30 March 2005

Linux on laptops

As a preliminary to installing Linux on at least one of my computers, I've been testing live CDs, with varying degrees of lack of success. Both of my working computers (as distinguished from the various non-functioning machines lurking around here) are Dell laptops. The "new" laptop is an Inspiron 1150; the "old" laptop is an Inspiron 2500. On the new laptop, the Ubuntu live CD worked fine, with one exception: it refused to recognise the display screen and so ended up displaying at 600x480, not a resolution that lends itself to getting any work done. Next I tried a Linspire Five-O beta IV live CD. This recognised the screen and displayed beautifully, but refused to work with my ethernet connection, thus preventing me from communicating with the internet. (I was trying out the CD at the Desktop Summit, so a Linspire tech was on hand to spend some time trying to diagnose and fix the problem. Possibly a fix went into the next iteration of Linspire Five-O, but I haven't been able to test it.) On the old laptop, the Ubuntu live CD refused to load at all, freezing completely only a seconds after starting to load. The Linspire live CD loaded, generating some error messages along the way, then at the point of setting up the time, date, and location, it appeared to go into an infinite loop, thrashing the hard drive for over an hour until I got tired of waiting and turned off the machine. Some research on the Web reveals several people claiming to have successfully installed a Debian distro on the 2550, but I'm not ready to tackle a full install yet. Next I'll try a Knoppix Live CD and see how that goes. I've downloaded the ISO but haven't burned it on a CD yet... stay turned for further developments.

29 March 2005

Keeping fit and healthy

Seven weeks in the USA has played havoc with my health and fitness program, mainly because I'm not at all disciplined about exercise and finding the right food. So I weighed in yesterday morning at nearly 5 kg more than when I left home on 1 February. Yike! (I knew the scales would give me bad news, because my left knee hurts whenever I go above a certain weight, and it's been hurting for the past couple of weeks.) Over the past two years, I've become a big enthusiast for the low-carbohydrate diet, and I've lost around 18 kg (nearly 40 lb) by severely restricting my intact of bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, and similar items. Fortunately, I like meat, chicken, fish, vegetables, and fruit, so a low-carb diet isn't a big change from my normal eating habits. Unfortunately, the past few weeks have been spent in hotels or at events which provided a complimentary "continental" breakfast which was mostly carbs. I am not sufficiently disciplined to skip the included breakfast and pay for an omelette or something suitable, so I'm paying for it now. Then there's the exercise factor. Exercise is boring, so at home I've built some into my daily routine. On weekdays, I get at least one good walk, because we don't get mail delivery where we live, so we have to go to the Post Office to collect our mail. This involves walking down about 180 steps and another 100 metres to the PO, then back up 180 steps. Usually we (Eric and I) combine that walk with a stroll along the beachfront (a pleasant place), to make the walk longer. In addition to the trip to the PO, we try to take at least one other walk each day, usually in the evening, again along the beachfront. Did I mention we live in the resort town of Airlie Beach, one of the gateways to the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef of Australia? It's a lovely spot. Here is an aerial view of the town and this is the view from my balcony.

28 March 2005

Home again!

I've just returned from a 7-week trip to the USA, during which I attended two conferences (at which I was a speaker) and two science fiction conventions, spent a day acting as a judge in the Society for Technical Communcation's International Online Communication Competition, visited my mother and various friends, and racked up what felt like a zillion miles on airplanes. I enjoyed the individual bits of the trip, but collectively it was long and tiring, and I sure am glad to be home again! The trip started with the OpenOffice.org RegiCon North America, part of the Desktop Summit, held in Del Mar, just north of San Diego, California. I spoke on "Technical Writing using OpenOffice.org" and spent most of my time staffing the OpenOffice.org booth, along with Daniel Carrera, Ian Lynch, Ryan Singer, Jason Faulkner, Adam Moore, and some other volunteers whose names I failed to write down. We answered many questions, passed out CDs, displayed the draft user guides for OOo2.0, and sold some third-party books on OOo1.x. Some photos are here. The trip ended with the WritersUA Conference (UA = User Assistance) in Las Vegas, Nevada, at which I spoke on "Strategies for Editing and Reviewing Online Help".

After a day to recover from the trip home (36 hours door-to-door from the hotel in Las Vegas to my place in Airlie Beach, Australia), I immediately got busy again with OOoAuthors, editing and writing parts of the OOo2.0 user guides. This is a really exciting project, about which I'll have more to say later.

27 March 2005

Committing bloggery

Yes, I've been sucked in to yet another time-consuming project. This blog is for random notes about my websites, OpenOffice.org, technical editing, travel around Australia, science fiction, and anything else I feel like raving on about. Join me at your own risk. I don't expect to post on any schedule, especially since my internet access is intermittent. When at home I have always-on broadband (ADSL), but when I'm travelling (and I travel a lot), I'm usually limited to dial-up and often have only a mobile phone for access. One's perspective on internet use is quite different when using a mobile phone (at 14.4 kbps), let me assure you!