May 23, 2008: 10:14 pm: software, Technology

Someone, I think it might have been Starman, but I rightly don’t remember, so forgive me. That wasn’t a sentence. This next one will be. Someone recently asked me to blog my experience with VMWare Fusion and Parallels.


I’m so bad at blogging. You can see that as early as my first post. Go ahead, dig into the archives here and find it. I’ll be right here experiencing the effects of time diliation. F or you it’s been a period of ten minutes or so. For me it’s been the space of hitting the space bar. But do you see? I don’t know what it is, but I have a real block against this blogging thing.

However, time, thunderstorms, and airline policy have conspired to keep me delayed here at gate 23 at good old OAK, meaning I have sunk deep into my amusement of last resort; picking out nose hairs. Which got me in BIG trouble with the wife, so now I must sink to blogging.

I shot a video on virtualization for CNET TV this week. The editor just finished it up today, so I imagine it won’t be posted until Tuesday. That will cover the majority of my experience. Then on Tuesday, Rafe Needleman is out of town so I’m on my own for The Real Deal podcast. So I figure I’ll talk virtualization there while it’s fresh in my mind. So that will cover almost the rest of it. And frankly audio is the medium I’m most comfortable with.

But here I blog until the gods of airline delays release me from my purgatory of waiting. So wile I’ll hold off on real details and explanations for the video and podcast that pay the bills, perhaps I will give an impressionistic account of my trip through virtualization, as I remember it.

Boot Camp 2.1 Freeze. Anger. Annoyance. A feeling of an era of bliss ending. Oh Windows XP on a Mac. I loved your look. I loved your speedy performance. I loved your idiosyncrasy. But your occasional need to freeze for 20 seconds played havoc with the Sword and Laser podcast as well as Buzz Out Loud prep. So you drove me into virtualization.

Start with free Parallels download. All is smooth until —- ACTIVATION. See, I had played with VMWare once in January. And had used activations with Boot Camp. So I was looking mighty peg-legged and eye-patch wearing as far as Microsoft could tell. But a little extra effort overcame.
Parallels is great!

But wait. Slight sadness. No second monitor now for Windows apps. Grr. How about VMWare? No respite there.

Surpise! VMWare Fusion Beta. Multi-monitor support.

Install it. Crazy install hell. Must make calls and pretend to have rebuilt machine. But finally activated. No way to get Parallels and VMWare to both work. They seem to overwrite each other’s activations. OH well. Live in VMWare. The beta seems a bit slower than PArallels but I lvoe the multimon support.

So why not keep moving to OS X!

Move iTunes over. No problem! Well slight problem when shooting a video and I accidentally trash my whoel library. But I restored it. So no harm done!

BUT THEN! I tried to repartition. S ee when I set up Boot Camp I expected to live in Windows. So I gave Windows a healthy 150 GB and Mac about 80 or so. With iTunes moved that 80 was getting cramped. So I plunk down the money for iPartition. Doesn’t work. Can’t move the data. Must defrag. Go into Windows Boot Camp and defrag Windows partition. Go into iDefrag and defrag Mac partition. Now partitioning works! Cross fingers and pray as partitions are resized and moved. It works!


Next morning’s VMWare boot can’t find the virtual machines file! Ack! Moving the partition munged the virtualization. Oh well. Bite nails, cry a small tear and trash the VMWare image file and rebuild. Whew! It works. Must reinstall VMWare tools but no reactivation! Crisis averted.

Now in search of the mail and calendaring replacement. Millions of programs will get my mail but almost nothign can read our exchange calendar. One program that promises to sync iCal with Exchange Calendar doesn’t work in Leopard!

Oh but Entourage you are so darn expensive. I mean, I just bought Popcorn Hour, Roku Netflix AND new headphones for my iPhone. I just can’t plunk down for Office for Mac. No way.

So I live in two worlds still. And the only real issue with that is when I click a link in an Outlook mail, it opens in Windows Firefox instead of Mac.

Also the Belkin Flip we use on CNET Live won’t recognise video from OS X for some reason. We need the flip so both me and Cooley’s laptops can be hooked up to the control room. The direct conenction without the flip works fine, which is how I was able to demonstrate VMWare on CNET Live last week. But as soon as we use th flip so both laptops can be connected, nothing.

So for CNET Live I must use Boot Camp. But good news! I figured out the Boot Camp freeze that led to all this. Apparently Input Remapper, that I use to reprogram the MacBook Pro keyboard doesn’t play nice with the keyboard manager in Boot Camp 2.1. So I disabled the keyboard manager in MSCONFIG and voila! No more freezes!

So I suppose I could go all the way back to Windows now, but I kinda like OS X. Plus I’d have to pay for MacDrive in order to see the files on my OS X partition in Windows. So I think virtualization will be the mode of choice for now. And hopefully the VMWare beta will be updated and not be so laggy as it goes along.

Scattered and incomplete as it is, there are my impressions of my experience with virtualization. Thanks for reading.

February 24, 2008: 2:47 pm: Commentary, software

Today I turned on the Windows Media Center for the first time in a month. That’s o knock on the media center. We’ve been too busy to watch much TV, and what time we have had has been consumed by Lost, the new Apple TV software and the occasional Netflix movie.

So whatever. I wanted a little music on a rainy Sunday morning, and the Media Center has ever tune in our CD library. I fired it up and immediately got the Vista update notice. Right. I missed the last patch Tuesday.

I postponed that, but when I launched iTunes to listen to music, IT decided it needed to update mys usic library. I’d forgotten I’d updated iTunes the last time I used it and never restarted. Then of course there’s a NEW version of iTunes. Why not?! Go ahead iTunes, do your business. I’ll jump on over to Firefox and stream some music off Last.FM. Jus give me a second to postpone the Vista update. Again!

Launch Firefox and guess what? I’m immediately notified there’s an update of Firefox. I mark that for later and start streaming some music. During breakfast I have to get up a couple times because I forgot to turn off the Vista reminder. But no matter.

Once I’m done with my Canadian bacon (or just bacon, if you’re Canadian) and waffles, I give up and tell Firefox to go ahead and update, then reboot the machine.

This after only a month! It’s one thing to be annoyed occasionally in your daily life by software updates. They’re actually quite handy, fixing bugs, and adding features. But the system is all built around daily use. It seems it’s not possible to have smoothly running machine that you don’t use every day. At least if it’s a computer you leave powered off.

I suppose that’s the future. Better find some clean-bruning fuel soon Earth. I’m going to have to leave all my comuters on from now on.

August 29, 2006: 4:59 pm: linux, software, ubuntu, Work

It started so innocently. I was going to record an episode of’s The Real Deal about Ubuntu.  So I decided to install Ubuntu on the company ThinkPad as a dual boot with Windows.  Know going into this story, the laptop in question has a piece of screen capture software on it we use for making videos. Not that it couldn’t be reinstalled.

So the installation goes fine, and I intentionally let Ubuntu choose all the settings.  My point was to replicate how easy Ubuntu is to install for the average user.  I boot into Ubuntu, start surfing the web, all is well.

Then I reboot to check the Windows partition. Grub loads up several boot options including the Windows XP partition. I choose that and in the next moment my stomach falls to the floor. A file called hal.dll has been corrupted and needs to replaced. Oh that’s just dandy.  I reboot again and get the same result, so offf to the Web.

After a bit of searching I find that the Hal.dll problem comes up quite often when folks install dual boot systems on a pre-existing Windows machine.  Seems Windows does not like to be the second partition.  The solution however, is fairly simple.  Whew.  I just need to alter the boot.ini file to have a number 2 instead of a number 1, so that Windows can understand it is now on the second partition.  No problem right?  Wrong.

Turns out Linux has issues reading an NTFS partition.  I try messing with fstab and cannot get the Ubuntu to browse the files.  Finally I try cgoing to the command line.  Frankly, if I’d been too afraid of the comman dline I would have never got this fixed. I learn that to mount a drive one must create a folder for it either in the mnt or media directories. (I suppose you could make it anywhere, you’re just pointing to it). I create the directory and can mount the drive from the command line.  However, when I try to browse it from the GUI, I get nothing.  I’m told I do not have permission to do that.  Back to the command line and I whip out a sudo command.  A little something I picked up on awhile back. Sudo is what you need at the command line in order to run a command as root.  Apparently in Ubuntu they wisely keep you out of root as much as possible.  Good for them. I cd to the windows directory I created and find the boot.ini file. Then I throw down a sudo gedeit boot.ini.  Ah-ha, there’s the little sucker int he text editor now.  I just need to change those two (1)s into (2)s.  No problem.  Except the save button is greyed out.  I try to save as which lets me try but fails.

At this point I decide to track down a Windows XP boot disk and try to launch off that and edit from within Windows. Not a single boot disk off the Interent works for me.  So I get one fromt eh CNET labs. It works but I need the admin password.  Turns out I don’t have the admin password.  Even though I’m the admin.  See, this is a work computer so there’s  a super secret admin password only IT knows about. That kinda sucks because I don’t want to go to IT and explain all this.  Besides, they won’t fix it, they’ll just blwo out the hard drive and reinstall Windows.  At least that’s what I’d o in their situation.  So back to Ubuntu.

I’ve given up on fstab by the way as I’ve gotten enamoured with trying different command switches on the mount command.  That leads me to learn the umount command of course as I need to unmount every time I want to try a new combination of mount switches.  No luck.  I cannot get the darn thing to write to NTFS.

Most of what I’ve read implies that you can write to NTFS as long as you have the 2.4 kernel or later. But there’s also ntfsprogs.  This little package of utilities promises to let you read and write to an NTFS partition with mroe success.  Not COMPLETE success mind you, but more. SO I download the tar and unpackage it but it cannot run.  ./ configure does not work. Well I realize I’m running ubuntu so that didn’t work.  I need to use Synaptics right?  But when I look in Synaptics I don’t see ntfsprogs available.  So I surf around some more and find a .deb of 1.12.1 of ntfsprogs.  Not the most current package but it’s a deb right?  But I still can’t see how to install it with synaptics. So I try installing it the Windows way by double clicking on it.  It opens and give me an install dialogue, but no it’s run into a FUSE library that doesn’t have a satisfactory dependency.  Well darn.  I download that lib and when I install it, it says it’s unsatisfied with the libc dependency.  When I install THAT it says a later version is already installed.  Damn.  I obviously am not doing this right.

So back to the drawing board.  I prowl around on the Ubuntu site and discover ntfsprogs should be available in the universe area.  Hmm.  I eventually go back to synaptics and look at the repositories.  I ran into the term repositories somewhere on the web.  Turns out not all the repositories are turned on by default.  I turn on all the binary repositories and voila!  What do I find but ntfsprogs 1.12.1? Gloriousness. Synaptics installs it and all is looking fabulous.

I happily launch terminal and try the ntfsmount command.  Doesn’t work. Says the drive is dirty.  Happily there is a force switch I can turn on at the command line.  I do and it forces itself to try to mount the Windows partition.  Alas it still fails.  It needs fusemount or something and it just can’t find it.  Taking what I’ve learned I turn to synaptics again.  I search for fuse and find a package of fuse utilities that among other things, appears to contain fusermount.  It installs in beautiful synaptic fashion.

I go back to the command line and try out ntfsmount again.  Hurrah!  I CD over to the windows partition and sudo gedit boot.ini.  Hurray! The save buttonis NOT I repeat NOT greyed out. I let out a yelp.  I change those (1)s to (2)s and save. The text editor warns me that it can’t save a backup of that file and am I really sure I want to do this.  I say caution to the wind text editor, do your worst.  t saves and I reopen in gedit and it looks to have taken just fine.

Now comes the real test.  Restart. I choose Windows XP at the Grub screen and I get the most beautiful site since I left my wife this morning.  A Windows logo.  never thought I’d think that but I did.

Then the sky blue screen of death says it’s checking the drive for integrity.  I can understand that.  It goes about its checking and I turn to my other laptop to check mail.  At one point I turn back to see it’s checking the indecx and is 92 percent done.  However when I turn back I see it’s booting into Ubuntu.  My heart skips a beat!  Just the autoboot, it must have restarted itself.  I power down and reboot, and choose Windows XP.  I get the nice slightly darker than sky blue screen of login and life.  I login and there’s the desktop.  I run the screen capture program.  It works!  I surf the Web.  It works!  It’s amazing.

I immediately search for how to change boot order in grub, reboot into Ubuntu and change a default number to the Windows partition.  Now I can safely give this laptop to otheres int he department to do screen captures on.  And nobody will have to worry that Ubuntu is bootable.  And we now have a dual boot laptop ofr other videos that may require it.  Huzzah!

The rela moral of this story however, is that, while obviously not a Linux master by any stretch, even with my knowledge I found it quite frustrating to learn how to install programs in Ubuntu.  And most people won’t find the command line as exhilerating as I did.  Judgement?  UBuntu’s good.  very fgood.  In fact if you get it set up right, it may be good enough for people who don’t need to intsall programs much.  Or at least not install odd programs.  Liek Linux has been for years, it’s getting better on the desktop, but is not quite all the way there.

August 14, 2006: 12:58 pm: blognotes, software, Work

Supposedly this new free blogging software from Windows will work with almost any blogging service and be as easy to use as a word processor.

It set up with Word Press very easily and seems fairly intuitive though I was confused at first where the body of the text was supposed to go. It was TOO easy in that sense.

You can try it out at Winbdows Live Spaces site.

This part added in WordPress – I didn’t see how to make a category so I came into WordPress and gave it one. Maybe it’s there. I didn’t look that hard.


Categories were in the dropdown menu to the upper right.  But I didn’t see how to add one.