From 2001 to 2012 in one afternoon

In the computer class I’m teaching for my kids, we built a PC from scratch a few months ago. Since it was assembled from parts, I simply re-used a Windows XP license that I had. It works (even with new hardware), it’s solid, and I’m familiar with it. The downside, of course, is that it will be out of support in 2014 and is three versions behind the newly-released Windows 8. Fortunately, Microsoft has finally taken a page from Apple’s book and made upgrading affordable. I had the time this weekend so decided to take the plunge.

So, for the $39 upgrade, you purchase online, download and installer, and upgrade the system in-place. When upgrading XP, the only part you can keep is the user data. All programs need to be re-installed. You can also burn the installer to a DVD for installing again in the future.

I kicked-off the upgrade before running out and saw the results a few hours later when I returned home. No smoldering pile of ash. No blue screen of death. A few minutes later, and I was ready-to-rock.

The don’t-call-it-Metro interface is interesting. I’ll give them credit for creating a unified UI to be used on mobile, tablet, and desktop versions of Windows 8, but it certainly is more suitable for touch-input devices than a keyboard-and-mouse desktop device. It’ll take some getting used to. This isn’t meant to be a Windows 8 review so you’ll have to look elsewhere if you want that perspective.

Anyway, if you are upgrading from XP, everything other than C:\Documents and Settings gets put in C:\Windows.old so you still have access to previous applications and system data. A bunch of application installs later, I’m pretty much back to where I began, just 11 years newer. All-in-all, not too painful of an experience.


Bella in 2003

Bella during better days


Back in February, we noticed that our aging cat, Bella, had an inflammation of her cheek so took her in to the vet. At about eighteen years, it wasn’t surprising to learn that it was a tumor. She carried on quite well until yesterday when she wouldn’t eat breakfast.

We took her back to the vet and after examining how things had progressed over the months, the prognosis just wasn’t good. There was an option to perhaps buy her a few days or weeks, but really, it was time to do the loving and merciful thing.

We will miss her particularly charming style of orneriness which was balanced quite nicely with her affection.

Several years ago, I did the mental math comparing the approximate lifespans of each of our then four pets and guestimated that we may loose them in relatively short order. With one per year, so far, I’m sorry that my theory is working out.

“Bella was the best cat who ever lived in the whole world since cats have ever existed ever.”


A Night with Adam and Jamie

My family and I had the opportunity to go see Behind the Myths tour staring Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman two weeks ago. The best way to describe the experience is as “the world’s best school assembly.” They spent time doing some Q&A, explanation on how the show started, their own backgrounds, and general insight as to how they approach the show and the myths they examine.

A big intent of the show is to help people consider and examine the world around them. It was a very fun evening and I’m looking forward to seeing their companion show MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibition when (if) it comes within driving distance.

I’m feeling a little blue

The family and I were able go see Blue Man Group’s new tour this past Sunday down in San Diego. It was much different from their How to be a Megastar tour a few years ago and was actually more akin to their Las Vegas show. The below video gives a really good idea of what is was like.


In yet another time where I can’t tell if I should be proud or embarrassed as a parent. Here’s a brief conversation between my wife (B) and my daughter (K, 14):

B: What’s my cell phone number?

K: I don’t know.

B: What’s Jenny’s number?

K: 867-5309

An unexpected roadtrip

My son was at Hume Lake with the Junior High group from our church this week. He wasn’t due back until today (Saturday). Plans change. Thursday night, he called home but from the infirmary. He had a sore throat and fever since the day before but it got bad enough over the next day for him to be segregated from the rest of the camp. Between his significant disappointment, a small case of homesickness, and the fact he was likely to be isolated until the group came back today, we decided that it was appropriate to head up Friday to get him. Road trip!

We got up at 4 AM and were driving by 4:30. Driving when we did, we avoided the world-famous LA traffic and were up there about 11:30. The camp is quite impressive and we’ll need to keep it in mind for a family trip in the future. After we signed out Brian, we gassed up, had a little lunch, packed his bags up and we headed back home.

Not as smooth coming back. Due to the timing, traffic made the drive take about two hours longer than the way up. Total trip: 15 hours and 689 miles. Worth every minute and mile.

A geek confession

I have been a geek pretty much my entire life. I am a geek both at work and at home and am comfortable and, in fact, proud of it. Some examples:

  • I have built my own PC
  • Built a Linux installation from scratch
  • Seen Star Wars, the original, in a theater, eight times
  • I always worry about having the right cables available, just in case
  • I have more screens in use or at-the-ready than I should at any given time
  • I’ve been to Maker Faire

That last one is where this confession is related to.

I have one confession that I fear will lower my geek cred with all that know me:

I’ve never seen Doctor Who.

There, I said it. At Maker Faire, we watched a talk by Adam Savage from MythBusters and at the end, he was coaxed into performing an über-geeky, go-go dance to the Dr. Who theme with ArcAttack! It was a lot of fun but it reminded me of this significant lapse in my geek development.

I know that the show is where the Tardis, Daleks, and the Sonic Screwdriver comes from. I just don’t really know what they are. I’d like to rectify that. The question is how does one start? The original series? The new one? Please comment below and help straighten me out.

So long to my bat belt

This past week, I turned in my BlackBerry. At work, we’ve been starting to use Good for Enterprise by Good Technology. That’s an app that runs on iOS (iPhone or iPad) or Android devices and allows me to check mail from my iPhone. The end result is that I no longer need to carry a separate device to have access to work email. That’s great, but I’ve been wearing a BlackBerry on my belt for over six years. It’s going to take some time before I stop thinking I lost something.


This week my boss heads to London for a meeting of the combined IT groups from the three primary PlayStation divisions. It’s the same trip I went to last year that resulted in my extended stay. This time, however, I am unable to go as I had already made plans to attend Maker Faire with my family.

While thinking about that trip, I realized that while I don’t travel too often, I have had the opportunity through work to visit quite a few ‘motherships.’ Since I’m a geek by profession, they’re ones most people wouldn’t care about but some might find the list interesting:

I have a love/hate relationship with traveling. I like the experience, but can’t say that I wish to do more. I can’t think of any upcoming additions to the list but who knows what the future has in store.

We’re back online

Wow, that was an experience I’d like to avoid in the future. Yesterday, I was able to successfully connect our router to the new DSL circuit and get the house fully transitioned over. That makes the final count of ‘days without broadband’ 10. Granted, I was able to utilize a borrowed MiFi but that provided what was essentially minimal connectivity. Things would have been quite ugly if that wasn’t available.

The two heros to come out of the experience are Xochitl who is a customer service supervisor for DSL Extreme. And Mike, a field technician for Verizon. Both of them were genuinely interested in working through the problem and each were essential in getting to a resolution.

Now I need to figure out what to do with a considerable amount of Verizon FiOS equipment (router, UPS, Optical Network Terminal, etc.). I wonder if there’s an aftermarket for it? I’ll likely just leave it all in place. Hey, maybe there’s a chance I’ll be able to go back to FiOS?