Category Archives: Generic

Dirty Movies

My father gave me a classic movie on DVD some weeks ago. I opened it today. The box was sealed with plastic. Despite that, it came with that weird glue (that I had to wash out) and the disk surface full os scratches. One more reason for pirating movies: you don’t have to wash your MKV file in the sink to avoid destroying your DVD player.

My walkman

Some of its features:

  • Unlimited songs!
  • No DRMs! Listen and record to whatever you want, legal or not! Just play it. Or record it!
  • Social features: Share your music! Plug two headphone sets, enjoy your favorite tunes with a friend, in stereo! Or switch tapes with your mates. No complicated wireless setup, no waiting for files to be transfered, no internet access required. The best social experience ever!
  • Built-in stereo microphone and line in. Records full quality sounds for as long as you want (with short breaks every 45 minutes)
  • Advanced space duplication algorithm: when you think the media is full, just warp it around and you have 100% more space!
  • No desktop, laptop, tablet, super-computer or any other damn thing with transistors in it required. No software. No platforms. No broadband internet connection. Nothing. It just works.
  • Strong, hard, heavy-duty case. Won’t break, period.
  • Very reliable, can work for decades, even under rough usage (trust me).
  • Replaceable built-in batteries. Can also be powered by external batteries or power supply.

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WWDC 2009

Contrarily to WOWODC, I didn’t like WWDC at all this year. Some reasons for that were:

  • The IT track (the one that is of most interest for me) was very poor on this WWDC edition. There were a few talks about OS X Server and some of it’s new technologies, and that was it.
  • There was one (yes, one) talk about Java. This is ridiculous, specially if you consider that, a few years ago, Apple was selling the Mac as the best platform for developing and deploying Java applications. The first time I was at WWDC, 2006, there were a few Java sessions with interesting content. Don’t get me wrong, I love Cocoa, but some people need decent Java support to work.
  • No WebObjects content at all. The only official note about WebObjects was an announcement of an announcement that should happen within weeks. I don’t have any more details (and if I had, they would be under NDA, of course). This is sort of understandable, as they focused their attention on WOWODC, but it makes WWDC kind of pointless for people working on WebObjects projects in full time.
  • They somehow managed to serve even worse food than last year. Those guys must have some special talent, I thought it could not get worse than last years, buy they crossed that barrier at full speed. Also, there was no food on monday of tuesday evening, making it a little hard to eat and get back to watch the Apple Design Awards ceremony on time.
  • There were attendees distributing flyers and merchandising material inside the Moscone, despite the fact that doing that is clearly against the conference rules. Many people that attend WWDC work for some company, but a large part of the attendees own their own business, and everyone would love to promote it. But this is not a consumer exhibition, it’s a developer conference, with well defined rules, and people must respect them. What pissed me even more was the fact that the same flyers were distributed every day, by the same people, and no one from security kicked those guys out. It kinda looked like Portugal, where people break the laws with no apparent consequences.
  • Moscone center was at the limit of it’s capacity, and that showed. Although they could arrange the room sizes and session schedule way better than last year (I could attend all the sessions I wanted, which didn’t happen last year due to some of the rooms being full), there were not enough seats (either on the round tables, or the sofas) on the halls. On the first days it was really hard to find a place to rest for a while, or to write some lines of code.

I think Apple should seriously consider moving to a larger space, or breaking the WWDC in two separate conferences. Maybe one for newbies and another one for advanced users, or one for iPhone OS and another one for Mac and IT. I believe the WWDC is becoming less interesting every year, and the numbers back me up.

Apple claims that 60% of the attendees at WWDC 09 were first timers. Given that they sold out in 2008 and 09, and the Moscone capacity was the same on both events (around 5200 attendees), clearly a lot of people that came to 08 didn’t find it very interesting to come back this year. The fact that they sold out is based on the iPhone SDK hype, but people seem to be not coming back on the next year. I know I won’t, unless something deeply changes about WWDC.

I could not finish, of course, without congratulating João Pavão and the Sofa team for their well-deserved Apple Design Award on Versions, their SVN client. Really good job, guys! :)

WWDC 2009 (Keynote)

I found most of the keynote announcements interesting.

The hardware upgrades on the MacBook Pros were cool. First, Apple seemed to acknowledge that the difference between the unibody MacBook and the MacBook Pro was not strong enough, so the MacBook is dead, long live MacBook Pro. This means the 13 inch laptop has now some of the Pro features, namely Firewire was brought back, in it’s 800 Mbps version. Other nice stuff, like the non-removable high capacity battery and the back-lighted keyboard made their way to the MacBook Pro 13”. The usual CPU speed bumps were there, of course. The only decision that left people a bit confused was the introduction of the SD-card reader. Not only it seems useless (because you may plug any SD-card enabled device to your Mac using USB) but because it kicked out some old features on the Macs that got it. The Express card slot went away on the MacBook 15”, and the Audio in port on the MacBook (now Pro) 13” was replaced by an Audio in/out jack found on the iPhones. Although you can buy an Apple headset to plug there, there’s an obvious question not yet answered, how to record audio from the line in?

The MacBook Air also got some CPU upgrades, and very interesting price cuts. Finally they are not ridiculously overcharging (at least, not as much as they did) the MacBook Air form factor, despite the fact that the machine specs were disappointing. I think they should ship them with 4 GB of RAM instead of 2 (specially because it’s not upgradable), but despite that it’s becoming a really interesting machine to buy if you travel a lot. The only feature I miss (and I was hoping to find it on this new machines) is a 3G modem, which would avoid carrying one more USB dongle. But they may be because of…

… the iPhone. Apple surprised me with the new iPhone 3GS and the 3.0 version of the OS. Despite the ugly name, the 3GS is a really nice improvement to the old model, and the differences are in the details. Among all, we have:

  • (3GS only) Hardware encryption of all your data. That’s really cool on a device that can easily be lost or stolen. This helps keeping your data private, but it’s not all.
  • Find my iPhone. Every mobile phone user went trough this at least once. You look for your iPhone, but it seems to be nowhere. If it’s somewhere around your house, you just grab the landline phone, call it, and follow the ringtone. But sometimes, no ringtone will sound, and that’s the time you start panicking. Did you left it in the car? Or maybe in a restaurant? Or, worse, someone stole it without you even noticing? Now, if you subscribe MobileMe, you can simply access the service, and ask for the current localization of the phone. If it’s turned on, the iPhone will report it’s current position (based on the usual localization facilites, like GPS or WiFi triangulation) that will be presented on a map. But there’s more: you may ask the phone to make some noise, and display a message with your landline phone number and address, and with luck, someone will pick it up and return it to you, or deliver it to a local police station. There’s the nice detail that the phone will make noise even if it’s set to silent. But, even better, if your phone is lost forever, you can still keep your data private. Just beam it an order to wipe all the data on it, and the phone will start erasing your stuff. If it’s encrypted, the wipe is immediate. Later, if you get back your iphone, just plug it to your Mac, and the content will be restored from your backups (which can also be encrypted, for extra protection).
  • Tethering. This one is big, at least for me. iPhone will share it’s 3G connection either trough the USB cable or Bluetooth. This is awesome, allowing you to pay only one 3G subscription instead of two (one for the phone, and one for the laptop). Also, no more crappy 3G modems with questionable quality drivers.

There are also some nice details, like the faster CPU on the 3GS, MMS support, better camera, etc. The iPhone is becoming more and more interesting, and I may find myself finally getting one, if the portuguese operators manage to sell them for decent (or not very indecent) prices.

Apple 2009 wish list

It’s a brand new year. So here’s my wish list for Apple:

  • Please fix the wireless driver that causes my Mac to crash about 10% of the times I turn Airport off.
  • Please fix the trackpad driver, or whatever is causing the trackpad to behave strongly erratic during about 30 seconds after waking the Mac up.
  • Please fix the damn copy/paste bug that makes the paste command paste the previously copied object and not the most recent one. This is specially irritating when you cut a piece of text, paste and you realize you are pasting something else, and that your supposedly cut piece of text is lost forever, unless you can undo and get it back.
  • Please fix the irritating bug that causes an iChat window to keep being the active one even after I click Safari, making its window go in front of iChat’s. That’s specially annoying when I type apple-W to close the Safari window, and the ichat one goes away.
  • Please provide replacement keyboards for people who has pre-unibody MacBook Pros that, you know, actually sense a keystroke every time the key goes all the way down, without the need to almost punch the key.
  • Please fix whatever is causing my father’s MacBook Pro to keep waking up and going back to sleep when the lid is closed and the charger on, despite I had already turned off every god damn thing that could wake it up, including the lid open event.
  • Speaking about the charger, please provide chargers where the charge light doesn’t go off for some unknown reason. It still works, but it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in it ans it’s safety.
  • Please provide granular updates to Mac OS X Server. Please please please pretty please.
  • Please care a little more about the entreprise and IT markets, namely your own web application technology (WebObjects, of course).

Thank you, guys! You must hate me but you’re nice people anyway. Sometimes.

Promise UltraTrak woes

So, we have in your department a Promise UltraTrak SX8000 RAID system that we use for backups. This mother can drive 8 PATA hard drives in several RAID modes, and expose them through a SCSI interface. We currently have a RAID 5 array using 4 500 GB Hitachi hard drives and a fifth hard drive, similar to the other 4, to be used as hot swap if one of the other drives commits suicide during the night. This is plugged to a PowerMac G4 that has the boring task of carrying up all our backups while we are all sleeping like babies.

This is a pretty old product, and it was never tested with drives this big, but the fact is that it has been working flawlessly for months now (since we upgraded the original 120 GB drives). Until last week. As I had some empty bays and unused small drives, I thought about doing a second array to store some archive stuff, as the RAID 5 array is getting pretty full.

I remembered that the case controller reboots itself when the user creates a new array, so I opted for turning off the Mac and the Promise itself, and install the disks with everything shut down. You know, this thing has hot swap, but it’s getting old, and we don’t want to push it too far. So let’s play it safe. Big mistake. Big big mistake.

I pop in the drives, press the power switch. Controller boots itself up and, as Steve Jobs would say, boom! The first two drives had the red led of death glowing. I spent a quite dramatic few minutes looking at the damn thing, and thinking that it happened. The least likely, the most feared of all things that could happen on a RAID 5 system had just happened. Two drives failed. At the same time. All the backups, some of them more than one year old, lost. Forever.

I got rational again and thought, no, this can’t happen, this thing did not boot correctly, there is something with the drives I’ve just inserted that is screwing this up. I powered down the case, removed the drives I had just inserted, and powered on again, this time carefully watching all the lights and bells. The Promise RAID, when booting, scans all the bays to see what’s going on there. You can see that happening by watching the drive lights, all of them blink quickly in a slow sequence. Well, the first two weren’t blinking.

I thought, hum, bigger drives then expected, too much time to spin up, the controller is testing them too soon. I powered off the damn thing, removed the first two drives, and reinserted them on lower bays. Another big mistake. The array disappeared. It was lost forever. Looks like the drive position is crucial for the arrays to be recognized. I had just killed what was left of it.

After some moments of desolation, I went to recreate the array again, assuming that the backups were lost I had to start from the ground up. I started the process of creating the array, and then I saw the light. On the little LCD display, the controller had the best of the words I could see on it’s first line: INITIALIZE. It allowed me to choose Yes and No. I stopped for a while, and though, if the hard drives are OK, and if I can create an array without any kind of initialization… all my data will be there! Right?

Power off, insert the drives on the original positions, power on, create array, RAID 5, default block size, initialization OFF, gigabyte boundary on, and GO. The array was created. No activity on the drives whatsoever. Perfect. Reboot. I fired up the G4 and run to the KVM console. OS took ages to boot (actually it took as long as every other time, but the adrenaline was all around). The desktop appeared and… YES! There was the RAID volume, as if nothing had ever happened. I did some quick tests, but that was it. The RAID was back in all it’s glory. Months of backups, saved.

Knowing this, I decided to push my luck a little further and turn the RAID off again. After powering up, the history repeated, first two drives were “dead”. I simply destroyed the array, created a new one without initialization, and I was back in business. Then I turned it off and quickly on again, not allowing the drives to spin down to a full stop. That time, the controller booted up correctly and the array was online.

I went to Promise site to check on this issue, and I see they had released a new firmware that announced to support some newer drives. I installed it (and it was a terrible experience, it started by having to download an older firmware to get the updater software, as Promise forgot to pack the software together with the new firmware on the ZIP archive, and ended up with an old PC with a serial cable plugged to the RAID, two floppy disks – yes, two floppy disks, and yes, we are in late 2008 -, one with DOS, another with the software, and about 30 tries – power cycles on the Promise RAID and software reloads on the PC – to get the serial communication working). After that, I powered off the RAID, waited for complete spin down, powered up again, and everything worked fine. Although I’m not trusting it fully, it looks like the problem might be solved.

So, lessons to learn: if this happens to you, 1) Do not panic (yet); 2) Do not change the order of the drives; 3) Use the LCD display and the buttons to obtain all the settings of the array (block size, gigabyte boundary status, etc); 4) Delete the array; 5) Create a new array with the same settings and initialization off. You should be off the hook by now, unless the problem WAS in fact two drives dying at the same time. Which, you know, doesn’t happen. It just can’t. Really.

iPhone mania

iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone. iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone!

iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone… iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone. iPhone? iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone. iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone! iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone :) iPhone iPhone.

iPhone iPhone iPhone. iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone! iPhone iPhone? iPhone iPhone iPhone? iPhone? iPhone!

iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone. iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone. iPhone. iPhone iPhone iPhone.

iPhone.

I hate IE

I really don’t undersand. MS has some talented people working for them. After all they make operating systems, office suites, and many more products. They can’t be that dumb. There must be people there that know what they are doing.

So, why is IE such a big pile of crap? If is it so ridiculously flawed? Why they seem to don’t give a shit? What’s the frickin’ problem about showing a layer with z-index = 5 BEYOND a layer with z-index = 60? WHY DOES THE DAMN BACKGROUND LAYER COVES THE FRONT ONE!? Damn it. Fix IE once for all. Or cancel it’s development. Or adopt Gecko or WebKit or whatever the hell they want. But stop wasting my time. I’m so pissed off with childish and pathetic bugs on IE. Where the hell did the IE team learn to code? Oh wait… did they actually learn to code?!