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21
Dec

The New and Improved Mozy for Mac 1.6

Of course, it can’t really be both new and improved. Logically, it has to be one or the other. It’s just that I’m excited about the 1.6 release of Mozy’s Mac client. It was finished last week and the response has been very positive.

It seems that with #Mozy for #Mac 1.6 it’s finally reliable. Awesome! — @donut2d

Latest Mozy update (1.6) on Mac OS X is a major improvement – it actually works, and doesn’t suck out all of your RAM. — @mmetcalfe

Our last few releases, while making improvements in many areas, seemed to have lingering and subtle problems. With the 1.6 version, we hope to have finally put them behind us.

We turned on auto-update today. If Mozy hasn’t updated itself yet, please feel free to grab the latest version of MozyHome (or MozyPro) and let us know what you think.

Official List of Changes

You can see the official list at the pages linked above. Mozy only makes the list of changes available for the current release, so I’ve copied them here for the future. You can see the changes in Mozy for Mac 1.4 and Mozy for Mac 1.5 too.

Enhancements

  • Removed dependency on Spotlight since Spotlight queries are unreliable under certain circumstances
  • Changes to backup selections are now saved automatically
  • Reduced memory usage
  • Decrease size of SupportFiles.zip file
  • Improved the performance of the Configuration window
  • Improved support for Snow Leopard and fixed issues caused by Snow Leopard’s 64-bit architecture
  • Improved interaction between Mozy’s preferences and Snow Leopard; Mozy’s preferences no longer require System Preferences to be re-started
  • Improved the use of temporary files
  • Improved reports in Admin Console for Pro users
  • Improved support of our external drive feature by addressing edge cases that can cause stability issues
  • Improved feedback when setting a preference to an invalid value
  • Improved error handling when an auto-update fails to download successfully
  • Added support for nine non-English languages
  • Added the ability to delete a Backup Set using the keyboard
  • Added the ability to undo and redo configuration changes
  • Added the ability to sort Backup Sets by file count or total size
  • Added history information to main Configuration window
  • Added “Install updates automatically” checkbox to dialog which prompts user to upgrade
  • Added ability to manually check for an update
  • Added ability to back up network drives using the NFS protocol for Pro users

Bug Fixes

  • Fixed issues which caused the “Show status in menu bar” preference to not work properly
  • Fixed the link in the Readme file for downloading the software
  • Fixed a computer name display issue in the Setup Assistant
  • Fixed an issue causing the Configuration window to crash when browsing a folder with lots of files
  • Fixed an issue which caused the file exclusion warning to not show up properly
  • Fixed an issue which caused network connection errors
  • Fixed an issue which caused several duplicate warning dialogs to appear
  • Fixed an issue which prevented the use of certain non-Roman characters in a password
  • Fixed an issue which caused a file to be accidentally excluded
  • Fixed an issue which caused the Backup Set Editor to display the wrong file size
  • Fixed an issue which caused files to be re-uploaded unnecessarily
  • Fixed an issue which caused files in Trash to be backed up

Languages

One of the two major changes in this release is support for nine languages in addition to American English:

  1. German
  2. Greek
  3. British English
  4. Castillian Spanish
  5. French
  6. Italian
  7. Dutch
  8. Portuguese
  9. Slovenian

If you have chosen one of those languages in System Preferences, Mozy will use it automatically. No assembly required. If you find spots where the translation doesn’t make sense, please let us know.

File Scanning

The other major change — the one I’m most excited about — is the new file scanning engine. This is how Mozy finds all your files and decides which ones to back up.

In the past, we’ve depended on Spotlight, Apple’s file scanning feature in OS X, for about half of our scanning. Backup Sets that searched for files of a certain type used Spotlight. Backup Sets that matched a folder (and selections made in the Files & Folders tab) scanned the hard drive directly. We kept finding that Spotlight returned inconsistent results in some cases. So we decided to stop using it.

While we were making the change, we simplified how things work and made everything but the initial scan much, much faster. Mozy now uses far less memory, even when backing up millions of files. There are still some improvements we want to make, but the new file scanning engine makes Mozy feel rock solid.

Conclusion

If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading. Please feel free to drop me a note (dan at mozy dot com) with any comments or suggestions. Oh, and Mozy for Mac 1.6 has two new easter eggs. :-)

If you’re new to Mozy, you can try our 2GB-for-free, no-strings-attached version here.

9
Dec

How to Optimize WordPress, Part 2

My last post on how to optimize WordPress covered some general optimization techniques to speed up a website. Reducing HTTP requests, removing wasteful plugins and decreasing file sizes helped quite a bit. Now it’s time to try out page caching.

If you remember, the five things that normally occur for each page are:

  1. Initialize PHP
  2. Query the database
  3. Create the page
  4. Send the page
  5. Send additional files

Page caching plugins, like Hyper Cache and W3 Total Cache, eliminate steps two and three, except when creating a page the first time. WP Super Cache also cuts out step one.

All of the plugins were fairly easy to install. And I discovered during my tests that WP Super Cache, at least at Nearly Free Speech.NET, works just fine with safe mode on.

This graph shows the time it took to load my home page with each of the caching plugins enabled. I have circled the point where I first turned on page caching.

Graph showing response times with various caching plugs

Hyper Cache and WP Super Cache both performed well. W3 Total Cache seemed to struggle. It does more than page caching, like reformatting files to save space, but clearly slowed things down.

WP Super Cache has a few advantages over Hyper Cache:

  1. It supports browser caching better
  2. It doesn’t need to load PHP
  3. It checks for security problems and suggests fixes

So I am now a happy WP Super Cache user.

UPDATE Dec 2009:

After a few days, I started having issues with WP Super Cache and switched back to Hyper Cache. You can see how the irregularities went away. I’ve been using Hyper Cache for almost a week now, and things have remained stable.

Graph of WP Super Cache irregularities that were solved by changing back to Hyper Cache

After being contacted by the author of the W3 Total Cache plugin, I’ve agreed to give it another try. I turned off all the settings except for “disk enhanced” page caching. I’ll update the article again in a few days.

UPDATE Jan 2010:

After looking into things a bit more, my results are still showing Hyper Cache to be faster than W3 Total Cache. However, when I test using the curl command line tool from home, it seems that both plugins are about the same speed. My web hosting company uses a network-level reverse proxy and a few other caching tricks that eliminate the need for some of the features provided by these types of plugins. I’m not sure what’s going on here, but will be sticking with Hyper Cache for now since it appears to work better with my particular situation.

I do like that W3 Total Cache handles page compression properly. I could not get page compression to work with Hyper Cache and had to turn it off. I’d recommend you try all three plugins and measure which works best for you.

UPDATE Apr 2010:

I’ve been having some troubles with Hyper Cache recently. Page redirects were working properly in Firefox, but not in Safari. I tried a new caching plugin I hadn’t heard of before: Quick Cache. Redirects are now working in both browsers. After a week of using Quick Cache, it’s performance is very good. I’ve decided to stick with it.

27
Nov

How to Optimize WordPress

Having lived with WordPress for 8 months, I decided to see if I could improve the performance of my website. There are lots of things to fix.

For each page of my website, WordPress normally does the following:

  1. Initialize PHP, which is the programming language WordPress is written in.
  2. Read information out of the database.
  3. Translate the information into HTML.
  4. Send the HTML to the web browser.
  5. Send additional files needed to view the page.

One major cause of WordPress slowness is #2. Reading all that information can take several seconds per page. I installed a plugin called DB Cache Reloaded to help figure out what was going on. If you view the source of my home page, you’ll see something like the following:

<!– 1.549 seconds, 30 uncached queries, 0 cached queries, 10.76MB memory used –>

This tells me that there are 30 database queries just to show my home page. That’s a lot of slowness. You can also see how many seconds it took to generate the page, which is how long #2 plus #3 took.

The DB Cache Reloaded plugin works by remembering the result of each database query and, in the future, using the previous result instead of re-reading it from the database. With this turned on, about 2/3rds of the database queries are avoided.

<!– 1.236 seconds, 10 uncached queries, 20 cached queries, 10.76MB memory used –>

I also discovered that the KB Robots plugin makes a database query for every page on my site. Wasteful. Since my robots.txt file is simple, I removed the plugin and just created the file myself. One less query.

To speed up #3, I explored the idea of using a plugin to cache whole HTML pages. The most popular seem to be WP Super Cache, Hyper Cache and W3 Total Cache. Since none of them work WP Super Cache does not work when PHP is running in safe mode, I’m going to try them another time. But the performance improvement should be big because, these plugins allow me to skip #2 and #3. WP Super Cache will also skip #1.

Another point of improvement is reducing the number of things a browser has to download in order to show my site (#4). Most browsers will first download the page itself. Then if additional files are needed, such as pictures, style sheets or scripts, it will download them two at a time. When there are a lot of extra files, the overhead of downloading them can add up quickly. A caching plugin will not help out here.

Though I really liked my original WordPress theme, called Panorama, it uses a lot of extra files. They aren’t very big, but when downloaded two at a time they slow things down quite a bit.

Using a web page analyizer, I investigated how much work a browser has to do to download the files needed to display my website. The following table highlights the differences between my old theme and my new one, Titan, which uses about half the number of files (10 vs 22).

Panorama     Titan
HTML11
HTML Images52
CSS Images82
Scripts53
CSS imports32
Frames00
HTTP Requests2210
Size (KB)266240
DB Queries3032


Eliminating those small files (or combining several into one) makes a measurable difference. On the day I was testing, the average time to download my page dropped from four seconds down to two.

However, notice that the number of database queries is higher now. I believe this is because of all the options the Titan theme makes available. There were originally 35 queries, but Titan includes analytics, a box in the sidebar, and a category listing in the footer. So by using the theme options instead of separate plugins for each of those things, I was able to save 3 queries. And despite the small increase in database queries, my site still feels much faster.

One last thing I tried is removing some widgets from my sidebar. I put in a new archives section, using years instead of months, that I maintain manually. I will have to update it once each year, but it reduced the size of the page slightly and eliminated a database query. Lots of small and simple improvements can really add up.

Each of my remaining sidebar sections — Popular, Recent and Random — take about a fifth of the total time to create the page (#3). Taking them out would speed things up. But I like having them to help people find other articles to read they might find interesting.

The last point to mention is the plugin I use to find related posts. I really like having these suggestions for further reading. However, most of these types of plugins are really slow because they calculate “relatedness” each time a page is loaded. Wasteful.

I’ve found one that pre-calculates related pages every time an article is created or edited, but it is based on tags rather than the full article content. And I haven’t been tagging things. I tried some auto-tagging plugins, but could not find one that seemed to work well. So until I can get around to tagging all my articles, I’ll have to wait on that.

Overall, I am pleased with the results so far. I’m going back to tag my articles so that I can try out the new related posts plugin. Then I’m going to see about turning off PHP’s safe mode and turning on page caching.

UPDATE: I’ve written a Part 2 about my experience with caching plugins. You can read it here.

31
Oct

Learning

(Church talk given October 18, 2009)

In the Priesthood session of our recent General Conference, President Uchtdorf spoke of the principle of learning as one of the things that sustained him and his family after they lost everything in the years after World War II. As he grew older, President Uchtdorf struggled to continue learning and eventually got a job at a research institution where he could spend much of his free time in the library.

Speaking of that time he said, “In those days, I understood first hand the words of an old saying: education is not so much the filling of a bucket as the lighting of a fire.” That saying is old indeed. It dates at least as far back as Plutarch, a priest of the Oracle at Delphi, born around the year 45 A.D.

President Uchtdorf continued, “For members of the Church, education is not merely a good idea it is a commandment. We are to learn of things both in heaven and in the earth and under the earth. Things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass, things which are at home, things which are abroad.”

The Lord has always commanded his people to learn. The Proverbs say, “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning”. In the Pearl of Great Price, Abraham learns about the sun, moon, and stars…, the eternal nature of spirits, pre-earth life, foreordination, the creation, the choosing of a Redeemer, and about the beginning of life here on Earth. And Nephi tells us that “having been born of goodly parents, therefore [he] was taught somewhat in all the learning of [his] father.”

In modern times, the Lord commanded the Saints to “teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom. Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God.” We are also “to obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms, of laws of God and man, and all this for the salvation of Zion.”

The Prophet taught the Saints that “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 217). “Knowledge does away with darkness, suspense and doubt; for these cannot exist where knowledge is…. In knowledge there is power. God has more power than all other beings, because he has greater knowledge” (Teachings, 288).

Early in 1833, the Savior commanded the Saints, “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”

In response to this command, Joseph Smith organized the first School of the Prophets which began meeting on January 23, 1833 in Kirtland, Ohio. This school was to combine spiritual and temporal learning. They fasted, prayed, exercised faith, received revelation, grew in unity and studied the doctrines of the gospel. During one meeting, Joseph received the revelation contained in section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, known to us as the Word of Wisdom. They discussed social and political issues relevant to the Church and met regularly until spring.

They met again during the winter of 1834 and again in 1835, this time expanding to include many more people and to hold classes in two locations. In addition to doctrine and spiritual preparation, they taught many secular topics including penmanship, English, Hebrew, grammar, arithmetic, philosophy, literature, government, geography and history. It was in this school that the Lectures on Faith were first published and studied.

Today the Churn owns and operates several universities and many institutes and seminaries throughout the world. In 2001, President Hinckley announced the formation of the Perpetual Education Fund to help faithful youth in developing areas “step out of the cycle of poverty.” As of last month, the Church had made over 38,000 loans. Clearly education and learning remain a strong emphasis today.

Throughout our lives, we should be furthering our education and learning more of the world around us. We are often busy with the demands of life: school, work, children, church callings, spending time with our family and friends, paying bills and other activities.

It may seem a little odd that I included school in that list. Mark Twain once remarked “I never let schooling interfere with my education.” And Albert Einstein used to say that “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” School can help educate us, but learning is a personal responsibility with or without school.

In 1909, the arctic explorer Commander Robert Peary was the first man to reach the North Pole. Of 23 men who began the journey, only six made it the full distance: four of the native Inuit and Peary’s long-time black colleague Matthew Henson.

Born just after the American Civil War, Henson suffered the intense racism common in the late 1800s. And while Peary viewed him as an inferior, it was Henson who was essentially the leader of their expeditions. He took care of the other men, dogs, and supplies. He repaired the sledges. He spoke the Inuit language.

Booker T. Washington described Henson in these words:

During the twenty-three years in which he was the companion of the explorer he not only had time and opportunity to perfect himself in his knowledge of the books, but he acquired a good practical knowledge of everything that was a necessary part of the daily life in the ice-bound wilderness of polar exploration. He was at times a blacksmith, a carpenter, and a cook. He was thoroughly acquainted with the life, customs, and the language of the Esquimos. He himself built the sledges with which the journey to the Pole was successfully completed. He could not merely drive a dog-team or skin a musk-ox with the skill of a native, but he was something of a navigator as well. In this way Mr. Henson made himself not only the most trusted but the most useful member of the expedition.

Henson spent little time worrying about racism. He went to work and taught himself how to thrive in one of the harshest environments on earth. It was believed that blacks could not survive in the harsh cold of the Arctic. Henson proved otherwise, in part through continually improving his skills and knowledge.

In 2005, Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple, gave the commencement address at Stanford University. He began by saying, “I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation.” He went on to describe one of his experiences after dropping out.

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts…. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

By continuing to learn, even when it may have seemed impractical or unrealistic, Jobs later found his knowledge to be of great worth.

Closer to home are skills useful around the house, from fixing a leaking faucet to preparing a proper home-cooked meal. From etiquette and manners to gardening to putting up shelves. These things can be done well, with care. Or poorly, with neglect. The difference is in our attitude about learning how to do it well.

Joseph Smith taught that “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.” So we can add diligence and obedience to study and faith. And what did he mean by intelligence? The Savior revealed that “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” We can all grasp all of the light and truth there is, through the power of the Spirit, regardless of how the world measures us in what it calls intelligence.

Temples are a great example of how we can learn by diligence and study, and also by obedience and faith. Temples are deeply symbolic. The meaning of the symbols can be learned or recognized by study and experience. And the Lord will often supplement our knowledge by inspiration. In other words, he will teach us directly the mysteries of his Kingdom. Sometimes even in ways that go beyond the symbols.

We can have the same experience while studying the scriptures. Beyond the stories and instructions which, as Nephi tells us, can be applied to our lives, the Lord will often expand our knowledge beyond what is written. He knows us personally. If we are faithful and ask in humility, we can learn, through revelation, deeper truths meant just for us or for our families.

The Spirit will also inspire and teach us when reading other good books or when studying non-doctrinal topics. The gospel encompasses all truth.

I’m currently re-reading the Harry Potter books and have often imagined how fun it would be to be able to perform magic. Sometimes it seems like fictional worlds are more miraculous than real life. But I must remind myself that Enoch moved mountains, Elijah called down fire from heaven, Nephi asked God to send famine, Moses parted the Red Sea, Joshua brought down the walls of Jericho, the brother of Jared saw the finger of the Lord and more, and Joseph Smith spoke with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Our world is full of miracles. Today, perhaps, more than ever before. As fun as it is to read good books, I stand in awe of the great wonder and potential of real life.

Spirituality is a skill that can be learned and improved through study and faith, through diligence and obedience. Through learning the doctrines and practicing them. Through trusting the Lord and following his commands. Through faith, repentance, and receiving the ordinances of the gospel. Through covenants and humility and love.

The end of the Plan of Salvation is that we become like God who is a father of spirits, creator of worlds and savior to others. Do we have to learn everything? Yes, eventually. But we have time as long as we keep learning. We should learn all we can about the world, about the heavens, about ourselves, and about our God.

When she was six, my daughter was excited to tell her grandmother, “I know how to read. I don’t even need the books.” As we continue to learn and gain knowledge, we will eventually come to know light and truth by heart. At some point along the path of learning, we will cross over into the next world and receive for ourselves a full measure of light and truth. Until then let us learn what we can by study and by faith.

(Download a printable version here)

2
Oct

How to Neglect a Product to Death

My friend and former co-worker Matt Ryan recently commented on the impending death of Novell Forge. A message on the Novell Forge site confirms that Novell will be shutting things down soon. I can corroborate some of Matt’s story as I was on the Forge team for about a year during its heyday.

But what really interests me about the situation are the implied instructions on how to neglect a successful product into a slow death that can be blamed on the product itself.

  1. Avoid rewarding or recognizing any of the people involved. Even better, reward someone else.
  2. Do not feed its success. Withhold funding, staffing and career growth opportunities.
  3. Provide poor support. Delay fixing problems.
  4. Set unrealistic goals and expectations. Blame the product or team for failure.
  5. Find excuses to kill the project. Focus on the negative in all meetings with executives.

This was a particular worry at Mozy when it was acquired by EMC. They promised that EMC did not want to be the lumbering elephant that accidentally squashed its shiny new purchase. And it was true. But we worried about accidental squashing anyway.

It has been two years, and I have seen projects and executives come and go. Though I do not believe it was intentional, at times it felt like Mozy was being neglected. But the core of Mozy has remained strong and continues to grow.

Based on my experience, here is what to do to keep a successful product moving forward:

  1. Execute anyway. Deliver a quality product in the face of neglect.

There is precious little a neglected production team can do other than produce. I heard something once I have always remembered: nothing succeeds like success. It is much harder to produce in the face of neglect, but it is also nearly impossible to ignore or argue with.

Mozy is clearly not perfect, but despite occasional neglect it continues to provides a valuable, profitable service. Working with smart people helps. Working for smart people helps. Working with people you like helps. Working on something you care about helps. Working with cool technology helps. But over time, delivering a useful, profitable product is what matters.

30
Sep

Changes in Mozy for Mac 1.5

After a two week beta period, the 1.5 release of Mozy for Mac was released today. We’ve made a lot of improvements over the last few releases. If you’re new to Mozy, you should try our 2GB-for-free, no-strings-attached version here.

The official announcement is on our blog. Here’s more details about what changed in this release:

Enhancements

  • Consumer and business versions of the software can now run simultaneously on the same machine.
  • Added a file scanning progress indicator in the Configuration window.
  • Added a warning that appears when a backup is started before the product is fully configured.
  • Added a warning to prevent changes being lost when the Configuration is closed without saving.
  • Simplified the list of options in the menu bar.

Bug Fixes

  • Improved memory usage during backup and restore.
  • Improved the way network encryption keys are retrieved.
  • Improved the ability to restore default backup sets in the Configuration window.
  • Improved the efficiency of the log file collector.
  • Improved the handling of temporary files.
  • Improved the handling of database corruption.
  • Eliminated unnecessary API calls to improve performance.
  • Fixed an issue that prevented some Mac 10.4 (Tiger) users from backing up properly.
  • Fixed many instances of potential configuration corruption.
  • Fixed an issue importing a personal key into the decryption utility.
  • Fixed a potential root exploit security issue.
  • Fixed an issue that prevented some files with aliases in their paths from being backed up.
  • Fixed an issue where Status would get stuck if the backup process was not running.
  • Fixed an issue that caused Restore to crash for some users.
  • Fixed a rare issue when restoring files with resource forks.
  • Fixed an issue where the uninstaller missed some files.
  • Fixed an issue with handling email addresses containing a “+” sign.
  • Fixed a display defect in the Files and Folders tab.
  • Fixed a display defect with the “Temporary Files Location” in the Preferences window.
  • Fixed the display of exclusion notifications.
  • Fixed a display defect which appeared after saving changes in the Configuration window.
  • Fixed a rare issue which forced user credentials to be reentered.
13
Sep

Dear Tooth Fairy

When our 9-year-old lost her most recent tooth, the tooth fairy was a bit slow in paying her. Each morning, we’d hear all about how the tooth fairy must be on vacation or overly busy.

One evening, our daughter spent some time relating the situation to her grandfather. That night we found the following note on her door:

Dear Tooth Fairy,

I charge 10% every day you haven’t come to pick up my tooth. I lost my tooth on Monday June 29, 2009.

P.S. A molar tooth is special so it costs more money. Do 10% more.

The next day she was paid in full, interest included. She was thrilled, though I don’t like to think about what she learned from this. I’m going to have to have a talk with grandpa. :)

12
Sep

My First Mountain

I live along the Wasatch Front which is surrounded by beautiful mountains. Not quite as pretty as the Tetons in Wyoming perhaps, but I’ve always wanted to climb the nearby Mount Timanogos.

Of course, I thought I’d start with one of the smaller mountains closer to Spanish Fork and work up to the 12.4 mile round trip hike up Timpanogos. But when my employer Mozy sponsored a company hike, I decided I’d jump on the bandwagon. About 20 people took the hike that day, including two who got to the top (the vertical elevation gain is almost a mile at 4,652 feet) in less than two hours.

Copyright (c) Eric Ward. Used by Permission.

I started out keeping up with those guys. I’m sure that the embarrassment of having a newcomer like myself tagging along is what caused them to pull ahead after about 10 minutes. Yeah, that was it.

We hit the trail at 6:17am. In my rush to keep up at first, I didn’t notice much of the scenery. But it’s a gorgeous hike.

Starting the hike

Pheasant overlooking a valley

One of the waterfalls crossing the trail

The trail consists of the following:

  1. Steep climb
  2. Bushy semi-flat walk
  3. Steep climb
  4. Meadowy semi-flat walk
  5. Really steep climb

This is the view of the top (on the right) from the second meadow area. Well, I thought it was the top. It turns out that you can’t actually see the peak from here. It’s a higher point behind the peak on the right. There’s nothing quite like thinking you’re at the top only to to realize you aren’t.

The peak from the second meadow

From the meadow, you go up this trail to the saddle where you can see Utah Valley for the first time.

Trail up to the saddle from below

This is what the trail up to the saddle looks like from the peak. The saddle is just above and to the left of center.

Trail up to the saddle from above

View from the saddle

The climb from the saddle to the peak was, by far, the most exhilarating part of the hike. Slower going and entirely rock, but with victory close at hand.

Trail from saddle to peak

Reaching the top was awesome. I got there in 3 hours 23 minutes.

Me on the very top

Five of us summitted fairly close together. Mark (back left) took much better pictures with the nice camera he lugged the whole way up.

Mark, Jamie, me, Derek and Corey

After getting down, I found out that Mount Nebo is actually the tallest peak in the Wasatch Front (and Utah County). Since Nebo is about as far south of me as Timpanogos is north, I guess it’s next on my list. Just need to get rid of this limp first.

8
Sep

How to Value Stock Options

During my career, I’ve worked for five startups, one larger company and one startup that was acquired by a large company. I was offered or promised stock options each time I joined a new company except once. I didn’t know what they were worth, so I usually discounted them when making a decision.

It turns out that the most likely value of stock options in a startup is zero. Things do work out sometimes. And when they do, it can be great. But mostly they don’t. Options at an already-public company are a different matter since you can be sure you’ll be able to sell your stock eventually.

Here is my rule of thumb for estimating the value of stock options at a public company:

Value = Number of Shares * Exercise Price * .4

For example, if the company’s share price is $10 and the grant is for 1,000 shares, the approximate value is 1,000 * $10 * .4 = $4,000. Since options typically vest over four years, I would count this grant as $1,000 per year for four years. This assumes I don’t sell any of my shares until the end of the four years.

The .4 factor comes from estimating how much the company’s stock price will go up over the next four years. From 1871 through July 2009, the S&P 500 Index has gained 8.7% per year which, if compounded annually, gives you about 40% over four years.

Of course, life doesn’t always happen as planned. This rule helps me figure out a reasonable estimate of value so that I can make a decision and move on.

UPDATE: Ironman at Political Calculations, created a nice calculator based on my thoughts and added some insightful comments.

7
Sep

When It’s Okay to Hit Someone

A while back, I found my boys arguing with each other. As I was about to intervene, one hit the other. Normally, this happens only when something incredibly important is at stake. In this case, I think it was over who got to play with a particular Lego figure. R2-D2 is pretty cool, so I can see why they were arguing. :)

I took the hitter up to his room and explained that hurting his brother wasn’t acceptable. After some time to cool down, they were friends again and everything turned out alright.

The conversation got me thinking though. There are times when it is okay to hurt someone else. I realized I wasn’t being fair to my kids by telling them it was never alright to hit people. I don’t want them to shy away from protecting themselves or others who need it, if that time ever comes.

I knew that discussing the principle of justified violence would be over their heads. So I came up with 3 simple rules my kids need to follow before hitting someone.

  1. They are hurting you or someone else
  2. You ask them to stop and they don’t
  3. You try to get away and can’t

As far as I can tell, these rules cover the situations where I’d want them to act — mostly in defense of themselves or others who are being hurt. When they get older, I’m going to teach them how to hit so they won’t be afraid to act if they ever need to.

When one of my kids has forgotten the rules, I’ve been able to review them as part of the discussion about why they’re in trouble. And they get it. Even my 4-year-old understands.

The list has worked well for us. It helps my kids pause to think before acting when they’re angry. And each of them realize there is a line beyond which they’re going to get smacked without any protection from Dad. :)