Moving Forward

There are times when a person needs to step back and analyze what they’re doing, where they’ve been, where they’re going, and how they’re going to get there. I’ve been pondering such things over the past few weeks. I’ve got a lot of soul searching to do, but I’ve come to two conclusions thus far.

First, while I’m mostly content with my life, I don’t know that I’m truly “happy”.  I’m certainly not unhappy, but I know there is room for much improvement.

Second, I make poor use of my free time.

These two things are somewhat intertwined. I’ve let myself slip back into one of my extreme hermit phases again, where I’m not really keen on doing anything except sit in my little cave and do things that are easy and convenient. It becomes very easy to become isolated and to just coast by. It’s been something I’ve struggled with for most of my life. It’s not a conscious choice, it just sort of happens.

One of the things that’s helped to make this latest hermit cycle longer and more drawn out has been a computer game – Eve Online. Its one of those Massively Multiplayer Online games, but it’s particularly devious and cunning because it’s set in space (awesome), has customizable space ships that can do any number of things (awesome), and is completely unscripted and player-driven (awesome). The latter point is the big problem though. Since there are no defined paths to follow, there’s no real way to “win” the game, and it never ends. There’s always something new to do, another thing to try, another place to take your character, another way to make (and lose) in-game money. While it’s very engrossing and entertaining, it’s also a huge time sink.

Over the four or so years I’ve been playing Eve, I’ve allowed myself to rack up no less than eight paid accounts. Some I started on my own, and others I acquired from friends who were walking away from the game. Having eight “main” characters allowed me to let each of them specialize in various in-game professions or roles, which also left me with a pretty much endless supply of things to do. Where a normal player with one character on one account might get bored doing the same things, I never had that problem, because I had enough diversity in my army of characters that I could do pretty much anything. If I got bored doing one thing, another was always a few clicks away.

How one plays 8 Eve accounts – multiple computers/screens. The four on the right were for Eve, the one in the middle is for TV, and the one on the left is my main desktop.

When the financial cost of keeping 8 accounts running started catching up with me, I found ways to keep playing without spending money. Eve is somewhat unique in that you can trade in-game currency for playing time. Therefore, if you’re space-rich, or can make a lot of in-game cash quickly, you can play indefinitely without spending any real money. I started coming up with all kinds of schemes to keep my accounts subscribed without paying money, but they all involved one thing in abundance – time. At one point, I was doing a lot of the more tedious (and profitable) things to keep my characters busy, but it quickly started feeling like a second job. I got sick of that particular play style, and stopped. It wasn’t fun.

Over the past month or two, I’ve been having an ongoing debate with myself on whether I should just stop playing altogether. I’m half-convinced (okay, maybe more than half) that I suffer at least a mild addiction to the game, and I’m not really sure I can play like a normal human would. I’ve gone back and forth between various ideas on how I could keep my playing time constrained, and just wanting to give it up entirely. The thing that’s pushed me towards the latter isn’t necessarily how much time I spend playing, it’s how much I think about the game when I’m not playing, and how much internal deliberation I’ve gone through with figuring out how I would quit. In pondering the subject of quitting, I would often go off on side tangents about whether I should just stop playing immediately, give my assets to friends, do this, that, the other thing, or whatever. Just stopping altogether was pretty much unthinkable much of the time, which told me I was “in too deep.”

So in the end, I decided that outright quitting is what I had to do. Yesterday, I made the choice to just stop playing, for the foreseeable future at least. I sent off a mail to in-game friends letting them know what was up, and that was it. I’ve already slimmed down my gaming fortress (shown above in its most over-the-top stage) to two computers, and I’ll be shelving those in the next few days to avoid temptation. I’m not ruling out playing again in the future, but I want to give myself the opportunity to reset for a while, and not let it consume my time in the way it did.

So what will I do in place of Eve?

  • Spend more time with my wife
  • Rediscover old hobbies, like my long-neglected guitars
  • Find some new hobbies
  • Get my ass in shape (a process already started – 10 pounds down, 50 to go!)
  • Get better with doing things around the house
  • Knock out some of my long-standing geek and non-geek projects

So, there’s plenty of things to do, and now I should have a lot more time to do them.

Edit Post, Edit Post, Edit Post

I’ve spent a good part of the day so far updating old posts to properly conform with the new WordPress setup. I’ve got most of the posts back to the start of 2005 edited, so there should be a much smaller number of 404′s showing up in my server logs (hopefully). I’ll have to see about doing the rest at some other point. I also thought about categorizing all of the various posts, but that seems more daunting than just fixing all of the images and links.

Perhaps another time.

Clearing The Dust Off

I’ve been monkeying around with WordPress lately, so I decided revive this old beast and start anew with a different content engine. WordPress is able to import content via RSS feeds, so I was able to modify my RSS script to do a full RSS dump of my old site and import it into a new WordPress install. It didn’t get the comments, but I can live with that. Plenty of stuff will be broken until I can get things properly converted and shoehorned into the WordPress system.

S/PDIF Wishes and HDMI Dreams

One of my long-standing dreams of home ownership has been to have a bitchin’ audio/video setup. I’ve probably had this desire for longer than I’ve had the desire to be a home owner, now that I think about it. Just for clarification – by “bitchin’ audio/video setup,” I don’t mean some $50,000 custom-made setup that is put into a specially designed room with amphitheater seating positioned on shock-absorbing pylons, or anything like that. While that would certainly be neat, that’s not really what I’m looking for.

What I want is a system where I can be enjoying either music or a movie/tv show/whatever in one room, and be able to move to another room and enjoy the same content, seamlessly. Moreover, I want this to be usable by multiple people, simultaneously. Here are the big bullet points for what I am after:

  • All rooms should be connected to a distribution setup
  • The distribution setup should send at least one HDMI and at least two S/PDIF signals to each room
  • HDMI feed should be attached to HD peripherals – DVD player, HD Satellite receiver, XBox360
  • Optionally, HDMI should be connected to a computer for MythTV/Hulu playback
  • S/PDIF feeds should be provided by a computer with some sort of remotely controllable music player
  • Keep A/V equipment as out of sight as possible

Historically speaking, the audio part was more important to me than the video part. Back in my apartment days, I only had one TV/receiver setup that could play back HD content, so moving to different rooms wasn’t really feasible. I did, however, have S/PDIF capable receivers in all three rooms of my apartment, so the audio part was quite achievable. I was able to run cables through the HVAC ducting between my office, bedroom, and living room, providing the necessary connections to make things work. However, my signal source left something to be desired. I was using the digital output of a Sound Blaster Live! card, split three ways, to drive the setup. It worked for the most part, but the thrice-split signal was a bit weak in the living room, and it suffered cut-outs when the signal would get too weak.

While not really willing to spend any cash to solve the problem, but very willing to dream, I started looking around for solutions. After poking around for a while, I came across a few possibilities. One device, the Sonifex RB-DDA6S, provided a full S/PDIF splitter/amplifier, but I was pretty turned off by the price. I came across a few other devices that would distribute both HD video and S/PDIF audio. I didn’t have much use for the video back then, but times have changed. Now that Erin and I are living in our large new home, the video part of the equation is much larger. We’ve got multiple HDTVs, multiple content sources to drive them (HD Satellite, DVDs, MythTV, XBox360s) and multiple rooms, so I’ve started considering video as a larger part of my dream setup.

HDMI is pretty much the only way I would go in terms of video. It yields the best quality, and has the smaller connector when compared with component video + S/PDIF. Being a digital signal, it’s harder to simply split it, but there are solutions to that. Earlier on today, while browsing on amazon.com, I came across this bad boy: the Intelix HDMI-2X8. This thing would satisfy pretty much all my needs in terms of video distribution (sans cabling, of course). Two distinct inputs (one HDMI, one DVI plus coaxial/optical S/PDIF), and eight HDMI outputs. That would allow me to feed in the output of the master HD content provider (my Onkyo TX-SR605, connected to the satellite and DVD units), and a computer, and have it display on pretty much any room the house. We’ve actually got 11 rooms (counting the garage) that we *could* run signal to, so it wouldn’t satisfy every need, but it would sure get things started. Seeing as how normal DVI-capable LCDs will display HD video content (sans audio, of course) with a HDMI-to-DVI cable, this could be quite handy.

I think its time for some more pondering on how I would best control this system… More to follow!

Thanks Mrs Veronica!

The Phishing Phairy delivered me good tidings today!

Dear Mr/Mrs
My name is Veronica ,I am the Current CEO of BankInter Branch office in
Madrid Spain, we offer Xmas loans with a minimum interest rate of 1%.
Fill the application form for immediate process.

LOAN APPLICATION FORM

NAME.............
FULL ADDRESS.....
CITY.............
STATE...........
ZIP CODE.........
COUNTRY..........
TEL..............
Sex.............
LOAN AMOUNT NEEDED....
LOAN PURPOSE.........
OCCUPATION..................................
MONTHLY INCOME..........................
LOAN DURATION PERIOD...............................
Other Contact E-mai:

PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL APPLICATION/INQUIRIES SHOULD BE SENT TO
intercustomercareservice@live.com AS THIS ADVERT IS SENT FROM OUR PUBLIC
OFFER CENTER

Thanks
Mrs Veronica

It’s good to know I can get a Xmas loan from Mrs Veronica with only 1% interest! Where do I sign up?! Oh wait! I can sign up in my email!

Seriously, who falls for this crap?

Floating What?

Update a CentOS 4.4 xen instance to 5.4? Sure thing. I’ll just resolve some broken dependencies, and then I’ll be on my way…

[root@homeapps ~]
: rpm -Uvh procps-3.2.7-11.1.el5.i386.rpm udev-095-14.21.el5.i386.rpm e2fsprogs-1.39-23.el5.i386.rpm e2fsprogs-libs-1.39-23.el5.i386.rpm –nodeps
warning: procps-3.2.7-11.1.el5.i386.rpm: V3 DSA signature: NOKEY, key ID e8562897
Preparing… ########################################### [100%]
1:e2fsprogs-libs ########################################### [ 25%]
2:procps ########################################### [ 50%]
3:udev ########################################### [ 75%]
4:e2fsprogs ########################################### [100%]
[root@homeapps ~]
: yum update
Floating point exception
[root@homeapps ~]
: ps aux
Floating point exception
[root@homeapps ~]
: top
Floating point exception

Oops.

Good thing I made a backup.

He Breathes

That's the rumor, anyway. I figure I should update this at least once or twice a year, so here goes.

The past few months have been pretty busy, but in a good way (mostly). The largest event has easily been the purchase of a house! It all happened in a whirlwind, with all of the pieces falling together in an eerily easy progression. Home ownership is definitely a change, but it's a good one, no doubt about it. Almost immediately after moving in, I was taken with the (much larger than usual) urge to build things and acquire copious amounts of power and hand tools. Erin has also noticed changes, hers being largely unexpected. In the search for another indoor activity besides Eve, she took up quilting! She's getting into it pretty heavily, and is making a lot of progress in a short amount of time.

Work has been hectic and stressful, which is the norm these days. I still haven't found a comfortable balance between being a boss and getting my own tasks done, and it makes things pretty difficult. I'm making a concerted effort to delegate more, but it's met with only limited success so far. Hopefully that trend doesn't continue.

That's all for now. We'll see if I can get back into the habit of posting, but I can't make any promises!

Sleep Is Good, I Hear

Yet another long while between posts. I suppose anyone that reads here should be used to that by now. There's plenty of stuff worth mentioning here, I suppose, but I rarely have the desire to sit down and type something up.

One thing that has made my life significantly more unpleasant lately is a general inability to get a good night's sleep. For the past two months, at least, I wake up feeling like I slept half the time I did, and its cumulative effects are the pits. My attention span is shorter, I have a harder time remembering things, and on bad days, I just lose topics of conversation in mid-sentence.

Erin is reasonably sure that I have sleep apnea, or something close to it. She's observed shallow breathing followed by fits and starts pretty much every time she's watched for it. From what she sees, I mostly wake up once every 15 minutes or so on the typical night. That would surely explain while I feel like a wet bag of crap every morning these days.

Looks like I need to head to the doctor once again.

Late Night Snow

I generally despise snow these days, except for when it’s packable and I can throw it at things. Otherwise, I don’t have a lot of use for it. It does make for some pretty scenes, though. This was taken off my balcony last night at about 5AM, with diffuse light from the city nearby. I thought the sky colors were pretty neat.

[late night snow]

What I’ve Been Up To

I can’t say I’ve been exactly busy over the past few months, but I’ve certainly been occupied by things that keep me from updating this blog. I figure it’s past time for an update, so I shall discuss said things in ascending order of awesomeness.

Work – My responsibilities at work keep growing, which is both cool and stressful at the same time. I am now supervising four subordinates and am much more involved with our product development process as a whole. All the while, I’m still doing many of the tasks I’ve been doing for a long time, along with the endless list of new tasks that come along. The people on my team are quite easy to manage for the most part, but I’m still getting accustomed to worrying about the work flows of four other people, rather than just focusing on my own. I’m sure it’s something I’ll get better with over time, but I still find myself struggling with it.

EVE Online – A few buddies from work got me into this game over the summer, and it’s become something I spend a lot of time on. There are a lot of things about EVE that make it really neat in my eyes (its server technology being one of them), but the one that stands out the most is the fact that the intensity of the game is pretty much what you want it to be. If you want to spend crap loads of time playing, you can surely do that, but if you’re low-key, the game allows you to advance your character with very little interaction. It also reminds me of a game I played a lot as a kid – Privateer. A lot of the concepts and pursuits are similar, but instead of it being limited to a rather small single player environment like is present in Privateer, EVE has literally thousands of solar systems to explore, each with planets, moons, asteroids, and other things that you can interact with alongside of tens of thousands of other players from around the world, simultaneously (the most I’ve seen online was just short of 40,000, this past weekend). I could probably talk about EVE in great length, but suffice it to say that I think it’s quite cool.

A Girl – Yep, you read that right. Fortune has smiled upon me and given me the gift of an awesome girlfriend. We shall call her Erin, for that is her name. Erin started up working where I work in the middle of the summer, and our paths crossed for the first time at a party thrown by a coworker. She was instantly taken with me (yes, instantly), but it took me a bit longer to come around. I’m really glad I did though, because this is easily the most healthy and rewarding relationship I’ve been in. I’m well aware that I have my fair share of quirks, idiosyncracies, and downright annoying behavior. She is very patient with me in those regards, doesn’t try to change me in ways that she knows I won’t change, and instead does her best to adjust her expectations accordingly. This is a stark contrast to some of my past relationships, and I can’t describe how much I appreciate that. I’m doing my best to reciprocate. At this point, the list of things about her that I would change is pretty much non-existent, so it’s not too hard for me. :) Long story short, we both make each other very happy, which is pretty damn awesome.