Scattering MegaSystem to Ubuntu/XP – Part 1

Email stopped coming in.

I dropped the 11+ year web hoster. What I said to the guys at “You don’t shut off someone’s email without telling them, dictionary spam surge or no. And, you don’t tell them to use gmail. Not on a $33 a month service … in 2008.”

So, poor asuka (aka almost worked its aged, 128meg, 200mhz Pentium II heart out hosting

gina (aka bran) overflew its 1 gig system disk and floundered its powerhouse, dual Pentium II 250mhz, 512mb trying to process email to the tune of 20k – 30k spams a day. It’s amazing what a 9 year old, $100 Boeing Surplus machine can do in a pinch.

The old ViewSonic 21″ secondary monitor faded to dark.

The replacement box, spring, took a week to find a working motherboard from Fry’s and had a hard disk failure in a month (power outage – maybe not something to even notice except that it failed on some data needed to boot).

To get spring running I managed to toast MegaSystem’s motherboard. This was not well timed.

For perhaps good reasons, perhaps not, spring’s OS is Ubuntu H 64. The new Megasystem XP runs in a VMWare box. That’s the theory. In practice, I have spent a boatload of time moving much of my personal computing operation to spring’s Ubuntu. Browser, email, IM, picture editing and much of the housekeeping stuff built over years.

This would be the fun part of computing if I were a computer person. Remember the verified, 70’s observation: “Normal people expect computers to treat them badly. Computer people demand it.”

I am not even a normal person. Computers exist for me, not the other way around. At 10 years old, I claimed as much while half-stepping arithmetic homework. And, I claimed right.

This has not been the fun part of computing.

Ah, well. I lied. There was one fun part. Since MegaSystem was dead, its 3 gig of RAM fit rather nicely in Scott’s old “tara” box with the Auburn VO stickers and all. So, to keep the status quo, asuka is still running on antiquated hardware. It’s just running on 10x the CPU and 20x the RAM. Makes a difference. Doesn’t take 5 minutes to deliver a web page, for instance.

XP SP3 Install

Wherein I promote a fleeting computer experience to cosmic proportions…

It was a slow night of continuing to get nothing done, so I figured, “Why not go ahead and do the XP SP3 update?” Why not, indeed.

Let’s go back to the late ’70’s or early ’80’s. At the time I called Microsoft “the GM of 2020”. Remember GM – General Motors? They are still around, losing a few billion dollars now and then. Cadillac and Saturn are both GM cars. GM makes some other cars, too. Something called a Chevrolet, for instance. Sold to corporate/government fleets, one must suppose. Anyway, back in the day, GM was the company. And my faith in computers said Microsoft would be the company in 2020.

Fast forward to 2000 or so, when Microsoft made their catastrophic decision to not split up in the face of being IBM’d by the feds. That was jolting. Microsoft had done a very good job of not catching the monopoly disease, but they took a wrong turn with that decision. The pundits said that Microsoft had rolled the feds. I was never sure what these guys were smoking. Microsoft is a rounding error on the fed’s budget. Charles Atlas can’t roll an aircraft carrier. Microsoft decided, in brief, to acknowledge that they were no longer a private company but were an adjunct of the US government. Brussels, too, continues to claim a piece of ’em! Sad.

But I bought the stock. Heck. They were local. They had a lot of strengths and were fundamentally in great shape and would be for a long, long time.

Since Bubble 1, though, the big, center parts of Microsoft have been drifting. Their treatment of IE is a perfect micro-picture – ignored until the world has long passed them by. Then a sort of a “me too” upgrade.

They had caught the monopoly disease.

A couple of years ago, I test-installed Ubuntu on a new, vanilla box. Then, for fun, also installed the Vista RC1. Hmmm. Ubuntu struck me as very competitive against Windows from a few years before then. Ubuntu was “getting there,” but not quite “there.” It could have been called quite different from, but equivalent to Vista. Not quite up to XP level.

Recently, Ballmer decided that it would be a good idea … here’s the punch line … to buy Yahoo.

I sold the stock.

A week or two ago I upgraded ‘alexlap’, the 7-8 year old Ubuntu Dell laptop. This upgrade was to Ubuntu “H”, Hardy Heron. 3 problems:

1) 2 obscure config files fussed about being changed and what should be done about them?

2) With those 2 files, I experimented with the option to see the “differences side-by-side.” The side-by-side display is unusable. And the UI flow is a little disconcerting when you step through the options to check out the config file differences. You can’t go wrong, but you’re given a single, ambiguous button after you view the “side-by-side” comparisons.

3) Apache (custom installed on ‘alexlap’s desktop version of Ubuntu) didn’t start up properly. Apparently, the machine name, “alexlap”, is used somewhere in Apache’s configuration. I’d not put “alexlap” in /etc/hosts as a special name. Or something.

Put another way, the upgrade went very smoothly. Surprising, as the previous “G” upgrade from “F” presented a lot more fussing to ignore. And the laptop is unquestionably unusual hardware stocked with extra programs left over from various experiments and tests.

So, last night it was XP SP3 time for my main PC. This PC is a stock box, already completely up to date with respect to Windows Update.

Result: Infiniboot.

Here’s the nice part about the XP update experience: They offer, as a pop-up when Windows is booted in Safe Mode, something called “System Restore”. I tried it because of the reassuring message that the “restore” could be undone. The system booted OK after it was “restored” to a couple of days in the past. So there is the good and troubling news: The Windows mechanism to handle catastrophic failure is quite smooth.

Cosmic conclusion: No new information. Microsoft should make a note to wake up when Apple’s consumer share shoots past 30. Can you say “Christmas 2008?” Is Microsoft on the road to specializing in fleet sales of their Impala of OS against a world of Crown Vic Linuxes?

Squished Glasses found. Now all we need is a free country.

Those glasses that disappeared on the logging road were found. Not by me. I walked past them twice and didn’t see ’em the third chance, even. But a woman waiting for her husband said she had seen some broken glasses near the car.

We looked about a quarter mile down the road.

Apparently, the woman, her husband, I, and 1 ATV had been on the road in the previous 24 hours. The ATV did not miss the glasses.

The frames were pretty flattened. The lenses were laying apart in the rocky mud.

I wiped the lenses. A little ding in one was all the damage. But, then poly-carb lenses are the only way to fly.

The frames? Well, that’s what’s amazing. They were flat. Later, at home, I figured what’s the harm in trying to bend them back in shape. They did! The lenses are now a bit off kilter in the frames. The frames are still a little twisted and oddly shaped. On the whole, not quite good enough. But usable in a pinch.

Which got me to pinch-land.

The glasses didn’t come from Costco. They were insurance fluff from a regular eye doctor’s office. So there was no way I was going to get a dupe of the frames to drop the lenses in to. Well do I remember back when vision insurance started “covering” glasses. Oddly enough, the price of glasses went up at the time (for me anyway) by exactly how much insurance covered.

So I went to Costco to order some lenses to fit one of my many old frames (Costco, $60. Lenscrafters, $255.)

Experience has taught me to keep my current eye script on my Palm. Guess what? “In this state we can’t make lenses without a signed prescription.”

Huh? I can’t get glasses without doing some kind of Bulgarian Post Office thing (stand in 6 different lines to mail a letter)?

It’s not hard to imagine how such a disgusting law got passed.

Back when I was young there was much discussion of “socialized medicine” (what the AMA called a proposed government medical system to make it sound as bad as possible). The AMA was really, really intent on not having the government get in to medicine. They were, even then, a closed guild and wanted the organization that protected the guild to butt out – of everything but protecting the guild.

Time went by and, as so many other groups have found, the AMA, et al, found that there are some good points to having a central system enforce consumption of product from one vendor. All to protect the consumer, mind you. Having your own army, paid for by someone else, can sure beef up the bottom line. But, anyway, at least they have a product! One can probably think of some tax supported entities without a product at all.

Whatever. My mind went back to when I had to get glasses made in a hurry while in some odd place where no one in the country had a head shaped and sized like mine. Apparently, that was a free country, where ever it was.