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October 2007 Archives

October 13, 2007

My new Blackjack phone

For about a year, I have had a Treo smartphone for work. It accessed my e-mail, could browse the internet, etc. It worked fairly well. Every once in a while, it would spontaneously reboot (maybe once every 2-3 weeks?), and the bluetooth on it is quite slow to pick up. But it was a generally reliable phone.

Work just swapped out the Treo’s for the Samsung Blackjack. Unlike the Treo, the Blackjack is based on Windows Mobile. I’ve only used the Blackjack for a few days now, but I’m less than impressed. I’m still figuring out all the things that are now “different” — but that’s not what I’m complaining about. Here’s what I don’t like:

  • Phone has locked up 3 times in 2 days.
  • It was completely locked up once such that I had to remove the battery.
  • It has “forgotten” my bluetooth settings 5 times such that my bluetooth headset suddenly stops working. I’ve been using the same headset with my Treo for many months, so I’m pretty sure it’s not the headset that is the problem here.
  • Sometimes a functional button will stop working. That is, it worked fine and all the sudden pressing it does nothing. If I reboot the phone, the button starts working again, so I don’t think it’s a mechanical problem.
  • The Treo had a better/easier interface and integration with my Exchange addressbook for SMS messages.

That’s pretty much it. I’m sure I’ll get used to the Blackjack over time and it’ll become the “natural” for me to use (and the Treo will become a distant memory), but for now, I’m annoyed that it’s just as unstable as I would assume that a Windows desktop would be. ☹

October 17, 2007

Unix linkers

Do you think you understand Unix/POSIX linkers? I thought I did. Then I started working on the Open MPI project. Then I realized that I didn’t have a clue how they work (e.g., do you know about OS X’s two-level and flat namespaces?).

A complex question came up recently on the Open MPI mailing list about embedding Open MPI in an R or Python language plugin. After 48 hours of extreme confusion and off-list discussions between myself and Brian B., I came up with a chart that helps lessen the confusion at least somewhat. It took me all day to write up that chart. Woof.

For your amusement, here’s the chart: https://svn.open-mpi.org/trac/ompi/wiki/Linkers

October 23, 2007

Bogus charities

I was shocked and disappointed yesterday to find out that a charity that I have been giving to for several years appears to be a total scam. It’s an association that supposedly helps US military disabled veterans and is based out of Ohio. As my dad pointed out to me, the name of this association is quite similar to the “Department of Veteran’s Affairs (DVA)” (the official US government entity for handling military veterans), which probably helps in terms of confusing donors. I won’t name the organization here on the blog because they’d probably sue me for some bogus reason. :-\

Here’s what happened: I was trolling the web yesterday and happened to find the past few years of IRS form 990s filed for this organization (“Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax” — it provides details of the organization’s income and expenditures for a given year). For the past three years, this organization has collected fairly large sums of money in contributions (e.g., approximately $5M in 2005).

But here’s the kicker: 70% of those contributions has gone to overhead. Seventy percent!! The majority of which was reported to pay for “fundraising costs.” That leaves slightly less than 30% to actually help disabled veterans.

But wait — there’s more. That 30% didn’t actually go to any disabled veterans; they apparently gave a few seminars here and there to tell disabled veterans how to get benefits. Hence, that 30% assumedly paid for renting building facilities, folding chairs, and donuts.

This 70/30 ratio was the same in 2005, 2004, and 2002. I didn’t have the heart to look back any further than that.

Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it just costs that much to run a decent fundraising campaign. But seventy percent seems like a helluva lot to me. My dad tells me that he gives to charities that have overheads as low as six percent. Yes folks, that’s more than ten times less overhead than this organization.

I will definitely not be giving any more money to this organization. The moral of the story here is that you need to do your homework when deciding which charities to give to. Don’t take my word for it — I’m just some random guy with a blog. Do your homework on your favorite charities and find out where they’re actually spending their money.


October 28, 2007

Fixing .mac sync problems

I’ve been having .Mac sync problems of late. I have fairly modest needs: I have two macs (MBP/work and G5 iMac/home, both running 10.4.10) and I only synchronize my addressbook and Safari bookmarks between them. For me, keeping this data in sync between the two machines is incredibly useful.

However, recently I’ve been running into a problem on my MBP — it simply wasn’t syncing (and not telling me that it wasn’t syncing). I noticed it when I added a bookmark on my home iMac but several days later, it still hadn’t shown up on my MBP. Doh! So I started digging deeper.

Upon closer investigation, I found two distinct failures on my MBP:

  1. If I forced a manual .Mac sync, I would get an error like this sometime during the sync, and then the sync would stop:
    Sync Error:
    [ISyncConcreteSession pushChange:]: 
    you can't modify a record that doesn't exist: 
    <ISyncChange 0xblah>{ modify record id 'blah blah blah'
    set com.apple.ical.type = local
    set title = Unfiled }
    (that’s not verbatim — the important part is “you can’t modify a record that doesn’t exist”)

  2. If I went to the .Mac system prefs, I could see that I had my username/password entered correctly (because it would accurately show how many days I had left in my subscription and how much space I was currently using on my iDisk), but if I went to the “advanced” tab, it would popup a window saying:
    An error occurred during this operation.
    Could not retrieve .Mac configuration.

    (I’m parphrasing the first line because I never wrote it down, but I know the 2nd line is right)

    And then no computers were listed in the advanced tab. Checking the same Advanced tab in the .Mac preferences on my iMac, I saw that both computers listed.

So it seemed to be a problem that was local to my MBP.

I googled around a lot and trolled through the .Mac help. Most of the information that I found consisted of the following:

  1. Backup your data, unregister the problematic computer via the .Mac system preferences, and then register it again, and/or
  2. Use the ‘Reset sync data’ button in the .Mac system preferences

Well, I couldn’t unregister or reset the sync data on the MBP because the “Advanced” tab was greyed-out on my MBP (assumedly because of the error message that it couldn’t retrieve the .Mac configuration information for the entire Advanced tab). I tried unregistering the MBP on the working computer/iMac, but I still got the same errors on the MBP.

It seemed that the MBP thought that it was still registered, even if it wasn’t. Hrm.

I found older help posts (circa 2003-2005) that talked about removing sync history through iSync. But .Mac is no longer performed through iSync, so that seemed a dead end. Indeed, I don’t use iSync for anything at all. But since I was desparate, I poked around in iSync anyway. I found the following two things in iSync preferences:

  • A “reset sync history” button
  • A master checkbox for “Enabling syncing on this computer” that specifically mentions .Mac (which seems odd, since iSync isn’t use for .Mac syncing anymore).

Here’s what I did:

  1. Launched iSync, went into preferences menu
  2. Unchecked the “Enabling syncing on this computer”
  3. Clicked the “Reset sync history” button (and confirmed to erase when prompted)
  4. Closed the iSync prefs window
  5. Closed iSync
  6. Closed System Prefs (I still had the .Mac system prefs open)
  7. Re-launched iSync, went into preferences menu
  8. Checked “Enable synching on this computer”
  9. For good measure, reset the sync history again
  10. Closed the iSync prefs window
  11. Closed iSync
  12. Launched System Prefs, went into .Mac prefs
  13. Went into Advanced tab — it worked!

Doing this allowed the “Advanced” tab in my .Mac system prefs to start working again. Woo hoo! I could then perform the other suggested recovery actions, such as unregistering the MBP and then re-registering it, etc. Now things seem to be working (let’s give it a week to see if it keeps syncing properly…). As I’ve been typing out this entry, I see that my new bookmarks have appeared in Safari. Woo hoo!

But since I played with both options in the iSync system prefs at the same time, I unfortunately don’t know which of the two fixed it, or if both are required. YMMV.

Hopefully, others will find this entry via googling and find it useful…

About October 2007

This page contains all entries posted to JeffJournal in October 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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