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BLOGical Thoughts Archive

January 2010

Friday, 29 January 2010

I uninstalled mencoder, devede and mandvd from my workstation last night, then reinstalled them from the respositories. After installation, I gave DeVeDe a try and verified that it works again.

I then created an ISO file from the 15-part Superman serial from 1948. It was about 3 1/2 hours in length, but it fit on a single DVD because it was recorded in a lower screen size than regular DVDs. It generated a 2.3GB file, which I burned onto a DVD. Now I just have to find 3 1/2 hours to actually look at the serial.


At least five months after I sent it in for 'repair', I finally got back my Cooler Reader ebook reader last night. The story of this is too long to relate here. Needless to say, I will not purchase anything else from these jerks. Not even a cover for the reader.


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Thursday, 28 January 2010

I downloaded a 15-part Superman serial from archive.org and last night I attempted to create a DVD from the video clips. I was unsuccessful. I had trouble with both DeVeDe and ManDVD. I am going to un-install and reinstall both of those and see if that helps. They both worked in the past, so the only thing I can think of is something got upgraded that broke them.


I figured out how to add multiple icons to buttons in Lazarus. There is a button property called NumGlyphs that is supposed to tell the button how many glyphs are in the image. For instance, if there are two glyphs in a 20x20 image, the image would be 40x20, with the images side-by-side. In that case, NumGlyphs would be set to 2 and the button is supposed to display half of the image when it is enabled and the other half when it is disabled.

There is only one problem with this: the button image display is broken. When NumGlyphs is set to 2, the two images are merged into one and displayed. This is unacceptable for gdvdslides, so I will have to leave out the fancy images. I will also have to write up the problem for the Lazarus people to fix.


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

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

I have never had a problem with Linux when replacing a video card in a working system. That is, until last night. I was having trouble with one particular program on my 64-bit workstation that I attributed to the built-in ATI video and its (open source) driver. So I ordered an nVidia card, which came last night. I installed it and started to boot up the machine, but it croaked during the boot process, talking about an ACPI problem. I then booted up a 32-bit Live CD of Ubuntu 9.04 and that worked fine. I suspect some kind of compatibility problem between the nVidia card and the 64-bit Ubuntu 9.04 install. I will be trying 64-bit Ubuntu 9.10 from the live CD tonight to see if the problem goes away. If it does, I may be forced to move to that version, which I still have major qualms about.


I wanted to change the look of icons in gdvdslides when they are disabled, so I tried a trick that works in Delphi. I created an icon that was twice as wide as normal. The left hand side is the icon and the right hand side is the icon when disabled. The only problem with this is Lazarus doesn't quite work the same way as Delphi in this regard. I ended up with both sides showing at the same time. I will investigate this further, but I don't think there is anything I can do about the problem. I may just have to live with what Lazarus does to the icons when buttons are disabled.


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Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Back when I was fixing a friend's dead computer, I never really explained about my choices of operating system installation. Here are my thought processes about that.

The computer was at least 6 years old. It was running Windows 2000 when it died. I had to replace the motherboard and power supply to get it running again. When I did that, I looked for drivers for the new motherboard that supported Windows 2000, and found none. I then made the decision to install Ubuntu 9.04 and put Windows 2000 in a virtual machine, so the environment would look as close as possible to the original.

Why could I do this? It is because the fundamental philosophies of Microsoft Windows and Linux are totally different regarding hardware. Windows provides a basic operating system which provides hooks for hardware drivers. The manufacturers are expected to provide the drivers to support their hardware. So different manufacturers may provide hardware with identical chip sets in them, but they all provide their own individual drivers.

Linux has adopted a different philosophy. Linux supports chip sets natively - it isn't necessary for the manufacturer to provide any support. So if you install a new piece of hardware and Linux can recognize the chip set, you automatically have support for the device. Of course, if the new device has any special features thrown in by the manufacturer, Linux may not support them. That's the only time you need a driver from the manufacturer. nVidia video cards are an example of this.

The virtualbox program provides a set of drivers to emulate hardware for Windows so that operating system can be run. So the virtualbox VM provides drivers that manufacturers no longer provide for older versions of Windows. We end up at almost the same point we were at when the computer died, except it is now much faster and much more capable.


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Monday, 25 January 2010

I spent a lot of time over the weekend re-working my picture gallery web pages for 2009. I rewrote all the web pages and had to redo all the thumbnails for the pictures. The thumbnails are now a lot larger than the old ones were, so you can get a better idea of what the full sized image will be. And now when you click on the thumbnail, the full sized image will zoom up for you. I like this better than the old slide show style pages that I have for the older galleries.


At the North Idaho Linux Users Group meeting, I demonstrated how to install programs from .deb binaries instead of from the repositories. It's pretty straightforward, but most members had not done it before. I also showed off Wiki on a Stick, which runs in any browser on any operating system.


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Friday, 22 January 2010

I find myself using my laptop more, now that I have a battery in it with a reasonable discharge time (something over 4 hours). I took it with me to the mineral club meeting last night, so I could show some pictures to the members, and so I could transfer a file for one of the members. The computer is heavier than it was, but thats because there are 6 more cells in the battery than in the original. It's still a heck of a lot lighter than my original portable computer, which was an original Compaq (serial number 702). That was like lugging a portable sewing machine around. I once toted the thing from one end of Stapleton Airport in Denver to the other end. Since Stapleton was really stretched out, that may have been at least a mile. Having a 28 pound computer's carrying case strap grind into your shoulder is not fun.


The technical meeting for the North Idaho Linux Users Group is tomorrow at the F1 for Help computer store in Rathdrum. I hope to see anyone there who wants to install Linux on their computer or who just wants to see what the noise about Linux is all about.


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Thursday, 21 January 2010

I worked on gdvdslides last night. I came to the conclusion that drag and drop causes far more problems than it solves, so I have disabled it. I also hooked up the system Quit button so if you click on it and you haven't saved your work, it will ask before exiting. I have also changed all the boxes that accept a duration value to accept a decimal value instead of an integer. Duration can actually be fractions of a second, but the integer boxes were easier to implement at the time I created the program.


The North Idaho Mineral Club meets tonight and I will be there, so I won't be working on any home projects. I need to re-do the NIMC web site, so it is eligible for inclusion in the annual best rock club web site competition, but I keep putting it off. Time to step up and do something about that.


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

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010

There are still a couple of bugs in gdvdslides that I need to do something about. I discovered that two of the bugs were not my program's fault - the Lazarus libraries I am using have the bugs. I worked around one of the bugs, which is one that will be fixed in the next release of the Lazarus IDE. So have no fear, the controls in the program will speed up in the next version.

The other bug has been acknowledged by the Lazarus development team, but they don't consider it to be an important problem. I guess I will have to inform them differently. The bug in question is that sometimes, all the buttons and menu items in gdvdslides stop working. It looks like the program is just not doing anything, but in reality all the hot key combos work. So if you hit Alt-F on your keyboard, you can get to the File menu and save your work, etc. Inconvenient as hell, but there it is.


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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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Tuesday, 19 January 2010

I created an Ubuntu 9.04 32-bit VM on my Ubuntu 9.04 64-bit workstation last night. I will install Lazarus and Free Pascal on it and will then have the development environments I require for gdvdslides on one machine. It will make compiling for both systems much easier.


I created a DVD of the video clips I generated with gdvdslides over the weekend. I can see by the results that the problem I will have with video production is the sound. I don't have enough Creative Commons tracks to cover the entire length of the DVD without repeating. I will try to dig up some music for this, as it's really boring to watch a video without a soundtrack. The music must not be obtrusive, as that will draw attention from the video. I prefer to use New Age still music, but I'm thinking maybe hammered dulcimer will work as well.


For those who don't live in the area, yesterday was a nice spring day: 51°F and sunny, with no wind. Today will be 59°F with a chance of rain. Where did our (non-existent) winter go?


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

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Monday, 18 January 2010

Over the weekend, I created video clips from the pictures I took for a teardrop trailer gathering I have attended for the last seven years. While I was using gdvdslides to produce the video, I found several bugs in the program. So I guess that means another round of bug fixing and another version of gdvdslides.

After I created the video clips, I attempted to create a DVD using DeVeDe. I was unsuccessful, as it uses a command line tool called mencoder and that program choked on the .VOB files that were created. Since I successfully played all of them with VLC, there was nothing wrong with them. It's just a bug in mencoder.

I looked in the repositories for another video creation program and found one called ManDVD. It successfully created a DVD, but the menu it produced for that DVD leaves a LOT to be desired. I will attempt to re-do the DVD tonight and pay more attention to the menu. It should at least be readable.


"Amateur hackers attack computers; professionals attack people." -- Bruce Schneier


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

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Friday, 15 January 2010

I have finished fixing the gdvdslides packages. They work just fine now. You can get gdvdslides version 0.7.1 at Rimrock Software.

At work I also finished the coding I was doing on the reports program. It has gone to test and I have gone on to another program.


One of the NILUG members gave me an idea for a program and I am looking into doing a Linux version. There are lots of these kinds of programs for Windows and DOS, but none are for Linux and none are open source. The program itself would do only one thing: keep track of bridge scores. The problem with that is there seem to be all kinds of play standards out there and the program would have to adapt itself to each style.


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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, 14 January 2010

Using lintian to help, I have fixed literally dozens of warnings and errors in the gdvdslides package. It still won't install an entry in the Application menu. I think I will take it to work and see if anyone there knows what I'm doing wrong. It should just not be this hard to install an application into a menu.


I am having trouble at work finding examples of how to get our reports program to talk to Exchange folders. I have the dialogs all set up, but populating them requires use of extended MAPI functions and they are not documented anywhere that I could find. I guess I will have to pick an arbitary function call and google that to see if there is any support for it.


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Wednesday, 13 January 2010

I am still trying to straighten out what I did to the gdvdslides package. I downloaded a Debian utility called lintian to help me. The lint program is a code checker and its child lintian is a package checker; they both search for suspicious usage in software. From a preliminary use of the program I suspect it will help me straighten out the problems in short order. By the way, I think that Debian founder Ian Murdock wrote lintian. Either that or some suck-up did it to curry favor with Ian.

I have updated the online manual for gdvdslides to reflect the latest version (0.7.0) of the program. I have also updated the .tar.gz source file to include the latest manual.


My laptop is at least three years old, and its battery is not in good condition. Ubuntu allows you to monitor the battery and will tell you how close to full capacity it can be recharged. My laptop battery is down to 54%. With that in mind, I went searching for a replacement. There is a Batteries Plus near OfficeMax, so I went there. They didn't have what I needed and suggested looking on the web. Imagine my surprise when I found a replacement at Amazon - one with twice the capacity (8800 mah instead of 4400 mah) of the original. So I bought it. It is larger than the original, but that is good, as it will prop up the laptop in back, just like the legs on a keyboard. That will help with airflow.


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, 12 January 2010

I am working on the problem with the newest version of gdvdslides not being put in the Gnome menu system. I haven't got a clue so far as to what is going on. The documentation of how to set up a .DEB package to do this is arcane and incomplete. I will keep trying, and then put out a 0.7.1 version of the program.


At work, I have finished my changes to the reports program export function. The program still does not support a destination called 'Exchange Folder'. I need to find out what needs to be installed to actually support that destination. The MAPI destination was enabled when I installed Outlook Express. Maybe this will become active if I install the regular Outlook program.


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Free/Open Source Software


  • The Gifting Season: Linux Audio For The Holidays
  • A netbook users review of Linux Mint 8
  • Book Review: Geeks Bearing Gifts
  • SUSE Moblin to ship on MSI's Pinetrail netbook
  • Why Linux on the Desktop is Wrong
  • How to create email filters with KMail
  • Amarok 2.2.2 "Maya Gold" Released
  • 6 of the Best Free Linux Desktop Search Engines
  • "It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

    Local and Other News

    Monday, 11 January 2010

    I have completed another upgrade of gdvdslides and have posted it on Rimrock Software. the upgrade includes things like cut, copy and paste and all new icons. The only problem seems to be that now instead of installing into the 'Other' section of the Applications menu, gdvdslides does not show up in the menu at all. I will fix this and post a 0.7.1 version.


    I continue to surprise myself when it comes to programming I do at work. I didn't know anything about MAPI, but on Friday I connected MAPI as a reports program export destination, then proceeded to connect the MAPI address book. When it comes to programming examples, the Internet is both the best and the worst place to find them. Why worst? You have to know at least enough to determine if the example is really applicable to your situation, and whether the example is the best way to solve the problem.

    I tried using one example I found on Friday, and it turned out to be the wrong solution. I could not tell that from the explanation attached to the example - I had to implement it before I discovered that. So I wasted an hour on that. I eventually found an example that did not sound like it would apply, but did so perfectly. Now I hope to find an example of how to look up an email address in the address book, and that will complete the MAPI destination implementation code.


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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, 8 January 2010

    I have digitized a bunch more negatives from my years of accumulation. The ones I did last night are from the 80's. Some of them show the construction of my (current) house, while others are from various Christmas's in those years. Another set are from some camping trips I took with former workmates in Mammouth, CA. It was fun looking at them, but now I have to get them organized to put them in gtkKam.

    I also have a bunch of photos I need to scan. That will require cleaning off the desk, so I can get to the scanner.


    I will finish the changes to gdvdslides for its next version over the weekend, working around the North Idaho Linux User's Group meeting. All I have left is to add cut, copy and paste to the slide list area, and to create one more help page for a feature I added last time.


    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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    Thursday, 7 January 2010

    I will be soliciting the NILUG members for ideas of new programs to write for Linux. I now have a good handle on that development process and any development should go fairly quickly. It's just that I'm out of original ideas myself.


    At work, I finished hooking up all the dialogs for the export function of our reports program. Now I have to do an export with the old dialogs, then compare the results with the new dialogs, to ensure I have everything hooked up correctly. I have made that easier by allowing either the old or new dialogs to be used in the updated program. If you just click the Export button, you get the new dialogs. If you click Export while holding down the Control key, you get the old dialogs. This will make testing a lot faster and easier.


    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, 6 January 2010

    The first meeting of 2010 for the North Idaho Linux Users Group is this Saturday. I will take my new workstation to the meeting, to show everyone how well the 64-bit version of Ubuntu 9.04 works on a new hardware setup. As far as I know, there are no talks scheduled for the meeting, so it will concentrate on installs and answering questions.


    At work, I am still changing over the export function of our reports program, so Crystal reports won't throw exceptions when you export a report. My personal opinion is Crystal Reports needs to be replaced with a reporting module that is actually newer and better, but that's just me.

    You can export to 12 different formats and 4 different destinations. I have completed 7 of the formats to 2 of the destinations, so I still have a ways to go (14 out of 48 is just starting).


    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, 5 January 2010

    Yesterday was my first day back to work, after two weeks vacation and I got thrown in to the deep end. The reports program that I have upgraded and maintain has a bug. Actually, the bug is in an API DLL we have absolutely no control over. To fix the bug, we have to work around it. This means we have to do a lot of the dialog work the DLL does for us, then take the results and feed it to the DLL. So the program now has five or six new dialogs, which can be used in a boatload of combinations. I have to hook up all the dialogs and error check the inputs. I expect it tol be a busy few days.


    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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    Monday, 4 January 2010

    I have started work on gdvdslides again. While I was on vacation and busy getting those seven machines upgraded, I was taking notes on what the new version of gdvdslides should do. I came up with a large enough list to give me a reason to make the changes. I spent all of Sunday on new graphic images for the program.


    The following stores do not accept checks:

    1. Walmart
    2. OfficeDepot
    3. Hastings

    What do I mean by 'do not accept checks'? When you write them a check, they immediately convert it to a debit, which you must also 'sign', and return to you your check. Who has the check at the end of the transaction? You do. So they do not accept checks.

    If I wanted to debit my checking account, I would have used my debit card. Since I never use my debit card in stores, this is a real problem for me. I urge you not to buy stuff at these stores.


    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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