Dizwell Informatics

News from Nowhere

The Dizwell Blog


Living where I live (i.e., slightly less than 100Km from Sydney city centre), we cannot get “proper” broadband. No cable company flogs its wares in our neighbourhood; no local telelphone exchange is equipped for anything more than tin-can-and-string telephony, so ADSL is right off the options list! Our phone lines are so bad, we can’t even get ISDN -and that’s supposed to be accessible by 98% of the population! In desperation, we use Wireless Broadband, courtesy of Telstra Bigpond.

The plans available are enough to make you cry: the best I get is a 10GB monthly download limit for an eye-watering $129. Once you hit 10GB, there’s no extra data allowance available for purchase (and, in fairness, no extra charges): you just get shaped to speeds that would make a lethargic snail look sprightly. Friends and colleagues remark casually about their 200GB plans for $90 and wonder why I walk away in a hurry!

Nevertheless, I am generally happy with Bigpond: the connection seems always-on for about 95% of the time; the reception is good; speeds are excellent; and, when I need to, I can pack the whole thing, together with my netbook, and have Internet access on the morning train. Convenient, speedy, reliable -what more could you want (apart from more bandwidth and lower costs!)?

And my feeble 10GB allowance goes a lot further than you might think, thanks to the wonders of files.bigpond.com. Here, you’ll find Linux distro ISOs galore, a yum or apt-get update repository for the likes of Ubuntu or Fedora… and every single byte of this data munificence is completely unmetered, meaning that none of it counts in any way towards your 10GB monthly limit. Some months, therefore, I’ll actually download in excess of 25 or 30GB of stuff: 10GB on the ‘plan’ and maybe 20GB from files.bigpond.com, which magically ‘doesn’t count’!

Cue the inevitable sting in the tail: on June 30th, with all of three days’ notice, files.bigpond.com was taken down. No more unmetered access to anything… and therefore about 2/3rds of my effective monthly download limit abolished, at a stroke. This, as you can imagine, did not make for the happiest day of my life when I found out about it the moment I tried to download a new Fedora 13 ISO and kept getting redirected to the Bigpond home page. (Why they couldn’t email us to warn us, I have no idea: they’re happy enough to email a notification every time a phone bill arrives, after all!)

This was actually a deal-breaker for me. A loss of effective functionality so severe meant that I was fed up enough to go find another ISP. Actually, it turns out that there isn’t a single ISP in Australia that offers unmetered downloads for wireless broadband accounts, which is a bummer of major proportions! But there are lots of ISPs who will sell you a 6GB plan for $50 or so, with extra 6GB data blocks available on demand for about the same price (think Internode, for example). Once you’ve resigned yourself to never having access to unmetered downloads again, it’s a simple calculation to work out that Internode will sell you 12GB for $100, compared to Bigpond’s 10GB for $130: it’s not hard to work out where to go to!

The only thing you can hold against Internode is that they use the Optus wireless network, which is half the speed of Telstra’s on a good day -and I’ve had reception difficulties with them in the past (though their coverage maps now indicate a lot of that should be ancient history). But still, more data for less money: what’s not to like?!

More out of a sense of duty than actually expecting a decent reply, I took the trouble to write to the Bigpond sales people in these terms: I like Bigpond’s wireless service; I don’t want to change providers; but without that unmetered content, your product is sub-standard and non-competitive. Please tell me some good news that means I won’t have to change.

The usual two days’ wait for a reply ticked by.

Then yesterday, I got it: dear Howard, please be advised that we’ve made http://mirror.aarnet.edu.au unmetered.

Well, this a game-changer …and very, very unexpected (it’s always unexpected when Telstra/Bigpond actually listen to their customers!) Aarnet is an excellent mirror -much better, in fact, than the original files.bigpond.com. It has all the appropriate distros in DVD ISO format (apart from Centos, which is a bit of a bummer), and yum and apt-get repositories for updates. CPAN is there, so is Mozilla, Apache and a lot of others. For that to be unmetered makes me even happier than I was before and renders any thought of moving to the likes of Internode completely moot. Well done, Bigpond!

Which begs the question, I suppose: why pull the plug on a valuable resource, only to put the plug back in after you’ve pissed off a significant proportion of your customers? If it’s that easy to unmeter a site like aarnet, why not arrange to do that first, and then announce that since a gold-plated unmetered site is now available, there’s no need for the home-brew bronze alloy version? It would have been the sensible thing to do, I think (unless they simply had no idea about their customers and honestly weren’t expecting the storm of protest and discontent their original switch-off decision provoked).

It reminds me a bit of Julia Gillard’s approach to being Prime Minister: announce a regional processing centre for refugees in East Timor one day and only then start negotiating with the government of that country as to whether it’s actually possible to do! Surely the negotiations might usefully have preceded the announcement? But then that would mean having to hold off on the announcement whilst the practicalities were nailed down. It’s always harder to actually achieve something (i.e., actually do some governing!) and then announce it than the other way around, of course: which is presumably why it’s so often the other way around these days!

Anyway, Bigpond get at least half a thumbs-up from me for being relatively nimble in their ability to turn a mess of their own making into a positive. And I shall now get back to downloading some more ISOs… unmetered!

Obscuring Email Addresses

Just a tiny tip: instead of including your email address in shell scripts which you might share about the Internet, use this instead:

echo h~r*di^wel#=com|tr ~*^#= [email protected]

The “tr” bit of that command translates a character into something else. The list of “from” characters appears first, separated by a space from the list of “to” characters, in order. Thus, I’m asking to translate a tilde (~) to a “j”, an asterisk (*) to an “@” symbol and so on. Issue the complete echo command at a Linux terminal prompt and the correct email address is revealed. Before that, it looks mere gibberish!

Happy Birthday, Johann

If you are an adherent of the Julian calendar, then not only do you need to get out more and wake up to the fact that we’ve all moved on (about 12 days!) since then, but you’ll also be happy to know that today would have been Johann Sebastian Bach’s birthday, 225 years ago.

If you are a more modern Gregorian calendar user, then you can wait until 31st March to celebrate the day.

Either way, happy birthday Johann!

Mitchell plus

If you live in Australia and have the slightest chance of getting yourself to the Mitchell Library in Sydney, my advice is that you do so pronto.

The Mitchell Library is 100 years old, and for 100 days they are putting on display 100 of their greatest treasures. The journal of Joseph Banks; letters from Botany Bay by Sir Arthur Phillip, a lock of hair from Matthew Flinders; letters between Mr. and Mrs. Bass (of the straights fame); the draft of ‘The Man from Snowy River’ by Banjo Patterson; Patrick White’s Nobel Prize for Literatue. I could go on and on… it’s simply superb. We could only stay two hours because of the parking, so count on at least that amount of time.

You are not allowed to take photos of the exhibits from the exhibition, so I can only tell you what stuck in my mind. The lock of Flinders’ hair is ordinary brown and was taken by his wife, shortly before Flinders set sail to do the first circumnavigation of Australia (after which he got imprisoned on Mauritius for seven years). The next time his wife saw her husband, his hair was completely grey. There’s a great poignancy in that trivial little hair sample when you realise that minor detail! Similarly, the other exhibit that really stuck in my mind was the quite passionate letters between George and Elizabeth Bass: so much flim-flammery and over-the-top romanticism, I suppose you could say. Until you realise that George set sail three months after they got married -and they never saw each other again.

This was our second trip to the Mitchell in about three months, and I have to say I’ve fallen in love with the place: the building is stunning architecture in its own right, but inside it’s got a “real library” feel! Not so easy to do in this Internet age, but there are (gasp!) real books and bookshelves to see! As you can tell:

And I suppose you could say that looks like any old library, but not all libraries have corridors like this one:

Anyway, if you’re going, make sure to take the walk between the modern state library and the Mitchell extension: there’s a wonderful collection of historical trivia to look at as you go. But see the exhibition if you can: worth every minute (and totally free!)

CentOS DVD/CD Permission Denied Errors

You build yourself a virtual (or real, come to that) CentOS server, on which you plan to install Oracle. You have prepared your Oracle DVD ISO in the manner I described In an earlier post here. You insert that DVD (or get the virtual machine manger to present the ISO as though a physical DVD had been inserted) and CentOS helpfully auto-mounts it. You become the oracle user and invoke the runInstaller script… and you get told

 −bash: /media/CDROM/runInstaller: /bin/sh: bad interpreter: Permission denied

What’s wrong? Well, CentOS (like a lot of distros before it) has ‘broken’ auto-mount by ensuring that “noexec” permissions are set for auto-mounted CDs and DVDs. The idea is that ordinary users can’t run executables from removable media -and, in most circumstances, that might be a sensible security measure to have in place. But not in this case! In this case, the oracle user (who counts, in this context, as decidedly ‘ordinary’!) must be able to execute that runInstaller script. How then to allow that? Easy:

umount /media/CDROM
mount -o loop /dev/hdc /media

Those two commands (both issued as root) first dismount the automounted CD or DVD and then re-mount it as a loop device. Manually mounting the drive causes the “exec” permission to be set… and thereafter, the oracle user will be able to run the installation script without a problem.

Of course, the specifics of those commands will need to be changed to suit your local circumstances. The DVD drive might not be /dev/hdc, for example, and you might want to mount the contents of your ISO image somewhere other than /media. But hopefully, you get the idea.

Incidentally: if you don’t know what device name identifies your DVD drive, try mounting it after the drive has already auto-mounted. For example, when I ‘insert’ my ISO image, it gets mounted as /media/CDROM. So if I then try, as root, to mount /media/CDROM again, I get told:

mount: /dev/hdc already mounted on /media/CDROM

…and right at the beginning of that error message, there’s your proper device identifier.

(Note: this post was transferred from the old Dizwell dokuwiki website. Its content may no longer be relevant).

Oracle DVD Creation on Linux

If you get your free OTN copies of Oracle 11g from here, then you’ll be the proud owner of a zip file called something like linux.x64_11gR1_database.zip. That’s perfectly fine if you don’t mind unzipping the files on your hard disk and installing Oracle from there. But if I create a virtual machine to run Oracle, I would usually prefer to be able to install Oracle from a DVD (or, at least, a DVD image in the form of an ISO), because that way I needn’t consume nearly 4GB of virtual disk space by copying the zip file to it and then unpacking it. So the question then arises, how do you turn that downloaded zip file into a functional DVD image?

Well, one thing you can’t do is use Brasero (the default Ubuntu/Gnome CD and DVD creation tool) to simply create a disk image of the extracted zip file! That’s because Oracle uses a lot of nested directories, and Brasero doesn’t let you configure the necessary extensions to the ISO standard to allow all those directories to be read properly from the finished DVD image. You’ll just get execution errors the minute you try using a DVD image that’s been constructed that way.

I am sure various GUI tools could be employed to get around this problem (and if I was a KDE user, I know that K3B can do the job with ease), but the simplest thing is for confirmed Gnome users is to issue the following command in a terminal window:

genisoimage -o Desktop/ora11gx64.iso -R -J -U -N -iso-level 4 Desktop/database

What all that means is that you’re using the program genisoimage (which should be installed by default in Ubuntu 9.04: if not, use aptitude or the Synaptic Package Manager to install it) to output a file called (in my case) ora11gx64.iso in my home’s Desktop directory. The image should use the Rockridge and Joilet extensions (which is what lets those multiple nested sub-directories work OK). The -N switch means ‘don’t append version numbers to files’, which would screw things up badly. And the -U means ‘please be relaxed about filenames which violate ISO9660 standards’. Finally, the -iso-level is set to 4, which allows very long file names. Note that the source of the entire DVD image is to be the Desktop/database directory (which will only exist, of course, if I’ve already extracted my downloaded zip file on my desktop).

The output from that lot takes just a few moments to create, but it will be usable in an Oracle installation. You can use the ISO output file directly if installing Oracle in a virtual machine; or you can use Brasero to burn it to a physical DVD.

Update: The 11g Release 2 OTN downloads come in two parts. That is, there are two separate zip files, each about 1GB in size. Those need to be unzipped into a single directory (called database) before the genisoimage command can be pointed at it. So, for that release of Oracle, you have to do the following:

  • Download both zip files to your desktop
  • Open a command prompt and unzip the linux_11gR2_database_1of2.zip file. That will create a database directory.
  • Now unzip the linux_11gR2_database_2of2.zip file. The contents of this file will be extracted and merged into the already-existing database directory.
  • Now you can create your ISO image from the Desktop/database directory, using the command shown above.

(Note: this post was transferred from the old Dizwell dokuwiki website. Its content may no longer be relevant).

An Expert’s Guide to Crock-ery

LewisC proclaims himself to be “an expert”, but in what it’s a tad difficult to know. It’s certainly not in being able to read software licenses, as I had occasion to point out in these pages not so long ago.

My final comments on that thread were, unfortunately, censored: it’s apparently OK for Lewis to tell me that my factual critique of his nonsense is nothing but “smarmy crock” and that I should “go crawl back under your rock”, but not OK for me to make a factual rebuttal of Lewis’ claim that, in the end, I agree with him on the licensing issue. So I’ll take this opportunity to re-state the gist of what would have been my final post:

His statement that “you end up agreeing with me anyway” is mere wishful thinking on his part. He posted originally that you needed to pay for Oracle the minute more than one person made use of the OTN-downloaded database. You don’t.

He posted originally that you needed to pay for Oracle the minute you wanted to develop in a RAC or Dataguard environment. You don’t.

Every substantive point Lewis made in his original blog piece about the OTN license and its applicability I disagree with. I can understand his wanting to extricate himself from this mess of his own creation; but trying to do so by asserting agreement between us on matters about which we have diametrically opposite opinions is, frankly, ridiculous.

Short story, therefore: Lewis was wrong about the OTN License. He remains wrong. He owes people a withdrawal of and considered apology for his comments about it. But instead, he merely attacks the only person who bothered to point out his errors in entirely factual terms.

Meanwhile, I see someone called Alex Andrews has contributed to that thread yet more muck and murk, claiming that “the key licensing term for Oracle products is the following statement; “Other Upon 45 days written notice Oracle may audit the use of the program.” He concludes from this that “unless you noted the date that you downloaded the product and saved a copy of the license agreement, your compliance [is] in doubt.”

This is not the case, of course, since that statement about ‘45 days notice’ doesn’t appear once in the OTN License that is actually the topic under discussion …though, somewhat predictably, the Great Expert Lewis fails to mention this not-so minor point in his reply. All the OTN License says is, “We may audit your use of the programs”, with not a time-scale or a costs-component clause in sight. Alex’s point may well apply to full-blown Oracle licensing issues, in which case fair enough. But it’s got sod-all to do with the free OTN License that Lewis got all worked up about and decided to scare everyone else about as a result. Unfortunately, this tendency to swirl all sorts of non-relevant issues into the mix at the drop of a hat is all-too-common in “discussions” about the OTN license in particular and software licenses generally.

Incidentally, I thought Tod Tomlinson’s contribution to that thread some of the most cogent I’ve seen about the issue: “sales reps are hungry for new license opportunities and if you have a rep who is smart enough to put 2+2 together to see that helping you prove your environment will result in new license revenue for them – they’ll likely step up and help you succeed“. Or, as I would have put it, the OTN License is there to encourage you to use Oracle products and come up with applications and environments which will make use, eventually, of paid-for licenses. The sensible thing to do, therefore, is to read the OTN License in that light: permissive, liberal, encouraging. Scare stories about how trivial it is to inadvertently step outside its bounds and into paid-for territory miss that point by a wild mile.

I conclude from this latest licensing storm in a tea-cup merely that (1) there’s one born every minute; (2) anyone proclaiming themselves an expert is probably not; (3) providing you’re being honest about it, your usage of the OTN license is almost certainly just fine.

The sky is falling…

I wish people wouldn’t get so worked up about software licenses.

They’re rational documents (normally) that seek to protect the software developer’s intellectual property rights and which can be understood by most people that can think logically and calmly.They thus tend not to be evil, cynical ways of screwing a user for fees, nor unintelligible nonsense designed to make you buy things.

A year ago, we had a scare that the OTN license couldn’t be used by developers for free or for learning purposes.

I argued strongly at the time that the particular reading of the license that gave rise to that interpretation was, er… seriously wrong. In fact, I thought it perverse, since OTN is explicitly a forum for self-learners and developers, and for an OTN license to exclude both constituencies would be mighty peculiar.

Happily, OTN seemed to agree with me on the matter, because they ended up adding an explicit statement right at the top of this page to clarify the self-learning and development issues: both are fine.

Well, a year on, and a new scare arises. LewisC posts that “We run RAC… Do we need to purchase a license to develop and test in this environment?” He goes on to conclude, “That is pretty clear. [The OTN download is] Limited to one person and to one server”… and thus cannot be used by a developer team (>1 person) or to develop RAC applications (>1 server).

To reinforce his point, LewisC appeals to an unnamed “friend” for advice on the matter, and this friend refers him “to another license explanation document”… and this “document” turns out to be a PDF which very clearly states (in its footer) “[This document] may not be incorporated into any contract and does not constitute a contract or a commitment to any specific terms.” So, to seek clarification on what a license means, LewisC is pointed to a document that is definitely not part of the contract and which is therefore entirely nugatory.

I despair at this flaccid line of thinking.

If you want to know what a license means, read the license, not some other document that explicitly states it’s of no legal effect, and which isn’t part of the legal agreement you enter into when downloading OTN software, anyway.

And if you do that; if you simply stick to reading what’s in the document that actually governs the contractual relationship between you and Oracle when using OTN-sourced software, here’s what you will find.

First, the license is granted to “you”, and the license explicitly defines “you” as being either an individual or an entity. And an entity (such as a development team or an IT department) can consist of more than 1 person.

Now Gary Myers, in comments attached to LewisC’s article, points out the OTN license says the software is licensed only to “one person”. And so it does (and I missed that first time round). But it turns out the phrase “one person” is irrelevant. Again, read the actual license document. Does it define what “person” means? No it doesn’t. Therefore the word must be assigned the meaning a regular dictionary or legal or conventional usage would assign it. And the dictionary is pretty explicit about it:

Law. a human being (natural person) or a group of human beings, a corporation, a partnership, an estate, or other legal entity (artificial person or juristic person) recognized by law as having rights and duties.

“A group of human beings”. More than one person. Case closed, yer’onor.

Now to the ‘more than one server’. The license is again explicit: “The programs may be installed on one computer only”. However, the license doesn’t define what “computer” means, so it might be possible to argue that a ‘cluster’ is a computer for the purposes of the license: a computational ‘entity’ in the singular, happening to be comprised of multiple individual servers. But it in fact isn’t necessary to resort to such linguistic twists to deal with the issue.

The OTN license has to be agreed to each time you download the Oracle software. That’s one license per download, then. And if you need to run Oracle on more than one computer, you simply have to obtain more than one license… which means, you simply have to download the software more than once. Problem solved.

To answer LewisC’s original question (”Does Oracle Require a License For a Development Database?”), the answer is “of course… and it’s the OTN one, available for free, usable by more than one person, and in a RAC or Data Guard environment provided each install is performed using freshly-downloaded software”. (Slight update: these days, you only install RAC onto the first node of a cluster, and Oracle itself pushes a copy of the relevant binaries onto other nodes of the cluster -so I don’t think the ‘multiple downloads’ thing applies anyway. You download once, you install once, and the software operates to hook in other nodes as required. One install, one license… no matter how many nodes you have).

And that answer is not difficult to arrive at, if you just stick to reading the legal document you agree to when downloading the software and read it rationally and logically. Start appealing to anonymous friends or secondary (and irrelevant) documents, however, and I accept that you’ll have difficulty coming to obvious conclusions. But they remain obvious nonetheless.

Besides, if you have any experience of the range of software licenses out there, you’ll recognise the OTN for what it is: intended only to stop commercial exploitation of a free, giveaway copy of Oracle’s software. The fact that so many key words (like ‘computer’ and ‘person’) are NOT explicitly defined gives the game away: a legal document that sought to screw things down water-tight and unarguably would not let such critical terms through without careful definition. So this legal document is seeking only to establish broad limits and general red lines, not to prescribe particular behaviours with precision. Read in that light, I come back to what I was writing a year ago: please, people, stop being so paranoid and panicky! Oracle is not “out to getchya!’ and the OTN license is loosely drawn up, presumably deliberately (their lawyers know how to draft precisely when occasion calls for it), precisely so that it seeks to do only one thing unambiguously: prohibit commerical use of the software. So long as you don’t try doing that, the OTN license doesn’t get too picky about what you get up to.

No doubt Oracle will have to add yet another ‘clarification’ to their OTN page making it explicit that RAC and Data Guard are covered, but if they don’t, it will only be because they can’t be bothered modifying their web pages every time someone who doesn’t grasp the legal fundamentals over-reacts.

Now, all of the above is indeed just my interpretation of the license, and therefore it’s subject to no more certainty than someone else’s interpretation of it. Only courts of law decide on whose interpretation is the correct one, after all. But this interpretation is, at least, based on a plain reading of the words actually used in the legal document under discussion, and hasn’t had to resort to secondary documents or anonymous friends to form or shape it. Neither is it coloured by the cynicism or plain ignorance that seems to inform a number of the comments found attached to LewisC’s original piece.

Relax, people. The sky’s not falling in, and the OTN license is fine, just so long as you don’t make any money from it.

More thoughts on Windows 2008

Hyper-V is Windows 2008’s answer to VMware’s ESX Server. That is, it’s ‘bare metal’ virtualisation and adding it as a role to a Windows 2008 Server is supposed to ‘lift up’ that installation so that it sits on top of a virtualisation hypervisor. In effect, your Windows 2008 install becomes a virtual 2008 install. Once that’s happened, you can use standard Windows management consoles to create additional virtual machines and manage them from within that new, virtualised, ‘parent machine’.

It’s a great idea in theory, and it’s certainly only a matter of moments to add the Hyper-V role to the server, plus an inevitable reboot. But things went downhill for me pretty rapidly after that. Yes, the management interface is pretty darned sexy, and I was able to create new virtual machines very easily, running XP and Centos 5. But they both took a long time to install, much longer than they would have in VMware Workstation. When they’d been built they seemed to run at a reasonable pace, but certainly not as fast as I would have expected. To be fair, Hyper-V can run “suitable” operating systems (i.e, Vista, 2008 itself and Suse Enterprise Server) at near-native speeds because they have the necessary code built in to enable effective interfacing with Hyper-V’s particular way of virtualising things, whereas non-enabled OSes (of which XP and Centos are both examples) are merely ’emulated’, and therefore inevitably run slower. But still: the two most important OSes to my current needs run worse than they would do in good old VMware.

What’s even worse is that, immediately after I enabled the Hyper-V role, my multimedia playback in the ‘parent’ OS (that is, my original and -to my eyes- very physical 2008 Server installation) went down the plug-hole, big time. I already mentioned how to cure audio ‘stuttering’ in the last post -but as soon as Hyper-V was installed, it was as if that step had never been taken. Without any virtual machines running at all, the mere typing of “www” into the Firefox address bar had audio playback coughing and spluttering uncontrollably. Trying to resize a window caused Foobar2000 to lock up for a good five seconds or more. Clearly not an acceptable mode of operation -especially given the fact that it was running like this on a Quad Core with 4GB of RAM. Not exactly resource-starved, in other words!

Removing Hyper-V immediately put audio playback back to the happy state it had been in before. You can, therefore, pretty much imagine that Hyper-V has gone and VMware Workstation is back. My “legacy” OSes virtualise better and faster in that anyway, and I can still listen to music and watch movies, even with two virtual machines running at the same time.

That said, I liked Hyper-V as a concept, and its implementation looked excellent. It’s just that functionally, as far as a desktop/workstation experience was concerned, it was totally unworkable. In a proper server environment, I’d expect it to be much more suitable. On the other hand, I would point out this article, which explains the inherent limitations of Hyper-V, even in proper server environments, better than I can, and in great detail, to boot.

So, no Hyper-V in a ‘workstation’ version of 2008, not if you fancy playing multimedia properly, anyway.

I had a couple of other gripes about 2008 as a desktop OS: as someone who doesn’t mind the odd game of Solitaire, the fact that no games whatsoever get installed with 2008 was a bit of a shock, albeit not exactly a show-stopper. Flight Simulator installed without fuss on TOH’s machine, and worked fine straight off the bat: better and smoother than in 64-bit XP, that’s for sure -so a definite thumbs-up from that quarter. Civilization IV fared much less well on my machine, though. First off, I declined to install DirectX 9 (as the Civ 4 installer starts off by trying to do), because Win2008 ships with DirectX 10. Big mistake: you have to add the DirectX9 libraries to Windows 2008 otherwise you just get lots of ‘direct X library files missing’ errors when you try running the program. Fortunately a re-install without skipping the DirectX9 stuff fixed that problem, though I also had to run the thing in Windows 2000 compatibility mode before anything would work properly.

Having triumphed so far, I then installed the 1.74 Civ 4 patch… which promptly made everything non-functional again. But by reinstalling DirectX9 (from here), I was actually able to get things working again even without the Windows 2000 compatibility mode. So it ended up being possible to run it “natively” and with zero glitches of any sort.

I am still Solitaire-less, but I’ll settle for rock-solid and bloody-fast with lots of eye-candy. With VMware Workstation.

An Apology

I noticed yesterday that this blog had become far too technical, with lots of posts about abstruse topics such as Oracle databases and Linux distros. Time, therefore, to apologise for that and to do something about it.

First, whilst I wouldn’t normally share this sort of thing with anyone, I think it appropriate to announce the fact that two nights ago, I had my first-ever lucid dream. This is a peculiar state that I first heard about when I was at Uni in the early 1980s: you are completely asleep, you are dreaming, and you are completely aware of the fact that you are dreaming. I was totally aware of the fact, for example, that I couldn’t move my fingers (immobility being a feature of even normal dream states), and that TOH was breathing er… “rather heavily” at my side! I also knew that Byron Road County Primary School couldn’t possibly look that way these days and that I would get into trouble if I walked past the headmaster’s office without putting my head round the door and saying hello. It is, as they say, a very strange state to be in altogether.

But the wonderful feature of this odd state is that you can control what you dream about. So, naturally, I did what all lucid dreamers tend to do the first time… and jumped out of the nearest window. Then, you see, you get to fly. I mean really fly: wind through the hair, arms outstretched, diving and soaring -with not the slightest hint of an aeroplane in sight. Flight au naturel, in short, as an eagle would do it… utterly exhilerating. In fact, it was a little too exhilerating, because I was so excited by the proceedings that I woke myself up, thus bringing my maiden flight to a sudden halt! This was a bit of a shame, because I’d planned that my next stop was to the pit of a world-renowned orchestra, which I would conduct in some serious Benjamin Britten. That, however, will have to wait for the next time.

If you’ve never had a lucid dream, I would encourage you to try to have one. It even turns out that there is a website that will help you have one! I can recommend the reality checks that page suggests, by the way: I noticed, for example, that I cannot read music in a dream, the notes going all indistinct and vague (which makes the chances of me conducting a good version of anything written by Britten pretty remote, I suppose!). Next time I look at a piece of vague, indistinct music I will either think, “Lay off the Whiskey!”, or “I’m dreaming!” (or, I suppose, that I’m holding a piece of Stockhausen in my hand).

Anyway, enough of lucid dreams (though I can tell you I’m as excited at finally having one as I was getting my first glimpse, after 30+ years of trying, of Saturn and noticing that, cor blimey! it’s got rings!!)

The other thing I thought I should share by way of utterly non-technicalities is the latest from the ever-growing clan of Wallabies. Ever-growing, incidentally, because Rachel is pregnant yet again.

I’ve had some emails wondering whether we’re doing the right thing, plying these marsupials with bread. Well, I offer this by way of evidence that it’s not just bread we give them (though bread tends to be the first thing they choose to eat!):

That’s Chandler, bread, birdseed and a rather nice rocket salad… and she picked the bread herself.

But it’s not just bread and birdseed (or even rocket salad). Oh no. Boise is rather partial to something completely different:

That will be him with his head in a bag of cat food, then! That would be the Ocean Platter flavour of cat food, too. I was unaware that wallabies would eat fish, but there you go!! I’d like to be able to say that I’ve checked the ingredients for this particular brand of cat food biscuit and discovered that it’s all lovely stuff that even the fussiest of wallabies (or cats) would be mad to turn their noses up at, but I’m afraid the ingredients list starts off with “Crude Protein 30%”, descends almost immediately to “Crude Fat 15%” and even takes in “Ash 8%”. Not exactly appetising stuff, methinks… but Boise thinks otherwise, apparently.

But he can be rather more ‘refined’ about the process, too:

That’s Boise being s a little more polite about it, disdaining the bag and preferring the ceramic bowl with insightful commentary! Classy, I think!

The cats, incidentally, do not apparently mind their food being purloined by what, to them, must seem like giant rats. But then again, I wouldn’t argue with a giant rat, so I don’t suppose they’re going to start, either!

The results of all this exoitic food are plain to see:

Robot eyes!

Oh, OK, it’s nearly twilight and wallaby eyes seem to be particularly prone to what, in humans, would be called ‘red eye’ but which in the marsupial world should probably be called ’silver eye’. The real point about this picture is not the un-Earthly look of a wallaby’s eyes when reflecting flashlight but that we see Chandler in the front of the picture being vigorously, er… “stroked” by Boise right behind her… and Boise appears to be wearing a particularly satisfied grin. Yes, it’s post-coital statisfaction that looms large over Boise’s face -and it’s nice to see that Chandler kept nibbling her bread throughout the proceedings!

Exotic the food may be, in other words, but it’s certainly not putting a damper on anyone’s normal, healthy non-food appetites!

Which no doubt explains this picture:

That looks like four wallabies: Rachel, Chandler, Boise and Ben. But, in fact, Rachel is carrying yet another Joey (as yet unnamed), so that’s a picture of five of them. I’m open to names for the new member of the troupe, incidentally, though names of Friends characters are now rather passé.

So there you have it. Dreams, Wallabies and very little Databases. I hope that counts as a sufficient apology for letting the technical push aside the non-technical!