Wednesday, December 31
My new Logitech MX 700 Cordless Optical Mouse crashes my computer. Not quite repeatably, but certainly repeatedly. Meh.
No cheese for you!
Tuesday, December 30
Via Slashdot, an interesting Washington Post article: Japan's Empire of Cool. It's not very deep, admittedly; instead it skims the surface of the growing popularity of many aspects of Japanese culture in the U.S. and elsewhere. Worth a read.
The internet connection at work is back! It dropped out on Christmas Day, and tech support was mysteriously unavailable over the extended weekend. It turned out that the NTU had unexpectedly dropped dead - possibly due to myxomatosis - and it was nothing that I did (and nothing I needed to fix).
The outage convinced my boss that we need a backup internet link. The current one has been very reliable (until now), but is somewhat expensive. By routing our downloads through a standard ADSL line and keeping our mail and web server on the current line, we can improve reliability and save money. Yay!
Lunch with Simon. Taro duck, mongolian lamb, pineapple fried rice served in a pineapple and a nice bottle of Leeuwin Estate (I think it was) Sauvignon Blanc, right on Sydney Harbour near the Opera House.
My Usenet service unilaterally increased my monthly download allowance by 50%.
Found $20 blowing up the street on the way home. Caught it.
Bought two boxes of Tropical Frosty Fruits.
Not quite so good:
Routing tables all messed up after a reboot. Running the startup script again fixed this. Huh?
Spilled a can of coke in my lap after lunch. The pause that keeps on refreshing.
My download of Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch is stalled - at 100.0%. I hate that. It's bad enough to get stuck at 99.9%, but at 100%? Pfui!
Update: Danny Boy on the AnimeSuki forums helped me out and I got my Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch. So that's 7 good to 2 not quite so good. If only every day was like that!
Monday, December 29
I was invited to join my family in a viewing of all three movies this evening, starting at around 9pm. Which three movies was not specified - nor did it need to be.
Spending ten hours immersed in Middle Earth would have been an interesting experience, but that's a long time to spend stuck in a cinema (as Susie can tell you).
Unfortunately, I have to
work go out to lunch tomorrow, and staying up 'til seven in the morning would likely have interfered with that plan.
Well... I got better.
Sunday, December 28
They didn't have any Tropical Frosty Fruits when I went to the supermarket to pick up the bread mix on Christmas Eve. All of the stores always run out of Tropical Frosty Fruits whenever the weather gets warm. Always. You'd think that after a few years they'd realise that if they had more Tropical Frosty Fruits in stock, they could sell more Tropical Frosty Fruits, but no, not Coles, not Woolworths, not even the little IGA.
I got some Bulla mixed flavour - what's a location-neutral term for these? It says on the box "Frozen Fruit Juice Water Ice", which will do, I suppose. I got some Bulla Fruity Licious Frozen Fruit Juice Water Ices, which come in Orange, Tropical (which means "Orange and Pineapple and sometimes Passionfruit but in this case just Orange and Pineapple") and Apple and Blackcurrant. As I expected (having bought Bulla products in the past), they taste of... Nothing much. 40% fruit juice with 4% of the flavour! No taste, less fattening!
I also got some Orange and Cranberry Frosty Fruits. Unlike the Bulla Fruity Licious Frozen Fruit Juice Water Ices* these do have flavour: Horrible.
You can suck off the orange outer shell, but you'd better stop before you hit the red part. Whose idea was it to make these things? What planet are they from? I used to have Turkey Torpedoes at the Dymocks Cafe in Sydney, with turkey breast and camembert and cranberry sauce, and that was okay, since they gave you the cranberry sauce in a little dish and you could apply as much or as little of it as you wished. It's an interesting offset to the turkey and the camembert, though I think that strawberry jam would have worked as well if not better.
But frozen cranberry juice? I mean yes, there are people in the world who drink their own urine, but that would seem to me a rather limited market segment. The only thing I can think of is that the makers (Peters) have realised just how clueless the supermarkets are, and are producing additional revolting flavours cheaply, knowing that people will try them when the weather hits the billion degrees mark and all the stores are out of those yummy Tropical Frosty Fruits a-bloody-gain. And that they (Peters) trust that people will blame the idiots at the supermarkets for all of this.
Hmm. I think it's working.
Also, while I'm complaining, why the heck did Lean Cuisine take their Oriental Beef dinner off the market? Some of their other dinners are sort-of-okay-I-guess; the chicken in mustard sauce, for example. The Chicken Marsala was great before they replaced the snow peas and baby carrots with non-snow peas and carrot sticks to save a few cents.
But the Oriental Beef was wonderful. I'm not sure exactly what went into the sauce, but whatever it was, worked. Not overpowering, not specifically black bean or anything else. Wafer-thin slices of Australian beef. Fluffy white rice. I used to have it sometimes twice a week. And when I say twice a week, that means I bought four of them, because the primary reason these dinners aren't fattening is that they're too damn small - roughly half a pound, in this case.
Damn you, supermarkets! Damn you, Lean Cuisine!
The only thing consistently better than the Lean Cuisine Oriental Beef - apart from eating out - is my own cooking**, something I haven't done for too long. I didn't even do my seven-day lamb stew this winter.*** But job number two really is winding down now, so if no more computers explode, then someday soon I will actually cook myself something.
In the meantime, my schedule is as follows:
Tomorrow (Sunday): Sleep
Tuesday: Avoid work as much as possible
Wednesday: Avoid work as much as possible, then leave early
Thursday: Play with nephews
Friday: Work frantically because I have a deadline on Monday
Yep, looks like a good week.
* No, I am not getting paid by the word. Unfortunately.
** Well, or someone else's. But I can't invite myself over to other people's homes every night.
*** Last winter. Whatever.
Saturday, December 27
A fine Christmas was had by all.
In particular, Lionel got My Neighbour Totoro on DVD (though he fell asleep watching it), and I got a set of Totoro crockery. See! I'm not hard to shop for at all!
Then we had the traditional Christmas dinner, where they* wait until everyone is completely and utterly stuffed and couldn't eat another bite, and then bring out five irresistable deserts. I was only able to eat two helpings, alas.
I also got to hold Harry for a little while. He's still concentrating mainly on I/O functions; babies take a little while to notice the outside world. He wasn't too impressed with his Tigger, either - though I suppose that a tiger as large as you are can be a bit alarming at that age.
* They being Lionel and Harry's grandmother, in this case.
Thursday, December 25
The presents are wrapped; the bread is baked. I'm off to play Santa Pixy.
Merry Christmas to you all!
I like my breadmaker. It's the perfect kitchen appliance for me:
1. Dump ingredients in bowl.I'm making some rye bread this time, which I haven't tried before. Then I'll have to get up early to make my famous apple & cinnamon fruit & nut loaf. Well, it's only slightly famous, but it's very tasty.
2. Wander away for a few hours.
3. Eat bread.
Mmm. Almost Christmas. Maybe I should actually wrap some presents.
Tim Blair has a wonderful collection of quotes up, reviewing the best and worst of 2003.
Not to be missed.
Now excuse my while I go and wrap your present.
Wednesday, December 24
Is he gone? Good.
Harry got a Tigger. I looked at various things, but the classic (not Disney) Tigger won out. After all, Lionel got a lion, so why not?
I managed to install Hordes of the Underdark on Kei. It didn't want to go. I was updating the installation on my external hard disk, but the registry keys were missing. Possibly because this is a completely new computer with a new copy of Windows.
The secret: Run the updater routine. If there's a new patch out, it will download and install the patch, and re-create the registry keys in the process. Then you can install the new expansion pack.
If there isn't a new patch out... Well, then you're in trouble.
Now, I have wrapping paper, sticky tape, gift tags... Everything except bread mix. Have you ever tried to buy bread mix on Christmas Eve? Pfui.
From Ranma in Ranma ½ to Faye Valentine in Cowboy Bebop, from Lina Inverse in The Slayers to Lime in Saber Marionette J, by way of Momiji in Blue Seed and Pai in 3 x 3 Eyes, Megumi Hayashibara is without doubt my favourite anime voice actress (or seiyuu).
If you've ever wondered what it's like to be a voice actress, there's no better or funnier introduction than the Megumi-Toons.
While you're there, you might also like to check out these translations of Azumanga Daioh.
Christmas shopping: done. Except for young Harry. Since he's only two weeks old, he's a tough one to shop for. All he wants right now is his mummy and a clean nappy.
I bought a few things for myself along the way, including volumes four and five of Ai Yori Aoshi and the new expansion pack for Neverwinter Nights, Hordes of the Underdark. The only oint in the flyment is that I have to get it all home somehow... And there are no trains running. Not a one.
Where's Thomas the Tank Engine when you need him? He'd get these striking slackers sorted out, quick smart.
Tuesday, December 23
And here they are. I could have compressed the files more (and I have in some cases), but everyone has broadband now, right? Except Tiger.
A charming little series about a group of high-school girls, and the funniest thing I have seen this year.
An educational children's show, and a good way for Westerners to learn a bit about Japan. Warning: high cuteness factor.
Jungle Wa Itsumo Hale Nochi Guu
"The jungle was always nice, then came Guu"
Or maybe this is the funniest thing I've seen all year. It's certainly one of the weirdest things I've seen, and also one of the best. These are the opening and closing sequences for the TV series and for the OVA series that followed it, Jungle Guu Deluxe. Note that the files sizes for the openings are somewhat on the large side due to the frenetic scene-shifting involved. The closing sequence of Jungle Guu Deluxe is a classic, but you really need to watch the show to appreciate it fully.
Um, I haven't watched this yet. Something something.
Mahoromatic II is the sequel to Mahoromatic. [Duh — Ed] Mahoro is a retired combat robot now working as a maid. I like the original ending sequence better (the Mahoro Mambo), but this one is cute too.
Nanaka has lost her memory and regressed to the age of 6. Silly on the face of it, but surprisingly moving. Because if Nanaka recovers and regains her memories...
Another series that is silly on the surface but has some real depth. Also, in this case, boobies. And ferret-girls, and dancing dandelions. Una!
An adventure story involving a young princess prophesied to destroy the world.
Secret of Cerulean Sands
An adventure story set in the 19th century, based loosely on the works of Jules Verne.
Stellvia of the Universe
The story of Stellvia and her evil plot to take over the Universe. [What?! No it isn't! — Ed]
Tokyo Mew Mew
The story of a group of Mew Mews in Tokyo. Sorry, I haven't watched this one either.
UFO Princess Warukyure
Also known by those who can spell as UFO Princess Valkyrie. Warning: Contains boobies. Contains very boobies.
Original Opening (20MB) (more boobies)
Revised Opening (20MB) (less boobies)
Original Ending (5MB) (no boobies to speak of)
Revised Ending (10MB) (still no boobies to speak of)
Ending (19MB) (boobies return with reinforcements!)
The story of a young witch who has come to our world seeking an education. Chaos ensues. Of course, chaos always ensues. You'd think we'd have learnt that by now.
The first batch of anime video clips is uploading now... About 700MB worth. I need a faster internet connection. Mind you, that's always true.
The best I can do here is 2Mbit, which would set me back $550 per month. Alas, unhappy Pixy...
Monday, December 22
Pixy Misa's Doesn't Suck Award goes today to VirtualDub. VirtualDub is a simple, free video dubbing program. You give it an input file, tell it how you want the output file to be, and it does it. Want the first 90 seconds of a file? Or the last 60? No problem. You don't even need to recode the file - it extracts the bitstream directly and builds a new file for you. Want to overdub with your own soundtrack, or add subtitles? Go for it.
It's not fancy. It's a little bit fiddly to get the start and end points to exactly the right frames. But it does what you tell it to. That's a key feature missing from every commercial video package I've tried.
What does all this mean? It means that very soon I'll have a little library of anime video clips up for your enjoyment and education. Watch for them!
Update: Hmm. It seems to be having a slight problem with Popotan, which is the first clip I've tried in a widescreen (16:9) format. Some more tinkering required...
Update: Don't know what is causing the problem, but recoding the file fixes it. Speaking of which, for fast encoding, reasonable quality, and reasonably small video files, Xvid seems to be the codec of choice. It's also free.
Check out Ghost of a Flea to see why. But this is really far more accurate:
You are a Cyberculture Floozie. The theoretical
aspects of postmodernism interest you only
insofar as they can be used to make cool blinky
things. You probably take psychedelics and
know at least one programming language (HTML
counts!). Other postmodernists call you a
corporate whore. They're probably just jealous
because you make more money than them.
An hour and a half spent with a screwdriver, kernel modules, random config files and the latest nVidia drivers and I have finally have both Kei and Yuri working perfectly at 1600x1200 at 85Hz. Crisp, clear, rock solid.
The 3D performance on Yuri is still somewhat lacking... I have no idea what to make of this, since I have never tried to do any serious 3D graphics on Linux anyway. It's certainly not the card - a GeForce 4 Ti 4600 Ultra - so it's either a problem with the drivers or with the way I installed them. But 3D on Linux is not a priority right now; the only thing I'd use it for is pretty screen savers.
Kei, meanwhile, has a nifty new GeForce FX 5700. This makes no difference at all that I've seen so far, but over Christmas I expect to spend some time playing Knights of the Old Republic, so we'll see how that goes.
For now, I've also yanked the cable from the gigabit ethernet port. It's just not worth the bother for a 60% speedup (which is all Windows seems able to manage). I'll fix it another day.
At one point I managed to drop Kei on her head - I had propped the case up on a chair, but it turned out not to be very well balanced. No harm seems to have been done... And I can't type without touching wood here at Pixy Central.
Pixy's Tip of the Day
If you are assembling a new Linux box, don't buy a video card less than six months old. Unless it's for a server and you never plan to use the console in anything other than text mode.
Just don't. It's not worth the money or the time you will waste trying and failing to get it to work. Last year's cards, on the other hand, are cheap and plenty fast enough, and work just fine.
Sunday, December 21
It's early morning, just before dawn, with the sky beginning to lighten to the east. To the south I can see the lights of the city; across the valley, above the houses, hangs a crescent moon, its circle just visible by reflected Earthlight. A breeze stirs the ferns in the garden below my balcony, and a few clouds drift lazily northwards. It's cool now, but a a fine warm summer's day is promised.
Time for bed.
Anyone out there who understands Windows networking?
If so, does Windows actually comprehend the concept of having more than one network card? And of, like, routing packets to the 10.1.1.x network out the card configured with the 10.1.1.y address? (Yes, my netmasks are correct.)
Or should I just give up and configure my Linux box as a router?
I now have six network interfaces - 100M ethernet, Gbit ethernet, three firewire interfaces, and another one calling itself "Microsoft TV/Video Connection" that just magically appeared one day. Sometimes some of them work. Sometimes some of them don't work.
Pixy's Tip of the Day
If you wish to experiment with TCP/IP over Firewire, do not use the Firewire chain with your external hard disk on it, as this will likely cause the disk to be unavailable to either computer.
Saturday, December 20
I spent a pleasant evening yesterday reading comic books.
Wandering around Kinokuniya the other day I discovered that they had in stock both Sergio Aragones' Groo the Wanderer and Mark Crilley's Akiko on the Planet Smoo. I have a fair collection of Groo, but I've been looking for Akiko for a while now. Disappointingly, they only have the novel of Akiko on the Planet Smoo and not the original comic, though they do have six* volumes of Akiko's further illustrated adventures. So far I've read volumes one through three, which comprise the tale of The Menace of Alia Rellapor. It's lovely stuff, and highly recommended for children of all ages.
On the Groo side of things, I picked up The Most Intelligent Man in the World and Groo and Rufferto. The latter is particularly remarkable for a highly detailed five-page index.
Kinokuniya used to be my local bookstore, so I was disappointed when they closed their store. I was rather happier when they opened their new store in the Galleries Victoria (across the road from the Queen Victora Building in Sydney). The old store wasn't small, but the new one is at least five times the size. Now they've been there for a while and have had a chance to fill all that space with books, and I have to say that they are probably now my second favourite bookstore. First, of course, is Galaxy, Sydney's Science Fiction bookstore, where I have been a faithful customer for twenty years.
Not only do Kinokuniya have lots of stuff I want (first rule for success in business: have something people want), but their prices are reasonable, and they gave me a discount (10% on Tuesday, 15% when I went back today), and they gave me some free gift vouchers, and coupons good for 20% off in January and February.
Now all of you go away for a little while, as I still have three volumes of Akiko* to read.
* And another one.
Friday, December 19
I can't read my own blog at work. Not until Miss OpenBSD and Miss Linux scroll off the page, anyway.
Thursday, December 18
I got my email working properly at home. It was last seen alive on Sunday.
I am presently downloading just over 1100 new messages.
I will get back to you. Really. (Just as soon as the spam filter finishes with them. That should cut it down a bit.)
I need to buy a new pair of jeans. Like now.
Hmm. I guess it's not that obvious.
Wednesday, December 17
I installed my two new computers, Kei and Yuri, in Lian-Li 6070 cases, which feature quiet fans and sound insulating foam. I also used Antec super-quiet power supplies.
And then I installed 8 hard drives in Yuri.
Which proved to be something of a problem. I turns out that the reason quiet fans and quiet power supplies are quiet is that the fans are slow. And being slow, they don't move much air. And not moving much air means not cooling the system very well... And 8 hard drives produce a lot of heat.
So I got a nice fast high-volume fan, and I stuck it in Yuri at the back to blow all the hot air out. In fact, I had to duct-tape it to the existing fan, because there is only exhaust vent and the existing fan is attached with these annoying plastic rivets which are impossible to remove. It's far from ideal, but there's a lot more air blowing out the back now, which is a good thing.
But. All the air is coming from the newly-enhanced case fan, and none of it from the power supply fan. And the case above the power supply is starting to get a little warm. A lot warm, really.
After a few moments I realise that the new high speed fan is doing such a good job pulling air out of the case that it is reducing the air pressure to the point where the slow fans in the power supply can't cope. I should be glad that at least it's not sucking air in through the power supply (which would dump lovely pre-heated air directly on top of the CPU).
So I took the side panel off the case. It's running much cooler now, with both fans working together to blow the hot air out. But it's not exactly quiet any more, is it? I said, it's not exactly quiet any more, is it?
Someone from the recruitment agency we use at work just popped in to say hello - and drop off two big boxes of Krispy Kremes as a Christmas gift.
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