Mike Schaeffer's Weblog
Tue, 26 Sep 2006
The Wisdom of Grover
Ryan's fuzzy pal, Grover, is a very wise monster. From his smash hit, Monster in the Mirror:

"If your mirror has a monster in it, do not shout
This kind of situation does not call for freaking out
And do nothing that you would not like to see him do
Cause that monster in the mirror he just might be you"


Yes, we're starting the Sesame Street early.

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Fri, 15 Sep 2006
The long^H^H^H^Hshort road to Linux...
I ran Linux for a few years back in college ('94-'97), lapsing back to Windows for professional reasons when I started working full time. After ten years of running Windows full time, I finally got sick of its crap (excuse my French), replaced the 40GB disk on my Dell Inspiron 6000 laptop with a brand new 120GB and installed Ubuntu 6.06. Two partitions: one swap and one ext3. No Windows partition, no dual boot. This happened a couple days ago, and the experience has been almost uniformly positive. To wit:
  • Suspend to memory and (more importantly) suspend to disk both worked properly the first time out of the box, no questions asked. The only 'issue' is that the fit and finish isn't quite as nice as on Windows. Windows has a nice progress bar for the suspend process and on Linux the display goes through a couple corrupt screens full of noise before getting to the desktop.
  • The widescreen 2MP display was recognized immediately. Installing the Ubuntu packages for flgrx got 3-D acceleration on my ATI Radeon X300 working with no trouble at all. All I need to do now is get a nice compositing window manager. Update: ATI's X300 driver deliberately doesn't with the Composite extension necessary to run a compositing window manager. Oh well.
  • WiFi almost worked out of the box, the exception being the Wifi activity light on the laptop's case. It never lights up, which made enabling the radio confusing but doesn't seem to have caused any other problems.
  • The base Ubuntu is pretty sparse, but it was trivial to install 2GB worth of development tools with Synapitics after the install. Synaptics works well enough that I question why bother with Fedora's 5CD install process. (Out of a historical sympathy for Redhat 6, I first tried installing Fedora Core 5 and had a hard time getting Windows XP to do a valid burn of CD 3. This is why I wound up with Ubuntu.)
  • Plugging in USB keys and drives worked out of the box the first time, even for read-only accsss of my NTFS formatted external 120GB disk.
  • A video recorded on my wife's Canon SD400 showed up with a thumbnail in Nautilus and played, with audio, with the default media player.
  • Audio worked out of the box, even the annoying startup sounds.
  • The qemu emulator and tne kqemu accelerator (hopefully, my Windows solution) both compiled and ran easily. Update: All I had to do do boot Windows XP was start qemu with an image created by saying dd if=/dev/sdb of=orig.img. Of course, Windows XP immediately started complaining about not being activated. We'll see if MS lets me reactivate it: I have a license to run XP on this machine, even if the expectation was that I'd run it on raw hardware rather than via emulation. Oh, and it's too soon to really tell about performance, but it looks usable for filling out timecards, etc.
  • I wasn't expecting it, but I've been able to open and work with several work-related Word for Windows documents using OpenOffice.


Of course there are problems, but overall this is amazing. The last time I ran Linux, it took weeks of downloading and compiling source code and extensive script customization to get things to work right. Setting up X11 to not blow up my then brand new $1,300 Sony GDM-17SE1 17 inch monitor gave me night sweats for days. Once it did work, there were half a dozen different widget sets on the screen at any time and your choices for word processing included Andrew ez, groff, and/or TeX. Linux has come a long way.

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Sat, 09 Sep 2006
Lawyers and Philadelphia
80% of car seats are incorrectly installed. It's not that hard to do, but there are a number of details you need to get right to install a car seat so that it's safe for the baby in a crash. The seat has to face the correct direction, it has to be tilted the right amount to within a few degrees, it has to be tight against the seat, and then it has to be fastened to something that's secure. Once the seat is installed correctly, getting the baby secure in the seat isn't a small matter either: modern infant car seats have (race car style) five point harnesses with several kinds of adjustement. It's simple, but there are a bunch of things for tired, stressed-out new parents to screw up, so it's not terribly suprising that so many of us do just that.

In September 2002, the US Government tried to improve the situation by mandating a system called LATCH on all new cars. LATCH solves the "fastened to something that's secure" part of installing a car seat. In a car with LATCH, the infant seat attaches to dedicated metal loops behind the seat cushion rather than to the seat belt. Unlike a seat belt, the LATCH mounting points never move, so it's easier to get the infant seat mounted and tight against the seat.

Despite the fact that our car is LATCH equipped, I decided it would be a good idea to get my seat installation checked out. While I was pretty confident in my ability to get a car seat installed, a second set of eyes never hurt. So in keeping with the advice I received from a several good sources, I went down to the local fire house (half a block from our home) and asked them to take a look at my car seat. This type of public service is apparantly usual practice for fire houses in many areas of the country. However, not in Philadelphia.

At the fire house I went to I was told that Philadelphia city fire houses can't inspect car seats because they didn't want to expose themselves to the liability. Their suggestion was to go to a fire house in a suburb, pretend I was from the suburb, and have them inspect the seat. For this kind of upstanding service, Teresa and I pay a 4.3% city income tax (on top of the state and federal income tax). While I don't blame the local firemen for suggesting I go to a suburban fire house, I think it's patently absurd that the city ignores this type of (80% prevalent) public health issue for the sake of reduced liability. This is particularly true when the natural end effect is to attempt to pass the liability on to more upstanding neighboring communities.

For what it's worth the hospital staff couldn't inspect the seat installation either, and for the same reason. For some reason, it's less offensive when a private organization says it than when it comes from the government.

Sorry for the gripe, but this is an irritating (for me) fact of life in the modern world.

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Tue, 05 Sep 2006
Baby Fortunes, part 1
We received some wonderful baby fortune cookes as a gift, and I thought some of the fortunes were pretty interesting. The highlights will be posted here occasionally:

"A perfect example of minority rule is a baby in the house."

-Milwaukee Journal


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Mon, 04 Sep 2006
Ryan After One Month
Ryan turned one month old the other day! In honor of the occasion we've put a few more pictures online in another album. This album is bigger than usual and it contains all sorts of good stuff: pictures of his second bath, 1 month birthday cake, and a bunch of new facial expressions... including some smiles!

Happy Birthday Ryan,
Mom and Dad

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Ryan Charles Harrison Schaeffer
Where did Ryan's name come from? Lots of agonizing. We didn't find out Ryan's gender prior to his birth and for some reason it was easier to pick the girl's name than the boy's name. Anyway, here's the etymology:
  • Ryan - We struggled with this one for months. Ryan is actually the name of a guy that Mike worked for for a week and also the last name of a painter we employed about the same time. It fell into our laps and we liked it.
  • Charles - This is the first name of Charles Schaeffer, may he rest in peace. Charles was Mike's paternal grandfather and he passed away around the time Mike was born. Charles was also a part of our wedding: Mike wore a pair of his cuff links as shirt buttons during the cermony.
  • Harrison - Teresa's maiden name, and the name she uses for business purposes.
  • Schaeffer - Mike's family name.


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