Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Sleep deprivation experiment
DIdn't get to sleep until 6am, woke up at 10am. How does a penguin do on 4 hours of sleep? Interesting experiment, dear Watson. Didn't stop me from heading up to Wally World to get my medicines, then over to Harbor Freight Tools and Sears to start the work of replacing the tools that were in the toolbox that thieves stole (grrrrrr....). None of my core tools were in that toolbox (they were all with my Jeep that weekend), but lots of shit that just make working on cars and motorcycles more pleasant were in there, as well as some specialty tools that I don't even know whether I need'em anymore but it was nice having them in case I ever did need'em again (tools good! Ugh!). So over at Harbor Freight I got cheap replacements for the various specialty pliers (bent nose, needle nose, etc.) which when you need'em you need'em as well as various picks, scribes, tweezers, and other such implements of mass destruction, and oh yeah, my freakin' *air nozzles* were in that tool box too for attaching to my air compressor/air tank to do stuff like fill up tires and such via quick disconnect so I had to pick up a new air tool kit. Then over at Sears, I got replacements for the locking pliers and channel-loks that got stolen (I had the one of each that I use most often in the Jeep with me, well actually had two of the Vice-grips a tiny one and a regular size one, but the ones I didn't have do get occasional use when they're just the right tool for the job). Thus far the thief has set me back around $120, and I haven't even started on stuff like sheet metal shears and such that were in that toolbox, grrr...
So it appears that sleep deprivation makes me type run-on sentences and buy tools. Sigh. Guess it could be worse. Oh, yeah, what beats me is that I'm cutting back on my caffeine intake, just one cup in the morning for the past two days otherwise I can't safely navigate out of my front door and I'm going to cut that down to an 8oz cup rather than a 16oz mug (heh!) then to a 4oz cup at which point I should be able to kick the coffee habit entirely, but it doesn't seem to be helping the insomnia issue. And no, I don't use meth or crack, so don't bother telling me to quit them either :-). Oh yeah, my Macbook in clamshell mode hooked up to my widescreen 22" monitor is suhweet, but I can't find a picture browser that is as nice as gqview on Linux for the Mac. iPhoto is almost there, but is way too slow once you import thousands of photos into it and sucks up all the memory on the system (and remember I have two gigabytes of memory in my Macbook), not to mention that you have to import the photos into it in the first place, you can't just browse an arbitrary directory full of penguin porn for example unless you import it and who wants to have a 'penguin porn' category in their iPhoto left tab heh! So I guess I gotta fire up Xcode and do my first Aqua programming -- porting gqview to the native MacOS API. That oughtta be a trip :-).
Oh, for those of you who have multiple cats with multiple food bowls, do you find that your cats are picky about what order you fill the food bowls in? If I fi ll the food bowl by the wine rack before I fill the food bowl by the refrigerator, the furry beasties get all discombobulated. The Mighty Fang goes and starts eating out of the food bowl by the wine rack until Mencken shoves him away to grab a few bites, meantime I put food into the food bowl by the refrigerator and nobody's eating out of there. But if I put food into the food bowl by the refrigerator, TMF starts chowing down, while Mencken goes and waits by the one by the wine rack, I put food in there, and Mencken starts chowing down, then it's both kitties chowing down at the same time like it's supposed to be. Damned furry beasts simply do not tolerate any variation from their routine, it gets them all tangled up... hmm, okay, so sleep deprivation starts making penguins start talking about cats, photos, crack habits, and other stuff in a posting about insominia too. Babble babble babble...
So now both California and Florida have certified electronic voting machines -- as being crap. Even World Nut Daily (R-Nuttsville) has expressed alarm, mostly because they're concerned that those nasty Demon-craps are gonna hack an election (they don't figure Republicans are smart enough to hack an election apparently), but still, it seems that the general consensus everywhere outside of local bribed elections official's offices and the offices of ES&S/Diebold/etc. is that electronic voting machines are crap.
So how did we get into this situation? Well, the deal is that local elections officers really aren't very knowledgeable about fundamental accounting principles. By and large they got their jobs by being elected or appointed based on political leanings, not on whether they knew how to account for money or for votes. As a result, when the voting machine companies came around with these new electronic voting machines, they had not the foggiest notion that they were supposed to demand that the same standards used to account for money also be used to account for votes. Audit trails, paper trails, none of those things were on their priority lists because they just plain didn't understand that those things are important in order to have any confidence in any accounting system, whether for votes or for money. Furthermore, none of these people are technologists. So what you had was people ignorant of technology, ignorant of fundamental accounting systems, who were charged with purchasing multi-million dollar amounts of voting machines. You had people who had no idea that a voting machine written in Visual BASIC on Windows with no paper audit trail was inherently a Bad Idea(tm) making the decision as to what machines to buy.
The results... well, we know the results. The machines don't work worth a shit. But boy, they sure look cool! And man, those presentations! And hey, wasn't that conference that ES&S flew us to in Hawaii great? What? Diebold wants to fly us to Bermuda for a conference there? Whoa! Uhm, do the machines work? Who the fuck knows, so we'll just buy the coolest looking machine whose maker flys us to the neatest places!
So how do we get out of this situation? Well, first we need national standards. Real national standards, that require voting machines to meet the same accounting standards when accounting for votes that their business counterparts are required to meet when accounting for dollars. I don't care if the dimwit Registrar of Voters in Palm Beach County makes the decision to buy a particular machine, as long as the machine is guaranteed to work properly via some national body that has full authority to audit the thing. Secondly, we need to educate local voter registrars that just because it's a computer doesn't make it great. You'd think that anybody who had regularly experienced the Blue Screen of Death under Windows would have been cured of the notion that technology is necessarily a good thing, but a lot of these people still think technology is magic, not a bunch of cranky machines that humans programmed and often mis-programmed that do stupid things like, say, crash and lose votes, which is why you need that paper trail. And finally we need more folks like in Florida and California who are willing to stand up to powerful forces and say "We aren't gonna buy stuff that doesn't meet our standards, and if your stuff doesn't meet our standards, you either fix it or you're out of here."
Is it going to happen? Well, given that World Nut Daily (the voice of the right-wingnut ranks) is as worried as the civil libertarians and lefties... maybe. But we're up against big money here. We'll see. We'll see.
At first glance there does not seem to be any way to hook a keyboard and mouse and monitor to a Macbook and use just that keyboard and monitor and mouse. The little picture of a monitor in the menu bar will just let you either mirror the two monitors, or extend your desktop across the two monitors. But there is. Set the "wake on Bluetooth" preference to "Yes", plug the external monitor in and pair the Macbook with your keyboard and mouse (if they aren't already paired and are Bluetooth rather than USB), shut the lid, and the screen goes blank as the Macbook goes asleep. Click the mouse and/or press a key on the keyboard, it wakes back up -- but it appears only on the external monitor. At this point you can put the Macbook aside (leaving it plugged into the monitor of course!) and treat it as a weirdly shaped Mac Mini.
Now, in the interests of balance after the glowing review I gave it earlier, here's the list of things I do not like about the Macbook:
Few games. And the games there are don't work well on the Macbook due to its use of on-board Intel graphics that are 2d not 3d oriented, and due to stupidity on the part of games makers. I had to download a crack from the Internets to run the Mac version of Civilization IV on my Macbook, for example, because the out-of-box copy decided my Macbook didn't have enough graphics memory. (Which is true, but the crack, which removed the graphics card limitation as well as the need to stick the DVD in every time, ran just fine).
No multiple virtual desktops. Linux has virtual desktops. Windows XP has virtual desktops (via the PowerToys add-in). MacOS 10.4 Tiger, on the other hand... nope. To be fair, that's coming in MacOS 10.5 Leopard, due in October, but everybody else has had it for years and while the Expose' feature helps, that's not how I usually work -- I usually have my programming stuff open on desktop #1, web on desktop #3, email on desktop #4, that way I don't have to fight through programming windows to get to web windows and so on.
Remember that I said that the Macbook sucked air in around the keys in the keyboard rather than the bottom? Well, heat from the CPU and power supply gets trapped between the case bottom and the motherboard, because there's no ventilation under the motherboard. The CPU never overheats (I tested this with 200% CPU load, i.e., maxing out both CPU's, plus full disk load, and nothing got anywhere near overheating), but the rear left of the little beasty gets really toasty. The CPU doesn't care that it's around 130F, but your leg might.
When you crank up the CPU usage, the fan comes on and really howls. To be fair, the fan almost never comes on when I'm just Internet'ing, web browsing, and word processing. It's when I'm playing games or videos or something that it gets a bit noisy.
The power supply is small and cute and attractive, a piece of computer sculpture like everything else Apple. It also is only barely capable of supplying sufficient power for the Macbook when you crank up the CPU usage by, say, playing a game. If you'd previously run down the battery and are trying to charge it, it'll take hours to re-charge, and get very hot too. Not dangerously hot, but definitely toasty. If you play a game for hours it'll also get very hot.
Apple's patented "MagSafe" connector for the power supply is cool because if you trip over the power cord it'll just unplug rather than yank the computer off the coffee table, and also has much less and tear on the computer plug when plugging and unplugging than a normal banana type plug, but because it's patented by Apple there are no third-party power supplies for the Macbook. Not a big deal, except Apple doesn't have a car power supply, so you'll need to use an inverter if you want to blog on the go using EVDO.
Because of the lack of sufficient USB ports for both keyboard/mouse and computer music gear, if you want to go with external keyboard/mouse while at home base you'll need to go Bluetooth. I found only one Bluetooth keyboard that was reasonable to use with a Mac -- Apple's own wireless keyboard, which isn't actually a bad keyboard (at least it's slim and has decent feel) but is rather wide (doesn't fit well on my keyboard tray). I found only two Bluetooth mice that are big enough to use for regular use (the others I found were tiny little mice for use with PDA's that would be painful to use). One is an ugly gun-metal grey Logitech two-button wheel mouse that is now several years old. I find that it doesn't have very good resolution (it's an older LED-based mouse) and the wheel is very "clicky" (not very fine resolution). It does, however, fit my hand well. The other is Apple's own Wireless Mighty Mouse. This is a laser mouse and good resolution, it also has a scroll trackball rather than a scroll wheel (allows scrolling side to side as well as up and down) and a pair of squeeze sensors on the side to serve as a 4th button (pressing down the scrollball is a 3rd button). The squeeze sensors are usually programmed to trigger Expose'. This mouse is a thing of beauty, but is pill-shaped and does not fit my hand as comfortably as the Logitech mouse. The 4th button is handy given the lack of virtual desktops so I live with it. This mouse has a poor durability record, it quits about 6 months in because the mouse trackball on the top eventually gets gunked up with normal hand oils and stuff and quits working. Keep your receipt, you'll need to exercise the 1 year warranty, and treat it as a consumable item (i.e. figure you'll need to buy a new one every year).
The dock is annoying. While you can click on a picture of an application to bring it back to the front (if it's already running), you can't choose which window of the application to bring back to the front. You have to use Expose' for that. Combining the taskbar and application starter into one dock may have seemed a good idea, and I must admit it's cool eye candy, but it is annoying.
The on-board speakers point *backwards*. Now, granted, to a certain extent this is necessary because if they pointed upwards they'd give feedback to the microphone (which is at the top of the screen next to the iSight camera so you can do video conferencing while looking at the camera and have the microphone pick up what you're saying). But it means that any sound you do hear from the on-board speakers is even more muffled than usual for the lot that is pathetic laptop speakers.
Parallels, the system for running Windows applications while MacOS is still running, won't run many games even with the new DirectX 9 support. In particular, it won't run my fave, Civilization IV Warlords (sob!). Basically if a game is not listed on the Parallels website as working with Parallels, it ain't gonna work. You'll need to dual-boot using Boot Camp to run those games.
Windows Activation will throw a fit when you dual-boot using Boot Camp *plus* run Parallels. This isn't Apple's fault. This is entirely Microsoft's fault. But it's still annoying.
Under heavy use (as in, 200% CPU use plus thrashing the disk drive), the battery life is approximately 1 hour 20 minutes, at which point the Macbook shuts down into sleep mode until you plug it in. Figure you'll get a little over 2 hours with all the radios (WiFi and Bluetooth) on, and approximately 3 hours with the radios off. My old HP had an extended battery that I could regularly get 4 hours on. Yeah, the extended battery stuck out of the bottom and back of the laptop and made it somewhat heavy but it was nice to be able to take a long flight across country and not worry (much) about power.
Now, does that mean I'm having buyer's remorse? No. For what I'm using it for (basically a combination Unix programming workstation and a music workstation), the Macbook is an amazing value. With its fast dual core processor and with the 2gb of RAM and 250GB hard drive that I replaced the originals with, it's fast as snot (well, at everything except real-time 3d video processing) and MacOS makes Windows look like the primitive garbage that it is. Despite the fact that it is Unix, it boots considerably faster than Windows XP, logging in happens considerably faster than XP, and its sleep mode works 100% reliably (with XP it was always a crapshoot as to whether it'd come out of sleep mode correctly -- not entirely XP's fault, it was 3rd party drivers that sometimes would mess up, but still annoying). The above annoyances have work-arounds and don't significantly impair how I use my Macbook. I just list them in the interests of balance.
Have to run it in Parallels on the Macbook to run the VPN tunnel to work (only runs on Windows, GRRR!). So I changed my Parallels setup and re-installed and it decided it no longer wanted to be activated. So I went through the robot and the robot told me I stole my copy of Windows that I paid good money for blah blah, so I called again and punched keys until I got a customer service representative, at which point I got the thing activated again, but gah!
This is a perfect example of yet another piece of stupidity from technology companies. The pirates and hackers cracked Windows Activation years ago. The only people this thing impacts are people like me who build our own computers with our own legal copies of Windows who don't want to put some probably-virus-laden hacked/cracked shit onto computers that we use for work purposes. The script kiddies and such? Fuck, they don't give a shit anyhow about how many zombies are running on their PC, as long as they can play their pirated games on their pirated Windows without the zombies slowing it down too much.
Microsoft... Sony... all those goons who put this bullshit into their products that only affects legit users, not software pirates... well, I ain't gonna say what I want to have happen to them, except that it ain't nice. They're hiding behind the laws that they bought and paid for right now. But if the Republicans get their way and destroy the government as a functioning entity...
I earlier said that a Macbook will go about 2 hours on a battery charge. I'm going to test that. I turned off wireless and Bluetooth to save battery life, and will see how long I can go on that while doing typical "work" stuff such as browsing the Internet, editing text, playing with GarageBand (turns out it *will* do the kind of dynamics processing that I ranted it couldn't do, I just need to read the freakin' documentation, funny how that works, heh?), and otherwise doing stuff like I'd be doing on an airplane or train. Not watching a DVD or streaming mp3's, though. Those would probably use more juice.
GarageBand turns out to be able to do more than I thought yesterday. What can I say, I'm new to this Mac and Garageband thingy. Looks like it'll probably do everything I need to do for my own use, including clean up my crappy vocals (heh!). Running the guitar effects is pretty interesting. Hey, I can make my acoustic guitar sound like a Strat, whoa! If I were a pro I'd go for something like Logic Pro that allows lots of things like, for example, "stretching out" vocals phrasing to match an instrumental track (or vice-versa) without making it sound like crap, but for me, my guitar, and my MIDI keyboard for adding things like drums and such, GarageBand *might* do the trick. It's not as if I'm corresponding with myself across country (see: The Postal Service).
Discovered all the AU plugins for GarageBand (and Logic) over at MacMusic. Hmm. So it appears my frustration yesterday was just because I was using a new software app that I didn't know how to use, not because it won't do what I need it to do...
Hmm, currently at 78%, 41 minutes in. That implies that in light use in transit with all the radios turned off doing word processing and such I can get about 3 hours use out of the battery. Turn the radios all on, and battery usage is much higher, I know from experience...
Well, 'nuff techno-geekery for now. Your snark supply shall resume shortly.
Well, I've had this guy for a month now, so I figure that it's time to give you a straight-up evaluation of the hardware and software, based on my decades of experience in the computer business.
The Apple Macbook comes in three flavors. There's the bottom feeder model without a DVD-R writer put out to meet a price point, a white model with a DVD-R writer in the middle, then a black model with a DVD-R writer and bigger hard drive on top. I have the middle model.
The first impression you get just looking at the Macbook is that it's just so darned pretty. Most computers look like they were designed by ex-Soviet tank designers -- i.e., ugly, functional, with exposed rivets even. The Macbook, on the other hand, looks like a small sculpture or something. It's art. Okay, so maybe that makes this penguin a bird-brain, that he likes pretty things. But that's what you see when you first take the thing out of the box.
Once you get it out of the box, what you get is a laptop that is minimalist but has the necessary things. First, I suppose I should start with what's missing. There is no Cardbus slot. There is no multi-function card reader. There are only two USB ports.
Now for what it has: It comes with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, either 2.0ghz or 2.16ghz. This is two processors in one package, basically, with Intel's virtualization technology and 64-bit extensions (MacOS currently does not use the 64-bit extensions, but Parallels uses the virtualization features). Memory is 1GB of DDR2-677 memory as two 512M DIMM's. The DIMM's live behind a shield in the battery compartment and you can replace them with two 1GB DIMM's to raise the total memory to 2GB. There is no need to do this unless you are going to run Parallels for running Windows software, as with all virtualization technology Parallels is a memory hog.
The stock drive on my MacBook is a 120gb SATA hard drive. This is more than sufficient -- I currently have the data from my old Windows laptop, the data from my old Linux laptop, and a bunch of Mac applications and files on my hard drive and am using 82 gigabytes of space. That's roughly ten years worth of data on there. But if you want more space, the hard drive lives behind the same shield in the battery compartment as the DIMM's and is easily replaced using the directions on Apple's support website. I put a 250gb Western Digital SATA laptop drive there (model WD2500BVS) from NewEgg there. Note you'll need a Torx #6 screwdriver to take the carrier off the old drive and put it onto the new drive, also note that it must be a SATA drive.
Screen and keyboard: It's a 13.3" widescreen. This is a pretty small screen, but it is sharp and clear. I wanted a smaller laptop than my 15.4" widescreen, which I discovered the hard way does not fit well on airline meal trays or in trains, and unfortunately a smaller screen is the price you pay for that. That said it has proven good enough even for these feeble bird-brained eyes. The keyboard is somewhat unique in its construction. Most laptops have a keyboard that consists of a plastic plate, a circuit board mounted on the plastic plate, and keys mounted to the circuit board. The case has a hole in it the size of the keyboard, and the plastic plate is snapped into that hole after the ribbon cable from the keyboard is plugged into the motherboard. The Macbook does it different in order to reduce the parts count and make the laptop thinner. The circuit board is mounted to the underside of the top half of the case, and the top of the case has individual holes for the individual keys to come through. It looks like the infamously horrible "chicklet" keyboards of the 1980's, but it isn't -- it's just a regular old keyboard, constructed slightly differently. It has very good feel and you do not feel like you're typing on some sort of deranged mini-keyboard. This also has the advantage that the keyboard doesn't flex like with the plastic keyboards, since it is firmly mounted at multiple places to the underside of the top case half rather than snapped into an opening with tabs like typical laptop keyboards. The keyboard also serves as the air intake for the CPU fan -- unlike other laptops, there are no air intake slots on the bottom of the Macbook to suck in dirt and cat hair and be blocked by your clothes when you, like, actually have it on your laptop. While the left back of the bottom gets rather warm in operation, the temperature monitor software that I installed shows that nothing ever gets anywhere near actually overheating (the CPU is rated at 100C, the drive is rated at 60C, the hottest I've seen the CPU is 79C and the hottest I've ever seen the drive is 43C).
Touch pad -- the touch pad is larger than typical for laptops. There is no "scroll" area on the touch pad. Instead, you hold two fingers on the pad and move your fingers around. You can then scroll a window up, down, left, right as desired. There is only one button, but you can set the button to "right-click" if you hold two fingers on the pad and hit the button. Still, I do wish Apple would get off this one-button thing and give folks two buttons on their touchpad, they already did on their Mighty Mouse (yes, it has two buttons though it looks like it only has one), so why not on their laptop touchpad?
If you dock at home, there is a mini-DVI port on the side and you can buy cables to plug into it to drive either a DVI-based widescreen monitor or a standard-size XVGA monitor, MacOS will automatically extend your desktop to the new monitor and you can set it to automatically switch to the new monitor as your desktop if you so desire.
On the right side is the slot-loading DVD drive. On the left side is the MagPower plug (uses a magnet to hold the contacts together -- less wear, and if you trip over the power cord you just pull the magnet out rather than pulling your laptop off the desk), a mini-DVI video output (can drive either a DVI monitor or a SXVGA monitor to extend your desktop), a standard-sized Firewire-400 plug (the standard 6-wire plug, *not* the little 4-wire mini-plug that some laptops ship with), two USB-2 ports, and audio in/audio out ports. The audio in/audio out ports are the dual type that can do either optical in/out or analog in/out depending on what kind of plug you place into them. On the front of the laptop is a small black window for the media control remote that comes with the Macbook (looks sorta like an iPod Shuffle, but it controls your iTunes or iDvd instead so that you can skip tunes even if you're not at your computer), and an oblong light that's used to denote whether your computer is suspended or asleep. There is no latch. Instead, a magnet holds the clamshell closed when you close it up. When you close it up, the system automatically goes asleep. This, unfortunately, is not configurable -- something which is annoying for those of us who want to close up our laptop to keep cats off of the keyboard while some long-running task runs to completion. However, if you have a monitor plugged in as well as external mouse and keyboard then you can close the clamshell and utilize the "wake on keypress" function to wake the computer back up and continue processing on the external monitor.
The Macbook comes with an Atheros Wireless-N chip that can either run on the old Wireless-G frequencies or the old Wireless-A frequencies (which are *far* less crowded and thus likely to be faster). Unfortunately most of the Wireless-N hardware out there will only run at the old Wireless-G frequencies. The exception is Apple's own Airport Extreme access point, which, however, has the disadvantage that it only has 100mbit/sec Ethernet ports despite the fact that Wireless-N is theoretically capable of 120mbit/sec throughput.
The Macbook also comes with a Bluetooth interface. I have successfully used two different Bluetooth mice, a Bluetooth cable, and used it to sync my Treo 700p (Palm smart-phone) via Bluetooth. I also have used Bluetooth DUN (Dial Up Networking) with my Treo to access the Internet while on the road.
MacOS... that's a different post. You can run both MacOS and Windows XP on this thing, and I'll examine your choices there later. Obviously it's optimized for MacOS.
Battery life: Sort of a joke. If you are just reading EMAIL and browsing the Internet, it'll last a little over two hours. Once you fire up anything CPU-intensive that gets the CPU temperature up and the fan howling at its full speed (it's a multi-speed fan), you'll be lucky to get an hour of use out of the laptop before running out of juice. If you need more battery life, carry a spare. That said, the problem isn't that the Macbook uses a lot of juice, the problem is that the battery is fairly small in order to fit into the slim formfactor, while the bits and pieces that Apple uses (the CPU, the Intel chipset, etc.) are the same ones you'd find in a full-size laptop with a full-size battery. One of the reason why Apple left off the Cardbus, SDcard reader, and extra USB ports was to save power, but you can save only so much when the CPU and chipset are sucking down 23 watts and 18 watts apiece, respectively.
The Macbook is a well-designed little laptop that, incidentally, also happens to be the lowest-cost 13.3" laptop on the U.S. market right now (only the Japanese manufacturers sell laptops in this formfactor in the U.S. market at the moment, and they ain't cheap). It is a perfect example of why "more is better" is false. In the case of the Macbook, "more" would simply use more power and make the laptop thicker and clumsier to use on a train or airplane. The Macbook does everything you need to do, and leaves off everything you won't normally use. My old HP laptop, for example, has a Cardbus slot. I don't have anything that goes into it. I don't know of any user of a recent-model laptop who has anything in that slot. So Apple deleted it. Same deal with the jillion USB ports of some laptops. With Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, there just is no need for so many USB ports. So to save power and space, Apple deleted them. And while the multi-card reader thingy in my HP laptop gets used occasionally, I bought an SD card reader for $10 for my Macbook that plugs into the USB port and is tiny enough to carry in my camera bag, so it goes with my camera bag so that I can transfer my photos on demand to the Macbook, and otherwise isn't sucking power or cluttering my Macbook with hardware to read card formats that I have no interest in reading. But it has all the important stuff, the stuff you really use. In the end, the Macbook is simply a sweet little machine, and it's no wonder that Apple is selling them like hotcakes.
Now that I have the cute little Macbook, I'm sorta dissatisfied with my recording setup. My old USB sound system works, but is slow and has more lag than modern ones. My mixer sorta works, but I gotta keep remembering to work around some issues it has because at a gig a bass player plugged his amp into the wrong place and let the magic smoke out (and I ain't kidding about the magic smoke bit, it went "Pop!" and smoke started coming out of it, to say that I was sick to my stomach about my mixer's semi-demise is sorta an understatement!). Besides, it's clunky and this is a small apartment. Modern USB sound systems will accept XLR inputs directly from the mikes as well as accepting input from mixers via the traditional plugs, eliminating the need for a separate mixer entirely if you're not going to be recording a whole band at one time. Also, my USB MIDI interface is a separate thingy and my Macbook has only two USB plugs. So if I want to do MIDI instruments via my keyboard at the same time that I'm recording vocals, my Macbook looks like a freakin' wire farm and I have no USB plugs left.
Okay, so I went and did my research and found that a lot of folks like the Lexicon Lambda for $150 for recording with their Macbooks. You can use Garageband or the software which comes with it, Garageband is a lot easier to use though I'll tell you that much and has plenty of its own effects which work just fine. This also has MIDI IN/OUT plugs. So there goes the mixer, the MIDI controller, and one wall wart...
While I was there I went to look for good vocals and instrument mikes for studio use. Last time I was in the mike market, the only low-cost condenser microphone was a Russian small-diaphragm one for around $200 (Oktava mk-012), which had the typical Russian "quality" (you never knew what you were getting when you bought one). However, as with everything else, the Chinese have come into this market with a bang. Lots of people seem to like the Audio Technica AT2020 Studio Microphone for $100 for both vocals and miking a guitar. Other than a little harshness at the top end easily controlled with a teensy bit of EQ, folks rave that it does as good a job as their $500+ studio mikes yet is cheap and durable enough that they can take it out on gigs if desired without shitting a brick at the thought of their expensive studio mike getting smashed. For a low-end instrument mike, folks have been getting the Behringer C2 Chinese mikes, which come as a pair for $60.
So anyhow, I think I'm going to go ahead and order all this, the mikes are better than what I have (which are live performance mikes that emphasize durability over fidelity -- a good thing, since they definitely show some wear and tear on them) and the USB sound system is *way* better than my antique. Hmm. Basically a complete recording studio for $350 (minus the cost of the laptop)? Whoa! While I must admit some qualms about using the product of Chinese slave labor in my home studio, if it's a choice between no home studio and using the product of Chinese slave labor, I guess there just isn't much choice. Besides, my Macbook was made in China too, as was my previous HP laptop, my keyboard, my mixer, ... Sigh :-(.
Blogger and Haloscan user John Asscroft, the Attorney General of the Untied States of America, has politely requested that the Haloscan Tor user ban be modified so that blog owners can decide for themselves whether they wish to allow Tor users to post on their blog or not. Please log into Haloscan, then go to their feature request forum and say you want that feature too. Please be polite. Can catch more flies with sugar and all that, y'know?
In my experience, anonymous trolls can be discouraged by *temporarily* turning off anonymous user postings. They try to troll a couple of times, get discouraged, go away, and a week or so later you can turn anonymous posting back on. Still, I think we'll get a lot more traction if we do as the Attorney General did and request an anonymous posting setting that blog owners must specifically enable in order for Tor users to post comments to their blog. That way only bloggers specifically impacted by the Tor ban need to do anything, while other bloggers (typically the less technical types who aren't into that whole Electronic Freedom Frontier cyberliberties thing) can continue the status quo in blithe ignorance without worrying about setting some strange setting when they get odd trolls to their blogs.
So I finally feel well enough to plug in the USB sound system into the Mac. Hmm. Nothing shows up on the screen. Go into sound preferences. Oh, there it is. Turn on the mixer, and adjust the levels so that my guitar mike hits a couple of bars below the top and my vocals mike hits a couple of bars below the top. Fire up Garage Band. Figure out how to make a track from a "natural instrument". Figure out how to add an "effect" to that track, like compression and reverb, but end up choosing effects from the nifty list of effects ("male vocals" for the vocal mike, "clean" for the guitar -- I'll add a little reverb to it later, but my guitar style prefers a clean soundboard). Assign the vocal mike channel to the track. Create a second track, and assign the guitar mike channel to the track. Make sure the little red "record" icons are lit for both tracks. Press "Record". Huh. That's it?
Yep, that's it. It Just Works(tm). No fuss. No muss. No hassles.
Now I just need to write a couple of songs. (Actually have ideas for a couple, one called "Independence Day" and one called "Liberation", just need to flesh them out).
Contrary to popular belief, you can stream Airtunes over a wired Ethernet to the Apple Airport Express. You have to set up the Airport Express in "bridging" mode and turn on the setting to accept Airtunes over Ethernet, but once you do that, it works fine. I'm currently happily streaming Airtunes from my Macbook to the Netgear Wireless-N router and from thence via Ethernet to the Airport Express.
Right now, my big issue is getting my Windows XP laptop to hook to the Airport Express via Wireless-G. I don't want to hook it to the Netgear Wireless-N router because then it'll slow down everything to Wireless-G speeds. I think I'm having a key conflict here, but how to resolve it is proving difficult. It would sorta suck to have to bring back my D-Link wireless-G router back into the equation when the whole point of this was to simplify my networking setup (which had altogether too many switches, bridges, etc. in the equation).
The full thingy on the box says, "Netgear RangeMax Next Wireless-N Router GIgabit Edition (WNR854T)". It should more properly say, "Pretty Pathetic".
Let's look at the "Pretty" part first. It is pretty. Most wireless routers look like something designed in Communist Russia -- crude, ugly, at best functional. A couple of them look like miniaturized alien spacecraft that just hunkered down for a landing on the shelf above your computer desk. The RangeMax Next, on the other hand, looks like a sleek piece of computer furniture, sorta like the wireless router counterpart of what my Macbook is to computers. It's pretty. It looks great up there above my computer desk.
Also good: All five ports (the four switch ports and the WAN port) are Gigabit Ethernet ports. And the switch ports even work at full speed as just a plain old switch. Tests with my Macbook also show that it is approximately 4.5 times faster than my old D-Link DI-524 Wireless-G router when it comes to retrieving files via the Wifi connection. This is about what you'd expect, because Wireless-N claims to go 240Mbit/sec while Wireless-G claims to go 54Mbit/sec (reality is that neither comes anywhere close to acheiving their claims in the crowded spectrum of my apartment, where I can pick ten WiFI networks out of the air when I go to join my network).
Now for the bad. First of all, let's look at the operating software accessed via the browser interface. It's pretty. It's also pretty pathetic. D-Link has a reputation as bottom feeder Taiwanese junk, but my D-Link is positively brilliant compared to this Netgear POS. My D-Link reboots the router when you change most major settings, but at least the D-Link doesn't take much time to do so. The WNR854T, on the other hand, reboots the router when you change even minor settings, and takes freakin' forever to reboot. Indeed, watching the blinky lights, it appears that many times it reboots twice before it'll finally accept a connection.
Now let's look at that wireless performance. It appears that this router, which uses a Marvell chipset, has problems talking AES to the Atheros chip in my Mac. So using WPA2/AES-PSK does not work with the expected speed. Connections slow to a crawl after the first megabyte or so are transferred. My suspicion is that this is a problem with the key-shifting algorithm used inside the Netgear, which attempts to derive "truly" random numbers using various entropy sources and thus runs out of keys once the entropy pool is exhausted. Whatever it is, I'm back to WPA/PSK, which at least isn't utterly broken like WEP but still isn't as secure as WPA2/AES.
Now, let's look at the "auto" setting for channels. I've set up an alias for the /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/Apple80211.framework/Versions/Current/Resources/airport utility on my Macbook, so I can type "airport -s" to do a channel scan and see which channels are in use. When I allowed the router to choose its channel, it plunked itself down right in the middle of four other networks! So I moved the Netgear manually to a channel in the middle of three open channels, and it is now operating at the speed I expect.
So anyhow, I thought I was fine, but then I enabled netatalk on my Linux box and tried to copy over a 500gb file (an ISO image) via the wireless to my Macbook. After exactly 13 seconds, the router rebooted. WTF?! So I tried again. After exactly 13 seconds, the router rebooted. GAH! And this is with the latest firmware update too!
This sucker is going *BACK*. Period. I'm going to try a D-Link DIR-655 next, which uses the same Atheros chipset as the Macbook and hopefully will be far more stable at high speeds.
For the person who said that I needed to get the cats their own bed: They have their very own futon, covered in fur (well, used to be blue denim, now it's pretty much fur). Needless to say, whenever I go into my bedroom to go to bed, they follow me in there and pretty much take over the place. You can see how much of the futon they take up. My guys are *BIG*!
That's a Walton C pennywhistle and a Generation Bb whistle, btw. And of course the case to my camera. The kitties run when I start tootling on the D whistle, but don't seem to mind the lower whistles. Hmm. Anyhow, thus far the Walton C, Walton Mellow D, and Generation Bb are my favorites, they're easy to control and in tune. And none of them are expensive -- all were purchased for under $10 apiece. As far as musical hobbies go, this definitely is one of the less expensive ones!
Mostly been busy with my Mac, trying to get Parallels set up so I can run my mapping software (which alas does not run under MacOS). Turns out that the store I bought it from at the time I bought my Mac was selling an old version, and I'm automatically eligible to upgrade to the new version, all I have to do is mail them a copy of my receipt along with a piece of paper they generated for me on their web site, then they'll email me the info needed to upgrade for free. After they get around to it. Whenever. Like, after they're finished surfing or climbing Mount Whitney or whatever they're doing other than supporting their customers (hey, anybody who is registering an old version in late June when the new version was released in early April obviously is entitled to the new version, but what do I know, I only have 25 years in the bizness and obviously they have more years, right?). Huh. Well, since I'm legally entitled to the new version according to their very own web site, I went on my favorite pirate site (hey, I'm in the computer security biz, you think I don't know where those guys live?) and got a key for the new one along with where to download it (off of the Parallels site!) and went ahead and installed it. When I get the new key back from the Parallels guys, well, then that'll just be gravy...
Well, I gave Ubuntu Studio another chance. Thinking maybe it was an issue of me not installing it from "prestine" Ubuntu Studio DVD, I downloaded the DVD, burned it, and re-imaged my machine (well, put it onto the spare partitions I'd reserved for that purpose -- having 500gb of disk space means lots of space for that kinda thing!).
Results: The same. It just ain't there yet. Maybe the next release will be, but anyhow...
So I am now the owner of Macbook. I upgraded it to 2gb of memory from Fry's Electronics, then settled down to explore it and... well, everything Just Works. Where I thought I had a problem with MacOS sharing printers with the Ubuntu box, it was actually a problem with my Ubuntu setup for file and print sharing. I fixed the Ubuntu setup, and I was able to access its drive space and printers just fine. I turned on the Windows file sharing on my old Windows laptop, and sucked over files just fine from there too.
And... I'd been somewhat sanguine about the notion of MacOS being Unix behind the scenes. I figured it was Unix but, like with Windows, you'd need to download something like Cygwin to actually have a usable CLI. But... nope. "tar"? there. "rsync"? There. "telnet"? there! ssh? There. The printing system? Well, if you look behind the scenes, it's actually CUPS -- the same system used in Ubuntu, you can even connect to port 631 and manage it the exact same way if you get tired of using the MacOS tools (which hide a few things from you that may be useful).
Anyhow, that's why the only thing I posted today was cats! I'm still exploring my Macbook. So far it's WAY less weird than I'd feared. Tomorrow, I hook up the USB sound system to it and see whether GarageBand works :-).
Had a great idea for a song, so I turned on the mixer and adjusted my levels and fired up Audacity under Ubuntu Studio and set it up to use the USB recording system like I'd done a couple weeks before... and WTF? Nothing goddamned WORKS! Not a SINGLE bit of sound shows up in Audacity!
After doing everything I could to make it work, I said *fuck this shit*, threw everything off my goddamned desk (except the monitor, which is too damned expensive!), ripped all the fucking audio cables out of my goddamned Linux piece of shit box as well as the USB recording system, and plugged them into my Windows laptop. Fire up Audacity (the Windows version)... and everything Just Works(tm).
Of course by that time I'm completely out of the mood for writing a song, more in the mood for throwing my Linux box off the balcony of my apartment. Anyhow, methinks that the Ubuntu fucking Studio people need to get their fucking heads out of their asses and get their goddamned shit straight. Until they manage to make it so mere mortals can record shit under Linux without having to spend hours figuring out their deranged setup for how to jack music around, their bullshit is just that -- bullshit. Their useless fucking piece of shit software is fucking *GONE*, I'm just *TIRED* of this bullshit, I mean, c'mon, they have three goddamned fucking sound systems (ESD, Jack, aRts) fighting over who the fuck gets to actually manage the fucking audio ports? Fuck that!
So I had to switch to Ubuntu Studio (Gnome) from Kubuntu (KDE) because Skype just won't work right under Kubuntu (gets into fights with the KDE audio daemon). My favorite music application from the KDE world wouldn't work with the ESD (Enlightenment Sound Daemon, GNOME's audio daemon). Yeah, this sucks, two incompatible audio systems, Linux isn't an OS, Linux is a freakin' mess pretending to be an OS. Anyhow, so I went out looking for a new audio player and found RhythmBox, a loose clone of the iTunes application.
So I installed it using Synaptic (the software package installer for Ubuntu), which entailed firing up Synaptic, putting a checkmark by RhythmBox, and pressing the "Go" button. Synaptic then went out and found it on the Internets, downloaded it, installed it, added it to the Multimedia menu in my Start menu, etc... lots easier than having to go find it on a web site and stuff. So I was playing my collection, when I hit the "Plugins" configuration and saw... Last.fm?
Hmm. So I enabled it, and a "LastFM" item appeared below the "Streams" on the left panel. I clicked on that, and.... "Listen to music like ______" (fill in the blank). I filled in "Townes Van Zandt", and started getting tasty alt.country (Patty Griffith, Steve Earle, etc.). I filled in "Nirvana", and started getting crunchy Seattle grunge (Soundgarden, Everclear, etc.). I filled in "Death Cab For Cutie" and started getting poppy ballads that might be the soundtrack to some teen show like "The O.C.". Wow!
Anyhow, there is a big problem with the RhythmBox plugin. It doesn't put up the name of the song and musician. I selected the "last.fm" and "last-exit" from Synaptic, but neither of them appeared to be compatible with ESD as compiled. I ended up downloading the source code to the latest "last-exit" and compiling it from scratch against ESD, but the result is quite good. Now I can play whatever kind of music I want, when I want, *plus* hear songs from other artists whose albums I might be interested in (e.g., by typing in "Lucinda Williams", I got songs from Gillian Welch and Neko Case amongst others - whoa!). PLUS, unlike real radio, I can hit "Next" if I don't like the song playing, or even "Ban" if I want to never hear that song again. Imagine what traditional radio would be like if we could hit "Ban" on every banal pop song that ever got payola'ed onto the airwaves? Why, there might even be room for good stuff on the airwaves! But until then, there's last.fm. Enjoy.
-- Badtux the Music Penguin
Yeah, I know last.fm has gotten a fair amount of press over the past year or so, but I really don't pay attention to that kinda "trendy" stuff. My loss.
Perhaps you're snorting. What can be so hard about using a mouse, you wonder. After all, you've done it with supreme ease for as long as you can remember. But keep this in mind: Nipples are natural. Everything else has to be learned. Since it is doubtful that a computer interface based solely on sucking on nipples will be invented any time in the near future, we have to focus on making our existing interfaces as easy to use as possible.
This penguin, for one, is having trouble envisioning a computer interface based upon sucking on nipples, but is willing to try.
The VNC server on Ubuntu Edgy and Feisty is busted and that has been true for some time. However, the VNC server from Debian Etch works just fine on Ubuntu, with one simple work-around for font directory location. Here is how to get it working in Ubuntu Feisty:
mkdir fonts note - don't worry if it says the directory already exists, that's okay.
mv encodings encodings- again, don't worry if it says encodings doesn't exist, that's okay.
ln -s /usr/share/fonts/X11/* .
dpkg -i vnc4-common*.deb
dpkg -i vnc4server*.deb
apt-get install xvnc4viewer
Run vnc4server the first time:
vnc4server -depth 16 -geometry 1024x768 :1
If all went well, you should have been prompted for a new password to use for connecting to the vnc server, then it should have started. Connect to the vncserver to make sure it started up correctly:
You should have gotten a window with a rather sparse twm configuration. (If not, check the log file that the vnc4server command created to see why not!). This probably isn't what you want. So edit the file ~/.vnc/xstartup to look something like this (make a copy of the file to another name first!):
If you don't want a separate eyecandy-less KDE configuration for your VNC sessions (I have lots of memory and CPU thus I run my regular KDE with lotsa eye candy but that really doesn't travel well over the Internet), remove the KDEHOME line. If you want gnome rather than kde, comment out the startkde line and uncomment the gnome-session line. I also specify a vnc-specific session for the gnome-session line so that it will (hopefully) co-exist with a desktop gnome session.
Now you're ready to test your new startup:
vnc4server -kill :1
vnc4server -depth 16 -geometry 1024x768 :1
You should now have a vnc viewer window with your choice of desktops. As long as you keep a VNC server running on your computer, you can now connect to your home computer from work (or vice versa) by setting up your firewall or gateway to forward port 5901 to the computer you wish to connect to, then running the xvnc4viewer or the Windows VNCviewer icon on the computer you're connecting from. This also makes a dandy way of accessing a real Linux desktop from a Windows computer in another room. The only real issue here is that neither Firefox nor Thunderbird much like the notion of you being logged in twice, and thus you can't leave a Firefox or Thunderbird open on the VNC desktop. No biggie, just use Konqueror or Epiphany as your web browser (depending on whether you're on Gnome or KDE) and use Evolution or kmail for your email.
Another issue: what to put for -geometry. I put 1024x768 but if you have a big screen on your client computer, you'll want to put something bigger (something smaller really doesn't work for a number of reasons to do with KDE and Gnome UI design). -depth 8 would be faster, but a number of programs will not work with that, thus -depth 16.
Here are some timings on my new Linux system copying a few gigabytes of videos from one set of RAID disks to another set of RAID disks with three different filesystems: ext3, reiser3, and xfs:
root@mu:/data# time tar cf - videos | ( cd /data2 ; tar xf - )
time tar cf - videos | ( cd /data2 ; tar xf - )
time tar cf - videos | ( cd /data2 ; tar xf - )
Holy cacophony, Batman! Look at how much faster XFS is in this test!
The question, then, is why is ext3 the "standard" filesystem for Linux, when it is the slowest by any measure of the word "slow"? (It's even worse for lots of small files as vs. lots of big files). I suppose it's because it's much simpler than ReiserFS and XFS. XFS also has a bad habit of filling out your files with lots of zeros if you lose power before it has managed to flush its buffers, because it journals its metadata but not its data writes (gah! I don't want my metadata committed until the data is on the disk!), but ext3 takes hours to fsck under that situation and generally ends up with lots of files in lost+found, so I'm not sure it's much better.
Still, it makes you wonder whether NIH (Not Invented Here) for SGI's XFS, and Hans Reiser's acerbic personality (I mean, the dude is on trial for *MURDER* because he's such a jerk that everybody believes he killed his wife, even though no body has ever been found and nobody has any idea how he did it) have as much to do with as technical merit. So much for that corny idea that Open Source would rule the world because decisions would be made due to technical merit, not infighting and politics and marketing reasons... sigh. Utopia still is just a fiction...
Okay, so I put my new motherboard in, plugged in my drives, turned it on, and things went haywire fast because the Ubuntu install on those drives didn't have the foggiest dadburned idea how to handle the new SATA controller. So next I tried putting the old Promise controller back in and plugged four of the drives into it. Still no go, Linux still got confuzled.
I sat back, and thought about it. I was out of partitions, so installing a new setup on it without destroying current data didn't seem feasible, so I did what any other self-respecting computer geek would do: I opened up Friday's Fry's ad (the rest of the paper went into the trash yesterday, the Fry's ads did not!), and found they had a special for 500 gb hard drives for $109.95.
So I bought two of them, of course, to set up in a RAID1 mirroring setup using the Linux software RAID.
The next problem was that when I tried plugging my old drives back in, Ubuntu got confused about the RAID arrays because some of them were numbered the same as the RAID arrays I'd created on the new drives. So I pulled the old drives back *out* again. And thought about it. And did what any self-respecting computer geek would do -- made another Fry's trip and bought an external USB enclosure capable of holding two drives. Add that to another enclosure I already had, and I had enough hardware to move my old drives (three 160GB SATA drives set up as RAID5 using Linux software RAID) to USB, which is hot pluggable, unlike SATA.
My RAID1 array (a pair of 80gb drives) copied over cleanly. Now came the next problem -- the Linux software RAID system absolutely refused to assemble my RAID5 arrays again. It reported two different problems -- stale header data, and a bad UUID. I used 'mdadm -E' to examine the RAID headers, and discovered the problem(s). First, one of the drives was marked as 'bad' by the other two drives due to the abortive assembly attempt during the failed boot. Secondly, one of the drives had a different HOST ID written to its UUID field during the failed aborted boot, so its UUID was different from the UUID on the other two drives. Unfortunately, this was one of the "good" drives (a drive with good data).
So I did some digging around in the Linux manpage for mdadm, and poked around a bit, and finally figured out how to force the host ID back to what it was supposed to be, one partition at a time. Once I did that I could assemble two partitions into 2/3rds of a RAID5, then add the remaining partition back in. So now my RAID arrays are happily burbling away rebuilding, I have my data back that seemed forever lost (well, actually, I had a backup of *most* of the data, but losing my collection of, uhm, questionables, which does *not* get backed up, would have been a bit of a bummer), and as soon as the rebuilding finishes I'm going to copy the remaining data onto my big drives.
Some things to note here:
Even when I got things totally confused, Linux gave me the tools to get everything back. With Windows, once your data is gone, it's gone. After a certain point, there's nothing to be done with a Windows system except reformat the drives and start over again.
The reason I use Linux software RAID is because it gives me more tools for fixing things when they break. (And, admittedly, more opportunities for things to break, but there is no free lunch). In addition, when I upgrade to a new disk controller or whatever, my data is still there and good. My data is sitting on the freakin' *USB* bus now, with no RAID controller in sight, and I can still assemble the blessed things.
That said, Linux still sucks. I shouldn't have had problems booting into the new system to begin with, since the appropriate SATA modules for the new SATA controller on the new motherboard actually did exist in the initrd. The fact that Linux gave me the tools to recover from the problem doesn't mean that Linux doesn't suck. It just means that Linux sucks less. A whole day's worth of hacking less, but suck all the same.
The problem with standards is that there's so many of them
My new motherboard came in. I bought a new video card at the same time because the new standard for video cards is PCI Express/16 (besides, my old video card sucked). I bought new memory because the new memory standard is DDR-2 rather than the DDR memory in my old motherboard. I bought a new processor for the new motherboard of course. But I forgot about one thing: Power.
WTF, you say? I mean, I have a top quality Antec power supply in my case, right? And it's an ATX power supply, right? Only problem: It's for the *OLD* ATX power standard, ATX-1.3. Not for the *NEW* power standard, ATX12V. Which, from what I can tell, is absolutely identical to the *old* power supply standard, except they took the "auxiliary" plug and molded it in with the "regular" plug to add four more power inputs and now require four SATA disc drive power plugs rather than just two.
Sigh. So off to Fry's I go in the morning, to buy a new power supply to replace a perfectly good one that the Masters of Planned Obsolescence have deliberately obsoleted...
Pulled the lever on the following new hardware for my server/Linux desktop:
VGA EVGA 7900GS KO 256-P2-N624-AR - 256mb Nvidia 7900GS video card, PCI-E/16 bus
Yeah, this is a previous-generation card, but Linux driver support was the problem.
MB INTEL BOXDP35DPM P35 775 R
This is the DP35D motherboard from Intel with the new Intel P35 chipset. A couple of folks have already tried it with Linux and it works fine. It has six SATA ports, an IDE port, and Linux-supported network chip, ten total USB2 and two Firewire ports. Sweet.
CPU INTEL|C2D E6600 2.4G 775 4M R
Conroe Core 2 Duo. Fast.
MEM 1Gx2|MUSHKIN DII1066 996535 R
Memory, 5-5-4-12 timings. Good stuff, even though I'll be running it at 5-5-5-15.
MS WIN XP PRO W/SP2B SINGLE PACK % - OEM
Hey, even a Linux penguin likes to play games sometimes!
So if you wonder where this penguin is, he is geeking out BIG time!
-- Badtux the Geeky Penguin
Aftermath: NewEgg sez the Big Brown Truck has picked up my shipment and it's on its way! Yay!
"It" being an Envision G22LWk 22" Widescreen LCD. See, the problem is that I have a shelf over my monitor that my printer and scanner live on. Yeah, my iceberg is kinda cramped. So I couldn't go taller. But a 22" Widescreen is about the same height as the 17" LCD that it replaced. Only wider.
Some lessons learned:
DVI is much sharper than analog, and this thing won't work at full 1650x1050 resolution in analog anyhow.
You have to reboot your system to make Linux use the DVI output rather than the analog output, because Linux consults the BIOS, and if the BIOS didn't see it during boot time, Linux doesn't see it.
The free 'nv' Nvidia driver is too slow to drive 1650x1050 worth a darn.
There was no pre-packaged "nvidia" proprietary driver for the low-latency Ubuntu Studio kernel. I tried downloading the proprietary nVidia driver straight from the nVidia web site, but could not get it to run. I finally removed every trace of it and installed Envy and told Envy to install the nVidia driver for me. It did all the magic needed to get it going. Whee!
My Linux system is still too slow to view DVD's at full resolution though :-(. (Combination of fairly old/slow video card, slow motherboard, and old CPU).
Next up, I suppose, is upgrading my motherboard/CPU/memory/video card to less... antiquated... hardware so I can view DVD's full screen the way they're meant to be...
At some point in the past I mentioned the deer-in-the-headlights look that our programmers in China got when expected to do anything involving original design or creative thinking. Well, two things happened. First of all, our long-time engineering manager in China abruptly resigned and fled the country (indeed, he now is somewhere in Europe). Secondly, our VP of engineering went over and kicked some butt and told the senior Chinese engineers that they needed to step up to the plate and take ownership of the codebase that respective teams were assigned, or else why were we paying them senior engineer salaries?
And, oddly enough, they listened. Oh, they still can't design their way out of a paper bag. Their objects know intimate details of the internals of other objects in much the same way that half the males on earth knew intimate details of the internals of Anna Nicole Smith. But that isn't stopping them. They got the directive "Design!", and, by jove, that is exactly what they are doing, crap or no!
Anyhow, I'm currently overflowed with architecture and design proposals from China along with significant chunks of code supposedly implementing prior design documents that I'd signed off on, and am in the process of editing/re-writing/re-designing so that they aren't crap. So that's why you haven't heard much except the occasional snark snack or stream of consciousness navel gazing blog. Sin, redemption, salvation, and B.F. Skinner are still waiting for the significant amount of time needed to do the appropriate research for the "history of evangelicalism" part of the essay.
The only good news is that they can't keep this pace up forever. Sooner or later, their well of crappiness is going to run dry. On the other hand, that's what we thought about Danielle Steele too. That was 70 crap novels ago.
The final solution, though, is the usual one: Penguin cloning. Or at least hiring another penguin to help oversee the overseas. Now I expect to hear from the "cloning is immoral!" crowd, who tend to be either tighty righties or loonie lefties... sigh!
-- Badtux the Design Penguin
Reminder: Anything you read here about my personal life may be fictional. Heck, you don't even know the real names of my cats -- yep, even my cats blog under pseudonyms! So if you're looking for clues as to who I work for in the above message, be aware I may have set some red herrings for you and that things may not have gone down exactly as I said. Herring. Yum. URRP!
So I installed Ubuntu Studio after I installed my Ubuntu 7.04, but I didn't do anything with it because I was still setting up my system. I decided to install Skype, and tracked down a version for Ubuntu 7.04 and installed it along with the software upgrades needed to play DVD's (which I own, but which the MPAA says I can't play on my computer because, well, just because they're assholes and don't want me to). I plugged my little desktop microphone into the microphone jack on my console switch, and tried to make a sample call. Eh. Nothing. So I fired up my old favorite audacity (an Open Source hard drive audio recording program) to see whether it was a problem with the audio system or with Skype. Still nothing. Okay, so my Soundblaster USB is also plugged in, hooked up to my Behringer mixer which in turn is hooked up to a couple of recording mikes. So I swivel the boom with a Shure SM58C to in front of my face, turn on the mixer, and tell Audacity to look at the Soundblaster USB instead of the internal sound card. I successfully record my voice with Audacity, then switch to the Skype window, tell *it* to use the Soundblaster USB for recording, and successfully make my test call.
Then I switch back to Audacity, flip through the menus, and ... OMG! This thing already has over 500 plugins installed! Whoa, no need to go look for a tube amp simulator plugin, it's already there! No need to go look for a good compression plugin, a half-dozen compressors are already there!
Somehow, I think I'm no longer going to be hooking my Soundblaster USB to my Windows laptop for my sound recording purposes... although I need to go out and get more CPU and memory because my Linux box was my file server, not my recording workstation, thus has an emphasis upon fast disks, not upon lots of CPU power. Oh well. For a computer geek, any excuse to buy new hardware works :-). (To be fair, I need more memory to run Ubuntu Studio, and the kind of memory my old motherboard takes is no longer cheaply available, so might as well get a new motherboard and processor while I'm at it... one of those new Intel Core 2 Duos sounds like just the trick!).
there is this beast. PLANAR PL2010M Black 20" 16ms DVI LCD Monitor 300 cd/m2 1000:1 Built in Speakers. This is what is on my desk at the office. It does 1600x1200 resolution, which is a *bunch* of open Emacs windows or browser or EMAIL windows. Of course, the slow refresh rate would make it suck for games, and I'm not even sure it would *fit* on my desk at home (due to the shelf over the monitor area) whereas the widescreen definitely would... would also not be as good for watching DVD movies.
When women get down, they buy shoes or chocolate. When Linux penguins get depressed, they go buy new tech geek toys.
Should I buy a wide-screen LCD? I'm looking at the
SAMSUNG 226BW 22" widescreen (1680x1050 resolution). They appear to be pretty popular, Fry's is out of them and sells them at $349 list price when they have it (which, BTW, is only $50 more than I paid for my current 17" LCD monitor five years ago). And being able to watch DVD movies without windowboxing (the black bars at top and bottom that appear on full-width theatrical movies shown on a regular-dimension screen) would be nice...
My Samsung ML-6060 laser printer is now seven years old and works as good as new (albeit with a new toner/drum cartridge in that time period of course!). So I know Samsung can build good sh*t. Heck, I am not even *thinking* of replacing my ML6060, even though, in computer years, it's 70 years old and ready for a nursing home. It's a workhorse, with low per-page costs, reasonable speeds (hey, it's an old printer with a 160mhz processor and 16mb of EDO RAM, there's limits imposed by the technology available at that time), and good resolution for a laser printer (1200x1200).
One of the more interesting myths to seep into American culture is the myth of the noble savage. In this myth, Native Americans prior to the coming of white people were noble and dignified and lived in harmony with nature. James Finimore Cooper was an early propagator of this myth, and throughout the 19th century it alternated with the myth of the Native American as bloodthirsty savage until finally, after the last Indian was moved to a reservation, it became the predominant myth regarding Native Americans.
Over the past 40 years the Greenies in the environmental movement siezed upon this myth and used it as an anti-technology screed. See, they say. It isn't necessary to have all these nasty dirty machines, you can live a noble life just fine in harmony with nature.
The only problem is: It simply isn't true.
"Native Americans lived in harmony with nature"... bah. What a bunch of drivel. Native Americans drove the proto-horse and mammoths of the Americas into extinction. Using only stone adzes and pottery bowls Native Americans turned the Rio Salado valley into a salt-ridden desert that took hundreds years to recover to the point where agriculture was possible again (the Hohokum culture disintegrated once no longer able to raise enough food for survival). The Anastazi did much the same over in New Mexico. Native American cultures were continually at war against each other, to the point where, when they had a common enemy, they refused to unite and drive said common enemy into the sea, indeed the only way that Spanish could defeat the Aztecs with the few thousand men at their disposal was by enlisting the neighboring tribes to go to war with the Aztecs at the same time. As for technology, the Native Americans eagerly embraced as much technology as they were capable of absorbing given their lack of education, rapidly adopting the horse and stirrup to the point where when American settlers encountered the Plains Indians they assumed that the Plains Indians had always been nomadic tribesmen (they had previously been sedentary agriculturalists), embracing whiskey and wool blankets to the point where they were used to destroy Native American cultures by giving them smallpox-infected blankets and all the whiskey they could drink, and Native Americans could never get enough guns.
All in all, the only difference between the Native Americans and us is that they didn't have a Scientific Revolution. If they'd had the capability, they would have despoiled the Earth just as much as we're doing. If you really believe that nonsense about Native Americans being such "stewards" of the Earth, I suggest you go to any Native American reservation. There's enough trash and junk lying around to make that stereotypical TV Indian cry. The backside of the Hopi mesas has centuries of trash just piled up where they just shove their trash off the edge of the mesa. The Navaho stripped all the grass covering off their reservation by running so many sheep that they turned high plains grassland into utter desolate desert. Some of this is just poverty, of course -- impoverished people generally aren't concerned about making their homes look nice, they're concerned about survival. But the same was true 500 years ago before the "White Man" came on the scene too.
Too many people have bought too much Greenie propaganda. The fact of the matter is that technological civilization is the only civilization, ever, in human history, that has ever given even one thought to ecology and preservation. Technological civilization is the only civilization, ever, in human history, that has ever had any understanding of the impact of human behavior upon the planet, or the luxury in terms of economic resources to actually start reducing some of those impacts. And furthermore, technological civilization is the only civilization, ever, in human history, that has ever made any attempts to restore that which human behavior has despoiled.
The only way we could go back to living the way the pre-contact Native Americans lived would be to kill off 99% of the world's population, none of whom would go lightly and all of whom would swiftly destroy all the trees and topsoil on their way down (see: Haiti). We'd also kill off all technology at the same time, and it'd never come back -- there simply are no longer the easily-exploitable resources that allowed the Industrial Revolution. We'd live as ignorant tribesmen with no knowledge of anything other than what's immediately necessary for survival in our short, nasty, and brutish lives -- forever. No more art. No more science. No more literature. All of that requires resources and leisure time which would no longer exist. All there would be would be survival. Just survival. Forever.
Now, as you know, I'm derisive of the tighty-righties and their hatred of science, especially their hatred of the science of biology and the science of climatology (both of which have made discoveries that conflict with their small-minded interpretation of their holy scriptures). But I have lately come across yet another group of people who hate science because it conflicts with their small-minded interpretation of their holy scriptures, though the science they hate is physics. Tightie righties, meet loonie greenies. Different religion, same ****.
The fact of the matter is that technological civilization is pretty much the only way we're going to prevent a massive die-off of the human race in the near future, because the human race has pretty much used up all the easily-accessible resources that can be exploited without a technological civilization. There are no more nodules of high-quality iron ore lying around on the ground ready to be smelted with charcoal and beat into plowshares. And a technological civilization requires a high energy density to maintain, an energy density that is not attainable with current solar or biofuels technologies. I don't know how many of you have any manufacturing experience. In my last job, I designed the manufacturing processes used to manufacture our product, which was a server similar to the one that this blog is maintained on. Every single one of those servers rolling off our assembly line represents a massive energy investment as parts and resources from around the world are collected into one place and assembled into a final form.
Technological artifacts such as the computer you are reading this on cannot be made as a "cottage industry". The world is long past that point. No single nation has the resources, skills, or know-how to maintain technological civilization all by itself. Your computer has parts or resources in it from Korea, Taiwan, Japan, the United States, the Phillipines, Germany, Ireland, South Africa, Brazil, Israel, Saudi Arabia, ... and all these pieces were gathered together using massive amounts of energy to transport them from point A to point B. The last nation to try doing all of this all by itself ended up collapsing in disgrace (see: Former Soviet Union). A modern technological civilization simply is too complex and requires too many resources both human and physical for it to be maintained by a limited number of people in a limited number of places. And keeping this technological civilization going requires huge amounts of energy, an energy density far higher than what is available via current technologies from solar and other "renewable" resources (all of which boil down to solar, BTW). We need high-density energy sources to keep technological civilization going. And right now, that gives us two choices: Hydrocarbons (i.e., stored solar energy, causing issues with global warming and with rapid depletion approaching), or nuclear fission (waste disposal issues, health issues dealing with mining and refining of uranium ores, issues with radiation leakage in the vicinity of the reactor).
So now I hear loonie greenies grumbling, "technological civilization is over-rated," as they chortle about how their storage batteries and solar panels power their home (both of which are products of technological civilization -- see the microchips in the battery management unit?) and talk about "sustainable" lifestyles (sustainable only because technological civilization has provided them with the resources to sustain those lifestyles). The collapse of technological civilization, if and when it happens, will have consequences that are similar in scale to the consequences of the collapse of Roman civilization in the 5th century AD. Within the course of 100 years the city of Rome went from being a city of over 1,000,000 people to being a heavily armed camp of maybe 50,000 survivors huddled in the ruins of the city. It was not until 1931 that Rome ever again had more than a million people. Today we are all Rome, because technological civilization is far more interconnected than Roman civilization ever was. If we look at the effects of the collapse of technological civilization upon the world's population, you can figure that the world's population would plummet from 6,600,000,000 to around 330,000,000. That's a lot of dead bodies (6,270,000,000 dead bodies, in case you're counting). And the result would be a permanent Dark Ages where the survivors live short and miserable and hungry lives, since, as I previously noted, all the resources necessary for the creation of a pre-technological civilization such as easily-accessed nodules of iron have long since been exhausted.
Technological civilization substitutes energy and technology for those pre-technological resources, and theoretically, if provided with dense enough energy sources, is sustainable for pretty much forever since technological civilization is capable of using energy to reclaim resources that otherwise are unusable waste. The "dense enough energy sources" part, though, is the killer. Thus far technological civilization has relied upon fossil fuels. This is not sustainable, both because of the damage that it is doing to the world's climate and because fossil fuels will not last forever. We cannot cover sufficient area of the world with solar panels, biofuel plantings, and wind turbines to replace the fossil fuels because that would have its own environmental consequences (even if we planted every inch of arable land in the Americas with soybeans we wouldn't have enough soy oil to maintain sufficient transportational infrastructures to keep technological civilization going in the Americas, not to mention the environmental consequences of turning topsoil into diesel fuel), not to mention the fact that solar and wind are good "peaking" sources of power but lack sufficient reliability and are geographically ill suited for providing "baseline" power for much of the world's population. At the moment, the only replacement we have for the fossil fuels that has the required energy density is nuclear fission feeding a "hydrogen economy" to meet the transport needs. As the loonie greenies will be swift to tell you, nuclear power has its issues. On the other hand, it will not bankrupt the world (France gets 3/4ths of their power from nuclear fission and thus far I haven't noticed them bankrupted by it), it will not result in the entire world being sterile eunochs (while Frenchmen seem to be uninterested in reproducing nowdays, their North African slave class that they keep in bondage and refuse to give citizenship to seem to have no such reproductive problems), and at least for the short term, until nanotechnology and warm superconductors come along to allow transporting solar power more easily and allow constructing solar panels without the current massive infusions of energy required, it's the only technology we have that'll replace the fossil fuels with sufficient energy density to maintain technological civilization.
Of course, if you want to kill 6.3 billion people, merely outlaw nuclear power world-wide and wait. It won't take long. 100 years, tops. That's a *lot* of dead bodies, folks. Makes me glad I will never have grandchildren to be subjected to such a world. Lack of suitable female penguins up here in the warm Northlands isn't the only reason this penguin has not reproduced...
Sorry about the outage. My web host rebooted the server while there was still some open files, and then ext2fs barfed on the next boot. I had to manually run ext2fs from the console to get things cleaned up and working again. Sigh. Linux sucks. It just sucks less than the alternatives...
Yep, when it comes to high technology innovation, the United States is now in seventh place thanks to a combination of factors such as decrepit K-12 educational infrastructure, lack of government provision of e-services (which has gone *backwards* under the Bush administration -- for example during the last years of the Clinton administration you could once read civil lawsuit decisions on the Internets, but under pressure from legal publishers, the courts have now taken all that stuff offline), etc.
We're number seven! We're number seven! U S A! U S A! WOOT!
And in other news, Bob Dylan actually smiled. What next, Leonard Cohen is going to write a happy happy children's song?
In case you're wondering why I haven't posted anything the last 24 hours: I've been up to my neck in the stupidest, most brain dead, drug addled technical BS ever created: Perl. Please quit reading unless you want to read a technical rant from an irate Cajun...
You were warned. Okay. Here we go: What kinda fuckin' drugs was Larry Wall smokin' when he designed Perl's reference system? And what kinda drugs was he fuckin' smokin when he designed Perl's object system? And man, you put the two together, we're talking fucked, fucked, fucked!
Look, I'm not trying to do anything fancy. I'm just trying to store an array into a hash reference that gets blessed as an object, then later retrieve the array. Simple enough in Python or Ruby or Java. But in Perl? Noooo! Perl's rules for dereferencing appear to be even more arcane and ridiculous than those of "C" (I went to the book store and checked a dozen "C" books on how to create an array of pointers to functions that return an int, and one -- ONE -- got it right out of all those books. Even the experts get confused!). What is literally TWO WORDS in Ruby "return self.stuff" -- is all sorts of arcane incantations in Perl, indeed, the only way I've managed to make it work is to store a *reference* to an array into the hash and then retrieve the reference and dereference it later...
I am just SOOO glad that the next project is going to be written in Ruby on Rails... I'm thinking of holding a seance where we burn Perl books or somethin'. This penguin's flippers will be flappin' fer joy then!
Two words: Energy density. Nuclear power is currently the only technology which has the energy density to replace oil, gas, coal and so forth. We could put solar panels on every patch of barren ground, windmills in every windy pass in America, biofuel rapeseed on every piece of marginal ground not needed to raise timber or food, and still fall woefully short even of the energy requirements of modern agriculture, which is a very energy-intensive process that requires hauling enormous amounts of food long distances over a transportation infrastructure that requires enormous sums of energy to operate even if we transition it all to electrical or hydrogen operation. And without modern agriculture, we have a great die-off, because we now have far more people on this planet than can be supported by primitive agriculture.
Frankly, I prefer being alive to being dead. I've looked at some of the modern nuclear reactor designs, and they're far safer than Three Mile Island (which itself was far safer than Chernobyl, a weapons reactor converted to civilian use which would have never been permitted to operate in the United States). Note that the so-called "hydrogen economy" is basically a mechanism for storing nuclear power in an energy-dense manner for individual transportation, rather than a method of generating energy... the only method for generating energy is nuclear power, whether it is the nuclear power of the sun (which also powers the wind as well as solar cells and plants), or nuclear power from man-made reactors. Even oil, gas, or coal is just nuclear power in the end, since it is just stored nuclear energy from the sun, energy stored in hydrocarbon bonds rather than in batteries...
The two most impressive things about this alarm clock:
It got a PhD for its inventor, Gauri Nanda (it was his PhD project), and
It won an igNobel Prize in Economics (after all, anybody chasing their alarm clock around is unlikely to be late to work due to oversleeping, and thus is going to be more productive!).
As for me, I have three alarm clocks -- one that beeps at me, and two that bat at my arms and face with their paws and yowl at the top of their lungs that it's time to feed them -- so I'll pass on young Nanda's invention... still, impressive. Way impressive.
I constantly get told that the reason the Chinese are kicking our butt in manufacturing is because they are "so hard-working". I'm pretty much shut down again because my Chinese colleagues are off on yet *another* week-long government-sanctioned vacation. So where are those hard-working Chinese? Just wondering. Even when they're not off on vacation, they need to be practically led around by the nose. I spend more time telling them exactly how to write a particular module than I do actually writing modules myself.
But they're cheap, thanks to the Chinese government's currency manipulations. They might not be as hard-working as Americans, they might not be as creative or flexible or productive as Americans, but they're cheap. So that's all that matters, right?
I'm thinking of moving over to Slicehost. One problem is that, because they are running Xen in native mode on 64-bit dual-core dual-processor AMD boxes, you're pretty much limited to 64-bit distributions, of which Debian Sarge is not. Thus only Debian Etch, currently in "testing", is available there.
The other Debian-based distribution that they have available is Ubuntu Dapper Drake. This is what I"m running on my box at home, and it works okay, I guess. But Ubuntu doesn't have the track record of stability that Debian does.
So just based on reputation, it's hard to tell which would be more stable and secure. I understand a few of you folks out there are pretty technologically nifty. Anybody have input?
More to follow, after I finish cursing SOB chickenhawks and get my breath back...
"Keep fighting for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce."
-- Molly Ivins, 1944-2007
"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men."
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