August 2007

Two packets enter, one packet leaves!

Okay, I’m stumped. We have a ReadyNAS NV+ that holds Important Data, accessed primarily from Windows machines. Generally, it works really well, and we’ve been pretty happy with it for the last few months.

Monday, the Windows application that reads and writes the Important Data locked up on the primary user’s machine. Cryptic error messages that decrypted to “contact service for recovering your corrupted database” were seen.

Nightly backups of the device via the CIFS protocol worked fine. Reading and writing to the NAS from a Mac via CIFS worked fine. A second Windows machine equipped with the application worked fine, without any errors about corrupted data. I left the user working on that machine for the day, and did some after-hours testing that night.

The obvious conclusion was that the crufty old HP on the user’s desk was the problem (it had been moved on Friday), so I yanked it out of the way and temporarily replaced it with the other, working Windows box.

It didn’t work. I checked all the network connections, and everything looked fine. I took the working machine back to its original location, and it didn’t work any more. I took it down to the same switch as the NAS, and it didn’t work. My Mac still worked fine, though, so I used it to copy all of the Important Data from the ReadyNAS to our NetApp.

Mounting the NetApp worked fine on all machines in all locations. I can’t leave the data there long-term (in addition to being Important, it’s also Confidential), but at least we’re back in business.

I’m stumped. Right now, I’ve got a Mac and a Windows machine plugged into the same desktop gigabit switch (gigabit NICs everywhere), and the Mac copies a 50MB folder from the NAS in a few seconds, while the Windows machine gives up after a few minutes with a timeout error. The NAS reports:

smbd.log: write_data: write failure in writing to client Error Connection reset by peer smbd.log: write_data: write failure in writing to client Error Broken pipe

The only actual hardware problem I ever found was a loose cable in the office where the working Windows box was located.

[Update: It’s being caused by an as-yet-unidentified device on the network. Consider the results of my latest test: if I run XP under Parallels on my Mac in shared (NAT) networking mode, it works fine; in bridged mode, it fails exactly like a real Windows box. Something on the subnet is passing out bad data that Samba clients ignore but real Windows machines obey. The NetApp works because it uses licensed Microsoft networking code instead of Samba.]

[8/23 Update: A number of recommended fixes have failed to either track down the offending machine or resolve the problem. The fact that it comes and goes is more support for the “single bad host” theory, but it’s hard to diagnose when you can’t run your tools directly on the NAS.

So I reached for a bigger hammer: I grabbed one of my old Shuttles that I’ve been testing OpenBSD configurations on, threw in a second NIC, configured it as an ethernet bridge, and stuck it in front of the NAS. That gave me an invisible network tap that could see all of the traffic going to the NAS, and also the ability to filter any traffic I didn’t like.

Just for fun, the first thing I did was turn on the bridge’s “blocknonip” option, to force Windows to use TCP to connect. And the problem went away. I still need to find the naughty host, but now I can do it without angry users breathing down my neck.]

Haruhi: 1, Universe: 0

Via Samurai Soapbox.

VMware Fusion

I like Parallels, even if it can be a real memory hog, but even the latest version doesn’t have very good USB support. Unfortunately, there’s a Windows application I want to use that requires good USB support. Even more unfortunately, it will never, ever run under Vista.

Why not? Because Minolta sold off their entire camera business to Sony, who has no interest in updating the remote-control software for the Dimage A2.

I don’t currently own any computers that run Windows XP, and I don’t particularly want to. But if I ever find the free time to start playing with studio lighting again, I’ll want to remote-control the A2, and with XP gradually disappearing from the market, now’s the time to figure out how.

With the latest Parallels 3.0 build, plugging the camera in while it’s in remote-control mode locks up the virtual machine.VMware Fusion not only handles the camera correctly, it seems to use about half as much memory.

[Note that there is an abandoned open-source project to decipher the Minolta protocol and write a GUI capture tool. I’m not really interested in hacking on it.]

Much better...

If the Haruhi-fan dance video hurt your eyes, this should help them recover. The actual voice actresses doing the song:

via Japan Sugoi

[Update: Nice t-shirt, Haruhi.]

Dear Hollywood: Just... just... STOP, okay?

Jim Carrey in Horton Hears A Who. At least it’s not live action.

Here's a lawyer with big brass ones...

…and if he wins, you’ll be able to check them out for yourself. It seems a Florida man took some upskirt photos, got arrested for voyeurism, and now his attorney insists that he didn’t break any laws, because there’s no expectation of privacy in a public place.

It’s true that US law generally agrees that you can photograph anything that’s visible from a public place, but there are already a number of exceptions, and I suspect that shoving your camera into a private place is one of them. This argument might fly if she had deliberately exposed herself or worn a skirt so skimpy that a reasonable person would conclude that her underwear was supposed to be showing, but in all other cases, the perv’s gonna lose.

[And, yes, I’ve met a few of these guys. One of them worked in a camera shop and eagerly showed off a digicam that had the lens connected by a 5-foot cable. His exact words were: “perfect for my sneakies!”. (if I recall correctly, it was this model)]

Wrong Widgets

Quite by accident, I just noticed that a number of Apple-supplied Dashboard widgets on my MacBook were running under Rosetta. Specifically, Flight Tracker, People, Phone Book, Translation, and Unit Converter; the others with plugins had universal binaries.

I did use the Migration Assistant to preserve everything from my old PowerBook, but that shouldn’t have overwritten system-supplied widgets that were already present on the target machine. But maybe it did. Or else my MacBook shipped with some PowerPC cruft that hasn’t been caught in the last four OS updates.

An interesting note is that the PowerPC-only version of the Unit Converter widget is only localized for English and Japanese, while the universal version adds about a dozen more, despite the Info.plist file claiming that they’re both version 1.2.1.

Microsoft server down? You're a pirate!

The Windows Genuine Advantage servers, used to validate your Windows install, are down. Unfortunately, if you can’t reach them, WGA assumes you’re a software pirate and deactivates.

Under XP, this prevents software updates. Under Vista, once you’re marked invalid, rebooting will disable OS features, including the Aero Glass user interface that was one of the flashiest features. And you can’t get any of it back until they fix the servers, which have been down for about 12 hours now. I don’t know what it does to Office…

Meanwhile, MS tech support has been terribly confused, giving out advice that assumes you’re an idiot or a pirate. They seem to be getting the word now, but some of them have told users to try again on Tuesday (!).

Some people are assuming that nobody’s working on it, because Microsoft is closed on weekends. WGA PM Phil Liu responds.

Hey, wait, she's actually good

Kei Yasuda, former member of Morning Musume:

[Update: Her talents are not suited to certain other genres. Oof.]

[Update: replaced the defunct youtube link]

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”