Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Very Interesting

Okay, someone with engineering background explain this one. Mark!! Help me here.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Photo Albums

Anyone over twenty five has a few photo albums around. Maybe of their wedding, or weddings if the case may be (mine is). A few vacation albums. A family album. But who looks?

In the digital age, we have online photo albums. You can see mine on flickr. They even provide the html for the little badge to the right. I take snapshots whenever I see a shot, or just want to capture a moment. Nancy's asked me not to post some. No, not those kind. I mean ones where she hasn't brushed her hair. On my flickr page, you can click on my profile, and see who's albums I link to. Some are friends from far away. Friends I've never met, but I still can share their life, and mine with them. Some of them are famous.

Nancy's daughters have some pictures on their myspace pages. Nancy's blog has a link to her flickr page. My family has a photo album on our Yahoo House of Thompson group. In today's world, sharing your photo album is way easier.

I use Flickr, but here are some other options:
And we all know about YouTube. Sharing videos, especially family ones, is a great way for long distance families to keep in touch. Google Video, and Revver are some more Video sites. With Revver, they will actually share some of the income produced from the popularity of your video. YouTube is going to do that soon.

With most of these sites, you can decide who gets to see your pictures of videos, and who doesn't. If you just want your family to see them, you can choose that. If you want your family and friends to see them, you can choose that too. If you just want your sweetie to see them, well, you get the idea. You can keep your albums online without feeling like the world is watching.

But, if your like me -an attention hog- you hope the world is watching.

So, if you have an photo or video album site, send me a link:

Monday, January 29, 2007

Podcasts and Audiobooks

As many of my readers know, I'm a podcast fan. I subscribe to 32 podcasts. Most of them are technology oriented, but a few are cultural, and two are for writers. I was using Juice to download my podcasts, but iTunes is tied into educational podcasts from many schools, so I switched. I prefer using open source solutions whenever possible, but just as everyone else, it came down to content. I caved in, and went to where the fun was.

For the last two year, I've used my iPAQ 3715 to listen to podcasts and audiobooks (podiobooks). I rarely listen to music. It just puts me to sleep. Any kind of music, even Latvian Death metal (yes, it does exist). But once again, the headphone jack on my iPAQ is giving me problems. So, I looked for a new solution. This time, I used the help of a ChaCha guide.

ChaCha Search Search

Keyword: iPod Shuffle. When the guide came up, I asked for a couple of review pages about it. After reading the reviews, THIS review was the best overall, and convinced me that the iPod shuffle might be my next player. It meets my needs, and from what the article says, it's probably the most durable player available. I also like the size.

So, consider purchasing the iPod Shuffle. Especially consider purchasing if from this link:

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Antarcticans are a bit different

From the 2007 Antarctica Swimsuit Calendar.

Ice Dancing, Antarctic Style

Checkout Sandwich Girl's Flickr pictures. Amazing, entertaining, and educational.

Friday, January 26, 2007


For someone who can't stand the cold, I have this weird desire to visit, or even live in, cold places. Norway is where I'd like to end up. Even Canada is absolutely beautiful. One of my goals is to visit Antarctica. Me. Yes, ME. Antarctica!

But, I don't think I'll qualify for the Antarctic Gymnastics team:
This is Sandwich Girl.
For now, her home is McMurdo Station, Antarctica. This picture was taken at the South Pole. Not just Antarctica, but the actual South Pole. 90 degrees south. The bottom of the world. When she took this picture, it was: -25.5 F, -44.7 F windchill. That's cold. Right now, it's perpetual daylight there. If you read her Blog on LiveJournal, she writes about her experiences there. I may get to visit there, but there's now way on God's white earth that I'll get down to my Speedo, and do a cartwheel.

I've always wondered two things:
  1. If you stood at the South Pole, like the one in the picture, and walked all the way around it, did you just go through every time zone on the planet? My friend in Australia is a day ahead of me. Would I time travel back and forth at the South Pole? (That actually is the South Pole in the picture, at Amundsen-Scott Station!). Sandwich girl answers this question in her blog. Read it.
  2. If you stuck your tongue onto the South Pole, would it freeze stuck? I think this question was adequately answered, and you know in which movie.
Hat's, or visors, off to Sandwich girl, and her work in Antarctica!

Other Stuff
From a link on BoingBoing, I found this video. It's an autistic girl describing her language. It's a must-see:

Commercial Time!

A binary clock! I gotta get me one of these!

A guy in my class has this shirt.

I've needed some Yoga Bolsters.

Cylindrical Stuffed Bolster (Off White)
- $ 39.99
Our 100% cotton bolsters provide perfect support for many yoga postures. You will find that they are firm to provide full support, yet soft enough to be quite comfortable. The bolsters are stuffed with 100% cotton batting. The bolsters are round, and are 28" long with a 10" diameter.

This is the exercise device Nancy and I got for her mother. I HIGHLY recommend it.

Maybe I'm an Alien

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Windows Vista

This morning, I went to a Microsoft convention. It was a Windows Vista and Office 2007 preview for IT professionals. Students in the IT track are considered professionals, I guess. The first part of the seminar was on Windows Exchange Server 2007. I didn't understand most of it. Exchange server still looks like Windows 2000. After this summer, I probably will. I have to take the Windows Server class. I saw some heads nodding approval, so I guess a lot of system administrators are going to like Server 2007.

Everyone got a free copy of Office 2007. I haven't installed it yet. I'm going to wait and see if the school arranges for free Windows Vista, like they did Windows XP. We only get one time to download and use the free copy, so I want to put it on a computer I might actually use it. This computer will eventually be converted to an Ubuntu only computer. In actuality, it will probably be a very long time before I use Windows Vista. My next computer will likely be a System76, unless I absolutely have to have Vista for school. Even still, it will probably be a long time before I even get a new computer. I really like making old equipment work, and work well. I have no need for a new computer. But, if the opportunity were to arise, I doubt I'd say no.

The speaker seem to indicate that the name Windows was eventually going to go away, and Vista would remain. They never really said that, but it seemed implied. Windows has had it's day, and a new name does need to come up.

As the speaker was showing us cool things about Vista, I couldn't help thinking, "I've seen this before.":
This is SuSE Linux, Novell's Enterprise Linux distribution. Here's another screenshot:

Now, maybe it's just me, but there seems to be some pretty striking similarities. Gone is the start button. Instead, just the little Windows symbol in the lower left corner. In the SuSE desktop, the SuSE logo in the lower left corner. SuSE Linux mostly uses the KDE desktop, which is a little close to the Windows layout. Gnome is a bit more Mac like layout. I can use either, but I prefer Gnome. If you use Linux, you can use either. You can even go back and forth.

Here's a version of Kubuntu, Ubuntu's distribution that uses KDE:
These are customized desktops, of course. But the similarities are striking.

Vista looks like LINUX!

Let's see; Windows goes into an agreement with Novell, mostly to say, "It's okay, we won't sue you or your customers." From the looks of this, the agreement should have been the other way around. But, you can't steal Linux, or KDE. How do you steal something that is given away?

Sure is close.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Correction: 1954 Future Computer Photo

Correction for the post on the Home Computer of the Future.

Evidently, the photo is a hoax. You can read about it here, on Snopes:

Does Not Compute

It was a photoshopped (interesting how that's a verb now) picture. The man in the grey suit, the Teletype display, and the large TV in the grayscaled photo were done for a contest on The photo above is a display of a nuclear powered submarine's maneuvering room at the Smithsonian. I should have know that one right away, seeing as how I want my own recreational nuclear powered sub. I'd prefer a soviet era Typhoon Class sub though. Much bigger in side. is an excellent site for finding hoaxes and rumors. Curiously enough, though, they made my link to the correct photo bad. How nice of them.

Cory Doctorow - Not so Down and Out

ChaCha Search Search

Some of you haven't used the ChaCha guided search yet. Do it. NOW!

Hold on! Read my blog first.

Many of my regular readers know that I'm a fan of SciFi writer Cory Doctorow. Cory has worked with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and is an avid activist on many fronts, but mostly the digital world. His science fiction writing shows that. Cory's been interview in many podcasts, and is an occasional member of the TWIT podcast. He's got a new book out:

It's Cory's latest short story collection. Yes, if you click on the link above, you can buy the book and I'll make a few cents. But, here's the COOL part; If you click on this link, you can download any of the stories for free! Cory encourages you to do this. Why? It helps him sell more books. If you listen to some of his interviews in the different podcasts, he explains that for most authors, the problem isn't piracy. It's obscurity. All of Cory's writing is published under Creative Commons, so if you wanted, you could make a movie from any of his stories. He let's the gates wide open as far as digital restrictions go. He's out to prove that giving content away actually helps the creators. Guess what; It's working!

I was only slightly surprised to find that Cory is mentioned in the Wikinomoics book:

Wikinomics is excellent. Anyone interested in business needs to read this book. If you don't, you might find your business falling behind a very powerful trend.

Anyway, Cory efforts and successes are mentioned in the book. If you listen to this podcast from I Should Be Writing, Cory discusses his writing efforts, his writing process, and his unique publishing concepts. For any writing, this is an important download. If download some of his books, and like them, reward him by buying one. Or not. He doesn't really care. His most famous book is Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. You can download it for free from here, or buy it:

Down and Out is one of those 'must reads'. If you like Science Fiction, if you're a geek, if you're interested in futuristic concepts, or if you're just looking for a good read, download or buy Down and Out. Yes! I'm a raving fan of this one.

Here's an idea: Use the ChaCha search, and do a guided search on Cory Doctorow! At the very least, click on some of the links in my blogs.

Monday, January 22, 2007

More ChaCha

ChaCha Search Search

My ChaCha earning are increasing. It seems exponential. During the first few days, I was training, and didn't make any money. But I kept practicing the three keywords I choose, got drills on them, and finally got my first keyword to count me as Pro. For awhile, I was able to make money only on one key search word. Now, I have nine. I keep practicing the keywords that aren't yet Pro, they make me money, and I go onto the next keyword to practice. In between all that, I get regular searches on the keywords that do make me money.

I've met a few of the guides who actually do quite well. Most are either IT students, or specialists in a certain field. Womens health issues seems to be a big one. But, some of the guides actually work full time. I'm not planning on that, but it's interesting to know.

As I said before, ChaCha is still in it's 'beta' version, but it's getting better with each search. Have people actually influence the search results, instead of an algorithm, makes the results more relevant. Not all the time. On some subject, you can tell there's what I call, "peddler influence". Someone who has their own business trying to get searchers to come to it. Also, many of the guides pass each other through on keywords that they don't really know much about. But, the ones who are actually making a living at this aren't just treating it like a job, they treat it like a business.

Each guide gets to invite a certain number of guides. My number started off at 8. We get to make 10% of what those guides make. Guides who have had more searches, and higher 'level', get to do more invites. The really smart ones actually train their new guides, and get them going as fast as possible. Sounds a bit Amwayish, but it works pretty good.

I think ChaCha will have most of their bugs ironed out by summer. If you're interested in being a guide, email me at

Even with the efforts I'm making toward getting a job in the IT world, I still really want to get a Free Geek franchise going. If not here in Central Florida, somewhere. There's so many computers out there that people think are out of date, and they're not. Their systems are out of date, not the hardware. Sure, some really are old, and need to be junked, but not most.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Some of you may usually come to my blog by way of my original website: For now, that address will take you to this blog.

I'm making some large changes to the website. Mostly, I want to setup my own web server here at home, and learn to do Linux administration. A basic home web server doesn't really have to be too powerful. I need to learn LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and php), and how to administer and maintain it. What better way than doing my own. I'll use some of the information I'm doing in class, but also from They have a podcast too. I've been using the RoadRunner servers to host the site, but they only allow a small amount of pages. I hadn't used up much storage or bandwidth, up it was getting close to it's maximum. I also need to learn a different web page layout program. I'm chosen NVU, mostly because it's free and open source. It's also available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. was my personal training website. At best, it's an online business brochure. It wasn't getting much traffic, and the owners of the facility I use wanted me to change a few things. Reasonable requests, and the site has needed an update. So, I decided to do a massive change.

Other Changes
I've been using Juice to download my selected podcasts. I like Juice because it works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Are you beginning to see a pattern here? I like software that works on all three platforms. Juice is also an open source program. I like open source. A more secure, kinder, friendlier software. But, it seems most of the educational facilities have been horns waggled by Apple. You can only access their educational podcasts through iTunes. So, I've had to switch to iTunes. What's most frustrating is that iTunes doesn't work on Linux. At least, not yet. But, I want those educational podcasts, particularly the IT ones. What gets me most is the educational facilities are the ones that, most of all, should know better. I hope the make their material more open in the future.

Keep coming to my site. In the future, you'll see more stuff. Stick around.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

More Random Thoughts

Darth Sidious was Gay
Think about it. Palpatine seduced Anakin with the Dark Side of the force. More likey, Sidious simply stole Obi Wan's gay lover. It's quite possible Obi Wan was a child molester, but Sidious was simply a gay Sith Lord. Maybe, all the Sith Lords are gay. "Hi there. I'm Darth Thidiouth. Obey me, or you will have to deal with the Dark Thide of the Forth. Obi Wan was intrusted with the teaching of Anakin. And what of that little green creature, Yoda. He sure had lots of kids in his scenes. And he was very upset with the younglings were slaughtered by Anakin. Remember when Yoda said something like, "Do, or do not. There is no try." It was a freakin muppet, people! A muppet!

Personally, I think the Jedi were the bad guys. The Republic was full of corruption, incompetency, and greed. Palpatine just wanted to bring security to the Galaxy. Security, and Order. So he was a little evil. He had good intentions.

I think Darth Maul and Obi Wan were lovers at one time. That's why Darth Maul was so mad at him.

Mr. Spock was Incompetent
Every time they were attacked, it was Mr. Spocks station that went up, burned up, froze up, or fritzed out. And this was the science officer! Was he that bad at maintenance. I bet Uhura, the communications officer, thought to herself, "I told him to air blast his station last parsect." And with how many times his workstation went offline, you'd think he'd keep backup handy. Backups of something! Anything; circuit boards, memory sticks, etc. How much solder can a circuit board hold? How many patches did he have to download each time. He was probably a Windows Beyond fanboy. And why was he having to look into that little viewing screen all the time? What was so bad about a regular monitor? You guessed it; Vulcan Porn!

Every seven years could get to a guy, ya know. Maybe, if he'd been busy doing his job instead of cruising the Uninet, his workstation wouldn't keep blowing up.

Spock may have been a good science officer, and knew his logic, but the Enterprise definitely needed an IT guy.

William Shatner is Still Overacting
The difference this time; you can't tell. The character of Denny Crane was made for someone who overacts. Shatner fits the part perfectly! He just has to do his usual bit, and on screen you can't tell it's overacting. It was written in the script.

I love Boston Legal. If I were wealthy, I'd hire James Spader to play as my attorney. Never mind he probably doesn't have a law degree. I'd hire other lawyers too, of course. But, they'd simply be a part of writing the script he'd follow in court.

Then again, if I was wealthy, I could do like Ken Lay did, and have my death faked. Let's see; rich guy dies right before going to jail. Yeah. Right.

I wonder if Dick Cheney is having heart trouble again. His new condition could be labeled, Scooteritis.

What are the chance that Anderson Cooper is NOT a Bonesman?
I'd say, very low. Sub-basement.
Usually, Yale + CIA = Skull and Bones. Usually. I'm not say he IS. Just thinking on digital paper.

In 1954, this is what they thought a Home Computer in 2004 would look like.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Soon to be Emperor

It seems that my destiny of becoming Emperor may be close at hand. , a BitTorrent site, and a very popular one, is trying to have the Principality of Sealand transferred to them. Sealand is a Micronation. If acquires Sealand, they'll be able to server torrent files with little problems from the law. The RIAA -an outdated business model- has had the Swedish site of raided, and servers confiscated. ThePirateBay moved parts of their equipment to Russia, where it's much more difficult for the government to bother them. But, ThePirateBay has to deal with the Russian Mafia. If ThePirateBay acquires Sealand, they'll offer citizenship for a donation. (If you don't know what Bittorrent is, click on the Freakin Link!)

Guess what I intend to do!

When I become a citizen of Sealand, I'll offer to organize their Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. I will defend the Principality of Sealand with full force, within the guidelines of the Geneva Conventions of War. I'll work to have an ambassador sent to the United Nations.

But more importantly, when I become the Minister of Defense of Sealand, anyone who sends me a collection notice will be in violation of international treaties, and Sealand will have to declare WAR upon them.

So, all you scum out there, will you be ready for war with an actual nation?

Or, I could just declare Diplomatic Immunity.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

More Nickel and Dimed

It seems the push on the common man never stops. The greedy, unscrupulous types prey on those who have little means, if any, to fight back.

For almost three years, I had to live completely by cash. This was mostly due to what I believe to be identity theft. In 2003, someone showed up at my front door wanting to repossess a Chevrolet Impala. I've never owned an Impala. Nor would I. Ugly car. The repo man insisted I produce the car. The repo company attempted to gain access to my bank account, which I promptly closed. As I had only three bills, which could be paid by cash or money order, I didn't need it. I dealt with that, and thought the issue had been resolved.

Now, this company is seeking to collect on a lease which I NEVER SIGNED! In a place that, from what I can tell, no longer exists. How convenient. Things are starting to smell again.

These events are part of what Barbara Ehrenreich discusses in her book:

The common man, because he has little means, little counsel, and very little control, is easy prey. An easy target. Even when he does attempt to fix situations, red-tape (or so they claim) keeps in in-his-place. For instance; I paid off all my debts when my house in Gainesville was sold. Three of the payoffs were obviously not reported, and collectors are asking for the money. I will be as dust before they collect on anything. And, I follow the Die Broke philosophy:

As Stephen Pollan and Mark Levin say, "You're last check should be to the undertaker. And, it should bounce!"

Sunday, January 14, 2007


We ate dinner at Crispers Saturday night. We both had allergic reactions; swelling, bloating, dizziness, and...well, we probably should have slept with the windows open. We won't be eating Crispers sandwiches anytime soon. They did taste good, but didn't agree with us. I might give their salads a chance, but I don't like being really uncomfortable all weekend.

Read Nancy's Blog about our Saturday adventure rescuing a little baby squirrel. While you're at it, check out my flickr page, where you'll see a Wolf Hybrid we saw.

We went to Millinium Mall to pickup some Sage and Citrus plugin smelly-good thingies at Yankee Candle, but they were out. We did get a diffuser though. We're suppose to have more Open House showings this week, so we need our signature scent. (No, this wasn't one of my commercials. At least, not yet.)

ChaCha Update
I've progressed to Pro, but I still have to be trained on more keywords before I'm able to take more searches. Master Guides drill you, and you have to get rated at least ten times on a subject before they progress you. Some subjects don't have any guides helping yet, especially the more technical subjects. I noticed that I'm only one of four guides with Ubuntu as a keyword.

I have noticed that mostly women are guides. Not that I have a problem with that. Just on observation. I also noticed that some people might be promoting their own business interests. I guess that's to be expected, but hopefully the guide training process will root out those types.

I've tried a few searches. Some worked perfect, others didn't. For instance, I did a search on "Who is Mark Shuttleworth" to show someone how ChaCha works. After two failed attempts using the toolbar, we simply went to the main page. It took three tries to get a response. In the first try, the guide started helping us, but then nothing happen. This was probably not the guides fault, as the Guide Application is Java based, and is still in "Alpha" - not yet even beta. The application has froze on me a few times. We tried again, got a response, and pages came right up. ChaCha is a new technology, but seems to be growing fast. I'm glad to get the experience, especially on the ground floor of something like this.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

About ChaCha

SunGard Responds

When I emailed Brian Madocks, CEO and President of SunGard, he responded quickly. Just a few hours. On Thursday, a representative of SunGard contacted me. She was very helpful, didn't give excuse, and gave me some information on the details of the issues.

From talking with my professors, SunGard is simply the end result that the students see in the chain of technology used at Valencia Community College. There are almost twenty more hardware and software solution providers involved. The problems students have experienced recently probably had nothing to do with SunGard's technologies. It probably has more to do with a local provider, and the 'pipe' at Valencia not being open wide enough.

So, SunGard has a lot of work to do, but not necessarily on this problem. It looks like they are working on technologies to provide the educational services I've described in this blog. Those concepts are a huge undertaking, and will require thousands, if not millions of people cooperating.

To all at SunGard, especially Mr. Madocks, hats off to you. Well, in my case, visors off to you.

Friday, January 12, 2007

ChaCha Guide Pro!

I made ChaCha Guide Pro today! I get to make money for searches now. Don't get too excited for me just yet. This is only a start.

When you first start as a Guide, you choose three keywords, usually on something you're knowledgeable about. I chose; Dumbbells, Ubuntu, and Yoga. The Master Guides drill you on searches. Their job is to make sure you know the ChaCha Guide Application, follow guide procedures and protocols (in other words, be nice), and demonstrate knowledge in the keyword.

Today, I moved on to Pro with keyword Ubuntu. I'm sure you're thinking, "With all this guys raved about Ubuntu, he should have become Pro pretty quick." You'd be right. So far, I'm only Pro on that keyword, but I can now enter 43 new keywords to work on. The more difficult the subject, the higher the pay rate. I don't know what the pay rate is for Ubuntu, but I'm sure I'll find out. I checked, and there's only 4 guides using Ubuntu as a keyword, so it might have a significant pay rate. As I practice a get drilled on keywords, I'll have more opportunities for paid searches. I've added words like; Haunted Mansion, Parkour, Shoulder Exercises, Installing Ubuntu. I've got about 23 more keywords to enter. Maybe ya'll can help me come up with more? Things I know about.

The cool thing for me is; in a sense, I'm supporting Ubuntu. I'm practicing exactly what I want to be doing.

So, you'll see 'commercials' for ChaCha search here often. Kind of like this:

Are you ready to ChaCha?

Give it a try, and let me know what you think. Good or bad. What I'd really like to know is how they handle something difficult. Like, "How do you configure a Cisco Switch?" Or, "Which is better - MythTV or TiVo?" They are still building their guides and knowledge base, so technical questions will be more challenging for them. But, I'd like to know. Yes, I'll be trying it myself.

You might be thinking, "This is stupid! I can search for myself." If you're a techy type, you might be right. If you're good at searching, you're probably going to be a good guide. But what about your friend, or family member that rarely uses the computer. Or has never really used the computer. Maybe they don't know what Google really is, or what it does. THOSE people are what ChaCha was designed for. That, and subjects you know you don't know.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

ChaCha Update

ChaCha Search Search

So I've been through my first day of training. I had some initial difficulty with the Guide application, but within a few minutes I got use to it. Master Guides are drilling me, till I pass the checklists, then I'll move on to the Pro level, where I get to interact with the public and get paid. I did about twenty self practice sessions, and 6 guided sessions. I'm sure I have more to do before the checklists are complete. I'm looking forward to completing the training.

Getting paid is pretty interesting too. You have two choices, but the primary one is where you get a debit card, and fill it whenever you can. You work till you've made money, and click a "pay me" button, and your debit card is filled with your 'paycheck'. Very cool.

This type of working environment is very close to what I'd like to do as a career. A support type position, working from home. may or may not be that, but it's good practice. Very Web 2.0

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Tech Job?

In my Windows XP Professional class on Monday, my professor suggested to check out the search engine . ChaCha is a search engine where you can actually have a guide help you search for a subject. These are usually people who are at least somewhat knowledgeable about the subject your searching. But, what's interesting about ChaCha; you can apply to become a guide, and get paid, usually $5 - $10 per hour. Guess what I did?

After fishing through the maze to become a guide, I put forth my application, and as of the moment, I'm an apprentice. I won't get paid till I finish training, but once I become Pro, I'll get paid. I can work whenever I want, where ever I want (provided a high speed Internet connection), and for how long I want.

Something like this is very close to what I want to do; work from home doing some type of support. At the very least, I'll get some experience with this, and have something to put on my resume. At the best, ChaCha will become a success, I'll become an Elite Guide, they'll do an IPO, give me stock, and I can actually make a living. Either way, I love this idea. I'm using the collaboration that Wikinomics is about. So, checkout ChaCha:

ChaCha Search Search

You can even add a ChaCha search bar to your browser:

Internet Explorer Toolbar

Mozilla Firefox Toolbar

I'll keep ya'll informed of my progress. And, if I start getting paid, I'll post a pic of me with my first IT paycheck.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Nickel and Dimed

Subect: Personal and Social Commentary

Trying to get ahead in the USA these days is difficult. In my opinion, to get ahead you have to ignore some things that happen in our world. Slave labor, abusive employers, horrible living conditions, and other such atrocities that enable us to be the haves in the world. Many things we have are on the backs of those you don't have choices. Just living here makes me guilty as the next, so I'm no angel. I do try to be aware, and make the choices I can.

I guess in a way, I'm trying to get ahead. By going to school to increase my earning potential, that's exactly what I'm doing. What I really want is to make a living. I'm not looking to be wealthy. I don't have wealth skills, and not really sure I care too. I'm just not the over-consumer type. All the possesions I own could probably fit in the back of my truck (but here in Florida, they'd get wet). In reality, I probably have too much.

When I started Personal Training over twenty years ago, you could make a really good living at it. Now-a-days, here in central Florida, it's much more difficult. The market is glutted. Many trainers are part-time. Many are new to the industry, willing to work for lower wages. Price-wise, this is good for the consumer. Quality-wise, not so good. No matter. The public seems less and less interested in heath and fitness, until they become unheathy that is. Then they expect the medical profession to fix the problem. Anyway, my interest in the business is less, but my interest in fitness isn't.

The hard part of my endeavor is keep my head above water. This moring, I received a notice of a Lien being put on my truck. In defense of the finance company, I was late. With the distractions of the holidays, I'd missed that payment. As soon as I received a late notice, I sent it off -next-day-air even. That was just before Christmas. The date on the late notice was for December 19th. The date on the Lien was December 8th. In other words, the finance company had to put forth the collection to the agency before my normally due date. Before the "due on" date. Something smells fishy.

In the world of the low income, this is called Nickel and Dimed. This happens to many low income wage earners. The red-tape style Nickel and Diming that goes on cause many hard working Americans to be kept down. They cannot get out of the hole, much less ahead. Auto, insurance, health care, child care, even housing is sometimes insurmountable. Housing costs here in Orlando are outrageous. There are very few apartment due to the condo conversions (I hope the greedy developers discover the land of Nickel and Dimed).

Barbara Ehrenreich wrote about Nickel and Dimed - the title of one of her books I've been reading:

I would like to say this book has had an effect on my, but when I read it, she's preaching to the choir. I've lived it. But, I have the skills. I know how to survive like this. I don't have the skill of high income and wealth. Many people don't realize that attaining wealth is a skill, but so is keeping it. And using it. It's a myth that wealthy people get to lie back and enjoy the fruits of their labor. That once they attain their wealth, they no longer have to work. They still have to work, the tasks are simply different. The skill set is different.

The difference is; most wealth can afford being Nickel and Dimed. Or better yet, they know what to do to avoid being Nickel and Dimed. If they hit, they have the funds to fight being Nickel and Dimed. Low income earners don't have those options.

I'm being Nickel and Dimed right now myself. Some of it is my fault. ADD people tend to not be good with money (hmmm, maybe I could claim discrimination?). But, some of it is the greed of others. Some of it is the proper application of confusopoly by others.

I won't always be Nickel and Dimed. I'm focus on my technology education and will eventually have more options. Until then, I'll probably be Nickel and Dimed a few more times. But, with the help of information from Clark Howard, I'll prevent some of it. When I have enough education that I can get a good tech job, I'll be able to fight some of the Nickel and Diming.

In the meantime, send a few Nickel and Dimes my way. Click on the book link above, and buy a copy of Nickel and Dimed. (No, this entire post wasn't meant to be a commercial)

Monday, January 08, 2007

School Frustrations

I registered for my classes last Friday. It took almost five hours. It seems the service at Valencia Community College has been having problems. Not just this semester, but for the last few semesters. The IT department at Valencia isn't in charge of the administrative part of IT. A company called SunGard is. On Friday, I had till 5pm to get my classes schedule. Right at 4:57pm, I finally got both classes schedule, and after almost an hour, got to the payment page. I entered my information in, and hit the payment key. I waited, and waited, and finally got a message saying, "A serious system error has occurred. Your account may have been charged. Please contact the Bursars office."

Valencia Community College doesn't have a Bursars Office! After a quick Wikipedia search, I found that meant Business Office in modern terms. I guess Bursars Office is for private schools. Elitist scum! Anyway, the Business Office at Valencia had closed by the time I got the message, and their voice mail system was full.

All weekend, it seemed that I was registered. My classes showed up on the registration, but not on our online classroom (WebCT). Lo-and-behold, Monday morning, my classes were dropped due to non payment. I was a bit angry. Just a wee bit. About as angry as I normally get, but not Code Enforcement angry. I'm sure one-of-the-ex'es would leave a comment on that level of my anger.

I marched to the Bursars/Business Office. Okay, I drove, but marched sounds much more battle-like. I was polite, patient, but firm. I explained my position, but also refused to accept 'no' for an answer. By noon, I was re registered and paid, but it took about an hour to get the business office to understand why I shouldn't have to pay a 'dropped classes fee'. Either they finally understood, or simply wanted me to go away. Either way, I didn't have to pay it.

When I got home, I did a search and found the email of the President and CEO of SunGard, Brian Madocks. I was polite, but let him know how frustrating the situation was for a student. He actually responded. I appreciated it. For a billion dollar company, they've got some work to do.

I showed up for my first class tonight; Windows XP Professional. Now, you're probably saying, "Big Deal. I can use Windows XP." This is different. This class is about working the Windows XP on a massive scale. Think installing and supporting 30,000 computers. Yeah. That's difficult. Tonight, the teacher said that out of all the classes he teaches, this is the hardest. I like that.

My Linux Administration Class is on Wednesday night. I'll report on that. Maybe even from class.

I'd wanted to take four, or even five classes this semester. Finances prevent it at the moment, but Valencia has a Flex Start program for classes. If they have some more classes pop up in 6 weeks, I'll try to schedule one or two more.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

More Adventure

Yesterday was our the fifth anniversary of our first date. I think that means we're going on our fifth year together. She's so lucky to have me.

We went to Islands of Adventure. Until Nancy's eye fully heals, she can't ride the really big roller coaster type rides. No biggy. There's still lots to do. We finally saw The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad stunt show. It seems that Sindbad is spelled wrong many times -as Sinbad. Even the new movie coming out this year with Keanu Reeves spelled it wrong. Some people are such sticklers for correct spelling, definition, grammar, and punctuation. Being a writer, I understand the flexibility of language, and that languages evolve, sometimes very quickly. People with a strong need for order and structure get irked when someone spels sumting rong. Someone at Universal seems to be that way. Sindbad isn't even an English word.

Anyway, we road on the Dr Suess tram. Click on my flickr pics to see that. After IOA (Islands of Adventure) we at at Margaritaville. We ate outside, and it was very similar to our first date at Bahama Breeze in Altamonte Springs. After that, we came home and cleaned up for the Open House today.

Gotta run now. On our way to the Fleet Peeples Dog Park.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Red Hat, Fedora, and Ubuntu Linux

Yes, this is a tech post. But, even if you're not interested, read anyway. Because I said so, that's why!

Recently, Microsoft and Novell entered into a deal where Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) customers would be indemnified from legal action. People in the Linux community cried FOUL, with a rebel yell. Why Novell did this, I can't imagine. It probably has more to do with the fact that Microsoft has far more lawyers, and far more money to keep any legal action going, legit or not. A few months ago, I predicted Microsoft would eventually give out their own version of Linux, buy one, or partner with one. It might be SuSE. It's probably not. There is a free version of SuSE Linux; OpenSuSE. I'm not sure if Novell's Microsoft deal extends to that.

Shortly after the Novell/Microsoft deal, people watched to see if Red Hat would enter into a deal with Microsoft. Red Hat responded to these questions with an, "" I imagine the Red Hat folks know what they're doing.

A few months ago, Oracle began their own Linux distribution; Unbreakable Linux. Unbreakable Linux is simply a copy of Red Hat, with the Red Hat logos and such removed. They may have added a few of their own products to the commercial distribution, but it's not much different than other Gnome based GNU/Linux desktops. SuSE, Red Hat, and Unbreakable Linux are commercial distributions that use an .rpm system. RPM used to stand for Red Hat Package Management. RPM is similar to what Windows users know as a .exe (executable) file.

My point of this post is where Red Hat is going. Fedora Core is Red Hat's free, cutting edge distribution. Fedora Core 4 was my first. Everyone remembers their first. I started with Fedora Core 4 when I took an Operating Systems class, and needed it for the class work. As it turned out, we never really bothered with it in class. Mac OS X for that matter either. But, I'd loaded it, used it, and was pulled in. Here was software that controlled the computer, came with an Office Suite, photo editing software, Internet browsers, and pretty much everything I needed. FOR FREE! No licenses. No EULA's. I was in toyland.

Fedora Core wasn't easy though. At first, I thought I had to search the Internet, and compile binaries to install programs. I actually got pretty good at this method, but only because I didn't know there was an installer program. Once I found the forums, I learned better. Fedore Core worked, but I always had some problems; no wireless worked, my web cam didn't work, and I couldn't read from my NTFS formatted hard drive. There were more problems, but they were minor. I recently read an article about a CIO of CareGroup -a medical company- that tried Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux for a few weeks. His preference seems to be for Mac, but it didn't run everything he needed. He used both Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and Fedora Core. His experience with Fedora Core wasn't very good. He spent more time trying to get it to work than actually working with it. I can sympathize.

Then, I tried Ubuntu Linux. On a slower computer. Not only did Ubuntu run faster even on a slower computer, I had very few problems. Web cam worked. Wireless worked. I could read my external NTFS hard drive. Things on Ubuntu just plain worked. After a few weeks, I switched to Ubuntu exclusively. Had the CIO of CareGroup used Ubuntu instead of Fedora Core, he might of had a different conclusion.

The main reason I switched was not just because everything worked, but it was the direction Ubuntu was headed. It quickly became the sweetheart of the Linux community (according to, greatly outdoing even the second place distro. A big part of the reason Ubuntu is doing so well is because of the work Mark Shuttleworth has put into it, the work Canonical has put into it, and the philosophy of business Shuttleworth is using. His leadership is a big part of the success it's having.

A big part of the reason I use Ubuntu is not just because it works so well, or because it's completely free (and always will be), or because of the leadership. It's because I predict Ubuntu will become the predominate Linux distribution. It will eventually be on more servers than Red Hat or SuSE Linux. By the end of 2008, I predict it will overtake Mac OS X in numbers. If I'm right, having spent so much time learning Ubuntu will help me in the job market. I'm not a fanboy. I'm a forward thinker.

Red Hat has recently influenced some changes to the Fedore Core distribution. Primarily, there will be no more Core, or extra packages (programs, for the Windows folks). It will all be Fedora. They are producing a LiveCD version. Currently you'd need the Fedora Core 6 DVD or 6 CD's to install it.

I think the changes going on at Red Hat and Fedora are from the squeeze Ubuntu is giving them, not Microsoft. Ubuntu is being installed on many servers, and thousands of desktops a day. There are claims that as many as 8 million computers are now running Ubuntu Linux. I'm not convinced of that number, but more than likely it's true. Ubuntu is growing extremely fast in other countries, especially the developing countries.

Windows will still dominate the computer world for years to come, especially in business. But Linux -especially Ubuntu- is growing quicker than Windows. In about 4-5 years, Linux will be just as easy as Windows to use. But by then, computers will be very different from what you're using to read this.

Friday, January 05, 2007


It seems many people couldn't find the comments selection, or couldn't get it to work right. I had to set it up to keep spammers out, but that makes it difficult for people to comment. I did receive a few emails, and good suggestions.

I'm going to start with posting each subject separately. If it gets to a point where my technology posts are overpowering the normal "Danny" stuff, I'll create a separate tech blog. Besides, I want all the non-techy types to at least be aware of some of the topics. If I have a separate tech blog, you might miss out on some important tech information. But, if needed, I'll start a separate one, and simply link to it from here.

Commercial Time: Today's Post brought to your by:

I've used PowerBlocks at some of the Personal Training Studios I've worked for. I've also used the Boxflex/Nautilus SelectTech dumbbells. Both are excellent products. I like the PowerBlocks because they are very well made, can be upgraded, and they have one of the best adjustable benches I've ever used. There website has good workout instructions, but you can get a lot more information on dumbbell training from this book:

Drew Baye recommends it on his site too. If you have a set of adjustable dumbbells, and adjustable bench, and a chin bar, you have all the equipment you really need for strength training. Anything else simply makes the training more convenient, not necessarily more effective.

So, click on the links or pictures above, and at least check out some of the stuff. I do recommend the dumbbell book. That should be a part of most people library.

Commercial Completed

I've made the Presidents List at Valencia Community College. THAT is an accomplishment for me. The Deans List is for students with a 3.50 to 3.74, and the Presidents List if for students with a grade point average of 3.75 or higher. So, for those of you who know me; Can you believe it? Actually, I got a 4.0 this semester, so it booted me up to the Presidents List. Until now, I've never really been very good in school, so this is an accomplishment for me.

Damn, I'm good.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


I got some advice on my blog layout from a few readers, and a good pointer from a reader. I should keep my posting subjects separate. My personal stuff should be in a separate post from my tech stuff, and my political commentary (satire?) should be separate too. The reader was from an online tech magazine, and let me know he'd love to have link to my posting, but their rules on personal content in the link prevented him from doing so. Very good point.

Many bloggers, especially the professional ones, keep several blogs going at once. I have two; on for me, and one for my writing. I know several of my Linux Penguinistas have separate blogs for the technology commentary. My fitness friends have blogs specifically devoted to their fitness pursuits.

My original thought was to publish my blog for my friends and family to keep up with me. I wish my friends and family would do so too, but I understand why they don't. Okay, not really. In my techy Web2.0 head, everyone should have a blog. Especially my family. I take pictures primarily of me, with the scenery in the background, because my blog is about me. Some of Nancy too, but she has her own blog -and it's doing better than mine. Grrrr.

So, I pose this question to my readers:

Should I use separate blog entries or completely separate blogs? Should I create separate blogs from my techy stuff, and keep this one personal?

Please give me your thoughts in the comments option below. Click on Comments. Write Blog Entries or Separate Blog.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


More Editing Frustrations
Can you believe it? I'm actually having to spell check and edit my posts before the go on. I'm a bit put out by Blogger's problems with the edit tools. But, I know it's temporary. They do tend to fix these things, eventually. One week though. My, my.

Obviously, editing is not my best skill-set with writing. But, it's much better than my titling. The titles of most of my stories are from other peoples recommendations. I bow to the gods of good titling. Unlike many writers, I hold absolutely no emotional attachments to my titles. Most of the time, they're just the name of the file (now-a-days, usually an OpenOffice .odt file extension).

Speaking of writing, I am doing much more lately. I've gotten at least 5 minutes of work done on a story every day for over a month. It really does help to do at least that much each day. If it gets done by summer, and edited by October, I could have it ready for Christmas. But, this is not a primary project this year. If time permits, and it happens, very cool. But, school will take priority.

On School
I didn't go through early -normal- registration, so I'm having to do late registration. Sometimes, this proves to be a good thing. Class that were full early had some drops because of late payments, so there might be more openings. It's a gamble, but one I didn't really have the choice to make this year. I'm just grateful to have the funds to go to school. On that, I do realize how incredibly fortunate I am.

On Linux
I had to make a Linux comment. I'm mostly a freakin penguinista. Give me a break.
It interesting to watch. While we here in the USA are on holidays, the rest of the world is hard at work, and the news coming from the different Linux distributions doesn't slow down. The list of people using and working on Linux seems to grow, exponentially. I have no idea if that's accurate. It just seems that way. The improvements made to Linux distributions this last year alone has increased so the average computer user can use it. It's helped keep thousands of computers working. Ones that were given up on, or slated for the junk heap were still quite usable. And, it still powers some of the most powerful servers used.

Nancy primarily uses her desktop computer now. Her Ubuntu Linux desktop computer. Nancy's interest in technology is more of a tolerance than an interest. She was used to Apple OS's. She still uses her laptop, but not as much. This is actually a good thing. Might keep both computers working longer. But, two years ago Nancy was a common user. She new how to do just the things she wanted, and no more. That hasn't changed, but she is able to do those things on Ubuntu Linux or OS X (she doesn't use Windows at all).

Most of the people who work on Linux distributions will never meet each other in person. Mostly, geography prevents this. They are all over the world. Which brings me to my next topic.

I'm biting at the bit to get at this book. What even a quick glance at it made me realize how things will change, and much sooner than we though.

I'm going to make another prediction; By 2012, most higher level education will be very inexpensive. Much of it might even be free.

The changes that technology are making will enable the education and learning on a massive level.

Primary education will become the government focus. Higher education, especially undergraduate level education, will change in requirements, locality, delivery, and mostly in price. Schools will hold fewer classes, at least as we know them today. The classroom will be available for specific subjects, but no longer the default choice to teach all subjects. Only subjects that require social interaction will be done in a classroom setting.

The quality of education will increase. No longer will a student have only one teacher to listen to for lecture. They could have choices of lectures, from many sources.
For instance, lets say you're learning Algebra. Instead of going to class, you log onto the Wikiversity website (or something like it) of the subject your studying, click on the next topic in the lesson plan. It's a video of a specific algebraic expressions. You watch it, but you just didn't get it. Here's where education makes a dramatic change; You watch it again! Something so very simple could be a huge change in the quality of education. But, even after you watched the video, you still didn't get it. Here's where it gets even better; you choose a different lecturer. And, if necessary, an even different one. Maybe after the second time around, you got it. Maybe it took the other lecturer, but you eventually got it.
The above instance doesn't happen much in today's classroom. You're on a schedule; the teachers schedule. If you're not on schedule, or you fall behind, you don't pass. You FAIL. With the Wikiversity model, you don't fail. You keep working with the information till you know it, at your own pace. When you have completed all the information, you'll receive a certificate of completion. You've 'passed' that subject.
Not only would the student be able to see different lectures, but he would be able to see the absolute tops in each field. Imagine; you're in a mechanical engineering class. You're assigned to watch a lecture or demonstration. You have many choices, but the ones with the best reputations are the ones from the professors at MIT, Cal Poly Tech, and even Moscow University. You get to choose which one to watch, or which ones. Or if you really like the subject, you could watch them all.

Wiki technology will enable that. It will enable education to be delivered to the masses, at anytime, and pretty much anywhere. Most of the time, you won't even have a scheduled class. You'll be able to do the work when you want.

Imagine the economic implications. How would quality, mass education, delivered 'on-demand' affect the workplace?

Maybe I'll write about that while I read the book.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Whoda Thunk

With MP3 players and cellphone everywhere, I don't look so strange with my Pocket PC. Eight years ago, I looked a bit geeky. Even then I was attempting geekdome. Right now I still have my iPAQ (a bit too close to "Iraq" ) RX3715. It's a nice model. I have extended memory and a 2, 1 Gig SD storage cards. Probably this year, an 8-10 Gig storage card will come out, and this little Pocket PC will be better than the old Compaq Desktop I had -the one I rebuilt with Xubuntu Linux on it.

I don't really have too much of a need to synchronize it anymore. I don't use Outlook. I use Yahoo Calendar. I don't use MS Word. I use OpenOffice, and it can convert Pocket Word document files. I mostly use my Pocket PC as a media device. My Nokia phone can connect to Yahoo, so I'm able to use that contact list, email addresses, and task list. When I have an apppointment, I get an email, a text message, and a Yahoo IM as a reminder. It suits my purposes much better than Outlook.

I use my Pocket PC to;
  • Listen to Podcasts (MP3)
  • Listen to Audio books (MP3)
  • Read ebooks (Microsoft Reader)
  • Take pictures
  • Get online - download podcasts
I rarely use it for Calendaring, or even writing anymore. I mostly write on my desktop. I'm attempting to go as open source as possible, without buying new hardware.

What I have now works fine. In the last few days, works even better. Until now, I was only able to listen to MP3 files or Windows Media (WMA, WMV) files. I downloaded a free, open source audio file player, GSPlayer, and it plays almost every audio file currently used. I can now download .ogg files -the open source version of .mp3 file compression- directly into the Pocket PC. I can download ebooks from authors websites. I currently have a library of 50 ebooks on it (had 5000 at one time, but browsing through the library was too slow), 30 audio books (including one Podiobook), 20 or so podcasts, a few video clips, and about 5 music tracks.

An iPod just wouldn't fit me well. Too narrow in content delivery for this ADD person.

I think computers will eventually be this size. You'll see a different user interface when you plug it into a cradle, so it will run your large monitor, keyboard, and mouse. This device won't be an accessory to your desktop. It WILL BE your desktop. Eventually, this will be your cellphone too. While I read on it everyday, I think it will be awhile till most people are able to accept reading on one of these. Your children will probably be the ones that accept it, since they are already getting use to cellphones.

Guess I'm doing my predictions again.

I started my Oatmeal diet today. It's not meant to do anything but calm down and heal my insides. I use 3 minute oatmeal, 1/2 scope of protein powder (10 grams of protein), and a wee bit of Maple Surup. In the future, I'll probably use honey. I eat it every meal of the day, and anytime I get hungry. It's already working. Since it's oatmeal, I get hungry every 4-5 hours. The tension between my shoulderblades is much less, probably a result of giving the gall bladder some help.

I did a lower body workout today. Not much at once, but all throughout the day. As my insides improve, my workout intensity can improve. Right now, my main workout equipment is my Multi Function Chin Bar (yes, this is a commercial):

At the moment, I think this is the best home chin bar design available. I have one, and I use it. Much more recently.

I'm still reading The Long Tail. In the last segment, I've learned that many things, not just products, have a long tail. In war, the long tail is the insurgency. But the main point seems to be that when all content is on an equally available delivery system, the sales to the non hits total up much more than the single hits. And, with content quickly becoming equally available, hits are disappearing. Niche hits are taking their place.

Hopefully, in the future I can take advange of studying things like this, and create something that will take hold of that Long Tail.