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That’s all kinds of constitutional, baby!

Oct 21, 2008

Just in time for the elections, it’s the Return of Terry Tate, everyone’s favorite office linebacker!

Tracking the polls prior to the election

Oct 5, 2008

FiveThirtyEight.com and Electoral-vote.com have become my most frequented sites as Nov. 4 swiftly approaches.  Both sites harvest and distill all the state and national polls each day and present them in both a country-wide map view, for quick reading, and also with detailed state-by-state breakdowns.  Historical data, Senate and House race data and links to sites that track campaign donations can be found on the Data Galore page. My favorite find was the bellwethers, listing the track record of each state for picking the winner of the national race.   (MO has only picked the losing candidate once since 1900!)

Sarah Palin and her passport

Sep 21, 2008

The Vice-Presidential nominee for the Republican party has only left the North American continent once in her the 44 years she has been alive.  Once! OMFG. 

McCain campaign spokeswoman Maria Comella acknowledged today that Ireland was only a refueling stop on a trip in July 2007 to visit Alaskan National Guard troops in Kuwait and Iraq. Comella said today that the 2007 trip was her only foreign travel apart from visits to Canada. Comella said Palin first received a passport in 2006. The New York Times reported last week that Palin had traveled very little, and had needed to apply for a passport so she could visit the troops.

Does anyone in the Republican party really think she has enough foreign policy experience to be the Vice-President? I’m 6 years younger than her, have had a modest middle-class living my entire life (so I’m just an “average American” like her), and I’ve been to 10 different countries since I was 10, including a full summer spent in Greece when I was 15!  I’ve been to Canada countless numbers of times, too, visiting there at least 2 times a year until I moved to Texas a few years ago. (BTW, many locals here would consider Texas to be its own country!)

For reals?  God help us!

Church of England to apologize to Charles Darwin

Sep 16, 2008

The Church of England is to apologise to Charles Darwin for its initial rejection of his theories, nearly 150 years after he published his most famous work.

Hooray for this bold move by the Anglican Church!  It’s good to see that there are still some free-thinkers left in the Church of England.

The bold move is certain to dismay sections of the Church that believe in creationism and regard Darwin’s views as directly opposed to traditional Christian teaching.

Do you think they’re talking about the American Anglicans who recently had it out with the Episcopal Church over this bit of progressive thinking?

Next Gen Prius Spied

Jul 31, 2008

Via nextautos.com, spy shots of the next gen Prius in full camouflage mode. As well as growing wider and longer, the new model is purported to include some cool new features:

Other news that Toyota is working with, is that they will change the NiMh batteries for lighter and smaller Li-ion batteries. …the roof will get solar cells to power the air-condition.[sic]

I’ve always wondered why it has taken this long for Toyota to put solar panels on the roof of the Prius. Audi tried a similar technique back in the 90’s on some A6 models, with the solar panels powering ventilation fans for hot days.  Sure could use some of that right about now, with temps in the triple-digits here in Texas…

Scanning slides and negatives: Part 2

Jul 27, 2008

Received a package in the mail on Friday.  It was my slides being returned by Scancafe.  (I mentioned previously that I had sent out a number of 35mm slides I had taken as a teenager to have them scanned in.)

The slides began their journey on May 5th when I shipped them off to Scancafe.  On Independence Day (July 4th, for you non-Americans in the crowd), I received an automated email from Scancafe that my images were ready for review.  Scancafe will scan all the slides, negatives and prints you send in and then let you choose only the ones you want to keep, without paying for those you don’t want (up to 50% of the total number).  I had already filtered the slides prior to shipping, so I ended up choosing almost all of them to be purchased.  I submitted my final choices and received an email that I should expect my slides and custom DVD with scanned images in a few weeks.

Another automated email arrived in the Inbox on July 21 announcing that the package had been shipped. Finally! Last week ended up being a bit hectic, so I was surprised when the little package was dropped off by the UPS delivery person on July 25. The package had my original slides tucked in with the custom DVD of the scanned images. 

Custom DVD has two pictures from my collection on it!

So, was it worth the (almost) 11 weeks of waiting? For me, a resounding Yes. I wasn’t in a hurry to have these scanned in, and the price was right.  ($34.98 for 69 slides for an average of $0.51 per slide at 4000 dpi, delivered.)  This person has compiled costs for multiple online services, with most costing twice as much.  That being said, you’ll need to balance out the cost savings with the extra amount of time to get your scans.

How was the quality? Very good. I didn’t not notice any image quality or color difference between the original slides and scans, at a casual glance.  It should be noted that I’m only using these scans to have prints made to hang in my house and I’m confident the quality will be good at 8×10.

Will I use them again?  Maybe.  I’ve got a large box of prints and negatives sitting in my bedroom that I’ll be going through soon.  I’ll save that process for another post sometime in the near future…

Tivo and smoothwall firewall

Jul 25, 2008

Continuing with the smoothwall hacks theme this week comes this tip for configuring the firewall to allow your Tivo to connect to the Tivo update servers.  If your smoothwall has the dansguardian content filter installed, you may have seen the problem where Tivo can’t connect to the home servers to get updates. Instead of trying to add exception URLs to dansguardian, this one line change will let the Tivo bypass the web proxy and content filter completely.  (Note:  content filter is being completely bypassed!)  I posted about the fix on the smoothwall user forums here.

In the /etc/rc.d/rc.firewall.up file on your smoothie, add the following line right before the squid integration commands:

/sbin/iptables -t nat -I PREROUTING 1 -i $GREEN_DEV -p tcp -s 192.168.0.150
   --dport 80 -j ACCEPT

Replace “192.168.10.150” with the IP address of your Tivo, and paste code as one continuous line (no break).  Make sure that your Tivo is either hard-coded with a fixed IP on your network, or your DHCP server is configured with a static assignment for the Tivo.

Problem loading www.msnbc.msn.com behind Smoothwall resolved

Jul 21, 2008

The msnbc.msn.com website used to load with a blank page for me. No mention of this bug on the smoothwall forums but, it has bit me using both smoothwall 2.0 and 3.0 (which I just upgraded to this past weekend). I had to widen my google search a bit and finally found this lone post on the Endian firewall bug tracker that described my troubles.  Turns out to be a problem with the interaction of Squid 2.6 with MSNBC’s web server. (So, actually, it’s not a smoothwall problem, per se.  I also had advanced proxy installed – on both the 2.0 and 3.0 installs – and the default web proxy install on smoothwall initially appeared to not have the problem.  I didn’t leave the default install running long enough to confirm if the site repeatedly worked fine.)

So, for a smoothwall 3.0 install, with the advanced proxy plug-in (using Squid 2.6.STABLE20 in my case), here is the fix:

Open the include.acl file located at /var/smoothwall/proxy/advanced/acls in your favorite editor.  Drop in the following lines at the bottom (and after any other acls that may already be in the file):

#fix for msnbc.msn.com chunked
acl chunked dstdomain .msnbc.msn.com
header_access Accept-Encoding deny chunked
#fix for msnbc.msn.com chunked

Restart the advanced proxy and you’re good to go!

Make sure you put your acl mods in the include.acl file only.  The squid.conf file and other acl files are managed by the web interface and will be overwritten the next time you “save” from the smoothwall web interface.

UPDATE:  found this post that implies this should only be a problem on Squid 3.0 installs.  Hmm…

UPDATE 2:  to confirm this is the same problem, you should see a message like this “Oversized chunk header on port 46294, url http://www.msnbc.msn.com/” in your /var/log/squid/cache.log

Wii Disk Drive Noise

Jul 13, 2008

I thought I could blame it on the American Idol Encore game that the wife bought but, the fact that the Wii began emitting a horrendous noise when that game arrived in the house was just a coincidence.  Best described as “sounding like a lawn mower”, the noise from the Wii disc drive got so loud that it sometimes overpowered the sound from the TV no matter what the game was.  The noise is well documented on the Internet (see this Youtube video as an example) and seems to be wide-spread.  

My first action was to double-check on the warranty – which had just expired a couple months earlier – and then see if there might be a hidden repair program.  No such luck.  Nintendo support told me that my only solution was to send it in for the flat rate repair:  $75 plus tax.  Yikes!  Back to the Internet I went for a fix.

Googling came back with a number of fixes and I tried all various schemes of loosening this screw or that one to relieve “pressure” on the disc mechanism to no avail. This was the only solution that made the most sense and has been working flawlessly for the last month.  (Scroll to the bottom for the post from scottnic.)  I did make a slight modification, though.

My solution was slightly modified from scottnic’s.  Whereas scottnic created a dimple on the metal arm that holds the plastic disc, I ended up adding a plastic shim to the underside of the metal arm.  Though I didn’t have a chance to take a photo of my work, the arrow in the picture below shows where I attached the shim.

 (picture taken from Scottnic’s post here)

I found a Scotch Pop-up tape dispenser refill stashed in the junk drawer in the kitchen, since I remembered they had pieces of plastic as the backing.  I cut out a circle about 2/3 the size of the underside of the metal arm (just the round portion where the arrow points above) and found some heavy duty double-faced carpet tape to attach it.  (Super Glue may have worked, too.  I’ve had bad luck with Super Glue in the past – which is a whole other post on its own – and I wasn’t sure if it would hold the plastic to the metal.)

Re-assembled the Wii and it now sounds just as it did when new.  I’m interested to see if Nintendo implements a repair program for this at some point.  The worst part is that the plastic disc that is wearing out can’t cost more than a few pennies to produce.  Maybe the new generation of Wii’s have one made out of sturdier plastic?

Finally live

Jul 12, 2008

We’re officially live.  Enjoy!


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