February 21, 2004
Furniture Hoisting in San Francisco

Have some furniture? Perhaps a piano? Need it hoisted up a few floors? Perhaps hoisted into a window? Lifted onto a roof? Placed on a deck? Read on…

We had two couches hoisted by crane in through a fourth-floor window a few months ago. The whole process was quite an ordeal. The lift occurred at 9am, but we were so wound up that we couldn’t relax until late that evening. Still, it was better than the alternative, which was to take the couches apart and reassemble them in the room.

The short recommendation:
Call Skyscraper Crane Service at 415 863 1000. They work the entire Bay Area. Tell them what you want. Ask them to round up a crew for you. Double check your insurance coverage. Go!

The long story:
I called all the traditional household and furniture moving companies in the San Francisco yellow pages whose listings mentioned hoisting. Four companies came out to give me a quote. All of the companies I spoke with use to the same crane sub-contractor: Skyscraper Crane Service. (aka Able Crane Service.) Three of the moving companies marked up the crane subcontractor, sometimes by several hundred dollars.

So, what does the moving company get you? Well, you need a crew to load the furniture onto the crane, and to "catch" the furniture at its destination. What I got, however, was something else.

The only company that didn't mark up the crane price was Cunningham Moving and Storage. So, I went with them. Cunningham promised a crew that had experience hoisting furniture with a crane. Cunningham didn’t have experience hoisting furniture. The crane operator had to show them how to load the couches. Cunningham promised the crew would arrive 30 minutes before the crane to rig the couches up. Cunningham showed up nearly an hour late, 30 minutes after the crane arrived. Cunningham gave a clear contract with an hourly rate. What I got was a crew boss who wanted to go against the clear terms of the contract when the lift didn’t take very long. Cunningham wanted to tack on some bogus minimum time charge, completely unspecified in the contract. Cunningham didn’t mention anything about driving their truck into a neighbor’s tree, but they did that gratis.

So what did I pay Cunningham Moving and Storage? I wound up paying them $465 for a lot of aggravation and 3 guys for 45 minutes. Given a generous 30 minutes of drive time back and forth from their plant, the price works out to a whopping $124/man-hour for what turned out to be nearly unskilled labor that couldn’t follow simple directions. (“No! No! Not on the deck! In through the window!”)

The moving company will only insure the furniture, as per PUC regulations. If the couches were to slip from the crane’s sling and smash through the kitchen roof, the moving company would have coughed up for a new pair of couches. The crane company’s contract is much worse. You must wave all claims of liability and damage against the crane company. The crane company is responsible for absolutely nothing. I wasn’t aware of this until the crane showed up and we were already committed to paying them. Excellent. So, make sure that your homeowner’s insurance is paid up, or work something out with the crane company in advance.

You might also check with B&S Crane Service. They were recommended by an upholsterer that we had consulted.

Skyscraper Crane: Highly Recommended. Also, use them for the ground crew.

Posted by jk at 09:13 AM
February 12, 2004
C++ Memory Checkers

I needed to do some memory bounds checking yesterday in a C++ program. I was pretty sure that I was writing off the end of an array somewhere. You know the drill.

Since I don't own a license for Purify, and there's absolutely no way that I'm going to pay for one, I thought I'd see what is available for free.

Someone suggested Electric Fence. I found that iit used up far too much memory, was very slow, and tended to eventually crash the program without reporting results.

G++checker/gccChecker seem to be dead projects, and strongly linked to particular versions of gcc. Since I'm running a version of gcc that's about 2 major versions newer than the latest gccChecker I could find...

Valgrind (http://valgrind.kde.org), on the other hand, is more or less exactly what I was looking for. It's a reasonable stand-in for Purify. After setting --num-callers=30 --leak-check=yes and a few more options, I was on my way.

The package is trivial to compile and install on the Fedora Linux distro.

Memprof is an X-based package installed by default on RedHat and Fedora. It's very schmancy. (http://www.gnome.org/projects/memprof/)

Valgrind -- C++ memory checker -- highly recommended.
Memprof -- C++ memory checker -- worth a shot.
Electric Fence -- C++ memory checker -- only if you are desperate.

Posted by jk at 09:06 AM