@0# #@$% Phone Jacks

A little while back the phone jacks in the house stopped working. I called AT&T who came out and took a look. Seems the trouble is on the inside, so I either pay them $200/hr to fix it or do it myself. Those nifty new boxes have a test jack, so my “temporary” fix was to run a 15 ft cord from there to the inside. There, problem solved. Fast forward a year (see temporary) and the poor phone wire has been abused through repeated window openings and closings. The internet is out and I decide it’s time to rewire.

My father-in-law has an abundance of phone and networking wire, so I borrowed the box and sussed out the situation. Getting into the attic, I see where the wire comes in from the box…waaaayyy over in the corner in a space impossible to fit a small adult female, let alone a hulking example of manhood like myself. Clearly these wires were put in at the time of construction. Using metal fish tape that I used to rewire our last house and little patience, I get the tip in a small hole I drilled near the phone box. I tape on the wire and reel it in. Step one is complete.

I run the wire across to an “easier” location to add the jack, in the front room where there is plenty of space in the attic. It takes me a bit to figure out exactly where to drill in to get it where I want it. I try pushing the fish tape and wire in, only to find this is one of the few walls they put insulation in. The temp is rising and I’m losing my patience. I cut a hole in the wall where the jack is going to go and get the extending handle from one of our mops. I jam and push, wiggle and mash till I have a path for the wire to travel. I start pushing it in hoping to get enough in by luck when I hear my youngest daughter yelling she sees something in the wall. Success. Step two complete.

Next I wire in the jack. Dark blue to red, light blue to green. Do the same at the box and test the phone. No good. Plug the connected wire into the test jack so the new wires are connected and test. No good. Check all the wires, colors match, screws tight. On a whim, I change one set to have the dark blue on green and light blue on red reversing the order of the jack. Success. Step three complete.

Next I move the modem/router to the plug. Of course, I am now short a phone wire. With a little digging I find a tiny 4″ wire so I get it all plugged in. No interwebs. Making the call to AT&T, the router shows there is an error. It could be the power supply or the router itself. Rather than buy those things right away, I check my wire bin to see what I have. I just happen to have a power supply that puts out the correct voltage, but the the connector is the wrong size. I clip the working tip and add it to my new power supply and…nothing. I pull the tip off, reverse the wires (it worked before) and…SUCCESS! The router powers on and shows interwebs. Turn on the computer and waiting, waiting, waiting…low connectivity. AAARGH!!.

To give you a little insight, there is an unsecured wireless signal somewhere nearby. I did not know my router was having trouble for a week because the computer just hooks up to that network. I don’t know where it is, but it always seems to be on and it is pretty fast. I have to assume it is outside of my house, so it is through walls and many feet away. The new jack and my old router are 30 feet away with one sheetrock half wall to get through. JEEBUS!

So, I signed up for Time Warner to have them come out and put some jacks in and have them as my phone and internet for a while.

Update:  As part of my attempt to get the connection working, I installed the updated AT&T self repair tool which also installed their network connection software.  I decided to go back to using Windows to connect and voila problem solved.  Strange that a company’s software cannot work with its own hardware.

Elf | Your Personal Email Library Reminder Service

In a quest to stay organized, I found a way to keep track of the many library cards that we acquire. I have one for my local library as do two of my girls and my wife. I also have one for the library close to my work, since they often have something my local does not. So to keep all those books in order and avoid late fees, I turn to Library Elf

Elf | Your Personal Email Library Reminder Service

This service lets you put all of your cards in one place. With the premium service (which costs a whopping $20 for the year) you can see at a glance what is due where and when. You can also get email alerts when you get to busy to check the website.

Even if you only have one card, the alerts are worth sining up for the service.

Software Search

My company has been on the same accounting/project management software for almost the entire time they have been in business.  It is an old DOS based AS400 style that makes Windows 3.1 look futuristic.  I finally convinced my boss that we need to look into updating and so the adventure begins.

I started with  a Google search and turned up a great site for starting.  Software Advice is a search service that aggregates all kinds of software.  You enter some criteria and it narrows your choices.  I started with seven companies: 
  1. Sage Timberline
  2. Microsoft Dynamix SL (Formally Solomon)
  3. COINs
  4. ComputerEase
  5. Maxwell Systems
  6. Spectrum (Dexter & Chaney)
  7. Foundation
I went through demonstrations of each software, spending no less than 2 hours up to 4 hours reviewing and asking questions.  I completed a matrix to help me keep it all straight.  I finally made my decision and presented my findings to management.  1-3 were just too much money for too little usefulness.  They just were not designed for how we do business.  #7 was fine, but I have seen it in action with one of my suppliers and either they don’t know how to use it or it does not work like it did in the sales pitch.  Either way it reflects poorly on the company.  I ended up with 4-6 as my top three with #4 being top on my list.  Admittedly, the salesman is really good, but only because he is so responsive.  Every question is answered quickly and with plenty of detail.  
So, management now wants me to interview users of the top three and come up with more questions we can ask when we do the detailed presentations from the vendors.  At a minimum I will be calling 9 people.  I admit I am impatient, so it is good to have others to throttle me back.  With any luck, I can get this all done in the next week and move forward.

Online Storage

I have looked into getting out “into the cloud”, having files out where I can get to them with out having to purchase a portable hard drive (which I already have).  Being a devotee of Google, I have a naive, doey-eyed faith that they have already made these things happen for me.  Alas, I am often disappointed.  Goggle docs does let you store almost anything you want, 1 gb free, 20 for $5 a year and up from there.  Here are a few of my other favorite free sites:

  1. SkyDrive
  2. Adrive
  3. iCloud
  4. Glide

 iCloud and Glide are unique in that they are an online “operating system”.  It acts much like the desktop on your computer.  You can run apps, create docs, listen to music all in your browser.  With the new Google OS set to debut sometime this year, it looks like many companies are aiming to change the way we use computers.

Urban Trekking

This weekend I took an urban hike.  On July 4, 2010, I struck out at 9:42 am to visit a little burial plot along Airport Frwy in Irving.  Why?  Well…why not?  I have driven by the site for about 7 years working in Dallas.  I was curious to know who was buried there and for how long.  Now I know.
I could have driven there and been back before lunch, but I felt like hiking out to the site made more sense.  
  1. I need the exercise. 
  2. Get to know my area better
  3. See how good my Vibram Five Fingers shoes really are. 
  4. Needed some time to my self. 
  5. Give me the chance to really connect with my own mortality.
The walk out was great.  It was still relatively cool and I was excited to go.  Along the way I saw a large rabbit hiding out near a house.  One of the places I came across was an old bridge:

I also ran across a guy going the opposite direction really close to my destination.  I said hello and he asked if I could help him with directions.  He was trying to get to a Walmart or other retailer to get some socks.  I got him turned around (he thought he was headed east, but was going west) and we walked and talked for a bit.  It seems he had flown in from Phoenix, AZ the night before and walked from DFW Airport to a hotel near Hwy 161.  He left because his oldest son had recently died at 25 from a drug overdose.  He felt lost and just needed to get away.  He said he knew a guy in Frisco and was trying to get there.  He mentioned (more than once) how many Indians (dot not feather) we have here and how very humid it is.  I could not disagree.  After about a half mile, I found my spot and pointed him towards his destination.

I arrived at the burial plot, took some pictures, made a small map and took notes of who is buried there. 

When I was done, I grabbed a sandwich at a local gas station and started back. About half way back, I really started to feel it.  There is something about my hip shape that just makes it hard to walk long distances.  It also did not help that it had rained the day before and I kept getting my feet wet.  The shoes were great, but wet feet are just hard to tread on.  I had to stop twice and by the time I got to my street I was dragging my feet.  A hot shower and some Tiger Balm later, I felt tired but content.

I hope to make more treks in my neighborhood.

I had hoped to put a map of my trek on Google maps, but it is acting wonky.  With any luck they can get that cleared up and I’ll have a nice view of my trip to share.

Happy Seven Years Little

Hard to believe it has been seven years now. You have grown so quickly from my Nemesis to my Little. So fashionable, so imaginative, you make friends easily. You feeling things deeply and expect so much from your world. I’m glad you are my daughter and lok forward to all the future birthdays.

For the rest of us

I’m a DIY (do it yourselfer) and I always thought it would make a funny show to have what really happens on a project.  If you watch this old house, they always have the right tool at the right time and exactly the materials they need.  I had a leaky toilet that turned into a year and a half bathroom remodel.  Of course, they have an army of peons to make sure all that stuff is researched and they can take the scene a few time to get it right.  But for the rest of us, we have to muddle through to the answer.

That was what got me to thinking about a blog.  A place I could post my journey from start to finish on various projects.  From redoing a room or building a shelf to trying to get my various tech gadgets to do what I want them to do.  I’m not an expert or exceptionally gifted at anything, but I’m pretty good at a lot of things.  I chose “the generalist” since that seem to fit.  Also, trying a search for “common man” in the blogosphere.  99% of the hits are right wing political.  When did the GOP become the party of the “common man”?

Anywho, that’s what this is about.  Me trying to make sense of my world and finding an answer or two from others who are a little less than exceptional.