Monthly Archives: September 2005

Singing in the Rain

It looks like Fall has indeed sprung. Its been raining since yesterday and I don’t know if this is significant but the animals are beginning to line up two by two.

In any case, I have an early morning meeting to prepare for so I gotta run. But before I go, thank you to fellow Daynoter John Doucette for renewing the daynotes.com domain for the Gang.

Have a Great Weekend, Everyone – Aloha!

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Driven to Madness.

I spoke too soon when I said I had solved the last problem I
had in switching from Windows to Xandros Linux. There is a wee
small problem involving UDF packet writing
tools.

This is not the place or time to do a tutorial on UDF packet
writing software so I won’t. But In the Windows world, the
Adaptec UDF packet writing driver is almost a standard. You can
easily find and buy preformatted CDs with the driver already
included. Using such disks, and the driver, you can easily copy,
backup, and move data between PCs. It just works. Even if the
disks don’t come with the driver, you can download a version from
any number of places and install the driver with no more trouble
than clicking on the install file.

In Linux, things are a bit different. Or at least it is in the
default Xandros 2.6.9-x1 kernel world it is. I have three
choices. First, do nothing and therefore lose access to gigabytes
of data I have stored on CDs and DVDs. Second, download over
30MBs of 2.6.9 kernel source and then patch and compile the
kernel, hoping that nothing breaks as a result. Or lastly,
download over 30MBs of 2.6.11 kernel source and compile, hoping
that nothing breaks as a result.

There is an old phrase that says: damned if you do and damned
if you don’t. I need access to the data. I can’t get the data
unless I do either option two or three. After thinking it over,
I’ve decided to use option four. That is, I’ll access the data in
Windows and copy to a partition, as needed, that can be accessed
from within Linux. It’s the best work around I can think of right
now – which is a pretty sad state of affairs.

For those of you who want to recompile your kernels, and are
using the Gentoo distribution, there is a How-To
here
. For other distributions, I guess you are on your own as
I’ve not found an official How-To and most of the unofficial ones
I’ve seen are written for their specific configuration, even
though they don’t usually specify what that configuration is. So,
I guess, this is just one more thing that is not going to happen
under Linux. At least, until Xandros updates the kernel to
something above 2.6.9. If you have another way of accessing such
data, drop me a line.

Aloha!

Subvert From Within: A User Focused Guide to Success

Working in a large governmental agency, like working for a
large private corporation can, over time, suck the soul out of
your body like Coke out of a bottle. As a result, many people
become sticklers about insignificant details but loose sight of
what the agency or business is really trying to do. That is,
serve their customers. But that doesn’t mean it has to be that
way.

Kathy Sierra created
a User Focused Employee Guide
. Some of the ideas in her guide
are:

  • Language matters. Frame everything in terms of the user’s
    experience.

  • Speak for real users… not fake abstract “profiles”.

  • Put pictures of real users on your walls. Act like they’re as
    important to you as pictures of family members and pets.

  • When product features are discussed without taking into
    account how it helps (or hinders) the user kicking ass, adopt a
    slightly confused, mildly annoyed look…

  • Blog about it

There are other ideas in her guide but it’s all good. The
bottom line is the customer is not the enemy so do not treat him
or her as if they were. Focus on making them more productive.
Focus on helping them to do their job better. Focus on that, and
everything else drops away as irrelevant.

Aloha!

NCPFS chgpwd

As I’ve noted before, my remaining problem with using Linux in
a Novell Netware 4.x environment was changing my Netware
password. You may remember that I’m using the NCPFS utilities
to login to our Netware server and mount the volumes I am
authorized to access. This mini how-to assumes you have
successfully been able to get logged in and have mounted said
volumes.

The NCPFS utilities (as of this writing I am using version
2.2.6) include, among other things, something called nwpasswd
that provides a way to change your Netware password. However,
partly due to a sketchy MAN
page/example
and partly due to my lack of understanding of
how Netware logins work I have not been able to get nwpasswd to
run error free. The error I keep getting refers to an unknown
server error (0x89F0). I tried Googling for reasons why I would
get this error and found one site that said nwpasswd doesn’t work
if the server is on a different sub-net from the client that is
trying to login. I believe this is the situation on our network
so this may be why I can’t use this utility. If you can get it to
work, great. If not, you may want to read on.

In searching for another utility, I found that NCPFS also
includes, but does not install by default, a program called chgpwd.
It is located in the /contrib/tcl-utils directory of the default
NCPFS 2.2.6 install. I don’t know why there would be two NCPFS
utilities to change passwords but there you go.

However, under the default Xandros distribution, I couldn’t
find this utility nor even the directory it’s supposed to be in
(perhaps because NCPFS was installed using Xandros Network). So I
downloaded the full NCPFS 2.2.6 package, untared it, changed into
the NCPFS-2.2.6 directory that was automatically created, did a
./configure, make, make install-dev, changed into the
/ncpfs-2.2.6/contrib/tcl-utils directory and then did a make chgpwd. Two
notes: I did not do a make install in the /ncpfs-2.2.6 directory
because I did not want to run the chance of installing a new
version of NCPFS over the one already installed by Xandros
Network since this could break something that wasn’t broken. The
second note is I did try to make install chgpwd, but got an error
saying the default install directory for chgpwd existed but was
not a directory (!?!?!). So, I just left the newly created binary
in the /ncpfs-2.2.6/contrib/tcl-utils directory where it was.

At that point, I tried using the chgpwd utility and ran into
problems because, now wait for it, the sketchy documentation. All
I can say is you have to try the various options (taking care to
observe upper and lower case) to see what works for your network.
For mine, I needed the -S server name, -c context_name, -o object
name, and of course, -P old password and -n new password. Note:
if you use the -S server option, do not also use the -T tree
option. One or the other, but not both.

For the record, using chgpwd would look something like this
for our network:

./chgpwd -S DOWNING -o BOND -c AREA51.MI6.UK -P james
-n moneypenny

Where DOWNING is the server name, BOND is the user name used
to login to the Netware server, AREA51.MI6.UK is the context on
the NDS tree for the
object BOND, james is the current password and moneypenny is the
new one.

Be aware that this utility does not give you any feedback
unless something goes wrong. YMMV. Insert disclaimer here.

They’re Back

So, they’re at it again. Those robot vehicles in search of
Sarah Connor
tasked with driving a course without human
intervention. The last DARPA
Grand Challenge
wasn’t exactly a ringing success but with the
cash prize doubled to $2 million USD, things are heating up.

Starting tomorrow through October 5th, 43 teams are vying for
20 slots in the final challenge set for October 8th. In order to
get to the finals in Nevada, the teams must compete in
preliminary heats at the California Speedway in Fontana,
California.

The finals will require the robotic vehicles to travel a
150-mile (about 240km) course within 10 hours (about 10 hours).
The course route will not be announced until two hours prior to
the start.

Aloha!

Carlyle Contrivance

Back in August of last year, I
talked about the sale of Verizon Hawaii
telecommunications to
the Carlyle Group. I predicted that services would probably
deteriorate due to the economics of the sale (taking on all kinds
of debt while promising not to increase prices).

Well, its been a little over 12 months, but it’s beginning to
happen. Over the last two months Internet access has not only
slowed from the 2mbps I used to get down to 500kbps but, in
addition, the connection is going dead several times a week.
Prior to these problems, I had had only two outages over a two
year period and was getting a steady 2mbps.

It should be noted that although the Carlyle Group bought out
Verizon Hawaii, Carlyle then turned around and contracted with
Verizon to continue to provide, among other things, Internet
service. The problem is, Verizon has no monetary incentive nor,
apparently, any contractual requirement to upgrade the system as
more users are added. And add new users they have. Hence, the
network is over capacity and thus the slowing speeds and network
outages.

It is my understanding that Carlyle is working on creating its
own network Real Soon Now. But once completed, I have to wonder
how reliable and how fast it will be. I guess time will tell but
I predicted this problem more than a year ago and I can predict
that Carlyle will not be able to provide either speed or
reliability because of the high debt that was part of the
structuring of the deal to buy out Verizon. I hope I am wrong but
I fear that the economics of the deal simply doesn’t allow for
good service.

India Indefinite

Speaking of service, or lack thereof, this
article
says Microsoft is doubling its product development
and support staff next year. Usually, that would be a
GoodThing(tm). But in this case, the staff is going to be in
Bangalore and Hyderabad, India. I am guessing that part of the
increase is in anticipation of the release of Windows Vista and
the increased requirement for support it will result in. But
whatever the reason, MS must feel that the economics of using
offshore staff outweighs the inability of most people to
understand a thing these people are saying.

Don’t get me wrong, India has some of the most intelligent
people around. India regularly produces some of the best
engineers, doctors, and other types of professionals, anywhere.
But heck if I can understand what many of them are saying.

Aloha!