Home » Daynotes Home » Week of 5 December 2005

Photograph of Robert Bruce Thompson
Daynotes Journal

Week of 5 December 2005

Latest Update: Saturday, 10 December 2005 11:10 -0500
Free Speech Online - Blue Ribbon Campaign

Paying for this Place
Visit Barbara's Journal Page

Monday, 5 December 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

12:47 - I spent all morning recovering from an error I made first thing this morning while doing my routine daily backup. Instead of copying /usr to /usrback and then writing /usrback to DVD, I copied /usrback to /usr and then wrote /usr to DVD. Arrrrghhh.

Fortunately, the only thing I've lost is the mail I received between yesterday morning and this morning, nearly all of which was listserv traffic, I think. If you emailed me in the last 24 hours, it's gone, so please resend it.

Fortunately, I tar up Barbara's mail as a separate step in the process, so I was able to recover the mail she retrieved yesterday evening and all of her newer mail is still up on the server.

I had to rebuild my directory structures and delete older stuff that was still living in /usrback, which is why I'm later than usual posting this.

As I was setting up to record a program on our DVD recorder Saturday, it struck me that we have no convenient single-syllable word to describe that process. With a VCR, we "tape" something. With a DVD recorder, it sounds very odd to say we're going to "disc" something. We could just say "record", of course, but that violates the one-syllable rule.

Barbara's in favor of continuing to use "tape" as the verb. As she points out, we still "dial" the telephone, even though telephones with actual dials have almost disappeared. Thirty years ago, it might have been reasonable to try to establish the change to "key" a telephone, but by now "dial" is so solidly established that it will never change. Still, it's early enough to establish a good word for recording to disc, so I'll start advocating the use of "disc" as a verb.

Of course, "tape" had an active history of being used as a verb, including with regard to recording since at least 1/2" days. The only common usage of "disc" as a verb refers to using a harrow to turn the soil in a field. I suppose "write" might be a reasonable alternative to "disc", but "write" is too ambiguous for my taste. To me, "Don't forget to write Left Wing" sounds even stranger than "Don't forget to disc Left Wing". So "disc" it is. Spread the word.

With any luck, "disc" as a verb will become as commonly used as another neologism I invented 15 years or so ago, "coaster" for a ruined writable CD. I remember the exact moment when I coined that usage. My friend and co-worker John Mikol was in his office, playing around with one of the first commercial CD burners, which he'd gotten on loan. The thing was about the size of a laser printer. It cost more than $20,000, and blank CD-R discs cost literally $50 each. John started the burn process, which made it most of the way through the disc (at 1X), but aborted near the end. "Shit," said John. "Jesus, John. You just made a $50 coaster," I replied. I posted the story to a mailing list (back in those days we still used UUCP and had bang addresses instead of @ addresses) and it caught on. Perhaps "disc" as a verb will be as lucky.

We had dinner with our friends Mary and Paul Saturday night. They mentioned that they were having some problems with their Xandros system, which sound like a hardware issue. I'll have to make time to get over there in the next day or two to get them running again. It's amazing how few support calls Xandros generates. If I were trying to support friends and family on Windows boxes, I'd have a constant flood of problems, most of them caused by spyware, viruses, Trojans, and general Windows problems. With Xandros, I never hear from people about any problems. It just works.

17:05 - They say that the malls are always full of men on the evening of 24 December, all of them searching desperately for gifts. But I'm not like that.

My Saturnalia shopping is now complete, literally weeks ahead of time. A couple of the items were backordered and may not arrive in time, but I have enough loot on order to make sure there'll be good stuff under the Saturnalia tree for Barbara on Saturnalia morning. Getting the stuff installed in pretty wrapping may require expert (female) assistance.

At one point, I thought my credit card was literally smoking. It was on my desk right under my desk lamp, and I noticed a whisp of smoke rising from it. It took a moment before I realized that what I saw was merely some smoke from my pipe that had settled near the credit card.


Tuesday, 6 December 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:21 - I knew when I posted my account of yesterday's backup problems that I'd hear about it from my friends. Here are two representative examples, both of which say pretty much what everyone else said:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: script.
Date: Mon, 05 Dec 2005 19:03:03 -0500
From: Brian Bilbrey
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

You simply MUST script your copying routines. I don't try to remember what I'm going to copy, I just have ~/bin/backitup run every night, and I run it manually right before doing my offsite transfer (which is accomplished by running another script on the backup landing machine. Do away with manual operations that are error-prone.


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: I thought Xandros was all GUI-like and automated and stuff?
Date: Mon, 5 Dec 2005 23:54:11 -0800
From: Roland Dobbins
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

So, why are you making manual backups, heh?

Why don't you just cron them?

Well, as I've said before, I do these stupid things because I'm stupid. Or, more precisely, because I'm ignorant. Yes, I know about cron, rsync, tar, and other tools, and I even have a pretty good idea of how to write a script and make it executable. In the past, it was a make-versus-buy decision. I could spend a couple minutes every morning doing a backup with Xandros File Manager, or I could spend the time once to learn how to use those tools and write a script to automate them.  I didn't bother with the latter because spending a couple minutes a day on something as important as backing up wasn't a major burden.

But I suppose it's time to bite the bullet, so when I have time I'll set up the following:

1. Determine the rsync command line I need to backup my data every morning.
2. Once that's tested, script it and put an icon on my desktop so I can run it with just a double-click.
3. Set up a directory structure to support 7-day or 31-day versioning.
4. Modify the rsync command to write differential backups to the daily bins against a master copy.
5. Set up cron to run the process automatically.

Miles Teg over on the messageboard posted a heads-up about a scanner with Linux support. When I had some scanner problems a couple months ago, I decided the easiest way to solve them was to buy a new scanner that supported Linux. Although my UMAX 3450U scanner was listed on the SANE site as having complete support, it wasn't working properly. I wasn't sure if the scanner itself was defective or if I had configuration problems.

So I went to the NewEgg web site looking for a low-end scanner with full SANE support. Incredibly, of the scores of scanners NewEgg offered, only a couple had full SANE support, and the least expensive of those cost nearly $500. After some more checking on scanner manufacturer web sites, I concluded that, incredibly, there were almost no current scanner models that were supported by Linux.

I thought about buying a used scanner or one of the Epson refurb models that had full SANE support, but decided to wait and see. When Miles/Greg mentioned that the Epson Perfection 3490 was supported by SANE, I did some further checking. The SANE site lists this model as having "good" support with the SnapScan backend, which "means the device is usable for day-to-day work. Some rather exotic features may be missing."

That's sufficient. Better yet, the 3490 driver is under active development. That model was first supported on 8/16/05, and had features added on 11/13/05. So I ordered an Epson Perfection 3490 scanner from NewEgg yesterday. We'll see what happens.

13:05 - Thanks to Ron Morse, who mentioned that he uses KDar (KDE Disc Archive) for backing up. I installed KDar and ran a quick test backup. It's very much like any other backup application, allowing you to include/exclude files and directories, enable/disable compression and encryption, and so on. It writes copies of the data being backed up to one or more .dar files, which can then be written to optical disc or another removable storage medium. If the backup data is too large to fit one disc, it splits the backup into multiple .dar files. I have it set to split based on 4,400 MB writable DVDs, and it seems to work fine. It's scriptable, so you can, for example, set it to create the .dar archive file and then fire up K3b and write the archive to an optical disc.

The only downside of KDar relative to what I'm doing now is that recovering a file from backup requires a separate step to open the archive rather than allowing me simply to read the desired file directly from the optical disc. Still, that's not a major drawback, and not a bad tradeoff for being able to use compression.


Wednesday, 7 December 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

11:50 - A date that will live in infamy. And within less than four years of all-out war, the United States had destroyed the Empire of Japan, firebombed its cities, nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and deposed, tried, and executed its leaders.

In contrast, it has now been more than four years since Islam attacked the United States, killing thousands more civilians than died in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. And yet the United States has done essentially nothing to punish those responsible. With the exception of Iraq, which had little or nothing to to with the attacks on 9/11/2001, Islamic cities are untouched and Islamic leaders remain in power. The United States is immensely more powerful now than it was in 1941, in both relative terms and absolute terms, but our leaders have abdicated their responsibility to protect us and to destroy those who harm us or would harm us.

What we needed was George Patton. Unfortunately, what we had and have is Elmer Fudd.

If you're running Linux and looking for a reasonably priced USB scanner, the Epson Perfection 3490 looks like a good choice. UPS hasn't delivered mine yet, but one of my readers has recently gotten his. I'll post his comments for the benefit of anyone looking for a Linux scanner.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Epson Perfection 3490 scanner on Linux
Date: Tue, 06 Dec 2005 11:31:00 -0500
From: Rod Schaffter
To:  Robert Bruce Thompson

Hi Bob,

I ordered one from New Egg yesterday too!  I guess great minds run in the same gutter. According to the tracking it's sitting in Hartford, CT, so I expect it will come tomorrow.  I'll keep you posted on how it works with SuSE.  I currently have SANE version 1.0.16-0

Actually, I'm using SuSE instead of Xandros largely because Xandros wouldn't detect my HP 3400c at the time and it worked with SuSE.

Rod Schaffter
"If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them." --Sir Karl Popper

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Epson Perfection 3490 scanner on Linux
Date: Tue, 06 Dec 2005 17:11:02 -0500
From: Rod Schaffter
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

Hi Bob,

The scanner came this afternoon-I'm glad I didn't spring for expedited shipping!

Here's the poop (this is on SuSE 10.0-YMMV):

Bad News:  Not recognised by SANE 1.0.16:

Good News:  Epson has Linux driver available:


Bad News: It doesn't work with Kooka. iscan (the scan program included in the above package) will only run as root unless some permissions are changed-every time the machine is rebooted or the scanner plugged in! The procedure is descibed in the manual. (Perhaps this could be due to a conflict with SuSE's hotplug program)

Good News: It does work-even the transparency adapter with 35mm negatives.  It installs iscan as a GIMP plugin so you can directly manipulate the image if you wish.

I'm continuing to play with it.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Epson Perfection 3490 scanner on Linux-update
Date: Wed, 07 Dec 2005 07:18:04 -0500
From: Rod Schaffter
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

Hi Bob,

I have gotten it working, and I think the problem is most likely specific to SuSE 10.0's handling of USB devices.  The fix was to create a new file 51-scanner.conf in the /etc/resmgr.conf.d directory containing the contents of 50-scanner.conf with the following line appended:

add usb:vendor=0x04b8,product=0x0122 scanner

The seperate file keeps the SuSE configuration program YaST from overwriting it.

Kooka still doesn't see it, but iscan is a nice program.  It does seem to be a little slow doing the final scan.

I'm doing my first podcast interview this afternoon at 5:30 p.m. Pacific time, with fellow astronomer Landon Curt Noll. Jack Herrington, the author of Podcasting Hacks, will be the interviewer/moderator.

Frankly, I'm not real clear on what a podcast is or why it deserves a special name. If I understand the concept, it's simply an audio recording that's posted for streaming, download, or RSS transfer, and can be listened to on a computer or transferred to a portable audio player. I'm not sure why that qualifies as anything special or deserves a name of its own.


Thursday, 8 December 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:05 - I went over Tuesday afternoon to check out Mary's and Paul's Xandros Linux box, which had been having problems. When I booted it, it got to the point where it should have displayed the logon box, and just hung. I restarted the system in safe video mode, and was able to log on normally. At that point, it seemed likely that their Xandros installation had gotten hosed somehow. They were still running Xandros 2.X, so I decided to bring the system home and do a full upgrade.

Mary and Paul both assured me that there were no important data files on the drive, but I decided to do an upgrade installation rather than a full bare-metal installation anyway, in an attempt to preserve their bookmarks and so on. With the system set up here at home, I downloaded the latest release of Xandros 3.0 Open Circulation Edition, burned it to a CD, stuck it in the drive, and restarted the system. I chose the upgrade option, and off it went, apparently normally. Until it got to 4% complete, when it hung. Not good.

I should have learned my lesson by now, but I obviously haven't. When we built this system, there was a special offer that included two KingMax premium 256 MB PC3200 DIMMs at a very attractive bundle price. I went for that, rather than spending $20 more to get Crucial memory. And it was indeed the memory that was the problem. I swapped out the two KingMax DIMMs for two Crucial DIMMs and the problems disappeared. Unfortunately, the bad memory was not only causing hangs, but had caused some data corruption, so the only option was a bare-metal reinstall. Live and learn, as they say, or you don't live long.

11:46 - My email just went wonky. After my experience Monday, when I lost some email that had arrived between Sunday morning and Monday morning, I decided to change the account settings in Mozilla Mail. I told it to leave messages on the server for seven days, with the idea that if I ever again lost my local email I'd still be able to retrieve it from the server.

That worked fine until a few minutes ago, when I checked my mail. Although it had been only a few minutes since the last check, Mozilla informed me that there were hundreds and hundreds of new email messages, and promptly began downloading them. Sure enough, they were all duplicates of messages that I'd already downloaded. That was easy enough to recover from. My mail folders display messages in the order they arrive, so all I had to do was open each folder where new mail is stored, select all the "new" messages, and delete them. That took all of a minute or two.

Still, it'd be nice to know why Mozilla Mail suddenly decided to download every message from the server. Until I understand that, I've changed my mail account settings again to delete mail as soon as it's retrieved.

Hmmm. The Weather Channel web site says we'll get rain tonight with snow showers tomorrow morning. Weather Underground says we'll have sleet and freezing rain starting this evening and lasting overnight, with accumulations of only a tenth of an inch or so. Both agree that the chance of precipitation is 90% to 100% and that the overnight low temperatures will be just below freezing.

I mistrust the weather weasels. I'll never forget the night, years ago now, when all of the TV weather weasels were agreed that we'd get at most 1" to 2" of snow overnight. We got 18". They periodically make dire threats about severe weather that never materializes. So, at this point, nothing would surprise me. We could get nothing or we could get a full-blown ice storm. Either way, we'll be fine. We have industrial-strength natural gas logs that when run on high produce 40,000 BTU/hour, enough to keep the whole house warm enough to avoid freezing pipes and such, and enough to keep the den uncomfortably warm even if outside temperatures are below 0°F. We have a gas hot water heater, so we can even take showers if the power fails.


Friday, 9 December 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

10:42 - We got a bit of icing overnight, but nothing major. When I took the dogs out in the front yard a few minutes ago, I thought we were having a sleet storm. The "sleet" was actually caused by the bright sunlight melting the ice from tree branches.

Barbara loaded up last night for her Saturday trip. She's going over to her parent's house straight from work today. She and her dad are attending a Christmas party tonight with their golf buddies. She'll stay there overnight and head out with her parents and sister at oh-dark-thirty to drive over to Randleman, North Carolina. The tour bus departs from there early Saturday morning, heading for Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. They'll attend a Christmas play there, do some shopping, and head back home late Saturday. They'll arrive back in Winston-Salem around midnight, so Barbara is going to stay at her sister's house Saturday night and come home Sunday morning.

That means it'll be wild women and parties for me and the dogs. Either that, or I'll just work the whole time.

Several people have asked about the podcast interview I did the other day. I have no idea when they'll have it available, but I'll post that information here when it is.

Thanks to everyone who's sent me explanations of the podcasting phenomenon. As I suspected, there's no good reason for the name. There's nothing iPod-specific about it, and people were doing what would become known as podcasts years before the iPod even shipped. I remember listening to Jerry Pournelle's "podcasts" from Byte.com back in 1998 or 1999.

It's back to work for me. The rest of this month is likely to be pretty quiet around here. In addition to the holiday stuff, I have 12/31 deadlines and end-of-year business stuff to take care of. Posts will likely be short and sporadic until the New Year.


Saturday, 10 December 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

11:10 - The dogs just look at me, wondering where Barbara is. Last night, we all went back to the bedroom. Both dogs jumped up on the bed, and stayed there while I read for an hour or so. They were both on my side of the bed, so I had to stretch out to read on Barbara's side of the bed.

When I turned out the light, I expected Duncan to jump down and go to sleep on his dog bed, as he usually does. Instead, Duncan stayed up on the bed with me, and Malcolm jumped down and went to sleep on Duncan's dog bed. I wouldn't have been surprised if Duncan had gone to sleep in Malcolm's crate. The poor dogs were totally confused.


Sunday, 11 December 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

00:00 -


Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.