Sunday, October 24, 2010

Going gluten-free: one month in

It’s been about a month since I started the gluten-free diet.  I’ll share a few of the gluten-free foods I’ve found to be pretty tasty. 

30-day update

I can’t say that I’ve noticed any major changes at this point.  On the other hand, I usually eat pretty healthily, so there’s been no dramatic shift away from cheeseburgers, Doritos, or cookies. 

I haven’t had to change much of what I usually eat:  mostly chicken and fish, vegetables and salads and rice, fruits and nuts.  Every couple of weeks, I do love to grill up a couple ribeyes.  I haven’t decided to go lactose-free, either, something that a number of people on discussion boards have said helped their psoriasis.  I’ll go to that option if I don’t notice any changes after about three to six months.

I poked around on Amazon to see what I could find;  here are the products that after a month, I still like and will continue to buy. 

Tip: you can save 15% off the top of your Amazon order by enlisting in the “Subscribe & Save” program. You can schedule automatic re-orders as far out as six months.  As far as I know, you get the discount even if you cancel future shipments.

Dietary changes

The biggest change I’ve had to make is in the bowl of cereal I had in the morning: most cereals are wheat-based, naturally.  I found a great, organic gluten-free replacement for my cereal needs in Nature's Path Organic Mesa Sunrise Cereal.  It’s made of corn and flax, and to my surprise, it tasted pretty good!  It’s sort of like really healthy cornflakes.

Organic Mesa Sunrise Cereal

For pasta, an acceptable –and also organic --substitute has been quinoa (“keen-wa” for those who were wondering).  I ordered the Ancient Harvest Quinoa Linguine, Organic, Gluten-free, 8-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 12).

Organic quinoa

The other area you may find yourself constrained in: snacks.  Many traditional snacks are gluten-full: bread, pretzels, crackers, chips (although corn chips are fine).   One of my most favorite & relatively healthy gluten-free snacks is Golden Valley Natural Turkey Jerky, Original, 4-Ounce Pouches (Pack of 8).  I like the “original,” but there’s also sweet and hot, peppery, teriyaki, etc.  High in protein, low in fat, no MSG, and raised from “free-range turkeys” without artificial growth hormones.  I’ve tried a lot of jerkeys, and this is by far the best.

Golden Valley Turkey Jerky

Links and more

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Going gluten-free

After reading one of Tim Ferriss’ latest blog posts, with the attention-getting title of “How to Keep Feces out of your Bloodstream,” I have decided to try a gluten-free diet for at least 60 days to see what effect it has on my psoriasis.  

Gluten is a protein composite in foods containing wheat and related species:  it gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and often giving the final product  a chewy texture.   But there’s a growing awareness that a significant percent of the population may be gluten-sensitive, and mounting evidence that gluten-sensitivity may be the root cause of a wide range of maladies.

“It may come as a surprise, but plants are not benign, altruistic organisms just waiting to send their next generation of young into our mouths in the form of sushi rice or French bread.”
-- The Paleo Solution, Robb Wolf

“The original human diet”

Tim’s post is primarily an excerpt of Robb Wolf’s new book, The Paleo Solution: the Original Human Diet, which has garnered a solid 5-star rating on Amazon with 90 reviews – a rare product indeed.  Robb’s book explains in compelling detail the damaging effect that lectins, a protein component of the gluten found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and other grasses of the Triticeae family, have on you when they manage to get into your system.

“OK, calm down, I get it. Bread, pasta, and cookies are yummy. They are also likely killing you.”

Microvilli are structures in the small intestine which absorb nutrients, normally letting only small, digested particles through the intestinal wall, where they enter the bloodstream.  But a component protein of gluten, gliadin, can damage or impair the microvilli.  The damaged microvilli then allow larger, undigested proteins (lectins) to get into the bloodstream intact. 

The body’s immune system is watchful of what comes into the bloodstream from the relatively nasty environment of the gut, and it can “code for” some of these lectin proteins, which “are easily mistaken as foreign invaders, like bacteria, pathogens, and viruses.”  Unfortunately for us, the lectins also have the same markers as some of our own internal proteins, which might lead to our own immune systems attacking us!

“If that protein happened to be in the myelin sheath of your brain, you would develop multiple sclerosis.”  

A biological jigsaw puzzle

A number of things “clicked” for me when reading all this, as well as doing some basic background reading on Wikipedia and celiac disease, the most severe form of gluten intolerance. 

First of all, I remembered reading a long time ago that psoriasis might possibly be linked to leaky gut syndrome. It was proposed that toxins were getting into the system from a “leaky” or thin intestinal wall, and that psoriasis was the body’s reaction as it worked overtime, desperately trying to get rid of this toxic load.  Secondly, psoriasis itself is classified as a “chronic autoimmune disease” (Wikipedia). 

And as I read about gluten sensitivity on Wikipedia, a few other things jumped out at me.  One was that a common symptom of celiac is a skin rash called “dermatitis herpetiformis.”  While it looks radically different than psoriasis, it implies that reactions of the skin can be involved in gluten sensitivity. 

I had another “aha” moment when I read that one sign of gluten sensitivity is elevated liver enzymes;  I personally have had slightly elevated liver enzymes on blood cholesterol screening tests for a number of years. 

Lastly, celiac disease, involving a severe reaction to gluten, is often called “the great mimic,” or the disease of a thousand symptoms.  This makes sense, given Robb’s explanation of how the body’s autoimmune response can end up attacking any number of internal systems.    Here is his short list of problems associated with leaky gut and the autoimmune response:  

  • Infertility
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Vitiligo
  • Narcolepsy
  • Schizophrenia
  • Autism
  • Depression
  • Huntington’s
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Porphyria

“Anything that damages the gut lining (including bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections, as well as alcohol, grains, legumes, and dairy) can predispose one to autoimmunity, multiple chemical sensitivities, and allergies to otherwise benign foods.”


For me, this explanation of the effects of gluten on the digestive system and its role in autoimmune diseases is compelling enough to give “gluten freedom” a try.   With any luck, I’ll also see improvement in my psoriasis.  I will keep you posted on how it goes.

More reading

Tim Ferriss’ blog post:  “How to Keep Feces Out of Your Bloodstream” -

From the Mayo Clinic, listing foods to avoid and foods to seek out: 

An extensive forum discussion on
Clearing Psoriasis by a gluten- and milk-free diet 

The “gluten channel” on Twitter: #gluten

Wikipedia topics:  -  - -

Gluten (from Latin gluten "glue") is a protein composite which appears in foods processed from wheat and related species including barley and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to keep its shape, and often giving the final product a chewy texture. However a significant proportion of the human population suffers from gluten sensitivity of one kind or another, and with increased awareness of this problem many foods are now labelled to clarify whether they contain gluten or not.  More on gluten

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chess: Mate in Two

From a real game played: me vs. computer on a new Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate Media Center setup on the plasma screen in the basement.  

White (me, haha) has Black (the computer) on the ropes and is searching for the jugular.  Black has just moved Q-R7 / Qa2 to block White’s mate threat at Q5/d5.

White to play and mate in two.   It’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure to administer such an elegant mate.   (Click on the board to see a larger picture.)   First correct answer (via comment on this post) gets free! my signed, out-of-print copy of  SCOTCH: The Whisky of Scotland in Fact and Story (7th ed.).  

White to play and mate in two

Monday, June 28, 2010

“Modern Times” with the kids

Charlie ChaplinHunting around on “movie night” for something to watch with Ben (4) and Eli (2), I thought I’d see how far I would get with Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times” before little voices rose in a chorus of protest.

To my surprise, not only did they both like it and sit through the entire movie, but Ben specifically requested it the next night… and the next night. 

I couldn’t be more delighted to watch the genius of Chaplin, who not only wrote, produced, directed, and, of course, starred in the film;  he also composed the original accompanying music.   I couldn’t stop noticing Chaplin’s balletic grace throughout:  the incredible control he had of his body.  

And it is such a funny movie, I was in tears multiple times, although I will also admit to a certain sentimentality on seeing my young boys enjoy Chaplin’s slapstick; that also brought tears of joy to my eyes.  

Our favorite scene was when Charlie, a prison newcomer,  inadvertently “salts” his food with cocaine dumped into a salt shaker by a fellow convict.  Hilarious!  If you have a spare four minutes, watch it:   

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Profit is not a goal

Recently, as I was presenting the results of a software project review to an executive director of my client, a large consulting company, I noticed a large corporate goals poster on the wall of his office.  It said “Goal in 2010: $10 Billion in Revenues” in large print at the top, and under it was a list of generally sensible values encouraging enthusiasm, outperformance, and so on. 

This is something that I’ve seen a lot of in my corporate experience:  confusing goals with profits or revenues.  This “goal” sounds like the brainchild of a high-level corporate executive, president, or CEO – who undoubtedly will benefit a thousandfold more from reaching $10B in revenue than anyone actually doing the work.   Do you think that any employee of this company really cares about reaching $10B in revenue?  I doubt it. 

This is why reaching $10B in revenue is not really a goal:  it’s a measure, a metric of how well the company is doing its job.  As a consulting company, the real goal – I would hope – is to better the lives of their clients in a specific way.   Revenues and profits are a side-effect of doing this well.   The problem with goals like “$X in revenue” is that you can lose sight of the real goal, the reason why the consulting company was started in the first place:  to help others.  

If a company is not careful, poor goal-setting can erode the corporate culture.   The best goals bring everyone together around a common pursuit.   Who will want to work at a place where the “goal” is to put a lot of money in the pockets of executives and shareholders? 



  • How We Measure Success (AVC, June 13, 2010).  Fred Wilson of the well-known venture capital investment firm Union Square Ventures writes about confusing profits with goals: 
    “if hundreds of millions of people all around the world are learning and improving their lives with [a portfolio company’s] knowledge exchanges, i will be thrilled”  
  • The Mission Statement as Your North Star.  An article by Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, MI.   Zingerman’s is a world-class deli that is renowned for the quality of its food and its service – both of which I can attest to personally, as I was a frequent customer in the 80’s during my time at the University of Michigan.  (My favorites were the Georgia Rueben and their whitefish salad sandwich.)    Ari takes the reader through the process of figuring out their mission statement, which ends with “To enrich as many lives as we possibly can.”       
  • Goals Work Best When Tied to a Company’s Success (  People talk about aligning corporate, departmental and employee goals, but not many actually do it. There are companies, however, that have concrete methods to manage and measure the performance that makes lofty goals a reality.
    “A company needs clear, elevating goals that people at all levels of the organization can understand and relate to”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Re-listening to Dan Brown

image Recently, I’ve been enjoying re-listening to Dan Brown – his music, not his books.   Most people probably don’t know that long before he became one of the world’s most famous writers, he moved to Hollywood to try his hand in the music business.  In 1994 he released a CD called “Angels and Demons,” featuring the same ambigram as cover art that would grace the cover of his best-selling book of the same name.   When I learned that Dan had put out an album -- through a mention in a high-school class reunion note – I ordered a copy.   I was surprised by how good it was.

Angels & Demons ambigramHow to sum up “Angels and Demons?”   First of all, for a writer, the CD is a fantastic effort and a professional production in every aspect.  Apparently no expense was spared in production:  Dan had Madonna’s bass player, Michael Jackson’s sax player, and the Doobie Brothers’ drummer as session musicians.    The track "Peace in Our Time” was performed at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. 

Throughout, Dan’s voice is excellent and the arrangements are rich and lush.   I am really amazed at the tasteful piano – which apparently was all played by Dan – his understated and elegant chords are the backbone to many of the tracks.

But these are the words that come to mind as I have been re-listening to this album over the past two weeks:  beautiful, anthemic, powerful, evocative, inspirational, and sincere.    Most of the songs are standard four-chord arrangements, but he gets a lot of mileage out of those four!   (Who says that more chords are better, anyway?)   

If one could ascribe any fault to the album, it might be that it occasionally comes off as slightly dramatic and grand-themed.  But better too grand than too small, n’est-ce pas?   I prefer to see it as earnest and sincere.   

The music

The first, title track on the CD is one of my favorites: it starts out with a deep, solemn Gregorian chant in Latin – think of old dark cathedrals from the Middle Ages a la The da Vinci Code.   Mandatum novum do vobis from John 13:34: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another”.  The backdrop is set as the track opens the album on the premise of an epic internal battle between the forces of salvation and destruction:

listen  image

(Chant) Mandatum novum do vobis

Angels and demons speak my name
They sing to me at night
I could swear they sound the same
They fight an endless fight

And I never know what fate might bring
when angels and demons sing

The second track, “Shadows of Love,” rolls in with a warm lush sound to chase away the darkness of that deep existential struggle, but the deep and expansive themes continue.   O the compassion!  You can almost hear the metaphorical wheel of souls turning in the roundhouse beat, decorated with a wonderfully spare piano and guitar:    

listen  listen
Some will starve and some will feast
But that’s the nature of this beast
How cruel is fate for those who wait
Alone in the shadows of love

By the seventh track,  “The Beat of My Heart” -- another of my favorites -- he’s found his way and is ready to trust himself, all expressed through the lyric beauty of Dan the writer:

listen  listen
Though roses fall here on the stage
I feigned all the sorrow, the rage
I did what they asked, then took a bow
And now this applause hurts me somehow

I know I’ve been wrong
I’ve made up my mind that from this day on
I’ll play this part to the beat of my heart

Anyway, if you couldn’t tell -- I highly recommend this work.   You may be hard pressed to get your hands on it:  neither nor have it.  I would imagine it’s been out of publication for some time.     If anyone knows where it’s available, please post a comment. 


All music is copyright © Dan Brown. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Evaluating PC computing hardware

Summary: the newest processors (e.g. Intel’s Core i7 CPUs) have much to offer over older technologies, including more raw computing power, improved energy efficiency, and reduction of total cost of ownership (TCO).    

Where it all started…

I recently decided to entertain myself by starting a new analytics project that will look at huge quantities of financial data from the stock market.   I have some theories about how the markets move that I’d like to test out, and testing these theories will take a bunch of computing power.

imageWhile my trusty Dell PowerEdge 400SC (“BUCKY”, ca. 2004) is still admirably snappy for almost everything else, it does not appear to be a match for sifting millions of rows of stock market data.  I am actually in awe of how well this machine still performs, given that I bought it about 6 years ago – April 14th, 2004 to be exact.

==> Look for an upcoming post on How to Buy a New PC where I’ll tell you how I buy computers which last for years & still run fast.

eBay: a smorgasbord of computing hardware

I started my hardware upgrade quest by checking out the Dell server hardware on eBay.   There is a vast selection, hundreds or even thousands of machines, and it is truly amazing what you can buy for only $200 or so. 

For example, a Dell PowerEdge 2850 with dual Xeon Dell PowerEdge 2850processors at 3GHz and a whopping 8GB of RAM; onboard SCSI RAID support for running high-performance disks in a “mirrored” array (essential to eliminate any single point of failure);  ECC memory, which is more reliable than regular desktop memory; and fast, reliable SCSI hard drives, which last far longer than the cheap commodity consumer drives that Best Buy will sell you, after marking them up significantly to pay for the lights and the space and all those big-screen TVs that seem to be blaring all the time.  (These server-class SCSI hard drives are however typically much smaller than the 500GB and larger sizes we’ve become accustomed to in the consumer desktop space.)

So eBay has some serious server-class hardware.  It really made me drool. I almost pulled the trigger on a few of those PowerEdge 2850’s that had 8 to 12 GB of memory, for $200, delivered.  You can hardly buy 12GB of RAM alone for $200!  But why so cheap?    After all, markets are “efficient,” aren’t they?  I wanted to understand…

Space, time, and energy

imageAfter puzzling on it for a couple of days and surfing around, I came up with the following conclusions.  While these machines offer a whole lot of quality and power, they have at least two drawbacksenergy efficiency and computing power.  

Most of the folks who work with these machines have them packed into server datacenters, running under reasonable load (one would assume).   The CPU, the most power-hungry component of a computer (in general), uses more energy when under load.   When you look at total cost of ownership (TCO), it’s not exactly cheap to keep them powered up and cooled down.  

==> The numbers vary, but I would ballpark the cost of a watt-year (one watt for one year) at about $1 per year, assuming $0.10 per kilowatt-hour.  So an older machine that burns 150 to 200 watts more than a more efficient, newer one will cost $150-$200 more per year.  Across the lifetime of the machine, that’s $600 to $800.

imageThe kicker is that the newer servers sport the latest multi-core processor designs from Intel and AMD.    These multi-core designs (quad-core in this case) operate much more efficiently and run much faster.  So when a new quad-core server is brought in, it can retire possibly three or four older servers.   Now we’re talking $1,500 to $2,000 in savings over the next three to four years in energy costs along.  In addition, server datacenters can now pack three to four times more computing power in the same expensive rack space.  

Link: Study looks at payback period for server consolidation of Dell PowerEdge 2850’s


Back at home, my stock market analysis project is significantly “compute-bound,” requiring more processor power than my PowerEdge 400SC can throw at it. In this case, a new server can do what an older server simply can’t.    Dude, I have just justified getting a new Dell! 

In my next post, I’ll chronicle how I select a new Dell machine that will do everything I need it to. 

Update 2/11/2010:  see post Choosing a new CPU: Core i7-920 vs. Core i7-860 on my computing blog.

More Reading…

Virtualization technologies (VT) offer IT organizations and datacenters huge savings because they improve energy efficiency and lower costs;  this I would imagine is a major driver in pushing down the price of older computing hardware (which does not support VT as well).

Interesting related entry on the cost of computing power(Wikipedia):

“Hardware costs for low cost supercomputers may be less significant than energy costs when running continuously for several years.”

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Conceptual Models of Collaboration

Researching Web 2.0 concepts and ways of collaborating; some interesting links, hopefully I will get to refine this post.

How People Harness Their Collective Wisdom And Power to Construct the Future

Excellent treatise addressing the problems of interpersonal communication, group collaboration, and the limits of "participative democracy." Most interestingly, the author presents a language-based system (the Structured Design Process, or SDP) for resolving complex problems as a group.

In leading technical teams for various enterprises over the years, I've often thought that one of the single largest barriers was the lack of a set of clear conceptual models: so many issues are caused simply by the fact that people are on different pages. It's why we have the fields of law and mathematics (among others of course), each of which works to express concepts in a concise, well-understood formulation (the "language" of the field).

A few excerpts:

"As human evolution is experiencing the complex challenges of the Information Age, humanity cannot take responsibility for guiding its evolution without the capacity to surface the will and wisdom of the people by engaging them in meaningful dialogue in the context of the emerging Agoras (meeting spaces) of the 21st century Global Village."

"Participative dialogue is the essence of democratic design. Its origin in the Agora of Athens is the iconic forerunner of the Structured Design Process (SDP). SDP is a designing process that updates participative democracy so that it can function in the agoras of the Information Age.

"Governments, corporations, and other groups have failed to master the participative democracy and interdisciplinary dialogue that they espouse. This failure trumpets the need for an effective structured dialogue process that will enable stakeholders to design their futures. The largely unstructured dialogue in the Greek agoras was a wonder for its time, but it had great weaknesses. When we try to guide our Information Age organizations with the same unstructured dialogue, those weaknesses increase exponentially."

Friday, December 05, 2008

Maintaining a Fine Cherry Countertop

We installed a fine Brazilian cherry countertop on the kitchen island as part of a major kitchen remodelling in 2005. When properly maintained, the cherrywood has beautiful, deep warm glow to it; but over time this glow had faded a bit. The countertop is supposed to be cleaned and recoated monthly with a quality tung oil finish, but the vicissitudes of a hectic life with two kids have pushed this off for over six months.

Usually I just clean the counter with hot soapy water, dry it well, then rag on the a Waterlox sealer. But I thought it needed a fine-grit sanding to remove all the (admittedly minor) scratches and restore the like-new glow. I was definitely worried about putting sandpaper to this fine surface, so I Googled the web for things like sealer countertop oil sand grit fine waterlox.

After putting the kids to bed, I took the plunge.

Update 12/09/2008 (four days later): after three coats of finish, the cherry wood now has a beautiful shimmery depth, almost like a semi-liquid pool. (It actually looked pretty fantastic after the second coat.) The wood is positively glowing -- I will post pics when I can -- see album links below.

Details: After all my research on grit, technique, etc., I started by thoroughly cleaning the countertop with warm soapy water and a sponge, using a mild abrasive pad as necessary to remove anything that wasn't coming off easily. I dried the wood, then sanded it carefully with a rubber block and 240-grit paper, making sure to keep downpressure light and even, and stopping frequently to knock clumped-up dust off the sandpaper surface. While I light-sanded the entire surface, I tried to identify visible scratches and evenly take the countertop surface down enough to sand them out. When I was done, I used a tack cloth to remove most of the dust, then executed final cleanup & surface prep with odorless mineral spirits.

I then put on three coats of Waterlox Original Sealer/Finish, letting each dry overnight (the can said 6 hours). I ran the kitchen island fan on low to vent the minor fumes. I made sure to put each coat of Waterlox on a little heavy -- a little more than just coating the surface. I put enough on to ensure coverage without pooling. I used a single sheet of Bounty paper towel, folded a couple times, as the applicator: a rag soaks up too much of the sealer.

Between each coat, I used a fine steel wool (#00 or #000) to lightly sand down the entire surface, removing slight imperfections (swirls, bubbles, or hair!), resulting in a glassy smoothness. Even strange little discolorations in one area I sanded all but disappeared with the application of the sealer.

Conclusion: I was cautious about putting sandpaper to a cherry countertop that cost almost as much as my wife's car, but the results looked stunning. Total time invested over three days: about 5-6 hours.


See the counter I'm talking about in my Picasa album:

More links from my searches here:

We chose Craft-Art (in Atlanta) to supply the countertop (link). For the Waterlox, rather than try to run around & find it in a store, I actually just clicked it up from Amazon:


This was one of the more helpful articles, from the Environmental Home Store who appear to be fine hardwood installers (

[After surface prep] you are now ready to apply your choice of sealer. Select any of the great finishes currently available... We do not recommend any water based finishes, as they tend dilute the natural colors and appearance of depth; nor do we recommend plain mineral oil or chopping block oil as they tend to dissipate quickly and require weekly re-oiling. We highly recommend Waterlox ( a tung oil/resin finish. This is very easy to apply with a brush or rag. It is best to apply two or three coats of the sealer and two or three coats of the topcoat. The top coat is available in gloss or matte finish. One of the best features of this finish is the easy upkeep, simply recoat every three years, or as needed. Follow the instructions on the can for best results.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Going Green: Amplifier Trigger for my PC

Here's how to automatically turn on & off an external audio amplifier with your PC...

For audio in my new office, I have a 1000-watt Rotel RMB-1075 5-channel THX-certified amplifier that's hooked up to a pair of extremely capable Hales Revelation Three speakers. I connected the output on my computer audio card to the pre-amp, and voila! listening to music on my PC from my 120 gigabytes of music is a delightful experience.

Using a Kill-a-Watt meter, I found that the amp consumes 80 watts of power whenever it's on. So while in general, I just turn it on and off when I come in and exit, I remembered that it has an "external trigger" on the back. I wondered if I could somehow have the PC turn the amp on and off automatically.

After a few Google search revisions, the search for "trigger pc audio amplifier" found this excellent article:

turning on power amp via pc -12v

Fan extension cable (for connecting to the fan header/supply on the mobo):

It's simple enough: take a 12V source off your PC (in this case from a connector on the motherboard fan), wire this up to a female 1/8" plug (which is attached to a hole on a chassis plate), then just run a standard male-to-male 1/8" cable out to the amplifier's "trigger in" port.

I will try this and post results when I have them.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Howard Rheingold talks about the coming world of collaboration, participatory media and collective action -- and how Wikipedia is really an outgrowth of our natural human instinct to work as a group.

"Rise of Collaboration" home page:

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Looking for an 8-port gigabit switch for my home office, to connect and network all of the computers... after a bunch of surfing and review-scanning, I decided to kick it up a notch from an ordinary "desktop" switch to a "managed" switch.... the NetGear GS108T. It seemed that all but the most technical network gearhead reviewers thought that the GS108T is a great value in a switch. Although it's only about US$110, one can't go throwing a tenth of a grand around -- especially when there's so much else to buy with US$110. What tipped the scales in favor was my interest in distributed commodity computing (a la Google's computing clusters made up of cheap, second-generation computers). Not only is a managed, "smart" switch more similar to a real production environment -- the smart-ness referred to is the switch's ability to send network traffic directly to its destination, vs. the standard of broadcasting all network data to all computers -- but it gives a much more detailed view of network traffic. I'll learn how to monitor traffic on my own home network, detect problems or bottlenecks, and maybe prototype a distributed computing cluster of my own.

NetGear GS108T product link

Thursday, July 31, 2008


Looking for how to hook up a PC to a HD TV and get great results. This way, you could leverage investment in an HDTV. I have a 720p Panasonic Plasma 42" and hooking up my PC via the supplied VGA input was abysmal.

Here's a chart showing all the various video and computer resolution "standards."

This writer has a Sharp Aquos LCD, suggests simply getting a TV that advertises compatibility with PC resolutions, and connecting using a DVI cable (since it's a digital signal). Note that full HD, or 1080p, contains 1920 x 1080 pixels. It also has some advancing tuning advice using PowerStrip software.

How to Connect Your TV to Your HDTV (Engadget)

Update: found this article, very good, argues that 720p is fine for most (vs. 1080p), with the exception of those choosing to use it for a computer monitor:

720p vs. 1080p HDTV: The final word (David Karney, CNet, December 2007)

HDTV Resolution Explained (David Katzmaier, CNet)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

What's in Your Bag?

I was putting together a list for this year's Jack Daniels Open in Mesquite, NV... a list of stuff to pack in my golf bag. You'd think the things to include in a golf bag would be fairly obvious, but it's been surprising over the years what I didn't have in my bag.

My informal list:

  • Tees - long and short
  • Balls - 6-9 soft/feel, 6-9 hard/distance
  • Tape (for fingers cracked raw after many rounds in the desert)
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Rain cover
  • Rain gear - I keep a Microsoft Great Plains water resistant pullover
  • Lighter, cigar punch, portable cigar case (with cigars, naturally)
  • Ibuprofen / anti inflammatories / aspirin
  • Eye drops. In case you have to play soggy ground and catch the ball fat -- and you get a blast of grit, grass, and mud in your eye.
  • Ball mark repairer - and a spare one
  • Ball markers / dimes
  • Spare change-- be prepared - maybe keep a $20 bill stashed for emergencies
  • Towel - maybe add a spare for rainy days
  • Water - at least 28 oz/liter
  • Energy bar - I carry an apple if it's hot or I had to jump out without proper breakfast
  • Also great for high energy and protein is turkey jerky. Maybe some gum
  • Whisky flask
  • Um... clubs. I carry three wedges (Cleveland 56 sand, Cleve 60 lob, Titleist PW). My driver is a King Cobra, and my three-wood and five-wood are Callaway Steelhead Plus (love them).
  • Spare pencils -- for scorecards
  • Sharpie -- for marking balls
  • Spare cleats and cleat tool... although in truth you should get any cleats replaced or changed at the pro shop prior to your round. And I have never had to replace cleats during a round.
  • Glove and spare
  • Bandages -to repair blisters
  • Groove / club cleaner

Want golf balls with an image on them for a special occasion?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Espresso and other links

"The grinder is an integral, necessary part of making good espresso in the home.
... a quality grinder to freshly grind the coffee to the very precise particle sizes necessary to good extraction. Often, the grinder is the rock star of their little espresso show."

I've often said that I can make a better shot of espresso with a $200 espresso machine and a $400 grinder than I can with a $2,000 espresso machine and no grinder (or a blade grinder)... and it's absolutely true."

[Later added: a good article on the size to grind for espresso, for anyone using a manual grinder or a cheap blade grinder:

Monday, February 11, 2008

Uninstalling Visual Studio 2005

In the aftermath of one of many hard disk crashes, I was determined to fix a problem that has long beset me. I had installed the then-cutting-edge-and-just-released MS Visual Studio 2005 on hard drive "F:". Well, drive "F:" bit the dust one fine day, and to make things worse, it was the entire hard drive which showed failure, and both drives E: and F: were housed on this single mortally wounded Fuji 36GB SCSI hard drive.

All this happening to my beloved development box (Dell PowerEdge 400SC). Eventually it was proven that the disk had not really failed; for some reason, the controller had failed to support the second disk. The first drive, C:, on a different physical hard drive, worked fine. So all this put a crimp in my efforts to replace the "failed" drive with another, working SCSI disk.

In other hardware puzzlings and in reviewing the official Dell technical specs for my two PowerEdge servers (400SC and 1600SC), I noted with surprise and growing delight that the slightly newer 400SC supported SATA natively, via a connector directly on the motherboard. Working with Acronis TrueImage (hard drive backup & restore and general disk utility software -- very good -- about $75 at Office Depot), and applying assiduous and diligent study to the science of hard drives, their mechanisms and physical characteristics (out of interest), SATA vs. SCSI benchmarks and reviews (Tom's Hardware), logical and extended partitions under Windows, boot and primary partitions, and backup and restore software, I managed to recreate and relocate the entire system image onto a single, newer, faster SATA 320GB Seagate Barracuda ES drive, their "enterprise extra-duty" version. (At $99 on, this was a great deal.)

A side note of surprise on this migration to SATA: I was moving from a solid server-class Fuji MAP3367NP SCSI drive on a LSI Logic controller (the one that failed) to this Seagate Barracuda. It used to take the computer a good while to boot up; part of this, it's true, was the action of the SCSI controller interrogating the SCSI bus for devices (about 10 seconds alone). I would ballpark the total boot time at around 35 to 40 seconds. But with the new SATA drive, the boot and restore-from-hibernation is breathtaking: it's easily less than fifteen seconds from machine being off to booted and at the Windows Server 2003 login screen. Hibernation is equally inspiring, taking around 10 seconds to snapshot everything running to disk and shut down.

But I digress... I had vowed that tonight would be the night that I restored Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, which had been installed on the now-absent F: drive. It currently wouldn't run, and it wouldn't uninstall or repair -- I got an error about a program file directory that didn't exist -- so I was stuck. A few Googles later, I found a Microsoft article explaining how to do it, and though relatively tedious, was also straightforward, took about 15 minutes, and did the job.

How to Remove Visual Studio 2005

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Darwin Visits My Desk

Ever noticed how your electrical and computer cords always seem to become tangled? Especially the coiled ones like a headphone cord... this might be exactly the same mechanism by which DNA interacts; it's the well-known double-helix that "slides" against other DNA strands and other things.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Zen of MP3 and other stories

Still struggling to get my 8,000+ music library synced to the newly endowed 120GB Zen jukebox... although it got through about 6600 of the tracks, WMP experienced an i/o timeout or something.

Dennis Burton's new Develop Using .Net blog:

A good treatise on multi-booting OS's. Clears up the confusion between primary, extended, and logical hard drive partitions. Boot loaders as well.

PC World: Avoid Static Damage to Your PC,82184-page,1/article.html

"Static electricity is much more common than you might think... Walk across that rug and touch a grounded metal object, and the voltage can be in the 10,000-to-12,000-volt range.... But for PC upgrades, the important thing to remember is that while a static shock must be 3500 to 4000 volts before you can feel it, it's the voltage below that level that is common, and insidious. It's entirely possible that you'll open up your PC, plug in an add-in card or some RAM, never have any sensation of static, and still have zapped the electronics. That's because the integrated circuits can be damaged or destroyed by static voltages as low as 400 volts."

"What's worse is that the component you installed may appear to be fine, but days, weeks, or months later your PC may lock up or start acting strangely... it's essential that PCs be unplugged when you work with them."


Saturday, January 19, 2008

More storage tech...

Bicameral day... having firmware issues with the Zen Jukebox after failing to sync my library with it in a number of ways (WMP 10, NotMad). Tried updating the firmware to "Plays for Sure" and that for sure didn't play -- the Nomad boots into Rescue Mode and the computer won't recognize it any more to upgrade the firmware.

On the storage side of things, still trying to figure out whether I should invest in SCSI or SATA, as well as whether to buy a new box (e.g. with faster CPU, SATA RAID built-in, etc).

On storage: AnandTech's Server Guide Part 2, which explains seek time vs. latency, as well as compares a SATA drive with a SCSI drive:

FireWire vs. USB 2.0:

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Swapping out hard drives

The Zen JukeBox hard drive upgrade to 120 GB was as simple as pie... syncing my entire collection to it now...

Regarding upgrading my lowly 36 GB SCSI drive:

Swapping your board without so much as a reinstall

How to replace the motherboard on a computer that is running Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, or Windows 2000;en-us;824125