Wireless Internet Access from hotel

Posted by steve | Apple Software and Hardware | Wednesday 29 April 2009 10:22 pm

After the long drive to Dallas, which was great until we hit that flash flood which closed down I-35, I was feeling tired enough to be in no mood to mess with internet access antics at the hotel. The hotel will remain nameless, but it’s a major chain. Melissa selected this place before hand when she made reservations because there were few options left and we liked the room features.

But the internet access was a little “tricky”. You had 2 choices for access. An ethernet connection for a fixed daily charge, unlimited use, or a wireless access which charged by the minute. And that per-minute rate was not cheap. Now Melissa and I both brought along our Macintosh notebooks with built-in wireless access and we both wanted to continue having internet access if possible.

I wasn’t going to put up with it. Having prepared for any possibility, I brought along an Apple Airport Express. I own 2 of these just for this kind of situation. They cost around $99 and are very handy. You can also use one as a wireless network repeater/extender. So I plugged it into the power outlet and connected the ethernet to it. Configured it to provide our own private little wireless network, and viola! A wireless network without a per-minute billing. Of course we still have to pay the daily wire internet access fee, but I felt better not having to “watch the clock” for wireless internet access.

There’s a second part of this post that I was pretty excited about. First, some background. My Apple notebook computer is now several years old. It has an 80GB internal hard drive. At the time the notebook was being made, that was a very reasonable size. More modern models have really increased the internal hard drive capacity. Now if we ignore that the need to free disk space is a recursive discussion, the reason this matters to me has to do with the size of my iTunes library. It’s pretty big nowadays. And there’s no way it would fit onto my 80GB drive. My music library is currently running around 300GB. The way I accomplish that is to have a large external hard disk. The trick is to have the drive mounted by my home network so that my iTunes can find it without me having to tether a hard disk directly to my notebook computer. Access is slower with this technique but it’s a solution.

Here’s the really cool thing. That external network drive, using Apple’s mobile-me services, appears on my desktop here from the hotel network.

WeaselBook as seen from the hotel internet access

WeaselBook as seen from the hotel internet access

That’s cool.


Off to Dallas

Posted by steve | General Commentary | Wednesday 29 April 2009 7:21 am

Well, we are off to Dallas. Melissa and I are driving down in the Acura. Should arrive in about 11 hours.

We brought along “The Roos”

Update 10:52 PM
There were severe thunderstorms along the way. We ended up taking a substantial detour because of flash flooding. Interstate 35 was completely flooded over and closed about an hour north of Dallas.

Up until then the drive was uneventful and pleasant.


Progress on my GEDCOM publisher

Posted by steve | Smalltalk | Wednesday 22 April 2009 9:40 pm

For many years now I’ve had a Smalltalk tool written with Squeak that would process a standard genealogy GEDCOM file and create a suite of HTML pages. I’ve been meaning to write an editor for the actual genealogy data using Squeak but there’s always been some other project that wins in priority. I know, I know, I’m diverting attention from getting my Squeak Laser Game Tutorial book completed. But writing code is so much more fun.

As I had written here before, when I went to Cincinnati earlier this month I spent some time with my mother reviewing updates of information we had regarding my family tree. Well, that decided it for me. Rather than use some 3rd party tool to edit GEDCOM data I decided to write my own in Smalltalk. The basic presentation tool is working correctly. I still need to write the individual dialogs for each specific edit (individual, family, children), but that should turn out to be fun and worthwhile.

Here’s a screen shot of the current state of my editing tool.

GEDCOM Publisher editing tool in Squeak

GEDCOM Publisher editing tool in Squeak

The data is currently showing my mother, the spouses she has had, my father (the spouse I was named after), and her children from that family. For folks familiar with Squeak’s Morphic graphics, you can see that I did some custom work for the list panes used in this editor. I added column lines and list header lines.

That’s it. I just wanted to post a note about the work I’ve been doing on this personal project in Squeak.


A sense of scale in pictures

Posted by steve | General Commentary | Tuesday 14 April 2009 5:30 am

I found this picture on the Internet today and had to share a link to it. It’s a fairly large image, you’ll want to click on it to zoom in with your web browser.

It’s a wonderful reminder of just how small we are in the universe.


Working on my Genealogy software

Posted by steve | Smalltalk | Tuesday 14 April 2009 4:25 am

While visiting with Mom last week in Cincinnati, we spent some time together reviewing the family history tree information we compiled 15 years ago. I made notes on corrections and additions needed to the database. She’s an amazing and rich resource for this information. There’s an amazing little side story I’ll have to write about someday that sheds some light on positive things that came from World War II in Germany, and about how remarkable my mother really is. Between the two of us we have accumulated quite a bit of information. I’ve received a number of E-mails over the years from people who have contacted me from reviewing the Wessels family tree published on the Internet. Some of that E-mail was written in German, which I cannot read, so I was glad to review all of those notes with her.

Most Genealogy software uses a standard file format called GEDCOM for sharing information. Back in 1994 I embarked on a Smalltalk project (in Squeak of course) to read, and write, GEDCOM file data. The most important part of that project, from a technical aspect, was to create a tool that wrote a full suite of HTML pages as output. The Wessels family history tree linked above is that output. The Squeak application reads in a GEDCOM file and produce static HTML pages which are then uploaded to our personal web site.

Writing an application like this in Smalltalk is very rewarding because I learned a lot about modeling family history information and it gave me the freedom to create the type of output reports that I really wanted. Of course, today, I would probably approach this as a Seaside application since creating these pages dynamically would yield interesting query and search capabilities. Seaside is of course one of those wonderful dynamic web frameworks written in Smalltalk that really exemplifies what can be done with managing dynamic information on the web. The trick for me in porting to Seaside would be in finding a web host where I can actually run the application. I’ve been using my current web host, Lunar Pages, for many years now and am quite satisfied with their reliability, capacity and cost. However, like many other web hosts, they support PHP, MySQL and Ruby, but alas no Seaside. Time to get more of these web hosts educated. Like most Smalltalk enthusiasts, we’re leading the curve on much of what becomes common place software concepts years later.

Going back and enhancing the Squeak software for this project after all these years was informative. There were only 2 bugs I found when porting to the latest version of Squeak 3.10.2. The bugs were related to how Date objects work now. The newer Month objects in 3.10.2 are a good design but caused a small hiccup in my application which I was able to quickly find and fix.

I have some ideas for enhancements and have begun coding those in earnest. I’ve also learned something about myself from reading through this code from years ago. There is clear evidence that indeed my coding and design skills have grown over time. For example, I was not using SUnit as heavily as I do nowadays. However, I had coded quite a few testing methods as Class methods used to validate the implementation. It was simple enough to extract those into new Test Case classes for SUnit. I also saw quite a few opportunities for refactoring. There was a lot more repeated code chunks in that code than I would have written today. As I’m sure any experienced developer already knows, you find refactoring opportunities as soon as you add enhancements to legacy code.

I’m still writing my next update to the code and will also update the family tree data when it’s all done. That should be in about a week. As an additional exercise I’ll look into what it would take to host this all as a Seaside application too. The best way to really learn about Seaside (or anything else for that matter) is by just doing it.


Graeter’s Cheese Crowns

Posted by steve | General Commentary | Monday 13 April 2009 5:57 am

Just before leaving Cincinnati on Saturday morning, I stopped in at Graeter’s and picked up a dozen Cheese Crowns to bring back to the office.


These pastry treats are great. They’re a bakery delight filled with Cinnamon and Cheese Cake filling, topped with icing.

Stored them in a cool place all day Sunday so they should be still fresh when I bring them into the office Monday morning. I managed to restrain myself from eating any all weekend. Although I will have to “test sample” one at the office.


Kia Soul – name combinations

Posted by steve | General Commentary | Friday 10 April 2009 3:27 am

I saw the television commercial last night for the new compact car from Kia. They call it “Soul”. It’s the commercial with all the hamsters. Cute commercial, and the commercial works because here I am talking about it.

But what struck me was the name of the car, “Soul”, and all the word tricks possible.

Imagine the new car salesman: Selling Souls.

The new customer: I bought a new Soul today.

The trade-in: I traded my Soul in for a Hummer.

The owner after a “fender bender”: I damaged my Soul today.

Truck driver for the dealer: I delivered a lot of Souls today.

That’s all fun. You have to wonder, were the Koreans that aware of American culture when they chose the name? Pretty clever or accidentally clever?


Other Podcasts

Posted by steve | Music | Wednesday 8 April 2009 6:41 pm

Someone asked me recently what interesting Podcasts I’ve been listening to. So I decided to make a simple entry here, but exclude Podcasts about software and board games.

These have been on my hot lists lately.

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe is published by The New England Skeptical Society. I really enjoy listening to these guys as they take on the pseudo science and other ignorance expressed in our society.

Dan Carlin has a lot of energy and opinions. He talks really fast, and I find his “take” on things happening in our world to be very insightful. He actually does 2 Podcasts. The “Common Sense” show is where he discusses politics and events. The “Hardcore History” program is surprisingly entertaining. I actually listen to both. The history podcast is published less frequently.

It’s no secret that I enjoy the television show LOST. There’s an abundant supply of Podcasts about LOST. I don’t listen to this Podcast as often, but Stephanie and Cliff Ravenscraft produce a very entertaining program from their Generally Speaking Podcast Network.

Last one. I love classical music, opera, movie soundtracks, and jazz. But I really love Progressive Rock. These guys put out a very entertaining and informative Podcast on Progressive Rock music. They haven’t published since December 2008 but I hope to see them resume soon.

Now I still mostly listen to Board Game and Software Development related Podcasts. I also still listen to audiobooks quite often, especially if I know I’ll be taking a long driving trip.


Helped a friend get his WordPress and iPhone app setup

Posted by steve | Blogging | Wednesday 8 April 2009 6:03 pm

Spent some time today helping an old friend setup his WordPress software and the corresponding iPhone application (for posting to WordPress while mobile).

That was fun. Once he sends me a link to the finished site I’ll add it to my Blog Roll.


Seeing board games everywhere

Posted by steve | Board Games | Wednesday 8 April 2009 6:00 pm

I was driving to a friend’s home in Cincinnati this afternoon. I was pulling up to the intersection and spotted a white van with some very interesting icons on the back.

Being the avid board gamer that I am, I thought, “Wow, cool. There’s game hexes on the back of that van. I wonder what it’s about?”


Then I got close enough to see.

Next Page »