Wednesday, January 31, 2007

free linux drivers

I see that Greg Kroah has a post on how kernel driver developers are willing to write drivers for devices that don't currently have drivers.

This is a wonderful initiative. There'll probably be some good results from it. I doubt if it'll make a big difference though with a lot of the things that cause the most trouble now. At some point I read that one of the reasons there are no nvidia source drivers for linux (why nvidia provides binary drives but not source) is because of patent concerns. They will provide binary drivers because they must. No drivers, no sales. Binary drivers are much harder to analyze for internal operations than are source drivers. Source drivers, on the other hand, more easily expose the internals of the hardware to reverse engineering. And if this or that piece of hardware violates a patent, then the company that manufactures that hardware could be in for a long and expensive fight (with a possible loss at the end).

Many devices will gain linux drivers with this initiative, particularly those devices which are not particularly leading edge (multi-tool device [swiss knife] with USB flash drive and MP3 player anyone?) and which are manufactured in countries (cough, cough, peoples republic of china) which don't have much in the way of intellectual property law enforcement. I hope that nvidia sees the light. A friend of mine has problems with his computer, he runs windows since he can't figure out a way to get his nvidia card to work in linux, even with the free nvidia ethernet device driver. I've had problems with wifi and winmodems and sound cards from time to time, on one laptop or another. Anything that can help will be good. I'm not sanguine though, about higher end hardware that needs to maintain its high end performance characteristics by ignoring possible patents in the field.

Some of those patents might even be bogus. Microsoft recently pulled back a patent application on some functionality in its visual development environment because the functionality was clearly stolen from BlueJ and the authors of BlueJ made a stink about it because the patent might mean that they wouldn't be able to use BlueJ even though BlueJ demonstrated prior art, because fighting the patent would be so expensive (unacceptable for a small open source project with no cash flow). If the U.S. patent system were to collapse it would be a good thing for the world. Of course it won't, the U.S. patent system is supported by lobbyists and U.S. military might. That military might be incompetent to bring peace anywhere in the world, but it is plenty competent enough to destroy anything in its path. So, no, the U.S. patent system, with its built-in stupidities will continue to keep the world from progress in many fields, among them, free software and the development of drivers for free software ecosystems.

real world postgresql vs mysql benchmarks

There's an article that tests the same queries against the same data using postgresql and mysql, and postgresql comes out consistently faster

I don't know how good that benchmark is, there's always performance to be gained from tuning, although I'd always thought that the tuning needed to be done more on the postgresql side than mysql (since the postgresql defaults are meant for slow, memory-constrained servers while mysql has several profiles and it's just a matter of choosing a profile that's close to one's server configuration).

The database tested isn't that large either. He's got 10G of data, at my $DAYJOB, i work with 400G of data (2 years or so worth). I don't think I'll try to get mysql to load that much data at all. I may try it when mysql gets to version 6 or 7, but I doubt if I'll try it for the current versions. In any case, the queries we run against that database are sufficiently complex that I'm not sure I could express them in mysql SQL.

Yeah, two years or so from now I may try to load one years worth of data into mysql and see what performance is like for the common things we use the database for.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Wifi working

I've been messing around with the wifi on this Winbook G733e laptop (desktop replacement, really) for months now. Today I finally got the wifi working. I had to use ndiswrapper (and the reason for the delay is, I had lost the recovery CD long ago, so it took a while for me to:

A. break down and ask for the Windows recovery CD from my brother and
B. wait for the CD to arrive and
C. actually install it (I needed to find an empty drive to recover onto)
D. finally get desperate enough to sit down for a few hours to get the wifi working

Even after all that, there was no joy. Tools such as KWLan and KWifiManager would *see* the wireless access point, but they couldn't communicate with it. Nor would a simple dhclient wlan0 work. Finally I tried WLAssistant. That got me on the network.

It's frustrating that I don't know what the problem really was and how WLAssistant is different from the other two wifi helper tools. I'm very happy though that wifi is finally working. I was contemplating switching to another laptop, or buying a USB wifi device (iffy, even for the same "model", different versions aren't necessarily labeled differently, and they won't all work with linux). I'm glad to be able to sidestep that.

I'm still going to switch to another laptop. But that'll be 2 years or so from now, when dual core laptops will be much more powerful, and alternative power sources (fuel cells perhaps, or better batteries) will provide hours of unplugged work time. My laptop is almost 7 pounds with everything on it. I don't mind though. I don't travel with it all the time, and when I do, I travel light so that I have enough space and strength to lug the laptop around ;-).

Saturday, January 20, 2007

ho-hum, windows activation

I installed windows on a spare harddrive on my winbook laptop from the recovery disk. Normally I would never do this, but I've been trying to get wifi on this laptop working forever and I'm now desperate enough to install windows.

All of this is perfectly legal. This is the correct recovery disk for this box, and I read the windows code off the legal windows certification sticker on the bottom of the laptop. But it won't activate. I don't care enough to make a stink about this, although I'm certainly never going to call the U.S. to get this working. I run Linux, I'm just in windows temporarily to get the wifi drivers off here so I can try ndiswrapper.

This just strengthens my general antipathy to Windows though, and all things Microsoft. Everything on this box is totally legal, but they won't let me activate my legal license.

I wouldn't be surprised if the reason for this lack of activation is because windows has been installed on this box more than, say, 3 times. That's a reasonable number of times to reinstall due to virus problems and such. My brother (who previously owned this laptop) might have installed more often than that since he's a bit of a geek. I don't care about Microsoft's piracy problems since I don't contribute to any of it. They should make things work for legal users and they can worry about the pirates on their own time instead of having me waste mine blogging about their stupid and paranoid software.

These days I am the BSA. I tell everyone I meet that I won't work with them on their computer problems unless their software is legal. They can buy legal software, or they can use free software, or they can go without my advice and assistance. It seems to work. No one tries to get me to work on Windows boxes anymore. Anyway, if they're a windows shop, I just point them at windows users. I don't want the headaches of working with windows boxes if I can't even get my own personal laptop with it's perfectly legal certificate of authenticity activated.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Big Business Buying Computers

A company I know about is considering buying close to 200 computers. These are just for data processing, they can be headless, don't need much in the way of video cards (if the computer could boot without a video card that would be great, lower cost), don't need a keyboard, mouse or monitor (although a keyboard and monitor switcher might be useful for when it's not accessible via the LAN).

There are two or three accredited suppliers and they're quoting double what href="" Express quotes. I'm not sure where the money is going. Some of it is surely for support. We need one or two day warranty replacement turnaround on any warranted hardware no questions asked. I don't think the current suppliers provide that kind of turnaround, but maybe they provide three or four day replacement turnaround. Some of it might go to marketing overhead since the current suppliers spent something to get the account. Certainly some of it goes to financing costs, since it's common for large accounts to get 60-90 day terms or P.O. good as cash). On the other hand, they've been milking that company for a few years now. I'm not sure what the purchase volume is, but it's probably somewhere near one new PC a week.

I'd like to tell the purchasing people over there that they might as well buy twice the hardware, keep the extras for replacements, and then (after the warranty replacement period has lapsed) sell the extra hardware for a profit (or continue using it as replacements, of course). I'm not sure they'll be receptive though. The accounting mind is often closed.

They could also just buy around 1.3 times the hardware needed. The 30% extra hardware is only for replacing the convenience of instant replacement. When hardware fails, replace it out of the 30% pool immediately. The hardware is still warranted and will be replaced by the manufacturer. Just not within one or two days. When the replacement hardware arrives, put it back in the replacement pool and everything is copacetic.

Good Advice

href="" Jazdzewski, on Removing All Doubt has good advice for software developers />

  • Never stop learning
  • Communication is critical
  • Under promise, over deliver
  • Own up to your mistakes
  • Never let bad code off your desk
  • Programming is fun, but shipping is your job
The full post is better than that summary.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007


Boy, I feel so dirty. I never print to paper. I can't remember the last time I printed anything to paper myself (although no doubt other people have printed one or another thing for me in the last two years).

Today I had to do the actual printing. The Excel performance appraisal data entry system has a whole bunch of macros in there. So I had to do the PA in Windows. Yech. And then, I had to print 3 copies of part of it, for other people to fill in. Yech. I think it's at least 5 years since I printed anything myself, to a printer, using real paper and ink.

Hopefully it'll be another year at least before I need to print anything again. Or maybe HR can migrate the PA form to a web based program and nothing need be printed annually for the PAs.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

mail-to blogger and a href links

OK, I just tried the mail-to blogger and the a href link doesn't work
(it's visible as text rather than being displayed as a link). Maybe
it's a security feature in blogger. I don't think my mailer is mangling

Trying to authenticate to the blogger site in a browser is taking too
long though. I don't care enough to wait for that. Its not like the
link is very important anyway.

Edgy working with my winbook V220

I've got a Winbook V220 desktop replacement laptop (I'm using it now)
and <a
href="">Dapper wouldn't install on it</a>. I just got it back from some repair work and I'd forgotten that ubuntu won't install on it. I'd always run Mandriva on it because that installed, and when I decided to switch to ubuntu (mainly for the better [for me] speed of development and updates) Dapper wouldn't install.

I've since tried edgy and *that* installs. So I've switched to ubuntu
Edgy on this laptop. I could have stayed with Mandriva, but I didn't
have the DVD (I've got the free DVD now though) and I'm getting used to

The internal USB wifi device still doesn't work. I'm giving up on that.
Haven't gotten around to touring gilmore though to see if the Edimax USB
wifi device that Holden Hao suggested will work with Edgy <strong>with
no modifications or binary drivers</strong>

Edgy has marginally better detection. At least now it sees the USB
device and even says that it's an "Avast". It still doesn't work though.
If I can find the install CD I'm going to try ndiswrapper. I think I'll
buy another device though before I go with ndiswrapper. And it doesn't
have to be USB. PCMCIA is fine, although I think generally USB devices
are less expensive, which is why I'm looking at those first.

No blogging

Everyone else has blogged about the net being slow. It's usable where I live, and reasonable where I work, so I haven't worried too much about it. Uncharacteristically, I've had things I'd like to blog though, and (this is the uncharacteristic part, normally it doesn't matter) I've been disturbed by the fact that I can't.

All google services have been very slow. Earlier tonight I couldn't even log in to gmail. But because of this generalized google slowness (I could surf to other sites, blogger just wouldn't come up and gmail wouldn't authenticate), I couldn't blog. Now, of course, I've forgotten what I wanted to post about.

I remembered that I could email blog posts to a certain email address and that would work. But it's been a year or more since I last used that. Couldn't remember it. And anyway, I just checked it and the mail-to blogger address had been cleared (due to the switch to the new blogger system I guess, or that was to bopolissimus my other (and first) blogger profile.

I've set up a new mail-to blogger address for this blog now. It's taking a long time to complete though. OK, it's done. I'll need to put those email addresses in my phone or something :-).