5watt GMRS radios. Any opinions?

I’m considering replacing my el cheapo 1 watt FRS radios that I use for conventions and shows. They’ve been okay, and 2 years ago they were fine, but the headsets are terrible, and they don’t have enough ‘oomph’ to carry beyond a couple hundred feet, particularly in hotel buildings.
I’ve noticed that Midland Radio now has a full 5 watt GMRS radio (they’re marketing it as ’14 mile’, which is fine, as they say, across open water or perhaps chatting on a playa somewhere *grin*.
Anyway, they also have a very nice set of headphoens – including a ‘behind the head’ headset, which sounds perfect for extended wear (the ‘in the ear’ units for me get uncomfortable after an hour or two).
They also have a ‘stealth’ clear plastic version – just like the secret service uses. If you really want to be talking into your cuffs, this is the setup for you 🙂
Anyway, thoughts on these? Price on midlandradio for a pair, with chargers, with the cheaper of the headphones is $94.99. I’m seeing them on eBay for around $75 for a pair.

Memory usage – Linux vs XP

I was having a convo with a friend the other day who was complaining that her laptop just didn’t have enough memory for her to do her job. When she let on that it has a gig of memory, I was floored, wondering what huge monstrous app she was running that was killing it.
“Outlook”, she said.
Now, realizing the platform was Windows XP, I started thinking about my own usage, and how to me this is an indicator, again, about why XP is a terrible system for general development, let alone enterprise-scale applications.
Apparently, 1 gig of memory is not enough to run Powerpoint, Outlook, and the Java application server she was developing on. I can’t fathom how people would consider this ‘okay’.
Sure, the argument is “Memory is cheap” – well, no, it really isn’t, particularly in laptops, when you’re actually running into HARD LIMITS on how much memory a machine can take.
The argument continues, as I see the industry phrasing it, “Well, that’s the price you pay for an enterprise-level application”. Again, a totally bogus answer.
Let me present, for comparison, my own development environment. Also a laptop, but running Linux. As my friend does, I use an integrated calendar / contact / mail client (Evolution). I have a full featured desktop (KDE), a fantastic and powerful webbrowser (Firefox), the ability to happily run Microsoft Office apps (Crossover Office), and a top of the line J2EE development environment and server (JBoss). At the moment, all but the Office adapter is running (because I already have my mail / calendar client running), and my memory footprint is:

top - 13:20:49 up 1 day,  1:18,  1 user,  load average: 0.68, 0.46, 0.44
Tasks: 112 total,   1 running, 111 sleeping,   0 stopped,   0 zombie
Cpu(s):  2.0% us,  1.0% sy,  0.0% ni, 96.3% id,  0.0% wa,  0.7% hi,  0.0% si
Mem:    775860k total,   745648k used,    30212k free,    32244k buffers
Swap:   748400k total,      728k used,   747672k free,   257152k cached

I’ve just barely touched my swapspace. This is on a 768meg IBM T40. And, in addition to those ‘basic productivity apps’, I’m also running: X-Chat IRC client, my Jabber client, streaming audio from Radio Paradise, oh, and have I mentioned an entire full screen instance of The Gimp, a Photoshop-like graphic editor?
I’ve seen Photoshop bring a high end Windows XP machine to it’s knees.
Did I mention every single application I’m running is free? Save for Crossover Office, which I don’t use at the moment, this is all free / opensource software. And even for Office documents, I generall use Open Office.
Once again, can someone tell me why Windows XP is better that Linux? Cuz I sure as hell don’t see it here.

A view of Iraq

From MSNBC, Newsweek’s Baghdad bureau chief Rob Nordlund is leaving his post there, and has some choice commentary. (Linked to from DailyKos).
Living and working in Iraq, it’s hard not to succumb to despair. At last count America has pumped at least $7 billion into reconstruction projects, with little to show for it but the hostility of ordinary Iraqis, who still have an 18 percent unemployment rate. Most of the cash goes to U.S. contractors who spend much of it on personal security. Basic services like electricity, water and sewers still aren’t up to prewar levels. Electricity is especially vital in a country where summer temperatures commonly reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet only 15 percent of Iraqis have reliable electrical service. In the capital, where it counts most, it’s only 4 percent.
The most powerful army in human history can’t even protect a two-mile stretch of road. The Airport Highway connects both the international airport and Baghdad’s main American military base, Camp Victory, to the city center. At night U.S. troops secure the road for the use of dignitaries; they close it to traffic and shoot at any unauthorized vehicles. More troops and more helicopters could help make the whole country safer. Instead the Pentagon has been drawing down the number of helicopters. And America never deployed nearly enough soldiers. They couldn’t stop the orgy of looting that followed Saddam’s fall. Now their primary mission is self-defense at any cost—which only deepens Iraqis’ resentment.
The four-square-mile Green Zone, the one place in Baghdad where foreigners are reasonably safe, could be a showcase of American values and abilities. Instead the American enclave is a trash-strewn wasteland of Mad Max-style fortifications. The traffic lights don’t work because no one has bothered to fix them. The garbage rarely gets collected. Some of the worst ambassadors in U.S. history are the GIs at the Green Zone’s checkpoints. They’ve repeatedly punched Iraqi ministers, accidentally shot at visiting dignitaries and behave (even on good days) with all the courtesy of nightclub bouncers—to Americans and Iraqis alike. Not that U.S. soldiers in Iraq have much to smile about. They’re overworked, much ignored on the home front and widely despised in Iraq, with little to look forward to but the distant end of their tours—and in most cases, another tour soon to follow. Many are reservists who, when they get home, often face the wreckage of careers and family.
I can’t say how it will end. Iraq now has an elected government, popular at least among Shiites and Kurds, who give it strong approval ratings. There’s even some hope that the Sunni minority will join the constitutional process. Iraqi security forces continue to get better trained and equipped. But Iraqis have such a long way to go, and there are so many ways for things to get even worse. I’m not one of those who think America should pull out immediately. There’s no real choice but to stay, probably for many years to come. The question isn’t “When will America pull out?”; it’s “How bad a mess can we afford to leave behind?” All I can say is this: last one out, please turn on the lights.

Considering the BioDiesel Angle again.

I recently came across a good article about using BioDiesel fuel in a Golf TDI (coincidentally the car I have :). Apparently the only issue on the block going from full petroleum to B20 (20% biodiesel) is that the biodiesel will act as a cleanser, cleaning out some of the gunk in your engine. The article includes a simple link on how to change out the filter in your fuel line (which apparently should be done after a tank or two, lest it clog up).
I admit I’m intrigued to try it, hearing now it’s not a ‘conversion’ – folks seem to be switching back and forth with no need to do mechanical changes to the car. Many people say “I use BioDiesel whenever I can, but if there’s no station nearby, i can use normal petroleum diesel.”
100% Vegetable oil conversions are possible, though there are questioins about glycerin buildup. Some folks at Greasecar.com have a system where you have a second ‘vegetable oil’ tank in the car with a pre-heat system, and you can switch from the normal petroleum tank to the veggie oil tank on the fly. Neat.
Really, the next step is to find a BioDiesel station in Boston. I’m not ready to knock on the door of McDonalds and ask for a fillup.
(Special nod to the BioDiesel Blog for the original link)

Life in the world of blogspam

In the blog world, it’s not surprising that Blog spam has become an ever increasing problem. People post links into comments on blogs, and if they stay put, they can help up the sites ranking in Google. Annoying as all git out.
Fortunately, we have tools like Jay Allen’s MT Blacklist to help us poor bloggers keep the blogs clean.
Unfortunately, MT Blacklist doesn’t have a lot of good reporting or analysis tools, so like a good doobie, I whipped one up. The short version is in the last 5 days, we’ve blocked several hundred attempted spams, and as we populate the database, more will not get past the filters. It’s email all over again.

Continue reading “Life in the world of blogspam”

Try out Linux on your windows machine

Want to see a Linux desktop and play with it for a while, but don’t feel like burning your own CD or downloading big messy apps? Open Source Region Stuttgart has a mechanism for starting a Linux desktop on your Windows machine just by clicking on a link. It doesn’t actually start Linux on your machine – it opens a window to a ‘virtual’ Linux desktop running remotely. On my Windows XP machine, it was zippy and useable.
Check out the article on NewsForge

Close but no banana.

Berlin Google adIt’s pretty common, on very large ‘index sites’, to do a google ad associated with whatever search term / information you’re looking for. The idea is “If they came here looking for this, they must be interested in it elsewhere”.
That’s all fine and well, but a lot of the time it just doesn’t translate. This little google ad appeared when I was searching for some information on Berlin, MA.
I wonder what aspect of the town I can purchase? “I bid $20 on that streetlight!”