invisible sandwich

One of my great enjoyments in life is going to and looking at the photoshop contests. They can be really funny. Typically, there will be a dry spell for a while that will only get me to chuckle a bit. Then there will be a contest that either makes me bust out laughing or there will be a couple of entries that make it a worthwhile read. Last night was one of those days.

Most the time, the summaries that people post for submitted headlines are really funny. I wish I was witty like that.

If you’ve been on the Internet for a while, you’ve probably seen those funny pictures of cats with captions like “in yur computer, steeln yur hertz.” I love those pictures, they crack me up. It could be that I am just a cat person but this is one of those little Internet things that helps make life a little less serious.

one of those days

Today was one of those days that I couldn’t wait for it to end. Comparatively speaking, it wasn’t that bad for me, but it was rough for someone I work with. I’ve been there and know how they feel. There is a certain sense of feeling alone, and everyone piling on you and that you don’t have a friend in the world. It’s tough, but after going through it myself, I think I am better for it. There are some details from between here and there that I don’t want to get into on a personal level, but I got some help for which I am very thankful. I wish the best of luck to those who need it.

Years ago, I read a management book that was based on Chaos Theory. At that point in time in my life, it was very apropos and I thought it was great. But I was in the minority and the ideas that I tried to put forth just didn’t fair as well as I had hoped in the “traditional” corporate environment. I was a new manager and wanted to learn to be a good boss, but not a traditional boss. That was years ago and I have read many management books since then. Leadership is important these days. That’s the hot button these days and the managers that recognize it can be successful.

I’m kind of rambling here, but it was one of those sort of days that one just has to reflect on. Tomorrow will be another day and will be better than it was, but I still care.

Before everything went down today, I read on another blog I like to frequent about EI:

  • The one skill you need for three key areas of career growth

Penelope’s blog is pretty cool. I have found a lot of useful, supportive information there. So, I am in a melancholy mood. Probably, after a good night of sleep, I might have more to say about it, but I need some time to think.

bootpd, ubuntu

So, as I was saying, having the CDROM on the same IDE channel as the hard disk is not working out so good. I just left the PC doing its thing and I will check up on it in the morning tomorrow. However, based on previous experience I am not expecting this to work so well. However, I noticed that the Dell will try to do a bootp/dhcp request if it can’t find any drives. This is interesting since now I may not need the CDROM at all.

Ubuntu has instructions on how to set up a bootpd server. Luckily, my FreeBSD box already has bootpd as part of the core installation. So between the man page and the documentation from Ubuntu, I should be able to do a net boot of the installation media. Slick.

It is too late and I’ve had enough wine tonight that I know better than to try it out, so I’ll probably give it a whirl tomorrow. Being sleepy and having wine does not lend itself to editing config files. This is the kind of thing that gets me excited; trying to figure this stuff out. At some point, I find this becomes more important than the actual end result. I’ll take it for a drive and report back.

part II on the el cheapo HTPC

Someone asked me what an HTPC was.

  • Home Theater PC

I would say it is something of a Holy Grail among the Home Theater crowd. If you have a nice HT setup, this might be something you could spend a ton of money on and hours of fiddling and fine tuning. It’s a mix between something that is powerful enough to output HD-type of content yet is whisper-quiet and gets spousal-approval. This can be tough to do and get all three of the major requirements. Some have used quite successfully an Apple Mac-Mini, for example.

But when you got little or no money to spend on it…

In my previous posts, I was telling you about the cheapo HTPC I was going to help my brother-in-law build. And I also wrote that the PC he gave me to work with as way too old to be useful. And in other post, I mentioned I had an old Dell 450 Mhz that I was planning to turn off.

I did turn it off the other night. It was running FreeBSD 5.4. I wanted to upgrade it to 6.X but could never get it to boot of the CDROM. After tinkering with it, I determined that the secondary IDE port on the motherboard was bad. So I cannibalized the old PC my bro-in-law gave me for the CDROM and last thing I did was leave it while it was installing Ubuntu. Later, I’ll continue installing linux on it.

So I started with that old Dell. As I mentioned above about the bad IDE interface, I put the CDROM as a slave on the primary IDE controller and the hard drive as the primary. I seem to remember something about why this isn’t a good idea and I keep on. Sure, the installation goes really slow. So slow that I decide to let it run overnight. This morning, I check in and it is still doing something. I don’t know what but the mouse is sluggish and the CD is spinning like mad. I can only assume it has something to do with both devices being on the same IDE channel.

I remove the CD and reboot and FreeBSD comes up like nothing had happened. What a headache. Actually, it really is just a minor annoyance since once it does install, I probably won’t need the CDROM again since everything is downloaded or shared via SMB. I’ll probably start the installation again tonight and let it run for who knows how long…

My dad sent me a webcam so we can share vids of the family. I’d rather play with that tonight. I got it working under my Mac pretty easily:

And I just installed the Logitech software from the website for my WinXP desktop.

mother update

I was trying to decide what to write about tonight. I guess I could begin both and keep them in a draft. I was deciding between another update on the HTPC or to write something about my mother.

I’ll write about my mother first. As some of you who are close to me know, my mother had a pretty severe stroke back on 11/03/2006. She had a hemorrhagic stroke which is pretty bad. Her stroke occurred where the brain stem meets the spinal cord. She almost died. She was with some friend for dinner when it happened. They called an ambulance while I was on my way which ended up being the life-saving factor. They did emergency surgery on here. She was weak in the right side of her body and lost her balance, ability to speak normally, and can’t walk. She is 59 years old and the cause of her stroke most certainly appears to be hypertension.

Fast forward to today and I can’t believe how well she is doing. I took her to Walmart last night to help her buy some things she needed, (she is living at nice assisted living place). We had a lot of fun together. That’s the sort of thing I have been missing. It has only been recently that my Mom wanted her cell phone. I used to talk to her on my way home from work or when I was in the car, (don’t worry, I alway use a hands-free headset). I couldn’t talk to her unless I went to see her. Now, she’s called me twice and it was really nice to talk with her. We had a pretty nice time at Walmart, too. We shopped and looked at the clearance isles. I let her by herself while I went to grab some diapers for the kids. I watched her from further away to make sure she was alright. She was and it was great to see her enjoy herself while we were out.

When we left, the sky was clear and the moon was so bright. This was the first time my Mom had been out like that since her stroke happened. Sometimes, it is hard to imagine that she’s had to put her life on hold while she continues to get better. I am really proud of her and I enjoy taking care of her. I didn’t think I had it in me to do something like this and it isn’t easy. But it’s new and I don’t begrudge it.

We got back to her apartment and she was planning on eating some oranges. I hugged and kissed her and left. It was fun but I could tell she was tired. I worry about her a lot, but after we spend time like that together, I always feel better about where she is going.

Update on low cost HTPC

Man, I was wrong. I’ll admit it. In a previous post, I mentioned how I was going to help my brother-in-law with building a very low cost HTPC. He had an old PC laying around. I didn’t know what speed it was but it was clear that it was maxed out with RAM, had no USB ports, and no AGP slot.

So, I put in another PCI video card I had that had RCA video out and took out the modem card and installed a NIC in it. It booted up fine into W2k. For a quick proof of concept, I booted off a Knoppix CD to see if the hard drive and other devices would be seen.

Now, I wasn’t paying attention, up to this boot to the boot messages, but Knoppix came up and said there was only 32MB free and I should make a swap space on the primary hard drive at least double my available RAM and it recommended between 60MB and 120MB. Hoo-boy. I then saw that it was an AMD K6 at 199Mhz. It also had a 4GB hard drive. This was going to be more trouble than it was worth.

I have a really old Dell that is 450Mhz. I just turned it off so maybe I’ll give this to him. I am now interested enough in continuing with this proof of concept as I have never played with MythTV. I still think a modded Xbox with XBMC might be the best way to go.

learning (and remembering) german

I took German in high school for four years. I took two years of it in college. That was in 1992. I never really had chance to use it after that for some time, but I enjoyed being able to watch German movies and an occasional German song or two.

Then, years later, my sister-in-law met a guy who was from Germany. Long story short, they got married and had a wedding in Germany in the small village where his family still lives. They live in the Black Forest about an hour south of Stuttgart. When we found out the wedding was going to be there, we were so excited. What a great chance to go native in Germany. I was curious how I would remember my German, or if I even would. This was in September 2001.

I was so surprised how my German came back to me. Being immersed in the language and being on our own for a while really helped. It was wonderful. Ever since then, I’ve really wanted to continue to learn German and grow my vocabulary. But I feel that I have enough base, and basic understanding that if I wanted to take classes I might need to start at the beginning since I don’t remember all the vocabulary or take a more advanced class but still lack in the vocabulary department. I wasn’t sure where I’d fit it. I also didn’t have the money or the time to take classes. I work right down the street from the Goethe Institute but the times just never worked out. I did take their placement test, but never faxed it back in.

There have been many blogsites about learning languages and they’ve been a great help. Some of those pages are gone, but in their absences, other helpful tools, like Skype, have emerged.

Here’s a page I put together with some of my most helpful items. Expect it to be updated.

 Learning German Resources