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January 07 thru January 06, 2002

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Go read Brian and Tom's Linux Book NOW!

Welcome to Orb Graffiti, a place for me to write daily about life and computers. Contrary to popular belief, the two are not interchangeable. EMAIL - I publish email sometimes. If you send me an email and you want privacy or anonymity, please say so clearly at the beginning of your message..

MONDAY    Tues    Wed    Thu    Fri    Sat    Sun   
January 07, 2001 -    Updates at 0930

Good morning. We'll get to the new look in a moment. First, I'd like to share with you our menu from last night:

For me, there was Grilled Day Boat Sea Scallops with Ruby Grapefruit, Marinated Cucumbers and Caviar as an appetizer, followed by Baby Lettuce with Citrus Sections, Dungeness Crab, Cilantro And Cointreau Vinaigrette for the Salad course. My selection for the main course was Grilled Rack of Lamb with Light Curry and Crispy Shallots. Dessert was an Orange and Bittersweet Chocolate Tart.

Marcia enjoyed the same appetizer, then had a Pear Salad with Baby Lettuce, Toasted Pecans, Feta Cheese and Chambord Vinaigrette. Her main course was Roasted Veal Loin Topped with Butter Poached Lobster in Chive Jus. She had a Traditional Cr?me Caramel for dessert.

Sounds yummy to you? Me, too. We'll be going back to Le Pappilon again one day. This was our Christmas present from the AVP that Marcia does 95% of her contracts work for. He said she done good, and stood us the best dinner we could find as a gift/thank you. So we got all gussied up and went. Wow! Mercy buckets!

So, how was your weekend? Ours was good, in fact, extra good, since it's still going - we've taken today off as well. We'll probably go see LOTR today sometime, and do the rest of our early week shopping. Meantime, I also need to do some preventative hardware maintenance on this here server.

Two, maybe three times over the last week, I've had to take the server down to bring the network connection back to life. Could be software, could be configuration? Maybe, but taking the machine down to single user and back up doesn't work. Warm booting doesn't work. Only a power cycle brings the Internet-facing connection back to life. Sure seems like hardware to me. Good thing that 10/100 network cards are dime a dozen.

I'll be back later with more to report, I've a lot of email to get through.

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Mon    TUESDAY    Wed    Thu    Fri    Sat    Sun   
January 08, 2002 -    Updates at 0700

Good morning. It's back to work for us, today. Sally got so spoiled by having one or both of us around daily for the better part of two weeks that she was fairly upset wen we went off to work, leaving her alone, last week. Now we've been home for three straight days again. She may have thought last week was an aberration and that we'd be home more again. Now she's moping. Poor dog.

I'm a bit groggy yet, myself. I stayed up late working my way into book four of the Potter series. They are quite well written, and are holding my attention. Maybe we'll even go see the movie one of these days. Hmmm. I have to give Greg Lincoln credit here, since he's been pushing me to read these for quite a while now. Also Marcia, for actually getting the books.

Yesterday afternoon, we went to see Lord of the Rings. Are there more than three people here who haven't read the Tolkien books? Shame on you if so... Nah - I know a couple of people that just didn't like them, not their cup of tea. But then, if that's the case for you, you wouldn't go see the movie, would you. Good. So, if there are spoilers in what I write, close your eyes and chant the memory charm on yourself in the mirror. Heh.

I liked LOTR, the movie, quite a lot. I've read reviews from people who thoroughly disliked the movie, claiming they weren't true to the books, that it is an insult to JRRT's memory, and so on. Like they know! Ha! Personally, I think he'd have liked this first film.

There are many stories woven into the books, some small and personal, some sweeping and social. It's not that Director/Writer Peter Jackson didn't have to choose what to show and what to leave behind (he did have to leave a lot out, or we'd still be sitting in the theatre). Instead, for me, it's the mix of personal and plot that he put together that I believe holds true to the LOTR theme. Also, he hasn't changed the story. Just told it from his heart, and with his visual imagination. Sure it's different in its myriad details from the equally lush vibrant place I've imagined as I read and re-read the books over the years. But that's OK. The media are different, and I can accept those interpretations as complementary to my own.

One of my favorite things about this series is that good is good, evil is evil, and as Boromir shows us dramatically, there are many shades of gray in each of us, all the time. Jackson manages to retain that, while sacrificing some character development to the necessity of choices made - there's character development, and there's plot to be followed. Doing all of both would more than double the movie. So we got Sam's heartfelt goodbye to Bill the pony outside of the gates of Moria, but no history on the acquisition of the pony from Bill Fearney in Bree. We got Frodo looking into Galadriel's mirror, but lost Gimli's conversion in his thinking about elves. I don't think Jackson made bad decisions. I was drawn into the movie, and was in the Middle Earth for three hours yesterday afternoon. The movie moved me. I'm very glad we went to see it.

And now I'm running late. See you again soon.

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Mon    Tues    WEDNESDAY    Thu    Fri    Sat    Sun   
January 09, 2002 -    Updates at 0700

Good morning. I've got a lovely idea. Let's let Pastor Jack Brock and his congregation be some of the first civilian volunteers to move permanently to Afghanistan and evangelize the population there. I'm sure they'll do well, now that they've made Alamogordo, NM safe by burning Harry Potter books in the streets. Yeah, I know that news is a couple weeks old, but I only heard about it last night from Marcia. Sheesh. I wonder about the long term viability of such nutty creatures, we humans.

I've been working over the images that Marcia scanned in from one of her family photo albums. Over all, there are about 350 distinct image files, and lots of duplicate processing to be done to each. So instead of making Marcia tune each image individually over the course of several weeks, I pulled out my trusty ImageMagick.

ImageMagick (TM) is a package for the automated and interative manipulation of images. It supports the display and interactive manipulation of images when used with the X Window System. Although the software is copyrighted by ImageMagick Studio, it is available for free and can be redistributed without fee. ImageMagick may be used as a component of both open source and proprietary applications. ImageMagick compiles and runs under Unix, Linux, Windows '95 and later, Apple MacOS, and Compaq VMS. Binary packages are available for most operating systems. Application programming interfaces (APIs) are provided to support development of image processing applications in the C, C++, and Perl languages. See it here: http://www.imagemagick.org/

So instead of painstakingly opening each image file, and converting the yellowed black and white snapshot scans back to grayscale manually, I wrote a small script to traverse the directory, taking each file, converting it back to grayscale and normalizing the contrast values, then writing the modified version in a new sub-directory. We don't want to lose the original scans. I then reviewed the images using gqview, and hand-tuned a few of them in The Gimp. Time required: a couple of hours. Not too shabby.

There! A set of tools like that should keep you occupied for a while. Have a lovely day!

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Mon    Tues    Wed    THURSDAY    Fri    Sat    Sun   
January 10, 2002 -    Updates at 0700

Hullo. Feels like too early on Friday. Instead, it's too early on Thursday. Mmmmm, I am so not a morning person - doesn't help much in this culture. Early bird gets the worm. Bah! That's fine if you like worms! Then there was this quip on exercise I heard the other day: Whaddaya mean I oughtta work out? My motto is: No pain, Good! Next up, this joke I got in the mail yesterday:

It was the first day of school in Marietta, Georgia, and a 
new student named Suzuki, the son of a Japanese businessman, 
entered the fourth grade. 

The teacher said, "Let's begin by reviewing some American 
history .Who said 'Give me Liberty, or give me Death?'" 

She saw a sea of blank faces, except for Suzuki, who had 
his hand up. 

"Patrick Henry, 1775." He said.

"Very good! Who said 'Government of the people, by the 
people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth"'? 
Again, no response except from Suzuki. 

"Abraham Lincoln, 1863" said Suzuki.

The teacher snapped at the class, "Class, you should be 
ashamed. Suzuki, who is new to our country, knows more 
about its history than you do."

She heard a loud whisper: "Fuck the Japs." 

"Who said that?" she demanded.

Suzuki put his hand up. "Lee Iacocca, 1982."

At that point, a student in the back said, "I'm gonna puke. " 

The teacher glares and asks "All right! Now, who said that?" 

Again, Suzuki says, "George Bush to the Japanese Prime 
Minister, 1991."

Now furious, another student yells, "Oh yeah? Suck this!" 

Suzuki jumps out of his chair waving his hand and shouts to 
the teacher, "Bill Clinton, to Monica Lewinsky, 1997! "

Now with almost a mob hysteria someone said, "You little shit. 
If you say anything else, I'll kill you." 

Suzuki frantically yells at the top of his voice, "Gary Condit 
to Chandra Levy, 2001."

The teacher fainted. And as the class gathered around the
teacher on the floor, someone said, "Oh shit, we're fucked" 
and Suzuki said, "The Taliban! 2001"

I spent some more time yesterday evening working on the YaST2 writeup, but I didn't get very far before the SuSE installation blew chunks. Not SuSE's fault - I was using JFS partitions on this VMware install, and because of how VMware buffers data from the physical drive to preserve performance, the physical disk state became corrupted when I power cycled Garcia due to stupidity on my part. That is, VMware couldn't close properly, writing out all of the virtual disk state. So even JFS couldn't cope on reboot. I've mostly reinstalled, this time using ReiserFS just for fun, and should continue the writeup tonight.

I haven't done my email yet, and I'm out of time - late start due to trouble dragging my butt out of bed this morning. Yeah, also I was up late reading book four in the Harry Potter series. It's embarassing really. Only four books, and I'm up over a week already. Slowing down in my dotage. Now I'd best get to work.

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Mon    Tues    Wed    Thu    FRIDAY    Sat    Sun   
January 11, 2002 -    Updates at 0700

Good morning. Bob Thompson writes:

Assume you want a house. With Windows, you go out and look at houses, choose the one you want, buy it, and move in. The lights work, the toilets flush, and the furnace keeps the place warm. With Linux, you don't have to buy the house. Someone will give it to you. But first, you have to go out and choose among piles of lumber and stacks of concrete blocks. You can have any house you want, but you have to build it yourself. And, after you're done, the toilets don't flush and the furnace doesn't heat the place, because you haven't yet built the sewage treatment plant, drilled the natural gas well, built the power plant, or laid the pipelines.

Now maybe I'm a bit biased (ok, definitely), but I see someone who moved into a new house, didn't like part of it and wanted to remodel one piece of it, without any previous experience in remodelling that type of house (although loads of experience with other houses). When the remodel went badly... it's the house's fault? Mmmmm. And in fact I did send Bob a five minute solution to his particular remodel problem, perhaps ten to add the proxy servers to the list.

There's lots more to Linux than the Evolution mail client. But none of that even gets a chance. Did the installation of the initial program go well? Did other parts of the rather extensive set of utilities, programs, and end user utilities work for him? We'll never know. I'll tell you from this side of the continent - Linux works just fine, thanks. Yeah, I'd have to help my Aunt Minnie if she wanted to upgrade Linux, or if she wanted to upgrade Windows (aside from buying a new machine with the newer version preloaded, as I've had relatives do recently). But as installed, Linux works.

Oh, yeah. Happy Friday. Sorry. I hate watching people give up. I put in about 6 hours myself last night replicating Bob's environment reasonably closely so that I could help in case something HARD came up. Now that effort's wasted, too, and over something easy. Hard would have been upgrading just the KDE parts of Mandrake, since there are some fundamental library conflicts extant. Ah, well...

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Mon    Tues    Wed    Thu    Fri    SATURDAY    Sun   
January 12, 2002 -    Updates at 0900

Good morning. Wow. Didn't yesterday's post bring a lot of email my way! Here are some representative missives:

On Fri, Jan 11, 2002 at 09:06:42AM -0800, Rob wrote:


I hope you don't mind me venting to you instead of to Bob...

    "I hate watching people give up"

Argh! I couldn't believe it when I read Bob's post today. For a guy
who spent _years_ becoming a windows expert and _months_ complaining 
about the evils of Microsoft and how he was switching to Linux...he 
dumps Linux (which installed perfectly by all reports) the first time
something did not go as expected? With a single application? That is
currently at version 1.0?  Unbelievable. This is the same guy who
would have a coronary if a mis-behaved windows app installed unwanted
.dlls all over a windows box - and now he is demanding that Evolution
do precisely that?

Sigh. Sorry. 

Date: Sat, 12 Jan 2002 01:18:08 -0500
From: Alan Stevens
Subject: Giving Up

Hi Brian,

I'd like to encourage _you_ not to give up.  It doesn't matter to me if
Bob gives up or not, really.  Just reading both your pages today has
taught me plenty.  I've been trying to get serious about Linux since
'98.  Your daynotes, and reviews (I gotta' try SUSE) have helped keep me
interested.  Keep up the good work.

All the best,


Thanks, Alan. Bob won't either, I think - he's just frustrated /
disgusted. The packaging scheme is different in Linux than in the
Microsoft Windows world.

In Windows, most "third party applications" of any consequence supply
their own helper programs (DLLs). Sometimes these are independent of the
default MS DLLs, sometimes they're newer or modified versions.

In Linux, ALL applications are third party applications. Compatibility
is rarely broken, but applications *are* built against a set of helper
libraries that are often used by other applications. So if I install the
newest version of Evolution, I'll have to pull seven extra packages,
mostly libraries of the latest GUI functions from the widget set that
Evolution and Gnome are developed against. When I pull another app, say
Gaim (the AOL IM client clone), I'm likely OK, since I've already gotten
a bunch of the foundation pieces.

One of the real problems has been that different distributions have had
distinct philosophies about where to put certain types of files.
/bin, /usr/bin, /opt/bin, /usr/local/bin, who knows. Now it's "easy" to
put a program in a default place, but will the distro's auto-menu
construction tools spot it there, for example.

This problem *is* being addressed by the LSB, and specifically the FHS
(Filesystem Hierarchy Standard). As time goes on, more distributions are
rationalizing their directory layouts and usage against the FHS, which
is going to make life ever so much easier for application writers and

Meantime, Bob points out that Mandrake 8.1 was (according to timestamps)
frozen back in September - why in Zeus' name hasn't Ximian got an 8.1
set of packages available yet? That I don't know, we'd have to ask the
folks at Ximian. It's possible that the person maintaining the Mandrake
tree for them has moved on, and they don't have a replacement? I'm sure
these  economic times are as tough or tougher on the few remaining OS

Ah, my fingers runneth over... 

No, Alan, I'm not giving up, on Linux or on Bob using Linux. As he
knows, I was just jabbing at him gently with a lightly pointed stick
(from a goodly distance, mind you - he's got weapons). We both know he's
busy with PCHIAN, and needed really easy or nothing at all. And in
today's post he says he doesn't have more time to play with Linux right
now. That's the right word - until at least some of the applications
have proven themselves to be tools instead of toys *for him*, play is
all it will be.



And maybe Red Hat 7.2 will provide a better field to sow those Linux seeds for Bob than Mandrake was able to. We'll see. I told him that I was just waiting for them to finish PCHIAN before I tag-teamed him with Greg Lincoln to get him into the Debian fold, but that in the meantime, trying Red Hat wouldn't be a bad thing. Applications, vendors and maintainters DO support the latest Red Hat release - it has got the biggest installed base.

Now I've got to get ready to take Sally to the veterinarian for a checkup on that ear infection we've been treating. Have a lovely day.

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Mon    Tues    Wed    Thu    Fri    Sat    SUNDAY   
January 13, 2002 -    Updates at 0915 and 1500

Good morning. Sunny day here, and it's already time to make the weekly shopping run. I accomplished quite a bit yesterday, and I'll run through that here in a bit. See you in a couple of hours.

Sally sleepingOK. I'm back after shopping and more chores. I received via email this afternoon on of those "Oh, that's nice, so then I should keep up this daynotes thing for the next decade at least, you like it so much" missives. Sally awakeIt's marked as Don't Publish, but if anyone were hoping this place would crater one of these days, it ain't gonna be anytime soon. That kind of email is as good as chocolate, and almost as good as cash. Heh. So now, let me inflict some pictures of recent days on you. Sally continues to be wonder dog, so far as we're concerned. Still, she sleeps as much as I'd like to... I guess It's a dogs life is a good thing, neh?

Shiny BenzYesterday's efforts involved washing and waxing the Benz. Still not looking too shabby for a car that's fast approaching it's 18th birthday, eh? I do think that I want to keep my eyes open for one of those random orbital buffers - my shoulder is dead today. Sally pretending to watch me work While I was doing the car, I had Sally out front with me. I had an old leash lashed with a 10' length of rope to Marcia's stationary exercise bike. Mostly she just lay there (as at right), alternately napping and watching me. Sometime in there I saw some people walking past the house with their dog. Sally gave a bit of a wuff, stood up and started jogging towards them. I kept watch out of the corner of my eye as she reached the end of the leash... sshhhwack, and she snapped the old leash where it attached to the chain that attached to the collar. She kept going. Yes, I was startled, but with a bit of presence of mind, I stomped down on the trailing chain. THAT stopped her cold. I grabbed her by the scruff of her neck, dragged her in the house, and had a firm chat with her about attempting to leave the den without adult supervision. Then we went back out, and I got her on a firmer connection with restraint.

The back lawnThereafter, I finished out my chores of the afternoon by cleaning up the lawn and giving it a mowing. At left, this is how it looks this morning. It's holding up pretty well. Daisy and Today I replaced a dead potted plant with a red Japanese Daisy and some blue Pansies for the surround. In front, I also replaced a pair of Mexican Sage that hadn't recovered from the rather vigorous pruning that I gave them back in November. I also got around to putting up a ground-staked hose holder. That cleans up the look in the front of the house quite nicely.

Now we've got another errand to run. This evening, I'll be cooking something special, then we'll settle in to watch Pearl Harbor, a Christmas gift that's been waiting for long enough. We did see Moulin Rouge last night (well, Marcia saw all of it, I watched bits and pieces). Nicole Kidman has a nice enough voice, and the way they used some of the songs in medley and counterpoint was really nice. And Your Song... heck, I thought that had been written by Elton and Bernie. Either they're older than the look or ... what? A movie? Willing suspension of disbelief? Oh. OK. See you, possibly later, certainly next week.

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Visit the rest of the DAYNOTES GANG, a collection of bright minds and sharp wits. Really, I don't know why they tolerate me <grin>. My personal inspiration for these pages is Dr. Jerry Pournelle. I am also indebted to Bob Thompson and Tom Syroid for their patience, guidance and feedback. Of course, I am sustained by and beholden to my lovely wife, Marcia. You can find her online too, at http://www.dutchgirl.net/. Thanks for dropping by.

All Content Copyright © 1999-2002 Brian P. Bilbrey.