Totaled my Porsche

As you might recall I bought a pair of Lacie Porsche 500GB disks some time ago. Well, a few weeks ago the power supply of one of them began making funny noises and it was getting harder to start up the Porsche. The disk worked fine with the power supply that came with the other drive so the problem was that the power supply was broken.

This happened just outside the warranty of the disk. So the fix was to order a new power supply from Lacie. I looked up how to do that on the website and discovered that these things cost around 35€ which is quite a lot to invest in a disk that now sells under 100€. Besides, I’m kind of annoyed with all those bricks below my desk anyway.

So I went for option number two: pry open the casing and put the disk in the PC. Thanks to this post, I figured out how to do this. Unfortunately, I did end up making a few scratches on the plastic. It is indeed quite tricky to do this properly. But I’m not going to use it anyway.

A quick look in the windows disk properties confirmed that my disk indeed was a sata disk (a samsung). So I took apart my PC, plugged the disk in and put everything together (after a short trip to the store for a second SATA cable). For some reason the first drive was plugged into the second SATA port so after boot, it couldn’t find the OS. A quick trip to the bios allowed me to swap which drive is treated as the first disk and I was back in business.

Let me know if you have a use for a empty Lacie Porsche case with some minor scratches and without a power supply (you can take the broken one of course). You should be able to put in any SATA disk. For 5€ or a (nice) beer it is yours.

Wubi + ubuntu 8.04

You might have read my previous reviews of Ubuntu which were not very flattering. Basically they apply nearly in full to the latest edition. At least the “scanning the mirrors” issue was fixed. It times out and the installer continues, unlike with previous editions. However, the network driver for my SIS chipset is still broken. It sets the mtu to 1500, setting it to 1492 fixes it. This is explained in this thread by this comment.

Shit happens I guess. At least the right soundcard was used for the sound this time. I’m not sure if that is because they fixed it or because the drivers happened to initialize in the right order by chance (last time the problem was they were not).

The situation on the graphics side is unchanged. Ubuntu still misdetects my monitor and I will have to go to the commandline to fix it.

New uglyness.

  • The clock happily informs me hat it is 4:44 pm. Except it is 23:44. Slight timezone issue I guess. Why not ask me during installation or on first boot?
  • On first boot I was treated to some obscure Gnome error saying that something had failed. Nasty. Probably the graphics driver.
  • The driver icon informed me that something related to graphics was installed (driver presumably). I clicked it and the dialog seems even more confusing now than the previous version. A “new_nvidia” thingy was checked with a red dot next to it indicating that it the driver is unused. Unchecking it, a dialog popped up informing me that the disabling the unused driver would render the hardware unusable. Ehh?? I am looking at a screen, apparently something must be working. It appears that this means that the proprietary nvidia driver is now the only option and apparently it is not working entirely as planned. I guess that means no eyecandy for me (was looking forward to that).

That’s it for now. I don’t know yet if I am going to get my hands dirty on the commandline to fix this mess again or whether I will just use the wubi uninstall.

Update. Not only did Ubuntu guess the time wrong, it mistakenly ‘corrected’ the system clock. I just noticed that my clock was off by 7 hours back in good old windows XP. WTF!

Update. The above was tried with the amd64 bit version. I suspected my problems might be related to nvidia 64 bit support so I retried with the 32 bit version, only to run into this critical issue where the installer freezes while “formatting swap space in partition #1”. This effectively prevents me from completing the 32 bit installation altogether and with the 64 bit version I have as usual a ton of issues to fix to get a reasonably functional desktop.

Still traveling

I’ve been traveling since Monday already. I left Helsinki for a short trip to Madrid to attend a meeting for the European project I am in since January. Madrid is great and I had a opportunity to catch up with Christian del Rosso, my neighbor in Helsinki who is living in Madrid for one year to do a MBA. The meeting was like most such meetings a necessary evil but the dinners were great. I had some nice tapas and on the second evening we went to El Buey, which as the meeting organizer suggested was not suitable for vegetarians or Hindus (beef only). Nobody seemed to object against that and the food was excellent.

Earlier, on the same day, my father had called to tell me that my grandmother had died (93). This was not really unexpected since she was not well the last few weeks and had basically stopped eating and drinking pretty much. Consequently, I had already decided I wanted to be there for the funeral. Luckily, my flight back from Madrid on thursday conveniently had a stop in Amsterdam that I managed to extend over the weekend. So I was able to attend the funeral yesterday without burning extra amounts of kerosine for an extra trip.

I’ll be flying back on Monday and will add some more photos shortly after.

Photos Zurich and Dagstuhl

I’m traveling a lot lately. Two weeks ago I was in Zurich at the first Internet of Things Conference. I uploaded some pictures already last week and some more today.

Last week I also attended a Dagstuhl seminar on Combining the advantages of product lines and open source to present the position paper I posted some time ago. Naturally, I also took some pictures there.

Interestingly, one of the participants was Daniel German who does a lot of interesting things including publishing good articles on software evolution and working on a source forge project called panotools that happens to power most of what makes Hugin cool. Hugin is of course the tool I have been using for some time now to stitch together photos into very nice panoramas. I felt envious and lucky at the same time watching him take photos. Envious of his nice Canon 40D with very cool fish eye lens and lucky because his photo bag was huge and probably quite heavy considering the fact that he had two more lenses in there.

Attendees of the Dagstuhl Seminar

The whole gang together. Daniel is the guy in the orange shirt.

One of the best features of Dagstuhl: 1 beer = €1. Not quite free beer but close enough. And afterall, OSS is about free speech and cheap beer definitely loosens the tongues.

Modular windows

There is a nice article on Ars discussing Microsoft’s business practices regarding windows and how they appear to be not quite working lately. It used to be that your PC came with windows whereas nowadays you have to select from a around five different versions and Microsoft is rumored to go to an even more modular and subscription based model. The general idea is to be able to squeeze out as much revenue out of the market as possible. On paper it sounds good (for MS that is).

Rather than buying an overpriced OS with everything and the kitchen sink you buy what you need. There’s a huge differences between what businesses and some individuals are willing to spend and the typical home user that just wants a browser + skype + the sims. Typically the latter group ends up buying the cheapo version and the former group ends up buying the everything and the kitchen sink version. The problem is that there is unmonetized value in the latter in the sense that some owners of the  cheapo versions might be interested in getting access to some of those features in the expensive version but not in all of them.

Now to the obvious problem with the discussed solution. By selling cheapo versions with most of the value removed and factored out into separate chunks you have to pay for, you dilute the overall value of the OS. So instead of buying an OS that can do X, Y, and Z out of the box you are buying an OS that can’t do X, Y, and Z out of the box. Marketing an OS that can’t do stuff is a lot harder than trying to sell stuff that can do things.  Worse they are opening the market to third parties that might do something similar to X, Y, and Z for a better price, or in some cases for free (beer & speech). Or even worse to companies selling an alternative OS with X, Y, and Z.

That in a nutshell is what is discussed in the Ars article and why Apple Mac OS X marketshare is approaching double digit percentages. I’ve been giving it some serious thought lately and I’m also noticing the spike in Safari users in my web site statistics.

Anyway, the reason for this write up is that the article overlooks an important argument here that I believe is relevant for more markets than just operating systems. In general, the tie between OS and features such as photo galleries, online backups, or TV UIs is artificial. Microsoft only adds features like this to make the overall OS more valuable. That is, they are looking to improve the value of the OS, not the photo gallery. However, ongoing and inevitable commoditization of software actually shifts value to new features. Especially when bundled with online subscriptions, things like online photo galleries can be quite good business. For example, Flickr has many paying subscribers.

Naturally MS is interested in markets like this (which is why they are interested in Yahoo). However, the tie-in to the OS constrains the market. Why would you not want to sell these services to Apple users? Why would you not want to sell this service to Sony Playstation owners? Why would you want to want to artificially limit who can access your service just to boost sales of your OS? As long as you were trying to artificially (and apparently for MS illegally) boost value of your core OS, bundling was a valid strategy. However, as soon as your value shifts, that becomes a brake on market growth. The OS market has commoditized to the point where you can get things like Ubuntu for free, which for the low end market is about as good as what you get with the cheapo version of Vista (see my various reviews of Ubuntu for why I’m not ready to claim better yet).

So the difference between MS and Google who is eating their lunch in the services arena is that the latter is not handicapped by 20 years of Windows legacy and can freely innovate and grow marketshare without having to worry about maintaining a revenue stream from legacy software. Google doesn’t have to sell OS licenses and so they give away software on all platforms to draw more users to their services which is where they make their money.

Naturally, Google has a lot of software engineers that are working round the clock to create more value for them. Where possible Google actively collaborates with the open source community because they know that while they won’t make any money from commodities like browsers, file systems and other important software components, they do depend on those things working as good as possible and keep evolving in the right direction. Few people appreciate this but this and not ads is why Google sponsors Firefox. It’s a brilliant strategy and it is forcing their main competitor to keep investing in internet explorer rather than being able to shift resources to directly competing with Google. 50 million $ is pocket money if it is making your main competitor crap their pants and waste resources on keeping up with you in a market where you are not even trying to make money.

You might have noticed that I have carefully avoided discussing Google and Microsoft’s mobile service strategies and also noticed that yours truly is working for Nokia. Well, my readers ought to be smart enough to figure out what I’m trying to say here aren’t you :-)?

Zurich Photos

Last week I was in Zurich and I took some photos, which have now been added to my photo album. Most of them were taken in the evening. Some of them are pretty nice considering I had no tripod and it was quite dark.

Zurich lake in the evening

For example this one was taken from a bridge in Zurich with the shutter open for 1.3 seconds. Despite this, it turned out quite OK. I did quite a bit of color correction and curves tweaking on this picture and it turned out quite a bit more brighter than I remember it to be or the original below.

Before editing