Gye Greene's Thoughts

Gye Greene's Thoughts (w/ apologies to The Smithereens and their similarly-titled album!)

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Continuing saga of the ''bad keyboard'' guitar

Tried a few more Linux distros on my ''bad keyboard'' PC -- the one with the busted PS/2 keyboard ports, that only works with a USB keyboard.

Because the motherboard (or BIOS?) is too old to properly recognize the USB keyboard, the key [pun?] criteria for a Linux distro to work with this machine is that when you put the CD-ROM in the drive, it can't require you to hit ''Enter'' for it to continue. Or, if it does require ''Enter'', it'll time-out after a while, and kick in on its own.

The secondary criteria, of course, is that once everything's running, it has to accept input from the keyboard. Otherwise, the computer's of limited use if'n you can't type anything.

Tried Knoppix 3.7, the ''King of the Live Distros.'' Although it says it requires ''Enter'' to boot, after a pause it kicks in by itself. Serial mouse worked; USB keyboard works! Unfortunately, the word processing program didn't work (could be a bad CD-R burn?). And because I couldn't specify ''English'' at the startup, most of the error messages were in Germish (Knoppix is developed by German folks).

Then tried Kantonix 2005.2, a spin-off of Knoppix. Again, the USB keyboard wasn't accepted at startup, so I couldn't use the up/down arrows to select my preferred language (which ain't Germish). And, I got stuck in an ''error'' loop: it kept trying to insert an ''apm'' device, but no such device -- but would then try again...

Finally, tried my eagerly-awaited Ubuntu 5.10 -- the Live CD. Unfortunately, Ubuntu requires you to press ''Enter'' for it to install. And it didn't have a timeout function -- so I waited, and waited, and waited... Dang. Dissapointing. (But will still try it on the mega-tower, sometime here.)

On the plus side, the fact that Knoppix was able to use the USB keyboard does mean that it's possible for a modern Linux distro to run using my gimpy keyboard situation. But first, I'll need to transfer all my files (mostly digital camera pics) to an external hard drive, prior to wiping the ''bad keyboard PC's'' hard drive.

There is hope... for the future!!!


Saturday, April 29, 2006

Hard drives: master and slave

O.k., I think I've had a breakthrough here.

Finally opened up the mega-tower PC to see if I could figure out why Linux distributions are having a hard time installing. I was suspecting something weird with the way the set up of the hard drives, since the hard drives kept getting described as in RAID configuration during the BIOS start-up.

Took a look at the jumpers on the back of the hard drives -- and both of them were set to ''Master''. Hm. That's kinda weird.

Changed one to ''Slave''. Since I had the case open, I also tossed in a few extra hard drives that I have lying around. Didn't attach cables, but at least (1) I know where they are, and (2) once I successfully install an operating system, I can trade the cables around at that point.

Haven't tried installing Linux again: It's getting late, so testing my hypothesis will have to wait for another day. ;)


Friday, April 28, 2006

Some guitar

Ever since our place got burglarized two(?!) years ago, and I lost most of my guitars and electric basses -- including my first electric, and the bass that I played in all the bands I've been in -- I've been a bit skittish with my music gear. Because of that, I keep all my guitar amps and musical instruments either hidden around the house, or in a locked cupboard. And the locked cupboard is behind a small stack of boxes.

All this helps to explain why I don't play guitar as much as I ought to -- or would like to. But, I was in a guitar-y mood, and we'd arrived home at a decent hour and already fed The Kid. So I brought out my Aussie-voltage guitar amp, a Danelectro guitar (the mellowness of the lipstick-style pickups balances the sharpness of the amp), and a delay and distortion pedal.

Tuned up, plugged in, and brought The Kid over to play. The Kid loved it! Stomped on the effects pedals, turning them off and on (and thus changing the guitar sound); twisted the tone knobs on the amp; strummed the guitar. Apparently, she likes messing with sound...

I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've let her foodle around with an electric guitar. Like me, she seems to like it better than acoustic guitars. Weirder sounds, I suppose.

Really good to play guitar again. First time in months. I'm hoping that in our new place I can have things more readily available, and our lives will be a little more organized -- so I can play guitar more.


Working late, wrote a song

I've been putting in some long hours over the last week. In part, it's to catch up on the hours I owe the company, since in previous weeks I'd been coming in slightly late, and leaving somewhat early. But also, I've been trying to finish processing a data set so I can tidily wrap up my Data Archving role before I go on ''Dissertation Leave.''

I was in for a few hours this last Sunday, as well as on Tuesday (ANZAC Day, a federal holiday). Wednesday thru Friday (today), I stayed until seven-something p.m. And I'll be in for maybe five hours on Saturday, as well. A bit of a nuisance, as I'd rather go home at a ''normal'' time, like everyone else. And, it looks like I'll have to come in for a day or two next week, as well, just to tie up the final loose bits of the Data Archiving. But at least I'll be getting paid on a hourly rate -- so it **is** $$$$.

(Scribe pic from

On a happier note, just when I was feeling a bit restless for not having played guitar for quite a while, and being concerned about not having written any songs -- I wrote a song!!! Well, three-fourths of a song: still need to tidy up the verses, write one last verse, and work up a bridge. But I have the main structure (both lyrics and instrumentation), and the intro and closing: that's generally enough for me to finish it off at one sitting.

Thought of good ''hook'' line for the chorus as I was walking from my office to the parking lot. Kept having to stop to jot down lyrics on a scrap of paper. Kept thinking of additional lyrics as I drove home: had to keep pulling over to write them down, 'cause otherwise I'd forget them. Also wrote down a few on the back of an envelope while standing next to my car in the McDonald's parking lot, both on my way in and my way out.

I'm pretty pleased with how it's shaping up. Told from my point of view, to Old Roommate's ladyfriend, Furniture Gal. (Their feet, at left.) I think the melody is catchy, and I've tried hard to make the lyrics non-cliched. And -- what made me giggle with delight several times as I had to pull over to jot down lyrics -- I have a few nifty turns of phrase, as well as a sprinkling of inside jokes that refer to myself, Old Roommate, and/or Furniture Gal. (Or is it Furniture Girl? Sorry.)

I don't want to build it up **too** much, as Old Roommate and Furniture Gal may not think it's as tickly as I do. Dunno.

No time to work on it this weekend. It'd be nice to crank out a sketch-quality version this next weekend. Back when I was actually recording songs, I worked out that it took almost exactly eight hours to record a song -- if it was only the recording, and I already had the lyrics, chords, bassline, and guitar riffs worked out.

Ayep! Pretty pleased. Hee hee...


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Perhaps a backyard gym

When -- oh yes, when -- our house gets built, I think I'd like to put up a few ''training devices'' in the back yard.

I thought of this today, as I went on a (solo) Slushie Run and passed a parking-meter like device that's about shoulder-height. (Well, my shoulder, anyhow.) I thought it would be fun to leapfrog over it -- but realized that maybe I should get back into shape, first, and practice a bit on something that height.

As often happens, my mind creatively wandered over the possibilities of backyard training equipment: similar in concept to some of the Shaolin-ish gung fu training set-ups, like in the photos I have here (sources: bedfordview/ bedfordview.htm and, but not as formalized.

Things that would help keep me limber and able to do youthful-type things -- as needed -- and help prevent me from seizing up as I approach middle-age.

In addition to a small grassy hill, maybe waist-high, with a tree growing in the center (I've wanted a little hill like this for several years now; for leaning against and contemplating; being on a hill means that the grass will be non-soggy year-'round), I'm a-thinkin':

  • A single pole or stump, about shoulder-height, for practice leapfrogging

  • A pair of stumps with a rope strung fairly tightly between -- about waist-height for jumping over like one would jump over a fence

  • A horizontal bar, about lower-ribcage height, for practice fence-vaulting over (assisted by putting myhands on)

  • A moveable (but stable) small wooden platform, about a foot high, with a horizontal bar about head-height and a few feet away so I can practice leaping at the hohrizontal bar

  • Actually, I guess I will have a few stumps, in an oddball pattern, for practice leaping from one to another

  • Bars or horizontally-strung ropes at various heights, for me to jump up and ''tag'', as well as to jump up and grab

  • Platforms or stumps of various heights for me to jump down from

  • Some way of marking horizontal distances on the grass (but nothing people would trip over, or get caught in the lawnmower) for practice in jumping horizontal distances

  • A wall, about mid-chest height, for practice hefting myself up onto

  • A ten-foot wall, to practice scaling

The kids would probably have fun with these things, too... ;)


A new martial art?

Yesterday afternoon, as I was trying to round up some people for a Slushie Run (I ended up going alone), I apparently was absent-mindedly doing some Ba Gua/Tai Chi-ish movements, with an alternating low stance and rising blocks with push-hands. (Kind of like this photo, from

Some of my colleagues laughed at me -- which is fine, since I'm open to lightening people's hearts. ;)

Anyhow, this was probably floating around in my uncoscious, because that night, when I was brushing my teeth, I found myself getting into low stances again and slowly, gracefully(?) windmilling my arms. This in itself isn't unusual. But, this time I was combining it with thoughts I'd had before: that some styles of blocking (within the Hun Gar style, for example) are tactically a bad idea, since the back of the hand is facing your opponent. This opens you up to some painful nerve strikes, since the back of your hand is very un-padded, but with a lot of nerves and such directly between the bone and the skin.

Based on this, I experimented with ways of performing circular blocks where you always have the back of your hand away from, or at least at right angles to, your opponent. Similarlly, backfist strikes are a dangerous idea, as a mis-calculation could cause the back of your hand to strike something bony -- injuring yourself as much as you opponent. Hammer-fists, though, would work well.

Based on this, I think I've come up the with beginnings of a workable martial arts style: at the very least, a foundational philsophy/strategy.

Too bad I'm so out of shape, in terms of physical implementation. It'll all theoretical: I'm not up to practical testing. ;)


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

E-mail addresses and case-sensitive

So, I learned something new at work today. :)

Are e-mail addresses case-sensitive? Kind of.

The front part (before the ''@'' symbol) are allowed to be case-sentitive (ex: ''Bob.Smith@...'' and ''bob.smith@...'' are treated as distinct mailboxes) -- but most mail servers allow any combination of caps, for the sake of robustness.

That said, if someone gives you an e-mail address with a certain type of capitalization, you're best to retain it, because their e-mail server could be one of the fussy ones.

In other words: Most of the time it doesn't matter.

(This information based on


Yay! Rcv'd my Ubuntu CDs

Yay! Worked late tonight, but when I got home, I discovered that my Ubuntu installation CDs had finally arrived!!! Ordered them March 29th -- and now it's April 26th. Well, I guess a month's postage, considering it was (1) international, and (2) free[!!!]) ain't too bad.

When I opened the package, I was initially dissapointed, as I'd requested four regular ''installation CDs'' and one ''live CD'' -- but it seemed as though they'd only sent me five ''installation CDs''; ah well. But, as I was reading the back of the CD cover, and opened it to read more, I discovered each CD holder contained two CDs: an installation CD and a Live CD! Nift-a-roonie!!! :)

Will give one of the CD ''sets'' to the Very Helpful (and Pro-Linux) I.T. Guy at work. This is consistent with the tendency of the Ubuntu folks to give 'em out in sets of five: postage for one is only slightly cheaper than for five, and they encourage folks to give them to friends 'n' family.

Old Roommate was kind enough to order me a ''Doing Nifty Things with Ubuntu'' book. Looking forwards to receiving that, too. :)


Monday, April 24, 2006

Actually bought a CD (or two)

It's been a long time since I've bought a CD, used or new. (I usually buy used, 'cause you get more for your money -- although at the cost of a decreased, hit-or-miss selection.) We were at the mall, and I've been wanting to get the first one, The Grates' new album (their first full-length; I have their EP) for a while.

That is, the first album I got was The Grates, Gravity Won't Get You High. Local, Brisbane band, that's getting national attention. They played at the orientation day here at Uni, at the start of last school year (i.e. Jan./Feb. 2005).

But while I was in there, another one was at a reduced price -- one that I'd been meaning to get for a while, as well. Had been planning on picking it up used, whenever it bubbled to the surface, but ah well. The Gorillaz, Demon Days, and all cartoon group (supposedly). Caught their music videos; catchy tunes.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Flu/cold tip

A handy flu/cold tip:

Every time you blow your nose, take a sip of liquid. Keeps ya hydrated. :)

(I made this up -- but other people may have thought of it, too.)

I'm almost over my cold/flu. I feel 98% of normal.

Or, as ''normal'' as I ever get. ;)


Friday, April 21, 2006

Illness poem

Last Friday I had a scratchy throat. It was the start of either a cold, or a flu.

The symptoms of each:

, and the flu (''influenza'').

This morning, composed a poem (due to my sinus headache/toothache/earache):

I'm tired of you cold
It's getting quite old
I've had you six days
So just GO AWAY!!!

I read it out to a co-worker, who suggested it's more of a chant, or incantation -- kind of like ''Rain, rain, go away...''

Could be.


Sick enough to ditch work

Around 11:45am today, at work, noticed that I wasn't just feeling like I had a cold, or the flu -- I was actually unhappy. And it takes a lot to make me unhappy.

So, ditched work, went home around 1pm. I'll make up the hours on the weekend.


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Operating systems are like cars

Thought of this while at work today: Computer operating systems are like cars.

Win95, Win98, Win2000, WinXP, Mac OS X, Linux...

They all share a basic purpose: for cars, to get you from one place to another; for operating systems, to run programs on your computer. But their way of doing it differs -- though really, more stylistically than any major changes.

Like, on my Honda Civic, the windshield wipers and headlight controls were both on stems that came out of the steering wheel column. On our Rover sedan, they're on the dashboard. A little bit weird to get used to, but once you figure it out, it's no big deal.

In Linux, it seems to be ''the thing'' to only click once on icons to start programs; I'm used to double-clicking.

And, just like when you've borrowed someone's car for the day, and have to figure out ''O.k, --- where the heck do they the hood release...?''

Different car manufacturers think it's a good idea to locate the different functions different places, or put 'em different places on the dashboard.

Some cars are made to make it easy for you to do minor maintenance (oil changes; replace headlights). Others make it hard. Same with operating systems.

But, in the end, they all use minorly different ways to accomplish the same thing.


Eat dessert first

I think it was Paul Reiser, in his Couplehood book, who said that one of the great things about being a grown-up is that you can eat dessert first, if you want. (It's an enjoyable book, by the way: a quick read, lightly humorous, and with some good insights about partnering up.) And someone or other coined the bumper-sticker phrase ''Life is short: East dessert first.''

I say this because today I microwaved my lunch -- some ''pasta plus flavoring powder, heat for ten minutes'', to which I usually add some frozen veggies -- and was walking back to my office when a co-worker offered me some pastries. She was surprised that I started eating it immediately, as opposed to taking it back to my desk and eating it after my pasta-based lunch.

I hadn't really thought about this tendency before. But, yeah -- I tend to do that. Mostly, I told her, it's because I know I'll finish my semi-nutritious lunch anyhow, so the order doesn't really matter.

The other reason for my eating the pastry immediately, rather than waiting, is that whenever I cook -- as opposed to ''re-heat'' -- something in the microwave, I then need to wait ten minutes for it to cool down. And I'm hungry **now**!!! :)

Which is why I tend to just eat leftover pizza (and Chinese food) cold, rather than re-heating it: It takes time to re-heat it, and then more time to let it cool. I can't be bothered. ;)


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Toopid WinXP (and CD-burner hegemony)

Found out at work today that if you have Windows XP and you use the built-in CD-writing software to ''format'' your CD-RW (because your existing files aren't deleting properly), your 700MB CD-RW magically gets shrunk to a 567MB capacity.

That's... just... 'toopid!!!

I mean, what's the point of all that?

Gonna have to restore them at home, on my machine.


UPDATE, 4/21/06 --

Turns out it's my CD-burner at home, as well. Noticed that the default setting was ''format at CD-MRW''. Googled it, and discovered that it's a new CD-RW format that uses a new ''UDF'' file system. It improves write speeds, cross-computer compatibility, and the life of your CD-RW -- but at the expense of storage space and the ability to use the CD-RW on slightly older CD-ROM drives. See

Put differently, it's a new CD-MRW (''Mt. Rainier'') format --

A 700MB CD-RW disc will have 540Mb of useable data in the CD-MRW format. A 650MB CD-RW disc will have 504Mb of useable data in the CD-MRW format.

Hm -- somewhat increased life of the media and cross-platform compatibility, at the expense of losing about a quarter of the capacity (22-23%) and not being able to use the CD on older computers. And not informing me of this option? Hmmm... No thanks.

Neither the Nero CD-burning software at home, nor the built-in WinXP software asked or informed me about this change. Nero gives a check-box under the ''setttings'' tab, but it doesn't give any explanation as to the implications (and the default is for the CD-MRW box to be checked).

BAD ANALOGY: You take your car in for a tune-up. When you get it back home, you discover that the gas mileage is about 3/4 of what you remember. You ask your mechanic, who says ''Oh, yeah -- I made some modifications -- it's the new standard. But now you can use unleaded or diesel, if you want.''


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Wonky home PC -- still plugging away

Picked up an inexpensive USB keyboard. (To the Aussies: Cheapest I found was at Dick Smith's. Cheaper than Tandy/Radio Shack by about five bucks. Actually, three or four[?] bucks more than by mail-order, but without the nuisance.)

With my very own USB keyboard, I then tried out Puppy Linux 1.0.8 and Elive 0.4.2 on The Lady's PC (the ''bad keyboard'' machine -- the one with the bad PS/2 ports, that won't take input from the USB keyboard). Hoped that the ''Live CD'' would be better at detecting the USB keyboard. But, no dice: So much for using a ''Live CD'' as a ''rescue disk'' -- at least in cases of bad keyboard ports.

Puppy Linux wouldn't detect my serial mouse. And, since I've already worked out that there's a physical problem with the PS/2 port, it means I'm mouse-less.

Elive hung, because it won't start without the user making a selection with the keyboard. And, since the keyboard won't pass any input...

In terms of my mega-tower: Tried installing Zenwalk 1.2, but it pooped out early on. Is the the mega-tower's non-standard setup, or is the CD-burning hardware or software on the ''no keyboard'' machine somehow at fault? I began to worry that my ''USB keyboard workaround'' on the ''bad keyboard'' machine actually wasn't working. Or, more specifically, that there was some deeper problem, of which the broken PS/2 ports was only the outward manifestation.

HOWEVER!!! Just as I was beginning to doubt the CD-burner, Ark Linux managed to install. Pretty nifty: Even lets you play a Tetris clone while the files are being installed.

Not sure if it's standard or not, but although there were three install options -- wipe everything, install in available space, and install alongside existing Windows/Linux system -- only the first option (''wipe everything'') was available; the other two were greyed out.

Unfortunately, this one terminated at GRUB (the bootloader). I didn't set it to boot from the CD-ROM, but that's what it tried to do. I'm thinking there's something left over from one of my earlier attempts at installing Linux. I'll have to look more at this later.

Anyhow, things are progressing along. At some point, I'll use the ''new, used'' PC that I bought from work to take over the ''Windows'' duties in the household (scanning, extracting digital photos) from the ''bad keyboard'' computer. At that point, I'll experiment with finding a Linux distro that will accept the USB keyboard properly.


''Extra'' PC

Just realized that for the first time in my life, I have an ''extra'' PC (the mega-tower). One where if I lose all the data on it, or it's knocked out of commission, it's no big deal: It's not my ''homework'' machine, or my ''Dissertation'' machine, or my ''all my digital photos and journal entries and lists of birthdays and piles of song lyrics and chord changes'' machine. It's just an empty machine.

Which means I can experiment with it, without fear.

Groovy. ;)


Cognitive geek-ness

I've been watching the screen as the Linux installs work they way through their process.

Just noticed that when the text on the screen says ''copying cd-rom files to /'', I automatically read it, not as ''right slash'', but ''root''.

W00t! :)


Wonky work PC -- resolution

No work on Monday: public holiday, ''Easter Monday'' (since Easter always falls on a Sunday...). Brought my wonky ''surplus'' PC back in to work over the weekend, and left a note for the Very Nice I.T. Guy; also e-mailed a message.

Today (Tuesday), the Very Nice I.T. Guy took a look, ran some tests, and came to the conclusion that there was indeed something flawed with the surplus PC I'd bought.

My manager offered me the option of backing out of the deal, but I'd cut one single check for bother the ''new'' PC and the mega-tower. Besides, by now the check was probably already deep into the university system.

Instead, I agreed to buy a surplus PC that's the next notch down: 2.4 rather than 2.7GHz; same size HD (40GB), 624MB of RAM, rather than a full Gig.

The original asking price, when my manager was surplussing them to us, was AU$100 cheaper than the one I originally wanted (which went bad). To compensate -- and knowing that he was just going to cannibalize the wonky PC for parts -- I suggested I take the hard drive (40GB) from the wonky machine, plus the CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive, plus an extra half-Gig of RAM from that machine, which will bring my machine up to a full gigabyte. Based on Aussie prices for computer gear, this works out pretty close to even.

Everyone's happy. Closed deal. :)

Took it home, and it actually appears to work. Yay!


Addendum: Based on a recent computer-stuff ad, you can now get PCs with 3.66GHz processors, internal hard drives up to 250GB, and 1 GB of RAM (or possibly more, but I don't see any listed in this ad). Just the same, a two-point-something GHz processor is perfectly adequate for what I'll be doing: short-term, using the scanner and extracting digital photos (and hopefully soon, digital video); longer-term, video editing.

Aussie-isms (1986)

Today at work, as part of my Data Archivist duties, I was typing up some notes from a 1986 questionnaire. Discovered a few more Aussie-isms. Not sure if they're still in use today.

Apparently, Aussies say ''pay rise'', not ''pay raise''. Interesting, subtle difference: Both ''rise'' and ''raise'' indicate an upward motion -- but the verb tense is different (or something).

Back in 1986, Aussies would ask who ''puts the garbage out'' rather than ''takes the garbage out.'' Although a co-wokers says that now-a-days, either is fine.

To my ear, ''putting the garbage out'' makes it sound like its on fire.

Also, this co-worker says that ''who does the washing'' was (in 1986), and still is, the prefered phrase for the clothes-washing. If you ask "who does the laundry" it doesn't work for Aussies, because ''the laundry'' refers to the room -- the laundry room. The response would be ''I don't go to a laundromat, I do it at home.''

And, also, to clarify, ''doing the washing'' refers to the clothes, whereas ''doing the washing-up'' refers to doing the dishes.

Subtle cultural differences. Good stuff. :)


Monday, April 17, 2006

Housing plans and computers

Over the weekend, using the USB keyboard as a dummy, and guiding The Lady's ''no keyboard'' PC with just the mouse, I managed to burn proper CD-Rs of Puppy Linux 1.0.8 and Elive 0.4.2. Hopefully, those will work better as CD-Rs than CD-RWs did.

In other news, the Lady and I sat down with the ''almost-final'' house plans, and decided where we'll put power outlets, phone jacks, and t.v. jacks. The Lady will meet with the builder guy tomorrow (Tuesday).


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Wonky home PC: further keyboard adventures

As I mentioned earlier, The Lady's computer (which she never uses; I do) isn't recognizing the PS/2 keyboard. A nuisance, as it won't continue booting -- just gives a ''no keyboard'' error and stops.

Borrowed my USB keyboard from work, for the weekend. If this works, I'll go buy an inexpensive one for myself.

The BIOS now recognizes the USB keyboard enough to continue booting -- but now I get a ''no mouse'' error. Looks like the PS/2 port for the mouse is also broken.

And, even though it recognizes the USB keyboard as being a keyboard, it doesn't recognize it to the degree that it'll actually take input from it. Heh. So, I'm in Win98, but with no mouse, and a keyboard that doesn't pass input. Pretty useless.

Tried a USB mouse instead of the PS/2 mouse. Computer doesn't recognize it sufficiently to render it useable.

Hm. Well, the error message said to try a ''PS/2 or serial mouse.'' Even though we never finished unpacking our home office, I managed to find an old serial port mouse within a matter a minutes (Yay!!!), and jacked that in. Seems to work.

So: Finally up and running, at a semi-functional level. Win98 succeeded in booting. The USB keyboard is recognized as ''a keyboard'' -- and even recognizes it as a Dell keyboard -- but still won't take input.

Luckily, Win98 is mousey-based, so I can at least burn the CD-Rs I've been meaning to do! Just can't type in any labels for the new CD-Rs. Dragged-and-dropped the files from the CD-RW I did at work; opened up the CD-burning app on The Lady's computer; and burned me some Linux installation disks: Trustix 3.0 and Ark Linux 2005.1.

We'll see how they go, on the mega-tower PC.

But, not tonight. :)


Friday, April 14, 2006

Keyboard cleverness?

O.k., so my ''new, used'' machine isn't playing nicely. This caused my thoughts to turn back to the other ''bad'' machine -- the one with the ''no keyboard'' error.

The mouse and keyboard are both jacked in to the PS/2 ports. If it's a physical problem with the ports -- maybe a bad solder to the motherboard -- maybe the workaround is to try a USB keyboard instead.

This is a four-day weekend (Friday thru Monday), but I'm going in to work Saturday (tomorrow) plus one other day, due to my losing several hours by looking after The Kid this week. (Fun, though!) I'll borrow the keyboard off my machine on Saturday, and bring it back the other day.

If this work-around succeeds, I can at least burn some Linux CDs. I'll have to buy a USB keyboard of my own, of course -- but it it works, I'm o.k. with that.


Found the pitch

Recently, I wrote about how I'd tried to play a single note on my trombone at a co-worker's funeral -- and had flopped it.

Got out my trombone, said an ''ohmmm...'' out loud to get the sound -- and within about three seconds found the correct pitch. Right where I expected it to be (if I didn't consciously think about it). Held it good, steady, and strong -- in the bathroom, though, with the doors and windows closed, since it was after 9:30 at night.

Well! That reassured me quite a bit. Not that my brass-playing skills are at all noteworthy, but it might not have been my tin ear that causes my problems, but rather my lack of cardiovascular robustness -- and maybe a little bit of emotion at the time: hard to control the buzzing of your lips when they're quivering just a bit.

Anyhow, I guess I don't have the suckage as a musician. Or at least, not the complete suckage.

None the less, I still plan on creating a short track on my next ''album'' called ''the note I should've played''. It'll consist of a drone note, with some harmonies and additional harmonies coming in, building to a peak -- then abruptly cutting off. We'll see if I can manage to incorporate the trumpet and coronet in there, too.


A Good Friday, or what?

In the U.S. there's a strong separation of Church and State. Supposedly, anyhow. Thus, all the public holidays have to be couched in secular terms: Christmas = Santa Claus, Easter = Easter Bunny, etc. (Actually, I don't think Easter is a paid holiday in the U.S.)

Here in Aussie-land, you get Good Friday and Easter Monday off, as paid vacations. (Easter Monday, because when a paid holiday falls on a weekend, you get the Friday or the Monday off as compensation.) I suppose someone that's of a different religion -- Jewish, Buddhis, Muslem, whatever -- could get all bent out of shape about that. But my impression is that they just shrug and take the day off.

There was a good closing line for a late-night sketch comedy/commentary show called ''The Punter's [something] Everything'':

''We're hypotcritical athiests: We don't believe in God, but we still won't show up for work on Monday. Cheers!''

Fair 'nuff! :)


Sweet daughter

At the Good Friday service this morning, we sat with my wife's parents. My wife's mom looks after The Kid most workdays while The Lady and I are at work.

Going up to Communion, The Kid held her mom's hand with one hand, and her Gran's hand with the other. Then she looked up, saw me (Dad), and let go of Gran's hand to take mine.

Maybe it's a little thing, but I appreciated the gesture: That I'm in the Top Two. ;)

It was made all the more special to me that I know that kids her age are without guile: It wasn't a strategic, ''sucking up'' move; she truly wanted me over her Gran. Despite the fact that, because Gran gets her most days, 8am-5pm, M-F, Gran probably logs more hours with her than I do.

Very sweet. :)


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Computer cleverness -- thwarted!!!

Brought home the newer, bigger used PC from work: 2.8 GHz Pentium 4; somewhere between 512MB and 2GB RAM; 40GB hard drive; DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo-drive, floppy drive; several USB 2.0 ports; 17'' flatscreen monitor. This is the one that I has some doubts about regarding its mechanical soundness, but the very nice I.T. guy took a look at it and said it seemed fine.

I was pleased, since tomorrow as a public holiday. Thought I'd install the CD-buring software on this machine, use the DVD drive to take all the various Linux distros off the ''free'' DVDs that come with my Linux magazine, and burn some installation disks...

Well, I set it up on the dining room table (running out of room!), fired it up, and -- nothing. Or, more specifically, the BIOS probed the keyboard and the mouse -- their little light flashed reassuringly -- but nothing came on the screen. After about 30 seconds, it gave up and the hard drive stopped spinning. Throughout this, no BIOS-ish messages to the monitor. Nuthin'.

Tried it a few more times. Still nothing. Tried the monitor on the other ''video out'' port (the one that goes into the monitor, rather than the VGA(?) slot. Nothing.

Tried the LCD monitor on my other PC: works fine. So, it's not the monitor.

Tried another monitor that I know works on this troublesome machine. Tried both video-out ports. Nuthin'.

Well, that stinks. Will have to bring it back in to work, have the nice I.T. guy look at it again. (I popped the top of the case, but nothing seems loose.)

Although that route of extracting things from the DVD was thrwarted, I had another idea: Take my Win98 installation disk, install Win98 on the mega-tower, use the mega-tower's DVD-ROM drive to extract the Linux distros -- and then install the CD-burning software on the mega-tower and burn the installation disks!!!

Managed to find my Win98 installation CD. But, it got stuck early in. However, I noticed something that I had noticed, but hadn't fully absorbed before: the two hard drives in my mega-tower come up as one unified drive with a ''0-stripe''. Sounds like the two HDs are in a RAID array (when hard drives are linked together, and the data is spread across them; with a 0-stripe setup, there's a speed increase, but no benefit as far as the safety of the data).

Could that be the reason that some of the distros have had a hard time with it? Hm: might have to open the case, look at the jumpers on the HDs, and see if they're set to RAID. (No idea if that's how it's set up; will have to ask my several Computer Friends.)

Anyhow, my computer cleverness was thrwarted: two machines with DVD-able drives, and neither one will do what I need them to do.

...yet! ;)


Backin' up the data

Placing an order for another external hard drive (runs off the USB port). I just read a newspaper article last night, pointing out that for home users, backing up your home computer is now more important than others: all your home movies and family photos exist on your hard drive, and (often!) nowhere else.

I have three levels of backing up. At the lowest level, I (on most nights!) take a look at which folders I've made changes to (e.g. updating a ''To Do'' list, writing a letter), and copy those folders from the main internal hard drive to the secondardy internal hard drive. This covers me against a hard drive crash; everything is still on the other drive.

My next level is about once a week I copy the entire hard drive -- well, actually just my photos, word processing documents, etc.; not the actual programs, since I have those on CD-ROM -- onto an external hard drive. I keep this in a locked desk drawer: I cut a small hole in the back for the USB cable and the power cord. This covers me against burglary, since if someone steals my PC, the external hard drive will (hopefully!) be left behind.

And finally: One of the rules of archving is to have a copy stored off-site. And thus, my ordering of the new external hard drive. In Aussie prices, it's AU$135 (US$101) for 100GB. (Might be able to get cheaper, but this is a good brand.) Like my current external hard drive, it's big enough to hold at least three copies of all my data, which means that I can have several versions of the backup -- just in case the copying process gets interrupted somehow [e.g. a power outage]. Of the two external hard drives, at any given time one will be at my wife's parents, and one will be at our place. Thus, in case of something tragic happening -- our entire home office falls in to a sinkhole -- there will still be a semi-recent version somewhere else.

I used to back up to CD-R -- but it literally took 30+ CDs to do a full backup, which took most of a day (I had to keep coming back and switching CDs). Dumping to an external hard drive is easier.

General rule: Backing up your data is cheaper and more reliable than paying some technician to try to salvage your data. ;)


Computer is well (?)

One of the jr. I.T. guys set up the used PC (mentioned in the previous post), re-attached the heatsink, and let it run all night, doing some diagnostic things.

He looked in on it this morning, and says it **seems** fine.

So, o.k. -- we'll give it a go. :)

Bringing it home today.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Wonky computer


The Lady had to do some class prep this morning, so we came in earlier than usual. I took a few minutes to pop the top of the second, newer surplus PC I'm buying from work -- it's sitting on the floor next to my desk.

Appears to be room for an additional HD: good. Only two RAM slots: too bad (although it has 1GB already, so that should be fine for my purposes. Three unused PCI slots: good (only has a network card; needs a modem).

Also found a heatsink just floating around the insides. Hm -- not good. Who knows what it's bonked up against. Plus, I hear what sounds like a small washer or screw sliding around on the bottom. Generally, I don't like teeny bits of metal wandering around my circuitboards.

Haven't paid for the machine yet, so talked to my manager and tried to trade it in for another, less-fancy unit, rather than muck around with something potentially dodgy. But he was reluctant to do that; instead, he said I should have one of the IT guys check it out.

Yeah, maybe I'm just being skittish. It's just that I already have two dead PCs out on the veranda, plus one more still in the office. Don't need a ''new, used'' one to add to the collection.


Taking a leave of absence

My contract is up at the end of April -- as are most of 'em, for the group that started when I did -- so the big bosses are having performance appraisal meetings. Mine was this morning.

As usual with this place, it was pretty low-key. The consensus among us, however, is that it would be a good thing for me to take a few months off to just sit down and finish my [stinkin'] Ph.D. Dissertation.

I had mentioned this last week to two of the ''big three'' (there's two co-directors of our Centre, plus the guy who does most of the day-to-day running of things): that I'd like to take maybe 1.5 two months off to work on my Dissertation. I'd said that if it worked better for the Centre, that I could break it up into two-week blocks.

However, it works out better for them if I take the leave of absense at the end of my contract -- being sure to ''cash out'' my accrued vacation pay, of course -- and then I'll just get re-hired (i.e. a new contract) when I've finished my Dissertation.

Part of why this would work out better for them is that once I receive my Ph.D., they'd feel obligated to change my status and pay (for the better, I presume), and that's awkward to do mid-contract.

Realistically, there will still be some loose ends: Once I finsh my ''Good, Real, Actually Final'' draft, my Dissertation Chair needs to verify it's sufficiently polished to share with the rest of my committee; it'll take him a few weeks to look at it. And once he give me permission to share it with my committee, I gotta allow them about two months to look at it. And then, once I defend it, they may have a few changes (ideally, minor ones), which will take some additional time.

The result of all this ''handling'' is that even once I get a ''Quasi-Final'' draft to my Chair, it could be that I'll need to take a week off, here and there, to make some changes. But it still makes sense for me to just wrap up that stage of my life, once and for all: recording, woodworking, and etcetera await!!!


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

New age-y stuff and God

I'm reasonably religious -- which, sadly, can sometimes be an oxymoron.

At my co-worker's kid's funeral ths last weekend, did some ''ohmmm''-ing.

Got me thinking about some of the new-agey stuff people do: pyramid power, crystals, harmonic vibrations and such.

Some programmers insert what are called ''Easter eggs'' into their software: hidden little quirky things that if you hit the right combination of keys, you can find. Like --as a completely made-up example -- if you went into a spreadsheet program, scrolled down to cell ''H-42'', and typed in ''Douglas Adams'', it might return a little phrase from ''The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.'' And a lot of video games have ''cheat codes'' -- like, you push the ''jump,'' ''shoot,'' and some other button at the same time, three times, and you get an extra 10,000 points. Or whatever.

The point is: for those of us who reckon God made the universe, and set everything thing up so that electricity and maganetism and chemical reactions and gravity work -- why **couldn't** she/he also toss in a few ''Easter eggs'' or ''cheat codes'' -- like, if you rub a pink crystal against a magnet and wear it around your neck for a week, your backache goes away. Or acupuncture.

Depending on your mindset when you're tapping into this stuf -- worshipping the crystals themselves, or just figuring they're a ''cheat code'' in the game of life -- I don't see how it could be seen as un-Christian.



Cheap geek

I've come to realize that I'm a cheap geek:

I like technology -- but I'm too cheap to buy the newest and best.

I'm also fairly pragmatic. Cutting-edge stuff still hasn't had all the kinks worked out. And, like buying a brand new car, there's too much depreciation (or at least, having the price drop) over the first few months.

I'll stick with last-year's model, thank you. ;)


Monday, April 10, 2006

More Linux distros

My trying more Linux things.

What follows are the distros, the date of magazine that provided the CD, and some comments.


  • D*mn Small Linux (June 2004)-- couldn't figure out how to get word processing file onto floppy.

  • Slax (June 2004) -- could save word processing file to floppy (*.rtf file), but couldn't read similar word proc. file I'd saved a few days ago, and it didn't detect my USB key.

  • ATmission Live CD (apr 2004) -- (mentioned this in an earlier blog, but re-tried) couldn't save to floppy; also, I noticed that ''processor not supported''; since didn't save to floppy, didn't think to check for USB key.

  • Knoppix 3.3 (June 2004 magazine), detected USB key, but would only read from; wouldn't let me save word processing document to it; read and write to floppy just fine.


(Except for the first two listed items, the rest I did tonight [Monday], while typing up my lecture notes for tomorrow. The mega-tower computer was on the floor behind me, with the keyboard on top; I'd turn around every few minutes to check on the progress, make a choice, and click ''OK.'')

  • Agnula DeMuDi 1.2 (2004? 2005?) -- (recap of earlier blog) an audio/recording-based distro; sounds promising! Tried installing, but no relevant kernel.

  • Mandrake 10.1 (Dec 2004) and Mandriva 2005 (June 2005) -- (recap of earlier blog) couldn't find approp. kernel for my box. Interesting, though, to see the improvements in friendliness in just one year: the newer version had some suggested settings which the earlier version didn't offer.

  • Slackware 10.0, Sept. 2004 -- High hopes, as this is supposed to be a rugged distro. Setup is a little less newbie-friendly than the others (esp. when assigning the hard drive partitions; very few helpful suggestions). But, it actually seemed to find the approp. kernel for my chipset (or at least, didn't show an error message to that regard, like the others, when reading the verbose output). Unfortunately, I misunderstood the instructions, and thus mistakenly set it to boot from CD, rather than from the hard drive (like for most normal folks). And when I tried re-installing (and assigning a new boot configuration), I couldn't get past the menu, nor would it let me go all the way thru the installation, the tedious way, starting all the way from the beginning. It simply wouldn't take my choices, and just kept reverting back to menu screen. Bummer.

  • Gentoo 2004.2 (Oct. 2004) -- It installed, but then dumped me to command line. Uhrm -- so, what do I do now? Had to reboot, 'cause I didn't know where to go from there. (You'd think it would automatically open to a graphical interface...)

  • Fedora Core 3 -- looked pretty good -- but it tried booting from the CD-ROM as well, rather than from a section of the HD. I must admit, I didn't read the partitioning screen carefully, I just clicked the "automatic/choose" and let them do it.

So, that's my continuing adventure. The fact that some of the more ''robust'' distros did indeed find my kernel suggests to me that most, or all, of the distros contained on my DVD-ROMs (from my favorite Linux magazine, Linux Format [from the UK]), ought to work just fine. It's just a matter of getting access to a CD-burner that can write *.iso images.

And I'm still looking forward to getting the Ubunutu CD-ROMs in the mail.

It could be that the newer distros (i.e. 2005 and after) would work on my machine, but (cleverly!) by that point I had taken to buying the DVD versions of the Linux magazines, so I need a way of pulling files off the DVDs, and burning them onto CD. And the PC that has the adequate CD-burning software is the dead one. So, I'm stuck in a bit of a Catch-22: Can't install a new OS on my mega-tower; can't use the Live CD to run the mega-tower to burn CDs because [doh!] the CD drive is already occupied -- with the live CD.

Eventually, though, I'll get the tower up and running on an OS with a good burning app -- and **then** I can burn the *.iso images...


Sunday, April 09, 2006

More Linux

Friday night, tried a few more live distros -- Knoppix, one that starts with an ''A'', and a few others. All worked fine, in contrast to the other ones I'd tried: all the apps work, for example. Can save word processing documents to the floppy drive.

(A colleague pointed out that some older PCs don't like reading CD-RWs. Could be. Should try PuppyLinux and Elive again, with a CD-R [which was what the Elive website recommended, anyhow...].)

Tonight (Sunday), figured since the big machine didn't have any of my files on it anyhow, I'd try installing some of the Linux distros on the machine -- just going thru.

DeMuDi (sp?), an multimedia-oriented distro, and Mandriva 2005 and Mandrake 10.1 all partitioned the HD just fine, but failed to find the proper kernel (the ''guts'' of the operating system). Could be that this is a non-typical machine that isn't not covered in the list of options.

Funny that the live CDs worked just fine, but the ''install'' distros didn't. Hm.

So, my attempts at installing Linux have erased Windows XP. Now it's an OS-less box -- a blank slate.

Fun te experiment with, since I don't have any of my personal files on it. So whatever happens, whatever gets accidentally (or intentionally!) erased: No big deal.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Child's funeral

Today we went to the funeral of a co-worker's kid: Not the jolliest of ways to spend yer Saturday. They scattered the ashes near the top of a hill that's on the property of a family friend's farm.

Since the family isn't of any particular religion, but has touches of new-age-y, the service was pretty informal. At the scattering of the ashes, everyone did some ''ohmmmm''-ing. I'd brought along my trombone, to play a drone note.

Unfortunately, I'd had to carry The Kid all the way up the hill. Between carrying the kid, and me being aerobically out of shape, my breathing hadn't stabilized by the time of the ''ohmmm''-ing. Plus, I'd been over-confident that week: since it had been a few months since I'd touched the trombone, I should've gotten in a few puffs over the week, to re-familarize myself with where the notes are kept. But I hadn't.

And thus, during the ohmmm-ing, I couldnt' find the pitch. After two or three tries, I realized I was detracting, rather than adding, to the situation, and I stopped, and quietly put down the trombone. The number one rule in music is knowing when to play, and when to lay back.

In hindsight, playing a woodwind, or using a mute (which I don't own) would've been better suited to the ''mmmmm'', anyhow. A trombone is too bright & brassy.

So, I was a bit embarassed, and somewhat annoyed with myself. On the one hand, the trombone isn't one of my ''main'' instruments (I'd say guitar and electric bass would be). But, I think of myself as a musician -- and I was just a big ol' flop. Did harm to my self concept. And have always had recurring ''performance anxiety'' dreams of being forced to do a piano recital, and yet I don't even know the piece. (I don't play the piano.) Felt kind of like that.

On the brighter side, the ride there and back was pleasant. And had some good family bonding time with The Kid and The Lady. Turkeys, goats, chickens on the farm. And The Kid was tired and kept wanting to be carried, and since The Lady's back is still bothering her, I got to do all the carrying. Which was very cute and cuddly: When The Kid is tired, she lays her head on my shoulder and puts her arm around the back of my neck.

So: A weirdly emotional day.


Friday, April 07, 2006

W00t!!! H0m3 70 p4pp4!!!

Don't think I've ever typed ''w00t'' before -- but, here it is again: W00t!!! I am most pleased -- in a geek-ish way. Hence, the ''w00t.'' ;)

Maybe just to get it out of the way, or maybe I'm very trustworthy, my boss said I could take home the big ol' machine, even though I haven't paid for it yet. As I think I mentioned, he was nice enough to include a big ol' monitor to go with it -- so, side by side, they're actually in proportion! (But, notice the twelve-inch/30cm ruler!)

Tried both the PuppyLinux and the Elive ''Live CDs'' on it. (Had to go into the BIOS first, to change the boot order of the drives; kept booting straight to the HD until I did this.) Same problems as before: Puppy Linux sets up fine, but most of the apps won't start when you click on the icon. Bah.

Elive also didn't seem to work. But, on a lark, when I got stuck at the command line prompt, -- where it offered three suggestions of typing ''reboot'' to reboot, ''setup'' to toggle between Elive version 16 and Elive version 17, and something else which I don't remember to tweak the monitor settings -- I tried something I hadn't tried before. All the other times, during the setup process I chose v. 16 over v. 17, since v. 16 was supposed to be stable, whereas v. 17 was still experimental. This time, I took up the offer to switch to v. 17. And --Heeey...! **Now** I'm getting a purdy screen, with icons and everything!!!

So, for some reason Elive 16 is offered on the menu, but doesn't actually connect to anything. Seems a bit of an oversight...

Anyhow, I also marveled at the spaciousness on the insides. Here's the whole thing:

And, here's the area where the drives go:

Due to an expansion card, there's room for three more drives on the ribbon, and physically there's room for five more drives. (Note all the gaps between the existing drives!) Current drives are a floppy and two HDs and a CD-RW and a DVD-ROM and a Zip drive!!!

A gig of RAM; groovy.

850 MHZ -- but it's not like I'm doing any high-end gaming or nuthin'. ;)

This is actually pretty good timing, as (1) our other computer seems to have kakked it, and (2) my Ubuntu Linux CDs that I requested will (hopefully!) be showing up any day now. Can't wait!!! :)

The recently-kaputted PC will (eventually) dontate two physical drives to this old, tall tower.


Word for the day: Diaspora

Word for the day: diaspora.

Came across this term in an article about ''brain drain'' that I'm reading for work: I'm working up a survey on Aussies that have left for better opportunities overseas.

I have a habit -- a good habit, I hope -- of actually looking up words that I don't know, as I come across them.

This one, I'm sure I've looked it up before, but it's been long enough -- and hasn't come up in the meantime -- that I've forgotten the meaning.

When capitalized, it refers to Jewish folks being spread all over the globe. Lower-case, it's people of a certain nationality being spread out -- e.g. Americans living abroad and all over.

Example from the article: ''One half of the Australian diaspora live in Europe; one-half of these live in the UK.''


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Misc. on martial arts styles

The following is based on an e-mail to a friend; thought I'd recycle it as a blog entry.

In some ways, it's a follow-up to an older blog entry (June 29th) about martial arts.

What I was saying is that when people talk about Japanese martial arts, they tend to break
them down into further categories: karate (of which there are several), aikido, ju-jitsu, judo. Each of these are pretty distinct from one another -- although there's variations within (as I said, esp. w/ karate).

Likewise, Korean arts have hapkido, tae kwon do, hwa rang do, and one or two others (e.g. tang soo do).

But "Kung Fu" (or more phonetically, "Gung fu," since it's more of a ''hard G'' sound) has a bazillion styles. So, saying ''Kung Fu'' really is just saying ''a Chinese martial art'': there's a huge difference between the different styles. Some focus on footwork, some on hands, some on throws and takedowns. Some are very linear, and some are circular.

''Gung Fu'' is generally broken down into northern (more footwork and higher kicks) versus southern (low, stable stances and lower kicks, but somewhat more hand work). Another dimesion that differentiates the styles is "external" (strength and physical force) vs. "internal" (finesse, blending with the attack). Tai chi is an example of an internal style; also Aikido [a Japanese art], for that matter.)

The style I've had ttaken the most of is Hung Gar, which is a tiger-crane style. My impression is that it's fairly Old School, in that there's lots of calisthenics and repetition, and thus doesn't advance very quickly as far as new skills and techniques. However, this could just have distinct to the head instructor's philosophy.

I've sat in and observed a lot of different martial arts classes. The style of Gung Fu at my current university Sports/gym looks worthy: I'd never heard of the style before, but they looked legit, the training style seemed to make sense, and the instructor and senior
students seemed nice. (See here, and here.)

One of these days, I might also take Wing Chun (good for hand-based close-range fighting), kali/escrima (focuses on short stick or baton), capoeira (Brazillian, a lot of cartwheel-style kicks).

Would be intersted also in trying Ba Gua -- internal Chinese style, featured in the "good" Jet Li in the movie "The One" -- lots of circular movements. Hard to find instructors in it, though. Whereas Wing Chun schools are fairly easy to find, and there's a Kali/Escrima instructor about two neighborhoods over from where we live. There's a Capoeira class held on campus here, which I've also observed, and they look good as well.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Spiffy keyboards

Rcv'd this from The Tabulator; thought I'd share.

Most are supposedly ergonomic; some might actually be. Some are rather pricey, though. Old Roommate should check into a few of them.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

It's All About the Pentiums

Lyrics from Weird Al Yancovic, ''It's All About the Pentiums.'' When I'm driving around doing errands, or commuting separately from The Lady, it's on my mix tape. I love singing along with it, including:

Yeah, payin' the bills with my mad programming skills
Defraggin' my hard drive for thrills

I don't have particularly ''mad'' programming skills -- very little, really. But the sad(?) thing is, I **do** defragment my hard drive for the fun of it.


computer thing

The DOS-based scandisk was **much** zippier than the Windows version. And, as I said, the display was much more informative.

However -- when it finished, the tab/enter-based options on the bottom of the screen wouldn't respond to my keystrokes. Upon reboot (several times), I kept getting a"no keyboard" error.

**Could** have been that my keyboard suddenly stopped working. But you wouldn't think so. I've since tried different keyboards, to no avail.

My Computer Friends say it's a BIOS-level thing, and thus at a deeper level than the operating system or the hard drive.

Computer irony: I love how the screen says"Keyboard error. Hit F1 to continue"


Many machines

As one of the many good suggestions I've received from my Computer Friends, Old Roommate suggested I create a Win98 boot disk.

**This** is where it's nice to have multiple PCs. Kind of like when you own old cars, you need one running, to dash to the auto parts store, while working on the other one...


Monday, April 03, 2006

Geek lessons

One of the nifty things about playing with computers is that, unlike writing a Ph.D. dissertation, just a few keystrokes can set in motion something that will run by itself the rest of the evening.

Over the last few nights, I've been trying to run Win98's ScanDisk to check the disk surface for errors. My main goal has been to suss out whether there's something physically wrong with the primary HD of the machine that won't play nice with the Linux Live CDs. (A bad HD has been suggested by nearly all of the nice computer friends I e-mailed for adavice.) But, for comparison, I've also run ScanDisk on my other machine.

A few observations:

  • Even in Safe Mode, both my machines would occasionally start the process over, stating that some other program would start up (thus, presumably, changing the content of the disk). My understanding is that Safe Mode is supposed to protect from this. Weird.
  • My 900MHz machine (my ''good'' PC) was processing around 1.4x the number of sectors per minute as my 1.7GHz machine (the ''potentially bad HD'' PC). Thus, whatever relevant bus speeds aside, the machine with a 1.9x faster processor was performing an identical task more slowly. Although the faster machine was a disk partition, whereas the slower machine was an entire physical drive; maybe that's easier to scan.
  • Old Roomate suggested I do the disk scan thru the DOS command line, rather than the Windows route. I did this, and what would take from early evening until somewhere in the wee hours (where it would then jam up) now whipped thru in about three hours.
  • ...And I prefer the DOS-based interface. Shows more information. Comparison pics below.

Windows-based ScanDisk: Simple bar chart; numbers advance in huge chunks

DOS-based ScanDisk: Shows two-dimensionally the progress;
shows block numbers whizzing by

Ya learn something every day.

Oh: The hard drive in question came through with flying colors: No damage indicated. Although the choices on the screen, that I should be able to Tab thru, don't work -- the computer didn't react to any keyboard presses after it had finished.

And upon rebooting, it doesn't recognize the keyboard. Hm...


A few children's books reccs

A few kids' books recommendations -- the top few from my running list. Based on books I come across when we take The Kid to the kids' section at the local library. Good probably for ages maybe 4-12 -- although I'm 36 and **I** like 'em!!!

  • Hyram and B. (2003), by Brian Caswell, ill Matt Ottley(Sun, Apr 2, 2006 -- Carindale Mall library) -- told from the perspective of a teddy bear in an op shop, who was given up by his former owner and is friends with the teddy bear next to him.

  • Louisa May Pickett: The Most Boring Person in Class (2005) (Sun, Apr 2, 2006 -- Carindale Mall library) A girl at a new school who has an insanely amazing array of Show 'n' Tell items (a pet octopus that paints portraits in ink; a chess-playing chimpanzee), but keeps getting trumped by the other kids.

  • Little Squarehead (2001)(Sun, Apr 2, 2006 -- Carindale Mall library) -- a girl who is different learns to accept herself; published in Belleve, Washington!!!, by a small press called Illumination Arts,

  • (Feb. 2006) Wingwalker (2002), Rosemary Wells, Brian Selznick; Hyperion Books for Children; takes place in great depression, kid whose dad is a dance instructor joins a travelling carnival as a wing walker for employment.

  • The Violin Man, by Colin Thompson (about public acclaim for playing music; Feb. 25, 2006)

  • The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (2/25/06, library)

  • The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert N. Munsch, Scholastic Books, 1980 (in the vein of The Practical Princess)

Worth checking out -- IMO. :)


Fun Indian movie

Last night, saw a movie from India on SBS (they often show foreign films). Called Don't Say a Word (2003). Had the lady from ''Bride and Prejudice'' -- also a good movie! -- with Aussie English subtitles. Single guy falls in love with a single mom who works for his uncle and is supposed to find him a bride; he also takes the woman's young boy under his wing. He's a very noble guy.

Movie has a few Bollywood singing and dancing scenes, and some amusing bits. A sweet, family-friendly movie.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Geek cognition

Back when Old Roommate and I attended the same university (where we met!), we had a mutual friend named Marcus Dodralius who was a Comp. Sci. major.

One day M. Dodralius was telling me about some guy. ''I don't remember his first name,'' said Dodralius, ''But it's five characters long.''

''Whaaat?'' I asked him? He didn't understand what I was reacting to. ''You said 'five characters','' I said. ''Most people would've said 'five letters'.'' He agreed that this was very ''Comp. Sci. major'' of him.

And now, some eighteen years, a score of databases, and a few hundred manipulations of string variables later, I find myself talking exactly the same way to The Lady. And neither of us thinking anything of it.

Slow contagion.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

The library once was the internet

Went to the library this weekend, as we do most weekends. While I was there, I realized that, before the internet, the library was the internet. Audio, video: check out CDs and videotapes and DVDs. Information on nearly every conceivable subject? Yep. Lots of text, stories, information? Yeah.

And now, most libraries have internet access as well: Internet within the old internet.