Archive for July, 2004

Where the Buoys Are…

July 27, 2004

There’s something very scifi-like about being able to access real world data and instruments through my browser. I’ve talked about computer controlled telescopes like SLOOH before and we’ve all seen the kind of satellite imagery that’s available over the web. The latter isn’t real-time, at least not for most of us, but it is cool nonetheless.

The National Buoy Data Center gives you access to near real-time information from a variety of buoys off the east and west coasts of the US and Canada as well as around the UK and parts of Europe. Want to know the wind direction, wave height, water temp or have an interest in a large number of other physical variables? Then check out this site. If you don’t happen to be online when you need the info, then use Dial-A-Buoy to get what you need.

In addition to hosting current data from this sensor net, the site also has years of historical data for those of you avid gnuplotters out there. Fun stuff.

By the way, I noticed that Canadian Moored Buoy 44142, which is supposed to be moored south of Nova Scotia, has broken loose from its mooring. Oops. My friend Jamie points out that this buoy was only deployed three days ago. Big oops.

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DNC @ Boston

July 26, 2004

Commuter traffic seemed relatively normal today around Boston as the Democratic National Convention shifted into first gear. If anything, the traffic looked lighter than usual, which is no surprise given the amount of local discussion there has been over the last several months. The interesting test comes this evening when one of Boston’s main commuter routes is closed down for the evening rush hour — a daily occurrence for the duration of the conference.

I heard on the local news this morning that there had been some excitement down at the Fleet Center (site of the DNC) last night when a National Guardsman thought he saw parachutes landing on the roof of the nearby Tip O’Neill Federal Building. As you’d expect, it caused quite a scramble with helicopters, searchlights, infrared sensors, etc. Nothing was found. No word yet on what he really saw.

Return on Investment

July 21, 2004

This graphical comparison of Sun Microsystems’ stock performance against that of two competitors, HP and IBM, was a real eye-opener for me. Ditto the comparison with the Nasdaq Composite Index. While we’ve tumbled from the heights of the .com boom, we are still ahead of the game.

XP, Outsourcing, and Kill Bill

July 17, 2004

The short version: Don’t ever delete an administative account under which you’ve installed software on your XP machine. You’ll end up with registry keys that aren’t owned by anyone, which can be a total pain in the ass. Of course, the better advice is “buy a Mac instead,” but we’ll leave that for another day. I take some solace from the fact that I’m writing this from my iMac.

We use VPN software to connect to work from home and it’s been working fine. But I wanted to mount my work directories at home and a FAQ at work declared that this could only be done if the XP username and password matched my UNIX credentials. [I’ve since been told this is hogwash — that XP doesn’t require this.]

So…I removed the VPN software and deleted my XP account — the account under which I had installed the VPN software. Subsequent attempts to reinstall the VPN software from my newly created administrative account silently failed. Silently failed. How poor is that? Thank you, Cisco.

Many hours pass. Much experimentation and an object lession in how bad out-sourcing can be…imagine waiting for three hours and then being trapped on the phone while technicians from two companies play “You own the backline support”, “No YOU own the backline support” for 15 minutes only to eventually find that they had me in the wrong support queue and that staying up till 1am with these people had been pointless since VPN problems are only handled during regular business hours. Special thanks to both Sun and Xerox for that one.

I finally figured out on my own that these registry keys were not accessible and were preventing the reinstall from working. I now know a lot more about XP registry permissions than I ever wanted to know after working my way through an absolutely baroque user interface and eventually deleting these keys. Once these were cleaned up, the reinstallation finally worked. Total elapsed time: two days with no VPN connection.

By way of a purification ritual, I immediately placed an order for my Linux “Kill Bill” t-shirt and am eagerly awaiting its arrival. Love you and the entire ecosystem you’ve spawned, Bill. Honest.

The Music of Twilight

July 12, 2004

My wife and I visited Mass MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) out in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts last week. There were several sound-oriented exhibits that I enjoyed. This installment covers a piece called Music for a Quarry.

Swiss-born artist Walter Fahndrich’s Music for a Quarry is installed at the nearby Hoosac Marble Quarry and comprises a set of ten speakers spaced around the face of the quarry which play a set of clear tones for fifteen minutes at the onset of astronomical sunset every evening. The volume and timing of the tones melded very nicely with the background sounds of nearby rushing water and the end-of-the-day calling of birds as the sun went down. It was very contemplative.

Here’s my first attempt at posting a sound sample. Suggestions on better formats, etc., gratefully accepted. This was recorded with a Sony MZ-R900 minidisc recorder using a Sony ECM-ZS90 microphone. I did some noise removal and amplification using Audacity 1.2.1 to compensate for forgetting to record with high sensitivity settings on the MD recorder. 8 kHz mono WAV and AIF formats.