Thursday, October 2, 2008

I booted Bart today...

Quick specs:
850 MHz Celeron Coppermine
Intel motherboard w/100MHz FSB
BIOS circa 2001
Purchase price: $1 in 2005

Booted him up, and LILO booted "Linux-Homer...."
It came up. Checked the version of ESP (Evolution software platform). Last modification date: December 13, 2001


I looked a little bit at some of the code that I wrote over seven years ago.

/// from ir_laser.cpp

ISwitchDevice *frickin_laser_beam; // ...frickin' laser beams? Is that too much to ask?
unsigned count;
test.check(ir_laser.obtain_interface (0,
(IResource**)&frickin_laser_beam, count) == RESULT_SUCCESS);

This robot STILL has a frickin' laser beam, after all of these years. I really need to connect it up.

For a quick speed comparison, Tom's Hardware shows the following "render times in seconds" for a Dragon_Character_rig (Rendering 1024x768 Single).



I think I'm going to hard wire the laser beam so that it turns on when the computer's powered up.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Quick Notes on Enabling Samba in OpenSolaris

I've been experimenting with OpenSolaris again. I figured out how to enable my broken samba package: I discovered that, after installing the package with

pfexec pkg install SUNWsmbs SUNWsmba

I had to execute:

svccfg import /var/svc/manifest/network/samba.xml

I then copied /etc/sfw/smb.conf-example and modified appropriate values, and created a configuration file that was saved to:


Finally, I could enable the SAMBA server:

svcadm enable samba

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A blast from the past

As is typical as of late, I was feeling rather isolated and lonely in Los Angeles. My business partners and roommate had all left on vacation, leaving me with little else but to operate out of an empty office. Being the sentimental creature that I am, I'm rather used to spending the fourth of July with my family in the beautiful state of Montana; my separation from them was having a deleterious effect. Having noticed that I've been in a bit of a rut recently (understatement), my parents invited me home for the weekend -- an invitation that I gladly accepted.

Since I've been at home, I've had the opportunity to go through some not-quite-buried treasures. When I left home for my first place of work, I relieved myself of all those useless trinkets, toys, photographs, awards, and other memorabilia that one acquires as a child. The remaining portion of the physical artifacts of my life I sorted and placed inside of labeled banker boxes.

In high school, I had been very active in extracurricular science fairs and research projects; this activity afforded me a great deal of travel and exposure to conferences. My successes were, to some degree, achieved through my own curiosity, attention to detail, and talent as a clear communicator; however, I believe that I thrived primarily due to the combined efforts and guidance of my teachers, to whom I am forever grateful. Sentinel High School, like a blacksmiths' workshop, took the raw metals of my personality, and fired and then forged them, forming a young Junior who traveled to Arizona and participated in the International Science and Engineering Fair in 1996.

Having achieved more than I could have ever expected, I became somewhat complacent, but was still interested in finding another vein of research that caught my interest. One of my science teachers suggested that I attend the Canyon Ferry Limnological Institute (now Montana Science Institute) near Helena, MT. At that time, it was run by husband-and-wife team Gil and Marilyn Alexander. Being young, egocentric, socially awkward, filled with hormones, and somewhat emotionally unbalanced due to my family situation, I left the camp early and went home, but not before making several faux pas that I still feel ashamed of. The teenage mind is painted in bright, primary colors -- and the reds are impressively vibrant.

Before I had left, however, I had performed some research into hydrogen peroxide rocket fuel. More captivating, however, were the patents of a Mr Stanley Meyer regarding a "hydrogen fracturing" process. I had reviewed several patents that had been written in a disorganized, unclear, and esoteric manner, so as to obviously make comprehension of the disclosed invention difficult -- if not impossible. I had sent e-mail messages to a Mr Daniel Hamilton, presumably living in Texas, who had insinuated that the Meyer cell could produce more energy than it consumed -- thereby breaking the laws of thermodynamics. At that point, I became highly skeptical and filed Meyer's cryptic patents away into a large, black, metal binder where they sat, provoking occasional curiosity and maybe a bi-yearly web search on "hydrogen fracturing."

Today, I retrieved this binder from it's banker box, and curiosity struck. I performed a web search on Stanley Meyer, and discovered that he had suffered the sad fate of the huckster that he was. In late 1996, Meyer had been sued by several investors for fraud and was found guilty thereof. An expert witness, Michael Laughton, Professor of Electrical Engineering at Queen Mary, University of London (wikipedia), had determined that Meyer's cell operated no more efficiently than a standard electrolytic cell. Meyer later died in 1998 of a brain aneurysm.

Somehow, this seems a fitting end for a man who would have tricked a young high school student with free energy propaganda, but didn't.

The black binder has been cleared of its contents and is now patiently awaiting something far more useful.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Last night, I watched too much Monty Python.

I'll have you know that I'm the Prince of European Identity Crisis. Oh yes. To use a horrible writing cliche, 'it all began' back when I was born. But after that, I traveled to Germany and Sweden. And, suddenly and unexpectedly, on the flight back, the "Luftansa" airline attendant made a point of asking everyone on the plane what they would like to drink; I think she was really trying to offer us potable refreshments.

Several rows ahead of me (I was in tourist class in the Airbus -- I'm not that "wealthy," if you get my drift), she began asking people what they would like. In English. She slowly bumbled towards my row, riding the airline turbulence like a seasoned cowboy rides a Tennessee Walker, asking each successive row's occupants their beverage preference.

Eventually, she made it to my row. She asked me what I would like to drink. IN GERMAN. So, with my best and wittiest parlance, I replied, "Bitte ein schtillis vasserlaksjdlaksdjfoinadf," just like a good German. I also added a couple of 'yah-yahs' par excellence. Yep. Out of all the occupants in the airline ahead of me, she thought I was the most Krauty. Even the two occupants to my left and right were asked their preference in English -- they simply weren't Euro enough for her! Oh, no, they were most certainly not.

Suitably impressed and clearly assured that I spoke her native tongue, she returned with my drink. As she carried on down the aisle, nothing else was ever said between the two of us. To this day, I still assume that she's still somewhere far above us all, fording the swiftly flowing jet stream, at altitudes often exceeding 9,000 meters.

Not surprisingly, I was totally addicted to house music during the period of 1997-2002, including BlΓΌmchen, remixes of Nena, and Toy-Box. Please don't think less of me because of this, but I'd like people to think of it as extracurricular intracultural studies. Sometimes, I still watch the "Heut Ist Mein Tag" music video when I want to be generally creeped out and made to feel like I have some sort of overtly Teutonic raver-girlfriend.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cold War... History?

Read a fascinating story about the United States' missile tracking systems that were developed in the 1960's, entitled BMEWS - 510 Full Days. I'm sure many have read this site already, but for me, it was a very interesting to see how the author believes that mutual assured destruction (MAD) was necessary to keep the United States, the USSR, and the rest of the world safe for over thirty years.

Few people are probably aware of the sale of US missile launch and guidance technology under the Clinton administration during the 1996 election cycle. Even fewer are aware that monies given to the Clintons were laundered through a Buddhist temple southeast of my church's location -- was that money given to ease the transfer of US satellite technologies into Chinese hands?

Guess what was actually occupying the minds of the American populace in the late 1990's? Monica Lewinsky.

Historians have a LOT of work to do - a lot of ground to cover - when looking at the politics of the previous decade. So, just how clean is Hillary Clinton's nose, I wonder?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Never start a business in January

As a small business owner, determining methods to avoid taxation is not an issue of principle; it is an issue of survival. The easiest example: suppose you score a six-month contracting gig, followed by a year of no work. If you begin the contract on the first of January, you report all $100,000 of your income in a single taxable year. As a result, your tax bracket is ridiculous. Now, suppose you began the work on the first of June, and are paid weekly. In one taxable year, you make $50,000, and in the next, $50,000. As a result, your income more accurately models reality.

That said, I read a Wikipedia article about Hollywood accounting, and found it unscrupulous.

Oh, if there were something that I could do to increase the overhead costs associated with the production of software!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Going "Postal"

I hate waste. As an engineer, few things infuriate me more than what I perceive as waste (my perception of waste, however, is of course subjective, and is a different topic).

That stated, I hate going to the supermarket and buying stamps in indivisible monetary increments; e.g. I need to ship a $.69 letter. So what do I do? I put two $.39 stamps on it for a total cost of $.78, and pay over 13% more than what I actually need to pay to send my letter. This actually infuriates me every time I contemplate sending a heavyweight letter (I swear, I'm going to die of an ulcer). Now, compound that with the knowledge that I purchased my stamps at a Wells Fargo ATM at over an 8.5% mark-up; it seems to be a little-known fact that Wells Fargo does charge you extra for stamps at any of their convenient ATMs, but people assume that they're just getting as many stamps as they're paying for. According to a business article published in 2000, Wells Fargo is the leading seller of postage in the country (aside from the USPS itself). And, not surprisingly, it is very difficult to obtain figures on how much Wells Fargo actually marks up the cost of postage at the ATM. Talk about a betrayal of a "good-neighbor-supermarket" mentality.

So, a while back, I noticed that the USPS was now authorizing vendors to print custom stamps with two-dimensional bar codes. I have always thought that was a brilliantly dumb move for the USPS, since people could order postage conveniently and instantly at any needed value; however, it made me feel better knowing that I could make things more efficient -- if indeed I cared to.

Today I decided enough was enough, and, since it's been several years since their online postage went live, I thought that I would figure out how to send my letter using online postage. So, I did some Internet searches, and found that almost all signs, all banner ads, all former online postage companies, point to the evil

According to other websites, used to offer some different price plans that didn't include a monthly subscription to their wallet-sucking service. And truthfully, it would be convenient if I sent, say, $150 worth of correspondence through the mail every month. But I know of no consumer that sends 300 letters out in one month. So here begins my rant concluding is to be avoided.

The first thing you notice is that the website forces you to put in your mailing and credit card information in for your "free trial" of their service. There really isn't much other information available without having an "account." This tactic is really associated with slick, unscrupulous Internet businesses. At this point I would have immediately aborted, if I wasn't so fed up with the aforementioned postal wastage. Continuing: formerly appears to have been targeting mass-market consumers. But recently, they have restricted price plans so that they require a $15.99 monthly fee. This move seems to indicate that their pitch to mass-market failed, and now they are getting more desperate. I don't trust the service based on this intuition.

Furthermore, in order to even find this out, you have to insert your personal information into their registration form and click "submit." This scares me as a consumer -- this information should be freely available without having to provide personal information.

And the final (and most horrifying) concern is that the procedure for canceling your account is deeply buried and is not automated. It requires a phone call into a call center. The call center was efficient, however, at canceling the account, but I wonder just how much of my personal information they have retained...

All I really wanted to do was to print one stamp. One stamp. I would have gladly paid 5% more to do this online, because it saves me a good amount of money at that price point. Sadly, it seems that the USPS still has no convenient, viable alternative to standard, indivisible postage that is targeted at the casual consumer. For the USPS, this makes sense for the aforementioned reasons. However, the sleazy feeling I get from's website makes me quite uneasy.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Changing the color of the zoomed crosshair in Half Life 2 Deathmatch

Occasionally, the gamer in me likes to indulge in first-person shoot-em-up goodness. Recently, I've been playing Half Life 2 on KiTTeNChaoSS's [KAT] House 4. I got frustrated with the color of the crosshair when zoomed in, so I came up with an inventive hack that seems to help. The following procedure modifies the zoomed in crosshair appearance so that a small circle is drawn almost on center (apparently the Valve guys didn't center the crosshair artwork perfectly).

In order to modify the crosshair, you'll need to download and install the GCFScape utility, which allows you to extract resources from your half-life installation.

If you want to copy these instructions to your website or publication, you must include the following credit:

Zoomed Crosshair Color Hack

Reticle is useless and crosshair doesn't show up on white background

Subtle, but helpful on all-white background

Step 1: Extract resources

Use GCFScape to open the following file:

C:\Program Files\Valve\Steam\SteamApps\half-life 2 deathmatch.gcf

Once this file is open, we're going to need to extract two resource files. In the left column, open the resource hierarchy and find


Extract this resource node by right-clicking and selecting Extract, and save it under the following directory:

C:\Program Files\Valve\Steam\SteamApps\*STEAM_USERNAME*\half-life 2 deathmatch\hl2mp\scripts

(if the directory doesn't exist, create it.)

Next, navigate the resource hierarchy in the left pane again, and this time, navigate to


Extract this resource node and save it inside the following directory:

C:\Program Files\Valve\Steam\SteamApps\*STEAM_USERNAME*\half-life 2 deathmatch\hl2mp\resource

(if the directory doesn't exist, create it.)

Step 2: Modify values

Open C:\Program Files\Valve\Steam\SteamApps\*STEAM_USERNAME*\half-life 2 deathmatch\hl2mp\resource\ClientScheme.resin your favorite text editor. You'll need to edit the "ZoomReticleColor" property, which is roughly on line 58:

// weapon selection colors
"SelectionNumberFg" "255 220 0 255"
"SelectionTextFg" "255 220 0 255"
"SelectionEmptyBoxBg" "0 0 0 80"
"SelectionBoxBg" "0 0 0 80"
"SelectionSelectedBoxBg" "0 0 0 80"

"ZoomReticleColor" "0 255 0 255
The format of the second argument consists of four values: red, green, blue, and alpha. Each can range from zero to 255, so in my example above, I changed my color to solid green.

Save your changes, and open the other extracted resource file, C:\Program Files\Valve\Steam\SteamApps\*STEAM_USERNAME*\half-life 2 deathmatch\hl2mp\scripts\HudLayout.res

We're going to modify the HUD so that the circles that are normally drawn in the zoomed reticle are drawn a lot smaller. The properties we're interested in are called "HudZoom" and are near line 194:

"fieldName" "HudZoom"
"visible" "1"
"enabled" "1"

"Circle1Radius" "0"
"Circle2Radius" "1"
"DashGap" "16"
"DashHeight" "4"
"BorderThickness" "88"

Save your changes, and proceed to lock your files so that HL2 won't over-write them. This step may require that you use NTFS on your drive -- FAT32 may not support file locking attributes.

Step 3: Lock files

Using the Windows explorer, navigate to the HudLayout.res file first. Right-click on the file in the shell, and select "Properties." Under the Attributes section, check Read-Only. Click the Apply button.

Repeat this procedure for the ClientScheme.res file as well.