May 292008

Mom's 20" iMac arrived yesterday at around 5:15pm. Both of us were as giddy as little kids on Christmas; practically literally bouncing up and down at the front door waiting for the (cute!) FedEx guy to show up. Scheduled delivery was supposed to be by 4:30, but because he had to deliver to Grosse Ile first, he was delayed. We set the box aside and relaxed, trying to finish the Panera salads I'd picked up. I scarfed mine down, while Mom gave up and took hers upstairs to the sewing room where we set it up.

There wasn't a whole lot in the box, and everything was packed tightly and efficiently: iMac, power cord, keyboard, mouse, two small booklets (Everything Mac and Everything Else), two backup DVDs, and a mouse-cleaning cloth. Setup was incredibly easy: I put the iMac on the desk, plugged in the power, ethernet, printer, and keyboard cords, then plugged the mouse cord into the keyboard. Done.

I parked Mom in front of it for The Great On-Turning and she fired it up. After the short but pretty "Welcome to Leopard" intro movie, Mom entered her Apple ID and personal information, registered for her free 60-day trial of .Mac (no credit card required, so you don't get billed automatically when the trial is up), then used the built-in camera to take her picture for her account photo, after multiple posing attempts.

She was so nervous about breaking anything or doing something wrong that every time I stopped her to suggest or explain something, she jumped. It was cute, but I felt kinda bad for scaring her. I kept reassuring her she couldn't hurt anything, and she eventually relaxed. I activated the right mouse button, which was off by default, then walked her through the basics of getting around in the OS: how the Dock works; that the menu bar for programs is always at the top of the desktop, and changes to reflect whichever program is active at the moment; identifying running apps by the blue dot under them on the Dock; how to quit a program instead of just minimizing it, and so on.

I went downstairs to her old computer to put her old stuff onto a thumb drive, and by the time I came back, she'd already mostly figured out how to create an appointment in iCal. I showed her the rest of the process and she made an all-day event spanning my and Aaron's trip to Alaska. Luckily she didn't have much to transfer from her old computer; just pictures, documents, and bookmarks, to the tune of about 688 MB. Transferring them to their appropriate folders was easy enough, but I got stuck at getting her pics to appear in iPhoto. I'd bought her a copy of Missing Manual: Mac OS X Leopard so she'll have a reference for figuring out how to do things while we're gone to Alaska, so I downloaded the iLife crash course PDF from the Missing Manual site and that told me how to import the photos, which turned out to be so easy I would have figured it out on my own if I'd had a bit more patience. In a bit of an ego boost, Mom remarked that she was amazed at how well I knew my way around a Mac based purely on book learning, having never owned one myself. Yet.

We also set up the Mail app for Gmail, which was just a matter of creating a new mailbox and entering her Gmail address and password. Done. It automatically started importing all her email from Gmail which, after the first 800 messages, we decided might not be such a great idea after all, and stopped it. I also discovered that Apple and Yahoo don't play well at all together. You can't import Yahoo mail into Mail, and you can't add a Yahoo account (which is what Mom uses) to iChat.

This lead to the first install of a third-party app: the Adium multi-service chat program (like Trillian for Windows). I downloaded the adium.dmg (disk image) file, which automatically opened up a little window displaying a cartoon depiction of picking up the Adium duck mascot and dragging it to the Applications folder. I did that right inside the window in question, and Adium was installed instantly. While trying to drag it from the Applications folder to the Dock to create an alias (shortcut), I accidentally dropped it on the desktop, which removed it from the Apps folder. Thinking it was an alias, I deleted it, which uninstalled the program. To get it back, I just dragged the icon from the trash back into the Apps folder, then dragged it properly to the Dock to make a shortcut.

Merely reading about how easy it is to install and remove Mac apps just doesn't prepare you for how amazing it is in practice, coming from 15+ years of Windows use. There's no lengthy installation or removal process, and no registry entries to worry about. The entire program and all of its support files are contained in a single package represented by its icon. Unlike in Windows, you can drag that icon into any folder on any drive and it will still run when you click it.

After getting her set up in Safari and iTunes (she has NO music files at all, and only a couple CDs!), and some more general poking around, I ran the software updater to get the small patches installed, prior to the big 10.5.3 patch which was released yesterday. Mom asked me to run that before I left so she would be forced to finish the quilt she was commissioned to make. I didn't get to show her the Spotlight search function, or see if her new printer/scanner would work properly when turned on (waited til after the 10.5.3 install for that), but I'm sure she can figure it out from the book. Heh, for the next week, she'll have to!

Her old computer is ready for the dumpster once I return and wipe or destroy the hard drive. It's a 10+ year old Gateway tower with 384 MB of RAM and a 15 GB hard drive, with Ubuntu Linux generously installed on it by my friend Alex over Christmas, after the Microsoft police caught up to her borrowed copy of XP. It's been adequate for her until the last couple of years, but even her modest computer needs have finally exceeded its horsepower. Even with Ubuntu's small overhead, it's dog slow, and Ubuntu's lack of drivers prevented her from using the scanner function of her printer. Firefox under Ubuntu also wouldn't properly load certain websites, and even IE under WINE emulation didn't work for every site, like her bank's online services. I do worry that she may have the same problem with Safari or Firefox on the Mac, which may require Windows and Parallels or Fusion just to run IE, but I'll cross that bridge when I'm forced to at gunpoint.

Mom and I were just totally enthralled by the whole thing, and I haven't been this excited about a new computer since building my gaming rig in 2003, and by an operating system, of all things, since the first release of Win95 and then WinXP. Although honestly, since the Mac hardware and software are effectively one entity, there's little distinction between the hardware and the OS. All in all, as corny as it sounds, it was a great experience, and I can't wait to get my own.

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May 222008

Yesterday I had my appointment for a fitness and body age eval at the gym, to resolve my little bet with Nathan. In the last seven months, while I did manage to shed 4 years off my body age, 10 lbs., and 5.7% body fat, all of my performance numbers stayed the same or declined slightly. So either I need a better (or just different) workout program, or I was doing it wrong.

It would help to have an actual trainer that I interact with on a regular basis, I suppose. My buddy the trainer and physical therapist, while definitely knowing his business, is in the midst of wedding planning, house hunting, and is too far away to meet up in person very often. Maybe I’ll take a shot at the Body for Life program; not to participate in the actual contest, but just as a different structured program from the one I’ve been doing. I still have an older edition of the book kicking around somewhere.

Body Age
11/13/07: 38
05/21/08: 34

Height: 6′

11/13/07: 206
05/21/08: 196

Body Mass Index
11/13/07: 27.9
05/21/08: 26.6

Max VO2
11/13/07: 40.7
05/21/08: 39.4

Bicep Strength
11/13/07: 107
05/21/08: 106

Sit & Reach
11/13/07: 9.5″
05/21/08: 9.0″

Body Composition
11/13/07: 22.8% body fat
05/21/08: 17.1% body fat

Overall Fitness
11/13/07: 60%
05/21/08: 64%

May 212008

Stolen laptop used to catch the thieves

“…At that point, police said, the victim signed onto another computer and used the “Back to My Mac” program to determine that her stolen MacIntosh laptop indeed was signed onto the Web and that someone was using it to shop online. She then activated the stolen computer’s camera, allowing her to “see” what was in front of the laptop. At first, police said, she saw only an empty chair. But a short time later, they said, she was able to photograph a man, Shahikian, sitting in front of her stolen laptop.”

May 162008

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it actually feels good to be back in the office, if only for a day. Working from Mom’s and (for the last two days) at home for three weeks was all well and good, but there was no separation between work/home other than just disconnecting from the corporate network. I sat at the computer from 7am to 3-4pm, disconnected, then exercised and took care of Mom. At home I disconnected, exercised, then was back at the computer.

I’m going buggy to get out of the house and GO somewhere, other than trips for food and once to the car dealer. Fortunately we’re headed up north after work to open the beach house prior to the in-laws’ arrival for the summer, and Saturday we’re attending the World Expo of Beer in Frankenmuth. Full reviews of all consumed beer will be provided for mastersergeant and dantzer679. :o)

One of the disadvantages to unloading the PT Cruiser was the loss of preferred parking at work. Non-company branded vehicles have to sit at the back of the bus, so to speak, in the 1/3 of the lot furthest away from the building. Even if I arrive before 7am the closest of those spots have already filled up. *sigh* I’ll just call it extra cardio…

I scheduled a fitness eval at the gym for next Wednesday, to get the final numbers for my bet with Nathan: who could make the most progress in fat loss/muscle building between last September and IML next week. Mungo will win! Bongo will lose! HAHA! Mungo will make Bongo…umm…hmm…Mungo think of something evil later.

May 132008

After two and a half weeks in the blue collar enclave known as Downriver (all the communities south of Detroit along the river and, incidentally, the area I grew up in), Mom graciously cut me loose this afternoon rather than tomorrow. She’s made incredible progress since her knee replacement; more than I expected and FAR more than she expected. The visiting nurse came today to remove the surgical staples so she should be in much less pain by tomorrow. She can handle pretty much everything herself now, so after a run to Kroger to restock her food, and a quick once-over housecleaning, I loaded up the Audi and made my way home.

We had a great visit and, even though I know she’ll be fine on her own, I was almost reluctant to leave. I feel pretty accomplished: I did all the cleaning, laundry, shopping, cooking, errand running, wound dressing, pill scheduling, exercise nagging, and TiVo/computer/TV tweaking. A couple trips home to see my man, and play Exalted, kept me from burnout, along with World of Warcraft on the laptop, a new five-pound book on Mac OS X, and a daily routine of pushups, planks (thanks throbbin!), chinups, and running. I’ve dropped 10 lbs between all that and the walking pneumonia of a month ago. I owe my boss big time for letting me work from her place for the last week and a half, and Mom sent him a thank you card last week.

In other news, I went and saw a sports medicine doc yesterday to get a definitive answer about my heel problems. The diagnosis: heel spurs caused by Achilles tendinitis, the very thing a previous doctor told me I did NOT have. Idiot.
The treatment: plenty of stretching, icing, and new running shoes, which may require tweaking at the heel to make sure it’s not too tight or loose. He also gave me a scrip for 4 weeks of physical therapy, and mentioned surgery as a last resort to remove the calcium buildup.

I also found out that my stepmother Barb had a heart attack at the end of March; 95% blockage in one artery, which required a stent. Apparently she was totally blindsided by it, as she has none of the markers for heart trouble: cholesterol’s fine, blood pressure low, no family history. The only thing the doc could theorize was, believe it or not, broken heart syndrome, which may have started when my father’s cancer was diagnosed and caused gradual heart damage over the last five years. Bizarre, though I’d recently read an article about that very thing; that the stress of grief and mourning can cause actual heart damage.

My boss cleared me to work from Mom’s the rest of the week, but I’m going back in on Thursday. Tomorrow I’m working from home, simply because I need a day at home, and I’ve got nothing but conference calls anyway. Afterwards we go pick up the new car and wave goodbye to my trusty PT Cruiser. I’m perfectly happy driving the Audi, cuz it’s all classy and shit, but I will miss the PT; I had fun in that car.

It’s good to be home.

May 132008

My authentic japanese name is 猿渡 Saruwatari (monkey on a crossing bridge) 大輝 Taiki (large radiance).
Take your real japanese name generator! today!
Created with Rum and Monkey‘s Name Generator Generator.

So I’m a brightly shining monkey on a bridge? Could be worse I suppose…

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