Tag Archives: tech

Powerbook migration, take two

Based on my less-than-stellar experience, I took the laptops back to the helpdesk folks, who did a full backup of my original machine, and then restored it to the loaner, which is now working wonderfully – after a teensy bit of initial pain. Thunderbird still didn’t like me much, and I had to re-setup the imap accounts. Fortunately, since it’s imap, everything is on the server anyway.

PowerBook migration

Apple has a migration utility for moving stuff from one Mac to another. My PowerBook is going for repairs, so I had everything migrated off to another one, so that I’d have something to use while it was gone.

So I wanted to tell you, my loyal readers, about a little bit of caveat emptor that you might want to know about should you use this utility, and if you’re a Unix geek like myself. You see, I install a lot of stuff via somewhat non-standard means. For example, I have Apache installed, from source, because that’s the kind of guy I am. And I have a variety of other weirdnesses installed in various places – mostly in /usr/local it seems, although there’s probably stuff elsewhere.

You see, if you don’t install stuff in the accepted Apple way, the migration utility doesn’t notice it. So right now I’m manually copying over /usr so that I’ll at least have that stuff. I don’t actually know what else is missing, but I imagine I’ll run into a few things. Mostly, it will be fine, because eventually I’ll get my original laptop back, and all that stuff will still be there, but I expect some pain in the meantime.

The worst thing thus far has been Thunderbird. I don’t know what the deal actually is, but Thunderbird launches and then hangs for a while, then tells me that the security bits didn’t start up properly and that things might not work. So I can’t get to my email. Which is a pretty big deal. Hopefully copying over /usr/lib will help, but who knows?

Alert. Could not initialize the browser’s security component. The most likely cause is problems with files in your browser’s profile directory. Please check that this directory has no read/write restrictions and your hard disk is not full or close to full. It is recommended that you exit the browser and fix the problem. If you continue to use this browser session, you might see incorrect browser behaviour when accessing the security features.

Yes, it says behaviour, not behavior, which I find interesting.

Stolen bike locks

Matsu posted about locks, indirectly, in reference to folks getting sued for exposing vulnerabilities. Fortunately, my bike lock isn’t susceptible to this vulnerability.

The lock on my bike is a chain with a combination lock that I’ve had for 23 years. It was the lock that was on my locker at Florida High School, in Tallahassee, and apparently I stole it from my locker when I left there. For years, it sat in various crates and boxes as I moved around, and I rediscovered it last month when I was looking for my other bike lock.

I remember coming across it at various times over the years, and feeling vaguely uneasy about it. I don’t remember the exact incident, but I *seem* to remember that I swapped it for another lock, because I thought it likely that whoever had the locker the previous year might remember the combination, as I remembered my combination from the previous year’s locker. Whatever the real story is, I still have this lock, and, through some bizarre trick of memory, my fingers remembered the combination, although I couldn’t think of it when I stared at it at first.

error_reporting = E_ALL

Over the last several days, I have discovered that PHP, much like Perl, is very forgiving of bad syntax if you want it to be, but can be downright pedantic if you ask it to.

In php.ini, you’ll see a configuration variable called ‘error_reporting’. On your production server, you generally want this set to E_WARNING or perhaps even E_ERROR, so that you only see the critical stuff. However, if you set it to E_ALL on your development server, and tail -f your error log while you’re working, you’ll see all sorts of extremely helpful warning messages that tell you when you’re making small syntax blunders.

Ordinarily, stuff that is displayed is unimportant, in the sense that if you don’t fix it, things will keep working. However, if you attempt to eliminate all the warnings, you’ll end up with better, more maintainable code, and, more importantly, you’ll find small problems long before they have a chance to become large problems.

Setting error_reporting to E_ALL on your production server, on the other hand, is a good way to generate multi-gigabyte logfiles in a very short time.

Caveat: I have no idea if this applies to PHP 4. If you’re using PHP 4, you really should upgrade to PHP 5. It’s a vastly better language in so many ways that it’s really hard to make a fair comparison between the two.

Camera in the screen

I wondered how long it would be before someone embedded a camera in the screen itself. I’m a little baffled at the folks that say that this is reminscent of Big Brother. It’s a camera, folks. As with all computer peripherals, if you don’t want it on at any particular moment, turn it off. This is no different (big-brother-wise) than any other webcam, but it is significantly cooler, for anyone who has ever done video conferencing and been somewhat disconcerted by the way that the other person never quite actually looks at you.

Really wireless

I’m posting from 32,000 feet over the Atlantic. Not that I have anything particular to say, except that having a broadband connection at 32,000 feet is pretty darned cool. I had hoped to skype Sarah from here, but the cabin noise is so great that, although I could hear the other end perfectly clearly, they couldn’t hear me. Bummer. I guess I’ll have to call from Chicago.

Skype Out

My phone didn’t work this weekend, and so I was unable to call Sarah. Yesterday evening, we called Danese to discuss some things, and use SkypeOut. I had never tried it, and was *very* impressed with the quality of the call, which was not much different from using a real speaker phone. So I’ve signed up for SkypeOut, and just called Sarah using it. Unfortunately, either I got the time wrong, or she was sleeping in, as she wasn’t up yet. But it was very nice to talk with her. I’m not quite clear on how it actually works, and Lars assures us that it’s not actually secure, but, hey, I got to say good morning to my little person, so it’s good enough for me. 🙂

$15 digital camera

Today we went to Wal-mart to get film for Sarah’s trip to the zoo tomorrow, and instead found a digital camera for $15. Now, it’s not a great digital camera. In fact, it’s pretty icky. But for $15, it’s about half as good as the very first digital camera I bought 7 or 8 years ago for roughly 20 times that much. I’m looking forward to what her pictures actually look like.

Wah, wah, I didn’t think of it first

This morning, I was listening to Dan O’Brien’s talk at OSCon about evil.. Highly recommended listening, and *very* funny. One of the things he talked about was the quote by Mohandas Ghandi (or was it Eric Raymond?)

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

So, in that light, we have Bill Gates laughing at MIT’s $100 laptop project

“If you are going to go have people share the computer, get a broadband connection and have somebody there who can help support the user, geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text and you’re not sitting there cranking the thing while you’re trying to type,” Gates said.

This is great news on many fronts. It demonstrates that Mr. Gates is frightened by the prospect, and, of course, since clever platitudes are always true, it proves that MIT will eventually “win” in some sense, with universally available cheap computer hardware. Yay, MIT.