February 27, 2007

Trackball Rant

Argggh! Once again, all of the trackballs seem to be "handed", for right handers only. There are maybe six on the market total that aren't:

and that's it!!

None of these are wireless. None!! Oh, they make wireless trackballs, but they are all right handed only!!

Well, thanks a lot, jerks. I guess I won't be "upgrading" to a wireless pointing device, since mice hurt and you don't make wireless trackballs for lefties. Guess what you didn't sell?

Posted by ljl at 02:58 PM | Comments (0)

July 31, 2006


The stupid "Real-ID" act demands that we have unified identity papers (state issued driver's license or ID card) with RFID chips in them. Also, new passports have to be chipped, with biometric crap as well. Welcome to the surveillance society. Still, I don't want every johnny with a extended range receiver able to read my data.

So I looked into protective wallets, to guard my ID, passport number, nationality, SSN, and/or address from going out when I walk by. I am a somewhat private person that way. I looked at two things: electromagnetic shielding fabric to make my own wallet, and ready made wallets and passport cases.

The first, I found Less EMF fabric, and ordered their sample pack. Much better that tinfoil and duct tape, like you find in NEW RFID Blocking Wallet. I haven't had time to pick which material to order and do the sewing, but they have some really nifty flexible fabrics which could do the job.

Then, I looked at DIFR Wear. They sell ready made wallets and passport cases. I bought one of each in black for a total of $39. When I got them, I was pleased by the aesthetic quality of both products. The leather is real. So far, so good.

My workplace, like many others, has a badge reader by the door, based on RFID. Therefore, I had a handy test platform. I stuffed my badge, still on it's lanyard, into my regular wallet, and put it up to the reader. Beep! So the badge and the reader were working. Then I tucked my badge into the DFIR Wear wallet, and put it up to the reader again. Nothing. Even with the wallet and badge resting on the reader.

So, the DIFR Wear products work in close range tests, and probably will work just fine to prevent ID skimming. I will still probably try making my own nylon and velcro versions, but I have good ones to fall back on when I get my big brother card next year.

BTW, EMvelope makes similar products, but much more expensive. Their wallet liner card alone is $15, and the passport shield is $25, and neither are leather.

Posted by ljl at 01:12 PM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2006

I Want A New Toy!

So, as you may have noticed, I haven't posted here in the past year. Some of that is due to having a new job, and some of that is because nothing has grabbed me and said Write about me!!. Oh, I've used a few "new" things:
  • JBidWatcher - eBay bid tracking and sniping software that is platform independant. Nifty, open source, Java based, and free. The guy who writes is updates it frequently, and earns every penny (and then some) that satisfied users send him.
  • Jabber2 and Gaim - setting up internal IM and clients to use it was interesting. Jabberd and its integration with LDAP went okay, but I never got through the directions on installing the conference server. A big problem was the version 1 vs 2 incompatibilities in add-ons and plug-ins, mostly un- or under-documented. It seems to be a rather stale project. Gain works ok, but doesn't want to talk to the enterprise version of msn messenger for a stinkin' damn. Ugh.
  • RHEL 4 64 - well, the 64 bit version of this didn't want to install via the iLO card on the HP hardware. It's the damned broadcom/tigon card and driver again. It was a PITA on RHEL 3 and Dell hardware too. I wish whoever is dealing with that driver could put out and maintain a good one - in the distro!! Then there's the issue that some 32 bit software won't run, even in 32 bit emulation mode. Nothing ticks me off more than having to run a 32 bit OS on nifty 64 bit hardware because of some critical bit of lame code.
  • HP LJ 5si - my new (used) printer at home. It's manual feed tray paper lifter is borken, but otherwise it works real nice. Finding and installing the jet direct support sofware for windoze boxes can be a PITA, but that's what you get for running Windows.
  • So, all in all, nothing exciting. I suppose I could blather on about making soap, but that's a different kind of geekery. I want new toys to play with.

    Posted by ljl at 03:10 PM | Comments (0)

    December 20, 2004

    Disclaimer Stuff

    It should be obvious, but needs to be said:

    Anything I post on here is my opinion, or is reported as data on which I may or may not have formed an opinion. It is not the opinion of my employer or any other company (unless quoted or paraphrased and attributed), and should not be construed as such, legally or otherwise.

    I endeavor not to review the software or services of any organization that I am employed by. If I really feel that something is so nifty that I can't ignore it, or a class of item I'm reviewing has an offering from my employer, I will disclose my relationship with my employer at the start of the article.

    Posted by ljl at 10:43 AM | Comments (0)

    August 12, 2004

    Addendum to Policy

    Another policy issue:

    I reserve the right to delete comments that I suspect may be attempts to use my resources to increase page rank in search engines or "sell" shady goods or services.
    This type of "comment spam" is not acceptable is this, or any other, of my blogs. I am not producing this to advertise someone else's sites, especially when they are porn, drugs, or fast money junk sites. Just say no to link pollution.

    Posted by ljl at 11:32 AM | Comments (0)

    August 09, 2004

    LinuxWorld, 2004, San Francisco

    Several of us from $Job went to LinuxWorld in San Francisco last week for one day. Our team's product was being introduced/showcased there, and we went to show the flag. I was relatively pleased. After two years of taking only part of the exhibit hall floor, the show actually filled most of the room!

    The embedded and enterprise areas seem to be going the best, and some major vendors like AMD, Sun and Wyse were there. [Disclosure: I currently contract for one of these.] AMD was touting not only their Opteron 64 bit processor toys, but also their low power Geode processor for embedded applications. One vendor, had tiny embedded linux microtops, with wireless, touchscreen, and pcmcia slots. The size was perfect for use as a book reader, IMO. At $1000, I won't be getting one soon, but it would fit nicely in my regular bag, and weigh less than Linux in a Nutshell

    Many tools vendors were there, including Perforce (source control), Parasoft (automated testing), and InstallShield (installation automation). The nice thing about this is that many of these vendors are cross platform, therefore making it easier for developers who've previously tied to windows tools to migrate to Linux.

    The publishers were also out in force, featuring O'Reilly, Apress, Prentice Hall PTR, and Sams/Que. I was "lucky"?? that I didn't have a lot of money to spend, or I'd have brought home about ten new books. (I'm a book junkie, BTW.) Also, both LinuxWorld Magazine and Linux Journal were there, having weathered the dot bomb storm, albeit lean and mean.

    What was interesting was who wasn't there. The casualty list seems to include LinuxCare, who used to be there with bootable rescue CDs every year since 1998. Microsoft also didn't show, apparently giving up on the illusion that they were Linux "Compatible".

    What would a show be without swag! While not as lavish as in the heyday of the dot bombs, it still was pretty decent. The usual contests and drawings were there, as well as a decent selection of T-shirts (I came home with 6). There were the usual evaluation CDs, including an evaluation copy of StarOffice 7 (time limited). A couple places had baseball caps, and I picked up one - handy on a sunny day.

    Then there were the gadgets. I picked up three that I particularly found delightful. The first was a USB cell phone charger, from Wyse, with an attachment that fits my Motorola phone. Nifty. Then IBM's Cloudscape had a little Lexar 32 M USB key with their info on it, plus room to spare. It looked really nifty on the booth person's lapel as a clip on, too. Then, a case vendor and VIA ITX Mainboards had these nifty pen/stylus/laser pointer goodies - well made, like the Via boards themselves (drool) and the mini-ITX style cases. These three were tied for first place in the useful swag department, in my opinion.

    Posted by ljl at 01:04 PM | Comments (0)

    July 30, 2004

    Pointy Clicky

    Ah, meese, the boon and bane of our existance. Pointing devices have come a long way since the first "soap bars with buttons". Still, many leave a lot to be desired, especially for lefties and people with RSIs.

    I usually use a trackball, like the Orbit Optical Trackball ($30) from Kensington, or Marble Mouse ($20) from Logitech. I loathe ordinary mice, because holding them makes my hand hurt in short order. The older Kensingtom Orbits were a bit of a pain to clean, but the Optical Orbit has no tiny, hair gathering moving parts. This is an improvement in movement.

    On one job, I got to use the Roller Mouse, by Contour Design. It would figure, the most expensive gadget ($190!) would be my favorite! I no longer had to fumble for wherever the thing had been put this time (like on the wrong side of my keyboard by some helpful idiot), because its base went under my keyboard. The only thing that grumped me a little bit was trying to clean off the wrist rest pads without soaking them. The thing didn't come apart well for cleaning, and, well, I sometimes eat lunch at my desk...

    If I am dealing with a laptop, I dislike having to plug in a pointing device. I hate having too many dangling cords. But I will if it has one of those awful "zit" type things like on the IBM ThinkPad. You want to talk about finger cramps! Touch pads are good, except for the face that I keep hitting them as I try to use the keyboard. It encourages good wrist elevation, I suppose. I prefer it if they have buttons instead of just relying on the "tap to click" idea.

    However, I have never been able to draw with any of these things. It's like trying to draw portraits with oversized kiddie crayons. One of my current co-workers has a nice little Grafire Tablet ($100) from Wacom. Problem is, we haven't been able to get it working in absolute mode (e.g. the upper left corner of the table is always the upper left corner of the screen) in Linux (RH 9). This is too bad, because the thing could perhaps enable me to again entertain the illusion that I am an artist. The drivers and documentation aren't ready for prime time yet.

    Oh, a final point on soap bars standard mice: scroll wheels are not neccessary if you use a trackball. You also wouldn't have to try to clean the stupid little wheel when it clogged up with hair and crumbs.

    Posted by ljl at 06:53 PM | Comments (0)

    June 20, 2004

    Movable Type

    As you probably have noticed, this blog runs on MovableType (MT). So it makes sense to review the underlying software here.

    I first started using MT in November 2002, with version 2.51. My first blog, Iconoclast Blast was started after reading Essential Blogging by Doctorow, et al. I found MT easy to set up with the default Berkeley DB. A few tweaks to a config file, and I was off and running. Being an inveterate fiddler, I soon was mangling my stylesheet to suit my fancy.

    Then disaster struck. My hosting provider, C-Soft, decided to "upgrade" from Linux to FreeBSD, and just run all of the old Linux software in "compatibility mode". They did this without any notice to their users, at least not that I got. Bzzzzt!! My happy little blog, with its Berkeley DB (1 or 2) files, now had Berkeley DB 3 files, and I couldn't even log in! Seems that MT's perl didn't talk to Berkeley DB3. I have still been unable to downconvert my data. All of the conversion software is designed to go the other way! C-Soft was rather snotty about the whole thing, too.

    So my blog languished without update for six months, while I fussed, fiddled, fumed and finally found another provider, DreamHost. Mind you, I administer about 10 domains, for myself and my roomies, and C-Soft's attitude lost them our business.

    Once on Dreamhost, I decided to revive my blogs as best I could. I still like MT, and so downloaded MT3.0D Limited Free Version. Since it was just a resurrection of personal material, I was not going to take the plunge and pay. Also, their initial pay licensing scheme sucked rocks through a small straw. They have since fixed their licensing to be something far more reasonable.

    This time I decided to go with the MySQL option, especially since Dreamhost had a nice utility for creating databases quickly, and I didn't have a lot of time to pour into it. I even tried to import my old data from Berkeley DB 3, but it didn't work. OTOH, MySQL is a lot more common, and has export and backup routines. Also, MT 3.0 has a few more import and export features itself, which means you can dump your entries out raw, and keep them that way, too.

    MT 3.0D has a few other new features. The primary one of interest to me was comment moderation and the handy TypeKey integration. You see, while I was unable to log in to my blog, link spammers were dumping porn links into 90% of my entries!! I *hate* that! MT 3.0D lets you moderate comments, and with the TypeKey system, other bloggers and people who are generally "real" canlog in to TypeKey, comment in your blog, and not have to be moderated by default. This cuts down on the crap, but doesn't have you scrambling to moderate everything.

    Now the default stylesheets and layout I still think need work. For one, the index page design is very non-liquid. It will take me a month of fiddling to make it a variable width again, instead of assuming that all monitors are 800 pixils wide, and thus that's what all blogs should be. Also, the default fonts are all sans-serif, and I consider them to be virtually unreadable on a monitor or paper - "i" "1" and "l" in sans-serif look all the same. But that's a taste thing. Since it's all done with templates and CSS, I could really go to town on it if I had the time and urge.

    When I get the money, I will probably buy a license. It is now reasonable. I like the fact that they took into account the views of the community of users when the first attempts turned out not to be happy making. However, if you plan on running MT with a simple Berkeley DB, be sure that you either a) control the server and it's underlying software, or b) make a backup every time you make an entry.

    Posted by ljl at 02:20 PM | Comments (1)

    June 18, 2004

    USB Keys

    I first started buying USB keys (USB Flash Drives) last year. The first ones I bought were AVB USB 1.1 and 64 Mb, for about $20 . They were nifty, blue plastic, and came with a lanyard that worked as a necklace. Problem is, the caps they had did not have a positive latch, and were prone to getting lost. The later models (as seen here) aren't as bad on the cap problem, and are USB 2.0. Another bummer with them is that with use, the guts came loose from the housing, and the connector started to wobble. While it hasn't affected data retrieval yet, it's not happy making.

    Then I tried a fatter type, and bought an Apacer "Handy Steno" at 256 Mb. It seemed sorta clunky, and it didn't want to mount on a Linux box (which is most of what I have). It was twice the physical size of the AVB drives, and worked half as well. So I stuck with AVB.

    Then, one day I was looking at SD cards for my camera, and spied these little stick-like things. They were USB, and tiny!

    Thus began my love affair with PQI's Intelligent Stick. They were in a separate area from the regular USB keys, but they do fit an ordinary USB slot. Initially, a USB 1.1 128 Mb version cost a bit over $40, which made it damned competitive with the bigger, fatter, ones.

    These nifty toys are less than 1.5" long, ~3.4" wide, and ~1/8" thick! The USB 1.1 version of these has only one moving part on the stick itself: the tiny "lock" switch. The USB 2.0 version doesn't have any moving parts.

    The I-Stick often comes with an adapter that is simply a normal USB socket that it slots in to. Sometimes they can be found with a wallet credit card type holder that can store two. I've bought several now, and will buy more now that the price on them is dropping ($26 for 128 Mb USB 1.1, $55 for 256 Mb USB 2.0).

    I've also really started beating on mine, including patitioning it, formatting it as an ext2 drive repeatedly, and all kinds of linux stuff. I've bought some for my teammates at work, too. I can even use Syslinux to write a bootable partition to an I-Stick, which another brand I got hold of, the SanDisk Cruzer Mini, won't allow (but at least its cap stays on.)

    Posted by ljl at 07:30 PM | Comments (0)

    June 17, 2004


    Here are some basic ground rules that I have put in writing before I starting reviewing things here:
    1. I chose what I review here. If you send me links or stuff to review, I will happily consider reviewing it, but it is dependent on my time available to do so.
    2. All reviews that I post are primarily my opinion, with occasional citations of things like packaging or other sources.
    3. I try to make my reviews fair and honest. Like life itself, many things have both good and bad points.
    4. Permission to reprint reviews from this site is granted if credit (and linkback if possible) is provided.
    5. If you're quoting from this site, be a good sport and provide credit and a link, so the reader can read the whole review.
    6. I will not "take down" or cancel a review just because you (or your company) don't like it. This site is in the US, and I take the First Amendment seriously.

    Posted by ljl at 10:55 PM | Comments (0)

    June 16, 2004


    This is a test of the emergency MT 3.0 bloggging system

    Posted by ljl at 08:49 PM | Comments (0)