Older blog entries for richieb (starting at number 35)

7 May 2001 (updated 11 May 2001 at 02:13 UTC) »

I didn't post entries for a while. Basically March and April were pretty busy. Between work (I worked 4 Saturdays in March) and all the family events I had barely time to breathe. Fortunately, things are slowing down a little.

I still don't have much time to work on OSS projects, however I have had pretty good luck getting people at work to use some Open Source software. The latest is the Struts Java library from the Jakarta Apache project. Struts is a framework for building servlet/JSP applications.

Other than that I finally got a cable modem, so I can surf at full speed. I set up an experimental web server running on an old Pentium 120. You can try getting it here: http://richieb.dyn.dhs.org:8080/richieb. For now there is not much there, but I'm working on an experimetal Slashdot style application - I'm writing it to learn more about the Struts library...

I also got my father a computer for his birthday and set up an AOL account for him so that he can surf the net and use email. I got him a Windows machine for now...

It's a Sunday night. Yesterday was an intense day. Got up at six in the morning and went to work. At least the commute is much easier on weekends. Left the office at 3 in the afternoon and got home little after four.

I only had time to grab a cup of coffee and had to go out again. With my wife and son we went to a comedy club to see Lewis Black (he is a comedian who often appears on the Daily Show on comedy channel).

The place where the show was, was a bit like a scene from a B-movie. It was a Holiday Inn in Hasbruck Heights, New Jersey and the place where we ate dinner had a green neon sign over the buffet World's Largest Pickle Buffet.

The show was great though. We were sitting right in front of the stage. At the end Lewis Black shook my sons hand and then signed a CD for him.

Today it rained all day and I didn't do much.

On Friday my new laptop had a head crash on the hard drive. I managed to save most of my data (I had recent backups anyways) and I ran a program to find all the bad blocks. This program took several hours to run, but at least now I have a usable laptop. Now I have to call IBM and get new hard drive...

It's only Tuesday and already I'm tired. I'm slacking off at work doing 11 hour days (:-)), which coupled with three hours of commuting eats up a lot of the day. I'm going to have to work several weekends in the next month or so..

It's about ten o'clock at night and I think I'll go to sleep soon. While typing this I'm listening to the new Jeff Beck album (You Had It Coming). It'll be a good CD to drown out the noise at the office while I try to code.

I've been reading a lot of stuff about Napter and the copyrighted music and so on, and I thought that there must be a lot of people out there who'd be happy to have their music heard without worring about copying. So I did a search on "free music" and found plenty of relevant web sites. I thought about starting a Slashdot style website that would index/review the free music available around the web.

I probably haven't mentioned it in my diary here, but I have been playing guitar since I was 12 (and that's a long time ago) and I have put up some Mp3 of my playing in the net. If you like blues you might check these out here. These recordings were made with a portable cassette desk during a jam session, so the quality is not great. :-)

I took a day off from work today as we had a meeting with my son's teachers. Eigth grade can be tough.

I wrote a page about installation of Linux on a Thinkpad A21e . You can see it here: http://www.netlabs.net/~richieb/linux_thinkpad.html.

I also spent five minutes and fixed printing on my Debian box. For some reason the package that installed "magicfilter" left out one program - or perhaps I didn't notice the dependency and forgot to install it. Once this package was added things worked great.

Since the Debian machine is a print server for the laptop, it was important to get it going. It's embarassing how easy this was to fix...

Many things happened since last entry. Let's see. First of all I moved to a new laptop. Gave my old one to my wife (she uses it for writing) and got a nice ThinkPad for myself (A21e). I chickened out and installed Red Hat 6.2 on the laptop (I shouldv'e gone Debian) and I still kept a small Windows partitions, mostly to deal with some Windows annoyances at work.

The RH 6.2 install was nearly painless. Just figuring out how to get the sound to work took a little while. It's up and running now with ALSA drivers. I have to make a page describing my configuration to help others set up laptops.

Meanwhile I've fiddled a little with my Debian box. The user enviroment with Gnome and WindowMaker for window manager needs a lot of tweeking. I also have to get some basics going. For example, I need to configure printer filters to be able to print Web pages and I need to set up dialup. I haven't had that much time to work on it.

Last Friday I stopped by Linux Expo and I picked up some neat toys. One was a CD with Ximian release of the Gnome environment. I'll try it out on the Debian machine when it is set up better.

I also got a copy of "Evil Geniuses for Dummies" signed by Illiad (see http://www.userfriendly.org) for my son. My son was very impressed with the autographed book, and it's not easy for a dad to impress a 13 year old son. :)

The funniest part of the signing was that there were supposed to be two authors signing their books: Eric Raymond and Illiad. Illiad was late and a long line formed waiting for him, while Eric just sat there waiting. While thunbing through the User Friendly book I got to a cartoon which featured Eric Raymond, so I had him sing the cartoon. I know it's silly, but so what.

This past weekend I installed Debian 2.2 on my desktop machine. This time I was pretty careful not to mess up Windows. This machine has a whole bunch of stuff in it: three HDs, CD burner, network card, sound and modem.

The installation went pretty smoothly. At first I was afraid to mess up the MBR so I set up LILO on a floppy. I had saved all the configuration info from RH so I was able to reuse lilo.conf (except that I made one mistake and I wiped out the System.map file in the /boot partition). This file is only used to debug the kernel, but occasionally I get errors that this file is in the wrong format. I'll have to find another copy of it, or else I'll have to try and recompile the kernel to create it.

The next challenge was to get the network working. Although everything was configured properly, I wasn't able to ping my other machine. I saw the lights blink, but the ARP tables remained empty.

After poking around for a while, I just decided to take the isapnp.conf I had set up under RH and put it in /etc. Once I did that and I restarted pnp stuff the network came up. Wahoo!

So now I can start and set up dialup and few other things.

I'm trying to use Gnome with WindowMaker and I need to find a nice compromise for the look. It's a bit ugly right now. I used WindowMaker before RH came with the Gnome/E combination. I prefer the look of WindowMaker it's classier.

The cool thing about Debian is that you get to learn a lot more of what goes on in the system (like this ARP stuff that I completely forgot about).

Tomorrow I'll work on the modem and the sound...

I decided to move all my Linux computers to the Debian distribution. Until now I used Red Hat on my machines, although I had installed Debian on an old Toshiba laptop and on several Sparc 5s.

I started today by trying out the installation on some old Pentium machines I have lying around. I use those for fiddling with network configurations an so on.

The install worked wit little problems. The only glich I had was that I forgot to specifically configure the ethernet board the first time through, so no network was configured.

But once I got past that error, things went on smoothly. Next I'm going to redo my desktop machine - I'll remove RH 6.2 and install Debian. Once I get everything running there I'll update my laptop. Since my Sony laptop has become my main computer, I need to make sure that everything will work before I make the move.

The big snow came. We got over a foot of snow. I got to shovel our driveway several times :-). I took my daughter sledding in the afternoon. We had a great time - the snow was feathery and it was a pleasure to roll in it. Now it's seven o'clock in the evening and I'm a bit exhausted from all this physical activity!

I tried a new bread recipe and made two loafs today. They came really great and we ate nearly all the bread in 15 minutes. It's recipe that take a while to complete, as at various points the dough has to "rest" for several hours, but this was one of the best loafs I've ever made.

While making the bread, I also made and MP3 CD of all my Led Zeppelin CDs. Six CDs took little more than half of a data CD.

Well, there is a big snow storm heading for the east coast, so it's likely that we will be stuck home for few days. This is fine with me, I need little down time.

For Xmas I got a Philips CD/MP3 player. It plays normal CDs or it can play MP3 files from a data CD. It's pretty cool. I'm playing with burning CDs with various batches of music. For example, I can get most of my Led Zeppelin CDs onto one MP3 CD.

Another present I got was a cookbook on making bread. I like to bake bread occasionally. It's sort of an excercise in chemistry and chaotic mathematics (all that kneeding :-)). So I tried something new and made pizza last Monday. It came pretty good. I love freshly baked bread (mine isn't that good yet).

Besides that I got a new book by Martin Davis called "The Universal Computer". It's a popular book on computability theory. Martin Davis was my teacher in graduate school and he is a rather famous mathematician. Among other things he contributed to the solution of one of the famous Hilbert's problems (was it the tenth or eleventh one).

I keep a list of books I'm reading on the web in another spot. If you like to see it take a look here: Richie's reading list

More tomorrow on the snow storm...

I'm still pretty busy at work. We're are struggling with figuring out what exactly our applications is going to do. So we spend hours with bussiness guys to try and understand the details, then code for a day or two and then go back to talking.

It's interesting to see the company grow. When I started in May there were 5 people in the office, now there are twenty five. The development/tech team has grown from two to ten.

I'm learning all kinds of cool stuff, but unfortunately this eats a lot of time, so I don't have much time left over for open source coding....sigh.

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