Now someone has posted a twelve hour video of white noise on YouTube:
(tip o’ hat to Dangerous Minds)
Now someone has posted a twelve hour video of white noise on YouTube:
(tip o’ hat to Dangerous Minds)
Although long-time Windows users and developers, we wanted to try Linux on a thumb drive. We could have installed Linux to a disk partition and dual-booted, but we often change computers, and liked the idea of bringing our Linux with us– much harder to do with Windows due to licensing issues! We tried various “Live Linux” distributions designed to boot from a thumb drive with data persistence, but they have a big drawback: Updating to the next major version is not possible. With significant Ubuntu releases appearing every six months or so, we really wanted update capability.
Here is our procedure. You might have a better way:
1) Create a bootable Ubuntu USB drive using the free UNetBootin Windows application on a spare thumb drive, not our final thumb drive.
2) Restart the computer, hit F2 to go into BIOS settings, and disable the hard drive. We don’t want to accidentally install a boot loader or anything on our hard drive that interfere with booting Windows later.
3) Boot Ubuntu from the temporary thumb drive. Insert the destination thumb drive and select “Install Ubuntu“, and follow any prompts.
4) If everything went right, we have created a bootable USB drive that runs Ubuntu and is capable of system updates.
5) Ubuntu booted fine, but did not hibernate successfully. Using Synaptic Package Manager, we installed the “hibernate” package, and all seems to work with no extra setup.
For the thumb drive, we wanted the smallest physical size possible, since the device would often be inserted into a netbook propped on a lap or carried in a backpack, so anything that stuck out far enough to snap off or fall out would be bad. If our computers could boot from an SD Card, then we would have used that instead of a USB drive, but SD Cards are not supported with any BIOS we tried.
We settled on this low-profile microSDHC reader, with a 16GB Class 2 flash card, which was the fastest and largest memory we could afford at the time.
Class 2 means a sustained minimum write speed of 2 MB/s, which is somewhat slower than generic USB flash drives. In practice, the drive is fast enough for our purposes. In the table below we measure boot time to first web page access, which is a more useful metric than measuring to desktop displayed. In our experience a Windows 7 computer might not be ready to do useful work for many seconds after the desktop is displayed after cold boot, as start-up programs continue to load, virus scanners do mysterious tasks, and background services initialize. Additionally, the Windows 7 Wifi drivers on our machine seemed to take quite a long time to load, acquire an IP address, and load an initial complex web page.
|Comparison of Start-up Times (seconds)||Win7 on hard drive||Ubuntu 11.10 on flash drive|
|Cold boot time to first web page loaded||104||122|
|Return-from-hibernate to first web page loaded||80||76|
Test conditions: Computer is Asus Eee PC 1015PED netbook with N450 processor, running Firefox with one tab, re-loading the Sagebrush Systems homepage. Windows 7 was not optimized by removing unnecessary start-up programs and services, to illustrate a typical user case. Times given are an arithmetic mean of three measurements. Your mileage may vary.
For our readers who are USA citizens:
Having recently acquired a Samsung Intercept cell phone running Android 2.2.2 (Froyo), we wanted to add a soothing WinChime ringtone, at no charge if possible. Luckily for us, Android plays MIDI files natively and (at least for this handset) allows MIDI as ring tones, so the procedure is straight-forward.
First we use the WinChime menu “File-> Save Midi File As…” feature to generate a MIDI file of sufficient length; 100 notes are more than plenty. In the screenshot below, we are running WinChime under Ubuntu+Wine to test out this function under Linux, but you can run under Windows just as easily.
The file minor.mid is available to download and test.
Now e-mail the resulting MIDI file to your phone. Or alternatively, connect your phone to a USB port, slide down the notification bar, and select “USB connected” to make Android phone external storage visible to your computer as a flash drive.
For this example we e-mail the file to ourselves and use Gmail app on the Android phone to read.
Click “Download” or “Preview” to start the Media Player.
Press the “Menu” button and select “Use as ringtone“. Now call yourself and relax to the soothing sounds of WinChime!
Following the procedure described in the article Installing RecAll-PRO and RecAll on Ubuntu Linux, we need to add some additional steps to enable WinChime to function under Linux. The standard Ubuntu distribution does not seem to include a MIDI synthesizer daemon, necessary for rendering WinChime’s sounds. We follow the procedure described here to install Timidity++ and configure it. For WinChime, the freepats samples sounds fine, so we did not bother with eawpatches. If we do everything right, WinChime should play correctly.
We first install Timidity using Synaptic Package Manager. Select “timidity“, and “timidity daemon” if available.
Start a terminal window and enter:
timidity -iA -B2,8 -Os1l -s 44100
and start WinChime. When you click the Play button you should hear chimes.
Now we need to configure timidity to start at boot. Googling older versions of timidity gives hints of a script installed in the /etc/init.d directory to do this, but I do not see one on the current timidity package.
(Aside: on a version of Ubuntu previous to 11.10, after using the installation instructions linked to above, the timidity daemon started at boot. However, in research for this article we uninstalled and installed timidity and found the timidity daemon no longer started at boot. If the daemon auto-starts for you, then ignore the rest of this application note.)
Perhaps not the standard “Linux way” of starting a timidity daemon, but I found this works for me: Launch “Startup Applications” and click the “Add” button. Enter as shown:
Now when I boot Ubuntu, the timidity daemon runs and WinChime works!
Although developed for Windows, Recall-PRO can be executed on the Linux operating system using the free Wine software compatibility layer. RecAll-PRO + Wine should also work on other flavors of Linux, but for the purposes of this article we focus on Ubuntu because of its current popularity and for the simple reason that some of our development machines uses this flavor. The procedure described has been tried on Natty Narwhal (version 11.04), Maverick Meerkat (10.10), and Oneiric Ocelot (11.10).
First, Wine must be installed. (We tend to use Synaptic Package Manager, but old-time Unix hands will open a Terminal Window and type “sudo apt-get” commands.) Start Synaptic Package Manager and enter “wine” in the search text field.
Select “wine1.3” (or later) and click the Apply button.
Download the latest RecAll-PRO install executable using your favorite web browser. In Linux, EXE file downloads do not have executable priveleges, so we have to change that now. Go to the Downloads section of your browser and <right-click> -> Open containing folder. (Note: Changing file executable permissions may not be necessary on recent versions of Ubuntu+Wine.)
Click the “Allow executing file as program” control.
In the folder, do not try to launch the RecAll-PRO EXE directly, but <right-click> -> Open with Wine Windows Program Loader.
This will start the installer to load RecAll-PRO and its help file on your computer.
Most features work as expected. MP3 recording does not work at present– perhaps later we will figure out how to access an Mpeg ACM codec under Wine. Vorbis and Speex compression work fine, because they do not rely on external codecs.
To start RecAll-PRO after installation:
Oneiric Ocelot (11.10) and the Unity desktop (and presumably all later versions): Use the Dash home button and start RecAll-PRO as with any native application. Coolness!
Natty Narwhal 11.04 and the Unity desktop: The first Unity iteration did not seem to have the best support for Wine applications. Add back the classic menu using the procedure here, and start using Classic menu-> Wine-> Programs-> Sagebrush-> RecAll-PRO.
Maverick Meerkat (10.10) (and possibly earlier versions) : Click applications menu-> Wine-> Programs-> Sagebrush-> RecAll-PRO.
Note: Earlier versions of RecAll-PRO had a problem displaying properly with Linux+Wine, as shown below. More recent versions (v1.9 and later) do not have the problem.
Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!
Costa Rica is enchanting.
The summit was covered in clouds most of our visit, but cleared just as we were leaving.
Quetzal in the MonteVerde Cloud Forest
Credit to our guide Bernal for setting up this shot.
More catching-up from the reading journal…
The Man Who Invented Christmas
Rather than attempt a general biography of Dickens, the book wisely focuses on one particular turning point in the famous author’s life, when his writing career appears to be faltering and he decides to publish, at his own risk, a small volume just before the holidays to ease his debts. Threads are traced back to key events in his earlier life, with a father in debtor’s prison and young Dickens forced to work filling boot black to help get him released. After the publication, we take joy in the writer’s success and acclaim.
Coincidence, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz
Edward B Burger and Michael Starbird
A random walk through mathematical topics, including public key codes, spirals in nature, fractal origami, Mobius strips, and the fourth dimension. Particularly good treatment of the golden ratio.
Anita Blake– Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures, Volume one
Laurell K Hamilton, Stacie Ritchie, and Jess Ruffner-Booth
Pete & Pickles
Pete the pig lives a very settled life– until the elephant Pickles crashes in and leads him into many hilarious adventures. Over-the-top comic body language, lovingly rendered, great fun.
Good As Lily
Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm
(small-format graphic novel)
Grace, a senior in high school with a good circle of friends, is surprised on her birthday by three more Graces at different ages, each with unresolved issues. Grace must not only deal with her own teen angst, but keep the extra Graces hidden and help with their problems.
An autobiographical version of her one-woman show, describing with much humor and exuberance the life as daughter of “Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston” of their day, her struggles with bipolar disorder and substance abuse, and geek heart-throb. Recommended.
The Plain Janes
Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
(small-format graphic novel)
Jane’s parents flee with her to the suburbs after her brush with senseless violence in the big city. Rather than join the popular kids, she makes friends with an outsider crowd of individuals, also coincidentally named Jane. They embark on a highly secret program of guerilla art to make people think, which threatens the establishment. Intriguing plot.
Fitz poses as Tom Badgerlock, bodyguard to Lord Golden, the Fool. Secretly he must assemble a coterie of Skilled for Prince Dutiful, while keeping hidden from his daughter Nettle. He must also be concerned with conflicts between the Witted and Piebalds, some who know his true identity. Dutiful is betrothed to Narcheska Elliana of the Out Islands, but some hidden motives must be uncovered. Ultimately many secrets are revealed about the Changer and the Catalyst, when a second White Prophet is revealed.
Erich Origen and Gan Golan
Parody mixing the Bush administration with beloved children’s book Goodnight Moon.
Tobias S. Buckell.
While young Mau returns from a long journey by canoe a gigantic wave destroys his tiny island village. Daphne is a very British young lady who is sole survivor of Sweet Judy, wrecked on the same island. Together they are forced to grow and lead, as refugees straggle in from even smaller islands, to form a nation to defend against pirates and cannibals.
Mau struggles with loss of faith, while still hearing the voices of the “Grandfathers”. Daphne struggles against a very specific voice in her head: Grandmother. “Octopus arbori” means we are in a Pratchett world. And what a world! A sweet blend of profound and comic, utterly inspiring.
Half a Crown
In this final installment of a trilogy, Peter Carmichael is commander of the Watch, with a dreaded secret putting him under control of the prime minister, who indeed he knows was part of the Farthing set that did overthrow the government by a key assassination. Peter’s ward is Elvira, staying with the Maynards to be “finished”, soon to debut and, with other young ladies of the season, be presented to the Queen.
It is 1960 and a world peace conference in London will decide the boundaries of the new powers, now that Russia has collapsed, the US has lost its way, and Japan and Germany are left standing. Carmichael is in charge of security, and Hitler will be on British soil. Elvira is observing a fascist rally that turns violent, is picked up by police, and finds herself a pawn in a struggle between the Watch and Scotland Yard.
Each chapter alternates between POV of Peter and Elvira.
The Hungry Scientist Handbook
Patrick Buckley and Lily Binns
Make root beer with dry ice, sourdough bread, liquid nitrogen ice cream. Build a coaster that changes color with drink temperature (challenging). Each chapter presents cool kitchen-related projects for the growing movement of Makers.
Very Bad Deaths
1st person POV with 60s flashbacks Russell Walker, still mourning the loss of his wife, is approached by an old friend from college. “Smelly” has become aware of a serial killer somewhere near Vancouver, and needs Russell to convince the police to investigate with no evidence.
Starts as soft-SF, slides into police procedural, with a truly frightening villain.
The Wordy Shipmates
History nerds rejoice. Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop, Rhode Island founder Roger Williams, rebel Anne Hutchinson, the Pequod War, and 1630s are probed with dry wit and wisdom, reflecting light on modern America.
The Annotated Wizard of Oz
L Frank Baum, edited by Michael Patrick Hearn
illustrated by W W Denslow
Silver shoes, not ruby slippers. Glinda is good witch of South, not North. More plot after Oz disappears in balloon. Baum wrote with an economy of words, bounty of unusual creatures, good helping of action with limited violence.
A Lion Among Men
Orphaned, growing up alone, perpetually on the outside, Brrr the Lion had a knack for living in the wrong place at the wrong time. With no good moral example, he sought inclusion by compromise with authority, becoming a collaborator, despised by all sides. Now, working for the Emperor of Oz, he interviews the oracle Yackle for news of Elphaba and Liir, and may find answers and a new direction.
Maguire paints a richly dismal Oz of deception, tyranny, and genocide, with anti-heroes struggling against destiny and past mistakes.
Detective Inspector Chen teams with the demonic Zhu Irzh to stop illegal soul trade into Hell.
How refreshing to read contemporary fantasy without vampires and werewolves! Williams draws a richly detailed mythos of the Orient, where hell is nothing if not bureaucratic, and inter-departmental infighting turns deadly.
“The Last Colony” is retold from the point of view of seventeen year old Zoe, biological daughter of Charles Boutin, adopted by former Colonial Union soldiers John Perry. While living on the new colony of Roanoke, Zoe is joined by aliens Hickory and Dickory to record every detail of her life for the Obin. Zoe’s father gave the Obin consciousness, and the entire planet watches her life to learn how to exist with self-awareness.
The Last Theorem
Arthur C Clarke, Frederik Pohl
Anthony Lappe and Dan Goldman (graphic novel)
In the near future a video blogger stumbles onto a major story, is recruited by giant mainstream media, subverted to fit the company’s storyline for a failing war, is a pawn in conflict between freedom fighters and counterinsurgents, and finally forced to return to roots. Gritty, flashy, with atmosphere of the authentic from a real freelance journalist.
Bonk : the curious coupling of science and sex
Jon Scieszka + Lane Smith (youth picture book)
Mrs Fibonacci says that almost everything can be thought of as a math problem. The next day the young narrator wakes up and everything IS math to be solved.
Humans created androids and then disappeared. An aristo class of androids control most of the populace with slave chips. Inexperienced Freya Nakamichi-47 flees the wrath of an aristo by becoming a courier within the solar system, and becomes entangled with schemes and plots.
Pity about the cover.
An Irish Country Village
Barry Laverty wants to join Doctor Fingal O’Reilly’s GP practice in the tiny Ulster village of Ballybucklebo, circa 1960s, but the death of a patient threatens his reputation with the possibility of a lawsuit. While waiting for autopsy tests, he provides moral support for true-love Patricia Spence as she competes for an engineering scholarship that would take her to far-away Cambridge for three years. Councillor Bertie Bishop is scheming to take over the Mucky Duck pub, and it will take the cleverness of Fingal and Barry to thwart his plans. And will Bishop ever finish building a certain slate roof so ancient lovebirds Maggie and Sonny can finally have a wedding.
Immerse yourself in the lives of this country village, and after a few pages you will smile.
Web Marketing for Dummies
This New Mexico web designer provides several web site examples from local companies to illustrate her points. A reference book with many lists of links, useful to read with a browser nearby.
The Cartoon Guide to Statistics
Larry Gonick and Woollcott Smith
Illustrated in the same style of “Cartoon History of the Universe”, mixes equations and humorous illustrations to illuminate the main concepts of statistics, including distributions, confidence intervals, hypothesis testing, and experimental design. Suprisingly effective way to make abstract mathematical concepts clear with drawings and humor. Recommended for mathephiles to expand and renew statistical concepts.
Daemons Are Forever
Simon R Green
Shaman Bond, once a field agent, is now stuck as leader of the Drood clan. Without their golden armor the family is struggling to keep check on the many dark magic entities and organizations threatening the world, while conspiracies within the Droods threaten Shaman and his companion Molly.
Walter Jon Williams
Aristide was present at the Singularity 1400 years ago, helping create the nine orbital AIs that make possible the pocket universes connected to our reality by wormholes, and where anyone can download to a new body in a “pool of life”. Aristide has spent the past few hundred years in a pre-tech pocket universe Midgarth as swordsman scholar, accompanied by AI avatar Bitsy in cat form, and discovers an utterly fiendish plot that threatens every universe.
The writer deftly executes Really Big Ideas. It would be a spoiler to say more, but believe me, Really Big. Battles both low-tech and far-far-future tech, clever plot twists, talented villain, are all well executed.
Victory of Eagles
In the last book Captain Will Laurence did a right and noble act for the benefit of his dragon Temeraire and all dragon-kind, but at terrible price: he is branded as traitor by the British government, imprisoned, while Temeraire is exiled to breeding grounds, and the French recover strength to make a daring invasion of British soil. Captain and dragon are too vital to remain unused, and bargain with General Wellesley to fight, while gaining some concessions for dragon rights.
David Louis Edelman
Although many police, detective, and medicine procedural stories are present in books and TV, rarely does one find business procedural. Add to that a science fiction business procedural, with a fully imagined economy and software product sector, which considers the effect of disruptive technology break-through, and you have Infoquake.
Natch, with help of talented programmer Horvil and product manager Jara, has built his fiefcorp from nothing to a leading developer of bio/logics: nano-software that enhances human ability, from the mundane change of eye color, to control of facial expression, adjustment of sleep and mood. Natch is driven, ruthless, not entirely ethical, not above spreading false messages to delay a competitor’s product release. Just the sort of young upstart to be approached by the head of a venerable memecorp to bring to market a technology that could change human ability to unimaginable heights. Now Natch must fight industrial espionage and government military action to release 1.0 on time or lose everything.
While Larklight is undergoing renovation the Mumbys journey newly opened Grand Hotel Starcross in the asteroid belt advertised as a bathing resort, served by a rail line I rather think might be hard to engineer. Among the guests they meet Delphine Beauregard, a rival for the attentions of Jack Havock. Soon the youths are battling deadly starfish, giant clams, and sinister top hats.
As with Larklight, some of the best bits are in excerpts from Myrtle’s diary, with a difficult reconciling of teenage adventurer with the ideals of innocent female genteel beauty.
In many youth fiction series the heroes deal with thoroughly despicable villains, but the young adventurer’s parents are good and pure. Think Series of Unfortunate Events, Harry Potter, and so on. Enter the Willoughbys. Timothy, age 12, the twins Barnaby and Barnaby, and young Jane. Their parents decide they really do not like their children, and concoct a diabolical plan to rid themselves of the kids. With the help of a nanny, a foundling, and an eccentric neighbor, the Willoughby children build the family they deserve.
The Amber Spyglass
Scientist Mary Malone travels to a world of friendly wheeled sentients in a close symbiosis with giant trees that are dying, and fashions a spyglass that sees Dust to find out the reason. Will and Lyra, with aid of the Subtle Knife, travel to the world of the dead to visit Roger and end up changing the system of afterlife. In a suitable conclusion to a vast story line, Lord Asriel battles the Consistoral Court and Heaven itself in a vast war involving many worlds. Mrs. Coulter continues her career of deception and seduction. We are introduced to the Gallivespians, tiny short-lived humanoids that ride on large dragonflies, with leg spurs that can stun or kill.
Christian concerns about the challenge to church doctrine might be ignored in previous books of the series, but Pullman uses allegory to challenge the idea of afterlife and an active deity in this final volume.
If you appreciated Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver, then run, don’t walk, to the nearest bookstore/libary for this true story of affair between two brilliant minds at the dawn of the Enlightenment– Voltaire and Emilie du Chatelet. Sword fights, narrow escapes, political intrigue, and financial schemes, oh joy! At Chateau de Cirey they would alternately compete and collaborate in scientific inquiries. Emilie, talented in mathematics, could understand and explain Newton, and made further progress in the nature of energy. Voltaire took the path of the experimentalist, weighing matter at different temperatures, not so fortunate in his scientific exploration, finally falling back to his true calling of literature and challenging the authority of King and Church.
The Edge of Reason
Albuquerque police officer Richard Oort rescues Rhiana from magical creatures, and becomes involved in a vast struggle between magic and reason. Recruited for the Lumina by Kenntnis, an Old One, Richard struggles to prevent a new Dark Age.
Authentic settings of Albuquerque area.
An Irish Country Doctor
Barry Laverty is a brand new MD, undecided about a career path. He joins Doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly in the small fictional community of Ballybucklebo, gradually learning from this irascible eccentric character the real art of medicine. Delightful tales, full of wisdom and memorable characters, well deserving a standing ovation.
The Anubis Gates
Coleridge as a character in genre fiction. Brilliant!
Iain M. Banks
Mixes mega-high tech and low tech cultures seamlessly in a vast story.
The Subtle Knife
Lyra travels to another world and meets Will, eventual wielder owner of the titular object, so sharp it can slice holes into the barriers between worlds. They bide in a world ravaged by Specters that eat souls of adults, leaving children alone. The stunningly grandiose plan of Lord Asriel is revealed.
Eight Lives Down
Chris Hunter leads a unit that disarms IEDs in Shia-dominated Basra in a deadly cat-and-mouse game where the enemy is constantly changing tactics and targeting Captain Hunter personally. Transcends the war memoir genre with uncanny you-are-there realism, inspiration, and humor.
Harry Dresden, wizard, is special consultant to the Chicago PD, called in by Lt Murphy when evidence points to the wyrd. Harry must track down a powerful but inexperienced black mage, while on probation with the White Council, dealing with racketeer Marcone, and keeping too many secrets from Lt Murphy.
In the final book of the Vatta series, Ky Vatta must lead a fleet against Turek’s pirate forces.
Brutal killings point to werewolves, but which kind? We have classic werewolves, like wizards that only know one spell. Hexenwolves use a magic belt. Loup-garous are wolf-like monsters cursed to transform at the full moon. All varieties are involved in a grand bloody melee. As usual, the wizard Harry (hmmm) keeps Murph in the dark, destroying her trust.
The MRU (Most Recently Used) section of a Files menu shows files that were recently opened by an application. The default Windows way of displaying file names is to omit file extensions. This can become confusing when the application can handle several different file extensions. As an example, how do you distinguish between MP3 and WAV files in RecAll-PRO?
Even as the program creator, I wasn’t sure how to change this behavior without digging deep into the source code. Like most coders, I use a framework, a wrapper around the Windows API (Applications Programming Interface) to ease programming tasks. Delving in the framework source code, we discover the MRU menu item uses the Windows API GetFileTitle function.
GetFileTitle returns the string that the system would use to display the filename to the user. The display name includes an extension only if that is the user’s preference for displaying file names. This means that the returned string may not accurately identify the file if it is used in calls to file system functions.
Getting closer. How do we turn on display of file extensions? The answer is not exactly obvious. In Windows Explorer, click on menu Tools -> Folder Options -> View, and look under Advanced settings for “Hide extensions for known file types“. Un-select this item. MRUs for our application will now show extensions. (check for xp)
Here is how our MRU menu looks with file extensions displayed:
I notice that some other applications always display MRU file extensions, no matter the user preference setting. Should we change this behavior for our programs?