SS Jeremiah O’Brien Ghost Fleet Cruise, sighting of USS Iowa (BB-61)

(Image Credit: From here)

I visited the operational World War II Liberty Ship SS Jeremiah O’Brien (official website) for a day-cruise yesterday and had a phenomenal time. Lunch was decent, seating adequate, nautical tour guide over the PA system phenomenal, and the water, soda, and popcorn were free. I took many many pictures of the O’Brien, the USS Iowa, and the rest of the mothball fleet that we have here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

My personal favorite pictures are of the majestic USS Iowa, but for other pictures that I took you should check out the following articles:

At some point, I will upload all of the pictures to see and perhaps create a photo-essay. If anyone is interested in seeing the Ghost Fleet for themselves, it is located here next to the Benecia-Martinez bridge and accessible to anyone capable of driving and swimming or of putting a boat in the water and navigating it using a cell phone GPS.

Many of the pictures, like the one immediately below, have black areas around the edges. That is because I achieved 24x zoom by placing my cheap 3x zoom digital camera up against a pair of cheap 8x zoom binoculars. Incidentally, a more precise version of that is how microscopes work: if you line a 10x zoom lens with another 10x zoom lens, you are now at 100x zoom.

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I also got many close-up images, including this one which I thought would be kind of funny to put on the Wikipedia page for port-a-pottys:

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When I was contributing the below image to Wikipedia, I noticed that the SS Mount Washington was not listed as being part of the mothball fleet and corrected the article based on the name clearly visible on the ship below.

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As we pulled back into port, we saw what I am fairly certain is the Chilean Navy training ship Esmeralda pulling out of port. If that is indeed the ship pictured, it is a fairly unique in being a steel-hulled sailing ship that was built to be military in nature. When navies started putting steel on the hulls of ships, they generally started removing the sails. It was also, allegedly, a floating torture center for political prisoners in the 1970s.

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SS Jeremiah O’Brien Ghost Fleet Cruise, sighting of USS Iowa (BB-61)

Facing AT&T’s new 150GB Monthly Cap, How to Monitor/Calculate your Usage

AT&T internet customers now face a monthly bandwidth cap, and will have to pay additional money per month if they exceed that limit. This is especially of concern for daily Netflix users, but frequent .torrent users may also have cause for concern. The specific target of this action on AT&T’s part is Netflix users; people who pay AT&T for internet service and Netflix for TV/Movie service. AT&T would rather you pay them for both and Netflix for nothing, so they are going to charge you a little extra for your disobedience.

As frustrating as this may be, the current United States Congress (R) and folks appointed by President Obama (D) all agree that this is an appropriate, allowable, and legal thing for AT&T to be doing.

If you wish to be obedient to AT&T, this link will take you to what AT&T offers to replace Netflix with.

If you would rather monitor your internet usage to avoid the disobedience fee, keep reading.

I made a picture, and I think it explains it well enough. There are per-computer bandwidth monitors, but these must then generally be installed on every computer in the household connected to the internet — including your Netflix-enabled DVR that probably will not allow this. The method presented below works regardless of how many computers or devices are using your internet connection.

If you use a sample time period that is not representative of your normal internet usage, this method will fail. Use the internet how your normally do for several days, and then do your calculations.

What you need:

  • Your computer, connected to the internet at your home, with a web browser.
  • A calculator (the one on your computer works fine).
  • This assumes you are using the standard “2wire” router that most AT&T customers are using. If you are using something different, you may have to enter a different number into your web browser. If that is you, and you figured out what that number was, please list the model/make of your router and that number in the comments section.

Synopsis of this method:

  1. Enter ‘’ into your web browser.
  2. Navigate to ‘broadband link’ and then to ‘statistics’.
  3. Note the number of bytes received, and the numbers of days that was collected for.
  4. Divide the first number by the latter for your average bytes per day.
  5. Convert that number to gigabytes by dividing it by 1 billion. Multiply that by 30 for your predicted monthly bandwidth usage.
  6. If that number is far below 150, then you have nothing to worry about.
  7. If it is close to 150 and you need more precise calculations, use data from a larger number of days and google to find a byte to gigabyte calculator.
Facing AT&T’s new 150GB Monthly Cap, How to Monitor/Calculate your Usage

Che Guevara the Boxer versus Hexbug

The Boxer, Che Guevara, takes on a Hexbot Nano!

These things are fun, and cost about $10 each. There are bigger ones that respond to light and sound, and smaller ones that are dumb and just skitter around.

It probably isn’t a good idea to put small and interesting mechanical objects within paws reach of a dog, so be sure to keep a close eye if you do something like this. Eventually, the dog will grow some balls and attempt to eat the thing.

By the time I filmed this, Che had already gotten enough confidence to keep it in his mouth for a few seconds. He probably won’t be allowed to play with it much longer.

Che Guevara the Boxer versus Hexbug

Android -> Linux Desktop Remote Control (better documentation than official)

I just went ahead and used URemoteDesktop to turn my Android phone into a remote control for when I am watching movies or listening to music on my computer, and don’t have immediate access to my keyboard.

(Image Credit: From here, published under this license.)

The app I used and its Linux support is good, but the official English documentation is not that great.  Also, much of the website is in Spanish (something I can not read!). The official English documentation works if one is already savvy enough to understand it all, but still leaves the user having to type numerous terminal commands to get it going.

One advantage of this app over others, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t try to be smart and tailor itself to specific desktop software. It sends generic play, volume up, etc, commands and leaves it to your computer to interpret. It seems to work everywhere that the identical buttons on my keyboard work. I like that, because it doesn’t place barriers between me and trying new software out.

Hopefully these instructions will simplify the process, and require only one terminal command on your computer. It will even tell you your current “Host IP Address” needed by the Android phone. I hope these directions are basic enough to be accessible to all – if not, please let me know what I need to clarify.

These directions are for Ubuntu. If you aren’t using Ubuntu, you probably already know how to translate the directions into your distribution’s lingo. If you aren’t using gnome, you probably know how to translate directions into gnome.

Install Instructions:

1 ) Install the app on your phone. You can search the market for “URemoteDesktop” on your phone, or point the barcode scanner here:

2 ) Download the needed .zip file from here. That is the desktop server that talks to the app on your phone. Double click on that .zip, and extract it to your home folder so that it is at /home/YOURUSERNAME/URemoteDesktop_Server.

3 ) Install the xautomation and curl packages, needed for the server to work: sudo apt-get install xautomation curl

4 ) Go to places -> Home Folder -> URemoteDesktop_Server

5 ) Right click on -> Properties -> Permissions -> Verify that “Execute” is checked next to “Owner”. Do the same process with

6 ) Type this in a terminal: gedit ~/.bashrc

6 ) Copy and paste this line of code at the end of .bashrc, replacing ‘whatever’ with whatever you want (I used ‘amote’), but leaving the rest the same:

alias whatever='echo My IP is && curl && echo && cd ~/URemoteDesktop_Server && ./

7 ) Save and exit.

8 ) CLOSE THE TERMINAL, and you are done. If you leave the terminal open, you aren’t done yet.

Use Instructions:

1 ) Open a terminal (you did close it when you were done installing, right?).

2 ) Type ‘whatever‘ or ‘amote’ and hit enter.

3 ) On the next line in the terminal, it will tell you your IP address.

4 ) Turn your phone’s wifi connection on, connect to your home wireless network. Start the app on your phone.

5 ) Put the IP Address from step 3 into the app.

6 ) Works!

Android -> Linux Desktop Remote Control (better documentation than official)

Ubuntu Linux Sucks.

Well, not really. I like it and blog from it and use it every day by choice. Anyways, what follows is a post of mine from a discussion over at about Ubuntu’s difficulties in entering the mainstream.

Someone else said this:

The main problem with the competition for Ubuntu is not Mac or Windows. it is the other operating systems you can download for free, the hacked versions of Windows.
A few people criticized and mocked him. His post was not looking very popular, because it didn’t make anyone feel warm and fuzzy inside. Here is what I have to say, in response to his comment:

I think he is onto something, here.

It isn’t significant that one 20 year old nerd thinks he has it made with cracked windows–

–it is significant, however, that he has the 4 or 6 people in his life that he sets up with that cracked version and that he provides the tech support for. The best operating system for any non-nerd is whatever OS their local nerd is willing and able to support, period.

I spent 20 minutes just last night explaining to my Ubuntu-using mother what a ‘checkbox’ looked like in nm-applet over the phone, and that the lack of a check in the box did not mean it was magically no longer a checkbox. Or something. I really have no idea what I was explaining to her, I got more confused the longer I talked to her. All I know is that she eventually clicked around enough that her wifi that had previously magically broken had suddenly magically started working again. I wish I could claim to have helped my mother, but I really have no idea what broke and what fixed it. Fairy dust is just as good a guess as any. The point is this: I told my mother that I was willing and able to support Ubuntu, and she thus uses Ubuntu.

Another example: My nerd girlfriend has a Mac and, thus, so do both of her parents and all of her siblings and a few of her other friends. Not because anyone did any rational cost-benefit analysis, but because that is what she told them to purchase because that is what she felt she was willing and able to support. One nerd willing and able to provide support to her loved ones translates directly and exactly into 6 or 7 computer sales. Impressive, huh?

Ubuntu needs to replicate that effect.

I hate to say it, but the best thing that could ever happen to Ubuntu’s market share in the short term is that every cracked copy of Windows ceases to function tomorrow.

Few people will pay $200 for a start menu (or a dock) and facebook. Many will pay $0.99 to burn a CD-R for facebook – something that Ubuntu provides, like it or not.

Ubuntu Linux Sucks.

History of UNIX User Interfaces – 1969 to 1998

I recently came across a phenomenal graphical history of UNIX user interfaces done by user “Spice Weasel” over at, and I thought I would share it.

It includes screenshots of what the UNIX desktop looked like from the dawn of our modern operating systems in the late 60s to the turn of the millennium.

Sneak Preview:

Image of the CDE desktop from 1993. It is gray and purple colored, and pixels are clearly visible.
(Image Credit: screenshot from

Click here to see this wonderful piece in its entirety. Click here for the full discussion that includes it.

You will note that most of these old UNIX screenshots look much nicer than what you would find on a typical home computer of that same year. The most stunning case in point is the 1993 CDE, pictured above, as compared with the contemporary Windows 3.11 or Windows 95 that was still a few years in the future. Part of that is because these were intended for expensive and mission-critical big business uses, not for writing a letters to grandma.

The screenshots are of the following:

  • Unix in 1969. All of us Linux and Mac users are still using principles and methods that date from this period in time.
  • The great leap forward of twm in 1987. twm relied on the X Window System, from 1984. Many of us Linux and Mac users are still using X’s child, X11, on a daily basis.
  • 1989’s OpenWindows from Sun Microsystems.
  • CDE – Common Desktop Environment – in 1993.
  • FVWM-95 in 1995, a Red Hat implementation.
  • KDE in 1998.

To complete the history and fill in the last decade of UNIX user interfaces for a total of 42 years, this was me playing around with my desktop as of a few hours ago in the context of a hyper-nerdy discussion. If I weren’t lazier, there would have been a fancy icon and more imaginative text in the upper left corner.

(Click for full size)

History of UNIX User Interfaces – 1969 to 1998

2011: Best April Fools Pranks on the Web

My favorite internet holiday has ended, and I must now wait 364 days until the next.

I really shouldn’t say these are the “best”, but I already did. A more accurate statement would be that this is “a selection of ones that I found amusing”. Here we go:

US Army Moving to Stetsons

This one actually got both my roomate and his friend going for a while, both US Army veterans. In the case of my roomate, he recalled when the Army adopted the silly looking berets they currently wear, making the story credible.

Image of a soldier with the sun setting behind him, creating a silhouette effect. Soldier is facing the South, estimated by the sun setting in the West. He is equipped with a rifle, body armor, and a cowboy hat.
(Image Credit: US Army)

Linux to Adopt BSD License

If you aren’t a nerd, don’t bother looking at that one.

If you are a nerd: Includes quotes from Ballmer, Torvalds, rms, and Oracle.

I Am Going to Libya

A few people seemed to fall for that one. I made this picture to go with the article, but it would have introduced a plot hole so I didn’t post it at the time. It is completely over-the-top ridiculous.

Me, sitting on a bench. Baseball cap backwards, aviators on, smoking a cigarette. I have an M-14 rifle in my hands, and am wearing a bou-bou over camouflage and a rambo-style bandoleer. I look completely ridiculous.

Before any other Marines or Former Marines get all riled up over the distinctive pattern on my sleeves and collar: this was in my back yard and in the context of a joke. Settle down, jefe, you’ve got bigger fish to fry.

ThePirateBay Purchases eBay

Get it? PirateBay and eBay? Yeah.

Scientific American: “OK, We Give Up”

Worth reading the whole thing. It is satire, and mostly a criticism of pseudo-scientists, CNN and Fox news “experts”, creationists, etc. They talk about dinosaurs, global warming, and so on. You know, the important stuff.

And Finally, one that I hope is a prank: US Army to Issue Smartphones to All Soldiers

For Angry Birds and Words With Friends!? No! Google Maps and Text Messaging.

Unlike the Stetson article, the one was written by a named three-star General and was not updated today to include a giveaway that it was an April Fools joke.

If it is not a joke, I wonder how they came to the conclusion that American Troops carrying American Cellular Phones will have cell phone reception in foreign nations that we may someday be at war with, and I wonder what the rationale behind putting a GPS locater on every soldier was… to keep the enemy better informed of the whereabouts of American forces via radio triangulation?

That would especially be a concern in a theater were few locals have cellular phones. In such a theater, 40 people walking together and broadcasting radio transmissions over both cellular and GPS frequencies can pretty much mean only one of two things: either the 40 richest people in the nation are out for a walk together, or a platoon of US Army soldiers is on the move. We all know that telling a bunch of teenagers and people in their early 20s, “OK, everyone turn off your cell phones now” doesn’t always work out exactly as one would hope.

2011: Best April Fools Pranks on the Web