Home > Daynotes Home > Week of 26 November 2007

Photograph of Robert Bruce Thompson
Daynotes Journal

Week of 26 November 2007

Latest Update: Saturday, 1 December 2007 15:23 -0500

Paying for this Place
Visit Barbara's Journal Page

Monday, 26 November 2007
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

00:00 - 


Tuesday, 27 November 2007
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:33 - 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
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

11:00 - 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 now.

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.

For 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.

I 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 2007
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:10 - 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.

I 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.


Friday, 30 November 2007
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

08:28 - 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.

I 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.

The 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.

Bizarrely, 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 evening.

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.

When 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 again.

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, 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 2007
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:20 - Tomorrow is Barbara's birthday. She turns, as Elayne Boosler would say, twenty-thirty-three.

This 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.

12:33 - 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.

Now, 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.

On 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.

15:23 - 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.

Because 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 should.


Sunday, 2 December 2007
[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, 2006, 2007 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.