Old News

Archived news items from October 2001
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news from November 2001

Saturday, 20 October 2001 [21:33 CDT]

I did a bit more cabling on Tuesday, figuring out how to put the connectors on the end of the cables, mount them on the faceplate and mount the faceplates in the boxes. I did about six, and hopefully I did them correctly since no one else was there to show me how to do it.

We have two public computer labs that teachers can sign up to bring their classes into. Currently we use a paper list that's in the mail room, but the campus tech person asked me if I would make a web version, so I've been working on that a bit. Earlier in the year I'd written a little utility that would generate all the A days (or B days) in a given six weeks knowing only the starting and ending dates and the dates of any holidays. I'd written it in C++, but I needed it in Perl to generate the calendar for a web page. So I printed out the C++ version and just did a direct translation to Perl on Thursday, which was a learning experience. In particular, using a hash instead of a struct is NOT the same, and pass-by-reference of various things into subroutines was a challenge. I got it all working, though, and in the process discovered two minor bugs in the C++ version.

Yesterday was a teacher workday, and it was nice to just have a day to plan out things without the students around. Plus, since my first meeting was at Cedar Park High School (which is closer to my house) and breakfast was provided, I got to almost sleep in on a school day. Of course, I really slept in this morning (until 9:30 or so).

I took my bike for a ride for the first time in a while this afternoon since it was such a beautiful day. Otherwise I've spent most of the day ripping albums to put on the jukebox. My windows ripping performance is a little higher, normally, but for some reason today my Windows partition doesn't want to recognize the fact that I have an ATAPI CD-ROM installed. So I ripped the albums using my CD-RW, at a little less than 1x, which ironically is slower than what I'd get using my Linux ripper (cdparanoia) on the faster drive.

I also experimented with an audio file normalization utility called normalize which I downloaded recently. It works with a much smarter algorithm than the "Normalize" function of most cd rippers, so I got two tracks off of several albums which I knew to be recorded at vastly different volumes and then burned two CDs with all the tracks in random order. The first CD was the control CD, with the files written just as they'd been read. For the tracks of the second CD, I used the normalization utility on each track, one track at a time (so there was no "group" averaging of volumes or anything). The difference was noticeable and especially helped reduce the volume of modern CDs that compress the dynamics of the whole album just to get the average volume louder. So in the future, I'll use this utility on all the new albums before encoding them (in Ogg format, btw) and putting them on the jukebox.

Sunday, 14 October 2001 [21:27 CDT]

I spent all Saturday (from 5:50 A.M. until 6:00 P.M.) at the church helping out with running network/phone cable. We bought four 1000-foot spools of non-plenum CAT-5e, over forty RJ-11 receptacles, over twenty RJ-45 receptacles and retro-fit "J-boxes", and face plates for everything. We ran cable through the ceiling to the individual rooms (two wires per drop (one phone and one network) and usually two drops per room) and then down the wall into the retrofit boxes. Of course, we had to make a pilgrimage to Fry's at about 10:00 to buy more network cable (we'd initially only had three spools), some "glow rods" for pulling cable through the walls, and we also ate at Taco Cabana. So far I haven't really learned much, but I'm looking forward to watching them put the receptacles on the ends of the cable and mount them in the boxes, because that's something I don't know how to do.

I went home and took a shower and then left to watch this year's dinner theatre: "Web of Murder". I had just a few kids acting in it, but almost everyone backstage (props, lighting, sound, etc) was one of fine. It was a great show and the kids did a good job with it. Plus the $10 ticket price covered a good spaghetti meal, and I was pretty hungry since I hadn't eaten other than Taco Cabana all day.

It put me getting to bed pretty late and of course getting up way too early for the amount of sleep I'd had the past few days. I'm going to try to remedy that tonight and get to bed as soon as I get this uploaded.

By the way, my brother bit the bullet as well and got a cell phone, too. It's the exact same phone and service plan as mine, only he got his phone for free. Oh well. He's poorer than I am, anyway so I guess it's better that way.

Thursday, 11 October 2001 [18:32 CDT]

It was raining buckets this morning. I left a little late for school and made the mistake of speeding to pass a (driving) school bus in a school zone, knowing there was a patrol car somewhere behind me. He pulled me over. He accused me of going 33 in a 20, but I'd been looking at my speedometer, which I know reads fast, and it had said 25. So I disagreed and he didn't argue. I told him I was trying to get to school on time since teachers are supposed to be there at eight. My license and registration checked out, and I was able to show him my teacher id, so he let me off with just a warning. That's perhaps only the second time ever that I've been let off with a warning. It was a different officer than the motorcycle cop who'd had the speed trap set up the two previous times I've been pulled over, and I'm sure that made a difference.

In more nerdy news, I finally got the quote on the computer science web page randomized. I just finally sat down to figure out server-side includes, which are incredibly easy. Then made a pre-HTML-formatted database of quotes and a simple perl script to pick one of them whenever I log on. So that's that.

Wednesday, 10 October 2001 [21:30 CDT]

Ah, the joys of relying on technology. Monday I was at school late installing the newest version of the Java SDK and generally updating the ghost image for my lab. When I left everything was working fine. Then when I got to school the network was down, but only apparently in my room. The network administrators spent a while deciding that my room wasn't at fault, and finally figured out that my whole segment of the switch had gone down. So they took down the whole switch and put in a new one during second period, and things were running again. But I didn't get much done during first period, which meant I pretty much had to not do much during fifth period today to keep things even.

So before school there are always a bunch of kids waiting outside my room, who play video games or surf the web until the bell rings. Well, with the network down, they couldn't get to their games on their home directories or get on the web to download new ones, so they pretty much had nothing to do. But then in a moment that belongs in a sitcom dream sequence, one of the boys suggested that we have a "push-up contest", and we did. I did 20 just to get the thing started, and another boy did a set of 25. Then still another did 50 and the first boy did another set of 25. It was quite surreal.

Well, when first period came in, I told them about the push-up contest and many of them decided to join in. Several more boys did fifty and I did ten more. Far be it from me to discourage normally fairly sedentary programmers from engaging in physical exercise, but it was a bit unprecedented.

And today I did five push-ups in computer science III as penance for putting "bool" on the board instead of "boolean" for a Java program I'd written. Then foolishly committed to doing 5 push-ups every time I substitute C++ code for Java. I'm already sore.

I did call my brother and parents this weekend, so I've now used up a whole 138 minutes of my 2400 for this month. <SARCASM>Hope I don't go over my limit.</SARCASM>

Saturday, 6 October 2001 [21:52 CDT]

Well, my cell phone came in handy on Thursday. I checked my home email from school just before I was leaving for home, only to discover a message Bob had forwarded to me late the previous night (I hadn't checked my email that morning). It was from our landlord, wondering why our rent hadn't been deposited yet. Now I'd faxed off a form weeks before authorizing direct deposit of the rent from my bank to hers, so I'd just assumed it had gone through.

So on the drive home I put in my hands-free headset and called my bank to see what was up. The person I talked to looked and found my fax in a pile, un-processed. She couldn't explain why it hadn't been processed already, but immediately sent it to the correct office. Of course, the next transfer won't occur until October 30, so it was too late for this month's rent. Still in my car on the way home, I left a message on the landlord's voice mail to tell her what was up. I then dropped by the house to pick up my form with her account number on it and then headed straight down to the closest Bank of America branch to deposit a check in her name.

I got to the drive-up window about five minutes before the bank was going to close for the day. While I was making the deposit, the landlord called me back and I told her the deposit was on its way. Twenty minutes later I got home to stay, my new mobile phone having saved me from late rent fees.

In other geeky news, today I downloaded and installed the 3.0 beta of VMware Workstation for Linux, which allows you to set up a little virtual machine (or several), in which you can install just about any operating system that will run on an x86 processor. After some finagling, I got my Windows 95 partition booting within Linux, so now if I need to read a Word document I can just run VMware and resume the saved, already-booted state (which takes about ten seconds), run Word within the Windows 95 virtual machine window, and save the state and close when I'm done. No reboot necessary.

It's in theory possible to use Windows Networking to map a drive to my home directory under Linux, so I can read and save files directly to my Linux drives from within the Windows 95 virtual machine, but I haven't got that working yet. The only downsides so far are that sound and my CD-ROM drive don't work under the virtual machine, and that my beta will expire on November 16. I'm sure I'll be addicted by then and shell out $50 for their lite version.

Oh, and we got our part of the construction done on Thursday night at around 2:30am. (Not that I was still there at that point). Supposedly yesterday the tape-and-float crew came in and made all the sheetrock walls we'd put up look pretty. After lunch on Sunday the singles are going to do a walk-through, so I'll get to see what it looks like then.

Tuesday, 2 October 2001 [22:59 CDT]

Quite a bit of wall-building has been done the past two days. I've been going up for a few hours after work and it's starting to take shape. The new facility is really going to be nice once we get it all done. Things today took longer than anticipated, but I think we're still on schedule to get our part finished by Friday morning.

I'm carrying around my mobile phone, but I can't say I've used it yet. I don't normally make that many calls, so using 2400 minutes a month is a bit daunting.

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