Life lessons learned today.

30 11 2004

Today I learned:

1) You -can- get used kids skis for a decent price. Play It Again, Sam, a chain of stores around here, had stacks of used kids skis. I got 120cm shaped skis with bindings, size 2 ski boots, and ski poles for a mere $90. Zach and I are ready for the ski season! It’s going to be interesting seeing how him on skis and me on my snowboard will mix it up. Maybe I’ll go back there and look for a used set of skis. My old 195’s are really too small for me now.

2) 256mb ‘Cruzer’ flash pen drives can in fact survive being run through the washing machine. I emptied my laundry today to find said drive sitting in the bottom of the washing machine. I use my pen drive for backing up my databases, mail files, and other important things, so I was a little concerned. After giving it a few hours to dry out, lo and behold, docked it into my laptop, and :

root@jboat:/mnt# df -k .
Filesystem           1K-blocks      Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda1               250496    160064     90432  64% /mnt


Review: FreeCiv

28 11 2004

There are a few games in the opensource / freeware arena that are really exceptional. Complete, polished, documented, and durnit, fun to play. FreeCiv, available for Linux, Mac, and Windows, is one of them.

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Interview with Bill Goldsmith of

27 11 2004

For years I’ve been going on about the wonderful online music station Radio Paradise. With it’s self-proclaimed “eclectic music” selection, active user community, and high quality feeds, it’s easily one of the best stations on the net.
Bill Goldsmith, the man behind Radio Paradise, happily agreed to an interview…

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Law and Order: SVU – What the heck?!

24 11 2004

So I don’t really watch much network television, but I have to admit I’m a Law and Order junkie. All the spinoffs too. Between various cable channels, it’s a 50/50 chance that at any given hour, there’s a L&O episode on. Nowadays, you can pretty much run from 9pm til midnight just hopping from one show to another.
Last night there was a new L&O: SVU episode on NBC. Rosa and I decided to sit down and watch it – a new episode? Sure, why not! We were feeling pretty low key and it seemed like a nice thing to do.
The episode was quite good, really leaving us guessing right up until the last 5 minutes. No clear bad guy, no deliberate bias, some very interesting interplay in the characters – a good episode.
L&O is somewhat formulaic. At the end of the trial, the verdict is read, and there’s usually some pithy commentary afterwards by the trial lawyers, or something dramatic happens (fellow commits suicide, gets shot in the courthouse by an angry family member, whatever) – there’s about a 3 minute window there.
Last night, NBC -CUT OFF- the end of the show. “We the jury find the defendendent…” and stopped it! They flashed up a message “Do you think the professor is guilty or innocent? Go to to find out!”
We were aghast! It totally destroyed the mood / interest of the show, and we were outraged that a story we were immersed in was now held hostage by a marketing ploy.
There was no completion, no ending to the story, they went on to the next show. Now, leave aside the fact that despite our digerati lifestyle, a huge percentage of the populatioin does NOT have net access, let alone ubiquitous net access. They have to dialup, or turn on their computer, or whatever.
Beyond this, the website was totally swamped and unavailable. I gave up after a few tries, and wandered off grumbling. Today I hit the site, and had to dig a while to even get a REFERENCE to last nights show, and saw only a poll. “Do you think the professor was innocent or guilty?” – “Innocent” “Guilty” “Need more evidence.” – I basically picked one at random, it showed me the current results (most folks appear to think innocent, but who the hell knows), and that’s it. No explanation, no detail one way or the other. End of story.
What the hell is that all about? Is this like schroedingers courtroom? He may be guilty, he may not be, it depends?
How will this possibly play in syndication, which is where the show actually makes its money… will they fill in the missing dialog and show then?
I know that Rosa is planning on writing a letter to NBC about it, she was as incensed as I was.

Planet Geek’s Guide to Modern Movie Attendance.

24 11 2004

I’ve been avoiding going to the movies lately. What used to be an enjoyable experience has continued its slide into blatant commercialism and customer gouging. Skyrocketing ticket prices, indifferent service, and obscene concession prices make consumer action a necessity.
In defense of that age-old institution of the American movie experience, I bring you Planet Geek’s Guide to Modern Movie Attendance.

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Asta la vista, baby… VHS is outtahere.

22 11 2004

According to this article from Reuters, VHS is gettin the boot…
“Accepting the inevitable, Britain’s biggest high street electronics retailer Dixons announced over the weekend that it was taking VHS video players off its shelves for good.”
Good riddance.

Why don’t I use the Livejournal Comments system?

21 11 2004

I have a fairly large readership that uses Livejournal as a news aggregator for reading my blog postings. This posting is for them…
Ya’ll probably notice a tagline in the postings you see that ask not to use the Livejournal comments mechanism to post replies. The reasoning behind this is that I want to keep commentary on the postings in one place – on the blog itself. When you comment on the feed in Livejournal, you’re just commenting on ‘a copy of’ the article, not the article itself.
I do understand that there are elements of the Livejournal comments mechanism that I do not have available in Movable Type (my blogging software), such as threaded comments, etc. I’m working to add that functionality via plugins, but for the time being, I do ask that if you want to comment on my postings, please click through to the original article, and comment there.

Hyper-Geeking and field tests

21 11 2004

Wow, what a day.
Yesterday I buckled down and finally reconfigured the CONGO servers to support the new workstations I’ve been accumulating to replace my iOpeners. It took a couple hours of noodling with LTSP configurations and SSH keys, but in the end I now have a cluster of 4 flatscreen workstations, all booting completely off a central Athlon 2.8gig Shuttle box.
The new workstations are Gateway Profile 1.5 machines. These are all-in-one K6-2/400 workstations with fantastic 1024×768 LCD screens. They are SUCH an improvement over the iOpeners in so many ways, but htey do have one drawback. They’re -heavy-. The iOpeners are maybe 4lbs each, and I can carry 6 of them in one carrying case without too much effort. The Gateways are closer to 13lbs each, and are larger, so they don’t fit into any of the road cases I have. That’s a challenge I’m postponing, but will have to address it at some point.

Part of the motivation for getting this stuff going was Tim’s birthday party last night. I had agreed to bring some machines over to his house so we could have some LAN gaming going on. The Gateways are a lot better than the iOpeners for this sort of thing as well, since they have very good, fast screens. The trick was to get the games installed on the server before I had to pack up the cluster and head out. I got everything running about an hour and a half before I needed to leave, so that didn’t leave much time. We ended up with 4 working Gateway Profile terminals, all booting properly off the network. Yay!
I rummaged through the Linux Gametome to get ideas, as well as asked some friends online about I should install. Of the 15 or so packages I finally ended up putting in place, a couple turned out to be real winners:

  • Tenes Empanadas Graciela is a Risk clone running under GNOME. The turn based system was a little time consuming, but the game looks to be quite good. Need more playing
  • Nethack is always the perennial favorite, even though it really -isn’t- multiplayer, it got some use.
  • By far, the favorite for the evening was Xpilot, which ran beautifully on the workstations. Ben did a great job figuring out the tweaks and fiddles to make the game runnable and we had a grand time chasing each other around.

The machines all behaved very well, and it was a great test of the new terminals. We had 4 running off the new Shuttle server, and everything just plain worked. Yay!

Power tools redux, or “Daves tears stuff up”

19 11 2004

With thanks to Macthud, a jigsaw was found, and [de?]construction continued. Using a couple tricks I learned on various modding boards, I cut a 10″x4″ window in the left side of the casing, and a 3″x3″ window in the right side. This was done using 1/2″ bit in a power drill to cut the pilot holes, and a single-speed jigsaw to cut the lines. I had already marked the lines in pencil, and masked out the rest of the case with duct tape to prevent the sliding jigsaw from damaging the finish.
The panels popped out fine, and I only had one bad moment of the jigsaw jumping around slighly denting the case. Next time I think I’ll use a better jigsaw, but for now, this was fine.
The next step was using 1/4″ clear plastic tubing for the ‘framing’ around the holes. That involved cutting the tube to lengh and slitting it lengthwise with an x-acto knife. I pushed that over the edge of the cut holes, and that gave me an interesting ‘silicon putty’ look around the edges of the windows.
I then cut 2 pieces of lexan to the right size (did you know that when after scoring Lexan with a carpet knife, breaking it sounds _Just_ like a rifle shot? Woke me up.)
A couple pieces of velcro on the inside of the case and the lexan was mounted. Voila! Looks great. Time to reassemble the case!
And there the problems happened. The tolerances inside a Shuttle case are -miniscule-. There’s enough room on the left side of the case for the internal mountings, but the right side with the smaller window… nuh uh. The case is -right- against the bracing hardware and the power supply.
So, the right side window had to come out. I think I’ll do an external mount on it, so it takes up no internal space at all. But for now it’s an open hole. I’m keeping an eye on the heat in the case, just in case airflow has been a problem. I don’t think it’s been affected too much, but it’s definately on the radar.
I really need to get a new camera so I can share the project pictures. Stay tuned for more exciting updates!

Dude, where’s my jigsaw?

18 11 2004

Well, my very first casemod project has come to a screeching halt. I decided to mode the case of one of my Shuttle PC’s to give it a little more glitz and glamor. Since this machines are taken to shows regularly, and tend to be on display, I figure a little more whiz-bang would be good.
For those who don’t know what a casemod is, it’s a way of customizing your PC case using colored lighting, lexan windows, and other doodads to make it look cool. Some examples: a normal pc, and a Shuttle box like mine, but with a blue tinted case.

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