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WEEK 23 2005

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Saturday 11 June 2005

Saturday - what is the connection between "The Sound of Music" and German U-boats? [via Castle Argghhh]

A week ago I posted a amusing link to a post about someone with too much c*** in their homes. The sorry truth is that I am one of those people. I had so much computer detritus in my second spare bedroom that I could no longer open the door all the way:
Messy room, the door won't open all the way
When you can't open the door more than halfway - time to clean!

So today, since I was not on the road,  and did not feel up to going out to enjoy what is actually a pretty nice day, I decided to clean it up. I have now filled my trash can after three hours of work.

Filled. But there are still eight dead/dormant PC's in that room . Plus a monitor, two scanners, and someone's old Classic Mac (complete with keyboard and printer!). I will have to pay to have the monitors disposed of, since they are considered toxic waste, but some of those PC's will be going in my trash later this summer. I think I am going to move a lot of the PC's down to the garage and side yard in anticipation of this.

I threw out all the Redhat Linux distros for 5,6, and 7. Also a bunch of ancient Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 software. Also all of the PCI/telephone modems - I no longer know anyone using dialup. Multiple 386 and 486 motherboards. I threw out my bad ethernet routers (in my defense they did, sort of, work as ethernet firewalls - but all my friends/relatives now have their own), but I did save the ethernet cables. Ancient SCSI drives went, and mystery adapters, and so on. I did save power cables, hard drive cables & case hardware, some old PCI video cards, assorted usb/ps2/ethernet adapters. Saved the old mice, and the RAM memory. Everything I saved now fits into several small boxes, which in turn fit on the closet shelf!

Of course, Robert Thompson has me beat.

Update: About a quarter to ten in the evening - still cleaning. I've been going through  old reports, books, magazines and tossing a lot of them. The cat's are very excited about all the new real estate I've uncovered.

I've also lost internet connectivity again. I think a switch to broadband cable is in the works for next month. I'm tired of rebooting my modem once or twice every day.

Speaking of "on the road": I have a friend who is picking up a used car in Texas, to drive back to California this weekend. He'd invited me along, but I declined as I was not feeling good, and was feeling cheap ($200 one way to Fort Worth). So: I get a call from him last night as he is driving along the interstate. He was talking to the sellers, a nice couple, and the conversation turned to a visit they made to California, perhaps ten years ago. The conversation continues, and after a few twists and turns, it comes out that they had come to California to visit me on some engineering business. What are the odds?

They now live on a private lake, with three kids,  two planes, and a hangar... Maybe I should think about moving to Texas?

Friday 10 June 2005

Friday - some people think waaayyy too much about STAR WARS: Was the Alderaan Incident consistent with Just War theory?

On the other hand, I suppose it would probably make for a more interesting philosophy or history class.

I had intended to drive up to the bay area this weekend, but was inadvertently exposed to someone who has since come down with some sort of throat crud. Acckkk. I was feeling under the weather myself yesterday, and am not fully recovered today :-(  I think I will hold off on the drive until Sunday.

I have used the Pentax Optio WP a bit more (although I haven't yet submerged it). I have fewer blurred pics - at least blurred pics that weren't my own fault. Possibly I had inadvertently changed the camera settings in my first outings; it's easy to do, via a rocker switch on the back. Anyway, I'll hold on to it for a couple more days, just to see if I like it.

The picture quality is about the same as my old Olympus 3040, or perhaps a bit less, but the extra pixel count helps. I don't care for having to use the LCD as a viewfinder since small objects - such as planes or birds in flight - are hard to find. I first noticed this with my digital camcorder's electronic view finder (EVF). If zoomed out it's hard to see small objects - they may only be a few pixels wide and the contrast ratio of the LCD or EVF makes them hard to pick out; but if you are already in telephoto mode then it's hard to find a small moving object with the reduced field of view.

And the LCD is hard to use in bright daylight. Don't listen to the manufacturer spiel about "easy to use in bright sun". I'm getting better at it - I never used the LCD on the Olympus, only the optical viewfinder - but I suspect there will always be an element of guessing about the composition while shooting in the bright outdoor sunlight.

Manufacturer's probably prefer the LCD's and EVF's. Being of solid state design, they've no moving parts; since they are parasitic off the existing imaging CCD there is no optical train to design and synchronize with the main zoom mechanisms, and to try and fit inside the camera case, and so on. A LCD can gain up, so it's more useful in low light situations. But the contrast and resolution just aren't as good as an optical viewfinder.

Camera impressions so far:
Pro: Small, quick shutter release, fast charging battery, easy access to menu's, no protrusions to snag.
Con: Mediocre optics, no optical viewfinder, slippery case, colors sometime off.

But I knew all this stuff when I bought the camera - it was the bad shots that were a deal breaker. We'll see.

cat in dirt road
Here's a Pentax Optio WP shot, of a cat that ran across the road in front of me today. (Friday cat blogging continues!) Click to get the original - note that it is 2.6 Megabytes.

cat in field, zoomed in
Cropped to just the tabby.  Looking at the picture, now, I can see that there is a blue fringe on the left side of the cat's body, and a red fringe on the right, along his tail. Hmmmm. Not good.

Thursday 9 June  2005

Thursday - the other day a Virgin Atlantic plane apparently sent out a hijacking signal by mistake on it's transponder. The transponder is just a little radio beacon the sends out a four digit code. Ground control uses these codes to identify planes on radar and route them safely. Probably the ground control told the Virgin pilot something like "squawk 3500"  and he somehow set it to 7500 - which is the code for "hijacking in progress"! This is mistake, which as a pilot after 9/11 that you really really really don't want to make.

My friend Tim saw it on the news and  reminded me of a basic ground school class we took some time ago. A thing the instructor emphasized was to never pass through any of the high number emergency squawk codes, that is, 7400, 7500, 7600, and so on.

We were taught that one way to do this is to always make sure the high digit (the leftmost or thousands digit) was set to something besides 7 before changing the hundreds knob. There are other ways, but this was the simplest. Always check that the left knob is not set on 7 before changing any other knob. Touch it, just to make sure. Change the other knobs. Then, set that left knob by rotating away from the 7. Never pass through 7.

That's how I remember it. But the memory is a bit hazy. It's fifteen years since that class.

But that Virgin Atlantic pilot - his memory was hazier yet. Poor guy.

Nivea has an advertising blitz on television, trying to convince men to use moisturizing cream. Ugh.

Someone just stopped by, and after taking a quick look at the pictures from the Optio WP, said "The Pentax is focused at infinity". Which was interesting. Some shots had the mountains and sky in the background, and the mountains were clear. The other blurred shots had no distant objects, so I can't tell with them, but it may just be that this particular camera is refusing to focus occasionally and that the default is indeed infinity. Maybe I'll exchange it for another of the same make and see what happens.

Wednesday 8 June 2005

Wednesday - hmmm. Not too impressed with the Optio WP. Some pics come out OK, others not so good. In about 20% of the shots the focus isn't working. A shot of some birds feeding on a lawn across the street - blurry. A kid on a bicycle going by - blurry. In addition the macro sometimes locks up the camera, refusing to allow shutter release. I haven't decided yet, but it may be going back!

Tuesday 7 June 2005

Tuesday - I bought the Optio WP at Costco. I tried a couple of shots indoors, but the battery needs to be charged. That is another strike against the camera - it's a proprietary Lithium-Ion battery, but if I like the camera I can get another. The camera came with a little case, strap, battery charger, good sized manual, USB and AV cables. It also came with a decent sized memory card, a 128Mbyte SD card. So, tomorrow we'll take both the new and old camera's out and see how they perform.

I took the opportunity of a pause to replace my aged 10-base-T switch with a newer 1000-base-T switch. The old one had stopped working properly - some of the ports no longer worked, so I replaced it with the switch I bought a while back in expectations of having lots of time to work on my parallel processing project. Hah! But it has come in handy. I also took the opportunity of putting two computers onto the new UPS as well, and removing a lot of the intertwined cables and cords from when I had three separate monitors hooked into these boxes. The Belkin 4-port KVM switch is working perfectly, so I don't need them now.

Monday 6 June 2005

Monday - a bit of yard work and a lot of work stuff.

Sunday 5 June 2005

Sunday - did a bit of biking in the morning with my brother (a lot of fun), and some yard work (not so much fun). I need to take some pics while biking - the Optio is tempting me as a good go-anywhere camera. Costco has them for slightly more than the online sites, but is local with a good return policy. Hmmm..

Picture of the Week
Riley, happily rolling about on the warm concrete

Photo Notes: My cat, Riley, has the habit of rolling about in apparent ecstasy when I let him outside. Here hs is on the warm concrete of the patio.

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