Older blog entries for dyork (starting at number 257)

The Best Screw Ever - Get your mind out of the gutter... I'm talking about the Robertson screw, a type of screw I'd never even remotely heard of before moving north to Canada. In the U.S., there were always flat/straight/slotted/(pick your term) screws and Phillips screws (otherwise known as "that's the one with the criss-cross on it, right?) and more recently the Torx screws with their star-like pattern. But the Robertson square head?

So then we buy a house in Ottawa (2 years ago) and find that many things are held in by this screw with a square impression in the head. Huh?

Yes, indeed, a different type of screw. So I went out and bought a new set of Robertson screwdrivers (#1 with a green handle, #2 with a red handle and #3 with a black handle) and the associated bits for my drill.

And after another weekend of doing projects where I was working with various different types of screws, I am so far down the road of being a Robertson convert... I never want to go back! My crusade now is that if I make any changes to the house, I try to do it completely with Robertson screws. Goodbye, slotted... goodbye, Mr. Phillips...

It is such a vastly superior screw! Easy to go in... easy to remove. You can't really strip the heads. Plus, you can put a screw on the end of the screw driver and it will stay there while you hold the screwdriver at all sorts of different angles.... allowing you to work basically with one hand while fastening things together. Simply not possible with a slotted or Philips screwdriver. (Okay, yes, you can get one with a magnetic tip that provides a degree of help, but nothing like what a Robertson can do.)

So what does this have to do with free software? At first glance, nothing, but it actually is yet another illustration that sometimes inferior technology wins. Fascinating story, really... a guy named P.L. Robertson set up his company in Milton, Ontario, in 1908. He had come up with the idea for a better type of fastner - the screw with a square indentation and applied for associated patents, etc. He was successful in Canada and tried to expand overseas in Europe... minor little details like a world war kind of got in the way... and then (according to a History channel documentary) he had a falling out with his European partners.

So then came the critical failure... Henry Ford tried out the Robertson screws and found they could shave off a good two hours from the time to assemble a car. But, being Henry Ford, he wanted to control the entire supply process, so he wanted to license the design from P.L. Robertson and manufacture the screws himself. Freshly burned from his European experience (you might say he got screwed! :-), P.L. Robertson declined... and a few years later this guy named Phillips came along... who had no issue with licensing.

Kind of reminds me of a certain computer company based in Cupertino, California, who had superior technology earlier, but didn't want to license the technology to others... and you know the rest of the story.

Python and Jabber - Was experimenting today with the jabberpy library (that, incidentally, hasn't been updated for quite some time) to write a sample client to communicate with a Jabber server. I found that jabberpy must have been written for python 2.0, but not 2.2. As of 2.2, all strings now have an inherent 'split' method which allows you to do:

   parts = message.split('/')

instead of the previous way of doing:

   from string import split
   ...
   parts = split(message, '/') 

Well, in looking at an example in Programming Jabber I found a section where it is trying to get the Jabber ID (JID) without the Resource extension (so 'dyork@jabber.org' instead of 'dyork@jabber.org/Desktop'). The example did this:

  parts = split(prs.getFrom(), '/')
  who = parts[0]

However, when the script receives its first presence packet, it will die with an error essentially saying there is no split method in the JID class. My first workaround was to do instead the following:

  fr = prs.getFrom()
  who = fr.getNode() + '@' + fr.getDomain()

but then I noticed in the jabber.py doc that the class has a 'getStripped' method that returns the JID without the Resource. So the line becomes the much simpler:

  who = prs.getFrom().getStripped()

Works great, now. Pretty cool stuff. I filed a bug for jabber.py over at SourceForge - maybe sometime I'll take a crack at fixing it with a patch.

Netscape 4.7 and SourceForge - Great... so my upgraded SuSE 7.2 system only has Netscape 4.7 on it... (that's all I've installed)... so I go to SourceForge, login, and have Netscape lock up on me! Sheesh... time to go get Mozilla.

Curling in the US - Maybe folks south of the border are finally taking an interest? :-)

Curling - You make the call - Which shot would you choose? I would choose to freeze... but the hit and roll is also attractive. Probably an easier shot. (Hitting is easier than freezing.)

Lampadas - dmerrill: Congrats!

The week - Was a long one... much got done... much is still to be done... now for the weekend...

Upgrade hell - Had a heck of a time trying to figure out how I could get my system to allow me to boot directly off of the second hard drive that has SuSE 7.2 installed on it. Tried switching IDE cables... tried editing lilo.conf on the Linux installation (SuSE 6.4) on the first hard drive...

And then experienced one of those DUH! moments... went into the BIOS configuration and just configured things there to boot from the second hard drive. Simple. Easy. Problem solved. (Many hours later.)

LinTraining - Starting to deal with the fact that much of the info in LinTraining is outdated. Sent notices out to all courseware providers and independent instructors over the weekend... getting responses back - now I just need to find the time to update the info. The big hurdle is next to deal with the training centers. I may wind up going out to some mailing lists to solicit assistance.

Curling - The curling club has signups tomorrow night... very cool! Although... I've started doing stretching exercises to prepare and noticing how woefully out of shape I am. :-(

Biking - and Museum of Civilization - On the weekend, we biked (with Chloe's cool trailer attached!) down the Ottawa River bike path and over the river into Gatineau where we went to the Museum of Civilization. What an amazing place! We'd heard it was fantastic, but had not yet made the journey. The Children's Museum was wonderful... it will be such a great place for Chloe as she grows older.

Of course, the bike trip back in the heat of the mid-afternoon was NOT fun...

Autumn HEAT? - And what in the world was going on yesterday when the temperature here in Ottawa was in the high 90s (F)? I mean, 96 degrees F in mid-September? (with the accompanying 90 percent humidity?) What is up with that?

The Chloe Journals - Lori called me today at work to pass along the news that our little girl has her first tooth! Pretty amazing to see how she develops.

SuSE 7.2 - The upgrade fun continues... I'm serious about the "fun" part... I mean, with an 80GB drive solely for this, you can pretty much put whatever you want onto the system. It's pretty interesting to see all the stuff SuSE tucks into their many CDs. I very much like their "online update" feature as well. Makes downloading security updates very simple and easy.

Why 7.2 when 7.3 and now 8.0 are out? Well, I actually bought the 7.2 full set, and then found out that I couldn't upgrade my system without a BIOS upgrade.... (because I wanted to use a new and larger disk drive)... it was quite the saga. So now I'll put 7.2 on it and see about upgrading from there.

xtraceroute - You know, even if you never use it to trace routes, I could just sit there spinning the earth around with my mouse for quite a long time... quite beautiful!

Curling - I was absolutely delighted last week when the (postal) mail brought the curling club newsletter announcing registration for the new season on the evening of September 11th. I was like a little kid... so excited! I'll do the Men's Draw again on Monday nights, starting on Monday the 30th... but there are free clinics and an opening bonspiel starting the week of Monday the 23rd. I'm very psyched to start my second year of curling...

Why You Have to Love Ottawa, part 1 - With our new bike trailer, we went out on the Ottawa River Parkway this past Sunday morning for the final "bike day" of the summer. A wonderful nice smooth ride along the parkway right alongside the river. You just have to love a city that closes down one direction of major parkways all throughout the city for Sundays from 9am to 1pm from May through September. You can ride your bike, roller-blade (otherwise known as "keeping in shape for hockey season"), run or walk... but you can't drive. On Sundays, you just can't drive on the parkways in whatever direction it is (varies by parkway). Drive somewhere else, just not there. And all the busses get redirected, too. Really shows where the priority of the city is. Another reason why we love it here!

Why You Have to Love Ottawa, part 2 - Just when you are enjoying all that Ottawa has to offer, lo and behold you find something else amazing to love about the place. The latest find was all the wonderful hiking trails in nearby Gatineau Park. On Monday, Labor Day, I took little "nature girl" out in the backpack for a 45 minute hike around Pink Lake. Just a 10-15 minute drive from our house - and such a beautiful area laced with so many trails! We had been up in the park once kayaking early last year, but hadn't been back since... looking forward to going up there once the leaves start changing color (which will be soon!).

The Chloe Journals - So our little girl went for another round of immunization shots today. I don't know if she's gotten used to it, but she really hasn't seemed (so far) to have a negative reaction like she did the two other times. The little tyke is almost 15 pounds! As we left the doctor, we saw another couple with a 1-week-old... so tiny... amazing to think that was our little girl just four-and-a-half months ago.

SuSE 7.2 - Finally got my main Linux desktop at home upgraded from SuSE 6.4... it involved a BIOS update and other things that I have mentioned here. I'm now up to SuSE 7.2, so at least I'm a modern kernel, etc. Over the weekend I intend to move over all the data from before and also to update it to the most recent updates, etc.

Caldera name change - Yesterday I wrote of my knee-jerk reaction to Caldera's name change... today I've had more time to reflect and do understand better their motivation. I can understand (and accept) why they made the change. Jeff Gerhardt's articles (part 1 and (part 2) were an interesting read.

Freenode and FSF - lilo: Congrats!

Long weekend - Weather is supposed to be beautiful... looking forward to the 3-day weekend.... we're going to do some biking and hiking...

Another one bites the dust, part 1 - Here and here we see what is essentially the end of TurboLinux....

Another one bites the dust, part 2 - And here we see Caldera moving away from Linux and resuming the name of "The SCO Group". Sad to see, really, as I enjoyed working with the folks from Caldera from the very early days of LPI. (In fact, LPI would probably not even be around were it not for some of the early support Caldera provided, both financially and in helping us organizationally.) But I've certainly seen them struggling to determine how to move their company forward. I'm not overly surprised to see them move to focusing more on SCO. Perhaps, as someone has noted to me, this return to focus on SCO may eventually help them move those SCO folks over to Linux (what is now called "SCO Linux"). It will be interesting to see what happens...

Bugzilla - telsa: Thank you for the interesting history of why GNOME uses Bugzilla. We use Bugzilla, too, within Mitel, and certainly have our issues with it... but it *does* work, and that is the key.

Useless Python - I found this site an interesting an entertaining repository of python tips and tricks.

SME Server 5.5 Update 2 - While I was gone last week, the official notice went up about our update 2 release which fixes a number of issues, including the OpenSSL security bug that's been floating around.

Man pages to DocBook - Interesting program called doclifter from ESR that will convert man pages into DocBook... I actually have a use for this in that someone gave me a man page for makefaq but not the original DocBook SGML source... I'd like to have it in DocBook. I may have to give this a try.

Affero - I learned from someone... I thought it was lilo about Affero and their attempt to channel donations to free/open source projects (among others). I found it interesting, although I couldn't understand how they were going to stay in business.

Now I know. Their model is that for each financial donation made, they will charge a 10% processing fee. So if you want to give $10 to various organizations, $1 goes to them. $100 gift, they get $10... etc.

The intent is that if they can get people to put links into mailing lists directing people back to Affero to rate the contributor, etc., then they'll be able to make something off the donations... assuming that more people donate than simply just go there to rate.

I remain skeptical... and I'll personally keep giving my financial donations directly to organizations... 10% is quite a bit as a processing fee, in my opinion.

Immigration - rasmus: Good point... I have known you (and some other Canadians) for more than two years... part of the problem is that it has to be someone who has known you for more than two years and is in one of a list of various professions, such as lawyer, doctor, etc. I have to look at it and see if "computer professional" is on the list.

We're actually all set now... we have approval for the birth certificate- whenever their computers come back up! (The woman I was dealing with said on Thursday she'd call when their systems came back up... no call yet!)

Lampadas - dmerrill: Congrats on moving the project along to where it is! Very cool.

Nigerian spam - xach: I fully enjoyed your exchange (as I received another 5 variations of the spam today)...

Blogs - jfleck: Nice blog at work... interesting links.

[WRITTEN FRIDAY, AUGUST 23RD - There's a much longer story to be told of car breakdowns and being stuck in northern New York state... but that's for another time.]

The Porous Border, take 35 - This time the U.S. Customs agent didn't even ask for our passports. The interchange:

  • Agent: Where are you from?
  • Lori: Ottawa.
  • A: Are you both Canadians?
  • L: Nope, Americans.
  • A: Where are you going?
  • L: New Hampshire, for a birthday party.
  • A: Are you from that area?
  • L: Yes, I am, and he's from Connecticut.
  • A: What do you have up there? (pointing to the big box on our roofrack)
  • L: Just an easel as a gift.
  • A: For a kid? (laughing) That's quite big. A wood one?
  • L: Just a basic plastic one. Dan: The Costco version.
  • A: Well, have a good time.

He never even asked about Chloe, who was sleeping peacefully in the backseat. Total elapsed time waiting in line and talking to the agent - maybe 5 minutes. Yet another example that border crossings are completely random. Last time we went through (last weekend), we wound up waiting over 1.5 hours in line to, once again, be essentially waved through. (That time by a very nice female agent who asked us about Chloe and if we were going to be going for US citizenship for her (we are)).

The Chloe Journals, part 1 - Speaking of that, it has become quite an adventure to obtain a birth certificate for her. You would think this would be a relatively simple matter. She was born in Ottawa. She should get a birth certificate. But first we had to file a "Statement of Live Birth"with the City of Ottawa, which we did back in May. The city basically checked to make sure we filled out the form correctly and then sent it on to the Ontario provincial government. Unfortunately, the provincial workers were just ending a 54-day strike in May, so it took two months (until mid-July) for us to get the "Notice of Birth Registration" which declares that the fact that we had a child is now registered with the provincial government. (For folks in the US, this is the equivalent of the "state government.")

Now we can actually apply for a birth certificate. But, oh, by the way, to protect against identify theft, all applications must be accompanied by a "Statement of Guarantor" from someone in certain listed professions (lawyers, doctors, etc.) who is a Canadian citizen and has known us for at least two years. Long-time readers will recognize the problem here... we only moved to Canada 1.5 years ago! So we had to write a letter explaining why we couldn't find a guarantor, etc., etc.

So we went to the Ontario Land Registry office (yes, you go to the Land Registry to get birth and death certificates!), submitted our info, got it approved (that they would issue the certs without a guarantor) and then their computer systems went down! The systems were down the next day (yesterday), too. So we are close... very close.

We want the birth cert for ID purposes, of course, but also because we have to file paperwork with the U.S. government to report a live birth abroad, so we can start the process of getting her recognized as a U.S. citizen. What a pile of work...

The Chloe Journals, part 2 - Jogger envy - We have some neighbors who are VERY physically active. They are always out biking or jogging or something else... and their daughter, now two years old, is always with them. So we were talking to one of them the other day and were lamenting the fact that we couldn't go biking this summer because Chloe isn't old enough to ride in any of the bike carriers. (Kids are supposed to be a year old so that their heads can be supported by their necks, etc.) Our neighbor relayed how they had been taking their daughter out from very early on with a car seat buckled into their bike trailer. She also offered the use of their car seat and foam pads, etc.

So after some research (and taking her up on the offer), we are now the very proud owners of a Chariot Cougar jogger/bike trailer (it's convertible). Another neighbor also has a Chariot carrier and we've been very impressed by it as well. The company is based in Calgary, Alberta (western Canada) and was started by some engineers (aeronautical, I believe). They really make rock-solid units and are very widely respected here in Canada. They are only now starting to expand into the U.S. Interestingly, bike manufacturer Trek has OEM'd the products for their line of carriers (It looks like Trek calls the Cougar the "Transit Deluxe".)</a>

Aphorisms for the road - Lori: "Life is too short to be sucking down truck exhaust fumes!" as she accellerates Air Subaru to pass an 18-wheeler on the single-lane Route 11 travelling through farmland in northern New York. (She did have a dashed yellow line so it was legal to pass.)

LinTraining - Approved some more training center submissions to LinTraining. This latest batch includes:

  • 1 from Brazil
  • 1 from Argentina
  • 2 from Malaysia
  • 1 from Pakistan

Rather cool...

Vacation - is almost over. It's been a fun week.

The sorry state of security in IP telephony - This article gives a good overview of the poor state of most VoIP apps out there. We are certainly working on addressing this within our (VoIP) products but the state in general of products out on the market is pretty abysmal.

Speaking of our company... - there was a nice writeup called "Mitel powers ahead" in Internet Telephony magazine. Nice to see praise like this!

freenode - Congrate, lilo on the changes. I wish you well with all of that.

The White House and the corporate "get out of jail free" card - Will the Bush administration ever get a clue? Or will they just continue to do all they can for their industry backers? (Okay, don't bother answering that one.)

Vacation next week - I'll be taking a week off next week... not really going anywhere... just taking the week off (since half the company seems to be off right now) to do some things around the house and just spend time with Lori and Chloe. Looking forward to the break...

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