Time passes swiftly by

Let me respectfully remind you,
Life and death
Are of supreme importance.
Time passes swiftly by
And opportunity is lost.
Each of us should strive to awaken.
Awaken!
Take heed:
Do not squander your life.

– The Evening Gatha

Turning Point

BYTE ran a piece I wrote two weeks ago:

Turning Point for Be, Users

about the BeOS situation as it stands… just how bad it is, who should keep using and why, etc. Ignited quite a firestorm on BeNews, but most people didn’t begrudge my position… most agreed with it. A few flames, easily extinguished. The weird thing was that I got messages from old Be engineers and employees… people I hadn’t heard from for quite a while writing to commiserate, and to remember what it used to be like. Interesting that they’re still following Be after all this time, long after they’ve moved on personally. BeOS gets under you skin that way. People are never the same after they start using. Was kind of nice reconnecting with an older segment of the community.

Between that and the recent “Adamation leaves the BeOS scene” announcement I had to write, I feel like a Benedict Arnold. Except that I’m not a traitor – I’ve done everything in my power to keep things alive. Why there were never dozens of journalists on the BeOS beat is still a mystery to me. I shouldn’t have been alone.

Anyway, it just amazes me that there are people today who think I’m being unfairly harsh on Be. “They’re going through hard times. You shouldn’t be so callous.”

For godssake people, open your eyes.

How bad is the FreeBSD installer?

Just off the top of my head:

– When doing a net-based install, it hangs waiting for confirmation for some things (like if it couldn’t find a designated package on the ftp server). Which means you leave it running overnight, come back, and it’s been sitting there waiting for confirmation for 7 hours.

– When it was done, went to reboot and got “boot signature not found”. But I know I set the BSD boot partition to bootable. Booted from floppies, went back into the slice editor and found that my “active partition” change hadn’t taken. Looked at the readme and found that it said I had to commit the change. But “commit” was buried down in some other menus in the installer where I couldn’t see it. Alternatively, you can use W in the slice editor. But W isn’t shown as one of the menu choices. It’s a “secret.” Retarded.

– Went through the whole rigamarole to set up X and everything seemed to go well. It launched a dummy screen in my chosen resolution, let me tweak the horiz and vert placement, etc. Even had the mouse working. Let it go ahead and link these settings to X. But once booted into BSD, running startx fails with some utterly cryptic message I haven’t gotten around to writing down. More research required.

– Set up a regular user account and booted into it. But it wouldn’t let me su to root. Not a password issue – it says I’m not in the right group to do that. So then I couldn’t shutdown or su to root to shutdown. Had to ctrl alt del. Later, killed that account and recreated it and specifically invited the new user into “wheel”. That worked, but was that the right thing to do? No idea. Felt kludgy.

– Ran /stand/sysinstall to have another go at configuring X. When I exited sysinstall, it went out onto the net and started grabbing the whole /bin directory again. I didn’t want that and I didn’t choose that. And there’s no way to cancel out of the net download process. Once it starts, you’re stuck in it. Let it go through the process, then found that the user I had finally set up properly had been erased and root login didn’t prompt for password. WTF?!

And that’s just off the top of my head. Status: Can boot from Be’s bootman now. Can log in as a regular user. No X running. No time to work on this again for a while. Grrrr. Unixland prides itself on being user-unfriendly, that’s one thing. But bad design is another. What I don’t get is why some writers have praised the FreeBSD installer. I want to send those people BeOS install CDs.

Net-Based Install

Turns out that the problem probably wasn’t that the cylinder boundary was too high. Well, it may have been, but once I got everything moved around I found that the FreeBSD fdisk wanted me to delete the BFS slice and re-create it as a FreeBSD slice. Previously, I had only tried to change the filesystem type from the main fdisk menu. The errors it gave were misleading and led me down a garden path. So much for usability. That’s the flipside — I always complain that no one has ever made things as easy or as logical as Be has. And when I spend half a day trying to get sound working on a Linux machine, I gripe and grumble. But I have to confess that my inner tweaker actually derives some kind of perverse pleasure from twiddling all the knobs. That’s Be’s secret Achilles heel – it’s too damned easy to install and configure. You get the satisfaction of using a coherent system, but not the satisfaction of banging your head against the wall for an hour and then solving something. Banging your head against the wall makes you grow as a person. I think that’s why Linux is so popular. Because it’s so hard.

Anyway, everything is humming along now. Downloading and installing FreeBSD at the same time. Gotta hand it to ’em. Net-based installs make sense. Everything should be that way. Start with a floppy, get it going, go eat dinner, watch some of the made-for-TV-movie about the legendary tenniss battle between Bobby Riggs and Billy Jean King, and you come back to a fresh-baked operating system. Pretty cool. Only it’s going kind of slow – 9.4KB/sec – 1/4 of my bandwidth. I think they meter it intentionally.

Partition Madness

It’s nice to have a small break. Back from Mom’s place, doing a lot by phone now. The pace at work has slowed down dramatically – actually working sane hours, getting home while it’s still light out. Just turned in my last Byte column. Taking care of odds and ends that have gone ignored for months.

Trying to install FreeBSD in the background, but running into partition problems. It’s partitioning utility won’t let me install to the fourth partition on secondary master… cylinder too high. I’ve got so many disks and partitions, it gets confusing. Now using a little known feature of Be’s brilliant Installer app to copy the entirety of the BeOS boot drive on the first partition to where I was going to put BSD. Will then reinitialize the first partition on that drive and try again. It amazes me… read these articles about how “impressive” the BSD installer is, but it’s so arcane. No better than the Linux installers I’ve seen. Is Be the only company every to have gotten OS installation right? But what’s the point? The world never cared.

Must eat something. Maybe there’s a box of rice pilaf I can make. Amy is teaching tonight and I fend for myself. Bachelor chow.

Jackson Pollock Was an Alcoholic

Went to see Pollock with Amy, Mike, Gina, Andrew on Solano Ave. Ed Harris did an amazing job as Pollock — his painting was totally convincing. But what a tortured life, what a severe drink head. I hadn’t realized his whole life was so dependent on the strength and will of Lee Krasner. The film did a good job of not letting us love him too much (he wasn’t particularly likeable), and it didn’t pander to an audience with little background in art, either. He was a genius. And he was an asshole. Felt good to think about something other than launching personalStudio for a while.

In Absentia

Went to see the new Brothers Quay film In Absentia with Amy and Amy after work, preceded by five other Quay shorts. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched any of their stuff. This was a big departure from their earlier works. More live action, less puppeteering. About a woman in a room writing over and over again in these tiny, cramped, heavy loops, nothingness onto a page over and over again, breaking pencil leads with her heavy hand and placing the stubs on the windowsill. Eerie soundtrack by Stockhausen which I loved but the Amys hated. Took a while to shift gears. Brain still in work mode through most of the first shorts, then I slowed down and got into it more. Felt really good to get out of the office and into the theater, especially to see something more abstract.

Broccoli of the Subgenius

Picked up a used copy of the Book of the Subgenius at a garage sale to replace my decades old, dog-eared copy. Tried to watch Conceiving Ada, but it was so badly acted and so corny we had to quit after 20 minutes. I’d love to learn the story of Ada Lovelace, but those filmmakers should be ashamed. Ended up watching some of Short 6 instead.

arenacross

Took off early from work (well, 6) and went to the Oakland Arena with Mike to check out the arena cross — sort of the “superbowl of motorcross.” What they do is take a basketball court and fill it with dirt, then make this ridiculously torturous, windy whoop-de-doo track and pack it down. Kids and 20-somethings from all over the state race 125 and 250cc motocross bikes around, spending a full 1/3 of their time in the air. The jumps are absolutely insane. A 30 foot take-off run in 1st or 2nd gear off a 12-foot jump, and they sail in these perfect arcs halfway down the court, land and brake suddenly, hairpin turn, then two or three medium size jumps on the way back, a run of small whoop-dees, and back into the main jump. Over and over again.

I don’t know what they burn in those things, but the smell of dozens of two-stroke engines buzzing with this whiny noise and pooting out this acrid chemical smell. It smelled so bad and so brain damaging I can’t even believe they did it indoors. Afterwards we could taste the chemicals in our mouths it was so foul.

There was also a class of 65cc bikes ridden by 7 to 11 year olds. Cute, but not nearly as daring. They just roll over the jumps. Would have been more exciting if one of those kids were mine. In fact it seemed like half the audience was composed of friends and family of the racers.

I was hoping for a real white trash experience, but it was kind of ho hum. Graceful to watch, but it got boring pretty quickly, and there just wasn’t enough space to make for a good race. Whoever hit the first turn first always won. Wish they had trotted out more spectacle — big boobie babes, show-off stunts, etc. Think we’ll have to go to a monster truck rally for that.

$8 for parking
$6 for a beer
$4.50 for what they straight facedly call “nachos”
$27 for the ticket with all those absurd ticketmaster “service” charges (what f*cking service?)

Kinda fun, kinda gross.