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Week of 2 August 2004

Latest Update: Sunday, 08 August 2004 14:20 -0400

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Monday, 2 August 2004

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{Five Years Ago Today]

09:40 - I shut down theodore, our NT4 Server box and primary domain controller, over the weekend. That's one less Windows box around here. My former primary workstation, messier, is a Windows 2000 box that's now serving temporarily as the file server. Things are a lot quieter in my office with theodore turned off. It has a PC Power & Cooling TurboCool power supply, which is a fine power supply but a relatively loud one.

My new main box is leibniz, a 3.2 GHz P4 processor on an Intel D875PBZ motherboard with 1 GB of Crucial PC3200 DDR-SDRAM, a Plextor PX-708A DVD burner, a 160 GB Seagate Barracuda hard drive, Logitech Cordless MX Duo keyboard and mouse, Logitech Z-3 speaker system, a RADEON 9200 video adapter and a Turtle Beach Santa Cruz sound card. Xandros installed without problems on this box.

I have the tools I need to get my work done on this Xandros box, although a few of them will take some getting used to. I miss some of the features and tools in FrontPage, although Mozilla Composer, with which I'm writing this, will get the job done. It's a learning experience. I'm not entirely sure, for example, how I'm going to publish this page.

But my major tools--Mozilla Mail and browser, Word 2000, and so on--are the same tools I've been using all along, so there won't be many changes there. Things may feel a little strange to start with, but I'll get used to them rapidly, I'm sure. I just noticed that Mozilla Composer has no on-the-fly spell checker. That's okay, though. I don't really use spell checking. It's a crutch. One thing I like about Mozilla Composer is that the display fonts while I'm editing are decent sized. FrontPage uses tiny little fonts in the editor, and I've never found a way to change those.

The new system will take a bit of getting used to as well. For example, when I checked my mail late last evening, I forgot to put the mouse back in the charger. This morning, it was discharged, so I'm writing this using the arrow keys, with the mouse sitting over in its charger. It has just enough charge now that I can use it for short periods to do stuff that really requires a mouse. I may change it out for a corded optical mouse. Cordless is nice, but it does have its disadvantages.

This week is heads-down writing on a chapter for the new book. My editor is on vacation, and I hope to have a completed chapter for him by the time he returns.

Now to find out if I can figure out how to publish this...

12:30 - I was able to publish using Mozilla Composer's built-in ftp stub. As far as I can see, there's no "publish site" function, just a publish function for individual pages. The good news is that it's very, very fast because it's not comparing the sites on the server and the local machine. It just blasts the page to the server, which takes only a second. That makes it very easy to publish routine updates.

I looked at nvu a couple of weeks ago. It's based on Mozilla Composer, but has additional features. Lindows/Linspire is sponsoring it, so it should continue to be developed. I may change to it once there's a supported version on the Xandros repository. Since this is now my primary system, I'm being quite careful about what I install on it.

I need a tool to replace my batchfile-based "quick backup" scripts, which I use frequently throughout the day to xcopy changed data to other network volumes. Scott Kitterman recommended I take a look at Unison File Synchronizer, which appears to be an enhanced rsync utility. When I get a spare moment, I'll look at that.

Right now, I'm doing my quick backups by one of two methods. Either switching the KVM over to messier (the W2K box) and running the old batch file (suitably modified) from there, or from leibniz (the Xandros box) simply selecting the working data directory on messier and copying the whole directory from messier to the backup directory on leibniz. The brute force method, but it gets the job done.

Interestingly, copying large amounts of data between a Xandros box and a Windows 2000 box is much faster than copying the same data between two W2K boxes. Hmmm.

14:38 - Every time I build a system without a floppy disk drive, I have cause to regret it. Every time. This time, I was in the process of installing Win4Lin on my new main Xandros box, which will allow me to run Windows 98SE and Windows apps under Xandros. I got quite far along in the process when the Win4Lin installer told me to insert a Windows 98SE boot floppy. Duh. It also gave me the option of pointing to a boot image, but I didn't have one of those, either, and I didn't feel like making one. I think I'm going to order a stack of FDDs and just install one every time I build a system. For $10 or so, it's cheap insurance even if I never need it.

As to why I was installing Win4Lin, two reasons. First, I need to run some Windows apps, such as the Cartes du Ciel astronomy program, that don't run under Crossover Office. Second, I wanted to compare how well MS Office 2000 works under Crossover compared to Win4Lin.

Ah, well. Compared to what might have been, this transition is going very smoothly, thanks to Xandros Desktop OS.


Tuesday, 3 August 2004

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{Five Years Ago Today]

08:52 - Xandros is behaving a bit oddly on my new main office desktop system, and I'm not sure if it's a hardware problem or if I managed to mangle the OS. The first oddity occurred yesterday while I was out with the dogs. When I came back, my system was sitting at a login prompt. Apparently, it had rebooted spontaneously. I thought that was odd, but assumed perhaps we'd had a power glitch or something.

Yesterday afternoon, it rebooted spontaneously while I was browsing. No data lost, but very disconcerting. I didn't notice a power glitch, but it's possible one occurred. Last night, as I headed back to bed, I noticed that my office was lit by the monitor, which I turned off manually. I'm not sure why the screensaver hadn't kicked in. Then, this morning when I came in, Xandros was again sitting at a login prompt. When I logged in, all of my fonts were tiny, desktop and in applications. I rebooted again, and the fonts returned to normal size.

I'm wondering if this has anything to do with the installation of Win4Lin, which installs a customized kernel. Supposedly, it downloads a kernel specific to the distribution upon which it's being installed, but I'm not entirely sure what the implications are of that. At this point, Xandros seems "fragile", and I'm thinking I might do a repair install or even a fresh install.

09:17 - This is very strange. I was just browsing the web. I was sitting there reading a page, not scrolling or anything, and all of a sudden the browser disappeared and I was looking at the Xandros desktop. Blam, it was gone. I uninstalled Win4Lin, but I'm afraid I may have borked things up, so I think I'll try doing a repair install. This ain't good.

11:17 - It's interesting figuring out new ways to do the same old things. I'm working on the Power Supplies chapter and needed to grab a screen shot of a mechanical drawing of the power supply form factor I'm writing about. I'm grabbing it from a PDF document. Rather than using Adobe Acrobat Reader, Xandros displays PDFs natively, but it doesn't have the toolbar provided by Acrobat Reader that allows selecting and copying images.

That's easy to deal with, though. I simply display that page that contains the graphic, zoom it up enough that the graphic occupies most of the screen, and then use Xandros's Screen Capture utility (ksnapshot) to grab and save the screen capture. The next step was to crop out the extraneous stuff, and I couldn't find any obvious way to do that in Xandros. I suppose I could have downloaded the GIMP and used it, but that seems excessive for the minor image manipulations I do.

What I really wanted was Irfanview for Linux. Hmmm. The Irfanview web page lists no Linux version, but Crossover Office is known to run apps that aren't listed as compatible. So I clicked over to the directory where I store distribution files and clicked on the Irfanview .exe installer. Sure enough, up popped the Crossover Office installer, which installed Irfanview under Xandros and put an Irfanview icon on my desktop.

I fired up Irfanview, which appeared to run normally. (It's interesting how quickly I've gotten used to the way Xandros looks; now Windows apps look ugly to me.) I called up an image file in Irfanview, cropped it, saved it, and displayed it with the Xandros image viewer. All worked normally.

It's also interesting how quickly I've gotten used to publishing with Mozilla Composer. It doesn't have the site management features of FrontPage, so it's very fast. FrontPage typically takes a couple of minutes to publish an update, as it compares the contents of the local copy of the web site with the remote copy. Mozilla Composer publishes this page in literally a second. I click "Publish" and, bang, it's published.

13:04 - People's names seldom have much to do with their personalities, but Mark Hacking seems to have a particularly appropriate name, at least if he did what he's accused of doing. From what information has been made public, it's been difficult to imagine from the first how it could have been anyone except Mark Hacking who murdered his wife in what has been described as a "fit of rage".

And now Hacking is jailed and under a suicide watch. I've never understood the concept of a suicide watch. It's every person's right to commit suicide, whether or not he happens to be incarcerated. It seems to me that in such cases suicide might be the best outcome. It would end the criminal's ordeal quickly and painlessly, and it would save the taxpayers the cost of a trial and the very high cost of imprisoning or executing the criminal.

If it were me, I'd see to it that Hacking's cell was equipped with a noose, a bottle of lethal pills, and so on. Give him lots of alternatives. Heck, I'd counsel and encourage the guy to do himself in and save everyone a lot of bother if he had in fact killed his wife. And what if, by some currently inconceivable set of circumstances, it wasn't Hacking who killed his wife? Well, he may simply be distraught, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have the right to kill himself anyway.

15:07 - One thing I have to credit Microsoft for. They're professionals when it comes to dealing with the press. I just emailed the Rapid Response Team at Wagg-Ed (their PR agency) to ask them for copies of Windows XP and Office 2003 to do screen shots for the new book. I didn't even bother to email my request from a Windows box running Outlook. I just used my Xandros box and Mozilla Mail.

I mentioned that copies that didn't require activation would be ideal because I need to run them on multiple machines. The lady at Wagg-Ed told me they didn't have access to such, but she could send me as many copies as I needed. I don't doubt they'll show up FedEx.

Microsoft is smart about dealing with the press. I could have written an editorial saying that Bill Gates is the spawn of Satan. Everyone at Microsoft, including Mr. Gates, could have been aware of that, and yet if I'd emailed them the next day to request sample products, they'd be on their way to me FedEx.

Contrast that with some other companies, among whom Apple is notable. Even the smallest criticism of Apple or its products gets you on its Enemies List, where you'll probably remain permanently. I remember probably 20 years ago, in the early days of the Mac, when Jerry Pournelle wrote a glowing review of an Apple product in his column. But he made the mistake of offering one small suggestion as to how they could improve the product. That got Jerry on Apple's Enemies List, and I think he's still on it. I'm sure I am.

There should be a moral there somewhere. Treat people who want to like your products like enemies, and it's likely they'll become enemies. Treat them like friends, and there's always a chance they'll become friends. Even if they don't, there's not much lost.



Wednesday, 4 August 2004

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{Five Years Ago Today]

09:29 - I need to do some work on Barbara's machine today. When I shut down theodore, our NT4 Server PDC, I converted Barbara from using a domain login to logging in locally to newton, her computer. That messed up a couple things. When Barbara stopped using Outlook, I installed the Palm Desktop for her. Although the Palm Desktop icon still appears on her desktop, attempting to run it generates an error. She needs that to sync her PDA, so I'll need to get it running.

Also, WebWasher no longer works, so she's presented with a bunch of ads every time she visits a commercial web page. I think I'll install Privoxy instead of WebWasher. WebWasher, although generally a decent product, sometimes causes rendering problems and is pretty much incompatible with fast systems. I've yet to get it working on a 3.2 GHz or faster P4 system, for example. Or perhaps I'll just install the Adblock and FlashBlock extensions for Mozilla. Those do the job pretty well.

My main system has problems, which may be a combination of hardware and software. Processes just die for no apparent reason. For example, yesterday I was sitting here reading a web page. I hadn't touched the mouse or keyboard for quite some time, and as I was reading the page Mozilla just disappeared. Gone from the screen, not on the task bar, not even showing in the process list. Just gone. This is very disturbing.

It may be that some of the hardware I used isn't on the Xandros HCL. That's hard to determine, because the Xandros HCL is set up as an Easter Egg Hunt. Instead of displaying a list of compatible motherboards, say, you have to search for a specific motherboard. I wish that Xandros would provide a usable HCL in a similar format to that used by Red Hat, say.

The RADEON 9200 I'm using is listed as "tested", which apparently is one level below "certified". The Turtle Beach Santa Cruz sound adapter isn't listed, although sound worked perfectly with no tweaking. Bizarrely, when I searched motherboards for the Intel D875PBZ, I found only one motherboard listed for the search string "Intel". That was an FIC model. Surely there must be numerous Intel motherboards that have been tested with Xandros. If so, you couldn't prove it by checking the Xandros HCL.

I knew going into this transition that I'd have some problems, but the problems I'm having aren't the ones I expected. I guess that's usually the case. I'm doing an intense test of Xandros this month, because I'd like to migrate Barbara over to Xandros by month-end. At that point, other than test-bed systems, we'll have a completely Windows-free environment around here.

Xandros has also announced a server version, which I'll probably get a copy of.

10:49 - Some days I dislike working on Windows systems more than I do other days. Today is not one of those other days. I set out to do three things on Barbara's machine, to wit:

  1. Move her Mozilla Mail data from the Documents and Settings subdirectory on her C: drive to the shared F: directory on messier.
  2. Install ad-blocking software of some sort for Mozilla.
  3. Get the Palm Desktop software for her Sony Clie working.
I accomplished #1 with no problem. I couldn't do #2 because the server from which I planned to install Adblock was down. For #3, I had no joy. The Sony Clie installation procedure puts the Palm Desktop files in the Program Files subdirectory, which is fine, but it also stores all of the user data there, which is stupid.

But that's not the problem. The shortcut on Barbara's desktop simply points to the Palm Desktop .exe file. There's no argument in the string, nothing pointing anywhere but the program directory. So why doesn't it run with Barbara logged in as a local user rather than a domain user? I have no idea. I don't see anything odd in the registry. Surely the app can't be authenticating against the SAM, can it?

The only solution may be to uninstall and then re-install the Palm Desktop software with Barbara logged in as a local user. That's particularly annoying because I hope to have Barbara migrated to Xandros by the end of this month. Of course, I'll have to find some way for her to sync her PDA under Xandros. The Mozilla Calendar doesn't yet support synching. I think Korganizer does, but I've not looked at it. I think Evolution also does, but Barbara's perfectly happy with Mozilla Mail. I may end up setting up Evolution for her just as a PIM, with the mail features disabled. She did something similar after she moved to Mozilla Mail, using Outlook only for its PIM features. Oh, well. I guess we'll see what happens.

12:53 - This from Rob Campbell.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: xandrox hardware searches
Date: Wed, 4 Aug 2004 09:16:02 -0700
From: Rob Campbell
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

A minor tip for the xandros site: you can use % as a wildcard when searching for hardware to print the entire list in a category like video cards.  It drove me nuts until I found that option.

Thanks. That does indeed work. I wonder why they don't show that option on the search page.

Their HCL list is hard to take seriously. I mean, it has a total of about 450 entries for everything. There are only 15 motherboards listed, none of them Intel. Only a dozen optical drives, none of them Plextor. Geez. I'd have expected a couple of hundred entries for each of those, certainly including such market leaders as Intel and Plextor. There are also numerous entries for components that show the "Tested" as compatible icon and yet in the text it says "doesn't work at all" or words to that effect. They have only two chipsets listed, the "nVidia - Nforce 1 / Nforce 2", which is listed as tested compatible, presumably by Xandros, and the "Via Tech. - Via Aplo KT400", which is "Reported Working". No indication of which version(s) of Xandros were used for testing.

I think the best advice for determining hardware compatibility for Xandros is "try it and see".

14:41 - Wonderful. It appears that Katelyn Faber, the woman who accused Kobe Bryant of raping her, is now reconsidering her position, "because she fears the release of court documents about her sex life threatens her chance of getting a fair hearing." In other words, she thinks if the jury is allowed to hear the facts it won't believe her story.

It seems to me that if she does try to back out now, she should face charges for falsely accusing Mr. Bryant, and, if convicted, should face the same amount of jail time he might have been sentenced to. For that matter, if the trial proceeds and Mr. Bryant is found not guilty, she should be imprisoned for the same term that Mr. Bryant would have been sentenced to.


Thursday, 5 August 2004

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{Five Years Ago Today]

10:15 - This system is behaving more and more strangely. This morning, for example, I found that my personal menu bar in Mozilla had disappeared. The bookmarks file had a current date/timestamp on it, and was only 8 KB, versus 118 KB for the original. The original had folders, including one with a couple dozen bookmarks for PVR-related items. The items in that folder were now at the root of my bookmarks file, and everything else was gone.

Xandros is stable on two other systems here, so I find it hard to believe that it's a software problem, but on the other hand the problems I'm having don't look like hardware problems. The system has spontaneously rebooted a couple of times, which sounds like hardware, but most of the time the problems are a lot more software-like. Things like an app simply dying without notice, or one particular app hanging while everything else continues functioning normally.

I just went into BIOS Setup and checked everything. I don't have any "performance" stuff enabled. Support for Hyper Threading was disabled, so I enabled it just for the hell of it. I may pop the lid later and replace the memory modules. Something is weird. I just don't know what.

12:00 - Well, it hung up on me again, this time as I was mousing around a web page. So I took down the system, popped the lid, and replaced the two Crucial PC3200 512 MB DIMMs with two Crucial PC3200 256 MB DIMMs. I was going to use known-good DIMMs, but I didn't have any on the bench so I just installed two new ones. With Crucial, that's as close to being "known-good" as with any hardware product.

I did notice when I removed the 512 MB DIMMs that both of the little pivoting arms that secured one of the DIMMs were not quite fully latched into place, so it may be that that DIMM was making intermittant contact with its socket. I'll test both the 512 MB DIMMs later to see what happens.

15:12 - After more than three hours since replacing the memory, nothing weird has happened. I'm beginning to think that the problem was indeed a memory module that wasn't fully seated. I'm going to give this a couple more days of testing before I declare the problem solved, but at this point it's looking good.

I guess the moral here is that hardware problems can manifest in very subtle ways with Linux.

17:27 - Sometimes our politicians speak more truthfully than they presumably intended. Here's one from President Bush, uttered just today:

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

If you think this is an urban legend, see the verbatim transcript of the comments. Better get it now, before they "fix" it.



Friday, 6 August 2004

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{Five Years Ago Today]

08:57 - Rats. It wasn't the memory. Things were going well until after dinner when I checked my mail and started to download a file. The system locked up entirely. I'm not sure what to try next. Ordinarily, I'd think the power supply might be the problem, but that doesn't seem reasonable given the symptoms I've been seeing. The lockups, yes, those might be the power supply, but individual apps just disappearing off the screen? That's very odd. Anyway, this is an Antec TrueControl 550, and I find it hard to believe it's the problem. Perhaps it's the motherboard, although I've never had any stability problems with an Intel D875PBZ before.

I did something yesterday I thought I'd never do. I bought a VCR. We're down to one functioning VCR in the house, and it's one of those combo units, which tend to be less reliable than standalone VCRs. The combo unit is a 20" Panasonic TV/VCR, which is probably more reliable than some, but I still hate to depend on it. Also, I'm not even sure it has outputs, which I need for transferring our VHS tape archive to CDs and DVDs.

So I went to the Best Buy website and searched for VCRs. I was surprised to see a decent Panasonic unit--stereo, 4-head, commercial skip, yada yada) for $60. I was getting ready to drive over to Best Buy, which is on the other side of town in the area with the worst traffic in town, and buy one. It'd have taken me at least an hour to drive over, pick up the VCR, and back. If I was lucky.

Then I noticed the "Free Shipping" icon on the Best Buy web page. Why not? I don't need the VCR immediately, and I can save at least an hour just by having them send it to me. So that's what I did.

This one gets the award for the strangest spam I've seen this year:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject:  info
Date:     Fri, 6 Aug 2004 05:53:34 +0300
From:     ROOT <telepassport@tvskat.net>
Reply-To: ROOT <r_kirova@agencycrew.com>
To:       Robert Bruce Thompson

Dear Mr Sher

We just received an advice from our Accounting Department for receiving the total sum of USD 46 148.62$ for Our crew management services for your vessel for July 2004. We think that there is something wrong, because the total sum according to the invoice sent to you, including the wages for the crew is USD 45 148.62$. Also yesterday 03.08.2004 We received the sum of USD 11 480 $ for the crew's travel expenses and medical examinations. So on 09.08.2004 We'll return to your bank account the sum of USD 1000$. The engine staff, excepting the Ch.Eng. shall be changed on 19.07.2004.

Our Managing Director Mr.Stoyanov greets you for the buying of two new ships.The crews are already prepaired, so We just expecting you instructions.

Best Regards,
Crew Manager / Telepasport - Bulgaria Ltd
Mob.Phone 24/7 : ++359 898 43 43 66
Telephone: ++359 56 800 227 Fax : ++359 56 800 228
Telex : 067 83208 TLPSPT
E-Mail : info@agencycrew.com <mailto:info@agencycrew.com> :
contact@agencycrew.com <mailto:contact@agencycrew.com>
Web Site : www.agencycrew.com <http://www.agencycrew.com> :
www.worldjobs.us <http://www.worldjobs.us>
U.K. Representative:
Mr. Ivelin Nikolov
Mob.Phone 24/7 : ++447810891302
E-Mail : ivo@agencycrew.com <mailto:ivo@agencycrew.com>

*********************************** **********************************
Confidentiality notice: The information contained in this e-mail is intended for the named recipients only. If you are not an intended recipient, and have received this message in error, please do not copy, distribute or take any action in reliance on it but notify us immediately at info@agencycrew.com <mailto:info@agencycrew.com> Mob.Phone 24/7 : ++359 887 47 00 57 Telephone: ++359 56 800 227 Fax : ++359 56 800 228

10:03 - Wow! That was fast. Yesterday morning about this time I emailed nVIDIA to request samples of current adapters in AGP and PCI Express. A few minutes ago, UPS showed up with a box that contained two nVIDIA GeForce 6 Series adapters, one AGP and one PCI Express.

I've always been impressed by the 3D performance of nVIDIA adapters. Although ATi has pretty much owned the 3D performance crown for the last couple of years, nVIDIA's recent models have greatly decreased or eliminated that advantage. I'll put these current 6 Series nVIDIA adapters up against comparable ATi models and see what happens.

Several years ago, I started using mostly ATi adapters because their 2D image quality was superior to nVIDIA 2D image quality. More recent nVIDIA adapters I've looked at have had much better 2D image quality than previous nVIDIA adapters, particularly at high resolutions. It'll be interesting to test these current 6 Series nVIDIA adapters and compare their 2D image quality against X-Series ATi adapters. Given the improvements nVIDIA has made over the last couple of years, it may be a horserace.

17:28 - My office Xandros box hasn't crashed or done anything else odd today, despite some fairly heavy use. I'm beginning to wonder if audio is the problem. I can't be sure, but looking back it seems to me that I'd been playing MP3s and/or WAVs sometime between each boot and a subsequent crash. Since the last boot, last night about 10:00 p.m., the only sound coming out of this system has been the Xandros greeting tune (which is at least as obnoxious as the Microsoft one). And, so far, no crashes.

PC audio has always been plagued with various troubles, most of which are fundamentally hardware issues, so it wouldn't surprise me if that was the root of the problem here. I think I'm going to leave this system up for a week or so, assuming it lasts that long, without using audio at all. If it survives the week, I'll start using audio and see how long it takes to crash.


Saturday, 7 August 2004

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{Five Years Ago Today]

10:55 - Rats. It wasn't the audio. After running all day yesterday without so much as a hiccough, the Xandros box crashed overnight. I may just pull the D875PBZ motherboard and install something with integrated video. I don't need high performance in this system, so simpler may be better.

Last night was the first clear weekend night without a moon in a long time, so Barbara and I went up to Bullington, our observing site near Pilot Mountain. I was concerned about the clouds and haze on the horizon at sunset, but things cleared up nicely by the time it was full dark.

Barbara, being a librarian, is very organized, and that extends to our astronomical observing sessions as well. Whenever possible, we work out of the back of the truck, setting up an observing center with a folding table to hold the notebook computer, observing logs, charts, and so on. The eyepiece case and other accessories go on a rack underneath the table. Although we usually keep them out while working, the truck's interior lights are all red. (If you ever see a vehicle with red interior lights, you can be pretty sure it's owned by an amateur astronomer.)

Barbara at Bullington observing site

And here I am, sitting at our 10" Dobsonian telescope. When Barbara shot this image, I had just finished aligning the finders on an insulator on a telephone pole about half a mile away. Both finders are visible in this image, at the top front of the scope. The one to the right and forward is an 8X50 right-angle, correct-image (RACI) finder. It's basically half of a binocular with a cross-hair eyepiece. To the left of the RACI finder and slightly toward the rear of the tube is the Telrad unit-power finder.

The Telrad is a reflex finder, patterned on the heads-up sights used in WWII fighter planes. It projects a red bullseye pattern on the background sky, with circles of 1/2°, 2°, and 4°. By placing those circles geometrically on the background pattern of stars, it's possible to point the scope very quickly to the approximate area of sky you want to view. You can then, if necessary, refine the aim by using the 8X50 optical finder to place the scope precisely against the background stars.

Robert with 10" Dobsonian telescope

We ended up having a pretty good night last night. Clouds were 0/10, and transparency, while not perfect, was much better than we've had recently. Barbara and I worked the Herschel 400 objects in Scorpius and Saggitarius, along with our Binocular Deep Sky list. We each added several new objects to our logs. Moonrise was just before midnight, and Luna was 62% illuminated. That much light makes deep-sky oberving impossible, so we packed it up and headed home to walk the dogs and play a little hall ball before bed.

Brian and Marcia Bilbrey have a new family member. I'm sure that Duncan and Malcolm will enjoy meeting Molly when next we visit.


Sunday, 8 August 2004

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{Five Years Ago Today]

14:20 - Barbara just got home from playing golf with her dad and gave me a haircut. I've spent the morning replacing leibniz, my problem Xandros box, with hypatia, the Xandros box that was in the den. I ended up stripping down hypatia to bare metal and reinstalling from scratch. More on that tomorrow.

Barbara and I had planned to go up to Bullington to observe again last night. Until yesterday afternoon, the Clear Sky Clock forecast was excellent. The CSC is updated twice a day, around midnight to 1:00 a.m. and noon to 1:00 p.m. Alas the 1:00 p.m. forecast degraded significantly. We decided to keep tabs on the clouds and make a decision immediately before sunset. While we were out walking the dogs around 5:00 p.m., there were a few puffy cumulous clouds, but most of the sky was a nice deep blue. At that point, we thought we'd risk the trip up to observe. But when we walked the dogs again around 7:00 p.m., a bunch of high cirrus clouds had arrived, covering most of the sky. The sky was still blue, but those thin cirrus clouds are enough to make observing faint fuzzies futile.

We talked it over with Steve Childers, who'd missed the Friday evening session, and decided it wasn't worth the trip up. I got mail from Steve late last evening, and said we'd guessed wrong again. It had cleared up. Oh, well.

In the mean time, Jerry Pournelle had called to talk about his August BYTE column just before the second time we walked the dogs, when we still thought we'd be going up to Bullington. I mentioned that we were just about to leave for an observing session. Barbara and I were in bed about midnight when the phone rang. Sure enough, it was Jerry, who was expecting to get the answering machine, thinking we'd be out under the stars. Jerry was horrified when I picked up. "Tell Barbara I thought you were out observing and expected to leave a message," Jerry said. I told him not to worry about it. We both knew when the phone rang that it'd be Jerry and that he was expecting us not to be home.



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