Archive for the ‘Geeky’ Category

Windows 7 and Microsoft Security Essentials

October 22, 2009 Comments off

It isn’t a Windows 7 launch party, but it’ll do for now.  I picked up a copy of 7 from the University tech store and ordered a new computer online for MrsDoF to put it on.  She’ll have an Intel Dual-Core, 2gb, 500gb, and Win7 for total cost about $290 including shipping and tax. 

She’s got XP now – we skipped Vista.  If she doesn’t like 7 then she’ll be learning Ubuntu. 

But assume she’ll like 7; anybody have any thoughts on Microsoft’s new “Security Essentials” suite?

Categories: Geeky, Software

Getting a bit more serious about Picasa

October 1, 2009 8 comments

Picasa (Google’s picture service) has a lovely Windows application, which will try to run in Wine in Linux.  But I really prefer to explore native Linux apps if I can – it seems like cheating not to figure them out.  So this is an attempt to upload photos to Picasa using F-Spot:

From photo album biosphere

This picture is from last week. I set down my coffee to take the picture, of this dormant hornet.  I’m an endotherm wearing a jacket, but he had no such advantage.  He just had to stay there and get his picture taken like a chilled little bug.  (Click through and open the full-size version.  His wings are really quite lovely)

Categories: Geeky, Photography

Grip shifters; just say no

August 17, 2009 Comments off

Have I mentioned recently how much I hate grip shifters?  You know, those twisty bicycle handgrips that shift gears while you wreck?  Trigger, thumb, and plug shifters are much safer and as a bonus, easier to work on. 

There may be some kind of super-high-quality grip shifters I’ve never seen before, but mostly they just seem like something that a marketing expert thought of for low-end and low-mid-range bikes. A “sounds like a good idea until you think about it for ten seconds” kind of thing. And they make a ten-minute cable replacement into an hour-long ordeal because the cheap plastic parts cracked and I had to dig around in my spare parts buckets.  Fooey!

Categories: bicycling, Geeky

A major disagreement with F-Spot

July 11, 2009 Comments off

Sometimes I’m a little (or a lot) slow-witted but there’s something I just don’t get: Why the hell can’t I rename photos in F-Spot? 

Could anyone explain it to me?  Is there some reason why I shouldn’t want to rename photos in F-Spot?  It’s the best-known photo management software for Linux, and yet it lacks what seems to me an extremely basic function.

I seem to remember a similar disagreement with Picasa. 

Categories: Geeky, Software

Software installation in Linux is difficult

July 2, 2009 Comments off

Suppose you want to play the game “Hearts” on your computer.  And suppose, like me, you were cheap and wanted to get it for free.  Lucas sent me a screenshot-by-screenshot comparison of the installation on a Linux machine vs. a Windows machine.  It’s a joke written by a popular operating system.  (Hint: Linux plays the straight man.)

And that’s congruent with my experience too.  At work I’m building four Windows platforms that we’ll Ghost out to hundreds of machines.  It’s time-consuming to ferret out all the Windows ‘annoyances’ and create a build anyone would want to use.

But this evening, I came home and decided to rebuild my Linux machine.  I booted off the CD, made a few choices, and went upstairs for dinner.  After the meal, I made a few more choices and wound up with a ready-to-use machine.  My total keyboard time investment?  About twenty minutes.  Try building a Windows machine in twenty minutes.

Categories: Geeky, Software

Banned with extreme prejudice

June 9, 2009 Comments off

Got up this morning to find spamming in progress – multiple comments from the same IP address about someone’s business on unrelated posts. 

Seriously, what?  That’s like walking up and stapling ads to the front of my house; don’t be surprised if I release the hounds.

Categories: Blogging, Geeky

Product review: Acer One netbook

June 5, 2009 Comments off

This refurbished Acer One netbook from Tiger Direct arrived just before I was hospitalized a month ago, so I haven’t had much chance to look at it until yesterday.  For the $230 I paid, it’s a darned impressive little computer.

It’s so light – two pounds with the 3-cell battery – that it just about disappears in my backpack.  The keyboard is dinky but not difficult to type on.  I’d hate to write a novel on it, but it’s fine for blogging, note-taking, and email.  Battery life seems to be about two hours, which is fine for meetings and casual use. But you’d want the 6-cell battery for extended use without the (very small) power adapter. 

The screen is bright and clear.  At 1024 x 600, there’s not a lot of room for superfluous junk. This is significant because it seems to ship with every toolbar known to man already enabled, leaving you about eight pixels for content.  As Edward Tufte said, “The scarcest computing resource is not CPU cycles or hard drive space, but screen real estate.”  So you’ll be turning off toolbars and hiding the Start bar and stuff like that.  And remember, the F11 key is your friend.

It came with Windows XP home, but with a 106gb hard drive, you just know I’ll be dual-booting it with possibly Ubuntu Netbook Remix or Moblin, which is optimized to work with the Intel Atom processor. 

It also has a gig of ram, an SD card reader and a multi-card reader.  The wireless works fine and it seems to handle going to sleep and waking up easily.  There’s a little switch in front for turning off the wireless, so you don’t waste power connecting when it isn’t needed.  It has an external VGA output for presentations, an RJ-45 Ethernet connection, headphone and mic jacks, and three, count ‘em three USB ports, all on the right and left sides. 

It took me a while to get the trial version of Microsoft Office uninstalled – who needs it? – and all my favorite apps installed.  These include: Firefox, Google Chrome, FileZilla, Notepad++, Open Office, Foxit Reader, McAfee Antivirus, JKDefrag, the Cisco VPN, our university drive mapping utilities, XnView and Picasa. It runs all of them OK, not blazing fast or anything but not objectionably slow either.

Some irritations: it’s too easy to accidentally brush the trackpad and misplace your cursor; I sure would like an option to auto-disable it when an external mouse is plugged in. The fan runs all the time, though there may be a bios setting for that.  You might want to get a shorter cord for the tiny power adapter. Is it a substitute for a Thinkpad X-301?  Well no, but at something like one-eighth the price, I can live with that.

Categories: Geeky, hardware

Open Office saves the day

March 16, 2009 5 comments

Y’know, jump drives aren’t totally reliable.  Their little bits go bad sometimes and the document you were working on becomes corrupted.*  This happened to a professor today, and several hours of his work was at stake.

Trying to retrace your steps from memory on a complex document that you are producing under deadline is no fun at all, and we have all been there.  I quickly copied the document to the desktop and tried opening it again.  Nope, Microsoft Word 2007 wanted nothing to do with it, not even with the “Repair” and “Recover” functions.  I opened it in Notepad++ and recovered at least most of the text, but the formatting was gone.

But I had one other trick up my sleeve.  Copying it to a network drive, I went back downstairs to the desktop computer in my office and opened it up in the Open Office word processor.  Almost all of the formatting was intact. I saved it again with a new filename and a .doc extension and emailed it back to the professor.

Not that it would work every time, but it’s worth a try. 

* (A couple strategies here.  First, “Save As” multiple versions of your documents as you go, like this: Mar09report_ver1.doc, mar09report_ver2.doc, and so on.  If the document is really important, copy to more than one drive – perhaps a jump drive and a network drive.  If it’s really, really important, burn it on a CD and take it offsite.  Also, every once in a while, burn the contents of your jump drive to a DVD, check that the copy is good, then reformat your jump drive and copy your files back onto it.  Keep the DVD as a backup.  And don’t use a jump drive for more than a year or so.)

Categories: Geeky, Software

Do you prefer that bloggers respond to your comments?

March 1, 2009 10 comments

Alex at Blogging without a blog categorizes the different kind of blogger-responses to comments.  There’s the blogger who doesn’t allow comments, and bloggers who allow comments but seldom respond to them, and bloggers who make an effort to respond to every commenter.  With a few variations in-between.

I’ve always loved comments.  In school, I never cared what grade I got on a paper; what did the professor write?  And now that personal computers have been invented, an Internet and World Wide Web created, and blogging popularized, I have not changed.  I love it when people comment.

I’ve always regarded the comments’ section as “Your turn” and tried not to interject myself too much there.  But now that I think of it, I do enjoy the responses of other bloggers, and of other commenters, to my comments.  It’s what keeps me coming back to a thread.  When you leave comments on a blog, what is your preference?

(H/T Coturnix)

Categories: Blogging, Geeky

Changing of the (handheld devices) guard

February 16, 2009 9 comments

When designing a web page, it used to be necessary to have a separate style sheet to accommodate handheld devices.  Usually this was called handheld.css and linked in the header.  I’m just wondering; is that really necessary anymore?  New handheld devices like the iPhone seem to render web pages from the same .css file that any other browser uses. 

Categories: Design, Geeky