Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Saying nothing in many words

I worked from home again today. I needed to bring the car in—mostly to get its snow tires put on, but it was also overdue for service—and it’s not normally worth it to try and go in just for the later part of the afternoon, when that happens. In this case I could have; the car ended up being ready by 11:30, which surprised me, but I’d already told people I’d be working from home, so I just stayed. And, as is often the case, there wasn’t anything I did today that I had to be at the office for.

So, as usual, when working from home, I watched a couple of movies. First, I watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which was okay, but not great. But not bad. Just average. And then I watched Hot Shots! Part Deux, which I have on DVD. I’ve always loved the Hot Shots! movies. I wish Andrea did, too, so I could watch them more often…

I’ll be on training, for the remainder of the week, which means that it’s going to be a light week for serna. (Of course, that assumes that the training won’t be too hard, and I’m hoping that’s a bad assumption. I’d prefer the training to be hard, so that I can get something out of it, but training usually isn’t.) The training is on Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), and I really hope that it’s useful, and doesn’t just reinforce all of the common sense things I’ve been thinking about SOA since the term was introduced to me. (I don’t have a good link to an SOA article on hand, so I’ll just post the link to the Wikipedia article, if you’re interested in what it is.)

I upgraded Ubuntu on my laptop, from version 6.06 (“Dapper Drake”) to 6.10 (“Edgy Eft”) on Saturday. Fortunately, there was an easy upgrade process; all you have to do is type in gksu "update-manager -c" from a command prompt. Unfortunately, the upgrade didn’t work; when it made me reboot, it refused to load. (Well, Linux seemed to boot fine; it was just the X server that wouldn’t load.) So I burned the Ubuntu CD, and reinstalled from that, and everything was fine. Except that my wireless network card doesn’t work anymore; I was so impressed, when I first installed Ubuntu, that it recognized that card, and now it doesn’t work. (I’m sure I’ll get it to work, I just haven’t put any time into it yet.)

And that’s about it. I’m sure I won’t be posting to my blog for the next few days, because I doubt they’ll have internet connectivity in the training, so you’ll just have to entertain yourselves for a few days. Actually, you’ve been entertaining yourselves for a while, because I haven’t been posting much here, lately. So you’ve got some good practice.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Still Tired

Of course I’m still tired, I only just finished writing that I was tired a couple of hours ago…

My eyes are sore, and don’t want to stay open, and I just feel generally run-down. And in an hour, I have to go to a meeting that I really don’t want to go to, because it will be positioned as “me against the world”. (Well, okay, not “the world”. Just the people at the meeting. The rest of the people in the world would agree with me. Heh.)

“The problem lies in the unwillingness to recognize that your own terrorism is terrorism”

As I so often do, I’m presenting a link to an interview with Chomsky.

Here’s a quote, in which Chomsky proves that it’s not just the big picture he keeps in mind; anything having to do with foreign policy affects people on a very personal level:

Interviewer: And what keeps you motivated?

Chomsky: I’ll just tell you a brief story. I was in Beirut a couple of months ago giving talks at the American university in the city. After a talk, people come up and they want to talk privately or have books signed.

Here I was giving a talk in a downtown theatre, a large group of people were around and a young woman came up to me, in her mid-’20s, and just said this sentence: “I am Kinda” and practically collapsed. You wouldn’t know who Kinda is but that’s because we live in societies where the truth is kept hidden. I knew who she was. She had a book of mine open to a page on which I had quoted a letter of hers that she wrote when she was seven years old.

It was right after the U.S. bombing of Libya, her family was then living in Libya, and she wrote a letter which was found by a journalist friend of mine who tried to get it published in the United States but couldn’t because no one would publish it. He then gave it to me, I published it. The letter said something like this:

“Dear Mr Reagan, I am seven years old. I want to know why you killed my little sister and my friend and my rag doll. Is it because we are Palestinians? Kinda”. That’s one of the most moving letters I have ever seen and when she walked up to me and said I am Kinda, and, like I say, actually fell over, not only because of the event but because of what it means.

Here’s the United States with no pretext at all, bombing another country, killing and destroying, and nobody wants to know what a little seven-year-old girl wrote about the atrocities. That’s the kind of thing that keeps me motivated and ought to keep everybody motivated. And you can multiply that by 10,000.

Tired. So tired…

So, as posted, I was up all night Saturday night, for a deployment. Then I was up most of the night Tuesday night, to re-do the deployment. So, all in all, I’m pretty wiped out these days. I’m not as young as I used to be, you know.

But unfortunately, I had to get up a bit early this morning, because Andrea had to be at work earlier than usual. (We car pool.) And then I’m going to be out late tonight, for Youth Group, because we’re going roller skating from 9–12 tonight.

Something tells me that, if I’m not very careful, I’m going to be grumpy tonight. I’ll have to devote some prayer to that.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Deployment was successful. You can relax now.

I put up my last post in the middle of a deployment, promised that I would post the results, and then never did. Are you all in suspense? No? Well, I’ll write about it anyway.

The deployment was successful. The actual “work” of the deployment was done ahead of schedule—which is normally the case, because we have a little bit of breathing room built into our time estimates—but the testing went a bit longer than usual, so all in all, we were about 5 minutes later than scheduled. Actually, one guy fell asleep during the call, and we lost a few minutes waiting for him to wake up to perform his part of the deployment, so if that hadn’t happened, we probably wouldn’t have been behind schedule at all.

Wednesday was sort of a wash, for me; even though we pretty much finished on schedule, I still didn’t get home until 4:00AM Wednesday morning. So I slept in until 10:00, and worked from home. And I did actually work, I didn’t just laze around all day, but I didn’t really work hard. I also watched Fargo, which I’d never seen before; it was pretty good. (Since I was working from the couch, with my laptop on my lap—where a laptop should be, I guess—it was easy to watch and work at the same time.)

And, uh, yeah. That’s about it, really. I’d had plans to do other things with my time, on Wednesday, like maybe install Ubuntu on my desktop computer, or even walk down the street and get the mail, but none of those plans came to fruition. Working from home is often a chance to get things like that done, because you’re not working every second of the day. (And I can keep my laptop beside me at the desk, and work on that while Ubuntu is installing beside me.) But when you’re sort of out of it, from too many late nights in a row, and are just wandering around the house in your bathrobe the whole day, it’s not conducive to getting a lot of things done.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Deployment—Let’s try that again, shall we?

I’m losing track of the days right now, so I don’t know if it’s been a day, or a couple of days, since I last posted. I’m sure it’s been less than a week. It’s Tuesday night—technically, Wednesday morning, but since I’m still up from Tuesday, it seems like Tuesday night to me.

I’m back at the office, as I type this, getting ready for another deployment. We figured out pretty quickly why the last one failed. A bit too quickly, actually, because it’s all the more shame that we had to abort it, and start over. So we’re pretty confident that this one will go much quicker than the last one. Maybe even back to our normal 30 minute “badda bing badda boom”-style deployment. Cross your fingers, or knock wood, or whatever you do if you’re superstitious. (Actually, don’t bother. By the time you read this, it will be long finished. Actually, by the time you read this, there may be another post further up the page, which already told you how the deployment went. If so, do you find it weird to read how the deployment went, and then to read this, where I’m wondering how it will go? Or are you just used to blogs by now, and not phased by it at all?)

I left work early Tuesday afternoon, around 3:00, so that I could go home and get some sleep. It didn’t work; I didn’t get any sleep. I did, however, watch a mediocre movie, called Fun With Dick and Jane. I’m not even bothering to link to the IMDB entry for the movie, because it didn’t inspire me, and I can’t be bothered. Let’s see, what else did I do? I was going to watch Constantine, which I had also recorded, but apparently The Movie Network played a different movie, when I was expecting Constantine, so I didn’t get to watch it. No great loss, because I wasn’t really too excited about it in the first place. In fact, I decided to not even bother looking for another occurrence of the movie, to try and tape it again.

Note: At this point in the creation of the blog, the deployment started.

As usual, I brought lots of snacks for the deployment. Coke BlaK, and some fudge (an impulse buy), some Twinkies, and of course some water, to keep myself hydrated. You’ll notice that I also have a novel sitting there, but I didn’t get a chance to read it; the exit I usually take from the 401 to the DVP was blocked off, and I had to do some driving around—and, of course, stop and buy my snacks—so I got to work a bit later than anticipated.

And that’s about it. I sort of have to start paying attention to the deployment, now, so I should stop typing.

Monday, October 23, 2006

My Deployment

Unfortunately, the deployment Saturday night / Sunday morning didn’t go well.

There were two aspects to the deployment: some changes to the database, and the actual application code itself. (The EAR file, for those of you who are familiar with J2EE.) Our system depends on some other back-end systems, which are always taken offline for maintenance between 4:00 and 5:00AM, so we had to finish our work before 4:00, or else we’d have an hour of sitting around and waiting, before we could get back to work. This isn’t usually an issue, for us, because our deployments usually only take around a half hour; if we started at 1:30, as planned, then we should have been done by 2:00.

Here’s how it went down:

  • At 1:30, we took the system offline, and began the database changes
  • The first sign that this was not a typical deployment came when 20 or 30 minutes went by, and the database changes weren’t completed. It normally only takes a few minutes for the database changes.
  • A little investigation gave us the answer: One of our scripts was looping through information in some database tables, and there was more data in production than in our testing environments. So the script, which took only a few minutes to run with 15,000 records, was taking over an hour to run with over 2 million records.
  • The database expert we had with us suggested a quick optimization we could apply to the script, which should help it run faster, so we halted execution, made the change, and started it over again.
  • It finally finished about 3:45. Dangerously close to the 4:00 window!
  • We deployed the application code, and got ready to test.
  • The code was finished deploying, and up and running, at about 4:04. Rats.
  • We decided to reconvene at 5:00.
    • During this interval, I took advantage of the delay to go to the gas station down the road, and pick up some snacks.
    • I also did a search on YouTube, for videos having to do with “Twinkies”, and was disappointed that there weren’t more. I shared one mediocre one with James, who was kind enough to keep me company on MSN Messenger.
  • At 5:00 we reconvened, and tried to test, but the system still wasn’t working. We double-checked, and verified that the back-end systems were up and running, but the code still wasn’t working.
  • After a bit of investigation, it appeared that there was a problem with the code itself.
  • At 5:45, we made the call to “roll back” the changes. (In other words, to restore the database and the application back to the state they were in before we began the deployment, reverting them back to the previous version of the application.) In other circumstances, we would have spent more time troubleshooting the problem, but we needed to have the system up and running—in some state, either with the new version of the application or the old version—by 7:00, and we didn’t think we’d be able to troubleshoot the new version by then.
  • At about 6:30, we were back up and running with the previous version of the application, and I was able to go home.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Further to my last post, we had the party, and I’m at the office now, waiting for my deployment to start. (Actually, I shouldn’t say “had”. At the time that I wrote this, it was probably still going on without me.)

So here’s the thing: the party wasn’t really our party. It was for a friend of ours, who goes to our church. She wanted to have a birthday party, but didn’t have a good space, so we volunteered our place. The party was scheduled to start at 7:00, but she and her sister showed up at 4:30 to set up. And boy, did they set up! I mean, Andrea and I have had people over before, but I now realize that we’ve never had a party. This was a party. Our furniture was rearranged to create a dance floor, there was enough food prepared to feed a hungry army—a hungry army with good taste—and decorations galore were put up everywhere. And, aside from a minor incident involving a fondue set and some fire, it was going very smoothly, when I left.

The other thing I did today was try the Coke BlaK which had been given me. And, although I hadn’t really been expecting much, I quite liked it. If you’ve ever had chocolate-covered coffee beans, and liked them, then you’d probably like Coke BlaK. I found it much more coffee-flavoured than Coke-flavoured.

Youth Group on Friday was as bad as I’d been expecting. But we made plans for next Friday, so hopefully I’ll be able to pull that off, without too much kerfuffle.

And that’s about it, for now. I’m very tired, so I’m hoping that the deployment will go smoothly. I don’t have the brainpower right now to try and troubleshoot anything that comes up.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Another day, another blog entry

Heh. Talk about a misleading title, eh? It’s not like I’m a regular poster—sometimes I don’t post anything for days at a time, and other times I post a half dozen entries in a day.

But I figured I should post something, because otherwise there are people out there who won’t know what’s going on in my life. (The obvious temptation, of course, is to simply post “everything’s the same as always”, and leave it at that, but you know I’m too long-winded to do that.)

I don’t know if he reads this blog regularly, but I’d like to wish my friend Greg a happy birthday. I would have sent an e-card, to commemorate the event—which was more than a week ago—but there aren’t any good e-card sites anymore, that don’t require registration. I get enough spam as it is, without signing up for things and inviting more… And, while I’m at it, if there are others who read this blog who normally get e-cards from me on birthdays, you won’t be getting them going forward. Sorry.

I’ll be working again this weekend. Another late-night deployment, Saturday night/Sunday morning. I just hope it goes as smoothly as past ones; lately we’ve been tearing these things off in 30 minutes or less. Badda boom, badda bing. I also have a party Saturday afternoon, which will be hosted at our place, so I’m hoping it will fizzle out before I have to leave for work, so that I don’t have to leave early.

Nerd stuff: On a related note, I’ve been scouring the web, lately, looking for a good tutorial on Entity Beans. It started out as curiosity, and then turned into a mission: is there not one good site out there, that can clearly and articulately explain to beginners what an Entity Bean is, and how to create it? Or a book? Or a Wikipedia article? I find it odd; I’ve been working with J2EE for years now, and have never seen a good explanation of Entity Beans, aimed at people who don’t already know what Entity Beans are. I’ve seen lots of discussions about whether Entity Beans should be used at all, or how performant they may theoretically be, but nothing for the newbies. I’d do it myself—maybe put it in Wikipedia or something—but I don’t really care enough to put the effort into it. (I’m mostly in the camp that Entity Beans aren’t that useful, although I don’t have strong opinions on it.) As it is, if you’re just getting started with J2EE, and trying to figure out what these “Entity Beans” are, I guess you’ll just have to read a lot of articles. Eventually, you’ll probably start to get an idea what they’re used for, and how to build them.

As today is Friday, I have Youth Group tonight. And, as I’m an incompetent moron, I don’t have anything planned. It used to be that we could all just show up at the church on a Friday night, and entertain ourselves for the night, but those days are gone; these days, when we don’t have anything planned, it’s a long, boring, painful experience for all involved. So I’m mentally preparing myself for a few hours of “So you don’t have anything planned?” and “Why don’t you have anything planned?” and “What are we supposed to do tonight if you don’t have anything planned?!?” But, as the old song goes, nobody’s fault but mine. I’ll go to the church and take my medicine, and hopefully I’ll be more on the ball for next week.

James came over on… um… Wednesday? Anyway, he came over some day this week, and fixed our lawn. Actually, not just the lawn; he did a bunch of stuff:

  • cut the grass in the front yard
  • cut the grass in the back yard—which doesn’t always get done, when I do the lawn
  • trimmed the plants that are planted along the fence
  • weeded the various gardens around the yard
  • removed the grape vine, which I had only partially removed the year before
  • removed a bunch of other junk that had been in the back yard, unused; places where gardens should go, but didn’t have any gardens, etc.
Frankly, I don’t know how he managed to do all of this work in one day. (Along with any other work he did, that I may have forgotten to mention.)

Speaking of James, he also gave me a bottle of Coke BlaK, which I haven’t tried yet. (“Coke effervescence with coffee essence”? That has the potential to be really, really bad…) Maybe on Saturday; I’m sure I’ll need an extra boost, to keep myself awake that day, so it’ll probably be the perfect opportunity.

I’ve been feeling incredibly listless and disinterested at work, lately. (And, as mentioned, MSN has been making me angry, although it seems better today.) I think I’m just tired. Or I have mono. One of the two. Probably just tired, though, so I’m not worried about being contagious. We’ll see how this weekend goes; if the release goes smoothly, and everything is fine on Monday, maybe I’ll get back into the swing of things.

And maybe I’ll start posting more regularly, too.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

serna Mad! Grr!

MSN Messenger has been making me angry, for the last couple of days.

That is all.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


We got our home insurance renewal form in the mail this week, and I have some bad news: My townhouse is no longer covered for a terrorist attack.

Strangely enough, though, my premiums didn’t go down. You’d think that when the insurance company reduces your coverage, they’d also reduce your premiums.

Ha! I’m just kidding, of course. I would never advocate ethical business practices for an insurance company! I’m so wacky and silly…

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

serna’s HTML-Kit Tutorial

As I had previously threatened, I went ahead and created a Flash animation that illustrates how I use HTML-Kit to create my blog posts.

Unfortunately, the animation is about 1.3MB, so it takes forever to download—even on a good connection. So I probably won’t bother to link to it here, until I can reduce the size a bit, and make it manageable.

Chomsky Interview on PBS

I found online another interview with Noam Chomsky, on PBS. You can listen to it here, or read the transcript here. The interview covered a lot of topics, but I’m quoting some excerpts I found especially interesting.

First, on democracy, in the US, and the “two-party system”:

Well, it’s an interesting situation in American political history. I mean, it’s no big secret that for the last year just about every week, the Republicans, Republican Administration has been shooting itself in the foot on one thing or another, whether it’s Katrina or Iraq or, you know, a long list—I don’t have to go through it. And it’s kind of interesting that the Democrats have basically not gained from this. The only gains they’ve made is that support for the Republicans has dropped.

Well, what that illustrates is that there is no functioning opposition party. People don’t know what the Democratic proposals are. What are they saying? When Bush responds and says, okay, what do you have to say about it, there’s nothing much. That even includes not only international affairs, but even major domestic crises.

In my opinion, the other problem with the Democrats is that they try and bill themselves as a liberal party, but they’re just as conservative as the Republicans. The reason they don’t seem to have a stance on some of these issues is that their stance is exactly the same as the Republicans’!

Later on, the interviewer asks Chomsky how he would propose dealing with terrorism:

My proposal happens to be very mainstream. It’s the same as the proposal that you read from government and outside specialists on terrorism. They say, with virtual uniformity, other countries too, that terrorism is a very serious problem, and if you want to deal with it, you have to pay attention to its causes, to the background from which it comes. And what should be done is to deal with it.

The worst way to deal with it is by giving gifts to Osama bin Laden. And, as a number of the specialists have pointed out, Bush is Osama bin Laden’s best ally, because the reactions are violence.

So let’s take 9/11, a terrible crime. It turns out, and we now know, and knew then, that it was bitterly condemned by the Jihari movement around the world. The leading figures, you know, the radical clerics and others were denouncing it.

Well, there was an opportunity to make some moves towards the Muslim world, and, in fact, even the radical Islamic extremist elements in the Muslim world, and undermine support for al Qaeda, when what we did was the opposite, resorted to violence, particularly in Iraq, which simply mobilized support for Osama bin Laden. That’s the way to deal with terrorism, if you want to escalate it.

I like the “if you want to escalate it” crack.

You may remember, almost a month ago, I mentioned the news item where Clinton was on FOX News, which was dealing with whether he did enough to catch/kill Osama bin Laden. And I was very much on Clinton’s side. However, what I forgot, and what Chomsky never forgets, is that there are deeper issues involved:

MARIA HINOJOSA: I’m wondering how you see what happened in terms of President Bill Clinton—former President Bill Clinton and his reaction to Chris Wallace in the Fox News interview, and Senator Hilary Clinton’s response as well? And yet, there’s been this silence on the part of the Democrats. It’s not as if you’ve seen all, you know, top-level Democrats kind of fall into line and say—you know, the former president and the senator are correct here.

PROFESSOR NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, I—part of the reason, I think, is because they’re probably not correct. Again, there is a—by now a rich and informative literature on terrorism. It’s been a big a topic; it’s been studied very carefully.

And what specialists have pointed out, years ago, is that Clinton himself acted in ways which increased the threat of terror. So take, say, the 1998 bombings of the Sudan and Afghanistan, well I know Sudan was—we don’t pay much attention to it but people in the rest of the world, certainly the third world do, it was very destructive.

If you destroyed half the pharmaceutical production in the United States, we’d think it’s a pretty serious problem. In fact, we’d probably go to war. Well, that’s what he did. And it had a lot of effects. We don’t pay attention to it.

Afghanistan, what happened is that relations between al Qaeda and the Taliban, which previously were pretty cool; the Taliban didn’t like ’em much, they didn’t want another source of authority in their country, and they never did like the Arabs—relations got much closer as a result of the bombing. Clinton did the same in 1998.

The sort of technical question that was discussed, how hard did he try to kill Osama bin Laden, well, you know, we can have our own opinions on that, but it’s kind of a side question. The real question is what are we doing to undermine the support for the terrorist movements.

I mean, look terrorists regard themselves as a vanguard. They are trying to carry out actions which they portray as a response to grievances. And the grievances are often real. And they are trying to mobilize the population to support them, to join them.

Well, the rational way to deal with this is to look at the grievances that they are brining up, which the population feels, and address them, and undermine their base of support and isolate them.

Finally, to end the interview…

MARIA HINOJOSA: So, when you step back, Professor Chomsky, do you say, this is a moment in American history where pessimism rules? Or do you say optimism is a possibility and you believe things can change?

PROFESSOR NOAM CHOMSKY: Both. We are in an extremely dangerous situation, not only what we’re talking but also much more large-scale threats to us and everyone else, in fact, literal threats to survival, like escalation of the threat of nuclear war, of environmental catastrophe, which we, unless we do something about, is—could be awful.

The U.S., again, is increasing those threats significantly. And that’s—and what’s happening in the Middle East and elsewhere is shocking and could become even worse than it is now. So yeah, those are pretty ugly—many pretty ugly things happening in the world.

On the other hand, there’s every reason for optimism. I mean, look we have a legacy of freedom and privilege, which is incomparable in the world. It wasn’t given by gifts, it was won by long, dedicated, committed popular struggle. But we have that legacy, and we can use it. We can abandon it and say, I don’t care, or I’m gonna be hopeless, or we can use it. And if we use it, these things can change.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Word for Your Mother—Or Not

I had an idea this morning: Since there are already a million books out there on Microsoft Word, maybe I should shelve the book I had been writing on Word—Word For Your Mother—and, instead, write a book on the OpenOffice.org Writer program. (Of course, I haven’t even looked at the book in months, so it’s practically shelved already.)

One advantage is that much of what I’d written would probably be usable in the new book. The concepts are the same, it’s just the way you perform particular tasks that would be different. So maybe I’d just scrap all of the screenshots, and start from what I already have.

There can’t be that many books out there on OpenOffice.org products, and my guess—based on the various Linux-based sites I’ve been looking at—is that even if there are some, they’re probably not that accessible for beginners.

Of course, I’d need a title. Writer For Your Mother doesn’t really have the right pop…

Quick Update

Not much to say, but I haven’t been posting much, so I guess anything’s better than nothing. Get ready for a post that wanders from topic to topic, with no discernable pattern.

A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, has been questioning whether I’m actually gaining anything by using Ubuntu, rather than sticking with Windows (if I may paraphrase). But I’ll show him! I’LL SHOW THEM ALL! Muah ha haha! AAAHH HAHA*cough*splutter*drool*

I realized, after I’d left the house today, that I’d dressed rather monochromatically. I’ve got on tan pants, which are light enough to be considered white, and a grey shirt, which is also very, very light. If only I had realized sooner! I could have done something about it! But now it’s too late.

I took yesterday off sick. I hadn’t been feeling that well Wednesday night, and figured that taking a day off to rest would be a good idea. Especially since I’m not particularly busy right now; it was good timing. But I’m feeling better today.

Note: I wrote this in HTML-Kit running in Wine on Ubuntu, and I haven’t yet installed the spell checking feature. So I apologize in advance for any typos. Or… after the fact, if there were typos in the paragraphs above.
On Wednesday, I started putting together a demo of how I use HTML-Kit to put blog entries together. Like everything else I do on this blog, it’s probably a lot more interesting to me than it will be to anyone else.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ubuntu At Work

As mentioned earlier, I’ve started using Ubuntu at work. And, for the most part, it’s working well; there are days when I don’t need to boot into Windows at all. Other days I spend most of the day on Ubuntu, and reboot into Windows once or twice, when I need some application I don’t have on Ubuntu.

I solved the problem I’d been having with Gaim; in retrospect, ironically enough, it was easier to get Gaim working at the office, with MSN Messenger, than it was to get the MSN client to work!

I am still having some issues, though:

  • I never got multiple monitors working. It might be a hardware problem—meaning hardware that’s incompatible with Linux, since it works fine in Windows.
  • Flash animations won’t play any sound. I found a fix for it, which did get the sound working, but then Firefox started crashing, so I had to undo it.
  • Although Gaim is mostly working, it does disconnect me once in a while. The MSN client does, too, when I’m in Windows, but not as nearly often as Gaim does.
But there is one major source of pain, when you’re trying to troubleshoot problems in Ubuntu: There are no good sources of information, to help you out. It seems that the Linux/Ubuntu nerds have tired of answering the same questions over and over again, so the more common the question is, the more likely that you’ll have to wade through a lot of forum posts before you find the answer. There will be a hundred posts of people asking the question, and getting no answer because the nerds are tired of answering it, before you get to a post from a couple of years ago, when someone did deem the question worthy of answering.

“I can’t get my mouse to work.”
“Well, I’m tired of helping people with their mouse problems. Search the forums.”
“Okay. But where should I search?”
“Figure it out yourself. Jerkass.”

To be fair, I haven’t actually seen the word “jerkass” anywhere in the forums. My point is, there’s no site that you can go to that will walk people through common problems, and give them common solutions. At least, none that I’ve seen. Yet.

HTML Editor

My other issue has nothing at all to do with Ubuntu, but is still annoying: I can’t find an HTML editor for Ubuntu which would be the equivalent of HTML-Kit. (I’m writing this logged into Windows, because it’s easier than trying to do it in Linux.)

I mean, there are a number of good HTML editors out there for Linux, but the biggest advantage of HTML-Kit is that I am able to write my own macros/plugins, for things that I do on a regular basis. HTML-Kit has its own plugin language, hkScript, or can use a variety of other programming languages, and has exposed a number of pieces of functionality that the plugin programmer can call.

For example, I have plugins for creating Messenger conversations; I can select some text and click a button to make it the style for my text, or the style for the other person’s text, or the style of the “screen name”. So with four clicks of the mouse, this:
Dude says:
Hey there!
sernaferna says:
Becomes this:
<span class="msnScreenName">Dude says:</span><br />
<span class="msnOtherPersonText">Hey there!</span><br />
<br />
<span class="msnScreenName">sernaferna says:</span><br />
<span class="msnMyText">Hi.</span><br />
<br />
Which looks like this:

Dude says:
Hey there!

sernaferna says:

Of course, I also have a macro with buttons for all of the commonly used emoticons I use, so when I use an emoticon in a conversation, I just click a button, which inserts an <img> tag, along with the proper styles and settings to make sure it doesn’t have borders, etc.

Similar to the MSN Conversation macros, I also have macros for creating “scripts”, such as I did here and here.

When I’m working on the serna Bible Blog, I have a couple of tools that I use regularly; one macro will insert the text L<span style="font-size:75%;">ORD</span>, which renders as LORD in a browser. And another is used to create a link to a Bible passage; if I select a piece of text, and click that macro, it will surround the text with the appropriate HTML to create a link to Bible Gateway—with most of the URL filled in, needing me to simply fill in the reference—and also includes an <img> tag with the little Bible icon I use for my scripture links. Not only that, but once the correct HTML has been inserted, the cursor is placed right in the spot where I need to type the Bible reference into the URL. So if I have the following text:
I was reading John 3:16 the other day.
All I have to do is select the text “John 3:16”, click the macro, which inserts a bunch of text and positions my cursor where I want it to be, and type john+3:16, and I get this:

I was reading <a href="http://www.biblegateway.com/bible?version=31&passage=john+3:16" target="_blank">John 3:16<img src="http://photos1.blogger.com /blogger /1525 /939 /200 /crosslinkicon.jpg" border="0"/></a> the other day.

I’ve also got some other generic tools I wrote for myself, most of which are concerned with blogging. They’re only useful to me—maybe the quotation tools I mentioned in the HTML-Kit post might be useful to others—which is exactly why I like the fact that HTML-Kit is so easily expandable. If there’s some task I find myself performing on a regular basis, I can spend 5 minutes creating a macro, and then never have to do it again.

Now, a two second search on Google will turn up the fact that you can actually run HTML Kit on Linux, using Wine. Unfortunately, it doesn’t completely work; I am able to use all of the macros that I’ve written, which is a big plus, but some other aspects of the program don’t work, and it often throws up horrible-looking error messages. That same Google search also turned up something called “HTML-Kit Tools for Linux”, which is a version of HTML-Kit written especially for Linux, rather than using a Wine session, but unfortunately it’s not actively developed, and may get dropped altogether. (The author of the tool, Chami, says that most people don’t want a version of HTML-Kit for Linux—they prefer the Windows version, running under Wine.)

Long time no post

Have I used that title before? Something tells me I have…

I haven’t written much here, lately. I’ve just been too busy, and too disinterested. Also, I’ve been working on another project, that’s been consuming my energy, which I’ll probably unveil here some time soon.

(If you just read that, and your first inclination was to hop onto MSN Messenger, and send me a message asking what it is that I’ve been working on, you need to find something else to occupy your time. I’ll tell you when I tell everyone else.)

I haven’t done much on the serna Bible Blog, either. Hopefully I’ll get back into a habit of posting every day. Well… every weekday. Well… nearly every weekday.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Weird Al

I realize there aren’t a lot of Weird Al fans out there, besides me, but he’s got a new album out, and I thought I’d share the video that was recently released.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Le Sigh

The Microsoft Windows XP Professional Operating System is really starting to make me angry.

It started on Thursday, when I got a virus. No, wait… let me go back a bit further.

It started on Monday or Tuesday, when I got an email from my IT department, telling me that there is a patch available from Microsoft, for a security issue, and that everyone should install it right away. So I went to Windows Update, to install it, only to be told that there is a security policy on my computer, that doesn’t allow it to access updates from Windows Update. Nice! One IT department has different policies from another IT department, and serna gets no updates!

Then came the virus on Thursday. (Actually, it could have been spyware, rather than a virus—I’m just not sure.) I’d like to think that I wouldn’t have got the virus if I’d been able to install the security update(s) from Microsoft, because that would be a nice ironic twist, but I don’t actually know that for sure. In any event McAffee—which I don’t like, but I’m forced to use it at work—managed to find the virus right away, and remove it. But it didn’t completely remove it; it left my desktop doing strange and funny things. So I did a bit of research on the net, and managed to get my desktop back up and running, almost good as new.

The only problem was that every other time I booted up the system, some process shot up to 100% CPU usage, and I couldn’t do anything. So I’d have to reboot, and hope for the best.

Then, on Friday, Firefox stopped working. It developed problems with Flash animations, and now any time I hit a site that happens to have any Flash on it, Firefox crashes! This was a problem because Firefox has become my browser of choice; I don’t use Internet Explorer anymore, unless I have to. And, of course, almost every site on the internet these days uses Flash. (Slight exaggeration, I admit.) So I tried uninstalling Firefox on Friday, and re-installing it, but same problem. (As I type this, I’ve just uninstalled it again—and gone in and manually deleted its Plugins directory—and am downloading it to install it again.)

So I made a decision Friday afternoon: I was going to install Ubuntu on my work laptop again, to make it a dual-boot system, and try using Ubuntu at work as much as possible. Out of the box it comes with an email client—Evolution—that’s supposed to work with Exchange, and an instant messaging client—Gaim—that’s supposed to work with MSN Messenger. Plus it comes with OpenOffice, which is compatible with Microsoft Office documents. (I’ve already mentioned some of this, in the past.) I’d already tested Gaim and OpenOffice, and had no problems, so if Evolution worked with Exchange, I’d be set. So I installed it on the weekend, and got myself ready for work on Monday.

I came in this morning, and booted up into Ubuntu, and found the following:

  • There were some issues getting multiple monitors to work. And by “some issues”, I mean that I couldn’t get it to work at all.
  • Evolution seems to work great with Exchange! No problems there.
  • Although Gaim works great with MSN Messenger when I’m at home, it doesn’t work great with MSN Messenger on the network at work. I might be able to tweak the settings a bit; my initial tries didn’t yield any results, but I didn’t try very hard before I gave up.
So I’ve rebooted back into Windows—twice, because the first time the CPU shot back up to 100% again, and I couldn’t work—and I’m using it again. I’m going to keep trying to get Ubuntu up and running, in my spare time; it works great at home, it’s just the issues mentioned above that I need to fix, to get it running at work. (And, from what I’ve been reading, getting the multiple monitor thing working is going to be a pain in the you-know-what; I’ve read at least a dozen people’s advice on how to do it, and they’ve all been different.)

As an aside, there was another unimportant-but-neat feature of Ubuntu I noticed on the weekend: It comes with a program that emulates Post-It Notes, out of the box. I always find myself opening up multiple copies of Notepad, for little notes to myself, so I was looking forward to being able to use the notes. (More information here, although the screenshots shown are for some other version of Linux, not Ubuntu.)

Oh well. Maybe, since I talk about it so much, I should start a Newbie’s Ubuntu blog, to write about my experiences? Apparently I’ll have lots to write about; how to get Ubuntu up and running at work, how to get it running on my home laptop, etc. I’ll also probably want to install Xgl/Compiz, so I’ll have that to write about, too. Not to mention that it seemed like there would be a Linux version of HTML-Kit, but now it looks like they’ve discontinued it, so I guess the first few posts would be about finding a customizable HTML editor I could use…