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lodragan

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Aggravated Spinal Cord...actually just back muscles... [Apr. 7th, 2005|09:36 pm]
lodragan
[mood |stressedpain]
[music |Chrissy Hinds (Pretenders) - Don't Get Me Wrong]

Sounds like the name of a heavy metal band. Anyway my back is killing me; I reinjured a very old injury I recieved in England (to make a long story short when I was in the AirForce I threw a 50+ lb mailbag into the back of a tractortrailer - twisting my trunk - I was on my back for a week with strong meds on that one). Anyway, I was lifting my daughter out of my truck the other day - and rather than keeping my back straight I twisted - and sure enough never ending pain all day.

If that wasn't bad enough, I let it heal for a few weeks - and was feeling pretty good - when - you guessed it - I did it again! This time the pain is worse and has lasted longer. I figure this is some kind of karmic thing - so I am keeping a cheerful disposition regardless.

Actually work has been busy as hell - so I haven't had time until now to really think about it.

I've been pulling code out of my ass to support various last-minute must-have initiatives. I've been grappling with so many software development issues and putting out fires related to new software loads that I haven't lifted a finger to make any progress on my python/zope project in the lab. By the time I get home I'm spent - and of course there is the youngest daughter wanting me to do various things for her, and the grass needs cutting (which I did last weekend), and I made some repairs that needed attention, and worked on our financial planning (aka: figured out how overdrawn my bank account really is)...

But there is a bright lining in this dark cloud. I've managed to play the bass on average one hour per day - and am actually making some progress toward real musicianship with the instrument. It is harder than it looks, or sounds, making success with it more sweet.

Everyone seems to be dieing: The Pope, Prince Rainier, Johnny Cochran, Purdue (the chicken guy - CEO of Purdue Farms), and my pardner's grandmother...which means I've been trying to handle his workload in addition to mine - not very successfully I might add (now I know why I hired him).

To top off the gloomy outlook my wife gave me the gorey details of how scientists have found that Yellowstone caldera is showing increased activity - some think could be a massive eruption/explosion effecting most of the USA sometime in the future; of course, they have no idea when (kind of like how they knew when Mt. St. Helens was going to blow). I have the strange urge to save the watermellon seeds and buy grow-lites...need to get my mom to show us how to can food when she's down here.

It's 2200 (10pm) and I feel like I just walked in the door. So much to do and never enough time to do it all. Tonight I will simply listen to music, breath, and at some point fall asleep; I am tired of doing for one day.
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May have almost fried my Firewall's motherboard... [Mar. 13th, 2005|10:21 pm]
lodragan
[mood |contentcontent]
[music |Psapp 'Rear Moth']

I've been re-arranging my office to make room for my new bass guitar and recording gear, and as luck would have it I found a box full of computer parts for the firewall machine I am rebuilding. One of those parts is the original power supply for that machine.

That is interesting because I already have another power supply plugged into the motherboard...hmmm. I was wondering where to plug in that extra 4-prong connector (the Pentium 120mhz does not use or have an extra connector on board like the modern P4s...) I am just glad I didn't plug it into the wall...(may not have hurt it, but you never know until you read the specs - if you can find them)

Procrastinating actually may have saved me money in this case...hehehe :) I hope to have it complete and ready for software loading by next weekend if all goes well. DMZ server to follow after that.

My kids are on spring break this week - so I doubt I will get much time to work on projects. I'll probably take a day off to hang with them. My youngest wants me to go roller skating with her (somehow my wife let-on that I can skate to the youngster...grrrr - now I'm going to go get my tail bone busted on the concrete skating rink floor). I'll let you know if I bust my ass.

P.S. My office looks marvelous. It is very open now - and my wife has made the suggestion that we move her desk upstairs into the game room (where our TV and couch are located) - thus giving me a good sized area for a studio/laboratory. Better still! That woman never ceases to amaze me.
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My Daughter Is Going to State! [Feb. 26th, 2005|07:33 pm]
lodragan
[mood |impressedimpressed]
[music |Yes - "Roundabout"]

My daughter won regionals tonight at the VASE (Visual Arts Scholastic Event) competition - one of 62 out of 1100+ entries in 4 divisions (she is in division 3) - and is going to State finals in Houston Texas! Holy *Expletive Deleted*!

Just thought I would share my brief moment of pride in my offspring. Back to your regularly scheduled programming...
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Little Progress [Feb. 20th, 2005|02:10 pm]
lodragan
[mood |artisticMusical]
[music |Pink Floyd - 'Money']

Couldn't post here for the past week or so...apparently the server this is on filled up and needed a migration - hence the freeze. C'est la vie - what do you expect for free?

There is no real progress to report - so it is just as well. Work has been a bitch - had to go in Saturday - but was not able to accomplish what I wanted to (can't ping the machines I needed to work on...so I finished up some administrative issues that have been a headache lately. Now my mind is clear to focus on the interesting stuff).

My Firewall machine for my home/FOSS network is halfway complete sitting on my workbench. I just need to select a hard disk for it - or not. I am doing some research to see if I can boot the firewall OS on the CDRom - which means I can dispense with the HD (making it a read-only solution - and not really hackable from a practical perspective). On the other hand I do want to collect data and analyze it - not to mention whatever work files are needed for writing by the firewall software. Of course, I could do that with a ramdisk - them move the important bits I want to keep off to my DMZ - to be grabbed by some machine inside of my private network...ah the choices.

Which is a nice segway into my DMZ plans. I've got a pretty beefy (in terms of disk space) machine I intend on putting in the DMZ for sharing. This will be the place where this project will live eventually (and probably this blog as well). It will also house a site for family/friends, as well as my music site (I have the idea of creating a 'virtual recording studio' - where a select group of folks can collaborate via the web on writing and recording music - inspired by Aerosmith's mode of recording: one guy puts down a drum track, then another guy gets the file and adds bass, and so on...).

So this first quarter is all about getting my infrastructure in place - then I can make some progress. It is probably senseless to read this blog until I get something usable published - but if you are easily amused by my ramblings, by all means read on...

On the musical front - I've decided to take up the Bass. I can sing, but was never a great pianist - and for some reason the low-end has really been attractive to me - longer than I consciously recognized until now. My favorite front-man, Paul McCartney was a bass-man, and many of the bassists I have been reading about started or were long-time trumpet players (like myself) - weird. Anyway, I got a group of guys who want to jam together from work - and with the exception of one drummer - all of those guys play guitar! Geeze! So the choice wasn't hard. So I am buying a bass and all the key accoutrements - amp, pre-amp/sound shaper, flatwound strings to replace the rounds it comes with, killer strap, etc.

Am I having a midlife crisis? I don't think so - because I believe the 'crisis' part occurred when I was 35 or so. Now I am coming out of it - being true to myself. Life is too damn short - you can't waste any of it just marking time. As contradictory is it sounds you have to simply be - yet pursue your goals at the same time. Your mind shaped what you are, and shapes what you become.
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Grand Challenge [Jan. 27th, 2005|12:17 am]
lodragan
[mood |awakeawake]

Infoworld is reporting: 'A group of British computer scientists have proposed a number of grand challenges for IT that they hope will drive forward research, similar to the way the human genome project drove life sciences research through the 1990s.'

I read the article - interestingly my all consuming (FOSS) project falls into one of the categories. I have been working on the problem off-and-on since the 1980s. The problem is providing a simple yet powerful interface for people to keep track of all of their 'memories' (which I equate to 'information' - which is really the web of knowledge about atomic data elements - which could be not only textual information, but also multimedia objects - and their ever-changing interrelationships unique to each individual).

It started with my disatisfaction with the then state-of-the-art method of keeping track of files: the hierarchical file system (DOS circa 1985 in my case). My crude first attempt was an index file that I kept in my document directory (I dumped all of my documents into one directory) and a few other directories related to specific projects. The index file was a flat ascii file listing the filenames with a quick blurb about the contents of each one - basically I was keeping meta data pointers to ascii text files. Running 'index.bat' in any directory would list the index information - which would jog my memory to help find information I was looking for. This helped immensely in school - but still was not the complete solution I needed.

A few years later I was investigating simple database systems (Alpha3, Nutshell, Dbase II) - but they were crude and clunky - not easy to extend or interface with. I toyed with a hypercard-like utility called 3by5 - it had the ability to sort the cards, but not the ability to hyperlink internally between cards. I started to investigate AI systems then in existence and think about how human beings store and retrieve information. I came up with some interesting hypothesis, among them the idea that human information retrieval is fuzzy and intricate. I stuck with my index batch file - until Windows came into my life.

I began experimenting with the Windows interface to see if it contained the holy grail of information management, hidden away inside its innards. At first I tried being creative with the folders - creating them whenever and where ever I needed them. This devolved to the same state as the CLI - still a hierarchical file system (I have found that many things do not fit nicely into one box - more often than not). I then started manipulating the icons associated with a particular file; I found a program that would let me create icon files - and I spent much time creating icons that illustrated some aspect. I would replace the icon for the particular file with a new one to reflect its categorization visually.

This method was once again one dimensional - I still had to find the file, and interpret the icon, which limited me to one 'category' per file, and I was missing other meta data not available in a visual medium. Time passed without much improvement - and I limped along, focusing on my development skills and the project languished.

In the university I came into contact with Unix - and fell in love with its flexibility and richness of its command line expressions. I did some crude database development using a flat file DB tool. I also came into contact with SQL and RDBMS concepts. Sadly, the database technology at the time was still did not allow you to tie disparate objects together easily - and the database was still rather static, needing prior thought to develop, and difficult to change - particularly if your schema changed significantly, not 'user friendly' at all. More years passed, RDBMSs moved closer to augmenting the operating system's file system (via RAW partition mode, and the ability to hold multimedia objects) - but still fell far short in the usability department. My project made little headway.

Little headway until recently. More recently I have come into contact with object databases. In particular I have been using the ZODB (Zope Object Data Base) that ships with the Zope web development framework. From the Zope Documentation:

Zope objects are stored in a high-performance transactional object database known as the Zope Object Database (ZODB). Each Web request is treated as a separate transaction by the object database. If an error occurs in your application during a request, any changes made during the request will be automatically rolled back. The object database also provides multi-level undo, allowing a site manager to "undo" changes to the site with the click of a button. The Zope framework makes all of the details of persistence and transactions totally transparent to the application developer. Relational databases which are used with Zope can also play in Zope's transaction framework.


Very flexible, modular, and secure, and completely web browser enabled - both for trivial development and administration. So, I am looking at this tool, starting to build applications in it, and it dawns on me that the technology may have caught up with my original problem; could I use Zope and the ZODB to tackle the challenge? Stay tuned for more.
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The Lab is Open... [Jan. 24th, 2005|11:06 pm]
lodragan
[mood |thoughtfulmunged]
[music |Guns-N-Roses]

Welcome to my laboratory. Watchout for the beakers - and don't light any matches.

More to follow as things bubble to the surface...
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