Recent Entries in Geek

In a bout of thoughtless haste, my co-worker and I ordered some Fujitsu Stylistic 1000s off eBay. I mentioned that they were in this O'Reilly book as a prime example of hardware repeater starting kits. These devices are 486 DX100 with 16MB RAM and no hard drive, but they've got 3 PCMCIA slots, and can boot off compact flash or a PCMCIA hard drive. They can run Windows95 and Linux, and apparently make great low-power-consumption WiFi repeaters, if you put 2 PCMCIA WiFi cards in them.

fujitsu_stylistic_1000.jpg

So my co-worker looks on eBay, and finds 3 for under $30US -- or something like $8 each. So we ordered them. I told my boss that we might use them in an in-house experiment, using them as actual WiFi sources in the building, and since we have a mandate to get WiFi up and running here, that it's a good buy.

Now I may have a 2kg paperweight coming to me. We'll see.

  WiFi Research

Reading up on wireless networking at 1842 this morning. I'm trying to figure out an easy (and cheap) way to expand my wireless signal for air_zucker, my home network. I've got an old Linksys WRT54G, but it's a little dodgy -- a little unstable. It worked well for about a year, and then started crashing on me. I upgraded the firmware, but it's still a little suspect. I replaced it with a D-link DI-526, but it's got crappy range. I've added an external omni antenna, but was thinking I could use the Linksys as a repeater. I've seen it referred to as a "repeater" in several online stores, but it needs a 3rd-party firmware before it will support WDS. Even then, it may not work with the D-link.

So, I was thinking of using one of the old spare boxes in the basement to act as a Linux repeater, though that would probably require me to buy a second PCI wireless card -- at least that's what this O'Reilly book is telling me ("Building Wireless Community Networks" by Rob Flickenger). It's an OK resource, and has links to several WiFi community websites, so I'll keep digging.

Maybe all I need to do is build a homebrew high-gain antenna -- maybe that will take care of my little signal problem. Unfortunately, there's a bit of a problem finding a quantity of N-connectors and other coaxial supplies in this area. Not too many of the surplus electronic stores have any idea of what I'm looking for, and I don't really want to resort to ordering them off eBay. I'm kind of torn -- I don't want to spend another $100 on some kind of repeater, but I can't seem to find the materials (or time, or motivation) needed to put one of these things together by myself. Also, the signal's fine right now, with this little 4dBi omni I bought.

I'll just keep reading, and see what happens.

  New end-table arrives

So my friend unloaded the Netfinity last night, and it's a beauty -- especially if you measure beauty by sheer mass alone. The Netfinity 5500 is a hefty 8U system, dual PII/500MHz with 1Gb RAM, and redundant, hot-swappable hard drives, power supplies, fans, and even PCI slots. I have no idea what I'm going to do with this beast. I think that this doesn't so much go into a rack, as the rack gets built around it.

netfinity2.jpg

netfinity8.jpg

netfinity9.jpg

Last night I was running around the office with my camera, snapping up pictures of the new place. Here's a few:

The rad new dev lounge. Still need some posters on the walls to make it seem more homey:
office_dev_lounge.jpg

We did a nice cabling job in the server room, and spent extra money to find some 1' cables:
office_fine_cabling_job.jpg

The lunch room is now bigger than a telephone booth. I hated to have to shove over so that someone could use the phone:
office_lunchroom.jpg

The cubicles look exactly the same, only now there's 4 workstations in a pod instead of 2:
office_new_cubicles.jpg

Waiting for a DRAC on a Chinese server to refresh itself so I can get at the hard drive configuration utility and rebuild a RAID0 array. These things are pretty amazing -- they allow you to mount a local CDROM or floppy as if they were physically on the machine itself, which means I don't have to fly to China to reboot a machine periodically (actually, it might be fun to do that at least once, if the company was paying for it). Yes, amazing ... if you can get past the agonizing latency of the remote console. You can literally tap a key, then go get coffee -- from the far end of the building, and return before it will have registered.

Needless to say, I'm surfing the web right now, catching up on the other blogs I read from time to time. Here's a neat survey from newhumanist.org.uk I found on Anne's Anti-Quackery & Science Blog

Haymaker

You are one of life’s enjoyers, determined to get the most you can out of your brief spell on Earth. Probably what first attracted you to atheism was the prospect of liberation from the Ten Commandments, few of which are compatible with a life of pleasure. You play hard and work quite hard, have a strong sense of loyalty and a relaxed but consistent approach to your philosophy.

You can’t see the point of abstract principles and probably wouldn’t lay down your life for a concept though you might for a friend. Something of a champagne humanist, you admire George Bernard Shaw for his cheerful agnosticism and pursuit of sensual rewards and your Hollywood hero is Marlon Brando, who was beautiful, irascible and aimed for goodness in his own tortured way.

Sometimes you might be tempted to allow your own pleasures to take precedence over your ethics. But everyone is striving for that elusive balance between the good and the happy life. You’d probably open another bottle and say there’s no contest.

What kind of humanist are you? Click here to find out.

  Site offline for a day

But strangely, it wasn't due to my DSL connection. My OpenBSD server's network interface became foobarred, and I ended up rebooting the darn thing just to get it back online. Everything seems OK now.

  A cool new transport

OK, so this may not solve the problem with carbon monoxide emissions, and while it may not solve the world's fuel problems, this is probably the coolest looking scooter I've ever seen. It is also better for the environment than the Maxima, no doubt, and certainly costs less to drive (at least in the non-winter months).

Baja_new.jpg

You can get them at http://www.tngscooters.com, but I haven't yet found any place in Canada that sells them. These guys apparently make great affordable scooters that don't look like Vespas. Now that I'm starting to see more and more Vespas on the city streets, I keep thinking that they, like the Smart Cars, are the latest cool thing. It's just that Vespas look so silly sometimes. At least with the Baja scooters, I can feel a little more macho -- a little more Mad Max -- without having to move to a motorcyle. Then it's a whole different lifestyle; I have to buy different clothes, and get a new license, etc.

  New blog style

I've been testing out Movable Type 3.2's new StyleCatcher plugin, which allows you to change styles at the drop of a hat. Sounds like an interesting prospect, but I've previously half embedded the styles in the web page itself, and half used a stylesheet (I know, my bad), and the results with StyleCatcher are horrible. So I'm trying out some new page templates, and they seem to work well with the new stylesheet. I may leave this for a couple of days, tweaking it and refining it, until I've got something I like. It's a bit more grown-up looking, and a bit less garish than my previous page -- that's why I hesitate so. I enjoyed the previous garishness. Made it seem more fun.

I don't know. I do like the new colours a little better, and putting my car in the banner is still pretty immature of me. What do you think?

new_blog_style.jpg

  Halloween Costume 2005


Halloween Costume 2005
Originally uploaded by Zuckervati.



This was my Halloween costume this year at the corporate Halloween pot-luck.
No one got the reference.

  Going Digital

Installed a new digital thermostat this morning. I figured it might end up saving me energy in the long run (well, R pays the utilities, so saving her some money) so I took the 10 minutes to pull the old one off and replace it with this shiny new plastic thing. It's the same interface as the one in my parents' home, so I know I'll be able to program it.

I was doing some more work in the garage loft. I've been able to lay down some more sheets of plywood floor, but around 8pm I became a little self-conscious about the noise I was making. I suppose we're finally seeing the end of summer, since it gets dark so much sooner. I'll try to get in a little more tonight, and hopefully I'll have a nice platform from which to insulate the roof.

That reminds me, I need to order that door and window from Home Despot. Takes 3 weeks for delivery.

Finally persuaded R to watch "Empire Strikes Back" tonight. She said she liked it, but fell short of calling it a good movie. That's all I can expect, I suppose. Pretty good luck on my part -- she said she'd never watch another Star Wars film. This was another one of those 1993 laserdisc editions, without all the extra crap. So, at least she was seeing something that was worth watching, in my opinion.

r_dodges_a_bullet.jpg

(R looked like she was running out of things to do today. She baked 2 pies, made agar-jello, and went into St. Jacob's to buy books. I'm sure she secretly liked "Empire")

I just received a CARFAC news letter in my inbox the other day. This may mean they've accepted my application, which (I think) means I'm now officially a professional artist in Ontario. (huzzah!) Actually, I don't know what it means, other than I'm shelling out $120 to get an email newsletter. But, it's what I've been hoping for; it may make it a bit easier to do artistic things and get some kind of recognition for them. I might just bring some meaning to the studio-building fiasco.

Got some more work done there today. I finished insulating all the walls, and did some more cleaning of the soffits. There were two bucketfulls of garbage stuffed into the southeast corner, and it looks like a mouse was living in there. I'm pretty sure because I found him watching me from a large crack in the soffit. He was probably entering and leaving from a hole behind the eaves. I persuaded him to move along and then sealed up the hole with fibreglass insulation. I'm pretty sure mice don't like chewing through that stuff. I also bought a 2x6 board to replace the apparently missing rafter. This large gap was making me nervous, since I've still got about 6 Princess Cinema seats stowed up there, and the MDF is bowing under the weight. Unfortunately, this is a 2x6, not a 2x4, like the ones that are up there presently -- my plan is to nail the leftover furring strips to the tops of these 2x4s (making them effectively 2x6s), reinforcing them so I can put in a strong loft. I eventually plan on putting in some ceiling panelling to give the studio a more finished look.

garage_rafters.jpg

garage_left.jpg

garage_right.jpg

I was just reading this interesting link from a blog, commenting on how USA Today was putting in hyphens in the newly-coined term, "Google Maps mash-ups." What's a mashup/mash-up? I dunno. Something to do with hackers who reverse-engineer the Google Maps technology and use it for other nefarious purposes, such as showing what kind of damage a nuclear bomb would do on different world locations. It's not a verb, but it appears to be one of those words created when someone takes a transitive verb or an action phrase and converts it into a noun -- sorta the opposite of the more widespread turning nouns into verbs. Like, well, "google".

Much of this big hoopla is fabricated -- no one really cares about how the word is spelled, but since Google Maps is getting a whole lot of press, the word mashup/mash-up is also getting some exposure. And reporters aren't sure how to spell it. As mentioned, USA Today uses the hyphen, but Wired Magazine didn't, as can be seen from the following picture snarfed from their search engine:

google_maps_mashup.jpg

Nor does the guy from GoogleMapsMania use the hyphen, and he's considered the foremost authority on the topic (for some strange reason).

So, should the hyphen stay or go? Should it remain a compound noun-ized transitive verb, or should we take the plunge and make it a whole new word?

There are many precedents for losing the hyphen, as is seen in the language of modern computer words, such as: inkjet, laptop, hyperlink, flamewar, firewire, email, etc. However, there are still people out there (like my mom) who use Wi-Fi, scroll-bar, and MS-DOS.

The folks at AskOxford gave some general style guide points which were apparently better than what the editors of the 1911 Concise Oxford Dictionary wrote in their preface:

"We have also to admit that after trying hard at an early stage to arrive at some principle that should teach us when to separate, when to hyphen, and when to unite the parts of compound words, we had to abandon the attempt as hopeless, and welter in the prevailing chaos."

AskOxford's best advice was that the hyphen be used "to clarify compounds with similar adjacent sounds, such as sword-dance, co-opt, tool-like," or "to avoid misunderstanding by distinguishing phrases such as twenty-odd people and twenty odd people". Heh, "twenty odd people."

My old English prof once stated that people who use hyphens excessively are simply afraid of making new words. Since the English language is a living language, it's going to be in a constant state of evolution. Whatever survives in the language will push the language forward.

This University of Sussex website has a good bit of instruction:

"Use your judgement: put a hyphen in if you can see a problem without it, but otherwise leave it out." It goes on to cite examples that would include commonly-used words and terms that have become part of everyday English (as opposed to every-day English, or every day English): miniskirt, nonviolent, prejudge, antisocial aren't hyphenated, but mini-aircraft, non-negotiable, pre-empt, anti-aircraft are.

Another point of consideration: we've been getting a little lazy with the advent of dotcom (dot-com) jargon and that horrible bastardized SMS-speak (i hezit8 2 c@11 it a language). Many websites are compressing whole sentences into one word for the sake of fitting it on a domain name (i.e. RedHotAsianTeenPussyCatsWhoChaseLittleBallsOfString.com). So, really, anything goes these days.

I think that we should be thrilled with the opportunity to help contribute to the English language. I think that since we've got a new term forming here, we should call it mashups, and make it a whole word, just like so many other computer terms. It looks a little weird, and may take a little getting used to. Maybe we need to add caps it and call it MashUps for a while, but the effect is indistinguishable from using a hyphen, if you ask me. Better to just let loose and make it a word.

Will it ever get adopted as part of our language? It all depends on how long the term exists, how often it's used, and whether people will feel comfortable with using it in everyday talk. Will people get used to looking at the word "mashup"? It all depends on the time-frame, and the usage-patterns of the Inter-Web users.

Speaking of new terminology, here's my chance to make it into the books. Know those cute little pins they use on Google Maps? We should call them "zuckerpeggs". The second "g" can stand for "Google". It could work.

zuckerpegg.jpg

  blah blah blah Star Wars

... and blah some more. Feeling sluggish today. Not sure why, although I was up late watching Futurama episodes and my pager kept going off while I slept.

I've had early workdays this week, so haven't been able to get to the gym at all.

But I have been getting to the garage work, and I'm almost done with the walls. I priced out some doors and windows and can get them both for a good price. The front door can be entirely replaced with a 3-section insulated terrace door, but that's going to set me back a little -- I may not get that done this year.

darthvader.jpg

This morning I stumbled into 1842, and I'm drinking a rich espresso cup. I've been meaning to do more blogging this past week, but I keep getting distracted by something shiny. This week, it was a 1993 laserdisc rip of "Star Wars". It had all the beautiful flaws of the original print; Han shoots first, there's matte lines around the tie-fighters, lightsabers are a white-blue or white-red, and there's no Jabba or other pesky CG distractions. It's much cooler than any of the revisionist crap that came later. It even (still) pokes so many holes in Lucas' "Episodes 1-3". Here are some easy ones:

1. If the Emperor has so much power over the Senate, why did it take him 18-20 years to dissolve it?

2. Is Darth Vader only about 40-something? You get the impression he's a lot older. Certainly, Uncle Owen's much older than that, and he looks like late 50's in this film. OK, argue all you want about "working hard makes you look older" or "the force keeps you alive longer", etc, but Lucas didn't quite do the temporal aspects of his series properly. And he has all the time in the world to do so.

3. Clone Wars. Not *Clone War*. We get the impression that there were many wars, and that they were *against* several, possibly cloned, enemies of some kind. Surely Lucas could have done something a little more with that than a simple clone army built especially for some sinister Republic purpose. I mean anyone familiar with the Robotech Saga understood the concept of clones and multiple wars. (man, do I ever sound geeky...)

4. How does 18-20 years cause people to forget about The Force, especially since it seems the Jedi ran rampant in the prequels with more presence in the galaxy than Starbucks? Ancient religions? Hell, Scientology's been around since the 60s and almost no one practices it. We wouldn't call it an "ancient religion," would we? We don't even call X-tianity an ancient religion.

5. Did people just stop caring about starships once the Emperor took over? Did he stifle technological advances when he attained power? All the ships look a little clunky and technology regressed in this film. Problem is, I like the way technology looked here ... meaning Lucas went a little apeshit with the CG and starship designs in the prequels.

(Sigh) I could go on -- and believe me, I did last night, much to R's annoyance.

As a side effect of the troubles I had earlier this week, regarding my Internet connection, I now have a snazzy new 3Mb modem, and my pr0n downloading has never been faster. I figured I might help anyone else in the Ontario, Canada neck of the woods, should they choose a modem from eBay, or from a small-time computer shop around town. If you are unfortunate enough to have bought a "reprogramming necessary" SpeedStream 526x modem from Efficient Networks (the same folks that brought you EnterNet 300), you can use this info to get up and running a little faster -- provided you have some other means of getting on the InterWeb.

Mine is one of those ones that can't be flashed and upgraded to a 5660 model -- one of those ones that's actually a router *and* a modem, but that's not a problem (or, rather, not a problem any more, since I picked up that inexpensive D-Link router. Mine's a SpeedStream 5260(5262). While it doesn't get a firmware upgrade, it *can* be upgraded using any kind of software that will also change the VPI/VCI options that are factory programmed into it. They do this for certain ISPs, and it makes the modem useless for other ISPs, so you won't be inclined to take the modem and get service elsewhere -- or perhaps it's some kind of regional thing, like the Americans with Daylight Savings Time (sorry, couldn't help but throw that in).

Luckily, Efficient Networks makes one of these software applications, EnterNet 300, which is provided with many DSL service providers in Ontario. An older version is needed (but new enough that it supports Windows XP). Enternet 300 1.5c SP2 is what I used (hint, you can find it on the WayBack Machine, if you know the URL). The problem with some of the newer ones (from what I've heard) is that they deliberately hide the "DSL Modem" programming tab. So find an old version which works on XP.

Another problem is that the "DSL Modem" tab doesn't always appear, even when you go with the older version. I haven't found any real pattern, except that some XP boxes will show it to you, while others won't -- it's as if they don't detect the modem. See below:

enternet_no_dsl_modem_tab.gif

If you do get the "DSL Modem" tab under the Connection Properties window, you can change (effectively reprogram) the DSL modem from its factory defaults, so that it will work with your ISP. You have to change the VPI/VCI options for the modem to conform to your DSL ISP. Any decent tech support rep should have these numbers handy.

From what I found on DSLreports, "In Ontario and Quebec, any DSL modem that supports the G.DMT protocol will work with any DSL ISP. Before purchasing a modem, ensure the modem supports G.DMT or it will not work. The modem must also be able to be configured to a VPI of 0 (zero) and a VCI of 35. Most modems will allow this change, but check that the modem has this ability. If the VPI and/or VCI are set incorrectly, the modem will still sync but you will not be able to negotiate a PPPoE connection." True enough, once I set the modem properly, I was able to get it to connect, using EnterNet 300. Once I installed my new D-Link router, everything was fine.

  Wake Up Call

My stupid BlackBerry didn't remind me of a late night conference call I needed to be in. So I reset it, and got a flood of emails in about the call. It's from one of my guys in Thailand right now, hooking up with a big ISP. So I went to bed, expecting a loud wake-up call in the middle of the night. To my surprise, it didn't happen until about 6:30am. So I'm now sitting in front of MSN (shudder) with a non-technical person from the far-east, who doesn't speak/write much English, who is trying to install Linux. Actually, right now he's trying to setup the server so I can SSH into it (or "telnet" into it, as he keeps putting it, despite my attempts to dissuade him from using telnet).

I hate MSN. I hate it because of the way "ppl c0mmunic8 on ti". I hate it because of the latency that people introduce to others in the conversation, yet don't expect it themselves (for example, I go to the washroom, come back and no less than ten messages from someone saying "hello?", "you there", "dude!", etc.). I hate it for the very reasons specified above -- it's an impossible medium for tech support -- worse than email, if you can believe that. I especially hate the smileys. Every time I get into an MSN conversation, I feel I'm trapped in a silent vaudevillian nightmare, where people have to over-exaggerate every action, lest the audience somehow fail to grasp the meaning ;). Now, with MSN, there's the ability to make exaggerated smileys too, so I'm buried beneath an ethereal of throbbing speech bubbles and cute question mark icons that would make Care Bears diabetic.

I also hate how users can go offline without you noticing them do so. This is also a problem with cell phones for me.

  Bloke Back from England

Friend Toxin just got back from the U.K. On the weekend and he's been staying with me until he moves on to other points west and south. Some would say he got away just in time, what with this morning's terrorist attacks in London. Apparently he was also in NY just a week before the 9/11 attacks. I worry about whatever city he's eventually headed for.

He did bring some nice things with him; among the stash was the usual bag of unusual potato crisps -- this time, a sweet Thai chili and coriander flavour. It tastes just like the BBQ flavour you'd get here.

Also among the stash was a bottle of French absinthe, and last night we each had an absinthe cocktail (or whatever you'd call absinthe and water over ice). I didn't put any sugar in, like you'd see in the movies, but I didn't have a fancy slotted spoon like in the movies. Yikes, not exactly a drink of choice, but I can see how it would be kind of refreshing on a hot summer afternoon. I think I'll put it on my list of things to learn to like. Also on the list are Bread and Butter pickles and Adam Sandler. Actually, no, Adam Sandler's not on the list.

Also in the pile of loot was a "Bat Boy: the Musical" T-shirt. Now. *that's* a find.


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