Thursday, September 30, 2004

Heading to Duluth

My father-in-law called last night and said he wanted to be put vinyl siding on his house this weekend. So tomorrow afternoon we are headed up to chilly Duluth.

I'm not kidding about the chilly Duluth part, the forecast for this weekend (in addition to wind and rain) is highs of around 50 degrees F.

We had one of the nicest Septembers on record this year, in fact it had more days over 80F then any other single month this summer. But alas, the house wasn't ready for siding then.

You may remember a week in July when you felt directionless and out-of-sorts. That was the week I went to Duluth to help rip off the old siding, plywood, and insulation.

This will be the conclusion to the summer-long project of siding my in-laws house. It will be nice for them to finally get siding back on the house.

I'll try to get some pictures.
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Video Game Prices

Did you see this article on CNN? Basically it is talking about how video game prices for new blockbuster games are expected to rise $5-10 (effectively 10-20% based on $50 selling prices).

Maybe I am just cheap, but $55-60 seems awfully steep for a new game. Especially if that game is only going to have 10 hours of gameplay (like some recent games).

I can't even justify the $50 prices common today. Certainly not when I have somewhere around 30 unplayed games in my stack (I roughly counted). Instead I would rather wait a while and pick up the greatest hits version for $15-20, or game of the year version with 2 included expansion packs for $30, or maybe just wait until it hits the bargain bin and pick it up for $5.

Even though the increased prices won't directly affect me, I'm worried that it will mean increases in the lower end game prices, when I tend to buy them.

In some ways the timing seems odd. Lately I've been seeing a lot more discounted games, and reading a lot of articles on how used games and bargain game sales are exploding. Then you look at something like ESPN NFL 2k5 and how well it sold at the (relatively) cheap price of $20. Why would you pick now to start jacking up prices?

Oh well, I'm certainly stocked up for a while, so there shouldn't be any pressing need to buy brand-new games, regardless of the price point.
Read the whole post.

Daily Music Update 9/30

What is this? - Yesterday's List - Legend

Green DayNimrod (13 tracks)
Green DayWarning (12 tracks)
Guns N' RosesAppetite for Destruction (12 tracks)
Guns N' RosesLive Era '87-'93-disc 1 (11 tracks)
Guns N' RosesLive Era '87-'93-disc 2 (11 tracks)

Read the whole post.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Video Games: Knights of the Old Republic

Its been a long while since I posted anything about the games I am playing lately.

After finishing as much of Soul Calibur 2 as I was going to easily be able to, I started playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. This game has been on my stack for a long time, and with the upcoming (at that time) Star Wars DVDs, I figured it would be a good time to try out the game.

For those who don't know, KOTOR (as it is abbreviated) is a role playing game set in the Star Wars universe. You play an up and coming jedi who has to save the universe (original, huh?).

Anyways the game is OK. Initially I was really digging it, and enjoying leveling up my guy and gaining new force powers. But after I finished the first couple planets things seemed to start dragging. Although I am still leveling up, the powers I gain are not really very interesting. They tend to just be improvements on powers I already have, instead of new powers. Also, I am playing as a light-side Jedi, so my powers are more of the 'heal people', or 'buff everyone's stats' variety. Rather then say 'shooting lightning bolts out of your fingertips' variety.

In retrospect I probably should have played a dark-side character, but that goes against my grain.

In some ways I think I fell prey to too-high expectations. KOTOR has raked in the awards over the couple years since it was released. On top of that, I was in a Star Wars sort of mood (looking forward to the DVDs and all), and Brenden really, really enjoyed the game. So as much as I tried not to think 'Best Game Evar' while starting it up, I couldn't help it.

So even though it is a good game, it just isn't grabbing me. I'm going to try to finish it (like I always do), but it may eventually go the way of Xenogears.
Read the whole post.

Daily Music Update 9/29

What is this? - Yesterday's List - Legend

Front Line AssemblyMillennium (9 tracks)
G-UnitBeg For Mercy (17 tracks)
GarbageGarbage (12 tracks)
Green DayDookie (14 tracks)
Green DayInsomniac (14 tracks)
Green DayNimrod (5 tracks)

Read the whole post.

Another Shocker

I was shocked, shocked I say, to see that a study found that half of all Viagra sold on the Internet is fake.

Next thing you know they will be finding that the enlargement drugs advertised in spam don't really enlarge anything.

Read the whole post.

Monster Cable Part 2

[ I posted this last night, but Blogger ate it, apparently ]

Bill pointed out that Monster Cable is paying a hefty sum to rename Candlestick Park "Monster Park".

There were two interesting things I noticed in the article:

First, Monster Cable only has 330 employees. That doesn't seem like very many for a company that sells their products in 12,000 retail stores (including Menard's).

Second, their corporate headquarters is 400,000 square feet. That is an insane 1,212 square feet per employee. What in the world are they doing with the the equivalent of a small house worth of space for each of their employees?!

On the other hand, how many employees does it take to say 'Hey, if we cover this banana plug in gold it probably will sound better'. Or to take $10 speaker cable and slap a $100 price sticker on it.

Regardless, Nolan Lee (Monster Cable founder) is probably pretty dang rich.
Read the whole post.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Daily Music Update 9/28

What is this? - Yesterday's List - Legend

Fatboy SlimBetter Living Through Chemistr (12 tracks)
Fatboy SlimLive on Brighton Beach (15 tracks)
Fatboy SlimYou've Come a Long Way, Baby (11 tracks)
Front Line AssemblyFLAvour of the Weak (8 tracks)
 Front Line AssemblyVigilante

Read the whole post.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Monster Trucks and Muscle-Tees

While we were heading to Old Chicago for dinner tonight, Linzy said:

When you get a big lift kit for your truck, are you required to start wearing only muscle-tees?

I was thinking perhaps you wouldn't be starting to wear only muscle-tees.

Regardless, the guy with a monster lift kit and huge fatty tires on his truck was indeed wearing a wife-beater.

So after a very scientific poll, I was forced to answer 'Yes'.
Read the whole post.

Crazy Motorcyclist

You might have read about the motorcyclist who got picked up doing 205mph in south-western Minnesota back in mid-September. Especially now that it has been picked up by the AP.

Anyways, now there is lots of debate about whether his bike could actually go that fast. Knowing nothing about motorcycle modifications, I can't say. But I did hear two interesting things about the incident back when it was originally on the news here:

1) Dude doesn't have a motorcycle endorsement on his license.
2) His dad is a Washington County Sheriff.

I thought that was pretty funny. I imagine Dad is getting some crap at work over his son driving without an endorsement, and setting new records for fastest speeding ticket in MN.
Read the whole post.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Fantasy Football: Injuries

I've been playing fantasy football for a long, long time now (since 1990 or 1991). I've had some pretty good teams, and I've had some real stinkers. One constant with my teams seems to be injuries decimating my team by the end of the season.

The very first year I played I drafted an AWESOME team. I remember we took a secret poll after the draft of how everyone rated the various teams, and I was picked across the board as having the best team (I think you weren't allowed to vote for your own team). So I went into my first-ever fantasy season with high hopes. Then my star first-round draft pick quarterback Randal Cunningham suffered a season-ending knee injury on like the second play of the first game. My team limped to a few more wins carried by Christian Akoia, but then he was injured or his productivity dropped severly, and my team ended up finishing towards the middle of the league.

Two years ago I had by-far the best team in the league through the first half of the season. Then players started dropping one by one, until by the end of the season I limped into the playoffs in second place (losing 4-5 straight at the end of the regular season I believe). I managed to claw my way into the finals, and was soundly trounced by the team that finished in first place (having won the last 4-5 straight at the end of the regular season).

Last year I had a decent team (not good enough to have delusions of grandeur, but it was decent enough), but I ended up finishing the season with only one player still on my roster who I had drafted. Nearly every other player got injured. It was insane.

This year I'm sorry to report is yet another year where my preseason hopes are being dashed thanks to injuries. I started the season with a pretty good team I thought, Tom Brady and Aaron Brooks as QBs, Torry Holt and Eric Moulds and Plaxico Burress as starting WRs, and Shawn Alexander, Edgerrin James and Brian Westbrook as starting RBs. Then the injuries started.

One of my backups was Lee Suggs, who suffered some sort of neck injury and hasn't stepped on the field yet this season. Then all last week I had to worry about starting Shawn Alexander because of the injury he suffered at the end of the previous game. This week it was Edgerrin James who I had to spend all week wondering 'is he going to play, or not'. The day-to-day injuries are the worst, as you can't really make any drastic moves and you have the danger of starting someone who rushes 3 times for 6 yards before being taken out of the game.

Last week I also lost my starting tight end Todd Heap to an ankle injury for 2-4 weeks. Coupled with Tom Brady and Eric Moulds being on bye week and Edgerrin James being questionable, I just barely fielded a full squad.

However that full squad included a receiver (Kevin Johnson) who was like my fourth string option, and as far as I can tell didn't catch a single pass in the game. Yep, that is a huge help.

If the past is any indication, this is only the beginning of the constant roster moves trying to cope with injuries to key players all season long.
Read the whole post.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Daily Music Update 9/25

What is this? - Yesterday's List - Legend

 DJ TiestoFix To Fax Meridian
 dj uridiusda forge megamix vol2
Dr. Dre2001 (22 tracks)
 DJ TiestoLive @ Innercity
Eminem8 Mile Soundtrack (3 tracks)
EminemThe Eminem Show (20 tracks)
EminemThe Marshall Mathers LP (18 tracks)
EminemThe Slim Shady LP (20 tracks)
EverclearSparkle and Fade (14 tracks)
 EvolverEvolver (wavestate intr mix)

Read the whole post.

Movies: Quick Reviews (Paycheck, Mystic River, Man on Fire)

We've been renting a few more movies over the last month or two, and I've been too lazy to write anything long about them. So here are quick reviews of some of the movies we watched lately:


I actually liked Paycheck, as did Linzy. It gets terrible reviews, but I thought it was decent. Yes, the plot had huge holes in it, and regrettably I can't even talk about them because doing so would give away one of the big mysteries in the movie. But if you just sit back and aren't too critical of the plausability of the film, it is sort of a fun ride.

Mystic River

Linzy and I both liked Mystic River. The acting is top-notch, as you would expect from a movie that had a nominee for best actor (Sean Penn) and best supporting actor (Tim Robbins), and best supporting actress (Marcia Gay Harden). The plot was a bit simplistic, but it was interesting. Overall I thought it was a really good movie.

Man on Fire

I thought Man on Fire was OK, but not spectacular. Linzy liked it a whole lot.

The movie was just as violent as you might expect from a film where the plot involves a man taking vengance on the crimelords who kidnapped the girl he was supposed to be protecting.

The acting was OK, Denzel Washington was good, as you would expect. Marc Anthony was suprisingly good as the father of the girl who was kidnapped. Dakota Fanning was very good as the little girl.

One interesting thing about the movie was the direction by Tony Scott, he did this interesting thing where words lingered on the screen. So like if there was an important point being made, it would get printed in a stylized form on the screen for a bit. The same was done with some of the subtitles of the spanish conversations when they were plot critical. It was interesting (although a bit hard to explain), I don't recall seeing anything quite like it before.

My issue with the movie was its length. They made no secret of the plot of the movie in trailers and the DVD box copy: Denzel is hired to protect a girl, he gets attached to her, she is kidnapped, he gets medieval on the kidnappers and everyone they have ever looked at. So then why is the movie 2 hours and 26 minutes long? The whole bonding section took a long time, before the girl is even kidnapped and we start the vengance part of the movie. So if you were watching for the violence and street justice, then you had to sit through an hour (or more) of 'cute' bonding. If you were watching for the 'girl's caring for bodyguard gets him out of his depression and self-centered behavior', then you got that but had to watch an hour and a half of said bodyguard doing horrible acts to the kidnappers.

I would have been happier if the movie was more like 2 hours long, and some of the background story was trimmed down. That would have picked up the pace a bit.

And it wasn't a bad movie by any means, it just was a little long for the amount of plot (IMHO).

Read the whole post.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Movies: Sky Captain

Yesterday evening, Dan, Tristan, Linzy and I went to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

It was pretty cool, and completely different then anything you would normally see in the theater (certainly different then your average summer blockbuster).

The whole 'look' of the film was extremely cool, and fit the movie perfectly. When I was watching it, I kept thinking of old serials (which was the desired effect I believe). In particular, Sky Captain kept evoking memories of watching Zombies of the Stratosphere on a family vacation long ago.

The special effects were top notch, which I guess is absolutely critical when you shoot the whole film on a soundstage in front of a blue-screen. There were very few moments when you could obviously say 'hey look they are standing in front of a blue-screen'.

The beginning of the movie was a bit slow, starting out with some horrid 'chase' scenes between Gweneth Paltrow and building-sized robots. Once Sky Captain made an appearance things started to pick up. By the end, the plot was moving along at quite a good pace.

I thought the acting was decent, the actors didn't have much to work with as far as character development. Then when you throw in the fact that there were no real sets, it had to be difficult to do the acting.

We got pretty lucky, our movie was shown in the giant auditorium at the theater we went to, and there were less then 12 people there. So we got our pick of seats, and a gargantuan screen to appreciate all the special effects and cool imagery.

Overall, I enjoyed it quite a bit, and would recommend seeing it.
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Daily Music Update 9/24

What is this? - Yesterday's List - Legend

Dirty VegasDays Go By
DivideBy0DivideByZero Central Mix 08.06.2001
Dixie ChicksFly (4 tracks)
DJ Shadow (2 tracks)
Dj TiestoLive at Aria Montreal (06-11-2004)

Read the whole post.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Tonight, Linzy, Dan and I are off to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. I'm kind of looking forward to it, which is usually a bad situation as the movie fails to live up to my expectations.

The problem is that the trailer looks cool, and I've read good things about it.

I'm sure I'll feel the need to post my opinion on it tomorrow. Until then, you'll have to amuse yourself with Solitaire 13 (Linzy's current obsession).
Read the whole post.

Daily Music Update 9/23

What is this? - Yesterday's List - Legend

Daft PunkHomework (8 tracks)
Daniel V.Live @ OODE VI
Danny TengaliaGlobal Underground 10 - Athens (11 tracks)
DanzigDanzig (10 tracks)
The DarknessPermission To Land (10 tracks)
Dirty VegasDays Go By

Read the whole post.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

More Crazy Rock Stars

I've posted before about how Metallica seems to have gone a bit crazy in recent years. However, they apparently don't haven't cornered the market on crazy rock star behavior.

I was reading this interview with Dave Mustaine about what he thinks of Metallica. Dave's been bitter for years over getting kicked out of the band years and years ago. For a while it seemed like maybe they were patching things up (there were rumors of a combined tour a while back). But then Metallica released their documentary, complete with the (supposedly) painful scenes of Dave meeting with Lars and having it out over their disagreements.

The story apparently goes that Dave didn't want them to show that part in the movie, but they did anyways. So now he's taken to ripping them in every interview he does.

You'd think that after selling millions of records with his own band he would be 'over' the whole getting fired and jipped out of co-song-writing credit on some songs. But apparently not.
Read the whole post.

Daily Music Update 9/22

What is this? - Yesterday's List - Legend

Creedence Clearwater RevivalChronicle The 20 Greatest Hits (13 tracks)
Crystal MethodVegas (10 tracks)
D12D12 World (21 tracks)
Daft PunkDiscovery (14 tracks)
Daft PunkHomework (9 tracks)

Read the whole post.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Principles? Who needs em?

My buddy Bill is willing to stick by his principles and refuse to give his hard-earned money to George Lucas for the Star Wars DVD set.

I, on the other hand am not willing to wait 4 months to be able to hear Han shout "You're all clear kid, now let's blow this thing and head home" in wonderful 5.1 enhanced surround sound.

So, despite my continued whining about how dissapointed I was that the DVDs were going to be the Special Editions, and that I would be buying Yet Another Copy of movies I already own, there I was today picking up a shiny new copy of the trilogy on DVD.

In case you were curious, here was the pricing breakdown at the places I checked:
Best Buy - $42.99
Target - $45.99
Wal-Mart - $38.87 (but only full-screen copies in stock)
Sears - $44.99

Originally I was going to wait a day and pick up the trilogy at another Walmart near work, that supposedly had widescreen copies in stock. However, while we were at Sears picking up the new snowblower, Linzy talked them into price matching Walmart. No ad required or anything, and then they even price matched 110% of the difference.

So Sears ended up being $38.26.

Its too bad she didn't wait 30 more seconds to buy the video, because I actually got a $5 off coupon because I had to wait more then 5 minutes for them to bring out the snowblower, so that would have made it really cheap. Regardless $38.26 seemed like a pretty good deal for the three movies plus bonus disc.

We even found time tonight to watch A New Hope, and it was quite good. The picture and sound is much improved, and the special edition crap didn't annoy me near as much as it did originally in the theaters. (I've never seen them since that one time, as I refused to buy the VHS tapes of the Special Edition. I leave that sort of fanboy behavior to Brenden. ;)

Anyways, the DVD was all that I expected it to be, and more.
Read the whole post.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Annoyances: Ads that don't list the price

You know what has been annoying me lately? Newspaper ads that don't have prices listed for 'hot items'.

Best Buy was the first one around here to do this regularly, but lately (say for the last 6 months) they have been doing it week after week. And now it seems like everyone is doing it, and a lot more items then just popular new DVDs. Heck, even Toys R' Us didn't list prices for some items in their ad this week. What is this world coming to?

The problem a consumer should have with this practice is obvious: its impossible to tell who is offering the lowest price on some identical product that everyone is going to be carrying. They don't even bother to tell you the MSRP price, so you know the ballpark of what you might have to spend for this item of wonder.

For example, if I had a friend who was thinking of being naughty and buying the Star Wars DVD trilogy, despite the fact that it is the Special Edition of the movies, how is he supposed to know what store to go to?

Maybe he just can't resist the lure of digitally remastered movies with new fancy 5.1 soundtracks (he might even have a fancy new receiver to take advantage of these improved sounds). Maybe he was planning on ignoring the butchering that Lucas did to the originals via the special editions. Maybe he was going to ignore further butchering Lucas is doing to the DVD release.

Normally this type of purchase is perfect for scanning the ads in the Sunday paper, finding the store with the lowest price or best bundle deal, and picking it up there. Instead our hypothetical friend would be reduced to wandering from store to store trying to find the lowest price. Thus squandering his $3 savings in wasted gas and time.

[ I should also mention that interviews like this with George "Trasher of my childhood memories" Lucas never fail to make me grit my teeth in anger. ]
Read the whole post.

Daily Music Update 9/20

What is this? - Yesterday's List - Legend

ColdplayA Rush of Blood to the Head
Collective SoulCollective Soul
Creedence Clearwater RevivalChronicle The 20 Greatest Hits

Read the whole post.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Como Park Conservatory

It was a beautiful day this afternoon (88 and sunny), so Linzy and I decided to go up to the Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul.

It was a bit hot inside the greenhouse, as I guess is to be expected given that it was pretty warm outside and the sun was beating down. But the flowers were nice, and we had fun walking around looking at everything.

I posted pictures here.
Read the whole post.

Como Park Conservatory Pictures

The Conservatory formerly know as the Como Park Conservatory (Now named the Marjorie McNeelly Conservatory).

A waterfall in the Japanese Garden that is part of the conservatory.

The pond in the center of the Japanese garden.

Linzy in the Japanese garden.

One of the wings of the conservatory.

A flower inside the conservatory.

Me in the 'Enchanted Garden', where they grow flowers which attract butterflies.

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Saturday, September 18, 2004

Further proof that...

Monster Cable is no longer synonymous with high end cabling:

Menards sells Monster Cable.

For those of you who don't know what Menard's is, it is a regional home improvement store like Home Depot or Lowe's. Except it competes on price, not quality. Think the Wal-mart of Home Improvement stores.

Read the whole post.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Movies: 50 First Dates

It's been a while since I last wrote about a movie I had seen recently. I have seen a few movies lately, but they weren't memorable enough to warrant a post of their own. At least when I had other things to write about.

But, given the current drought of material, I thought I would write something up about the movie we watched tonight: 50 First Dates.

For those of you are not aware, 50 First Dates is a comedy starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. The premise is that Drew Barrymore had a horrific car accident, and subsequently lost her ability to transfer short-term memories into long-term memories. So she wakes up each day not remembering anything after the day of her accident.

So Adam Sandler ends up having to try to woo her everyday, and hilarity ensues.

Or not.

It was a lot like Groundhog day, except not nearly as funny.

I used to like Adam Sandler movies, Happy Gilmore in particular, and Billy Madison wasn't too bad in that 'stupid humor' sort of way. However, once we started to get into his later movies that leaned more towards 'Romantic Comedy' then 'Sophomoric Humor', I started to lose interest.

50 First Dates wasn't terrible, but it was pretty bad, with very few laughs that didn't seem forced.

Linzy on the other hand liked it. She likes all of Adam Sandler's movies, and though this one was good as well.

So there you have it, one thumb up, one thumb down.
Read the whole post.

Daily Music Update 9/17

What is this? - Yesterday's List - Legend

Carl CoxLive at Orion Hall 02-29-2004
CartmanHis Views On Women
Central SevenMissing (DJ Mellow-D Radio Cut
Chemical BrothersCome With Us
The Chemical BrothersSurrender
Cherry Poppin' DaddiesZoot Suit Riot
ChingyHolidae In
Christopher LawrenceRush Hour [Extended Mix]
Clay WalkerThe Chain Of Love

Read the whole post.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Super Nerd

The lesson I learned the last two weeks is that it is a pain in the butt to go through a Now Playing list of songs and try to determine which albums had been listened to over a period of time.

I posted rough lists of albums twice (here and here) by hand before I decided that doing it manually wasn't going to cut it. I would invariably miss some albums, or get things out of order, and had no easy way to indicate what one-off songs I had also made it through.

So, last night and tonight I put together a really lame system to automate the process. So far, it goes like this:

The blogging plug-in for WMP updates the registry with the song title/artist/album information when a song is playing.

A perl script runs as a service (using srvany.exe from the Windows resource kit). It looks through the HKEY_USERS key to find a key that has the MediaPlayer/CurrentMetadata key. Then it monitors the author/album/title keys for changes every 20 seconds or so. When a new song starts playing, it dumps that information to a running log file.

Then I wrote another perl script to parse through the log file, find all the songs that were played during the day and organize them into albums/one-offs. Then it outputs the information to a html file that can be posted to blogger.

The result is this.

I'm happy that the system works, considering it only took me an hour or two to get it all working (and most of that was head scratching over HKEY_CURRENT_USER not working in a service, which makes sense in retrospect). It could certainly be improved, particularly if I wasn't so lazy and just wrote a plug-in for WMP that would write the log file directly (instead of going through the whole monitoring the registry mess). However, from what I can tell, checking the registry once every 20 seconds and sleeping the rest of the time takes pretty much no CPU time, so it is not as bad as you might think.

The only part that still needs to be completed is finishing my AutoPost program, to automatically upload the html output into a blog entry. Then I can just schedule that job (or run it before I leave for the day), and the day's MP3 progress will be logged automatically posted.

However, the AutoPost program is somewhat slower going then all the perl scripts. The problem is that the way I know how to post to blogger is by using the XML-RPC interface (Blogger API 1.0 as it is called). But this method doesn't allow you to title your posts, and I really would like the posts to have sensible titles (if nothing else so people can ignore them if they find it stupid).

So then I was going to work on adapting the sample C# client to my needs, except it doesn't work. Blogger gives me back an error saying I need to send a blogID along with the request.

Which would be fine (I already know how to get that information using XML-RPC), except that I don't see where in the WSDL that the blogID should be sent.

So for now I will have to post the entries by hand (which is a pain since it is difficult to paste HTML into the editor, and not have it screw up the formatting by changing line-breaks to <br>'s.

Anyways, back to the reason for this post. If you have comments on the whole daily music post, such as how it should be formatted, if the tracks should be listed differently, or even if you just want to say 'WTF are you doing, no one wants to see this information', please let me know. Well, ok, so maybe not that last one.

Read the whole post.

Daily Music Update - 9/16

What is this? - Yesterday's List - Legend

Blink 182Enema Of The State
BlocksterGrooveline (Matt Darey Remix)
Blue FishOne [Main Mix]
Blues TravelerFour
Bob Marleybob marley - red red wine
Lou BegaMambo No.5
BoomkatWasting My Time
Brad PaisleyWe Danced
BrainbugThe Age of Love
Brian McKnightBack At One
Brian Setzer OrchestraThe Dirty Boogie
Britney SpearsToxic
Brooks and DunnMy Maria
BtNamistai [Extended Mix]
Busta RhymesGet Out
Cardian Vs[1]. TagFirst Watch

Read the whole post.

Daily Music Update - Legend

The daily music list is posted in this format:

Artist     Album Name or Song Title

Entries in Bold are full albums, so the second column is the Album Name.

Entries in normal typeface are individual songs, so the second colum is the song name (or at least what the ID3 tag says the song name is).

Read the whole post.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Oracle 9i OCP

For completeness I thought I should that I was able to take my Oracle 9i Certified Professional exam today, after being foiled by the test center's computer problems yesterday.

The test was a bit harder then I thought it was going to be, probably owning to the fact that it has been so long since I took the class, and don't use half the crazy features....well, ever.

But regardless I battled through and passed with a 90% (the lowest score, by far, that I have gotten on any of the tests).

So I'm an OCP 9i DBA now. I'll try not to spend the big bonus all in one place.
Read the whole post.

Music in the key of A-Z

So as I wrote about here, last week I decided to listen to all my mp3s at work in alphabetical order. I made pretty good progress in the first week, through all the un-identified music and all the way up to Audioslave - I am the highway.

I should note that it doesn't appear the music is really in what I would call alphabetical order. Instead, it is in the order that Windows Media Player 10 shows it in when you click on 'All Music'. That order appears to be loosely alphabetical by artist name, then by album, and tracks in the order they appear on the cd.

The inscrutable part is the album ordering as, for example, Blink 182's albums go: Dude Ranch, Take Off Your Pants & Jacket, and then Enema of the State. Which is obviously not alphabetical, and not the order the albums were released, so we'll just call it 'magic WMP 10 order' or alphabetical for short.

Anyways, I thought it would be interesting to roughly track my progress through the collection in the blog. So I'll try to post what song I started and ended on each day or two, and possibly the other artists I listened to in between.

Between the beginning of the week to the end of the day today, I moved from:

Audioslave - I am the highway
Blink 182 - What's My Age Again

In between I hit:
The Avalanches
(DJ) Bad Boy Bill
Benny Bennassi
Billy Joel (2 CDs of greatest hits)
The first two Blink 182 CDs I mentioned earlier
A few other assorted songs (mostly of the techno/trance variety).
Read the whole post.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Check the Address

Many, many years ago, I took the 5 tests required to become an Oracle 8 Certified Professional. Then a bit afterwards I got around to taking the upgrade to 8i OCP.

I've been meaning to upgrade my certification to Oracle 9i for ages. I took the very first offering of the Oracle 9i New Features class, and so should have taken the test right afterwards. But at the time, the OCP 9i upgrade test was still in beta, and I didn't really feel like taking a 233 question test (or however many it is, the beta tests are way more then a normal test). It wasn't that I thought I wouldn't pass, just that it didn't really get me anything and I had plenty of other stuff to occupy my time.

Flash forward 3 years or so, and I decided for various reasons that I had procrastinated long enough and it was time to take the OCP 9i upgrade test. I work with 9i new features everyday, so I wasn't worried about passing the test, it is just a matter of getting it scheduled. So it happened that I bucked up and scheduled the test for this morning at 9am.

The test center where I have taken all 6 of my tests so far is only like 6 miles from work, and it is easy to find, being right by a former employer's building.

So this morning at about 8:30 I left the office to head over and take the test. About halfway to the car I realized I had forgotten my confirmation e-mail, but I figured 'who needs it'. It doesn't really have any useful information on it, other then your test time and where you are taking it.

So I drove over to Minnesota Education Center and pulled into the parking lot. I walked inside the building and turned to the left where the center is.....and there was a wall. No door, just a wall.

Now the reason for the dumpster in the parking lot becomes apparent. MN Education Center moved. And since I didn't bring my confirmation sheet with, I didn't have any idea where they moved to.

Nor did I have a cell phone with, to call anyone to check the address for me. And even if I did have a phone with, I didn't have any paper or a pen to write the new address down with.

I checked out a couple of the close-by buildings to make sure it wasn't just that they moved across the street, but couldn't find anything. By this time, it is like 8:55, and I am starting to get nervous.

So I drove all the way back to work, ran inside and looked at the e-mail confirmation. Yep, it has a completely different address. Still in Bloomington, and similar enough to make me think they hadn't moved when I was picking out the testing center, but far enough away (3 miles or so) that I would never have found it just driving around.

So I race back to the car, and head over to the new location. After a couple wrong turns because of highway overpasses, I found my way to the new building only 30 minutes late.

When I walk into the test center, there are 4 guys sitting in the lobby, which is weird. Normally there isn't anyone there except me.

Well, it turns out the test center's computers are down, so no one can take any tests.

After 15 minutes, the girl comes out and says 'well, I don't know when it is going to be fixed, so you have to reschedule'.

So that was that. An hour and 45 minutes wasted, along with two trips back and forth from work to various testing centers, and I still have to go back tomorrow to take the test.
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Monday, September 13, 2004

Windows Media Player 10

A month ago I ranted about Windows Media Player (9 at the time), and how it had lots of potential, but also had lots of things that were just not polished.

Shortly thereafter, Microsoft released WMP 10. I upgraded right away, hoping that it would address some of the annoyances with WMP9. After using it for a few weeks, I'm dissapointed to say that the most compelling reason to upgrade is the Energy Bliss visualization.

The biggest change (as far as IPod-less Steve is concerned) is ostensibly a more streamlined interface. Most of the interface changes are not really a big deal (things like moving the 'tab' buttons from the side to the top). But one change I do like is the inclusion of the 'Now Playing' list in the library tab. That makes it much easier to build a playlist on the fly.

However, my biggest gripe with Windows Media Player remains the cd-burning interface. In WMP9, I couldn't burn anything but data cds using Nero's fast burning plugin. I'm not sure why, but there didn't seem to be a way to burn just a regular audio cd. Amazingly enough, this has gotten worse in WMP10; I can't burn any type of cd.

It just complains that no cd-burner/dvd-burner could be found, and won't let me do anything. How lame is that? I can burn just fine in Nero and a million other programs, but WMP refuses to recognize it. I assume the problem is related to the fact that Windows XP won't let me burn cds in explorer either. For whatever reason the driver for a NEC-2500A must not be flagged as a cd burner.

This all came to a head last night when Linzy wanted to burn a couple audio cds, and couldn't understand why she had to hunt all over filesystems trying to find mp3s to burn in nero, when there was clearly a 'burn' tab in WMP. All things considered this is a perfectly reasonable expectation. Especially since the burning functionality looks like it would work perfectly on my work laptop. I can easily choose between audio and data cds, and burn whole playlists, dynmaic lists of songs, everything.

Why can't I do the same at home!

I should also mention that I don't have any sort of portable mp3 device, so a lot of the changes they added into WMP 10 to support device synchronization are completely useless to me.

[ Incidentally, I noticed that the ridiculous auto-playlist criteria for Duration is still a drop-down list of seconds: 30,60,120,180, 240, 300, 360. It sure is nice to be able to find all my songs that are exactly 240 seconds... ]
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Sunday, September 12, 2004

It's Finally Mine

After procrastinating for around 5 years, I finally got a real A/V Receiver today.

I picked up the Yamaha RX-V1400. It has all the inputs a boy could need, does component video and S-video upconversion, and has THX Select (not that I have the 7.1 speaker system to take advantage of it right now).

Oh, and the best part was that I ended up being able to get more then 30% off through the wonders of closeout pricing, and painful haggling with the Ultimate Electronics sales guys.

I haven't had time to play with it too much so far, as it took a long, long, long time to get dismantle the rats nest that I had made of the wires connected to the old stereo, and get them all re-hooked up to the new system.

Fear not for the Aiwa though, it will be pressed into service in the living room (paired with some old speakers of my dad's), where it can play the Zone 2 pre-amp outputs from the new Yamaha receiver. Should be cool.

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Some family pictures

My parents just got back from visiting my sister and her husband in New Hampshire. I wanted to post some of the pictures they took so Sarah and John could see them if they haven't already.

Tristan (the dog), Mom, Sarah, John on a hike in New Hampshire.

Mom and Sarah

Mom and Dad in Quebec.

[ As a side note, this was the first time I uploaded a bunch of pictures in one fell-swoop using the Hello || trick I mentioned the other day. It worked like a charm. ]
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Saturday, September 11, 2004

Only in Texas

Did you see this story on CNN?

High School football players and cheerleaders in Texas drinking? I'm shocked. Shocked, I say. You have to kind of wonder what the teacher thought was going on downstairs, while she slept upstairs.

Hadn't they seen Varsity Blues? Puke and Rally!
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Friday, September 10, 2004

Music in alphabetical order

Back when I was a freshman in college my friend and I decided that we should listen to our respective cd collections front-to-back in alphabetical order. Yes, we really did have that much free time on our hands.

You don't realize all the really bad cds you own until you listen to them all in order. Suddenly the 5 Pink Floyd albums that all seemed good when you got them, seem pretty repetitive when you listen to them back-to-back-to-back-to...well, you get the picture. And even worse are all the cds that you used to buy for just a couple of songs.

I did eventually make it through all 30 or so cds that I owned, although by the end there were a few cds that I 'listened to' from a room down the hall (we all lived in the dorms then).

For some reason, when I got to work on Tuesday morning and went to queue up some music to listen to while I programmed, Windows Media Player opened with 'all music' selected. I thought, 'what the heck', and queued the whole thing up.

So, 8 years later, the pain of 3 days straight of nothing but bad cds has dulled enough that I thought this would be a good idea.

Except now, instead of 30 cds, it is just under 263 hours of music (I've converted all my CDs to MP3s, and have a lot more CDs then I did back in college).

Although this seems like a lot, it seemed do-able at work. At home, where there is many, many more hours of music, and fewer hours to listen, it would be impossible. But at work, with the smaller amount of music, I figure it should only take around 2 months.

And actually, thus far it has been a pretty good experience. I've listened to cds I haven't heard in years, and at least at the beginning of the alphabet there seems to be good variety. I've made it through the mp3s with no artist information, and all the way into Audioslave.

The things I've listened to so far included a number of Bach concertos, some Mozart symphonys, random techno/trance songs, 2 311 cds, 50 Cent, 2 AC/DC cds, 4 Aerosmith cds, Alice in Chains, Andrew W.K, and a bunch of Alan Jackson songs that I mistakenly had copied to my laptop from Linzy's music collection. If I can make it through several hours of Alan Jackson, I figure I can make it through anything. :)

We'll see how my tune changes when I'm deep into the 31st hour of Oakenfold.
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Thursday, September 09, 2004

You know it's love when...

...Your dad is quoted as saying this, regarding his involvement with you, his brand new baby son:

"My wife is really wonderful about the situation," he said. "I spend a couple of hours a day in the morning and the evening helping take care of the baby, but my wife has gone out of her way to make sure that I'm able to do the things I want to do."

Because you certainly wouldn't include 'taking care of the baby' as something you would 'want to do'.

That somewhat sad quote is from John Carmack, the genius behind the engines from Doom 1-3, Quake 1-3, and a million other games that licensed his engines.

I've mentioned Carmack before: here, here, and here. He's pretty amazingly brilliant, and was one of the inspirations for my early programming.

These days it is sounding like he is getting bored with just writing the world's best game engines (which I guess I can understand after like 15 years, and millions and millions of dollars). Instead, he is more interested in building rocket ships (seriously).

It will be too bad when he finally retires from id.

However, regardless of his programming talent, he obviously isn't going to be a role-model for how to express your love for your kids.
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Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Multiple Photos in a single post

I stumbled across a post today saying how to get Hello to upload multiple pictures into a single blog post.

Ahh, that will be so much nicer then uploading all the pictures individually and then cutting and pasting them all into one entry, and then deleting the duplicates.

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The Weekend: The Brother-in-law

I mentioned a few days ago that the wedding we went to this weekend was clearly the wedding of a ‘not-so-close’ friend. This was readily made apparent by the fact that by far our most entertainment came from my brother-in-law.

Now my brother-in-law wasn’t invited to the wedding, despite the fact that he also knew the bride (in the same way Linzy did, since their Aunt lived right next door to the Bride’s Grandmother). I’m not sure why he wasn’t invited, but in the bride/groom’s defense, wedding invite lists can be tricky. Someone always gets left off.

Anyways, as far as I could tell my brother-in-law wasn’t exactly heartbroken at not being invited. Instead, he was having himself a two-day bender.

My brother-in-law lives at home with Linzy’s parents. So it was weird that no one knew where he was on Friday night, but not too surprising. When he didn’t end up coming home Friday night, and was MIA on Saturday, it was also not too out-of-the-ordinary.

What was surprising was running into him in the parking lot of the Lakeview Castle, where the reception was being held. He wasn’t crashing the party, it just happens to be one of his normal hangouts, but he was pretty ripped up. So much so that he was still wearing his golf shoes (as in, the ones with little spikes on the bottom) despite the fact that he hadn’t played golf since that morning.

He also divulged that he couldn’t exactly determine if he had pissed his pants the previous night, or just spilled a beer on them. Nonetheless, those pants were still part of the current drinking uniform (along with the golf shoes).

My brother-in-law also mentioned that at some point he decided he hated Kyle Busch, and so went ‘Kyle Busch sucks’, ripped his buddy’s brand new Kyle Busch hat off (his buddy’s head) and threw it out the window of the truck while they were headed down the freeway. Amazingly enough, the friend wasn’t as amused by this as everyone else who heard the story.

Later that night, after we had gotten dinner at the reception and ventured upstairs to the bar to talk to him, we got a bit more of the story.

My brother-in-law and his golfing buddies had been out partying the previous night. In one of those ‘makes sense at the time’ decisions, after an all-night binge they decided to go to the Lakeview Castle for breakfast. After they were somewhat insulting to the owner (who was coming to open the place up), they ended up not getting breakfast but instead drinking in the bar. Then they drank before, during and after golf, eventually ending up in back at the Castle just at the time the wedding was moving from the church to the reception hall. Wearing golf shoes and (hopefully) beer stained shorts.

Some extra amusement was had from the fact that Linzy’s parents were also present at the wedding and for the pre-reception parking lot conversation, so I’m sure they were quite thrilled with their son.

My brother-in-law ended up getting a ride home around 4am on Sunday, and spent pretty much the rest of the weekend sleeping on the couch.

Imagine that.

[ I feel like I should mention something, so you don't get the wrong idea: I like my brother-in-law. He is a good guy, and not a drunkard. I just through the two-day bender story was funny, particularly the golf shoes and questionable shorts ]
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Tuesday, September 07, 2004

AMD Radio Ads

I don't listen to commercial radio very much, at most during the ride to/from work, and most of the time I listen CDs or perhaps a little classical music/news on MPR. So please forgive me if this ad is old news.

I heard a new ad on the radio on the way home today, that struck me as quite funny. It was an ad for AMD processors, and it was supposedly an endorsement for AMD processors by a college student. However, before the ad started, they had a disclaimer that the ad's content had been 'sanitized' by the university.

So the kid would go 'Yeah, the AMD processor is so great. I am looking forward to getting back to school and downloading tons of ... from the Internet'. Where he was going to say 'movies/music/whatever', some other stilted voice would come on and go 'STUDY MATERIALS' (it deserves all caps because that was the way it was emphasized).

This continues for a while, with the kid extolling the virtues of the AMD processor for various non-school purposes, and the announcer saying instead school related things.

At one point the kid+announcer says 'With this new computer, I'll be able to hook up with the finest STUDY PARTNERS on all the cool Internet STUDY rooms'. Or something to that effect.

Now, I had nice computers in college, and oddly enough the fly honeys didn't flock to me because of it. But these days, who knows.

Anyways, the way it was put together was pretty funny. Regrettably, I can't find a link to the audio from the ad, so you'll have to take my word for it.

I checked on AMD's site, and on google (although admittedly I'm not quite sure what to search for, 'amd college advertisement' comes up with nada). You would think that AMD would want you to listen to their ads, and so would host them on their website.
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The Weekend: Church Construction

The wedding Linzy and I attended last Saturday was held at French River Lutheran, the church Linzy grew up going to, and where she was confirmed. It was not, however, the church we were married at, despite the fact that we were married in Duluth.

Linzy and I had a long engagement; we were engaged in the fall of 2001 and weren’t married until the summer of 2003. Since we wanted a summer wedding in Duluth, we had only two choices for wedding dates, the summer of 2002, or the summer of 2003. We chose 6/14/2003, because we didn’t want to be rushed in our planning.

The very first thing we arranged was to use French River Lutheran as our church. That solidified our wedding date, and off we went to plan the rest of the wedding. Almost a year later, during our trip to Duluth for Christmas 2002, we heard second-hand that French River Lutheran was going to start a 2-year construction project to expand the (rather small) church.

That came as a rather large surprise to us, since we had heard nothing of the sort. A few frantic phone calls later confirmed that the church was in fact going to be under construction, and even worse, it would be basically completely torn up in June of 2004. The first thing they were going to start working on was the entry way, leaving the church effectively un-useable (since there was only one entrance).

So, 6 months from our wedding date, we were now without a church, despite the fact that the church was the very first thing that had been arranged. The search for a new church probably deserves an entry of its own, for now it is sufficient to say that after about 4 weeks of extra stress and many, many phone calls, we were able to find another church that wasn’t already booked for our date.

Anyways, back to the point of this entry. Saturday was the first time we had been back to the church since they started construction (yes, yes, I know we have been naughty in our church attendance). It really looks nice.

The new entryway is much more open and airy. They also added a bit more seating to the worship area, although the new seating looked like it might be a bit view-obstructed. The construction is still in progress, but it was sufficiently done so that it didn’t really detract from wedding ceremony.

Considering it’s been almost two years since they originally announced the construction, and the church is still not complete, I’m really glad we didn’t try to hold the wedding ceremony at French River.

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Monday, September 06, 2004

The Weekend: Pictures

Framing the wall to the bathroom in Larry's house.

Larry getting the insulation 'just right', while his bum son-in-law just stands around taking pictures.

Missing wall? This isn't the wall you are looking for.

Linzy and Steve before the wedding.

Grandma and Tex talking at the reception.

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The Weekend: 50,000-foot overview

I started writing up something about our weekend on the laptop during our trip home from Duluth today. After writing up a couple entries, I realized that I should write up at least some sort of overview, before diving right into the self-centered stories.


We left for Duluth on Friday after Linzy finished work (4:30 pm). The drive north leaving that late in the day was like torture. It took us exactly 2 hours to reach North Branch, which is a mere 53 miles away. Yep, a staggering 26.5 miles per hour average speed. It was awesome. The strange thing is that the traffic was decidedly better then normal from the perspective that we never really hit ‘parking lot’ mode, but instead kept creeping along at mind-numbingly slow speeds. But the roads were backed up much, much farther north then they normally are. So instead of getting out of the traffic at 694, we were in heavy, slow traffic until almost North Branch. We also had to stop in Moose Lake to drop off some things for Linzy’s Aunt’s garage sale, so we didn’t arrive at Linzy’s parents place until 9:10 pm. For those non-mathletes out there, that is 4 hours and 40 minutes for a trip that normally takes somewhere less then 3 hours.


On Saturday, Linzy headed into town with her Mom (who was going to work). That left Larry and me at home, and I talked him into doing some more work on his re-siding-the-house project.

There hasn’t been much visible progress made since I was up there a month-and-a-half ago. Larry did finish caulking all the plywood joints, and they tossed the shower into the bathroom (that is, not actually installed the shower, but just placed the shower into the room). Otherwise, Larry said it had been raining on the weekends, which was preventing him from doing much.

Anyways, all we got accomplished on Saturday before the wedding was framing up the exterior wall that we ripped out in the process of removing the cast-iron tub from the bathroom, and re-attaching the plywood.

That afternoon we went to the wedding, which was nice, but clearly the wedding of a not-so-close friend. I’m sure everyone has been to one of those wedding, where you don’t know anyone else there. Or at least not well enough to integrate yourself in the circles of closer friends of the bride and groom.

The reception was held at the Lakeview Castle (where our reception was too), and was pretty fancy. They had the room set for 400, and in talking with one of the servers; they thought about 360 people showed. And boy did the drinkers represent. At one point, very early in the night, Linzy and I went up to get some beer. Nope, they were temporarily out while the staff got permission to tap a third keg. We just barely polished off two kegs at my wedding, with the second keg getting fried after midnight or so. Granted we had less people, but some of my college buddies can certainly put away the booze. At this wedding, the second keg was already gone by like 7:30pm. More kegs were tapped soon after, and I have no idea how many they went through, or what the bar tab was.

We didn’t stay too late, not knowing anyone there; by about 10:00 or so we had had enough.


On Sunday it rained pretty much all day. That prevented me from making Larry work on the house anymore, since our next step was supposed to be wrapping the house in Typar. So instead Linzy and I spent most of the afternoon looking all over Duluth at snow blowers. They had what looked like a good deal on one at Sears, but we had to check out the alternatives. In the end I decided that they were all just too big to fit comfortably in the garage, and that I just wanted to get a single-stage smaller snow blower. That should be sufficient for most of the snowstorms we get here, and will be much easier to store in the garage then a two-stage snow thrower. Since we ended up not deciding on anything, it was pretty much a waste of an afternoon.

The rest of the day was spent watching my three most hated sports on TV: Golf, Nascar, and college football (when teams I don’t know anything about, or care about are playing). It was a bust of a weekend for watching sports on TV, as the previous night I was even denied being able to watch the Gophers absolutely beating Toledo down. Even though the game was being played late Saturday night, none of the 4 stations in Duluth were carrying the game.

That pretty much covers the basics of the weekend, I have a few other stories to tell, but I haven’t finished writing them up yet. To be continued…

[ Incidentally, I am not sure what the best format to post these multi-day overviews is. In the past, I’ve broken them apart by day into separate posts. I thought the shorter posts were a little more manageable to read. If you like that better then one mega-post, let me know in the comments. ]

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Friday, September 03, 2004

Heading to Duluth

This weekend Linzy and I are headed to Duluth again. This time it's for a wedding; people just love to schedule them on holiday weekends.

For the past few years, it seemed like every other weekend during the summer we were headed to a wedding. This summer, we only have one. I guess that's part of getting older.

Soon I'll be complaining about my knee during weather changes, and remembering how I used to have to walk 3-miles uphill to school, barefoot.

That will be fun reading, won't it.
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Thursday, September 02, 2004

We've up'd our standards...

...So up yours.

I was flipping through channels last night, and happened on a promo for VH1's Bands Reunited - New Kids on the Block. Immediately following the promo, they displayed the sponsor's logo:

Bank of America - Higher Standards

I thought to myself: "Umm, not really, if you are doing your advertising through a New Kids on the Block reunion show".
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Microsoft Executive, or Alien?

Am I the only one who thinks Jim Allchin looks like an alien?

I think it is the black eyes that do it. The still is from the video on where Jim is talking about the changes they are making to the Longhorn roadmap (releasing Avalon on Windows XP, cutting WinFS, etc).

In his defense, he looks less extra-terrestrial on his Microsoft Bio page. Must be from the shaky cam they shot that video on.
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Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Current File Metadata, who needs it?

It's been a while since I complained about something not working correctly in Windows 2003.

Normally, when files are written to, you would expect the last modified time in the filesystem to be updated.

Like for example when Oracle does a checkpoint, or log switch it goes out and updates the header of every datafile to indicate the SCN and other information.

So, if you are forcing log switches on a regular basis, the dates of your database files should be more or less up to date (at least to the last log switch).

The other day, one of the sanity checks I have in our backup scripts started complaining that all the database files were too old to be from the right backup. Manually inspecting the files in explorer showed last modified times that were days out of date. But not all the files, and not all the old files had the same last modified times.

This (non-updating last modified times) has always been the case with Oracle tempfiles, but this was the first time we had seen anything like it on a real datafile.

After a bunch of investigation and testing (and some panicked thinking along the lines of 'what if the writes aren't really happening, but Oracle is not getting an error back), it appears that Oracle 9i and newer on Windows 2003 updates the files in some way that isn't reflected in the last modified time. All versions on Windows NT and Windows 2000 updated the file times, as does Oracle 8i on Windows 2003.

So it looks like with 9i and 10g, Oracle writes to the files in some way that doesn't update the filesystem. And then in some situation it is doing something that causes the time to get updated (closing the file, perhaps?)

I'm sure all this is a good optimization from a performance perspective, since it eliminates the work necessary to maintain the last modified times. But it's pretty scary when you can't tell by the dates on your backup files that they were all copied at the same time.
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