Sunday, July 26, 2009

My New Hammer

I have a tool bag with my most used tools that don't have their own box (e.g., socket set). I went with the tool bag mostly because it's easier to transport than a toolbox, doesn't weigh as much as a toolbox, and gets rid of the idea of organization, which really never works in a toolbox anyway.

One problem with the tool bag that I have is that it can't hold a hammer. A hammer is something I deem useful for a variety of purposes and I've never had a hammer that can just fit in the tool bag. My friend Elliott never even had a hammer, always borrowing mine because I had a toolbox at the time and he has toolbags (so I could carry a hammer, among other things).

I like the tool bag though and if a hammer won't fit in it, that's ok. I am usually doing things that require screwdrivers, wire cutters, pliers, nutdrivers, Torx drivers, and occassionally the use of a wrench. You know, voiding warranties. But sometimes I need a hammer.

I finally found one that can fit in the tool bag. At City Mill, I saw a mini hammer. I had actually seen it before, but finally picked it up the other day. Here's a picture:

Yes, physics 101 will tell you that a short handle hammer is stupid. However, for hanging pictures and finishing the job of voiding warranties, the shortie hammer works fine.

Is Pepsi Throwback Back?

Back in the spring of this year, Pepsi announced a release of some special products for a limited time. Adding 'Throwback' to the name of Pepsi and Mountain Dew and maybe others, they released versions of their soft drinks made with real sugar instead of HFCS. Like they do in Europe and like they used to do in the US.

David told me about it and said he saw a 12 pack of it at a store near him, so he picked it up. That was back in April or May. Pepsi Throwback never made it to Hawaii. Karen and I saw it in Boston when we were there in April. It was in a little shop at South Station. We bought two bottles before boarding Greyhound for NYC. It definitely tasted like Europepsi to me.

Last night Karen and I are headed back from her office/dinner and I decide to stop at the Aloha Petroleum on Kalakaua Ave. We wanted to grab some sodas and see a movie. In the drink cooler they have 20 oz bottles of Pepsi Throwback. Odd. Have not seen it at all in Hawaii. They had 7 bottles, so I bought them all. I don't expect to see it again in Hawaii. If you do happen to see it somewhere on the island, let me know.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Building Repair Work

Today was the first day of exterior repair work that is happening on our condo building. They are repairing spalling all over the building including the lanai on every unit. After that repair work, they are repainting the entire building. Probably just a fresh coat of beach front beige.

I like preventative maintenance as well as overall upkeep of things, but the execution by the management company for this repair work has been less than stellar. They sent out notices over 6 months ago telling us that we needed to clear off our lanai so that they could be inspected for spalling damage. OK, done. Skip to today and we have a construction crew installing scaffolding and window washer lifts. No notice was ever sent out telling us when it would begin, but we knew that our lanai would have to be cleaned off. Also, since my parking stall is on the top level, I have to move my car when they work on that side of the building.

So, nothing was ever sent out. I called our landlord who was also unaware of any work going on. We cleaned off our lanai (more or less) and I have been monitoring for when I need to move my car. This evening a notice was taped up in the elevator telling everyone that failure to clear off your lanai will delay the repair work at your cost. What? Tell us the day after it starts that we have to clear everything off the lanai. They will be getting a phone call tomorrow.

Fortunately, today was just set up day. It was noisy as they assembled the window washer lift system and ran cables. I hope it doesn't end up like this one:

Monday, July 20, 2009

SCUBA Diving

Living in Hawaii brings a lot of our friends and family by. We represent slightly less expensive accomodations for people who want to visit. That's cool because we enjoy visitors.

Everyone comes here and wants to do the things they hear about in Hawaii. I usually play tour guide and drive people around the island and take them to the different big name spots. The beach is easy to figure out on your own. For surfing, you're on your own for that. Surfing doesn't really appeal to me.

The other popular activities that our visitors want to do include snorkeling and SCUBA diving. We've had a number of SCUBA visitors. Karen usually goes with them because she is SCUBA certified. I am not and that has involved conversations with many people who assume that I am not certified because I am afraid of diving. The problem is that I cannot get a medical certificate from my doctor to allow me to complete the SCUBA training.

See, I have seizure disorder (which is also called epilepsy). I am on daily medication and regularly see a neurologist who occasionally performs tests to collect new data about my brain and see if the medication is actually working. The good news is that the medication has been working since I went on it. The bad news is that my doctor wants me to be on it for 5 years without a seizure before he will consider taking me off the medication. And if/when that happens, you still need to be seizure for an additional 5 years while off medication before they will consider letting you SCUBA.

So that's the reason. Please don't explain how great SCUBA is to me and what all I am missing. If I had the opportunity, I would do it. Until then, I get to do other things, such as snorkeling.

Don't always assume people aren't diving because they are afraid. Sometimes it's out of their hands.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Things With The Family and Laptop Troubles

My family is still here (they depart on Monday). We took them around the island over the weekend. I took Wednesday off and went snorkeling with them. Karen spent Thursday with them. We took them to a luau last night. I think they are having a good time. I wish that Karen and I could have the time off while they are here, but it just doesn't work that way. Maybe if we lived in Europe where you get the legally mandated 50 weeks of vacation per year we could do that. But we live in the US where we get the legally mandated 50 seconds of vacation.

Today they are headed to the Polynesian Cultural Center. I plan on meeting them tonight and will either see Horizons (the big show they do at night at the PCC) with them or not. Either way, I'm providing transporation back to the other side of the island.

Work is going well. I do not feel like I am drowning in bug reports like I normally am. I am working on finishing up script mode support for dhcp6c, the DHCPv6 client software I own. That will allow NetworkManager to expand its IPv6 support. I released a new pyparted this week which requires the parted-1.9.0 snapshot that is in Fedora rawhide at the moment. We gain a really important feature with this release, which is the ability to disable aligning partitions to cylinder boundaries.

My non-work laptop has recently stopped charging its battery. Works fine off AC, but it juts won't charge the battery. Apparently this is a known problem in the Dell Mini 9. So known, in fact, that Ubuntu has a pile of Python called aircraft-manager that fiddles the right ports with outb() in order to enable AC charging again. Aircraft-manager seems to be GPL licensed code, but I cannot find ANY UPSTREAM SOURCE for it. I found a deb file of it, ran it through 'ar x', and then unpacked data.tar.gz to find the code. Ubuntu, where's the upstream for this? I suppose it doesn't really matter, because the ioperm(), inb(), outb() magic didn't fix it on my system.

Searching around a bit more, I find that there is a BIOS update to fix the problem. I download the update only to discover it's a DOS executable. The only external media I can boot on this system without buying more hardware is a USB jumpdrive. I asked a friend to make me a 2GB USB bootable DOS image that I could use. He did and I downloaded it, put the BIOS update on it, and booted it on the Mini 9. It worked great. I ran the BIOS update program and it alerted me that my battery was not charged and exited. I removed the battery and ran the program again and it told me the battery was missing and could I please reinsert it, then exited. Argh!

So now I need to figure out how to fix the battery charging issue in order to update the BIOS in order to fix the battery charging issue. I looked for anything useful on the Dell recovery DVD that came with the system. It was a bunch of random files and no README or anything useful. There is a 1.3GB file called belmont-travel-stable-install-usb-20090108-1.img, which I am going to attempt to write to a jumpdrive and boot. Maybe I can restore it to factory settings and run aircraft-manager on Ubuntu and fix this problem. Ugh, what nonsense.

Some comments for Ubuntu and Dell:

Ubuntu: Where is the upstream for aircraft-manager? Could you please release that somewhere other than in .deb format if it's GPL software?

Dell: Providing a recovery DVD for a laptop that lacks a DVD drive is annoying, but I would be ok with that if you provided a README file describing the files on the DVD. Also, providing a Windows executable to create bootable USB media for a system that shipped with Linux only is pretty stupid. I don't need a Linux utility, I have dd. I just need a README file describing the contents of the disc.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


It's the fourth of July as I write this. The other day I posted a status update on Facebook about Canada Day, except I posted it on the 2nd. Thinking the lateness comments on my status update were jabs at my timezone, I reiterated that point in a comment of my own. To which I was informed that Canada Day is on the 1st, not the 2nd. So where did I get my information? From the calendar(1) command I added to Fedora. I pulled it from OpenBSD (made in Canada!) and got it packaged up for Fedora. However, it has an off-by-one bug that I apparently discovered when it informed me that Canada Day was on the 2nd. I find it ironic that I saw the off by one bug while asking a program pulled from a Canada-based source tree about when Canada Day was. Now to patch.

Karen and I have been cleaning the condo in preparation for my family visiting. They arrive next week.

Karen's laptop stopped working the other day. Appears to be the AC circuitry, which is somewhat important to the laptop working. She's thinking about ordering a Dell Mini 10, so she's using my Mini 9 to see if she likes the small form factor. Unlike the 9, the 10 comes with either a real hard disk or an SSD. We will probably get her the real hard disk option so it's large enough for all of her data. And she will also be moving to Fedora with this new system.

Speaking of Fedora, the rawhide tree is quite raw at the moment. I expect this, but while upgrading my development systems, all sorts of things stopped working. SELinux started denying many things from working, Firefox never worked until it was updated to version 3.5. Sound completely stopped working giving me libao errors or other cryptic audio stack errors that I've never seen before. One of the 2.6.31 kernels crashed on boot, but I was able to boot the previous one just fine. Sound is back to working now, but as I skip through songs in Rhythmbox, the audio level decreases one level with each skip until it mutes entirely. Annoying. The strangest problem happened to me yesterday. Programs started crashing left and right and the system failed to reboot using any of the kernels I had. I booted up the Fedora 11 installer in rescue mode and when I tried to chroot in to /mnt/sysimage, nothing worked. Reverting /lib64/ to /lib64/ from Fedora 11 fixed things. Word of caution: watch out for the latest glibc in rawhide. Hope it gets fixed soon.

Well, back to cleaning for now.