Apr 11, 2008

Bongi's voice - and the size of the Kruger Park

My brothers blog 'other-things-amanzi', which is hugely more popular than mine, for obvious reasons if you read it, just got a boost as he was invited to be interviewed on BlogTalkRadio.com. Sid Schwab of surgeonsblog fame was a guest host, which worked well as he and 'bongi' got chatting about everything from the pleasures of living near the Kruger National Park, to regional issues facing surgeons, like the bad treatment sometimes delivered by the local witchdoctors or 'sangomas'.

Sid even mentioned my blog, but I'm guessing the ultra-geek content stopped him in his tracks :-). Of my blog, Bongi said: 'I don't understand a single word of it!' Perhaps this post will score better?

One thing Bongi said that I fear is some misinformation I might be responsible for, was that the Kruger Park is the size of England. I used to claim that myself, but recently decided to double check my facts and found I was WRONG! A quick google search reveals several sites claiming it is the size of Wales, and one claiming it is bigger than Ireland:
(Size: The Kruger Park is huge. It stretches for 350km (217 miles) from north to south and averages 60 kilometres in width which makes it bigger than Ireland. Most of the park is fenced so it is a self contained ecosystem.)

So, I stand corrected. So I decided to investigate and figure out what is really going on. How does the park compare to England, Ireland and Wales? Right now these are the facts I could find:
Kruger Park:
Area: 18 989 km2
Length: 350 km
Area: 130 395 km2
Length: 580 km
Area: 20 79 km2
Length: 215 km
Area: 84 412 km2
Length: 360 km
Area: 10 939 km2
Length: 115 km
Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park:
Area: 35 000 km2 - 99 800 km2 (planned expansion)
(England, Ireland, Wales lengths were roughly north-south measured by me on google earth 'ruler'. Kruger length is from wikipedia.)

So England is about 7 times the area, and about 65% longer. So the Kruger is comparable in terms of length (60% the length of England), but not by area, since the Park is so narrow. The website that claimed the park was bigger than Ireland is wrong. It's a bit shorter, and less than a quarter the area. It is, however 60% longer than Wales and nearly the same area, so that is the best match. If the full-size transfrontier park materializes, it will close in on the size of England, which is really impressive.

It is especially interesting to me that the Kruger Park is nearly twice the length and over three times the area of Skåne, the province in Sweden in which I live.

Apr 4, 2008

Hardy Heron Beta (and release)

I've had a generally good time with the Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron Beta since it was released in late March, and have installed it on two different machines. I especially enjoyed getting compiz to work for the first time (possibly due to a new machine with better hardware, not something related to Hardy in particular). However, I have had three issues I thought worth mentioning here:
  1. admin-users does not work
    I reported this as a bug to ubuntu. Basically the problem is that no groups or users added with gnomes user administration tool actually get added, and in one case the tool crashed. I've had to add users and groups on the command line with tools like 'addgroup' and 'adduser'.
  2. eclipse crashes silently
    This happened several times before I thought to run it in the console and catch the error, which turned out to be 'java.lang.OutOfMemoryError: PermGen space'. Normally eclipse reports this to the user in a dialog, and I do not know why that was not done, but the solution is the same, add '-vmargs -Xmx1280m -XX:MaxPermSize=1024m' or similar to the eclipse launcher. I noticed the error first happen after switching from the Ruby to the Java perspective, and the virtual memory requirements of eclipse jumped from 0.5GB to 1.2GB. Amazing. (update: the symptoms returned on a new java6 update, and the new fix was to add -XX:CompileCommand=exclude,org/eclipse/core/internal/dtree/DataTreeNode,forwardDeltaWith to vmargs - see comments below for more details)
  3. unable to set HumanList theme for login window
    Once a change to the login window settings were made, logging out waited indefinitely (or in one case just about 30 minutes), before showing the login screen. No errors in the X log or any other log. Nasty. I had to kill gdm and hand edit gdm.conf-custom to remove the theme line.
  4. sudo fails with: unable to resolve host
    I found a lot of discussion about this on the internet, but in most cases it was due to people foolishly changing their hosts files. While sudo should not be sensitive to something like that, it was not my situation. I simply ran the usual daily upgrade with the list of updates for Hardy, and after the reboot this issue happened. With a lot of investigation I found how to 'fix' it, by getting /etc/hosts and /etc/hostname to have the same entry. Interestingly enough they do not have the same entry if you enter the 'obvious' values in the network manager applet for host and domain. For example, putting 'foo' and 'bar.com' as host and domain will put 'foo' into /etc/hostname and 'foo.bar.com' on the line in /etc/hosts. My sudo continued to work for a week before my reboot because my DNS settings, and my 'search' list in particular allowed 'foo' to be resolved even without the 'bar.com', but after the reboot it failed due to the additional issue below:
  5. static eth0 failed on reboot
    Strangely enough eth0 appeared on the ifconfig output, but with no IP address, while my network configuration in the network applet, as well as in /etc/network/interfaces, looked just fine. I needed to add 'auto eth0' to the config file to get it to work correctly. I vaguely remember seeing this before on much older ubuntu versions, but have not seen it for a while, so it was quite a surprise. This issue caused the sudo issue above to appear suddenly after a reboot.
The sudo and eth0 issue was tricky to deal with because a non-working sudo means you cannot access and/or edit the files you need to to get things working. I found reports of people rebooting to single user or recovery mode, and other booting the live CD to access the hard drive, both of which seem like an over-sized hammer for this small nail. One mentioned using 'aptitude' and the the menu to switch to root, but from there I could not get a shell from there. One mentioned using gksudo to run xterm as root, and that should work. I tried to used the network admin tool to fiddle settings until I got the hosts and hostname files to match. This was not easy because that tool did not allow simple hostnames (no domains) in the hosts file.