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December 31, 2001 on 10:52 pm | In Main | No Comments

Happy new year everyone! It is just before midnight here, but at least it is the year 2002 on the east coast. We celebrated tonight by watching Apocolypse Now Redux and are about to have a champaign toast. I plan to write more tomorrow.

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December 30, 2001 on 10:06 pm | In Main | No Comments

On Friday morning, we left for Flagstaff. We arrived around lunch time, and had lunch at a quaint restaurant in the downtown area before driving up to Arizona Snow Bowl to find some snow to play in. The ski resort was closed due to lack of snow, so we drove all the way to the top and parked in the ski resort area. Even the drive is interesting, since the parking lot is around 10000 feet above sea level. Many people were sledding at the hill near the parking lot. Unfortunately, Sean was terrified by the combination of the snow and the slope of the hill, so he didn’t enjoy himself in the snow. After leaving Flagstaff, we drove down to Sedona through Oak Creek Canyon. The drive into the Canyon descends about 2000 feet through a series of winding turns. There was still lots of snow in the northern part of the Canyon, and it was interesting to see the contrast between the red rock formations and the white snow. After we arrived in Sedona, we checked into the hotel we made reservations for. The hotel rooms had both a jacuzzi and fire place. The rooms opened up to an executive golf course with some ponds and fountains. Sean had fun running through the golf course and chasing after ducks. We ate dinner at a nice seafood restaurant with a great view. After dinner, Cortney and I enjoyed the fireplace and jacuzzi in the hotel room.

On Saturday morning, we attempted to take Sean hiking with us. We didn’t have the carrier with us, so we were hoping Sean would be able to walk on his own. This particular trail was only 7/10 of a mile between the parking lot and the table rock with a great view of the Cathedral Rock formation. Sean apparently still had his phobia of slopes from yesterday, so he didn’t want to walk on his own. It wasn’t too much trouble to carry him the short distance, and the view was worth the effort. We drove home after hiking, and arrived in Phoenix in time for a late lunch. I worked a little on cleaning up the software on the new computer, then Cortney and I went out to dinner with some friends of ours. We watched Pearl Harbor, a three hour movie, so I never got around to posting last night.

I successfully installed windows xp on my new computer, keeping the copy of windows 98 for a dual boot configuration. Every thing went smoothly with the install, and I have to say I am impressed with windows xp. I took a break from the computer for a while to clean the pool and do some yard work. It was a warm sunny day, so Cortney and I decided to go hiking. This time, we took Sean in the carrier, and he had a great time. We even let him out at the end to walk a short distance to the car. He went down a slope as steep as the one he cried on yeserday, so I am hoping he is over his phobia.

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December 27, 2001 on 8:20 pm | In Main | No Comments

The blogger website was down again last night, so I couldn’t post. I think they are running into some reliability problems complicated by rapid growth. I hope to have time in the near future to write my own blog software.

I started the day Wednesday going to Fry’s to by a USB keyboard, and to get a video cable to hook up our new DVD player to the TV. I need a USB keyboard because I bought a USB only KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) switch. (By the way, the IOGEAR 2 computer switch works great. The video switches instantly, and has no degradation in signal quality. The keyboard and mouse take a second before control is transferred, which can be annoying, but is certainly workable.) The checkout line at Fry’s was almost all the way around the building. While I was waiting in line, I realized we don’t have any DVDs to check out the new player. I had my father-in-law, Corky, who was with me, get a copy of the Matrix to purchase. While Sean was taking his afternoon nap, we hooked up the DVD player. The picture quality is amazing. There is absolutely no noise, and you can clearly see each scan line. Cortney enjoyed watching the Matrix film.

I forgot how much work it is to install software on a new computer. Even though it took longer than I had expected to build my new computer, it will take several times that amount to get all of the applications I use up and running. My new computer crashed twice last night, which really bothered me. I went through a lot of effort to buy reliable hardware components. I think the crash was caused by the print server software for the router. It turns out that the printer drivers for my HP deskjet printer don’t work with the print server, so I uninstalled the server software. Don’t buy an HP printer If you want to do anything other than print from a single windows PC. I am considering upgrading from windows 98 to windows xp to improve the software reliability of my computer.

I went back to work today. Two other people from my group were in as well, so I wasn’t all alone. I didn’t get much done other than get caught up on my email and take mandatory year-end training in ESD (electro-static discharge) protection and code of ethics. At least the ESD information is potentially useful for my home computer work.

Sean is having lots of fun playing with his grandparents. He is also enjoying his new Christmas toys. Today, he had a new experience of watching from the driveway the trash trucks come down the street and picking up our garbage. He was terrified by the loud noise. I was trying to reassure him, when a whole convoy of at least four additional trucks came by. He was terrified but fascinated at the same time.

I was annoyed to find out the floppy drive wasn’t working with the new computer again. This is the least expensive component, but the one that has given me the most trouble. I thought the drive was failing intermittently, but the problem turned out that the drive was extended too far out in front of the computer. The front bezel has a built-in floppy slot, including the eject button. The eject button was partially depressed all of the time, causing the drive not to work with the bezel in place. The drive itself had screw holes an 1/8th of an inch behind the ones I had used, which worked perfectly when I put it back in the computer. I also checked the on-line documentation for my motherboard. I wanted to see if there was a way to connect the case 3-pin connector for the power LED on the front of the case. The printed documentation only showed a 2-pin slot. The on-line documentation showed a 3-pin slot labeled as additional LED connection. This additional connection works just fine. I also didn’t realize that there was a second audio connector. With the second connect, I now have the CD-RW drive audio cable hooked up as well as the DVD drive. The most unusual thing I found in the on-line documentation was that there is a 4-pin connection for 12 volt power to the motherboard that I didn’t have hooked up. I only hooked up the 20 pin connector, which must have both 5 and 12 volt power. I decided that it was better to hook up the cable, rather than leave it dangling in the case. It doesn’t seem to make a difference either way. I know feel the my new rig is rock-solid hardware-wise.

After thinking more about windows xp, I decided to download the upgrade adviser and run it on my old computer. I did this, and it appears that the only issue is with my anti-virus software. I have a copy of Norton anti-virus 2002, which is xp compatible, so I have a work around for this issue. I am considering dual booting windows 98 and xp, at least until I am comfortable with all my software, particularly games, on xp. I won’t do anything about this until we get back from our trip to Sedona/Flagstaff. This trip will by our yearly outing to go find some snow. This year, we will be spending the night at a resort in Sedona, so this should be a nice relaxing trip.

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December 25, 2001 on 9:29 pm | In Main | No Comments

Today was one of the best Christmas’s I have had in a while. Sean had a good time while we opened the gifts. He wasn’t too interested in opening his presents, but he liked playing with them after they were opened, particularly his new toy vacuum cleaner. I received a lot of nice gifts, getting almost all of the items on my “wish” list. We had a very good Christmas dinner, prepared by Cortney and her mom Leslie. We finished the day watching a movie while we had a fire in the fireplace.

Probably the best thing of all today was that I had much better success with the new computer. Hooking up the hard drive to the old computer worked out fairly well. The old computer was temporarily messed up because its hard drive had multiple partitions. The slave (new) hard drive became drive d:, causing all of the programs installed in the higher drive letters to not work. But, I only needed to partition the new drive, and that was very quickly done by the installation software. Even though it worked, I’m annoyed by the fact that the Seagate software would not work in dos. I wasted quite a bit of time yesterday trying to make it work. After transferring the drive back to the new computer, I successfully installed the windows 98 software and updated all of the drivers. I hooked up the new computer to the internet using the new hardware router. This was so easy to do, so I went ahead and replaced the PNA network cards in the two old computers with new 10/100 NICs. I now have 3 computers networked together at 100mbs speed, and each computer is accessing the internet separately through the router. I can now copy all of the files of my old computer to the new computer, and rebuild the old computer, without affecting Cortney’s ability to use the internet. I have to say I am impressed by the hardware and software of the SMC router.

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December 25, 2001 on 7:09 am | In Main | No Comments

Merry Christmas everyone — hope to have two posts today since I didn’t have time last night.

The reason I didn’t have time to post last night was because I was busy working on the new computer. I have been swapping the keyboard, video, and mouse cables back and forth between the new computer and old computer. I bought a KVM switch, but I don’t want to install it until after everything is working with the new computer. After lots of fun assembling the new computer, at least the hardware is working. If making mistakes is a learning experience, I learned quite a few things yesterday. It took my three tries to get the fan/heat sink mounted on the motherboard properly. It also took two tries each to attach the motherboard to the case and to install all of the drives. In the case of the motherboard, I installed one of the standoffs in the wrong position. My initial thought was to leave it, but the I wondered what would happen if one of the brass standoffs came into contact with a conductor on the motherboard, so I decided to take out all of the other screws and fix it. In the case of the hard drive, I mounted it upside down. I guess it would work like this, but I wanted the cables to be routed neatly, so I fixed that. In the case of the dvd-rom and floppy drives, I didn’t have them extended out far enough to be flush with the front bezel. At least I was pleased to see the computer successfully boot up into the bias the first time I powered it on. The floppy drive was initially not working, but after re-seating the connectors, it now works. What is been most frustrating is the hard drive. The bios reports the correct size, 80Gb, but both the dos fdisk and included disk software either reports 8Gb or 10Gb. I thought I could just format to the smaller size, install windows, then repartition the drive, but the system hangs up whenever I try to format the drive. My next step is to install the drive as a slave in the old computer, then try to partition and format it from there. The included software has different software for windows than for dos, which I hope will make a difference. Also, I will have the advantage of a fully working computer to perform the format, and that won’t need rebooting every time I make a change to the drive.

We picked Cortney’s parents up at the airport yesterday. They are staying with us through New Year’s. We all went out to dinner on the way home from the airport, and then went for a nice walk outside to see the Christmas lights on the houses in the neighborhood. I thought the walk was nice, but apparently the weather was a little brisk for travelers used to the more tropical weather in South Florida. Sean was so excited to see his grandparents that we kept him up past his normal bed time.

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December 23, 2001 on 9:53 pm | In Main | No Comments

Sean had a spectacular fall down the stairs today. I was taking Sean upstairs to change his diaper. I was standing at the top of the stairs, waiting for him to crawl up on his own, like he has done many times before. He made it to the third step above the landing halfway up the stairs. For some reason, he stood up, turned around, and then took a full step going down. He has never stepped down on his own before. His first step landed fine, but then he lost his footing on his second step. He fell out onto the landing, and his head hit the bottom of the railing. I don’t know if he turned over on his own, or his momentum carried him, but he then rolled down ten stairs, all the way to the bottom. All of this happened before I could reach him. He started crying immediately, which I knew was actually a good sign. While I was trying to calm him down, I saw the spot on his forehead where he hit the bottom of the railing. It was a little red and puffy, but didn’t look serious. After he calmed down, I changed his diaper, and I took the opportunity to see if he had any other injuries. It turns out he is just fine. He has a small “strawberry” on his forehead, but is otherwise okay. I’m amazed that he rolled down ten steps without hurting himself.

Sean had a good day today, other than his morning incident. Sean and I went hiking in the afternoon. After we got back, we all went to the park together. Sean had fun playing in the sand at the playground. While walking home from the park, we saw a dog get hit by a car. It was a large dog, and I guess the dog had just run out of the house. I didn’t see anything until the driver slammed on the brakes, then I saw the dog jump, and let out a yelp after getting hit. The dog ran back to the house, so it appeared to be okay. The dog had broken the side mirror on the car. Both the dog owner and the driver apologized for the incident, so that was the end of it.

Overall, it was a busy day. Cortney and I managed to vacuum and mop most of the house. I finished cleaning the loft, so I’m ready to start assembling the new computer tomorrow.

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December 22, 2001 on 9:31 pm | In Main | No Comments

It was chilly today, but bright and sunny out. After I finished some Christmas shopping, we all went to the park together. It was nice to have the opportunity to relax, as it seems everyone else in Phoenix was either in the stores shopping or driving to the next store. Cortney was cold after a few minutes, and left Sean and I alone at the park. We were running up and down the grassy hill at the park, so we didn’t mind the cool weather. There were other kids playing in the park, and Sean enjoyed watching them as well as playing with me.

I made good progress cleaning up the loft area where we keep the computers. I want to vacuum and dust the loft before I start working on assembling the new computer. I should finish the cleaning tomorrow, so it looks like I can start the assembly on Monday.

I thought Sean like his new pair of shoes. This morning, we looked all over the house for one of Sean’s shoes. We knew he was playing with them yesterday afternoon. I finally found the shoe at the bottom of the trashcan in the kitchen. I guess he sees us put stuff in the trashcan, but he doesn’t know why.

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December 21, 2001 on 8:52 pm | In Main | No Comments

No more work until after Christmas. I will be going to work on Thursday next week, as I don’t have enough vacation days to take off for the rest of the year. That still leaves me with two consecutive five day weekends. This weekend will be spent cleaning the house, buying the last of the Christmas gifts, and sneaking some time in to work on the new computer.

Sean was in a good mood tonight. After his milk, he filled up his diaper twice in a row. He seemed to be very pleased with his accomplishment. He danced and laughed afterwards. The second time was his undoing, as after we cleaned him up, we decided to just put him to bed. Afterwards, Cortney and I relaxed by the fire while watching a rented video. This was the first time we have used the fireplace this season. I’m sure we will be using it a few more times over the Christmas holidays.

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December 20, 2001 on 6:54 pm | In Main | No Comments

My memory modules arrived today. I now have all of the components I need for the computer. Here is a picture of everything gathered together:

My next step will be to read the manuals for the motherboard and case to find the specifics on how the computer goes together. I probably won’t get started on this until Saturday.

Poor Sean had a rough evening today. He was misbehaving while eating dinner, so he was scolded for that. Then when Cortney went out to run an errand, he started getting into all of the things he is not allowed to. He cried for about a half hour after that. After giving him some baby ibuprofen (we think he was teething) and his milk, he was back to his normal self. Unfortunately, that was just about his bedtime.

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December 19, 2001 on 7:28 pm | In Main | No Comments

Cortney had a colonoscopy this morning. She had some bleeding a while back, and she wanted to get it checkout out. It turns out everything is fine, but she has a few hemorrhoids, probably from the pregancy. I’m glad to hear she is okay, but it was tough watching Sean for three hours at the hospital. I had to work late to make up the time. Only two work days left until the Christmas Holidays!

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December 18, 2001 on 7:43 pm | In Main | No Comments

All of my computer parts have arrived except the memory. I ordered the memory from the same company as the motherboard. I called them today, as the motherboard arrived yesterday, and one day later, there was no sign of the memory. It turns out that the memory modules are being shipped directly from the manufacturer, Kingston. At least I know I will be getting the name brand memory. Hopefully, the memory will arrive in a day or two. I was also disappointed that the dvd-rom drive arrived with nothing but the drive and a small brochure on how to install it. It looks like I will have to go to Fry’s to buy the audio cable, and perhaps a drive mounting kit. I should have all of the other cables that I need. I’m looking forward to actually putting the computer together.

What a mess with my credit card. Cortney called me at work today to tell me the card had been suspended. I sent the payment for last month’s bill on time, but the credit card company hadn’t received it yet. It turns out the most of the problem was my fault. The bank had switched credit cards on me six months ago. I left the payment address from the old card in my on-line bill payment list. For every month since the credit card switch with the exception of last month, I sent the payment to the correct place. I guess after coming home from the long Thanksgiving vacation, I had forgotten which was the correct payment address. So, I sent the payment to the old card, which has already been canceled. The interesting thing is that the bank had no problem withdrawing the amount from my account and depositing it somewhere. So, I had no warning of what I had done wrong until the statement that arrived yesterday and the credit card that was suspended today. I called the credit card company to let them know what happened to the last month’s payment, and to tell them I had just sent this month’s payment. That was enough for them to remove the late fee and restore the credit card. I still owe the finance charge. Also, I still have to track down where the original payment went and somehow get the money back to the credit card. Even though it was my fault, I place most of the blame with the bank for switching credit cards on me in the first place, and then not warning me that I was sending the money to the wrong place. I guess that’s what I get for banking with a company that outsources both their bill payment and credit card business. I don’t think that TD Waterhouse bank wouldn’t be in business if it weren’t for the associated business from the brokerage firm. I’m also miffed about the credit card company for making it so difficult to pay them promptly. I actually think this is deliberate, so they can make money off of late fees and finance charges. I can’t imagine why they can’t be payed from a direct transfer from my bank account. I guess I will stop my ranting now.

Sean and I went for a nice walk to the grocery store this evening. It was cold enough that we both had to wear jackets, but it was otherwise comfortable. It was after dark, so we could see the Christmas lights on the houses. Sean was a little fussy until he had his evening milk, but then we had fun playing together. I was trying to teach him to count by tapping on one of the sofa pillows, but he was more interested in tapping the pillow in different ways then by the number of times. He still starts too laugh when I smile at him. He must think I’m funny.

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December 17, 2001 on 8:01 pm | In Main | No Comments

My computer parts I ordered online are starting to arrive. My motherboard arrived today, and I expect several other items to arrive tomorrow. Ordering online isn’t easy as it could be, but at least it seems to be workable. I found out today that my online bank payment to the credit card didn’t go through despite the fact that the money had been deducted from my account. You would think it would be a no brainer to transfer money from a bank to the credit card of the same name. I wasn’t too thrilled to be socked with both a late fee and finance charge. I should be able to get this all straightened out, but I don’t appreciate spending the time doing it.


Sean was full of energy this evening, which is suprising considering he hasn’t been eating that well lately. It seems like he no longer likes his breaded chicken pieces, which he used to love. Sean was running all over the house, squealing and babbling like he was having a really good time.

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December 17, 2001 on 5:51 pm | In Main | No Comments

The blogger website went down last night. It happened as I started to write about our trip to Houston. I decided after a paragraph or so that I should post to save what I had written, but that is when it crashed, so I lost my work. I tried a few more times that night, but the website was still down. This is the first time I have had a real problem with Blogger. Today at least, I had the time to try and rewrite what I had entered yesterday.

We had a good time at my brother’s wedding in Houston, but the trip was stressful at times. We were always moving from one place to the next the whole time we were there. It was tough for Sean, as he never had a place where he could run around without getting into trouble. He also didn’t sleep well, as I think being in the same hotel room as Cortney and I was keeping him up at night. At least traveling by air wasn’t a problem. Sean did really well on both plane trips, and we were able to put him in his child seat even though we did not pay for a ticket for him.

Sean did have a good time playing with his cousins. At my brother’s house, he also had both a dog and a cat to play with. Sean had fun running around the church for the rehearsal and before the wedding, even though we had to remind him that some places were off-limits. He did not like having to sit still through the wedding itself. He had more fun at the reception, where he was a little more free to move around and had plenty of people to interact with. He even showed off for everyone by borrowing one of the cowboy hats on display to wear around the room.

The wedding itself was interesting. The theme was Texas Cowboy. The bridesmaid’s wore denim dresses, and the groomsmen wore white shirts and back jeans. Everyone in the wedding party wore boots, but thankfully no one wore cowboy hats. Other than the outfits, it was pretty much a standard wedding ceremony. I am glad to see my brother married again, and I wish him and his new wife the best.

It was cold when we arrived home from Houston. The sky was really clear compared to the gray skies at Houston. We did take Sean to the park, but we only stayed for about 15 minutes before Cortney and I agreed it was too cold out.

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December 13, 2001 on 8:32 pm | In Main | No Comments

Tonight, we pack for the trip to Houston to attend my brother’s wedding. I probably won’t be posting in the next two days.

Sean had fun running around the house chasing the cats. He is getting better at petting Zip. He knows how to pet the cat in the correct manner if he wants to. The problem is that he seems to prefer pulling the cat’s fur or pulling on the cat’s tail. Floppy runs the other way when she sees Sean coming. Sean enjoys chasing after her, but I don’t think he has every touched her, much less had the opportunity to pet her.

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December 12, 2001 on 7:38 pm | In Main | No Comments

Today, it was 45 degrees out driving home from work, with heavy rain and even some hail. Yuck. It won’t be warming up here until we are back from my brother’s wedding.

Along with his normal activities, Sean watched his Spot video this evening. When the video was finished, I rewound the video in preview mode so that I could stop it before the commercials at the beginning of the tape. Sean was just as interested in the spot video playing backwards as he was with the video playing normally. I guess you could say he now knows the spot videos forwards and backwards.

I ordered the last of the computer parts today. I debated quite a bit on what video card to get. I toyed with the idea of getting a combined 3d graphics/tuner/video capture card. With this combination I could watch tv on my computer screen. The new setups even come with remote control. I was really interested in the ATI radeon 8500dv. This model has one of the fastest 3d accelerators as well as the best overall bundle. It was a little pricey at about $330. The finally straw was that this card only works with Win ME, Win 2000 and Win XP. I plan to run Win98SE for a while, with a possible linux dual-boot. I ended up going with the VisionTek 6564, which is a GeForce3 TI200. This is the lower priced of the latest NVIDIA models, but still has respectable performance, and is more affordable at around $180. the NVIDIA cards are know for their driver support, which was an important factor in my decision.


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