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BLOGical Thoughts Archive

September 2009

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

I have started looking at content management systems again. I have mySQL and Apache installed on my workstation, so it is easy to evaluate those systems that depend on mySQL. I have looked a bit at Joomla and found it to be a bit intimidating when it comes to configuration.

Last night, I downloaded Drupal. So far, I have unpacked it into the web directory, but I haven't yet installed it. I started to, but it was asking me for the name of the database to use. I don't have one set up for it, so I stopped right there and went to bed. I will continue installing it tonight.

One of Drupal's prime documenters was interviewed on a tllts.org podcast this week, so that is what prompted me to take a look. It turns out he used to work on Joomla, but switched to Drupal because the developers were better organized. I hope that translates to a better organized program, too.


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, 29 September 2009

At work I've been testing our software installers against 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate Edition. I must say these two versions of the proprietary, expensive operating system do absolutely nothing to change my opinion of Windows in general. Each of those O/Ses locked up three times while I was testing. They are bloated, the toolbar takes up twice the screen real estate of the one in Windows XP and, as usual, all the configuration options have been changed so radically it is practically impossible to find them. Did I ever mention how much I despise this operating system?

The testing did not go well, either. One installer, which works just fine on every other version of Windows, refused to install the software on the 32-bit version of Windows 7. It worked just fine on the 64-bit version. Many of the 'decorations' in the installers are missing in these versions of Windows. Unimportant things like radio buttons, check box buttons, scroll bar buttons and progress bars. Those items show up just fine in other Windows version. So, of course, Windows 7 will be the 'primary operating system of the future'. Even though it breaks a lot of software from the past.

So today I have to document all the problems I found while doing the testing. Wish me luck.


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, 28 September 2009

The weekend went very well. Basically, just about everything I did ended in success. There was only one item that I was unsuccessful with, and I didn't expect it to work, anyway.

I took the formerly-dead computer back to its owner and showed her how to get into Windows 2000 running in a virtual machine. At that point, I should have started re-installing Windows software on the machine, but at her suggestion, I tried just running the applications that were already on the disks, but not in the new Windows registry. Imagine my surprise when Paint Shop Pro 7, Painter 7 and Bryce all ran ok without having to be re-installed. The only failure I had was Adobe Photoshop. That just confirms my opinion of Adobe. I wasn't really expecting anything different from them.

I installed and upgraded a bunch of software on two more of her machines. I got video (VLC) and audio (Banshee) support running on the undead machine. It all went very smoothly.

When I got back from doing that, I got a phone call from one of my sisters. I had given her my mom's old machine with Ubuntu Linux installed on it, and she had a bunch of questions. I was able to answer all but two of them. Those two I had no experience with. Her first question was how do you install a printer driver on Linux? I had her bring up the Printers support dialog and her printer was already there. She was amazed, considering her experience with Windows on that subject.

She also had a bunch of icons on her desktop that 'just showed up there'. I explained to her how to drag them to the trashcan and how to empty the trash. I then had her go into Firefox's Preferences dialog and change the 'download to the Desktop' entry to 'always ask me where to store downloaded files'. She was very happy about that.


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, 25 September 2009

I am doing lots of computer stuff this weekend. On Saturday, I will be at the North Idaho Linux Users Group technical session at F1 For Help in Rathdrum. I have three Ubuntu 9.04 CDs left I would like to give away, so if anyone wants one, show up and I'll give it to you. We'll even help you install it if you wish.

On Sunday, I will take the dead computer that I restored back to its owner. I will be installing a bunch of software on it, as soon as she tells me what she wants installed. Windows programs.

With those two items and all the stuff I need to do around here before the snow flies, it will be a busy weekend.


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, 24 September 2009

Well, I got over my mad about Windows. It hasn't changed my opinion of that so-called operating system, but I got past the problems I was having. I discovered that the installation we were having problems with was missing a file. When the program tried to use a file that wasn't there, it threw an exception. Now that I know about that, I will add some code to the program to ensure that the file is present before proceeding.


I am gathering up more programming tips and will display them here when I get enough of them. Shell programming examples are not out of the question. Even tips on how to use Gimp would not be out of the question.


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, 23 September 2009

By now, I'm sure you all know how I feel about Microsoft Windows. That feeling was re-enforced yesterday, in spades. The whole day yesterday, I attempted to create a virtual machine with a 64-bit version of Windows that would work correctly to allow me to reproduce a problem we are having with one of our installation programs.

I had no problem creating the VM, or getting Windows to work. It was all peripheral to that. 64-bit Windows 2008 server takes up 9GB of disk space. What kind of operating system takes up 9GB of disk space? And since the person who originally created the VM only allocated 12GB of disk space for the C: drive, that left me only 4GB to install Microsoft SQL Server 2008. Yeah, like that really happened.

So I dug up 64-bit Windows 2003 server. That one takes up 6GB of disk space, but the person who created the VM allocated 16GB for C:. So I had a lot of room to install SQL Server 2008 in. I then tried to talk to SS2K8 from outside the VM and it refused to communicate. It can talk to other machines, but appears invisible on our network. So now I have to track down and solve that problem. A whole day of this and I am no closer to actually trying to reproduce the problem I am working on.

Well, I guess it's better than testing someone else's software. It certainly had no effect on my low opinion of Microsoft software.


Silly sign of the day:

This is utterly and completely a coincidence, but it completely sums up my opinions of the software


Free/Open Source Software

"It's Mine, and You Have to Pay (and Pay and Pay) For It"

Local and Other News

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The FLOSS podcast (Free/Libre Open Source Software) for this week was very interesting. Leo LaPorte and Randall Schwartz interviewed Kent Beck, who is the father of Extreme Programming. Not only did he have a lot to say about Extreme Programming and other subjects, he is also a very entertaining person. I hope they have more guests like that in the future.

Several weeks ago on the Nite@Night podcast, Leo and Amber MacArthur interviewed one of the teams that were competing for the NetFlix $1 million prize for improving the accuracy of movie choices. They interviewed the team that apparently had the better algorithm, and the interview was interesting and entertaining. Today, NetFlix announced that the other team had won the prize. It seems they published first, so they 0.1% difference between their algorithm and the other team's made no difference. Well, that's okay with me, as I have no current thoughts of ever taking advantage of that algorithm.


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, 21 September 2009

Down in Dalton Gardens, 4th Street has been shut off to through traffic for a couple of months now. Every time I attempt to go that way, I am prevented, but I also see exactly no construction. Haven't seen any at any time.

There are only three viable routes for me to go to downtown Coeur d'Alene, and 4th Street is my route of choice. Why is it closed? Why do they pull this crap every summer? 4th Street in downtown Coeur d'Alene has also been closed, but at least they did major work on that, and it should be open starting today.

One thing that really sucks about North Idaho is road work. They 'plan' for maximum inconvenience for drivers. A couple of years ago, they had two of the three normal routes to my house blocked. At one point, they had all three routes blocked and I had to go 5 miles north so I could go 5 miles south so I could get to my house. Get your act together, guys.


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, 18 September 2009

Radio Shack used to be a good source for project parts - you could go there and pick up ICs, resistors, LEDs or whatever you needed. I was in a Radio Shack last weekend and saw nothing but cell phones, stereos, computer accessories and other consumer items. Where do we go now for electronic parts?

When I was in college, one of my summer jobs was working for a place called Olsen Electronics. It was sort of a low-grade Radio Shack, but it had all the cool stuff you could get at a parts store - transformers, tubes, capacitors, etc. I miss the parts access, but not the minimum wages. As far as I know, Olsen is gone with the wind, along with all the Newark Electronics parts stores. Maybe I should be glad my home projects are mostly software.


Software Freedom Day is tomorrow. Celebrate it by tossing out that proprietary operating system you pay through the nose for using, and replace it with Linux or one of the free BSD Unixes. Tomorrow is your time to tell the software sharks that what they foist on you is not worth what you pay for it. Use open source software instead.


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, 17 September 2009

Last weekend, I unmounted my LCD TV from the living room wall. The intention was to put the stand back on it, then set it on a two-shelf bookcase alongside the stereo equipment I use for the TV's sound. It took me until last night to actually implement all this. I needed to move all the equipment around, move an end table I was using to hold the stereo, then move in the bookcase. Now that everything is in place, I'm happy. I now have more room to store DVDs (in the bookcase) and the TV is nearly as high up as it was when it was mounted on the wall. Now all I need to do is move all the other excess furniture out of the living room, and it might end up being livable again.


The North Idaho Mineral Club's September meeting is tonight over in Post Falls. I guess I will be home late.


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, 16 September 2009

Now that I have cooled off somewhat, I plan to go down to the county offices and pay their extortion demands with regards to my water rights. "Pay or you lose your water rights", indeed. Maybe I haven't cooled down all that much. It also doesn't help that I am rereading "Little Brother" by Cory Doctorow. His thoughts about the DHS are completely in tune with mine. He may be Canadian, but he has lived in the states and has a fine sense of what should be right and wrong here. He also has a great grasp on our Constitution and Bill of Rights.


The Moon put on an incredible show this morning, along with its sidekick, Venus. The Moon was in the east, just a sliver crescent of light, but you could still see the rest of the orb, too. Venus was parked right along side of the Moon and was very bright. I should have gotten a picture of them.


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, 15 September 2009

I think one of the reasons that the Delphi programming language is declining in use is the lame, twisted way that components are added to the Delphi IDE.

I am creating and populating a VM at work so we can compile one specific program in the VM instead of requiring that it be compiled on the workstation of the guy who wrote the program in the first place. The program in question requires that certain visual components be installed in the Delphi development environment. I have installed one set of components, but am having nothing but trouble with another set.

There are four or five ways to add the components to the IDE, but there are no instructions as to which one to use. It is expected that we use their 'setup' program to install the components, but we have modified the source code of the components to do the stuff we want, so the setup program is out.

I guess I will have to ask the original programmer how to do it. I really hate doing that, but I am just spinning my wheels right now. To top things off, this isn't even the worst of the components that requires installation. I can hardly wait to try installing QlickView.


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, 14 September 2009

The talk I gave on VirtualBox on Saturday went fine. Except for the Internet connection, of course. That's what I get for relying on a wireless connection. I only needed it to download the repository key and 43MB of packages. Once I got that done, the rest of the talk went like clockwork. I hope I demonstrated how well VirtualBox can provide an environment for more than one operating system, and how it can be connected to other system resources, such as hard drives.


You can always tell when Fall rears its head. Last Friday on the way to work, I had to avoid 13 deer between my house and the Hayden Golf Course. Then on Saturday morning, it was 7 deer and two dozen turkeys. They come into inhabited areas in droves in the fall.


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, 11 September 2009

When I was at JavaOne a few months back, I picked up a book titled "Beginning Gimp - From Novice to Professional". I haven't had the time to even look at it until last night.

I am a frequent user of Gimp. I use it for all kinds of things, including resizing the photos on this web site, lightening up some of them, creating graphics for programs, etc. In one night, I have learned more about what I could be doing with Gimp than I have discovered on my own. This is a good book, though it really does start off from the real basics.

The book starts with all the little controls on the various Gimp dialogs. This really helps, as I only knew what a couple of those controls did. For instance, I did not know there was an easy way to get the foreground and background color selections back to black and white. Now I know the secret. I also know how to crop, how to move layers and how to do all kinds of things I usually work around, because I didn't know I could do them in Gimp. If you want to learn about Gimp, this book is a pretty good way to do it.


This morning while I was getting links for today's blog entry, I was also doing an update on my workstation. One of the items that was updated was the Firefox web browser, which I was using at the time. When the update finished, a dialog came up telling me to restart Firefox to use the updated program. I usually ignore these warnings, but this morning I exited from Firefox and started it up again. I was presented with an empty Firefox window - no decorations, menus, no nothing. I tried several times to no avail. So I rebooted the machine and Firefox is now behaving normally. Weird.


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, 10 September 2009

I finished testing the Macintosh installer for our console at work. I must say I don't like most anything about OS/X. If it wasn't based on BSD UNIX, I would give it as much grief as I do to Windows.


We interviewed another Flex programmer yesterday. This one is originally from Seattle, but has been working in the Phillipines. That is where he came from for the interview. He held up pretty well to our all day interview process, even though he couldn't have had much sleep.


My talk on how to install and configure VirtualBox on Ubuntu is this Saturday. I am going over my notes and fine-tuning them, so I don't present any incorrect information. I will be using a computer that has three hard drives: the first drive has Ubuntu installed on it, while the second drive has both Windows 2000 Professional and another version of Linux on it. The third drive is for Windows data. I don't boot from the Windows drive. Instead, I will create a VM with Windows 2000 Professional on it, that allows me to access the drive and the data on the drive. It is much easier to prevent catastrophic changes to the operating system on a VM, since you can snapshot the VM before you try anything that would harm the O/S.


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, 9 September 2009

At work, I am testing the program installer for our data console on operating systems that aren't produced by a company in Redmond, WA. I have tested the install with Ubuntu Linux and now I have to test it with Mac OS/X on a real Macintosh we have in our test lab.

The last time I used a Mac computer was back in the pre-OS/X days; sometime around system 6 or so. The system was really slow and very strange to use. With OS/X, the software has gotten a lot better, but it is a lot like trying to drive a car made in Britain. Everything is there, but you have to find exactly where they hid it before you can drive the damn thing.

OS/X is based on BSD UNIX. You can see some of that in the folder structure, but they have moved all the important stuff to someplace other than where I expect it to be. The bottom line is that it is very frustrating to use, as it almost mimics Linux, which is my operating system of choice. Wish me luck in my testing endeavors. (Now, how do you connect to another machine in the network?)


I have looked at the web statistics for this web site and I am sorry to say that the majority of people who view it are using Micro$oft Windows Exploder. Get a clue, people: that web browser contributes to your problems with viruses, infections, spyware, trojans, adware, etc. Either start using Firefox for (ugh) Windows or install a real operating system on your machine instead of that expensive toy that has so many holes in it you could wear it on a summer day in Death Valley.


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, 8 September 2009

I finished the web page for the talk I will be giving next Saturday. I'm glad I went back and reviewed it, as I had inadvertently left out a dialog box, and there were several places where I forgot to change the language after adjusting other pieces. I also added a final section explaining what to do if the Linux Kernel is updated and VirtualBox stops working for you. I will probably post the page on Saturday so people who miss the meeting can read it and install VirtualBox for themselves.


I got a good start on my fall housecleaning, but I still have a lot to do. Every time I start something like this, I get sucked into side trips. I figure "well, I've gotta do this before I do that", even if it isn't true. I think that is basic human nature, though - justify doing something you are interested in instead of what you really should be doing.


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, 4 September 2009

This is a three day weekend and I plan to do some Fall housecleaning. I have already started by selling the two netbook computers I was not using. There is still a lot to do around here, though. I have a bunch of computer equipment that needs to be recycled and lots of paper to throw out. Have a good holiday weekend. I'll start posting again on Tuesday.


This weekend, I will also finish up the web page I am doing for the talk I will give at the North Idaho Linux Users Group meeting on the 12th. The text is almost complete, but I have to adjust the layout, as this will be a static web page, outside of the CMS I use for the web site.


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, 3 September 2009

I don't know if this is a coincidence or a cause, but here goes. I am now downloading all my podcasts using hpodder. When I play them with Winamp at work, the podcasts from twit.tv all display their contents in a different font than all the others, and there are many characters that get displayed as rectangular boxes (in Windows, that means the character can't be displayed). I should download a single podcast from twit.tv using Juice, so I can compare the displays. I just haven't gotten around to it yet.


With a dual screen Ubuntu workstation and the pictures folder screensaver selected, if the screensaver is activated, each screen shows its own unique picture. Cool - twice the entertainment.


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, 2 September 2009

hpodder is working well for me, but it has its quirks. For instance, it kept attempting to download a podcast that had some kind of problem. I tried using the hpodder command that I thought would fix that (catchup), but it wasn't the right command. The command I used to finally fix this is shown below. Note that the feed is number 29 and the podcast I wanted to skip was number 3.

hpodder setstatus -c 29 -s Skipped 3

Not exactly intuitive, but it worked like a charm.


CrunchBang Linux seems to work fine, except it's a bit rough around the edges. From login to login, it tends to forget things you have set. In the VM I am using to test it, I set the resolution to 1152 x 864. That worked fine, but when I logged out and then back in, the resolution went back to 800 x 600. That's pretty annoying. I am wondering if it does the same thing if it was installed on a real machine.


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, 1 September 2009

I got the latest issue of Linux Format in the mail last night. Ordinarily, this is not a big event, because the DVD that comes with the magazine usually has the latest major (boring) Linux distros on it. This time, though, the featured distro is something called CrunchBang Linux.

CrunchBang Linux is based on Ubuntu and is geared for intermediate and advanced Linux users. It uses OpenBox instead of Gnome for its desktop, and it has more command line tools than most distros. It puts a system information panel right on the desktop as default. It does not come with Openoffice.org: it has lighter weight replacements for those programs instead. It uses the Abiword word processor, Gnumeric spreadsheet, Claws email program, PCMan file manager and RTorrent bit torrent program.

I have created a virtual machine for CrunchBang and installed it. I will be taking a look at this distro and will let you know what I think about 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