Friday, 21 December 2007

Back pain - not cool

Over the last few days I've experienced a fair bit of back pain. A dull ache that spirals up to a sharp pain in the area between my waist line and shoulder blades. Not a lot of fun to cope with. Between the 2 hours of sleep a night and the rush, bustle and general unpleasantness of the holiday season, I'm starting to get a bit cranky. I think it's more the stress of this time of year than an actual injury of any type - although I do have to stoop over or bend when I do a lot of household stuff (which I've actually been doing). Coming back to the stress of Christmas though... I've been downtown a bit and the behaviour of people at this time of year is appalling. Of course, we all hear the wonderful Christmas stories from the media - marking this the one time of year they'll actual cover something good, but we don't get the unpleasant underbelly of Christmas coming to the fore.

For example, as everyone rushes to get stuff for people, their driving habits worsen. I've been cut off about 5 times more often in the last week than all year. And people do the most discourteous things in addition - failing to indicate, tail gating etc. I've taken to keeping away from the major roads in town - the other routes are far more scenic and less stressful.

My significant other works part time in retail and she comes home cranky after every shift. Why? Because people are arseholes and Christmas is their time to shine. Commercialism overrides common sense (what little those dumb fuckers have anyway), manners are ignored and common courtesy is completely disregarded. It's clearly at times like this that I think humanity should be drowned in a bucket. Personally, I blame the commercialisation of Christmas. I've read a couple of bits and pieces today on the net regarding diamonds and the advertising of them as a way of purchasing your way to a woman's heart. Why would you use those common old rocks, sold at a premium? At any rate, it brings out the worst in people.

I remember when we were kids and there wasn't a lot under the tree. There was always some sporting stuff (we played cricket, hockey, tennis, golf, soccer, AFL and loads of others) or a replacement bike every few years as we outgrew/destroyed the ones we had. There were a minimum of computer games and the like, being that it was before the great wussification of children began and very few plastic toys. Nowadays kids seem to get plastic crap that lasts all of 10 minutes, and an arseload of games and things designed to keep them inside. I see kids these days at school that have the physical co-ordination of a drunk monkey. It's appalling!

So who is to blame for all of this? The parent? They are besieged by advertising regarding junk for kids, they are hammered by the kids wanting said junk and they are exhausted because they work long and hard to try to get the money to pay for it all. So is it the advertisers? Nope, they're just doing their job and they do good at it. It weakens, belittles and undermines us all, but hey, that's their job and they work hard at it.

It comes back to a common theme for me - the big corporations are at (and I do realise that free will and the right to choose are not to be dis-regarded here) fault. Those big, faceless, accountable only to their greedy shareholders entities that seem to rule the world. Of course, the shareholders are average people, but they don't give a shit. They want a return on their stocks, and they want it NOW! Damn the impact of the activities of those corporations on the people and the planet - we want our fucking money and we want it to increase every year damn it! It's bloody appalling and I am continuously shocked and appalled by the people who piss and moan about how bad things are, but own stocks in these organisations - and therefore have a say in the governance of that organisation. Do something about it you spineless cretins!

Unfortunately the lure of riches, glamour and stuff is too great and the corporations who have poisoned our minds and are currently destroying our world use these things to blind us to what is happening. The power of the people is undermined in a calculated and heartless manner through the manipulation of those lying pussbag politicians and so we all suffer.

Try not to buy *too* much useless shit this Christmas!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Disgraceful Politicians

Each day I read quite a few articles on the net about various things. This one here: http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/12/16/telecoms/index.html is referring to the eavesdropping the US government perpetrates on it's citizens and the desire of many of the piss weak pollies to allow the corporations, and by extension themselves, off without even a slap on the wrist. How the fuck does this support the people they are supposed to represent?

In Australia the new Labour government are starting to bring in rules to prohibit various types of lobbying that involve an exchange of funds of any type. Why does the Government not take away the requirement to have any need for outside money in the race for the top spot? I'd love to see this happen in the US, where it appears the more money you have, the more likely you are to reach the Presidency. Now I'm not a fan of Kevin Rudd, the current Australian PM, but I'll give him a chance. I thought John Howard did alright - although I naturally disagreed with things that happened during his tenure as PM.

My point (if there is one) is that politicians seem to excise any type of honour, or integrity once they decide to enter politics. They'll say anything to get in, make any promise, kiss any handy arse. They'll support the big corporations that are designed for one thing - to make money off of everyone else, regardless of the cost to society or the environment. That's a rant for another time I think - corporations and specifically the people running them should be accountable for *everything* that the corporation does. But to get back on topic....

When you promise the world, naturally you're lying. It takes a lot of effort to change things and people seem to not realise this. You don't click your fingers and say - there we go, problem xyz is fixed. Why not at least promise what you can deliver? I'm the President of a local sporting association and I don't make promises. I tell people what is achievable, what I'm working on and work like hell to make it all pay off. But I don't lie, or compromise my integrity. I aim to provide the best I can for all the people I represent. This bullshit in the US about the wiretapping protects the lying fucks of George Bush (pick one) and his cabinet and the spineless cretins that allowed it to be implemented. You can bet *they* aren't being watched. To say I feel disillusioned by the democratic process is a lot like saying the sun is only "warm". Frankly, I think that if Kevin Rudd can pull us out of our regrettable entanglement with the United States we'll be a lot better off. Those fat, useless, fear ridden cretins in the US should be allowed to sink alone and not be able to drag our sorry arses down with them.

And of course, I once again wonder why someone doesn't go on a shooting rampage at Capitol Hill and try to winnow out a few of those useless bastards in the US Senate and Congress. I regret that my language is insufficient to suitably portray my feelings with regards to those.... humans (and even admitting I'm of the same species is a big stretch). At the end of the day, I'd like to see people who've had real jobs, who've had to work hard for what they've got and who have an ounce of integrity in those politicians' seats. They certainly cannot do any worse than the motherfuckers there at the moment.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Update to Rant: eBay and Stupidity

I should have noted this some time ago. I was pretty pissed off when I stuffed up and paid for something I really didn't want on eBay - a CD of stuff for Nokia phones. At any rate, I resolved to make the best of it and see what came out of it all.

Good news! eBay emailed me saying the seller's account had been suspended. I waited the requisite number of days and then emailed them indicating I had not received the goods. Surprisingly swiftly the money was returned and all was good. That'll learn that no good seller.

It was also a good lesson for your's truly - pay attention to what you are bidding on!

Struggling with Creativity

I had attempted to write each day for December, but it's really not working out. When I want to write is generally when I'm trying to work and the great ideas I have are often swamped by the complexities of my tasks here at the office.

Plus, I'm just finding it damn hard to write something interesting! And this led me to an ongoing thought stream I've had and that I pondered in some depth yesterday. You see, yesterday I watched the movie "The World's Fastest Indian" with Anthony Hopkins in it. Basically, the movie is about a Kiwi fellow by the name of Burt Munro who wants his 1920 model Indian motorcycle to be the fastest of its type in the world. He was focussed on his goal, lived, ate and breathed it and eventually it came to fruition. That passion, that burning desire to achieve a single goal - I don't have that.

Nope, no passion for anything in particular. Even the things I really like doing, if I couldn't do them any more I'd miss them but I'd probably move on without lamenting the fact on a daily basis. While I find this lack of passion somewhat disquieting it does have it's benefits. I find a balanced approach to life is much more easy. There is no sporting team that I love, no vehicle I love and no place I love. Likewise for the myriad other things that people are passionate about. I like certain cars, I like certain places and I enjoy various activities. But I'm not so passionate about it that I'll devote my life to them.

Is this mediocrity? A cover for a lack of self-confidence - a feeling that I can't be the best at anything so why try? I don't think so. As long as I'm giving my best effort I'm happy with the outcome. There is always some place to improve, but I'm not so crazed about it that I'll feel awful for ages afterward. I'd like to think I'm a bit Zen about the whole thing. The variables I can control are my own variables - the effort I'm making, the focus I've got etc. I find that the more passionate I am about something, the more pressure is on me to succeed and less enjoyment I ultimately get from it (even when I am successful).

I think that this could be applied to a few things for many people. Sport is the obvious example. I'm tied up with hockey and the like in my home town and nothing disgusts me more than moron spectators screaming at their kid, or someone else's kid or the umpire for what is happening on the field. There is very rarely a positive slant to these comments and it doesn't serve to help anyone out. Isn't the object to enjoy one's self whilst on the field? Don't we want to encourage our kids to do well - but praise the effort they make, in case the results aren't as wonderful as we expect from our progeny? At least this gives you an out -if they make a big effort but don't get to the line in the manner they/we expect, then you still have something great to say to them. And the effort is the only thing they can really control isn't it?! The results are often dependent on others, the environment or just dumb luck.

I guess I do have a passion after all - a passion for people to be reasonable and to look a bit beyond the moronic behaviour that is so often exhibited in this society. I'm not looking to apportion blame, but rather to suggest that things be considered in a slightly different light.

Expect this post to be edited :-)

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Firefly and Serenity

Over the course of the weekend I watched the entire (short) season of Firefly and then the movie Serenity. I cannot for the life of me understand why Firefly was cancelled. The characters were awesome, the environment they were set in was great and there was so much scope for different stories. I love watching it.

Possibly the thing I like most about Firefly is the characters and how there seems to be a nice balance amongst them. No single character takes all the limelight, although Malcolm Reynolds is fairly central to most of it, he is not the focus. Joss Whedon and Tim Minear have done a fantastic job of writing the series and the movie. No wonder it has such a following.

It raised another point that I've been pondering a little bit. The people we admire most have qualities that are reflected in us. I've heard this said before and I see in Firefly how the mix of characters allows so many people to find something in the characters that they can relate to, admire and connect with. Be it the strength of Simon's love for River, Kaylee's love of engines and food, or Jayne's role as the tough, but dumb guy. It may be in the funny nature of Wash or in his wife's tenacity and loyalty. Truly a diverse cast and one that has so many strengths.... and also so many frailties.

It is our faults that make us human. To have heroes that are without fault is totally unrealistic. A character with a real, identifiable hubris is a character that we can relate to and empathise with. Bravo to the writers and directors of Firefly and Serenity for creating characters we can identify with so closely.

A damn shame it was cancelled. I curse the greedy money making mofo's who did it.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Review: Nokia e61i

Recently my phone contract expired and I decided to go for something a little different this time. I liked the look of the Palm Treo and also the Nokia e61i. I checked them out on eBay and didn't really find one I liked the price of, so I decided to get one through my phone provider.

I've been pleasantly suprised. My current work phone (an iMate JasJam) is a great piece of kit. I venture to say that the e61i is at least as good - if not better. The 802.11 wireless is far better - it works with WPA2 and connects without problems. I have noticed that with a Netgear router it does have occasional problems - but then again, most PCs around the place have problems with that particular router.

As a phone it is more than adequate - I like the keypad very much. It has a nice tactile feel to it and I can type reasonably quickly on it. The location of various non-alpha keys confuses me sometimes, but that's to be expected when jumping between different keypads. It has a nice ear piece and I haven't had any problems with calls at all. It's a better phone than the JasJam.

As a PDA I find that it works very well too. But, I prefer the Windows Mobile approach to the Nokia Symbian approach (personal preference naturally). This is not to say it lacks functionality - it's just the aesthetics that I prefer. I've been happy with it's performance for note taking, task making, calendering etc so no complaints.

Battery life is good - I get about a week out of a charge - and this is with it checking my email hourly via wireless and various calls.

I was also pleasantly suprised by the music player bit of the phone. I find that creating playlists and the like is very easy and the sound quality out of the phone's speaker is quite decent.

OK, those were all good things. Here are a few tips on what *not* to do with this phone. Don't set it up with IMAP and gmail. I was completely locked out of my messages - SMS, MMS and emails. The fix? Reload the software. Ouch. Bye bye to all my phone numbers etc. I cried a bit but I got over it. That's probably my only complaint so far. It is a very wide phone too - which makes it hard to find a good case and occasionally makes me cranky when I'm lugging it about. Apart from this I have no further complaints at this time.

I haven't used the camera much and to be honest, don't expect anything special from *any* phone camera.

All in all, I'm very happy with it. It's a lovely compliment to my JasJam and fulfils my geeky requirements :-)

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Rant: eBay and stupidity

I've only recently started playing with eBay. I'd known all about it, but never used, knowing my proclivity for spending. But I have started using it. I thought it would be nice to get my girl a new mobile phone. I thought one of those Nokia N93's would be cool so I tracked one down. And then the stupidity commenced.

Picture on item: matches phone.
Description: mostly matches phone.
Actual item: a CD with crap on it for this type of phone.
Bid: $8.33

Shit. Wrong item. The images on the page, the general thread of the description mention in an obtuse way that this is for a CD not a phone. I didn't read it carefully enough and *bang* bid on a piece of crap I'll probably never use.

I congratulate the seller - the ad was well crafted and hit the right notes to make it seem like it was a phone I was bidding on. I especially like that in the eBay categories the CD is in the "Mobile Phone" section. Very nice. I'll remember this for the future. I'm just glad it wasn't a more expensive bungle and at the end of the day, I have to take responsibility for my poor decision. Ah well, c'est la vie.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Experiences with Ubuntu 7.10 Gusty Gibbon

I've spent a fair bit of time around Linux and I was very interested to see what this new distribution had to offer. I went the cheater's path for my work PC (a Dell GX260) and upgraded first to the RC and then patched to the full version. I like it a lot on this machine, it detected my wide screen LCD properly, looks nice and feels like it runs faster than 7.04. So, all good.

At home however, the story varies significantly. I have a whitebox with an AMD processor in it, a 250GB SATA disk and standard everything else. It currently runs Windows Vista Ultimate (ugh!) and I had approximately 80GB free that I thought would be handy for Ubuntu. I will note that this particular machine, when I attempted to install OpenSuSE 10.3 on it, appears to have some obscure SATA controller and SuSE was unable to detect it. I was prepared for the eventuality that Ubuntu wouldn't see it either, but to my pleasant surprise it did.

I ran the install, popped GRUB on the system and rebooted. Everything had seemed to go well, the partitioning etc was a breeze and Ubuntu have done a very nice job of making the installation process as painless and thought free as possible (good for the newbz out there that say Linux is too hard to install). After the reboot I was greeted with the unhappy result from GRUB: Error 17. Subsequent reboots and I got Error 18 and even Error 15. The SATA controller problem (I suspect) had struck again. What *really* ticked me off was that Vista was unable to repair the boot partition and I lost the lot. Now fortunately I have backups (let that be a lesson to all of you who don't) and I didn't lose any data. I did, however, lose several hours of time and my temper at least twice.

The SATA controller in this particular machine is not a fancy one. The board is a fairly standard one and it ran Ubuntu 7.04 without any issue. And yet neither OpenSuSE 10.3 or Ubuntu 7.10 worked with it properly. Very annoying. Vista (sadly) did work with it properly and is once again working with it properly. *sigh* I want to get away from the Microsoft world (it's expensive!) and I am restrained once again due to hardware issues.

So a win and a loss with Ubuntu 7.10 and one complete recovery failure with Vista. Life goes on.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Musings on System Administration

I was reading an article discussing forensic preparation for computer systems. Some of the
stuff in there I knew the general theory of, but not the specifics of how to perform. As I
thought about it, it occurred to me that Systems Administration is such a vast field. There
is no way I can know all of this stuff. I made a list of the software and operating systems

I currently manage. They include:
- Windows Server 2003, Standard and Enterprise
- Exchange 2003
- Windows XP
- Windows Vista
- Windows 2000
- Ubuntu Linux
- OpenSuSE Linux
- Mac OSX (10.3 and 10.4)
- Solaris 8
- SQL 2005
- Various specialised software for the transport industry

I have specific knowledge on some of this, broad knowledge on all of it, and always think "There's so much I *don't* know". It gets a bit down heartening sometimes. For one thing - I
have no clue about SQL 2005 and I need to make it work with another bit of software. All
complicated and nothing straightforward. Irritating doesn't begin to explain it. As to the
Microsoft Software - because of it's prevalence throughout the world, there is a lot of
online information available. Likewise with Linux - it's incredibly rare to encounter a problem someone else hasn't already come up against.

So how to function within such an environment? Understanding I think is the key. The more
you understand about the process, the easier it is to figure things out. To my reckoning, understanding the "why" of how things work makes the job of learning new things fast to fix
problems much easier. For beginning sysadmins it's probably the most important thing. That
and curiosity. I'm always interested in learning about new things and trying new stuff out. Having sufficient hardware to indulge in this obsession doesn't hurt either. If you can't have all new stuff - second hand stuff is a good way to play.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Thoughts - Means of Problem Solving

I'm not sure how other people really think - I have a degree in Psychology but I'm still not entirely convinced by the ideas on theory of mind. I have a few observations that I'd like to share. For one thing, and this is kind of strange, when there is a problem I need to solve I can't "think" through it. If I try to reason my way through it, my conscious mind wanders off to God knows where and I get nowhere. But if I relax, clear my mind and just allow some internal process to work, all of a sudden the answer appears. This is the gap in the internal monologue to which I refer. This does *not* work with mathematical problems. I have always struggled with those sorts of problems. I refer more to the interpersonal problems or even IT problems of which I encounter on a daily basis. Even the lead up to writing this was only a vaguely conceived idea until I started typing and the right words appear on the screen.

I wonder how other people "think" their way through problems? Do they have a specific process they go through to find the answers? In a movie I saw once, one of the characters is telling another about finding the B's and C's. His boss was able to skip from A to D, but a normal person needed to find those B's and C's. I certainly do not subscribe to the idea my thought methods are unique or special, but I merely wonder at the other types of thoughts. Is it possible to learn how to think in the opposite way. I wonder at the efficacy of intuitive problem solving against a more step-wise approach.

I think that these are innate means of thinking and we are born that way. As hard as I've tried to learn a more structured means of thinking it escapes me. Trying to be organised and have everything planned out doesn't work. I can maintain it over the short term, but I get tired of the effort and go back to a more messy/non-linear style of thinking. I wonder how many others experience this?

Hmm I want a MacBook Pro too while I'm rambling. They are very sexy.

Oh and in case you're wondering at the nature of this post - remember the name of the blog is "somewhat" thoughtful thoughts. Sometimes I haven't worked them all the way through :)

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Update to: Resurrection of a G4 and other observations

I had intended to publish the previous post last night, but didn't get around to it. I've hit a bit of a snag with the OpenSuSE 10.3 installation and ran out of time last night to fix it. Two things are failing.

No.1 the PowerEdge server I have has a dodgy DVD reader in it and won't read the 10.3 DVD properly. I checked the DVD for its integrity and all is well with it. I'll need to put another DVD reader into the machine to get it to install I think. While I'm there I think I'll also replace the noisy fan it has at the rear. I can't hear the disks over it and there is no outward indication of any activity which bothers me.

No.2 I tried to install 10.3 on my AMD clone PC last night too. It has a 200GB SATA disk in it (can't remember the exact size) and OpenSuSE failed to detect it. WTF? It's not like I have a unique mainboard - it's a fairly standard ASUS board with nothing special about it. This machine ran Ubuntu there for a while and had no problems with the detection - but OpenSuSE has no idea about the disk. For a new OS version I was extremely unimpressed. I'll issue one caveat though - I have Vista installed on this disk and I'm not sure if that will screw things up or not. I'll investigate at my leisure (read: who knows when).

Happily my G4 is still running although seems unhappy to boot from the OSX partition unless I hold down the Option key on boot. I changed the boot drive (again) and forced a restart to see if it fixed anything. It booted properly (which was good) and also quite quickly (also a good thing). Currently the machine is in a suspended state but I'll test it again tonight and see what the results are.

Tomorrow (hopefully) a post about something non-technical.

Resurrection of a G4 and other observations

My G4 mac has been sitting idle for some time now complaining of no working hard drive. I of course knew this to be a lie as the disk I put in the system was a good one and I thoroughly scanned and tested it before putting it in my beloved G4. After a fair bit of swearing I booted it holding the Option key down. I probably should note that despite my fairly extensive experience with windows and linux I have preciously little with OSX and with Apples in general. I'm amazed for example how good the BIOS seems to be. I can just plug any old USB DVD into this machine and wee! It detects it and off we go. Very cool. On a similar age PC you'd be lucky to have that kind of functionality available.

So at any rate I'm currently typing this on my G4 - it's quite responsive, now it has 868MB of RAM (I know - its a weird number). The reason I'm using this machine and not my equally beloved L400 is just for variety sakes. I have a number of machines available at home. They include a GX270 (currently at my dear girl's home), two GX260 slimline Dell PCs (one is my gateway, the other my linux box at work), a Dell PowerEdge 1400SC Server that houses all my... uh.. content and runs SuSE 10.2 (hopefully upgrading to 10.3 in a matter of hours), my L400 notebook running an amazingly quick Windows XP install, two generic PCs, one with an AMD processor, the other (my games machine) running a dual core Intel setup and finally my two Apples - my G4 and my G3 iMac, both running OSX. My generic PCs run Vista and XP respectively, although I hope to do a dual boot of Vista and SuSE 10.3 set up tonight (and then blog about it later).

The PowerEdge is a noisy machine and sometimes I wonder the amount of power it's pulling. I have no doubt it's a fair bit so I tend not to run it all that often . It was incredibly noisy with the two 9GB SCSI disks that came with it. Needless to say I replaced them with IDE Disks and an IDE RAID controller fairly quickly. I should probably get some bigger disks into it, but really it holds a back up of various documents and the like so nothing too big. SuSE 10.2 was a breeze to install on the machine as well. It correctly identified the IDE RAID card, found my pre-created RAID arrays (unlike Ubuntu) and then proceeded to install in quite an impressive fashion. I love Yast2. What can I say? It's a highly polished interface into much of the system and I think it's excellent. I found it very easy to change the system to boot into multi-user without X and set up firewalling and various other bits and pieces. Quite handy really.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Installing Linux on a Dell L400.

To continue my previous piece (sorry for the delay) about the installation of Ubuntu 7.04 on a Dell L400. To quickly restate the machine's statistics: P3-700MHz processor, 256MB of RAM and a 20GB HDD.

The installation of Ubuntu from the normal disk is a non-happening event. It simply requires too much RAM to boot the graphical interface. So instead, I downloaded the alternate install CD and performed the installation in text mode. Here is a big thing to remember: Boot the kernel with acpi=no. Otherwise you might find the machine getting a lot of "Sleep" messages during the boot and also during the installation. Very *very* frustrating to say the least. It wasn't the fastest installation in the world, but I didn't expect to be the fastest either. It went smoothly and everything was happily detected. Great I thought. It booted OK, it ran the Gnome desktop quite well - although somewhat slowly. I started going through and tidying up the boot stuff and working to minimise RAM usage where possible. (Note to self: next time use Fluxbuntu or something lighter on the desktop!).

The trouble all started during the software update. I have never had a problem with the Ubuntu updates before and I have 2 PCs running Ubuntu all the time. With this one though, various chunks of the install seemed to get hosed as it ran. OpenOffice caused all sorts of hassles, other things simply failed to work. It was very annoying. At the end of it and following a restart, the Gnome desktop wouldn't get going properly. The sound controller software failed to start properly, killing the desktop. I worked at trying to fix it but gave up because of time constraints. I attempted to restore my MBR and just single boot to windows but wouldn't you know it - it didn't work. I ended up re-installing *everything*.

I'm not discouraged though. When I have more time I'll have another crack at it. I'm even considering putting the new OpenSuSE 10.3 on this laptop. Previously I was running 10.2 on it and although the Radeon driver didn't play nicely with this machine, the rest of it was very impressive. I was especially pleased with the speed of OpenSuSE - not something I would not associate with it. So stay tuned for further updates.

Oh and I never did get my WGA111v2 to work with Ubuntu either :(

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Windows XP on Dell L400

It's been a while since I posted anything - I'll plead the pressures of work and social life as my excuse. In the meantime I have picked up a little old Dell L400. This machine is about 1.6KG in weight and has a Pentium III processor running at 700MHz. I've had to put in a 20GB hard disk (that I had lying around) and it came with 256MB of RAM and two batteries. Not bad at all.

Initially I installed Win2k on it and was unimpressed by it's performance. I had also tried to get varies different versions of Linux running on it (more on this to follow). I eventually got SuSE 10.2 running happily on it and all was good. Somehow though... I got it into my head to install Windows XP on this machine. I checked the minimum specifications for XP and found them to be well under the spec of this laptop - something like a 300MHz processor and 128MB of RAM or something similar.

The initial install went very smoothly. It was also pleasingly fast. I was very happy. I continued to be very happy as the install stayed smooth and the system ran well. After a fair bit of time (after all it is only a 700MHz processor) the install completed. The only thing that wasn't working was the sound card. It had correctly detected it but the driver wasn't working. I had already downloaded the drivers from Dell on another machine, copied them across and away I went.

Patching this little machine took a long time. Probably longer than I'd hoped. There were 100 or so patches to be installed so I wasn't too unhappy with the time it took.

My biggest concern with this machine was RAM availability. With only 256MB I was worried I'd be swapping all the time and this would make the machine unusable. By killing all the themes, disabling many services and pruning where possible, the machine runs with a RAM footprint of 89MB! And it runs really well. I've installed the Portable Applications package from www.portableapps.com in both the lite and full forms. This gives me a stack of great software to use and I recommend you check it out. Great for a USB install or just for those lower end PCs you might have floating around. The L400 runs the portable version of OpenOffice Writer well and its very usable. I've also installed NetGear software for my WG111v2 USB wireless device. It works well and means this cheap little notebook is very versatile.

The screen is bright and clear and I find I can use it without problem for some time. The keyboard likewise, has a lovely tactile feel to it. If you're looking for a cheap, lightweight notebook for running around with the L400 is a good choice. The batteries only last about 2 hours, which is what Dell indicate it will last for. For about $200 this laptop was a great buy. I actually carry it in the same bag as my D620 and don't notice the extra weight!

I'm currently installing Ubuntu Linux on it - I'll write more about this adventure tomorrow.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Tips for care with computers

Here's a couple that have just sprung to mind:
  1. Never send a cranky/sarcastic email without having walked away from it for at least an hour first. You never know how much trouble you'll get yourself into. Of course, as a general rule - never lose your temper until it's detrimental not to lose it.
  2. Always check the send to address - autocomplete can do the strangest things if you're not paying attention (oops!)
  3. Write short, but meaningful emails. Remember that sometimes a very terse email can convey dissatisfaction or dislike. Write to your audience. There are a lot of guides out there suggesting you should write very short emails - that's OK if it's a high volume environment. Not OK if it's a low volume environment.
  4. Water/Coffee/Coke/Beer + computer = bad. So many combinations that are so nasty in so many ways. Also, try to avoid smoking while computing - it really fouls up your keyboard.
And that's all from the brain for this very moment.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Linux on the Desktop

I read a fair few reviews about running Linux on the desktop. One of the things that always springs to my attention is people moaning about hardware support. All things considered, I have an opinion about this.

My XP Installation at home does not work without significant time spent downloading (after I've installed a driver for the network card) drivers for sound/video/mainboard stuff. I have an ASUS mainboard, nothing fancy or special. It does not work natively with the drivers supplied with XP. It does, however, work just fine with Linux, specifically Ubuntu, but also SuSE. I run Ubuntu on a series of machines, including two Dell GX260's, a GX270, a Dell Server (the name of which escapes me) and various put together machines. I find fewer issues with drivers than I have had with XP. Don't even get me started on Vista. It's hardware support might be better, but you've got to have a *lot* more of everything to get it to work properly. Drivers for my printer - a HP 1022, were only released a little while ago for Vista. Ubuntu chatted away happily to said printer straight away.

As to usability, well I'm a little bit of a geek so I have no problems with it. I decided to test it on my girlfriend. Yes, I took my life in my own hands with this experiment. She loves it though. She likes all the games, can work the office software and everything else. She plugs in her Kensington USB key and it works fine. I'm about to add her to my wireless network with a Belkin wireless card - we'll see how that goes. But she has no problems working the machine. It's not a crappy machine either, an AMD 2200+ with lots of RAM and decent innards. Oh and an ASUS mainboard that XP required special drivers for.

When people talk about GNU/Linux being ready for the desktop, I'd like to point out that Windows isn't really ready for the desktop either. How many businesses etc are now saying No to the migration to Vista? Lots is the answer to that - check out on doggdot.us to see how many of the articles reflect the lack of interest in the upgrade path. I've been running Vista on a Dell GX270 and a Latitude D620 and so far, I'm a bit meh about the whole thing. Sure it's pretty and stuff. The low power gear is alright, but honestly? It's slower than XP and a *lot* slower than Ubuntu.

In terms of interoperability, I've got no trouble making my Windows machines talk to my Linux boxen or to my two Macs running OSX. There are lots of guides out there and they make it easy to get things working properly. I say "Bah!" to those who suggest Linux isn't ready for the desktop. I also reckon that in the future we'll see more of a move to an operating system that has open standards for longevity purposes.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

A ramble about stuff that irritates me

The internet seems to be a very US centric medium. Most of the news collected appears to be US related. We all know the US is the centre of the known universe (according to them) and I watch with no small sense of amusement as their political system collapses under the weight of incompetence, greed, malice and well, sheer stupidity. There are a lot of calls for impeachment, but while the Senate or Congress or whatever it is stalls and hums and harrs about things, it won't happen. That idiot Pelosi should be enacting the will of the people and making it happen and instead she is saying it's too hard. WTF? As I understand democracy if the people want something to happen, and they have a majority - why isn't something being done about it? In Australia we have a smaller population and while I'm not suggesting our politicians are any brighter than the US ones, at least we lack the resources to bring war to another nation. We just get dragged along by one of our trading partners who is probably ripping us off.

It's time for people to change their perspective about how to deal with other nations. Why not trade with them instead of trying to dominate them? I realise of course, that by trading one might have to pay for oil instead of just stealing it and how abhorrent this must be for certain greed driven folks. It seems to me that religion has a new contender for the cause of most deaths - GREED. Let's take control of oil - we can make a lot of money and it secures our national interest (which is making money). Why not say - keep your stinking oil and find another source of, say renewable energy that takes the power away from the oil providing nations. In 20 years, when there is no oil in the Middle East is anyone going to give a damn what is happening there? If we use sun, or wind, or tide, or nuclear power (which isn't quite renewable but works for a long time) then there is no country or people with a lot of power that can manipulate everyone else. What will this do to the Muslim extremists who are causing such grief to the United Nations Council for Human Rights? Guess what - women are equal to men. Let's move out of the Dark Ages and into the modern times where women are equally recognised for their intelligence, skills and knowledge. Let's take away such stupidity as head coverings, segregated buses and other such stupidity.

I don't want to get into a rant about religion - any religion, but it strikes me that perhaps if people could just take a bit of a step back and think or question what they are being told, we might see some changes take place. Then again, I've read a quote saying that religion takes away the responsibility to have to think. "My religion says this so that's what I'm going to do!" It brings me back to the ramble about the US that I started on. I think it's appalling to see religion getting in the way of day to day politics and decision making. Hearing about an archbishop saying that someone who votes for stem cell research can't take communion is nothing but blackmail pure and simple. Yet we allow it to happen. What's happening in the US is worse with religious figures becoming actively involved in subverting the political process.

And just while I'm on it - Intelligent Design is the biggest load of crap in the world. Anyone who believes in that shit and says that evolution is wrong needs to have their genes removed from the pool. Guess what - we're not descended from monkeys. If we were, there wouldn't be any monkeys. Descent implies they would be us now. We might have a common ancestor (divergent evolution - look it up) but we are not descended from monkeys.

It's unfortunate that the course of natural selection is diverted now - there are a lot of idiots that make the gene pool very shallow.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

i-mate JasJam Review

About a month ago I bought an i-mate JasJam. Partly because I'm a geek, partly to keep myself organised.... well... mostly because I'm a geek. A very nice bit of kit I must say.

Problems.
Very rarely I need to restart this device to fix up some minor issues. These include:
  • everything being in CAPS
  • problems re-connecting to the GSM network after I've turned it off
  • problems with it closing the calendar (of all things).
These have been very rare - only one or two instances of each.

Good things.
  • the keyboard is great to use, even with my semi-controlled fingers
  • the wheel on the side is incredibly useful
  • battery life is better than my Motorola V6 Maxx
  • everything works
  • syncs with Outlook easily and quickly
I've been quite happy with the phone functions and quite happy with the PDA functions. I'm a bit better organised than I was and I'm finding it incredibly useful to have access to documents/excel spreadsheets while on the go. Adding a 2GB MicroSD card to this device has made it very useful for listening to (perfectly legitimate) music and for the abundance of photos I've been taking. All in all, a nice bit of kit.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Mac OS X Experiences

Just recently I purchased a second hand G4 tower and a G3 iMac. For a while I've been interested in Mac OS X and given I have a background in both Linux and Unix, it seems like the next thing to try out. So to that end I went and found some cheap Macs to have a play on. The G4 tower cost me $34 and the iMac $9 (w00t!).

The iMac came with Panther installed on it, the G4 with OS 9. In vain I have tried to get OS X onto the G4 with no success. It just won't boot off the 10.4 CD, even though it can read it. I might have to find a more legitimate copy ( something I was intending to do anyway ). I prefer to try before I buy, which is why I haven't bought OS X yet.

The iMac on the otherhand, had an existing installation on it. That's right. Someone's personal data, possibly their work information was still on this machine. And it was password protected which meant - no access to my own computer. Bummer. A bit of Googling later and I had things to try out. None worked. So I renamed the Netinfo database folder to old and thought I'd just see what happens.

OS X decided it was a brand new install and gave me all the normal set up options! Yay! I nuked the old account, all the data it had and created my own account. I threw in some extra RAM and away I went. My little iMac is great! Now I just have to sort the G4 out.

The moral is, if you buy a used Mac with OS X on it, and you can't get into it - try changing the netinfo database folder name so it has to create a new one - you might be pleasantly surprised.