January, 2007:

Fifth time’s the charm :-)

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I googled to see whether other people were having trouble with the upgrade to WordPress 2.1. Most were successful on their first try, but a few people had problems that were similar to me.

I made two changes and tried again:

  1. I ensured that my user had full permissions on the DB
  2. I performed the upgrade from a fresh directory untar of 2.1 (previously, I untarr’ed on top of 2.0.7)

I doubt that #2 had any effect, but I may as well be complete in my report.

This time, everything went fine. This post is being brought to you courtesy of WordPress 2.1. Whew 😉

Just joined Technorati

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I thought I might keep this blog a secret, since I have nothing useful to say (seriously!). But, on the off chance that I can ruin someone else’s day by having them read this, that might make me feel a tad better about the things that I am ranting about to begin with 😉

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This is the post where I’m claiming my blog with them…

I’m officially a fool…

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This (meaning, the title of this post) is not news to anyone who knows me 🙂

For the purposes of this post, I interpret being a fool to “continuing to waste time trying to get the Dell Latitude L400 to be a stable machine for my purposes”. It should have been obvious to everyone (including me) that nothing was going to make this machine do what I want it to (for those needing a refresher, read this).

Anyway, as I mentioned at the end of that post, perhaps Windows 2000 would solve the problem. Yeah, right, what a fool…

Yesterday, I spent 8+ hours (mostly working on my real laptop, but keeping an eye on the “install”, “updates”, etc.) getting Windows 2000 running on the Dell. As with all previous attempts (with XP and Linux), hours and hours go by with the machine taking updates one after another, and not crashing even once. One actually deludes oneself into thinking “this time, it’s gonna work”…

I blogged about the results late in the afternoon, in a very long, detailed posting. Of course, it got lost, as you will see if you read my previous post today. 🙁

I don’t have the energy, or inclination, to repeat all of the details. Suffice it to say that after 5 minutes (or less!) of streaming on the Slingbox, the machine halts every time. I would now guess that it’s perhaps a resource exhaustion issue, but the machine has even died in Linux, during a web browser session (which doesn’t preclude resource utilization, but doesn’t highlight it either).

Anyway, the machine is now relegated to the junk heap at worst, and at best, it will be a “spare” machine for guests to use as a browser toy (the vaunted “thin client”).

Good riddance!

Testing 1-2-3

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I’m not a happy camper. I started out with WordPress 2.05. After the first post or two (or three), I upgraded to 2.07. That upgrade went flawlessly.

This past weekend, I upgraded to WordPress 2.1. The upgrade “failed”. The previous blog posts showed up fine, but I saw a SQL error in the part that shows which categories each post is in. A little digging, and it became obvious that one of the schema changes failed. Turns out that my “user” (at the MySQL level) had insert/update/delete rights, but not alter, etc. Ugh.

Nothing I did after granting those rights made it possible to re-run the “upgrade.php” script correctly. At least not that I could tell…

After reading some forum posts, I installed phpMyAdmin, and while looking at the updated schema file, I hand-edited the DB to add the appropriate columns and one new table. It seemed to work, as the SQL error went away.

Then yesterday, I wrote another long post complaining about my saga with the old Dell laptop. When I hit save, it “appeared” to save, but the post was gone, forever… The title was there, with a blank post. Another test, and sure enough, no posts were making it to the DB.

Man, the people that “encouraged” me to start blogging owe me quite a number of hours to be added back to my life (not that I’m anything less than a world-class time-waster all on my own, but I really didn’t need any help here) 😉

So, I exported all of my previous posts (yep, all 5 of them). Today, I created a new DB, updated the wp-config.php to point to the new DB, made sure to grant my user ALL privileges on that DB, and re-ran the “wp-install.php” script. After that worked, I imported my posts, and voila, they are all back.

This post will be the “test” as to whether that solves my problem of posting in general…

Finally, while WordPress 2.1 seems to have cooler features in it, so far, in Firefox 2.0.0.1, the UI is hosed. The textarea that I am writing in spills into the sidebar on the right hand side (that worked perfectly in 2.07), and the only “fix” is to maximize the window to the entire screen (I’m running 1600×1200), which is annoying, to say the least…

P.S. No such luck. This post failed too. I have reverted back to 2.0.7. Even with a fresh install of 2.1, and no imports, I can’t post anything by a blank with a title :-(. This is a fresh install of 2.0.7, with the original posts imported, and this one as the “new” one…

Hopping Mad

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Now the bureaucrats in Washington have cost me $40, and I’m beside myself.

If you follow any of the nonsense involved in the US trying to shut down online gambling, then you know that they are ratcheting up their efforts considerably. The most recent example is serving subpoenas on Investment Banks that were involved in the IPO of gambling sites, even though those Banks have offices in London where the companies they brought public are legally listed!

Anyway, that’s not the purpose of my rant, nor how “they” cost me $40!

I’ve mentioned Poker as one of my hobbies in the previous post. Online poker is actually not even illegal according to Federal statutes (if I understand correctly). Some states consider it illegal, others explicitly consider it legal!

What is clearer is online “sports” wagering. No one considers that legal, at least not in the US 😉

I admit that I play a “little” football online. I risk $10 per bet. If I lost every single bet I ever made (which would be an amazing feat, even if that were my goal!), I would still be able to feed and clothe myself (at least I’m pretty sure I would).

Because of the aforementioned “ratcheting” by the Feds, my favorite (and only) sports betting site decided to shut off US citizens. It took me all of 5 minutes to move my money out of their site and into another one.

Unfortunately, I hate the UI of the new site (intensely!). I even complained about it to my godson. I consider myself both a power user as well as extremely careful when it comes to this type of activity.

So, yesterday, during the NFL Championship games, I placed 4 $10 wagers. The Bears -2, Over in the Bears game 42 points, New England +3 and Over in the New England game 47.5 points.

At the end of the day, I was up $20 (or so I thought) since the only one of the 4 wagers that lost was NE +3 (which in itself was an incredible loss!).

When I checked my account, I was down $20! What? Turns out that I didn’t bet either of the Overs. Instead, due to their awful UI, I accidentally bet on New Orleans to win outright, and New England to win outright as well… So, my two “winning” wagers were both losers. A $20 win turned into a $20 loss, all because of a horrible UI, and the Feds zeal at “cracking down” on my “addiction”…

Ironically (I love ironies), if New England had won (as it appeared they would), I would have made a nice amount, because I was getting +150 (for those of you who know what that means) 😉 on that bet.

That’s a mistake I will never make again.

Ancient Laptop Frustration

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OK, since I’ve decided to blog a little, I may as well start with something that is driving me nuts. After all, the point of this is to attain a little catharsis (at least, that’s my point).

My current laptop (now 2 years old) is a Sager NP8890 Force (this model is no longer available), purchased from PowerNotebooks. While it has nothing to do with this post, I’ll digress and say a few words about Sager and PowerNotebooks.

Sager (the “g” is soft, as in “rage”) makes excellent notebooks, and I couldn’t be happier with mine. I also purchased 2 others (models NP4780) for my wife and my godson. Mine still keeps me happy (very beefy), especially the 16″ LCD (can’t find them nowadays!), which gives me 1600×1200 in a normal LCD (meaning, not the short, wide-screen varieties). The only downside to this laptop is that it weighs as much as a refrigerator (seriously, it’s something like 12 pounds not including the toaster-oven-sized power-brick, etc.).

The weight of the machine is what brings me to this frustrating odyssey…

The second digression is about PowerNotebooks. A wide-variety of first-class notebooks, available at excellent prices, with fantastic customer support. Most of the models can be customized completely, so that you don’t pay for things you don’t want, but can get ultra-high-end things that you do. For example, in my Sager NP8890, I have 2 60GB 7200RPM drives (remember, this was 2 years ago!). I also purchased it without an OS, since I intended to put Linux on it (that lasted 6 weeks, before I bought a copy of Windows XP and reverted back to the joys and problems that come with that choice…).

OK, so on to the real point of this post. I travel a lot for business, and spend way too many nights in hotels. When the travel is to Zope Corporation, I often leave the Sager in the office, since it’s such a bear to pack up and lug back and forth. It’s definitely not a “laptop”, it’s a complete traveling super-computer ;-). It needs a separate “bed tray”, etc., in order to really use it comfortably in a hotel room.

I’m not the crazed workaholic that I was for the longest time, and I can now truly relax when back in the hotel room. That said, two of my preferred methods of relaxation still involve a computer:

  1. Online Poker (yes, I’m annoyed at the Washingtonians who think they’re saving my soul by making it harder for me to fund my account)
  2. Watching my home DirecTivo via my Slingbox

As much as I like #1 and #2 above, I simply don’t hassle with dragging the Sager back-and-forth in order to enjoy them, so I simply exercise and watch cable tv in the room 🙁

Then one day at Zope Corp, I noticed that they had an ancient Dell Latitude LS400 (from 2000, with 256MB Ram, 20GB disk, 12.1″ Screen). I asked if it was “available”, and indeed, it was. Why? Because it mysteriously “halted” too frequently to be useful.

I should have just accepted that the people at Zope Corp are as techy as they get, and if this machine were rescuable, they would have figured it out. But noooooo, I had to display my typical macho tech tendency to bull through any problem (admittedly, usually with success) 😉

So, I bravely took the machine home. It kept dying on me too with the installation of Windows XP which was on the machine. The theoretical reason is a broken hinge on the display (it appears to just be “cosmetic”, as the lid opens and closes nicely). I installed Ubuntu on the machine. It definitely stayed up longer, but still, on occasion would just halt. In both Windows and Linux, it never went through any kind of disk check on restart, and no data ever seemed lost, etc., so the entire experience was a little bizarre.

I ended up not using it as I had intended, and relegated it to a “spare” browser-based machine for people who visited me in NY who wanted to check their email, etc. It worked reasonably well for that, except on the occasions where it chose to just die…

A few months later, I had a “brainstorm”, and decided to check the Dell site for any Bios updates. Sure enough, there was one update, which had this tantalizing tidbit in it:

Issues Fixed:
1. Fixed System intermittently shutdown issue on W2K.
2. Modified the help text on Battery Auto-Learning page.
3. Fixed an intermittent standby / resume issue when RBATT drains completely.

Oooh. #1 sounded like I might be in luck! Of course, now I was about to descend into a new level of computer hell. The only way that you can flash the BIOS is to boot from a floppy. This laptop has no floppy, and I don’t have an external one either (USB or otherwise). I have an external CD/DVD drive that connects on the backplane. After a number of twists and turns, I was able to transfer the floppy image to a CD image on my Sager, and then boot off the CD on the Dell, and the BIOS flashed correctly. Yippee!

I then decided to put Windows XP back on the machine, since Linux was useful as a browser-based machine, but it doesn’t have a client for Sling or Poker (at least not my current site). After the many hours of loading it all on, applying all of the updates (painful over a WiFi connection), and the inordinate number of reboots involved, all with the machine “up and running” throughout, I thought “OK, this odyssey was worth it, as I’ve finally come to where I wanted to be!”.

To make a long story even longer, the correct answer was “Bzzzzzt”. When I launched SlingPayer, it worked fine and I was happy. However, when I installed and tested the Palm Desktop software from Sprint (which was necessary in order to install Sprint PCS Connection Manager so that I could get high-speed access via my Treo 700p phone), the system crashed. Not only that, but it crashed every single time at the same point during the install, which was when I clicked “Install latest settings from the Internet (Recommended)”.

After 3 failed attempts, I installed the Palm software without the Internet update, and it installed fine. After a reboot, a check of the Sling Player yielded an instant crash. Three more times with the same results (with a boot in-between each attempt).

Ugh.

Clearly Sling Player hadn’t moved on the disk, so it was unlikely that there was a bad spot on the disk where the app was installed. OK, perhaps memory related? I rebooted with a CD with a Linux Memtest86 app on it. 2 hours later, after 3 successful rotations of all of the memory tests, it would seem that I didn’t have a RAM problem.

I then ran a Windows XP “Checkdisk”, which can only be run on a fresh boot. It appears to check every sector of the disk, because after checking all “files”, it also checks all “free space”. All 5 “phases” passed without any errors.

So, the memory appears to be OK, and the disk appears to be OK, but somehow, the machine isn’t stable. This is with both Linux and Windows XP on it, so it can’t be as simple as “it’s the OS stupid”.

I tried running Sling again, and it loaded fine (after some more XP patches). It came up fine, and I was watching TV for roughly 30 minutes and then the machine halted again, with no new activity other than the continuation of the Sling session.

I gave up…

The only thing left to do, which smacks to me of “superstition”, but might end up working, is installing Windows 2000 on the machine. After all, the BIOS update specifically states that the random crashes are fixed on Windows 2000, not Windows XP (which isn’t mentioned, and therefore likely isn’t supported).

All that said, I also found used Dell Latitude L400’s for sale for $299 plus shipping. Seems like a high price to pay for such an outdated laptop, but it’s also a very nice “package” for what I want. Ideally, I’d buy an OQO or a Sony UX280P, and I probably just should bite the bullet, but they are so expensive relative to the L400 that I’m having a hard time justifying it…

Anyway, for now, I’ll just suffer along (after trying the Windows 2000 install, of course) 😉

Decision Time

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OK, very reluctantly, I’ve decided to post a few blog entires and “dip my toe”. For the moment, I think I’ll keep it to more “personal” stuff. We’ll see whether any business posts sneak in at some future point.