All posts for the month November, 2006

For quite a while I’ve been interested in Linux as an alternative to Windows. But, like many people, I’m not quite ready to make a blind leap to another OS just yet. For one thing, the Linux world is considerably different than Windows and the the learning curve is steep in some areas. I needed to start out with some training wheels.

On Monday Jan and I were out doing errands and I wanted to go to a local used computer and e-waste recycling place called Midwest Computer Brokers (MCBIA). I found they had some great deals on relatively new PC’s. I ended up buying this little gem for a song.


I got home and checked it out to make sure it was working okay. Then I booted with an Ubuntu live CD to make sure the hardware was compatible (which it was).

Today, I installed software. First I put Windows on it, then I installed Ubuntu on the hard drive. In less than 3 hours I had a working dual boot system. In fact Ubuntu installed easier than Windows. With Windows I had to go searching for additional drivers while Linux had everything needed already in the installer.

So now I’m off on the big adventure. I’ll recommend Ubuntu to anyone who has an old PC and wants to play with Linux. Download Ubuntu or order one of their free CD’s (free shipping too).

RestaurantLast weekend we were visiting our friends, Janet and Bruce, in SE Wisconsin/NE Illinois. On Saturday they took us to a restaurant they had just discovered – La Petite Creperie in Woodstock, IL.

I must admit I was dubious as Woodstock is a rather small town in (mostly) rural NE Illinois. I was pleasantly surprised! The restaurant is located on the historic square in the center of Woodstock, in a beautiful building with a large patio for outdoor summer dining. The inside was cozy and beautifully furnished with a very French ambiance.

Bruce, who is French, had called for reservations and our table was ready immediately. We were lucky that the Beaujolais Nouveau 2006 was still available so we started with a bottle of that great wine.

For the main meal I ordered the braised lamb shank which was huge and perfectly prepared. Jan chose (I can’t remember the French name) a young turkey breast with an assortment of vegetables. Bruce had a dish that was a selection of three different sausages, venison, alligator and (another forgotten French name). Janet went with the fish of the day.

When the meal arrived there were many expressions of delight and everyone dove in. A little later there was much passing of plates amid comments like “You have to try this!”. No one had the slightest complaint about the food, the service or the atmosphere. Unfortunately, no one brought a camera to capture an image of this well-fed quartet.

We finished up (after a second bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau) with dessert crepes and coffee. Everyone was smiling and happy. We all vowed to return sometime in warmer weather so we could dine on the patio.

If you are in that area or just want to see a little more about the restaurant, here is their website. The have a partial menu listed on the website but they have many specials and frequent changes.

Fun With DSL

Jan and I are spending the weekend in Wisconsin, visiting friends. Part of that time I’m helping one of them make the jump from dialup to DSL. It took quite a while today to get all the stuff installed, both hardware and software. After a few rounds with confusing instructions, I got her email configured for the new address and all worked fine.

Then I went to Steve Gibson’s GRC site and ran his “Shields Up” network security test program. This revealed quite a few holes with the DSL connection. They were probably there with the dial up but the exposure time is shorter than with the always-on DSL.

Because of this I decided to set up a Linksys router to act as a firewall. Good idea, but the devil is in the details. So far I can’t get the router to play nice with the DSL modem. To complicate matters, Linksys now only includes the manual as a PDF file! I really like paper manuals for this sort of work.

But I’m making progress. With luck I should have it working tomorrow – knock on wood.

Warning! This is a geeky post. Warning!

When I got my new camera a few weeks ago, one of the things I lamented was that Nikon did not make a D80 RAW converter plugin that works in (the older) PhotoShop CS. They make one for CS2, but to upgrade would cost me $150 ! So I just resigned myself to shooting .JPG files and putting up with the loss of quality.

Today I discovered that if I download the Adobe Camera Raw plugin for CS2, I would also get a stand-alone program that converts D80 RAW files to DNG (Digital NeGative) files. DNG is a sort of “universal RAW” format so it doesn’t sacrifice any of the benefits of camera RAW plus (Tah-Dah) my version of photoshop can read those files.

So now I can embark on exploring the joys of shooting pictures without the loss of quality that JPEG compression causes.

End geek warning! As you were.

Leonid Meteors

LeonidThe Leonid meteor shower occurs every year between November 14th and 21st with the peak usually on the 19th. They are called the Leonids because they appear to radiate from the constellation of Leo. This shower has a history of occasionally producing spectacular displays called meteor storms. A few years ago I watched the Leonids and, for a short while, saw more meteors than I could count.

This shower is extremely variable so it’s hard to predict numbers, but there is always a chance of another intense shower. Also, this year the moon will not interfere with visibility of the fainter ones.

The peak will occur at approximately 10:45PM (CST) which is near the time Leo is rising here in Iowa. People farther east may have a better opportunity as it will be higher in the sky during the peak.

Because of the low altitude of the radiant point, there is also a chance of earth grazing meteors which just brush the Earth’s atmosphere and then skip back out into space. If you don’t have a clear eastern horizon, you can wait several hours after the peak time (as Leo rises higher) and still have a good chance of seeing a number of meteors.

If you are interested in trying to watch the Leonids, this link will provide more information. If you go out and do see some meteors, please post a comment on what you observed.


Well, it’s all over except the Monday morning quarterbacking and the whining of the losers. I hope both political parties have learned something; namely that American voters aren’t as dumb as politicians believe they are. Back in 1994 the Democrats were arrogant and cocksure and got booted out. Now in 2006 the same arrogance and cocksureness has had the identical effect on the GOP.

I must admit, I had been despairing that the electorate would ever wake up. Now they (apparently) have. Next we must find out if it is too late to undo the damage of the last 12 years. We have lots of problems to fix. Some are health care, human rights, restoring the Constitution, extending economic prosperity to all (not just the rich), and reversing the erosion of our educational system.

But, after yesterday, I think I can go back to being a tentative optimist again. Thank you America for standing up for yourself. Let’s make a habit of it.


For the past month(s) we’ve all been bombarded with political propaganda. Phone calls, door-to-door canvassers, ads on TV, radio and in the papers; all shouting at us. If you are like me you were sick and tired of it weeks ago. No one I know bases their voting on political ads. The only effect on me is annoyance. Still, having lived through this onslaught, relief is near. Only one thing left to do. VOTE!

If you don’t vote then all your wasted time, energy, and perseverance were for nothing. Also, remember, you can’t complain if you don’t vote. So go out and reserve your right to bitch about the government. If you haven’t already, cast your ballot ASAP.

FD-7I got my first digital camera in July of1998. A Sony FD-7 with a whopping 640×480 resolution. It saved the images on its internal 3.5″ floppy drive which was convenient. It had a fairly decent 10X zoom lens and built-in flash. Unfortunately the internal flash was really over-powered and I had to mask off part of it to prevent over-exposures.FD-91

By May of 1999 I was ready for a step up. I still liked the idea of storage on floppy disks so I got a Sony FD-91. It had a image size of 1024×768 and an image stabilized 14X zoom lens. Though larger and heavier than the FD-7, I was pleased with the extra resolution. Also the internal flash seemed better matched to the camera.

A couple years later the itch for bigger and better hit again. In 2001 I bought a Sony CD-1000 camera. The main feature of it was the internal mini-CD drive. That allowed storing over 150, 1600×1200 images on an 8cm diameter mini CD-R. With its 10X optical zoom lens and image stabilization, this was one sweet camera. Great for nature photography and it did a fair job in low light situations.

FZ-20The CD-1000 satisfied my needs for quite a while but by October 2004 I was ready for another step up. This time I forsook Sony for a Panasonic DMC-FZ20. This had a 5 mega-pixels (2560×1920) sensor, a 12X optical zoom image stabalized lens and used SD flash memory for storage. In addition it was smaller and lighter than either the CD-1000 or the FD-91.

D80Finally this October I made the step up to the Nikon D80. It has a 10 mega-pixel (3872×2592) sensor. Being a digital SLR, lenses are interchangeable. Initially I got the kit 18-135mm zoom lens but I’m sure I will be getting additional lenses over time.

Just for fun I’ve plotted a graph of my personal “Megapixel Race”.

MP Curve