Illusory Follies Andrew Flanagan's Blog

13Jun/081

I’m getting old…

Today on the way back from work I stopped at the wonderful oasis of Fry's. I was kind of stressed out from a long and not terribly rewarding week of work and I figured that for once I'd actually just buy a game.

Well, I ended up with two games! I drove home, slightly faster than usual. After some much-needed mowing in the back and dinner I figured I'd get down to installing them. But wait, the computer I intend to install them on is in pieces after I'd tried swapping some parts around. 45 minutes later it's all assembled (I had to reattach the motherboard and everything) and booted it up. But wait, I had Ubuntu on these disks, not Vista or XP so I've got to install the wonderful Microsoft product before I can start. Vista installs quickly (I was actually sort of impressed. But not that much.) But wait, although the video card is detected and installed, the audio drivers aren't. A hardware scan doesn't even see them I power off and pop in a spare sound card that I have lying around. The audio drivers get installed and the game begins. I start with the tutorial. Patrick (who has been very patient this whole time) is interested. He especially likes when the guys I'm controlling open fire on an opposing team. Explosions, gun fire, this is great stuff. We finish up the tutorial and start the first mission. Within 30 seconds the sound card starts crackling and 10 seconds later the sound dies. I check the connectors and then check the software settings. When I try to save the software settings, the game crashes.

So, despite being home by about 7:45pm, it is now 11:45pm and I've barely even started playing the game since I've been too busy working (again). How depressing.

The worst thing is that the game felt a little confusing and difficult (I'm sure it's not -- it's just me getting old). I'm pretty sure that Patrick understood it. If I'd let him, I'm sure he'd be on there for the rest of night.

Or maybe the worst part is that I just spent the last 10 minutes writing this blog entry. So much for crazy wild 7+ hour gaming sessions. I'm lucky if I can clean out my inbox.

I'm exhausted. Time for bed.

10Feb/080

Multi-Function Printers that Work

I've been looking for a multi-function (print, scan, copy, fax) printer for the last few months. I've been really disappointed with what I've found.

What I want to be able to do is the following:

  • Print documents from any modern operating system across the network
  • Scan documents/pictures from an auto-document feeder or a flatbed and in some way have this data end up on whatever system on the network I want
  • Copy documents/pictures by standing at the printer unit itself
  • Receive faxes and send faxes from anywhere on the network

I know that there are problems with some of these -- specifically Scanning and Faxing. I see multiple issues with these:

  1. Storage (where does the scanned or faxed document get stored physically?)
  2. Notification (even if a fax is stored, how does a user know when it arrives?)
  3. Configuration (the above should ideally be accomplished without configuring anything on the end-systems)

I see a solution but I've not found a sub $1000 printer that accomplishes it. Some of the high-end "counter-top"-sized systems (that run $10,000 and above) have something similar but are usually way overblown.

  • Storage would be provided by flash memory (something as simple as 1-16GB Compact Flash card).
    • Sharing of this storage would be accomplished by using a Samba server running on an embedded Linux kernel (similar to the sort of functionality that currently exists on home routers).
    • Samba shares would be exposed to Linux, Mac, and Windows systems by using something like Avahi (or whatever the Linux version of ZeroConf is that works best at the time). Bonjour could be used on the client end if you're running Apple to easily see these auto-configured shares but it would have to be installed specially on Windows clients.
  • Notification could be accomplished via email. If a simple SMTP setup is configured once on the printer unit itself, it could automatically route emails to a specific user, multiple users, or different groups depending on the fax number used or other variables. There are many other alternatives using things like the XMPP or even SMS for notification.
  • Configuration -- as mentioned this would work like magic on a Mac and slightly less magically (and unfortunately much less beautifully) on a Windows PC. Any system on the network could access recently scanned or faxed documents or perhaps be only restricted by a username/password (heck -- even tie it into an LDAP server if you've get centralized directory services). Basically, this largely gets rid of the need for client software other than just the printer driver itself. In reality, I'm not clear why we even need a specialized print driver when a web interface (again, hosted on the device) could likely provide any custom features (software-based maintenance, looking at the queue, etc.)

So why isn't it out there?

7Feb/081

Microsoft’s Dark Plan

I rarely quote things verbatim from elsewhere on the Internet but I found a comment in one of this morning's Slashdot posts quite amusing...

Recently one of my friends, a computer wizard, paid me a visit. As we were talking I mentioned that I had recently installed Windows on my PC, I told him how happy I was with this operating system and showed him the Windows CD. To my astonishment and distress he threw it into my micro-wave oven and turned it on. I was upset because the CD had become precious to me, but he said: 'Do not worry, it is unharmed.' After a few minutes he took the CD out, gave it to me and said: 'Take a close look at it.' To my surprise the CD was quite cold and it seemed to have become thicker and heavier than before. At first I could not see anything, but on the inner edge of the central hole I saw an inscription, in lines finer than anything I have ever seen before. The inscription shone piercingly bright, and yet remote, as if out of a great depth:

4F6E65204F5320746F2072756C65207468656D20616C6C2C204F6E65204F5320746F 2066696E64207468656D2C0D0A4F6E65204F5320746F206272696E67207468656D20 616C6C20616E6420696E20746865206461726B6E6573732062696E64207468656D

'I cannot read the fiery letters,' I said.

'No,' he said, 'but I can. The letters are Hex, of an ancient mode, but the language is that of Microsoft, which I shall not utter here. But in common English this is what it says:'

One OS to rule them all, One OS to find them,
One OS to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

From Slashdot (unfortunately by an Anonymous Coward so I can't credit the individual)

28Nov/071

Making Cygwin more handy

I enjoy having Cygwin installed on Windows and often like to use the shell commands (grep, find, etc.). However, it's inconvenient to spawn a new terminal window and slog through the often-complex Windows directory structure. Based off of some websites I found, I now have a way to make this work...

Create a batch script file in your Cygwin /bin folder (for me, this is C:\Cygwin\bin) with the following:

@cd /d %1
 
@bash --rcfile BASCHRC -i

Create a file called "bashcontext.reg" and save the following text into it:

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\shell\bash]
@="Open Bash shell here"
 
[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\shell\bash\command]
@="C:\\Cygwin\\bin\\runBash.bat \"%1\""
 
[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Drive\shell\bash]
@="Open Bash shell here"
 
[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Drive\shell\bash\command]
@="C:\\Cygwin\\bin\\runBash.bat \"%1\""
 
[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shell\bash]
@="Open Bash shell here"
 
[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shell\bash\command]
@="C:\\Cygwin\\bin\\runBash.bat \"%1\""

You can add the registry information by double-clicking the file to run it.

Now on every directory you have a "Open Bash shell here" option that will take you there immediately. Handy!

Here's a screenshot showing my cluttered context menu:

clutteredcontext.png