Dave Kleinberg RIP

April 11, 2012

Back in 1985, I was a young programmer at Apple who wound up spending time in Japan, helping Apple evaluate options for supporting Japanese on the Mac.

This nascent project became the focus for Apple’s new Pacific division, and a manager was dutifully assigned. A former sales guy named Dave Kleinberg. Great. Just what I always wanted.

And yes, there were some early impedance miss-matches, but by the end of the project he’d earned my respect. There were countless details outside the scope of just “gettin’ er done” (the coding bit that I cared about), and Dave sweated the details. We wound up shipping KanjiTalk 1.0 in May of 1986, and this wound up being the foundation for Apple’s long term success in the Japanese market.

As a side benefit, Dave gave all team members the best project tchotchke ever – the KanjiTalk Monolith:

Why the post today? A member of the KanjiTalk team just sent me the link to Dave’s obituary.

Dead at age 53 from lung cancer. We’d seen him a year ago at the 25th anniversary get-together, and he’d seemed fine. I wish I’d told him then what I just wrote now.

Whatever Happened to the MIT Delts of ’83 – Revised

November 22, 2011

Almost four years ago I’d written a blog post about the members of my MIT fraternity class – Whatever Happened to the Class of ’83

I thought I’d revisit that theme, but now with an updated class composite photo, using images taken during a recent 50th birthday event hosted by Jono Goldstein at his place in Cape Cod.

MIT Class of 1983 Composite

Updated details to follow, when I get some time…

193MPH Volkswagen Van

January 5, 2010

While our EuroVan continues to provide for a local mechanic’s retirement fund, I found this article on “Tuners” included a much faster version of what we’re (hopefully) driving the Grand Canyon during spring break.

The section on this vehicle from the article I linked to above says it all…

Winning first prize in the “You’ve got to be kidding me!” category was TH Auto­mobile’s TH2 RS. What’s wacky about it? Well, what started life as a pedestrian Volkswagen T5 van has been made into The World’s Fastest Brick.

First, TH Automobile swapped the engine from the front to the rear. But instead of a VW unit, TH dropped in a Porsche twin-turbo flat-6 breathed on by 9ff to produce 800 bhp. The rear axle and 6-speed manual transmission come straight from Porsche, as do the brakes.

The interior was also completely remodeled, the driver’s position switched to a central location, along with four carbon-fiber racing buckets for passengers. To handle the TH2 RS’s aero-defying speed of 193.1 mph (breaking the previous van record of 169.6 mph, set by a Claer-tuned T4 VW van), H&R provided an air suspension system that adjusts the ride height among three different levels depending on speed. TH claims the van can hit 62 mph in just 4.5 sec. A customer version would cost somewhere north of $225,000.

At almost 200MPH, that would get us to the South Rim in about, let’s see, 4 hours. Though we’d have to remove all of the camping accessories, move the engine from the front to the back, pay $225K, etc., etc., etc. But the look on driver’s faces as we sucked their doors off might make it all worth while.

Emmett isn’t a mutt, he’s a lurcher!

January 3, 2010

We adopted Emmett from AnimalSave back in October 2005, and he’s been a great member of the Krugler pack. He seems to be a mix of sighthound and Labrador – in other words, he’s a mutt.

But one day, while Jenna and I were speculating about what kind of sighthound would give him his deep chest and curled tail, I did a search on “greyhound labrador mix”, and found out that we’d been wrong all these years.

He’s not a mutt, he’s a lurcher!

What’s a lurcher? Well, according to Wikipedia (source of all truth and goodness) a lurcher is:

a hardy, crossbred sighthound, generally a cross between a sighthound and any other breed…the lurcher was bred in Ireland and Great Britain by the Irish Gypsies and travellers in the 17th century. They were used for poaching rabbits, hares and other small creatures. The name lurcher is derived from the Romani language word lur, which means thief.

There’s even a new group called the North American Lurcher & Longdog Association. It’s a bit hard to tell, but I think Emmett is very excited about the possibility of membership.

Fixing Firefox default monitor

October 26, 2009

I’m running Firefox 3.0.14 on Mac OS X 10.5.

I’ve got a MacBook laptop and a 24″ LCD display as my normal configuration, though sometimes I’m just using the laptop.

Whenever I open a new browser window, it defaults to the laptop display, not the big LCD, even though that’s my main screen.

I searched the forums, and didn’t find any good solution, so here’s what worked for me:

  1. Quit Firefox
  2. Locate the localstore.rdf file in your Firefox profile directory. This will be in the ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/<random string>.default/ directory.
  3. Open it with your favorite text editor.
  4. Find the RDF section with the description set to “chrome://browser/content/browser.xul#main-window”
  5. Set the screenX and screenY values to 0.
  6. Save the file.
  7. Restart Firefox

In my case, for example, the prior contents of this file were:

<RDF:Description RDF:about="chrome://browser/content/browser.xul#main-window"
    sizemode="maximized" />

By setting screenX=”0″ and screenY=”0″, I was able to fix my problem.

A Man and his EuroVan Camper

August 8, 2009

After 10 years of on-and-off discussion, we finally took the plunge and bought a 1997 EuroVan Camper – or 97EVC for members of the club.

EuroVan Camper at Westport

EuroVan Camper at Westport

Being able to pull in, pop the top, and kick back was huge.

Though we’re still working out the kinks in our travel setup and procedures – as a fellow EVCer said, it’s like living in a sailboat. You have to plan things a few moves in advance, so you don’t wind with the bed extended and the (blocked) cabinet containing your toothbrush.

And thank goodness for the EVC Yahoo group – without their help, I would have been totally stuck.

We’ve got a typical list of things to fix, buy, and figure out before the next big trip:

  • The dreaded Norcold refrigerator stopped working on propane. And the burner on light fell out (again).
  • Cruise control stopped working.
  • There’s a small coolant leak.
  • The driver’s side windshield wiper fluid doesn’t squirt.
  • There’s a new crack in the windshield.
  • The headlight low beams are way too low.
  • The rear (hatch) door sometimes doesn’t unlock.

But in spite of the problems, we had a great time. And we would have never spent two wonderful days camping in the redwoods at Humboldt State Park, or seen this amazing memorial to the town of Pepperwood, which was wiped out in the 1964 Eel River flood.

Memorial for town of Pepperwood

Memorial for town of Pepperwood

The caption says

To Pepperwood

And It’s Loved Ones

Gone but not forgotten

Presented by

Fortuna Chamber of Commerce

Inquiries to the Fortuna CoC for background and grammar checks have gone unanswered.

Why I buy from Patagonia

May 27, 2009

Yes, it costs more for Patagonia. But the way they treat me as a customer makes me happy to pay a premium…as my latest experience shows.

I had a pair of Patagonia gortex pants from way-back-when. Worked fine, though my duct tape patch job ruined the clean lines – I’d accidentally stuck my ice axe through the pants and into my left leg, instead of the glacier, during a glissade off Rainier.

And then this past snowboarding season some seam sealing tape started coming off, so things began to get a bit wet at times. I sent the pants to Patagonia, with a note explaining that I’d also be happy to pay for a real repair job of my ice axe mishap.

Yesterday I got a Patagonia gift card in the mail, for $238.44. No idea how they calculated that amount, but I’m looking forward to buying a replacement pair of pants. And they’ve reaffirmed my belief that paying for quality gear winds up being cheaper in the end.

Google Earth overlay for California Thirteeners peak list

May 11, 2009

My friend Schmed has compiled the definite list of California peaks that are at least 13,000ft in height. This labor of love has consumed countless hours, and now he’s adding to the effort by creating a database-driven GUI.

While incredibly detailed and accurate, his data set wasn’t all that useful to me when thinking about climbing trips. I’d still wind up hunched over my old “Guide to the John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia-Kens Canyon Wilderness” maps, with R. J. Secor’s “The High Sierra” book in hand, trying to figure out possible routes to interesting areas.

So I wrote a program to convert his data into a Google Earth-compatible KML file, which I could then use to visual the peak list in glorious 3D. The resulting file has proven very useful, so I thought I’d share it via this blog post – and provide a bit of commentary regarding the program/process at the same time.

Google Earth peaks

First, notes about the file:

  • You can download it here. Then just open it from Google Earth.
  • I use different color pushpins to denote the difficulty of reaching the summit. Green is for class 1 or 2, yellow for class 3, and red for class 4. I didn’t factor in the higher difficulty of the summit block, as many of the peaks are class 2 or 3 to the base of the summit block, but the block itself is class 4.
  • In the peak description, I tried to generate links to trip reports on Climber.org, but not all of these will be valid. Usually this is because the peak in question has no Climber.org trip report, but a few are due to issues with reverse-engineering the “shortened name” algorithm used at that site when grouping trip reports.
  • The same thing is true for links to Secor’s “The High Sierra” book at Google Books. I have page numbers, but not all pages are available (as one would expect), and sometimes the peak name used to highlight entries on the page won’t match the name that Secor used.

Next, some notes on the KML format:

  • The on-line documentation is really good, especially the KML Reference provided by Google.
  • I ran into a few minor problems, where no error would be reported by Google Earth when loading my file, but problems in the data meant that I wouldn’t see the expected result. For example, I’d accidentally specified the <color> value as hex-ified RGB (e.g. “ffffff” for white) instead of ABGR (alpha/blue/green/red), which needs eight hex digits. Also I’d added an <IconStyle> element with a an <href> child, but I needed to put the href inside of an <Icon> element. Minor things, but a bit frustrating to debug without any useful error being resported by Google Earth.
  • I wanted to use different built-in icons, but didn’t see a document listing all of these on Google. Eventually I found the list I needed in a Google forum post titled “Setting KML icon colors“.

I’ve posted source for the Java program used to generate the KML file. It’s located in my GitHub account, at the peaks2kml repository.

This Java program should have been trivial to write – basically convert from a text file dump of a database into the KML format. But I ran into one painful issue, which was converting from the NAD27 UTM locations into longitude/latitude. Seems like this bites everybody, and the lack of a universal, high quality Java package is frustrating.

I’m using the GeoTransform package, but I didn’t see a clean way to specify the source UTM datum as NAD27. I did figure out that the Clarke 1866 ellipsoid was the right one to use for conversion, and dumped out some results. I compared these with manual results from an excellent on-line UTM conversion page, and then used the delta (which appeared to be relatively constant) to adjust my results. Ugly, but close enough for a first cut.

And if I had to do it again, I’d probably use something like the KML beans (e.g. StyleType.java) from the Luzan project, and an XML package to convert the resulting object graph to a textual KML representation.

Her first bug report

November 7, 2008

I remember the first time my daughter said “dada”, which was also her first word (though I think my wife disagrees).

And there’s another important milestone for Jenna – her first bug report 🙂

She came up to my office, complaining about a problem on the Bella Sara web site. At the time I was nostril-deep in Jira issue hell, so I told her I would be happy to look at it, just as soon as she filed a bug report. After 25 years I’ve perfected many techniques for blowing off pesky users.

A few minutes later she tapped me on the shoulder and handed over her first bug report:

Jenna's first bug report

Nice, step-by-step instructions with details required to reproduce it. I think there’s a potential career in QA.

Skype warns against bad hair days

October 4, 2008

I was in Japan for a friend’s wedding, and finally was motivated enough to sign up for SkypeOut service. At 2¢/minute, it made being on hold with Travelocity a bit less painful.

During the sign-up process for SkypeOut, I an unusual icon at the bottom of the page:

So I guess this is the international icon for a “Bad Hair Day” emergency, and you’re not allowed to use SkypeOut to contact a professional stylist.