Pranking Yourself In A Few Simple Steps

Please understand, this is purely a hypothetical situation and in no way accurately reflects the way I spent a good 15-30 minutes of my life today.

  1. Obtain Magic Trackpad for use with your MacBook.
  2. Use Magic Trackpad for a couple of weeks.
  3. Revert to previous optical mouse once general sluggishness and RSA-inducing motions promoted by Magic Trackpad use become too great to bear.
  4. Place Magic Trackpad in desk drawer.
  5. Forget to un-pair MacBook and Magic Trackpad over BlueTooth.
  6. Forget Magic Trackpad in desk drawer for months.
  7. [Months elapse]
  8. Unthinkingly place heavy object in desk drawer on top of Magic Trackpad.
  9. Allow object to apply pressure sufficient to leave Magic Trackpad in “clicked-down” position.
  10. Note that mouse clicks no longer actually work.
  11. Spend 20 minutes closing applications using only keyboard shortcuts in vain attempt to figure out which program is currently stealing mouse focus.
  12. Reboot system, hoping it will help.
  13. Remember presence of Magic Trackpad in desk drawer while computer is rebooting.
  14. Remove heavy object.
  15. Facepalm so hard that fellow cubefarm denizens can hear it.
  16. Resume clicking.


Note: This is not a paid plug (I’m not a Backblaze affiliate) — I’m merely a satisfied customer.
Do you back your stuff up? I mean, not just on-site (external hard drive, DVDs, etc.), but do you do off-site backups too?
I do, and have done so, by means of Backblaze for about the past 18 months. The experience has always been a painless one and for a mere $5 a month or so, I can be confident that all my pictures of my kids are safe and sound.
The company itself has taken to releasing some cool behind-the-scenes videos, the first of which is here (the second is after the jump):

Continue reading “Backblaze”

Oooh! Oooh! Pick Me! Pick Me!

Put All Of Your Stuff On A Drobo
The [in]famous (to those listening to TWiT podcasts, at least) Andy Ihnatko and Scott Bourne have started up a new Q&A-style website known as “Managing Your Digital Life” or and, in a fit of generosity, are giving away not one, but two Drobos to some random, lucky souls, all for the paltry entry fee of a simple link back to their site.
So click on either of those MYDL links so that my “entry” shows up in their referrer logs.
Oh, and, like, totally don’t link from your own site so my chances of winning are better. *grin*

Bravo, Sun. Bra. VO.

As you’ll note, there was very little blog output ’round these parts two days ago (read: I didn’t post a single durn thing). This was entirely due to a very, very long 16 hour day which featured a large-scale LAN outage. The root cause was a bit of a heat problem we had about a week ago causing various and sundry hard drives to misbehave in highly passive-aggressive fashions, meaning reboots all-around were required to shake out the cobwebs. Only when we rebooted one of our biggest servers, it didn’t come back.
The root disk, which we have mirrored via Sun’s Volume Manager (used to be Solstice Disk Suite) was reporting that both halves of the root mirror “Need[ed] Maintenance“. Additionally, we were experiencing an error that read thusly:

Error: svc:/system/filesystem/root:default failed to mount /usr (see 'svcs -x' for details)
[ system/filesystem/root:default failed fatally (see 'svcs -x' for details) ]
Requesting System Maintenance Mode
Console login service(s) cannot run

Here’s the funny thing: we don’t break the /usr partition out separately. All core/root directories are mounted in the root partition, thus this sort of message was confusing, to say the least.
We called Sun for support, as the metasync d0 recommended by Sun’s output did diddly squat and attempts to boot from either side of the root mirror only ended in failure. I sat on the phone with Sun engineers for the better part of 5 hours, desperately searching for an answer. Sunsolve/Docs.Sun/internal Sun engineering documentation revealed nothing for either myself or the valiant support staff. Finally, while on hold yet again, in frustration I Googled the error we were receiving and came across this posting in which another user’s system was exhibiting extremely similar symptoms. Turns out that they were missing a newline at the end of /etc/vfstab and thus, by remounting the root partition as rw (instead of the ro that is the default for maintenance mode) and issuing an echo >> /etc/vfstab, they were able to get the system back up and booting. Beyond desperate, I emulated the behavior and, lo and behold!, the system booted. Several sets of metadevices needed syncing, but the root came up cleanly and we were back in business.
Needless to say, my Sun case engineer swore that he was going to document the case so that the next unfortunate soul that simply neglects to end a system-critical file with a stinkin’ newline can be quickly and efficiently told what to do.

Sites Of Reference For Your F.I.T. Needs

Many of my generation participate in F.I.T. (Family I.T.) activities on a regular basis, including, but not limited to, incidents wherein family members (and family members’ computers) must be rigorously brought to heel. Of particular use in these situations are the following very helpful websites:

  • Snopes: Useful for debunking outrageous claims, oftentime made in the form of “FW: Check this out!”-style email.
  • Museum of Hoaxes: Similar to Snopes, although it specializes in debunking hoaxes and not simple folklore or misunderstandings.
  • Thanks, No.: Useful for a gentle correction for FW:-addicted relatives that put a monstrous list of email addresses in the To: field.
  • BCC. Please.: Similar to Thanks, No., although it gives step-by-step instructions on how to use the Bcc: field.
  • Five Sentences: Explain to your kin that you’re not being rude when you keep your email to less than 5 sentences, you’re valuing their time and letting them know you care.

Hopefully these can help you get out of a rough spot or two, relatively unscathed, or at least only minorly passively-aggressed.

On Psystar, Apple And Conspiracy Theories

I was listening to this week’s TWiT on my commute in this morning when one of the TWiTs mentioned that they were taking a pass on the Psystar Open Computer (essentially a gray box hacked to run OS X Leopard) because the threat of an Apple lawsuit putting Psystar out of business is simply too great. As the discussion ensued, a question popped into my head: why hasn’t Apple sued Psystar into oblivion at this point? They’ve shown that they will file take-down notices/lawsuits against anyone running product info leaks, so why should a company making money off of illicitly-installed Apple products be free to run its business. Then it occurred to me: What if Apple actually wants Psystar to keep making “Frankenmacs”?
Follow me here. One of Steve Jobs’ first acts after returning as CEO of Apple was to kill off the Mac clone business. He essentially wanted to manage the brand, image and soup-to-nuts experience of Macintoshes and the only way to do so in a reliable manner was to make sure that all things related to the core Mac experience flow through Cupertino. As gatekeepers of the Mac platform, they could eliminate so many of the problems that the exceedingly heterogeneous PC platform incurs — badly written drivers, wildly varying hardware, multiple manufacturers, etc. Now, since the PCs of the mid-90’s were all running on x86 and the Macs of the time running PowerPC chips, no one took much notice. No dedicated Windows 98 user would even think of trying to run Mac OS on his PC — it was just plain impossible.
Then came Mac OS X and the Great Intel Switch.
All of a sudden, PC users took note of OS X. “Hey, it runs on Intel, why can’t we have it too?”, they wondered (“they” even including Dell CEO Michael Dell himself). Apple has never really made too much of a public fuss about the prospect, generally assuming a silent, stoic stance, ignoring all pleas from Vista-beleaguered PC owners.
Add into this mix the Psystar Open Computer. By all accounts, OCs are loud, generically appointed and unable to run standard Apple software updates. They also require a return trip to Psystar’s offices (and at least a $50 surcharge) should anything go wrong. Users cannot install Leopard by themselves (although none of the OC reviews make it clear whether this is by license or by some hardware hackery on their part).
So here’s my conspiracy theory: Apple, Jobs, et al., have decided to let Psystar live on, unmolested, as an object lesson to all PC users desirous of running OS X on their beloved mutant configurations. It makes the unified, well-oiled experience that is Mac OS X running on proper Macintosh hardware seem that much more attractive by comparison while simultaneously exposing folks that might not (initially) want to pay the premium prices legit Macs command. What better way to upsell geeks onto the Mac as a platform than to allow them a taste of OS X, albeit in a gray market, unsanctioned fashion?
The truly deep conspiracy theory, of which I have absolutely zero indicators or proof, is that Psystar is actually operating under the express permission of Apple in order to accomplish the above.
Call me crazy (in this instance, I likely am), but it makes at least a smidgen of sense to me.

Tweet Fulfillment

There are days that I’m amazed by the Internet, and then there are days that it lives downup to my expectations. Take, for instance, a recent Tweet of mine in which I pondered

I was quickly answered by Stephane, who pointed out the wonderfully-implemented and -documented iPod Shuffle RAID0 array.
A few days thereafter, Slashdot posted a story detailing a semi-automatic 3.5″ floppy disk “gun”, a story whose comments section revealed a wonderful link to a gentleman who decided to create a RAID constructed entirely out of 3.5″ floppy drives.
While all that’s awesome, it’s still incomplete. Here’s where you come in, Internet. I want RAID arrays constructed out of

  1. Commodore tape decks
  2. Jazz/Zip Drives
  3. reel-to-reel drives
  4. 5.25″ floppy drives
  5. floor-standing “washer”-style hard drives
  6. ENIAC-style tubes

No bonus points will be awarded to those suggesting punch card RAID arrays for reasons I’ve made clear elsewhere. Now snap to it!

Solaris Admins, You WantNeed PCA

No, I’m not talking about the Presbyterian Church in America, I’m talking about Patch Check Advanced.
PCA is the Solaris analog to Fedora’s YUM[1], Debian’s APT[2], or even FreeBSD’s Ports[3]. It basically allows you to completely skirt Sun’s bloated, kludgy GUI-based software update checker and list, download and even install all pending patches available for your Sun machines. It’s a self-contained Perl script that can self-update and contains an entire manpage embedded within the script itself. It works regardless of your architecture (x86, Sparc, etc.) and simply requires a Sunsolve account in order to download patches (listing available patches appears to be a for-free sort of thing).
Go grab it, then simply run `pca -l` to see all currently-available patches for your box or `pca -l all` to see all of your installed packages, regardless of their update status.
Very useful, and extremely easy to use. Go grab it immediately (well, after you’ve installed Blastwave’s pkg-get and the wget available from BW — PCA really likes to have wget in place in order to do any of the fancy-dance downloading). You’ll thank me later.

…The Heck Is WRONG With Spammers These Days?

Is a cruddy-looking lawn really all that common of an occurrence these days? I mean, honestly, I’ve gotten more of these than “manhood enhancement” solicitations in my Yahoo! spam filter over the last few months:
Grass spam.
The first few times I got ’em, I didn’t even open them. Figured “Grow Your Lawn Faster And Thicker” was pretty naked slang for the above-mentioned “manhood” pills, but no! They actually meant “grass seed”!
There is something seriously messed up in this country. I’ve begun to think that former Nigerian royalty will start asking me to help move a great quantity of Kentucky Bluegrass seed out of some warn-torn sub-Saharan country any day now…