Monday, August 29, 2005


Since we just went through hurricane Katrina, you might think I mean recovery from the wind, rain and power outage. But, no - the hurricane was at most a minor inconvenience compared to recovering from my computer crashing at the beginning of last week! It has been coming for a while - my computer would come up with the 'blue-screen-of-death' rather than booting up normally. This has been happening over the last several months. Jim has always been able to bring it back to life with use of the original CDs and the chkdsk command. But, it's been getting worse - windows updates have been unable to load, my anti-spyware program disappeared and refused to reinstall. And, my Internet connection would hang up ever hour or so, requiring a reboot to get back in business. My computer is 2 years old and I use it hard. This is one thing we teach in our 'Practice Safe Computing' seminar - that a 2 year old computer that is used on the Internet a lot will need to be reformatted. So, I vowed that the next time it crashed - I wouldn't tell Jim to revive it, I'd tell him to reformat and reset it up. This is a painful process. It took Jim the better part of 24 hours to reformat, install the operating system and all the basic drivers for the computer to work. Then I've been spending the rest of the week putting my data and other programs back from backups and configuring everything the way I need. Things like my Macromedia suite that I use for web development ... I use Coldfusion for the database part of things and it is very particular about how it is installed. I had Jim partition my drives into a C (for operating system and programs) and D (for data) so that, next time this happens I only have to wipe out the C drive. But - Coldfusion didn't like having data installed on D - it expects it on C. Then, when we tried to raise our satellite dish and get Internet (when the power was out) we discovered that, even though we had all our necessary CDs, there had been lots of 'tweaks' we had made over the years that made everything work. That took another day and calls to tech support to get it online. By that time - the WiFi was back up! My photos are probably my most precious backed up data. I make a CD at the end of every month with that month's digital photos on it. I like to have all my photos on my computer for when I want to make slide shows etc. So, I spent hours copying 20 CDs of backed up photos onto my computer. One CD had gotten pretty badly scratched and didn't want to work ... that one took me an extra 2-3 hours skipping over the photos that were on the scratched parts. Then, I wanted to back up my newly restored data, but I had to find the special backup software that came with my external DVD recorder first ... I found it and installed it. We're pretty good at keeping ALL our original CDs in special CD wallets so we know where they are. But I still can't find the CDs that came with my camera so I can download photos to my computer. Luckily it's installed on Jim's computer as well, so I can download from camera to Jim's computer, then copy to CD and bring them over to my computer. Weren't computers supposed to save us time??? Between Jim and me, we've spend a good 40 hours ... and, that's just to get me back to where I started a week ago! I'm telling you all this in hopes that you will be prepared when (not if) it happens to you. 1. make backups regularly: I started needing 6-7 CDs in order to backup what I needed, so we bought a DVD recorder - now I can backup with 2 discs. For precious things (like photos) make more than one backup! 2. keep all your original CDs safe and accessible. That includes operating system, programs AND all those little drivers that come with pieces of hardware - like WiFi adapters and external drives. OK, back to the hurricane. It was only a category 1 (75mph) when it hit us, and it did veer south at the last minute - hitting Miami a lot harder than us. Even a weak hurricane does a lot of damage. As some news reporters observed, "Hurricane Katrina was nature's way of pruning South Florida." Here's some photos: This was in Mom's complex: The worst part was that electricity was off for a couple days. Driving was dangerous because the traffic lights weren't working. Jim's sister remembers last year when they were without power for 10 days in West Palm Beach. She didn't hesitate to go buy a generator for the folks when she learned their power was out. Here's Jim helping to set that up: OK - weather is good and computer is back ... at least 90% anyway. So, back to work!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Looking for Power

Hurricane Katrina blew threw last night and we don't have any electricity now. It's always amazing how we take power for granted - our ELS (electronic life support). Of course, in a motorhome we have the luxury of having our own generator ... but there's one minor detail. You have to have more than a quarter tank of gas in order for the generator to work ... and, that's right ... we have just one quarter. Most of the gas stations in the area are also without power so they're no help. So we're going on a mini-road trip looking for gas so we can have power. The hurricane hit almost directly on Fort Lauderdale - that never happens! We always count on it veering away at the last minute. So, we stayed put. It made quite a racket and blew down some tree limbs, but no real damage. The wind actually kinda rocked us to sleep. We have no levelers or stabilizers, the motorhome is just sitting on its tires .. so it bounces when blown. I wanted to post a little note here - so I'm using Jim's laptop running on battery, and I'm using our Verizon cellphone with Mobile Office for the Internet connection. Where there's a will there's a way!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Fort Lauderdale again

Sorry to leave you hanging with that last post about the airline strike ... our flight had no problems whatsoever - we made it back to Fort Lauderdale safe and sound on Saturday evening. Mom and Lynne and John picked us up at the Miami airport. Then we met up with Chris, Richard and Jo Ellen at one of our favorite watering holes - Billabong's. What fun. On Sunday we did a little geocaching - found a cache right down the street at the park with an army tank in it. I remember when they brought that tank to the park - it was a big deal to the neighborhood. We lived in a house just a couple blocks away. It is such a nice little park too. This is the lake that Odie and I went on our 'accidental swim' about 4 years ago. Not real brilliant are we? Sunday afternoon, we had group boat dive with Kayuba dive club. We went with South Florida Dive Headquarters on the Safari Diver out of Hillsboro Inlet. It was a gorgeous day! The underwater visibility was about 70 feet. Very unusual for South Florida - I felt like I was in the Caribbean. We saw lots of tropical fish, beautiful coral, moray eels, and squid. But no lobsters :-( And that was Lynne and John's last chance since they hit the road again the next day. They're headed for Wisconsin. We'll be watching your Blog guys!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Where to stay

We got to Minot, North Dakota a day early for the FMCA convention, so we had a little bit of time to explore. When we saw a flyer for a winery nearby - that was an obvious place to check out! Their growing season is only about 2 months - so grapes are a little difficult, but they have lots of honey bees, so a popular wine was honey wine. I liked it! It sure felt wierd to be at a motorhome rally without our motorhome! And, it would have been very nice to have our home to stay in. As it was, there was NO VACANCY in the whole city of Minot. We had to stay 60 miles away. Our reservation was in Rugby, the geographical center of North America. The accomodations were less than elegant however, so Frank kept trying to find something else and ended up with an exquisite bed and breakfast in Anamoose, ND. It's called SageHill and it really was spectacular, but it was 55 miles away so there wasn't much improvement there. No WiFi and not even any cell phone signal. We had to get up very early to partake of the gourmet breakfast, get on the road, and make it to our hotspot in time. All this driving did give us the opportunity to see the beautiful countryside. It looks to me like all the sunflower seeds in the stores must come from North Dakota. The fields went on for miles and miles, and they were brilliant. Our last night in Minot, we figured some folks may have left early so we checked the hotels again and found rooms at Fairfield Inn with a restaurant in walking distance and free WiFi in our rooms. I would sum it up this way: our first motel was too hard, the second was too soft and the last was just right. But, it all was an adventure. Thanx Frank! Now we're in Bismark hoping that Northwest airlines doesn't strike and prevent us from flying back to Fort Lauderdale at 8am tomorrow. Wish us luck.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

FMCA Annual Convention

Whew! We haven't had more than 5 minutes to ourselves during the last 4 days at the FMCA convention in Minot, ND. We just loved it! For the whole 4 days, Coach Connect operated a free WiFi hotspot, and we helped lots of folks with their computers. We had a crowd for at least 8 hours every day. It was so fun to see people learn how WiFi works. This woman was incredulous at how easy and fast it was. We also learned a lot. It sure seemed like an inordinate amount of problems were with the HP and Compaq computers. And I really learned to dislike the Linksys cards. People who had Sony laptops had very few problems! You probably already know that we like Sony Vaios :-) The most interesting thing was that a lot of people experienced fluctuating and dropping signal. It finally occurred to us that having this many WiFi computers so close together was probably creating RF interference. When there were fewer people it was no problem. We probably saw 200 people a day using the WiFi and helped many of them with both WiFi and other questions. People were thrilled to get all this free help. We also gave 2 seminars. The first one had about 300 people in the audience! The second had at least 100. And, they had a lot of questions. Coach Connect is also entering the Datastorm market. They arranged with Freightliner to install a Datastorm on their service trailer. Jim helped get it online. One of the problems was that it was originally installed to use the same satellite that we use (117) and Minot, ND is too far north for that to work! So Jim got with the folks from Motosat and switched the satellite to 83. I think we need to get on to this satellite also - it's new and it works from mid-Canada to Panama. It wasn't all work though. We also had a great time being in North Dakota. That'll be my next post.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Greetings from N Dakota

No, we didn't drive here - although I know it's been a while since you've seen a post from me. Our motorhome is still parked in Fort Lauderdale. Coach Connect wanted us to help out with the Hotspot and the seminars at the FMCA convention in Minot, ND. So, they booked us a flight. What a strange way to travel! You have to pack a little bag with everything you think you'll need. Sure glad we weren't staying in Denver. yuk Here's what N Dakota looks like from the air. And, here I am creating this post with the free WiFi in the Bismark airport. More later..

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

BYOH Party

Consider this - you have good friends that live about 100 miles away. You want to get together for the weekend. Here's the invitation: "Why don't you guys come to our place and visit for the weekend? But, you know we don't have much space and our house is kinda messy, so Bring Your Own House, Ok?" That's exactly what us 'homers' (people who live full-time in their motorhomes) get to do! Lynne and John are living on the west coast of Florida while they work on a 6 month project. We're parked on the east coast. It's about a 2 hour drive. Then we can be neighbors for the weekend and GO DIVING! And the folks here at Paradise Island are real good about arranging a site next door. The weather was extremely cooperative this weekend, and we were able to borrow 2 kayaks for Lynne and John. So, to the beach we go. First you unload the kayaks. Then you set up your gear ... with Jim overseeing of course! We drag our kayaks the short distance to the water. And we're ready to go. I don't have a waterproof camera this time, so - no pictures from the water. Regular lobster season started today, so, you guessed it, Jim caught some. John actually caught one too! But, it was a female with eggs, so he let it go. Sunday morning was just as spectacular (even though there was major thunderstorms overnight) so ... we did it all over again. And Dick(aka Commander Kayuba)and Geri, whose kayaks we borrowed, were there to officially welcome Lynne and John into the Kayuba scuba club. Then we went home and had lobster omelets for brunch! Yum.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Czech Republic/German + Venezuelan = American

Gill and Gabi invited us over for dinner, and I want you to meet them. I find it heartening to know that the melting pot of America is cooking along just fine. I met Gill (Gilberto) because he works at a client of mine. I did a Microsoft Access database project for them, and Gill is the onsite computer guy who managed the database on a day to day basis. We communicated a lot over the past year via instant messenger and, with remote control software, I could log into his computer and make any changes to the database that he needed done. It was actually easier to get the work done when I was 2000 miles away than when I was living here because I didn't feel the need to get in the car and travel to his place. I would use the remote software and have the change completed within 20 minutes. Anyway, when we were somewhere in Utah, I believe, Gill IM'd me to give the great news that his wife, Gabi (Gabrielle) was pregnant. They were SO happy, and they were going to move into a bigger place, and we would have to come over for dinner when we were in S Florida. ... So, we did. Gill used a tripod to snap this photo of the 4 of us with his camera ... the same make and model as mine! A Cannon Digital Rebel - the boy's got good taste. I just love their story. Gill grew up in Venezuela. His family moved here 11 years ago. He plays piano and guitar. He sings beautifully. And he used to make his living playing at a local restaurant. Gabi was born in Czech Republic, grew up in Germany, and was just here on vacation 6 or so years ago, when she happened to eat dinner in Gill's restaurant. She claims it was love at first sight, they spent the rest of the night walking on the beach, but she had to go back to Germany the *next* day! Well, as all modern love stories go ... they kept in touch via email. (They tell me they kept those hundreds of emails and have them printed in a notebook somewhere!) Even the emails stopped after a while and they lost touch for 3 years. Then Gill sent one more email ... she responded. She visited here, he visited there. He waited for her to finish her University degree in Germany, then she moved here and they got married in Miami. This summer they had a second, traditional wedding in Czech Republic with all their families. What a beautiful video they showed us! I'd love to visit there someday. It would be tough to drive our motorhome over ... though I know of people who put their motorhomes on a boat to be able to use them in Europe ... hmmm, that's a thought. Gill will finish his degree in Civil Engineering from University of Miami this fall. He got his American citizenship last year - just in time for the election! They are still in process of moving, and waiting for the baby to arrive in December. I think Jim and I smile a lot, but they have us beat. We were just blinded by the radiance of these two! Thanx so much, Gill and Gabi, for having us over to dinner. And, where can we get some of that wonderful Czech mustard?