Mac OS X Server

I am a huge fan of the Mac. I have been using them since the Mac Plus running – oh, I dunno, it was before system 6 and MultiFinder and all that. I’ve dabbled in PC’s, and am pretty good with them, but I love Macs. And I like Unix machines a lot too. I learned Linux In the days before the kernel was 1.0 – it was in the 0.9’s or something, I don’t remember. I ran Slackware in those days. Ah, the good ole days.

So I try to consider myself platform-agnostic. I can tell you now some things I really like about Windows boxes. Among which was the generally snappiness of them. I was running a Win2k box for a while (to help force me to test one of our application’s bugginess and behavior under the Dreaded Internet Explorer). It made me really envious. And, so long as I didn’t mess around with it too much, it performed well – especially so for a box with such low specs (as it was, I think I blogged about it before).

As such, it pains me terribly to say I fucking despise Mac OS X Server. I’m sorry, but Apple has completely blown it with this product. I don’t doubt that they are fine if you just do file and print, but this isn’t a Windows server, it’s a Mac server – it’s got Unix stuff in it – why can’t I make it do a whole bunch of things? And the answer is, because it is shit.

The number of individual problems I’ve had on OS X Server is too numerous to count. The stupid management applications crashing on me, or their effects not ‘kicking in’, or the fact that you can’t migrate NetInfo accounts to LDAP accounts, any number of things. The GUI ends up being obtuse and incomprehensible, and the command line is even more painful than that. I’ve always theorized that when you try and put a nice shiny GUI on top of an ugly (but efficient, and flexible) command line, the end result is always a terrible mishmash. I was hoping to be proved wrong with OS X server. And I have not been. The file system is shit. The Mail server is garbage. The web server – oh! the web server! – I have never seen Apache be so terribly crippled. I had to crawl around in config files and XML files for hours to repair our server, once. Awful. And we’ve taken explicit, careful pains to never mess with the command line or any binaries or anything – after all, it’s an OS X server, and we’re trying to do things the OS X way. What a disappointment.

Today, for example, I’m trying to set up a co-workers account so he can do SSH authentication to the server to run some simple SSH commands (having to do with Subversion, a version control system I’d like to switch us over to from CVS). I go into the management app, I go to my coworkers account, I see he has no ‘home’ set. That’s fine, he is not an SSH man, himself. So I try and set him one. Crash. I try and read mine so I can compare. Crash. I try and look at it again, it’s not one box for ‘what is your home’ it’s three boxes, and I can’t figure out what is what. And I’m not stupid. And any time I try and do anything to it, crash. What a fucking mess.

Now, don’t think this means I have any like for Windows servers. Because they’re just as bad – though possibly a bit less so, since they don’t have to do the “Shiny GUI to shitty command line translation” that OS X has to. To enable RIP routing on a FreeBSD box? (Mind you, I don’t know FreeBSD that well). set it to ‘yes’ in the conf file, and then launch it. Boom. New routes in routing table. Try to enable RIP on Win2k3 server? You have to enable routing and remote access (Telephony! What the fuck!), then add RIP for an interface, then all kinds of stuff – then all my route metrics are all freaky and inexplicably huge, until I find out that Windows is randomly mangling my route metrics based on interface speed (NB – win2k did not do that). What kind of lame-ass bullshit IS this? IIS also enjoys baffling and frustrating me and anyone else who is cursed with it.

Unix boxes, however, are mean. They just aren’t nice or friendly at all. Totally unapproachable. Compare an airplane cockpit with the driver’s seat in a car. The car you might be able to work out yourself, by playing with it. The airplane, you will not. There are 50,000 gajillion little controls for things. The car emphasizes just a few, and will let you get around. So the end result is it takes FOREVER to figure out what you’re doing on a Unix box, until you start getting the Zen of how it works and what its design are. You can do a hell of a lot on a Windows server or a Mac server without knowing what the hell you’re doing. And that has its advantages. And its disadvantages, when you mess with something you don’t understand and unleash unholy hell upon yourself. And Unix boxes will not only let you shoot yourself in the foot, they will load the gun and point it right at your foot, and take the safety off, and not say a word about it. Like I said, mean.

I do know this – any time I get to spec out or make any new server or computer for anyone that I have control over, it won’t be a Windows or Mac server. Maybe if it was something for simple file-and-print, and some email, I might. But not for anything nontrivial.

I should mention – it could be an issue with my own personal comfort level with these machines. I mean, I know Unix boxen pretty well, maybe not as well as I know the Windows and Mac boxen. But every time someone needs to refer to someone who knows more about these things, they always get referred to me. So it’s sad, but maybe I *do* know as much about these things as I do about the other. Because I assume there’s some bias in my knowledge here. But the scary thing is, there might not be.

Light Sabers

They must not radiate heat. They’d be impossible to hold. But if they were to hit metal or something, that would radiate heat as it were being melted/cut.

The way they get swung implies that their center of gravity is not in the handle – it’s somewhere down the ‘blade’ – so the light saber blade itself must have some mass.

The blades also must have some kind of volume – they exclude each other, when Jedi or Sith swing them at each other, the blades don’t pass through one another. Also ‘blaster’ shots bounce off them, so they have both mass and volume.

Now I’m assuming conservation of mass and energy is still in effect here – but if so, a powered-off lightsaber should weigh as much as a powered-on one. I’ll take the fact that they’re not portrayed in the movies this way as a simple technical flub.

They don’t need ‘guards’ on them – perhaps the blades ‘stick’ when they hit each other so there is no risk of the blade sliding down another and chopping off an unsuspecting Jedi’s digits.

The way the blades seem to be able to cut off heads, hands, etc make them seem more like a ‘point’ of laserness, as opposed to the inch-or-so of diameter that they appear as. Maybe the force (lowercase f, not uppercase F) which excludes the other light saber (and perhaps also deflects blaster shots) is that inch, inch-and-a-half, but the cutting part is perhaps much narrower. This would have to be the case because to cut off someone’s hand or head, you’d have to burn through an inch thick of flesh, and that would take some serious effort, and once done, the heat that would come off the guy who got cut might even burn you!

Problem with this theory is that in SW ep. I, Qui-Gon Jinn jams his light saber into a shutting blast door to melt his way through, which it begins to do. He does have to wiggle it around a little to start cutting through, so maybe my theory is working after all.

Blackberry review

Well, I finally couldn’t stand my crappy pay-as-you-go phone, and got a Blackberry. I am a former Treo user, so I was expecting some growing pains and culture shock.

I didn’t run into much.

The BB is a nice piece of hardware – a big plastic slab. I’m a cheapskate, so I got a simple (cheap) BB 7230. With the crappy screen. And (literally) 16 MB of flash RAM. It feels like you could step on it and it would keep running. It hasn’t crashed yet. It’s performance is – adequate, I’d say. You see the hourglass coming up some times, but it’s never so bad where you’re really bummed about it. You can multitask a little (using some fancy keystrokes), but you don’t really want to do that on this particular model, with its 16MB of Flash and 2MB of actual RAM (ew).

The battery life seems absolutely excellent. The device required more care and feeding than I’d hoped for – I did an OS upgrade, and I had to put in some funny WAP settings I read about somewhere to make the SSH client I grabbed function properly.

The one thing – one thing – which is bad, is in fact so bad that I’m seriously considering whether or not to use the device – is: Blackberry Web Client. (aka BWC, or BIS?) It’s super shitty. First off, it only gets my mail every 15 minutes – which is not very nice, but dealable. The thing that really kills me is that it doesn’t seem to synch whether or not I’ve read an email back to the main server. And a good chunk of what this thingee can be useful for me for is to read email, and have it be marked as ‘read’.

Now, it’s possible that it _is_ marking my mails as read, and I’m not waiting long enough (possibly that whole 15 minutes) to let it do so. If so, then I’m happy. I’ll test soon. In fact, how about now? 3 messages marked unread on the handheld. 1 marked unread on my mail client. Will read all three on handheld, should leave all as ‘read’ in both places. As of 1:41pm. OK. Finished as of 1:43pm. Should be synched (sunc?) by 2pm. Or so. Nope, it’s 2:05pm and a new message has shown up in my desktop client, but not on the BB, and the message that I read on the BB now does not show up as ‘read’ on the desktop client yet. Perhaps we have to wait for the synch… Okay, it’s now 2:13pm and it’s STILL not synch’ed. Crap. I think it just doesn’t work. I have IMAP, they just don’t seem to be accessing my mail account that way. I’ll fiddle on the server-side to see what I can come up with. Edit – OK, I’ve fiddled. This Blackberry service is useless shit. I don’t need to read every email twice. This is no way to work. I have fucking IMAP, there’s nothing stopping you from marking them as ‘READ’ (as in the opposite of ‘unread’). Shitheads. Just being shills for stupid pointless ‘enterprise’ mail systems like Exchange. What fucking crap. I mean, I agree, IMAP is an abysmally designed protocol, whose inevitable adoption was actually stopped by its atrocious design.

The help files on the device are (as a client told me) quite easy to access and read, and very helpful to have handy. Brickbreaker is an extremely lame game which is bundled and mediocre.

And the actual Blackberry service is relatively inexpensive – specifically I’m on T-mobile, I’m paying $20/mo for BB, plus another $30 for 300 minutes (and I’m barely going to scrape by this month on those). Sprint was cheaper, by $5/mo, but I’d get creamed on the phone. Whereas this cheapo t-moble blackberry did not cost me very much at all.

So – I dunno what to do. The new low-end Treos came out and I bet I could do pretty well with them. I think I’m now sold on ‘GSM’ as the phone technology of choice for me – smaller phones, better (seeming) battery life, phone calls automatically interrupt data connections (all good things). And I think I like T-Mobile. I do miss my pay-as-you go plan though. I never felt like I was getting robbed, whereas I’ve gone over (probably way over) my plan this month and it stings like hell. I think I heard that T-Mobile won’t do the Treo (680 I believe?) because they’ve had return problems on the Treo line. I don’t blame them. This Blackberry doesn’t crash. I had to power-cycle it once, when I was doing all kinds of crazy multitasking and stuff (my own fault), its battery life is wonderful. Just this blackberry mail service is fucking shit.

I miss little things like my blog posting software, and camera, and other little trivialities that don’t really add up to much. But, most of all – ChatterMail. Ah, old Chattermail. You crashy, but extremely powerful and useful hunk o’ junk. IMAP accounts, marks as read, instant-push email, slurps battery like it’s going out of style. I miss you so, Chattermail. Please come back to me. Please.