Older blog entries for Waldo (starting at number 175)

New Apples
I've ordered for myself an iBook (12", DVD/CDRW) and a PowerMac (1GHz, FW800, DVD+R, Bluetooth), both of which ought to arrive next week. I'm excited. Anybody wanna buy a souped-up Pismo? (400MHz, DVD, 768MB RAM, Firewire, 40GB HDD.) It's a beautiful machine, but I want to go from having one laptop/desktop to two separate machines filling that role.
Desktop Linux at Work
We'll have an extra PII/233 at work soon, as a new desktop rotates in and that old one rotates out. I've decided to make it the Extra Computer, that just sits at a desk in case somebody else's system dies, we get a temp in, whatever. I'm going to wipe Windows from it and install Red Hat 8, and do my best to integrate it into the network. It seems like a good way to help ease into things.
Weird Bump
For the record, I've got a weird bump on my left hand, at the base of the first finger. I was rummaging around in a bunch of old boxes at the office yesterday, and it appeared about a half hour later. It looked and felt just like a mosquito bite. It was a little bit red and swollen this morning. As of this evening, the whole base of my finger is red, swollen, and warm to the touch. I've got joint pain, and the whole affair is very tender. People are far too quick to blame spiders for such things, and there just aren't any poisonous spiders (save for black widows, but my symptoms aren't appropriate) in central Virginia (USA), but I sure can't think of anything else. I'll go to my GP in the morning and see what he's got to say.

There. Now if I wake up dead, at least there will be some record of what happened. :)

I got a new Dell in the mail today. A $1,100 jobbie, just as a new machine for the office. As I unpacked it, I couldn't help but giggle when I looked at the ports. The thing comes with two PS/2 connectors, and a mouse and a keyboard that plug into them. There are four USB 1.0 plugs, but nothing plugs into those. There is no Firewire connector.

What is this, 1997?

Web Applications: Non-Triggered Events?
Can anybody recommend the best method of causing a non-triggered event to occur on a regular basis within or for a web-based application? I would like to send out an e-mail regularly (say, daily) to individuals based on data stored in a MySQL database. All existing interaction with this database is accomplished via PHP. I figure that I have two choices:

a. Use a cron job. b. Have a frequently-called function check the current date and time. If it is within certain parameters, call the function that will cause the e-mail to go out.

I don't like the former, because it will make it harder for people to install this application. The latter is wasteful. Am I missing a third possibility?

Text Ads Success
Wow. This text ads system that I wrote has turned out to be way more successful than I hoped that it would be. Not the software -- I haven't had the time to do anything with that today. No, the success has been in the deployment of it on nancies.org. We've taken in $100 in ad sales today -- a Sunday, at that, when traffic is by far the lowest. If you'll excuse my starry-eyed optimism, if we made that every day, we could pay our hosting bill a half dozen times over each and every month. Taking in this money has been effectively effortless; people book the ads, and I just have to click a link to approve each ad before it runs. The money just stacks up in our PayPal account. What a beautiful thing. :)

In any case, I'm excited not only for nancies.org, but for how beneficial that this could be for other websites. I've got to package this up and get it out there...it's just a question of how much of a perfectionist that I want to be before I make it available. :)

Text Ads System
I've just completed the pre 1.0 release of my text ads system, and I've put it into testing on one my sites, nancies.org. I had been looking at Text Ads (that's the name of the program), but it's much too bulky for me...plus, it's really going in the wrong direction. I wanted something very, very simple, with PayPal integration, written in PHP, with no accounts system, no method for users to track ad performance...just a basic system good for your average small site. I've shaken out some bugs in the past 12 hours, and it's proven to be a pretty popular feature. I start spring semester on Monday, so hopefully I'll have time tonight to package this up and make a 1.0 pre release out of it.
Charlottesville Wireless Freenet
I've been planning a municipal wireless freenet here in Charlottesville for the past 18 months. Unable to make any headway on my own, I sent a letter to the City Council earlier in the week, extolling the virtues of such a system and encouraging them to consider the creation of a network blanketing downtown. Well, it worked. They love it. We've started work immediately to look into the feasibility, and it looks real easy.

There's really just one major concern, and that's bandwidth. Bandwidth is cheap if it's just for one person. But you can't just go get a DSL and resdistribute that bandwidth to 100-odd people. Well, you can, but once they find out, it's over, so that's not a great option here. An ISP-class connection is pretty much required, and that takes some serious cash, and deep-sixes the "cheap" part of "cheap and easy" with this project. Fortunately, one of the city techs is way into this project (he's an OSS/Linux/[SL|FS]. geek...gotta love it), and he's going to start looking into this with the city's vendors.

I'm optimistic that we'll have this system up in a matter of weeks.

SuSE PPC Install Attempt
I just made my first attempt to install SuSE on my PowerPC. It didn't really work out. It had me copy an install file to the root of my drive and restart. I did so, completed some information in a gnarly-looking installer, and it downloaded a bunch of stuff, complaining all the while. Every now and again, it would -- without warning -- drop me back at a menu, where I would simply select "install," not knowing what else to do. Eventually, it assured me that SuSE was as installed as it was going to get, and dropped me to a login prompt. I logged in as root, and was greeted with a prompt. There was very, very little on the machine -- just a bare bones text install. I thought that perhaps a reboot was in order -- perhaps there was some auto-configuration step that required that. So I rebooted, and now I'm in Mac OS X. No boot manager ever asked me what OS that I wanted, and I have no idea of how I'd get back to SuSE.

Oh, well.

I've received the 40GB IBM TravelStar drive from Smalldog, and installed it in my PowerBook (Pismo) without incident. Installing OS X took a surprisingly small amount of time, and the machine booted to the desktop before I'd realized what had happened. I've got a lot of configuration to do to get this system back to where it was prior to the loss of my 10GB drive, but I kind of look forward to starting from scratch.
Yellow Dog Linux
I set aside a 10GB partition on this new drive to install another OS. I have the YDL 2.0 discs (I ordered them to upgrade my then-primary server that ran YDL 1.2, but YDL provided no upgrade path, so the discs and lovely packaging sat idle), so I thought I'd install that. Big mistake. The installer looks like ass, and failed with some exciting new Python error each time. It was difficult to use, had a logic all its own, and never did manage to install. I'll probably try Mandrake or SuSE or something, but not Yellow Dog Linux. I've decided to give up on it.
For the third time, I am mailing back my Asus A7V-266e motherboard. I purchased it in March. It worked for a couple of weeks, though badly, before dying. The second was DOA. The third was DOA. I called tech support about the third last week, and the tech was baffled. He could attribute its complete lack of anything approaching functionality (including trying two different power supplies, two different sticks of memory, and two different processors) to nothing but it being completely dead. So I'm mailing this one back for a fourth. I have now spent $50 just in shipping and insurance, as Asus is not willing to cover the cost of returning each of these boards. I have used this system for a period of two weeks in the seven months that I've owned it. I'm becoming extremely frustrated with Asus. I believe that I'm going to ask that they reinstate my warranty from the date that they ship motherboard number four, but I'm not sure of what other demands that I'm able to make.
RSS Setlists
In a blatant misuse of RSS, I'm designing a simple schema to transmit set lists (from concerts) via RSS. It won't be particularly exciting, but I'll release a spec.
Linux at Work
I'm back to putting work into switching to a Linux desktop at the office. I've been fiddling with WINE, with some assistance from my local LUG, as there are two proprietary insurance industry applications that I must be able to run. Fortunately, they're extremely crude, Windows 3.1-era programs, so I suspect that it's quite doable.
Dead PowerBook Hard Drive
My local Apple repair shop called me on Tuesday: the 10GB hard drive on my PowerBook G3 Firewire (Pismo) is really and truly dead, with no realistic and economically-feasible shot at data recovery. I back up pretty well (for a guy that doesn't have a backup system), so I haven't lost any great quantity of stuff. But it's sort of like having your house burn down, even if you're fully insured and took your most precious things out of the house; you still have to rebuild your house and experience that akward homeless period in the meantime. I've ordered a 40GB drive from Smalldog, and that should show up in a week or two.
Failed Advocacy
I got a response to my rather-extensive letter to an insurance company with whom I do business. The letter, in a nutshell, was attempting to convince this anonymous company of the merits of thinking beyond their self-imposed (and, to some extent, industry-imposed) boundaries and start to work digitally on a non-proprietary level. The system that they intend to migrate to is entirely copyright- and patent-laden, made by an incompetent company that will surely prove to be a dead end. The response that I got was from a middle manager (not the VP to whose attention I sent my initial letter) who just didn't get it. She was arguing the technical merits of this system, saying that it's really a fine program and that it would work nicely. She was unable to take a step back and see how much that she's handicapping both her business and the entire industry by her willingness to use this pathetic product. I'm going to drop the issue from here. I'd like to push them farther, but it will likely affect our business relationship negatively if I'm not successful. Too bad.

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