Monthly Archives: July 2009

We all love miniturization

It’s amazing what sort of shrinkage – both in size and price – you can miss if you’re not buying in a particular market. Yesterday, out for lunch with some friends, one of them showed off his latest toy, a 2GB USB drive. Which, as you can see even in these amateurish photos, is similar in size to an SD card:

Verbatim USB disk

Verbatim USB disk (front)

It’s called the Tuff ‘n’ Tiny, apparently, and if you live in the UK, Ryman are selling the 2GB version online for £5.99 and two for a tenner on the high street.

I can also confirm that mine has partitioned quite happily into two FAT32 partitions, and, with prodding, boots Linux off one of them [the second. I had to use usb-creator, followed by install-mbr to get the bootloader to work]. I don’t think I’ll be following John’s suggestion of RAIDing two together just yet, but who knows…

On leaving Slicehost

Just over 18 months ago, I signed up for a 256slice from Slicehost to host this website, my email, etc. Later this week, I shall be shutting the machine down and cancelling my account with them.

For the record, this has nothing to do with the level of service I’ve received from them – I’ve always found their support team quick to respond and helpful, and their articles site and wiki are both very handy.

However, a combination of fluctuations of the pound against the dollar, a surge in demand for RAM by my applications and sites, and my getting increasingly fed up with transatlantic ping times of 130ms meant the machine was becoming unfit for purpose and overloaded.

Thus, I have now found a reasonably cheap way to bring “my stuff” home to hosting in the UK. About which, I will be writing more shortly!

So goodbye, Slicehost, and keep up the good work. I’d certainly recommend you to anyone who lives in America and needs a VM.

Windows XP loses its crown

And Ubuntu gets seven out of ten

Last week, it was clear my parents’ ageing XP box needed some attention – in fact, let’s be honest, it had been crying out for a zap-and-reload since last year.

This time, though, I was determined. With my sister safely moved off onto her new laptop, there should be no reason not to migrate the box to Ubuntu. The only things in use on it were Firefox, Thunderbird and Openoffice…so how hard could it be?

Five days on, I’m in a position to report that the answer is “harder than it should have been” – here’s what happened:

Problem 1: Audio CD autoplay

Dad wanted the machine to start playing his CDs automatically when he put them in, much like Windows does. Seemed perfectly reasonable to me, as I blithely assured him it’d be a matter of a few mouse clicks.

It wasn’t.

Much Googling and swearing later, this hack (fifth comment down) seems to do the necessary, though I had to bump the sleep interval to six seconds.

Problem 2: No matter how close KPatience comes, it’s not “real FreeCell”

…largely because, despite generating the same deals from the same numbers as the Windows version, it counts every loss of the same game number as a loss in the stats, whereas the Microsoft one counts them as one loss.

Fortunately, freecell.exe runs fine under wine, so copy it across and save yourself the bother.

In conclusion

Other than the above minor niggles, all seems well, and hopefully the machine should now do a few more years’ trouble-free duty.

So, as the title of this post says, Windows XP has now been deposed as my OS of choice for “real people”. Whoever would’a thought it?

Update, 18 July 2009

I forgot to say that probably the most impressive feature of the switch was that Ubuntu flawlessly detected and printed a test page on our trusty old Epson Stylus C62. That’s the sort of slickness we like to see.