Partial Heterochromia - E's Awesome EyeConversation on our way to my kid’s school:

T: Dad, I heard people used to marry their cousins and sisters and stuff.  Is that true?

Me: Well yes.  People used to do that for various reasons.

T: I also heard that people who did that have kids with no arms.

After chuckling a bit to myself I started to explain, as simply as I could, the concepts of genetic diversity and how kids have a better chance of not having certain problems if the parents are not related.  This quickly led to a quick discussion about dominant and recessive genes in the over simplified context of eye color.

Me: So Mom has brown eyes and I have blue eyes.  What color are your eyes?

T: Blue. So blue eyes always win?

Me: Not usually.  Mom and I both have two genes for eye color.  But we each only give you one of those.  If you get a brown gene from either of us, then no matter what the other gene is, you get brown eyes; brown is dominant.  I have blue eyes so I must have two blue genes.  I gave you one of those.  Since you have blue eyes, you must have two blue genes.  That means Mom must have both a brown and a blue gene and gave you her blue gene.  If she had given you her brown gene, then your eyes would have been brown, even though you got a blue gene from me.

T: Ok.  But then why does E (his little bother) have an eye that is both brown and blue.

I looked at him and laughed a little more.  I had to admit that I wasn’t 100% sure.  Of course that meant, for the rest of the day, that lack of knowledge was nagging me at the back of my mind until I had time to look into it a little.

So after some research my best guess is that E has Partial Heterochromia Iridum[1].  This condition is associated with a variety of  syndromes.  Fortunately our son exhibits no other signs associated with any of these syndromes.  His appears to be “Simple Heterochromia” that is a congenital hypoplasia of the iris.  In other words, it’s simply a case where parts of his iris are either underdeveloped or just missing melanin (blue eyes are caused by low concentrations of melanin in the iris or ocular fluid[2]).

So while it is somewhat rare, it’s nothing to be concerned about (in our case).  Both he and his brothers think  it is pretty cool and have nicknamed it the “awesome” eye.


SQL ServerSo it was inevitable that I eventually end up with a post about some IT related issues that cropped up at work.  Yesterday’s was pretty great.  We are in the process of upgrading our Symantec Endpoint Protection (SEP) infrastructure and ran into issues that made it appear (both to us and Symantec) that we had database corruption.  And the only way to fix that is, you guessed it, disaster recovery.  In spite of how it sounds, the process ended up being fairly straightforward (thanks to us having all out ducks in a row).

However, even after getting our system up and running again with a fresh instance, we were still seeing the same DB errors.  Great, so what now?  To me this just screamed to me that we had been going down the wrong path the entire time.  It was not DB corruption but a problematic  reconfiguration that had crept into our system at some point over the past few weeks (I had performed a similar task without problem just weeks before).

So I fired up our trusty SQL Profiling tool.  Looking at the results, the first thing I noticed—almost immediately—was that the SQL statement that SEP was making was not fully qualified (it was missing the table schema).


instead of


However even though the schema was missing, it shouldn’t have been an issue because the default schema we had set for the connecting user should have resolved this.  But that obviously wasn’t happening.  So what did we do?  We did what any self respecting IT professional would do, we asked our MS SQL database administrator.  But this behavior struck him as odd as well.

After hitting this brick wall we decided it was time to pull out my trusty Google search skills.  After a some quick searching I found someone else with a similar issue over on[1].  One of the responses there provided us with the final clue to solve our problem.  They referenced a ‘note’ specified in the Microsoft documentation for the ALTER USER[2] commands.  There it states:

The value of DEFAULT_SCHEMA is ignored if the user is a member of the sysadmin fixed server role. All members of the sysadmin fixed server role have a default schema of dbo.

This coupled with the fact that the schema for these database tables was not dbo, meant that SQL server must have been defaulting to the wrong schema when the above unqualified query was made.  But why now and not before?  Well, during the upgrade preparations, one of our engineers read somewhere (we have yet to find that recommendation again) that our SEP db user needed to have the sysadmin role in order for the upgrade to go smoothly.  That little ‘tip’ ended up costing us hours of troubleshooting (and unnecessary disaster recovery).  But on the upside, we now know a little more about the default schema for anyone with the sysadmin role.  Good to know.

Dropbox DevicesI am a big fan of file synchronization tools.  For me, file sync’ing across my multiple devices not only makes my life easier but also serves to  backup my data.  But I have yet to find the perfect tool that handles all of the different scenarios I have for my data.  And while I have had a Dropbox account for quite a while, I have rarely used it.  It has a limited amount of space for free (2 gigs) and doesn’t provide simple synchronization between devices only (separate from their cloud storage space).  I am currently using Microsoft Live Mesh as my main tool which allows me unlimited sync’ing between computers and also lets me use 5 gigs of cloud storage from my SkyDrive (not too bad).  I use it mainly for the sync’ing (and backing up) of large amounts of files between computers.  Where it fails, and where dropbox shines, is in its support for the various mobile device platforms.  Mesh currently does not support any mobile device.

However Dropbox is currently testing a new feature which I am somewhat excited about.  They are testing the capability to automatically upload photos and videos taken on mobile devices to a Dropbox folder.  I currently am using Google+ for that (and it works well).  However, things uploaded by Google+ only live on the Google+ servers.  This great for posting to Google+.  But it requires extra steps to get them onto my computer for manipulation, permanent storage and/or sharing to other services.  With this new feature in Dropbox, I can automatically sync  my pictures and videos to any machine I want.  Simply put, its like having a wireless USB cable that continually dumps my photos/videos to a pre-specified folder, from anywhere in the world.

The one downside, 2 gig wasn’t enough for the 1080p videos I had on my phone.  Fortunately Dropbox thought of that and was offering additional space for anyone willing to test the new feature.  Basically I received 500 meg for trying it out (on first photo upload).  I then received an additional 500 meg for every 500 meg I uploaded using the new feature (up to 4.5 gig).  When my phone was done sync’ing, my Dropbox account had jumped from 2 gig to 7 gig.  Now that’s not too bad for scratch space for my photos and videos.  And who knows, if I start actively using it again for this purpose I may actually start using it for others.  Good move Dropbox.

For those who want to participate, I think the deal is still on.  You can go here to get the Android installers for this new test version.  And if you don’t have an Android phone, they are testing out new versions of their desktop clients as well.  These clients supposedly work with any camera or video device that you connect to your computer.  You can find details here.

Happy Sync’ing!

The BrainDue to a family history of the disease, I have been interested in keeping track of advances in treating and preventing Alzheimer’s disease for quite some time.  This morning, thanks to Science Friday [1], I learned of a potential new treatment that is showing a lot of promise.  A group of scientists from the Landreth Lab[2], at Case Western Reserve University,  recently published a paper[3] describing the results of their research.  Gary Landreth[4], the researcher interviewed by Science Friday, provided an informative explanation of the research.  The following is a summary of what I took away from that interview.

While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s and even its cause is still somewhat unclear, the current theory is that it is closely tied to the deposits of amyloid plaques, or Amyloid Betas (Aβ), that build up in the brain as we age.  Amyloids are “small reddish sticky peptide[s]” which are generated at the synapse during normal brain activity.  A healthy brain relies on proteins called apolipoproteins[5] to clear away the Aβ before it can accumulate.  However as we get older the process for clearing it away becomes less efficient which allows the Aβ to start to accumulate, first into fibrils and then into plaques.  These masses interfere with normal brain activity causing the all too familiar Alzheimer’s symptoms..

ApoE is the principle apolipoprotein of the brain.  In humans there are three different allelic variations of the ApoE gene, ApoE2, ApoE3 and ApoE4[7].  ApoE4 is the variation most commonly associated with Alheimer’s disease.  Dr. Landreth’s research focuses on the use of an FDA approved drug (Bexarotene[6]) to help regulate the ApoE gene expression.    Through a mechanism I would need more time to understand, Bexarotene has proven effective in its ability to help the ApoEs in our brain clear out the Aβ more effectively than they could on their own.  Therefore, for those of us who may have the ApoE4 variation in our genes, some help may be on the way.

Keep in mind that this has only been shown to work in mice and proving the same result in humans will take some time.  But the results are promising.

DevicesA few weeks back I made the claim that our current world of fragmented personal computing is not great for consumers.  In the 90’s we typically had one computer per home.  During the early 2000’s it started to be very common to have multiple computers per home.  And now, starting in the late 2000’s, we have evolved to rely on multiple computing devices per user, per home.

We talked earlier about why these devices are different.  This post focuses on how they are the same.

I think it would be true to say that for most users the OS, putting all cultural leanings aside, does not define their user experience.  It mostly gets in the way.  For most users, the OS is that thing that they install their apps onto.  In the same way that their browser is the internet, their apps are what really define their computing experience.  For some, the elegance of the  hardware is part of it. But for this discussion, it is irrelevant.  I think Apple proved my point about the apps with their iPhone.  Many may have bought it for it beauty. But in my opinion it, and Android, have been successful because they got the OS out of the way and gave you access to tons of apps.

Even the files on these devices, in the end user’s mind, are not accessed through the OS.  Their apps are the portals for accessing and modifying any files that might live on their devices.  I have helped countless people over the years with their computers.  I can attest that for most of those users, Word documents do not exist outside of Word and possibly their email system.  The concept of the file system is beyond them—as it probably should be.

For the average users, computing devices have largely been complex machinery that did one thing, give them access to their applications.   Now these applications, of course, satisfy a plethora of other needs.  But even those can be broken down to a few basic categories.

  • Apps for Entertainment/Consumption/Education: media players (for local and remote content), games, news apps, educational materials, media remotes, etc.
  • Apps for Communication: email, SIP, chat, etc.  Even cellular calls are just apps that require specialized hardware.
  • Apps for Creation/Productivity (typically generate and manipulate files): camera, office suite, blogging, video/audio/photo editing, etc.
  • Utilities: Administrative tools, antivirus.  These are typically power tools for more advanced users for changing things most users don’t care about.

There are many apps that reach across these boundaries, like the browser.  And within each app there are a range of tasks from simple to complex.  We find the same apps, in countless forms, across the various forms factors.  Their only difference, from one device to another, is that their interface and complexity have been adjusted appropriately for their intended form factor.

In summary, all these devices do the same thing.  They provide us ways to access and manipulate the same information and services in our lives though similar sets of applications.  They also help us communicate with the same people in our lives.  Therefore, these devices should be more unified in their approach to helping us simplify these activities.

Previous: Fragmented Personal Computing
Next: Unified Personal Computing – Applied

Droid-BionicVerizon has announced the latest update to their Droid Bionic phone [1].  Emails went out two days ago to Bionic users in order to invite them to participate in a limited roll out that they are calling a “Soak Test”.  What I am not sure about is how long it will take Verizon to push our the final update once the soak test is completed (assuming it goes well).

I have owned a Bionic since the day it came out and have had very mixed feelings about its performance.  Spec wise, it is a great phone.  But its performance has been lacking.  My main complaints have been about the camera, the screen itself (Pentile[2] and I do not get along) and 3G/4G stability.  According to the PDF, a lot of time was spent on stability issues.  Both the camera and data connectivity are mentioned.  With any hope two out of my three complaints will be addressed in this update.  Unfortunately, nothing short of a screen replacement will alleviate my issues with the Pentile display that these phone came with.

Some of the other updates I look forward to are:

  • Improvements in battery life.
  • Idle resets (getting rid of them)
  • Play WAV audio files.

There is some evidence that they are adding a bit more bloatware (a new VCAST app store).  Hopefully it is limited to that.

Here’s to seeing is come out soon!