Really big Slackware update
#247 Henry, 23 April 2015 5:53 PM (Category: Linux)
(Tags: slackware music xmms atunes)

Yes, that was a huge Slackware update. We're still Slackware 14.1. I have only installed it on my work desktop and one of my home servers so far, to minimise the problems. When these problems get fixed, I'll do the rest of the servers and desktops.

I've noticed some small problems.

I discovered the mplayer problem slowly. I use aTunes for playing music. It's a Java program that uses mplayer for the actual sound-making. I was playing some Eloy today, starting with a 20 minute track. When it ended, everything was stopped. I double clicked on the next track and it played. Then stopped. aTunes was playing a single track and then stopping. I checked the settings and it had reverted to xine for the sound-maker. That's when I said "that's interesting, I wonder why mplayer isn't running" and I ran mplayer manually and discovered the library problem. I was playing the tracks one by one, but usually with 5 minutes silence in between them until I realised the music had stopped. Switched to XMMS and the music rolled on.

I started reading the forums at and was reassured. Fixes will come down the pipeline soon.

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Slackware update
#246 Henry, 22 April 2015 11:41 AM (Category: Linux)
(Tags: slackware)

I usually get Slackware updates weekly. There's always something to update for security or performance. Lately, there's been nothing. I even went so far as to check my settings in case I had accidentally turned off updates. But no, it was good.

Today, the drought broke. There is a huge update from Slackware. Major libraries, kernels, so much has changed. I installed it all on my work desktop, then rebooted. It came back. So far, so good. Music is back. Chromium won't run - it's looking for and that appears to have been upgraded. I'll have to wait till SBO have newer versions available before I can get that running again.

No doubt I'll discover more little things as time goes by, but so far it's good.

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Apple WiFi Devices
#245 Henry, 17 April 2015 11:48 PM (Category: Apple)
(Tags: apple wifi)

My WiFi network at home is all Apple. This is fortunate in one way - when it works it works really really well; and unfortunate in another way - the devices have stupid confusing names. I have an Apple Extreme base station, one of those new tall devices. Very nice, very strong, good range, very reliable.

Apple Extreme base station

I have two Apple Express extender type devices. One of the Express devices is for my stereo. The Express has a stereo plug in the side, and that plug goes into the back of my stereo. I can play music on my iPhone or iPad or Mac, and AirPlay to this Express and the music pumps out my stereo.

The other Express serves my TV system. The TV, the Tivo, the BluRay player all connect via network cable to a small switch. That switch plugs into the Express. The Express connects wirelessly to the Extreme base station, and hence out to the Internet.

Apple Express device

The two Expresses are older devices, first generation devices and they run hot. Very hot. Disturbingly hot.

Last week I was fiddling with my wifi network and realised that I had passwords on all three devices. I knew the passwords for the Expresses, but did not know the password for the Extreme. I vowed to fix that. Then I forgot.

This week, the Express that connects the Tivo to the world got hotter, and then the wifi cut in and out, and eventually it cut out completely. I did some reading, and these older devices run hot and when the wifi is being continuously (Anne streams a lot from Netflix), they get hotter and the wifi goes out. Anne is getting ready to go to Australia and wants to control the Tivo remotely. This Express needs to work properly for that to happen. So we decided to replace this Express. The new Express devices (new design, new look, new wifi, new everything - same stupid name) look like the Apple TV but are slightly smaller and are white.

I bought one on the way home and tried to connect it tonight. I ran into the first problem - I needed the password for the Extreme base station. I did not have it, so I researched it on Apple's website and read how to reset it. First step - run around the house for about twenty minutes looking for a paper clip to unfold and use to press in the reset button. I was sure I had one somewhere, but no, could not find. Anne found one eventually. The instructions say to hold the reset button in for about a second. That didn't work. Hold it in until the green light starts flashing orange. Probably four or five seconds. Then you have five minutes (roughly) to reset the Extreme.

I was running the Airport Utility on my Mac Mini. It saw what was happening. But it got really upset with the Expresses. I shut them both down and let the app stabilise. It told me the Extreme was in orange state and let me edit it. I set the name and the password, then I had to set the SSID and WPA2 password again. The instructions said it would remember them. It didn't. I set them all again, entered the static IP address, the router, the DNS, got all that set and updated. It saved the details to the device. So far so good, except I had changed the name of the Extreme. So the app flashed between the old name and new name for about ten minutes, until it decided the new one was all it had. Then it stayed solid.

I turned on the new Express. It didn't find it, because I was attempting wireless. I turned it off, and connected it via a network cable to my main switch. Turned it on, the app saw it. I was able to configure it as an extender to my Extreme base station. Set the name. Updated the settings. It then got really confused. I had set the name of the previous Express and the app was confused and the Express rebooted repeatedly. I turned it off (pulled the cord) and waited, then plugged it in again and edited it and gave it a different name. The app then cycled through three different names - the old one, the new one, and the name for the stereo Express. Eventually, probably five minutes, the new name took. The app stabilised, the Express stabilised. So I unplugged it, took it outside and connected it to the Tivo and other gear. Turned it on, it worked. So far, so good.

Turned on the stereo Express. The app tried a few different names for it too, and made the TV Express cycle through some names too, but after five minutes, it all came good and each device had the right name. Looked good.

Then two phantom devices showed - the Extreme with the old name and the old TV Express. I clicked on both and the option to Forget them was available. I forgot them both, and then waited. The network was stable.

All in all, it took about 45 minutes. I think next time I have to do this, I could simplify it by doing two things:

The old Express still works, as long as you don't overwork it. I'll find a small use it for it somewhere.

I still have a working Apple Airport Extreme Original here. That's the really old one from 2003 that is shaped like a UFO. It only does 802.11b and g. It's slow. I'm not using it for anything. Maybe I could set up a small slow guest network with that Extreme Original and the unused Express. I still think the names are stupid and confusing.

Apple Extreme Original

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That's Not How Much They Pay
#244 Henry, 13 April 2015 4:15 PM (Category: Books)
(Tags: book)

Couple of days ago I mentioned a blog post about interviewing and the countdown from 100 test. That blogger referred to a book he had recently written. I followed that reference down and Rajiv Popat has written a small self-published book for the Kindle that costs 99 cents. The book is That's Not How Much They Pay. That's How Much They Pay You: A definitive guide to a meaningful professional life and a rewarding career. I bought it, I read it. It needs a little proof-reading, but that's just a tiny nitpick. The book is interesting and contains some cold hard truths. I read it, and I learnt from it, and I will apply it. I also recommend it.

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Mac Mini Server memory problems
#243 Henry, 12 April 2015 2:12 PM (Category: Apple)
(Tags: macmini)

I mentioned earlier that the Mac Mini Server I have been using at work to dabble with XCode has stopped booting. During one weekend, it ran amok and when I got to work the CPU was running at 100%, the box was hot, and it had grey-screened. I turned it off and let it cool. Since then, it has not booted. When I attempt, it gives a three tone beep, then pauses, then repeats.

While I was looking at the Mac Minis this weekend, I tried to boot and match the sounds to what Apple Support's List Of Startup Tones.

What I have is "3 successive tones, a 5 second pause (repeating): This indicates RAM does not pass a data integrity check." Maybe when it went bad that weekend and stayed hot for the rest of the weekend, it fried the memory. Or maybe the memory was bad. Or something. I'll look for replacement memory and see if I can get it working again. But then again, why throw good money after bad? Maybe I should just abandon this thing, and pursue non-Apple hardware.

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