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BLOGical Thoughts Archive

October 2006

Tuesday, 31 October 2006

I got the program I am writing at work to do what it was supposed to. It takes insurance policy information out of a database and generates a text file that can be downloaded to other management systems, so those policies can be transferred from one system to another. I tried it with a sample agency of about 2700 customers and it generated a 30 meg text file. Now I have to verify that what it generated is a legitimate download file.


I made chicken enchiladas verdes for a potluck lunch we are having at work today. I changed the recipe a bit, and they look really good. I hope they taste as good as they look.


Presidential Wisdom:

"You teach a child to read and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test."
--


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Monday, 30 October 2006

It snowed last night and it is still on the ground this morning. Typical of late October, I suppose, but still something of a shock. I am never prepared for radical weather changes (it was 58° F on Saturday).


I cranked up the new camp stove on Saturday and it works just fine. The only thing I did was boil some water, but I'm very happy with how it performs. I will put up some pictures for this when I get them off my camera.


I worked on Betty's computers on Sunday. I got one of her CD drives working (it was my fault it wasn't working), updated her Linux copy of Firefox, and got another of her machines running on the ethernet switch again. That machine got zapped in the thunderstorm of a month ago, and the built-in ethernet port was fried. I installed an ethernet PCI card and everything is just fine.

I also got her email working again. That was Verizon's fault - they switched POP and SMTP servers and never told their customers. What a way to run a business!


And now for something completely different...

A doctor was having an affair with his nurse. Shortly afterward, she told him that she was pregnant. Not wanting his wife to know, he gave the nurse a sum of money and asked her to go to Italy and have the baby there.

"But how will I let you know the baby is born?" she asked.

He replied, "Just send me a postcard and write "spaghetti" on the back. I'll take care of expenses." Not knowing what else to do, the nurse took the money and flew to Italy.

Six months went by, and then one day the doctor's wife called him at the office and said, "Dear, you received a very strange postcard in the mail today from Europe, and I don't understand what it means."

The doctor said, "Just wait until I get home and I will explain it to you."

Later that evening the doctor came home, read the postcard, and fell to the floor with a heart attack. Paramedics rushed him to the hospital emergency room. The head medic stayed back to comfort the wife. He asked what trauma had precipitated the cardiac arrest.

So the wife picked up the card and read: "Spaghetti, Spaghetti, Spaghetti, Spaghetti - Two with sausage and meatballs; two without."


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Friday, 27 October 2006

I got the little super-efficient stove I ordered. It's smaller than a 1 pound coffee can, but it can burn bark, tinder, wood, charcoal or wood pellets. I will be testing it this weekend, after the Linux user group meeting. I'll take a picture so you all can see what I'm talking about.


A Mythological Story

The U.S. Chief of Naval Operations on October 10, 1995, supposedly released this transcript of a radio conversation between a U.S. Navy ship and a Canadian source off the coast of Newfoundland in the fall of 1995. It is undoubtedly an urban legend.


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Thursday, 26 October 2006

The results I am getting from the tutorial test code for Ruby on Rails is differing from what the tutorial says I should get. I haven't figured out what's wrong, since I still don't know Ruby that well. I will have to investigate the actual class methods used to see what's happening.

Basically, two of the test methods are giving me an error about a nil object. It looks to me like everything has been assigned, so how can I have a nil object? I'll look into it.


The North Idaho Linux User Group meets on Saturday, and I have an order for at least two DVDs of openSUSE 10.1, upgrade edition. I will have to update my notebook with this version, too.


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Wednesday, 25 October 2006

I'm back on the Ruby on Rails tutorial, doing the testing section. The Rails testing class seems to have covered everything. Tests can be devised that don't use static test data, and that's what I'm looking at right now. The cases I did before that have static data end up depending on one another, so this should be interesting.


The update I applied to my openSUSE 10.1 workstation seems to have worked pretty well. The only problem I am having is with Evolution, which is acting a bit weird at times. I installed Thunderbird to see if I would like that email client better than Evolution, but I haven't had a chance to use it yet.


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Tuesday, 24 October 2006

I found a web site with silly license plates, and have added some of them to the silly signs. Maybe I should take a picture of my own plate, as it's pretty silly to normal non-programmers, too.


I didn't get a chance to do any of the Ruby on Rails tutorial last night, as I am hooked on the TV show 'Heroes'. They better start providing us with a few answers soon, though. They can't just keep adding more and more mysteries and never explaining anything. That's how ABC lost me as a viewer of 'Lost'.


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Monday, 23 October 2006

I have started the testing portion of the tutorial on Ruby on Rails. The Rails creator has anticipated just about everything, as when you create controllers and models using Rails, a skeleton testing setup is also created. All you have to do is populate the skeleton with your tests.

So far, I have created test data for one section and verified that populating that table works correctly. Further tests will exercise code that verifies correct values and code that allows users to add, modify and delete entries from the table. Each of these items can be tested by a very short test routine. Extremely cool.


The silly signs seem to be a big hit. I have taken them to a new level - I am actually taking pictures of silly signs myself. The latest sign, shown in the image gallery, was photographed on Government Way in Coeur d'Alene. Interesting how adjacent businesses can make for social satire.


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Friday, 20 October 2006

I updated my workstation with openSUSE 10.1 by booting the DVD and selecting 'Install', then 'Update'. I've never taken that route before, and it seems to have worked very well. So far, everything I have run on the updated system works very well.


I finished the Ruby on Rails tutorial. It was interesting and I learned a lot about Rails with the tutorial. It is a very flexible framework, but a lot of people will be turned off by it because it uses Ruby as the implementation language. Let's face it, Ruby is not your normal language. When it comes to syntax oddities, Ruby is probably even worse than Perl or Bash shell. But still not as bad as Forth or APL.

Anyway, the next part of the book is a tutorial on testing, which I will also go through.


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Thursday, 19 October 2006

I downloaded the openSUSE Linux 10.1 upgrade DVD via bit torrent the other night, and was going to use it to update the 10.1 installation on my workstation. I just can't figure out how to do that, though. Yast won't let me do it, and the silly online updater (which will be fixed by this update) won't, either.

I may have to install it as a new O/S over the old version. If I have to, I guess I will do that on the weekend. In the meantime, I still have the Ruby on Rails to get through, and the coaching database to define.


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Wednesday, 18 October 2006

We had a meeting about the closing of the facility I work at. The meeting simply pointed out the logistical nightmare of such a move. We'll get through it, though. I suspect that with logistical problems, I will start working from home at some point earlier than January 1st.


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Tuesday, 17 October 2006

I got some curry from a friend who just got back from a cruise in the Indian Ocean. He picked up some curry from Mahé, Seychelles and from Durban, South Africa for me. I can't wait to use it - the curry powder you get around here is anemic at best. Now, if I only had some octopus....


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Monday, 16 October 2006

A while ago, I blogged about the fact that I had only been at my job for a little while, and management decided to let go of two sales persons and to let the rest of them go at the end of this year. That would leave our Coeur d'Alene office with 5 people. The action actually goes further, as I found out on Friday. When the rest of the sales people leave at the end of the year, management will close our Coeur d'Alene facility.

What does this mean for me? According to my boss, he, I and the other three peole will start working from home. I personally can see where that will eventually end up, but I will reserve my opinion until next year.

One good thing - it cuts my commute yet again. In five months, my commute has gone from 25 miles to 6 miles to no miles. That's a lot of gas saved, isn't it?


I got Betty's ethernet switch hooked in again, and I got her DSL working again. This time, the DSL problem was Verizon's fault.


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Friday, 13 October 2006

Happy Friday the 13th. Triskaidekaphobics, stay home.

I found the problem with the code from the Ruby on Rails tutorial. I left out a line of code on the layout page. I have now finished the shipping section. Only one more section of new code is left - adding security for admin functions. After that, there is some info on testing, which should also be interesting.


I tested Betty's D-Link ethernet switch and there seems to be nothing wrong with it. I will reinstall it on the weekend.

In the meantime, her DSL modem is now flashing a red light at her. I suspect it is fried, but that's only my suspicion. Lightning can really play havoc with electronic equipment, can't it?


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Thursday, 12 October 2006

I spent the evening getting Betty's computer reinstalled and getting her DSL working again, after the lightning storm from last week. She still has problems with a D-Link switch and with at least one other of her computers, which I will work on over the weekend.


Happy Birthday, Tim.


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Wednesday, 11 October 2006

We had a thunderstorm in the middle of the night last week that caused real havoc in Rathdrum. My friend Betty, who lives there, has some screwed up equipment because of the storm. All of her equipment is 'protected' by surge supressors and each computer is hooked to a UPS, but she still had problems.

I have replaced the power supply in her main workstation, as the old one died that night. She also has what appears to be a dead Ethernet switch, and a DSL modem that needs to be reconfigured. I guess the moral is: watch out for lightning, even though there isn't much you can do about it.


I'm having trouble with the Ruby on Rails shipping section of the tutorial I am going through. It won't display items to be shipped. When I wrote a preliminary web page for this, it all displayed fine. When I dressed up the page to make it look like the rest of the application, the orders stopped being displayed. I've looked at the code twice now, but I can't find what I did wrong. I will have to try again tonight, I guess.


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Tuesday, 10 October 2006

I actually have two more things to do in the Ruby on Rails tutorial. I am adding code for shipping and will add code for security, as you don't want just anyone to perform administrative functions. The shipping code is going fairly well.

I am going through this tutorial, but I don't know how much is actually sticking in my brain. We will see when I try to do an application on my own.

I have done a file to create the tables I have detailed (so far) for the coaching program. That will be the first program I will try to do using Rails.


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Monday, 9 October 2006

I flattened my workstation and loaded SuSE 10.1 on it. Since I also flattened the home directory, I had to copy all that stuff onto NAS, install the O/S, then copy it all back. That all worked fine. I had a bit of trouble setting up the e-mail again, but have gotten over that.

I still have to reinstall the Parallels virtualization software, but everything else seems to work fine.


I am making real progress on the Ruby on Rails tutorial. It can really develop web sites fast, but there is a lot to learn. So far, I have created a web store with shopping cart and a checkout counter. It still needs login capabilities.


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Friday, 6 October 2006

I am going to update my main workstation at home to SuSE Linux 10.1. The only thing that prevented that before was no support by Parallels. It now supports the O/S, so I will be updating. Hopefully, I can eliminate a couple of annoying issues if I upgrade.

I am also going to wipe out my home directory. I haven't done that in years, since you have to be very careful if you don't want to lose anything. I will have to back the directory up on my network storage unit before I wipe it, then restore only the visible files and email. This should be a lot of fun...


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Thursday, 5 October 2006

I found a great site with three ongoing graphic novels on it. Each novel is updated once a week - one on Monday, one on Wednesday and one on Friday. I especially like the one on Wednesday, The Probability Broach. The site is Bighead Press. Check it out.


The conference my co-workers went to was about new directions for our company's development effort. It looks like the company is now advocating agile development, which is what I've been looking at for the past few weeks at home (Ruby on Rails).


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Wednesday, 4 October 2006

I started looking at Ruby on Rails again. I have no problem with that part - it's the CSS part that I seem to be having trouble with. Or maybe I missed a step and the web page is not using the proper style sheet. Anyway, I will proceed with the tutorial, as I am getting to the interesting part - using more than one database table in an app.


I am running out of defects to fix at work. That's actually a good thing, as we are getting close to releasing the program as a beta to some of our customers. But it makes for a boring day.


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Tuesday, 3 October 2006

I talked earlier about Internet Archive, a web site that collects stuff. Most notably, they collect out of copyright movies. I have not been able to access that site in the evening, as it has extremely limited database connections. So be warned, if you want free movies, go there in the morning or mid-day.


I fixed a nasty problem at work yesterday. Maybe 'fixed' is the wrong word. I bypassed the problem. It had to do with the timing of how a particular window was being drawn. The timing had changed between version 4.5 and 5.0 of the program, and that caused the wrong data to be inserted into a particular field. I fixed this by changing where the process started its update process - ensuring that extraneous data would not be inserted. The real fix would have been to track down where the timing was changed, and that's just too hard at this late date.


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Monday, 2 October 2006

I have had my stereo system for about 20 years. On Saturday, I broke down and bought a new one. I now have a new way to listen to DVD's, CD's, TV, etc. It has eight speakers instead of two and takes up more room than the old system, even though the speakers are smaller. Puts out much better sound, though.

The new system also has about five times the number of inputs and outputs as the old one, and is correspondingly harder to use. But it puts out great sound. Something more for me to learn how to use.


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