Geez, three weeks since my last update, and… well, frankly, not a whole lot has happened. Odd how, when you become an adult, your life suddenly becomes a lot less interesting from day to day. However, it goes without saying that at least a couple noteworthy things have happened, otherwise, why the post, other than to regurgitate my varied and disconnected thoughts into the digital ether?
So, what news? Well, first off, a photo from the garden. A while back, I decided it was about time to get some various plants planted. This included the usual garden, a mix of the everyday peas, carrots, spinach, and some zucchini, with rogue dill fragrantly invading the empty spaces, a hill of potatoes, just a few to see how they do, some sunflower plants, and last but not least, berry bushes, specifically raspberry and saskatoon. Well, in the weeks following, much has been afoot. The sunflowers are at least six inches tall, the various garden vegetables are coming along quite nicely, but most importantly, my raspberry bushes have started bearing sweet, delicious fruit. And to prove it, I even have a photo!
Incidentally, these are just the most recent of the ripened berries. I’ve already enjoyed a couple early fruit, and let me tell ya.. they are delicious.
Meanwhile, on the technology front, I finally decided to take the plunge and by my very own laptop. To be honest, the fact I hadn’t done this already was just a little bit ridiculous, and after spending many hours hacking away on the company tanktop (big, hot, heavy, and ugly), I finally decided the time was right to just buy one.
So, what did I buy? Well, I could’ve gone for a regular ol’ consumer laptop, something fairly inexpensive and functional, but such gear tends to be a little heavier, have poorer battery life, and most importantly, be somewhat fragile. So I decided to splurge on some gear that I knew would be heavy-duty, light weight, and generally capable of withstanding the abuses I’m likely to put it through.
I bought a Lenovo (previously IBM) ThinkPad. The T61, to be precise, which is the latest model in the T-Series.
Now, I know, ThinkPads tend to be a bit pricey, but for that, I got:
- A titanium roll cage,
- Best-in-the-business keyboard,
- Good battery life, which is even better with the Ultrabay battery I purchased,
- Quite thin and light, at just shy of 5 lbs,
- Quiet as heck.
Basically, exactly what I was looking for.
As for specs, it’s a 2Ghz Core2Duo, 2GB of RAM, 120GB hard disk, 1440x900, 14” wide-screen display (I would’ve prefered 1400x1050 standard-def, but they can’t be had… apparently the LCD manufacturers are shoving wide-screen displays down laptop manufacturers’ throats), nVidia Quadro NVS 140M video chipset, 802.11abgn, and a DVD-RW. Plus the usual assortment of USB ports, VGA out, a pair of PCI-Express slots, the Ultrabay, modem and NIC, etc.
As for software, it came loaded with Windows Vista business (which, for the record, isn’t nearly as bad as people claim, though I turned off Aero and SuperFetch pretty quickly), with the usual assortment of goodies, such as Office, and to my surprise, SQL Express 2005. In addition, after shrinking my NTFS partition by 40GB, I threw Ubuntu Gusty in, which, after a rough start, has worked fairly well (although sound doesn’t work at all, and I can’t adjust the screen brightness within X, which is pretty irritating). I even got suspend-to-RAM working after a bit of fiddling with settings in xorg.conf. I must admit, as a desktop OS, Ubuntu performs quite admirably, and is easily the closest I’ve seen to a truly mass-accessible Linux distribution.
So, overall, an excellent and worthwhile purchase! Of course, that basically blows my toy budget for the rest of the year.
I lied. The bastards gave me a trial version of Office. Oh well, OpenOffice it is!
Why did I install you, StumbleUpon? WHY???
Okay, so a little background, StumbleUpon is this browser extension that adds a toolbar to your browser. If you hit “Stumble”, it’ll search for websites it thinks you might like. Then you rate them. It has categories, so you can select particular subject matter, and you can even post comments and read what other people have to say.
Well, as you can imagine, this is an immense time waster. I mean, it’s really bad. It’s like the Del.icio.us front page, except less work. And the stuff I’ve found? Well, here’s a few gems:
- Taylor Hall Planet Perplex
- Kid Creatures
- The above lead me to: The Monster Engine
- Gummi Bear Sculptures
- T-Shirt Stencil Tutorial
- Crazy Bathroom. StumbleUpon actually found a blog entry on this subject, and some co-workers tracked it down on Snopes.
And those are just the things I thought were really cool. I just wish I hadn’t found yet another way to procrastinate at work.
I just came across this. It has photos and virtual tours of various Asian temples and other buildings. Very very neat.
So, today, one of my “friends” at work was so kind as to post a Google code search, with my name as a search term, on our internal IRC server (thanks a lot, Jeremy… jerk!). For those not aware, Google now has a specialized search engine that allows one to search through publically available source code (the bits that comprise the blueprint for a piece of software). It’s pretty handy for many things (computing various code metrics, finding interesting code snippets, and so forth). But, as it happens, it’s also a great way to find code authored by specific people. And, in this case, that specific person was me.
Well, this got me thinking: Imagine you’re applying for a job. Further, suppose, in your younger, less experienced years, you made some of your work available online. Perhaps you contributed to some open source project. Or maybe you released something of your own. Well, your potential employer now has a very easy way to find these bits and bobs, and may very well choose to include them as part of your evaluation. Now, that’s fine if all you’ve ever made available online is top-quality code. But for hacks like me, this can be a problem.
Of course, since the advent of the search engine, an employer has always had the option of digging around on the Internet for information about prospective employees, which is why it’s important to be careful about what you post online. But, for those in the tech sector, Google code search means their past work can now be more easily tracked down and evaluated.
And in case you were curious, you can see what Google has to say about me here.
Yes, it’s true! The MythTV frontend works! But what about the RAM, you ask? Well, I decided to take the stick back to Best to get a refund/swap/something. It was at this point that I discovered that, surprise!, I can’t get a refund! Apparently it was a final sale or something, which I evidentally didn’t realize at the time. This is especially shitty since I’m willing to bet that the stick is simply incompatible with the board, for whatever reason. But, they’re testing it anyway… and if it turns out to be good, I’m either going to try to get it swapped for a DDR2-533 stick or a store credit. And worst case, I could probably sell it.
Meanwhile, I decided to head to Futureshop and buy a stick of DDR2-533 ($71 “open box”, even though it had never been opened). My thinking was that, if I get a working stick out of Best, I can always return the new stick to Futureshop. After all, they’ll give me a refund. And, surprise surprise, with the new memory, the EPIA board POSTs just fine. Shocker!
The bright side is I now have a working Living Room Frontend! It’s not yet perfect, of course. The video output isn’t perfectly scaled to the screen size (apparently the TV-out chipset isn’t fully supported under Linux, yet.. yay!). DVD playback is very jerky (although the CPU isn’t pegged, so something else is going on there). And there are a bunch of things I haven’t finished, such as getting the VFD working, or enabling suspend-to-RAM.
OTOH, TV playback, itself, is perfect, with no tearing or stuttering, and the IR receiver I picked up works beautifully (although I need to adjust the receiver position a bit to improve reception). So overall, I’m pretty happy with it.
Update: Well, I got the VFD working! It was pretty darn easy, too. Lircd, the software I’m using to receive IR signals from the remote, has a driver for the display device, so I just needed to install lcdproc, and voila!, it works!