July 25, 2000

Advogato Entry 8


Decklin: Yeah, I saw that $LOGNAME is getting set, which is good for those systems around here that don't have a version of `id' that can print out just the user name..

I think I'll be staying away from Windows 2000. My roommates installed Win2k Pro on one of their systems Friday night. They re-installed on Sunday night. NTOSKRNL.EXE was crashing for some reason. I tried replacing it with a known-good copy (using Wine, EXPAND.EXE, and a few DLLs), but that didn't work. The system just wasn't giving me enough information about what was going wrong. I tried booting with a bootlog, but the system didn't tell me where that log actually was! Grr..

Oh well, it's not my computer ;-)

Anyway, I just had Netscape crash because I hit shift-insert to paste again. I was working with a two-button mouse for way too long. Now I just need to get a decent video card. A lot of computers around here have some really nice displays (I'm sitting in front of a 17" Dell/Sony Trinitron), but the video cards only have 1MB of memory around here. Somebody wasn't thinking.

I copied 8.5 GB of data last night. I thought something had barfed as `du' clearly showed 17GB. Oops.. du counts things in blocks! *sigh*

I'm wondering if it would be worthwhile to put together a 10 or 100Mbps switch using Linux or *BSD just for my apartment. I found out that the hub we have is a piece of dung (I strung a 50 ft. Ethernet cable around the place, then plugged it into the hub. Collisions galore, even though nothing was connected to the other end..). Sheesh, any computer with a PCI bus has a Gb/s backplane, and you can add ports for $50 or less. Something to think about..

Well, I'd better go write some more documentation..

Posted by mike at 09:44 AM Central | Dan , Hardware , Josh , Old Advogato Diary , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 03, 2000

Advogato Entry 16

Diary entry 15


I just had a light bulb burn out in my room. The other one had burned out two days ago. I need to invest in those long-last bulbs, though I bet the ones I get will only last 6 months. (but then I could sue ;-)


The sun was out early this morning, and I almost got up. I really should have gotten up, because the sun disappeared again and I ended up feeling really lethargic.. That must be why I've been having trouble getting up lately -- it's been overcast in the mornings for quite a while now..

I've really got to look into this printing stuff a bit more. I saw reference to Grant Taylor and more CUPS stuff. The Linux/Unix printing system really does need to be revamped. I mean, I don't want to define a new printer in /etc/printcap just to be able to run at a different resolution or to print in color or whatever. This is something that has been missing for a long time. Of course, what's the best way to do this? You don't want every program that wants to print to be dependent upon a particular graphical widget or anything (of course, you don't want it to be dependent on graphics at all).

I don't want more printers to be using proprietary languages, and I think that has been named as one of the detractors to CUPS, whether it is true or not. Of course, perhaps the truth about that rumor is the fact that device manufacturers don't know how to make a `driver' for Ghostscript. AFAIK, all of the drivers are compiled into that program, which makes the distribution of drivers very difficult. Regardless, it sounds as though CUPS can help a lot on PostScript printers (using the PPD printer definition files), especially those that have extensions for landscape, portrait, double-sided printing, stapling, collating, etc. It's a heck of a lot easier to do those fancy printing modes by clicking a button and having your program insert the correct commands rather than going and editing the postscript output by hand..

Hmm.. kind of on the topic of printing, I wonder if there are yet any programs for reading the status of my Epson Stylus Color 640. I'd kind of like to know how much ink is left. I had thought that printer would be very nice, but it's really slow. The heads can get very jammed up with ink, making it impossible to print anything that looks good at all without going through three or four cleaning cycles.. All of these things that I have to buy.. must...resist..temptation...to...spend...money...

I do really need to go out and get a new hard drive. They're selling some pretty nice drives at fairly decent prices just a few blocks from where I live. I still have to dig around the web and see if $210 for a 30GB 7400RPM IBM drive is too much. Or should I just go whole-hog and get a 60GB 5400RPM Maxtor for $280? If that's twice the bit density.. would it be faster than the other one? Hmm...

Late Afternoon

Boy, this is getting to be a long entry.. Oh well. I saw gtaylor saw the previous version of this and gave me some pointers. Thanks for the info..

I've been fighting with CUPS this afternoon. It just doesn't want to behave on my system for some reason. I think the backend filters are getting passed the wrong arguments when they get called. I'll have to investigate that further (and wonder why nobody else noticed..) I suppose the mailing list holds the answer.

Posted by mike at 02:43 PM Central | Hardware , Old Advogato Diary , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 04, 2000

Advogato Entry 17

Entry 16

I'm finally learning a bit more about why I'm here doing this job that I'm doing. The business school where I work is trying to set up a fairly massive Oracle database which will contain all sorts of information, from who is enrolled in which class to the financial data that we have in a number of binary or ASCII data files on our main servers. It's sounding like it will be a massive thing. We've got a quad-processor Sun box (E425R, I think) with a RAID bank that will be running the database, eventually accessible via web, Java, and other front-ends (or so I'm told). Request Brokers and all of those fancy buzzwords were thrown at me. Certainly, Oracle is a nice database, but can't you just slap a PHP frontend on it and call it a day? (At least in the early stages?) Also, it seems like my efforts around here will go to waste if people are no longer logging into my boxen.. A web interface is just so sterile and with zero personality.. Then again, Solaris' ordinary personality really, really sucks..

Last login: Fri Aug  4 11:16:11 2000 from <...>
Sun Microsystems Inc.   SunOS 5.7       Generic October 1998
$ tpo^?^?^?^?^[[2~^?^[[F
tpo: not found
??: not found
: not found
?: not found
[[2~: not found
?: not found
?: not found
[[F: not found
$ top     
top: not found

At any rate, I just went put four copies of Seti@home on the server (they're really doing a number on the data chunks.. looks like about 10% every 30 minutes). Some Oracle guys will be coming in eventually to actually set up the database, but they want to have a good idea how it will be used before doing anything. Of course, nobody has really figured that out yet...

I have mentioned previously that I was working on a small NeXT box that has been gleefully serving web pages for years. They've been trying to port the backend of this thing over to NT for nearly the same amount of time. From what I can tell, it's just a medium-sized pile of Perl and TCL scripts. I'll have to see if it's hard to port it over to Linux or not. The box is not exactly in my jurisdiction, but only me and my boss are the only people around here who really seem to know how to administrate Unix-like systems...


Hmm.. I think I may pick up that 60 Gig Maxtor drive tonight, or perhaps tomorrow sometime. Of course, what sort of filesystem do you put on that thing? I need journaling if it's going to be that big. I see three options: ReiserFS, Ext3, and GlobalFilesystem. I'm kind of leaning toward GlobalFilesystem, just because I don't have to travel far to physically beat on the developers if something goes wrong ;-)

Posted by mike at 01:28 PM Central | Hardware , Old Advogato Diary , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 05, 2000

Advogato Entry 18

Entry 17

Well, I decided that I'm making enough money to go out and buy a new large IDE hard drive. I may regret this. Oh well, I can always sell something, like my Palm II, which has been going fairly unused..

Now I'm stuck with the task of figuring out what exactly to do with 60 GB of disk space. My /:/usr disk is 8 GB, and I figure I can move my 2 GB /home onto that disk. Of course, my big issue is that I want a decent filesystem now. I'm not sure how long an e2fsck will take on that much space, and I don't think I want to find out. I mentioned earlier that I see ReiserFS, Ext3, and GFS as options. I worry a bit about Ext3, even though I haven't tried it. Ext2 (semi-)compatility is nice.. I wonder if either ReiserFS or GFS have anything like Ext2's file attributes: immutable, append-only, etc. However, both ReiserFS and GFS are supposed to be significantly faster at many things than Ext2(/3?).

One of my concerns is that of large file support. Not that I expect to be coming across many large files (>2 GB). Apparently, this will all become moot when 2.4.x arrives, although GFS does support large files in 2.2.x. The other thing is journaling. Ext3 is basically designed to add journaling to Ext2. ReiserFS has had journaling for over a year. GFS's journaling is relatively new, added since their last release in late 1999 (it's in CVS). GFS really scores points for being a best-of-breed clustering filesystem (but I'll only be running it as a local FS, so that doesn't really matter), though Reiser counters by having interesting ideas behind it like behaving almost more like a database than a filesystem. If I had an Alpha, I'd probably jump for GFS. It's largely been developed on Alphas, where Reiser is geared more toward i386.

I understand that there were people at OLS from all of these different camps. The GFS people have some slides..

Blah, enough about filesystems. Hmm.. Oops! I forgot about a backup that I was supposed to be doing.. I'd better go do that.

Posted by mike at 08:46 PM Central | Hardware , Old Advogato Diary , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 07, 2000

Advogato Entry 20

Entry 19

The Slashdot story about DOS being essentially removed from WinMe is interesting. Nobody would care, but a lot of programs are still being made for DOS, mostly in the firmware upgrade arena. I had to upgrade the BIOS on my system last night, as I had just purchased a UDMA/66 (or even /100) drive, but my motherboard only has a /33 controller. The drive wasn't detecting.

I went and found the right BIOS from FIC, then tried to copy it to a floppy. Floppies suck, BTW. They suck more than a cluster of Electrolux. Badblocks couldn't find the bad blocks on the diskette. Annoying. Anyway, I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to find a DOS boot disk, but the roommate actually had a 98 install disk (though he runs Win2k these days).

I guess it just shows we have to put more effort into FreeDOS.


The Quest for Companionship: Well, I just came into work. There was a girl on the bus today who I've seen a few times. Actually, she probably lives in the same building I do. Anyway, I waited an extra stop to get off where she did. There's basically no way in hell that I could talk to another person, so I just have to try to increase the chances of accidentally talking to her. Anyway, we both ended up dropping off to pick up something from the same vending area, so I'm somewhat encouraged. However, she pretty well booked out of there, so that's not such a good sign. Unfortunately, I've gone through a bad version of this before. Something I must be careful not to repeat.

There was a girl in High School that I really thought was The One or something along those lines. I lacked the charisma, or perhaps you would just call it the blatant idiocy, to just go up and talk to her. Pardon the use of that annoying phrase, but it was a long and strange trip. I remember the things that happened, and my whole being believes that there was something going on. I just never understood what that something was. Oh well, right now all it means is that there are years of my teenage life that I'll never have back, and that makes me feel terrible. I don't want those pains to come back, and I don't want to be the haunting force in anyone else's life ever again.

Posted by mike at 08:08 AM Central | Hardware , Old Advogato Diary , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 09, 2000

Advogato Entry 22


Last night, I was asked to volunteer some time for the Minneapolis Independent Media Center. I think it's wonderful to have a media outlet that isn't influenced directly by corporate interests. However, the coverage that the various IMCs have been giving has been pretty heavily slanted towards covering protests and other action. It would be a waste for that to continue..

I remember watching the unveiling of Transmeta earlier this year (in RealVideo), and seeing how moronic the reporters were. The Transmeta guys went out and very clearly stated what they had done, and the reporters would go and ask questions that had already been clearly spelled out. Afterwards, I could tell which reporters had actually been there, and which ones were just reporting by reading reports.

The best reporters know a lot about what they're reporting on. Sometimes, the best person to report on a situation is not sitting there with a `Press' tag, but is just an interested observer.

Unfortunately, the IMC sites are just as susceptible to pranksters as Slashdot, kuro5hin, and Advogato.. I hope that they can find some fair-minded editors and contributors.


Hmm.. I'm probably spending too much time on diary entries. Better cut back. However, I just had to mention that Miguel de Icaza posted his OLS presentation. I knew that was what he was talking about, it's just that the people who reported on it in the beginning weren't very clear, and the Slashdotties went a bit nuts about it.

It's a wonderful article, and I hope Good Things will happen. However, I wonder how much of the old Unix/Linux will remain when it is all done.

I mentioned yesterday that there is a lot of interesting things going on in China. I see that there is now a story on the front page, and there was a Salon article about it today, saying essentially the opposite of what The Register posted yesterday..

Posted by mike at 09:56 AM Central | Hardware , Old Advogato Diary , Software , The Media | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 11, 2000

Advogato Entry 24


The 12 Coins Problem: It's really easy if you have a balance with 3 platters. You can even do it in two weighings..

Oooh.. here we go -- ``The A&E guide to the late summer big studio movie toilet. Approach with caution.'' Space Cowboys: How bad is it? James Garner seems to be edging his way off the set. The Replacements: Survival Tip: You won't. Take strychnine.

Sometimes, the campus newspaper just rocks ;-)

Anyway, I'm really impressed with the level of political debate in the US these days (and it's amusing to watch the coverage of the Reform Party convention ;-). I think Nader (and the others too) is really getting people talking. Of course, this begs the question -- how many people are going to be in the debates? I remember that there were some debates already, just involving the Democratic and Republican candidates. IIRC, the Republicans had 5 candidates, and the moderator was making a valiant but vain attempt to keep order. That many candidates is very difficult to handle. But I think that if you let in Nader, it's only right to let in others, namely Buchanan (who I hate, just so you know) and Browne (and there are probably others). This is an interesting year, though the primary candidates are very un-interesting (IMHO).

The electricians are apparently going to take quite a while to get the three new 30A plugs in. They managed to do the conduit for one of the plugs yesterday. That's about it. Oh well, we plugged our Sun E425R into some regular jacks for the time being. Still crunching Seti@home packets instead of serving an Oracle DB. We still don't know when that will happen. We don't know what tools will be used in the database project, so the Oracle people won't come and install the db. I have to help research Java development environments. Oh fun.

Finally moved some data over and started using my 60 GB drive. I'm not sure how well ReiserFS is doing it's job, but the drive is extremely quiet. Nice. At work, I'm still torturing myself with an 800x600 display. I think this is part of the reason why I'm having trouble getting work done -- I can't get enough stuff on the screen at once to see what I'm doing.

Enough rambling. Time to do some work.

December 17, 2001

Advogato Entry 237

Life is sucking, but I picked up some music today. Take off Your Pants and Jacket - Blink 182, and The Invisible Band - Travis. I like most of the Blink 182 CD, and it is up-tempo at least.. I wish they could cut down on the raunch a little, as I really hate getting reminded that I can't get any.. The Travis disc is much more subdued, but still good.


Disappointed yet again by the cost of stuff. I thought I had the grand idea of using a PC104-based system to decode an Ogg Vorbis/MP3 stream in the apartment. I've wanted to have some way to keep music always playing in the apartment, with people voting for what they want, etc. Hopefully a nice random song picker as well. Something that would reduce `train wrecks' that happen when jumping between disparate genres would be wonderful.

Anyway, when I saw the prices one place had for piddly 386 boards with 2MB of RAM, I choked. Perhaps they were old prices, but I was hoping to get the whole thing put together for, say $150. Perhaps sans hard disk.. Anyway, looks like that's not going to happen..

What the hell is with our weather? It's the 17th of December, and there is no snow in Minneapolis.

My first final is tomorrow. Haven't studied yet.

Posted by mike at 01:52 PM Central | Hardware , Music , Old Advogato Diary , School , Weather | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 29, 2001

Advogato Entry 240

My parents are way too nice. They just gave me $1000 to go toward a new laptop I'm planning on getting. This is in addition to Christmas and birthday stuff, and my monthly rent and bit extra.

Still looking at a Dell Inspiron 4100 with an extra battery, a UXGA screen, and some other stuff. Should come in around $1700. Looks like the price went up a bit since Christmas. Looks like Dell's `free' memory upgrade to 256MB wasn't quite free..

Had a pretty good Christmas. So far, it hasn't been quite as terrible as I was expecting. I didn't have to worry much about my (step-)grandfather (he slept a lot) -- just kept my young cousin busy by trying to avoid playing with her and her Barbie stuff (didn't quite succeed at that, which is fine :-)

I got a nice portable CD player with a decent radio in it (better choice for me rather than an MP3-playing model, since I use Ogg/Vorbis for most things).

Helped my brother install a new 60 GB hard drive. Sheesh, disk drive technology doesn't seem to be moving so fast anymore -- I got one of those 18 months ago! :-p I'd installed to the exact same motherboard before, and I knew he needed a BIOS update..

Not doing any coding -- hell, I can't even read my mail very well right now. My computer at the apartment is sitting cold right now because the power went out a few days ago.. It's in an ATX case, and I didn't have it connected to a UPS (an older P100 sitting in the corner came back up, since it's in an AT case). A week of mail is sitting on it, and I can't read it until I turn it back on..

Bah. Well, the only thing bugging me is if Sarah sent me a Christmas greeting. I could care less about other stuff :-)

Posted by mike at 06:12 PM Central | Hardware , Laptop , Old Advogato Diary , Sarah | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 08, 2002

Advogato Entry 246

Finally got our Cyclades 8-port serial terminal server (TS800) working at work. I think, unfortunately, it was all a simple matter of having the ports numbered in the opposite direction on the front as on the back. I'd noticed this on my ethernet switch a month ago..

              8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
             |               |
             |               |
              1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

That seems so dumb.. I never think of rotating the thing 180° -- I figured that the lights on the front would directly correspond to the ports on the back.

Sheesh, this box should have been working months ago..

Anyway, I figured it out because we finally got some RJ45<->DB9 and RJ45<->DB25 adapters, though I have to wire them up myself. Discovered that the cables that work are not normal null-modem/crossover cables. They're similar, but they don't use the `standard' cabling. I'm not sure why it works. At any rate, I built an adapter that is wired like the cable that works, and another wired like how Cyclades says things should work. I hope at least one of them works, but if they both work, I'm not sure what to do..

I wish serial crossover was like ethernet crossover, where you don't have to splice any wires together..

Looks like Dell shipped my order yesterday (probably around midnight or something), four days earlier than they estimated. I guess they have some leeway in their estimates. Of course, the annoying thing is that it'll probably get to Minneapolis on Friday or Saturday, meaning that it can't get delivered until Monday.

Sarah and Josh went up north to visit her family. They'll be back Thursday, but that probably won't make me feel any better.

Need to find out when the CSci advisor is available... Crappy grades..

Posted by mike at 07:32 AM Central | Hardware , Josh , Laptop , Old Advogato Diary , Sarah , School , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 26, 2002

Advogato Entry 290

Got my cell phone on Thursday. I got service through VoiceStream since their rates seemed pretty low, and I only had to sign my life away for a minimum of one year. AT&T and others wanted me to contract for two years. Their coverage is probably lowest of the big carriers, though I think they have the biggest GSM service in the US (Deutsche Telekom bought them a year or so ago).

Coverage isn't really a problem for me. I'm planning to use this phone instead of a land line, at least for the summer, so if it works outside of the local area, I'll just consider it a bonus. I found out it doesn't work at my office, but that's a windowless room in the middle of the building, behind at least two layers of concrete... Signal is good at my current apartment, though the meter blips off occasionally -- I'm curious why that happens..

Anyway, I just got the free phone they had, the Motorola T193. It's tiny, slightly smaller than Sarah's Nokia, at least (I think she has a 3360, but I'm not sure -- it has the same form factor, whatever it is).

I think VoiceStream had sent me a text message when I first got the phone, informing me of the phone number, but I think I accidentally deleted it. I'd gotten another text message, telling me I had a voicemail, but that was someone leaving a message for a girl named Brooke, IIRC. Anyway, I deleted the text message informing me of that, and then I think I deleted another one, which was probably the phone number. In the end, I used the phone's text messaging facility to send myself an e-mail, and the number was on the From: line ;-)

I was pretty surprised when I started looking into various phone services. For some reason, I expected companies to be upfront about the various services they offer -- what's included in which plan, etc. I suppose I might have gotten a clearer picture if I'd gone into one of the cell phone shops to get it, but I didn't want to get railroaded into a plan I didn't like. The information on the web was just awful, though.

I still don't know exactly what services I get, though. I realized after a while that the Internet service that had been promised wasn't working. After searching high and low to try and find some information, I called customer service. I was informed that I'd been put on a plan different than what they advertised on the web.. The code for the plan was apparently just one character off, so the guy switched to what I thought I ordered.

I've seen people complain about the customer service department, but I haven't had trouble yet. I suppose I'm just lucky. However, I have a suspicion that my Linux user habit of trying to find the solution myself by searching and trying various things probably makes me more prepared when I call them.. We'll see what happens in the future.

I've found VoiceStream's websites to be very inconsistent. They contract out various services to different organizations, which probably contributes to the mess. It's not hugely inconsistent -- that'd probably be better! I've found myself browsing around, having buttons suddenly disappear on the next page, etc. They also have some very short session timeouts. I've had to re-login many times.

I've noticed that the various websites seem to use different technologies to power them.. VoiceStream's main websites appear to be powered by ColdFusion, the iStream pages (iStream is the name for their data service) appear to be running Microsoft's Active Server Pages, and my billing info is brought to me by servlets. Very weird, IMHO..

The phone I got has similar inconsistencies. I think it has at least four different font sizes, but I can only pick two in the phone settings. Composing text messages uses the smallest font, browsing the web uses the next smallest. The default interface font is the second-largest, and there's a huge font that is the other option. Going between big and huge is not my idea of configurability.

Even the instructions for activating my phone weren't very good. I knew about SIM cards and whatever beforehand, but someone who didn't know about that would probably be really confused. There were at least two sets of instructions, but I think they started with "turn on your phone," neglecting the "insert your SIM card" part.. One set of instructions said I had to call someone with my IMEI number (apparently the handset serial number) and a number printed on my service agreement. Well, I didn't have a service agreement in the box I got, so I was glad that the phone seemed to work right out of the box, once I figured out exactly how the SIM card was supposed to be put in it's place..

It'll be a while before I can say whether I like the service or not. With all of the weird things I've seen already, I could never give it a strong thumbs up, but it's relatively cheap and I can text Sarah whenever I want ;-) I'm paying $30/month for 200 daytime minutes, unlimited weekend minutes, toll-free long distance, 300 text messages, and 1MB of data. I paid an extra dollar this month so I could have a "Smooth Criminal" ring tone, too, but nobody's called me yet.. *sigh*

Posted by mike at 08:38 AM Central | Hardware , Old Advogato Diary , Sarah , Wireless | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 30, 2002

Advogato Entry 295

Went out to Audio King and tried to get a Tivoli Audio/Henry Kloss Model Two, but ended up having to order it. I had to live closest to the one Audio King in Minnesota that didn't have it in stock. Anyway.. This morning, I was looking for a nice car stereo, but ended up hunting around for something to use in my room.

The box is supposed to have a great tuner, though the demo box didn't seem to pull in stations as well as I'd hoped. Of course, there are any number of things that can mess up reception even on the best of receivers. It still sounded very good compared to the boxes sitting next to it which cost much more.

At any rate, it should arrive in a few days. I didn't order the subwoofer, but I might get one later. I don't really have the space at the moment, and I felt like a pretty big dork as it was ;-)

At work, we're running around trying to find space in the server room. We got a very large air conditioning unit to go in there. Fortunately it's on wheels, but if it had been taller and wheel-less, we wouldn't have to deal with it taking up so much floor area. We've also got a rack or two of FibreChannel equipment coming in. My boss is frantically looking for a rackmount console for at least one of our Sun systems, and we're running into trouble with our Cyclades TS800 crashing. It seems to not like our Sun Netra X1.

I'm finishing up classes. Took a final for my database course on Wednesday, and I've been helping to put together our presentation for my Financial Information Systems course. Hmm.. I suppose I'll have to dress up a bit tomorrow.

Posted by mike at 05:56 PM Central | Hardware , Music , Old Advogato Diary , School , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 28, 2002

Advogato Entry 296

Thought I'd post a note (mostly for the search engines out there) that the FujiFilm FinePix A303 camera works with Linux (as a USB storage device, at least). The camera can be configured in a "PC Camera" mode, but that doesn't work with Linux yet (the manual says that only works with Windows (XP?), and won't work with MacOS either). I was somewhat worried, as this camera uses xD-Picture Card media, rather than CompactFlash or SmartMedia.

Anyway, I guess my computer was set up for USB already, so I just had to mount the camera, which was a simple ``mount -t vfat /dev/sda1 /camera'' I decided to add a line to my /etc/fstab so I can just ``mount /camera'' to make it easier to copy images onto my laptop.

I've been thinking that I should try to find a way to automatically mount and unmount the camera when it is plugged in and unplugged, but I suspect someone has done that already. I had the thought that most of these filesystems have pseudorandom serial numbers on them (well, unless you get preformatted media, which often all have the same thing, which can lead to data corruption in certain situations). Anyway, you could make it so different serial numbers get mounted in different places. Any of the cards for your camera show up on /camera, while your MP3 player shows up on /boombox or something.

I just want something that does it automatically, because I always forget to unmount before unplugging the camera...

Posted by mike at 10:27 AM Central | Hardware , Old Advogato Diary , Photography , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 04, 2003

Advogato Entry 297

Sort of fixed a problem that I was having with Debian's murasaki package where it would basically hang on startup (when /etc/init.d/murasaki start was run). On my desktop, some initialization programs were not working right. They were trying to execve() something that didn't exist, but the programs were written under the assumption that the execve() would never return -- which is normally the case unless there's an error of some kind.

The program was made to fork() before each execution, so I'm just lucky the software didn't explode in my face as a fork bomb. I guess it just ended up being a "fork fire," as it didn't get out of control, but there were about 15 processes going at any one time..

I haven't found anything to automatically mount/unmount my camera and other USB/FireWire devices like I want, but I suppose I haven't looked all that hard yet.

I got a little pissed off about binary-dependent, pseudo-open-source software the other day after my X server died after an upgrade. I need to get a new HALlib module in order for my second head to work again. Matrox hasn't updated their driver packages for X 4.2.1 yet. Supposedly the precompiled files on their website should work for 4.2.1, but they don't work for me (causing the console to get toasted). I could also recompile stuff myself, but X is just too big a package for me to handle..

Matrox apparently doesn't have too many problems releasing specs for their boards, but the HALlib stuff apparently has to be binary-only because the software interfaces with chips that Matrox got from other companies, and they don't want specs released..

Hmm.. It occurs to me that there is code in the kernel framebuffer driver that allows you to activate the second head on the G400 (and probably some other Matrox cards). It's unaccelerated, if I recall, but I might have to look into whether it's possible to get that code to initialize the second head so I don't have to deal with this again (or, get stuck with a slow head, rather than just one head and a blank screen next to it).

Makes me wish I could start a "nice" hardware company that releases specs and decent documentation, doesn't use chips and stuff from other companies that don't like to release specs, uses good standards where possible, etc.. Sounds nice, but the profit margins are probably too thin in the PC industry to pull it off. Maybe it's possible.. I just keep running into hardware at every turn that isn't fully workable under Linux. Even my new camera, which I'll probably recommend to friends, is only half-working with Linux -- you can get files off it like a USB hard drive, but you can't use it as a webcam (though you can get decent Linux-compatible webcams for <$20 anyway..)

It's just annoying when you look at what works and what doesn't in your system, and you realize you really only have half a computer...

Posted by mike at 07:54 PM Central | Hardware , Laptop , Old Advogato Diary , Photography , Software , XFree | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 23, 2003

Advogato Entry 299

Hmm. The lock vulnerability is pretty interesting. I don't know why I didn't come up with that idea myself, since it's so simple.

I've run a few numbers on the problem, and it appears that even if you have some pretty nice locks with 100 million possible keys, you can find a master key with only 40-80 tries. Of course, I hear that locksmiths have plenty of tricks that are even more effective than that..

I'm wrapping up stuff at work (sort of -- there's some documentation that I've been avoiding writing). Last day will be tomorrow, barring something strange happening out of the blue.

Posted by mike at 12:38 PM Central | Hardware , Old Advogato Diary , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 29, 2003

Firewall Fun

I was just looking over at Soekris at their various products. Someday, probably after I get a job again, I suspect I'll plop down some change for a net4521, along with at least one 802.11 card from NetGate or Demarc. I'll need to get a CompactFlash card or a Microdrive too. Also, it might be fun to play with the vpn1211 hardware encryption board. Somehow, I don't think a 133MHz 486 would handle IPSec very well ;-)

Anyway, one nice upside to getting those things would be that I get rid of the big power-hungry computer that is currently routing my Internet traffic. The problems are that it's expensive to get those parts, and I'll lose my print server in the process (of course, it's dumb to have your firewall double as a print server, but I live dangerously. Sometimes. ;-)

Posted by mike at 12:21 AM Central | Encryption , Hardware , Internet , Wireless | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Well. My Brother is also on LiveJournal. I thought he was posting entries to other places..

Heh. One of his images is of his TRS-80 Model 100.

Posted by mike at 06:48 AM Central | Family , Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 02, 2003


Don't people spend enough time in the bathroom without the Internet?

Posted by mike at 07:49 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 07, 2003

Push My Buttons

I bought a Logitech MX500 mouse shortly after I moved because the PS/2 port on my computer started acting flaky. The mouse pointer jumped all over the place. I thought the mouse had died, but it now appears that the port itself has gone bad, as my new mouse (a USB and PS/2 one) exhibits exactly the same problems when it's plugged into that port. Fortunately, it works fine on a USB port.

Anyway, this mouse has more buttons than I know what to do with. Well, not quite. When I first got it, the buttons were mapped really weird under Linux. Some of the extra ones would repeat the functionality of other buttons on the mouse. But, now I have most of them working like they should.

To get the buttons working, I had to edit /etc/X11/XF86Config and edit the section for my mouse. It now looks like

Section "InputDevice"
        Identifier      "Mouse1"
        Driver          "mouse"
        Option          "Protocol"      "ExplorerPS/2"
        Option          "Device"        "/dev/input/mice"
        Option          "Buttons"       "7"
        Option          "ZAxisMapping"  "6 7"
        Option          "SendCoreEvents"        "true"
        Option          "Emulate3Buttons"       "yes"

Note that this is for a secondary mouse entry. I still have my old PS/2 mouse configured as Mouse0, so if you only have one mouse, you'll have to remove the "SendCoreEvents" option and probably change the Identifier..

Unfortunately, editing the config file is not the only thing I had to do. I also have to run `xmodmap -e "pointer = 1 2 3 6 7 4 5"' to remap the scroll wheel "buttons" to 4 and 5, so that they will be accepted as scroll wheel buttons by most applications. Actually, I also have to run `xsetpointer Mouse1' or `xinput set-pointer Mouse1' before doing that, since I have to select which mouse I'm modifying. I may have to swap the order of the mice in my XF86Config file..

Additionally, I had to setup and run the imwheel program in order to get the extra buttons to do anything useful. Here's the contents of my ~/.imwheelrc:

#Default Settings
@Priority = -1000
None, Left, Control_L|Left
None, Right, Control_L|Right
Control_L, Left, Control_L|Left
Control_L, Right, Control_L|Right

Now, I run `imwheel -b 006700', and the buttons on the side of my mouse will take me forward and backward in my web browser window.

Geez, I don't know why more people don't use Linux :-p

Posted by mike at 09:19 PM Central | Hardware , Software , XFree | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 08, 2003

One Man's Junk...

Well, just when you thought eBay couldn't get much stranger, this comes along. Okay, maybe it's not that strange, but a guy basically sold his yard full of computer crap. Supposedly somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 pounds of the stuff. Fun.

The high bidder paid $10.

Posted by mike at 02:15 AM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Luggables Are So 1980

I want a portable music player. Unfortunately, there aren't any good ones out there that support my favorite file format, Ogg Vorbis. There are hardware players that support it, but there are drawbacks. Many of them are large (ie, for cars or if you don't mind strapping a UPS to your back), while others aren't really meant to do that job (like the Sharp Zaurus PDA).

Hopefully, some company out there will produce a hardware player pretty soon. There are a few that have quietly agreed to look into the possibility of maybe supporting it, but nothing really definite yet. If any of them do, Neuros will probably be the first. It also looks possible that the iPod might be able to do it, if it gets re-installed with Linux first ;-)

Posted by mike at 07:14 PM Central | Hardware , Music | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 14, 2003


Awww Yeah...

Someday, when I have a job again and want to build a God Box, I might get something like that..

Posted by mike at 11:28 AM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 15, 2003


I've been monkeying a bit with my phone (Motorola C332), sending different commands to it. I bought a USB cable for it a while ago so I could try using it as a modem. It turns out that I can actually access the phone book and some other bits of the phone. I signed up to to get some developer access from Motorola, so hopefully I'll be able to get the full supported command set at some point.

I started playing with this because I came across gsmlib yesterday, but it didn't work. That library and tools supports a different variant of the commands than my phone does, so the library will have to be extended to handle that at some point..

Posted by mike at 04:41 PM Central | Hardware , Software , Wireless | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 20, 2003

Mowin' Mowin' Mowin'

Mowed the parents' lawn today with our family's electric mower. It's fairly quiet and doesn't make you stink of gasoline exhaust, but the batteries make it pretty heavy and it was only barely able to finish off our lawn (and these batteries are only a few months old).

When I get a lawn of my own, I'm thinking I'll have to try and find one of those old-style push mowers (my first inclination would be to call it a “cylinder mower”, but apparently that's the British name—Americans supposedly call them “reel mowers”). I saw someone using one at the church near the 5th St. pedestrian bridge that crosses 35W. He didn't seem to be having any trouble with it, so I believe that stories of them being hard to push are probably overrated—I certainly doubt the battery-powered monster I just used is any easier to push..

I wouldn't be surprised if the gas-powered lawnmower, like many other waste-inducing American icons, was a Cold War weapon of a sort. Not only did we have to have nice, big, green lawns (even in the middle of the desert)—we had to beat the shit out of each and every blade of grass every week..

Anyway, while I was mowing, I was unfortunate enough to come across a dead rabbit. Fortunately, it hadn't been dead long enough to attract bugs and stuff. It was stiff, though, so it had probably been dead around a day.. I checked online to see if anything special is supposed to be done with dead animals these days (as they can be indicators of disease and whatnot), but I didn't find anything.

Posted by mike at 04:10 PM Central | Abode , Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 21, 2003

The Not-So-Great Adventure

Went home. Stuff happened.

I actually got a vacuum cleaner. A Eureka WhirlWind LiteSpeed 5740A, which appears to be highly rated on Epinions. Got it at Sears for $100.

I've used it a little. One of the quietest vacuums I've ever heard (though you can still definitely tell it's a vacuum). My mom was acting jealous when she saw how much stuff it picked up from the floor she'd vacuumed a few days before.. I figure that it was probably just picking up bits of disintegrating carpet, though..

We all watched North by Northwest after our excursion to Sears, and it was a good movie. You get to see a young Martin Landau! I never knew he was young! The cinematography seems so weird, though, since everything pretty much has the feel of being on a soundstage, even though some of it must have been shot outside. I'm not sure if that was the original intention, or if that's just what happened when the film got cleaned up to be put on DVD.

At any rate, it was nice watching it on my parents' TV, which produces a very clear picture. If I remember right, it's the 27" Samsung TXM2796HF. It's a flat-screen CRT that can do progressive scan and possibly better, but the documentation is a bit thin on the precise capabilities. My parents were out looking at TVs and decided on it because it looked much better than the standard interlaced Sony TVs of the same price range. I forget exactly what they paid, probably around $600.

There are a few things I don't like about it, the most prominent of which is the fact that the scan lines start to get bent about halfway down the screen. They start slightly angling like a roof or a caret (^), but the effect seems to get reduced when the CRT warms up.. Still, I was pretty amazed by the image we got while watching the movie.

The TV didn't come with an HDTV tuner, so I'm considering giving one to my parents as a thank-you for giving me way too much money during college.

Posted by mike at 04:14 PM Central | Abode , Family , Hardware , Movies , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 22, 2003

That One Sucked, This One Blows

This is just one of those odd things that happens to me. I got a new vacuum on Tuesday, an inexpensive cyclonic upright. Sears had a bunch of other vacuums there, including a Dyson or two.

Today, as I'm gloating over my new weapon against dust mites, I discover that James Dyson is the British inventor of the cyclonic upright vacuum. Apparently, he originally invented it in a period starting in 1978. Here's a description from Amazon:

In 1978, after being inspired while housecleaning, inventor and designer James Dyson decided to create a vacuum that didn't lose suction power with use. Five years and more than 5,000 prototypes later, Dyson introduced the first cyclonic vacuum. Using a powerful centrifugal air system, this early machine outperformed other uprights with its efficient design and unflagging suction. Established vacuum companies of the day failed to take Dyson up on his ingenious design, so in 1993 he opened his own factory in England. Within two years, the Dyson cyclonic upright was outselling every other vacuum in the UK. The vacuum was so popular, in fact, that Dyson had to go to court repeatedly to stop big-league manufacturers from infringing on his patent. Today, the Dyson vacuum is still the only one on the market with a unique eight-chamber cyclonic construction. Dyson scientists and engineers continue to refine the original design, along with perfecting other inventions like the two-drum washing machine. Now sold the world over, Dyson products have come to represent breakthrough technology, innovative design, and unparalleled performance.

Now, my impression of one of the models I saw at Sears was that it was kind of big, clunky, and overpriced. I have little desire to ever spend $400+ on a vacuum.

Anyway, so I'm just about to go to bed when I see this article from the BBC mentioned on Slashdot. James Dyson invented (or, it looks more likely he forced one of his minions to invent) a funky-looking waterfall that makes it look like water is going uphill.

It's just weird how things connect sometimes.

Posted by mike at 01:04 AM Central | Hardware | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Is Funny Spelling Related to Aaron Spelling?

I just paid for some new hardware for my oft-delayed Fibre Channel array project. I bought 5 Fibre Channel drives sometime last year, and they've been sitting around doing nothing while I tried to find a cheap enclosure. I finally lucked out and found a relatively inexpensive SCSI enclosure for $45, and I also got some adapters to plug into the back of my drives.

I plan on ripping out the SCSI guts of the enclosure and replacing them with the adapters. I guess the expense of the whole thing ended up being somewhat more than I had hoped. My drives (36GB) were about $200 total, plus $200 for the host bus adapter (the controller that goes in my computer. The new items add another $200 or so. I had hoped that I could do this for less than $500, but I guess not.

If I knew it was going to cost $600-700, I probably would have looked at getting an entire FC array kit. Here's one for $900 or so.

Posted by mike at 02:19 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 24, 2003

More Power

Now that I got my daily frustrations out of the way, time for some fun stuff.

I'm still looking for a job, but when I find one, I'm probably going to go on a shopping spree—I need some new computers.

For ages and ages, I've wanted a server. Something with a good amount of disk space set up in an array, possibly with a connected tape drive or other backup medium. In theory, the server should handle

  • Mail: IMAP services
  • Directory: LDAP services
  • Storage: possibly home directories, also synchronization space for my laptop
  • Printing: because I don't like having my printer running off my firewall ;-)

It'd also be nice if the server had some hefty processors, so I could farm out my software compiling. If I do that, it could also build CPU-optimized software packages for my desktop, laptop, and any other systems I own.

Second, I'd like a dedicated system for TV recording and possibly viewing. Since MythTV lets me separate boxes that play video from ones that record video, this doesn't have to be an extremely fast box, but it would be nice to get a real performer so the video is encoded at good quality. Also, having multiple tuner cards so I can record more than one thing at a time would be great. This system should have lots of cheap disk space. Having a DVD burner on it would be great too, then I could save a lot of the shows I like.

Third, I'd like a new box that I can play with and break things. A machine where it doesn't matter if I corrupt the filesystem or need to reboot it just to try something out.

Also, it'd be nice to get a new firewall box that can give me wireless access. I'd like to get a Soekris box, but maybe I'll just add on to the machine I have now.

How much will this all cost? Lots.

I guess I'll hold off on my God Box ideas for now. That'll have to wait until I have Real Money™.

Posted by mike at 12:52 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 29, 2003

More Fibre for the Diet

Got the major missing components of my fibre channel array today. Wow, buy them the same day on eBay, and they show up on the same day.. Whodathunkit?

Well, they did come from the two opposite sides of the continent. My USPS package came from New York, and the UPS package from California.

The USPS package arrived early, like 9:00 or so, but the UPS guy took his sweet time in getting here. I thought for sure he'd drop it off between noon and 2 PM, but I didn't get it until at least 4:30. I guess this building must be on a different route or something.. Oh well, the package wasn't even scheduled for delivery until tomorrow anyway.

Now I just need some mounting rails for putting 3 1/2" drives in a 5 1/4" slot, and another fan or two..

Posted by mike at 08:44 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 01, 2003

Well, It Is Bondage-A-Go-Go

Ugh, must start doing sit-ups again, my back is starting to bother me.

Various other thoughts that can be summarized as, “I need a girlfriend.”

Other than that, yesterday was kind of an odd one. It wasn't bad, but it kind of promised more than it delivered. I thought I might have had a lead on a job, but it just turned out to be a “business opportunity” (hence the quote in my previous entry).

Going out to Ground Zero was fairly fun, though I expected more people to show up, even though most of my social net is out of town this weekend. Oh well, I shouldn't complain, as I put zero effort into getting people to go (besides, who the hell would I call?)

Anyway, Erin put on a show with one of the guys there, which was “interesting”


There were a few parts I really enjoyed, though most of it wasn't really my style. Of course, it matters a billion times more that Erin enjoyed herself..

Well, today I am going to try and find 4 sets of 3.5" → 5.25" hard drive mounting brackets for my disk array. For some reason, they are very hard to find, at least inexpensively. I'm sure they cost like 50¢ to produce, but they charge insane prices for the things, and I usually can only find the floppy variety (which doesn't quite fit). At CompUSA last night, I found one they were selling for $15, though that included a UDMA IDE cable.. There were some less expensive ones there too, but I just can't justify spending more than a few bucks on the things.

Posted by mike at 11:57 AM Central | Erin , Exercise , Hardware , Music , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 02, 2003

Drive Time

Urgh.. I finally got some hard drive mounting brackets today (I said I was going to do it yesterday, but the computer stores that have them cheap are closed on Sundays), along with a fan and some Molex Y-adapters so I could actually power all of the drives (stupid enclosure only came with two power connectors. WTF?)

Anyway, I seem to have wired it properly on the first try. However, only two of the drives worked, which was really disappointing. I tried replacing one, but that just seemed to make things worse. Unfortunately, during the assembly phase, one drive accidentally slid out of the enclosure and hit the (carpeted) floor—it might be toast.

I decided to stop fiddling for now, as I don't feel like getting stressed out about it. The array can wait for tomorrow, or until I have working drives, if need be..

Erik has a LiveJournal account now.. It kind of sounded like the Great Firewall of China was blocking my website for him, though I don't know why that would be—I'd figure LiveJournal would get blocked much earlier than www.tc.umn.edu. Whatever.

I sent Sarah a note about his journal, since she's been wanting to get included in the group of people he's been e-mailing from China..

Posted by mike at 05:58 PM Central | Erik , Hardware , Sarah | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 03, 2003

Six of One...

I was going to make a long entry discussing the advantages and disadvantages of various computer storage types, specifically related to RAID arrays. Unfortunately, it got really long-winded and incomprehensible.

To summarize, though:

If you want a blazing fast RAID and don't mind having all of the drives in your main computer case, IDE (or Serial ATA) with a good hardware RAID controller can't be beat. If you get huge drives, you can even pull off arrays that measure a few terabytes in size. I can't say I'd recommend doing software IDE RAID, though maybe I'm just biased..

For external storage, FireWire and USB are easy to do, but daisy-chaining lots of little enclosures together is not my idea of fun, and the speed leaves something to be desired. For not too much more money, you could probably jump to 1Gbps FibreChannel—the disks are cheap, though there are other costs. Doing more than a few drives with FibreChannel will probably require you to go to a rackmount array, which can be a big chunk of change, though they seem to be getting pretty cheap on eBay.

I did this, though I've sort of gotten burned with bad disks. 3 out of 5 of some I purchased last year appear to be dead or mostly dead. Still, FibreChannel drives remain cheap—it looks like I might be able to get some new 36 GB drives for $10-30 (not too bad).

SCSI is not something I really recommend. It has nice performance, and you can make your own external RAID box without much trouble (hell, you don't even need a box—just a cable and power). The problem is that the drives cost 3-4 times what you'd pay for IDE or FibreChannel (well, on eBay) This clobbers the price of other technologies (except probably 2Gbps FibreChannel).

Of course, for all of these, if you want to maximize your throughput, you'll need a “workstation” or “server” motherboard with fast PCI slots. Most of these arrays I'm talking about (the probable exceptions being FireWire and USB2) will completely flood your computer's 32-bit 33 MHz PCI bus. Better motherboards can do 64-bit 66 MHz or even 133 MHz. A fortunate few “slow” motherboards may already have integrated IDE or SCSI RAID controllers that already run at faster speeds.

Posted by mike at 02:15 AM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Is That a Lawnmower?

The fan I got yesterday for my drive array was the only one I could find at Tran Micro that came with a finger guard. I should have looked at the fan more carefully. It's a crystal fan with blue LEDs in it, which wasn't obvious from the packaging. That probably ended up costing me an extra $5.

The fan moves an impressive 52.6 CFM, but the cost of that is the noise level of 41.7 dBA—the damn thing sounds like a muffled vacuum cleaner. That's okay in some ways, though, as I kind of wanted overkill for testing my 10,000 RPM drives. I'll have to get something quieter if I actually want to keep the array, since I can't stand to be in the same room as this thing for very long.

I figure I'll try to find a fan that pushes about half the airflow. Hopefully that can get me down to 24-32 dBA, which is a lot less, as decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale. Technically, 30 dBA is ten times less pressure than 40 dBA, but to human hearing it seems like a 3-4x change. Getting it to just sound half as loud would be really nice.

I realized that my previous entry's discussion on the relative merits of different storage types neglected a serious point. Used FibreChannel drives can be obtained fairly inexpensively, but new ones are still spendy. Taking this into account, FibreChannel and SCSI probably end up being pretty close in cost.

Ugh, I suppose I was just desperately trying to justify my purchase of broken drives.. My eBaying for replacements isn't going too well yet, but I should just try to be patient.

Posted by mike at 02:10 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Everything Is Variable

Ah, my fan has a little variable resistor on the power cable. I thought that was what it was, but I couldn't get it to turn when I first tried. Of course, I was trying to tighten it, but it was already all the way in. Turning it to the left slowed down the rotation, resulting in a much quieter fan.

Cool, now I don't have to buy another one.

Hopefully I don't turn it down too far and toast my two working drives.

I think I'm going to go buy some music soon. My playlist is getting a bit repetitive.

Posted by mike at 05:35 PM Central | Hardware , Music | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 04, 2003

Ah, What Wonderful Crap

Well, I came back to my place after watching The Animatrix and waited to watch The Daily Show. I didn't want to have weird Animatrix dreams...

Anyway, while I'm waiting, I hear one of my remaining drives click and spin down.


All of the drives seem to be having problems now. Not sure if turning down the fan is what did it. Hopefully not.

I guess it's good I didn't buy a Gameboy Advance SP while I was out with Dan at Best Buy this evening.. I did pick up some CDs. Free All Angels by Ash, and Golden State by Bush.

Posted by mike at 12:28 AM Central | Dan , Hardware , Movies , Music | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Am I Just a Number to You?

Weird. FibreChannel has so many different layers.

I have four physical addresses with the adapter cards I have. Unfortunately, the guy who made these cards hard-wired the addresses, so I would have to gain some talent with a soldering iron to change them. Dunno why he couldn't have just soldered a jumper block on there.. Anyway, my physical IDs are 108, 109, 110, and 111.

The FibreChannel loop seems to pick it's own addresses, apparently just numbering upward as it goes around the loop. I'm not sure if this is a convention of some kind, but my drives show up at 16, 17, 18, and 19 (well, when they all feel like talking). Linux prefers to use hexadecimal numbers for this, so the IDs show up as 10, 11, 12, and 13. The FibreChannel adapter in my computer shows up as ID 0. Confusingly, the loop IDs are in reverse order as the physical addresses. I plan to reverse the order of the adapters I have, and see if that makes the drives any more reliable..

FC drives also have hardware addresses, much like Ethernet MAC addresses. I guess this is fairly important because under certain conditions, you would want a particular drive to appear at the same place at the operating system level, no matter where it's plugged into an array. An example hardware address (called a WWN in FC parlance—I'm not sure what the abbreviation stands for) from one of my drives is 002037473DB7 (a hexadecimal address). Linux adds on a prefix (2100) to this (not sure where that comes from), so the full address that the kernel prints out looks like 2100002037473DB7

Of course, Linux doesn't have the drives show up at addresses independent of their loop ordering (well, not my installation, anyway). My kernel counts upward much like the loop IDs. Each device on the loop is given a SCSI ID. My kernel starts by giving the FC adapter an ID of 0, then the drives are numbered 1 through 4

What a mess.

Posted by mike at 11:47 AM Central | Hardware , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


[root@3po][~]# cat /proc/mdstat 
Personalities : [raid0] [raid5] 
read_ahead 1024 sectors
md0 : active raid5 scsi/host0/bus0/target3/lun0/part1[3]
      71119488 blocks level 5, 64k chunk, algorithm 2 [3/2] [UU_]
      [===>.................]  recovery = 19.7% (7006992/35559744)
                               finish=21.7min speed=21856K/sec
unused devices: <none>

Would someone please explain to me why things tend to start working for me just shortly after I give up? (Well, except for when I give up on ever finding a girlfriend, naturally.)

Anyway, I still only got three drives to work, and there's no telling how long they'll last. Replacement drives, which should bring me up to 4 working disks one way or another, are on their way.

Posted by mike at 08:49 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 07, 2003

I'll Take Ethernet for $500, Alex

My hard drives magically arrived today. I think they were shipped, um, yesterday. w00t ;-)

Anyway, I plugged in three for a test. I'd previously removed one of the connectors from my cable loop, as it was connected to a drive that was broken anyway. That seemed to go fine.

Then, I decided to add the fourth connector, and things start breaking again. Fortunately, the drives seem to be fine, I just need to fix my cabling. The problem is probably because that the guy who made my connectors gave me cables for them that were made from Category 5 cable. You may have heard of this—it's what most people use for Ethernet cabling these days. Unfortunately, Cat5 cable is designed to carry signals in the range of 125 MHz (Fast Ethernet runs at 125 MHz on the wire, but uses an error-correction code that brings the maximum speed down to 100 Mbit/s). FibreChannel, as I may have mentioned, runs somewhere around ten times that speed.

The least the guy could have done was splurge on some Cat5e...

Anyway, I guess I'll snag a Category 5e or Category 6 Ethernet cable from Best Buy sometime in the not-too-distant future, rip it up, and replace the stuff I currently have. I know that some of the 5e cables there have had stuff like “rated up to 350 MHz!” written on the packaging.

I forget what speed Gigabit Ethernet really runs at, but my brain keeps snapping back to 250 MHz. I'll have to look it up at some point. That seems absurdly low, though.

There are 4 pairs of wires (8 wires total) in a standard Ethernet cable, though most cards only need two pairs (4 wires) to be there. Gigabit Ethernet uses all 4 pairs, and the truly geeky may recall that there was a variant of Fast Ethernet called 100Base-T4 that used 4 pairs (the more common version is 100Base-TX). Using 4 pairs allowed a 100Mbit/s connection on an old Category 3 wire, which couldn't adequately carry the 125MHz Fast Ethernet signal..

Posted by mike at 04:45 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Events of the Day

Hmm. I have a running dialogue in my head. That's probably not unusual, though I don't know how many people would admit it. Anyway, I suppose it explains my frequent long journal entries, and makes John Cusack movies more enjoyable for me ;-)

I forgot to mention a few things the last time around.

My brother called at around 9:00 AM this morning. Earlier than I was expecting.. I said I'd rather not go to the swap meet, but they said they'd stop by later. About half an hour passes, and some knocking wakes me up. My door rattles a lot, so I wasn't entirely sure if it was someone at the door and I just went back to sleep.

By around 11:00, my dad and brother come by. I guess Brian got a few things, but it didn't sound all that exciting. Anyway, they found that my package was outside, and they brought it in.

Well, I guess it explains the knocking at 9:30.. I just didn't expect my package to get here so quickly.

We all went out to lunch at Chipotle, then went to peruse an art fair going on at St. Anthony Park (which is on Como Ave. in St. Paul, nowhere near St. Anthony Main...). It was about as interesting as art fairs get for me, though it was less crowded and the prices seemed somewhat cheaper than the yearly Uptown art fair.

Next, we went over to CompUSA, since I figured they hadn't been to a real computer store for a while. Best Buy just doesn't cut it when it comes to computer hardware. I found a nifty USB2.0+Firewire+Ethernet combo card, which I might get, since all of my computer's slots are filled and I had to pull out my SCSI card to get the FibreChannel card in..

After that, I got back to my place and started opening up my package. Turns out it was actually four cubes taped together to form a big thing. In addition, each drive was independently wrapped in a package within each of these cubes. Inside that, there was only minimal packing material—which I guess might explain why the small box was put in a bigger box..

Anyway, all of the drives could have fit in a single one of the cubes, but I guess I now have a number of conveniently-sized boxes for future gift wrapping.

My new drives are quieter than the old ones, but they are smaller (form factor, not capacity), faster, and have bigger caches (4MB instead of 1MB).

I rule ;-)

Lastly, just because Beth mentioned that she and some of her friends could probably manage to make a company by themselves (since everyone has the different talents it takes to form a business), I've been mulling over the few business ideas I've had. They involve hardware, which I'm not really any good at designing or making. I'm not sure any feasible business model could come out of it, though, and there are probably other companies out there already that do things like what I'm thinking...

Posted by mike at 07:04 PM Central | Family , Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 08, 2003

I Feel the Need...for Speed!

My head is rolling around many thoughts related to networking and high-speed computer interfaces.

I know that 10Base-T Ethernet used Manchester encoding for sending “symbols” over the wire (in this case, I think each pair of ones and zeroes was encoded, though maybe it was each bit individually). The problem is that it required the physical wire speed to be twice your data rate, so a 10Mbps network would run at 20MHz. An advantage is that it can fairly easily self-synchronize, reducing the need for expensive high-accuracy clocks. This may have also been used for FDDI at 100Mbps, which would require a network capable of 200MHz operation (though I think that must have just been the copper wire variant and not the optical version).

I sort of mentioned in a previous entry that Fast Ethernet (100Mbps) improved upon this by using a “four out of five” encoding, where symbols composed of 5 bits were used to represent 4 bits of actual data. I think this is borrowed from some version of FibreChannel.

FibreChannel itself is descended from HIPPI, FDDI, and SCSI. HIPPI was originally a crazy interface used for linking supercomputers together. It used cables with 50 wires, and operated at very high speeds at the time. I think they had lots of problems with crosstalk, though. Crosstalk (where the signals from neighboring wires start to get blended together) is becoming an issue even on lower-end hardware, and is one of the big reasons we are now seeing a move to Serial-ATA in desktop machines.

In the big-ass hardware arena (supercomputers, datacenters, and Internet backbones), I've heard that SONET and InfiniBand are big. I believe SONET is primarily a network interface, and last I heard it was the speed champ, maxing out at 40 Gigabits per second. I don't know much about InfiniBand, but it seems to be more of a storage and system interconnect, and it appears to my untrained eyes to be very similar to FibreChannel. One interesting thing about it is that it appears to gang together multiple interfaces to achieve insane speeds. Connect together 12 channels each running at 2 Gigabits or so, and have fun.

Another curiosity I'm having at the moment regards Firewire. A new version just came out that doubles the speed. Originally, there was the IEE-1394 standard, circa 1995. I'm not sure exactly how fast that went, but it was either 100 or 200Mbps. 1394a, what is most common at the moment, runs at 400Mbps. 1394b has just started showing up, and is commonly being referred to as Firewire 800 because of it's 800Mbps speed. The strange thing about it is that Firewire 800 has a new connector, which I think is a very bad thing. Significant numbers of weird connectors has had a bad effect on SCSI, so making a new connector is problematic...

Another thing that caught my interest: Slashdot is saying that Apple may show off their next-generation “G5” desktop systems soon. Rumor has it that these systems will use IBM's 64-bit PowerPC 970 processor, and may use HyperTransport, which has been a fairly mythic bus architecture for some time. HyperTransport was originally designed for use with the (formerly DEC, then Compaq, and now, uh, nobody) Alpha processor, and I think AMD has looked at it heavily (they borrowed a lot of technology from the Alpha, which explains why Athlons have largely done so well).

It's becoming clear that personal computers will soon be moving to a new system bus. The old standard PCI interface will hang around a long time (nobody needs their sound card or 56k modem to be on an ultra-fast bus), but something new has to come in to handle high-bandwidth devices. We already have AGP for video cards, and the 64-bit PCI bus helps a lot too. Intel has the PCI-X interface, which runs 64-bit at 133MHz. I seem to recall hearing that HyperTransport will somehow be in competition with PCI-X, but I think they're two different things.

Clearly, this requires more research ;-)

Posted by mike at 06:34 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 09, 2003


I got some Cat 6 cable from CompUSA. Then I found I could get more cable for the same price at Radio Shack (though I couldn't have gotten the 3' cable length at Radio Shack—just 7' for the price I paid for 3').

Anyway, I got back home and started fiddling with it. Ripped it apart and replaced some of the wires going between the drives in my disk enclosure. Unfortunately, it's not helping the 4-drive setup I want to have.

After mucking with this a while, I stopped out on the front porch of my apartment building to hang out with Kari and Becky a bit. No sense getting too stressed out with my computer stuff, as the next step will be to replace the more complicated cable that comes into the case. Fun.

On a positive note, all three lanes of University Ave. were open all the way through Dinkytown for once! We'll see how long that lasts.

Posted by mike at 08:32 PM Central | Hardware , Kari | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 10, 2003

Revenge Against Overconfidence

Ugh. I did not sleep very well last night. Sleeping in 5-10 minute bursts is no fun. One of those mornings where you feel like you've woken up enough times for it to be 10:00 or 11:00, but it's still only 6 or so. Any of a number of things could be the source of that trouble..

Well, my Cat 6 cable experiment seems to have made things worse so far, though I haven't managed to swap the connecting cable yet. Yesterday, I'd picked up some DB9 connectors from Radio Shack, but I got male connectors instead of female ones. I guess I'll take another trip out today and get the right stuff. I should go buy some food too.

Oh, and I want to buy Radiohead, which is probably already sold out. Maybe I should go do that at Best Buy, so I can possibly pick up the third season of Deep Space Nine.

I've been reading more about network technologies and buses, learning little bits here and there. I guess InfiniBand isn't quite as fast as I thought, but it still sounds pretty cool. It's basically a cross between a computer bus and a network, so you can share your computer's bus with others. You could access the modem in another machine directly, for instance. This is most interesting for clustering applications..

HyperTransport is pretty wicked-fast, at least on the high end. In theory, I think it could do the same sort of things that InfiniBand does, but I think it's more being designed as an internal system bus rather than a combination internal/external one. At it's core, it uses serial links, though they can be ganged together to make faster connections.

Both the AMD Opteron and the IBM PowerPC 970 are designed to work with HyperTransport. I'm still not quite sure if Intel has some analog of it or not (probably, I just haven't figured out what it is yet).

I've written a few times about various types of Ethernet, but my memory isn't perfect, and some of the sources of information I have aren't complete. I think I may pick up the O'Reilly book Ethernet: The Difinitive Guide at some point.

One of the most interesting things I came across involves a merger of sorts between two long-standing rivals ATA (IDE) and SCSI. Serial ATA drives will be compatible with Serial Attached SCSI. You will be able to mix and match drives. Not exactly sure how you would tell the difference between them, though, or if it's even relevant.

One question I have is, will you be able to use Serial Attached SCSI drives in Serial ATA-based systems? Or does it just go the other way around? If things go both ways, I think the next few years will be an interesting exercise in marketing. How would the cost of one be justified against the other if they're compatible?

Posted by mike at 10:30 AM Central | Food , Hardware , Music , Self , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 14, 2003

I Like the Way the Hand Works

Bah.. Looks like my Palm IIIx just died. I press the reset button and it starts to boot up, but then a Fatal Exception thing pops up..

I think I've had it for about 3 years, so I suppose some warranty just ran out ;-)

I guess I'll have to get a Sharp Zaurus :-D

Posted by mike at 02:06 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 17, 2003


Wow. Prices for “atomic” watches have plummeted. I wouldn't be surprised if this is because Casio got into the game. Walmart.com (not that I'd buy from there, but Google found a link) has one for $30. Of course, that's just a digital watch.. I'd like to get a nice analog one, but it's hard for me to justify buying one of those at the moment. My watch band is on the verge of breaking, so I just want a decent replacement.

It's awesome that this technology is now cheap. Hopefully clock setting will be a thing of the past in a few years. Of course, picking up a 60 kHz radio signal is a pretty neat trick that can't always be accomplished...

Posted by mike at 02:38 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 18, 2003


My brother just left. He stayed over last night because he went to a Ham club meeting yesterday evening, and he's off at capoeira practice now.

He had tried to go to lunch with some Ham people earlier today, but apparently nobody showed up. We went to the MoA in the afternoon, and I was reminded how boring the place can be for guys. We left and then headed to Target, where I got one of those “atomic” watches I'd talked about previously.

Unfortunately, Casio doesn't seem to like incorporating countdown timers into their watches. I don't understand why.. I never use the chronometer function on my watches, but I set timers fairly regularly.

Oh well, maybe Timex will come out with a good self-setting watch. The last few watches of theirs I've owned have had fairly easy to use interfaces, while this watch I just got seems to operate in weird ways.. Maybe it's just the different brand styles...

Anyway, my brother and I got some Chinese food from the place at the tiny shopping center near my house. Well, it's not even a shopping center since most of the places are restaurants—which reminds me... There's a steak place there called “Best Steak House.” I'll have to drag some of my meat-eating friends over there someday to try it out and see if it's remotely worthy of the name.

Posted by mike at 07:08 PM Central | Family , Food , Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 19, 2003

How Do You Fail?

I worry a lot when I hear about new technologies (especially computer technologies) being added to cars. The main problem I have is that computer parts can fail fairly suddenly.

I think my family's old ’84 Cavalier had computer parts fail a few times. The last time it happened, the failure caused the fuel pump to shut down. I could only drive as long as there was gas in the fuel line. Well, the car had been hesitating a bit as I drove it earlier that day, so maybe the failure could have been anticipated. Fortunately, I was only a few miles from home when the car broke down.

I had a similar problem with the ’88 Cavalier I have now. I'm not sure if the computer ever outright failed (the fuel pump always worked, at least), but the car would hesitate intermittently. Apparently it was no longer doing proper fuel mix calculations. At least this failure was accompanied by a “Service Engine Soon” idiot light on the dashboard. I could drive the car, but it behaved funny, and in theory the engine could have been damaged if I continued to drive it in that condition.

Back to the ‘84 for a moment: I once had the car overheat while I was driving in light city traffic. I tried to mitigate the problem by turning on the heat, and I probably started driving slowly as well. However, my mother (who has an Electrical Engineering degree) looked at the car's repair manual and discovered that turning on the air conditioning would have temporarily fixed the problem. The thermostat that failed controls the fan behind the radiator, but turning on the A/C makes the fan run continuously. Anyway, the problem went away once I got on the highway, since there was actual airflow through the radiator..

In my opinion, the scenario with the ’88 turned out the best. There was a failure—but the car fell back to a simpler mode of operation, informed the driver that something was wrong, and kept the vehicle drivable.

I'm not impressed with how the other parts failed. Of course, it's possible that the first problem I mentioned could not have been worked around. Also, the last scenario with the failed thermostat might have turned out the best way—the car could have been set up to keep the fan on if the thermostat failed, but then you'd have to take it into a service station to have them communicate with the computer to determine the problem... That's way more expensive than just going down to the parts store to pick up a $10 thermostat.

Well, I guess there's a whole other discussion of open formats and protocols for communicating with onboard computers in cars that I could get into here, but I'll hold back on that for now.

The main point I'm trying to get to is that, when designing a system that needs to be robust (like a car) you need to think about how to react when parts of that system break. And things will break on cars—they're hot and cold, dry and wet. They produce and accept lots of shock and vibration, and are just dowright dirty.

Now, new cars are getting all sorts of sensors and doodads. Suspensions and brake systems are computer-controlled (or at least computer-influenced). Some steering wheels aren't even connected to anything. Some cars are bristling with miniature radar systems for parking assistance, collision avoidance, and even controlling airbag inflation. Continuously variable transmissions are neat new toys too.
However, what happens if nothing is in control of these things anymore?

I'm sure many of the engineers who have worked on these projects have thought this out, but there are probably more than a few products that can fail in very strange ways.

Posted by mike at 12:18 PM Central | Car , Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 20, 2003

Parallels of Serial

Came across an article discussing the relationship between Serial ATA and Serial Attached SCSI. Seems to make sense.

Posted by mike at 10:53 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 01, 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 Central | Car , Hardware , Music | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 03, 2003

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 Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 05, 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 Central | Erin , Hardware , Kari , Software , Spike | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


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 Central | Family , Hardware , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 07, 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 Central | Hardware , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 08, 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 Central | Hardware , Movies , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 09, 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..

Posted by mike at 11:13 PM Central | Erin , Hardware , Internet , Josh , Laptop , Movies , Music , Sarah , Software , Spike , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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 Central | Car , Hardware , Software , Weather , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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 Central | Hardware , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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.

Posted by mike at 09:49 AM Central | Abode , Corporations , Hardware , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 23, 2003

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 Central | Comedy , Hardware , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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 Central | Hardware , Internet | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 01, 2003

Die Another Day

Hmm. I must remember to go and buy the fourth season of Deep Space Nine on the 5th (or soon after). Hopefully I'll be able to get one that has the bonus DVD (I've gotten them for every other season so far).

Hopefully I'll have money to pay for it…

I thought my workstation here had gone schizophrenic earlier today, as it was only showing the system updates available about 1/4th of the time when I went to Windows Update. Turned out that the proxy firewall I had been using for IE wasn't working…

I hate proxies. Well, 99% of the time.

I think that an Apple G5 has been ordered for us, but I have no idea when it will show up here. That'll be fun.

Posted by mike at 11:55 AM Central | Hardware , Money , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 11, 2003

Groove to the Beat


I guess I got paid just in time. Er, actually, it looks like I'll have to wait a few weeks yet. And there's no telling how that Ethernet connection works…

Too bad their website sucks. Viewing it in Mozilla gives me no joy.

Posted by mike at 03:03 PM Central | Hardware , Internet , Music | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 12, 2003

Fresh Is Spesh

I've been thinking that adding some auxiliary DC power outlets to computers would be a good idea. So many things require little power bricks these days, and it would be much nicer to consolidate the process.

I know it's been done in a few cases. One of the Sony VAIO laptops at work has a DC output. I may have actually gotten the idea via osmosis from sitting next to the thing for a few days straight.

At any rate, it wouldn't be too difficult to do—two of the most common voltages for power bricks (5V and 12V) are the main power levels already supplied inside a computer. Heck, in many cases, a computer PS would produce a much more clean and reliable voltage than those black cancers that fit somewhere between the wall and your favorite little device.

I've been fretting so much about getting paid that I've almost forgotten how to spend money. I just remembered a moment ago to pay my cable bill (due tomorrow). Hopefully I'll get back in the cycle of things now that my checking account is happy again.

I need to debate several items on my to-do list. I'd like to get a replacement PDA—especially a nice one—but I am getting nervous about plunking down a lot of cash for that. So, I'll have to see what's available in the medium to low end of the scale.

I don't think I've bought any clothes since about this time last year, so that will have to change. There are various other things, like getting a microwave (my brother's is returning to him soon), a stand for that, and possibly some cabinets or drawers for organizing some of my computer junk. I may have already mentioned that something other than a card table for kitchen dining would be nice.

Anyway, I suspect my checking account will take a bit of a beating this weekend, but it shouldn't be too bad. Fortunately, reinforcements will be coming in on a regular basis for at least the next few months.

Posted by mike at 08:47 PM Central | Abode , Hardware , Money | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 15, 2003

Taka Taka Taka

A pretty eerie drive into work today. The fog was hanging just enough to make you think about it, which seemed to make the people on the road pay more attention. That was nice, so I had a less stressful drive into work, even though the fog had a look that just made me think, “Someone's engine is burning a hell of a lot of oil.”

Went to Applebee's for lunch. Had steak. Mmmm.

Got the G5 in at work. All shiny and aluminuminumy. Mmmm. Friggin' huge heatsinks, though.

Last day of work for the intern—he's heading to Rochester in a week to start a “co-op” there. It's really just a fancy name for an internship that IBM seems to be fond of. They must have invented it a generation ago, just to confuse all of the hippies ;-)

Went home early: “It's Friday in the summer. Go home.”

This weekend: shopping spree.

Posted by mike at 05:28 PM Central | Hardware , Work | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

August 16, 2003

Click the Button

The bastard upstairs turned on his music at 8:30 AM today. Oh joy.

Someday, I'll have a house.

I got up after a little while and did the normal morning things, except breakfast. So, by 9:00, I was out the door and headed out shopping.

I got a plastic 3-drawer storage thingy at Target, a 256MB USB drive at Best Buy for ~$60, some miscellaneous cables at Radio Shack, and some jeans at J.C. Penney's.

Yes, for the first time in a year, I bought clothes. Not much, but the weekend's not over yet.

I think I might get a new PDA this weekend. I've been looking at the Palm Tungsten T and the Sony Clié PEG-TG50. The Clié would be fun since it has a nifty keyboard on it, but the Tungsten can be made very small. Beyond that, they're both fairly balanced with Bluetooth, fairly speedy processors, and relatively high-resolution color displays.

Wave bye-bye to that paycheck…

Posted by mike at 03:57 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 18, 2003

I Just Crushed Woody Allen

Discovered today that the testing lab I've been working in was infested with ants. At first, I thought there were just a few, but it quickly dawned on me that it was a fairly big problem.

At first, I was thinking that a few must have hitched a ride along with the G5 on it's trip to Minnesota, but it turned out that there was a nest poking through in a part of the lab that was pretty far away from the cardboard box the computer had been shipped in. And, of course, there's no way in hell the box could have had that many ants in it.

Anyway, we had an exterminator come to attack the problem. Hopefully the ants will subside soon.

I spent some more time looking over the G5 with another guy at work. The CD-ROM drive cover has an interesting feature—rather than folding down, it actually drops vertically to let the tray come out. I'll have to take a look at the mechanism that does that. Definitely a lot cooler than the old panels that would just flop down to let the tray out…

We'll have to find something to run on the machine just to show how fast it is. The damn thing has a 1GHz frontside bus. I have not seen a computer with a 2:1 ratio between CPU speed and bus speed in ages and ages. It must just blaze when the right software is put on it.

Posted by mike at 07:56 PM Central | Hardware , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 21, 2003

Ooooo It's Soooo Biiiig

Lots of worm-related antics at work today. It appears that none of the systems I touch on a regular basis had any problems, but the programmers upstairs got their Ethernet ports shut off.

Despite some alarmist news reports to the contrary, the thing seems to be slowing down—I got about half as many bounce messages today as I got yesterday.

I got Bowling for Columbine at Target today, so I might watch it later.

Dum de dum dum.

Oooo! HDTV!

Posted by mike at 07:59 PM Central | Hardware , Internet , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 24, 2003

Total World Domination

Well, that pcHDTV card I talked about has hit Slashdot. I was going to send a link, but I decided to wait until my card arrives before advertising it to the world too much. It should show up at work on Monday.

Now, I'm in the process of designing an appropriate home theater PC that has the necessary CPU power to decode the video stream nicely. This will be a challenge, since I also ultimately want to have a system that is quiet. I think I've figured out what I want for the base system, though. Probably going to get an Athlon XP 3000+ running on a VIA KT600-powered motherboard. That gives me all the goodies like USB2, FireWire, Serial ATA, and whatnot. I would go for an nVidia nForce2-based system since they're faster, but nVidia only has closed-source drivers for some stuff, and nVidia motherboards apparently don't play nicely with non-nVidia video cards, at least in Linux.

I am looking at getting one of the wacky Zalman fan-shaped CPU coolers, but I guess the extreme size of these heatsinks could actually damage the CPU in certain situations. However, they're very quiet.

It would be awesome to get one of the Ahanix cases, but they're very spendy. I'm still hunting for a good power supply and some good fans as well, but I guess I can't find all of the parts I want right away—I may have to try a few different things before I get things just the way I like.

But, once everything is set up properly, it should last me a long time. The PC would replace the functionality of several A/V components, and it would be infinitely configurable and expandable.

This is one happy day ;-)

Posted by mike at 01:29 PM Central | Hardware , Internet , Movies , Music , MythTV , Software , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 25, 2003

You Don't Have a Package?



No package. Boo UPS.

Oh well, I hadn't gotten an actual tracking number out of anyone so maybe it hasn't even really shipped. However, the day has not yet turned to dusk, so maybe UPS will come by again.

I'm in serious need of entertainment. I should have gone to the Fair on Saturday or done other things over the weekend, but I was busily plotting out ways to saturate my tissue with even more electromagnetic energy.

Bah. Back to work.

Posted by mike at 02:44 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Well, it looks now like my order hadn't actually been shipped when I had first gotten a notice about it. Maybe they'd put it in a box or something, but it hadn't been graced with the mark of UPS until tonight. So, I guess that means maybe Wednesday. I'll try checking the tracking number again later to see what the brown bastards say.

Maybe I'll get my next paycheck by the time it arrives. That would be nice.

Posted by mike at 08:27 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 26, 2003

The Revolution Will Be Digitized

Well, I guess my package has gotten through Des Moines. Maybe it'll show up in the morning, maybe the afternoon. It'd be nice to get it early, but then I would just want to leave early that much more ;-)

Of course, it's likely that my efforts will be for naught, as reception sucks when you're in an apartment halfway underground. Still, I hear that miraculous things can happen with $3 bow-tie antennas from Radio Shack (digital transmissions generally go in the UHF band). I've only got bunny ears at the moment, so we'll see what else I can find.

Now let's see if my “forward thinking” boss will declare again today that 4:45 is in fact 5 o'clock. Heh.

Posted by mike at 04:36 PM Central | Hardware , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 27, 2003

Use the Wand of Power

Got my package. Woo! Now I'll spend the next week trying out various antennae ;-)

Hopefully I'll be able to pick up at least one station. We'll see how that goes. According to AntennaWeb, most of the stations in the Twin Cities are 45-50° from north at my apartment. Not exactly the best angle.

I got my car checked out today. At my last oil change, a guy had suggested that I get a new gasket for the transmission fluid pan, since there was some seepage there. I'd also thought that I had felt the car acting strangely. But, I guess the guy was just trying to milk me for some money, as the repairman I talked to today couldn't stop saying what “beautiful” condition the car was in. He said that there was some seepage, like the other guy had said, but that's just a normal thing—especially for an older car like mine.

The most valuable thing was getting the mechanic's advice on what sorts of warning signs would actually exist if the fluid went low. One thing is that the fluid can change color—actually burning up a bit if the transmission starts slipping. Another consequence of the slippage would be having the engine rev up without making the car go any faster. That behavior would first be noticed when going around curves, as fluid would slosh to one side, making it hard for the sump to pull fluid out of the bottom of the transmission.

Now I feel better knowing for certain that the car is in good shape.

Watch me go out and hit a deer :-p

Posted by mike at 02:02 PM Central | Car , Hardware , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Well my tuner card works. It probably doesn't have the greatest tuner in the world, but I've been able to get it to have a suitable signal on 4 channels: KTCI-16, WFTC-21, KMSP-26, and KTCA-34, though they tend to need slightly different antenna locations/orientations (of course). Two or three other channels taunt me by being just under the threshold. I'm curious if an amplifier would help with that, but it would probably just make things worse.

I'd really like to be able to pick up the big 3 networks, though I'll have to see what can be done with the ones I am able to receive. So far, the software I have has only been able to decode 480i programming. Higher resolutions seem to make the player app go nuts. But, I entirely expected some problems… Besides, the important thing is that the hardware works.

Anyway, I picked up a nifty looking antenna at Best Buy. People seemed to like it from what I read online, so I got it. It's kind of entertaining wandering through the apartment with it, since I almost feel like I'm carrying a divining rod…

Unfortunately, it sounds like the encoding method used for American broadcast digital TV is not well suited for urban environments. It outperforms the European standard over long distances, but people just a few miles from the tower can have problems.

Ah, America…

Posted by mike at 10:29 PM Central | Hardware , Software , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 30, 2003

Who Wants to Marry a Computer Geek

First off, some linkage. People interested in HDTV in the Twin Cities area should go take a look at TPT's bulletin board. Lots of good information, and it looks like techs from most or all of the local stations hang out there. 2-channel audio working fine, but Dolby Digital 5.1 dropping out? Mention it there and they'll fix it ;-)

Another site, HDTV Twin Cities has some info on how to get high definition video in this area, whether from cable, satellite, or air. They have a convenient listing of what formats the local stations are broadcasting in.

I tried to show off my HDTV tuner card to my family, since they were up for moving my brother into his dorm room, but the curse of technology demos hit me, and nothing happened with it.

I think I'm going to assemble a new box over the next week or two to test it out more thoroughly.

Okay, back to less costly things. Sort of.

I chatted with an old friend of mine from marching band. I guess she's getting married in about a month and a half, and is going nuts with She mentioned that some other people from the band had gotten hitched recently. I suppose that if I got around to catching up with people I knew then, I'd hear all sorts of similar stories, which is, y'know…

I'll have to get out and do something this weekend. I've been getting kind of bored.

Posted by mike at 06:26 PM Central | Hardware , School , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 05, 2003

Battle Royale

Microsoft has been attacking me today, with a little help from Adobe. Something strange happened when I updated to Acrobat Reader 6.0—it wanted me to install Windows Journal Viewer. The thing is, it was already installed. Why did I install Windows Journal Viewer? Because it was easier to install it than to go dig through and tell Windows Update to not tell me about it.

Yeah, I'm lazy.

Anyway, so I ended up uninstalling the journal application, which seemed to make things happy. Then I went and reinstalled it, because I enjoy pain. Actually, I suppose I wanted to see if the thing would only want me to install the journal viewer when it was installed, and not care if it wasn't.

Later in the day, I was somewhat surprised to discover that the IvyTV project could probably support one of the Adaptec video capture products I've been working with. The VideOh! DVD Media Suite PCI Edition (more succintly known as the AVC-2410) uses many of the same chips as some other tuner cards out there.

The project has support for the Philips SAA7115 video decoder, the MSP3425G audio decoder, and the Conexant CX23416 MPEG encoder, all of which appear on the Adaptec board.


Then, this afternoon, Microsoft bit back at me when I updated some software, rebooting to find an error stating that the machine could not validate it's license.

Someday, someone will write a virus that installs Linux, and then everyone will be happy ;-)

Posted by mike at 04:24 PM Central | Hardware , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 10, 2003

'Cuz Stacy's Mom Has Got It Goin' On

Hey! I bought food today! I have stuff to eat! I even got some reasonable snackish stuff…

Anyway, the s00per s3kr1t project at work is progressing and taking up most of my time, but that will change over the next few days. They're still researching stuff in order to figure out what they're going to research. But, people are already saying “Wow,” which is good.

I'm hoping to get paid soon, but I'm debating whether or not to get going on my big PVR/TV project. Well, I'd mostly just like to get a new computer set up for TV recording, so my desktop's CPU doesn't get so pummeled all of the time.

Then again, it looks like my parents might start pushing for me to get a car (most likely used if anything has to happen in the near future).


Posted by mike at 11:39 PM Central | Car , Food , Hardware , MythTV , TV , Work | Comments (188) | TrackBack (0)

September 13, 2003

Saturday Night Fever

You knew they could do it: The disco ball powered computer.

Okay, it's not really powered by a disco ball, but the truth is still pretty entertaining.

Posted by mike at 07:37 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 16, 2003


I was playing with a system today that had a VIA EPIA-M10000 motherboard in it. It's a 1GHz VIA C3 processor surrounded by loads of connectivity—Ethernet, USB, FireWire, plus other goodies like S-Video and S/P-DIF output. Well, except that it only has one DDR SDRAM slot and one PCI slot. That's what you get with Mini-ITX (roughly 6" by 6" in size), but hey.

Anyway, the system was pretty snappy running RedHat 9.0, and it handled the OpenGL XScreenSaver hacks pretty well. The board basically lets you build your own thin client box at a reasonable price. $150 for a motherboard and CPU isn't too bad. You could build a nice tiny desktop for $400 (or less if 1GHz is too fast for you ;-)

Posted by mike at 11:06 PM Central | Hardware , MythTV , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 17, 2003

Max Headroom

Well, I got another part to my monster media machine, bringing me to a grand total of two. Or one, if I decide that the hard drive I got a few weeks ago is too loud. I got the hard drive because it was cheap (er, after a rebate I haven't sent in yet, oops), but after buying it, I discovered that certain Seagate drives are lauded for their very quiet operation.

I got a video card today, a Matrox G550. Perhaps not the best choice, but I know Matrox cards do a good job at TV-out (better than nVidia cards), and it also has a DVI output for when I get that HDTV. One problem, though, is that they apparently don't handle having a DVI connection and a TV connection at the same time very well. It was mentioned somewhere that if the two heads on the card have large differences in pixel clock speeds (how many pixels per second are being sent out), one of the heads loses sync and then goes black.

I plan to only use one or the other, rather than both at the same time, so that shouldn't affect me.

So, I've got about 8 more parts to get (depending on how you count). This will take a while.

Posted by mike at 06:53 PM Central | Hardware , MythTV , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 01, 2003

Serial Killer

I used to think that it was silly to have USB ports on the front of a computer.

I don't think it's silly anymore.

Posted by mike at 09:30 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 02, 2003

Brought to You by Glagnar's Human Rinds

Hmm. Interesting.

A possible response by TV networks to PVR devices such as TiVo is a simple one: change the name of your TV shows. This week, people who have machines set up to record “Enterprise” won't get anything. The name of the show has been changed to “Star Trek: Enterprise.”

Before you know it, TV shows will have names resembling subject lines of junk mail messages ;-)

I figured out the problem I was working on yesterday. Mostly, the solution involved plugging in a thing I forgot to plug in last week. Doh.

We went through and moved a bunch of USB and SCSI stuff off of the shelves at work, and then took down the shelves. Our main storage closet is very empty now.

At least I got paid yesterday :-D

Posted by mike at 09:15 PM Central | Hardware , MythTV , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 08, 2003

Where's Dogbert When You Need Him?

A guy came into work today, apparently to assist in the shutdown of the site. It seems that he does that on a regular basis—traveling to sites that have been shut down, or that will be shut down, and handling some of the dirty work. He told some stories about how other people hadn't taken losing their jobs so well in the past, and just left huge messes in their wake.

I suppose the implication is that we are all pushovers for orderly doing what we're told, going down without a fight, etc.

Mostly, it just bugs me that this guy has done this at least a few times before. It's as though the company has a “shutdown squad”—probably not a bad idea, just a very creepy one.

Anyway, during our daily escape for lunch, we drove around some of the subdivisions under development in Hudson. I'll never understand the need to have a 45° slope (or greater) on a roof. I have no desire for my house to look like a church.

But, after getting pissed off by the appearance of what passes for housing these days, we drove through some of the back roads and got a hint of the fall colors. Just yesterday, I had been thinking that it would be nice to come back over the weekend to do a trip to see the leaves, but the leaves seem to be turning very quickly. The change from yesterday to today seemed very dramatic to me. Maybe the fairly low amount of rain we've gotten this year has something to do with that.

I think I'm going to go buy some more hardware for my PVR project over the weekend. My pocketbook will take a hit, but I'm really desiring the opportunity to have an extra system around to experiment with. I expect I'll continue using my main box for TV recording for quite a while, until I work out some bugs.

It's very difficult to do fairly low-level software development on a machine you depend on every day. I just need some more flexibility.

Oh, and LiveJournal appears to only be contacting my site every 24 hours for updates. It looks like their servers download my syndication feed at 5:30 PM, which is just around the time I usually get back from work. So, many of my updates will appear to be nearly a day behind now.


Posted by mike at 11:57 PM Central | Hardware , MythTV , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 11, 2003

I Compute, Therefore I Am

Went out and bought computer crap today. I'll call it my bonus for actually going to work for these next three days (pay for this week should about cover the parts).

The motherboard I got is pretty nifty, though it requires no less than 3 extra expansion slots to hold all of the excess connectors for USB, FireWire, and audio (although the board I got didn't come with the audio riser thingy—I may have to go order one, but I might just get a PCI sound card).

I've been battling with the IDE controller and Ethernet drivers. The Linux kernel that comes on a standard Debian install disc doesn't understand either one properly. I had purchased a 200GB drive earlier, but the older kernel only understod ATA100 drives and lower, meaning that I could only see the first ~137GB of the hard drive. So, I looked through my closet and found a 1GB drive (my former roommates at UV will recognize this one as the tormentor that I had placed in the sun room for my audio playback box). That installed fine, and I eventually was able to upgrade to a kernel that understands the IDE controller well enough to access the entire 200GB of my big disk.

Unfortunately, I still haven't gotten the gigabit Ethernet chip working (Broadcom Tigron3 5788). The most recent stable release of the Linux kernel (2.4.22) doesn't support the card, but there is a driver for the basic chipset “family” that it's in. I did some searches and discovered that the chipset should be supported properly in the prerelease kernels for 2.4.23. So, I've got to figure out how difficult it will be to compile this stuff.

Fortunately, I've had my 256MB USB keychain drive to sneakernet things onto this new box. I tried hooking the new machine up to my desktop system via FireWire, but something gets messed up whenever I try that.

There was a strange little sticker on one of the USB ports saying to not use that particular port when Bluetooth is in use. I haven't been able to figure out if there's actually a Bluetooth module on the motherboard, but it would be cool if there was. In theory, I could use that instead of finding an IR receiver for a remote control. Well, if a signal can manage to penetrate the computer case ;-)

Posted by mike at 10:55 PM Central | Hardware , Software , Wireless | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 12, 2003

It Is a Good Shrubbery

Well, I finally got high-resolution video playing back on my computer. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite seem to be flowing at full framerate yet. Looks like the Linux drivers for my motherboard's AGP slot need some work. In addition, the video drivers for my Matrox G550 have a limitation of a video size of 1024x1024. I'm not sure if that's a hardware limitation, or just an arbitrary limit that the driver author put in. Even if there is a hardware limitation, I wonder if it could be worked around in some way for 1280x720 video, which contains fewer pixels than a 1024x1024 square.

However, an alternative which already exists is to use the “texture engine” instead of doing traditional video overlay. This has advantages and disadvantages. With the G550 driver, this goes up to nearly 2048x2048. Also, you get gamma correction in the video output automatically. However, video doesn't seem to be synchronized with the scan of the monitor, so you get a shearing effect where, say, the top half of the screen is one frame of video, and the bottom half is the other. I'd get that problem with video overlay, but it was much less frequent. In addition, it just seems to be more CPU intensive, and scaling the video away from the “native” resolution slows the frame rate pretty dramatically.

I think I've finally figured out a good method for watching the video stream without the player crashing every 60 seconds when some corrupted data is received. It's amazing enough that I get a usable signal after it has been bounced off the school across the street—I have to expect some data loss (line-of-sight to the tower goes almost straight through the whole building I'm in).

So, I've been watching soothing high-definition video for the past hour. And it really is soothing—way too many pictures of nature scenes for you to think that this is being broadcast in 2003. In fact, there are so many flowers in the test streams that TPT sends out that you'd think HDTV was a pet project for a botanist (one short video was called On the Azalea Trail). Then again, there's so much green, you'd think that it was done by a golfer.

Now, I just need to figure out what needs to be tweaked so the video plays back more smoothly…

Posted by mike at 11:29 PM Central | Hardware , Software , TV , XFree | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 13, 2003

Instruments of Death

Spent some time at work this morning determining the terminal velocity of 800-page reference manuals sliding down a tarp. Yeah, this building doesn't have an elevator, so we tried to make a chute to get everything to the front door. It sort of worked. We'd hoped to get it all of the way to the door, but ended up just using it to have books land somewhat more softly than if they'd just been dropped straight to the floor.

Last night, I got high-def video playing back at full framerate 99% of the time on my new machine. Mostly, I just went into the BIOS and told it to load “performance” settings. However, doing that increased the voltages to the CPU, AGP slot, and RAM, so I'm thinking I'll have to go in and tweak things in more detail. The video still jerks every so often, but there are several reasons why that could be happening. The video stream might be getting garbled, and I'm pretty sure my monitor is running at 60 Hertz rather than the 59.94 Hz that is appropriate for TV. I think I'm going to see if I can convince my monitor to work at 1920x1440 interlaced, hopefully it will go at the proper 29.97/59.94 frequency.

A coworker got sick of the “I ♥ my Cub” stickers everywhere, so he went and found the appropriate font on some random disc he had, and made a few things saying simply “Cub sucks.”

Okay, it doesn't sound like much, but the font really makes the whole thing come together…

Posted by mike at 04:02 PM Central | Comedy , Hardware , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 14, 2003

One Headlight (sort of)

I had a minor incident with my car yesterday. I was just a few blocks from home, driving down 4th St when I got stuck behind a moving van-style truck trying to turn onto the I-35W exit ramp. I guess the ramp lights must have been turned on, because he didn't go forward like I expected, and one of the posts hanging down in back of the truck clipped my headlamp and hood.

The damage is minor, but a quick glance at part prices on the Internet did not make me happy. Presumably, junkyard parts would be a lot cheaper (plus, I don't necessarily need to replace the hood, though it would be nice to have it look normal). Anyway, I'll get the car looked at on Thursday or Friday, and get the headlamp replaced as quickly as I can (though, amazingly, neither bulb broke—just the glass enclosure). I'm still thinking about what I want to do about the hood.

I brought my new computer to work today, just to see how well it works with a moderately good rooftop antenna. I could pick up a signal on every channel, though a few of them didn't always work very well. I'm not sure if that's due to a poor cable or what. I know that the analog channels had some pretty nasty junk pop up from time to time. Anyway, in a few days, I hope to bring the system down to my parents' place and see what sort of a signal I get there. On good days, they probably get as good or better reception than we have in Hudson (my parents have a bigger antenna and an amplifier), but it's hard to say how powerful the digital stations are in comparison…

Lots more stuff going into the dumpster today at work, although things seemed to have a lot more value today. A bunch of FibreChannel cards and other adapters that should probably be recycled rather than trashed (actually, the whole dumpster is largely paper and computer equipment). However, it looks like anyone looking to go dumpster diving will have to sift through a huge amount of stuff to get anything useful.

Oh, almost forgot. I plucked a copy of NeXTStep out of the stuff sliding down our makeshift chute today. I'll have to see if it is a full copy of a version appropriate for Dan's NeXT box.

Edit: Well, it turned out that the NeXT software was for i486/Pentium, so it went into the dumpster.

Posted by mike at 03:23 PM Central | Car , Dan , Family , Hardware , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 16, 2003

Shaq Would Not Approve

Yesterday was my last day of work. Nothing really special happened, though I just got my farewell handshakes from the crew there. Today, I started my job search anew, after stopping by Carlson to visit my old boss. We went out for lunch with some other guys there, and he explained some of the things they'd been working on. They had quite a time dealing with the Windows worms that broke out over the summer, but they had set up a separate virtual LAN to quarantine systems that got infected. He also mentioned the ways they're trying to avoid paying an arm and a leg for Oracle software. A quarter million dollars for a cluster of just a few systems? Uh, no thanks.

After that, I wandered over to the East Bank and did a quick search through the job postings at the I.T. Career Center. Not a whole lot of interesting stuff. Most of their postings were months old, which was pretty disappointing to see.

I wandered farther east to Tran Micro and picked up some fans for the new computer I've been fiddling with, though I had to backtrack a ways because I forgot to stop by the cash machine on the way there. I paid with a new $20, which got a comment or two.

For my trip back west, I took a detour back to the West Bank and stopped by Sarah's workplace just to see what's up. I hadn't seen the new system there yet, so that was pretty neat to see. I also told her that I'd seen Josh on the way into campus earlier in the day, and explained some of what he'd told me about our court case against Joe. Too bad it might get extended yet again, but it was nifty to hear that pretty much the Eischenses and Joe are the only landlords that the University wants out of their system.

I went home and tried to rest a bit, but remembered that I was hoping to go out and look for an S-Video to RCA adapter. I've been trying to get my Matrox G550 to output to my small TV, but I only have an RCA input on that thing. I have a VGA to S-Video and RCA that came with my G400, but it doesn't seem to work right. I don't get anything out of the RCA jack on it. I have a 7-pin S-Video to RCA adapter that came with another card, but it must be wired differently than the 7-pin output on my G400 adapter.

Anyway, I went to RadioShack and brought one to the counter. I forget the exact price the cashier told me, but it was approaching $30. Uh, what? A cheap (though out-of-spec) connector can be made with a few wires and a strategically placed capacitor. There's no reason for it to cost that much (the cashier said, “well, there's a computer in there,” and I just rolled my eyes), and I don't even know if the adapter would fix the problems I'm having. I'll have to lug my computer somewhere where there's a TV with an S-Video input, or maybe I'll just swap the video cards in my desktop and this new system temporarily (since I know that this card can do TV-out to RCA just fine).

Posted by mike at 06:17 PM Central | Hardware , Internet , Josh , Sarah , School , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 17, 2003

You Cannot Corrupt Me!

I swapped video cards last night, putting my G400 in the new box I've been working with. The TV output seems to work great, although I have started to see an annoying “banding” effect indicating that the card was scaling video so the interlacing didn't line up properly. Ugh. But that seemed to only happen with some of the video I fed in, so hopefully there's just a bug with some particular display mode.

I should have done some stuff today—mostly looking for parts for my car—but it just didn't happen. I kept being drawn back to the computer to try slightly different things, and then about mid-afternoon my energy level dropped like a stone.

One of my “atomic” clocks has been off for two days straight in the morning. I know it had gotten reset at some point last night, so it managed to get corrupted information about the time two mornings in a row. Very strange. I hope it stops. I expect my clocks to be correct, dammit.

Well, I should go find some supper.

Posted by mike at 07:25 PM Central | Car , Food , Hardware , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 20, 2003

Mux Me

Spent most of the day cursing the fact that something “standard” is not necessarily something free. I've been hunting all over for snippets of information on the different ways of encapsulating MPEG-2 video and audio, in an effort to more thoroughly understand how the video stream coming from my digital TV tuner card goes through the rest of my computer to be displayed on the screen. That stuff works okay, but it's nowhere near where I'd like it to be, so I'm trying to learn as much as I can so that I can improve things. But, the lack of definitive information is just frustrating…

Posted by mike at 11:54 PM Central | Hardware , Software , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 22, 2003

You Must Ask Yourself, “What Would Boy George Do?”

Got an E-vite to a Halloween party, but I'm not sure what to do with that. I'm not a Halloween person. I generally feel incompatible with costumes. The most creative idea I've had would be to do the Tom Hanks character in Castaway, but Mike and shirtless is not a good combination. Especially if it's cold out.

I picked at the car a bit today, removing some more broken glass from the headlight. The car really doesn't look too bad, but it's unfortunate that the hit had to happen. I'm pretty sure I had been thinking “this car is in great condition” not long before the accident happened. Unfortunately, as much as having a pristine hood would make me happy, the cost of fixing it outweighs the benefit by a pretty wide margin.

Anyway, I picked the glass away to discover that it was attached with a few small clips, along with some pretty hefty adhesive. Removing enough of the glass and to put on new glass without damaging the (fiberglass?) assembly would be nearly impossible.

I drove out intending to buy some food (but mostly some beverages), but ended up buying the Indiana Jones set (along with some beverages). Now I just need to reattach my monitor to my main system so I can actually watch the DVDs.

Hmm. I could just attach my laptop to the monitor.

Anyway, my monitor is missing because it's in my bedroom attached to the new machine so I can play with HDTV stuff. If I had a job, I might just get a new monitor (actually, more likely an HDTV), but I don't. Hmm. Motivation to look for a job.

Still slowly slogging through the process of decoding the MPEG stream my digital TV tuner card spits out. Late last night, I figured out how to decode the short channel names used by broadcasters (like “TPT Wx,” “KSTP-DT,” etc.), and today I worked on decoding some more similar information. I'm almost at the point where I can actually seek through a stream, pick out the “programs” (basically subchannels), and demultiplex the packets I actually want. Some of this stuff just seems to be way more complicated than it should be.

I guess this is being difficult for me because I'm trying to go for a 100% implementation of functionality. All you need to know to decode a stream and watch something is about 10%, but the other 90% is sometimes useful. In order to do things properly, I've been slogging through a good portion of the 90% in preparation for doing the 10%. Well, this doesn't mean that I'm 90% done, just that I've already got a better foundation than most of the other software I've found.

Of course, progress has slowed today as I bothered to turn on my TV to see what was on. I Love the 80s Strikes Back took up much of the evening.

I Love the 80s Addendum: Snausages.

Posted by mike at 11:04 PM Central | Car , Hardware , Movies , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 25, 2003

Welcome to the Padded Room

I kinda hate my upstairs neighbor. The fact that his subwoofer seems to be putting out more noise than my entire stereo on most occasions is a factor. I suppose my resonance chamber of a bedroom doesn't help things. I really need to put more things on the walls, but I don't know if that would dampen the noise much.

The noise level is not excessive, just at that point where it is extremely irritating. I'm so glad I didn't put my main computer in my bedroom, or I'd get really pissed off. The bass I hear just interferes with my brain, making it impossible for me to put any coherent thought together.

And the boots! Don't get me started on the boots (or whatever footwear is used up there).

Well, anyway, I went to the HAM fest at RiverCentre with my brother today. I picked up a new 60mm fan to potentially replace the old one on my desktop's CPU heatsink for just $1. Plus $5 for parking and $10 for a ticket to get in. Yay.

Lots of old computer crap there, and a surprising number of Macs and Mac clones (there was a whole pallet load in one corner).

Tracked down a bug in my software that had been troubling me for the last two days or so. Turned out to be a simle thing where I thought a field was one byte shorter than it really was. Oops.

I'd kind of like to see a movie this weekend, but I think I had worked far enough down my list that movies were either gone or just didn't seem appealing enough. I could watch my DVD of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom since I already watched the first one, but Temple is my least favorite.

My parents will be up tomorrow for the Simon and Garfunkel concert and we'll probably be doing some bumming around town. My Mom has a stated interest in seeing the light rail terminals, which is oh so exciting.

Posted by mike at 09:18 PM Central | Abode , Family , Hardware , Movies , Music , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 30, 2003

You Know the Words

Bite my shiny metal ass.


Posted by mike at 10:09 AM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 29, 2003

Yob Yadhtrib

Too much of my day was spent purchasing and then returning a humidifier. The main water reservoir leaked, so we had to take it back.

We all went out to see Looney Tunes: Back in Action, which was reasonably entertaining. Could have been better, but could have been a lot worse. I don't think it was marketed properly to the movie distributors, though—the only showings in Rochester are matinées. The movie is plenty good for adults, so it's pretty dumb to not run it at night.

For my birthday haul, I got a strange automatic cheese grater thing, a DVD of Office Space, a set of Season Two of Futurama (which I may already own, but I got the gift receipt for that), and a toolbox with some miscellaneous sockets and stuff in it—mostly intended for car repairs, I guess.

And money. Can't go wrong there.

Oh yes, be ready to play your favorite durge at 10:30 tonight—that's when I'll officially be 25. Yay.

Posted by mike at 08:21 PM Central | Hardware , Movies , Self , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 19, 2003

Scorched Silicon

Well, yesterday I got around to fixing my MythTV setup, which had been broken for a couple of weeks. Really, the only thing that was broken was the utility that downloads the TV listings. However, I was also getting annoyed with the system because it seemed to be getting more and more flaky when I'd record and play video. Unfortunately, this is actually due to some trouble communicating with my external FireWire hard drive.

Every time I do a filesystem check, the drive spits out new errors. I'm not sure if this is because the drive is baked, the controller in the FireWire enclosure is broken, or if the actual 1394 card is broken. Heck, it could even be a bad cable for all I know. I should have stolen a pile of them from Adaptec when I had the chance ;-)

Anyway, I had that other computer in my bedroom that is meant to eventually be an HDTV tuner box, but I hadn't been playing with it for a while. Turns out, it makes a pretty decent replacement for my FireWire drive. I just had to turn on NFS sharing, and things work great.

Hmm. I suppose I could rip the drive out of my 1394 enclosure and put it in that machine, but with my luck the drive is toast.

Posted by mike at 04:21 PM Central | Hardware , MythTV , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 29, 2003

I Am Cornholio!

I've had this happen a few times: My cell phone is sitting just in front of my secondary monitor. Suddenly, the screen starts twitching and contorting (I think it has some poor shielding). A second later, the phone rings. I wouldn't expect a cell phone signal to be strong enough to disrupt the electron gun of a CRT, but apparently it is.

This monitor has been known to twitch at other times, too. I often take it as an indicator of sunspot/solar wind activity.

Posted by mike at 08:38 AM Central | Hardware , Weather | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

December 31, 2003


One of the nice things about land-line phones is that they don't need batteries. I hate it when I forget to plug in my cell phone. I especially hate it when the battery level indicator is not giving me accurate information. Ah well…

Posted by mike at 12:17 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 10, 2004

Blonde, Brunette, or Redhead? Decisions, Decisions

Favorite word of the day: rectenna

I'm bored. I've been bored all day. I watched some shows that my computer recorded, mostly Ned and Stacey—a show everyone forgot about when it was on, but seems to have stood up pretty well. People just didn't think Thomas Hayden Church could play a character with a brain, I guess. And hey, it's got Debra Messing. Can't go wrong there. I don't know how she manages to have so much hair on her head, but I like it. (Hmm. That might explain why I like Keri Russell too, though with straight hair she looks freakishly similar to a female friend of mine that I've known since preschool—my friend even had a penchant for sweaters :-p )

Too bad the show is on a damn women's channel. I mean, the guy on the show is a womanizing bastard (I mean that in the best way, of course ;-). At least my computer is pretty good at skipping commercials. As if I haven't seen enough ads for panty liners already in my life. Ugh. Go away! *click*

I should probably get out and do something tonight. I guess my sickness this week took a much larger toll than I thought it would. I've been pretty groggy the last few days. Hopefully I'll be feeling good tomorrow.

Posted by mike at 08:34 PM Central | Hardware , MythTV , Self , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 21, 2004

Star 69

Hmm. My phone's ringer appears to be dead. That's no good. Glad I was psychic about a guy calling me back for a potential job and noticed his voicemail right away. Well, I guess I'll go to T-Mobile tomorrow and see what they say. I definitely don't want to have to send in my phone and rely on my old one again (since the battery in that thing is toast), but I suppose if that happened, I'd see if there was a cheap GSM phone at Best Buy I could use for a few weeks.

Wow. All my TV shows are coming back! My system noticed that My Hero was on channel 2 again. Looks like they're starting from the first season. Oh, and I guess USA's episodes of Monk are from the second half of the second season rather than the start of the third. For my geeky/intellectual side, Frontline is back too. They just had an episode about “The Teenage Brain” where they talked to some people at UMN. And, I found out that I was entirely right to sleep so much when I was a teenager. On average, one lady said, teens need 9 ¼ hours of sleep a night. I think the only number any of my friends knew back then was 8, “if you're lazy&hellip”

Posted by mike at 07:05 PM Central | Hardware , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 07, 2004

Motorola Presents the Chew Toy

Got a new phone today for like $21.95 or something (plus a 12-month contract, naturally). Nokia this time. I guess Motorola just doesn't cut it in the mobile phone business. But, I get to keep the old one anyway. Maybe I can still get a warranty replacement for that one.

Anyway, the U keeps on giving me more disk space for my premium user account. I have to play a trick or two to get it all accessible on the web, but I now have 200 MB of space total. So, I now point to a random video file I found on the Internet: Japan 2003 National Yo-Yo Tournament

Just in case anyone wasn't feeling inferior today.

Posted by mike at 06:47 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 08, 2004

At Least I Get MIDI Ringtones

I don't like my new phone's contact list interface (Nokia 3595). It won't let me see the memory locations of the different entries. I can still do the shortcut of NN# to get to a number (i.e. 1# will fill in my parents' number), but it won't show me the name of the person I'm putting in. Also, my Motorola phones wouldn't just fill in the number—they'd “jump” to that spot in the list, and I'd still be able to move up and down in case I accidentally was off by one or five or fifteen… I'm only able to look through the list alphabetically at the moment, when I'd actually organized my list before.

Also, why does everyone have problems making small font sizes? When I say I want small, I don't want two-pixel-wide chunkiness… And could I get all of the lists in the user interface to have more than one thing on the screen at a time, please?

Of course, I've had issues with my other phones too. I guess that's just the way things go when you deal with these things…

Update: On the upside, I do have a pretty awesome wallpaper on my phone now:

Posted by mike at 12:37 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 16, 2004

First Come, First Serve

My grandmother brought up the story that my grandpa invented a machine to grade test papers, basically what is used today to grade SATs and whatever. It isn't actually the precursor to anything that exists today—he invented it with a college friend, but I guess they never patented it. IBM came out with something more modern years later. It wasn't brought up today, but I think my grandfather's machine used electrical contacts that rubbed the sheet of paper, and would carry a current when it passed over a pencil mark (since graphite is somewhat conductive). I think current machines tend to be optical, but I don't know.

Heh. After coming back from Wal-Mart earlier, I was thinking, “You haven't been to Wal-Mart until you've been to Wal-Mart in the South.” Of course, Kentucky is really more of a border state than anything else. Natives usually have a bit of a twang, but it's nothing too intense. Still, the screaming mothers at the store today really gave it that certain feeling. My dad and I usually don't patronize Wal-Mart, but there didn't seem to be many other options in the area.

I watched a little TV yesterday and today. Yesterday, we mostly just saw the Daytona 500. We missed Bush starting the race. That's so strange. I guess he took a lap around the track in the presidential motorcade. Sheesh. Well, I suppose it's really not hugely worse than previous presidents throwing out the first pitch at baseball games, though I guess it was considered by some to be a kickoff of campaign activities—and it took place in Florida.

So, for that reason I thought it was funny that today is Presidents Day—Bush had his day yesterday at the racetrack :-p

I've been a little concerned that I'm down here among Southern Baptists while the gay marriage debate is playing out in California. Well. I guess that's a good reason for me to not worry about it. California's still a long way away. It hasn't been brought up yet, so we'll see if that holds.

Posted by mike at 04:32 PM Central | Family , Hardware , Kentucky 2004 , Politics , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 18, 2004

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Another day, another (not) dollar. I guess I spent most of the day reading. I picked up Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond several months ago, but never managed to get into it. I guess the introductory bits by David Diamond had turned me off, plus there was still some latent over-enthusiasm for the stock market and the represented businesses which had hit their high shortly before the book was finalized and sent to the printers. Still, it's a good book, and I'd recommend it to lots of people. Linus is definitely an entertaining character.

Not a whole lot was going on today in Kentucky, though my dad and I installed another handhold—this time in the master bathroom. I hadn't snuck into my grandparents' bedroom yet, so I didn't even know it was there. Anyway, this installation pretty much went off without a hitch—mostly since we'd done it twice before.

Like I said, I spent most of the day reading, though I guess I did more of it without my CD player upstairs rather than listening to the radio or CD with my earmuff headphones downstairs. My grandfather had gone into town to visit his broker and get a haircut, my dad was out at the hardware store, and my uncle Joe was still trekking back from Illinois where he'd spent the night (presumably working on something). I was upstairs to keep an eye or an ear or something on grandma, just in case she needed something. Mostly, I just sat in the other room and quietly read, since I was more in the mood to read rather than listen to her repeat her stories over and over.

I went for a walk in the afternoon when a physical therapist showed up to help my grandmother exercise a bit. I took a walk around the “block” (hard to call it a block, since it's one of those annoying suburban squiggle roads that loops back on itself) and visited the local convenience store for the hell of it. Man, I really need to get out and walk more often. One of my feet started hurting a little after a few hours, though I'm sure it won't bother me too much.

My dad and I will probably go into town tomorrow. Maybe we'll try to find an Internet café or something, but I'd still rather not put my computer on an insecure network. Maybe I should try to set up an IPSec gateway on my home firewall eventually. That would give me a minimal security net, though it would probably be impossible to get the different computers working with the same version. Plus, I'd have to recompile the kernel on that old box somehow, and I'd hate to disturb its uptime ;-)

Well, my uncle has laid down on the couch in the adjoining room, so I'd better stop typing so I can avoid keeping him awake…

Posted by mike at 08:30 PM Central | Books , Family , Hardware , Internet , Kentucky 2004 , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 16, 2004

A Century of Progress

First off, a fun little thing. I've contributed a book's worth of material to Wikipedia while I've been unemployed and bored so far this year. In a weird way, one of the most successful articles is what I wrote on progressive shifting. Honestly, I don't know if what I wrote is right—most places just say that progressive shifting involves a slightly higher RPM after each shift, which I don't say at all. It might be a correct observation, but I think it must be more of an effect than a cause. Anyway, I think the article partially explains the technical reasons why it's better, but there could be more info. Still, there is very little information out there on the subject.

I randomly wandered over to that page recently and decided to search for any information that I could add. To my surprise, the article showed up as the first entry in my Google search. This is kind of weird because within Wikipedia itself, the page is pretty much not referenced at all, except for a link in my user page. I guess people must believe the article is correct—they seem to have linked to it in order to have it show up at the top in Google. I'm most impressed because I only made one edit on that page—to create it.

Anyway, yesterday I went to a talk put on by the Minnesota Renewable Hydrogen Initiative. It turned out to be moderately interesting, though I was especially impressed by the talk Lanny Schmidt did on the ethanol-to-hydrogen reactor/reformer that got a lot of press last month. It's a really simple device, kind of the pulse-jet of hydrogen reforming—except that it's actually efficient (maybe that makes it the ramjet of hydrogen reforming).

When I first heard of the device, it seemed kind of silly. In a way, it still seems kind of silly. Well, actually, the silly thing is that it's meant to feed fuel cells that are fragile and expensive—the reactor is only silly by extension. If fuel cells can ever be made cheaply, it's a great idea. Hydrogen is difficult to store because of its extremely low density (I think I heard that even liquid hydrogen is less dense than air, but I'm unsure). Storing hydrogen in Ethanol instead is a much easier thing to do.

Schmidt also frequently repeated that we need to transition to using biomass-based fuels. There is no way around it. You can extract hydrogen from coal or oil for a while, but you'll just end up running out. In additon, the carbon that comes out in the process has to be put somewhere if you don't want the greenhouse effect to get worse.

There was a lady from the Department of Energy there who kind of got picked on after a while. She was from the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office, which oversees a lot of the new energy initiatives going on at DoE. She put up a budget table that kind of skewed toward giving money to projects that produced hydrogen by using electricity from nuclear power and projects to sequester carbon from fossil fuels—both things that renewable energy folks really don't like to see because they still involve non-renewable energy. She had to defend herself by saying that a lot of the renewable fuel money comes in from different sources than the main budget she had listed.

Still, I was kind of disturbed by the amount of money the government was putting into the idea. It was a large sum, something like $1.7 billion, but there are individual car companies out there that are putting more money in than that!

Overall, I was fairly impressed by the crowd there. The presenters were much more in-depth than I expected. News reports I've seen about hydrogen and renewable fuels barely scratch the surface of what was discussed over the few hours yesterday—and yesterday's forum just barely scratched the surface of these issues in general.

There was a lot of good buzz at the meeting by industry insiders, but because of secrecy, they couldn't really say much. The DoE lady was the person who was most reluctant to believe that anything could happen quickly. I suppose this is partially due to the fact that she is looking at the national picture, which looks pretty bleak. In Minnesota, we at least have enough crop land to attempt to become self-powered through the use of biomass and wind energy, but this is a much more difficult thing to do nation-wide.

A comment that became cliché by the end of the seminar was, “the Upper Midwest is the Saudi Arabia of biomass and wind energy.” Actually, that comment was made in a few different ways. It was first mentioned by Lanny Schmidt, but I think about three other people also said it. The comment is probably somewhat inappropriate (since places like Brazil could out-biomass us any day of the year), but kind of a nice idea nonetheless.

Well, I could go on for a pretty long time talking about the seminar, but I suppose this is enough for now.

Posted by mike at 03:17 PM Central | Hardware , Politics , The Media | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Little Things From Little People

So tiny:

Posted by mike at 04:56 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 18, 2004


Ugh. We had a power outage in my apartment building. It appears that only a few blocks were affected (maybe only ours), but maybe we were on the edge of something. Anyway, two of my three computers (er, three out of my four, if you count the laptop, but it's unaffected by piddly hour-long periods without current) are functioning now. One of them has experienced some hard disk corruption, it appears. Now, the challenge of finding a Linux recovery disk or CD that can handle the 200GB hard drive and the ATA133 controller.


The moment of community togetherness involved in the outage was my joining Adam and Kari on a trip to a bookstore. Well, it was a place I'd never been before, which was something I needed anyway.

I almost picked up a book named Tube about the history of television, but it was a $30 hardcover and I figured my money could be better spent on other things at the moment.

I want money.

Posted by mike at 06:42 PM Central | Abode , Adam , Books , Hardware , Kari , Laptop , Software , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 19, 2004


Yeah, the drive is probably toast. Fortunately, it appears to still have several months of warranty time left, so I can just get it replaced. Hopefully. I should see if Maxtor has any tools I can test with, though I figure the Linux kernel reporting various errors like AddrMarkNotFound is probably a bad sign.

I plan to go see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind tomorrow, probably at the UA Pavilion theater by Best Buy.

I should stop in a job placement agency tomorrow too. It's been on my to-do list for too long. I really need to actually start writing that list down…

Posted by mike at 12:09 AM Central | Hardware , Movies , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 27, 2004

Welcome, Speed Dæmon

NASA X-43A after separating from Pegasus booster.  2:01:32 PM PST March 27, 2004

This is from an infrared tracking camera on a Navy P-3. The image is taken from a pretty long-ass distance away, though I doubt the military would like to say exactly how far. A few seconds after this image was taken, the X-43A's engine ignited, probably pushing it past 5000 miles per hour. In 11 seconds while the engine was being given fuel, it traveled over 15 miles. That averages out to 4900 miles per hour—it may have gone faster at some point in the burn. NASA says that the X-43A had positive acceleration while the engine was running, which is a first for a scramjet.

Posted by mike at 10:21 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

August 04, 2004

Sweet Home…Uh…Nevada.

Having trouble getting your Wi-Fi connection to work?

Record-setting Wi-Fi dish

These guys can help

Posted by mike at 08:26 AM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 17, 2004

Rubber Band Man

It took me a long time to get anywhere at work today. Well, anywhere that I actually wanted to go, at least. I'd upgraded my desktop machine's kernel yesterday afternoon. It turns out now that I'd pretty much gotten everything right the first or second time, but some problems with our Internet gateway box caused trouble. Turns out that the Linksys WRK54G doesn't handle TCP ECN packets properly. Oh, my favorite little networking bug…

Anyway, for the longest time I thought there was something fubared with my network driver. In the end it was just a simple little tweak to fix. Oh well, at least I brought the kernel from Red Hat's random 2.4.20-8 up to 2.4.26 and then 2.4.27. Now, the 2.6 kernel I have trouble with… 2.4 I can still wrap my head around.

The old kernel my system was using had all sorts of missing things that I wanted, so it was good to start over. The audio driver for the onboard sound was missing, so I haven't had any music for weeks while my coworkers have spent much of the day with their headphones on.

One big problem with the way my computer was set up was that the Serial ATA driver would sit there pondering its existence for about a minute each time the computer booted. This tended to take so long that when I'd reboot the computer (unfortunately something I have to do fairly often), I'd totally forget what I was doing by the time it finished. It's so much nicer without that delay.

I noticed that the processor I have in that machine seems to be a HyperThreading P4, but for some reason I couldn't get an SMP kernel to properly compile. I guess I can fiddle with that later, no that I've figured out the most pressing issues. However, the most annoying thing is that the video driver I use for the Radeon 9200 video card in the box requires a recompile for each different kernel, and it doesn't like switching between different versions at all. So, no graphics for me when I'm doing this testing. It wouldn't be so bad if it was at least a Debian box where I could easily download the text-mode packages I need.

At the end of the day I finally fixed a bug that I had actually almost tracked down yesterday (I must have gotten distracted then or something). Oh well, I guess I got some support done too.

My car still seems to be acting up a bit. Looks like the oil is starting to run low. Maybe I should add a quart, or maybe I should just get it in for service a bit early. Well, actually, with the driving I'm doing these days, I probably qualify for the 6000–7500 mile oil changes. However, it'll still be three months pretty quick here.

Now it's hard to say if I'll be able to get out of the parking lot tomorrow morning, as they're going to be removing a tree next door, and will have equipment in the way. Maybe I'll just have to go into work early.

This Dutch Elm disease is sure going crazy, though. A bunch of trees were taken down nearby earlier this summer, and a few have popped up since then. Of course, the thing that probably annoyed me the most so far was that somebody broke down one of the small saplings at the park that was put in place of an old tree that had been cut up. It's hard to say if they'll replace that one too or not.

Hmm. The weather definitely seemed weird on my way home. It was with the creepy hazy sky where nothing has any definition and you can hardly tell if there are actually clouds or if the whole world has just turned gray. There's just no texture to the sky, so it just feels ucky.

I got some music from the Best Buy. We'll see if my purchase was really the least objectionable or not. I also stopped into Target for some birthday cards for my aunt and grandmother. So now how should I pay the 80¢ postage? Two 47¢ stamps is not enough, but three is way too much. Well, considering the time and effort it would take to get proper stamps… Oh, also at Target, I got some 12-packs for $2 each. That was sweet.

Posted by mike at 08:20 PM Central | Car , Hardware , Internet , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 13, 2004

The Infinite Monkey Protocol Suite

I walked out to my car after work today and thought, “Hmm. Tornados.” So, we'll see. A big line of crap is showing up on the radar right now, but I don't know how much will come through here. It was a really strong south wind this morning. My car was wobbling around much more than normal as I drove into work.

Unfortunately, my workmate seemed to have a faint bit of that sickening type of BO you sometimes see on old hermit-like guys on the bus. I think it was causing me to sneeze a lot, but it might have just been hayfever or something. I seem to be allergic to something, but I'm not sure what exactly. It seems like a few factors have to be going on at the same time for me to really start sneezing.

Or, the sun just has to come out. Maybe the sunlight affects the nerves in your nose or something.

I went to Best Buy afterward and got some CDs. We'll see if they're any good. I didn't have any list with me, so I didn't have anything to search for specifically.

I want to get a PDA again soon, but I want one that at least has Bluetooth. As far as I know, Palm software still seems to work better in Linux than WinCE stuff (or whatever they call it these days). Unfortunately, I think my requirements will make the device quite spendy (and I probably wouldn't even use any MP3 capability since I'm a Vorbis man myself). I'd probably be best off getting something cheap at Target and spending my money on something important like dual drives so I can get RAID on my desktop (Yeah, it'd just be RAID-1, but I think I need something. Ugh, and I'd probably need to get a PCI IDE card so the RAID doesn't fail whenever I rip CD audio...)

Oh, and Wikipedia is running an article on the Holy Foreskin.

I'm not kidding.

Posted by mike at 09:16 PM Central | Hardware , Music , Weather , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 14, 2004

Managed Intensive Grazing

Ugh. The Linksys gateway we have at work is FUBAR. It only talks to the Internet for about 30 seconds before being quiet again. It still talks on the local network, just getting anywhere else is problematic. That'll be fun tomorrow. I wonder if our old router is still laying around somewhere. Feh.

I moved into an adjoining office today, which is probably why this all happened. Then again, the box seemed a little unhappy earlier. I've had to reset it a couple of times in the past.

Theoretically we have a static IP now and aren't stuck behind the firewall anymore. Maybe there's a weird worm out there that is causing the router to flip out, although there aren't any new firmware updates on Linksys's website. Not that that necessarily means anything—there are bugs in the software as it is…

I guess they have some big Sonicwall box out there somewhere, but the network behavior has been really funky. The routing paths in and out don't seem to make any sense—probably because of the firewall. We were having some really bad latency for a while, though it seems to be better now. Our ISP said they were having trouble with ARP storms. Fine fine, whatever.

I really recommend avoiding working with XO Communications if you can.

Posted by mike at 09:00 PM Central | Hardware , Internet , Work | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

September 17, 2004

Jennifer Tilly Versus Joey Lauren Adams—Fight!

The simple things about being human still continue to amaze me every once in a while. The interconnectedness of thought is one of those things that is both a blessing adn a curse. I had a thought process something like this today:

  • St. Anthony Main was an attempt at building a shopping mall in or near downtown Minneapolis (depending on where you draw the line).
  • The Twin Cities Area has some significant historical data points for shopping malls, claiming to have the first modern mall and the largest mall in the country.
  • The region's notoriety led Kevin Smith to film parts of Mallrats in the area (kind of a dubious distinction, but hey)
  • Hmm. Mallrats was her favorite movie, wasn't it—well, after she had originally liked Clerks so much.
  • Ah, crap…

Yeah, well, so that's still there, sort of. I figure she's moved on to a different movie by now, though. Maybe even something that isn't from View Askew!

Did I mention that the only girl who was in the office space we share with another company left a few weeks ago to go back to college? Yay for a job in the computer industry. However, the upside of that was that we got to expand our operation into the room she had used, so I'm significantly less cramped at work now.

Yesterday, I discovered that the power supply fan for our server was seized up. Other than a CPU fan, there was no airflow in that case. The power supply was an AT one rather than an ATX one, and I didn't want to mess with the stupid power switch on that. So, I went and got a new ATX case instead (which hopefully I'll be reimbursed for). Of course, the new case doesn't have any extra fans either, so the hard drives (which are the important bit) don't seem to get much airflow. Oh well, at least both sides of the case were off last night, so just the ambient air should be enough for now. We've got to get some case fans, though.

Posted by mike at 07:48 AM Central | Hardware , Self , Work | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

October 09, 2004

Little Brown Jug

The power adapter for my laptop was one of the models listed by Dell for a recall, although the manufacturer was different, so I'm unaffected by it. I know my adapter gets kind of toasty from time to time (when charging rather than just supplying normal power), but it doesn't get to the point of melting.

My family is planning to head out to Stillwater to see some of the fall colors. Not quite peak yet, but it should still be fairly nice.

Posted by mike at 10:44 AM Central | Family , Hardware , Laptop | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 15, 2004

I Have the Power

Do my eyes deceive me? Is it October 15th? Does that mean that Team America: World Police is finally in theaters?

Well, well, well…

I've had an eventful day already, with the power supply for my computer going out overnight. So, I guess it's good that I had that other PC sitting in the other room without any functioning drives. I quickly swapped out the power supply and was back up.

Jon Stewart will apparently be on CNN's Crossfire this afternoon at 3:30 PM CDT.

And speaking of CDT, daylight saving will end in the wee hours of October 31st, so all you Halloweenies will get one more hour of that day this year.

Posted by mike at 09:48 AM Central | Hardware , Movies , News , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 25, 2004

Oh Fawkes

I came home from a weekend with the family to a failing hard drive. Unfortunately, it was the one with my personal data on it. I was able to get most of the data off the home partition, but some fairly important stuff went missing. My contact list disappeared along with my inbox (and about 13 messages had been retrieved before it died, so who knows what they were), although I still have my saved messages and my sent mail folder. My resume is gone (though largely regenerateable from web stuff, except for a reference or two), my programming projects have disappeared, and the photos that I took since the middle of last year are missing. In retrospect, perhaps I should have tried to just use the ‘dd’ utility to attempt a block-by-block dump of the partition, but it's hard to say how successful that would have been.

I'll have to re-rip my music collection, but at least that will make it all have a fairly consistent quality to it. Unfortunately my downloads are toast.

So, maybe I'll call Ontrack some day when I'm feeling liquid, but that will probably be a year... It probably won't be worth the money.

I could sense that something was going to happen, but I guess I didn't act on it since my monetary situation has been so up in the air. I had enough leeway today to go and get two 120GB drives for a total of about $190, but it was definitely money I didn't want to spend.

Posted by mike at 02:55 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 26, 2004


Well, after some mucking around because LILO was being lame, I managed to get my system running on a RAID-1 set (or three RAID-1 sets if you want to get picky—one for each partition). I also managed to configure my swap space so that it is “striped,” though it appears from reading documentation that it's merely a round-robin sort of thing rather than actual striping.

And, of course, it's hard to say what the real performance is since I have both of the drives on ide0. Curiously, I was just noticing that another system I have has three IDE ports (labeled on the motherboard as IDE1, IDE2, and IDE3, just to confuse me, since Linux often likes to start things at zero.)

Anyway, it's running now, and probably significantly faster than my old system. Yeah, these are some of those 8MB cache disks that various companies have been making lately. They don't seem to make any noise when the head goes skittering across the platter, which is nice, although I could hardly hear my old drives when they were inside a closed case. Still, a little less noise is always nice.

Well, off to work…in the other room.

Posted by mike at 08:41 AM Central | Hardware | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 20, 2005


I don't float by C|Net's News.com.com.com very often anymore, but they had an article early last week about an IBM MEMS device known as the Millipede. Doing some rough calculations (they only said the thing holds "the equivalent of 25 DVDs," which could mean anything), it appears that the thing has a data density of between 17 and 34 terabits per square inch. Of course, the controller board is massive (there's a slideshow), but it's just a prototype ;-)

Posted by mike at 09:31 AM Central | Hardware | Comments (0)

March 28, 2005

Mod Squad

Another earthquake in the Indian Ocean today, this one currently estimated at an 8.7 magnitude. The previous one was 9.2 or possibly 9.3. The scale is logarithmic, so this one is considerably less intense, but still very strong. Without looking this up, I'd guesstimate somewhere around ⅓ to ¼ the energy level. This means that chances of a tsunami are low (and there have been no reports of significant wave activity).

Well, what a crummy month, eh? I was glad I caught a presentation by Neil Gershenfeld of MIT on C-SPAN in the last hour. I'd just turned on the TV in anticipation of watching The Simpsons, but got there a few minutes early and was channel-surfing. Anyway, he was discussing "How to make (almost) anything", a course he's taught for a few years now, and the concept of "fab labs" where you can make all sorts of fairly high-tech things with relatively cheap rapid prototyping tools.

Looking at the fab lab site and the Center for Bits and Atoms page at MIT, I guess my enthusiasm was tempered a bit. In the C-SPAN presentation, it sounded like there was a whole slew of these sites already, but there aren't too many listed. I suppose there are some that aren't directly affiliated with the project, though.

Well, anyway, at $20,000 a pop, a fab lab may be coming to your neighborhood anytime. I wonder if that would help me make the cereal sifter I've been thinking about for a while. Conventional hacking would probably be just as effective for that...

In other news, Mark Wheat sounds sick. Make happy requests ;-)

Posted by mike at 07:39 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0)

April 19, 2005

Oh, My Lack of God!

Hmm. Flipping through the channels and I come across Amy Pietz on some godforsaken show known as Rodney. I doubt the show will last, but I like her, so I'm glad she's getting some work (she was Annie on Caroline in the City way back when...)

I briefly turned on the A/C today to dissipate some of the humidity in my apartment (and to bring the temp down just a tad). At the moment, I'm not sure if it's better to turn it on again or open the windows. Well, we probably need the rain.

My car stalled yesterday at the end of I-394 (at a stoplight). I had to go the same way again today because I forgot to bring some application materials, and the car stalled again. Fortunately, after the car sat a little bit, I could get going again, but it's weird. Very probably related to the weird lurching it's been doing for a while now.

A total of four calls now for the few dozen applications I put in a week ago. I'd better put more effort into applying for other jobs I guess.

In order to print out my application materials, I had to get a new black ink cartridge for my printer. I tried out Cartridge World, which has a site a few blocks from my place. $13.90 for a cartridge filled while I waited. Seems to work, though it took a little convincing at first.

I should say that when I first saw "Cartridge World" plastered on that building a year or so ago, I thought it was a video game shop.

My tax return was rejected initially. This is because my previous year's Adjusted Gross Income was incorrect, according to the IRS's records. They had received a 1099-MISC from that contracting company I never talked to. Sure wish I'd gotten one. Well, I apparently paid taxes on $1000 more income last year than I had to. Oh well, fifteen minutes of waiting on the phone fixed that fairly easily.

Posted by mike at 09:10 PM Central | Car , Hardware , Money , TV , Weather , Work | Comments (0)

May 26, 2005

The Smell of Napalm in the Morning

Well, a piece of my computer's power supply exploded sometime last night. I must be cursed. I'd been worried about my computer for no real reason, and it had been a relief the last several days to see the light on and the system humming normally when I woke up. But it was off today. I tried just hitting the power button, and nothing happened. I turned off the switch in the back for a few seconds, then was able to get the system to start booting—but there was a weird noise and a bad burnt electrical smell was coming out of it.

I'd really rather not spend $70 on a decent power supply right now... I don't want to spend $40 on a crappy one either...

Update: Well, I split the difference and got a 360W PSU for $50. My old one was 300W, which was probably underpowered. I'm not sure what it was that blew up in my power supply, since it was blackened and mangled by the time I looked at it. I don't think it was a capacitor, so I suppose that generally leaves a resistor or maybe a diode or something. Anyway, it got hot enough to desolder itself from the mainboard inside the PSU, and it rattled around as I took out the old box.

Posted by mike at 08:46 AM Central | Hardware | Comments (0)

June 04, 2005

King of Comedy

Well, I haven't updated for several days, so I suppose I should. It's all about my car and my phone. I went to see Revenge of the Sith last Sunday night at Block E. The movie was okay, not great. Visually stunning, but the script was pretty weak. I guess Hayden Christensen just doesn't hold my attention either...

Anyway, I went to the restroom after the movie let out, and realized that my phone was missing. I'd worn some shorts that I shouldn't have. The pockets were too small and they're out of style anyway. At any rate, I went back into the theater to look for my phone, but couldn't find it. I eventually left a note for folks at Block E to e-mail me if they found it (I had no phone, so leaving a number seemed silly).

When I got home, I sent myself a text message via e-mail just in case whoever found it hadn't turned it off and back on to see the convenient message I'd left as a welcome message. It would turn out that nobody bothered to read either my text messages or the welcome note. Anyway, I sent a second text message in the morning, then looked up the recent activity via the T-Mobile website. Uh oh—phone call to Ecuador. That only happens in movies! Sheesh.

So, hoping to prevent any more international dialing (nevermind that I was over my monthly minutes anyway) I went into downtown to try to find the T-Mobile store. I couldn't remember where it was, so it took some wandering before it was found at the IDS Center's Crystal Court. My phone was replaced for $42 and change and after just a few minutes of chit-chat. The new phone is a Nokia 6010, replacing a 3595.

Well, sort of. The new phone doesn't always display the time on the main screen, and I haven't been able to figure out how to change that. The new phone also wasn't working with GPRS, but that may have just been temporary (it's possible that I went over my 1MB of traffic per month, and they might just cut you off, though I'm not sure).

Of course, once whoever it was that found my phone realized that he couldn't make any more calls, it magically ended up in the office at Block E. I got an e-mail at about 5:45 PM. I think they may have had it for a few hours beforehand, since there were a few other call attempts around 2:30 PM, but then again they were mostly to women listed on my contact list. So nice that people want to terrorize people when they get a phone randomly landing in their lap (this is why I assume the person who stole it is a "he" rather than a "she").

Anyway, so I got the phone back after it became a dud to whoever found it. I'm actually using it now with the 6010's faceplate because of the aforementioned clock and data problems. Maybe I'll find the magic clock-enabling trick at some point and switch back to the new phone.

My car is finally repaired, at least enough so it won't stall anymore when leaving the highway. It's pretty straightforward—a solenoid in the torque converter that engages the internal "clutch" when traveling at highway speeds wasn't disengaging anymore. I was worried this would cost mondo cash, but $273 isn't too bad IMHO. It's not really clear if this helped the stuttering/jerking I've been feeling for a while—apparently that goes away when the air conditioner is turned on! Weird.

Well, I suppose I'll go to the TCLUG meeting tomorrow. It's about the SuSE distribution, owned by Novell these days. I don't know much about SuSE, so I may as well learn something about it.

Posted by mike at 12:18 AM Central | Car , Hardware , Movies | Comments (0)

August 14, 2005


I bought myself some RAM today, so I could fill up the three slots on my motherboard and get up to 1.5 GB. Unfortunately, the system becomes unstable when a third stick is installed, so I'm down to 1 GB at the moment. I might try getting some heatsinks for the memory, but I'm not sure it'll help.

Posted by mike at 06:33 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0)

August 20, 2005


Sigh. Another day, another dollar, another hard drive.

md2 : active raid1 hdb4[2] hda4[0]
      70316416 blocks [2/1] [U_]
      [========>............]  recovery = 41.1% (28958976/70316416) finish=16.2min speed=42506K/sec
Well, when things recover at 40+ MB/s, I can't complain too much..

Posted by mike at 05:09 PM Central | Hardware | Comments (0)

October 15, 2005


So, two weeks ago I went to IKEA over two days and bought some shelving for CDs (hmm, I really should get back to fiddling with that—I need at least one more notch between the shelves), some nestable coffee tables, one of those Poäng rocking chairs, a small kitchen table, a footstool and a storage cube with a lot of holes in it (I'm using it for laundry), plus some stuff that I want to try putting up in my kitchen to hang things from the wall. I also got some new shoes to replace the ones that were, oh five? six? years old...

Last weekend, I met with a few other Wikipedia contributors. One user, Angela, was in town to discuss Wikipedia and other related stuff like Wikicities. One guy who came was very gung-ho about explaining a software product he's developing that is based on the software that runs Wikipedia. Well, except all of the guts have been ripped out. It seemed interesting, but I shouldn't say much about it.

I've been feeling a bit odd this week, as though I'm sick but without coughing, sneezing, or really showing much of anything. I might have a fever, and I've been getting woozy spells, but I don't see much else for symptoms. My plan this weekend is to get out and walk around a fair amount to see if I jsut need some exercise.

I should go out and buy some more CDs, just to keep my wanted music list limited. Unfortunately, I spent a lot of money two weeks ago, and my secondary monitor at home finally keeled over last night, so I need to get a new one. Scary how hard it is to get anything better than 1280×1024 resolution, though since this was my second head anyway, it doesn't matter too much. I think I'll just get a CRT for now. Boy, do I wish I could get one of Apple's monster Cinema Displays, but that would require getting a new video card. I just don't have the money for that. Hopefully, prices will drop in the future, and a reasonably-priced CRT purchased today should be equal to or less than that future drop.

I still need a new computer desk too, so I need to think about that. Well, actually, I'm trying to stay on target for a down payment on a new car next year. I seem to be going through cash too quickly, though. If I felt more comfortable in my kitchen, I'd feel more comfortable cooking. If I was more comfortable cooking, then maybe I wouldn't eat out so much. Then I could save some money, maybe.

Well, I'd better get cleaned up so I can go out for my walk. And get a haircut. And get an oil change. And buy some dryer sheets. And a good baking pan. And all these other little things that I never remember.

Posted by mike at 11:41 AM Central | Abode , Car , Hardware , Internet , Money | Comments (0)

May 05, 2006

Inspector Gadget

Well, after having my laptop for four years, I've finally gotten it to do suspend-to-disk. I probably could have gotten that to work earlier if I'd been more bleeding-edge, but somehow APM decided to go hide in a corner while ACPI took over after a kernel upgrade. I was disappointed that there weren't any good scripts that came with the ACPI daemon, so I had to write one myself. I'll put it up here just in case anyone needs it.

I have the system suspend when pressing the suspend button (Fn+Esc), hibernating when I press the power button, and either suspending or blanking the screen on lid close, depending on if the laptop is plugged in or not. Of course, that's basically the same behavior I had before.

It's kind of annoying that some of the keypresses I used to use don't work anymore (like Fn+D for sleeping the display, or Fn+H for spinning down the hard drive), but ACPI is supposed to be the wave of the future. Well, it's been the wave of the last five years for Windows folks...

Of course, I suspect this will all be broken the next time I upgrade the kernel.

Posted by mike at 02:57 AM Central | Hardware | Comments (0)

September 19, 2006


Oh good. My Internet gateway failed for the second time in about six months. I'm not sure what's wrong with it, since there aren't any obvious issues (no burning smell, no blown capacitors that I can see). It started making more noise yesterday, but the weather's been getting cold and computers often change their tune as the temperature and/or humidity drifts around... One of the two fans in the power supply has either failed, or doesn't turn on when the system is cold, but that doesn't appear to be the source of the noise.

Well, I guess it's time to research more a more solid-state design. Of course, I'd probably be willing to get a Netgear or somesuch—if they would let traceroutes go through! Hmm. I'll have to ask my cube neighbors about my company's low-end SnapGear boxes. I suppose I could get a discount, and that'd be cheaper than building a new system if something major has gone wrong.

Posted by mike at 07:42 AM Central | Abode , Hardware , Internet | Comments (0)