Recent blog entries for richieb

14 Mar 2002 (updated 14 Mar 2002 at 05:24 UTC) »

It's little after midnight on Thursday. I posted my first story to Kuro5hin today. It was a brilliant (!!) idea on how Napster can make money. The story lasted for about 10 minutes in the input queue, before it got -20 and dropped off. My brilliance wasn't appreciated (grin).

I'm working late today (from home though). With a fast Internet connection and a dast laptop it's just as good as being in the office - just less distractions. I'm staying home today, to take care of my sick wife (bad cold), so it doesn't matter how late I stay up.

I am tired though...

Tonight I'm listening to Duke Ellington's record The Money Jungle. This was one of my first jazz albums I ever bought. It's Duke playing with Max Roach and Charles Mingus. I remember that Miles Davis in a "Downbeat" interview hated this record.

3 Feb 2002 (updated 3 Feb 2002 at 02:52 UTC) »

Today's Saturday. The previous week was kind of fun. On Wednesday I took my son (he's 14) to Linux Expo in NYC. We wandered around the exhibit hall, picking up free things, and at the end of the day we attended the "Golden Penguin Bowl". It was a fun afternoon.

In one issue of "Linux Journal" that was given out at the Expo, there is an article on how to set up a wireless router using a Linux machine. The idea is obvious: set up a machine with two network cards, one normal and one wireless, configure it to route and you're done.

The author suggested to use an old laptop for this sort of thing. As it turns out I have a couple of old laptops collecting dust under my desk (one is a 486 based, the other P90) and they would be perfect for this job.

So today I'm fiddling with this laptop. I had installed Debian on it while ago, and now I started to play more with dpkg and apt-get. I can see how this packaging system can be addictive. It's less fancy, just command line, but it sure makes it easy to add or remove packages. The ability to get the stuff over the net. Real cool. I did update my whole distribution to come up to more recent code, although this is still "potato".

I was able to add one network card, configure networking, and then get up on the net. Now I'm building emacs. Mind you this machine has only 16M of memory and 512M disk.

Next I need to figure out what wireless cards to get and finish setting it up as a router.

MP3 CD for today is Miles Davis...

Hmmm. I haven't written a diary entry for a while. Here are some new geeky things I've done lately. First of all I finally gor around to setting up Samba on my music server in the basement (it's an old P120 running Linux). So now I can see the music partitions on my Windows machine. Since I use Windows mainly for burning CDs, this makes it easy to create nice playlists directly from the music server.

So far I have about 1000 mp3 files there. I'm slowly ripping my entire CD collection.

I've been making a lot of theme CDs. Tonight it's Jazz Vocals - mostly Lambert, Hendricks and Ross and bunch od Billy Holliday. I got a new MP3/CD player for Xmas (the Rio Volt 250) so I can carry a lot of music with me on the train when I commute to work.

Other than that I've been looking for new apps for my PDA. One cool one I found is flight planning software, that also can be used with a database of airports. So now I can use the PDA to plan my flights, rather than just "winging it" (pun intended).

I don't really fly far enough to do detailed flight plans - I just like following the map - but with the PDA plans are painless.

On programming front I'd like to create a better test suite for the Abra library, as we keep changing it quite a bit and without a good test suite it hard to say whether it still works properly (especially, since I want to make sure it works with Postgres).

I finally broke down and bougth a PDA. I picked a low end Visor (Visor Deluxe), just to see if I'll use it. So far I entered most of my addresses into it, then I signed up for AvantGo, so I can read some Web pages off line. I also added several games to the little machine.

Then it hit me! This thing is a computer, so it can be programmed!! Poking around I found a Palm based Scheme interpreter called LispMe and I started to play with it.

As I know that Santa is bringing me Scheme book, I'll be able to read the book on the train and then try out some programs right away. Cool!

Today was my daughter's Tenth birthday party. She had several girls over for a while. While they played, I got to fiddle with my computers and stuff.

I got back to a small web project I started during the summer. It's called "DotStar" and it is a web app that will be a discussion board sort of like Advogato or Slashdot.

The reason I started "DotStar" was so that I could play with the Struts servlet and tags library and so that I can use our Abra library for database interfacing.

Today, I installed PostgreSql on my db server (he, he, it's a Pentium 120, with 48M of memory and 6G drive). Then I set up my development directories on my laptop, created some build files (using Ant of course) and created a data/object model for the persistent objects and generated the code with Abra.

The idea of "DotStar" is to have one place where I can place articles that I often send to many friends with a note "read this", and have a place where they can post their comments.

As I'm typing this in, it occured to me that when comments are added in "DotStar" I'll have to worry about mark-up, but I'll probably use WikiWiki style, simple markup, rather than HTML.

All the code will of course be freely available. Right now there is not enough stuff there to constitue a project.

27 Nov 2001 (updated 7 Dec 2001 at 03:07 UTC) »

Well, back to work after a 4 day weekend. The weather in the north-east has been rather warm for the end of November.

Last Friday was a nice day and I took my airplane on a short cross-country flight. That's flight that's at least 50 nautical miles away from the home airport. I visited Kutztown, Pennsylvania for no other reason that I have never been there before. Also the direct route to Kutztown was away from any controlled airspace, so I didn't have to worry about navigating around all those restricted zones I cannot fly into since September 11th.

I haven't done a cross-country flight to a new place in a while, as I tend to go to the same places all the time, and I forgot how much fun it is to navigate with the sectional chart and the compass. Of course, I also used the Loran and VORs to keep track of my position, but they weren't really necessary.

Navigation during flight shows you that math works. It's simple trig and basic rate problems, but it gets you from one point on the globe to another. Amazing!

When flying into Pennsylvania I get to see some mountains - not big, but real mountains. It can be little scary, for a flat-lander pilot like me, to cross even small ranges of mountains. I can't imagine what it would be like to fly in real big mountains.

Saturday morning was foggy and then it got bit windy so I didn't fly.

Early Sunday, the weather was nicer, with little wind, so I flew a bit in out J-3 Cub. Since stronger winds were forecasted for later that morning I decided to just stay and practice takeoffs and landings. One can never do enough practice in the Cub. Out of the five landings I did (takes about 10 minutes to go around the pattern) one was pretty good, the others just fair. Not much bouncing.

The Cub is very light, so if there is any significant wind (i.e. wind stronger than 10 knots) I would avoid flying it - unless I had lots of recent cross-wind practice.

Other than that I haven't done much this past weekend - except I gave in and started reading the first book in the "Harry Potter" series. I already saw the movie.

14 Nov 2001 (updated 14 Nov 2001 at 03:48 UTC) »

I finally put a larger disk in my music server in the basement. It's only 6 GIG, which should hold about 100 CDs worth of MP3 data. The /music file system is visible as an NFS on my home network, so now I can play these files through any computer on the network.

I guess I should try to configure Samba as well, so the files are visible from Windows machines.

Meanwhile I hooked up my laptop to the stereo and now I can set up long play lists and play things from the computer, via the the laptop.

Seems to work fine, as long there are no high loads on the network...

I also added the Abra project to the list of my projects on Advogato. Abra is a framework that we developed at the failed startup I was at for the last year and we were able to release it as open source project. Check it out: Abra Project

I finally finished setting up all my home machines. Well, nearly. I have drive to install in my basement server. I'm planning to put much of my CD collection, encoded to MP3s, on this machine. This way I won't waste space on my laptop.

I gave my son the old Pentium 200MHz machine for his games. This makes him spend more time in his room, rather than my office.

I'm still reading Emacs Lisp manual and playing with some lisp packages. I'm also getting little more into Eiffel. I was thinking about adding some support for Eiffel debugger to the Emacs Eiffel mode, but the set of commands in SmallEiffel debugger is bit limited.

I also want to play with the OO-Browser Emacs package. Recently I had learned about Emacs Tags files and I've been using them at work. Cool stuff...

I've downloaded Red Hat 7.2 and I'm debating whether I should install it on my laptop. For one thing I want to get rid of the Windows partition - I don't use it at all. It's just a waste of 2 GIGs.

Today I printed out parts of the Emacs lisp manual, well actually it's the "Introduction the Emacs Lisp", and formally begun the reading. In the past I spent little too much time hacking Emacs lisp. I know Lisp enough to be dangerous, but to do more serious things in Emacs I need to have a firmer foundation. Plus, reading the manual is more fun than trying to puzzle out some code.

I already learned few useful things from the early chapters (eg. the difference between interactive and non-interactive functions).

I have two reasons for doing this. First, at work I'm the office Emacs "guru" - so I really need to be able to do little more than rebind people's keys. Especially, I'm struggling with JDE and JDEbug packages, which I'd like to use, but I'm having trouble setting them up.

Second, I'd like to see a much expanded Emacs mode for SmallEiffel. In particular a nice debugger interface would be cool. So, I want to work on extending current Eiffel mode .

And I guess doing some coding in Lisp is good exercise for the brain - kind of like doing a 10K run.

Now that my job situation has stabilized and my workload is more reasonable, I again feel like getting back to some open source Eiffel projects.

I have been playing a little with XEmacs JDE and JDEbug packages. These provide a nice IDE for Java within Emacs. However, I can't seem to be able to get these to work properly just yet. This I need for work, as we work remotely on a Sun machine that's in Boston and any graphical IDE (like Jbuilder or Netbeans) simply doesn't work over a wide area network (way too slow!).

Anyway, seeing how nice the Java mode is in Emacs, I thought it would be nice to extend the Eiffel mode to allow compiling and debugging Eiffel - now that SmallEiffel has a debugger. There are already two different Eiffel modes, one of which already has the compilation things in it. This project would require a more serious dive into Emacs lisp programming.

Meanwhile the eGTK project is showing some signs of life. Another developer has become interested and wants to help in building eGTK for the new, future version of GTK. This time around the plan is to generate a lot the tedious code we wrote by hand before. Perhaps this time we will be able to generate a single set of bindings that works with all the compilers...

Since the last time eGTK was worked on Eiffel language acquired "agents" - basically routine objects, so that call backs can probably be done much nicer. Before we used the COMMAND pattern, which is bit tedious to code.

Now, I just need to sleep less....

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