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BLOGical Thoughts Archive

August 2009

Monday, 31 August 2009

I spent the weekend at the first Northwest Vintage Trailer Rally, just south of Newport, WA on highway 2. I drove up there Friday afternoon after work, and encountered a time and temperature sign on the way that said 99° F. I have to admit, it was kinda hot. It cooled off on Saturday, though, and I had a very good time.

Since this was the first rally and it was not well advertised, there were few trailers there. In fact, there were two vintage trailers and four teardrops. One of the trailers was pulled by a 1935 Mercury, which was a treat to see. I took a few pictures, which you can see here.


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Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

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Friday, 28 August 2009

The podcast aggregator hpodder has many command options. Here are some of them:

There are more commands but with just these few, you can see it's fairly easy to maintain and use the program.


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Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

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Thursday, 27 August 2009

I haven't been too happy with my current podcast capturing setup, so I decided to change it. The setup did include starting up a Windows 2000 VM, starting up Juice in that, then downloading any new podcasts. I then moved the files from the VM to a directory on my workstation. At that point, I had to change the ownership of the files and then move them to a USB stick. As I said, there are way too many steps in that sequence to do every morning.

Last night I installed a Linux podcast aggregator called hpodder. It is a command line program, so it probably wouldn't be satisfactory for everyone, but I like it. I keeps information about podcasts in a SQLLite database and it is pretty fast. Once the podcasts are downloaded, all I have to do is move them to the USB memory stick. None of this multiple step crap, which endears it to me immediately. I will try it out for a while and decide if I want to continue using it, but I suspect I will.


I unpacked the two monitors that showed up on my doorstep last night and installed them on my workstation. I then set them up using the Display application so they would each be half of a desktop. Since I have set the number of Gnome desktops to four, I now have four desktops that are each 3840 pixels wide, instead of the single monitor 1920 pixel desktop. That's a lot of real estate.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

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Wednesday, 26 August 2009

I have some shuffling around to do. The package I ordered on the Net the other day is two 22" wide-screen monitors. I will hook both of them up to my workstation, which will provide me with 3840 pixels of desktop. That means I have to shuffle monitors around and I will lose an old 17" screen. I promised that one to a friend.

Since there isn't enough desk space to do this, I will have to move one computer and screen to a different location before I do any setup of the new monitors. I couldn't resist the deal on these new monitors - they cost the same price as a single monitor did last year.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

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Tuesday, 25 August 2009

I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. I ordered something on the Net and received an email that the order had been acknowledged. I have since then lost the email somehow. It has been well over 5 business days, which, as I recall is how long it was supposed to take for the item to get here. I have not found any way on their web site to query for my order status. I have also not found any way to communicate with these guys. To top things off, I received my VISA bill last night, and it has the charge for the item on it.

So do I pay the bill and hope that the item shows up? Or do I call VISA and tell them I won't pay for goods not received. It's a real conundrum. I will wait at least one more day to see if the item shows up. If it doesn't, I will have to take some kind of action.

Update: When I got to work this morning, I checked my Gmail and found a shipping notice for the item. It has been enroute for 4 days now. I guess this is a tempest in a teapot.


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Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

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Monday, 24 August 2009

I don't like it when you schedule a meeting with someone and the person never shows up for the meeting. The person who called me about installing Linux never showed up at the NILUG technical meeting on Saturday. Basically, there was no one there who needed help on installing Linux or who needed questions answered about Linux. Very disappointing.


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Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

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Friday, 21 August 2009

The technical meeting of the North Idaho Users Group is tomorrow afternoon. I will be there with extra Ubuntu disks and a mission to install Ubuntu on yet another laptop. If you need Linux installed on you computer, look into attending the meeting in Rathdrum (see the Meeting Location page on the web site).


I always look forward to the Mineral Club meetings because I get to eat dinner at la Cabaña. My eyes were larger than my stomach last night when I ordered their tamale and chile relleno combination plate. I could not finish the rice and beans, which is probably a good thing. They do everything at dinner very well. I highly recommend the place if you are hungry in Post Falls at dinner time.


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Free/Open Source Software

Thursday, 20 August 2009

My ebook reader broke a while back. I plugged it in to a USB port to recharge the battery and instead of powering on correctly and showing a screen that says it is charging, it went into a boot loop. It kept cycling between the grey-level screen and a blank screen. Nothing I did, including a hard reset, had any effect on it. It would not even turn off. I finally had to pull the battery to turn it off. So I am getting a replacement unit, hopefully with updated firmware. I shipped it out to Great Britain yesterday morning.


I am helping someone install Ubuntu on his netbook, but am doing via email. He has installed Linux before, but not in a long time. I emailed some tips about how to create a dual-boot system. I hope it doesn't get messed up. It would be much easier if he flew up here from Oregon and came to our regular meeting in September.


I am going to the North Idaho Mineral Club meeting tonight. I have some technical details about our web site to work out with one of the members. We need to move it over to a content management system, but that is peripheral to the main problem, which is the web host.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

Local and Other News

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

I finished up the article on installing VirtualBox. I created it as a regular web page instead of putting it on the web site as a regular item. I did that because WordPress doesn't seem to like postings that are overly long. I think I should look for another content management system. Like Joomla.

I will post the article around the same time as the meeting where I will be giving the talk.


Speaking of VirtualBox, something weird happened this morning. I have been using a VirtualBox VM daily to do some work. The last time I used it was yesterday morning. This morning, VirtualBox would not start up the VM. It insisted I needed to recompile the driver. I did that, and it started working. I think I may have downloaded an updated Linux kernel and the new kernel did not have support for VirtualBox. Maybe I should say something about that in my talk.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

Local and Other News

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

I worked on my VirtualBox installation presentation for NILUG last night. I was going to skip over the preliminary step of actually creating a virtual machine, but I decided it was too important to leave out. When I publish the article on the NILUG web site, it will have more than 20 screen capture pictures to help with the text explanation. I hope I have covered the topic adequately.

The North Idaho Linux Users Group also has a technical meeting on the fourth Saturday of the month, which is this Saturday. It starts at the regular time of 1pm, but the location is in Rathdrum, at the F1 For Help computer store. Look on the web site for Meeting Information.

I got a phone call last night from someone I didn't know, who was looking for help installing Linux on a laptop computer that has no CD drive. I will be helping him on Saturday. I will try to talk him out of using Red Hat and into using Ubuntu. It is much easier to use than most distros, which is important for new users.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

Local and Other News

Monday, 17 August 2009

Since I will be giving a talk at the next North Idaho Linux Users Group about how to install and configure VirtualBox, I spent most of the weekend going through what I would be doing. I took notes and screenshots of the programs I used to do the work. I will create an article on the NILUG web site when I have finished my notes, so anyone who can't attend the meeting will be able to see what I did.

The next NILUG meeting is on Saturday, 12 September, at 1pm. The meetings are a great way to learn more about Linux and other open source software.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

Local and Other News

Friday, 14 August 2009

I completely uninstalled the old version of VirtualBox from my home workstation, then installed the latest version. I then added the VirtualBox group to my user. This group was created when the latest VirtualBox was installed, and you have to be a member to be able to run VirtualBox. Which is why I could not run it yesterday.

To get the VirtualBox icon to show up in the Applications menu, I logged out then back in. VirtualBox now works again. I'm glad I got it working, as I wasn't looking forward to reinstalling Linux. I have all kinds of stuff running that I would have to get working again, like Apache and Subversion.

I will demonstrate how to install, configure and use VirtualBox at the September 12th meeting of the North Idaho Linux users Group. I will also show how to permanently connect to an extra hard drive from within a VM.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

Local and Other News

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Well, I have screwed up the VirtualBox installation on my main workstation. I attempted to install a newer version of the program than is found in the Ubuntu repositories. It installed, but would not run. So I uninstalled it and reinstalled the older version. It won't run,either.

I still have the VMs that I created using the older version, so I won't have to recreate those. I may resort to reinstalling Ubuntu, just to get VirtualBox running again. It's important that it works, as I use it every day. I hope I won't have to reinstall Ubuntu, as I would have to reinstall a bunch of other programs, too. I wouldn't lose any data, though. My /home directory is on a separate partition from the root directory. That makes this kind of thing trivial. And this situation is why it's so hard to get a Windows system working again after reinstallation. You have to dig up disks with all the programs you were using and reinstall all the programs, remembering where you put all those registration keys. Not so in Linux.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

Local and Other News

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

I am still fixing bugs in the report program I upgraded at work. I did not write the original, but it seems to me that there is an inordinate number of bugs in it per line of code. This time, I fixed four bugs by changing or adding four lines of code. Those are the nice ones, though.

The bug I'm working on now is much more complex. Basically, if you run a report from the reports list, you will end up with a list of fields you can filter on. If you load an exported report, you don't get the list. This means I have to add a lot of code to get that working. I will look forward to working on something completely different. When that happens, I will end up with enough energy and ambition to work on more stuff at home.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

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Tuesday, 11 August 2009

I am finished installing software on the restored dead computer. It still need software installed on it, but the lady who owns the machine has all the install disks. I will have to get the machine back to her so we can finish restoring it.


I finished updating a program at work. It is designed to create a SQL Server database with over 200 tables, as a data warehouse for our Postgres database server. I have been working on it for a while, as the update includes merging two tables in to one.

I know that sounds trivial, but it wasn't, as the new table presents the data on its side, i.e., the rows kind of become columns and the columns become rows. The old tables had 337 columns between them and the new table has 5. This was accomplished with no data loss, And it only took two humongous SQL statements to get the old data, then a bunch of code to convert it to the new format. The conversion is really fast and the new table ends up being much smaller than the old ones combined. This results from only recording column information in the new table when there is actually data in it. I'm very happy with the results.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

Local and Other News

Monday, 10 August 2009

I have a new neighbor. It's a big old vulture that is living down by the corner of Dodd and Boot Hill Roads. That's about 3/4 of a mile from my house. In the twenty five years I've lived here, I have never seen one of these birds. Now we have one right in the neighborhood.


Extortion - "The obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right."

Let's say that someone sends you a notice that says they will take away a right you have had for twenty five years, unless you register with them. And let's say that down in the fine print of the notice it says you have to pay $25 for that privilege. That's a classic extortion situation, right?

This is not hypothetical - here's the first few lines of the notice:

IMPORTANT WATER RIGHTS INFORMATION

YOUR FILING DEADLINE IS: November 20, 2009

FAILURE TO FILE A REQUIRED NOTICE OF CLAIM WILL RESULT IN A DETERMINATION BY THE COURT THAT THE WATER RIGHT NO LONGER EXISTS

So what can I do about this extortion? It's the government, which never does anything illegal. Most people would say, "oh well, it's only $25." I say that extortion is extortion and there are laws against it. Unless the government says, "this doesn't apply to us."


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

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Friday, 7 August 2009

I put an icon on the task bar for VirtualBox for the restored dead computer. That way, the lady I am restoring this for will be able to easily start up the program and get Windows 2000 running. I am still installing programs on the new C: drive, but am rapidly running out of installs I can do here. I will need the original program disks to install some of the programs, so it may almost be time to let this machine go back to its owner.


The monthly meeting of the North Idaho Linux Users Group will be held tomorrow afternoon in Post Falls. I hope to see many of you there, so I can help you remove that nasty, viral operating system off of your computer and replace it with a stable, clean, fast one.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

Local and Other News

Thursday, 6 August 2009

I am still working on the restored dead computer. I downloaded a Linux (superuser) program called pysdm, which I used to create the proper connections for the other four hard drives. When Ubuntu boots up, those drives are now automatically mounted.

I then went in to the Windows 2000 VirtualBox virtual machine and hooked those hard disks up as Windows drives. I now have them all automatically mounted when I start up the VM.

It is quite easy to provide access to external storage in VirtualBox. There is a menu entry in the Devices menu called Shared Folders. Since all hardware in Linux look like folders, this is where you hook up the Linux mounted drives so they can be seen in your VM. And since the USB devices support doesn't seem to work in this version of VirtualBox, you can also hook USB devices up here, if they are mounted.

Since one of the drives that was originally in this system is being used for Ubuntu (and the virtual C: drive for Windows 2000), I had copied all the files off that drive onto an external drive. I now copied them into a folder on one of the other hard drives. All the files from the original machine are now available in the Windows 2000 VM.

Once I got all the drives mounted for Windows, I started to install some software. I quickly found I would have to update the operating system. So, after 4 separate sets of downloads and installs, and after five reboots of the VM, I had an up to date Windows 2000.

I then started installing software. I installed Firefox, Gimp and a program I wrote called SpinItPro. At which point, it was time for bed. Isn't Windows fun?


Silly sign of the day:

Here it is - Silly Sign #1000 (Such a disappointment)


Free/Open Source Software

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

I got back to working on the restored dead computer last night. I have fstab entries for all the hard disks in the machine, and I have links to those hard disks in the Windows 2000 VM. There are only a couple of problems. One is that the hard drives don't automount when you start up Ubuntu. I will figure out how to do that next.

The second problem is really a Windows problem. The mounted drives are not mounted using the same drive letters as they were originally mounted with. That is going to be a bit confusing, I'm sure, but I'm not sure if I can fix that.


The power went off last night at about 9:20pm. It came back on again at about 2:30am. There didn't appear to be any reason for the failure, as there were no thunderstorms or any other nasty weather going on. The only thing I can think of that may have happened is someone hit a power pole. At any rate, I have at least two clocks in the house that need to be reset after a power failure. One of them is my alarm clock. It's a good thing I usually wake up before the alarm goes off, as there was no alarm this morning.


Silly sign of the day:

Tomorrow is the day - silly sign #1000


Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

Local and Other News

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

I spent last night processing the photos I took at the mineral show. I have added them to this web site as the AFMS/NFMS Convention and Mineral Show - 2009

I seem to have lost focus with this batch of photos. I am usually more in tune with what I am doing. These seem to be all over the place. There are even a couple of pictures of deer at the campground in there.


You have no idea how strong the smell of mint is until you drive by a freshly-mowed field of it. There is a huge field of peppermint alongside Hayden Avenue, which I sometimes use to get to and from work. Last night I drove home on it, and they had just cut the plants. The smell was not what you smell when we use the product. It's more of half-mint, half-rotting vegetable matter. Really strong and smelly. I will try to stay away from there until they are finished harvesting.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

Local and Other News

Monday, 3 August 2009

I spent the last four days in the Yellowstone River RV Park and Campground in Billings, Montana. I went there to attend the AFMS/NFMS Convention and Gem and Mineral Show at the local Holiday Inn Grand, which was sponsored by the Billings Gem and Mineral Club. The campground was very nice, and I was camped right next to a nature trail that led down to the river, where I could go and search for agate.

I did have a problem, though. I was camped next to two groups of motorcyclists on their way to the Sturgis event. They were quiet, but they all smoked. Cigars and cigarettes. They were mostly gone all day, but they came in late one night and the smoke woke me up. I hate cigar and cigarette smoke.

The mineral show was pretty good. There were some spectacular items there. The Intarsia displays were outstanding, as well as the fossil displays and the stone carvings. And then there was this small item:

This is an almost perfect opal egg, about the size of a hen's egg. That sticker on the side of it says $30,000. I can see why.

One advantage of being in Billings was the weather. It was a lot cooler over there than it has been over here. It even rained a bit while I was there - just enough to keep things cool. All in all, though, I'm glad to be back.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

Local and Other News