfortunately, all the ones I talked to were more interested in perfecting timing and flow rate and now about how to hook one up to a computer.

So I’ve been on the lookout for something like this for a while. I tried to use my Bluetooth phone paired with my computer to simulate it. But the range for Bluetooth is too far. I could get 100 feet away and it was still “in range” so that didn’t work.

That coupled with stupid websites like randomdesktop.com means that I only have to be away from my desk for 5 seconds and I’ll have some gay (as in stupid) windows background when I come back.

But last week while looking for a really cool RFID Reader that I could use with a computer (the PCProx) I stumbled on the PCProx Sonar which is designed specifically for detecting whether someone is in front of the computer or not! Too bad I don’t have the $80 to get one or I would. Believe you me, I’ve had quite enough with Hannah Montana and My Little Pony desktop images.

Guild Wars

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A few weeks ago I decided that the tedium of trying to level and advance in ArchLord was just too much. I had the poor luck of choosing the only race & class combination (Moon Elf Ranger) that doesn’t have any quests after level 37. I say this based on the complete absense of quests that I can find anywhere and on some posts in some gaming forums. I now just have grinding to look forward to.

So I decided to try something else so I decided to go with Guild Wars for a few reasons. First, it doesn’t charge on a monthly basis to continue playing (which is why I won’t play World of Warcraft). Second, since I am putting money out there to buy the game it is probably well designed.

I was right. I bought the first episode of Guild Wars and started to play and found that there are some things I like and some things I don’t. I certainly do like having enough quests and a real story line to move the game along. I also like that you can form parties and that the system will round out your party with NPCs.

There are some things I don’t like such as resetting the world when you go into town, loading areas one at a time (facilitating resets and requiring strict boundries when moving about). Maxing out at level 20 (who’s idea was that?!?). I don’t like the scenery or the way items are crafted. There are also no instructions. I spent two days trying to figure out why there weren’t any quests (because there were missions).

But nevertheless, I’m still playing it because it does have a plot. 

Just for fun, I also downloaded and installed Rohan Online, another MMORPG that is free (like ArchLord). I stayed away from 2Moons because all the reviews were terrible. But Rohan has a very nice scenery, characters, and a good crafting and item system. Movement is slow (takes forever) and I don’t know if there is a plot. But the visuals are great and it is more of a fantasy setting than Guild Wars, which is largely just D&D like.

I think one of the best things about playing MMORPGs is playing with friends. 

If anyone would like to play Guild Wars with me (or ArchLord or Rohan Online) please let me know!

A Little E-mail Fun

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Today I received what appears to be a genuine e-mail but simply addressed and delivered to the wrong person. I was confused and decided to reply in an equally confusing way. I reproduce it here for your enjoyment.

On Sun, Sep 7, 2008 at 6:01 PM, Victoria Carson  wrote:

Word on the street is that you are not resaponding to emails from
grandparents. I know you are a very busy guy, but you have to at least
acknowledge receipt and promise proper email when time allows…OR…are
you not getting them? You know how PJ is sensitive :-) I told him he
could “flag” them important, but i GUESS THEY ARENT REALLY lol
WE LOVE YOU! and know you will make this a priority cuz they love you
and you love them SO you know you need to be mindful of them ;-)
xoxo

Victoria Carson
Third Grade
[deleted] Elementary School

I replied with the following e-mail:

Victoria,

It has been a long time since I saw you last. As I recall, it was the night I decided that I really didn’t love you and I slipped out of your bed and out of your life. I suppose I can tell you now that I moved to Utah-which was the last place I thought you would go looking for me since your estranged husband was living there. In fact, I moved into the same apartment complex as he did knowing it was the last place on earth that you would go.

It was strange at first seeing Roger and knowing that it was our secret love that separated you two, but in time we became friends although I never revealed our relationship to him.

I still remember the smell of your hair that night I left, and the faint odor of cherry blossoms from the tree outside your window. I stood at the window for a long time that night looking at the moon, then looking at you asleep, then looking at the moon trying to decide what to do. At the time I decided that I needed to leave you and that it would be the best thing for both of us. Sneak out during the night–have a clean break–that’s what I thought.

I can tell you now that I never did find happiness nor love after leaving you and every day regret grew in my heart as well as my love for you and the realization that I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I’m sure now, after all these years, that you have found happiness and I console myself in that hope. In my heart, however, there will never be anyone but you.

Although I yearn to hear news from you and to speak with you again I’m afraid the my heart would not survive if I knew the truth of how your life has turned out. 

Because of this, and the details I have revealed about my location, I ask you to not contact me again. I am moving on with my life, both emotionally and physically. I just loaded up my car and I’m going on the road again to somewhere you won’t find me. This time I’m letting random chance guide my way so I don’t have to worry that you will reason out where I have gone–you know me better than I know myself. 

And if you talk to Roger, tell him that I’ve left $10 in an envelope under the rug just inside his apartment. We went out to a movie a couple of days ago and I had to bum some money off him. I hate leaving people behind when I owe them something.

I love you, Victoria, as I always have. I’m sorry for leaving–it destroyed my life but I hope not yours. I’m too ashamed of what I did to try and heal the pain and find you again. Over the years the constant heartache has become a bitter-sweet companion–one I’ve become so accustom to that I can’t imagine living without it.

I love you with all my heart! Please don’t look for me!

I wonder if she will reply. (Can you tell I don’t have enough to do today?)

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