Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Printer Works

Small miracle: the Xerox Phaser 6130n that I bought works with Linux.

My version of Ubuntu (8.04) didn't want to support it initially. It didn't have a driver available and recommended a driver for a different Xerox model. That did not work. It spat out a few pages with gibberish on them instead of a test page.

I grubbed around on the CD that came with the printer and found a directory named "Linux". What? A major manufacturer supplying something for Linux right out of the box? Great! But what was in there was a .rpm file for a driver. Ubuntu doesn't use .rpm files for packages, it uses .deb files.

There is a way to convert between .rp and .deb package formats, and I started down that path, but simultaneously I went to the Xerox web site to see what they had out there. I hoped they'd have a pre-built .deb file I could download, since Ubuntu is pretty popular.

What I found, though, was a bit different. They had PPD files available, and PPD files allow the CUPS system to work with a printer just like a driver does. (Or so I gather, since my choices were to install a driver or a PPD file.)

So I downloaded the archive full of PPD files, extracted the one for the 6130, and installed it.

Like magic, the printer worked. It prints in color, prints images, etc. This is great news.

Every ink jet printer I've ever owned has ended its life with print heads full of dried up ink that will not be removed and prevents clear printing. The most recent one, while it was suffering from a clogged print head too, actually died a horrible mechanical death when something went "POP!" inside it one day. It never printed again.

I hope this new Xerox 6130 works out well. I've been without a printer for months now, trying to figure out what laser printer would work with Linux.

So far, so good!

Today I am a Follower

Yesterday Steve added my blog to the published list of blogs he reads. I'm honored. A bit scared - for the reasons I mentioned in yesterday's post - but definitely honored.

But it was that action on his part that got me to thinking about blog etiquette and whether or not I was doing things properly. I wasn't.

There are about 20 things in my RSS reader at this point. Some are just silly, some I am more seriously interested in, some are from businesses, and others - the most important ones to me - are written by people I know.

I feel no obligation to give regular link space to the business blogs I follow. They may get mentioned from time to time, as appropriate, but the nature of my relationship with them isn't one that requires me to advertise for them.

Nor do I feel obliged to provide regular link space to those blogs that are written by people I don't know. There are several of those, mostly artists writing about their experiences. These are valuable to me, but since the writers don't know me from anyone, there seems to be no obligation on my part to advertise for them. (I might choose give them links, though, and as with business blogs, I may mention them where appropriate.)

The last category - and the one where I realized I was falling down on the job - is blogs of people I know. I had a few listed on my site, but the full list I follow wasn't up there. That, I decided, needed to change.

These are my friends, and through the web of connections that is the Internet it is entirely possible that someone who finds me will realize they also know someone whose blog I follow. By not giving them links, I was actively doing them a disservice.

So this morning I revised the link list. I added four blogs written by people I know to the sidebar. I also added the blog of one person I don't know, but whose work I admire so much I felt that the chance of exposing others to him was worthwhile.

So once again, thanks Steve. It appears that getting in touch with you was good for me in several ways.

And for anyone else out there whom I know and who keeps a blog, consider sending me a link. If you're not on the list I probably don't know about it, and that's no good. I want to keep up to date on my friends.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Things I Hate: My Own Typos

I apologize, sincerely and completely, to everyone who has read this blog. Every last one of you deserves a medal for slogging through the forest of typos that result from my vague attempts at communication in English. (If I stuck to my native Gibberish I'd probably be just fine.)

Typos are my bane. There are probably still a few in this post that I haven't found. Yet.

Let me tell you a story...

An hour ago I exchanged email with a friend (hi Steve!) and former coworker - a technical writer - with whom I hadn't conversed in a long time. It turns out he has a blog. Naturally I read through some of his blog in the process of this communication. His writing is good. I've added his blog to my RSS reader.

With some trepidation I told him that I, too, kept a blog. A few minutes later he told me that he'd added my blog to his RSS tool. (The main attraction being the picture of me with a fork suspended from my nose.) Uh-oh. Now Steve's a nice guy, but look at it from my point of view: I've got a professional writer reading my blog. This'll be "interesting". I'd better go look at it real quick. From the outside.

And the first thing I noted was that I hadn't posted in 12 days. Even without Steve there as a motivator, that was not good, and I needed to remedy that. The previous - basically content free - post was the result. OK, fine. At least you know I'm still alive.

Then I went back and re-read the post I'd just written and published. Typos. Typo city! And Steve is out there lurking. He really is a nice guy, and I probably won't get email telling me that I have used "it's" where I meant "its" for the 10,000th time. But I could get that email. If not from him then from a few others that have been known to "express themselves" to me in the past. (Hi David.)

So I edited the post and fixed the typos I could find, including the gross spelling errors that spell check was warning me about when I typed the thing up in the first place. sigh.

Then I checked a few of the older posts, just to see how I'd been doing on the typo front.

Suffice it to say that if this was a war between me and the typos, they'd overrun my position years ago, taken my HQ, sacked my supply houses, moved in, married, had kids, and sent them to college. There were a LOT of typos out there.

So I fixed what I found in various older posts. I didn't get to them all, alas, and I probably missed some in the posts I did review. What can I say, though. I don't have hours and hours to spend at it right now, and finding my own typos is just about as easy as performing brain surgery on myself.

But once again I must apologize to all of you who risk reading my words. I'm not nearly as illiterate as they make me look. Honestly! Please accept this blog entry - even if it too is crawling with grammatical boo-boos - in the spirit of contrition in which it is intended.

Special thanks to Steve for causing this, even if it was entirely unintentional on his part. If you want a link to your blog in here, Steve, just ask.

I guess there was one benefit to finding all those typos: I got to add another post to my "Things I Hate" series.

(Now to proofread this before hitting the "publish post" button... shudder.)

Strange Silence

Yes, it's been 12 days since my last post here. Or something like that.

You'd think - with the inauguration and all - I'd have something interesting to say. Not really, and that's why I haven't written.

In all honestly, I was happy to see our new president take office. So far he's kept to the script as I envisioned he would, and I agree with the things he's done, at least to the extent that I understand them. But he's still human, as is his staff, and the mistakes and issues will inevitably come.

And that's where I peter out. Happy, but wary. Not much there.

I could write about my own life, right? After all that's not getting any simpler. There's a new printer sitting on the table behind me that hasn't been setup in the week since it arrived. There's the DMV testing I need to finish to finalize the drivers license that will let me drive fire engines. There's work, which brings with it a whole slew of things I need to do and understand. And there are friends and commitments that I need to keep up with. There are dogs to pet, sculptures to carve, and so on.

Mostly, though, it's overwhelming and I'm tired. That's not where I want to be, and it makes for lousy blog entries.

Slowly, however, I can see things changing. I'm actually less exhausted now than I was a month ago. The schedule that came with going back to work is getting a bit easier, and I've ordered a new computer that will make it simpler to work from home a bit, letting me dodge the worst of rush hour, at least.

But that's all pretty mundane stuff. As you can see, I haven't got anything of substance driving this post. Mostly I'm just writing so my readers - and there are a couple of you out there - know that I am still here. Oh, and Paul, I really will write that next update on the water system one of these days.

Monday, January 12, 2009

High Class Dinners and Cutlery

Yes, that's me. And that's my lovely wife on the left side of the picture. We were at a gathering of good friends who all live nearby. This happened just the other day, and (despite the photographic evidence) we hope to be invited back.

And what, you may ask, is wrong with my nose?

The first response is that the photographer (who will remain nameless, to protect the guilty) is using only an iPhone, and as we all know those don't contain the best quality cameras on the planet. That makes it a bit hard to tell.

But despite that, the full size image just barely reveals that I am doing something few have tried. I've suspended a fork from my nose.

No, really, a fork. Not a spoon. And I did it without glues or adhesives, and without injuring myself in any way. The tines of the fork are distinctly visible on the outside of my honker.

In truth, this photo tells you less about my amazing cutlery suspension abilities than it does about the kinds of people I hang out with.

In any event, we had a wonderful dinner, and we celebrated getting together a bunch of good friends who couldn't - for one reason or another - see each other over the holidays.

May you enjoy such silliness with people you love many times in your life.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I Hate Dental Tools

I went to the dentist today for my thrice a year teeth cleaning. (Yes, 3 times a year I suffer through this. My teeth have "issues".)

What I want to know is, why doesn't someone with a clue design dental tools?

Forget the drill. No, it's not nice, but I'm generally numb when it is used, and its use is irregular at best.

No, the real problems are the tools I see every four months:
  • the sonic cleaner
  • the polisher
  • the spit sucker
These are the bread and butter of hygienists, and they are all my bane. The hand scaling tools are bad when the hygienist concentrates in one place for too long, but these things - the powered tools, if you will - are much worse. Let's examine each briefly, shall we?

There is a special place in hell reserved for the person who invented the sonic tooth cleaner, and I don't even remotely believe in hell. This thing causes pain at a level that is hard to imagine. Supposedly this is because I have exposed roots, but in reality all a hygienist has to do is leave this thing in a single place for more than a fraction of a second and I am writhing, even where my teeth are in excellent condition. It's a deep ache that spreads out from the point of contact on the tooth. If left in one place for more than about 5 seconds I am convinced I would black out. I'd probably confess to anything the Bush administration wanted me to confess to as well, but then I'd lose consciousness.

The polisher seems benign enough, I know, and most of you probably think it's harmless. However, if you visited my dentist you might discover your mistake. The polisher I am subjected to is air driven, and it exhausts the air right into my mouth, right onto my teeth. If I had perfectly normal teeth this might not be a problem, but I don't. Instead I have teeth that lack enamel on various surfaces, and cold air blowing out of the polisher actually hurts. Once again I think some tool designer needs to spend eternity in pain as a result of this bit of work. It would have been pretty simple to capture the exhaust air and route it somewhere else. Even just a foot or two back down along the incoming air line would have kept it out of my mouth and from causing pain, but no. If you designed a polisher that exhausts into my mouth, and we meet, and I figure out what you did, you may be missing some of your own teeth before our conversation is entirely complete.

And finally the spit sucker. This has the low tech version of the polisher problem. It draws air across my teeth in ways that I do not approve of or appreciate. This one I do my best to control during my visit, but today I found myself being pinned down by my hygienist as she polished my teeth and used the spit sucker at the same time. So I had two sources of drafty nastiness in my mouth. I was not a happy camper. Not at all.

When a dog needs to have its teeth cleaned they knock it out entirely. I am starting to think that maybe I should go to the vet to get my teeth cleaned simply to get knocked out first.

And if you're a budding young dental tool designer, please keep in mind that avoiding pain is a good idea. Find a way to make your tools pain free and I will be in your debt. But if you continue on in the grand tradition of existing dental tool designers, i will be your implacable foe for the rest of my life.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The March of the Undertakers

Now that I live - er - work in downtown San Jose, I get to see a different group of people a bit more closely than I used to. As a result of that observation I want to know what it is with the working stiffs down here and all the black they wear.

I may be guilty of a tiny exaggeration. A few other colors are allowed: brown, dark blue, and dark gray. But clearly the closer any of those colors is to black, the better.

And this isn't just goth kids. This is people going to work at 8:30 in the morning. As I get off the freeway and wait at a light there is inevitably a stream of somber individuals all dressed in black, hiking from their parking places to their office buildings. It looks like a casting call for another remake of The Adams Family. Every morning. Dark coats and jackets, suits, etc. It's depressing.

And, of course, I stick out like a sore thumb when I wander around. I wear a bright red jacket, and I just ordered a new one in bright orange.

Years ago I visited Germany and Italy for a week each. Just walking around town in my red raincoat it was clear I did not belong. The only other person I saw wearing anything nearly that bright in color was a female Japanese tourist. Everyone else was in black or brown. Everyone.

It's not quite that bad in San Jose, but it's close.

This is California, not New York. When did it become so uptight?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

It's January 1, and I'm feeling somewhat mellow. Well, sick actually, but as a description "mellow" will do.

Last night we didn't even manage to stay up until midnight. Instead we crashed at 11 and went right to sleep. I'm recovering from a cold and Anne's just coming down with it, so we're excused.

The one thing we did manage to do last night - that's as close to a NYE tradition as we have - is watch the Tim Burton film Mars Attacks. Anne says we started doing this many years ago when we were driving home after a holiday visit and wound up in Laramie on New Years Eve. We found Mars Attacks was on TV at the hotel and watched it. For some reason it's been what we do ever since.

Regardless of what your NYE traditions are, I wish you all the best in 2009. Thanks for reading and commenting here.

Oh, and as of yesterday I'm on Facebook too. You can find me there if you're a Facebook user. I can't promise my updates there will occur more often than they do here here, but we'll see.