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BLOGical Thoughts Archive

September 2008

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

I am trying to decide if I should create an application in Java, or should use a language I don't know as well, like PHP. If I chose PHP, that pretty much limits the application to running with a web browser. If I chose Java, I can create a windowing application that will run on all operating systems and that can be converted to a web application later, if necessary. Maybe I already have chosen.


I am taking my Dodge to the shop this morning to get the exhaust manifold replaced. I tried starting the car last night, but the battery was dead. I hope that is not an omen of things to come, as that's a fairly new battery. It's just been sitting for a year.


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Monday, 29 September 2008

As part of my 'getting ready for winter' activities, I went up on the roof and switched television antennas. While I was up there, I surveyed the roof itself and determined that after 24 years, I'm due for a new roof. That's an important task for next summer, though.

I hooked up the TV card in my workstation to the outdoor antenna, and I now have most of the digital channels available to this area. What I really need is a better antenna, though.


I am reading a book called 'Effective Java'. It has some good ideas in it, but is hard to follow, as sometimes it ends up using some of the more esoteric pieces of the language. The most intriguing idea the book has presented so far is the use of builders to create a class where normally there would be many overridden constructors, or that uses many 'set' methods after construction. There are several problems doing things that way that the builder design pattern overcomes. I'm itching to find a place where I can apply that pattern. I hope the rest of the book presents more such useful information.


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Friday, 26 September 2008

I got a letter from a firm I did not know I was connected to, indicating that they had lost some backup tapes containing personal information about me while the tapes were being transported to an archive site. I believe I am connected to this firm by my IRA, so the letter is not bogus.

This is the second time something like this has happened to me. Their recommended solution is exactly the same as the last time - free credit monitoring for 2 years. Since I am still having my credit monitored from the last time, I won't have to take their offer. It really upsets me that these people have no security to speak of for this type of thing, though. This information should be treated like the military treats classified information. Apparently, they treat it like any other information.


I was in the doctors office yesterday, watching a nurse struggle with a new information capturing program on her computer. The new program was written by PAML, the company I almost went to work for after Getronics. Considering the quality of their product, I'm glad I didn't work for them.


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Thursday, 25 September 2008

I finally got the exhaust manifold for my Dodge Stealth. I will get it installed next week. It will be very nice to have that car running again.


I was just a bit premature when I announced yesterday that the log reader I was working on was complete. I spent yesterday fixing three bugs that had popped up during testing. I guess I'm not surprised, as the new incarnation was a major, major rewrite of the original, which was a major rewrite of the log reader code I used to base the reader on. I think that now QA will only find small things to complain about.


I think that by now, you all know how I feel about the subverted copyright, trademark and patent system. So in that spirit:

2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics, 2012 Olympics - Go For The Gold in 2012!


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Wednesday, 24 September 2008

We solved all the problems with the log reader I was writing at work. It turns out there were two methods of getting data from the secure web site: subscription messaging and query messaging. I was using subscription messaging, since that is what the log reader I based this one on was using. It turns out that model is very limited. When I switched to query messaging, I just send the message start time and it returns a list of events. Easy peasy, but I didn't know about this until yesterday morning, when I sat down and really read the specification for the communication protocol. If I had done that in the first place, it would have saved a lot of hassle.


I have finally backed up all my digital pictures to the MyBook. If anything happens to the hard disk on my workstation, I will now be able to reclaim all the pictures. One of my problems was that this workstation doesn't seem to see other devices on my LAN. I don't know when that started, but I will be installing (not upgrading) Ubuntu 8.10 on this machine when the upgrade is released next month. Hopefully, that will take care of the LAN problems. If not, I will just have to figure out what the problem is.


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Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The package manager for Fedora 9 is nice looking, but operationally, it pretty much sucks. I was just able to select a package to be installed and it would not let me install it. So I switched to root and the program would not even run. It said it was dangerous and it was shutting down. So how the hell do you add new packages to Fedora?


I spent yesterday working on that log reader. We have it running in three threads now, a main thread that starts a thread for each of the two data streams that are processed. I had to find a way to store cookies in our configuration file and to retrieve them when necessary. The only thing it still won't do is open a subscription that has already been established. I will be working on that today.


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Monday, 22 September 2008

I installed Fedora 9 on my test machine over the weekend. I now have Linux Mint, Vector Linux 5, openSUSE 11,0, Ubuntu 8.04 and Fedora 9 on that box.

I also installed something called Workbench on another machine. Workbench is based on Xubuntu and it contains just about every programming environment known to Linux. I will be evaluating that in the future.


I spent time at the Coeur d'Alene Wooden Boat Show at the Coeur d'Alene Resort on Saturday. Got pictures of practically every boat in the show and I spent most of my time yesterday prepping them and getting them up on this web site. I had to do the thumbnail photos three times. It just shows that you should never assume anything. In my case, I assumed a picture size of 50, then 75, but it was actually 100.


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Friday, 19 September 2008

The Coeur d'Alene Wooden Boat festival starts today. I haven't been to one in several years. I think I will go to this one. of course, that means I have to find a place to park downtown tomorrow...

The Rathdrum Heritage Festival is also on this Saturday (only). That's the one where few if any Dutch oven cooks will show up.


I haven't seen the exhaust manifold for the Dodge that I paid for about a month ago. I am going to find out where it is. I need to get that car running before the snow flies. I am also going to finish the steering wheel on the Plymouth so that one can at least be moved around. Bottom line is, there is lots for me to do over the weekend.


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Thursday, 18 September 2008

I have had calves in my front yard for two nights in a row. They apparently duck under the wire and go visit the neighborhood. I don't mind that, as they crop down the grass. It's just that they also tend to push over things that are not tough to push, and they fertilize places that shouldn't be fertilized. I may have to talk to my neighbor about the breach.

For three days in a row, I have seen a 5 point buck up at the top of the hill as I drive around the corner. I guess he has figured out no one will bother him up there.


Recession or Depression? You figure it out. I have.


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Wednesday, 17 September 2008

I spent another 8 hours working on that log file reader and I am pretty much burnt out. We are going to rework the reader so it uses two threads and no stream timeouts. I know that the no timeout solution works, so all we have to do is have a thread for each stream. Harder than it sounds, though. One of the other programmers is helping with this, as it is virgin territory as far as I am concerned.


Saturday is Software Freedom Day. Celebrate by telling everyone you know how much safer and better open source software is than a buggy, leaky proprietary operating system sold by a convicted monopolist from Redmond, WA. Give away copies of Linux, if you can. Just keep spreading the word.


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Tuesday, 16 September 2008

I am still working on the log reader. I have it working for all older status, errors and alerts, but it can't seem to process new data as it is added. I will try to fix that today. So far, I have over 24 hours into fixing this bug and I'm not done. That's more time than it took to create the log reader in the first place. Of course, I didn't know I would need two secure data streams at that point.


At the North Idaho Linux Users Group meeting, one of my friends showed me a new mouse he had gotten for his notebook computer. It's a Logitech mouse called the Nano. It's a wireless laser mouse with the smallest dongle I have ever seen in my life. It has two extra buttons - one sends an Alt-left arrow and the other sends an Alt-right arrow. Those are the two keystrokes I use all the time, as I navigate backward and forward through web pages. The mouse wheel does NOT click down as a middle mouse button like other mice. Instead, when you push the mouse wheel down, it enables/disables the wheel detent. Just behind the wheel is a small button that is actually the middle mouse button.

Frank told me I could get one of these mice on the Internet for between $40 to $60. I found it at NewEgg for $51 with $8 shipping. After the NILUG meeting, I went over to Costco, just on the off-chance they had it. Imagine my surprise when they did have it - for $45. So I got one. I really like it. One nice feature is you can actually turn it off when you aren't using it. Another is you can store the dongle inside the mouse, so you won't lose them by being separated.


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Monday, 15 September 2008

I spent some of my time this weekend working on the log reader I am doing at work. I got it to read two secure streams on Friday, but I somehow broke it when I added start time processing to it. Except for the start time processing, I got it straightened out yesterday.

Unlike 99.9% of the log readers out there, this one can only have an updated time request sent to the server if you close the current stream and open a new one. I have to figure out a way to only save the last time processed if the reader is shutting down or is killed. That may not be easy.


We had a small turnout at the North Idaho Linux Users Group meeting, but they were definitely interested in what I had to say about how to build a shell script. I have posted that talk on the NILUG web site.

There were a couple of reasons for the small turnout. Several of the members were on vacation, but it also seems there is a feud going on within our ranks. The feud is not about the group - it is about where the members work, but you would think that a spat like that would not show up in a group whose sole purpose is to help others get started with our favorite operating system. Guess not.


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Friday, 12 September 2008

The log reader I did a couple of weeks ago, that reads XML data from a secure web site, has a problem. There are three kinds of data it is supposed to gather - status, errors and alerts. It seems it was gathering status and errors just fine, but was missing alerts. Turns out, getting alerts is a bit tricky, and you can't get all three at the same time. So I have to make a massive change to the program so it will open and read streams from two secure connections instead of just one. What fun....


I hope to see you all at the North Idaho Linux Users Group meeting tomorrow.


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Thursday, 11 September 2008

I am still working on the talk on creating shell scripts that I will be giving on Saturday at the North Idaho Linux Users Group. The hardest part is to know when to stop, as there is a lot of information I could impart on the subject. Since it will be an introduction, I will try very hard from getting too specific. For instance, I will talk about flow control (if and case statements), but not get into specifics about them. I will provide a classic example of how to use case statements, though. The Towers of Hanoi is a good example of both the use of the case statement and of recursion.

I will also touch on internal shell commands and on shell variables. The whole object of the talk is to make non-programmers comfortable with writing a shell script, which is essentially a programming task.


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Wednesday, 10 September 2008

I am now trying to track down a problem at work that we can't find with normal debugging methods. The way I am doing it involves running three virtual machines that talk to a fourth server. I add a new Java .jar file to one machine, then run a test on two of them, verify the results on the third and in a web page that is monitoring the fourth. If the test doesn't fail, I revert two of the VMs to their original snapshot, load up a different .jar file and do it all again. I keep doing this until the test fails. We will then know that whatever was added to that last .jar file is the problem. Kind of a gross way to figure that out, but we're hoping that it works.


In Hayden, the way to get what you want is to keep pushing and keep pushing and possibly bribing. After the projects were presented several times before the city council and were finally approved, we will be getting a WalMart we don't want and don't need, and a big housing development we don't want and don't need. See how that works? Just like the feds.


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Tuesday, 9 September 2008

I had to change offices at work because they were replacing the air conditioner for the server room, which is right next door to my office. I changed on Wednesday and I was supposed to change back yesterday. Didn't happen. The air conditioning guys discovered the unit they were going to install was defective. So they had to order another one. I will be lucky if I get back to my office by next Monday. I am not very happy about this, needless to say.

I am now learning how to make registry changes to a remote Windows computer and how to define network policies for a particular network device. I have to say that this job is not boring...


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Monday, 8 September 2008

I went to the Spokane Fair on Saturday. It was okay and larger than in the past, but it and the North Idaho Fair are missing something they had in the past. I just can't define it, but neither fair was as interesting as they used to be. Maybe it's me.


For the last month or two, I have had someone searching for an exhaust manifold for my Dodge Stealth. This was necessary because Dodge no longer makes them. They have found the manifold and, in anticipation of getting it installed, I charged up the battery on the car (it's been sitting for 10 months).

When I attempted to start the car, it was dead. I then took a close look at the battery connections. They were both corroded, but the positive connection had literally corroded in half and was not making a good connection. Those connectors are usually made of a soft metal (like the negative one is), but the positive one was made of steel and the battery acid ate it up.

I went to Shuck's and got a new connector, cleaned everything up, clamped it all together again and the car started up like it hadn't started since yesterday. One of the reasons I love that thing, even if it is 17 years old.

After I got the car running again, I pulled out the pressure washer and washed away all the yellowjacket nests that had been created in weird places in the car. Where I live, if a vehicle is parked for more than a week, chances are good it will have some yellowjacket nests. Anyway, I'm pretty sure I got them all, so I'm ready to get the manifold installed.

So now all I need is for the exhaust manifold to show up, and I will have an alternative winter car.


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Friday, 5 September 2008

I have finished the log reader I was working on. It still needs to be debugged, though. It seems to run, but it isn't picking up any data from the SQL Server. I hope to get it working completely today. This will be the fastest I have written one of these, so that must mean I am really learning how to do it. Of course, the fact that I have to debug it also means I'm not quite to the 'expert' point.


I may hit the Spokane Fair this weekend. I have other stuff to do, but the fair only happens once a year, so I will take time out to go to it.


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Thursday, 4 September 2008

I have decided that if I want something done in a timely manner, that I do it myself. I got a promise on Tuesday that my work computer would be moved early Wednesday morning to my temporary office and that it would be running for me when I tried to VPN into it at 7am. Of course, that didn't happen. I had to email my boss to get it running. It was 8:20am before I could actually VPN in, and that left me with 20 minutes to work before I had to leave the house for a doctor's appointment. Needless to say, I didn't get much work done.

Regarding the doctor: if yours ever wants to spray liquid nitrogen on a growth on your arm to kill it, just grin and bear it. The target is guaranteed to itch or ache all day and turn purple by the next day. Really ugly, but it beats removal by surgery.


I am still working on the command line tutorial about building shell scripts. There is so much to cover, I don't think I will be able to do that in one session. As I finish each part, I will publish them on the NILUG site.


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Wednesday, 3 September 2008

At work, I have written log file readers that read fields from databases, and I have written log file readers that read information from XML files. Now I have been tasked with reading log file information from a database, and more detail from XML data stored in a field of that database. It seems my assignments get more and more interesting, as well as more and more complex.

Oh, and here's a hint: if their product is as badly organized as their database, I would stay completely away from the Vipre Antivirus and Antispyware program. I don't base that just on the layout of their SQL Server database layout: their default database is done in Microsoft Access!


My office is right next door to one of our server rooms. That room has been suffering from inadequate air conditioning since before I started work there. They are finally going to do something about that. So, I have had to move from my office for three days while they install a better A/C unit. I will temporarily reside right next door to our CTO, so I'd better be on my best behavior.


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Tuesday, 2 September 2008

I am working on a talk for the next North Idaho Linux Users Group meeting. It will show everyone how to create a shell script and what you can do with one. I hope to do more topics like this one and post it on the NILUG web site.


I am setting up another web site. This one is for the North Idaho Dutch Oven Group (NIDOG). Instead of using WordPress like this web site uses, I am creating the new site using Joomla. I have to say that it is a lot easier to install Joomla than it is to install WordPress. Once installed, though, you have to do a lot of cleanup, as it installs with Joomla content, which has to be removed. That's what I'm working on right now. I will then add articles and pictures from the old Inland Empire Dutch Oven Society to the new NIDOG site. Finally, I will change the DNS records so the outside world will be able to access the site without having to know an arcane URL for where the site is.


I also worked on Fall chores over the weekend. I made a place in the garage for my teardrop trailer and put the trailer away for the winter. I am also charging the battery on my Dodge Stealth so I can run it down to the shop to get the exhaust manifold changed.


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