Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Cygwin terminal problem fixed

I have Cygwin ("a Linux-like environment for Windows") on two computers which both run Windows XP. If you want to use some Unix-based utilities with real shell scripts, but your employer won't let you install Linux on your computer, Cygwin is the way to go. Anyway, I have been annoyed for a couple of months with one of these installations.

On Cygwin on my laptop, I always got an error message, "WARNING: terminal is not fully functional" whenever I tried running the man command. On my other installation, I got nicely formatted and colored documentation, which paged nicely. I tried lots and lots of tweaks to get the Cygwin installation on my laptop to work properly, including reinstalling Cygwin, the groff program, and messing with .bashrc and everything else, but nothing fixed the problem.

Today I set both systems side-by-side and set out to conquer this gremlin. I ran "cygcheck -c -s -v" on each system, output the results to a disk file, and ran a diff on them. Many differences turned up, but nothing special jumped out at me. The cygcheck comparison, helpful as it was, did not give the solution.

Somehow I noticed that the home directory of my desktop computer (the one which worked) did not have a ".termcap" file, at all. The home directory on my laptop computer (the one that always gave that error message) did have a ".termcap" file.

"Hmmm . . .," I thought. "I wonder if that could be the problem." I renamed the ".termcap" file in my home directory to something else, restarted Cygwin, and instantly the problem disappeared. Now less and man work exactly the way they should. Problem solved!

I'm sure most people have no interest in this, but for me, it was a small victory worth saving to the web. Hope it helps somebody else who uses Cygwin.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Soft tissue found in T-Rex bones

According to a recent article on Slashdot, a newly-broken thigh bone from a Tyrannosaurus Rex was found to contain stretchy, soft tissue inside. The bone marrow was not fossilized, as one might expect.

Last year, paleontologists excavating a T-Rex fossil skeleton in Montana successfully extracted the femur (thigh bone) of a T-Rex from the earth. Unfortunately, the only transport from the site was via helecopter, and the helecopter was too small the carry the whole femur. So the femur was deliberately broken so it would fit on the helecopter. When this was done, soft, stretchy tissue was found in the center of the bone, possibly even containing blood cells.

The California Academy of Sciences web site contains this photo of the reddish, meaty tissue which (according to archaeological dating) has persisted unfossilized after 70 million years.

As the Slashdot readers pointed out, the implications for this find are enormous. Either the standard methods of dating dinosaur bones are wrong (which is what the creationists are saying), or else fossilization doesn't work the way people have traditionally thought.

And since that tissue contains DNA, is it possible that a Jurassic Park scenario of cloning a Tyrannosaurus Rex might be closer than we imagine?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Jesus Music Oldies

For the past week, I've been grooving on Jesus Music Oldies, an Internet radio collection of some of the greatest music of the "Golden Age" of Jesus Music. Some of the best musicians and early songs that fed my soul: Phil Keaggy and Glass Harp, Children of the Day, Love Song, Keith Green, Don Francisco, Daniel Amos (remember Shotgun Angel?), early Second Chapter of Acts, Matthew Ward, Andre Crouch and the Disciples, James Vincent ("Waiting for the Rain"), Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill ("Lung Cancer"), DeGarmo and Key, Janny Grein, Honeytree, and more and more and more.

This is a great find. I could listen to this stuff all day long. If you got saved in the seventies and listened to Christian music, you'll wonder how you ever forgot some of these tasty tunes. The station is produced by Rob Whitehurst, and he has a kickin' collection.

There's a related website at, but it's not very easy to navigate. Rob has a more up-to-date web page on My Space, and I found some great weblinks to the classic bands. (I had no idea that All Saved Freak Band had its own web site. And if you haven't heard My Poor Generation, you've missed some of the best vintage Jesus rock there was.)

To listen, you do have to sign up on Live365 with a username and password, and also tolerate the advertising. It's no more worse than regular radio, and if it annoys you, you can pay a fee of about $50 a year to get the ads removed. I'm taking the free ride right now, and believe me, it's a nice listen.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Randall Terry converts to Catholicism

The online edition of World magazine reports for the "June 17" edition (even though today is actually June 9) that Randall Terry, founder of the well-known Operation Rescue has "left his evangelical moorings and quietly joined the Roman Catholic Church."

The news article (scroll halfway down the page) reminds us that that Terry, now 46, started Operation Rescue in 1987, nearly 20 years ago, was arrested over 40 times, and driven into bankruptcy in 1998 following multiple lawsuits filed by the abortion industry.

He divorced his wife in 2000, joined the Charismatic Episcopal Church, remarried, and now has 9 children (3 by wife #1, 3 by wife #2, 2 by adoption, and a foster child). The article says "He is seeking an annulment of his first marriage in order to receive Catholic communion."

A lengthy article in the June 9 issue of the National Catholic Register gives far more information about Terry's history, struggles, and personal life. Terry "entered the Catholic Church on Holy Thursday" (April 13) and spoke with NCR interviewer Tim Drake from Terry's new home in St. Augustine, Florida. Drake describes Terry's legal battles and the "string of 27 lawsuits by organizations such as the National Organization for Women, the ACLS and Planned Parenthood" which caused Terry to lose his home in 1998.

Terry reflected, "If I had to do it all over again, I would. The lives of these children were worth the loss. It's the cost of war." Terry's home was obtained through the fundraising efforts of Alan Keyes, who asked donors to "restore what the enemy took" by contributing towards a new home for the Terry family.

The article is worth reading for anyone shaped by Operation Rescue, as is this separate interview, where we see a different look at Randall's somewhat meandering and stumbling trek that led him into Catholicism.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Baby Got Book

I just discovered this rap video. It's a parody of a more well-known rap song, and I found it both clever and cool. Worth looking at!

They call it "Baby Got Book." You can get the lyrics, too.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Firefox Web Developer extension

I'm a web developer by day, and the most important new thing I've seen in several months is the Firefox extenstion written by Chris Pederick, named "Web Developer." It's a revolutionary piece of software, capable of greatly enhancing the process of creating (and deconstructing) web pages.

Right now, it only works with Gecko-based browsers: Firefox and Mozilla, and two up-and-coming browsers derived from them, Flock and Seamonkey. It doesn't work in IE (Microsoft Internet Explorer) -- nor in Netscape, so far as I know. But for web designers who use Firefox, it's the cat's meow.

The only thing that compares with it (which I have happily used for years) is the Proxomitron.

Download the new Firefox extension for free from

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Open doors, pay bills with embedded chips

I am not a kook on Bible prophecy, nor do I cater to conspiracy theories. However, my eyes are raised twice when the Bible's warnings about receiving the mark of the Beast finds preliminary steps to fulfullment within our tech industry.

According to this article from the Chicago Tribune for Feb. 14, 2006, the CEO of a security firm in Ohio has embedded a chip in his arm, as have two of his employees. The chips, about a half-inch long, grant him and his employees access to restricted areas. The reporter announces that "about 70 others in the U.S. have the devices implanted in their bodies, mostly for medical reasons--or because they work for VeriChip Corp., the Delray Beach, Fla., firm that makes the chip ..."

The privacy-loving Americans apparently lag far behind "about 2,000 patrons of nightclubs in Barcelona, Spain, and Rotterdam, Netherlands. The chips allow them to avoid long waits in lines and to run tabs at the clubs, which are owned by the same firm. Waiters scan the chips and a computer automatically draws the amount due from their checking accounts." Buying and selling food using embedded chips. Hmmm ... does this sound vaguely familiar?

The article reports that in October 2004, the Food and Drug Administration allowed VeriChip to sell and market these embedded chips, which use radio frequency identification to locate, identify, and record data about the chip's owner or user. There are also a variety of medical applications which can be exploited, according to the Tribune article.

Further corroboration occurs in this Associated Press news story which announces, "Two Workers Have Chips Embedded Into Them." Here you can see a photo of the chip at work. The article says "the chips are the size of a grain of rice and a doctor embedded them in the forearm just under the surface of the skin."

A small amount of research reveals a spate of articles on this:
The Hurricane Katrina tragedy is used an incentive for worried Americans to accept the chip. That way, they suggest, the bodies of our missing loved ones or fallen heroes can always be identified should a similar disaster occur in the future.

The security expert says "it took about 5 seconds to install it" into his right arm. His version does not emit a signal, and therefore cannot be used to track people's movements, but other companies are looking into precisely this application---say, to track executives who might be kidnapped when visiting foreign countries. Can we not discern the "signs of the times" in these events?