Hardware Mysteries Resolving…

Demon Machine Exorcised!Underneath my relentless attention, I believe I’ve figured out one of the problems with my SV24 computer that I complained about earlier. I complained that something appeared to be shorting out. Closer thought told me that it sounded like the same sound the computer makes when the reset button is pushed. Worth checking out, think I. 4 hex head screws later, and the front panel was off to reveal that indeed, the reset switch is narrowly installed in a small gap between the power supply and the case. Even closer inspection revealed a barely visible gap in the insulation. Ahah, think I. Some quick application of some tape, and reassemble, and… voila! No more problem.

I also took the opportunity to swap the DVD drive out for a different one, with no apparent change in my ability to install Fedora Core. I did notice however, that the DVD that I’ve been trying to install was a prerelease DVD. Now I’m downloading the real release version, in the hopes that some minor glitch in hardware compatibility occurred during the release process.

I’ll keep you all updated, wish me luck.

Millenium Post!

This post marks the 1000th entry in my weblog. Quite a milestone for me. I hope you all have found something useful or thought provoking in it. As an idea of what topics interest me the most, here is the list of the top 10 categories:

Category Name Count
Link of the Day 147
General 131
Audioblogs and Podcasting 115
Rants and Raves 87
My Projects 86
Toys and Gadgets 73
Science 56
Brainwagon Radio 52
New 52
Blogging 51
Intellectual Property 46

Okay, that’s really 11 topics, because most of the posts which ended up in General did so because I was too lazy to figure out a real category.

Gutenberg Gems: In Time of Emergency

Duck and CoverNeed to know what to do in the event of a nuclear attack? Well, given that it would most likely be a low yield dirty bomb, you probably won’t find any useful information In Time of Emergency, but heck, your tax dollars paid for it, you might as well have a peek. It also includes some basic first aid information as well as information about floods, tornadoes and other natural disasters, so it might actually be of some use.

Of course you can get the original Archer Productions movie Duck and Cover from archive.org.

Goodbye Speedy

Nerds name their fish after video gamesIt’s kind of a bummer day. Speedy, one of a pair of Betta Splendens that my wife and son bought for me over a year ago has gone to that great fishtank in the sky. I noticed that he wasn’t eating very much in the last few days, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected, but I still get bummed when I see one of these guys on the bottom of his tank.

His tankmate Pokey seems to be doing pretty well though. I’ll probably remove the divider in their tank and give him free reign.

As a tribute to Speedy, here’s a brief MPEG of both of them. Speedy is the one on the left, while Pokey is the angrier looking one on the right.

I named them after observing them in the first few days I had them, Speedy seemed quite fast, and Pokey quite slow. Ironically, once they were adjusted to their new environment, they seemed to reverse roles, and Pokey became the more active one. Their names of course are drawn from the classic arcade game PacMan, although they are also reminiscent of the stories my dad used to write for us when I was very little about Speedy the rabbit and Slowpoke the Turtle.

Another Librarian Who Doesn’t “Get It”

Oddly enough, I find myself agreeing with Dave on this matter: Gorman doesn’t have much respect for blogs or Google.

In my career, I’ve done a fair amount of library research. I’ve tried to find books related to esoteric topics by hunting through card catalogs, pouring over stacks and generally just browsing. It’s not a very efficient use of my time, and unfortunately it requires that I actually cart myself to the library. Yes, I know, many libraries now have online catalogs, but they do nothing to index content, and therefore they are only useful in telling me if they have a resource I already know about, not finding one that might be relevant to a given query I have.

Let’s accept for a moment Gorman’s basic premise: that Google is a terrible search engine that returns links in random order. Even if that were 100% true, his opposition to the digitization of millions of books by Google is absolutely and completely unfathomable. If there is one thing that is obvious, it’s that providing universal availability to the bulk of published works in existance can do nothing but increase the general level of education world wide. He says…

In the eyes of bloggers, my sin lay in suggesting that Google is OK at giving access to random bits of information but would be terrible at giving access to the recorded knowledge that is the substance of scholarly books. I went further and came up with the unoriginal idea that the thing to do with a scholarly book is to read it, preferably not on a screen. It turns out that the Blog People (or their subclass who are interested in computers and the glorification of information) have a fanatical belief in the transforming power of digitization and a consequent horror of, and contempt for, heretics who do not share that belief.

The problem with this idea is that doesn’t properly understand the economics of the situation. It’s glamorous to have nicely bound copies of books: I have thousands in my house. I love them dearly. I do find them more pleasant to read than text on the screen. But simple economics makes it impossible for most communities to have these warehouses of dead trees. Most libraries aren’t very interesting places to go, because they can’t afford to fill in the long tail of interest that humans being have. The big ones are expensive monuments: useful, prestigious but not within the reach of the vast masses who crave for information and education.

Gormon seems to want to justify his own existance by claiming that he’s the right professional to act as an intermediary between the knowledge that the world needs and the individuals who need it. Not only is he wrong in his particular case, he’s wrong in principle. The best of all possible worlds occurs when there are no intermediaries at all: when anyone can access whatever information they want whenever they want as cheaply as humanly possible. When we need the assistance of librarians and scholars, we will be able to find them on the internet as well, at least if they decide to come down out of their ivory tower and participate.

Slashdot? Slash not…

Dan Lyke is right: Slashdot has become a joke. It isn’t just the commentary. I expect that when you get 100 people to comment on something, you’ll get an awful lot of chaff to a small amount of wheat. The real problem is just their choice of articles: thinly veiled product announcements, endless incitement to the defense of Linux/Open Source, endless bashing of Copyright Laws (except of course when they defend Linux/Open Source) and warmed over rehashes of news which is reported more capably elsewhere.

I’m joining Dan in delisting Slashdot from my weblog’s sidebar. I don’t think I’ll be replacing it with Dan’s candidate though…

Argh, Debugging…

The Devil BoxWhat do you do when you have the flu? Well, I sit down and try to debug a computer system which has become unreliable. In particular, the little gem is the gadget pictured on the right, my old SV24 with an 850Mhz Celeron Processor in it. I’ve thought about turning it into a MythTV box, since it largely goes unused, and I’m vaguely nervous about the predicted death of Tivo.

So, what’s the problem. Well, I’ve had difficulty installing software on it. I put a DVD drive in it awhile back, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I burned Fedora Core 3 onto it, and verified that the disk would boot and check in another machine (Fedora nicely includes a checksum routine to verify disks during install), but it fails with hdc media errors in this box. Repeatedly. Predictably. I’ve tried changing every bios thing I can figure, disabling DMA, doing all sorts of stuff, no dice.

This morning I swapped the drive for an old 10x CDROM that I had lying around. For some reason it doesn’t want to boot at all from this device (powers up, but when the CDROM probe happens, no love). Grrr. Not happy.

Strangely enough, I think there might be something electrical which is wacky in the box. If I leave the case off, sometimes the machine refuses to boot at all, instead just making a series of short clicks as if the reset button were being pushed. What’s that about?

I really don’t want to retire this box needlessly, but I’m beginning to get a bit annoyed with it. Anyone have any ideas and/or expeirence which might be useful?

Flu is a bit better. I’ll probably try to work a half day today.