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December 2005

Wednesday, 28 December 2005

I've been installing software since I got to Arizona on Friday. I hope to stop installing software just before I leave for Idaho tomorrow. But it's nice seeing all my relatives.

I have made herbed dinner rolls and meatloaf in my dutch oven while I was here. The rolls were a disaster - not enough yeast, I think. The meatloaf came out perfect.

This will be my last entry until January. I hope everyone has a nice and safe New Year.


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Monday, 26 December 2005

I hope everyone had a nice holiday. I certainly did. Except for the fact that it was 80° F outside.

Well, I no longer have a refurbished HP, a Dell GX-50 or an Acer Aspire. They are now in the hands of their rightful owners. And I will be able to see out of the rear-view mirror when I drive home again, as I will not have all that in the back of the car.


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Wednesday, 21 December 2005

When I got home last night I saw that the torrent I was downloading (SuSE 10.1 Alpha-4) was complete, and that others had accessed it from my computer to the tune of 2.83 gb. That torrent stuff really works.

There is a downside, though. I checked the upload/download capabilities while Azureus was running and got 1.6 mpbs down and .5 mpbs up. I stopped the torrent software and checked again, and got 2.6 mpbs down and .9 up. Quite a difference. Azureus was putting a bit of a strain on my connection.


Once I had the .iso images for SuSE 10.1, I burned 5 CDs from them. I also burned another CD and a DVD. I have one more CD to burn before Christmas.


This will probably be my last post until after Christmas. I wish everyone a happy holiday. Be careful out there, it's slick. I fell in the parking lot this morning because there was no sand on it. Didn't hurt myself - I was just embarassed.


The Joy of Tech

I couldn't resist this. Click on the picture to go to the web site. She posts a new cartoon every other day.


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Tuesday, 20 December 2005

The thing about bit torrent is, if you happen to pick a torrent with very few other machines participating, your download could be much slower than downlaoding the file directly. This happened to me last night. I downloaded the Alpha-4 version of SuSE 10.1, and it was still downloading this morning. There were only five other machines where the torrent was available, so the download speed was about 80 kpbs. A popular torrent such as Knoppix 4.02 showed speeds of about 240 kbps - three times faster.


I got to thinking about my computer history, and about the first computer I ever had (thanks to Leo Laporte's Tech Guy podcast). As I do most of them, I built my first computer. It was a Southwest Technical Products 6800 system, running a 1 mHz Motorola 6800 processor with 128 bytes of RAM. As this was 1976 and there was no such thing as components (as such), I built each board from parts, soldered up the backplane, built a TV Typewriter from parts as a terminal (32 cols X 16 lines) and built an audio tape mass storage device from parts (2400 bps Kansas City Standard). I also built am optical paper tape reader from parts, as I had a copy of basic for the 6800 on paper tape. And I added a 4k RAM board to it so I had a useful amount of memory.

Eventually, that system morphed into a Gimix Ghost, with two 5 1/4" floppy disk drives. I should have held onto it, but I sold it to another hobbyist so I could build a Z80 machine (which I still have).

What was your first machine? Were you lured into the Radio Shack world, or was it a real IBM PC? Or a Commodore PET or 64? Atari? Let me know.


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Monday, 19 December 2005

I didn't get around to installing Hamachi, as I had other things to do over the weekend. Like wrapping presents, cooking for a potluck we will be having at noon today, and creating CDs for new Linux users.

I also worked on a functional specification for the Soccer Coach program. I have the old spec copied into the new one, and I will be adding new content over the next few weeks. I will also be designing a new database for the program, keeping scalability and extensibility in mind.


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Friday, 16 December 2005

I have started downloading big files using a bit torrent program. I chose to use Azureus, which is a Java program available on Linux, Windows and Mac. It's very easy to use and works very well. So far, I have downloaded the 680k ArkLinux iso and the 3.11gb Knoppix iso. I will be using it for more in the future. Definitely a great way to go.


I have gotten the Network Storage Link to work in my network. I'm not quite sure how, though. I had turned it off and then when I turned it on, it hung up. So I turned it off and on again and it came right up. I could then talk to it with my Windows computer. I suspect it needed to be restarted after the changes I made to the configuration.

To get it to connect to my Linux boxes, I simply turned off the software firewall in them. Since I am behind a hardware firewall (my NAT router), that should not be a security concern for me. So my network is working completely.


If you've been following the tribulations of the Sony idiots and their brain-damaged version of DRM, then you'll think that this is very funny.


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Thursday, 15 December 2005

The O'Reilly book I ordered, Point & Click OpenOffice.org, came on Tuesday. I've looked at the whole thing and it is definitely for beginners, which leaves me out. It is a very good book for people just starting with office programs, though, and it has a very interesting section on databases. The included videos are good, too. They are done in Flash instead of as mpegs, which is great.


Tuesday morning, I got the Honda out of the garage and started for work. About ten miles down the road, the windshield started to fog up, so I diverted some of the air to defrosting it. Another few miles down the road, I heard a big CRACK! and then another. The windshield now has a very long crack in it, down where the hot air blew on it, from left to right. And I will have to get it replaced.

This is the second time this has happened to me. The first was a very hot day in summer when I decided to wash the Stealth. Cold spring water and a very hot windshield don't mix, either.


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Wednesday, 14 December 2005

I am still trying to get my Network System Link to be recognized in my LAN. I added the default gateway, but no other machine sees it as a server. The only thing I can do with it is talk to its web interface. I will keep trying.


I have updated three computers with online updates. Two of them are SuSE 10.0 and one is SuSE 9.2. The whole process was painless and fairly fast. Between the three machines, I downloaded about 400 megs of updates. Broadband is wonderful.


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Tuesday, 13 December 2005

I have fixed my slow Internet access from Linux problem. It turns out that several Linux distributions, SuSE among them, enable IPv6 translation by default. If this is turned off, the DNS process is much faster.

Here's how you disable IPv6 in SuSE 9.3 and 10.0:

  1. Go in to Yast. Select System, then /etc/sysconfig Editor. Search for 'ipv6'. Change the entry labeled 'KDE_USES_IPV6' to 'no'. If you are using SuSE 9.3, also change 'USE_IPV6' to 'no'.
  2. Run Firefox. Go to page about:config. Go down to the 'network.dns.disableIPv6' entry and change it to true.
  3. Reboot your Linux box.
These changes sped up DNS resolution by quite a bit for me. I haven't accessed any European sites, so I'm not sure how well it will handle sites that actually implement IPv6, though.

My thanks to Sean for suggesting this fix.


I have also installed Audacity (the sound file editor) on my SuSE box. I just don't understand why Novell has removed that program from their distribution disk. It works fine, so it can't be a techinical problem.


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Monday, 12 December 2005

Well, after 21 years of 28k dial-up access, I am now online with wireless broadband. The installer came out on Saturday and added a connector to the end of my cable, plugged in the power supply and it all just worked.

I only have one problem, and it's a configuration issue. The connection works really well and very fast on my (sole remaining) windows workstation, but on all the Linux boxes, the DNS lookup is really slow. I will have to track down just what the problem is. Other than that, it was great to be able to connect to the world from the living room with my notebook, and get fast web page downloads.

I measured the links and am averaging about 2 mbps download and 1 mpbs upload. Much faster than 28 kbps!


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Friday, 9 December 2005

I went to The Lunar Group meeting last night. The Lunar Group is a group of technical professionals in the computer field who get together on a monthly basis to network, exhcange ideas, talk about current issues and enjoy good food and drink.

The meetings are held at the Moon Time restaurant in Coeur d'Alene. They have good food and, I'm told, good beer. I stick to tea or diet soft drinks, though. We had an enjoyable time last night.


I just got a Linksys NSLU2. That's a little box they advertise as a Network Storage Link for USB 2. I like to think of it as Network Server, Linux, for USB 2 - that's what it really is. It has an ethernet port and two USB ports. You plug in external USB drives and then plug it in to your router and voilá, instant mass storage on your LAN.

The box it came in was supposed to come with an install disk (I think), but it had none. I had to go to the Linksys site to get a copy of the manual for it and to find out how to access and set it up.

There is one caveat about the device: the USB external drives it uses must be formatted as Linux partitions. You can't use FAT, FAT32 or NTFS. Fine with me. Since the box is really just a very small Linux server, it has software built in to it to reformat a hard drive. So that's what I did.

I'll be looking at it more over the weekend, and will be setting up my other computers to access it. I will also be getting my Honda serviced and will be installing software on Betty's multimedia computer, so it should be an interesting and busy weekend.


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Thursday, 8 December 2005

Acronis TrueImage has been suggested to me as a backup program for Windows, by a coworker. I haven't had a chance to look at it yet, but I will. If it can backup to either CD-R or DVD-R, I will give it a try.


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Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Since that eXtremely Pathetic Microsoft Windows XP doesn't include a way to back up the entire system to CD or DVD, I am looking around for a method. I am looking for something better than Norton Ghost, but with similar capabilities. I want to take a snapshot of Betty Zirkle's multimedia machine before she starts generating all the data files, so we can restore the O/S without reloading all the programs. Since the programs are all on one partition, and the data will be on two other partitions, this should be fairly easy. All I need is a program to do the backup.


Bookpool.com has finally received and shipped the book I ordered many weeks ago: Point and Click OpenOffice.org. Judging by the other book written by the same author, this ought to be a good one. It should arrive the day before I leave for Arizona for Christmas.

I am still waiting for them to ship a book I ordered called Producing Open Source Software: How to Run a Successful Free Software Project. This book is in stock at other stores, but I prefer using Bookpool because of the great deep discounts.


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Tuesday, 6 December 2005

I still don't have a broadband connection. I went down to their office yesterday and they were closed. Other than barbers, who closes on Monday? I will try to contact them again today. I want that connection - a lot depends on it.


I have only about 20 silly signs remaining in my stash. Please let me know if you find any that I can hijack.


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Monday, 5 December 2005

We had a good meeting of the North Idaho Linux Users Group on Saturday. It was a good notebook preview and review, as well as a good gossip session. We really need a little more structure in the meetings, but that's just my opinion.

I also had major service performed on my Stealth that day, so I was driving around a loan car all day. The loan car made me wish for my Honda.


I worked on configuring Betty Zirkle's multimedia computer on Sunday, and I'm almost finished with it. First thing I did was remove the Hauppauge Win-TV card from it, as it was not working with the Asus motherboard. I then installed a USB video capture device I got from Surplus Computers, installed the driver and software and got instant video capture capability. We hooked a VCR up to it and were playing tapes that Betty had put together with it. She will use it to make DVDs of those tapes, as VHS tape degrades after time.

I also removed the stock CPU fan from the machine and installed a fan from Arctic Cooling. The new fan reduced the CPU operating temperature from 55° - 60° C to 25° C! The CPU now runs cooler than the GPU and the hard disks. Talk about exending the life of a machine.

Next, I installed a PlusDeck 2c PC Cassette Deck. It installs easily, and the one I installed on my own computer just worked. But Betty's machine has comfigurable sound connections, and I spent a lot of time getting them to configure correctly. When I finally did, I installed the Wave Pad audio editor and she now has the capability to record cassettes to either .wav or .mp3 files.

The only things left to do on that computer is to make an initial backup of it, and to install the software for burning DVDs.


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Friday, 2 December 2005

I worked on the Soccer Coach GUI again. I have converted the screens I did before over to GTK only from Gnome, and am starting the rest of the screens. There are quite a few screens to do, and I want to have them done by Sunday morning, when I have a meeting with Ken Leonard about the future of the program.

We got another six to 8 inches of snow, so I was out plowing again this morning. It was snowing hard while I was plowing, so it will probably look like I never did a thing when I come home tonight.

I got a package from Surplus Computers last night with two mice, an external drive enclosure and a USB video capture device. I was going to test the video capture before I installed it on the multimedia computer, but I was missing a cable for my portable DVD player, so I will test it on Sunday when I install it.

The North Idaho Linux Users Group meets tomorrow. Free Subway sandwiches, a door prize and lots of good conversation - I really enjoy ging to those.


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Thursday, 1 December 2005

I got the broadband cable into my computer room, but not the way I had intended. It looks like the broadband installer showed up early and I wasn't home, so I still don't have broadband support. And the weather is getting steadily worse, so I'm not sure how he will be able to get to my house now.

I worked on building dialogs for the Soccer Coach program. I decided that using any components from Gnome would prevent me from porting the application to Windows, so I am now rebuilding the screens that I had done. I am using only components from the GTK library, so it should be portable to O/Ses other than Linux.

I got the Christmas issue of Linux Format magazine, and it has two interesting articles in it. The first is one on building your own Linux distribution, and the second is on educational Linux distributions and applications. Two people at the North Idaho Linux Users Group should be interested in these.


Silly sign of the day:


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