Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My journey into Ubuntu

My dad turned me on to Ubuntu (operating system) the other day, was raving about how cool it was, so easy to install. Mom had been having problems with Windows on her computer so he decided that they didn't have anything to loose in trying it and installed it on her computer.

The more he talked about it, the more I was dying to try it too. I've always been smitten by the idea of trying an alternate OS, but was always way too scared, felt totally out of my element so never did anything about it. But this time (since I knew he was there to help hold my hands), I got brave and decided to give it a try. I installed version 7.10 - Gutsy Gibbon (I think they might have released an "H" version in the last little bit, not sure).

I had to burn the .iso file to a disk, then boot to the disk to get it to start up. Ubuntu lets you test drive the OS (without making any changes to your hard drive) to see if you like it or not. I was mightily impressed with what I saw so after a little hesitation, I started the install. I got a little nervous when I got to the hard drive partitioning part, probably should have done a little more research because I did something wrong (I think I was supposed to do the Manual partitioning, but I didn't chose that) and now Windows doesn't recognize my hard drive (a 2nd drive, not with Windows installed on it, just a data disk). Windows thinks I need to format the drive. But Linux sees it just fine. Strange. I tried to format the drive twice in Windows but it said it couldn't both times. Luckily I had backed everything on that drive up the night before so it wasn't the end of the world.

Linux is a whole 'nother animal from Windows so I had to do a fair bit of asking Papa for help and searching around the net for directions on how to install programs (one of the major differences between Windows and Ubuntu) and other various commands I had to do from terminal (kind of like DOS prompt).

Ubuntu is awesome in that it detects almost everything that it should. I was immediately on the net, could see all my drives and all the files in them (even on the drive that Windows thinks is toast), my display was lovely...

I now don't remember everything I did, but I started figuring that if this was going to work for me, I'd have to be able to run certain Windows programs in Ubuntu (or therabouts). Dad told me about a commercial virtual machine program out there that would allow you to use Windows software (actually run a virtual Windows session while in Ubuntu), so I looked into it, installed the trial, wasn't too impressed.

I searched a little more and found a free gem of a VM program called VirtualBox. While it's not perfect and it does have it's little things here and there, it's so far working GREAT! I created a VM, installed Windows 2000 onto it (at first I was worried that when it said it had to format C: that it was actually going to wipe out my C drive, but not to worry, it just thinks the .iso image file "partitioned" for it is C drive, what it doesn't know won't hurt me), got it on the net (with a lot of help from DH), and I'm now in the process of Windows Update, then on to installing all the drivers I still might need, and then some of my most needed Windows software (Paint Shop Pro, Microsoft Word, Excel & Publisher, (sorry OpenOffice and Gimp, you just didn't do it for me)). Then I will be in hog heaven with access to Windows and Linux software and a super little OS to run the Linux stuff on... kids' computer is next, bwahahaha!

  • Ease of install
  • Lovely desktop theme right out of the box
  • Some neat visual effects (lots actually, wrapped up in a thing called Compiz, and they are SO fun!)
  • Price - Free!
  • The project is alive, it's constantly being developed, updated, issues addressed
  • Lots of free software to chose from
  • Not a huge learning curve coming from Windows

  • Firefox for Ubuntu doesn't have the "copy image" command
  • Can't get the Flash Player to work in Opera
  • Wish Windows programs would work without any extra stuff needed
  • Potentially not as bug-free as non-free OSs
  • Back everything up, anything could happen during install

Favorite Linux programs so far:
Gparted - graphical partition editor, again you burn the .iso to a disk, then boot to the disk to edit the partitions. I think I should have done this even before installing Ubuntu, maybe my drive wouldn't have confused poor Windows so badly.
VirtualBox - Run Windows from Linux, access both without needing to reboot. Another little plus about VBox is that Windows loads so bloomin' fast compared to the old way of actually having to reboot the whole computer. Windows restarts in it's little VM window so I don't have to stop what I'm doing in Ubuntu just to restart Windows. Nice.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Yarn Harvesting

Yarn harvesting, sweater recycling, whatever you call it, it's great fun (at least for this nerd) and super thrifty. I have a thrift shop near my home that sells sweaters for $0.25 each on Thursdays (1/2 off day) and I can usually get 5 or 6 skeins worth of yarn from one sweater. I never measure the yardage, but you can make a pvc niddyy noddy or rig up any of several other ways to figure the yardage if you want.

The first thing to note is the seaming of the sweater you are looking at. There are two ways that sweaters are seamed, one is the material is knitted on a machine in large sheets, the pieces are cut/serged and serged together (like any other article of commercial made clothing). The other way is the sweater is knit on a machine, but with a precise pattern and one long piece of yarn is used (going back and forth up the sweater) and this long piece can be unraveled and wound into balls.

Here's what a serged seam (not useable for yarn harvesting) looks like:

And here's a chain stitched seam (what you want to look for):

The chain stitch is similar to the type of stitching that is done in the top of dog food bags that allows you (if you can find the tail) to rip the string right off the top of the bag and open it easily.

Here's a drawing of what to look for when getting ready to separate the pieces of your sweater. Find the side of the chain where the rounded part of the chain is closest to an edge. Slide a seam ripper under one of the chains and cut it (try not to nick the sweater yarn). You may have to loosen one or two more chains before you can start to pull the string from the other side of the seam and rip the whole seam out. Sometimes as your ripping it out, the chain might snag, just give a quick tug to both sides of the sweater and it should break free and you can continue ripping out the seam.

(more to come as I have time)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Make a center pull ball with a homemade Nostepinde

What is a Nostepinde, you ask? Well, let me tell you all I know which is really just very limited reading on the internet. I believe they are traditional wooden yarn winders that have been around for eeons, and, while they might not be as fast as a ball winder, they are a lot cheeper and really get the job done very nicely. Here's how I use the Nostepinde method with a piece of PVC pipe.

Start by holding the tail of the yarn with your thumb and fingers so it won't run away on you.

Wrap a 2" (or so) section on one end of the pipe (any dowel shape would work actually so don't feel stuck if you don't have pvc, you probably have a wooden spoon, right?). You'll be wrapping the pipe toward you and winding away from you (clockwise). When you have it well covered (maybe 1-2 layers of yarn), start winding from bottom to top on more of a diagonal. I've made a very exaggerated first wind to show what I mean. At first it won't want to go that direction and your first few diagonal winds will be rather shallow, but keep at it and it will get better.

Keep winding and winding, turning the pipe/dowel/stick... toward you as you wrap. Eventually the ball will cover all the first couple of rows of yarn and if you wind it right, you end up with a ball that is flat on top and bottom and won't go running away on you. Tuck the tail in with a crochet hook and slide the ball off the pipe. Et voila, a wonderful, center-pull ball.

How to wind a center pull ball

First take the tail of the yarn and hold it, tail pointing down, in your non-dominant hand (for me that's my left hand).

Start winding in a figure-8 motion between thumb and pointer finger while continuing to hold the tail with your last 3 fingers.

Pull the figure-8 off your fingers and fold it in half, then continue winding over it.

I keep my thumb over the place where the tail comes out from the ball so I don't wind over its escape route. See the little hole my thumb leaves?
As I'm winding, I turn the ball to the right and keep wrapping around. At first I'm almost going from south to north pole, but after there's a bit of a ball, I turn the ball a little off its axis and begin winding from the bottom right hand "corner" of the ball, (ha, is that an oxymoron?) to the top left of the ball which serves to make the ball a little more flat on top and bottom which is great for keeping the ball from rolling all over the place when it's finished being wound.

When I'm done, I tuck the tail in to the ball with a crochet hook. Notice the tail coming out of the center of my center pull ball.

See how nicely they stack (well if you tilt your head, lol)?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What the kids are getting (hope they don't read my blog!)

Christmas is coming, the goose is overeating, and I'm feeling the crunch to get some toys made for the kiddos in time. Inspired by the adorable cuties at Little Cotton Rabbits, I thought I would try my hand at knitting some bunnies, bears and maybe monkeys, (not sure I'll get them figured out tho). Currently I'm working on the feet and trying to make my own pattern using short rows for the heels (like a sock with an extra large foot). I've done short rows before, but never for socks so I searched and searched for a tutorial that would explain it on a Knitting-for-dummies level and I found it. Jo from Microcrafty has a very nice, very understandable tutorial that held my hands quite nicely till I came up with a decent prototype, tho probably not my final one, have some more tweaking to do. But at least now I have a clue.

For Eli: Lots and lots of knitted (and crochet) balls, balls and more balls. Also maybe a bear or a monkey.
For Geo: Knitted finger puppets, and a knitted bear, probably some balls too
For Gigi: A knitted backpack, knitted doll, knitted rabbit, finish the quilt I started 2 years ago (!).

The list will probably grow, at least for things I'd like to make, we'll see if I have time.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Back in the saddle again

I'm so glad to be back to school this week. We were off last week due to moving the last little bits out of our old house. I think Geo was ready to be back to school too, he really did really well, flew thru math which is rather unusual for him, was no more distracted than usual by his sister and baby brother. The weather was wonderful this morning, crisp, lovely. We spent awhile outside, observing and trying to draw nature. It was so nice, I may just move school out of doors while the weather permits.

My l'il boy is growing up

Eli will soon be 17 months old and what a fun little guy he is. He loves to play, has to be right in the middle of whatever is going on, he's inquisitive, curious, imitative ("talks" on the cell phone, tries to "take something apart" with a screwdriver [with us right there supervising of course], tries to turn on the stove burners, glad there's a trick to it!, tries to turn on the stereo, tries to use my computer mouse move the pointer around, tries to feed himself (messy!), is starting to try to go down stairs like a big boy, tries to play guitar...), spins around in circles until he's too dizzy to stand, he's a climber, he's fearless (kind of a bad combo)...

His favorite or at least his most used vocalization is "Dah!" like the first part of Daddy. He uses it for "Daddy," "look," "Mommy," "hey, where is everybody?"... He has kind of a low sounding voice for a baby and his plaintive "Daaahhh" is such a funny, sweet sound.

He isn't saying much at all (bah for ball, Dah), but he signs: baby, bird, dog, cat, down, more, please, eat/food, bread, banana, milk, shoes, and he meows like a cat :) That one's kind of funny. It sounds like "wow," with the word slightly drug out and the mouth wide open for the vowel part of the word. It does sound rather like a cat, but much lower than our cat's dainty and high-pitched "meow." Signs I keep trying to get him to learn are: Mommy, up, thank you, tree, diaper, bath, nice/clean, good, water, cereal, ball...

In mourning

Well, it's official (I think), my old faithful palm pilot is kaput, no more. She had been refusing to charge properly and now she won't even power up. Sigh, sniff. We had a good run, old friend, may you rest in peace.