- No post.
Tuesday, 5 September 2006
- No post.
Wednesday, 6 September 2006
Barbara and I returned yesterday afternoon from a visit to the Bilbreys
in Bowie, Maryland. As always, Marcia and Brian were the perfect hosts.
We had a great time, and Barbara got a well-deserved chance to relax
after several weeks of more than usually hectic work.
We'd just been up Memorial Day, but Marcia mailed us a couple weeks ago
and said that Allex and Scott Kitterman were settling into their new
home and wanted to invite us to their Labor Day cookout. So we packed
up our stuff, crammed ourselves and the dogs into the Trooper, and
headed for Bowie.
We had a great time visiting with the Kittermans and their three
delightful daughters. Allex suggested we bring bathing suits so that we
could all go swimming in their pool. Barbara and I hadn't brought
suits, so I suggested that instead we all swim nekkid. The women nixxed
that, of course. Oh, well.
While we were staying at the Bilbrey's home, Brian and I of course
spent a fair amount of time on the computers. As I said to Marcia, when
most people travel, they take their notebooks. I took three desktop
systems, including my primary desktop, Barbara's current desktop, and
what was to be Barbara's new desktop, with the intention of migrating
Barbara's stuff to her new desktop and rebuilding my desktop from
Ubuntu 5.10 to Kubuntu 6.06 LTS.
Barbara's new desktop, which was the gaming project system for the new
edition of Building the Perfect PC, didn't work. It had worked earlier,
but in the process of swapping components around I apparently borked
something. It originally had standard Kingston memory in it. I pulled
that and replaced it with premium DDR2-800 Kingston memory, which may
have been the problem. It seems odd that faster memory would be
incompatible when slower memory worked, but that's the only reason I
can think of why the system wouldn't work.
While we were updating my system to Kubuntu 6.06 LTS, we also migrated
my mail from Evolution to Kmail, which worked perfectly. That's what
Barbara is using now under Xandros 3, and she likes it very well. Brian
and Scott both suggested I use maildir rather than mbox format. The
former stores messages as individual files rather than making one large
file per folder than contains all messages in that folder. If one file
is corrupted for whatever reason, I'll lose only that message rather
than the entire folder.
I also took along my new 20" ViewSonic VG2021m display, which I hadn't
unpacked yet. It's 1400X1050 versus 1280X1024 for my 19" Samsung 930BF,
and the difference is noticeable. Not just in resolution, but in size.
The new display is only 1" larger, but it "feels" much larger. Brian
said that the ViewSonic VG2021m even looked larger than his 20" Samsung
204T. Part of that is probably that the bezel on the ViewSonic is
larger, particularly at the bottom, where it includes integrated
We played a bit with dual displays, but weren't able to get it working
properly. I'm sure that we could have gotten it working if we'd kept at
it, but as I told Brian, I'm not at all sure that I want both displays
on one system. Right now, I have the ViewSonic connected to my primary
desktop system. The Samsung is sitting right beside it, but connected
to my secondary Windows XP box. That box runs some astronomy charting
software that I need for the book I'm working on now, and it's very
useful to display a chart on the Samsung as I write about it on the
I ran into a few minor glitches with Kubuntu, but I'm getting them all
worked out. For example, the speakers integrated with the ViewSonic are
nearly inaudible, even though I have the various volume sliders in
Kubuntu at 100%. Also, mapping network drives in K/Ubuntu is much more
complicated than doing the same thing in Xandros.
For example, in Xandros if I want a Windows Networking share to show up
in Xandros File Manager, I just click on Tools and tell it to map a
network drive. I browse the network, and click on the share I want to
map to my local box. Xandros suggests a name for the directory on the
local drive to which the network share will be mapped, and creates that
directory if it doesn't already exist. It's just as easy with Xandros
to share local directories or printers with remote Windows systems.
With Kubuntu, I found the System Menu icon in the taskbar, which
describes itself as a "Menu of important system places". Among those is
Remote Places. There's an option there for Add a Network Folder. I used
that to add network folders for four Windows Networking
shares--archive, barbara, holding, and usr--that exist on Barbara's
Xandros system, adelie. That worked, and I can indeed view the files on
It's when I try to work with remote files that things get a little
strange. For example, this morning I created new weekly pages for
Barbara and me. To do so, I copied the current week's file,
2006-36.html, and attempted to paste it to next week's file,
2006-37.html. I highlighted 2006-36.html and clicked Copy. So far, so
good. But when I right clicked for the context menu, intending to
choose Paste and get a filename something like 2006-36(copy).html,
there was no such option. Instead, there was an option to Paste URL. I
clicked that, and KDE popped up a dialog to inform me that that name
was already in use. There was a button I could have clicked that would
suggest a new name, but instead I just changed the 36 to a 37 and told
it to save the file, which it did.
Right now, I'm editing 2006-36.html in N|Vu. When I click Save, I don't
get an error message, but I don't believe it's saving the file. I say
that, because when I exit N|Vu the file time/datestamp isn't change,
but I do get a prompt asking me if I want to "upload the URL". If I
tell it to upload, it does so, and the time/datestamp is changed.
Oh, well. As I said, I'll get it all worked out. And I really do like Kubuntu better than Ubuntu.
Thursday, 7 September
Barbara took Malcolm to the vet for minor surgery this morning. He has
a small growth behind one ear and another on his belly. They'll use
general anesthesia to prevent him from thrashing around while they
excise the growths. While he's asleep they'll also do a full dental
cleaning. We'll pick Malcolm up this afternoon and try to keep him from
bouncing off the walls long enough for the incisions to heal.
The big news around here the last couple of days has been the
disappearance of two brothers, ages 3 and 4, who were last seen near
the Dan River, which is running very high because of the rain we
received from the hurricane. Hundreds of volunteers are out, helping
the police, sheriffs, and rescue squads search for the boys. They're
using dogs and thermal imaging cameras, but so far they've found no
sign of the boys. Everyone is hoping for the best but fearing the worst.
I'm beginning to think that the problem with Barbara's new system may be as simple as an incompatible video adapter. This article
talks about problems with an MSI nForce5 motherboard, and also mentions
incompatibilities with nVIDIA GeForce 7300GS video adapters, which is
what is in Barbara's new system. That system worked properly with the
nVIDIA GeForce 6800GT video adapter that was in it originally, and has
never worked since I swapped that out for the 7300GS. When I have time,
I'll do some component swapping and see what happens.
Catching up on mail.
Subject: Today's Schools
Date: Wednesday 30 August 2006 12:28
From: Ronald McCarty
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Your story concerning Jasmine
seems to be a common occurrence at least here in the Dallas area.
In fact, the child is often pulled even further due to the large
emphasis placed on sports here (like much of the south, although Texas
does not always mimic the south). So kids receive an overwhelming
amount of homework, too damn many practice standardized tests, and then
after school activities 3-5 times per week. So when our daughter
was nominated to attend a magnet school when going into middle school
we were a bit apprehensive. Although it is considered an "honor"
to be invited and to attend, and we were/are very pleased with our
daughter's academic record, my wife and I are big believers in having
balanced lives with time for family, work/school, and fun (both group
and individual). Complicating the matter was also the fact that she
would not be around the friends she spent the last five years with.
We did visit the school, and our
daughter was so impressed with it that she has started attending.
We have been very pleasantly surprised by the approach the school has
taken concerning homework. Most of the teachers follow a method which
name I quickly forgot that basically takes it down to Introduction,
application (why the knowledge is needed), instruction (how to do it),
and classroom application. If the student does not get done with
their portion in the class room then the teacher may assign it as
homework (if they feel the student grasps the material, but does need
the complete practice to commit it.) If the student does
not get the work done and the teacher feels the student is taking too
much time simply to perfect the answer (a common approach by student
due to the peer competition felt in competitive schools where quality
and not speed is graded), the teacher will typically move on without
assigning the work. The teachers are very open that this is
subject to error, especially early in the school year before they know
the students, so they will typically offer tutoring and a retest on the
material when there is a disconnect between how the student did in
class on how they did on the test.
Many of the teachers assign
leisure reading assignments that align with the reading course, but
this is more of an effort to ensure the children are positioned for
life long reading and learning than mastering particular knowledge.
The one area I'm a bit concerned
about is reinforcement of the learning. In some subjects
reinforcement is ensured because the learning is building blocks for
advanced topics, but for those that are not structured like this, I
wonder how well the schools methods work. (Geography comes to
mind...the stuff that was pounded into me, I have retained. Most
of the rest, I have not. But even without the reinforcement, it
appears our daughter is enjoying middle school much more than her
friends that took the homework hell path...
That's pretty much the same story I hear from Jasmine and her mom. I
don't really blame the public school systems, which are as much victims
of the federal government as the children are. When the jobs of school
system employees depend on how their students do on standardized tests,
it's predictable that they'll focus on test scores to the exclusion of
all else. Pournelle's answer, local control, is the only answer I can
see. That and the universal voucher system I've proposed. The No Child
Left Behind Act is simply a Soviet 5-year plan focused on education,
and is certain to have similar non-results.
Subject: Re: Opera for Linux and "CNR" now free
Date: Thursday 31 August 2006 21:14
From: Holden Aust
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
I would second the recommendation
to give Opera on Linux a try. It is fast and seems to work more
reliably on websites that claim to require IE than any of the
other browsers. In the unlikely event that Opera crashes, it also
allows you to resume browsing where you left off when it restarts,
which can be handy if you have a bunch of webpages open and don't have
them bookmarked (when forced to use Windows PCs I've taken advantage of
that feature many a time).
When you run out of Xandros
licenses, you might want to download and checkout Freespire. They just
announced that their "Click 'N Run" software repository/installer is
now free, so Freespire is now free to download and it's also now free
to use the "CNR" repository.
Freespire looks like a good Linux
distro for new users, especially since it includes legal codecs to
allow them to view Windows Media Player video and audio files,
Quicktime, Real Player, etc.
It's possible that Freespire
might also solve the problem you've run into with Jasmine viewing her
AOL webmail. I don't know if Jasmine is using AOL as her ISP, but
Freespire includes an AOL login client that lets you access an AOL
account from Freespire (they also have a login client for NetZero). I
always try to talk people into switching from AOL or NetZero to a
better ISP, but sometimes they won't consider it and up until now, this
has been a barrier to getting them to try Linux.
Thanks. I may give Opera a try, although the last time I looked at it I
actually preferred Firefox/Mozilla. The problem with AOL webmail
doesn't occur on other Linux/Firefox systems, so I suspect it may be
caused by Xandros Security Suite. I'll disable that, since it's really
unnecessary, and see if that cures the problem.
I did download Freespire, and was singularly unimpressed. I burned it
to CD and carried it into the den to install on the Pentium D system
there. When I booted the disc, it displayed a Freespire splash screen
and a status bar that got to about 20% and then froze. I thought
perhaps the CD was bad, so I went back to my office, ran an MD5 sum on
the downloaded ISO, burned it to another disc, and scanned that disc.
Everything was as it should have been, but when I tried to boot the
disc the same thing happened. This is a vanilla Intel box with
integrated everything. I've installed Xandros 4, Ubuntu 6.06, and
Kubuntu 6.06 on it with no problems. If Freespire doesn't load on it,
something is wrong with Freespire.
I was surprised to learn that Jasmine seldom uses email. She uses IM
instead. I'll probably set her up a POP account on one of my domains
for when she needs email. She's not married to AOL for email.
Subject: hp photosmart, etc..
Date: Saturday 02 September 2006 20:10
From: Chris Christensen
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Apparently, HP is making strides with their free drivers (hplip). According to their web site
a multifunction printer, such as a photosmart 2575 (newegg url)
has complete scan and print capabilities. Astonishing, to me, is the fact that a $140 printer has a network connectivity!
I haven't found an online review
of linux hplis, and a multifunction printer. I'm tempted, as I
could use a scanner, although I'm very happy with my Samsung ML 1740
laser printer which came with open source linux drivers.
Thanks. Unfortunately, HP is on my "never buy" list. For now, I'll just
continue to use the Epson 3490 scanner I have attached to my Windows XP
box, although I really should connect it to my Kubuntu 6.06 box and see
if it works with the later versions of Linux scanning software.
Subject: Word Plays
Date: Monday 04 September 2006 04:10
From: Chuck Waggoner
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
My wife and I agree this is one of the better collections we have seen,
but it doesn't seem like the right thing for the forum. Thought
you might appreciate it, so I'm sending it directly.
Lexophile - A Lover of Words
1. A bicycle can't stand alone because it is two-tired.
2. Definition of a will: a dead giveaway.
3. A backward poet writes inverse.
4. In democracy it's your vote that counts; in feudalism, it's your count that votes.
5. A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.
6. If you don't pay your exorcist you get repossessed.
7. With her marriage she got a new name and a dress.
8. Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft and I'll show you A-flat minor.
9. When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.
10. The man who fell into an upholstery machine is fully recovered.
11. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.
12. You feel stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.
13. Local Area Network in Australia: the LAN down under.
14. He often broke into song because he couldn't find the key.
15. Every calendar's days are numbered.
16. A lot of money is tainted. 'Taint yours and 'taint mine.
17. A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.
18. He had a photographic memory which was never developed.
19. A plateau is a high form of flattery.
20. The short fortuneteller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
21. Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.
22. When you've seen one shopping center you've seen a mall.
23. Those who jump off a Paris bridge are in Seine.
24. When the actress saw her first strands of gray hair she thought she'd dye.
25. Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead-to-know basis.
26. Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.
27. Accupuncture is a jab well done.
28. Marathon runners with bad footwear suffer the agony of defeat.
29. A man's home is his castle, in a manor of speaking.
30. Dijon vu: the same mustard as before.
31. Practice safe eating: always use condiments.
32. Shotgun wedding: a case of wife or death.
33. A man needs a mistress just to break the monogamy.
34. A hangover is the wrath of grapes.
35. Dancing cheek-to-cheek is really a form of floor-play.
36. Sea captains don't like crew cuts.
37. Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?
38. Condoms should be used on every conceivable occasion.
39. Reading while sunbathing makes you well-red.
40. When two egotists meet, it's an I for an I.
41. She had a boyfriend with a wooden leg, but broke it off.
42. The poor guy fell into a glass grinding machine and made a spectacle of himself.
43. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
44. Editing is a re-wording activity.
45. Air pollution is a mist-demeanor.
46. Transvestite: a guy who likes to eat, drink, and be Mary.
47. In school, the class trapeze artist with an attitude was always being suspended.
Arrrrghhh. I will never speak to you again.
Finally, I thought some of my readers might be interested in the
O'Reilly production process, what's actually involved in turning our
draft manuscript into a finished book.
The O'Reilly Production Process: Step-by-Step Description
The production/manufacturing process involves 10 major steps. An
O'Reilly production coordinator usually handles the initial stages. An
O'Reilly production editor is then assigned to manage the rest of the
production process. Here are brief descriptions of the major steps.
The purpose of illustration preparation is to produce print-ready
illustrations, based on the original draft illustrations. The
illustrator performs any necessary cropping, processing, drafting,
enhancements, or color correction to produce professional-quality
images. After preparing the images, the illustrator sends them to the
author and editor for review. Illustration preparation is done by an
O'Reilly staff illustrator or by a professional freelance illustrator.
The illustration production process usually starts before production on
the text. Illustration preparation can take from 2 to 15 days,
depending on the quantity and complexity of the illustrations.
The purpose of the copyedit is to check for errors in structure,
language, grammar, spelling, and formatting. The copyeditor reads the
entire manuscript and marks any errors. The copyedit takes place after
the author and editor submit a final manuscript. The copyedit is
usually done by an O'Reilly production editor or by a professional
freelance copyeditor. The copyedit can be done either electronically
(in MS Word) or on hard copy, depending on the book's length and the
copyeditor's, editor's, and author's preferences. The copyedit is
sometimes done in batches (chapter by chapter), if appropriate. The
copyedit takes anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks, depending on the length of
After the copyedit is finished, the copyedit review begins. The purpose
of the copyedit review is to check all suggested edits and ensure that
they do not alter the book's technical content. The copyedit review is
managed by the editor. Talk to your editor about how the copyedit
review process will work for your book. The copyedit review is often
done in batches-meaning that the each chapter is reviewed as the
copyeditor completes it. The copyedit review usually takes about 1 to
During production, the draft manuscript is converted from its original
format (usually Word, XML, FrameMaker, pod, or InDesign) to its final
format (either FrameMaker or InDesign). The purpose of the conversion
is to put the manuscript into a page layout template. The conversion
often occurs before the copyedit. But if the copyedit is done
electronically, the conversion occursafter the copyedit. The conversion
is done by O'Reilly's Tools group. Conversion takes from 1 to 5 days,
depending on the book's complexity, length, and format. After
conversion is complete, a source check against the original manuscript
is done, to ensure that no material is lost.
The purpose of page layout is to properly format the book files and
enter all necessary edits. The initial layout is done at the conversion
stage or just after conversion (depending on the book's format). Edits
are then entered as necessary. Layout is done by an O'Reilly production
editor or by a professional freelance compositor. Layout work continues
throughout the production process as more edits are entered.
The proofread/QC1 is a dual stage (sometimes called first page proofs).
The proofread and QC1 are done simultaneously and normally take about 5
to 15 days.
The purpose of the proofread is to do a final check for spelling,
punctuation, and formatting errors. The proofreader reads the entire
manuscript and marks any errors. The proofread is done by an O'Reilly
production editor or by a professional freelance proofreader. Note that
the proofread is sometimes skipped if the copyedit is very light or if
the book is a second or later edition.
The purpose of the QC1 is to do a first quality check for technical and
formatting errors. The author and editor look through the manuscript to
make sure everything is in order and correct (particularly all
illustrations), following instructions provided by the production
editor. They mark any errors and return them to the book's production
The purpose of indexing is to produce a useful, well-organized index.
The indexing process starts about the same time as the proofread/QC1.
The index is done by a professional freelance indexer. Indexing
usually takes about 2 to 3 weeks, depending on the book's length. The
production editor will schedule time for the author and/or editor to
review the draft index.
The purpose of the QC2 is to do a second quality check on the book.
Usually the editor and a production editor review the book at this
stage. The QC2 is the final chance to catch formatting, content, and
illustration problems. Only major problems are marked and fixed at this
stage. The QC2 usually takes about 1 to 3 days.
After the QC2, the production editor enters final edits and prepares
final PDF files for the printer. During this stage, the production
manager does a final QC to make sure everything is in order. The
production editor then sends the files to the printer.
Manufacturing and shipping usually take about 2.5 to 4 weeks, depending
on whether a book is 1/color, 2/color, or 4/color. Some 4/color books
are printed with an international vendor, in which case manufacturing
and shipping may take up to 3 months.
Malcolm is home and doing well. In addition to removing benign lumps
behind his ear and on his belly, the vet removed one of his tiny front
middle teeth, which was loose. Fortunately, Malcolm doesn't have to
wear an Elizabethan collar unless he starts chewing at the stitches,
which he hasn't so far.
Barbara is off on a weekend bus tour with her parents and sister, so
it's just us guys here for the next few days. Wild women and party
time. If I knew any wild women. Or liked parties.
Bruce Schneier points out that Microsoft has just released its Quickest Patch Ever
to fix the Windows Media DRM hole for which an exploit was released
last week. This patch makes it very obvious where Microsoft's
priorities lie. Serious security holes go unpatched for months on end,
but when Microsoft DRM is cracked they release a patch in three days.
That's because, as Schneier points out, security holes cost Microsoft
nothing, while having their DRM cracked will cost Microsoft a fortune
because content providers will abandon Windows Media. Microsoft wants
to compete with iTunes, and they can't do so if their DRM is not
trusted by content providers.
When I read about this patch, the first question that came to my mind
is how Microsoft will distribute it. Is it a critical update? If so,
Microsoft will catch a lot of flak, and rightly so. In no sense could
this DRM patch be considered critical from the users' point of view,
and it has no business being pushed as such on users. Conversely, if
Microsoft doesn't make this a critical patch, those systems that
haven't passed the WGA test won't be permitted to download it. Talk
about sweet irony. What Microsoft considers legitimate users would be
updated with a patch that they don't want. Windows boxes that
aren't "genuine" wouldn't receive the patch. Heh, heh, heh.
Yet another hint that Vista may not ship as currently promised.
Remember that Bill Gates recently said there was only an 80% chance
that Vista would ship on the latest announced schedule. Now, Microsoft
is saying that actions taken by EU antitrust regulators may delay Vista.
Not that it matters anyway. After many years of delays and billions of
dollars wasted, when Microsoft finally releases whatever they decide to
call Vista, it's going to be a gigantic pile of crap. Their current
so-called RC1 is, by all reports, what we used to call a pre-alpha or
at best an alpha. It's not feature-complete, it's not debugged, and
it's not optimized, all of which are required before a codebase can be
called even a beta release, let alone a release candidate. Even
Microsoft admits that the RC name is deceptive, because RC implies a
non-zero probability that the code in question will be released as the
final product. That's clearly not the case here.
Whatever Microsoft releases and whenever they release it, it's actually
going to be Windows XP SP3. And it's going to be the last version of
Windows, ever, at least unless Microsoft decides to do what they should
have done years ago and rewrite Windows from a clean sheet of paper.
Windows XP is already the largest pile of spaghetti code in all of
human history, and Vista just piles on more spaghetti. Even Microsoft
must have realized by now that their code is unmaintainable and
Fortunately, there's Linux.
Saturday, 9 September
What everyone feared has happened. The bodies of the two brothers, ages
3 and 4, were found yesterday by a kayaker, several miles downstream
from where the search dogs lost their trail at the bank of the Dan
River. Their parents are devastated, as are the hundreds of police,
rescue team members, and volunteers who searched for them.
I spent yesterday reorganizing our data and pulling a new set of
backups to optical discs. Not counting audio and video, our archive
data now totals about 34 GB, spanning eight DVDs. Those DVDs reside in
a nylon wallet that goes everywhere I go, and also contains current
backups. I carried the July set of archive DVDs down to our neighbor
Kim's house and asked her to store them for me. She's three houses
away, so it would take a pretty major catastrophe to lose both sets.
I'll probably pull another set soon and store them at the home of our
friends Paul and Mary, which is a couple of miles from our place.
The DVDs are straight copies rather than backups, which means the files
can be accessed directly without any restore procedure. I split the
directories and files manually, and ended up filling the DVDs pretty
efficiently. The smallest DVD block had about 3.9 GB and the largest
about 4.3 GB, and only a few directories were split across discs.
Still, I wish that K3b (my Linux burning app) had a "span disc"
feature. It wouldn't need to be particularly efficient at filling the
discs. I'd be satisfied with "write to this disc until the next file
won't fit and then prompt me for a new disc."
Malcolm is doing very well, although he misses Barbara and doesn't
understand why he's not allowed to play hall ball. He's a lot less
growly than he's been the last couple of months, and he hasn't been
confronting Duncan nearly as often. I suspect the tooth they removed
may have been bothering him for some time. After our last walk last
night, I sat in the den reading and the dogs went back to bed. When I
went back to the bedroom, they were lying near each other, almost
touching, and didn't move when I got into bed. That's a major change
from the last couple of months, when we've had to crate Malcolm to keep
him from confronting Duncan when I come back to bed.
No wild women or parties so far.
Sunday, 10 September
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Robert Bruce