Dell D630 and Xubuntu 12.12

Well, the world doesn’t seem to have become significantly worse (or extinct) simply because the Mayan calendar expired today. Apparently, it was only one of their calendars that said that, anyway.

Since determining that I couldn’t afford to have $1300+ tied up in my day-to-day laptop (MacBook), and didn’t want to be beholden to Microsoft for every single aspect of my computing, I did some research and finally ended up with a Dell Latitude D630. The machine has proven to run Xubuntu 12.12 flawlessly. I did change the original Dell MiniPCI Wireless card to a more common Intel card, but the initial boot had only the existing hardware installed and didn’t require any trickery to get it running like so many laptops do. The only specific items required for installation were the latest nVidia drivers and the wireless card drivers. Everything else worked out of the box.

The D630 in question cost $80 from eBay, with an additional $12 for the Intel wireless card, $22 for 2 extra GB of memory, and $75 for a 1 TB external hard drive that was hacked apart for the drive (cheaper to buy the external unit than an equivalent internal unit, go figure). The machine has a Core 2 Duo CPU running at 2.2 GHz, so is pretty peppy no matter what I do. The memory is a total of 4 GB, which is enough space to run VirtualBox and Windows XP, although I haven’t used it for quite some time. This laptop has been in constant use in this configuration for over 2 months, which is probably a record for me. I usually reconfigure or change about once a month, but I just don’t have time right now to do so.

Time to drink to the Mayans; their prophesies might be wrong, and they might be a blood-thirsty race, but they were quite adept at many things while they lasted.

RPGs

Generally speaking, I’ve been involved in RPGs to one extent or another since I was around 11 or 12. While many people disparage them, thinking of them only in terms of Satan or nerd-dom, the reality is that I learned a great deal and expanded my horizons far beyond what would otherwise have happened.

I’ve played many different games, although I started out with the Basic and Advanced D&D books. I moved on to AD&D, Traveller, Space Opera, Boot Hill, Gamma World, and many, many others. I tend to identify myself as a geek, however, as I generally understand the inner workings of things, not just the rules and regulations associated with nerd-dom.

I’m an avid reader and RPGs only increased that vice (can reading be a vice?). Over many years, I learned a great deal from fantasy, sci-fi, and non-fiction. Much of what I learned was then expanded into further learning, often resulting in much deeper study.

As it happens, I’ve ultimately moved away from RPGs slightly as there is little time these days to engage in such activity. Truthfully, so many games exist these days that it’s a daunting task to take them all in. Frankly, some of them are crap anyway, but it’s hard to spot them sometimes without study. What amazes me is the number of games that seek to capture that D&D (Greyhawk, Original books, Red and Blue book), AD&D, or other feel. Many of the games seem to be devolving because the rules have become so overwhelming that people simply can’t deal with them. Of course, at $100+ for initial entry (basic book, monster book, and game master book) required for many games, it’s no surprise that people are backing up and re-thinking this concept. RPGs are great, but the companies tend to be blood-thirsty in their pricing.

More to come…

CoCo3 Emulation under MESS 0.145

First, I’d like to say that it’s been a challenge getting this configuration to run. Not because of software issues but because there doesn’t seem to be anyone else that wants to do exactly what I’m doing.

For those who might not know, CoCo3 refers to the Radio Shack/Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer 3, which hasn’t been available for over a decade. However, it was a nice piece of consumer-grade kit, not quite at the level of the Amigas but still pretty decent. MESS refers to the Multi Emulator Super System, designed to provide emulation for many different pieces of computer hardware.

Just to quickly sort things, make sure your version of MESS is 0.145 and the ROMs that you are using were created with that version in mind. I am using the 48 TPI DS DD NitrOS9 image, but something to watch out for is that OS9 compatible disks must be named with an os9 extension rather than dsk in order for MESS to properly recognize them. Otherwise, it assumes a corrupt image but doesn’t report it as such.

Anyone interested in specifics is welcome to post a reply; I’ll try to update the system to the point that I have it working at that time.

Education, Part 2

I recently enrolled with Columbia College (http://www.ccis.edu) to work on my Computer Information Systems bachelor’s degree, following a successful 2010 graduation with a Business Administration associate’s degree. Classes began on Monday (Ethics and Programming I), which should keep me busy for the next couple of months.

Columbia College is nice in that they are regionally accredited, offer a brick-and-mortar presence with real sports teams, and do not market their degrees as “on-line” like so many other institutions. Further, my experience was that the classes were at least as comprehensive as those I attended at the University of Kentucky several years prior. Oh, did I mention that they are very veteran friendly and provide a lower cost per year than many other institutions? Depending on your goals, Columbia College might be a good option.

 

General class test passed!

Whoo-hoo! I passed the General class Amateur Radio test (29 out of 35). Now all I need is a better radio than my current 2m handheld. I’m hoping to pickup at least a 10m or multi-band, even a broken one, in the next few weeks and actually get back on the air.

Also took the Extra class exam cold. Scored 28 out of 50, which isn’t bad, I guess, considering I haven’t even looked at most of the Extra stuff.

Ubuntu 11.04 without Unity

Unity is an interesting development, but it’s very distracting to me so I wanted to disable it. However, quite a few instructions I found weren’t terribly clear. Basically, you need to login to Ubuntu after specifying to use Ubuntu Classic. If you are already logged in, simply log out. Once the user prompt is shown, click on the user name and then look at the bottom of the screen. The login type will be shown as Ubuntu. Click on it and then change to Ubuntu Classic. Now login normally and you’ll get the window manager layout that you are used to.

Apple //c with no disks

Accidentally purchased an Apple //c last week on eBay. I never expected to get one for less than $20, but figured I’d take the chance… Due to incorrect title, the thing never got another bid, so now it’s mine!

Anyway, it came with a disk containing a couple of games, but in very poor condition. The //c itself is yellowed (of course) but otherwise seems pretty good. Something I hadn’t noticed was the UK keyboard instead of US. No big deal. Running print peek(64447) reported 255, so it’s the original ROM version.

Since I had no disks, I was wondering how to create one from a PC when I found the ADTPro project on sourceforge. Turns out that since Apple II series was designed for potential cassette-based loading, there is a way to load the O/S through the serial port and then write out to disk. Fortunately, I’ve scrounged several 5-1/4″ disks from around my old stash, so now the only problem is that I’m getting an error every time I try to transfer the O/S. I just haven’t found the right speed, or my cable isn’t sufficiently shielded. But it does work. I get the ProDOS screen after transferring, although it craps out depending on what you try to do (due to the transfer error). Still, I’m on the way.

Pics later.

Sugar Glider Homes

Well, the sugar gliders now have new homes. The boys (Max and Boba) have a blue frog, while the girls (Zoe and Munchkin) have a pink frog and a pink condo-block. Jess made these and the ‘gliders love them.

The Condo-Block

 

Zoe and Munchkin

Max, Boba, and The Frog

MacBook 6,1 (Late-2009) with Mac OS X on VirtualBox

*** Please read your EULA carefully prior to completing this installation. Note that I have not made use of any hacks or tools and have used only my Apple recovery DVD. OS X Server is allowed to be virtualized under certain conditions on Apple-branded hardware, and I am running an Apple machine. My intent is not to cheat Apple, as I have already purchased their hardware and, presumably, their software. ***

My main system is a MacBook 6,1 (late-2009) model on which I normally run Ubuntu. However, I have been trying to find a way to run OS X under emulation (to avoid bootloader issues and to simply have it ready all the time). After researching for quite some time, I decided that it might be worth a shot to simply try running the restore discs that came with the machine under VirtualBox.

First, I downloaded VirtualBox 4.0.4 from Oracle (http://virtualbox.org), 64-bit version for Ubuntu 10.10. The version that is available through the repositories is missing some functionality as it is the open source version. I also downloaded the extension pack so that full USB capabilities would be available.

After installing VBox, I went ahead and setup a new virtual machine, selecting OS X Server 64-bit as the machine type, memory set to 2048 MB, and graphics memory set to 128 M (with 3D acceleration enabled). I also changed the networking to Bridged mode as this tends to work better for my purposes.

When first running the machine, insert the first disc that came with the machine and configure VBox to use that disc. You’ll see a lot of console information go by before the installation screens finally start. Once you’re in the GUI and at the point where you would normally select the drive to install to, there won’t be a drive available. Click on the Utilities menu and Disk Tools. With the correct drive selected, click the Partition tab and replace Current with 1 Partition. Make sure the partition is configured as HFS+ Journaled and then click the Partition button. Once complete, close the Disk Tool window. Your drive should now be visible as an option for installation.

Make sure you click Customize and select any additional software prior to continuing. Then click Install and find a few web sites to surf (http://www.s100computers.com).

Amazingly, everything except video seems to work properly straight out of the box. The video works fine, I just haven’t found a way to change the resolution to 800×600 (at 1024×768, the default, it overflows the screen and I have to scroll). Sound seems to work, although it’s not great quality sometimes. The system is responsive and I haven’t encountered any problems thus far.

I’ll be installing all my normal Mac software over the next few days and will try to remember to post updates.

This marks the point of having Ubuntu 10.10 64-bit as my main O/S, with Windows 7 64-bit and Mac OS X 64-bit both available any time I need them. I recommend the 8 GB upgrade mentioned elsewhere, however, as 2 virtual machines will quickly eat up your available RAM if you want to have any kind of performance.

For those wondering, I enjoy the look and feel of Linux on a day to day basis better than Mac OS X and Windows. All 3 operating systems have their good and bad points and it’s really just a matter of personal choice. My main reason for purchasing the MacBook was to get a well-integrated platform to install Linux on, even if that turned out to be a pain in the derrier.