My projects, hobbies, interests, whatever.

Computing

Under My Desk

OK, I know, this doesn’t sound very exciting but…

I was annoyed by all of the power supply transformers (wall warts) that sit there all night plugged in and using a considerable amount of power even when the devices being powered are off.  So, I decided to separate the power going to my desk into four categories.  There are lots of peripherals, lots of chargers and items that need to keep running.

Going from left to right.  The first power strip is a UPS power supply that operates the cable modem/telephone, a wireless router and supplies a power strip that powers my PC and monitors.  That one is the white one all the way on the right of the photo.  This allows me to shut off the computer and monitor completely when they are not in use.  And, yes, I know there is the idea that it is better to leave the computer on all the time but I think the power savings will make up for any reduce life expectancy of the computer.  I’ve shut of PCs for quite a while now and my computers seem to last a very long time anyway.   The UPS supply stays on all the time since who knows who will need to use the modem and  router and when and we need the modem alive for the telephone.

Now the next power strip powers all the peripherals (printer, scanner, film scanner, hard drive dock, etc.  These do not need to be on all the time so I can save some power here.

The next strip powers all the chargers, cellphone,  etc.  That can also be off when not in use which is most of the time.

I’m applying this to other areas of the house so as well so we will see how much this saves.  There is a Mac Mini on one of our TVs running Boxee so this doesn’t always need to be on.  Since there are four of us using PCs this could save a good deal more than just using it on my desk.

I’ve also saved power thanks to VirtualBox since I no longer need a PC for Windows and one for Linux.  I just run Windows in a VM under Linux.

Under My Desk


Reverse Polish Calculators

Standalone calculators are rapidly disappearing and becoming collector’s items. I still use mine quite often in spite of an ever present computer with far more capability.

The first electronic calculator that I used was an HP9810 back around 1975. This was a beautiful piece of equipment, very well made, readable and usable buttons with great tactile feel. And it was used reverse polish notation, i.e. you put in two numbers then added or whatever. I thought this was great since you could pretty much start anywhere in a fairly complex equation and solve it without resorting to storing values in memory and without planning ahead how you were going to go about solving it.  Later used an HP 9845 graphical desktop computer as well.  Kind of like a really fancy calculator.

Later, at the same company, they bought the first HP handheld calculator the HP35. As with the desktop calculator the keys had great tactile feedback and I really liked the reverse polish format.

Later when I bought my own calculator I first bought and HP21, then was given an HP11C and then thought I had lost it (found again a year later) and bought an HP42S. I still use the 11C and 42S today even though they are pretty much collector’s items. I hope they’re replaceable if they should finally die. And really wish that HP still had a calculator division.  Now I do also have quite a large number of slide rules but I really don’t use them any more.  Hmm, if batteries become an issue… just maybe…

My HP21

HP 21 Calculator

My HP11C

HP 11C Calculator

My HP42S

HP 42S Calculator


Panoramas

I don’t shoot panoramas very often but I do find them fun to do. I use Hugin for stitching them together and generally just do them hand held with no tripod. This works pretty well and everything can be cropped and corrected after stitching. Hugin is a free program available here http://hugin.sourceforge.net/ and represents some of the best in free software.

Disneyland Jan 7, 2009

This panorama was taken at Disneyland in ToonTown. Very surreal look in ToonTown, the lighting and everything just makes for an other worldy kind of look. Also, if you look very closely (there is a lot of detail) you’ll notice that people who move during the shooting of the panorama can be cut in half or just have a general ghostly appearance.

Disneyland Jan 25, 2009

This Disneyland panorama was taken in Tomorrowland. I’m not sure I like the overall composition of this but it has been a very popular photo of mine.

Kitchenbr>
For something different a stitched together a few fisheye images of our kitchen for an “artistic” pano.

Living/Dining Room

…and this is an “artistic” view of our living room. Part stitched panorama and part collage of just pasted in images. I liked the sort of random Hockneyesque perspectives that can be achieved this way.


My Computers, Linux, Virtualbox

I realized recently while looking at some data backup disks that I have been using Linux for 10 years as of Dec 2008. I started with Slackware, used Mandrake (now Mandriva) for quite a while as well as Suse and now mostly Ubuntu. I used to dual boot, then had a dedicated machine, now I run Linux with guest OSes under Virtualbox. Now I can try any Linux distro on this machine to try it out and see what it may have to offer. Though trying a real time Linux like Ubuntu Studio doesn’t work so well in my experience.

Virtual machines are probably more important to data centers and large installations but I find it really useful for more mundane things. For instance, most of the hardware that I own (cameras, midi equipment, etc) only have windows drivers. So I set up a virtual windows machine for photography, or whatever, and have a complete consistent environment set up for that task. This is easily backed up and updated and minimizes conflicting pieces of software. Since the virtual systems can communicate with my host system I can keep all my data seperate from the environment running it, again making backups easier.
As virtual appliances become available to set up environments for specialized packages it also makes installing specialized packages trivial.

For hardware on the machine in these examples I’m using Ubuntu 64 on an AMD64 Athlon dual core 6000+ processor with 8 gig of RAM. ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics card. 1.5TB hard disk space. ASUS M2N32-SLI AM2 Motherboard. The following screenshots were taken at different times and different variations.

The first screenshot is an example of running Windows 7 beta under Linux.
Windows 7 running under Ubuntu Linux

The next example is running a Django virtual appliance. About a 15 minute install from download to operating.
Django Appliance in VirtualBox

And finally just an example of my photography environment in Windows XP.
Sun VirtualBox