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Posts Tagged ‘yak shaving

Upgrade disease strikes again

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Booted my laptop this morning to be greeted by a silent upgrade of Firefox and Thunderbird simultaneously on Windows — silent in that case meaning less modal windows and many popups all over. Whatever. The only improvement I could see was that clicking on links in Thunderbird failed to open a page in Firefox. Spending time in Thunderbird options, I found how to open links in Chrome but Firefox never responded.

Took me a while to figure it out so just in case: you can bring it back to normal by setting IE as your default browser and setting it back to Firefox. “Open link in browser” should now work again on Thunderbird. This almost got me to tip over to Chrome. Probably for the next FF/TB update.

Next: I wanted to change my BlackBerry ID. Simple enough: you log onto your BlackBerry account on the RIM web site, declare a new email address, click on the links you receive by email, done. But not so much on your BlackBerry device: no matter what you type in the login window it is modified back to your previous ID and login fails with a weird 5-digit error. A bit of search on the BlackBerry forums brought no better than wiping the device and re-installing from scratch. Sure, why not? Prepare the yaks!

Procedure goes like this:

  • Download 117 megs of BlackBerry desktop software, install, reboot
  • Download newer device firmware (cool, an upgrade!): 100 more megs, install,
  • Plug in BlackBerry device, type password twice (on device and on
    screen), wait.
  • Desktop software tells you “Backing up device”
  • Desktop software tells you “Upgrading OS” and “Wiping device”
  • Desktop software tells you “Oops, I lost your backup. Good luck, sucker!”

Re-installing everything from scratch including enterprise activation took a while and eroded my nerves a bit, but my BlackBerry is almost functional now. Note to self: never change email ever again.

Back home: my son boots up his Ubuntu desktop, gets a full-screen window advertizing the latest and greatest Ubuntu 12.04 Persuasive Pedobear, clicks “Upgrade”, and watches as his desktops slowly dives into hell. After a couple of hours of intensive disk thrashing, the poor desktop fails to shutdown, forcing a manual reboot. The bootsplash consists of a large smear of dirty purple and ends up in a wrong resolution. On a 22″ screen I can only see the rightmost part so no menus, no dock, no joy. Switch to manual install:

  • Time to backup his home directory: 2 hours
  • Time to download/prepare a USB install: 15 minutes
  • Time to boot and install Ubuntu from USB: 2 hours
  • Time to restore his home directory: 2 hours

I could have avoided the backup/restore phase. I only have myself to blame for not partitioning his disk with separate root and home during the last install. Almost forgot to mention: the screen is still garbled after a clean manual install. Apparently a bug with NVidia cards attached to 16/9 screens, a configuration I believe quite common nowadays among Ubuntu users. How could they miss this in QA is beyond me. I ended up generating a new xorg.conf with the nvidia-settings tool, which is bugged beyond hope but at least will create a working config. The login screen is still messed up but activate auto-login and it quickly switches to a decent resolution on its own.

To be honest: I tried dist-upgrade for every single Ubuntu release since Ubuntu exists and never succeeded so far, either through GUI or command-line. Never worked on desktops, laptops, virtual machines, you name it. But maybe I was just unlucky. And every time I wonder: why TF do I keep trying?

Written by nicolas314

Thursday 10 May 2012 at 7:35 pm

Dance with the Yaks

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YakLet us do something useful tonight: Go 1.0 was just released, why not give it a try?

Finding something called go on Google is of course a tad difficult. The magic URL you want is Good news everyone: they have packages for OSX! Thinking that running it directly from your Mac Desktop would be more comfortable, you download the pkg file and double-click it to install.




  • Open terminal
  • vim hello.go
  • type in your hello world program

Something is wrong here: no vim syntax highlighting. No way you are going to use a modern editor without syntax highlighting. Ok, this is a new language and vim is probably outdated so update vim.

brew install vim won’t work. Brew tells you that Apple distributes vim with OS X, you can find it in /usr/bin. Ok, that is a very dumb answer. Maybe brew itself is outdated? Try a brew update/upgrade and see if things get better. Nope. Brew complains that your Xcode install is 4.2.1 and you need at least 4.3 to go any further. You already spent a whole evening installing Xcode less than a month ago but now you really want to get the latest and greatest, and you completely trust Apple. What could possibly go wrong?

Sigh. How do you upgrade Xcode? Launching it and browsing through menus does not bring anything. Quick Google search reveals you have to go through the App Store. Let me ponder that cause it bears repeating:


Cool down. Click Install, log in with your Apple ID. Now where in hell did you put that ID? Forgot password? Send e-mail, open e-mail, change password, login again — 10 minutes.

Select Xcode in the apps, click Yeah, accept a zillion-page EULA, sign with your blood, and… nothing. Just a grey button saying Installation. At first you do not dare click the only element of user interface you have on screen by fear of unwillingly requesting multiple installations, but after a few minutes nothing moves so you click… but the button stays put. So you click again, and again, and end up on the Apple forums to see if anybody had the same issue.

Oh yeah: Xcode is installing Ok, you just did not notice the snail-paced progress bar in the tiny icon on your (hidden) dock. Judging from the current speed you still have 2-3 hours before Xcode finishes upgrading.

Ok, forget OSX. The damn thing is built around iTunes anyway, trying to do any development on this thing is bound to deliver endless frustrations, no need to loose more time on that topic.

Start up a distant Linux desktop, connect through VNC. Find out that VNC server and your local client have gone out of sync. Update/Upgrade your Linux box (30 packages) and find out that some GPG package keys are obsolete. Spend another couple of minutes trying to fix this, then finally update/upgrade your box. Log in through ssh/VLC.

Start up a web browser to download Go again. Find out that the default web browser likes to start an archive manager once a tgz has been downloaded. That is cool except for one thing: you never used this package manager before so you end up garbling unknown directories and downloading the same file over and over again.

Don’t loose your nerves, you are almost there. Quite.

Time to su, install go to /usr/local. Finally! A quick modification of your PATH and you are ready to explore a new language. Again:

  • vim hello.go

… but still no syntax hilighting. This time hunt for vim syntax support, and find out that go distributes vim config files with the main tarfile. Should have started with that but the later it gets the less you can think clearly. Copy those files to your .vim/ directory and lo and behold: you have your very first syntax-hilighted go hello world in front of you. Cool!

2 hours so far. And Xcode is still merrily downloading away.

Time to run your first go program:

% go run hello.go
Hello, world

Impressive. Now try to compile it:

% go build hello.go
% ./hello
Hello, world

Beautiful! Just curious: how big would this be?

% ls -l hello
-rwxr-xr-x 1271748 Mar 29 22:52 hello*

1.3 megs.

Yeah, you know what? I think I’ll read a book tonight. Old-fashioned dead tree does not require much more than sit and read.

Written by nicolas314

Thursday 29 March 2012 at 11:13 pm

Posted in fun, google, osx, yak shaving

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Yak Shaving with Android and Google

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YakYak shaving is definitely not my favourite activity but it seems I cannot escape it as soon as I touch something remotely involved with computers. For the curious, a good description of yak shaving was proposed on Seth Godin’s blog. Quoting:

Yak Shaving is the last step of a series of steps that occurs when you find something you need to do. “I want to wax the car today.”

“Oops, the hose is still broken from the winter. I’ll need to buy a new one at Home Depot.”

“But Home Depot is on the other side of the Tappan Zee bridge and getting there without my EZPass is miserable because of the tolls.”

“But, wait! I could borrow my neighbor’s EZPass…”

“Bob won’t lend me his EZPass until I return the mooshi pillow my son borrowed, though.”

“And we haven’t returned it because some of the stuffing fell out and we need to get some yak hair to restuff it.”

And the next thing you know, you’re at the zoo, shaving a yak, all so you can wax your car.

I have an Android phone running a snappy Gingerbread called Darky’s ROM. Cool stuff and the phone has been incredibly responsive since. Touch the screen and the interface jumps to respond to your command, a real treat… until a few days ago when I started to notice some heavy lags. Slow mail, slow news, frozen apps, force close on system apps, dropped and missed calls, a real nightmare.

A quick lookup on DarkyRom’s web site revealed that a new (final) version had just been released and could be installed by merely downloading a zip and installing it via an app. Cool! Let’s update stuff! I love updating stuff! It only took me five minutes to download, install, and… loose all network connectivity on my phone. The damn thing was still sluggish as hell and would not hold a 3G or WiFi connection for more than a couple of minutes. Impressive. I have absolutely no idea what I did wrong and to be honest, the DarkyRom web site is an atrociously unstructured jungle where even the most adventurous get lost. No chance of me ever finding out which step I missed.

The following six hours were spent trying various recovery strategies, including 3 re-installations of Darky’s (i.e. two consecutive ROMs each time) and 1 installation of Cyanogenmod which finally corrected the network issue. I ended up with a reverted Darky’s ROM on my phone with complete connectivity. Six hours just to go back to square one. I swear I will look deeper into Android backup strategies now.

Half a day later I re-installed all apps from Titanium Backup (this app is a lifesaver) and recovered a fully functional smartphone. Re-installing apps one by one allowed to find the culprit: the Google Music app had been eating more CPU, memory and network than all other apps combined. Yeah. Beta software with emphasis on Beta.

TL;DR: I installed a shitty Google app, spent a night repairing my blunder, learned a few things about Android, lost trust in Darky’s ROM and Google apps, figured out a backup strategy for my smartphone.

Now this is one shaven yak, my friend. What was I up to initially?

Written by nicolas314

Thursday 6 October 2011 at 1:47 pm