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Week of 18 April 2005

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Monday, 18 April 2005
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08:22 - I'm proofing the QC1 galley proofs, which are basically just the manuscript we submitted flowed into the template for the Hacks series, with placeholder images and so on. At this stage, I try to catch everything, including typos (the book hasn't been proofread yet), minor formatting problems, and so on. There'll be a QC2 pass later, during which we'll make final corrections. At that point, we'll be finished with the book. O'Reilly's production folks will do their final pass to incorporate changes and then prepare the book for the printer.

Every time we do a book for O'Reilly, I tell them to allocate only a couple or three days for me to check the QC passes, and every time they allocate more. I got email from the production editor on Friday. She said she was FedExing the printed QC1 pass to me and that I'd have it this morning. They'd allocated until 4 May for me to finish my check. I told her I'd have it completed by 19 April, so please not to hold anything up on my account. She sent me the PDFs to work on until I get the printed copy. I prefer to work from PDFs anyway. I finished proofing the Preface, Chapter 1, and part of Chapter 2 yesterday. I'll do the rest of the book today and tomorrow.

15:15 - I just saw an on-line personality quiz on Brian Bilbrey's site, so I took it. I attempted to answer each question honestly, and here are my results.

Extraversion |||||||||||||||| 70%
Stability |||||||||||||||||||| 90%
Orderliness |||||||||| 40%
Empathy |||||| 30%
Interdependence |||||||||||||| 56%
Intellectual |||||||||||||||||||| 83%
Mystical |||||||||| 36%
Artistic |||| 16%
Religious || 10%
Hedonism |||||||||||||||||||| 90%
Materialism |||||||||||||||| 63%
Narcissism |||||||||||||||| 70%
Adventurousness |||||||||||||| 56%
Work ethic |||||||||||||||| 70%
Self absorbed |||||||||||||||||||| 83%
Conflict seeking |||||||||||||||||||| 83%
Need to dominate |||||| 30%
Romantic || 10%
Avoidant || 10%
Anti-authority |||||||||||||||||||| 90%
Wealth |||||||||||| 43%
Dependency || 10%
Change averse |||||||||||||||||| 76%
Cautiousness |||||||||| 36%
Individuality |||||||||| 36%
Sexuality |||||||||||||||| 63%
Peter pan complex || 10%
Physical security |||||||||||||||||||| 90%
Food indulgent |||||||||| 36%
Histrionic || 10%
Paranoia |||||||||| 36%
Vanity || 10%
Hypersensitivity || 10%
Female cliche || 10%

Stability results were very high which suggests you are extremely relaxed, calm, secure, and optimistic.

Orderliness results were moderately low which suggests you are, at times, overly flexible, improvised, and fun seeking at the expense of reliability, work ethic, and long term accomplishment.

Extraversion results were high which suggests you are overly talkative, outgoing, sociable and interacting at the expense too often of developing your own individual interests and internally based identity.

trait snapshot:
social, outgoing, worry free, optimistic, upbeat, tough, likes large parties, makes friends easily, rarely irritated, open, enjoys leadership, trusting, dominant, thrill seeker, strong, does not like to be alone, assertive, mind over heart, confident, controlling, feels desirable, likes the spotlight, loves food, social chameleon, hard working, concerned about others

What a joke. Some of the individual metrics are probably close, but many they missed by a lot. How did I rank a 10% on religious? I have zero religion. And I see that I get 10% on hypersensitivity. The last person who offended me used a 2X4 to do so, literally. I wonder what it'd take to get a 0% there. I get only 90% on anti-authority. Pretty weak for an anarchist libertarian, I'd have thought. And I somehow get a 36% for mystical, which seems about 36% too high to me. And another 36% on individuality, which seems about 64% too low to me. And only 70% on work ethic? I can't remember the last time I took a vacation. Hell, I can't remember the last time I took a full day off.

They got the Stability results right, but anyone who knows me would have a good laugh at the Orderliness and Extraversion (extroversion?) results. "Fun seeking at the expense..."? Yeah, right. I define workaholism. "Overly talkative"? I make Clint Eastwood look like a blabbermouth, except when I'm with close friends. "at the expense of developing your own individual interests and internally based identity"? Give me a break. As to the snapshot, they got part of it dead-on but missed a lot by a mile. "does not like to be alone"? Geez, the phrase "cabin fever" is meaningless to me.

Barbara will be rolling on the floor laughing when she reads these results, as will any of my close friends.


Tuesday, 19 April 2005
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09:12 - Yesterday was a 12-hour day, getting through the QC1 PDF galley proofs and submitting corrections. Today, I'll start clearing the decks to get ready to go back to work on the hardware book. I also have some administrative stuff to get caught up on, including processing subscriptions. Thanks to everyone who's subscribed or renewed recently.

One of the things I need to do is build a Windows system for screenshots and so on. As of this moment, this place is literally 100% Microsoft-free. Every operable system around here, including my notebook, is running Xandros. I was thinking about installing Windows 2000 on a test-bed system, but I suppose I'll need to install Windows XP, much as I'd prefer not to. I'll need it for screen shots. I'll also need it for ripping DVDs with DVDshrink, running Windows-only astronomy software, and so on.

I also need to do some OS upgrades. Barbara and I are still running Xandros 2.5 Business Edition on our primary systems, because we're waiting for Xandros 3 Business Edition. We also installed Xandros 2 on the system that belongs to Barbara's sister Frances and her husband Al, as well as on the system that our friends Paul and Mary built. Also, Paul just ordered the components to build another PC for his dad in Oklahoma, and Paul wants Xandros installed on that system.

I've played around a bit with Xandros 3 OCE, but I need to sit down and formally list what needs to be done with it to configure it as it needs to be for those systems. Basically, I think all I need to do is remove Opera, install Firefox/Thunderbird or Mozilla Suite, and install K3b for CD/DVD burning. Otherwise the free OCE version of Xandros is pretty much fully functional.

I'm going to borrow Frances's and Al's PC and migrate them to Xandros 3. One of the downsides to Xandros 2 is that it uses a 2.4.x kernel, which has limited USB support. With the 2.6.x kernel in Xandros 3, USB just works. Barbara and I just bought Frances and Al a point-and-shoot digital camera for their anniversary, and I need to get their system set up to make it easy for them to transfer images from the digital camera and burn those images to CD.

It's pretty amazing when you think about it. Linux now not only passes Pournelle's "Aunt Minnie" test; Linux is by far a better choice to install on a system for Aunt Minnie than is Windows. I can install Xandros on such a system and hand it to a novice user without worrying about viruses, worms, Trojans, and malware. Try that with Windows, and the newbie's system will be corrupted in short order.

I'll also probably do some swapping around of hardware. My primary system is now a Pentium 4/3.2 on an Intel D865GLC motherboard in an Antec Aria case. I have a Pentium 4/570 on an Intel D925XCV motherboard with a gigabyte of RAM in an Antec P160 case just sitting here doing pretty much nothing, and it'll probably end up being my new primary desktop system. It's surprisingly quiet for its speed. I'll convert the Aria system to a Windows XP system for screenshots, DVD ripping, astronomy software, and so on.


Wednesday, 20 April 2005
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09:49 - I didn't get much done yesterday. I needed a Windows box to run some astronomy software, so I installed Windows XP on the Pentium 4/570 system, which had been running Xandros 3. Bizarrely, XP told me I had only 30 days until activation would be required. The last time I installed XP on this system, it gave me 60 days. What's up with that?

Then I decided, since the P4/570 system is eventually going to be my new main office desktop, that I might as well do a permanent installation of XP on another system. I had the budget system I built for an article on O'Reilly's WindowsDevCenter sitting on the credenza behind me. It was running Xandros 3, so I booted up XP and blew away Xandros. I was using an original XP distribution disc, and Setup didn't recognize the LAN adapter on the ASUS A7N8X-VM/400 motherboard. Oh, well.

It wasn't until I'd blown away Xandros on that system that I realized that it had the only backup of Barbara's PDA data. Xandros 2 just doesn't work very well for synching a Palm, or at least I haven't been able to get it to work. Xandros 3 works perfectly, so as a temporary measure I'd backed up Barbara's Palm to that test-bed system. So I blew away XP and re-installed Xandros 3. With Xandros 3, synching a Palm is trivially easy.

I've hesitated to upgrade either Barbara's or my main office desktops to Xandros 3, because I'm waiting for Xandros 3 Business Edition, which includes StarOffice rather than OpenOffice.org. Perhaps I should bite the bullet and just upgrade her to Xandros 3.0 Deluxe. Actually, I may be able to install StarOffice for her from the licensed copy on the Xandros 2.5 distribution disc.

11:09 - Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention. Barbara and I have been catching up with some of the stuff we recorded while we were busy doing Astronomy Hacks. One of those was the Islands at War mini-series that ran on PBS a couple of months ago. Unfortunately, in North Carolina, PBS is managed by the University of North Carolina Center for Public Television, which is completely inept.

Last night, we sat down to watch the fourth episode. As it began, I watched a crawler tell us that the final episode would be broadcast the following night, Monday, rather than the following Sunday as originally scheduled. A lot of good that warning did anyone who wasn't watching the broadcast live. Geez. I wonder when CPT will join the 80's and realize that people do record shows. So we didn't get to watch the fifth and final episode.

If this were a rational world, I'd be able simply to download that episode from the CPT or PBS web site. That episode has, after all, already been broadcast, and so should be freely available to anyone. It's not a rational world, of course, so I'll have to come up with some other method of getting the episode. If anyone has it recorded and can upload it to me in digital format, I would greatly appreciate it.


Thursday, 21 April 2005
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10:07 - I am very much looking forward to upgrading our primary systems to Xandros 3 Business Edition, which is supposed to ship in mid-May. I've used Xandros 2.x day-in-day-out for nearly a year now, and there are some minor aggravations that are fixed in Xandros 3.

The 2.4.x kernel used by Xandros 2.x doesn't handle USB removable storage devices very well, for example. When I connect a digital camera to transfer images, Xandros 2.x may or may not recognize it. If it doesn't, the easiest way to fix that is to reboot the system, after which it always sees the camera. After I transfer the images and disconnect, Xandros may or may not see the camera again without a reboot. Usually it doesn't.

Similarly, DVD writing under Xandros 2.x is a little flaky. I run a backup to DVD+RW every morning. Ordinarily, that works fine, but every month or so something odd happens. Most commonly, Xandros File Manager fires up when I insert the DVD to be written. Once that's happened, K3b refuses to recognize that there's a disc in the drive, and again the easy solution is to reboot. This morning, something happened that occurs only once every two or three months. K3b started writing the disc normally, but quickly blew up, saying the disc was defective. From experience, I knew that was unlikely to be true, so I rebooted. Sure enough, K3b then wrote that same disc perfectly.

Then there's Palm synching, which I've never gotten to work properly under 2.x, but which works flawlessly under 3.x. I installed a Xandros 3 BE beta yesterday on a test-bed system, and used it to back up Barbara's Palm data. No muss, no fuss. It just does it. So does the free Xandros 3 OCE, for that matter.

There are some Windows applications I miss, many of them free. For example, there's Cartes du Ciel astronomy software, IrfanView, DVDshrink, and so on. Of those, I believe that only Cartes du Ciel has a GPL Linux port in progress. I do wish the authors of IrfanView and DVDshrink would open the source of their free products and solicit the help of the OSS community in getting their products ported to Linux. Of course, I run IrfanView under Linux now, using CrossOver Office, but it'd be nice to have a native version.

I'm going back to work on the next edition of PC Hardware in a Nutshell. O'Reilly is giving us more page count for the new edition, and we plan to make good use of it. We'll update the book completely, of course, but we'll also have room to expand it to cover things we didn't cover in the 3rd edition. For example, we'll cover video capture cards and USB thumb drives.

We probably won't cover external peripherals like scanners and printers, because we don't have unlimited space, and covering those topics well would need a lot of page count. We'll instead limit it to the "core" components of a PC. Within those guidelines, we'd like to hear what additional topics all of you think we need to cover. Let us know over on the messageboard.

10:16 - I'd like to shake this guy's hand.


Friday, 22 April 2005
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10:16 - Thanks to dkreck over on the messageboard, who called my attention to XnView. I downloaded the RPM and installed it. XnView may not be IrfanView, but it's a lot closer than any of the other Linux apps I've seen. XnView allows you to do things like resize and crop images, adjust color, contrast, and brightness, and so on, which the toy apps like lphoto don't. I've only played with it for five minutes, but it looks to me as though it will do what I need to do. That's one more Windows app that's bit the dust.



Saturday, 23 April 2005
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Sunday, 24 April 2005
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