What better way to spend Christmas eve in Texas than mowing the yard? It needed mowing badly and the day was too nice to stay indoors. Besides yard work, Susan and I took a long walk and visited the ducks in the nearby park. After feeding hungry ducks, we walked through a nearby housing development that’s going up to see what the under-construction houses looked like. Slightly higher quality construction than usual but the same old yuppy-palace floor plans. Lots of wasted space and inexplicable design features. My favorite of late is the placement of the closet in the master bedroom – a lot of the newer floorplans are placing it in the bathroom. So you have to use the bathroom as a sort of hallway to get in and out of the closet. Besides seeming highly inconvenient, it must cause quite a problem with humidity. Still, they always manage to sell them so I guess somebody out there thinks it makes sense.
I picked up a couple of DVDs on eBay the other day and when I received them I discovered something very interesting. One of them is on the LaserLight label (the same company that puts out a lot of music CDs). The cool thing is they don’t use region coding on their DVDs – you can play them in any local on any DVD player. I wonder how they got around the DVDCCA? Does this mean the content is not encrypted? Hmmm… The movies coming out on the LaserLight label are mostly very old British movies and may be out of copyright. The ones I picked up on eBay, for example, are Alfred Hitchcock movies made in the 1930′s. Whatever the case, I’d like to see more DVD releases that don’t use the annoying region coding system.
Did everyone notice the big price dip in Red Hat stock today? I put in a limit order at $20 which turned out to be too low – it got as low as 20 1/8 but didn’t quite make it to my limit. Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow to pick up a few shares.
I configured one of two new VA Linux FullOn 2200 series servers today. They’re fast. The thing that most impressed people wandering by, though, was the very, very bright light coming out of the blue LED on the front of the case. It was bright enough to project a blue circle of light on the wall opposite the server.
After reading others experiences with Helix Gnome, I decided to try it out for myself. It’s an easy install and the installer handles the download as well. It seeems like a vast improvement over the Gnome that ships with Red Hat. Among other things, the GUI is much faster and more responsive. I suspect this is because Red Hat uses Enlightenment and Helix uses Sawfish by default. Sawfish seems much faster and less bloated than Enlightenment in general – it does Window Manager stuff and leaves everything else to Gnome. Anyway, Helix is very cool. Recommended.
I also spent a few hours resolving yet another Verio DNS problem. One of our clients is also a Verio customer with DNS problems. In both cases, Verio does the secondary DNS. We’ve decided to do secondary for each other instead. It will be a bit of work to switch all our domains over to the new secondary servers but it will be worth it to be free of Verio’s incompetence.
I’ve spent much of the week doing on-site work for a client (thus the lack of time for news posts this week!). The customer is a medium sized company created by several smaller companies that merged. They’re assembling an IT department from the combination of Unix, Mac, and Windows boxes that came from the smaller companies. A few of the suits predictably brought up the issue getting rid of the “non-standard” equipment (i.e., the Macs and Unix servers). Among the issues that came up were why we would want to use sendmail when “everyone else in the world” uses Microsoft Exchange. The sheer stupidity of this statement caught me a bit off guard but I did a little research and found a web site that does a regular survey of Internet SMTP servers. It’s a lot like the Netcraft survey of web server software (Apache is up to 62.53% this month, by the way). The SMTP server results are much the same as those for Apache. Sendmail has a current market share of 52.3%, followed by “other/unknown” at 8.8%, and further down the list is Microsoft (including Exchange) at a whopping 4.4%. Unfortunately there are no graphs to show changes in market share over time like Netcraft does. In fact, while the SMTP survey is a great idea, Sirana hasn’t done nearly as cool of a job of implementing it as Netcraft did.
I just tried out the Opera web browser and it only took about 30 seconds to determine that it was definitely not for me. It uses some sort of weird, Windows-MDI-style interface where you can only have one Opera window open and little browser windows open inside of the Opera window for each web page. You have some limited ability to scoot the little browser windows around inside of the Opera window but you can’t move them out onto the desktop and put them anywhere you want, so it’s essentially useless for people (like me) who generally have lots of open browsers. If you only look at one web page at a time, it might not be a bad alternative to IE and Netscape but it looks like Mozilla still has the most potential.
I celebrated independence day by wearing my DeCSS T-Shirt and watching the Richardson fireworks show from the front lawn of my sister’s house. I get questions about the the T-Shirt every time I wear it and I’ve come up with a one sentence explanation that is reasonably understandable. “The shirt signifies my opposition to current movie and recording industry attempts to prevent fair use of copyrighted works.” Additional explanation is usually needed but it’s the most concise explanation I’ve come up with so far.
I was reviewing the stats on several of our websites this month and noticed that Mozilla is begining to be a measurable quantity in the list of user agents. The May stats showed Mozilla/5.0 with a 0.12% share. June stats showed it with slightly more at 0.18%. It’s not much but it’s more than most non-IE/non-Netscape browsers like Opera and Lynx get. I’m looking forward to continued growth as M17 and M18 are released.
I’m trying out the Ogg Vorbis plugin for Winamp on my NT box. It was easy to install – just downloaded the DLL and dropped it into the winamp plug-ins directory. I’m playing some of the samples from the Vorbis sample page and they sound ok. Definitely as good as any MP3 files I’ve listened to. It’s hard to say if it’s better than MP3 without listening to the same piece of music encoded in both formats at similar bitrates. But I don’t have any complaints – even at the same quality as MP3, it has the advantage of being free. I’ll try it out with XMMS on Linux next.
WooHoo! I just discovered something really wonderful. A company called Unicomp, Inc. has obtained the manufacturing rights to The One True Keyboard – the IBM buckling spring keyboard. They’ve apparently been selling them for a while now but I only just ran across their website today. This means I won’t have to buy our keyboards at auctions and surplus houses anymore. Even better is the news that they’ll be updating the design with USB support in the future. I’ve been worried about the USB thing for a while. I’d even thought about trying to build a PS/2 to USB adapter so I wouldn’t have to switch to the mushy, non-tactile keyboards-from-hell that come with most computers these days.
Unicomp also has some models with built-in trackballs and pointing sticks for those so inclined. In August they’ll start shipping another model that can be customized for use with Linux or in a Dvorak layout. And for wimps, they even make a “whisper spring” version that has the tactile feedback of a real keyboard while sounding like a conventional mushy keyboard. Oh, and they have all the leftover OEM keyboards from IBM/Lexmark as well, so you can also buy unused surplus if you want to save a few bucks or get the IBM logo.