Saturday, April 30, 2005

Open Source: Firefox

Open Source software is quickly becoming a viable alternative to the average computer user and business. I've decided to use my blog to make note of Open Source software I have found useful.

First on the list of noteworthy Open Source projects is Mozilla's Firefox. Mozilla has a plethora of free programs, but none of them have the pizzazz and flair Firefox sports. Yesterday, at roughly 9am PST, Firefox hit 50 million downloads. Firefox is the only Open Source program to have enough of a following to get a full two-page advertisement in the New York Times. Don't feel bad if you missed it, you can purchase the commemorative poster from the Mozilla Store (I already got mine).

One of the biggest arguments to switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox is that it has better security. In truth it's not that Firefox has better security, it's that Firefox is more secure simply because it's not IE. ActiveX Controllers, only native to IE, are what allows adware and spyware easy access to your computer. An argument against Firefox is that it's Open Source therefore all the code bad guys would need to exploit it is freely available on the web. This is true, but in reality for every bad guy looking for vulnerabilities and exploits in Firefox's code, there are a hundred good guys doing the same thing and putting a preemptive stop to it. On the other hand, Microsoft has to wait until someone finds the hole, then fix it.

Let's give credit where it is really due. Firefox has a lot more to offer web browsing than a little added security. Tab browsing is nothing new to web browsers that stray from the beaten path, but being able to click a link with the center mouse wheel button and have it automatically open in a new tab has got the be this year's hottest web browsing tip. Now I can go to and follow every link quickly, easily, and in a nice orderly tab manor without losing as my focus. It's a little difficult to articulate with text exactly how useful this feature is, so I suggest you try it by opening up Firefox, go to any web page with links, and click a link with your center mouse button (probably your wheel).

Firefox's built in search is also what puts it ahead of IE. Not only does it allow you to search directly from the tool bar, you can even choose your engine. If you don't like the engines that come with it, you can click the "Add Engine..." button and get more. Most likely if there is a search engine on the web, there is a plug in for it in Firefox's toolbar search. Some of the recognizable searches include Google, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay,, and even Wikipedia, CDDB, and IMDB.

A truly renowned idea is plug-in support. Not to say that other web browsers don't have plug-in's. In fact pretty much every browser plug-in out there will have a flavor that works with just about any browser. The difference with Firefox is that, when you go to a web page and you don't have the proper plug-in, with a click of a button Firefox will automatically download and install that plug-in. Usually it can do that without even leaving the page you're on too. So far the only participants are Java, Macromedia, and RealPlayer. Meaning you've still got to manually download and install other plug-in's like Quicktime. The big plus here is that the system is in place and anyone with a browser plug-in can jump on board.

Unfortunately you'll still need IE for Windows Updates and anything else that requires ActiveX controllers. Even still I recommend Firefox for anyone who's into free, easy, and useful. Besides if you don't like it you'll still have a fall back web browser, it's not like you can uninstall IE anyway.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Zoom Thing

I started looking into a service that will allow me to post pictures in my blog without relying on For those of you who don't know, is an old Pentium II that sits here in the Geek Wagon. Because of the Geek Wagon's mobile nature I don't like to be dependent on my own web server for pictures to function in my blog. really serves no other purpose than to give me the experience of playing around with a web server. I learned a lot about how the Internet works with that project.

In any case, there are a lot of options for those of us that need a place to host images. Blogger has one I didn't really look into called Hello. I chose Flickr for a few reasons.

#1. They weren't OS specific.
#2. Maximum PC's Will Smith uses it on his Mac blog, and he's slowly becoming my hero.
#3. They had check boxes dealing with zoom things.
#4. They are the only site in the whole of the Internet that I have ever seen with four options for Gender.

I admit it took a little playing around to master Flickr, but I like how it works. You can put in your blog information and make entry's to your blog from Flickr. For the rest of us that just need an address for our images, don't overlook the "all sizes" button. From there they give you your picture in a variety of thumbnail sizes, and an easy to copy text link of the image so it can easily be inserted into blogs and web pages alike. No more of that "this image hosted by anglefire" crap for me.

Sunday, April 24, 2005


Wiki is a wonderfully interesting thing. Admittedly I don't understand all the ins and outs of how it works, but it's best described strait from as, "The simplest online database that could possibly work." The site also explains, "Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser."

With that in mind, sites like become a valuable resource for information. I find myself using it as much as Google, sometimes even over Google. Don't get me wrong, I still believe Google is the internet's Midas touch. At the end of the day it's merely a search engine that lacks the analogue touch and grace of multi-user created articles that can literally cover just about any topic in great detail. Try doing a search on something you know about on and most likely you'll learn something new. Some of my favorite topics include, Ultima, Star Trek, RV, World of Warcraft, and I just found out there is no article for Airstream. Maybe I should though in my two cents.

Wiki can also be used for more detailed projects. A great example of this is the one I found last night called Memory Alpha. After Friday's Enterprise episode I wanted to find out if I remembered my Star Trek history correctly. I was right.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Open Source Legos

My original Lego post was a little premature. The observant Lego fanatic will notice there is no motorcycle on the motorcycle transport. From now on when I put Lego models up for download on my blog I'll be sure they're as close to complete as possible. Here is the new zip file.

The motorcycle wasn't originally included because, believe it or not, it wasn't on the official parts list. There is a voting system that uses to make parts "official." Anyone can send in a part, but if it hasn't received enough votes and an admin review it won't be listed in the official parts list that comes with the program. Anyone can still use any of the parts that have been submitted; they just have to be downloaded from either one at a time or all at once. The site recommends downloading unofficial parts one at a time, as needed. They've even included a search by keyword for those hard to find parts you can't quite put a name on.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Abandon Ship!

Two day's after I donate to Trek United they give up and send me my money back. I am proud that I was very likely the last person to donate. When I went to the website to donate on Saturday they had a posted total of $3,144,137. After my thirty-six bucks the total showed $3,144,173, and that was the closing number on their give up memo.

Childhood Memories

I was shown something cool and new to play with. Open source software never ceases to amaze me, and is the perfect example of how cool free can be. They make cad-like programs for Legos. More accurately, a number of people from different groups make cad-like programs for Legos. To make along story short go here and download this. This is a simple Windows installer of everything you need to create Lego models and render them for images like I made here. I chose a model I remember from my past to start with. The Brickfactory is a great site to find scans of new and old Lego sets. In the spirit of open source I will make all my Lego models available for download (like it will get a lot of traffic). Here is the 6654 - Motorcycle Transport in a zip file with some other stuff.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Blog Changes

Made some changes to the layout of the old blog. Nothing drastic, but things worthy of a note. I changed the blog description and I'm sure everyone will notice the plagiarism. May be making changes to that later. I added a picture of an Airstream. No it's not mine; I took it strait off the Airstream website. Hopefully they won't mind. Also, I changed the link section up a bit by renaming it to "Everyday Links." I did this because these are web pages I go to everyday. The top three are not likely to change. Others, such as Trek United, may come and go as times change. I was very tempted to put a link to I Crap in a Box; by far the funniest blog I've ever stumbled across. I decided against it because it dosn't fit in the the 'everyday' of my "Everyday Links" theme. I did want to make a special note about this blog because of this particual post and it's personal nature.

Plants and Proteins

Recently I thought I'd try my luck at growing plants. I enjoyed carving pumpkins last Halloween, so the only thing I could think to grow was pumpkins. Unfortunately I did my homework on how to grow pumpkins after I had the seeds potted and growing. Pumpkins probably won't stay in a pot. My current theory is to make the pumpkins grow as fast as
possible so that when the vine looks for another spot to root I can span the vine between an indeterminate number of pots. Hopefully, once the vine is spread out among a pot or three, I can keep it pruned so that the vine will produce at least one or two good pumpkins.

I'll wait and see if I have a green thumb or not. If not I'll try my hand at cactus.

Today I also noticed Team Meatsock hit 2,300 work units. That puts our over all rank at 670 out of 37,543.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

New Toilet Adventures

For months now life in the Geek Wagon has been a little harder because the toilet had been acting up. Water would leak from the fresh water line and onto the floor whenever it was flushed. Not enough that it was a problem, or enough it was going to cause any real damage. I let it slide until it became a real problem.

The real problem was when the valve that let fresh water in got stuck open. The only solution then was to shut off the water to the trailer. The next day I learned a lot about RV toilets. Not having running water will give me inspiration to fix things. I learned all about the valve that was broken and probably could have replaced it easily. For just a few dollars more I could buy a whole new toilet, and in reality the job to replace the toilet was no harder (or grosser) than to replace the valve. Then I found the RV toilet of my dreams. I'm 25 now, and never did I think in the whole of my entire life would I be buying a toilet. Much less refer to it as the toilet of my dreams, but when I saw the Dometic Sealand 210 Standard Height model I knew that was the toilet for me.

It was a nasty job, but over all not nearly as bad as I thought. I psychologically prepared for a full 24 hours before removing the old toilet. I was surprised with how standardized all the different brands of all the different components of travel trailers really are. On top of that, how little the basics of it all have changed over the years. A RV toilet from a 1966 Airstream works and mounts just like the one that came with my 1982 Airstream. Then my 2005 dream toilet here mounts exactly the same. That's some incredible engineering that started way back in the early says of the travel trailer.

For the record, anyone in the market for a new RV toilet, I highly recommend Dometic. In reality they're all good brands. The AquaMagic I replaced did last for 20+ years. The ease of installation, and the fact it's one of the few RV toilets made of porcelain, make this a toilet I'd recommend to all my full time RV friends. Also this escapade has tempted me to put "master plumber" on my resume.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Only Myself to Blame

A new found determinism has compelled me to start making entries in my blog again. In part I blame World of Warcraft (WoW) for my lazy streak, but I know it's just me. Recently I've learned there are two dominate sides to my psyche; Geek and Gamer. A good game can totally take over and leave the geek on the sideline. Now that WoW has been out for a few months I find myself looking for new things to do. Not that I'm totally giving up on WoW. In fact here are some links to my character profiles. Notice the distinct naming scheme.


In other news I made my contribution to Trek United today. The idea is, if there are a million viewers willing to donate $36, then they would have enough money to have Paramount make an Enterprise Season 5. The site says that if it doesn't work out they will return all the donations; I figure, worst case scenario, I'm out thirty-six bucks. On the plus side I get to say I was apart of something truly ground breaking and history making. This is the first time there has ever been a fan biased organization that raised millions of dollars for a TV show.
While I'm on TV shows, Red Dwarf Season 5 & 6 came out on DVD here in the states. Naturally I picked those up as soon as I could. Maybe I'm a dork, but nothing pleases me more than getting a new Red Dwarf DVD and placing it on the shelf in numerical order with the rest. Well, it will be another long while before I get that pleasure again. Season 7 & 8 aren't supposed to be released for Region 1 until February of 2006.