Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Votes for and against confirmation, US Surpeme Court

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

These are the votes for and against confirmation to the US Supreme Court, since 1975.

I’ll add some earlier votes later.

Setting the bitrate when Rhythmbox creates MP3 files

Friday, May 14th, 2010

To change the bitrate for Rhythmbox MP3 rips of CDs, I followed the suggestions offered by Peter Anselmo.

Open “Preferences” from the “Edit” menu
Select the “Edit” button to the right of “Preferred Format”
Select “CD Quality, MP3″ from the menu and hit “Edit”
Under the “Gstreamer pipeline” field you will find the following:

audio/x-raw-int,rate=44100,channels=2 ! lame name=enc mode=0 vbr-quality=6 ! id3v2mux

To remove the default, remove the vbr-quality=6 statement, and replace it with vbr=0 bitrate=256. This will change it from variable to constant bit rate, and set it to 256 kb/s. You can set it to whatever bit rate you prefer, I like 256. You line should now look like the following:

audio/x-raw-int,rate=44100,channels=2 ! lame name=enc mode=0 vbr=0 bitrate=256 ! id3v2mux

Close the window, and Viola! You’ll now rip CDs at a higher quality

Verizon billing issues

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

In looking at some Verizon bills at work, I noticed we were paying $.20 to $22 per minute to call European land lines, despite having paid for a plan that promised much lower rates. From my home phone I pay about $.03 per minute for calls to Europe. We were also paying about $.11 per minute to call long distance in the United States — higher than a pre-paid phone from T-Mobile. Verizon promised to fix some but not all of the overcharges, but only going back 90 days. This isn’t the first time we have had problems with Verizon. Not surprisingly, all of the errors in our bill work to the advantage of Verizon, and to our disadvantage. Apparently we have to audit the bill every couple of months (or we pass the 90 day rule on refunds for overcharges).

Oracle’s VirtualBox on Ubuntu 10.04, to run Windows applications

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Today I spend just a few hours with Oracle’s VirtualBox, and was able to install a copy of Windows XP, and Microsoft Office 2007, on a Dell XPS 1530 running Ubuntu 10.04. The manual for the Virtualbox is 302 pages, but I was able to do the installation without reading the manual, and everything worked as I expected it to.

My reason for doing this was to have access from time to time to programs that do not run in Ubuntu. While I love working with Linux, and encourage other to move to Linux platforms, there are times when it is useful to run Windows programs.

The incompatibility of document formats continues, as ever, to be a challenge for those who collaborate with others. Microsoft’s entire dominance in the word processing field is based upon the lack of workable open standards in document formats. I support the Open Document Format (ODF), and was distressed by Oracle’s recent decision to charge $90 for the Sun ODF plug-in for office.

Because I often try to work on documents with people who only use Microsoft Office, and Open Office documents saved as .doc files sometimes look strange when viewed in Microsoft Word, I wanted to be able fix formatting issues in Word. (This is not the world I want to live in, but it is the world I do live in).

I downloaded a free binary copy of Oracle’s VirtualBox, for Ubuntu 10.04. The software installed in Ubuntu without a hitch. I then connected my laptop to an external CD drive, and from the Virtual Box, created a 10 gig virtual drive, with a copy of Windows XP. I had an extra serial number from a copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007. I then downloaded a copy of the software from, and it installed without any problems at all, in the virtual box. I didn’t have to edit any configuration files or download any drivers. It just worked.

I was able to change the screen resolution in the window where Windows runs. It is not as fast as a native installation, but it is fast enough on this machine to work with a document and fix formating issues. It is certainly much more robust in terms of installations that Wine is for now.

I might also try adding a copy of Turbotax, or some other applications that do not yet run on Linux.

I was able to install the Windows Genuine Advantage software, and things still worked fine. So far the only program I have had trouble with is Apple’s iTunes, which crashes. Apple’s Safari browser and Quicktime work fine, however.

Is Oracle trying to Kill the Open Document Format standard?

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Why is Oracle now charging $90 for a plug-in to read Open Document Format (ODF) files in Microsoft Office? Is this a way of saying Oracle wants to kill OpenOffice.Org? And what does such a move suggest for the future of Java or MySQL?

Making a Linksys WRT55AG wireless router work with Verizon DSL

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

At home I have a Verizon DLS service, using a Westel DLS modem. At work once had Internet service from Comcast, and a Linksys WRT55AG wireless router. After we switched to Verizon, the Linksys WRT55AG router stopped working. I tried reseting the WRT55AG to the default setting and upgrading the firmware, but that did not help. What did fix the problem was to go into the router setup (going to, and from Setup/Basic Setup/Network Setup, change the Router IP to

The April 7, 2009 Authors Guild demonstration over Kindle text to speech

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

These are two pictures from the April 7, 2009 demonstration in front of the Authors Guild over text to speech in Kindle 2. Details about the issue and the demonstration are available here and here. The pictures were taken by Manon Ress, and may be used under any of the Creative Commons attribution licenses.

George Kerscher at the April 7, 2009 Kindle Demo, in NYC

Interview at Kindle demo, April 7, 2009, NYC


Saturday, March 28th, 2009

I can’t say much for the name, and the appearance isn’t great, but Twitux seems like a serviceable Twitter client for Gnome based Linux distribution. I have found Twibble for Blackberry to work fine.

Test of two twitter html widgets

Friday, March 20th, 2009

    follow me on Twitter

    A french song

    Thursday, February 12th, 2009