Saturday, November 25, 2006


For a short period of time I was triple-booting on my laptop with Gentoo Linux, Windows XP, and Windows Vista. I compiled Linux from scratch and got everything working and set up, even the WiFi card, but in the end, it wasn't worth it to have to keep rebooting to switch operating systems, especially since the applications I used most were exactly the same across each platform: Firefox and Gaim. I kept XP around because my printer isn't supported in Vista. After a week of rebooting just to print, and dealing with Windows file permissions hell, and keeping files synchronized across three operating systems, I decided to wipe the hard drive and just go with Vista. If I want to print, I can print from Athena in Linux. The main benefit from the end user perspective of Vista is its pretty interface. There's a lot that's changed under the covers, but chances are most users aren't going to notice that so much, especially in day-to-day use. Mostly I installed Linux to prove to myself that it could be done. My laptop is relatively new hardware, and I wanted to see how the process of getting off the ground worked. I don't think Linux is a good OS choice for a laptop. A desktop or server, yes, but not a laptop. Linux was not meant to be turned on and off all the time and adjust to its environment on the fly. Windows XP Windows Vista Gentoo Linux with GNOME desktop Gentoo Linux with KDE desktop, just for show: this is the default without any customizations, since I didn't really use KDE.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Athena was down all day while I was at work. Everything was working fine last night. The upgrade had gone as planned. Just to be sure there wouldn't be any surprises along the road, and to make sure I was using the latest compiles of everything, I decided to reboot before I went to work. I logged in, su'd, typed "shutdown -r now" and then went off and brushed my teeth and got dressed. When I came back, the login screen had come up. I switched over to tty1 to see if any of the services had screamed at me: none had, so I switched back, logged in, opened up firefox, and typed "http://localhost/" into the address bar. My (boring) directory listing page came up, indicating that Apache was running a-okay, and so I turned off the projector and headed to work. When I got there and tried to log in, however, I got no response from athena.

I tried accessing it through a web browser: nothing. Both ssh and apache weren't responding, so I figured either the whole box had gone down (i.e., kernel panic) or there was some sort of connection issue: perhaps the router wasn't port forwarding, but there was no way I could tell until after work, so I logged on to blogger and saved the post I'd put up directing people to download some files off of athena as a draft (so it would disappear), and went on with my work. When I got home, athena was running just fine, but when I tried to pull up external web sites, I got nothing: so it was a connection issue.

It wasn't the router: my laptop was doing fine, and the port forwarding was still set up. I looked at my init scripts and their accompanying config files: nothing seemed amiss. I restarted the ethernet interfaces and, viola, my network connections were restored: everything worked perfectly. That still didn't satisfy me: I didn't want athena to always start up without a net connection, so I rebooted her again, and the same thing happened. Then I remembered something I had read somewhere (probably the weekly newsletter) about the init scripts changing with the 2006.1 profiles. There was probably a dependency issue somewhere that was messing me up because my ethernet connections were loading too soon, but I had to have parallel startup because of my local DNS cache software.

I decided to look deeper into the issue, and so I pulled up the wiki page for dnscache, and searched the text for "parallel." Nothing. That was odd. I'm absolutely positive that this was the page that told me that I needed to set RC_PARALLEL_STARTUP="yes" in /etc/conf.d/rc. Could it be that the requirements (and the page) had changed? "Parallel" was one of my search terms to find the wiki page, so I went back to my Google tab and opened the cached version of the page: lo and behold, there it was, so someone had very recently changed the page to delete that instruction. I fired up vi, and changed the value to "no" and rebooted. Worked like a charm, only charms don't actually work, whereas this did. So, it wasn't gcc, and it wasn't my config files getting overwritten, it was some change they had incorporated into the new 2006.1 profile.

From the newsletter:
Some highlights from the release include the AMD64, HPPA, x86, PowerPC, and 64-bit PowerPC with a 32-bit userland releases being built with version 4.1 of the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC). AMD64, PowerPC, and x86 also feature version 2.4 of the GNU C library (glibc), while all architectures use baselayout 1.12.1, which features many improved startup scripts.
Improved. Indeed. Well, at least they warned me.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Athena: emerge -eav world

First I updated gcc to 4.1.1 (from 3.4.6), then I rebuilt the system software (emerge -eav system), and now I'm rebuilding all of the software on the box using the new compiler and rebuilt tools. I started the big emerge last night, and currently, Athena is chugging away at 429 of 1223 total packages.

I don't expect that this will cause down-time to any of the services running. In fact, I'm counting on Apache (the webserver software) to be up and running without interruption throughout the whole process, and afterward. I finished typing up the notes to a talk I gave, and I'm planning on hosting the PDF, as well as linking to an mp3 of a related talk that my dad gave earlier that I'm already hosting.

Also, this weekend I'm going to a Bible conference (Hicks Lake) and I suspect that I'll have some photos to put up on the web when I get back. I don't imagine I'll have too much trouble, because all of my software was up to date before I started, so I'm not getting any new versions of anything that might cause compatibility or upgrade configuration issues.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Vista Pre-RC1

I downloaded and installed the latest and greatest Vista last night. It's supposedly beyond beta, but not quite release canidate material: Pre-RC1. It's a build from the RC1 branch, so it theoretically should be feature-complete, though there might be some more bug fixes that go into RC1. The first big difference I noticed was that my graphics card was recognized and it installed the driver and set up Glass automatically. Ah yes, and that means screen capture is no longer broken.

As you can see, it's trying to install my printer. I was actually able to run the installer for my HP PhotoSmart 1000 (which is no longer supported beyond XP). The install got to the point where it told me to plug in the printer, and I did, but nothing happened, and I ended up having to kill the process. It did leave me with the drivers extracted onto my hard drive, and so I was able to direct the hardware installation wizard to their location, but in the end, the printer still wouldn't install. If I can finally get that working, I might just make the leap to Vista as my primary laptop OS.

This is why you need a fancy graphics card in your computer: new eye-candy features. Alt+Tab still works like before, only now with little previews of the windows, but now there's also Win+Tab. This is the kind of thing graphics cards were made for, and it's nice to see that Windows is finally catching up in this area.

As usual, Firefox and Gaim are among my staple applications. My favorite Gaim plugin, Guifications (which shows little popup messages on certain events) seems to crash Gaim when it tries to display an notification, which is odd, because the same exact setup worked perfectly in Beta 2. I suppose that's what I get for installing a beta version of a plugin on a beta version of an application on a pre-release operating system that's been out in the wild less than 24 hours.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Athena's New Last Name

Okay, well it looks like is no longer an option with, so I've had to pick a new domain for my Gentoo box to be under. So, without further ado, the new DNS entry will be:

I've had a long and sordid history with DNS on athena. First, it was, then, then, then, and now this. Each time the domain owner has let their domain expire or withdrawn it from the available pool. You get what you pay for. Let's hope Israel is a better TLD than Belgium.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Vista Glass

It's so pretty. I wish I could show you what it looks like. I can try, but all I get is this: I decided to do some looking into the nVidia driver situation. I found out that indeed nVidia does indeed have Vista beta drivers for my graphics card, but when I tried to install, it said my card wasn't supported.

Well, I wasn't going to take their word for it, so I did some more digging (or rather googling, since apparently both terms have developed specialized meanings), and found out that what I needed was a modded INF file with the installer, so that it wouldn't reject my card. I found such a file at, and the driver installed without a hitch.

Finally, I'm running at native resolution, 32-bit color, and using the illusive Aero Glass theme. So far the only thing wrong is that when I try to do a screen capture, the image is garbled as you see above, but trust me, it looks nice. So far the only other hardware issue I've run into head-on with Vista is that my printer, an HP PhotoSmart 1000 does not, and never will work with Vista. The model is no longer supported by HP, so XP is the end of the line. I got it at a thrift store for $3.99 and all it needed was a color cartridge. I don't want to have to part with it just because of an OS upgrade.

Maybe I can hook it up to Athena and I can print over the network. I've never messed with Linux printing. My Bluetooth device (BCM2045) also doesn't have a Vista driver, and there are three "Base System Device" entries in the device manager, which correspond to three of the four functions of my flash card reader. The SD card function works just fine, which is nice, because that's what I use.

Aside from hardware issues, Vista still isn't very stable. The Control Panel keeps crashing whenever I try to open it, and then I have to restart Windows Explorer, which is quite annoying. Another annoyance is when a user program tries to "open file location," i.e., open the folder that contains this file, in stead it opens the file. This happens from Firefox, Picasa2 and Photo Gallery Viewer, so I'm pretty sure it's an OS bug. "Open file location" seems to work fine when right-clicking shortcuts, though.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


No, that's not my Linux box, though for about a day I did have Gentoo installed, and I'll probably make another go at it at some point in the future. I've been pretty busy lately. I'll try not to keep posting just Windows things on a blog that's supposedly about my Linux box. If you'll notice though, the windows_installs directory is hosted on a Samba share on Athena. See, they can play nice together.

I also have Vista beta on another partition on this computer, but there aren't Vista drivers for most of the hardware, most notably it doesn't recognize the screen as a wide screen, so Vista is pretty much a no-go until Dell, nVidia, and/or Microsoft gets their act together on that.

Here's a snapshot of my desktop. The screen is much brighter and crisper than my old laptop. It's actually only 80 pixels wider than my old laptop screen (and 150 pixels shorter), so in some ways it can feel a bit cramped vertically. I think the pixels are about the same size physically. I'm adjusting and experimenting with different ways to arrange things, for example, the icons across the top and bottom are a holdover from my 1600x1200 days. I used to put the web browser just below the top row of icons, but now I tend to put it over them slightly. I'm thinking of moving them more toward the side of the screen.

Gaim 1.5 had a bug that made it crash when signing on to the MSN Messenger service (apparently MSN changed the way they did logins, and it exposed the bug) so I installed the beta 2.0 version of Gaim, and I like what they're doing with it. The new sounds are a big improvement: much less abrasive. They also have a "Psychic mode" plugin that looks like it'll be fun to play around with.... (Note: I have obscured some screennames in case there's a stalker or an IM spammer with an OCR-bot.)

The new computer is quite snappy; it starts up fast, and goes in and out of sleep without problems. The speakers are awesome: in fact, this is the perfect laptop for watching widescreen video on, which I have done. Another nice feature is the built-in card reader. A single slot takes SD/MMC/MS/Pro/xD cards.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

No MacBook Pro for Me

At least not for a while. While I was price-comparing last night, I looked at the 15" Dell with the discounts available to me, and it was such a good deal that I went ahead and bought one. Until yesterday what was keeping me from upgrading my computer was the fact that I was building the house, and I was trying to scrape up enough money to cover closing costs on the loan. It would be nice to be able to mess around with OS X, but that ability it's not worth $1000 to me. For comparison to the Mac, I used the ATI graphics card, but I prefer NVIDIA, since I'm probably going to stick Linux alongside Vista and XP on this thing. Yay for Windows ext3 drivers! Here's the rundown:
E1505 Dual Core Intel Core Duo processor T2500 (2MB Cache/2GHz/667MHz FSB), Genuine Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005
Inspiron E1505Intel Core Duo processor T2500 (2MB Cache/2GHz/667MHz FSB)$2,623.00
LCD Panel15.4 inch UltraSharp Wide Screen SXGA+ Display with TrueLife
Memory2GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHZ, 2 DIMM
Video Card256MB NVIDIA GeForceGo 7300 TurboCache
Hard Drive120GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
Operating System (Office software not included)Genuine Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005
Network Card and ModemIntegrated 10/100 Network Card and Modem
Combo/DVD+RW Drives FREE 8X CD/DVD Burner (DVD+/-RW) with double-layer DVD+R write capability
Sound OptionsIntegrated Audio
Wireless Networking CardsIntel PRO 3945 and Dell 355 Bluetooth Internal Wireless Cards
Office Productivity Software (Pre-Installed)Microsoft Office Basic - Includes Word, Excel, and Outlook email
Anti-Virus/Security Suite (Pre-installed)McAfee included with the Starter, Silver, Gold or Platinum Package.
Primary Battery85 WHr 9-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery
Hardware Warranty3Yr Ltd Warr, At-Home Service, 30Day DOC, PC Training, 2Yr Antivirus Suite
Future Operating SystemsWindows Vista Capable
Operating System Re-Installation CDGenuine Windows XP Media Center 2005 Edition re-installation CD
Media Center EnhancementsTV Tuner w/ Remote Control
SAVE $100 (After mail in rebate) w SILVER BUNDLE which includes 3Yr Limited Warranty, 3Yr At-Home Service, 3 Yr Hardware warranty support, 90 day PC Training, 30 day HelpDesk How-to Assistance, 2Yr McAfee Antivirus Security Suite (Pre - Installed)
Dell EPP/FSS Customers: Save 35% off select Inspiron systems!- $918.05
Boeing employees receive additional 21% discount (before tax, shipping & handling) - $358.04
Subtotal: $1,346.91
Shipping and Handling: $19.99
Shipping Discount: - $19.99
Sales Tax: $118.55
Total: $1,465.46

That price doesn't include the $100 rebate. Anybody else want one? The 21% off is good through July 28th.

Options 15"

E1505 Dual Core
Date & Time: July 19,2006 1:16 AM CST
E1505 Dual Core Qty 1
Intel® Core™ Duo processor T2500 (2MB Cache/2GHz/667MHz FSB), Genuine Windows® XP Media Center Edition 2005 Unit Price $2,593.00
SAVE $100 (After mail in rebate) w SILVER BUNDLE
Limited Time Offer!
Dell EPP/FSS Customers: Save 35% off select Inspiron systems!
Limited Time Offer!
- $907.55
Catalog Number: 23 A4677SP1
Module Description
Inspiron E1505 Intel® Core™ Duo processor T2500 (2MB Cache/2GHz/667MHz FSB)
Operating System (Office software not included) Genuine Windows® XP Media Center Edition 2005
LCD Panel 15.4 inch UltraSharp™ Wide Screen SXGA+ Display with TrueLife™
Memory 2GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHZ, 2 DIMM
Video Card 256MB ATI MOBILITY™ RADEON® X1400 HyperMemory™
Hard Drive 120GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
Network Card and Modem Integrated 10/100 Network Card and Modem
Adobe Software Adobe® Acrobat® Reader 6.0
Combo/DVD+RW Drives FREE 8X CD/DVD Burner (DVD+/-RW) with double-layer DVD+R write capability
Sound Options Integrated Audio
Wireless Networking Cards Intel® PRO 3945 and Dell 355 Bluetooth Internal Wireless Cards
Office Productivity Software (Pre-Installed) Microsoft Office Basic - Includes Word, Excel, and Outlook email
Anti-Virus/Security Suite (Pre-installed) I chose McAfee included with the Starter, Silver, Gold or Platinum Package.
Primary Battery 85 WHr 9-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery
Hardware Warranty 3Yr Ltd Warr, At-Home Service, 30Day DOC, PC Training, 2Yr Antivirus Suite
Dial-Up Internet Access 6 Months of America Online Membership Included
Future Operating Systems Windows Vista™ Capable
Operating System Re-Installation CD Genuine Windows® XP Media Center 2005 Edition re-installation CD
Media Center Enhancements TV Tuner w/ Remote Control
Dell Digital Entertainment Starter Entertainment Pack - Basic digital Music, Photo and Game experience

Additional Discounts and Coupons
Boeing employees receive additional 21% discount! -$353.94
Thank you for choosing Dell!
Free Ground Shipping on select new Dell Inspirons!
Limited Time Only!

Total Price
Sub-total $1,331.51
Shipping & Handling $19.99
Shipping & Handling Discount -$19.99
Tax $117.22
Total Price $1,448.73

MacBook Pro, 15-inch, 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo
Part Number: Z0DL
120GB Serial ATA drive @ 5400 rpm AirPort Extreme Card & Bluetooth Backlit Keyboard/Mac OS - U.S. English 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo 2GB 667 DDR2 - 2x1GB SO-DIMMs MacBook Pro 15-inch Glossy Widescreen Display SuperDrive (DVD±RW/CD-RW)
Estimated Ship: 1-3 business days
$2,667.00 $2,667.00
Cart Subtotal: $2,667.00

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Options 17"

Inspiron E1705
Date & Time: July 19,2006 12:38 AM CST
Inspiron E1705 Qty 1
Intel® Core™ Duo Processor T2600 (2.16GHz/667MHz FSB), Genuine Windows® XP Media Center Edition 2005 Unit Price $2,529.00
Dell EPP/FSS Customers: Save 20% off select Inspiron E1705 systems!
Limited Time Offer!
- $505.80
Catalog Number: 23 R4678A2
Module Description
Inspiron E1705 Intel® Core™ Duo Processor T2600 (2.16GHz/667MHz FSB)
Operating System (Office software not included) Genuine Windows® XP Media Center Edition 2005
LCD Panel 17 inch UltraSharp™ Wide Screen UXGA Display with TrueLife™
Memory 2GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz
Video Card 256MB ATI MOBILITY™ RADEON® X1400 HyperMemory
Hard Drive 120GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
Network Card Integrated 10/100 Network Card and Modem
Adobe Software Adobe® Acrobat® Reader 6.0
Combo/DVD+RW Drives FREE!8x CD/DVD burner (DVD+/-RW) with double-layer DVD+R write capability
Sound Options Integrated Audio
Wireless Networking Cards Intel® PRO 3945 and Dell 355 Bluetooth Internal Wireless Cards
Office Software (not included in Windows XP) Microsoft Works Suite 2006- Includes MICROSOFT WORD plus much more!
Anti-Virus/Security Suite (Pre-installed) No Security Subscription
Primary Battery 80 WHr 9-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery
Hardware Warranty 1Yr Ltd Warranty, 1Yr Mail-In Service, and 1Yr HW Warranty Support
Dial-Up Internet Access 6 Months of America Online Membership Included
Future Operating Systems Windows Vista™ Capable
Operating System Re-Installation CD Genuine Windows® XP Media Center 2005 Edition re-installation CD
Dell Digital Entertainment Starter Entertainment Pack - Basic digital Music, Photo and Game experience

Additional Discounts and Coupons
Boeing employees receive additional 21% discount! -$424.87
Thank you for choosing Dell!
Free Ground Shipping on select new Dell Inspirons!
Limited Time Only!

Total Price
Sub-total $1,598.33
Shipping & Handling $19.99
Shipping & Handling Discount -$19.99
Tax $140.67
Total Price $1,739.00

Cart Items Quantity Item Price Item Total
MacBook Pro, 17-inch, 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo
Part Number: Z0CP
2GB 667 DDR2 - 2x1GB SO-DIMMs SuperDrive 8x (DVD+R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW) Accessory Kit Backlit Keyboard/Mac OS - U.S. English 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo MacBook Pro 17-inch Glossy Widescreen Display 120GB Serial ATA drive @ 5400 rpm
Estimated Ship: 1-3 business days
$2,851.00 $2,851.00
Cart Subtotal: $2,851.00

Friday, June 30, 2006

Vista Beta: That Was Quick

I finally got fed up with all the slowness. I have 512MB of RAM and a 2.0GHz Pentium 4, and I was having trouble doing more than one task at a time, and that's with all the indexing and Windows Defender off. It was pretty, but my CPU was at 100% most of the time swapping out a 900+ MB page file. Everything is back to normal thanks to my external hard drive and a stack of CD-ROMs. Just my luck though, the day after I reinstall everything they come out with a new version of (2.0.3) and MSIE 7 Beta (3).

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Vista Beta: Downright Snappy

Okay, well, no, it's not quite snappy: it's still a bit slower than XP, but with the Appearance Settings set on the Windows Standard theme in stead of Windows Vista Basic, the performance hit is much reduced. Standard looks like Win2k, which is a step down from the TabletPC theme I had installed on XP, which looked like Vista as far as the taskbar went, only it was blue in stead of black. Too bad I didn't think to take any "before" screenshots. Actually, I liked the blue better. If there was a setting to make it look like XP I would try it, but I guess they aren't giving you the option to make Vista look like XP. That's probably a good marketing decision.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Vista Beta: Screens

The background pictures are mine. Sorry they're such low resolution.

Vista Beta: The Good With The Bad

As I've mentioned before, my laptop is not the latest piece of hardware, and so my Vista experience has been sub-optimal. If I have too many things going on, it slows to a crawl. Sometimes Windows Explorer restarts itself. When I open, close, drag, or in general interact with windows, they flicker and sometimes disappear. It feels like when I installed the enhancements that came with MSIE 4.0 on our old 133MHz Win95 machine: the one that made it look and feel like Windows 98. Yep, I was a geek back then too.

There's this fancy new feature where directories look like file folders turned on their sides with sheets that look like the documents and images inside. It's a bit like the thumbnail view from XP, only much, much more resource intensive. Linux does something similar (and I hear so does OSX), but without so much crunching on the hard drive and stuttering of the GUI. If I get fed up with all the crunching, I might try the "classic" look and feel, which hopefully will perform on par with XP on the same hardware. I would hate to think they made Windows less efficient at the same tasks, but it's been known to happen.

I like the directory structure of Vista a lot better than previous versions of Windows. It's more unix-like. There's a "Users" directory, which is a lot like the "Documents and Settings" directory, except it's shorter and has no spaces. Each user has a folder in this directory, but in stead of a "My Documents" folder, they have a set of folders for different kinds of files, like Pictures, Documents, Music, Saved Games, etc. The difference is subtle, but I count it as an improvement. I also noticed something interesting: application data is split into three categories: Local, LocalLow (for less CPU-intensive operations?), and Roaming. This means applications can save settings that are hardware-dependent, and settings that are user-dependent separately.

Windows Media Player is at version 11 in Vista. It's a lot prettier and smarter than v.10, and once it finally assimilates all my music, it should be great... waiting... still waiting. It's taking a long time for some reason. WMP 10 would have torn through my 11GB of music in less than half an hour, but I guess v.11 is doing more crunching on each file. Of course I've been doing other things, and I turned the indexing back on. It's a one-time thing, which will hopefully result in better performance later on. Of course, Microsoft came up with their own media store that they integrated into the software. *yawn* It still has a few bugs in it. I have it on random play, and sometimes it starts a song and after a few seconds changes its mind and starts another song. It's quite annoying. Also, I would prefer "shuffled" playlist in stead of "random," which is what this seems to be, because I'm hearing some of the same songs repeated before others have been played.

Another bug/feature (not sure which it's supposed to be) is that the "Programs" folder from the start menu keeps appearing and disappearing on the Desktop. When it appears, you can't delete it: there's no way to get rid of it. You just have to go about your business until it disappears again. Strange. Speaking of the Programs folder, I wish they had implemented a feature to select a subfolder to put a program's folder at install-time. Gnome and KDE do this quite nicely automatically, and I've been doing this manually in Windows since the 95 days.

Vista Beta: Clean Install

It's much better. I still had to disable User Access Control to keep it from popping up a confirmation dialog every 10 seconds. I turned off search indexing on the hard drive: it slowed down copying files from my external drive to a crawl (expecially when they're text files, which should be lightning fast), and it's a waste of resources, since my data is pretty well organized, and there are programs for indexing specific content, such as pictures and music that do a way better job than a generic always-on search indexer. Vista is set by default to index all external drives for searching: this is a stupid default, and I can't figure out how to change it universally. Vista is still a bit slow and clunky, but that's what I get for running it on 4-year-old hardware. The new Start menu is annoying: I reset it to "classic" style and disabled the "feature" that hides icons you don't use very often.

Vista Beta: Impressions

It sucks. To be fair, I installed it on my laptop, which has integrated graphics, and so the "glass" UI that's supposed to be all the rage isn't available to me. In stead, the windows are colored gray and gray, with shades of gray. It seems also that in order to show off the translucent effects that I can't enjoy, the margins on all the windows was thickened. I think it's annoying. I'm sure it looks pretty with a fancy expensive graphics card. There are other things that annoy me that have nothing to do with cosmetics. Drivers are an issue. My display was stuck at 16 colors, which made the buttons on the title bars invisible, and therefore useless. I was able to reset it to fix that, but there is no driver for my ethernet controller. My photo printer won't work in Vista, ever, since it's a model that HP has stopped supporting. The most annoying thing by far is the interruptions. Vista seems to think that giving it attention is more important that whatever I'm trying to actually do. The whole screen dims, and a single window pops up that asks you condescending questions, t and gives you options that don't cover all possibilities. The configuration settings are also re-arranged from XP, but that's to be expected. What wasn't expected was that the "My Documents" folder has disappeared, supposedly this has been replaced by indexed searching features. The folder is still there, but it's a jumbled mess of hidden and system files. Perhaps it's not as bad on a clean intall. I have my XP installation backed up, at least in theory. I'm not sure if I'll try a clean install of Vista. It may be better to wait until I get my next laptop. Vista is a bit ckunky on this 2GHz P4 with 512MB RAM. If I get a Mac, a free Vista lisence might come in handy. Macs tend to have beefy graphics cards and nice specs, but then again the cost of a Mac laptop will get you a pretty nice Windows laptop. Anyway, my current computing needs seem to be met, as long as I don't install unnecessarily bloated software.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Vista Beta

Got my Vista kit in the mail today. I'll let y'all know how it goes. I'm planning on upgrading the XP install on my laptop. I want to do a clean install eventually, so maybe I'll do that at some point.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Free DNS

It's worth every penny.

Until today, I was using the subdomain through for athena's DNS. I have a neat little script that keeps track of what my IP address is, and then if it changes, it automatically updates the DNS listing for my box, and the world can keep on accessing all the wonderful pictures and such that I host there. This is all fine and dandy, but it so happens that the owner of is a bit temperamental, and so this morning athena was nowhere to be found. Oh, the IP address hadn't changed, ports 22 and 80 are still forwarded there from the router, and apache and sshd were chugging along just fine, but the DNS listing had disappeared.

I had no idea what was wrong. And I was counting on tar-ing up and transferring a Harry Potter sound track MP3 folder today. Bummer. My first thought was to interrogate RFH: he was doing something with athena after 12:30 last night, but it turns out all he did was watch an episode of "Jack and Bobby," so that was a dead end.

I didn't think to try just using the IP address until I got home and discovered everything was working just fine.

So anyway, I switched the domain from to, so now athena can be accessed via This domain is "public" at, so hopefully there won't be another similar incident. I sent off a message to the owner of to ask him to restore my ability to use it. There are a grand total of 3 domains available for use with "gentoo" in them. It's not essential to have that in the name, but I like it there.

I updated the links on my blog template (actually, I changed it so that it only needs to be updated in one place at the top in a JavaScript variable that gets referenced several times throughout the page).

I didn't go through and update all the links in my blog entries, although I did do the Rattlesnake Ledge photos one. I discovered that you can't put JavaScript inside the blog entries themselves. If I get back, then I'll leave things as they are, but if I don't then I'll have to go back through and update each link.

If someone wants to look at photos that have a dead link, all they need to do is click on the "athena" link on the top or bottom of the page and browse to ~tim/photos/.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I Promise This Isn't A Mac Blog

New MacBooks today.

Okay, not that color isn't important, but slapping on an extra hundred and fifty bucks just to get the case in black? The price difference is $200 and you can upgrade the hard drive on the white model for $50. They are otherwise identical.

I suppose it'll make it easier to spot the suckers cool people.

Oh, wait. These people bought Macs. Silly me. (Interpret that how you want.)

In all seriousness, the mid-range white model isn't a terrible deal. If you don't mind integrated graphics and low resolution, and you don't mind (or prefer) a small laptop screen, this might just be for you.

At the moment, I'm convinced that if I bought one of these, I would end up loading Vista (beta in June) and/or Gentoo on it. Is there a right/middle-click driver for the touchpad available for Linux? I might have to write one. Not that I would ever get it done. I still haven't found time in my busy life to get MythTV up and running on athena.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Disturbance in the Force

So here's the thing:

I'm surprised Caleb didn't beat me to this, but then he's a company man now, and may have obligations.

This morning Steve Jobs announced the first Intel Macs. The important thing to know about Macintosh computers with Intel processors is that they will be able to run Windows software. Not only is being able to dual boot (run either operating system when you turn it on) with Windows a virtual guarantee, unless the brains over at Apple are completely devoid of gray matter they are going to facilitate the running of Windows programs within the OS X environment. They might even go as far as to implement the full Win32 specification (and thereby emulate the Windows API). Even if they don't, there's always the open source community, who seem to be well on their way to accomplishing just that. Even if none of this happens, now that Macs run on x86, you'll see a lot more applications and games available on that platform because it's much easier (and therefore cheaper) to port x86 to x86 than PowerPC, thus kick-starting the chicken-and-egg problem with Mac software developement.

The very idea that there is a computer out there which is capable of dual--nay--triple (Win/Mac/Linux) booting is enough to make any computer nerd salavate. And what beauties they are! In particular, the MacBook Pro. This elegant flower of a machine is built on Intel's latest warhorse of a processor, the Core Duo which is the first 65 nanometer transistor processor. Two cores running at 1.83 GHz: *drool* *swoon* Oh, the power!

Ahem. The problem here is the price. This latest toy could be mine in February for a measly $2299. Yes, that's 200 lower than the price quoted on the Apple website. I have my connections. But is it really worth all that money? Well, to find out, I headed over to Dell to see what was on the market. Here is a system which I deem to be comparable to the MacBook Pro:

ModelInspiron 9300MacBook Pro
Operating SystemWindows XP Media Center EditionOS X v10.4 Tiger
Processor1.83 GHz/667Mhz FSB Intel Core Duo Processor1.83 GHz/667Mhz FSB Intel Core Duo Processor
Display17" Widescreen 1440x90015.4" Widescreen 1440x900
Memory1GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz (2 Dimms) 1GB (single SODIMM) 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM (PC2-5300)
Hard Drive100GB 5400RPM SATA100GB 5400RPM SATA
Graphics Card256MB NVIDA GeForce Go 7800ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 with 256MB of GDDR3 SDRAM and dual-link DVI
Optical Drive8x CD/DVD burner (DVD+/-RW) with double-layer DVD+R write capabilitySlot-load SuperDrive (DVD±RW/CD-RW)
WirelessIntel PRO/Wireless 3945 802.11a/g Mini Card (54Mbps)Built-in 54-Mbps AirPort Extreme (802.11g); built-in Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
Battery53 WHr 6-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery60 WHr Lithium-polymer battery
RemoteWindows Media Center RemoteApple Remote
  • Microsoft Works Suite 2006- Includes Mocrosoft Word plus more (I have access to a full copy of Office 2003 for $16 if I want it.)
These are free:
  • Have you ever heard of the Google Pack? Firefox, Picasa, Desktop Search, etc.
  • is all you really need for basic office Apps.

  • Mac OS X v10.4.4 Tiger (includes Spotlight, Dashboard, Mail, iChat AV, Safari, Address Book, QuickTime, iCal, DVD Player, Xcode Developer Tools)
  • Life ’06 (includes iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie HD, iDVD, iWeb, GarageBand), Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac Test Drive, iWork ’06 (30-day trial), QuickBooks for Mac New User Edition, Comic Life, FileMaker Pro trial, Omni Outliner
  • Photo Booth
  • Front Row
  • Price available to me (before tax, including shipping)$1,698.12$2,299.00

    Notice that last row: price. There is a $600 difference between the two. I know this is a Mac and it's new and shiny and all, but six hundred bucks? I could buy the Dell and then if I really needed to get my Mac fix I'd have money left over for a decently-equipped Mac Mini ($564: G4-1.42GHz, 512MB, 80GB). Oh, sure, the Mac has fancy doo-dads like a backlit keyboard, a built-in webcam, and magnetic snap-off power cable to prevent tripping, plus it's smaller and lighter, but I actually prefer the bigger screen and I don't care about the weight. The Dell is also upgradeable to a faster processor, a higher resolution display, and an 80 WHr battery. The only Apple upgrade that looked tempting was the 120GB Hard Drive for $92 extra. And what's with the one-button Touch Pad? I don't want to have to pull out my mouse on a plane.

    I don't really need a new computer at the moment. My current Dell Inspiron 8200 serves me more than adequately with the exception of hard drive space. I only have a 40GB drive, but I've been offloading large files to an external backup drive and to Athena (my trusty Linux server) when I don't need them.

    So I've decided to wait. Wait for the hype to go away, wait for the price to come down, wait for the next generation of features, wait for the higher-resolution 17" model, wait for clarification on Windows app compatability/porting.

    I'm not really the early adopter type. By the time I'm in the market a lot of interesting things might be happening in the computer intustry. Microsoft's Vista is supposed to (finally) come out, and then there's the whole Blu-Ray/HD-DVD format war.