Friday, December 31, 2004

Better Linux Realplayer

As noted previously, in certain cases RealPlayer launches quite a few windows, only one of which works.

After upgrading to RealPlayer 10.0.2, rebooting, restarting Firefox, etc., now RealPlayer works perfectly as a plugin for the NOVA site mentioned in the link above.

The Day Before -- The Day After

A company called DigitalGlobe has a set of before and after satellite pictures from the Indian Ocean Tsunami.

The Washington Post also has some before and after pictures, as well as pictures of the human side of the catastrophe. (Click on "Photo Gallery" or "Satellite Images" in the box on the right-hand-side of the screen. Note all the mud that has been dragged miles inland.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Elegant Universe -- Online

I've mentioned Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe, a popularization of string theory, before. You may know that it was made into a three-part series for NOVA. Today, thank's to a Slashdot discussion of the centenial of Einstein's 1905 papers I found that PBS has put the series on line. Each of the three parts comes in 8 chapters, available in QuickTime or RealPlayer format:

If you try the RealPlayer option in Linux, it will work, but I get 5-6 copies of the player. One of them has the program, the others can be deleted. I couldn't get mplayer, xine, or totem to play the QuickTime version.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Playing MIDI files

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a standard for transmit information between electronic musical instruments, including your computer. On the Web, MIDI seems to be used mainly to play cheesy background music on certain web sites. Being a glutton for punishment, I installed the Open Source programTiMidity++ to play these files under Linux.

Mozplug has links to timidity in the standard /etc/mozpluggerrc file, but to get Firefox to find the plugin I had to delete the ~/.mozilla/firefox/pluginreg.dat file.

I'd test this setup on the Plugger Testing Ground, but the page has been corrupted. I'll check back in a day or so.

Minutes later:: Found a MIDI Sample Page, which works.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas

We call it "The Greatest Story Ever Told," God's fulfilment of his promise of salvation. And for over 1900 years, Christians have told its beginning in this way:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Luke, 2:1-20

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


The big news today of course, is the announcement that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will be released on July 16.

Feeling Much Better Now

Yesterday was the first anniversary of this blog. I was going to post statistics, reactions (minimal), a little bit about the evolution of the blog, etc.

Last week, around Thursday, the government decided that there was enough flu vaccine, and recommended that everyone over 50 get a shot.

I've gotten a flu shot for at least the last 20 years, usually at work. In those twenty years I never got the flu. In fact, I never had the flu.

OK, I thought, Monday I'll go to my doctor and get a flu shot. I'm entitled, after all.

Friday night, as I was driving home, I got the sniffles.

Saturday I had a general, undefined ache all over, though I was able to do a four mile walk, which did clear my head.

Saturday night I was warm enough that I didn't need blankets. By morning I had a fever of about 101.5F.

Sunday afternoon I topped out at 102.6. Fortunately there were some good football games on.

Since Sunday I've been cycling between 99 and 102, roughly. When it gets above 101 I take Tylenol.

I'm coughing my head off, as my sinuses have all sorts of junk. I'm not particularly sore anymore, but I get tired very easily. This afternoon I had to lie down after watching four straight hours of Deep Space 9 and TNG. OK, I chased down a couple of rabbits, too.

So if you're wondering why I know I never had the flu before, it's because now I know what the flu is. Everything else is a cheap imitation. I had mono almost 30 years ago, and it wiped me out for months, but I don't remember it being this intense at any given time.

As God is my Witness, I will never skip a flu shot again. Those who run the programs might think about that come next election. You've blown it two years in a row, this year worse than last. Get with it, people.

Of some worry is that 86 years ago this month my Grandfather got influenza. The "Spanish Flu", as it was called. He died before the end of the year, leaving my Grandmother with six kids, the oldest ten years old. Now, I'm not a sufficiently large hypochondriac to think this is going to get me (though I'm close). But this strain isn't as virulent as the Spanish one was, and we've got antibiotics to clear up secondary infections. So I'll be around to post into the new year.

Posts might be rather spotty, though, as I recover.

All of you take care.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Star Wars Flash

Get your minds out of the gutter. I said "Flash", not "Slash". Anyway, two Star Wars animations set to music:

British Bad Science Awards

It's not that there is more bad science in Britain than in the US, it's that the British are able to laugh at it in the popular press, not just in the Annals of Improbable Research. From the Guardian,

The 2004 Bad Science Awards

Including shrinking water molecules, anesthetic-coated condoms, and Giant Irradiated Tomatoes.

Kerry Should Have Used This

Persistence in one opinion has never been considered a merit in political leaders.

-- Marcus Tullius Cicero, "Ad familiares", 1st century BC

(Watch, that will probably turn out to be a fake quotation.)

Things You Can Buy on eBay

Though he isn't happy about it.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Happy Solstice

Everyone's favorite phone caller, Bill O'Reilly, has an article called Take Your Christmas and Stuff It. Basically, evil secularists are taking over Christmas, banning the religious aspects, and turning us all into secular humanists.

Bunk. The secular aspects of Christmas predate the religious ones by centuries, if not millenia.

3-400 years ago, or so, what we'd now call the leading Conservatives (based on Church of England and Lutheran norms they were raving radicals, but what the heck), aka the Puritans (and some Presbyterians and other Calvinists), didn't celebrate Christmas. Why? BECAUSE THEY KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN!!! Christmas is, and always has been, an invitation to party. And I don't mean just sitting around over a week glass of wine and a stuffed turkey.

The Church (Orthodox and Catholic) didn't pick December 25 as the day to celebrate Christ's birth because of any evidence that He was born then. They picked the day because that was during the time of Saturnalia, the Roman pagan festival. And what did people do during this festival, which lasted a week or so, you may ask? The generally debauched. There were some minor religious celebrations, but mostly they did the Party Hardy bit. There was even one day when slaves were allowed to boss their masters. (Sort of like a day when the Republicans let the Democrats win something in Congress, but this actually happened once a year.) I suppose you could put a statue of Zeus in the local parade, but I'm also sure that most people didn't care one way or another.

Oh, and outside of Rome, up in Germany and further north, trees that stayed green all year were special. Especially during the Winter Solstice. I.e., "Holiday Trees" predate "Christmas Trees" by centuries.

The Church took all this over, toned down the celebrations, and put Epiphany 12 days after Christmas, giving rise to a two-week celebratory season (take that, pagans), as well as millions of partridges in pear trees over the centuries (but that started much later). Germans began to regard the tree as a symbol of Christianity. (Mistletoe and Holly are still popular, though.)

So Christmas started out as a secular holiday. It's celebrated at a time when most pagans, European ones at least, celebrated a wild secular holiday. Why do we expect it to be anything else? Of the "90% of Americans [who] celebrate the Federal holiday of Christmas," how many actually go to church that day? On Christmas Eve? What's the percentage of them for which this is the only day of church in the year?

The most important day on the Christian calendar isn't Christmas, by the way. It's Easter. Tied to a time of year mentioned in the Bible. Celebrated since the 2nd century AD. Where people don't go wassailing, give big gifts (mostly), or try to score with the secretary in accounting during the office party. I'm pretty sure that 90% of Americans DON'T celebrate Easter, but I'm certain that 100% of Christians do.

Even the Puritans.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Big Cash System

So many things to blog about, so little time. Well, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) has the distinct advantage that all the players are settled, but we have almost a month before the actual event. So let's talk about what went wrong and why.

The BCS is supposed to give us the two best Division I college football teams fighting for the National Championship. Instead, it gives us pretty good teams fighting for the Championship, and leaves everyone else outside looking in. Sometimes this works. But not often (numbers in parenthesis indicate pre-championship game record):

Season Bowl Winner Loser Controversy
1998 Fiesta Tennessee (12-0) 23 Florida State (11-1) 16  
1999 Sugar Florida State (11-0) 46 Virginia Tech (11-0) 29 
2000 Orange Oklahoma (12-0) 13 Florida State (11-1) 2 FSU beaten by Miami (10-1) during season
2001 Rose Miami (11-0) 37 Nebraska (11-1) 14Nebraska lost to Colorado (10-2) in final game of regular season. Colorado was Big 12 champion.
2002 Fiesta Ohio State (13-0) 31 Miami (12-0) 24 (2 OT)Actually, this was the best BCS championship game
2003 Sugar LSU (12-1) 21 Oklahoma (12-1) 14 Oklahoma lost Big 12 Championship Game to Kansas State. USC (11-1) left out in cold, though ranked above OSU in the polls.

(Thanks to and for the preceding data.)

This year, it's worse. There are not one, not two, not three, but five, count'em, five teams with perfect records: USC, Oklahoma, Auburn, Utah, and Boise State. Six if you count Harvard, who graciously declined to play in a bowl game. So many undefeated teams that Boise State doesn't even get to play in a "BCS" auxillary bowl -- heaven forbid, it's bad enough that Utah is in one.

In the past, the BCS has used the excuse "we'll get it right next year." They tweak the system. Conference champions get screwed? We'll give them a point. Oh, but then strenght of schedule isn't taken into account. No, wait, we're depending on the computers too much. No matter, the next fix would work.

And then the nightmare happened -- not only did a non-BCS interloper (Utah) make it into the sacred bowls, but one of the "real" BCS teams was denied entry into the Championship game even though it had a perfect record -- because there were three perfect teams.

I believe the next fix is going to be addition of an extra bowl game, one held between the "best" two winners of the traditional BCS bowls. That won't work, either, for the simple reason that the Utahs and the Boise States are getting good. They get nearly as much TV exposure as the BCS teams (quick: who plays on a blue field?), and they're getting the players. One day, soon, a non-BCS school will have a plausible argument to being the best team in the country, and it's going to get shut out of the championship game.

The solution, of course, is a playoff, as every other NCAA division has for football. An 8 team playoff (which quite probably would have included California over Texas) would have been OK, but a 16 team playoff is better. This year we could have had the games start last week, the Elite Eight tomorrow, the Final Four next week, skip Christmas, and have the Championship on New Year's Day.

It won't happen of course. One reason is the difference between money in hand and money which can be made. The money in hand comes from the 28 bowl games. This year, unless it is too disfunctional (e.g. Clemson and South Carolina), just about any team with a winning season got into a bowl. That's a lot of money. (If you think it's not about money, note this just in: the NCAA is "considering" making 12 games a year the standard, every year.)

Of course, a real championship would make even more money, just as the basketball tournament makes a ton more than a set of Big 12/Big 10(11) -- Pac 12/SEC -- ACC/Big East tournaments would make. But that money is in the future, so it's hard to see.

And, of course, there is an issue with (gasp) finals. Many commentators like to make fun of this. It's true that every other Division has football championships and finals, and it's also true that many Div-IA players aren't at school to make grades. But last year the last championship was on Dec. 19, a week before Christmas. There's only one (1) game on the whole Div.IAA schedule during the two weeks before Christmas: prime finals time.

Anyone think the Big Guys want to wrap up the season on Dec. 18? Of course not. First, the big bowl games have always been on Christmas, and with a 12 game schedule the season can't end before Thanksgiving. So any playoff will have to span the finals, or not start until around Christmas. Or, the colleges will have to admit that we're really looking at the NFL minor league and give the players a free pass through the finals. As long as we're supposedly in it for the education the NCAA is going to have a problem with finals and Division IA football. While the hypocrisy goes on there will be no IA playoff.

But waiting in the wings: one of these years, Utah and Boise State, or their counterparts in the non-BCS Div.IA, will be the only undefeated teams in the nation. And not only will they not play for the championship, one of them will be left out of the best bowls.

And then the fur will fly.

This is Stargate. This is anime. This is Stargate on anime.

To be precise, this is a Fanfic crossover between Stargate SG-1 and Gundam Wing. An so, for your reading enjoyment, here is

Upon a Fiery Steed, by Vathara

Sunday, December 05, 2004


Here's a cute little Firefox Extension: ForecastFox, which queries the Weather Channel to find the current weather and forecast for your location, and then puts little icons on your browser's status bar (at the bottom), navagation bar (where you see the address of the current web page), toolbar (all the icons) or Personal Bookmarks (your favorite locations). Move the mouse over the icon to see the weather.


Seven score and a year ago

Technology affects how we receive information and how we distribute information. Consider, if you will, how one speach would have been presented today.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

So, Is Fedora Core For You?

A friend asked me what kind of Linux installation I would recommend for the novice user, which reminded me that I wanted to address the question:

Who Should Use Fedora Core?

As I think has become apparent to anyone reading this blog, Fedora Core 3 is not for the novice nor the faint-of-heart. The installation process isn't too bad, but the initial choice of software to install wasn't particularly useful for me. Then there is the outdated version of mplayer provided, a lack of certain fonts, sound turned down by default, and numerous other minor irritants. All of which can be fixed, but you have to know what you're doing (or read this blog). If you don't like tweaking, don't use FC3. If you like tweaking, however, but don't want to do the reportedly endless recompiling of Gentoo, and find Debian GNU/Linux too politically correct, then FC3 just might be for you.

What about for novices? I'd recommend Mandrake, from personal experience, but I've heard good things about Ubuntu and even Novell.

The best thing about Linux is that you have a lot of choices. Free-for-downloading choices. Don't like the current version of Linux? Rip it out, try another one.

Of course, the rip it out part of the last line will scare off some novices. Don't let it. Hold their hands, offer words of comfort, help them back up their home directories. And then tell them to try something new. After a few tries, they'll either:

  • Find a Linux distribution that makes them happy, and cease bothering you;
  • Learn how to install a Linux distribution, and cease bothering you; or
  • Go back to Windows, and cease bothering you.

Any of these is a pure win.

Does Anyone Need To See This?

If you're dying to see what Fedora Core 3 looks like, but you don't want to install it, then has just what you want: 111 screen shots of FC3, including Boot, Installation, Desktop, Taskbars, Menus, Configuration, Unique/New Features, and Forum Discussions.

Oh come on, does anyone need to see this? I mean, what is a bunch of screenshots going to tell you. If you want to see how FC3 performs, keep reading this blog.

Pecking Order

The funny thing about these pictures is that the black cat outweights the white cat by about five pounds, yet we never see the white cat groom the black cat. When they were kittens, the white one was bigger than the black one. Plus, he's always had a more aggressive personality (translation, the black cat is scared of his own shadow). So the pecking order established in childhood remains.

SciFiDaily: Holy Shat! Watch Shatner Sing and be Grateful

I wish I hadn't seen this. You should watch it as well.

SciFiDaily: Holy Shat! Watch Shatner Sing and be Grateful

New Refugee Issue

Forwarded by a woman I know, this shameful story of Canada's Treatment of Bush-Dodgers:


by Joe Blundo The Columbus Dispatch 11/16/04

The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration. The re-election of President Bush is prompting the exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray and agree with Bill O'Reilly.

read on.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Apparently All You Need to Do is Restart

When I opened a new xterm window the hello.f file compiled perfectly. I guess just doing a "rehash" didn't initialize everything.

Intel Fortran Compiler (8.1)

The current version of Intel's Fortran Compiler for Linux is 8.1, up from 8.0 when we installed it in FC1. Let's try again:

  1. Go to the compiler ad page.
  2. Click on Free Non-Commercial Download.
  3. Click on Download Intel® Fortran Compiler for Linux. Answer the survey questions.
  4. Click the "register" button and fill out the form. Use an email address which works.
  5. They remembered I have an active registration, but will send me the information I need to download again. They sent me the same license file again.
  6. Download the software (82.2 MB).
  7. Untar the file and visit directory
    $ tar xvzf l_fc_p_8.1.018.tar.gz
    $ cd l_fc_p_8.1.018
  8. su to root, run the install script, answer the questions. Install Fortran Compiler. Accept license agreement, default placement, RPM flags.
  9. Install debugger.
  10. Exit installation program. Put /opt/intel_fc_80/bin in $path. Compile test program:
    $ cat hello.f 
          program hello
          write(*,*) 'hello world'
    $ ifort  -ccdefault list -tpp7 -W0 hello.f -o hello
    /opt/intel_fc_80/lib/for_main.o(.text+0x1c): In function `main':
    : undefined reference to `MAIN__'
  11. .

Hmm. The requirements for this version include the use of the gcc 2.3.2 or below, and we're running 3.4.2. I'll have to look into this.

Working With Fedora Core

As this Blog gets bigger and starts having more "Things" in it, it's sometimes hard for me to find the "Linux" part. To cure this, I've pulled out all the Linux posts into a new web page called Working With Fedora Core Linux. It's divided into two parts, Fedora Core 1 and Fedora Core 3. I'll put a link to the pages in the box on the right as well. Linux posts will still appear in the blog, they'll just be duplicated on the web page. Comments should go here.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Getting Started With Fedora for Windows Users

Found in the Drafts section of Blogspot from way back when. It's still relevant, though: has an article called Fedora Core Getting Started. It's aimed at Windows users who want to set up a Fedora system. Not too bad and article. Way to many screen shots, though. Now if he explained what the user was supposed to do when confronted with said screen shot ...

Once Upon A Time In The Midwest

Back in the day, there used to be a college athletic conference known as "The Big 8". It was mainly known for football, although it had some success in basketball. The high-point in football was possibly the 1995 season, when the AP Poll had:

1 Nebraska 12-0-0
5 Colorado 10-2-0
7 Kansas State 10-2-0
9 Kansas 10-2-0

Arguably, they should have been ranked 1-2-3-4, since Colorado lost to Kansas which lost to K-State which lost to Colorado, and they all lost to Nebraska.

The Big 8 is, alas, no more. When the current mania for 12 team Division I conferences began, it was incorporated into the Big 12. The Northern Tier (KU, K-State, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, and Iowa State) became the Big-12 North. And how are they doing this year? You had to ask:

Colorado4-4 7-4
Iowa State 4-4 6-5
Missouri 3-5 5-6
Nebraska 3-5 5-6
Kansas 2-6 4-7
Kansas State 2-6 4-7

The Big 12 North "Champion" is Colorado, by virtue of beating Iowa State, and by the fact that ISU couldn't beat Mizzou this week. So Colorado will play Oklahoma, and Dr. Pepper should ask for its money back.

How did this happen? Well, KU lost coach Glen Mason to Minnesota. He'd been the only decent coach they'd had in years. Many years. K-State is happered by the fact that Bill Snyder will only play the Little Sisters of the Poor outside of those Big-12 teams he's forced to meet, and that doesn't help recruiting or preparation. Colorado has been hampered by various football related scandels. And Nebraska? Well, 9-3 wasn't enough, the coach got fired, and the Huskers are learning a new offense that involves throwing the football. This may take some time.

Will the trend reverse? Maybe, but probably not too soon. Remember, only Nebraska has a real football tradition over the last 40 years. CU, KSU, and KU have been occasionally good, the first two very good, but they always return to the median, if not below it. In the B12-South, we've got Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech, all of whom expect to be football powers, even if they aren't. I don't see that changing any time soon, so I don't see a return to greatness in the B12N, except possibly for Nebraska.

The rest of us above 37o North will have to make do with basketball season, and that's only if you root for KU.

Which I do.

Somewhere Over the Big Circular Symbol

We've noted that one can deconstruct anything, but until my daughter took AP English I didn't know that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a Parable on Populism in the Guilded Age.

It's ... a ... children's ... story. Trust me on this.

Pictures From a Small Town

As mentioned, we spent Thanksgiving in Holyrood, Kansas, pop. approx. 450. I grew up there, so watch it. I thought a few pictures might be in order:

  • This is Main Street on Thanksgiving Day. Not very busy, true. On other days, there is activity around the bank and H&B, the local phone/cable/internet company. (DJ says they'll have a home page real soon now.) Otherwise, it looks pretty much like this all the time. The consoldated elementary school is at the end of the street, over the hill.:

  • All Kansas towns feature a high-rise grain elevator. This one's operated by the Holyrood Coop:

  • And, of course, you always need water:

  • Oil used to be the main industry around here, but now it's mostly gone. However, the recent increase in oil prices (thanks, Dub) has made it profitable to pump out what's there. At least, pumpers are working all over the place:

  • When not working the fields, it's nice to have a hobby. Centuries from now, after enough of these have escaped, people will probably figure that these are native birds, just like pheasant:

  • This was taken about 5 pm on Nov. 24, a few miles west of town. The city is to the right, you can just see the elevator near one of the telephone poles:

Host Issues

We're back. I'll put a trip report (with pictures) up a little later. For now, I want to put fix up a few things involving the /etc/host* files:

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Help!! I Can't Stop Myself!!!

This is getting serious, folks. Fortunately I'll have a week to recover. I need the Gtk-perl package to pop up text windows -- such as the weather forcast. Fortunately, it's available from freshrpms, so a simple
sudo yum install Gtk-Perl
takes care of the dependencies.

One More -- fortune

Same tune, different verse. Install fortune. Get the version fortune-mod-1.2.1-1 from RPMfind. Repeat the process in the preceeding post.

Just One More -- installing Electric Eyes (ee)

I couldn't resist. To install "Electric Eyes", aka ee from a src.rpm:

  • First, go to and follow the directions to build local RPM directories and the ~/.rpmmacros file.
  • Next, find an src.rpm for ee via Google. this one ( looks good. Download the file (ee-0.3.12-5.src.rpm) to your ~/rpmbuild/SRPMS.
  • The command you want to run is
    $ sudo rpmbuild --rebuild ee-0.3.12-5.src.rpm
    This may not work at first. Satisfy all the dependencies. In my case, this involved
    $ sudo yum install imlib-devel gnome-libs-devel
    which installed everything I needed. YMMV.
  • Now run
    $ sudo rpmbuild --rebuild ee-0.3.12-5.src.rpm
    This should complete successfully.
  • Go to ~/rpmbuild/RPMS/i386, where there should be a file ee-0.3.12-5.i386.rpm. Also a debug file, which we can ignore.
  • $ sudo rpm -ivh ee-0.3.12-5.i386.rpm
  • The program is installed.

Good night. I really mean it.

Well Wasn't That Fun?

The FC3 blitz is over. There are still a few things to install, like putting back the Intel Fortran compiler and finding out where I can get an RPM for ee (Electric Eyes). In a couple of weeks I plan to put all these posts together in one logically ordered file, along with a list of other RPMs and other files that used to augment FC3.

Tomorrow we're flying to Kansas for Thanksgiving. Be back next weekend. Yes, I know what was on TBS tonight. I've seen it, it's a good movie, but I heard the next line at least 5,000 times, so don't say it. No, I don't care which line it is, I've heard it 5,000 times.


It used to take some work to set up a hotplug, that is, to mount an external device such as a memory key or digital camera. No more. Just plug the device in, and do

$ ls -l /media/
total 24
drwxr-xr-x  2 root root 4096 Nov 20 09:58 cdrecorder
drwxr-xr-x  2 root root 4096 Nov 20 09:58 floppy
drwxr-xr-x  2 root root 4096 Nov 20 19:00 usbdisk

usbdisk is what's in the USB port, so do

$ mount /media/usbdisk/

Move files around as usual, and then

$ umount /media/usbdisk

before unpluging.


As predicted, Helix Player did not play some of the files I wanted it to play, so I went ahead and reloaded RealPlayer from the Helix Community download site. Note that this version is a bit larger in size than the one I added in July so I'd guess that it's an upgrade.


Web pages occasionally call for plugins, programs that perform specific functions that the browser can't handle on it's own. Many applications, e.g., Helix Player come with plugins. For those that don't, we need to add a plugin wrapper, a program that takes another program (e.g. mplayer) and presents it to the browser as a plugin. For Linux the usual program to to this is Plugger, as I did in FC1. However, there's also Mozplugger, a "branch" of Plugger. Most importantly, this is available with FC3, you don't have to go out and find copies.

Mozplugger does pretty well on the Plugger Testing Ground, so we'll use it for now.

Mplayer and Xine Re-install

Just installing mplayer from RPMS leaves a number of dependency issues. However, now that we've added freshrpms to our yum table (see last post), the command

sudo yum install mplayer mplayer-fonts mplayer-skins

takes care of most of that. I suspect that I could now do the full update if needed, all the libraries are present.

And, in fact, to get a proper working copy of mplayer I had to repeat all of the steps I'd done before.

A proper installation of xine requires:

sudo yum install xine xine-lib xine-lib-devel xine-skins

So far they both seem to work.

Adding freshrpms to yum

yum is one of the package management systems included with FC3. Adding sources to yum other than from RedHat involves editing the /etc/yum.conf or adding a file to /etc/yum.repos.d, and adding GPG keys in the proper place.

FreshRPMs makes it easy. Just download the freshrpms-release RPM file and install it.


When that didn't work, I searched and found that you must then run

sudo yum -y check-update

to get things started properly. Anyway, that works.

Allowing Sudo Priviledges

I've mentioned it before in passing, put it's possible to set up any Unix-like system so that selected root users can run root-level commands, e.g.,

sudo yum update

This will ask you to for your password to verify that you are allowed access.

To set permission, one must edit the /etc/sudoers file. Of course, you have to be root to do this, but even then you must use a special command,

visudo -f sudoers

this ensures that no one else is trying to edit the file simultaneously, checks syntax, etc. If you want to allow user dubya to run sudo, then edit the file to look like this:

# User privilege specification
root    ALL=(ALL) ALL
dubya   ALL=(ALL) ALL

where those multiple spaces are actually a tab. Now dubya can do root's work. Interestingly, if now flipflop tries to run a sudo job, he gets a message that the attempt will be reported. To whom? root gets an email message.

Mounting CDs

I wanted to look at the Fedora Core 3 Disc 4, which didn't come up in the installation process. In KDE it was auto-mounted, with an icon appearing on the desktop. FVWM doesn't do that as far as I know. It certainly didn't automount the disk. However, it is set up to mount with the command

mount /media/cdrecorder/

and of course the corresponding umount command works as well.

Not that much on the disk. Extras, such as alternate dictionaries for aspell, the full mozilla browser, etc.

Fedora Core 3 Resources

I should point out that the parent link to the previous post, Personal Fedora Core 3 Installation Guide, by Mauriat Miranda, has a wide range of information on installing FC3. Kind of like this, but thorough, thoughtful, and better. I'll even forgive the mjm use.

Font Fixing

Alas, many sites on the web still think that Microsoft's Web Fonts, which used to be available free from Microsoft, are the best fonts for displaying web content. There are ways around this, but the easiest (not the best, not what's acceptable to RMS, but the easiest) way to get the fonts is, as before, to go to and follow the directions.

P.S. The fonts are still freely distributable, it's just that Microsoft doesn't distribute them anymore.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Reinstall Java

Keeping with our theme of fixing up Firefox, reinstall our previous version of Java and connect it to the appropriate firefox directory:

# cd /usr/lib/firefox-1.0/plugins/
# ln -s /home/local/share/j2sdk1.4.2/jre/plugin/i386/mozilla/ .
# ls -l
total 36
lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root    37 Nov 19 20:17 flashplayer.xpt -> /usr/lib/flash-plugin/flashplayer.xpt
lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root    39 Nov 19 20:17 -> /usr/lib/flash-plugin/
lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root    73 Nov 19 20:29 -> /home/local/share/j2sdk1.4.2/jre/plugin/i386/mozilla/
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root root 16304 Nov 11 01:18

Need Flash

Comcast's Home Page reminds me that I need to install Macromedia Flash here. To get a new copy, a Fedora Core 3 RPM, go to Then

# rpm -iv flash-plugin-7.0.25-1.i386.rpm 
warning: flash-plugin-7.0.25-1.i386.rpm: V3 DSA signature: NOKEY, key ID 8df56d05
Preparing packages for installation...

Registering flashplayer as a XPCOM component in

Registering flashplayer as a XPCOM component in
Setup is complete.

# ls -l /usr/lib/firefox-1.0/plugins/
total 28
lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root    37 Nov 19 20:17 flashplayer.xpt -> /usr/lib/flash-plugin/flashplayer.xpt
lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root    39 Nov 19 20:17 -> /usr/lib/flash-plugin/
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root root 16304 Nov 11 01:18

Restart Firefox

It works

An Old-Time Window Manager

FVWM ("FVWM" Virtual Window Manager) is still my favorite. I downloaded new versions of

  • fvwm (2.4.19-1)
  • fvwm-themes (0.7.0-2)

and used my old version of

  • libstroke

all available from the FVWM home page. Using my old .fvwm/.fvwm2rc file makes everything work just fine.

My files copied

Well, enough of them so that I can run Firefox properly, and have my tcsh shell preferences set correctly.

After I get the local files set up, I'll start looking for things that haven't been installed with Fedora Core. First off, we need mplayer and xine, not to mention plugger, ee. Most importantly, fvwm so I can use the window manager I want rather than KDE or Gnome.

There are probably a few other things, as well. I'll document the installation of each one of them as I go along. Many are in past posts to this blog, so I'll try to reference those posts as well.

Restore Files

At least under KDE the CDs mount and unmount automatically at /media/cdrecorder.

I also created my local user, for programs I don't want in my own user directory but which don't need to run as root.

Monitor Settings, Upgrades

You go to System Settings => Display, click on Hardware, then Monitor Type => Configure, then click on the arrow to the left of Generic CRT Display. I set this to Monitor 1024x768, now must restart X.

That works, though of course I have to resize the screen again from the monitor control panel. No flicker, fortunately.

For some reason I'm running KDE, it seems. Up on the top is a big red "!". When I click on it, it wants to run up2date to fix a bunch of stuff. Then it wants to install a GPG key to verify packages. I did that, I think. Click some stuff and off it goes.

I Agree

  • First off is that I agree to the License, namely the GPL
  • Then enable Network Time Protocal, so I'm always on time. Three servers are listed, we can add more.
  • Configure display
    • Monitor is "Unknown". Actually, it's branded Envision, whatever that is. Choose Generic CRT. Actually, I don't seem to get a choice.
    • It's only giving me 800x600 resolution at the moment
    • I do get millions of colors
    • Presumably we can fix all this later
  • Create a "non-administrative" account name. I used to get to create several, I may have to do this later. For now, create my personal account
  • I could not hear the sound test. Again, I hope I can fix this later. For now, no sound. Yuck.
  • Finish. Hmm.

Fixing Sound

As noted on, for some reason the sound is turned off by default. To fix this, click on the speaker icon, then "Open Volume Control". Turn everything up as far as possible, and unclick all "Mute" buttons. Now the sound works.

Sound fixed, screen resolution fixed, maybe we can make this thing work.

Performing Post Install Configuration

I guess that means it got everything it needed off of disks 2 and 3.

Now I am invited to reboot

Well, it booted.

Got a "First Time Boot" Welcome screen

Disk 2 worked

Maybe something's wrong with the checker program?

On to disk 3

Installing from Disc 2

The first Suspect Disk. Cross Fingers and push the OK button.

Installing Kernel

Kernel is 2.6.9-1.667.i686

Now It's

Preparing to Install

The blue bar shifts, and having shifted, moves on

It's gone. Now installing packages off the first disk

Starting Installation Process

This may take several minutes

That would be a definition of optimism.

Asking for disks

It says I need disks 1, 2, and 3. Joy. No option for network install, yet. Probably at start of installation, so if this fails I'll reboot and try again.

Away We Go

Click the button, everything old goes away...

Package Selection

The default packages for this workstation include:

  • Web Browser (which?)
  • Evolution email
  • IM
  • "Sound and Video Applications
  • Games

Add a few more with the custom option:

  • X Windows (a default selection, hereafter DS)
  • GNOME (DS)
  • KDE
  • Editors -- emacs and vim-enhanced (DS)
  • Engineering and Scientific: blas, gnuplot, lapack, octave, units
  • Graphical Internet -- the default is Firefox for a browser. Add gftp, pan (usenet) and thunderbird. GAIM is the IM client
  • Text Internet -- add lynx. Get rid of slrn (newsreader). Wonder how elinks works as a browser? Fetchmail is included here for some reason
  • Productivity: Add abiword, gnumeric, tetex-xdvi, and xpdf. OpenOffice and gnome PS and PDF viewers included in DS
  • Sound and Video -- HelixPlayer (DS), I'll probably go with RealPlayer later. Add k3b and kdemultimedia
  • Authoring and publishing -- Add this, in contains the entire tetex distribution
  • Graphics -- includes gimp, add kdegraphics. No xpaint, I'll have to add that later
  • Games -- add the KDE packages
  • Development tools -- gcc, g77, perl, python, expect, etc. -- Need all these
  • X Software Development -- I hope this includes all the header files we need to compile aplications
  • Ditto for GNOME and KDE
  • Admin Tools (DS)
  • System Tools -- nmap, screen, ethereal, zsh
  • Printing support -- keep only a2ps and enscript until we get a printer attached

Installation Selection

For now I'm picking the "Personal Desktop" option. What it leaves out I'll install at a later date.

First try "automatic" disk partioning, see what we get.

Hmm. The obvious option here is to "Remove All Partitions on the system."

Remove All Data. Yikes

Installing Grub Boot Loader

Make the Ethernet card available at boot-time, using DHCP

Enable Firewall. Not allowing SSH, web service (HTTP(S)), FTP, or mail (SMTP)

The default is to enable SELinux. I may regret this later, but for now let's go with it.

Default to US English, Eastern US Time zone, and put the system clock on UTC

It Begins

It did recognize my old installation, but I want to retreive the disk space I've had for Windows, so let's install a new installation and hope I can repartition the disk properly.

That Didn't Work Either

I'm made three copies of disc 2, none of them pass the test. I've downloaded the image from two different mirrors, they agree using the cmp command as well as with the MD5SUM from RedHat.

So what? I'm going to try a "net install" first. If that doesn't work, I'll use the disks that I have, and if that fails I'll order new disks from CheapBytes. Hopefully none of this will be a problem. If it is, we go back reinstall FC1, and think about what to do next.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


A new burn of disc 2 failed as well. I'm going to download another copy of the disk image, and see if that works. If not, we'll try something else, maybe even ordering from CheapBytes. In that case we won't do the install until after Thanksgiving.

Redo Discs

Oh, dear. Discs 1 and 4 passed the checks imposed on them. Discs 2, 3, and the rescue disk, however, failed miserably. Will have to reburn them. Back in a bit.

While Waiting

It's good to have something to read. I'm reading Patrick O'Brian's Desolation Island.

Press Enter to Begin

It asks if I should check the CD media before continuing. This is a Good Idea.

Step One

Reboot Linux box. Get into the BIOS (F2 key) and set it to boot from the CD-RW drive.

Put Fedora Core 3 Disc 1 into CD drive and begin

Something's Happening Here

And what it is ain't exactly clear.

What I am going to try to do is install Fedora Core 3 onto my Linux box, replacing Fedora Core 1. If all works well, you'll see it all in real time. If it doesn't work, then you'll get to see me melt down.

So what we have is

  • Dell Dimension 2350
  • 2.2 GHz Celeron Processor
  • 512MB DDR SDRAM upgraded from 256MB
  • CD-RW drive
  • Intel "Integrated" Graphics and Audio
  • 60GB disk

Not to mention various bits of software that we'll mention as we go along, or when I find that I've forgotten to install them.

So sit back and relax, and enjoy the show. If, for some strange reason, you're not interested in watching dancing red hats, come back in a few days. There's nothing else to see here for now.

I'm planning on collecting these posts and putting them in sequential order (meaning this post first) on a web page. When I get that set up it will appear on the links bar on the right.

And away we go!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Door's Finished

Actually, they got done about 8pm. Did a good job, too. Well, not quite done, something's wrong with the lock so "we'll have to come back."

In other news, Fedora Core 3 is downloaded and burned. I backed everything up as well. And, for added insurance, I downloaded and burned a Knoppix CD as well. I booted it from the CD drive, and it works.

And I backed up my home directory, as well as all the junk I keep in /home/local. We're ready to do the upgrade, which will be tomorrow, if I get enough sleep tonight.

SG-1, Atlantis: Back Once More

According to Gateworld, Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis will both be renewed for a ninth and second season, respectively. I'm OK with that. I suspect SG-1 is about ready to jump the shark, but they may be able to hold out for another season. Atlantis hasn't really caught my fancy yet, but there's still the possibility, and if it follows SG-1 we'll watch it.

Apparently Amanda Tapping is pregnant, with the baby due about when filming starts next March. So will Carter and Joe get married? And what about Fifth and Repli-Carter? Do they have a blessed event as well?

Hey, Maybourne's coming back.

They Got Here About 5:15

Work commences.

As We Wait

for installation people to install a new sliding door to the back porch. They were supposed to be here between 1 and 4 pm. It is now 4:48. I'll keep you posted.

I did manage to download the Fedora Core 3 installation CDs from a mirror. So I'll spend the next few hours burning the iso images to disk and backing up my data to CDs. Tomorrow, with luck, I'll start installing FC3.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

FC3 delay

Fedora Core 3 upgrade is delayed. I couldn't get it all through FTP last night, in fact I couldn't get the first CD downloaded, even from a mirror. I'll try this week, but I may have to set up BitTorrent. We're going to Kansas for Thanksgiving, so I may not get the upgrade until December. Maybe I should wait for FC4?

At Least I Didn't Pay $59 For The Ticket

I comped a pair of tickets to the Redskins-Bengals game, so I just got back from FedEx field. It was, how should I say this, the worst game I've ever seen a team I was rooting for play. The Redskin offense was abismal in the first half. Mark Brunell, rest his NFL soul, was 1-8, 6 yards, 1 INT, before Joe Gibbs finally took pity and yanked him in the second quarter. Patrick Ramsey played somewhat better, especially in the second half. Part of his problem was that the receivers were not used to his passing style (he tended to throw in the general area of the receiver) and his passes come in hard. If Ramsey had practiced his other sport, javelin, in ancient times he'd be the one they stood up on the top of the hill and used to rain spears down on the enemy below.

The offensiveness of the offense has finally affected the defense. In the first half they managed to make Carson Palmer look like Brett Farve and Rudi Johnson look like Walter Payton. Many times, it seemed, the defense would make a good stop during a set of downs, and leave the Bengels with third and long. Then Palmer would throw something for 10-15 yards, and we'd start over again. Other times, Johnson would just take off and not get tackled. No one looked good on the defense. Smoot missed two tackles on pass plays that went for long yards. Now, I'm not saying that he has to stop everyone, he's not that big. But he should be able to hold on and slow them down until help comes.

At half time I was considering doing something I'd never done before -- leave immediately. I was wrong, I should have left at the end of the first quarter. In any case, we stayed. Ramsey got better as the game went on, but he wasn't good enough to get 17 points on the board during the second half. Time management was a problem. The first Skins scoring drive, the field goal, started with 9 minutes left in the fourth and ended with less than 5 minutes on the clock. At that point we left. Washington did score one touchdown, but the game ended with Ramsey throwing an interception on the last drive.

Well, that season's over. At 3-6, with Pittsburgh, Dallas, Philly, New York, and Philly all left, there's no way they can get a wildcard. We can go on to basketball and wondering how much Beltran is going to get from Steinbrenner.

FedEx was its usual charming self. We were told to get there early, since they were allowing (gasp) pedestrians to access the stadium, and this was sure to slow things down. Of course, since most of the parking lots are about two light-years from the field everyone spends most of the time walking. Anyway, we arrived at 2pm for the 4pm start, and had no problem parking. Actually, I think we could have gotten there at 3:30 and had no trouble, because the place didn't fill up until into the first quarter. It never filled up completely, in fact. Even though the game was officially sold out, at least 10% of the seats were never filled. I spent most of the game with my feet stretch onto the seat in front of me. But, for our pains, we were rewarded with two hours of ear-damaging hip-hop. Note to Danny: the speakers are only 20 feet above row 25 in the 4xx sections. Don't you know, that makes things rather loud up there? Actually, if I wanted to hear that much rap, I would have hired my own DJ and spent the afternoon someplace warm. Funny, I thought the "NFL Experience" was WATCHING A GAME, not having my nerves jangled by incomprehensible music at a volume that must be measured in kilo-decibels. If I'd actually paid for tickets, given the performance of this team, I wouldn't.

I never went to a game at RFK, but this crowd certainly didn't match what I've heard about those years. Since the defense had few big plays, and the offense none in the first half, we were reduced to waiting for a chance to boo Mark Brunell. Fortunately, we had many chances. No one booed Ramsey, but that will come if the offense doesn't improve. Sorry Patrick, but that's how it is.

Prospects for next year: it depends on how Ramsey develops. He's never really gotten a fair shot, and Gibbs does wonders with even mediocre QBs, so I have some hope. But it's going to be next year at the earliest, and only if Gibbs can persuade the Danny that he doesn't need to sign a big free agent, just a lot of good utility players.

It seems like I have a lot more to say, but I can't remember it now, so I'll sign off.

Saturday, November 13, 2004


According to the current (13 Nov 2004) count, President Bush received 59,459,765 votes on Tuesday. This is, as anyone can tell, the largest number of votes a Presidential candidate has ever received. Of course, since there are approximately 295,000,000 Americans, it's only about 1/5th of the population, but many of the rest can't vote, and those that didn't care, don't count.

What's interesting is that John Kerry received 55,949,407 votes. That puts him at second in the Presidential sweepstakes, just ahead of Ronald Reagan in 1984 (54,455,075), and somewhat further ahead of Al Gore (50,999,897) and Bush-2000 (50,456,002).

Even if we don't add in the Nader and other votes, it's apparent that more people voted against the winner of this election than have ever voted against a President before.

Given that little nugget, any claim to a mandate would be highly exaggerated.

Things Done Today

  • Helped clean out pantry. That is, when told, "Honey, when you've got a chance, can you move this?" immediately got up and moved article in question, be it microwave, cutting board, knife block, etc. I know what "when you've got a chance" means.
  • Updated the Favorite News Feeds on the web bar at right. For those who don't know, this is an OPML file which you should be able to import into your newsreader.
  • Started the installation of Fedora Core 3 by downloading the ISO images. In CD form, there are four discs plus a rescue CD. So far I've downloaded about ¼ of the first CD in the last half hour. Over a Cable modem. This could take some time.

Our Word For the Day

Comes from TK, who forwards

spheniscussionist (sfĕ·nĭs·kŭsh'·ə·nĭst)

n. A rabid Linux enthusiast; "penguin-thumper".

[spheniscidae penguin, deriv. percussion]

spheniscussion n.

Wear it proudly. A search of the web finds it defined by Pyrojection, who doesn't seem to like us, does he, precious.

One Reason I Don't Have Digital Cable

I'd have watched the Texas-Kansas game and gotten all excited. As it is, I was ready to call my mom but I thought I'd look up the score first.+ Damn. Another "missed it by this much". One day, KU will beat Nebraska, Texas, and Oklahoma in the same year.*

*OK, that will happen this year. But I meant in football.

+Of course I'll call my mom. But it's better to know the tone of the conversation beforehand. Resigned depression, rather than reserved optimism.

New Firefox Extensions

They aren't really new, but they're new to me. I found them while strolling through the Mozilla Update Extensions for Firefox:

  • User Agent Switcher changes Firefox's identification string to match Internet Explorer, Opera, Netscape, or anything else you can imagine. This is useful when you are trying to access a site which insists that you use Internet Explorer. Dan's Web Tips has a list of such sites, explains why this trick works, and why you might not want to use it too often.
  • Translate does what it says: it takes a page from French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, etc., runs it through either Alta Vista's Babel Fish or Google's Translation Tool and puts it back up in your browser. Just click on Tools => Translate, pick your language, and go.

Friday, November 12, 2004

We're Going to Run Out of Numbers

This just in, the University of Kansas is going to retire five (count 'em, 5) numbers in the KU basketball program this year. The players involved are Bill Bridges (32), Walter Wesley (13, same as Wilt), Dave Robisch (40), Bud Stallworth (15) and Darnell Valentine (14).

OK, probably not really retired. For one thing, there are only 60 possible numbers in college basketball, and if you keep retiring them, you're going to need a whole lot of new numbers. For another thing, Stallworth's number has already been retired twice, as Ray Evans and Jo Jo White. The criteria for retiring a jersey is

consensus first-team All-Americans, two-time first-team All-Americas and Academic All-American of the Year selections
or, in the case of Evans,
All-American in both football and basketball.

It's a bit much, people. I enjoyed watching Robisch and Stallworth play when I was in school, and I loved the way Valentine could handle the ball. But retire their jerseys? Uh, in a word, no. The only people who should have their jerseys retired are those who were the stars of National Championship teams. Which means Clyde Lovellette and Danny Manning. Add James Naismith, not that he wore a uniform, because he invented the game, and Phog Allen, because he invented coaching. I'll make an exception for Wilt, but nobody else.

And definitely not Roy. Maybe, some day, Bill Self. Maybe this year.

Firefox: Some Day, We'll Be Just Like Emacs

Thanks to PC_Freak, who pointed out FireFTP, an FTP client which loads as an extension in Mozilla Firefox.

Long time hackers will remember that you can do just about everything from emacs, including web surfing, gopher hunting, news reading, email, and, um, editing files. It looks like Firefox is going the same way. Well, except that when you want to read mail you use Thunderbird.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

We're Number 1

College Basketball Season opens tonight, just in time for you to forget the election and the fact that the Redskins ain't goin' nowhere this year. (Yes, they are only one game out of a wildcard, but so are half a dozen other teams. There are only two wildcards in the NFC.) Otherwise, there is no possible justification for opening the season before Thanksgiving week.

Many, including the USA Today/ESPN/College Coaches and the Associated Press polls both pick KU number one.

This frightens me. My teams never, ever go from pre- to post-season as number one, and certainly never win the championship if they started the season ranked first. In KU's last NCAA championship year, 1988, they weren't even first in the Big 8, much less the NCAA. During the Roy years KU went into the NCAA with a number one seed, and never won, of course. (Roy, we love ya', hope you have exactly as much success at North Carolina.)

KU's ranking is supposedly explained by the large number of returning seniors. Unfortunately, the returning seniors are Simien, Langford, and Miles, who, though good, are not going to make anyone forget Kirk Heinrich and Nick Collison, or Raef LaFrentz and Paul Pierce (OK, he never made senior). Well, let's hope that experience pays off. I remember a few years ago when KU took a senior NCAA team to the regional finals and got waxed by Arizona, including a very young Luke Walton.

The Washington Post, of course, bows to its statues of John Feinstein and Billy Packer and ranks Georgia Tech 1, North Carolina (phit) two.

Well, it's better than football season, anyway. I'll try to keep up to date.

The New Template

The old orange-on-orange template was boring, so I downloaded this one from It was designed by Martijn ten Napel. This one is called Autumn Hues, and it's available under a Creative Commons License. I've played with the margins a bit and added my own links, but otherwise it's unchanged.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Official Firefox Release

Mozilla Firefox has "gone gold" with the release of version 1.0. I installed it on Linux and Mac boxes with no problem. The installation picked up all of my old preferences without problem. Well, one problem: is very slow, so it's hard to get updates for extensions. This will probably solve itself in a few days as the number of downloads goes down. And some extensions, notably CookieCuller, don't have updates available.

Oh, one annoyance: when doing a "find", Firefox puts the search box at the bottom of the page. There used to be a big "X" so you could delete that box. Now the delete button is there, but it's not visible: you have to search for it with the mouse. This may be a problem with the theme I'm using, and not with Firefox.

Later: Yes, it's a theme issue. I'm using pinball. When I switch to the default theme I get the "X".

Even later: Using the update function under Tools => Themes updates Pinball to show the X. It's black, not white on red, but that's OK.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Pocketbook Voting

It's often been said that the GOP has convinced people to vote against their economic interest. (See, e.g., the article on Thomas Frank and What's the Matter with Kansas below.)

CNN has a set of Exit Polls as part of its extensive 2004 Election coverage. (Blog used for book-marking, 5 yard penalty, repeat 2nd down.) One of the more interesting ones shows voting patterns versus income. I've taken the liberty of putting it in graphical form:

Income/Voting Patterns

Each bar represents the fraction of all voters who are in a given category and voted for a particular candidate, e.g. about 13% of voters earn $50-$75K and voted for Bush. The green line is the ratio of Bush's share of the vote to Kerry's share.

So the richer you are, the more likely you were to vote for Bush. That doesn't seem to show anyone voting against their economic interest. You could argue that, possibly, Bush's handling of the economy is going drive people in the center of the graph to the left, leaving us a bimodal distribution, but it's pretty clear that those very people don't believe that's going to happen.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Blogger Stats

While not watching the game (John Kerry's Election Prospects are looking very good.) I've been hitting the next blog link at the top of this page. Some observations based on really bad statistics (meaning these are only kept in my mind):

  • About half of the Blogs are from outside the US. Most of those are in another language, so I can't really comment. There are some interesting ones from Iraq, Iran, and other places in the Mideast.
  • It takes an average of 10 clicks to find a page which doesn't have the "next blog" link. I suppose these are outside of the domain, hosted on individual's web sites.
  • 10% or so of the pages come with annoying pop-ups that welcome you to the page -- uh, people, I'd feel a lot more welcome if you'd just let me read the page, rather than have to click the OK button.
  • Many of you spend a lot of time on setting up the background.
  • I don't understand a lot of the pages that are in English. Some pages are written in shorthand, some just don't make sense.

OK, This Is Mainly a Test

I'm looking at the "Blog This" function at the top of the Blogger page and came upon Passing Clouds while repeatedly hitting the "Next Blog" link.

Why stop there? Well, look at this post. Pay particular attention to this link about what can happen on Tuesday.

Mplayer Update

Rather than watch the Redskins season go absolutely, positively down the tubes, or contemplate the election, let's discuss mplayer, one of Linux's two video players (the other being xine) that has a chance of playing files made in Windows (a trademark of Microsoft).

This was prompted by a Slashdot posting of a video of the recent lunar eclipse. Unfortunately, the video was made with Adobe's Premiere Pro and saved in a .wav file with some codec that I didn't have, and wouldn't play in mplayer or xine. The Slashdot solution was to download the newest codec tarball and recompile. This seemed like a lot of work. So I went to the mplayer site and found the RPMs for Fedora Core 1. Looking around the site, I finally determined that I needed:


You'll need to search around for all of these. Look under both "essential" and "optional" downloads.

Problem: So of these RPMs conflict with my current mplayer setup. Which I got from the Fedora Core 1 distribution, which isn't supported anymore, meaning that I might not be able to get it back, as it's not included in the Fedora Core Legacy RPMs. At least, I never saw it. But, I went ahead, crossed my fingures, and deleted the old mplayer RPMs, then installed all of the others in one go:

$ rpm -ivh mplayer*.rpm

And it works. I can view the video.

Unfortunately, it's not very good.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Liberal Problem

I'd just finished reading Thomas Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas when the author showed up in the Style section of the Washington Post. In case you've missed it, Frank's thesis is:

  • The Right has used the "Great Cultural Backlash" against "Liberalism" to unite social conservatives and business conservatives.
  • They then propose social programs which they know will not pass, (e.g., no abortion, anti-gay marriage amendments to the Constitution, the Ten Commandments in courtrooms) as a screen to pass pro-business laws (tax cuts, allowance for Enron-like flim-flams, gutting of environmental laws, and so on.)
  • The business conservative half of this equation profits, the social half goes back and tries again.
  • Kansas, surprisingly a leader in social inovation (think populism, prohibition, and desegregation) is leading the way in this trend.
  • It's a great mystery why the social conservatives let this happen. It didn't used to be this way, William Jennings Bryan was a populist leader (the Cross of Gold speech) and the prosecutor in the Scopes Monkey Trial.

Kansas is used as an example, being the author's home state, as he grew up outside of Kansas City. (Note: as I learned at KU, there is the state of Kansas, and the part of Kansas near Kansas City. Sometimes people from the later believe they belong to the former. This is not necessarily the case.) Once somewhat Liberal for a Republican state, it's now firmly in the Red. This happened in the early 1990s, when abortion crusades swept through the state.

Frank, of course, is mystified as to why people go along with this. He goes searching. He visits leaders of the social conservative movement, most of whom can be classified as working class. He likes most of them. But he doesn't really figure out why the would go against their economic interest.

It should be said that I agree with most of Frank's points. We are going to pay for reckless tax cuts with higher debt, and so higher interest rates. Our children are going to have to make up the difference later. The poor are going to be hurt first. So these people, laid-off Boeing employees, people working the Hallmark plant, should be in line for a new populist revolution, right?

Except that Frank never asks the question "are you part of the working poor?" of any of his interviews. I don't think it occurred to him. Of course these people were working poor.

But they don't think so. I know. I grew up in Kansas. We didn't have much money, but we didn't think of ourselves as poor. And we weren't. We heard about the depression, when everyone was poor. We were far beyond that. And most Kansans are.

If you're not poor, then you don't worry so much about economic issues. After all, you might need that tax cut some day. And if you don't have enough money for retirement, your children will help you out. Having this freedom from economic want (and, be fair, most Americans are far, far more prosperous than any people in previous history) you can devote your time to social issues. And, like it or not, most people are socially conservative. They might be more forgiving on an individual basis (think Sony Bono and Chastity, Dick Cheney and Mary), but overall they want certain standards upheld. Republicans currently promise to uphold these standards, even though they don't always (remind me to go off on Rupert Murdoch, protector of the nation and producer of some of the sleaziest TV shows of all time).

Abortion is a good wedge issue. You can be in favor of a woman's right to have an abortion, but be uneasy (or even horrified) at the thought of an abortion. It is a possible human life, after all. And government does interfer with things people like to do. Paying taxes for someone else's school kids might seem a waste of money. Of course, if those kids don't get to school they might spend their teens and twenties mugging people, but that's off in the future. Most socially conservative positions have some basis in reality. Liberals (and people like me) should keep this in mind.

What this book does, though, is say "people don't vote their self-interest, gee aren't they dumb." OK, not in so many words. But People do vote their self-interest. It's just not what Thomas Frank sees as their proper self-interest. You'll note that the one Democrat who got this right got himself re-elected President. Yet Frank derides the new-Democrat pro-business movement. How else, though, are you going to get a Democrat elected? Again, most people don't think of themselves as poor. If they don't have much money, they're going to get some someday.

So if we want to promote the Liberal message (by which I mean greater tolerance of diverging life-styles, and government protecting capitalism from itself) we're going to have to go out to people and convince them that this is a good thing. That means going out to talk to them, not just wondering "What's the Matter With" them.

Firefox Search Box Resizing

Firefox comes with a search box to the right of the address bar. Type something in the box, and you can search Google, Yahoo,, etc., depending on your default choice. That's good, but the search box is quite small. Before 1.0PR there was one way to resize the box, now there's another, as revealed in Darrel Norton's Blog. In the Linux version, find the directory ~/.mozilla/firefox/something.default/chrome, where something is a random string of characters. In this directory, create or edit a file named userChrome.css, adding these lines:

 * New way from

/* Make the Search box flex wider */

#search-container {
   -moz-box-flex: 400 !important;
#searchbar {
   -moz-box-flex: 400 !important;

Pick a number that works for you. As you increase the size of the search box, you decrease the size of the address bar, so there's a trade-off involved.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Almost Ready for Prime Time

A month or so ago, Mozilla put out the ``Pre-release'' 1.0 version of Firefox, the browser for the Internet. I finally installed it a few nights ago. Installation was rather painless, though I did run the installer script as root, as at work we've had problems with the browser when permissions are not set correctly.

As usual, I didn't trust Firefox to remember my preferences, and the instructions say to turn off all extensions before migrating. To get around this, I renamed my ~/.mozilla/firefox directory and let Firefox set me up again. I then copied my bookmarks.html file from my old installation to the new one.

There are 1.0PR versions of the Adblock, Sage, and CookieCuller extensions, so I installed those. I looked around for a new version of mozex, but there isn't one. I did find an article on NewsForge showing how to how to use an old version of mozex. I was going to use that when I realized that Firefox now seems to respect the Preferred Applications in gnome-control-center. Using that, it was easy to set up evolution to use my version of newfire to put clicked-on-links into a browser tab, and to set up mailto: links in Firefox to bring up evolution. Since that's all I used mozex for, I'm not going to install the extension until a 1.0 compatible version comes out.

I should note that newfire has changed along with Firefox. The newest version looks like this:


# See

# Workaround for bug in Firefox script which determines if a window
#  is open


FFOX_REMOTE="${FFOX} -a firefox -remote"

#    $FFOX_REMOTE "openurl($URL,new-window)"
    $FFOX_REMOTE "openurl($URL,new-tab)"

    $FFOX $URL

if $FFOX_REMOTE "ping()" 2>&1 | grep "Error:" >/dev/null; then

Note that Mozilla is really trying to make a big splash when Firefox 1.0 is officially released. There will even be full-page ads in the New York Times. On that same page is an announcement for release candidate 1 for Firefox 1.0. Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Playoffs

No, I'm not going to talk about the future of the Red Sox, nor if St. Louis's bats can keep bailing out the Cardinal's pitching. Instead, I want to talk about which playoffs are the best.

  1. Baseball: It builds. Night after night, week after week. Things that happened three games ago are relevant tonight. Heck, things that happened in 1918 are still relevant.
  2. Football (NFL): Twelve teams, one month. Lose and you're out.
  3. NCAA Div. I Baskeball: 64(5) teams, one month, lose and you're out. Not as exclusive as the NFL, since any team has a theoretical chance to get in via the conference tournament, and the 30+ at-large teams make the regular season irrelevant. But the passions run higher than in the NFL.
  4. NHL (if played): It goes on way too long. But the skating of the Stanley Cup is the best thing about sports.
  5. NBA: Too long, period. The only time worth watching is when there are two teams with a long history. Unfortunately, Larry and Magic retired over a decade ago.
  6. NCAA Div. I Football: (Herman Edwards' voice:) Hello!!?? Is anybody listening? I said playoffs.

The Conservative Mr. Bush

One of the unusual things about this election is that many conservatives have noticed that the current President doesn't behave like a conservative. OK, he's not a Liberal, but he doesn't have trouble, say, with unbalancing the budget or starting a land war in Asia.

Readers of Doonesbury know that Garry Trudeau has been following this trend by listing web commentary from conservatives. (Has John Eisenhower ever, really, been a conservative? OK, George Will certainly is.) The addresses are listed in the cartoons, but it's easiest to get them from the Doonesbury FAQ page. Note: this page apparently lists the last FAQ added. You may have to search the Archives to find the right FAQ. Search for Honest Voter Reading List.

OK, this is cherry-picking, but it's still rather interesting that some conservatives actually wonder if their hand-picked President is a true conservative.

Fedora Legacy

OK, it's been a while since the last post. Many reasons. Bills to pay, baseball playoffs, football games, and, mostly, computer burnout. When you sit at a terminal for 8 hours a day at work, sometimes it takes a bit of motivation to get back online at home.

Anyway, back to the original purpose for this blog: keeping Fedora Core as an up-to-date OS on this computer.

As you may recall, I installed Fedora Core 1. Several months ago, Fedora Core 2 was released, and now Fedora Core 3 is at the Test 3 level. As a result of all this, there is no further support for Fedora Core 1.

What to do? Upgrade? Well, that's a distinct possibility, but I've waited this long through the Fedora Core 2 cycle I might as well wait for Fedora Core 3 to be officially released. But I still want to keep this computer updated, especially for security reasons.

The solution is the Fedora Legacy Project, which keeps older versions of Red Hat Linux and Fedora alive for some time. Used with yum it's simple. Go to the Download page and find the instructions for updating the /etc/yum.conf file.

OK, I did that, and yum now looks to Fedora Legacy for updates. Except that there have been no updates for a week or more. Maybe FC1 is perfect? Doubtful, I just hope that I've got everything set up to detect new updates when they do come along.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

The Hazard of Being Right

OK, in the last post I said "don't get too excited." And then the Redskins go out an lose twice, in the process making Warner and Testaverde look like decent quarterbacks again.

I saw the Dallas game from high up in FedEx field. What can I say? We were so high that we were, literally, in the clouds. OK, the remnants of hurricane Jeanne were in the area, but still. If it had been light, we could have seen the pilots in the planes that were coming in for a landing at Andrews

We were high enough to be able to see coverage and receivers better than Mark Brunnell, but not as well as Vinny. We could see pass interference calls better then certain referees.

This week Washington plays a truly bad team, Cleveland. Of course, I thought the Giants were a truly bad team. Who knew?

It's not quite time to panic. I sort of thought that the Skins would go 8-8 this year, and next year, when Joe's gotten his feet wet again, would be the year for a long playoff drive. Now, I just hope that Gibbs doesn't get too exhausted from all of these losses and Spurier-like mistakes.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Why we shouldn't get too excited

OK, it was fun to see Joe Gibbs and the Redskins (which would be a pretty fair name for a rock band) win yesterday. Let's not fire up the bandwagon quite yet, though:

  • Subtracting off the Portis outlier, he averaged exactly 3 yard per carry: (28 for 84). Adequate if you've got a decent passing game, but not great.
  • Subtract that run, we get beat 10-9.
  • In addition to the two fumbles (one lost for a TD), Brunell threw three balls in the first half that could have easily been intercepted.
  • His QB rating is 68.9

OK, there were some good things:

  • Clinton Portis saw everyone to his left, realized the right side was open, and did run 64 yards, unmolested. That was a great run, and I don't want to deny that. If he can do this regularly, he can average 1 yard per carry the rest of the time for all I care.
  • The offensive line actually looked as though they knew what they were doing, and there weren't a lot of penalties. There was a delay of game call, but that looked to be Brunell's doing, not the O-line's. Jones was a little shaky at RT, but he didn't get his quarterback killed, and Brunell didn't have to run around a lot.
  • The defense looked solid. Of course, this is Tampa Bay, but last year Brad Johnson lit up the defense. (Champ Bailey looked good in Denver, though.)
  • The Giants are pitiful.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Curse? What Curse?

A strange thing happened while I was gone: a pennant race developed in the AL East. I probably won't last after the Yanks-Sox series this month, but it's fun to see now. Sorry about Kevin Brown's hand, though. Not sorry NYY is loosing.

Funny how a 22-run loss will skew numbers. That Yankees are now officially luckier than they were last month, though they are in dire straits:

Year W L Pct. GB RS RA Pythg% PredtW PredtL PGB
New York 83 51 0.619 ---- 737 670 0.548 73.37 60.63 7.78
Boston 80 53 0.602 2.50 767 618 0.606 80.64 52.36 ----

Where PredtW, PredtL, and PGB are the Pythagorean predictions for wins, losses, and games behind. That's right, if there were any justice in the world Boston would be 8 games ahead of the Yankees and we'd be talking about how Pedro would hold up in the playoffs.

And at the end of the month, we've got six games between the Red Sox and the Yankees. Come on, you know what's going to happen. The only thing we don't know is which Yankee gets to add f***in' as a new middle name.

Back From Trip

OK, back from Cancun ... it was a business trip ... really ... see, ``Simulation of materials properties using the tight-binding method'' ... That's me

Writing like Larry King is hard work ... Cancun is not Mexico ... it's not the US, either ... even though English language television comes from Detroit ... Washingtonians will be please to know that Bernie Smilovitz is alive, and well, though his hair may not be ... no sign of Harvey that I could see ... Anyway, Cancun is not Mexico ... at least not the hotel district part, which isn't even Cancun ... it's just a barrier island with hotels on the ocean side and restaurants on the lagoon side ... sort of like Ocean City, Maryland, with out the miniature golf, and with crocodiles included in the lagoon

Meeting is held in August 'cause it's cheaper that way .. hot most all the time, even on the beach, though winds kept you reasonably cool ... also if you got too thirsty any of the poolside hotel bars were willing to sell you a Corona for about $4.50 US ... maybe 50 pesos ... even with the heat and the week before many places start school, hotels were 80% full ... beaches not nearly as wild as some places in Europe ... only one topless swimmer, and she might have lost her top in the ocean ... only a few seagulls, which is really strange ... this place has McDonald's, isn't that a gull's basic lunch? ... Have no idea how they keep them down ... use Gil's for trap shooting? ... feed them to the crocs? ... Didn't ask

Let's see ... food good, somewhat expensive ... beach very nice ... friends when snorkeling down by the ClubMed ... must do that next time ... the water's clear enough that you can see the reefs from the plane as you come over the coast ... on flight back was on left side of plane, so missed the most impressive site ... last time I flew back, I got to look at almost the entire coast of Cuba ... miles and miles of undeveloped beaches ... when Castro goes, that island is going to open up wide ... will probably mean that Cancun's business goes down substantially

Next time will try to take family, if they're still young enough to want to hang with parents ... lots of things to see that aren't that much fun by oneself ... Mayan pyramids, jungle, etc. ... Won't be able to go for a couple of years, but would be fun.