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August 2006

Thursday, 31 August 2006

There are two Dutch oven events next month that I will be attending. The first is a workshop sponsored by the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department. It will be held on September 16 at the Bumblebee Campground in Idaho. I will be doing dishes I don't usually do: brownies, carrot cake and biscuits.

The second event is the following weekend. The Rathdrum Dutch oven demo will be held on September 23 at Rathdrum City Park. I will have more leeway with the food on that one. I will have to think of a really good dish I haven't done before.


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Wednesday, 30 August 2006

I've been working on a bug at work that is really frustrating. QA reports that they get a program exception when performing a particular operation, and I can't reproduce that problem. They've given me several different scenarios and I still can't get the program to fail.

I have been reduced to using the shotgun approach - a particular piece of the code could produce the problem, so fix every place that has the problem and hope that fixes QA's problem.

The code in question is in database operations. The current code opens a database table, then changes the index used. That's a no-no with the new database components we are using. You have to set the index before opening the table.

I've found about 20 places where this problem occurs. I just hope that when I fix them, QA's problem disappears.


Talk about program security - this is just too funny for words. Check it out.


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Tuesday, 29 August 2006

I spent part of the weekend copying VHS tapes onto DVD with my Panasonic DMR-ES46V DVD recorder. I never thought a DVD recorder could do a better job on this than a computer and a regular VHS player, but I was wrong. This recorder produces DVDs that make analog VHS movies look almost like they were digitial.

The only fly in the ointment is the fact that certain VHS tapes have a form of copy protection (fair-use rights defeating) that the recorder detects. It then refuses to copy those tapes onto DVD. I am going to try those tapes with an earlier model of the recorder (a friend has one) and maybe I will get lucky with them.


I also worked on the database definition for the coaching software I will be writing. It's really hard to properly define a database. If I knew how to use the umbrello UML modeller that comes with SUSE Linux, it would probably be a bit easier.


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Monday, 28 August 2006

One of the web sites I maintain has been hacked. I will have to fix it this morning. I just hope the kiddie doesn't attack the other other sites (including this one).


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Friday, 25 August 2006

The North Idaho Fair started on Wednesday and continues until Sunday. I think I will go tonight, as tomorrow the temps are going to be up in the 90's again. I don't go on rides, but I do enjoy all the boothes and exhibits.


I am still reading about Ruby. There is much new stuff to learn, as it has some unique constructs. Like the normal break and continue statements and the unique redo and retry statements. Strange but interesting.


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The computer I use to test Linux distros now has four hard disks. When I first got the machine, I installed a mobile drive rack in it and got two trays for the two hard disks I wanted to use with it.

Thursday, 24 August 2006

I picked up another two hard disks (20GB drives for 25 bucks each) and two more trays. I now have SUSE 10.1, Xubuntu and Rails Live 0.1 installed on them and am installing openSUSE 10.2 Alpha 3 on the four drive.

This kind of setup would be a perfect way to demo those distros, too. Want to see a particular distro? Power down the computer, slip out the current drive and slip in the new one, then power up again.


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Wednesday, 23 August 2006

I'm running late this morning because I had to post a new article on the IEDOS site. I will post more about Ruby tomorrow.


This month is the 4 year anniversary of the start of this web blog. Congratulations to me!


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Tuesday, 22 August 2006

I have found a web site that has a Live CD demonstrating Rails with Ruby. It has everything on it to get you going - a web server, MySQL, Ruby, Rails and it even has a Rails IDE. I will download it today and check it out.

The live CD is a good way to determine if a particular program can help you with your work. I am especially interested in evaluating the Rails IDE, as that is usually the fastest way to create programs.


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Monday, 21 August 2006

I didn't get as much done over the weekend as I had planned. It was just too damn hot. I did get a bunch of VHS tapes recorded onto DVD, though.


The Ruby programming language is weird. Like many languages, it borrows from other languages such as C, Perl, Java and C#. It also has its own ideas of how a language should work.

For instance, Ruby has something called parallel assignment. If you have ever had to swap the values of two variables, in another language you might do it this way:

  tmp = a;
  a = b;
  b = tmp;

In ruby, parallel assignment allows you to do this without an intermediate variable:

a, b = b, a

Ruby also allows you to pass whole blocks of code to a method so the block may be used as part of the method. This tends to reduce the number of routines you create that are almost identical except for a few lines. As a simple example:

def showSquare(n)
  f = n * n
  if block_given?
    yield f
  else
    f
  end
end

showSquare(11)
showSquare(13) {puts "Square is: "}

As a final example, expressions still evaluate to true and false in Ruby, but true and false have slightly different definitions in the language. False is not zero like in most other languages. In Ruby, false is either a boolean false or nil. Everything else is true.


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Friday, 18 August 2006

I have lots of stuff I need to do around the house this weekend. The question is, can I get it done? My good intentions always seem to get sidetracked into rereading Harry Potter, copying VHS tapes onto DVD and other non-critical acts, when I should be mowing the lawn, cleaning up the house and cutting down bushes that think they are trees.

We shall see how far good intentions go this weekend.


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Thursday, 17 August 2006

I'm reading a book I ordered on Ruby. Ruby is not 'just another computer language'. It does borrow heavily from other languages such as Java, Delphi, Perl and C, but it brings many of its own concepts to the table. I am just starting to learn these new concepts, and I will report on many of them as I get a chance.

I watched a Ruby on Rails demo yesterday. It really emphasizes the fact that Ruby and Rails comprise an extreme programming environment. Check it out.


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Wednesday, 16 August 2006

I am reading about the Ruby programming language. It seems to be a rather friendly, completely object-oriented language. The book I am reading is taking a unique approach in teaching the language. It is talking about objects before it talks about language syntax.

I think this may be an easy language to learn, but it has a ton of libraries that may not be so easy to learn.


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Tuesday, 15 August 2006

We are getting close to the fall Dutch oven cooking season. I just received an invitation to participate in an outdoor program sponsored by Spokane Parks and Recreation. It will take place on September 15th through 17th at the Bumblebee Campground on the north fork of the Coeur d'Alene River. My kind of cooking demo.

It is also getting close to the Rathdrum Dutch oven demo. I don't have a firm date for that one, though.


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Monday, 14 August 2006

The NILUG meeting was very good, and well populated. There was a definite trend of people getting Apple computers, but they just don't interest me. Maybe it's the proprietary software and DRM that turn me off to them.

Our host has picked up a throwaway computer, an old Dell server. It has a multi-tray tape drive, three 9 GB SCSI hard drives, 256 megs RAM and a 400 mHz Pentium-II processor. We spent some time getting it configured so we could boot from the CD-ROM drive and so it could recognize the hard drives. SCSI BIOS extensions are such good fun.

We got it to boot into Kubuntu, and it was slow, but it worked very well. I think Frank is probably going to use it as a server, since it is somewhat underpowered and short on memory.


A Neighbor Comes to Visit


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Friday, 11 August 2006

We finally got a little rain yesterday. It cooled things down a bit and our temps will be in the mid 70's today as a result. I hope the nice weather extends into Saturday, as I am going to the North Idaho Linux Use Group meeting then.


I hope to work on a couple of my free programs this weekend, but so much else is going on, I'm not sure I will be able to.

My editor has a couple of small bugs that need to be squashed, and I need to update the contact information for it. I would like to move it over to a new edit window component, but that is a really big job that I will put off for another time.


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Thursday, 10 August 2006

The Ruby books I ordered still haven't shown up. I'm starting to get antsy about them, as I want to learn more about Ruby and Rails.

I also have to lay out the database for the application I want to write. I have all the information for it, but I haven't done any design yet. That will be the first thing I do on the app.


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Wednesday, 9 August 2006

I have yet another conflict for this weekend. Once again, a Dutch oven event coincides with the North Idaho Linux User Group meeting. This time, I am choosing the NILUG meeting. One good reason for this choice is that the IEDOS event is in Moses Lake, and it's still pretty hot over there.

Another reason is that I'm kind of cooked out. I just don't feel like spending all that energy right now. It must be the hot weather.


Yesterday was the 22nd anniversary of my moving to North Idaho. I've never regretted my choice and have never found a better place to live.


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Tuesday, 8 August 2006

I was working on another software bug at work, and came across a really weird behavior. The software was processing transactions and was placing several of them in the wrong slot. I decided to run the application in the debugger. When I did that, the debugger spit out a program exception (error) about a database error.

I tracked the exception down to a routine which wrote a note out to a database table, but none of that code was the culprit of the error. It was a piece of code after that, which checked to see if any of the application's child windows needed updating, which caused the problem. And for good reason, too. This piece of code is actually used by several apps, and only one of them has child windows. The one I was debugging did not have child windows.

So I inserted a check to see if child windows actually existed before checking them. The debugging program exception went away and so did the misfiling of transactions.

So I went on a code hunt and found six more places in the code where a similar problem could occur, and fixed them all.

These problems have been around since the code was initially written (about 8 or 9 years), but they were never a problem until the database was switched from Paradox to MS Access. The new components that support Access work somewhat differently from the old components, causing all kinds of unusual behavior.

Well, it keeps me busy...


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Monday, 7 August 2006

I spent a lot of time on Saturday at Art on the Green and the Taste of the Coeur d'Alenes. Walked my legs off, in fact. It was interesting, but there were way too many people there.

There wasn't anything at either of those places that I was really interested in buying, though. I guess I'm just not that interested in artsy stuff anymore.


My Canon A610 camera has the capability to record movies at 640x480 and 30 frames per second. The only problem I can see with this is the fact that the camera is too light to hold steady when taking videos of something that moves a lot.

So I went out on the net and found a site that tells you how to build a 14 dollar steadicam. I built one, and it works remarkably well. Why should you pay 600 to 1,000 dollars for something you can cheaply construct? It didn't cost me 14 dollars, though - it cost 17 dollars.


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Friday, 4 August 2006

I am looking into Ruby and Rails. I have ordered a couple of books about the subject after hearing a podcast interview on Inside the Net with David Hansson, who created Rails.

I have looked at my web host's array of supported software and they support both Ruby and Rails. So this may be the way to go with the coaching software I still intend to create.


A Proposal for Certifying Uninstall of Windows Programs


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Thursday, 3 August 2006

I have loaded the latest version of Ubuntu Linux on my test machine and it looks very good. It's easy to use and easy to install new applications.

The one major problem I have with it is its complete lack of support for TV cards. I was looking for a distro to help me turn the machine into a PVR, but this one is not the one.

I tried loading KnoppMyth to create a PVR, but it is too hard to configure. I had to make too many guesses about what they wanted. As a result, the program did not work for me at all.

If anyone has a suggestion for another version of Linux that will support the Personal Video Recorder function, please let me know.


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Wednesday, 2 August 2006

Art on the Green is yearly festival in Coeur d'Alene that is held in August. This year's festival is this weekend, and I plan to go. I have only missed one of these in the 22 years I have lived here. It''s a good place to see folk art and listen to good music.

I have a leather notebook I purchased about 20 years ago at this festival. I was looking for something that wouldn't wear out. I guess I found it.


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Tuesday, 1 August 2006

Today was only the second time since I've been on broadband wifi that the connection went down. Not a bad record so far.


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