Welcome to my home page. I became blind at birth. I started programming computers at a young age. I also earned my general class amateur radio license, KA3TTT, a hobby to which I have returned with great joy. I practice Qigong and consider myself a Taoist. I use Linux as my desktop and Android as my mobile OS. I eat gluten-free vegan meals. For the rest you'll have to read my blog. To comment on what you read here, visit Disboardia, my bulletin board system.

Some basic tips for the EeePC 1000HE

July 02, 2009

I finally got a text version of the manual for the 1000HE. It doesn’t look pretty, but it works! I wanted to share a few tips to help get acquainted.

If you have ever used a laptop, the keyboard shares a lot of characteristics. The bottom row goes like this: left control, left windows, fn, left alt, spacebar, right alt, application menu, and right control. The four arrows reside to the right, with the left arrow, down arrow, right arrow, and the up arrow above the down arrow. The right Windows key sits above the right arrow. I hope this makes sense. On the top of the keyboard, you have the escape key, followed by the twelve function keys, then pause, snapshot, insert, and delete.

Now for our featured presentation: the extended keys. To get these, you hit the fn key, which again resides to the right of the left control key. Fn-up arrow acts like pageup, fn-down arrow acts like pagedown, fn-left arrow acts like home, and fn-right arrow acts like end. This may seem a little weird, especially when using combinations like control-end, which you’d do by hitting control-fn-right, but it works. Now, for the function keys, again remember you hold down fn and one of these.

  • F1 places the EeePC into suspend mode.
    • F2 toggles the wireless networking and bluetooth. It defaults to wireless on and bluetooth off, and cycles through the four states.
      • F3 turns off the touchpad!
        • F4 adjusts the screen resolution.
          • F5 decreases the display brightness.
            • F6 increases the display brightness.
              • F7 turns off the display backlight. This saves power.
                • F8 toggles between the internal monitor and an external one. It has four states: lcd only, crt only, LCD CRT clone, and LCD CRT extend.
                  • F9 runs the task manager.
                    • F10 mutes the speakers. Watch out for this one if you use speech!
                      • F11 turns down the volume.
                        • F12 turns up the volume.
                          • Space</a> cycles through power-saving settings.
                            • Insert acts as numlock, making part of the keyboard act like a numpad.
                              • Delete acts like scroll lock. I don’t think anyone knows what scroll lock does. Did it ever do anything? Sorry, I had to add that. </ul> I hope this comes in handy for someone. Now for some power saving tips. The blind don’t need to worry about the monitor, so turn down the brightness by hitting fn-f5 repeatedly. Press fn-f7 to turn off the backlight, which you don’t need and which will save batteries. You will have to turn off the backlight whenever you power on, but your brightness setting will remain.

                                If you use Windows,yu can do some of these things with some included programs. Click on the EeePC Tray utility in your system tray. Disable the web camera and bluebooth if you don’t need them. Next, right-click on the EeePC Super Hybrid Engine icon, which also speaks. If you use a screen reader, use the application key to do this. From here, you can select a different power level, for example lower power. You can als go to “My Computer Control Panel Power” Select the “Max Battery” tab. You might also like to turn off the stand by function by tabbing over to it and hitting down arrow until “Never”. This presents problems especially when using speech, so you may as well disable it. Speaking of disabling things, disabling the touchpad will save you lots of annoyances if you can’t see and don’t use one anyway.

                                I hope these tips will help people, especially the blind, get their netbook started up properly. Some of these tips use Windows, and I will find and post their Linux equivalents when I discover them. I can’t wait to get this thing running Linux, but feel sort of glad that I investigated the Windows side, if only for a little while. Bon appetit!

My first post from my Netbook

July 01, 2009

During my Summer Solstice Lord of the Rings party and ritual, I dubbed this the Summer of the Netbook. Shortly thereafter, I ordered one, an Asus EeePC 1000HE. It ranks as the number one best seller on AMazon, and it has a long battery life. Users have also had good success installing Linux on it, which I plan to do. This seemed good enough for me.

Two days ago, I received it. I felt impressed by the unit. It has a keyboard with 92% the size of a normal one. Typing feels very natural, not cramped at all, something one would expect on a laptop. I still have to figure out a few of the buttons and a switch or two, and I will document my findings to benefit the blind. I just need to figure out how to disable the touch pad, something sighted users will not have to worry about, but something which will annoy blind users.

Unfortunately, it runs Windows right now. I will change this as soon as possible. It has a recovery feature, hitting f9 thrice reinstalls the stock image, which I had to do once already after getting it locked into a loop after trying to alter the boot settings without sighted assistance. Bad idea! Installing Linux will require this.

Currently, it runs Windows XP (not Vista!). For a screen reader, I use NVDA, an open-source screen reader. It works very well, and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and an eye. I used Windows Narator and System Access to Go to get NDVA installed, and now have a fully accessible Windows system without shelling out any more money, which I feel at least somewhat proud of. I figured if I had to run Windows for a few days I’d at least make it more tolerable, so installed Firefox 3.5.

And as I relight my pipe and enjoy the outdoor ambience, I reflect on the implications of this wonderful technology. I never used wireless networking before, largely out of paranoia, but grudgingly activated it and now I can effortlessly use my netbook while sitting on my back deck, smoking tobacco and drinking a fresh cup of Cacao. The air feels slightly humid and warm, with a pleasant breeze. This has become the Summer of the Netbook indeed. NVDA provides wonderful access with Firefox, at least I can write this entry for now. I just touched the touchpad with my thumb, damn!

Now that I have gotten my feet on the ground so to speak, I must consider my options to install a more mature operating system. I have a few options, including Ubuntu Netbook Remix, and some other related projects, including Easy Peasy, and Eeebuntu. Vinux also deserves a mention. I will probably need some sighted help to get it booted properly, then hopefully I can get Orca running and install from there. We shall see.

In conclusion, I love the hardware, and have made the software tolerable for now. The 1000HE has a great battery life, and a 160GB hard drive, partitioned into 2 80GB ntfs partitions by default. I look forward to upgrading the operating system.

I wonder how its mobility will effect things. For example, how will writing outside change blogging? Perhaps the altered and relaxed atmosphere will inspire some interesting entries. Only time will tell. I certainly feel freer. Now I can get some fun in the sun and still do computer things. Very cool! Everyone should get a netbook! Eventually, I’d love to market netbooks for the blind running Linux, but I will save that for a different post and site. I welcome any suggestions, tips, links, experiences, and the like.

Remembering my friend Ben King

June 28, 2009

Every year at this time I remember my friend Ben King. We met via my bulletinboard, since I had written a popular game called Barneysplat!. I introduced him to Discordianism, and to Esperanto. We went to an Esperanto course in 1995 and 1996. In 1996, he bought surprise tickets to a Weird Al concert. While driving back from the concert, we got into a car accident, and he died.

I remember us making comics for La Bulteno, the newsletter of the course. Our favorite one showed an older woman walking down the street in San Fransisco, where the course resided. “Chu vi havas kanabon?” asks a yyoung guy. “Jes, du gefiloj.” she responds. “Mi amas San Fransiskon, la popoloj estas tre amikaj!” she remarks. Hilarious! I have so many memories, and share more every year. Check out the archive of this year’s memorial.

High Weirdness at the Toll House

June 19, 2009

After last night’s wonderful experience and article about Toll House Cookies, it seemed very odd that today I should see this article. Nestle just recalled 300,000 cases of Toll House cookie dough in various forms. Of course, people should not eat raw dough because of raw eggs, but they should also not use the dough at all, since raw bacteria can contaminate their hands and surfaces. It just seems very strange to me that after I should write such a specific article, this should appear. Poor Toll House!

How to Achieve Immortality with Chocolate Chip Cookies

June 19, 2009

While looking through the Emacs directory, I saw a file named etc/COOKIES. Curiously, I browsed it, and found a bunch of cookie recipes. No doubt everyone has heard the urban legend of the woman who writes to a company for their cookie recipe, and ends up spending $250.00 instead of $2.50, so distributes it. At the end, it had an easy recipe for Toll House Cookies.

Previously, I had purchased Nestles Toll House cookie mix, the kind you break apart and put on sheets. It tasted okay, but nothing beats home-made cookies. I always liked the name. It called to mind a friendly toll house with its happily ringing bell, and a quaint inn overlooking it. Actually, Kenneth and Ruth Wakefield purchased an old toll house in 1930, and remade it into an inn.

According to Nestle, the invention of the first Toll House cookie occurred accidently. That page has a link to an official recipe, which differs slightly from the one in Emacs, which follows:

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Glamorous, crunchy, rich with chocolate bits & nuts.

Also known as "Toll House" Cookies ... from Kenneth and Ruth Wakefield's
charming New England Toll House on the outskirts of Whitman, Massachusetts.
These cookies were first introduced to American homemakers in 1939 through
our series of radio talks on "Famous Foods From Famous Eating Places."

Mix Thoroughly :
        2/3 cup soft shortening ( part butter )
        1/2 cup granulated sugar
        1/2 cup brown sugar ( packed )
        1 egg
        1 tsp vanilla

Sift together and stir in :
        1-1/2 cups sifted flour (*)
        1/2 tsp soda
        1/2 tsp salt

Stir in :
        1/2 cup cut-up nuts
        6 oz package of semi-sweet chocolate pieces ( about 1-1/4 cups )

(*) for a softer, more rounded cookie, use 1-3/4 cups sifted flour.

Drop rounded teaspoonfuls about 2" apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake until
delicately browned ... cookies should still be soft. Cool slightly before you
remove them from the baking sheet.

Temperature:            375 F. ( modern oven )
Time:                   bake 8 - 10 minutes
Amount:                 4 - 5 dozen 2" cookies


Personal comments :

I find it tastes better with a mixture of shortening and butter, as they say.

You don't need << all >> of that sugar, and it can be whatever color you want.

The nuts are optional. Feel free to play with the recipe. I put oatmeal in it,
reducing flour accordingly, and sometimes cinnamon.

I also find it useful to grease the cookie sheets.

I think I'm going to go bake some now ...

-- richard

I figured that any editor that comes with a file of cookie recipes has a strong spirit, and it inspired me to try the recipe above. It came out well enough, as I still learn the fine art of baking. It got me thinking about achieving immortality in the more classic sense of the word, living on through one’s works.

In exchange for printing the recipe, Ruth Wakefield received a lifetime supply of chocolate. She died in 1977. The Toll House Inn burned down on New Year’s Eve of 1984. Yet, the inn, Ruth Wakefield, and the original colonial toll house live on through a simple cookie.

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