10-Mar-2008 (Mon)
Wherein I admit defeat in re this crap.

Stupid computers.

I spent a solid four days trying to upgrade the kiosks from Red Hat 9 + LTSP 4.3 (vintage 2003) to... something newer. In this case, Ubuntu 7.10 + LTSP 5, since it seems like that's what the cool kids are running these days. Why would I do such a thing? Well, one reason is that the Firefox 3 beta would neither install nor compile on RH9 (missing libraries), and another was that the kiosks are a little crashy (they reboot themselves pretty regularly for no adequately explored reason), and also, it's "just kinda old", which some people will tell you might mean, maybe, kinda, less secure. So I figured I'd give it a shot.

Well, since this is not my first rodeo, when I say "upgrade" what I really mean is "do a fresh install on a spare drive."

So, after four days of this nonsense, I gave up, and just put the old drive back in. "Nonsense" in this case is defined as: the upgrade made the machines be even crashier than before (they can barely stay up for an hour) and it's a far worse kind of crashy: it's the kind of crashy where you have to press the shiny red button to make them come back to life, instead of them being able to do that themselves.

So, fuck it. They'll be running a 2003 version of Linux forever, because I frankly have better things to do with my time (what, do you think this television is going to watch itself?)

To paraphrase Homer Simpson, "Let that be a lesson to you, son: never upgrade."

17 Responses:

  1. fantasygoat says:

    I've spent the last 3 years on OS X and I'm contemplating taking a job as the only admin at an exclusively Linux based office - both server and desktop! - and I am feeling some dread at the proposition.

    This doesn't help.

  2. evan says:

    Bummer. For what it's worth, I can't run FF3 at work either due to version skew.

    I wonder if you could offer your legions of internet fanboys an "internship" where they would come over and make your computers work.

    On the other hand, running ancient Linux kinda fits in with the green-screen look of the place.

  3. artkiver says:

    http://jwz.livejournal.com/846523.html?thread=16432827#t16432827

    srsly, don't believe him when he says this is 'unhelpful' advice, he follows his advice in his 9-5 and since (to quote him) he builds shit that "doesn't break" it affords him so much free time he can do other gigs as well. I think the main reason he sez 'unhelpful' is because he needs to keep other people from realizing what a choice idea that is because then his sweet gigs might dry up.

    l00n1x requiring huge amounts of timewaste on solved problems is like THE POINT/main feature. Like, the douche wrote a unix-clone from scratch, c'mon!

    4 DAYS? z0mg, I can't stomach 4 minutes of linux troubleshooting these days, weighing the merits of filesystems that may or may not claim journaling as some revolutionary feature (can we please pay attention to actually interesting filesystem developments, it's like 2008).

    Sorry this is turning into h8 on linux rant.

    • fu3dotorg says:

      One OS X server could do the job, despite the showstarting premium.

      With the 'unlimited clients license' it could serve the kiosks from within a sandbox of some kind, and then a second sandbox (or a user-grid right 'on the metal,' in any case one separate from the kiosks,) could serve the club's other computary needs, (just to pimp that single server license to the max.)

      But it would not be free.

      • artkiver says:

        Free is defined in many ways it turns out, as I'm fond of saying - I'm all about the free software movement: I don't pay for software.

        He could totally warez leopard server if he wanted.

        That said, the choice to simply leave it as it is is fine too it's not expending more energy. While this was a while ago, my friend Bob Beck had a windows9x lab @ UofAlberta that would reimage nightly or on crash/reboot whichever came first - I mean some problems it's not worth addressing too much if you wipe clean and reinstall in an automated fashion. So the distro he's using is from 2003, it has a browser has much really changed that's worth caring about on a kiosk since then?

      • jwz says:

        The hell with "free", it wouldn't be cheap.

        I'd replace the kiosks with Mac Minis in a heartbeat if I could get them for $100 each (every six months, since that's how long I imagine they'd last in this environment).

        • artkiver says:

          apple tvs (used) are still double that price point at least and egads futzing with those to the point of making them usefully running OSX is a pain that almost makes your four days wasted seem reasonable, if you even had a connector you could hook up to your monitors (I'm guessing the hdmi on the newer appletvs is a waste since you presumably have vga in on the monitors).

      • thargol says:

        OS X server could do the job

        Quite possibly. But he already has a working server. It's the clients that are crashing...

    • reesesx says:

      or you ran dissociate.el on some lame ass forum.

  4. wikkit42 says:

    You dismissed the idea of hardware problems (like bad RAM) in the earlier thread. But if it was crashing oddly before, and continuing to crash with new software, might it be worth checking? I don't imagine a night club is the ideal environment for maximizing mean time between failures.

    • jwz says:

      I haven't run memtest lately, but I certainly did the last time I tried to diagnose their crashiness, and the problem was not bad RAM. The problem is almost certainly graphics driver related.

      One can probably with a straight face characterize that as "hardware problems", i.e., "you're using onboard VIA graphics, ha ha ha." Or whatever chipset has fallen out of favor lately.

  5. houdini_cs says:

    You may appreciate knowing that your old diskless Linux writeups are the basis for the diskless machines at my workplace (hundreds, if not thousands, of clients). We've had a bit more luck than you on more modern Linux, but only a bit :)

    If it's in your budget, next time you care about this you might want to take a look at SunRays. They're nice little boxes, something like $200 each, and work with OpenSolaris (free) or RHEL (less free). The SunRay 150 (older model, built into a 15" LCD) goes for even less from the Unix Surplus people during DefCon. I'm fairly sure that the SunRay 2 (current cheap model, and the one I'm familiar with) will take even more abuse than the boxes you're using now since they're no-moving-parts, barely-smarter-than-a-KVM framebuffers.

    • otterley says:

      That's actually not a terrible idea. Better still, Solaris, unlike Linux, has excellent documentation.

    • moof says:

      The biggest problem I've run into these days (with any of the "free" unix-likes) is that X continues to blow goats and its hardware drivers get more and more crashy over time.

      To make a wildly unfounded assertion, I'd say jwz's problems are related to the X goobery - and that something like the SunRay hardware would be a nice panacea to avoid all that crap.

10-Mar-2008 (Mon)
Wherein I plug the absinthe.

After being banned for most of a century, there are some varieties of absinthe that are again legal in the US, so we now have an absinthe bar! Come give it a try.

The new bar is under the main stairs, and open most nights. We have a few varieties of absinthe, and also use that bar to stock the various other strange and higher-end liquors that we occasionally get in.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that there are photo galleries up now of the Informatik show and Dirty party last month.





25 Responses:

  1. fo0bar says:

    Isn't having a bar underneath open stairs rather unhygienic?

  2. britgeekgrrl says:

    Which brands of absinthe are you stocking, if you don't mind my asking?

  3. tjcrowley says:

    I've noticed the attitude here in SF that since absinthe is legal, it's now officially "jumped the shark". It still impresses the tourists though. I base the majority of this observation on a recent interaction between a friend who lives here and a friend who does not upon spotting a store selling it.

    The real question -- Do you sell MANSINTHE?

  4. cattycritic says:

    I think absinthe is something I would like (given how much I generally like herb/bitters in liquor), but it's so bloody expensive I don't want to just buy an entire bottle. I'll be sure to step in & try some.

    • artkiver says:

      Ironically enough Bevmo carries several brands now it and it's a lot cheaper than buying it at a lot cheaper than another run of the mill liquor store. Prices start about $40/bottle, to about $60 for Lucid right now. Still compared with a $20 bottle of pastis, it's not quite as cheap as it gets for anise liquors.

  5. strathmeyer says:

    Hey! Having Absinthe mailed to you from Europe is the American way!

  6. So, from what I hear, and from what I've sampled, most absinthe in the world is crap. I mean, it's strong and it's green, and that counts for a lot, but it tastes like licorice cough syrup. I've also heard that there exists absinthe (tales of chemical engineers with mass spectrometers and ancient bottles of pre-ban absinthe) that *tastes good*! Have you encountered any of this?

    • scullin says:

      It is the bane of kool kids everywhere that absinthe is an anisette, and thus tastes very much like cough syrup, which is also frequently anise flavored. I'm sure polling the same population would reveal that they think Pastis, Sambuca and Ouzo also taste like cough syrup as well.

      There's nothing that innately ties wormwood and anise, though, so maybe somebody will invent wormwood infused peach schnapps to appease duller palettes.

      • scullin says:

        It is likewise the bane of kool kids everywhere that martinis contain gin, although many operate under the delusion that vodka and vermouth counts.

        • luserspaz says:

          I actually enjoy gin, but not anise. I don't like Pastis, Ouzo or Sambuca. Now that I've said that, I'm not sure why I've tried so many drinks that I obviously wouldn't like. Anyway, who's still drinking to be cool, don't people grow out of that at age 21?

        • relaxing says:

          you have to have some vermouth, otherwise it's just gin. which is fine, but not a martini.

      • lifftchi says:

        I've never had an anise-flavored cough syrup in my life. Artificial cherry and grape flavors are the only ones I can remember offhand. Are you sure this is a frequently-used flavoring?

        • scullin says:

          You want to go for the cheep, green, flavor not mentioned variety. Obviously anything labeled "grape" or "carrot" or whatever need not apply.

          Both licorice and anise have alleged medicinal properties, hence their inclusion.

    • sclatter says:

      I mean, it's still anise flavored; you can't get around that. But it's definitely complex and nuanced. Not cough syrupy. It's supposed to be chock full of botanicals and crap.

      It has the strangest mouth-feel of anything I have ever put in my mouth. I can't even describe it. It's like it's there, but then it disappears.

      Supposedly the amount of water you add is pretty critical to having a good experience. I think you're supposed to do 1:8 absinthe:water?

      It's a fun buzz. "Lucid" is a good name.

    • britgeekgrrl says:

      (tales of chemical engineers with mass spectrometers and ancient bottles of pre-ban absinthe) that *tastes good*! Have you encountered any of this?

      That would be the Jade line, created by Ted Breaux. Ted is also behind Lucid, which many Jade-fans are describing as "Jade light". Having compared the two, myself, I think that it's a fair summation. I quite like Lucid, and cheerfully suggest it to folks wanting to try absinthe for the first time - major bonus points for being available in the US, of course, which saves one a whack of cash.

      I've tried the entire Jade range, and like them all very much, but if you don't like anise, then you're not going to like absinthe, at all. There are products out there that describe themselves as "Anise free absinthe" (Tabu Free, Serpis) but that's a contradiction in terms, given that for a drink to even be called absinthe, it must contain anise, grand wormwood and fennel.

      (sorry for carrying on. It's a favorite topic)

  7. msjen says:

    The important thing about absinthe is that it is expensive, thereby regulating my alcohol consumption.

    PS Not responsible for the informatik outfit.

    • muftak says:

      It's not any more expensive than any other spirit. You can get cheap absinthe for the same price as vodka, and a good absinthe is cheaper than a good whiskey.