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a blog by ken pardue

Archive for September, 2005

Updated Look

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

I’ve finally invested a little bit of time into updating the look of my Blog.  I’ve always wanted it to reflect that of my  main site at www.kenpardue.com/, but never really had the time to do a proper reskin.  I took a couple of hours today to develop a new skin for Nucleus based on the layout and graphics of my main site, copied over some of the various odds and ends from the default skin, and made it all work together.  The blog should look completely consistent with the rest of the site now.

Cleaning Up

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

Things are finally getting back to normal.  Unlike Katrina, Central Louisiana didn’t escape Rita without some damage.  Fortunately, our house or property didn’t get damaged, just some debris in the yard.  However, even now, five days after the storm, there are people in the are without electricity.  The neighboring town had a business lock-down for 24 hours Monday afternoon/Tuesday morning due to lack of water, and one of my coworkers got his power back only last night.

A friend of mine in Lake Charles emailed me and told me that his business was destroyed, and found out today that there was significant damage to his home.

I realize that Louisiana is what Florida was last year, but to have it happen in your back yard makes it so much more of an issue!  Hopefully there won’t be any more major storms this year.

The year God smacked the crap out of the Gulf Coast

Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

Looks like Rita will hit to the west of the Central Louisiana area. Although we’re expected to get some adverse weather out of it, it looks like the eye and the most intense weather will miss us. Two of the fiercest hurricanes on record, Rita at number three and Katrina at five now I guess, stick the Gulf Coast within a month of each other like a two-pronged fork… with us right in the middle.

My best wishes go out to those in south eastern Texas and south western Louisiana.

Flight Simulator 10

Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

AVSIM has concluded its annual Flight Sim Convention and Exhibition in San Diego over the weekend.  One of the lectures was brought by Microsoft’s Flight Simulator team.  They went over a lot of the technology and process of developing a Flight Simulator, showed some specs about what planes people fly (a surprising majority don’t use Microsoft’s default planes at all; they use third party add ons), and finally some notes on where the technology is going.

They showed some screenshots that are presumably from the next version.  They were captured by someone with a still camera and posted here.  For the most part, they are very impressive.  Of particular interest were the More Shaders and Environmental Reflection and Integrated Renders shots.  Since Microsoft hasn’t said anything about a 2006 version, I have assumed up until now that they were working on something that looked visually dramatically better than 2004.  Seems that’s the case.

One of the Flight Sim developers has a blog, and has referenced the link with the posted photos.

In an unrelated Flight Sim event, Microsoft has updated their FS Insider site as well as the Microsoft Flight Simulator product page to include information about the flight deck of the upcoming 787.  I wonder if this is indicative that a 787 will be included as one of the new aircraft in FS 10?

Vista Seems to be Shaping Up

Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

There have been screenshots and reports from Vista Community Technical Preview 1, or build 5219.  Amongst various other items that seem to be taken directly from Apple (and some that Apple took from Microsoft when they annoucned them years ago), they have added some spit an polish.  They still have a long way to go, but I’m seeing hints of stuff that I actually like in Vista.

The main addition that I like is a Windows Calendar, screenshot <%popup(20050921-vista-5219cal.jpg|800|600|here)%>.  It’s not fully featured yet, but looks like it’ll be a relatively simple appointment tracker similar to Apple’s iCal.  It will publish to RSS and the iCal Standard.  Finally, I think this is going to move further into the direction I would like to see in Windows… an integrated, fully featured, and above all usable solution for keeping me organized.  It’s too early to assume that it will sync with my Palm, but I’m hopeful.  They’re also showing a new unified contacts back end that all applications can tie into and use.  Much as I like the idea of competition in software, I really like the idea of having everything tied into a single management facility on the OS.  Makes thigngs seem more unified.  Presumably, Outlook will use the same location to store its events, such that a user would be able to see his or her appointments for both.

They’re also renaming Outlook Express to Windows Mail, and adding Spam filtering.  They’re changing the backend up to store emails as individual .eml files, with a database to index it all.  This is getting away from Outlook Express’ proprietary mailbox format.  Honestly, this seems more along the lines of a solution that I’m interested in.  For my own personal use, I don’t need the “Business” feel of MS Outlook, but I need calendaring, mail, and the like.

I don’t like the way Microsoft is deploying Direct X at the expense of OpenGL in Vista, and I still refuse to get into the .NET juggernaut.  Neither Microsoft nor Apple are as “open” as I’d like them to be, and both like to create their own spin on standards and say, “Oh, but ours is just a little bit better!”  But, both Mac Tiger and Windows Vista both look like contenders for my desktop next Christmas.

Still Searching

Saturday, September 10th, 2005

As I probably always will be, I’m still searching for the perfect OS and computer. My recent interest has been specifically with Mac, but Wesley sent me a link to a news story that HP is about to start offering Ubuntu PC’s and laptops. Very nice, and speaks a lot about Desktop Linux.

So, I ask what my specific requirements would be for a system, either Win, Lin, or Mac. This would be a dream computer configuration for me:

  • Personal OrganizerA solution that offers a great mail client that works well with IMAP, gives me options to back up my email from time to time, has an attractive calendar interface, automatically syncs with my Garmin iQue 3600, loads remote calendars, and provides a full featured address book (added perk if Birthdays in the address book show up in Calendar). A niceity would potentially be for me to synchronize multiple calendars. I would love to load in my business calendar from work (Exchange), but also have my personal calendar for everything else. After all, it would be a shame to have a deadline for a freelance project on my business calendar! The app should automatically alert me to events coming due, whether or not the interface is open. Outlook’s performance is nasty (not to mention it has too many hooks to Exchange and feels more “businesslike” than a personal productivity organizer), and Thunderbird/Lighting, Chandler, and other potential contendors aren’t there yet. I haven’t had the pleasure of trying iCal.
  • Finance ManagerRight now I dabble between MS Money and Quicken, and find both to be capable programs. GnuCash is next to useless. Whatever the case, it needs to connect to my bank to download statements, pay online bills, etc. It also needs to present reports that I (as a non-mathetmatical person) can use to tell how I’m doing.
  • Video EditorI ocasionaly like to dabble in editing home video, or may potentially want to edit the commercials out of a Tivo file. I need something that’s stable and responsive. I don’t mind long render times, but I need something that offers a quick live preview when I’m editing. I also need an integrated solution for making DVD’s (with the ability to do dual-layer).
  • GamesI don’t play many games at all, don’t have time for them. But, occasionally I will pull out a flight simulator and have some fun navigating a civil or commercial aircraft through the skies over realistic terrain. Don’t need any of the military crap. Whatever platform I have needs to have a decent flight sim available. X-Plane is the only one that goes to all three platforms; not too sure about its quality and usability though. Other games I play are Sims2 occasionally, which is available for Mac and Windows, and Auran Trainz, which is available only on Windows.
  • DevelopmentWhew, I do web development and graphics editing. Photoshop/Macromedia Studio are very expensive solutions. I would prefer a lower cost, but just as capable, solution. Jasc PaintShop Pro is a decent alternative to Photoshop. I’ve never really gotten the hang of the GIMP. I’d like a web devleopment product that does integrated php and mysql syntax highlighting, helps me manage the functions, classes, and other document flow, does code folding, and all the other nice little apps. I have yet to find a solution that really works for me here, other than the juggernaut Dreamweaver.

I’m at a loss. Each area that I have needs in has different strengths and weaknesses for each OS. Add on top of all of this a desire to focus on the promotion of open standards and that all important “we care about our customers” attitude, wrapped in a whole lot of “It just works”, and that would be my perfect system. I’d love some feedback on achieving my ideal setup.

“Completely Underwater”

Sunday, September 4th, 2005

I finally just heard from my half-sister. She and her family are okay. They’re staying with my half-brother and his family around Dupont, LA. All of their phones were out, so she couldn’t call us. She sent my sister an email letting us know she was okay.

She’s already got work (albeit temporary, for the moment) in the area that she’s staying now, and doesn’t plan on going back to New Orleans. She says that she’s got a few leads on some places to rent or buy there in the area.

What was more interesting was her personal description of the events in her area. From her email:

Our area is completely underwater. I lost the jeep and Bruce lost his eclipse. Oh well that is what insurance is for. We have all ready applied for FEMA and we are waiting to hear from them at this time. We just watched some video from our area and it is horrible. It is much worse than what is being shown on the tv. There are riots starting out is our area. We got this info from some people that just got out of Chalmette.

George Bush doesn’t care about black people

Friday, September 2nd, 2005

Wow, just watching the big Red Cross telethon concert being broadcast on NBC.  They have celebrities coming on and talking about the disaster, intersperced by musicians.

Mike Meyers and someone else by the name of Kanye West were talking, and Mr. West obviously got off the script.  He started rambling about how the lack of attention to the disaster thus far was a race issue, because most people in New Orleans were black and of lower class.  He continued as Meyers looked obviously uncomfortable.  “I hate the way they portray us in the media.  You see a black family it says they’re looting; you see a white family it says they’re looking for food.” he said, later adding, “they’ve given them permission to go down and shoot us”.

Meyers tried to recover the scene, scratching his face and picking up Kanye’s statements by saying  how even in “many ways more profoundly defestating is the lasting damage to the survivors will to rebuild and remain in the area.”  Ouch, I’m sure did didn’t help to have a white person follow on with a statement like that.  The other person proclaimed, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people!”  The camera stayed active just long enough to catch Mike Myers shoot the guy an exasperated, outraged look with a mouth gaping wide, then immediately switched to another announcer.  He was obviously caught unawares and in shock at the previous comments, and tried his best to pick the show up.

That’s just ridiculous.  People sometimes like to skew statistics into distorting the reality of things.  Certainly Hurricane Katrina isn’t racist, and certainly the massive amounts of aid that is pouring into the area from the Federal government isn’t either.  Now, the slowness to which aid in large amounts were sent to the area is another thing all together, but that’s not a race issue; aid was slow to getting to all areas of the gulf coast.

Let’s look at this closer: every nation, every country, every culture is going to have poor, afflicted folk who are struggling to get a foothold.  So, someone has got to be poor.  Now, it was less than 150 years ago that a war was fought in this nation to free the slaves.  Those slaves were criminally treated, oppressed, and exposed to horrendous crimes against human dignity, truly one of the bleakest spots on our nation’s history.  However, it does stand to reason that now, so many decades later, the poor of the nation is going to be the people who were previously repressed.  Also looking at things statistically, Wikipedia reports that New Orleans is 67.25% African American, making them the cultural majority.  Hence, most of the New Orleans scenes we see on television are indeed of African Americans.

Finally, let’s also take a look at gangs.  It is the organized gangs that are causing so much trouble in New Orleans.  Many people are just trying to get out with their lives.  The (African American) mayor of New Orleans himself said “Now you got some knuckleheads out there, and they are taking advantage of this lawless — this situation where, you know, we can’t really control it, and they’re doing some awful, awful things. But that’s a small majority of the people. Most people are looking to try and survive.” Stastically, there are very few caucasians in gangs in New Orleans; the majority is predominantly African American.  Those are the people that the people are going down to subdue.

They ended the show with the announcer saying, “Emotions in this country right now are running very high.  Sometimes that emotion is translated into inspiration, sometimes into criticism.  We heard some of that tonight, but it’s still part of the American way of life.”

I will be so glad when the people of this nation stop using color, black or white, as enabling devices to either end.

Dealing with the Displaced

Thursday, September 1st, 2005

The effects of Katrina are now pouring into the surrounding regions, and my local area is beginning to be seriously effected.  We’re dealing with upwards of 30,000 evacuees (in a city with a population of around 40,000), and are starting to run short on resources ourselves.  There’s hardly any bread left in the area, and I hear that many other stores are getting low on all other groceries.  A coworker went on a fruitless attempt to get fuel for his truck: most nearby gas stations are completely out of all grades of gasoline.  In fact, on my way home from work I only counted a few stations that had any fuel at all.  Some stations had even taken their prices down all together.

Furthermore, there’s reports and rumors of sporadic rioting throughout the city.  A coworker’s girlfriend drove by a long-since closed Wal-Mart which is now being used as a shelter, and said that people were out in the parking lot fighting each other.  My wife said that there was a similar situation at a church that had opened its doors to the evacuees.  Incidentally, I have a friend that works there.  She also said that there was a group of men breaking into the vehicles at the parking garage at the hospital that she works.  Everyone is seeing not-so-healthy-looking people just walking around town, nowhere else to go.  All of the schools in the area are going to be closed tomorrow.  The governor has commandeered all of the Rapides Parish buses and bus drivers to aid in the evacuation of New Orleans.

And, obviously, this is a good condition compared to parts of the state further south.  I hate to think about what conditions are like below I-10.  I hate to think about what conditions are like there.  <sarcasm>Good thing we have CNN and MSNBC to remind us that such atrocities going on, rather than focusing on what’s being done to help these poor, frustrated people.</sarcasm>

And it gets worse

Thursday, September 1st, 2005

Is there anything more depressing than this wonderful expression of journalistic good?  This, from MSNBC.

An old man in a chaise lounge lay dead in a grassy median as hungry babies wailed around him. Around the corner, an elderly woman lay dead in her wheelchair, covered with a blanket, and another body lay beside her wrapped in a sheet.

“I don’t treat my dog like that,” Daniel Edwards said as he pointed at the woman in the wheelchair. “I buried my dog.”

“You can do everything for other countries but you can’t do nothing for your own people,” he said. “You can go overseas with the military but you can’t get them down here.”

The street outside the center, above the floodwaters, smelled of urine and feces, and was choked with dirty diapers, old bottles and garbage.

“We are out here like pure animals. We don’t have help,” said the Rev. Isaac Clark, 68.

People there, some holding crying babies or elderly barely able to stand up, shouted for help as TV news crews passed by.

****

Many people had dogs and they cannot take them on the bus. A police officer took one from a little boy, who cried until he vomited. “Snowball, snowball,” he cried. The policeman told a reporter he didn’t know what would happen to the dog.

****

“Hospitals are trying to evacuate,” said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesan, spokesman at the city emergency operations center. “At every one of them, there are reports that as the helicopters come in people are shooting at them. There are people just taking potshots at police and at helicopters, telling them, “You better come get my family.”