November 22, 2008

Fun with Foxmarks

On a typical day, I use several machines; some Linux, some Macs. So Foxmarks is a logical choice for managing bookmarks between them. That's it's stock in trade.

But I've found some other cool tricks that one can do with Foxmarks. It often happens when I'm on one machine, reading a blog (like Lifehacker), and think, "oh, this looks good. I really need this software on other machine". Until recently, I would keep the entry unread making a mental note to look at it when I'm on the other machine. But I've found a very good trick with Foxmarks. Create a bookmark folder on my bookmark bar called TODO. Inside it, create a subfolder for each machine I use (eg. "Office", "Mini"). Then, if I'm surfing the web at home and find something cool I want to use on my Linux box at my office, I just add that bookmark to the TODO/Office folder. Then Foxmarks copies the bookmark to my office computer. So next time I'm on my office computer, I can look through the TODO/Office folder, make use of the bookmarks therein, and remove them.

Another trick I found is an alternative to Morning Coffee. Morning Coffee is a nice Firefox add-on if you want to open the same websites every day (or every morning with your morning coffee). It has a couple downsides, though. One is that it only works on a single machine, and there's no easy way to copy it to other machines. Another is that, at this point in time it doesn't work with Tab Mix Plus (the morning coffee button never shows up).

I use Morning Coffee to read my morning comics. I have about 15 websites I open and read every day, along with a smattering of only some day websites (weekly columns, etc). But using Foxmarks, I've found another way. There's an experimental add-on called Daily Bookmarks that, if you tag your bookmarks with "sunday" through "saturday" or "everyday", opens those bookmarks tagged with the current day or everyday. So I copied my Morning Coffee links to a "Daily" folder (with subfolders for each day). So now, I install Daily Bookmarks on all my machines (using the aforementioned TODO/machine trick), and can read my morning funnies on any machine. Also, if I find a new comic (*cough*), I can add it to all machines at one time.

There are two things that would improve Daily Bookmarks. One is if instead of tagging, you could give it a folder to use for each day (or if there was a way to set tags for more than one bookmark at a time). The other is if there's a button you can press instead of going into the Bookmarks menu (like Morning Coffee gives you).

Michael

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July 28, 2008

Cool surprising feature in Google Earth

I haven't used Google Earth much in a little while (if, after reading this, you'll say, "well, yeah... they've had that for a long time", then you'll agree). But I've started canoeing (more on that in a later post), and was using Google Earth to decide where to go, where to put in, etc.

I tried clicking on the Street View option in Google Earth, and, after loading (which seemed, on my slow DSL link, to take a while), it showed pictures of cameras on various major roads. I clicked on one, and it zoomed in to reveal a sphere sitting in the middle of the road. This is where it got cool. You adjust the viewing angle in GEarth, and you can see, in the sphere, the pictures from Street View. Usually, in GEarth, the images you see (barring 3D buildings and elevation changes) are flat (comes with the territory from being taken from space, ya know). But this adds another level of dimension to it, where there's this row of spheres going down the road and you can zoom into any of them and look around them and everything.

Anyway, pretty cool, at least I thought.

Michael

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June 28, 2008

Router fun

I just learned recently that my router isn't working -- at least I hope it isn't working. Here's the story.

My approach to the internet is something like a homesteader. My ISP gives me a single pipe (static IP) and I've been doing everything myself. DNS, web, email. Well, this blog you're reading is hosted by the wonderful people at phpwebhosting.com and I've recently started using a real server for my DNS, and a good thing I did that, too. But I use my home domain as an email namespace for all my solicited commercial email (so if it becomes unsolicited I just delete an entry from my aliases file and never have to hear from them again).

When my server crashed recently, I offloaded my personal email to gmail, but my wife's personal email (she doesn't get much, actually) is still coming here.

Now, what does that have to do with the router? The router works... for outgoing traffic. I mean, I'm actually using it to post this to my blog. But I can't get any incoming SMTP or ssh. I did have to reset and reconfigure it recently, and I suspect it died at that time. I've been through all the configuration menus for it over and over, and everything looks fine.

I found an old router lying around, and tried using that, but it didn't work at all. It's a linksys, so I know it's default internal IP address is 192.168.1.1 but when I try to ping it, it just sits there. Unpinged.

In a brief fit of retro-tech geeking (with a bit of marital told-you-so) I also thought about going the LRP ahh.. route. LRP, for those who don't know, is (was?) a cool idea: take an old PC, throw a couple NIC cards on it, remove the hard drives and just leave a floppy. The floppy contains an extremely stripped down version of Linux that mostly runs off a ram disk. The upshot is that the floppy can be readonly, leaving the system quite reliable.

Now, I have a few old PC's gathering dust in my basement. My wife has been begging me to throw them away, but I haven't yet. So if I can use one of them for this, that's an added bonus (in the marital told-you-so category).

Well, the first PC I grabbed was a semi-recent vintage. But when I went to plug in the power, I noticed that the power supply had been removed (probably back when I had my computer woes a couple months ago.

The second PC I grabbed looked more promising. It was old. No question there. It had a power supply (always nice to find :). It had a floppy drive... ahh.. 5 1/4" though. That should have been a warning sign. It even had two NIC cards in it already! Now all I needed to do was put a 3 1/2" floppy drive in. Easily done, and it saw it.

After I put LRP on a floppy, I went back down to boot it up. That's when I took a closer look at the BIOS screen. 40MHz 486 w. 16 MB RAM. Wouldn't boot the floppy. No doubt LRP includes some pentium instructions.

Later, found another router just sitting there. But no power supply for it. Frustrating.

NEWS FLASH: just found the IDE-USB adapter thingamabob (sorry, USB drive enclosure for IDE drives). Now I can look at my old Windows hard drive and see if it contains the saved config for the router. Maybe if I load that, this'll work after all.

UPDATE: Success! Found the config file right there in my My Documents folder, loaded it up, and the router's working fine!!! Yee haw!

Posted by mlv at 09:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 08, 2008

Computer woes (updated again IV)

This is a followup to this post

Trying to decide what to do about my computers. I have a little money courtesy* of Uncle Sam (*money from the gov't is typically in the form of "we steal money from you and may give some of it back. But I digress), but priorities above computing, so I do want to be somewhat careful.

First, here's what I have now:

1: A 1.3GHz, 512MB SDRAM PC running Linux, acting as my server, working great.

2: A 2.4GHz, 256MB DDR PC running ubuntu, to be my regular desktop Linux PC

3, A (unknown sped), 512 MB DRR2 RAM dead PC with a WinXP Pro hard drive.

Now, some caveats. #3 is dead. Power Supply is fine, probably something with the mobo or CPU
(or maybe RAM, but I doubt it). #2 got somewhat fried when I managed to (almost) put it's RAM in backwards. Boots and runs fine, but for some reason (1) the onboard audio doesn't work anymore, and (2) when I try to use a PS/2 keyboard via KVM, it's either unreliable or doesn't even work.

Okay, now what do I need? First, a server, handling email, spam filtering, and other sundries. Next, a ubuntu PC to use as my general PC, and probably a windows PC for occasional use.

Now, I've got half a mind to just swap #1 and #2. Reason: the server doesn't need much in the way of RAM (256MB would be ample), but does have some CPU needs. Downsides: 1, I'm not too confident in #2's mobo. I mean, granted, I can work around the keyboard issues, and I don't need the sound. But this machine really has to work at 100% reliability. And a semi-fried PC doesn't fill me with confidence. 2, while getting enough ram in the ubuntu machine is paramount, I'm not thrilled about it's speed being cut in half.

The other thought to think about is, do I want a mac? If I did, it would probably be a Mac Mini with dual mac/windows boot. On the other hand, there's little, and getting less and less, I need with Windows. So, if I did this, the mini (sudden thought -- I need a monitor anyway, why not just get an iMac?).

More to think (and sleep) about.

UPDATE: I'm seriously considering the Mac Mini, but it is somewhat pricy...

UPDATE II: tried plugging Win XP hard drive into ubuntu machine. Boots more-or-less okay (keyboard works for a while, mouse doesn't). Was able to attempt to log in w/o mouse, but it complained that an administrator was needed to re-authorize it with Microsoft. Given that it's an OEM version, I suspect that given that the mobo/cpu's presumed dead, it's dead too. :( Q for all my readers*: what's the actual part that windows uses to decide if it's been moved? I'd guess it's the CPU, but I don't know.

Also, I'm tracking some good deals on Mac minis on eBay. Looks like I'll buy it there.

UPDATE III: Bought a Mac Mini on eBay. Can't wait to get it. Now need to think about what else I need.

UPDATE IV: Time to think about what I have (or will have), and what I need. I've got a Mac Mini w. 2 GB RAM, and the bootcamp dual-booting software. But I don't have a legit (non-OEM) version of Windows. Q: Do I need windows? Most (non-web) that I use windows for these days is for things like iTunes. And if I'm not mistaken, iTunes has been ported to MacOS. The other issue is the tivo support, and I know that there is a version of tivo for the mac. According to tivo's website, I need to buy Roxio or Toast 8. There's a chance I won't.

There may be some sundry applications on Windows that I'll miss. I can't think of what they are, and I suspect that whatever they are, there'll be some MacOS analog. There may also be some Linux apps that I may want to be able to use. I have the debian server, and the ubuntu machine, although I may try to make those the best of both worlds (not sure what that means yet).

So, what other sundry hardware will I need? I'm getting a monitor with the mac. I have a PS2 keyboard and a presumably functional KVM switch. Problem: I don't have a USB keyboard (well, precisely, I'm typing on a USB keyboard, but it's needed elsewhere. Besides, it's a microsoft keyboard, and I suspect they don't have mac drivers for it). There exists a PS/2 to USB adapter (saw one at MicroCenter). I could use that with the KVM that'll give me the ability to use the PS/2 keyboard. Or I could I suppose just use the USB keyboard, but that'll mean one more keyboard lying around, and I need some way to control the KVM (I'm assuming I'm going to keep the kubuntu around just for old time's sake). Other option is to buy a USB KVM along with the USB keyboard, but I have a glut of PS/2's downstairs, so this seems the best solution. Mouse would be a bit tricky, except that I may be able to use a USB to PS2 mouse adapter for the (USB) mouse I like.

So that's it, I guess. Looks like I have all I need, if I just get a PS/2 to USB adapter. I may need to rethink hard drives. Internally, the mini only has 80GB, but there are plenty of external options (I have an external IDE case I can use with any one hard drive I have). But maybe investing in a nice big external drive might be simpler. I wonder if bootcamp can boot off a USB drive?

UPDATE V: Didn't think to look carefully. The Mac I bought is a Core Duo, not a Core 2 Duo. Apparently that means 32bit, not 64bit.

Michael

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March 28, 2008

First post

This is my first post from my cell phone (asside: the first guess by T9 of "cell" is "bell" - apropos if you recall your phone history). I tried Azure but it wouldn't connect so I'm using just the straight browser.

Michael

UPDATE: Work's DNS server finally let me get to it, so I was able to reformat this entry.

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Computer woes

My windows machine broke the other night. Last week I suspected something was off when it wouldn't power up as readily as I expected, but it eventually came up. But on Tuesday, it wouldn't boot at all.

But first some background. I have at home an older Debian system I use as a server, a fairly new (maybe 1-2 years old) Windows box (XP Pro), and an older box running kubuntu Linux. I haven't used the kubuntu box much (most of what I do is web surfing and updating my iPod), but my daughter likes some of the games on it. So I use the windows box most of the time. I also have some ancient computers that my wife threatens every now and then to throw away (and sometimes succeeds).

But the windows box has died. At least it wouldn't power on. I tried the kubuntu's power supply, but it's not compatible, and none of the other systems I have have a compatible power supply. So I held out hope that the problem is the power supply. Meanwhile, I installed some iPod management software for the kubuntu system, and after a day or two, that's mostly working (biggest deficiency so far is that I've lost all my album artwork). I had to upgrade it to Hardy Heron, but that's been mostly painless.

The "mostly" part (I'm drifting here, I appologize -- if you follow this blog then (a) bless you for your patience, rivaling Job, and (b) you'll know I'm not too experienced with blogging) is that every now and then the keyboard goes away. Can't use it from kdm, can't even do control-alt-delete from a command screen. It is a PS/2 keyboard on a KVM switch, but that shouldn't matter. Next time it happens, I'm going to drag out my USB keyboard and see if that's any better. The other issue is that, with only 256MB of RAM, the kubuntu system is woefully underpowered in the RAM department. If I even run firefox on it, it thrashes (and no, I haven't installed 3beta yet). So I only run gpodder and gtkpod.

But aside from that, the kubuntu system is working, and it's now time to deal with the rest of the situation. On the windows box, I don't know what the problem is, motherboard, CPU, or RAM (although I'd rather not suspect the latter). And I may find some time when I want to run windows again, so I may want to get working again.

So at the very least, I need to somehow upgrade the linux box. Maybe I could get a new mobo/CPU/RAM combo for it (I think I can throw in a couple 512MB DDR2 chips from the windows box). Of course I don't have money for any of this at the moment, so I'll have to make do without at the moment.

Michael

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February 22, 2007

Connectivity Fun

Okay, so there we were, on Meatfare Sunday, at Wendy's. I decided to take a picture of Maria, my daughter, on my wife's cell phone (mine doesn't have a camera). I wanted to update the wallpaper on my phone with a newer picture (the last one she was barely a toddler; she's 4 now). Here's all the crazy steps necessary to get that wallpaper on my phone:

Took picture with her phone.

Bluetooth'd it to my phone. (My phone couldn't open it)

Bluetooth'd it from my phone to my Palm (see if it can open the image -- it could)

Bluetooth'd the old wallpaper to my Palm as a reference

Copied both from my Palm to my workstation at work.

Gimp said that the resolution of the new picture was twice the old one (old one was 640x480)

Scaled the new one down to 640x480.

Copied new picture back to my Palm

Tried to BT from my Palm -- Nova. My Palm can apparently only receive BT files, not send. :(

Scratched beard... think think think said Pooh...

Checked if wife's phone has a memory card (it doesn't, but it does have an IRDA port) <light bulb turns on!>

Sent from Palm to wife's phone with IRDA

BT'd from wife's phone to my phone.

And I now have my new wallpaper!

I'd post it here, but it's not on this workstation, and I've had enough fun for one morning...

Michael

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