Apostasy has never been so shiny.

At FSOSS on Friday, I got to see John “Maddog” Hall compare the OpenMoko phone he was advocating to the old Nokia he had clipped to his belt; he was enthusiastic that he could fit an entire Debian distribution on the 8Gb MicroSD card, and answered my question about its usability by saying that it could be made quite usable, which is presumably true. I was already resolved on the matter, but this certainly did shiv the point home.

And so 24 hours, almost to the minute, after the end of my talk I walked out of the Apple Store with a new Macbook Pro, and I expect that all the presentations I do in the future will be done in Keynote. And 48 hours after that, I’ve got to say it’s pretty great; absolutely solid build, like typing on a metal bar. And the hardware is light and beautiful, by a wide margin the best-made and best-designed piece of hardware I’ve ever owned, not a single creaky hinge or flimsy piece of plastic in sight. The multitouch trackpad that I thought would be a hard adjustment is turning out great; gestures are great, the keyboard is nice and responsive and the webcam works at all, something that was never true on my old Lenovo.

Most of the apps that I spent most of my time in, for the most part free software, they’re all here. Firefox, Pidgin, VLC, Handbrake and so forth, they’re all here and substantially prettier than their Linux counterparts. And there’s other stuff here that wasn’t even on my radar, like Quicksilver, Nocturne, Caffeine and Things, among others, and little things that use to be tedious and manual and occasionally hard aren’t, like syncing my media player and getting my photo manager to not import the same photo twice.

So I’ve installed some software, remapped capslock to command and imported some SSH keys and… that’s pretty much it. I’ll be migrating my data later this evening, and that’ll be pretty much that. On the list of things I haven’t had to do, you’ll find “sudo vi /etc/modprobe/modprobe.d/blacklist”, “sudo vi /etc/X11/xorg.conf” and “runlevel=0″. It makes me a tiny bit sad that it has an nVidia graphics chip in it since the nVidia drivers are largely what killed my presentation the other day, but I suspect that the number of people who are going to lose their jobs if nVidia ships buggy, defective crap with OSX to be quite a bit larger than the number who’d lose their jobs for shipping bug-ridden, defective crap to the Linux community, a number I believe to be zero.

So far my only legitimate complaints are that the settings aren’t quite right by default and that I can only resize windows from the lower right corner. That hasn’t been my only hangup, in truth, but the distressing thing is most of my little hitches have been due to all the little physical habits that I’ve unknowingly cultivated to work around the various indignities that linux-on-a-laptop forces on you. If I move around the house I don’t need to walk around with the laptop half-open so that it doesn’t stumble down the linux-power-management rabbit hole. I can close the lid on this thing and it won’t completely lose its mind and, wow, the novelty of that sure hasn’t worn off yet. The webcam works, so that when my parents call me with Skype and tell me they can’t see me I don’t need to make excuses, and not having to make excuses for your technology is, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, pretty sweet.

A Sign

After spending quite a bit of time and hard effort putting together a presentation on video editing and multimedia production with free software, today I stood up in front of a room full of people and told them that my laptop was refusing to send a VGA signal to the projector, and that I would have to make my presentation (which, I say again, was about video editing and multimedia production, and heavy on them both) without my slides.

Which is, I think, just about the last straw. And I believe that by this time tomorrow I will own a Macbook and have washed my hands of this once and for all.

No-one can say I didn’t try to make this work.

Halfway Gone

Get out there and vote today, fellow citizens. Whatever you believe, whoever you vote for: it matters. Your participation matters.

And believe me, if you couldn’t, you’d want to.

After a relatively crappy day, I got off the subway, and there’s a couple of buskers playing a fiddle and a banjo at the station. And they’re really going at it, playing the hell out of those things, and I can’t figure out why ’til I get up close. The answer turns out to be that a couple of local b-boys have decided that it’s time to throw down, to the tune of these guys playing some good old-time country fiddlin’ and pickin’.

And man, did that cheer me up.

So I did what any sane person would do in that situation, and recorded a video. I feel bad that I broke one of the lesser rules I’m going to be pushing at my presentation later this month, but I’m glad I saved the moment for posterity, and for you.

Radiant Light

Another technical note about Exchange 2007, of interest only to Google and Google-directed posterity. EHLO, world.

An update: A while ago, I mentioned this problem:

The problem is that an Outlook user can’t connect to the exchange server, and the extraordinarily useful error message says “Exchange server not available”. But it won’t tell you why it’s supposedly unavailable, and:

  • that’s a lie, it’s very clearly available,
  • it’s not a network problem, and
  • it is limited to that user’s account, but
  • they can get their mail through OWA just fine.

So basically all your first-line diagnostic tools will tell you that everything is fine, but a specific user will not be able to use Outlook for no obvious reason.

We’ve determined why the MAPI connections aren’t dying or timing out correctly, even after days; the culprit is the Windows Scalable Networking Pack, that offloads a lot of the network-traffic processing work from the CPU to the NIC. Whether or WSNP works right is, apparently, extremely driver-dependent; if foo-card driver version x.y.a works correctly, x.y.b might not. Suffice to say that it wasn’t working correctly for us.

To solve the problem, you can use this command on your storage cluster:

netsh int ip set chimney disabled

On both sides of the cluster, don’t forget, but you can do that on a hot system without rebooting and without dropping a packet, which is nice. You can even reenable it with “netsh int ip set chimney enabled”, but this is one of those take-a-deep-breath-between commands (you can type “sync” three times, if you like the retros; all the kids are doing it these days). That said, if you don’t need that sliver of extra performance, I’d leave it turned off until you can make a change that guarantees the issue won’t come back.

Headlights Look Like Diamonds

It’s not my finest work, I think, but at a friend’s behest I wrote a technology column for a new Toronto area webzine thing, the first of what is presumed to be a monthly occurrence. It’s about technology and not blowing people up. I thought I’d tell you about it, since I’m nothing if not a pimp when it comes to my own work. “Self”, I think to myself, “Get out there and make me some money.” This didn’t actually pay, sadly, so I’m going to have to beat myself up or something. It’s not easy, you understand, but it is necessary.

I didn’t know they’d go all flash-happy, for which I express vague regret while carefully sidestepping any implication of culpability, which kind of looks like an apology if you hold it at arms length and cross your eyes a little.

Down The Driveway

So, I didn’t take pictures of this while I was doing the work because I was too angry, but I really should have. Let me instead create a picture in your mind with words, that it may amuse you as much as it did me.

A little while ago we had our bathroom redone, and the fellow who did the work said something a little… cryptic? He said that he couldn’t see where the bathroom vent was going, because it wasn’t going out the side of the house, but he could see that it used to be hooked up to a pipe, so he just reconnected it to that and sent it on its way.

That seemed like a reasonable if not fully-informed decision. We don’t know where it goes either. So, OK, sure. But later, because I was a little concerned about a water-damage problem in a window frame on the second floor (adjacent to said bathroom) and the plaster in the room was brutally bad, we decided to take the room apart, clean it out, reinsulate if we have to, and put it all back together.

When I pulled the walls and ceiling down I found a somewhat exciting (though not terrible) mold problem, and that the bathroom was vented into a piece of galvanized metal pipe that flowed directly into the chimney. And I thought, um, what? Because aside from the metal pipe housing our gas water heater’s exhaust, our chimney is capped. So that humid air was getting pumped back downwards, into our basement, and if there’s any leaks in the water heater’s exhaust pipe, they’re venting into my bathroom.The chimney is mostly sealed at the bottom, too, so that air wasn’t going anywhere else. Except that’s not true, because this pipe was rusted through in a couple of places; the water had obviously had nowhere to go, settled there, and corroded it right through, and now I was getting humid air vented directly into my ceiling joists.

The absolutely infuriating part of this is that I can see that the ceiling has been pulled down and replaced at least once, right where that pipe is rusted out; that part’s drywall, not plaster and lathe. So at least one previous homeowner (almost certainly the one immediately prior to us) looked directly at this problem and decided to cover it up and pretend it wasn’t there until they sold the house.

Fuck you, previous homeowner. You have kids and you could still just cover that problem up and run away from it? I hope they turn out just like you, you selfish asshole, and I hope that you finally realize who you are when you see it happen. I hope you lie awake at night wondering if whoever sold you your new place is keeping all ten of their fingers crossed, hoping that whatever fuckup they’ve left hidden in your walls doesn’t catch fire the next time it rains.

Somewhat more positively, now that I’ve actually fixed all of this the bathroom fan works a hell of a lot better, and that previously-mysterious basement smell is quicly fading away. Turns out when you care about what you’re doing, you can get pretty surprising results! (And when you care about what you’re doing because you’re blindingly angry at the way it was done the last time, boy howdy. Rage gets things done.)

Set Zebras To Infinity

If you’re not a camera nerd you might not have seen this quite cool short film shot in HD using only the recently-released Canon 5D Mk II, but you should, because it’s a pretty neat short filmed with a pretty impressive and almost-affordable piece of technology. But that’s not what I wanted to mention, really.

What I wanted to mention was this: right now, if you buy

  • A Canon 5DMkII
  • A high-end Mac Pro
  • Two 30″ screens
  • Final Cut Studio 2 and Shake 4
  • Two Marshall Electronics USB microphones
  • Some small variety of lenses for the Canon
  • A couple of top-quality CF cards and
  • An off the shelf backup solution, then

what you end up with is a basic professional-quality movie studio for a bit less than $20k. Not edit-suite or soundstage or something: end to end pro grade movie production, for less than the price of a decent entry-level car.

Wild. Man, big movie studios are doomed for so many reasons.