BLOGical Thoughts Archive

January 2013

Thursday, 31 January 2013

For quite a while now, I have been buying Calidad 10" flour tortillas to use in my breakfast burritos. I have tried other tortillas on occasion, but come back to them for two reasons: they usually don't stick together in the package, and they are the cheapest.

I think I now have a replacement for Calidad. Costco sells Mission tortillas for less than the Calidad. They are also thinner and they taste good. The Calidad are 21.5 cents apiece and the Mission tortillas are 14.9 cents apiece. So I have a new breakfast item to go with the sausage I get at Costco.


I spent the entire day yesterday sorting coins. I found that I had seven silver quarters, ranging from 1934 to 1964, an 1885 Indian Head cent, a 1935 Mercury dime and two mis-struck pennies, one from 1964 and one from 1969. I also found two silver dollars - one from 1881 and one from 1900. Not to mention all the regular pennies and nickels I plowed through. Update: I just found another silver dollar. This one is from 1921.

I will take the unusual coins down to a coin dealer and let them tell me what they are worth. I haven't made up my mind what to do about the penny collections yet.


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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

I recycled some electronics stuff when I went to the NILUG technical session. The computer store there is also a recycling center. I am now looking into stuff I haven't done anything with for 40 years; specifically, I have a collection of Lincoln pennies. I will be cataloging those today and then I will see about getting them appraised.


I finished configuring my Raspberry Pi as a file and bit torrent server and have also finished the article about how I did that. I have posted the article here on the North Idaho Users Group web site. I will go through it again today to make sure it says everything it should say.

I used the new torrent server to download the latest Kubuntu, and it worked fine. The web interface to the Raspberry Pi file server also works fine. I have to admit that the Raspberry Pi is a pretty nifty device to do dedicated tasks like these.


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Tuesday, 29 January 2013

I took a preliminary look at Linux Mint 14.1 Cinnamon by installing it over the Ubuntu 12.10 virtual machine. So far I am not impressed. I will look some more when I get a chance.


I spent most of yesterday working on and documenting the Raspberry Pi configuration as a file and bit torrent server. I am only about half done with this, as the documenting is the laborious part of the activity.

I am using a 250GB external hard drive for the project. First, I hooked that drive up to this workstation, erased it and re-partitioned it to an ext4 partition. I then put it back on the Raspberry Pi, but it was not recognized. It turns out that using Gparted to repartition as ext4 does not reformat the drive as ext4.

So I put the drive back on this workstation and used the command line utility mkfs.ext4 to format it to ext4. I then used the command line utility e2label to relabel it as 'ext4usb', which makes it easy to tell exactly what the drive is. After doing that, the Drive was easily recognized by the Raspberry Pi.

I am done setting up the Pi for headless operation, have configured it so the hard drive is always mounted and have installed Samba on it as the file server. I need to do a bit more Samba configuration, then I will install and configure the bit torrent server.


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Monday, 28 January 2013

I helped other Linux users with their problems at the NILUG technical session on Saturday. One of the things we did was install the latest version of VirtualBox on one of the machines. While we were doing that, I learned something very interesting about VirtualBox: its virtual machine actually supports 3D acceleration.

When you create a virtual machine in VirtualBox, it is created with a generic set of virtual hardware - hard disk, memory, display, etc. The virtual display that is presented is basically one that is a plain vanilla graphics card from before the days of 2D and 3D accelerators. If after you create the virtual machine and before you install an operating system on it you click on that virtual machine's Display item, there is a check box for 3D acceleration.

To give that a try, I created a virtual machine for Ubuntu 12.10, enabled 3D acceleration, then installed the operating system in the virtual machine. I actually ended up with Ubuntu running the Unity desktop, so I know it works. Now I can take a slightly less biased look at Unity, although I'm sure I won't like it as much as Máte (Gnome 2).

I was right - I hate Unity. I am going to install Linux Mint 14.1 Cinnamon in that virtual machine instead.


I have found a good application for my Raspberry Pi. I have the Pi and I have a 250GB external hard drive I can hook to the Pi. I can set it up for headless operation as both a file server and a bit torrent server. I will also do an article on this and add it to the NILUG web site.


You have to check this out - it's great: Stairway to Heaven, covered by Heart. I've always wondered why no one else ever did a cover of that truly great song. Now I know: they were waiting for this one.


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Friday, 25 January 2013

The North Idaho Linux Users Group technical session is tomorrow. Since the meeting is held at a computer store that is also a recycle point, I need to get together a care package of stuff I want to unload. For instance, I have a 5MB cartridge hard drive I used on a CP/M system, an old HiFi stereo receiver and a portable MP3 player that I will recycle. It's a great way to unload some of the clutter around here.


It got up above freezing for a while yesterday, and most of the snow we got has melted. Since right now it's 34° F, we will be getting even more melting. I expect that I won't be able to drive my Honda up the private road to the county road. I think I will plow some more, so we will get down to dirt quicker.


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Thursday, 24 January 2013

I was looking around for examples of source code for an Android ebook reader, when I came across one that measures up somewhat better than Aldiko does. It's called Pageturner. I installed it on my tablet and on my phone. It still has some of the same problems that Aldiko does, though.

An EPUB book is basically compressed HTML files. As such, you would think that EPUB readers could handle any valid HTML, but they don't. All the ebook readers I have seen so far all have problems with handling tables and unordered lists that don't have list items. I use both of those a lot, and they just aren't being handled well. To top things off, some ebook readers throw in some of their own formatting. That is not a good thing, as it ignores how the author wanted to display things. In fact, it's really frustrating.

I have also downloaded the source code for Pageturner and I will be looking at that today to see where they have gone horribly wrong.


According to the weather-guessers, we were supposed to get 3 or more inches of snow last night. We ended up with less than an inch. We have been sitting in the middle of a high pressure area until yesterday, so we haven't had any snow for a couple of weeks. This is a nice change, since my snow plow is now back in business.


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Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Not all applications are created equal. Specifically, not all EPUB readers display documents the same way. For the most part, this doesn't hurt anything, as EPUB fiction is just a flow of words. However, there are some EPUB files where formatting the result is important. Cookbooks come to mind, since that is what I've been working on for some time now.

On my Android tablet, I use an EPUB reader called Aldiko. It does a good job on normal texts, but when it comes to items where formatting is important, it pretty much fails. Its approach to Table of Contents display also leaves much to be desired. I am going to look into how much effort it would be to write an EPUB reader that would actually pay attention to the formatting in the EPUB file. Since Android apps are written in Java, and I really know Java, it should not be that hard.


I have over 1,4000 audio CDs, everything from AC/DC to ZZ Top and genres from Blues to Zydeco. I decided to put some 50's 60's and 70's music on my Android tablet, so I spent a part of yesterday ripping the albums to MP3s. I used K3B to do this. In the past I have used something called grip, but that doesn't seem to be available anymore. I have ripped about a dozen albums and I can now listen to them on my tablet.


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Tuesday, 22 January 2013

When I got my snow plow working again, I then dug the Honda out from under all the snow it was buried in. I used it to drive up to the mailboxes the other night, and discovered that one of the headlights was burnt out. It turns out that was the headlight that I had replaced a couple of years ago. It cost me almost $300 to replace it, but that was the entire unit. I had to do that because the lens was cracked and water was getting into the unit.

Yesterday I wen down to the Honda dealer and they replaced only the light itself. It cost $22. I'm happy that I didn't have to replace the whole thing again.


The people who bought the ten acres above mine were supposed to remain in Seattle for the winter, but they showed up yesterday. They were busy cutting down more dead trees and burning the results, so I never had a chance to talk to them. I did use my snow plow to remove part of the berm so they would have an easier time getting out to the road. It is supposed to snow more tomorrow, so I will have to take their driveway into account when I plow.


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Monday, 21 January 2013

On Saturday I discovered that the Outdoor Cooking Channel is on Roku and it is a free channel. It mostly has shows about barbecuing, but there is one show called Cooking Everything Outdoors with Gary House. He cooks using all kinds of outdoor devices, including Dutch ovens. One of his sponsors is Camp Chef, so he uses a lot of Camp Chef equipment. He does some pretty good looking dishes, too.

That show is also on the Roku Blip.TV channel, YouTube and his own web site. I know another person who does a simlar videocast, and I am going to suggest to him that he do a deal with Blip.TV so I can watch his stuff on Roku.


Well, I feel like a fool. I got the snow plow working again. There was nothing really wrong with it, and it cost me $200 to figure out what to do. That's all I'm saying about it. I now have a a clear driveway and there is no longer a big snow bump in front of the mailboxes.


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Friday, 18 January 2013

I spent quite a while yesterday working on my snow plow. I put it back on the truck, then jacked up the blade so I could the traveling collar on it. Even though I got the blade at least 8 inches off the ground, the hydraulic lift cylinder would not expand, so I could not put the traveling collar on it. I ended up disconnecting it from the truck, since I had the North Idaho Mineral Club meeting to go to last night.

I guess for the time being I will be spending a lot of time with my snow shovel. I will need to remove enough snow so I can get my Honda out to go town in.


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Thursday, 17 January 2013

I now have season 6 of The Guild done as a single video. I'm not sure if there will be a season seven. The way season six ends puts that in doubt. I do know that Felicia Day is doing lots of things, so she may not have the time for it. If you haven't seen The Guild yet, you should go on YouTube and search for it. All the episodes are there. They are all fairly short, too.


I have lost patience with soft drink manufacturers. One week a particular soft drink 12 pack is $2.98 and the next week it is $4.78. That is a single can price of 25 cents to 40 cents, in a single week. The prices constantly bounce up and down like that. Enough is enough. I purchased a Sodastream yesterday. It injects CO2 into plain water, then you add a syrup for the flavoring. Cost is about 10 to 15 cents per serving. The syrups can be sugared or sugar-free. I tried it yesterday, and it was very good. I like less carbonation than most people, and this allows me to control that.


I got the new controller for the snow plow and tried it. It did not work. I am now putting the snow plow back on the truck. I hope to manually jack the plow up so I can put the traveling collar on it. That collar allows the plow to be in the down position while not putting it on the ground. I forgot about it until yesterday. Once I have the plow in traveling mode, I will take it down to the trailer hitch place and let them check the electronics.


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Wednesday, 16 January 2013

I used this workstation for the entire day yesterday, to back up this web site and the NILUG web site. It took that long because of the caching software I have installed here. That software has cached every day I have blogged for the last 8 years. And the caches contain everything for that day, so they are not small. I should have left them out of the backup, but by the time I realized what was happening, it was too late. I will remember next time I do a backup.

I also backed up the mySQL databases for both web sites. The one for NILUG is very small, but the one for this web site is 18 MB. And whoever is maintaining PHPMyAdmin has removed the 'export as gzipped SQL' option, so I have to download as plain SQL text, then gzip it when I'm done. Very stupid of them to do that.


I removed the OpenShot video editor and installed avidemux instead. It turns out avidemux is exactly the tool I was looking for. I did the editing for one two hour video in about 15 minutes, without reading any user manuals or looking at tutorials. In avidemux, you simply mark the start of what you want to remove, mark the end, then cut it out.

I have edited three videos with avidemux. The results are not professional, but they are good enough for me.


Fire destroys home in North Hayden - This house was about a mile and a half from me. I went by it yesterday on my way to town, and was shocked to see it was gone. I'm glad no one was home, as they have a little kid.


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Tuesday, 15 January 2013

I have some two hour television shows that I would like to edit. I used OpenShot to work on one of them yesterday, and I find it awkward to use and buggy. I will be looking for a replacement for it today.


I took another run through the Dutch Oven Dishes cookbook and fixed a bunch of typographical errors. I even found where one recipe was missing from the EPUB version, so I put it back in. I have updated both versions on the Internet. You can find the updated EPUB version here and the updated PDF version here.


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Monday, 14 January 2013

The talk I gave at the North Idaho Linux Users Group went fairly well, except it probably should have been longer. If I do another one, I will make sure to include more information so it will be longer.


Since I posted it here, you all may know that I have had no sound on my laptop since I upgraded from Linux Mint 13 to Linux Mint 14.1. I have been in touch with ZAReason tech support and have tried several of their suggestions, to no avail.

I have figured out a way not to solve the problem, but to bypass it completely. The laptop has built-in Bluetooth and I have some Bluetooth stereo speakers, so I am using them instead. They work fine and they pump out better sound than the built-in speakers on the laptop.


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Friday, 11 January 2013

I worked all day on my talk for tomorrow's meeting of the North Idaho Linux Users Group. I want to do more than what I have, though, so I will be working on it again today. I will post it to the NILUG web site when I am finished.

The first part of the talk shows how to use Gimp to crop a rectangular image into an oval image with ragged edges, and how to add 3-D text to the image.

Original image Modified image


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Thursday, 10 January 2013

Mostly, I took the day off yesterday. I did run down to town to deposit a check and to get some hydraulic fluid. It was in the mid-40's so all that snow we got was melting. That may make it hard to reconnect the snow plow to the truck, as it may be frozen to the ground when I do that. Oh, well.


Stereograms were all the rage at the end of the last century, despite complaints from many people that they could not see the embedded 3-D image. I ran across a bunch of stereograms in my clip art collection and am posting the one below for your amusement.

For those of you who haven't been able to see the image, I will explain how to do that. In front of your monitor, put the tips of your fingers on both hands together - tip to tip (not the thumbs, though). Open your fingers up so they make a sort of basket. Now look through the basket and focus your eyes on your monitor screen. You should see what look like beans between the tips of your fingers.

This is the same thing you have to do to see the stereogram. You have to focus your eyes behind the picture and then you will be able to see it.

Live long and prosper.


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Wednesday, 9 January 2013

I have checked the circuit breaker and the fuse in my snow plow, and both of them are okay. That leaves me with the controller probably being broken. I guess I will have to get a new one - they are in the $200 range, though. I was hoping it was something else wrong.


I finished the cookbook and have posted it. Here are the particulars.

Dutch Oven Dishes is a free cookbook for fans of Dutch oven cooking. It is available in EPUB format here and in PDF format here. The cookbook includes a short history and information on taking care of Dutch ovens, as well as many recipes.

Cookbook Cover


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Tuesday, 8 January 2013

My snow plow has a 150 amp circuit breaker in it, in case things get too hot. I checked that breaker, and it is fine. There are two possibilities left for what is wrong with the plow: the controller and a fuse I can't seem to find. The controller has integrated circuits in it and will cost at least $170 to replace. The fuse is a lot less expensive, of course. If that is the problem. I will look into that today, but it's tough working on the plow when it is sitting in the open under 6 inches of wet snow.

In the meantime, I disconnected the plow from the truck and am now able to get to town if necessary.


I am almost finished editing the Dutch oven cookbook. I should be finished with that today. I will then post it to this web site and post a notice in the several web forums that I frequent that would be interested. I will then turn my attention to the talk I will give on Saturday about the Gimp.


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Monday, 7 January 2013

Last Thursday afternoon, I plowed my driveway and the private road, up to the county road. Friday morning, I started to do it again, but I could not get the plow's control box to turn on. I have tried everything I can think of to get it to work, but it's not happening.

My major problem is that the local place I bought the snow plow from is no longer in business, and there is no substitute within 50 miles of here. I only have one 4 wheel drive vehicle, and it has the snow plow on it. We have had a bout 4 inches of snow over the weekend, and I am afraid I will get snowed in unless I can get the plow off the truck. And that will be an interesting problem, too.


I have finished the input for the Dutch oven cookbook. I still need to do the editing on the book, but it should be ready for publication sometime this week. It will be available only in EPUB format, for the time being.


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Friday, 4 January 2013

I finished importing recipes into the cookbook, but the cookbook is not completely finished. There are sections in the introduction that need to be done, and some lead-in text in some of the other sections. It then needs a complete editing review, before I turn it loose on an unsuspecting public.


We are starting to plan the 2013 gem and mineral show. I am the show chairman this year, and we are going to have a planning meeting tomorrow. Since I have never chaired a show before, this will be a learning experience for me. I was entertaining the idea that I could do one of the demonstrations at the show, but show chairman has a lot of other stuff to do there. It should be an interesting experience.


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Thursday, 3 January 2013

I did some work on the Dutch oven cookbook. I am down to sauces and dips. I have several more sections to do, then I need to add a bunch of text and pictures to the introduction. Text of how to season and maintain a Dutch oven, which accessories are necessary and which are optional, etc. I also discovered that the table of Contents is already incorporated into the EPUB, so I don't have to worry about that.

I have started work on the More of the Gimp talk for the North Idaho Linux Users Group.


I fixed my terminal problem. I was being mis-led. It wasn't a terminal problem; it was a man program problem. But it all led back to the fact that somehow I lost my .bashrc file. I created a new .bashrc and added the LESS_TERMCAP values to it. I now have colored, highlighted man pages.

Actually, the real problem is a bad .bash_login file. Looking at the sequence that bash follows when it is initializing, if it finds a .bash_login file, it will execute it and ignore the other files, such as .profile. Since it found the .bash_login file, it attempted to execute it and could not. So .profile was never executed, and it had the LESS_TERMCAP values in it. When I added .bashrc to my home directory, that one comes earlier in the file sequence, so it was executed and fixed my problem. I have deleted the .bash_login file.


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Wednesday, 2 January 2013

I attempted to fix my terminal problem on this workstation, and ended up breaking the sound. So I tried fixing the sound and broke the desktop manager - permanently.

That left me with only one choice: I reinstalled Linux Mint 14.1, then had to reinstall all the applications I use that don't come with the distribution. That ate up three or four hours of my time, and I am now back to where I started. Including a terminal configuration that is screwed up.

The actual problem with the terminal is escape sequences. Instead of getting bolded or italicized text, I get the escape sequence characters for for those. Makes reading man pages impossible. I have tried googling for a fix, but no one seems to have this problem. I know it's a configuration problem, as I have created a new user on the workstation and when I run terminal as that user, everything works fine. I just can't find what is causing the problem in my normal user.


I am still working on the cookbook, translating the text from LibreOffice format to ebook (EPUB) format. Everything is going fine, but it is a lot of work. I am using an ebook publishing program called sigil to do the work. The only thing I have yet to figure out is how to get the Table of Contents into the document. I am about 2/3 finished.

I have to give a talk on Gimp in a week and a half at the NILUG meeting, so I will not be working on the cookbook for a while.


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