Older blog entries for steve (starting at number 19)

It's well past time that I get something new posted here! When I left off last I was explaining my list of possible new car choices and describing the test drives. I did finally get the new car and it did turn out to be the Acura RSX Type-S. I expect to get some photos of it up shortly. Actually, not just photos of my new car but my old ones as well.

When I was a youngster in high school and just begining to drive, an older friend of mine used to talk about the strong emotional ties one can develop with a car. He said what he'd really like would be to keep all the cars he ever owned and just park them in a garage somewhere so he could look at them. Not having owned even one car at the time, this didn't mean much to me. Now I understand his feelings a bit better and, while it's still not practical to keep every car, it's certainly possible to take some photos and build a web page. I'm trying scrounge up photos right now and will be sure to post a warning when my web shrine to great autos of the past goes online.

What else have I been up to you may ask? Well, I continue to make incremental progress in developing the robots.net site. It's accumulated over 600 users in a very short time and continues to grow by 5 or 6 new users per day. On a related subject, Jim Brown and I have embarked on a crazy new robot project of our own. Jim's daughter suffers from Cystic Fibrosis and each year Jim participates in Great Strides, the CFF 10k walk to help raise money for CF research. Our plan is to enter not Jim but a biped robot, named CF Walker, in the next walk which occurs in May of 2002. We hope to get companies and indivduals to sponser the robot and raise a nice pile of money for the CF Foundation. We are also happy to accept donations of hardware for the construction of the robot itself (hint, hint). We've already received some experimental solar panels developed by TI. Can we really build a large, biped robot in less than one year? Will it be able to walk 10km? Are we insane? Stay tuned...

I've fallen a bit behind on my news lately. Most of July went by in a flash. We were very busy at NCC. I've gotten email from a couple of loyal readers asking what's new, so I better try catch up on news for July.

One of our projects at NCC during July was building a new web site for Frames Per Second, a local video post facility. The web site update was planned to coincide with an open house event they were having. Susan and I attended and got to see quite few friends and acquaintances from the video world that we hadn't seen since Susan got out of the business. After the open house we went with some friends to hear a Celtic band at The Tipperary Inn.

We also saw a couple of movies during July including AI, which was an unfortunate combination of the worst aspects of Spielberg and Kubrick with none of the good. After AI we saw Atlantis, an animated Disney film copied (surely not plagiarized?) from a 1990 anime series called Nadia: Secret of Blue Water. It was an okay film and much more anime-like than most Disney stuff. It also fullfilled the important role of making us forget about AI.

You may recall that I've been planning on getting a new car and to that end have been doing test drives of cars that made my short list based on acceptable mileage (they had to get at least 30mpg), good looks (obviously a subjective measurement), and reliability. I already posted my feelings on the test drive of the Honda Insight back in January (basically it's really cool but I don't want to buy one until the second generation comes out - maybe this will be Susan's next car). During June and July, I test drove the remaining cars on my list, including the Mitsubishi Eclipse, Volkswagon Jetta, and the new Acura RSX. So anyway, here are the reviews:

The newest Mitsubishi Eclipse is a big improvement over prior versions but still not good enough for serious consideration. Like previous versions of the Eclipse, it's a bit cramped inside. The radio had an overly complex system of soft-keys and up/down buttons rather than straighforward knobs, making it much too time consuming to use. It does look nice but doesn't seem to rate as well for reliability as the other cars on my list. So, while possibly a fun car to drive, it's off the list.

The Volkswagon Jetta was next. (I almost bought a Volkswagon GTI back in the early 1980's but opted for a Honda CRX instead. I've never regretted that choice and that first CRX was my favorite of all the cars I've owned.) The new Jetta was one of the few cars that meets my gas mileage requirements but only in the 4 cylinder model. After a test drive, it became clear that the 4 cyclinder Jetta was too underpowered. I did a second test drive in the 6 cylinder Jetta and it, on the other hand, had plenty of power but got crummy gas mileage. The power/mileage dilemma was really my only serious complaint with the Jetta but was important enough that I couldn't make this my first choice. I decided the V6 Jetta would be the runner-up if I couldn't find anything better.

The 2002 Acura RSX was the last car to test drive. Like the Jetta this was really two test drives - one for the RSX and one for the RSX Type-S. The RSX Type-S was first and it was immediately apparent that this was likely to be the number one choice. The 4 cylinder engine got just over 30 mpg while still putting out 200hp, it looked good, had all the latest safety features like side airbags, and was definitely fun to drive. The regular RSX was almost as nice and got a few more miles per gallon at the cost of a few hp but had one serious flaw. The regular RSX doesn't handle as well as the Type-S; particularly on curves at higher speeds.

So in the end I decided on the RSX. Problem is, it may be hard to get one. The RSX is both very new and highly anticipated so there's a waiting list.

It's late and raining like mad outside. The windows in my office are leaking again but assorted plastic cups sit on the sills to contain the deluge. The sounds of drips and splashes are fighting with the sound of Blitzkrieg Bop. For the moment the Ramones are winning out.

The Henry Moore exhibit has been at the Dallas Museum of Art for a while. Saturday Susan and I finally had time to check it out. I was quite impressed. I can't really say I was a fan of Moore prior to the exhibit (it took a bit of urging from Susan to get me to go in fact) but I found it very fascinating. The range of materials he used was in itself pretty amazing. One sculpture was made from a huge stalactite. The exhibit included more than 100 works ranging from tiny maquettes to several of his trademark huge works.

Afterwards we went to yet another local arts festival. This time it was the Dallas ARTFEST at Fair Park in Dallas. While not particularly interesting this year, it was too nice just having a day or two off to complain...

Friday, Susan and I spent the evening at the Wildflower Arts & Music Festival. It was mostly music. And the music was mostly 80's bands like the Go-Gos, Flock of Seagulls, The Romantics, and a bunch of others. Overall, it wasn't a bad deal for 10 bucks. The Go-Go's did a nice cover of I wanna be sedated "for Joey!".

Saturday, I was on-site all day with one of our clients who was migrating their internal DNS to a new server.

Tonight, I'll be watching the season finale of X-Files...

It's always depressing to wake up to bad news. Douglas Adams died this morning of a heart attack. He was only 49. By now, I'm sure everyone knows. It's been covered by the BBC, AP, and the NY Times (as well as a lot of others I won't bother to list...)

Nothing is up yet on his official site but I'm sure they'll put some more information up soon.

We've read his books, have the tapes of the original BBC HHGG broadcasts, the old Infocom text game, and even a few servers named after characters from his books. From the look of Slashdot, I'm not the only one who'll miss him. It's hard not to imagine him in Milliway's right now, shouting 'Hi, guys! How'd you do?'.

Time for another Mozilla upgrade - I'm posting this from Mozilla 0.9 and so far it seems to show the usual incremental improvement. There have been major performance improvements but there still need to be a few more before it's ready for prime-time. The bookmark manager is still a bit slow and the initial start up is still slower than Netscape but there have been lots of bug fixes and the general responsiveness while browsing is greatly improved over 0.8.1.

I also upgraded GNOME on one of my boxes to Ximian GNOME v1.4. Mostly good with the exception of Nautilus which appears to be a complete waste. Nautilus sucks up huge amounts of memory but doesn't appear to actually do anything except allow you to get a simple context menu on the desktop and a goofy folder-view of disk directories. The context menu is so slow that it's virtually unusable (you click on it and nothing happens, you fire up an xterm and do a ps to look for the process to kill and about that time you see the menu option you clicked become hilighted, another 5 seconds or so and the menu option depresses and executes - making something that slow must have taken some work!).

The folder-view thing seems equally useless - it takes up a huge amount of real-estate and the icons are about 4 times larger than they need to be (not to mention that it took around two minutes to open and render for the root directory which has maybe a dozen files and directories to display). I killed all the processes that seemed to be Nautilus-related and GNOME has seemed pretty snappy ever since. I haven't missed it and GNOME seems to run fine without it, so I guess it doesn't do anything too important. Now I need to find a way to configure GNOME not to start Nautilus so I won't have to kill it manually when I start up. Other than Nautilus, GNOME 1.4 seems to have plenty of improvements. The only other complaint I can come up with is that the panel at the top has a clock on it that isn't removable for some reason (or at least I haven't figured out how yet).

I was amused to see that Nautilus is so bad that it now has an entire mailing list devoted to flames about it.

robots.net got mentioned on a radio show called Computer Insider about a month ago. I wonder if anybody heard it? (I didn't even know the radio show existed until I ran across their web site recently!)

I finally got a definite-sounding answer in email from someone at Red Hat. It looks like Red Hat Linux for Sparc is officially dead. They said, "We are not offering a SPARC version of Red Hat Linux as there was not enough consumer demand or interest for it. To my knowledge one will not be available, period."

I'm annoyed with Red Hat. We run both Intel and Sun hardware and I like to use the same distrubtion of Linux on all of them to make things more consistant. We're running Red Hat 6.2 now. There was no Red Hat 7.0 release for Sparc, which was not that suprising as they've skipped *.0 releases before for non-Intel platforms. And they assured me at the time that there would be a Sparc release of Red Hat 7.1 but now that it's out, there isn't one. When I called today they seemed to indicate that there probably wouldn't be one (but there might). And they insisted that even if they didn't release one they would continue to support the Sparc platform (apparently "support" doesn't include actually having any software that runs on it). Oh well, looks like it's time to try out some other distributions.

Good news and bad news. The bad news is that Joey Ramone of the Ramones died Sunday of cancer. He was buried Tuesday in Woodhurst, NJ as Deborah Harry, Cris Stein, Joan Jett and assorted other musicians looked on. A boom box in his hospital room was playing the newest U2 CD (delivered personally by Bono) when he died Sunday. Lots of fellow rockers issued statments about the loss of the man behind the band that invented Punk and inspired a lot of the 80's music. But even though Joey's gone, you can still Cube numbers along with the Ramones. Hey! Ho! Let's Go!

The good news is that Cowboy Neal added a slashbox for robots.net yesterday. Thanks Cowboy!

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