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BLOGical Thoughts Archive

December 2009

Thursday, 31 December 2009

Well, I have no more computers to fix or upgrade. That's because I have returned home from Lake Havasu City, AZ, where I (and the machines) have been for the last almost two weeks.

Those seven machines all belonged to relatives. Four of them were my parents' machines, two were my sister's machines and one was a niece's machine. Since I always end up fixing things when I go down there, I was kind of expecting the work, but not like I got hit with.

The very worst part was having to work with Microsoft Windows. It beats me how such a lame excuse for an operating system could become popular. Oh, yeah - marketing. The file systems for Windows require periodic maintenance (chkdsk and defrag), but do you think they have put those items as standard in their scheduler? Of course not. And it beats me why anyone would want to use an operating system that they purchased (when you purchased your machine, part of the price was the O/S) that, when it breaks, you have to purchase more software to fix the software that should have worked in the first place.

I hope that will be my last rant ever on that cruddy piece of software, but I doubt it.


I want to wish everyone a happy New Year. I hope everyone has a good 2010.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

Monday, 28 December 2009

I got the dual-boot machine upgraded, but it was quite a chore. The Windows portion had only 1.6GB of free space on it. The first thing I had to do is to free up more space, so I could run the defragger on it. I did that, and also removed the Linux partitions, so I could increase the size of the Windows partition slightly. The only problem was there were hard errors in that portion of the disk so I could not do it. I went ahead and ran chkdsk on it, removed all the extra crap programs that were running (TWO firewalls? A Sony monitoring program of some kind?) and left it with about 7 GB of free space. I then upgraded the rest of the disk with Ubuntu 9.04 and called it a day.

The second machine was dead, which I fixed by changing power supplies. I then added a second hard drive to it and installed Ubuntu 9.04 on the second hard drive and re-did the Windows portion on the first hard drive. Each O/S now has an 80GB drive and the machine works like it was new.

So that's it - I have redone seven computers in 5 days. I'm not gonna try that again soon.


There will be no more updates here until Thursday, as it won't be convenient for me to do them.


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, 24 December 2009

I only have two more computers to look at. One is a dual-boot system that has Windows and a two-year old version of Ubuntu on it. The Windows install seems to have some virus on it. I will see if I can remove the virus without having to wipe out the O/S, but I am doubtful about that. I will also update the Linux portion to Ubuntu 9.04.

The second machine is dead. The power supply is suspected and I may be able to fix it. I will then backup all the data files onto my 320GB USB drive, then will install Ubuntu 9.04 on the machine.


This will be my last post until next week. I hope everyone has a good Christmas.


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, 23 December 2009

I worked on two more computers yesterday. The first one had Ubuntu Linux 9.04 already installed, but it needed Java installed to work with Firefox. I attempted to do that, following instructions in various places, but was unable to get Java running as a plug-in. Oh well, even wizards sometimes fail.

The second computer was a lot more fun. It just stopped working one day, with a 'missing operating system' indication. I booted the live version of Ubuntu into the box and checked the hard drive. Sure enough, the only thing left on the hard drive was the Windows directory. Apparently a virus had wiped everything else out.

I attempted to install Ubuntu on the box by wiping the entire hard disk, and got a media failure. So I booted up the Ultimate Boot CD and used the partition editor on it to remove the partitions. I then started to zero out the hard disk, figuring the format had been screwed up by the virus. That was taking way too long, so I did the 'quick zero' instead.

I then rebooted Ubuntu and the install proceeded flawlessly. The box works like it was new instead of as old as it really is. I even cleaned up the box a bit, so it looks a lot better. I hope my sister appreciates the effort.


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, 22 December 2009

I installed Ubuntu 9.04 64-bit on the AMD Phenom II X4 box, and the owner was happy to see the last of Vista. I was, too. I will be adding some apps to the box today that he needs - specifically, digiKam, Tellico, VirtualBox and Wine. I will then move on to two other boxes. One of them is runnng Ubuntu and needs Java and the other just kind of died and has no operating system now. I suspect a virus on that box, as it was running Windows.


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, 21 December 2009

This is late because I have been busy installing Ubuntu 9.04 on computers and fixing software on other computers. I have the week off, so I can actually post this any time during the day.

The computers I am installing on range from older and slower to screamingly fast. The fast one is a Gateway that was purchased on woot.com. It has an AMD Phenom II X4 quad processor and 2GB of memory. It also came with Vista, which I will be blowing away.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

Friday, 18 December 2009

I have released the next version of gdvdslides on an unsuspecting world. I have cleaned up some deficiencies, added drag and drop and fixed a few bugs. You can find out more about gdvdslides and download this open source Linux program from Rimrock Software.

I already have a short to-do list for the next version of gdvdslides, but if anyone has any ideas for new features, let me know.

Next week I intend to add back the programs and graphics that were on the original Rimrock Software web site. I am tired of seeing all the 'Page not Found' errors in my contact logs, and have just been procrastinating on this task.


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, 17 December 2009

Everyone has been gushing over the Google Chrome web browser. It's time for a little dose of reality. Yes, Chrome looks great and can be customized to look like you want it to. Yes, Chrome is really fast rendering web pages. But there are operational problems with it which may or may not be fixable.

I encountered the first problem using Chrome on Windows XP at work. It's fixable, but I'm not sure anyone is paying any attention to it. When you click on a download item and are asked if you wish to save it, Chrome pops up a save dialog. The directory that dialog always points to is the Download directory, under Documents and Settings. The default for that directory should be whatever directory you last used. And that choice should be saved and restored between Chrome sessions.

The Chrome developers might not be able to fix the next problem I encountered. I think the problem is a direct result of how Chrome renders pages. Anyhow, when you are viewing a page and you wish to save a copy of it locally, Chrome does not save the original copy of the HTML page it received from the web site. Instead, it saves a copy of it that it has modified to allow it to render the page faster. And that modified page's suggested save name is not the same as the original page. Images attached to the saved page are not stored in a directory with the same name as they are stored on the web site, either. If you save two web pages with Chrome that each contain images from the same directory on the web site, when you save them locally, they are saved in separate directories that are not named the same as on the web site.

Unless and until Google fixes these (important to me) problems, I will stick with Firefox.

09:32 Update: The Chrome developers did the save directory thing on purpose. The least they could have done is put a check box in the browser Options dialog asking whether you actually want to always use the same directory.


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, 16 December 2009

I digitized more slides last night, and came to the conclusion I will have to do them over. The digitized images show every little piece of lint and gunk on each slide. I will clean them up before I do them again. I will also turn some of them sideways when digitizing, so the image won't be clipped on the top and bottom.

There are quite a few slides of R/C airplanes and model rockets in there. I can't believe I took that many pictures. At least the camera I was using at the time was much better than the one I used for the first set of pictures.

There are some images of me in these slides, in my mid-20's. Amazing what I looked like. I wonder what my ex-wife looks like now....


If you are looking for more reports of snow, look somewhere else. It's supposed to get up to 37°F today and we will be getting some rain.


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, 15 December 2009

A little device I purchased from Costco.com arrived last night, and I have been digitizing slides that I took in the early 70's. My initial thought is the film camera I took the pictures with was really poor. I don't even remember what the camera was, but the pictures are blurry, poorly lit and just don't hold up well against the ones I can take with my Canon SX10 IS.

I have a couple more trays of slides to convert and then I will dig up all the negatives that are floating around here and convert them, too. That is, if I can do all that before the weekend.


We got at least four more inches of snow last night, so I had better go plow. I need to keep things clear, as I am expecting one more package this week and FedEx won't deliver if the roadway is snowed in.


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, 14 December 2009

I am still working on getting all the pieces together so I can release a new version of gdvdslides. I found more errors in some of the documents I sent out with the initial release, so I have fixed those. I still need to compile the program for 64-bit, and then package it all up.

The idea I had for another program has been done by numerous others, so I won't pursue it. Some other thought will hit my brain - it always does. Most of the good ideas I have had in the past have been connected with programming in some way, like the help file generator, font editor, mouse cursor editor and general-purpose editor I wrote for Windows. When some process annoys me enough, I come up with an easier way to do that process, usually involving a new program.


I have to go plow snow now before going to work - we finally got a decent amount last night.


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, 11 December 2009

Our company Christmas party is tonight after work at the Coeur d'Alene Resort. I usually have a good time there, even though parties aren't really my thing. We have a gift exchange, lots of good food and even a little entertainment. I'm always up for a free meal, and the CEO and CTO do a good job on this.


I spent last night putting together a medley of Christmas songs that I will bring to work. It's not a G-rated list, though. More like PG-13. It stars Dr. Demento and the Bob Rivers Group. Should be fun to listen to while I program.


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, 10 December 2009

I am testing the gdvdslides program. Mostly, I have been going through the help to make sure it is correct. Although most programmers don't place much value on documentation, I do. I recognize that my software may not be as intuitive as I thought it was when I wrote it, so I document as much as I can to allow people to better understand the program.

I need to compile gdvdslides for 64-bit systems and change a couple of documents for that system, then I am ready to package up and deliver the next version of the program. I know it hasn't been that long since the first version, but we aren't at the version 1.0 mark yet, so expect some activity.

I also need to read up on how to create RPM packages so I can do a couple of them, too. That may take me until after Christmas. We shall see.


The weather is improving a bit. Right now it is 10°F and it's supposed to get up to 21°F today. The temperature increase won't delay the snow we expect to get by the weekend, though.


Here is a cute little Linux command line script for you. It won't do anything nasty, I promise.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Since I needed a system in which to create RPM packages of gdvdslides, I installed Fedora 11 Linux as a VM on my new workstation. I started to download the 64-bit version of Fedora, but came to my senses at the last minute. I don't need to compile in an RPM-based distro, I just need one to make use of the package manager tools to build a new RPM package. The fact that Fedora is a 4GB download helped, too.

I have cleaned up the help for gdvdslides, which was the last task on my list. I just need to test everything and then package it up, and a new version will be ready to go. Unfortunately, I have already thought of a new feature I could add to the program. I just hope I can resist the temptation of adding it to the latest version.


Yesterday morning, it was 3°F when I was doing my blog post, and it got up to about 16°F during the day. This morning it is 9°F and is supposed to get as high as 16°F to 19°F. So it's warming up. They are predicting snow, but we haven't really seen any of that yet this season. Which means the ground is pretty much frozen way down. I hope nothing breaks.


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, 8 December 2009

I have added VirtualBox 3.1 to my new workstation. I then installed Zenwalk Linux, Slackware Linux and Mepis Antix Linux as VMs on the machine. I estimate that those are distributions that people at the users group would be interested in. The latter two are very sparing of resources, so they should run well on old Pentium machines with 128MB of RAM. Slackware, on the other hand, is interesting in itself. It is the oldest distribution still in active development - it was around in 1994 when I bought my first Linux distro (Yggdrasil) and you needed to know way more about your hardware to install it than was really good for you. Unfortunately, Slackware has followed the bling trail and uses KDE 4.x as the desktop. Hard to use and annoying, in my opinion.


If you are running Ubuntu 9.10, your only choice for installing KDevelop is the buggy pre-beta 4.0 version. This is only one of many poor choices made by the Ubuntu team for that release, and it's one more reason I'm sticking with the 9.04 version.


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, 7 December 2009

On Friday, I made a list of changes to be made for the next version of gdvdslides. Whenever I do something like that, I have a hard time not going ahead and making the changes. That was the case this time, too. I have added drag and drop movement for slide lines, added the capability to place a new slide line either before or after the highlighted line, added an edit dialog for minor slide line changes, added an Apply button for image fields and fixed a couple of bugs. All that's left to do is to update the help files with the new changes and fix some minor errors in them.


I showed up to cook at December Delights in Rathdrum on Saturday at 11:30am. We unpacked all the Dutch oven equipment, cooked chili, sourdough biscuits and cornbread, packed it all up and left at 6pm. This was all done outside where the temperature was in the high teens to low twentys, and the wind was blowing, and we were in that environment for 6 1/2 hours. That is almost the coldest I have ever been without skiing. I don't think I will do that again next year. BTW, it is 9°F as I am writing this.


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, 4 December 2009

I am still installing software on my new workstation, since I have a lot of non Ubuntu-standard software on my old workstation. For instance, I installed Tellico, Ubuntu Tweak, Geany, Eclipse, DeVeDe and Amarok last night. Since they all have their dependencies, that was a lot of stuff to install. The end result, though, is a workstation with which I will feel more comfortable.


I think I may have come up with another idea for an open source program to write. I am investigating how much work it will entail. The current program I use for the task is, of course, a command line program.


I will be cooking at Rathdrum's December Delights tomorrow, starting at 2 pm. There will be chili and cornbread for all and everyone is invited to attend. Dress warmly, though, as it will be pretty cold. This should be the last public cooking event for the year. It isn't a Dutch oven event, but that's okay by me.


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, 3 December 2009

I copied the source code for gdvdslides over to the new 64-bit workstation and compiled it as a 64-bit executable. I then created a Debian package for it and uploaded it to Rimrock Software. So we now support both 32-bit and 64-bit machines.

The only thing I see ahead for gdvdslides at this point is a clean-up of the documentation. If anyone has any suggestions for changes or enhancements, you can contact me over at the Rimrock Software web site.


Rimrock Software has been off-line for two years. After having put it back on-line, I checked the logs and there are still people looking to download my freeware programs. So I created a zips directory and uploaded the files to the web site. I will create web pages for them as I get the chance.


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, 2 December 2009

Ubuntu Linux version 9.10 has had its last chance with me. As I stated yesterday, I installed the 64-bit version on my new computer. I expressed doubts about it then because I got a Kernel crash message from it when I was running the live CD. I went ahead and installed it because I had to have something on the new computer.

I have since discovered that the kernel crash happens every time I boot the O/S. So I left it running just long enough to get the 64-bit version of Ubuntu 9.04 and burn a new CD. I then installed that and have had absolutely no problems since. Canonical: Take care; you are damaging your reputation for good works by releasing such a clunker.

I am slowly adding software to the new workstation. First thing I added was the 64-bit versions of Lazarus and Free Pascal. They work just fine. I then proceeded to adding DVD support and the Thunderbird email client. Oh, and somewhere in there was a serious package upgrade (262 of them, actually). All that pretty much took care of my entire evening.


The new workstation is a real screamer. I was running the System Monitor all through my package installations, and none of the CPUs went much over 12% usage the whole time. Most of the time, they were down in the 1% to 2% range. I never used more than about 1GB of memory, so there was never any use of the swap partition. I wish I had this kind of setup at work...


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

All the parts arrived yesterday, so I ended up assembling my new workstation last night. I wanted one that would not bog down when doing a lot of special effects in video slideshows. I think I achieved that.

The new machine has an AMD Phenom II X4 quad processor, 8GB of memory, a SATA DVD burner and a 500GB SATA hard drive. It uses an ASUS motherboard which has more fancy options than I have fingers on both hands. It even has an operating system built-in to the BIOS, which I have not yet investigated.

After I got the machine assembled, I started to install the 64-bit version of Ubuntu 9.04, but I ran into a media problem. So I used 64-bit Ubuntu 9.10. A warning, though - this is 9.10's last chance with me. It better behave itself. By the time the O/S was installed, it was time for me to catch some sleep, so that's all I have done so far.


I have set up a web page for gdvdslides on the Rimrock Software web site. I have provided a download link for the i386 binary, as well as a download link for the source code. One of the things I will do with my new machine is create the x64 binary so people can download that, too. I also put the gdvdslides help up as an on-line manual so people can see what the program is all about before downloading it.


Silly sign of the day:

Never underestimate the stupidity of Microsoft Programmers.


Free/Open Source Software

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

Local and Other News