Thursday, November 13, 2008

Reminding ourselves why we bought a Mac

I dug a 6-year-old laptop out of the closet and brought it to the office. I haven't been a Linux user for several years (or at least, not a Linux administrator -- my desktop runs some flavor of Linux, but is centrally administered by our very able and quick tech staff, so that doesn't count), so for a laugh, I wiped it out and installed the latest Ubuntu -- version 8.10.

Linux has certainly come a long way in the handling of hardware (and it helps that all the hardware on this machine is ancient). Ubuntu recognized and configured both my sound card and my PCMCIA wifi card (yes, the machine is old enough not to have integrated wifi).

But at the first attempt to run Xorg (the windowing system), the resolution was stuck at 800x600 -- Ubuntu apparently failed to recognize the laptop's video driver. The screen's full res is 1024x768, and this is the kind of machine where smaller resolutions are not stretched to the full screen, so I feel like I'm staring at a postage stamp in a sea of blackness.

A little research found that the problem might be solved by running a configuration tool (displayconfig-gtk) and manually specifying the driver. Apparently this was fine for Ubuntu 8.04, but the tool was dropped from 8.10. Here we read:

As Xorg has improved this past year, an unfortunate side effect of these improvements is that it has rendered several design assumptions in displayconfig-gtk obsolete. So, starting with Hardy we are no longer putting displayconfig-gtk forth as a primary configuration tool, and are putting our development focus into the Screen Resolution applet. As a result, we do not plan to fix this ...

So my only recourse is to find and manually change the Xorg configuration files. Thanks, Ubuntu, for a couple of hours of my life that I'll never get back, which may or may not solve the problem.

The whole thing reminds me why I stopped using Linux in the first place, and makes me want to hug my Macbook.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Macleans to York: You Suck

The Macleans university rankings are out. York members hoping for some good news are out of luck.

Overall ranking:

"Comprehensive" category: Tied for 9th out of 11 (last year: 8th)

Reputational ranking (and GTA universities for comparison):

"Best overall": 29 out of 48 (U of T: 5, Ryerson: 19, UOIT: 31)
"Highest quality": 27 out of 48 (U of T: 4, Ryerson: 23, UOIT: 43)
"Most innovative": 25 out of 48 (U of T: 8, Ryerson: 15, UOIT: 24)
"Leaders of Tomorrow": 32 out of 48 (U of T: 5, Ryerson: 16, UOIT: 21)

The take home message: In no category do we finish in the top half. In the public eye, we're getting spanked by Ryerson. Ryerson! And we're not much better than a university that didn't exist six years ago.

Friday, November 7, 2008

CUPE 3903 loses the public relations war

Toronto Star editorial strongly criticizing the CUPE 3903 strike:

An article in NOW mildly critical of the strike:

Although the Star is center-left, it's perhaps not so surprising that they would devote editorial space to criticizing CUPE. But it's astonishing that NOW -- known for some fairly hard-core leftist views -- would make anything other than positive comments about the strike.