BLOGical Thoughts Archive

December 2012

Monday, 31 December 2012

I have lost interest in the new version of the slide show program, so I am putting it away for the time being. I have turned my attention to a Dutch oven cookbook that I started writing several years ago. I will produce the cookbook in ebook format and it will be free. It will also be about 300 pages in length, and I am about 1/3 of the way through the conversion to ebook format.


I have been using a Winegard omnidirectional antenna with my personal video recorder (PVR)). The antenna provides excellent signal strength levels, but I get a lot of video and audio dropouts despite the signal strength. I decided to try other methods.

Many months ago, I built a digital TV coat-hanger antenna. The antenna was kind of creaky, because the washers I used on it were not wide enough. I replaced the washers and hooked the antenna up to my HDHomeRun tuner. The signal levels are not up to the Winegard level, but I no longer get video and audio dropouts. I will stick with this antenna for a while.


When I installed Linux Mint 14.1 on this machine, I forgot about my problem with accessing my network devices. I had to search the Linux Mint forum again to find the solution. This time, though, I wrote it down in my desktop notes text file. And network access now works fine.

The terminal program does not work fine, however. I will have to look into that. The first solution that comes to mind will take a long time to implement and is kind of drastic.


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Friday, 28 December 2012

I am working on backing up my videos. I still have over 500GB of a 2TB external drive that is empty, so I have plenty of room for more backups. To tell the truth, some of the DVDs I have just aren't worth backing up, so the good ones may all fit in that space.

While I was doing the backups, I also installed a new version of the Plex Media Manager on this workstation. Plex allows me to access videos, music and pictures that are on this machine from my Roku box, and installing it was a major mistake. The old version worked just fine, but the new version practically took over the whole computer. I uninstalled it this morning, and will not be using it at all.


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Thursday, 27 December 2012

Things are not completely fine with the version of DeVeDe in Linux Mint 14.1. I used it to rebuild some lapidary videos I had already done with DVDStyler, and I found that for some mp4 files, DeVeDe could not determine the correct aspect ratio for the file. This results in a tall, skinny distortion of the video output. It can be corrected manually in VLC, but that's not something you can do on a normal video player. I will have to look into this.

I did notice that Linux Mint 14.1 has the latest version 2.8 of Gimp. This is great - that version has a unified window capability. So instead of having many small windows open when Gimp is running, you can have only one if you want. They did change the image save process, though. Save and Save As now only save in the Gimp's native xcf format. To save in some other format, you have to either select Overwrite or Export. That is what we call a PITA.


I installed Free Pascal and Lazarus on my Raspberry Pi. The Lazarus Integrated Development Environment (IDE) works fine on the Pi, but it is very slow. I would expect that with a 700 mHz processor.

This means I now have three programming languages on the Pi: two I don't know well (Python and Scratch) and one I know very well. Should be enough for me to do some useful programming for the Pi.


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Wednesday, 26 December 2012

I installed Linux Mint 14.1 on this workstation. It took maybe half an hour to install, but then it took me a couple more hours to reinstall all the other applications I had on Linux Mint 13. Everything is working fine - even the scanner on my printer, which I never got to work with LM 13. And, joy of joys, the version of Gimp on LM 14.1 is 2.8 which has single window support.

The DeVeDe video creation program is now working, too. On LM 13, when I created a video with it, the menu for the video would come up as black. Now it displays like it used to. This is a good thing.


I got a Raspberry Pi computer for Christmas. For the benefit of those luddites who do not know of this, it is a computer that costs $35. It has an ARM processor, 512MB of RAM, an SD card slot, two USB ports, an Ethernet port, composite video and audio plugs and an HDMI port. The processor runs at 700 mHz, which seems slow, but works fine for video, as you can see from the video I am playing on it shown below.

From the picture, you can see the setup I am using. Item 1 in the red case is the Raspbery Pi board. I have plugged an SD card into it that has an image of RaspBMC (XBMC running on Linux) on it, and I am playing a video through it on the monitor. No spits or stumbles, either.

Item 2 is my fancy Bluetooth speakers, which I have plugged directly into the Pi board. Great sound comes out. Since there are only two USB ports and I needed more, item 3 is a powered USB hub. I have the movies on my external 320GB USB hard drive, which is item 4. Items 5 and 6 are the USB mouse and keyboard, and item 7 is a 19" Samsung monitor. That's it - it all works great. I also have an SD card with Raspbian, which is a version of Debian Linux compiled for the Raspbery Pi.

These Raspberry Pi boards were created to promote learning of computers and electronics in young people, but they have great appeal to anyone. Over 1 million boards have been sold since they were introduced in February. If you Google Raspberry Pi, you will see there are tons of things people have done with the boards.


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Monday, 24 December 2012

I decided to upgrade my laptop from Linux Mint 13 to Linux Mint 14.1. The process went fine, and everything is working - except, of course, the sound system. I tried to install the fix for the sound that I was given by the manufacturer, but that did not work. I have a few ideas on what to do, and I should be able to get around to trying them today.

I am also going to upgrade this workstation to Linux Mint 14.1. There should be no problems at all doing that. With that in mind, I backed up my home directory to network attached storage. I also made up a list of programs that need to be re-installed after the upgrade. It will actually be a re-install rather than an upgrade, as I have had big problems with simply upgrading.


As you all know, today is Christmas Eve and tomorrow is a holiday. This means there won't be any posting here. I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas.


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Friday, 21 December 2012

Instead of a normal North Idaho Mineral Club meeting last night, we had a Christmas party at the Top of China Buffet. The food was very good - they were heavily in to seafood and I had a craving for that. There were lots of members there that have not been around for a while, too. And there was a family of six that joined us last month and that we had not met. A good time was had by all.


We got about 6 inches of snow here by yesterday morning, so I spent quite a bit of time plowing. I also plowed up on the county road, as they had not done it yet. I have to do that so I can actually drive my front wheel drive Honda to town.

We got another inch of snow last night. Since it is already above freezing, the snow is melting and is going to be tough to move around. I guess I will do that again this morning.


I wish you all a happy Mayan end of the world.


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Thursday, 20 December 2012

I did not get any work done on either of my projects yesterday. I got diverted by a new channel on Roku called AmateurLogic.TV. It's mostly about amateur radio, but there is a lot of other stuff in there and they have some interesting things about the Raspberry Pi.

The Roku stuff I listen to mostly is


There is free, and then there is 'free'. The former means "you can have this, no strings at all attached". The latter means "you can have this for no money, but I want..."

The recipe from America's Test Kitchen for Potato Tots fails in the 'free' category. They will give you the recipe and the price is your privacy, as they want your email address. I refuse to do that, so I spent some extra time with Google and found the same recipe posted elsewhere. I may stop watching that show and start looking at cooking shows on my Roku.


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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The trial is over and my jury duty is also over. In Kootenai county, jury panels are one week or less in length. If more than one trial is scheduled for that judge for that week, then the panel may be involved in more than one case. In our case, there was only one trial and it lasted two days. It was for monetary damages, so there was no question of guilt or innocence.


I will be getting back to my regular activities now, so I will be working on the slide show program and also on a Dutch oven cookbook I never got around to publishing. And I will definitely be doing more snow plowing this week.


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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

I was picked for a jury yesterday for a civil suit. That's better than the one I was on 5 years ago. That was a criminal trial, and one of the witnesses in it refused to relate part of his testimony, so the defendent went free, even though he was probably guilty.


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Monday, 17 December 2012

It is simply amazing how our politicians and our media insist that the only way to eliminate the shooting of innocents is to ban firearms. Yes, that kind of thing worked extremely well for alcohol and is working extremely well for drugs, isn't it? This taking the nanny state to extremes is obviously the solution to all problems (end of sarcasm).

How about this? Instead of banning firearms, how about allowing anyone of age to wear one, either in view or concealed? Instead of keeping everyone as sheep, so maximum damage is done when the wolf gets in, how about turning some of the sheep into sheepdogs? Since this is the government we're talking about, there would be some regulation, of course. It's apparent that they are unable to keep their hands out of anything, so that is probably a requirement.


As I am writing this, we had a momentary power failure. I guess I expected this, as we got a couple of inches of snow last night and it is now 5° above freezing. I have already plowed the driveway and the access road.


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Friday, 14 December 2012

I went out on a computer repair call yesterday. One of the ladies in our mineral club was having problems with her computer. Since she is the one who does the newsletter, I felt it was important to have her machine running.

When I got there, I disassembled her keyboard and unstuck the '[' key. I reassembled the keyboard and it worked okay. I then fixed the battery door on the bottom of her mouse, blew the dust out of her computer and got her WiFi router working again. Imagine my surprise when I had to do nothing with her so-called operating system. That was good, as I Don't Do Windows.


I finished up the third effects section of the slide show program. It was very simple to do, unlike the other two sections. I will try to get to the remaining two visual areas of the program today.


I don't know how much blogging I will be doing next week. I am on jury duty for that entire week, so I will mostly be doing nothing.


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Thursday, 13 December 2012

I spent most of yesterday working on the visual portion of the slide show program. Most of that was figuring out how to get components placed mostly where I wanted them. That is not easy in WindowBuilder and Java, although it should be. I think Delphi has a better handle on this than Java, and their method was unleashed on an unsuspecting public in 1995!

I have laid out the frames that contain information about the Crop effect and the Ken Burns effect. I have one more of those to do - the Scroll effect. Then I move on to the final two areas of the visual interface. One of those is the image display and the other is the slide list. So, lots more to do - just on the visual stuff. And I haven't included the dialog boxes in that list. I looks like the executing code will be the easiest part of this upgrade.


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Wednesday, 12 December 2012

I am having some trouble with the Java visual components. They are completely unlike the ones for Delphi and they don't make too much sense to me. For instance, when you want a Delphi window to have two sections adjacent to one another, and you wanted to be able to adjust their size with relation to one another, you put two panels in the window and a splitter between them. You attached the splitter to the two panels and made the panels fill the window. That's all you have to do.

In Java, there is no such thing as a splitter component. Instead, there is a pane called a JSplitPane. You can add that to your window, but you don't have direct design control over the two split panels. At least, not that I can tell. This is frustrating, to say the least.

I will keep working on this, but I may have to read a bunch of books to get things the way I want them. I would rather that the design tools were intuitive instead of having to read how to use them.


The local weather people were talking about how we got 3 inches of snow last night. I just looked outside and we only got a dusting. That is very strange, as it is usually the other way around. I was all set to do a lot of snow plowing, but it's not gonna happen. The temperature is already above freezing, so no more snow today. Well, happy 12/12/12 anyway.


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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

I did non-visual work on the slide show program yesterday. One of the things I did was to rename the project. Somehow when I did that, I lost the directory that had all the program images in it. Luckily, I could use the images directory from the Delphi version and add the single additional icon to that. The images now display correctly.

I will be working on this program today, after running some errands. I hope the snow holds off long enough for me to do that without the snow hassle.


I also did work on the lapidary videos. I now have four of them and all the sections are now labeled. The four videos are Cutting Rocks, Polishing Rocks, Tumbling Rocks and Making Jewelry.


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Monday, 10 December 2012

When I write programming code, if I find myself writing the almost identical lines over and over, I create a subroutine to do that work. This makes the code shorter and easier to read. That is exactly what I did in the slide show program when I was creating the toolbar for the Java version.

After I installed the WindowBuilder plugin for Eclipse and brought up that display, I found that WindowBuilder was not smart enough to follow the subroutine. So I had to completely remove that code and start over, using WindowBuilder. I have completed the toolbar and have hooked up all the support stubs for all the buttons.

Once again, here is what the original Delphi program window looks like:

And here is what the equivalent Java program window looks like:

Note that I have actually added another button to the new version - it's a help button. Also note that those three buttons are now to the far right, where I wanted them in the first place. It turns out that WindowBuilder is very helpful in laying things out the way you want them. I will stick with it.

Next up is the layout of the rest of the main window.


Last Monday I ordered two devices from Computer Geeks: a Premiertek PowerLink N150 150Mbps Wireless-N USB 2.0 Adapter and an IOGear GBU521 Bluetooth 4.0 USB Micro Adapter. I knew the wireless adapter would work, as I have a 'g' version of it already, and it says it supports Linux right in the specifications. I did not know if the bluetooth adapter would work, so I googled it before I bought it and found that it works with Linux.

When I got the bluetooth adapter, I plugged it in to my 64-bit Linux Mint 13 box and it was not recognized. I tried various things and finally booted a newly-downloaded live-distro copy of Linux Mint 14.1. It worked fine with that version of Linux.

So I downloaded the 64-bit version of Linux Mint 14.1 and installed it on my 64-bit box. It took a couple of hours, since I also had to re-install some applications, but it all works fine.


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Friday, 7 December 2012

I had no idea how to go further with my Java rewrite of the slide show program, so I called a former co-worker and picked his brain for some ideas. He suggested that I install WIndowBuilder in Eclipse, so I would have a visual editor for my windows. He also suggested that I use either GridBagLayout or GroupLayout for the layout of the window. GourpLayout is new in Java 6 and that is what I will be using. So I have to back up a bit and redo the original window. In the meantime, I have done up the About box and will have to figure out how to close it.


I gave the local library over 100 pounds of my computer books yesterday. I tried to give them to the local college, but they were only interested in more recent titles. At least I now have more shelf space.


The North Idaho Linux Users Group general session is tomorrow afternoon. During that meeting, we will build a file server for the network we are constructing.


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Thursday, 6 December 2012

I went down and got a copy of George Holcomb's cookbook. Here is the cover - that's me in the lower right-hand corner.


I have properly created both the menus and the toolbar for the slide show program using Java. Here is what the Delphi version looks like:

And here is what the Java version looks like:

Here is what the Files menu look like in the Delphi version:

And here is what it looks like in Java:

As you can see, they are fairly close to one another. There are two toolbar buttons that are in different locations because I haven't figured out how to get them to the far right of the toolbar.

I have the menu and toolbar items all hooked up. Each one has a tool tip balloon and its own event processor. I will now have to figure out how to do the rest of the visual display.


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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

I am working on a new version of the slide show program. The hardest part of that is getting the visual pieces layed out correctly. I have tried several of the layout managers, but haven't hit on the proper combination that will allow me to put the menu and the toolbar in their proper places at the top of the application. It's much easier to do with the gtk. I don't think much of Java's visual tools. I will try to download an example of this, so I can figure out how to do it.


When I go down to Jimmy's Down the Street restaurant for breakfast on Saturday mornings, I travel through a suburban part of Coeur d'Alene. Yesterday morning, a driver was driving in that area and he hit and killed a moose. I have seen deer in that area, but never a moose. I have always wondered why those animals were in the area, as the uninhabited forest is at least a mile and a half away. I guess there isn't much you can do when you are traveling in a housing development and a wild animal steps in front of your car.


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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

I was at Black Sheep Sporting Goods yesterday, picking up some ammunition for my .22 rifle. While I was there, I browsed through their extensive cast iron section. I was surprised to see George Holcomb's Dutch oven cookbook there. I was even more surprised to see my picture as part of the pictures on the cover of the cookbook. Next time I am there, I will have to pick up a copy. I have the original cookbook that George gave me, but this one is an extensive rewrite and expansion of the original book.


I also went to North Idaho College and picked up a phone number for someone in their computer technology department. I will be calling them to see if they would be interested in any of my castoff computer books. By the time I finish, there will be at least 100 pounds of books for me to unload on someone.


Speaking of programming, I will be doing research on the visual component classes for Java. Those components are quite different than the ones for gtk, C# or Delphi, so it will take some research for me to get used to using them.


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Monday, 3 December 2012

I have mentioned in the past that I am having trouble connecting to external USB storage. I have tracked down the problem and can qualify that: I am having trouble connecting to external USB storage using Linux Mint 13 and Mythbuntu 12.04. I can easily connect if I use Linux Mint 11, so that means a recent update, possibly to Samba, caused my problems.

I searched the Linux Mint forum for a solution to this problem, and have found one. One of the updates that I (always) installed replaced my smb.conf with a new one. The name resolve order in that file was commented out. I uncommented it, changed the resolve order and restarted Samba. Everything works fine now. So forget what I said the other day about my NSLU2 not working.


I installed the latest version of the Eclipse IDE (Juno) on the workstation and proceeded to run it. I used the default workspace entry and imagine my surprise when I found that I already had started a Java project for my slide show program. I seem to have done that in 2010, then promptly forgotten I did it. That Java project is barely started, so I will have a lot of programming work to do for the program.


I forgot how good homemade noodles are until I made some more on Saturday night. I made them to go along with the Dutch oven Swedish meatballs I cooked up. It made for a truly excellent meal.


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