May 312011

Over the weekend, I read that  Tom West passed away. The Tracy Kidder book, The Soul of A New Machine, chronicled the creation of a microcomputer at Data General in the late 1970s. I still own the copy that my parents gave me in high school. 20 years later, I still think about the engineers that worked on that machine. The Soul of A New Machine was one of the reasons why I became a software engineer, and Tom West was a role model.

 Posted by at 8:30 am
May 262011

The other day I wrote about having to reinstall Patti’s laptop from the factory defaults because Windows started to indicate that it was no longer licensed. The good news is that I finally got the laptop running well.

After installing the 15 remaining updates before and fully processing the removed antiquated programs, Windows started to work again. After that it was a matter of “simply” installing the remaining patches. It looks six or seven reboots with around 60-70 more patches to bring Windows up to a fully secure and patched version. Two of the reboots were due to service pack installations; they also required me to visit the computer more than once in order to install the patch–I had to agree to a license agreement. Similarly, I was prompted explicitly to install both Internet Explorer 8 and then Internet Explorer 9. There was no way for me to indicate to the operating system, “Please install all of the updates and keep updating until the system is fully patched and secure.” In addition, it was not possible to do one batch download of all of the updates. The final several reboots only consisted of five or six patches each.

Once the system was fully patched, I was able to install a copy of Microsoft Office for Home and Students. That installation went smoothly. I also installed several applications using the Google Pack–it’s an easy way to install a bunch of applications without having to worry about updating them manually later. I believe her laptop is fully patched at this point. It appears to be snappier, and I hope that it will continue to work correctly.

 Posted by at 1:05 pm
May 232011

Patti has been using a Dell Inspiron 1720 for the past three years. I took at a look at a year or so ago; I made sure that it had up-to-date anti-virus software, upgraded the memory, ran all Windows updates, and set up automatic security updates. A month or so ago, Windows started complaining that it was no longer authentic. And then it started disabling features: the background became black, external drives no longer worked correctly, and the computer seemed to take longer and longer to start up.

Today, I worked for several hours trying to fix the problem. I was unable to figure out which specific patch interacted poorly with windows, so after three or four hours of troubleshooting I backed up Patti’s files and reinstalled from the recovery disk. I had been reluctant to reinstall, because Patti had also purchased Microsoft Word. We’re going to have to find those CDs to reinstall as well.

After reinstalling, the system appeared to be fine. I started to download the 300 MB of security updates (86 of 86), disabled the expired and antiquated anti-virus, and installed a modern anti-virus problem. After several hours of re-installation, the computer again started to report Windows Genuine Advantage validation problems.

I started chatting with Microsoft. We worked through around 15 minutes of troubleshooting before the connection died.

There appears to be another batch of 15 updates; I’m hoping that these updates fix the problem. It looks like the problem is caused by a Microsoft or Dell update that has moved a “protected” file from the expected location. However, even though Microsoft requires that files be in specific states and specific locations, the “protection” software does not give any easy way to see the offending application.

This has been a frustrating experience. The laptop was legitimately purchased; the Microsoft software was legitimately purchased. Why do they feel it’s okay for their software to break in this manner with little or no recourse?

 Posted by at 1:23 am
May 112011

Last night I went to my friend Ginny’s book release party. I purchased her book, Dellwood, a few weeks ago. It’s an engrossing horror story of a woman named Constance who has a creepy and mysterious past. If you’re a fan of horror novels, I recommend picking it up.

Ginny’s book release party was hosted by my friends Larry and Anne at i Trulli, where Patti Jackson is the executive chef. (Larry, pictured below, is the gentleman hugging Ginny in the photo–not to mention Ginny’s beau.)

Ginny and Me

Larry and Ginny

 Posted by at 8:16 pm
May 052011

Smoked octopus with chorizoCheese and Meat board at Fishtag

I went to Fishtag last night for the second time. Fishtag is a relatively new restaurant on the Upper West Side. It’s owned by Michael Psilakis, a successful restaurant owner and chef. He is one of the owners of Anthos and the owner and chef at Kefi; in addition to owning Fishtag, he is also the executive chef. Ryan Skeen is the chef de cuisine; he’s an expert chef who makes innovative and tasty food. Two of the dishes we had last night are pictured above. One is the smoked octopus with chorizo with a potato puree. They did a great job of cooking the octopus perfectly: crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside. I ate most of the dish before taking the picture, because I like eating food more than I like taking pictures.

The second photo is the charcuterie and cheese board; as you can see, I ordered three cheese and two meats. They presented the cheese and meats with five different sauces, olives and pickled vegetables, a date, and perfectly charred bread. This was one of the most elegant presentations of meat and cheese I have ever seen; I don’t believe anyone in New York City is doing anything as pretty right now. When Patti joined me, she ordered another set of meats and cheeses; that presentation was totally different yet equally beautiful.

We had a few other dishes that evening. I loved the chopped chicory, wild argula, and bulgur salad. Another exciting dish we had was something the kitchen was working on: head cheese served with shiso over a hearts of palm puree. When you bite into this dish, all of the flavors blended seamlessly–it makes you think that there is no way any of the ingredients should ever be removed.

In addition to the extensive menu, Fishtag has a great wine, beer, and cocktail list. I recommend checking out the dinner menu and the “appetizing” menu [warning: PDFs]. Hours are on the Fishtag website. Fishtag is on 79th Street, just off of Broadway. For out-of-towners, this is very close to the Museum of Natural History and just up the street from Lincoln Center.

 Posted by at 10:14 pm
May 052011

I’ve completed my move from Blogger to WordPress.

The transition was fairly smooth; I probably should have made the changes a while ago. Here are some of the actions I took to migrate the blog:

  • Created a new domain,
  • Installed WordPress using Dreamhost’s one-click install.
  • Exported my posts from Blogger and saved it to my desktop.
  • Used the tool blogger2wordpress to convert my Blogger export file into a file that I could import into WordPress.
    • I used this tool rather than the regular migration strategy in WordPress because I wanted to remember the URLs and email addresses that users would have entered into my blog before. The built-in Blogger import in WordPress just created the users without any additional information.
  • Tweaked the export file so that categories were correctly imported.
  • Performed the import into WordPress.
  • Installed the Suffusion theme, because I think it looked good.
  • Linked the domain “” to My thought is that if I ever want to switch blogging platforms again, it will be easier if I have a single domain that faces the outside world.
  • Set up Google Analytics in Suffusion; also installed the Google Analytics Dashboard.
  • Configured archive and category pages on WordPress; also made the “permalinks” similar to the old site.
  • Set up redirects from my old site at to
  • Ran a script to vet the old links to make sure they were redirecting correctly.
    • It turned out that around 20% of the links did not work correctly. Blogger removed words like “a” and “the” from the title; WordPress keeps those words in. Blogger and WordPress also handled title collisions differently. I did a mass database update for most of the posts and then fixed a bunch of them by hand.
    • Some of the category pages also needed to be tweaked by hand to make sure that they were working.
  • Installed SSL on so that I could use my username and password without getting them stolen.
    • Purchased an IP address from Dreamhost
    • Purchased an SSL certificate from RapidSSL. (Which doesn’t seem to work on Firefox, but I only really care about Chrome.)
  • Installed plug-ins to add more functionality to WordPress

It was a fair amount of work, but it was a lot of fun. I’m still looking for the best way to selectively publish photos directly from my Eye-Fi.

 Posted by at 8:18 pm
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