VMWare Fusion for Mac Released

August 6th, 2007 by sjan

VMWare have finally released Fusion, their virtualization product for Mac. Fusion allows creating virtual machines running one of 60 different operating systems. In addition, their “Unity” feature seems to act the same as “Coherence” from Parallels, allowing Windows apps to be started from the dock and run without the OS window behind them. Seeing how they haven’t said the same for any other OS, however, I would have to guess that it is just like Coherence, in thatit only works with a Windows guest.

The question this leaves me with, however, is still: will we see a VMWare release that will allow an OS X guest on another system?

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Ubuntu Studio finally here

May 15th, 2007 by sjan

The download sites are getting hammered, but UbuntuStudio was finally released yesterday. I’ll download, install and give the tools a thorough pounding, uh, testing as soon as I can.

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Still waiting for Ubuntu Studio

May 1st, 2007 by sjan

While the first release of Ubuntu Studio was supposed ot happen in April, it is now May and still no release. The only info from the wiki as regards an expected release date is:

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the release of Ubuntu Studio 7.04 will be delayed. Progress is happening rapidly, but we will not be estimating the duration of the delay.

Many of the links on the main wiki page result in 404 errors, including the ‘Ubuntu Studio News’. As a musician and fan of Open Source tools and operating systems I can say that I am a little disheartened by the delay and lack of any apparent movement. I’m not saying that nothing is happening in Ubuntu Studio development, just that a wiki which gives no indication of how things are progressing, frankly, gives me the feeling that it may not actually be released this year.

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Xubuntu issues

March 23rd, 2007 by sjan

While I am, for the most part, enjoying Xubuntu, I have run into what is a major snag for me. Sound seems to be an issue. While the startup sound plays (via the command line with aplay) the process hangs after playing and has to be manually killed in the terminal before any other sound can play. While that’s annoying, it’s not a show stopper.

The real issue here is getting anything else to play. While it is obvious that ALSA is recognizing my sound card and the proper drivers are loaded (as evidenced by the startup sound playing), there seems to be something wrong with either the drivers installed or the ALSA version installed. The only multimedia player I can get to make any sound is Rhythmbox, and then it only plays the first half-second or so of the sound and then freezes. The others I have tried (gxine, xmms, Amarok, Mplayer) all either freeze immediately (with sound files) or play the first 6 seconds of video (with no sound) and then freeze. Since I rely on my system for music composition and such, and was looking forward to the upcoming release of Ubuntu Studio next month, this will not do.

This is odd, considering that I have never before now had any issues at all getting sound to work properly on this machine, with Gentoo, Sabayon, Vector or DesktopBSD.

I may end up waiting until I am somewhere wired that I can reinstall Gentoo and then add the Atheros drivers and build the studio based on the packages that Ubuntu Studio promises. The only way I won’t go back is if I find a fix before next week when I can plug in and do a wired install.

Xubuntu / XFCE / Beryl 0.2.0

March 20th, 2007 by sjan

While I have been a Gentoo fan for a while (Portage hooked me) I have been trying out Xubuntu Edgy Eft 6.10 with Beryl 0.2.0. Here’s my take:

I have always like the XFCE environment almost as much as I like KDE, for opposite reasons (my tastes are nothing if not eclectic.) XFCE 4.4 is smooth, as always the response is quick, its lightweight nature makes it the perfect desktop layer for Beryl. Even with Beryl running, and Emerald Themes, the desktop is still quicker on my laptop than KDE 3.5 alone, and much faster than KDE on Beryl.

Under Beryl 0.2.0 my ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 actually runs with AIGLX without any glitches. With Beryl 0.1.4 I was only able to run under XGL. (I am not sure whether that was due to the drivers included with Sabayon 3.2 compared to the Xubuntu drivers, or if it is entirely the changes in Beryl.) Even with modifying Emerald themes and running with transparencies, and all the animation bells and whistles, it is a very nimble, usable system.

As far as the base desktop system installed, I am actually quite pleased with the default applications installed. While some may find the choices of programs rather limited, I prefer to have the basics and install the other things I want as I want them.

Installing was simple – in fact, this is the first distro that I have been able to install using my Atheros wireless card. (Thanks for including the ath_pci module guys!) I did run into one glitch – immediately after installing and rebooting my wireless card wasn’t found. Checked lsmod – no ath_pci. So , I tried to modprobe ath_pci but no luck. It turns out this is a know bug and I found the fix at ubuntuforums: put the install cd in tray, run sudo apt-get install linux-restricted-modules-`uname -r` and then sudo modprobe ath_pci. Once that was taken care of it was a complete breeze. I hate to admit it, but I think I am starting to really enjoy a Debian derivation. We’ll see over the next few weeks how system administration shakes out before I make my final decision regarding whether I will stick to this as my primary OS or not. Obligatory screenshots follow.

sshot-1 sshot-3 sshot-2

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Preparing for the Daylight Saving change

February 16th, 2007 by sjan

Daylight Saving Time in the US, Canada and Bermuda will be four weeks longer this year, starting three weeks earlier than in the past, and ending one week later. Of course, this means that programs that rely on time conversions based on local time zones will need to be fixed. Or does it?

While there are a good deal of comparisons being made to the Y2K issue, this issue is much less of a bother for most systems. Since the majority of software relies on system time (although Java, Outlook, Exchange and Oracle use their own conversion routines and need tp be updated/patched) this leaves only systems to be updated. Here is a useful document that explains the issue, and provides links to information and/or patches for Windows, OS X, Redhat, Ubuntu and generic *nix (Unix, Linux, Solaris, etc.)

Microsoft is not providing a patch for Windows NT, 2000, or XP SP 1, unless you pay a $4000 flat fee for the hotfix. However, there is an unofficial patch available at IntelliAdmin.

Gentoo users can patch by doing an emerge --sync && emerge -u timezone-data

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The ‘Real’ Big Event

February 5th, 2007 by sjan

For linux fans the ‘Real’ Big Event yesterday wasn’t the superbowl, but the latest Linux kernel relase (2.6.20). This release includes 2 different virtualization implementations, KVM and paravirtualization as well as PS3 support.

The highlight, though, has to be Linus Torvalds’ post on the subject.

Date Sun, 4 Feb 2007 11:10:36 -0800 (PST)
From Linus Torvalds <>
Subject Super Kernel Sunday!
In a widely anticipated move, Linux “headcase” Torvalds today announced
the immediate availability of the most advanced Linux kernel to date,
version 2.6.20.

Before downloading the actual new kernel, most avid kernel hackers have
been involved in a 2-hour pre-kernel-compilation count-down, with some
even spending the preceding week doing typing exercises and reciting PI
to a thousand decimal places.

The half-time entertainment is provided by randomly inserted trivial
syntax errors that nerds are expected to fix at home before completing
the compile, but most people actually seem to mostly enjoy watching the
compile warnings, sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, scroll past.

The full text of Linus’ announcement can be seen on lkml.org

Cure for the External Drive Blues

January 26th, 2007 by sjan

I have been looking all over for a way to format an external drive so that I can use it under Linux, Windows and OS X. The reason for this is simple, I currently use Windows and Linux all the time, and I am planning on upgrading my rig to a MacBook Pro just as soon as I can. Since I expect to be running OS X, Windows and Linux I needed to find a format for my 300GB external drive that would work with all of them.

While FAT32 is an option, it has some serious limitations. Like a maximum file size of 1 byte less than 4 GB. That and the way that FAT32 partitions over 32 GB (while supported under Windows) tend to get a little, shall we say, flaky.

Before today what I had found was as follows:

OS File System Read Write
Windows XP Ext2 / Ext3 application no
HFS+ application no
NTFS native native
Linux Ext2 / Ext3 native native
HFS+ in kernel in kernel
NTFS in kernel no
OS X Ext2 / Ext3 no no
HFS+ native native
NTFS in kernel no

Note: native = default or standard in a “vanilla” install | in kernel = modules available for kernel insertion, although not default.

Well, that was before I found these today: kernel modules for both OS X and Windows for full read and write support of Ext2 / Ext3 file systems. I have installed Ext2 IFS for Windows and pounded on it already. It works (so far) like a charm. I don’t yet have a Mac to test the Mac OS X Ext2 Filesystem but I will do so as soon as I can. Assuming they are building this as a loadable module for the Darwin kernel (does the OS X Darwin kernel allow insmodding?) then it should be a snap. What surprised me is that the Ext2 IFS for Windows is an actual NT Kernel module, not an app or service. It’s actually kind of cool to see my Linux partitions show up under XP as lettered drives!

Kororaa – Gentoo with (Xgl) Eye Candy

November 2nd, 2006 by sjan

While the debates carry on over what can be done to make Linux more feasible in the desktop market (in other words desirable enough that average users say “I want that!”) the one argument that seems to rise to the top is eye candy. Does it affect how an OS works? No. Does it change the way programs behave? Maybe superficially. Does it change the way users interact with the OS and the programs? You bet!

I had a chance to play with , a Gentoo-based live CD with AIGL/Xgl and a great install-to-disk tool. And while Xgl is not quite ready for prime-time (I encountered a couple crashes where xdm would completely exit and restart) it is getting close. And the eye candy features (adjustable transparency on windows, the rotating cube desktop, the “liquid-ish” movement of the windows) add a certain amount of “ooh factor.” But the biggest thing I found myself using were three very handy tools: [Ctrl+Shift+Alt+ left or right arrow] to rotate the desktop cube with the active window following, the hot-corner to display all the open windows as tiles, and the [Ctrl+Alt+PgDown] to “flatten” the cube, allowing you to see all the sides at once and use the arrow keys to select one of the desktops to switch to. While many will consider this to still be nothing more than eye-candy, I found it so utile that I am (a little too) eagerly awaiting the next Xgl implementation.

So who, besides me, thinks that these are as useful as they are eye candy-ish? Well, Apple, for one. They already have the hot-corner to display all the open windows, the ability to show all the open windows of one application, and (with Parallels at least – and rumor has it in the next OSX version) the cube concept of the multiple desktops.

Ultimate Boot CD

August 6th, 2006 by sjan

Anyone who has ever had need of bootable recovery tools knows what a pain it is to try to build a bootable CD containing all the needed tools. Why do it all the hard way? There is a very handy one already built and ready for download at . This is a Linux-based live CD with lots of Linux tools. There is a Windows-based version as well. While the Linux-based version comes with its own kernel, and allows for adding modules (available at SourceForge) the Windows version requires that you have your own WindowsXP CD with SP1 (and preferably 2) – although they also have a utility to help you slipstream the service packs if your disk doesn’t have them.