Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Music Man

Oh, I suppose here's another option for doing music in my car: Ogg Vorbis support for the Neuros Audio boxes has just gone Beta

Posted by mike at 07:58 AM | Car , Hardware , Music | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Well, I started moving more toward doing actual work today. I finished off copying various installation CDs (for the various operating systems we work with, along with some other utilities) this morning. After that, I was shown how the SCSI bus analyzer works. It's kind of interesting, though probably not quite as neat as I would have liked..

Then, I was tasked with updating a Mac from OS X version 10.1.5 to 10.2 (Jaguar). Unfortunately, the OS didn't want to upgrade—it hung at an early screen while “Reading Packages...” Anyway, I Googled on the problem and discovered that you need 128 MB of RAM for 10.2, and the machine I was on only had 64.

The funny thing was that the screen after where the machine hung included the requirements.. Of course, I think it would have been best if the installer detected that only a small amount of memory was available, and warned the user.. Maybe I just wasn't paying attention.

Anyway, a lot of this Mac stuff is related to work we might do
because of changes in 10.3 (Panther).

I spent a little time thumbing through some Mac OS books they had, just to get myself up to speed on some of that stuff.

Well, anyway, I'd better get to Rainbow so I can get some food. I need something to eat in the morning ;-)

Posted by mike at 07:13 PM | Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Look Out!

Argh. I am now 3vi1—I need to use Outlook at work. Forcing me to reply above quoted messages. AAAAHHHH!!

Microsoft is a plague, on both your houses!

Okay, that doesn't make any sense.

Back to testing.

Posted by mike at 01:16 PM | Work | Comments (1) | TrackBack


I guess I could say that I did actual work today. Whether or not the stuff I'm doing will be useful is anyone's guess.

I'm getting interested in playing around with ACPI on Linux in. Dunno if I'll actually end up doing anything or not. A lot of the stuff I'm doing at work involves making systems go to sleep, and then praying that they'll wake back up again (okay, I haven't really had any problems yet, aside from when one system crashed after sleep-cycling about 90 times).

Anyway, most people who use Linux have to use APM, which is an old way of doing power management. Unfortunately, APM doesn't let you deal with fun things like hot-plugging of devices, and it looks like my system will never hibernate when using APM (support just doesn't exist in the BIOS).

Of course, ACPI has all sorts of other tricks you have to deal with, so I guess I might end up breaking something, which would be no fun.

Other than that, I have to figure out if I can get paid in this pay cycle or not. I'm not even sure who to report my times to, and with the holiday weekend, I don't know if anyone cares. Also, the team supervisor was already gone today.

My money might get a little bit tighter than I was expecting while this gets worked out (well, I still have money, but it's just at the point where I'd have to move some from somewhere else).

Posted by mike at 09:30 PM | Laptop , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, July 3, 2003


Still debating whether I should go home today/tomorrow or not. I'm not sure who's here in the Cities, so I have to prepare for a boring weekend. My apartment is a bit messy, so I'd like to get it cleaned up if I can, and I don't think I'll have enough time to do that if I go home.

Oops.. Time to leave is quickly approaching. Gotta go.

Posted by mike at 08:01 AM | Abode | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I'd Scan My Butt, But....

Spent about half the day trying to find a SCSI scanner that worked with Mac OS X, but didn't have much luck. Went through a pile of different scanners without any success. Finally, I plugged in an Agfa StudioScan IIsi, which sort of worked. The operating system and software recognized the scanner, but when I went to preview a scan, the scanner twiddled a bit, but never really did anything. When the software said it was 320% done, I figured it wasn't exactly working..

Hmm. SANE looks like it might do what I need. I don't think I've ever used that app, since I've never had a scanner connected to a Linux box before, but I've heard of it a lot.

I guess my vast knowledge of useless software is going to come in handy at this new job. Now I'll just have to figure out how to install that stuff. I think the box I've been working on didn't come with a compiler...

Posted by mike at 08:00 PM | Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Don't Mind the Glow

Think your roommate has been building a nuclear reactor in the garage? Now you can find out.

Posted by mike at 09:50 PM | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, July 4, 2003

90% != 100%

Best Buy's website seems messed up. My desktop can view the site, but the drop-down menus at the top of the screen don't work. When I click on stuff, nothing happens. This makes navigation pretty much impossible. Usually, web sites that have broken menus at least allow me to click on the top-level category titles, but even that doesn't work.

On my laptop, it seems that the site never loads. I've only been able to get a page saying that the site is too busy (or something to that effect).

I imagine both of these problems are just because I'm using a browser that they don't expect. I was going to send an e-mail, but there doesn't appear to be any “Contact Us” link anywhere. Grr...

There are these things called “standards”—it'd be nice if people used them (though I suppose my site is probably just as broken as anything else)...

Posted by mike at 11:20 AM | Internet | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bored Surfing

Two sites:

Iraq Body Count —when you feel the need to get pissed off about something.

Government Information Awareness —when you want to find someone to blame it on.

Posted by mike at 03:34 PM | Internet | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saturday, July 5, 2003


I think I'm going to look at DVD burners today. Looks like pretty much any drive should work with Linux, but the support for DVD burning in general appears to be a bit weak. I think my CD-RW drive was going on the fritz, and I pulled out my SCSI card a few weeks ago, so it hasn't been connected to anything.

I guess I haven't been using this Zip drive at all, so I can plug the new drive in that spot..

Oh, I suppose since I actually saw some people last night that I should comment. Went over to Erin's to BBBQ (I did not BYOBB, or even drink the BB—just stole some pop). I can call it &ldquoErin's” since Dan and Josh were gone.

Anyway, I guess most of the people there were upstairs people or friends of them, so I didn't really know what the hell was going on, but that's okay. Spike was there most of the time, and Kari and Becky showed up for a little while.

Though, I must say, it was nice to be surrounded by girls for once ;-)

I can't say the burger was the best I'd ever had, but the roasted veggies and other stuff they had were muy bien.

Some people had been trying to leave to go see fireworks for about half an hour, but others didn't want to go. Anyway, I headed back toward my place when we started hearing big booms, and finished watching fireworks over in the park across the street from my apartment. Seemed to be a reasonably good show, though I seem to recall being extremely impressed with Rochester's show a year or two ago.

I'm pretty happy with the location of my apartment, seems to be just about the right distance from everything ;-)

Posted by mike at 10:08 AM | Erin , Hardware , Kari , Software , Spike | Comments (0) | TrackBack


I did get a DVD burner, the Sony DRU-510A, which can read and write everything except DVD-RAM (since that comes in a cartridge, or at least old versions of the format did). There were some cheaper drives there, but they didn't go as fast. The burn speed for CDs is up to 24x, not the fastest out there (dedicated CD-ROM/CD-RW drives can go faster), but not bad—it's much nicer waiting just a little over 4 minutes for a disc to burn than to sit around for 20 minutes like with my old burner.

I wasn't quite sure what “up to 24x” meant until I burned a CD. A CD in your normal audio player will rotate at a variable speed—this is so the bits on the disc will come off at a constant rate. However, when CD-ROM drives get up into the higher speeds, they switch over to a constant angular velocity and read the bits off at a variable rate. At the inner edge of a CD-R, my drive goes around 16x, but gradually gets faster until it reaches the outer edge, where speeds are 24x (or maybe a tiny bit faster).

Now I have to find out if any software for Linux will work with DVD stuff.. I want to send home some discs with episodes of Monk for my brother and parents to watch, since it looks like ABC won't be running it this year.. I need to find something that will do MPEG4 to MPEG2 video transcoding, though.

Oh, before I forget, I had a really nice girl do checkout for me today. Actually, she did checkout twice for me today, since I forgot that I needed some CD-Rs, so I went back. I almost considered asking for her number or something, but I also got a copy of a Prodigy CD. When she saw that, she asked me if I'd ever seen the video for “Smack My Bitch Up,” so I figured it would be in bad taste to ask right then...

Posted by mike at 03:51 PM | Family , Hardware , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, July 6, 2003


Hmm.. I didn't know until I upgraded my mail program that most of the unreadable junk mail I've been getting was in a Cyrillic character set. The previous version just attempted to convert the stuff to ASCII, so I figured it was some oriental character set...

I actually updated a lot of software. Most of it seems to be slower now... Bah. On the upside, I now have a nifty mouse cursor with a drop-shadow ;-)

Posted by mike at 04:18 PM | Internet , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, July 7, 2003

The Apples That Look Good When Grey

Work was work. I had to figure out some of the idiosyncracies of the Macintosh today. Actually, I suppose I was just re-learning some things.. Just before I left work on Thursday, I was playing around with display settings, and managed to put the display in an unusable state (it was a Dell/Sony Trinitron, not an Apple display). Who knew that 1280x960 at 60Hz could get messed up? Maybe it's something funky with the video drivers...

Anyway, I spent the first hour of my day tracking down how to fix that. You'd think that this would be a well-documented problem, but it took me a long time to find any information of value on the problem. I thought zapping the PRAM would help, but it didn't.. I found instructions on deleting some files by going through the single-user Unix command line, and they seemed to get me farther—but the display still went black about the time I'd expect a login window or the user desktop to pop up.

Finally, the problem was solved by doing a “safe boot” by holding down the Shift key. Bah. So simple! (In my recollection, the Mac was the first operating system to use the shift key for this, then it was copied in Windows and DOS). Well, I still had to change stuff in the display properties, and I think I had to either logout and log in to get things to save properly, or I had to shut down the machine. At any rate, it finally did get fixed.

After that, my day was filled with cursing at software incompatibilities, discovering that an ancient Apple scanner is not even worth trying to connect to a modern machine, seeing an OnStream ADR tape getting sucked out of my hand into the drive (quite cool), finding that tape drives don't show up in /dev like they do on other Unix operating systems, and downloading the Apple Developer's Toolkit in preparation for building some previously mentioned software..

My life isn't boring, it just revolves entirely around computers at the moment...

Posted by mike at 06:58 PM | Hardware , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Improving Your Image

Hey hey hey! Finally got a scanner going at work today. A Jade2 made by Linotype-Hell (yes, that was a real company—though it was probably bought out by Umax at some point). So, I was really happy, until I connected the scanner to another computer. The thing just refused to work with the software I had. Bah.

Well, that other computer has different stuff on it, and lots of things are proving to be incompatible. Then again, at least one thing is working on that machine that isn't working on the other one (hey, they fixed a bug.. woo!)

I'm considering getting a DV camera, though I suppose I probably won't. I hardly ever take still pictures, and find very little need to do movies, but it would be fun to play with video editing. Well, I suppose if I come across a cheap one...

Heh, of course, it would be really fun to get one of those HDTV cameras, though they only cost $3000 or so ;-)

Hmm.. I notice that there is a big mix of 24fps versus 30/60fps cameras out there for HDTV. Obviously, the 24fps cameras are for people who want to do film without film, and the other cameras are for everyone else. I just wonder if some people are going to feel pissed off if they get the type they didn't expect..

Hmm.. That train of thought doesn't make much sense. I guess it's getting late for me...

Posted by mike at 10:05 PM | Hardware , Movies , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

They Must Have Attended Screw U

Attempted to go see Pirates of the Caribbean, but the folks at Block E don't want to sell tickets after the showing starts.. That annoyed me greatly—I think I will tend to go to other theaters if I can. The actual seating is nice, but the service there tends to suck, and who thought out that stupid bathroom positioning anyway? Oh well, I was not sure about how I felt about being near a certain couple for an extended period of time..

So, I ended up wasting time at Borders, and then went to Target with Spike and Erin. Picked up Weird Al's new CD, and was informed that he'll be at the State Fair. I may have to go to that..

Moved onto some different test platforms today at work. One involves the same model of laptop that my brother has, which is kind of neat. However, I ran into a problem as soon as I started. In theory, the thing is supposed to work, but I was greeted with the Mac's equivalent of a Blue Screen of Death. Of course, Apple decided that the crash message should be multi-lingual, which I don't quite get..

Anyway, I want to bring in my laptop, just to see if Linux behaves the same way as MacOS. Just curious.

I accidentally trashed the database containing my preferences and desired shows for MythTV. Oops. I guess I shouldn't give myself root access after about 11 PM.

Ugh. Hewlett-Packard has some really annoying Shockwave Flash banner ads on Yahoo now that use a ton of CPU power. Whenever I open a few pages from Yahoo news, my browser slows down to a snail's pace. Bastards..

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Das Boot

Spent most of the day engaged in battle with a beige Mac G3 computer (it's non-translucent, what's up with that? ;-) That's a somewhat weird machine for a Mac—it has an IDE hard drive, but a SCSI CD-ROM and Zip drive (well, that's what the machine I was working on had). Unfortunately, that machine won't boot off of a SCSI CD drive, so I had to swap it with an IDE one.. And, of course, it's slow, so installing operating systems only takes a day and a half..

I hear that these boxes aren't going to be supported by upcoming versions of Mac OS X. If that's true, I guess Steve Jobs must just be trying to make everyone forget the period of time between when he left and when he came back and brought out the iMac...

I hit an actual traffic jam today coming back from work. Actually, I suppose I hit two of them. Don't really know why—the first one must have been due to a crash on U.S. 52 in or near St. Paul, since that off-ramp was backed up. I hit more traffic as I got close to the Huron exit in Minneapolis. I've had to slow down there before, but this was much worse than normal. Can I blame the Shriners?

Everybody at work was tired today. Maybe it's because of the weather. I was shocked that it was (momentarily) sunny when I left to go home.

Posted by mike at 07:30 PM | Car , Hardware , Software , Weather , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, July 11, 2003

Mind Your Pedals

There was a really nasty accident this morning at the end of the off-ramp from I-94 to University Ave. The cops had it fairly cordoned off. A totally ripped up car ended up on its side just before the intersection, and there were a few other banged up vehicles behind it. I wonder how the cars ended up in that layout, as the accident seemed to happen before the intersection..

Listened to 89.3 FM the whole way in this morning, and they played some pretty good local-ish music. And I was reminded that they don't have to censor stuff on public radio ;-)

I've mostly been listening to 89.3 and 99.5 on my way to and from work, since they actually play music rather than having talking heads the whole time.. I really dislike the normal morning shows..

Posted by mike at 09:03 AM | Car , Music , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Not the Sharpest Cheese

Did I mention that I get free pop at work? I try to avoid drinking too much, just one or two cans a day. I do take the opportunity to avoid buying a drink with my lunch (just get a water instead), so I save a little bit when I go out to eat.. Of course, it'd be better if I made my own lunch and brought it in, but I've never liked cold lunches..

There is an amazing variety of stuff to eat in Hudson. Well, okay, the area I usually go is just packed with the big name chain restaurants. I feel bad eating fast food sometimes, but I generally actually need to eat fast...

Posted by mike at 09:31 PM | Food , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saturday, July 12, 2003


The Linux users mailing list I usually post to seems to be rejecting my mail now. Not sure why that is. I think the University may have stopped allowing a certain form of authentication that the LUG mailing list was using to verify that my e-mail address was valid..

I bought High Fidelity at Best Buy today, 'cuz it was $10. There aren't any paper “liner notes” (or whatever you call it for a DVD), but there's a lot of extra stuff on the disc. About nine deleted scenes (which I looked at) and interviews with the cast and so forth (which I didn't). There are a few trailers for other lame movies, too.. Not the best film to DVD conversion I've ever seen (they shrunk the image slightly and put a black box around the whole thing), but hey it was cheap.

I'm really wanting to write a nice music program for Linux. Something that will do everything automagically (though I guess those various artists discs are always a trick..)

Most Linux software for music cataloguing and playing is either web-based or requires you to be running a database server on your system. Like I want to do that. That takes effort, dammit. I want something that requires no effort.

Reminds me of a comment a Math professor once made. Something along the lines of, “It's amazing how much effort a Math person will put into something to avoid doing actual work.” That applies to programmers as well...

Well, someone probably made the program I wanted. There was something called “xTunes” (referring to the X Window System that most people use on Linux), but I guess Apple sued or something since the name was too similar to “iTunes.”

Posted by mike at 08:21 PM | Movies , Music , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack

To the eXtreme!

I suppose I should mention that I saw The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen last night. It was something to do and ended up being about what I expected. I guess I couldn't get over the whole crazy-Pakistani-looking Captain Nemo, though..

Previews were only 15 minutes. Maybe Block E did me a service the other day by not selling me a ticket—the movie may have actually been playing by the time we got there..

Posted by mike at 08:38 PM | Movies | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Suck It

Has anyone else noticed that Coldplay's song “Clocks” is being used everywhere that people let you test speakers? Well, maybe not everywhere, but I heard it yesterday and today at Best Buy and CompUSA... It's a good song, but why is it everywhere?

Still wanna make an nice music program. I think I'll have to attack it bit by bit. Maybe I can use a relatively normal development model to do it. I'm trying to spec things out now, and slowly write a little code here and there just to get my brain figuring out how the little parts go together. It doesn't do anything yet, and I'll probably never get past this stage, but it's neat to think about.

The theory of the program will be much like that of Mutt: All Linux music players suck, this one just sucks less.

Posted by mike at 06:26 PM | Music , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, July 14, 2003

My Name Is Mike...

'Cuz I lack decent cooking skills, I tried out a Tyson stir-fry meal-in-a-bag thing today. Seemed to come out alright, but the instructions said to have the veggies in the skillet for 6 minutes—blech. I don't like wimpy veggies..

Of course, I was a bit surprised when I got a whiff of the sauce as I was pouring it in. Definitely smelled alcohol. The culprit, as listed on the bag, was sake ;-)

So, you can tell people I've had sake now.

Sort of.

Posted by mike at 06:29 PM | Food | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Here Comes the Sun (doo do doo doo)

Looks like the U of M solar car got through the first stage of the American Solar Challenge in second place, only 14 seconds slower than the lead car.

Posted by mike at 11:25 PM | School | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

I'll Never Forget You

Boy, the 2.6.0-test1 kernel for Linux has lots of options. I've been sifting through them for an hour or so now.. In the good ol' days, it would only take me a few minutes to configure a kernel. Of course, back then, it was even possible to download a kernel over a phone line without wanting to hurt yourself. The source code must be more than ten times the size it was when I first started playing with it (wow, that's like 6 years ago now).

Anyway, lots of weird features. Have an old PC-XT keyboard that you just can't let go of? Whip up a parallel port adapter, and you can use it in Linux! Sheesh.

The weird thing is, I've been fighting with Apple machines lately where support for older hardware seems to be dropping like mad. In the Linux world, it's almost the opposite.

I went and read through “The Wonderful World of Linux 2.6” and it's amazing what sort of stuff has been added. Support for some stuff has been dropped, but it's an amazingly short list...

Linux probably works with more hardware than any other operating system out there. It doesn't necessarily work well with newer hardware, but stuff that's been around a while will probably work..

Posted by mike at 11:20 PM | Hardware , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

You Have Taken the Lead

Looks like the U of MN managed to take the lead in that solar car race. Still a long way to go, though..

There's an intern here where I work who started a month or so ago (he's just here for the summer). I saw him pass me on the way in to work this morning. And, well, when you're driving an Acura NSX, you shouldn't be going slower than me in my Cavalier ;-)

Posted by mike at 11:12 AM | Car | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Not Your Father's Reality Show

Posted by mike at 09:50 PM | Comedy | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Mr. Longcut

The thing that sucks about having my commute be a straight line along I-94 is that there are no shortcuts. If traffic is snarled, I don't have many options. I've tried getting off at Snelling and taking Energy Park Drive about 3 times, but that often makes me run into people going to the St. Paul Saints games..

Maybe if I can get to Como...

Oh well. Traffic usually isn't too bad in the evening, but it's defiritely worse than what I experience in the morning.

Posted by mike at 06:04 PM | Car | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lucid Visions

Had a strange feeling pass over me about 15 minutes ago. Something seems amiss, but I can't place it. Oh well, maybe I haven't been getting enough sleep.. I suppose I could stand a nap.

Posted by mike at 08:29 PM | Self | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, July 18, 2003


Hmm. Which is the bigger lie?

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”


“Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

When you live in a culture where politicians care more about the first one than the second—going so far as to impeach someone—there must be serious problems with the way the system works..

Posted by mike at 11:49 AM | Politics | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Saturday, July 19, 2003


Looks like today is laundry day, and possibly haircut day. Might be clean-the-apartment day too.

I've really got to put more effort into doing chores in the evenings after work..

Speaking of work, it looks like I'm going to be getting to know Windows XP Media Center very well over the next week or so. The project I've been on is kind of up in the air, so we're moving on to something else for the time being.

I don't know much about Media Center yet, but I guess I'll soon be an expert ;-) At the moment, it looks like the software allows different companies to plug their software into some sort of a Media Center framework. So, for each system you come across, you'll have a different TV viewer, music player, etc. I think that's a dumb way of doing things—why not have a consistent interface? On the other hand, Microsoft would be accused of abusing their monopoly position if they did that.

Well, I've only seen the software in action for a sum total of 10 minutes so far, so maybe I'm just confused about how things work.

Another thing I learned/remembered from work: I'll have to be very careful the next time I upgrade my motherboard. For ages, PC users have been using a 33MHz PCI bus operating at 5 volts. The faster versions of the bus often require cards to operate at 3.3 volts, and I think the PCI-X bus does away with 5 volt slots altogether. I need to inventory the cards I have to see what works and what doesn't, and buy a motherboard that has the right selection of slots (many new motherboards have a mixture of the slot types).

With my luck, some of my most important cards wil only work at 5 volts... Well, it'll be a while before I upgrade my system anyway.

Blame Canada

So, some Americans are jumping the border and heading to Canada. I've actually lightly debated this once or twice, but I think Minnesota is just about as far north as I'd ever want to get. Winnipeg? Nah. Maybe Toronto ;-)

However, I think the United States has shifted about as far as it can go to the conservative side. A blowback seems to be in the works (hopefully that's not just my imagination).

Once I finally get to the point of being an independent individual, I might think about this some more, but I suppose my time would be better spent campaigning for change here.

At least living in this area of Minneapolis provides a moderate buffer to the conservative-ness of the rest of the country...

Posted by mike at 07:18 PM | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Like Television

While I wait for my first paycheck to arrive (one of the really annoying parts of going through a contracting agency), I'm in the mood for low-cost entertainment. I watched a recording of the movie Fahrenheit 451 that my computer made, and I'm slowly attacking the Project Gutenberg text of Anna Karenina. I'm converting my copy to an HTML version as I go, so there is at least some point in finishing it (there are other HTML versions out there, but they don't really follow the formatting style I prefer)…

I suppose that, in theory, I'm not supposed to understand the book. There are themes that I just have not had the opportunity to experience in life yet. (And at this rate…) But maybe I have not properly interpreted what other people said about the book. It so far seems to just be about princes and princesses—kind of odd material for almost anyone living in 2003.

I haven't managed to read any (non-technical) books for a while, so hopefully it will be entertaining no matter what…

I was sitting out eating lunch at Chipotle thinking that the United States has an entertainment culture, but then I remembered that we also work more than most other cultures. The dichotomy of working too hard and playing too hard is the best definition of the culture of the USA I can come up with at the moment…

Posted by mike at 12:33 PM | Books , Food , Movies | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, July 21, 2003

Working for the Devil

Started working with Windows XP Media Center today. I have to admit, it is kind of cool, but there are certain design decisions that I don't really go for..

My car seems to be acting up and hesitating a bit on the highway. I'm concerned, because this is similar behavior to what has happened in the past when the fuel computer goes nuts. However, I think the O2 sensor must be getting gunked up with all of the driving I've been doing recently, so I'll have to look into replacing it.

I also have to remember to take the car in for an oil change. My new job means that the miles will add on pretty quick for this car, and I might even have to consider changing the oil every two months. I suppose I should just bring the car in for a checkup in the not too distant future as well, to make sure nothing is going to explode in my face while I'm halfway to Hudson, but the car seemed to be doing fine until the hesitation I was talking about..

I guess I was also thinking it might be the Vehicle Speed Sensor, but I think that would only affect driving under cruise control, but the problem still seems to exist when I'm controlling the throttle manually. Another option might be to disconnect the battery for a while, which would (in theory) cause the car's computer to forget some of the calculations it has made about the car's normal performance. But then I have to go and reprogram all of my radio stations ;-)

Oooh, some people might like this story about the annual “Lebowski Fest.” Hmm.. I think I'd be scared by a group of Jesuses walking down the street :-)

Posted by mike at 10:37 PM | Car , Movies , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Wow. Good Stuff on TV. Whodathunkit?

I'm working on encoding a very interesting conversation that was on NOW with Bill Moyers this past weekend. I'm thinking I might start putting up a “video of the week” on my website, though I'll only really be able to have one very compressed video put up at a time due to limited storage space. Hopefully I've found an encoder setting that will work with Windows Media Player so all you people without Linux can actually play the video ;-)

(Actually, it should be possible to get video made with my system's best encoder to work on Windows, but it looks like it'd be vastly too much effort for an ordinary human being. If more people had Macs, though…)

Also, I just noticed that Jon Stewart had been on NOW last week. Dammit. I wonder if I accidentally deleted that recording. Bah. Oh well, the consolation prize is a very good transcript.

NOW is a good television news magazine—what 20/20 and Dateline NBC wish they were. 60 Minutes is probably fairly comparable, though.

The show was hyped quite a bit by PBS when it first came out, and I didn't think it lived up to the hype then. However, it seems to have gotten better over time. I don't like all of the stories they do (some are just on topics I don't give a rip about), but a lot of them are very interesting.

Oh yeah, I need to donate some cash to PBS again once I start getting paid. Possibly NPR too. Bah. My money is being pre-allocated way too fast.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Video Killed the Radio Star

Okay, I think I figured out how people can watch the video I made, so here goes… Note that it will only be available for a few days.

The video is a conversation (22 MB) between Bill Moyers and two British historians, Niall Ferguson and Simon Schama. They give a little perspective on Tony Blair's visit last week, and compare the current Imperial America to Imperial Britain of centuries past. I thought it was really interesting, but maybe that's just because I really like learning about history.

To play the video, I think that all you need is the ffdshow software, but I'm not entirely sure. I installed the ffvfw codec and it didn't seem to do anything. Then I installed ffdshow, and stuff worked (though on my desktop system at work, it showed the video upside down—fortunately there's a video output filter that fixes that! ;-)

Anyway, I'd recommend installing ffdshow first, and only install ffvfw if ffdshow didn't work. These are just codecs, not real programs. You just need to load my video in Windows Media Player or whatever to play it. Well, once the codecs work right at least. Even if the video doesn't work properly, the audio should work (it's MP3).

Installing ffdshow is easy, just download it and then double-click on the .exe.

There's a configuration dialog for ffdshow, which you might need to look at. I forget the exact name of the utility, but getting to it is something like

Start→Programs→ffdshow→ffdshow configuration

ffvfw is a tiny bit more complicated. First, download it, then extract it to some temporary location with your favorite unzipper (i.e. WinZip). Lastly, right-click on the .inf file and select Install.

For anyone who cares, the video was encoded with the MPEG4 codec from the FFMPEG project (it at least explains all of the “f”s in the names of the software I was talking about). The audio is approximately 96kbit/s stereo MP3, and the video was encoded at about 40kbit/s.

Posted by mike at 06:28 PM | Software , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Insert Tab A in Slot B

Spent all day at work in the A/V room, mostly cleaning up because a relative big-wig is coming to town tonight and will be there tomorrow. Because of the visit, everyone has to be at work 45 minutes early tomorrow. Well, except for me and the intern. Yay for not being a real employee (sort of)! We even get free lunch tomorrow. Woo!

Anyway, I picked up cables, more cables, and more cables. Some USB, some Firewire, a few S-Video and RF, and a ton of RCA. I also helped the guy I'm working with fix up the wiring for the TVs, DVD players, and computers. Hopefully we will be able to prevent anyone from ripping out the nicely-done arrangement for a few weeks at least…

On a completely different topic, it turns out that, years ago, someone who used to work there had produced a CD for Lewis Black. Then, the guy I'm working with noticed that a track was missing on the CD. And calamity ensued, I imagine. Maybe it was because there were supposed to be 13 tracks. Or maybe it was because the missing track was about Wisconsin. Or maybe the CD copier figured Mr. Black wasn't annoyed enough yet. Any number of possibilities ;-)

Anyway, I'm enjoying my job. I'm learning stuff and keeping moderately busy, which is good—still waiting on that first paycheck, though…

Posted by mike at 06:50 PM | Comedy , Hardware , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Cheech and Chong Reunite!

Well, it looks like the number of girls I know who don't smoke has dropped to roughly…zero. I had noticed that Sarah had gone out and smoked cigars a few times, but I didn't see until today that she had started smoking cigarettes.

It's just kind of weird because one of the unique things about her when I met her was that here was this cute girl for whom drinking and smoking wasn't on her top ten list of things to do.

It bothers me a bit, though I'm not really sure how. Maybe disappointing or disheartening, definitely dis-something.

Posted by mike at 12:38 AM | Sarah | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, July 25, 2003

WEP Your WAP, You Wang

I'm probably going to build my own Linux-powered wireless access point eventually, though I'll probably make a box that is a router too. Haven't built up the ambition or the finances to give it a go yet, though.

Actually, I'll probably start by adding a wireless card to the PC I'm using now for a gateway, then shrink it down to a box with a small form factor. Heck, maybe I could run it with power-over-Ethernet.. That would be nice.

Anyway, the whole point of this post is to quote:

Here's where this gets really fun. We can make this box do all sorts of things. The traditional example is a Web server; it's the kind of thing the media likes to portray as a giant liquid-cooled machine with lights and an ominous humming sound; but which you and I know is actually just a few megabytes of disk space and a nearly imperceptible load on the system.

Ah, so true…unless we're talking about anything from Microsoft…

Posted by mike at 04:08 PM | Hardware , Internet | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I Try to Help People And All They Want to Do Is Save My Life

Went home after work today, and even got to leave half an hour early. I wasn't really able to do much anyway, since outside forces were at work to prevent me from getting my work done.

I was planning to meet up with a friend and go see a movie, but I guess she made other plans since she didn't hear from me soon enough. Oh well, something Sunday afternoon instead, I guess.

Saw T3 with my brother this evening. Probably about as good as a sequel sequel can get. Not the best movie ever made, but it actually unfolded to be a reasonably interesting storyline.

Oh, my brother repeated the saying that the Terminator is the character that Arnold was born to play, since it doesn't require any real emotion. Seeing the unfolding political situation in California, I figure he might not be available should another movie in the series come out. So, I'm thinking Al Gore…

Anyway, I'm probably going to go see Johnny English tomorrow with the family, and will see something with my friend on Sunday. Movie weekend…I guess I can stand some entertainment…

Posted by mike at 11:39 PM | Family , Movies , Politics , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saturday, July 26, 2003

You Are Now Entering the Most Secure Zone in the Whole of England

Saw Johnny English with the family. Overall, probably just fairly entertaining, though a few moments I was dying of laughter. One of the most innovative chase scenes I've seen in a while ;-)

And hey, Natalie Imbruglia is pretty hot ;-)

I've been thinking about T3 a little bit, mostly because Claire Danes stands out in my memory for some reason. I'm trying to remember if she's been in any movies I've seen in the last few years, but the only thing I can think of is Romeo and Juliet

I got Jane's Addiction's new CD today. I think I most like the track that's been playing on the radio, but other tracks are fairly good…

Went to get the oil changed in my car, and they said I need a new gasket in the transmission, since it's supposedly leaking fluid. I guess I'll have to monitor that, though the fluid level seemed fine last I checked.

Speaking of cars, my mom mentioned that car dealers sometimes have good deals for recent (i.e. within 1-2 years) graduates. I guess I'll have to keep my eye out for anything about that..

Now we have to see if I'll finally get to hang out with my friend tomorrow. Hmm… I haven't gotten a haircut for a while… That sucks.

Posted by mike at 10:07 PM | Car , Family , Movies , Music | Comments (1) | TrackBack

In Desperate Need of a President With a Neck Bigger Than His Head

Urg. I keep reading things about Howard Dean. So far, he seems to be the Democratic candidate that I like the best for 2004, but I still know next to nothing about his positions. Still, we're only halfway through 2003. I've got a while yet to start to care about it too much.

From some news reports, it sounds like he doesn't really stick to one side in the political spectrum, which seems good to me. If I don't totally agree with a politician (and who ever does?), I'd like him/her to have the capability to make rational decisions, which Dean seems to be able to do, but I still don't know enough.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

The Queer Eye for the Straight Guy

So, I was listening to Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me, and I found out that the plotline for the new Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez movie Gigli is probably a bit different than what you'd expect from the trailers. I also looked it up on IMDB.

First off, Gigli is the name of Ben Affleck's character. J. Lo plays Ricki. Okay, in fairness, Gigli is the character's last name. His first name is Larry.

Secondly, Ricki is a lesbian assassin sent out to make sure Gigli does his job right. Of course, comedic hijinks ensue and they fall in love, blah blah blah…

Aww… Id'n 'at sweet…


Posted by mike at 12:01 PM | Movies | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, July 28, 2003

Go Speed Racer Go

I'm running into some downtime at work because the firewall we have seems to be blocking some stuff we need. Or, maybe it's just not working. Fun.

Anyway, this gives me a small opportunity to talk about cars. I spent yesterday afternoon visiting a friend from ages past, and watching him and his friends talk about hot-rodding… Then I went home and watched an episode of Modern Marvels about the German Autobahn.

I went on a class trip to Germany in high school and noticed that their roads are amazingly well-maintained (or at least they were in the West part—they were still reconstructing the old East German roads at the time). Never really got going very fast on them, though, since the bus we usually traveled on was restricted to 100 or 120 km/h. We stayed with host families for a few days and they drove faster, but nobody took it extremely fast (though I think some of my classmates stayed with people who took them for some scary rides ;-)

Of course, the road is designed for speed. I guess the original roads over there were designed for 100 MPH speeds, which was essentially infinite since no cars could go that fast anyway. The roads were designed with even higher speeds in mind later on, with only gentle curves and low grades allowed.

The roads have also been designed for safety, and there's nearly always a guardrail in the median to prevent cars from careening into oncoming traffic. The road surface is also very smooth—I remember the ride always being like that of fresh asphalt, and the show discussed this in moderate detail. Apparently the road surface is twice as thick as U.S. roads, and it's meant to last twice as long. When cracks appear, they aren't just patched—an entire section of road is replaced.

The Germans have the concept of Rechtsfahren, or “drive right,” which could be a phrase with a double-meaning (I tried googling on it, but I could only find German-language websites talking about it). In the very least, it seems to encompass the idea that slower traffic should always move to the right, and there is no passing in the right lane. I imagine there are other ideas built in there as well…

German cars and motorists have to live up to the promise of the roads as well, and it's much harder to get a license there—probably 10 times as expensive as it is here, and the training is much more thorough.

Here in the U.S., Americans border on the belief that everyone is entitled to have a car, which is somehow mixed with the belief that everyone is entitled to be an idiot. German automakers apparently had difficulty understanding the need for a cupholder, since driving on the Autobahn requires your full concentration.

So, obviously, if you have a combination of good roads, good drivers, and good cars, people can safely travel at higher speeds. It appears that for the past ~25 years, American and German highways have had comparable safety records, although the average speed on German roads has increased from 70 to 80 mph over that period, while the change here has been more like 60 to 70 mph.

Hmm… Okay, that's not that much… Although, the 85th percentile speeds have a bit bigger difference.

Certainly, a vast number of roads here in the U.S. could use a lot of improvement. Sometimes, I drive down certain roads and think that I've been somehow transplanted into a third-world country. I'm sure that Germans visiting the U.S. must feel very strange driving down some of our roads.

There are a lot of big differences in the roads—I doubt that there are more than merely a handful of left-hand entrances and exits on the Autobahn, for instance—but some things are more subtle. On- and off-ramps are often very inconsistent. Sometimes a lane is added to the road, and it stays for miles and miles. Other times, the lane only exists for a short distance. Sometimes the short-distance lanes have the short-dash painted stripes, and sometimes they don't. Sometimes the signs indicate that a ramp is merging when it isn't, and sometimes they indicate that the ramp is not merging when it is.

Visibility is a big limiting factor on American roadways (unless, perhaps, you're traveling through Kansas…). This can be caused by constantly varying inclines or declines as well as plenty of sharp curves. Of course, I'm sure the rules for making roads get violated way too often in this country. Apparently, the spot south of downtown where I-35W shifts from heading west to going south is out of spec for Interstate highways, as they are supposed to be designed to at least handle 50 MPH traffic. It is possible to go that fast around that curve in most cars, but it's not very pleasant to do so.

So, why do I care? I'm not a speed demon.

Yeah, it's just something I'm thinking about. An intriguing problem to solve.

I guess one thing that sticks out in my mind is that we are in a culture that embraces cars more than any other. Why, then, do we not invest more in our roadways to make them safer for us (and for our suspensions)? Why don't we work harder to make sure that we have the best drivers on the road? Other than the ubiquitous response of “money,” I'm at a loss… (and, arguably, investing money in roads could save on costs elsewhere…)

Posted by mike at 10:27 AM | Car | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Super Karate Monkey Death Car

AAGH! Okay, when you've got a mile-long exit lane, why do you need to wait until the exit ramp has already, well, exited before making your move? I was nearly plowed into an embankment by a careening silver Dodge Ram as I got off the freeway this evening.

I slam on the brakes as he crosses the solid white lines and squeal out of the way. Then, of course, he has the gall to pull up next to me at the light and yell and give some big thumbs up sign or something (well, didn't seem to be the middle finger, at least).


Certainly resets the thinking process…

Well, anyway, I tried driving home today without the cruise control on (which I normally do). I figured it would help me to react more smoothly when cars come up in front or behind me. Besides, I tend to do a better job of keeping a consistent speed than the cruise does. In addition, driving without the cruise on makes me pay more attention to my car and the environment around me, which is a Good Thing™

I keep tweaking my personal rules for driving to try to make things better for me and for the people around me, but there's only so much I can do.

Posted by mike at 06:15 PM | Car | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How Much You Wanna Bet…


This is disturbing

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is setting up a stock-market style system in which investors would bet on terror attacks, assassinations and other events in the Middle East. Defense officials hope to gain intelligence and useful predictions while investors who guessed right would win profits.

Posted by mike at 10:18 PM | Politics , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Damn Lies

Still no paycheck gracing my mailbox. Whee.

So, I'm mildly obsessed with road safety versus speed these days. I come across websites advocating speed, and others advocating speed limits. On both sides, they really hit my bullshit-o-meter hard. I don't need to quote Mark Twain for you.

Only very rarely have I driven my car at speeds greatly in excess of the speed limit. I try to follow the rules, what can I say? I get the feeling that many Minnesotans behave similarly, as most traffic on the highway (well, outside the beltway, at least) travels within a few MPH of me.

The speed camp seems to indicate that most people pick a speed to drive, independent of what the posted limit is. While I know most people generally don't respect speed limits, they certainly seem to factor them in.

Still, the logic goes, increasing or removing high speed limits only brings the total traffic speed up by a few MPH. I would have to think that this varies from region to region, depending on driving customs as well as road quality.

The limit camp likes to quote large numbers for “speed related” crashes. However, the numbers they use tend to be overall numbers that include surface streets and uncontrolled highways as well as limited-access freeways, and sometimes the numbers include crashes that had more to do with aggressive driving and underspeed situations than overspeed.

Few statistics that I have seen are put together in a way that I would consider to be reasonable, directly comparable data. You can say that x people died on the Interstate and y people died on city streets, but there is important information missing. How many miles of city streets are there versus the Interstates? How much traffic runs on one set of streets versus the other?

Well, I suppose I'm just going to end up talking myself in circles. Time to go to bed.

For anyone who has nothing better to read, check out Minnesota's traffic laws. Apparently we do have a “keep right” law of sorts (look at Subdivision 10).

I didn't know that. Why didn't I know that?

I knew it was an advised practice, but I had no idea it was codified into law. Of course, the rules are somewhat loose, as it just says cars moving “less than the normal speed of traffic” need to move right. I've even seen signs in Minnesota for this, but I've really only seen them strategically located on hills.

Anywho, time for bed.

Posted by mike at 12:30 AM | Car , Work | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Another Day, Another ¬Dollar

Still no paycheck. What fun. It's looking like I'll have to head home on Friday evening or Saturday morning so I can get some money out of my savings. But, hopefully it will appear in my mailbox tomorrow and I won't have to do that…

Paid my rent this evening. I filled out the last check from the first set I got back in 1997. No longer do I have to cross out the “19” when I write the date ;-)

Posted by mike at 08:29 PM | Abode , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Funny Money

The paycheck is still hiding from my mailbox. I suppose the envelope figures it has a right to live and is trying to stay away from my grubby fingers as long as it can..

My mom reminded me that I actually have a card that I could theoretically use to get money out of my savings account through an ATM. However, I don't know if I ever set a PIN on it, and the account may have gone “dormant” since I haven't touched it in a year… All I know for certain is that my card says “Check Card” on it, which is an outright lie ;-)

Anyway, I'll have to stop by an ATM tomorrow if I don't get a paycheck. If that works, I'll at least be able to avoid a trip home on Friday or Saturday.

Posted by mike at 11:28 PM | Money , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack