One step closer to ubiquitous computing

On Thursday I finally got the time to sit down and try and get PPP connectivity working over my Kyocera 7135 cell phone.
I’m on the Verizon network, which has a data service referred to as ‘1xRTT’, a high speed transport for digital communications. Most of the modern Verizon phones support it, and the 7135 was no exception.
The problem I had been having was with the PPP authentication setup. I could get it to dial, but configurations just didn’t link. I had been using KPPP to set up the connection, thinking it was the more advanced of the clients, but alas, it turned out to be the actual problem.
Another fellow pointed me to pppconfig, a nice dialog-based configuration utility. After a few run-throughs, setting up CHAP authentication, using the magical ‘#777’ phone number and the s00p3r s33kr1t Verizon authentication password (‘VZW’), and my cell phone number as the account login name (, voila! I was online and chatting!
Throughput is “okay”. Better than dialup, but slower than DSL. 🙂 My totally off the cuff test (ran apt-get update) was showing about 6kb/sec. Enough to browse webpages with some delays, but plenty for IRC, Email, and cvs updates / commits, and blog updates from the road.
As I type, I’m sitting in my car, my cell phone is in its cradle running off the car battery (this sort of full-time communication can really drain a phone battery), my laptop is cabled to the cell phone, and I’m online and working fine. (no, I’m not driving 🙂
With a little more battery power, this comes close to the magical ‘Ubiquitous computing‘ goal – online all the time, no matter where you are.

Would you trust this man with your army?

“I don’t know what the facts are but somebody’s certainly going to sit down with him and find out what he knows that they may not know, and make sure he knows what they know that he may not know, and that’s a good thing. I think it’s a very constructive exchange,”

Donald Rumsfeld, responding to a question from angry soldiers about the inadequacy of their equipment. (Source: Reuters via Yahoo).
Update: There’s further coverage of this exchange and others here. I have to read Rumsfelds commentary and go “Can he possibly be any more arrogant?” His ‘suck it up and deal’ attitudes have to be pissing off more than just these few soldiers.

Target practice! Good trebuchet fun.

I’m not totally sure why this is on a job search engine site, but this flash-based trebuchet emulator is a lot of fun. It’s not as comprehensive as some of the emulators, but it’s sort of fun to fling stuff for maximum distance and accuracy.
My best qualifying distance so far is 480, though I did shoot one way past the ‘penalty zone’, which unfortunately didn’t give me a distance 🙁
Thanks to Cathy for the link.

When Applications Go Right

There are times when it’s cool being a developer. Both Lisa and Sarah are being my sort of beta testers for CONGO, my conference management software. We’re using it to manage registration for Arisia. So far things have been pretty smooth, with only one serious “It keeps crashing!” situation.
Since I’m the sole developer of the system, I rarely get to enjoy hearing about other people using and testing the app, so sometimes it gets lonely doing all this cool development without a lot of feedback (the program is not in wide release yet).
A week or two ago I finished adding a “Template” function into CONGO. This lets you set up text templates for things like web forms and email notifications. If anyone has gotten email confirmation from Arisia pre-registration, that was all generated from my templates within CONGO, automatically.
I haven’t really told folks much about the templating engine inside CONGO, since I did all the setup for the mail notifications, and just told Sarah and Lisa how to get CONGO to automatically send mail when registering. This afternoon, Lisa sent mail to the registration alias saying she had built a new template, to be used to notify folks asking for babysitting at the event how to arrange it.
This is EXACTLY why I wrote the template editor, documented it the way I did, and put it online, so the registration operators can configure it without having to recode, recompile, or even edit the app. It’s all done through the web interface. Lisa did this with no coaching or even a nudge from me. She saw the value of the templates, how to use them, and implemented it without my involvement at all.
This so rocks my world. It not only means it was a useful feature, but it also tells me I did it in a way that someone could use it with minimal documentation, -and- could see its use without being prompted for it. WOW!
There’s a slight caveat here. The templates used in CONGO are very similar to how Movable Type, our blogging software, works. But still! Way cool!

Latest Firefox + Google fun…

Picked this one up this weekend. If you’re running Firefox, and you pretty much know what you want to find in google, just type the string in the URL field and hit enter. Firefox queries Google, and automatically redirects you to the first link Google returns.
Want to see the IMDB entry for someone? Type ‘imdb noah wyle’, and voila, you’re there. Internet Keywords basically without sending money to AOL or Microsoft, courtesy of Google, and this one works on any platform.
Seems to also work for ebay. Looking for a new calculator? Type ‘ebay calculator’.

Where in the world is Dave?

This weekend I’m travelling to Washington, DC, to attend SMOFcon 22, a sort of meta-convention for people who run SF conventions. I’m staying at the Wyndham Washington DC through Monday. This is one of those inside-out hotels – no real windows on the outside, all the rooms look in on a 12 story high atrium. The base of this structure is a bizarre multi-level terraced arrangement. In that picture, I’m currently sitting right next to the big clock on that terrace. Quite surreal.
And, what’s with the world now? The hotel rooms are nice… not cavernous, but the ever-present desk in the room… comes with a Aeron chair. I’ve always found the hotel room chairs totally unuseable for real work, but ya know, having a really nice office chair like that makes me consider never leaving my room.
I did arrange to make my way from Boston to DC on Amtrak’s Metroliner service (as opposed to the Acela, which was noticeably more expensive). Even still, the comfort level of a coach Amtrak seat far outshines even business class on most airlines. And given my frame (6’6, 250lbs), I’ll take the extra time required for the train.
On that topic, it’s not hard to make a point that train travel is really not far behind airline travel. For me, it was 45 minutes to the station, only 10 minutes to checkin and board, 7.5 hours to DC in a comfy seat (with 120v power for the laptop!), then 1/2 hour through Union Station + the Metro to the hotel.
If I were to take a plane, it would be an hour to the airport, an hour checkin / security, 2 hours to DC, 1/2 hour out of the airport, 1.5 hours various trains to the hotel.
9 hours in comfort for the train vs 6 hours running and sitting in painful seating. On the train, it’s basically a work day, just in a different location. I was able to get an enormous amount done on my laptop during the trip, thanks to good music, headphones, and a power outlet. I can get up and mosey around, walk to the snack bar car and eat in there, stand in the isles / open spaces and stretch – even get out and walk around on the platform in NYC if I want (15-20 minute delay there). Heck I can even use my cellphone anytime. For the airline trip, of that transit time, perhaps an hour of and a half of it can be used for real work, and no phone during that time.
Besides. Trains are cool.