Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Bigger Backyard for Christmas?


I awoke this morning to a greatly expanded backyard, complete with a new 3-car garage. I never knew that acquiring real estate was so easy. All it takes is the spirit of giving--or a massive windstorm.

Alas, what it really means is $$ sunk into building a new fence and renewed property boundaries. But the view's great in the meantime...

Monday, December 18, 2006

VMware Tools in Fedora Core 6


It started with a simple desire to synchronize this thing with the real time. It wasn't quite Sunday, December 18th, but the clock was telling me that it was Sunday...December 11th. Almost a week late, which would be great if I could think of a few regrets...

This happened because of a unique issue while running one operating system in another. VMware Server is a newly free release of a formerly expensive and professional product that runs other operating systems within Windows, or vice versa. VMware Server is a wonder to use, but can also leave one wondering how to install and configure it. I've been chronicling my experience with it, and you can find bloggings of my installation and screen resolution experiences. Here I'll speak more about configuration after the install.

Tools has always been a challenge. VMware Tools is a mechanism for integrating the virtual machine (eg Linux) with the host operating system (eg Windows). Rather than treating the virtual machine and its Windows host as entirely separate entities, one can use Tools to bridge the two together. One of its features is the ability to drag the mouse directly from Windows into Linux and back out, without pressing any special keys to tell which operating system the mouse should be in. Another features is time synchronization, since virtual machine system clocks often run faster (or sometimes slower...) than real time, and between hibernation, the time can get off by weeks. For some reason, virtual machines can't synchronize well with Internet clocks, making Tools a necessity.

Tools makes things easier, but can be a challenge to install. With a few known hacks (scroll down to Setup), Tools worked fine on Fedora Core 5. After updating to Fedora Core 6, however, I needed to hunt down another series of hacks. With effort, I stumbled across them one by one in what could be a solution unique to my configuration. But perhaps at least one or several tips, grouped here, may prove useful to the reader.

My system is VMware Server 1.0.0 running on Windows XP SP2. The virtual machine runs Fedora Core 6, freshly updated. The computer is a Dell Inspiron 700m with a Pentium M 2.00 GHz processor and 1.23GB RAM. Most of these commands are best done as root (or for convenience, as sudo -s).

Initial steps

The documented method to install Tools is to:

  • Click on the menu VM > Install VMware Tools... in the VMware Server Console. This mounts files on the Desktop that can be installed.

  • Install the kernel-devel and gcc packges. yum install kernel-devel gcc on Fedora Core.

  • Run the configuration script, vmware-config-tools.pl. So go the official instructions: "Respond to the questions the installer displays on the screen. Press Enter to accept the default value." The default value, or course, did not work. The script complained that the kernel headers could not be found and could not be compiled, and when manually located, matched a different kernel version and simply wouldn't work, even if successfully compiled.


Kernel update from i586 to i686

One of the most common comment on forums was about the discrepancy between the architecture targets of the kernel and kernel-devel on Fedora Core 6. What turned out to be the first entry in the Common Issues section of the Wiki for FC6 is a solution for upgrading a kernel targeted for i586 with one for i686 (Pentium II/K6II+). I'll leave the Wiki link to the reader, as the instructions seemed clear.

One helpful posting on a different issue advised downgrading the kernel-devel package to i586, but I read other postings that the i686 version would work as well, so long as both kernel and kernel-devel were consistent.

Link autoconf.h to config.h

I nonetheless found the posting useful for pointing out not only the package discrepancy, but also an issue with a kernel header file. A lengthy forum topic (scroll toward the bottom) clarified the issue and held a golden nugget on solving the header file dilemma: link autoconf.h to config.h in the include/linux folder:

cd /usr/src/kernels/2.6.18-1.2849.fc6-i686/include/linux
ln -s autoconf.h config.h


(for the .2849 kernel version; uname -a finds the appropriate number).

config.h will now be read as the newer autoconf.h. According to several users on one forum, it may also be possible simply to touch config.h instead of making the link.

Direct the script from version.h to utsrelease.h

For most people on the forums, synchronizing the kernel architectures and creating config.h did the trick. I kept getting an error, however, telling me:

The directory of kernel headers (version @@VMWARE@@ UTS_RELEASE) does not match
your running kernel (version 2.6.18-1.2849.fc6). Even if the module were
to compile successfully, it would not load into the running kernel.


A search for "UTS_RELEASE" revealed a third issue: the variable UTS_RELEASE is stored in a new location. The hack this time involved directly editing the Tools script to look for the proper file. After making a backup copy, I changed the file references from linux/version.h to linux/utsrelease.h (corrected from the forum entry).

And the module compiled. Tools loaded into the kernel, time synchronized, and that night, I slept peacefully.

Additional thoughts/dreams

A few loose ends...feel free to comment below.

  • My 3-part issues may have been the result of a unique configuration. The i586 kernel problem seems to be a known and accepted issue, and judging from the wealth of forums, the config.h isuse also does not appear to be unique. My final issue may have been unique, howver, since I have seen few reports of the need to switch to utsrelease.h. It may have been fixed in VMware Server 1.0.1. I have been holding off on the Server upgrade since installation takes a considerable amount of time, and the upgrade came barely a month after the initial release, with few reported updates. The Tools script may have been one of those "maintenance" fixes, though.

  • My original impetus to get Tools on board was to fix the system clock and ensure that Text Flex CVS versions for Text Trix and Jar Ajar didn't conflict. This may have been a vestige from slow SourceForge servers, though, rather than a problem with the system clock. Recent advancements in CVS synchronization on sf.net may have also been the fix.

  • Thanks to Colin's prompting, I've stepped up the RAM allocation from 256MG to 512MB. Very helpful, much speedier, and the host still has enough RAM!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"The David Young(s) of the World"


I just joined a Facebook group called "The David Young(s) of the World." A few quotes from the group's description to acquaint yourself with my new-found "family":
I am sure that all of us David Youngs are quite diverse, but yet we share a name...

And judging by the variety of comments on the Wall, pictures, and discussion forums, our name is but a loose thread tying us together. The first Wall poster pressed the point by noting that although he was born on 3/1, he celebrates his bday on 3/3. "Turning 60 has allowed my to adjust my life to suit myself." Including grammar, apparently.
For those of you who feel like your name should be "David Young" but isn't, by all means join us! After all, it is an awesome name even if it seems ordinary.

Pure hilarity. For the masses out there who are just *dying* to gain the glorious name of David Young. I don't know of a single famed David Young out there, but who knows, maybe someone on this list will "make a name" for us. The first Discussion Post is entitled, "Are David Youngs Really More Successful?"

But of course we must advance beyond the confines of Facebook. To truly unite, we must all meet together at a conference. And then we can all smile and wear nametags.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Clearly, This Is It

I can't believe that I've been working on my laptop all this time without ClearType enabled.

On the shuttle home, I asked Colin, a biomedical informatics student, why text on Linux seemed much clearer than that on Windows, even though they were displayed on the same monitor? Linux was even running within VMware, not on its own.

"Anitaliasing, maybe," he told me.

That night, I looked for ways to turn on antialiasing in Firefox, the application in which I had noticed the display difference. I didn't find much, but upon searching for a way to turn on antialiasing system-wide, throughout Windows, I stumbled upon this page: http://www.microsoft.com/typography/cleartype/tuner/Step1.aspx. The page installs a little utility to turn a feature called ClearType on or off. (Note that to use this page, it needs to be viewed in Internet Explorer...or IE Tab within Firefox.)

The way that ClearType works is that it uses an effect called "subpixeling." Normal flat panel displays can look "saw-toothed," or jagged, at the edges of these pixels. But pixels on the a display actually consist of 3 subpixels corresponding to RGB colors. Apparently the human vision is more sensitive to variations in intensity than in color. By sacrificing a little color accuracy, the computer can make use of these subpixels to fill in the gaps between the saw-tooth edges, creating a smoother shape for letters and other text.

In case that flew by you, just take a look at this:




Viewed here are shots of Firefox displaying a page from the same site, DistroWatch, as in the monitor entry, but instead of Linux vs. Windows, it's Windows sans ClearType vs. Windows ClearType. And the choice is...well, it's clear.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The evolution of religion, in a nushell

I have been rereading Mere Christianity by CS Lewis and come across a couple paragraphs that candidly encapsulate my understanding of how religion has grown up over the millenia:

And what did God do? First of all He left us conscience, the sense of right and wrong: and all through history there have been people trying (some of them very hard) to oeby it. None of them ever quite succeeded. Secondly, He sent the human race what I call good dreams: I mean those queer stories scattered all through the heathen relgions about a god who dies and comes to life again and, by his death, has somehow given new life to men. Thirdly, H selected one particular people and spent several centuries hammering into their heads the sort of God He was--that there was only one of Him and that He cared about right conduct. Those people were the Jews, and the Old Testament gives an account of the hammering process.

Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time... (p.33 in The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics)


I've always wondered, "Why did he pick Israel? Why not the whole world?" Lewis responds, "He selected one particular people and spent several centuries hammering into their heads the sort of God he was." God knows our minds and our hearts. He knows that it takes centuries to hammer in any sort of understanding of such an unfathomable and complex being as himself. And he knows that even with this understanding, our hearts can flit away with the calling of any idol that comes our way. He chose Israel so that he could focus his energies on them, planting in them a seed of himself that would one day grow to reach the world. He was making himself known, first through conscience, then through dreams, and finally through people--a people, before reaching all people. I suppose that is one reason that Jesus came: in bones and flesh, he grew up as a Jew to confront the world with his divinity. In Jesus we finally see that God is as real as man, and he is Lord of all mankind.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

David's Thoroughly Untechnical Review: Princeton Graphics VL2108W

Pun plug: Don't let D-TUR (David's Thoroughly Untechnical Review), this new series, deter you from reading.





I've been on the lookout for a 20" flat panel monitor for about a year now. An opportunity presented itself this weekend as I strolled the streets of Costco.

Saving the best for last, I dropped by the electronics section in the Costco warehouse just before heading to the nearby cash registers. As I came to the monitors section, I spied a mini tower of boxes with the display above them: "299.99 - 50 = 249.99." A dream come true. I had been eying a Dell 20" widescreen selling for $371 at its cheapest, while this monitor, a Princeton VL2108W widescreen, marketed itself at over a $120 less. The quality looked decent from a cursory glance, and after a few deliberations, I decided to take it.

Once at home, I got to look up reviews on it. I couldn't find any. The name Princeton sounded familiar--"And I'm not just thinking about the college, right?" I told myself--but for some reason I could find few reviews on any Princeton Graphics monitor. Oh well, the price was right. [UPDATE: ...or not quite. I've realized that while the monitor design is modern and large, its clarity resembles that of monitors from half a decade ago. I'm planning to return the monitor...but I'm glad that in the meantime I'm able to provide this review.] So I set it up, and now I'm determined to offer my own review for all the Costco shoppers after me.

Summary

The monitor works. It's big. It's bright. It successfully displays pixels where the computer commands it. It just isn't sharp. (I know it's not a Sharp, but it's also not sharp.)

Technical environment

I attached the Princeton Graphics VL2108W (in which, as I later learned, "VL" stands for "Value Line") 20" widescreen, 8ms monitor to a Dell Inspiron 700m laptop running Windows XP SP2 with a 12" display and an Intel 855 GME graphics card, via an analog connection.

Setup

Setup was smooth. The only confusion was that the box boasted that it came with a DVI cable for digital input, but didn't specify whether it also came with an analog input. It turned out to come with both, which was a plus in the end. No drivers to install, just a few cords to attach, and all was well.

Resolving the resolution

The monitor manual says that it's capable of an "Ergo" resolution of 1680x1050. I'm not sure what Ergo is, but whatever the case, my laptop didn't display it. Instead, the Intel 855GME graphics card output an extended desktop at a variety of other widescreen resolutions. 1280x800 produced a screen that mimicked the laptop resolution itself--but much larger, of course, spread out over the 20" area compared with the laptop's 12" screen. The next closest widescreen resolution was 1920x1200. This greatly compressed the desktop so that I could fit many more, larger windows into the same physical area.

The problem was sharpness. The difference between clarity on the laptop and the new monitor was dramatic. While from a distance the Princeton monitor looks sharp, difficulty comes with reading text. Lines don't seem to just be lines, but different shades of lines bunched together. I haven't gotten a headache reading from the screen, but it simply isn't quite as pretty as what I'm used to from my parents' Dell 2005FPW flat panel.

Upgrading the Intel 855 GME graphics controller

In an attempt to achieve the "Ergo"--ergonomic, I suppose--resolution, I tried updating the driver in the hope that a new version would support the resolution. The problem with resolution could lie in several places: a) The graphics card doesn't support that resolution, b) the monitor doesn't support the resolution, c) the monitor isn't properly passing EDID information to indicate that it supports the resolution. I knew that (b) didn't apply here, per monitor specifications. For (a), the Intel site wasn't particularly clear about which which resolutions the 855 GME card supported, especially for a secondary display. Evidently the resolution info wasn't passed in (c), unless the graphics card refused to display it.

I tried a utility called PowerStrip that can apparently fool the graphics card into displaying resolutions that it cannot otherwise handle. I successfully added 1680x1050 as an available resolution. Once I unchecked the box, "Hide modes that this monitor cannot display correctly," I could switch to the Windows display settings to the new resolution. The monitor even displayed it as the new mode, but the picture appeared distorted, as if it weren't in widescreen resolution. My hypothesis is that it was actually in 1400x1050 mode, the numerically closest resolution and one natively supported by the graphics card, and that the graphics card simply doesn't support the Ergo resolution.

Applications




Nonetheless, I appreciate the extra desktop real estate. One advantage was splitting screens between operation systems. I mentioned in a previous article my experiences installing Fedora Core 5 Linux in VMware Server on my laptop. I tried various combinations of Fedora Core 5 Linux running on VMware on the two screens. Using the laptop screen as the primary display, VMware could take over the full laptop screen, while Windows sat neatly on the secondary, flat panel. The trouble was that the mouse can't migrate from one screen to the other without my first exiting full-screen VMware mode. Alternatively, I expanded the Fedora Core resolution and placed it squarely in the 20" screen--with the screen's bigness, I found no need to make the VMware full screen to maximize the desktop space. And now I could migrate smoothly from Linux in VMware to Windows and back.

Best of all, I found that text displayed within Linux was clearer than that within the corresponding text in Windows (see above for the side-by-side shot of DistroWatch in Konqueror within Linux and Firefox within Windows). Perhaps part of the clarity problem could be resolved merely through choice of font.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Glimpse of Grad Life

Well, at least the more relaxing parts of grad life.

Bumps on a log. Our umbrella grad organization, PIBS (Programs in Biological Science), took us on a one day retreat to Angel Island, which turned out to be the only sunny site in the city that day. On a hike we took "the one less traveled by," a road that led us to this log and other obstacles. Not to be beaten, we mounted the log and took a photo op. Featured here are Doris (fellow MSTP), someone from Tetrad, and Sandy (Neuroscience classmate).

A shot from the top of the mountain. We're using Sandy's camera, so here she is again, joined by another Neuro classmate, Mike.

A couple weeks later, we shipped out to Asilomar near Monterey for the annual UCSF Neuro Retreat. As I walked back from dinner, the last of the sunset wound its way into the sea as my camera caught one last glimpse. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 01, 2006

Lab

My new home:

http://www.ucsf.edu/jan/CurrentPersonnel.html

(scroll down to the bottom of the "Function Group"...one day, I'll have a picture).

Monday, August 28, 2006

Incremental updates

The summer has been full of changes big and small for me. Encapsulated here is a log of a few of the small ones.

Dr. Scenario

Text Flex consisted of three software products: tXtFL, Text Trix, and Jar Ajar. Now it consists of a fourth: Dr. Scenario. Dr. Scenario was born out of a Family and Community Medicine clerkship, where the community element for me was being stationed in a middle school to promote health however I could. I chose the techno route--not the music, but technology--where I designed a health-scenario-based computer game. Teens worked with a wallet to choose cost-effective treatment options for common health dilemmas.

The game actually did have a little techno music to spice things up, and that was perhaps its biggest flaw. The most common feedback: "The music sux. Give us rap music." And now they--and you--can have their rap music, downloadable in this pre-pre-release, Java-included edition.

Text Trix

Last night I looked over the "todo" file in Text Trix, a list of all the fixes and updates in the program. I was almost appalled. I hadn't realized how much time I had spent over the past four years working on that thing. And what do I have to show for it? So much time for such little things: auto-save, wrap-indent, printing, preferences, plugins, and so on. At times it's been discouraging seeing how few downloads it has had. But one day a couple months back, I had a realization. I needed to revisit my original goal for it. Instead of creating the software for the sake of downloads, I had written it because it met some of my personal needs, and I put it out there for free simply because I thought that others who might find it useful shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel. Now it's a matter of enjoying the features I add and seeing if anyone else finds it useful, too.

I also re-realized the original, underlying need that Text Trix sought to meet: to provide a way to manipulate text with ease, particularly software code. So what are these incremental changes for Text Trix? Mostly those that I found useful in organizing large numbers of files and source code.

  • Group tabs: The Text Trix group. The Dr. Scenario group. The Sonrise group. Each tab group has its own set of tabs, such as the main Text Trix Java files I'm editing, or the Sonrise webpages. I found it hard to sift through 15-30 tabs, sometimes with the same name (eg "index.html" for every website). Now each group can have its individual set of associated files.

  • Word Find: v.0.5.0 introduced Line Find, a permanent little box where you can type in any line number, and it'll take you there immediately. Now we have Word Find, which is just like find-as-you-type in Firefox, except that, of course, you don't want to type the words you're trying to find, so we again have a special box where you can do that.

  • Song Sheet: Song Sheet is a little plugin for transposing chord-based music. While transposing "Foreverandever Etc.," a song by David Crowder Band, I realized that flats ("b") aren't counted as chords in this plugin. Shame on it! So now it does, and now I'm happy.

  • Duplicate tabs: This one's still in progress. So many times while editing, I wish that I could have the same file opened simultaneously so that I could keep them scrolled to different points in the file. That becomes important when editing, say, a 4000 line file. Before, Text Trix opened multiple files, but as separate files, which could get confusing if you edited one but later switched to another, older copy. Opening the same file in multiple tabs and keeping them synchronized is the goal, and the first step toward that goal is a newly introduced mechanism that checks and warns when opening or saving over a currently opened file.

Sonrise website

One thing I learned from a friend: don't wait for big opportunities to make little changes. One of my joys in working on the Sonrise website has been making little tweaks here and there simply to make the user experience more enjoyable, even if people don't notice the specific changes. Ken and I worked to put together a new Google Calendar and embed it in our website, complete with exam dates from med/dental/pharm schools to make it a useful reference in and out of Sonrise. It's truly made scheduling things easier for us.

Other tiny tweaks:

  • Updated *beta* songbook on the members page.

  • Now when you brush your mouse over a hyperlink, it turns bright against a brown background, rather than getting lost in its original color.

  • The contact page is now cleaner, with email addresses embedded directly in the hyperlinks.

  • The number of blog headers on the front page is reduced. That allows the voting booth to be more visible on the page and encourage our continually democratic process.

Next up: new pictures...

Campus Christian Fellowship

I've had so many dreams of what we might do with CCF, but have thus far lacked the manpower to implement them. Maybe God has another time and place for it down the road. In the meantime, it continues to serve mainly as a web interface, a portal for newcomers to learn about Christian opportunities on campus. Fellowships to attend. Churches to attend and fellow students to drive them there. A little encouragement at the start of a new spiritual journey.

As for the website itself, two navigational features have plagued me. My original goal was to keep as much content on a single screen as possible. I spent hours playing around with Javascripts to figure out how to make the sidebar and inner frame automatically detect the browser window height and adjust to its size. And then I implemented a model where the user has only to hover over a page navigation link (ie a link to another part in the same page), and the inner frame takes the user directly to that part of the page.

The problem was that I felt that users weren't used to the model and would accidentally hover over these links, sending them all over the page. Also, whether they knew it or not, each time they hovered over a link, it was counted in the browser as a page navigation--using the browser back key would take them back to the last link they (accidentally) hovered over within the page, not the last page. And on tests in small screens, the frames wouldn't fit within one screen, and the page would jump all around when the user hovered over these links.

So the main problems were two: 1) the hover-jump effect, and 2) the difficulty of browsing back. My solution was, sadly, to renege on the "innovative" navigational feature. Now the page only navigates when the user clicks on the links. Finally, the website experience feels clean and smooth. Or at least closer to that. There are always tweaks ahead.

Taking out the hover-jump links provided another, unexpected opportunity. I had spread out the links on the sidebar to prevent the user from accidentally hovering over too many links in a row. Now that users go directly to the links they want, and click on them, I can compact the list. And that gives more room to the sidebar. I'm now asking people to submit mini-testimonies of their spiritual journey in the City so that we can highlight them in the sidebars.

It's been quite a journey. Lots of lots of little. I can only hope that it has made people's computing experiences just a little smoother. And for me, it's been lots of fun.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pseudoscience...?

I've just started my neuroscience grad years, and as I was typing out an email with the word, "neuroscience," the spell-checker flagged it. I clicked on the spell-checker choices and found first on the list: "pseudoscience." Is neuroscience really that young? So young people still get it (and its spelling) mixed up with pseudoscience? I think that's what I love about it--neuroscience is such an emerging field, always in flux and awaiting new discoveries. Even with whole journals and institutions hacking away at the brain, it remains a steel box, yielding only a crack or two of awe-inspiring, fundamentally-altering knowledge.

Some of the ideas of neuroscience may still be far-fetched, or "pseudo"-like. But hopefully with time, ideas, and data, they'll make it into your spell-checker.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Not a Map

Pastor Fred Harrell spoke from John 15 on friendships this week, specifically our friendship with God. Rather than listening to God as our friend,
We ask God to be a map. We want him to show us the way and just give us the directions. But when we ask God for a map, he climbs into the car with us and says, 'I'll show you the way. Let's go together.' ("Triune Friendship," June 11, 2006)

We may merely want his wisdom, but not him. He gives himself. "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends" (v. 15). He's not a map. He's a Guide.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Fedora Core 5 on VMware Server Beta

A dream has been realized. Linux integrated beautifully on a Windows-based platform. For months I've been eyeing the VMware Server Beta release, free for download, and simulatneously Fedora Core 5 (FC5), free ("as in beer") for just about anything. Finally my schedule became free enough to put them together for a test drive. Here are my installation and setup notes, recorded for posterity's sake and your perusal in a concerted effort not to reinvent the wheel if possible.

The Download Process
Downloading is usually fairly straightforward, but as usual when it comes to Linux, the options can be a bit daunting at first. My route was to find a mirror site for FC5. Some mirrors are horrors, some are fast. The Stanford one brought in the full 3.1GB in about 1.5 hr. Picking that site and finding which file to download took about 1.5 hr prior to the download.

BitTorrent proved slow, though of course don't let that prevent you from trying it—after all, the more users, the faster it goes. Mirror sites can be hit-n-miss, with some dribbling bits, and other gushing them out. My first try, from a site near my home and not the first on the list, rocketed the data to my computer, so I was grateful.

The question of whether to download the CD vs. DVD images isn't trivial. My target was VMware Server, released for free download and usage as Beta 2, build 22874. I had originally intended to make the install on my copy of Microsoft VirtualPC 2004 SP1, which would have required me to download the CD images since VPC doesn't accept CD images larger than 2.2GB (see FAQ #7.8). I read that people had succesfully installed FC5 from DVD on VMware, so I went with the DVD download and switched target platforms. Of course, I could have just downloaded the CDs and stuck with VPC, VMware also held the promise of company-supported integration with Linux, unlike that in the Microsoft virtualization software.

Now I had to downoad and register the VMware product. Registration requires little more personal info than a name and email address, and soon the installation package was on my desktop.

Installation
VMware Server Beta
The VMwarea installation went without a glitch and but one hitch. "Hitch" in the sense that I received a warning that I needed to install Microsfot Internet Information Services (IIS) to take full advantage of the server software, and apparently IIS is for the Windows Server 2003 operating system, whereas I was running Windows XP SP2. I clicked to continue anyway and, in my perhaps still naive retrospect, made the right decision.

FC5
As might be expected, the Fedora installation was a bit more involved—but fortunately not considerably. In VMware, I created a new virtual machine, and to my pleasant surprise, I found in its wizard an optimized installation for Red Hat Linux! I coudln't believe. Never found such a thing in MS VPC.

Before starting the virtual machine, I needed to set the CD drive to point to the iso image of the FC5 download. When the machine started, it would boot straight from the DVD to begin the FC5 installation. But before that, I would need to make one extra addition. I had created an 8.0GB SCSI hard drive (the default), but FC5 didn't detect the hard drive. I needed to change the settings from a BusLogic to LSI Logic SCSI hard drive. The official VMware workaround showed me a quick, manual fix to get the drive in order after I had already created it. Picking the "LSI Logic" hard drive option from the start probably would have prevented the mix-up.

In previous installations, I had always skimped on CD images and downloaded but the first rather than the full complement of five, opting instead to make a minimal installation and yum the rest—i.e. use "yum" to update the packages and install any extras. With the DVD on hand this time, I didn't need to worry about that, but could install a complete system and yum updates afterward. Not as minimalist and clean, but perhaps a bit simpler.

FC5 itself installed without a hitch or a glitch. X worked out of the box, and soon I was browsing the web on Firefox!

Setup
The main issue for setup is a gem in itself. VMware has the grace to support Linux systems. That means that VMware actually supplies a set of tools to make the virtual machine act more as if it were simply another application on the host system. For example, with the VMware Tools, the mouse can navigate seamlessly from the host into the virtual machine and back out again, without having to click on the machine or use a special key combination to get out. VPC doesn't provide such tools for virtual machines running Linux or FreeBSD.

Installing these tools takes a bit of mucking around. One post helped me not to reinvent the wheel. Note that the link points to the second page of the forum thread, where the first entry on that page has an updated, step-by-step approach to installing the tools from the ground up. Another note is to edit the link to the Tools software from "http://ftp.cvut.ce/vmware," to "http://ftp.cvut.cz/vmware". In the final steps, rmmod, depmod, and modprobe need to be preceded with /sbin/, as in /sbin/rmmod.

One other trouble I ran into was that the network suddenly stopped being able to find an IP address. For several restarts after installation, I had been able to connect in the virtual machine through the default bridged networking in VMware, but when it stopped working, I switched to NAT networking, which at least for now has worked well.

Closing Thoughts
I had a dream. A dream that has now become a reality. Albeit a very small dream—simple pleasures, shall we call it? I hope it was something at least resembling a pleasure to read, and I can at least guarantee it was a joy to write—from right here in FC5 on VMware!

Updates
  • Installing Tools. Improvements leading to the v.1.0.0 release seem to have addressed some of the Tools installation hassles. I only had to install one Tools file, via the built-in "Install VMware Tools..." entry in the VM menu, which downloaded an rpm into Linux. After installation, I ran the perl script /usr/bin/vmware-config-tools.pl. Note that the script requires the package kernel-devel, which can be installed as an rpm through yum (yum install kernel-devel as root). One of the surprisingly trickiest parts was actually finding the program to run the installed Tools. It turned out to be /usr/lib/vmware-tools/bin32/vmware-toolbox, which needs to be run each time a session is started in X.

  • Time synchronization. One of the nifty features of Tools is that it keeps the guest OS clock synchronized with that of the host system. System time can become particularly important when synchronizing files with CVS or even sending out emails through Mozilla Thunderbird, problems I encountered while using Linux in MS Virtual PC 2004. For a time, Tools kept the clock synchronized in VMware, but out of the blue, it couldn't keep time anymore. What happened? A wiki web posting helped me realize that Tools needs to be updated each time a new kernel is installed and loaded. Simply re-running the perl setup script did the trick, and time is now back in sync.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Feeling bored? I'm feeling boards.


Hullo. Welcome to my humble abode. It's not much, but I'm calling it home for a month. Free heating...powered by adrenaline. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Father Sin?

Pastor Fred at City Church has been preaching a series on, simply, Sin, during the period of Lent. This past Sunday he mentioned something that struck home:
Sin never says to you, "Well done, good and faithful servant," but only, "Do it again."

Sometimes sin looks so enticing and friendly, almost fatherly. But the moment we've sinned, the pleasure's passed, the guilt sets in—suddenly sin morphs into this tyrannical beast that says, "Now you're trapped. You can waddle in remorse, you can lust for more, but the only way to get back to happiness is to do it again. So there—do it again!"

Sin is no father, but a Santa Claus who pulls down his beard to reveal his fangs. The true Father, the one who loves his children, demonstrates his love faithful to the final day, when he draws us into his presence with the resounding words: "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matthew 25:21).

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Euro reunion?


Is this a euro trip reunion for backpacking buddies Andrew and David? Meeting on the Steps of Rome, sporting a London jacket or coat of arms while while paying homage to the King, we're getting the closest we can to Europe in SF. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Random puns

Berkeley pun: What does GPBB stand for? Genetics Plant and Bio Building, you say? Why, no, but GAP BaBy!

Life Cycle joke: Does Yellow #5 lower sperm count? Not sure, but I can guarantee you that Yellow #1 doesn't, or else we'd all be sperm-less.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Center of the Sun?

I came across a catchy song entitled "Center of the Sun" whose chorus goes as follows:
When I close my eyes
I am at the center of the sun
And I cannot be hurt
By anything this wicked world has done

I'm not exactly sure how one could describe being at the center of the sun as a place where one "cannot be hurt." Where nuclear fusion reactions yield energy-matter conversions equaling 9.15 x 1016 tons of TNT per second to produce a core temperature reaching 13.6 MK, I would imagine the most likely response to be "aarrrgh!" followed by immediate incineration at the sun's center.

But we could clear the matter by altering a single letter. A simple "u" --> "o" conversion would turn the "sun" into the "Son" and effectively describe the Son of God, Jesus who bore "anything this wicked world has done," all our sins. When we're at the "center of the S[o]n," having thrown ourselves into his arms, we have all his forgiveness and nothing to fear!

"Center of the Sun" is by Conjure One, featuring Poe

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Chinese New Year

I've always wondered why people celebrate different new year's days. Solar vs. lunar years. The Gregorian vs. the Julian calendars. My birthday (Jan 1st) vs. any other day. As my oldest brother always commented, New Year's Day is quite arbitrary, an artificially chosen arc in the earth's endless circling around its star. Nonetheless, no matter how arbitrary the chosen time, it becomes concrete in the form of serious celebration when that day arrives. And having multiple new year's designations throughout the world and across cultures means the party never ends.


Terence Kiang, a 3rd-yr pharm student, and I MC'ed for the UCSF Chinese New Year celebration this year. We had a blast bouncing jokes and ideas off each other both on and off stage.

The lion dance formed the finale for the night. My roommate Dave Lee played the bait, an Eastern form of the gladiator we see in the Roman games. Cheerleaders off to the side egg on the lion, but that blind beast is no match for the prowess of my fellow Dave!

In a heroic act of gymnastics, Dave somersaults to evade the fury of the lion. The lion contents himself with lettuce instead, a humiliating vegan blow to its carnivorous heart. Posted by Picasa

All photos by Roz.