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Sep 27, 2006

Update on the One Laptop Per Child + More

Some interesting details on how the OLPC is shaping up.

Super geek cartoon - Unix Humour. Theres a good vi one floating around somewhere but I can't find it right now . . .

Gizmodo looks at the Sony Reader. Pretty cool. I wonder what the uptake will be like ?

Two nifty gadgets via Treehugger - the Sun Jar and the Gadget Charging Solar Panel. I'll have to search for something that will trickle charge a laptop that doesn't cost a fortune - that would be really handy - the MacBook battery life is really sucky.

Linux tablet reaches its 3rd iteration - Pepper Pad 3.

Richard Dawkins new book is popping up all over the interweb. Looks like an interesting read.

This anti-Agile programming spiel also seems to be doing the rounds - its well worth a read and provides an insight into how R & D is done at Google. I wonder how well it would translate to a team working on relatively uninteresting but important tasks such as maintaining a tax system for Internal Revenue or keeping track of fines in a Justice collection system ?

Also big news - Peter Jackson is setting up a gaming arm to his production company in conjunction with Microsoft. I wonder if he'll do stuff similar to LucasArts or a graphical Infocom ?

Completely non-technology related - Mel laments smokey bars. NZ bars have been smoke free for about 6 to 12 months now and its fantastic - you can go out and have a few beers and when you get home you don't feel the need to wash everything you wear to get rid of the smokey smell or feel like your sense of taste/smell have been eviscerated by passive smoking (then again maybe thats the alcohol . . .)

[/links/2006] | [permalink] | [2006.09.27-21:25.00]

Sep 25, 2006

YouTube Music Video - Big Black (Live)

Big Black is one of my all time favourite bands - its kind of what happens when geeks pick up guitars and write about peelling back the surface of civility with a blow-torch (excuse the rock-journo-speak :-)

At one point some hardy soul uploaded the entire contents of Big Blacks live release 'Pig Pile' to You Tube but the only things left seem to be Bad Penny and Jordan, Minnesota.

They look so geeky but the sonics are so visceral that you just can't ignore the noise (and sweat) pouring off the stage. As usual the lyrical content is designed to shock and as with most Big Black you need a well tuned and pretty black sense of humour :-)

For Steve Albini's take on the music biz have a read of the infamous The Problem with Music essay.

Steve has recorded (he prefers 'recorded' to 'produced') a huge number of bands including Nirvana ('In Utero'), The Pixies ('Surfer Rosa'), The Breeders ('Pod'), PJ Harvey ('Rid of Me'), Slint ('Tweez'). Heres a pretty complete list at Wikipedia.

His philosophy on recording is covered in this interview with SoundOnSound. Being a recording purist its interesting to note his fascination with obscure Russian microphones and analog tape - he even has a stockpile of media as a hedge against diminishing production. In fact he's so anti-digital that he gave away the CD for free with vinyl copies of his current band Shellacs '1000 Hurts' LP.

[/music] | [permalink] | [2006.09.25-08:11.00]


Via StorageMojo - CleverSafe looks very cool. Its a geographically distributed storage grid with built in encryption.

If you watch the flash demo you'll see a chunk of data split up to over eleven locations when its written and when its read back only half of the locations need to respond (due to the built in redundancy). Its like RAID but on a grand-scale.

Whats better is that it looks like they're building an open-source community around the product.

[/tech/storage] | [permalink] | [2006.09.25-00:26.00]

Sep 22, 2006

Cisco Tips @ JLSNet

[/tech/network] | [permalink] | [2006.09.22-04:24.00]

Must Write Faster + More

Charles Stross writes about the perils of writing sci-fi for the near future - ideas for a new book are coming true now - Must Write Faster - IBM has a secret island headquarters hideaway inside Second Life.

Definitely a better concept than Pop Idol - My Dream App - vote for your favourite application idea.

NetXen has released a Virtualisable 10Gb NIC - it plays nice with VMWare ESX so you can carve up bandwidth per VM.

This would be amazing if it actually turned out to be true - Cringely discusses where he thinks Apple iTV strategy is going.

Something for the consumer terrorist parent - Child Safety Labels We'd Like To See. Printing these out and sticking them onto toys in a shop would be cool.

Touching in a super geeky way - an ode to a dead PowerBook G4. My favourite laptop is a close contest between my old Duo 230 and my iBook 600 - each one was a generation apart from the other but they provided me with stable computing for 2-3 years apiece which is a pretty long time in IT terms.

Congratulations to Genshin Fujinami - the most recent Marathon Monk.

Nasty - Ozone mini-hole means sun risk on Sunday. So now we can't even enjoy the weekend without worrying about skin-cancer ?

[/links/2006] | [permalink] | [2006.09.22-00:39.00]

Sep 20, 2006

New Zealand studies video game violence

Via ArsTechnica - New Zealand studies video game violence.

Its interesting that this research is supported by the Royal Society of NZ via their Marsden Grant program.

Coincidentally one of my best friends ('Hi!' Shaun) is also a recipient of a Marsden Grant for this - "How small is a liquid? Precursors to melting in nanoparticles".

I can't claim to understand it but I can fully appreciate the importance of having your work acknowledged by New Zealands most prestegious research awards.

[/tech/games] | [permalink] | [2006.09.20-04:05.00]

Sep 19, 2006

Project 2003 Pro Annoyance(s)

Like many organisations looking to consolidate their workflows via a PMO (Project Management Office) - we're looking into tools which enable collaboration of the various projects and workstreams underway.

Microsoft have a number of tools to facilitate this - primarily SharePoint and Project Server.

I ran up a Project Server for a Pilot program and ran into a few annoying glitches that I thought I'd document for anyone else that came across them -

* First if you install and run Project 2003 Pro and get a "The command is attempting to use a webpage from the site gbui://blank.htm/" error which loops endlessly then you need to check this Microsoft kbase article (ID 887028). Methinks they rushed this product out the door a little quick.

* Second if you try to talk to a Project Server you end up with a blank login screen - because MS Project 2k3 Pro doesn't use a standard MS authentication system - it uses security libraries from Internet Explorer. Nice. There seem to be several reasons why this happens - many people suspect it is due to security restrictions enforced by McAfee VirusScan. In a nice bit of buck-passing McAfee point to this Micrisoft kbase article (ID 899341) - note that the hotfix didn't fix the problem and the fix is only available if you call Microsoft who will send you the details to download it anyway. Even if you uninstall the McAfee product it doesn't make any difference. Sigh.

* A clean PC build worked OK though which got me thinking it had to be a build problem. We got a consultant in to investigate and between us we came up with two fixes - (a) try installing IE7 (or repairing IE6) - this seems to replace a corrupted or old version of a critical IE dll that only seems to be important to Project authentication and a better fix is (b) on the server set server side policy - 'Impersonate a client after authentication' and add in the domain account used to run the Project Server service.

Other than that Project Server looks like an interesting tool - all configuration and data gets stored in SQL so you can run up multiple app servers and point them at the database and they just work. Kind of cool.

We installed in a fairly minimalist mode - just using IIS - instead of SharePoint which would have been overkill (and it broke other apps on the server).

In terms of usage - the idea is that a PM (Project Manager) uploads a project to the server and his 'resources' can update their individual task progress via a web interface (does require an Active X control so its IE only). Updates, approvals and task assignment trigger notification emails to both PM's and Resources.

The catch is of course that you need to have business buy-in and you'll also need a specialist Project-guru or Business Analyst to actually manage the server based projects and do basic administration (eg IT maintain it and the Business administer it). Like most back-end Microsoft products you need specialist skills to administer the product as well as some good domain knowledge to actually make use of it.

There are a few good resource for anyone looking into implementing a Project Server -

* Microsofts Project 2003 Site

* Project Server Experts

* Project MVP FAQ's

[/tech/windows] | [permalink] | [2006.09.19-23:51.00]

XScreenSaver 5.01 Released

Not Mac specific - XScreenSaver has been the mainstay of most Unix/Linus distributions for many years but the last few releases have included native OS X builds too.

[/tech/mac] | [permalink] | [2006.09.19-18:46.00]

Insanely Fast Climber + More

This one is for Chris - I'm sure he'll appreciate this Google video of Dan Osman scaling a vertical wall/cliff in no time flat.

The 2007 - Death & Taxes Infograph is out - see where the USA spends its tax dollar.

More excellent stuff from StorageMojo (I accidentally called them StorageMofo in the last post which sounds better but I've corrected the typo) - Mission Impossible: Managing Amazon’s Datacenter, Pt I. Can't wait to read the rest. Darn good idea putting the devs oncall too - make them experience the pain they put the end user through rather than have the sys-admin act as the middle man.

[/links/2006] | [permalink] | [2006.09.19-18:38.00]

Sep 18, 2006

Archive of Apple/Mac Ad's

A collection of Apple TV commercials - right back to the infamous 1984 ad.

[/tech/mac] | [permalink] | [2006.09.18-23:16.00]

TinyApps Points to some Security Tools

The people over at TinyApps always point to good stuff.

Two recent security related posts from them -

* SecureRDP is a free tool to add an extra layer of security to RDP. You can accept/deny incoming RDP connections by IP, Mac address or Host name. Handy for locking down server administration only to admin PC's.

* TinyApps points to SSLExplorer which is an open-source SSL VPN solution. A two part setup guide is available form Toms Hardware - part 1 and part 2. Looks like a really really handy way of offering secure access to a small internal LAN without having to roll out a full IPSec based VPN solution.

[/tech/security] | [permalink] | [2006.09.18-21:53.00]

Sep 17, 2006

Sleuthkit + More

Another handy forensic toolset - Sleuthkit. Now comes with Win32 binaries too. Tools include mactime which shows a timeline of file activity (unfortunately no Win32 version of this tool yet).

A handy use for an old 64Mb USB stick - Boot a Dead PC with Nothing but a Thumb Drive. Makes use of the RIP (Recovery is Possible) mini-distribution.

An IBM DeveloperWorks article on NFSv4. It looks like it addresses some of the security concerns surrounding previous versions.

Another QuickSilver / LaunchBar clone for Win32 - Colibri is like a slicker Launchy. QuickSilver was pretty slow on my old iBook but now it positively sings on my MacBook - definitely an indispensible OS X application - if you don't need all its bells and whistles try the simpler Namely.

Most IT professionals already know this but its #1 in the list of the Top 10 Most Stressful Professions. I guess its the fact that people don't seem to understand that IT systems aren't perfect and think you're making excuses for services which just winds up the client.

Useful guide to LSOF (Lists of Open Files). Apparently its the utility with the most switches - so many that it uses both '+' and '-' for its arguments.

StorageMojo on Flash-drives - Low End Streetfight. I didn't realise high-end memory sticks used RAID 0.

Charles Stross discusses the human side of Microsoft Windows - Spinning the Hamster Wheel. Definitely a lot to be said for running enterprise apps through a terminal session or web-front-end to minimise the annoyances associated with supporting the base OS.

[/links/2006] | [permalink] | [2006.09.17-03:43.00]

Sep 15, 2006

New Header - Lyall Bay

Lyall Bay one spring morning (12 of September to be exact) as I was walking to catch the bus into work - the picture overlooks the bay from Melrose.

[/headers] | [permalink] | [2006.09.15-00:57.00]

Sep 13, 2006

The Octomac

AnandTech put in some pre-production samples of the new Intel quad-core 'Cloverton' chip into their Intel Mac to create a Quad-core Octomac.

It looks like professional desktop workstation (Windows, Linux and OS X) class machines will pack a fair bit of power in the very near future.

[/tech/mac] | [permalink] | [2006.09.13-01:45.00]

New MacBook - Yay Me!

Not that anyone else cares :-)

Took delivery of a new 1.8GHz Core Duo MacBook yesterday - copied all my stuff across from my old 600MHz G3 iBook in about 2hrs via crossover cable (if I'd had a firewire lead I could have used the built in migration assistant to move all my stuff over).

The best I can say is that it works exactly the same as my iBook but much much much faster. I just got the cheapest model with no frills - I might see about adding more RAM at a later stage.

The Maglock power-lead is very funky and works as advertised, the slot-load DVD is a nice touch as is the built in iSight and FrontRow Remote - can't see much use for either of these other than taking pictures of the cat when she decides to sit on the keyboard.

The 60Gb disk is almost full - I have about 15Gb free - once I try Parallels for some Virtual Machine goodness that'll be all my space gone. I think I'll probably rationalise my iTunes library - its just a subset of the stuff on my PC anyway.

Battery life seems a little disappointing - the cell seems bigger than the iBook battery but on a full charge I see about 4hrs of life with minimal power management - thats the same as my iBook with a 3 year old battery (which showed 6hrs when it was new).

I'm looking for Intel binaries for my favourite apps - I tend to live in NetNewswire and Safari for the most part with occassional forays into Mail, iTunes, Terminal and iPhoto so there isn't that much I need to track down. My old non-Intel apps work surprisingly well in PowerPC emulation mode - Apple is to be commended for the work they've invested in making a seamless transition across archs and OS's.

I've christened the new machine 'Mr Hoppy' after Ivan Dobskys psychotic space hopper sidekick from Monkey Dust.

Once I'm happy with the transition I'll need to try and unlock my iBook DVD (currently set to the wrong region for NZ) before selling it. Then again it would make an ideal Ubuntu system . . .

[/tech/mac] | [permalink] | [2006.09.13-00:35.00]

Sep 11, 2006

Ignore - Testing Permalinks Again

Looks like I had a problem in my Blosxom flavour files (story.html) - looks like I messed up when I revamped the site.

[/testing] | [permalink] | [2006.09.11-22:55.00]

Ignore - Permalink Test

Testing testing 123

[/testing] | [permalink] | [2006.09.11-22:46.00]

Sep 07, 2006

Touch & Go Records

T & G are probably one of the top three 'indie' record labels in the US (along with SST and Sub Pop) of the past 30 years. They're having a big 25 Anniversary Bash with reunions featuring some of my favouritist bands.

Pitchforkmedia are running an interview with label founder Corey Rusk and they also have a list of some of the best records from the labels history. Lots of musical goodness on the list . . . Slint, Big Black, Rodan, Brainiac, June of 44, Shellac, Girls vs Boys, Don Cabellero, For Carnations, Butthole Surfers.

[/music] | [permalink] | [2006.09.07-19:16.00]

RAID Failure Rate

I'm going to sound like a bit of a NetApp schill but I found another pointer to to the statistically probability of a RAID reconstruct failure - Expect Double Disk Failures With ATA Drives. 9% with four drives and 48% with 16 drives. Nasty.

[/tech/storage] | [permalink] | [2006.09.07-01:20.00]

Sep 06, 2006

Finding Great Developers

Joel Spolsky is always an entertaining read - he's started a series on How to find Great Developers:

"The corollary of that rule—the rule that the great people are never on the market—is that the bad people—the seriously unqualified—are on the market quite a lot. They get fired all the time, because they can’t do their job. Their companies fail—sometimes because any company that would hire them would probably also hire a lot of unqualified programmers, so it all adds up to failure—but sometimes because they actually are so unqualified that they ruined the company. Yep, it happens."


Joel doesn't take into account the fact that people can get a little bored with what they do and decide to move on - then again if they were truly passionate about what they did in the first place they'd stick around.

[/tech/jobhunt] | [permalink] | [2006.09.06-23:40.00]

End of the line for IRIX

I guess SGI were going down the drain anyway but its still a shame to see them turn into YALV (Yet Another Linux Vendor) - SGI To Drop MIPS, Irix, Moves to Itanium, Linux.

I guess there problems came as a result of over-pricing their gear, not forseeing the graphics-card revolution on the PC and their doomed foray into NT workstations.


I quite liked IRIX.

And then there were three - Solaris, AIX and HP-UX . . .

[/tech/unix/irix] | [permalink] | [2006.09.06-20:58.00]

Useful Windows Tools

A couple of useful tools and tips -

Useful to prevent people getting carried away with permissions - Remove the security tab using group policy

A simple script to locate files which arent work related. Useful to discover where all your precious disk space has gone.

Nifty free tool from Stardock - Bootskin lets you customise the Windows XP boot 'animation'. Handy if you decide to add some extra branding to your corporate hardware (esp. laptops which seem to get nicked with frightening regularity).

[/misc] | [permalink] | [2006.09.06-20:47.00]

Lego Mindstorm Review

One of the few times ArsTechnica has given out a 'X' - check out their review of the new Blutooth enabled Mindstorm from Lego (retails for $400NZ - I need to start a Paypal donation fund ;-)

Certainly come a long way since I played with my first set back in the 70's - I think it might have been either Set 460 Rescue Unit or Set 360 Lunar Lander.

[/misc] | [permalink] | [2006.09.06-01:09.00]

Sep 05, 2006

The Plug-In Data Center

Great link to StorageMojo concerning the possible use of USB sticks to create a 'Plug In Data Center'.

You could take it even further by offering a web service which generates custom linux installs for USB sticks which provide specified services - eg a web page with a check list of common services and applications - select whatever you like and it creates a custom install which fits onto a bootable USB stick or CD.

[/tech/server] | [permalink] | [2006.09.05-02:01.00]

Sep 01, 2006

CrossOver for Mac

Looks like their beta program has kicked off - Beta Center - CrossOver Mac - a free time-limited install.

[/tech/mac] | [permalink] | [2006.09.01-01:41.00]