» Belkin WeMo This kind of looks like the future of home automation.
Belkin WeMo

Nice feature overview here.

X10 is cool but complicated; whereas this looks cool and simple.   |
» Bookcrossing A friend pointed me at Bookcrossing.

Seems like a great way to redistribute your old books and having some fun doing it.

The basic idea - label your old books with a unique identifier, then drop them off wherever you like. Log the 'drop' on the Bookcrossing website for someone to pick up. If they log the collection you can track who and where the book goes. Obviously there are the usual anonymity options and if a non-Bookcrossing person picks up the book they may choose not to join-up (its free, they make money selling accessories like custom labels and bookplates).

Pretty cool.   |
» Mailorder Beer A plug and a bit of a bookmark for myself - Beerstore in NZ does a great job of distributing beer of all kinds delivered to your door.

I've used them a few times now and they're quick and efficient - I even had one delivery with broken bottles which the couriers obviously screwed up and within a couple of days Beerstore had another order on my doorstep no questions asked. Now thats service !   |
» What is a karonkka? A friend of mine recently returned from Finland where he was examining a PhD defence - the process is called a Karonkka.

As well as getting decked out in a full-on tux & tails they actually had ceremonial swords to boot. How cool is that ?

Be sure to read Shauns other posts on the nature of research, patents, science and technology in New Zealand.   |
» TED Talks A friend of mine (cheers Eddie!) pointed me at the excellent TED Talk series.

Subscribe to their RSS feed now.

Theres always something you can set aside 15 minutes of your time to learn about or dump to your mp3 player to listen/watch while you commute.

Recent favourites of mine have included - 'Build a brain in a supercomputer', 'Our buggy moral code', 'What brain damage can point out about our mind', 'Why are babies cute? Why is cake sweet?'   |
» Useful Ways to be Persuasive I realised my Linkdump category hadn't been updated in a looong time so I'll kick start it with this link to some common-sense ways to be persuasive.

As per the link comments in the preamble, its a bit pop-psych but theres some useful stuff to help get your head around how you can get your point of view across to other people.   |
» Because you need to know - Tracking the $700 Billion Bailout It'll be interesting to see if the New York Times keeps this table up to date - Tracking the $700 Billion Bailout.

See which financial institutions receive money and how much they get.   |
» Good Music - Le Pop by Katzenjammer Discovered while reading Popmatters list of Also-rans for 2008 - Katzenjammers 'Le Pop' is one of those joyful albums by a band determined to put a stupid grin on your face at all costs or die trying (cf early Violent Femmes, Crowded House, Pogues).

Check out a couple of videos on YouTube - 'A bar in Amsterdam' and 'Aint no thang'   |
» Good Books - The Shock Doctrine Another excellent read from Naomi Klein - The Shock Doctrine. I have to admit I'm only halfway through this book - mans inhumanity to man makes for tough going - however its pretty much compulsory reading for anyone that wonders how the worlds free market economy's were lead down the track they're currently on.

Essentially what Klein does is posit the idea that free market economies and reforms can only be forced through on the back of an external crisis (sometimes real and sometimes engineered). As a result those people best placed to take advantage of the reforms do extraordinarily well and the vast majority of us end up worse off - with globalisation these disparities keep getting worse as multi-nationals cease to be bound by georgraphy.

As the recent recession and American bank / finance / auto bail-outs have shown - the free market has failed to a certain extent - their own calls for deregulation have bit them on the ass and now they're going cap in hand to the very regulatory bodies they once reviled for assistance.

So even when things go wrong for the wheelers and dealers of the world - they still come out on top.   |
» Good Books - Killing Rommel by Stephen Pressfield Another quick summer read - Killing Rommel is a return to form for Stephen Pressfield - his 'Gates of Fire' was a masterpiece but after that I found 'Tides of War' and 'Last of the Amazons' to be a little dry.

His latest novel tells the tale of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) and their various exploits in the North African campaign, culminating in a mission to track down and kill Rommel.   |

Tecra Brightness Under Linux

Sunday 27 April 2008 at 3:59 pm I just upgraded to Ubuntu 8.04 - downloading the packages took 3 hours but the install itself took 30 minutes and a single reboot.

One of my minor peeves didn't seem to be resolved after the upgrade - I can use the Fn-F6 & Fn-F7 buttons to control the brightness but nothing actually changes on screen.

So I finally started to google the issue and sure enough hit number one was my exact same problem with a suitable (if slightly clunky) fix - so if you find your laptop brightness keys or controls don't do what they're meant to do take a look at this article and try option # 4.

The only other thing I need to sort out is the audio which worked fine under 7.10 but stopped after the upgrade. Odd.

Ubuntu 7.10 on Toshiba Tecra M9

Monday 11 February 2008 at 12:19 pm It just works - you need to install in safe graphics mode and pull down a bunch of NVidia related packages to get Compiz working but other than that its great.

Suspend and Hibernate are a little flakey - they were just as bad under Windows so its no great loss.

I thought Wireless would be a real hassle until I realised I'd switched it off on the little hardware slider on the front - as soon a I switched it on I got the Wireless functionality immediately. Nice.

I had to manually setup PPP from the commandline via pppconfig for my Telecom T3G card - I can't seem to find a way to force PAP authentication from the GnomePPP or Ubuntu dial up panel (I'm sure its possible I just haven't looked hard enough). At least its pretty simple to 'pon' & 'poff' as required.

Best of all VMWare Player works so I can run a current corporate XP build (via a P2V of an idle desktop) too.

I'd still have to say that Linux is still not ready for the average user - theres enough little niggles to mean that unless you know what to look for and where to find it you're probably not going to use it (particularly pissing about with the graphics drivers). Having said that Ubuntu is brilliant - once its up and running anyone could use it as their day to day OS.


Tuesday 29 May 2007 at 6:37 pm Looks interesting - LINA.

With LINA, a single executable written and compiled for Linux can be run with native look and feel on Windows, Mac OS X, and UNIX operating systems.

Check the demo video - its a bit geeky but you get a feel for how it works.

Solaris ZFS Tips & Tricks

Tuesday 09 January 2007 at 1:23 pm Configure the /devices directory to make physical disks available for use:

# drvconfig

Creates /dev entries for hard disks attached to the system:

# disks

List available disks and format them:

# format

You can activate the ZFS web gui:

# /usr/sbin/smcwebserver start

Access it via your browser:


Create a mirrored disk:

/usr/sbin/zpool create -f testfs mirror c0d1 c1d1

Replace device in mirror:

/usr/sbin/zpool replace -f testfs c1d1

Create the snapshot:

/usr/sbin/zfs snapshot testfs@test_snap

Access a snapshot through the .zfs/snapshot directory at the root of the filesystem.

Excellent ZFS cheat-sheet over at Unix Admin Corner.

A useful step-through for adding disks to Solaris over at KernelTrap.

Great blog with tips on using Zones with ZFS and securing your Solaris system - Clingan.

End of the line for IRIX

Thursday 07 September 2006 at 08:58 am 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 . . .

Shell Bang Commands

Wednesday 17 May 2006 at 2:57 pm Reproduced as a handy reference. Originally the work of Kevin Lyda and posted to the ILUG mailing list.

For the purposes of these tips, every tip will assume these are the last
three commands you ran:

% which firefox
% make
% ./foo -f foo.conf
% vi foo.c bar.c

Getting stuff from the last command:

Full line: % !! becomes: % vi foo.c bar.c
Last arg : % svn ci !$ becomes: % svn ci bar.c
All args : % svn ci !* becomes: % svn ci foo.c bar.c
First arg: % svn ci !!:1 becomes: % svn ci foo.c

Accessing commandlines by pattern:

Full line: % !./f becomes: % ./foo -f foo.conf
Full line: % vi `!whi` becomes: % vi `which firefox`
Last arg : % vi !./f:$ becomes: % vi foo.conf
All args : % ./bar !./f:* becomes: % ./bar -f foo.conf
First arg: % svn ci !vi:1 becomes: % svn ci foo.c

Useful CVS Links

Sunday 13 November 2005 at 5:42 pm meta-creation_date: 16/3/2004 15:48:04 A good Introduction to CVS A followup article on CVS Administration OReilly has compiled some CVS Tips Nice Feature comparison of Source Control Systems What is Subversion ? There is also a Tortoise SVN Client which integrates with Windows Explorer.

Unix Package Managers & System Query Tools (Updated 16/12/05 added to Debian section)

Thursday 30 December 2004 at 09:08 am Basic guide to getting stuff installed and getting information on various types of Unix and Linux systems

SGI Irix

Use the Software Manager via the Toolchest to add and remove packages or use the 'inst' command

For example to install the Multi-processor libraries for Irix, download the appropr iate package (in this case 6.x_mpt_1.3.tardist), untar it, run the inst command as root, select from and point to the local dirctory containing the untarred files, se lect list to view the items to be installed, select conflicts to check for conflict s or dependencies, select go to install and then quit to exit inst.

You can query the installed packages and their versions using the 'versions' command (eg versions | grep perl)

You can find out about SGI hardware via the 'hinv' command

Compaq Tru64

Use the Graphical System Manager (/usr/bin/sysman) or use the 'setld' command (/usr/sbin/setld -l )

For example to update the Fortran compilers or Tru64, download the appropriate pack age (in this case DFA541.tar contains an updated Fortran compiler), untar it, run /usr/sbin/setld -l ./, select the install options and follow the prompts.

You can query the installed packages and their versions using the 'setld -i' command (eg /usr/sbin/setld -i | grep perl)

RedHat Linux

Use the Graphical Gnorpm package manager or use the 'rpm' command (rpm -i )

For example to install Opera, download the package (opera-static-5.0-1.i385.rpm), become root, use rpm -i opera-static-5.0-1.i386.rpm to install it.

Debian Linux

Use the 'apt-get' to get a package from the network (apt-get install will install from a source listed in /etc/apt/sources.list ) or 'dpkg' for a local file command (dpkg install ). 'dselect' will also give you a front end on package management (but I get lost in there to easily). Theres a fairly definitive guide to apt-get here.


Use the Graphical or command line version of 'smit'.

On an X interface 'smit' will invoke the motif style GUI version of the tool which will allow you to configure all aspects of the AIX system including the installation of software. Via a telnet or serial console session the ASCII version of the tool is invoked which gives you many of the same options just in text-only mode.

SUN Solaris

Use 'pkgadd' or the Graphical System Manager to install software (/usr/sbin/pkgadd -d ). Note that patches should be applied using patchadd rather than pkgadd

You can find out about SUN hardware using the 'showrev' command which can query hardware and software (eg showrev -a)

Tru64, OpenVMS and the Alpha Processor

Friday 10 December 2004 at 08:07 am Some links to one of my favourite Unices (IRIX is probably still my fave in terms of an elegant workstation OS). Nowadays it has to be said the only contenders in the commercial Unix race are Solaris and AIX with various Linux distributions leading the open-source charge.

Personally I've found Tru64 on Alpha hardware to be very very simple to install (for Tru64 v 5.1b its still a single cd install with a footprint less than 400Mb) and configure while being very easy to manage and with outstanding stability. In my time I've had the pleasure of using everything from Alphastation 500's through to quad processor ES45 Alphaservers.

In a high performance environment I have good anecdotal evidence to suggest that the same code running on a dual processor Itanium II machine will run at about 40% the speed of slightly older quad processor Alpha machine. So the Itanium has a lot of potential but the Alpha can still hold its own.

The Alpha hardware is also built to a very high spec and very very solid (I guess its easy to see the DEC influence in the steel chassis) compared to the 'cheap' feel of modern x86 based server cases.

Wikipedia has some excellent (and brief) articles on:

The history of Tru64/Ultrix/OSF/1.

The history of the Dec Alpha processor.

The evolution of OpenVMS.

Excellent Tru64/Alpha resource -

Irix Upgrade Procedure

Friday 12 November 2004 at 08:02 am Irix 6.5 is the current base OS. It is possible to update 6.5 'live' while the system is running and then reboot for changes to take affect. Irix OS installs prior to this will require an offline OS upgrade by booting off an external CD or trying a network boot. Pre-Irix 6 (many old Indigo and Indy machines have 5.3/5.4 installed) the disk will need to be reformated so any data will be lost unless its backed up. Overlays (like Windows Service Packs and SUS Updates) keep the Irix OS up to date with new features and patches. At the time of writing Irix 6.5 Overlay 26 is current (often referred to as just 6.5.26). The most recent updates can be obtained from the SGI support site. Odd things happen to some of our products when you update beyond 6.5.18 so be very wary of updating beyond this level unless specifically requested. The problems tend to relate to changes in particular Fortran calls in newer overlays - these seemed to have happened between 6.5.18 and 6.5.20 onwards. Another big change of note specifically to IT is that autofs became a peer service - no need to mess around with amd. Autofs stabilised around 6.5.14 so where possible we should convert machines to using this in place of amd. What I tend to do is download each CD and uncompress the contents to our IT SGI in vema:/export/sgi_install seperate from the core 6.5 CD's. Where possible I try to keep an older Overlay set around for compatibility reasons (6.5.16 is the old Overlay on vema:/export/sgi_install). If we had enough SGI machines we might automate updates with Roboinst. There is an installation 'gotcha' - if you get these errors when opening an overlay for installation WARNING: Invalid filetype "X" at line 172 of x_eoe_6524m.idb WARNING: Invalid filetype "X" at line 520 of x_eoe_6524m.idb WARNING: Invalid filetype "X" at line 636 of x_eoe_6524m.idb WARNING: Invalid filetype "X" at line 1878 of x_eoe_6524m.idb WARNING: Invalid filetype "X" at line 1879 of x_eoe_6524m.idb WARNING: Invalid filetype "X" at line 1880 of x_eoe_6524m.idb You need to install Patch 5086 if you make the jump from a pre 6.5.20 install to a current Irix Overlay (eg installing from 6.5.16 to 6.5.24 -> install the patch first). The patch is in /export/sgi_install/patches on vema. You need to be root to run 'inst' the Irix software installer - here you can see a) becoming root, b) mounting the sgi_install directory and c) checking its contents d) running inst bash-2.00$ su Password: octagon# bash # cd / # ls CDROM/ debug/ etc/ hw/ lib64/ ns/ proc/ sbin/ tmp/ unix* var/ Desktop/ dev/ export/ lib/ mnt/ oSYSLOG root/ stand/ tmp_mnt/ usr/ web/ bin/ dumpster/ hosts/ lib32/ mnt_tmp/ opt/ s/ t@ u/ v/ # cd /export # ls octagon/ temp/ # ls temp # mount vema:/export/sgi_install temp # ls temp 6.5.16_Inst_Overlay1/ 6.5_Aug2002_Apps/ 6.5_Found1/ 6520_Inst_Overlay1/ 6524/ FW_Nov2002_Pt4/ 6.5.16_Inst_Overlay2/ 6.5_Dev_Found/ 6.5_Found2/ 6520_Inst_Overlay2/ FW_Nov2002_Pt1/ MIPSpro_7.3/ 6.5.16_Inst_Overlay3/ 6.5_Dev_Found_1.2/ 6.5_NFS/ 6520_Inst_Overlay3/ FW_Nov2002_Pt2/ oracle/ 6.5.16_Inst_Overlay4/ 6.5_Dev_Lib/ 6519_Apps/ 6520_Inst_Overlay4/ FW_Nov2002_Pt3/ # cd temp # cd 6524 # ls 6524_Apps/ 6524_Comp_Apps/ 6524_Overlay1/ 6524_Overlay2/ 6524_Overlay3/ # inst The inst installation routine begins Default distribution to install from: /export/temp/6.5_Found2/dist For help on inst commands, type "help overview". Inst 4.1 Main Menu 1. from [source ...] Specify location of software to be installed 2. open [source ...] Specify additional software locations 3. close [source ...] Close a software distribution location 4. list [keywords] [names] Display information about software subsystems 5. go Perform software installation and removal now 6. install [keywords] [names] Select subsystems to be installed 7. remove [keywords] [names] Select subsystems to be removed 8. keep [keywords] [names] Do not install or remove these subsystems 9. step [keywords] [names] Interactive mode for install/remove/keep 10. conflicts [choice ...] List or resolve installation conflicts 11. help [topic] Get help in general or on a specific word 12. view ... Go to the View Commands Menu 13. admin ... Go to the Administrative Commands Menu 14. quit Terminate software installation Inst> Select 1 to select the install source - we've copied all the cd's to vema so you'll see this particular machine already has some of the paths listed from previous upgrades. Be sure to select the Overlay 1 CD first - that way inst knows to expect other CD's Previous installation sites: 1 /export/temp/6.5_Found2/dist 2 /export/temp/6.5_Found1/dist 3 /export/temp/6.5_NFS/dist/dist6.5 4 /export/temp/6.5_NFS/dist 5 /export/temp/6.5_Dev_Lib/dist 6 /export/temp/6.5_Dev_Found/dist/dist6.5 7 /export/temp/6.5_Dev_Found/dist 8 /export/temp/6.5_Aug2002_Apps/dist 9 /export/temp/6.5.16_Inst_Overlay4/dist 10 /export/temp/6.5.16_Inst_Overlay3/dist 11 none (no distribution, view installed products) 12 quit (no additional distributions, return to inst prompt) Install software from: [/export/temp/6.5_Found2/dist] /export/temp/6524/6524_Overlay1/cd1 Feed inst the path for all of the other CD's which you'll need - inst will open each one and read its contents and then allow you to give it the path to another CD Install software from: [/export/temp/6.5_NFS/dist/dist6.5] /export/temp/6.5_Dev_Lib/dist Reading product descriptions .. 0% Setting distribution to /export/temp/6.5_Dev_Lib/dist Reading product descriptions .. 100% Done. If you plan to install from another distribution, either choose from the list below or enter the name of a different distribution. This will allow you to make selections from two or more distributions before starting the install. Enter "done" if you are ready to proceed with the installation now. 1 /export/temp/6.5_Dev_Lib/dist 2 /export/temp/6.5_NFS/dist/dist6.5 3 /export/temp/6.5_Found2/dist 4 /export/temp/6.5_Found1/dist 5 /export/temp/6524/6524_Apps/apps 6 /export/temp/6524/6524_Overlay3/cd3 7 /export/temp/6524/6524_Overlay2/cd2 8 /export/temp/6524/6524_Overlay1/cd1 9 /export/temp/6.5_NFS/dist 10 /export/temp/6.5_Dev_Found/dist/dist6.5 11 done (distribution information read, return to inst prompt) Install software from: [/export/temp/6.5_Dev_Lib/dist] /export/temp/6.5_Dev_Found/dist/dist6.5 Reading product descriptions .. 0% Setting distribution to /export/temp/6.5_Dev_Found/dist/dist6.5 Reading product descriptions .. 100% Done. If you plan to install from another distribution, either choose from the list below or enter the name of a different distribution. This will allow you to make selections from two or more distributions before starting the install. Enter "done" if you are ready to proceed with the installation now. 1 /export/temp/6.5_Dev_Found/dist/dist6.5 2 /export/temp/6.5_Dev_Lib/dist 3 /export/temp/6.5_NFS/dist/dist6.5 4 /export/temp/6.5_Found2/dist 5 /export/temp/6.5_Found1/dist 6 /export/temp/6524/6524_Apps/apps 7 /export/temp/6524/6524_Overlay3/cd3 8 /export/temp/6524/6524_Overlay2/cd2 9 /export/temp/6524/6524_Overlay1/cd1 10 /export/temp/6.5_NFS/dist 11 done (distribution information read, return to inst prompt) Install software from: [/export/temp/6.5_Dev_Found/dist/dist6.5] done When you're done (either '11' or 'done' as above) - check for conflicts via 'c' - this will list all conflict - you can use 'c'


Yet another blog about stuff.

The image in the header is mine.

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