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Journal: Reminiscence XP 6

Journal by jawtheshark
As I said in my previous journal entry, I'd install Windows XP Home (OEM) in a Virtual Machine today in order to commemorate the death of XP. I documented it with screenshots. Yes, I know, it's Facebook album, but it's public. It was the quickest way to get something online.
From VM creation and installation from SP3 OEM ISO to fully patched in 1 hour and 30 minutes. Not all that shabby.
It also indicates that XP will most likely die totally when they turn off the activation servers. I don't think they'll hand out the promised "no activation patch", ever. (Well, I always heard they'd promised such a thing, it might simply be legend.)

Journal: On the dreaded phrase: "I have an idea for an app" 9

Journal by jawtheshark
In the past few weeks different people came to me with the dreaded phrase: "I have an idea for an app". If you feel targeted, you probably are, but you're not the first, and you won't be the last. Some even trusted me enough to tell me what their great idea was. Many, though not all, couldn't code their way through a paper bag and thus they look for someone "to code the app for free".

You even might find someone like that, and if you do, it's someone with a lot of time on their hands like a student with not much experience.

What those ideas (if I get to hear them) all have in common is that they need infrastructure behind it. Uploading pictures, movies, heck, even simple text need a place to be stored. That's definitely not your phone, especially if others need to be able to access it. Yeah, you can start off with hosting a little database and web front end on your DSL line (if you have one), but in the long run this will require some serious money. I'm not even talking about the people managing and creating it for you. I'm just talking about bandwidth, storage, electricity.

So, if you have an app idea, assess where you want to store what: if you have no concrete answers to those questions, shelve your idea until you do.. An app is nothing magical, it requires real resources, real work and thus real money.


Journal: LuxTrust on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS 3

Journal by jawtheshark

Intro: I was complaining on social networks that the LuxTrust hardware tokens are forced upon all teachers in my country. That's a huge problem because I got my mother in law on Linux and this thing is very very badly supported. Officially the website say "Ubuntu 10.04" supported. Funnily enough, their website also doesn't mention Windows 8 as supported. Anyway, they're a useless company in my eyes... I wish them the most ill possible.

Here is my little test run:

So, I decided to test the LuxTrust support under Ubuntu GNU/Linux 12.04 LTS i686[1]. I installed a virtual machine from the ISO, and from that blank slate, I wanted to try how "easy" this is. Well, there you go, I downloaded their "middleware".

The good news: Ubuntu Software center presented it as installable and it installed it without apparently problems after clicking the Install. Good! If this were enough, I'd say "it's supported"[2]. Let's test it. So, I go to CCP-Connect, one of the few banks known to work well with LuxTrust under Linux. The thing needs Java[3], and I as expected, and I don't have it installed. I get redirected, at once to The sheer number of options is intimidating. If I weren't very familiar with Java, I wouldn't have a clue what to select. Now, this might be P&T Luxembourg doing it wrong, but the site you should send end-users to is Never send an end-user to a developer site, it's a horrible mistake.

Anyway, I do what is needed and surprise[4], there is no Oracle Java for Ubuntu. A RPM and a tar.gz. Now, if I weren't who I am, I would be blocked again. So, I download the tar.gz and I'll be honest to you, dropped right to the command line, tar zxvf later to /opt, and doing an update-alternatives --install of the new java, oh, and while we're at it, make a symlink for the plugin [5]. Now, of course, I understand it's Oracle whom I have a problem with, but I bet that you won't get this documentation at LuxTrust and they sure as hell can't walk you though this. Of course, the way I did this, I'm now responsible for updating my Java. Of course, there is a PPA, but can I trust that? (I'll have to, if I want automatic updates, but you get the point, no?)

Now, going back to the banking site, it seems to run. I get to the point where I have to select their product and then a screen saying there is no signing stick. (Obviously, I don't have one.)

For kicks 'n giggles, I tried OpenJDK/JRE with the icedtea plugin. No surprise, but that doesn't work: gray pane instead of the applet, but other java applets works fine. So, Oracle Java mandatory. Heck, even Minecraft runs op OpenJDK for crying out loud!

At least their middleware didn't install some kind of daemon, which I what I would have expected with something called "Middleware".
Funny also: The Oracle Java VM warns you from running applets all the time, even the test applet on the site. Scary. Well, not to me, but to a normal end user.

[1] i686 for a good reason, from what I read getting it to run is significantly harder on amd64.
[2] I knew that it wasn't going to work
[3] Wait, isn't that what dependencies are for... Naaaah, dependencies. Who uses that?
[4] Not really, I've been here before
[5] Probably better use update-alternatives for that one too!


Journal: Poster child of Android tablets' 2

Journal by jawtheshark
Galaxy Tab 2 is the poster child of Android tablets out there, right? Well, let's just say that I ain't impressed. Boyfriend of MiL got one, to read his newspaper. Well, we didn't manage to do that, partially, I think due to screwing up. Partially, because the default browser just says "downloading" and that's it. What exactly happens after that is unclear and unless you know that a tiny download icon shows the download, and if you swiped away that, where to find the PDF... you ain't gonna go far. Apart from boyfriend of MiL not (wanting) to understand the difference between an app, a website and a PDF, it ended up being an exercise in frustration.

Unable to help on that front, he asked if he could read his email. Naively, I said, of course you can! So, I set up his (national, very standard) ISP email address. Well, I followed the wizard. Big mistake, I ended up on POP3, which of course is a standard that should have been banned years ago. Damn, I hope you didn't have important emails. I set it up again as IMAP. Works fine, really... Except it doesn't show any email. None... I specifically sent email to him. Shows nothing... I assure you, the settings are correct. I used the same as those, I used on his iPhone. Besides, they do show on his iPhone
No way to make it work. On a related note: the POP3 did not delete his email from server. At least that was good.

Then, I want to show him to install apps (Despite me hating the word). Choice between the Samsung App Store, which most likely works but you want the Google store. So, Google Play. Okay, do you have a Google account? No... Ah, no problem, let's set one up. I follow the wizard, up until it asks for a secondary email for "lost password" situations. I could type in whatever I wanted, but the "Next" button never got enabled, stopping me right in the track to create the account.
Yes, I know, I could just go to a computer, create him a Google account and be done with it. Still, isn't this simply a scandalous bug?

So, I try to help and end up having I to explain that tablet browsers are second-class internet citizens (a site he uses failed to work. How do you explain that to a non tech, eh? Nothing I did worked as expected and I'm supposed to know what I do.

Okay, I might simply have become obsolete and have become unable to troubleshoot modern devices. Perhaps it's a hint I should stay in my basement with my servers and "real" computers. I don't know... It must be me. Everyone loves their Android tablets....


Journal: Linux: adoption by those who are fed up? 6

Journal by jawtheshark

Today, I had the most peculiar experience. A (female, and pregnant, but that has no importance at all for this story) cousin of mine complained on Facebook about a virus infection on her Windows machine (I assume Vista, but I actually didn't bother to ask). Locked out by one of these ransom viruses. Worst part is that she did have an up-to-date antivirus sponsored by the Bank where here partner works.

I don't mind helping, but -of course- my first comment was. "Drop that crap OS and go to and get a real operating system". I NEVER expected her to actually do that. Well, she jumped on the occasion. She was also very happy to hear what a live CD is and that she could recover her data from her current installation using the LiveCD and copy it to a USB disk. So, she managed to burn the ISO, boot to it, copy her data and install the whole thing. Basically without me helping except saying that it could be done. I also explained what dual booting was and she could do that.

She asked me one question: Why do you use Windows? My reply was: I don't, unless I want to play games (the non-Flash variants. I illustrated Flash games with FarmVille). The tipped her over: She'd go full Linux.

I was completely baffled... You have to imagine the frustration Windows had to put on her so that she would try something completely unknown, just because I say I use it.

First reactions were: Hey, this thing already has Firefox,,Thunderbird and an Office suite. Wow, I have four workspaces (she means virtual desktops). She found Ubuntu Cloud (5GB seems a lot to her, I wonder where else she has been?) and -while not Ubuntu specific- I explained her what Firefox Sync is. She also seemed to like the idea of the Software Store (I compared it to Apples App Store, I know not the same, but she has to understand what it is) and steered her to installing ubuntu-restricted-extras and explained it was to install Flash and similar.

Linux on the desktop... Yes, it can be done... She is non-IT, perhaps a bit geeky, but definitely non-IT.

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Journal: Got myself a new monitor... No, nothing special, just cheap. 5

Journal by jawtheshark

Got myself 58% more screen real estate at 117.99€. The prime condition on a Full HD[*] monitor was that it must have integrated speakers. This is because it saves desk space. That's hard to find in my allocated budget of max. 149€.

Funnily enough, this is exactly the same model as my moms screen which I bought nearly two years ago. 149€ back then. I have cursed myself ever since that day that I didn't buy one for myself.

The integrated speaker isn't as great as the ones in my old Fujitsu-Siemens C17-2, but more than sufficient for the occasional youp...I mean youtube video.

On a related note, I start to have quite a few "spare" LCD screens now.

[*] As much as I'd love to have a 2560x1440 monitor, there is no way I want to spend 400€++ on a monitor.


Journal: Does anyone even use the tomcat/jsf packages of Debian? 3

Journal by jawtheshark

I don't program much these days any more, but due to a not very important reason, I wanted to do a little something with Java Server Faces. Being a sysadmin by day, I thought that setting up such an environment would be easy-peasy, as long as I stick to the default packages, I'd get an environment that would be more than sufficient for my modest needs. Basically, my idea was that

aptitude install tomcat6 libjsf-impl-java

on a base Debian squeeze would do it. I mean change a config file left and right, drop the webapp in /var/lib/tomcat6/webapps/ and point my browser to http://dusky.sharks:8080/megasuperextremewebapp

Well, apparently, it's not that easy. I took this as test web application, as it looked extremely simple. I immediately got greeted with a ClassNotFoundException on com.sun.faces.config.ConfigureListener. That seems to be one of the core JSF classes. No problem right? Just a classpath problem right? Well, I do remember that could get quite complicated. To make a long story short. The JSF jars are in /usr/share/java where you'd expect them. Superficially there didn't seem to be an entry to that in the classpath, so I added it manually. Didn't help.

Well, let's try adding a few symbolic links to the web applications WEB-INF/lib part... namely jsf-impl.jar and jsf-api.jar. Nope... Then I read something that can't do that but need to copy the jars to make it work. I do so. It still doesn't work, but the ClassNotFoundException is gone (replaced by another one). WTF?!? Java doesn't work with symlinks?

It's pretty much at that point that I decided to write this, because despite all my Googling, I found no references on how to do this (using default packages on Debian). All instructions basically are quite Windows centric, instruct you to download software here and there tell you to copy jars nilly willy, which would be okay if they explained why. I don't like "just do this" instructions.

I'm a big fan of the central repositories, but unless I have a blonde moment, server-side Java doesn't play nice at all...

So, is there anyone who ever tried using just the packages and have it work?

I took a fish head to the movies and I didn't have to pay. -- Fish Heads, Saturday Night Live, 1977.