The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

Happy Thanksgiving

| November 26, 2010

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving and got plenty to eat.

AB’s brined turkey recipe is quite good. The turkey was wonderfully seasoned and juicy.

His cranberry sauce, not so much. It’s okay, but the Ocean Spray canned stuff is better.

To go with it, we had stuffing doctored up with mushrooms and apples, garlic mashed potatoes, gravy, and baguettes.

This was the first major meal cooked in the new stove which, is finally in. Originally, we were supposed to get the gas lines run last Wednesday and do the hook up on Saturday (which, requires the gas company to pressure test the whole thing before they’ll unlock the tank). So, I was going to be home to take delivery of the stove, meet them for hookup, etc. I canceled gaming, and Liz went hunting. Of course, a plan is just a list of things which don’t happen, so they couldn’t do the hookup on Saturday for lack of staff. Thus, we pushed the whole affair back to the next Tuesday. I still leave gaming canceled, so Lizzy can go hunting, while wait for the stove. Once it arrives, I convert it over to LP, and the next few days we end up trying to use our other appliances to cook supper (lots of soup and things made with a contact grill).

Tuesday roll around and the gas man shows up after lunch. Of course, sales guys can never seem to fill out work orders correctly, so:

  • He doesn’t have enough gas line.
  • And, of course, what he doesn’t have enough of is too small So, very little happens while he waits for someone to come out from the home office and bring a couple of rolls of the proper line. I mean, we get the tank set up, some holes drilled, and the beginning of the line run (he had maybe 20 feet of the right size line, which got us in the house). A bit of work later (went pretty quickly with two people), and we’re in business. No leaks, gas on, stove works.

It’s pretty awesome. Two ovens, five burners, and it throws a lot more heat than the electric one did. This is the one.

In addition, we’ve gotten the house into something approaching clean, gotten our Warmachine figures varnished, and played a couple of games. I even won a game for once… and it’s only Friday. Most of the Christmas shopping is done as well. Tomorrow is “put the snowblower on the tractor” day, and we’ll likely go grocery shopping on Sunday.

Oh, and I’ve gotten an Amahi server set up and mostly configured. It’s pretty slick.

I think that’s it for now. I need to post pictures of the miniatures at some point, but I’m kozy and don’t feel like getting the camera.

Book Stack Update

| November 21, 2010

So, I haven’t made a bookstack post recently, so I have a lot saved up.

  • The Past Through Tomorrow – Robert A Heinlein – This is a collection of Heinlein’s short stories. As one would expect, some are better than others. They are also very much intertwined – stories make reference to other stories, characters pop up in others, etc. If you like Heinlein, this is definitely worth a read. If not, there are probably better introductions to his work.
  • Halting State – Charles Stross – This was the first book of Stross’s which I’ve read, and it’s a definitely solid work. In a nutshell, some folks knock over a bank in World of Warcraft (except, it’s not exactly WoW). There are Chinese hackers, international intrigue, etc. Very decent.
  • Boneshaker – Cherie Priest – I actually thought this was a bit overrated. Had I read it in isolation, I would have thought it to be solid and a good read, but given how much people hyped it, I expected a little more. The nutshell story is that this mother has to go rescue her kid who ran off into a disaster area, and it’s all steampunky with airships and such. The tech is not overstated, but it just simply didn’t grab me.
  • Foundation – Isaac Asimov – This, on the other hand, lived up to the hype. It’s a bit surprising that I hadn’t read this until now. That said, I can see why people think Asimov and Heinlein’s works are a little boring – Asimov writes like a scientist, and Heinlein writes like an engineer (funny that). As one might expect, I don’t have much of an issue with this, and rather enjoy the style. Anyway, this series was a bit of a coming home for me – I can easily see the roots of a lot of my favorite tropes carried back to this series. Traveller, 40k and Battletech all tie into this.
  • Daemon and Freedom(tm) – Daniel Suarez – This is a two-part series which takes place in the very near future. It is similar in technical grittiness to Heinlein and Asimov, though from the background of a programmer and systems engineer who handles complex networks – and realizes just how easily they can be broken. This is the type of stuff which keeps me up at night, especially the first book. The second book veers off a bit into the more fantastical, but the first is very solid, and the hacks documented therein are real. I highly recommend it if you like thrillers, and want a little window into the world of what it is like trying to secure infrastructure.
  • Ubuntu Kung Fu – Keir Thomas – This is a technical book packed with lots of easter-eggs to get the most from your Ubuntu installation. Read it with a notepad to write down those things with which you want to play. I’m actually quite happy for book like these because there are so many packages in the repositories these days that you wouldn’t have much change of finding some of these unless you were looking for them – or read a book telling you about them.
  • Healthy Soils for Sustainable Gardens – Brooklyn Botanic Garden – My mother in law actually gave me this to read and venture my opinion. While I cannot really comment on the factual nature of it as I am no authority, I think some of the hints and tips are worth knowing – if you can handle the overwhelming anti-technology crazy hippie bent. (Don’t use tillers, they’re evil and waste gas! Don’t use chemical fertilizer! Stuff like that).
  • V For Vendetta – Alan Moore, David Lloyd – This is actually the first time I’ve read this book, and I actually saw the movie first. The movie was actually a decent adaptation of the book. There’s a bit of character development interlude which breaks up the main plot which was edited out of the movie, and I’m not sure it really lost anything for it.
  • Watchmen – Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons – Okay, this one I read some years ago before the movie came out, and I agreed with the common wisdom about how groundbreaking it was. I was very happy to see it made into a movie, and thought the movie was very well done. Then, I read it again, and realized that they left that whole “genetically engineered psychic monster of DOOM” out of the movie – and I didn’t really notice. So, I think that (aside from too much big blue penis..) the movie is actually slightly better than the book… and the musical selection was awesome (and that doesn’t come with the book).

Of course, this wasn’t all the books I’ve read, but I’ll do a separate one about gaming books.

Suck it, TSA

| November 21, 2010

Ron Paul introduces bill to remove legal immunity from TSA employees.

One of the best things about his speech is the “congress should have to go through this crap too”.

Oh, and apparently the body scanners aren’t effective, but we knew that. Two words – cavity search.

And, as always Penn Jillette is awesome.

The sorry state of software

| November 17, 2010

Why is it that no one can make a music management application which can correctly sync with mass storage type players? This is not exactly rocket surgery.


  1. (And I realize that this is actually an Ubuntu bug) – I plug in my iPod3G running Rockbox via Firewire, which kicks it into disk mode and causes it to charge, and it automounts. However, the hal doesn’t see it as an audio player, so the various apps which use the hal (Rockbox, banshee, etc.) don’t see it. Of course, I can plug it in via USB and it works, but won’t charge, and I have to manually kick it into disk mode.
  2. Most of the apps allow you to drag and drop the playlists on to the player, and it will copy all the files there, but in most cases it will not do what it should and copy the playlist too. This would be ideal – drag and drop a pile of playlists, all the songs get populated and the playlists get stuck in the right spot on the device, and re-homed to work correctly with the relative pathnames of said device.
  3. Some apps (most notably banshee) actually support some semblance of sync. However, it only seems to handle syncing the whole library (which is too large) or a single playlist (which is too limited).

That said, this falls into the “put up or shut up” file, so I’ve written a perl script which takes a list of .m3u files and does the right thing. I plan to put it up on my website – however. after I wrote it, I realized I could extend it to have more functionality. Specifically:

  • sync – well, it does this already
  • rm – remove files in the playlist from the target (note, you’ll want to do an rm, then a sync to ensure that any files deleted by the rm get put back by the sync)
  • du – disk usage of each playlist and aggregate usage of all of them (with appropriate accounting for the same file in multiple playlists, of course).. Might need to extend this to also account for the ones already on disk.

Edit: Posted the initial version of this to github.

On Racial Purity

| November 13, 2010

So, today I watched Protocols of Zion. It’s generally a documentary about 9/11, how a lot of people blame the jews, anti-semitism, etc. It is likely nothing you haven’t seen before.

However, as expected, there are interviews with various types of segregationists and supremacists, who are against racial mixing, because various societies need to “keep the bloodlines pure”.

Now, I might be able to see their point, except for the fact that there are just too many hot chicks who come from mixed-race parentage. I mean, come on, Moon Bloodgood, Gina Torres and Michaela Conlin alone should serve as suitable evidence that such mixing is good.

I believe that this serves as a corollary to the Ron Jeremy approach to world relations – “embrace” hot chicks of all colors, races, and creeds. (It’s harder to have an “us” and “them” mentality if you’re shagging them).

Note that this is not really a promotion of world peace, however. There is still an argument for liberation. As an Iranian expatriate friend of mine once said “Dude, there are so many hot chicks in Iran, I think we should invade just so that they can go to clubs without getting arrested.” I think he has a point.

Car maintenance day here at the ranch…

| November 13, 2010

Liz changed her oil.

I changed my transmission fluid. This is theoretically a lifetime, sealed transmission, but “lifetime” means “slightly more than your 80k mile powertrain warranty”. Thus, it is suggested to change it every 50k – 100k miles, though not by the manufacturer. Now, generally, I’d change the fluid filter too. In the 01A transmission (the 4 speed) it’s simple – you drop the transmission pan, which exposes the filter, replace it, then put it all back together. In my 09A transmission, however, the filter is at the front, which means your choices are to either disassemble your frontend or pull the transmission out. The shop manual doesn’t even make any mention of how to change either filter, and the only instructions I can find are for the 01A. So, I changed the fluid. It seems like that’s what other folks on the VW forums are doing as well, and they’re getting 250k miles (and still going) out of it. I should probably mention that, if you don’t change it, it’s generally expected that the transmission will wear out in about 150k miles or so.

We also both changed into snow tires given that, you know, we got an inch of snow last Monday.


| November 9, 2010

So, Vibram Five Fingers are totally worth it. My back feels better, my feet hurt when I put them in normal shoes or slippers, so I just wear these most of the time.

That said, it’s not the same as going barefoot. You still lose some sensation, but you can still grip with your toes.

I went to EMS, tried on a KSO. I liked them very much, but they came in one color – hideous, and I really wanted some smartwool ones to replace my winter slippers (tile floors get cold). So, I noted my size and ordered the correct ones from EMS online.

I got them, tried them on, and immediately realized that they didn’t fit.. classics need to be bought one size larger than KSO’s. So, I gave them to Liz, whom they fit perfectly. I then ordered a second set one size larger.

Liz loved hers, and pretty much hasn’t taken them off since. My wearing them for a couple of hours stretched them just enough to fit perfectly, and they didn’t even tear up her Achilles tendon, like ever other pair of shoes she’s ever bought.

Of course, my new ones did just that for me – which never happens. New shoes just work for me.

So, I took a page from this fellow, cut off the elastic, carved off the rubber bit at the back, and all of sudden, they’re quite perfect.

Come spring, I’ll likely be grabbing some KSO treks for daily wear (possibly sooner, as replacement for my office loafers) and further likely a KSO flow for mucking about in the stream. I like the look and idea of the moc, but can’t really come up with a reason, so likely won’t get a pair.

Moral of the story: Make sure to read the sizing instructions correctly, else your wife gets a free pair of VFFs.

Side note: As an unexpected corollary to this, I’m finding that I have a lot more stability. See, I have somewhat smallish feet for a man, and I inherited my mother’s weak ankles. Step wrong, and you’ve got a sprain. So, I tend to wear stout boots with lots of ankle support, especially in the winter time. When walking barefoot, I don’t have the issue. I can usually recover, my ankle doesn’t buckle, I remain upright. In loafers or sneakers, I go right over. Somewhat surprisingly, with the VFFs, I had a misstep on the stairs. However, my toes gripped, my ankle did not collapse, I did not fall, and all I did was spill a few drops of coffee. I am further hoping that, as I wear them more, my ankle muscles won’t atrophy over winter, as is typically the case.


| November 8, 2010

Been busy. Got about 30lbs of potatoes this year, made a couple quarts of hot sauce, made lots of beer, visited my folks, hit my buddy Mike’s halloween party, stuff like that.

We bought a stove. Gas. Current stove is electric. Now I need to run/arrange to have run LP gas lines, get a tank, git it filled, etc.

Need to change my transmission fluid too, and put on snow tires. We had our first snow today.

I suppose that means I should bring in firewood and change over to snow tires as well.

I’ve also been working on Warmachine minis in little bits of spare time I’ve been able to grab. Will post pics when they’re done. Almost ready for inking and then varnish. Then I get to work on the bases. I just ordered a Master Basing kit. Heh.

I’ve also been hacking about on my Pandigital Novel. In addition to the company released open platform firmware (basically stock Android, slightly modified for the device), there’s also a pile of community firmware.

I think that’s it for now…