Monday, November 30, 2009

Installing Ubuntu 9.10 on an iMac

Fired up after the Open Source Developer's conference in Brisbane, I decided to try dual booting my recent iMac with Ubuntu 9.10 and MacOS X.

Boot camp assistant lets you resize the Mac partition down a bit to make way for a "Windows" partition.

boot camp partitioner.png

Then I inserted the Ubuntu installer CD and rebooted. Up comes the familiar Ubuntu installer.

ubuntu on imac.jpg

The partitioner knows about MacOS and the only glitch was that the partition slider acts a little strangely. Nothing bad happened though.

partitioner.jpg

As with my last install, it took a long time downloading language files for Australia but in the end it finished and my first reboot ended in a pretty crash.

crash.jpg

In the end all is well and I can boot into either MacOS or Ubuntu by holding the Option key at boot. Choosing "Windows" gives me the Grub boot menu which I notice offers MacOS X (haven't tried booting that way yet).

Normally I run Linux on a netbook where it works nicely thankyou. Switching between MacOS and Ubuntu on the same hardware makes me appreciate what a polished OS MacOS is. It's silly, I know, but the fonts are just better on the Mac and that makes a difference to me.

Ubuntu on iMac for me doesn't reboot cleanly for some reason but otherwise things work, including my Bluetooth Magic Mouse (although no right-click or scroll).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

OSDC 2009 Thursday

Brisbane producer.jpgAll credit to Microsoft for sponsoring the conference (second only to Google) but guys... the Asure presentation/demonstration was enough to put me off. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Again, incidental conversations at breakfast and lunch were more enlightening than many of the talks except a wonderful session on GeoExt which is a toolkit combining Ext JS and OpenLayers to provide really impressive geospatial features. I was totally blown away and am re-thinking much of the work I've been doing in recent months to speed up mapping in the browser.

A theme of the conference is how hard it is to get laptops to talk to projectors. We had one that didn't like Mini DVI Macs yesterday but today there were problems across the board. In a five minute lightning talk, this can easily eat half the time.

lightningvert.jpgOne speaker who didn't have any trouble with the projector was a four year old who demonstrated great skill with her linux netbook.

Dinner tonight is sponsored by Google but it's been a long day and I'm not sure I'll last 'till midnight.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Open Source Developer's Conference 2009

Linux.jpgDay one of the OSDC has been stimulating. As with all conferences I attend, the most interesting parts tend to be incidental remarks in presentations or break time conversations.

There was a fair bit of Django love today and for me the best bit was a demo of Pinax which I've heard of but not looked into before. It's a collection of pluggable applications to add common functionality to your django app.

olpc.jpgThe session on Agile development with dynamic languages was very interesting and made me want to go back and re-visit the Design Patterns material in the light of my use of Python.

There's an interesting variety of laptops in use, certainly netbooks have garnered wide support, mostly running Ubuntu. Macs, and particularly MacBook Pros seem to be very popular amongst developers, my guess is about a third of those here, and the majority amongst speakers.

One projector doesn't get along with new macs with the mini display port - we tried everything including showing people's slides via a VNC connection! Along the way it emerged that there is a firmware update for the mini display port to VGA adapter. Maybe that's why these little Apple dongles are a bit expensive - they have a computer in them.

lightningTalkTheathre.jpg

We finished the day with "lightening talks" which were fun.

Brisbane PHP MySQL group meeting

welcome.jpgI'm in Brisbane to attend the Open Source Developers conference being held at the Bardon Conference Centre. While some of the equipment is a little dated.. the wifi service is OK and at a fair price ($35 for three days).

We got in the night before things start and have met a few fellow attendees just hanging around the lobby. Gary kindly gave us a lift in to the Brisbane PHP/MySQL group meeting which was well attended.

phpmysqlall.jpg


phpmysql.jpgThe presentation and demo was about mongoDB which is a database that stores blobs of structured data expressed in JSON. This would not be impressive if it didn't also have the ability to query and even index the structured content of that data. The use case that comes to mind is where you're storing rich data but don't fully know what you might get.

The database is written in Javascript, running on the server, and functions can be sent to the server for execution there. Interesting stuff and thanks to everyone for putting it on.

After Indian dinner Gary drove us up to the top of a hill from where we viewed a panorama of Brisbane.

ViewOfBrisbane.jpg

More tomorrow.

Friday, November 20, 2009

David Rhodes chain letter senders

Just received a second copy of a chain letter allegedly originated by David Rhodes of Perth.
rhodes.jpg


This is a well known scam.

The following people are participating in this scam, presumably motivated by greed:

  • Belinda Mills of 227 Mills Rd, Molong NSW 2866

  • L. Giffen of Carnoustie Dve, Dubbo NSW 2830

  • B. Harris, 3750 Stoneville Rd, Stoneville WA 6081

  • L. Dunn, PO Box 242, Arana Hills QLD 4054

  • A. Marsh 96 Bunya Road, Everton Hills QLD 4053


In my opinion, you are naive idiots. I will be forwarding your letter to the Department of Consumer and Employment Protection.

fivecents.jpgThanks for the money by the way.

Update

Based on the instructions in the letter, mine came from A. Marsh in Queensland so I've reported it with the Queensland Office of Fair Trading here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What comes after catastrophic?

Now that we have our first day of "catastrophic" fire danger here in NSW, I was wondering what might be next.

apocalyptic.png


Can I propose "apocalyptic"?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Apple Magic Mouse review

magicmouse.jpgFinally the Apple Magic Mouse arrived in stores here in Sydney. I think this is the biggest step forward since laser tracking.

The left and right click detection is reliable, unlike on the Mighty mouse, the scrolling by dragging a finger is smooth and presumably keeps working after three weeks, unlike the ball on the Mighty mouse.

Yes, the mighty mouse was mighty for the first few weeks and then the little ball gets gummed up. The mighty mouse's right click detection left a little bit to be desired too, anyway, perhaps it was the "mouse we had to have" to get to magic.

I'm finding the acceleration a little different to the Microsoft mouse I was using but I'm sure I'll get used to it soon. The scroll with momentum feature is nice. Like all wireless mice with a battery it's a little heavy.

Bluetooth pairing was very smooth the only unknown at this point is the battery life and how the two slidy tracks wear over time.

Initial impression is very positive, although I'm always sceptical of technology that works by "Magic".

How the mighty have fallen. I hope we can keep the magic.

Update

It's Jan 1, 2010 and I just got the first low battery warning. The initial batteries have lasted 1.5 months with daily use. Not bad I guess.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

No video on Macbook? Reset pram

My daughter's well used, and loved, MacBook had reportedly died. No video on screen at all. No video output to an external screen either - I feared the worst.

macbook.jpg

Turns out that resetting PRAM, by booting with Command-Option-P-R held down did the trick.

Even booting from an installer CD produced no video. Reset PRAM - recommended.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Christmas Carol in Real3D - not for little kids

Screen shot 2009-11-07 at 11.24.35 PM.pngSaw A Christmas Carol in 3D this evening and can highly recommend it. Visually stunning and imaginative the Real3D system, which I understand uses opposing circularly polarised lenses so that you don't lose the effect by tilting your head works really well.

The film is very dark in mood and some of the scenes are pretty scary. 3D is used to good effect and there isn't the silly stuff seen in the past that made me go cross-eyed.

The motion capture to animation technique is marvellous and it's great to see that actors will still be required in the new world after all. Jim Carey's range of expression is wonderful.

Thanks Margaret and David for the recommendation.

The short for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, also in 3D looks fantastic too.

The Wikipedia game

Screen shot 2009-11-07 at 11.03.44 PM.pngCan you get from "Michael Jackson" to "Avacado" on Wikipedia by just clicking links? From "Polo Neck Tee Shirt" to "Lady Ga Ga", or "Ugg Boots" to "Rubber band"? Yes you can!

This is the new game my kids have been playing with great amusement in the last few days.

The rules are, you must follow only Wikipedia links, no searching of course and you can go back only once.

It's played competitively with a group sitting around with laptops.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Don't be evil exception

I'm feeling very Google at the moment, the talk to the Sydney Python group, kindly hosted at Google in Sydney went off well last night.

Today I'm working with Google App Engine creating Gadgets and I just got a "don't be evil" exception. Not exactly sure why but made me chuckle.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Cheap 12.1 inch laptop review

"Brand New 12.1" Netbook - Choose Between Black or White Sale price: AU $449.00" the ebay ad read. Having found the 600 vertical pixels a bit limiting on a normal netbook I thought I'd give this one a go.



It's certainly a generic laptop, on boot it says "Note Book" on the screen. The user's guide also calls it Notebook and there's no mention of who the manufacturer is. The styling is influenced by the Apple MacBook Air although it's not really as thin.



It's a 1.6GHz dual core Atom processor, 1GB RAM, 160GB Hard disk. The ad promised 1024x768 but it turns out to be 1366x768 which is a nice bonus. Video out is via an HDMI socket which isn't very useful for me but might be good for playing back video on a TV. Battery life seems under two hours and the fan runs all the time and makes an annoying noise. The screen is clear but the glossy surface combined with various dents and other marks makes it rather unpleasant to work with.

Installed sensors but it only reports one temperature sensor and no PWM fan controllers.

I wanted to run Ubuntu, in particular 9.10. On install sound and ethernet worked but no wireless. It turns out the wireless device is a 3DSP Wireless 802.11 B+G USB adapter. These are a software device that combines both bluetooth and Wifi. The good news is that there is software for linux here, the bad news is that it doesn't work with 9.10 but rather 9.04.

Update:

The driver for 9.10 is available and there's even a 64 bit beta. Great stuff 3DSP!

Here's the chip on a little board inside:

3dsp.jpg

If anyone knows where the USB pins are on this connector I'm interested in wiring in an alternative adapter.

In the end I re-installed Ubuntu 9.04 and got it going. The software is rather clunky and doesn't integrate well with the normal wireless user interface.



The program needs to be started up and then it finds networks and connects, the normal Gnome network icon seems unaware of it. There is even a petition to the makers to open up their software.

Built in video camera works with skype but the microphone didn't seem to be heard by skype for some reason.

Inside the motherboard is attached to the underside of the keyboard. It's not hard to pull apart but watch for the flat cable attaching the trackpad and buttons.

keyboard.jpg

The battery is very thin so the battery life is remarkable given its size. I didn't disassemble further than this for fear of damaging something.

For the money, this laptop ok but as always you get what you pay for. The one let-down is the noisy fan that always runs.

Update

I got tired of the weird software from 3DSP for their wireless device, and went shopping for a USB Wireless adapter. This also let me upgrade to Ubuntu 9.10. I'm happy to report that the D-Link DWA-100 USB Wifi adapter works brilliantly with Ubuntu 9.10 out of the box.