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Mr. Incredible

Practical Application versus Theory and the Art of Posturing

Posted on 2009.06.07 at 22:30
Current Location: 75409
Current Music: Giachinno - Speed Racer/Star Trek/S.W.O.N./MI:3/The Incredibles/Roar!
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This is what I wanted to create

Having always been one to do, rather than merely pontificate from the sidelines, I often find myself frustratingly mired in my own failings. Not that I'm complaining. Okay, not that I'm complaining much. drax0r always wants to know why I have computer problems no one else ever seems to have. I now know the answer to that. Its because I tinker. Well, that and because all my boxes are built from old shit no one else wants. But that's where the tinkering comes in.

I'd been wanting to...reimagine my boxes again (I bet glodowg had no idea that 2-months later, I'd still be tearing these boxes apart and rebuilding them), and I wanted to do so before this weekend's production maintenance.

And now a word about Production Maintenance:
Its a bit of a shell game, a thimblerig. All the managers of the projects give us tasks lists of work they want performed during the outage window in which they've given us. That window is currently 4-hours. Problem is, each of the projects want 4-hours worth of work. Each. So we in turn say, "No." There's lots of blustering and posturing on their side before they cull their list down, and at that point we graciously acquiesce to more of their demands.

But that's not what happened this time. They extended the outage window. To 10-hours.

With the longer maintenance window in place, the task list grew exponentially, essentially guaranteeing we were going to find ourselves in another Buffalo Bill-type situation (it places the lotion in the basket, it does this whenever its told else it gets the hose again). All of a sudden I find myself at the helm of this ungainly ship, but The man they call Jayne came thorough like a bobcat on booze and gave me a second monitor to take home. Saturday evening, the night before the big day, I completely rebuilt both my computers to mixed results, and these are my findings:
  • The fglxr frame-buffer driver not only doesn't work with dual-screen, it also disables remote login when it hangs on xorg!

  • The ati driver works just fine. Until you attempt to place your iTunes application in 'Unity' mode (have it attach to your linux desktop). Then it crashes gdm with the error:
    • [ 9480.368690] [drm] Resetting GPU
      [ 9480.523829] vmmon: Had to deallocate locked 788352 pages from vm driver f2084000
      [ 9480.530865] vmmon: Had to deallocate AWE 10053 pages from vm driver f2084000

  • Having gdm crash is only a big deal if you had four, 10-tabbed terminals up for simultaneous host access. Which of course I did.

Before I disassembled my computers, I used VMWare's Physcial-to-Virtual Converter to build a virtual image of the XP box. Outside of failing to disable the graphics driver, which conflicts with the virtual driver to the point it doesn't render properly until removed, it worked like a champ. Unfortunately, for reasons beyond my comprehension, you can only turn linux boxes to virtual ESX images: For Linux P2V conversion tasks, the only supported destination is a VMware Infrastructure virtualization product. Being smarter than the average bear, I set out to build another ESX server (which was part of my 'reminagining' to begin with) but ESX supports only SATA drives, and all my SATA drives were now in my linux box :/

FOR TRADE IMMEDIATELY: 1x250GB & 1x160GB IDE drive for someone who requires storage over speed. I will trade for a single SATA drive of any capacity!

The good news is I now have iTunes running within a VM on my linux box. I rip CD's, sync my iPod, and even, under a very strict set of circumstances, can listen to music! As long as I don't browse the web, maximize or minimize windows, or you know, move the mouse. Otherwise the music becomes jittery and hesitant, despite the fact that the two cores and 6GB of memory are hardly being utilized. I'd blame it on the harddrive, but my host operating system, the guest operating system, and the iTunes database all reside on their own spinning discs.

Outside of this laundry list of issues, the second monitor was amazing. I had plenty of room to group my tabbed connections, connect to my XP desktop on the SAN, full-screen VMware, and a whole host of other sysadmin related things, across two workspaces. I even used my wife's computer for off-vpn connections and to pull up spreadsheets I needed to refer to. When I use drax0r's massive 22" identical monitors working on web pages when he hosts, its a great advantage. Having mismatched monitors this weekend led me to believe its time for a another 'flowdown.' She needs my 16:10 widescreen on her side, her existing 16:9 in the kitchen so she can watch http://hulu.com on her netbook, and I need a new pair of 19" 5:4's. Oh yes I do.

This is what I ended up with


Cat Who Likes OpenBSD
bsdcat at 2009-06-08 04:13 (UTC) (Link)
I totally understand the need to tinker. After I got Ubuntu running on my new laptop, my next step was to tear down the perfectly-working Gnome installation and get it to run Window Maker instead. When that didn't work out entirely (I really have no idea what the Linux commands are for scanning, joining, etc. wireless networks, I'm used to the OpenBSD versions), I started working on joining Window Maker and Gnome in an unholy union.

It took all day, but now it works, and I'm sooo proud of myself. For having a desktop environment that works as well as it did at 2pm.
ehowton at 2009-06-09 03:43 (UTC) (Link)
Window Maker was my desktop of choice back in the day. I thought I was one of the last users of CDE...until I discovered a co-worker using it on her Solaris box. Now that's dedication.

So how'd you marry the two? Are you running gdm & wdm simultaneously to allow certain gnome apps (like the wireless manager) to run under Window Maker? What a fun (and frustrating) project!
Cat Who Likes OpenBSD
bsdcat at 2009-06-09 05:14 (UTC) (Link)
in ~/.Xsession, I have
#! /bin/bash
export WINDOW_MANAGER=/usr/bin/wmaker

Then I ran gconf-editor and set the property /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop to false (so Window Maker could catch mouse clicks on the desktop, and display the root menu).

I mean, that's what worked. I tried a bunch of stuff, but I'm pretty sure that's the only non-default settings at this point, and they work. I've got a Gnome panel on the bottom of the screen with various applets (Bluetooth, battery manager, wireless, audio).

Window management, starting applications, etc. is handled through Window Maker, but Gnome is there with a file manager, marshaling messages to open browser windows or send an email to a particular address. Mostly it's just there to have a panel to run the applets that really make the system easier to use, and not get in my way with its interpretation of how everything should work.
wardlejew at 2009-06-08 13:43 (UTC) (Link)
I think you do not have enough home "outage time" for all your tinkering. However, if your outage time increased, I have a feeling your tinkering tasks would grow exponentially.

Last week, I picked up my personal finance program for the first time in two years, to tweak efficiency and to fix bugs that have been bothering me. I need more outage time!

Good luck with the work "outage time"
ehowton at 2009-06-09 02:51 (UTC) (Link)
My inlaws picked up my son today for a month of exploring lakes in Oklahoma. As I was minus one child, my daughter and I watched Barbie: A Christmas Carol together this evening.

I haven't done that since TMNT was released on DVD. I made popcorn.
thesweetestnote at 2009-06-08 19:10 (UTC) (Link)
i love these posts. Although I never fully understand them. I know all these terms will eventually make sense which is why I read on.

Call me Grasshopper.
ehowton at 2009-06-09 02:50 (UTC) (Link)
That exactly how I learned Vertias Clustering.
This Is Me, Ten Sticks
lehah at 2009-06-09 02:30 (UTC) (Link)
Where does that first picture come from?
ehowton at 2009-06-09 02:48 (UTC) (Link)
I was going to link to it and forgot:

ehowton at 2009-06-09 02:49 (UTC) (Link)
Now I remember why I didn't link to it, the URL is on the picture.
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