Saturday, December 19, 2009

More Snow pics

Here's some more snow pics for Dec 19, 2009. I've left them at full resolution so that there's more detail. I had a guy that was driving his tractor around with a scraper blade scrape the driveway for me. I would have been out there all day.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snow fall Dec 18 2009

Update: While we didn't lose power, some people in the surronding counties were without power for 14 days. A month later, there are people without telephone service. AEP has posted some pics of the damage.


Here's some pics of the snow tonight. Abingdon, VA, has about 8" - 9" of snow on the ground before midnight. The two images are of the back deck.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

New Baby

Our baby Marilla Larken was born on Monday Nov 2. She's spent some time in the NICU due to "breathing" the meconium. Mother and baby are doing well. Hopefully, they'll be coming home Thursday.

Update: Lee Ann is coming home Thursday night and Marilla will come home early Friday morning. Marilla was moved into the nursery after 4:00p on Thursday.

Update: Everyone is doing fine. Marilla came home Friday morning. We've had lots of vistors. Both sets of grandparents have been by to visit. Aunts, uncles, and cousins too. She slept pretty good through all of the Wii games being played and the running around of the two youngest boys.

Lee Ann had her week after follow up. The doctor said that everything was healing well. So everything is good to go for now. We're slowly becoming sleep deprived, but I've been told that comes with the territory.

Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, Baby, Mother

Updated Pictures:

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Failure of Previous Generations

As I sit here writing, watching TV and waiting for my wife to go into labor, I wonder about failure. More specifically, I wonder how my generation will fail our children. My parent's generation (Boomers) and their parents (WWII) have failed us. A couple of examples are energy and health care.

The failure in energy is that they couldn't muster the strength of character and will to do what was needed after the 1970s oil crisis. They did start the buying smaller cars, but it didn't last long enough to make the lasting changes needed. Now it's 2009 and we have a economy that's in the toilet. We're bailing out automotive companies that didn't see the writing on the wall because we weren't smart enough as consumers to see that gas might go up a lot one day. Our parents didn't remember the lesson of the 1970s to teach us. They believed cheap gas would be here forever. (When my wife and I bought a car this year, we didn't buy a gas guzzler.)

Health care is another issue where they've failed us. I don't care if you're a Republican or Democrat. You are to blame. (Party loyalty is another joke.)

The Boomers are in the process of retiring. They're going to get health care via Medicare. While they get theirs, they're leaving their children and grand-children behind. Premiums are going up. It may not be seen because the employer is covering the costs, but that's less money in our pockets.

This isn't the only problem. On average it used to take six months to find a job. Even before the recession, the time to find a new job was increasing towards one year. This has special implications for health care. An individual/family can go no more than 6 months without health care coverage before pre-existing condition causes issues with your new coverage.

I had hoped that the health care bill coming from Congress would provide a reasonable public option but it's not going to be. Once again Democrats and Republicans have screwed over their children. They didn't do what really needed to be done which was to prohibit employer provided health care plans.

The current system relies on the employer providing the health care coverage. Why does it have to be this way? My employer doesn't provide my car insurance. I buy the coverage that I need for my car. I have to buy it or I can't drive my car on the road. The money for health insurance should go into my paycheck.

This system is a throwback to the company town where the company owned the town. The employee lived in the company owned house and bought groceries at the company store with company provided scrip. This system makes the employee beholden to the company and probably reduces the number of people attempting to start small businesses due to inability to buy coverage. (Try buying coverage on the open market with pre-existing conditions and see how bad/costly the policies are.)

Oh well, you reap what you sow. Medicare payments to doctors may be slashed up to 21%. This may force many doctors to not accept new Medicare patients. (I saw this first hand a few years ago while sitting in my doctor's office in Va Beach. They told an old lady that they didn't accept new Medicare patients.) Even the doctors are scared about going on Medicare. The irony is fantastic.

But [Dr.] Hagan himself became Medicare-eligible this month -- and he's nervous. "If I accept Medicare for myself and my wife, I'm fearful I won't be able to stay with my cardiologist and my wife won't be able to stay with her physicians," he said.

I wonder how my generation will fail our children.

Update 1:
The article What a Long, Strange, Thoroughly Obnoxious Trip It's Been will probably offend you if you're a boomer. It's an even more scathing look at Boomers and Hippies.

Update 2:
Here's another example of how Boomers don't get it. I think that it shows the real disconnect between Boomers and their children/grand-children. Peggy Noonan is talking about how no one believes that politicians have answer anymore. I don't believe that anyone of my generation believes that politicians have the answer anymore, if they ever did.

Boomers are looking for salvation in their politicians. As Boomers die off, expect political party affiliation too mean less and less. Democrats or Republicans probably aren't prepared for this. Political party affiliation is becoming less about ideology and more about not putting in the same ol bunch of idiots every time.

Replacing DIS/HLA with AMQP/ProcotolBuffers (Part 1)

Update (2017-03-06):   It's been a while since I wrote this.  If you're doing distributed simulation for a defense related reasons, you're probably still using HLA or DIS.  It's never going away.  There are only a few products that do HLA and you probably know what they are.  There's also a newer standard called DDS created OMG.  OMG is the same organization behind CORBA.


High Level Architecture (HLA) is way of passing simulation data around. HLA was meant to replace DIS. Both systems are crap.

DIS is still used because it's simple, standardized and well understood. Anyone can implement it and inter-operate with other implementations. The biggest problems is that since it's standardized, implementing capabilities outside of the spec means that the new feature/packet won't be supported on others systems.

HLA was supposed to solve the above problems. However, it's cause more problems than it's really solved. It's the reason why the Air Force and others outside of the Navy are sticking with DIS.

One problem with HLA is that there are multiple standards. There's a DOD standard that everyone inside the Navy modeling and simulation world uses and the IEEE 1516 standard. I've not seen anyone actually using the 1516 standard.

Another issue is what the standard actually specifies. HLA while a standard is not an product that you would use. Run-Time Infrastructure (RTI) is the middle-ware that is used. The standard specifies ways in data is distributed and programming interfaces, but it does not specify a wire protocol. As a result, implementations of an RTI are usually not compatible on the wire. So, competing implementations can't talk to one another. This leads to vendor lock-in in that everyone that wants to play in a sandbox must agree to use a common version.

There are various RTI implementations. Raytheon makes one called RTI-NG Pro. It's the "standard" that the Navy has chosen. From what I understand it based on the original DMSO source code. The code has been closed up and you can now buy the "standard" RTI from them.

Other implementations are around. Portico is an open source effort to implement the DoD standard and 1516. RTI-S, while not compliant with the HLA standards, it implements the programming interface and can be easily swapped out with other implementations. It has features that make it desirable to use. RTI-S has funded by a few government agencies. It's government open source in that you can get it if you need it and you're working on a government contract. There was some talk of open sourcing, but I'll believe it when I see it.

The nice feature of the HLA is that the data to be shared between the federates is defined in the Federation Object Model (FOM). As long as all of the players agree on the FOM (and an RTI), it's easy to play together. The FOM can be shared and everyone can implement those pieces that interests them.

The FOM side steps the problem of having to re-convene a DIS committee to update the standard for the new features that are need. It's more agile and easier to change when the players decide that the original understanding was faulty. (What? We were wrong? Doesn't happen here.)

So, we come back to our original problems: DIS => Simple easy to use. HLA => More flexible but must sell soul for licenses.

I think that there's hope for the above problems and TENA isn't it.

What's needed is to combine the simplicity of DIS with the flexibility of the FOM while making it opensource. I believe that Google's ProtocolBuffers (PB) may be a potential solution to part of the problem.

Read the link to get more detail, but a PB is a way of specifying data to be sent on the network or stored in a file in a binary format. The PB is actually specified in a simple text file. It's not even xml. The file with PB definition is processed by a code generator. The resulting code is used to marshal/unmarshal the data. There are code generators for C++, Java, Python and Ruby.

While code generation and simple format specification are great features, the best one is the ability to be backwards compatible with previous specifications. This is accomplished with the required and optional tags for fields in the specification. (Click the PB link above and you'll see an example.)

The PB could be used with UDP, TCP, or Multi-cast to push data onto the network. Just a quick glance at the PB group at Google, produced this example of using PB on the network.

Since DIS is simple and easy to understand, it probably won't take much effort to create a PB version of DIS. NPS has created an XML version of the specification. While it will take some work, parsing the xml and generating the necessary PB files should reasonably straight forward.

While it's nice to have DIS in the PB format, it's just DIS in a new format. As mentioned above, PB provides an easy way to extend an existing packet with new data while maintaining backwards capability with applications that might not have the new data fields. This would allow experimentation and extension without worrying about convening a new committee meeting.

This same capability could be extended to the FOM for HLA. The FOM format is well defined but it has it's own issues and could be more flexible. (Why did it have to have ID numbers specified?) It would not take much to parse it and generate the appropriate PB files.

Since there is no wire standard for HLA, it's not a problem to just broadcast the packets need for HLA. However, HLA specifies certain capabilities that is needed compliance. Data Distribution Management (DDM) is one item that would need to be addressed. DDM allows players to subscribe to data that meets special requirements. PB by itself can't do this. There is potential fix that is open source way and has some standards support.

Advanced Message Queue Protocol (AMQP) may be the standard that is needed to fix the problem. QPID is an opensource implementation that is used by RedHat and others. I'll cover it in Part 2.

Thrift is an Apache Incubator project that could serve as an alternative to PB.
Benchmark of PB vs other systems.

Fixed problem with link to DIS XML spec developed by MOVES.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Adblock and CNN

I've noticed that CNN is putting more ads on their videos. This means that if I have AdBlock enabled that I can't watch them. If I want to watch something, I have to disable AdBlock. All this adds up to watching less video on CNN's site.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Comcast and Encrypted Digital Content

It looks like Comcast is encrypting many digital channels that I could previously watch on my television. Previously, I could watch many channels that I get on Extended Basic cable in HD on a digital channel. SyFy, Discovery, AE, TNT, TBS, and many others was being broadcast unencrypted in HD. It was nice that I didn't need a digital cable box. Many of those channels have disappeared.

It would be nice to HD television, but I'm not "renting" a digital cable box. I've got enough stuff connected to my TV. I'm not investing in a cable card television either. TVs cost too much to be buying a new TV to get the latest new feature. If anything, I may end up dropping the cable television and just continue to buy my Internet access from the cable company.

Hulu now has a linux desktop client. Perhaps, I'll use that to watch television programming that I normally couldn't watch without cable. The other option is to buy DVD's of those shows or use NetFlix.

DVD's of popular shows average around $50 for the season. My extended cable costs ~$45/mth or ~$540/year. For that much money, seaons of 10 programs could be purchased every year. Most seasons of a particular program like House ($35) has 24 episodes. This means that ~240 hours of programming could be bought. (Really it's less, because an episode is about 50 minutes.)

Or, more could be bought if you factored in the cost of digital cable. If digital cable with HD support cost $100/mth or 24 seasons of television programs for a year. That's a lot of television. Of course you can't watch sports on ESPN.

Sports would be the biggest problem. If you love sports, you're still tied to cable. Some of the problem could be mitigated by using Over The Air broadcast reception. That is limited to the local station broadcast and the ability to receive those.

Overall, considering the quality of programming, the cost, and the awful boxes that have to be connected to receive the higher quality broadcasts; it doesn't seem worth it to have cable except as a connection to the Internet. If I need to hook a box up to my tv, I might as well use a computer that would allow me to read my email and use a keyboard. The Wii, Xbox, and Playstation aren't good enough for that. They suck.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Nvidia, AMD, Intel and GPGPU

As of now it looks like AMD is hitting Nvidia hard. The latest 5xxx series from AMD is impressive. The theoretical single precision performance is over 2TFLOPS and double precision is is over 500 GFLOPS. Nvidia won't have a competing product until next year. Intel is working on it's answerLarrabee, which should ship next year.

Both Intel and AMD are providing specs to create open source products. Because of this, I've been supporting them. Most of my recent purchases has been AMD products. The open source video drivers have been working. I don't do a lot of 3d stuff so that's not so important. I'm hopeful that open source video acceleration will soon be possible.

I've not been buying a lot of Nvidia hardware. They were the best at producing binary drivers and supporting the various distributions. Now that AMD has reasonable opensource driver support, it's more of a hassle to worry about getting the binary drivers installed. It's fairly easy to install the binary drivers if your distribution has a non-free repo that maintains them. But, sometimes stuff breaks and if you have to fix it. Also, binary drivers may not immediately support the latest and greatest kernel/xorg for your distro. I'm glad that the we've got opensource drivers that are fixing this problem.

The biggest problem now is the lack of opensource drivers for the GPGPU hardware capabilities of the newset equipment. AMD and Nvidia both require binary drivers to allow general purpose programming access through OpenCL. This presents a problem, because we're back to the problem of being reliant on the whims of a company to be able to write programs to make use of hardware.

This is where Intel comes into play. They've been providing the information to developers to create the necessary drivers for their hardware. I'm hopeful that they'll do the same with Larrabee. If they provide opensource software/drivers, they'll take a big chunk of the market from AMD and Nvidia. They'll take it because it'll be easier to use Intel hardware in compute clusters. The necessary drivers and software will come with the distributions by default and will be very easy to use just like the Intel CPUs.

Herb Sutter's article on multicore system gives you an idea of what it might be like when Larrabee comes along.

In 2006, instead of shipping a dual-core Itanium part, with exactly the same transistor budget Intel could have shipped a chip that contained 100 decent Pentium-class cores with enough space left over for 16 MB of Level 3 cache.

If Larrabee is a massively parallel x86 ISA that is open, it could really shake things up. Hopefully, they'll provide it on a PCI-E card and not tie it to their CPU, otherwise it'll be a while before I can buy one.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

BCM5752 no Jumbo Frames

According to the programming guide for the BCM57XX chipset (pg 133/pdf pg 198):
The BCM5705, BCM5788, BCM5721, BCM5751, and BCM5752 devices do not support Jumbo Frames and hence both

This chipset is used on a lot of dell laptops. The one that I use for work is Dell M65. The Dell D820 has the same problem.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Network Television Season Premier Dates

Why is it that most of the networks don't put their season premiers on the main page of the shows? Do they think that they'll get us to watch their re-runs more? It's just another reason why they're failing.

Monday, September 07, 2009

AR9285 driver for linux

The Atheros AR9285 driver, ath9k, is barely usable in Fedora 12 Alpha and Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha. I've been using the Ubuntu on the Gateway LT31. The wireless will fail under heavy load. I've not tested F12 Snapshot 1 yet, but I don't expect much better behaviour. There's a bugzilla entry for it. The number is 520539.

Update 2009-09-26: I updated my install of Ubuntu 9.10 alpha and received that latest interface changes and such. Suspends seem to be working. However, I have to use the NetworkManager applet to stop the networking and start it again before I get acceptable performance leves out of it.

I've not tried Fedora 12 Snapshot 3, but 2 works about as well as the Snapshot 1. I've noticed that the I have to restart the NetworkManager applet know matter what laptop I try. I don't know if it's the LiveCD or what. I'll wait until F12 Beta comes out before I try it again. FYI, I've been using unetbootin to test F12. If you use unetbootin, make sure that you re-label the USB key's volume name to LIVE.

Update 2009-10-10:Using the Fedora 20091007 nightly of the desktop livecd, I was able to get reasonable performance after a suspend/resume of the card. I need to do a throughput test to see if it works now. I'm able to use the desktop affects on fedora which I can't on Ubuntu.

Update 2009-10-25:I've moved over to using Fedora 12 Beta. (Sorry Ubuntu.) Performance of the card isn't what I would like it to be, but it is working. It continues to disconnect from the AP under heavy load, but will reconnect. Transferring a large files will cause it to disconnect 2 - 3 times per minute. I've updated the Fedora Bug report. Fedora 12 works reasonably well and I can enable the 3D effects for the desktop with the open source driver.

Update 2010-05-01: I'm now running Fedora 13 Beta. The card hasn't given me any issues. The Gateway LT31 seems to be working reasonably well. I haven't had a corruption issue with the ATI video while using the opensource driver. So far so good.

Update 2010-12-31: I've tried the the AR9285 with a N router. I was pushing almost 13MB/s (~90Mbps) when sitting about 5 feet away. I had to set the router to N only with Turbo enabled.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Compaq Headache

Once again my decision to stay away from Compaq (now owned by HP) is confirmed as a good one. Sunday, I picked up a Compaq CQ50-130US computer from a family friend. The kid that owns it has been having problems with it. I've been told that it's been sent back twice. I got the call the check it out Sunday.

The problem it turns out is the hard drive. I confirmed that the computer itself is okay by booting Ubuntu 9.10 alpha 3 from a usb key. It worked fine. It recognized the wireless and the X display was excellent. Ubuntu could not see the hard drive.

When I ran the hard drive diagnostic it says "Hard Drive Not Exist". That's a pretty good sign that the drive is bad. To verify that it wasn't just the drive not being seated properly, I removed the drive and put it back in. It didn't fix the problem.

To verify that the drive controller wasn't bad, I removed the drive from the caddy and put it in my machine. (It's easy to do this since I have a 2.5" drive carrier that I can slip the drive into.) I booted my F10 box and immediately I see that there is a SMART error. The hard drive is definitely bad.

Tonight I go to the hp site and try chatting with a service rep. I thought that I would get a new drive on the way this evening. Unfortunately, I failed. Below is the transcript of the chat session.

I would recommend that you stay away from Compaq systems.

Trever Shelton : HI James, how are you doing today?
James Hubbard : Fine. How are you?
Trever Shelton : I am fine, thank you for asking.
Trever Shelton : As, per the above description your notebook hard disk shows failed, am I correct?
James Hubbard : Yes.
Trever Shelton : Let me see how best I can help you with this issue and make the day better for you. Your satisfaction is our primary goal.
Trever Shelton : I would require few details about your product before troubleshooting.
James Hubbard : Presario CQ50 S/N: xxxxxxxx P/N: xxxxxx
Trever Shelton : Thank you for the information.
Trever Shelton : Did you make any software or hardware changes to the computer recently?
James Hubbard : No
Trever Shelton : Could you stay online for 5 minutes, while I retrieve the System information from our database?
James Hubbard : Yes
Trever Shelton : Thank you for being online, I appreciate your patience.
Trever Shelton : May I know are you chatting with me from the same notebook?
James Hubbard : No from a different machine.
Trever Shelton : okay
Trever Shelton : May I know did you perform any hard drive self test?
James Hubbard : I tried, but the error messages says hard drive not found.
Trever Shelton : Okay, in this case you need to reseat the hard drive.
James Hubbard : Actually it says "Hard disk not exist"
Trever Shelton : You need to remove the hard drive and insert it.
James Hubbard : I've already done that. Didn't help. I even placed the drive in my computer and it can't do anything with it. I tried to format it and it won't work the hard drive is dead. Trever Shelton : Thank you for performed the steps, I appreciate your efforts.
James Hubbard : You're welcome
Trever Shelton : I would like to suggest you, could you please enter into the BIOS?
James Hubbard : I'm in the bios now.
Trever Shelton : May I know which options do you able to see in BIOS
James Hubbard : I pressed ESC to get the startup menu and then pressed F10.
Trever Shelton : Okay!
Trever Shelton : Now do you able to see the BIOS screen in your notebook?
James Hubbard : Yes I see the BIOS screen.
Trever Shelton : May I know which options do you able to see in BIOS?
James Hubbard : There is Main Security Diagnostics System Configuration Exit.
Trever Shelton : Could you please go to the Diagnostics system and try the hard drive self test?
James Hubbard : I get "Hard Drive Not Exist" same as the previous message.
Trever Shelton : I appreciate your efforts.
Trever Shelton : I have to create a service ticket for replace the hard drive, is that fine with you?
James Hubbard : Yes.
Trever Shelton : First, I would like to register your notebook in our system data base.
Trever Shelton : May I know your mailing address, telephone number and email id?
James Hubbard : It should already be registered. The kid that owns it has called tech support before.
Trever Shelton : Could you please reconfirm the mailing address, telephone number, email id , product number and serial number?
James Hubbard : The owner's name is abcd efghi
phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx
James Hubbard : send the ticket information to
Trever Shelton : Let me explain you, your notebook has not registered in our data base.
James Hubbard : okay.
Trever Shelton : We have limited access for users, so I dont have to send the ticket information at your email id.
James Hubbard : okay.
Trever Shelton : May I know the owner of the notebook?
James Hubbard : abcd efghi
Trever Shelton : Okay! could you please stay for a while.
James Hubbard : Yes
Trever Shelton : May I know do you have abcd efghi email id?
James Hubbard : I don't know his email id.
James Hubbard : Use mine for now. He doesn't have a computer at home that works.
James Hubbard : Mine is
Trever Shelton : May I know the alternate number of the owner for this notebook?
James Hubbard : I don't know of an alternate number for the owner.
Trever Shelton : I would require the owner of the notebook to register the notebook.
James Hubbard : I've given you all of the information that you need to register the notebook.
Trever Shelton : I understand your concern, for authentication purpose its necessary the owner of the notebook to chat with us. Or else you need tell to Johnny to call back and register the information in our system.
Trever Shelton : I would like to give the alternate option, you need to visit our neareset authorized service center.
James Hubbard : Where is the nearest authorized service center?
Trever Shelton : You need to follow the below link, where you can find the service center.
Trever Shelton : The link:
Trever Shelton : I hope I answered your query.
James Hubbard : No not really. My query was to get the hard drive replaced.
Trever Shelton : I knew that, you will get the hard drive in service center.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Purchased Netbook

I purchased a netbook this evening. The one that I bought is the Gateway LT3103u. It comes with Vista. Vista works on it and I've installed F11 on it. I've not verified that Vista still works.

I used unetbootin to setup the USB drive with Fedora 11 i686 livecd. However, I did have a video corruption problem with the X that came by default with the F11 Live CD. I had to use Ctrl-Alt F2 to switch to a console and switch back to X via Ctrl-F1. The video would look better. I rebooted after the install and was able to get through First Boot where I was able to enter the user account and other things. After getting to X, I went to the console and run yum update. There's 284MB of updates installing now.

Other than the X windows having the corruption problems, it looks like everything else has just worked. Atheros wifi seems to be working. Sound works. The machine has a decent sized keyboard and lcd screen.

I'll post additional updates here.

Update: I've not been able to get the Atheros AR9285 wireless to work under F11 yet. I've installed the latest wireless drivers from So, I'm using the machine under Vista Basic most of the time. Vista Basic doesn't perform too badly. The machine does get a little warm, but overall it's a nice machine.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Vacation in Pennsylvania

My parents, Lee Ann and I went to Pennsylvania for vacation. We went to Gettysburg, Kutztown, Lancaster, and Hershey. The trip was good.

We drove around the Gettysburg battlefield doing the auto tour until it started raining. The next day we drove to Kutztown for the folk festival. We spent several hours there looking through the booths. The next morning we drove to Intercourse. We took the 55 minute buggy ride that went through a covered bridge. The ride was nice and we looked through some of the shops in town.

Before driving to Hershey the next day, we went back to Gettysburg to Boyd's Country. Thomas Kincade was doing a signing. My parents bought a small print, had him sign it, and got a picture of my dad with Thomas Kincade. We drove to Hershey's Chocolate World afterwards. You can take a "tour" of the factory for free. There is now real factory. It's just a ride with some videos and smells to make you think that you're going through a factory. The cost of candy is reasonable though.

On the way up, we stopped at the Green Valley Book Fair. I was able to get several non-fiction books that I had been putting off. Among the books that I purchased was "Fooled By Randomness", "Made to Stick", and "Not Even Wrong". These books sold for $4 - $7.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Eclipse Test and Performance Tools

I used the Eclipse Project's Test and Performance Tools for the first time. I needed it to help determine a problem I was having with network responsiveness for a project. After running the profiler, I was able to look at the execution time for the threads in a nice graph. The graph showed me where most of the time was spent by one thread. By modifying the run method, I was able to improve the performance.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Why Care About a Political Party?

Why do people care about whether or not a lives or survives? Paul Graham seems to have it right when he says that it's a part of someone's identity. The party is another form of religion. It's not just the GOP, but Democrats are the same way. Political party as an extension of religion is especially obvious in places like Iraq and Iran.

I don't care about any political party. They don't have anything to teach me about morality. Those that are in charge only care about furthering their own career.

I write this because it bothers me to see people talking about saving a the Republican party. Why does either party need or deserve saving? It's about change. It scares them. They wouldn't know what without the party machine to take care of them.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Updating software

In the previous post, I wrote about my frustrations with Windows and updating the software to fix perceived performance problems. My biggest beef is with the amount of stuff I have to download and how often I have to hit the Update Windows button.

I mentioned that I after I installed SP3 I had to go to the Update Windows page again to get additional updates. Prior to getting to the page for the updates, it had to update the authorization program. (If memory serves me correctly.) Why can't the MS update software download everything all at once and update the system?

On Fedora/RedHat/Ubuntu and many other systems, when it discovers update it downloads them all at once and installs them. I realize that Windows locks certain files and won't allow changes until it reboots, but why doesn't it continue installing the other things that is needed?

Also, why can't I download all of the updates and run them separately while not being connected? (Yes, I know the reason. Control of the software.) I can do that for the above Linux based systems. I can download all of the updates to a DVD and carry them to another machine and have it update the machine.

Fedora makes it even easier. If you have multiple machines on a network, you can have one of those machines act as the repository for updates. This means that when the repository machine is updated, the other machines can pull the updates from there minimizing your network traffic.

This means a lot now that you have providers such as Comcast and Time Warner capping data transfers. Which would you rather spend your bandwidth allotment on watching Hulu or downloading Windows updates to the 1 - X machines in your home? If you have 5 machines in your home and you had to pull down 200MB worth of updates, you just used 1GB of your data allotment.

It's not only Windows, but the latest release of Acrobat from Adobe asked me to install a language pack update that was 19MB when I clicked update. The Acrobat installer also installed Air which I didn't ask for.

Fixing Windows Again

Once again I've spent part of a day working on a Windows PC. The general complaint is that it's slow. I've decided not to wipe it and re-install the software yet, but I probably will if it still seems slow. This time around I'm applying updates for all of the software that is installed. Yes ALL of the software.

Part of the problem is that this computer connects to the Internet via dial up. You can't update the computer with dial up. You can tell windows to download updates. It will do it in the background, but on dial this is slow. So, I brought the machine home and doing the updates from here.

First thing this morning I told it to update and first thing it installed SP3. Yes, I could have taken that with me (I had already downloaded it) but why bother. After updating SP3, it wanted to update 3 other things for Windows which took another 248MB of download. I believe that it was some .Net update.

In addition to the Windows update, I'm updating FireFox, AVG Free, Java, Spy Bot, Flash, Acrobat (you really need to update Acrobat), and OpenOffice. After that I'll run spy bot and defragment the hard drive over night. Hopefully this will help.

There are efforts being made to get some type of broad band connection into the area where this computer lives. It's a small rural farming area that has one dial up provider. Once it's installed I think that I'm going to set up the machine for dual boot and see if I can the users to run Ubuntu.

I can't do that now since the modems they buy are WinModems. There are no drivers for them under Linux. I'd have them buy more expensive modems, but they usually get one per year fried due to surges in the phone line. (Yes a surge protector helps.)

I need to do the same thing for my parents. I've put off putting linux on their computer even though do have high speed. The reason for that is that they've got some programs that only run under windows. I think that I'm going to try it anyway.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Attention all Burglars

Apparently having your village in Google street maps is an invitation for more burglaries. It's ironic that everyone in the world now knows that Broughton in Buckinghamshire is an affluent place that might be a good place rob a home.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ext4 and Writing Filesystem apps

There's a brouhaha over the way in which ext4 and applications work together. It was first noticed on Ubuntu and has a bug report. Ted Ts'o has written up an explanation of what is happening on his blog and the the bug report has a similar explanation.

Later in the bug report, he explains how applications should be written to ensure the data is written to the disk. He illustrates how Emacs and Vi ensure that the data gets written. It was an eye opener. I always wondered why they write the files that they do and now I know.

The problem is that writing applications that ensure data is correctly written to the disk is hard. I used to follow the PostgreSQL mailing list so I know how difficult it is to get data to the disk reliably. The presentation Eat My Data by Stewart Smith gives you an idea of how hard it is.

Most databases have been written to ensure that data gets written to the disk. In the above posts, Ted Ts'o makes the assertion that if want your data to get to disk use a database. Everybody hates the windows registry, so that didn't go over well. If you don't want to worry about making sure that data gets to the disk, you're best bet is to use a database. It will take away some of drudgery of verifying data written.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Testing Syntax Highlighter

I'm trying to get SyntaxHighlighter working. This is a testing post.

class TestHighlight
int mTestInt;


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

SELinux KVM QEMU errors

I'm getting close to disabling SELinux under F10. I'm trying to setup a bridged network so that my windows guest can have full access to the network. Windows runs fine in qemu_kvm using the "-net nic -net user" options. My problem is that in bridge mode it uses "-net nic,macaddr=11:22:33:44:55:66 -net tap". When I try to run the virtual machine I get this message "warning: could not configure /dev/net/tun: no virtual network emulation".

Update: I disabled SELinux, but that didn't fix the problem. I got rid of the error by configuring the tap at least somewhat correctly. I still can't get the bridge to work.

Update: My virtual machines now work with bridged networking. The MAC address that I created above doesn't work. You need to make it something else. Use the networking information on this page as a guide to setting it up. I'm using the /etc/qemu-ifup. I use this script to create 3 taps corresponding to three virtual machines so I can run them at the same time. I don't let my scripts for the virtual machine startup run the /etc/qemu-ifup script. If you're running SELinux make sure that you apply the proper labels to the image.

I'm running a machine with 8GBs of RAM on an AMD Phenom II 840 processor. I'm getting good performance with it. I did upgrage the Fedora 10 kvm module to one from Fedora 11 development repos so that it wouldn't have so many problems with audio.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Send Hostname to Router

I have Tomato firmware on my Linksys WRT-54GL wireless router. I purchased the router so I could put Tomato or another open source firmware version.

One of the things that I wanted with this was to assign the same ip address to each computer through DHCP and get my internal DNS working without setting up bind. The tool that performs this duty and comes with most of these firmwares is Dnsmasq. It's a very easy to setup DNS and DHCP server.

The Tomato web interface makes it easy to assign an ip address to the specific MAC address of the ethernet or wireless network card. If the machine has one interface this isn't a problem. This becomes an issue for laptops that connect either via the wireless card or the ethernet cable. The problem is that Dnsmaq (and most other DHCP software) will not allow the same ip address to be assigned to two different mac addresses.

Most DHCP clients have the ability to send a hostname so that the DHCP server can assign a specific address to the machine everytime no matter the interface being used. This prevents tying the ip address to a specific MAC addresss. This ability is easy to enable in the Dnsmasq interface in Tomato.

Go to the Advanced -> DHCP/DNS. Enter the following in the custom configuration section:
dhcp-host=MyHostname.domain.what, 192.168.xx.xx

Change the information to be what you want it to be for your internal network. I don't use a "" or "domain.anything" that is could be a real domain name.

In Windows, change the computer name to match "MyHostname" and reboot. After rebooting, go to Start -> Run -> type cmd and click Run. A command window should have appeared. Type ipconfig[ENTER] to see the IP Address assigned. I had no problem setting this up in Windows.

Under Fedora 10, I ran into more difficulty. I used the normal Network Admin tools to attempt to set the "DHCP-Hostname". After starting the interfaces a few dozen times, I was never able to get the IP assigned in this manner.

NetworkManager is used to control the interfaces on the laptops. If it used to edit the connection information, there is an option on the IPv4 Settings tab for DHCP Client ID. This is not the same as sending the hostname.

In the man page for dhclient.conf, there's an option for sending the hostname:
send host-name "MyHostname.domain.what";

The problem is that NetworkManager does not read the file called /etc/dhclient.conf. NetworkManager generates it's own .conf file to pass to dhclient. Finally I came across a post that mentioned creating a file called /etc/dhclient-ifname.conf. In my case, the files are called:

I placed the above configuration option for sending the hostname into these files and restarted NetworkManager. NetworkManager or the dhclient program picked up these file for the interface and sent the host-name. So it works for me now.

This is what's in my /etc/dnsmasq.conf file on the router:


If you don't want to maintain a /etc/hosts file on all of your machines, ssh into the router and edit the /etc/hosts file. Any ip and name pair will resolve when doing the following from the command line:
host machine-name

The /etc/hosts/file looks like this: This doesn't work

192.168.xx.aa MyHostname AnotherHostname

Update: Modifying the /etc/hosts files directly doesn't work. This post describes what you need to do. Go to Basic ->Static DHCP and add an entry. Don't fill out a mac address.

Update: Added a semi-colon to the send host-name line.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

W2COG Agile for the Government

I came to W2COG website because it was referenced in an article in the Communications of the ACM on using agile software methods for government projects. They did an experiment where two projects were to produce similar software. One project used the "standard" procedures, spent $1.5 million, and only produced a document. The other project used agile methods, spent $100k, and produced working software.

They've published some information on using agile in government projects. Go to their website and click the publications link. I would provide a link, but it's one of the worst uses of flash for a website that I've seen (see previous post).

Update: Changed some of the sentences around and did away with worst website moniker. I've seen much worse sites. I was frustrated so I was harsh.

Flash Gone Wrong

If you want to a site where flash has gone wrong check out the website for the World Wide Consortium for the Grid. I don't understand why someone would want to create the entire site in flash.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Don't Use Boost Test

I've been using Boost Test in some production code that I work on. This code has to run and compile on RHEL 5. This should include the test, otherwise the tests aren't very useful. My work environment had been Fedora 7.

I recently updated my work laptop to Fedora 10. I started running my unit tests and noticed that they were failing. In version 1.34.1, the way to create and run tests was changed to what appears to be an incompatible way of setting up and running tests now. Because of the above requirements for RHEL 5 compatibility, this means that I can't rely on Boost Test.

I've been somewhat skeptical of using Boost, this kind of reinforces it for me. From what I can tell, there's been no guarantee of backwards compatibility or I've never read one. Perhaps the other modules/libraries in Boost do provide some kind of statement. The libraries that are scheduled for inclusion in the new C++ standard are probably the most stable.

If anyone can provide any hints how to fix this without adding too many ifdefs, feel free to chime in. I've not been able to use the suggested fixes in the link below.

Here's the error message that I get on link using the old style of Boost Test.
/usr/lib/gcc/i386-redhat-linux/4.3.2/../../../crt1.o: In function `_start': (.text+0x18): undefined reference to `main'

Discussion about changes:

Here's an example using the new way that actually works.

#include < boost/test/unit_test.hpp>


Update:I'm still using Boost Test even though it's not backwards compatibility. There's no requirements for testing in the code base that I'm using so I just use the post 1.34 capability. Also, there's no way that I could use another tool associated with the software product that I'm using. The requirement is that the software be available on RHEL 5.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Windows 7 Beta Fail

So, I was going to download the Windows 7 Beta and install it on a qemu+kvm virtual machine. This would be the first time that I've ever downloaded a MS Beta product. Unfortunately, I need a MS Passport account so I can sign in and get it.

Considering all of the flack that MS has gotten for Vista, you would think that they would make obtaining the beta really easy. They're handing out keys for the OS like candy. Why would they limit a user to a Windows Passport account?

I may have had one in the past, but I don't remember what it was/is. I'm certainly not going to sign up for one now. My wife has a HotMail account. I may have her download it tomorrow.