Debian GNU/Linux on Toshiba Portege R500

This week I got my hands on a Toshiba Portege R500 for work. It’s brilliant to have a laptop with a decent battery once again. Here are some thoughts on the hardware, and installing Linux.

The first thing I did was cut through the label on the box that makes it clear that no refund is possible for bundled software you don’t want, including the operating system. This beast came with Windows Vista Business edition, which I could happily live without. For now I didn’t perform a full exorcism, but only shrunk the Vista partition right back. I have some consultancy jobs which might make it handy to leave Vista there for now.

The hardware is brilliant, light (under 1 kg) while still packing quite a punch, dual core CPU, 2 Gig RAM and 160 Gig hard disk. I didn’t want the extra expenditure for a solid state disk, and I wanted the space too. Some reviews mentioned the heat and fan noise, but both are hugely reduced from my Sony Vaio so I’m more than happy.

I burnt a new Debian AMD64 net install disk with the current testing (Lenny) and the second beta version of the installer. I booted off the CD and began the install, having previously so configured the BIOS from within Windows, there was no obvious key to press to change the boot, although I think F12 will do it in retrospect. First thing to note, a really long delay after the kernel declares itself ready and the installer resumes made me think it had crashed. Be patient. The main Debian install went very well, smoothly and quickly. I used the partition editor to shrink the Vista partition to 40 Gig for now. One minor quibble, Debian offers a quick solution for an entire encrypted disk, but not such an option with the remaining space. I don’t yet understand that process well enough so I have left it unencrypted for now, and will do it manually later. Most of my working content is actually in SVN repositories so it’s easy to rebuild from scratch should I choose to. Continue reading “Debian GNU/Linux on Toshiba Portege R500”

Leaked EU code

* attempt to ratify treaty
* @param input the treaty to put before the "people"
* @return boolean true on success, false otherwise
boolean ratify_treaty(treaty input)
  treaty treaty_to_present = hash(input);
    treaty_to_present = cosmetic_rehash(treaty_to_present);
  // Treaty accepted! Never ask again!

I am neither particularly strongly “pro” or “anti” Europe. Nor do I live in the Republic of Ireland, and so I didn’t vote in any referendum; but I am increasingly astounded at the fact that when the EU puts a matter to the public, and it is defeated, they take absolutely no cognisance of it at all. They just, rather cynically, accuse the voters of voting on local issues, or not understanding the treaty in front of them, and keep asking the question till they get the answer they want.

Even for strong proponents of the Union, there are a number of rather awkward issues about its future. Its lack of appropriately audited accounts, its apparent lack of basic democratic accountability and so on. It must not be seen to routinely ignore its citizens. From what I’ve heard so far, and in this situation in the past, there seems to be no basic realisation or admission, that the underlying treaty needs to be reworked to be acceptable to its citizens. It’s about time the commission listened to rather than lectured, its citizenry. It may only be that small changes need to be made, but some recognition of this would be good.

Catching up with old friends

Speaking of catching up with old friends, I went to see Mark Kerr in Belfast last Saturday night. Mark and I know each other well from the old fidonet days, and I guess we haven’t had much contact since I moved to Banbridge, but it was great to see him and his family again. Part of the motivation for that specific timing was another old friend visiting, JoHo, another veteran of fidonet (in case you didn’t know), who was over visiting Ireland (some kind of pilgrimage to Bushmills probably ;-)) with his friend Goran.

Mark had a BBQ on, that we briefly left for a surprising, but really fun diversion (I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you), then we got back, ate a few burgers, drank some wine/coke/whiskey and chattered our way into the small hours. It was really nice to meet up with old friends and meet new people too. I think it’s nice that there are some people you can go for years between seeing, but it still feels like old times when you see them again. So I guess it’s my turn to come to Sweden again now, Jack.

Email Latency

Like lots of people who are too hooked into technology for their own good, I tend to receive loads of emails a day, even after the huge quantity of spam is removed. Sometimes it’s easy, and fast to respond to a given email. Once in a while I get an email from someone that I really want to respond to in some detail; usually an email from a good friend I don’t often see or haven’t seen in a while.

Since I’m usually up to my neck in too much stuff, it’s precisely this email that I leave to the side to deal with later, “when I have more time”. Yes, the people who know me well already understand the problems with that. It would help if icedove stored its tags correctly in my dovecot based IMAP server. but for some reason it often doesn’t. The end result is that “later”, I’m still struggling to complete a dozen tasks on a list, and the email is anonymously buried in my inbox under many more recent arrivals.

That’s really not good, and I’ll have to make more of an effort to keep in touch with all these friends.