Archives » November, 2002

November 29, 2002

All week without writing?

All week without writing? My discipline is slipping, fast. And you’d think taking the week off of work would give me more time to be on the computer and write. I guess not, especially when my job consists mainly of starting at a computer screen and trying to think of something to do. Where a week at home consists of spending time with the family, watching TV, and working on the yard. Not much computer time in that equation! Of course, sleeping until noon doesn’t help either.

Two and a half days left….

November 25, 2002

Fence Me In

There’s a new fence on the Schrantz compound, courtesy of a day’s work by me. The real tragedy here is that I took all week off from work to have a “vacation”, and then I spend my days building fences. By choice. Sad, sad.

And yes, our backyard really is that ugly. Don’t cry for me, I’m already dead.

Who would’a thunk it?

From the “I never thought I’d see it” files come this picture. I was cruising through downtown Carson City, when I saw an anti-war demonstration! Right here in fag-hatin’, gun-totin’, Bush-votin’ Nevada. And right on the steps of the State Senate, no less! I thought I was the last lib’rul left in the state, but now it seems there’s at least three or four others.

For a minute I thought I might have driven too far and ended up in San Fransisco or Berkeley (which is the root of all liberalism, according to the local Letters to the Editor page). But no, I was still at home, and I realized that the country really is evenly split, moreso than some people would like to admit.

November 24, 2002

Now that’s what a burger’s all about

The closest In-N-Out Burger is a two hour drive from our house. Yesterday we went there, and it was worth every mile. Once a Californian, always a Californian, I guess.

November 22, 2002

XML for the rest of us

XML for the rest of us outlines Microsoft’s plans to move the next version of its Office suite over to an XML-based format. This could definitely be a good thing, depending on how complex their XML gets, since it would do away with a lot of the “Convert Word to HTML” nonsense that we have to go through nowadays. Just run your file through a simple XSLT transformation, and there you go! Theoretically…

November 20, 2002

As if we need another CSS hack

Now there’s a way to hide styles from OmniWeb.

Fun With Lindows

Last week I ordered a new computer for work, and it arrived today. It’s nothing special, just a little junker from Wintergreen (Their motto: “We put the ‘cheap’ in ‘cheap ass computers’!”)

The real news, though, is not the new computer I bought, but the fact that it came pre-installed with Lindows. Yes, I’ve been such a busy little OS beaver lately that I had to go out and buy a Lindows box too. My five-minute first impression? Eh. It’s stuck halfway between Windows and “Real Linux”; based on KDE but heavily customized to have My Documents, Control Panel, and a built-in Samba client for connecting to Windows shares. And it really did integrate itself into my Windows network. Then again, I’m sure I could get RedHat to do that.

More later.

Fun With Windows

Windows XP is sitting there, taunting me. With all the lip service I paid to Linux yesterday, I’m still a Windows guy. I may play around with Linux systems, but when it comes down to getting some real work done, Windows it is. That’s where I feel most at home. And, like a lot of people, I’m sure, I’m still using Windows 98. I know it’s getting old and hairy, but 2000 takes too many steps backwards from 98’s ease-of-use. And then there’s XP. Poor, bittersweet XP. The melding of 98 and NT that was so eagerly anticipated while it was still in its Whistler phase. I like XP. I’ve worked on a couple of computers that had it, and I have a 120-day trial CD that I was running this summer. Of course, the 120-day trial really turned out to be 14 days because of Product Activation. And that’s where the love-hate dynamic goes sour. That’s the reason that I’ll probably never actually fork any cash over to Microsoft for their latest and greatest, because of Product Activation.

I’m not worried about Activation because I want to steal copies of Windows. I’m worried about it because you need to reactivate every time your hardware configuration changes too much. And if you look at the normal lifespan of a computer at my company, you’ll see that I’d be on the phone to Microsoft more than with my wife. I’m a one-man IT department, just me in my basement with a couple of screwdrivers and a fleet of beige boxes. I buy new computers for the company at the rate of about one a month. The new computers always go to the people who need them the most — engineers, drafters, graphic arts. And I try to make the transition to a new computer as smooth as possible; when someone gets a new computer, I take the hard drive out of the old one and install it in the new one. So, as far as they’re concerned, it’s the same workspace the same copy of Windows, just with a different engine. They don’t have to waste billable hours putting all their settings and preferences back just the way they like them. In the world of Windows XP, though, that computer would require a call to Microsoft to reactivate.

The old computers that I replace are still pretty fast, top-tier material. So I follow the trickle-down theory of computer upgrades, and I look for someone in the middle tier who could be bumped up: they get the faster computer. Again with the hard drive swap. Again with the Activation. Total calls to MS: 2

Then there’s always the bottom tier. Believe it or not, my company still has quite a number of computers running at 233MHz. So, I take that old middle tier box and bump someone up. And run to the phone. At this point, if I was running XP, I’ve now had to call Microsoft three times to reactivate those three computers. And remember, this happens once a month. 36 times a year. Three dozen calls to Redmond, just because I’m trying to drag my company in to the 21st century. They can go to Hell if they want me to live that kind of pain.

Those two weeks with XP were a lot of fun; there are so many things I have to fight with in 98 that XP makes effortless. If he wasn’t screwing me over, BillG would have my money right now.

November 19, 2002

Fun with Linux

It’s not so much leaping in, as it is sticking a toe in and saying, “That’s not so bad. Just get used to that, and in a few hours we’ll go up to the ankle.” That’s how I’m describing my slow experimentations with Linux. Every so often I’ll take a dusty computer and pop a RedHat CD into it. I’ll play around for a bit, then forget all about it and put the computer away. This year, though, I’ve been doing it more frequently, and this week especially has been full of activity. I’ve been pushing my T1 line to the limit by downloading RedHat 8.0 (1.9GB…Disc 3 is coming down right now). I’ve been playing around with it, and I’m finally quite impressed with the Gnome package RedHat has put together.

The times I used RH7, it wasn’t that impressive. It came with Netscape 4, for one thing, and I spent hours trying to learn exactly how to download and install Mozilla. And then it seemed like there weren’t too many tools that came with it. Everything could be downloaded, of course, but that took more time. And then I’d wipe everything clean and pop the CD in again, and I’d have to start from scratch.

RH8 has improved that a lot. It comes with Mozilla, it comes with Ximian for e-mail and Gaim for instant messaging. There’s been a lot added to the main menu, especially in the way of configuration ulitites, which is a big help to someone who is used to the Windows Control Panel. Someone like me. And the whole look is just snappier than RH7. It runs like a dog on my 200MHz PC, and it’s not quite as peppy as RH7, but I know whose fault that is.

My next job is to dig into the guts of the beast and learn about Apache and PHP, FTP, all those scary things that need the command line to run just right. And at the pace I’m going, in another 15 or 20 years I might just be able to dump Windows all together!

November 18, 2002


I wake up bleary-eyed on a Monday, and first thing I find an interview with Steve Krug. Cool.