Top 10 Disappointing Technologies

Australian online magazine PC Authority have published a list of the top 10 most disappointing technologies that never changed the world. The list (in brief below) has many that I’m familiar with but some that I am not and I’d go along with much of the reasoning behind it.

10. Virtual Reality
9. Alternative search engines
8. Voice recognition
7. Apple Lisa
6. 10GB Ethernet
5. FireWire
4. Bluetooth
3. Itanium
2. Zune
1. Windows Vista

They even gave an honourable mention to Biometrics and Ubuntu, with the latter being somewhat contentious. That said, I have agree that while Ubuntu has come on a long, long way, it’s still not quite there in terms of mainstream desktop/laptop use.

Using Ubuntu Package Manager (apt-get) without direct web access

Need to install an Ubuntu package on a system that is not directly connected to the Internet? Well, if you have a HTTP proxy nearby, you can do it as follows:

# cd /etc/apt/apt.conf.d
# vi proxy
Acquire::http::Proxy "http://x.x.x.x:80";

Just edit/create the file above and add the line shown (substituting the IP address or hostname of your proxy server) and use your apt-get command(s) as normal. No need to restart any processed.

Ubuntu Distribution Information

We have a number of Ubuntu Linux systems and I regularly find myself wanting to find out which specific distribution I have installed on a given system. While the trusty uname -a command is useful most of the time, it is unfortunately too generic in this instance and only reports version information about the Linux kernel.

However, today I discovered the lsb_release -a command which does precisely what I want. The description of this command in the man page says:

The lsb_release command provides certain LSB (Linux Standard Base) and distribution-specific information.

Here is a sample of the type of output it provides on a recently installed Ubuntu Server 8.10 system:

$ lsb_release -a
No LSB modules are available.
Distributor ID: Ubuntu
Description:    Ubuntu 8.10
Release:        8.10
Codename:       intrepid

HOWTO: Clone a Virtual Machine using VMware

I have an Ubuntu Linux Virtual Machine running on my Windows system (using VMware) and a colleague wanted to do the same. However, rather than create a new VM and install a fresh version of Ubuntu and go through the motions of installing and configuring all the same development and testing tools, we decided to copy an already configured VM and see if the copy could be used intead.

This turned out to be a very trivial task and I would highly recommend it. Here is how we did it

  1. Copy C:\Virtual Machines\Ubuntu to C:\Virtual Machines\Ubuntu2
  2. From VMware, select File, Open and click the Browse button to locate the .vmx for the new VM (this file stores critical configuration information for the VM including the MAC Address of the Ethernet Adapter)
  3. To rename the new VM, click Edit Virtual Machine Settings, select the Options tab and change the Virtual Machine Name. Click OK.
  4. To start the new VM, click Start Virtual Machine and when prompted, select Create to create a new Unique Identifier for the new VM. This is a critical step as it breaks the association between the new VM and the one it was copied from, producing a new, unique MAC Address for the new VM.

Once the new VM boots, you should be able to log in and reconfigure the network as required and that’s it!

Installing Interactive Ruby on Ubuntu Linux

It would appear that the version of Ruby that come with Ubuntu Linux (6.06) does not contain everything you might expect. I installed Ruby on Rails version 1.8 onto my system (which requires Ruby and Ruby Gems) but soon after installing it, a colleague realised that I did not have the Interactive Ruby application irb.

We made several attempts to get an updated version of Ruby 1.8 from the internet but no matter what we tried, the system always reinstalled the same, locally held version. We could not seem to figure out how to tell the system to look on the Internet for updated versions of Ruby (and other packages). I was a less than trivial task getting irb installed but here is how we did it.

  1. We used the Synaptic Package Manager to install Ruby 1.8 and then followed the instructions on the Ruby on Rails website to install Ruby Gems and Ruby on Rails itself.
  2. Exited from Synaptic Package Manager and continued from the command-line
  3. Edit /etc/apt/sources.list and uncomment all entries (save file)
  4. # apt-get update ;;; updates the package listings on this system
  5. # apt-get clean ;;; removes old package listings (confusing that this command came after the update command)
  6. # apt-cache search ruby ;;; Look to see if any new Ruby packages are available
  7. # apt-get install ruby1.8 ;;; Install Ruby 1.8
  8. # apt-get install irb1.8 ;;; Install Interactive Ruby 1.8

For some reason, the installer does not create the appropriate symbolic links for ruby and irb so you might have to create these manually.

One final note that the apt-get upgrade command can be used to download and install all available updates for your system. This is the same as clicking the orange “Install Updates” icon at the main console. A system reboot will invariably be requried after this.