Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Upgrading to Ubuntu Feisty Fawn (7.04)

A couple of weeks ago, I attempted to upgrade to Ubuntu Feisty Fawn. I've been running Ubuntu as my distribution of choice for two or three years now, and I generally upgrade around the beta release to help shake out any bugs which directly affect me. Usually, it's a painless experiece, but this time was different. I was left with a system which didn't even boot, but instead gave a modprobe error and promptly gave me a spartan BusyBox prompt. After a bit of research, I discovered that it was a known kernel bug which was due to my jMicron flavor of SATA controller.

Fast foward a couple of weeks. The bug is fixed, I'm itching to use some of the bleeding edge software available in Feisty, and I decide to attempt the upgrade again. I'm happy to report that this time the upgrade went off without a hitch. For the most part, all of my fourth-party software is still intact and runs happily, and I'm enjoying the new effects provided by Compiz, and significantly faster boot times (for the four times a year that I need to reboot :P).

All-in-all, it's been a great experience, and I'm excited to use it for the next few months.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Camping in the Rain

For a couple of months now, Heather and I have been planning a trip for Spring Break. With Hannah more than seven months old, and our recent relocation to Austin, we figured a camping/hiking trip would be a great way to get away and enjoy what is usually the best weather of the year in Texas. We decided to go to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, to do some camping and hiking, including a hike of Guadalupe Peak, the highpoint of Texas.

We left early last Monday morning, while most of the Hill Country lay in a foggy mist. The drive was largely uneventful, except for a break stop in Ozona, for a diaper change and a brief stretch of the legs. The weather on the drive alternated between overcast and mostly sunny, so we really didn't know what to expect in the mountains. By the time we drove up the final stretch of highway, the clouds lowered, and we were in a pretty good rain storm. We arrived at the park, snagged the last camping spot, and set up camp in the rain, but luckily, there wasn't any wind. We managed to make dinner during a break in the storm, and then went to bed.

Throughout the night, the weather got cold, the wind picked up, and the fly flapped around. We didn't get much rest, as we worried about the possibility of losing the tent fly and getting very wet. Around 6am, after the tent had buckled a few times, we decided to pack up, throw everything into the car, and retreat to lower climes. It was quite disheartening, as we realized that we wouldn't be climbing Guadalupe Peak any time soon.

Instead, we decided to visit a few other sites in West Texas, including UT's McDonald Observatory, home of the 4th largest telescope in the world. We also stopped and saw the Fort Davis National Historic Site, one of several forts established in Texas during the last half of the 19th Century. It was also fun to drive through some of the mountains in West Texas.

After another long drive through a couple of thunderstorms, we made it home late Tuesday evening, and enjoyed the rest of a quiet Spring Break at home.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

On blogging

In a recent comment, one of my friends asked if I had stopped blogging. In response, I've decided to take a moment to pontificate on the activity of blogging in general, and my participation in particular. If I wax too philosophical, skill to the end to see the answer to his question. :)

A blog is an interesting creation. It exists largely to disseminate information in a timely manner to a specific audience. The writer may have other motivations for blogging, but fundamentally a blog is just another piece of third-rate quasi-journalism, with a several of very important differences from traditional distribution media:

First, a blog can be published by anybody. Unlike a newspaper, a magazine, or even direct market mailings, writing a blog is something that requires no previous skills or experience. The cost of entry is incredibly low, and anyone with an internet connection, mediocre typing skills and sufficient quantities of spare time can write about anything he cares to. The end result is lots of people, spending lots of time, writing about lots of stuff, which they probably know little about.

That said, blogs can still contain useful information. I've learned much after combing the web for a little-known hack for MapServer. Many very intelligent people write lots of intelligent stuff, which can often be useful and instructive. By and large, though, most blogs are junk. Worse yet, the global signal-to-noise ratio goes down the toilet as the amount of junk increases.

Although the information posted to them is often very transient, blogs have the potential to be archived indefinitely. By using proper measures, one can avoid such things, but generally, once something is out on the 'net, it is infinitely harder to put the genie back into that bottle. For that reason, I tend to be overly conservative when it comes to what I post, and how I post it. Of course, there will always be content which is applicable and appropriate, and which I feel comfortable posting.

Third, a blog is an investment by the writer, not a source of income (for most). Whether it be hosting fees, time spent writing, or simply the thought put into generating content, a blog requires something in the way of cognitive cycles and resources. In some respects, living life is largely about the economics of time, and I don't have a whole lot of it these days. In the constant tug of infinite wants versus finite resources, blogging often gets the short end of the stick.

So what does this all mean? Am I done blogging? Will this space ever have more content again?

The answer is: the status quo will probably continue. Hubris dictates that I do have something interesting to say, and this forum is as good as any to say it, I suppose. Hopefully, I'll be a bit more diligent about posting relevant material here as I generate it.

How's that for an answer?