Back online (and have been for a while)

Volume 9, Issue 49; 23 May 2006; last modified 08 Oct 2010

Applause for IBM's warranty repair service, the joys of Ubuntu, and random stuff.

Lest you imagine that I haven't written for two weeks because my laptop has been off at the repair shop, let me start by applauding IBM's warranty repair service. I reported the problem on Friday, they overnighted a box, which arrived on Monday, I got the DHL driver to wait while I slipped my laptop into the box, and it was back in my hands on Wednesday morning. Total cost $0. I had set my expectations, rather optimistically I thought, and hoped to have it back on Friday. That's twice IBM has delivered excellent repair service (that's no knock on their reliability, last time it was my fault).

If Lenovo can keep it up, they'll start with a significant advantage over the competition when I look to replace this laptop in a year or so.


So what did I do for the five days I was laptop-less? As chance would have it, I have an Ultra 20 under my desk and the day before my laptop died, I had installed Ubuntu on it. The Ultra 20 is destined to be my Solaris box, but only when it can replace the server in my closet (it's too noisy for under my desk). I'm hoping to save myself some administrivia by running the Nexenta GNU/Solaris distribution, but I wasn't able to get CUPS working right on α4, so it can't replace the server in the closet yet, so it's been sitting idle. I put Ubuntu on just to see how a 64 bit install would go. Flawlessly.

When my laptop died, I just popped its hard disk in an external USB enclosure, plugged that into the Ultra 20, copied the data off, and within a couple of hours had everything working. Well, mostly. Fiddling exim4 to support the combination of servers I use and rebuilding my DSPAM setup was a bit of a pain.

When my laptop came back, I decided to try a clean install of Ubuntu's “Dapper Drake” release (seeing as how it's just about to be released). Also because in exploring some odd ACPI issues a few months back, I'd been told that the upgrade from earlier releases left around some configuration files that could be troublesome. And anyway, I had a complete working system, so this was my chance to fiddle with the partitions a bit.

The i386 install was flawless too. I started taking notes for a more detailed essay, but by the time I'd gotten 90% finished, there really wasn't anything to say. The last 10% always takes a few days or weeks (finding the bits and pieces that are missing and apt-get installing them), but I think I'm over that hurdle now.


I haven't paid much attention to the press following the release of Java through Linux packaging systems, but I share Tim Bray's disappointment about the vitriole.

For my part, I'd found out it was going to happen a few days early and had run some install tests for the folks putting the bits in place. As soon as it was public, I passed the announcement along to a friend whom I knew to be interested. His reaction was “Wow. Cool…” That's about what I expected the world to say. Silly naïve me.

Building Stuff

I've spent some of my free time building stuff. Stuff in the physical world, I mean. I built a box for the bed of my truck because pickups don't really have trunks and piling a week's groceries on the passenger seat and floor was getting old. Deb and I have divided the shopping up between Whole Foods (for produce and meats) and either Stop and Shop or Big Y for staples. Doing all the grocery shopping at Whole Foods was just absurdly expensive, but they really do have better fresh stuff. Anyway, that's why I'm carrying groceries in the truck.

I also built a storage table for the basement. Actually, I built the storage table first because I haven't been able to see my workbench for the better part of six months. Sometime during the winter, I started piling stuff on it “to deal with later” and it had vanished.

Unfortunately, I didn't take a “before” picture, so you'll just have to imagine all this stuff:

Piled on this bench:

Not a pretty sight, trust me. The table, by the way, is just a sheet of quarter inch plywood ripped down the middle and cobbled together with 2×4s. The box is a little more interesting but I've taken it out of my truck again for painting. I'll try to remember to post a picture of it in situ.

On Conferences (not going to)

I missed XTech, about which I remain bitterly disappointed; I missed Java One, about which I'm also disappointed; and I missed WWW 2006, despite having been peripherally involved in part of the program. All in the space of two weeks.

Color me grumpy.


DocBook V4.5 will be going out for balloting as an OASIS Standard in June. If you work for a member company, make sure you remind your OASIS representative to vote. I'll send out a more pointed essay when I have URIs for the announcements, ballots, etc.

And yes, I do plan to publish a new beta of DocBook V5.0 this week.


Google for the phrase "revolution of rising expectations"; I think that accounts for most of the disappointment over the JDL. People have been psyched for a full open-sourcing announcement, and when they got something else, their expectations were deflated with a crash. Naturally they resent it, and say so at great length. It's not pretty, or even rational, but it is predictable.

BTW, you should stop saying that all attributes will be discarded; a/@href is not, fortunately.

Wanna consider upgrading to the latest TagSoup? I'm hoping this one will be really be 1.0, if no more defect reports come in. And I want to persuade Tim to use it in the spiffy new comments system he's designing.

—Posted by John Cowan on 24 May 2006 @ 04:22 UTC #

Done and done, John. Thanks for pointing out the oversight about attributes. I started allowing anchors with "rel='nofollow'" some time ago but forgot to update that text. And thanks for TagSoup!

—Posted by Norman Walsh on 24 May 2006 @ 10:43 UTC #

I recommend aptitude over apt-get (and apt-cache and some of dpkg). You just need to start using the one command ("aptitude") and you'll probably have a trivial transition from the lower-level commands. "aptitude search soup"; "aptitude install python-beautifulsoup"; "aptitude upgrade"; etc.

Advantages: quicker to type ("apti" should be enough), better logging in case you get into trouble, pretty nice curses UI if you don't give any commands.

—Posted by drew on 24 May 2006 @ 11:10 UTC #