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Journal: My first two novels, CC-licensed and free to download

Journal by pvera

My second novel is out! "Pulling Strings" is the follow-up to "Shining Star." In my first novel I came up with a crazy what-if:

What if Puerto Rico votes to become an independent republic? And what if it happens without the Americans knowing that Puerto Rico is sitting on huge oil reserves?

In my second book I explore the Puerto Rican Republic as it starts its expansion across the other countries in the Caribbean basin. All this while the US nervously keeps an eye on these developments, and Venezuela becomes more hostile because Puerto Rico is not a member of OPEC and is not bound to obey their monopoly on oil.

As with my first book, this book is available free of charge under a Creative Commons License. You are free to download it and pass it around as long as it is unaltered and you do not charge for it. Also, you cannot create derivative works based on it.

Downloads:

Shining Star (pdf)

Pulling Strings (pdf)

If you are interested in buying a print copy of my books, please feel free to visit my bookstore.

OS X

Journal: Ordered: (refurbished) iMac G5 1.8 20"

Journal by pvera

Just ordered an identical copy of my new machine at work:

iMac G5 20"
160 GB drive
Superdrive
256 MB ram (also ordered an extra gig thru a third party)

Let the madness begin. Hopefully I will qualify for the $10 upgrade to Tiger.

User Journal

Journal: Dumbass Fox talking head

Journal by pvera

This dumbass son of a bitch talking head over at Fox news announces that John Lithgow (http://imdb.com/name/nm0001475/bio) is going to give the graduation speech for Harvard's class of 2005.

He pretty much said "well, this is weird, this honor is usually given to heads of state and whatever..."

What this dumbass talking head did not know, which is probably the fault of his producer(s), is that Lithgow has a pretty god damn good excuse for this kind of honor. After all, he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1967.

Dumbasses.

OS X

Journal: Ch-ch-changes

Journal by pvera

After losing my faith on the Powerbook line, I managed to snatch a spare 20" iMac G5 with 1.25 GB ram at the office. Boy oh boy!

The damn thing rocks. I like it so much that the replacement for my dead powerbook is going to be a refurbished 20" iMac G5 with 2GB ram.

OS X

Journal: Dead Aluminum Powerbook G4, back with Titanium!

Journal by pvera

I spilled four droplets of coffee into my Aluminum Powerbook (15", the replacement to my Ti 867). I freaked out, flipped it upside down and while I was drying the four droplets the machine shut down. And that's it.

Dead.

I kept trying to reset the pram and the PMU, but nothing. Again I freaked out and cracked the case open to see if coffee got inside but it was completely dry. Big mistake.

The genius at the Apple store quoted me $1200 to fix it because:

1. The spill was accidental damage, not covered.
2. Cracking the case open voided the warranty.

Of course, $1200 buys a new iBook, so fuck it.

I went home and took the HDD out of the dead laptop and put it into an external firewire enclosure, and I did not lose data. But no more Aluminum powerbook :-(

Worse, I have completely lost my faith on the current Powerbook line. I never liked it as much as my Ti 867, and even with 1.25 GB ram it did not feel that much faster than my Ti 867 with 1GB ram. It seems my next laptop is going to be a 14" iBook with Superdrive.

User Journal

Journal: A year with a Titanium Powerbook G4

Journal by pvera

My laptop will be a year old in April 30th and I am already planning to ditch her.

Nothing really wrong with it, but I want to get rid of my wife's Dell and what we decided is she is taking over the Titanium Powerbook and I will get a 15" Aluminium G4 1.25 GHz with Superdrive. I almost got her a 12" iBook G4 but it was not worth the hassle to try to sell the Powerbook. And that means I can go ahead and pay for Apple Care.

After spending a year working 40-60 hours a week plus at least another 15-20 hours at home with it, I have come to notice its many qualities and flaws:

1. Wireless reception is poor due to the Faraday effect of the Titanium casing. My old iBook 600 had at least twice the range of the Powerbook.
2. The casing flexes a lot. And the lid is warped.
3. The latch is as weak as the one in the iBook 600.
4. The hinge is very strong!
5. Apple makes the worst AC adapters for a laptop computer. Between the iBook and the Powerbook I have gone thru at least six adapters so far. The current design of the adapter has many little changes that are designed to address points of failure that I experienced last year, so this is not that much of a big problem anymore.
6. It does not get as hot as the Germans would have you believe.
7. Battery life is decent if you are willing to dim the screen and stay away from the combo drive.
8. The combo drive is bullet proof.
9. The Titanium casing is shit. Not only flexes, but the paint bubbles and scratches too easily.
10. All those ports in the back are a retarded idea. The only plug in the back should be the power.
11. Somebody at Apple should have figured out by now that they need to have clearance between the LCD and the keys. All it takes is to sink the keys an extra mm into the casing! I tried to use LCD shields, but these add tension to the latch and also help warp the lid even worse.
12. The Timbuk2 laptop sleeve is the perfect padding to carry your Titanium Powerbook in a bag. I use mine with a Timbuk2 El Ocho messenger bag. You can have mine, but only when you can pry it off my cold, dead fingers.
13. Laptop podiums work very nice with this laptop and do help keep it cool.
14. Even with a Gig of ram (and this is a 867) Macromedia Dreamweaver MX and VPC 6.1 (with XP Pro) still run like shit.
15. I don't like the sleeping light in the Powerbook. The one in the iBook is nicer.
16. Don't eat within 6 feet of this computer. The keyboard magically sucks in any dirt, crumbs and dog hair that comes within 6 feet. If you opt to use an iSkin for the keyboard, don't get the black one, it sucks! Use any other but the black one (the white one is nice) because the plastic is different and feels, well, yucky.

Overall it is a hell of a computer. I am glad the new ones are anodized Aluminum because the damn paint issue is starting to drive me insane. I am going to send it to Apple to check the lid and hopefully they can retouch the bubbles too.

Apple

Journal: One week with the Powerbook G4

Journal by pvera

While reading Will Weaton's journal entry on why he quit G4 I realized I have had my 15" Powerbook G4 for a whole week.

Few things in my mind:

1. Very hard to feel the weight difference between this Ti Book and my former iBook.
2. I have to take off my watch if I want to type, it just bangs the wrist rest and I don't want to scratch it.
3. I am baffled by the speed. This thing is just amazing (mine is only a 867 with 512MB ram).
4. Virtual PC 6 with Windows 2000 Professional runs as good as on a real PC. XP Pro on the same Virtual PC 6 runs like crap.
5. The keyboard marks on the screen are really pissing me off, so I have to buy a protective cover for it.
6. The black iSkin SUCKS. The texture is different from the white one I use on the iBook, and it kills the tactile feedback.
7. DVD playback is beautiful, but because of the native resolution it does not look as sharp in full screen.
8. Dreamweaver MX runs only marginally better than on the iBook. I guess it wants more RAM.
9. The speakers are marginally better, a non-issue since I am on earphones 99% of the time I am using the laptop.
10. The laptop sleeve I bought from Timbuk2.com fits like a goddamn condom. It is very VERY nice.
11. No paint chipping yet, but I guess its only a matter of time before I bang it against something.
12. Wireless reception is nowhere as good as with the iBook but at least works.
13. Back to the keyboard: it is a million times better than the shitty keyboard in the iBook. Very nice, I still freak out about getting it dirty but otherwise I love it.
14. I have mixed feelings about the door that covers the ports when not in use.
15. I got too used to the Kensington lock slot being on the left side of the iBook, so now I have to re-train myself.
16. Nice that it uses the same kind of power adapter as the ibook, that gives me an emergency spare if something happens.

Overall, I love it. Very nice machine. I especially love the looks of hatred and scorn whenever I sit by a guy using a beat up windows pc.

Apple

Journal: New Powerbook G4

Journal by pvera

Two days ago I got my new laptop, an Apple Titanium Powerbook G4 867 (40GB drive, combo drive, airport, 512MB ram). I am extremely happy and thrilled like hell because the performance is just amazing. As good as the iBook is, the Powerbook is insanely faster (and mine is just a 867, not even the fastest CPU available).

Now I have to figure out how am I going to pay to fix the iBook so I can give it to my wife.

Apple

Journal: iBook update

Journal by pvera

Ok, it seems what is wrong with my iBook is a common design flaw across the whole white iBook line. The cables that run thru the hinge get frayed with normal usage, these cables run the airport antennas, the backlight and the LCD data. Right now my backlight is almost gone and airport started acting up.

And the repair job can be up to $400!

I am not buying a second iBook, instead I am getting a Titanium Powerbook.

Apple

Journal: How much abuse can an iBook take?

Journal by pvera

1. One broken AC adaptor (out of warranty)
2. One burned AC adaptor (3 months old, replaced under warranty)
3. One FILTHY keyboard, missing 5 keys and with bent retainer clips (out of warranty).

Now the goddamn LCD backlight is acting up. I don't know if a connector is lose, or a ground or whatever the hell, but the backlight is shutting off on its own.

CRAP.

And still, I love my iBook to death. Hell, I love it so much I am buying another one in a week or so. The sad thing is I may have to send this one to the shop, so for a week or so my wife won't be able to "inherit" this iBook. Dammit.

Apple

Journal: Regular Expressions and Grep

Journal by pvera

This last week or so has turned into an incredible discovery journey. I have used regular expressions in the past for very specific purposes, and 99% of these involved validating an email address. REGEX in ASP is a pain in the ass because it is not native to vbscript, sort of the same problem you would have trying to parse xml from within asp using vbscript.

A while ago (when I switche to Mac OS X) I discovered how pretty freakin cool is to use regular expressions to hunt down html and xml tag pairs. These regular expressions combined with aplescript translated into great time savings for the humongous web forms I do 3-5 times a week for my employer's online research surveys.

What happened last week is that I decided to bump it up another notch. After a painful afternoon that I could not figure out jack squat, I suddenly figured out how the hell you can have a search pattern for n patterns and each of the n patters replaced with something different.

Pay dirt.

Now instead of spending 15 minutes running applescripts that save me a half hour of work, I run a single applescript that executes a half dozen regular expression transforms that so the whole godamn shebang in 15 FREAKING SECONDS.

Amazing.

The worst thing is that I am getting obsessed with the whole concept, and the sky is the limit. I have already applied it to a bunch of annoying little jobs that take 10-15 minutes apiece, but when you add them up that's at least an extra hour saved per day! This feels like the first time I figured out a select case in VB/Vbscript (or a switch in Java, C++, etc) works the exact same way as a bunch of IFs, but only it is 100 times easier to read.

The funny thing is that when taking this grep integration into BBEdit, Editplus is starting to look like the old, outdated piece of crap that it is. I love Edit Plus to death, but Jesus, these people need to get on with the freakin program! BBedit not only has a much better REGEX engine than EditPlus does, but it also allows you to use Perl scripts. Jeez!

User Journal

Journal: When you know your switch is for real

Journal by pvera

Well, I have final proof I am a 100% switcher.

Sometime last week I caught my 4-yr old son chewing on the power cord plug (still connected to AC!) for my iBook. Two days later my wife yanked the power cord while sweeping, and the inside tip of the connector broke clean. It flew across the room and we never found it.

Still, it had enough left to stay in contact and keep the battery recharged. I said to myself I had to go to the Apple store, 1/4 mile walk from my office, and grab myself a new cord. Then the procrastinoids grabbed me by the neck and eventually forgot about it.

Two days later the connector was so worn out it would not plug into the iBook. CRAP. I managed to pull 3 hours of work out of the iBook until it had about 25% left in the battery. Then a nice fellow in IRC showed me how to turn the iBook into an external firewire drive so I could boot a G4 powermac at the office with it. That bought me almost one extra hour of work. Then dead for good.

Of course, this happened on keynote day, and for some reason the Apple store was out of stock. They were nice enough to call another store in the area that was too far for me to go on business hours and their reply is they had "plenty."

Right.

I spent the rest of the work day on Windows 2000, totally miserable. Mind that during my workday I am on Windows 2000 in and out most of the day, only I use the remote desktop client for OS X and do it from my mac. Sitting in front of that windows machine really drove me crazy. And I am not even a windows hater, hell, I still write asp and Visual Basic! But I could not stand working directly off that machine.

I had to watch the whole keynote on Quicktime 6 for Windows, I thought it sucked but many people could not even connect, so I cannot complain. When Steve started announcing Safari and the iLife apps I got frustrated again because I did not have a clue if I would even have a mac that evening (I was afraid the connector broke the inside leads of the iBook's power supply plug).

This told me I was more into the mac that I even tought. Maybe because I was still using remote desktop to manage my Windows 2000 servers it was not so obvious, but I am now sure my switch is 100%.

When I went to the second store I bought the LAST power connector left, so much for "enough." And yeah, the iBook was fine.

User Journal

Journal: Apache runs great if you leave it the hell alone

Journal by pvera

Sometimes freeBSD can be too good for its own good. The ports system is so convenient for upgrading and fresh installs that I don't spend as much time figuring things out than back in the day when I would reinstall Linux just to change apache. Pretty stupid.

Yesterday I pretty much killed my whole freeBSD virtual colo/jail system. I upgraded from Apache 1.3 to Apache 2. And I broke it. Big time. After a whole hour of terror I managed to fall back to 1.3.

Lesson learned: Leave Apache the hell alone and it will run forever. Period.

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