Saturday, May 26, 2007

Online feisty upgrade - washout again

I decided to do an online distro upgrade to Ubuntu feisty. As with my last online distro upgrade attempt (Dapper to Edgy), this one didn't go well either. Apache2 wouldn't upgrade cleanly, so I just removed all of apache2. I planned to install it from scratch when the distro upgrade was done.

Unfortunately, there was a problem with removing or upgrading the kernel and I went nuts and decided to completely throw away the Edgy kernel and give Feisty the change to install a few of its kernels. That was a mistake since Ubuntu likes grub and I prefer lilo. Something went wrong the kernel upgrade and I was left with a system that died with kernel panic when trying to mount the root filesystem.

A bit of work with a Dapper installer, and Edgy alternative installer, and a Mandriva 2006 installer gave me no joy. My old trick of chroot to the old mounted root and then mounting the other filesystems didn't work (so I couldn't get /boot to mount, nor could I lilo to write the MBR). There may be a way to do all of that, but I don't know what it is.

Finally I broke down, backed up my /etc and installed Feisty from a CD I'd previously made but not used (since I wanted to just update everything in place). I've spent a few hours downloading the other packages I need (postgresql, subversion, g++, apache2, a whole bunch of php, java, openvpn etc) and by morning I'll have a usable system.

I always have my /home on a partition separate from /. Occasions like this remind me of the wisdom of making that choice.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I broke my laptop

I'd been trying to upgrade to Ubuntu Feisty online but my laptop kept turning itself off after a few beeps. I realized that the fan was not turning on.

I had a spare fan (from a time when I thought the fan wasn't turning on but in fact was just a bit hard starting, somehow that fixed itself and stayed fixed for a year and a half or so). So I decided to replace the fan. Unfortunately, the laptop is an older Winbook model and apparently, in their first few iterations, the case design was rather obtusely inelegant. I've got a more recent Winbook and *that* is *very* much nicer to work with.

So I had to take out a whole bunch of screws (some of which I'm not able to put back in the same place again) and detach some cables and do a whole lot of other work just to get the *power* cable of the fan attached. Replacing the fan was trivial. It was connecting the power cable of the fan that was a pain. I should have just gone to the local cell phone repair shop and had the guy there solder the cut ends of the new fan to the cut ends of the old fan power cable.

I didn't do that though. Instead I actually tried to get the fan connected to power directly. Unfortunately, this involved opening up the laptop to a degree far greater than I had anticipated. And in doing all of that, I seem to have touched something and now the power won't go on. I might bring this laptop to a repair shop (or ship it to the U.S. to be fixed for a fee). It won't be anytime soon though. Instead, I just swapped the hard drive with a slower but much lighter winbook laptop I had lying around, and took the RAM from the bad laptop and put it into the new winbook (after doing some online research to make sure the memory was the same for both models, it was).

Now I've got a laptop that's half the speed (3Ghz to 1.5Ghz but with a bit more RAM 1GB to 1GB+256MB since I just moved the RAM over to the new laptop).

I like the smaller laptop. It's certainly a heck of a lot more convenient to lug around than the 3Ghz desktop replacement. I'm going to miss that 3Ghz though. I hope I can get it fixed. I'd love to keep working with it, despite its weight, for another 3-4 years :-). by then quad-core CPUs will be out and dual-core laptops will be as cheap as these winbooks were when I got them :-).

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


perltidy -b -i=4 -et=4 -t -cti=0 -bl [filename]

Friday, May 04, 2007

NEVER buy software that requires activation more than once

The company I work for has a custom program for handhelds. We bought tens of handhelds (might be a hundred by now, not sure) and installed the software on it. Unfortunately, we used Appforge to develop the software. The software requires real-time activation per-handheld device that the software is installed on. If we'd gotten the ISV license, no real-time activation per handheld would have been required, but the ISV license expires every year.

Now Appforge has closed (bankruptcy) and the activation servers have gone dark. We can't install on handhelds which we have licenses for because we have that activate-in-realtime license, not the ISV license.

Now, it wasn't my choice to go with Appforge, I'd have gone with J2ME or similar, probably. But we made the right decision at the time. Development in VB really *was* much faster than in J2ME or something else. We just didn't know that AppForge was in financial trouble. Next time we think about buying anything with similar "copy-protection" though, I'm going to put my foot down. NEVER buy anything that requires that the selling company still be around in order for you to use it. Open source is better, if it's available, but even for payware, if the company you buy it from can turn your service off at will (or when they go bankrupt), walk away.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

geek gear

I'll never get this


It's too dangerous and while I'd enjoy it, my wife won't stand for it.

On the other hand, maybe I can get the tie-fighter desk!