The Rita madness continues..

It looks like the citizens of Houston are trying to buy up as much gas as possible, as all the gas stations around my house had bags over the pumps. The one station that had gas (the ghetto mark across from Foodorama) had two pumps with gas, but there was a line of 10 cars behind each. Nick said there was still gas at the two stations at T.C. Jester and I-10, with only a 2 or 3 car wait.

Already the water supplies in most stores are gone. Brandy said the only kind of water was Propel, the black cherry flavor. I guess drinking black cherry flavored water is not worth preserving your life for a few more days in a hurricane. Brandy got several 12 packs of Diet Coke so we should be fine, unless the disaster of a lifetime hits. Woo hoo!

The hurricane is coming!

Apparently we’re in the “cone of possibilities” (I swear the local news guy said this) for the upcoming hurricane Rita, but I can’t seem to get too worked up over it. I could just be having a reaction to the drama-news of KPRC though, kind of like south’s reaction to the Katrina catastrophe. If you listen to the news and water cooler talk it’s as if hurricanes have just come into existence this summer.

With my luck god will smite down Houston just to show me up. I guess I should buy some water and candles just in case. At least with this hurricane you won’t have to wonder what kind of drinks to serve at the hurricane party, but it will be tough to come by ice without power.

Dell’s installer kind kind of blows

My cousin needed a new laptop for school so naturally she got a Dell, since they have a nice price-to-features ratio. One of my beefs with Dell is that they bundle a lot of crap with the default install, which I measure through the count of applications in the systray and registry (40+ combined). So in my role as the family tech support guy I re-imaged the laptop with a clean version of XP and perfectly legal software, but I had to get the drivers for the hardware, since XP doesn’t ship with them by default anymore. It’s always nice for a few months after an OS is released because you can just load the OS and voila!, all your hardware works fine. After your three month honeymoon this is no longer that case. Now Dell offers a standard format for distributing it’s drivers to the world in the form of a self extracting executable, which then calls Dell’s installer. Supposedly this installer will take care of your needs.

I downloaded and installed the file (R102320.EXE) with the drivers for the wireless card, which was a Dell Wireless 1470 (a/b/g) Dual-Band WLAN miniPCI card, which then installed itself. Afterwards the card found the SSID, including the type of security it used (WEP), but would just time out trying to connect. At first I thought maybe the sevasoft IOS on my WRT54G router, so I Googled for similar problem without any luck. Dell had several wireless cards listed for the laptop model so I tried out most of the drivers but all had the same result, if they worked at all. After putting 4+ different wireless drivers on the box, most of which had no uninstall option, I reloaded the OS and tried again with the same results. Now up to this point I had been using the Dell installer, but as a last a last ditch effort I used the Windows “New Hardware Wizard” to install the drivers, pointing to the location that Dell’s installer had extracted the files, and IT WORKED! Woo hoo!

The only conclusion I can come to is that Dell’s just assumes that their buyers will simply use the default sucky image they provide, so they didn’t actually get a chance to test out rebuilding the image to a functional OS. Maybe if they didn’t ship such a bloated OS image then that might be possible, but they do.

Dude, I’m a bad ass!

A shot of an award I got for coding up some SOX auditing scripts for work. The project involved several months of meetings and scripting, and I was happy as hell for that phase to be over. Luckily I now have a little something to remember that trying period in my life. Woo hoo!

My SOX award

I was playing with the Google Maps API…

While I was digging through the Google Map API I came up with a kind of “memory map” thing which marks the addresses from a passed xml file. The default address list is a collection of some of the places I have lived over the years. There were a few learning points I gained from this exercise, listed below.

  • Working with AJAX opens the door for possible memory leaks, which I found out when I noticed that Firefox was taking up over 500 MB of memory. I sort of solved this by setting up a “global” variable that I could use to free up the existing markers, using Google’s cleanup methods in my “clearMarkers” function. I think there’s a leak somewhere else now, but I’m not sure. Memory values don’t seem to be going down right now, but I’m not sure if that’s due to the speed of the garbage collection or a leak in the AJAX calls.
  • Google’s authentication method uses a key system based on the directory on the calling web server, which kind of limits the usage on a large scale.

This is still kind of a work-in-progress play project, nothing all that special. I just think it’s neat that Google offers this along with several other services to developers. It’s not too obvious, but one could provide their own xml file and reuse this page to display their own addresses, as long as the xml schema contains at least the “lat”, “long” and “desc” attributes. The wrapper element is changeable (also not super obvious), as well as the zoom level when links are clicked.

QCumberland Memory Map

Update:
I forgot to mention that when I set the marker for each address for some reason the point is offset about a half inch. I noticed this when the map said that one of my former addresses was in a bayou. Since I grabbed the GPS coordinates from Google’s site I can only assume that I’m doing something wrong (most likely), or that Google knows about the offset problem and compensates for it. You be the judge.

Welcome to Houston, Katrina refugees!

Recently, Houston has been the recipient of several thousand refugees from the Katrina affected areas. Most of these refugees are being housed out of the Astrodome and, according to sources, are loving every minute of it. Brandy and I had planned to do some volunteer work there, but according to her parents the volunteer ratio is pretty high right now, so we decided to wait until Houstonians have ADD’ed about volunteering before going down there since, from the looks of things, they will be here for several months, if not permanently. Houston ISD has already decided to accept the refugees into local schools so that they don’t fall behind.

My cold heart goes out to these people, since their lives kind of suck right now. Don’t forget to get see the Galleria and water wall; they’re great tourist attractions. If you get hard pressed for something to do you could visit all the locations in Houston where Reality Bites was filmed. Here are a couple of reasons why Houston is a cool place to be, even though it’s hot as hell. I don’t actually know how hot hell is, but it HAS to be close. This place is hot.

While watching the news I’ve seen countless people proclaim that this tragedy has increased their faith in god, which I just don’t understand. I can see how interacting with the good Samaritans might increase your faith in human goodness, but not in god. From my perspective, Kanye west may think that Bush doesn’t care about black people, but it looks to me like god just has it in for people in the south, black and white. Maybe god is trying to destroy the electoral base that make up the red state gimmes in MS and AL, but decided to take out the semi-swing state of LA out as well. Judging by this electoral map, these states don’t make up a very large portion of the electoral votes needed, but every electoral vote counts. For detailed election results check out this election result site maintained by Dave Leip.

As if there weren’t already enough links in this post, here are a few storm and charity related links:

Services (via Matt)
Survivor locator

Charities
Red Cross
SPCA (they need newspapers for the pets)

Charity scams/gotchas
http://www.komotv.com/news/mnewsaction.asp?ID=38871

Dylan may become a moonshine distributer

We picked up some moonshine while we were in Victoria last weekend and used Dylan’s car seat to transport it, making for a funny picture. We are so proud of our enterprising young man.

Moonshine baby

The trip to grandmother’s house also provided plenty of photo ops with most of the Townsend clan; see link below for pictures.

Victoria pictures