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This page documents random thoughts, observations, hardware and software reviews, criticisms, rants, anecdotes, tips, tricks, and discoveries by Blake Nancarrow. The notes here pertain specifically to information technology. They are dated and arranged in reverse-order, the newest items at the top.

2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | the '90s


Index of Postings

26 Nov - ubuntu up
26 Oct - 250GB for CDN89
23 Oct - first TB drive spotted
3 Sep - e-picture viewer
24 Aug - Presenter View kinda lame
3 Jul - impressions of Office 2007
4 Mar - hacked USB on yepp
28 Feb - Whorfin back on internet
25 Feb - fixed yepp
17 Feb - won Series 5mx
16 Feb - jinx?
13 Feb - should probably get another one
2 Jan - beep, beep beep beep
1 Jan - Firefox is cool

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26 Nov 2007 - ubuntu up

Spent the weekend configuring an old computer with the new hard disk. Connected a free LCD monitor. Added some free RAM. Dug out an old two-button mouse (remember those?!).

After many attempts, much reconfiguration, many downloads, many ISOs made and CDs burned, a lot of testing, lot 'o cussing, I finally got Linux running. Yep. Linux running. Woo. Hoo.

I have ubuntu 7.1 running on a clone Pentium III. It has:

  • a 250 GB hard disk (in 3 partitions)
  • 256 MB of RAM; not enough, I know
  • old bootable CD-ROM
  • old floppy diskette drive
  • slow ethernet card on my slow hub
  • ATX power supply (redux)
  • hp LCD 15" monitor
  • Stealth 3D video board with 4 MB (PAH!)
  • two-button mouse

The sound board was not detected, so I have to figure that out.

I'd like to get more memory on the motherboard but it might be limited or capped...

Connected to the internet!

Immediately installed KStars, an astronomy program, and loaded it to the gills. I like it. Visually impressive.

Installed a PDF viewer application. Tested printing to the built-in PDF virtual printer. A-OK.

Tested my (non-encrypted) USB key drives. It worked properly, auto-mounting. Transferred some data onto the box. Helped during a minor hang.

Reconfigured the power settings. Screen was flicking on and off in a transient stage. OK now.

Fired up Pidgin, the multi-client instant messenger. Wow. I thought Trillian and meebo had a lot of platform support. Now, I'm tempted to use Pidgin for all my IM!

Did a lot of desktop reconfiguration in GNOME.

Tested connection to my Windows/Mac network. Hey, look at that! I can see the shares on my Windows machines. It's working!

Installed the NTP components to keep time synched.

It's going well.

Oh. And, of course, I installed gEyes! Got do it, right?

The machine is fairly stable. About once a day it locks up. Some situations are repeatable so I'll see if I can track the cause.

Lots to do and learn...

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26 Oct 2007 - 250GB for CDN89

Bought a 250GB hard disk today from Suture Fhop. On sale for $99. Open box knocked another $10 off. And I had a birthday gift card. So I paid out even less...


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23 Oct 2007 - first TB drive spotted

I'm sure others are out but I had my first spotting of a terabyte (TB) drive today: an external Porsche-designed LaCie 1TB from Future Shop for about $330.


I might pick up a sub-TB drive now for cheap...

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3 Sep 2007 - e-picture viewer

Had an old colour laptop given to me. Really old. Didn't know what to do with it. It doesn't even have a CD drive. It has a proprietary SCSI port (you guessed it, an old Macintosh). Super-Drive floppy. That's it. So, no easy way to get data in and out of it.

Briefly considered using it as a "field computer" for astronomy, to run an old planetarium program (RedShift). But I couldn't figure out how to get it loaded... Or to run it. The software wants the CD live.

Briefly considered using the machine as a telescope computer. I.e. install or develop an application to attach to my telescope equatorial mount as a GOTO computer. But that didn't seem, at first blush, a simple thing to do...

Briefly considered installing a tiny Linux package (Puppy?). But I think it is even too old for that.

Looked like eBay or freecycle were the only options...

As I was flipping through a electronics shop flyer, it suddenly occurred to me that the old computer could easily serve as a digital picture frame! I connected it to the AppleTalk network, loaded it with dozens of digital photos, and installed a JPEG "player." Works great!

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24 Aug 2007 - Presenter View kinda lame

I was expecting more... I finally tried the "Presenter View" in PowerPoint (specifically version 2003).

Being able to see your facilitator notes on one screen while running the presentation proper on another screen sounded like an awesome idea.

But the "special" viewer is surprising weak:

  • "traditional" keyboard shortcuts in show do not work
  • cannot use Pen feature

So, now I don't know what all the fuss was about.

I'll try the 2007 version to see if it is better...

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3 Jul 2007 - impressions of Office 2007

I was fortunate through one of my training clients to have an opportunity to learn and use Microsoft Office 2007. I have been delivering demos, seminars, and webinars on the new features and tips and tricks. I have mixed feelings about the new software. There are a number of features I like; but this is an expensive change.

Excel probably, for me, represents the most exciting upgrade. There are hundreds of changes in the program and most of them I think are brilliant. I love the "add new sheet" icon beside the worksheet tabs—so fast. I really like how when you type a function name, even as you begin with the first letter, a short list appears. It helps verify spelling as you continue to type.

There is much more to discuss... I'll complete this article, or rather, write a full proper review, shortly.

The bottom line is that it seems to be a significant upgrade in many senses of the word...

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4 Mar 2007 - hacked USB on yepp

Successfully prototyped an external power source for my yepp YP-T6 via the USB mini-B receptacle.

The difficulty was finding good information on the pin out configuration for the mini-B USB connectors. Many web sites have the original A and B type connectors but not the mini-A and mini-B connectors. Complicating matters, a number of the sites out there, do not clearly state whether the pin out shown is for the male plug or the female receptacle.

It wasn't until I read some system documentation at the USB Implementers Forum, Inc. that I confirmed the pin numbers. Here's what I learned about the A and mini-B male plug connectors:

diagram type gender
USB A and mini B.gif (2563 bytes) A male / plug
USB A and mini B.gif (2563 bytes) mini B male / plug

The female receptacles obviously reverse the pin numbering.

So, now I know that if I put +5VDC on mini B pin 1 and -5VDC on mini B pin 5 then my yepp can play music, even without a battery installed! Woo hoo. And that means I can finish my plans to make my own car CLA adapter...

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28 Feb 2007 - Whorfin back on internet

I don't know what happened exactly but the Lord John Whorfin computer stopped connecting to the internet, or at least to some web sites. LAN network access was fine, unaffected. Looked like a DNS issue.

I removed some old DNS search server IPs and it seems to be fine now.

Which makes the editing of these pages possible again...

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25 Feb 2007 - fixed yepp

Broke my Samsung YP-T6Z yepp digital media player recently while trying to create an alternate power source for it.

But tonight I finally figured out how to fully disassemble it.

I created a separate page with thumbnail image links to document my repair.

Funny: you don't realise how much you miss something until it's gone...

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17 Feb 2007 - won Series 5mx

Won my eBay auction for a Psion Series 5mx from the UK.

All right! I'll be back using a proper English dictionary!

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16 Feb 2007 - jinx?

Ha ha! The screen on the Psion Series 5mx went on the fritz tonight!


Also frustrating in that I have not yet learned how to repair these myself. Even though I have the proper tips for my soldering workstation. And I have a new replacement ribbon cable from Germany...

Get ON it!

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13 Feb 2007 - should probably get another one

Made a note in my Psion Series 5mx agenda to buy an additional palmtop as a backup for when this current one dies.

Seems like the screen has lasted a pretty long time, this one...

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2 Jan 2007 - beep, beep beep beep

I don't get it.

Every time I go away for a long vacation, I return to malfunctioning computers!

This time, it is Lord John Whorfin that decided to freak out. After 9 or 10 days being powered off, it would not boot. I had left it connected to the UPS which is surge-protected. I had also left it connected to the DSL router, which I did not power off or disconnect from the DSL modem...

I heard beep codes as it tried to start. Whew! Not my hard disk. But I wasn't pleased at the thought of a main board failure. Even though I have another identical machine which I could have cannibalised.

After some trial-and-error board swapping, I determined it was my old ISA Lava multi-serial I/O adapter that had gone south. OK. Not too bad. I don't need all those serial ports now. That said, I'll have to move the Psion EPOC cable to a different COM address now.

All right. Back in business.

Not so fast, smarty pants.

The network board started acting wobbly. Actually, when diagnosing the beep codes, I found two NICs in the machine! A 100 Kingston and an old 10 Western Digital. I assumed it was the Kingston that I was using before. So then when I tried to mount it, it wouldn't sit in the socket right. After a lot of stupid fiddling, I got it to fit properly in a different slot.

Then I tried to get Windoze (98) to recognise it. But no. It's not in the database. And after a lot more fiddling and finally reloading the drivers via the Device Manager, I got it working.


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1 Jan 2007 - Firefox is cool

I have to give up on Netscape. I want to be loyal but I simply cannot use a browser that functions so badly. It is terribly unstable since the last update. Many of the websites I regularly use do not function. I cannot use a browser that fails so ungracefully.

I downloaded Firefox 2. I'm very impressed! It seems quicker, thinner.

Mozilla Firefox 2

I installed it on the XP box (John Yaya) and the loaner laptop running Win2K Pro. In fact, I got Malcolm using it on his XP box. He likes it too!

My favourite new feature is the ability to drag-and-drop tabs to change the order! Sweet.

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This page was last updated on 26 February 2013.
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