dance, money. dance like you never danced before

I’ve found a solution to one of the Windows problems I mentioned. I’ve now replaced Quicken with a cross-platform solution called Moneydance. Moneydance uses Java, so it runs on Windows, Mac and Linux boxen with all the same features.

One of the things in Quicken that I really would have missed was the debt reduction planner. This is a tool that takes all your existing debt (mortgage, car loans, credit cards, etc.) and puts them together in an organized fashion so that you can maximize the effectiveness of your payments and reduce your overall interest cost. Using this, I was able to put a plan together so we could pay off our house in eleven years without having to live on ramen noodles and tap water.

Turns out that Moneydance has a plugin that does the same thing! Since there is an api, there are several plugins for specific needs such as: stock price updates, exchange rates, and credit card payoff calculators.

Moneydance isn’t free (either as in speech or beer) but it is cheap at $29.99 and well worth the money.

I’ve actually been running it on both Windows and Kubuntu Linux (version 7.04 “feisty”) and it’s been working great, and the time I spent working to make a logical transition (about six hours) made it easy to get running with it.

One down.

when linux evangelism falls flat

I managed to put my Linux foot in my mouth. Bad nerd!

A few days ago I was having coffee with a few friends when the topic of computers came up. Now, this particular group of friends does not get together to talk about technology (I have other interests, you know) but various topics come up when someone is having problems they think one of the group can solve. One guy gets asked about cars, another about snowmobiles and I often get asked about computers.

The problem was a new Windows Vista machine that a friend recently purchased. He was having a lot of trouble: not able to get user accounts set up, having problems with specific peripherals, unable to get a reliable internet connection (dialup). Since I have absolutely zero experience with Vista, I could only speak in general terms about Windows issues and what I knew about the new security methods used. Naturally, the topic of Linux came up.

Someone asked me if I thought Linux was a good alternative to Windows and, of course, I enthusiastically shouted “Yes!” and began dancing on the table in celebration of another instant convert!

Okay, so maybe that was an embellishment. I proudly mentioned that I use Linux on my laptop and have the option set up to use it on my desktop. The follow-up question is where I really slipped in the cow pie of my own self-confidence: “So it’s pretty good as far as using different kinds of applications?”

“Sure is!” I said with a big nerd grin. “Well, except I use Quicken so I need Windows for that to run without major surgery. Oh, and I also have the TiVo Desktop to download shows from the two TiVo machines. And I guess I also use at least one video editor that isn’t available for Linux.”

I’m an idiot.

After such an utter display of failure I kept my mouth shut other than to make arrangements to go over and help my friend fix his computer.

But this really got me thinking about how I use Linux and how much I really want to get away from using Windows as the primary desktop in my house. (And I decided I needed to write about it after my wife asked me when we were going to switch.)

So I’m starting this week to make a more concerted effort to take care of those last few things that keep me tethered to Windows. Those things are:

  • Quicken
  • iTunes
  • TiVo Desktop
  • Video Redo

I’ve got a few ideas, but haven’t been able to get them going. I’ll try them out and post something on the success or failure here. Here we go with the next project!

back in the computer saddle

So I’ve been off this forum for quite a long time. I’ve moved, gotten a new job (which I love!) and actually finished that degree I was talking about.
But one thing I have really had a chance to dig into lately is my tinkering with computers hobby.
I’ve gone through two more iterations of the “green machine” and it’s currently running Debian with no gui (so’s I can get my learn on in the command line) and I had the chance to refurbish a computer for my daughter, painting it her favorite colors and putting Edubuntu on it.
Not much else for now, just wanted to get something posted so I can start making this a habit again.

(I’m actually posting this using links. If it looks funny, I haven’t yet mastered the console browser environment. More stuff to learn. Sweet!!)

windows broken again…

If you are reading this on a Windows machine, I strongly suggest you check out this page on Steve Gibson’s website,

There is a new vulnerability that was publicized recently, attacking the Windows Metafile format, which is used to display images. This can break your machine or cause malicious software to be installed just by visiting a website. Nasty.

This is a very important problem to fix immediately, as there are a large number of exploits out there already.

And then think about buying a Mac or using Linux.

Update: Microsoft has fixed the flaw for XP, but not for some of the older versions of Windows.  Hopefully they will figure out that not everyone upgrades…

in need of a shoehorn

I wrote a while ago about putting Debian Linux on my little green machine. I was looking for something a little easier to deal with on such a low power machine, since Debian kept crashing. I ended up trying out Slackware.

Well, I really should say that after several hours of downloading iso images of a bunch of different distributions and trying several of them until they crashed horribly – I ended up managing to finally get Slackware working.

I think I have learned more about Linux because of this single installation than I have over the last several years by tinkering. After installing, I also spent some time trying to do a kernel build. Of course, the little Via board couldn’t handle it by its lonesome, so I ended up compiling it on my Kubuntu laptop. Six times. Maybe one day I’ll get it to actually work…

This Slackware experiment is going pretty well over all, (I’m writing this post from the green machine in Firefox 1.0.6 inside of KDE) but I do need to look at thinning it down a little bit. I’d like to get a different window manager working (maybe IceWM – my wife might want to try it, then) and get rid of the things I don’t need.

The experiment continues.

the personal confuser is back

Call for Help, now filmed in Canada, is back by popular demand on the G4 network.

I am feeling a little better about that seemingly silly gaming television channel, G4. They have now brought back the show Call for Help with Leo Laporte. The show was originally on the old TechTV network (which used to be the ZDTV network). Although it has a slightly new feel, which I will attribute to the new production being in Toronto, it still is the same basic format with a little content along the lines of the Screensavers show.

Check it out if you’re interested in technology and how to make it work for you. – Link –

video killed the radio star – part two

Poscasting is taking the world by storm. The release of iTunes version 4.9 has exploded the format, for good or bad. This is the next evolution of mass communication among ordinary folks.

What is Podcasting? It’s kind of like time-shifted internet radio. A whole bunch of people are basically taking advantage of the capabilities of RSS and using it to distribute audio content.

Why should I care? Well, what you are reading right now is a blog. (Duh, Ted. I’m not stupid) A podcast is an extension of the blog format. People create the content (an interview, some music, some ranting, whatever), post it on the internet, and other people either go to the site directly or get the feed from an RSS reader. I think this is really important and I’ll explain a little bit about why.

We are seeing an increase in the number and influence of blogs on the political process. During the 2004 major party conventions, bloggers were given press credentials. They were recognized at that point as being part of the media. Part of the information exchange that influences the way the world works and how we are governed. In Northfield, several people who are either elected officials or in influential positions in government or commerce are also blogging. You can see this by starting with and continue with Jim Pokorney, Jessica Peterson, Gary Smith, Diane Cirksena and Ray Cox. And these aren’t the only examples.

So we now have a fairly easy way (or the beginnings of an easy way) to expand that community journalism concept into a digital version of community radio. What’s community radio? Well, let’s just say it’s a chance for anyone to broadcast pretty much whatever they want. You’re interested in city politics? Start your own podcast and interview local figures and local folks about the issues. And even more significantly – say what you think about them. Have a need for speed at the local stock car racetrack? Tell everybody about what’s going on each weekend and make your favorite drivers and crews feel like the “big guys” by interviewing and promoting them on your own show.

I would encourage anyone to check out the available podcasts that are out there. Many of them provide a nice alternative to the standard mass-media radio and often do a better job of informing on issues like technology and local politics.

Here’s a couple sites to get you started. The easiest way to get started listening to podcasts right now is to get iTunes from Apple. There are versions for both PC and Mac, and a lot of people already have it. You will need version 4.9 or later to get the podcast page in the iTunes Store. Another “podcatcher” that is popular is ipodder lemon. Heard of Adam Curry? The old MTV v-jay has been on the bandwagon for podcasting since the beginning and is involved in the ipodder project.

There is a huge amount of dicussion about this topic and how it relates to blogging, commercial radio, music promotion and licensing, community radio, politics, marketing and a bunch of other stuff. But, in the interest of keeping it simple I’ll just say that I think this new medium is pretty interesting and I am really enjoying it.

Here’s a partial list of podcasts that I’ve been listening to:

TWiT – This Week in Tech (this is the crew from the old ScreenSavers show on TechTV)
Daily Source Code – Adam Curry
Podcast 411 – Information on podcasting and interviews with podcasters
Geek News Central – Tech news and commentary from Todd in sunny Hawaii
Inside Minnesota Politics – Peter Idusogie (an unabashed Democrat, but he does some interesting interviews)

the green machine

After a hiatus of several years, I’ve taken the Linux plunge again. I originally started messing around with it in 2000 after spending some quality time with my tv and a little show called The Screensavers. I put Red Hat on my Compaq notebook and Mandrake on my desktop. It was really fun for a few months, and then I decided I was definitely NOT the geek required to do a lot with it, and it withered away from my world.

I’m posting this from my little green box that I built on a whim a couple of years ago. It’s a used ammo box that used to have 12-guage shotgun rounds in it. Now it has a low-end VIA mini-itx board, a 20 gig hard drive and an LS-120 Superdisk drive (what the heck is that?). I used to run Win2k on it for the sole purpose of having another computer and justifying the purchase of a kvm switch. I originally built it as a proof of concept for work (I’ve been advocating that we get away from laptops for our vehicle-borne computers). Now it has a new life with Debian Sarge.

I was feeling adventurous, and ended up not only installing Debian on the green machine, but also decided to dual-boot my Dell Inspiron 8100. But which distro? I ended up trying Ubuntu. Holy hardware detection, Batman! I did absolutely no configuration by hand and it was up and running in Gnome within 40 minutes. It even found and properly configured my D-Link wi-fi card all by its lonesome.

Go Tux! More on the renewed Linux experience later.