Gate of opportunity In this age where information is power, it’s hard to understand why we’re all wringing our hands at the current state of the economy. Here at newspaper firms, we have libraries full of valuable information at our disposal. Most of it just sits on the shelf undisturbed for ages. Some forward-thinking news outlets saw the opportunity to digitize their information in the hopes of transforming the old library into a serious revenue machine.

While the vast majority of newsrooms were sitting on their thumbs, google has been busy amassing more information than you could possibly imagine, and now they’ve even started archiving newspapers available to view exactly as printed.

Google is planning for the future! Google is moving into position where it can be the keeper of as much information as possible. Where does that leave the current “keepers” of that information? When the prophesies are fulfilled and information is crowned king, I’ll still be here to say I told you so. Why don’t I hear screams of anguish from all the newspaper execs who’ve missed the boat? Now is the time to grab hold of every bit of information you possibly can and hold onto it like a starving monkey eying the last banana on earth.

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Unwrapping a sunfire Recently I inherited a Sun Microsystems SunFire v240. This thing burns hot and loud (hence the name), quite a lot of fun. After plugging in a console cable and booting up the system, I was met with a very nice surprise on specs.

Sun Fire V240, No Keyboard
Copyright 2007 Sun Microsystems, Inc.  All rights reserved.
OpenBoot 4.22.33, 8192 MB memory installed, Serial #58631225.
Ethernet address 0:3:ba:7e:a4:39, Host ID: 837ea439.

Pretty well-specced-out for a hand-me-down. Unfortunately, I don’t know the first thing about working with SunOS. It took me a while to even get the network up. Apparently, the network interface must be “plumbed” before it will work. I’m sure Sun makes a great operating system, but I didn’t want to waste my time learning how to use it. My first thought, of course, was to install Ubuntu, but it looks like Ubuntu dropped support for Sparc somewhere around Gutsy Gibbon. Debian on the other hand, still fully supports Sparc and UltraSparc 64. Looks like I found a match.

After logging in, I hit “init 0” to drop down to standby mode and got the ok> prompt. My options for booting were limited to CD-ROM and network, but actually just network because this SunFire wasn’t equipped with a CD-ROM drive. It took me a while to read through relevant documentation. Most of the instructions that I’d found required me to set up a DHCP or BOOTP server, RARP services, a TFTP server, and then use a magical filename for a boot image. I tried that for a while, but had no luck.

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A fellow developer was burned today when an administrator ran a so-called “kill script” to free up some system resources. It got me thinking about another way to infuriate the users of the system. I wanted it to be a one liner so it could be quickly placed in a cron script. Here’s what I came up with:

# Joe Blo sucks --steve
*/15 * * * * ps aux | grep $(id --user jblo) | awk '{print $2}' | shuf | tail -1 | xargs kill -9 > /dev/null 2>&1

This effectively kills a random process belonging to target every 15 minutes. How infuriating is that? Make sure to leave a note so your victim knows who to blame.

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Huge pile of crushed soda cans How much do you like your favorite carbonated soft drink? Are you spending about $20 per month on soda? Lets see what would happen if you chose to invest that money in a regular annuity earning 11.6% interested (this historic return of the S&P 500 since its inception in 1926). I’ll assume that a daily soda habit costs $20 per month or $240 per year. Lets start with an 18 year old person who has chosen to place her soda money into an annuity every month. Forty years later, her annuity will be worth $497,922.

That number (in 40 years from now dollars) isn’t easily comparable to current dollars. I’ll use the consumer price index for the last 40 years (January 1968 to January 2008) to adjust this number to something that’s hopefully closer to real dollars.

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Eclipse PDT IDE After upgrading to Intrepid Ibex Alpha 5, I was presented with a familiar problem. I knew I had dealt with this at least a half-dozen times in the past, but I never seem to learn. It all happened when I tried to import a project I’d started from my subversion repository into eclipse on my laptop. I began to get very strange un-googlable Java errors that I knew I’d seen before. Here’s two of them:

java.lang.nullpointerexception
java.lang.NoClassDefFoundError: org.eclipse.emf.ecore.util.EcoreEMap$DelegateEObjectContainmentEList

When I made the distribution upgrade, I failed to notice that my symbolic link /etc/alternatives/java (pointed to by /usr/bin/java) had changed. Instead of using Sun Java, I was back to using GCJ. GCJ is a great effort, and if it could run PDT smoothly I would use it in a heartbeat. Until then, I’m forced to use Sun Java. Don’t bother changing the symbolic links by hand, Ubuntu has a handy tool to do that for you. It would have been nice to have preserved my original configuration though.

sudo update-java-alternatives --set java-6-sun

Next time I get these messages maybe I’ll remember to check which Java I’m using.

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