Microsoft Company Meeting

Note:  Everything in this blog is public information –
I went to the Microsoft Company Meeting yesterday, and of my 5 years at Microsoft, I’d have to say one of the best yet.  It’s always fun to see the upcoming technologies and the list of released products, as well as the neat things that our company is doing.  I drank the kool-aid deeply.
First, I’m a fan of the new ad campaign.  The Jerry and Bill ads were a bit weird… but the I’m a PC campaign finally makes me feel somewhat adequate that I haven’t joined the throngs of hipsters that have converted to the Mac.   What can I say… I’m not a Mac… I’m a PC…
Second, I’m pretty excited about what we’re doing with cloud computing.  I will be trying out the Live Mesh technology with my grandma.  And if there is ever a technology that my grandma can use – it’s pretty cool. 
Also, there’s so many interesting technologies slated for next year that we’ll all be using.  The demos were amazing and I think this will be the year that MS will wow the customers with product updates.  It finally feels like the upgrade features will be substantial this year.  Here is some public information about what’s coming up –
Office 14 – Super excited about the online collaboration features.  A little bit of catch up with Google, but the demos really looked like we one up’ed them with a great set of relevant features.
Windows 7 – All the efforts put in to performance excites me.  It’s one of the big reasons I sometimes like to use Linux.  
SQL Server 2008 – Fantastic business intelligence features.  It looks like we’ll be able to spend more time analyzing the data that we want and making decisions, rather than the logistics of working with a database.  Since I have to often deal with the "logistical work with the database", this will be great.
I did have to leave early and missed Steve Ballmer’s talk which was a big bummer… but as I was leaving, I heard three enormous explosions as I heard them introduce Steve Ballmer… I don’t know what that was, but I saw smoke leaking out of the roof at Safeco Stadium.  Then, about a 1/4 mile away in the parking lot, I heard Steve screaming, "I love this company" at the top of his lungs.  I’m sure most of the Sodo region heard it echoing through the streets.  He’s a rock star… and I’m bummed I missed it.  I’ll have to ask some of my coworkers to re-enact the speech for me. 
I’m sure MS shells out some big bucks in terms of putting on this elaborate show at Safeco Stadium for its employees.  It worked for me.  Ours is a pretty impressive company.

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Hyun Family Data Center

I’ve been wrestling with our data storage issue for a few years.  It always ends up that all of our pictures, videos, music is scattered across various computers throughout our house.  And if any one of the PCs or hard drives quit on us, we’re going to never see some of those files again.

Tenille and I have always discussed that if the house ever burnt down, we’d most regret losing our pictures and videos.  Almost everything else, we can just buy again (assuming our family escaped the blaze safely also.)

During my paternity, I finally addressed the issue.   Warning:  This blog is a bit nerdy, but I thought it might help others who have the same problem and may find this useful.

I took an old Dell (probably not even ebay-able at this point) and converted it into a NAS (network attached storage) unit.  I created a LiveCD of FreeNAS which is software that turns your PC into a NAS.  A NAS is basically like a hard drive that is plugged into your network.  The advantage is that multiple PCs can access it.  The disadvantage is that it can be slow depending on your networking. 

A LiveCD is a CD image that you burn to a CD.  You just have to pop this CD into your CD ROM and reboot your machine, and voila! – Your PC has turned into a NAS unit.  There are other LiveCDs for various distributions of Linux, if you want to try out Linux without installing it on your hard drives.  One of my favorites is Slax.  If you’re just browsing the Internet, the performance is incredible!  One great advantage of a LiveCD is that if you don’t like it, just pop it out of the CD ROM, and your computer is back to the way it was as if nothing ever happened.

I did purchase 2 250GB Hard drives which I have configured with RAID 1 which means that they are mirrored.  (FreeNAS support software RAID.)  If a single hard drives fail (and hard drives will fail eventually), the other hard drive still has all the information.  I just have to replace the failed hard drive, and we’re good to go.  We will also implement a quarterly DVD backup plan and leave copies down at my parents.  Otherwise, if the house burns down, we still lose all our data.

I also purchased a cheap D-link gigabit switch and gigabit ethernet adapters to spice up the performance.  The most important thing for me is that I want to make sure I can watch video from all of my PCs.  It seems like 100 MB/sec (which is probably what most PCs come equipped with today) is fast enough for watching video, but the gigabit is nice for transferring LARGE amounts of data.  I watched Curious George with Caleb today as a test run.  Looks great!

Now, all our media files are accessible by all our PCs.  They are mirrored on redundant hard drives and get backed up regularly.  The performance is decent.  Some people like to do construction projects around the house on their time off…  I’d best stick to playing with hard drives lest I injure myself.

Lake Powell

We visited Tenille’s family in Utah and joined them in our annual Lake Powell trip.  Weather was nice (which means it was cloudy and not boiling our brains out.)  We seem to be in a bit of a lull where the "kids" are getting too old and not willing to be pulled more than twice behind the ski boat, and the "grandkids" are a bit too young to water ski or wakeboard.  However, the few times that we did go out on the ski boat, I had my "flagger" job stolen from me by one of the grandkids… There’s always someone younger and willing to work harder…
I did have some fun with our new zoom lens.  Tenille wanted me to get a picture of her jumping, because she’s not sure how many more pulls she’s got left in her…  It’s almost time to join me out in the pasture… (although I guess I’ve probably never been out of the pasture… )
We also went to go work on their cabin.  By "We", I mean Mark (Tenille’s brother) and Jeff (her father) went to work.  I followed them and watched.  I did help lift a few pieces of plywood, but promptly hurt my back… At the cabin, I witnessed a construction art called "framing".  Mark lifted himself up on top of the 2×4 frame about 10 feet off of the ground and walked around on it like an Olympic gymnast on a balance beam, except he was carrying a 15 lb tool belt, a Sawzall, an pneumatic nail gun, and some 2 by 4s.  It truly should be an Olympic event, although I’m guessing that "mistakes" are probably much more gruesome, as the ground is not covered with plush cushions, but metal grates, various cutting tools, ladders, etc…     It was truly incredible to watch, not to mention nail-bitingly nerve-racking.  I wondered if his wife knew precisely the kinds of things he did, or if it’s just described to her as "I just put on the roof… "  I really wished I had some pictures…

We also went to the “This is the Place” park, where “actors” are simulating life in the 1800s.  Caleb got a shave with a straight razor, got to do some surveying, rode a mini-train, heard the tinman make a bunch of bad jokes, and got educated in little school house.
As always, fun was had by all.  Caleb loved playing with his cousins, especially catching grasshoppers in the backyard.  Next stop with the Roberts clan – Disney World.
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