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Epson CX4200 gets my two thumbs up

I've written before about my experiences with printing under Linux...Initial frustration, brief elation, and then final disappointment while attempting to set up my Lexmark Z42. Eventually I gave up and either printed everything at work, or from my wife's laptop.

A recent sales flyer from a local computer store, combined with some mail-in-rebate programs by the manufacturors convinced me that the time had come to try another printer. My in-laws purchased an all-in-one multifunction printer / scanner / copier last year and were very happy with it, and actually made good use of the copying functionality of the machine.

So the question was, which model would I buy? I knew for sure that I wouldn't get Lexmark after my horrible experience with the Z42 last time. My instinct was justified after reading linuxprinting.org's page on suggested printers for free software users:

There are few good free software drivers for Canon and Lexmark inkjets. Do not buy one and expect success.

The same page recommended either an Epson or HP printer, and as there was a sale on Epson printers I decided to go with Epson.

Now, which model to get? It really came down to the choice between the Epson CX4200 and the Epson CX4800. The CX4800 has the ability to put in a memory card and print directly from the card. However, since I don't expect to be printing pictures at home at all, this feature really isn't necessary for me. CX4200 it is then!

Setting up this printer was a snap in Linux. Actually even easier than setting it up in Windows, which is a nice change! I simply used the Gnome CUPS Manager to add a new printer, and selected mine from the list. I already had the Gutenprint v5 drivers installed, so I guess that's where a lot of the credit for ease of installation is due.

Setting up scanning was a bit trickier. I had to manually edit some of the sane configuration files, and there seemed to be an issue where the printer module would claim exclusive access to the usb device, preventing the scanner module from working. This is apparently fixed in later versions of the drivers, but I haven't had a chance to test it out.

The CX4200's print quality is good for what I use it for, which is mostly just printing out e-mails, directions, recipes and things of that sort which would be time consuming to copy to paper by hand. The standalone copying functionality is very handy, I've used it quite a bit so far. Almost as much as printing from my computer!

So far I'm very happy with the CX4200, and at $70 (CAD) after a mail-in-rebate, the price can't be beat.

Addicted to podcasts

I started listening to some podcasts back in December...The funniest thing got me started: a post on comp.lang.python was adversiting a podcast of the newsgroup as read by pyTTS.

Since I started listening to podcasts back in December I have subscribed to a number of podcasts, and have been falling behind listening to them...Travis warned me that would happen! As I write this I have 780 MB of podcasts that have been downloaded but never listened to. Right now I'm listening to these podcasts:

I'm using iPodder to download all the podcasts, and a custom python script to move them onto my MP3 player so I can listen to them on the subway. I'd really love to be able to use bloglines or del.icio.us to manage my podcast subscriptions instead of iPodder. Nothing against iPodder, but I don't like being tied down to one application. What would be even cooler would be some system where I could mark certain episodes as having been listened to instead of just deleting them from my hard drive when I'm done listening to one :)

    No turning back now!

    I registered today for the Sporting Life 10k run. The run is on May 7th, so I have some time to get back into running shape :) I'd love to be able to finish it in under 50 minutes, especially since practically the entire run is downhill!

    The Canada Running Series website also has a few suggestions for training clinics for preparing for the race. I've never participated in a running clinic before, but I think it could be quite helpful, particularly as a way to force myself to get out running at least once a week!

    I'm also going to try using the training log at coolrunning.com to track my performance over the next few months. I went jogging last night and had to quit after 15 minutes...but that was shortly after having dinner, so my stomach was upset at me for shaking it up so much.

    Brilliant

    If you haven't heard of The Million Dollar Homepage I would suggest checking it out. It's a very simple concept - this guy is selling blocks of pixels on his home page for $1 per pixel. He's got an image 1000x1000 pixels in size, which works out to one million dollars. There's a small catch in that you can only buy pixels in blocks of 10x10 for $100, but still...that's pretty cheap advertising!

    It looks like he's almost sold out. In fact, he's auctioning off the last 1,000 pixels on ebay. As of this writing the current bid on the auction is $152,300.

    An extremely simple idea. Very low initial investment. Huge returns.

    Brilliant.

    Happy New Year!

    A slightly belated Happy New Year to my friends and family, and anybody else who stumbles across this blog. I'm not usually one for New Year's resolutions, but as they've been a popular topic in the blogosphere recently, I figured I'd join in :)

    In no particular order, here are some things I'd like to accomplish in 2006:

    • Wake up earlier
    • Lose 20 pounds
    • Get my 10km time to under 50 minutes
    • Take more pictures (snapshots don't count!)
    • Pray more
    • Read the Bible more

    Wow - Firefox's home tabs

    I just went to change Firefox's home page on my laptop, and I had multiple tabs open at the time. When I clicked 'Use current pages' for the home page, all of the open tabs were included in the list! So now clicking on the home icon opens up all my favourite sites! Brilliant!

    More random linux ramblings

    I was setting up a machine to handle some of our backups at work. It's not a critical system, so instead of setting up a RAID across 3 250GB drives, I just set up LVM so I could take advantage of all 750GB. This were going along fine, but then I wanted to see what the status of LVM was...So I ran 'lvdisplay' and got this very disturbing message:

    Couldn't find device with uuid 'tcRo2m-XJ1W-JFUh-FuYP-dbbW-RHSx-FFnQ4r'.

    Couldn't find all physical volumes for volume group ide_drives.

    Couldn't find device with uuid 'tcRo2m-XJ1W-JFUh-FuYP-dbbW-RHSx-FFnQ4r'.

    Couldn't find all physical volumes for volume group ide_drives.

    Volume group "ide_drives" not found

    Uh oh...Did one of the drives fail already? 'pvscan', etc. didn't yield any better results.

    But then I notice the device that isn't found is '/dev/hdb', which does have the correct uuid. But it also happens that '/dev/cdrom' is a symlink to '/dev/hdb', so lvm was ignoring that device because it thought it was a cdrom device! AAARGH. Only took me 2 hours to figure that one out. I'm hoping this post can save somebody else some time.

    On that same machine, I wanted to set up rsync to handle the backups since it's well suited for that purpose. I had just discovered rsync's filter rule syntax so I wanted to play around with that to specify which directories on which machines should be backed up. Lets say my directory structure looks like this:

    /

    /etc

    /home -> /mnt/raid/home

    /mnt

    /mnt/raid/

    /mnt/raid/home

    /proc

    /tmp

    ...

    and I want to back up both /etc and /home. So I tried this set of rsync filter rules:

    • /etc/

    • /etc/**

    • /home/

    • /home/**

    • *

    No luck at all. rsync refused to copy over the home directories.

    Again, several hours were lost figuring this out. I think what was happening was that rsync was happily copying the /home symlink and not looking deeper into the directory structure. So when it came to the '- *' rule, the actual home directories were being excluded. I solved this by adding

    • /mnt/

    • /mnt/raid/

    • /mnt/raid/home/

    • /mnt/raid/home/**

    to my filter rules instead of the '/home' stuff.

    Best. Tip. Ever.

    A co-worker of mine recently posted the following tip to an internal wiki:

    Many people go to extraordinary lengths to escape slashes for use in the sed-style s/foo/bar/g command found in VIM, perl, sed, and many other tools. What's not widely known is that you can, in fact, use any character in place of those slashes. I regularly do something like this:

    sed -e 's,/usr/bin,/home/bin,g'

    I blame gnu info for me not knowing this. I only use 'man', but lots of content is only available in 'info' pages. I never really understood why.