The price of learning, or why apt-get is so important

Today is another day of finding that I have expended quite a bit of effort that could have been spared if I knew more about the apt package management system of Debian. The current XFree86 version woes I am seeing where one package for 4.3.0 pulls in several older 4.2.1 packages could have all been averted were I not using the documentation that recommends the use of dselect for package management. So, as it turns out, RTM isn’t always the answer. The excerpt from one of my posts to the Debian PowerPC list fleshes it out:
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Apple’s Acchiles Heel: laptop feet

I have either used or owned a laptop since around 1995 as my primary computer. I began using an Apple laptop in 2001. With the advent of OS X, the decision to move to a Mac platform has been almost regret-free. I don’t think anyone can dispute that Apple laptops are the most innovative and attractive machines available today.

In light of that, I find it comical that the primary problem I have had with both of my PowerBooks is a problem I never had with a PC laptop. I have had the rubber feet pop off of both my Titanium PowerBook G4 and my 17″ PowerBook G4. I had never seen someone lose one of the rubber feet off the bottom of their laptop until I had these machines.

It amazes me. I think about it at night in bed sometimes. Before transitioning into IT full-time, I spent just shy of a decade as a systems integrator for manufacturing plants. One of my employer’s specialties was industrial adhesives. Yep, it was all about making things stick. It’s a pretty low-tech field, and things are rather straightforward; certain adhesives work with certain materials and they have certain tempearture tolerance ranges.

With all the wondrous achievements embodied in my 17″ PowerBook, I have to take it gingerly from its case every time, checking the back to see if any feet fell off. That’s right, they don’t come off as I clumsily slide my laptop around on a flat surface. I know better than that. No, as best as I can tell, the feet have come off as a result of light friction with the wall of the custom backpack that I have for it. That’s right, this 1″ thick 1GHz PowerPC magnum with its eye-popping screen and its 1GB of RAM, this Herculean feat of engineering, has its feet pop off from being in a bag custom-designed for this very model of laptop.

I actually went to the Apple Store to find out what I should do about this. Depending on where you live, that can elicit anything from “oh, good, here is where he gets it taken care of” to “huh, here’s where the profanity will kick in.” What was their solution? Superglue. Well, krazy glue, to be exact. Yeah, krazy glue. Elegant, huh?

So, Apple has its issues. There are several that bug me far more than the feet popping off, but they are political in nature. The nVidia card and the Broadcom chipset for the 802.11g wireless card for which neither Linux drivers nor the source code to build drivers are being provided, the use of an internal USB modem – these things are real hold-ups for me. But the feet, man, the feet…what is the deal with the feet?

Given the alternatives, I still see the PowerBook as the solution most amenable to my needs. Things would have to be quite oppressive to get me to go back to Windows, or a 10-pound Dell laptop with that inane mini-PCI Winmodem, for that matter.

Moving day for the weblog

Well, the time of DNS propagation has come to fruition, which means that I can set up the domain for this weblog without getting error messages 8^). The new, shorter domain name also affords me the chance to quell the moaning I have received from folks about the length of my commerical domain name when they ask for my email address. That’s right, friends, I just saved you seven characters in your address book entry for me! Aren’t you thrilled? I know I am.

Of course, the other big motivator was finding that such a short, silly domain name was still available.

I’d better get back to work…

Newton’s Third Law of Motion Applies to Successories

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, for every action there is indeed an opposite and equal reaction. Apparently, the Successories line of inspiration artwork is no exception. You’ve seen them; we all have. The Successories motto: “Our goal is simple…to help you reach yours.” Well…

Enter Despair, Inc. If you browse their collection, you’re sure to find the material expression of the sarcastic retort that ran through your head the last time you looked at a Successories print.

For example, look at Teamwork from Successories. Got it? OK, now check out Meetings from Despair, Inc. It’s like yin and yan! But wait, there’s more!

Successories: Communication – Despair, Inc.: Blame
Successories: Goals – Despair, Inc.: Goals
Successories: Teamwork – Despair, Inc.: Ignorance

Amazing. Like Neo and Agent Smith, these two forces meet to balance the equation…whatever that was.

Now, if the Despair, Inc. thing bothers you, ask yourself this: Which is worse, shallow, glib platitudes or biting sarcasm? Neither one of them tend to make any lasting change, do they? In light of that, is Successories a cause worth defending? The Despair spoof is just funny. It wouldn’t be funny if Successories weren’t so successful. Heck, at $100 a print, I’d probably be ruffled, too.

Debian on a 17″ PowerBook

Now that things have settled down for me with OS X and Panther is running relatively smooth, I want to try to get Debian up and running on my 17″ PowerBook. I had a really positive experience with Debian on my old Titanium PowerBook, but some hardware changes in the latest PowerBook family have apparently not been fortuitous for Debian (and others). nVidia is apparently not cooperating at all on the video front, which in turn prevents the sleep functionality from working. Big minus.

If anyone knows of some good links for Debian on a 17″ PowerBook, please fill me in. Here are the links I currently have:

Debian/PowerBook Information:
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ibook/
http://neugierig.org/content/tibook/
http://penguinppc.org/~benh/
http://www.cattlegrid.net/~christophe/titanium/
http://www.mathematik.uni-marburg.de/~schmidtm/apple/powerbook.en.php

Open source support vs. proprietary support for the common man

I have had the pleasure of running through all of the install routines for my Unix software that I run on my PowerBook installation of Mac OS X. Although it has been fairly smooth, I have run into some issues with database servers, application servers, etc.
My recent experience with resolving those issues brought to mind one of the common pieces of rhetoric used by those who are either wary of or outright against open source software: “what are you going to do for support?” I have noticed that the questions I have posted to the relevant mailing lists regarding my software issues have been answered within an hour or two, if I didn’t first find the answer by examing the documentation for the product or searching the online mailing list archives for a particular issue.
Here’s my criticism of the support objection to open source: “How is problem-solving with your proprietary software that different from the approaches used in open source software?” Unless your company is large and loose enough with the purse strings (a concept whose mention generates raucous laughter these days by virtue of the fact that it is ludicrous), you don’t have the “gold support package” or whatever stupid name they call the ability to phone first-level support at the vendor’s office. So what do you do? Search online, Google for answers, join a mailing list…huh, same here.

Maddox has posted a review of The Matrix Revolutions, for those who are interested. Do not read it if you have not seen the movie. If the name Maddox doesn’t ring a bell, it soon will.

The Matrix – revolution without resolution

So I went to see The Matrix Revolutions this weekend. (Insert slow, drawn, sigh) A quick scan of the Rotten Tomatoes reviews will expand on my take of this third movie and save bandwidth.
In short, the Matrix has collapsed under its own weight; the shallowness of the storyline has been fully revealed. If that’s as good as you can do with years of production, a practically bottomless budget, and all the time you could ask for to unfold the complex and intriguing story revealed in the first film, then there never was much there. The intrigue was with what we didn’t know. (All girls wearing the stuff with your belly hanging out and cleavage working hard for its money, take note.)
To “the brothers”: stick to one-ups. Or, perhaps follow Peter Jackson’s approach and have a solid literary work to somewhat constrain the seemingly pathological urges of filmmakers to veer wildly off-course. Perhaps pick a William Gibson title and run with that. As for the Matrix, I think it’s not worth reworking, reloading, or revoluting any further. Please don’t.

Disk Copy has been bought out

Well, metaphorically, at least. Perhaps “absorbed” would be more appropriate. I am referring to the Disk Copy utility of the Apple Mac OS. I discovered the joys of Disk Copy with Jaguar. If you have games that require a CD, using Disk Copy to create a disk image (.dmg) can be really handy; you don’t have to cart the CD around with you, and you also don’t have the spin time or battery consumption for the optical drive.
Imagine my woe when I could not find Disk Copy in its usual home of /Applications/Utilities! Fortunately, a member of the Atlanta Macintosh Users Group enlightened me; the functionality of Disk Copy now resides within the application named Disk Utility.
The functionality in Disk Utility (and Disk Copy pre-Panther) is so neat; it’s stuffed I always thought should exist when I lived, or existed rather, in the Windows PC world. How glad I am to have that dark and unclean time behind me.

An evening with James Gosling

Tonight was a memorable evening at the Atlanta Java Users Group. James Gosling from Sun Microsystems was there. It was basically a 2-hour question and answer session, with no particular structure or agenda. Obviously, when the guy who initially created the programming language upon which the user group is based shows up, there is neither a lack of attendance nor a dearth of questions.
It was pretty fascinating to hear some of the ways that Java is being used. The work on the Real-Time for Java specification sounds promising, especially to anyone with an awareness of that market’s untapped potential.
AJUG is allegedly going to post the video of the event somehow. I am not sure how that will be accomplished, but those interested might browse over to the AJUG site to see if it’s there. James’ weblog is usually a fun read.