Older blog entries for goingware (starting at number 107)

To Onions

My wife Bonita has gone to spend the week at Bennington College in the mountains of southwestern vermont to attend an Art New England Summer Workshop on watermedia that is being put on by the Massachusetts College of Art. (Watermedia means acrylic and watercolor painting in this case.) Massart's in Boston so I guess they think it's nicer to hold their summer workshop out in the countryside. I drove Bonita down there yesterday and found that Bennington is indeed a beautiful campus.

I am very happy she is able to go and spend some time having a nice time doing something interesting in a beautiful place. Life has been very hard for Bonita almost her entire life, and especially so since we were married, because of the turbulence in the tech industry, and the stresses of buying and owning a home, and having to wait so long to get her green card. I have made four trips away on my own because of my work since we've lived in Maine, but each time Bonita has to stay home (usually because we didn't have the money for her to come too). So she's getting to live a little for once.

So I celebrated my temporary bachelorhood by cooking up some pasta sauce with lots of onions. For some reason Bonita really despises onions, she finds them revolting, so when she cooks for the two of us she never uses onions. Tonight as I sat down to dinner I raised my glass of wine in a toast:

"To Onions"

To be fair, Bonita does cook dishes with onions in them just for me to eat sometimes. She makes a mighty fine salsa - which she has never tasted.

I come from California, where I had grown up eating Mexican food. I miss the spicyness. Bonita is slowly coming around to the idea of eating somewhat spicy food, but I don't think she'll ever willingly eat onion.

So how am I spending the rest of my evening, how am I enjoying my newfound freedom? I went for a bicycle ride, and I've spent several hours doing the filing in my office.

My desk is a mess, and I need to do some state tax forms. I also recently filed my 941 Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax return, and I can't find the folder with any of my previous form 941's. That is a Bad Thing. So it's 2:30 am and I'm still filing. Once I (hopefully) find all my 941's I'll do some Maine state tax forms that are overdue, fax them in to Maine Revenue Services and go to bed.

Univega Gran Touring

I've begun doing a very happy thing. I've started bicycling again for the first time in more than three years.

I have a very nice bicycle (a touring bike), it is a red 27 inch Univega Gran Touring. Once upon a time I was so into bicycling I would go for 40 mile rides on it just to pass the time. I rode this bike 200 kilometers through Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta, Canada in the early 90's. (It was a Backroads bicyle tour and was a wonderful experience. Their singles trips (I haven't always been married) are great ways to meet the opposite sex.)

But for a long time the bike had sat in my garage almost completely unridden. Then I packed it up to put into storage when I moved to Newfoundland in April, 2000. We finally got our stuff out of storage and moved from California to Maine in January of this year, but it was the dead of winter so I couldn't ride. I left it unassembled, still packed in its unopened box, until last week.

But then I finally got it together to go out and put it together. It was a great joy. To my surprise, I discovered that I had a stroke of genius when I packed it back in Santa Cruz - I left the key to the kryptonite lock inserted into the lock, but turned in such a way that it could not fall out. So I even still have my kryptonite key.

I'm way out of shape (having worked as a programmer for 15 years!) so I didn't know how far I could ride at first, but I pushed hard and took it around the Owl's Head loop, North Shore, South Shore Drive and some other road past the Knox County airport. here's the yahoo map of Owl's Head.

I had a tough time of it (there are some hills) but I made it all the way around on the first try!

Today I timed myself - 36 minutes. Later I drove my car around the loop so I could measure the distance with the odometer. The trip is 6.4 miles - 10.67 miles per hour. Not bad for an old fat guy! Then I set up a spreadsheet so I could track my progress over time. I'm going to try to do the loop every day, when my time improves somewhat I'll start doing two laps, and eventually ride into Rockland and back.

When I'm able to ride into town and back regularly I'm going to re-join the Mid-Coast Gym. I was a member for a couple months a while back but I only went three times because I'm such a slacker. Bonita went every day or so for six months, and got in much better shape than she was. I'd like us to be able to go work out together.

Mid-Coast Gym is owned by a woman named Mona, who Bonita hires from time to time as a personal trainer. Mona celebrated her fiftieth birthday last year by riding coast-to-coast across the U.S.A. (Atlantic Ocean to Pacific). So I know I've got a ways to go yet before I can really claim I'm a cyclist again.

At the time of my life I've been in the best shape I ever was, I was riding one or two times a day up a big hill to U.C. Santa Cruz and out to the neighboring towns of Davenport to the north and watsonville to the south. I weighed about 180 pounds, felt great and was trim and muscular. Now I weigh 250, I'm about 16 years older, and I tremble with fear just to walk up the stairs to the second storey of my house.

So my goal is to weigh 180 again, ride at least 20 miles every day, and make a 50 mile ride at least once a week.

Unfortunately it snows pretty heavily during the winter here in Maine, so I'll need to stay in shape working out indoors. I've seen these workout stands one can mount a bicycle on that use spinning fans to provide resistance - a bicycle racer I knew had one of these. I'll get one by this winter.

I also used to lift weights. Not a whole lot, but overall I was much stronger then than I am now.

Bonita has been expressing concern for a long time that I am at risk for a heart attack (I am 38 years old). I had to pay significantly more to get life insurance because of my weight. Also an old friend who is only a few years older than me wrote me a while back to tell me he had been diagnosed with unstable angina, and to urge me to improve my diet and exercise regularly.

Oh, yeah, one more thing. It feels simply excellent to be riding again.

Lots Going On, and some Very Happy News

I'm afraid things have been far too hectic for a while for me to write, and I won't be able to write much even now.

Bonita's parents came down with us from Newfoundland when we returned home. A week later, her older sister and her family (including my brother-in-law Bruce, whose PC I installed Debian Woody on just before I left Newfoundland, and their two teenage daughters) came down to visit for a couple weeks. When her sister's family returned, they took Bonita's parents back with them.

I have some very happy news - one of the reasons I have been so busy is that we went to Montreal for Bonita's immigration visa interview at the U.S. consulate there. She also had a pretty thorough medical exam which included a couple vaccinations and a chest x-ray (to look for tuberculosis).

So the happy news is that nearly two years after we started the application process, we received Bonita's immigration visa! An hour later we arrived at the U.S. border in northern Vermont, surrendered the visa, Bonita submitted a signature and a fingerprint, and she was admitted to the U.S. as a permanent resident!

A temporary Green Card was stamped in her passport. She can now stay in the U.S. as long as she wants, and (importantly) obtain employment in the U.S., and can also qualify for U.S. bank loans (we would like to refinance our house, since the interest rates have dropped since we bought it, and we may qualify for a better loan with Bonita as a cosigner).

Happy news indeed!

Quite coincidentally (and completely unplanned) is that we celebrated our second wedding anniversary in Montreal!

(If you wonder how Bonita was able to come here before - Canadians can enter the U.S. freely as tourists for up to three months at a time. So each time she arrived, she had to leave a little less than three months later. Usually she would go visit friends in Nova Scotia and then come back. Even so, this wasn't a very good situation as she was not guaranteed re-entry into the U.S., and she could neither work here nor obtain credit here.)

I'm afraid though that within about five minutes of us arriving back in Canada on our way to Newfoundland in June, we both decided we wanted to move back to Canada (but to Nova Scotia this time). So now I get to start the same process Bonita just went through, to become a landed immigrant in Canada. But things will be more sensible now that we are both legally allowed to reside permanently in the same country as each other.

Today is July 30, 2002. I'm going to call up an immigration attorney in Halifax in the next week or so to tell him I want to apply to immigrate. Someday (hopefully) you will find news of my success in my diary much later on - I'll link back to here. I'm told it usually takes a year; Bonita's green card took a little less than two years and would have taken very much longer had she not been married to an american citizen with a good job. Let's see how long it takes me to immigrate to Canada!

Nice Words

I've been consulting for a private hedge fund named Market Research since last summer. Just now, Andrew Mart, the Director of Research there sent me the following:

Your code stands out in our code base as elegantly structured, making full use of the object oriented nature of c++, well documented, easy to understand and maintain, efficient to execute without violating interfaces or type safety, as well as platform independent with minimal dependencies. It is clear that your are thinking not only from the perspective of the hardware processor, cache, and RAM but also from the perspective of the user and other programmers who might later be responsible for maintenance of the code. The code is interesting to read for new ideas and tricks on how to make full use of what c++ has to offer. Furthermore, by using compile time safety checks and automated test harnesses as part of the build process, the code is hard to break since it maintains its integrity against other rushed programmers adding features before they read the code and understand its design assumptions.

Anyway, I have certainly learned a bit from reading your code and talking with you. Please let me know if you ever need a letter of reference.

That makes me feel really good. I worked hard on their code. I also stretched myself - there were a number of things that are in the code I delivered to them that I had never done before.

He also gave me permission to quote something else nice he said about my work earlier today on the phone. Go have a look. It's on the left and down a little ways.

Take a Stand

I just sent the following email around to some of my friends and family. I thought you would be interested to read it too:

Please consider signing the online petition, "No cooperation with U.S. Stasi".

It seems that Dubya wishes for us to form citizen's committees to rat out our neighbors, a well respected tradition with roots in such forward thinking nations as East and Nazi Germany, China during the Cultural Revolution and the USSR under Stalin, Vichy France and the Khmer Rouge's Cambodia.

The petition is at:

http://www.petitiononline.com/NoTIPS/petition.html

It's quick, it's easy, and best of all it's probably the simplest way for you to get your very own file folder started at FBI headquarters. Be the first on your block! (I understand if you listen real carefully, you can hear the spooks breathing on your phone tap.)

If you haven't already, please read my following two web pages, one an essay I wrote a few months ago, and the other a speech delivered by John J. Chapman 102 years ago - and even more profoundly important today than it was when it was first spoken:

Is This the America I Love?
http://www.goingware.com/notes/america.html

Make a Bonfire of Your Reputations
http://www.goingware.com/reputation/

Ever Faithful,

Mike

Perhaps President Bush's antiterrorism efforts are really a smokescreen to distract the American public from the financial shenanigans that he and Vice President Dick Cheney engaged in while Bush was a director for one texas oil company and Cheney was a senior executive at another.

My ISP, Adelphia, filed for bankrupcy after public disclosure of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into highly irregular loans that members of Adelphia's founding family received from the company.

President Bush received a loan under similarly favorable terms from an oil company he was a director of a while back. Recently, Bush rather hypocritically spoke out against such loans, and the House and Senate voted to make such loans illegal just in the last couple days.

(I read in the newspaper yesterday that the family members who received Adelphia's loans are likely to be indicted. Only Congress can indict a sitting president - a Congressional indictment is called "impeachment". How long do we have to wait before Bush is impeached?)

Further, Bush' oil company engaged in a fraudulent scheme to inflate its earnings while he was a director, in order to drive up its stock price. The SEC later forced the company to restate its reported profit as a loss. Bush sold his stock in the company just before news of this caused its stock price to plummet, an action for which he was investigated for insider trading by the SEC.

The SEC took no action against him, but did not release all the documents to the public. Now that Bush is president, many members of the public as well as many congressmen are calling for full disclosure. Yet despite Bush's claims that he did no wrong, the White House is forbidding the SEC from releasing these documents.

Finally, I'm less familiar with the details, but apparently Vice President Dick Cheney used to be a senior exec with an oil company called Halliburton, which is now found to have been cooking its books. Cheney denies having any knowledge of it, but yesterday the current president of Halliburton publicly stated that Cheney knew full well of the fraud when he was an executive there.

I don't want in any way to discount the greivous loss of life as well as the crippling injuries that resulted from the 9/11 bombing. But consider for a moment the economic impact that the 9/11 bombing had - nearly every employee killed at a whole stockbrocker company (Cantor), New York City tourism dried up, air travel down around the world, as well as the cost of fighting the war in Afghanistan.

Now consider the economic impact of the gross, and apparently quite widespread, corporate financial fraud that has been going on apparently for quite some time. Enron was the largest bankrupcy in U.S. history, yet it seems that in a few days WorldCom will become an even larger bankrupcy than Enron. The founding family of Adelphia borrowed $2,500,000,000 from Adelphia in such as a way as to leave this public company's stockholders liable, yet were given the loan without the knowledge of Adelphia's board of directors.

Qwest, a major phone company and ISP, is on the verge of bankrupcy too, and is desperately seeking a purchaser to acquire it, but no purchaser may step forward, because Qwest is under criminal investigation, and any company that buys Qwest would also acquire any criminal liability if it is found guilty.

It's not just a matter of a bunch of rich guys losing on the stock market. The rich guys - the people like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney - don't lose when this happens, because the have insider information, and get it early enough to cash out.

The real losers are ordinary people like you and me, programmers whose livelihoods depend on a healthy investment climate so that software companies will have the capital to hire us to write their products.

The losers are ordinary people like our mothers and fathers, people who are retired or are close to retirement, who depend on their investments in companies that once seemed reputable to sustain them through their golden years. Many elderly people who had invested in Enron have had to get minimum wage jobs at McDonalds in order to put food on their table. Now they will be joined by the other elderly people who had invested in WorldCom, Adelphia and Qwest.

It seems that there are many other such companies whose financial shenanigans are just coming to light. The economic impact of this will be far worse than the September 11th bombing.

Yes, Mr. President, what this country really needs is a Citizen Corps to rat out our neighbors in the fight against terrorism.

I know where one rat can be found - and he's a ringleader. Why don't you send the rat an email?. Or snail mail if you prefer, here's his street address:

President George W. Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500-0004

According to Switchboard.com, you can give the rat a call at (202) 456-1111 (if you're not in the U.S., the country code for the US is 1).

Oh, I forgot to mention, many members of congress are calling for the resignation of the Secretary of the Army. It seems that he cashed out $31,000,000 worth of Enron stock when he was an Enron executive, and was the head of an Enron division that fraudulently manipulated electricity supplies to drive up prices in California during a desperate electricity crisis there. That's the kind of guy I want leading our boys in Afghanistan!

Guess I'll be the first up against the wall.

Back Online

Happily, a friend lent me the password to a national ISP that he keeps a subscription to for when he travels, but doesn't otherwise use much. So now I'm connected again. I'm researching new ISPs. I want to use a local Maine ISP - I always try to use mom 'n pop shops. I had no idea mint.net had just got bought by Adelphia when I signed up with them or I would have used Midcoast.com.

I'd appreciate any advice you may have for finding a new ISP.

What I want is always-on service with a static IP where I can run a server offering any protocol I want. I want no packet filtering, so I can use ping and traceroute, as well as portscan myself from the outside to test my security. I don't need much bandwidth, 128 be acceptable and 256k would be just great. 56k modem service would work, but would be slower than I'd like.

Unfortunately, both DSL and cable modems do not appear to be options because of my rural location. I looked into Midcoast's 802.11 wireless service but the signal couldn't penetrate the forest surrounding my house. I think there is two way satellite service sold in the area, but I don't think they'd let me run a server. I think the latency for interactive logins to my hosting service in Seattle would be unacceptable too. But if I can run a server on two-way satellite I'd like to know about it, I could deal with the poor latency if it would allow me to run a server with at least 128k in both directions.

So the options I think I have are dialup, analog leased-line, Centrex ISDN, or frame relay.

I know frame relay is expensive to install. I could deal with that but I can't figure out what the monthly charge would be - pricing for it is complicated. If anyone could give me a clue for what a month's charge of frame relay with guaranteed bandwidth of 128k would be (and very modest amounts of data transferred) I'd be very grateful - crawford@goingware.com.

Centrex ISDN would probably be the best compromise but I think it is unlikely anyone offers it. ISDN is not so widely used. I may not even be able to get an ISDN line installed by the phone company at all. With Centrex ISDN you can make an ISDN call to your ISP all month long without paying for the time (ISDN calls are normally metered at a business rate), you only have to pay the basic rate for your line, like $20-$30 a month. The ISP has to subscribe to Centrex service from the telco. My old ISP in Santa Cruz offerred Centrex ISDN and it worked well for many of their customers. I have a Motorola ISDN modem that I used with the Santa Cruz ISP and I found it really cool to use.

I can get static IP dialup service with a dialin number reserved for my private use for $79 a month from Midcoast. This would work OK. My main distress is that the outgoing bandwidth on a 56k modem is just 33k. This would be so slow as to make most of what I want to do with my server pretty painful. But that's the option which is currently leading the pack, I'm just not happy with it.

An employee of another Maine ISP (Great Works Internet) who wrote to me after seeing my previous lament about Adelphia's demise, told me that I can get toll-free dialup to most of the ISPs throughout Maine using a special area code 500 number. That greatly expands my choices. What would be really cool is if someone offerred Centrex ISDN on one of these 500 numbers, then I would be really set.

So help me out. I've spent a lot of time checking out various ISP's web pages and emailing their support staff, but it's really hard to get a straight answer to my questions. Very few of the ISP's seem set up to provide the kind of service I want.

Network Solutions Earns the Loss of My Domains

When registered my first few domain names, I used Network Solutions. That's all there was at the time.

But when competing registrars came into existence, I registered my new domains at Melbourne IT both because of all the negative stories I'd heard about Network Solutions as well as the recommendation of the Domain Name Buyer's Guide.

The Domain Name Buyer's Guide seems to have had it's domain name bought by some registrar that no longer offers the incredibly helpful information that it used to have. Unless I've got the domain name wrong? Is it domainnamebuyersguide.com or is it somewhere else now?

I emailed a request for a domain transfer form to Melbourne IT just now, and included the following in the letter. I thought you would all be interested to read it too:

I'd like you to know why I started using Melbourne IT for some of the newer domain names I have registered, and why I am transferring my domains away from Network Solutions.

I discovered Melbourne IT when I found your high ranking at the Domain Name Buyer's Guide (which sadly seems to have disappeared). My primary concern was the rights given to the domain owner in your contract. I think one or two other registrars may have placed higher than you in the overall ranking because of their lower prices, but you ranked the highest in terms of the rights given to the domain owner.

I have never been very happy with Network Solutions. While with one important exception (noted below) they have handled my own registrations OK, I have heard far too many horror stories to want to stay with them. It just happens that most of my domains were registered with Network Solutions before competing registrars were allowed. I think I may have registered one or two after this but before I was able to make an informed choice of who else to use.

Among the horror stories I have heard:

  • transferring ownership of domains in response to fraudulent requests

    (sex.com is a notable example; network solutions refused to transfer it back after it was stolen. There was a court battle over it for several years and ownership was only restored to the original registrant after he won on appeal and network solutions was ordered to do it by the court).

  • losing customer payments

    (a close friend of mine who owns quite a few domains has had several payments lost by network solutions with the result that some of his domains expired without him being able to prevent it. His credit card was charged yet no credit was made to his registration accounts. I've heard tales of this from lots of other people.)

  • inability to reach a human being for customer service or tech support. Network Solution's wall of silence is legendary.

  • spam sent by network solutions to domain owners, banner ads on network solutions web sites, direct snail mail hawking .cc and .tv domains, and browser cookies that are obviously meant to track me for marketing purposes that are placed when I visit their site to manage my domains.

  • sending fraudulent "renewal" notices to domain owners who use competing registrars. I'm sure you have heard about this. There was fine print on the back of the notice that indicated that sending in payment for "renewal" would transfer the registrar to Verisign (network solutions new owner).

    This is the use of the U.S. postal service to commit fraud, pure and simple. Because these letters were sent from one U.S. state to others, it is a U.S. Federal crime.

    I'm happy that the courts have ordered them to stop doing this in response to a lawsuit filed by one of the competing registrars, but I feel that criminal prosecution should be pursued by the Postal Inspector. I had intended to forward Verisign's letters to the Maine State Attorney General with a letter urging him to prosecute, but I'm sad to say I got too busy to deal with it and lost the several such letters my wife and I received from Verisign.

Finally, I had meant to transfer domains a long time ago, but the reason I am finally getting around to it:

  • Network Solutions has allowed several of my domains to expire without notifying me that I needed to pay for renewed service. This happened to two domains I use as well as one of my wife's domains. I received neither email nor snail mail billing notices; previously I used to receive both at least a month before payment was required.

    One of these, goingware.com, is the domain for my business, and where I receive almost all my email. I am a self-employed software consultant, and continued registration of goingware.com is vital to my family's livelihood.

    Yet I found out my registration had expired when I was unable to log in to my email server one day. That same day I got a call from a friend that all my email was bouncing because name lookup was failing. That kind of thing just has to stop.

You should be pleased to know that Network Solution's hijinks are resulting in their loss and your gain.

Back Home in Maine

We arrived home last night after an exhausting three day drive (with a seven-hour ferry ride) to find the lawn overgrown, our long distance service cut off, and my dialup service no longer working because my ISP, Adelphia, has declared bankrupcy.

Bonita's dad is making steady progress at mowing the lawn, and I'm dialed in long distance to the ISP account I'd set up for Bonita's mom in Newfoundland.

Here's a challenge for you - try dialing in to an ISP in another country with a calling card!

(We had paid all the bills we'd received by the time we left for newfoundland, but I guess our AT&T bill hadn't arrived yet).

This is costing a lot so I have to keep it short.

On a positive note, Bonita's foxglove had grown taller than her mother and bloomed while we were away!

Farewell, Newfoundland

Tonight is our last night in my wife's hometown of Fortune, Newfoundland. We are almost packed up.

Early tomorrow we will set off for the long drive across the province to Port Aux Basques, where will will take the ferry to North Sydney, Nova Scotia, and then drive on to our home in Maine.

One of the unusual hazards of driving in the Newfoundland countryside is that one may crash into a moose. I heard on the news recently that there are two to three moose collisions a day in the province (which also includes Labrador on the mainland) and a significant number of people are killed in moose collisions each year. We saw one moose on our way here, likely we will see more tomorrow, and one must be careful driving the Newfoundland stretch of the trans-Canada highway.

It's been a wonderful visit. Newfoundland is one of the finest places on earth, IMHO, and the people here are some of humanity's finest. I urge all of you to visit someday.

Turning Families On To Free Software

Well, I finally completed installing Debian Woody on my brother-in-law Bruce's computer. I left Bruce's Mozilla's home page set to the Linux Cookbook. I had planned to write up a more detailed web page of help to leave with him but won't get the time before I leave to return to Maine on Sunday.

However, it's OK because Bruce and Brenda and their daughters are driving down in a week to visit with us in Maine.

The main applications I installed were Nautilus, Mozilla, AbiWord, Grip, the GIMP, Emacs, Gnumeric and Evolution. I'd never seen Nautilus before and I must say in the short time I was able to play with it, it looked pretty nice. I also installed GDM as a session manager. Here's a tip - don't allow GDM or XDM to install before you've got X working, or you'll have a hard time getting control of your machine back! I had encountered that before, and downloaded just xserver-xfree86 and xterm (and their dependencies) before installing GDM.

I also downloaded a few Free as in Speech and Free as in Beer windows programs, installed them on Bruce's windows partition, and today installed them on my other brother-in-law Clyde's computer. AbiWord and Mozilla again, but also Speak Freely, a most excellent internet telephony program. The new release is GPL, previously it was public domain.

I got Speak Freely set up and tested on Clyde's computer (Clyde is my niece Denika's father - remember I recently taught Denika HTML) and rang up a helpful fellow named Johann in Germany to demonstrate to Clyde how he could talk long distance for free over the net. He was pretty impressed with this.

One version of Speak Freely runs as a native Win32 application, and the other runs on various *nix platforms, including Linux. Try it!

Finally, we brought up an old pentium-II system of mine for my mother-in-law to use. She's never used a computer before. Bonita got her intrigued by showing her how she could shop for clothes on Sears Canada's website. (The U.S. Sears website was a disaster last time I tried, but Sears Canada is a really good site). Then Bonita taught her to use email. Now she's corresponding regularly with two of her daughters, one of whom (Darlene) lives very far away, in Texas, and the other (Brenda) just in the next town over.

When Bonita wasn't looking, I installed Mozilla, AbiWord and Speak Freely on her mother's computer. I got caught next time Mom turned it on. I explained that I wanted her to have them to use when she got more comfortable with the computer (which runs Windows 98) but I wouldn't be here to install them for her.

She and my father in law are also coming down to Maine, so maybe I will get to show Mom how to use Speak Freely from there.

So I have installed GPL and Open Source software, including one full-featured debian installation, on computers belonging to three different families, and have gotten two of them actively interested in using it. I think when Mom is comfortable with Speak Freely (which is pretty scary for novices to use) she'll really enjoy calling up her two daughters (my wife being one of them) in the far away USA without having to pay long distance bills.

Wow, Thanks!

I just realized I'm certified as a Master now. I don't think that was the case just a few days ago. I'm not sure who put me over the top, but looking at my certifications, there are a significant number who call me a Master.

But just to be honest, I have written hardly any Free Software for quite some time. Most of my contributions to the community are in my writing - writing prose, not software. While I do contribute a little to ZooLib's sourcebase, I haven't even done that much of that. If you want to call me a Master for my writing (or my activism) well that's cool with me.

Turning a Family On to Free Software

Here's a seven-day plan to world domination - if every linux user took the trouble to install linux on a computer owned by someone who'd never used linux before, the number of linux users could double overnight. Of course it's important to teach them how to use it too.

I spent Canada Day preparing to install Debian Woody on my brother- and sister-in-law's PC. I say preparing and not actually installing because I wanted to leave their Win98 installation intact, but I was going to shrink the partition with GNU parted and I felt this was a dangerous thing to do. I also had never used parted before.

What I decided to do was backup their drive with Norton Ghost, a disk-imaging utility. While it's not in any way free, it's really a pretty good piece of software. You run a Windows utility that creates DOS boot disks that contain the drivers needed for accessing your archive device (a CD burner, or you can archive over a TCP/IP or USB connection), then boot off the floppy. Even though it's a DOS application, it has a pleasant GUI that you work with the mouse, and it understands FAT, NTFS, and ext2, and can make sector-by-sector archives of any partition.

Except I couldn't get it to work. I never had trouble with it before. But the CD's would burn for about a minute and then fail. So then I tried to make an image over ethernet with a crossover cable, but Ghost didn't come with a driver for my DEC Tulip ethernet, and I couldn't find one anywhere! For DOS I needed an NDIS2 driver for DEC 21143, and I couldn't find one. I even found a lot of old DEC drivers at HP's site (remember they bought compaq, who previously bought DEC) but there were no drivers for the Tulip. I spent an hour or two searching with Google, and couldn't find one.

Aha! I though, I have a CardBus ethernet card, a 3Com 575. I had the installation CD, which even had an NDIS2 driver - but it still wouldn't work, I think because I didn't have software to run CardBus on my DOS disks. Can anyone tell me how to make CardBus work under DOS?

I don't think I really need the DOS that Ghost installs, I could use DR-DOS, and I tried the dos that Win98 installs with "sys a:".

What the Heck, Let's Just Do It

So finally I suggested to Bruce that I resize his partition without backing up first. And he said "that's up to you". I was surprised, but it didn't seem to bother him. So I plunged ahead and resized with parted, and it worked fine, took just a couple minutes. A few more minutes and I had all my Linux partitions created, and I quit for the night.

Last night I went back and installed with an unofficial woody netinstall CD and had very little trouble. The most time was taking up with a bad block scan, which the installer recommends you skip, but I always run anyway. I had previously downloaded basedebs.tar and left it on the FAT partition which I mounted after I loaded the vfat filesystem module (so I could get the long windows filenames).

This all went very straightforward, but I got hungup on an all-too-familiar problem - Bruce's WinModem. I had given him a U.S. Robotics external modem a few years ago, but he had been using it on a 486, that had a 25-pin serial connector. When he got his new machine, I think it's a Pentium III or Celeron or something, it came with a WinModem and the newer style 9-pin serial cable. His old cable didn't fit, so he just used the WinModem. I didn't realize this or I would have brought a cable from home, where I have many cables.

No problem, I pop over to Radio Shack - it's right next door to Bruce's house in Grand Bank. They had a fair amount of computer stuff, but no serial cables! None at all! They had VGA, ethernet, USB and parallel cables, but no serial. How could this be, you ask? Because everyone around here uses windows, and they all use winmodems. Bruce is likely the first person in Grand Bank to get Linux, maybe the first person on the Burin Peninsula.

There's a couple computer stores a 40-minute drive away in Marystown, and when my wife gets up this morning we're going to go look for a cable. Bruce also has a couple of computer enthusiast friends who might have one. But I might have to order one to get express-shipped here. It's hard to buy uncommon things in rural Newfoundland. I once bought a $5 Mac serial cable for use here in Fortune, but couldn't find one for sale anywhere in Canada, so I paid $30 to have it FedExed from the United States.

Once I got the base install done, I sat down with Bruce to show him what you could do with the base system. There's actually a fair amount of software there - no GUI yet, and no emacs, but there is vi, and I could show him how dselect, man and info worked.

Everyone else in the family had been thinking me and Bruce were off onto some nerdy tangent until I gave them all accounts and asked them all to pick out passwords. Then I had them all practice logging in and out. They all seem pretty skeptical about using Linux, but it piqued their interest when I said they could get thousands and thousands of programs for it, all free.

Once I get it installed, I'm going to set up everyone's X startup script so it launches Mozilla when they log in, and I'll give them all a homepage that links to helpful resources both on the local hard drive and on the net. Among these will be Linux: Rute User's Tutorial and Exhibition and The Linux Cookbook, which is available as a Debian package in both HTML and info formats.

Finally, I'm going to buy Bruce a copy of Running Linux. All these books were recommended on the debian-user list for beginners. I tried to buy Running Linux when I was in St. John's, but it wasn't available anywhere. Bruce and Brenda and their two daughters are coming down to Maine to visit us soon, and I'll get Bruce a copy down there.

Teaching HTML

Night before last I taught my teenage niece Denika how to write HTML. Go check out her new home page.

I'm afraid I may have tried to teach her too much in one sitting, so there was too much for her to absorb, but unfortunately I am leaving Newfoundland soon to return to my home in Maine. I wanted to give her a good start.

I didn't think she would pick everything up on her first lesson, so I wrote up a page with lots of helpful links on learning HTML. (The original, which I left on her hard drive, also had links to the management pages for Denika's free hosting service). I think that once she follows some of the links on that page it will all become much clearer to her.

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