Friday, 1 October 2010

gconf-sanity-check-2 exited with error status 256

Today I discovered I knew something was wrong before it was wrong. That doesn't make much sense, but let me explain.

One day on my laptop I had a problem with my /tmp directory where the permissions had changed and therefore my user was not able to install applications, etc, etc. I didn't know what changed it, but since I didn't reboot, I just changed the permissions of /tmp back to 1777. Everything happy.

Today, a colleague of mine installed Ubuntu on his desktop. He did the usually good thing of installing all the updates. However after the reboot he got the error listed above and couldn't log into his system. The rather odd error of /usr/lib/gconf2-4/gconf-sanity-check-2 exited with error status 256 didn't really give much as to why this was happening.

We used ctrl-alt-f1 to go into a tty and look around. We tried a few things but nothing seemed to fix it. I did a quick Google search and discovered that others had had this issue even with versions prior to 10.04. The solution?
sudo chmod 1777 /tmp

And guess what? That fixed it. What exactly changed the permissions on /tmp we're not sure, but at least we were able to fix it.


Cancel or Cancel?

I'm not a design guru by any means, but something caught my eye today.

I was on a web screen that gave me the options to click OK or Cancel. Those were the only two choices, which is fine because I was looking at a page that was just displaying my preferences and if I did or didn't make any changes, those were my options. However, when I click "Cancel" I got a popup that said "Do you really want to cancel?" and my options were once again "Ok" and "Cancel."

So, lets recap. Options: "Ok" and "Cancel" - I press "Cancel". Popup: "Ok" and "Cancel".

Now do you see the problem? I pressed "Cancel" the first time, but I have to press "OK" the second time. Why not "Cancel" and "Cancel"?

Granted the question is "Are you sure you want to cancel?" but surely if I didn't make any change there shouldn't be any reason why I'm asked if I am sure I want to cancel.

Note that pressing "OK" doesn't prompt me if I'm sure I want to "OK" the action. It just submits the form and takes me to a completely different page. In other words, I don't get to continue editing my preferences.

Oh well. I guess whoever designed that workflow didn't think anyone would want to cancel their Ok.


Monday, 27 September 2010

Hair washing robots

As you know, Japan develops a lot of robots. They do so because the country has a rapidly ageing population and the idea is to have robots do chores and help out elderly, etc with as many tasks as possible.

So now, they've come up with a hair washing robot.

Meanwhile I'm still trying to put together my washing machine.


Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Back on Linux! And how to get Citrix ICA Client on Linux 64bit...

I was finally able to switch my laptop to Linux. Windows 7 was too problematic and I really didn't like it. However I must say that it was better than Vista. I still had some of the issues with W7 as I did with Vista, but it was at least 64 bit and more stable.

I'm still getting everything setup on my system since so much depends on Windows specific processes, software and one of these is that being able to get into our Windows Terminal Server was starting to become a little problem. I needed to install the ICA Client on my laptop but I installed 64 bit Ubuntu. (Why use a 32 bit OS now-a-days?)

Well, I found that Citrix doesn't have a 64 bit client and it turns out that getting the 32 bit client running on here wasn't hard to do, just hard to find the solution. Amazingly, the information is actually on the Ubuntu website, but whenever I searched, nothing linked to it.

I'm posting this information to make it easier for people to find the solution.

The link to the Ubuntu instructions is here. And basically what I did was:

I downloaded the 32 bit Citrix tarball. I ran the installer:

sudo ./setupwtc

This installed the software in /usr/lib/ICAClient. You are then suppose to run from that directory a program called wtcmgr.

However it failed because it was missing libmotif3 which if you apt-get install, you get the 64 bit libraries. You therefore need to install the 32 bit version by download the 32 bit version and installing it manually.

I downloaded the package from Ubuntu's site and then I extracted the files and copied them over to the 32 bit lib directory.

sudo dpkg -x libmotif3_2.2.3-4_i386.deb /tmp
cd /tmp
sudo mv usr/lib/lib* /usr/lib32/.
sudo ln -s /usr/lib32/ /usr/lib32/

Then I went back into the ICA Client directory and ran the file.

Tada! Things work.

I love Linux!


Update April 06 2012: I just re-installed on my machine so I could totally remove the Window 7 install. When I came to do the Citrix installation bit I was happy to discover that version 12.0 of the ICA client comes in a 64 bit deb package. Though I still had to do a thing or two. I had to manually install nspluginwrapper which installed a bunch of stuff and then the ICA client installed ok. It was great though because it worked as soon as I completed that. I didn't even have to restart Firefox (however I had copied my profile over from my backup so that may have had some info already setup.)


Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Excited to see my stuff is still around...

When I started this blog, I didn't think that most of the stuff I would write about would be of use to anyone.

However, it seems I was wrong. I've found that several of the things that I've put together in these measly pages are of use!

I also checked out some of the graphics I've made (not great, but useful ones) on and found that they're of use too!

I created some server racks in a previous job because I couldn't find any that worked in inscape without any modification. I also wanted them to be easy to use and allow me to add servers and hardware that would fit neatly. I made each U 12 pixels high and made them available. I made them in June 09 and as of today they've been downloaded over 3500 times!

Cool! Now, what else can I make and have you thought of contributing?


Friday, 3 September 2010

Another great feature from Google GMAIL team...

Google enabled "Email Priority" on my accounts and I got to say, it's AWESOME!

I wish were using Google Apps where I'm working now so that this feature is available. Basically by learning which emails you consider important (because you reply to those people, you read most of their emails, etc) GMail now will mark emails from those sources as "important" - meaning you see those at the top of your inbox. Below you get starred emails and below that "the rest" which includes the ones that are priority.

Love the new feature!


Wednesday, 25 August 2010

God Squad and TeachBook.

If you've been reading any news lately you've probably stumbled on a couple of articles regarding these two cases.

One is a case of Best Buy owners of the brand Geek Squad against a priest for using God Squad. However, the issue there is that the priest is not just using the word Squad, which is a generic word, it's that the priest is using a similar logo to the Geek Squad, plus he uses a VW Beetle like the Geek Squad does. Although the priest isn't using the God Squad to fix computers, or even to make any money, I can understand why Best Buy is a little upset.

However, today I saw a article that Facebook is suing another website for using the word "book" in it's name. Teachbook is a "social" networking site for teachers. It's a place for teachers to help each other and discuss how they teach, among other things. Their logo does NOT look at ALL like Facebook does. There are no similarities as in the two sites don't look alike and I'm not a member, so I don't know if they even function alike, but I doubt it. As the wired article points out, Teachbook doesn't even advertise it as a "Facebook for teachers" like some other sites do. Do you think that Facebook should win? I don't.

I think people need to register other sites that end with book and start those as protest to Facebook. What do you think?


Monday, 16 August 2010

Going on vacation? Don't post it on Facebook.

One of the "great things" about social media, the internet is the ability to quickly share your photos and Tweet to all your friends and family about your wonderful vacation.

Although this topic has been discussed at length on other site all over the place, it's worth mentioning it once more.

People, especially the younger generation, aren't paying attention to the things that they post on Fecebook and Tweet out to the world. They say they're going to the store, to a concert and even on vacation. One of the links above points to a person going to a concert and getting burgled only a few minutes after leaving.

If you're planning on going out and you want people to know. Then don't post anything that'll give away when you're leaving and coming back. A concert? Don't say what day. Note that this still leaves you vulnerable to getting watched by the person who intends to rob you, until you leave.

Going on a vacation and want to make people jealous. Same thing, wait until AFTER you got back to post that you were away and upload the pictures. Why give someone the opportunity to go away with all your valuables?

And if you have kids? Educate them about their personal security and privacy, and let them know you don't want them posting that they're going away for a few days. They should also refrain from posting about their (vacational) activities when they're gone. That doesn't mean they cannot talk to their friends and Tweet/post on Facebook, generic comments and activity. But although you don't post you're leaving, someone else might do that for you.


Friday, 13 August 2010

Robot Washing Machine

The definition of a robot is rather broad. Technically a washing machine AS IS, is a robot. It washes your closed by putting the detergent, water, washing, rinsing, etc. These are pre-programmed cycles. It's very simple, it's repetitive and doesn't require much except for the help of a human to actually fill the machine with clothes, the detergent, bleach, softener and pressing the right button.

The newer higher end washing machines can do more, like use less water (by weighing how much clothes are in there) and using lower temperature water (heating water costs money).

So I thought: the washing machine as it stands is quite good. Why change it? However, wouldn't it be nice to be able to put all the detergent in there, and all the bleach and all the softener and only have to worry about putting in the clothes?

Let the machine figure out if the clothes are whites or color and then have it do everything for you. Once it's running low of something, it'll add the item to your online shopping cart. It'll let you schedule when it washes or picks the best time of the day/night to do it.

This doesn't sound very hard to do. What would it cost? Well, I started looking into it. It depends on the parts that you use.

Here were some ideas:

Building containers will add cost to your design. How about using the existing ones... the bottles? Just screw the top which is attached to the washing machine and slide the bottle in. (container $0)

Somehow you need to get the liquid in the right amount (which depends on how much clothing and how dirty it is) so you could use some sort of pump. I was looking at a mini peristaltic pump which unfortunately isn't very cheap ($60) but would give you really good control of how much you'd use.

You'd need one pump for each liquid (3 so far - $180.)

Then you'd need the logic board and the components that detect the weight and how dirty the clothes are. I didn't even try to figure out how much that would cost as I got somewhat discouraged with the price of the pump.

I'm sure lots of people out there have great ideas on how this could be done for less than $300. However think about it, that's $300 you're adding to the price of something that's around $300 already.

Still - feel free to play around with my idea. Just post something about it. I'd like to know if anyone's tried it.

The next problem (which really should be a separate problem) is getting the clothes INTO the washing machine. Thereby eliminating the need for you to do it.


Wednesday, 11 August 2010


For some reason I started to think about Home Automation and particularly robots and how they change our lives. Most people don't realize just how many things in the world are currently handled by robots. Granted most of these are in factories or warehouses, but people that know me, know I am a fan of the Roomba.

However, one of the things that I've always wondered was why people always want their robots to do many things and worst of all, to look humanoid. That is to say, they have 2 legs, 2 arms and a head.

Does your robot really need a head to vacuum? I think that's the success of the Roomba; it's designed to do one thing - suck dirt and pick up debris from your floor. There are still issues with it. I have once sofa that's too low and therefore the Roomba can't get underneath to vacuum. iRobot, the makers of the Roomba have also made one that "mops" called the Scooba. I'm not sure how well it does it's job, but it seems to work well.

Again, what people need to understand is that if you want a robot at home to do chores, it's not going to look at all like a human.

Robots need to be made to work on a particular task as efficiently as possible. Humans are not the most efficient design for everything, but our advantage is we can do multiple things at the same time (well mostly.)

Washing windows? Why not make windows that wash themselves? (They're working on this BTW.) Also, there are robots that do this to some extent: look at this video.

Washing clothes: A washing machine already takes care of that for you. You just need a robot that sorts clothes by color, puts them in the washing machine. (You can just put them in the hamper - unless you ALSO want yyour robot to pick up your clothes. How lazy are you!) However, how about making the washing machine more intelligent? Why not have it dispense the right amount of detergent? All you do is fill containers with liquid or powdered detergent, bleach, fabric softener. The machine can detect what types of clothes are in there and dispenses the right "ingredients" for the wash.

If you start running low of something, it emails you, or better yet, adds it to the shopping cart that your fridge... Oh, I'm getting ahead of myself. Anyway, you still need to move the wet (and heavy) clothes to the drier and then fold them. But those are two different things. The same robot that sorted the clothes could move them to the drier, and another would fold them (and iron.)

Picking up things (like shoes, clothes, books, and general crap) can be done by one robot - all it needs is an arm and pincers. This one looks quite interesting, granted it seems more like a toy than a real functioning robot, but maybe it can be hacked.

Spills! Dropped a glass with a liquid? Dropped a jar with mayo? One robot to pick up the bits and gook (all excess,) the others (Roomba, Scooba) take care of cleaning the floor.

Toilet: Yes, someone's been working on it. However, I think that approach isn't the best. Again, it's doing what a human would do. Stick a brush and scrub. See how bulky that looks? This one disenfects the seat. I think that this can be done more efficiently in a different way. It may mean changing the toilet or at least the seat.

Tub: I found this but don't really know how well it works.

Shower: Well, not exactly a robot but I found this. Maybe what you need is something to scrub the bottom (like a mini-roomba type scrubber.)

Pools: These have been around for a while (I think iRobot makes them too.)

Gutters: Roomba has one too. Again, doesn't look like a human, but needs human interaction.

The one thing that I did think all of these robots could benefit from is a network connection and the ability to communicate between each other and a "master" device. How about being able to program or have them remotely execute.

Although I focused on a lot of things that have to do with cleaning, robots don't need to just be focused to cleaning. Walking the dog? (Didn't find anyone that's working on that.) Cutting the grass? (There's a few.)

Yes, I know what most people are going to say. Each robot isn't cheap (eg. Roomba goes for $300+) so having one for each task makes it expensive (10 robots at $300) and these existing robots don't have the networking capabilities yet.

Still, it defintely made me start to think about what the not so distant future could hold as the components to build these devices become cheaper and cheaper. Not to mention you can buy one robot at a time over a period of several years. My Roomba is 4 years old and still works (although I can't find the filters for it anymore.)

What robot are you waiting for?


Friday, 30 July 2010

iPhone 4 or a bicycle?

Finally Three has started selling the iPhone 4 (funny that the website doesn't advertise it on their first day of sales.)

However, am I in line for one? Nope.

I was going to get one, but instead I opted to wait. Why did I wait, because my son wants a bicycle. :)

How could anyone tell their 8 year old, "No, dad is going to get an iPhone."

When I heard that my son had several friends with bicycles and he was the only one without one, my heart broke. And with it, the urge to get an iPhone. Apple, you've met your master.


Thursday, 22 July 2010

A free case for your iPhone 4.

It's great that Apple admitted that the iPhone 4 has a problem with the antenna design. It's a pity that they try to persuade everyone that it's not a big deal and then try to show how others have the same problem. I thought Apple was bigger than that.

Even if other companies Berries, Droids and Minis have this problem too, why couldn't they have been a little more intelligent and said "It's a problem. We can fix the issue for most people by giving them a bumper or a case from other companies, but we can't properly fix it without making a significant change to the phone and we're not going to recall it since we're too heavily invested and most people love the phone the way it is."

Instead they create a webpage dedicated to showing others have issues too.

That's like Toyota saying, "Our cars accelerate by accident, but Ford Explorers tires blow up! And Volvos are not as safe as they claim."

I was asked if the antennagate issue is going to scare me away from the iPhone 4. The truth is... no. I'm going to buy one and I'm going to use it like I would usually use it. IF I see the problem during my daily use, and a case, bumper or Antennaid doesn't fix the problem, then I'll return my iPhone and will go with something else. Maybe a new Droid.


Wednesday, 14 July 2010

iPhone 4? Where's my iPhone 4!

Well, as everyone in the world knows, I've been wanting to get an iPhone 4 but waited until after the launch to get it as I didn't have all the pricing available on the day of the launch. I found that I can get the iPhone 4 £70 to £80 cheaper through one carrier than the others that were selling the iPhone on launch day. That's one reason I haven't bought it...

The other reason is that I've been reading all the issues with the antennas. I say issues, because it's not only the 3G coverage that's affected, but also bluetooth. When I saw the iPhone 4 I thought it was a great looking phone and when I discovered that the antenna was the outside of the phone I wondered how much of a problem that was going to be. I've see what happens with other devices when a "body" is in the way. It's cool to get better reception (like you do with TVs and getting an arial antenna) but just as you can get good reception, I was pretty sure you could get bad reception. Still, I thought maybe Apple had figured something out that EE's hadn't.

Anyway, I'm going to wait this out a little longer. I'm curious to see what Apple will do next and what people will say when Apple releases their different patches to "fix" HW issues. Maybe I'll wait for the iPhone 4.1.


Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Three (3) to offer iPhone 4 in the UK

Now that 3 is going to offer the iPhone 4 in the UK I'm ready to add them to my price comparison spreadsheet.

I've broken down the pricing a little more for the existing carriers and I've not also added the 18 month contract tab. I still need to verify all the pricing that I've entered, but I think most of it is correct.

Please let me know if you find any inconsistencies (from the links in the spreadsheet which take you to the carriers pricing pages.)


Friday, 18 June 2010

iPhone 4 - UK Carriers comparisons

I decided to get an iPhone 4 and in the UK we are lucky to have 3 carriers (at least for now) to choose from.

I decided I was going to find a better way to digest the pricing structure on these and so I started a Google spreadsheet and as carriers have come out with pricing, I started putting their pricing in there.

What have I found? Well, not all pricing is equal. Some are selling the iPhones cheaper. Remember that Apple isn't going to sell the iPhone 3G anymore, only the 8G 3GS and the new iPhone 4 in 16G and 32G.

Also please note that I haven't included all the carrier disclaimers or additional pricing for add-ons, bolt-ons, screw-ons.

I also only did the pricing on 24 month contracts instead of 18 month. I am planning on doing that too. I'm not sure about doing the Pay-As-You-Go plans. If you think I should, let me know!


Thursday, 29 April 2010

Ubuntu 10.04 is out - download via torrent!

Download the isos via bittorrent.

Help everyone out that way.

Go to the Ubuntu site to get the links to the torrent files.


Ubuntu 10.04 will be out today!

I'm waiting, I'm waiting, I'm eager to try it out.

I'm not going to upgrade though, I'm going to do a clean install. In part because I want to document this for my other blog - Linux on your Mac.

I'll try go show all the steps I go through from the beginning. (I'm not going to bore people with the backup of my home directory or the application list.)

Lets see what happens.


Thursday, 18 February 2010

OS X Server - Connection Failed?

So I've been working with some colleagues on a problem whereby users trying to connect to a OS X server from their OS X client were getting a connection denied.

If the user were to go to the Finder and via the hostname in Finder try to connect to the server (which uses Bonjour) they would get a Connection Failed even if they entered their username and password correctly. However, they could connect whenever they pressed Ctrl-K (i.e. Connect To Server) and used "afp://servername/" or "ftp://servername/" with the same username/password.

Trying different things like updating the replication of OpenDirectory, changing the users passwords.

In the end, we discovered that there was a directory that users had as their home directory (a default one /99) and the permission on that directory were set to 700 and only for one user. Changing it to 777 (we didn't try 770) solved the issue.

Useful MegaCli commands

As I mentioned in an earlier post, finding the manual for the MegaCli command was rather hard. I've decided to put some of the more useful commands I've discovered/started using.

MegaCli -AdpAllinfo -a0 -- shows you firmware versions, serial number, and LOTS of useful information.

MegaCli -CfgDsply -aALL -- Also very cool and useful.

MegaCli -PdList -a0 -- give you the disk information which shows media errors which will help if you're having problems with your disks.

Monday, 1 February 2010

iPad with no flash? No problem!

Everyone is complaining that the Apple iPad doesn't have flash, but you know what? This is easily solvable.

Gordon (demos) is a Flash runtime written in Javascript by Tobias Schneider. With this you should be able to view Flash on your iPad. All that's needed is for the site to call the JS with the swf file as an attribute. Something easily done when you detect that the user doesn't have flash.


Friday, 29 January 2010

IRC, oh how I miss thee.

Eons ago, I used to be an OP in the IRC Channel #cuseemesexy. It was a channel dedicated to the video conference software by White Pine - I think it still exists, but I'm haven't tried it in ages.

Well, I've started going to the #ubuntu-uk channel on FreeNode. I guess I get a good feeling when I get to help people and what better way than to do that. Especially if it's a topic I enjoy and believe I can help out.

If you'd like to chat, get on your irc client and use :)


Friday, 8 January 2010

New Year, New Gadgets, New Tech

Happy New Year!

Yes I am 8 days late, but it's better late than never. Plus you take a holiday and boom, you forget about things.

CES is on in Las Vegas. This is one trade show I would love to go to. I love reading about all the new things are coming this year, however there's one thing that I am not really interested in. 3D TV.

Sony is going to start selling TVs that support this and the great thing is that they're making their PS3 compatible (I assume it's only a firmware upgrade.) All these other manufacturers are coming up with other things like Skype on the TV. This might not be too bad but it involves buying a hi-def camera for that TV too.

Tablets. What can I say. Apple is said to release their tablet pretty soon and I'm sure that they want their stocks to go up, so releasing during CES wouldn't be in their best interest. Nor is it their usual MO. Still, the tablets at CES aren't generating as much excitement as expected. What will consumers actually think when they're at the shop? Dell's tablet looks really nice though. Lets see what Apple comes up with.

Exciting things? So far I like the Light Touch interactive projector and Plastic Logic's lightweight e-reader. Since CES isn't done yet I'm hoping there's more to get excited about.