Monday, April 25, 2011

Fedora, KDE and no sound (FIX)...

I've, for a long time, been using Gnome as my desktop environment. But recently I decided to switch over to KDE for a few different reasons.

A part of my regular work environment is to have Sirius running in the background so I can listen to Howard Stern while I GSD1. And to do that I run the Sipie app.

But when I switched over to KDE the audio immediately died. So I tried to run the (horrible) Sirius web-based application and that failed to play audio either. This was a clue to what was the problem. After trying to play a YouTube video and getting only video I knew it was the audio setup for KDE.

I started up the System Settings app and navigated to the Multimedia settings and clicked on the Phonon tab. All of the audio devices were "High Definition Audio Controller Digital Stereo (HDMI)" which, of course, isn't how I'm using my laptop normally.

After switching it over to "Internal Audio Analog Stereo" I still didn't get any sound. So one more check was necessary.

The problem was that, by default, the phonon backend installed on Fedora is phonon-backend-xine. But for using mplayer (on which Sipie depends) you need to have the phonon-backend-gstreamer package installed.

So I installed that package and voila! Howard's playing, sounds are good and I'm back to work.

1 Get Shit Done

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sping 2011 Has Now Sprung (Sprang)...

Today I woke up to a 70F (21C) morning. And my beard was itchy, as it is every year when the temperature, and more importantly the humidity, go up here in NC.

So it was time for the winter coat to go away. Buzzed it with my trimmer then shaved it off.

Then it was time to unclog the drain....

Monday, April 18, 2011

Birthday parties...

Rachel with one of her gifts: "Big Green Lizard"
My daughter, Rachel, turned 5 this weekend. For her birthday we had a part at the Jump Zone! here in town and invited her friends from preschool. They all had a great time jumping, eating cake and all.

Hard to believe it's been five years since she was born. My wife and I had tried so hard for a few years to have a third child. And we were both pretty much discouraged and thought it was never going to happen. Fertility treatments, needles, hoping and never sure what would happen.

It was almost six years ago that we went to Myrtle Beach for vacation and she surprised me with the news. We were floating around the lazy river at our hotel in innertubes when she grabbed my hand and pulled me over to her.

"I'm pregnant."

I was exhilarated!

We waited to tell her parents until we were sure things were okay. When we were convinced, and after we found out we were having a girl (which stunned us both), we broke the news to our family and friends.

Christene told her parents by laying out a onesie on our bed that said "I was worth the wait" and then letting her mother see it during a visit. I first told my buddy Mario after flying up to Philly for Labor Day Weekend.

Damn, five years have passed and it feels like only yesterday. Yet, at the same time, I can't remember what life was like without my Little Sweety Baby.

Daddy loves you, Rachel!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chapter one of my attempt at writing a novel...

Here's chapter one of my as-yet-unnamed novel I'm attempting to write. Would you read the rest of the book based on this?

The Discovery

It was cold. It was dimly lit. It smelled of antiseptic and cleaning solution and, under all of that, decay. It was a laboratory that held all kinds of memories for Dr. Theodore Sullivan; memories of struggle, of hopes dashed against the rocks, of frustration and confusion and anger and the desire to just give up and walk away.
But, right now, it was the most hope-filled room in the world to him.

Dr. Sullivan called out from the makeshift lab. “Rose, can you come here for a minute?”
Rosemarie Fuller, who had been a physician's assistant before the end of the world, entered the room. She found Dr. Sullivan peering into a high-powered microscope, a set of slides on the table beside him. “What is it, Ted?” she asked as she approached him.
“Tell me what you see in this sequence.” He then replaced the slide on the stage and allowed Rose to take his place at the table. She leaned down, peering into the stereo microscope.
“I see several cells which show signs of infection,” Rose looked up from the microscope. “Is there something else I should be seeing?”
“Patience, Rose,” Dr. Sullivan replied. “Now take a look at this one.” He raised the microscope's objective lens, removed the slide and, after checking the next one, placed it on the stage. “Take a look at this one and tell me what you see.”
Rose again leaned down. After a minute of adjusting and looking, she again stood up. “This looks like a slightly less infected cell cluster. What are you getting at, Ted? Just tell me, already, because I've got work to do.”
Despite her having come to work in the labs in the Pisgah Safe Zone, Rose wasn't big on mysteries. Her job was to help find a cure, not spend time on understanding its origins. That was a mystery for people with the luxury of time. And with the amount of work to be done, the last thing she felt like doing was playing twenty questions with Ted.
“Damn, you're in a mood today,” Dr. Sullivan replied sarcastically, trying to lighten the mood. He again raised the objective and swapped out the slide, this time with the one from the bottom of his stack.
“There. Take a look at this one and tell me what you see.”
As Rose leaned in, Dr. Sullivan took the other slides and put a few of them on the stages of the other three microscopes in the room and then peered into each.
He'd barely adjusted the focus on the second one when Rose stood up. A cautious look on her face gave a hint of what she was thinking.
A little formality crept into her voice. “Are these slides out of order, doctor?” she asked Sullivan.
“No, they're not. The first one was taken from test subject 129G prior to injection with formula AV717. The other slides were taken at 20 minute intervals for several hours afterward.”
The look of caution stayed on her face. But her eyes started to fill with tears, betraying her hope.
“Rose, I think we've found the cure.”

Dr. Sullivan and his team weren't the best at what they were doing. Hell, more than half of them weren't even experts in the field of virology. They were a team put together due to circumstances. Sullivan had experience in the field which is why he lead them. The others were statisticians, biochemists, nurses and from other fields.
But the end of the world doesn't give you the luxury of putting together an A-Team in order to find a cure. Instead you have to work with what's available, in more ways than one. The team wasn't the best or the brightest. The facilities weren't state of the art. Instead they were the ones that survived using what was left behind. Their ability to collaborate with other teams was limited. But it at least enabled them to work, which is what mattered most.
And work they did. Day and night. For years. Since the end of the world came to stay. And their work was finally going to pay off, they hoped. The human race was losing the battle against an enemy whose ranks grew with every one of their deathes. And it wouldn't be too many more years before the enemy had achieves total victory.

The pressure to find a cure is what drove Dr. Sullivan and his team. And it's what drove a few of them over the edge. Sure, they were all survivors of some sort. But that survival didn't give everybody the ability to endure the aftermath.
But not everybody who survives a tragedy wants to live with that victory. Sometimes it's the sense of loss of those who died. Sometimes it's the guilt over those who could have been saved. It's the could haves, should haves and would haves that can lead a person who was lucky enough to survive the first wave to end their lucky streak at some other point.
Dr. Sullivan had lost three of his research colleagues in the intervening seven years since the plague. All of them had lost their will to continue or saw their work as ultimately futile. Especially when it was discovered that everybody, except for the rare few, had already been infected. The enemy had infiltrated the world and was slowly and relentlessly turning the tide in its own favor.
It was one of those three that ultimately lead the team to their first big breakthrough. And it was that event that helped them to isolate the means by which the virus restarted the basic systems of the body. Like a small operating system image, it was able to get certain parts of the body running again. Just enough to allow the virus to propagate itself.
That discovery lead to a rapid series of hypotheses and experiments that proved successful in not only breaking down and understanding the virus, but also in finding a cure for it. A cure that not only stopped the virus from working on the dead, but also from affecting the living. A cure that could bring humanity back from the brink.
Now they just needed to find a way to mass produce and distribute the cure. It was indeed a breakthrough, but they needed to act to use it before it was too late.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Physics Of Flopping

My son, who weighs around 59 kg (~130 lb), flops onto his bed from a distance of about 0.5 meters above it. From standing to sitting he has accelerated to approximately 4.9 m/s by the time he hits the mattress, assuming it takes him about 0.5 seconds to go from standing to sitting. At the moment when he hits the mattress the force he's applying to it and the frame is about 289.1 kg*m/s. He's had this bed for about 5 years now, or about 1,931 days.

So if we average out flopping down about once per day for that time period, and average out his weight from then until now (say, about 40 kg as the average), then we have:

1,931 days * 40 kg * 0.5 s * 9.8  m/s2  =  378,476 kg*m/s of force over that time period!

That's the equivalent of a 909 kg (1 ton) car traveling at 1,499 km/h (~931 miles/hour), just amortized over five years.

Is it any wonder that he broke the bed's frame this evening?