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My first 5k race!

To put a bow on having lost 80 pounds from a year ago this month, I ran in my first 5k race!   I ran in the Faith 5k which was a fund raiser for the Faith Lutheran Church elementary school.  They put on a very nice event using a professional timing company.   They even emailed us our results following the race, mine are below.   I really just hoped to be able to finish the race so my result greatly surpassed my expectations.   Now I have a time to beat for my next race.   What a fun way to spend a beautiful Saturday morning in Stephenville, Texas.

The email I received following the race:

Congratulations on finishing the Running with Faith 5K on March 31, 2012.

There were 8 finishers in the Male 40 to 44 age group and 147 finishers in the race.

Your overall finish place was 79 and your age group finish place was 6.  Your overall finish percentile was 54 while your age group percentile was 75.  Your time of 30:36.18 gave you a  9:52 pace per mile.

Full results, as well as upcoming races can be found at  Be sure to like us on Facebook for up-to-date information about all local running events.

We hope to see you again next year.

A Private Internet

I have taken a great interest in personal privacy on the Internet.
I have found some things to help accomplish that.  Please comment
if you know of additional resources or techniques.

1) Private email via PGP encryption:  Seems to be most easily
accomplished using the Thunderbird email client with the Enigmail PGP
add-on.  Note, you will need to have PGP or GPG also, installed.  This
is usually true by default on Linux systems, but on Windows you need
to install GPG4Win.
To obtain the Thunderbird mail client program:
To obtain the Enigmail add-on:
Another option is the Claws Mail client which incorporates PGP support
A good article introducing the use of the Thunderbird email client with
the Enigmail add-on.

My public key for  wa5pb19 <at> gmail <dot> com  is:

2) Private surfing using the TOR browser, which is a specialized cut of
Firefox which incorporates the use of internet relays to help keep your
own internet surfing presence anonymous.

3) Private internet searching via the DuckDuckGo search engine.  Which
can also be added as a search provider for the Firefox search bar.

4) Encryption of files using GPG.
A good, brief intro to GPG.
The official GPG documentation.

Some people might ask, "Why? Do you have something to hide?".  To
which I respond, "No. But, why not?  Do we not have a right to privacy?".
However, it must be remembered that if we desire a right to privacy,
we much put effort into keeping our own information private.  If we
release information about ourselves, intentionally or not, it is no
longer private and we arguably lose the reasonable expectation of
privacy afforded by the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The
problem arises when we unwittingly reveal information about ourselves
via the internet and other computing activities.  These resources may
help a person to avoid doing that.


On March 11, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled, in Rehberg v. Paulk, 598 F.3d 1268, that a person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in an e-mail once any copy of the communication is delivered to a third party.[80]

On December 14, 2010, in United States v. Warshak, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in his emails and that the government violated Warshak’s Fourth Amendment rights by compelling his internet service provider to turn over his emails without first obtaining a warrant based upon probable cause.[81]

I use Linux Mint

I have just realized that I have not done an Ubuntu install in … well … a long time.   And it seems that the last time there was this crazy user interface called Unity that completely, utterly, turned me off to that distribution.   With all the very many things I do like about Ubuntu, the simple fact is that if I hate the interface I simply won’t use it or recommend it to others.   So, what to do?   I did do something.   I switched to Linux Mint.  Being basically build on top of the Ubuntu repositories, but with many improvements and the with the basic understanding that the application centric interface systems (like you see on the iPhone) are NOT suitable for use as a desktop environment.   All I really want is a normal desktop environment.   I did not need or WANT a new computer interface paradigm forced upon me.   I am convinced that most Linux users feel the same way.  Not only that, but I am very certain that Unity is also not the way to introduce new users to Linux.   Linux Mint has everything in it that I wanted and liked about Ubuntu, but without the terrible monstrosity of a non-dekstop called Unity and without the arrogance of thinking they know what is best for all us.  The Linux Mint developers have been committed to the needs and sensibilities of the users and that has won my loyalty.   I now tell folks that I use Linux Mint,  and I recommend it to others.

Linux Mint

Linux Mint, 2 thumbs up!

more about Unity badness…


Intro to Linux

Distro Review: ArchLinux

ArchLinux, when old becomes new again

There is an old saying about old things becoming new again.   That is what I thought about as I did an ArchLinux install for the first time this weekend.   The process took me way, way back into the ’90s when I first became involved with Linux.   Back then, it was Slackware and a pre version 1 kernel.   The process was boot from the disk and very carefully follow the directions.   No GUI install back then and you configured your system as you went.   When the install finished, you were were presented with a shell login prompt to logon as root.   Very much the same thing when doing an ArchLinux install today.   I chose to use the net install CD, which is only about 160MB in size, the rest of the distribution is pulled down from mirror sites on the Internet.   The main appeal, to me, was that it was a return to a more technical DIY type of install with every little detail under my control, as opposed to a GUI install that lets you choose the language, time zone and keyboard and all the rest is done for you.   Now, I am not at all complaining about the modern, easy, GUI Linux installs.   These are in fact WONDERFUL!   Without easy installs like these that very nearly garantee a successful install, Linux would have very little chance to spread and be as widely adopted as it is becoming.    However, sometimes us geeks need more.   We need to satisfy that urge to take a look under the hood and tinker.   Sometimes we just need to geek out and do it ‘the hard way’.   So, I jumped in and did an ArchLinux install to satisfy this need.   One thing that I found is that while is very much a lower level install, it is also a very structured and GOOD install process.   You encounter much more detail along the way, but the process is very tightly controlled.  It is also what I would consider a very educational install with the internals exposed to view.   However, one thing it is not is undocumented.   Back in the old days, the install was sparsely documented and you really had to hunt and search to find out what you need to know to get everything right and running.  The documentation on the ArchLinux site, and also provided on the install CD itself, is supperb!   For instance, after I got the base install done, I wanted to do two more things – Get XWindows up so I could have some GUI if and when I wanted it, and get my wireless card going.   Both of these processes were extreemly well documented and I got both accomplished with just the documentation on the ArchLinux site.   I highly recommend ArchLinux to anyone wanting to dig in deeper and learn more of what makes Linux tick by getting back to the basics and doing a more basic install and then building your system, the way you want it, from there.   ArchLinux——– A review of ArchLinux

Linux Celebrating 20 Years

Linux Mint, 2 thumbs up!

After facing so many frustrations with Ubuntu 11.04 and uncertainties as to where Ubuntu is going in the future, I finally decided to bite the bullet and try different distributions.  The latest two that I have tried I can give 2 big thumbs up.   These were Linux Mint 11 and Linux Mint Xfce.

Linux Mint 11 is based on Ubuntu 11.04, but the Linux Mint team chose to not include the Unity desktop.   This distribution is everything that I would have hoped Ubuntu 11.04 could have been.   In fact, the level of polish and completness in Linux Mint 11 exceeds that typical of most Ubuntu releases.   This is saying a lot, because most Ubuntu releases are quite good.   However, one thing still worries me – GNOME.   Linux Mint kept the GNOME 2.3x desktop, which I prefer, but I must wonder if they will it be forced into GNOME3 in the next release?  I like GNOME2 and am not looking for wholesale changes of my desktop.   This type of uncertainty about the future of the desktop has given me enough pause to cause me to explore other desktops, which leads me to my next big thumbs up.

Linux Mint Xfce is NOT based on the Ubuntu upstream package sources.   Instead, it is based on the upstream Debian Testing packages.   This is also a “rolling” distribution as it is continuously taking updates from Debian Testing rather than being locked in until the next big release.   In essence, there will not be a next big release, or need for a reinstall, or a major “upgrade”.   It will simply update right along with the Debian updates.    I like this!   Also, it is not a GNOME based distribution, it is Xfce.   I have long been a fan of Xfce as an alternative to GNOME.   Like GNOME, it is based on the GTK+ libraries, but is lighterweight in its resource usage.   This is turning out to be what I would consider to be an ideal Debian based distro and may be where I call home for a while.  Were there any issues?  Yes, but only a minor one.   Linux Mint Xfce does not include the jockey-gtk package that the GNOME based distribution does.   This package makes for easier installation of restricted hardware packages, such as the Broadcom STA wireless driver.   I would strongly urge the Linux Mint team to consider its inclusion in the future or provide their own alternative.   However, this was easily overcome once I found the instruction on the Debian site for installation and configuration of the WL package.  This was straightforward and simple.   Here is the link. Debian WL driver install. Also, this distribution came configured with the Linux 2.6.32 kernel.   This is understandable since it was the kernel used in Linux Mint 10, which this is essentially a continuous update of.   I chose to update the Linux 2.6.38 kernel and did so via the Synaptic Package Manager.   This upgraded flawlessly.  I do not know if the update system would have eventually provided the kernel update to me, but it was reported my system as up to date so I am guessing it was not going to do so.

I would recommend either of these offerings from Linux Mint as an alternative to Ubuntu.   For those simply wanting a good GNOME desktop experience with no hickups, go for Linux Mint 11.   For those wanting to try a different desktop altogether, but one similar to GNOME2, give Linux Mint Xfce a try.   I think you will enjoy either of these.   Remember, Linux is all about CHOICE.   You are not locked into any distribution or desktop system.   Don’t be afraid to try out new things.   If enough folks decide not to adopt Ubuntu 11.04 or its Unity desktop, they will get the message.

Stephenville Lions Spooktacular Half Marathon

Attentions all you running enthusiasts! Please come out to the Stephenville Lions Club 5k-10k-Half Marathon race fund raiser on Oct. 22, 2011. It is a great and fun race. All proceeds go to fund the charitable endeavors of the Stephenville, TX Lions Club.

Stephenville Lions Halloween Spooktacular Half~10K~5K | Stephenville, Texas 76401 | Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 8:00 AM

Stephenville Lions Club

K5WLF – Electricity 101

Fellow SDFer, K5WLF , has posted a really good refresher on the basics of electricity.  Check it out.

Hang 10!

As readers of the blog will know, I am a real Python programming enthusiast.  It is gratifying to discover that I am apparently riding quite a large wave of growth in popularity and usage of Python.   This article from Dr. Dobbs Journal discusses this and other interesting programming trends revealed by the Tiobe Programming Community Index.   The Rise and Fall of Languages in 2010

Python – the new BASIC

I recently read a good blog on the subject of the Python programming language being the new BASIC, and that being a good thing. I very much agree, and it IS a good thing. I got my start in computing and programming just as the age of the home computer was coming to be, i.e. days of the Sinclair, Atari, TRS 80 type home systems. BASIC was the mainstay on these systems and usually came bundled in the system. In those days, home computer users were not looking to just surf the web (which did not exist yet as we know it) or other entirely enduser type activities that are so common today. Back in the day, late 70’s & early 80’s, home computer users were most difinately hobbyists and enthusiasts. Most folks were looking to discover just what they could do with this computer technology now that it was feasible to have it in the home without spending too much of a fortune. Part of this experience for most was learning the version of the BASIC programming language that was bundled, or built into, their computer. There was not much software available back then and the folks were willing and eager to write their own. I’ll never forget the very first computer that our family purchased and on which I first hacked out in BASIC a program. I was a Radio Shack TRS-80 Pocket Computer. It had a HUGE 8Kbytes of RAM! It plugged into and interface that let you print to adding machine roll paper and save programs to an external cassett tape. I learned BASIC and so did my Dad. Those were the days! BASIC was the gateway into programming because it had two fundamental features – it was simple and highly accessible. It came with nearly ALL home computing systems. BASIC spread like wildfire. Today, there is a great need for the same thing. A programming language that is both simple and accessible. While I have mastered several programming languages over the years, the only one that harkens me back to the good old days of BASIC is Python. This is a GOOD thing! Python is both totally free and available for most any computer system and it is simple to learn. It is interpreted and highly portable, just like BASIC was, yet is powerful. Any newbie programmer can pick it up and get it to spit out “Hello World” in just one simple line of code and then within mere days (maybe even hours) be creating useful Object Orientated code using the most modern programming paradigms (usually with even realizing it!). Also, it is not some toy programming language. There is a huge body of high end programs written in it which is growing everyday. Python is the NEW BASIC, without the design shortcomings of BASIC. It is what we have needed.

Linux games! (didn’t you know?)

Yes, Virginia, there are Linux games and good ones too!
You might not be much into gaming, but hey, you might get bored one evening. Here are some good Linux games of various sorts. All for FREE.

Cool list of 5 great Linux games in 2010 (various). BTW, Dedoimedo is a great blog!

For those who LOVE WWII and the battles! Computer version of the classic boardgame Axis & Allies. For all platforms, extract zip into a folder and run the OS appropriate OS triplea file.

Battle for Wesnoth. Turn based fantasy strategy game. Play the computer or others online.
Install version wesnoth-1.8 from the Ubuntu repostiory.

Ubuntu comes with some solitare type games already loaded, but if you want many more then install PySol from the repository.
Includes many, many types of games including Majong and others, really worth installing.

The opensource version of one of the best games of all time, Civilization, as FreeCiv.
Install freeciv from the Ubuntu repository.

GIMP – a deskew plugin

GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a great product.  It provides many advanced image editing options and is available on both the Linux and Windows platforms.  Of course, it is FREE.  One capability that is noticed to be missing from its sizable suite of tools is a “deskew” function.   As the name suggests,  a deskew function straightens up a somewhat crooked picture.  This is often needed to straighten up a scanned image that did not pass through the scanner in a perfectly straight manner.   After quite a lot of searching on the web, I found that there is a plugin (an add-on) that provides this function for GIMP.   For the typical user, getting ones hands on the deskew plugin is not as easy nor is installing it intuitive, so I will provide links to both the Linux and Windows versions of the deskew plugin and instructions how to install each.

First download the plugin for your OS:

GIMP-deskew-plugin for Windows
GIMP-deskew-plugin for Linux

To install in the plugin into GIMP for Windows, unzip the plugin from the file you downloaded and place the deskew.exe file in the c:\program files\gimp\lib\2.0\lib\plug-ins\ folder.

To install the pluging into GIMP for Linux, simply place the pluging you downloaded, the deskew file, into the /usr/lib/gimp/2.0/plug-ins/ folder.

Now, either open GIMP or close and restart the program if you already had it open. You will now find a new entry in the Filters menu called Misc. The plugin is selected via the menu path Filters>Misc>Deskew.

NOTE: I did not write the GIMP deskew plugin, and thus cannot provide any support for it. I just want to make it easily available to other GIMP users since it took me some time to find both versions.

The Night Sky

I have always been a person of the countryside. I grew up in small Texas towns, usually outside of town in the countryside. Currently, I have the pleasure of living on the eastern edge of the Greens Creek valley here in Erath County, TX. It affords me a wonderful horizon from the South West to the West. Lately, I have taken notice of what a good location I have for star gazing. Several times in the last few weeks I have had exceptionally clear skies and the Milky Way seemed to be exploding across the sky. I have even seen a couple nice shooting stars. Nothing like a beautiful night sky to open up the wonders of creation before you. The majesty of the Creator seems to be made manifest at such times. I have taken an interest in star gazing and am beginning to pursue it now. I guess it was probably inevitable and a lot of factors have contributed to that. First, living in such a good viewing area. Second, having a good friend who is the manager of the planetarium at Tarleton State University and also the tech at the university observatory. He takes students and members of the public out on star watching parties at the observatory. Finally, I have installed a very nice astronomy program on my Ubuntu laptop called Stellarium. While not highly complex, it is an entirely useful and elegant free program. It is a very good guide to the night sky which helps as I am a complete novice at this. I have decided for now to just work on naked-eye astronomy, no external optics. I want to learn the sky as man learned it for eons. I want to see what they saw and notice what they noticed. I want to understand how men have found their way by the stars from time immemorial. I want to learn the sky for the times and the seasons and to look up and see the constellations come into view as the procession of the stars passes overhead. The night sky, such a beautiful thing.


Lately, I have heard several political candidates and commentators use the phrat a se “man up!”  Of course, this is not a new phase.  On the milder side, it means “get a grip”, while on the meaner side it means “grow a pair!” (I do not think an explanation is necessary…).   Today I ran across a website that is devoted to helping men to MAN UP!    I think you will enjoy it.  Many men need it.  Many women just might understand men a bit better after reading it.    The Art of Manliness

It gets even worse for Microsoft

It gets even worse for Microsoft. As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, Linux is beginning to catch up with Microsoft Windows in the workplace. However it is not only Linux doing this. Windows file servers are now often replaced with NetApp filer appliances. Well, NetApp is not based on Windows and it makes one or more Windows servers go away. While the NetApp OS, Data ONTAP, it is not based on Linux, it is based on other members of the Unix family.

Linux is on the Rise for Business

This is good news for the Linux world.   As Linux becomes more adopted by business, its usage in other areas is also more likely. Linux is on the Rise for Business

A Blessing

Tonight, while familiarizing myself with SQLite3, I did what I often do when learning a new item or subject, that is I looked into its history and background. I even sought to read the licensing for SQLite. I found that the code for this remarkable database system has been utterly released to the public domain. Instead of a copyright or license, it offers this blessing, which I find very touching and in turn offer it to the kind readers of my blog. This is one of those rare times that the geek realm and spirituality intersect.

May you do good and not evil
May you find forgiveness for yourself and forgive others
May you share freely, never taking more than you give.

Please, also read this interview with Dr. Richard Hipp, the author of the above blessing and inventor of SQLite.,-geek-of-the-week/

A great Linux/Unix shell resource

I am a BIG fan of the old adage that says “The best things in life are free.” Of course, one of the very best FREE things is the GNU/Linux operating system. However, to take full advantage of Linux, one should learn the Linux command line . Sure, there are enough books to buy out there on the subject of Linux to fill a library and spend a not so small fortune in the process. But why spend that money and fill bookshelves with books you will likely only skim through or outright never read when one of the very, very best books on the subject is 100% free? I am referring to the book by William E. Shotts, Jr. – The Linux Command Line. This is by far the best book on the subject of the Linux command line and scripting that I have ever read. The truth is, it is one of the best books on this subject for Linux or Unix out there. While specifically targeted at the Linux operating system, much of it is applicable across the whole family of what is called Unix-like operating systems including Linux(in its many various distributions), the BSD Unix family(FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, etc.), System V Unix systems including Solaris/OpenSolaris, HP-UX, and even Mac OS X. In truth, all of these operating systems share far more in common in their use of the command line and utilities than they differ, so The Linux Command Line is a great resource for them all. I highly recommend this book!