Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Blessings and pyracantha

My neighbors have a pyracantha. I have always disliked that tree. It is right by the property line, so half of the tree is always hanging into my yard dropping the orange (inedible and possibly poisonous) berries where my kids can reach them. Today I have reason to bless that tree. Because I thought its berries were poisonous, I've taught my kids not to eat them. We call them bird berries and I tell them they are for the birds.

A few months ago in my front yard I had a volunteer vine start to grow. It was very pretty, with purple flowers with yellow centers and bright red berries (bird berries I told my kids). I decided to prune it back and try and identify it. Well, I found it here. Yes, you guessed it, bittersweet nightshade. The berries don't taste bad, so kids might keep eating them and they can be deadly. (On a side note, I kept thinking to myself, I'd better identify that plant in case it turns out to be something like nightshade.) So I put on gloves and went and pulled it out.

Now I'm grateful for that pyracantha tree that forced me to teach my kids that not everything in our yard is edible. (Especially my son who still insists on putting everything in his mouth.)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Mythtv .20

Yesterday I upgraded to MythTv .20 on my fedora core 5 machine. It has one feature I really want, the ability to seamlessly burn DVDs from the shows I've recorded. The installation went reasonably well considering I had a bunch of library conflicts between livna and atrpms. I had to reinstall Xine due to the problem. I like .20 so far. It actually seemed to crash less while watching live tv. My only gripe right now is that the DVDs it burns have broken menus. It doesn't highlight when I try to make a menu selection. (discussions here and here.) Also, pushing the menu button doesn't return to the menu. The first problem seems to be caused by the version the mjpg library available on atrpms. I guess the version from freshrpms works better. I haven't been brave enough to try it though. I'll give it a few days and if no other solution comes up, I'll try it out.

Update (10/14/2006): got the menus working. I went to the mjpg homepage, downloaded the source, made it, but did NOT install it. Then I changed all the mythtv commands to use these local versions. Worked like a charm. (Why didn't I just get the lib from somewhere else? I had a bunch of programs dependent on the version I had that I didn't feel like reinstalling.)

The not returning to the root menu problem was my misunderstanding. Most DVD remotes have 2 menu buttons: a title menu button and a root menu button. I only had my ati wonder remote set up to do the root menu. One I fixed that, it's worked great ever since. (Thanks to all the folks at myth-users who explained that in great detail.)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A post post

So my new bike had a problem. Besides the rust (it came off) and the flat tire with a presta valve (my husband replaced the tube), it had a stuck seatpost. This was something that never occurred me or my husband to check. (Note to readers: check that your seatpost is not rusted to the frame.) Apparently water can get in between the seatpost and bike frame causing it to rust together. In the case of an aluminum seat post, it can actually make a chemical weld so that the only way to get it out again is to physically cut the seatpost off and saw it out with a hacksaw.

I took my bike to a bike shop who had the opinion it wasn't worth fixing. Since the bike only cost $25, and the parts and labor would be around $70 (that assumed the post was cut out). There didn't seem to be something that could just be stuck on top of the seatpost to get a couple more inches. Then my husband took a big wrench, put it around the seatpost, laid the bike down, and pushed really hard from side to side (Note: this can warp the seatpost and or your frame). The post moved. He managed to get it out. The bike was fine. I was very happy. I scrubbed all the rust off the post, now I just need to find some grease to put inside the frame to keep it from happening again.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My New not-quite-so-ugly bike

I discussed my new bike here. Now that I (and my daughter) have cleaned off most of the rust, touched up the paint with nail polish, and my husband has fixed the rear tire and greased the chain, it seems like a nice bike. Here's a picture:

Saturday, September 09, 2006

My new ugly bike

I bought a bike today at a garage sale. I've never biked much. Growing up in San Diego, we mostly walked rather than biked; the street we lived on was fairly busy and very unfriendly to bikes (no real shoulder). Recently, my husband and I bought a bike trailer at Shop-ko so that my husband could pull my kids behind him on a bike ride. We had also purchased a bike carrier for my car. The possibility of all of us riding bikes together was too much for me to resist. I decided I wanted a bike, but not just any bike: the cheapest decent bike I could get.

After some research on the Internet, I realized that my idea of a $50 Wal-mart bike might not be a good one. Apparently cheaper bikes are more of a pain to ride and thus people stop riding them. Ignoring the fact that people who buy cheap bikes might not be that interested in biking in the first place and thus quit not because the bike stunk but because they lost interest, that left me with Deseret Industries and garage sales. My husband looked at the bikes at DI and said they weren't that great. Today I saw a garage sale with a bike. I went there and looked at it. It had the kind of peddles my husband said to look for, the kind of breaks he said to look for and more or less it was the right size for me. It was $25. It had two problems: 1) the back tire used a presta thingie (don't ask me I don't know terminology) so the lady selling it couldn't pump it up, she didn't have the right kind of pump (neither do I by the way) 2) the bike has been sitting out all summer, thus the chain and gear thingies are kind of rusted. My husband said that ignoring rust, the bike was comparable to his.

Monday I'll go out and try and see if it cleans up with some WD-40. My wonderful husband said he'd change the tube on the back tire so it has a regular thingie. I still need to get a helmet, but then hopefully I'll be ready to ride around the church parking lot then on to the Provo River Trail.

My current project, free food storage software: FoodThinger

Now that I have my PVR/Tivo/that stupid computer that took way too long to set up working, I'm back to some of my older projects that I've left to languish. Currently I'm working on free food storage tracking software. It would help me keep track of what I bought, when it expires, and what I have left to buy to reach my year's supply. I plan on making it open source after I'm done (and after I clean up the code enough that I'm not ashamed of it.)

Why: I want to know what food I have, what food I need to get, and when it expires. I wasn't able to find a free program that did this (there is a $40 program that is pretty cool, if I wasn't so cheap and really want to make something free available I'd use it). Plus, while I'm writing it I don't have to actually organize my food storage :)

Platforms: Windows 2000/XP, probably Linux

Current status: has a list of foods and how much of them I'd need as per providentliving from the LDS church. I can add foods. I can export my foods to a csv file (this is in case I decide my program isn't what I want and decide to just move to a spread sheet).

Currently working on: being able to add custom foods (finished 9/11/2006)

Still to come: reports showing what is expiring in the next n number of months. Reports showing how close I am to a year's supply.

Still to come in a few years when I'm not sick of this project anymore: Meal planning, recipes, and the ability to know what recipes you can make based on what is in your storage.
ETA: probably a month or two assuming I don't get distracted again. I'll probably put it up on SourceForge, unless I get lazy then I'll just post it to along with all my other programs.

note(added 6/2008): FoodThinger is now released. Go to

Monday, September 04, 2006

Why I love Linux/ Fedora Core 5

(For the other half of the story see why I hate Linux.)
Here's what I love about Linux:
  1. My kids can't do any serious damage to my computer since they don't have the right permissions
  2. Somewhere on google is the answer to my question.
  3. All the software I'm using is free.
  4. Mythtv is so cool.
  5. Once I figured out what I was doing, I realized almost everything worked right "out of the box"
  6. PPracer / Tuxracer - help Tux the penguin race down a snowy slope, what could be better than that?
  7. Don't have to reboot after installing new software
  8. Yumex (graphical interface for yum, very nice since it lists all the packages you have or might ever want.
  9. The Gimp actually works. (I used it a lot under windows and it just never was completely stable.)
  10. man
  11. The thought that now I can get a "Chicks dig Linux" t-shirt from

Why I hate Linux / Fedora Core 5

(Note: before flaming me check out Why I love Linux.)
This is a bunch of generalizations on why Linux / Fedora Core 5 64 bit sucks. If you are considering switching to Linux, don't let this scare you off.
  1. I have to compile everything my own dang self. (OK, not really, but I've had to ./configure, make, make install more than my fair share of stuff)
  2. Anything that I really want to run will not compile without downloading at least one other dependency, plus the header files.
  3. If you want a program to do a specific task, there are at least 5 of them in source forge and they all are in pre alpha or abandoned or both.
  4. Queries in Google on how to fix a specific problem returns a bunch of results, problem is they are all for either a) a version of Linux I don't have or b) written about 5 years ago and are no longer relevant.
  5. One word: Permissions