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BLOGical Thoughts Archive

June 2009

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

This is a short week, and I have been busy getting ready for the long weekend. Nothing interesting happening here.

I have been wondering what happened to Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary. I suspect he made a very poor choice of web host for that web site - a web host who put bandwidth caps on his site. Now no one is reading it, and the page put up makes it sound like he is a thief or something, someone who's web site you should never visit again. Find a better web host, Jeff. Note that his other web site, duntemann.com, works perfectly. Two different web hosts, I am sure.


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

Monday, 29 June 2009

Thanks to members of the North Idaho Linux Users Group, on Saturday I installed Windows 2000 on the recently resurrected computer I've been working on. At that point, I put the driver disk in that came with the motherboard, and discovered that there are no drivers on it to support Windows 2000. So Windows is stuck in 640x480, 16-color mode. That is completely unacceptable.

When I got the machine home, I installed Ubuntu 9.04 over the Windows 2000 installation, as Ubuntu does support the new motherboard. I downloaded all the updates and also installed VirtualBox. In VirtualBox I created a new virtual machine and installed Windows 2000 in that. Since the virtual devices that VirtualBox presents to the VM have their own drivers, I now have a Windows 2000 installed for the machine with driver support. So it is running with 24-bit color and the display size is 1152 X 864, which fits quite well as a window in a 1280 x 1024 display.

Now that I have a working machine, I need to reinstall some of the software that was install in the original. I still have all the files that were on the original machine, so it shouldn't be too hard to do that - just tedious.


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

Friday, 26 June 2009

The North Idaho Linux Users Group has a technical session tomorrow at F1 For Help in Rathdrum. I think I will take the now-undead computer there and see if anyone can help me with resurrecting the operating system. If not, I may try installing Ubuntu and then install Windows 2000 professional in a virtual machine on that O/S.

I need to do a lot of shopping this weekend for the weekend after this one. We are having a barbecue at work on Wednesday, where I will be doing Dutch oven potatoes and two desserts. Then the next day I will be going to a teardrop trailer gathering and I need food for the potlucks there. It's going to be a very busy couple of weeks.

I need to come up with a different way to download podcasts. Right now, I am downloading them in my Windows 2000 VM, then copying them to the actual workstation, then copying that to my thumb drive. Too many steps involved there. I guess I will have to ressurect that computer.


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

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Last night, I worked on the computer that had a problem booting after a lightning storm. I installed Ubuntu 9.04 on the hard drive that was dedicated to Linux, and found there are more problems with this machine.

First up, the slowness of display refresh reminds me of under-powered machines running Windows 95. It isn't just slow, it is painfully slow. So I tried to get the proprietary video driver for the display off of the Internet. That's when I found out there is also a problem with the Internet connection. Anything I tried to download came up with a network error.

I use this machine for archival purposes and for downloading podcasts. I got a copy of the podcast opml file and I installed Juice on my workstation VM, then copied the opml file over there. I am now downloading podcasts on my workstation in the Windows 2000 Professional virtual machine.

I will replace this machine with my test machine. Yet more technology goes in the trash.


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, 24 June 2009

I have a meeting with a friend on Sunday about the sports program I am working on. He was the original force behind the original version of the program, which was called SoccerCoach. I decided that he should see what I have so far, so the program should be put on my Compaq notebook.

I suppose I could have just copied the executable to the Windows portion of the dual-boot notebook, but instead of that, I decided to install the virtual machine I am using to develop the program onto the Ubuntu side of the notebook.

First, I installed VirtualBox onto the notebook. Then I looked to see how much room the virtual machine takes up on my workstation, so I could decide how to get it over to the notebook. It was 10.1GB, so using my 2GB USB key was out of the question. I have a 320GB external drive now, so I decided to copy the directory onto that, then plug it in to the notebook and copy it off.

That did not work. Apparently the FAT filesystem has a limit on the size of any one file. One of the files I was trying to copy exceeded that limit. So I decided to talk to the notebook over the network. This is something I rarely do, as I have found it isn't very easy to do for some reason. I think I really need a domain controller for my network, but I don't have one.

It appears that I also did not have a Samba client on either machine, so I couldn't use SMB to have them talk. So I installed the client on each machine. The easiest way to do this is to use the file manager and right-click on a directory, then click on Share. When you try to share the directory, Ubuntu will see that you don't have the software installed to do that, and will offer to install it.

After the install, it was fairly easy to connect the two machines and to copy the entire .VirtualBox (hidden) directory over to the notebook. Imagine my surprise when I finished and went over on the notebook, ran VirtualBox and the Windows 2000 VM I had developed the sports program in started right up. I guess I am ready for anything Ken throws my way on Sunday.


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, 23 June 2009

Programming Tip

Do It Yourself Progress Bar

You can do some interesting stuff in Delphi with images. This tip describes an animated progress bar, where the bar chases its own tail. It runs from left to right and then turns off from left to right. It then starts over.

The bar image the progress bar uses is

You need a TTimer component named timerProgress (set to 500 ms) and 8 TImage components, set to 10 width and 16 height. They are named Image1 through Image8 and they bump up next to each other. each one has the bar image loaded and the Visible property set to False. The code that follows is the OnTimer event, which is run when you set timerProgress.Enabled to True:

// global variables
var
  imgState: boolean = True;
  btnIdx: integer = 1;


procedure TFormMain.timerProgressTimer(Sender: TObject);
var
  allOn, allOff: boolean;
begin  // update data
  allOn := Image1.Visible and Image2.Visible and
    Image3.Visible and Image4.Visible and
    Image5.Visible and Image6.Visible and
    Image7.Visible and Image8.Visible;
  allOff := not Image1.Visible and not Image2.Visible and
    not Image3.Visible and not Image4.Visible and
    not Image5.Visible and not Image6.Visible and
    not Image7.Visible and not Image8.Visible;
  // If all the images are on, then we must now turn them off.
  if allOn then
  begin
    imgState := False;
    btnIdx := 1;
  end;
  // If all the images are off, then we must now turn them on.
  if allOff then
  begin
    imgState := True;
    btnIdx := 1;
  end;
  case btnIdx of
    1: Image1.Visible := imgState;
    2: Image2.Visible := imgState;
    3: Image3.Visible := imgState;
    4: Image4.Visible := imgState;
    5: Image5.Visible := imgState;
    6: Image6.Visible := imgState;
    7: Image7.Visible := imgState;
    8: Image8.Visible := imgState;
  end;
end;


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

Monday, 22 June 2009

I made some time over the weekend and set up a slideshow for the pictures I took at the Car d'Lane 2009 auto show. I was amazed to see so many cars I had not seen at the Lost in the 50's show. Usually, the two shows share a lot of cars, since they are only 50 miles apart. Apparently, many of the owners decided to go to either one or the other, but not both shows.


I spent a lot of time trying to get the computer I've been working on running again. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate Microsoft? I bet I have. This exercise just confirms my hatred. At the end, I still have a computer that will not boot Windows.

At one point, I had the five internal hard drives, an external hard drive and a memory stick running on the machine. They all ran fine, with no interference from one another. Of course, I was using the Knoppix Live CD at the time. I'm completely convinced that Windows 2000 would not recognize at least half of those drives.

My main problem is getting Windows on the system and getting a working master boot record. I thought I had done that at one point, but the wonderful Microsoft setup program did not write the boot record for some reason. And now I can't boot with the Windows install disk. I will keep trying.


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

Friday, 19 June 2009

I went to the North Idaho Mineral Club meeting last night. I took along a video slideshow of all the pictures I took at the gem show. It went over pretty well at the meeting.

I made the actual video VOB file using a Linux program called dvd-slideshow. It's a command line program that requires you to create a text file to tell the program what to do. It works very well, but there is a learning curve associated with it. As I related before, I used a Windows program to create and populate the video folders and to burn the DVD (and lost the audio portion in the process).

I am going to do all this again, but this time I will also add the video clips I made at the gem show. I have found a Linux program which will replace dvd-slideshow, which will do all that. It's called Q DVD-Author and it can handle both slideshows and videos. It can create menus and can convert video formats to the proper format for a DVD. The only thing it cannot do is actually burn the DVD, but I have that covered.


I went to dinner before I went to the mineral club meeting, and I want to recommend a restaurant. It's called La Cabaña and it is on Seltice Way in Post Falls, just across from the Falls Club. The food is uniform in quality and the quality is excellent. They serve fresh, warm chips and two kinds of salsa before dinner. I haven't had chips that fresh since the last time I made them myself. I ordered a smothered burrito - a burrito made with shredded beef, covered in enchilada sauce with rice and beans on the side. It was just terrific.

I have gone in there for lunch and their food at lunch is fairly good, but not like their dinner faire. They must change cooks for the two meals. A very good restaurant if you are a Mexican food junkie.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software

Thursday, 18 June 2009

I stopped on the way home from work and got a DVD writer (SATA interface) for the computer I am trying to get working. I installed the drive and booted Knoppix with it. Using Knoppix to investigate, I figured out why Windows 2000 will no longer boot. It's complex.

This machine has 5 hard disks; two are IDE and the other three are SCSI. The master boot record is on the first of the IDE drives, which Win2K considers to be drive D:. The actual operating system is on the second SCSI drive, which Win2K thinks is drive C:. The other drives are E: (IDE), G: (SCSI) and H: (SCSI). I discovered all this with Knoppix.

The original motherboard for the machine had a built-in SCSI controller which Win2K considered to be hard drive controller #0. The new motherboard has an external SCSI controller with a BIOS extension. I have not yet discovered what its number is. That is the important consideration. When I discover that, I can change the boot.ini file and the system will boot. I hope.


I used a popular hard disk data recovery program to check out the computer which was giving me the 'NTLDR missing' error. I could do this because the program runs from a floppy using FreeDOS. The program found no problems with the hard disk, so I tried to boot into Windows. I did not get that nasty error message this time. Instead, it boots part of the way into Windows and then just dies. I will try to boot into Linux (which is on an entirely different hard drive) when I get a chance. I can't do that tonight, as I will be at the North Idaho Mineral Club meeting.


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, 17 June 2009

I took the night off from hardware problems and worked on getting a DVD video slideshow together. I copied the VOB file I had created over to my notebook, which runs both Ubuntu and Windows XP. I have a program in Windows I thought I could use - DVD Fab Platinum. It turns out that DVD Fab Platinum will not allow you to create your own from-scratch DVDs. So, just as I was about to turn off the machine, I saw the neoDVDplus icon sitting there on the desktop. I had used that a long time ago, when I was moving my VHS movies over to DVDs. I ran it up and it had a section that allows you to create your own DVD.

There was only one problem with using neoDVDplus. The version I have doesn't allow you to use soundtracks recorded in Dolby sound, and that's how my soundtrack was recorded. So I now have a DVD of the slideshow, but no soundtrack to go along with it.

I have just found another program on the notebook to do this stuff. It's called muvee and it's part of the HP Windows XP junk that most new computers end up with. It turns out to be broken-ware, though. It only allows 50 slides, three video clips and 3 music tracks. If you want more, you have to fork over money, which I will not do. Also, it will not allow you to control viewing time and transitions except by using a 'style'. That just sucks. The program preview is so limited as to be useless and I will remove it from the computer.


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, 16 June 2009

It's starting out to be a not good week. Last night I tried to boot Knoppix from the USB DVD drive I have hooked up to the back-from-the-dead computer. It would not boot. Turns out most CDs will not boot from that USB drive on that computer. I have to figure out a way to load Knoppix so I can adjust the Windows boot.ini file. If I install a SATA DVD drive in the system, I will be able to do that, but I'm fairly sure Windows 2000 would not recognize the drive once I got the O/S running again. I could temporarily remove one hard disk and add an IDE DVD drive, I suppose, but I would have to raid another computer for one. I will figure it out, eventually.

This morning I turned on the computer I use to capture podcasts, and it would not boot. I keep getting 'NTLDR is missing'. I tried to boot from a CD and I got the same thing. Something is very wrong with that system and I have too much to do to try figuring it out. What's next?


I am still looking for a way to produce a DVD from the slideshow VOB file I have produced. I tried using a program called Q DVD-Author, but could not get it to work correctly. I may be reduced to copying the file over to a Windows XP machine that has DVD Fab Platinum on it, just so I can make a DVD.


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

Monday, 15 June 2009

I took over 100 photos at Car d'Lane on Saturday. There was a nice mix of cars I had not seen at Lost in the 50's. I will try to post them some time this week, but I keep getting further behind on my home work.

The North Idaho Linux User Group meeting was typical for this time of year. The diehards always show up, but June is a vacation month, so many people were doing other things. I demoed OpenSolaris, which lacks many, many things that current Linux distros have as standard. Like automatic WiFi support.

I created a video slideshow from the photos I took at the North Idaho Mineral Club's Gem, Jewelry and Mineral Show. I used a Linux command line program called dvd-slideshow to do that. I even put background music on the video, as 15 minutes of looking at slides will bore anyone. Now I have to find a way in Linux to create a DVD from the .VOB file I have created.


I checked out the newly installed motherboard for the dead computer. It is no longer dead - it powers up fine and all disks are available. There is a booting problem, however. I may have to re-install Windows 2000 on the machine (after backing up all the files on that drive). I will try a few other things first, though. I have a vague memory of that machine booting to drive D: instead of C:. I will look at the entries for the boot menu before I do anything with it. Bottom line is I'm making progress on that machine.


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

Friday, 12 June 2009

I was supposed to go camping this weekend, but that isn't happening. I have too much to do. The Car d'Lane Car Show is tomorrow morning and I will be taking photos. In the afternoon tommorrow is the North Idaho Linux Users Group meeting. On Sunday, I have a lot of cleanup to do around here that has been put off because of my San Francisco trip and other weekends that were swallowed up by other activities. So no camping.


I finally got the motherboard for the dead computer I've been working on. I have installed it, which was a story in itself. Intel believes no one can read, so it gives you a chart with pictures to help you install the motherboard. Of course, that doesn't answer questions like 'what slots do I put two sticks of memory in?' But they're Intel - they don't have to care (paraphrasing The Phone Company mission statement). I have everything installed, and I will be powering the machine up and installing the Windows drivers for it tonight. That means I will have to plug in an external CDROM drive, since this box no longer has one. No biggie - I have one I use for chores like this.


I have installed NetBeans on my workstation and have also installed JavaFX. I have a book on JavaFX and will work through some examples of that if I ever get a chance. JavaFX is an interesting alternative to Adobe Flex. It is attractive to me because it is free and it does most of what Flex can do. It may be a good platform to create web-based applications.


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

Thursday, 11 June 2009

I spent last night doing thumbnails of all the pictures I took at the gem and mineral show. I then created a web page for the pictures on the North Idaho Mineral Club web site. I have a couple of favorites in there - one of a malachite boulder, and several pictures of some incredible stone beadwork.


After 12 days of no package, I finally got a Fedex tag on my front door that says 'you need to sign for this'. It's too late, though, because today it will be delivered to me at work. This 'delivery service' is definitely on my MacDonalds list.


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, 10 June 2009

I spent the evening processing the pictures I took over the weekend at the North Idaho Mineral Club's Gem and Mineral show. I have them processed and put up on the web site, but I still have to do a web page to display them, and I have to update all the other web pages to indicate the new web page.

I finally looked at the mineral club's web host, and found that they support Joomla (but not WordPress?) I will install Joomla on my workstation and see what kind of web site I can whip up that isn't so labor-intensive.


Still no package. Now, according to the package tracking web site, they want a signature. I phoned them and told them to deliver the package to my work place. Fedex will join the long list of companies I will no longer do business with, which includes MacDonalds, any member of the RIAA and Sony.


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, 9 June 2009

Even though I left a message for them to direct them to my house, the delivery people have still not delivered the package. It is now a week and a day they have been sitting on it. BTW, it turns out the package that got here was the UPS package and this one is Fedex.

What Fedex does not know is how I treat vendors who abuse their customer relationship. In June 1976, MacDonalds abused that relationship with me. I have not purchased or eaten any food from them since. For those who are counting, that's exactly 33 years of none of their mediocre fast food. No great loss, right?


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

Monday, 8 June 2009

I'm back. I spent last week in San Francisco at the JavaOne 2009 Developers Conference. I learned a lot of new things about Java and the direction the language and the industry is going. I also reaffirmed how glad I am that I don't live there.

We flew back to Spokane Friday night and landed at 9:51pm. Since we didn't remember about the freeway construction, we ended up in a traffic jam in downtown at 10:30, with heavy rain and lightning. After dropping off the other three guys, I got home at 12:15am, where I slept for four hours and then spent Saturday working at the North Idaho Mineral Club Gem and Mineral Show. I have pictures of both the trip and the show, but it will take me a while to post them.


Please imagine the following. I place an order with a company, and they ship it to me in two packages, via UPS. Both packages arrive in Spokane on the same day. One of the packages arrives on my front porch on Friday, 29 May, the last work day before I go to San Francisco. The other package does not arrive. I ask my neighbor to look out for the other package, then go to San Francisco.

A week later, when I get back from San Francisco, the package is still not here. I check my voice mail and find a message from UPS saying the driver can't find my house! I leave a message for them telling how to find what they have obviously found in the past. If this is how business is being run nowadays, I want no part of it.


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