Never let it be said


Never let it be said that I’m not open minded. I’m giving Linux yet another chance. I picked up a Gigabyte dual-CPU motherboard last weekend from Directron, and before I set it up as my new web/sql server, I figured I’d throw Mandrake 9 on there and see how she works. The hardware is pretty straightforward (dual-P3, Geforce2 Pro video card, Intel dual-port network card, US Robotics modem) and already worked with the default install CD’s for Win2k Server and .Net Web Server Edition, so I’ll see how Linux handles it.

A bit of history – over the years, I’ve tried Linux at least ten times, and I’ve never had a distro work with the devices in my systems. I don’t use esoteric gear, but it’s always been a struggle. My last effort was about six months ago, when I tried to get Red Hat 7 on my Thinkpad T21. No matter what, I couldn’t get my wireless network card or the integrated 10/100 card to work. People suggested I recompile the kernel to get those to work. Riiiight.

I got tempted this time because I was surfing through SourceForge looking at groupware tools for a work project, and realized that there was some stuff on there that could easily replace Exchange for my home use. One thought led to another, and I decided that I could make the jump and convert my web pages and mail system over to Linux fairly easily. I’d have to rewrite a few things like this database-driven blog, but since Dreamweaver MX has PHP support built in, it just might not be that bad.

I still wouldn’t switch to Linux on the desktop yet – I’ll still use VMware for that. I’d actually rather switch to Mac OS X on the desktop before I switched to Linux.

I love it when a

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I love it when a plan comes together. My favorite Houston computer shop, Directron has Saturday clearance sales periodically, and I always go just to check out the goodies. Every time, I find something cheap and neat to play with, and yesterday’s sale was certainly no exception. They offer an assortment of open-box motherboards for $40, among which I found a few really good boards. I scored a Gigabyte dual-P3 motherboard that’s perfect for my home server upgrade. The web site you’re looking at is currently hosted by an old P3-800 BX motherboard (in my home office closet, no less) and soon the Gigabyte board will take its place with a pair of P3-800’s. Not like you care, but it’s fun for me, anyway.

Polished off a couple of reviews for Epinions, a great online resource for end user reviews on just about everything on the planet. Posted my thoughts on my new Motorola T720 phone (junk) and Erika’s Jetta (awesome). In case you’ve ever wondered how Epinions’ business model works, the review writers basically get paid $.01 for every person who rates their review as helpful. I don’t do it for the money, that’s for sure, but just to give something back to the site that has helped me with quite a few purchase decisions.

And yesterday, finally, Erika and I found the perfect coffee table, as pictured here, at Bombay Company in the Houston Galleria, on sale for $200. What a no-brainer. Then we haul it home and unpack the box only to find out it’d been returned before, and it was all scratched up. Had to order another one. Worth the wait, though, because we’ve been searching for a coffee table for so long.

Almost done with the car


Almost done with the car computer again. I was halfway through building my own little control panel for the driver’s side door pocket when I gave up. In Erika’s words, it would look ghetto, so I bought a $100 programmable keypad from Fry’s. It just so happens that their X-Keys Desktop model exactly fits my center console, which makes it look – well, a lot less ghetto. Hopefully I’ll have this project finished off tomorrow. At least, first-draft-finished. I can already see that this will be a lifelong project: I’m dreaming about putting an LCD display in the overhead console.

Drove past Mercedes-Benz of Houston Greenway this morning in my weekend ritual of self-motivation. I like walking through their used car lot and daydreaming. They’ve always got millions of dollars worth of cool toys, and this weekend was no different: a Ferrari F355 convertible, a black Hummer H2 (with a horrible orange-peel paint job) and plenty of other things I can’t afford. Maybe someday….

I bought my first pantyhose


I bought my first pantyhose yesterday. I’ve been trying to figure out why nobody sells the right filter refills for my Fluval 404 aquarium filter, which has been doing a bang-up job of removing turtle poop. Yesterday, a nice Petco staffer told me why: everybody buys women’s pantyhose, cuts it up into bags, and uses that to hold the filtering media of their choice. That way, you can choose exactly the right amount of charcoal/ammonia-remover/biomax/whatever, for your given tank size & fish/turtles. So yesterday I found myself in the checkout line at Eckerd’s with two pairs of pantyhose in my hand, explaining to the cashier that it was for my aquarium. She didn’t believe me.

And yeah, my Comets got smacked down in the first round of playoffs again for the second year in a row. I’m trying not to think about that.

Almost there… Got my car


Almost there… Got my car computer almost ready to install. I need to do the wiring inside the car, and then I’m set. I ended up scoring a D-Link DWL-520 wireless ethernet card for $40 at Microcenter, which was a heck of a bargain. Hadn’t expected to put one in for the first draft, because they usually cost twice that. At that low price, though, I couldn’t refuse. Now I’m writing Winbatch software to automatically fetch my mail whenever I drive near a publicly accessible 802.11b network, like the ones in Starbucks or – well, at my house. That’s all for today, though: I didn’t sleep worth a rip last night, and I haven’t been able to get sleep all day. Going to go give it another shot.

Finally getting around to building


Finally getting around to building my car computer. I’ve always wanted a computer in my trunk to house my MP3 collection, check my email when I’m in range of a wireless network, check traffic maps, and so on. I’ve been futzing around with this for months, off and on, accumulating little pieces of gear. I finally took the plunge this week and bought the remaining pieces, and I plan to get the first draft done for my next HAL-PC column, due mid-month. You can get a sneak peek at it here, but it’s got a long way to go.

Out like a light. Both


Out like a light. Both Erika and I were away from Houston for a few days, and my web server decided it’d like a vacation too. All my sites went down for a couple of days, which is always fun when you’re on the road trying to check email. Joy. At first, I didn’t know if the power was out at home, and it took me a few hours to realize I could check by calling my answering machine. Whew, there was power. As long as my poor turtles aren’t suffering with cold water, everything else can be fixed!

Two is better than one,

SQL Server

Two is better than one, especially when it comes to CPU’s. I’m now running a dual-P3 1ghz machine for my main desktop. I got frustrated with my slow frame rates on Grand Theft Auto III, so I went out to Directron and picked up a Gigabyte GA-6VTXD motherboard and two processors. Originally I got 1.2ghz ones, but it turns out those don’t work in multiprocessor systems. Took me two hours to track that helpful little piece of information down. Things are running great now, though. I can play GTA3 and still leave my webcam, mail checker, Trillian, and other programs running.

As usual, the folks at Directron were helpful, friendly, and above all, knowledgable. I just wish they were open on Saturdays more often, because I’d give them more business. Take today, for example – I’m heading off to the store again today, though. The refurb printer I got a few months back bit the dust a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been driving me crazy not having a printer. I’d buy one from Directron, but they’re closed on Sundays, so I’m heading over to Fry’s.

My second article for HAL-PC

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My second article for HAL-PC Magazine just hit the stands (well, okay, mailboxes) and I’m tickled pink. Their site is always one month behind, but at least you non-Houston people can now see my first column in the June issue. The HTML version has totally screwed up paragraph breaks – every bold sentence starts a new paragraph in the printed version. I guess I’d rather have the HTML version screwy than the printed version!

I’ve had a great time corresponding via e-mail with everyone who’s sent in questions about laptop purchases. I’ll need to take some time to add follow-up info to this site with some additional info, like where to find refurbished laptops.

Always humbling when somebody points


Always humbling when somebody points out an error in your web site code. Just got an email from the author of my favorite server monitoring tool saying that he was getting a Javascript error. I had some code left in there from my old version of the site, and kept forgetting to rip it out. Ahhh, much better.

An old college friend of mine, TJ, is coming into town tonight to visit his folks for the weekend. We’ll probably head out and see Men In Black II. If you haven’t seen About A Boy yet, you should – it’s one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a while. Yeah, I know, it looks like a chick flick, but believe me, it’s got something for everyone. Hugh Grant plays exactly the kind of guy we all think he actually is in real life. The Bourne Identity was great too.

Sometimes, Microsoft just rocks. I’ve


Sometimes, Microsoft just rocks. I’ve got a home server running Windows 2000 and I’m using IntelliMirror. I have a laptop and a desktop, and whichever one I log in on, I have the same settings, favorites, documents, everything. My stuff is always backed up on three machines. At times like last night, that is priceless – I needed to reinstall my desktop, and the whole thing was done in less than four hours. All of my settings, documents, favorites, everything all immediately showed up as soon as I logged in the first time on the newly installed desktop. Talk about a timesaver. Go, Bill! I might even forgive ya for Windows ME.

My little boys are growing.


My little boys are growing. Frank & Fred, my two turtles, are coming up on a year old this month, and they’re still growing like weeds. I just got done cleaning their aquarium and decided to raise the water level again.

Red-eared sliders live mostly underwater, so it’s important to keep the water clean. Even with a filter, I have to change the water every five days. Every couple/few months, I’ve been putting more water in it and adjusting their basking patio up so that they get more water to swim in. I’ve got a 20-gallon long aquarium, and as of today, it’s about 2/3 full and they can still easily stand on their hind legs and breathe at the surface. Time to start planning the pond I want to build them.

Coding, coding, coding… I did


Coding, coding, coding… I did a bunch of work on my class reunion site so that people could upload their own photos and some other stuff, and that took a lot out of me. Then I decided to write my own forum software as my first serious project with ASP.NET & Visual Basic. I started programming ASP (Active Server Pages) with VBscript a few years back, and I’m amazed at how much I knew in ASP that I have to relearn in ASP.NET. I’m glad I forced myself to do it, because it’s the only way I’d have learned.

Anyway, now that I’ve spent probably 30 hours on it, got it coded and online, I’m totally getting a case of feature-envy. There’s so many things you can add to online forums – everything from email notification, cute icons, HTML filtering – that it’s hard to know where to stop. I’m really tempted to just go grab something like PopForums and be done with it. We’ll see.

Anyway, now it’s time to go see my Houston Comets beat up on the Sacramento Monarchs. If you’ve got ESPN2, you can watch the game, and you’ll see me behind the Comets bench, about three or four rows up. I’ll have a blue shirt on.

OK, now that was bizarre.

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OK, now that was bizarre. I was goofing around with my new combo cell phone/pda, setting it up, and somehow I goofed up the settings on my web cam. For the past 12 hours or so, it’s been capturing images from my TV card. People pulling up my webcam were seeing Fox26 here in Houston. That’s actually pretty darned cool – I guess I could set this thing up to take screen shots of CNN or something if I want some privacy. Neato.

Anyway, that’s not even why I called you here today, ladies and gentlemen. Back to the phone – I got a used Kyocera 6035 for $75, which sure beats the $400 I didn’t really want to spend on a new Handspring Treo. I travel a lot, and I wanted the ability to send & receive emails from anywhere without hassling with laptops or cell phone “keyboards”. This is a Palm PDA, so it has handwriting recognition, and I gotta say it’s cool so far. It browses the web, too, but since it’s only connected at 14.4, that’s nothing to get excited about. I’ll do a full review soon in my Buying Time section.

No computer upgrade is complete


No computer upgrade is complete without a little blood loss. My desktop started locking up randomly today, and I realized I was using a power supply with a questionable history from Erika’s old computer. I had to make yet another run out for computer gear, this time blowing $50 on a new Antec power supply.

When testing it, I inadvertently stuck my finger in the running CPU fan, and chopped off a hunk of skin. Good fan. Moves quick. Thumbs up from me. Anyway, it’s been running for nearly an hour now, so that’s a Good Thing.

I put off going out until the end of the Indy 500, and man am I glad. That was easily the best finish I’ve ever seen, with Helio rolling to the finish with barely enough fuel to make the victory lap. My dad took me to Indy several times, and it’s the only racing event I love to watch.

My vacation memories: Frys. I’ve


My vacation memories: Frys. I’ve made half a dozen trips to Frys this week grabbing various little bits and pieces. My home server (which serves the web site you’re looking at) was powered by a clapped-out Celeron 400, which has been replaced with a hand-me-down 800 from my desktop. I bought a new 1.3ghz cpu for my desktop, but it turns out my motherboard won’t take higher than a 1ghz. More trips to Frys, and now I’ve got a P3-933 in my desktop, and more fans for my home server. (It uses SCSI drives, and it’s been getting way too hot.)

I can’t say enough good things about the folks in the CPU department at Frys. I asked for the quietest CPU cooler they had, and the woman knew exactly where to find it. These people are always on top of things.

Web site updates coming right


Web site updates coming right along… Well, I took the day off to get away from the computer a while, and I realized I hadn’t published a lot of the changes I’d made over the last few days. The site is in dot-Net now, and yesterday I scanned some new photos and set up a page about my turtles, Frank and Fred.

More upcoming changes are in the works: the blog really isn’t up to speed yet, and I’ve gotta finish the discussion areas and my column archives. I’ll also have a login setup so that you can get emails whenever I publish a new blog.

On a personal level, I’ve got a horrible headache today. Dunno what’s going on there, but it’s been persisting for the last couple of days. Probably a brain tumor. These might be my last words. Egads.

Here we go! I’m in


Here we go! I’m in the process of converting the site from plain old ASP to dot-Net. I figured while I was at it, I’d give the site a bunch of new functionality. Here, for example, is my new database-driven blog.

The changes are being driven by two things: I was dying to play with the new Dreamweaver MX, and my site’s probably going to start getting more hits now that I’ve got a column in HAL-PC magazine. I wanted to have a discussion area for the columns, so that people could ask questions and contribute ideas for upcoming columns. Anyway, here we go!