Archive for February 2008

Leap Year Mathematics

February 29, 2008

So this isn’t DIRECTLY technology-related, but if you’re a programmer or math person, you will probably appreciate this. 

Assuming you get paid each Friday, only once every 28 years do you get a leap year like this one – a leap year in which there are 5 paydays in February.

Normally, years ending in 00 can’t be leap years – this would result in one 56-year gap between 5-Friday Februaries every 800 years. However, any year ending in 00 IS a leap year when divisible by 400.

If my algorithm is solid, every year which would result in a 56-year gap seems that it would fall on a year divisible by 400. So it seems there will never be a 56-year gap between 5-Friday Februaries. Correct me if that math is wrong; I’m just musing now. =)

Enjoy your 5-payday month (or 3 if you’re on biweekly).

Ben

Windows XP/Vista trick for a Friday afternoon

February 28, 2008

This is a neat little trick that takes just a minute but reaps amazing benefits (ok, not really).  It’s how to change the text “AM” or “PM” by your clock to read whatever you want (as long as it’s less than 12 characters).  Like the screenshot below.

Oh, and the article is written for XP, but it works in Vista too, as you might have guessed from the screenshot.

http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/window-on-windows/?p=619

Restaurants trying e-menus. Not really a new idea…

February 26, 2008

http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9595_22-6231950.html?tag=nl.e019

 This ZDNet article dicusses the newest emerging trend in restaurants… the e-menu.  You order from a computer at the table.  But is this really new?  The Training Table, a restaurant chain I have only seen when I lived in Utah, does phone-in orders (from the table).  I know that they aren’t the only restaurant to have done that one, either.  It’s an old trick (saving on labor costs and high turnover rates by investing in technology).

Here’s the problem.  This kind of ordering takes a restaurant with all the class of Denny’s and turns it into Arby’s.  At the Training Table, you don’t have a server.   This means you pick up your food from a window (admittedly, it’s very good food) and I believe you also drop your dishes off when you are done (it’s been a while).  Would the e-savvy restaurants be different?  Possibly, I suppose.  But for some, the experience of dining out is what we are looking for – and a techologically advanced fast-food restaurant is not as much of a draw as old-fashioned good service and friendly staff.

 I might go just to see the technology, but that’s because I’m a technonerd. =)  Of course, it will be 50 years before this trend hits Dillon, MT, so I’ll have plenty of time to think about it beforehand.

The Sun Microsystems Modular Datacenter fits in a shipping container

February 21, 2008

See Sun Modular Datacenter in Action

 Just saw this today in Sun’s Inner Circle newsletter – a modular datacenter.  It uses an exceptionally small amount of space (comes pre-packed in a shipping container), is green (not in color, but in eco-impact), and has a neat Flash-based marketing deal on the website…  I spent quite a bit of time looking over this demo.  Really, this is amazing.  Check it out and tell me what you think!

Lessons learned from a few calls to a major cell carrier

February 15, 2008

I usually don’t write about personal experiences on here; I think that this blog should primarily conglomerate material from others.  However, this one could help you out down the road.

Yesterday, I called my major cell carrier to cancel my wife’s cell service.  We got a land line from Bresnan and don’t want the cell anymore.  The rep was rather nice and didn’t try to get me not to cancel (remember canceling with AOL in the 90’s?  They used to give you a free month just for telling them you wanted to cancel!).  I explained that I have been very happy with Company X, but we decided to change service providers to save money by bundling Internet service with phone service.

This was all good to this point.  Then he told me “your phone will be disconnected at the end of your billing cycle.”  There are 28 days or so left in the cycle – we purposely did that to avoid prorated overage charges.  I have had the same situation with the same company before, and I know it’s how they do business.

Since I know this isn’t how they usually work, I am needless to say a little miffed.  But he did use the phrase “we always do this.”  Since I know they don’t always do it, I asked him to prorate it.  He said, “We always end service at the end of the cycle, but let me check.” 

Miraculously, in about 15 seconds, what they “always do” changed!  So he told me the service would end that day and I would see a credit for the rest of the month.  So we are OK – I realize that CS reps lie regularly.  Sometimes through lack of knowledge, sometimes a direct misrepresentation.  Not that I am stating that this situation was a deliberate lie, but I would be tempted to think so based on prior experience with the same company.

So then this morning, I tried calling the “cancelled” number.  Sure enough, it rings and I get the VM.  So I called Company X back.  As it happened, my miracle rep hadn’t changed the end of service date, so it still would have gone through with a disconnect at the end of the month!  I talked to the loyalty team and they canned the service as of today (they sent me a confirmation email this time). 

I still like this company and would check on their rates if I were getting another cell phone (I have the same company for my BlackBerry).  However, after this experience, I realized several things:

  1. You can’t trust cell company CS reps.
  2. Always check to make sure that they actually did what they said they did.
  3. As I provide customer service, I need to be truthful with the users, meet their needs, and follow through on a timely, effective solution.

Back from vacation and ready with a new list of essential freeware apps

February 12, 2008

It’s good to be home – we vacationed a long weekend in Chelan, WA, visiting friends with a new baby. 

So I saw this post in a TechRepublic newsletter:

http://blogs.zdnet.com/Ou/?p=989

It’s a list by George Ou of favorite freeware he puts on customers’ PCs when he sells them.

I personally think a PC should not come loaded.  However, this difference aside, it’s a good list.  And I would add that I would not sell a PC without an antivirus solution.  I don’t sell PCs (only one to date, and another if you want it – just ask) because I’m an enterprise tech, but on the one I recently sold, I loaded AVG.  Before you start the war over AVG, I would add that I’m a very conservative surfer, and I don’t use P2P downloading.  That being said, I don’t use a heavy-duty A/V solution because I rarely use anything questionable.  So anyway, I’ve never had malware troubles since I adopted my conservative surfing/downloading habits.  Still, AVG is a good solution, but I would say that if you spend 3 hours a day on BitTorrent, you need something a little heavier.  Sophos is good (we use that at our company), Kaspersky is good, Norton/McAfee are not.

Anyway, I’d sure love to hear your rants about AVG, or your list of freeware you like.  Give me some feedback here if you get a chance.

More tips and tricks for Windows XP

February 4, 2008

Greg Shultz wrote this great article on some of the advanced things you can do with Windows XP.  Based on the coming end of retail sales for XP, if you’re stocking up on licenses, you might also have a look at this article – some great timesavers (or just fun stuff).

http://i.i.com.com/cnwk.1d/i/tr/downloads/home/10_winxp_tips.pdf