Week of 10 September 2007
Update: Saturday, 15 September 2007 09:48 -0400
Monday, 10 September
Today is Barbara's and my 24th anniversary. That seems incredible to
me. It doesn't feel like 24 years. It feels like the blink of an eye.
Just think. We're almost half way to our 50th.
Late start this morning. I'm busier than the proverbial one-armed
juggler. The first thing I need to do is knock out the review pass on
the final five chapters of the astronomy book. Then, I've got several
chapters of the home chem lab book in progress that I want to get
finished up and sent to my editor.
Tuesday, 11 September 2007
By early afternoon, I managed to get the five final chapters of the
astronomy book checked and returned to my editor. Then, as I was
answering some email before starting on the chem book chapters, my
system locked up. I ended up rebooting it, and it came back up with
640X480 video. Hmmm.
A bit of fiddling led me to believe there's
some sort of hardware problem, or perhaps a heat problem. A few months
ago, the case fan failed, which I didn't discover until I noticed that
the CPU fan had started whining when the system was under heavy load.
As a "temporary" measure, I just removed the side panel and pointed a
small table fan at the CPU. That should also produce enough air flow to
keep the video card, memory, drives, and other components cool.
when I rebooted I decided to go into setup and check hardware
monitoring, which listed the CPU temperature as 69 °C. That's pretty
high, even for an Intel Pentium D 960. I'm not sure what's going on,
and I don't really have time to mess with it right now. I'll be
building a new Core 2 reference system real soon now, which will become
my new main system. So I just wanted to get this one working well
enough to hold me until I build the new one.
was overtaken by a moment of insanity. I was running Kubuntu 6.10. I'd
looked at Kubuntu 7.04 when it was released, but decided it wasn't
worth the hassle of doing an upgrade. I planned to hold out for Kubuntu
7.10, which should ship next month.
Alas, Mary Chervenak had
given me a newer model of Logitech webcam than I had been using.
Kubuntu 6.10 recognized the old model perfectly, but it saw the new
model only as an unknown USB device. Some quick checking told me that I
could use the new webcam under 6.10, but only if I built and compiled a
new kernel. That didn't seem worth the hassle and potential risk, so
I'd decided just to put the webcam aside until I upgraded to Kubuntu
7.10, which presumably would recognize it.
Then, as I was
working on my system, Adept Notifier told me there were upgraded
packages available. I told it to go ahead and install them. When it
finished updating my 6.10 installation, it informed me (as usual) that
there was a newer version of Kubuntu available. I decided I might as
well upgrade to 7.04 along with everything else, so I told it to do the
upgrade to 7.04. That was going to take a long time, so I went off to
do something else. When I returned, the upgrade was hung. Uh-oh. I
diddled around a bit and finally decided that my system was now borked.
was still running under 6.10, so I made more copies of all of my data,
my home directory, etc. to multiple hard drives and then downloaded and
burned Kubuntu 7.04. When I started the installation, I told it to blow
away the contents of sda, the primary hard drive. A short while later,
I had a working 7.04 installation on my system.
The only minor
glitch was that it came up in 1024X768 instead of the 1400X1050 native
resolution of my Viewsonic VG2021M display. That was easy enough to
fix. I ran sudo kate /etc/X11/xorg.conf to edit the xorg configuration
file as root, added an entry for "1400X1050" for each of the color
depth records, changed the vertical and horizontal sync numbers to
reflect those supported by the VG2021M, and restarted X.
only problem is getting stuff back where I want it--applications
installed, fonts tweaked, etc. Fortunately, that's pretty easy with
Linux compared to the nightmare it is with Windows.
- Update from Paul.
From: Paul Jones To: Paul Jones CC: <many recipients> Date: Today 08:54:15Re: final journalsHey again,
Mary has written two final blog entries. She had a quota to fill for Dow, so she had to write these last two and they'll be posted on the internal Dow site. However, I'm not sure if they'll be posted on the BPR page - I would guess not. I thought this group might like to read them. You can still find the rest of her journal entries at this link:
http://blueplanetrun.org/run/maryThe new ones are attached. Cheers, Paul
Entry 21: 2 September 2007
Elmira, New York leg of the Blue Planet Run was, for obvious reasons,
the most sought after. Elmira is a friendly, home-y place with
wide, old sidewalks and gracious wood-sided houses that open onto the
street. The shallow silver Chemung River runs through town.
The streets are lined with fragile, fleeting poppies and ancient,
gnarled roses. People wave from lawn chairs in their front
yards. Who wouldn't want to run through Elmira? Using
powerful intellectual arguments, hypnotism, and occasionally, bribery,
I wriggled my way into the prime Elmira slot.
My family doesn't
actually live in Elmira. I grew up closer to Corning – about 15
miles down the road. I went to high school in
Corning, Mom and Dad currently live in Big Flats, my sister taught at
Elmira College. Until the last few years, I have been
transient. This part of New York is as close as I get to a home
town. Running here is a return to childhood, a return home.
brother has always been a better runner than me. Years ago, he
would pace me, pausing only to spit over his shoulder, forcing me to
perform a crazy dance of saliva avoidance. He joined me for the
Steege Hill to Pennsylvania Avenue leg bouncing with confidence.
At 4:30 in the afternoon, the sun was already starting to sink behind
the hills, but the roads were still radiating the day's heat.
After a hand-off from Lansing, who warned both of us that the day was
deceptively hot, Jay set off at a brisk pace asking “is this
okay?” I wasn't about to disagree.
A reporter from the
Corning paper trotted alongside Jay and me for the first quarter-mile
of the run. Annoyingly, he kept firing questions to Jay about the
run, like “How long have you been running?” and “How does it feel to
run around the world?” Jay responded “about 2 minutes” and “I
don't know. Ask her.” I love my brother. He has
mastered the art of sarcasm. I am merely a pupil.
commented later that my feet ticked off the miles like a
metronome. Jay lasted eight miles before hopping on a bike.
My sister picked up the slack for a mile and a half before she
commandeered the bike and Jay jumped back in for the finish. Dad
brought up the rear on his own bike and Mom met the entire crew at the
6:00 PM exchange point. Yeah, Team Chervenak!! Jay
presented the baton to Sunila, smiled broadly for a photograph, and
then lay on the ground in front of an automatic carwash.
we convinced Jay that a carwash actively in use was not the best place
to recover, the entire family adjourned to the house to celebrate with
lemonade, raw vegetables, and homemade chocolate chip cookies into the
not-so-wee hours. Team Chervenak rocks!
Entry 22: 10 September 2007
“We've done the impossible and that makes us mighty.” -- Malcolm Reynolds
the past seven years I have done nothing but travel around the world
getting shot up, locked up, blown up... and all I have to show for it
are a couple of empty rolls of duct tape.” -- Angus MacGyver
I'm home. We've crossed the finish line, the run is over, the team has dispersed, and now I'm sitting in my living room.
some ways, it's like I never left. When I climbed into my car for
the first time after getting home, my Lyle Lovett CD fired up and the
song I was listening to on my way to the airport on May 24th began to
play. In other ways, it's like I'm trying on a life that belongs
to someone else. While Mr. Lovett warbled away, I stalled my car
three times before I made it out of my driveway.
stepping out of the Blue Planet world. Since coming home, I've
run where I want, when I want. I've woken up in the morning and
gone to bed at night. I've cooked a meal. I've gotten my
hair cut, my teeth cleaned, my glasses adjusted. The Blue Planet
schedule, the Blue Planet life, is receding into memory. The six
hour shifts, the 16 countries, the long hours waiting for the next run
are already starting to feel a little unreal. Sometimes, I wake
up thinking I'm still in Russia. Other times, though, it seems
like someone else ran around the world.
I spent the weekend
emptying suitcases, washing clothes, putting stuff away, throwing junk
out, and mailing Blue Planet Run T-shirts. I also spent the
weekend remembering how to use my debit card, drive my stick-shift car,
and set the security system. The back door has been
re-keyed. Things aren't where I remember them. I'm a
stranger in my car. I'm a stranger in my house. My life
I like the way this strange old life fits,
though. I've become reacquainted with my shoes. I haven't
worn black shorts and a white top in a week. I've watched some
really bad television. I've eaten some really terrible junk
food. I've wallowed in normal-ness.
The fit isn't perfect;
I'm not quite the same. You go away for a long time and return a
different person – you never come all the way back. After years
of restless, semi-insomnia, I sleep – the deep unconsciousness of
childhood. After years of distraction, I focus – the phone and
e-mail are noisy, but they aren't truly clamoring for my
attention. I'm trying to live more consciously and less
wastefully, to be more thoughtful and less self-absorbed, to eat more
fruits and vegetables and kill fewer spiders. And so far, I've
resisted making a list of things to do.
I'm glad, glad, glad to be home, but I don't want to come all the way back.
Wednesday, 12 September 2007
Barbara and I have been watching the second season of Rome. It's a good
series. The history isn't perfect by any means, but it's a lot better
than I've come to expect from video productions. But what really struck
me funny yesterday was the label on the DVD:
Rome, The Complete Second Season
that have been "Episodes VII-VIII"? For that matter, given the setting
of this series--late Republic to early Empire--it probably should have
been "Disc IIII". IIRC, prior to the first century CE, it was more
common to use "IIII" for 4 and "VIIII" for 9 than the later "IV" and
"IX". Of course, the Romans themselves were pretty casual about it. For
example, we write the number 28 as XXVIII, but the Romans
themselves often used odd constructs such as XXIIX. Which probably tells us something about how they thought about numbers.
how things might have been different if the Romans had had a better
numbering system. Their lack of a good numbering system hampered them,
just as the Chinese lack of an alphabet hampers them. In fact, the lack
of a good numbering system explains why science never developed under
the Romans and why they had only rule-of-thumb engineering.
Thursday, 13 September
I burned another coaster yesterday, which had me wondering if I'd
gotten a bad batch of Taiyo-Yuden DVD+R discs. When I burn a disc, I
usually just fire up K3b, tell it to burn the disc and do a verify, and
then minimize it. Some time later, I remember the disc, maximize K3b,
see that it wrote and verified the disc properly, and go on with what I
was doing. This time, the disc showed a verify error. That made two
coasters out of perhaps a dozen discs. My usual is maybe one coaster in
every 500 to 1,000 discs, so something was obviously wrong.
it turns out, I don't think the discs are the problem. I started to do
a few tests, and the Plextor PX-740A drive started acting strangely.
Eventually, it stopped being recognized by the system. I wasn't able to
eject the disc in the drive, even by pressing the eject button.
Finally, I stuck a paper clip in the emergency eject hole. The tray
popped open slightly. I had to use a screwdriver to pry it open to
retrieve the disc, after which the tray refused to open or close.
Apparently, the tray motor failed, along with who knows what else.
visit to the workroom turned up little in the way of spare drives. I
have an SATA Lite-On, but that one's reserved for the new reference
system I'll be building soon. I also found an elderly Plextor PX-708A
and an almost-as-elderly Plextor PX-712SA. I finally found an NEC
ND-3550A installed in a project system that had been partially stripped
for salvage. I pulled that drive and popped it into my main system.
first, everything seemed to work normally, but when I tried to burn a
DVD I got another coaster. Hmmm. Then I remembered that I'd previously
had compatibility problems with the NEC ND-35XX-series drives and newer
Intel chipsets. Rats. I dug around the stock room a while longer,
thinking there should be more DVD writers around. I've bought
Pioneer units, BenQ's, Lite-Ons, and so on. But then I remembered
that I'd given away several systems, all of which had DVD writers in
them. Oh, well. I'll probably just stick in the Plextor PX-708A. I
seldom burn at more than 8X anyway.
But building this new reference system, which will become my new main system, is becoming increasingly urgent.
Friday, 14 September
The astronomy book is complete, at least from our point of view. Now
the O'Reilly folks have to produce the book, print it, and get it to
the stores. They're showing it as available next month, which doesn't
leave them much time. All of the constellation chapters are now
available for download from the subscribers' page.
got an interesting email from Netflix this morning. Apparently, they're
being hurt by the Blockbuster campaign that promotes the ability of
Blockbuster Online subscribers to return rentals to their local
Blockbuster stores. That's of no interest to me--I have no desire to
drive to Blockbuster--but apparently it appeals to a lot of people. My
own experience with Blockbuster Online was horrible. Their title
selection was much more limited than Netflix's, and their
delivery/return times were pathetic. I would have gotten about half as
many discs per month from Blockbuster as from Netflix, so I
discontinued my Blockbuster Online subscription before the free trial
I've been perfectly happy with my Netflix
subscription since I reactivated it in May. They've sent me an average
of about 24 discs a month since then, which is a pretty good deal for
$17/month plus tax. But the growth in their subscriber base is slowing,
and it's very expensive for Netflix to get new members. I seem to
remember that they spend something like $45 for each new member
they sign up. So they decided to engage in a bit of viral marketing by
convincing their existing subscribers to get new subscribers for them.
the deal is that Netflix is offering a one-month free trial (versus the
usual two-week free trial) to new members who are referred by existing
members. In return, the existing member gets a coupon for one free disc
rental for each new member that signs up for the free trial and then
remains as a paying member, up to a maximum of five coupons. That's not
a bad deal. It probably costs Netflix $0.75 to get a new member that
way, versus $45 the old-fashioned way.
If you want to give
Netflix a try, here's a risk-free way to get a month's free service.
It's available only to people who have never been a Netflix member.
Full Disclosure: If one of you signs up by clicking on the link and
remains as a paid member, I get a coupon for a free rental, which is
worth about $0.75 based on my monthly Netflix bill and the average
number of discs they send me per month. If five of you sign up, I get
five free rental coupons. If 100 of you sign up, I get ... five free
rental coupons. That's okay. Netflix is a good company, and I don't
mind doing them a favor.
Here's the email.
* NETFLIX * Friends & Family - 1 Month FREE*
You give, you get!
offering you a special opportunity to give your friends and family one
month of Netflix service for FREE - that's twice the length of our
regular free trial!
When they redeem their free trial, you'll
get a bonus rental (up to 5 bonus vouchers per member) at no additional
charge. This limited time offer expires 9/30/2007 so forward this email
-Your friends at Netflix
1 Month FREE DVD RENTALS
1 month of Netflix DVD Rentals
DVDs by mail:
Over 85,000 DVD titles
* Create your movie list online.
Free Delivery in about 1 Business Day
* We rush you DVDs from your list.
No Late Fees
* Keep each movie as long as you want.
Prepaid Return Envelopes
* Return a movie to get a new one from your list.
Over 5,000 choices
* Instantly watch movies & TV episodes on your PC!
of this special offer are limited. Free trial valid in the 50 United
States and its territories and possessions only. This limited
introductory free trial offer expires 9/30/2007 subject to continued
availability and cannot be combined with any other offer. Limit one per
household. First-time customers only. Internet access and valid payment
method required to redeem offer. Netflix will begin to bill your chosen
method of payment for the plan selected at sign-up at the completion of
the free trial unless you cancel prior to the end of the free trial.
DVDs out-at-a-time vary by plan. Our most popular plan, 3 DVDs
out-at-a-time, is $16.99 plus any applicable tax. Your Netflix
subscription is a month-to-month subscription cancelable at anytime.
Click the "Your Account" button for cancellation instructions. No
refunds or credits for partial monthly subscription periods. Delivery
claim based on nearly 90% of our subscribers being within one-day
postal delivery zones. Please visit www.netflix.com/TermsOfUse for
complete terms and conditions. Netflix reserves the right to change
terms and conditions at any time.
(c)1997-2007 Netflix, Inc. 100 Winchester Circle, Los Gatos, CA 95032
Saturday, 15 September
Barbara is getting ready to take off on a week-long bus tour with her
parents and sister up to Cape Cod. It'll be wild women and parties all
week for me and the dogs.
In the past, I'd had similar plans,
but they always fell through because I wasn't able to find any wild
women. This time, though, I'm set. The other night when Barbara and I
were walking the dogs. Barbara mentioned her trip, and I mentioned the
wild women and parties. Almost as an afterthought, I asked Kim, "Are
you a wild woman?" She said she is, and Barbara told us to knock
ourselves out. So that takes care of that problem. Well, technically, I
suppose it'll be wild woman and parties, unless I can come up with at
least one more wild woman.
filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy late yesterday afternoon. I can't
figure out why they did that. Chapter 11 protects assets from creditors
during reorganization, but Chapter 11 won't protect SCO against
Novell's claim for its share (which Novell says is all) of the monies
paid by Sun and Microsoft for SVRX licenses. The judge has already
ruled that SCO converted these funds, which is a fancy legal term for
"stole". In other words, the monies paid by Sun and Microsoft (or some
portion thereof, yet to be determined) never belonged to SCO and are
not an asset of SCO. They're stolen property.
does not imply ownership. Think of it this way. You take your car to
the dealer for repairs. While your car is still in the shop, the dealer
files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Is your car an asset of the dealer? Of
course not. No more so are the monies paid by Sun and Microsoft an
asset of SCO. The judge has already so ruled, when he decided that
Novell was entitled to equitable relief.
SCO collected those
monies on behalf of Novell. The original deal was
that SCO would collect the monies and pass 100% of them to Novell,
would then pay SCO a 5% administrative fee. If Sun and Microsoft paid
SCO $50 million for SVRX licenses, that means SCO should have remitted
those monies to Novell, which would then pay SCO a $2.5 million
administrative fee. SCO kept the whole amount, and Novell now says that
by abrogating that contract, SCO is now no longer entitled to the 5%.
So it seems to me the only question to be determined is whether SCO is
sitting on $50 million of Novell's money, or only $47.5 million.
course, SCO has nothing like $47.5 million available. In fact, I think
they're down to about $10 million in cash and liquid assets, so it's in
Novell's interest to grab all of that as quickly as possible. Of
course, now that SCO is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, no one can touch its
assets. But that $50 million isn't an asset. It's stolen money.
just tried burning another DVD+R disc in the NEC ND-3550A drive. It
appeared to complete the write successfully, but blew up immediately
when the verify pass started. Attempting to look at the directory of
the disc immediately causes a hang. There's apparently nothing there. I
tried again with a DVD+RW disc, with the same result. I don't believe
the NEC drive is actually writing data to the disc. It reads
pre-written discs fine, but can't seem to write one that's readable.
Tomorrow I'll swap out the drive for something else.
My stockroom is surprisingly bare of DVD writers. Usually, I have a
stack of them of various makes and models, but now I'm down to dregs.
The best candidate is an elderly Plextor PX-712SA SATA drive, which has
seen only very light use in a test-bed system. I'll probably stick it
in my main system and see how Kubuntu 7.04 deals with an SATA optical
Sunday, 16 September
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 by Robert Bruce