Joe Ganley
Writing code since 1979
I have been a professional software engineer for over 10 years. I have written many kinds of software, but my particular strengths are interactive graphics applications, compilers and interpreters, and algorithms.

I also enjoy writing, woodworking, and home improvement. Also this.


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Monday, September 27, 2004

Avoid The Cell

I unfortunately wasted two hours of my life this weekend watching
The Cell. It was a terrible movie, and both J. Lo and Vince Vaughn are terrible actors. Vincent D'Onofrio was, as ever, pretty good; I wonder why he doesn't get better roles?

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Wi-fi on non-SE Win98 is impossible

After trying several, and examining many more, I have concluded that there are no 802.11 adapters that work with Windows 98 (not Second Edition). Most of them work with Win98SE, but not 'plain' Win98. Luckily, I was just being lazy; it won't be too hard to run a long Cat5 cable instead.

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Thursday, September 23, 2004

My 9/11

The recent anniversary of 9/11 reminded me of something I wrote a while back about my 9/11 and never got around to posting. Here it is:

On September 11, 2001, I woke up in a corporate apartment in Sunnyvale, California. I put on some clothes and stumbled to the strip mall next door looking for a cup of coffee. There, a truck driver making deliveries to Senor Jalapeno was sitting in the cab of his truck, doors open, radio blaring news. The news, of course, was this: Two commercial airliners had hit the World Trade Center, levelling it. Another had hit the Pentagon, and a fourth crashed in Pennsylvania.

I had arrived in California on American Airlines via LAX late the previous night. Demonstrating how one's life is shaped by the most arbitrary coincidences, jury duty almost got me killed: I was briefly booked on Flight 77, the flight that hit the Pentagon. I was originally to fly out Sunday evening, but was called for jury duty on Monday, so I rebooked for Flight 77 on Tuesday morning. I called the recorded juror line on Monday morning and learned that I was not needed for jury duty after all, so I rebooked again for Monday evening. Had I been needed for jury duty after all, it would have been one of the last things I ever did.

Tuesday morning, the phones were totally jammed up. My wife was in a panic; though she knew I was flying out Monday night, she couldn't shake the fear that somehow, without me having a chance to inform her, I had been delayed into Tuesday morning and had been on Flight 77 after all. Finally we reached one another, and all was well, other than the fact that we had to spend that painful week of 9/11 apart.

I spent the week working, and watching the status of air travel to see if I would go home on Friday night's redeye as planned. It turned out that I did, though of course the airport was a total zoo, filled as it was with a week's worth of stranded passengers. My flight was also packed to the gills, and predictably everyone was feeling pretty edgy. It didn't help matters that one of the last passengers to board, who sat right across the aisle from me, was a man who bore a more-than-passing resemblance to Saddam Hussein, and who was carrying a large something draped with a threadbare blanket. In retrospect, I hate to imagine what hell that guy must have had getting through security.

It turned out that what was under the blanket was a caged bird.

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Optimizing the preschool carpool line

Helen started preschool this year, and her preschool has the same carpool system that Megan's preschool did, so I find myself once again trying to figure out an optimal dropoff strategy. Cars begin arriving at 5 or 10 till 9:00, and form a line. At 9:00, the teachers start letting kids out of their cars and bringing them inside. Once there are no cars in line, the teachers go inside; if you arrive after this, you have to park and bring your kid inside yourself. So, if you're early, you won't have to wait for the line, but you have to wait for 9:00 before they let your kid in. The perfect situation is to arrive just as the second-to-last car is pulling away; that way, there's no wait. But that timing is delicate; if you miss, you have to spend several minutes bringing your kid inside. What's the optimal strategy? When Megan was in preschool, I would generally just be 10 minutes early, turn off the engine, and play with her in the car until 9:00. However, with three kids now, I am often running too far behind for that. Probably the smartest strategy is to stop being such an optimizer and just roll with it.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Say "Map!"

Though I've long complained about MapQuest's many shortcomings, like most people, I've continued to use it. I was hooked on MapBlast for a while, because of the slick presentation they had where directions were drawn as a black-and-white line drawing that captured the topology of the route, but was easier to read than a route overlaid on a map. It looked like something out of Tufte. So of course, when MSN acquired MapBlast (renaming it MapPoint), they dispensed with this feature. Anyway, I just discovered a new mapping site called Map24, which at first glance appears very cool. [via Scoble]

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Monday, September 20, 2004

I wonder... (#1 in a series)

Things my restless brain wondered about today:
- Do vegans eat honey?
Answer: No.
- Why don't mosquitoes transmit AIDS? Answer: Because the virus can't survive inside a mosquito (successful mosquito-borne diseases basically infect the mosquito), because they don't ingest enough virus particles, and because their feeding apparatus is one-way.

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Thursday, September 09, 2004

Security theater

To me, the best evidence that the post-9/11 airport security procedures -- relieving people of their nail clippers and tiny pocketknives -- is nothing but (as Bruce Schneier calls it) security theater, is a piece of equipment in my kitchen. My Kyocera mandolin slicer has the sharpest blade I've ever encountered -- my wife spent a chunk of fingertip to learn that -- and it's ceramic. Not a bit of metal on the whole gizmo.

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Can you hear me now? Good.

We got new cellphone service with AT&T Wireless last December. The service was terrible: No coverage in many places (including at home), constantly dropped calls, digital garble half the time when we were connected. Eventually, after trying many adjustments to the phone, they suggested we buy a new, multiband phone (GSM and TDMA; our old one was GSM only). Against out better judgement, we did ($100). It arrived unconfigured for TDMA. After spending a total of about 5 hours on the phone with AT&T in three or four separate calls, with them unable to configure the phone for TDMA, their advice was to go to where we were in an AT&T TDMA network and call them from a landline. We were incredulous: You want us to drive around until we're in the right network and then, what, wait on hold for 30 minutes from a payphone? Cathy escalated until she got some upper-level manager (in itself not an easy task), and had a screaming match with him for a while. Eventually, he said, in a huff, "Do you want me to terminate your service right now?" Cathy's answer: "YES!" Clearly not what he was expecting: "Um... oh. (More huffy:) Your cellphone will go dead in 10 minutes." Cathy: "OK." AT&T: "You'll lose your phone number." Cathy: "I don't care." So, they disconnected us and waived the contract termination fee. The next day I returned the AT&T phone for a full refund and went to the Verizon Wireless store and got service and a new phone there. It works perfectly, even at home, and in three weeks it has only dropped one call and there have only been two or three occasions of a few minutes each where we haven't had service. If you live in the mid-Atlantic, don't bother with AT&T (nor Sprint, our prior provider); just go straight to Verizon. Actually, my mother has been pretty happy with Nextel as well, but I'm just delighted with VZ.

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Copyright (c) 1988-2004 by Joseph L. Ganley. All rights reserved except where otherwise noted.