Archive for the ‘FAIL’ Category.

Precise Pangolin install hints

My desktop at work is a Dell Precision T5500 – a fairly standard desktop, you’d think. My video card is an NVIDIA Quadro FX 580.

I recently spent most of 3 days trying to upgrade from Lucid to Pangolin. I’m not going to bore you with the details, but here are some things I wish I’d known.

  • I have two monitors, one on each of the DisplayPort outputs. The LiveCD will not use either of them *unless you have a third monitor plugged in to the DVI port*. My monitors happen to be able to handle Picture-by-Picture, so I can actually make one of them track both the DisplayPort and DVI inputs, which comes in handy.
  • Although the installer can use the graphics card just fine, the system it installs by default is broken. At the very first part of the installer (a purple screen with a keyboard and a human – at least, I think that’s what those two fuzzy blobs are meant to be), press any key. You’ll be asked to choose a language, then you’ll get a menu with options like “Try Ubuntu without installing” and “Install Ubuntu”. Press F6, arrow-down to “nomodeset”, and press x to activate it. This makes no difference at all to the installer, but does result in it installing a system that can use your graphics card later.
  • This part of the installer uses the DVI input to your monitor. Take the time to set up Picture-by-Picture so you can track the install as it flips back and forth between DVI and DisplayPort throughout the rest of the process.
  • Now choose “Try Ubuntu without installing”. Despite the misleading name, this gives you a chance to set your system up before running the installer.
  • The installer may now switch from DVI to DisplayPort, but then again, sometimes it won’t. Be glad you set up PbP so you can catch it wherever it appears. If it’s on DisplayPort, you probably didn’t set nomodeset correctly. Don’t waste your time continuing with the installer, even though it seems to be working fine – just restart it.
  • The standard LiveCD does not support LVM, so will not handle the LVM partitions already on your desktop (you do use LVM, right?). You can switch to a terminal by pressing alt+F1, and then:
    • sudo apt-get install lvm2
    • sudo vgchange -ay

    You can then use alt+F7 to get back to the GUI and kick off the installer.

  • The installer doesn’t seem to be able to cope with existing swap partitions – at least, not when you have several swap partitions. It does amusing things like popping up modal dialogs to tell you that creating the swap space failed – and then doesn’t let you dismiss the dialog, so your only option is a hard power-down. Don’t waste your time, just tell the partitioner not to use any swap partitions at all.
  • If you choose to use encrypted homedirs, the process that creates the homedirs assumes you have at least one swap partition. Because you’ve had to choose not to use any swap partitions, this will fail – but it does so in a recoverable way. Just use alt+F1 again, “sudo swapon /dev/sdXY”, (assuming that /dev/sdXY is your swap partition), then switch back to the GUI and click “Try Again” on the installer.
  • When you’re setting up your partitions, you will be asked to choose a device for boot loader installation. Choose your hard drive, not your USB stick. Near the end of the installer, sometimes the installer will try to install grub on the USB stick anyway. This will fail, but you will get the chance to pick another partition to install GRUB to. Pick your actual hard drive again.
  • If you cancel the installer, it will think something went wrong and ask if you want to send a message with details to Ubuntu developers. If you cancel this, the window never dies. If you start the installer again, it will eventually reach a point where it’s blocked waiting for the original window to go away. Switch back to the console and use “kill $(ps auxwww | grep [a]pport)” to terminate the original process.
  • Even though you’ve manually installed lvm2 and are installing onto LVM, ubuntu won’t bother installing LVM into the system it creates. Make sure you follow step 7 of this guide before you reboot. If you forget, you can always boot up the LiveCD again and run through this step.

Edited to add: One more tip: Once you’re done, unplug the DVI cable. If you leave it plugged in, a reboot will see the system using the DVI output and ignoring the two DisplayPort outputs again. If I ever do a reboot and the screens go to sleep, I’m going to try plugging in the DVI cable again. The system really seems to love that DVI output.

Google Plus is killing the open web

This tirade was originally posted as a comment on this post on Google Plus; but given the content, it seemed like it would be wrong not to post it here as well.

[Edited to add]To be clear, I’m not accusing Google, or anyone at Google, from intentionally trying to kill the web. I know that most Googlers, and Google itself, strongly believe that an open interweb is a good thing. I’m fairly sure, although I don’t know anyone involved, that the people working on Plus have good intentions about making it open; and probably believe that their custom API is better than an RSS/Atom feed because it offers more functionality.

I’m only commenting here on what I see as the net effect of Google+, as it is today, on the interwebs.[/EDITED]

Plus is killing the web because even Facebook offers more ways to track and be notified about that content than Plus does. Plus doesn’t export any RSS/Atom feeds. The only way to pull data out is a custom API that nothing much supports yet – I can’t even follow Google Plus from within Google Reader! I can follow my Facebook activity from within Google Reader – it’s a limited feed that doesn’t give me all the information I see within Facebook, but it’s enough that I know I haven’t missed any interesting activity from my friends. Plus makes it almost impossible to see anything but the last few posts, so I know that the interesting people I’m following are posting stuff that I’m missing. Stuff that if they posted to some open platform – their blog, twitter, hell, even Facebook – I’d be able to catch thanks to use of standards like RSS.

Plus is killing the web by tricking people into putting interesting content here that they would otherwise have put on their blog; then making it hard for me to find that content. For a while I’d considered “blogging” here (not that I blog much); but now that I’ve realised that posting here makes it next-to-impossible for anyone to find my content later, I won’t be. My second thought was to have my WordPress use the limited API to pull the content here into a post on my blog, but everything I’ve found that does that is ugly (and no, I’m not going to waste my time developing something when I could just post on my blog, on the open internet, and avoid the problem).

Plus is killing the web because it’s driving comments here, for much the same reason as the above. It’s easy for me to track down a comment someone made on +Robert Collins blog post about dmraid six months ago; if it was a post here, that would be impossible to find the post, let alone the comment.

Worst of all, by intermingling “Blog post” and “Link blog” type traffic (via the recent changes to gReader, amongst other things), Plus is killing the web by intermingling shallow commentary on half-read web trash (the kind of thing that used to be safely contained in gReader, delicious, or other linkblog type things) with interesting new content. Two-thirds of the reason why it would be impossible to find a six-month old post +Robert Collins had made would be the 7500 bits of crap in his stream since then – “Esconced for the wait until the flight”, “Checked in in some random hotel in eastern europe”, “aieee” being paraphrases of 3 of his 4 most recent posts. Blogs are for blogging; linkblogs are for sharing potentially interesting content, Plus is for dumping all your shit in and flushing.

In summary: Plus makes it harder to extract content than even Facebook; Plus encourages intermingling of the banal and the profound; and thus Plus makes it impossible to not miss quality content that would be found if it were posted on the open internet.

I hate to harp on about how Friendfeed got this right, but it really did. Friendfeed, although it aggregated my Twitter and my Blog, kept their identities as seperate streams. Friendfeed allowed you to choose if you wanted to see my tweets, my blog posts, or both. Friendfeed re-exported the stream I was watching as a single integrated RSS feed that I could then track in an RSS reader of my choice to make sure I didn’t miss any content. Friendfeed made it easy to re-share posts onto other services such as Digg or Friendfeed made it easy to pull the comments made on an item inside Friendfeed back into the source, so that the conversation did not get splintered or lost.

I miss Friendfeed. I wish Google had managed to bring +Paul Buchheit and the rest of the team back into the fold – Friendfeed would have made such a fantastic open platform on which to build a social network.

Ways to make me unsubscribe from your feed #1

I’ve noticed a trend where a lot of feeds are including large blocky ads at the bottom of each feed item. I can live with that; a little ugly, but I can skip them easily.

Today I saw something new:


That’s right: two complete posts consisting of nothing more than the same ad.

Scrolling down shows me that the very next item is exactly the same add from “The Fail Blog”, another site operated by the same company.

Ads with content I can stand. Ads without content?  *unsubscribe*

For all your expert travel advice


Laundry powder gets huge upgrade

I was in the supermarket getting some laundry powder last night and noticed something really strange: every single brand of concentrated laundry powder was advertising on their packaging the fact that they’re about to be relaunched in a new version. The new powders are all going to be 2x as concentrated, and most brands made a big deal out of the fact that the new packaging will therefore be half the size.

Golly. Every brand? All at once? All deciding to redo their formulation, redo their packaging, and retool their manufacturing plants, all with identical changes to formulation and packaging, all at the same time? Unpossible!

You’d almost think that every brand of powder was actually exactly the same, made at the same plant, and just packaged slightly differently. But that would surely never happen!

Bad taste in advertising award for the day goes to: SMH!

At first glance, I assumed that this was related to the horrible fires in Victoria. Nope, just advertising. Well done SMH!


Early nomination for "Cnut of the Week"

Stilgherrian takes weekly nominations for “Cnut of the Week“. Traditionally the gong goes to Stephen Conroy, for his increasingly futile attempts to hold back the (largely imaginary) tide of paedophiles sweeping over the internet.

Unfortunately I believe this week’s spot has already been claimed. However, I’d like to make an early nomination for next week.

Steve Turner, assistant secretary of the Public Service Association of NSW, said … the blame did not lie solely with the Government as “any computer system can be hacked … even American defence force computers”.

[update 12/2/2009] Nope, there hadn’t been a Stilgherrian Live for a while. There is now though, so consider this a nomination[/update]

You know you’re reading a website targeted at Americans when you see phrases like this:

Firefox is particularly strong in Europe, the area over which the EU has oversight.

2009 really started with a bang.  Here’s what James twittered about said bang:

Story of the day: The voices in your head are real.

From the normally staid ABC news website comes this gem:

Paranoia is much more common in modern society than previously thought, says a British doctor, who warns it could lead to major problems in society.

Oh noes! Rampant paranoia! Is this what’s been making me think crazy thoughts lately? Our society is in danger! Quick people: we must be vigilant! Examine your own thoughts for any hint of paranoia, NOW!

Dr Daniel Freeman from the psychiatry institute of King’s College London says almost a quarter of the population experience regular paranoid thoughts,

One in four? Then it’s almost certain that I’m paranoid. Woe is me! Whatever could be causing this epidemic of paranoia?

driven by an avalanche of sensational stories in the media.

Oh. Right. Good to see that you’re helping there, doc!