WebMatrix from Microsoft = Awesome!

[Time for a nerdy post]

If you like to “tinker” with the web Microsoft’s WebMatrix tool just might be for you.

I’ve wanted to set up a development copy of the IndyScan.com blog at home but standing up a Linux server with PHP and all the other tools to make it work just seemed like to much work (I’ll admit I’m lazy sometimes).  Enter WebMatrix.  With this tool you can run a “virtual” web server inside of an application on your desktop.  It reminds me of the old days when I used to edit IndyScan.com offline with Dream Weaver and “publish” the changes via FTP at the end of each editing session.

I’m using a virtual machine to do this but you can just as easily install the application on your primary machine.  Once you install the WebMatrix application you can choose from dozens of open source content management and blogging tools.  It’s as simple as downloading the tool and walking through a wizard to set the base site up (including SQL databases).  You also have the option to develop the site from scratch (old school) and publish to your web server.

Once I installed WebMatrix I activated the WordPress package, exported my live site, and imported the XML file into the WebMatrix site.  within 10 minutes I had a fully functional clone of my production site.  Pretty cool!

So far I’ve had a lot of fun playing with alternatives to WordPress and seeing if my HTML/PHP coding skills are still up to par.  If you are looking for an inexpensive (free) development platform be sure to check out WebMatrix.

[Nerdy post complete]

Outside Order Takers at McDonalds

Whats going on with the trend for McDonalds to put drive thru order takers outside? When I stop for fast food I’m not always sure what I want and like to look at the menu board to help make my decision. Placing the order taker outside the visual range of the menu board (which is usually where they are located) really messes me up and I default to whatever I can remember the restaurant having vs. trying one of their specials.

The other day I ran into this situation & the order taker was using a Panasonic Toughbook tablet that I know from recent experience easily costs $2500. That’s a lot of cheeseburgers.

Is the ordering kiosk not working? That kind of makes sense, but if that’s the case, put the person by the actual menu not around the corner 50+ feet away. I don’t need to have an enlightening conversation to grab a Big Mac, the squawk box is just fine by me.

One other thing, remember when they used to USE the 2 drive thru windows?  I see a lot of them sealed up and used for storage…

Long Term Report – Blackberry 9930

Last month I posted my initial review of the Blackberry Bold 9930 and, at the end of the review, I promised a follow-up post once I had some mileage on the unit.  Well, after one month I think I have a pretty good handle on the pros and cons of Blackberry’s latest release.

Research in Motion (RIM) continues to slip in the industry and that’s a shame because, in my opinion,  they do make quality products and they work well, especially in the enterprise market.  The Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) gives administrators the utmost control of their mobile fleet although I venture to guess very few take advantage of the power BES can offer.

I’m not an Apple/Droid/WinMo hater.  I think they all make solid products and their phones are selling like crazy so, if anything, their marketing dollars are being well spent.  Just like automobiles, we all have our preferences and needs.  I welcome the competition as it keeps the smart phone market fresh with new innovations released monthly.

The following are my impressions after a month with the Blackberry Bold 9930.

Spoiler alert…  I still love the phone but it’s not perfect.

The touch screen is responsive and works very well but I don’t find myself using it all that often. Maybe it’s the fingerprints on the screen or the fact I can do everything I need to do with the keyboard or the touch pad.  I have had an issue with my favorite shopping app, Our Groceries, randomly adding, deleting list items if I don’t lock the unit before placing it in my pocket.  I’m chalking this up to an application that has not been updated to version 7 of the Blackberry operating system.

When I need to reboot the phone, which is not very often, it boots quickly (less than a minute).  This is a HUGE difference from past units that could take 3-4 minutes to restart.

The battery life is acceptable and it gets me through an 8-10 hour work day.   It’s typically down to about 30% when I go to bed.  This is similar to what I was getting with my past two Blackberry phones (8530 & 8330) and the Windows Mobile phone before that.  I don’t know to many people who can get more than a day out of their smart phone these days unless they are just not using it.

They keyboard continues to shine for long emails or note taking sessions.  My only gripe, and it’s a small one, is that it’s a little “poppy” sounding.  I’m thinking it’s the membrane under the keys.  I’m curious to see if it gets quieter with age (or I just get used to it).

As far as build quality the Blackberry Bold 9930 is solid.  Everything fits nicely and the seams are tight.  I had a raised piece of trim near the keyboard out of the box but it’s stayed in place once I pressed it down a few times.  The touch screen and “glass” fiber back are fingerprint magnets but without a screen protector of any kind I can’t find a single scratch on the unit.  I was hoping the front screen would use the “Gorilla Glass” that’s showing up on more and more smart phones units but whatever RIM is using seems to work.

Overall I’ll have to say I’m really happy with the Blackberry Bold 9930.  It’s has some really nice features, solid build quality, and a powerful processor that keeps up with everything I ask it to do.

One nice thing about my job is I don’t have to pay Verizon $250 to own one (which I might if I had to)!

Has DRS & KERS Saved Formula 1?

I’m a guy & most guys like racing of some form or another.  I used to be fascinated with Indy Cars & then started following NASCAR.  My latest obsession is Formula One (F1).  I used to watch F1 years ago but it got to the point where unless the Pole Position driver crashed he normally won the race.  This was because of the crazy technology like active suspension and anti-lock breaks (common in passenger cars these days)…  There was little to no passing…

There’s a bit of this going on now in F1 (Sebastian Vettel seems to win all the time) but the introduction of the Drag Reduction System (DRS) has brought passing back to F1.  In a nutshell DRS allows a driver who is less than 1 second behind another driver to open their rear wing and take advantage of an immediate reduction in drag thus making the car faster & allowing for the potential for a pass.  It can only be activated in certain areas of the track and even disabled by race control should the weather make it unsafe to use (F1 races in the rain which is VERY exciting to watch).

This, along with the Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) has made F1 a lot more enjoyable to watch.  I actually look forward to each race and love watching these new technologies in use during the race.

Now we just have to get F1 back to the US

Reliving my Childhood – The Peach Float

It’s 1985 and I’m at the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation in Osceola, MO with Troop 105.  Between activities or perhaps after dinner we often slipped off the Reservation and hit Scott’s General Store across the road from the camp entrance..

Normal purchases included Candy, Soda, Shave Cream (for pranks) and Peach Floats.  Oh those Peach Floats…

Here’s the story from the General Store Website:

A long time ago in a little town far far away, the owners of Scott’s General Store bought a case of Peach Nehi soda which no one seemed interested in drinking. One day a staff member from H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation bought a cup of vanilla soft-serve ice-cream and a dusty can of Peach Nehi Soda. In a moment of what could only be described as divine inspiration he poured the soda on the ice-cream and the world-famous peach float was born.  Since that day thousands and thousands of people have enjoyed the unique taste of peach floats.

Up until I reunited with the troop on Facebook I had forgotten about those Peach Floats.  Now, I’m on a quest to find Peach Nehi in the Indianapolis area.  The vanilla soft serve is not a problem, McDonald or Dairy Queen will take care of that.  I know I can just order it online but that kind of takes the fun out of it.  Although, if I strike out I’m hitting the Internets to get my fix.

Rushing Waters Fisheries – Smoked Trout Spread

We stopped at Whole Foods yesterday looking for my wife’s favorite Gluten Free Teriyaki Sauce (San-J brand by the way) and took advantage of the many samples offered up.  One of which was a dare for my son who will pretty much eat anything.

We both sampled the Rushing Waters Fisheries Smoked Trout Spread and promptly threw a tub into the cart.  I’ve only had rainbow trout a few times & have always liked it.  This stuff hit the spot.  It’s a cream cheese/mayo based spread with little bits of smoked fish incorporated throughout.  It actually reminds me of a Smoked Cheddar Cheese Ball with a softer/smoother texture.

An 8oz tub sells for $6.99 and I’ll be surprised if it lasts through the labor day weekend.

We’ve Joined the Indianapolis Bloggers Group!

I found this group by chance through a mention on another site I follow.  The Indianapolis Bloggers group’s mission is to become a gathering place for fellow bloggers in Indianapolis and the surrounding cities.   Just looking at their site has led me to discover even more area bloggers with a lot of different interests.

Check it out & be sure to join if you have an active Indianapolis area blog!



Downtown Indy – California Pizza Kitchen

First of all I’d like to say “Welcome Back” to California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) after a long absence from Indianapolis.  When the Keystone at the Crossing location closed we started missing the BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad immediately.  We were randomly rewarded with that dish when we made it down to Texas or Water Tower Place in Chicago but that was few and far between…

The new CPK location in Circle Center Mall downtown is great.  It took the place of Alcatraz and my sentiments appear to be shared by many online when I say this is a HUGE upgrade for the space.  With a mix of indoor and outdoor seating CPK seats around 200 guests and does not seem that big (it’s only utilizing the ground floor of the 2-floors occupied by Alcatraz).  It’s not a quiet place by any means so prepare yourself for some noise.  The open kitchen can be seen from just about ever table as well.

We arrived around 6:30 on a Friday night & had a 5-10 minute wait before being seated.  Initial service was prompt and courteous and our drink/app orders were placed.  Service started getting a little slow after that.  Nothing ridiculous but you could tell they were still getting everything working smoothly.

We ordered the following:

  • Bang Bang Shrimp
  • Kids Pizza – Pepperoni, Sausage & Mushroom (Son)
  • Wild Mushroom Pizza with Chicken (Me)
  • Kung Pao Spaghetti (Daughter)
  • BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad minus Cilantro add avocado (Wife)

The shrimp appetizer was delivered quickly and was identical to when you get a PF Changs and Bonefish.  It was just large enough for the four of us to each get a few bites.  So far so good.

After a while three of the four entrees was delivered with the salad, of all things, being over 5 minutes behind the pizza and pasta.  Once delivered it looked (and tasted) great.  Kind of odd that the only cold item ordered took the longest to receive.

The Kids pizza was quickly devoured and reported to be great.  The wild mushroom pizza lacked salt but once added was very tasty. The crust was tender and flavorful just like I remember it.

The Kung Pao Spaghetti was the surprise dish at the table.  It was loaded with spice and surrounded by dried red chilies.  The pasta was cooked perfectly.

The BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad looked and tasted great.  Even with 3 of us sampling it my wife had about 1/2 left to bring home for the next day.

Overall I’m going to give CPK a 4 out of 5.  The food was good but the service was just a little off.  We’ll be making repeat visits, there’s no doubt about that, & hope to see the timing improve.

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