30 November 2005

Family Historian

A few days ago, I resumed maintaining my extended family tree. I mentioned "extended" because I would not be content with just knowing about my own immediate family and the wife's. What would be the fun there? On my PDA, I use the MyRoots application and the number of people is hovering around 400. Sure many of them I don't even have their names, just a placeholder and a reference to someone else, like Nguyen Teo's mother. FYI, Nguyen is a very popular Vietnamese last name. The PDA is very handy for collecting data, like the time when my mother said, durig a normal conversation in a car trip, that so and so uncle didn't really father his first daughter... On the PowerBook, I have MacFamilyTree. While I probably can export the database from the PDA and import the info into the PBook, I think that's too much info right now. I try to approach slowly on the PBook and build up the tree with more concrete data and photos. My elder brother remember names very well and I've enlisted his help in identifying people on my mother's side. Then there's the task of acquiring photos to go with the name. iPhoto helps tremendously, but with most of my relatives in Vietname and elsewhere I have to use other resources. For the older people, I'll raid my mother's photo albums - she got some really nice photos going way back. For pictures of cousins and such, today I dugged up a VCD we received back in the year 2000 about a cousin's wedding banquet. I'll try doing screen capture to get some of the faces - they probably won't be very high quality, but it's a start.

In the beginning, I used Reunion 8, but its lack of support for Unicode data entry drove me to reaching out to MacFamilyTree (MFT). With most of my relatives and family members having either Chinese or Vietnamese names, or both, MFT really shines. Another plus with MFT is that when it list people in a family, it sorts them by age, not by the internal codes that indicates when someone was added to the tree. For example, if I add my elder brother after me, listing the tree with MFT still shows me after him, but with Reunion, I would appear before him, which is confusing.

14 November 2005

Dude, Where's My Car's Antenna?

About this time last week, minus an hour or two, I went to pick up my car, which was parked about five blocks away near a public park and a high school. That morning it was alternate parking day and I didn't find a space on my block so I had to park far away from my house. I made a round of the minivan and didn't notice anything amiss - no broken windows, punctured tires, etc. Driving away, I turned on the car radio and got only statics but thought, "Well, I'm right under the elevated subway line, maybe it blocked off the reception." Nothing much to it, I turned the radio off, and went on my way. Wednesday morning I noticed my car antenna was gone. It was one of those that screws on and off easily. That thing sure wasn't made for city-dwellers. Oh well, I have had the car for more than seven years now, it's time the antenna got stolen. I suspect it's probably gotten screwed off by some high school kids passing by. They probably played it like a fencing sword then threw it away afterward. Great fun, guys, except it cost me nine bucks to replace it. Interestingly, at my local Strauss auto dealer, there was only one car antenna left on the rack. Maybe there's a wave of car antenna theft going on in my neighborhood?

Since getting the new antenna a few days ago, I keep it inside the car after parking. Not too long ago, at the height of the jump in gas price, I had to dole out ~$20 for a lock for the gas tank. I don't know if these things normally cost that much, but they were in high demand, as my first call to Strauss didn't have them. I had to call back a few days later to find out they were available. I wasn't worried about losing a few gallons - sure it hurts, at $3.00+ per gallon - but it would be a tremendous pain if the gas thief drains out my tank, leaving my car immobile. To add insult to injury, my 7-year-old Club lock for the steering wheel also decided not to work nice any more. One time it took about ten minutes to unlock it. Too much hassle, I doled out another $40 or so for a new Club.

The worst car vandalism inflicted on my poor Plymouth Voyager was a few days after Halloween last year. I came home and on passing it on the other side of the street, for some reason I was aware of some shiny black fragments on the street. They turned out to be fragments of my minivan's middle window. Upon further inspection, the damage was worse than that - both middle windows were smashed. Glass fragments were everywhere. Even to these days, whenever I do some cleaning I still find a fragment or two. I guess the thief was upset that he was able to find too few coins to make the break-in worthwhile. It cost me some $300 to have the windows replaced. I called the local police precinct right on the spot but the phone rang for a long time with no answer. Another crime stat went unreported.

Incidents like these make me wish I live in one of those New Jersey towns where I can live my front door unlocked and children can play in the community driveway without the parents worrying about them being kidnapped. New York City is just too crowded these days. After 25 years, I think I've had enough. Either that, or I get a new house with a garage before I get a new car.

08 November 2005

Bad Citizen

So New York City will have Mike Bloomberg for Mayor for another four years. I cast a vote for him, without doing much research. I vaguely recall reading about Bloomberg being credited for the drop in crime, better control of public school, and revitalization of the economy. But I didn't do any thorough research on the candidates. I just voted because of some literature that came in the mail, maybe a newspaper article somewhere, but not from anything thorough. I feel ashame of my apolitical way of life. Some people I know are fervent about their political party; me, I can only be enthusiastic about Mac computing and the environment. I'm a registered Republican, probably because my eldest registered us that way way back when, but given the Republic Party's take on the environment, I should be with the Democrats. But then there are those other issues such as abortion, capital punishment, gay rights, etc. It gets a lot more complicated. With the platform war, I can tell from experience how painless Mac computing is, even if it means there are certain programs or web sites that wouldn't work with the Mac. End of story. With politics, it's always so complicated. Both sides would try to shoot each other down, once in a while we have some scandals, nobody would talk straight... Nevertheless, I will make a greater effort to be more educated about the candidates to mae a more informed decision. If people in Iraq dodge bullets and bombs to make it to the poll, I can at least be a more educated voter.

03 November 2005

Amiga Forever

So I got hooked on NotesBuddy, one main reason being the ability to use animation. I had a renewed interest in animgif and soon found myself launching Amiga Forever software on my ancient desktop PC. Amiga Forever is a software emulating the Amiga OS. With Amiga Forever, one can run software designed for the Amiga computer. But what is an Amiga computer?

Back in 1985, when the Mac was still running on black & white screens and Windows 3.1 was the OS of choice for the corporate world, the Amiga computer came out with a color display, multitasking, a GUI & Unixish command line interface, and more. Following a friend's advice, I got an Amiga 1000 (A1000) and had many hours of fun and learning, exploring various aspects of computing. I went on with an A2000, then an A3000, even one with a Video Toaster 2.0, but eventually mismanagement took the Amiga computer's life. I even helped run the local Amiga users group by serving in various positions. In the end, with the advent of the Internet and newer technologies, it was simply too expensive to upgrade the ancient Amiga. I still have the A3000 with the Video Toaster housed in its own external case (Toaster Cozzy), but the computer is not even plugged in.

I do have Amiga Forever the emulation software installed on an old PC. I only have one useful program on it - PersonalPaint. PPaint is basically a bitmap paint program, sort of like Photoshop. The one thing I use PPaint for is to generate animgif of words. The Amiga has the special capability of using animated fonts, or animfont. PPaint's included ARexx script makes generating animated text a snap. Just type in a word and click a few buttons, and you have yourself a very fancy word animating to life. By default, the animation is not in animgif but thankfully there's another ARexx script to handle the conversion. During the conversion, you get the chance to set the delay time for each plus other configurations. The included animfont for PPaint, Bullion, is not enough so some time ago I doled out $70 or so to get the The Kara Collection - a collection of color patterned fonts, animfonts, etc.

Shown in this blog entry are some co-workers' names made with Personal Paint on Amiga Forever, using the Bullion animfont. I'll send them to my co-workers via NotesBuddy. I would love to make custom animgif instead of using those found on the web, but the task takes time, so for now, I'll be content with animgif of names. I will make more animgif with other animation styles and animfonts. If you want a word made, drop me a note!

01 November 2005

KiXtart 2010

Up until recently, my use of KiXtart against NT accounts had been limited to extracting info using GetObject(). Two weeks ago the need to be able to update the profile path for several accounts arose. I already had a batch file that relies on the NET USER command so it is limited to PCs on a certain domain, which shall be called M3. Most of our PCs are not members of the M3 domain so the script isn't widely usable. I knew about SetInfo() but was afraid to try it , not to mention that the chance never came up. Came up it finally did and I was able to put SetInfo() through its pace. I had a new script ready for this past Friday's migration of some 200+ home folders and 400+ profile folders. (In case you wonder why the discrepancy, my counterpart in the deletion department do a horrible job of keeping the data server clean. With every migration I always discover dead folders that should be deleted long ago but instead sit around eating up precious server space.) It turned out the folders belong to users on two different domains, M2 and M3, and together there were about 400 accounts to update to point their profile paths to the new server. No problem!

This week, I started to use KiXtart 2010, aka KiXtart 4.50. I've been using KiX 3.x and its lack of a SUBSTR command finally got the better of me. I love manipulating strings with LEFT(), RIGHT(), etc, and the lack of SUBSTR in 3.x finally became unbearble. Why write a User-Defined Function (UDF) if the function is already included?