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It's been a while since I've updated this as a number of you have noticed. Buying a house, work and rebuilding the house (little by little) have kept me busy. Idle hands are the work of the devil you know... ;-)

With my buying a house I can finally buy all the toys tools I've wanted - a trailer, radial arm saw, drill press, circular saw, ladders, shovels, rakes, wheelbarrow, etc. The list goes on and on. Luckily I've saved a bundle by buying most of this stuff from Craigslist. I even got a great fridge to replace the crappy old one the house came with. I paid $250 for the newer one (4 years old) and sold the old one (20 years old) for $125. So the new one only cost me $125. New it was an $800 fridge!

This "new" house is almost 70 years old and it was given a crappy rehab job about 10 years ago so it needs a lot of work. Exactly what I wanted in my first house. I've started a new section, Homework, to document all my fun projects in returning this place to it's original or, hopefully better than original, grandeur.


A Tale of False Promises and Broken Windows

The Situation: A coworker dropped his laptop today. Apparently, from phone conversations, the laptop is working but the monitor is f****d. I advise him to head to the company office and plug it into an external monitor to be sure it's OK then try to save his data to a CD-ROM while we send his laptop off to be repaired. Simple, right?

The Story: For some unknown reason, he could not get the external monitor to work. Over the phone we are able to figure out that Windows is working but he can't see anything. I figured it out by telling him the keystrokes to shut it down (Windows key, up arrow, enter, enter). So I tell him to come over to my place where I have everything we could need - external hard drives, monitors, tools, etc.

Plan A: He arrives shows me his laptop and, yup, the screen is screwed. I take his hard drive out and replace my laptop hard drive with his. We have different laptops but I figure we can install drivers where needed to use my CD burner to save his files. All seems to be going well - Windows XP begins start up and all... then we are presented with the Windows activation screen.

I had forgotten Microsoft's draconian measures regarding one box per copy of Windows. Well, this is a perfectly legitimate use so we call the 800 number to get a new number. After reading in the seven sets of numbers (tedious in itself) the dumb computer at the other end of the phone line essentially tells me to go stuff myself. Now if this were a Microsoft-only world, my coworker would be screwed at this point. Instead we began...

Plan K: (K for Knoppix!) I pull out my trusty Knoppix CD and boot from there. Quick enough we have Knoppix booted and are able to browse his hard drive files. He is visibly relieved. I try to write his critical files to a USB key but for some reason Knoppix won't let this happen (anyone know why?). So I plug in my external CD burner and burn his files to a CD. We shut everything down, put the hard drives back where they belong and booted up my laptop in Windows. Yup, the CD works great.

Conclusion: This is yet another example of how propietary formats and "closed source" operating systems/software put you at the mercy of the vendor. If it weren't for Open Source and Knoppix, my co worker would have gone until at least tomorrow, when he could call Microsoft and talk to a human being instead of a computer, to get his data but more likely would not have had access until his laptop is repaired. We are consultants who earn money by billing hours for work performed. Without the files on his laptop, he would not be able to work for the client - losing money in the process. This is his data, not Microsoft's. If it weren't for Linux and all of the wonderful free software that comes of Open Source, he would have been screwed again by Microsoft.

Totally by coincidence, here's an interesting and related article published today.


As the famous line from Monty Python goes... I'm not dead yet!

As in April, been really, really busy. Esp. since early June. New jobs will do that to you. Esp. new jobs that send you on the road for four days a week to a suburban hell. Ugh. I guess people get what they deserve - all those stupid office parks, strip shopping centers and cookie cutter houses... then they have the stupidity to think that more roads and highways will improve things. They clearly don't understand the system one iota.

This is a great essay.


You'd think I dropped off the face of the Earth. No, I haven't. Been really busy with lots of projects.The coolest/geekiest one is my new open source project, the ZebraZ membership system. It still needs a lot of development but it is in production use right now so is quite stable and well tested. Try it out and let me know what you think. Also check out the eGovOS website - I did a lot of work on that and helped out with the conference in a big way.

Not much else to report. Rumor has it I started running again. Rumor also has it that I finished 28th in the Cherry Blossom. Some rumors should be believed, some shouldn't. I'll let you decide for yourself which ones should and shouldn't.

Finally, an interesting (if long) story to tell about Windows and Linux. A few weeks back my WinXP system became infected with yet another worm. This is on a system I have taken significant efforts to lock down and keep updated. I said to myself that enough is enough and downloaded the latest version of Mandrake to install on the empty partition on my HD (left empty explicitly for Linux). Well, the install went perfect but there were problems with Mandrake recognizing my laptop's LCD screen and the sound card which, no matter what I tried, emitted a piercing scream until I shut it off.

Deciding I wasn't committed to Mandrake, I downloaded Fedora and proceeded to install it. Again, the install went off without a hitch but I made one small problem in letting it choose the partitions. I wiped the HD! Luckily, I backed everything up the day before and my preferred way of cleaning out the cruft in Windows is to do a clean install every 6-12 months so I'm well practiced at reinstalling.

I wiped the HD, repartitioned and reinstalled WinXP. Within 15 minutes of connecting to the Internet and before I could even complete the download of various patches and locking the system down, I managed to acquire three worms. While cleaning them up and locking down, I received a fourth. This only strengthened my resolve to move to Linux ASAP.

With WinXP finally on the drive, tightened up and my data restored, I proceeded to cautiously install Fedora a second time. This time I did everything right and now have a nice dual-boot system. Since I already use OpenOffice, Mozilla and a bunch of other open source programs which run on Linux, all I have to do now is figure out how to access the data (on a common drive) for these programs from Fedora. Only thing really holding me back from going to Fedora most of the time is that Nvu isn't up to snuff yet but I'm sure within a year this program will do everything I use Dreamweaver for. Then I will be able to kiss WinXP and all of it's worms goodbye.


Haven't run a mile since Chicago. Nice to take a break but haven't been sitting around, either. Rapidly working to complete a number of projects - the latest (in draft form) is a tutorial I've written. Go check it out and let me know what you think!

In other news (well, news I'll post to this very public space), I finally converted my MP3 player box to Linux. It's a 75mhz Pentium II machine which couldn't run any version of Windows above '95. It worked pretty well when I stripped everything out of it except the basic OS and an older version of Winamp. Big problem (no surprise) was that it would rarely go more than two or three days without crashing on me. Since wiping the drive and installing Linux (tried several distros and ended up using Mandrake for no particular reason) over three weeks ago I've not had to reboot a single time. Hmmm... will let you know if/when this box ever crashes but I suspect it'll only be due to something like a power failure.


Been a while since I've posted any updates but life hasn't stood still... Next Sunday is Chicago life'll change a lot around here after the race.

Recently released the 1.1 version of their office suite - I highly recommend you go download it and start using it! There's even an automatic feature for converting MS Office files in batches - took only a few minutes to convert all 195 recipe files! See why you should use


End of term studying, graduation, packing, moving. It all adds up to mean I've been really busy for the past few months. But we're finally getting settled into our new digs and everything else is slowly getting done.

Running is going well. Running over 100 miles a week. Chicago looms large....


If you're reading this then that means my move to a new host has gone well. I used to be hosted on (also known as but after a two month support nightmare, I felt it was time to move to a new host. So I would now add to my list of hosts I do not recommend. (see older rants for the others. I'm too lazy to find them right now).

As always, in my search I looked at dozens and dozens of possible hosts, finding 2-3 that were all pretty close to what I was looking for. But this time Jaguar (also known as Aletia and they've swallowed a bunch of others along the way) was the winner. We didn't start off too well - the promised 24 hour activation was more like 7 days but things are improving now that I actually have an account...


In less than 3 months I will leave Heck. It is such a short period of time; so much to do, so little time!

Been running. Not much, just ~50 miles/week. I should enjoy the low mileage while I can...

Today I finally finished typing in all the recipes, the culmination of a 5 year project. I'll convert and present them in other nonproprietary formats at some point including sxw ( and HTML but right now it is time to move on to other long-term projects.


The worst of winter term is over. Finally. Now to reconnect with all of those who are important in my life. Training begins tomorrow. Time is flying so quickly... so tired right now...


Google has decided my downloads page is not worth indexing any more. Last month I had over 500 hits to one file there alone, this month I've had 2 so far. Interesting... seems I'm not al one...

I've also recently discovered the wonders of MySQL & php because of a class I'm taking. We were given the option to develop a simple database in Access or MySQL. I've never been known for taking the low road so MySQL it was!

Recipes continue their slow march towards completion, as do other projects and time...


The countdown continues. Wish Samantha good luck in Mali, she'll be missed. There's probably a lot to write but my mind is drawing a blank. Since I'm most productive typing in recipes in airports, only seems natural that I have just finished putting a whole bunch of them up. Everything up to section 18 is finished - only 6 sections left. Maybe I really will get this done before I leave heck.

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