The girl speaks from the back seat:
Is that one of those geek songs? Rock the Taskbar?
The girl speaks from the back seat:
Is that one of those geek songs? Rock the Taskbar?
I’ve been thinking of a netbook for the family room and/or for carrying around (especially on vacations), but I’ve been nervous about a few things, in particular the small screen and small keyboard.
Now I trip over an article on TechCrunch: Three Reasons Why Netbooks Just Aren’t Good Enough and two of the three reasons are the screen size and the keyboard! (The third is that they’re underpowered, especially if you’re stuck with one of the Vista-based ones).
I haven’t actually had a chance to put my fingers on one yet, either. I think I’ll wait a while longer…
I appear to be back online.
I’d like to believe that it is unusual to have so many people working on the same problem and yet not talking to each other, but as I work for a large software company, I’m aware that this is the norm for most large organizations… *sigh.
I am dismayed by the number of these phrases I use…
My son was knocked off his chair by a friend at school today. He ended up rolling under a table; when he tried to stand up, he bounced the back of his head off the underside of the table.
He was still feeling nauseated and dizzy an hour or so later, and had added shaky vision, so we trundled him off to the hospital. The wait was surprisingly short given the snow on the roads today, but still, by the time we saw the doctor he was feeling fine. The doctor ran him through a whole battery of basic neurological tests, and he passed (that’s my boy! :). They let us go with
a warning instructions for head injuries.
He’s supposed to take it easy tomorrow, then try relatively mild exercise on Friday; if he can tolerate that without problems, then he’s allowed to play hockey on Saturday.
By the time we arrived at school to collect his sister, everyone was talking about how my son’s friend had “knocked him out” in class this morning! I love how rumors travel through a population like a school or an office… :-)
My internet connection has been playing yo-yo this week:
The staff at the call center are all very apologetic, but they can’t tell me what is wrong; why the connection keeps going down for hours. I’m afraid that what is happening is that every time it goes down, a different technician pushes the reset button, but nobody is correlating the multiple outages. On the other hand, they say that it’s always a neighborhood wide digital outage (which would include Rogers Home Phone and Rogers Digital TV), so I hope someone is paying attention…
They gave me a $10 credit. My employer pays for my internet, but at least Rogers is getting a little less money this month :-).
I carry insurance on my vehicles because of liability issues, because I want protection from catastrophic damage, and because I’m legally required to (in that order :-).
Two weeks ago my truck was hit from behind by a taxi while I was stopped at a pedestrian crossing. The guy hit me at an angle, so the right front corner of his car hit the left-center of the rear bumper. My truck doesn’t have any wishy-washy fiberglass or Styrofoam; it has a steel bumper, welded to the frame, with a plastic wrap-around cover.
His damage was a badly mangled right front bumper; he probably also cracked his headlight cover. My damage was a couple of new scuff-marks and a small, cosmetic fold in the plastic. I won that argument :).
Unfortunately, the taxi driver took off before giving me his drivers license and before taking any of my info. We had his insurance information, but that’s for the owner of the taxi, not the driver. And the insurance binder he showed us was expired. There was enough suspect about the whole incident that I decided to report the issue to my insurance company and the police, just to cover my butt (see “liability” above).
I took the truck to both the insurance company’s repair shop and my dealership, because I wanted to make sure there was no structural damage; it’s always possible that he cracked a weld on the bumper, for example. Both reported that there is no damage to the car, other than the plastic bumper cover and a $23 reflector. The cover cannot be repaired; it must be replaced, which they estimate at $932. I tow a trailer during the summer; once or twice a year I back into the trailer hitch, adding to the dings and scuffs in this plastic cover, so as far as I’m concerned, there’s absolutely no point in wasting everyone’s time (and money!) replacing the cover. It’s cosmetic damage, and even counts as “normal wear and tear” under my lease (I asked).
One reason I pay a god-awful amount of money for insurance is that car repairs are so expensive these days. Gone are the days of buffing out dings and dents in steel panels; now it’s all plastic composites, fibreglass, and large, wrap-around panels. So, thinks I, why contribute to this sad state of affairs by performing a useless $900 repair?
My insurance company has just informed me that if I don’t do the repair, they’ll drop my coverage. They say that if I have another accident, they can’t distinguish new and pre-existing damage. This despite the number of photographs taken by at least five different people in the process, and the damage report and estimate from the cops and from the repair shop.
All this for an accident I normally wouldn’t have bothered reporting… *sigh.
I just called Best Buy and canceled my “Reward Zone” membership. I understand the deal; I sell them my personal information and shopping habits. But they screwed up.
The program is set up so that earned points become gift certificates at certain thresholds. The certificates are only redeemable in store, of course (best buy’s website sucks grade-A rotten eggs, but that’s another rant :-). The problem for me is that they automatically issue gift certificates as soon as you have accumulated enough points, and the certificates expire. Worse, the certificate expires before the points would have!
So basically, they gave me a bunch of points, and then stole them away. Best Buy agreed to purchase my privacy, and then used fine print and idiotic terms to renege on the deal. Customer service was no help, of course. So, good-bye account! It’s not like it matters anyway; I would have to spend $400/yr at best buy to get a $5 reward (that’s 1.25%), and I certainly don’t intend to spend that kind of money on consumer electronics anytime soon!
(The guys at Chapters/Indigo keep sending me useless “store-only” certificates too, but unlike Best Buy, the iRewards card also gives me a 5% discount on all of my purchases, including sale items!)
Apparently I never posted about the latest changes. Most of this was back in September before fall TV started up…
My Knoppmyth installation was getting a little old and decrepit, even after the update for Schedules Direct. These days I use Ubuntu on all of the servers, so with the second release of Mythbuntu available I decided it was time to switch the PVR.
The first upgrade was relatively painless. I started with Mythbuntu 7.10, because it used the same MythTV version as my Knoppmyth install. First I installed onto my spare 160Gb drive; I have two, because I was originally planning to use RAID-1 on the PVR. Alas, the extra CPU and I/O required was too much for my wimpy PIII-933, so now I have a spare.
I was able to copy and/or merge most configuration files from the old setup to the new, since they were based on similar Debian releases. There were a couple of problems with TV-out on my ancient Matrox G400 card; once again vesafb was loading and blocking the Matrox drivers. At least this time they were both already modules, so I did not have to recompile the whole kernel! Then I restored the MySQL databases from backup and copied the video files over (that took a few hours). I tested the machine for about a week, and it was working fine.
Unfortunately, the upgrade to Mythbuntu 8.04 did not go as well. For some reason, the latest kernels would not boot on my old Compaq Deskpro! I never did figure out why. Since the cooling fans in that machine were dying anyway, I decided to swap in the old Baltimore Dell workstation that Andrzej gave me last year. I happened to have a spare CPU in the parts box, so I now have a PVR with two PIII-933 CPUs, making the box a little snappier when watching TV while recording.
Of course, about a week later, the Dell fan started chirping (as I posted about previously). Then my cheapo UPS died, and the Dell kept shutting itself down until I plugged it directly into the wall. Now everything is stable (and cool) again, and I’m quite happy to be running the same linux version on all six servers! (I don’t have that many computers at home; four of those “servers” are virtual machines, two of them at hosting facilities in Atlanta GA…).
So, that’s it until next spring, after May sweeps, by which time Mythbuntu 9.04 will be out :-).
Update 2009/05/28: 1) the upgrade to 9.04 was uneventful. 2) My old server died, so I had to buy a new (old) computer. In the process of swapping hardware around, I had the “would not boot” problem again. I eventually discovered that my earlier problems with kernels not booting was not caused by the motherboard, but by the particular Matrox G400 that was in the old Compaq Deskpro. That was a day wasted, trying to get the right combination of hardware into one machine :-).
I had two computers on my L-shaped desk: my desktop and my work laptop (connected to a real display and keyboard, of course!). Switching back and forth between the two was getting annoying, until I read about a package called Synergy, that allows sharing one keyboard and mouse over the network among multiple computers.
I now have two displays side-by-side on my desk! Synergy works very well; the desktop switching is seamless, and all keyboard events (including the Windows key) get sent to the correct computer. Even the clipboards are synchronized; I can cut and paste between the two computers! Synergy can be configured to start at boot time, so even after a reboot (common on the work laptop), I still only need the one keyboard.
I’ve had two minor problems. The first was that I initially started with the server on the laptop and the client on the desktop. HP “upgraded” my firewall, and the new firewall blocked the Synergy server, so I had to swap their roles. The second is that when the Windows Explorer process gets busy with network delays or timeouts, switching between the two computers no longer works; it appears that the required events aren’t being sent to the Synergy software, or something else is blocking Synergy from switching displays. Fortunately this doesn’t happen too often.
Overall I’m quite happy; I have better separation between work stuff and personal stuff, but without the annoyance of separate keyboards and mice. I recommend this software.
I’ve just discovered an annoying ‘feature’; in fact, one that many/most other feed readers had some version of, and the reason I stuck with Sharpreader for so long…
Google Reader automatically marks as ‘read’ any entries more than a month old.
Sometimes there are articles I want to be able to find again; because I want to read them with more attention, because I need more time to act on them, because I want to blog them, etc. etc.. I’ve been leaving them as “unread”, but I guess I’ll have to develop a different habit instead. “Starred items” is already overloaded. In some other feed readers I could add a “TODO” or “important” tag to the entry, but that doesn’t seem to be possible in Google. I see that I can email them to myself, although I’d rather not have to use two applications for this…
OTOH, I suppose if I haven’t gotten a round tuit after a month, it wasn’t really that important :-)
The Dell Precision Workstation has a chassis fan right next to the CPU. They have this annoying habit of chirping like a cricket as they get old and worn out. One of the fans in my PVR was squeaking so loudly today that it was annoying me in the office, 15’ and two doors away. I unplugged the fan at around 2PM today. I guess it’s kinda important… :-)
(Yes, those temperatures are Centigrade. It’s not that cold in my family room!)
I think I have one more spare in the parts bin. If not, I probably won’t be able to get out to Tiger Direct until Saturday :-(
Update: I had three spare fans, all of them noisy! Ah, the joys of old hardware. Anyway, for now I’ve removed the cover, and the temperature has improved:
Update 2008-10-25: Finally found a store that stocks 90mm fans today, and put it into the PVR around 10PM. This graph is with the cover on:
And now I have a nifty blue glow coming from the entertainment corner! :-)
I’m surprised this announcement took so long:
IBM to Bail Out HP Security Software Customers
OK, I exaggerate. Linux as a server is an awesome tool. Linux on the desktop sucks like a Hoover.
I decided to try Ubuntu 8.04 on a desktop machine. My primary goal was to have a MythTV client, so I could watch recorded TV when the kids had taken over the main television (for the Wii, of course! :). I’ve been a casual Linux user since kernel version 0.91, and a regular user since RedHat 5.0 shipped. I used Sun and SGI desktops, NCD X-Terminals, and even early Desktop Linux for 10 years before I started using Windows. Desktop Linux has come a long way since then, so I figured it was worth a try; I was experienced enough to work around any problems that came up.
Browsing and email are OK, because Firefox and Thunderbird are available. The official mailer, Evolution, is utter dreck, of course, and everything suffers the standard open-source problem; crappy UI, and feature-incomplete. It seems that when a developer encounters a program that doesn’t work in their ideal way, the reaction is not to improve the program, as open-source supporters would have you believe. Instead, the reaction is to think “Wow, that sucks! I can do better from scratch!”. And so we have, for example, well over a dozen MP3 players that all suck in different ways! (Although, thanks to the underlying crappy audio support, they all suffer the problem that changing the volume lags by 2-3 seconds… *sigh).
I tried a compromise position for a while; I installed VirtualBox, a “free” VM solution from Sun Microsystems that allows one to integrate the host and guest desktops almost seamlessly, so that I could run my favourite Windows apps alongside the Linux stuff. But even that doesn’t work as well, and so I think I’m going to surrender and go back to Windows on the desktop.
I could go on, but instead I’ll link to a couple of sites and essays that cemented it all for me. There are many themes, but most boil down to the same problem: Linux developers act like they’re smarter than Linux users. If there’s one thing that 13 years of commercial software development has taught me, it’s that you ignore your customers/users at your own peril. I don’t think the open-source community is ever going to learn that lesson.
San Jose, Calif.-based McAfee Inc. said Monday it agreed to buy Secure Computing Corp. for $5.75 per share in cash, or about $413-million. Secure’s preferred stocks will also be redeemed for cash, adding another $84 million to the value of the deal.
That price appears to be a 25% premium on yesterday’s close; not too shabby. I should have held my 16 shares a few months longer :-).
When Secure Computing purchased Border Network Technologies in 1996, the stock was on it’s way down from almost $60, but still worth about 5 times this current sale price. After Secure closed the Toronto office in 1998 (and we formed the company that I still technically work for :-), the stock poked above $20 a couple of times before starting a long, slow slide into oblivion.
I can’t say I’m terribly sad to see them go; frankly, I’m surprised the company has lasted as long as it has. They always seemed more focused on the technology, and one thing that working at HP has taught me is that the technology is the easiest part of the job!
On the other hand, I wish all of the people there I still know continued success over at McAfee…
Sometime during the night, someone sneaked into our campsite and stole all of our firewood. The joke was on them; they got the crap that wouldn’t light! Apparently they also hit our neighbours and stole their folding chairs, and a few other things. I had stowed our chairs under the trailer so they would stay dry in the morning dew, and I guess they didn’t see them.
During the day on Saturday, two kids walked into the middle of the roped-off “kite fliers only” area, picked up two of our kites, and were heading off the field with them. The kites were the dollar-store variety that were part of the kite decorating workshop at the festival, and I don’t really care about losing them. However, they were attached to two of my halos of real kite line, since we don’t allow mono-filament near the big kites. The worst part was that their mother was watching them STEAL OUR KITES without saying a word, until I challenged the kids. At that point, the kids put the kites back down on the ground and the three of them left, with mom scowling and harrumphing at me the whole way.
There are many individuals that I adore, but some days I hate people…
Toronto has a problem with the Asian Longhorned Beetle and so the transport of wood, and in particular firewood, is restricted. Some areas of Toronto, including the protected conservation areas, are quarantine zones.
Because the Rouge Valley is protected, the Glen Rouge Campground, owned and operated by the City of Toronto, has a rule that firewood must be purchased from the park; you are not allowed to bring your own.
Unfortunately, the wood the sell is disgusting. We bought the best bag we could find in their woodlot, and it was still so wet that my axe and knife were both covered in water droplets (the knife after I tried shaving a couple of pieces to see if that would start a fire). After several attempts, including resorting to lighter fluid (something I’ve never had to do in 32 years of lighting fires!), we gave up. The only thing we could get to burn was the dry kindling we borrowed.
We borrowed the lighter fluid from our neighbours, who said that they’ve been coming to the campground all summer, and the wood is so bad that they now simply smuggle their own into the park. In other words, by selling crappy wood, the park is actually encouraging people to break the quarantine!
Fortunately I had taken our spare laptop to the party, and the girls accepted the fact that the fire wasn’t going to happen because they could watch DVDs instead. They weren’t entirely happy, mind you…
I’m going to go back tomorrow and demand a refund from the park. It’s only eight bucks, but it’s the principle…
Wow, September is always busy! The kids are back at school, which drags in morning practice and afternoon games, as well as curriculum presentations from the school, play dates, et cetera :).Between the Terry Fox run and helping a friend carry stuff to an art show, last weekend was volunteer weekend. At least we stayed dry; Ike showed up on Sunday night just as we were carting jewelry and display cases to the car.
This weekend is Charlotte’s birthday party and The Taste of Ajax, where the Toronto Kite Fliers are performing, so I’m off to help with both of those. The next weekend is Fall Fest at Bayview Glen, at which we are running a kite making workshop, and the weekend after that is the Toronto (international) Kite Festival, which this year is not international, and is actually part of Fall Fest at Downsview. But we’re still running a kite workshop. Hopefully some of the volunteers from BVG will come out to Downsview to work some of their mandatory community service hours…
Next weekend is also my dad’s retirement party, which fortunately is going to be a small affair. And then there’s all of the tasks that need to be done before the cold arrives, both inside and out.
At least in the old days, once harvest was finished, and winter prep was done, you could sit around and relax for a couple of months until spring. But October has Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en costumes; November has many birthdays (including mine :), not to mention Christmas shopping…
I’m not complaining, of course. All of this stuff adds up to a good busy, after all!
Where’d August go?
First we were on vacation, from August 8th to 24th. When we returned, there was the inevitable work; clean and air out the trailer, wash laundry, put away the camping gear, and so on. There was a little bit of back-to-school shopping, and of course groceries. There was catching up at work (although it’s the summer doldrums, so things were relatively quiet, fortunately!)
Suddenly, it was the weekend! Grandma bought a Wii, so we went to visit on Saturday to hook it up and play games. I don’t think I’ve seen her smile that much in years :). She only played a couple of games, but she loved watching the kids. It’s impossible to get out of granny’s house early, so that was Saturday.
It rained on Thursday while the trailer was still up, and I didn’t have enough anti-freeze, so Sunday became “finish the trailer” day. I combined errands and also went to Tiger Direct to buy USB sticks for the boy for school, and two new harddrives for the main server (all those photos have filled up the old disks). Then the trailer; I winterized the plumbing and did the last bit of cleaning. Of course, I next had to re-organize the garage for winter before putting the trailer in; doing it all now means I don’t have to pull the trailer out in November to get the shovels and toboggans out :). We finished about 6pm, after which it took me a couple of hours to rehydrate; it was a hot day!
Today has been more laundry, and sorting out school uniforms, and generally preparing for the first day of school tomorrow. And I think there may be plans with CFRQ later.
I’m not sure whether I’m too busy to blog, or just tired of it, or whether I simply think nothing interesting has happened recently. I guess we’ll see in September!
The forecast on Monday was for rain today.
The forecast on Tuesday and Wednesday was for rain on Friday. So I left the trailer up so that I could winterize the plumbing.
Today, as I’m driving to the store to get the anti-freeze, the rain begins…
(Now I have to leave the trailer up until it dries out again. At least it is supposed to be sunny and warm all long-weekend…)