Floating around

Seen in emails being forwarded around:

Question: How many members of the Bush Administration are needed to change a light bulb?

Answer: TEN.

1. One to deny that a light bulb needs to be changed,

2. One to attack the patriotism of anyone who says the light bulb needs to be changed,

3. One to blame Clinton for burning out the light bulb,

4. One to tell the nations of the world that they are either for changing the light bulb or for eternal darkness,

5. One to give a billion dollar no-bid contract to Halliburton for a new light bulb,

6. One to arrange a photograph of Bush, dressed as a janitor, standing on a step ladder under the banner “Bulb Accomplished”,

7. One administration insider to resign and in detail reveal how Bush was literally “in the dark” the whole time,

8. One to viciously smear #7,

9. One surrogate to campaign on TV and at rallies on how George Bush has had a strong light bulb-changing policy all along,

10. And finally, one to confuse Americans about the difference between screwing a light bulb and screwing the country.

And after all is said and done, no one will notice that they never actually managed to change the light bulb.

Kudos to MediaWiki developers

I recently installed MediaWiki software on my server so that I’d be better able to coordinate our vacation schedule. I had found a bug in it, and found a bug report that matched what I was experiencing. I updated the bug report with additional information. A mere 18 minutes later one of the developers updated the report with a suggestion, which solved the problem.

An Intervention

(from Advena)

“Dear America

“As a friend of the family I can’t sit back and watch you do this to yourself without saying something. Consider this a long distance intervention.

“Your man is no good. He treats you like crap, lies to you, abuses you, bullies you, exploits you, takes your money. As a friend I want to tell you that you deserve better. You deserve a person that treats you with respect, cares about your welfare, and your children’s welfare, but that’s not George and it never will be. (more…)

Family Trip Schedule

The whole family will be in the US in just less than a week, so I need to update you all on what the plan is. We will be arriving on September 15 and departing on October 6 for three weeks in California. I’ve set up a Wiki for the trip schedule so that you all can edit it to add proposed events and then contact me to confirm. You can also check it to see the latest who/what/when/where. Keep in mind that the schedule may change, so check the schedule later and/or confirm things with me by email or phone.

Editable Schedule Wiki:


Adventures In Computing

I decided to tinker a bit with my main Windows XP desktop to try to simplify the rats nest of cabling. I removed two of the disk controllers and consolidated all the disks and CD-ROM drives onto the motherboard controllers. While doing this, I managed to kill my memory card reader, and thought I killed one of my disk drives.

The memory card reader fits into one of the floppy drive slots on my case with a USB cable running to an internal USB connector on the motherboard. When I put my firewire card back in, that USB cable managed to get wedged between the card and socket. While the cable was not severed, the part where it got squished feels about 1/3 as thick as the rest of the cable, which means one or more of the wires inside probably got broken. In any case, the system no longer sees the card reader. I’ll try to slice open the cable at some point and try splicing it. If that doesn’t work, the card reader was only around US$15 so it’s not a terrible loss.

The hard disk would have been a bigger problem. It’s a 320GB drive that’s nearly stuffed to the gills, so it wouldn’t be so easy to replace its contents. Fortunately it turned out to be an interoperability quirk that was easily worked around once the problem was diagnosed. Previously each drive had been on its own IDE channel with each drive as master. By consolidating, I had to put two drives on each channel with the exception of the primary one which only had the boot drive on it as master.

By chance I had put the 320GB drive as a slave on an IDE channel with a 250GB drive as master. When I did that, all sorts of weird things were happening. Sometimes it would show up, sometimes it wouldn’t. Sometimes the capacity would be reported correctly, sometimes it wouldn’t. Sometimes it would actually mount and be accessible… for a while at least. Needless to say, that sounds like just the symptoms you’d expect with a drive with a failing logic board.

Fortunately it wasn’t that. After much debugging, it turns out that this particular drive when running as slave with the other 250GB drive as master would be flaky. With it as slave and other drives as master, it worked fine. With it as master and the other 250GB drive as slave it worked fine. Both drives are Western Digitals, so you’d think they would get along. What’s more mysterious is that the 320GB drive gets along with another 250GB Western Digital fine.

It took a long time debugging things to actually get it working though. I tried several different cables, then various combinations of drives before finding exactly what was wrong. Even so, I ran a complete test of the drive with SpinRite after getting things working, which it passed with no errors. What should have been a fairly straightforward re-arrangement ended up stretching to hours of debugging. And it still annoys me that in this day and age we still have insane incompatibilities like this crop up.

OpenSolaris with Serial Console

I’m one of those types who thinks that Unix makes for a good server but a bad desktop. I also think a server should be tucked away somewhere and accessed entirely remotely. The problem comes when you need to do lower level work that requires console login. Fortunately most Unix systems still support running a console over a serial port. And I happen to have a couple of terminal server boxes that allow me to log in over the network and access one of the servers’ consoles. I’ve been moving my non-desktop machines into a closet to get them out of the way, so I wanted to get my OpenSolaris box using serial console.

OpenSolaris and Solaris 11 now have a new boot architecture based on the GRUB boot loader that is popular on current Linux boxes (except for some people who like the older LILO). As such, the method of enabling serial console is a bit different. On earlier boxes you would run “eeprom input-device=ttya ; eeprom output-device=ttya” and you’d be set, but that procedure no longer works.

Here’s how to do it for OpenSolaris or Solaris 11: To get the unix kernel to use serial console, as root run “eeprom console=ttya”. If you only do that, then you won’t have access to the GRUB boot loader over the console. To enable serial console with GRUB, as root edit /boot/grub/menu.lst and find and uncomment these lines:

serial –unit=0 –speed=9600
terminal serial

Then comment this line:

#splashimage /boot/grub/splash.xpm.gz

The comments in the file also tell you what to do.

If you want to use the second serial port instead, use ttyb in the eeprom command, and –unit=1 in the serial line in menu.lst. If you want to use a different port speed than 9600, you need to change the eeprom ttya-mode (or ttyb-mode) setting and the –speed setting on the serial line in menu.lst.

On x86 hardware you may also need to make sure that the BIOS will boot without a keyboard attached or you will get the moronic “Keyboard not present. Press F1 to continue.” message and your system won’t boot. There’s usually a “ignore keyboard errors” or a “halt on: all but keyboard” option to get it to ignore the lack of keyboard.