Watching a little basketball, playing with some computers

So how’s this for a great Friday evening: I’m sitting on the couch. To my left, the windows are open because it’s a gorgeous spring evening. Right next to me on the couch, the wife is napping, waiting for the Celtics game. I have a kitchen full of beer and wine left over from my birthday party last week. We have the ingredients ready for dinner, pasta with tomatoes and asparagus, plus some cauliflower poppers. In front of me is my brand new work computer, on which I’ve just installed Launchy, which everyone should install on their Windows machine. It’s similar to Gnome-Do for Linux and Quicksilver for Mac – I’ve been using Gnome-Do for a while and I love it, and wanted something like it for my Windows work machine. And speaking of Linux, my personal laptop is currently downloading and upgrading to the latest version of Ubuntu, Hardy Heron. So, I have sports, food and drink, computer geekishness, and my fabulous wife. I have no idea what more I could possibly want.

The wife will think I’m crazy

She’ll think I’m crazy, but that’s just because she’s not as big of a nerd as I am. Anyway, you may notice that, when I talk about a baseball player, I usually link to his career stats at Baseball Reference. It’s a great site for the stat nerd. And they support themselves through sponsorships. Yesterday, I decided to sponsor two pages in the name of Complaint Hub. The first is Chad Bradford, one of the stars of Moneyball and now an Oriole. As you can see from his stat page, Billy Beane and the A’s got four years out of him for about what the Orioles are paying him this year. But that’s okay. The second is Mark Knudson. When I was little, I had a little handheld baseball game, Tomy Pocket Baseball. You pulled the lever and a ball dropped, and then you released the lever to swing the bat and try to hit the ball into one of the holes for a hit. It was awesome. I had my own league. I used real players, their names painstakingly copied from baseball cards. Mark Knudson was the all-time leader in wins. He retired with a record of 48-5 and a 0.59 ARPI. I used Average Runs Per Inning because my games tended to be higher scoring than real baseball games, and not multiplying by the number of innings in a game made a good ARPI look more like a good ERA. These were four inning games, so his ERA would have been 2.37, which would have been fine. But he was the greatest of all-time, and the average pitcher would have had a much higher ERA. Anyway, I have no idea if these sponsorships will drive any traffic here. But I get a lot of enjoyment from Baseball Reference, and now I’ve given something back.

Trying to write about something other than baseball

So, I’m trying to think of something I want to write about rather than rehash yesterday’s Orioles game. No one wants to hear about it – O’s fans will just get depressed, and the Rays don’t have any fans. Maybe the players’ mothers. Anyway. So I thought I might write about Quacker of the House Nancy Pelosi advising the President to boycott the Olympic opening ceremonies to protest China’s all-around unpleasantness, but then I was reading the article and my eyes started to glaze over. No one cares what advice Nancy Pelosi has for President Bush. She’d be more likely to get a reaction out of a large rock. Then I thought I should say something about IBM’s temporary suspension from getting federal contracts for some horrendous thing they did to EPA that no one will explain. This is huge news, but until we get some more details, it isn’t all that interesting. Or maybe it’s not interesting because my mind is refusing to grasp the massive incompetence or malice necessary to actually be disciplined by the government at all. But really, the most exciting thing about today is that I plan to go meet Charles Stross at the Brickskeller tonight. He’s one of my favorite authors, and he’s in town for something or other. He claims he’s trying to fend off jet-lag, but anyone going to a place with a beer list like this is merely fending off sobriety.

A magazine about Ubuntu

Full Circle Magazine » Issue 4

Full Circle – the Ubuntu Community Magazine are proud to announce our fourth issue.

I know, I’m going to get more user submitted complaints about rambling on about Ubuntu, but I’m more and more excited about Linux as a real alternative to Windows.  I’ve been thinking about trying to install it on my parents’ computers because I can log in remotely and fix things for them.

I mean, my dad is running Windows 98 on his desktop.  As a computer dork, this is roughly the same as a dentist allowing his father to lose all his teeth due to cavities.

Anyway, Full Circle Magazine is accessible for the non-geek, although some of it will seem like a foreign language.  But I mention it more as a symbol of things to come – there was an article in the previous issue (That I actually haven’t read, but the new issue mentions it) about someone installing Ubuntu on his grandmother’s computer, and how happy she’s been with it.  When people who didn’t use a computer until well into adulthood start using and being happy with Linux, it’s good for everyone.

Imagine you could go buy a computer, and they’d ask you, “Which operating system would you like?”, and you could choose whatever you wanted.  There would be real choice, and real competition.  Right now, for the vast majority of people, you either buy a Mac or you run Windows.  But Ubuntu isn’t far off.  And if Ubuntu succeeds at bringing Linux to the masses (And their deal with Dell is a huge step forward), then other distributions will follow.

Anyway, it’s exciting.  At least, I’m excited.

Automatic weapons with Legos

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories – Book Review (and build!): Forbidden Lego

Forbidden Lego written by a pair of Lego master builders, who used to work in designing advanced Lego sets (e.g., Mindstorms). While they obviously got to work on lots of cool things while they were there, there were certain projects that just turned not to be suitable to be made into kits released by the Lego company. They wrote the book to give some kind of a tantalizing hint at the kinds of things that go on behind the scenes at Lego, and the kinds of neat things that might get released in a world without product liability suits.

If you don’t want to read the article (Which you should, but I know you’re lazy), just watch the YouTube video linked within.  It’s pretty much the best YouTube video ever.  Well, maybe not.  But it won’t get stuck in your head like Chocolate Rain.

The book includes instructions on how to make automatic weapons with Legos.  What could possibly be cooler than that?  Anyone not intrigued by a self-loading Lego catapult is no friend of mine.

New depths of nerd

Or maybe it’s new heights. I guess that depends on your point of view. I’ve been doing a little fooling around with some C++ with GCC. I’m doing a little baseball simulating, and it’s going well. If it continues to go well, I’ll eventually have a little executable that generates pages and pages of wonderful statistics that I can do all sorts of wonderful things with.

I realize I’m in a very small minority with my obsession with baseball statistics, but those of us here (And by ‘here’, I mean ‘In the crazy minority’) are really into it. The wife doesn’t really understand, but as long as I don’t sit here writing code and ignoring her while she’s talking, I think she’ll humor me.

I’m a little disappointed with Eclipse, however. It was slow, error messages were unhelpful, and code completion was iffy. And since code completion is one of the greatest things about an IDE, its absence is kind of a deal breaker.  It may be partly a function of my crappy computer, though.

So I’m currently coding in Gedit and doing command-line compiling. It’s fine so far, but I haven’t done anything really complicated.

Anyway, it’s fun.

More Wubi and Ubuntu

I’ve been doing some more playing with Ubuntu and Wubi. I got the wireless working Friday, and I haven’t booted up Windows since then. This is something holding back Ubuntu for the masses. It took me four tutorials and about a week to get connected to my wireless network. This isn’t so bad for me – I don’t mind messing around with things on the computer, and now I’ll appreciate the wireless connection even more. But I hesitate to put Ubuntu on my dad’s computer, for example. He’s a perfect candidate – Windows hater, older PC – but I don’t want to have to get things working for him every time he wants something new.

Anyway, I’m very happy with my new Ubuntu install.  And I don’t know how to write a wireless manager that just works.

I wonder if Dell has something.  They’re selling machines preloaded with Ubuntu now, and they must have come up against this by now.  Of course, if the Windows wireless manager that Dell put on my laptop is any indication, they probably just threw the first piece of junk they found in there and hoped that people would figure it out.

Ubuntu, Wubi, and other funny words

I installed Ubuntu on my laptop last night using Wubi, and I’m not sure why I didn’t do this sooner. Wubi is a Windows installer that lets you run Ubuntu sort of like running a Windows program.

My initial reactions are limited, because the install finished sometime after I went to bed last night, and I only had a few minutes to play this morning. But I was surprised that Ubuntu recognized the volume buttons on my Dell (I accidentally uninstalled the Windows driver for them and have never bothered to find it again), although I was a little disappointed that it seems to like to turn the volume on when I’m not logged in, which drives me nuts.

Also, I couldn’t get onto my wireless network. But I’m not positive I have the right password. I’ll have to play with it tonight. Of course, the wife comes home tonight, so I should probably do a bit of cleaning. I did some yesterday, but not everything.

In any event, I would much rather be at home playing with Ubuntu than sitting at work, checking for Section 508 compliance in our web application. Although at least this gives me an excuse to get rid of some of the awful, awful code generated by Visual Studio. If you ever hear anyone try to sing the praises of Microsoft’s .NET environment, I want you to kick them in the teeth.