Movies Movies Movies!

28 04 2008

I have a post about Ubercon brewing, but until that’s ready to come off the burner, lets talk about movies for a few minutes.
I Love ’em.
This will come as a surprise to no one, but still I must go on. While at the MIT Flea market last Sunday, I picked up another bag load of DVD’s from Yet Another movie store closing down. At $3 each, it totally falls under my “never pay more than $10 for a movie” rule.
I updated my listing, sorted them onto the shelves, and added in 2 movies given to me as a gift from blk, and totalled things up. I’m over 315 DVD’s now, and my appetite is not yet sated! More! More! I’m still not satisfied!
What I hadn’t updated in a while was updating my wishlist, so taking some cues from Dumb Distractions (thanks crouchback), I filled out the list of movies I don’t have, but feel should be part of the collection.
I’m sure I’m missing some good ones. Whadya think? Any suggestions?
See the collection and wishlist here.

Okay okay okay.

26 04 2008

Fine. Ya’ll can stop tempting me further.
Rock band is mighty cool.
I’ve been avoiding it. I totally loved DDR, not only for the plain fun of the game, but it gave me a workout! Double bonus.
In the last 24 hours I’ve played about 2 hours of Rock Band, and I gotta admit, drumming is a lot of fun. Not as aerobic as DDR, but certainly not couch potato material.
Course, a full setup would cost a couple hundred bucks I don’t have, so I don’t see picking up in the near future, but, er, if folks are playing, er, lemme know? 🙂

Cons, Gaming, and Machines!

24 04 2008

I’m off to UberCon for the weekend! This’ll be a bit different than the last 9 events (8? I’ve lost count). IMG_4584.JPGThis weekend, Zach is coming with me as a con attendee (and gopher for reg). Barb and her son Justin will be there as well, so Zach will have a friend he knows to hang out with.
I packed up the Mame Cabinet into the van. The new pipe-and-fixture arrangement worked well for quick disassembly, but it’s still a large cabinet. This’ll be the second ‘field test’ for the arrangement. I brought it to the last Ubercon, but it was missing much of the upper half. I’ve also replaced MythTV and MythGame with Kubuntu 8.04 and KXMame, which seem to be working very very well. We’ll see how it all goes.
Might be blogging from the event, otherwise, see ya’ll Sunday!

In lieu of actual content…

21 04 2008


Originally uploaded by eidolon

This past weekend was a whirlwind of seder travelling, gaming nights, MIT flea markets, and geocachings. Coming back to the house Sunday evening, absolutely exhausted and wanting nothing more than to fall into bed, I saw these buds on the trees outside, and a beautiful sunset going on. The camera came out…

Go go gadget Greylisting!

21 04 2008

Our spam levels here at Chez Geek are, shall we say, astronomical. About a year ago, we installed and configured SQLGrey, a tool for Postfix that enables Greylisting on inbound mail. Initially, it had a great impact, but somewhere along the lines, our configuration got modified in a way that stopped the greylist from working.

Last week, the spam levels got to be too much, and I checked into the greylisting configuration on our main server. It wasn’t enabled! Somehow our postfix entries had gotten removed (we’re guessing an overzealous edit with an RCS checkout overwriting things).

Anyway, after restarting, I’ve had a few days to see what impact there is. The spam dropoff has been ridiculously dramatic, as my spam reporter shows:

Breakdown by day: (10172 posts, average of 1453.1 posts per day.)
Apr 20 | Apr 19 | Apr 18 | Apr 17 | Apr 16 | Apr 15 | Apr 14
130  |   143  |   136  |   1393  |   3038  |   2417  |   2915

This is showing only mail that comes into my inbox, and has been tagged as spam by Amavis. This doesn’t show how much mail is being rejected, but it’s pretty obvious since I enabled greylisting (middle of the day on Apr 17th), things have… fallen off to something like 5% of the original level.

Now that’s good stuff.

Alas Windjammer Cruises

19 04 2008

the_cloud_at_coopers_island.jpgBack around, oh, 1996? Something like that, Cat and I took our first trip to the British Virgin Islands to spend a week aboard the Flying Cloud, a 207ft Barque (3 masts, square rigged on the first mast). It was a delightful trip, and our first time in the BVI’s. We were hooked.

We’d end up taking 4 more trips down there, once with her company, then 3 doing our own bareboat chartering (the picture above is from one of those trips, where we caught sight of the Flying Cloud while stopping at Normal Island). Our last trip was in 2002, after which most of our time and money was being sunk into Mosaic, so we haven’t been back since. I miss it!

I’ve been off and on keeping an eye on Windjammer Cruises, thinking it might be nice to take a trip again. We thoroughly enjoyed our first time – it was very laid back and comfortable. They don’t call it ‘Barefoot Cruising’ for nuthin.

Alas, the Windjammer company has basically fallen apart. There are many suggestions as to why this has happened, but it appears it’s mostly due to infighting among the Burkes, the family that owns the business. The fleet is completely laid up, and even though the website is active, they haven’t sailed in over a year. They are essentially closed up permanently.

I hope another comes along to take up the concept. Having a cruise that is part sailing, part exploring, part cruising, without all the stuffiness that tends to come with your standard ‘big ship’ cruising was very nice, and I’d hate to not have that opportunity in the future.

Edit, 11:40am – There is a fantastic, lengthy article on that details the entire history of Windjammer, and how badly they’ve come apart. Highly recommended.

Goings on

15 04 2008

A couple quick What’s Going On updates…

April 20th – MIT Flea Market
As part of the great cleanout, I’ll be hauling a vanload of gear to the MIT Fleamarket on Sunday, along with a couple other cohousing friends. This is not a ‘for profit’ sell-off. I’m getting RID of stuff. A quarter for that 1U dual opteron? Go for it! (okay, not really), but I will have piles of stuff that I just don’t need or want anymore, please take it away?

April 25-27 – Ubercon X
Yep, another Ubercon! Yay! I’ll be down in NJ again working registration. The change this time? Zach will be coming with me (his first gaming con!). Pretty exciting stuff.

Piece by piece, Mame cabinet progress

14 04 2008


Originally uploaded by eidolon

With Ubercon coming up next week, and the successful debut of my cabinet at the last event, I wanted to get some more work done on the assembly before we shipped out. To that end, I had been pondering using industrial pipe assemblies to build a sort of ‘framework’ to hang the monitor on.

With some advice from my brother in law, I ordered up the pieces from MSCDirect (in conjunction with a fortuitous find on ebay), and tonight, with most of the parts in, I set about assembling the stand.

This is the one part of the build I had NOT worked out on paper ahead of time, but working with metal assemblies has the advantage of “Don’t like it? Disassemble it and try it a different way!” They’re just like big tinker toys.

The piping is 1 1/4″ aluminum conduit courtesy of Lowes. It was relatively low cost, convenient, and easily strong enough for what I was doing (in fact, I could probably have done this with 1″ piping – the fittings are sort of overkill for this type of work, but it lends to that industrial look 🙂

The monitor hanger is another ebay find (got 5 of them for about $15), though I needed to modify the mount to fit into the crosspiece (it’s times like this I pine for some shop tools I don’t have, like a drill press. Drilling holes in an clamped aluminum pipe with a handheld drill is NOT fun).

The two assemblies right above the control panel are going to be braces going up to the monitor hangar. Because I’m missing some pieces still, they’re not yet hooked up.

I also took the time to fasten down the control panel properly using angle brackets and some machine bolts I had.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with the result. Next step will be to make sure the software interface and emulators all work properly.

Linux vs Windows XP Bootup Speed

14 04 2008

I got into a conversation on IRC today about relative performance between Linux and Windows XP machines. A true blue dyed in the wool fellow was falling all over himself about how much faster WIndows XP was, and how sluggish Linux was, and he couldn’t see how anyone would use Linux because it was such a performance hog.

I have on my desk two machines that are relatively equal in use configuration. They are both development machines, configured with MySQL, Apache, various editors and other environments, including chat clients and a variety of daemons. In general terms, they’re equivelent.

So I decided to boot each machine from scratch, starting a timer at the end of POST, when the first part of the OS loads. Stop-timer was when CPU usage went down to ‘idle’. Windows XP meant the Task Manager CPU usage indicator was hovering around 6%, and on my Linux box, when my load manager showed the job queue was basically empty.

Machine 1 : yawl (Kubuntu Linux, Pentium 4 2.26gig, 2 gig memory):
Time to startup: 2 minutes, 0 seconds.

Machine 2 : clipper (Windows XP, Dual core 2.16gig, 2 gig memory):
Time to startup: 2 minutes, 53 seconds.

The XP machine was slower, but it shouldn’t have been. It is a dual core machine. While that doesn’t translate immediately to 2x the performance, it should at least show an improvement over the older, slower single core machine. Apparently not.

Lets try some other bits.

yawl: Time to start up eclipse: 22 seconds.

clipper: Time to start up eclipse: 34 seconds.

I don’t know what other benchmarks I can run here. XP is a slower OS than Linux.

I’ll caveat something though. There are tools for XP that are optimized for it. Some GUI apps are far faster under XP than they are under Linux. But to my mind that shows that things can be made to run faster on an XP box. But for folks who make blanket statements about XP being faster / less bloated / whatever than Linux, think a little more about what you’re using as a basis for that statement.

Coconut gets a facelift

14 04 2008

Ever since I first wrote Coconut, the web interface to CONGO, I’ve been using the same stylesheet. It was really my first foray into stylesheet-driven design and layout, and while it was a good first try, it was ugly as sin.
Last night I finally sat down to rewrite the stylesheet into something reasonably attractive. I got rid of the dark background and greytones, and the ‘All Caps’ font styles, and used more pastels.
I’m pretty happy with the result, but for the hundred or so folks who are used to the old look and feel, it’ll be a dramatic change!