The rest of the inauguration day story

The group of us that went down (my sister and I, plus two of our friends), secured our spot on The National Mall (close to 12th St NW and Madison Drive) before 9 AM.  They replayed some of the concert from Sunday while we stood or sat in the cold and waited.  What you may not have caught on TV was the big laugh we in the crowd made the first time an announcer told everyone to take their seats.  The other bit the broadcasts may not have shared was the booing from the crowd when George W. Bush was announced.

Getting out of DC took us longer than getting in.  The police and National Guard personnel were not very helpful at all.  We spent a lot of time stuck in a confused crowd at L’Enfant Plaza because they decided to change one of the entry points to exit only and didn’t tell anyone.  We saw uniformed National Guardsmen standing on top of escalators who did and said nothing.  I still haven’t figured out how all that law enforcement managed to not have a single bullhorn or PA system to direct crowds.  The four of us managed to find our way to the other L’Enfant Plaza entrance by worming our way through the crowd.  We might have seen it sooner, were it not for the fleet of tour buses parked on D Street.  They were tall enough to block the other entrance from view, even when I got a chance to stand on a low wall.  The commingling of people trying to get on tour buses and those of us trying to get into the Metro station (each of us going in different directions) contributed to a lot of gridlock.  There was at least one ambulance trying to get through part of the crowd we were stuck in, and they weren’t having much luck.

The Metrorail folks definitely get an A for today’s performance.  We didn’t wait more than a minute or two for a train the entire day.  They had enough cars that we didn’t have to let a single train pass in order for all four of us to get on.  Law enforcement in the L’Enfant Plaza area gets a D.  No crowd direction or control, no information or conflicting information.

Even with these minor hassles, I’m glad I went down there.  I had great company with me and a good time as a result.

On the train to downtown

We got on the train at Wheaton around 6:40am. There was a bit of a crowd on the platform, but we all got on the train with no problem. Once we got to Silver Spring Station, the train was packed (even with 8 cars).

By 7:06, we got to New York Avenue Station, the last time I could post before we went underground (and out of reach of the AT & T network).

Headed downtown

Of course it’s crazy for me to brave the cold and the crowds to see Obama’s inauguration on a jumbrotron far from the actual swearing-in–but I’m still going to do it.  He’s the first (and only) candidate I ever donated money to, so I’ve got to be at least somewhere in the vicinity.  I’ve got my route picked out, my wake-up time, cold-weather gear, pocket-friendly food, and enough memory cards for the camera to last all day.

Windows 7 Beta

Here are my brief impressions of it so far:


Requires that Vista be on the machine in order to upgrade to Windows 7 Beta.  Otherwise, you have to do a clean install.  Unfortunately, you have to attempt the illegal upgrade before you get the message that tells you this.  If Microsoft is trying to get people to let go of XP, letting them upgrade from XP directly to Windows 7 might be a good idea.  Otherwise, the install was pretty straightforward.


Disappointing.  It can’t render correctly, so I couldn’t download VMware Player from the site.  I had a copy on a flash drive fortunately, and was able to install from there.  Firefox works just fine (so far).

Virtual Machine

It looks like there’s some sort of permissions thing preventing me from running them.  Adding the VMWare Player created an additional user on the machine.  When I tried to open the VM I already had, I got some odd sort of permissions error.


Windows 7 Beta detected the biometric scanner on the Lenovo T61 I’m using and directed me to the most current driver.  Once I “enrolled” my fingers, it worked just fine.  It didn’t have any trouble at all with the SanDisk Cruzer Micro 2GB I’m using either.


The way Windows 7 handles active program icons in the start bar is rather clever, though it still retains the unfortunate multi-function button for logging out, switching users, shutting down, etc.

More impressions later as I play with the operating system more.  This version of the beta doesn’t expire until August 1, 2009.

World of Goo

For years I’ve been more of a console gamer (XBox 360) than a computer gamer, but World of Goo is trying very hard to change that.  I don’t normally like puzzle games, but World of Goo tricked me by hiding the puzzle/construction/physics inside a hilarious cartoon.  In addition to being fun, simple to control, and great-looking, it’s just $20.  So far, it’s available for the PC, Mac, and Wii.

In Search of Wireless Internet

Recently, I’ve gotten a couple of questions from family about where they can get wireless internet access.  People usually mean wi-fi when they ask this.  I tend to address this problem by location–either you want wireless internet when you’re at home, when you aren’t, or both.

The variety of places offering wi-fi is definitely increasing.  Beyond the usual suspects (Starbucks, Panera Bread, airports and hotels), it’s showing up in other places (e.g. downtown Silver Spring).  If you want to find the nearest wi-fi offerings in your zip code, visit (thanks for the link Adrienne).  If there’s a charge for the wi-fi access, the service is mostly likely provided by one of the major cellphone service providers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile).

For wireless access at home, you have your choice of any provider who offers broadband access.  For most of us, that provider will be a cable company like Comcast or a phone company like Verizon.  Either type of provider will be able to offer you a modem that provides wired internet access and wireless internet access.  They may try to charge extra for setting up more than one computer, but I recommend not paying.  You’ll be able to get a family member or friend to help you for free, or a local high school or college student for a lot less than Comcast or Verizon will charge.

Alternatives to Microsoft Office

My dad asked me yesterday if there were any free alternatives to Microsoft Office.  The one that came to mind right away was  Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw and Base are the answers to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio and Access.  The suite is free, open source, and available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and Solaris.

If you’re ready to embrace cloud computing, even more options are available to you.  Google Docs offers word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation capabilities.  It does a nice job of handling Microsoft Word and Excel files.  Another alternative to the Microsoft Office suite comes from  It offers the same level of compatibility with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint of Google Docs or offers a wider variety of applications than Google Docs.  They use plug-ins to integrate with MS Office, Outlook, Internet Explorer, Firefox–even Facebook and smartphones (iPhone and Windows Mobile).

Free Tech Support

For family and friends of mine who don’t work with computers, I often act as free tech support.  To bring something a little different to this blog in 2009, there will be posts from time-to-time that share a question I’ve answered about technology for someone.