More house shopping

We looked at several more houses this weekend:

  • 122 Damascus - This house is mechanically excellent, everything is in great shape, but it doesn't really excite us, there's no place for a big screen TV, unless we either do it in the "formal" living room area, or finish the basement, which may or may not stay dry...

  • 1458 Laurel Circle - This house is huge, but very dated inside, lots of space, which we love, but that kitchen has to go, and it's already so far up our price list that adding a kitchen remodel on top of it would probably be financially unwise...
  • 3414 Tucson - This house is just 2 blocks from our current home, and we really like the neighborhood, but suffers from being the most expensive house on the street, as it's a newer house in an older neighborhood. While it is very nice inside, it's also rather pricey for the square footage, as it's smaller than we would like. The yard is very nice, though.
  • 1122 Parkway - This house is across the street from a really dumpy duplex, though it is in a very quiet dead-end road area. This house is huge, but needs a lot of finish work redone, as it's either ugly, or poorly implemented. Also, all that "wood" flooring in the photos is really laminate.
  • 2608 Abraham - This house is interesting. It's only a three bedroom, and we'd really like four, but there is at least office space in the basement, and a room that could maybe be converted to a fourth bedroom if we ever needed one. There's a hot tub, but it's really old looking, and the master bathroom is the only one on the main level, and also opens to the rest of the house, so you can't leave it messy. Also, it has a walk-in tub for old people, and I hope to be at least 40 years away from needing that...
  • Resources for new Kindle owners

    As I know a lot of people have received new Amazon Kindles lately for the holidays, and have probably fallen in love with them as much as I have over the last six months of owning one, I thought I'd compile a few tips about alternative ways of getting content on them. Certainly, you can buy your eBooks all from Amazon, though there can be advantages from getting them elsewhere too, especially if it saves you money!

    One of the ways you can save a few bucks is by using the excellent free software package called Calibre to load content you already own on your Kindle. Amazon has a nice service where they will convert PDF and Word documents, among other formats, and send them to your Kindle, but they charge by the megabyte for the data they're converting for you. If you use Calibre, and just plug your USB cable into your computer, you can upload eBooks and other content for free, and cut out the middle an. Calibre is available for both Mac and PC, and it's a great app!

    Another great source for eBooks is Baen, the science fiction publisher. If Sci-Fi isn't your cup of tea, then this probably won't interest you, but the Baen Free Library has an ever-changing collection of totally free and legal eBooks for you to download for your Kindle. They started this program at the urging of some of their authors, to help generate interest in paper sales of catalog titles, as well as in the hopes that if you read one book by the author for free and love it, you'll purchase subsequent books.

    Baen also sells many other eBooks via their WebScriptions site, including many titles that simply aren't available via Amazon for the Kindle, and they're usually at a much lower price. Another nice feature of the Baen books is that they don't use any DRM on their eBooks, so you'll always be able to read them, move them to another device, or loan them out to a friend.

    Friends are another excellent source of Kindle content, as many titles can now be lent to a friend via Amazon's web page. You just need to enter a valid email address to send the eBook code to, and then that Kindle owner can have the book installed on their Kindle. It's important to note, however, that not all Kindle books on Amazon can be lent, as it's up to the publisher to enable that feature. Also, a given book you own can only be lent once, and only for a period of two weeks! Make sure the person you're lending the book to will have time to read it, and REALLY wants the book, before you use up your one lending period on them.

    This idea has also been extended to the Kindle Lending Club online, where users can swap their "lends" with each other, giving you access to far more titles than you could get from your friends.

    I'm hopeful in the future that libraries will implement a way to check out eBooks on the Kindle too. They have the ability to do it for some other platforms, and while the DRM can be removed to let the content work on a Kindle, it's something you need a computer geek to set up.

    3G Data coverage maps of Iowa

    As I’m in the market for a new cell phone and carrier, after being with Sprint (disclosure: I’m a Sprint shareholder) for 9.5 years, I did some comparison of the various 3G coverage maps of Iowa, and here they are.  You can click on the maps for larger versions of many of them:

    First up, iWireless.  Formerly known as Iowa Wireless, they’re the closest thing we have to T-Mobile here in Iowa.  Their 3G coverage is pretty weak, and is represented by the pink color on the map.  Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls/Waterloo, Des Moines, Ames, Council Bluffs, and Iowa City are covered, and really nowhere else..  Their service prices are good, but their phone selection tends to lag T-Mobile proper by quite a bit, and if you venture outside those cities, you’re going to be on Edge or even worse, GPRS a lot of the time…


    Next up is AT&T.  I have two maps for them, the first is their current map, the second is the coverage they plan to have on 3G by the end of March.  Cedar Falls & Waterloo went live on 3G sometime yesterday, so the map appears to be coming true.  On the first map, 3G is the dark blue.  On the second (future) map, current 3G is dark blue, future 3G is light blue, sorry it’s so tiny!



    Third is Sprint.  As I mentioned, they’re my current carrier, and cover most of the major metropolitan areas with 3G (the dark orange), though for some reason they continue to ignore Fort Dodge and Mason City, among others, as well as the I-35 corridor:


    Fourth is Verizon.  They cover most of the state with their 3G (red) coverage, though that salmon color shows they have some holes in the northwest & southwest corners.  I, personally, never go there, so it doesn’t really bother me, but I wish there was a little better coverage on US 63 north from Waterloo to Rochester, MN.


    Fifth, and best, in my opinion, is regional carrier US Cellular.  They cover almost all of the state with 3G as represented by the sickly green color, and when you’re not on their network, you’ll roam onto Verizon’s 3G network in most of the country.  For some reason, the bottom tier of Minnesota seems to be non-3G coverage in their maps, however.


    So what’s an Iowan to do?  Clearly if you’re a heavy smartphone user, and you travel outside major cities, CDMA is your only real option for technology, and the best choices are Verizon & US Cellular.  Sprint isn’t bad in Eastern Iowa, but really degrades elsewhere, and in rural areas.  The GSM carriers, iWireless and AT&T, are really only great in the major cities, over 100,000 people, but if you don’t spend any time out in little places like Ventura, Manson, or Hanlontown, Iowa, they’d be fine.  Unfortunately, I spend time in those places, and even some bigger ones, like Mason City and Fort Dodge, and I think I want 3G coverage in all of them for my next phone…

    House Hunting

    We looked at three open houses in Waterloo yesterday, as we’re thinking about upgrading from our little ranch to something a bit more spacious.

    The first house we looked at had a lot of character, though it was really showing its age in places.  The somewhat-finished area in the basement had a sagging ceiling that was somewhat alarming, and the floors all squeaked loudly.  The upstairs bathroom and the kitchen had been remodeled, though, as the women said “by a man” as they’re somewhat ugly and don’t fit the house at all, so would need to be redone if you had taste…  The lot was small, so not a lot of grass to mow, and while it’s on perhaps the nicest street in town, the houses around it are very close and not anything grand…

    The second house we looked at is actually on the same street, though farther down where it loses its boulevard status.  It’s friggin’ huge, a great sprawling ranch house.  The basement, though very dated, has a big bar in it, as well as a bedroom with egress window.  Upstairs there’s a nice four-season room, family room, and a huge living room.  It had a great entryway, and a very spacious kitchen as well.  You can tell this was a very very nice home when it was built in the 1950s, but a lot of the home still feels like that era, and not in a good way.  The brick work is very dated, including the triangle-styled cement block that probably was very cool back then, but just sticks out now…

    The third house we looked at was also a monster, lots of space inside, with extremely high amounts of storage space.  Every single bedroom has a walk-in closet, some of them big enough to park a car inside.   Out back, there is a HUGE newish shed/workshop with almost 800 square feet of space alone, though it’s not currently heated or insulated.  There’s a big addition on the back with a long family room and a fireplace at the end, but it felt like it was sort of done cheaply, and you felt kind of isolated from the rest of the house while you were there.  There was a first-floor laundry, which was nice, but a lot of bathrooms in need of TLC, and basically every floor surface in the house needed to be redone.  The wood at the entry way was spongy underfoot, and what looks like tile in the photos actually seems to be the peel ‘n stick squares, used throughout the first floor…

    We haven’t found anything we love yet, so the hunt continues!

    More amusing voicemail transcriptions

    "On all three Supreme Court Justice is up for retention in addition. I'd like her to go to judge a and join our bus to work across the state at a location near you and finally join me on Thursday, October 28 on the steps of the Iowa Supreme Court building as we voice our opinion. Collectively that we're voting no against the judges were standing up for freedom and for traditional marriage. One man one wallet. Again this is Bob grandpa, file for freedom. It's paid for by pilot family policies that are actually much to hear this message. Again please press one now. If we can count on you to vote no on all three Supreme Court Justices. Please press two now. Thank you. This call was paid for by Iowa family policy Center in action. Reach you "

    How to install NetBackup 7.0 on Ubuntu 10.04

    NetBackup 7 officially “supports” Ubuntu Linux 8.04, 9.04, and 10.04 for Linux clients, as seen in the Software Compatibility List but the installer doesn’t “work”.

    Specifically, the problem seems to be that PBX, or Private Branch Exchange, is distributed in an RPM package along with the client.  The normal shell script that installs the client kicks an error when PBX fails to install:

    Installing PBX... ./installpbx: 1510: rpm: not found
     ERROR: Could not install VRTSpbx package
     Please see installation log for more details
     Installation log located here: 
     Installing PBX was unsuccessful.
     Aborting ...

    Opening the next log reveals more:

    [10-08-10-13:52:11] Extracting 
    /var/tmp/VRTSpbx_1928/PBX.tar.gz into 
    [10-08-10-13:52:11] Installing/Upgrading private branch 
    exchange on Linux
    [10-08-10-13:52:11] Checking for the PBX process...
    [10-08-10-13:52:11] PBX process is not running.
    [10-08-10-13:52:11] rpm -U --nodeps --nopostun --nopreun
    ./installpbx: 1568: rpm: not found
    [10-08-10-13:52:11] ERROR: Could not install VRTSpbx 
    [10-08-10-13:52:11] Removing temporary directory
    [10-08-10-13:52:11] rm -rf /var/tmp/VRTSpbx_1928
    [10-08-10-13:52:11] installpbx exiting with return 
    code: 1
    [10-08-10-13:52:11] Please see installation log for more 
    [10-08-10-13:52:11] Installation log located here:

    As this isn’t Red Hat, rpm is not present on the system, nor would it work if it was…

    With the help of the folks at Symantec, here’s what will get around this problem and help you install the client.  Hopefully they’ll put this online in a tech note soon, but I’m guessing I’m not the only person who ran into this problem, so here are my notes.  I am not a Linux wizard, by any means, but here are the required steps to make this work.  This also requires you to install alien, a package that’ll let you install rpm packages on Ubuntu:


    Get the giant 7.0 client tarball and copy it to your server.  I downloaded mine from FileConnect.

    gunzip NetBackup_7.0_CLIENTS_GA.tar.gz.gz

    tar xvf NetBackup_7.0_CLIENTS_GA.tar.gz

    cd NB_7.0_CLIENTS_GA/NBClients/anb/Clients/usr/openv/netbackup/client/Linux/RedHat2.6

    sudo mkdir /tmp/pbx

    sudo cp PBX.tar.gz /tmp/pbx

    cd /tmp/pbx

    sudo gzip -dv PBX.tar.gz

    sudo tar xvf PBX.tar

    sudo apt-get install alien

    sudo alien -i --scripts VRTSpbx-
    (you will see lots of errors, you can ignore them)

    Then start PBX on the CLIENT:
    sudo /opt/VRTSpbx/bin/vxpbx_exchanged start

    sudo nano NB_7.0_CLIENTS_GA/NBClients/anb/Clients/usr/openv/netbackup/client/Linux/RedHat2.6/cp_to_client

    Comment out lines 1723 - 1732 by inserting a # at the start of the line (use Control-W in nano to search for PBX to help locate this):

      1723 #       ${ECHO} " 
      1724 #Installing PBX..." 
      1726 #       ${SOURCE_DIR}/installpbx -f PBX.tar.gz 
      1727 #       if [ $? -ne 0 ] ; then 
      1728                 ${ECHO} " 
      1729 #Installing PBX was unsuccessful. 
      1730 #Aborting ..." 
      1731 #               exit 1 
      1732 #       fi

    Hit Control-X to save and exit.

    Then execute the "install" script in /NB_7.0_CLIENTS_GA


    You can then normally patch the client to version 7.01, as that won’t require you to use any RPM-based packages.  I've also heard that installing version 6.5.4, then upgrading from there to 7.0 will work too, as that version of PBX will install ok, but I haven’t tried it.

    Amusing voicemail transcription

    Received this transcription from my Vonage voicemail. All you need to know is in the first six words. :)

    "Hi this is Ben lying candidate for United States Congress running against the liberal Democrat and incumbent Bruce Braley. I'm hosting a live telephone town hall. Right now. To talk about how you and that I can put our country back on the right track towards greater freedom and prosperity for Eastern Island. If you're listening to this message. Live right now and like to join this free call press one on your phone. Otherwise I'm sorry I missed you since we said Bruce Brody Washington. The national debt has exploded over $13 trillion in unemployment has more than doubled from 4.6% to 9.5% on November 2. Voters will need to decide whether we send the same politicians back to Washington in hopes for different results or whether it's time to send a message and put a check in balance on the Obama administration. Please "