Monday, December 31, 2012

The New Moon Murders - TG1

I've decided to consolidate four blogs into two. My gaming geek blog will remain at while and will return to their original home under this address. Managing four was too time consuming and I wound up not updating any of them rather than figure out which one to post to on a given day. Sorry for any confusions.

In the meantime, I'll begin bringing the posts from those other blogs over to these eclectic pages.

The first post will be the announcement of The New Moon Murders, A Thomas Gunn Detective story. I've been writing for me friends for over a decade. This story was good enough to publish so I did. It is the first in a series of five to ten stories featuring a psychic detective Thomas Gunn and his pick-pocketing girlfriend Jean Louis.

As happens from time to time, the secondary character turned into a fan favorite. What's more, every editor I've hired has expressed their affection for Jean. Give this a read to see if you agree.

Genre: Horror/Detective
Price: $2.99
Description: January, 1930 - Chicago

Something evil stalks the streets performing human sacrifices every new moon.

The police are baffled. High society wants it covered up. The mob wants the murder weapon.

Fearing the involvement of a long time parishioner, aging priest Father Burke turns to a man he once thought possessed.

Private detective Thomas Gunn, tormented by visions he cannot control, takes the case only to discover that staring down the business end of a Tommy gun is nothing compared to stopping an ancient evil bent on world destruction.

In the tradition of H. P. Lovecraft and Dashel Hammitt, The New Moon Murders is a classic hard-boiled detective story fused with the elements of star-spanning horror.
Available on Amazon, iTunes, and (see sidebar).

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Zack's Journey - Shadow Dance

Having a child with attention issues is often considered a burden. The problem with AD(H)D is that so many are stigmas associated with it. When you have a child that goes a little odd when stimulated, people give you 'the look'.

True, there are problems with ADD and ADHD but there is also magic. These kids tend to be incredibly creative and enjoy living 'in the moment' the way others cannot. On a late summer night in ’05, a two year old Zack discovered the fun of shadows the way I've never witnessed before. This is a blessed memory that I will always cherish.

It began with Deb and I sitting in our white wicker chairs by the driveway. We have one of those security lights comes on  when it senses motion. It's a powerful light which completely illuminates the driveway and is an excellent shadow maker. Not the multiple shadows you normally get from artificial lighting but one, strong black shadow usually reserved for dark rooms and flash lights.

As Zack pushed his toy police car around the drive, I made the age-old rabbit shadow with my hand. This fascinated Zack. He tried to grab it but the wascally wabbit was too quick. He laughed and giggled until he discovered he had a shadow as well. At this point the the magic began.

I felt like I was watching something out of Peter Pan as my son tried to catch the his own dark image which was always just a little too fast for him. After chasing the shadow down the driveway, he found that the shadow would also chase him as well. Zack ran away from the dark boy on the ground watching the shadow as he ran. He was so intent was he on the dark image that he ran head long into Jessica’s car,  falling to the ground the ground in a heap of giggles.

Deb and I showed Zack how to control the shadow with his own movements. He waved his arms and laughed. Then he raised his foot into the air watching the shadow detach from his foot. He tried to touch the shadow but it was always just out of reach. Finally he learned to squat down. The shadow squatted as well and at last he could touch the illusive being.

Zack had so much fun it was hard to get him in for the night. Finally coaxed him into my arms to look at the stars. I sang him a song as we walked back toward the house. The rhythm was to a Louis Armstrong song “What a wonderful world” but the words were my own which talked about stars in the sky, reflected in baby blue eyes. 

Zack didn't fuss at all as we walked into the house. Once inside, Deb had to call her mom to describe the evening. Zack and I played ‘Tent on the couch’ where his folding tent goes on one section of the couch and he climbs in and out. We sang twinkle, twinkle little star for a while until Deb got off the phone with her mom.

Its nights like this when everything seems right with the world. I wish there were more of them.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Zack's Journey - My Kid Has ADHD?

ADHD kids are not like others. The AD part of the acronym means they don’t concentrate well while H causes them to act without regard for the consequences of their actions. Put together you have a child that can’t stay on task and often moves, makes noises, or exhibits other potentially annoying behavior. They get in trouble often and almost as often can’t remember what they did that caused the problem. Thus we have the final D in the acronym; Disorder.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Backup with rsync

You have a number of options if you wish to protect your Ubuntu system against the unlikely event of a disk crash. I use a layered approach to save my precious files and memories. There are numerous cloud providers that will give you some free space to store your files: Ubuntu 1, DropBox, Google, and Amazon to name a few. None of them provide enough space to save my music, pictures, videos, and game files.

To save those drive eaters, I have two external drives use as redundant storage. The cloud providers save the documents I work on day-to-day while the external drives save files I add but seldom, if ever, change. I try to perform the backup on a monthly basis.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Clearing the Rhythmbox database

So I've been at the music import thing for a while and am almost done placing my cherished songs on my Ubuntu system as well as Google Music. I've documented my journey in two other blog posts for those interested in the methodology.

I have a few albums left that aren't in the MusicBrainz database so those must be entered manually. Now I'm at the point of futzing with my music's tags and organization. 

I ran into a problem because once Rhythmbox has a song in its inventory it doesn't bother going back and rereading the tags. The solution to this was to delete the Rhythmbox database. It's located in 


Now my Southern Rock is Southern, my Alternative Rock is Alt, and my Classic Rock is truly Classic. It's also fun to watch the counters increment to my current collection size of 3062 songs. I have around 200 more to import and there are always stragglers hanging around the house and various family vehicles. 

This is been both a fun and fulfilling project that allows me to access my music from anywhere with a cell or internet connection.

Until next time.
Zack's Dad.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Music Converter - OggConvert

From my last post you know that I'm ripping my CDs to my computer and using Google Music to put it in the cloud. Google does not support some of the music I've previously exported from a windows machines. I presume it has something about the Microsoft codecs being proprietary.

The open version for media files is OGG which is a free, open container format maintained by the Xiph.Org Foundation. The Ogg format is an unrestricted by software patents and is designed to provide for efficient streaming and manipulation of high quality digital multimedia. The Ogg container format can multiplex a number of independent streams for audio, video, text (such as subtitles), and metadata.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Great Music Rip of 2012

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination
and life to everything.” 
― Plato

I have a problem with my CD collection - it's too flipping big. So recently I decided to import the entire collection onto my Ubuntu desktop computer in hopes of preserving, cataloging, and actually listening to it on a regular basis. Along the way I discovered a few things I thought I would share.

All of the software described below (including Ubuntu) is free and available form the Ubuntu Software Center.

Step 1 - Find a good music ripper.

This was actually a little harder than I thought. I use Ubuntu which has a large number of music programs for virtually every need. The default (as of 12.04) is Rhythm Box which has some good features but, at times, is very slow when it comes to ripping CDs. 

I tried several different tools but finally settled on Banshee. It pulls the music at a faster clip and has some other interesting features like its ability to download album art. It also links to the Amazon MP3 player. One word of warning, however: Banshee is no longer supported under the current Ubuntu and I had one really odd windows manager glitch after installing. It hasn't happened since but, for a brief moment, I remembered what it was like being a Microsoft Windows user.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Chrome and Ubuntu 12.04 Flash Issue

I recently ran into a problem on my Ubuntu system with web sites containing embedded flash content - like YouTube. It seemed to hose up Chrome requiring a refresh to fix. In some cases I couldn't fix it at all. So now I've set Chrome to run Flash only when I click on the Flash area.

To do this, put this in your Chrome address bar (where you would normally put the URL)

(note, you may have to copy and paste if the link doesn't work)

On the resulting browser page, find the plug-ins section and turn off automatically running flash. In my case I just turned them all off.

And that seemed to fix the problem.

I still have occasional issues with the Google+ Event gadget and haven't yet found a decent work around other than to refresh the page.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ubuntu Apache Dev Web Server Install

I'm investigating Yii, a PHP web framework, for some friends. We want to do a web project and they know at least some PHP. Since I don't want to do all the programming myself, PHP seems like a good option.

The first step is installing the Apache HTTP Server. While I have that self-same web server already installed on my machine as a service, I decided I wanted a development copy I could mess up and not hose my machine's install.

Going to the Apache download site, I see 2.2 is the latest stable version. I navigate to that page and find the Unix tarball to download. Once downloaded, I extract the file any old place.

Step 1 -  run 'configure' with your final install directory for Apache.
./configure --prefix=[Apache Install Dir] --enable-so
Lots of output follows. I recommend giving a full path vs. a relative path to the install directory. You can probably use either but you never know.

Step 2 - Now it's time to run 'make'.
Lots more output follows.

Now run 'make install'. This actually creates the server instance software in you install directory you picked in step 1.
make install
Now navigate to your Apache install directory. Since this is a development web server, we're going to change the default listing port to 8080. I do this so it won't interfere with an installed web server running on the default port of 80.
cd [Apache Install Dir]/Apache2.2/conf
Use your favorite editor, and open httpd.conf. Find the line 
Listen 80
Change it to
Listen 8080
You can substitute 8080 with any other open port. If you need to see if a port is open you can run
netstat -a
and look through the results to make sure your port isn't in use.

Now change directory to the Apache bin directory and run apachectl start. This starts your web server.

cd [Apache Install Dir]/Apache2.2/bin
./apachectl start
Now open a web browser and try
You should bet a message that says
It Works
If you get this pat yourself on the back and go get a cup of coffee smiling that you've successfully geeked for the day. If not, do what we professionals do, consult the all knowing Google search.

Coming up next, configuring Apache to run PHP.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Expanding A Disk in Oracle's VirtualBox

I run Ubuntu Linux at home. I love Linux. It's fast, has a smaller footprint than other O/Ss, and it's free. The rest of the world, however, lives on MicroSoft Windows or Apple OSX. I don't mind this. I like being different and enjoy the time I don't spend on virus issues and the money I save on hardware.

Still, ever so often you need a Windows operating system. Normally I can do these small tasks using other resources, but recently I've been hit over and over again with the need to have Windows at home.

If you run Linux you have a few options. You can use Wine to run windows applications within your Linux O/S or you can use a Virtual Machine server to host a Windows O/S within your Linux system. I decided to go this route.

I was once a VMWare fan. I guess I still am but Oracle has a free product called VirtualBox that was recommended by my next door neighbor, the Linux Kernel Commando. The primary advantage to VirtualBox is its ability to access the USB port. VMWare doesn't do that, at least the free version doesn't.

VirtualBox is easy to download, install, and setup as was the Extension Pack which added the USB 2.0 support. Everything was wonderful once I had Google Chrome installed in my new Windows 7 instance. I used it rarely, but it was always there when I needed it. The only issue was when it cranked up, Windows would download the latest MicroSoft patches. I think the VM spent more time patching than running.

Then came my decision to purchase MicroSoft Office 2010. I had 20 GB allocated to my Window's VM and needed more. VirtualBox doesn't have a nice little switch to extend a disk from their console (hint: THEY SHOULD). You have to go to the command prompt and do it. The pig that is Microsoft Office needs over 40 GB to install. After futzing around, making new drives, and generally getting frustrated, I found the magic command to extend a virtual disk.

Before running this, make sure you have a good snapshot of your current VM image. I did a full clone as well just in case.  Here's a screen print of my current VirtualBox console (after the expansion). Note the happy little Snapshots(1) button in the upper right. That's where you go to make the snapshot.

The command to expand the disk to 80 GB is

VBoxManage modifyhd [virtual disk filename] --resize [size in MB]

You find the path to the file from the Storage link on the console above. You can find this and other VirtualBox commands in the Manual.

I was then able to go in and install MicroSoft Office with no problems although I wonder how much more time my little VM will spend patching itself.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Microsoft Office

I write as a hobby. What's more I also do some small office programming. I'm finally ready to throw in the towel and purchase Microsoft Office. Sadly, I have no choice.

I've use Open Office for years and I love it. It does almost everything I need for word processing, spread sheets, and presentations. But there is a last 1% that I need that I can't get from Open Office, precise formatting of Microsoft Office exports.

I consider this a sad day but I will save time and money in the end by paying the giant from Redmond his due.