Blog Fiasco

November 23, 2009

Using bookmark synchronization on Google Chrome for Linux and Mac

Filed under: Linux,mac,The Internet — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — bcotton @ 8:18 am

For a long time, I blamed the sluggish performance of the web browser on my Linux machine at home on the ancientness of the hardware.  However, when my much nicer Linux machine at work showed the same problem, I began to think maybe it was just Firefox.  I’ve been an avid Firefox user for many years, but my loyalty wavers when my browser can’t keep up with my keyboard.  Based on the advice of strangers on the Internet, I decided to give Google’s Chrome browser a try.

Chrome is still a maturing browser, but it is fast and capable.  There’s only one real drawback: bookmark synchronization.  With Firefox, I had been using Xmarks to synchronize my bookmarks, but that’s not currently available for Chrome.  In the “Early Access” builds of the Linux and Mac versions of Chrome, the bookmark sync that the Windows version has is available.  This syncs the bookmarks to your Google Docs account, which makes it rather handy.  However, synchronization is not enabled by default.  To enable it, you have to pass the –enable-sync option at launch time, which is easier said than done.  Fortunately, it’s not too terribly difficult.

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November 21, 2009

Beonard’s Losers — 2009, Week 12

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , — bcotton @ 12:36 pm

This week’s predictions

Well, the college football season is beginning to wind down.  I was finally able to find a #3 Purdue basketball jersey yesterday, so I’ve pretty much shifted entirely away from football at this point, which is part of the reason I was again too lazy to record this week’s show.  But this afternoon is the Battle for the Old Oaken Bucket.  The Bucket game is one of the biggest sporting events in the state of Indiana, and frequently a cause for…discord between my wife and myself.  Silly IU fans.  This game also determines the quality of the Thanksgiving celebration with my in-laws…more specifically whether or not I can discuss the subject of football.  Fortunately, Purdue leads the series 69-38-6 and is 11-2 against IU since 1997.  Boiler up!

I’d also like to take a moment to re-compare to my stats to the sports writers at the local paper.  They also predict all the Big Ten games, but the number and selection of games from other conferences sometimes differ from mine.  But still, here we are:

  1. Beonard (FunnelFiasco.com) – 0.753
  2. Jeff Washburn (Journal & Courier) – 0.736
  3. Nathan Baird (Journal & Courier) – 0.709
  4. Mike Carmin (Journal & Courier) – 0.700
  5. Sam King (Journal & Courier) – 0.673

November 18, 2009

Upgrading to Fedora 12 via yum

Filed under: Linux — Tags: , , , , , — bcotton @ 3:17 pm

Since Fedora 12 was released yesterday, I decided I should go ahead an upgrade my Linux box at home from Fedora 11 to Fedora 12.  As I’ve done in the past, I used the Fedora Project wiki as reference to upgrade via yum.  Although it is not officially supported, it generally results in a shorter downtime than a standard re-install, and it allows me to do it remotely.

As in the past, I had to remove a few packages to make the dependencies work out.  This time around it was: krbafs-devel tigervnc-server krbafs gnome-bluetooth{,-libs} pulseaudio-module-bluetooth bluez

Then I ran into a different problem.  My /var partition ran out of space for the 1.4 GB that needed to be downloaded.  So I first ran `yum groupupdate Base` to update the basic packages and then `yum upgrade` to update everything else.

That’s when the trouble hit.  In the instructions, after yum has finished, you’re supposed to install grub.  I forgot to do that and rebooted immediately after yum was done.  I was a bit confused when the machine never came back up, so earlier today I burned a CD and went into rescue mode.  Initially, I could not get grub-install to work. I’m not sure what finally fixed it, but after several reboots and much straw-grasping, I got it working.

So now my machine is happy.  I just need to get NetworkManager to stop killing my resolv.conf

November 17, 2009

Setting up a new Mac

As part of my new job, I got a shiny new 13″ MacBook Pro.  Even though I’m quite a Linux fanboy, I really enjoy the quality of the hardware and OS X. However, it isn’t perfect.  There are a lot of applications that I like to have available.  Since I have nothing better to talk about, I figured I’d list them here:

  • Adium — one of the best instant messenger clients I’ve ever used.  It has support for just about every major IM protocol except…
  • Skype — I don’t really use it for IM, but it’s great for audio and video calls.
  • Firefox — I prefer it to the Safari browser that ships with OS X.  It happens.  And with that comes…
  • Xmarks — a browser plug-in that syncs bookmarks.  It comes in very handy when you use multiple computers.  So does…
  • Dropbox — allows you to synchronize arbitrary files between multiple computers.  I mostly use it for configuration files (e.g. .bashrc, .screenrc)
  • VirtualBox — sometimes you actually need to use another OS to do some important task (like play Sim City)
  • DOSBox — is good for playing some of the older games that I like
  • Chicken of the VNC — I’ve played with several VNC clients for Mac, and this one is the best.
  • iTerm — hands-down better than the default Terminal.app
  • ZTerm — a program to make serial connections.  I used it a fair bit in my old job, I don’t anticipate needing it much in my new job.
  • Colloquy — an Internet Relay Chat client
  • VLC — a media player that will play just about anything
  • Grand Perspective — a program that shows a graphical representation of disk usage, allowing you to find the files that are chewing up all the space on your hard drive.

November 10, 2009

Tropical Storm Ida results

Filed under: Funnel Fiasco,Weather — Tags: , , , , — bcotton @ 2:00 pm

Well, the results are in for the TS Ida forecast contest.  I’m glad to say that yours truly finally won. Of course, there will be plenty of argument about the faults of the scoring equation.  You’ll get over it.  I don’t know who Dr. Free Beer is, but next time, try to get your forecast in the right hemisphere at least.  Which brings up a good point… I think I’ll edit the game code to have a field for e-mail address (it will be hidden from the public, but available to me so that I can contact players/verify edited forecasts).

Fortunately for interests along the Gulf of Mexico, Ida has been mostly nuisance.  This is not a bad way to end what has been another rather tepid hurricane season.  Ida went extratropical very shortly after making landfall (much to the chagrin of my friend Kevin).  I wonder if it set a record for quickest tropical to extratropical conversion.  Not that Ida was all that tropical at landfall.

In other news, thanks to Perl’s Math::Trig module, I can now trivially calculate the Great Circle distances, which has long been the sticking point.  At this point, all that remains to automate the scoring is some parsing and simple arithmetic.  That’ll make it easier to get results out quickly.  I haven’t yet decided if I should stop producing static results pages and let the CGI generate the results page on the fly, or if I should continue having separate, static pages for the results.  I might go with the former in order to conserve disk space.  I have no limit on cycles, so long as I don’t take down my provider’s server.  We shall see.  The first step is to actually write the code like I said I would two years ago.

November 9, 2009

Accessing Taleo from Mac or Linux

Filed under: Linux,mac,The Internet — Tags: , , , , , — bcotton @ 12:47 pm

Some companies (including my own employer) use a company called Taleo to manage the hiring and recruitment process.  As an applicant, I’ve not been very impressed with it, but that’s neither here nor there.  From the applicant side, you can use just about any browser to fill out the forms and submit your application.  However, if you’re a hiring manager, Taleo expects that you’ll be using the Internet Explorer browser.  If you’re on a Windows machine, that’s probably available to you.  For Mac and Linux users, it’s not an option.

So what can you do?  You can either go find a Windows machine to use, or you can try to run Internet Explorer using Wine.  Neither of those are necessarily that appealing.  Fortunately, there’s a third option, which is to use the (closed-source but free-as-in-beer) Opera browser.  Once you’ve got that installed, it’s a quick process to get Taleo workin* In Preferences, click on the “Advanced” tab and select “Content”

  • Click the “Manage Site Preferences…” button
  • Click the “Add…” button
  • Enter your Taleo site (e.g. “company.taleo.net” or “taleo.com”) in the “Site” field
  • Choose “Open all pop-ups” in the “Pop-ups” drop-down menu
  • Click the “Network tab”
  • Select “Mask as Internet Explorer” in the “Browser identification” drop-down menu (note that “Identify as Internet Explorer” will NOT work)
  • Click “OK”
  • Click “Close”
  • Click “OK”

That’s all it takes.  As a bonus, you now have the very capable, stable, and secure Opera browser installed.

November 7, 2009

Beonard’s Losers — 2009, week 10

Filed under: Funnel Fiasco,Sports — Tags: , — bcotton @ 1:14 am

This weeks show

This week’s excuse for not recording is that my wife has what seems to be a feverless flu.  I do want to go on record as saying I think Purdue can beat Michigan, but I’m not sure they know it.  This is about how I felt before the upset of tOSU: Purdue is capable of winning, but I’m not going to expect it.  Enjoy your Saturday!

November 4, 2009

My future with Apple products

Filed under: mac,Musings — Tags: , , , — bcotton @ 6:33 am

Despite having been given the “Mac Guy” appellation by Mario Marathon viewers, I am not an Apple fanboy.  Don’t get me wrong, I really like my current and previous Mac Book Pros.  The hardware has been solid (as a few encounters with gravity can attest to) and OS X is a great mix of power, reliability, and ease of use.  There’s no doubt that Apple turns out quality products, I don’t have an issues with their offerings.  It is a philosophical problem that I have.  As an advocate of openness, can I continue to support a company like Apple?

Apple has shown a willingness to support open source software on some occasions (as one would expect, those occasions are the ones where it suits Apple’s interests to be supportive), but at times the Apple model stands in opposition to the ideals of freedom that open source (and open standards) movements are based on.  The most recent example was reported by Wired earlier this week saying that the next minor release of Snow Leopard would “break” some “Hackintoshed” machines, specifically those using Intel’s Atom processor.  I get it, Apple is foremost a hardware company.  The software exists to promote the sales of the hardware, so allowing the software to be used on non-Apple hardware doesn’t serve Apple’s interests.

I don’t deny that Apple has the right to do what they’re doing, although if they had a larger market share, the Department of Justice might start taking notice.  No, to me, it’s not about whether or not they can do this, but whether or not they should.  The interests of Apple’s shareholders say “no”, the interests of the Apple community say “yes.”  Apple certainly has no legal obligation to do what’s in the best interests of users, but if they want to differentiate themselves from Microsoft, then perhaps they should.

What it really comes down to, then, is the question of “how closed can Apple (or any other company) become before I am no longer willing to give them my business?”  Or should it even matter?  If I give up Apple, should I also give up Skype, Flash, video drivers, and many other things that restrict my ability to use a product how I see fit?  These are not easy questions to answer, and the answer is different for each person.  For myself, I will wait and let my thoughts on the matter evolve for a while.  Hopefully by the time I’m ready to replace my current Mac Book Pro, I’ll have figured it out.

November 2, 2009

Linux needs fat binaries

Filed under: Linux — Tags: , , — bcotton @ 6:11 am

Last month, a /. story was posted discussing the idea of a “fat binary” for Linux. If you  know what I’m talking about, skip to the next paragraph.  You’re still here? Okay, here’s my quick, un-researched explanation.  A program starts out written in a coding language (for example, C) that is human-readable. It then gets compiled into a binary, which the computer understands. Different types of processors speak different languages so a binary for one type of processor might not work on another.  When Apple switched from PowerPC (PPC) processors to Intel, they introduced the “Universal binary”, which contained code compiled for both the PPC and Intel CPUs and the correct code was automatically loaded when the application was run.

There are several arguments against the idea of fat binaries.   Among these are that fat binaries are a waste of disk space and bandwidth, that it aids closed-source software, and that it is just plain unnecessary.  Like anything else, there are situations where fat binaries are not appropriate, and times where they are.  It is the latter that the FatELF project seems to be focusing on.

To me, the disk and bandwidth argument is the most compelling.  On most modern systems hard drive space is cheap and plentiful, but there are exceptions: mobile phones, netbooks, “classic” hardware.  The bigger disk concern, more than hard drive space, is the space on CDs and DVDs.  Because FatELF combines the binaries for each supported platform, the files grow in size rather quickly.  While this means the users no longer have to know what kind of processor they have in order to download the install media, it becomes a bigger task to do that.  For example, the Fedora Project supports three architectures, so in a worst case scenario, you’d need to download 18 CD images or two DVD images in order to have the full install media.  For people with a bandwidth cap, or no desire to wait that long and use that many discs, this isn’t a workable solution. A better solution might be to provide the architecture-specific options, but also include a fat version for people who don’t know which they need but don’t mind the larger download.  Of course, that requires extra space on the part of the project.

The more philosophical argument is that fat binaries help closed-source projects.  The foundation of the open source philosophy is that the end user should have freedom and control over their computer.  Some open source advocates consider closed-source software to be unacceptable and will have nothing to do with it.  I consider such fundamentalism to be counter-productive.  Like it or not, closed-source software is a fact of life in the desktop world, especially browser plugins and video drivers.  If these don’t work, the user will blame Linux, not the closed-source vendor, so it is important that things work for the user. Then the user base is larger and there’s more reason for vendors to work more closely with open source projects.

Besides, it’s not as if open source projects don’t get the same benefit.  Not every open source application gets distributed through a distribution’s official channel.  Some projects are so niche that they don’t have a wide audience, but their users would benefit from a simplified install.  Or perhaps an organization has a central application server and wants to make access the same for the users regardless of what machine they’re on. Fat binaries aren’t very useful to distributions outside of install-time, but they’re a great way to simplify the experience of the average user, and that’s a win.

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