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Archive for May, 2005

PULSE Delayed Again

Friday, May 27th, 2005

This is something that, for Pink Floyd fans, is almost more of an expectation than news. Pink Floyd super site Brain Damage is reporting that PF Management are now saying that it’s looking like the release date for the 2 disc PULSE DVD will be September/October of this year… after saying that mid-2005 is the likely release date… after saying that March is the likely release date… after saying that Christmas 2004… you get the picture. This has been going on for about two years now.

Eventually, the 1994 concert might see the light of day. Guess the thermostat in Hell is still set too high.

Pink Floyd: Pulse

Linux for human beings (discriminately)

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005

I got my new notebook yesterday, and within the evening had installed a Windows/Linux dual boot setup. The notebook gives me something that is not as “mission critical” (i.e., no priceless personal photos, genealogy research, or music files to lose) as the desktop. Open source is something that I’ve always been an advocate of, and I’ve always wanted to try making the switch and trying to live off of Linux for a while.

It hasn’t taken long in the past to get frustrated and go back to Windows, and so far it seems to be taking place again this time. I can’t help but realize that Linux just isn’t ready for the desktop yet. That’s not necessarily true of open source. I wouldn’t browse the web or read email with anything other than a Firefox/Thunderbird combination, and in wanting to write this blog entry in a word processor first, I immediately found myself downloading OpenOffice.org. Clearly, Open Source produces quality software.

However, let’s take a look at Linux. In my case, I’m working with Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu has been praised for it’s “ease of use” approach to Linux, and compared with what I’ve dealt with in the past with Linux, it does a good job. However, it’s still way too complicated to configure things. Either by licensing issues or by sheer philosophy alone, many hardware applications just don’t work in Linux.

Especially in the case of video card drivers. Now, I’d love to go to ATI and download an executable, but it’s not as simple as double click the file and run. In my case, trying to do something as basic as configure 3D graphics somehow led to an invalid xorg.conf file and Ubuntu refusing to boot (even by following the instructions on the Ubuntu forum). I’d love to be able to rollback my driver/settings to a previous time, but all I get is gobbledygook error reporting and encouragement to fix it. I can’t help it, I was raised on Windows and I fear the command line. When I consistently break things, it doesn’t help my fear.

The best encouragement I’ve gotten from Linux people is to not do anything as root/sudo, because “any Linux vet would tell you its never a good idea to stay logged in as root. You usually end up causing more problems than not.” Immediately followed by “The password prompt can act as a reminder. Hopefully you know what you’re doing after that point.” Well, how the heck am I supposed to get my video card installed if this isn’t for novices to do? I mean, it’s not like there are very many companies that sell Linux computers, and I’m not aware of any doing this with Ubuntu. Even if they did, Ubuntu’s strict no-proprietary policy would keep them from distributing the ATI driver.

Then there’s the whole software issue. Maybe it’s not as difficult as it used to be to program cross platform applications these days, but in the end most people just develop for Windows. I do genealogical research, but Family Tree Maker doesn’t work in Linux. I have diabetes and need to manage my blood sugar numbers, but there’s no software to connect to my glucometer. I am a huge flight simulator fan, but the only real alternative, Flightgear, looks about 10 years behind the competition. I subscribe to the wonderful Napster service to have access to their 1,000,000+ tracks every month, but their client is Windows/Windows Media Player 10 only. Honestly, why would anyone want to switch from Windows when it’s so difficult migrating to a platform that doesn’t have matured software as yet?

The biggest answer I’d have is that there is no vendor lock in, and the philosophy behind keeping the software world ‘Free’ as well as ‘free’ is something that appeals to me. That being said, those people who are that passionate about programming don’t need a GUI to install a video card driver. I still do.

I’m still going to tweak around with Linux, maybe trying a different distribution. But in the mean time, I’ve got good quality open source software for Windows that does work right. In half an hour I had installed the EasyPHP combo package with Apache/PHP/MySQL in one, and had my new notebook set up as a mobile testing server for my projects. I shudder to think about how long it would have taken me to do that in Linux.

Home, Home on the Range

Sunday, May 22nd, 2005

Lowe’s Home Improvement made a small fortune off of me yesterday. After living at this house for a year and a half now, my wife and I are finally finishing up the add-on master bathroom to the bedroom. When we bought the house, it was occupied by a couple with three kids. They were just over halfway done with the bathroom when they became pregnant with a fourth child, and decided the best move was to get the heck out of this teeny house and head for something larger. Melissa and I wanted to do some nice stuff in there, so we’ve been saving for a year.

Yesterday we bought all of the “big stuff”™ . We got our shower stall, Jacuzzi tub, toilet, hot water heater, linen cabinet (which ironically was the heaviest thing!), and what seems like tons of backerboard, drywall, and insulation. We special ordered our sink cabinet, vanity top, and the flooring. Hopefully in several weekends we’ll be reaping the benefits of all this hard work and investment! For good measure, we even bought a new stove (one of those flooty-dooty kind that has the completely flat cooktop) to replace the depricated one that the previous owners had.

We managed to get the stove hooked up yesterday, but it was all we could do just to unload the trailer of everything else.

New Member of the “Family”

Saturday, May 21st, 2005

After toying with the idea for the better part of a year now, I’ve finally decided to make the plunge into the notebook world. Budget and power being priority (not the easiest combination to work together), I decided on a Compaq Presario 2108CL. It’s an Athlon XP-M 2800+ system, with 512MB DDR RAM and an ATI Mobility Radeon AGP 4x graphics card. So far, the only actual drawbacks I’ve found with it are the relatively slow hard drive speed (4200RPM), and the fact that it only has USB 1.0. I thought the latter was very strange in a computer with a processor as new as this one. These two undesirables were completely set off by the very good price I paid for it. In this price range, I was finding computers that were half as powerful (or, Celerons, which counts as half as powerful no matter the processor).

So, what do I intend to do with the laptop over my desktop? Primarily, I hope to use it as a Linux system. I’ll probably still run dual boot with Windows since I do have some needs that Linux can’t replicate just yet, but to have a stable system consistently running Linux has always been something I’ve wanted. Secondly, I hope to set it up as a server and use it for web development on the go, whether that be transferring files between work and home or working on personal projects. Who knows, after July when these grant funded classes are over with and some of my other projects are sustaining themselves, I may get into some of the open source contributions I’ve always wanted to make. And finally, on the most superficial geek level, having a mobile system is just cool.

These are the Voyages

Sunday, May 15th, 2005

Star Trek: Enterprise has ended it’s relatively premature run, after only four seasons where every Trek series since Next Generation have lasted seven. I have mixed thoughts of the final episode, as I have had for the entire series, but overall I think they did a pretty good job of tying up the series.

To first be critical, the last episode was missing something. It featured cameos by Will Riker and Deanna Troi, under the guise that Riker is playing this period as a holodeck program on the Enterprise-D during the Next Generation episode The Pegasus. With that, the episode seemed to be a hybrid of Enterprise and Next Generation. Two different generations (screen presences) were constantly vying for attention from one another. On top of that, because the episode was shot from the point of view of a holodeck simulation it was difficult to really get into the episode as something playing in the here and now.

On the positive side, this episode really accomplished something that Enterprise had barely accomplished before: making the crew seem like family and inviting the viewer into that family. I’m not talking about the romantic or sexual episodes that earned Enterprise the moniker “Dawson’s Trek” early on, but a real bond between the crew members and their ship that we’ve seen since the Original Series. What Enterprise did all too often was to try to gain ratings with sex and violence episodes that rarely touched on the moral and “feel-good-about-humanity’s-future” high ground that Trek has always been good at addressing.

The episode was appropriately capped off by a newly recreated Galaxy Class Enterprise-D flying out of an asteroid field as Picard began the Trek theme, “Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages…” The scene changed to a newly recreated original Constitution Class NCC-1701 as Kirk’s voiceover continued, and finally we see the NX Class Enterprise flying toward a nebula as Archer concludes it. It was an appropriate nod to Enterprise’s forbearer series.
20050515-20050515-ncc1701.jpg

So, all in all, did Enterprise do good things for Star Trek? Again, I have mixed feelings. Enterprise didn’t touch on morality or meaningful episodes as much as it could have. T’Pol showed way too much emotion (and sexuality) for being a Vulcan, and there were many missed opportunities and open ends. Were it not for the low expectations of the rest of the series I have a feeling I would have been more disappointed with the last episode.

However, in spurts it did a terrific job of tying into other story lines, such as showing what happened when some of the Borg escaped to earth after First Contact, explaining why the Klingons have no ridges in the Original Series but do have them in the movies+, and showed us new glimpses of Original Series cultures such as the Andorians, Romulans, Tellarites, Gorn, and so on.

Boeing and Airbus pulling out the big guns

Thursday, May 12th, 2005

While Airbus has been doing the first test flights of its new Superjumbo, the A380, Boeing has been solidifying orders for its medium-sized, technologically advanced jet, the 787, to begin flight in 2008.

Boeing has received a huge contract with Northwest Airlines, the 4th largest carrier, for 18 of the new 787’s with purchase options for 50 more. That gives Boeing 82 firm orders and 173 commitments, while Airbus’ double-decker is sitting with 154 orders as of late-April.

The sales of the Airbus has been described as “disappointing,” but I can’t help but find an aircraft that may eventually carry more than 1,000 people as a marvel of engineering. But, while the A380 is beautiful because of it’s size, the 787 is just beautiful period.

NWA’s 787 livery:NWA's 787 Livery

FS2006? I wish!

Wednesday, May 11th, 2005

It’s getting later on in the year of 2005 now, and if Microsoft is going to keep with their every-two-year release schedule and release a Flight Simulator 2006 then they’d better get on with announcing it! I found a video, direct link here, on the web that I quickly became excited about, until, of course, I realized that Microsoft would never include an Airbus as a default aircraft (they wouldn’t want to slight their next door neighbors, Boeing).

It was an impressive piece of work, and something to hope for in future flight simulators. But sadly this solution is a commercial grade sim used by actual airlines. See more videos from CAE here. Might we see graphics like these in 2006? I certainly hope so, but Flight Simulator has always been an evolutionary thing, not a revolutionary one.

I remain hopeful, though, because it’s been known for months that the guy that wrote the book on DirectX 9 shaders is presently working at Microsoft as “a graphics developer for the upcoming next release Microsoft Flight Simulator”.

Our website is what dot what… dot what???

Wednesday, May 11th, 2005

You know, sometimes these spam and scam companies are almost worth dealing with for the comedic value. We got a letter at work from the good folks at Axcess Internet saying that our company was the proud owner of a new website (??). All we had to do to see the website was type our convenient domain name into the address bar:

www.tailormadecommunicationsversaillesblvd.typ.bz

Oh my… As if our real domain name wasn’t long enough, a 45 character domain NOT including the www!

When we called to cancel our trial, they told us in a thick foreign accent: “we can do website for you” (‘ma’am, we are a web design company’), followed by “we can host website for you” (‘ma’am, we have our own server’), followed by “we can do email for you” (‘ma’am, we provide email services to clients’), followed by “we can send you sample postcard, free of charge!” (‘ma’am, we have our own design department‘).

Guess they never bothered to check their spam database closely enough to find out that we are both a web development and marketing company, and could probably do a better design, email/hosting, and marketing job than they do. Adding insult to injury, we’re “Taylor-Made”, not “Tailor-Made”. I guess they thought we were a telephone company for the fabric industry.

Not that I’m arrogant enough to think that we’re all that great at it, but the situation was just funny.

Mozilla Lightning Article

Tuesday, May 10th, 2005

InformationWeek has released a decent article on the future of Mozilla Thunderbird.

Specifically of interest to me is the talk of an integrated calendar, codenamed “Lightning”. A good, open source mail client/calendar application (that is, Outlook alternative) is something that I’ve been waiting on the open source community to produce since at least 2000 when Netscape 6 debuted. Although Exchange functionality is not yet planned, if I were able to at least use Lightning to sync with my Palm and get work from our Exchange server at work via IMAP, I would be a happy user.

From the article:
“Calendaring is probably the biggest piece that we’re missing when it comes to competing with Outlook in the enterprise space,” says Scott MacGregor, lead engineer for Thunderbird. “So we actually have a project called Lightning, which is a community-driven calendar extension that you can bundle with Thunderbird to make an enterprise-level application suite.”

Welcome

Monday, May 9th, 2005

I’m a geek, I have a web site, and I work in a technology related field. By my count, it seems almost sacrilege that I haven’t joined the weblog craze and started posting useless thoughts from myself that no one will read. So, consider this my first useless message. You may expect news and commentary on things that I’m interested in: technology, flight simulation/aviation, Pink Floyd, open source development, and other such things. Who knows, eventually you may even find a piece of useful information here.

Right now, the blog is using the default Nucleus theme, but I plan on working on the CSS file and making it match my main website at kenpardue.com

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