BLOGical Thoughts Archive

January 2012

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

I worked on the cookbook for most of yesterday. It isn't hard work, but it is very boring. It's doing the same thing over and over.

Most of the early recipes on the web site have no pictures. When I get everything together, I intend to contact the people who posted those recipes and request some photos to go along with the recipes. That should be fun, as I can guess that a few of them are no longer active participants at the web site.

I also need to find a way to convert multiple HTML pages into a single PDF file, with working links. I can do the HTML to EPUB conversion, but I have no way to convert multiple web pages to a single PDF. LibreOffice can convert a single HTML to PDF, but I see no way to do multiples. More web searching is indicated.


I also worked on documenting the source code for the soccer program. I have finished up adding headers to all functions and procedures, explaining what each of them does in general. Now I have to go in to each function or procedure and document the actual program steps. And the will be a lot of work.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Monday, 30 January 2012

I finished the soccer program testing and I have found no more bugs. I have shipped the program off to my testers and am awaiting input from them.

In the meantime, I will be doing documentation for the source code. I will also document the add-on software, as that will be important to maintainers, too. Add-on consists of the database DLL and the components used to access the database.


I did a lot of work on the cookbook this weekend. The thing is going to be huge. The breakfast section had only one page of topics for me to follow, so that only took me a day and I ended up with 52 recipes. The main dishes section has eight pages and I have to make sure I get all the recipes. I also have to create subsections as I go, as some of the main dish recipes don't fit into nice neat categories. The Baked Coon and Sweet Potatoes, as well as the Jettie Mae recipes come to mind.


At least 5 years ago, my father gave me a webcam when I was down in Arizona for Christmas. I brought it back here with me and hooked it up to my Linux box, and it would not work. I looked up the model on the Internet and found that Linux did not support that webcam. So I put it on the shelf and forgot about it.

This weekend, while looking for stuff to get rid of, I found the webcam. I decided to try it again, so I plugged it in to Linux Mint 10, and it worked just fine. What this points out is the outrageously different philosophies espoused by Windows and Linux when it comes to hardware.

In Windows, if you don't get a driver disk with the device, it is useless and will always be useless. Further, if you upgrade to a newer version of Windows and there is no new driver for the device, it is now useless. In Linux, on the other hand, devices that are not initially supported end up being supported and that support continues, regardless of the profit margins of the companies involved. Basically, upgrades to Windows are designed to force people to buy newer stuff, even though the stuff they currently have is perfectly good.

This is not the first time this hardware incompatibility thing has happened to me. I have an HP scanner which had the exact same problem - wouldn't work initially and now, with newer versions of Linux, it works just fine. Way to go, Linux!


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Friday, 27 January 2012

I am still not finished testing the soccer program. I keep finding bugs, then I have to fix them and test that part again. The latest bug is one of the tricky ones: if you come at the dialog from one direction, there is no bug. If you come at it from another direction, the bug is right out there. Since that one had to do with printing, I had not tested it in a while. Anyway, I hope to finish testing today so I can move on to my next project.


And my next project is a free cookbook of recipes from I have already finished gathering recipes for the Breakfast section and have moved on to the Main Dishes section. The problem with this section is that it is very big and many of the recipes in it aren't necessarily main dishes. I found a breakfast recipe in there yesterday and put it in my Breakfast section.

I am also creating sub-sections in the main sections. The breakfast section currently has sub-sections of Breads and Such, Pancakes/Waffles/French Toast, Eggs, etc. and Other Breakfast Items. The Main Dishes section will have many, many more sub-sections. I hope the organization will allow users to easily find a recipe they are looking for.


For those of you without a clue: You do NOT pronounce Ubuntu with any U's. It is pronounced Ooh-boon-too.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Thursday, 26 January 2012

Well, I finally fixed the bug in the soccer program which has halted my testing. The cause of the bug was some code I had added to the games schedule dialog a while back. The code ensures that the edit boxes in the dialog accurately reflect the selected record in the team statistics table. The problem is that with a new database, there are no records in that table, so I was trying to convert an empty date and time to be displayed in the dialog. I fixed it by adding exception processing in two places. If an exception is thrown there (indicating it's not a date), I supply the current date and time instead.

I can now proceed with the rest of the testing and with documentation of the source code.


I was listening to a Hacker Public Radio podcast yesterday that was talking about an application called TED. That is short for Television Episode Download, which is exactly what it does. It is a Java program which provides a list of television shows to the user. The user picks a show and the program determines whether it is actually available. If it is, TED invokes whichever bit torrent program your system uses as its default, and that episode of the show is downloaded. You may then play it on VLC or some other player. Pretty classy, even though the default windows on the program are way too big.


Our chinook should end tonight. Currently I have a skating rink for a driveway, and the private road up to the county road is just as bad. I don't see any relief for that in the next few days, though. Even though the temperatures will be much lower, no snow is predicted.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Wednesday, 25 January 2012

While I was testing the soccer program yesterday, I ran across a very nasty bug. I have been trying to track down how it came about so I can fix it, but I am not having much luck. Needless to say, I haven't finished with the soccer program testing.

I will be tracking down this bug today, finishing the testing and doing documentation.


Our snow has been melting for the last couple of days, and continues to melt today. Right now it is 37° F and the wind is blowing, so the snow should melt even faster. This means I can drive to the store with my car instead a 4-wheel drive snow plow.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

I got completely side-tracked yesterday. Instead of testing the soccer program, I spent the day working on a cookbook. This is just a speculative project; I need to get permission from a lot of people before I actually can release this to the public. I started doing this by doing the Breakfast section, and I haven't even finished that yet. When it is finished, I will send it to the person who I need permission from, along with information about what I propose doing and what constraints I will operate under. If she gives me permission to continue, that will be fine. If she doesn't permit me to continue, I may do it anyway for my own edification.

Today, though, I will finish the testing of the soccer program, as that has a higher priority. No more Dutch Baby recipes until that is finished.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Monday, 23 January 2012

I am still working on the soccer program. This weekend, I found a problem I could have sworn I had already fixed, so going through the test plan again is a good idea.

I should be finishing up with the testing today. I will then go back to documenting the source code.


We did get rain over the weekend, and the snow got about ten times harder to push with a plow. We are in pretty good shape out here, as I have been keeping up with the snow, and I have a neighbor who also does some plowing, even if it's with a tractor blade.


Mike's Hot Sauce #3


Put all the ingredients in a small sauce pan. Heat to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Pour the result into a food processor and process until smooth. Refrigerate after you are done. The heating step helps to break down the peppers so they form a better sauce.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Friday, 20 January 2012

I really like my Viewsonic gTablet and I use it to read books and do Sudoku puzzles all the time. The only thing I hate doing with it is typing. You would probably agree with me that an on-screen keyboard is no way for touch typists to interface to a computer. That is why I went to Amazon and got this:

As you can see, the tablet slides into the keyboard case and the interface is USB, plugged in to the side of the tablet. It also has a built-in kick stand, so it props up so you can read the screen at the proper angle. Of course, the real thing doesn't have that logo on it - this is a publicity photo. All in all, I am very happy with it. I can now easily use the note taking application I have for the tablet.


Mother Nature really dumped on us yesterday. I plowed about 6 inches of snow yesterday morning, then turned around yesterday afternoon and plowed again. After I got back from the North Idaho Mineral Club meeting, I could have plowed again, but it was too late to do it. That means I will have more plowing to do this morning. It has to done, as we are expecting rain tomorrow.

The mineral club meeting was sparsely attended. Our speaker cancelled because of the snow and the roads were just nasty. Our private road out here was in better shape than the public roads. And the parking lot at the Lake City Center had about 8 inches of snow in it - unplowed. So only nine people showed up.


By now you must have heard of SOPA/PIPA. I say this because you are on the Internet and you may have tried to access a web site on Wednesday that was involved in the blackout. If you know of the blackout and want to know more, here are two links that say it all. The first is funny and scary. The second is a complete explanation of what SOPA could do, and it's just scary.



Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Thursday, 19 January 2012

I finished up the articles for the North Idaho Mineral Club web site. I have to keep on top of those, or it will take me forever to post them. I get them from our newsletter, and this time I had the last two newsletters to work with.


Well, I didn't get around to the soccer program stuff yesterday. Instead, I worked on my laptop. Ever since I switched from the 64-bit to the 32-bit version of Linux Mint 10, I have had no sound. I found out why - there is a couple of lines that need to be added to the sound configuration file to get it to work. I have done that and I have recorded what I did in a text file for the next time I change distributions. I still have a couple of problems with the laptop - the camera doesn't work and the DVD drive is intermittent. I think the only thing that is a real problem is the DVD drive. I think I may have another configuration problem with the camera.

The thing that made this fix so difficult is the fact that I can't log in to the zaReason web site to ask questions. I don't know what the problem is, but nothing I do works. I called them and got a new password, but that doesn't work, either. I guess they go the way of Blue Moon Tea - if I can't log in, I can't purchase stuff. Too bad.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The changes I made to the soccer program yesterday took a lot longer to make than I anticipated. part of the problem was that I underestimated the impact of the change. I was unaware of some of the areas the database change touched on. At any rate, I have finished making the changes and I will spend some time today doing testing of the program.

I will also be doing some more documentation of the program today. It is important that the program itself contain enough comments so a new person can come in and take up where I leave off.


I spent some time yesterday plowing, and I suspect I will spend more time doing that for the rest of the week. Instead of dumping on us all at once, the snow is coming down in 2" to 6" dumps. That makes it easier to clean up afterwards, I guess.

I also have to update the North Idaho Mineral Club web site with new how-to articles and make some more fliers for the club. Our monthly meeting is tomorrow night, so I have to get ready for it.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


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

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

I finished documenting the soccer program's database. Along the way, I also made a major internal change to the database by adding a table to it and changing two other tables. I hope this will be the last major change to the database.

I started to delete one of the tables I thought was not being used, but it turns out it was a critical table having to do with planning practice sessions. So I undid the changes. I now need to go through the program and verify everything is working correctly and I haven't messed up access to some of the tables.


I think winter has finally caught up with us. It is snowing as I write this and we are supposed to see up to a foot of snow in the next couple of days. I'm glad my truck and plow are working okay.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Monday, 16 January 2012

I went to the North Idaho Linux Users Group meeting on Saturday, and I gave a short talk on Calibre, the ebook manager and converter. It was well received, but we discovered that not all distributions have Calibre in their repositories. Specifically, we could not find it for Mepis Linux. Mepis is based on Debian and uses the Debian repositories, and that is a big problem. I got the program from the Linux Mint repositories, which are based on Ubuntu, which are based on Debian, so the program was obviously added by Canonical to the Ubuntu repositories. Since this is about the only program designed to convert ebook formats, it's sad that it hasn't got more coverage.


I have started documenting the soccer program. first up is documentation of its database. I haven't finished with that yet. Have you ever noticed that when you start documenting something, you discover its deficiencies? The same thing happened to me in this process. I am going to add a new lookup table, remove a table, and change two fields in two existing tables. The program impact of this is fairly small and there will be no change in the look and feel of the program. The eventual impact will be big, though. Trust me.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Friday, 13 January 2012

I will be getting back to the soccer program today. There are two things I need to check, to ensure I have re-implemented them correctly. The first is the fact there is a database table that was used in the original program that I am not using in the updated one. I need to ensure that is okay. I think I know what that is all about, and if true, it is not a problem.

The second thing I need to check is if I have implemented the select exercises dialog correctly. I am not using the team's age in selecting exercises, and I may have to do that.


The North Idaho Linux Users Group General Session is tomorrow afternoon. I am going to give a talk about Calibre, which is the program I used to convert all The Shadow stories from HTML to EPUB. If I can hook my computer up to their video projector, that is.


As you can tell from my last post, I did get around to making bread yesterday. It was a fairly straightforward process, and I made a couple of small mistakes when I did it. I did not put enough flour in the dough, so it was loose and a bit sticky. As a result, the loaf came out somewhat flattened from what I expected. I also forgot to use the cornmeal on the cookie sheet. That was only a minor problem, though. All in all, the bread came out fairly well and it tastes pretty good.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Thursday, 12 January 2012

I took the day off yesterday, instead of doing what I said I would do. I took the time to finish re-reading David Weber's 'War of Honor'. That book is the latest in a series of books about Honor Harrington, a star ship commander in the Star Kingdom of Manticore's navy. It follows her from her first command (On Basilisk Station) to her role as an Admiral-Ambassador to the Republic of Haven. I re-read this book in expectation of receiving the latest (and possibly final) book in the series in February.

David Weber is possibly the best writer of military science fiction today. And this series is probably the best I have ever read, despite the fact that it sometimes descends into space opera. I can take that, as long as it gets back on track fairly quickly.

If you like science fiction, I definitely recommend this series. You can start with On Basilisk Station - the link connects to an official free download site. The later hardback editions of Weber's stories also include a CD-ROM including all of Weber's work, and which you are encouraged to copy for your friends.


For those of you who are interested in podcasts, here is a list of the ones I listen to each week. The link is to the podcast feed for that podcast.

Please note that some of these feeds download OGG files instead of MP3 files. There are MP3 alternatives for each of those, but I prefer OGG to MP3. If you are running Windows or some other crippled operating system, install the VLC multimedia player and use it to play the files.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The reason no one has gotten in touch with me about the soccer program is they've all been on vacation. I knew that Ken and his wife had gone to Hawaii for Christmas, but did not know when he was returning. Turns out, he just got back. So he will check out the latest version of the program and we will meet Tuesday morning to talk about it. This is good, as I am anxious to release the program on an unsuspecting world.


As you may infer from a couple of posts here, I am on a cooking jag. That last soup I made was really good. Of course, I'm a sucker for anything with curry in it. Anyway, I have decided to try my hand at French bread today. After I run all the errands I have been putting off, of course. Like cutting up the tree that fell across the driveway when it snowed night before last.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Anyone who knows me will recognize that I am a computer power user. When I have my hands on the keyboard, I use as many keyboard shortcuts as I can to enhance and speed what I am doing. When I am using a mouse, I want to go and do things as quickly and effortlessly as possible. If the Linux desktop manager gets in my way, I will look for a way to either get around it, or get rid of the manager.

My ideal of mouse interaction to initiate a process consists of two mouse clicks: one to pull up the start menu and one to start the program. The KDE, Gnome and XFCE desktop managers (and others) initially appropriated the start menu system from Microsoft, who appropriated it from Apple, who appropriated it from Xerox Parc. The start menu system is an ideal mouse interface: quick, accurate and requires few mouse clicks.

Not satisfied with an ideal solution, some of the window managers decided that looking pretty was much better than how well something worked. After all, the original start menu was just boring, right? So Microsoft and KDE moved on to the bling, ignoring the fact that they were sacrificing speed and utility. Now, Gnome is doing the same thing with their 3.x version.

Why am I talking about this? Well, I currently use Linux Mint 10 on this desktop. I have replaced their cheesy Gnome 2 start menu (which looks a lot like Windows or KDE) with the menu that Ubuntu originally used when they started. I am very satisfied with this arrangement except for one simple thing: Gnome 3 no longer has that start menu, which means I cannot upgrade to the latest version of Linux Mint. As a matter of fact, Gnome 3 (and the Unity upstart from the Ubuntu folks) is attempting to 'fix' their manager so it has utility for both desktops and tablets. As both Jeff Duntemann knows and I agree, one desktop manager paradigm will not fit all situations.

This means I am in the market for another desktop manager. I have XFCE running on my personal video recorder, but its utilities are not up to snuff for me. Specifically, it is damn hard to connect to other network devices with XFCE. If they fix that, it might have a chance as my desktop manager of choice. As it stands now, though, I am looking for a new manager. I will be looking in to Cinnamon, which is a Gnome 2-like manager. I will look around for others, too.


I really enjoyed listening to Cory Doctorow's podcast on "The Coming War on General Purpose Computers". He brought up some very valid points that, of course, no big business or government would think was valid. Check out the podcast or the video of his keynote talk to the 28th Chaos Communications Congress in Berlin. It's hard to argue with his logic, or the illogic of the people he talks about.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Monday, 9 January 2012

It took most of the weekend, but I have finished creating ePub versions of all The Shadow magazine stories I have. I created a non-static web page for ebooks and also created new non-static web pages for each year of Shadow stories. I also changed the location of the files on the system, and the new locations are used in the new web pages. This all makes it much easier for me to maintain the ebook section of this web site.

While I was doing all this work, I found some artifacts on the web site that were apparent attempts to take over the site. I suspect this was done as an exploit of my content management system. The exploit seems to have been fixed at this point. I removed all those attack files, too.


I will be finishing up my final testing of the soccer program today. I have not heard from the other two testers yet. I will have to drop them a line, I guess.

I will also be doing some home projects today. I have some carpentry that needs doing, so I will concentrate on those projects.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Friday, 6 January 2012

When I have a business relationship with a person or a company, and they abuse that relationship, I stop doing business with them. I mean for good - I have not eaten food from MacDonalds in 35 1/2 years and I don't plan to for the rest of my life. I also do not do business with many others, such as Network Solutions, Sony, Barclays Bank and CitiBank. I no longer have a Linux Foundation credit card because the bank that was sponsoring that was also sponsoring legislation that harmed their small customers (like me) and gave advantage to their large ones (big corporations).

With all that in mind, it should come as no surprise that I am leaving my domain registrar and signing on with a new one. GoDaddy has recanted their support of SOPA, but they should not have even supported it in the first place. That fact, along with the way they try to up-sell me every time I log into their web site (and their treatment of women) has prompted me to start moving my domains to another registrar. I have chosen one with an even less likely name - Namecheap. We shall see how they treat me. I am never going back to GoDaddy, though.


I have converted a lot more of the HTML stories into ePubs, but I still have over 160 left to do. And when I finish the conversion, I still have to upload them to the web site and modify the web page that lists them. While I am doing that, I will also put the HTML pages and ePubs in separate directories on this site, so they will be easier to maintain.


We haven't had any snow here since early November. It's beginning to look like we won't have much at all this year. So far, we've had 7 inches. Last year, by the end of winter, we had accumulated 121 inches. Quite a change, eh?


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Thursday, 5 January 2012

I took my car down for servicing yesterday, after that little 2,600 mile jaunt to and from Arizona. They discovered that my front end was out of alignment and was causing damage to the tires, so I had them align it. I suspect that is a major reason I did not get the mileage I expected during my trip.


I saw some people yesterday I have not seen in at least 6 years - Wally and Lee Starr. I used to work with him at Key Tronic and she was the head of the local Hayden library. Now he is retired and she does the book, ebook and audio book purchasing for the library. They used to drive around in a sports car as bright as my Dodge Stealth and now they have a British racing green Austin Cooper. Some people never change.


As far as converting books from HTML to EPUB, I have finished with the G's in The Shadow stories. That is 88 conversions so far, with 217 to go. As you can probably tell, it is going to take a while to convert all the stories.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Wednesday, 4 January 2012

I had lunch yesterday with one of my former co-workers. It seems that my misgivings about the company's purchase by a larger company are coming true, despite the larger company's statement that they will leave alone what is already working well. I can't say I'm disappointed, as I have seen this happen to companies I have worked for many times before this. Too bad, though. I suspect that the (now) local office will be closed within the year. Yet another Pacific Northwest software company driven into the dust by out-of-towners with absolutely no clue of how this area works.


I am working on converting the Shadow stories I have on this site to ePub format. It will take a while, as there are hundreds of the stories. I am only down to the D's. It is basically a lot of repetitive work, which makes it very boring. Done once is done forever, though.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Tuesday, 3 January 2012

I decided to organize my tablet book collection. With that in mind, I created a directory that will only contain ePub format books. I have a subdirectory of every author that I have an ePub book for. I found that many of the electronic books I had were not in ePub format, so I used Calibre to generate an ePub for those books.

Some of the books I converted were single HTML or LIT files and these were easily converted. It turns out the books consisting of multiple HTML files were also easy to convert, once I figured out how to do that with Calibre.

For a full day's work, I now have 299 books I can read on my tablet. I will be looking around for more, though.

I will move on to the eBooks I have on this web site. Most of them are HTML and I will produce an ePub version for each. I will also put them up as ePubs here, when I am through with the conversions.


Way back when UNIX was first created, its creators also developed a philosophy for the operating system's tools: a tool should do only one thing and should do it well. Richard Stallman embraced this philosophy when he developed the GNU tools to replace the proprietary versions in UNIX.

Linux still uses the GNU versions of the tools and the tools still "do one thing and do it well". However, we have moved on to a GUI interface from the command line, and it is not easy to string tools together in this environment. So most GUI programs do more than one thing, and usually do those things just adequately. Unfortunately, the GUI programs don't seem to follow any programming conventions, so we end up using a tool created by a programmer's whims.

Calibre is a GUI tool that converts human-readable files from one format to another. Unfortunately, it comes with a boatload of what I consider to be bad design choices. The major one I see is that it keeps a catalog of the files it converts. That means that when I convert a file from say LIT format to EPUB, I then have to take the extra steps of copying the created file somewhere else, then erasing the entry from Calibre's catalog. Also, Calibre does not lend itself well to the task of simply displaying an ePub file. So I shopped around for an ePub reader.

I could only find one program that was dedicated to displaying human-readable files: fbreader. So I installed it and gave it a try. Imagine my disgust when the program put every file I displayed in its own catalog! Which meant every time I wanted to simply look at a file, after I viewed it I had to take the extra step of removing it from the catalog. I also found several huge bugs in the program, but that is just programming. I take issue with the design: why not have it work like Linux's document viewer, produced by the people who created the Evince PDF reader? I would snap up a program like that in a heartbeat. Funny thing - the document viewer does only one thing and does it well!


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Monday, 2 January 2012

For those of you who haven't figured this out, I was not at home the last two weeks. I filled up the car at Costco ($3.16) on the 16th of December and headed for Lake Havasu City, AZ. 1,300 miles of dry pavement later, I was there. I spent the time visiting with my sister and parents and working on the soccer program. I was asleep on one of the couches when my mother slipped and fell. And I visited in the hospital before and after her hip joint replacement.

On December 29th, I filled up at the Arco in Lake Havasu ($3.14) and headed for home. 1,300 of dry and rain-wetted pavement later, I was home again. The Weather channel was telling lies about our weather up here, and I fully expected to come home to 3 feet of snow. Imagine my complete surprise when I came home to no snow at all.

One of the interesting things of the trip back was the cost of gasoline in various places. As I went through Needles, CA, I could see they were selling unleaded for $3.59 a gallon. Outrageous! Here is what I paid:

In the past, Arizona's gas prices were more competitive, but someone is obviously taking advantage. The one thing I really liked about all this was the sign at the station in Dillon:

I was happy to see that the price of gas dropped 20 cents per gallon in CdA. Anyway, the trip was interesting and I was happy to see everyone, but it is getting a bit old. Still, I am not willing to give up my constitutional rights just so I can get there faster on an airplane.


I liked that Great Northern Bean Soup so much that I made some more on Saturday. I discovered a very important fact about the recipe: when it says simmer, it means do not boil. I was not paying close enough attention this time, and I let the soup boil for an hour instead of simmering for two hours. The consistency is not the same and is not as good as my initial try. The soup still tastes very good, even though it looks a lot different. I will pay more attention next time.


Courtesy of my Dad:

New Pistol

Ruger is coming out with a new pistol in honor of members of the United States Senate and the House of Representatives.

It will be named the "Congressman".

It doesn't work and you can't fire it. It requires a lot of extras that you don't want, but are forced to pay for.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software