Archive for September, 2010


Living with Lucid: ThinkPad X60s works great!

I’ve recently replaced my ThinkPad X40 with an X60s.  The X60s looks and weighs the same as the X40 but is a Core Duo, has a less problematic GMA950 graphics adapter, and has a full 2.5″ SATA drive, rather than the 1.8″ PATA drive in the X40.

I’ve been using it in Ubuntu 10.04 for a month or so now and it’s just perfect.  The only problem I’ve noticed is that the machine still crashes on resume if an SD card is inserted.  This is an annoying but common problem in ThinkPads.  Anyway, lest anyone think that I only complain about Lucid on this site, think again!  The ThinkPad X60s is a champ and Lucid runs perfectly on it.

Thank you Canonical!


Why I’m picky about the laptops I own

Every once in a while a see a great deal on some low-end laptop at BestBuy or Future Shop.  I’m tempted.  The latest was an 11″ Gateway netbook that was $239.  I resisted.  After all, my ThinkPad X40 cost less than that and at $344, the X60s was about the same price as most new low-end netbooks.

This evening I was reminded of why I stick to ThinkPads, HP EliteBooks, MacBook Pros, and other used higher-end machines when I dropped my wonderful (and tough) HP 2710p from a five foot cart onto a very unforgiving tile floor at work.  It was a bad drop, awkwardly landing on a corner.  Couldn’t have been worse unless I’d thrown it down.  I’m usually very careful but this time it just happened and I couldn’t stop it.

The battery popped out, as did the stylus, there is some slight cosmetic damage by the rarely-used SD slot but it is otherwise completely unscathed.

Once again:  I’d rather a high-quality used machine than the newest, shiniest junk on sale in the weekly flier.


Living with Lucid: NIS/Autofs… Again.

I love Debian.  I think Ubuntu is the best end-user Debian-based Linux distribution going.  Their innovative Netbook interface is fabulous.   However, having spent more time recently with RHEL, I can still clearly see that Ubuntu is focusing first and foremost on the end-user experience.  I’m trying to shoehorn it into a more corporate, controlled environment at Queen’s, and it’s a trick sometimes.

Case in point, NIS and Autofs.  A mainstay of legacy Unix shops, including ours.  NIS and Autofs startup have been broken in different ways with each Ubuntu LTS that I’ve dealt with.

In 10.04, the problem is that Autofs has been migrated to the new upstart startup mechanism and nis hasn’t.  This means that Autofs starts before NIS.  The problem with this is that NIS provides Autofs with automount maps.

So, on startup, you can log in with NIS but your home directly isn’t automounted, because autofs isn’t able to read the NIS maps.

This bug is logged.  My experience with Ubuntu releases would suggest that they won’t fix it.  Luckily, there’s a pretty easy workaround.  All you need to do is restart autofs again after NIS starts.  Do this by adding the following to /etc/rc.local:

# BH 2010 – NIS starts after autofs, rendering it useless.
# This is a hackish workaround.
/etc/init.d/autofs restart
exit 0