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For now I see through a glass, darkly

I am an unrepentant card-carrying tax-and-spend liberal. There, I said it. Just to make sure there's no doubt in the reader's mind. Some may wonder how such as I, the obvious spawn of the devil, came into existence. It's probably a reaction to my having grown up in a staunch Republican household, or perhaps I listened to one too many William F. Buckley "Firing Line" shows. Or watching what happened behind the scenes of the Regan administration (even though I voted Republican both terms). Or maybe it was Duhbya's two terms in office and how he came to win both. Oh. And let's not forget Karl Rove and Plamegate.

But there are some truths that transcend mere politics, such as the loss of our basic freedoms. Take, for instance, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon proba…

Be careful what you ask for

Remember just four years ago, when Novell entered into the now-infamous joint patent agreement with Microsoft? Remember the hue and cry that went up to boycott Novell? So that Novell would be driven out of business, and thus punished for entering into that "evil" agreement with the enemy?

Well, guess what.

It looks like all those righteous free software folks are going to get their wish. Novell entered into an agreement with Attachmate to be acquired by Attachmate for roughly $2.2 billion. And along the way it sold over 800 patents to a consortium led by Microsoft for an additional $450 million. Not bad for Novell. But not too good if you're wondering what impact this may have on Linux.

You see, earlier this year the courts established that it was Novell, not SCOG, that owned the intellectual property to Unix. For all you free software elites, let that critical fact sink into your thick skulls for just a moment. You all decided to punish the very company that literally h…

Feed

Normally you're supposed to finish a book before you write a review of it. Well, I've just started to read Mira Grant's (a.k.a. Seanan McGuire) "Feed", and I'm only up to chapter 4. It's a zombie book. I hate zombie books. Well, maybe hate is too strong a word. More like I try to avoid them.

As I said I avoid zombie novels. It's fairly trivial to do so; I spot books with dark colored covers combined with garishly drawn zombies and/or zombie killer illustrations, and just automatically steer clear of them. But "Feed" is different. "Feed"'s cover is a dirty white, with the RSS feed symbol at the top, drawn in blood (well, printed to look like it's drawn in blood). That's what caught my attention, and then kept it. It didn't come across as your typical zombie book. The front cover alone got me curious enough to pick up the book and start reading the back cover.

There wasn't much information there, and I would have …

Life with Lucy Cat

Orlando Diary

It's been two years since Lucy (a.k.a. Gertrude) walked through our front door and settled into the place. Since then Lucy has grown quite comfortable sharing a house with three adult humans (sometimes swelling to four), two Labs, and two other cats. She has, in particular, grown fond of me, a situation that based on my past experiences with cats I thought would never ever happen. But then here she is.

Lucy has all sorts of spots around the house where she likes to hang out, during various times, and depending on her whims. One habit she's developed is coming up to me in the evening and stretching out on my chest as I'm sitting and watching TV or just reading. She looks up at me with those big eyes of hers until my hand, almost of its own accord, drops down on her head and gives her rubs. Then she purrs like a little motor and snuggles down further until I get up and head to bed.

She knows where I sit, and when I'm not there in the evening, more often than …

Post-midterm

Orlando Diary

It's been a long while since my last substantive post. A lot has happened, from dropping a large wad of cash on the house for a new roof to another wad for an air-conditioner replacement, through the mid-term elections and beyond. I've been busy with work as well, largely successfully.

Re-roof

The re-roofing job came about because of the age of the house's age (25 years) and the fact that the roof was a 15 year roof that was put on when the house was originally built. In spite of it's age the roof survived the big hurricane years of 2004 and 2005, with less than a dozen shingles damaged that needed replaceing. But roofs don't last forever, and one morning when I was headed to work I just happened to look back at the house, with the sunrise hitting it the right way, and saw just about every edge on every shingle curling up. Outside of a major leak, that's a sure sign you need new roof.

I picked Fleming Brothers Roofing to replace the roof. I'd w…

At Work with Linux: VirtualBox 3.2.10 and Fedora 14

As part of my duties as the unofficial lab manager and general lab rat, I took a little time to update an installation of VirtualBox from 3.2.8 to 3.2.10. I've been busy and I haven't had the time to keep on top of every little thing. Besides, if it works, leave it alone. Unfortunately, I ran into an issue installing Fedora 14 (more below) that motivated me to install the latest VirtualBox (VB).

And that's when I hit my second, far greater problem. It appears that VB 3.2.10 kernel modules will not install properly on the host version of Linux I run; RHEL 5.4 Workstation. Up to this point I've had no problems installing VB on RHEL (5.4 or 5.5), and the VMs created with VB have run with little or no problems. But this time I ran into problems when I attempted to start one of my VMs under the latest version of VB.


And this is what showed up in the syslog
!!Assertion Failed!!
Expression: RT_SUCCESS_NP(rc)
Location : /home/vbox/vbox-3.2.10/src/VBox/VMM/VMMAll/PGMAllPool.cpp(2…

An editorial about Olympus

I wrote an editorial concerning Olympus over on Matthew's Reviews. I can't call it a review because there's no camera hardware involved, particularly any that I own. Just my colorful opinion.

Hating to fly

I flew up to McLean Wednesday afternoon to attend the 10th SOA e-Government Conference on Thursday. Pack, rush to MCO, catch a long jam-packed United flight to Dulles, then spend the night at a local McLean hotel. Up the next morning at 6:30am to make the opening session at 8:30am. Listen to a rapid-fire series of presentations, lunch, more presentations, then a rushed trip  back to Dulles, just in time to step aboard another long jam-packed United flight, finally home again and enjoy a late supper with my wife. Flying as a mode of transportation has become so unappealing.

Late night Sunday fire

Orlando Journal

Sunday evening, around 8pm, we had one hellavu thunderstorm roll through my neighborhood. The day had been hot, with the high in the low 90's. I thought we weren't going to get any rain; on hot days like that it usually starts earlier in the evening, usually around 5pm.

I was cooking supper out on the grill, and was nearly finished when the storm really began to intensify. The bolts were striking very close, so close that there was not time difference between the strike and the sound of subsequent thunder.

By 8:30pm the storm was literally right over us. I lost count of the strikes (that is, strikes close around the house). The lightening reached a peak with a house-rattling boom that I really thought had hit the property, if not the house. The lights even flickered, and I lost the network connection between the cable modem and my (now damaged, as it turned out) Linksys wireless hub.

We finally ate and I was cleaning up in the kitchen. That's when my daught…

Why I don't rant something on Linux any more

I had an interesting comment show up on one of my posts. The reader said, in part:
I know it has been a while since you ranted something on Linux...That's an interesting observation. It really has been a while since I ranted about Linux. Before I became a Linux ranter I was a happy user, writing a thread of positive advocacy pieces on Linux, especially OpenSUSE (10.2). I branched out with Ubuntu (7.2) and Mandriva.

But in the end I grew tired of watching my system grow less useful and more broken with each new distribution release. My patience with this madness came to an official end on March 16, 2009, when I finally declared I'd had enough with OpenSUSE 11.1, and Linux in general. To quote Béranger at the time, I defected from Linux back to Windows as a rational act.

Just a few months after that, Linus Torvalds had this to say about Microsoft and hating on Microsoft:
I may make jokes about Microsoft at times, but at the same time, I think the Microsoft hatred is a disease. I b…

Labor Day Downtown

Orlando Diary

Today was a holiday, and I spent the morning doing something I seldom get a chance to do; walk around downtown Orlando with my cameras, taking photographs like a tourist. I walked through downtown with another photographer friend, Jim Thompson. He carried a pair of Oly E-510's, while I was a serial carrier; first I carried an E-3 with a 12-60mm, then put that away and spent the rest of my time using an E-P2.

Today was also unique in that it was pretty deserted downtown. There were very few people out and about. It was almost like a ghost town. Great time and great fellowship.














Equipment Used
Olympus E-3 with Zuiko Digital 12-60mm ED SWD
Olympus E-P2 with M.Zuiko 17mm, M.Zuiko 14-42mm, Zuiko Digital 40-150mm w/MMF-2, Zuiko Digital 9-18mm ED w/MMF-1

A little here, a little there

Orlando Diary

Shopping at a grocery a grocery store is a wonderful teaching experience, and today was no example. I had to make a morning run to a local Publix to pick up a few items for breakfast. While I was in the citrus juice section I naturally gravitated towards Tropicana, the "quality" brand.

Tropicana does taste pretty good. But this time, for whatever reason, I paid attention to the printing at the very bottom of the juice carton.

When you walk into to a well-maintained grocery store such as Publix, you'll find all products are neatly arranged, lined up in rows together, on their respective shelves. Orange just in two quart containers is no exception. Being square, it's very easy to dress them up by pulling them tightly against the front lip of the shelf edge (figure 1). Note that the lowest 1/4 inch or so of the bottom of the carton is cut off from view (figure 2).

You don't appreciate what's happening until you push the carton back less than an inch …

Saturation

The latest Apple Carnivàle, replete with Stevenote, has come and gone once again. In its wake we've been blessed with new versions of iPods, various and sundry new products, and iTunes version 10, the latest and greatest release, to help tie it all a little tighter to the Apple mothership.

Pardon my Apple apostasy, but the Jobs' Reality Distortion Field (or RDF) doesn't reach as far nor have the potent sway it once held over me. I've lived with enough contemporary Apple technology produced after the Second Coming of Jobs to see the spots on the Apple. Saturation, indeed. I've been repeatedly exposed to the point where I could probably do Steve better than Steve.

And this latest batch of iPods shows a fresh set of spots. Let's count them all, shall we?
Apple TV - This second generation is 1/4 the size of the original, and made completely out of plastic. It's lost its Mac OS X roots along with the Intel processor and hard drive. In its place is an ARM-based Co…

Having fun and learning something in the process

Orlando Diary

Playing with my EP-2 tonight, I learned to appreciate one of it's nearly infinite number of built-in features: continuous autofocus with tracking. When you partially press the shutter, a big green box with small cross hairs poking out each side will appear in the center of the LCD, over the part of the composition that will remain in focus. Then, with your finger over the shutter, as you recompose the photo by moving the camera, the box will track that area, making sure it still stays in focus. This is very handy for close focusing and/or shallow depth of field with lenses set at their widest aperture.

For example, in figure 1, I focused the E-P2 on Lucy's extended paw. If I'd taken the photo immediately at close distance, then I would have cut off a good portion of her head. Instead, I simply recomposed to bring her head and paw into the composition I wanted, then took the photograph. The paw remained in focus, with the rest of her fading into a pleasing out-…

What do you really want? (part 2)

Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.
Thomas EdisonI have been, and never will be, a thoroughly satisfied man. Not in my job, not in my hobbies, not in my personal passions. Especially photography.

With photography that dissatisfaction comes in two parts; dissatisfaction with my ability, and dissatisfaction with the camera equipment I use.

The dissatisfaction with my ability will never be completely satisfied. It's not false modesty that forces me to admit that my talent is mediocre at best. All I have to do to be reminded of my limitation is look at the fire hose of talent that streams constantly on the Internet, from amateur to full-up card-carrying pro. I can work on my technique, and attempt to substitute a good looking photo for a photo worth looking at. But I'll never, ever be as good as many that I admire and respect. So I chalk that up and move on.

The dissatisfaction with the equipment with the equipment I use will never be completely satisf…

What do you really want?

Back in days of old, when I was a high school teenager, I would occasionally get so passionately involved with something, and as a consequence, so tightly wrapped around the axle over it, that my father would stop me and ask these Five Important Words:

"What do you really want?"

My father could have easily told me what to do. But to do so would have introduced a longer term problem: I would not have learned how to solve my own problem and I would not have been as motivated to follow through because it wasn't mine, but my dad's.

So I would think about the problem, decide what was really important based on what I really wanted, and come up with a reasonably acceptable solution. It might not have been perfect, but that was part of the learning process too. Each time I went through this, the process became more refined and the results more satisfactory.

So here I am, some 40 years later, passionately involved with photography again (digital instead of film) and once more…

Olympus Disappoints in µ4/3rds Announcements

Today Olympus announced the availability of two new all-black E-P2 kits and two new µ4/3rds zoom lenses. None of what Olympus announced today is what I would classify as exciting nor innovative. Instead, it illustrates what appears to be a slowly growing morbidity within the entire Olympus camera division. In this instance all that has occurred are cosmetic changes on the Pen kits and a regurgitation of older 4/3rds designs with the zooms.

The E-P2 was originally released in December 2009. It came in two kits; one with the 17mm silver M.Zuiko all-silver lens, and the other with the collapsing M.Zuiko 14-42 zoom in black with silver trim. Both versions came with the VF-2 electronic viewfinder, and they both retailed for $1,100. Today's EP-2 kit releases are a minor variation on the original in that the lens is now an all-black 17mm across both kits, with the variation being a kit with an all-black FL-14 external flash (what is what is shown to the right) or a kit with the VF-2.

The…

Primary Day 2010

Orlando Diary

Woke up at 6am this morning, then spent the next hour puttering about the house, getting things straightened out, before heading over to my local precinct to vote and then to work.

I voted this morning; the picture to the right was shot in the evening on the way home from work. Turnout in the morning and in the evening looked to be pretty light. I faced more traffic from students heading to UCF than voters to polling stations.

Biggest pleasure of the day was finding out that Kendrick Meek beat billionaire Jeff Greene for the Democratic Senate nomination. Meek will face off in November against Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio and current Florida Governor and independent candidate Charlie Christ. Christ is currently in the lead according to the polls.

The contest between Meek and Greene was particularly raucous, with both trading harsh insults and barbs. It was Greene, however, who drew first blood. Greene entered the primary at the very last minute, and then used his fortun…

At Work with Linux: Linux Mint 9 Gnome and KDE

One of the nicer features about the office lab is the fact we have a number of still-powerful workstations on which to run various operating systems. We've chosen to run Redhat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) as the primary host operating system on every machine we have, which consists predominantly of Dell Precision 690's outfitted with a single quad-core Xeon (2.4GHz E5345) processor and 32GB system memory.

These are not exactly what you would call "home systems". A current home system might have half the memory these workstations have, although 4GB is still considered the norm. And the Xeon E5354, while somewhat "out of date", can nevertheless support a more-than-decent computational load when called upon.

One of the benefits of all this horsepower coupled with all this memory is the ability to run virtual machines on the workstations. For that, we've chosen to install Oracle/Sun's VirtualBox (currently at version 3.6.8), and using that, I've install…