I knew it would happen someday...

I believe my game rig has finally breathed it's last, at least in it's current configuration. 2 days after replacing the 5400 rpm hard drive with a 7200 rpm hard drive, it started giving me stop errors referring to the hard drive. I replaced the new (used) drive with the known good one and tried to use it to no avail. Oh well.

One side effect of this is that I'm now actually putting my money where my mouth is: "Linux can be a good desktop operating system on less hardware than Windows" is something that I've said for a while. I'm finding out that it's partially true.

I have a relatively current laptop that the Mrs. wasn't using anymore that I had scavenged the hard drive out of so I could have some portable storage for tools that I use frequently. I managed to find a 6.4gb hard drive at work to replace the one that I'm using as part of my toolbox. I just wanted to get something going so both the Mrs. and I can have a machine to work with when we want to, as opposed to both of us being too polite to ask the other "can I check my email?".

First observation: 128mb ram is hard to deal with when you're running a ton of services and a windowing system on top of it. Task switching in Gnome is painful. XFCE is much lighter than either Gnome or KDE, but it's still kind of tight. Swapping on this 4200 rpm drive *sucks*. I haven't tried disabling the mail/web/ssh/samba servers yet, but I'd really like those to run on this box eventually (as a dedicated server), so I installed them. Perhaps as a future test.

Second observation: There are many things that are going to be too difficult for the average user to deal with. I had a weird (but documented) kernel bug show up on this system that would just slag the processor on boot. Passing a switch to the bootloader fixed this problem.

Third observation: There are many things that are done better in Windows for desktop workstations than they are on Linux. Printing is a huge thing that's *much* easier on Windows than Linux. The hardware compatibility and available drivers lists are also much longer.

All said, now that I've hammered everything out, I like it. I've used a Linux desktop before, but I seem to gain new insight every time I do it. In the past, I've also had a fairly robust machine to use as well, with plenty of RAM and processor to spare. I have plenty of processor now, but being RAM limited, I see some things that I hadn't before. It's always fun to learn something, to borrow an idea from Voltaire. :)


I never thought I'd say this...

but my interest in all things computer is waning. Perhaps I've become disillusioned or something. It's odd to think about, as it's basically the only career path I have before me now. Anyway, thought I'd throw that out.

I've designed a DVD shelving unit that's fairly compact and can sit beside an entertainment unit. The unit is on casters and is double sided for the most efficient use of floor space, and can be cut from a single full sheet of plywood. It should hold around 300 standard DVD style cases (I used 8"H x 5/8"W x 6"D as a reference, so my space estimates should actually be a little low) in a 34"H x 13"W x 32"D area. The height will vary depending on the casters that are used. I came up with some other ideas that would work better for a permanent install, but seeing as how I'm in an apartment, that's a bit ambitious. Plus, I'd like to not get sued when I move. I think the security deposit is already history.

The reason the DVD shelving unit thing came up is because Michelle wants bigger cages for her Sugar Gliders, and the only wall that we can really use is being partially taken up by our current DVD/Video storage shelf. I looked for a prefab unit, but nothing really fits the bill for under $200, as I need something more stable than the wire frame units that are cost extremely cost effective. The cats rule the apartment, and have knocked over the CD tower that we used for our PS/PS2 discs so many times that I just took all of the CD's out and have them stacked by the television now.

The thing is that I don't have access to a table saw, so I can't really do anything with it currently. The number of cuts involved will make the customer service personnel at the DIY stores around here freak. I know this, because when I was building our loft bed, I had asked Michelle to get the guys at wherever she went to get a few cuts done on a piece of plywood that she had purchased for me. After the second cut, they told her "we don't do your projects for you". That kinda cheezed both of us off. I managed to do all the cutting I needed to do with a Skil saw, but with this project, I'd like my cuts to be a lot more accurate than I can do freehand. I'm thinking about maybe seeing if a cabinet shop might make the cuts for me, or if I can just rent time on their table saw. I guess it'll depend on the attitude of the person I talk to.


Back in the business again.

I'm back in IT now, working for a local troubleshooter shop called CNE. It's a *very* small shop consisting of a total of 7 full time people (5 techs, including myself, 1 office manager and 1... well I don't really know what Lilli does.) and a few people that they contract for specific things like phone/PBX stuff and wire pulls. The primary focus is setting up, maintaining, and troubleshooting problems with customer's PCs and networks on their site.

The boss is good. The job is a job. Windows only (currently. The boss has considered looking into deploying Linux in specific situations), unfortunately, but at least I don't come to the same office every day. I am getting a lot of exposure to Windows servers, however, so I'm learning something that may be useful if I move to another job, which is kind of nice.

Another unfortunate turn is that I can't ride my motorcycle full time anymore. I have to carry too much stuff, and may have to bring back more from any site that I visit, so I'm back to a car. I've sold both of my Escorts (which would have been an ideal vehicle for this job), so I'm currently driving a 1985 Nissan Maxima that was lurking in my great-grandmother's yard unused for 2 years. Before that, I was also the last person to use it for a few weeks when Michelle was in town visiting my family (I wanted to make shure she had something reliable to drive, so I loaned her my car and drove the Nissan). It had been sitting for some years before *that* point as well, so it's basically been unused for a really long time.

It's a fun car, but it needs a lot of work. I have a fuel leak that I haven't been able to identify yet. Fortunately, it only happens when the tank is full, so I just don't completely fill it up. It also needs springs and struts, CV Axles, and tires. For a car with 180,000 miles, tho, it runs like a top. The 3.0 litre v6 (same unit as the 300z of the same time had, btw) has a lot of power, I just wish the automatic transmission that is attached to it was better. It's kind of a gas hog, but fixing the aforementioned fuel leak might help that a bit. Small enough to park, big enough to seat 5 for short trips. I wouldn't want to subject 3 of my friends to the back seat for more than an hour, though, as I'd like to keep them as friends.

While I was working contract, I seriously considered just leaving the IT industry permanently. Perhaps find a shop to train me to turn wrenches full time, or get back into pro Audio/Video. IT is a very fickle thing. When it works, no one cares, or wants to spend any coin on it. When it breaks, it's your ass in the sling, even though you've been warning them for months that you'd like to have some sort of recovery mechanism. Kind of a lose-lose proposition.

Many businesses don't understand that you need to run IT like a business within your business: It needs employees (Techs, or if you're small someone like CNE that you can trust and call to have them look at your problem) and a budget for growth and maintenance. Many businesses that I go to now haven't completely grasped this idea yet, but it's getting there. The people that run things are starting to understand that if the machine doesn't work, they don't make money, so they're thinking "what can I do to minimize my downtime.". I'm starting to hear this question more and more, and I believe it's a good trend that I hope to see more of. There will always be cheapskates, as there are in any industry, but it seems to be getting better.

Part of the problem with me writing in a blog is that I don't organize my thoughts very well. So for now, I'll just shut up and say that I'm thankful for many things (since this is thanksgiving), the greatest of which are the following:
My God
My spouse
My friends
My family
My job
My apartment
The fact that I'm fed.
The fact that I can have all of these things, and that others have died that I might have them. Our armed forces (no matter what you think of the current situation) have kept us from speaking German, Japanese, Italian, or Russian as opposed to the mangled European English that we speak now. Thanks to them, past, present, and future.


Finding interesting things to do...

It's been a long time since I've posted here, for the simple reason that I haven't had much in my life change recently. I'm working a contract construction labor job for a company called SpaceSaver installing the first part of a motorized shelving system for UFL.edu that involves a bunch of concrete dust and steel channel. It's a job, but nothing much to really write about.

Thing is that my brain needs a bit of a challenge now. So, unless someone else comes up with something interesting for me to do with my time, I've decided to try to learn C and write a real entropy generator for Windows.

Yeah, I said that too when I first thought about it. Thing is that it is something that is really needed, and it would be nice to be able to hand out something that works, and have some potential resume fodder as a coder.

For those less schooled in the idea of entropy as defined in the computer world, in a nutshell, it's this: whenever you need to encrypt something, you need something that can't be easily guessed by a potential goblin (goblin in this case defined as someone who wants to get your data to do bad stuff to you/for you/with your data) to make a key for the encryption so you can actually get to your data again. Properly encrypted data is worthless to goblins, as it is not feasibly crackable. Please note that I said *feasibly*, not impossible. Given enough time, anything can be guessed by a computer with someone that has enough patience to try all of the potential combinations to find a key.

The problem with the Win32 (I can't say for the Win64) environment is that there's not a good entropy generator built into the OS like there is with most other OS'. Linux, for example, has /dev/rand, a specific device that captures data from user input and a few other sources to make a collection of nice random hash for anything that needs it. Windows doesn't really have anything like this that's open enough for some Open Source developers to use and trust. What is there most Open Source developers don't trust, since it's closed and they don't know how it works, so they can't really be sure that it's quality randomness that it spits out. This is where what I want to fiddle with comes in.

I want to build something that runs as a service in the Win32 environment that generates high quality randomness from a bunch of different sources. Some suggestions have been forwarded by groups on where to get the entropy from (unterminated mic port on a sound card, the standard mouse tracking and clicks, screen shots, a variety of system specific data like disk free/used, memory free/used, install ID, etc), but no one has tried to standardize the entropy generator, usually just hacking something that "works for them". While I applaud the effort, it just seems like reinventing the wheel to me.

I'm not going to claim that I'm any expert on security at all. Far from it. I'd like to learn about it, though. Computer security has been a passing interest for me for a while, and this seems like a way to "dive in feet first", as it were.

The first step in this journey is to learn enough C/C+ to be able to get data from the hardware itself. I'm going to start with just mouse tracking/clicks with a seed of some sort like current disk usage. Initially, I'm just going to dump the data to a file to prove that I can actually do it initially.

The second step is actually making it a service as opposed to a background process. I have no idea how to do this, but I know that other people have done this with stuff they've written, so I'm shure that it can be done.

After that, the hard part comes in: How to secure the entropy from being copied from the running memory that the data is going to be stored in so it can't be used to attempt to brute force the data that was just encrypted with it.

Anyway, enough with boring dissertation. If anyone who reads this can point me to some interesting tutorials or people working on the same thing, I'd be appreciative.


Just when you get comfortable...

everything changes.

I'm jobless, released due to "not a good fit". No real specifics, but hey, they have the right. I'm still hunting locally again.

It's kind of a mixed blessing, tho. The job description changed on me one month after I had come on, which was a real bummer for me. I left a very secure and stable position that was mediocre pay and a kind of boring proposition for this job which was going to be doing something that I really wanted to do for a reasonable amount of coin. A month after I get there, the Linux transition is axed and Windows is back on the desktop. This frustrated me to no end.

So anyway, no work done on Freya for obvious reasons. I'm in the "gotta spend coin" area to get fiddly bits that can't be acquired used.

I'm considering changing fields as well. The IT industry is a fickle thing... everyone needs wrench on their car, tho. Plus it's hands on, which I kind of appreciate. Any more suggestions for labor outside the tech industry would be appreciative. :)


Productive Saturday

My friend Jimmy and I finally got to work on Freya this weekend. It was rather productive. :D

Freya, for those who don't know, is a 1983 AMC Jeep Wagoneer, that's been neglected, abused, and finally has been getting some much needed work done, if not TLC. I used her to tow my trusty Escort back from ID when I moved down here, and while she did the job admirably, the engine was on it's last legs. It overheated all of the way across the country (Thank God for rest stations with water. It had become ritual to fill about 6 gallons every few hundred miles, or after every hill, whichever came first), and used oil almost as fast at it used gasoline, (14 quarts of oil IIRC) a feat in itself.

When Freya made it to FL, she got parked, while I mulled what to do with her. I hated to turn it around, as I picked it up for such a steal ($400 purchase + some coin to get her running "right", which it never really did), and it was kinda unique. I liked the look (I have a thing for square vehicles. I don't understand it either), and had some friends who had started looking at off roading as a hobby. It seemed like a fun thing to at least try, and why not, since I had something that would be capable with a little bit of work.

I had talked to Jimmy (my boss, at the time) about Freya, and he said he'd think about it. While he was thinking about it, I discovered that the tired AMC 360 was getting "difficult" to get parts for. This is completely understandable, as the engine hasn't been produced in almost 20 years. Chrysler basically killed AMC when they bought the brand, taking the good bits such as the Jeep name and the inline 4 liter 6 cylinder, which are both still being used today. There are still some people who use the engine, and there are a small collection of parts *available*, but most of them are for racer types (AMC Javelin, AMX, and The Machine), and not well suited for offroad use. The rest of the parts that *are* available for offroad use (a small collection) are for those who have more coin than I do. :)

So anyway, I tossed rebuilding and repairing the AMC motor right out the window after my research, Jimmy agreeing with the findings. He mentioned using a GM smallblock, but after seeing the price of transmissions (large coin. Local short track racers almost exclusively use GM smallblock stuff because of the same reason Jimmy had suggested it: Parts are generally easy to come by), I dismissed that as well. I wanted a budget build, since I wasn't even shure I was going to enjoy off roading.

I had decided that I wanted to move away from carburetors, as I feel that carbs are more voodoo than science, so I was looking at fuel injection. The Dodge motors with the Multiport EFI seemed like a great idea to me. Jimmy mulled it, and agreed, as the electronics for the trucks were *all* in the engine bay, allowing us to just find a complete harness that we don't have to worry about getting through the firewall. I decided that I wanted to use a Chrysler 360 instead of the more common 318, just to kinda keep in the spirit of the vehicle. Plus, it has a curb weight of over 4000 pounds, so anything to help the vehicle move a little better would be a welcome thing.

Jimmy and I found an engine that had been in an electrical fire that was on it's way to the scrap bin because the engine couldn't be tested. We pulled the info on the truck it came from (a 1997 D1500 HD w/ Automatic Transmission) and discovered that the vehicle was a higher mileage unit (106k, IIRC), but was owned by a business. This is a good thing, as these people who use the truck to work with will usually keep up with the maintenance. I pulled the valve covers and discovered no sludge, and then put the engine on a stand while we located other parts.

The 5 speed transmission that we found for the vehicle came out of an 1999 Cherokee with 6000 miles. We also found the matching transfer case. These were on the way to the scrap bin because they had simply been on the shelf too long. The shop would cull that kind of stuff for the simple fact that if it's been on the shelf for over a year, (these had been on there for more than 3) it's probably not going to sell. These both went into the back of Freya awaiting more parts.

Jimmy's been scrounging stuff ever since then (a little over 2 years now) since then. He's come up with about 90% of it... engine management computer, wire harness, other under hood bits like the alternator, power steering pump, AC compressor (hey, if you're going to do it, do it with style. Besides, Freya came with factory air, so all of the other bits are already there), and such. I've been purchasing the stuff we can't get from junk vehicles, or are just easier to get over the counter new, rather than relying on a used bit. This has been mostly sensors and such. The engine went in about 2 years ago. We cut the engine perches from a Dodge Dakota frame and welded them in with some 2"x2" square steel tube to get the distance right. I'm using the factory engine mounts on the engine, so I don't have to worry about replacements being hard to come by.

Last Saturday, we finally got the transmission and transfer case in. Getting a flywheel for the 360 engine was a bit more difficult than I had expected, taking almost 2 months by itself. Chrysler wanted $560 for one, and being the cheap bastard that I am, I went looking for a used one. I had to get one from a dealer in New York, shipped from a scrapyard in Arizona. I certainly hope that I don't have to replace this at any point in the foreseeable future.

We've still got some technical hurdles to jump through for shure. The transmission mount doesn't hit the AMC crossmember anywhere we can stick it on there easily, so we're going to have to do some drilling or fabbing there. We haven't decided which. Also there's no clutch pedal in Freya, but Jimmy thinks he has that one hammered out, using a bit out of a newer Ford pickup that has a brake pedal, clutch pedal, and both master cylinders as a unit. The power steering pump wasn't an issue, as it's already mounted in the truck, hooked up using the Dodge hoses on the AMC steering rack. We have the wire loom already laid out in the truck, so that's not a problem. The AMC accelerator cable is too short, but that shouldn't be a problem. It looks like we're going to have to relocate where it comes through the firewall anyway. The driveshafts aren't going to work either. We know the front shaft is about 3" too short. The rear driveshaft on the AMC had 2 u joints, while the Jeep transfer case has a slip yoke on it. We didn't check it for length, but I suspect that it will be wrong as well. We're far from out of the woods, but the heavy lifting (literally and figuratively) is done.

I'll quit blabbing now.


Sometimes, the simplest things....

I just want to quote Shawn here. The specific line is the following:

Incidentally, after spending a year living with my father, Eric moved down to Florida to pursue a closer relationship with *his* father, and it seems that things worked out marvelously, as they seem quite close now.

I had never really thought about it until Shawn put my year or so in Idaho into this context.

Shawn and I go back several years. He was a transfer Frosh when I was on my second year at college, and something just clicked. I think the initial thing was the mutual appreciation that we both had for Rush. It's been quite the roller coaster (Literally. Remember that Shawn? The Mustang, you, Melanie, and I? 2 12" subs in a massive box? About a zillion miles an hour too fast on a hilly two lane county road?), and we've both grown and become... I hesitate to use the words "men" or "mature"... how about a little more sane? That's not quite right either, but it's all I can think of at this point.

The thing is that on the way, we've both pulled each other's asses from the fire more times than I can count. Shawn was one of those people who I bounced things off of to get a completely different opinion on. Shawn helped out creatively more times than I can count, through contacts and noodleing. We both discovered the joys of being a musician, and the pains that real life bills can bring. I *still* miss my ancient Mesa Boogie 1516 cabinet that I had to pawn to make a car payment. "That was one of the best sounding bass cabinets I've ever heard", If I recall the quote correctly. I'm in *complete* agreement on it. Huge as hell (cab was about the size of a classic Ampeg 8x10", except about 6" deeper), but it could do *anything* I needed. Unfortunate that Mesa Boogie decided to quit manufacturing it.

I miss Shawn. Hell, I miss *all* of my college buds. Ben, Jon, Don, Angie, Robbin, Kelly, Mike, Phillip, Ed, Dave (Dave was *particularly* nice to me by letting me live under his roof rent free while I was recuperating from my time with AOL), Josh... These people were my life for those years I was out in OKC. They were my family.

We've all moved on now... Shawn and Angie got married to each other. Jon married a girl from college. Robbin married. Phillip and Mike are now brothers in law through marriage. Don's munging code and data for a firm in ID. I'm married... All of these things have changed, and yet I still miss them all. It's kind of bizarre. Shawn's recent blog entries have reminded me of a lot of things that I'd forgotten.

I've moved on as well. I grew tired of ID and working for Microsoft by proxy. Coming down here has allowed me to remember some of the good things that happened during my childhood, and fix a few things that I needed to before time moved on too far. I won't say that it's all gold and flowers, but it's been good for me to be here for a while. Dad's a tough nut to crack. Maybe I'm just trying to dig too far into a man that's just who he is because of what's happened to him, and how he's dealt with it. He's an intelligent thinker, tho. He understands what it is to cut through all of the crap in a situation and get the nuts and bolts out.

Some boys say "when I grow up, I want to be just like my dad". I think that life's finally come around to where I can say that too.

JoeSixpack that sounded sappy. I can't think of any other way to put it tho.

So Shawn, Shawn's dad, thank you both. Immensely. You've done more for me than I previously realized. I'm shure that more will eventually come clear as my path continues.


Quintessential Radio Tunes for the Bass Player, part 1.

I was thinking about this on my way in this morning, and figured this could be an interesting exercise in musical thought processes.
Now, I will be the first to admit that my *current* radio exposure is extremely limited, most of it being political talk radio anymore. In the past, however, I was at least tracking trends. Usually I was also playing bass several times a week as well, which helped fuel this need/desire.
My rules that I'm laying out for this exercise are thus:
  • The tune must have gotten a reasonable amount of radio play at some point.
  • The tune must give some musical insight or exercise for the bass player.

That being said, there are many pop tunes that have both of these requirements. These requirements might evolve over the course of the experiment, but these are what I start with.
Now, my friend Shawn probably expects me to start out with one specific tune that we both know and love. That's not where I'm starting, but it will be included, but for now, I propose the following:
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones: The Impression that I Get, from the album "Let's Face It".
This is really the tune that helped teach me how to have *fun* while playing. I was working with a ska group at the time in Oklahoma City, and the lead singer from the group said "I love what you're playing, but you're too serious about it. Lighten up, move around, smile, have fun.". I took that description to heart and to this day I have a hard time *not* moving to whatever I'm playing.
Now, there are many better ska groups to choose from. I am not, nor was ever, really very savvy to the style or scene though. I leave the discovery of these as an exercise to the reader.
The things that are really relevant to the bass player in this tune are really, really big, tho. Inherent in most ska music is the lack of coverage "down south" in the audible spectrum, this tune exemplifying this. A small brass/reed section, a guitar part that consists of mostly the bottom 3 string up-beats, the drummer and the bass player. So what you end up with is a huge amount of business up top with the wind instruments and guitarist, and the bass drum down underneath. This leaves a *huge* gap in the sonic soundscape that a bass player can play in, without fear of stomping on someone else's part. It *needs* to be filled as well, or the entire bottom just drops out of the music. While you can drive with offbeats (from the guitar), it's obvious that it's missing something without a foundation to build on.
The second idea presented here is the idea of a flowing motion in the line. With the amount of exposure that the bassist has in this tune, all of the lines *must* really flow well with the rest of the tune. You can't chop up the notes in this tune and have it work well. This can apply in most situations that the bassist is having to fill a lot of sonic canvas, or is carrying the tune via what they are playing.
Thoughts, opinions?


4000 miles in...

and new-to-me Guzzi (a 1994 Moto Guzzi California 1100i, for those not regular), while not perfect, is still a great bike. Remarks concerning this follow:
The good:

  • TORQUE: I have no doubt that this engine would make a great stump puller in the proper vehicle. The curve seems to come on early (my tach is broken, so I don't have a real number yet) and I haven't found the stopping point yet.
  • Saddle comfort: Works for me. I know that some people find the factory Guzzi saddle a bit hard on the backside, but the one on this bike doesn't fatigue me for the distances I've ridden. Mrs. Slaq has said the same thing. Other comments from her was that the backrest, while short, was very nice, and she has a lot of room on the pillon.
  • Control: I occasionally find myself in situations that I deem unacceptably unsafe due to other drivers. I have found that the bike is very polite at speeds in 3 digit land. It just seems to squat a bit and keep accelerating. Cornering is very stable, despite the fact that the engine is mounted cylinders transverse the frame.
  • Braking: Brembo. 3 disks. I'd like to upgrade to the latest versions that are put on the new bikes (Gold series), but these are still great. For those of you in the know, you can skip the rest of this bullet.
    For those of you not in the know, Brembo supplies many major race series (FIA, WRC to name 2), and sports car manufacturers (Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari, to name a few) with their brake systems. They've kind of got the entire "stopping" thing down. Blindfolded. With both hands and 1 foot tied behind them. They're that good.
    To give an example, I grabbed the brake handle and hammered the foot pedal one day from about 40 mph. When the bike came to a stop, I wondered if my eyeballs were stuck to the helmet visor. I'm only partially kidding.
  • Parts acquisition (emergency repair): Replacement parts on the road are scarce to say the least. The upside is that many people have probably had the same problem, and have worked out domestic replacements that are often better quality and/or cheaper. The throttle bodies from newer fuel injected Harley Davidson units can be swapped in for the factory units with little impact, and the fuel pump can be replaced by a unit for a 1993 BMW 318ci, just to name 2.
  • Subjectively, this bike has very nice lines. Objectively, the bike is just different from what anyone else is riding on the road. I know that there are a few Guzzi in Gainesville and Ocala, but I have yet to see another on the road. I'm a big fan of different, as anyone who knows me will tell you. Especially if it's reliable to boot, which is supposed to be a hallmark of a properly broken in Guzzi.

The bad:

  • Gearbox is CLUNKY. I think I've had more false neutrals in the past 4000 miles than I ever had with my Honda. Finding neutral when you actually want it is more art than science. There is documentation online on how to fix this, but it involves disassembling the transmission to shim it up a bit. Recent reports and personal test rides on newer Guzzi point to the problem being resolved on them. The speculation among other Guzzi owners/mechanics is that in the early 90's the transmission QC process was essentially "does it hit all 5 gears?".
  • LOOOOONG Legs, as the industry calls it. 5th gear is basically only to save fuel on this motorcycle. I imagine this is probably from the location of Moto Guzzi, and that their primary market (Europe, mostly) typically has a much higher cruise speed on their version of the US interstate. Trying to accelerate in 5th gear is either a very slow process, or gets some very not nice rattles from the engine. There have been people who have replaced the final drive with great success on these motorcycles, however. They have been very pleased with the lower gearing that they've replaced the factory gearing with.
  • Read the last post. It absolutely sucks that a 2 wheel dealer wouldn't even touch the motorcycle. This is no fault of the bike itself, but of the dealer. The reason I list it here is that this is likely to be a problem elsewhere.
  • Parts acquisition (factory): This usually takes time. My dealer is good to me (if you're ever in the area and need BMW/Guzzi work, look up Stan's BMW/Moto Guzzi. Hell if he's not busy, he'll sit and chat. He's a nice guy, but don't tell him I told you that.), but often Moto Guzzi North America (MGNA) is just slow to turn around some stuff, is my understanding.
  • The instrument panel dummy lights are far too dim to read reliably under full sun. I've been thinking about a hack to fix this, but haven't taken the time to pull the front end apart to look at it yet.

Things that I'm still undecided on:

  • It appears that the handlebars were replaced by the previous owner with bars that are wider and flatter. This forces a more lean-forward position. While the first couple of weeks my back was a bit fatigued from the position, I don't seem to be having that problem any more. I'm trying to decide if I want to go back to the factory handle bars or not.
  • The footrest position for two-up riding is kind of awkward. There is no position where my legs are completely relaxed. This may be a function of the aftermarket handlebars mentioned above. The problem is alleviated solo riding by putting my feet on the back pegs.
  • The engine doesn't spin very freely. This is a function of the rotational forces in the motor, and the big, heavy flywheel that is on the back of the motor. The upside to this is that all of the power transitions are very smooth. The down side of this is that the bike is not very "blipy".

This isn't everyone's bike, for shure. If it was, I don't know that I'd be so inclined to ride one, for the simple reason that it wouldn't be different. That being said, I'm a cheap bastard, and pragmatic to boot, so I probably would, if I couldn't find anything else that fit the bill.
For those few who are looking for something different and reliable, look for a local Guzzi dealer. I don't think you'd be disappointed.

--edit-- It's been 4000 miles, not 2000. I'm a dork. Also reworded a few things for clarification.


Ever have one of those weekends....

that you just want to end? I never thought I'd say it, but I just had one.

It started out really good. Slept in, hung out with Mrs Slaq, and picked up a larger motorcycle (1994 Moto Guzzi California 1100i) and decided to go on a shakedown ride. The Mrs. and I ride down the interstate to the exit I use to go to work, and grab a small lunch there and discuss the ride, while only about 40 miles, is enough for me to figure out if it'll work as a daily. It does this admirably.

Well, it's only noon, so hey, we have passes, lets ride down to Orlando and ride a few roller coasters at Disney. We jump back on and before we realize it, we're in Orlando. I take a wrong exit, and notice that the bike is handling like crap for some reason. I pull off and notice, hey, I have a flat tire. No problem, it's supposed to be tubeless (at least I thought it's supposed to be, more on this later), and there's an auto parts store around the corner. I'll pick up a plug kit, and we'll be back on the road...

Hmm.... The valve stem appears to be leaking... well, there's a motorcycle shop around the corner, they'll help me, right...?

Ooookay... so if you don't have the right valve stem for the wheel (there's apparently a difference?), can you at least put a tube in it for me? You won't do that either huh... Well, I would take it to the Harley shop in town if it wasn't 45 minutes away and I wasn't on a flat tire. No, I can't afford that kind of tow. Ok... I'll get it out of your parking lot.

So after the above interchange with their service personnel, I break down and call dad. As a side note, my dad is one of the coolest people I know. He'd give you his shirt if you needed it. This time was no exception, but with a hitch: It's too late to do it on Saturday. He offers a few more suggestions to get it home and says call him Sunday morning if they don't work. Crap.

Well, we limp the bike to the nearest motel and ask for a night. Security Inn in Orlando is one of those places that you only stay it if you have *no* other choice. Quite the rip off at $44/night with no AC, loud tenants (It appears to have some long term tenants), a room that reeks of smoke and bad air freshener, has mildew on the walls, insects crawling around, and a door that's attached to a wall that flexes when you breathe on it. The only advantage of staying at this motel was that we got a ground floor room, and the carpet was grungy enough that I didn't mind rolling the bike in the room with us. Thanks to Mrs. Slaq for the suggestion.

As a side note, the insurance company we're with (State Farm) won't add a motorcycle over the phone. You have to do that with your agent in their office. Annoying when you want to add theft insurance on a Saturday.

Sunday morning rolls around after a terrible night's sleep for me (was that fireworks, or small caliber weapon fire? No, I'm serious...) we walk up to the auto parts store and get some more stuff for a last ditch effort to get the tire to hold air. Again, no dice. Bummer.

Around 1430, dad rolls up in a van borrowed from his sister (thanks to her too. Getting the bike in and out of a truck would have been difficult) with a small ramp. We roll it up and get out of town.

The small upside to this is that we did get to hit Lakeridge Winery. I never knew that places like that would be open to the public, much less actually give samples of their product. It makes sense on further thought, tho. :D

The bike's been patiently waiting for a tube to come in and has finally been finished by the (exceptionally nice) guys at Alaucha County Choppers (Stan's been out of town this week, driving back from California), and I get to pick it up tomorrow.

Stan called me today (I left him some messages when I was in Orlando asking his assistant that I thought was in the shop for some assistance on locating someone who'd wrench on the bike) to make shure I and the bike was kosher. That's one of the reasons why I like dealing with Stan. :) He's also going to walk me through the process of removing/reinstalling the back wheel so I can do it myself should this situation occur again. He also informed me that the bike does *not* have tubeless wheels on it, which is a very handy piece of data to have.

I think I might have found a company that will convert them to tubeless wheels (they seal the places where the spokes come into/go out of the wheel) for me at a reasonable price. That's a few months down the road, tho. Tubeless tires are so much nicer than tubes, for the sole reason that 99% of the time it's a puncture that causes the tire to go down, which can be repaired by a simple plug kit. Valve stem leaks are *extremely* rare, which is why I was confused about the valve stem leaking.

Work is great. I love the team I'm working with. More on that later.


I got the job....

Quite frankly, I'm stunned.

I now have less than 3 weeks to get everything on my punch list done at my current employer. I'm a nice guy that way.

Thanks to anyone who shouted a prayer up for me on this. I'm nervous, but I feel that this will be a good change.

I... uh... have some thinking, praying, and a lot of work to do. Thanks for everything, friends.


Interesting items of note

Well, Mrs. Slaq has now left her job with the Department of Children and Families. Good riddance, in my opinion. I know *I* couldn't do that job. I'd want to throttle every parent that was an idiot.

As for me, I have an interview on Friday April 1. The shop that I'm interviewing with is a non-profit organization that is in the process of migrating every system on the campus to RedHat Fedora. Every server, and every desktop. No windows anywhere. I'd love to be a part of that.

See, I preach Linux in the workplace for two main reasons: Free, and Open.

To define, Free is just as it implies. The cost of rolling out and using the software on most Linux systems is exactly what you want to donate to the project distribution of your choice. No licenses, no seats, no compliance checks, nothing. The BSA is not going to confiscate every machine on your network if they feel like it. If you think I'm kidding, read this.

The next part about open, is much nicer. Say X and Y play well together, but Z doesn't like to play with X and Y. Well, in an open environment, I can dig into the guts of the software and play with it to see if I can wrench on it enough to get it to work. Alternatively I can pay someone to do the same. Trust me, there's nothing more frustrating than to ask a vendor "I need your software to do Z.", and get the answer "We can't do that. Sorry.".

Weather I get the job I'm interviewing for or not, it really doesn't matter. It's cool that other places are starting to think like I do and seeing that Free and Open are both good things. I won't say that all is perfect in the world of Linux, far from it. Desktop printing is still a mess (which 95% or more of the time, Windows gets *right*), and some of the applications don't have counterparts, or their counterparts aren't as polished (Exchange server/Outlook doesn't have a counterpart, Adobe Photoshop's counterpart the GIMP isn't as nice as Adobe's option. This is just what I've heard from people that have used them both) as they are on Windows. However, when you're an organization that either uses tax dollars, or is non-profit, I believe that you owe it to the taxpayers/people who sponsor your organization to at least look into Free and Open software, and use the funds that you've been put in charge of for more core operations.

I really think I'd like the job, tho. :D


Bike week

Last Saturday (2005-03-12), Mrs. Slaq and I went down to Daytona to witness the sheer insanity that is Bike Week.
Bike Week started much like the Daytona 500 did: a race on the beach. It's certainly evolved to much more, however. History can be found here.
We got to Daytona proper around 1400 after having a lazy morning and me debating on weather we actually wanted to spend the cash on fuel and such. I gotta say, I have never seen more 2 wheeled and 3 wheeled contraptions in my *life*. Motorcycles of almost every configuration and style were putting around, since the sheer amount of traffic had brought most of the main streets cruising speeds to roughly "crawl". Lots of idiots too, but that's just my opinion on anyone who rides without a helmet.
We went into the stands at the raceway there. Neither of us had seen the speedway before, so it was pretty interesting. HUGE. The backstretch opposite of where we came into the track wasn't visible (we came in at the start of the tri-oval, near the start/finish line) unless we went up into the stands. The infield on the tri-oval was big enough to put the dirt tracks that the off-road guys raced on in. Both of us were impressed by the sheer size of the place. No, it's not as big as DFW, but it's a sight.
We went around to some of the manufacturers tents outside the track after that. Many had, unfortunately, already packed up for the weekend to get ready to roll to the next location. We did however get to see all 4 Japanese manufacturers (Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Kawasaki) and their respective stable of motorcycles. Mrs. Slaq fell in love with the Kawasaki ZX-12. Only $11500 and 150hp. Both numbers make me cringe.
Honda appears to be trying to introduce a police issue version of their ST1300. I'm skeptical, but BMW has a very similar bike (meaning "a sport tourer") that they successfully market. From what I've heard and read, it's a great police bike as well, so Honda may be onto something using their big sport tourer.
Ducati had already packed up their public stable, but they did have a series of custom bikes that had unknown designers, but all based off of their "Monster" series motorcycles.
Orange County Choppers had a tent set up. They were packing up by the time we got there, but the area was still packed with people. I did get to see some of the bikes that they've built for the show, including the Spider man Bike, The Jet bike, and the Lance Armstrong dedication bike. Always interesting to see something like that.
Stan (the local Guzzi dealer to us, and sponser of 2 racers in the AHMRA Vintage series) had already left by the time we got there. I was bummed, but also expected it.
I'll post some of the photos I took when I get around to it. Watch this space for linkage.


Other projects

One of the things that I try to do is keep busy in my off time. Most of the time, it's computer games, most currently, World of Warcraft.
However, the *more constructive* pursuits would be like that of my 1983 AMC Wagoneer. I haven't taken pics of it yet, simply because I always forget to bring the camera out when I'm working on it.
Anyway, it's undergoing an engine transplant. The old AMC 360 engine that was in it was on it's last legs when I drove the vehicle out here. In it's place is *not* another AMC 360, but a Chrysler 5.9 small block out of a 1997 Ram D1500 truck. The transmission is being swapped for a 5 speed as well. Hopefully a modest lift and some bigger tires will be in the mix as well.
The engine is currently sitting in the engine bay, which involved cutting off the mount horns from a donor Dodge truck frame, and welding them in place with a piece of 2x2 steel tube underneath them to get them to the right distance away from the AMC frame.
The biggest problem that I've had with doing this transplant is getting a flywheel for the truck. Apparently, it's a difficult thing to come up with, unless you pay Chrysler $560 for a new one. Everything else has been pretty straight forward, including electrical, which is basically "Use the harness from the donor truck".
Part of what makes this swap so easy is the fact that Dodge decided to keep *all* of the engine compartment electrical connections under the hood, so there's no need to punch a hole in the firewall for a massive bulkhead connector or anything of that nature. It's a double edged sword, definitely, seeing as how water could be a massive issue, but if you're over the hood with water, I think you already have more problems than electrical. :)
Anyway, hopefully I'll have some pics to *show* all of this stuff, and a working set of wheels in the near future.


And thus it begins

I'm working on the new code to slaqware, and the box that slaquer.com is currently being hosted on has changed hands, so I'm in the process of moving off of that machine. For now, this will have to do, but I gotta say that this is a pretty slick setup.

Anyway, in the past months that I've not posted on the regular site, A lot of things have happened, but nothing too big.
Finally got the jeep project started again. I forgot to take photos of the "before" however. I'm hoping to be able to drive it this weekend, but I'm not holding my breath on that one.

The motorcycle has blown yet another differential. I've ordered the last one that I'm getting for it off of ebay. If it blows the same bearing in this one, it's going to be too difficult to fix for myself, and too expensive to have someone else do it.

Speaking of the motorcycle, Mrs. Slaq got into a minor accident on it. The back tire locked up when she was slowing down for a light and stepped out from underneath her. She's mostly OK, but I think that the accident, and the subsequent chiropractor visits have permanently hurt her back.

Florida still sucks. Some things never change.

I'm half heartedly trying to drop a few pounds. When I last weighed myself and I was hitting 210 on the scale, I decided enough was enough. Motivation is difficult for me, however. Any hints would be appreciated in comments. :)