Apr 21 2015

2015 Superheroes Race for the National Children’s Advocacy Center (NCAC) in Huntsville, AL

The weekend of Saturday, April 11, my best friend and I made the drive down to Huntsville, Alabama to participate in the 2015 Superheroes Race benefiting the outstanding organisation that is The National Children’s Advocacy Center. It was a bit of a drive, but almost completely motorway, so it wasn’t that bad. Before talking about the main event (the race itself), I have to mention some of the way cool things that we did beforehand.


NASA US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL
NASA US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL
(click to enlarge)

Firstly, we went to the US Space and Rocket Center, which is essentially the visitor’s centre for NASA. In my opinion, the price of admission was a little high, but the exhibits made it completely worth it. Some of the highlights were the Robot Zoo and the amazing showroom of the Saturn V rocket.


Robot grasshopper at US Space and Rocket Center Robot Zoo   Saturn V rocket at US Space and Rocket Center
(click to enlarge)

Secondly, we had some great food at two very different types of restaurants. The first place was for a quick lunch at a Mexican place called Taqueria El Cazador #2, which is housed inside of a bus. We both had the tacos, which were excellent. I also grabbed some tamales, but they didn’t impress me nearly as much as the tacos. Overall, though, a great place that is cheap and tasty! The place that we went for dinner was Phuket Thai Restaurant, and even though it wasn’t in a bus, it was outstanding! Having been to Thailand, I was a little suspicious of the reviewers saying that it was one of the best places for Thai in the US. Having not eaten at all the Thai places in the US, I can’t say so definitively, but it was great! In particular, the Khao Soi was deliciously creamy, and putting the remaining sauce on some extra rice almost made for another meal in and of itself!

Thirdly, we went to the National Children’s Advocacy Center (NCAC) to see what needed to be done to prepare for the race the next day. I have been a supporter of the organisation for quite some time (you can see more about them via their link in the “Charities I Support” menu at the top of the blog), but I had never seen the facilities. I was stunned at the size of the complex, and even more taken aback at the people who work for the NCAC! They were absolutely outstanding, and after having seen the facilities, I feel even more strongly aligned with their mission statement of “modelling, promoting, and delivering excellence in child abuse response and prevention through service, education, and leadership.”


National Children's Advocacy Center NCAC sign   National Children's Advocacy Center NCAC community services building
(click to enlarge)

Fourthly, we just happened to stumble upon this really neat place known as Lowe Mill, and they were having an art show and free concert. There were various artists ranging from painters, photographers, and musicians, as well as plenty of bakers and confectioners serving up their yummy treats (like a decadent lemon cupcake with cream cheese frosting [I won't say who ate that one...]).

Okay, so now let’s get to the actual reason that I went to Huntsville: to support the NCAC in the 2015 Superheroes Race! There were three options for runners: 1) the timed and competitive 5K; 2) the timed and competitive 1-mile; 3) the 1-mile fun-run for kids (and adults too!). I participated in the 5K, and actually ended up coming in first place. My time wasn’t as good as I would have liked, but the course was a lot of fun! It went winding through the city centre and some very nice suburban areas as well (both starting and ending at the NCAC). There were also awards given out for the costumes (best individual costume, best family costumes, et cetera). I went as The Flash, but dang, it’s difficult to run in a full costume, so I applaud those people that did it! The Chief of Police actually ran in the race, and did so in uniform (belt and all)–now that’s supporting the community!


National Children's Advocacy Center NCAC kids' costumes   National Children's Advocacy Center NCAC family costumes
(click to enlarge)

One of the highlights of the whole trip was getting to meet some of the wonderful people that make the NCAC happen. I was fortunate enough to meet Catherine Courtney (the Director of Development) and Caroline Nelson (the Development Campaign Coordinator) (both pictured below), as well as Chris Newlin (the Executive Director). These three individuals are not only a few of the folks that help the NCAC function on a day-to-day basis, but they are truly inspirational people who have huge hearts for helping the children to whom the NCAC provides services–their passion to help kids is nearly tangible!


National Children's Advocacy Center NCAC Catherine Courtney and Zach   National Children's Advocacy Center NCAC Caroline Nelson and Zach
LEFT: The Flash (AKA me) and Catherine Courtney        RIGHT: Caroline Nelson
(click to enlarge)

Overall, the trip to Huntsville was both pleasant and productive. I hope that I will be able to participate in the races in the future, and that I will be able to work with the NCAC for years and years to come. If you agree with their Mission Statement, I urge you to become a member of the Protectors’ Circle and support the incredibly important work that they do.

Cheers,
Zach

Mar 20 2015

CyanogenMod com.android.phone crashing – an unlikely APN fix for the NullPointerException in the telephony stack

Currently, I have a T-Mobile branded Samsung Galaxy S4 (SGH-M919) and until this past weekend I was running CyanogenMod 11 (the M9 snapshot) on it. I was having one minor problem with it, and that was that all-too-often the artist and track information from my music stream would not be sent via Bluetooth. I hadn’t updated because if the majority of things are running smoothly, why test fate? Anyway, a few days ago I took the plunge and updated to the M12 snapshot via the CM Updater.

Almost immediately I ran into a big problem. Every so often (seemingly randomly), I would get the alert that “Unfortunately, com.android.phone” had stopped. Worse yet, when that happened, I would lose mobile connectivity on any voice call. If I was in a voice call, the connection would drop. If I wasn’t in a call, I would be unable to receive or dial out for some time. Clearly, this was a huge problem since… well… one of the primary foci of a mobile is to make and receive voice calls.

Thinking that it was a problem with flashing the new ROM from CM Updater, I tried manually flashing the M12 snapshot. When that didn’t work, I tried a bunch of other things as well:

Unfortunately, all of these things got me nowhere. The problem was still occurring, and I couldn’t figure out what was happening. At first I was thinking that there was a hardware problem, but the Java stack trace indicated otherwise:

[CRASH] com.android.phone threw java.lang.NullPointerException
at android.telephony.SmsMessage.getTimestampMillis(SmsMesssage.java:607)

After all of those troubleshooting steps, though, CyanogenMod 12 revealed something to me that I hadn’t seen in the stack trace before:

com.android.mms.service

Noticing the MMS portion of that error made me think to check the APN settings for the device. What I found is that there were some slight problems. Below is what the settings were “out of the box” in CyanogenMod for the jfltetmo/jflte (which is the Samsung Galaxy S4):

Name: T-Mobile US LTE
APN: fast.t-mobile.com
Proxy: Not set
Port: Not set
Username: none
Password: **** (yes, four asterisks)
Server: * (yes, just as asterisk)
MMSC: http://mms.msg.eng.t-mobile.com/mms/wapenc
MMS Proxy: Not set
MMS Port: Not set
MMC: 310
MNC: 260
Authentication type: Not set
APN type: default,supl,mms
APN protocol: IPv4
APN roaming protocol: IPv4
Bearer: Unspecified
MVNO type: None

HOWEVER, they should be (the changes that I had to make are in red; you may need to change others to match the ones below):

Name: T-Mobile US LTE
APN: fast.t-mobile.com
Proxy: Not set
Port: Not set
Username: none
Password: Not set
Server: Not set
MMSC: http://mms.msg.eng.t-mobile.com/mms/wapenc
MMS Proxy: Not set
MMS Port: 80
MMC: 310
MNC: 260
Authentication type: Not set
APN type: default,supl,mms
APN protocol: IPv4
APN roaming protocol: IPv4
Bearer: Unspecified
MVNO type: None

After making those changes and setting them in the APN, voilà! No more message about com.android.phone crashing with reference to com.android.mms.service.

If you are experiencing the same problem, I hope that you see this post before going through WAY too may troubleshooting steps whilst overlooking the smaller, more likely problems. Let us not forget Ockham’s Razor—given equal circumstances, the simplest solution tends to be the correct one.

Cheers,
Zach

Jan 14 2015

Fortune cookie wisdom part VI

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a new set of “Fortune cookie wisdom,” but I think that I have five good ones here. Before reading them, if you’d like to check out the previous posts in the series, you can with the links below:

Now that you’ve wasted a good amount of time reading those previous posts (hey, it’s better than watching more cat videos on YouTube, right?), here are the new ones:

  • Generosity and perfection are your everlasting goals.
  • We must always have old memories and young hopes.
  • Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation.
  • An important word of advice may come from a child.
  • Someone is looking up to you. Don’t let that person down.

I think that the third one is especially true in these times. With many political, social, economic, and societal decisions being made without full support of the people, it is necessary for individuals to express discontent before any change can begin. The fourth one is incredibly important to remember. We all too often forget that children can show us different ways of looking at otherwise maladroit or stale situations. They can enlighten us and open our eyes to perspectives that we may not have considered with our “adult” worldviews. I’m reminded of the recent Why advertisement from Charles Schwab:

It also ties nicely to the final one that I posted today. We need to remember to always act with integrity because there is always someone looking up to us, and modelling his or her behaviours after our own.

Good stuff, but like the previous post, I think that there was less of an emphasis on the funnier side of the fortune cookies. Hopefully I’ll get some new funny ones soon.

Cheers,
Zach

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