One of my pet peeves is that nowadays hardware and software manufacturers don’t provide paper manuals with their products. I’m the sort of person who likes to flip through the pages to find what I need to know, not load up some .pdf file and scroll through it. A while back I found a web site about binding your own books. Then, when I got the new printer, I realized I could easily take those inconvenient pdfs and turn them into real manuals.

I made a clamp similar to the one described in the web site, though I used some scraps of aluminum angle that I had lying around rather than wood. So far I’ve bound three different manuals with varying degrees of success.
I didn’t have paper the proper weight and size for a regular cover so I just used a strip of gaffer’s tape to cover the spine.

I’ve had a few problems but all the manuals are serviceable. First, it’s important to spread the glue evenly, otherwise it leaves bumps and irregularities on the spine. It’s possible to smooth this after the glue drys but it’s an extra step.

The second problem is having the glue soak in too far near the ends of the spine. This can be dealt with by not applying glue to that last 1/8 inch or so.

My third problem comes from the need to dampen the spine before applying the Gorilla Glue. For some types of paper this causes the spine to develop a wavy distortion. I haven’t found a cure for this yet but I think it may just require care in how much water I use.

All-in-all this has been a fun project an I’m please to have manuals I can thumb through in the fashion I’m used to. An added benefit is that when a manual gets worn, torn or tattered, I can just make a new one.

The weather here continues unseasonably warm. For the last several weeks we have generally had near record high temperatures and little precipitation. It feels more like October than December. There may be a chance of snow later this week but it could just as well be rain. If I were a betting man I’d give odds against snowball fights around here in the near future.

I grew up in Michigan where a Christmas without snow was rare, to say the least. Even here in Iowa a bit of white stuff by December 25 has been the rule rather than the exception. I’ve gotten so I look forward to the snow covering up the brown and empty fields.

So, is this Global Warming or just the random variation of weather? My guess is a little of each. I know it’s not possible to decide when only looking at a small part of the Earth over a short period of time, but I can’t avoid thinking we’ve been having weird weather here lately. In ten or twenty years we’ll know, if we are still around…

After going for a while without a laser printer, I finally broke down and bought an HP-LaserJet 1320. It has almost all of the features of the old HP4P with around four times the speed and built-in double-sided printing.


It has nearly the same footprint as the the old 4P but is approximately twice as tall. It seems quite a bit quieter though, obviously, I can’t compare them directly.

For the last day or so, I have been testing out many of the features of this new toy. I like the ability to print manuals (including its own) in “booklet” mode. This allows a 172 page manual to be printed on 43 letter sized sheets in proper order for binding. Now I’m learning how to bind these manuals (more on that in another post).

It will be interesting in the long run to see if this printer has anywhere near the reliability as the old one. On an interesting note, this one cost less that 40% of what the old one cost 13 years ago.

Technology marches on.

Today my faithful old HP4P LaserJet printer finally gave up the ghost after 13 years of steady use.


This printer has outlived five different computers, going back to the days of Windows 3.1 ! For the last few years I’ve been expecting it to die but nothing seemed to phase it. Finally, while printing out a copy of my son Steev’s novel today, it sucumbed to severe paper jamming and finally the feed mechanism froze up completely. I think I have to find out how to give it a Viking funeral.

Now I am starting to look for a replacement. I doubt I can find a printer that will last for another 13 years – they just don’t make them like they used to. Anyone want to recommend a similar printer that can come close to the service I got from this warhorse?

RIP old pal.

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.