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The Internet

Journal Journal: Content the size of my fist, surrounded by ads...



One ad floated gently down from the top of the browser and came to rest in the middle of the screen, awaiting my "close this window" click.

These guys are smart, aren't they? This page, and many others like it, use some script trickery to build a "floating" window in the page, which slips past Firefox's pop-up blocker undetected.

I found a "print this article" view, which allowed me to read the tiny five paragraph (generous: one 'paragraph' is one sentence long) article.

Thought of the evening: So much advertising, on a Linux site especially, gives one a bad impression of the site and its content.

Operating Systems

Journal Journal: When things "just work"...

I was sick of my old ball mouse, so I got an optical mouse by Logitech. Very plain vanilla, no frills.

Anticipating that I might dump the old mouse, I had selected a USB input devices option when I recompiled the Linux kernel recently... To my surprise I pluged the damn thing in and it just worked. No configuration, nothing. A cool moment.

Media (Apple)

Journal Journal: iPod Alternatives 2

As I mentioned in a past journal entry, I don't have an iPod. I do have a Rio, and so does Kim. I had complained about the lack of OGG support in my Cali, since I have ripped my entire CD collection to the OGG format on my P200 jukebox.

So, I bought an iRiver iFP-790 on eBay. Long story short, I received the unit and tested it -- it was discovered by Linux as mass storage and played OGGs nicely. It used a single AA batery and claimed to have a very long battery life. I like everything about the unit, but the FM tuner did not work at all. I contacted the seller and returned the unit. He gave my money back.

Kim bought me the iRiver T30 for Christmas. This unit looked great, but after I opened it I discovered that it didn't have an FM tuner. Back it went.

I got the iRiver T10 in exchange. I had an FM Tuner that worked very well, I could recieve NPR from home (that is the test) with no issues. Upon connecting it to my computer, I discovered that it was not seen as USB storage. Instead, it uses a Microsoft-compatible "MTP" protocol for transferring songs to and from the device. I played with the unit for another week, but returned it as it would not work with Linux or any other computer unless you use MS Media Player. There is a Linux camera app, gphoto2, that many people are using, but I didn't like the limitation of being tied to one machine.

Finally, I've arrived at the Samsung YP-T8Z. It's a 1GB flash player with FM tuner. It's cheaper than the iRiver. It records from the tuner or via built in mic, or line-in. My Linux and Windows computers see the device as USB storage. It plays OGG files. It also can show photos or small videos. My only gripes thus far are the non-replaceable battery (should not be an issue as my Palm works great after many years), and the non-proprietary USB connector -- If I ever lose my cable, I am not sure where I'll get a replacement. So far, the player works very well, and I will try it out over the next couple of weeks.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Heart 3.0

I'm 29 years old, and it has been three weeks since my third open heart surgery. This surgery was to correct a dialated aortic root. As the aortic root was continually enlarging over the past couple of years, it pulled the aortic valve apart, causing significant leakage.

The surgery was performed at the University of Michigan Medical Center by Dr. Edward Bove. Dr. Bove also performed my last two operations.

On October 11 of this year, the aortic root was to be replaced with Dacron fabric tube that does not stretch, and at the same time the surgeon hoped that he could save the existing tissue valve. He thought that there was a potential to remodel the valve opening with the Dacron tube, decreasing the leakage.

If this remodeling was not possible, the surgeon's second choice would be a matrix valve (pig tissue) as they have a relatively long lifetime (10-15 years) and generally are not rejected by the body. In addition, this procedure would not require that I take any anticoagulants like Coumadin.

The third option would be a mechanical valve, which does have one advantage in that it would last for my entire life. The disadvantage is that it does require the anticoagulation drugs, which would significantly limit my activity level outdoors. Any small cut, as I understand it, causes fairly signficant bleeding.

The operation took seven hours. After re-assembling the heart with the Dacron tube root replacement, Dr. Bove found that the existing valve was leaking significantly, and he decided to remove the new Dacron tube and replace the valve completely. Upon reassembly and re-starting the heart, there was no leakage and he was very happy with the results.

This entire operation was, of course, instantaneous to me. I spent a total of three days in the ICU, one day in moderate care, and another four days on the normal floor recovering. I was discharged on October 18th and have been home since then.

I'm planning to return to work on November the 21st, which would be consistent with the surgeon's recommendation to return to work six weeks post-op. So far I'm feeling very good, slowly reducing my intake of pain meds.

Here is the entire history of my heart modifications to date:

Jan 1976 Heart v1.0

  • First release

May 1994 Heart v1.1

  • Modified original aortic valve

July 1995 Heart v2.0

  • Aortic valve scrapped, replaced with existing pulmonary valve
  • Pulmonic valve replaced with used part

Oct 2005 Heart v3.0

  • Stretched Aortic root now replaced with Dacron (capitalized?) non-stretching mesh fabric tube
  • Heart v2.0 aortic valve removed and replaced with specially treated porcine tissue valve. Minimal chance of rejection, yet highly durable tissue with valve life expectancy of 10-15 years.

Journal Journal: New cellphone

I got my new cellphone (one word or two?) last week. I've had the old Siemens M55 for about two years, and I decided to see if I could get a new one.

T-Mobile is my carrier, and I was able to get a new phone at the new subscriber price. I really wanted the following in a new phone:

  • Bluetooth (to talk to my Palm Tungsten)
  • Bar style like my old Siemens (not a flip phone)
  • Voice dialing
  • Long battery life (Siemens was about 2 days)
  • Quad-band GSM (world phone)
  • NO CAMERA (I would love a camera phone, but unfortunately they are prohibited at almost all automotive proving grounds, which means I can't have one. Yes, security does check them.)

What I found out was that the last item made it impossible to get the first item with T-Mobile's current offerings. Every Bluetooth phone had a camera.

Secondly, getting a world phone narrowed it down to about four or five models, and the only one that was not a flip was a Samsung. Perhaps Samsung stands for quality now, but my brain has never associated the brand with anything good.

This leaves the Motorola V188, which is a new model. So what did I get on my list of wants?

  • Voice dialing
  • Long battery life
  • Quad-band GSM
  • No camera

4/6 isn't bad, but the other two (Bluetooth and a non-flip style) were kind of requirements. I'm getting used to the flip style... But coming out of the coffee shop the other day on my way to work, I snagged the phone out of my pocket and wanted to call a co-worker with hot coffee in the left hand, phone in the right. I now had to get it unflipped with one hand. The bar style shines in this respsect.

Secondly, I did have Bluetooth in an Ericsson T39 world phone that I bought on eBay, however this phone died after only a month of usage. That purchase was one of the worst I've ever made and I could write another entry about that phone alone. Regardless, Bluetooth connectivity from my Palm was very cool. Writing/sending text messages or dialing numbers from my Palm address book was a piece of cake.

I'm getting used to the Motorola menu system and am finding that I can get it set up to be very similar to the Siemens. Some things that I really grew to like about the old Siemens are notably absent, such as:

  • Ability to vibe and ring at the same time. Isn't this something that most people would like? Amazes me that I can't set the phone up to do this. I've got it set to vibe, THEN ring right now, which is sort of okay for me.
  • Silence the ringer with a single button. On the Siemens I just press and hold the "*" key to jump to vibrate mode, press and hold "*" again to return to ringing mode. I did figure out how to set up a shortcut on the phone to do this with two presses, so I think I'm satisfied with that.
  • Text messaging keys are moved around. On the Siemens the "1" key was a space, now it's the "*" key. Punctuation is under the "1" key on the Moto where it was under "0" before. "*" is space as I mentioned, on the Siements "*" was punctuation. These changes make texting a pain in the ass! Surprised there isn't a standard for this.

There are some cool Linux --> Motorola utilites, such as moto4lin, which gives you a filesystem-like view of the phone's contents. I got it working and it's pretty cool. The V188 connects to the computer using a tiny USB port; the same cable that I use for my Rio MP3 player is employed here.

Overall, it's cool, I did get some very long battery life (five days w/out a charge is great!) and the ability to connect it to my PC and play with it -- it will play MP3 ringtones, so I can upload whatever I want. I'll be in New Zealand this June, so I'll take it with me and see if I get service there.


Journal Journal: Mineral

Ever since I saw the Kleeman and Mike animated short film online, I've been meaning to pick up anything by the band Mineral.

After I saw the film late last summer, I downloaded one of the band's songs called "Slower". This song is on my Rio, computer, and Jukebox. Every time I listen to this song, I remind myself to go out and buy the album.

Today was the day to buy it. After the gym, I stopped at Best Buy and bought The Power of Failing for $14.95. Inside, I found that I could order the disc directly from the record company for $11 (including media shipping).

Regardless, this is some cool stuff. It's punkish rock, but somehow melodic. These guys sing their asses off to totally distorted and somewhat messy guitar jamming, and it's for some reason almost relaxing to listen to.

I found out later that Mineral is one of a handful of bands that defined the "emo" genre.

I will probably look into some other emo bands to see what they sound like, but this is one I like. Unfortunately, the band broke up after the release of their second album in 1998.

Media (Apple)

Journal Journal: I don't have an iPod. 3

I bought my fiancee Kim a Rio last May for her birthday. I used it when mowing the lawn and going to the gym, the sound quality was good (volume was more than ample for mowing the lawn and bass/treble were well-defined) and it is cool that it has no moving parts! Of course space is limited, but how many songs do I need when I'm mowing the lawn or working out?

Kim bought me my very own Rio for my birthday this year. I love it. I take it to the gym and use it as I used hers. It's got 128MB of flash memory, which is enough to hold maybe 25 songs or so. It's also got a tuner, so at the gym I can watch TV and listen to the audio. The digial tuner has also got presets, which are handy for the gym TVs.

My Rio, the Cali, is seen by Linux as USB storage. This means I don't need any special drivers to put songs on it, as I do with Kim's Rio (rioutil works very well). So in this resepct, I can put stuff on it too.

Things I dislike about the iPod Mini (I have no experince with the 'big' iPod):

Battery life (Rio uses a single AAA, which will last (at least) 10 hours)



One wouldn't think it's very durable (contains a spinning hard drive)

Having so much music, you'd think there would be a way to put songs into a queue on the fly... For example, in the car I want to listen to this song [PLAY]. Next I want to hear this song [ADD]. Then this one [ADD]. I could not figure out how to do this. I don't want to create a playlist for use later, I want to use the thing like a jukebox. Granted, the Rio can't do this, but it can only hold 25 or so songs, right?

I don't think it's all that easy to use. Maybe I need to get used to it.

The dial thingy is cool, but why is this easier than a joystick? Plus, the iPod has some games on it. I did not play any of these games, but it seems they'd be easier to play with a real input device.

No tuner.

Why are people so fired up about the iPod? I could see Linux geeks putting their home directory or something on it, as the big iPod has a 20GB hard disk on it. So now we're talking about something cool, a hard drive with a little computer surrounding it.

Are most people using them in this way? The damn device is so hyped up now that people think they've got to have one to play MP3s. Even non-techy people know what iPod means, and they think that they've got to have one.

A caller on an NPR program was trying to get advice as to whether or not he should lend his kidney to a chronic smoker. The doctor responded, "You wouldn't lend your iPod to someone who would use it to pound nails."

The above comment amazes me -- the device is so mainstream today! IMO, for simply playing music, there are cheaper, lighter-weight, easier-to-use alternatives out there.

The Gimp

Journal Journal: GIMP 2 and gimp-print

I haven't had printing capability with GIMP since I upgraded to GIMP 2.

It turns out that I needed to add a USE flag, "gimpprint", to make.conf, and then 'emerge gimp' one more time.

I also picked up another trick: emerge -pv will do a pretend emerge (which I already knew), but the -v (verbose) option will tell you which USE flags it is looking for.

I'd almost like to have this as a default emerge flag...


Journal Journal: Download source, unpack it, then compile later with Gentoo

Get the full filename for the ebuild, and do the following:

# ebuild myebuild fetch (if you don't have it in distfiles)
# ebuild myebuild unpack (unpacked to /var/tmp/portage/packagename/something)
# ebuild myebuild compile
# ebuild myebuild install
# ebuild myebuild qmerge

This means truly the full path to the ebuild! So do this like so:

ebuild /usr/portage/media-sound/grip/grip-3.2.0.ebuild fetch



Journal Journal: VIM tips

There are hundreds of tips over at

Here are a few that I like, copied from the tips area... I keep them here (and other stuff in my journal) as it's a handy reference area.

:set expandtab | use spaces and not tabs
:set tabstop=n | number of spaces that is a tab
:set shiftwidth=n | spaces to indent in visual mode
:set ignorecase | case sensitivity
CTRL-N | word completion
* | search for word under cursor
:%!xxd | covert file to hexdump

User Journal

Journal Journal: Perl binding to Shout

Downloaded Shout-2.0.1.tar.gz, which is a Perl interface to the icecast server.

After decompressing it into Shout-2.0.1, I did:

perl Makefile.PL
make install

First time I installed a module without CPAN, and all of the work was still done for you...


Journal Journal: Using Linux for one year.

It's been a year since I've been using Linux.

For me, using Linux has become a hobby. I've got a box next to me on the floor that's ripped apart still, happily ripping another of my CD collection to it's internal hard drive. It uses a $25 wirless card to go out and get album covers from the internet. I never have to type in a song or album name, it goes out to the CDDB and gets that info too.

The box that I type this from is a PIII 800, and it still runs so quickly that I don't see much reason to upgrade it.

I've learned Perl and some Python. I'm learning shell scripting. I've learned a lot about networking. I can install and maintain a webserver. The fact that thousands of people all work together on the different software packages is just too cool.

I haven't booted into Windows in months. In fact, I've considered using that hard drive for something useful.

There is one remaining open issue: Turbo Tax. Come tax time I may be forced to use Windows for that... I think they may offer an online version of their software? I'm not sure.


Journal Journal: Old computers, Linux, and large hard drives

So far the Jukebox is a success. I've submitted about 5 bug reports (with fixes) to the project, as well as a couple of patches.

It seems, however, that the project might be dead. Still waiting for a response on any of the items.

I upgraded the disk from 6 GB --> 80 GB tonight.

At first, the old computer (P200) refused to recognize the disk. This is because the BIOS is old, and doesn't like large disks. Western Digital (and most other drive manufacturers, it seems) came up with a solution: Trick the BIOS into thinking that it's a small drive. It gets recognized and the computer will boot from it.

After finding the proper jumper settings at, the computer booted nicely.

Linux doesn't care about what the BIOS returns as the drive type/size. Once the kernel is loaded, you've got a P200 with an 80GB hard disk. Cool.

Look through my Journal... It's been one year since I've started with Linux and I don't see any way back. I love it.

Wireless Networking

Journal Journal: DWL-520 E1 wireless card working...

I've got the D-Link DWL-520 (E1) wireless card working on the old Pentium 200 (jukebox) machine.

Some people are saying that a PCI 2.2 compliant motherboard is necessary, but I've got it working here on this old PC (BIOS from '97) with no issues.

This document, by Andrew Barr, was what helped me with most of the setup. It is one of the most complete how-to descriptions that I've ever read.

The biggest issue I had was trying to understand all of the various drivers out there.

I initially tried HostAP, but the kernel module would simply not load on my machine.

I also tried wlan-ng, which *did* load, but then I couldn't get it to download firmware to the card.

Later, I found that the version of HostAP that I was trying to use was quite old, and the newer one was masked in Gentoo. I emerged the masked version using the "ACCEPT_KEYWORDS" variable as I described earlier in this journal, and installed version 0.2.5. This version loaded up and I was able to flash the firmware onto the card with no issues.

I also changed the baselayout on this machine as described here on the Gentoo forums. This is slick. After installing the firmware, /etc/init.d/net.wlan0 start just "worked" and got an address from my router.

Get firmware uploading working as Andrew described in his document (configure the hostap_fw_load script)

To get the module and firmware to load at boot, I created a file called "wlan0" in /etc/modules.d/ with the following contents:

alias wlan0 hostap_pci
post-install hostap_pci /usr/sbin/hostap_fw_load wlan0

Do a modules-update and reboot. UPDATE 4/9/05: The location of some files has changed for the latest hostap-utils. I am moving to the 2.6 kernel and now my wireless card quit working...


Journal Journal: Jukebox installation

I think I found the perfect solution:

gjukebox has a web interface and will even display the album covers. It is designed for server-side playback.

Before doing anything, I would suggest that you check out all of your USE flags, especially if this will be a console-only system like mine. Because of all the dependencies, I ended up with portage wanting to emerge a lot of things. Here are my flags now:

USE="-gtk -qt -gnome -kde -X -cups -opengl -truetype -xmms -xv -quicktime -pdflib -foomaticdb -arts -avi -gtk2"

On my fresh Pentium-200 Gentoo system, I did the following for installation:

emerge mysql
emerge mpg123
emerge wget
emerge bladeenc
emerge libcdaudio
emerge mod_php
emerge aumix
emerge cdparanoia
emerge mpeg-lib (necessary?)
emerge libogg (necessary?)
emerge libvorbis
emerge at
emerge xinetd
emerge vorbis-tools
emerge esound
emerge links (will need this later)
emerge unzip (for CPAN)
emerge ftp (for CPAN)
emerge ncftp (for CPAN)
emerge gpgme (for CPAN)
emerge gd (for coverart support)
emerge abcde (for playing with FLAC later, not necessary)

Moving to perl's CPAN:

bash$ perl -MCPAN -e shell
cpan>install Bundle::CPAN (recommended by CPAN)
cpan>install DBI
cpan>install MPEG::MP3Info
cpan>install MIME::Base64
cpan>install DBD::mysql (couldn't get tests to work, installed with portage below...)
cpan>install LWP::UserAgent
cpan>install Text::Metaphone
cpan>force install GD
cpan>install Apache::ImageMagick

Back to bash$

emerge DBD-mysql

Should I have used the portage installation method instead of going through CPAN? Dunno.

Following the instructions from here...

chmod a+r /dev/cdrom

Don't mess with the 4.1 release from Sourceforge, just get the latest version from CVS. Follow the instructions on sourceforge to download from CVS. /usr/src/ is a good place to put the downloaded source.

cd /usr/src/gjukebox/

I modified the Apache configuration so that Apache runs as user/group: nobody/nobody.

Make sure that the nobody user is part of the cdrom and audio groups in /etc/group.

Changed the maximum upload filesize from 2M (default) to 10M in php.ini

Got the Gentoo startup script/config files from the patches area on Sourceforge, had to change one of the dependencies in the startup script from "apache" to "apache2" for my installation. This was one of my biggest problems -- I didn't have running and therefore I had issues trying to rip one of my CDs.

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