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diego's weblog

Last Build Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2007 23:03:01 -0800



Tue, 10 Jul 2007 23:03:01 -0800

Tomorrow, July 11, is the 5-year anniversary of my blog.

5 years! And over 2,000 posts!

Anyway, I thought that this would be a good time to start--again. I've been slowly (given that Ning takes up 99% of my time -- and a fun 99% it is!) building up a new blog to reboot. For the moment it has a basic template and there won't be much stuff there. I've also decided to keep this blog in place for now. I may add 301s for the feeds soon, but I'm still thinking about the rest.

The new blog is at Here is the link to the new Atom feed. Update your bookmarks!

And see you on the other side. :-)

the sopranos finale: masterful

Sun, 24 Jun 2007 22:31:25 -0800

(image) It's been two weeks since the finale of The Sopranos and the brouhaha has nearly died down. After all that's been said, all I can add is that, in my opinion, the finale was masterful. Truly a work of art.

Open endings may not be the hottest thing in a society that craves to be beaten over the head with over-exposition (exhibit 1: most of hollywood's films). Don't get me wrong: I enjoy as much as the next guy a good ol' Die Hard or Armaggeddon, silly movies that are a good pastime.

I won't add to the countless analysis that are out there, some impossibly detailed, that indicate that, yes, Tony was indeed killed. I agree. But that's not the point. Had David Chase shown the killing, it would have had to be a complete Tarantino-style bloodbath to match the expectations around that final sequence, and it would have been completely out of place. The more muted, "just shoot the guy" would have felt disappointing (try to imagine it, it's not that hard).

So, the point? The point is that, even if Tony wasn't shot it'd still have been a good ending. Suppose he rose through the ranks to become the head of all the families? Check Phil Leotardo's fate. Or Johnny Sack's. The last two seasons of the series showed us the ending in technicolor. For these guys, criminals and sociopaths, there was no escape.

And that's what the last ten seconds of darkness were about.

With Journey still ringing in our ears, all the way.

broken mac

Sun, 24 Jun 2007 22:03:21 -0800

(image) Some time after I got my Macbook, a CD got jammed in its DVD drive. Blast! As it happens, we had a refurb Macbook at the office so to avoid spending a week or more without it while Apple fixed the drive I swapped hard drives and continued using the other Mac. Things got busy at the office and my Mac stayed with the jammed CD for a few weeks -- since I had a replacement there wasn't a reason to rush it.

Now, a few weeks ago, the Macbook started hanging. First, it wouldn't come out of sleep. Then, it started locking itself up even when waking up the display (i.e., it was connected to the adapter and so only the display turned off). It started doing this once a day. Then twice a day. Then it started to lock up mid-use, sometimes even a few minutes after rebooting.

Don't get me wrong, when I talk about locked up I don't mean I could Force Quit whatever was dead. I am talking about a complete OS-wide lockup that left the colorful spinning thingy spiraling as if the machine was trying to hypnotize me. The only solution was to hold down the power button for 5 seconds and do a hard-shutdown that way.

Yup. Not good.

A couple of times, both Safari and Firefox (not simultaneously) had gone out to lunch and for some reason were consuming 100% of CPU (usually just one of the cores, but that seemed to be enough for the machine to stop responding). That was my leading theory until lockups happened without the browsers loaded. Then I decided that the refurb had a circuit that was berserk. So we got the original Mac fixed and I swapped the drives again. Yes! Now everything would be alright. All the original parts were reunited.

No such luck. After a few hours I was back in lockup land, and if anything things were getting worse. I couldn't understand what was going on -- I use exactly the same software on my Mac Pro at the office and it's never locked up like this. I looked online and found references to lockups due to a corrupted "sleep image file", which if deleted could restore sanity.

So this morning I decided that enough was enough, and that if I was going to try anything else radical now was the time. I didn't want to try the image file thing since sometimes lockups could take hours, and I was in no mood for waiting. I backed up everything (easy process between Apple's Backup software and the fact that I've centralized my data in my home directory for years), and I reinstalled OS X.

I did a clean install, which took about 2 hours total, mostly unattended. Most of the install didn't require my attention, and installing the OS updates at the end, while still a bit of a pain, was a single-step process, compared to the multi-hour nightmare that is Windows Update right after you do a clean install of XP or even Vista.

Another big difference with reinstalling a machine, compared to Windows, is restoring the apps you use. I just went to the Applications directory, TARred each ".app" directory that I wanted and copied it off to the network server, then uncompressed and moved back in each dir to the newly installed copy when it was done. The whole thing took about 20 minutes (then of course, I had to re-add all the license keys and such, but I keep good track of those). Windows would have required endless hours of switching CDs and DVDs, one after another, until your setup was complete. I know. I've done it.

Anyway -- the machine now appears stable -- it hasn't locked up all day. We'll see if this continues, if not, I'll try the sleep image file thingy.

I feel like I've gone through some sort of twisted rite of passage. OS resintalls! Looking forward to the time when I have to reinstall the software on my coffee table. :-)


Wed, 06 Jun 2007 18:37:13 -0800

Happy birthday me! I was reading last year's birthday entry and I ended up amazed at how little I've blogged since then. I do seem to be picking up the pace though. I have in fact 2-3 entries almost written that apparently refuse to be posted. "Final touches" and all.

Unrelated -- CNN permalinks stop working after a while. How to solve that? (see last year's entry)

And this year is the 5th anniversary of this blog! Surely I can come up with something special for that one. :)

the next blog you'll add to your feed reader...

Sun, 03 Jun 2007 09:16:17 -0800 Marc's.

Yup. Go read, and stop wondering what I'm talking about. :)

the matrix trilogy on hd dvd

Tue, 22 May 2007 17:16:50 -0800

from the shameless-consumer-hat-on dept

(image) The Matrix Revolutions aside (I still think my own matrix "abridged" script was better), the trilogy still deserves a lot of credit for breaking ground in a number of ways for the mainstream of cinema (since most of what makes the movies special had already been invented one way or another, particularly in Anime), and The Matrix remains a pretty good movie, flaws and all. I even have a soft spot for the other two, if only because they have noisy, entertaining chase sequences and some really impressive special effects. And no, I'm not talking about the burly brawl, which already looked fake at standard resolution (hey, perhaps they fixed it!).

Anyway, we'll see how this all looks at 1080p. Some movies (King Kong, Serenity) look amazing. Others (Superman Returns)... eeehh... not so much. All depends on the transfer I think. Color, brightness, digital filters and other obscure settings also play a huge role with HD content, especially HD-DVD/BluRay content.

One disadvantage: the "bonus content" is all on a regular resolution DVD (480p). This includes things like The Animatrix, and it's a shame. At least the Animatrix should be on HD no? Perhaps the movies themselves have some of that shiny picture-in-picture documentaries that I keep seeing trailers of. :-)

openfire and spark: cool stuff

Sun, 20 May 2007 18:25:42 -0800

(image) Today I spent some time tinkering with Openfire and Spark, and they're both pretty cool.

I've been using GAIM (ok, ok, Pidgin) at home on my PC but the last few days it decided to start crashing when connecting to Yahoo. Great. Back to Trillian, but, oh, wait, even though Trillian tickles me the fact that it looks like an app from 1992 drives me bananas. (Gaim ain't that great either). Is it so hard to spend a bit of time on look and feel? Icons? UI matters!

Anyway. So Russ had mentioned recently I should give jabberd a try, but hey, I'm a Java guy, so off I go and I get Openfire. Simple install: check. Embedded Jetty for built-in web configuration: check. Easy way to add IM gateway: err... slightly convoluted, but yeah. Check.

(image) Now for Spark: still in beta, so expect some clunkiness, but the UI is surprisingly clean, and its Synth L&F implementation (at least that's what I think it's using) is also pretty good. Bonus: it doesn't crash.

An advantage of this setup is that I can connect from anywhere to my account on the Openfire server over a TLS channel (something that you can require) and all my IM connections are encrypted, at least to the server. This means I can use IM from open WiFi hotspots without (much) fear of snooping if it was necessary--something impossible if you're logging in directly to Yahoo, MSN, et. al.

Overall, pretty good! My half-hour of weekly free time is over now though :-), so I'll have to wait until next week to tinker with it more.

ubuntu server 7.04's paltry default packages

Sun, 20 May 2007 17:30:57 -0800

There are some basic packages that the basic distro of Ubuntu Server (as of 'Feisty' 7.04) does not include. I was just documenting a bit the sequence of apt-get commands I used right after the install was done:

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade
apt-get install ssh
apt-get install lynx
apt-get install links
apt-get install vim
apt-get install gcc
apt-get install make
apt-get install sun-java6-bin
apt-get install sun-java6-jdk
apt-get install subversion
apt-get install smbclient
apt-get install smbfs

The update and upgrade commands are to update apt-get's lists and then upgrade packages that were just installed from CD, respectively.

Some of these are perhaps a bit less common -- smbfs maybe. But vim? gcc? make? Really? Not to mention ssh. The client of SSH comes in pre-installed, but you have to install the server.

I imagine there's some weird reason that has to do with copyrights or encryption, or the copyrights of encryption, but it's still a pain. Especially if you forget about doing it...

jpc: holy emulators batman!

Thu, 17 May 2007 14:42:52 -0800

(image) JPC is a pure Java emulation of an x86 PC with fully virtual peripherals. You can go to their site and run the applet demo, which runs FreeDOS and then lets you execute various classic PC-DOS games such as Lemmings or Prince of Persia. And it supports protected mode, so you can run Windows 95 and --gasp!-- Linux.

Because it's an emulator and not simply a hypervisor, you can run it anywhere in which a Java 5 or higher JVM can run.


ps: in the same vein, check out this Browser emulator which simulates the experience of older browsers within your... browser. Right.

javafx = applets 2.0

Sun, 13 May 2007 12:35:58 -0800

(image) So after spending a bit of time looking at JavaFX my impression is that it's a great idea... but I question the need for yet another scripting language in the form of JavaFX Script. Java 6 implements JSR 223 and even includes scripting based on Rhino, i.e., Javascript. Now, Javascript has its flaws (and they are many) but it's a standard, so why not start there?

That aside, JavaFX strikes me as applets 2.0, or rather Applets Done Right. Or, As Right As Possible, given the JVM requirement. While a lot of people probably worry about performance or UI, I don't (I have a long-standing position on this topic :)). However, I do worry about the Java webstart "requirement". JWS is a topic on which I've written before, and yes, that was a while ago, but JWS is still a bit clunky. And I am not entirely convinced that the way to create "Web 2.0" applications is to jump out of the web browser altogether. :)

Anyway, an interesting thing to watch as it develops.

ning javaone slides

Sun, 13 May 2007 10:46:44 -0800

I just posted the JavaOne presentation and some notes over at the Ning Developer Blog. Check it out!

at javaone tomorrow!

Wed, 09 May 2007 16:02:42 -0800


Martin, Brian and myself will be at JavaOne tomorrow presenting Building a Web Platform: Java Technology at Ning. We'll talk about the evolution of the Ning Platform over the last two and a half years and how Java and some specific design choices let us continually grow and expand the platform, replacing and upgrading infrastructure, without affecting users or developers.

The session is TS-6039, in Esplanade 301, at 4:10 pm, so if you're around come say hello. I'll post the slides after and talk a bit more about that and other interesting things. :)

128-bit storage: are you high?

Sat, 05 May 2007 15:38:30 -0800

As Reverend Lovejoy would say: "Short answer, Yes with an if.... long answer, No, with a but."

Nevertheless: great article on ZFS and storage limits (theoretical and otherwise). Recommended!

the remainder...

Sat, 05 May 2007 08:42:58 -0800

... of an interview yesterday at Ning was this equation (click on the image to see a larger version).


As Malcom Reynolds would say: "And that tickles me." :-)

That is all.

yes, you can use that which you had paid for

Sun, 29 Apr 2007 17:10:48 -0800

[via Slashdot]:

Up until now, manufacturers have been wary of building a device to allow this type of usage because they've been afraid a lawsuit. The DVD Copy Control Association had claimed this was contractually forbidden, but now a judge says otherwise [...].
Up next: the Department of Justice decides that it's ok to put a PC in the living room and connect it to a TV, solving the problem that has puzzled many a tech geek.

Radical notion, that of us being able to decide how to best make use of our own property... :-)