Things Learned on Teh IntarWeb

I look forward to Friday mornings because I get to read James Randi’s SWIFT column. It always has the latest woowoo news and other idiocies being inflicted on the world.
Today’s had an interesting tidbit, pointing to an article on Wikipedia about the Flat Earth mythology that debunks the common misperception that until modern times, it was a wide spread assumption that the world was flat.
In fact, there’s strong historical evidence that going all the way back to the ancient greeks, there was no such viewpoint (or at least it was very very limited). The misperception arose from the religion vs science debates toward the end of the 19th century, when Darwin’s writings were very much in the public eye.
Well that’s one personal misconception corrected. Enlightenment continues.

Decisions, Decisions.

So a rare alignment of the planets has happened, and I have a little bit of cash available. Enough to not only pay off some credit card debt (wootah), but also indulge in a little toybuying. Of course, the eternal question comes up, what should I do with it?

Here’s the current list of candidates, in a very rough order of preference. It is possible to get more than one, but I’d like to keep things down to somewhat reasonable.

  • EeePC or similar small-mobile laptop (Approx $350)
    I’ve been hauling Clipper around as my primary ‘mobile’ machine for about 2 years now. It’s large, heavy, runs RIDICULOUSLY hot, and is saddled with WindowsXP. I don’t need to have a Core2 running just to get my email and chat on IRC, or SSH places. An EeePC will do 95% of what I need to do when out and about, at a fraction of the power and weight.
  • A Nokia N95 ($590?)
    Boy o boy is this a sexy phone. I’m tired of my Treo and it’s abysmal 2′ range on Bluetooth. The N95 is a beautiful platform. I’d need to change providers to AT&T though, and that means getting off my wife’s phone plan. Complex and dangerous!
  • Get Rock Band ($170)
    This is pure unadulterated Fun. Zach loves playing it, I have a Playstation 2 to run it on. I wanna beat some drums! (Probably add another $30 or so for a second guitar)
  • Upgrade my desktop machine(Approx $200)
    I’m realizing my desktop machine, yawl is not the powerhouse I had thought it would be. Sure it says Pentium 4 2.26gig, but the P4 CPU is an absolute dog. I can get a motherboard, ram, and CPU from newegg that will outperform this machine for $150-$200. I even have a chassis to put it in.
  • Decent GPS ($300)
    My travails with my Mobile Crossing GPS are well documented, and that machine has now been tossed into the trunk, awaiting some other project. There are several really good GPS platforms around now, and getting one for the my car (Cat has one built into her Prius) is on the list of “really want”s. The TomTom 910 was on the top of my list last time I did this search, as the platform is very good, and it includes blueooth hands-free usage for my phone. A total bonus. Looking around, it looks like the 910 has really come down in price ($300?).
  • A new monitor ($200?)
    You’d think I had enough monitors. But I sacrificed one of my monitors to the Mame cabinet, which leaves me with a really poor 1024×768 monitor as screen #3. I’d like to get another Dell 19″er.
  • Upgrade the Mame cabinet ($100)
    Rebuilding the controller on the Mame cabinet would be a win – I’d like a trackball and some better joysticks. Not really a big expense – it’s more work than cost. But still on the wishlist.
  • Zoom lens for the Canon (Approx $600)
  • Flash for the Canon (Approx $250)

Decisions, decisions…

Ikariam Screws the Pooch

So, I’ve been having some fun playing Ikariam for the last month or two. It’s a low-key, enjoyable game. I’m part of a large alliance, my cities are growing nicely, I’m not involved in any wars. Spiffy.
Lately I’ve been making a move to expand my settlements from 3 to 4 cities. This requires an ENORMOUS investment in resources and logistics (it’s one of the throttles on the game that limits expansionism). Last night I decided to move my resources to the last city that needs to be expanded before I build my new settlement. This involves loading a lot of ships, sending them off, and making sure there’s space to receive them.
This morning, I look, and all the resources I set to ship between the cities has vanished.
I’ve seen this happen once or twice before. It usually means the location I’m heading to isn’t large enough to accept the shipment or something. But having the results of weeks of manufacturing just vanish has me totally ticked off.
If this is a bug in Ikariam, they need to fix it. If this is normal gameplay, it would be nice to NOTIFY a player when something they’re doing is going to cause a major financial loss.
Right now I’m considering ditching the game and moving on. The tediousness of recreating all that material and re-shipping it is something I’m not too inspired to do, particularly if there’s some chance of it all disappearing silently again.

Oh yeah.

on the lake

Originally uploaded by eidolon

Now I remember why we come up here.

Today we spent the day doing the ‘second’ phase of prepwork necessary to get the Maine house ready for the summer. Last weekend was plumbing, electrical, and ‘gross’ maintenance. Today was things like leafblowing and mowing the field, other basic house repairs, and the big project of re-installing the docks.

We have a two section floating dock that is stored on shore for the winter. Moving it back onto the lake and into position involves some pulleys, a tow vehicle, 150′ of heavy line, and a lot of muscle. All in all, it went smoothly, but boy is it a lot of work.

Tonight it’s cool, quiet, and done. We had a great grilled dinner with friends from DownLake, and now the house is quiet, aside from the MIL watching the Celtics game (one of the few times the TV is turned on).

We did retrieve our Caravelle powerboat from it’s winter storage, and it’s sitting on the trailer in the field. Tomorrow we’ll launch it and, if it’s warm enough, we’ll get some skiing and tubing in.

It’s good to be back.

The Cellphone Blues.

Ya’ll are probably tired of me yammering about phones, feel free to ‘n’ or ‘^W’ or whatever you do to skip this posting.
As mentioned previously, I’m getting pretty tired of my Treo. It works okay, though it’s really aging. Physically too large for the features it offers, absolutely dreadful Bluetooth support… it’s really time to move on.
The problem is, the offerings are slim. In my previous posting, Matt commented regarding the Nokia N95. All in all, it looks like a fantastic phone. There’s only a few small problems.
First and foremost, no one has it! It was released in europe, and there is a US version, but none of the carriers are carrying it. You can order it from Nokia, but then you have to go through the joy of getting it one of the US networks, and even then it’ll only be T-Mobile or AT&T. There’s some noise about a ‘north american version’ for lower frequency WCDMA stuff, but I’m really lost about the offerings here.
Second, it’s very expensive. The lowest price I’ve seen is in the $595 range, and the highest I’ve seen is over $800. Now, granted, this things is basically a laptop in phone form. Wifi, GPS, acceleromter, 3d accelerated graphics, media player, SD slot, bluetooth, kick butt CPU, etc. The reviewers are showing people happily networking via bluetooth through it onto the data network (something Verizon actively blocks, for totally unknown reasons).
IF I knew I could order an N95, walk into an AT&T store and activate it, and IF I could get a reasonable data plan on it, so I could use it as my primary wireless ‘gateway’ for my laptop(s), and IF there weren’t any major obstacles I’m not seeing (like, oh, there are no plans that can do SMS + Data + voice for something < $200 a month), I'd be seriously ready to do this. But there's too many unknowns, too many variables.
And. I can't find anyone in the Boston area who HAS one, so I can't even get one in my hands to play with it.

Clinton Digs Herself in Deeper

In the beginning, I was a fair supporter of Hillary. I thought she had the chops to do the job, and would be professional, honest, and hard working.

But as this race winds down, and for all intents and purposes, it’s over, she’s getting more vicious, more whacked, and just plain Not Making Any Sense.

I give as the latest example, as reported via ABCnews blogger Jake Tapper:

In Florida today, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., vociferously pushed her argument that the disqualified contests in Michigan and Florida should count, even though the DNC said the contests didn’t count, no candidate campaigned in either state, and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., along with many other Democratic candidates, was not even on the Michigan ballot.

“I believe the Democratic Party must count these votes. They should count them exactly as they were cast,” she said in Palm Beach County, per ABC News’ Eloise Harper, apparently meaning that she should receive more than 300,000 votes from Michigan and Obama should receive zero.

In Sunrise, Fla., Clinton assailed countries “where votes don’t count. People go through the motions of an election only to have it discarded and disregarded. We’re seeing that right now in Zimbabwe — tragically an election was held, the president lost, they refused to abide by the will of the people. So we can never take for granted our precious right to vote.”

As GC said… “Wait, WHAT?” Not only does this comparison make no sense whatsoever, but as Jake says later in his post, Clinton didn’t make an issue of this until she started losing so badly, AND her own advisor, who is on the DNC rules and regulations committee, voted not to count Michigan and Florida’s votes. Continuing from there, the states themselves broke the rules, as they themselves say, to try and bolster their position in the election process. The DNS’s rules are there for a reason. Break the rules, you don’t get seated. Done and done.

Mrs. Clinton, shut the hell up. You’re doing a disservice to yourself, the democratic party, and the entire election process. How you can possibly think what you’re doing is positive for any American besides yourself (and even then I disagree) I cannot fathom.


It’s frustrating when you chalk out a specific block of time to Get Stuff Done, and then things just keep cropping up to get in the way.
Today I returned from a trip to Pittsburgh, and had 6-7 hours of work time slated to get stuff done. The random factors have aligned to challenge me the whole way:

  • Do more with Struts
    I’m still trying to learn Struts. It’s a huge challenge, and takes a lot of brainpower. I’m making slow but steady progress, but halfway through the work, I realized my laptop had gone into ‘slow-mo’ mode (it happens when it overheats). And my nice dual core 2.2gig machine was running at 900mghz. Eclipse and JBoss and Windows don’t like that speed. So only half productivity there.

  • Get badges ready for The Cohousing Conference
    I need to get these into the printers to be pre-printed for the event. To do that I need an order form and a proof. The graphics are in, but they won’t generate the proof without my credit card. The one they had on file for me expired. I can’t give it to them over the phone. I can’t email it, I have to FAX it. I don’t OWN a fax machine. I have to print their fugly Word doc (yes, Word, not PDF), write in my information, drive to Mailboxes Etc, and fax it from there. Grr.

  • Another Con needs a Contract
    Another convention that’s coming up in August needs a finalized contract before it can move ahead. This one I got done, the contract is out for review. Phew.

  • There’s a lot of email.
    Mosaic generates more mail than any other group I’ve ever worked with. I’m not even on the busier lists, and i have a dozen or two messages waiting for me to respond to or act upon.

  • Summer Camp for Zach
    The deadline for registration for Zach’s summer camp is this Friday. I have to finish the registration forms (they’re done, they need one 2 week window completed), then drive (yes, drive) them to Worcester and submit them, not to mention PAY for them. Not a check I’m looking forward to writing, but it is what it is.

  • Teeth
    Tomorrow I go in for my 1 week followup after oral surgery last Thursday. I had a tooth removed, as well as an abcess cleaned out. If you think that evokes a strong visual, you’re not far off the mark about what it felt like. I shan’t elaborate. But I have a dozen or so stitches in my gumline that need to be dealt with tomorrow, and have I mentioned how much I dislike antibiotics?

Good thing this weekend’s a vacation.

A KDE Gripe – Spellcheck needs to go.

It’s no secret I’m a huge booster of KDE, and specifically Konqueror, the built-in web browser. It’s fast, powerful, standards compliant, and just plain works.

But please, KDE folks, ferchrissake, fix the damned spell checker.

When editing things in TEXTAREA fields in Konqueror, occasionally you’ll get the red text of a misspelled word (or one that is simply not in the dictionary). That’s fine, no problems. In the Gnome world (and the variants such as those used in Thunderbird, my other most-used app, you can right click on the misspelled word, and it’ll happily give you a list of alternate spellings.

But no, not in KDE. The right click menu has no context for the misspelled word. It simply gives you the option of ‘check spelling’, which pulls up a dialog that spell checks the entire textarea, from beginning to end. Every time.

That means I get prompted for ‘href’ and ‘png’ and ‘img’ and ‘valign’ and all the other fun things that I type into my blog postings, long before I get to the current word.

Dear KDE. Please fix this behaviour. Make a context-sensitive spell checker. Luv, me

Bibbles and tidbits.

I find myself with a whole series of little things to yammer about, but any one of them don’t really add up to an interesting post of it’s own, so rather than let them slip away into the dark musty corners of my head, might as well spew them out upon the ether, so they can clutter up your collective consciousnesses as well.

  • Got my chair back!
    My trusty Aeron chair developed a bit of a problem last week, and after realizing I was out of my service warranty (apparently Herman Miller’s 12 year warranty is only valid when sold a chair directly from a dealer. It is not transferrable), I took it to a local dealership who replaced the broken bits and gave the chair a general tuneup. I felt all yuppie-ish as I hauled my OFFICE CHAIR into the shop for service. “Gotta run, the Miller is ready to be picked up from the shop. Lets do lunch!”

  • Cohousing from On High
    Check this action out. We managed to get pictures from a fly-by over the site. That’s how things look in Berlin as of the middle of last week. The 5 ‘missing’ buildings on Mosaic’s side are the ones that were held up, and framing on them should be starting within the next week or two. Wahoo!

  • FileUploader sucks
    This is a total random hassle, but I cannot for the life of me get the Apache Commons FileUpload library to work. I’ve written it just as the docs say, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out why it doesn’t work. Know Java? Know how this library works? Check out the code I’m using. Just won’t work, durnit. Grump.

  • Cuecat?!?
    This weekend I hauled out a CueCat scanner I picked up AGES ago, and decided to test it out using the ReaderWare application for DVD, CD, and Book cataloguing. The CueCat, for a free barcode reader, worked as advertised. It’s uncomfortable to use, but it does what it’s supposed to do – scans a barcode in as keyboard input, and hits [enter]. So I know it works under Linux just fine. I’m less impressed with ReaderWare. While it seems to do the basic job, it has a very clunky interface, and feels… old. I know it’s an old app, but you’d think they could do something with the 90’s Swing look. I may go ahead and license a copy of it, to get some other functionality, but I’m already considered spinning my own. In my copious spare time, of course.

  • Websites moving
    Sometime soon one of the servers we’ve been sharing space on will be shut down. This means a good half dozen very busy websites need to be moved off it to other hosts. I’ve been slowly migrating sites and functionality off the machine, but it’s slow going. Most likely I’ll be moving away from Movable Type (the latest update – 4.1 – is so vastly different than what I’m using now, I might as well just move to Drupal and be happy. I’ll keep folks posted.

  • Ubuntu 8.04 – Hardy Heron is out!
    I’ve upgraded yawl to the latest version of Ubuntu (in reality, I run Kubuntu, but the differences are only in KDE vs Gnome). So far things are smooth. Nothing has broken, everything is working as expected. New versions of Digikam and GIMP were installed, as well as a beta of Firefox3. FF3 is not blowing me away yet. There’s a lot of niceties in it, but it still can’t come near the speed of Konqueror.

  • Bose Lifestyle 48 is back too
    Speaking of things being back from repairs. I sent my Lifestyle 48 off to Bose (in Arizona of all places) for repair. It had been skipping in movies, including total disc lockups 3/4ths of the way through a flick (and some movies not loading at all). Even a firmware update didn’t fix it. I can say happily that it’s back and installed and working perfectly. I’ve only run 3-4 movies through it so far, but there hasn’t been a single blip yet. Yay!

I’m sure there’s lots of other goings on I’m missing, but there’s a brief glimpse of Life at Planet Geek! (insert Garrison Keillor witty signoff chatter here)

Iron Man Mini-Review

With all the failures in comics movies, sometimes they get it right. Sometimes they REALLY get it right, and it’s all good. Gets you up, gets you hollering, and the “WOOHOO!”s come with ease.

This one does it. Beginning to end.

Robert Downey Jr? Welcome back.
Gwyneth Paltrow? You’re still hot, and this time, they let you act.
Jeff Bridges? Long way from Kevin Flynn, you still got it.

And for those who like the mechanics, the CGI, the detail, all the visuals? I once saw a quick review of Transformers that said “Less girl, more robot.” – I was fully expecting not to get enough of Tony Stark’s creations in Iron Man. In this, I was disappointed. There was plenty, and it was a steady stream of awesome.

One more nail in the coffin of Palm

According to Palm’s website:

JVM download for Palm OS® devices no longer available from Palm

As of January 12, 2008, Palm no longer has rights to distribute the IBM WebSphere Micro Environment Java Virtual Machine (JVM) to our customers. JVM allows users to install and run Java applications and games on Palm OS® devices.

Palm is not able to offer the JVM download or version upgrades. We will continue to support existing installations of JVM on our website.

Opera Mini
We have advised Opera support that the Palm OS JVM is no longer available. There is no alternate Java Virtual Machine that we are aware of for Palm OS. We know of no way to run Opera Mini on Palm OS if you do not already possess the JVM. We regret the inconvenience.

Sigh. I wish the iPhone SDK licensing didn’t suck so much (which is also preventing the release of a JVM for the iPhone). Or that the Android phones had some hope of being more than vaporware in the near future.

My Treo 650 won’t last forever. And I refuse to run Windows on my phone. What’s a geek to do? As noted on the Palm Blog, the Centro seems to be the only thing left in the lineup to move to (of course Verizon doesn’t support it), but it’s still the same ancient platform, with no new features except coming in a nicer package. I want wifi, I want bluetooth that doesn’t suck, I want a web browser that doesn’t suck. I fear I am destined to be disappointed.