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I Hate Linux

Friday, May 29, 2009

When beta software attacks

One of the (many) interesting parts about working at Microsoft is the opportunity to see, use, test and give feedback on early versions of a wide variety of products... it all depends on what your interests are and the openness of other teams.

This evening while working with a beta service something rather… strange happened, so strange that it was flat out wrong and shouldn’t have happened, ever.

What’d I do? I emailed the Program Manager who is my contact for the product explaining the issue, expressing amazement at what happened and even ended it with a big ole “WTH!”... his reply:

Agreed, agreed. Apologies. Two people on the team have been sacked, and we apologize for the bad form. We may have to sack those who sacked the first two, too soon to say…

Good thing this is pre-beta-beta. ;)

Ahh well, at least we are working out bugs... and that he’s a Monty Python fan.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

And you want me to pay my bills ACS Education?

In these times of a difficult economy and people struggling to make ends meat and pay their bills, its refreshing to see some companies offer options to current and future customers, be it car companies that will make your payments for you for a time, or even let you return your car if you lose your job, or credit card companies that take out advertisements, asking for you to call them if you are unable to pay your bills to them.

It seems though that at least one student loan company (ACS Education) doesn’t know how to come off so nice (sounding), today I received an email from one of the companies that owns some of my student loans which began:

Don't Let Your Student Loan Become a Credit Nightmare!

According to our records, you have already started repayment on your student loan. We wanted to let you know that we are always here to assist you, however possible, to successfully complete the repayment of your loan.

Being one of the largest servicers of student loans, we see first hand what happens to borrowers who default when they do not make their loan payments, or do not make arrangements for a temporary payment suspension. Borrowers who ultimately default on their student loans, risk their financial future and their ability to purchase a car, a home or anything else on credit. Allowing your loan to default can result in a series of very serious and unfavorable events:

  • You can be sued to recover the entire amount of the loan plus collection expenses
  • Your default status will be reported to every major credit bureau having a detrimental impact on your credit rating and your ability to borrow in the future
  • Holds may be placed on your college records
  • Your federal and state income tax returns may be withheld
  • Your wages may be garnished
  • You may become ineligible to receive any additional federal student financial aid
  • You may be charged attorney fees and other collection costs

Although we will make every attempt to contact you by both mail and telephone to inform you of your payment options, you must take action to avoid default of your loan(s). If you want to make a payment right now, click here.

If you are having trouble paying your loan...

Please remember, if you are having trouble, you still have options. However, you have to act quickly! Every minute you delay can have an adverse effect on your credit rating.

<lengthy explanation of payment plans removed>

And don't forget that you must repay your loan even if you are dissatisfied with the education that you received, are unable to find employment after your graduation, or did not complete your educational program.

PLEASE LET US HELP PROTECT YOUR FINANCIAL FUTURE,
ACT NOW!

Such a shame that in times people are struggling so, one company takes such a firm hand and sending bulk email to try to scare current loan holders into paying their bills.

This is doubly surprising as student loan companies have something going for them that credit card companies generally do not... bankruptcy law being on their side.

To quote the Department of Education:

Effective October 8, 1998, your obligation to repay Title IV, HEA student loan and grant liabilities can no longer be canceled (discharged) due to bankruptcy, unless you can successfully prove that repayment of the debt would cause "undue hardship" as defined by case law in your jurisdiction.

If you ever are bored, bring up this subject to a bankruptcy attorney and see how many times they’ve seen student loans discharged.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Proof of Concept: Silverlight based VNC client

Forward: I would advise not looking for potential meanings of the below post or infer potential new features of Windows Home Server as it all involves things I was doing on my own time and for my own nefarious purposes.

The other weekend I had a little free time on my hands and thought: “Wouldn't it be cool (and useful) if there was a Remote Desktop client that ran completely within the context of Silverlight?”

After a quick read of the core spec behind RDP... I decided that a simpler protocol would probably be good to do as a proof of concept first of the general idea.

Which protocol did I pick? RFB (PDF warning), the basis for VNC.

So last weekend I sat down and began writing a proof of concept VNC client, first as a WinForms app but with frequent compilations for Silverlight (to ensure that I only used classes/methods that exist under both), and late Thursday night after writing a quick and dirty 125 line long proxy server (to work around the built in port and host address limitations), it all just worked at last.

Behold, a ugly shot of it in action:

VNC via Silverlight

(Click for larger version)

Why so ugly? To save time I only implemented a couple of the most simple video encoding methods that VNC supports which cuts me off from some of the more pretty color possibilities. Adding others won’t be very difficult, however improving some of the core services I wrote would be a better use of my time.

Why XP? When I quit using VNC back in about 2005 it was due to my upgrading to Vista and the two of them not getting along well (due to the Vista security feature known as session 0 isolation)... and I had it handy in a VM.

When will it be released? Certainly not in it’s present form as it is rather insecure at present as it doesn’t support any authentication (mostly because I opted not to write a DES encryption provider which Silverlight lacks). Also likely not in future because of the prototype nature of this code and my almost certainly not having enough time to take on and manage another side project (my day job keeps me plenty busy).

I also need to say that the new improvements to the MediaStreamSource class in Silverlight 3 are pretty cool as they enable you to manually generate a video and specify the raw RGB bits of each frame.

This while does kind of serve as a reminder to me… rather than spend time implementing things that already exist (this, DHCP4WHS, a C# based DNS server I wrote a few years back, plenty of other half completed network clients or file format parsers)... I should focus (when writing code on my own time) on building new things that do not yet exist... shame I’m not the most creative in that way.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What’s wrong with this picture?

... and the answer is not that I was using Google:

What's wrong with this picture?

(click for larger)

Do note the address:

Google403_Address

Friday, May 08, 2009

Weight Loss – 3 years (and 5 days) in

With all that is going on both professionally and personally, I forgot to celebrate an important day on Sunday... the 3 year anniversary of me starting Nutrisystem!

History thus far:

Start (5/3/2006): 415.2 lbs

End of Year 1 (5/3/2007): 291.2 (down 124)

End of Year 2 (5/3/2008): 224.2 (down 191)

8/10/2008: 215 lbs (down 200.2)

End of Year 3 (5/3/2009): 252.8

Your eyes do not deceive you, despite having lost ~205 over 30 month period... I've since gained ~40 of that back... to explain some of how that happened, it's important to tell the story of how the weight first got started so many years ago.

History of the weight

Due to food allergies from a very young age (pre-kindergarten), I was put on a diet that avoided not only certain foods I was known to react poorly to (behaviorally, not so much physically), as well as so many of those pesky pesticides and herbicides that some worry about.

Each day I went to school with a lunchbox of foods that didn't quite look the same as what everyone else was having (rather than Cheerios I had Oat-e-oos, rather than chocolate cookies I had carob ones (the list goes on)) and all was well in the world... except for that I'd already had issues making friends and having such a difference made things even harder.

Eventually one day in 4th grade I had enough, I said I was done with the whole diet thing and began to eat normal cafeteria food.

On the surface this wouldn't seem like a bad thing... only because of always eating out of a box at school... I'd never fully learned proper portion control. That... coupled with the fact that all of the cafeteria food was just so delicious (compared to what I had been having for lunch) that I'd when I'd get done with the food on my tray and I'd go back for seconds, sometimes even thirds, all the while almost never going out to recess afterwards.

At this point two things happened... 1) my behavior changed radically and eventually lead to my parents deciding that this the school wasn't the right place for me (something I'd been advocating since the first day of kindergarten in fact), 2) I began to gain weight.

Prior to quitting the diet, I was a fairly scrawny kid, not super short, but not at all on the taller side of things, pretty average in fact (except for when you'd turn me on my side I'd virtually disappear), but after quitting the weight just began to grow and I never really took steps to prevent it.

What about the recent 40?

All was going well last fall where I'd largely plateaued ~210 lbs, was going to the gym 2-3x a week and doing both strength and cardio training to try to eliminate some of the remaining fat pockets (which were leading to awful muffin top issues and requiring me to wear slightly baggy shirts) and generally boost my metabolism, something I'd really not tried through much working out previously... then things got busy.

In November I was sent to PDC & WinHEC in LA, and due to what I knew was going to be a tight schedule that would also likely involve me having a difficult time doing the additional grocery shopping I would need to do, I opted not to bring my food with.

I figured that a week or two of mostly eating out wasn't going to kill me or set me to far back.

Then came a 2+ week long vacation spread between South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota and involved plenty of good home-style cooking, a pair of Thanksgiving dinners (in the same day no less) and more eating out, most of which to precluded my being able to bring my own food with.

Come December I was trying to get things back on track... only to have some family visit and again... more eating out and even a big ole Christmas dinner.

Somewhere along the way... I had a glimpse into something I'd long forgotten... a semblance of being 'normal' and not having to obsess over what I eat.

This bout with normalcy was only a half-assed one really as while I still mostly stuck with my Nutrisystem foods... but would also sometimes forget to bring lunch and have something (almost certainly bad for me) from Café 43 on campus (the cafeteria a short walk down a few flights of stairs and out a door from my office), however this level of cheating was enough to negate much of the goodness from the parts of the diet I was following.

Then... the fire came, completely throwing my personal life into a bit of chaos which created a bit of a sense of 'awe *(&$-it', at which point I did a little more fast food and other bad things I shouldn't have.

On the plus side though, all the while I stayed at least semi-regular with the gym, even to the point that I decided at one point that walking to work on most days I wasn't going to the gym was probably wearing my legs out a bit so I should pick one (the gym won out).

A couple of times since the 'awe *(&$-it' I've tried to restart the diet, usually going a couple of weeks before straying to various levels of badness... though I am hopeful that the last restart sticks.

Unfortunately though, hitting 210 again is likely going to be more difficult the second time than it was the first... partially because this time around my body knows what I'm trying to do (and likely doesn't like it)... but also because in the ~9 months I've regularly been going to the gym (except for most of November) I've built of a fair bit of strength in certain areas:

Year3-Arm

(Entertaining sidebar: Unfortunately a few months ago I had to buy a new arm band for my Zune as the old one seemed to be getting smaller and smaller as time went on and kept falling off when at the gym, go fig?)

And we all know that muscle mass is still mass, so even if I am replacing 1 lb of fat with 1 lb of muscle, while I may trim/firm up a bit, the scale will still report me as the same weight.

So... that's my report on the last year, major successes during the first half... and major setbacks during the second, with any luck by the time year 4 rolls around I'll be in a far better place physically than I am today.

Although the recent 'awe *(&$-it' stage also reminds me that at one point I am going to need to figure out what I'm going to do when I eventually reach and can maintain a weight/build I am happy with and move away from the Nutrisystem foods... as my cooking skills are largely non-existent (which is another reason for the initial weight gain).

Photos

So now without further ado... the requisite photo montage:

Before start:

Before - FrontBefore Side

Year 1:

Year 1 - FrontYear 1 - Side

Year 2:

2 Years In - 192 down2 Years In - 192 down - side

Year 3 (on Wednesday):

Year3-FrontYear3-Side

While it may not look like there is much of a difference between year 2 and 3... take my word for it, it's there. While the shirt(s) in year 2 and 3 look the same, while both are labeled XLT, the one worn in year 3 fits far better than the one in year 2 I'm sad to say.

One upshot

Before closing, I do need to point out one strange benefit of what has happened in the last 6 months... arguments have been easier to win.

A few months back while disagreeing with a co-worker over the correct implementation for something during a meeting and rather than finish things there, someone suggested (rightly) that we meet later to discuss the issue or just arm wrestle over it... to which I agreed and without thinking said "lets just do a quick arm wrestle now to save time"... to which the co-worker said "I don't know... let me see your arms" at which point I pulled up the sleeve of my shirt and the co-worker jumped back and decided not to proceed with the match.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Guess who I’m not buying?

This Saturday night I’m sitting here watching some Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban, I was writing an email to a former co-worker when a commercial break (which I normally ignore) caught my ear when I heard the following line and suddenly had to pay attention:

...and a 3 year, 36,000 mile warranty backed by GM and the US Government

… um no… it’s backed by US taxpayers!

As it turned out, the ad was for a local car lot.

At present I’m driving a 2002 Pontiac Aztek with ~140,000 miles on it and have, in the last few months been thinking “maybe it’s time to look at what’s new on the market”

Thankfully… or unfortunately, seeing this ad reminded me of who I should not be considering in such considerations… any GM vehicles.

Don’t get me wrong… I’ve been nothing but happy with my Aztek… the very fact that the US government has involved itself so with the company, altering the standard bankruptcy system and algidity threatened creditors of a competitor… it’s safe to say that if I do end up buying something new... it wont be a GM.

Thanks for the reminder!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Crazy People

Since moving to the Seattle area I've encountered many new different sorts of people (more on that another day)... unfortunately I've also seem to have found a few… seemingly insane people, the most recent case involved a person who kept insisting that I stop IMing them... even when it was she who was IMIng me repeatedly.

Yes... I could have just blocked her and ended things... though I was curious just how much she intended to harass me so I kept watching and even warned her that if she continued this that I would report the general incident and the threats made during it to the police. Unfortunately she was undeterred and continued the previous shenanigans, even including IMs demanding that I stop IMing her... take this portion of the chat log (edited to remove names of offending party and expletives but not for actual order or content or messages, what you see below is what we both said during the interval in question, do note the time stamps):

5/1/2009  11:18:46 AM  Them: STOP MESSAGING ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
5/1/2009  11:18:57 AM  Them: STOP
5/1/2009  11:19:07 AM  Them: DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND STOP
5/1/2009  11:19:17 AM  Them: STOP MESSAGING ME
5/1/2009  11:21:57 AM  Them: please
5/1/2009  11:21:57 AM  Them: stop
5/1/2009  11:23:27 AM  Them: k?
5/1/2009  11:25:17 AM  Them: OKAY <expletive>ER????????????????
5/1/2009  11:37:52 AM  Them: ...
5/1/2009  11:38:33 AM  Them: <expletive> face?
5/1/2009  11:39:24 AM  Me: last pages printed... off to the cop shop!
5/1/2009  11:39:49 AM  Them: STOP <expletive>ING MESSAGING ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
5/1/2009  11:40:01 AM  Me: says the woman who keeps IMing me out of the blue
5/1/2009  11:40:41 AM  Them: STOP <expletive>ING IM'ING ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
5/1/2009  11:47:38 AM  Them: ./quit
5/1/2009  11:53:31 AM  Them: ./quit
5/1/2009  11:55:16 AM  Them: ./quit
5/1/2009  12:00:24 PM  Them: ./quit
5/1/2009  1:23:16 PM  Them: stop messaging me bakka

Is what you see above enough to report to the police? No... but some threats that I won't be repeating here were made, threats that she's not likely to make good on... but in case she does, I felt it important to have official documentation of them to establish a history of this kind of behavior.

The interesting thing (to me) is that even while at the police station reporting this (arrived there 11:55, left ~1:00 (they made me wait a bit it being lunch hour and all))... she continued to attempt to harass me.

At present... I have her blocked on Messenger, at some point in the future I will probably remove the block just to see if she's still trying to get my goat or worse.