Moving in to new home for this blog

Well, I’m unpacking boxes, tidying things up and redirecting mail in the shift to a new host for my blog. Since the impending closure of blogsome.com, I had to move it to somewhere else. Blogsome made it a bit easier by allowing me to back up the blog to a wordpress format backup file, which I was able to import into this one. It didn’t take too long really. The only issue was the separate pages I had made for my Nullarbor trip not showing up. However, a bit of copying and pasting, changing links to point to this site didn’t take too long. I might do a bit of tweaking of the appearance here, eventually.

Hopefully WordPress will be around a bit longer than Blogsome, so I shouldn’t have to move this again for a while yet.

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Lesser known tourist attractions of Melbourne, Australia

In a back lane of Camberwell, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, behind the post office, is a brick wall that has been covered with hundreds of pieces of chewing gum.

Wall of chewing gum 1

There actually could be thousands of pieces there, I didn’t stop to count them. It would have taken a while to put them all there too – this isn’t something that happens overnight.

Wall of chewing gum 2

The council hasn’t removed it either – so they may be implicitly approving of it. It could be an urban art installation, if you will. Pity that it has just been tagged with spray paint.

Then again, maybe no-one in the council wants to be the poor bastard who has to clean it off.

Update:
I went past there recently, and it looks like the council (or someone) decided enough was enough, and cleaned off a good portion of the gum. However, the collection is slowly rebuilding again.

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Kakadu Photos

We recently got back from a trip to Kakadu National Park, in the Northern Territory, Australia. I’ve started doing some post-processing of the photos and am slowly adding them to flickr – see what’s up there so far.

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New blog – Steve’s Ubuntu Tweaks

I’ve gone and made myself a new blog – Steve’s Ubuntu Tweaks. I’ve started things off with some of the posts from this blog, and I hope to keep things related to Ubuntu, linux and other PC-related things to the new site.

This blog was just getting a bit too broad in its scope – trying to have a bit of everything has wound up with it appealing to almost nobody. Except for people searching on google for a Stupid Billboard.

Anyway, head over there for some tips on keeping your machine running sweet.

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Ubuntu 10.04 progress update, update

Well I should have known I’d jinx myself when I mentioned in my last post that the strange, hanging at boot problem has solved itself. Just this morning, the day after I posted, the thing just hung at the boot splash screen. A quick control-alt-delete got the thing rebooting, and it all started fine after that. Looking in the log file viewer revealed nothing out of the ordinary; checking the ubuntu forums showed up nearly nothing, apart from the fact that it happens to other people too.

I say nearly nothing, because I did learn one thing. If you hit escape while in the boot splash screen, the pretty graphics go away and the boot messages come up. I now want the machine to have problems at boot, so I can try this and see if anything interesting appears. Yeah, reverse psychology. I want you to fail at boot, all the time!

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Ubuntu 10.04 progress update

Well it has been a couple of months now, using Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx. Overall, I have been pretty happy with it. Boot times are very quick, especially with it installed on the Intel X25-V solid state drive. The interface is quite polished and looks good. MythTV is working nicely as well. I did have a spell a little while back where it would hang during boot or shutdown, requiring a restart. Either that, or there would be a quite long delay in the boot process. I tried to work out what was causing the holdup by installing bootchart (available in the repositories) and looking at the results.

Wouldn’t you know it, but after I installed it and rebooted, the system worked fine. Everything has been back to normal. Don’t know what was wrong or what fixed it. Oh well, I’ll take it.

I have a sneaking suspicion that it might be due to doing an upgrade install rather than doing a fresh install – I’ll wait and see if it keeps behaving itself.

Backing up the various systems around the house has been something that has been looked into lately, too. I have purchased a new external hard drive to replace the old one, that is now getting a bit old. Following on from discussions on the Overclockers Australia forums, I have been trialling Crashplan, a backup service that allows you to back up to local folders or attached drives, other computers on a network, other people’s PCs, or their own online backup service. It is more concerned with backing up data, rather than complete system images, so that’s what I use it for.

It has enabled me to get around some of Windows 7 Home Premium’s limitations about backing up to a network. The setup I have now for my wife’s Windows 7 PC is that the standard windows backup runs, sending its data to a small external drive attached to it. Supplementing that is Crashplan, that backs up documents, photos, music and the like to the new external drive attached to my PC, giving a bit of redundancy.

My own PC has a regular backup scheduled via backintime to get most of the system data, and Crashplan to back up the music, photos, documents and the like.

On all machines, these are scheduled to run daily with the exception of the windows system backup that is set for weekly running.

I haven’t yet decided whether to take the plunge and purchase the Pro version of Crashplan, or to enable the online backup component. I’m just waiting to see how the software behaves itself – I have overcome one particularly nasty teething problem.

Sometimes when my Linux machine boots, if the external drive hasn’t mounted in time, Crashplan would decide to re-create the backup directory on the system partition and try to back up ~140GB of data to it. I’ve fortunately managed to catch it in the act and stop it before anything nasty happened, but it made me hesitant to make the purchase. I am not the only one who has had the problem, as this support forum thread describes.

I tried a couple of fixes – one was to change the program setting to only allow it to run between certain times, so the machine would be on, and the drive mounted in time, before it starts. This worked well until a few days later when I came home late from work and booted the PC. Backup to system partition happened again. I tried editing the startup scripts, adding a “sleep 20” command, to delay the program from starting until the drive was mounted. I thought this was the solution, until I one day turned the PC on and walked away to do something else. I came back, logged in, and realised the drive wasn’t mounting until after I did that. Crashplan started as soon as the 20 second delay ran out, which turned out to be before my login.

The final solution, and I think this has nailed it, was to add an entry for the external hard drive in the /etc/fstab file. This now mounts the drive straight after it mounts the other, internal drives, and well before the Crashplan engine starts. Since the external drive is a semi-permanene attachment to the PC, it works for me.

I may yet start using the online backup – the only issue now is the matter of uploading nearly 200GB total over a 512 kilobit upload link, with uploads counted towards my data allowance. This would have to be spread out over a couple of months of uploading at a throttled speed.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with Crashplan so far. It supports Windows, OSX and Linux, which is rare. The clients all find and connect to each other with a minimum of hassle as well. It would be good having some peace of mind that all our photos and documents would survive if the house burnt down or something.

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My most painless Ubuntu upgrade ever

Wow. That’s all I can say. Today I decided to upgrade to Ubuntu 10.04, but rather than doing a clean install like I have done with previous versions, I thought I’d have a go at the upgrade. To prepare, I copied the /boot, root and /home partitions of the existing 9.10 install to some free space on another hard drive. Just as a precaution in case it all went pear-shaped. I ran the update manager, chose the upgrade option, and away it went – downloading all the new packages, applying the updates. Only a couple of dialog boxes popped up asking about Grub, and what it should do with it.

The process finished without incident, I rebooted, and surprisingly, it started, allowed me to log in, and it got to the desktop! All previous programs and settings there, all programs updated. I am pleasantly surprised – even MythTV updated without a hitch, for the first time. I’m sure there will be the odd hiccup along the way that I’ll discover in time, but so far so good.

Oh yes, regarding Windows 7 – I’ve removed it from my machine. Partly because I was barely using it, apart from watching full-screen Flash videos in decent quality, partly because I have obtained an old laptop from work, and installed 7 on that.

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