Merrittless TWiT

From the Inside TWiT Blog:

I've known Tom Merritt for more than a decade - since the grand old days at TechTV. He's a trusted colleague and I consider him a dear friend. When Tom moved to LA last year we agreed to try having him anchor his shows from Southern California via Skype. We've been mostly happy with the result, but I've always felt that TWiT had lost something by not having Tom's leadership in the studio with us.

After some soul searching, I've decided that we do need an in-studio anchor for Tech News Today, and a News Director who can help us build the kind of organization you can count on for authoritative tech news and information.

So it's with a heavy heart that I'm announcing that we're not going to renew Tom's contract as host of TNT. His last show will be at the end of the month.

Tom Merritt is every bit the professional broadcaster Leo Laporte is, but without the associated">">associated personal douchebaggery. Meanwhile, Tom">">Tom will be doing a show with Scott Johnson starting in January and likely some other stuff as yet announced.

On the plus side, it'll be possible for me to listen to Tom Merritt do daily tech news again. That idea has some merit.

One Good Draw Two Deserves Another

Undoubtedly, you've played Uno (or the less commercial variant Crazy Eights) at some point in your life. It's quite unlikely that you've ever played Hot Death Uno, though, unless you happen to have stumbled across this game on the early Internet, downloaded it to your Windows PC, and played it.

It's basically like playing Uno but there are some extra special cards (and rules) that make it a bit more fun than regular Uno. So, of course, in college, I took the rules from this game, wrote them down, and made a real version of the game out of real Uno cards. And played it with my friends. For hours on end.

I'm almost certain I still have my deck somewhere. Meanwhile, I put my Hot">">Hot Death Uno website back online in case you want to download the original Visual Basic 1.0 program, check out the rules, or make your own deck!

I'm not the only person touched by this game, based on the fact I can find a few pages dedicated to this wonderful game, including a couple of attempts at recreating the source code so it runs on modern computers and doesn't crash incessantly like the old Visual Basic version did. Someone even built it for Android (and">">and released the source)!

Meanwhile, for old times sake, I fired up the game in WINE--a Windows emulator on Linux that runs Windows binaries in an environment that emulates the Windows APIs without running the whole Windows OS too. It actually worked well enough to play without crashing, though as is usually the case with WINE, there were a couple of visual glitches. And the game runs really really FAST on modern hardware!

I didn't exactly lose against my computer opponents, but I didn't win either. That said, it brought back a few memories.

Shoeboxes Leading to Jaiku

I was looking at the page views for some of the posts I've put up on this blog and the">">the one where my wife brought back a shoebox full of memories from Hawaii to me seems unusually popular. Quite honestly, I'm not sure why since it really wasn't intended to be something I expected a large number of people to be interested in.

It does seem strange condensing a whole chunk of memories into something the size of a shoebox. Or even stranger that now that shoebox can live as an archive of digital files.

One of these archives I had a reason to run across recently was the archive of photos I uploaded to the now defunct Share on Ovi service that Nokia used to operate.

While preparing PhoneBoy Speaks Ep 306, I had reason to go back through a couple of older posts of mine, some of which linked to photos that were posted on this service. I noticed that it wasn't a whole ton of posts that needed fixing and figured I might as well clean them up.

One of the posts was actually my review of my favorite Nokia handset, the Nokia E71. More specifically, I reviewed the North America edition of the Nokia E71. This post had screenshots, as you might expect, but one in particular caught my attention:

Most of you may not know, or even remember this service, but that green J icon was for the Jaiku app on my home screen. Jaiku was a mobile-first social app for Symbian devices developed by a couple of Finns.

The service eventually got bought, and neglected, by Google, much to the dismay of fans like myself. But I met a lot of really interesting people on Jaiku, and had a lot of excellent conversations and am "still friends" with many people from Jaiku.

I can see echoes of that experience today on (where I'm ) but I never really made that connection until just now.

Amazing what memories a (virtual) shoebox brings up!

Fifty Nine and Ninety Nine

If my mother and grandmother were alive today, that's how old they'd be. Because, you see, they shared a birthday. Just like my dad and I shared one.

I'm not sure when or exactly where in Hawaii this photo was taken but it was clearly taken while my grandma was still able to get around a bit.

Making Lemonade

There were a lot of photos in that shoebox my wife brought back from Hawaii. Including an entire album full of photos from my high school graduation. Like this photo with my mom:

In many ways, this graduation was an accomplishment for both of us. Obviously, I had to do all the academic work involved. For my mom, the accomplishment was making the money to pay for it.

Because, you see, I went to a private school. In Hawaii. It was either that or I'd be bored and beat up in Hawaii's public schools.

Granted, because of my mom's financial situation, we were able to get some level of financial aid. As I remember, she ended up having to pay about half the tuition, which ended up being around $25,000 for four years. For someone of my mom's means, that was quite a lot of money, especially back then.

My mom never graduated college. I won't say my mom's life was rough but she had some pretty sour lemons to make lemonade from. She wanted to make sure the lemonade I made with my life lemons was better.

No doubt, this got me on the right foot. I was able to get into a good college that I ultimately graduated from and started towards the career and family I have now. All made possible by the sacrifices my mom made.

Every day, I count my blessings, thankful my lemons were just a little sweeter, thankful I found a better recipe.

I Was Skinny!

Looking through a lot of the old photographs my mom had has certainly been entertaining and quite a walk down memory lane. Some weren't really memories since some of the photos were from when I was a baby, though I can recognize the house I first lived in in those photos.

Some of the photos make me look famous. Some of the photos themselves look like famous photos. That's one thing mother was good at--taking photos and lots of them.

And for all the photos she had of me growing up, one thing continually struck me: I was skinny. Like beanpole skinny. And hyper as hell.

Then I got to junior high school and I started having issues with my weight. I was a little overweight then all the way through high school and college, but it was nothing like it is now.

So many things changed since then it's hard to say exactly what it was that triggered my gradual weight gain. Of course, things like diet and exercise I'm sure aren't helping, but even when I make the almost superhuman effort, I am able to take weight off. When I hit the inevitable weight loss plateau, I am thoroughly discouraged and I fatten up again.

Not quite sure how to get back to that skinny little boy I once was. Well, I'll never be a little boy anymore, but to be that skinny…

A Shoebox Of Memories

My wife just got back from Hawaii.

No, it wasn't a pleasure trip. I would hardly call going through my dead mother's house to find paperwork and a few personal mementos pleasurable. Especially when you consider the amount of stuff my mother had and the general state of her house.

While my wife brought back stories of some of the things she found, she also brought back some photos. In a musty shoebox.

Because, you see, my mom took photos. Lots of them. At a time when taking photos meant getting actual film developed.

What did my wife bring back? Pictures of me. From various times in my life. With my mother. With my grandma who past away in 2001. With other family members. With people I don't know. And pictures of me that, quite frankly, don't look like me.

Also, there are pictures of my mother from various times in her life. Including recent ones that, quite frankly, don't look like her. Or at least how I remember her.

And while it's going to take me a while to unpack the memories that go with each photo, I figure I might as well start by talking about this one:

Another thing my mom did when I was very young was paint on canvas. She did a couple of paintings of Sesame Street characters, such as this one of Bert and Ernie.

Looking at this photo now reminds me of something I forgot long ago--that there was a time when I "pretended" my mom and I were Bert and Ernie. I was Ernie, she was Bert. She played along for a while. I can't remember why she stopped but it really doesn't matter now.

What is amazing is that this painting was still hanging in my mother's house after she past away. However, like many of the things in my mother's house, it went to a good home.

Except for the memories, obviously, which I still carry with me.

A Tale of Two Mothers

When I was growing up, I only knew one mother. I had a step-mother also, but that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about the second person inside my mother--a person I didn't "see" too much growing up, but became more apparently as I graduated college and started my own life.

At first, I didn't know what to think. I was, quite frankly, in denial that this person I had grown up with and loved was also someone that had serious issues. It took other people to help me see this--namely the person who is now my wife but was not at the time.

That "other mother" came out when my mother was drinking. Which she did when I was growing up, sometimes to excess, but not often.

Clearly something changed after I graduated from college. Her marriage to the person I call my step-father, who my mother was with for many years but did not marry until after I graduated, clearly was not going well. There were definitely some financial difficulties, which certainly did not help matters.

Her relationship with me also soured. When my mother was visiting me and, apparently, drinking, she was telling me some downright crazy things. Despite my lack of interest, she kept going on and on, telling things I was pretty certain were false. I can't remember exactly what I told her, but it was something along the lines of "shut up, you're full of crap."

Then the demons of hell unleashed from her mouth. She demanded I take her back to the airport RIGHT NOW (her flight home was the next morning) and continued to verbally berate me as I drove her to the airport.

A few years later, after I was married and the first child was born, my mother started calling me again. She had apparently started going to AA and was trying to make amends. She tried for a while but it became clear she was still drinking and before too long, started talking crazy.

The stress of not knowing which version of my mother I might be speaking with at any given time was just too much for me. I did not want to expose my children to this. I told my mother, in no uncertain terms, I wasn't going to speak to her again.

That was some time ago, and I think she ultimately accepted my decision. Now that she has passed on, she can cause no more drama in my life.

Meanwhile, stories about my mother are surfacing that remind me she was, in fact, a person some thought fondly of. She had her redeeming qualities, at least when she was sober, and I will not forget the things she did for me growing up.

My #AudioMo Posts for July 2013

AudioMo is a regular challenge to get people to post audio to the Internet, posting with the hashtag #audiomo. This year, it happened during the month of July.

Since I participated this year, and I already produce a regular daily podcast called PhoneBoy Speaks, I produced entries specific for AudioMo using the ADN app Chimp, which actually makes it really easy to record and post audio in one go. It even gives you an RSS feed!

Meanwhile, for those of you who missed those audio bits, here are all 31 #audiomo posts I recorded.

phoneboy-20130701.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130702.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130703.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130704.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130705.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130706.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130707.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130708.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130709.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130710.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130711.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130712.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130713.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130714.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130715.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130716.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130717.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130718.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130719.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130720.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130721.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130722.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130723.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130724.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130725.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130726.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130727.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130728.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130729.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130730.mp3Download This Episode
phoneboy-20130731.mp3Download This Episode


I Used To Support This

When I first started supporting Check Point FireWall-1--which is what the product was back in 1996, this is what the User Interface looked like.

A lot has changed in those days. For one, it doesn't run on SunOS or Solaris anymore. Management still runs on Solaris, but not in R75.40VS or R76 and above. And even then, this ancient GUI called fwui doesn't run on it and hasn't for some time.

I remember those days fondly.