Atlantic City and the Weather’s Awful

I’m writing this midday Sunday. There hasn’t been any sun or even the glimpse of the nighttime sky since we’ve been here. Sort of depressing.

As opposed to Las Vegas, this isn’t a good place for Steffie. The hotel, beautiful as it is, is very kid unfriendly. We are removed from the Boardwalk and midtown Atlantic City, though that would make little difference.

Helaine took Steffie to the Boardwalk yesterday, but they stayed only a short time. She was disappointed by the whole honky tonk, sleazy, scene. Of course that’s what Helaine and I like about it. More than anything, we enjoy the people watching, because there are characters of every sort.

We had dinner at the buffet at The Borgata with my friend Peter. I first met him in the early 70’s when I was working in Cleveland. He was the first person I ever met who owned a calculator! He still has it. Later, Peter became my boss – the program director at WPEN radio in Philadelphia. We have been very good friends for 30 years.

The buffet is definitely a Las Vegas contender. There were carving stations and lots of interesting, well prepared, dishes.

A chef was making some spaghetti sauce, I believe using vodka. I tried to take a photo, but was too late. So she put some vodka in a pan so I could have a photo op. Very appreciated.

Unfortunately, she was on the high end of service employees who don’t reach the same level as in Vegas. I’m sorry to do all these comparisons, but it’s only natural. And, time-wise, from where I live in Connecticut, Las Vegas isn’t that much farther away.

We had tickets to the comedy show at the hotel for 9:00 PM. I figured, since it was crowded, that I’d go down and register for poker before we went. That way I wouldn’t have to wait as long. As it turned out, my name wasn’t called until 11:30!

The comedy show, in the same room that Helaine and Steffie saw Rick Springfield the night before, was pretty good. There were three comics, “The Coach,” Jack Fontana, and Pete Correalle.

We all agreed Pete Correalle was the best. In some ways he was reminiscent of Seinfeld. He was in control and laid back.

I thought Jack Fontana, an ‘old school’ joke teller ,was better than “The Coach,” but I was alone in that impression. Either way, both were worse than great, better than bad. Entertaining, but not special.

Last night, the casino was as crowded as any casino I had ever seen. And the crowd was younger than any casino crowd I’d ever seen. Many of the women were dressed in that tawdry, slutty way that’s OK for women, as long as they’re not in your family.

I headed down to the poker room to wait out my table. When I say down, I really mean it, since the room is in the basement.

Like the main casino floor, the poker room was astoundingly crowded. I did get a chance to see what the floor people were carrying. They each have some sort of HP PDA with 802.11b access to the poker room system. So they can work the lists and do nearly everything that can be done from the podium.

I sat at a $6/$12 Hold’em table and slowly began to lose money. It wasn’t long before I was down $100. But I was playing decently (though not as tight as I’d like)&#185, so I figured I’d be OK.

My losses stabilized for a while and then I went down again. I had lost $130 or so when things began to turn. I won a few small pots. At least two times everyone laid down their cards to my bet on the river. I think I won because of my earlier semi-tight play. Then I won a few bigs hands.

By the time I went to cash in my chips, I had won $176. So, three sessions for $96, $5, $176. I’m happy.

As I walked through the casino, after 2:00 AM, things were still jumping. In the elevator, yesterday’s Rear Window had given way to Lost in Translation.

&#185 – It’s reasonable to ask, if you know you’re not playing right, why not just do it? The brief answer is, while you’re at a table, you’re always looking at the hands and evaluating them. But you’re also there to play, which is what you don’t do when you lay your cards down. This is less a problem on-line. Even though I can intellectualize the problem, I don’t always act with my intellect.

The Geek In Me Speaks – VI

Here’s the status as I get ready for bed. Mandrake Linux is up and running. The laptop has no sound. There is neither Java or Flash with the browser. The wireless LAN is perfect, though I have no idea where I administer it from. I haven’t tried a wired NIC card yet. Printing over the network to my laser printer works.

I have lost both my taskbar and icons. The icons were part of a bug that I may have fixed. I followed info on Mandrake’s knowledge base. I have no idea why the taskbar disappeared, but not having it makes it difficult to do anything… including reboot. Once I did that, the taskbar was back.

I have installed OpenOffice, Gaim and Mozilla – none of which seemed to come with the distribution natively.

I hope this isn’t too boring.

The Geek In Me Speaks V

Mandrake now up and running – but what a pain. Three aborted installs. Luckily, on the third try, Mandrake knew enough to pick up where it left off.

It is weird what does and doesn’t show up as installed. I don’t see OpenOffice. Mozilla needed to be installed from the disk. And, very little shows up on the pop-out menus.

At the moment, this seems to be running faster than Red Hat. How can that be?

The Geek In Me Speaks – IV

Overnight, I downloaded the Mandrake Linux distribution. It was around 1gb!

Today, when I went to burn the three ISO files onto CD-R’s, I noticed two were bigger than the CD-R capacity of 700 mb. That couldn’t be? So, I burned away and made five coasters before realizing something was dreadfully wrong.

I posted on Usenet, looking for a solution, and was told I was doing something wrong. After resetting a number of the parameters I’ve never needed to touch in Nero (my CD burning software) and telling the program it was OK to overburn, or put more that the stated capacity on a disk, the ISO’s took.

Now, to install them on the laptop.

I booted from the CD, saw the first screens and then… failure. Mandrake’s installation program told me it wasn’t seeing my CDROM player. Of course it saw the player to get this far, otherwise it wouldn’t know to tell me it couldn’t see it now.

In a situation like this, you’re on your own. So, I went to the Mandrake site, and started searching for my model of laptop. Sure enough, there was a string of messages with the same exact problem and a fix!

Just add a switch with the boot that said ide=nodma (I believe this means the drives don’t use direct memory access, meaning they’re older/slower). But, how does one add a switch? I tried a few different tacts until it finally took.

As far as I can tell, Mandrake is installing. I know it was clueless to my Robanton wireless networking card. I sort of expected that. Supposedly, it will sense other cards as they’re plugged in and install them on the fly, automatically. Sure – whatever.

I am persevering because I’m pigheaded. What I’m experiencing is totally unacceptable if Linux is to become mainstream.

The Geek In Me Speaks – III

Got RedHat 9.0 working on the laptop. It runs like a pig! Contrary to what Linux zealots say, this configuration needs more horsepower than Windows 98 on the same machine.

I was able to get the wired network card working, but not the wireless. Configuring the printer was fairly simple after looking at instructions by the router manufacturer that were intended to get things installed with XP.

While I sleep, I am downloading Mandrake 9.2. From their website, this looks like a promising distribution. But, of course, the proof is in the using.

A very nice blog reader offered my Lindows. I’ve read some very good things about Lindows, but for now, I’ll remain a purist with Linux.

The Geek In Me Speaks – Again

Here it is, the next afternoon, and I’m still trying to load Linux on the laptop! If this operating system is ever going to be widely accepted, it’s going to have to install a whole lot easier.

This time it’s the already withdrawn Red Hat 9.0. We’ll see.

The Geek In Me Speaks

Here’s a major surprise – I love computers. I find them fascinating and am always tempted to learn what I can and expand the envelope, if possible.

It’s possible this goes back to my first experience with computers, in high school in 1967. Somehow, we had two computers at school. Actually, we had one – an IBM 360 (I think) which was booted by flipping switches in the proper order and ‘fed’ with punch cards or paper tape.

What seemed like our second computer was a Model 34 Teletype, somehow connected by phone line to a computer at a local college. I played Wumpus, Golf and Horse Racing. Everything came out as printed text on that very slow teletypewriter.

In 1978 I got a Radio Shack TRS-80. Later, I got a Commodore 64 and then a series of PCs, culminating in the homebuilt Athlon XP 1600+ machine I’m composing this on.

I like being on the ‘bleeding’ edge, so I’ve kept an old computer handy and loaded Linux as the operating system. Depending on whom you believe, Linux will soon roust Windows as the operating system of choice, sending Bill Gates and the Evil Empire to the poorhouse… or it is an ill conceived idea promulgated by geeks who can’t really see who the final user will be (I saw Walter Mossberg say this yesterday on CNBC) and don’t care to design in ease of use.

I want the first choice to be true but I’m scared it’s the second. That’s not a totally fatal situation, but it certainly means Linux isn’t quite ready for prime time.

My latest install attempts (and they’re ongoing as I type this) will bear this out.

With a new, five year old, laptop (Dell D300XT), an extra hard drive for it and a great deal of curiosity, I set out to make the laptop run Linux. Since this is an extra hard drive, I should be able to swap drives and go back and forth from Windows to Linux without one affecting the other.

Since Red Hat has decided to get out of the consumer desktop end of Linux, I decided to try a new distribution. As I understand it, all Linux versions share certain core components but differ in the other programs that come in the distribution. Suse seemed like a good idea. I had read about it. It has its fans… why not?

The recommended way to install Suse seems to be by installing a small subset of Linux (in my case burning a CD-R) and then using FTP (file transfer protocol) to pluck everything else directly off a server and right onto my hard drive.

If there are detailed… or even sparse… instructions for doing this, I couldn’t find them! The Suse installer started asking questions I had no answer for within the first few seconds of the install. There was no help button to press; nowhere to go. Using Google I was able to get some answers, but every time I’d solve one problem, another would spring up in its place.

Next I went to Debian; another respected distribution. They had a few network install suggestions, but all led to boot disks that were wrong or unavailable.

Finally, I went to Red Hat’s ‘cousin’ Fedora. There’s some sort of incestuous relationship here. I’m not sure what it is, but I think in some way Fedora is part of Red Hat.

I began the installation from 3 CD’s I had downloaded overnight a few days ago. A Linux distribution, even from a cable modem, requires hours and hours of downloading and then burning of bootable ISO CD’s.

Fedora seemed to understand what my system was all about (though it looked like the installation was taking place at 800×600 resolution on my 1024×768 laptop screen). It asked what kind of system I wanted loaded and when I chose ‘desktop’, the loading began.

I’m not sure how long it was… probably around an hour… when Fedora just stopped. A screen, telling me there were four minutes left, stared at me. No motion from the hard drive. No motion from the CD. Nada.

After a while I got tired of waiting and rebooted the system. What I had was nothing. The system wouldn’t boot. Linux wasn’t installed. I have just started the process again.

Maybe I didn’t have enough patience. Maybe the computer was doing some sort of Klingon Mind Meld and didn’t want to be disturbed? How should I know?

Even if this installation is fully successful, my job won’t be done. I’ll need to figure out how to enable my wireless network card, a printer hooked to my router and configure all sorts of computing minutiae, like email parameters.

Right now, it looks like the install will continue long after I’ve gone to bed. Maybe this will give the machine a chance to decide it wants to work this time.