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BLOGical Thoughts Archive

January 2008

Thursday, 31 January 2008

When I got home last night, my truck was gone, so the shop is working on it. That's good, as we got a lot more snow last night, and more is on the way. I parked my car up by the mailboxes and walked in to the house. Everything was plowed when I did that, but this morning I have to slog through it to get to the car.

I got an email from my ISP last night stating that we may have a shutdown this morning. Their generator on Rathdrum mountain went down, and they spent all day yesterday trying to get up the mountain to fix it. They have a snowtrack, but there is so much snow up there that it's really hard for them to get anywhere. I guess they finally did it, though, as I still have Internet access.


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Wednesday, 30 January 2008

No one is working on getting my truck running right now. I had called the shop and they were going to come out for it yesterday morning. Once I got a good look at how narrow my driveway has become, I called them and canceled. Last night, with the kind help of two of my neighbors, we plowed the drive again and pulled the truck out of the snowbank created by the last storm, then left it at the head of the driveway. I will be calling the shop again and they can easily pick it up from there.


Our Linux user group meetings are going to take on a more formal note, as of the one in February. We will have quick intros, a quick topic, a Q&A session and then general mixing about. Should be interesting.


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Tuesday, 29 January 2008

I was using VPN to do some of my work at home on Sunday, but the power kept fluctuating. The computer I was using has a UPS, but it's an old one and it obviously no longer works. Every time the power did its thing, the computer would turn off.

I didn't lose any work, since with VPN, you are really working on another computer and your local machine is merely a window into that machine. But I couldn't continue to fight the power problems. I broke down and bought a new UPS.

My old UPS was a 500VAC unit with only two plugs. The new one is 750VAC with 5 UPS plugs and 5 surge-suppressed plugs. I have plugged my wireless modem, two monitors and computer into the UPS portion. I have plugged my router into the surge-suppressed section. I don't think I will be having a brownout problem again.


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Monday, 28 January 2008

I picked my truck up on Saturday morning. They had to replace the clutch. I used the truck for about 2 hours and then the engine shut off like someone had switched off the fuel pump. I can't get it started again; I will have to have it towed again and fixed again.

The real problem with all this is that it started snowing just about when the truck died - again. 27 hours later, it was still snowing and I had over a foot of fresh, wet snow in my driveway. And my car was parked in the garage, so I could not get to town. Luckily one of my neighbors was kind enough to plow me out, but it is still snowing this morning and if I can get the car out, I will have to park it up on the county road - if I can find someplace to do that.

I tried to work from home yesterday, but the power kept going on and off. It is still doing that this morning. It's not a good feeling to not be able to control your environment.


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Friday, 25 January 2008

I am taking a closer look at Vector Linux on my HP toaster (Pentium-III, 256MB RAM). The initial install has a bit of everything, like most distros. There are representative apps from all categories, but fewer than in Ubuntu or Mepis. I ran the Vector package manager (the name escapes me) and noted that is seems to be somewhat like the one in Kubuntu. Not my favorite app - I like Ubuntu's Synaptic better.

There doesn't seem to be as many apps in the repository, either, but that may be due to the very limited number of repositories initially selected in the package manager. I will select more repositories and try again.


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Thursday, 24 January 2008

You can tell a company is 'maturing' when, instead of offering two distinctly different variations of the same product, they offer a dozen. The variations are often so close to being identical you can't tell them apart.

This has happened to me in the last few days. Grisoft, who manufacturers the AVG anti-virus program, should have two products: a freeware version and a purchase version. Instead, they have 23 different versions of the same program. Some have network support, some don't. Some have a firewall, some don't. And they're all called AVG. It took me three days to find the version of the program that one of our customers is using, so we can audit its use. My second try was AVG Internet Security Network Edition, which was wrong. I finally found AVG Anti-Virus Network Edition, which was the right product.

If you're going to obscure your product this way, the least you can do is provide a chart which shows which versions have which features. Nope, I guess that would help the potential purchaser too much.

I'm not real happy with Grisoft right now.


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Wednesday, 23 January 2008

I was reading an article in Linux Format magazine last night about converting older PCs over to Linux. They evaluated various distros to see which ones would work with the decreased speed and memory of older machines. They discarded most of the major distros as being too memory hungry. They also eliminated the two distros that are usually mentioned in this context: Damn Small Linux and Puppy Linux. Those two were eliminated because they still use the 2.4 Linux kernel.

The distro they recommend is Vector Linux. It has a low memory profile as it uses XFCE for its desktop. It doesn't come with Openoffice.org, as those programs are also memory hungry. Instead, it has Abiword and Gnumeric for its word processor and spreadsheet, which are good programs, too.

My HP toaster is an older machine. It's a Pentium-III with 256MB RAM and a 20GB hard drive. I decided to see what Vector was like by installing it on the toaster. I copied the Vector .iso off the Linux Format magazine DVD and burned a CD. I then installed Vector Linux on the HP toaster.

The install went flawlessly, but is not for the faint of heart. The installer is text-based and asks all kinds of questions that novices would not know the answers to. When it was finished, I ended up with a surprisingly responsive machine. I will investigate more of this Slackware-based distro and let you know what I think.


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Tuesday, 22 January 2008

This web site was not available for viewing yesterday, along with the other two I run that are based on a mySQL database. My email and CpanelX control were also unavailable, so it was pretty hard for me to tell my web site host what was going on. It appears that today, everything seems to be running ok. Time for a database backup, though.


You know, Ron Paul came in second in the Nevada caucus on Saturday, but I've not heard anyone - ANYONE - remark on that inconvenient fact. It's pretty apparent the mainstream media have picked the candidates they want, and Ron Paul is not one of them. We live in a free country? Sure, we're free to listen to whatever warped version of the truth they chose to broadcast. At least the Internet hasn't been censored - yet.


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Monday, 21 January 2008

I will be working on XML tools today, as well as setting up to recompile the SQL Server auditor for use with SQL Server 2008. Should be a busy day.


I spent some of my weekend moving snow by hand, since my truck is masquerading as a big lawn ornament right now. Whe I drove out on Sunday morning, my Honda was pushing snow, so I figured I better do something about that. Great car, but it rides too low to the ground.


Well, I screwed up this weekend. The dinner I was supposed to go to was on Saturday, and I didn't check the email until Sunday afternoon. I owe someone a huge apology.Update: No apology. The dinner is this coming Saturday. The email was completely ambiguous.


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Friday, 18 January 2008

I fixed the Java program I was writing at work. It now connects to a remote IBM DB2 database and reads records from a table. My boss suggested a command-line version so one of our customers could evaluate their connection, so I wrote another program to do that. It is generic enough to work with any server, database and table. On to more strenuous pursuits.


Once again, a busy weekend is on tap. I have replaced the missing parts on my truck, but the clutch still won't work, so I have to get that fixed. I also have an oil change scheduled for the car and a dinner on Sunday with friends. Plus it's due to snow on us and I have no way to move any of the white stuff. Should be fun...


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Thursday, 17 January 2008

My problem with accessing part of the Internet apparently turned out to be a problem with my local domain name server. I tried accessing the problem web sites at work yesterday, and had no problem. When I got home, I also had no problems, so the DNS must have been updated to fill in the blank spots. I just wish my ISP had notified me that there was a problem.


I am doing another Java program at work, and am having all kinds of trouble. Not with the program, but with its connection to a remote IBM DB2 database. I get the connection, but when I try to get rows from a database table, all I get is an SQL Exception. I will be trying again this morning. I will turn on more error reporting to see if I can track down the reason for the exception.


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Wednesday, 16 January 2008

I'm not sure that anyone else has noticed, but last night while I was surfing for articles for this blog, I noticed that half of the Internet was missing. It seemed to be servers to the east of me - places like LXer.com, HomelandStupidity.us and TheRegister.co.uk. This morning, some of those web sites are back online, but several of them are still missing. I suspect some kind of attack on a major Internet node, but there are no reports of that happening. If I can't have the TV shows I usually watch, I just want my Internet back.


Brad Renfro, the child actor who played the client in "The Client", has died at the age of 25. Please, can anyone tell me the name of a child actor who has grown up NOT to be either screwed up or dead? I can't think of one off the top of my head. So listen up, you child actor wanna-be's: don't do it or you'll end up like Brad, Dana Plato, Lindsey Lohan, the Olsen twins, Macauly Culkin, Danny Bonaduce, etc. - either dead or a completely nonfunctional adult.


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Tuesday, 15 January 2008

I am working on the coaching program, but it is slow going. I should sit down and design the interface, instead of just toying around to see what looks good. I also need to get a style sheet that will allow pulldown menus, as the web site will need that.


It looks like I will be without my snowplow for a week. I hope that the weather continues the way it has, since if I can't plow when it snows, I can't get to the county road to go anywhere.


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Monday, 14 January 2008

I have discovered that the cover for the clutch master cylinder on my truck is gone. I could not get one this weekend and I will order it today (if they still make them). I doubt if putting the cap back on will make any difference in the situation - the truck will not move at all at this point.


We had a very good Linux users group meeting, but it's starting to turn into a ham radio meeting, too. We need to attract more people with varied interests. Maybe a giveaway booth somewhere would help. We could hand out free copies of Ubuntu or Kubuntu and a flyer about the meetings.


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Friday, 11 January 2008

I found out that my truck has a hydraulic clutch. The way it was acting means I need to add hydraulic fluid to it. The big question is why it lost the fluid in the first place. At least this will give me a bit of a reprieve before I need to get it fixed.


The North Idaho Linux Users Group meets tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it, since I have gotten the wireless working on my notebook computer. I will demonstrate how to download and install Icepodder, for the benefit of those who don't know how.


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Thursday, 10 January 2008

We started the Java project yesterday morning and finished it yesterday afternoon. The work consisted of copying an existing class and making changes to the class. The hard part was getting sample data together to test the code. I did that by running Ubuntu in a virtual machine and using mySQL in Ubuntu to create and populate a database table. Once we fixed the problem with mySQL only listening to the localhost and added a database user other than root, everything worked like a charm. I had no trouble at all getting into Java programming mode because of my extensive use of C# (a blatant Java clone).

I guess it's back to IBM DB2 stuff today. I found out that the customer who is running DB2 is using a much older version and is running it under AIX. That could put a crimp on things, as we don't have an IBM mainframe to test on, and I don't know if there is a VM of AIX out there.


I think I may have hosed the clutch on my truck (snowplow). I moved major berms last night, and by the time I had finished, the clutch was engaging near the top of the pedal travel. I will have to get it checked, as there is more snow coming and I have no other way of keeping the road open.


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Wednesday, 9 January 2008

At work, I have been learning how to audit the IBM DB2 database management system. It's been interesting, as they leave a lot out of the detailed online documentation. I have auditing working, though. Except for the fact I can't extract any of the audit information in order to use it, everything seems to be going ok.

Yesterday afternoon, I was informed I would be collaborating with another engineer in doing a Java project. We are currently setting my machine up with the latest version of the Eclipse IDE so I can do that. It should be interesting, as it has been some time since I did any Java programming.


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Tuesday, 8 January 2008

When you install Firefox, whether it is on Windows or Linux, it is not tuned for speed. A Firefox installation is always configured to be used with a dial-up account, not with a broadband account. So here is what you do to get it working fast on your computer if you have broadband:

  1. Start up your Firefox web browser. In the location box, enter 'about:config' (without the quotes), then press Enter. A list of configuration items will appear and the keyboard cursor will go to the Filter line.
  2. Enter 'network.http' on the Filter line. This will narrow down the number of items that are displayed.
  3. You need to change the 'network.http.pipelining' line from false to true. Double click on the line to do that.
  4. You need to change the 'network.http.pipelining.maxrequests' value from 4 to 15. Double click on the line and change the value.
  5. You need to change the 'network.http.proxy.pipelining' line from false to true. Double click on the line to do that.
  6. Go back up to the Filter line and remove the 'network.http' value. Type in 'nglayout'. Two lines should be displayed.
  7. Right click in the empty space of the web page and select New|Integer. For the preference name, enter 'nglayout.initialpaint.delay', then press the Enter key.
  8. For the integer value, enter a zero (0).
  9. Firefox should now be tuned for speed.


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Monday, 7 January 2008

The one Windows program I use at home daily is a program called Juice. It allows me to download the latest podcasts to feeds I subscribe to, so I can put them on my MP3 player and listen to them at work.

I have been looking for a Linux replacement for Juice for quite a while. I was listening to a podcast on Friday and they mentioned Icepodder as a good choice. So I went into Synaptic and searched for the program. It wasn't in the Ubuntu repositories. So I searched for it on the Web and found a debian package to install it.

I then installed icepodder using the debian install program. It had to resolve a few dependencies, but that all worked fine. I then tried to run the program, but couldn't find it in the Ubuntu menu, so I had to create a menu entry for it.

Once I ran the program I found, to my great surprise, that icepodder is the exact equivalent to Juice. So I exported all my RSS feeds from Juice and imported them into icepodder. I then proceeded to download all the current podcasts. Everything works fine.

Everything, that is, except the MP3 player. When I plugged it into my Linux workstation, it connected ok and I could read and delete old podcasts. When I tried to copy new podcasts onto the player, it told me the disk is read-only. This is just plain weird, as the device properties show it as read/write. And how could I delete podcasts if it was read-only? I will try to resolve this problem when I get a chance. In the meantime, I am still using the Windows Juice program.


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Friday, 4 January 2008

While I was on vacation, my workplace has doubled in size. They cut a hallway through the end of one of our conference rooms that allows access to the offices beyond. Our support and manufacturing folks have moved into that area, and we now have plenty of room for more people. Which is fortunate, as we have two Java programming openings and an XML opening. If you know anyone who would be interested, email me.


I got MS SQL Server 2008 and attempted to load it into a virtual machine of Windows XP, but there wasn't enough room in the VM. The VM is a 4GB file, but Windows XP seems to take up about 3GB of that. I need to make the VM larger before I can install SQL Server. I didn't have that problem with IBM DB2...


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Thursday, 3 January 2008

I will be doing more database auditing stuff at work. I will have to learn how to audit transactions for PostgreSQL, IBM's DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server 2008. I will also have to have a working DBMS server for each of those programs. Ah, the fun never stops.


After having no time to work on the coaching program, I need to get back to it now. It should be pretty straightforward now that I have the preliminaries finished, but you never can tell. It would have been productive for me to go to the Ruby on Rails user group, but that's just too far for me. I have to go to that area tomorrow for a dental appointment, so that's enough for one month.


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Wednesday, 2 January 2008

I go back to work today after almost 2 weeks of leisure. I don't think much has changed in those two weeks, though, as several other developers have also been on vacation. First up for me is to finish an XML file I was working on.

There is also a Ruby on Rails users group meeting tonight. That will be at 6pm at Conley's Place & Bakery over in Spokane. Too far in the wrong direction for me, guys.


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Tuesday, 1 January 2008

I hope you all had a good New Years. I did

I drove to Lake Havasu City, AZ on the 21st. I spent a week there and got back home on the 30th. So I was blogging from Arizona all last week.

This is what my house looked like before I left. Some snow on the ground, but not much.

And here's my niece and nephews in Lake Havasu. It's about 65° F with no wind, so definitely a change from Hayden Lake.

When I got back, I couldn't get into my driveway. It's impassable with my little Honda. You should have seen Lookout Pass.

So I hiked in to get things plowed. Here's what I saw of my snow plow.

I have cleaned up the place, but it took over an hour. There were actually two layers of snow: the first was laid down, then rained on. The second layer was fairly fresh. It was not easy to move around.


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