Those Who Have the Power

I was recently linked to a great video by one of my coworkers: http://www.thewebsiteisdown.com/

Watch this and spread. Please. It's totally killer. It's also too honest about what plagues sysadmins and other tech guys. Simple and honest stuff.

But really, IT staff have to deal with this kind of stuff all the time. It sucks for me, especially, because I've had times where I'm like "Chip" the sales guy. Also, the customer that calls is familiar, I could go on, but it's pretty funny stuff that's all too relevant.

I wonder, tho, do we really see the full joke here? Most of us would watch this and giggle at Chip. But I also laugh at our main character and the other IT guys, because they're usually this ridiculous, and they don't usually want to admit it.

That is all.


What, 8 things about me?1

All right, so lovely Allison over at Adverse Journalism hit me to do this one. I'd usually not do something like this, but hey, I have to. She is my girlfriend and all...

The game is to list 8 random things about yourself. The problem? I'm boring. But here's my shot.

01. Whenever I find a song that I enjoy a lot, I get obsessed with it. I'll play it over an over again, sometimes for days at a time. I've done this with songs like Get Behind The Mule (the John Hammond version), or Vigilante Man from Ry Cooder. Alice from Pogo is another good example.

When I say obsessed, I mean that more than I should. If it really piques my interest, I'll spend too much time finding out everything that I can about the artist and song. Suddenly, my interest will move on to something else.

02. I'm interested in older technology. This ranges from doing things via a CLI to listening to Shortwave Radio to using Vacuum Tubes.

The CLI part goes towards my affection for things like IRC, and my need to have as much info directly in front of me as possible. I'm not much for shiny interfaces that move a lot. The Shortwave Radio interest stems mostly from listening to Spy Numbers stations. Pretty interesting stuff to me, because it's old technology that's still being used to transmit secret transmissions. Vacuum Tubes are an interest mostly because I'm a guitarist, and I really dig the sound that tubes give amplifiers. My current amp is a '65 Twin Reverb Reissue from Fender. I love it. I need to retube and rebias it a bit hotter, tho.

03. As noted above, I play guitar. I've been playing for the last 10 years or so, and it's a lot of fun. I'm mostly into play Blues and Rock, but I mess around with a lot of stuff, too. I've been playing around with a lot of more modern sounding stuff lately, and it's a lot of fun, too. I need a band, tho. My current setup is an American Series Stratocaster feeding into a Jim Dunlop Wah, Ibanez TS9, Line 6 DM4, Boss Chorus (not sure which model), and a Line 6 Roto-Machine. The amp is a '65 Twin Reissue,

04. I am a freak for Star Wars. I've even gotten the Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker, and Darth Maul replica Lightsabers and love them dearly.

05. I'm learning Python. It's the first language I've come accross that I've had an easy time learning. I've been working on a program with it for a long time. I plan on getting started with IronPython some time soon. It's a lot of fun, tho. All though I'm trying to learn about Classes and Modules a little bit more. My main project would benefit from custom modules quite a bit.

06. I have a music collection that spans across about 140 gigs and 25,000 songs (those are rough numbers). I collect music like crazy. Found a song I like? I try to get the entire discography. This obsession with collection has lead to an obsession with storage, as well. Currently, I have a server with a terabyte of storage, and my desktop comes within 50 gigs or so.

07. If I work with you and I don't write something down, I didn't remember it. Period. That's why I have two whiteboards in my office (a big one and a small one) and an "art book" with unlined pages. If I didn't write it down, then you didn't ask in the first place. The unlined paper also encourages me to think within limits, but to float around a bit within those limits.

08. I recently bought an Xbox 360 and, frighteningly enough, I really enjoy it. The graphics are pretty good, and it works well with my current setup, including piping media through my server to it. My favorites so far are Call of Duty 4 and Rainbow Six: Vegas 2.

That's what I've got. Sadly enough, I've nobody to tag.

Move along now.


Productivity and Pixel Rigs - My Workspaces

So I was working on my post about Project Management and started this little guy right here, realizing that it was in need of it's own post (I know, 2 posts in one day = bad).

I'm a sucker for slick desktop setups and slick usage of screen space. Hell, Rands even made a term for something I do a while back and I was finally able to refer to my precise window management systems as Pixel Rigs.

My setups at work and home are so blaringly different, it's pretty obvious which is used for what. My home setup is dark, almost brooding, and allows me to enjoy myself to the max, while my work setup helps me to work most effectively on the things that I do.

After I show you these two completely different environments, I'll explain what's used for what.

Here's the comparison between the two:

The image to your right is my home setup. On the left is a 37" widescreen LCD TV. That's for media. Movies, Music, Etc. Right now, there's WinAmp on the Bento Skin running the Milkdrop Vis. To the right of that is my monitor. A 22" widescreen LG LCD. I love it. And to the right of THAT is my laptop. All of this is sync'd up using Synergy, which lets me use the same keyboard and mouse to control both systems. Speaking of input devices, I've got a new Logitech G15 as my keyboard of choice, as well as a Logitech G9 as my mouse of choice. Love those guys. The little blue glowy thing that you see on the bottom left is the power switch on the front of my server, and the blue glowy screen between the monitor and the laptop is the control unit for my Z-680 5.1 Speaker System (no link available). To the lower right, you see my Full-Tower case.

System Specs for main system:
Motherboard: Asus A8N32-SLI
Processor: AMD Athlon FX-60 OC'd to 2.86 ghz
Proc Cooler: Thermaltake Big Typhoon
Ram: 3 Gigs
Video Card: eVGA 9600GT SSC
Optical Drives: Sony DVD/CD R/RW Drive, LiteOn CD R/RW Drive
36 Gig WD Raptor System Drive
150 Gig WD Raptor Program Drive
250 Gig WD Caviar Data Drive
500 Gig WD Caviar Data Drive

Server Specs:
Motherboard: Asus A7N8X Deluxe
Processor: AMD Athlon 2800+ XP
Ram: 2 Gigs
Optical Drive: Sony DVD
40 Gig Maxtor System Drive (no link)
2 x 500 Gig WD Caviar Data Drive

Compare that to the picture to your left. That's my work setup. The laptop is to your left now, propped up on a monitor stand, with personal stuff above it to give me the mental breaks I need at work, but not at home. To the right of that are my two main monitors at work. Normal. Not widescreen. Above those is a shelf with stuff and junk. To the right of them are my phone and headset, an organizer/pad of paper thinger, and off-frame is a calendar, a paper organizer, and behind me is a whiteboard. Also, off frame to the left is another shelf, as well as a whiteboard under it. The keyboard is my old Logitech G15, and the mouse is my old Battlefield2142 G5. Behind that left monitor is my 250 Gig external drive. That sucker contains a nearly complete replication/backup of my music collection for work. It also serves as a backup.

Common to both of these setups are my headphones. The Steelseries Steelsound 5H V2 headset is incredible. I use 'em for late-night loudfests, and for listening to music at work.

Click the pictures for the Flickr-commented versions.

Looking at these two images tells you that I use these two setups for very different things. My home setup is dark and almost brooding, with big screens and not much else (save for a pirate flag hanging to my right and a Stevie Ray Vaughan poster above the T.V. This allows me to maximize my gaming experience and creative juices when, say, I'm playing CS:S, or mixing down music using Audacity. I also get into the Zone VERY easily in my home environment, because my setup is naturally great like that. My work setup is bright and the mental breaks that I don't need at home. It's accessible and open, almost inviting (which I do to make sure people know they can bug me for stuff).

You'll notice that I didn't post the system specs for the work rig, save for the external drive. This is because I don't few the system specs as being important for it. It's my work desktop. I use it for nothing else, really, and don't need to worry about it doing much else. While it would be nicer to have some bigger monitors (I'm starting to pull for 19" widescreens) and maybe slightly faster system (P4s are showing their age), it's purpose isn't speed, It's purpose is functionality, and for that, it wins the Gold Medal.

Pixel Rigs

I stole the term "Pixel Rig" from Rands over at Rands in Repose. He gave a term to this bizarre obsessive art that we've got.

I can't really provide a graphical representation of my work setup at the moment, so hopefully this description will suffice - My left monitor has Outlook maximized on it 24/7. The right monitor houses various other windows, including Firefox, spreadsheets, and various XML, HTML, and CSS files open in Notepad++. A console window is sometimes open, too, for me to do my groovy console thing. When I get boned and need to crunch for time when, say, styling HTML that's getting dynamically called through a javascript file, I'll switch over to another desktop to separate it from email and the like, which helps me focus on it more. I'll explain in a moment how I do that.

My main desktop has no pixel rig, because it doesn't need to. The only item worth mentioning is WinAmp, which is usually maximized on the T.V. After that, there's no order here, only chaos.

The best pixel rig I have is on my laptop. I sucked every pixel I could into the pinnacle of organization (at least for me). I can see everything I want to at once, without needing to touch a window. Here's the screenshot (Click image for fully commented Flickr version):

There's a lot going on here. On the left there's a large amount of info from a program I use on the laptop called RainMeter. This little app monitors system stats, tells me the time, and a few other small uses, and does it in a lean little executable with highly customizable skins. Really neat little app. To the right of that is my WinAmp playlist editor. Below those two is the WinAmp Vis. To the right of the Vis and Playlist is Trillian Territory. There's tabbed window that holds all of my conversations, including my always-open twitter IM interface through XMPP. Right of the main window is the contact list window for Trillian. Below all of that stuff is the main window for WinAmp. And below that are the Slit and Task Manager for my shell, Xoblite (a fork of the BB4Win code).

This layout will get other windows on top of it for web browsing, jotting notes, etc., but it's extremely effective for me. I've always been obsessed with pixel rigs and this is probably the best one I've ever had. When at home, I just close WinAmp (since it's on my desktop) and away I go.

This gives me a perfect opportunity to talk about my shell. Those of you who looked at that and wondered what distro of Linux I'm running would be wrong in your assumption. I don't run Linux. Instead, I run a windows shell replacement called Xoblite, a fork of the BB4win code. The idea is simple: replace the windows "explorer"shell with something that's more configurable and leaner. Usage is easy. Right click the desktop (which holds no icons), and there's a menu. I just navigate to the correct item (stuff I use a lot get's put right in that first menu, other things get put into intuitive submenus that I define) and I'm good. Xoblite also has multi desktop support, which means that I can have as many different virtual workspaces as I want, further enhancing my productivity. Also, I hardly use windows explorer after I found xplorer², a dual-pane, tabbed filebrowser. I've got Xoblite running on all of my systems, as well as xplorer². That lets me do a lot at any given moment. Throw Notepad++, Excel, and Firefox into the list and I'm in heaven.

What kind of setups are you using at home? Leave a comment and tell me all about it. I'd love to hear.