Migration Notes

Bringing dad over to Windows was a mixed bag. On one hand, now he’s got a world-class browser and Eudora (my beloved Eudora…). On the other hand, the machine is much slower (because Win98 ignores his second CPU and because Win isn’t as efficiently designed in general). His modem drops connections sometimes under Windows – never did in BeOS. He says it “looks ugly” (this is a person who has used only MacOS and BeOS and has never used Windows).

But the biggest headache was in trying to find usable software for his digital camera. I was so proud the day he got his camera a couple of years ago, hooked it up, found the Camera app, and started using it with no help from me. I fully expected there to be a wide range of great camera apps for Windows. But the Camedia software that came with his camera is so arcane it’s almost unusable. The Adobe software that came with only grabs one image at a time and tries so hard to be user friendly that it backfires on itself. I downloaded three shareware apps that didn’t work at all. I read countless messages from people complaining about the terrible state of Windows camera apps out there. All over a slow mountain modem connection. Wasted half of yesterday. In the end, the solution he’s going to use is that he’ll boot to BeOS, download his images, and copy them to his Windows partition from there. What a freaking joke. I hear that XP finally addresses the camera issue fully. Great, but that’s not an option.

Since I stopped using BeOS a couple of months ago, I’ve only had occassional needs to boot into it. But every time I do, I feel like I’m missing something great. The same old refrains : how can something this great, this powerful, this usable, not have taken over the market? Of course I know all the answers to that question. But it still pains me no end. BeOS is still like a great orgasm for your computer.


From an irate post in alt.os.linux.mandrake  found myself at adequacy.org, paging through a truly bizarre review of Mandrake 8.1. It tottered between being totally serious, snidely clever, and questionably misinformed. It was weird, but pretty soon it was clear that all of Adequacy is dripping in this smug, hilarious, puzzling tone (the site’s name exemplifies this in a single word). It’s an irony site that’s done so ironically that it fools the unwary into thinking it’s just another web mag, so they take it seriously, get pissed off, and post the URL all over the place.

For example.

From Crossing the Linux Fault Threshold:

“The Linux Fault Threshold is the point in any conversation about Linux at which your interlocutor stops talking about how your problem might be solved under Linux and starts talking about how it isn’t Linux’s fault that your problem cannot be solved under Linux. ”

Okay, that’s a bit silly, but it’s also exactly correct. The whole article skewers Linux culture, but completely from within – there’s enough detail in the article to know that the guy isn’t just bluffing.

Happy Birthday E-Mail

Yahoo reports that e-mail was born 30 years ago yesterday. The creator doesn’t remember what the first message said, but he knows it was in ALL CAPS. I had to laugh.


Just returned from a Linux user’s group mtg. Small group, about seven people. But very fiery. Despite all of my complaints about Linux and the weaknesses of the OSS development model (to which few zealots will admit), I have to admit that it’s very contagious. The thing is, there is FIRE in the Linux world now. The last year of BeOS has been almost nothing but depression. People begging for breadcrumbs, grateful for any scrap thrown our way. Linux is very much still in the process of self-creation. The love and the lunacy is still there. I thrive on that. Everyone thrives on that.


Set up a home Samba network for the first time. Hair-pulling experience at first. Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding one little key, then the whole things busts open…

BeTips on MySQL

Finally got betips up and running on the linux machine last night at 3:30, sans discussion board. Should have that part up later today. Built a nice back-end so volunteer editors can go in and manipulate tips / process submissions. That should keep the site living and healthy without my intervention on into the future.

Also added a bit about the site change-over to the TrackerBase page.

Before going live, I wanted to get all my MP3s and movies off the big data drives, since going back to get them after this point will mean taking the server down. Consolidated what I wanted to keep onto tink, and popped out Wensleydale (the drive that and the Be community got together and bought for Amy and I for a wedding present, stuffed with MP3s (don’t worry, I saved them all)). Put the drive in my Win machine temporarily, reformatted it with fat32, and put it back in the server. Copied all the stuff to wensleydale, losing all the precious BFS attributes on those MP3s. The attributes meticulously created with RipEnc and ArmyKnife. The attributes the power of which I’ve crowed endlessly about in public. So sad to see all those go to waste. If BONE and BIYS were stable, I’d keep those BFS partitions around and still use BeOS for home MP3 serving, but they’re not. I’m going to find a similar Linux solution.

Of course, fat32 doesn’t support all the characters that BFS does, and the copy process (which took 2.5 hours because Be’s FAT driver is slow) choked on a few files and directories with quote marks etc. in them. Had to go back with ArmyKnife afterwards and fix those. I love ArmyKnife, and I guess using it was the last thing I’ll ever do in BeOS on that machine.

Back in Linux, had to learn how to mount a Windows drive. In BeOS, you right-click on the desktop and choose Mount | DriveName. Doesn’t matter what the filesystem is. And if you want to learn what drives attached to your system are potentially mountable, you use mountvolume -lh or DriveSetup. Linux doesn’t appear to have any such command or utility. Even the GUI tools for drive mounting won’t tell you what’s potentially mountable. Instead, you have to cat through /etc/dmesg to see where your physical drives are, then use fdisk on each of those to find your partitions, then execute a mount command, and if you want that drive mounted in the future, add that stuff to /etc/fstab. What a royal f*scking pain in the ass. And after all that, the drive still isn’t writeable by my normal user, even though I did chmod 777 /mnt/win as root.
God, Linux pisses me off. Be figured out so much about usability so long ago. And the world never cared.

I think that part of what pains me about the conversion of betips is that the site is no longer special. It was the first (if not only) site on the entire web ever to be served out of a database without a database, just using the filesystem and attributes. It was a proof of concept as much as anything. It showed a new and exciting possibility for BeOS. Now it’s just another mysql site. But it’s stable. Getting over BeOS is going to take me a while. Just have to stop thinking about it. Like the death of a loved one…

BeTips to MySQL

BeOS is just too fragile as a server, tired of dealing with it. betips.net has always been a proof of concept site, using the filesystem as a database to serve a live web site. But it’s just not worth it anymore, so I’ve been porting the whole TrackerBase database to mysql on a linux box and will soon start hosting it there. That server box will share several duties:

– Hosting all of betips.net
– Hosting the submissions and search functionality of kissthisguy
– Hosting large images and other stuff that doesn’t fit on birdhouse

For all of this I’ve wanted a fatter upstream pipe, but my current provider is too expensive. Doing research, it seems that the fat upstream pipes all come at a huge premium. We’re trying to save money, so it looks like what I’ll be doing is to get a speakeasy account with faster downstream and slower upstream (bummer!), give up my seven static IPs, and start using a linksys router for port mapping and firewalling.

The new betips should go live in a day or two, but won’t look much different except for URLs, and the search engine will be a bit different.

OS Shuffle

Over the past few days:

– Decided win2k was just too slow on the laptop, so built a new 800MHz, 256 workstation.

– Backed up everything I needed from the laptop and moved it to the workstation.

– Put latest BeOS updates on the laptop and moved betips to the laptop, so I could use the betips workstation for a linux machine.

– CGI wasn’t working under Apache2 on the laptop and couldn’t figure it out. Finally copied the whole config directory from the betips workstation to the laptop.

– This fixed the CGI problem (still not sure what file(s) fixed that problem, but now the laptop wouldn’t boot except in safe mode. Fiddled with all the usual boot options, which didn’t help. Finally realized that in the process I had copied over ~/config/settings/app_server_settings. Deleting this allowed me to reboot.

– Backed up years of BeOS work to BFS and ISO CDs. My loyal betips workstation is now officially retired . It’s been a champ, but time to free up some resources (and the laptop is so much quieter to have as a 24×7 server).

– Over the past couple of days I had downloaded two 677MB iso images from Mandrake mirrors to the new Win2K machine. Now I needed to burn them. Duh! The SCSI card is in the old betips workstation and I’m going to want it in the Linux machine. So had to FTP the images to the betips workstation, which took forever because Be’s 3com drivers suck. Then burned the images with Be’s CDBurner. How ironic that the last official job of that machine is to burn install CDs for another OS. CDBurner sure does a nice job though.

– Detached all drives in the old betips and installed a 6GB IDE I had sitting around as primary slave (the only slot left in the IDE chain).

– Installed Mandrake 8 to the 6GB drive, which took forever. I have to say, this is the nicest Linux installer I’ve ever seen. Still had some problems with it, but fairly minor.

– Spent most of yesterday learning and tweaking my new Linux system. Damn, there’s so much great software out there. KDE 2 actually rocks pretty hard. Maybe Linux is destined for usability after all.

– Wanted to upgrade to KDE2.2, downloaded all the RPMs and learned how to use urpmi to do a system upgrade. Very nice.

– Noticed that the installer had failed to give me MySQL, Apache, and PHP, which I had asked for.

– This morning re-attached the Be machine’s other drives, just so I can get to it when/if I want. Booted from CD and ran bootman. Rebooted – oops, linux boot signature can’t be found. Probably because the installer wrote to the MBR rather than the boot partition. It didn’t even ask me. It was trying to be friendly and made a bad assumption.

– Figured I could boot Mandrake from floppy or CD and fix the location of the boot record. Yes, I could boot from CD, but no, I don’t see any way to fix the boot record. Searched the net, searched all options in the installer, didn’t find anything. In the process of looking for the answer, went into the text installer. It said “F12 for next screen” and I wanted to page through until I got to the part where the bootloader is installed. I assumed that F12 was basically cancelling each dialog, not the equivalent of hitting OK to it. So I’m tapping F12 and all of a sudden I see “Now formatting /dev/hdb1”. Crap crap crap! So now I’m reinstalling the whole damn thing again. Fortunately this time I found the advanced install options and made damn sure I’m getting apache, php, myql.

Linux installation is getting better, but they still have a lot to learn from BeOS. Not that they ever will… but every time I’ve messed with Linux I’ve gotten into trouble. Every time. It’s so damn frustrating. Copy and past hell, software installation hell, crashing apps… kind of surprising given all the stability claims I’ve heard. Well, the OS is stable, but many of the apps are not.

Palm Buys Be, Inc.

Still trying to figure out how I feel about today’s news that Be, Inc. has been purchased by Palm. Or, to be more specific, Palm has purchased BeOS, BeIA, and has dibs on Be engineers – they didn’t actually purchase the company per se. But Be will probably close up shop once the sale is complete.

In a way, we were all prepared for this for a very long time now. We’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it finally has. I don’t think that many of us thought that whoever bought the company would have big designs for the desktop OS, and Palm almost certainly is uninterested in doing anything on the desktop. More likely, Palm wants to beef up and extend its product line – make palm-sized devices more media-friendly, and possibly build appliance-like units for the home. No one has heard yet whether Palm has any plans for the desktop at all, but I doubt it.

This pretty much seals the deal – it’s the end of the road for BeOS as we know it. In a way, it’s been dead for two years. But now, barring a miracle or a surprise announcement from Palm, BeOS is really, really dead. I have to confess that there’s a part of me that just wishes BeOS would go away. It has left me exhausted and apathetic. Tired of waging a battle against ridiculous odds. Tired of the humming of betips.net in my office. Tired of trying to stand up and evangelize like a crazy old man with tinfoil in his hair ranting about the second coming. But another part of me still believes deeply in what Be is and what they’ve created. Believes that there is a way to best MS at their own game (without having to tread the open source quaqmire). Believes that there is no better desktop user experience, period.

I don’t think any of BeOS users are shocked, really. More like relieved to finally know where things are headed. The people who continue to use BeOS after this news are going to be the hardcore users only. Like the people who still use their Amiga boxes after all these years. I doubt I’ll become one of them. At this point, only the regular Byte gig keeps me hanging on and watching the news. If that falls away, I probably won’t be using BeOS anymore. The compromises have become too plentiful to outweigh the advantages.

More than anything, I think what’s sad about all of this is that it sends a message to the world : “Don’t bother trying to create a better desktop OS — it doesn’t matter how hard you try, how many engineers you throw at the problem, how much money you spend, or how many years you put into it. Microsoft owns that space and, worse, the public is totally complicit and fine with that fact. People will not stop using Windows. It is a losing battle.” It is unlikely now that anyone will ever again attempt what Be has attempted.

And that’s the saddest thing of all — the insidious ways in which the monopoly has wormed itself into the fabric of our economy and culture. The message that “resistance is futile” has been hammered home.

The Joy of Linux

I’m reading this book The Joy of Linux by Michael Hall and Brian Proffitt. Pretty interesting read, and quite funny in places, but the arrogance and blindness of the authors is astounding to me as well. They use words like “elegant” to describe Linux, and talk about how cohesive the Linux community is. What a joke. They never even mention BeOS once in the whole book, even in the context of “fighting the good fight” etc.

Anyway, it’s nice to read a book about computing culture by otherwise very good writers rather than the usual technical manual type of book.

Hardcover only right now though – I’d say it’s not worth the price of admission unless they do a soft cover.