June 2008 Archives

June 24, 2008

Adventures in Villa Park, IL

Last night, at 10:30 PM, I flew into the Chicago Midway Airport.  Why?  Because I am taking a Train the Trainer class for OS X Deployment for 10.5.  I have never been East of the Mississippi, unless you count the quick stop in JFK on my way to and from Germany.  As such, I didn't know what to expect.  The flight was, bumpy at first.  I flew Frontier Airlines, which is based out of Denver.  The runway in Denver was really rough, and the plane I was on first made noises as though someone was literally riveting the thing together as we took off and landed.  Other than that, it was a pretty nice flight.  From Denver to Chicago was different.  Because I was in such a hurry to make my connection (the plane was supposed to be taking off when I landed), I had to place my smaller bag overhead, which had my reading material.  So, I read the magazine available to me, until the entertainment was turned off and then on again.  They had to reboot (and on these planes each person had their own TV screen).  The good news is that we all got free TV content without having to pay for it (normally it was $3.99).  Also, the leg room was MUCH better than either Delta or American Airlines.  I was impressed.The taxi ride was a bit longer than I would have expected, and the traffic was really light (but then, it WAS after 10:00 at night).  It was pleasant, and the hotel attendant that checked me in was very courteous.  I hadn't eaten all day (my delay at Denver was more of a mad dash), so I ate the cookie in my room.  I'm sure I'll be paying for it later, but I was really hungry.  The room was really warm.  I didn't see an air conditioning unit, and didn't know how to cool things off, so I just dealt with it.  It was still cooler than my house had been lately back home with a broken swamp cooler (which I managed to fix for my wife Sunday, before I flew out).  By that time it was midnight Chicago time, and I was planning on waking up at 6:00, since I didn't know where I was going the next day. I woke up at 7:00 AM, checked my email, and breathed a sigh of relief that the training was not starting until 9:00.  I got ready and headed down to breakfast, which was filling, yet light.  Not too much meat, plenty of egg, a half a danish, and some yogurt.  I then headed out to the training building.  I'm walking, because the training building was supposed to be less than a mile away from my location...  except I got some rather dodgy directions and ended up going the wrong way.  By now the heat and humidity was getting to me, and I was 15 minutes late to the training.  Luckily they didn't start anything important, and I was able to get settled.  I'll comment on the training on the last day (but for now I'll just say I'm enjoying it.  ^_^).  Lunch was at the Baker's Place (I think), which has the exact same menu items as Village Inn, which apparently no one on either side of the Rockies had heard of.  It was good, even though the meal came slow.  But it was right next to the training center, which gave us plenty of time to get back (five of us ate there).  After the training, I headed back to the hotel.  The traffic was horrendous, making me quite happy I opted to walking.  I hate traffic, even in Salt Lake which didn't even compare to what I saw on my way back to the hotel.  Along the way, I was looking for options to try for my dinner.  I'm not really that picky, and I like to make something light while on the road.  That way I can study while eating and not be bothered by anyone.  Well, I was about to give up on any type of grocery store until I saw it:  An Aldi.  Now, many of you may think I'm being silly, but I love Aldi.  Why?  Because I used to always shop there in Frankfurt.  They were everywhere, and held the cheapest, almost tasteless food imaginable.  But it brought back fond memories of the old days, and I picked up some things for dinner and lunch for the next two days.  I picked up fruit, bottled water (mostly for the bottles), and two dinner items.  All total it came to $14.00.  I just had to carry it the rest of the way back to the hotel (again, another Germany moment). So, how do I rate my trip to the Chicago area so far?  Traffic is a definite minus, no sidewalks reminds me of Austin Texas (and the blisters I got), and I don't really like the heat.  The plus sides are close shops, a nice, comfortable hotel room (I've since found the AC ^_^), and an ALDI close by.  I'd say that this is definitely the best training trip I've been on.  The only thing that could make this better than going to Cupertino for training would be an Apple Company Store with employee discount.  ^_^Stay tuned for details on my Training experience!  

June 21, 2008

Why 10.6 So Soon? A New Kernel? Could it be Xen? Arguments for and against

The speed of the new Mac OS release has me thinking.  It's really soon since Leopard was released, and Exchange support really isn't enough to warrant it.  Then I keep coming back to the reasons Apple said they are releasing it:  Security, Efficiency, and Power Consumption.  This is really low-level stuff, down to the kernel. When Mac OS X was first released, the OS was built around the Mach kernel.  To date, there are only two OSes that I am aware of that have successfully used the Mach kernel:  Mac OS X and the NeXT OS.  THis shouldn't be surprising, since Steve Jobs owned NeXT, and just brought it over to Apple when he came back.  But the Mach kernel is very limiting, meaning that there is a lot of overhead to make it work across platforms.  While it can work fine on various architectures, the Mach kernel has to be developed specifically for that platform before it will work.  As such, there is an inherent flaw in using this core in an OS that is poised to do so many things.  Another problem with the Mach kernel is virtualization.  Now, I'm not talking about virtualization in a desktop sense, but rather a server sense.  While it is possible to use the current OS in a virtual machine (both Parallels and VMWare are doing something just like that), it's very difficult to get it to work in Compatibility Mode, because the kernel needs to be modified heavily.  Since Compatibility mode is more efficient than HVM, it should be a goal of Apple.But then I read this article regarding the possibility of using Xen as a replacement for the Mach kernel, as tested and run by Moshe Bar.  All of a sudden, my heart skipped a beat.  Xen!  Running natively on the Mac as a Bare-bones OS, virtualizing the Mac OS!  I started looking back at the evidence:  no PPC support, which means Intel only.  The Core 2 Duo and Atom chips all have Intel VT technology, so it should be no problem.  With Xen at the core, they can still keep Darwin open source, which is a huge plus.  And, you no longer need to boot up to Windows to use it:  Just run it through Xen.  It would work almost like fast user switching, but fast OS switching.  And, virtualization no longer becomes a problem, either for desktop or server level.  The OS can still be targeted specifically for Mac Hardware (though I think that will no longer be an issue as there is a law against requiring software to run on specific hardware), and could even be easily migrated to other hardware platforms, should Apple so choose.  Okay, once the euphoria of the possibility of Xen being the platform for OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, the nagging started to hit me.  Could there be reasons why Apple wouldn't go with Xen?
  1. The new "Grand Central" multi-core optimization project.  It *could* be Xen, but why rename it?  Perhaps because it isn't Xen at all.  Of course it still could be, just modified to fix the Mac even more. 
  2. XenSource was purchased by Citrix not long ago, and the question of it's Open Source status is still hanging.  There could be some collaboration here, but Apple likes to have control of everything from start to finish.  It now becomes very unlikely.  
So the possibility starts to dim, and my hopes start to dim with them.  Perhaps the new core will be more Xen-friendly.  
So what do you think?  

June 19, 2008

Mac OS X 10.6: First Impressions of Snow Leopard as Announced so Far

When Apple announced they were releasing a new version of the Mac OS so soon after the initial release, I nearly threw a hammer through the dashboard.  Why so soon?  We were just getting Mac OS X 10.5 training down, and now they have 10.6 coming as soon as January?  That's Crazy! But then, when I heard about the goal of 10.6, it made a bit more sense.  So what is that goal?
  1. Streamline the OS.  They want to streamline Mac OS X so that it runs more efficiently, particularly when it comes to power consumption.  Apple is no fool:  They know that energy prices are going up, and more people are moving to notebooks.  They also know that notebook owners are away from an outlet longer these days.  So, battery life needs to be improved.  The OS will be optimized for this event.  
  2. OpenCL Processing Power:  All that processing power in the GPU that can't be accessed,  all going to waste!  Why not use it as another processor in the machine?  The processing speed goes up overall on the machine while decreasing the need for faster (and more power-intensive) processors.  I'm not fully aware of what OpenCL can do, but from the whitepapers on the topic, it looks promising.  
  3. Security:  Apple has been plagued with some security news lately, mostly due to Safari's vulnerabilities.  That will be focused on within this release, making Mac OS X more secure as a result.  I'm interested to see the results when they are done.
  4. Exchange Integration:  Finally!  Mac is going to integrate Exchange into iCal and AddressBook (or Directory, either of which will be fine).  That means users can finally stop having to use that train-wreck, er, I mean program called Entourage to work with their Exchange calendars.  I'd also like to see some Exchange plugins for Calendar Server, allowing integration and publishing from the Server side of things.  
There are a couple of other features that are slated to come to Snow Leopard, but nothing major.  No new features like Spaces or Dashboard, which make the next upgrade necessary.  So why will people move to Snow Leopard after having purchased Leopard a little over a year ago?  Because of the Exchange features.  That is the Spaces of Leopard, and the Dashboard of Tiger.  It's the killer app that everyone will want, because they need to work in an Exchange environment.  
Now, the question is whether or not the upgrade will be free to all Leopard owners, or a paid upgrade.  Well, that's hard to say.  Traditionally all major updates (10.3 to 10.4 and so on) have been paid updates.  But then they didn't come out so soon after the last OS was released.  And Steve hasn't been too stingy when it comes to upgrading a device OS because the money is made on the device (i.e., iPhone or Apple TV).  Will that be the case here, since the money is made on the computer, and it's so soon after 10.5 was released?  Only time will tell.  
So those are my impressions of Snow Leopard.  The only thing left to say is I hope the Training doesn't change significantly, because it would mean going through the upgrade certification all over again, and I'm not sure it's something the department can do so soon.  

Advanced Mac OS X IT Training: Getting Certified

This week I am preparing for training in Chicago (Villa Park) for OS X Deployment, 10.5.  The class is newly remade, with a pretty hefty schedule for something that was supposed to be just 2 days long.  As it sits now, It looks like it will be a good 3 days for the class, though I will find out for sure next week.  The course seems to be pretty straightforward, focusing on deploying Mac OS X to a large audience.  All the bases are covered from planning to execution.  It will be a great class to sit through, and prepare to take the certification exam.This will be the second time I am leaving my wife and son for training.  Luckily, this week will be a short one, as I am leaving on Monday, and coming back late Thursday night.  This way I will still be able to teach my Server Essentials class on Friday, and not put the students one more day behind.  The next step will be going to Mac OS X Directory Services 10.5, and Advanced Server.  These classes are 4 and 5 days each, respectively, and will put me a full 11 days away from my wife and son.  I didn't do well last time around Christmas, but this time the major holiday will be behind me, and I will have another that following week to devote to my son.  At any rate, it will be the first time I have ever been to Chicago in my life, and I'm really excited.  I'm a big Chicago Cubs fan, and have always wanted to see the Windy City.  Perhaps I'll get a chance to head into town for the weekend.  One can only hope.  

June 14, 2008

Thoughts on Independence

Today we spent the morning at the Utah Scottish Festival, celebrating my Scottish heritage by listening to bagpipes, watching people by various weapons, wearing a kilt, and eating haggis.  It was a great day, one which I really enjoyed.  At noon they had the Gathering of the Clans, when the Clan representatives march in a parade, proudly hefting their banners and showing their unity in Scottish culture.  It's a grand sight, makes one's Celtic blood heat up in pride.  But it got me thinking:  Scotland was rarely that unified in it's focus.  In fact, they were often fragmented against each other regarding alliances to England, cattle lands, etc.  They fought more against each other than against England.  So where did this idea of "Scotland" come from?First, it came from the idea of Independence.  Not independence from England, though that was a major concern for centuries, but rather independent in their lifestyle.  They loved being responsible for themselves, and would always rebel against any perceived slight to that independence.  So what is independence?  It's being able to be completely self-determinate.  You don't depend on another entity to run your life, or augment your life.  Sadly, this concept is often overlooked when we go about our daily lives.  Are you really independent?  Are you able to take care of your needs, or do you need to rely on external support?For instance, financial independence is one that we all strive for.  Living without credit cards, bank loans, etc. is perhaps the greatest "American Dream", though I'm sure all people everywhere would like this same independence.  The quest for financial independence is often troubled by the need for conveniences.  Traveling quickly and freely, being connected through communication in various forms, and bringing in external amusement and entertainment often make us dependent on one service or another.  Consumptive dependence has become rampant since the creation of the Super Market.  We rely on specialized growers that produce one product, package it, process it, and ship it to us from all over the world.  We don't see the origins of the product, we don't know the grower.  We just know that the product is ready for consumption.  But if something goes wrong, what recourse do we have?  For instance, the nation is currently experiencing a tomato shortage because of a salmonella outbreak.  It's been weeks, and the FDA only knows that it should be from the crops on the East coast, not the West.  That's how dependent and disconnected we are from our food production. Of course, there is also National Independence, or rather a lack of dependence of the Nation on other nations.  The original Independence Day, July 4th, marks our political independence from England.  We could then decide what was best for our nation without another nation showing influence.  Since then we have become dependent on a global economy, particularly in energy, and as such that dependence highly influences our internal politics.  All I hear now regarding the 3rd District Congressional race here in Utah is focus on "Foreign Oil Dependency", high gas prices, and illegal immigration.  Now, I'm not arguing any specific political position.  Lots of people have strong feelings on both sides of any of these issues.  But rather I was focusing on the concept of independence.  At what level can you call yourself independent, whether at a personal, familial, communal, or national level?  What does it mean to be independent, to you?  It's a weekend thought, but one by which I have been troubled.  You tell me:  What do you consider independence?  How would you define an Independent nation?  Perhaps it's something we should think about as we approach the Independence Day holiday on July 4th.  

June 12, 2008

The New iPhone 3G: My First Impressions

When the first iPhone was released, I got all excited, just like everyone else.  I thought it would be the perfect phone for me, until I saw what it didn't come with, i.e. apps.  The price was high, but my euphoric response didn't see that.  But the 2 year contract with AT&T did slap me into real life.  It just became too impractical for me to own, and so I let go of the dream.  Much like Nick in GPF Comics, I walked away.  It was just too impractical for what I was hoping it would be:  a replacement for my laptop.  Now the new iPhone 3G has been announced, with the release on July 11th.  I can honestly say I am excited for the release.  This time the price for the device is lower, and I already have a 2 year contract with AT&T (when my wife and I found out we were expecting, we thought cell phones would be a good idea).  And I hate my current phone.  Why do I hate it?  Because it has a blasted camera button on the side of it, and I keep taking pictures of my pocket when I pull it out.  I need a new phone. So, I'm seriously looking at the iPhone 3G.  The data price hasn't gone up for my Business account, but it's still pretty steep.  That's one strike against it.  The other will be determined entirely by the application offerings that are available for the iPhone.  The teaser pictures are encouraging, but there are some pretty specific applications I would like to see for the new iPhone.  Also, I'm still holding out for a UMPC from Apple.  I want an iPod Slate, and there is some evidence that it will be happening in the next quarter, just in time for Christmas.  So instead of both my wife and I getting an iPhone, we are getting one, and hopefully the Slate will be released on time. So, my over all impression:  the new iPhone is a definite buy, but with some reservations.  Look for September to at least have a refreshed version of the iPod Touch, and perhaps have the iPod Slate.  If not, then I may get another iPhone.  After all, with 10.6 not supporting PPC processors, I need a new laptop anyway.

June 11, 2008

Going Gluten and Casein Free: The first couple days.

My wife and I decided to try the diet with our son and see if it would improve his behavior positively.  Unlike medicating him, a diet is easily reversible if necessary, and doesn't have any adverse effects overall.  Of course, it means looking for the right resources, and has far reaching implications if it turns out his behavior is caused or aggravated by gluten or casein.  So, we thought we would try out the alternatives.  For Gluten, we purchased some Gluten Free/Casein Free flour from our local grocery store.  Smiths, Albertsons, and Harmons all had this same flour, all for about $5.00 a pound.  It's expensive, but for a trial it is worth it.  We also purchased (from the same makers) some gluten/casein free brownie mix, polenta, and chocolate chip cookie mix. The first one we tried was the brownies.  They were easy to mix, and the batter tasted the same.  The only thing I didn't add to it was the recommended vanilla, but other than that all was mixed according to the instructions.  Once finished, I spread it out in a pan, and baked according to directions.  I was amazed!  They came out very moist, and have retained that moisture far longer than other brownies I have ever made.  More cake-like than the traditional gooey brownie you may think of, it's been quite impressive.  I was sold, and my son ate it with relish (and he doesn't normally eat anything but icing on cake-like products).  It's still too early to tell, but I think we had a hit with these brownies.  Next, dealing without milk.  Casein is one of the primary milk proteins, making any milk-based product a problem.  And a huge problem, as my son has almost an addiction to cottage cheese (though that may make sense if it's becoming an opiate in his system).  So, how to break him of his milk kick? I started with the replacement milks:  soy and rice.  Now, I'm not a big fan of soy based products.  Soy is another food high on the food allergy list, and it's not something I wanted to try on Jonathan at such an early age.  So, I tested it myself.  The soy milk we purchased was a small one quart carton of Silk, which was calcium fortified.  I poured a small amount in a cup and tasted it:  it was really sweet and surprisingly good!  I gave some to Jonathan, and he drank it, and took more.  A small victory, and no side effects.  Next, I tried the rice milk.  We could only find a two quart carton, so we purchased that.  I poured it out, taking a small taste.  It paled in comparison to the soy milk.  It had less flavor out of the carton, and seemed more watered down.  I tried it on Jonathan, and he took a taste and poured it out on the floor.  Well, the verdict was out, he didn't like it.  But I may try it again on him in another form, because he did try it just after tasting the Soy milk.  So, that has been our experience so far.  As it stands, the conversion hasn't been too difficult with Jonathan eating more fruits and almost no cheese (just need to continue to remind the in-laws of the new diet), and his behavior has improved noticeably.  We are cautiously optimistic on this front.

June 5, 2008

Autism and a Possible Dietary Link

Parents with autistic children are always looking for something to link a change that causes autism.  The thing is, there isn't a single cause that is yet discovered or understood.  We don't know what causes autism, because we don't know really what autism is beyond a behavior disorder.  But, there is some evidence that a change in diet can increase the chance of autistic children to alter their behavior. The evidence I am referring to is potential link to food allergies and autistic behavior.  It's been documented at autismweb.com.  It seems that there is a possible reaction to gluten and casein that can cause autistic behavior.  It's because the body produces an opiate that causes a reduction in attention, eye contact, and overall speech.  Now, the research on this is pretty mixed, as it has been fairly new to the clinical focus.  Many trials done came up with little statistically significant results, while some found some real results.  The department of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine did a study on the effects of Peptoids on autistic children that exhibited gastrointestinal problems.  These problems include vomiting, stomach aches, and diarrhea.   The findings were promising, in that eye contact and verbal communication increased.  While it is not a "smoking gun" for autism, it is something to focus on for parents when they go to their doctor.  Now, I want to make it perfectly clear that removing gluten and casein is not the end all beat all for autistic children.  Several other clinical studies did not find a link, and in fact found no statistically significant results.  But there is a potential link, and it gives some hope.  The first thing to do is to talk to the doctor.  We are going to take out son in and talk to him about the research done, see what he thinks, and go from there.  Next, check to see if my boy has an allergy or sensitivity to gluten and/or casein.  If so, then the next thing is to obviously remove them from his diet.  It isn't going to be easy, he loves his cottage cheese.

June 3, 2008

Busy Week and Training Growth

This week has been extremely busy for me at work.  Normally I average two classes a week, with time in between to work on preparation for each class, managing my inbox, and research for new teaching methods. This week, I am teaching every day, with two full day classes and three 4-hour classes.  That means less time for prep (the classes are all different subjects), less time to correspond, and less time to prepare for some upcoming training at the end of the month. Now, while all this work is exhausting and tends to be confusing (jumping from Linux to Microsoft Office to Mac), it is a good sign of growth to our program.  As of last week, we hit a record registration for this time of the year.  More people are signing up for our classes than before, and more people are retaking classes for newer versions of software.  So how does one deal with such growth?  Right now we are nearly at a breaking point, and need some additional contract instructors on board.  Also necessary would be more administrative staff, which we hope to have on board soon.  And there seems to be a growing need for training in other parts of the State, which suggests more travel in the near future.  So what does this all mean in the long-term?  Growth across a larger area to provide more training facilities in our growing market.  It also means more staff, either as contract instructors or as full time instructors.  The second question is how we managed to grow.  The answer is with diversity.  Our demographics are so wide within Technology education that we manage to provide quality training in a number of areas that are often overlooked by other training facilities.  After all, we are the only Apple Authorized Training Center in the State of Utah, and as such provide a growing variety of training in a commonly overlooked but growing market.  The exciting thing is the potential growth coming in the coming years.  It's a real exciting time, if rather stressful for the instructor covering classes for others on vacation in the Summer.  Luckily my marathons will be run by the end of the month, giving me more time to work on my most recent research project:  distance education for tech classes.  ^_^
OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

May 2008 is the previous archive.

July 2008 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.