Multiple Monitors and Remote Keyboard

At work, they have been buying all the programmers new monitors. Everybody now has at least one 20″ LCD. Some people have two. The rest of us could have two monitors, one maybe smaller, if there wasn’t a shortage of dual-head video cards. I decided to hook up the second smaller monitor up to my MacBook.

The Mac is very good at handling multiple displays. It detected the monitor when it was plugged in. It didn’t get the resolution correct but that was easy to change. The menu bar handling is annoying; one display is the primary one with the menu bar and dock. The other can just have windows where it is hard to use the menu. Also, some programs get confused about the resizing; it would be nice if windows recgonized that they were touching a side and stayed that way. If the menu bar was moved to the monitor, then the computer would stay active with the lid closed.

Somebody pointed me toward Synergy which allows sharing keyboard and mouse over the network. The machine that has the keyboard and mouse (in this case my work desktop) runs the server. Other machines run the client and connect to the server. Each machine has to have a text configuration file. Once it is working, it is smooth to move the mouse off the side of the screen and onto the other screen. The keyboard follows the mouse. Also, it connects the clipboards. It isn’t possible to drag windows between screens.

The only problem is that the key bindings are different between Mac and Linux. The Mac uses the Option key (mapped to Alt) where Linux uses Ctrl. The clipboard commands are especially confusing since Gnome Terminal is also different. I have gotten used to the different key bindings when switching between the laptop and desktop but it helps that the laptop keyboard is different.

Movie: Children of Men

I saw Children of Men today. It has been out for a while but all the recently released movies are junk. It lived up to its good reviews. It was bleak but beautifully filmed. It did a good job of presenting the despair of a world without children. Some of the scenes of inhumanity to illegal immigrants reflected on our current inhumanity in Iraq. The best scene was when the fighting stopped because of the cry of the baby. The main characters, especially the mother, brought some nice humanity.

One thing that struck me was the realism of the violence. People were shot in the back while fleeing and collapsed to the ground. It was disturbing because of its matter-of-factness. People being killed randomly, or even worse executed deliberately. I heard quite a few gasps of shock from the audience. It was a contrast to your standard action movie where the violence is unreal.

Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon did a review from feminist perspective.

Snow Day

It has been cold in Portland for the last week or so. Last Thursday, there was a dusting of snow which caused problems with ice farther east. Yesterday was supposed to be the last day of cold. Instead, it stayed cold and we got moisture. The result was snow.

It snowed over night and this morning. We got a total of about 4 inches of accumulation. I worked from home since it wasn’t worth braving the roads or waiting for the bus. They ended up closing the office for the day. It always amazes me how different my neighborhood looks covered in white. The other interesting thing is that there are more people out walking than even for the weekend. I guess cold and snow is better than just cold or rain.

We haven’t had a significant snow in Portland in a couple of years. This one looks like it won’t be as bad as the one three years ago where there was ice on top of the snow and everything stayed frozen for three days. Since that winter, we have only had light snowfalls and ice storms.

Movies: Night at the Museum

Last Tuesday, I saw the Night at the Museum as part of a free screening through work. After a long hiatus, work has started doing free screenings again. They tend to be bad movies since the studios don’t need to promote the good or popular movies as much. I heard people complaining about the awfulness of Eragon, the previous weeks screening.

Night at the Museum was funny. The basic idea was that the exhibits in the Museum of Natural History in New York come alive at night and terrorize the new night guard. There were some nice touches like the T. Rex skeleton which acts like a dog chasing a bone and the tiny people from the dioramas. The plot was predictable from the setup and it is a little too cute and educational in places. But it was basically silly fun and I enjoyed it.

Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling

I am going to start writing short reviews of books I read. I just finished Dies the Fire by S. M. Stirling. It is connected to his previous series where Nantucket is sent back time. The Event causes all electronics and explosives to stop working. Civilization collapses and knocks the human race is knocked back to medieval technology. The book follows some groups of survivors which assemble working societies in the Pacific Northwest. Much of the action was in the Willamette Valley which gave it a personal connection.

One of the groups is a bunch of neo-Pagans which form a settlemenet in the southern Willamette Valley. The Celtic heritage of the founders turns into the culture of the survivors. The second group is a family and their pilot whose plane crashes in the Idaho mountains. They walk out, kill some bad guys and a bear, and join other survivors to form a military band who recreates armored cavalry. They migrate to the Willamette Valley fighting bad guys along the way, and hooking up with the pagans. The bad guys are from Portland, organized into a feudal dictatorship who attempt to take over but are beaten back by the good guys working together.

It was an interesting variation on the end of world genre. The characters are quite sympathetic. They are lucky and skilled but that is a pretty common Stirling thing. I like how it has a generally positive tone that the survivors will prosper to balance the horror of the situation. I was avoiding reading the series even though I heard good things about it. It was just as good as Nantucket series. Now I need to get the rest of the trilogy.

Converted Posts

I think I got all the old posts converted to using Markdown. Since this blog started with Textpattern which uses Textile, most of the posts were in that format. Typo was smart enough to handle posts in different markup formats and switch formats to Markdown a few months ago. WordPress is not smart enough to handle posts in different formats and the Textile ones were broken when rendered in Markdown.

I also fixed up all of the images. Some of the old ones were in Photostack install which had gotten moved and broken a while ago. I am going to have to figure out a more permanent solution to the location of images.

WordPress Themes

Since switching to WordPress, I have been playing around with WordPress themes. I am looking for a minimalist style with black text on a white background. I prefer variable-width two-column themes while themes seem to be fixed-width. I am not a big fan of top navigation bars or header images.

  • ScribbishWP is a port of a Typo theme. It uses the hAtom microformat and is supposed to be easy to customize. It is a fixed-width theme and under Typo I had to tweak it to be wide enoguh to display images properly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support some newer features like Sidebar Widgets.

  • Sandbox is a minimalist theme which is meant to be easy to be styled. It also has support for some newer features. I am going to play around and see if I can style it into something I like.

  • K2 is the followup to Kubrick, the default WordPress theme. It has lots of advanced AJAXy features. It is supposed to be easy to customize and style. There seem to be lots of variants.

  • Cutline is a nice, clean, two-column theme.

  • Regulus is two-column customizable theme. A little busy for my taste.

Converted to WordPress

I got tired of the issues with running Typo on Textdrive and converted this blog to WordPress. The main problem is that the Rails process was being killed by the server for using too much memory. I tried various tricks to reduce the memory usage or restart the process when it disappeared and none of them helped. It didn’t help that the web site has been down for a while. I liked Typo in general, I liked that it was written in Ruby and was easy to develop for, and I was hopeful that development would pick up.

I don’t like that WordPress is written in PHP. But it sure made it easy to get installed. I used Stuart Johnston’s migration script to convert the posts. The number of plugins and themes is the biggest advantage to WordPress. I used the PHP Markdown to write posts in Markdown. I am using the ScribbishWP theme which is a port of the Scribbish Typo theme which I played around with.

I think I maintained all the permalinks so old links should keep working. The older posts are in Textile and aren’t being rendered correctly. All the images and uploads should be working. I am keeping the old blog available at for now.

Mouse in the House

I have another animal story. This afternoon, I looked over and saw a small grey shape moving across the floor. It was a mouse. It quickly disappeared and I couldn’t find it after searching.

Tonight, watching a movie in the dark, I saw a dark shape. I turned on the light and saw the mouse sitting out in the open. I dropped an upside-down bucket on it while I figured out what to do. I scooped it in the bucket and dropped it outside uninjured but a little scared.

Big Monitor

At work, they have started handing out larger monitors to people. Last Friday, I replaced my 17″ LCD with a 20″ Dell LCD and went from 1280×1024 to 1600×1200 in the process. The increase in resolution and display size is very nice; it is now possible to get two terminals open at once. The Dell 20″ has some nice features like rotating to portrait mode, sliding up and down, USB ports on the monitor, and attaching speakers to the bottom.

The eventual plan is to for all of the programmers to get two 20″ monitors. Until then, some people have been taking the leftover smaller monitors and setting up dual-head displays. I don’t know if two smaller monitors or one big one is better. I think the dual monitors give more space but it is less usable.