This site functions as an archive of Conner's Blog, which was a blog from 2006-2014 located at http://connermccall.com. Images and links are likely to be broken.

Small Enhancements

I'm a believer in autohotkey. I don't spend hours creating complex macros, but it's great for little things that you do day to day that may not have a keyboard shortcut. It can be used to solve so many usability problems its crazy. I wish more IT people realized its value and started using it within company IT departments.

This brings me to my point. The IT department at my company is horrible. They constantly tell users that they just need to deal with things, without offering even the simplest of solutions. The sad thing is that with just a little bit of effort, and by utilizing Autohotkey they could solve the majority of these problems. One of the issues that we have frequently is Acrobat Reader hanging. The exact cause of this is unknown, but the way we are told to fix it is to kill it using task manager. Our help desk teaches users to press ctrl-alt-del, choose task manager, find Acrordr32.exe and click end process.

Isn't the point of a help desk to make your employees or customers lives easier. I was fed up with my co-workers getting frustrated and either restarting their computers or just dealing with the problem. Therefore, I just whipped up a simple script that does exactly that, it just looks forAcrordr32 .exe and ends the process. Simple? Yes. Easy? Yes. Best Solution? No. However, since our IT department cannot solve the problem, I am happy to save my co-workers four clicks.

Status

For anyone who happens to run across this blog, don't worry you haven't stumbled into a black hole. I do intend on writing again, just been busy with other things. I got a new position within my company and the holidays drained me.

In the works -

  • A new site template using the Yahoo! User Interface.
  • Podcast Recommendations
  • Tutorial on Wordpress templates
  • Linux Desktop Rant
  • Using Google readers shared feature for podcasts
  • Sunbird and Gcal
  • Experience with Git
  • My utter and complete distaste for Mike Huckabee

Hope to see you soon!

Book Endorsement

Regulations at Work

I drove to Iowa over Christmas. The state was just finishing up clearing the roads from a fairly major snow storm. As I drove down I-35 I noticed a ton of cars in the ditch, which was kind of odd I thought. Turns out that the state of Iowa imposes a tow ban during a major snow storm.

I'm not sure what to think of this, seems like overkill, but the more I thought about it the better I liked the idea. It keeps tow trucks from getting on the road and causing accident, directly or indirectly. It also might keep people off the roads who know that if they do go in the ditch they can't get their car out. Sounds like a great plan considering the amount of traffic you find on the roads in Minneapolis during any given snowstorm.

Traffic Commentary

Steve Steeple: Welcome to the traffic report. Todays report is brought to you by Straight Ahead! "Tires that only turn when you want them to"

Tina Greggs: Hi Steve, well where are we broadcasting from today.

SS: Well Tina, well we have some great gridlock just past the I92 and highway 36 interchange. We have traffic backed up for about 6 miles and boy do we have a good game going today.

TG: Great, anything happening right now.

SS: Of course, we actually currently have a cute little blond in a Camry that is seconds from causing a wreck.

TG: Is she on her cell phone?

SS: Yeah, but she seems to be handling talking and driving in this five mile per hour traffic, but the guys that are passing her just are not paying attention. Oh! Wow, we just had a civic full of teenage boys that was inches from rear ending the car in front of them. Too busy gawking and no one was paying attention, lucky for them they didn't hit that car, that definitely would not have helped them from being caught staring.

TG: Oh, did you see that, that Cavalier is leaving a three car length gap in front of it.

SS: Yeah, that driver is trying the no brakes strategy today, we'll have to watch and see how it pans out. Surprisingly though, neither of the cars in front of it have taken advantage of that 16 feet of empty space, that might get them home 2 second faster.

TG: Very odd, especially this time of day. Oh wait there one goes.

SS: Wow that Porsche just moved in there and actually hit 10 miles per hour before having to slam on his brakes. Really impressive driving there, saved himself about a quarter second on the drive home.

TG:What is that red Bonneville doing, his blinker has been going for about forty seconds.

SS: I think he is planning on pulling the three lane cross in record distance. Yep, he is going to cut it close. Oh he did it, look at that skill, three lanes in the middle of bumper to bumper traffic in about 20 feet. Good patience by the driver not working his way over a mile down the road. Really impressive

TG: Honestly, I'm surprised that any of the vehicle let him in.

SS: Kind of shocking I know, but I think they were using his play to their advantage. See they let him in and then they have about 3 car lengths to accelerate before slamming on their brakes. It's all about the illusion of movement here.

TG: What is that, oh, we have some honking drivers.

SS: Looks like someone was on their phone and didn't see the cars move ahead of them.

TG: That won't make the drivers behind him happy.

SS: No we hate to see that, just wasted precious stop and go time, now they have to drive almost 50 yards before stopping, sure to throw off their rhythm.

TG: Well it looks like things are starting to speed up.

SS: Oh don't kid yourself, someone will bring things to a screeching halt shortly. Ah, see there you go, that Red Caravan just decided to slow down for no apparent reason, which caused everyone around it to slow way down.

TG: Ah, yes the overly cautious driver ploy, Oh wait there was someone pulled over by the highway patrol on the other side of the highway. Turns out it was the Gawker Slowdown, a much more popular play over the last few weeks.

SS: Yes, it seem that has really gained popularity in the last two weeks. I'm sure we'll start to see the Worried Corners start to make some progress in the next weeks though.

TG: Worried Corners?

SS: Oh that is my favorite. Just love it when people drop their speed by 20 miles when taking your basic turn. Just makes my day! Well we need to throw it to commercials, but join us next time on KTQT's Traffic report. Thanks for listening!

More Last.fm

As I wrote previously, I have become addicted to last.fm. I think it is a great service. It not only lets you see your listening habits through a ton of statistics, but the music recommendations are almost scary. I recently updated a friend’s media player using my computer. I just selected Modest Mouse (his favorite band), chose the first recommendation (The New Pornographers), and tossed it on his player. He actually mentioned the band as the one he really liked. They truly have something going on in the recommendations department.
However, there is a problem with last.fm. You cannot submit tracks manually, which is kind of a problem for some people. I have listened to Kill Hannah's CD three or four times in the last week and that does not show up in my listener history. As far as I can tell, there is no application out there that will allow you to do this easily. There are a few, lastfmsubmitd comes with a couple utilities, but neither is very friendly.
I can understand why last.fm does not have a readily available client for this; it would be easy for spammers to abuse. Luckily, I have some coding chops, and went ahead and wrote a php script to do it for me. I even grabbed an available ID3 class so all I have to do is point it at the song on my server and it submits it for me. I am not 100% sure it's compliant with last.fm's user agreement, but for now I'll just try to avoid getting caught

Giving is Marketing

This is a great article about a bank in Fargo, ND which gave their employs $500-$1000 each to use for the cause of their choice. Though I can definitely see some hurdles to overcome, it's a creative way for a company to give back. I will say that I have become pretty immune to companies giving me a huge number and saying we donated that to charity. This not only gave the employees a reason to feel good about themselves over the holidays, but also generated amazing publicity and all it cost the company was a donation they would have probably given anyway.

It’s not a pay as you go plan!

I was listening to a local morning show this morning and the host mentioned the fact that John Rich from Big and Rich had trademarked the phrase "If you don't love America get out". The host then made the statement that if you are wearing a shirt with that slogan you may owe John Rich some money. I think that is a perfect example as to why copyright and trademark laws are so ridiculous. No one understands them, even those in the entertainment injury who have a very good reason to understand them don't seem to have a grasp of the rights available.

Come on people!

Why are some sites direct linking to the PDF of the Mitchell report without warning people. It's a 6 meg file, no one wants to start that download without some warning.

By the way here is a direct link to the PDF of the report. [Link]

Steroids and Baseball

The Mitchell Report was released today. It doesn't look good for baseball. A lot of big names have been linked to Steroid use. The report makes a good decision by calling out baseball as a whole as part of the problem. I do not see any good coming from this for the MLB.

Of course if the MLB was smart they could possibly use this report to do some good and restore integrity to the game. If I were commissioner, I would institute a policy that every player mentioned in the report or caught using steroids in the future will be banned from the MLB with all records stripped from the record books if they do not donate time or money to anti-steroid programs across the country. The MLB banned Pete Rose for life for being greedy and breaking the law, and using steroids is both greedy and illegal.