Some Thoughts on Apple’s latest releases this morning:

Apple Mac OSX Lion

Lion (OSX 10.7) is now available, although I don’t feel compelled to upgrade. The Mac Minis have lost their optical drives. No more white Macbook (your choices are either an Air or a Pro for laptops now)

Apple Mac OSX LionNot sure how I feel about the loss of the optical drives… On the one hand I think its a good thing in the long run, not many people use the drive for loading software and everyone (read: Netflix) seems to be pushing for streaming content to machines as opposed to physical media. On the other hand, I have a Mac Mini serving as my media center in our living room and we use the heck out the optical drive to watch DVD movies, both from our own library of DVD’s and places like Redbox (along with online media such as Hulu and Netflix)

Of course now that the optical drive has been removed, we now have the opportunity to put whatever type of external drive on the Mini that we want. Now if we could just get an inexpensive Blueray player and Blueray playback on the Mini, we’d be good to go!

# emerge osx-epic-fail

Gentoo Prefix Bootstrap Process for Mac OS X has a lengthy walkthrough on getting Gentoo‘s emerge package management system installed onto a Mac OSX system.  Naturally I had to give it a shot!  I’ve never worked with Gentoo before so I really had no idea what to expect from emerge.

From a few conversations with a collegue I learned that I could very easily tailor the build process to my specific environment by customizing the make.conf file for emerge.  Unlike some package management systems that either grab a generic binary for your platform, emerge will pull down the latest source code and compile it directly for your specific machine.  If I recall correctly, the FreeBSD ports collection also works this way, as does Debian’s apt (although I’m not sure of the ability to modify machine-specific compile time flags with either system)

The install detailed in the walkthrough (see link above) is a bit sparse on background information such as why call emerge with the oneshot option. (still not sure about that myself, from the emerge man page: “Emerge as normal, but do not add the packages to the world profile for later updating”)  Each of the build steps took a rather long time on the aging Mac G4 box and I unfortunately kept running into compile errors about 3/4ths of the way through the process.  The process failed trying to compile Autom4te (an M4 replacement for autoconf) due to various reasons (one of which might be a missing perl library)

After stepping through the various stages of the install a couple of times and only getting marginal success, I decided the easiest route would be to script the install process so that I could re-run it at my leisure.  I just grabbed the commands listed in the walkthrough and stuck them in a shell script (no error-checking or anything fancy) which would allow me to set a couple of variables and then re-run the script as often as needed.   The script (and the author’s walkthrough) relies on another script called ‘bootstrap-prefix.sh’ (also available from the walkthrough site) so I created a directory called ‘emerge’ and therein placed both the ‘bootstrap-prefix.sh’ script and my own ‘setup_gentoo_bootstrap_env.sh’ script.

I set my ‘EPREFIX’ variable to /usr/local/gentoo, so everytime the process would fail, I could just ‘rm -rf /usr/local/gentoo’ and start over.   Since part of the process includes pulling down all the latest sources I figured that if I just waited a week, maybe someone would have found the issue and fixed it.  But alas, as of this morning the process still fails in the same spot.  So I’ll send a note to the maintainer and see what happens.  Until that time I have to conclude that emerge on OSX constitutes the ‘epic-fail’ tag.

After all of this, I finally just grabbed the latest macports and within minutes I installed several standard software packages.  Both macports and fink provide very easy access for OSX to most readily available linux software.  However it does appear at the moment that macports has been getting more attention and is more supported (at least by comparing the verbage on each of their websites) and even though I’ve been a big fan of fink in the past, I went with macports if for no better reason other than its the one that I haven’t utilized before.

Code for setup_gentoo_bootstrap_env.sh located after the cut.

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The all macintosh network… almost

It’s probably no secret that I’ve turned into a huge mac fanatic… The recent acquisition of a mac mini puts the household total to four machines actively in use. It also means that my low-end machine, a Power Mac G4 PCI (Yikes!) is just sitting there, looking all forlorn and wanting to be put back into service.

It occurred to me that the old box could serve quite nicely as a replacement for my aging content/proxy server. Currently I’m running Dan’s Guardian and Squid on top of Ubuntu Linux on an old Compaq PentiumII. While it does work rather well, the hard drive has suffered a couple of soft failures in the last few weeks (fixable, but annoying) so the thought occurred to me that I could swap out the old box for the G4, utilizing the BSD underpinnings of OSX to run the proxy and content software.

As I began to think about it, I imagined that I could also throw in a nice second ethernet card and then use the IPFW firewall software (that is already installed by default) to act as my primary firewall. The addition of an ethernet nic and I could also use the box as a wifi hotspot (complete w/captive portal via nocatauth) and provide a robust wifi connection to the entire house. Of course, being somewhat security minded ::grin:: I am an advocate of using WPA2 to assist in securing the wireless connection.

So I set out by installing OSX Tiger 10.4.11 (the latest version that is supported on the G4 PCI ) along with the requisite hardware. Squid and Dan’s Guardian installed quickly and effortlessly (although I’m still trying to understand the whole ‘OSX init script’ landscape to get the services to start at boot time) and went to configure the wifi nic as a hotspot. In ‘System Preferences’ is a choice labeled ‘Sharing’ that allows you to set up internet sharing and choose the interfaces. You can then set the options for your wifi connections via the ‘AirPort Options…’ button. Lo and behold, clicking on it allows you to set up WEP (a very poor security option as it can be cracked almost effortlessly nowadays) and no choice for either WPA or the more robust WPA2!

This is really a show-stopper for me at the moment. I’ll still continue to plod along and replace the proxy/content server with this G4, but how dissappointing that Apple won’t provide reasonable security for sharing out the AirPort connection, but I guess the ‘Steve’ wants me to shell out even more money for an Airport Extreme (which just isn’t going to happen since I’m saving up for the next gen iPhone!)

Synchronize text files with your palm device and a macintosh

(cross-posted to Palm Addicts Forum)

A note for Mac users:

I thought I’d add a note about achieving a synchronized directory of text files without using Missing Sync. It does require a wee bit of unix knowledge (since the technique relies on running a shell script from the terminal) but not too much!

In order to make this work, your palm device needs to be able to connect as an external drive. Some devices such as the Lifedrive come with a program called DriveMode that provides this functionality. For the rest of us there is the wonderful Card Export II by Softick With your palm device connected to your macintosh, activate the Card Export program and you will see a new drive show up on your desktop! You can now browse the sd expansion card in your palm device directly from your macintosh desktop! Very cool, eh?

So what about synchronizing directories? Let’s suppose that in your home directory (usually /Users/username, where username is the name that shows up when you open Terminal from the Utilities directory) you’ve created a subdirectory called “Textfiles” Within that subdirectory you could have a bunch of text documents or subdirectories containing other text documents. Utilizing subdirectories is a nice way to keep your files sorted by project, subject or however else you like. Now comes the unix magic: in order to synchronize this “Textfiles” directory with your palm’s SD card, open up a terminal and run the following command:

rsync -av –delete /Users/username/Textfiles /Volumes/SD_CARD/PALM/

(remember to replace ‘username’ with your macintosh username)

This command will synchronize the “Textfiles” directory with the “/PALM/Textfiles” directory on your palm’s SD card. Now you can use a text editing program on your palm such as txtMemo to view or modify your files wherever you happen to be!

This is the way I used to synchronize my text files before purchasing Missing Sync. It requires a few extra steps each time you sync your palm device, but it works quite well. However, Missing Sync can do all of this plus a whole lot more! If you are a heavy palm user on a macintosh, you really should look into purchasing Missing Sync! It has simplified my data sync to the point where I don’t even think twice about it anymore!