Friday Feb 13, 2009

Finally - Blogging from my iPhone

image662778023.jpg After several false starts with other blogging clients for the iPhone, I am having success. Sure, I still need to work out the nuances of this client versus what I use on my Palm T3, and the tools I use to make using the web interface easier, but I'm headed down that road. A couple of upcoming events have been nagging me to get something working, as my previous mobile blogging involved using Bluetooth tethering from T3 to my RAZR, and that won't work with my iPhone.

The first event is the Boston Science Fiction Marathon this Sunday. I enjoyed blogging about it last year, and my oldest son will be joining me this year, so I am looking foreward to it even more. 3 generations of my family will be in attendence, as well as some friends I hope.

The other event is my annual anniversary trip to Block Island in June with my wife. It's still too early to make lodging reservations, but I look forward to it every year, and want to be ready to blog when the mood strikes. I still don't think the Surf Hotel has been sold, which isn't surprising in these economic times. Who knows, I may actually be moved into my new home in >Mosaic Commons by then.

I'm also going to use this post as a test of iBlogger's photo capability, by including a pic of one of my cats watching President Obama's inauguration speech, as you saw at the beginning.

Sunday Dec 14, 2008

Shaving again

    As the title says, at long last I'm shaving again. I'm pretty distracted by the ongoing construction of Mosaic Commons, the new cohousing community we are moving to, and so more things slip through the cracks than usual. Oh, and being temporarily in an apartment until the new home is complete, with most of my stuff in storage, doesn't help.

    My usual state of facial hair these days is a full beard. It's been getting rather long and scruffy though, as I seem to have misplaced the AC adapter to my trimming razor. My failing memory tells me I did actually recharge the trimmer since being in this apartment, but I've searched everywhere that same memory thinks the AC adapter might be, and a few other spots, and I can't find it. Even when I am sure it must be in one of several spots I've already looked, and I look again. Must be gremlins.

    I do have other razors, but they are for a clean shaven face, which I have very little of, and their trimmers are poor. So I finally overcame my cheap nature and decided it was time to look decent again and get a new trimmer razor. A quick trip to Target to get a birthday present for one of my youngest son's friend's party, and I checked out the razors. Of course, they didn't have my model (Norelco G250), but I wasn't surprised as I had googled it and found few places listing it. There weren't many choices, so I went with the same manufacturer, Phillips/Norelco G370. It has a different system for trimming to a certain height, but what choice did I have. Being a cranky old yankee, when I don't want to change, I really don't want to change. Sigh.

    I didn't think of this when I bought the new razor, but once I got it home and opened the package, I realized that the AC adapter might fit my old one. And guess what, it does. Woot. Now I have 2 trimmer razors that wll be useless if I misplace the 1 AC adapter. :-) I decided to try the new razor, because it did seem like it might be a safer way to trim back my beard without overdoing it. I started at the highest level and level by level slowly trimmed the beard. And while it was kinda neat feeling all that chin hair, now that I'm back to my old length, I really prefer it, and it definitely looks neater.

    Next step? I want to see if the new razor works as well for maintenance trimming as it did for major trimming. Hmmm, with cold weather coming, and winter break at hand, maybe I should have left the beard until next year. Too late now. :-)

Wednesday Sep 03, 2008

Catching up

    I've got several posts rolling about in my head, but have been stuck in a blog specific kind of rut. I'm not convinced blog posts are the right medium for quick 1 or 2 sentence blurbs or pointers to some other content. I may change my mind, but I think that a blog post should have some new content, if only to add my opinion or thoughts on a subject someone else has covered in detail. So I get stuck sometimes thinking I need quality time to put together a post, even though I have plenty of opinions and thoughts. :-)

    Since I've been feeling somewhat productive today, I said, what the f time for a post no matter what. Here it is. I'm listening to a Bruce Springsteen station on Pandora, while my youngest plays Chip's Challenge on the home computer, with the sound way up. Fortunately for me, I am using a setup that came to me at the recent ASM/IW09 event. When I travel, I often take the opportunity to catch up on movies via Pay-per-View, but this time I had a room mate to be sensitive to. I happened to have brought with me an inexpensive FM transmitter which connects to a headphone jack, and transmits the head phone output over a frequency you select via digital display. Works great for when I want to listen to tapes in my car, which only has a CD/radio.

    In this case I thought, gee I could use it as a 'wireless' headphone, connecting it to the TV's headphone jack, which there was one, and my head phones to the radio/clock next to the bed. As it turns out, the radio/clock was designed to take an iPod or other MP3 player, but had no head phone jack. Darn. I haven't carried an FM receiver in years, as my past experience with them has been weak at best. Suddenly, the cheap FM radio my boys got once with a hair cut doesn't seem so useless anymore. I wasn't able to try my 'wireless' head phones idea then, but that's what I'm using now. Being the cheapy I am, I was in a Dollar store the other day and found a reasonably small FM receiver for $1. It even has a little LED flashlight built in. I now have a small, easy to carry and use wireless head phone setup.

    Another thing that has impacted my blogging is my move. As I have posted before (My new home takes shape, An old fashioned neighborhood, Blog Action Day - Environment), my family and I are moving to this wonderful community at Sawyer Hill Ecovillage, and in particular the Mosaic Commons cohousing community. While the first units are being finished up, I should point out that we still have available market rate and 40b units available in most sizes, from 1 bedroom up to 4 bedroom. As Mister Rogers used to say, 'Won't you be my neighbor?'.

    With the current Real Estate market the way that it is, I was sure we had taken too long to put our house on the market in order to sell it before our new house was ready. Well, I may have been right that our house was unique enough that it wasn't as affected as other houses, and we had a great realtor, so in less than 3 weeks after putting our house on the market, we had 8 showings and 2 offers. It's kind of a blur, but at this point we have moved out of the house into a small 2 bedroom apartment, and thrown out a lot more stuff. We also made some Craig's List watchers very happy with the stuff we gave a way just to get rid of it in a re-used way. There is much more to get rid of, and we are still settling in to the apartment and finding where stuff we use often ended up, but we are a step closer to a new community and home. More on community in another post.

    I'll end this post with a quick note that the kids are back in school, and after 2 days for one and a week for the other, things are going well so far. Knock on wood. :-) Sandy and I are still juggling pick up and drop off schedules. Oh, and this apartment we have for a few months comes with heat....24/7 whether you want it or not. Makes for some testy folks with the warm weather not helping cool the place off. I am hoping that when the fall weather starts to kick in, it will be a little more tolerable.

Friday Jul 11, 2008

I don't know how to say goodbye

    I've been through a number of downsizings at Sun. I even ended up on the down side of one of the early ones, but found a new position just before taking a job elsewhere. I work with many fun, talented people, and I've shaken my head at some of the folks let go in the past. But I'm still getting over the number of people I knew well and worked with, and the number of really talented, top notch employees who got let go on Thursday. Some of these folks where in high demand, both by sales teams and customers. These same folks drove a lot of training in hot, important technology topics, like Solaris, virtualization, consolidation, ZFS, Zones, etc, and they are gone. I really hope that they find another opening at Sun, now or soon. I have no doubt that many of these folks will be in high demand, even in a tough market like this. And I wish I could tell them this personally.

    I guess this time I'm coming to the realization that through all the other rounds of layoffs, I didn't pay enough attention to how to gracefully and comfortably keep connections with the people I knew who were being let go. I'd keep my eyes open to openings, and let someone know if I thought they might be interested, but there usually weren't many such opportunities. I don't drink alcoholic beverages, and particularly these days many of them aren't local, so going out for a beer would have been awkward at best. Maybe some of the new crop of social networking technologies, like Twitter, IM, SecondLife, Facebook, will make it easier going forward, but I know friends on these who have left and haven't been on them much since. Commiserating with friends still here takes some of the shock away. I just need to find a way to stay connected with them if they go, by their choice or Sun's.

    This isn't how I really want to do this, but for the moment it's something. All my friends let go by Sun this week, not goodbye, but till we meet again.

Monday Jun 16, 2008

DOS Bootable USB flash drive - how I did it

    There are 2 things you need in order to make an USB flash drive boot into DOS. The first is a boot sector, and the second are the DOS boot files. Below are the steps I used to get these onto a USB flash drive, making it possible to boot into DOS from the USB flash drive.

    The following steps where all done in Microsoft Windows XP in a VMware virtual machine. They should work with most other versions of MS Windows. I successfully used these steps on an USB flash drive I got at Immersion Week 2008 for use in a ZFS demo (Identifies itself as CBM). YMMV depending on USB flash drive model and manufacturer. These steps are based off of the very useful information at

1) Getting a boot sector on the USB flash drive
    Start by gettng the mkbt DOS utility from here mkbt
    Unzip mkbt into a temporary directory
    OK, if you are like most people these days, you don't have a floppy drive in your laptop or desktop, and you may never have, although you should know what a floppy is if you have any interest in doing this. So, if you don't have a floppy drive in your machine, you can use vfd to create a virtual floppy, which is what I did. You can get vfd from here vfd, then follow the directions for creating a virtual drive in RAM, then save it as a file for future use. Use the Windows Explorer format menu item to format the virtual floppy and make sure you check off the box to make an MS-DOS start up disk.

    Once you have access to a DOS boot floppy, use the following command, from a command prompt, to save the boot sector, where a: is the drive letter of your DOS bootable floppy (virtual or physical)

mkbt -c a: bootsect.bin

    Now use the following command to write the boot sector to your USB flash drive, where n: should be replaced with the drive letter of you USB flash drive.

mkbt -x bootsect.bin n:

2) Getting the DOS boot files
    copy all the files from the boot floppy onto the USB flash drive.

    Now you should have a DOS bootable USB flash drive, for use with a system that supports booting from USB, including x64 products from Sun. Copy over whatever DOS utilities you need to use, including AFU for Adaptec RAID controller firmware updates, which is used in some of Sun's x64 products. Or use it for whatever need you may have. Even with a small USB flash drive, you will have a lot more room than a floppy ever dreamed of. Perhaps my next blog post should be on whether inanimate objects dream. :-)

Update : Per several comment poster's, I have fixed the command line for writing the boot sector onto the USB flash drive. It is now correct in the above post. Thanks to those who caught my mistake. :-)

Monday Jun 02, 2008

DRM sucks ... battery life

    I like reading, a lot of it is science fiction, and so does my wife. She actually reads more than I, and has the good fortune to work at a library, where she has access to a virtually limitless supply of books at almost no cost. I'm thrilled that both of my sons are following in our footsteps in this regard, as they are both enthusiastic readers and regularly take advantage of the library system.

    While my wife reads mostly 'physical' books, I read a lot on my RAZR V3xx and my Palm T3. And while there are multiple formats and readers for the Palm OS, our library's DRMed format is MobiBook. Some other ebook sources I use also use that format, and the Mobipocket Reader isn't bad. I think I prefer Plucker, which is a readily available format for a lot of Public Domain stuff via Project Gutenberg, and I use it for 'mostly text' web page reading.

    The problem with MobiPocket is that it really seems to drain my battery faster than most anything I do on my T3. I got several of David Weber's Honor Harrington book for my birthday, and reading them ends up generating multiple battery warning pop-ups, requiring several visits a day to the cradle for a boost. I attribute this power hungry nature to the encryption heavy nature of DRM, although maybe I'm enjoying the books so much I'm reading more. Or maybe the battery I installed in my T3 a while back doesn't have the lifetime the original had, and is fading already. Nah, more fun to blame DRM. Excuse me, I've got to get back to my reading. :-)

Wednesday May 21, 2008

My new home takes shape

    While I continue to struggle to get my house ready for selling, I take some comfort in the progress of my new community, Mosaic Commons, both from a personal level and from a construction perspective. One of our many resident geeks set up this webcam in our marketing trailer, and it happens to look at my house (the one on the right). I can now look to the future whenever I'm having doubts.

    As it turns out, one of the General Contractor's folks working on this project had the chance to take some fabulous aerial photos of our site, including this one, where my home is one of the 2 large buildings on the bottom just left of center. This picture also gives you a sense of the 2 neighborhoods, with Camelot Cohousing in the upper right part of the picture, and Mosaic Commons in the middle to lower left. These 2 communities are part of Sawyer Hill Ecovillage in Berlin, MA. We still have units available, so come be my neighbor. :-)

Tuesday Apr 22, 2008

Dealing with uncommon image formats

    During my downsizing and de-cluttering, I came across a half dozen 3.5" floppies that held digitized pictures. These were from a time before I had a digital camera, and were done as part of the film processing service. They happened to be of my oldest son's birth, so they are important, and I wanted to be able to view them with ease and manage them the same way I do the pictures from my digital cameras.

    Ooops, they are in KGP format, Konica Camera File, so it must have been a Konica based service. My MackBook Pro, running OS X 10.5.x, didn't recognize the format as something any of the apps currently installed knew what to do with, so off to Google for help. There I find XnView, a free graphics viewer supporting mucho formats, and it's associated utility NConvert. As it turns out, the Mac OS X version of XnView is in transition from an older release to a new alpha of a universal binary re-write. I tried it and it seems to work OK, but I really wanted the files in a more usable format.

    So, I tried NConvert, which turns out to be a CLI-based utility. I wanted to do a bulk conversion from KGP to .jpg files, and after a quick review of the command line parameters, /Applications/NConvert/nconvert -help, I took a stab at doing my conversions, as follows :

/Applications/NConvert/nconvert -in kqp -o %.jpg -out jpeg -keepfiledate \*

    This worked great, in a quick, efficient manner. Keep in mind that the command examples I give are based on where I put the nconvert directory, and that this command line execution is done via the Mac OS X Terminal application, giving me access to the BSD under-pinnings of OS X. Am I done and ready to upload them to SmugMug yet? Not quite.

    Apparently, when one set of film was developed, either I had taken all the pictures upside down, or the developer processing them upside down. Either way, one whole floppy worth of pictures were upside down, and that diminished from their excellence, or at least from them being readily recognizable. Another quick review of command line parameters, and I tried this on that floppy's files:

/Applications/NConvert/nconvert -in jpeg -o %.jpg -out jpeg -keepfiledate -jpegtrans rot180 \*.jpg

    Et voila, c'est magnifique. All the pictures where then burnt onto CD for safe keeping, and uploaded to SmugMug for sharing, discretely, of course. Then yesterday, as I considered blogging with pictures of my bike riding family, I got to thinking that perhaps I could replace my old standby method for resizing my RAZR taken pics to something I consider more usable in a blog post. My habit had been to use The Gimp to load, resize and save each picture. Sure, there might be a way to automate that, but here I was already becoming an expert at nconvert. And, with the number of pictures I was considering to post, it was time for a bulk method, and here it is:

/Applications/NConvert/nconvert -in jpeg -o %b.jpg -out jpeg -keepfiledate -resize 30% 30% \*.jpg

    It's just that simple. Nconvert's help listing is really long, so I won't post it here, but I highly recommend nconvert for your image manipulation needs, as long as you can deal with command line utilities. Oh, I should mention that both XnView and NConvert are cross platform apps, available on Solaris, Linux, Windows, and obviously Mac OS X. Thanks Pierre Gougelet.

Monday Apr 21, 2008

Rail Trailing it

    I live in New England, which is notorious for bad weather and frequent changes. Still, the last week or so has been quite warm spring weather, including today, much to the chagrin of the runners in the Boston Marathon. But that is another story. Today's weather, and the kids being on April vacation this week, inspired us to make our first sojourn on one of our local Rail Trails. This one starts in Ayer and goes up through Pepperell, although we rarely ride the whole thing as a family.

    This was the first time on the trail for my youngest with his new multi-speed bike. We have been furiously getting rid of stuff and downsizing, and due to a miscommunication when our dumpster arrived, my youngest's mono-speed bicycle got put out by the side of the road and quickly claimed. Needless to say, he was quite upset, but a quick trip to our local Salvation Army and $20 later, he had a 'new' bike with 18 speeds. He did great, riding for a 4 mile round trip with no complaints and plenty of energy.

    We even had my Dad along, who has an electric bike, which is basically a 15 speed with a mounted, and heavy, battery and electric motor. With this he can start up quickly and get help on the hills. Since he is legally blind with severe tunnel vision from his triple bypass surgery, and this is his primary means of getting around farther than he can walk, I guess I won't chastise him for 'cheating'. :-) Unfortunately, our car bike rack really doesn't have room for more than 3 full size bikes, and while my youngest's new bike can fit in the back of the car, my Dad's is too much, so he rode to the trail head and back. Guess he ended up with more of a work out than me.

    Here are some pics I snapped on the way. I've never given cell phone cameras much credibility, but I have to admit that the one in my RAZR V3xx isn't bad, and really handy, even compared with the 2 small digitals I have.

Almost everyone is on the trail. :-)

Now we are all on the trail.

Including me. :-)

A break at the half way point, and some stone skipping too.

Nice scenery too.


I was cursed with errors of '6' inn writing this post. First, I mis-heard my wife and accepted the '18' speeds of my youngest's bike. After she read this blog she suggested I was mistaken, and so during today's ride I checked. He does have 6 back gears, but only one pedal gear, so he has a '6' gear bike. Second, he lasted for the full trip, which was '6' miles round trip, not 4. And he was a champ today as well, going for the full 8 mile round trip. :-)

Monday Apr 14, 2008

My old app on a new medium

    I enjoy dabbling in programming, particularly when I doing it for my own interests. As a matter of fact, that's how I first got started with computers, back in high school. Computers weren't even part of the curriculum yet, but the math department had one for scoring tests, and if you came in early or stayed after school, you could program in BASIC on it. With a keyboard and monitor no less. Which was more than I had at MIT and Northeastern University in the years to follow.

    Over the years I have programmed in Visual BASIC, which I learned while a phone support engineer for a PC email app and had a developer respond to a customer feature request that it was something anybody could do in Visual BASIC so I learned how. I've also played with Java, Perl, Pascal, VAX Assembler, BeyondMail Rules, DOS batch, shell scripting, and who knows what else. And they have all been fun in their own way.

    When I got my first PC, a Leading Edge IBM compatible, I started playing with 8086 assembly programming. Those were the heady days of Norton and his books on the inner workings of DOS and PCs. I've always tended to prefer programming useful things, at least to me, like utilities, and despite there being several already in existence, I started coding a PC identification program. I got far enough to display the usual basics before getting distracted by other things. I have also been known to have pack rat tendencies, which I am sorely regretting these days as I drastically downsize. Fortunately, I saved most of my coding, exe and source, and still have my PCC.EXE app from all those years ago.

    For some reason, perhaps the pack rat instinct in an odd way, I like emulators. Right now I have both VMware Fusion and Sun's VirtualBox installed on my MacBook Pro, as well as a Palm emulator and Basilisk II, an old Mac emulator. I won't be surprised if others show up eventually as well. Just recently it was noted, on a Palm blog I track called TamsPalm, that the PALMDOSBOX code was picked up by a well qualified Palm OS developer and made to work on some newer Palms, including my T3. Naturally, I had to play with it, as I have several other DOS apps I sometimes play with for old times sake. And it works, although the built in virtual keyboard doesn't have a \\ key, oddly enough. Makes it hard to change directories. Without further ado, a picture of PALMDOSBOX running on my T3, with my PCC.EXE app running under PALMDOSBOX.

Saturday Mar 29, 2008

Kick ME?

    What have I done to deserve kids like this. A slap on the back and much giggling by my youngest, and the result is below. I'll get him for this. :-)

Saturday Mar 08, 2008

A snowman comes into existence

    During our most recent snow storm, the temp was warm and the snow perfect for snow balls and their larger sibs, snowmen. So, while I shoveled our driveway, my oldest got to work on his creation.

    Step one, start with a nice big, solid base. Follow that up with a nearly as big abdomen. Not quite big enough yet.

    Ooops, after asking Dad several times if it was big enough, and what do I know, it was too big for him to lift. I needed a break from shoveling anyway. On three, and we had it on. The rest he could handle, with some help/company/interference from his younger bro. Hey, don't we have a pair of old boots around you could use? :-)

Sunday Feb 17, 2008

SF33 Live 3

    I forgot to mention who we are. There are four of us, including myself, my father, my friend Bill Page, and my friend Ken Porter. I've known Bill for 25+ years, and this is the first time I've gotten him to go. He has enjoyed the marathon, but reached his limit after WotW. Ken is still hanging on, but since he has to work today, he will likely leave after this one.

    Yup, Ken bailed to get some sleep before work. Which means he missed 'Black Sheep'. If you don't consider gratuitous gore ala Dawn of the Dead mixed with sheep jokes and fart jokes thrown in for good measure qualities of a family movie, then I would agree with you and point out that these are all essential elements of 'Black Sheep'. Needless to say it was a hit with this crowd. :-)

    Up next is 1984, which, surprisingly, I haven't seen. Then I can catch some Zs if I like during 'Journey to the 7th planet', which I have seen and which I therefore don't consider important. I'll still probably watch it though.

    Without going into all the details, our last movie, 'A Boy and His Dog' Restored is locked in a UPS warehouse. Garen is hoping to get it out in time, due to a wrong zip code having put it there in the first place. I haven't seen it since I was a teen, so it should be interesting. Later. \^_\^

SF33 Live 2

    'In the Shadow of the Moon' documentary still on as we arrive back from a dinner break. We left the marathon after 'The Last Mimzy', since the timing was good and we were OK with missing the Apollo documentary. We had a delicious meal at Diva's Indian Bistro here in Davis Square, Somerville, MA.

    When you are seeing some of these films in a theatre with a group of like minded people, you need to be prepared to miss some lines, as the crowd picks up on laughs et al that more mixed crowds don't. Although this documentary on the Apollo program has the theatre pretty quiet. I am absolutely a child of the moon missions, have a couple official space pens, like Tang and wish I could still get Space Food Sticks. Applause now for Neil Armstrong saying 'That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind'.

    One film we saw, 'King Dinosaur', was a hoot with this crowd. It was an old 50s era film that was so bad by today's standards, that it had a comic affect with this crowd. It wouldn't have been nearly as enjoyable elsewhere. Hopefully I'll have more later, but don't stay up. :-)

SF33 Live

Originally uploaded by Dr. Agonfly.

Yes, it's true. The 33rd annual Boston Science Fiction Marathon is well under way. Surprise 1st film - Cloverfield. They should've handed out barf bag (motion sickness inducing camera work).


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