Installscript Tip for the day:

While InstallShield’s Installscript does not have any String functions that can handle case sensitive comparison, the List functions do!

In my quest to get a residential fuel cell applian…

In my quest to get a residential fuel cell appliance for our home, I went looking for the current state of the art to see if I can actually get one yet. The current answer so far? No. Damn it

However, I did find more links than the last time that I looked. One of them is UTC Fuel Cells which is saying they’ll have a 5-10kW unit available by 2003, and it’s heat output is pretty high so it can aid in residential heating if necessary PlugPower Fuel Cell Systems is kind of the grandaddy in research in residential fuel cells. Sadly, their information about availability hasn’t been updated since I last looked in early 2001.

Their partner for manufacturing and distribution, GE Power Systems has likewise not updated their information on availability since the last time I looked.

For those of you with far more money for toys than I have can get a Remote Control Fuel Cell Car from the people over at The Fuel Cell Store. It can run for around 3 hours on 1 tank of hydrogen at ~10mph. At US$8,800 it’s a bit much to ask for as an xmas gift though, sadly. They also claim to have several full residential systems available for purchase, but they don’t have any information available live on the site. More’s the pity. I might get around to contacting them for further information later.

I also ran across Sustainable Minnesota: Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient Economy. While being a clearinghouse for quite a few links to fuel cell related companies, had pitifully little useful information. I think I’ll dig around there a bit more in the future though as they had pretty granular coverage of energy issues in local government.

Nuvera appears to be another company trying to get in on manufacturing residential units but it didn’t have a single word on what kind of time frame they were looking at.

According to this page at Sulzer, they have a production model available in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland but do not plan to begin supplying the US until 2005.

As for the local utilities, Xcel Energy has removed ANY reference to Fuel Cells from their pages as far as I can tell, and Reliant Energy has changed their information to include this page which is almost completely useless. So their working on the tech. That’s certainly news.

Someday we’ll have one, that day is obviously not today.

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So I did get my Fossil Wrist PDA on Friday, and I …

So I did get my Fossil Wrist PDA on Friday, and I am a very, very happy little geek indeed. It comes with 4 different watch faces and I’m happy to see that some people online are already toying with it and there are a couple of mods already available. The one that I currently have selected has nice large numbers for the time and the date running around the outside corners.

It is HUGE. It’s the biggest watch I’ve seen in a long time, but I think it’s worth it. Besides the size, here are the other limitations that I’ve found:

  • No waterproofing besides basic “the rain won’t kill it”. No leaving this bugger on while I’m doing the dishes!
  • The button presses are a little slow and it takes a couple of seconds to bring up my calender.
  • It’s a little too easy to accidentally press the enter button while trying to navigate.
  • The only band that’s available (and looks to be the only one ever available from the shape and other aspects of the watch) is plastic which makes me sweat quite a bit.

I had been thinking that the other detractor was that it did not have a backlight, but I was completely wrong. I just must have missed that page in the manual.

I am also having a problem with it not recognizing my selected business card when I’m syncing to the watch, but I’m thinking that may have to do with some mods to Address+ that my phone module makes. I’m going to try syncing without my phone installed later today and see if it fixes it.

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Scott Rosenberg fairly clearly states some comment…

Scott Rosenberg fairly clearly states some comments that I’m hearing echo’d all around the industry tese days in his recent column on Salon. I don’t necessarily agree with his final conclusions, but I don’t think that anyone really has any illusions about how successful Microsoft is going to be with their new official push for better security, or, in MS SpinSpeak, “Trustworthy Computing”.


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It’s been an exciting few days for me. Last Tuesda…

It’s been an exciting few days for me. Last Tuesday I took down the network to do a bit of reorganizing. Betsy had not been able to use the VPN client on her work machine at home and so we had talked about replacing our existing firewall with something a bit more flexible, as well as a bit more secure. We had been just running the internal Windows 2000 Server as the firewall and gateway as well as serving various other functions. I know, that’s a bad plan given how secure Windows is these days, but it was functional and we had no known break-ins.

So, we decided to give Linux a try. I had been playing with the Mandrake 8.1 release for awhile as a workstation OS and thought we could give it a try as a firewall and gateway machine.

So, we did. Mandrake 8.1 uses the Linux 2.4 kernel which has some new code called NetFilter to handle firewall/proxy/NAT and various other functions. It’s all handled through an application called IPtables. For those of you familiar with IPchains from previous Linux versions, I imagine that IPtables wouldn’t be too hard to figure out. For someone who has been used to using what are essentially off the shelf firewalls, it has been quite an adventure. It did not take me too long to get the internal traffic to forward to the outside world, the real problem was getting outside traffic to get in to this server.

I think that I can safely say that Linux documentation as a whole is still really very bad. It has improved greatly since the last time I looked hard at this OS (circa 1995, Pre 1.0) but it is still largely obtuse and assumes particular arcane knowledge too often. I did however break down and hunted through one of the local Barnes & Noble stores for some help, and I found some.

Linux Firewalls (2nd Ed) by Robert L. Ziegler is a really fantastic piece of work. Building on a previous edition written for the pre-2.4 kernels, he builds from simple concepts to complex topics and only then, tells you want you need to do in order to get things working properly. If you plan on putting together a Linux based firewall, this is the book to get.

So, I got HTTP traffic working inbound after 4 days of being stumped, and even got FTP traffic working this morning (which is how this post got here) but now I’m to the stickier bits. Currently we aren’t able to resolve the internal servers by their external designations. I think I know where the problem is now, but I just have to find the time to fix it.

In the meantime, the network is much more secure than it was a week ago, and I know a heck of a lot more about both Linux and firewalls in general work.

Definitely a net gain.

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So I’ve been playing with Mandrake linux the last …

So I’ve been playing with Mandrake linux the last few days. Yesterday I was sick so I ended up even swapping out hard drives and installing it on my primary machine so I could get a really good feel for how I liked it.

Good things and bad things, that’s for sure. Mainly, it’s not nearly as easy to use as Windows. Big surprise there, and it’s not like I wasn’t a DOS user for many years so it’s not too bad for me. Not common user ready yet though.

Both GNOME and KDE are really very pretty, but I’m having some serious stability issues with GNOME. KDE on the other hand is rock solid so far. I’ve also been trying to update the copy of Ximian Evolution but I’m having some trouble with their Red Carpet package finding the GNOME channel. I tried just downloading and installing the RPM, but that failed miserably. *sigh* I’ll get it figured out.

In the meantime, for any Linux users who might read this (not that many people actually read this) I’m very interested in hearing about good apps that you like/use/have seen. Ideally I’d like to get to the point that I do a dual-boot XP/Mandrake install and use Mandrake as my primary OS and keep XP around for games. But we’ll see.