Monthly Archives: April 2007

MythTV and Ubuntu

I’m amazed at how easy it’s been to set up Ubuntu 7.04. I had broken a couple of things in the previous version, and I wanted to start over and get all the new features of Feisty Fawn that I had been hearing about. Well, much to my surprise, a lot had changed with MythTV as well. Check the link for more information, but it made it incredibly easy, especially since my Hauppauge PVR-150 card was supported in the kernel and I didn’t have to compile any new drivers for it. Crazy cool. I had a couple of minor permissions errors, but everything else seems to be working great!

A setup that took me literally about ten days to do has now been reconfigured in less than a day. This is what can happen with open source: things are just getting better and better (especially when hardware manufacturers like Hauppauge and Nvidia recognize the importance of open source as well).

Swiss-army Linux

As I’ve stated before, we ditched Windows on our desktop computer in favor of Ubuntu Linux. Since I’ve started using it a little over a year ago, Ubuntu really has come a long way. Ubuntu is readying its newest release, and this one looks to be better than ever.

My first experiences with Linux were over ten years ago, when loading X Windows took about five minutes so I browsed the web using the text-browser Lynx. Since then, Linux has become an incredible tool that excels at what it does. The fact that it’s free still amazes me, but I’ve come to the point where I can do things in Linux that I just can’t do in Windows or Mac OS X, though that doesn’t mean I’m giving either of those up any time soon.

The hard drive in our laptop died a few weeks ago, which was bad news for our household. We could see it was coming, so we made sure to back up our data, but after it happened we had to find a way to replace it. In the meantime our computer was without a hard drive, but it wasn’t out of service. We inserted the Ubuntu CD and and the computer just worked! I was pretty impressed. I had used Knoppix and similar boot CDs, but Ubuntu detected all our software and booted rather quickly. The other boot CDs didn’t detect our wireless ethernet adapter, which meant we couldn’t use the Internet. Ubuntu found the wireless adapter, and established a secure connection with our network. We were even able to use it to buy our new hard drive. Thanks, Ubuntu! You’ve come a long way. Be sure to check it out! The newest version even has a Windows Migration Assistant, so I may be loading it onto our laptop again soon.

Beginning Finances

As I’ve said recently, we’ve started learning about finances as a family. One of our favorite talks is Elder Marvin J. Ashton’s Guide to Family Finance, which was given to us by Julia’s bishop just before we got married. Another great resource is a handout from Education Week at BYU (pdf). These resources break it down financial basics very well. The principles in here are simple and easy to understand, but they take some personal conviction to implement.

The great part about these ideas is that they’re based on proven principles and common sense. Here are some of the basics

  • Start a budget
  • Set money aside for emergencies
  • Get out of debt
  • Save money for the future

These items all start with action words. If you want more information, a professor at BYU has set up a great financial website to help you learn about financial basics. It’s set up like a class, but all of the information is free and very rewarding. Although religion is deeply rooted in these resources, they certainly ring true for people of all faiths.

Learning Personal Finance

Learning about personal finance has become a recent hobby of mine. As my dad says, I’m still in “school mode”, so in some ways I feel weird if I’m not studying something. I’ll be honest with you. I began studying personal finance out of fear. My wife and I are both recent college graduates, and having money to spend became something very fun. Now that’s okay, but the problem was that we had no idea how much we were spending. That’s not okay, especially since we were spending about what we were making.

Sometime around August of last year, reality hit. (For those of you following along, that’s when our little girl was born). After a traumatic experience at birth, we faced some rather large doctor’s bills. For someone who is used to only paying rent, seeing commas on bills is very scary. My wife and I realized that we needed to cut back a bit, and especially to take a look at our finances.

In these eight months since August, our family has matured greatly. We’ve truly come a long way. Our lives have really changed, and not just because there’s another member of our family. One major change is because we have set up a family budget. Our budget is in the form of an online spreadsheet, but that’s not what’s important about it. What is important is that we track everything we spend so that we know where all our money is going. It helps relieve one of the major stresses in our marriage, too, since we don’t have to worry about where our money is going or wondering if we’re spending too much on frivolous things because now we know what we’re spending.

What’s the most surprising thing about having a family budget and learning about personal finance? It’s actually fun! Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been obsessed with statistics. With my spending cash back then, I bought baseball cards and memorized the backs. We incorporated a statistics page into our budget which I stare at daily, imagining where we could trim back a bit so that we can reach our goals more easily.

An important part of our budget is (and a lot of the fun) is that we each have a personal category that’s only for fun things for us. That way I can buy a video game every so often and Julia can buy some fun cooking utensils or something (and after a getting used to the budget, I’m still getting used to what she defines as “fun”).

We’ve learned a lot in our months of financial training. We’ve also realized that we’ve both been prepared pretty well by our own parents. Personal finance definitely falls in the category of “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know”. Just remember, though, try to keep things simple and do what works for you. As Dave Ramsey says, “it’s not a trick, it’s just common sense”.

Readthescriptures.com

My sister recently sent me a link to a website, readthescriptures.com, that has some great features. It’s been around for a little while, but I’m just starting to use it, but the website provides me with a lot of convenient options that help give me that extra reminder to read the scriptures every day.

Readthescriptures.com has many features, but its main purpose is to help you to read the scriptures. You can pick from several predefined reading schedules (e.g. to read the New Testament in 60 days or read the Book of Mormon in 90 days) or you can create your own custom schedule to read from one of the standard works. These reading assignments are then sent to you via email, and you click a link in the email to let the system know that you’ve finished reading. You won’t receive your next reading assignment until you finish your current one, and there are also statistics to help you track your progress to let you know if you’ve slipped a bit in your schedule.

Some other features include teams for added community support from friends or family, as well as a secure personal journal and notes system. The notes are incorporated into the web-based scripture reader so that you can type in thoughts that are specific to a particular verse of scripture.

One thing I like about the website is its flexibility. The designers of the site recognize that not everyone studies the scriptures the same way. If I wanted to, after seeing my daily reading assignment in my email inbox, I can pull out my scriptures and read from there, but I’m still left with the option of reading it in my email client or online with the added note-taking features.

As my sister said, this site is great for people who find themselves with enough time each day to read my email, but not enough time to read the scriptures.