failing like never before


Professional Bloggers

So professional bloggers. Golly.

I don't like many of them (Surprise! I don't like a lot of people.). Oh, there are bloggers that I respect; those bloggers that put a good bit of thought and effort into their writing and actually manage to produce something that doesn't sound like the drivel of a cranky child (The Linux Hater's Blog immediately springs to mind, although I am a Linux lover).  But there are some people, mostly personal bloggers, that pound out pointless crap for about ten minutes a day and yet somehow manage to get paid quite nicely.

Some deep, inner part of my soul (OK, its mostly just my pride) is pained by the knowledge that someone on the internet is making a tidy sum of money by doing very little. I'll take for example, the so-called most popular blogger in Singapore: Wendy Cheng. Her blog reads as though it were written by a ditzy, hormonal-driven, teenage girl, and yet she makes a goodly sum of money every day, through site sponsoring, just because a surprsingly large number of people enjoy reading her regular tirades and outburts of enthusaism. I've always thought Singaporeans are a bit weird (watch some Singaporean TV shows, spend some time in the city/country, I think you'll agree) but they must be weirder then I thought to enjoy reading Cheng's blog.

Granted, most pro bloggers aren't all as bad as her. But because I'm a mean-hearted, biased bastard, I feel inclined to hate a lot of people. I suppose if I could count myself amongst one of those nicely paid, professional bloggers, I wouldn't be as much of a hater.


The Parable of the Bicycle

Once upon a time, there was a young lad (read: me) who owned an ingenuous, two-wheeled, mechanical device for rapid human-powered transport. The device, called a bicycle, was in fact quite common in these times and could be purchased for a minimal fee. Now, this lad was dismayed to find one day that his bicycle had been seized by vicious thieves one day whilst he was at school improving his mind, and because the poor boy was loathe to spend his hard earned money it was many years before he obtained another bicycle.

When the lad, now a young man, finally got another bicycle, it was nothing like his shining bicycle of old, but was a rusted cast-off of some rich gentleman. Built of heavy steel, with thick sprockets the size of dinner plates (the big kinds that people use for eating extremely messy foods), and poorly made derailleurs, the bicycle was not the sort of device that a lad of these times would have lusted for. Indeed, most would have deemed the hulking metal mound a waste of time. But nevertheless the young man purchased it for a mere pittance, and labored over the bicycle, cleaning and mending it, making it whole and strong (or rather, as whole and strong as the decrepit bicycle could be). Yet all of his sweat was for naught, for the bicycle scarcely managed to travel two score miles whereupon the front tire was punctured by numerous thorns and the badly made grease-guard was ripped asunder. The young man however, though disappointed, did not lose faith, and yet again he strove to make the bicycle whole. On the bicycle's next trip however, the tire was punctured yet again, the crank-shaft's bearing-cage was crushed, bearings were spilled from the crank assembly, the rear derailleur was knocked askew, and the bicycle was reduced to a rattling, crippled steel beast. And although he made every effort to restore the machine to it's former state, he knew that the bicycle was beyond hope, for it had suffered greatly and was beyond all mortal skills of repair.

Bearing these dark and ill thoughts, he set out in search of another bicycle and happened to chance upon a Trek 820 mountain bicycle. The Trek, much like the young man's previous steel machine, was old and rusted, and happily, also quite inexpensive. He bought quickly bought the Trek, for the old man who sold it knew naught what a treasure it was. For though the Trek was quite dirty and rusted, it's derailleurs were true, the frame was made not of readily available heavy steel but of light-weight chromium-molybdenum steel, and the wheels spun with a lightness and vitality that the young man had never felt before. He took the Trek home and cleaned and adjusted it, until the spokes shone and the brakes were tight. The next day he set out on a great quest.

But not a dozen miles from home, the strangest thing happened; the rear tire made a noise like "WHUNK PHIsssshhhhh" and in the space of five seconds the tire was reduced to the thickness of a sheet of parchment. The young man's heart fell, for not only had his great machine failed him, he was also many miles from home without any form of transport save for his feet. He attempted to use the power of the demon Motorola, (an otherworldly creature capable of facilitating communication across long distances) to call forth assistance, but the demon had grown weary of roaming and lay as though dead. And so, the young man lifted the bicycle with both hands and attempted the journey towards the nearest sanctuary. His step did not falter and his grip upon the Trek's frame did not grow weak, for though the Trek was weighty and refuge far away, his strength was as the strength of ten for his heart was pure.

There's a lesson in this badly written not-quite-parable. It is: you get what you pay for. Paying ten dollars for a bicycle generally means you're going to get a piece of shit (excuse my Klatchian). One must not however, be like my mother, who often confuses price with quality. That is to say, an increase in price does not always mean an increase in product/service qualtiy.

So basically, I have no point. If you've got a problem to that, and feel as though I've just wasted a good one minute of your life, please be sure to direct all comments to /dev/null.

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Sex and Cookery

I try not to make it a habbit of putting up quotes from books, (makes me feel a bit like Mary from Austen's Pride and Prejudice) but I think this particular tidbit form Terry Pratchett's The Fifth Elephant deserves to be quoted:

Vimes had noticed that sex bore some resemblance to cookery: It fascinated people, they sometimes bought books full of complicated recipes and interesting pictures, and sometimes when they were really hungry they created vast banquets in their imagination --- but at the end of the day they'd settle quite happily for egg and chips, if it was well done and maybe had a slice of tomato.

Ever since I read The Colour of Magic I've been a great fan of Pratchett and his amazing witt. Indeed, I doubt that any other author would think to compare sex with cooking.


A Simple Arch Review

I once thought that Debian, with its rock solid stability and simple package management, was the answer to my distro-hopping madness, and that no other distro could fit my needs as well. But Arch Linux has managed to surprise me, satisfying my needs in ways Debian never could. (Did that sound weird and strangely sexual or what?)

The Arch Way, the five governing principles behind the development of Arch Linux, dictates that Arch should be: simple, have code-correctness over convenience, open, user-centric, and free. Elaborating on the principles would be too time intensive for this review, but the general gist of The Arch Way is the age-old engineering adage, KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid). And Arch is simple. Most Linux distributions that claim to be simple, like Ubuntu or Mandriva, are merely simple to use for new Linux users, but Arch is a minimal, streamlined, and elegantly simple distro. Like Slackware, Arch's base installation is quite Spartan, including only the kernel and the bare minimum packages needed to create a stable OS, requiring the user to do all the rest of the configuring and installation of non-essential packages.

Arch Linux: a simple, lightweight, Linux distribution

Happily enough, unlike Slackware, Arch uses binary packages compiled for i686 so that users don't have to compile their programs from source (not a very difficult process usually, but quite time consuming). Because Arch's packages are optimized and compiled for newer i686 CPUs, users can expect a noticeable performance increase over distributions, like Debian, that use i386 packages. However, this also means that Arch will require a slightly newer CPU, a Pentium 3 or newer, whereas Debian can run on any 32-bit Intel-based processor. Arch also offers a 64-bit version, in addition to the 32-bit i686 version, if you want to be able to add more then 4 gigs of RAM to your system.

Arch's package manager, called "pacman," is reminiscent of Debian's "apt-get" and just as easy to use. Pacman can handle the installation, removal, and upgrading of programs, and also resolves dependencies with a single simple command. If I want to install Banshee music player, all I have to do is open a terminal, become root, and type "pacman -S banshee." Pacman also allows for Arch's rolling release system, a system based upon on incremental upgrades. Unlike so many other Linux distributions that make a big fuss about new releases, Arch's release version is essentially meaningless; a release ISO in Arch is simply a snapshot of the core repository with a fairly simple installation script. In order to upgrade my system to the newest kernel and software packages, I merely have to type "pacman -Syu" to fetch the newer packages from the repositories, so that even if I had used the three year old Wombat release, after an update my system would still be as up-to-date as if I had used the new Overlord release.


Space Mountain

These pics are over a year old, but still funny. Back when I was running my own hand-written blog CMS, i had a little web app that would resize uploaded photos and create a photo gallery. When I switched to Typo, and then later WordPress, my photo gallery kinda got lost. But I'm uploading these pics again.

FYI, the book I'm holding is Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, and no I wasn't actually reading it. We just went on the ride enough times for me know where the camera was and whip the book out.


USB Powered Humping Dogs

I encountered today, what was quite possibly the most amusing advertisement for the weirdest product, that I have ever seen: the USB desktop humping dog. Yup, thats right, its a USB powered humping dog. Because they're just aren't enough useless USB powered objects today, we need another one that does nothing besides suck power and amuse viewers a wee tiny bit with strange sexual movements. The funny, funny banner advertisement, read:

USB gadgets aren't always useful. [Well actually, all of mine are.] Sometimes they're just beyond belief. [Yeah, no kidding.] But you've got to do something with your empty USB ports. [OK, I know modern computers come with a lot of USB ports, but who has ever said, "damn these USB ports, I just have to use 'em!"] This pint size version or our worringly popular [No kidding.] Humping Dog may not be the next best thing since sliced bread, but it's a lot funnier. [Too true, too true.]

You can check out the vendor's website, and see the cool animated GIFs of the humping dogs. Perhaps most amusing of all behind the high-speed animated humping, is the vendor's statement that the dogs are "suitable for ages 16 yrs+."


HP dv2910us (dv2700) – Summary and Conclusions

In short, I believe the dv2910us is a highly recommendable laptop. To the common, casual laptop user, it looks good and gets the job done and can be purchased at a surprisingly good price (the dv2911us, which lacks a Lightscribe drive, was recently on sale at Office Max for only $550 US). To the Linux user, the dv2910us manages to be pretty Linux friendly and offers solid performance with its Intel hardware, although HP probably lacks some of the geeky coolness that Lenovo has. College students will no doubt appreciate (as I do) the fact that its fairly light at five and a half pounds, has a battery life of about two and a half hours, and still manages to be pretty sturdy. Gamers however probably won't be too thrilled by the dv2910us and its integrated Intel graphics card and middle-of-the-road Intel Core 2 Duo.

The only problems I really have, is that the media keys's sensitivity is non-adjustable, and that a matte screen option (instead of glossy) isn't offered.

The dv2910us isn't anything really stellar. It doesn't have amazing processing power, super long battery, an innovative new esthetic look, a slim body, or a ridiculously low weight; which is why the dv2700 series hasn't garnered the same kind of attention as the Apple Macbook Air or the Lenovo x300. But it remains a decent laptop, nonetheless, sufficient for all but the most strenuous of tasks.

What the HP dv2910us does have to offer that all those other popular laptops lack, is an affordable price. And for many people, like me, the price is always a major determining factor.


HP dv2910us (dv2700) – Installing Linux

I've decided to shorten this section down significantly, as it is probably the least significant part of this review (for most people), and for me to do it due justice would require quite a lot of time. I'm planning on writing an article later, more specifically aimed at installing Arch Linux on the dv2910us.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the Ubuntu Hardy Heron Live CD ran great on my dv2910us. I'm not much of an Ubuntu Fan these days, (although I don't hate it) but I couldn't help but be impressed by Hardy Heron. Everything worked great right from the Live CD, including wireless and suspend to RAM, without any tweaking required.

Last week, I finally decided to go ahead and install Arch Linux on my dv2910us. I started by just trying to use gParted to partition the drive, running from a Live CD, but after using gParted, Vista crashed and refused to boot and so I was forced to do a system restore and use Vista's tool for resizing partitions, which turned out to be pretty useless. Vista does this lovely thing where it makes a bunch of huge system restore points and pagefiles, scatters them across the disk, and doesn't bother to inform you at all about them. The only way I could even see pagefile.sys was to run the command prompt as root and then "dir /a" to list the system files. All these special system files prevent the Vista partition tool from shrinking a drive more then 10 or 20 gigs. Eventually, I was so fed up with Vista and its craptastic goodness, I was forced to retry gParted and happily enough it worked the second time!

Part of the reason that I bought the dv2910us, was because of the abundance of Intel hardware that it has. Intel tends to be a little more Linux friendly then many other companies, they open up the specifications on their hardware and write drivers for most of their equipment. Unlike my old desktop's ATI x800 xl graphics card which nearly drove me mad, the dv2910us's hardware was pretty simple to set up and use. The only thing that I haven't configured yet is the webcam, but judging by Arch Linux's wiki, it appears doable. [EDIT: August 19, 2008. I was able to get the webcam working easily enough with Skype by using the r5u870 (Ricoh) driver, and Arch Linux was able to detect the HP Webcam as a usbcam.]

The HP dv2910us probably isn't the most Linux friendly laptop around but its still quite useable; from my experience, all the hardware can be configured with relatively little fussing around. While HP doesn't have quite the reputation Lenovo does with the Linux crowd, I think HP has done a pretty good job, even if they weren't trying to.