Week of 17 September 2007
Update: Saturday, 22 September 2007
Monday, 17 September
Barbara is up in Cape Cod today, with her parents, her sister Frances,
and her sister's friend Marcia. Frances' husband, Al, is driving the
tour bus. I tried to convince Barbara to put a little bonnet on Malcolm
and take him along, but as usual I wasn't able to convince her.
doesn't much like to reread books or rewatch videos, so when she's away
on a trip I take the opportunity to re-watch videos we've seen. As soon
as she left Saturday evening, I started re-watching Joss Whedon's
Firefly, which gets my vote as the best TV series ever made. Better
than Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which gets my vote for second place. I
made it through all 14 episodes of Firefly Saturday night and last
night. Tonight, I re-watch Serenity, the movie.
I could easily
put together a top ten (or top hundred) list of television series and
movies, titles like Upstairs, Downstairs; Poirot; I, Clavdivs; Cadfael,
and so on. All of them have people I'd like to meet and places/times
I'd like to visit. But the Firefly universe is somewhere I'd like to
My DVD burning problems persist. I've about concluded that our home is
now haunted by an anti-DVD-burning demon. I've now had four different
DVD burners installed on my main system. All of them read discs just
fine; none of them will write a usable disc. Until a week ago, my
Plextor PX-740A was producing perfect discs under Kubuntu 6.10. It
stopped working. I eventually replaced 6.10 with Kubuntu 7.04, and it
still didn't work. I replaced the Plextor 740A with an NEC ND-3550A,
which didn't work, then another NEC ND-3550A, which also didn't work,
and finally with a Plextor PX-712SA SATA drive, which (you guessed it)
I suspected that the batch of Taiyo-Yuden DVD+R
discs I just opened was bad. Nope. None of these drives work with
Verbatim MCC004 discs, which previously burned perfectly. So yesterday
I decided to copy the files I wanted to burn to a DVD back to Barbara's
main system, which has a BenQ DW1650 drive in it. I fired up K3b on
Barbara's system, and told it to burn the disc. Same thing. It reads
discs perfectly, but won't write a usable disc. Now, granted, Barbara's
system had never been used to burn a disc before, but I'd have expected
it to just work.
I'm haunted, I tell you.
I was mistaken about the Netflix bonus discs. They're not worth $0.75.
In fact, they're not worth anything at all. Netflix emailed me Friday
to tell me that I'd gotten a bonus disc and again this morning to tell
me I'd gotten another. Friday, I clicked on the "Use Bonus Disc" link
on my queue page, and it told me they'd ship another disc from my queue
on Monday. It also told me that I'd have to return two discs before
they'd send out the next disc, so in effect their "bonus" disc is no
bonus at all.
For example, this morning, Netflix acknowledged
that they'd received a disc back from me. But instead of adding another
disc to the "to be shipped" list, they counted the "bonus" disc that
they're shipping today. That would have shipped anyway, so that "bonus
disc" turns out to be of zero value. We'll see what happens to the
"bonus disc" I redeemed today, but my guess is that, at best, it'll
save one day.
That doesn't really matter, of course. The reason
I posted that Netflix news release wasn't to get free discs for
myself. I wanted any of my readers who wanted to try Netflix to get a
month free trial instead of only two weeks. That actually does have
Tuesday, 18 September 2007
- The dogs and I are surviving so far.
night, I had meatballs and rice for dinner. Frances provided the
meatballs, and they were excellent. I did the rice myself, and it was
not so excellent. I've made rice in the microwave a bunch of times,
with excellent results. A cup of rice, 2.5 cups of water, heat on high
for 5 minutes and then on 50% for 20 minutes, let sit for 5 minutes,
and it's done. This time, I reduced the rice and water to 50%, but
didn't change the cooking time. The rice ended up really well cooked.
Nothing caught fire though. It was a bit dry, so I just added a bunch of
butter, which made it edible. Last night, I had peanut butter and
butter sandwiches. Tonight, I think I'll have Doritos.
rewatched Serenity (the movie) last night. It was excellent, although I
thought it wasn't quite as good as the Firefly series. After Serenity
finished, I stuck in Revolution OS, the Linux documentary made way back
in 2001. It was interesting to see interviews with many of the movers
and shakers behind Linux and OSS. I was shocked, during an early
segment on the GPL, to hear RMS refer to Linux as "Linux" rather than
his preferred "GNU/Linux".
I got email last night from Brian
Jepson, my editor at O'Reilly. Apparently, we'd forgotten to do a
review on the first chapter of the astronomy book. I have the PDF and
will get that proofing pass done this morning. Work on the home chem
lab book continues. I'm making good progress.
Wednesday, 19 September 2007
- From a year ago today...
Arrrrrr! Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.
I was looking around for a photo I have of our friend Mary Chervenak
wearing a pirate eyepatch and with a parrot on her shoulder--actually,
it's a small stuffed baby duck, but we did the best we could--but I
couldn't find it. Oh, wait, here it is. Arrrrrr!
a totally unrelated issue, my DVD writing problem is solved. The
problem was apparently several bad drives, including two Plextors and
two NECs. I installed a new Lite-On SATA burner in my main system, and
everything started to work normally again.
Of course, I had no
idea what the optimum burning speed was for this drive with 16X
Taiyo-Yuden DVD+R discs, so I did a few quick test burns and then
scanned the discs with Nero CD-DVD Speed. (No I don't have Windows
running on any of my systems; this is CD-DVD Speed running under WINE
For the first burn, I let K3b use its Auto speed
setting. For most of the disc, the drive was burning at 16X or higher,
and towards the end of the disc it reached 18X and even 20X.
Unfortunately, although the burn quality was very good for the first
3.5 GB or so, it went completely into the toilet for the last GB or so.
Lite-On LH-20A1S drive, Taiyo-Yuden 16X DVD+R, Auto speed setting
then I decided to tell K3b to burn at 8X. Unfortunately, it disobeyed
me. Once again, the drive burned starting at 8X, but it quickly started
speeding up the burn, and eventually reached 18X and 20X. The burn
quality for the first 3.5 GB or so was excellent, but again it turns
really crappy in the final GB or so. I turned on jitter testing for
this disc. The jitter values are higher than I'd like, but not
Lite-On LH-20A1S drive, Taiyo-Yuden 16X DVD+R, 8X speed setting
I tried another burn, this one with K3b set to burn at 12X. This time,
K3b really did burn at the designated speed, and the results are pretty
decent. There's an early spike in PIE/PIF, but that's not a major
concern. The bulk of the disc burned nearly perfectly. Jitter is still
a bit high, but overall this disc is considerably better quality than a
Lite-On LH-20A1S drive, Taiyo-Yuden 16X DVD+R, 12X speed setting
So, it looks like I'll be doing 12X burns with this drive and media.
Thursday, 20 September
I did some more testing yesterday, burning a bunch of discs and doing
quality scans on them. As it turns out, the best disc quality with the
16X Taiyo-Yuden discs is achieved by burning them at--who would have
thought it?--16X. Here's a pretty typical scan report. There's an
initial spike in PIE/PIF, but that's of little practical concern, and
otherwise the disc is about as good as it's possible to make. The
average PIE (parity-inner error) is about 0.5 and total PIE is under
10,000. The average PIF (parity-inner failure) is 0.00, with a maximum
of 3 and a total of only 289. Those numbers are an order of magnitude
better than even an excellent pressed disc.
a scan of a pressed disc. This one happens to be a Foyle's War disc
that Netflix sent me yesterday. It appeared to be unused, with a
pristine surface. This scan produced roughly an order of magnitude more
PIEs and PIFs. (But note that the scale for PIE is not the same as the
above scan, and that this scan was of 5.5 GB rather than 4.4 GB.)
yesterday's post, several readers requested a new picture of Pirate
Mary. Some suggested replacing the stuffed baby duck with a penguin. I
emailed Mary to ask her if she's game:
reading today's post, many of my readers have requested a new picture
of you in pirate mode. Several have suggested replacing the baby duck
with a penguin. I have the penguin and the eyepatch if you're up for
it. You don't by any chance have a pirate-striped shirt and a bottle of
rum, do you?
To which she replied:
Hmmm. I think we have rum. I'll look into a stripy shirt. Just let me know where and when.
So we may have a new picture for next year.
Friday, 21 September
Barbara arrives home late tomorrow evening, so I have only two more
evenings of cooking for myself. I've blocked out some time tomorrow to
clean up the place. I'll go through with fire and sword. Can't have her
returning home to a house that's filthy and squalorous.
need to make a Costco run tomorrow with Paul to pick up food and
supplies for Mary's welcome home party on Sunday. He has the city park
that adjoins their backyard reserved for the party.
on the gas chemistry chapter right now, and I just realized that the
first lab session I wrote, electrolysis of water, actually belongs in
the electrochemistry chapter. Oh, well.
I need to do a lab
session or sessions on Boyle's Law, Charles's Law, Gay-Lussac's
Law, and the Ideal Gas Law. The last one is no problem. I'll produce
carbon dioxide gas by reacting vinegar and baking soda and use the
stoichiometry to determine the percentage of acetic acid in the vinegar
by applying the Ideal Gas Law. The first three are conceptually simple,
but challenging in terms of getting useful data with inexpensive or
home-made equipment. I think I'll end up using a large plastic syringe
with the tip plugged for my volumetric vessel.
Saturday, 22 September
- Barbara arrives home late this evening. The dogs and I are preparing to do our happy dance.
I see that the police in Boston, apparently trying to outdo themselves after the Mooninite Menace fiasco, have arrested a young female MIT student for possession of a not-a-bomb.
Of course, it was also a not-a-banana, a not-an-iPod, and a
not-a-lot-of-other-things, but apparently possession of those other
not-a-devices is not illegal. Fortunately for her, she was carrying it
openly. Otherwise, they might have charged her with carrying a
She entered a plea of not guilty to
possession of a not-a-bomb, and was released on $750 bond. The low
amount of that bond suggests that even the Boston authorities know that
they've screwed up once again.
I suppose one moral of this story is that if you're heading to Maker Faire, be careful about which project you take along and how you transport it.
Sunday, 23 September
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 by Robert Bruce