Monday, August 29, 2005

The Light At the End of the Dubya

Hey, this was sent to me by a Conservative friend, don't blame me, Boss:

How many members of the Bush administration does it take to change a light bulb?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

I Feel Slighted

Been hitting the "Next Blog" button at the top of this blog a lot today. Surprisingly, a lot of blogs have multiple comments for every post. Even blogs that have only been up a few hours. Yet here we sit, gathering an average of 15+ hits per day, and we get no comments.

And then I see that most of these comments are of the form:

Gee, your blog is great! Visit mine! I'm selling fraking great stuff!

Yes, boys and grils, the blogsphere has been infested with spammers. Just like email! And if you go to one of these adblogs, you find that they don't allow anonymous posting, so if you comment to tell them what a frackin' piece of drek they are, they can harvest your email address, probably to send you more spam.

Fortunately, Blogger has installed a word verification option to limit these kinds of comments to people who actually take a few seconds to think before they post. That's a Good Thing, and I hope it works.

But I still want to know, how come I don't get these comments?. Like I said, I get 15+ hits per day, many obviously from "Next Blog" users, and I get zero comments. Well, except from Abby, who obviously reads what I'm saying and makes intelligent comments. But I get no spam posts! I should launch an affirmative action campaign so that I get more spam.

So come on, lowlifes! Spam me. Tell me how great your Blog, selling various varieties of excrement, is. Let me have it.

And leave your blog address, so I can return the favor.

Sehen Sie in der Hölle.

mplayer Plugin Location

mplayer is one of those things you can't do without. It plays various audio and video files that aren't available on the default Fedora system: MP3s, Quicktime, various Microsoft formats, etc., pretty much everything except RealPlayer streaming video. It performs this trick by using a set of Codecs (Coder-decoders) for all of the various file types.

Some of the needed Codecs aren't in the standard distribution. For example, today I discovered that I needed the avisynth codec, which I had to download from sourceforge.

Getting the names of missing codecs is an art, itself. Basically, if you have trouble viewing a URL, run

$ mplayer URL

in an xterm and look for error messages.

Now for the main trouble with MPlayer on Fedora. If you look in the README file for the downloaded codecs you'll find that the codecs are supposed to go into the location /usr/local/lib/codecs/, or maybe /usr/lib/codecs/, or /usr/lib/win32 or even /usr/local/lib/win32. I started by putting the codecs in /usr/local/lib/codecs/, and that mostly works. But some formats, particularly QuickTime, gave me problems: either sound without windows, or windows without sound. Then I looked at the RPM provided from The documentation (rpm -qi mplayer) says that the codecs should be in /usr/lib/win32/. So I did this:

$ su -
Password: xyzzyxyz
$ cd /usr/lib
$ mkdir win32
$ cd win32
$ ln /usr/local/lib/codecs/* .

which links all the files in /usr/local/lib/codecs/ to /usr/lib/win32/. (Possibly a soft link to the directory is better, but let's not go there now.)

With this fix mplayer works on files I had trouble with. Let's see if that's a complete fix or not.

Just One Word

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.

Benjamin: Yes, sir.

Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?

Benjamin: Yes, I am.

Mr. McGuire: Plastics.

From Memorable Quotes from The Graduate (IMDb)

Even in spaceships. It seems that NASA is studying how to build spaceships out of polyethylene. It's not obvious, but the stuff is light, strong, and a good radiation shield.

As found on Slashdot

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Acrobat Reader Security Update

If you use Adobe Acrobat Reader for Linux, aka acroread to look at PDF files, then you should be aware that there is a security flaw in version 7.0.0, and Adobe has released a version 7.0.1. Download that from the first link here.

Finding the Right Lights to Turn Off

A few weeks ago, we did a bit on how to Turn Out Lights under FC4, i.e., shut off programs that start on a default system on boot-up, but you don't need. But which programs can you safely turn off? Fedora Weekly News has tells us in Which Services Can I Disable? This goes through many of the programs you see with the command


It doesn't cover all of the commands I found, and it has some that don't appear on my computer, but it's useful none-the-less.

Hey Windows Users! You undoubtedly have some programs running that you don't need, as well. Check those running in your Startup menu for starters. You can also disable lots of other useless programs. (I'd say Windows is a useless program, but then, you know, I'm not entirely rational on the subject.) Run Google and search for "remove useless Windows programs" or similar strings. You'll find a bunch of stuff.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Gee (802.11 version)

A couple of weeks ago Best Buy offered a deal on D-Link DI-524 802.11g wireless routers and D-Link DWL-510 wireless PCI adapters -- $19.95 each, after rebate. I'd wanted to upgrade our home wireless system for some time, as we'd previously been using 802.11b routers, which only have the capability Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption as opposed to the stronger Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) encryption offered by the 802.11g protocol.

Now, Linux lovers, if you want me to tell you how to get the DWL-510 working, don't look any further, because I haven't the slightest idea. This box is jacked straight in to the back of the DWL-510 (Note added later: Oops! I meant the DI-524), there isn't a wireless internet card on it. This is a saga of getting things to work on an XP box and a Mac.

Well, OK, I did set up the router itself from here. You go to, run the setup Wizard, and change the default "admin" password (there isn't one). Also change the default name of the network from "D-Link" to whatever you choose.

But you're not finished here, yet. Go to Home ==> Wireless and change the security settings so that you are running with:

  • Wireless enabled
  • A new name for the network, if you didn't already change it
  • Whatever channel you want to run on -- I've heard that practically only 1, 6, and 11 are useful, since the channels are very close together and so there is a lot of cross-talk between, say, Channels 4 and 5. The default channel is usually 6.
  • Set Mode Setting to G Mode. The on-board documentation (click on "Help") doesn't tell you about it, but "Mixed mode" would seem to enable both 802.11b and 802.11g protocols, and you don't want that.
  • Turn SSID broadcast (which sends your network name out to the world at large) to disabled.
  • For security select WPA-PSK, "Personal Mode". As I understand it, the stronger pure WPA mode secures each connection individually. That looked to be a pain, so I started, at least, with PSK, which allows you to type in one passphrase which is used by everyone wanting to make a connection to your system.
  • Hit the Apply button and wait for everything to reset.

OK, now the router is configured, and the hard-wired connection to the outside works fine.

Connecting the Mac via wireless was easy. I just temporarily disabled the SSID broadcast on the router, and the Mac found the network right away. Enter the passphrase and we're off and running.

Getting the Windows machine connected was a bit more complicated, since I had to get rid of the old wireless card and install the new DWL-510. OK, unplug everything. Bring the box out where I can open it up. Good God, it's full of dust: the air intake is completely blocked. It's a wonder the whole thing didn't just melt down. Clean it all up, uninstall the old card, open up the box for the new card. See directions that say "Install Drivers Before you install this card." Oops. Ordinarily you can ignore this, but this time installing the drivers first turns out to be a Good Idea.

So plug everything except the old wireless card back into the computer, turn it on, and install the drivers. Ignore the warning about the software not being certified as XP compatible. Turn everything back off, and install the new wireless card.

Turn the computer back on, and let it find the new hardware and finish the software installation. Now here's the important part: in the tray at the bottom right of your screen there will be a little "D". Always use this to work with the card. When you bring up the window associated with the "D", click tabs until you find a box that says something like "Use Windows to configure my wireless network settings". Uncheck this box!! Your interface will change from Window's version to D-Links. Now click on "Configuration" and enter all the stuff needed to match the information you entered for the router. I wish I could help you with this, but the manual provided, like the on-line help for the browser, doesn't seem to know about the WPA and WPA-PSK abilities of the system. So keep clicking buttons that look logical until you find the right setup, and then hit the Apply button. If you need more help, email me and I'll tell you how to send me a plane ticket so that I can help you out.

I do note that the XP is still at Service Pack 1. If we were at SP2 it might be easier to do all of this stuff.

Anyway, the connection now works.

Maybe it's a security issue, but the login connection works a bit strangely under XP. If the first user to log on has the phasephrase set, then everyone logging onto the machine afterward can also use the connection. So if I set up Bob's account to use the D-Link, Mary can use it as well if she logs in after Bob, and, in fact, I can't change Mary's account information at that time. However, if Mary logs in first, she can't use the D-Link until she sets up her account. I suppose this almost makes sense, as it lets different users of the same machine use different wireless networks. What kind of setup would need this is beyond me.

The new system has been installed since Saturday morning, and we've had no signal drops since then. With the old 802.11b system we'd get dropped connections every few hours, so I'd say that the installation is a roaring success. Now I just have to send in those rebate forms.

Spellchecking in Firefox

Sometimes you've got to enter a lot of information in a form on a webpage, as I'm doing now to enter this post. I am one of the world's worst spellers, so it's useful to have spell-check capability available. Now Blogger has a little spell-check button above this box, but it opens a popup window, which is generally regarded as Unmitigated Evil, so I try to avoid that.

Now, however, comes a Firefox Extension known as AspellFox, which uses the aspell command along with an xterm window to do your spell-checking. The extension adds an "AspellFox" item to your context (right-click) menu, enabling you to spellcheck what you type. Since it uses aspell, it automatically uses the personal dictionary you've created on your own computer, so you don't need it to tell you how to spell Mehl or Papaconstantopoulos (look it up).

Unfortunately, it only works with aspell and xterms, so it's of little use to Windows users. Sorry about that.

When it's finished, it pops up a window saying Spellcheking done!. Hmm.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Why Supervillians Use Linux

Sent by FOL&T TK:

Thursday, August 11, 2005

wma to mp3 Conversion
with Mplayer

OK, we've solved the problem of converting audio files to MP3 format using SoX, even in Fedora Core 4.

Unfortunately, even an MP3-enabled version of SoX doesn't convert files in WMA format to MP3.

However, MPlayer can do the conversion. You just have to know how.

Fortunately, a little bit of searching found this wma2mp3 script. It's a simple bash file. The instructions suggest that you save it as /usr/bin/wma2mp3, but actually it will work from anywhere in your path, so long as MPlayer is installed. I've got it in /home/local/bin/wma2mp3, where it is safe from OS updates. /usr/local/bin/wma2mp3 is also a good place for the file.

Finally, note that if your song filenames include spaces, you need to run this command with the file names in quotes, as it says in the notes:
wma2mp3 "*.mp3"

Now I need to figure out MPGA format, whatever that is.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Turning Off the Lights

Sometimes, after you set up your computer, you find that the default installation is running things that you don't really need. For instance, this computer is currently running some kind of Bluetooth server. I don't own a bluetooth device, so that's useless.

I got a reminder about how to fix these kind of things from this Boot Fedora Faster Howto article. OK, there are things in there that I'm not going to do, since I don't plan to recompile the kernel any time soon. (Thanks, Dave. Don't mention it, Hal) However, you can "turn off the lights" in rooms that you aren't occupying at the time. In Gnome, according to the article, you click on Desktop->System Tools->Server Settings->Services. If you work from an Xterm, the corresponding command is


You'll be asked for your root password, and then you'll get a menu of system services. A check-mark indicates that the given service will start on boot, so uncheck those you don't need. To stop a service right now, right-click on it and select "Stop" from the menu.

Doing this increases system security, since you aren't running things you don't need, and should speed up your computer, since you don't need to start up useless programs on boot.

Panda Cam

Direct from the National Zoo, here's Animal Planet's

Panda Video Cam

It's sort of like studying cats. Lots of time with no action, then when you blink, you miss them move.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Why Don't We Just Name it
The United States of Reagan?

Ah, to be in Congress now that August is here. What should we do today?

No, too mundane. Instead, let's rename a DC street for Ronald Reagan.

And charge the $1,000,000 for the name change to the District of Columbia.


San Antonio, do you know what your Congressman is up to?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Slightly Different Emphasis

You've probably heard this already, but the Administration apparently wants to rename the Global War on Terrorism (G-WOT) to the "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism" (G-SAVE).

Now, I'm not going to go against the wishes of my boss, but I suggest that maybe, just maybe, we should tweak this change just a bit, to reflect the reasons behind the change. Let's make it the

Struggle Against Violent Extremism in the World (SAVE-Dubya)