Monday, June 23, 2008

Am I missing something?

I'm looking at the latest batch of updates for Ubuntu 8.04, 17 in all. One set of updates is for the kernel. That's right, yet another kernel update. And why are we updating the kernel this time? So that we can shave 3 seconds off the boot-up sequence, from 36 seconds to 33 seconds. Here's the bug (240938). The title of this entry comes from the last comment from Dave Miller:
are we really all going to download updated kernels, with headers and all, just to shave 3 secs off the boot time? am i missing something?
This kind of update, with the disruption to a working system, makes a mockery of one of open sources so-called strengths, which is how quickly flaws are found and fixed. What this update is attempting to correct is no flaw, fatal or otherwise. And it causes me (and others who do the same) to have to manually re-install ATI-supplied video drivers (and possibly nVidia as well, but I don't know). Under normal circumstances this isn't such a problem since kernel updates are usually infrequent as well as necessary. But this makes the forth update since the release of Ubuntu 8.04, and this one caught my attention because of the flimsy excuse for which it was being made.

I've come a long way from the high opinion I once held for Ubuntu 7.04 to the low opinion I now hold for this release. I think this is the last straw. It's well past time for me to move on to Mandriva.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Notes from the field: openSUSE 11 and ATI

openSUSE

Downloaded, via BitTorrent (Azureus), openSUSE 11.0 Gnome LiveCD ISO. Burned the disk and booted europa with it. Took a look around, and in about five minutes came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to re-install SUSE back onto europa after all.

Europa currently runs with Ubuntu 8.04, and 8.04 has had a slew of updates since its initial release and installation (update from 7.10, actually) on this box. It has the latest Firefox (3.0 official release), the latest OpenOffice (2.4.1), and a properly released version of gcc (4.2.3). When I booted the openSUSE LiveCD I found Firefox 3 Beta 5, OpenOffice 2.4.0, and just like with openSUSE 10.2, a pre-release of gcc, in this case 4.3.1. I found that with a simple 'cat /proc/version' to see what had been used to build the kernel.

I can almost forgive everything except the gcc pre-release. In case the openSUSE devs missed it, gcc 4.3.1 was released May 19, 30 days ago. If they did build the kernel with the release gcc but somehow forgot to remove the pre-release label, then it's sloppy. If they didn't find the time to move up to gcc final release, then it's still sloppy. Gcc, along with vi/emacs, make, a decent shell and networking, is one of the most critically important tools in the Linux arsenal. I can live without a fancy desktop, I can live without a lot of things, but proper and correct development tools isn't one of them. And besides, what else got dumped half-baked into this release? I'm no longer in any mood to find out, not with openSUSE, and frankly, not with any other distribution.

ATI

ATI released their latest video drivers, 8-6, for Linux yesterday, and I pulled them down and installed them. As usual everything works peachy as long as I don't enable Compiz. When Compiz is enabled then OpenGL applications look like garbage and run rather badly. This has been going on with since Ubuntu 7.10. If anybody is out there and reads this, I have an old AGP motherboard running with last years ATI X1950 Pro video card.

Closing

I'll probably break down and purchase a copy of Mandriva. I haven't purchased a boxed distribution since openSUSE 10.2. I want the comfort of the complete distribution with all the necessary codecs on DVD when I overwrite Ubuntu on europa.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Why I'll never buy an iPhone

And the reason is the now total lock in with AT&T. And I hate AT&T with a passion that stems from my treatment by them as a former customer.

In case you missed it, the next generation iPhone introduced this past Monday delivered a new business model for selling the next generation iPhone. You have to purchase it along with a two-year AT&T plan. You can't order it off the Apple website and then have it activated by purchasing the AT&T service plan separately. It removes all choice in the selection of a wireless carrier, even if that choice included the dubious act of 'breaking out of jail' in order to use the iPhone with a carrier other than AT&T.

I have absolutely no use for AT&T. My distaste for AT&T as a wireless carrier developed in early 1997 when I purchased my first cell phone along with an AT&T two year service contract. I put up with the inordinately expensive and poor AT&T service until I switched to Bellsouth Wireless in mid-1999. In the process of dropping said AT&T service AT&T attempted to assess a termination fee for dropping the service, in spite of the fact that it was just a two-year contract. It appeared that because service had 'rolled over' into another year I was automatically obligated to pay them a termination fee of $127. I told them I would not pay, that the contract never stipulated such, and I dropped service. Then I started to get AT&T bills.

I would call AT&T, tell them that I didn't owe them money, repeat the terms of the original contract, and go on my merry way. This went on from 1999 to 2005, through the spin-off of AT&T Wireless to Cingular and back again to AT&T. Around 2000 AT&T stopped trying to collect directly. Then I started to get the occasional bill collector letter. Then in 2003 I started to get phone calls (with veiled threats about damage to my credit) along with the bills. All over the $127. It finally came to an end in 2005 when I told the last bill collector firm that sent me a letter what was really involved and that it had been going on since 1999. There was the silence of disbelief on the other end, then an apology and an end to the letters. I've not been contacted by anyone since then.

When AT&T bought Bellsouth I moved my land-line over to Bright House Networks. I don't pay one thin dime to AT&T for anything that I'm aware of.

When I heard that AT&T, along with Apple's collusion, had made it impossible to get a new iPhone without an AT&T plan I knew right then and there I'd never own an iPhone. I won't wait out the next four years for the exclusive Apple/AT&T deal to end, either. I'll look at the competition and I'll buy something that's certain to be as good if not better, with a carrier that's just about anybody but AT&T.

I know how I waxed glowingly when the iPhone first appeared. And I still stand by that initial positive reaction. But as time as passed and I've watched His Jobness tighten control over the iPhone, I've come to realize that it's an expensive gilded trap. And now more so than ever. As much as I'd like to have what the iPhone has to offer, I don't need what it has to offer, especially with all it's various limitations and lock-ins. No, I'll wait and see if there are any decent Android handsets later this year (and I'm not holding my breath there) and I'll continue to look at other handset makers. The handset universe is rich and diverse, and Apple only has the one. And a very poor one it has become.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Lifes little challenges and rising costs

I've been quite busy the past month. I've changed jobs, moving from SPARTA to MITRE. And the day before I started with MITRE (June 2), my wife went into the hospital to have her left knee operated on again for the second time in a year.

Judy had been in the hospital earlier in March due to a raging infection that pushed her temperature to 103F for days on end. They got it back under control, and traced the infection to her first knee replacement she'd been given in June of 2007. For whatever reason staph became lodged in the knee and had lain dormant it seems until March, when it started to exert itself. For the second operation we went to a different hospital and a different doctor. What makes it worse for Judy is this is not the permanent prosthesis. She has to go back for a third procedure in three to six months for the permanent second joint.

She went in on Sunday June 1, and I brought her home the afternoon of Thursday June 5. Today I'm preparing to pack my bags and travel up to McLean, Virginia, and the headquarters of MITRE Inc. Because of our prior experience with this procedure we knew what to do and she's in much better shape out of surgery this time than she was the first. My oldest is home and will help keep an eye on her while I'm on travel. And of course there are the neighbors who are aware and will help out if needed.

With all that happening I almost blinked and missed the $75 dollars in gas I put in my car Saturday. At a local BP station selling regular for $3.83, I finally hit $75 for a fillup when I put in 19.5 gallons of gas. And it stopped at $75 because the limit is built-in to the pump, not because I stopped. I drive a 2003 Kia Sorento, a 'compact' SUV. Compact means it fits well on the road with regular cars and gets about 20 miles/gallon average (24 when I'm on the highway). The car will be six years old in August, and it's been paid for now for the last two years. In fact all my cars are paid for, for which I am extremely grateful. But the one action I had hopped to put off until 2009, the purchase of a new car because of rising gas prices, has arrived a good six months earlier than expected.

And with today's headlines now screaming that nationwide the average price of gas hit $4/gallon, and the $10 spike in oil prices last Friday, it's going to get even more interesting as the prices keep rising. High energy prices impact everything. It's not just gas, but food and electricity for the house, and just about everything else in our society. Our society is based on cheap plentiful energy, and it's now become quite apparent that it's gotten expensive and constrained. Just in time for the Bush administration to bow out and for the Republicans to begin to snipe in earnest at how it's the Democrats who are at fault for all our energy woes.

My next car? Either a Toyota Prius or a Honda Fit (a.k.a. Jazz overseas). I tend towards the Honda because a base unit is nearly $10,000 cheaper. With a good down payment dropping the car note even lower, I can pay for a new car and afford to put gas in it for what I'm now paying just for gas. And that's the tipping point. As for the lowest priced Honda, it's because I'm in no mood to buy gilded automotive lilies any more. I just need an efficient base machine with air conditioning for Florida and I'm all set. And yes, I can comfortably fit my 6' 4" frame into the driver's seat of the Honda. So we'll see. There are bound to be other life-style changes over the next few years, such as moving back into the city and using more mass transit. Unfortunately mass transit in Orlando is a joke, and the Florida legislature just killed further funding for a light-rail system here in Orlando.

Links

Oil price to slow world economy
Energy ministers discuss fears of soaring oil prices
Oil price crisis: world powers trade blame, skirt responsibility
Surge in oil prices leaves economy facing stagflationary shock
Japan, U.S. agree to cooperate on methane hydrates
Oil hike sparks 'serious concern'
It's the Platform, Stupid: Baby steps are the way to energy independence.