Wednesday, January 31

how to end The War

Oooh, I like this bumper sticker. Gotta run out and buy me a bumper to put it on!

Send The Twins Bumper Sticker

Tuesday, January 30

small joy for the math major

Today, it was about the little things in life. I happened to be charging my PowerBook upside down (don't ask) and noticed the five (5) green LEDs to show the percentage charge on the battery. Three solid and the fourth flashing? Uh, that means between 60-80% charged.

You can tell I was a math major in high school, right?

Sunday, January 28

success! (more or less)

Okay, so I (mostly) pulled it off. My "white box" PC now contains:

Windows XP (SP2)
Linux (Fedora Core 6 .. a/k/a FC6)
Solaris (10 11/06)

I settled on using GNU GRUB 0.97 for a boot loader, which is what shipped with FC6 .. it's slightly ahead of the 0.95 flavor that's in Solaris. There's no Boot Loader option in XP .. aside from various freeware/shareware/COTS products .. i.e. not worth the effort tracking it down.

This was not without some miscues and one (near) PANIC! toward the end of this three-way, when something (I'm not sure what) flipped a bit in the partition table and marked the XP partition as "Hidden" (i.e. not bootable). After Google'ing for the error message ("autochk program not found - skipping AUTOCHECK"), then tweaking the partition table from another (running) OS, I can now boot any of the 3 operating systems.

As I suspected, FC6 looks/acts a lot like RHEL, so what I learn on one should be mostly portable to the other. I found myself online and browsing away about 15 minutes after starting the installation of FC6, not so with Solaris.

One remaining big issue: there's no network support under the Solaris installation - yet. Will it turn out that my gigabit Ethernet card isn't supported, or is this another "fit and finish" issue where the network adapter just wasn't enabled? I should know in a few days, after I get some cycles. I'll check the Solaris HCL and make a decision based on what I find there. If I have to buy a new adapter, I'll have to tweak the other two OSs (Linux and XP). Let's hope it's not that ... oy.

Monday update: rumor has it that if I'd read the Solaris How To Install Guide, my life would've been easier. Well, maybe .. but who reads documentation?

Saturday, January 27

playing with software

Hmm .. have I done anything noteworthy lately? Hardly much to write home about.

I finally got around to installing Parallels Desktop on my Mac Mini, partly to play with virtualization software. I don't expect to run much XP software on the Mac, but it'll be amusing to play with it. The default installation is to set aside 10% of the Mac's disc as a virtual XP machine, so .. that's what I did.

Then (on a real XP box) I tried Secunia's Software Inspector which looks for the latest versions of certain critical XP software (SP2; Adobe Reader 8; QuickTime 7; iTunes 7; IE7; Media Player 11; FireFox 2; RealPlayer 10; Java JRE 1.5) and all checks out okay. It did a credible job, pointing out that I had old (insecure) versions of MacroMedia Adobe Flash Player on my system - which have now been removed.

I've been using VersionTracker Pro for the past couple months, and .. while it's not perfect .. it does appear to do a credible job keeping my application software updated. Downside: their crippled demo version is complete junk.

Finally, I repartitioned another XP box so I can play with both Fedora Core (Linux) and Solaris. I found a copy of Partition Magic (currently owned by Symantec) at a good price and sliced the 120 GB drive in half, since so much of it was going unused. At this moment, it's busy uncompressing the download into a single DVD image of Solaris 10. Since I understand that Solaris GRUB doesn't play nice with Linux GRUB, I'll install Linux second and Solaris last.

I did want to try RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) but quickly learned that those ISO images aren't available for free download - only for sale. How do I know I'd ever want to buy it if I can't test it first? And yes, I know that Linux is "free" but there are now hundreds (seriously .. 300+) of implementations, so I tried to pick something that would resemble one of the commercially viable flavors. I'm hoping Fedora Core will fit that bill.

Thursday, January 18

when the lights go out ...

I was reading Pat-Bob's blog, and spotted an interesting exercise: how many machines/electronics did you use today?. Weekday or weekend? Do AA batteries count? Hmmm.

Should I attempt this from midnight-midnight?
Will that matter?

Should I keep the list on a piece of paper, so that my PDA doesn't become part of the mix? Do I include light switches? Should I include my home alarm if I merely go outside to fetch the mail (and hear the alarm sound as the door opens/closes)?

I suppose I could go into the "would this device fail if the electricity were out?" mode but then that would include my home furnace (sparked by a thermostat) ...

His next day's post was slightly different .. the number of times he had to identify himself as he went through The Daily Routine. Perhaps I could start there, then progress to the much larger list. Hmmm.

Sunday, January 14

just another Sunday ...

well, this doesn't sound so bad, now does it?
I hacked into the NWS computer and found the original draft of the advisory. It said:


Tuesday update: although some rural areas nearby got enough ice to ruin their day, here in The Big City all we got was a glaze. By noon, most of that had evaporated (excepting underpasses and other light-free areas).

Saturday, January 13

Yet Another Big Project Weekend

It seems like I have a Big Project every weekend. This one's going much slower than most, although I'm getting work done concurrently.

What's up? Well, I finally cracked open the "USB turntable" I bought a few months ago .. the iTTUSB from Ion Audio. Turns out this may will be significantly more tedious than when I dumped all my CDs to iTunes (last month). In the case of the CD media, I was able to read at speeds up to 20x (mostly were half that). As I'm moving the LPs (remember the 12" vinyl discs?) to my PowerBook, the speed's more 1:1 although the manual does explain how I can record at 45rpm and playback at 33-1/3 (likewise if I stumble across any of my dad's old 78rpm music).

This process also requires more BabySitting, due to dealing with aging vinyl media. Stuff about vinyl that I'd forgotten:
  1. records skip when there's an imperfection - when it happens the whole track's useless - if I really want it, I'll buy that song from iTunes for 99c each;

  2. setting up a turntable means having to deal with counterweights;

  3. it's truly a balancing act -- the iTTUSB stylus wants 4 grams of pressure (± 1 gram);

  4. most LPs hold about 22 minutes of music per side, so I can't stray far;

  5. bits of dust, lint, etc. contribute to snaps, crackles and pops;

  6. vinyl has what Trish-Bob calls a "richer sound" - no doubt;

  7. a Discwasher is very useful, removing Stuff from the LP itself, although I could stand some new solution - now D4+;

  8. vibration near the turntable is a problem - I can't toss stuff around during the recording process, like I do with an iPod or even CD media;

  9. unlike (most?) CDs, LPs usually are two-sided! the 2nd side is often called the "flip side" because you have to manually turn it over when the first side has finished playing: wow.
I was surprised to see some OSS [Open Source Software] being used as the default audio-editing application. The iTTUSB uses Audacity which has sufficient bells and whistles to get me into a lot of trouble if I stray too far from the defaults. I had to install a LAME library separately, to perform the transformation from AIFF to MP3, but even that's documented well.

Granted, I could just Cough Up The Cash and buy most of these albums off the web (some never made it to CD), but I'm enjoying listening to albums I haven't heard in 20+ years, so I'm okay with it, up to a point. There will also be some amount of post-processing, involving track separation and labeling (ID3 tags) which wasn't required with CD-ROM.

Seated next to the slowly-moving stack of albums is a stack of magazines (and eventually books) that have been in my [To Read] pile for much too long, so it'll work out well. That said, I suspect it'll take much longer to dump fewer albums than it took for my 500 or so CDs. Odds are this will turn into a multi-week effort, as I have a few hundred LPs to migrate, and am moving 4 albums every 3 hours.

The WeatherGuy is still predicting plenty (defined as 1/2" inch+) of ice during the current WinterWeatherEvent here. We'll see if the DallasHeatIsland allows the bulk of it to skip over the city and paralyze the nearby rural areas instead of us CityFolk.

Thursday, January 11


News item:
President George W. Bush said he will send 21,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq.
none of which are his military-age daughters. I guess neither the Bush Twins nor Andrew Rove (The Puppetmaster's Son) believe in Daddy's Cause
Deep Thought:
Why does President Quagmire remind me of [Moby Dick]'s Captain Ahab?
Worth another look: Operation Yellow Elephant

and also, if you prefer tongue-in-cheek: 800,000 Privileged Youths Enlist To Fight In Iraq

Sunday, January 7

retail discount hierarchy

Judy-Bob tells me that there's a hierarchy of pricing involved, when retail stuff is marked down. I've been advised the exact order is:

"Reduced" or "Sale" - nothing to get excited about
"Clearance" - minor excitement
"Discontinued" - major excitement! (buy as much as possible)
"Store Closing" - euphoria! (buy anything remaining on the shelf)

I cannot find this documented anywhere (Google'ing for the words "sale; clearance; discontinued" is a waste of time).

Are precise units involved? If something is 30% off, is it considered a SALE but at 31% it becomes CLEARANCE? Hmmm.

Saturday, January 6

spyware - it's everywhere!

Microsoft's Windows Defender continues to underwhelm me. I installed it a long time ago, to see if Microsoft really has what it takes to be an effective prevention against spyware.

Well, the last time it auto-updated was on November 11th, so I decided to run Spybot Search & Destroy to see if it found anything unpleasant on my system. It did:

Friday, January 5

demonizing children

As I left a meeting in Fort Worth yesterday, I flipped on the AM radio to check the traffic report. Instead, I heard Rush Limbaugh talking about how the Democrats were using children as pawns. Not having a clue what he was talking about (and since traffic was moving) I tuned him out, and listened to a CD [Six Feet Under] instead.

I would've listened to Air America for The Opposing View, but they've disappeared from the Dallas airwaves (910AM is now a religious station - the 923rd in Dallas). For now, I'd have to subscribe to XM Satellite Radio, or find a way to get an Internet connection in my car.

Later, when I watched the evening news on the TiVo, I saw what he meant : all the children who were present at the Changing Of The Guard as Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as #3 in our government. Hmm .. have they finally found a focal point for their passion? -- versus the Republicans' focal point of Christian religion. Time will tell (naturally) if this "do it for our children's sake" campaign will work.

I suppose you could foam-at-the-mouth like Rush was doing yesterday, crying foul and spewing "oh how could they?" .. which all leads me to believe the Democrats may be onto something here. Demonizing children is a tricky road, indeed.

Tuesday, January 2

a different cloth

I saw a brief news report of former President Gerald Ford's impending funeral in Washington (later this morning). Indeed, so many reports give him the highest honor: that of being a truly decent man. Granted, a lot of people would've been happy had Richard Nixon been tried, convicted and imprisoned for what he orchestrated .. and were shocked-beyond-belief when Ford pardoned Nixon .. but it brought a rapid end to the whole Watergate affair and let us get on with our lives.

The snippet that disgusted me was watching President Quagmire paying his respects for the cameras. Being the self-centered lout that he is, he was probably thinking "gee, I hope lots of people turn out when I'm laying here!".

Don't count on it, George. You and Gerald Ford are not cut from the same cloth. Not even.

Monday, January 1

what was that? did you see something?

I doubt that I've ever been one to predict The Spark, but I couldn't help but think about this as I watched reports of the crude cellphone video of the moments leading up to Saddam Hussein's execution.

I suspect the transcript is easier for us non-Arabic speakers to understand, but it was clear that the bulk of Those In The Room during the hanging were Shiites exacting revenge on The Lead Sunni. No doubt. True, the members of the judiciary who were there tried to calm them down, abd it wasn't like they knew they were "performing" for a worldwide TV audience .. but this strikes me as The Spark that could truly ignite a genocide of the minority Sunni-Iraqis at the hands of the Shiite-Iraqis, who were subjugated by Saddam's Baath Party for decades.

I sure hope I'm wrong, but this makes me wonder if we've witnessed the Real Spark to an Iraqi Civil War that could make the genocides in Rwanda, Uganda & Darfur look like strolls in the park?