Pat's Log
Mon, 31 May 2004

A Fine Weekend
20040530 The weekend started out with a thorough analysis of what's wrong with the car. Turns out that the bolt that held the suspension's lower arm to the stabilizer bar broke. Whenever a bump was hit, the remainder of the bolt would grind at the wheel support. The Mazda Parts store was closed over the weekend, but hopefully tomorrow I can pick up a replacement.

Then, last night, I went to see Shrek 2. Definitely funnier than the original, with lots of a adult humour cleverly written so that it's suitable for kids. The new protagonist cat, "Puss" is very well written and rendered. We went to see this at Silver City, and they had these really neat neons implanted into the ceiling. Well, anyway, they looked cool...

Today was dedicated to the balsa boat. It got its prop shaft, a coat of fibreglass for the deck, and a skeg. Looks very probable that it will be out on the water this week.

[] | posted @ 03:24 | link
Fri, 28 May 2004

Flowers in a Floppy Drive
20040527 Today's image is brought to you courtesy of whoever stuck flowers into the floppy drive of a public computer at Carleton University. I thought it was rather interesting looking.

Work was good. It felt reassuring when many co-workers thought my temporary graphics looked better than what we normally ship in a final product. Maybe I will inadvertently set some sort of design philosphy into motion for the next version?

In sadder news, something is seriously wrong with the car. Possibly the struts, possibly something more serious in the body's structure. The rear driver-side wheel is loose, and when going over a bump, something near the front of the car makes a grinding noise. Hopefully it is not as serious at it sounds... literally.

[] | posted @ 03:28 | link
Thu, 27 May 2004

No Photo Today
20040526 No interesting photos today. Instead, the camera that usually takes them.

I'm a little unsettled today. At work, a manager lashed out at me, yelling at me regarding productive use of my time. The thing is that it was not my manager. The other thing is that it felt personal somehow. And, of course, he had no grounds for doing so. I had created a new background graphic for the next version of our installer; very simple, a solid colour with some text and rounded corners. It is meant to be a temporary placeholder, in fact. It took less than 25 minutes to make and check into CVS around 1800 last night. So it was after work, it was done on my personal laptop, and was actually at the request of another manager. It left me feeling very angry that he would confront me about it. My manager is very supportive of all the little extra tidbits I do. Yet this incident had to happen after I was feeling motivated by having completed half of the week's items from my task list yesterday.

Humans being humans, the man did come back to me about 20 minutes later and apologized. I'm still unsettled about the incident. This sort of thing always makes me wonder how I will be at some point in my career. Lashing out is easy. Apologizing is not.

The season finale of Enterprise was tonight. It was a strong episode considering what is the norm for the series. Just as the end was approaching and I thought I had figured out the textbook climax, a twist was thrown in that made for a fantastic cliffhanger. An unexpected welcome surprise from this show.

[] | posted @ 03:59 | link
Wed, 26 May 2004

What a Productive Day
20040525 As expected, today was very productive. I've scratched almost half of the week's agenda from the list, and even formed a long term work plan. Most importantly, it was a fun time doing all this. This is the third version of Xandros I'm working on, and the second that is fully under my control until such a time it's considered alpha software. It's always fun to see what can and cannot be done with an operating system when one has full reign, until QA gets their hands on it and bugs have to be fought in a formal manner.

The scanner purchased for a dollar started working too, when the creator of the Viceo SANE Linux scanner driver sent a patch that works with kernel 2.6.x, using libusb instead of the previous kernel patch. With this patch, the scanner can only work at half-resolution (600dpi), but seems to have decent overall image quality. It's a shame that Viceo won't allow a GPL-licensed driver. Either way, the scanner remains a well-spent dollar.

[] | posted @ 03:48 | link
Tue, 25 May 2004

Rainy Day
20040524 The picture is of my bed covers airing out yesterday when it was sunny. The dragonfly must have thought it a good place to get a tan. It's difficult to get over how much detail four megapixels can catch, especially on intricate natural things like the wings of this insect.

Today we had heavy showers all day. I had hoped to get a lot of work done on my boat, but did very little. I constructed a new NiCad pack for the radio, but that's about it. The big boat is also out of commission as of last week, when the starboard prop shaft loosened from the hull. Maybe getting all the boat stuff done this weekend was too optimistic. Most of this boat is three years old and due for an overhaul. I'll have to take it slowly, carefully.

The album downloaded in the last entry is St. Matthaeus: Passion BVW244, by J. S. Bach. It is quite an album. This is the Leonhardt version. I've learned that in this recording he used classical methods only: key-less trumpets, hair strings, and a boys' choir for the chorus. This really sets this apart: the sound is almost surreal. It is comforting to see that the Musepack format is actually open-sourced. It does sound good, and I was worried for a while that it was not free.

The week at work is already looking busy, even though it has not started yet. The projects just lined up over the weekend. But, I got nearly 36 hours of sleep this weekend, so I'm ready for the challenge.

[] | posted @ 03:59 | link
Mon, 24 May 2004

Tulips and Musepack
20040523 Today, we went as a family to the Tulip Festival. The event is almost over, and most of the tulips had wilted by now. But there were still several varieties that looked fresh. The digicam in macro mode captured images with proper depth-of-field, and the colours look great: vibrant and exactly as in real life.

Upon downloading a few classical albums via BitTorrent, I'm quite annoyed that they're in a new format called "Musepack." This format is characterized by files with a "mpc" extension. Googling for a way to play these, all I got were message board comments like "mpc >> mp3," which was really quite useless. Eventually, I found the xmms-musepack plugin, and it seems to work, though it freezes the program at the end of every stream. I'm not generally in favour of new audio formats, even if they do sound better. Especially formats that pop out of nowhere.

[] | posted @ 03:33 | link
Sun, 23 May 2004

Wouldn't It Be Neat...
20040522 Weekends are good. I slept in till noon, and then didn't do much all day.

The Xandros building is a very interesting structure. While the building isn't in great condition, I find myself thinking "wouldn't it be neat if that 45-degree slope-of-a-roof could have a two storey tall Xandros logo?" So I gimped it up. And yes, it would be neat.

Spent most of the day working on a rudder for the little boat, watching some TV, playing some Vice City, cleaning the computer room, and I'm currently doing a big, much needed backup in the background.

[] | posted @ 02:02 | link
Sat, 22 May 2004

Long Weekend Approaching
20040521 Work went smoothly today. I wasn't able to solve the problem as had been hoped, but nothing new blew up in my face. I biked in, and though it was a little cool in the morning, the way back was an awesome 18 degrees... perfect biking weather.

Victoria Day is Monday, meaning that it's a long weekend. I have plans to make one of my hulls into a boat. Over the winter break, I managed to make a propeller shaft for it, now it needs a motor, coupling, rudder, rudder servo, speed control, and radio unit. All the parts are here, so I should be able to make it waterworthy. The motor mount was made tonight, and it ended up being the perfect height, angle, and alignment. Being a Speed 400, the diameter of the motor is about 3cm, for scale.

This week, I started playing Vice City all over again. Although I finished the game to 100% last summer, I thought it might be nice to go through the missions again. I am constantly amazed by how interactive the environment in the game is. It's simply one of those virtual worlds I cannot get tired of!

[] | posted @ 02:43 | link
Fri, 21 May 2004

PearPC and Camera Breakage
20040520 Over the last few days, I have managed to get PearPC running somewhat decently on an AMD64 machine at work. It is still very much choppy, but it seems that the processing speed is decently fast. The screen updates are set in the config file to a constant 200ms, so it is no surprise it is unsmooth. But I'm told some things execute marginally faster than on a first-generation 300MHz iBook. Not bad for a program that has to do byte swapping and native instruction translation.

The kind of success that PearPC has achieved is exactly what the goal of the first open-source project I was involved with, vMac, was. Long before the times of SourceForge, our project could execute at over half of the speed of a Mac Plus when executing on a Pentium 200 or so. The difficulty was always in the fact that old MacOS relied very heavily on its ROM, as large as 4 megabytes on late m68Ks and early PPCs. There was always much legal debate surrounding the issue as well. I am glad to see that PearPC and MacOSX apparently do not have to rely on this.

At some point, it may be worth trying PPC Linux on this emulator, but for now it is an old dream come true seeing a 'late model' MacOS running under non-Apple hardware. With time, it will only become more optimized. The other possibility is a cease-and-desist letter from Apple; hopefully the former.

In other news, the backlight on the new camera flickered and died last night. The store happily replaced the unit. The symptoms were that when the lens retracted, it hit the screen from behind producing an effect much like pressing on an LCD with a finger. Suspicions aside, it is nice to see the new one not doing so. This Casio QV-R40 is certainly a good unit.

[] | posted @ 03:32 | link
Thu, 20 May 2004

20040519 Today's log entry is about resolution. First, I am deeply impressed with the night shots the new digicam takes. The attached image of my cell phone was taken in complete darkness, yet it is sharp, crisp, and the colours are extremely vibrant, while the noise on the black is minimal or even non-existent. I really like the way it burns in. More images to come.

The second resolution is relates to problem solving or conflict. At work, several things that affect me directly have changed over the last several months. The changes were definitely in good faith, but they were implemented quickly to meet deadlines, without much thought of the process as a whole. In other words, the solution was half-way. Initial talks with the person responsible for the changes to remedy the situation proved fruitless. Over the last several days, I have brainstormed the root of the problem. The weak link between the two (independently fabulous) incompatible systems that were hacked together was identified. This allowed for a solution to be made that could be implemented in a matter of hours, using proven open source tools instead of proprietary formats, and which is considerably faster and very much simpler. All the changes are nearly implemented, and it looks like the system as a whole will benefit. All in a good day's work.

[] | posted @ 03:42 | link
Mon, 17 May 2004

Two New Toys!
20040516 After seeing Markus' fantastic pictures from Italy, I decided I needed a camera just like his. It also happened to be on sale, as was SD memory. So, I got the camera, with 256 megs of memory, and a decent carrying case. This camera does very fast auto-adjustment, has excellent light-shadow balance, an amazing live histogram, blazing-fast card access, a very cool calendar view displaying the pictures taken on it, and a very well designed menu system. I like it. I like it a lot.

Seeing as one toy is not enough, I also purchased a CD player for the car. This unit handles MP3s as well, and I cannot believe how good it sounds. I was under the impression that the speaker system in the car was sub-optimal, but a decently powerful amplifier with a decent equalizer proved me wrong. Now I have but one question: what's with the remote?

So, yeah... It takes only 700 bucks to make me happy.

[] | posted @ 03:35 | link
Sun, 16 May 2004

Two Strange Screws
20040515 This work week went by fast. Markus returned from his fantastic trip to Italy. He has a really nice new Casio 4MP digital camera. I may consider purchasing one myself. We sat on the deck and drank Guinness. Last night's weather was fantastic, and reminds me of this image of the powerlines behind my house, even though the photograph is a year old.

Today, I decided it would be good to tackle the case of the leaky car. Since water leaks in at a place that I cannot pinpoint, the plan was to add silicone to the bottom of the windshield edge. While removing the retaining bracket, two of the six 6mm screws decapitated. One took an hour to remove, by drilling through it and extracting it. It was made of some very soft steel, seemingly softer than the last brass I worked with. It is no surprise it broke. The other, however, was made of the strangest, hardest steel, and proved impossible to drill through. Yet the screws should have been identical. Had to create a new screw hole next to this stubborn one.

Finally, a diagnosis of the toasted CD player revealed that it suffered the same fate as the previous one: the drive motor still works with 6V applied, but it refuses to spin disks on its own. For now, the old OEM radio/tape box was put back in. CD/MP3 players are mostly around 200 dollars now, and they look to be good units.

[] | posted @ 03:56 | link
Thu, 13 May 2004

Gnome vs. KDE Re-ignited.
Biked into work today, the weather was perfect for that. Did some stuff, then biked home. Simple?

The Gnome vs. KDE flamewar was re-ignited today with a rather inflammatory article about Gnome. When I read it, I actually laughed. It was funny how silly it was. The best slashdot comment: "Whiskey tango foxtrot over?"

Incidentally, tomorrow is my Gnome presentation at work. Most co-workers have read the article, so it will be fun pointing out how wrong it is.

Still very disappointed with how yesterday's planning meeting went.

[] | posted @ 03:57 | link
Wed, 12 May 2004

A Craptacular Week.
This week has been nothing but unpleasantness so far. Yes, the motion to approve the plan got passed. I don't know how, but it did, and it blows. The lands to the north of the pond are so critical to everyone living here. Serious flaws in the plan have been pointed out. The plan is clearly not viable or even sane at this point. What was hoped to be a three hour meeting turned out being a shocking ten hours... I was out of City Hall at 1930.

On Saturday, while driving back home, the all-too-familiar smell of burning circuitry caught my attention. Then puffs of smoke started coming out from around the edges of the CD player. Looks like a new unit is in order.

Hopefully the week gets better from now on.

[] | posted @ 03:55 | link
Tue, 11 May 2004

"Tomorrow I Dread."
20040510 Tomorrow shall be a dark day. At 0930, I will attend a meeting at Ottawa City Hall with City Planning. The likelihood is extremely high that the magnificent forest to the North of my house will be destroyed in short order. The attached map shows the location of my house (outlined in magenta) and the destruction that will occur (yellow). More information and a better copy of the map are here. I want to speak up but cannot think of anything that will help.

In other news, still signing all the OCLUG keys I picked up last week, and work is very busy. More on that later. I'm too glum right now.

[] | posted @ 03:57 | link
Fri, 07 May 2004

Sleepy == Productive?
Today I didn't go to sleep until very late (early?), and as a consequence, I had a really hard time waking up. However, the day was very productive. Perhaps in addition to stress, I need to be exhausted to get anything done?

I am doing a Gnome 2.6 demo at work next Thursday. Why do a Gnome demo at a KDE kompany? I believe it may affect the design of the proprietary components for the better. The latest KDE seems to have an additional five menu items appended to each already-convoluted menu. Assuming this trend continues, this is why it is important to influence KDE with Gnome design. I was once told: "Never turn up an opportunity to speak." This presentation is an opportunity to speak.

[] | posted @ 03:26 | link
Tue, 04 May 2004

Save The Trees
20040503 Work was good. Very productive. Some interesting new co-op students. Hopefully the week continues as it was today.

I did some work on the big r/c boat, pictured. Basically, that crossbar between the two shaft extensions that I made over the weekend, and the bracket to hold it down. With the shaft extensions, the whole thing runs quite a bit smoother. I get to play with it tomorrow evening at the pond.

In sadder news, in the mail came a 68 page report regarding the future of all the wooded areas around this house. The woods are beautiful, fairly unique, and generally important to the people and animals who live around here. For many, they were the reason to live here in the first place. Now, a developer is determined to take all that away, and install 3248 "dwelling units." This is wrong. Besides the fact that it is illogical, based on the lack of roads and the frequent brownouts the area experiences, an integral part of the community will be blown away; countless people use the forest daily for a plethora of activities. Last year, the developer accidentally cut down a large area (about 500m2) that they were not supposed to, and they got away with no punishment. In my opinion, they should now not be allowed to develop any of the wooded area. Considering all the surrounding better-suited areas for development, it feels disgusting that the woods are even being considered.

[] | posted @ 03:30 | link
Sat, 01 May 2004

Beautiful Day
I am writing this from the top of the play structure behind my house. King of the castle. And I'm listening to "U2 - Beautiful Day" because it absolutely is. The signal strength is surprisingly good here.

Today, I bought a CD with all the good pieces from Wagner's The Ring. Good listening. Also got a haircut and a few cans of Guinness. The weather is supposed to be worse tomorrow, so I'm making the most of it!

Last night I made some updates to the style sheet on this log site, as well as adding a history bar.

[] | posted @ 22:18 | link

New Toy!
20040430 The new toy is a 3.5" 160GB PATA Maxtor hard drive, inside of a new brushed aluminum USB2 enclosure. The photo does not say much. The enclosure is hardly larger than the drive itself. This USB2 stuff is decently fast too... rsync-ing my MP3 collection was relatively fast:

wrote 3720589301 bytes read 13860 bytes 12464332.20 bytes/sec total size is 3720080570 speedup is 1.00

In other news, first day of work was nice, though I am currently overwhelmed by the summer-long project. Also, ordering power supplies from Nortel is surprisingly difficult.

May tomorrow!

[] | posted @ 01:07 | link

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