Revolt In 2100 And Methuselahs Children

Revolt in 2100 & Methuselah\'s Children Revolt In 2100 And Methuselahs Children by Robert A. Heinlein.

I’ve always enjoyed Heinlein’s works – his libertarian ideals and positive, if not conflict free, future visions have always made for appealing literature. Also, I really like the fact that much of his work is based in a consistent universe where one work leads into or foreshadows others.

Sometimes the writing can be a little pedantic, especially where he’s trying to draw distinctions between the sexes, but this is just a ‘nit to pick in an overrall enjoyable science-fiction tale.

Origami from Robert Lang

I was listening to an IT Conversations podcast on Computational Origami by Robert Lang and the designs sounded interesting so I checked out his website, Robert J. Lang Origami and was amazed at the complexity and richness of designs that can be obtained using a single, uncut sheet of paper.

Keep in mind that many of these designs take hours to fold not to mention to come up with the design in the first place. But, in making use of computers to help calculate how to work the paper, he shows here designs that were once thought impossible. Especially the insects.

If you have a moment, check this out. It’s truly amazing.

Some perspective on Wal*Mart

An excellent write-up on some of the issues facing Wal*Mart by Paul Jacob.

I was watching on the news yesterday how various groups were upset with Wal*Mart and are trying to get bills passed to force the retailer to provide health-care plans for its employees. Since when is a company obligated to provide such? Sure, plenty of companies do as a perk. Health-care plans are nice-to-have options that supposedly make some companies more attractive to work for than others. But using government power to force companies to provide this benefit is simply another example of government vastly exceding its mandate.
I have no problems with folks boycotting Wal*Mart, that’s their right and they are free to shop wherever they choose and to encourage others to do the same.

Roku M500 Soundbridge

This is a slick little device that allows me to pull iTunes songs wirelessly through my home LAN network and play them on any stereo in the house.

Here is Roku’s website if you want to take a peek.

The unit is functioning properly and so far I’m quite happy with it.

All was not perfect however, I had some issues that I eventually tracked down to a, presumably, longstanding issue with my venerable WRT54G Router.

Here is the chain of messages that I left on the Roku Soundbridge Set-up forum. This is probably only of interest to you if you are having the problems I was experiencing.

Initial Post
Soundbridge works fine, talks to network and acquired IP via DHCP with no issues.
Able to identify available library from iTunes.
Can play, shuffle, acquire Internet time, works normally for a while.
After an indeterminate amount of time, begins to exhibit symptoms similar to those specified for Firewall issues (Buffering… (0%) but does not play the 10 seconds or so of songs before failing) just fails and moves to next song .
Disabled XP’s firewall and WRT54G’s firewall with no change.
Restarting the Soundbridge yields “connection to server failed” message.
– Note that inspecting the WRT54G’s ” Wireless Client MAC List” shows the Soundbridge as still being in contact
Unplugging the Soundbridge, waiting for a minute or so yields same result.

Unplugging the Soundbridge removing the Wi-Fi card (which is quite warm) and allowing it to cool resolves the issue.

Next post after suggestion that I try hardwiring the Roku unit and see if the problem persists

Per your suggestion I removed the Wi-Fi card and plugged in the ethernet cable and let her go. The unit has been running all day now and, while quite warm, is still performing flawlessly.

This may not be the best test in the world, I have the unit sitting with me on my computer desk so I can see that it’s playing the songs, but I am not able to keep it plugged into the stereo and hardwire it to my WRT54G at the same time. So two variables have changed. I’ll Reconnect the Wi-Fi card and leave the unit on my computer desk to see if / when it begins to fail.

Next post

After about 1/2 hour after switching from wired to Wi-Fi and the SoundBridge began misbehaving again (Buffering (0%)).

Removing the Wi-Fi card and allowing it to cool and then re-inserting it resolves the problem. I cannot yet guarantee that cooling the card is what allows the soundbridge to function correctly or if it’s simply the time I have the unit powered down that causes it to work again. This time I how long it took to cool the card and restart the unit (about 5 minutes). The next time it fails I will simply power it down for 5 minutes and restart. The unit remains hot enough that the wi-fi card will not cool down during that interval and, I predict, will continue to fail.


Letting the unit just sit for 10 minutes has also temporarily resolved the issue. So I’m not sure if it cools down enough or maybe there is something else going on that allows it to reconnect with my Wi-Fi network.

Hopefully I can get some good suggestions from email support. I like the unit and the theory. Now if only I can get it to work…. 🙁

Final Post

OK, I just wanted to end this saga and let anybody else who may be having this issue know how I resolved it.

I’ve had the WRT54G for just under two years now and it’s performed pretty well. My main computer is hardwired to the router as it is right next to it, but my wife’s computer is connected wirelessly. She leaves that machine on all the time and uses MSN Messenger – I’ve always noticed that her MSN messenger periodically logs her in (I see a pop-up that this “buddy” has logged in) and wasn’t sure if it was an MSN thing or a symptom of something else. Her machine is in the next room and is always reporting an “Excellent” wireless connection.

Anyway, after this problem with the M500 started, I found I couldn’t rule out the WRT54G as a possible cause. So yesterday I switched the “Wireless Network Mode” from “Mixed Mode” to “B-Only”. The M500 has now been playing solidly for over 18 hours with nary a hiccough.

So it seems the problem has two parts, the WRT54G is partly the cause because of intermittent drop outs – These probably impact my wife’s computer’s performance but it doesn’t complain and we have never noticed. The second part appears to be an overly sensitive Wi-Fi connection from the Roku M500 unit. It just doesn’t seem to be able to recover from either a single drop out or maybe there is some combination of drop-outs that mess it up. I’m not really equipped to say. I can only black-box it and tell you what I see.

Anyway, I hope this helps anybody else. For me, the increased stability is worth the Wi-Fi speed hit so I’m going to be leaving the WRT54G’s Wireless Network Mode at “B-Only”. I have another computer in the back of the house that never really attained much more than 11 Mbps anyway.

**Addendum** I had disabled WEP encryption while doing all this as I’ve found it to behave rather erratically in the past. Once everything had settled down I re-enabled Wep (128 bit) and found my wireless devices started dropping off periodically – no rhyme or reason. They would connect and acquire an IP and then, after some period minutes of use just drop off.. or not… WEP is disabled until either Linksys or the folks responsible for implementing these technologies get their act together. 🙁

All is stable now – just a bit more exposure than I’d like.

Canon 15×50 Image Stabalized Binoculars

Canon 15x50 Image Stabilization All Weather Binoculars w/Case, Neck Strap & Batteries I was over at a friend’s house the other day and he was pointing out an owl (one of several) that he had in his backyard. From his deck I could eventually see the owl perched up 50 feet or so in one of the trees at the far end of the yard. He handed me a pair of Canon 18×50 IS binoculars and said “You can get a better view through these.”.

Anybody who has ever used binoculars knows that, without a tripod or some sort of bracing, looking through any pair of binoculars with over 10 times magnification is an exercise in jerky frustration. And these were no exception… until I pressed the IS button. WOW! The image suddenly calmed right down to a pristine, still image that impresses. The owl was visible in all of his slumbering glory and the view was spectacular.

Now, I’m not the worlds greatest ornithologist. Truth be told I’m not particularly interested in bird-watching. But I am interested in astronomy and a good pair of binoculars is great for someone who has such an interest – they are handy and powerful enough to see some very interesting celestial items but they are not so unweildy as telescopes and tripods tend to be. You can just grab your binoculars and head outside, no setup required.

I did some research and decided that, as lovely as the 18x magnification of the binoculars that I’d sampled was, that needed to be tempered with a reasonable field of view. It’s challenging enough finding something as big as an owl in a backyard tree through an 18x pair of binoculars but trying to zero in on pinpoints of light dozens to thousands of light years away can be pretty difficult. After doing some research (thanks Google!) I determined that the 15×50 IS binoculars would suit my purposes nicely.

I ordered them from Amazon a few days ago and am eagerly awaiting their arrival!

Adblock Plus Extension for Firefox

Adblock Plus is an indispensable extension for anybody who finds flashing ads distracting.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against ads in general, they pay the bills for a great number of the web sites that you and I get to enjoy for no cost to us at all. But, unfortunately, some folks feel that their ads really need to get in your face in order to be effective. You know the ones I’m talking about, you’re trying to read an article and the sidebar has a banner that is alternately flashing Red and Black and is so gaudy that you put your hand up to block the ad so you can actually see the content.

Some folks try to block all ads from showing up on their browser. I’m a moderate in this sense, I only block ads that are truly annoying. If something is flashing at me and continues to flash, I simply right click on it and chose “Adblock Image”. A customization box comes up that defaults to adblocking the exact image that is currently bothering me. This can be modified with wildcard characters if I choose to block everything from the the same domain/folder or even anything from the same domain (most ads are sourced from a domain other than the one you are visiting). I seldom will block an entire domain unless I am finding that there are a LOT of ads sourced from them that are interfering with my browsing experience.

Similarly, for flash content, I have Adblock Plus configured to show “Obj-Tabs” which show up as a little tab with the word “Adblock” in it associated with flash animations. If a flash animation is in an endless loop after I’ve seen it once or twice I will left-click on it and then click OK to remove it.

In both cases above, the area the image / flash occupied is simply blanked so that the web page formatting is not distorted. The items are blocked permanently so they won’t show up if you refresh the screen.

Again, my philosophy is that ads can be a good thing. They are a fair way for site providers to try to profit from their efforts to provide content that you obviously find useful (why else would you be surfing there?). So I don’t advocate wholesale blocking of all ads. But it is great to have a tool to get rid of tasteless and annoying ads when you get tired of them.

Now I’m looking for a way to block those “Walk-on” ads that come up and wander across the screen after the web page has loaded. My greatest issue with them is that I am never 100% confident that clicking the “Close” button will legitimate close the ad but may actually execute some other code (install software?) that I really don’t want on my computer. And, of course, they are now wandering in front of the text I am trying to read.


Get Firefox!

I use the FireFox browser, maintained by the Mozilla Foundation.

I don’t use it because it’s any faster than the beleaguered Internet Explorer (IE), nor do I use it for its touted security features. I use it because the tabbed browsing experience is VERY appealing to me. That and the plethora of extensions available for this browser makes it a superior browsing platform. I’ll mention the various extensions that I find useful in future postings, but for those of you that fear using Firefox because you know that there are some websites that just won’t work without Internet Explorer I want to mention the “IE View” extension.

This extension adds an entry to your context menu (right-click on your web page to see your current context menu) that allows you to “View this page in IE”. If you find your web page is complaining that you are not using IE or perhaps is not acting the way you think it should, then clicking this context menu item quickly quickly launches IE using the current URL.

The vast majority of web sites work fine under Firefox. Customizing your web browsing experience so that your browser has installed only those features that you use certainly makes for a leaner browser. For myself, I’ve added enough extensions that it now takes about the same amount of time to launch Firefox as it does to launch IE. But the Firefox browser is orders of magnitude more useful to me and the way I like to surf.

Active Words

I’m currently test driving ActiveWords and have to say that I’m impressed so far. The premise initially sounded a little shaky but as I keep working I find more and more uses for it.

I like the fact that I now have an easily configurable word corrector that is active in every application. So I only need to maintain the one set of words. I’m talking about capitalizing proper nouns, correcting dyslexic typing, removing double caps at the beginning of words.

I can also assign short forms to things like “adr” which will expand into my street address or “mp” which will expand into my general email address.

You can even go so far as to create entire macros that will pull windows to the fore and then perform actions against them. A great time saver if you have some repetitive tasks. For me – I don’t like all my apps starting up at once when I (infrequently) reboot the machine. Often if I reboot it’s because I’m troubleshooting or focused on doing something specific. So I have a macro called “Start” that will sequentially initiate (and manipulate) all the applications that I like to have running when I’m ready to have them run.