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User Journal

Journal: in which i am a noob all over again 17

Journal by CleverNickName

I haven't posted a journal here in almost three years, because I couldn't find the button to start a new entry. ...yeah, it turns out that it's at the bottom of the page.

So... hi, Slashdot. I used to be really active here, but now I mostly lurk and read. I've missed you.

User Journal

Journal: a return which is long overdue (plus achievements!) 17

Journal by CleverNickName

I've lurked at /. without posting for ages, mostly because I just don't have the time to interact like I used to.

But I've been clicking through the old RSS feed more and more lately, and when I saw the PAX Plague thread today, I came over to comment, since I'm kind of affected by the whole damn thing. I thought I'd take a look around since I haven't been here in awhile, and I saw that there are freaking ACHIEVEMENTS associated with our accounts. It's silly, and I'm sure it's been here forever, but I thought it was awesome and I was delighted when I read it.

I didn't realize how much I missed Slashdot until I spent some time here today, and I bet that anyone who joined in the last 2 years doesn't even give a shit about my stupid comments or anything, but it felt good to come back here, and feel safely among my people again.

User Journal

Journal: Announcing the release of my new book 22

Journal by CleverNickName

This feels like a mega-spam entry, and I'm very self conscious about posting it, but I'm excited about this and I wanted to share . . .

I just published my third book, The Happiest Days of Our Lives. I mention it here because it's all about growing up in the 70s, and coming of age in the 80s as part of the D&D/BBS/video game/Star Wars figures generation, and I think a lot of Slashdot readers will relate to the stories in it.

I published a few of the stories on my blog, including Blue Light Special. It's about the greatest challenge a ten year-old could face in 1982: save his allowance, or buy Star Wars figures?

After our corduroy pants and collared shirts and Trapper Keepers and economy packs of pencils and wide-ruled paper were piled up in our cart, our mom took our three year-old sister with her to the make-up department to get shampoo and whatever moms buy in the make-up department, and my brother and I were allowed to go to the toy department.

"Can I spend my allowance?" I said.

"If that's what you want to do," my mom said, another entry in a long string of unsuccessful passive/aggressive attempts to encourage me to save my money for . . . things you save money for, I guess. It was a concept that was entirely alien to me at nine years old.

"Keep an eye on Jeremy," she said.

"Okay," I said. As long as Jeremy stood right at my side and didn't bother me while I shopped, and as long as he didn't want to look at anything of his own, it wouldn't be a problem.

I held my brother's hand as we tried to walk, but ended up running, across the store, past a flashing blue light special, to the toy department. Once there, we wove our way past the bicycles and board games until we got to the best aisle in the world: the one with the Star Wars figures.

I'm really proud of this book, and the initial feedback on it has been overwhelmingly positive. I've been reluctant to mention it here, because of the spam issue, but I honestly do think my stories will appeal to Slashdotters.

After the disaster with O'Reilly on Just A Geek, I've decided to try this one entirely on my own, so I'm responsible for the publicity, the marketing, the shipping, and . . . well, everything. If this one fails, it will be because of me, not because a marketing department insisted on marketing it as something it's not.

Of course, I hope I can claim the same responsibility if (when?) it finds its audience . . . which would be awesome.

Supercomputing

Journal: i need a new computer - advice? 29

Journal by CleverNickName

Simple tasks like switching between Firefox and Thunderbird are driving the load on my machine up over 4, and if I'm trying to run Amarok at the same time, it drives it up to 8. In fact, my machine frequently climbs up into the 7-9 range, bringing my apps to a crawl and frustrating the hell out of me.

So I've decided it's time to buy a new computer. I'm going to replace my aging Sony Vaio desktop machine (which runs Linux) with something newer that has more RAM, a faster processor, and a bigger hard drive.

The thing is, I'm not entirely sure where to start looking. A quick walk through Circuit City a month or so ago lead me to believe I can get a rather "big" computer for as low as five hundred bucks, which further leads me to believe that if I were to buy something online, I can get a huge pile of RAM, a fast processor, and a big honkin' hard drive for even less.

I run Kubuntu, and use KDE as my desktop (though I occasionally switch to Gnome when I get bored) and I mostly use Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice.org, Amarok, and run PokerStars in wine. I'm looking for something that can do all of that without slowing my machine to a crawl.

Anyone have any suggestions on where to start looking?

Edit: I don't think I have the patience to build my own machine out of individual parts. I also don't have any real loyalty to any particular company or architecture. New Egg has lots of machines with AMD processors, and though I've always had Intel processors because more things seemed to run on x86, that's not as much of an issue as it once was, right?

Star Wars Prequels

Journal: R2-D2, Rebel Leader? 15

Journal by Cliff
from the oh-wow dept.

Original story from Bureau42.

Now, I'm not one to treat Star Wars as some kind of holy religion, and I'm more than happy to read something someone else has done that attempts to take the sillier aspects of the work (all 6 movies) and attempts to inject more sense into them. With that said, I took a look at a re-analysis of SW history, that paints R2-D2 and another fan favorite in a quite different light, and was just utterly floored with the possibility.

Enjoy! :)
User Journal

Journal: My Most Recent "Oh, Cool!" Moment 1

Journal by Cliff
Was Browsing Slashdot

Using my Nintendo Wii

And Mom was Watching

-----------------------------

No, seriously. There's nothing cooler than setting up a new toy, on your surviving parent's 50" projection TV, and having fun together without even playing a game. Mom and I had so much fun with the forcast channel, it was silly! It's been a long time since we've laughed like this together.

So yes, I have now joined the Wii-generation. Maybe I'll see a few of you out there. Just as soon as I've taken my nose (and wii-mote) out of Zelda.

I figure that to be sometime in Q4... or until the next Metroid game is released. =)
User Journal

Journal: The One 14

Journal by Cliff

"Love is a matter of timing. It doesn't matter if you find the person who is right for you, if it's too soon or too late."
- Mr. Chow
2046 by Kar Wai Wong

For me, no words ever spoken on film have had more truth than this.

Editorial

Journal: Oil Industry-sponsored FUD at Slashdot? 12

Journal by CleverNickName

I am absolutely stunned that Slashdot's editors would give credibility to a completely false story, pushed by a paid industry PR professional. As Rugrat said,

The "article" is not an article, but a press release written by an employee of a public affairs company.

"Tom Harris is mechanical engineer and Ottawa Director of High Park Group, a public affairs and public policy company."

For a website that spends so much time and energy combating FUD from Microsoft, and the MPAA and RIAA, it is baffling that FUD that was paid for and is pushed by the oil industry would make the front page here.

Come on, Slashdot. You can do better.

Debian

Journal: So, About Dapper . . . 24

Journal by CleverNickName

For the last year or so, I've been happily using Debian, with a mixture of sources so I was stable, but current, just like nearly everyone who uses Debian.

Then I tried to upgrade or something insane like that, using aptitude, and the whole thing went tits up on me. No amount of cussing, kicking things, or actual tinkering with the software could save my machine.

I thought about asking for some advice in the Debian forums, or on one of the lists, until I ran out of fingers in my entire family tree to count the times someone said some variant of, "Shut up, noob! Your stoopid and not leet leik I am! Go back to Winblows! Ha! HA! HA!!!1"

Yeah. Guess I'm not venturing into those waters, so I figured I'd just have to grab my network install CD and start over (luckily, I set up /home on its own partition a long time ago, so if I fuck something up really bad, I don't lose all my porn very important data.

The day I planned to reinstall Debian, I read that Dapper Drake had been released, and everyone loved it so much, they totally wanted to marry it. A friend of mine, who is wise in the ways of science and the air speed velocity of unladen swallows has also been singing the praises of Ubuntu for a long, long time, so I grabbed a Live CD to see what all the fuss was about.

Holy shit. What an awesome bit of work it is! It's the first Linux distro to find every single bit of hardware on my old Sony Vaio desktop machine, including all the USB ports. It looked great, too, and was the most "Mac-like" Linux I've ever used.

I realize that a lot of you are mocking me right now, but listen for a second: I'm not interested in hacking on my kernel to make sure something is detected during boot, or modifying all sorts of settings in a text editor just so I can make the damn thing find my camera . . . and don't get me started about CUPS. I love technology, and I love and fully believe in "free" as in speech, and I'm grateful for free as in beer. But also really into "works," as in just does. And on my machine here, Dapper Drake just works, and it's awesome. This is the Linux distro that I can take to my parents, and to my friends who are drowning in a sea of FUD, and convince them that they don't really have to be part of the Borg if they don't want to.

And ultimately, I believe that has to be our goal if we're going to convince people to give Linux a real, serious try as an alternative to Windows. We need to be able to tell them, with confidence, "Put this CD in your machine, and give it a try. I think you'll like it, because it just works."

User Journal

Journal: A New Week. Please God Let It Be Less Interesting... 2

Journal by Cliff
So I've survived a disasterous week without anything further going wrong. The alarm company is coming in tomorrow to add another keypad to the upstairs and I'm changing all of my codes (did I mention I had left the security folder with my passwords where the theives could look at them? Brilliant!). Fortunately the alarm codes aren't written down. Even if they are, the window will close on that, shortly.

Here's hoping this week will be less interesting, in the potentially life threatening and property vanishing departments.



Calgon take me away!
User Journal

Journal: Adding Insult to Injury... 6

Journal by Cliff
As if last night's escapade wasn't bad enough. I had a friend take me out shopping, to replace some of the things that I had lost. Most notably, I wanted to get safer space heaters. So, we shop. It was a fun time, and I really enjoyed spending some time with my friend, outside of the college environment that I work in. We get back to my place, I unload my haul into the house, and notice some guy walking down the alley. He's whistling. Apparently he appears to be whistling for a lost dog, and my friends car is sittling on the street, engine running, and we both fear that he might jump into the car and drive off with it. Neither of us get a close look at the guy, we just know that the whole scene is off, so we don't get a good description of the guy.

That was a mistake.

So, worried about my friend and her car, I rush the packages into the house, and lock the back door, not setting the home alarm since I figured I would be back soon enough.

That was a serious mistake.

We drive off without incident, and she drops me off nearby so I can walk to the local Gas-mart to pick up some sodas, snacks and other things to get me through the night. On my way back home (I'm on foot at this point), I notice that the local bar is having Open Mic Night. I figure I might stop in for a few drinks, and to soak in the local color. I had fun. I met a few people I hadn't seen in a while. Had a few drinks (since I hadn't been in a bar for months), and enjoyed the entertainment. After about an hour (or maybe a few minutes more), I call it quits and begin the short walk back home.

After I get within walking distance of the house, I notice lights on that I don't remember leaving on. This worries me a bit, but not that much. After rounding the final corner, I notice the back door is wide open.

This is wrong. I made a point of deadlocking that door whenever I leave.

It is about that time that I notice that the kitchen window has a nice hole in it, a result of the sizable rock that slung through it. I enter the house, and within seconds, I notice the shambles within.

And my 32" Sony Trinitron Vega TV is gone.

After spending valuable seconds kicking myself for not triggering the alarm, I do so manually. Brinks calls within 2 minutes and I have them call the police. The don't show for at least an hour and a half (this being a call-not-in-progress).

I'm stunned. After kicking myself for not triggering the alarm, I make 2 (two!) calls to 911, and the police finally show, take my report and process the house (and take my fingerprints).

So, for the second night in a row, I find myself in my second office, trying to find some way to get to sleep.

And I'm failing miserably.

I get the feeling that this is going to be a looong week.
User Journal

Journal: It's Nice to Be Alive... 6

Journal by Cliff
Because last night, was a really close thing. Two more seconds and it could have easily been worse. Imagine a nice chair in your bedroom, sitting not 2 feet from your bed, engulfed in flames. Had I not acted when I did (and I'll be honest...I probably could have reacted sooner, since the warning signs were all there) that would have been my reality, last night.

I barely escaped it.

It started with a strange ozone smell that always occured when I turned on my space heater. The heater didn't always cause this smell, but I generally only deal with my bedroom when I'm dead tired and it's time to sleep. It's a new house so it needs some duct work since the central A/C only seems to work on the first floor. First quote to get this fixed? $7,000+.

Right. "That can wait for a bit, I think." I may have to change my tune, on that one.

Anyways, this space heater has been a life saver. I can set the central heat to 60 degrees and avoid the $300+ gas bills I've been paying for the last few months. It worked well for about a month.

Then the ozone smell started. I thought it was the heater, it was really the surge protector. Melting. Slowly.

I thought these things were supposed to have a fuse that burned out when they drew too much current. Looks like APC surge protectors don't.

So first it was the ozone smell. Then...right when I'm trying to doze off to sleep, I hear "*snap* *crackle* *sizzle*". I thought it was some paper on the floor under my bed that was making the noise, it was that soft. Then I open my eyes. See the flashing in the corner of my room.

And the rest happens in flashes.

I jump up. The flashing gets worse. I move my nice chair covered in plenty of flammable materials (cotton sheets, apholstery, etc). The surge protector catches fire. I realize I have hardwood floors. Then I start unplugging stuff to try and save what I can.

I'm able to save just about everything but the space heater. That plug is just not safe.

Of course, I can't sleep. I still haven't slept. I've dozed fitfully with that heater in my normally chilly room for months now. This could have happened at any time while I was completly comatose and I would have been quite dead.

I'm not. I'm very fortunate.

I'm also very, very tired.

[I'm generally not one to write about myself, but I figure last night was interesting enough that I'd share. There are quite a few lessons I've learned from this.

1) Never trust high current devices to a surge protector, no matter how good it is.

2) Invest in smoke alarms with good coverage of your home. To be honest, the one in my room wouldn't have saved me from a fire, but it might have kept me alive if I had been sleeping.

3) Sometimes insomnia has its advantages
]

User Journal

Journal: Utterly Lame Shock Value -- (Lost Spoilers) 4

Journal by Cliff
OK. I just finished up watching this week's Lost, and I gotta say...

Oh wait. Thar be spoilers in dese hills. I'll wait while the folks who DIDN'T read the parenthetical in the title to avert their eyes and click the "Back" button.







Oh wait. Who am I kidding. This is Slashdot. And if you didn't read the title, then there isn't much I can do to prevent the spoilage since Journals (mistakenly) don't have an introtext/bodytext like stories do.

I'd submit a patch, but I doubt TPTB would take it. Oh yes! Smell the irony.

Maybe they'd take a patch for a <spoiler> tag. Hmmm....

Oh! I digress...

Enough spoiler space, yet?







Eh...that should do it...

Now it seems that Abrams and Lindelof (and primarily Liz Samoff, who wrote this particular bundle of joy) enjoy torturing their viewers. It took them a single episode to get me hooked, a half season to get the plot really moving, another half season (or more) to finally get to the mystery of the hatch, and a season and a half to finally get me to like Shannon.

And one scene to kill her off in the lamest piece of shock value I have seen on network TV in a looong time.

Now, of course, I'll be back to watch next week, being the shameless, addicted vidiot that I am, but it just irks me that as soon as they make a character worth watching they kill them off.

It's.... it's.... it's ...shameless TV formula, and I thought Lost was above that. Silly me. Last time I expect to be surprised by TV.

Ah well, that's Boone gone, now Shannon gone. At least they didn't get rid of Michael. That would have really pissed me off.

You may now proceed to make fun of me in the comments...
Announcements

Journal: play poker for a good cause on sunday july 17th 6

Journal by CleverNickName

(Cross-posted to WWdN)

The final table of the 2005 World Series of Poker started at 4pm yesterday afternoon, and wasn't finished until just after 7am today. I'm not sure, but I think that's a record. I'd call Pauly to be sure, but something tells me he's crashed out until at least Sunday.

Two qualifiers from PokerStars made the final table, and one guy, who qualified using free play points, made it to the final two tables, finished in 13th place, and won $400,000. Not bad for a freeroll!

Speaking of Pauly and PokerStars, we're doing a charity tournament on Sunday in memory of Pauly's friend Charlie Tuttle:

Charlie is from Clarksville, Tennessee and he's a twenty-six year old music enthusiast who loves hanging out and playing poker with his friends. Charlie was dealt a bad hand in life when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, which he has been battling this past year. A couple of weekends ago, he was hospitalized because two tumors in his chest pressed up against his lungs, causing him breathing problems. I don't have to tell you how serious his condition was.

Felicia Lee, who is fighting her own battle with cancer, knows several top professional poker players, so she got several of her friends to call Charlie: John Juanda, Marcel Luske, Max Pescatori, and Barry Greenstein to name a few. In fact, when Barry Greenstein won his bracelet in the $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event, he dedicated it to Charlie.

As Pauly wrote:

Situations like this one make you reassess what's really important in life. Las Vegas is a city built on greed. Poker is a game that often attracts some of the lowest forms of life. However, in the past two weeks, there has been a small group of professional poker players who have earned my respect and admiration. Amidst all the darkness and debauchery, I have caught a few glimpses of the bright side of humanity. The hearts of some of the biggest sharks in Las Vegas are filled with compassion.

Thank you, Charlie, for inspiring us all. We'll never forget you.

Charlie passed away on June 22 and his friends have organized a charity poker tournament this Sunday at PokerStars. It's going to be a lot of fun, and I hope to see lots of WWdN readers there.

Details:

SUNDAY, JULY 17th
18:00 EDT (15:00 CDT)
PokerStars
Buy-in is $20 — all of it goes to charity.
"WPBT Charlie Tournament" under Tourneys -> Private tab in the lobby

To be awake is to be alive. -- Henry David Thoreau, in "Walden"

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