Saturday, December 30, 2006

Student Loan Finally Done

Well after 10 years I can now celebrate.  No more $330 per month payments for my student loan ever again!

So for morbid curiosity I was wondering... How much did my education cost me?

Sallie Mae did not make the gathering of this information easy btw.  I had to copy/paste from the history, 6 months at a crack for 10 years of data, into Excel.  I guess they didn't want me to know how much blood money was extracted from me for my education.

Principle $18,900.00
Interest $10,645.80
Total Amount Repaid $29,545.80

That doesn't count all the expenses. Although those loans did help me pay for tuition, books and housing; I do believe those loans did not cover all the expense (although my memory is getting a little foggy in that area since it was 10 years ago).  Also there was 1.5 years (of a 4 year degree - it took 4 years real time) of local community college classes paid for out of pocket that's is not in those numbers.

So was it worth $30k?  Would I do it again? Yea I think so. I don't think it is fair or right but having that silly piece of paper opens doors that are unjustifiably closed sometimes if you don't have it.  And salary wise, I've probably more than made up the loss.

It does seem like a lot of money though...


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Shutdown a remote server

Often at work I need to reboot a remote server.  I remember this being something that I worked on at Harley-Davidson as well.  Recently, I've been logging into the machine using terminal services and then selecting Start --> Restart and entering in a reason and clicking OK.  Takes about 2-3 minutes depending on fast the machine decides to respond.

There's got to be a better way to do this... and there is.

On WinXP and Windows Server 2003 there's the command line tool shutdown.exe.

From the command line (Start-->Run-->type 'cmd' and hit enter) type:

shutdown -r -m \\YourBuddiesPcName

-r = Shutdown and restart the computer
-m = Remote computer to shutdown/restart/abort

To automate it, stick it into a command file (cmd), create shortcuts on your desktop, use SlickRun, or create a PowerShell alias.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Automate it...

Sometimes I get shit at work because I attempt to automate things.  I do it to save time and mental anguish and most importantly - to free myself up to do other things.  Maybe that's reading or learning about a new technology or getting more stuff done in an 8 hour day then the guy sitting next to me because he's doing all his stuff manually and mistake prone.

My old boss, John Barry, was from South Africa.  He told this joke [and I'm going to butcher it...] about a guy who would run past this woman's house everyday pushing his bike.  One day the woman asks, "Why don't you get on the bike and ride it instead of pushing it?".  The guy replies, "Because I don't have time to learn." 

Do you go through your day, pushing buttons like a monkey because you don't have time to learn a better way of doing it?  You know if you just take the extra time to do something better, faster, in a more automated way - imagine how much time you will save, and imagine how that time will accumulate for each little thing you do.  Just like investing your money and compound interest.

I'm sure you do some of this already in your daily life... you use a dish washer, a garage door opener, the microwave, a washer, a dryer... all these things you use so that you can free time up to do things you want to.

There was a good post the other day by Jeffrey Snover, the Powershell Architect on this:

the next [time] you find yourself thinking about how to do something that you've done before, you should take it as an opportunity to invest a little bit and automation the activity so that you don't have to think about it again.

And that's the point.  He also references this guy called Alfred Whitehead:

Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.

When I moved to Oregon, I changed how I did my finances drastically.  Instead of downloading stuff into MS Money, entering in receipts, tracking everything, etc... I automated it.  I ditched Money.  Only use the banks' website.  Bills are auto-deducted and paid.  Money is auto-transferred into savings accounts, spending accounts, etc.  I spend little or no thought on this anymore.  Maybe 10 minutes per month...  freeing up time to do other things.

Now I still enjoy boiling the water on the stove to make tea.  Sure it's faster in the microwave.  And it doesn't mean I want to do laundry the old fashioned way - some things, boiling water for tea, cooking at home instead of going to McDonald's, are more comforting...


Sunday, December 17, 2006

XNA Game Studio

I've been wanting to check out Microsoft's XNA Game Studio for awhile now so I spent a couple of hours tonight checking it out.  Basically it's a hobbyist release of Visual Studio (C# Express) with a 'Framework' that sits on top of the .NET 2.0 libraries.  This XNA Framework wraps the DirectX libraries with managed code and you get a bunch of classes like Game, GameTime, GameWindow, BoundingBox, blah blah blah.

It shows alot of promise.  I was able to follow along the tutorial and basically make an image bounce around on the screen like a ping-pong ball.  As a business app developer it's cool seeing the C# code, how little it takes, to get this to work using objects I normally don't see like Vector, Sprite, and Texture.  I wonder if someday we'll get to inject some of this kind of code into business apps as the younger generation (where gaming is more... accepted as a norm) gets older and doesn't mind some of the fancier graphics in the app - where it may even enhance it.


Bottom line here is that although they have a great 'arcade' game framework - it's not yet ready for prime time. 

It doesn't have any UI classes...

There's a few posts on the XNA Framework message boards from MS employees stating that they aren't releasing any in V1.  Seeing how cool the WPF stuff is using XAML, it would be cool if they could incorporate the XAML/WPF stuff with this...

Anyway I'll have to keep looking/researching... My Dad and I have been talking about a creating a game for years and I even did some work a couple years back on a web based version.  My biggest hurdle is how to represent a game board that can contain lots and lots of hexes (200 x 200, etc); once I figure that out...


Friday, December 08, 2006

Mt Hood Sunrise

So yesterday morning on my ride to work, Mt. Hood was looking beautiful with gorgeous sunrise coming up behind her.  It took a few pictures on top of the I-5 bridge heading north over the Columbia River (into Vancouver, Washington).

Mount  Hood Sunrise

These pics don't do it any justice.  It looks so much larger in person.  It's hard to see because of the light, but you can make out the snow on the mountain already.

Mount  Hood Sunrise

Monday, December 04, 2006

Northwest Christmas Tree

So this is how you get a Christmas Tree in the Pacific Northwest.

You could go down to the vendors and buy your tree off a lot.  Or you could go out to a Christmas tree farm and cut one yourself with a saw they give you.  Or you could do what we did.  You buy a $5 permit from the U.S. Forest Service and you head up into the mountains and cut down a Christmas Tree for yourself!

Here's Mt. Hood towering in the background as we head up to get our tree. 


It's only a 1 hour drive from Portland to Mt. Hood.  So within about 30 minutes we were gaining elevation and starting to see signs of snow.  It started with ice below, when we stopped at the Ranger Station to buy the $5 permit, get a map, and buy the annual snow park pass ($15).


Basically you end up drive a forest service road up into the mountains and look for a Christmas tree.  We chose a road and started driving.  I had no idea what to expect.  Thank god I had the 4x4.  This isn't a nice plowed two way road.  This is a gravel road, snowed over, full of potholes, only one lane wide, and huge drop cliff drop offs down to mountain streams... if you make a mistake here you're not just going to need a tow truck.


But wow.  It was beautiful.  All over the place there were mountain streams, waterfalls, just coming out of nowhere!




We were probably going like 5 miles per hour because of the snow, treacherous road, and because I kept stopping every 1/2 mile to take a picture of something.  But we were making good progress.  I was a little worried we would have trouble finding a tree because everything I saw at the lower elevation was so large.  The higher we got the better it started to look but the more dangerous it became.  We finally found a spot though.  And the truck made it like a champ.


The most dangerous part was trying to turn around on that one lane fireroad.  They do have little turn around's but the snow was deep and the road just had ruts in it from tire tracks.  I was afraid we might get stuck.  No worries though.  I think the truck was loving it.  And the view up here was spectacular.  Mountain stream rushing by down below, sun shining, and all by yourself up here.


But we did find a tree finally.  I and cut it down with a bow saw, recommended by the employee at A-Boy hardware store.  I felt kind of bad doing it.  But then Heidi cheered me up by saying well at least we weren't supporting the chemical spraying, gas guzzling, big tree farming companies.  And like a good deer hunter, she held up the prize.


Of course after a hard day's work like that you have to settle down for some hot chocolate.


And in the Northwest that means Big Train hot chocolate (the make the BEST spiced chai) [check out the boiling milk on the campstove to the left], some Snickerdoodle cookies and the best part, gingerbread tea cake from the local bakery.


Then when you get home you can hang up your ornaments on your wild northwest Christmas tree.  Fun.  Can't wait until next year.  Later.  Oh yea.  Merry Xmas.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Book Review: The Historian

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova - C-

The question I ask myself is how can I give this book a C- when I stayed up until almost 3 am just to finish it.  On a work night no less.

I finished this book the same weekend we went to the beach.  We did alot of reading that weekend and Sunday it sucked me in enough to finish it.  Perhaps I was just wanting to be done.  At 676 pages of fairly small print on large pages it is quite a long read.

I have two major problems with this book.  One was the overuse of descriptions of places and things that had no relevance on the story.  She was describing them in such detail that I found myself almost skimming over those paragraphs towards the end.  I mean I was reading them but so fast sometimes not taking it all in.  And after being bombarded so many times with so many details, like the color and size of some dome on some historical building, it was driving me crazy.

The other problem, and this is sort of a spoiler, was the ease at which they dispatched Dracula at the end.  All that reading, a guy alive for 500+ years, and they take him out with 4 people in a small room... it was anti-climatic and it sucked.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Remote Desktop Connection (Terminal Services Client 6.0) for Windows XP

I'm a big fan of using RDC or TS, whichever you choose to call it.  Just hit Windows + R, type 'mstsc', and there you are.  Instant access to other machines as if you were sitting right in front of that machine.  I use it at home to connect to the other computer without leaving mine and use it at the office to connect to our servers.  I find it better than using the web-based version as well.

So if you too are a user of terminal services you might want to get the new release from MS.  You can get it here.

If you have multiple monitors, it now supports spanning of multiple desktops.

So, this version

 Remote Desktop Connection version 5.1

Becomes this version


Enjoy!  Later.