Looking over the fence

I don’t know much about solaris in general so I thought i’d have a look at the upcoming release of opensolaris .  Being inquisitive can often get you into trouble 🙂

Anyway,  I fearlessly downloaded the Preview 2 iso and fired it up in vmware-server.  It’s no where near as slick looking as say an OpenSuSE Linux install, but it’s certainly come quite a way since I last looked at it.   It’s a Live CD environment that lets you have a bit of a look before deciding to install – as this was a vmware guest I just went ahead and installed it.

The install went through pretty cleanly, except there was no stinking network detected and of course we all know we must have a stinking network.

I eventually discovered that you need to tell vmware to emulate an e1000 device rather than the usual pcnet32 style device i’d come to know and love in linux.

To do this, just crack open your favourite editor called vi 🙂 and edit your guest vmx file and add

ethernet0.virtualDev = “e1000”

The network card should be automagically detected on the next reboot and order will return to the universe.

Now that we have a network I can actually check to see what this puppy can do and i’m sure I can waste some more of this elusive thing called ‘spare time’ – hey at least I wasn’t logged onto work doing crap paperwork so that’s got to be a good thing 😀


building netbeans from source on ubuntu

Everyone needs a hobby.   Clearly I don’t have one.

I’ve decided that I want the latest and greatest set of features (and bugs) for netbeans so i’m installing netbeans from the code repository and building it on my currently preferred platform (ubuntu 8.04 – yes I know it’s a beta which is only more proof that I need a hobby).

I prefer to do all my bleeding edge test builds on the ‘server’ version of ubuntu – why?  I like small footprint build systems that only have the required packages to satisfy my build.  I guess I just don’t like packages sitting there looking at me and this way I know exactly what’s required to make it work on my primary desktop system later.  ie. I can do everything in an experimental manner in the VM and develop detailed documentation of what is required to implement it on other systems.

So, going from the top, I’ve created a brand new hardy server as a VM so that I have a clear view of everything that is required to get the job done.   If your system already has some of the pre-req software loaded then great.

netbeans uses mercurial so to get the source code you need that installed

~$ sudo apt-get install mercurial
~$ mkdir netbeans && cd netbeans
~/netbeans$ hg clone http://hg.netbeans.org/main/
destination directory: main
requesting all changes
adding changesets
adding manifests
adding file changes
added 78686 changesets with 365473 changes to 80849 files
77968 files updated, 0 files merged, 0 files removed, 0 files unresolved

note: to build netbeans we need a few tools, first of them is ant which will drag on a number of dependencies.

sudo apt-get install ant ant-optional
Reading package lists… Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information… Done
The following extra packages will be installed:

and given that there are issues using gcj  to build netbeans (and I really can’t be bothered looking closer to tell you the truth) I suggest not bothering and just install the sun jdk (note: java5 is required and anything higher wont work at the time of writing this).  Also, don’t forget the ant-optional otherwise you will get complaints about regexp during compilation.

~netbeans$ sudo apt-get install sun-java5-jdk

Add the following to your ~/.nbbuild.properties file


and the following to your ~/.antrc file


~/netbeans$ ant -f main/build.xml

and hey presto netbeans should be built (it will take some time).   Now as I’m ssh -X into this server I also need to ensure the xauth package is installed

~/netbeans$ sudo apt-get install xauth

and then I can try out the newly compiled netbeans using

~/netbeans$ ant -f main/build.xml tryme

which should see the netbeans splash screen appear and I can start using the latest development version of netbeans.   Of course, this means you have to deal with any bugs, performance problems and mysterious quirks yourself.   Join the mailing lists and enjoy.

Now that I have a very good understanding of what is required to get netbeans built from source I am confident that doing so will not interfere with anything else running on my primary development system.  Using the results of the above exploration it should be a simple matter of matching the package requirements, rsync-ing over the downloaded repository and you’re good to go.

watching junk with java

Ok,  I had to admit this press release did catch my eye.  To quote :

“The Eglin Space Surveillance Radar (FPS-85), which schedules and tracks catalogued space objects, is currently undergoing a complex modernization process to replace legacy mission-critical components built from one-of-a-kind equipment and custom software. The Sun Java Real-Time System, a high-level development platform for creating applications that require unprecedented execution predictability, will enable ITT to run the new solution using Java technology on Solaris 10 OS and standard hardware.”

As a Linux nerd it’s a shame that it’s Solaris 10 and not one of the RT variants of Linux but any technology that controls a 1250 ton radar array that can track basketball sized objects 22000 nautical miles away is pretty cool in my book 🙂

It is disappointing that the Sun Java Real-Time system isn’t opensource, but it least it’s good to note that it is available for real time linux variants such as SLERT.

Standing on the shoulders of giants

The time is 100 years in the future.  Human kind has colonized mars and our future generations look upon a relic of our current generation perched neatly on a sand dune in the martian desert.   They look with shame and have trouble understanding how we could do this terrible act.

Will we ever learn?   Must we continue to torture other species in an effort to explore space.  Surely we can extend our reach into the solar system by building on the research and considerable talents of our greatest thinkers and most daring explorers.  How can we do this terrible thing?  We should not let it happen.

By now, you’re probably wondering what this terrible relic is on the surface of mars.  At this stage I direct you to this article.  The terrible relic is the capsule containing animals sacrificed in the name of scientific research, in this case monkeys who as yet are unaware that Russia is planning to send them to mars so that they can die for the greater cause.

Will our future generations remember us with disgust?  I hope not.  Hopefully the current generations will be viewed as the beginning of an enlightened era – because we stopped not only this insane act, but because we stopped torturing animals in the name of scientific research, something we do because it’s cheaper and easier, but mostly because they can’t complain.

This is an unnecessary cost for the exploration of space and the search for life on other planets should not come at the expense of innocent species simply because we’re too scared or too stupid to figure out a better way.

Put some thought into your PC Power Supply

I get really annoyed at your basic ‘whitebox pc system’ pushed onto consumers.  Why do the shops insist on putting crap power supplies into their systems.  Ok, I know why.  They’re cheap or have a good store profit margin.   Sadly in reality many of these generic power supplies are just pieces of crap.

When choosing your system you need to remember that the power supply provides the ‘life blood’ that your system runs on.  An old adage is ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’, with the Garbage Out in this case being represented by shortened component life times or spurious failures.  If you consider this then the power supply is arguably one of the most important components in your system.

Sadly, along with other computer components there is a bewildering array of choices.  This makes the task of selecting a power supply a difficult decision.  In order to assist, i’ve put down some thoughts on areas where you can focus your research and streamline the process a little for you.   Please note that if you follow this advice, do all the research and the system still eats your children then it’s not my fault 🙂

  1. Attempt to estimate the likely power consumption of your system.   There are a number of web based forms where you type in your system components, click a button or two and some magic occurs leaving you with an estimate of your systems power consumption.  These tools are a good first step.  They don’t provide a complete picture, but they do provide valuable insights which in turn will lead you to asking more questions – trust me, this is a good thing!  An example site is the Extreme Power Supply calculator over at the Antec website.   More detailed analysis is definitely required as the total system power is consumed via a number of supply rails (3.3V, 5V, 12V etc) and it is extremely important to ensure there is sufficient capacity on each of the rails for your system.  For example, if after analysis you find that your system requires 14A on the 12V rail then there is no point using a power supply that can only deliver 10A – even if that power supply is advertised at delivering the total wattage for your system.
  2. Look for the power supply that is likely to be the most efficient for the typical operation of your system.  Current power supplies typically have their highest efficiencies around 50-70% of their peak loads so you should consider a power supply where your nominal system load operates in the power supplies most efficient region thereby reducing your operational power costs.  But please, still take into account your systems peak needs as there is no point having a system that runs efficiently most of the time but can’t deal with all the power demands you may impose from time to time.
  3. Make sure your power supply is at least 80% efficient in your operating range.   The difference in price between a piece of crap supply running at 70% and a slightly more expensive 80% efficient unit will most likely be recovered in ❤ yrs through reduced power costs.  For more information on energy efficient supplies check out the 80 Plus website.
  4. Don’t simply trust manufacturers claims, in fact don’t trust mine – you’re clever enough to figure this out for yourself 🙂  If a manufacturer says this power supply is rated at 550W then you should consider that to be exaggerated in potentially several ways.  For example, it may be referring to an operating temperature which is completely unachievable in normal pc’s 🙂
  5. Check you have enough connectors to power all your devices.  Sounds obvious, but trust me (or not 🙂  )  some power supplies only come with limited connectors.  Do your best to avoid so called modular plugs or adapters as these simply increase electrical resistance wasting power better used by your devices.
  6. Make sure the power supply fits your case – should be obvious, but shit happens and sometimes you forget simple things.

If all this is proving difficult for you to figure out then see if you can get your supplier to do the analysis for you.  If they don’t know how, then you really should be asking them – How do you know that supply is ok for the system you’re trying to flog me?

Good Luck and if you don’t take anything else away from this blog entry try to remember that you’re in charge – make an informed decision.