Archive for November, 2005


November 30, 2005 4 comments

I’m really excited about Firefox 1.5’s new SVG feature … kinda.

Check out Can you put the moon into orbit? if you have Firefox 1.5 (and I believe Opera). It’s an interactive SVG/javascript simulation of gravity and the moon’s orbit. The file is only 11k. The beauty of this is that there are no plug-ins to worry about, no unreadable binary SWF files, and no more being locked into Flash’s frame-based paradigm. This makes developing rich web content easier than ever.

The sad fact of the matter is that Microsoft probably isn’t going to be putting SVG support in IE7. Unless we web developers can convince everyone to dump IE, we’re stuck with band-aids for the foreseeable future.

Yes, I wish everyone would switch to Firefox over IE, but no, it’s not because I dislike Microsoft. It’s because I have to develop websites for it and developing sites for IE is a royal pain.

Categories: Web/Tech


November 29, 2005 1 comment

At my day job, we have many legacy applications that run in terminals. We have one machine running Redhat Linux that serves these applications. We’re currently migrating all our systems to Ubuntu from Redhat and wanted to make the transition as smooth as possible.

We decided to try out the Xen virtualization technology. Using standard Linux utilities, we were able to copy the disk image of this machine to another machine running Xen, and set it up as a virtual machine running side-by-side with the Ubuntu OS that was already running there.

Just a bit ago, a couple of our guys were trying to figure out why a cron job seemed to be running 2 times each night. Well, duh, we have two versions of that machine running at the same time – cron jobs and all!

We haven’t migrated yet, but when it happens, we’ll be able to make a new disk image, copy it over to the new virtual machine, shut the original machine down, boot the new one up, and be back to working order in less than 30 minutes. We can then take our time upgrading the actual hardware to Ubuntu and migrating all our applications.

Xen is very cool.

Categories: Web/Tech

Software Support

November 28, 2005 1 comment

Often support is listed as a barrier to using open-source software.

Last night I was playing with a new Blender release candidate. I was attempting to grow hair on the female head model I’ve been working on. Unfortunately it crashed. Fortunately the crash was very predictable, so I uploaded my file to the bug reporting site and explained the crash. This all happened last night at about 10:30. This morning I checked it at about 5:30am and my bug report had already been closed with a note on how to work around it and a report that this bug had been fixed after the release candidate had been built. The lead developer had even rendered my file to make sure that it worked in the updated version.

While not all open-source projects have support of that quality, neither do all commercial software vendors. The moral of the story is that open-source support can be as good as commercial support. Each project or company must be evaluated independently and a decision made based on your (and other people’s) experiences with the support received.

Also, it is beneficial to you, other users of the software, and the software developers, if when you find bugs in software you take the time to submit detailed information on how to reproduce the bug. It will make the software better in the long run. Don’t just leave it for someone else to report.

Categories: Uncategorized

Identity Crisis

November 21, 2005 Leave a comment

My computer geek score is greater than 91% of all people in the world! How do you compare? Click here to find out!

Ken is having an identy crisis in Nerdity (Or Lack Thereof).

I was too after I only got a 71 on the nerd test. It turns out that these tests are usefully in figuring out what you are. The same site has a computer geek test which I just took. I guess I’m more of a Geek than a Nerd.

Categories: Brain Fart

Firefox 1.5

November 17, 2005 2 comments

After my recent switch to Epiphany for browsing, I’ve just switched back to Firefox. My chief reason for switching to Epiphany was speed. I use an 866Mhz Pentium 3 at work and Epiphany ran circles around Firefox. However, Firefox 1.5RC2 compares favorably with Epiphany, and is in some cases better (e.g. back and forward buttons).

Firefox 1.5 supports SVG. While this won’t have a big impact right away, I’m looking forward to the day when I can do all kinds of vector graphics on the web without resorting to Flash. Hopefully either IE will go away, or will eventually support SVG.

Categories: Web/Tech

Reversing Strings

November 17, 2005 5 comments

Link: C   Problem at

Phil Crissman had an interesting coding problem in regard to reversing strings. I haven’t done this sort of things since school since most languages have built-in reverse functions, but it is still fun to play with.

The most interesting solution to this problem I remember involved using bitwise exclusive or operators to avoid using a variable for swapping characters. It’s not necessarily the most efficient, but very interesting. All you coders out there, what’s your most interesting solution to the problem?

char *reverse( char *string )
    char *begin = string;
    char *end = string + (strlen(string) - 1);

    for( ; begin < end; begin++, end-- ){
        *end ^= *begin;
        *begin ^= *end;
        *end ^= *begin;

    return string;
Categories: Web/Tech


November 16, 2005 Leave a comment

I am nerdier than 71% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!Link: SUPREME NERD = ME ?

Oh No! Jason‘s got me beat! I think it is because of his Physics background.

Categories: Brain Fart

Linux Transition Costs

November 15, 2005 1 comment

I’ve heard many people say that moving to Linux costs a lot more than sticking with Windows in terms of training, loss of productivity, etc. Here’s my personal experience in that regard.

A volunteer who works with my wife Shari was having problems with her computer (700Mhz Celeron). The main thing she uses this computer for is her volunteer work for Crossroads. So I took the computer and found that it was infested with viruses and other nasties. She was OK with trying Linux. It took less time to install Linux than it would have to clean up the Windows install.

I installed Ubuntu and gave her back the machine. The only training I gave was to tell her to just leave it on 24/7. She is now happily trading documents (using with Shari.

I’ve had 2 "support" requests from her total. One was to ask how to find the browsing history in Firefox. The other was because the Ethernet card and router got zapped in a thunder-storm and I had to replace the Ethernet card and change router ports. The storm was the first time it had been shut down or rebooted since I left it – about 3 weeks.

Categories: Uncategorized

Blender Couple Pt. 2

November 14, 2005 3 comments

Here's the latest state of my female head project. The hair-piece is temporary pending Blender 2.40's (currently alpha) new hair strand engine. The hair I produced in the male head was quite cheesy to say the least, so I hope to improve on that for this new project.

There is still something not quite right with the cheek-bones, and Shari says the nose is too small or something. I pointed out that Barbi's nose is actually smaller. ;) This turns out to be a lot like sculpting.

The next step will be eye-lashes and eye-brows and then texturing. The ears were pretty involved, but in this sample they're covered up by the dorky hair-piece so you can't see them.

It has been difficult to obtain femininity. Not knowing exactly what defines a feminine face, I simply made changes to the shape and asked myself, does that look more feminine, or less feminine. If it was less I undid it. If more, I kept it. Some simple keys are higher cheekbones, smoother curves, narrower chin, smaller nose, etc.

I asked both my kids if it looked like a girl or boy. If I removed the hair-piece, they both said boy. If I put it back, they both said girl. I guess hair styles have a lot to do with how we perceive sex.

View the full size version.

Categories: Graphics

OS Rivalry

November 10, 2005 6 comments

I recently added Tony Dye’s blog to my blog-roll. In a recent post he talked about hiring. One of his suggestions is to choose someone who has biases and is willing to defend them. Everyone has biases and I am no exception. I even like to think I have good reasons for my biases.

Probably the biggest bias area in IT is the Operating System bias. As regular readers know, I’m hugely biased toward Linux. I’ll even admit it. I’ll even admit that it’s not perfect, but still highly love-able. After all, it’s a cuddly little penguin.

While I don’t have the same attraction to Mac OSX that I do to Linux, I really like its rock-solid Unix foundation and find it to have a superb desktop environment. It’s a good compromise between pure Open Source glory, and a highly polished consumer-ready appliance.

I’ve never liked Windows. From day one.

Now that that’s all out in the open, I’ll assert that we’re all on the same team. Regardless of your OS bias, all you other church IT people are my buddies (if you’ll have me). I’d like to think of our OS rivalry as something akin to football team rivalry. At my day job everyone is a Wolverines fan. That doesn’t mean a Spartan fan can’t sit and watch a game together with the crew. There is a lot of rivalry going on during the game, but in the end we’re all just a bunch of guys having a good time.

Pass the beer nuts.

Categories: Web/Tech

To Filter or Not To Filter…

November 8, 2005 Leave a comment

Link: Jason Powell – Church IT and other musings: To Filter or Not To Filter….

Jason, thanks for starting this discussion.

As I’ve said previously, I’m planning to install a content filter in
our office next year. I’ll also be doing it in our upcoming wireless
Cafe. I agree with most of the commenters that filtration is a good

Categories: Web/Tech

Blender Couple

November 8, 2005 Leave a comment

elfhead7.jpgEarly this year (like January) I spent some time modeling a man (top picture). I went through Mastering 3D Animation by Peter Ratner.

I finally decided to continue this practice and am modeling a woman to go with the man. I'm using modeling techniques from later in the book so this should turn out better in the end. The mesh already looks better.

screenshot_2.pngI have not used a subject to model either of these heads. I'm just going on what's in my brain. The question I asked myself this time around is, what is the difference between a male and female face? I even tried modifying the male head to look female, but was unsuccessful, so decided to start from scratch.

I'm not sure of the answer to that question yet. I'll let you know when I figure it out.

So what's the point? I'll think of something someday. For now it's just skill development and fun.

Categories: Graphics

Crossroads Network

November 7, 2005 2 comments

Crossroads is growing.

We rent a small office in downtown Adrian. When we started renting, we had DSL hooked up and I went out and bought a consumer grade wireless D-Link router with 4 ports. After all, we only had 2 people in the office full-time so that was plenty. Anybody who came in for a meeting or what-not simply used wireless. Everyone else worked from home.

We’ve recently had a rash of new hires and expanded into the upstairs office. Either there is something in the floor blocking the signal, or 5 people using wireless for all their network needs is way too many. Sooo…

We managed to find a wire running to the upstairs. I looked into some Cisco or 3com stuff, but ended up back at the consumer grade D-Link stuff. Why? Because it’s good enough for a small office. I got to buy some cool new tools including an RJ45 crimper and a tone-and-probe wire tester. Remarkably, all this was available at the local Lowes.

We ended up with a 4-port wireless gigabit switch/router in the basement where the DSL comes in. We added an 8-port gigabit switch upstairs and left the 4-port 100M wireless router on the main floor. I originally planned to get a 16-port switch, but the price difference was huge. We’ll max out the switch right away, but if we need more capacity we’ll just run another wire from the switch in the basement for another 8-port switch.

Since most of our machines still have 100/10 ethernet cards, the gigabit pipe to the basement should be able to handle all the upstairs machines.

The plan is to add a server in the basement sometime in the next year for web content filtration, file-sharing, etc.

Categories: Web/Tech

Fellowship One and Popups

November 4, 2005 1 comment

This one stumped me for a while, so don’t forget this fix.

I was attempting to export a people list to an Excel file and just couldn’t get it to work. It turns out that I’m using Firefox and have popup blocking turned on (which is usually a really good thing). Fellowship One acted like it had finished whatever it was planning to do, but no Excel file was anywhere to be seen.

In the bottom right corner of Firefox there is a little icon the comes up and indicates that a popup has been block. Click on that ican and enable popups for the Fellowship One site. It will make all the difference!

Categories: Church Management

The Best Question Ever Pt. 3

November 4, 2005 Leave a comment

See part 1 and part 2.

It took me a while to get to this post because I wasn’t sure how I was going to say this. It took contemplation. Even now I’m not convinced I can explain. But here goes…

Robert Pirsig believes that quality – the most fundamental "element" of reality – is destroyed when we separate subjects and objects from each other.

He describes two ways of looking at the world – romantic and classical. He uses the example of sand. If you take a handful of sand and look at it, the classical person will analyze the handful grain by grain. The romantic person will see the sand as a pile or shape rather than a collection of tiny grains. The classical person sees the ocean as a collection of water molecules whereas the romantic sees it is as the ocean.

The classical view is somewhat akin to the legalist view of the old covenant. The legalist is basically a reductionist who wants to reduce everything to rules and regulations. He rejects the more "subjective" elements of reality. Whereas a classical person doesn’t really understand art, a legalist doesn’t understand spirit-lead living.

Likewise the romantic view is somewhat akin to a person who has completely thrown out the previous foundation and claims to live entirely by the spirit.

The law is like the boundary between ocean and sky. If you can float on top of the water you are following the rules, but we don’t want to just follow the rules, we want to soar high above the world like an eagle. Nonetheless, we cannot deny the role of the old covenant because we can look down and see the water.

Pirsig claims the Greeks broke quality for us by separating subjects and objects and creating classical thought. I believe it happened when man was separated from God.

To be continued…


Categories: Christianity


November 2, 2005 1 comment

OK, here’s what I do when I’m done with work. I’ve put in my 8hrs at my day job and my 2hrs of ministry for the day. My brain won’t let me do any more work.

This is all done with animated textures in Blender. I found some really cool tutorials on animated textures at The Cog Project and came up with this slimy mess.

UPDATE: Download the blend file.

Categories: Graphics


November 1, 2005 3 comments

I’ve had to deal with numerous virus issues over the last week. One person had neglected to update his anti-virus software and so got infiltrated. It took 3 different scanners to get his machine cleaned up and usable.

My neighbor keeps his anti-virus software (Norton) up-to-date, but he managed to catch a virus as well. He finally managed to get it cleaned off, but doesn’t trust it anymore so is going to re-format his drive.

I also spent at least 1 hour updating a machine to make sure it stayed safe.

My question is this. Why is this acceptable? How can people actually tolerate this state of affairs?

People keep saying you just have to live with it because there is no other choice. That is simply wrong. There are two other very good choices – Mac OSX and Linux. Both are inherently more secure and stable – BY DESIGN.

Oh, but Mac’s cost so much more – not after you count all the time and money you spend on anti-virus and anti-malware software and maintenance time! And since you have to run all that extra junk just to use your machine, you have to buy a more expensive machine to get the same performance out of it. By the time you’re done you’ve spent more. If you want to use your existing Intel hardware you can simply install Linux. All your standard office tools come out of the box. I can’t imagine a better office environment.

And who needs a "personal" firewall? What is the purpose of a firewall? To block people from getting into open ports. Well why do you have your ports open in the first place? If you don’t have any open ports you don’t need a firewall. I’ve turned the firewall on on my Dlink router at home, but only because of my son’s WindowsXP machine. My Ubuntu box sure doesn’t need it – and neither does a Mac.

Friends don’t let friends do Windows.

Categories: Web/Tech


November 1, 2005 Leave a comment

I’ve been test driving Dansguardian for the last week or so. Dansguardian is an open-source content filter that uses several methods of filtration, including blacklists, PICS ratings, and phrase matching. There is some talk of image scanning in future versions (detection of large areas of skin-tone).

So far it works very well. From Ubuntu, it was very easy to install using Synaptic. It also requires installation of a HTTP proxy such as SQUID – which was also very easy to install via Synaptic. There are a few configuration files to edit to select how stringent you want filtration to be. It’s available for most Unix variants including OSX. provides subscriptions to Dansguardian compatible blacklists for reasonable prices. I’m currently using one of their lists and it seems to be fairly effective.

Crossroads is hoping to add wireless Internet to our cafe this year. I’d like to have Dansguardian in place for that. In addition, I plan to use Dansguardian in our office.

Categories: Web/Tech

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