zen.org Communal Weblog

November 20, 2005

He'll be doing this again, I know it.

Filed under: — brendan @ 14:25 IST

It’s been beautiful weather in Ireland for the last few days, even if it drops near enough to freezing at night to leave frost on our grass for hours in the morning. Today in particular is gorgeous, as evidenced by the vast number of people enjoying the farmer’s market over in the park.

Yesterday (Saturday) was equally enjoyable. It was so nice, in fact, that Patrick and I took out the lawn mower (and his dump truck) to finally cut the back yard. It’d been growing for a good 6–8 weeks and started to feel a bit bashful about being obviously in need of a trim.

At the start Patrick followed me closely as I worked the mower from the top all the way to the rear wall separating the different properties in our neighborhood. As I cut the grass, he pushed behind with his dump truck.He carefully picked up the bits of chopped grass that didn’t make it into the mower’s grass-catcher.

About half way through his efforts began to wane. Finally he and his dump truck retired to the set of steps used to access the back yard from the path next to our house. He watched, I pushed (slowly, that grass was pretty thick and, to my surprise, still a bit damp with dew). I started to make a dent into the second half of the effort. Soon I noticed he was calling out to me, repeatedly and fervently. His dump truck just sat there staring off into the distance like it always does.

Through the roaring sound of the mower I could make out Patrick’s words: “Dad! Dad! Dad? Hey Dad!!” I cut the engine and looked up at him expectantly in the now dramatic silence.

“Yeah? What do you need?”

He asked with all honesty,”Are you done yet?”

I needed a moment to regain my composure before I could respond.

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November 18, 2005

Next they'll patent transporters

Filed under: — brendan @ 17:45 IST

A recent patent issued by the US Patent Office is for—get ready—the design and creation of a warp drive (the file’s a PDF). Yes, the one on Star Trek.

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November 17, 2005

Why Is It So Hard to Report a Child Porn Spam?

Filed under: — alice @ 22:33 IST

Just a few minutes ago, I received an odious, stomach-turning spam advertising a child pornography membership programme with, of course, untraceable headers.

Aside from just sending it to the usual spam complaint addresses, I particularly wanted to report it directly to some agency offically empowered to combat this scourge.

However, all I could find through Google and other search engines was a long, involved U.S. Customs form which looked far more like an informant/personal complaint than anything actually addressing the particular issue at hand.

Would anyone happen know of an address to which this sort of email might be forwarded for action?
TIA

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November 16, 2005

A penny for you, and 5825 for me.

Filed under: — brendan @ 07:56 IST

A really great op-ed piece written by President Jimmy Carter explains how he believes this isn’t the real America any more. He describes horrible transformations taking place in the government, evidenced by a variety of steps the United States has taken that are in sharp contrast to its past views on how to do things. One particular part of what he wrote really struck me:

Members of Congress have increased their own pay by $30,000 per year since freezing the minimum wage at $5.15 per hour (the lowest among industrialized nations).

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November 13, 2005

Amazon Gift Central

Filed under: — elana @ 17:54 IST

I can’t say how happy I am about this. I have various ways to track presents each year, but none have really worked that well for me. Fingers crossed this one will!

Amazon Gift Central

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November 12, 2005

Privacy != Gmail

Filed under: — brendan @ 08:59 IST

It’s sure got a fast easy interface, but there’s nasty stuff lurking in the engine room.

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November 11, 2005

Recovering from unknown (laptop) trauma

Filed under: — brendan @ 22:27 IST

A week ago my wonderful Fujitsu Lifebook P-2046 laptop named lisa died under mysterious circumstances. Its successor, kaylee, is the tiny, fast, and light Sony VAIO VGN-TX1XP. But, I can’t really start to use the replacement laptop until I take care of some unfinished business.

Sidebar: The Sony was in second place to lisa‘s natural replacement, the Fujitsu Lifebook P-7010D. It lost out because in an effort to make the right-side Shift key larger—there were some complaints for the P-2046, though I liked it—they shrank down the comma, period, and slash keys. After only a little bit of typing on one our friend Michael was trying out and I knew it wasn’t meant to be. I suffer from RSI and strain/pain in my wrists and arms after too much typing. Those little keys were going to cause all sorts of trouble for the nerves and tendons in my right wrist and hand, sigh.

But I think it’s gonna do just fine in the market, because I wasn’t using it the way everybody else will. A few years ago, in a tag-team effort with Sven Heinicke and Pat Quairoli, I started to use the Dvorak keyboard layout. It’s absolutely fantastic and has drastically reduced the problems I felt using a computer. (Admittedly, it took me a good month to get used to it; imagine going back to school in your teens or younger to learn from scratch.) So the big problem with the P-7010 won’t be as dramatic for folks who type on “normal” QWERTY-format keyboards. But for my Dvorak, that meant the letters W (on the “,” key), V (the “.” key), and Z (the “/” key) were now on these half-width keys from hell. Trying to type “zen” with my right ring finger trying to hit “/”, or “sven” with my right middle finger having trouble getting “,” instead of “.”, and there was no WAY it would really be usable. It’s a gorgeous laptop and for every other reason was my first choice. Oh well. 🙂

Anyway, the reason for this post…when lisa died she had a lot of stuff on her hard drive that I still need to use for work, for our finances, you name it. (I think the number of people in the world with computers who perform even weekly regular backups of their computers—even just files that changed—is less than 0.001% of its population.) Thus the puzzle of how to fix it. I contacted a place that gets stuff off disks, but it was going to be a bit expensive. Plus, the hard drive in a laptop is usually a 2.5″ disk with a special small set of pins to plug into the inside of a laptop; I couldn’t just plug it in somewhere else.

At a local shop I lucked out and found a external enclosure (Mapower MAP-KC21x) for 2.5″ drives that can plug into your computer using either USB or Firewire cables. It’s perfect! And I could easily take the hard drive out of my laptop and put it with no real effort into this enclosure. Having both ways to connect it also meant that later, if I format it properly, I could find ways to use it on either a Linux system, Windows (cough), or E’s Mac.

I tried the steps below first with it plugged in via Firewire, but it kept stalling or giving me an odd error message about a file having disappeared. On the console were lots of errors like

Nov 11 20:45:16 homer kernel: ieee1394: sbp2: aborting sbp2 command
Nov 11 20:45:16 homer kernel: Write (10) 00 01 df 35 a5 00 00 08 00

so I gave up trying to use Firewire. I plugged it instead into my system homer‘s USB port (catching a theme in the names?), and this worked like a dream:

# lvm vgscan
# lvm vgchange -a y
# mkdir /mnt/boot
# mount -o ro /dev/VolGroup00/LogVol00 /mnt/boot
# cd /mnt/boot
# for f in * ; do rsync -vax "./$f" /bigdrive/lisa-recover/ ; done

homer runs SuSE Linux, and I just needed to install the lvm2 package to have the commands available. It’s happily extracting all of the files now. Thank goodness! When it’s done, I’ll be taking out the 20GB disk that was in my Lifebook, and putting in a 80GB drive I got as a replacement/upgrade of the Lifebook—the disk arrived a day after the laptop was dead. This will then be a really easily transported large amount of space. The enclosure comes with a nice small leather carrying case and both USB & Firewire cables. (The USB cable is a Y-adapter version that plugs into your computer’s USB port but lets you chain another USB device off of it. I’d never seen this neat trick before.)

Next comes installing something (Debian? FreeBSD? SuSE? RedHat?) on the Vaio…

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ISDN Update

Filed under: — Sven @ 18:08 IST

My ISDN line is still not up. The letter I sent Voicenet is officially lost. They probably got it, just in the middle of moving chaos. So they sent me a new form, I was about to go over to the FAX room and send it off, but I thought I should call and confirm the FAX number. Well, it was the old Ivyland FAX number. Thay gave me the correct number, and off to the FAX room I went, local calls only. So now I’m still stuck without even an order.

Does everybody have easy access to a FAX but me?

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November 9, 2005

Dover, PA

Filed under: — Sven @ 14:19 IST

Yesterday’s local elections ousted the school board members that required intelligent-design in Dover, Pennsylvania school’s biology classes. Intelligent-design is not science and should not be tought in any science class, it was almost like passing a law that says π is exactly 3.

Social studies, sure.

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November 8, 2005

U.S. severs most contacts with Syria

Filed under: — elana @ 17:59 IST

U.S. severs most contacts with Syria, officials say / Washington debate reported over idea of ‘regime change’

Dammit. I mean….dammit.

How about *finishing* ONE war before you start more.

And jeez. The article mentions that Syria hasn’t amended their banking laws “to block terrorist financing”. I guess they still are allowed to still finance US stuff tho. At this point, how can the US *not* be considered a terrorist organization?

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