Older blog entries for Rich (starting at number 58)

Time Warner Cable tech support

After a few days of network dropouts, and one day of working at Joseph Beth to get more reliable network, I finally decided to call Time Warner to ask them to fix their network.

The short form is, as I'm sure you already guessed, is that they declined to do so, rather choosing to blame it on me. They suggested I had stuff connected incorrectly, that my wireless router was the problem, and so on. And of course, several iterations of "turn it off and on again."

While I totally understand that tech suppose has to assume that the person calling doesn't know anything, there aught to come a point in these conversations when they are authorized to go off-script and recognize that I might know something about home networking. I'm not a CCNA, but I've been running a home network for close to 20 years, and I know to turn it off and on again, several times, before I subject myself to the pain of calling customer disservice.

So, the final result was that the entire phone call boiled down to them assuming that I have something wrong on my end, and they're not going to fix anything.

The network dropouts continue today, although it's better. I've only lost my VPN 3 times today, as compared to 20 or 30 times on Tuesday. So maybe they actually fixed something and just chose to tell me that they think it's my problem.

I wonder if there's some legal reason (i.e., not wanting to get sued) that causes them to not accept responsibility for anything.

I also wonder what other options I have for internet in Lexington. I also wonder why I'm paying so much for so little, but that's a question for another day.

Syndicated 2013-10-31 19:57:51 from Notes In The Margin

Google Hangout lessons learned

RDO just had our second Google Hangout On Air event, and it went much more smoothly the second time around, now that we have some idea of what you're doing. I wanted to share a few things while it's still fresh in my mind. Because of the way Google Hangouts work, there are several things that are not exactly intuitive, and you need to plan ahead for best results.

I don't have any illusion that I'm an expert, but hopefully these tips will help you be successful if you do your own hangout. I would appreciate your feedback and additional tips.

Attendee Limits and Hangout Tips

Hangouts have a 10 attendee limit. We found that out the hard way the first time. So your audience doesn't actually join the hangout. Instead, they watch a live stream on Youtube, where there's no limit. Don't invite people to the hangout unless they are actually going to be talking.

Camera switches on voice - that is, the person talking gets the camera. So if you're not presenting, mute your microphone so that it doesn't suddenly switch to a shot of you cleaning your ears when you happen to rustle a paper. Better yet, turn off your camera, too, when you're not presenting.

Test Ahead of Time

Presenting in a Google Hangout requires plugins, and the controls aren't immediately obvious. Create a test On Air event and have the presenter join and share their slides. It can be weird talking to your screen for an hour without seeing the audience, and it can be doubly flustering if things don't work quite how you thought they would. Give them the option of doing a full runthrough if they really want to, but at a minumum ensure that they can join the test hangout and get their slides shared, and that their microphone works well, there isn't a terrible echo in the room they're in, and so on.

Timezones Suck

Timezones suck. Use TimeAndDate.com to create a page that shows everyone the time in their own timezone, for example http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?iso=20131031T1600

Youtube Stream URL

The event that you've created in Google Plus, and the actual "On Air" event, are not connected to one another in any way. You need to create an event, and then put the URL of the On Air event in the description. Unfortunately, you can't schedule the On Air event ahead of time. So you create the On Air event (ie, Youtube stream) and then edit the description 20-30 minutes before you're scheduled to start.

Start the On Air event well in advance and share a window (LibreOffice Present?) with details about the hangout and when it will start. You can edit that bit off when you're done, so that it's not in the final video.

What I'm going to do next time is have placeholder page for the weeks leading up to the event. Then, the day of the event, create the On Air event and redirect that URL to the event. Of course, to do that, you'll need to have a server where you can redirect URLs, or a URL shortener that you can update, or something like that. Failing that, just update the Google Event when you have the Youtube URL, or perhaps publicize a blog post or forum post which you then update with that URL.

Q & A

Although the Hangout has a Q&A tool, that's only for people that are in the hangout. I'm still looking for a good Q&A tool, but for now we're using IRC. I recommend that you create a new IRC channel, rather than using your existing one. This removes the off-topic chatter, and makes it easier to have a transcript and an attendee list.

For the many people who are not comfortable with IRC, give them a web link, like https://webchat.freenode.net/?channels=rdohangout which takes them directly to the web chat applet.

Editing Video

Once the event is over, Youtube has a simple edit tool that will let you trim off the 30 minutes of dead air at the beginning of the recording. This takes a LONG time, so make sure it's done before you start publicizing the URL of the video.

Anything Else?

If you have any other tips, please share them with me. I want the third one to be even better than the second.

Syndicated 2013-10-31 18:03:11 from Notes In The Margin

Day One at LinuxCon

Although much of yesterday at LinuxCon was spent in a jet-lagged fog, it was a great first day. I arrived at the Edinburgh airport at 8 in the morning (I know, I should have come a day or two early!) and took the bus to downtown, then walked up to the conference venue. It's a lovely conference center located a short walk from numerous lovely pubs, bakeries, and shops.

I spent most of the day at the OpenStack booth, talking with people about what OpenStack is, as well as with people who have been using it for a long time and had deeper questions, or wanted to share what they're doing with it.

In the evening, I met up with several colleagues - one of whom I had talked with online but never met - for dinner and discussion. I'm frequently impressed by my coworkers and their passion to solve problems, rather than simply jockeying for position and prowess. These guys really want to identify and squash bugs, both technical and relational. I love it.

After a very long day (I was up for nearly 40 hours, I think - time zones confuse me) I finally crashed around 9pm and got 11 hours of sleep. I feel much more human today and am really looking forward to the day. I have a few interviews I have tentatively scheduled for today and tomorrow to record for the RDO blog. Hopefully I can track these folks down.

Syndicated 2013-10-22 08:42:41 from Notes In The Margin

Lies and Lobbying

Wishing that Facebook had filters by topic, so that I could avoid the relentless misinformation around the Affordable Care Act.

It's truly perplexing to me that folks feel the need to invent things about the bill in order to oppose it. If your reason for opposing the bill is "I don't trust the President", then say that. But please, please, please, if you're going to attempt to make claims about the bill, then read this first: http://mediamatters.org/research/2013/10/01/15-myths-the-media-should-ignore-during-obamaca/196181 ... And then don't make any of the claims that are debunked there.

Find something that you actually oppose in the bill, and talk about that. Better yet, talk about your frustration with the BILLIONS of dollars that the medical and insurance lobbying organizations are pouring into the effort to keep you misinformed, and your frustration with the people in Congress and in the media who are *actively* reinforcing the lies about death panels and other such nonsense, so that you will oppose a bill you've never read, and which apparently they haven't either. Or read one of the sites that explains what the bill says, like http://obamacarefacts.com/whatis-obamacare.php Yes, you could claim that that site is going to lie to you, but we know for a fact that the media is lying to you about it.

And if you still oppose the bill, GREAT, oppose it. But oppose the bill, not a mythical straw-man constructed out of half-lies and blatant lies. It just doesn't make sense, when so much information is so freely available.

Syndicated 2013-10-04 19:41:18 from Notes In The Margin

Mussolini On the Produce Aisle

This requires just a little explanation. This is about the awkward situation that arises when you encounter someone from a past, and, in this case, very unpleasant, chapter in your life, and the difficulty of making small talk. Everything serves to remind you of something from that time. Which got me to thinking - what if I were to encounter a dreadful historic figure at Kroger. Hitler? Too obvious. I know ...

Mussolini On the Produce Aisle

I saw Benito
- he's going by Beni now,
sort of a break from the past -
waiting for his swiss

You don't mention
death camps in the deli,
it just isn't done.

So I made small talk,
asked if he had been
hanging around Milan lately.
Realized, apologized for the faux pas,
made my excuses,
went to find the rigatoni.

Saw him again
looked at the zucchini,
trying to decide
or non-organic.

I complimented him on his
black shirt.
Again realized too late,

escaped to look for the
alfredo sauce.

I didn't realize he shopped her.
Might order pizza for dinner instead.

Syndicated 2013-09-29 23:47:19 from Notes In The Margin

Raspberry Pi, Day 1

I got another Raspberry Pi, for the express purpose of luring Z into being a bit more inquisitive about computer things - perhaps learn some programming. He's primarily a consumer when it comes to computers - games, videos, and so on - but he's *so* creative, it seems like he'd be a great hacker, given the right incentives.

I tried to make sure that it was instant success, but of course we ran into some hurdles. The install went smoothly, but it turns out that I don't actually have any wired mice any more, and the wireless ones just didn't work. So, over to see Jenn and borrow a mouse. Thanks Jenn.

We did the initial setup using the TV, because when I had tinkered a little before he came home, I wasn't able to get the HDMI output working immediately. After we got the OS installed, we unplugged everything and took it up to where the ancient Windows machine is, and plugged it into that monitor. Monitor worked immediately, but for some reason there were errors in the boot sequence, saying that USB wasn't loading.

We were out of time by then, and Z headed to bed, but I brought it downstairs and plugged it back into the TV, and everything booted fine.

So, tomorrow, we try again. Not sure what was going on, but I think we're pretty close.

Next steps - after successful boot - is to see what video editing stuff we can get running on there, since putting stuff on YouTube is Z's latest passion. We're trying to steer him towards content creation rather than content consumption, so video editing is a very good thing for him to get into.

Also of interest is Scratch, which comes with the Pi, and is an environment for learning to program. Apparently some of his friends are already using it, so perhaps that's a good place to start.

Syndicated 2013-09-25 01:51:46 (Updated 2013-09-25 01:51:47) from Notes In The Margin


Your title here...


At three in the morning
most cities look the same --
like the back of a taxi-driver's head
on the way to the airport.

He also takes me places I'll never see myself

A dive bar in Harlem,
where Dizzy Gillespie plays his horn
to a packed house

Or growing up in Somalia
one meal away from starvation
or enscription
or a lucky break in the new world,

Or the guy so Nigerian you can see Lagos
reflected in his eyes, who insists
he is American
and then shouts at the radio in Yoruba.

And Mr Patel, complete with Ganesha
swinging from the rear view
who asks me in a deep Georgian drawl
if I caught the Braves game last night.

And that dude in San Diego
who used to be a Java programmer before the bubble burst.
Now he sets his own hours and is home
when the kids get off the bus.

Most times, though,
at three in the morning,
we sit in silence, each of us thinking
of home.

Syndicated 2013-09-24 01:02:30 from Notes In The Margin

Standing up to jerks

This week there was yet another incident where a male presenter at a tech conference acted like a middle schooler and exhibited poor taste and lack of judgement. This shouldn't surprise anyone.

It should never surprise you to find a jerk in any community. Jerks are everywhere. What's important is how we - the non-jerks, and particularly the men - respond to the jerks.

I tweeted:

Do you have the guts to stand up and say something if you're in a talk that needs to be stopped? Someone needs to. http://t.co/dKep8taqNZ

— Rich Bowen (@rbowen) September 8, 2013

And I've been thinking about this quite a bit since then. What would I have done in that situation?

There's several options available to you. You can simply leave. You can be quiet about it, or be loud about it. You can stand up and speak about about it. You can ask the representatives of the conference in the room to step in and throw the bum off the stage.

Or, of course, you can do nothing, which is what most of us do most of the time.

Speaking out is hard. It's uncomfortable. It's deeply awkward. You'll look like an idiot. People will resent you. You'll have nasty things said about you online. It's much easier to sink back into your chair and let it happen - perhaps even participate in the nervous laughter around you.

But it only takes one person to stand up and say, no, this isn't on. This isn't how we do things in our community. You are on the outside, and you won't be allowed to paint us all with your brush.

Several years ago, I was attending a conference. As it happens, it's one of my favorite conferences. I've spoken there numerous times, and a lot of my friends attend. This particular time, my wife was attending with me.

We stepped into an elevator and another conference attendee was in the elevator wearing a tshirt depicting a woman pole dancing, with the text "I support single mothers".

I didn't say anything.

I think about that frequently. Why didn't I say anything? I'm a respected member of the community. My words carry weight there. I could have made a point that he was making people uncomfortable. That he was being disrespectful to the women in the community. That, since he was on the way up to his room, perhaps this was a good time to change his shirt. I could have used my privilege as a man, as a community elder, as a speaker at the conference, to right a small wrong.

But I didn't. And so I was complicit in the women that were made uncomfortable, or didn't come to the conference next year, because this guy thought his little joke was more important than someone's dignity.

He was the middle schooler, and I was the grownup in that situation. When my son misbehaves in public, it is my job to correct him and make sure it doesn't happen again. This is not to say that he's not responsible for his actions - he is - but I'm responsible for my response. The young man in the elevator was responsible for his tshirt. He chose to put it on. I presume he thought it was funny. It was my job to educate him, and I missed the opportunity.

And so we come back to you, and how you respond to indignities and injustices that happen around you. Did anyone in the audience stand up and protest? I don't hear them on the video. Was anyone even uncomfortable? Did anyone think that it was a problem?

If you're one of the elder statesmen who, like me, attend a lot of these events, and have a loud voice in the community, you have an obligation to stand up to this kind of thing, rather than sink into your seat and cringe. Stand up. Say for the whole room to hear, we don't do that kind of thing here. Risk being uncomfortable. Risk feeling awkward. Risk people being angry with you, or not understanding why you thought it was important to spoil a "harmless prank" or "just a bit of fun." Because it's not fun to the people who are being othered by this kind of behavior. And, in the long run (and the not-so-long), it is harmful to the future of our industry when we make it clear that women aren't welcome.

It's fine to be indignant after the fact when these things happen. It's important to support GirlsWhoCode and other organizations that encourage other marginalized groups in technology, but how you respond at the moment that indignity occurs defines what's ok the next time.

Stand up and say something.

Syndicated 2013-09-09 14:30:44 from Notes In The Margin

For the ones who married young

Various of our friends post articles now and then about the joys of marrying young and growing up together in harmony. The most recent of these was here, and is a beautiful story, full of sweet moments and good advice.

We are truly, deeply happy for our friends who had that experience.

There were times, of course, when we each, separately, assumed that they were lying, just as we were, in order to tell the story that everyone around them expected to hear. Twenty years on, it's both delightful and deeply humbling to see that they weren't - or that, even if they were, they managed to work through it and build happiness on top of the sad times.

But that's not our story. This one is for those of us who married young and watched it fall apart. Because you need to know that there’s more to your story than regret, and watching other people get lucky and find happy--hard, but happy--the first time around.

We both married young and unwise, and, although beautiful things came from those years (most obviously our beautiful, brilliant, talented older children), those decisions were terrible, terrible mistakes. Mistakes that could have been avoided, at least for one of us, if we'd listened to those same dear friends, and actually opened our eyes to the various red flags.

But, as we mentioned, we were young, and so very unwise.

Our mistakes are put squarely in front of us, every single day of our lives. This is true even though my now-wife and I have found in each other a best friend, and each day is better than the one before. Our mistakes influence decisions we make every single day. My mistakes have a profound effect on my wife, and hers on me.

And so when we see these articles encouraging people to jump in with both feet while they're young and unwise, naturally, we don't have the same teary-eyed response that others might have. Our teary-eyed response is for years and opportunities lost. It is for the pain that our kids go through every time they talk about their parents, every time someone asks what their mailing address is, every time someone invites them to a birthday party and they have to figure out which home they're in that weekend. For the confusion that our youngest has when her siblings go away for days at a time and she doesn't understand why, and the stab of anger and sadness and whatever-it-is when she asks why she doesn't get to have two houses, too.

Please, don't stop posting those articles, particularly if they are written as compassionately as the one mentioned above. The compassion for those of us who failed made that one readable. And the advice in the article was also relevant to those of us trying to make another go of it.

And please don't ever, ever hear us saying that if you are having a hard time of it, move on and you'll find someone better. We are, as the Bible puts it, "as one escaping through the flames." Neither of us recommends it to anyone. Every time someone comes to us, as the presumed expert, to ask our advice about whether they should leave their spouse, it breaks our hearts. We can identify with the pain, but it is a jump from one flame to another, and nobody can tell you which fire is worse.

Please also understand if we don't "like" or comment on posts about early marriage on Facebook, or share them with our friends. Even on the other side of our respective tragedies, the flames can still burn.

But as we said, our story does not end with us looking back over our shoulder at what was irretrievably lost.

If you share our brand of brokenness, you need to know (if you haven’t learned it already) that there’s more to it than regret. There’s opportunity for healing and redemption (with or without remarriage); to see the glory of a Thing Made Whole Again, and when the light shines through the pieces, it’s a breathtaking sight to behold, especially from the Inside.

Syndicated 2013-08-08 17:58:39 from Notes In The Margin

Vanilla Forums: Email subject lines

Problem: Vanilla Forums sends out email on new messages and when a message has been commented on. The subject line is:

[Forum Name] rbowen started a discussion


[Forum Name] rbowen commented on your bookmarked discussion

Because the actual forum post title is missing, the chance of someone actually responding is pretty low.

So, I want to modify the subject line. However, Vanilla doesn't provide a simple way to do this, so I'll have to hack on the code itself.

Seemed like a good idea to document this, since I see the question asked a few places, but no answers.


1) Track down where that subject line is created.

Looking for the various phrases, it appears that the subject lines are created in applications/vanilla/settings/structure.php, around line 180. Look for the comment:

// Insert some activity types

2) Where is the email sent?

After some digging, it appears that this is actually done in the EmailSubscribe plugin, which would have been more evident, I suppose, if I had been the one that set up the forum. Oh well.

The trouble is, however, that the subject line is created in applications/vanilla/settings/structure.php (around line 180) as part of the event logging, and so we may have to recreate the subject line ourselves, rather than using the one that's passed in.

Around line 79 of plugins/EMailSubscribe/default.php, you'll see:

$Email->Subject(sprintf(T('[%1$s] %2$s'), Gdn::Config('Garden.Title'), $ActivityHeadline)); and I think that's where I'm going to want to ctually set the subject line. If it's a new post, I want it to be POST_TITLE , whereas, if it's a reply to a post, I'll want to have it be: Re: POST_TITLE So, first pass is to just do this:

                        // $Email->Subject(sprintf(T('[%1$s] %2$s'), Gdn::Config('Garden.Title'), $ActivityHeadline));
                        $Email->Subject(sprintf(T('[%1$s] %2$s'), Gdn::Config('Garden.Title'), $DiscussionName));
But that leaves off the Re: for replies, so I need to figure out when it's a reply. I will defeat you, EMailSubscribe

Syndicated 2013-08-06 18:28:45 from Notes In The Margin

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