September 11th, 2008
Ugh – I removed an old CDR from my desktop machine, and apparently it changed the boot order enough for Windows to demand reactivation. Fortunately, activation was nearly automatic – I just connected to their server and gave them whatever machine data they wanted. But that this tiny change made my OS start questioning my credentials was disturbing to me. That’s not what I want from a computing experience!
The only reason I’m still running Windows at all is for the Adobe suite (and the Silverlight-based Netflix Watch Instantly). Photoshop CS2 is supported. If I’m able to use Illustrator and ImageReady, it’s farewell Redmond.
(A few years back, I had the reactivation problem when I moved my processor, etc. to a new case, and my OEM Windows was like: Dude, that’s not a Dell, and shut me out permanently. It’s astonishing I didn’t close the book on Microsoft then!)
June 1st, 2008
I was interested in using a GNU/Linux distro on my desktop – it’s been Windows forever, and I had been reluctant to give up my workflow habits (though I’ve been developing under Ubuntu on my laptop for about three years). First, I tried the live CDs for both Fedora and Mandriva. I didn’t get really detailed in my assessment, but I didn’t like that Mandriva was immediately trying to upsell me into a paid distro, and I prefer Gnome to KDE. So Fedora it is.
My first step was running easyLife, which got me set up with good settings and packages. Like sudo – how could I live without it. easyLife also installs Thunderbird and the Flash player, among many other things.
(I was pretty happy that Fedora’s default keyboard shortcuts included ctrl-alt-delete for the logout action. I’ve set that up on the Ubuntu installations I’ve done for a while.)
My next step will be to configure the xorg settings for my trackball, something I never got right on the Ubuntu install on my workstation at my erstwhile employer. I have a Logitech Cordless Optical Trackman; it saves my shoulder from RSIs, and it would be nice to get the orientation and buttons set correctly. I was planning to use this as a starting point, and if everything works out, that project will probably deserve its own post.
I’ll update this more as I make progress…
May 15th, 2008
I was pretty excited to upgrade to Firefox 3 beta 5, but I knew I could expect some extensions to crap out on me for a while before they were updated by their maintainers. I threw caution to the wind and updated Ubuntu. “Eek!” I cried, “no Firebug!” Firebug is one of my indispensible front-end tools. I love it (and depend on it!). So, I looked around the internets a bit, and decided to try the 1.1 beta. No luck. Then I learned that there’s an Ubuntu package for firebug. Here’s what to do:
- upgrade to Firefox 3 (you’ve probably already done that part!)
- uninstall your current (broken) Firebug from the Tools > Add-Ons window
- run “sudo apt-get install firebug” from the command line
That should do it.
April 16th, 2008
They need to be replaced in my UPS every 3-5 years, or my uninterruptable power supply is, well, interruptable. I discovered this on Monday, when the power flickered and my office went deadly silent. For a moment I was stunned: “I have a UPS; this can’t be happening!”, when the I-am-totally-out-of-juice alarm started screaming on the UPS. My battery was as old as the UPS, about 6 years, so it was due to be replaced, but I’d never thought twice about it, lo these 6 years it’s been saving me from abrupt system power-downs. After 10 minutes of testing and prodding, it looks like it’s totally dead. I ordered a new battery right away, and it came today. Fortunately, I wasn’t in the middle of anything important, and my drives survived unscathed, but the value of saving and shutting down in the event of a power outage (or skipping blissfully over a flicker) can’t be overstated.
March 19th, 2008
This is completely obvious, but I just had to trek into my basement and find an old PS/2 keyboard because my wireless keyboard exhausted its batteries, and I didn’t have any extras charged. Then I waited as the computer restarted – to recognize the presence of the PS/2 keyboard. A good question is: why depend on wireless input devices? (I don’t recall Logitech giving me a choice.) The batteries are in their charger, and I’m typing on a non-ergonomic keyboard for now. Ick.
March 19th, 2008
I’m not a fan of webmail, so I’ve used a mail client ever since I stopped using PINE back in 1998. My mail client of choice is still Thunderbird, though I realize it’s not perfect. (For example, I would love Thunderbird to include a gmail-like conversation view.)
It’s improved my email life a lot to adopt an Inbox Zero process. I’ve created a Responded folder for mail I’ve dealt with, but don’t want to delete. Once every couple weeks, I spend 15 minutes pulling relevant messages into a hierarchical folder structure. The rest, I just leave in the Responded folder. When there are thousands of old messages in there, I’ll move them into the DMZ folder with all the other old messages I’ll never do anything with. (These folders are actually named 1_Responded and 2_DMZ, so they sort at the top of my IMAP folders list.)
Now for the improvements:
1. It was still tedious to drag messages to the Responded folder. Sometimes my avoidance of that tedium caused me to put off emptying my inbox for an entire day. No good. So I searched for a solution. I found the Thunderbird extension Nostalgy. I haven’t plumbed the depths of its features yet, but it does the one thing I need most: move messages to the Responded folder quickly using the keyboard. This alone is completely awesome.
2. Even when my Inbox is empty, some folders still have a lot of messages. The default Thunderbird pane layout only allowed me to see 25 messages at a time in the list pane, and I noticed that dealing with such a short list was inefficient for scanning visually. “Buy a bigger monitor?”, I thought. One is always looking for excuses to buy a bigger monitor. Instead, I made better use of the horizontal space on my widescreen monitor: View > Layout > Vertical. Now I see 50+ messages in the list pane, and the preview pane is still quite wide enough for most messages. Why didn’t I do this years ago?
February 12th, 2008
I followed these instructions:
But with one exception: don’t extract the eaccelerator tar to /tmp, as it won’t let you phpize, (maybe because the /tmp partition is mounted noexec?).
February 6th, 2008
Today, the mediatemple (dv) 3.5 was released. To my pleasure, its php is compiled with the tokenizer module, which is required for the software I’m deploying, so I’ve decided to give the (dv) another try.
The developer tools now include svn! You don’t need to follow these instructions to install subversion – just create a support request with MediaTemple to install the developer tools. If you need yum, the command below should add it successfully.
Mysteriously, neither the default packages nor the “developer’s tools” include subversion, and how could we live without subversion? When I searched for handy instructions on how to go about installing it, I found only links to my previous post. This post serves as an update for the (dv) 3.5.
The 3.5 edition is running on CentOS 5, so we need the rpm for that version:
$ rpm -Uvh http://mirror.centos.org/centos/5/os/i386/CentOS/yum-3.0.5-1.el5.centos.5.noarch.rpm
[the above command is updated from yuri's comment that the dependencies are included in a stock (dv). thanks! yuri also says that subversion is now included in the developer tools. i haven't yet confirmed it, but it's wonderful if true! it's true, and wonderful.]
Check if it’s installed:
$ rpm -q yum
With yum installed successfully, we can use it to install Subversion.
$ yum install subversion
That should do it.
May 16th, 2007
A client was having some ongoing trouble with Ubuntu Dapper getting confused about which sound card to use with Skype – and whether to use a sound card at all. They didn’t have any need for the PC speaker, so we took the easy way out on their machines: we disabled the onboard card in the BIOS. Works like a charm!
April 26th, 2007
Over the weekend, I took the leap to Ubuntu Feisty Fawn. This was a much smoother process than my last upgrade. My wireless broke again, but all I had to do was undo my “fix” for ndiswrapper, installing the latest version:
sudo apt-get install ndiswrapper-utils-1.9
sudo apt-get remove ndiswrapper-utils-1.8
After a restart, my wireless card was recognized, and Network Manager took care of the rest. I must say: so far this distribution is making me pretty happy. It’s really starting to feel like the promise: everything just works.