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About ubikuberalles

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    Chopper Commander
  • Birthday 03/14/1960

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    Classic Gaming, Atari computers
  1. I like using Mark Williams C on my Atari ST. Back in the day I wrote lots of programs using that compiler.
  2. Yay! I'll be there. It'll be my second trip to Oklahoma but, what the hell.
  3. When I was a kid there was one joke I didn't get for the longest time: Q: How do you get down from an Elephant? A: You don't get down from an Elephant! You get down from a Duck! To add to the confusion the book had a picture of a giant duck with a ladder leaning against it. Years later, I heard the Weird Al song and when he said the "get down" line, I got it. It took the trauma of not getting the Elephant joke, but I got it. I still don't get the Three Stooges divot joke. I know what a divot is but I still don't get it. Five holes in a divot. So?
  4. ubikuberalles

    Pi Day

    Today is March 14th. 3/14. Also known as Pi day. Pi is one of the most important mathematical constants. So important, in fact, that Larry Shaw - known as the "Prince of Pi" - decided to celebrate the number by starting off the "pi day" celebration at San Francisco's Exploratorium. On this day you can eat fruit and pizza pie at the Exploratorium. Pi is an irrational number. That means it is composed of a sequence of numbers that never repeats. Heck, it's more than that, it's a transcendental number which means its value cannot be reproduced with a finite sequence of algebraic operations using integers. That puts it in a special class since only a few transcendental numbers are known to exist ("e" is another one). Pi is an obsession to many mathematicians, who have gone to extraordinary lengths to calculate the next digit of Pi. So far Pi has been calculated to 1.24 trillion digits. In other words, it would take a Terabyte disk drive just to hold that number. This is the kind of thing that makes you wonder why they do it. Are they trying to find the impossible "last" digit of Pi? If we calculate Pi to the 10 gazillionth digit would God show up, thank us for our effort and close up shop (like what happened in the Arthur C. Clarke story The Nine Billion Names of God)? Scientists try to cover themselves by saying that, although this level of accuracy for Pi is of little practical use, it contributes to "improving calculating methods". Ya, right. Whatever. We all know the real reason, you geeks. I have to admit to my own geekiness on this matter. I know Pi to 14 digits from memory: 3.1415926535897 (I swear I didn't look it up). That's nothing compared to a few people I know who've memorized it to 20 or 30 digits. Pi day is also important to remember because it's the birthday of Albert Einstein, my all-time favorite scientist and personal hero. He was born on this day in 1879 making him 129 years old if he were alive today. Billy Crystal and Kirby Puckett were born on Pi day. A bunch of other notables were also born on this day too (like the Austrian composer Richard Strauss) but those two stick out in my mind. Mostly because I'm from Minnesota and Kirby played for the Twins (Billy Crystal is notable to me because, well, he's Billy Crystal). The most important reason I like Pi day is because...well...it's my birthday. Perhaps I should celebrate by eating some (pizza) pi(e).
  5. ubikuberalles

    Juno Integration

    For some reason I was expecting to see a picture of a pregnant teenager in the game.
  6. ubikuberalles


    I can picture the scene at work on Monday: You pull a Homer Simpson by screaming "In your face! Woo-hoo!" and then do a little dance.
  7. I've lived here since before 1987 so I am not required to own two bolo ties; it's grandfathered in.
  8. Naw. That's not a Bolo tie. A bolo tie looks like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Bola_tie.jpg Whereas an old time card dealer tie looks like this: http://www.justthechips.com/images/ky-dealer-tie.jpg Which looks a lot like the kind of tie Colonel Sanders wore. Bolo ties are made out of cord or braided leather. Old time card dealer ties are made out of fancy cloth. I own a couple bolo ties (I live in New Mexico, after all) so I should know what a bolo tie looks like.
  9. Heh. I was thinking the same thing. I was also wondering if those joysticks were edible.
  10. That's why I only buy the graphic novels. At first I bought the "Death of Superman" novels and then the "Life After Superman" novels. After that I expanded to books like "The Watchmen" and the Dark Knight series. Most of the graphic novels have a concise ending so I'm not tempted to buy a bunch more of them. Currently I'm reading the Marvel Essential series. Specifically I finished the second volume of the Essential Classic X-men. They haven't published the third volume yet and I'm getting a little ticked off. In the meantime I'm reading some of the Alex Ross graphic novels I've been buying (Kingdom Come is next).
  11. Fun With my Camera In my spare time I've been having some fun with my new $10 camera. Since my last entry about the camera I've taken another 100 still shots and about 200 or 300 more action shots for gif movies. Mostly goofing around stuff. I haven't come up with any plans yet. One thing I did learn is I should not be far from a computer with this camera. The camera eats batteries. Keep a battery in the camera longer than 12 hours and it's time to replace the darn thing. Take the battery out of the camera, lose all the pictures. As a result, I've learned to take pictures and upload it to the lappy ASAP. Last week I was on CNM campus with my camera and took some pics: On the way home I used the action sequence feature to make a little GIF movie: That light took FOREVER to change! BSoD On Sunday I discovered why the driver for the camera wasn't certified by Microsoft: the dreaded Blue screen of Death! I took a really cool picture of the Sandia mountain with the last golden rays of the sun hitting the peak. I remember that the battery had to be replaced first but the shot went off without problems. I took the camera to my laptop and, as the pictures uploaded to the computer, the dreaded BSoD appeared. That sucked. I decided to try to upload the pictures to my Windows 2K machine, thinking it might just be a glitch. Nope. Instead of the BSoD, the Win2K box rebooted. I did notice, before the reboot, that there were more than just the two or three pictures I took of the mountains. I guess not all the pictures were erased when I swapped batteries and maybe the pictures were corrupted somehow and that is what caused the BSoD. Doesn't matter. I completely lost confidence with my new camera. I'll still use it but I think I'll just upload pictures to the Win2K box. Getting a BSoD on my lappy is too unsettling. At the very least, the next time I have to put a new battery in the camera, I got to make sure I erase any pictures still on the camera. Water Heater Maintenance Last week, shortly after I got the camera, I did some water heater maintenance. What you are seeing above is the drain valve for my water heater. What every water heater owner is supposed to do every six months is connect a hose to that valve, open the valve and drain the water from the heater until it runs clear. Sediment sits on the bottom of the water heater and draining out the sediment will extend the life of your water heater. I bought a new water heater about five years ago and last week I drained the thing for the first time ever. It only took a gallon of water to clear out sediment so I don't feel too bad for the delay. If you haven't done so already, I urge you to do the same. The reason you want to clear out the sediment is that it forms a thermal blanket on the bottom of the heater and, since most heaters are heated from the bottom, super heated water is trapped under the sediment, it becomes water vapor and escapes from the sediment explosively. These miniature explosions can form micro cracks in the glass lining and shorten the life of your water heater. If you hear your water heater making rumbling noises periodically, it's because you have sediment in your water heater and you need to drain it to clear it out. If I knew this twenty years ago I might still have my old water heater installed. Live and learn.
  12. On Black Friday I visited Walgreens to get a few groceries. While I was there I found this camera: How much did it cost? Ten dollars. That's $10! Only ten dollars. OMG! Naturally, I bought it. Back in March of 2006 I found a cheap $30 camera at Radio Shack (here's my blog entry about that. That was the cheapest camera I could find at the time and I had all sorts of cool ideas with it. One idea was to get a second camera and build a stereo camera rig: Blog entry about stereo rig with the $30 cameras. Stereo pics of Mr. Flibble. I had even more ambitious plans with them. One idea was to connect the camera switches to a cable and then mount the camera on a long pole. That way I could take pictures from a bird's eye view and see things I normally can't see otherwise (bird's nests in trees and so on). Another idea was really ambitious: buy thirty or forty of the cameras, mount them on a circular track, connect them via cable to a series of microcontrollers and take Matrix-like action pictures. It's doable and within my technical capabilities (although I had never before done anything with that much logistics required). The main issue was the cost. This project would cost me nearly two thousand dollars. I had thought of doing a scaled down version of the project - using only ten cameras - but that $30 price tag was killing me. I was hoping Radio Shack would lower the price over time. Instead they simply dropped the camera from their shelves (I may have missed a inventory closing sale - oh, well). Another factor was that the muse comes and then it goes. This is a big reason I keep a paper journal of my hardware and software projects: to reduce time lost relearning when the muse returns. However, the biggest factor was the price, at least for my more ambitious projects. Now with a $10 camera, perhaps the muse may return. Let's check this camera out. Here's the first picture I took: The camera takes pictures in one of two resolutions: 352X288 and 176X144. Much smaller than the $30 camera (1280X1008 and 640X480). In high resolution mode you can only store 20 pictures. However, the camera also offers compression and so you could hold as many as 60 high resolution pictures or 243 low resolution pictures. Don't take the battery out before you upload Some more pictures. It was late Friday night and I just took pictures of whatever was in the room. The TV: Even the bottom of my glass: This camera does very well in low light situations. My $30 cameras would not have taken the above pictures very well. There would be a lot of artifacting and I would have to use PhotoShop to enhance them. So, even though the resolution is smaller, the Vivitar camera can do a lot better in low light situations. The TWAIN that came with the camera is not all that great. It's pretty basic, first of all, and does not offer many options. One problem I found early on is if you try to save your files via a shortcut "My Documents" for example, it doesn't save the pictures even though it says it does. The pictures are saved in the file name format of 001.jpg, 002.jpg and so on. If you already have files with those names the program automatically overwrites them without warning. So you either have to rename your old files right away or store the new files in a different directory. One cool feature of the TWAIN software is you can use you camera as a live monitor. Naturally, the first thing I did with it is point the camera at my monitor: As you can see, I can save a screen shot of the live camera. I can't save a movie made of the live camera, however. Let's try out some other things. The lens is set up as a pinhole camera and so it automatically keeps everything in focus. Well, sort of. If it's closer than five inches, it's fuzzy. The above picture was taken only two inches from the red calculator. Keeping the aperture lined up properly is also a problem since there is no LCD screen on this camera. Practice makes perfect,. Here's a picture of my keyboard at three or four inches. Still fuzzy, but much better: [imghttp://img.photobucket.com/albums/v453/ubikuberalles/blogstuff/Vivitar-camera/camera07.jpg[/img] Another problem: The above calculator is supposed to be silver but the overexposure from the florescent light makes it look blue (it did the same thing with my face in the first pic I made above). One lesson I learned from this camera. Never leave it unattended. You never know who might be using it. Mystery Picture #1 Mystery Picture #2 Mystery Picture #3 Mystery Picture #4 Mystery Picture #5 The camera has two other features that are cool. One is the continuous shot mode. Hold the shutter button down and the camera takes a picture a couple times a second. Great or action shots. I made a little GIF with my first attempt: OK, maybe I didn't get the frame rate right. I'm not really that crazed in real life!! The camera also can make movies. The manual doesn't say how long the movie can be but I'm sure it would be less than a few minutes. Here's a link to the first movie I made: AVI Movie Despite its limits, this camera is pretty fun. I have other plans for it. Since it is so cheap I plan to buy a bunch more and even hack a few and see what I can do. I bought four of those $30 camera last year and yet only took about 80 pictures so far (I need to correct that). That's like $1.50 a picture! So far, with the Vivitar, I've taken over 150 pictures (not including the continuous shot pictures I took. If I included those then I took over 400 pictures). I think I got my money's worth so far.
  13. The memory on my current laptop isn't proprietary and that's why it only cost about $100 to upgrade to 1 GB (2 - 256 MB DDR SIMMS replaced with 2 - 512 MB DDR SIMMS). My first laptop from 1993, however, had proprietary memory and I could only get the memory from the people from which I bought the laptop. That upgrade was expensive, IIRC.
  14. Which is the better way to buy a laptop: Buy it fully loaded or get it in a standard (or cheap) configuration and then upgrade it later? When I bought my very first laptop in 1993, I adhered to the later methodology (buy it cheap), mostly because I didn't have much funds and I didn't want to rack up a huge credit card bill. So I looked through some magazines and bought a laptop from a mail order company in Ohio. I ended up buying a Windows 3.1 machine that had a 20MHz 386 CPU with a B+W LCD display, 120 MB disk drive and 4 MB of RAM. That machine cost me about $1700. If I bought it fully loaded (color LCD, 500 Mb disk drive and a lot more memory), I would have spent at least $2400. Way out of my price range (I wanted to keep my laptop cost below $2000 which is why I went with a windows box instead of a Mac laptop). At first I was quite happy with the computer and felt that my "buy it cheap" strategy was working. It was my very first Windows machine (I was a die hard Atari computer user until then) and I was learning a lot. I bought Borland's Paradox database software, Microsoft's C++ package (version 1.0) and a bunch of games and stuff and that kept me busy for at least a year. However, after a while the 120 MB disk was getting full. I was very reluctant to replace the drive. First, a 240 MB drive was very expensive. Second, there was no easy access panel to the drive: I would have to take apart the laptop or bring it to a shop. Taking it apart was not an option as I was afraid I'd break it (I've taken apart other, cheaper, computers and occasionally damaged them) and I was not willing to take the risk with a $1700 laptop. Taking it to the shop was expensive too. At this point I had doubts about my "buy it cheap" philosophy. Upgrades were expensive and the manufacturer didn't offer discounts for upgrading a machine you bought from them (a silly assumption I made when I first got the laptop). I coped with the lack of disk space by saving files to floppy and deleting stuff I didn't need that much. After I had the laptop for two years, I had to replace the disk drive anyway: the drive failed. The replacement disk was a 500 MB disk and it cost $500. Since I had to bring the laptop to the shop for the replacement disk, I also had them upgrade the memory to 8 MB. This big expense to repair and upgrade the computer convinced me that the "buy it fully loaded" method was perhaps the best (even though I probably still would have had to replace a failed disk). The initial cost would be big but at least I won't be nickel and dimed to death over the years. Keep in mind that I only used this "buy it cheap" / "Buy it fully loaded" dichotomy with regards to laptops. Upgrading desktops is easy since they were designed to be serviced easily and the parts were a lot cheaper and standardized compared to laptops. I bought a used desktop a couple years after I got the laptop and I routinely replaced parts and upgraded the system: the parts were cheap. After five years I essentially replaced every part of the desktop and only the original case was left. Laptops are lot more expensive and a lot harder to upgrade and service. In 1997 the motherboard of the laptop died and I essentially trashed the system (basically I took it apart to see how it was built. I also salvaged the disk drive as a backup device for my desktop). I was done with laptops for the time being. I was happy with my desktop and didn't have a strong need for a laptop. Nevertheless, I had firmly decided that if I ever buy another laptop, I'll buy it fully loaded. Back in the spring of 2006 I decided I need a laptop for my school work. I had intended to use the "buy it fully loaded" philosophy but my funds were limited and I reluctantly went for the "buy it cheap" method. I ended up getting a Compaq Presario with a 1.8 GHz Sempron, 512 MB of RAM and a 40 GB disk drive. It also came with wireless built in. The whole thing cost about $700. A thousand dollars cheaper than my first laptop and about 90 times faster with 64 times the RAM and over 300 times the disk space. My how times have changed. It was a good deal but, still, I wasn't happy with buying it cheap instead of getting it fully loaded but I felt I had no choice at the moment. Six months later I discovered that my "buy it cheap" bird came home to roost: I had to upgrade the memory. I had bought the Adobe suite and it required 512 MB minimum or it wouldn't even install in my computer. I thought I had the minimum memory but it turns out that the built-in video card consumed 128 Mb of that 512 MB of memory. I had to upgrade to 1 GB before I could install the Adobe suite. I thought I'd end up spending more for the upgrade than I would if I bought the laptop with the 1 GB in the first place. Turns out that the upgrade cost the same or even less than what I would have spent if I bought the laptop with the extra memory in the first place. Since the laptop was designed to make it easy to upgrade memory (in stark contrast to my first laptop), I installed the memory myself and avoided a service charge. Last week I replaced my 40 GB drive with a 120 GB drive. The new drive only cost $90. There is NO WAY a 120 GB drive would have cost that little 18 months ago. As you can see, buying my new laptop cheap actually saved me money in the long run. I am now firmly entrenched in the "buy it cheap" methodology when it comes to buying laptops.
  15. Yippee! A post from the Chronogamer! Yay! Welcome back!
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