Thursday, January 31, 2008

Some people are not picky

I noticed this ad while checking up on SA news:

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ubuntu 7.10 on Microsoft Virtual PC

File this under the "dear-god-it-shouldn't-be-so-hard" department...

It turns out that installing Ubuntu/Kubuntu Linux 7.10 under Microsoft Virtual PC is a bit of a bugger. Luckily there are some helpful lads on the Web that have blogged instructions on how to fix things:

  • This blog entry is pretty good but for some reason I had problems getting the "-- i8042.noloop" option to work after Ubuntu was installed on my hard drive - the boot would just hang.
  • This one is a good 2nd source of info, and it covers topics like enabling the network card and sound in VPC, plus using the text console to edit your config (nice when the mouse doesn't work).
  • There is also a good comment from someone called Dan that explain how to change the Grub settings "properly", and how you shouldn't really remove the usplash package.

Between these three I was able to get a system working. Good luck to you should you be attempting the same thing. Some of this should be fixed in newer versions of the Linux kernel so hopefully there will be less pain for others in the future :)

TV in a dry,dry season

There's not much decent on TV at the moment, mainly due to the Writer's Guild strike dragging on. You know times are lean when the most entertaining thing on TV is "American Gladiator" and "The Biggest Loser" goes from 1 hour episodes to 2 hours...

Further adding to my sense of ennui is news that Battlestar Galactica is now due bug in April, but there are a few glimmers of hope. Somehow they managed to get a new episode of "House" out this week (there are three new episodes scheduled). How did they manage that?

There are a few surprises though, like the new AMC series "Breaking Bad". This is a deliciously black comedy from one of the producer's of "The X-Files" (Vince Gilligan). The show stars Bryan Cranston (the dad from "Malcolm in the Middle"), and tells the story of a high school chemistry teacher that has a bit of a mid-life crisis and decides to cook crack. Great writing, photography, music and acting in the pilot episode really grabbed me. (And it helps that I am a fan of dark comedies). I'm hooked - the DVR is set to record the rest of the season (which sadly has been cut short due to the afore-mentioned strike).

For more info, check out the show's blog here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Geek humour

Geek humour
Originally uploaded by Mr Snootyhamper
This image was part of someone's email signature at work.
Can you guess which famous poet and playwright inspired this?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It's a small world (sort of)

When I was a kid, my first PC was a pretty crummy 4.77 MHz XT. Some of my friends were very cool and had fast AT machines with sound cards (mostly Sound Blasters), and I was very envious, especially when my friends and I discovered MOD files (tracked music).

MOD files originated on the Amiga computer, I believe, and allowed you to play complicated multi-track music on low-end PCs by mixing different samples of instruments, voice, etc. and doing clever things like changing the pitch. Some of the MOD files were very impressive, especially those by a tracker call U4ia. A blog post I stumbled on has some basic info about him, and reminded me about the first MOD-playing program I used - ModPlay.

By then I had upgraded to an AT machine (one with a Turbo switch - "Who would want to ever turn that off", I wondered?) ModPlay could play music through the PC speaker, but the quality was not very good, and at the time I couldn't afford to buy a Sound Blaster card. Luckily for me, ModPlay came with instructions on how to build your own simple D/A converter, which connected to the parallel (printer) port. For the cost of a few IC's, resistors, and capacitors I was able to build a pretty decent 8-bit "sound card", which I hooked up to the cheap "all-in-one" stereo we had at home. The sound was incredible - better than most of my friend's sound cards! :)

I was interested to see that the author of ModPlay (also named Mark) now works as a Security Response Lead at RedHat. That's pretty similar to what I do now, so once again the Web leads around in strange circles...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Case of the Weird Copenhagen

Almond Copenhagen
Originally uploaded by Mr Snootyhamper

Yesterday {A} an I were out and about and stopped off at Tully's (a local coffee chain). I noticed this odd-looking copenhagen in their pastry fridge and felt compelled to take a picture :)

This reminded me of the "real" copenhagens from my childhood in SA, especially the ones my mom used to get for her coffee shop in Cape Town. I think she got hers from a nice little bakery in town called French's, and they looked more like this...

Now that's what a copenhagen should look like! For extra yumminess you could get these toasted - they'd be cut in half and toasted on one of those large flat-top sandwich grills and then covered with butter. Ahh....

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A nice poem (snippet)

I caught NPR's Writer's Almanac today and liked the poem that was read at the end, A Color of the Sky by Tony Hoagland. The last two stanzas especially appealed to me:

Outside the youth center, between the liquor store
and the police station,
a little dogwood tree is losing its mind;

overflowing with blossomfoam,
like a sudsy mug of beer;
like a bride ripping off her clothes,
dropping snow white petals to the ground in clouds,

so Nature's wastefulness seems quietly obscene.
It's been doing that all week:
making beauty,
and throwing it away,
and making more.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Great movies abound

The past few weeks have been very good in terms of movies - this time of year is usually packed with Oscar contenders, so almost all of them are on by want-to-see list.

I saw Charlie Wilson's War last weekend and enjoyed it. Tom Hanks is great (as usual) and the movie moves along at a brisk pace despite covering lots of ground. Aaron Sorkin wrote the script, so the dialogue is beautiful. The film's "message" is serious, but the rest of the film is quite light an entertaining, so it almost suckers you into the final punch.

Another surprise highlight was Walk Hard. I went into this movie expecting nothing - maybe just a few laughs. What a pleasant surprise! There were some laugh-out-loud moments, some great songs (spot-on parodies of several decades of music), jibes at pop culture, and movies about musicians. (It helps if you've seen movies like Walk The Line or know a bit about Elvis, Johnny Cash, The Beatles...)

The most recent film was There Will Be Blood which I saw this past weekend. I went in to the movie in an unusually good mood which I think helped me appreciate the film more :) The film is unusal to say the least - don't expect a standard period piece or rags-to-riches story showing the benfits of hard work and determination. Go in expecting an artistic, gripping, gritty and startling film that sucks you in from the first few seconds. (A jarring note on strings announces the start of the film without any fanfare, and your nerves are instantly unsettled...) The first 20 minutes take place without any dialogue, but are still totally engrossing. When Daniel Day-Lewis' character finally did speak I found myself grinning and thinking "This is going to be reallllly good".
(OK, to be honest, I was telling myself that about 5 minutes into the film:) )

Kudos to Johnny Greenwood for the amazing soundtrack, Paul Thomas Anderson for (another) brilliant film, and Daniel Day-Lewis for a great performance!

PS: Stay for the credits and listen to the incredible closing music from Brahms' Violin Concerto in D major (Op.77)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

I don't usually post these for all the world to see, since that makes it extra embarrassing when I fail to accomplish them. Several friends have taken the plunge, though, so I feel more inspired this year - so here goes!

  1. Get all the wedding and honeymoon planning done, and then remember to have fun!
  2. Exercise more. It's actually quite fun! Specifically, I'd like to:
    • Go to gym 3+ times a week
    • Find a good yoga class and go at least once a week
    • Hike more in the summer, go backpacking at least once
    • Ride a bike to/from work spring-fall
  3. Lose some weight. 10-20 lbs would be nice. Should be easy if #1 is done. My goal is to lose 10lbs a month which means I should be done by end of Feb. :)
  4. Meditate 3+ time a week for at least 30 mins.
  5. Take dancing lessons (enough so that by July I can dance well enough to feel confident)
  6. Take French lessons and get my vocab and grammar back to the point where I can hold a basic conversation and read news, etc.
  7. Keep in touch with my friends in far-away-places more often.
  8. Make more of an effort to socialize with friends. Have them round for dinner, drinks, movies or poker more often - once a month or more.

Happy Tweede Nuwe Jaar!

Yes, it that time of the year again! The Kaapse Klopse are doing their annual parade in Cape Town today - sadly I'll have to rely on the web to get a sense the spectacle.

So far I'm having a tough time finding pictures, so I'm using one I found for last year's post.