Archive | July, 2007

DLSLUG, 2 August: Usable Web Applications with Rails and AJAX

Bill McGonigle announces the August meeting of the Dartmouth – Lake Sunapee Linux User Group, held as usual at Dartmouth College, Carson Hall, Room L01 from 7 – 9 PM. The main presentation will be “Usable Web Applications with Rails and AJAX,” presented by William Henderson-Frost.

“Will will present Greenout!, a new web application that’s focused on usability and developed on the Ruby on Rails platform using AJAX techniques, the Prototype library, and plenty of custom code. He’ll describe the process of developing a web application with Ruby on Rails, the challenges of writing an AJAX application, and some of the tips and techniques he’s developed along the way.”

“Will is a Senior at Dartmouth College, majoring in Computer Science, and a Hanover native. He enjoys good programming languages, like Ruby.”

Sounds like an interesting meeting. Ruby is a pretty sleek language, and the Rails platform makes application development far easier.

Running Windows within VMWare on FC6

One of my current client projects requires me to VPN into their establishment. Rather than have a second machine running Windows, I thought I’d try running VMWare using a dual-boot (WinXPPro/Fedora Core 6) machine. A recent Linux Magazine article by Jason Perlow, “Run Your Windows with VMWare” pointed out that VMWare can read a Windows installation off disk and run it as if it were a virtual image, a feature I wasn’t aware of. You get the benefits of both having a VM and being able to dual-boot. Cool! So, I set about the process of installing such beast.

VMWare offers several versions for free (as in price, not as in speech) downloads. Their main install scripts (written in Perl) are pretty slick, detecting problems, coaching you for the correct actions, and advising about where more information can be found. Several cycles of script, run, error, re-configure, install, repeat got me to a working VMWare install. Extra clues were found in “How to Install VMWare Server on A Fedora Core 6 Desktop” and “Run Existing Windows Installation with VMWare Player.” Some obscure permission errors (VMWare reports that it can’t open the image or some related file) were fixed by adding my login to the ‘disk’ group so VMWare could read the raw disk, and giving the /dev/hda device group-read-write access (sudo chmod g+rw /dev/hda – there’s a way to do this permanently…). I confirmed VMWare was installed correctly by downloading and running one of the many VMs that can be found at the VMWare Virtual Appliance Marketplace. After a few tweaks to the settings in the Windows-from-disk virtual machine configuration file windows.vmdk and generating a separate file for the MBR from the disk, booting into the VM produced by startup GRUB menu! Selecting a Linux partition started Linux, but selecting the Windows partition just hung after the message “chainloader +1”.

It’s progress. Now to Google around and see what the next tweak needs to be…

What I’m listening to…

July has found me working out more often and more consistently. One of the big challenges with staying on an exercise machine is the tedium. It is boring. I’ve found audiocasts have helped me pass the time, occupy my mind and make me feel the time spent is more worthwhile. This month and last, I’ve listened to:

  • The keynote presentations from the RedHat Summit 2007
  • Nearly all the videos from the RedHat site
  • Several weekly Technometria audiocasts
  • David Weinberger on ‘Everything is Miscellaneous
  • Chris Lydon interview David Weinberger
  • David Weinberger interviewed Cory Doctorow
  • Several Boston PHP meetings
  • The Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council’s Open Source Summit presentations (thanks Dan Bricklin!), including discussions on GPL3, the OLPC, Lightning Presentations, and more.

I’ll plug them any chance I get: the GigaVox network has some of the best, most interesting, high-quality audiocasts for techies on the web. I’m a contributing member and I encourage you to do the same.

Wicked weather this way comes…

“Cap’n, the dilithium crystals can’na take much more of this…” We’ve been getting battered by thunderstorms for days on end, a pretty unusual weather pattern for northern New England. Normally, we’ll get a line of showers through after a hot spell as cold air blows in. But we’ve been deluged since Sunday with oppressive clouds, lots of lightning and thunder, occasional downpours, ominous mid-day darkness and several blackouts. That’s a good reminder to make sure all your precious electronics are on surge suppressors or UPSes. The UPS on the iMac died an ugly death after a close lightening strike and power blink: it went off, beeped, kicked backed on, worked for a few seconds, beeped, went off,… I powered off the iMac quickly and disconnected the unit. Powering it up the next day, the UPS appeared to be okay, but once I put it under load again, it started showing the same symptoms.

Be careful out there. Power down everything and disconnect it from the walls when you see a storm coming in. Lightening crosses miles of open air to short-circuit the clouds to the ground; leaping across your surge suppressor isn’t even a challenge. And even if the manufacturer offers some cash coverage, it’s likely that having your machine working today, with your data and your applications up and running, is worth a lot more than the depreciated value of the hardware you might get reimbursed.

Resistance is not futile

Tim O’Reilly notes in Update: Firefox vs. IE in OReilly Network Logs, “as of last month, Firefox passed IE, with 46% of all access to OReilly sites, vs IEs 45%.” Now, one percent is not significant, and the cause can likely be explained in a number of ways; perhaps there are more popular FOSS books than new Vista books in the past few months. But it is great to see that competition continues to prod Microsoft to compete, and inspires Mozilla to achieve.

Developers Increasingly Targeting non-Windows Platforms

“Windows dominance on the client is cracking, according to the latest release of Evans Data Corp’s North American Development Survey. Targeting of the Windows OS has declined by 12% from a year ago, continuing a two-year gradual decline. Currently 64.8% of North American developers are targeting some version of Windows, as opposed to 74% last year and this is expected to drop another 2% in the coming year. Although Windows remains the largest market segment, Linux targeting has increased by 34% from 8.8% a year ago to 11.8% today.”



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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.