Monday, March 19, 2007

Blogging Hotline

Love it: (via BoingBoing)

Friday, March 09, 2007

Followup on Gmail

Regarding my last Gmail-related post, I think I figured out what happens. Gmail seems to be adaptively changing its update frequency. At night, when I don't get much if any email to that address, it updates once per hour. During the day, when I get lots of email, it checks every few minutes. If it hasn't updated recently, you can give it a kick in the pants by doing Settings link > Accounts Tab > Check Mail Now link (under "Get mail from other accounts"). I had to do this a few times, and Gmail seems to have increased its check frequency at the times of day that I normally receive email.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

VMware Upgrades Blogdoc

Regarding my last post, I wanted to make note of a few issues I had, in blogdoc format.

VMware has a cross-platform software package which helps guests function a little better. It's required to get certain things, such as hgfs (filesystem for sharing files between guest and host) and cut/paste support between guest and host working.

Kernel upgrades, and therefore distro upgrades, always cause problems with this stuff. Here's some earned wisdom on these upgrades. If you're planning to upgrade a VMware Ubuntu guest, I recommend printing it out, because you won't be able to Google for these answers if you wait until after you've upgraded ;-).

Networking Missing?

The first thing you should do after such an upgrade is "sudo modprobe pcnet32" if it isn't already installed. This driver is required for basic (non-vmxnet-accelerated) networking and you'll be pretty frustrated without it. If I understand things correctly, puts pcnet32 into /etc/modules.conf for you so it'll get loaded at the right time; but if something is wrong with your vmware-tools installation, it may not be present and you have to load it manually. (It comes with your kernel, you don't need vmware tools at all to use it.)

Network Comes Up but Wrong IPs?

Kernel (or maybe it's just distro) upgrades always seem to re-enumerate the network devices, if your guest has more than one. In plain English, your adapter "eth0" will become "eth1" and vice-versa. This applies to you if, for example, you use both bridged networking to get onto the Internet from the guest and a private host-only network. If you only have one network adapter in your guest, this probably isn't a problem for you.

To solve this, you may have to update /etc/network/interfaces and /etc/dhcp3/dhclient.conf and adjust for the renumbering of your adapters. Didn't Work

You have to re-run this script every time you upgrade the kernel. You will probably also have to run it if you upgrade the vmware application itself. You will certainly have to run it if you upgrade your distro. The fastest way to run it is "sudo ./ defaults", which doesn't ask you any questions.

The two most common problems I've had here are:
  1. Script won't even attempt to compile because it can't find your Linux source. Just run "sudo apt-get install linux-headers-$(uname -r)" first, and then "sudo ln -sf /usr/src/linux-headers-$(uname-r) /usr/src/linux". Re-run the script, and it will find the Linux sources this time. This step has to be done on every kernel upgrade, for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who has read this far.
  2. Some kind of compile error. The most recent one I had was that the 2.6.20 kernel wasn't yet tested with the vmxnet source, and a "wrong number of arguments" bug cropped up. I found these instructions to patch this problem. (I'll add this to the bottom, in diff -u format, in case the forum post drops off somehow.)
I want to make note here of a community-maintained patch which makes vmware work on any known kernel version. This is apparently known as the "any-any-update" patch.
Resolution Woes

If you have a supported default resolution for your guest, you should be fine with "./ defaults", which I believe will read your old config file and plug in the same resolution value you specified the first time you installed the tools. However, I have a funky monitor resolution: 1280x768. This is not one of the choices the script gives you, so I always have to manually tweak. Fortunately, it seems to be enough to just copy a 1280x800 in xorg.conf to 1280x768 and then change the default resolution in your "Screen"/"Display"/"24"-bit depth section to "Modes" "1280x768".


To get a mousewheel to work, I changed protocol "ps/2" to protocol "imps/2".

The 2.6.19/2.6.20+ vmxnet Patch

--- vmxnet.c.orig 2007-03-01 14:04:27.000000000 -0800
+++ vmxnet.c 2007-03-01 13:57:29.000000000 -0800
@@ -1055,7 +1055,11 @@
vmxnet_netpoll(struct net_device *dev)
+#if LINUX_VERSION_CODE <>irq, dev, NULL);
+ vmxnet_interrupt(dev->irq, dev);

Joys of VMware

Yesterday I upgraded from Ubuntu Edgy Eft to Ubuntu Feisty Fawn (which is not yet released, usual disclaimers apply, don't use it or it will poison your hamster etc.)

Upgrades are harsh environments for a computer; they're the computing equivalent of replacing the engine in your car. Even in skilled hands, things can go wrong, and you don't want to get an error message telling you anything went wrong, even if it seems innocuous, because your computer might be about to give up the ghost completely. (This is the computing equivalent of watching a mechanic walk over to you slowly from your car. This man is a heavyset man in grease-blackened denims, wiping his hands with a red rag, looking down at the ground, walking slowly while he tries to get a read on how you're going to react to the news of your car's impending trip to the scrapyard.)

Thus, before I began this process, so fraught as it is with the risk of doom, it was with great pleasure that I pushed the "snapshot" button on my VMware application. If doom happens, I can just undo it. (In this case, doom did not happen. Feisty Fawn is running right now. Ubuntu is really a joy.)

You may not have used virtualization software yet. You might be thinking about how slow it makes things, how you don't want to have even more complexity in your computing environment. Forget all that.

VMware is awesome. I have allocated 512MB to my VMware instance, which is running on my solo-core uniprocessor laptop. I can run all of my usual productivity applications, compile and build packages for software, run my D&D software (most of which is written in Java). I can even watch high-resolution video, with audio, and get a decent rate, and that's inside the guest. If I wanted to play a fullscreen immersive game, I might use the host computer for that, but that's OK; that's what it's there for. (I use a Windows host, mostly because it's the default OS of this laptop.)

Friday, March 02, 2007

What's the frequency, Gmail?

I just set up Gmail's new fetcher feature, called "Mail Fetcher" or "Get mail from other accounts". It acts as a POP client, rertrieving POP3 email using your password from any account you want. If you can prove that you own that sending address, you can then send email as that person. Gmail has had this latter feature from some time. In fact, you could simulate the whole thing by simply setting up a forward on the pop account in question. The new POP client feature just makes it a little easier to label emails as being work-related or personal-related.

Just had a question for the community. Does anyone else use this feature? If you do, have you figured out how to make Gmail check your email with a particular frequency? It seems to be set to an hour now, which is painfully slow.