fighting the lack of good ideas

digital radio recording

Figures, what I thought was a new idea isn’t.

I love my DVR, but would likewise love a Digital Radio Recorder so I could pause and rewind ‘live’ radio.

With a bit of Googling, I found the Shark (see here).

The only improvement I could see would be to get something like this into a car so you could record one station while you listen to a CD, or are in a restaurant for lunch.


I was watching a recorded edition of Beyond Tomorrow (from Science Channel) and saw an awesome-looking motorcyle helmet, the Reevu. It has a series of polycarbonate reflectors that take light coming into the helmet from the back, reflect it over the rider’s head, and display it on a small mirror just above the visor in the front, so you always have a view to your rear (and even sides, byt turning your head slightly), and don’t have to take your eyes off the road as long, or at all.

They run about $500 in the UK, and I want one. It’s in the same price range as Shoei and other mid-high end helmets.

mysql auto-changes data types

I was making a change to a small table today: adding a field that wanted to be a varchar. The other fields that were of type char all magically changed to varchar when I was done with the alter statement that added one field.

I don’t know if that’s supposed to happen, but it was serendipitous for me, as I wanted to change the char fields to varchar anyway.

And, interestingly enough, if you have a table full of varchar fields and you try to add a char field, it will automatically switch it to match the varchar form, and not switch the varchars back to char.

I didn’t see anything in a quick search on mysql’s website about this behavior, so it’s either undocumented, my google-fu is weak, or it’s a bug.

god bless the lugs

I’m a member of TriLUG – the Triangle Linux User Group.

Mostly I’m on the mailing lists as a lurker, sometimes as a contributor.

But this week I asked a couple questions which the friendly community jumped-on to assist me with.

Thanks guys!

metering bandwidth

A horrible comparison has been drawn in the following AP article about TimeWarner: “You’re used to paying extra if you use up your cell phone minutes, but will you be willing to pay extra if your home computer goes over its Internet allowance?”

There’s a problem with that statement: lots of cell phone users are going to unlimited time and text plans. I just switched because my personal phone is also my home phone is also my work number. So, switching made a great deal of sense.

My roadrunner bill was for “unlimited” usage. Of course, it’s de facto limited by the speed cap. If they want to meter usage, they could just drop the top speed. It’s how my hosting provider operates: I pay for an “unlimited” 2Mbps pipe to the outside world. I can’t push content faster than that. No per-gig funkiness required.

(Thanks to Ben P on the the TriLUG mailing list for pointing this story out.)

preparing for change (part the second)

As with knowledge capture, so must any successful organization pursue training.

Training need not be formal. It can be self-paced, on-the-job, as-you-go, or formal. I know that I have learned the most about the product I support not from formal training, but from actually supporting it.

Part of that is because we have had a tribal knowledge base, that needs to be captured. But part of it is because what we do varies from customer to customer, based on their environment.

Training must also be focused to the folks who will be undergoing it. Some people learn by doing, others by reading, others by hearing. An effective training program in bringing new people up to speed must, then, combine all of those methods. But training cannot last too long as individual sessions. It would be better to have 1-2 hours of training per day, a couple days a week for 3 months than to have it all in one week, 8 hours a day.

what if google took the day off?

A few of my co-workers an I were chatting recently, and wondered what kind of economic (and physical) impact Google could have if they chose to just shut down for a day.

There’s no Service Level Agreement between Google and the world that says they’ll be there, at least none that I’ve seen or heard of. Just think, though: all those hundreds of thousands of servers being turned off for 24 hours. Think of the electric bill they wouldn’t have to pay?

And wouldn’t every other search provided be thrilled? Certainly they’ve thought about it, and their datacenters can handle the load if Google suddenly went black, right?

Course, if their datacenters couldn’t handle the load, they could have some major problems, maybe even servers having physical problems: melt-downs, crashed drives, horched switches. It’s an interesting thought.

And Google could then happily turn back on after their day off, collecting all the traffic everyone else had lost.

Maybe I’m sick and twisted, but I think it’d be an interesting social experiment.