Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Is Ubuntu / Linux for geeks only? (Part 2: partitions)

Part two of my journey in search of lands beyond MS Windows.

Within a couple more minutes, the installer looked at my hard drives, and reported on what was available. Unfortunately, it reported the partition sizes in decimal gigabytes, rather than binary gigabytes, and I didn't recognise any of the numbers.

(This is the same effect as when Windows users buy a 500 GB drive and only see 465 GB reported in 'My Computer'. Both values are correct, they just have slightly differing units.)

Seized with doubt about which partition to nominate for installation, and suspecting (but not knowing for sure) that SDA1 equates to Disk 0, First partition, I aborted the installation and restarted Windows, to write down a few vital statistics from 'My Computer'.

Armed with this info, I restarted and spun the Ubuntu install disk up again. I wanted to install on my Drive G, which meant nominating SDA2 in the setup program. And I was told that "No root file system is defined".  


I was invited to correct this from "the partitioning menu". Well, the drive's already partitioned. Into four chunks.

I don't want to repartition it, and screw up my existing Windows OS, do I?  So I didn't even look for any obscure partitioning menu, I just aborted the install, restarted the computer, and fired up Windows once again.

Researching, I got the impression that Ubuntu can't be installed in an NTFS partition. OK, Ubuntu can 'see' NTFS partitions, and access files from them, but it seemingly needs a different environment for its own little nest.

Groan. Why wasn't I told about this beforehand?  Again, a simple "things that Windows users need to know" guide would do the trick.

I get the distinct impression that the Ubuntu people aren't really that interested in helping Windows users explore alternatives.  Maybe they're geeks, maybe not. But useful info on their website is damned hard to find.

Anyway, that's as far as I'm going, right now. I'm shelving the whole thing til another week.

Is Ubuntu / Linux for geeks only? (Part 1: WWBMU)

Desiring to try out an operating system that isn't Windows, I downloaded the Linux Ubuntu installer yesterday, and burned it to disk, to create an installer disk.

It's not the fault of Ubuntu that the Windows file icons can mislead people into performing an 'extract' on the initial 'ISO' file.

And it's not Ubuntu's fault if people then create a data disk instead of an image disk; then encounter a DOS prompt; and then, choosing to run the one and only executable - WWBMU - end up reading pages of German text.

These are known pitfalls: I did a brief search on the internet and found that others had strayed down this dead end. No, it's not Ubuntu's fault - however, a "Guide for Windows Users" or a strategically-placed README could certainly be offered by Ubuntu.

Anyway, having belatedly created a proper disk image, I spun it up, with the aim of installing Ubuntu on a spare partition. And then encountered more problems!

(To be continued.)

Monday, 19 November 2012

BBC withhold important election results data

The day after the PCC Elections, the BBC posted various pages that purported to give the results.

 Yet all of them have the same recurring phrase: Turnout does not include spoilt ballots.

Here's a copy of my complaint to the BBC about withholding Spoilt Paper numbers

Type of complaint:
BBC News (TV Radio Online)
What is your complaint about:
General News
Complaint category:
Contacted us before:
Complaint title:
Incomplete info on election results
Complaint description:
Your reporting of the PCC Election results did not include the Spoilt Paper numbers. Why not? I spoiled my paper, and I want to know how well we did. This business of spoiling of papers was a recurring topic in media coverage the day after the election, and the BBC deliberately denied us basic information on how many spoiled papers there were..

Friday, 16 November 2012

And the results of the police commissioner elections are...

...nothing'll change!  ( Except for the worse, of course.)

Yes, sometimes there's nothing to be done except spoil one's paper. The police will continue to abuse every power that's granted them, and go for the easy options like arresting people who comment on Facebook or Twitter, while homes are being burgled left, right and centre.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The spy in your pocket - the KitKat that "phones home" when you eat it!

After seeing the news that the candy snack "KitKat" have made some of their product able to "phone home" and notify the makers, Nestlé, that you've started unwrapping their product....

I thought I'd have a playaround with Photoshop....

This was a rough Photoshop job, I'm not going to waste any more time on it! And yes, I know the plug isn't properly aligned with the socket.

The Nestlé scheme is, only some of their bars have a GPS tracker in the wrapper, and apparently a team follow the signal and pounce on you and give you a reward. But what if you're somewhere you want to keep secret?

- like visiting a prostitute? Or off work with flu but you'really at a rock concert? 

zonealarm vsmon doesn't like bittorrent?

Today I was getting so fed up with vsmon (a part of Zone Alarm) maxing out my CPU and slowing my bit torrent download that, at around half past two, I switched ZA off, thus killing the vsmon.exe process.

And this was the result:

This is a screenshot of µTorrent's display of its download speeds.  What a difference it makes, killing that vsmon thing!

The mean (average) download speed had been a pitiful 6 or so kB/s, whereas after I shut zonealarm down, the speed was then averaging around 50 or 60 kB/s. OK, that's still a fairly rubbish download rate, but it's ten times better than before.

So why does vsmon stick its nose into arriving bittorrent packets? And why doesn't zonealarm let me 'wave my bit torrent client through' so to speak? This issue's been raised on the ZA help forum (here) but that was in July 2011.

Incidently, you can see from my above graph that my download speed is up and down like a tart's knickers, but I think that's a separate issue relating to using a wireless connection. When I can find that yellow network cable of mine, I'll try directly linking my PC to my router and see what happens.

Oh, yes, and I suppose I ought to say that switching one's firewall off is not a very good idea, even if it seems beneficial in one localised way. So there you go.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Avira popup issue - Avira found a rapid fix

I and other people were pestered last night and this morning by an Avira antivirus popup that was very badly-behaved.

This survey popup wouldn't go away when told to.

People found that clicking in reply would leave a "this link is broken" message, and the shape of the box would stay on top of everything else. Killing ipmgui.exe in Task Manager would solve the problem... until the popup returned around 90 minutes later!

However, just as I complained on their forum, Avira posted their solution to the problem:

Avira ignore complaints or feedback quite often, but on this occasion they responded pretty swiftly.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Bird-spotting on Google Image Search

The difficulties of getting computers to see the world the way humans can is illustrated by the current state of Google's image search.

One can drag  a photo from a computer folder into the image search box, and then the comparison software gets to work and scours the internet for similar images.

I took a photo of a garden bird the other day, and wondered what sort of bird it was.

Trying the Google image search, the results were fairly surprising.

The search results, in order, are:

Stirring coconut into condensed milk
Moslem cuisine
Washington Airport
A woman at a workbench
The interior of an apartment
A jeweller at a workbench
A Greek museum display
Some horses
A bunch of cages
A possible member of the Indonesian government
A bobcat

Evidently, it's early days for the devlopment of this software. As superficially amusing as the results might be, they're obviously looking at colour and texture, and many of the photos do have something in common with the bird's colour scheme, or the texture of the gravel in the background.

Merely getting a computer to distinguish an object of interest from the background clutter is a serious challenge.

It might be interesting if I try the search again, in the future. Say, at one year intervals, just to see how the computer guys are progressing in their software development. It's only a matter of time before they get there.

Monday, 6 February 2012

TOA MR-8T multi-track cassette recorder

I've just been testing an 8-track recording unit, an old one that uses cassette tapes.

It's the TOA MR-8T, and I've made the discovery that, although it has a pitch control for playback (ie, a tape speed control) it won't play conventional recordings properly. You can play them fast, or you can increase the speed (pitch) and play them very fast - but you can't play them at the "proper" speed.

In other words, this unit is incompatible with just about every other cassette deck in the known universe.

As if this weren't enough, it seems like it can only play Type II cassettes - the high bias ones with an extra notch next to the customary erase-protect notch.

So it's also incompatible with
around - what - 90% of the cassette tapes in the known universe? Something like that, anyway.

I'm rather tempted to review this unit on youtube - with the assistance of a bloody great axe! That would make an entertaining video.

"When investigating problems, it's alway important to disconnect the mains before opening the casing..." - crash!! Yes, I'd rather like to do that.