Venus Transit

Mercury TransitA particularly rare astronomical event – the transit of Venus across the solar disk – will occur on June 8 or about sixteen hours from the time of this posting. Unfortunately (for me) it will not be visible from the western United States, so I won’t get a chance to observe it, but it should be visible from large portions of Europe and the Middle East. If you are lucky enough to be under its shadow, check out this site or this one for information and viewing instructions. I haven’t found any live webcams yet for this event, but when I do I’ll try to post an update below.

The image to the right is a time lapse I did of the November, 1999 transit of Mercury. The entire transit took roughly 45 minutes, and I cut frames from a simple video I did to show it working accross the solar disk. It’s crude, but it works. The Venus transit should take roughly six hours, and Venus will appear significantly larger than tiny Mercury. If you can, get out and observe, but observe with all necessary precautions to your eyesight. You’ll want to use those eyes again, I’m sure.

Fedora Core, or can a FreeBSD fan find Linux Nirvana?

FedoraI’ve been a FreeBSD user since the days of FreeBSD I cut my teeth old older BSD systems, and the desire to have a similar system for my home machine made it the obvious choice. I also prefer the ideology of the BSD licensing scheme more than the GPL, but that’s a different rant.

Still, I haven’t installed any different operating systems lately, and I’ve been intrigued by the possibility of running MythTV, so I decided to install RedHat on my old FV24 box. This box hasn’t been powered on since I got my Mini-ITX system going, so I booted it up, checked to make sure that nothing valuable was installed on it (there wasn’t), and then set off to download the RedHat distribution.

Except that Redhat isn’t really Redhat anymore. The free version to download is now called Fedora Core. Hmmm. Things have changed a bit. I went ahead and downloaded the four CDs full of stuff (took less than two hours, courtesy of improved download speeds from Comcast) and booted.

I must admit: their installation is dead slick. I can install FreeBSD in my sleep, but Fedora is even easier. Just a couple of clicks to reformat my drive, a couple more to select the distribution, and voila, a nice desktop version of X installed and booting. I was shocked at how quickly it went. Easier than FreeBSD, easier than Windows, just plain easy.

I picked the Desktop profile, which installed relatively few servers (I am keeping FreeBSD for all that stuff anyway) but did include good stuff like Mozilla, OpenOffice, CD burners and players, and a bunch of games. They look great, they work, the menus are all wired up, and it was completely natural. Much kudos.

The only problem that I have isn’t really a fault of Fedora: it’s a problem with software licensing. They have chosen not to include items which have patents or other licensing problems hanging over them. This includes (somewhat tragically) mp3 decoders and the ever problematic DVD playing software like xine or mplayer. I need media players that work on my system, and it’s kind of annoying that further works needs to be done to get them. I don’t blame Fedora/Redhat, that’s just another annoyance of software patents.

Luckily, I stumbled accross this discussion of things a new Fedora user should do to customize his system right after install. I’ll let you know how it goes tonight when I can give it a try.

Overall though, Fedora seems very nice, at least at the 24 hour point. I’ll have to try it some more. My plans to make a MythTV receiver are on temporary hold though, I don’t have an extra video capture card at the moment (perhaps an Hauppauge PVR-350 is in my future, it would be nice to have a card with real MPEG2 encoding). Till then, I obviously need to gain some more Linux experience, and my little Shuttle cube should be a good way to experiment with it.

On Watching Weight and Weight Watchers…

I have been attending Weight Watchers since early January, and have had good results (over 36 lbs lost as of my weigh in on June 6). If you are having difficulty getting started on your weight loss goals, I recommend them as a sane, safe and reasonably effective way to get jump started. It’s definitely easier to get started when you have somebody independent who is going to be monitoring your progress.

But in a way I think it is kind of childish for me to need this kind of independent auditing. Continue reading “On Watching Weight and Weight Watchers…”