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Journal Journal: [geek + query] Looking for HTML component for Delphi/C++ Builder 4

I know I am asking this to the wrong crowd - Delphi is a Windows product and this is a mostly Unix/Linux/Mac kind of place. Nervertheless, I have a project I'm fiddling with and I need to be able to render HTML. I had planned on wxWidgets as my platform but I cannot get it to compile properly anymore for some odd-ball reason. So... My fallback is that I have the latest and greatest version of Delphi on my Windows partition, and I am willing to go that route to get down to it. The problem is that I need a VCL component (window, panel, whatever) that can handle rendering the HTML for me. My budget for such a component is around $100.

Anyone know of one that they would recommend?

I suppose I could use the OCX control for IE, but I need something faster. The Gecko engine is out of the question as there is no guarantee that any given machine will have FireFox or Mozilla.

JE open to anyone other than AC.

User Journal

Journal Journal: [geek] Windows Console App vs. DOS 32-bit app 8

Ok, not the most glamorous topic to kick off the new year but you get what you pay for. This is the first JE I have posted in several months, not because of ill will or dissatisfaction here, but simply because I do not have the time I once had to post.

Anyway... I decided to conduct a small experiment with one of my C++ compilers. I have a 32-bit application that has a benchmark test embedded in it and I have been recompiling the app over and over to isolate the optimal set of parameters for the compiler and linker to get the best performance. So far I have found that compiling for the i686 chipset with full compiler-provided optimization and stdcall linkage yields the very best performance. I am not sure why stdcall is best, to be honest, but that stems from my ignorance on the different linkage strategies. Also, the performance gain with stdcall is not large but it's noticeable. Once I got the application tuned as tightly as I could with the compile, I got curious - how would a DOS32 app compare against a Windows console application?

In a nutshell, the DOS32 application performed dreadfully. Where the Windows console application benchmarked around 1550 ms on average, the DOS32 application benchmarked just over 2000 ms. I assume this is a penalty relating to the translation layer of the DOS extender.

User Journal

Journal Journal: [misc] Mining the past can be poisonous 2

The deeper you delve into the distant past, the richer the pain and sorrow you may find. Sometimes, the truth is best left unknown - knowing may bring healing, but it can also crush you with unbelievable weight.

Ask yourself - do you really want to know? How badly? Is it worth it?

User Journal

Journal Journal: [misc] Sadness 3

A word of advice for my friends.

You can spend decades searching and searching for people from the past. When you finally find them, be ready for the memories to flood back and be ready to accept that their recollection of you may very well be the last thing you'd expect.

That is all.

User Journal

Journal Journal: [food] A new development

I have not had time to do a lot with baking in some time now, so when I get to make a loaf of bread for my family it's a treat for everyone, including me. Today, however, I was approached and was told, "I want to pay you to bake for me." The person was serious too.

Suddenly, I am feeling encouraged.

User Journal

Journal Journal: [geek] Ubuntu: First contact 7

A coworker of mine gave to me his laptop, wanting me to configure it for wireless access to the Internet. After handing it to me, he asked me "Can you install Ubuntu for me?" Um, ok, I can do that, but I am not an Ubuntu wizard so I expected this to be unfamiliar territory, to some extent.

I installed it, and it barfed. I am not sure why. I tried to install it again and it went just fine the second time around. I am not sure what went wrong the first time, so I have no idea what I can do to avoid the issue when/if I install it again later. Regardless, the goal was to get it up and running on my coworker's laptop.

My very first observation - sexy GUI! It is clear that the Ubuntu team has put a great deal of time and effort into making the GUI smooth, sleek and pretty. It makes the typical GNOME or KDE interface look kinda unpolished, even though both of those workspaces are attractive enough.

Working in the Red Hat world, I have gotten very used to the distinction between user accounts and root. I have never been a big fan of using sudo, and I expected Ubuntu's methodology of eliminating root logins to be cumbersome. What I did not expect was all of the utilities I need as root on Red Hat to be in the path for the user account and seem to work properly (so using sudo would not be a common occurrence for me). That is, I don't need to look in /sbin for administrator utilities on this system. 'ifconfig' is a prime example of a tool that is not in the default path of the average user on Red Hat installations but it in a different location and IS in the path for Ubuntu boxes.

I didn't realize that Ubuntu is a small distro. I also did not realize that it's a Debian derivative.

My first real contact with Ubuntu hasn't been all that bad. However, I am not so sure I would switch to it. I think I prefer Red Hat, at least for now.

User Journal

Journal Journal: [geek] The final nail in the Windows coffin 6

I finally abandoned my email client last night. I have been using Pegasus, which is a very nice freeware client for Windows, and I have amassed a good store of emails in the database. It appeared to run fine under Wine, but I was wrong. Wine unceremoniously shuts it down every time I send a new message. Can't have that.

I looked at several replacement clients and finally settled on Evolution. It is not ideal, but it works well enough. I tried Sylpheed at the suggestion of jawtheshark but it's a little too minimalistic for my tastes.

The tether has been cut. Windows is still loaded on my other hard drive, but there's little motivation to go there now except when there are data files that I need to pull over, and that's happening less and less.

User Journal

Journal Journal: [geek] Long live the king 14

It is official - no more Windows. Running Scientific Linux 5.5, I now have everything I want on my Linux install to the point that I no longer have a need for Windows to be loaded.

I have one and only one Windows app that I need, and that's Pegasus mail. I would switch, but I have enough emails in the database that I don't want to abandon the application and start clean. Pegasus runs fine under wine, so it's done and done. I have already moved it over and have pulled mail with it, demonstrating its usefulness. Between OpenOffice and SoftMaker Office 2010, I have enough support for MS Office formats that I can - and have - cut the cord.

There's a new sheriff in Gecko's town.

User Journal

Journal Journal: [geek] Linux restart 6

I have been jabbering on here about moving from Windows Vista to Linux, and the transition is actually moving along well. I thought I was finished - until yesterday.

My chosen distro has been CentOS from go (no I won't switch to Ubuntu). CentOS is a derivative work from Red Hat, and since I am working on RHEL in the office and need to get certified, it's a logical choice. The installer is not dissimilar, the layout is the same, and everything is supposed to be the same as Red Hat except for the graphics and copyright notices. That said, I have noticed a few quirky things with it (no I won't switch to Ubuntu).

Setting up wireless was just short of painful. This is more of a function of my hardware than my OS, but to a point. The OS sets up a series of strange network interfaces, most of which I cannot identify and have bogus MAC addresses associated with them. eth0 is ok, of course, but many of the others are of unknown use to me.

The kernel source is not present in the main CentOS distro, which is in line with Red Hat's methodology (no I won't switch to Ubuntu). This is a royal pain in the *** when trying to compile drivers, NVidia in particular. Some drivers are fine with just the kernel headers while others require full kernel source. Getting the proper source requires a visit to the online repositories.

Wine doesn't want to play either, though that's not a huge concern. The yum repositories do not have wine in them and the source compiles but the binary complains of a missing module without giving additional information.

I forget where I was looking, but somewhere I read about a *different* Red Hat-based distro called Scientific Linux (SL). It is a recompile of Red Hat sources too, and it adds a few jiggly widgets and stuff not included in Red Hat's release. After fouling up my CentOS install on my backup box I decided to give it a try.

The strange network interfaces are gone. The kernel source is actually installed on the box. And wine pulled over without a hitch.

Though I am loathe to reload my main system, I think tonight I am going to wipe the system clean and load up SL 5.4 (not Ubuntu). If all the indicators are right, then this will be the final step to eliminating Windows from my system once and for all.

And, no, I won't switch to Ubuntu or any of its derivatives.

User Journal

Journal Journal: [geek] Loading Linux on an older laptop 17

I recently replaced the family laptop and decided to load up CentOS on the old machine. Old is relative - it's about 5 years old. Anyway, having two Linux laptops in the house will allow me to play around with DHCP, DNS, NFS and some other services before I make the plunge into certification.

2.0GHz processor, 2GB RAM and an 80GB HDD.

The install took 3.5 hours for a vanilla install.

Pretty sure the hard drive is on the south end of its lifetime. Dropped in a replacement, and it's installing now. I expect it to take maybe 45-60 minutes (IDE HDD, not SATA). It's already moving a lot faster.

User Journal

Journal Journal: [misc] Friendly reminder 2

Be careful when driving. Taking your eyes off the road even for less than two seconds, on a road you know well, can be expensive. In my case, 2 new tires and an front-end alignment from hitting a pothole, and all I did was glance down at the passenger seat.

I guess I should be glad that I didn't swerve into the other lane or flip the car.

User Journal

Journal Journal: [misc] Ning is trying to kill off its customer base 4

A while back I went on a hunt for social networks and I found Ning, which is a network of social networks and some tools for creating new networks. It seemed like a nifty idea at the time and I joined a few networks. All was right in the world.

All at once I started getting emails from the group creators that the groups are going away. I looked into this and it turns out that Ning is eliminating its free service and everything is going to be pay-based. I suspect that MOST of their customers are going to abandon ship in search of something new, much like what happened to Talk City some years ago.

*sigh* So much for that.

User Journal

Journal Journal: [geek] 2.6.33-x Kernel Panic 12

One of the sticky points I have encountered with my Linux installation is getting a fresh kernel compiled and running. When I have compiled it and used it to boot, it panics, not seeing the hard drive. My system has SATA hard drives in it.

The default kernel with CentOS 5.4 is 2.6.18-164, which works fine but I would like to upgrade so I can compile a new wireless driver and a new Wacom driver (more on those, and the reason I need a newer kernel just for those, another time). Fedora won't install properly on my system and I am not interested in installing Ubuntu (so please don't suggest I switch to Ubuntu or a derivative because I won't do it) so my very best option is upgrading the kernel. Much easier said than done.

The first time I compiled the kernel, I imported the configuration from the 2.6.18 kernel and accepted defaults on new settings. The result was a kernel that could not see the hard drive. Fine, I went in and manually turned on support for all SATA controllers and chipsets, then recompiled. The result was exactly the same. I also tried digging through the menus on the menuconfig, looking for anything that might cause the issue and found nothing. So, finally, I ripped open the initrd's for both the 2.6.18 and 2.6.33 kernels, unpacked the modules and did a comparison of modules that are present to talk to the SATA controller - the new kernel has all the same stuff as the old and much more too.

I am at a loss at the moment. I am sure I am missing something subtle but I don't know what it is. I have seen systems where all ATA support had to be in a module, not native, but my configuration matches the old kernel in that way. I have tried everything I know to try for now. I am still using 2.6.18 - it works, but I am frustrated.

I suppose I could try installing just the kernel RPMs from Fedora on top of CentOS and see how that plays out... I have little to lose at this point. IIRC the latest Fedora uses kernel 2.6.30 which is sufficient - as long as there are kernel sources in the distro.


On an unrelated note, where is everyone? It's even quieter than normal around here.

User Journal

Journal Journal: [geek] Wireless networking 4

Connecting to a wireless network is something I need to do on a daily basis and has represented the most interesting challenge on my migration from Windows, not because it is hard in and of itself but because there is more than one way to do it and these ways are not necessarily cooperative with one another. The two methods I have found involve using wpa_supplicant and NetworkManager. Both have pros and cons.

The first method I found to work was relying on wpa_supplicant. It's not a pretty solution but it works well and is consistent in its reliability. It gives a little more granular control and it does not require setting up more passwords beyond the wireless encryption key. It is a little fussy to set up, being very particular in what it expects you to feed in, but once it's configured it's all but invisible. My initial setup of wpa_supplicant took me 2 days, simply because I never had set it up before and I made a lot of mistakes. When I added support for a second wireless network of a completely different type it required even more fuss but I finally got it ironed out.

The main drawback I can see with wpa_supplicant is that it expects you to know the name of the network. New network means you have to add stuff in the wpa_supplicant.conf file. That's fine if you have a limited number of places you take your system, but I can see that becoming a nightmare for traveling.

Then there's NetworkManager, a nifty graphical utility for setting up wireless networks. Click on the network of your choice, enter the wireless encryption key if applicable and you're off to the races. It even sets up the network interface. Simple and easy. Because it gives a list of available wireless networks it doesn't require that you know the network name beforehand.

That said, I get SELinux warnings when I run NetworkManager and there doesn't seem to be an easy way to get rid of them.

I made the mistake of starting up NetworkManager when I already had wpa_supplicant set up. They took to fighting and my connectivity died. Apparently you shouldn't run both together. This was my first experience running NetworkManager and I wasn't sure if I could just use it to see the networks out there (which is what I was trying to do).

Of the two methods, I prefer wpa_supplicant for connecting to my own network here at home. Elsewhere, I think I would use NetworkManager more just for the convenience.

User Journal

Journal Journal: [geek] Selecting an Office Suite for Linux 7

Personally, I am not a fan of MS Office. I have never liked it, but I use it out of necessity as I get handed Word documents and PowerPoint presentations all the time. I need to access, create and modify files of these types but I am not willing to spend the money for Office, especially if I am going to get out of Windows once and for all. So, I started looking into compatible office suites.

Obviously, there is OpenOffice. It's actually a very nice suite and I like the price a lot. I have had little difficulty using it to create new documents that are every bit as useful as their MS Office equivalents. However, I have discovered that OpenOffice does not handle Office documents too well. While these types of files open and are readable, the formatting is almost always off, often by a significant amount. I am not sure why even simple documents get so poorly formatted, but it's better than nothing I suppose. I decided to keep looking.

I am ok with WordPerfect, but there's no Linux version and MS Office compatibility is again lacking. Nothing to see here, which is disappointing but there's nothing that can be done about it right now.

I finally found SoftMaker Office after an extended search, and I found it in a roundabout away - I followed a lead on a discount on another one of their products. When I found them, they were offering one version back as a free download for a limited time. I tried it under Vista and was startled at how well it imports MS Office documents. It is by no means perfect, but it's a lot closer than OpenOfiice in that regard. I finally broke down and spent the money on their 2010 edition for Windows and have had only the most minor of troubles with it. Since there is a Linux version and the MS Office compatibility is in that version too, buying a second license pack for Linux is not a hard decision for me. The cost is low, the footprint is low, the usability is great and it's VERY compatible.

I am open to other suggestions as well before I commit, though. I suspect the main Linux suite in use is OpenOffice, but I have been surprised by others around here in the past.

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