Fables and different species

Recently, I saw a Michelle Malkin column that reminded me of something that's irritated me for years. I don't normally read Malkin because she's so unpleasant, but I've been interested in watching how the right-wing approaches the bailout, so I skimmed her column. She retold the story of the right-wing ant and the liberal grasshopper: how the ant worked hard to save up his resources, but the liberal grasshopper was lazy and then tried to organize all the other lazy grasshoppers to steal what the ant had saved. OK -- fine story that riffs on one of Aesop's Fables. But I think it would actually be better to remember that we're all the same thing: we're all ants. Some ants don't have to work hard in order to have plenty. Others, no matter how hard they work, still end up with nothing. Many ants who work equivalently hard, end up with vastly different outcomes, depending where they live, what their circumstances are, or just through dumb luck. Vilifying and dehumanizing classes of people you don't like, isn't helpful.

I remember having the same reaction when I read Maus for the first time. Representing different nations as different kinds of animals obscures the reality that we really are all the same. The Nazis didn't want to admit the Jews are human and it is uncomfortable for many of us to claim the Nazis as human -- but we are all human and to deny the humanity of others is the first step down the slippery slope.

Wow. After I checked the wikipedia entry for Maus, I looked up The Ant and the Grasshopper to confirm my recollection that it was one of Aesop's fables and saw that someone had already updated the entry with a reference to Malkin's column. Wikipedia is amazing.

Fables and different species

I finished my first pass at setting up vmware to work with radmind. I built my final winxp image -- before I made the image, I did "clean up" from the winxp side, to remove temporary files, browser cache, etc, and then did clean up from the vmware side, to reduce the size of the disk images as much as possible. I also found that by saving the image in a shut down, rather than suspended state, it saved about a GB of space. I ended up with an image that was 3.62GB in size -- about half in 1 2GB chunk.

It would probably be better from an end-user standpoint to dist out the image in a suspended state -- the user could then start up the system ready-to-go and already in the correct mode. As it is now, the user has to wait for Windows to start up and then switch to unity mode (or full screen). Unfortunately, the image would frequently kernel panic when it started up -- not always, but frequently. I spent some time trying to diagnose the problem. I thought it might be related to either rebuilding or not rebuilding the virtual machine's unique identifiers inside VMware, but I tried it both ways without success. Oh, well. Why should working with winxp be convenient anyway.

After I finished, I sent a message to the faculty member that the image was ready to go and that I did not know what else needed to be done. Now we'll try it for a few days and see what else he wants to do.

The new Integrated Science Building is currently being outfitted and is planned to be iMacs running MacOS with vmware to provide access to Windows. I got a notice about Apple cutting the pricing on some 24inch iMacs and passed it along, so the ISB bought 52 of them to outfit the new Computer Resource Center in the building. It's going to be an awesome new lab, with 24inch iMacs.

VMware image and radmind

Watching Bush last night was a painful experience -- its always painful to watch him because he seems like such a moron. His speech writers had done impressive work to boil the financial crisis into terms that someone with a 5th grade mentality (like Bush) might be able to understand. And I'm convinced that the consequences of not proceeding with the bailout will be catastrophic -- maybe even more catastrophic than doing it.

At the same time, I'm reminded of the sense I had early on, that the Bush administration was intentionally running the country into the ground. I get the feeling that they've known all along (not Bush, who seems way too stupid, but the malevolent people who run him) that the country was headed for a crash, so they've been trying to extract anything of value that they could before the crash happened. That explains why they haven't been bothering to try to actually run the place well: they're just trying to leverage money out of the system before the whole thing collapses. This "bailout" sure looks like a way to screw the taxpayer one last time before they leave office.

Installing and Configuring Windows using VMWare

I'm installing Windows for a teaching lab that wants to have Windows software available. It's been an interesting experience. Using Windows is a really unpleasant experience: it constantly pesters you and gets in the way of trying to get work done. Ugh.

Using VMWare for virtualization seems pretty cool. I was more inclined to go with Virtualbox, but others wanted VMWare and the ability to run VMWare Fusion, with MacOS and Windows windows interspersed does seem cool. Both have parts of their virtual machine open sourced and other parts closed, so it's hard to make a determination on that level. We were able to get an academic license to use either for free, so the price difference didn't matter.

One important feature of VMWare for interacting with radmind is that you can have sparse filesystems that are split up into files that are not larger than 2GB. This suggests that we won't have to copy more than a few GB of data per machine each night to restore the image of Windows available in the lab. I was worried it would be a disk image the size of the full drive.

At startup, VMWare would ask whether the image had been copied or moved -- I found a post that suggested putting this line: uuid.action = "keep" into the vmx file would prevent it from asking the question. We'll see. I hate not being able to make dialog boxes go away -- its one of the things I hate about Windows.

One important trick I found for running in Unity mode: turn off the desktop background. By selecting "none" and the color black, when you move windows or close windows, the screen updates much faster and without jarring redraws of the a grassy field.

The first time I tried a virtual machine copied over using radmind, it looked like most stuff worked fine. I did notice an error associated with tpconnect (which appears to be something related to printing, but I'm not sure). I haven't tracked that down.

It's been time consuming to get this far, but I'm hoping we'll have a working Windows installation in the lab when students use it tomorrow morning. We can work on refining the details over time, although it stinks to not be able to do file-by-file improvements -- 2GB a pop is better than nothing, but it still sucks when compared to the file-by-file control we get with radmind.

Tiel diris nehundo / Thus spake nodog

take a picture of yourself right now.
don't change your clothes, don't fix your hair...just take a picture.
post that picture with NO editing.
post these instructions with your picture
fotu vin mem nun.
ne sxangxu vestojn, ne arangxu vian hararon... simple fotu.
afisxu tiun fonton sen redaktado.
afisxu cxi tiujn direktojn kun via foto.

Tiel diris nehundo / Thus spake nodog

CelosiaIt was a beautiful early fall day. Lucy, Alisa, Penny and I all went to the farmers market and got all fresh ingredients for chili and a beautiful bouquet. We got the bouquet from some boxer lovers and then added a couple of cockscombs. I've always loved them -- they look like brains on a stick.

When we got home, I made the chili. I had gotten some hot peppers, so I put in two -- I figured for a huge pot of chili, it would be the right amount. It was too much for poor Lucy. I was very sorry that I'd made it too spicy for her. Charlie and I loved it and Alisa managed to choke down a bowl. I had another bowl for dinner. I love spicy things.

After some SC, I spent the rest of the afternoon napping. I've been too busy at work and it was wonderful to just sleep through the afternoon -- it was cool with a light breeze. Perfect.

Beautiful Saturday

It's been fascinating to watch the response of the federal government to the financial crisis. If you search bush chazez nationalized you can see I'm not the only who's surprised to see Republicans using the fed to bail out the private sector. If you're poor, the Republicans are only too happy to have failure and bankruptcy ruin your life -- or at least to let people's live be ruined in order for the fear of it to drive behavior.

They say that the bailout is just to give the economy a chance to start growing again, but peak debt makes that scenario unlikely. American's wages have been stagnant since the 70's and, with the collapse in the value of their assets, they aren't going to be able to get any more credit to keep buying. It looks like we're going to have at least a generation of reduced spending, which is not likely to cause the economy to grow any time soon.

After decades of neglect, over the past year the University has been able to get re-investments in infrastructure. There are new buildings going up and I was able to get the BCRC computers and server replaced this summer. Two new bond bills are likely to transform the physical environment for the Biology Department over the next five years. Now, however, the university is being warned that our current budget may get slashed mid year. That's worrisome and doesn't bode well for getting our contract settled. We've been negotiating for at least a real cost-of-living adjustment for this year -- we haven't gotten one for the last 4 years. But we're being told not to expect one. Like I say, it's fascinating to watch.

Socialist Republicans

Last night, I had the electronic chat for my on-line class. Tom suggested we meet at the Northampton Brewery. I had been planning to have the chats from a variety of places during the semester but hadn't had time to organize anything, so I was pleased to accept the suggestion. But when I got to the Northampton Brewery, I found that they didn't have wireless network connectivity. When I mentioned this to Tom, he said, "Oh, yeah. But occasionally, I've been able to find a signal in there anyway." I grumbled a bit that I wanted something more reliable for my class, so he suggested the Haymarket. I went there, found a wireless signal and power, but then the network flaked out -- it would work for a few seconds and then stall for minutes. The appointed hour arrived and I couldn't even get the page to load. Tom suggested going to back to Woodstar. Finally, that pretty much worked. It took me a while to get my network working properly, but then I was able to chat with my students. After the chat session, Tom said, "Boy, you sure are tense this semester." Afterwards, we went to some pizza place to finally get our beer. Maybe next week, we'll find a place to run the on-line chat that has both wireless and beer.

Coming together

The past two weeks have kept me nearly constantly busy at work. At 4:30 this afternoon, though, I realized I was essentially caught up. The BCRC is good. I have the intro labs up and running. The plant physiology lab is good. My classes are up-to-date. The only things I know I need to do, I have to wait on other people: Kate for preferences and Tom for winxp. Yeah. WinXP in the new Super Deluxe lab. Sigh...

I met with folks in CMPSCI yesterday to talk about doing cross-platform computer labs. They've been running their ed-lab in triple boot mode for a year or so. They approach running labs differently than we do, so I'm not sure how much I learned. They set up their labs before the semester and then, essentially, they don't touch them -- or if they do, they do it by touching each workstation. They also do cross-platform by letting people reboot into different OSes. We do it by supporting the workstations with radmind and I'm planning to do virtualization to support the other platforms we need.

The virtualization stuff is cool. I downloaded virtualbox and played with it using Ubuntu yesterday and today. It's pretty seamless. You can let it take over the display and you're using Ubuntu. Of course, its like a little parasite, sucking up all your RAM and computational cycles. Once I get the winxp licenses, I'm going to try vmware fusion. I'm sure it'll be loads of fun.

The intro labs were more work than I had expected. I replaced the teaching stations and found four machines that one sort of problem or another that needed to be fixed. In two cases, it was a hard-drive that was corrupted or failing. We swapped in the spare workstations until we get the others fixed up.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted. Thank goodness its Friday.

Caught up

The semester has gotten off to a busy, but relatively smooth start. My writing class is finding tardigrades and starting to write about them. Students in ODI are feeling their way forward. Most of the labs in the building are working now. I still have to get the intro labs sorted out (by Monday), but I'm starting to have time to sit back and stretch for a minute or two now and then. Life is pretty good.

I'm using the plant physiology lab, which has scopes and computers to teach writing this semester. We've also got the BCRC reserved when we meed more computers. In the first class meeting, students tried to find tardigrades -- I had set up little bowls where we floated some lichens, causing tardigrades to drop to the bottom and walk around. Only a few found any the first time. On Monday, I got them started at the course website. On Wednesday, we met in the lab and again and the goal was to get a tardigrade in a well-slide and look at it. A couple of groups managed to do this -- I did three or four so more people could see them. I'm seeing a lot of cool stuff: different species of tardigrades, moulted exoskeletons with tardigrade eggs, etc. I'm excited about where the class will be when we get to the end.

The new lab for Super-Deluxe is coming together. The instructor decided to get equipment and software that requires Windows, so we're exploring the best options for doing virtualization. Sigh... I'm going to try VirtualBox and vmware and try to see whether potential benefits from vmware offset the fact that its licensing will probably make it two or three times more difficult to support. I'm meeting with folks at Computer Science who've been running a multi-OS lab for a year or so.

I keep having stuff to do at night. On Tuesday night, it was Chamber event and last night, I met with the founder of Ridebuzz to talk about the technology. We had a good conversation at the Dirty Truth. There's good ideas there -- I think those kinds of approaches going to become more important over the next few years. But I think there's a lot that would need to be done before it could be a mainstream phenomenon.


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