Diary of a geek

September 2006
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Andrew Pollock

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Thursday, 28 September 2006

Who moved my cheese?

Wah! Google Reader has been completely changed.

Granted, the old UI was fairly plain and simple, but I'd come to like it. The new UI is certainly a lot busier. The new feature allowing sharing of articles in your own feed is pretty cool.

[21:47] [tech] [permalink]

Every day's a school day

Well actually it was yesterday...

I didn't know about the --reference option to chown and chmod until a co-worker used them whilst I was helping him with a task. Very cool find.

Goes to show that it pays to read the manpages for frequently used tools.

[20:53] [tech] [permalink]

Saturday, 23 September 2006

My top 10 Unix shell commands

Update

It helps if you give sort a -n option apparently. The results make a bit more sense now.

Well it kind of varies, because I have a weird mode of operation. I SSH into caesar, in my cupboard, which is my local general purpose box. It runs a screen session, which includes an SSH session with daedalus, my server co-located back in Australia, where I read my email via mutt, and then I do really local stuff on my laptop, icarus.

daedalus
     37 fg
     32 ls
     31 sudo
     19 blog
     12 cd
      7 df
      6 vi
      6 mutt
      5 less
      4 man
Unsurprisingly, fg wins out here, because I'm usually in mutt and just background it to get a shell prompt. blog is a funky shell script I wrote to better manage blog posts with Blosxom.
caesar
    152 sudo
     61 ls
     38 less
     35 cd
     27 screen
     19
     13 dpkg
     11 apt-cache
     10 man
      9 ssh
icarus

156 play 103 ls 54 sudo 45 ssh 12 cd 12 apt-cache 10 dpkg 8 wget 8 host 6 telnet

play ranks so highly because I was recently listening to all of the audio files that come with Asterisk to stitch together a particularly hellish purgatory for telemarketers.

So it's interesting seeing how the different machines get totally different use.

[12:04] [meme] [permalink]

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

Reno air races and air show

I asked Marc-who-shall-not-be-linked-to if he could take Sarah and I for a plane ride some time, not expecting it to be for a while, and he turned around and offered to take us out on Saturday, to Reno to see the air show.

It was only after we got there that I discovered it was predominately air races, with a bit of a show tacked on. That was okay, it was a good day out.

The flight, in a little single-prop, four-seater Trinidad, took about 90 minutes each way, give or take, and was fun. I'd already been in a little plane once before, so it didn't have quite the same novelty value for me as it did for Sarah, who was really excited.

This was our first visit to Nevada, if you call flying into Reno International, with a 20 minute cab ride to Reno Stead Field, "seeing Nevada". Nevada's cabs were interesting, with rooftop advertising ranging from the local adult venues featuring pole and cage dancers, to the region's abstinence advocacy group.

The airshow itself was an interesting display of patriotism and propaganda. I've never been to an airshow in Australia either, and I don't really know a lot about aeroplanes, but it's fun watching cool military aircraft whizzing around. We've been a bit spoiled living near the Moffet Federal Airfield, but even then, you only get to see stuff flying straight in or out. This was cool to see stuff flying around for the express purpose of being ogled.

As for the patriotism and propaganda, I think it was the display of the F-15 Eagle. They had some dude from the Air Force on the public address system talking about whilst it did its tricks, and he was constantly going on about (your) US Air Force's military superiority and how the F-15 could do anything and blah blah blah, all with "God Bless the USA" being played in the background. In fact various versions of this song got played throughout the day, with the crowd often singing along.

It was the lines

I'm proud to be an American
where at least I know I'm free,

that particularly make me smirk. It's like America's the only country in the world that's free or something. That, and God only blesses the USA. Gimme a break. Oh, and we all had to stand up for the national anthem.

It's funny. Australia just seems so unpatriotic by comparison. Not that I've been to an air show in Australia, so I don't know what sort of a military slant they have.

There was a bit of an exhibition also attached to the show, where all manner of government types were doing recruiting, from the state troopers to the military. I ran into the Australian family of a guy from the RAAF on exchange with the USAF, and a lady from Darwin running a stall that sold Australian products.

Overall it was a good day out, with some more exposure to good old American culture.

Photos from the outing are here

[23:02] [life] [permalink]

Destinator 6 review

I received an email recently saying I was eligible for a reduced-price on the upgrade to Destinator 6 (from Destinator 2), so given we've found a few maps to be out of date, and the upgrade was under $100, I thought I'd give it a shot.

The good

  • New UI. Looks less like a WinCE program and more like a GPS navigation appliance. Larger hot spots, so less of a need to use the stylus to drive it, using a fingertip works quite satisfactorily
  • UI has a dedicated "home" hot spot on the map display
  • Actively attempts to reacquire the bluetooth GPS when it has been switched off (this used to require manually re-finding the GPS after it had been switched off)

The bad

  • Upgrade lost our favourites
  • The automatic GPS reacquisition seems to prevent the iPaq from turning off properly, so kills the battery unless you completely quit Destinator, so there's probably no time gain from the behaviour of the old version. You have to start Destinator every time you want to use it, rather than leaving it running and turning on the iPaq and reconnecting with the GPS.
  • Upgrade lost the British voice we had (I think this was a hangover from when we were evaluating the Australian maps)
  • No option to use standard WinCE input methods. No longer can we just scribble on the screen with the stylus to enter enough letters to disambiguate an address, we have to use the non-QWERTY onscreen keyboard.

Verdict

It's sufficiently different from the previous version in terms of interface that it's going to take some time to get used to. I've also not sliced up the maps, and just loaded all of the West Coast in as one lump, so the first step of every address entry involves selecting California. That may get annoying enough to re-slice the maps again (assuming it'll fix this). The GPS auto-reacquisition has already proved itself to be a double-edged sword. Of course, the workaround is to hack the Prius to always provide power to the accessory plug and leave the iPaq in the cradle, but I have problems with leaving valuable items on display in the car, so I don't think we'll be doing that.

[22:00] [tech] [permalink]

Friday, 15 September 2006

Welcome to America, Kynan

Yay, Kynan and Shona made it here in one piece.

May their bootstrapping experience suck less than ours.

[15:29] [life] [permalink]

Sunday, 10 September 2006

Labor Day weekend in Yosemite

Last weekend, for the Labor Day long-weekend, we went to Yosemite.

We camped at an RV park about 15 minutes drive from the entrance on Highway 120.

The National Park was fantastic. Really big, and really well laid out. There were a couple of two-lane one-way ring-roads designed specifically for just rubbernecking, so you could cruise along at your own pace and take it all in.

The place also had free shuttle buses. That blew me away. It also had two "villages". These were quite large and really well equipped with food outlets, a supermarket, accommodation etc. There's even a golf course.

We managed to run into some random Googlers, and some tourists from Sydney while on top of Sentinel Dome.

On the wildlife side, we only saw some deers. On the way to Sentinel Dome, we passed some people in the opposite direction who warned us about there being three bears around, but much to our disappointment, we didn't see them.

There were lots of waterfalls. I'd love to see the place in Spring when everything's melting, and also in Winter just to see how much snow is around.

I don't doubt we'll be back.

Photos are here (with some culling and captioning still required)

It's the first time I've remembered to take our tripod with us, so for a change we've managed to actually be in a lot more of the photos.

[21:19] [life] [permalink]

Surfin' in the USA

Okay, well boogie boarding.

We had Franziska, a friend of Alison's from Dublin, who has been working out of the Mountain View office for 3 months, around for dinner on Thursday night.

She invited us to go boogie boarding at Pacifica on Sunday with her and some of her friends, and despite the weather forecast of 11 degrees and fog, we thought we'd give it a go.

Yup, this side of the Pacific Ocean is nothing like the side I'm more used to. It was cold, but with a wetsuit it was perfectly tolerable. The "beach" (and I use the term lightly) was pretty awful. The sand was that sort that has lots of black stuff in it, and there were rocks everywhere. The surf was also pretty non-existent.

Despite these conditions, there were heaps of people in the water, the majority with surfboards. I really couldn't see the point, because the waves were of a size where you could stand up for maybe 5 seconds if you were lucky, and then it was all over.

All of that said, it was kinda fun. Certainly an invigorating way to spend a Sunday. I'd do it again. Next time I'll take my snorkelling booties, as the coldest part of me was my feet.

A few photos are here.

[21:07] [life] [permalink]

Saturday, 09 September 2006

Got to meet the Governator

One of our neighbours, Carol (the one who adopted Cleo, the mother of the litter of kittens we temporarily fostered a while ago), is a mad keen volunteer for the Republican Party (at the state level).

I think Sarah mentioned I was interested in having a political discussion with her some time, so she invited us to come to a rally in Saratoga today and gave us free tickets (normally you'd have to pay at least $25 per person to do what we did).

So we went along to check it out. It started about 45 minutes late, and we'd arrived 30 minutes early. It was in a high-school auditorium that held about 400 people by our guestimations.

While we were waiting, it was interesting to do a bit of people-watching. The vast majority were Caucasian, and either young or elderly, not a lot in between. Those that were had children there as well. A few conversation snippets I overheard were people seeming to justify their opinions with themselves and each other, which was interesting.

First up was some sort of attempt at crowd warming for a couple of minutes, then I think it was the state leader of the Republican Party who had a few words, then Arnold himself came on.

He gave a pretty good spiel about how he'd unfucked the state since he took office, and how he needed to be returned for another 4 years, and rattled off a list of his accomplishments and what more he wanted to do. It was good to hear him talk about the environment, although in the next breath he went on to talk about "rebuilding California" and how there'd be cranes and concrete everywhere, with new roads and tunnels and whatnot, so you've got to wonder a little bit...

In the same vein, he went on about not raising taxes or increasing spending, yet had this whole "rebuilding California" thing going on. His speech was generally fairly light-on details and more of a rousing the party faithful, than a "vote for me", I think.

He wrapped up with an "I'll be back" and proceeded to throw some campaign swag into the audience, then came down off the stage to kiss hands and shake babies.

I got to shake his hand, so that was the highlight of the whole outing.

I certainly walked away from the rally thinking fairly highly of him as a candidate, even if he is a Republican. I'd be inclined to vote for him if I was entitled to.

For the sake of hearing both sides, I'd like to go and hear what Phil Angelides has to say for himself as well.

Some photos from the rally are here and a little bit of video is here.

[15:36] [life/americania] [permalink]

Wednesday, 06 September 2006

Changing the world, one light bulb at a time

It's nice to read that maybe there'll be 100 million more compact-fluorescent light bulbs in the US in a year's time.

We'll just gloss over the disposal issues for now.

[17:01] [life] [permalink]