Archive | August, 2007

FCC chairman suspects “grassroots” astroturfing in à la carte cable debate

Ars Technica is reporting that FCC chairman suspects “grassroots” astroturfing in à la carte cable debate. Hmm, you think? How many of us want to pay extra for channels we don’t want? Imagine a grocery store that offers $100, $150 and $200 boxes of groceries. No mixing and matching, no skipping your brussel sprouts.

Cable companies are more than willing to provide specialized, customized extra services on-demand, pay-per-view. They have plenty of technology when it makes them more money. Now, they have to recognize they have to respect the wishes of their customers who want less. It’s time for the cable companies to offer no-pay-per-no-view.

Electronic Surplus Services in Manchester, NH

I needed a couple of high-current-carrying lugs and cables for a set of batteries within a UPS (the previous owner had replaced four batteries with two and discarded the excess cabling), and fellow tinkerers on the GNHLUG mailing list suggest I check out the Electronic Surplus Services Store. I hadn’t visited their facilities since it was down in the mill buildings on the river — they’ve moved up to Candia Road now — and they had the parts I needed, as well as lots of cool toys to think about tinkering with.

James Fallows (July 24, 2007) – Biting the bullet on Windows Vista: back to XP (Technology)

James Fallow is more formal about it, writing in the Atlantic. James Fallows (July 24, 2007) – Biting the bullet on Windows Vista: back to XP (Technology)

“The other bad call came late last year, when I said that users should wait to buy new computers until the new version of Windows, Vista, was available — and that “of course” they should buy Vista-equipped machines once they could. That was wrong. I apologize.”

Thanks to Ernie for the link!

Jim Louderback: Passing the Torch

I’ve been disappointed for years that “PC” Magazine didn’t recognize that Windows was just one option of what to run on a “PC.” In his farewell column as Editor-in-Chief of PC Magazine, Jim Louderback give Microsoft a kick in the, uh, pants:

“I could go on and on about the lack of drivers, the bizarre wake-up rituals, the strange and nonreproducible system quirks, and more. But I won’t bore you with the details. The upshot is that even after nine months, Vista just ain’t cutting it. I definitely gave Microsoft too much of a free pass on this operating system: I expected it to get the kinks worked out more quickly. Boy, was I fooled! If Microsoft can’t get Vista working, I might just do the unthinkable: I might move to Linux.”

Ubuntu kernel panics after partition re-assignments solved!

Last weekend I upgraded my T40 from the 30 Gb drive it came with to an 80 Gb drive, as I was running out of space and needed to run WinXP under VMWare on my Fedora Core 6 installation. I used partimage to make snapshots of the existing NTFS partition, the WinXP the machine came with, and three ext3 partitions, the FC6 and an Ubuntu boot and root partitions.

I have to grudgingly admit the NTFS was the easiest to move and resize, using nothing but Linux tools. How weird is that? Using Knoppix to capture and rewrite the master boot record, WinXP booted, complained about the size, run CHDSK, fixed itself, and rebooted. Ext3 is a little tougher: it’s a simple but obscure set of commands to drop the journal from the filesystem, turning it into an ext2 system, resizing, and then applying a new journal to the result.

A little fiddling with the grub.conf added the proper menu items, pointing to the new partitions (several had to get renamed to support more partitions, extended partitions, and all that), and Fedora Core 6 came right up. I wasn’t so lucky with Ubuntu.

Ubuntu threw a kernel panic when starting up, and it took a bit of detective work to figure out that the mkinitramfs-tools were the problem. These tools figure out where the swap partition is, and determine if there’s an image there to restore from. The problem was that the old swap partition (/dev/hda4) was now the container holding all of the extended paritions and would throw an error when there was an attempt to read the partition. In the file /etc/mkinitramfs/initramfs.conf or the subsidiary file /etc/mkinitramfs/conf.d/restore.conf, you’ll find a line RESTORE=/dev/xxxx. Change that to the location of your new swap file and presto! You’re back in business!

Microsoft fixes 14 flaws in 9 patches; 6 are critical – Security – News – ZDNet Asia

ZDNet Asia does a nice job of summarizing August’s MS patches: Microsoft fixes 14 flaws in 9 patches; 6 are critical. Lots of critical software to patch: XML processing, Office, OLE Automation, GDI and Internet Explorer means that every Windows installation is threatened by “Remote Code Execution” — someone else owning your machine. Get Patching!

Hentzenwerke Moving from Windows to Linux

MySQL-VFP book cover Followers of the Hentzenwerke Publishing empire know that Whil Hentzen has the largest catalog of Visual FoxPro books and an impressive collection of books bridging the gap from the Windows world into the Linux/Free/Open Source world. Whil’s been working for quite some time to put together a book on working with VFP and back-end data servers other than SQL Server. I was one of the many community members who contributed comments, criticisms and ideas to the book, and was honored when Whil chose to designate me as technical editor. Whil Hentzen announces, MySQL Client-Server Applications with Visual FoxPro now on sale:

After far too long a wait, the eagerly awaited companion to our Client/Server Apps with VFP and SQL Server book from years ago is here. The brand new 414 page MySQL Client-Server Applications with Visual FoxPro covers Client-Server apps from the perspective of the hugely popular open-source SQL database, MySQL. Learn how to install, configure MySQL and then connect specifically with VFP. Then get your hands dirty bringing data – both flat files and DBFs – into MySQL databases. Build a variety of user interfaces. Learn about development and deployment scenarios with this multi-platform backend. Each step of the way, real world problems (‘What if the connection fails?’) and potential solutions will be discussed.

The book is on sale only for a short period. Get your copy now!

Seacoast LUG, 13-August-2007: Panda3D

Ben Scott reminds folks about the Seacoast LUG meeting happening tonight:

For the August 2007 SLUG/Seacoast/UNH/Durham meeting, there will be a presentation on the Panda3D 3D engine.

=== About Panda3D ===

Panda3D is an Open Source “3D engine” — software that lets you model a “world”, and then render it in real-time on a graphics display. Think “Doom” or “Half-Life”. It was originally developed by Disney for their massively multi-player online game, Toontown, so it’s got real capabilities. They released it as Free Software in 2002. Carnegie Mellon University and Disney now manage the project jointly. The project emphasizes “a short learning curve and rapid development”.

Panda3D supports the C++ and Python languages, runs on Linux and Windows, and comes with models and artwork to get you started. There is also a library of documentation, sample code, and full projects online, along with what appears to be a reasonably active web forum.

=== About SLUG ===

SLUG is the Seacoast Linux User Group, and is a chapter of GNHLUG, the Greater NH Linux User Group. Rob Anderson is the SLUG coordinator. SLUG meets the second Monday of every month, same time, same place. You can find out more about SLUG and GNHLUG at their respective websites.

Meetings take place starting at 7:00 PM. Meetings are open to all. The meeting proper ends around 9ish, but it’s not uncommon to find hangers-on there until 10 or later. They take place in Room 301 (the third floor conference room), of Morse Hall, at the University of New Hampshire, in Durham.

SCO owns nothing!

From Groklaw: Friday, August 10 2007 @ 04:52 PM EDT

Hot off the presses: Judge Dale Kimball has issued a 102-page ruling [PDF] on the numerous summary judgment motions in SCO v. Novell. Here is what matters most:

[T]he court concludes that Novell is the owner of the UNIX and UnixWare Copyrights.

That’s Aaaaall, Folks!

I, for one, welcome our new overlords, the Novell UNIX-owners. It will be interesting to see what happens next!

Elegant CSS

In the previous issue of A List Apart, Rob Swan presents “Conflicting Absolute Positions,” an article about using CSS to lay out a web page with fixed top panel, left side panel and a floating panel on the right. Here’s the final result for you to admire. View the source: short and to-the-point without a lot of the little inexplicable artifacts with “<!– DO NOT ERASE THIS!!! –>” hints that they play some key if mysterious role. Very nice.

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