Archive: October, 2006

Eliminating Procrastination through GSD

I have some homework that’s due by midnight tonight. One would think that since this homework has a deadline so near and since I know it will take me about two hours worth of work to get it done that I would have picked it up first thing, right? Well, I am really good at finding things to do when there is a task I don’t want to work on. I filled out the rebate form for a product that was recently delivered and got it ready to go. I listened to a podcast while I looked up some information for another assignment that’s due in a couple of weeks that I haven’t started yet. I had some candy and I drank some water. I looked into the newest version of WordPress and the steps needed to upgrade. I noticed that there was a new version of Freevo just released and that got me thinking about DirectFB and df_xine. I looked and saw that DirectFB just released 1.0-rc2 and I downloaded that and started it compiling. I wrote a post for PayPerPost, and I decided to blog about how I’m procrastinating too much.

It’s time to start getting stuff done. I still haven’t decided exactly how I am going to implement it, whether I go paper or digital. Expect progress reports to come.

Arch Linux, Old Laptops, Overpriced Cords, and RAM

So I have been slowly learning how to do things the “Arch Linux Way” these past couple of days. I am really impressed with the way it is set up. I still haven’t run into a package that I want that isn’t already in the repositories, so I haven’t had occasion to compile my own software or make any packages yet under Arch. I hope that process is as smooth as everything else so far.

My brand new Nova Tech mini PCI card arrived today, and I was really excited to try it out. I got the kernel module installed and gave it a go. It couldn’t see anything. So I started doing some research. It turns out that the Dell Latitude c600 requires an additional tiny little hirose u.fl cable. You’d think a thin little 4-inch long cable would cost maybe between $3 and $5, but that’s not the case. Dell seems to have forgotten that people might actually need this part and have kindly removed any mention of it from their website. Reports I read stated that calling tech support results in stupefied silence. The item has become a wonderful specialty part that some companies are selling for as much as $40! I found one on eBay for $7.77 plus $3 for shipping. I was hoping to just pop into Fry’s and grab one, but now I have to wait another week for one to come in from Rhode Island.

Speaking of Fry’s, I wanted to check out their prices on 256MB sticks of PC100 SODIMM RAM. So I poured over their confusing grid of memory prices until an associate finally acknowledged me. I asked him what the cheapest price for the RAM I needed was. He punched i up into the computer and then called someone else. I couldn’t hear the conversation. Then he turned back around and said they didn’t have any! I thought he might tell me that all the good priced RAM was gone, but not that I couldn’t get it at all! I only have 64MB right now and I get programs dying for lack of RAM.

One last thing… I was all set to get this ultra-portable laptop ready to go today because all I needed was the proprietary Dell IDE connector that arrived in the mail today. I had to preload the OS onto the hard drive because the laptop I was installing it into has no drives but the single hard drive. I got everything set up to the point where I could connect it to the network and transfer the rest of the files onto it that way. I went to install it and it was too thick! I hadn’t even considered that that old laptop would use the slim form factored hard drives found in current systems. So all that work was for nothing. Now I’m looking for another hard drive.

“As Is” Gamble Pays Off Big

I bought a 20 GB laptop hard drive off of eBay a week or so ago. I was looking for the cheapest way to get a Dell Latitude C600 back on its feet. It is a pretty snappy machine considering that I got it for free. It had no hard drive or even hard drive connectors, only one stick of 64 MB RAM, a pretty nice battery, and no wifi. So I had my work cut out for me. I ended up paying a total of twenty dollars and some cents for this hard drive. It was sold “as is” which basically can mean one of two things on eBay:

  1. I am selling a lot of products and am in too much of a hurry to test them all
  2. or

  3. I am a scammer and can sell broken crap without my buyers having any recourse

Fortunately for me the laptop arrived on the same day as the proprietary dell adapter for IDE drives. When I plugged it in it was recognized by the BIOS. I booted up Slax from a CD and the NTFS filesystem still had files on it. They all looked like the usual Windows 2000 files. I repartitioned the drive and formatted it. I ran badblocks on the drive and it didn’t find anything wrong. It looks like I got lucky! Now comes the difficult decision. What distro should I put on here. It’s a 700MHz Pentium 3 CPU. I plan on buying 256MB of ram for it, but so far I don’t have more than the 64MB it came with. At the moment I am leaning toward Arch Linux because it seems customizable like Slackware, but looks like it might be updated more often. I am apprehensive to switch away from Slackware, but I figure I ought to experiment with something new. I’m afraid Ubuntu would be too slow. But that’s probably more Gnome and KDE’s fault than anything else.

Internet Explorer 7 Released

IE7 LogoMaking web pages used to be fun. I started back in the old days around 1996 with my first attempts to learn HTML. It wasn’t complicated. There weren’t very many tags. There was no such thing as CSS. You just made invisible tables to position everything. Life was good. You didn’t have anything so complicated that it “looked wrong” in another browser. Then things started to change. People started using Microsoft Internet Explorer and making their web pages with it as their rendering tester. After their designs were finished they would start getting complaints about how their site was all messed up in Netscape Navigator (that’s what the web browser was called back then). So instead of trying to make their site work right in all browsers (which is still hard today) they just slapped a little image on their site that said “This page best viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer Version X.”

There has been a push for web standards in the hope that pages might render the same on all browsers. No browser implements all of the standards correctly, unfortunately, but some didn’t even try. Internet Explorer has historically been the most popular among web users, but at the same time the worst when it came to standard compliance. The biggest problem with Microsoft Internet Explorer, though, has been that it had been years since it was updated with any new features. New technologies have emerged that were simply unsupported in the most widely used browser in the world. It appears that IE7 seeks to change that. I still don’t recommend that people use it over Firefox, but at least with the world shifting to a more feature-rich browser web designers can finally start using the advanced technologies that have been supported by Firefox, Opera, Safari, and others for years now.

Maybe Microsoft Internet Explorer’s best contribution to the Internet will be that it makes web design fun again. Let’s home it doesn’t end up like IE6 in a couple of years: ignored and outdated.

Linux Flash Player 9 Beta Released

Over the past few years of waiting and watching many sites slowly switching to a reliance on Flash 8, ampoule Linux users have been left out in the cold. Adobe originally promised a version of Flash 8 for Linux, cialis but then they decided to jump over that release and just work on getting a Linux version of Flash 9 out the door. I can say that in my preliminary usage of the new plugin it is much more stable even though it is still in beta. It is more stable than Flash 7 for Linux (which kept crashing Firefox). So I say upgrade now to Flash 9 for Linux and enjoy a more stable, more compatible Flash experience online.

Walking Music for Everyone!

Well, Tommy, they finally did it. It finally happened, and we weren’t there for it. Tommy and I had this idea when we were kids that people should have a soundtrack for themselves when they walk. I’m sure the idea came from video games where there is always background music for no apparent reason. Now there is a wearable computer called PersonalSoundtrack that plays music from a playlist based on your current walking speed. Minor variations in speed are measured and the music speed is dynamically adjusted to match your footsteps. If a deliberate speed change is detected then a faster, more speed-appropriate song is started. I think I would have the slow Peter and the Wolf song for slow walking. I don’t know about fast walking, though. There are so many possibilities it would be difficult to choose just one.

The hardware and software upon which this is built is open source and there is a section for source code on the web site. I’m assuming this will become an open source project soon. This would be a fun project and a great way to annoy people and have fun at the same time.

Video of People Using Wii for the First Time

Nintendo added new video recently of people playing games on the Wii for the very first time. It looks like these people probably wouldn’t play video games on their own normally, but they are having a lot of fun with the Wii. Unfortunately they use Flash 8 for the videos. It’s not their fault, but Linux users are out of luck viewing these. Watching these videos, though, made me even more excited for the Wii release.

eBay for Laptop Replacement Parts

I wish Dell wouldn’t use weird connectors for their laptop hard drives. I opened up an HP laptop and there was no unusual connector, it was straight IDE. Two of the laptops I have gotten from Krissy’s dad are missing the converter from IDE to some proprietary thing. Now I get to troll around on eBay and bid ninety-nine cents and pay six dollars in shipping on these things. I can’t wait for the UPS ground to get from Florida to California. Let’s see how long it takes.

The Three Mostly-working Laptops

My father-in-law works at a great place for finding abandoned computers. Organizations for higher learning are constantly ditching old computers and things that have only minor problems with individual components. He got me three Dell laptops that have only minor problems. I only have a single hard drive for the three of them, so that’s obviously a problem. One of the laptops is missing the connector for the hard drive as well as the hard drive itself. One of them has a problem with the keyboard where the “8” key only works if you twist the display a little bit. That’s obviously a contact problem somewhere. My hope is to get at least one of them working so that Krissy and I can each have our own laptops instead of sharing one.

Using tovid to Create DVDs in Linux

tovid is a set of scripts that makes it easy and painless to convert any video you can play with mplayer to a DVD compliant video and even create a DVD structure to burn onto a disc. These video conversion scripts are amazing. I have used them to convert a PowerPoint slide show that I exported to an AVI file of pictures from my mission in Germany. It’s great to finally get this out of a proprietary format before I can no longer play it. It was created by the missionaries in the Mission Office and was synched up to music.

To get tovid and to learn how to set it up, just go to