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22Nov/11Off

Traveling Geek with remote monitoring

TechOps Guy: Nate

[warning: non technical post, read at your own risk]

I told one of my friends this story yesterday, wow was it only yesterday, and he loved it so much he insisted that I write about it.

Maybe one and a half years ago I bought one of these, an IP-connected camera, which has an embedded computer, a RJ45 port and a wireless connection. So it's completely self contained and does not rely on any other software or computer connection to function. The main purpose was to spy on my cats when I was away on trips. I let the camera sit for about a year, basically until I moved to California since I was too lazy to set it up.

One of my cats captured by motion activity

On Sunday morning I went through the process of configuring my firewall so I could access the camera remotely, I had originally set it up so I could access it through an Apache proxy but turns out that didn't work and I had to rely entirely on port forwarding. So I set that up, routing the camera connection from my colo server through my site to site VPN to my home cable modem where the camera lives. I ended up having to connect to my win2k3 server on my colo internal network(which has access to my home internal network) in order to troubleshoot the connectivity issues from outside my network since I had never tried to access this camera from remote before. I want to set up OpenVPN on my laptop so I can just connect directly to my colo server and basically sit on my internal network but haven't gotten round to doing that yet.

I fired up my browser and looked around -- no cats.  I had previously configured the camera so that if it detected motion it would start taking pictures and upload them to my server, but disabled the functionality for a while since it resulted in a large number of false positives, I think the changes in the light level triggered the motion sensors.

Anyways, I pointed the camera at my cat tree, which the cats love to play in on Saturday afternoon and turned on motion detection.

On Monday morning(doesn't seem like yesterday since I was up pretty much all night) I checked and there was no activity, which I thought was strange. Maybe the cats were dead? Not likely but very unusual for them not to spend any time on the cat tree during the night.

I panned the camera around the room again, no activity, no signs. The lights were off so it was dark, though the camera has limited night vision capabilities so I could still see some stuff.

So I figured I need to get their attention some how. So I looked around for some cat noises, and came across this which looked promising. So I uploaded it to my system at home, cranked up the volume to the max, and played it.

They came out, very slowly. I'm sure they were freaked out after having nothing but silence for two days all of a sudden cat noises coming from my computer speakers. They were very cautious and I could not see their bodies on the camera but saw their eyes glowing. One of the cats came forward and looked around. When I attempted this again a few minutes later they did not respond quite as well I suppose maybe it was too loud they were more scared and stayed further away.

So there you have it, my semi hi-tech way of keeping tabs on my cats while I'm out. It's not formalized yet but it does the job. I am considering getting another couple of cameras to put in other areas.

The biggest downside to the camera is I don't have a way to view live video from my tablet or phone since it relies on Java.

My trip and thoughts about moving to Cali

As for my trip, it was a good one, I did more of many things in the 4 days and 3 nights I was there than I have done in 4 months in California. I hit pretty much all of the venues I wanted to go to, and met up with most of the people that I wanted to see. Not as many folks showed up to party at Cowgirls as I was expecting. I'm constantly amazed as to the excuses people dig up to not go out and party a lot, whether at Cowgirls or elsewhere. They may be fine to go out for an hour or so after work, but if it's 9-10PM on any night all of a sudden it gets real complicated.

I was so pumped up about going that I managed to stay up for 42 hours straight without any sleep whatsoever(Thurs morning -> Sat Morning). I wasn't even that tired when I went to bed but I did fall asleep very fast when the time came. My drunk friend who crashed at my hotel on Friday night tried to wake me up at one point but could not.

I think the closest I've come to 42 hours was probably in the range of 34-35 hours before and that was being on the verge of passing out for a good 4-5 hours before that.

While I do miss most of the people that I know so well in the area, as well as my places to hang out, from a career perspective at this point it was a good move to leave Seattle for now anyways. I have friends that are still trying to recruit me back up there, and so far they haven't come up with anything worthwhile. The economy in general is significantly weaker than it was even a year ago. Most of the tech companies are really not doing well or not interesting places to work for.  I interviewed with at least a dozen before I left and I was excited about exactly none of them. Some of them sounded cool initially, but then I learned more about what they did, how they did it, and in some cases inside information as to who is there, and in every case it was a turn off. Nothing interesting.

Speaking of companies, some folks from HP came out to visit today, one of them had a local publication of some sort, I didn't catch the name but he asked me if I knew who they rated as the fastest growing company in the Bay Area? (I assume that was the scope of the article), I really had no idea. Turns out I had never heard of the company. But the SECOND fastest growing company is the company I am at! Woohoo!  But if I had not known people who worked there I would of never have heard of them either. Of all the companies I have worked for the one I am at now has the most name recognition at least in casual conversations with folks I knew in Seattle, I was shocked when I mentioned the name some folks would instantly know who it was, even though in the grand scheme of things I think it's still a small company, I guess it is having a big impact among the target audience.

Looking more I think this publication was the San Fransisco Business Times, with the article being here, to get the real stuff you need to be a subscriber though. I saw some PDFs of previous versions of the list and the format was identical, and the article shows the company I'm at as #2, though it doesn't talk about the revenues and stuff like the full article does.

My Car

Another minor update about my car, a large rock managed to hit my windshield just before I got to my old stomping grounds in Bellevue, WA.. of the dozen of so trips between Cali and WA over the years it had to happen to my new car. I also blew out the rear speakers on my stereo. I had Car Toys fix them, though either they fixed only one, or one of them blew out again between Saturday and this morning (I didn't test till this morning I assumed they worked and really I can't tell if the volume is cranked up unless I specifically fade the volume to the rear to test).

All in all I drove roughly 37 hours 15 minutes, averaging 52 MPH for a total of 1,954 miles over the span of four days. I think I averaged in the neighborhood of around 21 MPG, which was lower than I was expecting.

I got significant usage out of the all wheel drive on both the trip up and down as Oregon had some of the worst rain storms I have ever driven through. It was quite scary at times even with the AWD in the middle of the night in such a storm, especially driving by big trucks which I normally zoomed past them at around 80 just to get past them quicker. Last night the rain must've lasted a good 400 miles from somewhere in WA to about Redding, CA. Took a lot of concentration to maintain control, very mentally draining. I ended up sleeping at a rest stop for two hours north of Redding in the pounding rain because I just couldn't go on any more. Managed to get in at around 7AM this morning, in time to meet with HP at 11(from which I learned a bunch of cool stuff that I can't talk about!). So I was on the road for about 16 hours. If I hadn't been planning on this meeting for weeks I would of just taken a longer break and came back to work tomorrow.

The traction wasn't as good as I was expecting, I have never driven an AWD car before so I have nothing to compare it with. The one thing I did notice, is my car has a LCD where it shows in real time where the power is being applied to the wheels. If I even touch the accelerator it clearly shows more power going to all wheels, and if I corner real hard it shows power going away from one wheel and more to the others. But in cruise control I never saw the status change. Even if I accelerated from 60 to 75 MPH using nothing but cruise control the indicator never showed more power going to the wheels. I asked Nissan about that when I got to WA and either they didn't know what they were talking about, or I wasn't asking the question right but they basically said "trust it, it's working". I will talk to the local Nissan place here again when I get my oil change (I just got an oil change last Friday, and I think I will be up for another this Saturday). I really couldn't tell if I was completely hydroplaning at some points or if only one or two wheels were and the AWD was correcting very quickly for it. It certainly felt like I had better traction when I was not in cruise control and the AWD indicator showed more power going to the wheels.

Maybe traction tires would be a good fit, I've been wanting to get those just for better grip, even if they do wear out faster.

One thing is certain though -- I think four months between trips might be too long.

It looks as if my trip to Atlanta was pushed out a couple of weeks to the week of the 19th. I imagine I will fly in on the 17th, do some work on the 18th-20th and leave on 21st or 22nd.

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23Oct/11Off

Trip to Seattle: Nov 18th – 21st

TechOps Guy: Nate

Hey folks! I just had an idea. For my birthday I am going to come back to the Seattle area for a few days to see friends and hit my favorite places. I'm planning to arrive on Friday the 18th in time to hit Pecos, then Cowgirls on Fri night, and probably Saturday night too. Then leave on Monday the 21st.

Things could change, I could stay longer as my company has a satellite office in Seattle, but for the moment this is my current idea.

I booked a hotel there already, seemed like a really good rate and a pretty nice place.

Embassy Suites Seattle - Bellevue - 3225 158th Avenue SE, Bellevue, Washington,

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19Jul/11Off

Something I hope I don’t miss – Seattle Weather

TechOps Guy: Nate

I've been seeing/hearing increasing numbers of folks in the area complaining about an apparent lack of summer round these parts. Myself I welcome the cooler weather, in fact despite the cooler weather I have had my ACs running almost non stop for at least a couple months now (compressors weren't always running) with a target temp of 68 degrees.

Actually shortly after I moved here, I was watching a local newscast on one of the channels, and the weather guy was complaining about the weather every chance he got, apparently he hated being here, after a couple months I stopped watching them.

I never minded the rain here, much of my life I have spent time where there was roughly equal if not more annual rainfall than is here. I don't mind gray skies, doesn't really matter to me.

People tell me it's less about the total amount of rain and more about how spread out throughout the year it is. I guess I don't get out enough to notice.

I have been casually keeping track of the weather of where I am moving to, to see how much of an adjustment I may have ahead of me as a result of the move, after all I am moving roughly 850 miles to the south.

For the most part the temperature seems to be about the same, at least since I started looking in June. My new place is fairly close to both the Pacific Ocean and the San Fransisco bay which helps keep it cooler than if I was more inland.

I just got done watching yet another news report on people complaining about how cold it is here (61 degrees at the moment at 11PM). My own ideal temperature is highs in the mid to upper 50s, lows in the mid 40s (mainly because my apartment is fairly consistently 10-20 degrees warmer inside than out), and good sleeping temperatures seem to be in the 60-68 degree range.

 

10 day forecast for Bellevue, WA

Now the weather where I'm moving to -

 

10 day forecast for San Bruno, CA

 

A little bit more rain in the forecast up here, but not much. In my 11 years of living in Bellevue it seems it hardly rains here at all, it's as if the rain went around the city (it rains a lot up in the northern Puget Sound region known as the convergence zone).

But as far as people up here complaining it's cold, and not summer like.. I don't know if the above weather is typical or not for where I am going, but given the close proximity to water on both sides, I am not surprised it stays cool.

Just a few miles to the south and further inland the high temperatures jump a full 10+ degrees, I almost moved there, but decided against it because of the ~1 hour commute in each direction.

I wouldn't mind it being drier wherever I was, quite frequently we are above 85% humidity in the Seattle area, I don't suppose that will improve at my new place.

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18Jul/11Off

What I’ll miss most about Seattle

TechOps Guy: Nate

[ I will of course miss all my friends more than anything else, this post is not about friends but rather places ]

I have been thinking about my move coming up - my last full day in the area is this Thursday July 21st. (originally was going to be Saturday but because of moving issues it had to be moved sooner).

I mentioned in my original post that I don't like Seattle, I can't think of a single part of Seattle that I like, I don't like the one way streets, the lack of parking (which on a recent news report was the #1 complaint of tourists), the traffic, and really am not a fan of the culture in general, I don't think as a driver anything gets me more frustrated than driving in downtown Seattle. I was there yesterday in fact to try to find something in particular, I ended up just coming back home in frustration, never bothered to go in any stores because parking was such a pain. Part of the culture in Seattle that I don't like is they are increasingly anti-car. Which is a fine view to have - you just won't catch me dead living there!. I do like the east side though (where I live). It is interesting because a lot of folks I know in Seattle are the opposite, they hate the east side but love Seattle.

So I tried to think of if there was anything I did like about Seattle. I came up with two places in Seattle that I do love, and will miss. I'm not sure if I'll be able to find a close replacement for either down in the Bay Area though.

The first place, which is far and away first place, there is no competition.

Cowgirls Inc

If you haven't been to Cowgirls you really should check it out, words cannot properly describe the Cowgirls experience on a Friday or Saturday night after 9 PM. Don't bother going in at 5-6-7 it's pretty much like any other bar. After 9 things change though. I usually get there at 9, and by about midnight I have a tough time standing up so it's time to go (I missed out on their 5th Anniversary party which I happened to go on that particular night but could not stay an extra 30 minutes to see the show because well I was destroyed). - oh and you'll be doing a lot of standing as they remove the bar stools at around 9:30-10pm.

On these nights it is often wall to wall people, I stick close to the bar and defend my position (you'll understand why if you go). The words kick ass don't do it justice. I took another friend there for the first time this past Friday and he was blown away too, totally exceeded his expectations. I took another guy a couple of months ago he moved to Seattle last year, and he seemed like he was in shock most of the time he absolutely loved it.

I worked across the street from this place (which is on the corner of 1st and King street in Pioneer Square), back when it opened in 2004, though I was a very different person back then. We used to do software deployments that would start at 10pm and typically end around 2 or 3AM.

My co-workers liked to go there (at what seemed to be around 6-7pm) to play pool and eat the peanuts because they have you throw the shells on the floor and my co-workers loved that. The place is often pretty dead that early so no action.

My Favorite Cowgirl (moved away in 2010)

Even though I only went a few times a year the staff knew me pretty well when I came in, so that was nice. I am terrible with names and although I heard some of their names over the years I never retained them. My favorite cowgirl (left) was awesome, she did the craziest things including dancing on my shoulders on several occasions, the heels hurt the first couple of times but it was good pain :)

She moved away from Seattle last year which made me sad.

A funny story about the company I worked at that was across the street from this place. The last boss I had at that company was a really heavy drinker, one night him, the VP and a bunch of other folks (not including me I wasn't at the company at that point) went to Cowgirls and drank a bunch.

The VP dared the director (my former boss) to jump up on the bar and start dancing. He apparently did it, and as a result one of the bouncers got pulled him off, got him in a headlock and kicked him out. Speaking of bouncers (they are called regulators there), there are quite a few, I would say upwards of 10 at any given time.

Another funny story about Cowgirls and VMware of all things - a local VMware rep was coming to meet me at the last company I was at, and his boss told him the wrong address(I gave the right address). So he called me up right when he was supposed to be there and asked where I was and told him he went to the wrong place. Here is how the conversation went (this was almost a year ago so the words are not completely accurate) -

  1. Him: so where are you located then?
  2. Me: on the corner of 1st and King street
  3. Him: where is that near?
  4. Me: it's in Pioneer square
  5. Him: hmm, any more tips you can give?
  6. Me: It's near the stadiums
  7. Him: Still not completely sure
  8. Me: Do you know where Cowgirls Inc is?
  9. Him: OH YEAH! Cowgirls!
  10. Me: I'm right across the street from that
  11. Him: I'll be there in 10 minutes!

The place is run really smooth despite the crowds they really have it nailed down. I've never seen anything get out of hand while all the times I've been there. The staff is very talented, friendly and skilled at churning out drinks at a rapid rate.

If you go and have a good time don't be afraid to tip big. Drink wise it's a very affordable bar, even drinking with a friend I don't think my tab(before tip) has ever been above $100. My tips at Cowgirls are anywhere from 80% to 130%  (+/- I don't try to do percentages just come up with some number based on the bill). I also tip in cash, I have had on a couple occasions companies reject my tips on my CC bill I guess because they thought it was too much, can't reject cash though! They are worth every penny.

There is really no other bar I'd rather go to, at least from ones I have been to in the U.S.  - It's not a place to go to if you want to have a casual conversation, because you'll just be yelling at each other to hear each other. So depending on the situation - perhaps go to a quiet bar first and talk about whatever you want to talk about then go to Cowgirls and have some real fun.

I have only two complaints about the place - one they don't keep their web site up to date (they had a pop up running that was more than a year old at one point). The second, which has been more of a drawback for out of town friends than me is that they aren't open every night. They are open every Friday and Saturday, and some other days if there is a sporting event on. I can't tell you how many times I've driven folks there on off nights only to find them closed.

I will miss the place greatly, I do plan to come back and visit. I've known several of the staff there for several years now so I should see some familiar faces if I am back in town in a few months to a year.

On to number two, it is a distant but solid second.

Pecos Pit

I was introduced to this place while I was working at that same company in Pioneer Square back in 2003. I don't know how famous it might be but it is the only place I will order a pulled pork bbq sandwich from. I'm actually going there today at noon to meet some friends.

I don't believe I had ever had pulled pork until I had it at Pecos Pit, I'm not even sure if I had even heard of pulled pork until Pecos.

 

Pecos Pit is located on 1st ave, about a mile south of the stadiums in Seattle. They are open Monday - Friday only as far as I know and hours are something like 11-3PM. Outdoor seating only (or take out). Parking can be limited at times, oh and it's cash only too (there is an ATM across the street in a pinch though I've never used it).

Probably the main reason I love Pecos is the sauce & spice. My standard order (which some of the staff know me so well that I don't even have to say it) is Pecos Pork, Hot, Spike & Beans. Yes I order the hottest thing on their menu, few people do but I have been having it for so long I got used to it a long time ago. I started out with medium way back when, but at some point it didn't seem hot enough (I think they adjusted their recipe to make things less spicy but not sure). I switched to hot, and while it really is hot, for me at least it's by no means too hot. Of all my friends that I have taken there or met there, I think maybe only one or two others have gotten hot, most usually seem to get mild(I know of at least one that complains that mild is even too hot).

I live in Bellevue, very close to Dixie's BBQ which is much more famous in the area because of the man. While the man passed away a year or two ago they still have the man sauce, which really is the hottest thing I have ever had. I enjoy the heat it gives but I really do not enjoy the flavor. I also don't generally enjoy the flavor of the pulled pork at Dixie's either. I'd much, MUCH rather drive to Seattle and get Pecos over Dixie's. The only reason I would go to Dixie's myself is to get a jar of the man sauce to use at home, they sell, what I think is 2 ounce jars of the sauce for something like $10. While I haven't used it at home in many years, the time when I did, one jar of that stuff literally lasted me a year. I would apply it with toothpicks to meat to get the heat inside the meat and cook it. Really was good (and very hot). The man sauce I would have to say is probably 3-4-5x+ hotter than what the hottest is at Pecos.

I've had pulled pork at a couple other places as well but for me, nothing compares to Pecos (I'm sure real bbq from down south or east or whatever is as good or better but I haven't been able to try any of that). So for the most part when I see pulled pork on a menu I don't bother ordering it, unless I'm at Pecos.

Pecos is not a place to go if your not a meat eater, their menu is limited to pork, beef, and beans for the most part(which have meat in them). I've never tried the beef, never felt the need. I have heard that sometimes they run out of pork if the days are really busy but I haven't come across that myself. Lines can be long on good weather days so be prepared to wait.

Well there you have it - there are more places I will miss from up here, but they aren't unique and I'll be able to find replacements for them pretty easily down in the Bay Area.

These places will be harder. I know there is a bunch of other bars that are sort of like Cowgirls around the country, I haven't been to any myself, one of my friends who travels a bunch does, and told me at least of the ones he's been to, nothing compares to Cowgirls Inc.

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