Sunday, April 25, 2004


This evening, I installed the Subversion versioning control system on my Linux server. This is more or less a temporary setup. I plan on rebuilding that box ( when Fedora Core 2 comes out. It's due out in mid-May. At that time, I want to shift it to more of a server role than a desktop. I want to build that server with a mirrored RAID. I need a place where I can (more) safely store photos, music, web content, a database server and a versioning control system. The Linux Kernel supports software RAIDs natively. Fedora Core 2 uses the 2.6 Kernel, so it will be nice to get to use that without having to compile it myself.

Back to Subversion. It wasn't too difficult to install. I had to upgrade Apache from 2.0.40 to 2.0.48. The Subversion download page had RPMs of everything I needed. I also got an upgrade of PHP while I was at it. The documentation was pretty good. It explained how to create a repository and configure Apache. One of the best features of Subversion is that it was designed to use DAV, thus it needs a web server. (Actually, Subversion can run a standalone server or even use SSH, though DAV makes it the most accessible from platform to platform.) The only problem I had was a stupid oversight I made: the web server process needed permissions to read and write to the repository (duh).

Once I got the repository up and running, I installed TortoiseSVN for Windows. TortoiseSVN is a Windows Subversion client. I have to say, compared to SourceSafe's client, TortoiseSVN wins. My use of Vault has been very limited, but I'm tempted to say that TortoiseSVN wins. Here's why: it's just an Explorer add-in. You browse using Explorer like you would any other folder or file. Files and folders that are under version control get little green checkmark overlays. When files change, they get little red exclamation point overlays. If any file underneath the current directory (recursively) is changed, the folder gets the red exclamation point. Right clicking on a file allows you to bring up a log, perform diffs across versions, rename or move files (Subversion tracks movements, they don't just get re-added under a new name)...all that good stuff. It even has a Blame feature (just like Vault). So far I've been impressed. Another thing I really prefer about Subversion (and CVS and Vault) over SourceSafe is that they use Copy-Modify-Merge instead of Lock-Modify-Unlock. If you've never used a Copy-Modify-Merge solution, I suggest you follow those links to learn about the differences (and why Lock-Modify-Unlock can create a false sense of security).

I haven't tried it yet, but there's also a Visual Studio add in for Subversion called AnkhSVN. The screenshots look promising. It seems limited compared to TortoiseSVN or the command line svn binaries, but it's off to a good start.

Thursday, April 22, 2004


Today was my 23rd birthday. It was a pretty standard day. I worked, I worked out, I watched a little TV and I made dinner...nothing fancy. I released WeatherCornerAlert version 2.0 this evening...a birthday gift from me to you. I cleaned things up a little, hid one annoying exception that no one on microsoft.public.dotnet.framework could help me with. Hopefully swallowing it doesn't cause any additional problems. It should be all good. Try it out; I think you'll like it.

For a birthday present to myself, I bought a MuVo 4GB off of eBay today. It'll be great when I'm able to store over 1000 pictures on a single medium. I'm officially back to the Nikon D70 as my camera of choice. My one day flirtation with the Olympus 8080 has ended. I think the extra money is worth the advanced flexibility of the D70. The difference in resolution is really a non-issue, especially since the D70 has better image processing. Those "prosumer" cameras like the 8080 tend to do a lot of image processing in the camera. I'd much rather have that fine degree of control that Photoshop provides than have an algorithm decide at snap time. Anyway, in a week or two I'll be purchasing the camera. I'm excited!

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Storm Chasing

I went storm chasing today! Well...almost. The NWS issued a tornado warning citing funnel clouds about 20 miles south-west of us. Kenny, who has a degree in meteorology, announced he was going to check it out. I asked if I could come, so he took me. We left and looked around and decided that the NSW was late issuing the warning and that the "good part" of the storm was already past us. Boo. Sure the time we got back (not even ten minutes later), the warning had been canceled for our area. Maybe next time! I have a life goal of seeing a tornado. I've seen dustdevils twice, but they were teeny. I actually saw one a little over a week ago. It was in a dry, empty cornfield on a warm sunny day. I was driving back to Champaign from the suburbs. I thought it was a flock of birds circling, but as it crossed the road in front of me, I noticed that the things in the air were actually bits of debris like corn husks. It was pretty cool, but I still want to see a tornado!

Since we had rain last night, there were worms all over the parking lot at work. I scooped a few up and put them in a paper cup. Then I took them fishing after work. At first, I just stuck the worm through the hook in one spot. I cast out the line. There was a nibble. I yanked. Then nothing. I reeled it in and the worm was gone. I did it again. Then I tried double hooking the worm. Eventually I tried feeding the worm over the hook like a tube sock over a foot. That worked a little better. I don't think the worms were as attractive to the fish since they weren't wriggling around. But I caught one little crappie, just a 4-incher. Not a bad day, but I wish I knew what I was doing. Does anyone have any (qualified) advice?

I was at Schnuck's yesterday digging through the spice rack. I came across a vanilla bean. I picked up the $10 glass jar and noticed that it contained one bean. It was a proportionally giant jar with one scrawny little vanilla bean in it. It looked so goofy, it made me laugh right there in the aisle.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Ignorance Isn't Bliss

In my never ending quest to browse the entire Internet, I came across a message thread in a board for a really cool app. Some misinformed kid was bashing .NET. I decided to set the kid straight. To save you the trouble if clicking, I'll reproduce the conversation here.

ProfessorCRX: Can you tell me why .net has to be installed to make this work? I've got major problems with M$ .net.

In my eyes, Security > convience [sic]. Ms seems to see it the other way around. Is there ANY way possible to use this program without it? Or will there be? It looks pretty ill, but I just don't know about BS. I think that needs to be rethought.

Travis: .NET is all about security. In fact, it makes security extremely convenient. Microsoft is making a huge security push internally and with all of its developers. Every attendee to the PDC last October got a copy of Writing Secure Code, 2nd edition. Managed code (.NET) makes things like buffer overflows almost impossible. The app throws an exception if you go out of bounds in an array instead of writing into memory that it's not supposed to be able to write to. How many security exploits have you seen in IIS 6, one of their first releases since the security push?

Basically, your prejudices are unfounded and result from you being ill-informed. .NET is a great platform both to develop on and from a security-minded user perspective. Looking towards the future, MS Longhorn (the next version of Windows) will be largely written in .NET. Get used to it, buddy, .NET is the future. IMO, that's a good thing. Install the .NET runtime, try out the app, and enjoy the wealth of apps that can easily be written by using .NET.

I can't speak for the author, but I wouldn't hold your breath for a native version of this app. He would have to scrap everything he's written and start over in unmanaged C++. Not gonna happen.

It's funny to me that I didn't know anything about .NET a year ago. I thought C# was just created because of the Microsoft/Sun Java lawsuit (not entirely untrue). But now I think .NET is an amazing platform. It's so easy to get quality apps out the door. And the Visual Studio IDE makes life so easy. It's possibly Microsoft's best product. Either Studio or Office...I can't decide. But I like .NET enough to stick up for it when the masses bash it.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Quarterly Budget Review

I did my quarterly budget review this evening. (What an exciting way to spend a Friday night!) Here is what I have concluded: I spend way too much money. I mean, I have a good amount of money left over after I pay for my "lavish" lifestyle, and I can't fathom how I could possibly live my life and spend less money, but I still feel like I spend way too much money. I spend a lot of money on food. At least it seems like a lot. I guess I'm willing to pay for it. I compare what I eat for lunch to what a friend eats for lunch, and I'm not willing to make those kinds of sacrifices. He eats Aldi brand peanut butter and jelly on Aldi brand white bread (the kind of cheap bread that sticks to your teeth...yuck). Or he eats mechanically separated meat on the same bread. I eat turkey breast or a good quality ham or roast beef on a hearty bread (I like the Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse brand a lot). Sure, it's more expensive, but I think it's worth it.

Anyway, when I saved my data file after over an hour of work, something bad happened. I think I clicked quit while the file was still being saved. I thought all was lost. But I perform a nightly backup to a separate drive on my network. I was able to restore from yesterday's backup and then replay the transaction logs from today and get up to speed. Phew. Nothing lost...just a little spike in the blood pressure.

I went to a driving range after work today with Bud. Golf is a really hard sport. I need to learn how to swing a club. I feel like every time I pull back on the club it's different from the previous time. I have no groove. Maybe it's good. Maybe I'm more of a blank slate. I read a web site that talked about Ben Hogan, who supposedly has one of the best swings in the history of golf. I'm tempted to buy his book, Five Lessons, so that I can learn a little from a legend. The last five shots I took today, however, went where I wanted them to go. The swing felt easy and natural. I think I can pin down a few keys to that swing, but I need some serious practice and help. And not help from another guy who kind of knows what he's doing. Or someone who claims he knows what to do but just "can't do it himself." No, I need real help and real practice if I'm ever going to get good at this torturous sport.

Monday, April 12, 2004


That's the sound my checking account just made. All that work getting out of debt, saving money, getting myself a positive credit card/checking account all went bye-bye. I just bought tickets from O'Hare to London, then from London to Zurich to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. I'll be leaving the US on the evening of the 17th of June. I'll get into London on the morning of the 18th. My cousin will be there with his parents and sister. They have a bed and breakfast lined up, so I have somewhere to stay. Then on the 21st, David and I will make our way into Tanzania via a stop in Zurich. After a dusty bus ride, I'll stay in a small village with him for about two weeks. Maybe we'll go on a camping safari or something. Who knows. I can't believe I just did this. I'm so excited! I need to get a yellow fever vaccination and then a Tourist Visa for Tanzania. Then I'm all set!