Although my blog has become relatively stagnant, the rest of my life has been changing — and there are even bigger changes ahead.

My children have been growing into adulthood one by one, and my parenting time has been shrinking as a result. To take up the slack, I bought a bike a few years ago and started riding it on the many local bike trails. Initially cycling was a way to get healthy and enjoy the outdoors, but it has turned into much more. Riding a bike is great exercise, but it’s also a fantastic social activity when you do it with friends, and I have made many new friends in the very large and growing cycling community here in Ohio.

The last few years I’ve also been racing my bike competitively in the many amateur bicycle races held during the spring and summer. I never played organized sports as a kid, so this has given me an avenue to explore an unfamiliar side of myself.

While cycling has changed my life in many ways, even bigger personal changes are on the horizon. I’ve been divorced (or as I often say, “married to my bike”) for many years, but even that will be changing later this year — unless she changes her mind before we seal the deal.

In addition to the many personal changes, I’m also making some professional changes. I’ve accepted a contract offer to join the software development team of Belgium based Bricsys, maker of BricsCAD. I will continue my philanthropic work, including work on the OpenDCL project and my participation in online ObjectARX, AutoLISP, and C++ programming forums. I will continue maintaining and supporting ManuSoft software products. I will even continue blogging here and writing for upFront.eZine, but maybe my focus will shift a bit.

I’m looking forward to all these new challenges, and excited to see where this new road leads. Thank you for travelling with me!

A tale of two tethers

Those of you using your Android phone as an internet connection may be paying more than you need to pay. Many phone companies here in the US charge extra to enable tethering capability, either by providing their own OEM tethering app or by enabling the phone to serve as a Wi-fi hotspot.

With some experimenting, I found that my Motorola Droid 2 Global from Verizon can be tethered just fine right out of the box, and without paying anything extra.

Recently I’ve been playing nursemaid to my ill mother, so I frequently take my work along with me on overnight shifts. I’ve settled on connecting to my main desktop machine via remote desktop, and using my 15″ laptop as the client.

The remote desktop connection works great. My 3G connection is noticeably slow, but it’s very workable. Since I’m working on my office computer, there’s no need to sync anything, and I can pick up from one place right where I left off in another. In a pinch I can even use my phone as a client (using an inexpensive remote desktop client from Xtralogic).

To get my internet connection, I installed Motorola’s drivers on my Windows 7 laptop, then enabled the Bluetooth controller on my phone and paired it with the laptop. Now I can connect my laptop to the internet via Control Panel simply by connecting to the phone as an “Access Point”, as shown below.

Connecting to my Droid 2 Global via Bluetooth

I don’t know whether this technique works for other phones or other carriers, but it has certainly worked well for me.

RIP Alan Kalameja

I saw in the March 8 edition of the TenLinks Daily newsletter that Alan Kalameja passed away at age 55. Condolences to his family. Alan hired me to write test questions for an AutoCAD certification exam in the early ’90s (I don’t recall which version, but probably either R12 or R13). That was one of my first real contracting jobs. Although it wasn’t very glamorous, it made me feel important, and undoubtedly helped focus my fledgling consulting business on AutoCAD. Thanks, Alan, for giving me that opportunity.

Evil Banks

A lot of you are probably having to cut back on your expenses to make ends meet in this economic downturn. I’ve drastically reduced my discretionary spending, postponed the purchase of new office equipment, and investigated less expensive alternatives to a lot of my monthly expense items. I’ve also been streamlining and reorganizing my finances, which inevitably involves a lot of contact with banks.

Kean Walmsley’s post about his recent bank customer service issue motivated me to post about one of my recent bank experiences.

First of all, I’m here to tell you that banks do make mistakes. I’m sure that the vast majority of the time when your check book doesn’t balance, it was you that made a mistake, and not the bank. But if you are cursed like I am, then banks delight in creating phantom overdrafts and charging you exorbitant overdraft fees, then, when confronted with their error, apologizing and refunding the fees (after the damage is done and all those bounced checks have caused you to incur returned check charges from your creditors). That has happened twice to me in the past two months, with two different banks and two completely unrelated accounts.

In both cases, the bank eventually fixed the error, but I’m still out the returned check charges and whatever damage that has done to my credit rating.

One of the “returned” payments was a credit card payment. Of course, I did not get notified about this until the day after the payment due date, so it was too late to fix the problem in time to prevent another exorbitant late fee from being charged by the credit card bank.

Obviously the returned check triggered some alarms at the credit card bank, because I started receiving phone calls begging me to make a payment immediately. Irritated, I decided to make the credit card bank wait until the next due date before making the replacement payment. I figured my late fee bought me that extra time, so I might as well use it. My patience paid off: after a few futile attempts at collecting their late payment, the bank offered to refund the late fee if I made an immediate payment. That’s what I’m talking about!

Ed Foster: Loss Of A Legend

InfoWorld columnist and legendary consumer advocate Ed Foster died over the weekend. Ed was a tireless crusader for consumer rights in the digital age, and he will certainly be missed. For many years Ed has authored GripeLine, where he called companies and politicians to task for abusive anti-consumer practices.

I’ve written before about how Ed exposed and publicised shamefully lopsided software license agreements, including Autodesk’s and Adobe’s. Recently, Ed commented about the May, 2008 Vernor decision (see my CAD/Court web site for more information about the Vernor case).

It will be no easy task to fill Ed’s shoes. We can be certain, though, that his work must go on.