Or, These Boots are Made for Loading
The past couple of days at work have been spent in large part dealing with the fun of setting up a triple booting system on a Mac Mini (4,1). Most of the time has actually just been the learning process - figuring out what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. Now that it’s working the process required to set it up seems much simpler, which is why I’m going to write about it and put it online!
The goal: A Mac Mini 4,1 that boots through rEFIt to Mac OSX 10.6, Windows 7, and Ubuntu, with an extra FAT partition that all three can access.
1) Install Mac OSX (Use the disc or deploy an image)
2) Partition the drive!
With a 320GB hard drive space to play around with, we gave 60GB to each OS (linux got 59 + 1 devoted to swap space), and 140 to the FAT partition. This meant 5 partitions: Mac (60GB HFS), Linux (59GB FAT), Windows (60GB FAT), Linux swap area (1GB FAT), and the FAT partition (140GB FAT). Granted, to start with everything not Mac was FAT, but they get formatted out of FAT fairly quickly.
3) Install rEFIt
4) Install Windows to the Windows partition (Again, we deployed an image. I imagine a disc install would work fine too). This will change the 60GB FAT partition to NTFS.
5) Install Ubuntu 10.04
This was the step that spawned most of the annoyance. We started off trying to install 11.04, but its bootloader took over the Windows side (to the point that booting to Windows required going through three different bootloaders - rEFIt, grub, and Windows), which was not ok. Ubuntu 10.04 offered a solution by allowing us to choose where to install the bootloader. But first we had to get Ubuntu to boot at all.
Option-booting to our Ubuntu disc, the screen would change color to the signature Ubuntu purple, with a keyboard icon at the bottom of the screen. After a few seconds it would turn black and do nothing. Turned out the correct course of action was pressing F6 at the purple screen, bringing up some boot options. Selecting English as our language, we could finally get to the Try/Install splash page, where pressing F6 again would bring up more options, of which ‘nomodeselect’ needed to be checked. After that, Installation progressed, and we formatted the 59GB FAT partition to Ext4 (mount point /), and made the 1GB space a swap area. Finally, on the last step of the install process, clicking advanced brought us to a page where we could choose where to install the bootloader. The default was sda1 (or something dumb); in our case we changed it to sda4, the Ubuntu partition. Now when we restarted both Mac and Windows booted straight from rEFIt, and grub only bothered us on the Linux side. Hooray!
But no, not yet. First, every time we started up Linux we still had to press F6 to change the boot options to ‘nomodeset.’
Second, Linux on a Mac Mini has absolutely no drivers, which includes ethernet card drivers, meaning we had to find that on a different machine and flash drive it over. Luckily we found a nice terminal command to view ethernet…stuff (like the name of the card):
lspci -vvnn | grep 14e4
So then we found downloaded transferred and installed the driver for our ethernet card (bcm57765, by the way) to great success and much rejoicing! After that Ubuntu could handle its own driver downloads and updates.
Nearly done. To update the boot options we used Daniel Richter’s Grub Customizer which made it incredibly easy to make ‘nomodeset’ the default. After that, we changed the grub timeout time to 0 (effectively eliminating it) and we finally, finally, had a Mac Mini that could triple boot from one bootloader to Mac OSX Snow Leopard, Windows 7, or Ubuntu Lucid Lynx.
When I was younger and even more aversive to going outside for any length of time, a common argument against my mother’s nagging was that any sight the outside world held for me could be just as well experienced through photographs or online tours. For the past week I’ve been enjoying my first real vacation - in scenic Arizona, the closest I’ve come to fulfilling my manifest destiny - ending with a visit to the Grand Canyon. I spent around 7 hours (noon to sunset) hiking around the southern rim, seeing quite a few views of the canyon with some friends.
Now that I’ve seen “a sight” with my own eyes, I can finally analyze my argument. Was I right? Could a visit to the Grand Canyon have been replaced with a few photos? Well, yes and no.
As far as sights go, I was right; standing on the rim of the gorge and looking out, the Grand Canyon looked exactly like the pictures I had seen of it, like we were all staring out at a giant backdrop painted on a propped-up length of plywood. The sense of enormity was there, but something was off.
My trouble stemmed from the lack of anything to compare the canyon to; I had no way to gauge the scale of what I was seeing. Nothing moved down on the canyon floor, and the view of the immense canyon walls never changed noticeably as we walked the trails. The scenery was static, dead, lifeless. The few times the canyon seemed most real to me were when seeing a pair of birds soar over the landscape, or watching the shadows lengthen and shift with the sunset, revealing the textures and crevices far below. Then the canyon came to life, if only a little.
Were those few moments enough to “make” the experience? No, not really. But the Grand Canyon is so big I’m not sure I’d be able to get my head around it no matter what had happened. What did make the trip worthwhile and enjoyable was being there with friends. The antics and company of good friends can drive any experience, and the fact that this adventure happened to be set against the multicolored stone walls of the Grand Canyon acted more as a bonus - something to make good times a little prettier than usual.
So, no, I no longer think that a visit to the world’s natural treasures can be replaced solely by photographs - but that’s only because these places offer a phenomenal setting for enjoying the company of friends. That day, the Grand Canyon was a reason to get together with said friends, it was an exciting sauce flavoring the familiar entrees of walking around and talking.
For me, “sights” like this aren’t worth the visit alone, but when you add in the magic of friendship, they can become the experience that I think my mother was trying to bribe me with.
A time of learning, of music, and of poptarts.
I made and packaged a script for newly-graduated students to transfer their college mail to Gmail before it was all deleted (using the pretty cool imapsync). The account deletion finally occurred today, and the script seems to have worked surprisingly well (barring library issues on Mac 10.4 - since I couldn’t get my hands on that version to test - of which there were two reports, and a few problems with Windows not automatically unzipping files when double-clicked). Now that that crunch time has past, I can take my time making improvements (starred-out password input boxes? Customized options? A name for the thing?).
The entire experience of trying to automate a command line that uses easily 17 different options was an interesting look into various scripting languages (VBscript with Windows, Applescripting with Mac), user-friendliness, product support, and application installers. I’ve barely scratched the surface of most of these, but there are already tons of possibilities presenting themselves here. Scripting makes things much more convenient.
It took three years, but I’ve finally grown into my ITS workplace, just in time to watch it to be killed and merged with another section. I’m learning a lot from both sides now, and I do miss good old student computing, but I think this new hybrid IT support has a chance to become something decent. I still make a lot of mistakes on the job, but each one teaches me a little something. If you’ll forgive me for this (or even if you won’t) it’s like the Saiyans - every time they’re defeated they grow stronger. (Stronger and stronger until it takes days for them to charge up to full power. That’s what I want; I want to spirit bomb the ITS world.)
Anyway, as far as Poptarts go, I’m trying not to die of malnutrition this summer by making a program to keep track of the nutrients I’m pulling in from what I eat. It’s ugly and unfinished now, but it does display nutrient totals based on input. Eventually I’ll have it display the nutrients I’m *not* getting, as well as percentages and the like. In the mean time, I’ve got a few vitamins from last summer, and protein bars, and Yahoo Answers on my side; how can I fail?
Oof. Finally got an acceptable method of recording an online (college radio) stream to an mp3 down today. After messing around with vlc, alsa, and some custom stuff involving jack, a simple, beautiful thing called ffmpeg rode in with the full force of the army of Brohan behind it, slaughtering my file format woes.
…Ignore that metaphor.
Anyway, got a really nice script out of it: ffmpeg -ab 128k -ac 2 -t [duration] -i [input stream] /[output location]/[name].mp3
After a good deal of on-and-off searching for an answer to this problem, this one line is so pretty in my eyes.
Also I’ve never actually seen the video of that song before, but I very much like the dancing they do during it.
The sun has finally returned to Northfield, and it is glorious.
Used the college’s radio last night to host a My Little Pony hour, and it was glorious.
My 21st birthday party happened. I did 21st-year-old things, and assume it was glorious.
I just noticed I got paid for the work I did over spring break, and that is especially glorious.
Some silly/weird/interesting things from the past few days.
-Ponyo was released in Japan in 2009 on Blu-Ray, DVD, and VHS.
-Girl Scout cookies are made by Keebler.
-A My Little Pony animated series started up on the “Hasbro” channel in October of 2010(and is amazing).
One of the projects I took up over the winter break was building an ALU in the game Minecraft. ( :Minecraft is an objectiveless game where the player can gather resources to use to build almost anything. ALU is an Arithmetic Logic Unit. It’s part of a computer’s processor that (1) does arithmetic and (2) does Logical operations.)
The fact that Minecraft has a substance that acts like a circuit is one of the most interesting things the game has to offer. Using the redstone, so far I’ve made 12 1-bit ALUs, which, once hooked up, will be able to add and subtract numbers up to around 4000. Every time another ALU is connected that number will double, and eventually I should be able to emulate an actual processor inside the game.
One of the only constraints is getting enough redstone to do all this. Currently each ALU requires 413 units of the stuff, and making the overhead(hooking all the ALUs together) will be neither simple nor cheap. Still, I’m looking forward to the day when I can try implementing a programming language(MIPS, if you’re curious) inside a game.
So, F.E.A.R., a first person shooter game with a bit of Japanese horror mixed in, brought to us by Monolith Productions (who also brought us the magic of the Matrix Online) pits the player against an army of telepathic clone soldiers led by their original, the Big Bad himself, and the army of the “security detail” for some super corrupt corporation.
For some context, the player is the newest member(the “Point Man”)1 of the First Encounter Assault Recon group, in charge of handling “extraterrestrial” threats to the nation. For his first mission he’s sent to find out why the Big Bad is assaulting Corrupt Corporation with his Dastardly Doppelgangers. Sorry. Anyway it’s a pretty good game for reasons I might talk about later but what I want to talk about now is ALICE FREAKING WADE. See, for me, sometimes minor characters will do something so endearing or mind-numbingly stupid that suddenly I’m not playing the game to further the plot, I’m playing the game entirely for that character, whether to absorb more of their adorable antics or to fill their every moment with as much pain as possible culminating with me standing over their dead body, declaring my game over but finishing the rest of the plot anyway. I HATE ALICE WADE.
Alice Wade is an upper executive at Corrupt Corporation, daughter of an even higher exec. who’s actually important to the story. So the F.E.A.R. Point Man, being the only good soul who hasn’t been killed entering the premises of CCHQ, diverts his mission from “Kill Big Bad” to “Rescue Alice and Mr. Wade” upon learning the Big Bad is actually looking for the Wades for info/food2.
Point Man finds Alice on her knees in her dad’s office, hands on her head, like any good hostage. However, Alice seems to misunderstand the whole hostage/hostile takeover/people with guns situation because instead of jumping for joy at a helivac out of dodge, she asks if they could maybe drive out of the hot zone, because, you know, her car is just down on THE LOWEST GARAGE LEVEL and since you spent the last portion of the game fighting your way up to her, it should be all clear below, right? Besides, Alice is “kind of” afraid of flying. Stupid, but I’ll forgive her. Maybe the clone army roughed her up a bit and this is a slight lapse in sanity after one too many pistol whips to the head. And regardless she agrees to get to the choppa after the man calling the shots on Point Man’s radio tells her where she can stuff her car.
But once they reach the roof, Alice decides staying with the one-man wrecking crew that is Point Man — who has quite literally decimated a clone army and the CC security force to reach her — is a fool’s game and books it for the garage. Now, here’s where the girl gets her only credit from me. Somehow it makes sense to her brain that she should run barefoot and unarmed through the building that is still occupied by hostile forces, hop in her car and take a joy ride over to the coordinates her father left her to save him. Alone. Knowing that the people who held her in the office to await interrogation are still very much after her. That kind of stupidity takes balls, and props to her for having an easier time making it to the parking garage than Point Man does. While playing I actually emptied my last clip into Alice as she ran away, and not only did she not even flinch, but she also left me with just a pistol to deal with some of the hardest enemies in the game3 as I followed her. Tricky.
This paragraph will spoil Alice’s ultimate fate, so skip it if you’d rather imagine Point Man kills her when he finds her again. Anyway as Point Man nears the end of his journey the hallucinations he’s been having throughout the game get worse until, after seeing the Big Bad (and shooting the Big Bad in the head) in yet another disturbing vision, Point Man comes back to reality…to find that the Big Bad is actually dead on the floor in front of him. Yay. Also dead on the floor is Alice. Big Bad was snacking on her when he died. Yay!
And so one of the best I told you so moments in the game finally culminates, but I can’t help but feel it was such a waste. And dumb. Much as I hate her, Alice was a high-ranking executive of the corporation that started this whole thing, so it’s hard to imagine — even with her father possibly in danger — that she’d be this stupid. She is offered the chance to ride along to get her father, but chooses to go alone rather than with the unstoppable Point Man. I was harsh on her earlier; she never said anything about saving her father, just mentions “getting to him” and making sure he’s ok. This does not excuse her though, as Point Man’s radio boss points out:
BETTERS(r): Those soldiers are looking for you. If they capture you again,
they're going to interrogate you. And believe me, their methods are very
ALICE(r): I'll take my chances.
I hope it was worth it, Alice.
1. Presumably he took issue with just being called “the new guy” because there is only one other man on the F.E.A.R. team — unless you count the lab lady who shows up after everything’s cleared out to do science to the remains — and he goes missing after the first level(though you do run into him now and again). Regardless our Point Man never really lives up to his name since the only times he isn’t the absolute last one to arrive at the facility/headquarters being “reconned” are when he’s the only one to arrive.
2. Did I mention the Big Bad eats people? No? Well, he does.
3. Floating arcade prize-grabber claws that shoot frikin’ lazer beams.
Thanks to ladytanaka from GameFAQs for the script.
Hello internet, and welcome to me.com. This is where I’ll be putting up my thoughts on things that interest me and whatever else happens to come up. I’ll be starting with some hate for most of the cast of the game F.E.A.R., but before that, I don’t think we’ve ever been formally introduced. I’m Chris Becerra; my given internet name is helpre, but helpre.com was sadly taken. Twenty years old, attending college in Minnesota for a computer science degree. I love what technology I can afford, especially if it means I can fiddle around with building a computer. I’m a Windows guy slowly turning into the Linux guy, and also enjoy photography, programming, video games, and good books.
Good intro. Short, sweet, and lacking something crucial. I’ll be back with some F.E.A.R.
Oh, and about the title. I recently finished the latin sequence at my school, and was looking for adjectives that I liked(Ars is “the art”), but not finding any decided on the temp name caeca(blind, confused). It may change.