Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Is there a better way?

So now that I am all converted to Google Reader I have SO many RSS subscriptions that it is a nightmare just trying to stay on top of it. I had a busy day at work, and didn't get to look at it until this evening... 166 unread articles.

Too much me thinks! Perhaps it is time to write an app on top of reader that helps with the filtering. Of course I opted into all of that stuff, but there needs to be a way to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Towel Season

If you'’ve ever had the occasion to read Ron Carlson'’s At the Jim Bridger, you would understand what mean when I say that I feel something like the character Edison in the short story "“Towel Season"”, before he found himself, and was able to let go of his work long enough to enjoy the summer. I am enjoying the summer, but I wonder if I should put the programming books aside for a bit and just enjoy the warm summer nights, rekindle some old friendships, and have fun. Not that programming isn't fun, it just seems to be somewhat consuming, and it tends to make me feed a bit overwhelmed. No matter what I am up to, I feel like I should be working on something else. Maybe the week will provide more clarity on that one. I donĂ‚’t have a lot of control over the projects I am assigned to at work, but I have a great deal of control what I do with my time when I am not at work.

There must be a place for binary and towels as well.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Linux - It doesn't like me.

There are some advantages to having purchased a new hard drive for the purpose of playing with operating systems on the laptop. One of them being that when everything seems to be completely messed up, I can swap out the new hard drive for the old one and have everything be _exactly_ how I left it. That’s happy. It seems that every time I get this real fire under me to become a Linux user, I a day or so into it, and the wind leaves my sails. This time it worked like this.

New hard drive arrives.

Install Ubuntu Linux on the new hard drive.

Try to get things to work on Ubuntu, you know, the basics… fail miserably.

Install windows on the new hard drive, update windows.

Download SUSE Linux.

Install SUSE Linux.

Get audio/video/multimedia working on SUSE, things are happy.

Try to install ndiswrapper so that I can use my internal wireless card rather than the external PCMCIA card.

In the process of installing the ndiswrapper, hose the Linux kernel somehow.

Notice that the system doesn’t boot into SUSE Linux anymore.

Try to repair SUSE to no avail.

Try to re-install SUSE, to find that it just wants to further partition the hard driver rather than installing on top of what’s already there.

Try to delete partitions, notice that it isn’t working.

Try to reinstall again, to no avail.

Think about re-installing windows so that it will re-format the hard drive, and allow me to delete the Linux partitions so that I can start over.

Decide that re-installing Windows will take longer than I care for today.

Take out the new hard drive, put it in a box.

Put the old hard drive back into the laptop, notice that it happily boots to windows – completely configured with all of the software I need/use.

Sit down at the Desktop to write this blog entry feeling beaten by the Linux nerds.

Ponder what sort of sacrifice the Linux nerds want you to make in order to join their camp.

I really don’t know what the answers are. But it’s going to be a few days before I look at Linux again. The sheer power of the command line is so tempting, but I just can’t get it to do everything I want it to do, and currently the thought of going through two complete reinstalls is more than I think I can bare.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The quick brown fox...

The quick brown fox...
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.
In lieu of an entry, or otherwise. I think text makes for very interesting photos.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Evening

Forgive me for a personal moment.

A story told as only my little sister Kate could tell it. I found it quite moving. As I went though the evening I thought that perhaps I would try to soak up the event so that I could write to her and tell her what it was like. How I went to Old Navy and purchased new clothes, how the yard had been beautified, and what the foods on the tables looked like, and how it was good to re-unite with old friends. However, it appears that being one of us; she already knew what it would be like. Of course her words are far better than the ones I would have come up with, so I'll share them with you. We miss you dear Kate, but know you are doing great things.

Here’s what she said:
“I remembered that sometime tonight, while I’m asleep, there’s a party happening at my house. Alex mowed the lawn today, and Mom’s potted plants welcome people onto the porch and patio, which I assume someone swept. Turner barks in Mom’s room, checked on periodically. Maybe some kids pick up a basketball in the driveway. The food tastes incredible: the dense Mrs. Field’s recipe brownies, homemade chocolate chip cookies, quality bakery purchases, and probably some bowls of Tostitos and cashews. Mom and Dad probably feel a slight degree of awe at the critical mass the place might reach: Alex has so many friends. Alex acts kindly to all present, tries his best to treat them all as if they were the most important person there. I hope Jessica drew him a picture, and that Hadley laughs in some corner chatting with Annie. He’s leaving and I’ve already said good bye. People celebrate him and wish him luck somewhere very far away, and somewhere far away is where he is for a long time now; to me Novosibirsk and Salt Lake synonymously distant. I’m sure at the end of the night Mom will feel a degree of relief; the anticipated party over, the guests delighted at how nice the yard, how pleasant the company, how well planned. I suspect my siblings might feel how I do, after all this talk, all this anticipation. We’ll miss him terribly. In our various places, even if alone in our rooms, we will each cry.”

Goodness I love her writing.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Let's twttr

I sent out a few invitations for twttr this evening. Yep it’s another interesting social web 2.0 site. But this time, the web part is just a means to the end. Have you ever wondered what your friends and family were up to? Twttr will help you accomplish this, via text messages on your cell phone. You send a message to twttr, and they will forward that message to everyone that subscribes to your messages. It sounds fun. Now I just need to get some of you to come and join me in the fun. Here’s a link to my public page. Sign up and get messaging!

I am still studying Linux, and waiting on the new hard drive I purchased for the laptop to arrive.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I took a picture on Saturday

3 Pears
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.
Pears are good to eat, and pleasing to look at. Enough said.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

More on Linux

So what is all of this excitement about Linux really about anyway? I know that I am coming to the conversation late, but it for some reason I feel like this is something that I need to know and learn but I don’t have a really solid reason as to why yet. In recent years the Linux folks have advanced their operating systems by leaps and bounds, but upon closer inspection there is still a lot that needs doing before it really is the free answer to Windows and OSX. As a follow-up to the news that two influential Mac users were switching to Linux, John Gruber has written a couple of very thorough essays in which he tries to talk about why a person may choose one operating system over another, and I really agree with what he has had to say on the issues.

As I have thought about where I stand with the programs that I use at work, school and at home, I am not sure that there’s a strong basis for switching from my current Windows world. In my work world, it is all done in Windows.

At home I use Windows because that’s what’s there, and it isn’t as complex to manage as Linux, and is less expensive than Mac.

At work I use Windows because like most workplaces it is the standard, though I can see places where it would make a lot of sense for us to be using Linux. For example the servers that build our applications, host our version control, track our bugs and serve our apps to the company. But that’s another story, and I am sure that when they went with Windows they had some good reasons for doing what they did.

At school I am really at the mercy of the professor teaching the class. In most cases, the work we do there can be done in the Windows world quite comfortably. Sometimes it is even requisite, for example when we are writing programs specifically for Windows using Microsoft products. Where it gets blurry is when you get into the language and systems classes. Then there is more of a slant to the Linux world. Those professors may use Macs because of the Unix command line that they supply. This is when our assignments may be programmed in Java on a Windows machine, but for grading they had better work on the department’s Linux machines. As a result, I know enough about the Linux command line to build a basic project in C/C++/Java or whatever the language-du-jour may be, but I don’t know much more about the environment.

This is where my Linux fascination begins. I know that in reality, I will need to have a dual boot system because when work needs to be done in Windows, I’ll need windows to do it, but I think that personally having a strong background in Linux wouldn’t be a bad thing for a computer science major to have. The Operating Systems class that I am taking this fall will certainly all be Linux based, so it might not be a bad idea to become very comfortable in that area. I am confident however, that if I don’t try to use it exclusively for a little while that it will be like my attempt to learn Linux last year, which meant that I only used it when I absolutely had to.

I’ve done a lot of reading in the last couple of days. I even purchased a couple of Linux magazines at the bookstore today. There is so much information out there; the problem is finding the good and necessary stuff. How for example, am I to find and install the programs that I want/need? What communities are really the best for learning this stuff, or is it just every geek for his or her self? I am excited for what the future may hold, but there are still many unanswered questions.

Perhaps my approach should just be to dive in and go for it, but that brought on a lot of frustration last time. This round, I am going to try to get some education first before taking the plunge.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Day Projects

Happy Independence Day!

Two blog entries that really have had me thinking in the past couple of days:
One about ways to protect your data in case of computer failure, and another about adopting Ubuntu Linux as your full time operating system. Both are topics that have been on my mind, and they really have given me the encouragement to make some plans and move forward.

The article about protection in the face of computer failure is mostly about having a backup plan. It frightened me enough to dust off that stack of blank DVD’s and burn off my music, photos, documents, and source code form the last year or so. It took a lot longer than I would have liked, but at least it is done, and I can sleep more peacefully knowing that my important data isn’t living singly on a disk drive that could fail. Things should also be happier having defragged the drives.

I am still a bit hazy on which image program I want to buy. I am currently looking at Norton Ghost and Acronis True Image. My requirements keep changing, but I think that the easiest option for the imaging would be to image the laptop’s disk, and the desktop’s primary disk to the secondary drive on the desktop. The sales propaganda at the two sites hasn’t made it completely clear that this will work. I’m also not completely sold on the idea of spending $140 so that I can image my disk drives. I guess what I am saying is that maybe my data isn’t worth that much. I suppose that a secondary answer would be to buy an external hard drive and back up that way. I do really like the idea of images though, as sitting through another install of XP has little appeal to me at the moment, and everyone knows that it seems at least every year or two every windows OS seems to get hashed to the point of needing a format and reinstall.

The article about the switch to Ubuntu Linux really has given me some hope. Last year for a systems class that I took, I managed to install SUSE Linux on my laptop and desktop as secondary operating systems. I’m grateful that I got SUSE to work, but I never managed to get EVERYTHING working as I needed it to in order that it be a replacement operating system. Perhaps I am just not 1337 enough to make it work, or maybe I’m just not that great of a hacker, but there were too many things that didn’t work the way that I expected them to in order for me to adopt it as a full time OS. The article I read made it sound like it was doable, and this was coming from a long time Mac user who defected because of the proprietary lock-in that Apple has been adopting as of late. Until reading this article, I was really holding out for an Apple, as I know that it has a Unix shell, but this Ubuntu thing sounds like it could be doable.

I am still somewhat baffled by all of the different *nix flavours, and don’t understand the difference between all of them. If I go for a *nix solution it needs to be sufficiently easy that a bone-head like me can install it, get software for it, manage it, and use it for everyday applications. Additionally, it would be great if I could do some development in that environment as well. I’m registered for an OS class this fall, and the assignments will necessitate using a *nix box, I would like to be over my fear by then. I may purchase a book on Ubuntu, and see if I think it is workable. Maybe with a guide, I might make it past the setup. But before I do that, I need to get my current laptop hard drive imaged somewhere else so that I can try it as a single boot, dedicated system.

I’ll let you know how it goes. If you have any suggestions, I’d be glad to hear them.

In other news, I listened to Capitol Steps this evening. If you have a liberal streak, or enjoy listening to parody, I suggest you listen to What a Difference DeLay Makes.


Monday, July 03, 2006


What is an AS/400 you ask? Here's a pretty great Wikipedia article about it. I've worked with one for four years, and had never bothered to see if there was a Wiki article on it until today. Of interest was to learn that OS/400 defines pointers as 128 bit! Can you imagine designing that hardware? Also of interest to me is that the ILE compiler supports a lot more than good 'ol RPG as far as programming languages are concerned. Most of my CS professors won't recognize RPG as a programming lanuage or OS/400 as a system, but thinking about how many people still use the 400 every day to do their business I have to question that line of thinking. No I'm not advocating the 400 for all that needs doing in the business world today, but I am suggesting that there is value there.