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BLOGical Thoughts Archive

October 2010

Friday, 29 October 2010

It turns out that the problem I was having burning DVDs was not the DVD drive. I tried to burn one on my 64-bit workstation, and the same thing happened - it hung up part way through the burn. I came to the conclusion that the Brasero DVD burning software was at fault.

I decided to use K3B to do the burning instead. I installed that program on the 64-bit machine, burned a DVD successfully, then was unable to read the burned DVD. So I went back to my 32-bit workstation and burned one there using K3B. I was finally successful in that task, but at the loss of 8 perfectly good DVD-Rs. Oh well, live and learn.



 

I know that the Ubuntu Linux distribution is being steered by a benevolent dictatorship in the form of Canonical's Mark Shuttleworth. His decisions in the last year, however, are hardly benevolent. He has forced that terrible pink/purple theme on us; he has removed several well-used applications in favor of others that are not popular but are bleeding edge, and his ultimate insult was to move the window controls to the upper left corner of the window, where anyone wanting to click on the 'File' menu item can accidently click on the Close control.

Now he is insulting us further with his abandonment of the Gnome desktop manager in favor of the simple-minded Unity manager. I expect this kind of "we know better than you, what you want" attitude from Microsoft and Apple, but not from Canonical and Shuttleworth. If he is looking to lose Ubuntu fans, he is succeeding; I am going to move to another distribution. I am still in the process of evaluating it, but I will probably chose Debian as my alternative. The Gnome folding menu system is an optimal selection paradigm - no one has found anything that is more efficient. I will not move from that to anything that causes me to do more work for the same results.



 

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, 28 October 2010

I finished renaming photos for the North Idaho Mineral Club web site last night, and have started to upload them. I have finished with the agate section, but there are a lot more to be done. You can see the agate trips by selecting Photo Gallery | Field Trips from the menu.



 

I attempted to burn the Debian Linux ISO images onto DVDs, but I was not successful. My regular workstation seems to have a problem with burning DVDs. I tried the first DVD twice, and both times the burning program hung up towards the end. I have copied the ISO images onto a USB hard drive (22.3GB) and will copy them to my 64-bit workstation, then try to burn all six DVDs there.



 

I have now accumulated over 1,300 silly signs. As soon as I run out of those I have collected so far, I will be starting over, displaying from sign number one. Some of those early signs were very good, so I hope no one complains about this.



 

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, 27 October 2010

I have successfully downloaded all the DVDs to install Debian Linux without resorting to a network-based installation. There were six DVDs involved, totaling about 22GB. I will burn some copies and do the VM install when I get a chance.

In the meantime, I have installed a version of Debian from last year into a VM at work. That was the version I found on a Linux Format DVD from May, 2009. The install went well and that distribution seems to be pretty good. I will investigate more when I get a chance.



 

I am still working on the North Idaho Mineral Club web site. The work I did last night does not yet have any visible results. I was given a boatload of pictures from field trips that I will be posting. I am currently renaming them so they will make sense when I display them in galleries on the web site.

Unfortunately, the pictures are mostly of location, with very few showing the material being gathered. You will see, however, that there is more desert than those known in the southwest of this country. I will try to post these pictures tonight, if I can fit them in to my schedule.



 

We are closing in on an election. I have some advice for you all - to paraphrase Albert Einstein: Insanity is electing the same people from the same political parties over and over again and expecting different results.



 

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, 26 October 2010

I worked on the North Idaho Mineral Club web site last night. I added a bunch of articles to the web site and added pictures of gemstones to dress up the text a bit. It looks pretty good now, but it still needs a lot more content.



 

The direction that Ubuntu Linux is headed is unacceptable to me. With that in mind, I am definitely looking in to using Debian instead of Ubuntu. I have downloaded the first four Debian DVDs and am downloading the fifth and final DVD now. I am also looking at the Debian version that was included in an issue of Linux Format a few months ago. I will report on my progress. I expect it to be harder to configure my system with Debian, as they do not include a lot of 'nice to haves' that Ubuntu does include. But they also don't pull software you use every day out of the package, and change the desktop as they feel like 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

Monday, 25 October 2010

At the North Idaho Linux Users Group meeting on Saturday, I attempted to install the latest version of Debian Linux into a virtual machine on my 64-bit workstation. I was not successful in this. For reasons unknown to me, it kept downloading bad packages to install. I then decided I would do it the hard way and download the iso images of Debian to install. The problem with that is Debian consists of 5 DVDs and each one will take at least 12 hours to download. I may look for an alternative solution.



 

I am adding more content to the North Idaho Mineral Club web site. I am doing articles right now. The articles include hints and tips, how-to's and mineral descriptions. I need to dig up some pictures to go with all that text.



 

I also got a bit done on the soccer program. I started filling in a bit of the content for the help pages and by doing that, I found one place where the program behaved differently than what I expected. I fixed that bug, but that just shows that bugs can pop up anyplace.



 

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, 22 October 2010

At work for the past three days, I've been implementing an export capability for our reports program. It can already export to an application, a disk file and as an attachment to an email using MAPI. The original program also allowed the file to be sent to a MS Exchange server, so that's what I've been tying to implement.

One small problem is the lack of Internet documentation on how to talk to Exchange Server. Microsoft seems to believe that bad documentation is a good thing. It took me two days to even find a logical description of the OLE objects that Microsoft uses for this kind of communication. I found several examples for the things I needed to do, but they were all sadly deficient in many ways.

Despite the obstacles, I have succeeded in getting the information I needed to send to the Crystal Reports API so it could send the file along to the Exchange Server. The only remaining problem is one that the old program also had: it throws an exception when you leave. I will be working on that today.



 

I got no personal work done last night, as I was at the North Idaho Mineral Club meeting. It was a very interesting meeting, with a video on the agates found in Kentucky. They are very colorful, to say the least.



 

Silly sign of the day:


 

Free/Open Source Software

 

Thursday, 21 October 2010

When I started writing the new version of the soccer program, I decided to adopt a centralized approach to the database problem. I created a program module that contains datasets for every table in the database. Each separate dialog would use the datasets in that module to access or update the information in a particular table.

I have discovered that approach causes more problems than it solves. Some of the bugs I found during my demo yesterday were directly attributable to this philosophy. Since the dialogs are all modal and those parts will never run simultaneously, it is silly to centralize the database chores.

With that in mind I started decentralizing the database chores. When I finish, the only remaining items in the database module will be the database connection component and one general-purpose dataset. I am about halfway through this change, and I will continue with it on Friday, as I have meeting to go to tonight.



 

I have fixed most of the redirection that became necessary when I upgraded the North Idaho Mineral Club web site. There are three old links that are not being redirected, but I will fix those as I add content to the new web site. It is infinitely easier to work on the new site than it is on the old one. Thanks for the link on re-direction, Joe.



 

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, 20 October 2010

I went through the soccer program current dialogs and cleaned up a bunch of minor problems. I still have lots of dialogs to create, but I want to demo what I have so far at lunch today, so I went through this exercise. I think it was worth the time.

There is one dialog that is still giving me problems - the reset database dialog. The code I wrote is supposed to clear out the fields in the database tables and reload the tables that need to be pre-loaded. It doesn't clear the tables, and I don't know why. The code I wrote should do that. I will keep looking to see if I can find the problem, but it's a tough one.



 

I am looking for the best way to redirect web pages to their new equivalents. I haven't found that yet. I can't get redirection in .htaccess to work right. I will look for examples on the web today.



 

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, 19 October 2010

I worked on the North Idaho Mineral Club web site again last night. People who have links to our old web pages should have an automatic link to the new pages by noon time today. I also changed the web site icon from the Drupal icon to one showing a star garnet. There is more to do on the web site, but it isn't nearly as urgent as the stuff I have already done.



 

I ordered an electronic kit from Evil Mad Scientist, and it came in the mail last night. I assembled it last night. The kit is for a Larson Scanner, which is named for Glen Larson, who was the producer of the original Battlestar Galactica and the original Knight Rider TV shows. The kit is a row of LEDs that flash the same way as the Cylons and the car in Knight Rider did. It is set up for three speeds and two brightnesses. A wonderful little kit that works perfectly. I am thinking of installing the scanner in a pumpkin.



 

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, 18 October 2010

I got a lot done on the North Idaho Mineral Club web site over the weekend. One of the tasks I accomplished was to install a picture gallery module. Once that was done, I uploaded pictures to two of the created galleries. Now I just need more text content for the web site at this point.



 

Saturday evening, I went over to some rockhound friends' house and installed Linux on their brand new Acer Aspire. They are getting ready to spend the winter in Arizona and they needed a good system that would not give them any trouble, infection-wise. Since the user is a novice, it should be interesting to see how he does. His wife is an experienced Windows user, so she should be able to help him on many things.

They talked me into going to a mineral show I didn't even realize was happening. So we went to the Lewiston Mineral Show on Sunday. I took a bunch of photos there and posted them on the mineral club web site.

All this other activity didn't leave much time for me to work on the soccer program, but I did get a little bit done on it. I've been working on the help system and I now have a help page for every dialog in the program.



 

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, 15 October 2010

I spent last night working on the North Idaho Mineral Club web site. I decided to go ahead with the site upgrade instead putting back the same old static pages. So the web site is up and running, but there isn't much content there yet. I hope to finish up the site this weekend. For one thing, I will have to look for a plugin for Drupal that can handle photos the way I want.

I also worked a bit on the soccer program. I am adding a button to the word processor that allows the user to insert database tags into the text. Those tags work as mail-merge tags - when the letter is printed, they are replaced by the actual text from the database. My problem right now is to figure out how to insert text into an existing document at the proper place. For many text editing components, this would not be a problem, but we are talking about a component that is simply a wrapper around the Microsoft (not well-designed) RichText component. So it's very much harder to do such a simple thing.



 

Silly sign of the day:


 

Free/Open Source Software

 

Thursday, 14 October 2010

I finally finished working on the word processor portion of the soccer program last night. At this point, it has more features than its WordPad equivalent. It supports strikeout characters, line numbering and highlighting of all text. I just remembered I need to add one more button, though. I want a button to add database tags to the text. For instance, when you select "Parent's First name", it will insert <<parfname>>. All in all, though, I think the soccer program users will be quite happy with the built-in word processor.



 

The domain transfer hold-up was definitely 1 & 1's fault, but the transfer has finally gone through. Hopefully, the North Idaho Mineral Club web site will be back on-line tomorrow.

Every once in a while, I get a request from someone to recommend a web host. 1 & 1 will be number one on my list now of who NOT to recommend.



 

If Verizon Wireless weren't the only game in town, I would quit them in a heartbeat. Here's another of their money-making little tricks: the phone I just purchased was $24.95 after a $50 mail-in 'rebate'. I just found out that 'rebate' isn't a rebate. In very fine print on the rebate form is a sentence that says, in essence, "you won't get this 'rebate' as money, but as a Verizon debit card, which you can spend in any of our stores." How is that a 'rebate'? Sounds like a store credit to me, and they should be sued for false advertising. In the meantime, they get to use my $50 while I apply for the rebate, then they get it back after I get the rebate. That's fair, isn't 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

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

I installed Drupal on the North Idaho Mineral Club web site last night. I was unable to configure it, though. It seems that you have to have a real domain name in order to create a new database for use with Drupal. Right now, we are waiting on those laggard 1 & 1 jerks to finish transferring the domain, so we can finish setting up the web site.

Since I couldn't finish the Drupal install, I switched back to working on the soccer program. I am still working on the word processor. I want to get it exactly right, so there are no complaints about it. To be honest, I needed some distance from the last time I went through all the dialogs to verify they were all working correctly. I haven't done that since I changed compilers, so it definitely needs doing.



 

My new phone showed up last night. It's nice, but not a big change from the old flip phone. I guess there is no new thing under the sun, eh?



 

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, 12 October 2010

I'm still working on the soccer program. I have added capabilities to the word processor. It now has a ruler to show margins and it also has number, indent and un-indent buttons. That makes it more capable than WordPad, so I hope there will be no complaints.



 

Last Wednesday, I changed my cell phone account. I upgraded the account and got a new phone. At least, I paid for a new phone. I haven't got it yet. Fedex was supposed to deliver it me on Friday, but it wasn't here. Yesterday evening when I got home from work, it still wasn't here. They had posted a notice on my door saying they needed my signature for delivery. I hope to have the phone tonight, and Verizon will only be 4 days late on their promises.



 

I have been making my own hot sauce for the past few months. Not the sauce I gave a recipe for before - this one uses red chile peppers. It is very simple: 6 red chile peppers, 3 or 4 cloves of garlic and vinegar. Coarsely chop the peppers and garlic, throw them in a food processor and puree. Add vinegar to loosen up the paste into a sauce. That's the whole recipe, and it makes a wonderful hot sauce. I store it in the refrigerator in a bottle that is the same size and shape as a Tabasco bottle.



 

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, 11 October 2010

Installed Ubuntu 10.10 Release Candidate in a virtual machine at the North Idaho Linux Users Group meeting on Saturday. There were a few problems, but they seem to be related to VirtualBox (now owned by The Borg - Oracle) instead of being a Linux problem. I am not very impressed with the latest Ubuntu, so I will stick with 9.04 and 10.04.



 

I spent a lot of time working on the soccer program over the weekend. The original program had templates of letters the coach could mail to the parents. I have re-entered those templates as RTF files. I am also finishing up a built-in word processor for creating or modifying those templates. The original program had a string that pointed at the word processor you wanted to use. The choices at the time were Word, Ami Pro and WordPerfect. Now there is no need to rely on outside software.

I have most of the controls hooked up and working in the word processor. There are only two things I need to do: find a margin ruler for changing margins and indents, and hook up the hot keys. I will then move on to more dialogs. There is still plenty of work to do on this program.



 

Happy Official Columbus Day. Never mind that the REAL Columbus Day is tomorrow. I know this because one of my brothers' birthday is on Columbus Day.



 

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, 8 October 2010

I have copied all the files for the North Idaho Mineral Club web site to its new web host, and have discovered that some pictures are missing or mis-labeled. So I spent last night reducing the original photos down to the size required for the web site. I have done the pictures for the 2009 Gem and Mineral show. I have 2010 and some miscellaneous pictures to go.

I also did a little bit on the soccer program. I copied the game schedule dialog over from the old program and am in the process of converting it to the new program. I suspect that the entire dialog will change, as the program now supports multiple home teams.



 

The North Idaho Linux Users Group will meet tomorrow, one day too soon to snag Ubuntu 10.10. I have downloaded the release candidate and I will install that at the meeting, into a virtual machine on my 64-bit workstation. I hope they have cleaned up some of the small things I have seen in the release candidate, though.



 

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, 7 October 2010

I spent most of last night re-typing the glossary of soccer terms, so I can display it in the soccer program. I had to retype it instead of copying and pasting, as the way it was incorporated into the old program's help file prevented me from copying. The glossary is now a web page in the new help system, so I have finished that part.



 

I am also in the middle of moving the North Idaho Mineral Club web site to a new web host. The old host, 1 & 1, really, really sucks. We had the domain name registered through them, as well as their hosting our web site. When we canceled the hosting part, they also canceled the domain registration. The reason we are moving in the first place is that they don't allow content management systems to be installed. They kind of act like the Microsoft of web hosts; you know - "we know better than you what you want to do". If they're trying to be user friendly, they have failed miserably.

I spent another part of last night trying to straighten out their screw-up. I will have to finish that this morning. I'm just going to transfer the domain to a reasonable domain registrar, if I can. At this point, anything is possible.



 

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, 6 October 2010

I have verified that the soccer program, compiled with Delphi 6 and containing the latest database components, works fine on other Windows computers. This is a huge step forward and it gave me encouragement in doing more.

To that end, I have hooked up the help system for the program. The help pages are displayed as you click on the Help button in various dialogs. The pages are empty at this point, however. I will have to take screen shots of each dialog and add the screen shot to each page of the help. I will then have to provide text explaining how each dialog works.

The help pages are web pages, not Windows Help format files. I find it is easier to create help this way. It is easier to maintain and easier for the user to access. A web browser provides a very good foundation for displaying this information.

I also created a routine that will allow me to determine if a particular database table is empty or not. I will use this information to enable/disable various menu items, so users cannot display dialogs for which there is insufficient information for them to be used.



 

I keep getting invitations from people I know to be their Facebook friend. I have two objections to Facebook. The first is I don't do social networks, as I consider them a huge waste of time. They initially struck me as a way for people desperate for company to find some, and I could care less about that. Then they struck me as a way to boast about accomplishments. I don't need that; I have this web site.

The second reason I don't do social networks is more insidious: when you click on a Facebook 'I like this web site' button on any web site, Facebook immediately sends all your 'private' information to that web site, so the web site knows all about you. Tell me that doesn't sound like 1984 Big Brother or Minority Report. I will never subscribe to that kind of personal invasion.



 

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, 5 October 2010

I have verified that the soccer program, compiled with Delphi 6 and containing the latest database components, works fine on other Windows computers. This is a huge step forward and it gave me encouragement in doing more.

To that end, I have hooked up the help system for the program. The help pages are displayed as you click on the Help button in various dialogs. The pages are empty at this point, however. I will have to take screen shots of each dialog and add the screen shot to each page of the help. I will then have to provide text explaining how each dialog works.

The help pages are web pages, not Windows Help format files. I find it is easier to create help this way. It is easier to maintain and easier for the user to access. A web browser provides a very good foundation for displaying this information.

I also created a routine that will allow me to determine if a particular database table is empty or not. I will use this information to enable/disable various menu items, so users cannot display dialogs for which there is insufficient information for them to be used.



 

I keep getting invitations from people I know to be their Facebook friend. I have two objections to Facebook. The first is I don't do social networks, as I consider them a huge waste of time. They initially struck me as a way for people desperate for company to find some, and I could care less about that. Then they struck me as a way to boast about accomplishments. I don't need that; I have this web site.

The second reason I don't do social networks is more insidious: when you click on a Facebook 'I like this web site' button on any web site, Facebook immediately sends all your 'private' information to that web site, so the web site knows all about you. Tell me that doesn't sound like 1984 Big Brother or Minority Report. I will never subscribe to that kind of personal invasion.



 

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, 4 October 2010

I have finished installing Delphi 6. It took quite a while because I had to find replacements for some components that were available for Delphi 5 and not for Delphi 6. The spinbox edit field I was using was a Raize component and it turns out there is one in the Samples tab of Delphi 6. That was the easiest of the components to replace, needless to say.

The main problem I had after getting everything installed was actually the main component I use to access the SqLite database engine. The version I was using in Delphi 5 was non-standard, to say the least. Database operations using that component were not done the 'normal' way they usually are in Delphi.

The new version of the database components more closely follow the 'normal' Delphi database model, so I had to rewrite a boatload of code in the application. I have the application working again, but have not tested it on another machine, which was the whole point in this upgrade exercise. I will do that today.



 

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, 1 October 2010

As a last resort to get the soccer program to work on other computers, I attempted to upgrade the components I was using on Delphi 5 to access the database. I was unsuccessful, as there is no latest version that can be installed for Delphi 5. So I took a drastic step - I uninstalled Delphi 5 and installed Delphi 6. I am now in the process of reinstalling components I need for the application into Delphi 6. One set of components is the latest database components and they installed okay.

It isn't all a bed of roses on this, though. The reason I was using Delphi 5 is that I had a set of components for it called the Raize Components. They are a great set of components, but the version I have does not support Delphi 6. So I will have to look around for freeware versions of the spin editor box and the database date/time picker that I used from those components.



 

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