Archive for December, 2009

Ferret Food Bowl

puff3
Here’s a tip for all you ferret people. I have a ferret named Puff, and his most favorite thing in the world to do is to dig in his food bowl and fling his pellets around the house. The farther the better it seems. Long have I struggled to find just the right food bowl to help prevent this. Ideally, I thought some ferret owner somewhere would have seen the problem and come up with a heavy ceramic croc-type bowl with a pronounced lip around the edge which would be a good food-flinging preventer. No such luck. I could never find anything that was just right until one day my wife mentioned getting yet another food bowl for our ferrets so we could go on a trip. She wanted a gravity feeder trough-type bowl. I just knew this would be the best toy in the world for Puff and set out to see what I could find on the internet.

What we came up with was no-spill doggie bowls. We actually found 2 that were acceptable. The first is the No spill pet bowl, which we found locally at PetSmart. Although this was not my preferred design and I thought this would be the first one they foiled, it has held up surprisingly well while the other was ordered off the internet. The main reason I am not sure about this one is because of the lid. I expect that sometime soon one or more of my fuzzies will figure out how to pop that sucker off and then the bowl will be , essentially, useless. The other problem with this specific bowl is the no-spill hole does not have a lot of food clearance at the bottom of the bowl and I am afraid that any food that goes toward the rim of the bowl at the bottom, will become inaccessible to the ferrets.

The other bowl, pictured here, is the Premier Pet Spill Less Bowl. This one mimics most closely the original design I had in mind and addresses the problems I have with the first bowl. There really is no place for food to get stuck and hidden beyond reach, and there is no lid to pop off. I am betting on this one as the winner. The only problem is we just got it and I haven’t yet had the opportunity to test (and the other one is still working quite well). The only drawback I see to this bowl and the other as well is they are both made of plastic and not heavy at all. Of course this means that the ferrets will push them all over the cage. Oh well, I guess they need some sort of entertainment in there at 3am right?

Either way, these bowls are just right for diggers like I have, check them out and let me know what you think! And if you are into making ceramics and want to take a crack at making a ceramic version of the second one with a little more weight, you just let me know, I’ll be your first buyer :-)

Wii Fit Says I’m Wii Fat

Sunday after meeting we decided to do some Christmas shopping as the kids were not with us. We stopped by Wally World to see what we could check off the lists.

While there the wife took interest in the Wii Fit Plus. Now aparently she had wanted one for some time, unbeknownst to me. I, on the other hand had no interest in a Wii Fit. But as her birthday is the 21st and seeing an opportunity to not have to make multiple trips, I said hey, if that is what you want well then let’s get it. So we did. That along with a flat screen tv (we entered the 21st century) and a cheap dvd player. We had to buy a new one because we lost the remote and being a cheap player it was almost as expensive as buying a universal remote.

Now the wife and kids took to the Wii fit right off the bat. I on the other hand showed some vague interest but had server issues to deal with. When I finally got to try it out it changed my opinion and I was hooked. It’s a blast and very challenging!

To start you have to do a body test and it caclulates your bmi and gives you a Wii Fit age. I screwed up on mine the first time and ended up with a Wii fit age of 56. I was also fat as hell. This bummed me out a bit so the wife evenutally convinced me to do it again. Now my Wii fit age is 33, 4 years younger, but I am still a lard butt. Well, gotta get on the running more, hit the Wii fit on a regular basis and eat reasonably.

How I Shutdown Fluxbox

I pretty much use fluxbox everywhere. On my workstation at work, my main desktop at home, my System76 and my Meso. Three different distrobutions one similar configuration for fluxbox.

Unlike some other window managers/desktops fluxbox does not have a quick way to shutdown the system. No menu command or button in the slit like KDE or Gnome. That was never a big deal for me as I could just fire up a terminal and type in sudo halt.

Now mind you I rarely shutdown my desktop at home but I do my portables and my workstation at work. So opening a terminal and issuing these commands 3 times a day is not very efficient. Not when you can harness the power of various Linux tools.

Now the least secure way to do this is to setguid on /sbin/halt, /sbin/restart, and /sbin/shutdown but we are not going go go that route. Nope, we are going to use sudo. Therefore we must edit the /etc/sudoers file as root using visudo and add this line:

%[usergroup] ALL=NOPASSWD:/sbin/shutdown, /sbin/halt, /sbin/restart

Now replace [usergroup] with the group name for the users you want to be able to use these shutdown commands without having to enter their password. On some systems that might be the admin group, on others, like Ubuntu, you can put your username in there as the user group. Instead of a group you can specify a user by omitting the % and putting in their name.

Now you are good to go. You can add a line like this to your .fluxbox/menu file:

[exec] (Shutdown) {sudo halt}

but even better you can put this in .fluxbox/keys:

Control Mod1 q: Exec sudo halt

That will set Ctrl-Alt-q to issue the command. Becareful to chose a hot key pattern you will not accidently fat finger.

Now you can easily shutdown your system when you want with the flick of three fingers. It will not ask you whether you want to logout, reboot, suspent or shutdow, it will do exactly what you tell it to do as it should.

Santa the Sysadmin

Santa

Santa

Similarities Between Santa and Sysadmins

1. Santa is bearded, corpulent, and dresses funny.

2. When you ask Santa for something, the odds of receiving what you wanted are infinitesimal.

3. Santa seldom answers your mail.

4. When you ask Santa where he gets all the stuff he’s got, he says, “Elves make it for me.”

5. Santa doesn’t care about your deadlines.

6. Your parents ascribed supernatural powers to Santa, but did all the work themselves.

7. Nobody knows who Santa has to answer to for his actions.

8. Santa laughs entirely too much.

9. Santa thinks nothing of breaking into your $HOME.

10. Only a lunatic says bad things about Santa in his presence.

It All Falls Apart

It has not been a good month in the Washko home for technology. First I slammed my new Sansa Clip in the car door. I bought a Fuze and lo while it works great, the hard case is on back order. Needless to say the screen is getting all scratched up. I purchased some Novus polish to get rid of as many scratches as possbile. That is some real arm busting work to buff out the nicks. I figure I will do this over time, especially when the case comes. For now I am very careful with it.

Over the weekend the server hard drive started crapping out. Monday morning I woke up and the server was down, but not the centos server hosting the virtual machines. Weird, I thought and started everything up and went to work. Prior to coming home the server went down again. I noticed smartd was throwing errors on the drive. This was not good. Over the next 24 hours it went down 3 more times and that was it. I had to order a new drive and throw in the spare that I had and hope for the best. Only the spare would not fit. The interface was about an 1/8 inch off and there was no wiggle room. Damn!

On the bright side I did notice that the server was full of dirt and dust bunnies. I did a thorough cleaning, put it all back together and crossed my fingers. Thus far it has not given me any more problems. Perhaps it was just over heating. Regardless, the new drive came today and I am going to put that in over the weekend.

Last night getting the audio setup off the ground for the show was hellish. I don’t know why things seemed to changed. While I managed to pull it off, we were 10 minutes late.

Today I came home to find the myth box down. There was no display on the screen. I had to drag out a monitor and hook everything up. Well, long story short, the s-video out on the card no longer works. Luckily the card in my workstation had an s-video out so I swapped them and ordered a newer video card.

I just hope this is the last of the dying equipment.

Lesson learned: Make sure you take care of cleaning your equipment to avoid heat and other related damages.

Nokia, when it rains it pours

Just a follow up to my last post. First this report of Nokia scaling back their smart phone lineup and “commitment to Symbian”. Then I see the N900 is now selling for $799 at Amazon where it was previously selling for $500. What gives?! Finally the news that Nokia is closing it’s flagship stores. Things do not bode well for the N900 and Nokia in general.

Really? You gotta be kidding.

Nobel Peace Prize

Nobel Peace Prize

Sale, Nobel Peace Prizes, 5 for $1.

Apparently, our new President Obama has garnered himself the international peace prize by doing absolutely nothing. I am amazed, stunned and disappointed. Perhaps they will just start handing them out for free now or is this going to be the new subway token?

Google Chrome


I have been using Google Chrome Unstable now for some time. It has been a pretty interesting browser and pretty quick. The only issues I ever had were no flash and java support. Well, recently I noticed that flash was working just fine, and after some digging, found that you have to have Java 6.10 to get Java working, although I honestly haven’t tested that yet.

On 12/8, Google released it’s Chrome browser for Linux in Beta (no longer unstable). I quickly uninstalled my Unstable version and added the Beta. WOW is it FAST! I thought it was fast before, however, it literally starts the browser now almost as fast as I can click on the icon. Other than that, it works exactly as you would expect it to, clean and quick. If you have been running Unstable as I have, the only difference I noticed is it is way faster. I don’t have a clue how you did it Google, but good job and I can’t wait to see what this is going to be like when it’s out of Beta!

Now if I could only convince Google to make a mail client to replace Thunderbird! :-)

Nokia goes limp while Android mutates into a juggernaut

So let me start this post by saying I have a Nokia N800 internet tablet and I absolutely love the device. Maemo is based off of Debian and is the closest full blown Linux running on consumer level devices. It’s a great little device. Think of it as a full blown mini Linux computer that fits in your pocket. It’s very easy for developers to port over the best desktop Linux applications to Maemo. The build quality of N* series internet tablets is excellent. I’ve dropped my N800 on a hard floor on more than one occasion and it’s never been damaged. The thing is just built solidly. Many times I’ve thought to myself the Nokia N8100/810 devices would be perfect if it included a cell phone. Fast forward to a several months ago and rumors surfaced of the N900 and that it would include a cell phone! The dream of a mass market Linux based phone has been something I’ve been looking forward to since the early rumblings of the OpenMoko project. Cell phone service in N.America is very closed and tightly controlled. Anything forcing carriers to open things up and make phones more portable is a good thing. Google announced that they would be pushing their own Linux based phone operating system called Android back in late 2007. The first phone released with Android was the G1 on the T-mobile network back in October, 2008. Initially the adoption was slow with newer phones starting to trickle through by the second half of 2009. T-mobile in the U.S. is one of the smaller cell carriers unlike their German parent which is massive. Fast forward to November 6 and Verizon (one of the biggest mobile carriers in the U.S.) released two Android based phones. The Droid (known as the Milestone in Europe) and the Eris. Verizon also started a massive marketing campaign targeting AT&T (their primary rival) and the iPhone. The marketing campaign caused a serious buzz leading up to November 6th roll out that the press picked up on. The Droid sells for $199 with a 2 year contract. The results have been amazing. Verizon is on target to sell 1 million Droid phones in under 2 months time! Compare this to Nokia and the release of the N900. No U.S. based carrier is offering the N900 for a subsidized price. You can buy an unlocked N900 for around $500 online. There has been zero marketing done in N.America for the N900. I’d love to check it out in person if I could actually find one. The messages from Nokia have been mixed. Talk to anyone related to the Maemo project and they claim Nokia will make Maemo a cornerstone of their future plans. All their actions point to the contrary. Anytime Nokia makes an announcement they seem to only talk about the crusty old Symbian phone OS that’s very prevalent on older and low end phones. Nokia you have failed us in North America. Who in their right mind would shell out $500 for the N900 when you pick up a very capable Android phone with thousands of applications for $0-$199? The only people I can think of are uber geeks with lots of discretionary income who adore the N8** series devices. The N900 is sadly doomed to failure.

Mint 8 Helena

mint8
What can you say but “wow”. Although maybe not as impressive a release as I think Mint 7 was, Mint 8 is up to date and strikingly beautiful. I have said before that I believe Mint to be Ubuntu done right, and I believe this to still be the case.

The first thing you notice with Mint is how fast the install is. Compared to Fedora, Slackware, Suse, etc., the install absolutely flies. With my 1.xghz test machine I was literally from first boot to reboot and in my new Mint install in about 15 minutes.

Once there, you are greeted with Mint’s beautiful desktop graphics and everything is ready to run for you. My only additions were to test out the non-free-codecs and install vlc. That was about it. With a couple clicks I was surfing around with Firefox, reading my mail with Thunderbird and watching a TV show I had pulled off my Tivo earlier (that Steven Segal – Law Man cracks me up!)

I am not sure what else I can say to inspire you to try Mint yourself other that to say that I, personally, just don’t have the time when I am working to adjust my desktop environment. Linux distributions that require me to do that simply don’t get used. It’s about time for me to update my work desktop again as it’s currently running Ubuntu 8.04 and I can’t think of a better Distribution to replace it with than Mint 8.

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