Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Puppy Linux on a A20m Thinkpad

I purchased a refurbished R32 IBM Thinkpad the summer before my senior year of undergraduate studies at BYU. I do not recommend going that route. I put the laptop through the paces for the first month, and then a week after the warranty finished it started to die. I tried various things, but two months later it was completely unusable and I had a $1000 paperweight.

Fast forward a few years. I decided to get a cheap laptop for web, email, and text editing on the move. I purchased a used T23 IBM Thinkpad. It seemed to be the best deal I could find on craigslist at the time. That laptop ended up being a workhorse, lasting me the rest of my graduate degree. When my new job provided me a new laptop, I passed this old on on to my sister-in-law.

Unfortunately, no laptop lives forever. The T23 died a few weeks ago. My sister-in-law brought it over to see if I could fix it. After taking it apart and mucking with things for an evening, I made sure it would not ever work again (it's a free service I provide). I kept the machine and yanked the hard drive.

I borrowed my parent's A20m IBM Thinkpad. They had to dig it out of the back of a closet where it had wallowed for a number of years. I switched out the hard drives and used an old version of Knoppix to move the data onto a USB stick and then onto my computer (which is backed up online using Carbonite). Data saved, but sister-in-law still down a computer.

I asked my parents and, since they were obviously not using the A20m, they agreed to let my sister-in-law have it. That was great, except that the A20m has a 700 MHz processor with only 128 MB of RAM. A service-pack bloated version of XP wasn't going to cut it, so I turned to Linux. Puppy Linux.

Unfortunately, Puppy Linux did not work out of the box. The first big problem was that it did not recognize the hard drive. I could not find it to mount or anything. Luckily, some googling revealed a couple (1, 2) discussion threads that addressed the problem. The solution I used was to halt the initial boot up from the CD and then run puppy acpi=force at the boot prompt. I then had to install and permanently setup the boot to do that.

The next problem is that the machine's ethernet port did not have a card attached to it. I had pulled off a "permanent" cover when trying to save the data. Why put a port in there to just cover it up and make it useless? Exactly. I did have a couple of PCMCIA cards available. I could not get the one my sister-in-law had previously been using, a Linksys PCMCIA WPC11 ver 3.0, to work. I believe that had to do with a firmware update I had done previously to support WEP. Luckily, my parents had a SpeedStream SS1021 which worked fine with the Puppy wizards.

Now I am just playing around with the package managers and trying to get most of the useful packages installed. It has been kind of a pain, but it looks like it is only a couple more hours work. I haven't installed Linux in years, so it was kind of fun to muck around with it.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Bit

I am sad today.

Yesterday my pregnant wife started cramping. It got so bad that this morning we went to the ER. A few hours later we left the hospital knowing that my wife's pregnancy was coming to an end, and a baby would not be the result (she's only 14 weeks). It is very sad that we will not get to know the Bit.

The Bit is the nickname we gave the person that was growing in my wife's womb. We did not know its gender yet. We preferred to give it a neutral name over referring to it by "it" until we find out its gender. We were very excited about the Bit and looked forward to meeting it.

Where does the name come from? A bit is a binary digit. It forms the basic unit of information in computing. Eight bits make a byte, and bytes make up memory. A gigabyte is one billion bytes.

The pictures at the top of this post come from the movie Tron. A mainframe computer in that movie pulls real people into the digital world. One of these people comes across a bit, and it looks like object above.

Like most movies, Tron took some artistic license (okay, a lot of artistic license). In the movie, a bit can be neutral, negative, or affirmative. Contrary to the movie's depiction, a bit can only have two values in computing.

The Bit was on, but now it is off.

I will miss the Bit.

I am sad today.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

American Evita

My wife and I watched Evita on Netflix this past weekend. We like the music, but I have never seen the movie or the musical, and she had not seen the movie for almost a decade. She had fond memories of watching the movie and feeling "girl power." She described her feeling this time very differently, saying it seemed like politics gone awry and a lot like the tactics of some modern politicians in America.

Eva Peron Sarah Palin
Eva Peron Sarah Palin

The GOP just released a so-called "Pledge to America," which is really a pathetic attempt to keep the Tea Party from splitting the vote. Neither the GOP nor the DNC leadership seems to really get it, and most of the Tea Party spews forth more hateful vitriol than Smaug.

There is apparently a scandal from the White House that some of Obama's senior policy-makers and top generals do not agree with him. I can see how that can be spun as a negative, but think about it intelligently for a minute: do we really want our Chief Executive Officer surrounded by yes-men? How could a few people willing to stand up for what they believe in be a bad thing?

Of course, I am putting my own spin on things. It is hard not to. It seems like nobody cares about what is right anymore, only what is good. Good is subjective, right is fact. Do you seek out what is right, or only what is good?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Unlocked the "dork" badge

I started playing foursquare relatively recently. Since I do not have a smart phone I play through the mobile interface. I try to stay true to the game and not abuse that way to check in, although I do occasionally check in at the local community college I have never even visited. You can see the badges and mayorships I have achieved at the bottom of this post, thanks to MyFoursquare. Whenever I earn a badge or become a mayor, I have foursquare post it to my Facebook wall. Then my wife sees it and calls me a dork.

Earlier today I came across Veronica Belmont's post on EpicWin. I have been flirting with wanting an iPod Touch (3rd gen, no camera) in order to help keep myself organized. EpicWin seems like just the type of task manager I would want. Of course, it would be awesome if it had a desktop client as well, and it would also be awesome if it integrated with Google Tasks. Since I do not even have an iPod Touch or an iPhone it does not really matter. I am toying with trying out Chore Wars, but I have a feeling that it would only be fun/cool as part of a guild. Here's hoping family will try it out!

I thought it was interesting that an aquaintance of mine, Seth Holloway shared this article on Google Reader today. The article talks about behavioral psychology motivating us to be better people. Okay, it does not phrase it this way, but any follower of Skinner would see the connection. While I don't think behavioral psychology is the answer to all life's problems, I do think we could apply it in many ways through video games and augmented reality to actually help us meet meaningful goals.

For example, nothing can help one stick with a diet better than knowing all your twitter followers and facebook friends will see your weight. I have to admit that I kind of want one of those too (but not as much as an iPod Touch, and I'm not even sure I want that).

Monday, September 20, 2010

Disneyland links

Here are some links that I either used in planning my recent trip to Disneyland or found afterwards and think they are interesting:
  • - Might as well start with the official site. Although this might not be the place to find the secret tips, it is a good source of information.
  • - Order the free vacation planning DVD, even if you have been before. They are always changing things, and it's free!
  • - I love this site. Lots of simple and practical tips for making the most of the Disneyland experience. Learn how to use Fast Passes, where to meet the princesses, the best things to do with kids, and much more!
  • - The Orlando Sentinel has a Disney-specific page. They obviously have a reason to emphasize Disneyworld, but they seem to do a decent job covering all things Disney.
  • - This site looked promising, but there is only so much time one has to look at sites like these prior to actually going on a trip and the Vacation Tips site won my initial attention.
  •,, and are authorized Disney vacation planners. My particular trip was put together piece-meal, but you can save some hassle by getting an all-in-one from a place like these. I am not sure how prices compare, though.
  • - seems like a fun (and slightly sinister) site for finding out things about Disney that may not be part of the normal story they try to tell. A lot of fun insider tips and information that's not on your planning DVD!
Do you have a favorite site I forgot? I would love to hear about it. I don't expect this past trip to be my last trip to a Disney resort.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Meet Princess Tiana at Disneyland

My kids love The Princess and the Frog. We did not watch it in the theaters when it came out, but we rented it from a redbox and then proceeded to watch it a bazillion times over the course of a weekend. When the kids found out they would be meeting the Disney Princesses at Disneyland, meeting Tiana became a "must do."

The problem is that meeting the Princesses at Disneyland is a bit of a pain. Luckily, I had been prepared for the state of affairs at Disneyland, thanks to Disneyland Vacation Tips. However, we beat the system a bit with Tiana. She comes out in New Orleans Square every hour or two and alternates between singing a bunch of songs from the movie and doing a meet-and-greet. She does both of them. We first ran across her by accident during one of her singing shows. We were walking towards Big Thunder ranch and heard the songs. We followed the music and found her here:

View Larger Map

Unfortunately, there were a ton of other people there too. However, we decided to come back later for the meet-and greet. Well, that did not happen, but we tried again on another day. We started by asking the information booth at the end of Main Street. They initially told us that Tiana was not performing in New Orleans that day. Luckily, we had seen her earlier and knew that was incorrect. They then studied their books and determined that the next meet-and-greet would be at 5:30 pm. At 4:45 pm we were in between rides and decided to head over. The information booth had also told us that perhaps we could meet her around the corner from the New Orleans bathrooms, in an alcove near the caricature artists.

We went over there and did not find Tiana. However, we did find one of her band members. I stopped him as he was going up the stairs and asked him when the next meet-and greet was going to be. He said it would be at 5:00 pm. Good thing we came by early! We went over to where we had seen her do the songs earlier and sat down on the steps. We were the only ones camped out. Eight minutes later, Tiana and crew came marching out. Her "handler" came right up to my kids and asked if they were there to meet Tiana. When we answered in the affirmative, she said that they would get to dance with her! So she finished coming out, danced with my kids, talked with them, and posed for pictures. All the while other people started gathering and some girls started trying to interact (but were herded into line by the handler).

What are the lessons learned?
  • Know where the princesses will be and get there before they are actually there
  • Don't trust the information booth with the success of your trip
  • Castmembers in the act will actually know what is going on, so ask them

Here is a nice interactive youtube video (click on things to see other videos) about New Orleans Square. There are apparently a number of other shows that I did not see that involve Tiana. However, that is one of the great things about Disneyland: there is always more to do and see!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Formatting change

My wife just gave me the ability to post to her blog, and it has been a fun and rewarding experience. She actually has a nice blog (email me if you are friend or family and want an invite). My blog, is a bunch of random (and ugly) widgets and very little meaningful content. So I am going to, once again, attempt to overhaul my blog. Eventually I hope it will be worth looking at and worth reading, but for now it probably looks worse. If that was even possible. Give me some time, it will improve over the next week/month.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Princess Who Saved Herself

Jonathan Coulton is releasing songs again. I just went by his blog and found this post about his new song: The Princess Who Saved Herself.

The Princess Who Saved Herself

I think it is a must-have for parents of little girls. The is living independently in a castle, tames a dragon, rejects a self-absorbed prince, redeems a witch, and starts a band (with the dragon and the witch). Definitely a lot cooler and positive than the typical "I'm a helpless princess who needs saving" stereotype.

So go get it. It is available on a charity CD, "he proceeds of which benefit the Haitian People’s Support Project. It’s an amazing list of artists." The whole CD is kid's music, but if you want to just buy the Coulton song then you can find it here.