Everyday Thaumaturgy
(It's a Miracle If I Get Anything Done Around Here)
a blog by William S. Statler

Musings on Death and Life

Wed, 20 Jul 2011 12:30:00 PDT

Well, how do I start this? EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Death sucks. That pretty much covers it.


Relocation after retirement, Part 1: How to decide?

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 19:00:00 PDT

My wife will retire from her chemical engineering job some time in the near future, perhaps as soon as two years from now, and we're thinking about whether we want to stay here or move. ("Here" is 5 acres of barren hillside west of Richland, Washington. That's in the very very dry corner of the state, for those of you who think Washington is entirely green and drizzly. Annual rainfall about 7 inches, all brown grass and sagebrush and tumbleweeds.)

"Here" is really a pretty satisfactory place to live, in a lot of ways. The Tri-Cities area (Richland, Kennewick, Pasco) has most of the desirable city amenities (medical care, shopping, employment, and so on) with few of the typical big-city problems (violent crime, overcrowded roads, etc.). And our homesite is pleasantly rural but only 500 feet from a paved county road. Still, there are a few things that are getting on our nerves.


PingRing: simple alarm to tell you when your net connection comes back up

Wed, 27 May 2009 16:00:00 PDT

We live in a semi-rural location, and our broadband connection is a rather slow fixed-wireless system provided by our local electric co-op. I have to give these guys credit for working very hard to keep the system running, but unfortunately it breaks down rather often, sometimes for a minute, sometimes an hour, sometimes a day. It's been down for a few hours now as I type this.

So I got tired of checking and checking to see if I had a connection, and wrote this very simple Linux script to do it for me:


Obscure problem using DHCP from a dual-boot (Linux/Windows) computer

Fri, 27 Mar 2009 13:00:00 PDT

I added a second Ethernet card to my wife's Ubuntu 8.04 desktop system, and (using Firestarter) set it up to be the router and DHCP server for our two-computer home network. This worked great when I connected my laptop computer and booted up Ubuntu Linux. It continued to work when I rebooted the laptop with Windows XP. But then when I booted Ubuntu again, BLAARP! no network connection.

Duh? How did running Windows manage to break the network for a subsequent restart with Linux?

This turned out to be a rather obscure feature (or bug) of DHCP, and most people will never run into this problem. But since I found it rather hard to track down, I'll document it here, to the extent I understand it.


Laptop computer renovation, Part 5

Fri, 20 Feb 2009 21:00:00 PST

In Part 4 of this series, I installed Ubuntu Linux with a couple of encrypted partitions (one for /home, another for the swap area). My goal was to have the encrypted /home partition show up as encrypted Drive E: when I booted Windows XP.

This was pretty easy to set up. And it would have worked on the first try — except for the extremely annoying and poorly publicized change in version 8.10 of Ubuntu that broke everything. But I fixed it, and I even persuaded Windows to prompt for the passphrase before user login. Hee hee hee! I am a happy mad scientist!

Um. Well, anyway...


Laptop computer renovation, Part 4

Wed, 11 Feb 2009 20:00:00 PST

At the end of Part 3 of this series, I had a laptop with a working Windows XP installation on the first partition, and three empty partitions waiting for my Ubuntu Linux 8.10 installation. Ubuntu is pretty easy to install — the real challenge here was to make a single encrypted partition for my personal files that would be usable in both Linux and Windows.

I researched this issue in advance, but still ended up having to reformat a partition to fix a problem. In brief: there's an excellent freeware Windows driver that allows reading/writing of Linux ext2 and ext3 formatted disks. But a brand-new change in version 8.10 of Ubuntu makes the installer use an ext2/ext3 format which is unreadable by this driver. The workaround is to format manually, not using the Ubuntu installer's default settings.

Anyway, on to the extremely gory details...


Laptop computer renovation, Part 3

Sat, 31 Jan 2009 19:00:00 PST

Today's project: partitioning the new hard drive and installing Windows XP. Partitioning also gave me a chance to play around with Ubuntu in the "live" mode (running from its intallation DVD and a RAM-disk).


Laptop computer renovation, Part 2

Mon, 26 Jan 2009 20:00:00 PST

Hooray, I finally got started on the project! Today's excitement: updating the BIOS and installing the new memory and hard drive.


Laptop computer renovation, Part 1

Wed, 21 Jan 2009 20:00:00 PST

We bought a laptop computer (Toshiba Satellite P25-S477) way back in September of 2003. Nice little machine with a wide screen and an adequately-powerful 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 processor, and Windows XP Professional.

We're not using it much these days, because I assembled "shoebox" desktop computers running Ubuntu Linux for my wife and myself. But I still need one Windows system for running a few programs. Unfortunately, as seems to be common for aging Windows systems, this one has accumulated so many little software problems that it's hard to run it for more than an hour without rebooting.

So this was an ideal excuse to buy it a brand-new (and much larger) hard drive, and a lot more memory, and just re-install Windows XP from scratch. And while I'm at it, make it a dual-boot system and install Ubuntu too.


How to send a comment

Tue, 20 Jan 2009 15:00:00 PST

My homebrew blog doesn't support the direct posting of readers' comments, and this is probably just as well. I don't want to spend the effort needed to moderate a public forum. But you can still contact me the old-fashioned way, via e-mail, and I will (periodically and at my discretion) post your comments and my replies.


About this blog

Tue, 20 Jan 2009 13:00:00 PST

I never get anything done.

I mean, I'm practically obsessive-compulsive about it. Like today, for example. I'd planned to get some laundry and dishes running, and then sit down with the old laptop computer and get to work on upgrading its hard drive and memory and reinstalling Windows XP.

Instead I poked around with ping and nmap to try to figure out why our broadband connection is down. I ate two lemon poppyseed muffins. And I worked on this blog.

I started working on this blog 14 months ago. See what I mean?


Copyright © 2009-2011 William S. Statler (except for quotes and
contributions from other authors). This work is licensed under a
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