Wednesday, April 28, 2010previously wrote about. I'm curious how long it will take for this post to go through, given the general lack of reliability of the publisher that I've experienced since I started this little thing here; how many people are waiting until the last minute and desperately trying to continue to post?
Because it may be awhile before I start posting again, I thought I'd spend a few moments just giving a "final" (I keep using the quotes because this definitely is not the end for my site—just this particular way of posting) update. Decidedly on-topic is that I spent some time this weekend giving teaspoon (please ignore the date on that post!) a bit of rethinking; it's getting a reincarnation in html5lib, which actually solves a number of problems that had slowed me down before—most notably a selector language. I'll be totally honest and say I don't expect a whole lot of progress any time soon, but I'm positive on the direction. So we'll see how that goes.
Since I originally talked about it, I've been singing the praises of Ubuntu's Lucid Lynx release to anyone who would listen—and many who weren't. This release is so much better than the Karmic disaster... so very, very much better. Apart from the little bumps in the road that accompany following a series of alphas, I really just cannot point to anything wrong with it. It boots faster, it's more modern, I like the way it looks... it's all good. Kudos to the team there. Looking forward to evaluating it for my home servers next.
And that's it. It's time to get to work now, but I thought maybe I'd at least try to send the journal into its hiatus with a little substance instead of just a note of administrivia. Thanks for reading, and I hope to be back soon!
MORE: Hey, it published fast! Google ought to shut down services more often! ;)
STILL MORE: I spoke too soon. Adding that last comment is taking forever!
posted by zigg 6:50 AM 0 Comments
Friday, March 5, 2010shut down FTP publishing for Blogger-based sites, of which mine is one. I actually use SFTP, but I still face the same deadline, recently extended to May 1.
posted by zigg 6:39 PM 0 Comments
Friday, January 1, 2010
Today's unlucky sap is the consumer electronics industry and the customers thereof who value looks above all else. You two are collectively responsible for my single biggest irritation as a sometimes-buyer of gadgetry: shiny black plastic.
I was just musing about this problem this morning over breakfast, with my Eee PC 1000HE and my LG Rumor
This bugs me every time I look at the things. They are meant to be held, picked up, manipulated (and in the case of the Eee, even the wrist rests sport this abominable finish; truly disgusting). The finishes are not meant for this; they are meant for people looking at lineups in stores to go "ooh! shiny" and thus discount rational thought for the actual capabilities of the device in favor of visual appeal.
I thought Nintendo, my perennial love/hate relationship, finally got this when I laid hands on my Nintendo DSi. This delightful device manages to still look really good while not being shiny in the slightest—in fact, the surface is just heavenly, providing fantastic grip without feeling rough... it's perfect. But then, with their super-sized DSi XL (not yet available outside Japan), they went back to that glossy crap finish again, the one that made me glad the Lite came in white.
So what's it going to take to get the industry off this tack? Well, apparently, consumers have to start actually looking at what their devices do instead of how they look. Judging from a colleague's tale of how his family almost selected almost-certainly-horrible-to-use touchscreen phones over the supremely-functional yet not-particularly-attractive enV3... well. Not a lot of hope there.
Capitalism works so well in theory, but man, you put consumers in the mix and things just go totally stupid.
posted by zigg 9:49 AM 0 Comments
Wednesday, December 30, 2009the troubles I was having with Ubuntu Karmic.
I didn't end up skipping it; I left it installed. I felt
ext4was manageable with regular backups,
ath9kwas manageable by flat-out replacing it with
ndiswrapper, and whatever else I could deal with as it came up. One thing I did have to do on a semi-regular basis was issue an Alt-F2
gksudo modprobe usbhidor
usb-storageto get my mouse or USB drives working, but that wasn't such a big deal. Karmic did prove to be one of the worst Ubuntu releases I ever used, but it wasn't catastrophic. It wasn't enough trouble to bother going back to Jaunty.
But what I did get interested in the other day, though, was Lucid. A post on EeeUser's Ubuntu forum alerted me to its presence, and people sounded like they liked it, so—this time opting for a test release than a full-on upgrade—I wiped my never-used XP partition and stuck Lucid in its place.
They weren't kidding when they said removing hal sped things up a bit; this thing boots even more ridiculously quickly than I thought possible. (Which is a good thing right now, because suspending isn't a grand idea with a bug that makes the display flicker and go out post-suspend.) But even though Lucid doesn't have much more to it software-wise right now than Karmic did, it already feels more solid... if that makes any sense.
Lucid, due to its LTS status, is going to get a longer testing period and an extra beta, and it's going to be more conservative than a typical release. I think, too, in the wake of Karmic's (deserved) bad press, there's going to be consideration for concentrating more effort to make Lucid a solid release.
If all goes well, I might just make the jump full-time. We'll see how it goes.
posted by zigg 7:53 PM 0 Comments
Tuesday, September 1, 2009Ubuntu—I think it was in 2007—I've followed every release, many early on. While it's true I've had a handful of problems over the years with various things (though no more than using any other operating system), Ubuntu has simply been the best Linux experience I've had. So much just... works.
I've been testing the next version of Ubuntu, "Karmic Koala", since alpha 4. Of course I can expect an extra dose of issues testing alpha versions of software. But as of right now, I have three very worrying problems with Karmic (and, I should note, these appear to be problems with the Linux kernel itself, not necessarily Ubuntu) that I am not really confident will see a fix before release:
- My Asus Eee PC 1000HEB uses the
ath9kdriver for its wireless chip. Since Karmic (and apparently since Linux kernel 2.6.30), wireless has ranged from "okay" to "horribly unreliable". I'm using
ndiswrapperin the meantime, but I remain unconvinced that this will be fixed.
- This one is far more severe: something happened to the
visormodule in the Linux kernel that is making PalmOS handhelds crash. Unlike the
ath9kproblem, I seem to be on my own here so far. I can use the same handhelds just fine by plugging them into my server running Hardy, and I don't recall having this problem under the last release I had on my netbook, Jaunty.
- Finally, I remain unconvinced of the reliability of the ext4 filesystem. My first experience with ext4 in Jaunty's own testing phase was a disaster; within 24 hours I'd somehow managed to totally destroy the filesystem simply by filling it up. I mean totally destroy, too.
fsck had no hope. I've been running ext4 on Karmic with no problems personally, but I keep hearing isolated reports about similar disasters in various corners on the Internet.
Now, this is something I don't need to bring along for the ride with Karmic; but since it seems going back to ext3 involves a reinstall anyway, I might as well go back to Jaunty at the same time.
I guess I'll ride it out for now and see what happens. But I am genuinely concerned for Karmic, and by extension, other Linuxes that are slated to ship with 2.6.31. The quality question is troubling.
posted by zigg 6:50 AM 1 Comments
Sunday, August 30, 2009way out of even the extended warranty I'd bought. So I carefully extricated my data and started using an old Sony CLIÉ PEG-S320 to keep my life in order.
But then I heard of a man named Chris Short of Mankato, Minnesota. His reputation preceded him; many people had already sent off all sorts of Palm handhelds to him and found joy in their little computers once more. So I shot him an e-mail—you can reach him yourself at email@example.com—and, perhaps unsurprisingly due to the rather widespread occurrence of the problem I was experiencing, he knew exactly what was up and how to fix it. (He also offered a MicroDrive-to-Flash conversion for an additional $50, but I declined for now.)
I sent my little LifeDrive off with a check for $49 via Priority Mail and got it back in one week. Chris had fixed it up same day. And, joy of joys, it works again! Chris said in our initial exchange that what happens with the LifeDrive is that the ROM chips have cold solder joints. He resolders the chips in place and applies an adhesive that he says Palm should have applied in the first place that's supposed to protect against a repeat occurrence. Obviously, I've not had it long enough to see if this holds; but I already feel like I'm in better hands.
Amusingly, the night I was working on restoring my data to the LifeDrive, it apparently spontaneously rebooted on me before I'd even had a chance to install my apps back. My heart leapt into my throat. As it turned out later, though, it's karmic's fault. Not Chris's.
It's good to have my constant companion back again.
posted by zigg 6:50 PM 0 Comments
Thursday, August 20, 2009Handspring Visor came out and my core Palm databases are the same ones that I created nearly nine years ago, brought from system to system.
These days, I've been using Palm's disavowed LifeDrive, and mine just kicked the bucket. This is my second one; the first I got replaced through PalmCare (found an absolute steal on a packaged PalmCare plan.) As part of the LifeDrive lifestyle, I've been using Alexander Pruss' NVBackup to keep my data safe.
A hopefully brief history: traditionally, Palm handhelds have kept everything—programs, data, you name it—in battery-backed RAM. This works a lot better than it sounds, but it does have the disadvantage that it all goes pfft if you don't keep tabs on your Palm's battery. The early models actually ran on standard off-the-shelf batteries; my Visor used AAAs and it lasted a good while unless I was using it constantly. Backup was done by syncing your system to a PC.
Anyway, this battery run-down situation must have irked enough people, because in the last round of Palm handhelds they ever made, they introduced something called NVFS, non-volatile storage for the system's data. This wasn't the first time Palms could write to something other than RAM; over the previous several years they'd been adding storage (usually some form of Flash card) to some models. With those came backup applications, which did sadly have some problems with restoring the system to its original state, owing mostly, as I understand it, to the weird machinations that it took to serialize an in-RAM database to a
.pdb(Palm database) file.
NVBackup, by comparison, was as simple as could be. It took these NVFS-based Palms and simply copied their databases straight out of NVFS, where they were already serialized, and dumped them straight to your Flash card. The advantage was that in almost all situations, restoring a backup brought your system back exactly the way it was before, which is great if you still have your system. My LifeDrive was dead, though, and I didn't have another to restore to—so I needed to do something to get these databases into
.pdbfiles so I could then stick them onto one of the other old Palms I have lying around, lest my life become tragically disorganized. Er, more than it is now.
Alex Pruss has done some work on a tool called unbackup which reportedly does a passable job on some of the NVBackup dumps. I tried this tool. It did not do well on my LifeDrive's output at all, sadly. Crashed a lot, failed to make sense of other files... it just wasn't pretty. Facing the prospect of reverting to two-month-old data (my last PC sync), I started scraping together ideas for one last shot.
Palm developers (of which I am one, though I've never released a bit of anything) have access to the Palm Simulator tools, which emulate a Palm device on a (Windows, sigh and boot up the VirtualBox) PC. See where I'm going with this? Now I do have a spare LifeDrive that I can restore my NVBackup set to, and use the onboard tools to make
.pdbfiles out of my core databases. It wasn't quite that simple, but I did eventually get it working.
First problem: getting NVBackup to restore to the simulated LifeDrive in the first place. Palm Simulator sets up an area on your disk to simulate external storage, so I copied the NVBackup set off my SD card and into that area, along with the NVBackup program itself. NVBackup got installed to the virtual LifeDrive and presented me with the backup set I copied. But then I tried to do the restore, and things started to get ugly.
I knew I only needed a small set of databases—
ToDoDBalongside those from my two key other Palm apps,
Keys-Gtkrfrom Keyring and
Months-HkDtfrom Eat Watch—so I started off trying a selective restore of just those databases. It looked like it was working, but then when it came time to restore the files, I kept getting "error opening" messages. I had no idea what was going on. I tried disabling the Simulator's write-protected storage option (honestly, I have no idea what this actually does) as well as PACE extended checks (I have a slightly better idea but this was last-ditch); neither gave me any joy.
Eventually I even wrote to Alex Pruss, since I saw in one of many Google searches that he had originally started work on NVBackup in the Simulator; unfortunately, he had no idea how to solve my problem. One lead caught my eye, though: "error opening" could also show up if there was trouble dealing with an encrypted backup. Although I'd never had trouble with it on a real device, I wondered if perhaps NVBackup's default gzip compression might be at fault. So I ran gzip -d over the NVBackup set, hopped back into the Simulator, ran the restore, and—success!
Well, partial success, at least. The Simulator crashed irrevocably on reboot, possibly because the Simulator is compiled for x86 and my backup was full of ARM code. So I hard-reset my virtual LifeDrive and went back in again, this time only restoring the databases I needed (as well as their new PalmOS counterparts'—Contacts, Calendar et al.—since the old databases are really just there for compatibility purposes), then used FileZ to make
.pdbs out of them on the virtual SD card, and voilà!
Okay, almost voilà.
DatebookDBwas being stubborn, no matter how many times I tried to restore, convert, and copy it, pilot-xfer was refusing to copy it—likely corrupted somewhere along the line. I eventually ended up HotSyncing that one directly from the simulated LifeDrive over a "network" from within the VirtualBox VM to my host Linux netbook. And now it works. The old CLIÈ has all my important data and apps just as I left them before the last backup.
It was a lot of work, but it was worth it, I think. And hopefully there's some clue in here that might help someone else in the same boat down the road.
posted by zigg 11:17 PM 0 Comments