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senatorhung's pad
ramblings of an information troubleshooter

xmas supper delights

permalink Sunday, 25DEC2005:

marjorey hosted a christmas supper for charlene, joe, mildred and i. again, the food was fabulous, with tender turkey, broccoli salad, sweet potato casserole, mushroom gravy and mini baked alaskas for dessert. so stuffed we were that we sat around for a good hour before finding the gumption to start the evening's games. since no one brought the traditional 'sequence' board, i hauled out the poker chip case and we played hands of texas hold'em for the various prizes.

continuing my abysmal streak, i was the first to lose all my chips, with mildred going out second and charlene hanging on for third. marjorey and joe played heads up for a little bit longer, but joe played the bully well and swept up all the chips in the end, along with most of the prizes along the way. after that we played a few rounds of '31' before calling it an evening.

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we are experiencing technical difficulties ... please stand b---

permalink Monday, 26DEC2005:

went over to stephen's house where odile was housesitting to go over some of the technical stuff for the 'shape of a girl' production slated for the middle of january. while waiting for bella, i was introduced to grise grise, a very friendly cat who was willing to lick anyone passing by. however, you did have to watch for the occasional bite ;) when bella arrived, we dug into some of odile's homemade soup before reviewing the lighting and sound cues that would be required. we finished up just as some freshly baked bread came out of the oven, so i was warmly satiated for the walk home. i promptly went back for a nap until 7 in the evening.

getting up, i finally got started on preparing for my windows xp reinstall after procrastinating since june of 2004 ! the good thing is that i had read enough cautionary material that i managed to avoid the worst disasters that lay in wait.

i first spent a couple of hours trying to figure out how to get the system to boot off of the IDE drive, rather than the SATA drive. after switching around the connections, the SATA drive no longer showed up, so i just unhooked it and went ahead and did the windows xp reinstall to the IDE drive. even this took a couple of tries as i attempted to partition the drive to include a small DOS partition and a couple of linux partitions, but kept incorrectly formatting the DOS partition as NTFS instead of FAT. once i finally got it correct, i began the windows installation proper onto my newly created non-C: drive partition (take that, you evil script kiddies !).

again, this took a couple of tries, but learning from the mistakes made the first time thru made the 2d successful attempt relatively painless. i fiddled around with setting up multiple users and passwords which i had never bothered to do on the previous OEM installation. once i was happy with that, i installed partition magic for the first time and set out dividing up my hard drive in an efficient manner. the program was very easy to work with. then i installed norton ghost, but couldn't get it to work as it gave me an error message 'no primary partition left on boot drive'. shrugging at 3 in the morning, i moved on.

next up, i copied most of my user data from my external hard drive which had been backed up very recently. i installed zonealarm and musicmatch and adobe and my matrix screensaver and pcpine and winzip etc. once i felt like i had accomplished something, i decided to start in on the boring task of installing system drivers. egadz, on the first cd i try, i find the drivers for the RAID controller so that the system will recognize the SATA drive.

excitedly, i restart partition magic and start slicing up that drive, not taking into account the fact that i still had a good 2 days worth of changes (including blog postings) that hadn't been backed up to the external hard drive. alas, they are gone forever, and i had to recreate them from memory (not an easy task at all !). recalling something that i had read once about a drive having 3 primary partitions and then an extended partition, i realized that i had designated both the linux and linux swap partitions as primary, which made a total of 3 with the C: drive. since i didn't plan on installing linux right away, i decided to delete the linux swap and try to re-run ghost. SUCCESS ! so i created my first ghost image and saved it on the newly created GHOST partition on the SATA drive. anyway, by this time it was close to 7 in the morning and my 12-hour marathon had finally got the best of me. the rest would have to wait for another day.

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the ordeal continues ...

permalink Tuesday, 27DEC2005:

after my 12-hour installation marathon, i had a nice 12-hour nap and got back up around 7 p.m. continuing my winxp saga, i confirmed the integrity of the last ghost image that i had made before going to sleep and then belatedly started installing the rest of my device drivers (vidcard, wireless keyboard / mouse, scanner, UPS, inkjet printer, soundcard). after that, it was time for some real software and i installed WinDVD, MS Office 97, SmartDraw and Regcleaner. i cleared out programs from the startup folders so that they wouldn't start every time the pc booted up, then changed the programs associated with bitmaps, mpegs, rtf and wav files to my preferred choices. after that, i did another defrag of the WinXP drive, re-booted and then changed my display settings to my usual midnight colouring.

next, i created my final preWWW ghost and confirmed that it was ok. once that was done, i was finally ready to brave the internet with my now near-virginal setup. after a bit of trouble getting the network connection set up (stupid windows wizards), i was finally able to connect after entering nuluaq's DNS addresses and specifying that IP addresses were to be retrieved automatically from their server. i checked to make sure pine, netscape, telnet and ftp were all ok and whitelisted with zonealarm. then, it was on to a brave new world. first up was a firefox download and then a hunt for updated drivers for my system devices, as well as tweakui, divx and xvid.

after installing tweakui, i removed the annoying 'shortcut to' prefix for shortcuts, enabled 'classic' search in explorer and disabled the autoplay for cd / dvd / external drives (take that $ony bastiges !). next, i installed firefox, which swiftly replaced the netscape 4.08 browser as my default. i had reluctantly given IE rein to run in order to access the Windows Update page, but while keeping open that page of over 30 'critical' updates, i used firefox to catch up on all my internet reading that i had missed over the last couple of days.

once sated, i let billy boy's minions paw all over my pc with their beastly updates. after suffering for over half an hour, i gave the pc a pause before checking to see that those barbarians hadn't molested the machine beyond hope of recovery. happily, everything checked out ok, so i installed the rest of the driver updates followed by divx and xvid and celebrated by watching a divx-encoded movie that someone had given me. also, i realized that with the ghost, i now can change my region settings in windvd as much as i want to and just restore whenever i reach my 'limit'. another marathon done, i went to bed at 10 a.m., with only a few items left on my pc 'to-do' list. the end is in sight !

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giving up the ghost

permalink Wednesday, 28DEC2005:

getting up after 6 p.m., i had to hustle to make it up to yet another seasonal party. again, a table full of treats awaited me, but i was able to drag myself away when marjorey offered to give me a lift back down the hill.

only a few more items were left to be done on the winxp reinstall, so i got down to it. after downloading the firefox extensions 'noscript', 'adblock', 'flashblock', 'pdf-dload' and 'sage', i re-shuffled the start menu by shuffling applications and menus into my desired categories (must be that library training !). after that, i installed my DLink router, downloaded RealPlayer 10 (hurray, it doesn't hijack the system anymore !) and made sure that my printer worked properly. after that it was a final round of ghosting, once to the hard drive and then another to the cd burner which spanned the image over 3 cd's. after the integrity checks returned thumbs up, i created system floppy disks using Partition Magic and 2 system boot disks using windows. i copied the windows activation files to my external hard drive for future use and gave myself a pat on the back for a 2.5 day job well-done.

the first thing i did with my 'new' pc ? installed a client for an online poker site and spent a good 4 hours dribbling out 'play' money. of course, i had just finished reading Poker by Frank R. Wallace, so i had some misgivings. In Part 7, he answers the question, "Why Does the Author Reveal the Advanced Concepts of Poker ?":
2. After writing the Manual and 
identifying the nature of winning 
poker as a highly profitable but 
time-consuming, nonproductive 
activity that requires bringing out 
the worst in opponents, the author 
stopped playing poker.

Poker can work against the good 
player's self-esteem and happiness 
no matter how much money he wins 
since the source of self-esteem and 
happiness lies in being productive,
and poker is a nonproductive activity. 
Also, in the long run, a person will 
almost always earn more money by 
pursuing productive routes rather than 
nonproductive or destructive routes.

Furthermore, in poker, the good player 
must strive to surround himself with 
losers--with people who are constantly 
defaulting on the use of their minds
--the opposite kind of people whom the 
good player could respect and enjoy. 
That poker is not a very satisfying or 
rewarding way for him to consume large, 
irreplaceable portions of his life.... 
The good player, therefore, may be the 
biggest loser in the game.
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favicon, rss feed validation and nerd t.v.

permalink Friday, 30DEC2005:

of course, i'm still on the 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. schedule that was my favourite shift while working on the boats in the gulf of mexico. a few hours of poker, hosing some more of my play money stash down the drain and i was ready to sag. however, i decided to give my sage feedreader extension on firefox a try before shutting out the looming blizzard outside with some shuteye. errgh. hours later, i had tweaked the RSS reader and my firefox browser relentlessly to give me a very quick way to check on all of the blogs and news services that i usually check out every single day. sage actually goes out and checks if there are any updates so i don't have to - genius!

after that, i had enough energy to wrap up my spreadsheet tracking all of the winxp installation steps that i had made over the last couple days (you didn't think i was going to let all that hardship just disappear down a memory bunghole, did you ?) and started up a new tab designed to keep track of all future changes. called my broker to transfer some funds from my chequing account so that i could consider them 'expensed' in the current budget year, then gave nunavut power a call to voice concerns about the apparent mis-calculations in my latest power bill. thus, it was almost noon by the time i finally put head to pillow.

getting up in the evening around 8:30, i continued feeding my new obsession with RSS feeds, checking out how to set up my own. first i read this intro to RSS feeds, followed by a 2003 article from searchengine watch about making an RSS feed from scratch. from a fellow canuck's blog, i figured out how to include an image in my RSS feed. (as an aside, i was reviewing the bookmarks that i had imported from netscape and found out that i had previously examined stephen's writings on logical fallacies - i keep running across references on some blogs to other items that i've already read so either i'm a good judge of significant information or this blogosphere is really still a small community and all the early adopters are just becoming known as experts in their respective niches.) i subsequently followed that up with a tutorial page on how to create and associate a shortcut icon to my site so that bookmarks and address bars can be subjected to my reality. i first tried using smartdraw to draw up a devious face from engineering days, but each attempt failed to register after re-sizing down to 16x16 pixels. finally, i decided to paste one of the horrible tiny results into paint and used its big eraser to just start from scratch in that program. saved the resulting file as favicon.ico and PRESTO!

so, my feed was updloaded to my site and i used sage's discover feature to try to add it to my feed list. no cigar. going back to google, i found feed validator (duh, what else would you call something this useful) and determined that my prediliction for capitalizing tags to set them off from lower-case content was not kosher for xml. changing all those globally, i was also warned that pubDate needed to be in RFC-822 format, which i was familiar with from editing the headers in my pine email files (no, i *wasn't* covering anything up ! it's despicable that outlook strips the original headers when forwarding an email) changes made, the feed passed muster and i've now joined the 2004 bandwagon just in time for 2006 !

to celebrate, i downloaded and watched the latest episode of cringely's nerd t.v. featuring doug engelbart, the visionary researcher who pioneered graphical user interfaces and computer networking. i was interrupted partway thru by a building fire alarm when someone pulled it in a fit of pique at their partner. the last time this happened, the first responders had a devil of a time deciphering the worn out scrawls on the alarm locator box, so this time, i helpfully offered a marker to refresh the notations. after resetting the system, the firewoman barked at me that i shouldn't be worried about the box, that i should just make sure that i'm out of the building. well duh, i was the first one downstairs (seeing as i was still awake at 5 a.m. did help a bit). i had no smart retort at the time, but on reflection, i guess my interest was that i didn't want my stuff to go up in smoke while some dreary-eyed fire official tried to figure out which part of the building was going up in smoke. i'll have a chat with the building owners next week and hopefully they'll be more receptive.

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wringing out the old year

permalink Saturday, 31DEC2005:

i was going to be good and get back onto a day schedule, but alas, with realplayer now installed, i ended up watching a portion of the english election debate from earlier in december, streamed from the cbc website. i didn't get to sleep until around noon again. what i didn't mention about the pc installation ordeal was that i was also suffering from caffeine withdrawl - i had my last pepsi on monday and had a throbbing headache all thru the next three days until i woke up today with nary a care. we'll see if i can keep it up when i restart at work on tuesday.

so i celebrated new year's at vinnie's, bringing along my usual food contribution compliments of the nav restaurant. it took a while for the party to get started, but once it got going, it was smooth sailing until at least 4 a.m. when i departed. one of the conditions of attendance was that guests had to wear a shirt and tie, so i dug into the nether regions of my closet to find a dress shirt, a tie, and even a vest to wear over top. however, i was still not the most snappy dresser, as both kevin and todd also arrived in their suit jackets. it was good to see folks outside of poker / broomball situations and everyone seemed to have a good time dancing, eating and drinking. i had my first shots of alcohol in months (raspberry- flavoured vodka, followed by a hit of champagne at the midnight bell) and the accompanying headache hit me not even half an hour later. what's the point of saving a liver when it doesn't even work properly the few times you call on it ?

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