Visa Check Cards

In the mail the other day, I got a letter from Wells Fargo which is where I have my checking account. That's not unusual. They try to sell me stuff pretty frequently. This one seemed pretty good on the surface, prizes just for using my check card, even up to $250,000. Wow!

Then there's the fine print. "PIN-based purchases are not eligible", it says. Think about that for a second. When you use your PIN, the transaction is handled just like with an ATM. The card issuer doesn't take a cut. But when you use the Visa network (or its peers), the merchant (the person who sells you goods) pays a percentage for the privilege of working with Visa, usually about 3% of the total cost.

So it makes complete sense that Visa and card issuers like Wells Fargo would want you to make more Visa transactions. It make them more money. But considering the low probability of me winning one of these awards, I'd rather use my PIN and save a couple bucks for my local vendor.

Apples: History, Folklore, Horticulture, and Gastronomy

Title: Apples: History, Folklore, Horticulture, and Gastronomy
Author: Peter Wynne
Published: 1975 by Hawthorn Books
ISBN: 0-8015-0340-X

I've been considering planting a fruit tree somewhere on my property, probably in the front yard. Apples seem like a good choice. For one, they grow pretty well around here. With the cold winters we get, that's a pretty important feature. Plus there's a lot you can do with them. Pies, sauces, cobbles, juices, canning, even baby food. Oh, and I guess you can eat them plain too. So I picked up this book at the library to learn a little about apple trees and see if that's really what I want.

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The Great Tomato Book

Title: The Great Tomato Book
Author: Gary Ibsen
Published: 1999 by Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 1-58008-048-0

This year was the first that I've had my own garden. If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I would have planted tomatoes, I would have laughed in your face. But my wife has convinced me of their virtues over the years, so we decided to plant 12 tomato plants. The harvest wasn't quite as large as I had expected, so I turned to the library for assistance.

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Save tcpdump to file and print to stdout

Today I found myself needing to save packets from tcpdump to a file but also view them on screen. I've wanted to do that in the past, but today it became more important. It was suggested to me to use two instances of tcpdump, but I thought there had to be a better way. Luckily there is.

# tcpdump -U -s 1500 -w - <bpf> |tee <file> | tcpdump -lnr -

Tomato and Onion Risotto

A few weeks ago I went to Jackson, WY to do a router upgrade. It had to be done late at night so I stayed at a hotel. You know what that means: Food TV! We don't have cable, dish, etc. at home (and prefer it that way), but I do miss Food Network some times. That night I saw somebody make risotto. It didn't really look that hard, so I determined to try it after I got home.

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Asterisk: The Future of Telephony

Title: Asterisk: The Future of Telephony
Author: Jim Van Meggelen, Jared Smith & Leif Madsen
Published: 2005 by O'Reilly
ISBN: 0-596-00962-3

I've been playing with Asterisk for about a year, and I've been interested in it for twice that, pretty much since I started working with proprietary PBX systems. First was a Nortel, and now a Vodavi and an NEC. I can't understate the symplicity of having a computer-controlled (especially a Linux-based one) phone system.

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Open Read-Only in Excel

Please don't hate me! I only use Excel because they make me and I substitute OpenOffice.org Calc for Excel whenever I can. Ok, with that off my chest I'll tell you the tale of my latest battle with Excel. Seriously, people use this thing and like it?

We use a number of spreadsheets at work for keeping track of IP addresses and the like. By default Excel locks an open spreadsheet so that others who open it can only do so read-only. Well, most of the time I'm looking up information and not changing it, so it would be better the other way around. With a little googling I figured out the commands for adding a shell option to open a spreadsheet read-only.

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Ruby on Rails

Over the weekend I decided to investigate Ruby and see what all the fuss is about. After reading a few language tutorials I realized that the only way to really get a feel for Ruby would be to write a program. I couldn't think of anything I really needed to write, so I rewrote my Christmas Wishlist program using Ruby on Rails.

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