Monday, October 29, 2012

Rise of the App Barons

First Era of Computing: The Wild West


What we call "apps" have been around as long as computers have been around. It's a computer's primary existence. The computer runs the Operating System, which is a platform for launching various applications. That's all a computer is and ever has been: a platform for applications.

For most of the computing revolution up until fairly recently, you the user decided what to put on your computer and even where to get that software. In the earlier days, you bought that software from a brick and mortar store just like you would a book. You got it home and popped in the CD or floppy, which was your interface to the world.

Then, with the rise of the Internet in popularity it became possible to populate your computer with software and never touch a physical piece of media. You visit a web site-possibly a huge one like Amazon- click a button, and the software is on your computer.


Second Era of Computing: Here Come The Gatekeepers


We are now firmly into what I could call the second era of computing. The evolution and commoditization of computer applications was evolving quite steadily towards central clearing houses like Amazon and Download.com. But then Steve Jobs created what I believe his "real" innovation was, which is that of "app middleman."

It was a stroke of pure genius. So was making an "app store" so easy to use, someone's mom would be comfortable going into the store and making a purchase. It turned out to be a cash cow for Apple and later Google.

Does the app suck? The app baron still gets paid. Is it over-priced? Doesn't matter, the app baron still gets paid. It's a beautiful situation for a large corporation to be in. And not only that, as the gate keepers, the app barons get to decide what can even be in the store.

What's Next?


I'm actually not against a company having its own app store. In fact, I think it's a great idea. To me, the computing landscape should be like a shopping mall, where each user shops among the various stores and brings home a bag of the software they need.

What I am against is these companies playing gatekeeper to a device I own. Having to "jail break" my device just to get its full functionality is unacceptable to me. And I don't think I'm alone. It's ironic that in this age of openness and connectivity, companies are constructing artificial barriers to limit access to a lucrative platform, i.e. your computing device.

With Microsoft recently wiggling itself into a gatekeeper position the writing is on the wall. It's pretty clear to me that the Third Era of Computing is going to be the battle for control over your device, with all of us as pawns in that battle.

Will the current push by many for more openness overcome the push by the big corporations for more control ($) and give us the consumer more power, or will we lose whatever little bit power we currently have?

I have been building software for a living for more than 20 years, and I'm seriously leaning towards jumping ship for the open source movement. It's the sharing and openness I crave- the free flow of knowledge. I'm definitely not against people making their living selling software, but its the app store as a mechanism for control that worries me.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How To: Fix Your Hoover FloorMate

Hoover FloorMate H2800
This post is to address the fact that there's so little knowledge on how to make a FloorMate work. They are very high maintenance machines, and if not properly maintained, will work fine for a few months and quit.

I almost just bought a new one from Amazon, but decided to see if I could figure this machine out.

Introduction


For someone with a big house and hard floors, the FloorMate is a great invention. When mine works, it leaves my tile and hard wood floors positively sparkling. When it doesn't work, it just pushes dirty water around.

From searching the Internet, the knowledge to make a FloorMate work and keep it working is scattered all over the place. It is my intention to put most of this knowledge into one convenient place.

How It Works


The FloorMate works by spraying cleaning solution from the clean tank at the top of the unit to the floor. As you the user make the mopping motions with it, the scrub brushes (which do not spin -at least mine don't) scrub the floor. So it's you, the user, who are doing the scrubbing.

The other half what the FloorMate does is pick up that dirty water and put it in the lower tank. So basically it just puts down clean water and picks up dirty water. This is unlike a normal mop which mostly just moves the dirty water around.

..but after a while, it will stop working. You WILL lose suction.

When It Doesn't Work


Search the internet for "FloorMate losing suction" and you will find lots of frustrated people. The real problem is that most people these days are just not used to having a high maintenance anything. So if something quits working, most people just buy a new one.

I used to just buy a new one myself. In this case, I read the reviews and discovered people were complaining about the new ones losing suction too! That's when it hit me that there was something deeper going on here. Not having one of these isn't an option, and I don't want to buy a new one every few months. So, I decided to learn how this thing works, and to share that knowledge.

All About the Suction


For better or worse, the FloorMate has a very precise design. It was designed by engineers to do a task well, within s (very narrow) set of parameters. And if you stray from those parameters, the machine stops working. 

The Achilles' heel of the design is that it has to pull the dirty water farther than is ideal, using a squeegee which wears out quickly, through an intake which could be clogged, through a tube which could crack, and using several seals which could be gummed up or damaged. 

There's so many points of potential failure that it's pretty much guaranteed that it will lose suction without proper maintenance and care. But once you learn how to maintain and troubleshoot it, there's no reason it won't stand up to heavy use.

Step One: Clean the Machine


Most of the time my FloorMate loses suction, it's because the machine is clogged or dirty. The best way to clean and inspect it is from the bottom up.

1. Start with the nozzle assembly. There are two thumb-latches you have to move and the whole thing comes right off. This gives you access to the squeegee, brushes and intake. Unclog the intake if necessary and then look at the squeegee. It should be firm, and there should be no dirt and debris on it. Next look at the brushes. Clean any hair, dirt and debris out of it. I usually run this whole assembly under hot water until the entire thing is spotless. Put the clean nozzle assembly back on.

Hoover FloorMate H2800 shown with nozzle detached
The nozzle assembly detached from the unit


Hoover FloorMate H2800 nozzle assembly
The mostly-clean nozzle assembly. Clean it early, clean it often

Hoover FloorMate H2800 squeegee
The squeegee should be nice and firm. This one is brand new
2. Next look at the dirty water tank. Take the tank out and clean it under the sink using hot water. Pay close attention to getting any dirt off the rubber seals which line the top and bottom halves of the tank. Any dirt or debris on this big seal will screw you out of your suction. Also take off the filter and use the sprayer attachment on your sink to clean the elements of the filter by exposing them, spraying them, and moving on to the next element. When all the parts of the tank are clean, put it back together, making sure that the two tank halves are well seated together.


Hoover FloorMate H2800 recovery tank
The two places where the tank is most likely to leak
Hoover FloorMate H2800 recovery tank filter grate
Make sure to clean under the filter
Hoover FloorMate H2800 recovery tank filter
Make sure to get all the debris out of the filter
Hoover FloorMate H2800 recovery tank: underside of filter grate
Make sure to clean the underside of this little grate too

3. Before you put the tank back into the unit, look closely at where the dirty water tank sits. Behind the tank is a semi-transparent hose and assembly. You can see if there is any debris inside the hose, running up all the way to to the tank. If you seen any debris at all inside the hose, you will need to take it apart and clean it. It may not look like a lot of debris, and you may be tempted to leave it there, but this machine needs every last bit of suction it can get. Finally, check the top seal where it meets the back of the tank. Make sure there is no debris on this seal. Now, put the tank back on. Make sure it sits firmly against the top seal and has no play.

Hoover FloorMate H2800 recovery channel and seal
The recovery channel, connecting to the recovery hose on the right
Hoover FloorMate H2800 recovery tank lip
Don't forget to clean the little lip where the tank goes together
Hoover FloorMate H2800 recovery tank hose
The recovery hose at its connection point
Hoover FloorMate H2800 recovery channel rubber seal
Gunk on the seal, and it's only been a week since I cleaned it all out!

Now put some cleaning solution in and take it for a spin. Well, does it work? It probably does. It seems like I need to go through this routine about every 6 or 7 uses. I have lots of little dogs, so I am really tough on my cleaning equipment. I've settled into a happy routine that involves my floors being clean.

Still doesn't work? You'll want to troubleshoot the problem, starting again at the bottom of the unit. 

Step Two: Squeegee


Remove the nozzle assembly with the two thumb latches. Now flip the assembly upside-down and look at the squeegee. It should stand straight out and be nice and firm all the way around. Does it waver in one or more places? Does any part of it lie flat or is any of it missing? When I replaced mine, most of it was flat and it was ripped in several places. If the squeegee isn't perfect, then you need a new one. Parts for your FloorMate are easy to find on the Internet.

Hoover FloorMate H2800: wasted squeegee
This squeegee is totally shot

If your squeegee is pristine, then power the unit on and check for suction without the nozzle assembly. You should be able to fit your hand over the square hole and feel a nice, solid suction against your hand. 

Hoover FloorMate H2800 nozzle intake
Block the intake to check for suction. Make sure to check the seal


Still no love? You'll want to move to the recovery hose next. 

Step Three: Recovery Channel and Hose


The recovery hoses have a repuation for cracking and losing suction, though the hose on mine has held up well over time. With the dirty water tank taken off, you can see the recovery channel (that long white thing the tank plugs into) with the recovery hose connected to the bottom of it. You'll want to take that hose off and inspect it for cracks. You should be able to make a basic seal on it with your mouth and hand plugging the other end. It should be pretty obvious if the hose is cracked. If the hose is fine, take off the recovery channel and do the same to it. Make sure it has no cracks or leaks in it. Now check the rubber seal. Make sure it sits right on the channel and isn't cracked or damaged.

Still no suction huh? If you did everything right, then your problem is somewhere in the tank. At this point, with the tank taken out, power on the unit and first make sure there's suction to the top of the tank by putting your hand over the hole where the top of the tank meets the unit. You should feel strong suction there. If not, your motor is damaged. 

Step Four: Recovery (Dirty Water) Tank



This tank has 3 different seals, and you need to check all three. First, check where the two halves of the tank meet. Make sure the two halves are seated right, and the seals (one on each half) look right. Double check again for debris and make sure the seals themselves are seated right. Next, look how the filter is seated on the tank. The filter cover should be seated right, and the filter should be clean. If the filter is too dirty, or damaged, it'll hurt the suction and basically act like a clog. Finally, check where the tank meets the seal on the recover channel. Make sure there's no debris and also make sure the tank itself isn't cracked or damaged. You should be able to put your mouth over the filter hole with your hand blocking the side port. Even with a working tank there will be a little air loss, but it shouldn't be excessive.

STILL no suction? Assuming you didn't miss anything up to this point, it's probably not good news, but it's still worth continuing.

Step Five: Motor Assembly


With the tank off, make sure the top seal that meets the tank is in good shape. With the unit turned on, you should feel a strong suction by putting your hand over that seal. Take the seal off and inspect it to make sure it isn't dirty, cracked or damaged. 

Hoover FloorMate H2800 top air seal
The top seal near the motor should have never came in contact with water


Now is time for a reality check: If you're still not getting good suction, you probably need to replace or rebuild the motor. If you are getting good suction with your hand on the seal, your problem is not the motor. You missed something - try again from the squeegee up. The goal is to check every point of possible failure from the floor right up to the motor.

Conclusions


I hope this post has helped you better understand your FloorMate. With a little bit of care and maintenance, this is a great machine that saves a ton of time mopping. Since my wife is disabled, I'm the one that does the mopping at our house. When I first assumed the duty, I found the FloorMate buried in a closet with a comment of "that doesn't work anymore." Now that I have done the research and understand the thing, I use it twice a week and the floors have never been cleaner.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Virtual Box with Windows 8

A few years ago I had compared Virtual Box, VMWare Workstation and Virtual PC, and ultimately I chose VMWare for running my development environments. At the time, VirtualBox came up short in a few key areas and wasn't even really a contender in my opinion.

With my recent snafu involving trying to get a stable Windows 8 machine running under VMWare Workstation 9, I decided to give VirtualBox a try since it's free. I didn't have anything to lose at that point.

Now I have a stable, 64 bit install of Windows 8, and the performance is superb. It didn't do much for me the last time I tried it, but now I'm really impressed. I am running Visual Studio 2010 and 2012 as well as some basic software like Office 2010, and everything runs smooth as silk. VMWare Workstation 9 has been giving me some grief lately with my Windows 7 machines too, so I'm strongly considering moving to VirtualBox for all my development.

VirtualBox with Windows 8: Start Screen
Not a big fan of Metro, but it works fine under VBox
VirtualBox with Windows 8: VirtualBox main window
VirtualBox main window - you can see VM info at a glance
VirtualBox with Windows 8: VirtualBox Media Manager
It has a nice media manager - it shows all your hard drives and ISO files
VirtualBox with Windows 8: VirtualBox Guest OS Settings
Guest settings are intuitive and on par with VMWare Workstation

VirtualBox with Windows 8: VirtualBox Log Window
It has an extensive log


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Rant: Patch Tuesday with Virtual Machines

It took me a while to figure out why my work computer was so slow on Wednesdays. With a six core system and lots of RAM, I pretty much got used to my computer always being fast. Then I started using Virtual Machines to do my development work, and it's been a challenge ever since.

One thing I noticed was that my computer ran a little slowly on Wednesdays. It took a while for it to dawn on me that with the host computer patching at the same time all the VMs are patching, Wednesdays are not going to be very fun. Sometimes when I remember, I'll shut some of them down before they patch and let them patch staggered at a time of my choosing.

Today, I forgot to make them patch staggered, so I'm just letting them all finish. Hah, maybe next Tuesday night I will remember!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle
When my sister invited me on this trip, the main tourist draw for me was for King Tut, which, don't get me wrong, was completely awesome.

Before this trip, I had never even heard of Chihuly Gardens, but there I was after King Tut, standing right there next to it. So, we took the tour. Wow! It has to be one of the most amazing things I've ever seen - much better than King Tut.

I managed to get a whole bunch of pictures, with the ones I am posting here whittled down from the big set I took. But the pictures don't do it justice. It's worth spending the 20 bucks and seeing it for yourself!


Gallery


Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle
Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in SeattleChihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle


Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle


Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle
News helicopter landed as I was taking pictures

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Nerdy in Seattle