Tag Archives: tech

MacBook Pro – Initial Impressions

I got a new MacBook Pro today. (Long story. I wasn’t supposed to get one for another year. Lucky me.)

The screen is, at least initially, the biggest disappointment. It’s very glossy, and at the office, under fluorescent light is extremely reflective. On the other hand, here at home, it’s not reflective at all, so I guess it has a lot to do with the light. From what I’ve read, it’s pretty good in outdoor sunlight, too, but today hasn’t been an outdoor kind of day.

The transition from my old laptop was, as always, painless. This time, I did the transfer from a Time Machine backup, which was even less painful than the FireWire cable transfer last time.

The click-anywhere trackpad took almost no time to get used to. I had heard and expected bad things about it, but it’s very nice, and matches the way that I think about a track pad anyways – click where your finger happens to be at that moment. The multi-finger shortcuts are also very cool. I think I’ll get used to that pretty quick.

The speakers are considerably louder than the ones on the previous generation. That’s nice for us, since our DVD player broke several months ago, and we watch all our movies on the laptop.

Unfortunately, the DVI connector is now a mini-DVI connector, so I need to go buy new widgets to connect to my other widgets. Fortunately, these widgets are all pretty cheap, but it’s still annoying. On the plus side, it means that all of the ports are on one side of the laptop, so I will no longer have cables sticking out of both sides when I’m docked at work.

On the whole, very pleased, and I think I’m going to enjoy it.

MacBook Pro

I received my new MacBook Pro at close of business on Tuesday. I didn’t take it home with me. I worked on it briefly yesterday, and am now all the way migrated. The migration was almost disappointingly easy. All my data migrated over firewire, and only stuff that I had installed from source was missing at the end of it – which amounts to Apache, and very little else. I imagine I’ll run across things that are missing as I go along, but so far that’s been the only one, and I didn’t have to turn on the old laptop once today.


I’ve been using Apple’s Mail.app as my primary mail client ever since Thunderbird gave up the ghost about 6 months ago. No, I don’t remember what the problem was with Thunderbird.

Lately, and with increasing regularity, messages which I have read get marked unread when I’m off looking in another folder. When this happens, I have to mark them as read multiple times before they stay marked that way.

I’m not sure if this is a problem with the client or with the server, but it happens on two different mail servers, one of which is running Exchange, and the other is running Cyrus imapd, so I tend to lean towards blaming the client.

I’ve been unable to find reference to anyone else having this problem, but it’s pretty hard to know what to search for.

Anyone else seen this?

Yeah, that’s what I said

Clay Shirky has an interesting article about Second Life, and it’s gratifying to know that I’m not the only one.

Yes, I tried Second Life. No, I didn’t get it. I mean, sure, I got it, but I didn’t see what the appeal was. It felt like a MUD, but a lot harder to use, and not nearly as gratifying.

I was a dedicated, perhaps even addicted, LambdaMOO user for a couple years. I spent *hours* there, when I was working at Lexmark. I’d start test scripts, and they’d take 30 minutes to run. While I was waiting, I was building stuff on LambdaMOO. And one or two other MUDs.

But after a while, the only point of it was the people that were there. That’s what it always comes down to. The Internet, for me, is about communication. Turning communication into an elaborate game doesn’t make communication less the goal. Particularly when the game has no point. MUDs were games, in one sense, but there wasn’t an objective, really, other than creating cool stuff. And I got pretty good at creating cool stuff and scripting it to do interesting things.

Second life was interesting while I had a handful of friends there. But now when I log in, there’s nobody there I know, and so therefore nothing interesting to do. And because I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how to build anything, and I don’t have anywhere to build it, there’s absolutely nothing of interest to do.

If, as Second Life claims, there are 2 million people there, I have no idea where they are, since I can never find anybody.

Rails and mysql timeouts

Dear LazyWeb, I could use some help. I feel like I’m asking the wrong questions, and need some nudges in the right direction.

noodl has been very helpful, I think, but his suggestions appear to be answering the question I’m asking, rather than the one I mean. I think.

We have Mongrel + Rails + Apache + proxy_balancer on Server Q out in the DMZ. Mysql is running on Server Z, inside. There’s a firewall rule to allow Q to talk to Z on the mysql port. So far so good.

After N minutes, the firewall times out idle connections between Q and Z. N is configurable, of course, but that doesn’t fix anything, because people go home over the weekend, and N will eventually be reached. So increasing N postpones the problem, but doesn’t fix it.

The problem is thus. After the N minute timeout is reached, the connections to mysql drop. Subsequent requests to the Rails application do not result in the database connection being reestablished, as expected. (At least, it’s what I expected, but perhaps I need to adjust my expectations.) Requests to Rails after this point result in an extended wait period, followed eventually by a proxy timeout. The only way to reestablish the mysql connections (that we’ve found) is to restart the mongrel cluster.

Functions put in a before_filter to reconnect do not seem to be getting called. Indeed, the before_filter doesn’t even seem to be reached. It’s as though the hangup is happening in some stage before the before_filter – Rails is trying to contact the database, and is waiting indefinitely for a response.

Placing a reconnect in the before_filter works, and reconnects, as long as the mysql connection is up. (Not useful, but interesting.) However, after N minutes are allowed to expire, and the connections drop, that code does not appear to be getting invoked at all.

So it’s entirely possible that I’m asking the wrong questions, but my hope is that one of my knowledgeable readers will see this post and immediately say, Oh, sure, that’s the well-known problem that is solved like *this*, and *here* is the question you really should have been asking.

Please? 🙂

Site admin responsibilities

My ethical dilemma for today. I know, because I’m the site admin, that a particular user is posting things under multiple names, agreeing with himself to lend credibility to a position that nobody else holds.

So, the question is, when users have an expectation of anonymity, and one user is intentionally exploiting that anonymity to be cruel, can I “out” this user, because it’s my site?

I dunno, but he’s seriously making me angry, and I suppose I should just take the moral high ground and ignore him, but I’m finding that very hard to do.

More about the discussion forum

One of the features of my discussion forum that folks seemed to like was the fact that all the post titles could be seen in a hierarchical tree when you first load the site. The trouble with this is that the recursion necessary to generate this tree is very CPU-intensive. You can either select all the articles, and then recurse through the data structure in memory, or you can recursively select articles from the database until you have the tree that you want. Either one of them causes lots of problems, and this is probably why most discussion board stuff opts not to do the hierarchical tree view as the main view.

So, while my load has been overing around 1.2 for the last 9 months, it’s at 0.13 now, and has been less than 0.1 for most of the last couple days.

But, of course, folks aren’t happy about it. posting delightful messages like:

For An Open Source Guru, Rich Bowen Has Really Really Let Me Down. This Site Is Bloody Silly. Even Though White Men Cant Jump, This Is A Real Low For Even A Mzungu.. Rich Should Pull-up His Socks

What I’ve noticed fairly consistently, however, is that the folks that hate it the most are those who always post anonymously and don’t actually have anything to say. The ones that have consistently posted thoughtful articles over the years simply registered a new account on the board and resumed posting their thoughtful articles as though nothing had changed.

I really wish I could understand what it is that they dislike so passionately, but, with very few exceptions, none of them will tell me what exactly they dislike – merely that it is terrible and they want me to go back to the good old days.

Meanwhile, from an administration perspective, the new software is really making me happy, and I might just end up keeping it indefinitely.