Friday, August 29, 2008


And so it was done. I have now applied for, and received my vanity callsign. No more contacts murdering the letters RLA. RLA is incredibly hard to understand on the air. I hope that KWF is somewhat easier to copy.

KWF. It should be. It better be. It cost me $12 and having to go back and change my callsign everywhere.

It doesn't make any sense, but vanity callsigns have a 18 day holding period, so I've had to suffer almost a month longer than I should have for it.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Statistics Used in Real Life

Bob is hungry. All Bob has in his kitchen is a box of chewy bars. Bob is a big guy, so he's going to want two chewy bars.

Each box of chewy bars has 48 bars in it, equally of 6 different flavors. Bob doesn't have any preference on flavor, but would like some variety. What is the likelyhood that, at random, Bob will pull out two chewy bars of the same flavor?


Problem Solving - Part 3

So in Part 2 we looked at a few different ways to get this freakin huge file to the other company nicely.

My idea was to not use a file system at all, but to write the file directly onto the flash drive using dd. It would be rather simple:
dd if=bigfile.tar of=/dev/sdb
Just substitute what the dev name for it is. Then just tell them the exact byte size of the file and issue the same command in reverse. I thought it was somewhat clever.

The lame part? Once they got it on a flash drive (using some file system that I had never head of - C something), there was so much red tape they had to cut through to send this encrypted file through FedEx, that my dad retrying the FTP transfer finished before they got the flash drive in the mail. SUPER LAME!

Thanks for playing, though! It was fun.

Got Packet Radio Working

It was the most amazing, hacked together, ugly thing you can think of.

FYI: Packet radio is where I pretty much use my 144MHz radio as a modem (like to connect to the internet), except that instead of the internet, I connect to other radios, which are connected to other computers running software to forward messages from one radio operator to another.  In short, it's email over radio.

The thing is, I don't have the cables to connect my radio to my computer, but it's just sound, so who needs cables?  I have a speaker plugged into the computer, but whenever I started transmitting I have to hold my push-to-talk button. For receiving, I have radio->speaker-mic->mono to sterio adapter->1/8th inch patch cable->laptop's linein port->AGWPE TNC simulator.  It's super buggy and slow, but I managed to fire off a few test messages to myself and W6MOL Bob on the K6SNY-1 BBS, so it works!  And it only took me about an hour...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gave Blood Today

Jeff came too.  It was a grand old time.  The part I enjoyed the most about it (besides from saving someone's life) was when Jeff pointed out how much more entertaining it would be if the survey questions were asked as really bad euphemisms.

  • Have you ever gotten funky with a junky?
  • Have you ever been a sausage grinder since 1977?
  • Have you ever taken an Afican in the can?
  • In the last 6 months, have you received a tramp stamp?
  • Have you ever lived in the motherland of the Mexicans or the white flag country?
  • Have you ever done the matress tango with someone else who has gotten funky with a junky?
  • Since 1977, have you upheld peace and liberty or freeloaded off someone else who upheld peace and liberty?
Please people, come up with some more in the comments.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Caught a Rat

Sitting out on the patio over the last month, I've been getting tired of seeing rats running back and forth along the fence in the backyard.  I figured, what a kick to put a rat trap right on the top of the fence, and catch one of these rats as they're running along the fence.

Of course, Murphy is alive and well, so invariably, when the trap went off, it was going to fly into the neighbors yard.  They're a little weak in the English department, so trying to explain to them that there's a dead rat in their backyard, and that it's mine, and that I want it back seemed like it would get confusing.  Being the engineer that I am, the solution was simple; staple some wire to the trap and the fence, so it can only shoot in our direction, and then it wouldn't fall on the ground for the dog to get into, etc etc.  The location along the fence was chosen based on the fact that it was right above the trash can.

So I went outside this afternoon (after getting up at the crack of noon), and there on top of the trash can, was a rat hanging by the neck in the trap.  A pair of plastic gloves later, the trap is ready to be set again tonight.

NOTE: We only leave it set during the night to prevent less pesterous animals as Squirrels from feeling the mighty wrath of Victor the Rat Trap.

We also have a trap in the garden (figure out why we finally started trapping the rats yet?), which has managed to get one of the rats as well.  As far as I've seen, there is at least one more rat out there, so we'll keep setting the traps for now.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I Hate Facebook Chat

I can't believe how bad a job Facebook did on that new feature.  It feels like I'm talking on AIM from 2001 or something.  Not only that, there is a painfully easy (relatively) way to fix all of my complaints.

Facebook should have just implemented Facebook chat using Jabber (open, mature standard).  Once Google is using something like that, as a standalone program, and imbedded in Gmail, I don't see many reasons not to use that same technology.  If Facebook used Jabber, I'd be able to load my Facebook friends list into Pidgin along with all the screen names I have for people from AIM, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, Google Talk, Bonjour (If you let me even call those screen names...), but more importantly, I'd have control on how it's all presented to me. 

Trust me, it wouldn't be through javascript in my browser.  Ever.

The technology is all already out there.  I can easily setup a Jabber server in my room for crying out loud (Haven't done it yet due to the complete uselessness of it).  I just do not understand why they went back and reinvented the wheel.

Finally Using FeedBurner

It only took me like 2 years to finally get around to it, but I've finally moved this blog over to Feedburner. The old feed is set to redirect to the new one, but if you'd like to update your feeds anyways, point your RSS readers at:

I've completely lost track of how many Google services I use now... It's getting out of hand. RSS feed users, please let me know if you see the "enhanced" feed (adsense's words, not mine).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

First Post from New Computer (KWF4)

It lives!

Emily gave me her old desktop, and I have now loaded Linux on it and have yet another usable desktop. It still needs a little work to get the graphics card completely working, but when you do all your work from the terminal, who needs graphics? :-P

Edit: Loaded the Nvidia driver on it and it detected my monitor like a champ. Now I just need to download 250MB of updates to bring it up to snuff (250MB counting not only the operating system, but all the programs that come installed on it: Open Office, Firefox, Bittorrent client, etc etc)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Proof of -1 * -1 = 1

Prove that minus one times minus one equals one. It's such a simple statement that many people wouldn't know where to begin. The hitch is that you're only given the 9 axioms of algebra. My father worked on this problem for a few hours for his graduate math class this semester at SJSU before he gave up and let me take a shot at it. I feel that I just got lucky and saw the solution after playing around with it for 15 minutes.

A1) a + b = b + a
A2) (a + b) + c = a + (b + c)
A3) 0 + a = a and a + 0 = a
A4) a + (-a) = 0 and (-a) + a = 0
M1) a * b = b * a
M2) (a * b) * c = a * (b * c)
M3) 1 * a = a and a * 1 = a
M4) a * (1/a) = 1 and (1/a) * a = 1
D) a * (b + c) = (a * b) + (a * c)

And on top of those, knowing that 0 * a = 0 would make our lives a little easier, so let us prove that theorem:
Start) a = a
M3) a = a * 1
A3) a = a * (1+0)
D) a = a * 1 + a * 0
M3) a = a + (a * 0) = a + 0
A3) a * 0 = 0
T1) a * 0 = 0

And now, to prove -1 * -1 = 1:
Start) -1 * -1 = 1
A3) -1 * -1 + 0 = 1
A4) -1 * -1 + -1 + 1 = 1
M3) -1 * -1 + -1 * 1 + 1 = 1
D) -1 (-1 + 1) + 1 = 1
A4) -1 (0) + 1 = 1
T1) 0 + 1 = 1
A3) 1 = 1
QED! It's proven!

And there it is. I bet you got pretty worried I wouldn't make it there towards the end, huh?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Keyword Madness

Having Google Analytics on this site never ceases to entertain me. Little is as thought provoking as seeing what people are searching for when finding my blog. Not to mention it's some really random shit...

Some of my posts have come out as real favorites overall:
  • My Ubuntu Setup: Out in the lead easy with 72 hits in July. People are finding this through all kinds of angles, be it setting up Hamachi, or getting Firestarter to work with it, to getting a Subversion server running.
  • A Better Way to Convert ppm to jpg: A followup to my sad excuse of an attempt at shell scripting. Both of the posts on this get about 40 hits a month from all kinds of permutations on the concept of "ppm to jpg" I originally wrote it because of a $20 camera I got that stores in ppm, which is a useless format online.
  • Adding Calcium to My Aquarium: Rounding out the favorites with 23 hits in July, a post on the concept of adding Calcium to my aquarium's water, finally settling on chalk. My snail has *seemed* happier once I added it, but who knows...
Then what really gets me is that every few months, some search term crops up that points to my blog. A lot. One that reaally surprised me was my callsign. 28 times in the last two months has someone googled my callsign (KI6RLA) and found my blog. I would understand if one or two people googled me after talking to me on the air, but I didn't think I talked enough to get myself 28 hits... (Hi all ya hams out there reading my blog now! Leave a comment!)

The latest popular one really just blows my mind. If you're the one who has been using it, please, lemme know. Since July 27, I've gotten 28 hits from the search term "kenneth 1kbwc" (1kbwc is short for 1000 Blank White Cards). I have to think that one person has just been using it as an easy way to find my blog, in which case I must urge you to use my favorite: (in quotes) "google owns my soul". It might be a little longer, but the feeling and passion behind it is just so much better. Kenneth 1kbwc is so specific. "Google owns my soul" is such a univeral phrase, which makes it accessable to the masses, and continues to remind me how much of a nerd I really am.

Anyone else have any good keyword stories from the trenches of web mastering?

Problem Solving - Part 2

Looks like Timm[ie] has beaten out the rest of my technical readers (are there any??? Edit: Hi Zach!) and came up with the flaw in Part 1. Flash drives come formatted as FAT32, which is aptly named, since it is a 32 bit file system, which limits files to 4GB.

Splitting the file wasn't a good option because they're FedExing it to the other company, so not requiring them to have to try and piece the file back together is a plus, but in the end might be what they do. Just doesn't gain much on just using a stack of DVDs.

I was able to see the 32 bit problem right away, but when it came to solutions, the engineers and I diverged. Since the file system rolls over and dies after 4GB, what's the next thing to try? We're not sure if they're going to have a *NIX box to plug it into, so bonus points for thinking of a solution that is OS independent, but if it's Unix only, I'll still give you credit.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

No VHF Contesting for Me

I went to the WVARA club meeting last night. This month they had a presentation on running a rover in a VHF competition, but what really hit me was how equipment heavy VHF+ competitions are. Only having a 5W HT, which only does FM, pretty much dooms me to fail before I begin. He said that without Morse or SSB, I shouldn't expect to make more that a few contacts all weekend.

Do I believe him? Yeah. I can get on every repeater in the south bay and not be able to raise anyone else. It's freakin ridiculous. I can't wait until I get my hands on a 40M radio (cough, which works...).

Does anyone know: do I loose my QSL cards if I use them for an award, or can I just turn in photocopies? IF I have to loose QSL cards, screw it, I'll print myself my own "Kenneth Finnegan Verified and Issued Worked All States Award." Might even throw in the Jeff Glass Seal of Approval.

Edit: Nope, finally found the ARRL site for WAS, and it request you include enough postage to return the cards, or have them verified locally.

Added Twitter!

Yay! For the first time since February, I've finally added something to my blog's sidebar. Now you can see my latest twitter updates when you visit

I'm doing a pretty good job of interconnecting my life. Blog posts get imported into Facebook. Facebook status gets imported into Twitter, which is that displayed in my blog. Not to mention anything I share on Google Reader, Anything I Digg, and my flickr get imported into Facebook as well. Take that Ted Stevens.

Problem Solving - Part 1

My dad often comes home from work and describes problems he is running into at work and gets my take on other ways to approach the problem.  This time it was that he needed to move a 30GB file to another company's mask shop, which has been a problem since these files are usually under 100MB.

First thought would be a hard drive, but they've lost magnetic media through security before, so it's going to need to be optical or solid state.  Spliting it between DVDs would be a pain.  BluRay would still be pretty expensive.

So one of the engineers goes to Fry's and buys a 32GB flash drive.  I caught it right away, but I'd like to see if any of my readers can catch why this is going to completely fall on its face.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Do I Want a Beer?

Two times this month I've had someone offer me a beer.  Both times I think they legitimately thought I was 21.

That says a lot about how I carry myself, don't you think?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Done with my Programming Class

It's finished.  Four weeks of misery and an overall complete waste of my time.  My teacher was constantly saying things that were factually wrong.  The only notes I ever bothered taking where things she said wrong, which was almost every day.

The final today was 8 questions.  All true/false or multiple choice.  First question:
Which function would you use to read in a line from the keyboard?
A. scanf()
B. gets()
C. getchar()
D. B & C

Correct answer: B.  This question was causing some confusion, so she got up in front of the entire class and clarified that there is in fact only one right answer.
Legitimate answers: A, B, and C.  It really depends what you want to do.  Lets say you wanted to read the words in one at a time, or a character at a time to process them.  Then you could use scanf or getchar.  It all depends on how much control you need and how much you want the library to do for you.

int i;
char string[100];
for (i=0; (string[i] = getchar()) != '\n'; i++) {
     // process each character, ie lower to upper case

There was also a question about how to read text from a file.  fscanf was the wrong answer.

Fuck. This. Shit.