BLOGical Thoughts Archive

October 2011

Monday, 31 October 2011

This weekend I worked on the soccer program. The use of the team name in various dialogs was not right, so I fixed that. I fixed several other bugs, too. I'm having some trouble with updating a combo box when a new soccer team is added, however. I have tried everything I can think of to update the box, except for one, which I will try tonight. There are times when I really don't like databases, and this may be one of them.


I've been watching the fifth season of webisodes of The Guild, because I think Felicia Day is great. In that season, the guild goes to a gamecon. Not only is it hilarious, they meet Brent Spiner, Nathan Fillion, Erin Gray, Richard Hatch, Kevin Sorbo, Zachary Levi, Wil Wheaton, Stan Lee and others. I don't know how she got that many SciFi folks into a web series, but it is a whole lot of fun.


This is my last week of full time work. I still have a few items to clean up, although I have turned over most of my responsibilities to other as of last week. It should be an interesting week.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Friday, 28 October 2011

It looks like I was wrong when I said that the last bonus I got from the company I work for would be the last one I ever got. It looks like I will get another one on Monday. And I will be retiring on Friday.


One of the things I will have to do after I stop working over in Post Falls is to change the way I get and listen to podcasts. I currently download the podcasts using gPodder, move the downloaded files to a thumb drive, then move them to my machine at work so I can listen to them during the day.

After next Friday, I will have to move the podcast list to a local multimedia program, such as Amarok or Audacious. I will then be able to use that program to play the podcasts directly on this workstation.


I am cleaning out my technical library - getting rid of books I will never use. I intend to give them away at the North Idaho Linux Users Group meeting a week from Saturday. So if you're interested, There will be some book giveaways and some notepads, too.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Thursday, 27 October 2011

I have decided to remove Terra Nova from my DVR schedule. The show just isn't very entertaining. I will have to find something else to fill the schedule. Of course, I don't seem to be watching normal TV as much anymore. Right now, I am going through Bones, Season Four - again.

I have a dozen DVDs I will donate to the public library today. Some of them are duplicate copies and some are just plain terrible movies. The former includes When Worlds Collide and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The latter includes Doom and Drop Dead Gorgeous. I should be more careful about the movies I purchase.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

I need to get back to learning about how to program for Android. I have at least 3 projects that can be done for that operating system. My main problem with that right now is that for every unit sold by ten companies selling Android devices, Microsoft gets a cut. In the real world, that's called extortion, but they call it 'patent licensing'.

Whatever comes of the interference of M$ and Apple in the open source world, I will still do open source projects. I would like to use Java for them, but that's another sore point with me - Java is now controlled by Oracle, the M$ of the database world. Maybe I should just stick to writing programs in C.


As announced yesterday, there will now be a retirement luncheon for me a week from Friday. I'm okay with the free food; I just hope they don't go overboard with the retirement part.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

At work I am preparing to transfer support of the programs I maintain to two other people. There are two, since the programs are written in two languages - C# and Delphi. The people who will maintain the programs have not really used those languages, but they are smart enough to handle the maintenance anyway.

The program written in C# is a service for Windows that monitors SQL Server usage. It can handle up to about 10 different SQL Server machines, creating its own log of the results. That log is in turn used by our manager to display pertinent information about what's going on, as well as permanently storing the information in a database. There is a visual configuration program, also written in C#, that is used to configure the service. I wrote both of the programs from scratch

One of the Delphi programs was written by someone else and it produces reports about the contents of the database. It uses a Crystal Reports ActiveX component to query the database and display the results as both graphs and text. While using Crystal Reports was convenient at the time the program was written, it is definitely not convenient now. It was a huge chunk of work at the time, so it would be that now if it was rewritten. Especially since we have about 250 reports that would need to be rewritten, too. So we maintain the reports program and add small changes to it. We also maintain several other Delphi programs associated with reports.

I have meetings tomorrow and the next day to formally transfer control of those programs over to the new maintainers. And that will be another item checked off of my end of work list.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Monday, 24 October 2011

As you can see from the recipe posted below, I made soup over the weekend. This time it was an old-fashioned bean soup with ham in it. It is easy to make, but it takes a long time to make it. I think the wait is worth it, though. Much, much better than Campbell's bean soup.

Next weekend, I may try a new main dish. All I have to do is figure out what it will be.


Here is a picture of the very first autonomous mass storage device I ever had and got working. I had mass storage before in the form of a portable cassette player, but this one was all automatic.

The device uses audio tapes and the Kansas City recording standard. That standard used audio tones to record and play back digital information. It used four cycles of 1200 Hertz sine wave for a '0' bit and eight cycles of a 2400 Hertz sine wave as a '1' bit.

The storage device plugged into an S-100 bus computer. The output from the interface was serial and the input was parallel - the designer ran out of real estate on the interface, so he couldn't do parallel for both input and output.

I have had this device for well over 30 years, as I think I bought it in the late 70's. I am now flushing out junk like this, and since I haven't even turned on an S-100 bus computer in 27 years, this went to the recyclers on Saturday. All I have now is a couple of pictures of it.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Great Northern Bean Soup

Unless you have a lot of briquettes, this recipe should probably be done over a camp stove. It takes 4 hours to make.

Place the beans and enough water to cover in the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the beans soak for 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans.

Put the beans back in the Dutch oven, along with the water and the ham hock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat; cover and simmer for 2 hours. Do not boil. Skim any fat if necessary.

Add the onion, carrot, parsley, potatoes, salt and pepper, then simmer for 1 hour longer. Do not boil. Remove the meat and bones from the soup.

Remove the meat from the bones, dice it and return to the soup. Heat through. Garnish with parsley or chives.

Friday, 21 October 2011

I didn't get anything done at home last night, as I went to the monthly meeting of the North Idaho Mineral Club last night. It was interesting and crowded; the meeting place we are using at the Lake City Center is too small for the people we are seeing at the meeting. We are investigating a new meeting place. We may end up back at the Post Falls Senior Center.

We had our standard silent auction and we had a show and tell about picture rock. Most of that rock comes from only two or three areas. I ended up with some mahogany obsidian that I can slab and make cabochons with.


I have exactly two more working weeks before I retire. From the sneakiness of my co-workers, I suspect they have some plans for me before I leave. That's just a guess, though.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Thursday, 20 October 2011

I worked on Sabayon Linux 7 last night. The start menu is strictly Gnome, with only one level of submenus. That's something that needs to be changed. I am used to the sub-submenus in Linux Mint - they make things cleaner and easier to navigate. One of the things I did was to add the KDE games to the distro and because of the single submenu system, all the games are in one huge submenu. The menu needs to be scrolled to get from the top to the bottom, which is really inconvenient. It makes for a very cluttered appearance, and one where it's hard to find what you want.

When I downloaded the games, I used the Sabayon package manager. That application seems to be well organized but not completely intuitive. And the packages it downloaded seemed to take much longer and there were more of them than in other distributions.

For a more complete review of Sabayon 7, see the article I have linked to below.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

I downloaded Sabayon 7 Gnome last night. It was a 1.6GB download, so it took a few hours. I installed it in a virtual machine this morning. I will look at it more closely tonight, but one of the things I have already noticed is that is installs XBMC (XBox Media Center). I don't like it when people just assume they know what you want when it comes to stuff like that. We shall see what other things they have done 'for your own good'.

I'm not so sure I like their package manager. It strikes me as a bit clunky and hard to use. That may be because it does some very different actions than Synaptic in Ubuntu and Linux Mint do.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

I was reading the latest Linux Format magazine last night. One of the Linux distributions that they included on DVD this month is Sabayon 6, which is derived from Gentoo Linux. Their description of the desktop environment, including their use of Gnome 2.32, intrigued me, so I decided to install the distro in a virtual machine.

It took me a couple of tries to install Sabayon, as there was more than one image on the DVD. Several of them appear to be command line only. After I got the right one installed, imagine my surprise when I found that the image that Linux Format has supplied did not make use of Gnome - it uses LXDE instead. I figured "what the heck" and went ahead with it anyway.

After the installation, I did an update, as these DVD images are sometimes out of date somewhat. There was one package to update, so I did that. When the package installer finished, it told me there were "some more" packages that needed updating. Which is why I left it to run overnight, as "some" turned out to be 576 packages. So I haven't had time to really evaluate the distro. I will probably do that tonight. In the meantime, I will go on the Sabayon web site to see about an image that has Gnome in it.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Monday, 17 October 2011

In the past, when I added new recipes to this web site, I back-dated the addition so it would not show up on this front page. As you can see from my prior entry, I have decided not to do that anymore. From this point on, anything I add to the web site should be documented here.

The soup recipe is really pretty good, so it's nice to have it up where people can see it. As I find more recipes, I will post them in the same way.


I watched the other DVD I had ordered from Amazon. It's called First Men on the Moon, and it's really quite good. It's funny and fun. I think I like it better than The Mouse That Roared.

I still have the final Harry Potter DVD on backorder and I just backordered the latest David Weber book about Honor Harrington.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Friday, 14 October 2011

The other science fiction book I got from Amazon is David Weber's A Beautiful Friendship. It is one of the books in the Honor Harrington universe. It tells the story of Honor's ancestor, Stephanie Harrington, and how she discovered as a young girl that their newly-colonized planet has another sentient species: treecats. She not only discovers this, she is adopted by one of them. The book details their adventures.

This book is not quite as good as the other Honor Harrington books, but it is definitely a necessary one, in order to completely tell how the Kingdom of Manticore came to depend on the treecats and how the treecats first interacted with the humans.


I got The Mouse That Roared last night in the mail. I watched it, too. It's only 82 minutes long, but it is a fun tail. Not quite as funny as I recall it, but the last time I watched the movie, we were much closer to 1959 and those sensibilities.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Thursday, 13 October 2011

I got a couple of books from Amazon the other day. One of them is Rogue, by Michael Z. Williamson. It is the latest in a series of science fiction books about a world whose political and social configuration is libertarian. The first book of the series, Freehold, is an absolutely fabulous book. The following book, The Weapon, is pretty good. The current book is very good.

Rogue describes what happens to the main character of The Weapon, after he returns to Freehold from his covert operations on Earth during the Earth-Freehold war. He and his daughter are determined to stay under the radar from his former bosses in the military, but they fail. He is requested by his former boss to stop another member of the Earth infiltration from going rogue, committing assassinations all over the galaxy. The problem is that once on the assassin's trail, he can't quite finish the job.

This book is much better than The Weapon. I think the major objection I had with that book was it was written in first person. You have to be very good to pull that off well, and Williamson isn't quite up to that. Rogue, however, redeems him in my eyes. I look forward to more books in that universe.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

I was unable to track down (locally) a pair of Crocs shoes to help with my sore heel. So I got a pair of Dr. Scholl's shoes with air cushion support. These shoes may very well help with the problem. We shall see.


I watched the latest episode of Terra Nova last night. The recording was pretty good, with only a couple of dropouts towards the end. I don't know that there is anything I can do about that at this point. I could add another antenna, since my HDHomeRun box has two inputs, but I don't know if another antenna would be any better than the one I have.

Terra Nova is a bit of a disappointment. I was kind of looking for a series with better writing, but what I am getting is the same stuff that was pumped out for series like Lost. At least they haven't presented us with any unsolved plot lines, like Lost did every stinking week. I will continue to watch Terra Nova, but the quality of the show must get better or I will abandon my support for it.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Last night my DVR successfully recorded Castle and Terra Nova, using the new antenna configuration. Terra Nova would have been the program I would have had problems with under the old configuration. The old configuration showed 100% signal lock on Fox with really unreasonable dropouts in the signal. So many dropouts that the recorded program would be un-watchable.


I've been having trouble with a sore heel. I decided to give myself a break and get a pair of shoes that would help with the problem. Let me just say it is practically impossible to find a store around the Idaho Panhandle that carries Crocs. I guess I will have to order some over the Internet.

Speaking of ordering over the Internet, yesterday I ordered three DVDs: The Mouse That Roared, First Men in the Moon and Harry Potter Deathly Hallows, Part 2. The first two are old movies: Mouse is from 1959 and Men is from 1964. I have seen them both and have enjoyed them both, so I figured I would add them to my collection. The Harry Potter movie is a pre-order and is just a given: I have all the others and I have not seen this one.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Monday, 10 October 2011

I finally moved my broadcast TV antenna connection around. Instead of having the RG-6 cable go to the computer room, it now goes to the bedroom, which is about 50 feet closer to the antenna. Since the antenna is powered, that means the power is 50 feet closer to the antenna and I get a better signal. The HDHomeRun tuner is also now in the bedroom.

The downside to that is instead of running a one foot cable from the tuner to the LAN router, I now have a 50 foot Ethernet cable running from the tuner to the router. That doesn't seem to be nearly as big a problem as the other configuration, though. I missed Fringe and Bones last week because of a weak signal. That will no longer happen.


I am working on the soccer program again. First up was to fix a bug that occurred when the program was not running on my development machine. Now that it runs in another environment, I will do some screen captures so I can update the help pages.


Steve Jobs Didn't


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Friday, 7 October 2011

Today is the last day of my vacation. Actually, this has been a sort of test to see if I can stand retirement. I have discovered that I can stand it, but I will definitely have to have some projects I can work on.

I intend to get back on the soccer program. I just haven't had the time or the inclination to work on it, as other projects came first. After I finish up two small projects today, I should be able to devote more time to it.


The general meeting of the North Idaho Linux Users Group is tomorrow. This will be the first one I've attended in several months and it should be interesting. Most of the members have not seen my new laptop, so I will have to put up with more comments about how a 12 pound machine is not really a 'laptop'. That's okay, as it has more power than most desktops.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Hot Rod Cafe in Post Falls, ID has been an icon and a focal point of the local old car and hot rod crowd for 14 years. That restaurant closed its doors for good yesterday, citing lack of business. The Hot Rod Cafe was the primary sponsor of the River City Rod Run, and its status is in limbo at this point.

I ate at the Hot Rod Cafe several times. Its food was good, but a bit pricey. Unfortunately, the place was just not convenient for me as a lunch spot. It was also a gathering place for the folks with classic cars and I never got to participate in any of those gatherings. I hope that something good comes of the closure, as there are too many similar closures that have happened around here since the Recession started.


I was sorry to hear that Steve Jobs has died. Even though he was just a tech marketer, he was really, really good at it. I can still recall seeing him and Woz sitting at a table outside the auditorium where the Homebrew Computer Club met, hawking the Apple I boards. And how he and Woz went missing for a while, and when they showed up again, it was to show off the Apple II, the worlds first real appliance microcomputer. He was incredibly more successful than Bob Marsh, the founder of Processor Technology, or Adam Osborne, the founder of Osborne Computer. Fans of the hardware and software you marketed will miss you, Steve.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

I'm not sure if you can tell, but I am on vacation this week. I have been hanging around the place, doing odd jobs and chores that have been put off way too long.

One of things I have done this week is connected with the 1952 Plymouth. Gasoline with ethanol in it does not do good things to the old gaskets in the carburetor, so I ordered a carburetor kit from Napa. I then went next door and got some material from an upholstery shop so I could replace the separator between the rear seat and the trunk. The old separator was 59 years old, made of cardboard and just kind of fell apart. It must have been the 1,300 miles I have put on the car since it was restored.


I made some potato leek soup for lunch yesterday. I had forgotten how good that is if it is made properly. I even followed the recipe without knowing it (I thought the 1/2 onion was an extra). The soup was so good I even had it for dinner.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

When I upgraded my DVR, the settings for no commercials were reset. The only problem with that is I can't remember where the setting is. It could be in the backend, but I suspect it is in the frontend somewhere. I need to find it and turn it off, so I can get through recordings without listening to the mindless pap those boobs throw at us.

I am in the process of reconfiguring my DVR setup. I will be moving the tuner from the computer room to my bedroom, which is much closer to the antenna. Doing that will allow me to get a better signal for all channels, as the antenna is powered and the power supply should be as close to the antenna as possible.

I will also run a cable from the bedroom to the computer room so I can hook the HDHomeRun tuner back up to the router. I will leave the DVR computer in the computer room.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


For Those Who Weren't Around at the Beginning

Windows Full Circle

Monday, 3 October 2011

The reports program that I maintain at work has a problem with some of the reports it generates. I personally think that the problem is not the program, but the Crystal Reports DLL that it uses to actually access and process the database data. At any rate, this problem crops up under only one version of Windows 7 - the Enterprise edition. The problem disappears when you cut down on the number of records you process, so I don't think it's something I will have to try to fix soon. If it actually is a DLL problem, it's something that I can't fix at all.


I have been trying to transfer an Internet domain from Network Solutions to my own registrar for well over a month. I've been unable to do so and I'm not quite sure who the problem is. All I know is that now the request has expired and I have to start all over. Since I maintain the web site, I figured that I may as well maintain the domain registration, but that appears to be tougher than it sounds.


Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software