Saturday Jun 09, 2007

Skype Needs QT7

On the off chance that you're trying to run Skype 2.6 on a MacOS X 10.3.9 machine, you should be aware that you'll need to have QuickTime 7.x installed. Without it Skype won't even start. Unfortunately, the Skype support forums don't say that. I finally managed to find the secret here.

Interestingly, when searching for this problem, the vast majority of the sites I found that talked about it weren't in English. Does this mean that the non-English-speaking parts of the world are more likely to still be running 10.3 than we are?

Tuesday May 29, 2007


Ever since I installed Solaris Nevada on my desktop, I've been plagued by an obnoxious problem. Periodically, particularly when using NetBeans, I would type something that would zap the X server. Normally it was while fat-fingering, so I was never sure exactly what it was that I typed to cause the problem, and so I never researched it. I had always assumed that it was going to be some deep and odd issue with the way NetBeans uses Swing.

Well, I just managed to zap my X server while using an xterm. More importantly, I did it by pressing only two keys: CTRL and backspace. A quick search on the Internet turned up OpenSolaris issue 6404762. Pressing CTRL and backspace while num lock is on zaps the X server. The problem is actually a minor issue with some screwed up key mappings. While not stated in the workaround for the issue, the issue description provides enough information to figure out that the way to fix it is to edit the /usr/X11/lib/X11/xkb/symbols/sun file for your locale and swap the Mod2 and Mod3 mappings. Works like a charm!

Wednesday May 23, 2007

I Always Knew Google Was Evil

Google has relaunched Google IG as iGoogle and has told the press that iGoogle will herald a new era of personalized web searches, where iGoogle knows enough about you to be able to find what you want without having to know it yourself. You could ask iGoogle, "what should I do today?", and based on where you live, what's on your calendar, and what you've searched for in the past, iGoogle could cross-reference the weather, the local events calendar, etc. and give you a list of suggested activities. Sounds cool, but there are obviously privacy concerns.

What I've found interesting is that so far I haven't seen any good press about iGoogle yet. (Maybe I'm just not looking in the right places. I googled for it!) I found German and British articles that were predictably paranoid, but even the US article that I found wasn't terribly optimistic. Of course, the Americans were worried about it because they think that it won't work, while the Euros are worried because they think it will.

Danny Hillis offered his worst nightmare at JavaOne several years ago. He said he's worried that one day he'll be sitting in his office at home and a little robot will roll in and start photographing everything. He'll ask the robot what it's doing, and it will reply that it's a Google Planet agent and that it's cataloging his home. I wonder what Danny thinks about iGoogle.

Thursday May 17, 2007

Sun Microsystems joins porting effort for for Mac

Pretty old news, but in case you missed it, Sun has officially joined in the effort to port OpenOffice to MacOS X.

Tuesday Apr 17, 2007

Nevada Is Further Away Than Crazy

After an obscenely long struggle I finally have both Solaris 10 and Solaris Nevada installed on my Ultra 20 workstation. As usual, since I have gone through the pain of getting it working, I'm explaining the process here to save others the trouble.

Installing these two friendly operating systems in a dual-boot configuration is not as simple as it may sound. The first thing you need to know is that Solaris doesn't like there to be more than one Solaris partition on a disk. The trick to installing two different versions of Solaris on the same disk is installing them both in the same partition. Because Solaris subdivides partitions into slices, it's possible to install Solaris 10 in one set of slices and Solaris Nevada is another set of slides. An advantage of this configuration is that some of the slices can be shared between both operating systems.

Here's my slice layout:

  • Slice 0: Solaris 10 root
  • Slice 1: Swap
  • Slice 3: Solaris Nevada root
  • Slice 6: /usr/local
  • Slice 7: /export/home

Notice that only slices 1 and 3 are specific for an operating system. All of the rest of my slices are shared, including the swap space. Not only does this help conserve on disk space, but it also saves me from having to install two copies of everything. I use /usr/local as the repository for all my shared software. Note that /opt is not in a shared slice. The reason is that /opt is where software packages live, and software packages don't necessarily live only under /opt. I found it was less hassle to maintain two separate /opt directories than to try to coerce one instance of Solaris into recognizing software packages from another instance.

When Solaris 10 is loaded, slice 0 is mounted as /, and slice 3 is mounted as /s11. When Solaris Nevada is loaded, slice 0 is mounted as /s10, and slice 3 is mounted as /. By cross-mounting the root directories, I'm able to get even better sharing between operating systems. It also makes it very easy to do maintenance.

That was the easy part. The hard part was getting Solaris Nevada installed. When I installed Solaris 10 update 2, I laid out my slices more or less as I described above, with the assumption that at some point in the future I would install Solaris Nevada. When I eventually got around to trying it, I found I was unable to get past the install step where Solaris Nevada tried to lay out the disk and build its file systems. Apparently there was something about the partition that Solaris 10 update 2 had inherited from the previous install of Solaris 10 (no update) that was inherently bad. Unfortunately, at the time I didn't know that. Instead I went on banging my head against the problem intermittently for about 4 months. Finally, last week I decided to try to solve the problem by upgrading my Solaris 10 update 2 to update 3, in the hopes that an upgrade install would make something better. To make a long story short, I left my system in a state where starting over was my best option. During my fresh install of update 3, I used a terminal window to delete the previous Solaris partition, allowing the update 3 install to really start from scratch. After the install finished, I rebooted and tried Solaris Nevada build 61. I was much relieved to find that the Solaris Nevada install worked without a hitch. Unfortunately, after rebooting, there was a problem with the video driver which prevented the X console from running properly. In a last ditch effort, I pulled out my old build 55b DVD, and it installed and run fine. I'm writing with post from 55b.

Now, here's where the cross-linked roots come in handy. After installing Solaris Nevada, the Solaris Nevada boot loader was in charge, and it didn't know anything about Solaris 10. In order to make Solaris 10 bootable, I had to edit the /boot/grub/menu.lst file to add menu entries for Solaris 10. Essentially I copied the information from /s10/boot/grub/menu.lst into the file. According to the Solaris docs, there's a better way to do the same thing with the eeprom command, but it wasn't obvious to me how. An important part of adding the Solaris 10 boot information into the Solaris Nevada boot loader menu was the root (hd0,0,a) line, which tells the boot loader to root the boot paths at slice 0 of partition 1 of disk 0. Don't forget to include that!

The last little bit of advice I can offer is about application paths. Because /export/home is shared, users' desktops will have the same path information associated with menus and icons under both operating systems. I used symbolic links to smooth over any differences in paths between the two operating systems. Also pay attention to the application paths associated with MIME types in your browsers. One other thing you have to watch is version issues with configuration files, particularly with GNOME. Since you're now using the same home directory for multiple desktop versions, you have the potential run into problems.

Tuesday Apr 03, 2007

Flooding the System

Holy cow! I just happened across the Universal Music Group's channel on YouTube. Apparently over the last month they've dumped about 2500 music videos into the system, and it looks like they're not done. That's definitely one way to deal with all the illegally posted videos. What's the point when the real thing is already there? How's that for corporate endorsement! Looks like this plan was announced last fall.

Friday Mar 30, 2007

Dinner For One

My co-workers in Regensburg have been telling me for years that I should see Dinner For One, which is an old British comedy skit that is extremely popular in Germany (but not in the UK). Every News Year's Day, every station in Germany plays the clip at least once. Well, today I finally decided to look it up. Surprise, surprise, it's available on YouTube! And it actually is pretty funny, especially considering its age.

Part One

Part Two

Thursday Mar 29, 2007

Top Ten Video Game Weapons

This has to be one of the most entertaining videos I've seen on YouTube. I'm an old gamer from way back when. This top-ten list is both entertaining and on the money. I can't say it holds any greater value for humanity, but for people who like to watch things explode, it's 5 minutes of pure delight.

Monday Mar 26, 2007

How to Create a File System on a USB Mass Storage Without vold Running

The other day I pulled my memory stick out of my Mac laptop without ejecting it first, and it managed to hose the file system on the stick. It took me a while before I finally found this doc describing the process of putting a new FAT32 file system on a USB memory stick from Solaris 10. Hopefully this post saves someone else a little search time.

Friday Mar 23, 2007

Lorinka the Fierce

While I was visiting Germany last December, I shot this video of a friend's dog guarding her ball. I think it's quite funny.

Tuesday Mar 13, 2007

I Can Do That!

Um... Yeah. Wow.

Monday Mar 12, 2007

Ancient Wisdom

"We trained hard, but it seemed every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization."

From Petronii Arbitri Satyricon, 66 AD (Attributed to Gaius Petronus, a Roman General who later committed suicide)

Tuesday Mar 06, 2007

From Bad to Worse

And you thought my blogging was bad. I just signed up for a YouTube account. Look out, world! As a test of how the video upload process works, I filmed this dog's eye perspective of walking from my office to the main door of the building. It's not Scorsese, but what do you expect from a first try?

Friday Mar 02, 2007

Holy Remote Terminals, Batman!

Wow! I think this proves my complete geekiness, but I am totally stoked to have just discovered that I can mount a USB storage device from my SunRay! (It took all my self control not to use <blink>!) I was always frustrated that there's no way to save data from the SunRay to a disk or CDROM. Now there's no need!

This is apparently no secret, by the way. You can find instructions here.

Monday Feb 26, 2007

Bridge to Boredom

In a fit of naïvety, my wife and I went to see Bridge to Terabithia this weekend. What a total bait and switch! I was expecting something on the order of Neverending Story, but what I got was After School Special: the Revenge. This movie had more in common with A River Runs Through It than with a fantasy story. Sadly, I realized how bad the movie was going to be just from hearing the opening title music. And I wasn't wrong. The script sucked. The acting was pretty bad. What effects there were were terrible. The story might have worked as a 30-minute made-for-tv special, but it fell flat on its face on the big screen. The only part that didn't suck was getting to see Zooey Dechanel again, and she was criminally underused. I understand that it's a kids' movie, but not even that is enough to excuse this film.

Avoid this movie if at all possible. If you have children who are dying to see it, liquor up before the show or send them in alone. The only other movie I've ever seen in the theater that was as sadistically unentertaining as this one was Coffee and Cigarettes. If I weren't an eternal optimist, I would have walked out, and for me that's a huge statement. I give this film a well-deserved F.




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