As previously noted in this space, the Google Mini isn’t exactly a model of openness. I’d always assumed that it ran a version of Linux as its operating system, but was never quite sure.
That is, until today. Google issued a security alert and a subsequent patch to address XSS vulnerabilities. As I followed the patching procedure, I noted the following messages output by the Mini:

      Current status:
            Uploading File
            Completed: 100%
            ** Unpacking downloaded file **
            ** Installing from the archive **
            ** Installing patch **
                  Installing: google-enterprise-mini-patch-3.4.14-10.i386.rpm ... Done
      Installing extra rpms. These may cause this server to stop. Please follow the instructions:
      Once the upgrade is complete, the System version will be patched
      Done >> Continue

[Emphasis mine]
So not only does it run Linux, but it appears to run a RedHat variant. Interesting…

Just Another Day In The Life Of A Sysadmin

What a fun work day today was!
It started off with a false virus alarm due to a bad .dat from NAI and then was followed by all manner of meetings and teleconferences regarding the recent failure of one of our business-critical systems. I spent the afternoon attending an internal business software design meeting and then repeatedly slamming up against Oracle syntax constraints. Oh, how I long to be allowed to use the simplicity available to me in MySQL, but alas, ’tis not to be.
Enough of my petty whining! Life is good and if these are the greatest of my troubles, then I am living a good life indeed.

A Request For Advice: Programming Geek Edition

Now a question for my technologically astute readers out there: is there a Mac equivalent to PSPad out there? Owen originally pointed me in the direction of PSPad and man, does it kick butt! The only problem is that it’s Windows-only.
Before you get started, yes, I know about BBEdit. There’s only one big problem with it: it’s not free (as in beer, not speech). PSPad is. And Emacs, while a wonderful tool, would take a lot of work to get into a workable shape that’s comparable to PSPad’s features.
So, is there anything out there, or am I just going to have to expense a copy of BBEdit?


I’d heard quite a few good things about the Debian-derived Ubuntu Linux distribution, so I decided to give it a spin. We downloaded the PowerPC Live CD here at work as a test of our newly-enabled 4.5Mbps ISP drop and burned it to disc.
I’m writing this entry from a GNOME desktop environment running off the CDROM drive on my 15″ Powerbook and I have to say I’m pretty impressed. With the exception of the touchpad, Ubuntu seems to have autodetected all of the Powerbook’s hardware correctly. This thread pretty much sums up what works and what doesn’t, out of the box.
It’s a bit odd seeing the GNOME interface where I ought to see OSX’s Aqua, but it’s a nifty trick in any case. It’s not quite ready for prime time yet, but it seems as if Linux on the PPC is definitely getting there.
Now, I just need to reboot the thing so I can get some actual work done. *grin*

More PlayStation 3 News

Ken Kutaragi uttered some words in a recent interview translated over at Gamespot that went a long way towards quickening the pulse of this PlayStation/Linux geek:

Impress PC Watch: The PlayStation 3 has some extremely high specifications, but it doesn’t come with an HDD. Why?
Ken Kutaragi: We’re not going to equip [the PS3 with] an HDD by default, because no matter how much [capacity] we put in it, it won’t be enough. The next step is definitely network drives. With the Cell server, they can be accessed from anywhere, via network. Whether it’s your own house [or] your friend’s house, you can access the [network hard drive] anywhere. That’s the kind of world we’re imagining. But there are still some issues if the machine doesn’t come with an HDD. So this time, we’ve added a 2.5-inch HDD bay so that users can equip HDDs, such as 80GB and 120GB, even though that’s still not enough [capacity]. Although a network drive would allow for terabytes of storage, there’s still the necessity to run an operating system offline. A hard drive for running an OS will be required for [the PS3] to be recognized as a computer.
IPCW: Do you mean to say that you’ll run an OS on the PS3 to use it as a computer?
KK: I believe it’s wrong that, while we’ve been calling PlayStations “computers,” Nintendo, which is in our same business, keeps telling the world their consoles are “toys.” So even though we’re making something that has the capability to be recognized as a supercomputer and requires paperwork when exporting or importing, the government sees it as a “toy.” The PlayStation 2 has something as great as the Emotion Engine, and it can even run Linux, but it’s still considered a gaming machine. I thought that the situation would become better since Microsoft appeared [in the gaming industry] from the IT field. But they won’t say it either, since they want to protect their business. They see problems if the Xbox could run Windows, so they keep calling the Xbox a “game machine.” It is really a pain in the neck. This time, we’re positioning the PS3 as a “supercomputer.” But people won’t recognize it as a computer unless we call it a computer, so we’re going to run an OS on it. In fact, the Cell can run multiple OSes. In order to run the OSes, we need an HDD. So in order to declare that the PS3 is a computer, I think we’ll have [the PS3’s HDD] preinstalled with Linux as a bonus.
IPCW: So Linux can be run on the Cell?
KK: Linux is legacy, but it will be a start. In the case of the Cell, operation systems are applications. The kernel will be running on the Cell, and multiple OSes will be running on top of that as applications. Of course, the PS3 can run Linux. If Linux can run, so can Lindows. Other PC Operating Systems can run too, such as Windows and Tiger (Max OS X 10.4), if the publishers want [them] to do so. Maybe a new OS might come out.

Emphases mine.
Eeeenteresting. Sony’s going to be shipping the HDD add-on to the PS3 with Linux preinstalled, which of course I’m in favor of, but the fact that Kutaragi-san is basically taking an OS-agnostic position is even more interesting to me.
Let’s look at the facts here: Sony is trying to take over your living room and the PS3 is the coup de grace in this respect. Theoretically, you’ll be able to run just about any application under the sun, including browsing the web, corresponding via email, aggregating your digitally-stored media and playing it back over your stereo system and even do some word processing, if that’s your thing. With its abundance of SD media slots, USB and Firewire ports and an optical drive capable of reading just about every disc format out there, Sony will give their customers the ability to make the PS3 the centerpiece of not just their gaming experience, but also their entire media and potentially networked experience. They’ll be offering people the ability to bring the PC out of the office and into the living room in a way that’s never been successfully tried before.
The PS2 has a worldwide installed base of somewhere in the neighborhood of 85 million units. If the PS3 can touch even half of that number, Sony would have placed themselves amongst the largest suppliers of PCs in the world, all under the guise of a “gaming supercomputer”.
I’ve got to mull this over further, particularly in light of the recent Apple/Intel announcement. More later.
(Requisite Slashdot story here.)

Mailing List Humo[u]r

I’m a member of more-than-a-few mailing lists with rather high daily message counts and about once a month or so, some list novice will step in and commit the cardinal sin of all Usenet/mailing list sins: top-posting. Top-posting is, as defined in the linked Jargon File entry:

To put the newly-added portion of an email or Usenet response before the quoted part, as opposed to the more logical sequence of quoted portion first with original following. […]
This term is generally used pejoratively with the implication that the offending person is a newbie, a Microsoft addict (Microsoft mail tools produce a similar format by default), or simply a common-and-garden-variety idiot.

This usually stirs the list veterans into a flurry of activity and replies to the newbie as to why top-posting is inherently rude, tasteless and an all-around Bad Thing. Feelings get hurt, tempers flare and usually a few people end up resigning from the list in the wake of such an occurrence.
If you’re not a regular mailing list/Usenet reader, you may be asking yourself “What’s the big deal?”. The following email floated across the RedHat Enterprise list this past week and perfectly encapsulates the problem:

A: Because it messes up the order in which people normally read text.
Q: Why is top-posting such a bad thing?
A: Top-posting.
Q: What is the most annoying thing on usenet and in e-mail?
>> You *shouldn’t* back up /sys (it’s pseudo filesystem, like /proc in 2.4
>> kernels)
your post came out all wrong on the mailing list; it didn’t get threaded
properly somehow, and you put the answer above the question… Is there
some way you can configure your client to let it properly follow
threads ?

Heh. Death to Jeopardy Posts! Remember to be kind, please bottom-post.

Linux Desktop Eyecandy Geek-Out Moment Of The Day

Okay, this is wickedly cool. The GNOME hackers over at RedHat have been working on a while slew of nifty extensions to the xorg X server and have been adding some effects that not even Mac OSX (the current king of frivolous desktop eye candy) can put out at the moment. Dig some videos of “Wobbly Windows” in action.
To top it all off, this stuff is going to be included in some future release of Metacity (GNOME’s current default window manager). It will require a GL-capable video card, but there’s scarcely a machine out there today that doesn’t have such a card. The demo movies were recorded on an IBM laptop with integrated Intel video, so performance shouldn’t be an issue on anything newer than a GeForce3, I’d say.
And they’re giving this stuff away! Sweet.