Ten Years Ago

It’s been 10 years – but it’s not what you might think it is.

In a bit of a cosmic coincidence, the domain registry entry for my site (starkeith.net) was entered into the domain registry exactly 10 years ago, on September 12, 2001.

There’s not really any significance to this – I ordered the domain much earlier than this; it just happened to get entered into the database on this day.

Regardless of the proximity to another historic date, it’s still been 10 years since I finally got my own domain (I’d had other web pages of my own since almost 1997) – and after the rather somber mood of yesterday’s 10th anniversary, I think I’m going to try to have some fun with this one.

With that in mind, here’s some links to help celebrate the 10th “birthday” of StarKeith.net!

 

Traveling around the Southeast

I recently did a little bit of traveling around the southeast US – namely, Florida and Louisiana – and of course I took a whole bunch of photos while I was there.

You can view the whole collection here, but here’s the short version:

mother alligator

baby alligator closeup

I went to Florida and saw some alligators, both big and small.

the everglades

I saw the Everglades.

view of the 7-mile bridge

I drove across a LOT of long (and short) bridges.

keith and the southernmost point marker in key west

I stood at the (almost) southernmost point in the continental United States.

bourbon street lit up at night

Then I jumped over to New Orleans and experienced Bourbon Street in the French Quarter at night.

steamer natchez (side)

Then I took a steamboat ride on the only remaining truly steam-powered passenger paddle steamer left on the Mississippi River.

sunset aboard the natchez - port side, looking aft

sunset and the city of new orleans

Did I mention the steamboat ride was a leisurely 2-hour cruise at sunset?

wall of graves

Then I saw a neat cemetery.

st charles tram

And rode on an old tram train.

houmas house from the front

Before finally visiting some beautiful old plantations…

bocage plantation at dusk

…VERY beautiful plantations…

having some light snacks at bocage plantation

…one of which we stayed in overnight!

amanda in the red room in the morning

As you can imagine, it was a very fun trip and we saw a lot of neat things and places. If you’d like to see more pictures (along with comments about what I was doing at the time), feel free to check out the full collection over on Flickr.

Traveling around the Southwest

I recently took a little vacation to the Southwest US, and of course I used this opportunity to take lots and lots of pictures.

You can view the full collection of photos here, but be warned – there are a lot of photos. If you’d rather not spend all day looking at all those photos (and keep in mind, those are just the GOOD ones – I actually took a lot more than that; it took me nearly 3 days to sort through them all) then here are some highlights:

our plane for the ride to the bar 10 ranch from las vegas

I flew on a very small plane.

keith gets ready to shoot-1

Did a little skeet shooting at a ranch.

keith and helicopter

Took a helicopter ride…

into the grand canyon by helicopter

…down into the Grand Canyon.

getting the raft ready for our first day on the river

Got on a raft.

shooting some rapids

Went through some rapids.

my wet foot

Got soaked.

keith's adventuring pose on the raft on day 2

Did some adventuring.

my bed

Camped out.

beautiful clear blue skies and gold canyon walls on the 3rd day

Saw the Grand Canyon from the bottom.

keith at the hoover dam (nevada side)

Saw the Hoover Dam.

flower snail

Spent some time in that crazy place known as Las Vegas.

keith the adventurer

Did some more adventuring in canyons (different ones this time).

sunrise with filter

Saw the sun rise from 8000 feet above sea level.

keith does his adventurer pose at zion national park

Did lots of hiking.

the virgin river in the zion narrows

Did some hiking through some very narrow places.

grand canyon panorama 1

Saw the Grand Canyon (from the top this time).

grand canyon rim at sunset

Both at sunset…

the sun rises over the rim of the grand canyon

…and at sunrise.

All in all, a fun trip. And a great chance for me to really use my camera and try and take some interesting photos (different from the photos I usually get to take around home).

The full collection of photos is available (and nicely organized) over on Flickr, if you care to look.

Joining the Dual-Monitor Club

After many, many years of dragging my feet, I have finally joined the dual-monitor club:

joining the dual monitor club

My wife’s company was getting rid of some surplus equipment and I managed to grab the 2nd monitor for just $25 – you can’t say no at that price! So I decided to give this dual-monitor thing a try.

I’ve long been… well let’s say ambivalent about the benefits of having dual monitors – despite the fact that most programmers swear by them (heck, dual monitors are item #1 on the Programmer’s Bill of Rights!).

My reluctance was partly due to the cost – especially back in the CRT days, when monitors (decently-sized ones, anyway) were not inexpensive. The other reason for my reluctance was that I’d tried the dual-monitor thing years ago and found it not very useful – the monitor I tried out was an old 15″ CRT, and the desk I was using at the time didn’t really fit a 2nd monitor very effectively. Also, back then there really wasn’t any such thing as a “dual-head” video card, so you had to add a 2nd video card (probably a slower PCI card, since your main video card was probably using up the sole AGP slot on your motherboard).

However, even when LCD monitors became relatively inexpensive and easy to get I still resisted getting a second monitor. The reason for this was that I just could not see how a second monitor would benefit me, given the type of work I do. Oh, I didn’t deny that it would be useful sometimes – but not necessarily enough to justify the cost/space/hassle/etc.

I just kept figuring that I really only “focus” on one thing at a time, so why bother having a second screen if I’m not going to be focusing on it? Plus, I worried about getting cramps in my neck & shoulders from turning to the side to stare at a second monitor for any length of time.

So I rationalized it to myself for a very long time, until this $25 monitor came along, and I just figured I’d give it a try (at worst I could decide I didn’t like it and give it away to a family member or friend who needs a new monitor).

So now that I’ve got it, how is it working out for me? Well, getting used to a second monitor actually takes some time and effort – when you have worked for so long with just one screen, it’s hard to “give up” a window and move it over to the second screen.

Of course, what stuff ends up on the 2nd screen is a tough choice to make. My “desktop” is now effectively twice as wide as it used to be, which means moving the mouse from the left side of the screen to the right side of the other screen takes a while – and again, I don’t like moving the mouse more than I have to (repetitive stress injuries are to programmers what black lung was to coal miners). So whatever went on the 2nd monitor would have to:

  • Only infrequently require mouse input
  • Be something I could glance at out of the corner of my eye, without needing to actually turn my head and stare at the 2nd screen for long periods of time
  • Not be distracting

Interestingly, not a lot falls into this category for me.

A lot of people using dual monitors will say how they love having their email open on the 2nd screen all the time. But I (mostly) follow the “Getting Things Done” philosophy, and I’m also a programmer so interruptions are anathema¬† to me, so having email always “in my face” is just not necessary. I check email when I’m ready to check email, and my computer will let me know that mail has arrived and I can then read it at my leisure.

Having IM or Twitter open on the second monitor might also seem like it might be useful, and after trying it out, I did actually decide to move my IM program to the 2nd monitor. It helps keep chats with co-workers “on the side” so I can keep working. And Twitter would probably be a good candidate, except I don’t use Twitter often enough for it to be that important to me. Plus, the Twitter client I use (Spaz) has growl-style notifications that let me know when new Tweets happen for the (relatively) few people I follow, so that’s good enough for me.

Another candidate for a 2nd monitor is for debugging – and that would be a good use for a 2nd monitor, depending on the type of debugging you are doing. But I mostly do .NET WinForms development these days, and debugging that is pretty easy on a single monitor. Perhaps when I have some web development to do, or other kinds of development, the second monitor will really come through for me – but right now, it’s just not helpful for the debugging I do.

However, a very good candidate for the 2nd monitor is for remote desktop/virtual machines. Often I have to remote control people’s computers, and putting that on the 2nd monitor allows me to effectively have their desktop right next to mine – it is very handy. Likewise for virtual machines – I will run the virtual machine on the 2nd monitor and I can keep an eye on it while working normally on my 1st monitor.

So that’s where I stand currently in regards to the dual-monitor club. I’m still a new convert, and I’m still getting my sea-legs, so to speak, as far as figuring out how best to use this 2nd screen I have. But I’m getting there.

My Life, 2000 – 2009: What a Crazy Trip!

I’m going to do 2 little retrospectives this year, but I’m going to start with a personal one first, so if this isn’t your cup of tea, just move on to the 2nd article (which is more about the world at large) and read that instead.

The last 10 years (10 years!?!) have been quite interesting for me, now that I really sit down and think about it. Of course, a lot has happened (which I’ve written about in more detail elsewhere in my blog), so I won’t go into details here – but I will summarize, because summarizing and making “top X” lists is what the New Year is all about!

  • I leave college after 4 years and start my own company (though not by myself).
  • I got my first apartment in Fitchburg and lived officially “on my own” for the first time (the time I spent at college – even when I lived there over the summer – only half counts).
  • Amanda, my long-distance girlfriend from Australia, packs her backs and moves to America to live with me!
  • Amanda and I get married! Who-hoo!
  • After a lot of prodding, I finally go back and finish the 2 classes I needed to graduate from college!
  • Through a very bizzare series of events, I end up with 2 pet rabbits!
  • I buy a new car (my beloved Mitsubishi Outlander) and end up getting screwed by a corrupt car dealership.
  • I travel back and forth to Australia more than a few times, and see some really neat stuff while I’m there!
  • I learn to cook more than just the meat & potato casseroles I used to eat in college.
  • I move to New Jersey! (And I get to work from home!)
  • I’ve gotten better at acting “grown-up” (though it’s still an act, because I’m still a kid at heart)

And that just about brings us up-to-date with the crazy journey that has been my life thus far. It’s been a wild ride, to be sure – there were ups, and there were definitely downs as well. But lately there seem to be more ups than downs, which is good, because now that I’m in my 30′s I’m getting too old for the drama of youth. But life is good these days, and fate has been relatively good to me lately, so I have no complaints. And of course I’m looking forward to the next 10 years of crazy adventures as well!

I’m sorry if this post has sounded a little sappy, or even self-serving in some ways. However, around this time of year I always like to look back fondly, rather than look back and see all the negatives. I know they happened (I can never forget them), but I’ve moved past them. I prefer to face the new year optimistically – that’s just the way I am.

So, if you’re looking back at your own life, hopefully you’ll look more at the positive things rather than the negative things, and see the possibilities of a brighter future ahead. I know I am!

Happy New Year, everyone! See you in 2010!