Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Way to Go, Faceplant

May 12, 2010

Thanks to Monty for sharing this link to a nicely-done graphic showing the evolution (devolution?) of Facebook’s default privacy policy.

If you use Facebook, this is required viewing. Seriously. Go change your privacy settings!

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A Bad Apple Week

May 12, 2010

Those following this blog will know that I like Apple products and I especially like Apple Service having had to avail myself of their expertise more times than I care to count with my early MacBook Pro which went in for repairs on enough occasions that Apple eventually replaced it.

Aside from a recent replacement of my logic board due to an nVidia flaw, my Apple experience has been without drama for the past year or so. Until about a week ago.

First, my iPhone 3G started to randomly freeze and reboot. After several visits to the Genuis Bar in Cambridge MA indications were that this was a hardware problem. By the time I arrived in Palo Alto on business, I was sure it was hardware. A visit to the Apple Store and $199 fixed that problem: I opted to replace my current 16 GB 3G with the same model to maintain the option of applying a discount to the much-rumored next gen iPhone, which I hope will appear soon.

The next morning my MacBook Pro beachballed and nothing I tried helped and I eventually had to power cycle it. It then refused to boot. It then also refused to boot from an installation disc. And refused to work correctly in Firewire target disk mode. So…back to the Apple Store where the diagnosis was that the disk was dead. Since my cloned backup (CCC, I love you!) was back in Boston, I opted to wait till I got home before taking any action on the MBP. I used my iPhone and a loaner Windows laptop to make it through my week of meetings in Palo Alto.

The disk was dead. Disk Utility could see the disk, but couldn’t repair, erase, or partition it. Note to anyone in a similar circumstance — it sometimes takes a very long time for a system with a dead disk to boot from the installation disc. Wait a lot longer than you’d expect — like five minutes or more — before giving up. Anyway, long story short, I bought a new 500 GB Hitachi 7200 rpm drive, installed it, restored from my clone and all was well.

Until this morning. When my wife dropped her MacBook on the floor. I’ll be stopping at the local Apple Store on my way home tonight to pick up her machine, which has a new disk installed and a fresh OS load.

They say bad things come in threes, so I’m hoping we are out of the woods for now.

Tap, tap…is this thing on?

May 12, 2010

It becomes more difficult to post a blog entry the further into the past my last post recedes. It’s now been three months since my last entry and I guess I’ve been thinking I need some Big, Interesting, Awesome Post to restart my blogging habit. And the bar keeps rising. Not a recipe for success.

So. I declare the hiatus over and will now return you to regularly scheduled programming. Except I am still figuring out how I want to handle my work-related blogging — whether to do it here under an HPC or Virtualization category or put it elsewhere. Stay tuned for that.

Rest in Peace

January 15, 2010
Marguerite Handfield Simons
09/17/1937 – 09/11/2009
Julie Simons Droney
10/27/1967 – 12/06/2009

It has been an especially bad time for my family over the last few months with the loss of both my mother and my sister. Thank you everyone for your support.

Thank you, Google

November 13, 2009

I’m at Logan Airport waiting for my flight to O’Hare and then to Portland, Oregon for Sun’s HPC Consortium this weekend and SC09 next week.

Google is sponsoring free wifi access at Logan through January 15th, which is how I’m able to write this blog entry — I would not usually pay the usual $10 fee since my flight is leaving in only an hour.

After clicking through the landing page to access the Internet, I was redirected to a Give Back site that lets me make a donation to either Engineers Without Borders USA, One Economy Corporation, or Climate Savers Computing. Even better, Google will match any donation I choose to make.

I wanted to make a donation, but I didn’t. Why? Because making the donation requires I create a Google Checkout account. I have a Paypal account already and I’m trying to reduce my credit card exposure on the web whenever possible, so I opted not to sign up.

Uh, Do You Offer Express Shipping?

November 12, 2009

On November 3rd, I received an email congratulations about my upcoming 20th anniversary with Sun (for those keeping score at home, the 20 includes some credit for time at Thinking Machines prior to our arrival at Sun) and an invitation to select a commemorative gift of my choice. My immediate thought was that I should place the order immediately, given all the current craziness and future uncertainties. My recognition award arrived via FedEx yesterday. Parrot not included.

(Wondering what’s in the box?)

Apple of My Eye

November 11, 2009

Once again, I am delighted by Apple’s customer service.

After having many problems with my original Macbook Pro, which Apple eventually replaced, my system has been stable and problem-free for quite awhile. Until my screen started losing pixels about a month ago.

Every other vertical line on the display became light grey, making it nearly impossible to read the screen. The problem briefly appeared and then disappeared about a month ago, but it happened again last week and stayed broken for over 12 hours despite reboots, PRAM/NVRAM resets, and SMC resets. I made the problem go away eventually by scheduling a Genius appointment at my local Apple store — the display spontaneously started working again within an hour of making the appointment. But of course! However, not trusting the machine and needing it for an upcoming business trip, I decided to keep my appointment at the Apple store.

Without being able to actually see the problem at the store, the Genius couldn’t make an absolute diagnosis, but we both felt the MBP’s display was probably flaky. This conclusion was partly influenced by the fact that when I ran the system in dual screen mode, the problem was only visible on the built-in LCD — the external monitor did not show the problem. While there still might be a logic board(*) or other problem, I felt comfortable enough to request that the screen (actually, the clamshell assembly — the top part of the laptop, including the cables that run from the clamshell to various locations on the motherboard) be replaced. Since the MBP was no longer covered by AppleCare, I was going to have to pay for this repair myself.

I learned Apple has two repair programs. I could either opt to have the machine shipped to an Apple repair depot and expect to receive the machine in 7-10 days, shipped directly to my house, or I could have the machine repaired at the Apple store and it would likely be ready the next day if the parts were available. The depot option has a fixed price — about $300 regardless of what the problem is or what parts need to be replaced. The in-store option is generally more expensive since you pay for the required parts and for labor. In my case, the in-store option would cost about $600 or twice as much as the depot option. What to do? I needed to work on my presentation for an upcoming conference and would be leaving for that conference in seven days. The depot might ship my machine back earlier than 7-10 days, but I’d be taking a risk.

Because I was able to make arrangements to use another laptop, I decided to opt for the cheaper depot option and wait the 7-10 days. Imagine my surprise when I got a call the next afternoon informing me that my repair had been completed. Apple had opted to do the repair in their store and they honored the depot rate I had been quoted. How cool is that?

So far, I’ve not had a recurrence of the problem. As a side benefit, this new display is much more evenly illuminated than the old one so even in the unlikely event the problem turns out to be something else, my machine has a nice, new LCD display that to me is worth the $300 I’ve paid so far. Not that I expect the problem to recur, of course.

(*) If you have this problem with your machine, look carefully at the cursor. Does it seem to “float above” the bad display or is it also affected by the dropped vertical lines? Noticing this can help diagnose the problem, since an unaffected cursor means it is more likely that the problem is either at the logic board or earlier, while an affected cursor pushes the diagnosis more towards the screen/clamshell.

NEOSUG at Boston University TONIGHT!

November 11, 2009

The New England OpenSolaris User Group is holding its first meeting at Boston University this evening, hosted by the BU Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering. It is open anyone interested in learning more about OpenSolaris — both students and professionals are welcome. This first meeting features three talks: What’s So Cool About OpenSolaris Anyway, OpenSolaris: Clusters and Clouds from your Laptop, and OpenSolaris as a Research and Teaching Tool.

The meeting runs from 6-9pm tonight (Wed, Nov 11th, 2009) at the BU Photonics Center Building. Follow this link for directions, full agenda details, etc. If you think you’ll be coming, please RSVP so we have a rough headcount for food.

See you there — I’m bringing the pizza!

I am a (TARP-free) International Banker

July 24, 2009

This microfinance stuff is pretty cool. By placing funds into my Kiva account I’ve been able to make small loans to a variety of people around the world and then continue to make additional loans as loan payments are deposited to my account.

I’ve been using Kiva now for just over two years and have made a total of 20 loans, ten of which have been completely repaid and ten of which are currently in active repayment. I’ve had no delinquencies and no defaults. While I can withdraw my funds once they are paid back to my account, I plan to continue making loans indefinitely since, 1) psychologically it feels as if I spent the money two years ago when I opened my account, and 2) I can see that these loans really make a difference for people.

My previous loans were to people in Ghana, Tanzania, Nicaragua, Peru, Lebanon (2), Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, and Samoa. My current loans are for construction, clothing sales, crafts, transportation, hardware, tailoring, etc. to people in Lebanon, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Cambodia (2), Samoa, Mexico, Tajikistan, and Azerbaijan (2).

Cool: Apollo 11 Source Code Published!

July 24, 2009

As part of the 40th anniversary commemoration of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the source code for both the Command Module and the Lunar Module have been released. In addition to being able to view the code, you can also run it on an emulator. Go here for details. Cool!!