I have purchased every consumer version of Windows, except Windows Me, since Windows 3.1. I have also purchased dozens of Office licenses, Server licenses and CALs. I will not buy another copy of Windows until the activation system is removed. Not another moment of my time will be wasted entering excessively long 100-digit activation keys into my telephone, only to have the key automatically rejected, then manually accepted after a few more minutes of inconvenience by someone on the phone. I have had enough.
I know how to pirate Windows. It is easy to find, and easy to do. A simple search on The Pirate Bay yields a torrent with 1,265 seeders for an activated Windows 7 Ultimate iso. It takes less time than to buy it, I don't have to deal with the broken Live login system, and the BitTorrent downloads are faster. I only know this because I had to download an ISO after one of my discs became unreadable, and Microsoft refused to replace it. Why can't I just enter my product key and download an updated ISO with slipstreamed service packs? Why do pirates have a better experience than customers? If I want to reinstall my system, or upgrade my hardware, or switch between bootcamp and virtual machines, I will. I am not calling to beg for permission any longer.
I put up with this broken activation system on Windows XP, where it was virtually impossible to not be forced to reinstall every couple of years, at the minimum. I've had to deal with this broken system too many times, and I will not any more. I will pirate the next version of Windows, and if I have to go through the hassle of pirating it to get a working copy, I will not be paying for it.
Why does Microsoft insist on making it harder for paying customers to use the product, than for pirates? Why alienate the people that actually pay for the software? Until this consumer hostile tomfoolery comes to an end, I am pirating Windows. Take the advice of Gabe Newell, and address the service problem that is causing piracy. Until that is done, I am not buying any more software.
Please do everyone a favor, and stop this. Piracy is not being prevented. No amount of legislation will remove piracy from the internet. Even if The Pirate Bay is shut down, there will be other ways. Pirates will just borrow the corporate edition from work, or download at link speed from Usenet. The only thing these activation schemes are doing, is inconveniencing those of us that pay for the product.
I hate clutter. I’ve been combatting it for the last year, and I’ve finally got it under control. Initially, I was using a Neatworks Document Scanner, then I signed up for a service called Shoeboxed in December.
The Shoeboxed service automatically scans and categorizes paper receipts, business cards, and documents that are sent to them through the mail. Pictures of receipts can also be uploaded directly from the Shoeboxed iPhone App, though I found that process somewhat cumbersome, and have only used it a couple of times.
I opted for the Classic plan, which includes 12”x9” prepaid, addressed envelopes, just like Netflix. The plan is a little pricey, at $30/month, but with the coupon code SAVE10 it can be had for $20/month, which I feel has been well worth it. With the classic service, Shoeboxed ships 2 envelopes initially, allowing you to always have one on hand. I contacted the Shoeboxed customer service right after I signed up, and they immediately shipped out two extra envelopes, so I’d have a set for both home and work. Customer service was fast and friendly, though I haven’t had any reason to contact them since that call.
The real benefit to a service like Shoeboxed is the transcription. I found that with the Neatworks scanner, I would scan and tag documents, but the receipts and business cards would still pile up on my desk. Receipts are hard to scan, they tend to crinkle in the document feeder, and require time and attention to catalog as well. The Shoeboxed service has generated hundreds of high quality scans, and perfect transcriptions. Everything is human cataloged, and it shows. Sometimes, but not always, they’ll even transcribe the handwritten notes I’ve left. This makes it quite convenient to record who you’ve been meeting with.
I estimate that the service saves me two to three hours of scanning and cataloging a month, which is well worth the twenty dollars. There is also the end-of-the-year benefit of having categorized, searchable receipts that are very easy to access.
Overall, the convenience is the greatest feature. I’ve got the envelope attached to my refrigerator with these Neodymium magnets, so whenever I walk through the door, I empty all the receipts from my pockets into the envelope, never to be seen again. Whenever new envelopes arrive, every couple of weeks, I replace the envelopes that I’m using, and so the cycle goes. Overall, given that I already had an excellent scanner, I was skeptical that I would see value in the service when I signed up. I was pleasantly surprised.
Try it, there’s a free trial. It’s one of those things you’ll kind of fall in love with, just like Netflix.
A little more than one year ago I purchased a 256GB Crucial SSD drive, the CT256M225, from Newegg for $639.
Setting the drive up initially was a snap. I installed Windows 7 on the drive, which automatically detected it and enabled TRIM support. Not really knowing much about SSD drives, I did some research into the optimal settings, and at every turn, found that Windows had automatically detected and enabled the correct setting. There was literally zero configuration required on my end.
Obviously, $639 at nearly $2.50/gigabyte is a rather steep price to pay, so my chief concern was reliability. After a year of 24-7 uptime and heavy usage seven days a week, logging 8,768 hours powered on and just 6 reboots, I can safely say that concerns about modern SSD reliability are unfounded. The excellent CrystalDiskInfo reports that the drive is still 67% healthy.
Everything I've learned about SSD's suggest that their failure modes are not catastrophic like spinning-disk drives, but that blocks will transition to read only. Given the time I've been running the drive, I suspect it will last another two years without serious issue. Economically, this means the drive will cost me just a bit over $200/year.
From a performance standpoint, transitioning to a SSD drive has yielded the single greatest performance improvement I've experienced for any hardware upgrade, ever. I think that the upgrade was worth every cent, and was happy with it immediately, though I was somewhat concerned that the drive would only last a year. Now knowing that it will almost certainly last three years, I feel that it was a bargain.
If you don't have a SSD yet, you should seriously consider one. I was looking to get a second CT256M225 for my development virtual machine, but found that it's since been discontinued. Fortunately, it's been replaced by the C300 series which sports 355MB/215MB read/write performance compared to the 250MB/200MB offered by the CT256M225, at a reduced price of about $475. That's $165 less than I paid a year ago, about $1.85/gigabyte. Crucial is also offering 128GB drives, and 64GB drives for about $240 and $140 respectively.
If this trend continues, in another year the price per gigabyte could be as low as $1.20, yielding a $300 256GB drive, or a 512GB drive for right around $600.
I've had a great experience running my entire system, operating system and software off the 256GB drive, with a 2TB spinning disk used for large file and virtual machine image storage. If you're budget constrained, I think it would be well worth the $140 to pick up a 64GB SSD for your operating system and critical applications. I think even this usage would provide substantial, noticeable performance improvements.
Cucumber with celerity running under capybara and celerity was erroring out with Java OutOfMemory exceptions. In looking to fix the problem, I also decided to look at how various jruby invocation switches would alter the performance.
First, to set your jruby invocation options, in your cucumber environment file, add the following:
require 'culerity' Culerity.jruby_invocation = 'jruby -J-Xmx2500m -J-Xms2500m -J-Xmn512m'
I recommend setting the Xmx and Xms options, the maximum and minimum Java heap sizes, to the same value, tailored to your environment. Xmn controls the generation size for the garbage collector. 20% or so of the total heap size seems to be the sweet spot, and allows the garbage collector to run effectively over this memory.
While increasing the java heap size temporarily alleviated the issue, it didn’t address it entirely, there seemed to be a memory leak. I started poking around, and found this commit, https://github.com/langalex/culerity/commit/5eb7d6e557f86acdeb865af2180629930629bd26, in the culerity repository. After some experimentation, I settled on adding the following to my environment file:
After do if page.driver.is_a?(Capybara::Driver::Culerity) page.driver.class.server.clear_proxies end end
clearproxies can be replaced without closebrowsers, but it impacts performance more than clear proxies and increases memory usage. The clear_proxies method frees the rjuby remote object proxies, which in turn allows the garbage collector to reclaim the memory that they occupy. This reduced my overall memory usage for the testing suite by over a gigabyte, and had a very minor runtime improvement. At the same time, I also tried both the –fast and the –server options on the rjuby invocation, and found that they didn’t seem to have any significant positive impact on either memory usage or runtime.
jruby -J-Xmx2500m -J-Xms2500m -J-Xmn512m Mem 1,066,412MB 19m28.724s with page.driver.class.server.clear_proxies Mem 2,111,728MB 19m54.007s without page.driver.class.server.clear_proxies Mem 1,549,804MB 23m10.708s with page.driver.class.server.close_browsers jruby -J-Xmx2500m -J-Xms2500m -J-Xmn512m --fast --server Mem 1,068,840MB 21m45.931s with page.driver.class.server.clear_proxies Mem 2,945,160MB 21m8.971s without page.driver.class.server.clear_proxies jruby -J-Xmx2500m -J-Xms2500m -J-Xmn512m --fast Mem 1,081,064MB 19m57.935s with page.driver.class.server.clear_proxies jruby -J-Xmx2500m -J-Xms2500m -J-Xmn512m --server Mem 1,089,388MB 20m14.662s with page.driver.class.server.clear_proxies
This wasn’t scientific, but it did stop cucumber from leaking so much memory.
I began experiencing an issue where Windows Home Server was not initiating automatic backups of my Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit Desktop. I believe that the issues were related to a UPS that was incorrectly reporting that the system was on battery power 100% of the time, even if the system was actually on utility power. To work around the problem, I setup a task in the Task Scheduler to manually initiate an automatic backup. The command to initiate a backup is:
"C:\Program Files\Windows Home Server\BackupEngine.exe" -a
You’ll need to launch the command from an elevated command prompt to get it to work. You can schedule it by opening the Task Scheduler, selecting “Create Basic task”, then following the prompts until you get to Program/Script. Here you enter “C:\Program Files\Windows Home Server\BackupEngine.exe” as the program, and -a as the arguments. Once you complete the remainder of the wizard, the properties for the task will open. From here, make sure “Run with highest privileges” is checked on the General Tab, and “Start the task only if the computer is on AC Power” is unchecked on the Conditions tab. You many also want to check “Run task as soon as possible after a scheduled start is missed” on the settings tab, which will ensure the task runs as soon as it can if there is a missed time.
This process will create a manual task that will initiate WHS automatic backups every day.
Walking around Disney World on a drizzly day, I noticed two employees walking around with large squeegees. My girlfriend and I got in a line, and I kept watching as we waited. Methodically, as if following a predefined course, they traveled from puddle to puddle, brushing pooling water collecting in areas with poor drainage away. I was almost elated to see this, as very few things annoy me as much as stepping into a shallow pool of water that’s just deep enough to coat the surface of a sandal with a slippery, slimy, bothersome coating. With about 65,000 employees involved in their operations, it’s not a significant bother for management to assign staff to clear standing water when it rains, which it tends to do with some regularity in Florida. Most people probably don’t care about such trivial things, but for some small percentage of people, myself included, that particular thing definitely matters. Disney is filled with small details and intricacies that separate the experience at their parks, from the experience anywhere else. Other companies in other industries do this, but Disney probably does it best. If you can perform a large number of little things that make groups of your customers happy, in aggregate you can have a profound effect on the perceived quality of your product or service.
What little things does your company do that create large impacts?
During a conversation about Bruce Feiler’s article describing his experience bribing the maître d’ at various New York restaurants for priority seating, the topic of bartender tipping and comp drinks came up. Less than a year ago, I was sitting in the office above a popular bar when I noticed some writing on a whiteboard, $12,376. I asked the owner what that signified, and he explained that was how much more the bar would have grossed the week before if every drink that went over the counter was paid for. Since then, I’ve been a little more interested in inventory control.
Founding Barhopolis, I have quite a bit of experience dealing with everyone associated in bar operations, from liquor reps to managers, bouncers to owners. Inventory control is the biggest problem faced by any bar. The next time you walk up to a bar, I encourage you to look up, and see if you can find the cameras. Almost every bar has them at this point, especially if they have had any problems with shrinkage, and they are almost always trained not on the crowd, but on the point-of-sale terminals. In fact, modern bar surveillance systems interoperate with the PoS controls to the point that a minute of video is recorded before and after each transaction, as well as PoS replay data, showing exactly what the bartender did before they rang in the transaction. If there is any suspicion that a bartender is stealing, they can watch the video indexed by transaction.
The reality of the situation is that free and discounted drinks are part of the rules of the game. Because shrinkage is essentially unpreventable, most bar owners and managers have taken proactive measures to get the most out of it. In my estimation at least 80% of bartenders are given a comp check every night. They can use this check however they wish, to buy people drinks, hook up the regulars, whatever they choose to do. In general, the checks are usually around $50, but I’ve seen as high as $200, and occasionally unlimited. The idea being that everything goes through the register, so there is at least accountability. Eliminating shrinkage all together is actually undesirable, as you tend to lose your regulars that way, and without regulars it’s harder to attract other people. Nobody wants to drink in an empty bar.
The comp check is often complemented by pricing set at the bartenders discretion. If you tip well, it’s likely that happy hour will never end. Almost universally, bartenders can ring whatever drinks they want through at happy hour pricing, any time of the day. Less commonly, employee discounts can be given at the discretion of the bartender. Between discounts and comp checks, the savings from tipping well can be substantial. For example, say one group of 4 people has three non-happy hour drinks at $5 a piece, for a check of $60. They tip $9, for a 15% tip, and a total of $69. A second group does the same thing, but the bartender takes $8 off his comp check to buy the group a round, and charges $2 for the same drinks, with 8 landing on their tab, comprising a $16 check. The group tips 50% of what the check would have been, $30, so they have a total bill of $46. It’s in the interest of the bartender to continue using his comp check and discount discretion on the second group.
The majority of inventory control problems actually stem from heavy pours, not from comped drinks. Knowing these rules, the easiest way to minimize your bill is to target specific bartenders and tip them heavily. Often, the bartender will test the waters by buying you a round. In this case, I would suggest tipping the bartender whatever the round would cost, plus whatever you usually tip. This shows the bartender that you aren’t going to waste his comp check. In general, I would suggest opening tabs with the same bartender a few times in as many weeks, tipping 30-50% each time, with the percentage going up the lower the bill is. It’s best to go in when the bar isn’t crowded, so you can befriend them, which has a host of other benefits. Nobody can get you into a full bar faster than a good bartender, bartenders usually have a pretty decent sense of humor and know tons of people, and can provide high-priority service. If you can play the game, you can enjoy superior service and substantial discounts.
I’ve been going to the gym regularly for the last seven years, so I thought I would take the time to share some of what I’ve learned in that time.
Why you Should Lift Weights
Besides the obvious benefits, better health, longer life, and better looks, weight lifting has a number of ancillary benefits. Primarily, lifting weights will make you more confident in yourself, which will in turn improve a number of areas of your life. Increased confidence absolutely helps in your sales process, whatever it is that you may be selling. If you are selling yourself to a potential mate, selling yourself to a potential client or hiring manager, or selling some product or service, increased confidence is outwardly apparent. It’s not something that can be faked, it must be built.
In addition to increased confidence, I’ve found that the physical activity that is inherent to weight lifting helps me think significantly better. I generally wait until I encounter a difficult problem in my work, then head to the gym. By the time I am done lifting, I’ve worked through the problem from several approaches, usually solved the initial problem, and worked through the next several issues that would have arisen if I sat at my desk and just tried to power through it. Evidence would suggest that this is caused by the increased blood flow to the brain, which brings me to the next benefit.
I’ve found that weight lifting gives me an energy and alertness spike equivalent to drinking two or three cups of coffee, without the jitters. If I’m feeling tired or irritable, I’ll go the the gym and after twenty minutes or so, I’ll feel much more lively. The extra energy is matched with reduced stress. I strongly believe that my workouts turn stress and tiredness into relaxed raw energy, it’s kind of unintuitive, but it works.
I also learn something while I lift weights. I signed up for a free Audible.com trial and ended up renewing because it’s the cheapest way to regularly get audiobooks. I get a lot from listening to books while working out because of the increased alertness, and I am a big fan of expanding my mind while I work on my body. In particular, the Freakonomics audio books are quite good as they are ready by the author, as is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.
Finally, it delivers a positive message about me to other people. I went to meet with a potential client, and when he recognized me from the gym, he remarked that he already knew that I was motivated and dedicated, and that those are the hardest attributes to gauge. Another client asks every time I see him if I still lift weights. We haven’t gone to the same gym in five years. It’s immediately obvious from outward appearance alone who puts in the time and effort necessary to take care of themselves.
How You Should Exercise
So you’re sold on weight lifting and are ready to put a little pride in your stride, a little strut in your stuff, but you don’t know where to get started. When I first started lifting weights, I had a number of preconceived notions about the whole thing that are well worth dispelling. The primary problem I had with it initially is that I was self-conscious about the amount of weight I was capable of lifting. I didn’t feel strong, and I didn’t want to be embarrassed. I didn’t want the bigger guys to look down on me. Now that I am capable of lifting heavier weights, I realize that these fears are unfounded. The only people I notice or care about are the guys that are doing more than I am. I don’t notice anyone else.
I was also under the impression that the people that routinely lift weights are stupid and unfriendly. Neither of these things are true. They knew much more than me about weight lifting, and often other things as well. In addition, the vast majority are willing to give free advice, and spot you if ask. The guys that have been at it a while know tons of information, and can be a great resource. Don’t start lifting weights in January though, there are a huge influx of people every year at this time that don’t know what they’re doing, and get in the way. They’re mostly all gone by February, so the people that have been around a while assume that these newcomers won’t stick around.
The most important thing as a beginning weight lifter is form. Focus on perfecting the technique, and everything else will follow. Every gym I’ve ever been in has been full of mirrors so you can easily observe your form, so take advantage of this. You can get videos of every lift you would ever want to do online, so you can check them out for an initial reference.
In general, I recommend a few basic things that seem to produce the best results. First, emphasize the lowering of the weights, the negative portion of the exercise. When bench pressing, this would be lowering the weight to your chest. When performing arm curls, this would be lowering the dumbbells from your shoulders to your hips. I try to take two full seconds to lower the weights. This helps strengthen the inverse muscle, your triceps for arm curls, and improves your overall control.
When the weight is fully lowered, explode. Give it all you’ve got. This will empathize the development of your fast twitch muscles. Having said that, never lock out (fully extend) any of your joints. You’re unlikely to hurt yourself locking out with the lighter weights that you’ll start with, but if you get in the habit of it early, you will hurt yourself when you move on to heavier weights. So explode, then purposefully slow down and stop the lift before you lock out.
I always recommend free weights over machines as free weights demand proper form. I feel that the machines can force you into improper positions, and can ultimately lead to injury. In addition, free weights limit your ability to overcompensate with one side of your body, so should result in more symmetric muscle growth.
I perform each lift the following number of times:
15 times at 45% of One-Rep Max 7 times at 60% of One-Rep Max 5 times at 75% of One-Rep Max 3 times at 85% of One-Rep Max 2 times at 90% of One-Rep Max
Your one-rep max is the maximum amount of weight that you can perform one full repetition with. This isn’t something I would suggest measuring, instead calculate it with the following formula:
weight / ( 1.0278 - ( 0.0278 * reps ))
To use the formula, you’ll want to pick a weight that you believe you’ll be able to lift between two and ten times. Lift the weight as many times as you can, then plug the weight and number of repetitions you were able to perform into the formula, and you’ll get your calculated one rep max. From there, calculate the weights you should be able to lift with the table. I usually round down to the nearest five pounds. For example, if you were able to lift 135lbs seven times, the formula would be 135 / ( 1.0278 - ( 0.0278 * 7 )), returning 162lbs. Multiply this by .45 and you’ll get 72.9lbs, suggesting that your first set of 15 repetitions should be performed at 70lbs.
The magic number for mental fatigue and physical growth seems to be 3 weeks, so I would recommend picking different lifts and recalculating your one-rep max every three weeks. I usually only lift weights three times a week, although I perform cardiovascular exercise every day. I always recommend changing what you’re doing at least every three weeks, it’s very easy to get bored and stop lifting all together if you don’t.
If you are just starting out, you should focus on a core set of exercises three times a week. I’d initially focus on the bench press, squats, arm curls, dead lifts, and shoulder presses. As you gain experience, you can add additional exercises, and focus on specific muscle groups for specific days. Just starting, you will gain muscle relatively quickly, so you should get the best initial results this way.
If you own a lawnmower and start it and run it every day, it’s never going to get stronger. Fortunately, you aren’t a lawnmower, if you lift weights and exercise every day you will get stronger. If you lift weights as I have described, you will achieve tangible results within 9 weeks.
I bought a 30" LG Monitor a bit ago, and out of the box the color was not very good. I was researching a fix when I came across the Pantone huey, a hardware-software combination that will calibrate the color of LCD screens. Since it was less than $60, I decided to buy it and try it out.
The installation process was very simple, after the software is installed, it walks you through the process. The Huey is positioned in front of your monitors, where it measures the light levels. After the light is measured, it's suction cupped to the monitor, where the software flashes different colors on the screen which are measured by the device. The process only took a couple of minutes, and on the LG monitor, the results were stunning, presumably because the color was so far off to begin with.
The device can measure light levels continuously and adjust the monitor colors as the ambient light levels change. I'm not currently using this feature, so I can't comment on it, but I would assume it works as well as the rest of the package. I also found out that there is a pro version available, and that the regular version can be upgraded to the pro version with a $39 software upgrade direct from Pantone. I intend to purchase the upgrade because the results are so good, and the upgrade will let me use the device with all my monitors at once, and will also automatically change the colors with the light levels on all four monitors. Very slick package and very slick presentation.
If you need accurate colors, or just want to maximize the attractiveness of your display, I would definitely recommend this product.
Years ago I had a serious problem with change piling up all over the place. I'd come home and empty my pockets and the change would stay wherever that happened to be. Eventually, I got tired of change being everywhere, so I bought a jar and started throwing change in there. The problem has been solved ever since.
I was walking through Office Depot a few weeks ago and saw the NeatDesk Scanner. I wasn't sure how well it actually worked, if it worked at all, so I went online and read some reviews. They were mixed, as is often the case with tech products, especially when those not-so-technically-inclined have difficulty figuring out how to use a product.
I decided to take a shot and buy the scanner, and I'm happy I did. I had about a years worth of receipts, mail, and business cards piled up on my desk, inches thick. I knew I was going to need somewhere to put all that stuff after I scanned it, so I also ordered a heavy duty cross-cut shredder, the Fellowes PS-79Ci Shredder. The shredder comes with some lubricant, but I also ordered a supply of Shredder Lubricant Sheets so I can keep the machine in good working order without much effort.
I was able to get everything scanned into the NeatWorks software and categorized in about a day. The scanner works very quickly, and can scan both sides of a page in either color or black and white. The really great part about the NeatDesk package is the software. The software automatically performs text recognition on scanned receipts, and is usually very accurate. This makes your scanned receipts searchable, and it also makes it very easily to categorize receipts and make notes for tax purposes. If you don't want to categorize a document right away, you can scan it and categorize it later. It will stay in your NeatWorks inbox waiting for you to place it in the appropriate folders. I usually scan stuff in as soon as it hits my desk, and categorize everything once a week or so, primarily because starting the categorization application is kind of slow.
The Fellowes Shredder is also quite good. It was able to rapidly destroy boxes of documents that I wanted to get rid of, and everything that was on my desk very quickly. It is on casters, so I keep it under my desk and roll it out only when I need it. There are two downsides to this unit. First, it has a very bright blue LCD that drives me nuts. I keep it off most of the time because of this, so it's not a big deal. It also has a poorly designed waste receptacle that tends to rip bags. Neither of these are deal-breakers as they can both be easily worked around, but they are both annoying. The lubricant sheets seemed to work well, and are very easy to use.
All said, I spent about $575 on this endeavor, and I couldn't be happier. My desk is clear of stuff today, and it's been clear for the last month. Presumably, it will continue to stay clear in the future. I know that clutter slows me down, so this upgrade should be well worth the money. If you're self employed and looking for a fast, easy way to stay organized, this is definitely a viable solution that I would recommend.