Thursday, March 26, 2009

Best of the Month, Three Years Ago

Here are the best items posted on my personal newsletter in March 2006: * * * * * Late-Night Political News from "President Bush made a surprise trip to Afghanistan, and he promised the Afghanis that the United States would not cut and run. Then he got on his plane and left." --Conan O'Brien "Looks like some kind of civil war brewing in Iraq. Well, who could have seen that coming? That came out of left field, huh? They say it is total chaos over there. People are roaming the streets with guns. It's like everyone is Dick Cheney now." --Jay Leno "An Arab company might take over six American ports. President Bush says that he did not know of the plan. That is just so out of character." --David Letterman "Bush is not backing down. He says if this deal doesn't go through, it's going to be a slap in the face to the Arabs, which is amazingly ironic because we have four guys in Guantanamo Bay whose specific job is to slap Arabs in the face." --Bill Maher "In South Dakota, they have banned pretty much all abortions. Boy, now there's really nothing to do in South Dakota." --Bill Maher "This week, the United States Military Academy announced it had discovered an al Qaeda employment contract, detailing the benefits of joining the group. Membership does have its privileges. Married males receive 6500 rupees and a week's vacation for every three weeks work. Wow, it sounds like there's no downside! Oh, wait, the retirement plan." --Jon Stewart "This week President Bush made a surprise visit to Afghanistan. The president said he heard it was a good place for an embattled leader to disappear into the mountains." --Tina Fey "Even Tom DeLay is saying this port deal is a big mistake. He said if the people of Dubai want to be involved in our government, they should do it through proper channels and write me a big giant campaign check." --Jay Leno "Anna Nicole Smith told the Supreme Court she wanted them to know about her relationship with her oil-tycoon husband and about that magic night when he said those three little words to her: "I can't breathe." "Earlier today, President Bush flew to New Orleans. There was an awkward moment when the president looked around and said 'Oh my god, what the hell happened here?'" --Conan O'Brien "The Oscars were seen in over 100 countries, two of which don't hate us." --Jay Leno "George Clooney won for Syriana, which was about the CIA and what people will do for oil. Or as Dick Cheney calls it, a love story." --Jay Leno "We're coming up to the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. I'm not sure how Bush is going to mark the occasion. I think we can rule out landing on an aircraft carrier and declaring mission accomplished." --Jay Leno "The FBI is investigating Americans -- just for opposing the war. You know, maybe when we're done establishing a democracy in Iraq, we could try it over here. ... Stop, I don't want to get investigated, don't applaud!" --Jay Leno "It's also spring break in Iraq. It's kinda like here, half of them getting bombed, half of them getting stoned." --Jay Leno "Mexican President Vincente Fox announced that they have discovered oil under the Gulf of Mexico. In a related story, President Bush accused Mexico of having weapons of mass destruction." --Jay Leno "In a remarkable speech over the weekend, Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt recommended that Americans store canned tuna and powdered milk under their beds for when bird flu hits. What? This ranks right up there with "duck and cover" during a nuclear attack. In case of radiation wear a hat. Powdered milk and tuna? How many would rather have the bird flu?" --Jay Leno "On Saturday at the Hague, Slobodan Milosevic [leader of Serbia during the Serb invasion of Bosnia] died. Despot, madman, husband, father? He will be, uh, buried." --Jon Stewart "Do you think it's too soon to be hitting on Mrs. Milosevic?" --David Letterman "Pentagon records show that at least 8,000 members of the all-volunteer U.S. Army have deserted since the Iraq war began. Hey, at least somebody has an exit strategy." --Tina Fey "Because of various security lapses, some senators are calling for a probe of the security at the offices of the Department of Homeland Security. The investigation will be conducted by the Department of Irony." --Amy Poehler "More people, particularly Republicans, disapprove of President Bush's performance. They're questioning his character now and they no longer consider him a strong leader on terrorism. Yeah, apparently there's a little more to this whole presidency thing than just not getting blown." --Bill Maher "The only drug sold at Wal-Mart should be pot in the parking lot. Wal-Mart has announced that they will now dispense the 'morning-after' contraceptive pill, because nothing says to a young lady, "I really care," like a trip to Wal-Mart. Besides, Wal-Mart shoppers already have access to the most effective form of birth control: watching how children behave at Wal-Mart." --Bill Maher "There are two sides in Iraq right now fighting. The side that hates us and the side that really hates us." --David Letterman "Chile's New President , Michelle Bachelet is her name... She is a single mother, a socialist and an agnostic. In this country not only could she not be elected president, but her phone would be tapped by the FBI." --Bill Maher "According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center, Republicans are happier than Democrats. Well of course they are, they own everything." --Jay Leno "This bird flu is scary, you frightened by this? I spent an hour last night rubbing Vick's Vap-o-Rub on my parakeet." --Jay Leno "The good news is that Congress is cracking down on illegal immigration. The bad news: a head of lettuce will now cost $300." --Jay Leno "This problem with illegal immigration is nothing new. In fact, the Indians had a special name for it. They called it 'white people.'" --Jay Leno "Have you been watching the Senate debating the immigration bill? It's great. Every time somebody says 'undocumented worker,' Ted Kennedy does a tequila shot." --David Letterman "The president's mother, Barbara Bush, donated tax deductible money to the Katrina Relief. ... Now we find out the specific instructions -- that the money be spent for educational software owned by her son, Neil. Because who can forget those tragic images of the poor black people on the rooftops in New Orleans holding up signs that said, 'Send educational software.'" --Bill Maher * * * * * Newspaper Headlines Man Struck By Lightning Faces Battery Charge Arson Suspect Held in Massachusetts Fire Bridge Held Up By Red Tape Kids Make Nutritious Snacks Plane Too Close To Ground, Crash Probe Told Schwarzenegger Wins on Budget, but More Lies Ahead Drunk Gets Nine Months in Violin Case Iraqi Head Seeks Arms Hospitals Sued By Seven Foot Doctors Expert Says Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft Supreme Court Rules that Murderers shall not be electrocuted twice for the same Crime Deaf Mute Gets New Hearing in Killing Stiff Opposition Expected to Casketless Funeral Plan Two Convicts Evade Noose, Jury Hung William Kelly Was Fed Secretary Milk Drinkers are Turning to Powder Safety Experts Say School Bus Passengers Should Be Belted Farmer Bill Dies in House Queen Mary Having Bottom Scraped Prostitutes Appeal to Pope NJ Judge to Rule on Nude Beach Child's Stool Great for Use in Garden Dr. Ruth to Talk About Sex With Newspaper Editors Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim Dealers Will Hear Car Talk at Noon Enraged Cow Injures Farmer with Ax Lawmen From Mexico Barbecue Guests Miners Refuse to Work After Death Two Sisters Reunite After Eighteen Years at Checkout Counter Autos Killing 110 a Day, Let's Resolve to do Better If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly it May Last a While War Dims Hope for Peace Smokers are Productive, but Death Cuts Efficiency Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures Child's Death Ruins Couple's Holiday Blind Woman Gets New Kidney from Dad She Hasn't Seen in Years Death Causes Loneliness, Feeling of Isolation * * * * * Websites of Note Chris Bliss Juggling Finale For the Oscars: Examples of Honest Acceptance Speeches Sheik Reda Shata of Brooklyn

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ubuntu and VMware: Cannot Install This Hardware

This situation arose while I was in a previously described process of installing Windows XP SP2 and SP3 in VMware Workstation 6.5 on Ubuntu Linux 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex). See that previous post for more background information. At this point, matters had developed as follows: VMware had been unable to run the WinXP virtual machine (VM) that I had created, using VMware Converter, from a preexisting Windows installation. In other words, I had installed Windows on my computer as usual; I had used Converter to convert a copy of that Windows installation into a VM; I had rebooted into Ubuntu and had tried to run that VM within VMware; and it didn't work. The system really never got past loading Windows, giving me a BSOD (blue screen of death), and rebooting, in an eternal recurrence. So I went back to the Windows installation and tried again. That previous attempt had involved a Windows XP SP2 (service pack 2) installation, and that had made it difficult to run the System File Checker (sfc /scannow) program in Windows. I thought that might be helpful, and I came across a deal, so I got a WinXP SP3 CD and tried again. (Could also have slipstreamed SP2 with SP3 to create an SP3 CD.) Then I started over with a new WinXP installation, using this new SP3 CD. This time, unlike last time, I installed only a partial (but large) selection of my Windows programs and utilities. These were programs that I wanted every one of my VMs to have, so it made sense to install them once and then make clones of the resulting VM. For purposes of conserving disk space, backup space, and system load time, I wanted all this to fit within a 20GB rather than 30GB VM. So I left out some big, space-consuming programs. I figured I would add those later to one larger, 30GB VM. Installing numerous programs before running VMware Converter was a different approach from the one I had taken previously, when I had installed VMware Workstation on Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron). That approach had worked pretty well: the VM had run successfully in VMware on Ubuntu, and I had then added most of my Windows programs to it after doing the conversion. This time around, as noted above, an alternate approach had failed. This time, I had tried to add all of my programs to my WinXP installation before creating the VM, and that 30GB VM had failed to boot, as just described. So in this second try, I had (1) upgraded to WinXP SP3 and (2) installed only a selection of Windows programs, to a 20GB partition, before running VMware Converter to create a 20GB VM. So that's the situation we begin with. This 20GB VM did succeed in running in VMware Workstation, but it was very slow. It seemed that part of the problem was that it was not succeeding in installing the virtual "hardware" that Workstation pretends to be using. That is, my real, partial installation had been on a system with a Foxconn motherboard and an AMD CPU; but now VMware Workstation was trying to run that installation on a virtual system with a generic, virtual motherboard and CPU supplied by VMware. But at least it did run, so apparently the crucial difference between running and not running was due to (1) the use of SP3 rather than SP2 and/or (2) the elimination of one or more installed programs that had made it impossible for the 30GB VM to load and run. What was happening, at this point, was that the WinXP VM would give me the "Found New Hardware" wizard; I would tell it to go ahead and install itself; and it would then give me a "Cannot install this hardware" error message. It seemed that VMware Workstation, itself, was not supplying the drivers that its own generic virtual hardware needed. The more successful approach would have been to do as I did before: set up just a basic WinXP installation in my Windows dual-boot, create a VM from that, and then install additional programs on the VM. I didn't want to do it that way because I wanted to have a Windows native boot that was more or less the same as my Windows VMs, and I didn't want to have to invest twice the time in installing and configuring all those various programs, add-ins, etc. So, to go through it more carefully, here's what would happen in this VM. The VM booted. It loaded the programs I had installed in my Startup folder. It gave me various messages (e.g., "30 days left for activation. To activate Windows now, click here."). I ran Windows Explorer and verified that the Internet connection was active. I went into Control Panel > System > Hardware > Device Manager. There, I saw a yellow circle with a black exclamation mark in it, next to "Other devices - Video Controller (VGA Compatible)." I right-clicked on that and chose "Update driver." This gave me, "Welcome to the Hardware Update Wizard." As before, I chose "Install the software automatically (Recommended)," and after a short pause, that gave me "Cannot Install this Hardware." I did a Google search and found that there didn't seem to be many people having this problem. Actually, I was one of the few. In a previous post, I had apparently found that I was supposed to be looking for a driver for a "VMware SVGA II" video adapter, which was more than Device Manager had been willing to tell me. In Device Manager, I right-clicked on the yellow-exclamation-marked "Video Controller" item and chose Properties > General > Reinstall Driver > Install from a list or specific location > Next > Don't search. That gave me a list of hardware items, but none of them had names beginning with "VMware." I chose Display Adapters > Next, but this gave me, "Unable to find any drivers for this device." One poster said s/he had gotten relief from this problem after, among other things, proceeding to install the mouse drivers. I thought maybe just skipping the problem on this boot would give VMware a chance to install other hardware drivers to adjust to this new setup, so I canceled out of Device Manager and waited for the system to identify and install some more hardware. But nothing happened. Everything else was installed already, as I now recalled from what I had just seen in Device Manager. Lacking other ideas, I decided to reboot. Things were unchanged. I did another Google search. One post said something about needing a minimum of 128MB RAM for the VM. That wasn't a problem, but maybe the opposite was: I saw that VMware was allocating over 3GB to this VM. I wanted it to get a maximum of 1GB. I had to start VMware as root in order to change it. I went to Ubuntu's Terminal and typed "sudo vmware." Then, in VMware, I went to Edit > Preferences. I didn't change anything there, but I did notice the option of setting hardware compatibility to previous versions of VMware. That seemed like one possible solution; I had seen one post where somebody had found a working video driver in an older version of Workstation (5.5.3). Still in Workstation as root, I next went to VM > Settings > Hardware and changed the Memory setting to 1024MB. Also, although I was running a triple-core processor, I thought I might as well try changing the Processors setting to One instead of Two; maybe VMware would let other VMs use the other cores. For the Display setting, I changed from "Use host settings for monitors" to "Specify settings for monitors," and I specified a maximum resolution of 1280 x 1024. I also checked the "Accelerate 3D graphics" box. In the Options tab, I set Shared Folders to "Always enabled" and I changed Guest Isolation to be "Enable VM communication interface (VMCI)." I saved those changes, quit Workstation, and restarted it the normal way (i.e., Ubuntu's Applications > System Tools > VMware Workstation option), and then started this VM. It started slowly, like before. But this time, when the Found New Hardware wizard came up, it was concerned with a different piece of hardware: not the virtual VGA graphics, but rather the Base System Device, whatever that was. I guessed that it went on to this problem because the wizard dialog box added a checkmark by default to the "Don't prompt me again to install this software" option, so apparently the system just went on to the next thing in that case. I went into Device Manager as above, and now saw I had not one, but two "Other devices" with the yellow exclamations: the Video Controller, and now this. I told the Found New Hardware Wizard to install automatically, but once again, it was not able to do so. In Device Manager, I right-clicked on these two items and chose Uninstall. I then chose VM > Install VMware Tools. I restarted the VM. The video and Base System hardware wizard installations failed again. I unchecked the "Don't prompt" option in each case and continued. Nothing else seemed to be happening, so I fired up Internet Explorer and went to Windows Update. It needed to validate my copy of Windows, and to do that it needed to activate it. It seemed like I had already activated it on the native WinXP installation; if so, apparently the VMware hardware was sufficiently different as to trigger Microsoft's anti-piracy sensors. So I activated. Now Microsoft Update told me there was just one update, an optional hardware update for my sound hardware, so I installed that. I re-ran it and there were no further updates. Device Manager still had the same two yellow exclamation items. I was stuck. I rebooted the VM and did another Google search. This time, when the Found New Hardware Wizard came up for the VGA, I chose "Install from a list or specific location" > "Don't search. I will choose the driver to install" > "Sound, video and game controllers." Unfortunately, that gave me only three game port options, so that wasn't the solution. I backed up and, instead of sound and video, I said "Show All Devices." The list of manufacturers that eventually came up didn't have any entries for VMware, SVGA, video, or graphics. It seemed I was in the wrong place, so I backed up one step. Ah! In the list of "Common hardware types," I had overlooked "Display adapters." I went with that, but it didn't make any difference. I got a message, "Unable to find any drivers for this device." I found a webpage where I could download a driver for SVGA II. It claimed to be version It was actually an EXE file, and when I ran it, it said something about unplugging my USB Ethernet adapter. Apparently it was a driver for some kind of device I didn't have. It ended by saying the system would install it automatically. Whatever. I clicked Cancel on this and also on the Base System wizard. In the latter case, at least, I did it without unchecking the "Don't prompt me" option. This gave me a balloon: "Found New Hardware. A problem occurred . . . ." I restarted the VM. The VGA thing still didn't install; same Found New Hardware and Cannot Install This Hardware dialogs as before. I found another download page, a more official CNET one, for a driver for SVGA II version that was dated September 30, 2001. But that just redirected me to the VMware download page, and they didn't have drivers, only complete Workstation packages. I went into Device Manager and decided to try updating the driver for the Base System Device. The update option led me to the "Common hardware types" dialog box again. This time, I selected "System devices." It showed only a "Compaq Deskpro Thermal Sensor." What? Well, OK; I clicked on Next. But the system gave me a warning, "Installing this device driver is not recommended because Windows cannot verify that it is compatible with your hardware." So forget that. I posted a question in a VMware forum. In a day or two, I had what looked like an answer. The explanation seemed to be that I was getting those yellow exclamation circles because VMware Tools were not actually installed. After clicking VM > Install VMware Tools, I was supposed to see VMware Tools listed in Windows Explorer as my new drive D -- as, in other words, a virtual CD drive. Sure enough, there it was. (It sounded like this could vary somewhat if I had received VMware Workstation on a CD. I didn't. I got it as a download. So this was just a virtual CD drive.) The advice was to run Setup.exe there. I did. It thought it was just taking an unbelievably long time to run, but then I decided to scroll around the screen and see what was going on. In other words, I couldn't see my whole Windows desktop at once, because VMware Tools was not yet installed. The resolution was too big. So now, when I scrolled to the top of the screen, I saw a dialog that said, "Please insert the Compact Disc labeled 'Windows XP CD-ROM' into your CD-ROM drive (D:) and then click OK." I did that. It started installing stuff -- including, I noticed, the SVGA driver. Along the way, it asked for the locations of various files. I had copied the I386 folder from the WinXP CD to my hard drive C before running Converter to create the VM, so for the most part I just had to point these dialogs to C:\I386 and they found what they were looking for there. Installation completed, and I got a dialog telling me I needed to reboot, which I did. Device Manager now showed no yellow exclamation circles. Everything was working normally. So that was the answer.

Ubuntu ASGD: Fix of Boot Failed

I previously used Auto Super Grub Disk (ASGD) to restore the GRUB bootloader after a Windows XP installation wiped it out. That is, I had Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) up and running on a dual-boot system with WinXP, but then I had to reinstall Windows and, when I did so, I no longer got a bootup option to go into Ubuntu instead of XP. Now the system automatically went right into Windows when I booted it, with no Ubuntu option. So I tried running ASGD, as described in that previous post, to fix the problem, but ASGD gave me no joy. Then I tried booting with the alternate Ubuntu CD (again, see the previous post for details), but this time it didn't seem to be working as I had written it up previously. This time, when I chose the "Rescue a broken system" option on the Ubuntu Alternate CD, the "Execute a shell" option gave me a prompt that didn't respond as I had described in my previous post. There was something not right, so I had to revisit the problem. The shell in question was ash (that's the name of the program that was waiting there to accept my command-line instructions), and the "grub" command didn't mean anything to ash. So I typed "exit" to get out of the shell, and reviewed the "Ubuntu installer main menu," there in the Rescue option on the Alternate CD. Another possibility on that menu was "Enter rescue mode." I tried that. It asked me what device I wanted to use as a root system. I did know the answer to that because, following my previous instructions, I had already run "fdisk -l" and had seen that my Linux program partition was located on sdc5 (also known as hd(2,4), because the hd count begins at 0, not 1). So I named /dev/sdc5 as the "device to use as root file system," there in the rescue mode option. That appeared to be the step I had neglected to write up in my previous instructions. Now, sure enough, I did get an option to "Execute a shell in /dev/sdc5." I thought I would give it another go, and this time typing "grub" did produce a "grub" prompt. So I entered the same commands as before:

root (hd2,4) setup (hd2) quit exit
and then I chose the "Reboot the system" option. And, sure enough, that was all I needed to do. It worked again. So, basically, after reinstalling Windows, if ASGD and rebooting didn't give me a GRUB menu, the thing to do was to reboot with the Alternate Ubuntu CD, designate (hd2,4) as my Linux partition, and then reboot from the hard drive.

Friday, March 6, 2009

I Have a Bad Feeling About This

We now have money to give to banks and other organizations, in a bid to bail them out. But money does not grow on trees. We are able to get that money because foreign lenders supply it. If it does not appear that government will be getting repaid, foreign lenders will be worried that they are throwing good money after bad. The supply of easy money may dry up. That is economically problematic, to say the least. What gives me a bad feeling at this moment is the thought that the $100, or $100 million, that we are giving to a certain banker now, will be money that we will desperately need for food and other essentials later. It has long been the case that just a few dollars (sometimes, even pennies) would be sufficient to save the life of some Third World wretch. Our bailout talk does not yet contemplate the possibility that, in the worst hard times, a similar financial logic may apply at home as well.