12 January 2018

DO NOT ALWAYS LISTEN TO GOOGLE MAPS

I love Google Maps.  Maybe Waze too, if I take the trouble to use it.  The Google universe is just too hard to resist.  I often wonder how we got around in the past without these GPS-enabled digital assistants.  However, there are times when you don't necessarily need to listen to Google Maps and such.

I recently had to be somewhere near Prospect Park, where there's a station for the Q train.  I live near the D train and can switch to the Q at the Coney Island terminal.  Alternatively, I can also catch the Q if I go the other way, but I'll have to go further for the transfer.  Google told me to go to Coney Island but I knew better.  It was early morning, like 5:30 AM or so.  There was hardly anyone going toward Coney Island but there were many people going to work, or whatever, toward Manhattan.  So I took a Manhattan-bound train and felt safer with many more people on the train.  Sure, it took longer to get to the Q later on but safety first.

Occasionally, I have the need to go from the area of Bayshore, NY to Kings Plaza Mall in Brooklyn.  The straightforward route is to take the Southern State Parkway to the Belt Parkway.  And fight traffic near Wantagh and Meadowbrook Parkways.  Normally I opt to take the Robert Moses Causeway to Ocean Parkway (the one on Jones Beach Island that runs parallel to the Southern State, not the tree-lined boulevard in Brooklyn that is the route of the NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon).  I still have to hit the Meadowbrook in the end but it is a lot more relaxing.  It adds some distance to the trip and may not save any time, even with the smooth ride, but for me it's worthwhile.

Similarly, I usually avoid the Belt Parkway section near the JFK Airport by taking 133rd Avenue.  Or use Avenue J to avoid a section of Flatlands Avenue.  Or a combination of northbound roads to avoid the Cross Island Parkway.

The town of Leonia, NJ recently appeared in the news for their attempt to control traffic that flood their neighborhood during rush hours because of people using Waze and such.  With the new local rule in effect, drivers can be fined $200 for using streets that are now available only to local residents.  Great solution for the town but it sucks to be those drivers going through.  In general, drivers and arseholes who don't yield to anyone, so there were reports of people not even able to get out of their driveway because of the constant flow of traffic.  In the ideal world, some combination of state and town traffic agents would help control traffic flow.  I am sure money is a problem, who will pay for what.  Whatever, now we have some local rules that effectively ban the alternative routes and drivers will just have to suffer on the highway.

06 January 2018

OUTLOOK RULE - ADDRESSED TO ME

I just sorta cleaned up my Apple iCloud mailbox.  Basically I sorted it by Unread then clicked the first item, scrolled down a bit to find the next bunch of unread messages, held down the Shift key and clicked one message, to select a big block of messages.  On the right window I had the option to set them all to Read status, just so I don't have to see the thousands of messages flagged as Unread.

For work I have a process to organize my Outlook mailbox that is a bit more elegant.  First I created, just one time of course, a folder named for me, let's call it Addressed To Blah.  Next I set up a rule that named where my name is in the To or Cc box.  The action is to move all such messages into the folder created above.  In the picture it's called Addressed To Blah.  When you work in a corporate environment, your name may be added to multiple distribution groups.  Some are really relevant to your job, others not so much.  At past jobs I wasted some time wading through all these emails to find the one that were assigned to me specifically, which usually means an answer is required or the issue at hand is really relevant to me.  I wish I can give credit to whoever came up with this rule, as I am sure I read it somewhere years ago.  With this rule in effect, the first thing in the morning I would first look at my own folder and take care of any issues that need my attention.



You can go one step further by setting this Addressed To Blah folder as the folder that's opened up when Outlook first starts.  The Options is under Advanced / Start Outlook in this folder .  This folder is already so useful, why bother even looking at the Inbox folder when Outlook first launches?  Put out any fires in your own folder first then go look at the other folders.  Chances are they are just noises, but as a responsible corporate employee, you want to at least know what's out there.



04 January 2018

PPTC RUN BROOKLYN

Running is supposed to be an inexpensive sports.  All you need is some set of clothes and a pair of sneakers, right?  Not so if you figure in all the races you register to run in.  If you live in Metro NYC and participate with the running community long enough, you may already know about NYCRuns' volunteer program, from which you earn credits for their races.  Relatively new is NYRR's volunteer program with their OpenRun.  Every ten times volunteering for OpenRun gets you into one of the lesser highly-demanded races for free.  I have to stress the OpenRun part because volunteering at NYRR regular races do not get you any free races.  At most you get guaranteed entry into one of their highly-desired races but you still have to pay.

One other way to kinda get free races is through the Prospect Park Track Club's Run Brooklyn program.  There are a few conditions to be met, like being a paying member of the club and running only Brooklyn races, but if you are the lucky person chosen for one of the money prize, it's worth a try.  Read more at

http://pptc.org/runbk/

I just updated the big list this evening.  If there are any Brooklyn races you know about but is not listed, please let me know.



03 January 2018

MY I.T. TOOLBOX, NOW AND BACK THEN

When I first started in the Information Technology business, MS-DOS was the standard interface.  Sure the Mac already came out but Microsoft was already the king of the hill and most businesses use DOS-based applications, clunky as they were.  The nice thing with working with MS-DOS was that I was able to walk around with a few floppy disks containing some tools of the trade.  I am sure I still have those disks in the attic somewhere, finding them is another story.  I wish I write this particular post sooner, as now my memory of those tools are vague.  For sure I know there was Norton Utilities.  Recall that this was the DOS era, command line stuff.  You can type some command (NU ?) to launch Norton Utilities with a quasi-graphical interface, kinda like two Windows Explorer window so you can copy things left to right or vice versa, among other things that at the time would take many kludgy commands to execute.  However, you can also type some two-characters commands to do a bunch of other wonderful things.  I think it was TS (text search?) to scan through the entire 20-megabyte hard drive (whoa!) to find a certain series of characters.  Some other commands allow changing the date of a file, something that couldn't be done before!  Outside of the Norton Util bundle I recall two other commands.  BAC from Byte Magazine (or was it PC Magazine?) lets me backup files from the hard drive to multiple floppy disks.  The program would pause to wait for a new, empty floppy disk when one is full.  The other was some kind of print screen command.  Maybe it was one of those Terminate-and-Stay-Resident thingy that lives in RAM and comes to the foreground when you press certain key sequences.  Sheesh, I really forgot much of this stuff, not that they are needed any more, just something from a simpler time.

The toolbox for my current work are mostly hardware.  Sure I have access to some network drives where there are certain scripts or utilities but I think of them separately.  As I go from sites to sites, or projects to projects, to setup new computers, printers, etc I find it very helpful to have the following items handy.

Wireless service is nice but when it comes to imaging of computers via pulling files over the network, a physical Ethernet cable is still needed.  From time to time, I would need to borrow some existing computer's network connection to do my work.  On more than one occasion, it was much easier to disconnect the cable from the lender computer, snap it to a Ethernet coupler, connect the other end of the coupler to the computer I need to build.  The alternative would be try to trace the cable back to some jack that may require moving tons of stuff.  Back when Internet access involved dial-up service over regular phone lines, I used to have a few couplers for telephone cables.  Same idea with Ethernet couplers.  I got mine from Micro Computers in Queens, NY on Kissena Boulevard but they can be bought in most stores catering to technicians, so I would rule out Best Buy and such, unless you go through their web site.

If I have my way, I wouldn't need to drive to my work sites.  All my work sites would be reachable by NYC subway, or maybe even by PATH trains, so I wouldn't have to deal with traffic jam, parking, and other drivers.  But the nice thing with driving is I can keep in the car a bunch of things that I might need for work.  Like network cables, VGA cables, DP-to-VGA adapter, power cables, printer USB cables, etc.  I even have a keyboard with a PS/2 connection.  There was a time when the computer image I used did not have the proper driver loaded and mouse or keyboard connected via USB wouldn't be recognized.  Luckily the computer had a PS/2 connection and I was able to make it work with the PS/2 keyboard I keep in the car.  Sometimes old technology works better than the new ones!

Last but not least, attached to the lanyard that holds my work ID I have a pair of screwdrivers, Philip and slot.  They are useful most of the times, but occasionally I need to use something like the Eclipse Enterprise 20-in-1 Telescoping Magnetic Screwdriver, http://www.microcenter.com/product/206265/20-in-1_Telescoping_Magnetic_Screwdriver .  Call me Inspector Gadget if you wish, but I like to be prepared.  There's only so much MacGyvering one can do, in real life anyway.

02 January 2018

HEY GOOGLE

This evening I just started watching the old Arnold Schwarzenegger mover The Running Man.  Funny thing is I noticed from the text scroll in the very beginning of the movie says the story happened in 2017.  Just last year, in real life!  We certainly had some weird political events last year but thankfully no reality TV show that features someone running for their life.  Not last year anyway but who knows what is coming out this year or the next.

Something else that I noticed was that in one scene upon returning to her apartment a woman spoke to the "computer" to have the lights turned on, coffee machine start brewing, and the TV set to a certain channel.  Hello, Alexa!  Or Siri, or Google!

A Google Home Mini recently invaded my home and I've played a bit with it. Back when Siri first came out, I still had some non-iPhone and sorta wished I had one.  When I actually owned an iPhone, I barely used Siri.  With Google Home, I already played around with these commands and questions:

  • Who let the dogs out?
  • Who shot J.R.?
  • Why is the sky blue?
  • Play music from the 1980s
  • Good morning
  • What is being played at United Artist Sheepshead Bay?
  • Open the pod bay door
  • Sing Happy Birthday
  • Sing Old MacDonald
  • Sing the United States National Anthem (no dice there, I would need to subscribe to some music service)
I like the gadget.  Sometimes I wish "she" would somehow know the question is silly and be wisecrack about it instead of giving the scientific answer.  It's a great speaker too.

01 January 2018

THIS WEEK IN CITYSTRIDES: BROOKLYN, NEW YORK AT 20%

Happy New Year!

I started the new year by volunteering for my track club's handicap race and pot luck party.  One aspect of the event is a storytelling session after the race, with anecdotes about the club's past and current members.  I especially like the story about them interacting with Fred Lebow - yes, the Fred Lebow of New York Road Runners Club fame.

The last week of the year I had a few time-off days to burn, it was a use-it-or-lose-it situation.  Everyday of the week was cold but I wanted to maintain my tiny lead for New York, NY* in CityStrides so everyday I was out there running a few miles to add nodes.  Every little bit helps and currently I'm at 20% completed for Brooklyn and 9% completed for New York, NY.  Deep down I know that, because CityStrides round off to the nearest integer, I don't really have 20% and 9% but more of 19.x% and 8.y%, but it looks better this way.

In case you wonder, CityStrides has a little gadget at the upper left corner used for rotating or tilting the map.  I used it to achieve the view below.  Brooklyn, NY's height is longer than its width so that in order to include its northernmost portion, the area below Newtown Creek, I would normally have to zoom out further.  However, by tilting the map along the Z-axis you can see further without zooming out further.




* New York, NY in the CityStrides sphere means New York City itself, comprising of the five boroughs: Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island.  It does not mean the New York, NY as used by the United States Postal Service, which means just Manhattan and nearby islands plus Marble Hill, which is physically part of the Bronx but was originally part of Manhattan Island.