March 25, 2006

Apple, Windows, Linux, Dell (oh my!)

Filed under: Technology — Cory @ 7:13 pm

A few months ago I discovered that the Apple PowerBook that I use daily was only recognizing 512MB of RAM, rather than the full 1GB that was installed. After searching around a little I discovered that other people were also experiencing this problem. Several week later Apple posted the issue on their website and initiated a repair program.

I was not excited about having to send the PowerBook away, especially since it is my only computer. I finally took the plunge last week and called Apple. I was able to get to take care of everything over the phone, and they scheduled the repair right away. The next day a box arrived for me to pack the PowerBook in and send it back via Airborne Express/DHL next-day air. Apple received the box on Monday, March 20, repaired it, and sent it to QA/shipping on the same day. It shipped on Tuesday and I received it back on Wednesday. Had I known that it would have happened that quickly I would have shipped it on Monday instead of the previous Friday.

Being without an Apple computer was actually pretty difficult. When I switched from Linux to Apple two years ago I remember that it seemed pretty nice, and things just seemed to work without much effort. But going back was much, much more difficult. While the PowerBook was away I had a loaner laptop from helpdesk that was a Dell Inspiron 1100 running Windows XP. Wow, I really don’t know how people use this setup every day without going postal. When I was using this computer I found it was very frustrating to do just about everything, but it was particularly painful doing anything on the Internet. The last version of Windows that I used regularly was Windows 98, but I had heard that Windows XP was better because it didn’t crash. That’s a load of crap because this machine crashed on me 3 times during the first 2 days I had it. But since I am on-call I needed something at home, so I just dealt with it.

Meanwhile, at the office I took my development machine that was running Debian Sarge and installed Kubuntu on it. I had heard great things about Kubuntu (and Ubuntu in general) from a lot of people, so I figured it was the least painful route. Sure enough, the install was easy and I had a relatively nice looking desktop from the very beginning. But…

The previous week I had ordered a Dell 2005FPW 20″ widescreen flatpanel for my desk at work (since that’s where I spend most of my computer time). The monitor arrived on the same day I mailed out my PowerBook, so I had not yet used it with that. After a day of using this monitor on the Kubuntu box with a video card that wouldn’t support the correct resolution, I went searching for a better video card at the office and found a Nvidia ti 4200 based card with DVI and VGA outputs. I descended into the hell that is configuring Xorg and eventually got the monitor running at the right resolution, but I was never able to get the dual monitor setup to work. (I later found out what I was doing wrong). But this little experiment served as a nice reminder of why I love using Apple computers so much.

When my PowerBook arrived back at the office on Wednesday I felt like a kid in a candy store. There was a slip of paper in the box stating that while they were repairing the PowerBook they noticed that it qualified for a replacement battery, so they gave me a new one. Score! I immediately plugged it in to the new monitor and, suprise, it all worked immediately!

To be fair, there were things that I liked about the software I used while the PB was away, so I’ll list them here:

Kubuntu (Linux/KDE)

  • Klipper (the KDE clipboard) – this is a nice little utility for managing and using multiple clipboards. It has a nice interface and is easy to use.

Windows XP on a Dell Inspiron 1100

  • N/A

Using Synergy with Linux and Mac OS X

Since I had the Linux machine connected to a 17″ Dell flatpanel, and the PowerBook running dual monitor with the 20″ widescreen flatpanel, I wanted to use them all together with Synergy. I had been running a similar setup before, but I was using the PowerBook as the server and the Linux machine as the client. This was a pain for various reasons, so with the new setup I decided to run the server on Linux and the client on the PowerBook. When I initially set it up I noticed that there was a lot of lag with the mouse when it was on the Apple screen. To remedy this I started synergy on the Linux machine with the highest priority using “nice”:

sudo nice -n -20 /usr/bin/synergys

Now the synergy process takes priority over pretty much everything else on the system and there is no more lag when the mouse is on the Apple screen. :)

On a related note, yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the release of Mac OS X. If anything, I am more appreciative of it now than ever.

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March 13, 2006

One Bad Apple Spoils the Whole Bunch

Filed under: Technology — Cory @ 11:52 pm

This hurts my soul.

All kidding aside, it will be pretty awesome to be able to tri-boot Mac OS X, Linux and Windows on the same machine, and that machine being made by Apple.

This blog still looks like crap in IE after almost a year mainly because I don’t have easy access to a computer running Windows. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if IE didn’t go out of its way to avoid implementing standard CSS, but I digress.

Exciting times indeed.

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March 12, 2006

The Gourds at Gruene Hall

Filed under: Music — Cory @ 1:42 am

Friday night I made it up to Gruene Hall to see The Gourds.

The last time I saw The Gourds was in August when they played at Gruene, and I was a little disappointed with the show. They had begun playing more and more electric-ish music, and it didn’t have that Gourds sound. But when I was at Bart’s CD Cellar in Boulder a few weeks ago I noticed that The Gourds had released a new album, Heavy Ornamentals, so I bought it. Its possible that this is their best album yet, and its definitely their best work since Bolsa de Agua and Cow, Fish, Fowl or Pig. So with all these great new songs I had high hopes for the show, and I was not disappointed.

I knew it was going to be a great show as soon as it started because they opened with one of my favorite songs, “Ants on the Melon.” :) They followed it with “El Paso”, which is probably my favorite Gourds tune. The show only got better from there as they played “Pick & Roll” and “Declineometer” from the new album, as well as a bunch of other favorites such as “Ceilings Leaking”, “Blankets”, and “Lower 48.” All in all, it was a fantastic show. I didn’t stay for the encore because invariably at Gruene there are some idiots who yell and scream for “Gin and Juice.”

If you’ve never seen The Gourds, and you like alt-country, you should check them out. They’ll be playing in San Antonio at Rebar on April 7th, I’ll definitely be there.

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March 8, 2006

The Daily Show and Colbert Report in the iTunes Music Store

Filed under: General,Technology — Cory @ 5:25 pm

Apparently The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are now available through the iTunes Music Store. This is great news for me since I love these shows but I do not subscribe to cable television.

With all the content now available through iTunes, its becoming more tempting to get a Mac Mini for my living room. I have a Griffin radio SHARK so I can listen to and record KSYM and KSTX through the computer, and I can use my Airport Express to stream music to an iPod HiFi in my bedroom. And with the remote that comes with the Mini and the HiFi, I can control all of this from the couch or anywhere.

So tempting… :)

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March 7, 2006

The Domain Name System and Me

Filed under: DNS,Technology — Cory @ 1:18 am

While researching the answer to a question that a coworker posed today I came across Wikipedia‘s page on the Domain Name System. I have to say, that is an incredibly thorough description of DNS. Normally pages describing DNS are so full of BINDisms that its hard to seperate the protocol from the application. Wikipedia also has a page for comparisons of DNS server software.

I think most people feel that DNS is pretty boring, but for some reason I have always really loved working with it. I got my first real experience working with DNS after college when I worked at Spire Network Services in New Orleans. That’s where I met my friend Mike who later introduced me to djbdns, which is when I really became fascinated with DNS.

For years I read and participated in DJB’s DNS mailing list where I learned a tremendous amount the DNS protocol and DNS software. Perhaps my favorite message from that list was when Matt Simerson (DNS admin at Interland) detailed their migration from BIND to djbdns. I also think it is pretty awesome that EveryDNS uses djbdns.

Fortunately my love of DNS is not wasted, as I get to spend 8+ hours a day dealing with nothing but the Domain Name System. I know this would bore some people to tears, but not me. :)

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March 2, 2006

My New Browser: Camino

Filed under: Technology — Cory @ 1:47 am

When I bought my first Apple computer about 2 years ago I almost exclusively used Safari for browsing the web. But at that point there were still a lot of sites that did not work with Safari, and I eventually switched to Firefox. Since that time I’ve switched back and forth between Safari and Firefox a few times, usually after a couple months of using one or the other. Occasionally I would try out Opera and Camino, and while both were very nice browsers, neither seemed ready for prime time.

Well, a couple weeks ago I noticed that the Camino project had finally released version 1.0 of its browser after several years of work, so I decided to give it another shot. After using it for a little over a week I think its safe to say that Camino is now my browser of choice. I’ve even removed the Safari and Firefox icons from my dock! Gasp!

Basically Camino is a browser that combines the powerful Gecko rendering engine from Mozilla with Apple’s interface style. It is not simply a port of the Firefox GUI to native Mac OS X widgets, but rather it is a seperate browser project. There are features from both Safari and Firefox, as well as some original ones. I liked the ability in Firefox to selectively choose sites to allow popups (CORE), but I also liked the Keychain integration from Safari. As you can imagine, Camino implements both of these features and many others in a single browser. Sweet!

If you are using Mac OS X, consider trying Camino.

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