July 31, 2005

$0.49 Book-ends

The magical Swedish land of Ikea is good for many things, but among the most wonderful are their oh-so-cheap Bokis book-ends. I'm picky about book-ends. They shouldn't weigh much, they shouldn't take up a ton of space, and they better be cheap because my book collection grows regularly enough they may fall into disuse.

At a scant 49 cents apiece for durable, lightweight transparent plastic book-ends, I can't complain. They blend in with the books and the shelf and it's easy to grab as many as you need without breaking the bank. A Saturday Ikea run left me with a new wastepaper basket (a need previously filled by "the floor under my desk") and 6 more bookends for under $10.

Plus, since you have to buy them at Ikea, you have to go to Ikea. It smells so good in Ikea. It's a magical mixture of fresh cinnamon rolls and new furniture. Mmm, cinnamon rolls.

Posted by Colin at 11:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 30, 2005

Installing Ruby on Rails on Mac OS X Tiger

The easier this information is to find, the better -- it's a subject that comes up over and over when talking to people getting into [Ruby on Rails][1] development. There are two barriers to easy deployment of Ruby on Rails for Mac OS X 10.4 users: 1. Tiger ships with a broken Ruby configuration that keeps compiled RubyGems from building properly. 2. MySQL issues. 1. The [MySQL.com][2] installer installs in /usr/local/mysql. The gem won't find those files by default. 2. The MySQL gem won't compile under GCC 4.0, which is the default system compiler. The first one's easy to fix: > sudo gem install fixrbconfig; sudo fixrbconfig As is the second one. > sudo gcc\_select 3.3 > > sudo gem install mysql -- --with-mysql-dir=/usr/local/mysql > > sudo gcc\_select 4.0 *Et voila*, a working MySQL driver for all your RoR development needs. [1]:http://www.rubyonrails.com [2]:http://www.mysql.com
Posted by Colin at 3:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 28, 2005

No more playtime for Colin!

I didn't *think* I'd been playing Half-Life 2 too much. I thought it was a healthy habit. In fact, I haven't played it for two days now.

But then I was just listening to some music. Tori Amos' "I'm Not in Love," as a matter of fact. It features a siren in the background which sounds strikingly similar to the one used in Half-Life 2. The first thing to pop into my head was "wait, I'm not playing Half-Life 2, where the hell's that sound coming from?" This was quickly followed by "eh, whatever, the way my week's going the Combine really is coming for me."

You know, right now being beaten into submission with an electric cattle prod really doesn't sound too bad.

Posted by Colin at 11:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 23, 2005

Don't tell me that!

UPS' web site is giving me a message most sane people probably never want to see: >Unable to track shipment "1Z XXX XXX XX XXXX XXX X". > >UPS could not locate the shipment details for your request. Please verify your information and try again later. > > >(1401) Given it had tracking information up to now, I'm assuming for the time being the tracking database is just down. Which brings up a pet peeve of mine: there's that mysterious "1401" down there, which is probably an error code internal to UPS. Instead of showing useless things to the customers, why not explain what the error is? Or that there's an error to begin with, if that's why the looking up the details failed? "Whoops, our database appears to be down, but your shipment information is safe and sound. Please try again later!" is much more reassuring to customers than "We couldn't find that package! 1401, whatever that tells you! Ha!" *Edit:* Looks like they may have had a crash and were restoring from backups. My package went from not existing to billing information received to its last departure scan in the hour since I originally posted this. Whew; that's reassuring.
Posted by Colin at 9:06 PM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2005

Zip ties to the rescue!

If there's one inevitability in setting up computer equipment (or most electronics), it's that every last one of the cords will be way too long when you're done. You then end up with a most heinous rat's nest of wires and cables dangling gaily about. If you're lucky, you'll never encounter a problem. Or, if you're like most people, at some point you'll get two cables horribly tangled and/or accidentally yank one out, and there goes something. It might be an email you were writing, it might be the season finale of 24, or it might be the Masters thesis you charged through from begin to end in one day without ever stopping to save it. I'm a staunch opponent of using zip ties inside a computer. They end up being nothing but a pain in the ass when you need to replace or add components, and most people pull them so tight it's easy to risk cutting an important wire when trying to remove them. In your computing workspace, though, the more zip ties the merrier! This is obviously not something you should try until you have all your equipment situated in its final position, of course (though you could use velcro cable ties instead if you're feeling randy). Once you've put together that new computer desk and have everything exactly where you want it, though, it's time to go to work with the value pack of zip ties. Bundle excess cable up, leaving a little slack, and zip that thing. Ideally, you want the bundled area to rest on something. If you have an enclosed area on your desk, it would be a lovely place to hide the bundles. If you don't, then get creative. My desk, for example, has a stabilizer and privacy shield. I can't see anything behind it, so I could easily think up some sort of mounting solution so the bundles stay there (dowels and hot glue come to mind). I finally bundled up my own excesses today, and the result is much neater and more usable. Qwest's DSL modems, for example, end up with a total of probably easily 15 feet of power cord. A couple zip ties later, the hanging garden effect has been replaced by two neat bundles that fit easily and inconspicuously on a shelf. Oh, and cutting the unused portion of the zip tie off is always good. Otherwise they like to stab you. Or put an eye out. Zip ties, you see, are made from the bottled-up anger of rabid badgers. Safety first!
Posted by Colin at 6:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Die, Daylight Saving Time, DIE!

What on earth is it with our Congresspeople these days? Renaming "French" to "freedom," interfering with the decisions of a brain-dead woman's family, trying to ban flag burning by requiring flags be flame retardant... now they're wasting taxpayer money [trying to extend Daylight Saving Time][1]. Under the legislation -- which can now only be stopped by President Bush -- Daylight Saving Time will now be comprised of _nine months of the year_, March through November. Further proving they can't rub two brain cells together, Congress members offer this lame explanation of the need to waste their time crafting and voting on such legislation: >"The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use,'' said U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who co-sponsored the measure with U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.). Hello? You're adding _March_ and _November_ to Daylight Saving Time. March and November are not June and July. They both have relatively short daylight hours by comparison, and making people rise earlier means you're going to cancel out the "less artificial light used at night" reasoning with its friends "more artificial light used in the morning" and "more HVAC used in the morning." When you're making people get up earlier in darker, colder months, they're going to (a) turn on lights and (b) turn on the heat so they can be comfortable. Honestly, if you're going to make DST last 75% of the year, just get rid of it altogether and call it done. To sound like a true American politician though, let me say: **Think of the children!** Under current law, DST ends the last Sunday of October. Halloween generally falls after that date, allowing the children to enjoy their trick-or-treating in the spooky darkness. If we take away that privilege and make all the ghosts and goblins and Power Rangers go begging for candy during daylight hours, _the Daylight Saving terrorists have already won_. Moreover, I haven't been able to find the section of the (ungodly huge) energy bill where DST is discussed to see if they've tried anything sleazy like foisting it upon the entire nation. Right now states can exempt themselves from DST so long as the entire state is exempt. There will be a lot of pissed off Arizonans if the House, Senate, and President suddenly expect them (and Hawaii, for that matter) to put up with such an idiotic method of keeping time. Regardless of that, this will be a technological disaster as nearly every consumer electronics device, smart clock, and computer is rendered immediately useless when its clock-adjusting algorithms is made outmoded by the changes. [1]:http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-daylight20.html
Posted by Colin at 4:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 18, 2005

Welcome to hell. Escape routes enclosed!

It's that time of year again: the time sidewalks buckle, eggs fry on the sidewalk, and the fires of hell belch up from every crevice they can find in the earth's crust. The time hotter water comes out the cold side of the tap. It's summer in Arizona. Despite the record-breaking heat, some people are doing very odd things. Take, for instance, the City of Chandler, who decided it's a lovely time to repave various neighborhoods in the area. The end result is that my own street is missing chunks of freshly-laid asphalt and there are tire tracks everywhere. Huzzah, my tax money at work. Whereas the fine folks at APC got a letter of appreciation, the city will be receiving a stern talking-to about the quality of their contractor's work. Poorly-planned paving aside, it's a wonderful time to escape on weekends and afternoons to other portions of the state. Y'know, the parts of the state that have actual honest to goodness *seasons*. A few suggestions: * [Woods Canyon][1]: A nice lake, and lovely places to camp. If you're not the camping type, there are also all sorts of little (and big) hotels around. Oddly enough, there are woods to go wandering around. * Sedona: If you can avoid the crystal/vortex/alien spacecraft maniacs and the gouge-o-licious "Red Rocks Pass," it's nice country. [Slide Rock][3] should be open, barring any _e. coli_ disasters. Even if you can't get in the water, the scenery's nice. Don't think they're selling cider this time of year though. * [Christopher Creek][2]: A day trip favorite of mine. It's more difficult to get there with the way the highways have been redesigned (blink and you'll miss the turnoff), but it's got nice weather and lots of places to kick back and enjoy nature. The Creekside Restaurant serves up food with a view. As far as I know, the Tonto Fish Hatchery is still open as well. Fishing opportunities abound in the creek and nearby lakes. * [Phoenix Rock Gym][4]: Want to go rock climbing without the heat? Head to the swell, air-conditioned home of the Phoenix Rock Gym. Many walls. Many paths. Fun for everyone, from beginners to the more advanced. Take a friend or several (or make new friends at the gym, if you're feeling lucky). * Grand Canyon: It's nice above the canyon. Lovely weather. Just don't go into the canyon unless you want to die. * A walk-in freezer: Mmm, chilly. If you can't make it out of the Valley, find someplace refrigerated. And a few places I can say from experience you absolutely positively do not want to go: * Wupatki National Monument: They're fascinating ruins. It's a great trip. But it's very hot this time of year, in spite of their "Flagstaff" location. Save the exploration for fall. Or winter. Or perhaps even spring. Temps are nearly as bad as Phoenix this time of year. * Tucson: Like I even need to say it. You could do worse, of course (Blythe comes to mind), but the drive down's a hot one and Tucson's not particularly cooler than Phoenix. You could tool on through to Summerhaven, but I'm not sure how much of it is rebuilt. If the Mt. Lemmon Café is open, though (and it appears to be from a couple sources), then by all means go! Great food there, and well worth the trip. [1]:http://www.woodscanyon.com/ [2]:http://www.christophercreekarizona.com/ [3]:http://www.pr.state.az.us/Parks/parkhtml/sliderock.html [4]:http://www.phoenixrockgym.com/
Posted by Colin at 7:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Year of DreamHost for $10!

Dreamhost is running a sweet deal to celebrate their 7-year anniversary: prepay for a year of their Crazy Domain Insane plan, pop "777" in as your coupon code, and have the charges discounted to $9.99 for the entire year!


I've been working on a project and had been putting it off until I could fund a year's worth of hosting, but it's taken care of now.

Posted by Colin at 3:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 14, 2005

AirPort 4.2 / Base Station 6.2

Apple today released AirPort 4.2 for Mac OS X [Panther][1], [Tiger][2], and [Windows][3], which includes version 6.2 of the AirPort Base Station software. Added in this release of the base station firmware are two fairly big features: WPA2 support and improved NAT configuration options. Unfortunately the complexity of WPA2 does require that you're using an AirPort Extreme card in your Mac. If you're using an older Mac with a "classic" AirPort card, make sure to configure your base station for "WPA2 and WPA" mode to allow connections from any WiFi-equipped computer capable of WPA. WPA2 has considerable security increases over WPA, so if you can convert your whole network it can't hurt to be proactive. [1]:http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/apple/airport42formacosx1033.html [2]:http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/apple/airport42formacosx1042.html [3]:http://www.apple.com/support/downloads/airport42forwindows.html
Posted by Colin at 8:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pure Beech Sheets, Revisited

Oliveyes writes: > Hi, I don't know if you're still doing this blog -- but it popped up when I did a search for Pure Beech sheets from Bed Bath & Beyond. This is purely out of curiousity -- do you still love your sheets all these months later? Did they survive washing and drying or did they get little annoying pills on them? Are they as soft as you imagined them to be? I'm happy to say I'm still quite satisfied with my Pure Beech jersey bed sheets from Bed Bath & Beyond. They've survived use, washing, and drying quite admirably in the time I've owned them, which is rather miraculous given my sleeping habits. I tend to toss and turn quite a bit, particularly during the summer, and it's not unusual to wake up with my sheets wrapped around me. Despite this, they haven't stretched out unevenly or deformed into weird monstrous shapes. :) As for pilling, there's some, but no amount really worth speaking of. The top sheet is without pilling. The fitted sheet is only slightly pilled at the immediate foot of my bed, but I'm also an extra-long freak and my feet hang off the edge of the bed. A more normally-sized person, who doesn't rub the sheet against the edges of the mattress all night, might not see that pilling. They've seemingly grown less soft with time, but they're still far more comfortable than any set of cotton sheets I've owned. I also had major pilling problems with several sets of cotton sheets over the years. [Bed Bath & Beyond][1] just sent me this month's circular, and it looks like they're offering the sheets in more colors than years past, as well. Including an insanely bright orange, if you enjoy the "burn your retinas out" school of interior decoration. ;) **Updated Information** Want to know how they held up after being used daily for two years? Check it out in [Pure Beech Sheets, Revisited Again][2] [1]:http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com [2]:http://blog.tigre-tech.net/archives/000589.html
Posted by Colin at 5:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Junk Filtering coming to MT 3.2

I'm glad to hear smarter junk filtering for both comments and TrackBacks is coming to Movable Type 3.2. I've pretty much given up on responding to comments or TrackBacks anymore... I get a deluge of junk notifications every day, and it's really hard to pick out the relevant stuff from the rape, incest, conflict diamonds, and online gambling. Requiring TypeKey has seriously decreased the number of junk comments, but at the same time it's decreased the number of overall comments as well. Kind of sucks the fun out having a weblog to (a) no longer have anyone commenting or starting a discussion and (b) having to spend every waking hour dealing with spam or just letting it grow.
Posted by Colin at 3:48 PM

Excellent TiVo Deal!

Here's a TiVo deal that's too good to pass up if you've been putting off a TiVo DVR purchase:

Buy 12 months of service, get a free refurb 40-hour TiVo. If you've been following TiVo for a while, you'll note that a 40-hour unit normally goes for $150 new, and a 12-month gift subscription is $155. Refurbs are indistinguishable from new and carry the full standard warranty.

Shipping's even included in the price, so you can look at this two ways when compared to retail:
1. Buy a year of service to get a free TiVo.
2. Buy a TiVo and get a year of service free.

Go, purchase, and rejoice! This deal may finally get my parents to jump on the TiVolution.

Posted by Colin at 3:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 13, 2005

Foodie: Virgil's Sodas

While I'm on a foodie bent, Virgil's Cream Soda and Virgil's Root Beer are worth a mention.

They're microbrewed sodas, and quite good. The cream soda tastes creamy, which is rare among the mass-produced stuff. On the other hand, it's $8 for a 4-pack so it definitely falls within the realm of splurge. It's the Breyer's Ice Cream approach to soda: natural ingredients that you can pronounce, brought together to make a quality product with a good taste. They succeed, but the way I go through root beer and cream soda, sucking down $2 at a time is painful. (Yet I don't cringe at paying a vending machine a buck fifty for two cookies. Go figure.)

Speaking of things that come in bottles, Jack Daniel's has these country cocktail things out now. I couldn't immediately taste the alcohol in the Hurricane Punch flavor, whereas Mike's Hard Lemonade has a definite alcohol taste. Watch yourself with the Jack, kids, you'll forget you're drinking booze. ;)

Posted by Colin at 5:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Do the Salsa

Since I just got done making a quesadilla, a few thoughts on salsas:

Goldwater's Salsas (yes, as in Barry Goldwater) are some of the best stuff on earth. Well worth the price.

Pace is still decent, though a good fresh salsa will kick its ass any day.

One thing about Pace is terminally annoying: that damn bottle! You don't have a lot of control over the flow if you try to pour it, but you can't fit anything but an iced tea spoon into the bottle. Even iced tea spoons end up with the handle inside the bottle, plus the spoon surface is so puny you can't get much salsa at once.

What they need is some sort of... salsa keg. With a tap big enough for the chunks of vegetable to flow out of unimpeded, but still offering control over the amount of product you're drenching your food in.

Posted by Colin at 5:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 7, 2005

You want how much space?!

Now that Solaris 10 is free and all, I thought I'd download it from Sun, toss it on a spare hard drive, and give it a shot. After all, it's got a lot of neat features. I also thought it would serve as a nice introduction to Solaris now that I've considered getting involved with the OpenSolaris project.

Erm, no.

The spare drive I had around is a measly little 5 gig model from before the dawn of time. Inexplicably, you need a whole load of desktop applications to install server programs. The default Solaris x86 installation is larger than my drive's usable space.

No probem, I figured, I'll just pare down all the crap I don't want, like Gnome.

Erm, no.

The list of packages is in a mile long, isn't sorted beyond alphabetically (so *everything* is in the same list, be it questionably vital or just a load of crap), and harasses you about dependencies you've broken every time you choose not to install something.

Fine, I thought, I'll go back, choose the minimum install, and build up from there.

Erm, no.

While the installer's smart enough to know about dependencies, it can't fulfill them for you. So when you decide you want, say, Java, it then blathers on about how you need to add packages X, Y, and Z.

I'm sure it would have been a pleasant experience were I installing on a reasonably large drive, but I'm a bit perplexed by the lack of a "headless server" install option. I never install a GUI on systems that are going to be servers. Yet the grandaddy of UNIXy operating systems forces you to unless you want to play click-a-million-checkboxes.

Posted by Colin at 7:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 1, 2005

Um, crap.

So, Sandra Day O'Connor has resigned from her Supreme Court position.

I, for one, don't welcome our new socially-backwards Supreme Court overlord, whoever it may be.

Posted by Colin at 11:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack