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March 2007

Saturday, 31 March 2007

y 1952 Plymouth Concord restoration project. It's a 1951 Plymouth Cranbrook. You can see more of the parts car at PicasaWeb.

Friday, 30 March 2007

I am installing software on yet another computer. Have I ever related how much I hate Windows? This time, it's Windows XP (eXtremely Pathetic). I have installed it twice, and will have to do it again. Every time I try to install other drivers, the boot record goes south. What a great O/S.

The other disk in this system will be dedicated to Linux. I haven't picked the distro yet, but it has got to be at least 10 times better than XP.

Update: I should not have jumped the gun and blamed Windows XP for the boot problem. It turns out I had the Sata hard drives swapped, so the boot record was being written to the wrong disk. I swapped the Sata cables and the boot menu came right up. I will still have to reload everything, but at least it should work now.


Be careful when you buy LCD monitors with digital outputs. I bought one and it came with an analog cable but no digital cable. Is that a way to cut costs, or just a big screw-up?


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Thursday, 29 March 2007

I downloaded and installed Mepis Linux 6.5 (RC3) onto my notebook computer. My initial observation is that Mepis just keeps getting better. I will give it a more detailed examination over the next few days, but I think it is probably a keeper. Congratulations, Warren.


Everyone seems to be getting into the podcast business. Both audio and video, and a lot of the content is at least as interesting as the stuff being broadcast on radio and TV. I mention this because Mepis has just released its first audio podcast, and because I found a great video podcast, Tiki Bar TV.


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Wednesday, 28 March 2007

I am still working on getting the reloaded Windows system configured. There were lots and lots of third party software products on that box, and they all have to be reloaded. Here are the stats for this machine so far:

  • Linux - 1 hour. All drivers, all applications loaded and configured. No reboots necessary
  • Windows - 6 hours. All drivers, very few applications loaded. 8 reboots required. It should take at least another 4 hours to finish.

Don't you just LOVE that wonderful money maker for Bill proprietary operating system?


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Tuesday, 27 March 2007

I pulled the hard disks out of the computer in which I screwed up the BIOS, and put them in another machine. And of course, that POS operating system Windows didn't like the hardware change. So I had to reload Windows. And since Windows thinks it's the only operating system in the world and it takes over the boot sector, I had to reload Linux as well. Which gave me an opportunity to try out Mepis 6.5.

I am still installing software for Windows, which will take several days as I discover which programs are now missing. With Linux, it takes maybe an hour. Which O/S is better?


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Monday, 26 March 2007

I have accidently screwed up an old computer, and now I can't get it to boot. It's an old P-III 500 mHz machine, and it has a BIOS that lets you adjust the timing, CPU speed, etc. I selected Defaults to go back to the original configuration, and it will no longer boot. I can't seem to find the manual for the motherboard, either. I will have to keep looking, as I use this machine to download podcasts.

This happened because I wanted to install Ubuntu Linux on the machine, but it won't boot from the CDROM. I tried everything I could think of to boot from that, including a new boot sector called Smart Boot Manager. Turns out it isn't so smart.


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Friday, 23 March 2007

I finished writing the hours-minutes-seconds calculator (HMSCalc) in C# under Mono. I would have been finished a couple of days ago, except that I couldn't get a particular function to work. So I left it out.

The function in question is a button to allow you to copy the calculator result to the system clipboard. In the documentation, there is a Clipboard class that says "do this", but in real life the property they are talking about using does not exist. Why? Because I am using Mono 1.1 and the document is for Mono 2. I wish they would have said that it much larger type.


I hope to get back to work on outdoor tasks this weekend. I still have to install the new brake master cylinder in the Plymouth, and we have a bunch of potholes up by the county road that need filling. Should be a busy weekend.


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Thursday, 22 March 2007

I run Mepis Linux on my notebook computer. It works very well and it even recognizes and configures my wireless card. But every time I accidently upgrade all programs that need updating, I end up with no wireless connection. I did it again yesterday. The only way for me to get out of that situation is to reinstall Mepis.

Mepis Linux 6.5 will be released shortly. I will try it out and, hopefully, it will not exhibit this problem. I would really like to continue using Mepis. But if I continue to have wireless problems, I may investigate the possibility of using Ubuntu on the notebook.


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Wednesday, 21 March 2007

My test computer is a Compaq Evo. It works ok for testing, but I am now using it with Ubuntu Linux to develop programs for Mono. It has a small problem that keeps it from being a good machine for that.

Compaq has always gone their own way. When they started, they developed their own BIOS to prevent IP problems with IBM. They have continued using their own BIOS on their desktop machines over the years, even though there are viable alternatives.

Something that Compaq has never done is to put a reset button on the front of their computers. This means that if you need to reset the machine, the only way to do it is to power the machine off by pressing and holding the power button down for 5 seconds. This is not good for the machine, but the only way to do it.

So I have a machine with a Compaq BIOS and no reset button. The machine keeps hanging up in the BIOS on power up, so it needs to be reset - with the power button.

I decided that this situation is unacceptable, so I am installing a reset button. I had to go out on the Net and look at the service manual for the model I have. I did manage to find the information, and I have determined that the motherboard has a reset, but (of course) it hasn't been hooked up. I should have it hooked up by the end of the day.


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Tuesday, 20 March 2007

I started writing my favorite learning app, HMSCalc, in C# and Mono. I know this app so well now that I can practically write it in my sleep. Since I have already written it in Java, the C# translations is fairly straightforward. When I finish it, I will publish it as an hours-minutes-seconds calculator for Linux. It really is a very useful program, but no one seems to have done it except me.


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Monday, 19 March 2007

I had a very productive weekend. I installed a Windows machine, then updated Windows and its IE browser (2 reboots) and its virus checker (2 reboots). Have I ever mentioned how much I hate Windows?

I replaced an old ethernet switch with a new one, then updated a Windows mail client on another machine. On a notebook computer, I loaded a different version of Linux and updated it. On a fourth machine, I installed Linux (twice), and got all the little stuff (like printer and email) working. I did forget to update that machine from the Internet, but that's easy to do.

On my own test machine I installed Ubuntu Linux 6.10. I did have openSUSE 10.2 on the machine, but I couldn't get Mono to compile a program correctly. It works fine on Ubuntu. That's really strange, since Novell (SUSE) are the folks who are doing most of the development work on Mono.

If I'm not careful, I may end up do installs and maintenance for a living.


I also got my Dodge Stealth out after it spent the entire winter in the garage. I then put the snow plow away. I think I was doing all this because I didn't feel like getting under the Plymouth to replace the brake master cylinder. I have to do that soon, though.


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Friday, 16 March 2007

I have finished converting all The Shadow stories to HTML. There are just about 325 stories and they are typical pulp magazine stories. Interesting historical literature.


The brake master cylinder I ordered showed up two days after I placed the order. Great service from Rock Auto. I will install it over the weekend, as I need to get some brake fluid before I do anything with it.


I have once more started work on the coaching program. I will be learning more Ruby and Rails as I proceed with it. Both of those are very powerful, but they have quirks and lots and lots of methods to be learned.


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Thursday, 15 March 2007

I did some more computer maintenance for Betty Z last weekend, and as part of that, I told her I would get one of her computers running again. I brought it home with me with that in mind.

I hooked it up and first thing was to open it and clean it out. Compressed air works great for that. This computer has 5 fans, 5 hard drives, two ROM drives and a dual processor motherboard with 3 fans on it, so it took a while to clean all the fans. After cleaning, I checked the cables. Everything seemed to be fine, so I turned it on.

The machine just sat there. I checked the keyboard, and it acted like it wasn't connected. I checked the mouse, and the optics were turned off. As I was sitting there scratching my head, the keyboard flashed on, the mouse optics turned on, the display started up and the computer booted up. Nothing wrong that a good cleaning didn't fix.

I guess the moral to this is: give your hardware plenty of time to make up its mind whether or not it wants to work. I'll be taking the machine back this coming weekend.


I have ordered a new brake master cylinder and windshield wipers for the '52 Plymouth. Thank you, Internet, for providing great places to order parts I could never purchase locally.


I have managed to pick up six of the missing Shadow stories from 1944 to 1946. that leaves only one story I was unable to find, out of 321.I have added those to the web site. That leaves just six more stories to convert and I'll be done.


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Wednesday, 14 March 2007

I have finished converting and uploading the Shadow Magazine stories for 1946, 1947 and 1948 to this web site. After 1948, the magazine was published on a very irregular basis, so I have only a few more to be converted.


I charged the battery for the Plymouth overnight, and the car started up fine yesterday. I drove it into the garage, put it up on jack stands and checked out my problem with no brakes. The brakes are definitely connected, but I get no resistance when I press the brake pedal, so I think I need a new master cylinder. I will order one and will work on rebuilding the carburetor while I'm waiting for the master cylinder.


In theory, I've been a big fan of Lulu.com, a web site that helps people publish books that are not wanted by standard publishers. I have not had an opportunity to sample their product until yesterday, though.

An acquaintance of mine, Jeff Duntemann, used to be in the publishing business running a company called the Coriolis Group. That crashed and burned because of market realities, but he still wants to get his stuff out there for others. He is a big electronics fan and was an avid reader of Popular Electronics back in the day. He especially liked a series run in PE called Carl & Jerry. He decided that they should be preserved for the world, so he got permission from the copyright holder and is publishing those stories in five volumes using Lulu. So far, he has finished Volume One and Volume Two.

I ordered these two books, and they came yesterday. I am impressed with the quality of Lulu's binding work, and I think this is a good way for anyone with something important to say, to get it into print.


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Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Despite high winds, I did change the tires on my Honda from the studded tires. That should boost my gas mileage by 10 MPG. I am also charging the battery on the Plymouth, but it looks like it doesn't really need it. Something else must be wrong with the electrical system.


I have a computer to look at. It doesn't seem to be working, which is a big deal. It has 5 hard disks in it and at least three of them are SCSI. It also has SCSI CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives. If the motherboard is bad, then I will have to get a new motherboard, as well as a SCSI PCI card for it. I hope it's something easier.


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Monday, 12 March 2007

I have finally started converting the rest of the Shadow Magazine stories over from text to HTML. I finished all the stories from 1943, 1944 and 1945. You can find them on my eBooks web page.


It rained, so it was hard for me to change the tires on my Honda. I will probably get that done this week sometime. As for my Plymouth, it won't start, as the brand new battery is dead. This indicates to me that there is an electrical problem that is draining the battery. I will charge the battery today and see if I can get it started.


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Friday, 9 March 2007

The NILUG meeting will be held tomorrow in Coeur d'Alene. I'm looking forward to it. One of the regulars will bring Revolution OS, a video about open source. I will bring Ubuntu Ultimate for those who want to see it, and will also bring an NEC PC8201 that I have had for at least 25 years. Should be a fun meeting.


I hope to get a lot of chores done this weekend. I need to change the tires on my Honda and hook up the brakes in the Plymouth. I also want to find a place that can help me with the restoration of the Plymouth's interior.


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Thursday, 8 March 2007

I downloaded a new Linux distro to DVD. It's called Ubuntu Ultimate, and it is nice. I haven't had a chance to explore it much, but what I have seen is great. It is gamer-oriented and the applications I have looked at so far, never show up on other distros. Things like Songbird and Democracy TV. I have loaded this on my test machine and will look at it further.


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Wednesday, 7 March 2007

I have tested the Zucchini bread recipe that I would like to use at the 2nd International Teardrop Gathering. I think it will be a very good demonstration dish, even though it takes an hour to cook.

I'm supposed to look for donations that we can give away at the Dutch oven workshop at ITG. But I don't have a clue how to go about that. I will be asking some local Dutch oven society members about that.


It's starting to really look like spring here. My car is completely uncovered and I will be moving it into the garage so I can hook up the brakes. When I finish that, I will look around for someone to help me with the rest of the restoration. I checked the lights last night, and they work about 50%. No brights, no turn signals, but all else works. I can't check the brake lights until I hook up the brake pedal.


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Tuesday, 6 March 2007

I saw the Spiderman 3 trailer last night while I was watching Heroes. Interesting, but I don't think it was interesting enough for me to actually see the movie in a theater. I also saw a trailer for The Last Mimzy, which was more interesting to me than the Spiderman one.


I have to get working on home projects again. My car is free of snow, so I could fix the brakes, then take it down for an upholstery update. I have a lot of software projects to work on, too. And no books to read right now.


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Monday, 5 March 2007

I got my truck back just in time. The road turned into a giant slushy yesterday, and if I hadn't plowed it on Saturday, it would have been impossible to go through. As it is, I think no more plowing will be necessary. Unless it snows again.


I was on an installing/updating spree yesterday. I went over to Betty Z's house and updated many of her computers. I installed a new version of Firefox and a new version of anti-virus on three machines, and Firefox only on her main computer (Linux). I also hooked up two printers. And to top it off, I installed Mepis Linux as dual-boot on her multimedia machine. Except for the stinking anti-virus program, I haven't enjoyed myself like that in a while.


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Friday, 2 March 2007

And later that day:


Well, it's 1.4° F outside, with the wind at 3 mph from the northeast. With windchill, that's -6.3° F. All from cloudless skies overnight. A bit nippy, eh?


I should be getting my truck back today. I really need to plow. The guy who does my neighbor's place took pity on me and plowed part of my driveway, but he was using a John Deere tractor, and it can't toss snow like my truck plow. It just pushes it aside, which makes for very narrow roads. I'll be glad to have the truck back in good condition.


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Thursday, 1 March 2007

Getting my truck to the mechanic so he could fix the 4-wheel drive was an experience. Tuesday night, I drove it up and parked it about 50 feet from the crest of the hill, since I knew it would snow on Wednesday and I didn't want to take a running jump at the hill. Well, to get it up there, I had to take a running jump at the hill. In 2-wheel drive, the truck just has no traction at all.

On Wednesday morning, I walked up the hill in at least two inches of fresh snow to take the truck down to Hayden. That 50 feet of hill that was left was a killer. I couldn't get going fast enough to get up it. Luckily, my neighbor Danny came along and pulled me up to the top with his 4x4 Dodge truck. From there, it was fairly easy to get down to the mechanic. I had to go extra slow becuase it was extremely slick. Coming back, I saw two cars that had gone off the road because they hadn't paid attention to conditions.

The 4-wheel drive is fixed, but the mechanic still has the truck. He is trying to track down a fuel pressure leak that causes it to be hard starting when it's left for a while. So I still have about 8 inches of snow in front of my house, and the Plymouth is almost buried. Poor car...


Check out the FCC link on my blogroll.


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