Archive for March, 2008

Tom Chapin – Not on the Test

March 30, 2008 9:07 pm

Our family attended a Tom Chapin concert recently. For those of you with kids out there and who may not know him, he’s a great children’s singer/songwriter whose music you can take along on a roadtrip and listen to for days without getting tired of it. He’s also got quite a few great albums for grown-ups, incidentally.

Anyway, he performed a song I hadn’t heard before (although it’s over a year old by now). It’s a commentary on the state of elementary education in the U.S., and it hits the nail right on the head, if you ask me.

Check it out at (to download and pass along) or watch the video below:

The OLPC arrived – see what’s in the box

March 26, 2008 10:22 pm

I had almost forgotten about the OLPC give-one-get-one campaign I took the opportunity to participate in last year. Well, the thing finally came today. I wasn’t really all that anxious to get it, so it didn’t bother me at all that it took a while. I thought it was more important that the real recipients get theirs first.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of a kind of unboxing. It’s really more of a series of pictures of the packaging/parts, since I had already unboxed the thing by the time I took these.

Simple cardboard packaging and plastic bags for protection

All parts arranged on the open box

Front of welcome brochure and power brick

The OLPC itself with the two random color elements that make it “unique”

Back of the OLPC, with battery removed

Battery and welcome letter

Inside of welcome brochure

Back of welcome brochure

The battery actually came mostly charged, which was a nice surprise. Turning the laptop on for the first time took me through a simple naming step and then right to the “hub”/home screen. It took a while to get there, but it was really, really simple. No series of screens that ask for all kinds of information, like on regular PCs.

My initial exploration of the software took me around to the Journal, Webcam app (called Recorder), Paint, Measure (seemed to enable you to analyze / show the sound from the microphone), wireless setup, Browser and a few other things. Looks very interesting so far.

Both my kids have expressed interest in fiddling with it. Should be a lot of fun.

Netflix WatchNow MediaError(1400): One solution

March 2, 2008 10:32 pm

Here’s a quick tip: If you’re a Netflix subscriber and are having problems with the WatchNow feature, take a look at whether you have any caching proxy servers between the PC you’re using to watch a show and the Netflix servers (yes, that’s a long path and a very general statement, I know).

If, for example, you have a home network server with a caching proxy feature, try turning the proxy feature off. That helped me with MediaError(1400) problems, anyway.

If your ISP has a caching proxy, see if there’s a way around it, too. It may be a source of problems.

Going to SD West 2008 – a planning worksheet

March 1, 2008 2:37 pm

I have the good fortune to be able to attend SD West this year. I’ve heard people at work rave about this conference right in my backyard, and was lucky to get approval to go this year.

Unfortunately I’ve been so swamped with work (really exciting new stuff, too) that I haven’t been able to prepare at all. In other words I still have no idea about what sessions to go to. Argh. To add to that frustration, the SD West website doesn’t make it really easy to plan your days for maximum efficiency. Double Argh.

Here’s how I like to plan my attendance: I have an idea at a high level about what kind of sessions I’d like to focus on (in my case .NET and People, Process & Methods mostly). So I need to be able to filter all sessions by those high-level criteria. Next, I need to figure out which sessions in those high level tracks are available at what time and how they may conflict relative to how interesting they sound to me.

The information provided on the SD West website provides some ability to filter and search for sessions, but it doesn’t help you with detailed planning.

So I decided to spend a little time pulling down all sessions as an Excel sheet (which the site allows, thank goodness), and started to shape and mold the sheet to my needs. The result is available for you to use as well, in case you’re as late as I am: sdwest08_all.xlsx (update: rename this file to have an .xlsx suffix after downloading, WordPress changed the extension on me).
(I think I have all sessions in there, but I noticed that one session seemed to not be fully downloaded (a session with quotes in the description), so I added it back by hand. Maybe there are others missing too, but I think that was the only one.)

You’ll see all sessions sorted by time, color coded by time slot/event type (keynotes, birds-of-a-feather), color coded by track, and with filters on each column. I also added a priority column at the beginning to perhaps help making decisions if you change your mind while at the event.

And, yes, I will most likely be wearing my Geek Tie at the event (it has a Red Verbatim Store’n’Go USB memory stick and a gray CaseLogic case at the end).