BLOGical Thoughts Archive

March 2013

Friday, 29 March 2013

I have epoxied that opal I am shaping onto a piece of bensonite. The color really pops out now, as the bensonite is really black. Now I need to cut the stone off of the very thin slab of bensonite, mount it on a dop stick and continue with my shaping and polishing.


Today I am going to a gem and mineral show in Colville, WA. I will take some pictures and will post them when I get a chance. I went to the same show last year, but the weather was lousy. This year the weather is better and the show has changed venues to a larger area. Should be a good show.


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Thursday, 28 March 2013

I resolved another Plex Media Manager problem yesterday. I put all my videos in the same directory, including television and Internet programs. Plex would just not recognize those extra videos. It turns out that Plex also has other categories, such as TV and Home Movies. It uses different rules for those categories than it does for movies.

So I created a TV and Home directory and moved those videos out of the main DVDs directory. Plex picked right up on them and I now have access to all my backed up videos. This means I can also put up Northern Exposure, Babylon 5, Bones and all the other TV shows I have on DVD. More work for me.


I listen to podcasts over the week. Most of these publish weekly and hacker Public Radio publishes daily. Some of them are in MP3 format, but I prefer Ogg Vorbis feeds if there is one.


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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

I am still backing up DVDs. I'm only in the 'D's at this point, so I have a long way to go. Especially since I keep running into multi-disk DVDs. I just did Dinotopia and now I am doing Dune and Earth SOS.

The Plex Media Manager I use to present the backed up movies to my Roku box has certain unwritten rules. I learned one of them recently, which prompted me to do a mass of file renaming. Plex does not like file names with multiple periods (dots) in them. It ends up just ignoring the file, as it thinks that the file is not a valid video file. So The.Guild.S01E01.m4v is bad and The_Guild_S01E01.m4v is fine. Nasty bug, that.


I used to read a series of action adventure novels entitled The Destroyer. There was a Korean character in those books who was completely convinced that anything useful or worthwhile was invented in Korea.

I met a real-life person like that. She's a Thai and she runs the oriental store in the factory outlets in Post Falls. She is convinced that Indian Basmati rice really comes from Thailand. I just smile and nod.


This is a great idea. Since none of us regular people have lobbyists, we aren't represented in state or federal government. Petition: force Congress to display logos of their corporate backers on their clothes


If you like Jimi Hendrix, check out this video. The instrument is a gayageum. I think she pretty much nails the spirit of the song.


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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

It was warm enough for me to work on my Plymouth yesterday. Last fall, I got some touch-up paint from the place where I had it painted. I used that paint to cover the mostly-hidden places where the new paint did not get sprayed into. It was warm enough to have the paint dry with no problems.

I also buffed out the hub caps that had scum on them, then painted around the ship on each hub cap, just like they originally were painted. They look pretty good. I guess I will have to take another picture.


I tried to back up that Disney flick again. This time I used K3B instead of K9Copy. It took much longer to finish, but the program was still not able to untie the knots. I give up - no back-up for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.


I suspect that the following picture of my mother and my brothers and sisters was taken in about 1958, when we were living in the Mojave Desert in California.

Working clockwise from my mom, she is holding Dennis. Next there is me (Mike), Tim, April and Debby. My dad may have taken the picture. That was a very long time ago, wasn't it?


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Monday, 25 March 2013

I hate Disney. I have several of their movies and they are all not normal DVDs. Here's the thing: a normal DVD is capable of holding at most 9.6GB of information. The Disney DVD I attempted to backup is set up in such a way that it looks like there is about 350GB of movie on the DVD, in 76 separate files. That is obviously not true, but it confuses my ripper enough that I can't back it up.


When I went to the North Idaho Linux Users Group technical session, I drove up Government Way to where it crosses Highway 95 and becomes Highway 53. I was stopped at that corner, waiting for the light to turn green, when a big lady moose comes trotting across 95 towards me. It's a good thing that everyone on the road saw her, or she would have ended up as mooseburgers. Anyhow, she was heading east, but at that point, Government Way runs at the base of the Rimrock, which is a 100 foot cliff along there. She would have had to travel at least a mile north before she could get up on the Rimrock (at Garwood). I suspect she did that, as I have seen other moose in the Garwood area.

I see a lot of wild critters all the time in our area, but I seldom see a moose. It's a real treat. She was acting like she owned the countryside.


HP and Microsoft have come up with a clever, sneaky way to prevent users from setting up their laptops to dual-boot Windows and Linux. I saw this on Saturday at the NILUG technical session. I will explain in a minute.

First though, I need to explain about hard disk partitions. A hard disk can only have a maximum of 4 primary partitions. If you want to have more than 4 partitions on your hard drive, one of those 4 primary partitions must be marked as a secondary partition. You can then divide that secondary partition into as many partitions as you wish.

Normally, a Windows laptop will have two partitions - one is a recovery partition and one is the actual operating system. HP and Microsoft are now doing this differently. They have split their operating system into 4 partitions - boot, O/S, recovery and utilities. Sounds fairly logical, but it absolutely prevents a dual-boot situation, since there is no way to create a secondary partition. And it also smacks of plausible deniability. There are only two things you can do: either remove one of the partitions and create a new secondary partition, or erase the entire hard drive and use all of it for Linux.


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Friday, 22 March 2013

I have some more mineral club stuff to do today and tomorrow. Also on the agenda tomorrow is the Technical Session of the North Idaho Linux Users Group at the F1 for Help computer store in Rathdrum. I will be there to help out anyone who needs it.


Despite all the cold weather, I have had a chance to work on some lapidary stuff.

This is a Mexican opal I shaped and polished last week. I picked it up at the Livingstone Rock Ranch in a jar of opal I purchased for $25. The stone is so clear you can actually see through it to the weave of the black cloth it is sitting on. It has practically every color of the visible spectrum in it. The stone is worth well more than the $25 I paid for the entire jar of opal, and there were more stones almost as nice in the jar. The only difference between them and this one is they are still in their matrix.

I am thinking that I should mount it on a basenite slice so it shows off its colors even more. I will be getting some basenite tomorrow from another mineral club member.


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Thursday, 21 March 2013

Now that I have converted all the DVD backups on my 2TB hard drive to MPEG-4, I now have so much room that I have started backing up the rest of my DVDs. I have already come across another two DVD movie (Around the World in 80 Days) and have gone through the three hour conversion process for it. I am almost done with the DVDs whose titles start with 'A'. This will be an even bigger job than the file conversion was.


I spent a lot of time yesterday working on stuff for the mineral club. I sent out a report of our field trip from last Sunday, and I am working on a gem show meeting report. The monthly club meeting is tonight, so I want all my ducks in a row before then.


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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

This blog is not the only web site I host here. The North Idaho Linux Users Group web site is also hosted. Because of my web host's server crash, the DNS for NILUG was also directed to the old server. I had to turn in a trouble ticket to get that straightened out. I think everything is working correctly now.


After I finished converting all my ISO backups to MPEG-4, I refreshed the Plex server that I use to serve them up to my Roku box. The Plex server goes out on the Internet to find information about the files, but there were quite a few of them it couldn't find. Some of them I could understand, as they have names that are similar to other names. Others, like Ghostbusters or xXx should be easy to find.

In order to get a proper poster image to display with these, I provided more information for each of the movies and did another Internet lookup on them. All of the commercially produced movies now have a proper poster and it is much more interesting going through the movie index as a result.


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Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The server that this web site is hosted on crashed on Monday morning. It was a hardware failure of a RAID array, so it must have been pretty nasty. They claim that nothing has been lost, but I haven't verified that yet.

The first clue I got of this was Monday afternoon at 4pm, when I tried to read my bookmarks file and got the big 404 page. I then contacted my web host and got a pre-recorded message about the problem.

Update: I talked to my web host and found that when the server came back up, the DNS for my site fell back to an older server (the site had changed servers within the last few weeks). The tech reset the DNS and I had to wait for it to propagate before I could post this. Whew!


I have completed the conversion of all the DVD backup files from ISO to M4V. I ran into a couple of problems with some of the ISO images and had to resort to again backing up the DVDs for those images.

When I started the conversion process, the 2TB hard drive that has all the backups had 465GB of space remaining, so the files were taking up about 1.5TB of space. Now there is 1.6TB of empty space and the files take up 395GB of space. Quite a savings, I would say.


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Web site back online

This blog has been down because of a hardware failure at my web host. My regular post will be done later, after I get back from having the brakes done on the Honda.

Monday, 18 March 2013

I have pretty much had it with Google's handling of my gmail address. I created that email account in June of 2004, so I have had it for 9 years. Now I have to put up with the fact that Google has always had a huge bug in their handling code that, instead of fixing, they are touting as a 'feature'. This has to do with the fact that they ignore periods in usernames. This means that michael.burton (my email address) is the same as michaelburton or michael.burt.on!

The real problem comes when you sign up for an email address. When you sign up, instead of ignoring periods, Google allows the signup. So someone came along and signed up for michaelburton. But since Google's stupid email system can't tell the addresses are different, I get his email and I assume he gets mine.

Bottom line here is, since I can't contact anyone about this at Google, I will be changing my email address. I will be using 'mycroftmkiv' instead of 'michael.burton' in the near future. I completely blame the incompetents at Google for this unacceptable situation. Idiots!


I did more DVD backup conversions over the weekend. I am down to the 'T's and I found another double DVD backup. 'Tin Man' came on two DVDs, so I had two backup ISO images of it. When I went to stitch them together, I found that there were three main video pieces, not just two. On my 4-CPU machine, it took me 4 1/2 hours to stitch those three pieces into one file using PiTiVi. It worked great, though.

BTW, Tin Man is a mini-series made by Canadians. It's about DG (Dorothy Gale), a girl who ends up in another world, called the O.Z. Sound familiar? It is. Guess what the tin man refers to.


I will no longer answer support questions about Ubuntu or any of its variations. They have gone commercial and I won't have anything to do with commercial software. They also no longer call themselves Linux. So I don't do Ubuntu and I don't do Windows. I never have done Mac...


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Friday, 15 March 2013

I sent out email about the mineral club activities and another member notified our members with no email address. The response was very gratifying. Our field trip on Sunday will have 16 to 18 people. We are going to Livingstone Rock Ranch in Spokane. Steve has a museum, rock shop and places for people to dig up rocks which he has seeded. Kind of an interesting experience. I would go there for stuff instead of Irv's Rock Shop in Spokane.


It looks like I have at least four movies that were sold on two DVDs. The ones I have seen so far during the conversion process are

I have converted all but Stargate into a single MPEG-4 file. They are much more watchable in that mode.

I do have a whole bunch of DVDs that are episodic, so they would fall under the same rules. Each DVD of TV series such as Northern Exposure, Bones, Nikita, Monk, Babylon 5, Firefly and The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr would need to be consolidated into a single MPEG-4 file. That is a humongous number of man-hours of work.


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Thursday, 14 March 2013

I sent out an email yesterday about two mineral club activities we will be doing this weekend. I got lots of replies and seven email bounces. I will inform our newsletter lady of the bounces. She may know the real email addresses for these people.

Looks like I will be doing a lot of mineral club stuff this weekend.


I am still working on conversion of DVD backups to MPEG-4 files. I have at least three movies that were on two DVDs, as they were too long to fit on one. I ran across one yesterday - The Pelican Brief.

I was successful in converting that two-part movie into a single MPEG-4 file, but it was a royal pain to do. First, I used K9Copy to extract only the movie portions from the two ISO images. Then I used Handbrake to convert those into M4V files.

Once I had the two pieces in a format I could work with, I used the (painfully slow) PiTiVi video editor to join them into a single MPEG file. Finally, I used Handbrake to create the single M4V file from the MPEG file.

I went this route since I could not get my gdvdslides program to work. It wasn't the program's fault - the command line utilities underlying the program have radically changed since I last used gdvdslides.


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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

I worked on the same old stuff yesterday. I converted a bunch of video backup ISOs to MPEG-4. I am working in the 'P's today and hope to get through at least 3 or 4 more directories. I hope I will finish all the conversions by Friday.

I also finish another Tom Swift novel conversion. There are six more to do. One a day is about all I can take - all the newer novels were done with the world's lamest Windows HTML editor.


When I changed the tires on my Honda on Monday, I noticed that the ones I mounted are getting pretty thin, so I went down and got some quotes for a set of tires. The quotes ranged from outrageous to reasonable. A set of Michelins from Costco will cost $504. A set of Hankook from the Honda dealer will cost $340 and a set of Goodyear, also from the Honda dealer, will cost $272. The latter two quotes are much more reasonable, so I will let the Honda dealer do the work. It will be at least a month before I do that, though. I will do both the tires and an oil change simultaneously.


This morning, I have to work on stuff for the North Idaho Mineral Club. I am the gem show chairman and we need to have a show meeting this Saturday to resolve a bunch of show items. Then on Sunday, we are going over to Livingstone's Rock Ranch for a tour. I guess that kind of fills up the weekend.


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Tuesday, 12 March 2013

I am still converting videos from ISO to MPEG-4. I suspect I am about half done with them. I have reclaimed about 600GB of disk space, so now I have room to back up my remaining DVDs.

There is one problem with Handbrake that won't be fixed, as they consider it a feature, not a problem. If you have an ISO that contains chapters of something (a file per chapter), Handbrake has no way to combine those chapters into a single video file. I would not expect that it would, but that is highly inconvenient for me. I think I will try to use my gdvdslides program to do that.

I also worked on another Tom Swift novel. I have 7 more of those to get through.


I started on my Spring chores yesterday. I took the snow tires off the Honda and put the regular tires on. I also went down to my insurance guy and had him start up the insurance on the Plymouth, so I can drive that. I'm leaving the snow plow on the truck, just in case all this nice weather is a false Spring.


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Monday, 11 March 2013

My talk about how to use Handbrake, which I gave at the North Idaho Linux Users Group on Saturday, had a pretty good reception. In the end, I was answering more questions about Roku than I was about Handbrake, since the Roku is the ultimate reason for my converting video files over to H.264 format.

I thought that the problem I am having with Handbrake with ISO images containing a lot of pieces is not specifically a general Handbrake problem. I am running Handbrake on three machines: an AMD Athlon 3800+ with 2GB of RAM, an AMD Phenom II X4 with 8GB of RAM and an Intel i7 with 3GB of RAM. I attempted to convert the same ISO image on all three machines. The conversion worked fine on the Intel machine and crashed on both of the AMD machines. I then tried another ISO image and it crashed on all machines, so I guess my guess about the problem being CPU specific was wrong.


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Friday, 8 March 2013

I spent most of yesterday converting ISO video backup files to MPEG-4 files.

During this process I discovered an error in the ISO files. I had purchased a collection called the 8 Action Pack, which contained 2 DVDs with four movies on each DVD. When I initially backed them up to ISO, I followed the written material to tell me which video track was which movie. It turns out that the material showed two of the movies in the wrong order, so Total Recall 2070 was labeled as Cypher, and vice versa. Once I had that straightened out, I discovered that two of the other movies had not been backed up at all, so I did that, too.

I also converted another Tom Swift novel to EPUB. It was fairly easy to do, but I won't be doing 3 in a day anymore. I have about 10 left to do.


I will give my Handbrake talk for the North Idaho Linux Users Group tomorrow. I will not only show how to use the program, I will also show how to get around its major bug. The talk has already been posted on the NILUG web site (except for the bug workaround).


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Thursday, 7 March 2013

The method to my madness is now apparent. I moved the external drive containing my movie backups from this workstation to the 64-bit station. I am converting the video ISOs to MPEG-4 over there. I have installed the Plex Media Manager on the 64-bit machine and added the Plex channel to my Roku, so I can now play any of the movies from the external backup drive on my widescreen TV in the living room via the Roku box.

Here is a shot of the Plex Media Manager as it is updating its information about my movies


I converted another Tom Swift novel to EPUB yesterday, and had none of the troubles that I had with the novel I did on Tuesday. Apparently, the author only used that abysmal Windows HTML editor on a single story. How do I know it was done in Windows? The source for the story has hundreds of references to fonts that are only available on a Micro$oft Windoze computer. ( Sorry, my complete hatred of MS is showing. )


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Wednesday, 6 March 2013

I did a bunch of video conversions yesterday. I also worked on a single conversion of a Tom Swift novel to EPUB format. The problem there is the absolutely lousy HTML editor that was used to create the novel in the first place.

Here's the scenario: I used to grab the HTML from the Tom Swift Lives web site, and convert it to EPUB, as EPUB is mostly HTML anyway. I found I was spending way too much time doing that, as it involved taking massive amounts of HTML out of the file. So I then selected all the text and created a file that contained all text. Next I added back the EPUB bits that needed to be there.

This final pass through the results are to insert italics back where they were in the novels. Italic emphasis is an important part of describing how the characters are talking, so it is necessary. I had no trouble doing this until yesterday, when I was doing novel number 29 - Tom Swift and the Captive Planetoid. The HTML editor used to create that story slowed my conversions way, way down.

Why? because I search for the italic tag (<i>) in the story source, then italicize the enclosed word or phrase in my EPUB. Here is an example: In one case the word 'afternoon' is italicized. I would have expected to see '<i>afternoon</i>' in the code. Instead, I see '<i>a<span style="letter-spacing:.2pt">f</span>ternoon,</i>'. This makes it just a might tough to pick out the word 'afternoon', doesn't it? And this is one of the mild examples.


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Tuesday, 5 March 2013

I am continuing to convert video ISO backups to MPEG-4 files. I found a workaround to the Handbrake crashing problem. Handbrake seems to only crash when trying to process an ISO with a lot of files and extraneous pieces.

I got around this by using K9Copy to open the ISO, then created a video folder from that which contains only the video I want. I then use Handbrake on the video folder and everything works fine.

I have had to do that to several ISO files, but it always works, so I guess it is a true workaround.

I tried using WinFF (a GUI for ffmpeg) to try solving my problems, and discovered that the program is not very bright. It just takes the entire contents of an ISO and converts it all into on big single video file. You can't get rid of anything you don't want, so Handbrake is much, much better in that respect.


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Monday, 4 March 2013

I have finished the talk about Handbrake for the North Idaho Linux Users Group meeting next Saturday. I have posted the talk on the web site, so if you can't attend the meeting, you can still benefit from my words of wisdom.

Usually, if you want to actually learn a lot about something, you should teach others about it. That holds true for Handbrake, too. I found out in several cases why it is still at version 0.9.8. It is not yet ready for a 1.0 version. Crashes occur, but Handbrake seems to recovery gracefully from them. Of course, it shouldn't crash in the first place.

It does do a very good job of converting video files, but it uses literally all of your CPU(s) power to do it. I still recommend it for those who want to convert their videos to MPEG-4 videos.


I moved the external hard drive with the ISO video backup files over to the 64-bit workstation. I installed Handbrake on that system and am converting many of those ISO files to MPEG-4. I have done at least two dozen of them so far. Since Handbrake's activities are CPU intensive, the conversions are much faster now. This workstation has a single CPU and the 64-bit workstation has 4 CPUs. As a consequence, the conversions are at least four times faster.

While I am converting videos, I am also working on the Tom Swift novel conversions on my regular workstation.


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Friday, 1 March 2013

I worked on my Handbrake presentation yesterday. I have finished the installation and controls portions of the talk and am starting the Using Handbrake section. I will also explain how to do batch video processing with Handbrake in the Using handbrake section.


A few weeks ago, as I was running out of my homemade hot sauce, I decided to try a different approach to hot sauce. I came up with this recipe for a cooked hot sauce. After trying it out for at least a week, I can say that I really like it. It has the heat of Tabasco with a smoky flavor from the Chipotle peppers and the Adobo sauce. I also don't use as much of it as I did with the 'cold' hot sauces, so it will last longer. I will stick with this one for a long while.


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