somewhat daily mutterings

/Computing/Sun Sparky Lives!!

Well, after a bit of fussing, fighting, kicking and screaming, Sparky, my old dual-processor SPARCstation 10 is back up. His hard drive crashed about a year and a half ago, and being the procrastinator I am, it's taken me this long to put a new one in and reinstall Solaris. Of course, I complicated it by trying to use my nice Sun 18.1 LCD panel as my monitor while doing this. Problem is, Solaris defaults to a graphical install if you have a framebuffer, and the default resolution/frequency of the graphics subsystem is wrong for the LCD panel. Result: endless frustration.

But I did finally figure out that, if I held my mouth just right, I could Ctrl-C the setup process before it goes into the OpenWindows install. Once I was at the command line, I hunted for an install program, and found one at /sbin/suninstall. This app is the character-mode install (Sun calls it CLI). I got Solaris installed without problem using this guy.

However, there's the problem of Solaris going to dtlogin immediately after startup, and that process is not breakable, unfortunately. So, my hope of dumping my ancient, screwed-up Sun tube in favor of the LCD has died along with my enthusiasm for figuring this sort of thing out.

At least I'm now set to make sparky a mirror of buzz, my Apache server. That is an interesting problem and will help me maximize uptime for my loyal reader (that's right - no 's').

Posted: Sat Jan 31 06:20:42 -0800 2004

/Computing/Mac More 15" PowerBook Observations

There's one big problem with the PowerBook so far. I think many others have complained about it, too. It's the battery life, which is appalling. So far I've been lucky to get two hours out of it (with full power saving mode on), whereas my iBook will rock out for three or more. OK, the iBook is a G3 with a lower clock speed, but come on, you'd think that Apple would have been able to engineer a reasonable battery life into this $2600 computer, especially when they brag of four hour runtimes. Perhaps there will be an upgrade path for this particular battery someday.

I also downloaded and ran PiXelCheck from MacUpdate in order to uncover any dead pixels on my LCD. Good news! All perfect.


OK, maybe I was a bit quick to judge the battery life on my new PowerBook. Tonight I used it for easily over a couple of hours (I didn't really time it, but it held out much longer than the night before). I guess I should have taken into account the fact that I was using the DVD drive last night to install some software - that definitely drags down the battery. Of course, that doesn't bode well for watching a movie on a plane trip.

Posted: Tue Jan 27 20:37:09 -0800 2004

/Computing/Sun Buzz (Web Server) Uptime

Buzz, my Ultra 1 200e, reports the following uptime:

  9:23pm  up 164 day(s),  6:31,  3 users,  load average: 0.00, 0.02, 0.02

Not bad for an old warhorse of a Sparc. Of course, he's not stressed at all, considering his load average. After all, he does nothing but run Apache in order to host this site, and I get next to no traffic (about 30 visits/day).

Posted: Tue Jan 27 20:28:46 -0800 2004

/Miscellany Household Book Reorganization

As a "bithday week" activity, my lovely wife MB asked that we go through the books in the house (there are a lot), box up the ones we don't want, and organize the rest. We ended up boxing probably 120 books or so, 30 of which were probably technical books - the $40 a pop kind.

I hate getting rid of books. It's very hard for me. Even if it's a book that I bought and then ignored, it's hard for me to let it go. Perhaps it's because my grandmother was a librarian. Perhaps its because I grew up in a house overflowing with books. Perhaps it's because of my unquenchable thirst for useless knowledge.

I think it's that last bit. I was thinking about it today: a book on a shelf is very much like a pendulum pulled up and anchored at a maximum point of its trajectory -- Just as the pendulum represents potential energy, a book on a shelf represents potential knowledge.

It's hard to just give away potential (which is basically what I did today).

Posted: Tue Jan 27 15:41:44 -0800 2004

/Computing/Mac New 15" Aluminum PowerBook is Here...

...and it's as nice as I hoped it would be. Of course, I'd fondled plenty of PowerBooks at the Apple Store, but it's different when it's yours, and sitting happily on your lap, rather than tethered by cords.

Probably what has made the biggest first impression is the solidity and quality feel of the keyboard. I was happy with the keyboard on the iBook (although it was panned by MacWorld earlier this year), but the one on the PowerBook is a revelation. I've also been pleasantly surprised by the lack of significant heat while I've used it on my lap. I was afraid I'd been spoiled by the iBook's cool-running nature, but the PowerBook hasn't gotten unreasonably warm, so far (but I must admit I set the power saving features to use a lower processor speed, so maybe that's why it's running relatively cool).

The monitor has no signs of spotting (yet), and looks really great. It's nice to have the additional desktop space, compared to the iBook.

I must say that the PowerBook isn't as easy to tuck under an arm and carry around the house as the iBook is. I still think the iBook is a great choice, especially now that they have the G4 processor, so if you don't have either a need (or just an irrational desire) for the extras that a PowerBook offers, go for an iBook.

Posted: Mon Jan 26 21:11:07 -0800 2004

/Computing/Mac Quake 3 Arena (Gold) on OS X

Out of the box, Quake 3 Arena plays great on a Mac, that is if you don't mind rebooting into OS 9 to play it. Well, I did, and do, mind. After starting to play the excellent game Medal of Honor, which is based on the Q3A engine, and runs under OS X, I finally got around to putting some real effort into making Q3A itself run under OS X. I had tried before to apply the 1.32 OS X patch, but ran into problems running the game - I ran into those same problems again on this go-round, but laboriously worked my way through them by visiting several support sites and forums.

I've decided to document the steps here for everyone's benefit. Note that these steps worked for me on the Quake 3 Arena, Gold edition, under OS X Panther. Your mileage may vary.

  1. Move your Q3A install folder to the Applications (system, not user, domain) directory. By default, it installs to the "root" directory of your HD, as shown by Finder. I believe this is because it was shipped as an OS 9 app.
  2. Rename the install directory something unique. I named mine "Quake 3 Gold".
  3. Install the 1.32 point release. The patch is available from a number of download sites. I got mine from Planet Quake. Run the installer, which will put the point release in a "Quake3" folder under Applications. I renamed this folder to "Quake OS X", but you don't have to.
  4. Copy the PAK0.PK3 file. Copy the file from the "baseq3" directory of the original install (the one you just moved) to the baseq3 of the point release's Quake3 directory.
  5. Run the "Quake3 10.2 G4" app, and frag away. If everything is set up correctly, upon double-clicking the icon, you'll be immediately greeted with the id logo in a small window, followed by a switch to full-screen Quake. Rock on!

I have to admit the multiplayer mode of this particular release crashes on my machine. I haven't bothered with multiplayer Quake in a long time, so it wasn't a real disappointment. Therefore, I haven't researched how to fix this particular problem. Perhaps it's just my setup.

Posted: Sat Jan 24 21:53:28 -0800 2004

/Miscellany Old Photo Scan - German Armored Car

I guess I've been a geek all my life. Only my geekish interests have changed. When I was younger I was completely addicted to building plastic scale models, especially German WWII armor. About 10 years ago, when my Mom sold the house I grew up in, I gave boxes full of assembled models to the little kid next door. The only thing left of them that I have is photographs. Here is a scan of an old photo of a diorama that I made, probably when I was a 7th-grader or so.

German Armored Car (comminication vehicle?)

I did a bit of research to find out what this vehicle was called (it's similar to a Puma armored car). If anyone out there happens across this page, and also happens to know exactly what this vehicle was called, please write me and let me know.

Posted: Sat Jan 17 12:30:05 -0800 2004

/Computing/Mac New PowerBook on the Way!

I finally succumbed to tempation and have ordered a 15" 1.25Ghz Aluminum PowerBook, which comes with all the cool goodies. I bought it from, at a very good price.

Months of lusting after MB's 550mhz TiBook led me to start shopping for a good deal on eBay for a latest-generation 1.0Ghz TiBook, but I got very frustrated with what I considered a pattern of too-high bidding for these outdated (but still beautiful) machines. I mean, some of them were going for money that would buy a brand new 1Ghz AlBook.

I briefly pondered buying the 1.0Ghz machine from the Apple Store, but realized that I'd have to do a number of expensive upgrades immediately to make it truly useable. After upgrades, the price didn't sound so great. Then I found a great deal on the 1.25Ghz model at, via The price there was around what I'd pay for an upgraded 1Ghz model, so I bit.

The question now is, what to do with my 900mhz iBook? It's a great machine - it runs cool, is very compact, and is relatively indestructable. I'm considering taking it to my new job (more on that in an upcoming post) to use as my main development machine. It would be really cool to use OS X as my day-to-day development platform. We'll see...


After four days of checking the order status at, and not seeing the status change from "your order is being processed", I called them. I learned that the PowerBooks were backordered 7-10 days, and was offered the chance to cancel. I didn't cancel right away, but shopped around until I could find another similar deal from a company that had the machines in stock. I ended up ordering from CTI International who had a bottom-line price of about $60 more -- and they had the PowerBook in stock, ready to ship.

Posted: Tue Jan 13 12:41:31 -0800 2004

/Programming/Projects/Gemcast Gemcast 0.0.5 Available

I did some minor refactorings in "gemcast", the Ruby-based weblog engine that runs this site. I didn't do anything major - I hadn't visited the code in some time, so I basically just adjusted and simplified a few things, and improved the documentation, to reacquaint myself with the code.

Read more about gemcast here.

Download gemcast 0.0.5

Posted: Thu Jan 01 20:30:57 -0800 2004

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