Week of 26 November 2007
Update: Saturday, 1 December 2007 15:23 -0500
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
We're back from a trip up to visit our friends Brian and Marcia Bilbrey
in Bowie, Maryland. We left last Tuesday afternoon about 2:00 and
arrived at the Bilbrey's home around 9:00 that evening. Usually, we
take I85/95 to just north of Richmond and head east to take 301 up the
peninsula to avoid the mess around DC. This time, since it was late
evening, we took I95 all the way to the beltway and took 50 to Bowie.
Other than about half an hour spent sitting in traffic in Richmond and
on the beltway, it was a pretty quick trip.
As always, the
Bilbreys were excellent hosts. Marcia and Barbara did their usual
running around. Brian and I stayed home and relaxed. We did manage to
rouse ourselves long enough to build my new workstation, which is a
Core 2 Duo on an Intel motherboard with 4 GB of Crucial memory and 3 TB
of Seagate hard drives, all in an Antec Sonata Designer case, running
Kubuntu 7.10. That should hold me for a while.
We headed home
about 8:40 yesterday morning and arrived home about 3:00, with only one
stop. The dogs slept most of the way, Malcolm aided by a tranquilizer.
When we got home, we unpacked. I cleaned up my desk and got the new
system set up. The only thing that doesn't work is my antique HP
LaserJet 5P, which is parallel-only. Unfortunately, there's no parallel
port on my new system.
As I expected after a week off, I'm
covered up. I have hundreds of real emails to deal with. I also need to
shoot images for the chemistry book and write a proposal for the next
book. If you've emailed me and haven't heard from me, please be
patient. It's likely to take me a few days to get caught up.
Wednesday, 28 November 2007
It took most of yesterday for me to get back on track. Just going
through my backlog of email took three or four hours, but at least I'm
pretty much caught up now.
My new system is working well, but
some minor glitches remain. Kubuntu 7.10 recognizes my Viewsonic
VG2021m flat-panel display, but it doesn't recognize the Intel GMA 3100
integrated video adapter on the DG33TL motherboard. That means I get
VESA video at 1280X1024 rather than the correct 1400X1050.
Surprisingly, the video looks very good even at that non-optimum
resolution. I spent a few minutes yesterday looking around for a GMA
3100 driver, but couldn't find one. Oh, well. It works well enough for
And, as happens every time I replace my main system or
upgrade the OS, the network connection between my system and Barbara's
is borked. I'm reminded of that old Polish joke about retraining people
after they return from the drinking fountain. Every time this happens,
I figure out how to make it work, and every time I have to figure it
out all over again. I should probably write up a set of instructions
and post it here for reference the next time I build a new system.
historical reasons, I've been using Windows networking via samba.
There's no longer any need for that, as we no longer have Windows
running on any of our systems, so perhaps it's time to blow away samba
on Barbara's system and get the systems talking via nfs. If anyone
knows of a particularly good how-to on configuring nfs on
Ubuntu/Kubuntu, please post a link to it over on the messageboard.
am now even more than usual covered up in books. In addition to 50 or
so chemistry books, there are now stacks of books about physics,
biology, earth science, and forensics cluttering up my office. Right
now, I'm using them primarily to make sure I don't miss any important
topics in my outlines. For example, yesterday I did some work on
outlining a book on home forensics. Some forensics topics, such as
forensic pathology, are difficult or impossible subjects for a home lab
book, but I wanted to get all of the major topics that were doable at
least on a basic level in a home lab.
I thought I'd gotten the
major topics into the outline, until I started looking through some
forensics books. I had a V-8 moment when I realized that I hadn't
included forensic entomology, which is something easily done in a home
lab. Now I'm wondering what else I haven't thought about.
Thursday, 29 November
If I'm going to write home lab books on forensics and biology, I'm
going to need a decent microscope at a reasonable price. I need one
that makes provision for mounting a digital camera, so it seems to me
that a dual-head model like the National Optical 161 would be a good choice.
haven't tried to shoot images through a microscope for at least 35
years, and that was with a Nikon F body and Kodachrome II, so any
advice is welcome. I assume that I can find a K-mount adapter for the
Pentax DSLR and simply mount the camera on the vertical eyepiece tube,
focusing via the optical finder on the DSLR. But I'm sure there'll be
gotchas, so any advice would be appreciated.
As I came back into the house from picking up the mail about 4:30
yesterday afternoon, I heard the phone ringing. When I picked it up,
there was the usual dead air of a telemarketing call. For some reason,
I didn't hang up immediately. After a few seconds, a voice said to
please hold for an important message from the Winston-Salem Police
Department. I assumed it was a fundraising call. It wasn't.
was surprised to hear that it was a general warning and request for
information. Apparently, the preceding day there had been two
serious incidents in our general area, a home invasion with robbery at
one location and a homicide at another. Neither
location is in our neighborhood, but both are just outside it, on
opposite sides. The robbery occurred in a poor area of run-down
apartments and small houses that are mostly occupied by immigrants. The
murder occurred in a small apartment complex that is in a nice area but
was converted many years ago to public housing.
recorded voice described the suspect,
apparently in both incidents, as a slender black male about 5'6" to
5'9", 30 to 35 years old, and wearing bright clothes and a red mask.
What's very strange is that the newspaper report this morning said that
the police hadn't released a description of the criminal. Perhaps they
didn't release a description to the newspaper, but everyone in our
neighborhood that I spoke to had gotten not just one but two automated
calls from the police that included the guy's description.
the first victim didn't bother to report the robbery for more than 12
hours. The robber knocked on her door at 6:00 a.m. When she opened the
door, he was pointing a silver pistol at her. He forced her into the
house, took money from her, and then left. She then went to work, and
didn't bother to call the police to report the robbery until 7:30 that
Meanwhile, the murder victim, Anna Maria
Ontiveros-Barrera, 26, was last seen alive at about 7:00 a.m., walking
her 11 year old daughter to the school bus stop, about two miles from
the first incident. Another resident of the apartments thought he heard
several gunshots shortly afterward, but he didn't bother to report them
to the police. The victim's body was discovered about 3:30 p.m. by
another resident of the complex, who noticed that her front door was
open and saw her lying dead on the floor.
Ordinarily, I don't bother to lock the front door during
the day. Anyone foolish enough to invade our home would first face two hostile 75-pound dogs and then me and
my assault rifle, which sits next to my desk, cocked and locked, with
six spare 30-round magazines. Just in case, though, I locked the door.
Apparently the police think this goblin may still be in the area. Barbara wonders if they think he lives around here.
I walked the dogs a few minutes after I received the police call, I did something I haven't done
for a while. I strapped on my .45 ACP Colt Combat Commander. As any cop
will tell you, home invaders are real nutters, and I had no desire to
encounter one unarmed. It felt strange to have the weight of
the .45 on my belt again. For years, I put on my pistol every time I
put on my pants. It took about five minutes for me to get used to it
I am starting to get
annoyed with Netflix. Before we left to visit the Bilbreys in Bowie,
I'd shipped back all of the discs I had and put my account on hold, set
to restart automatically on Monday 11/26. What should have happened was:
3 discs ship Monday 11/26, for arrival Tuesday 11/27
3 discs returned Wednesday, 11/28, for receipt by Netflix Thursday, 11/29
3 discs ship Thursday, 11/29, for arrival Friday, 11/30
3 discs returned Saturday, 12/1, for receipt by Netflix Monday 12/3
Instead, what's happened, so far, is:
1 disc shipped Monday 11/26, for arrival Tuesday 11/27
1 disc shipped Tuesday 11/27, for arrival Wednesday 11/28
1 disc shipped Tuesday 11/27, for arrival Thursday 11/29
1 disc received back by Netflix 11/29, but replacement disc is to be shipped 11/30 instead of 11/29
so far this week Netflix has throttled me four disc-days. I won't
complain too much, though, because since I rejoined on 21 May Netflix
has averaged sending me about 22 discs a month. Still, I'll probably
drop my membership just before the current term expires on Christmas
day, because I'm running out of stuff that Barbara and I want to watch.
Saturday, 1 December
- Tomorrow is Barbara's birthday. She turns, as Elayne Boosler would say, twenty-thirty-three.
morning, Barbara is putting up Saturnalia decorations. This afternoon,
she's going out to look for our Saturnalia tree. There's Saturnalia
music on the CD player. Tis the season.
I disconnected the HP LaserJet 5P in my office and moved it back to
Barbara's office. I connected it to her Kubuntu 6.10 system, ran
the printer configuration routine, and ran a test page. It prints
perfectly. Total elapsed time was about two minutes, and that included
moving the printer to Barbara's office and connecting it to her system.
Loud quacks of triumph resounded through the house. Malcolm came
running, no doubt thinking a penguin was being strangled.
the question is, why was HP LaserJet 5P support so completely
transparent and automatic on Kubuntu 6.10, and so problematic on later
versions? Even Linux guru Brian Bilbrey had problems getting printing
working on my Kubuntu 7.04 system when he and Marcia were visiting us
over Labor Day. Shortly after he did that, I had hardware problems and
ended up rebuilding my system. I never did get the 5P working.
another note, I just noticed a faint ticking noise coming from my new
system. I soon localized it to one of the Antec MX-1 external drive
enclosures. Obviously, the fan is failing in this unit. That's the
second fan failure since I brought these enclosures up in June. I'll do
the same thing with this one that I did with the first one--pull the
cover and run the drive bare. It's easy enough to slide drives in and
out, and in many respects the external drive enclosure is more useful
that way than with the drive covered up and inaccessible. Still, the
Antec MX-1 goes off my recommended list.
I finally got disgusted enough with running VESA video that I did
something about it. Surprisingly, the video looked fine at a non-native
1280X1024 rather than the native 1400X1050 supported by my Viewsonic
VG2021m display. I could even live with the fact that power saving
couldn't turn off the display. What I couldn't live with was the video
artifacts in OpenOffice.org Writer. I'd scroll down the page and
something would appear scrambled. I'd scroll back up the page and
something else would appear scrambled.
the Kubuntu 7.10 installation had defaulted to using VESA video, I
assumed there was no video driver available for the Intel GMA 3100
integrated video. As it turns out, I was wrong. There is a driver.
Kubuntu just wasn't using it. The solution was easy enough, and
something I'd have done initially if I hadn't ruled it out because I
thought I didn't have a driver. I ran
sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg
and forced it to use the Intel driver. After I saved the changes, I
restarted X. I clutched my chest for a moment when the screen went
black in the middle of the restart and the "no signal" box appeared on
the monitor. Oddly, moving the mouse brought back the video and
everything was normal from that point on. I now have 1400X1050
resolution, and the power saving actually turns off the display as it
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 by Robert Bruce