Monday, March 31, 2008

Courtesy on the road

I was driving to the Wal-Mart in Crawfordville taking a road that is miles of nothing in the middle of nowhere. The speed limit slowed from 55mph to 45mph. Just as I was hitting 45, a car comes up behind me and crosses on a double-line. It was clear that if a vehicle was coming from the other direction, that we would not be able to see it. So I popped the clutch to slow down just a little bit and let the guy in easier when a car starts coming in from the other direction. At this point I applied the breaks to the point that I was probably only going about 30. The passing car turns back in to our lane, making it withing about 1/8 of a second before a head on collision in what would have been at least a combined impact of 80mph, but probably more than 90mph.
A few things of note.
  1. The selfish act of the guy passing me could have resulted in at least two people dying. One of them would have been someone driving safely.
  2. If a wreck did happen, it's possible that I would have hit someone in the collision as the cars could have ricocheted in any direction, including at me.
  3. Had I not forseen the possibility of this event and acted on that possibility, the wreck would have been inevitable.

This had me kind of shook up for the rest of the night.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I don't consider myself much of a writer, but I wrote this for a class and I kinda liked it.
The smell of dry dust is only compounded by the endless site of its existence. The jagged rock protruding from the mountain sides are completely blanketed with the stuff. As we pass by a coniferous bush, it's smell seems to nicely compliment the dust.
The loosness of the sand does not help the fact that the trail is only about two-feet wide, and the drop is a few stories down.
Being consumed by the dry sand, my mouth constantly desires a sip from the canteen. The trek is two miles, but the canteen only holds twelve-ounces of fluid. The water needs to be conserved.
The beating of the sun is made pleasant by the constant breeze. My black cowboy hat keeps my wild hair at peace in the whirlwind. A few strands find their way out and are slapped against my face by the wind. I tuck them away, but their restraint is only temporary.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Latest update kills Hardy

Updates to Ubuntu Hardy on Saturday caused major problems. Whenever I boot up it tells me it is going to run in low graphics mode. I don't have any sound either. The desktop runs at 800X600 only. Anything that requires sound, such as playing videos and music, is useless. Hopefully and update will come out soon that will restore the desktop back to a usable state.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Data Aggregation

One thing that makes my life a lot easier is data aggregation. Data aggregation works like this. I can find everything I am interested in, in one place.
RSS and ATOM feeds make a lot of this possible. By simply logging in to Google, using their feed reader, I can get updates about all sorts of information, in one easy place. I get updates up to the minute of all sorts, Dilber, XKCD and Tom Tomorrow comics, local news, the happenings in open source, blogs from various friends and family, and more.
Google has other nice services that allow me to group other data all under the Google umbrella. My Google Calendar has all my calendar information I need. GrandCentral, which is owned by Google, has all of my contacts with their phone number and physical address. I am hoping that they will eventually merge it with GMail so my contacts in there, with the e-mail addresses, are in one place. Then I have all of my important documentation in my Google docs.
This sort of aggregation is extremely convenient, especially since these are all online services. No matter if I'm at home, at work, at school, at a friend's house, as long as I have an Internet connection, all of my data is sitting very cozilly in that one place waiting for me to access it. One day, when I have enough money to have a smart phone with an internet connection, all of that data will go with my practically everywhere.
The other great thing about these services is that you don't have to be tech savy to use them. There is a little bit of a learning curve, but anyone who is familiar with using comptuers should be able to pick any of these up with no problem.A final thing I would like integrated in Google Docs is a finance program like Quicken or Microsoft Money. I use GNUCash at home, but would prefer to not have to be at home to update or view my books. The biggest problem with this is security.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Impressions of Hardy Alpha

Last week I went ahead and put Ubuntu Hardy Alpha on my girl's machine. I don't usually do alpha, but I was fealing a little saucy I guess.I didn't know what to expect, but it was pretty buggy. The purpose of this machine is mainly to play games online in Firefox and store their music and videos. One of the first things I tried to do was rip a CD. When I went to change the preferences to make sure it was doing oggs with 0.5 quality it crashed the system. Upon reboot gnome-panel would run, but not display any toolbars. I created a folder on my desktop so I could open it and be in the file system. I then browsed to /local/bin/ and ran the system monitor. After killing gnome-panel and then manually rerunning it, the panels showed back up. A reboot would take me back to no panels. Doing a purge and then reinstall of gnome-panel did not fix the panels. This was pretty annoying, but this is Alpha, so I can't complain. I checked and a bug was already filed for it.
A few days later an update fixed the gnome-panels, and about week after that an update allowed me to rip CDs without any crashing.
After these updates the computer has been running very stable. Much more stable than I would expect an alpha to run. I have most of their CDs ripped on to the PC and am working on their DVDs. The idea here is that I can store their media somewhere safe so that they don't destroy it, and then use their computer as their full entertainment center.
The only problem I am having right now is that the wireless card is fully detected, but it cannot find any APs. This problem persisted on the previous install of Ubuntu on this machine, though it worked when I initially installed the card. I think it's a hardware issue with the card, but I have not devoted any time to trying to solve it.
Overall this looks to be another nice release. The most immediate thing anyone should notice is that the default theme, including the background, has received a major, and much needed overhaul. There are also some new programs for handling bit torrent and for burning CDs. Pulse Audio is new as well, but I haven't had much of a chance to take a look at what this change means to the average user, if anything.
In other news, I just got my confirmation e-mail yesterday that Microsoft will be shipping me a free version of Windows Vista 32-bit. So I will now have Windows Vista 32-bit and Windows Vista 64-bit. The 64-bit sits on a 20 Gig partition that gets touched once every eclipse. The 32-bit version will sit in a VM. This will actually be more convenient than the physical install because if I have a need to peek into Windows for a bit to boot it up and then shut it down without actually leaving my Linux environment.
The only version of Windows I bought came with a PC I purchased ~1999. I got XP free when it came out, and now I'm getting Vista free twice. I guess it doesn't hurt them any that Linux is my full time OS.

Global Translation File

I have an idea for how to make translating programs in Linux a lot easier. It won't solve all the woes, but it could provide a decent amount of assistance. provides standards for Linux programs to use so that things are more cohesive. My idea is a definition on how some very specific menus and buttons should choose verbiage. For example, The File, Edit, View, Tools, Help menus should always be named just that. The OK button should always read OK, and the cancel button should always be cancel. These are already unwritten standards, but it would help if we defined them specifically.
In a translatable program, the text within the program is not hard coded into the binary package, but is punted off to a translation file. So your program may look for ~/.myprogram/en.cfg to find out what the different fields should read in English and ~/.myprogram/sp.cfg for Spanish.
With my suggestion implemented, programs could first look in to a system wide file, such as /etc/en.cfg, first. If it is not able to find the translation there, then it would drop back to a secondary, program specific file. This would take care of translating a good chunk of your program, and it would also provide with an identical translation across all programs that use it.Another advantage is that you could change the verbiage of all programs in one easy edit. If you didn't want the File menu to say File, you could edit this one file, and then every program that supports the global translation file would be changed. It would be very simple.So that's my idea that will probably never be implemented. Let me know what you think, or if you know a way to formally submit this idea.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Gimme gimme shock treatment

Last week at work the door that is behind my desk was shocking the hell out of me. It seemed to only shock me and Bill. Nobody else. And when it shocked me it was a good little jolt. There was only way around this. If I held on to the metal part of a key and touched the key to the door it would discharge us without shocking me, and then I could grab the handle. Sometimes the key and the door handle would create a nice little arch. The outside part of the door handle did not shock me, which is pretty odd too. The door handle to the microwave had the same problem.
Bill said when he was my age he got shocked pretty badly during the cold dry season as well. He says he still gets shocked, but not as badly. What in the world causes this? Why is my body so much more electric? It's a strange phenomenon to me.This week the handle doesn't shock me, but my blood pressure raises a few degrees each time I touch the thing.