New place, new job

Well, we found an apartment in the city, and we get the keys on Tuesday. We’re going to be moving to the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago… the closest main intersection is Armitage and Humboldt. Still working on selling the house, so we can move kinda slowly over the next couple weeks rather than one big rental truck weekend from hell.

The apartment seems nice… I’ll post some pictures after we actually move in. My sister Becky thinks we’re channeling Seinfeld or something. I think we might finally get a visit from them after we move in, just so Becky can live like Seinfeld for a day or two.

The reason we picked up the pace on the apartment search is that I’m going to be starting a job with the City of Chicago, which requires that I have a Chicago address to complete the background check and start the job. I’ll be done at the Forest Preserve District on the 11th of August. The new office is very close to our apartment on the Blue Line — I’ll be commuting by pickup truck no more (Anyone want to buy a ’95 Ranger after we move?). Kari’s job is on the same El line, so she can take public transit to work, too.

Going to the city…

(Two posts in one day only because I’ve had these on my mind but been too lazy to write.)

Kari and I are selling our house:

The reason for selling after only living in this house for two years is that we want to move into Chicago. There are plenty of reasons to move to the city, but here are my main ones:

– There’s plenty to do. Nothing against Bolingbrook in particular, but suburbs in general are boring. Why should we want to live out here, but drive or ride on the train for an hour to get to anything?

– I don’t believe in suburbs. If people need to live in the country so they can work in the country (farming and the necessary support system for farming) that’s fine. But why do most people in and around our socioeconomic status feel the need to live in large suburbs, each tending to a tiny lot of green grass that exists almost solely to give the homeowner something to mow? Besides the resultant pollution from lawn mowers and 2-cycle mowing equipment, these patches of grass cuz down on population density, meaning that nothing is accessible by walking.

There should be two places to live in this country: cities and the country. And by “the country,” I don’t mean we should build more 5-acre play-toy lots in old farm fields. I mean farms, surrounding and operating in symbotic relationships with small towns and large cities. Farmland should flow, without threat of low-density development, right up next to high-density city. Think of how close the center of Chicago would be to wide open farmland and prairie if everyone that lives in the suburbs were compressed into city-density housing instead of being spread out over a huge band of suburbs.

– There is public transportation. Pace Suburban Bus makes a valiant effort to provide some measure of inter-suburb transportation around here, but the odds are stacked against them. By definition, suburbs (especially poorly designed ones) are spread out. The density required to allow for efficient public transportation does not exist. The automobile is fine for out-of-town trips, vacations, hauling things, etc., but it’s unncessary and inefficient as a method of daily commuting. Plus, everyone except the bus driver or train operator can read a book or newspaper — I would get so much more reading done.

Windows Vista beta

(I’m pretty bad at this blogging thing. It’s been quite a while.)

Two posts ago I was going to go open-source with my home computers. This was partially an attempt to be legitimate with the software that I use, and partially an attempt to get away from Microsoft software. Those two things tend to go hand in hand, because the expensive software that I use is all Microsoft (OS and office suite), so getting rid of MS means I wouldn’t have to steal/crack/borrow software anymore.

Well, then I found out I get Office through my place of employment for the cost of shipping the CD — about $25. And I found a cheap place to buy a real copy of XP. We already owned a copy of Windows 98 for use on the laptop. So, just like that, legitimacy.

Anyway, I’ve now taken a further step down the M$ road: installing the beta version of Windows Vista. As stupid as it is to jump on the bandwagon and make a totally unnecessary move to a totally unnecessary operating system, I’m really tired of the old Win98-style interface which has been in use for almost a decade (did anyone ever like the XP interface?).

The move required a hardware upgrade — a major one. I tried running it on the AthlonXP 2400+ with 768 MB RAM that I bought back in 2003… not good. It reminded me of the first time I installed Windows 95 on a 386… it ran, but not well. Aero wouldn’t run, everything loaded really, really slowly and it crashed whenever we tried to switch users.

So we bought a new board (Asus M2NPV-VM), CPU (Athlon 64 3200+ Socket AM2), video card (a Leadtek with GeForce 7300 GS) and 2 gigs of DDR2. Kept the IDE hard drives for now.

Put it together, reinstalled Vista, and spent two days screwing with drivers trying to get everything working. Most of the problems were found between the keyboard and chair — I turned a couple of features off in the BIOS before installation, which hampered installation of those drivers slightly (for instance, “HD Audio” sounds like some sort of fancy new audio system, not the basic, onboard audio). Once I enabled it, the onboard sound installed using a default Windows driver, which means I only get two channels and can’t seem to pipe the Line-in directly to the speakers.

A lot of people have had trouble with scanners and cameras because no new drivers have been released (at least not by Canon) for Vista. Following a tip I found on the web, I installed the WIA driver found on the install disc for our CanoScan 4200F. The WIA driver was intended for XP, but it does install in compatibility mode (which Vista handles automatically). Once installed, I can get that driver to recognize the scanner and even calibrate it — but it refuses to scan. The only other thing I cannot get working is Motorola USB drivers and PhoneTools — still working on that.

The new Aero interface is cool… maybe it sucks my resources out the window, but I’ll use it. Like I said, I’m sick of “Windows Classic” despite its functionality. I’m not sure if it’s my video drivers or the beta, but there’s a lot of artifacting onscreen, for instance, when I click on an item on the Start Menu and everything fades away. It doesn’t crash though.

The “recent programs” feature on the new Start Menu is nice — I’ve been wishing for that for ten years. “Default Programs” is more user-friendly but seems to have lost some power. The Control Panel is a huge mess, but I’m getting used to it.

Overall, I like it, if only because it’s a change of scenery. Plus, it’s legitmately free until the end of next June — can’t go wrong there.

EDIT: The limitations to the audio system are gone now. I installed the XP version of the SoundMax driver from the Asus website and it seems to work great. Other than the scanner, it does seem that most driver problems can be solved by using either the default Vista drivers or the Windows XP drivers (this for the 32-bit version of Vista).