What constitutes a good error message to the user?

Today, will go down in my professional history as quite possibly the lowest I would ever think of a software developer. I’ve carefully avoided the term “fellow coder”, speaking of a IT industry sticking by fellow IT people, but not today.

I presently support an existing production system, some 1000+ users that’s been in place around 3 years in which I’ve had no prior involvement until recently. Integration with other external parties within the system have provided an esclation in errors being reported in this external communication, and lack of adequate feedback to the user is another topic. Email is the means of reporting administratively of user errors, again another topic of issue. Within these emails, which are almost impossible to manage due to the limited internal GUI only toolset and lack of access to actual email account files to automate scripting (yet another topic? Do you see a trend here), is some relevent information regarding the transaction, and then most importantly the error message. The thing I need to investigate the problem.

The line reads (removing some stuff):

Error Code: 234567892

Ok, well a little cryptic, but surely you can work out from the external system what this means. Investigation of some more errors, in the mail GUI product, yet another series of open windows (you can’t view messages like a regular mail client with a summary list and a detail panel), provides for a trend in the error messages:

Error Code: 1235492567
Error Code: -434783134
Error Code: 34345199

The trend being there is none. Of course today by mid morning the email error count is into the hundreds, and I’m none the wiser. Well time to closely investigate the code management (as I’ve already contacted the external party, and asked if I can provide some error codes to receive greater information).

The following constitutes the two lines of code taken in the determination of the error messages I’ve shown so far. Note, this code takes the external system response, and then “attempts to determine usefull error content for presentation back to the user”.

errorNo = new Random().nextInt();
error = “Error Code: ” + errorNo;

Now while everybody laughed out loud, including fellow developers, DBA, IT manager, the Business Owners and Users (which can’t read code but could understand the first of these two lines I highlighted), and yes it really was funny in context with a bigger picture, but really it wasn’t funny at all. Some things make my blood boil, and this was one of them. With all the time lost between multitudes of people, users, call centre etc, I’d never felt a stronger conviction to hunt down the developer that wrote this.

The end of the story is after even trolling old CVS repository entries I was unable to piece sufficient information to determine the author. Most likely done pre version control, and then that trail leads to only a few names I’ve heard mentioned before.

I’d like to see somebody top that one!

Open Office Spell Checker

I don’t know why it just isn’t installed by default, but Open Office 2 didn’t install any dictionaries. What’s more depressing, is you go to do a spell check, and it simply states Spelling is Complete. There is no menas to install via Open Office.

What you have to do is download a document that runs a macro to enable you to choose and install the necessary dictionaries. Weird, but it works. And the magic link is:


It was http://lingucomponent.openoffice.org/dictpack.html

FireFox's Live Bookmarks

I’m just about to launch a new project I’ve been working on in the past week. It has a RSS feed, and I wanted to ensure that within FireFox, this could be picked up as a live bookmark. This alone is a very cool feature. Using my Blog for reference, the following code is used.

	<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS 2.0" href="http://blog.arabx.com.au/?feed=rss2" />
	<link rel="alternate" type="text/xml" title="RSS .92" href="http://blog.arabx.com.au/?feed=rss" />
	<link rel="alternate" type="application/atom+xml" title="Atom 0.3" href="http://blog.arabx.com.au/?feed=atom" />

So adding a RSS2 live bookmark link is as simple as a header tag.

Live Bookmarks – Mozilla Description
Good Introduction Tutorial

Linux One Liner – Finding Stuff

Let’s say you created a file in your home directory but can’t work out which directory you put it in.

$ find ~ -name somefile.txt

You can replace ~ (tilda) with a directory e.g. / (slash) for search all locations on your system.

Let’s say you want to find all the JPEG’s you have.

$ find ~ -name "*.jpg"

Now to improve on this, I know I put a JPEG somewhere in the past few days, give me just the files from the past 3 days.

$ find . -name "*.jpg" -mtime -3

And what if you only wanted files greater then 2MB

$ find . -name "*.jpg" -mtime -3 -size +2M

If you want to look at a more detailed listing of the files found, like the format you are familar with using ls, try this.

$ find . -name "*.jpg" -mtime -3 -exec ls -l {} ;

You can find more then files, lets find all the directories you have.

$ find ~ -type d

I haven’t added it, but historically you needed to add -print on the end to print the results, seems nowadays this is optional.

I briefly used the -exec option above, I used it for various purposes. Here are a few.

$ find /backup-location -name "backup.*.tar.gz" -mtime +3 -print -exec rm -f {} ;
$ find . -name CVS -exec rm -rf {} ;

The first I run against my backup directory, that removes the online backups older then 3 days. Of course I’ve also got offline backups.
The second is when I checkout stuff from CVS and I want to prune all the CVS information. NOTE: Using the rm -rf command is very dangerous, you should only use this when you know your stuff. Used in the wrong way you delete everything, if you don’t have backups, there ain’t any UNDO in Linux. Also if you do it as root, you can effectively kill your installation in a split second.

There are other commands that perform various level of finding (e.g. commands via path) and other various stuff. A topic for another time, but to entice you.

$ which find
$ whereis find
$ locate find

Linux One Liner – Parsing long HTML urls

Ever wanted to look at a long HTML URL more easily, say to investigate a parameter. Here is a search from MapQuest.


$ echo "[insert url here]" | | tr "&?" "n"

This produced for the above URL the following output.



The Translate command tr does however replace both the & and ? characters. There are of course many more approaches like.

echo "[insert url here]" | sed -e "s/&/\n/g" -e "s/?/\n/g"

You can easily preserve the & and ? characters extending the syntax with

echo "[insert url here]" | sed -e "s/&/\n&/g" -e "s/?/\n?/g

This produces.



Now don’t get me started with the awk command. One of my popular books is Sed & Awk. If you do any detailed Shell scripting, this is a very handy guide.

Linux One Liner – Security

Here are a few useful one liners for Linux Security. View current packet filtering rules. (i.e. what can and can’t access your computer.

$ iptables -L

On older distros, iptables may not be in place. Try ipchains. A good reference and tools on iptables can be found at www.iptablesrocks.org.

Identity open ports on your installation using the Network exploration tool and security scanner.

$ nmap -p 1-65535 localhost

On my computer this returned

Starting nmap 3.70 ( http://www.insecure.org/nmap/ ) at 2006-06-11 12:22 EST
Interesting ports on lamda.arabx (
(The 65525 ports scanned but not shown below are in state: closed)
22/tcp open ssh
25/tcp open smtp
111/tcp open rpcbind
139/tcp open netbios-ssn
445/tcp open microsoft-ds
631/tcp open ipp
901/tcp open samba-swat
8005/tcp open unknown
32769/tcp open unknown
34315/tcp open unknown

That’s a cause for a bit of concern. Will need to look into that more.

Looking into more detail, I know what runs samba-swat but let’s confirm.

$ fuser -n tcp 901

This provides a confirmation and the Process id of the process using this port. A more susync output would be.

$ ps -ef | grep `fuser -n tcp 901 | tail -1 | cut -d: -f2` | grep -v grep

This gives me.

root 3356 1 0 Jun10 ? 00:00:00 xinetd -stayalive -pidfile /var/run/xinetd.pid

Which is exactly right, Samba Swat (the web interface for Samba) which you access at http://localhost:901 is configured using xinetd.

Now to investigate some ports I didn’t know were open.

Linux One Liner – Using the manual

For users of Linux regardless of the skill level, using the OS manual is invaluable. Frank gives an example using crontab at Viewing a specific version of a man page, but as with Linux there is always more then one way to skin a cat.

To view a man page of a command e.g. du.

$ man du

The Unix Manual is generally broken down into 9 sections, and sometimes a manual page is in multiple sections. These section are:

  • Section 1 – Commands
  • Section 2 – System Calls
  • Section 3 – Library Calls
  • Section 4 – Special Files
  • Section 5 – File Formats and Conversions
  • Section 6 – Games for Linux
  • Section 7 – Macro Packages and Conventions
  • Section 8 – System Management Commands
  • Section 9 – Kernel Routines

As in Franks example, crontab is in both Section 1 and 5. Crontab tab the Linux Command, and the file format used for crontab. To get access to the later.

$ man -s 5 crontab

Frank made reference to a syntax of man crontab.5 which didn’t work in my distro, so again, different implementations may be possible.

Say you remember the command associated with cron but not the full name. You can search the man pages with.

$ man -k cron

This produced in my distro.

/etc/anacrontab [anacrontab] (5) - configuration file for anacron
anacron (8) - runs commands periodically
cron (8) - daemon to execute scheduled commands (ISC Cron V4.1)
crontab (1) - maintain crontab files for individual users (ISC Cron V4.1)
crontab (5) - tables for driving cron (ISC Cron V4.1)
hinotes (1) - Syncronize your Hi-Notes database with your desktop machine. Hi-Notes must be installed on your Palm handheld (and at least one entry must exist within Hi-Notes)
read-todos (1) - Syncronize your Palm ToDo application's database with your desktop machine

Of course you should not discount that a manual page exists for the man command.

$ man man

Some of Mike's Useful Sites

I haven’t seen any blogging in my normal readings from Mike lately, so taking a quick look directly at his blog. He has certainly been busy in other areas. Some great tibbits and websites.

Linux One Liner – Calculating Used Diskspace

You can easily see the state of diskspace used with the command.

$ df

However, often you want to know where most of the diskspace is being taken. A high level summary can be performed with.

$ du -k -s /* | sort +0nr -1

Producing results like.

23450208        share
9369212 home
3803504 usr
2395876 var
2015380 opt
920121  proc
815476  src

A more indepth review of the worst offending directories can be done with.

$ du -k / | sort +0nr -1 | head -30

This view does however show all offending directories so you normally have to ignore the higher levels as the are inclusive of the more specific directories where the most diskspace is.

You get a result like

47642425        /
23450208        /share
9799580 /home
9153228 /home/rbradfor
8497152 /share/bittorrent
7065840 /share/bittorrent/Stargate.SG-1.Season.9
4986368 /home/rbradfor/vmplayer
4837136 /usr
3659200 /opt
2559836 /home/rbradfor/vmplayer/ultimateLAMP
2447692 /var
2426364 /home/rbradfor/vmplayer/ultimateLAMP-0.1
2377732 /usr/lib
2335428 /var/lib
2213440 /var/lib/vmware
2213432 /var/lib/vmware/Virtual Machines
2174928 /share/lib
2174912 /share/lib/vmware
2174896 /share/lib/vmware/Virtual Machines
1972900 /home/rbradfor/download
1945576 /var/lib/vmware/Virtual Machines/XP Pro Dell 5150
1868016 /share/UltimateLAMP
1604032 /usr/share


  • df – report filesystem disk space usage
  • du – estimate file space usage
  • sort – sort lines of text files

MySQL Ideas

Seems I have over time, thought of many ideas, jotted some notes on some, and even done some work, but everybody knows that “home projects” can take a long time.

Here are a few that have resurfaced over the past month, and I doubt I’ll ever get to them, or perhaps some other enterprising person has already done a similar thing. Of course most are for my own personal/professional gratification, but input from others of “great idea, when do we see it” could sway my interests.



Well, quering the INFORMATION_SCHEMA is very cool, and long overdue for information gathering including statistics, schema definitions, schema version comparision tools etc. Of course there are concerns regarding the performance of using the INFORMATION_SCHEMA, and any design should significantly consider this limitation. The INFORMATION_SCHEMA is not physically represented as a normal MySQL database with tables and real data files, and then can be optimised appropiately, queries reference various sources of information and return the results at query time.

How would I achieve this? Here is an approach. The biggest issue would be what programming technology and non-Linux support.

  • Generate a physical INFORMATION_SCHEMA create SQL script from the most current database version. This would allow you to create a real database with real tables.
  • Population. Well at least some tables will be empty, but some work would be required to the population of other information. A first pass with some easy shell scripting and SHOW commands would easily populate information for SCHEMATA (SHOW DATABASES), TABLES (SHOW TABLES), COLUMNS (DESC [table]). Some are covered by the mysql schema. You get the picture. Of course some information will be more more difficult to populate easily.
  • Syncing. Populating is one thing, but if the information is not current then it becomes useless. Depending on your organisations management, in a controlled environment, simply re-running the population process when schema information is changed, or run nightly may work. A more brut force approach may be to look at filesystem timestamps of the database table definitions and trigger when changes occur, but I suspect this would a poor approach.

Storage Engines in use

I’ve often wondered, do people use X storage engine.

I would love to see plastered on the MySQL Home Page stats of 99,999,999 Downloads, 99,999,999 Installations reporting in, and then some breakdowns of database versions, storage engine usage, even demographics. This type of statistical information can be great, but can also be dangerous to competitors, or can be too detailed to become useful. Consider the objective it a general census.

I recently was introduced to Fotolog, and in the top left corner is Members, Photos, and Photos today. Of course now they have volume the numbers are impressive. You blink, do a refresh and they have changed.

Having a more general information goal approach, rather then detailed would be my guidelines. Here are some points.

  • Each MySQL installation is registered providing it a unique id. This is used for all collection and communication, and there is never any real reference back to organisation/name etc. How this works correctly is a little difficult, but would need to involve some checksuming of information like hostname,os,mysql version,maybe ip.
  • A script runs to generate basic statisical information, including unique installation id, present GMT date/time, MySQL version, master/slave, installation date, number of databases, breakdown of storage engines used per database/installation, total number of tables per database/installation.
  • The Information needs to be recorded, so it can be transmitted, and also used for historical comparision, best option would a flatfile on the filesystem.
  • Having an automated approach to then say email this information to a known server. There would need to be some means to have some authentication, and feedback to confirm success. Using email is not an ideal approach, but is a more readily available medium. Another easy means would be a webservices approach, but would require a more direct internet connection, while mail could overcome this means.
  • More advanced ideas would be to record information in and XML format, have a XML storage engine, and enable reports to be run against this collated information, so the System Adminstrator has at there finger tips historical details that are gathered. The benefit of an XML approach is this can be more easily collated with clever approaches with XSLT for example. The fallback would could be a CSV file, but the information being sent, may well need to be more structured for various reasons.
  • Of course if it was limited to Version 5 up, the benefits of stored procedures, events and UDF’s a lot of this could be implemented in MySQL specific technologies, but what about the bulk of installations pre Version 5, you would definitely what to include these.
  • My concerns would definitely be SPAM abuse, or false figures, so these points alone may nullify the process even being worth it.

This is just a broad stroke overview, I’ve got more detailed analysis of pro’s, con’s, example file layouts, and a means of collating the information and providing dynamic reporting on the server.

Of course there are a few ideas I have implemented, and I’m still passionate about and working on in that “spare time” we all never have.

ShowCase MySQL

A showcase of MySQL (via existing popular Open Source apps). I’ve done this via a VMWare Appliance called UltimateLAMP.

I did this for two reasons, first of course I wanted to easily show applications that could be used without any technical requirements (indeed the hardest part is installing the free VMware player), and second, if there was more penetration of possible MySQL options in my present home city of Brisbane, it may provide some MySQL work opportunities. Of course, this an application approach to demonstrating MySQL, rather then a MySQL features approach, and is dependent then on the community and these applications may be less then ideal in a large scale deployment or may not be of a quality to be placed with MySQL, but it’s one way to get leverage.

I would like some way to poll usage of MySQL within organsiations my home town, but it’s a very difficult approach, and I’m sure some organisations would not even know they are using MySQL. The process may also provide a means of providing a service, say quarterly updates of software (MySQL and open source products), customisations, but I think it would be a difficult sell. Having an army of people applying these ideals across a number of cities may provide a more marketable approach.

ACID Performance Benchmark

Leveraging the Apache project JMeter, which has all the infrastructure for handling theads, reporting, graphing, and volume load testing, I’ve written to enhancements for JMeter JDBC Sampler, the first was CALL support, enabling calls to stored procedures. The second is TRANSACTION support enabling a number of SQL statements to be execute in a true transaction, all pass or all fail.

These allow me to provide an application specific performance approach. Now MySQL has various means of testing, the mysql-test that comes with installations (I’ve got more on this for a later time), as well as mysqlslap (again, some more points on this at a later time). Both of these tools have benefits, but I wanted a more application specific approach. Using JMeter provides an overhead, but it provides a more realistic application approach, my goal is not to get the maximum thoughtput possible, being as close to the screws, but to provide a more realistic approach.

Of course, my objective is to use application specific SQL, the SQL you run, this would need to be gathered via various means. Information gathering including what types of transactions, the interactions, the volumes of use would be needed to create realistic approaches. The benefits of JMeter for example, is I can simulate various transactions, enable them to interact, enable them to have implied delays to simulate user use. These are some of the advantages over the current MySQL performance approaches.

Providing this level of simulation however is only half the requirement. This provides for a benchmark for performance, but what about validation. Sure the system can be used with 100 threads with X Insert Orders, and Y Select Orders, and Z Invoice Prints etc per thread, but what if the there were issues and errors.

Data Quality is a key interest and this level of benchmarking also has to have the extent of validating the results, and taking appropiate actions for failures. I’m planning also that this can be used by enabling Referential Integrity (via an appropiate storage engine) on an existing application and then confirming transactional state of queries within applications that are not presently transaction safe.

Presently, I using this approach to assist in the testing of the MySQL Community Storage Engine PBXT. I’m hoping in conjunction with the Sakila Sample Database and various data sets, that I can also publish comparision results with other Storage Engines.

Schema Designer Analyser

My background is database modelling and large systems design, and I’m writing a A MySQL Guide to Database Modelling, Design and Support (still under development). This is an online and very simple approach for open source development to improve it’s image in database modelling. Keeping things simple will help all those non-professionals out there.

To back up this article, which has a checklist for organisations to follow and then incoporate into standards, is a tool to do the analysis that the checklists requires.

I had hoped to initial develop this using the GRT portion of the MySQL Workbench, but I’ve decided to make that a secondary project for now, focusing on a tehnology of greater understanding, possibly Java. Of course the biggest issues is accurate gathering of schema information, so you can see why a INFORMATION_SCHEMA for MySQL version 4 would come in handy.


I’ve got a lot more ideas, and discussions with other MySQL peers rekind ideas I’ve thought of previously. I really should get to putting them all out there to see how many people think I’m crazy, or to find other crazy people to contribute, or even fund! One can dream.

Wrestling the Anaconda

I’ve decided to affectionally call the MySQL Workbench Product “The Anaconda”. It’s been a wrestle so far to get all the features and functionality I wanted in this product. Of course I’d much rather have seen this product at say version 0.5, or 0.6, as I would not feel as guilty towards my comments of a 1.0 product when I’m having issues. I also have great respect for Mike Zinner and this small team of GUI developers that are developing and supporting the MySQL GUI products. Nevertheless, here is my latest round of analysis of the product across various platforms.



  1. Dell Inspiron 5150 P4 3.2GHz 1GB RAM, 80GB & 120GB HDD
  2. Generic Desktop PIII 866MHz
  3. Dell Inspiron 500 PIII 600MHz

Operating Systems

For the purposes of these tests I’m going to run multiple OS’s installed on seperate drives to attempt to isolate and reproduce problems.

  1. CentOS 4.3 (latest updates) and Ubuntu Dappa 6.06 RC (latest updates)
  2. CentOS 4.0 and RedHat Fedora Core 5
  3. Windows XP

MySQL Workbench Software Versions

I’m also going to be testing various versions from the MySQL Workbench downloads pages as ast June 2nd 2006. These include

  • Linux x86 generic RPM (statically linked against glibc 2.2.5) – Linux (x86, libc6) – mysql-workbench-1.0.6beta-1.i386.rpm
  • Linux x86 generic RPM (statically linked against glibc 2.2.5) – Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 (x86) – mysql-workbench-1.0.6beta-1.rhel4.i386.rpm
  • Linux (non RPM package) – Linux (x86, glibc-2.2, “standard” is static, gcc) – mysql-workbench-1.0.6beta-linux-i386.tar.gz
  • Source downloads – Tarball (tar.gz) – mysql-workbench-1.0.6beta.tar.gz
  • Source downloads – Source RPM – mysql-workbench-1.0.6beta-1.src.rpm

The Problems

Presently I have a number of recent outstanding MySQL Bugs including Bug: #20106: Errors when starting the GRT Console, Bug: #20107: Export as PDF and Export an PNG fails and Bug: #20105: Unable to Export Model as Image.

Machine 1 – OS 1 – CentOS 4.3

su -
rpm -ivh mysql-workbench-1.0.6beta-1.i386.rpm
# Run as normal user

So this successfully starts, however I’ve had many earlier failed attempts and build from source versions on this machine and platform.

Machine 1 – OS 2 Ubuntu Dapper 6.06

I haven’t had the chance to reboot my laptop and install my second drive that I’m currently building for this exercise. This is on my todo list for the next few days.

Machine 2 – OS 1 CentOS 4.0

$ uname -a
Linux marvin 2.6.9-5.0.3.EL #1 Sat Feb 19 18:26:49 CST 2005 i686 i686 i386 GNU/Linux
$ rpm -qa
$ rpm -ivh mysql-workbench-1.0.6beta-1.i386.rpm
$ mysql-workbench
/usr/bin/mysql-workbench-bin: symbol lookup error: /usr/bin/mysql-workbench-bin: undefined symbol: pango_renderer_get_type

Realising this OS is now a little old, and having had issues compiling Workbench previously with requirements for new GTK packages as well as comments in bugs like ‘works with FC5′, I’ve taken to re-install a new OS.

Machine 2 – OS 2 Fedora Core 5

Using a fresh install selecting For Software Developers as the default installation environment.

su -
rpm -ivh mysql-workbench-1.0.6beta-1.i386.rpm
(mysql-workbench-bin:2784): GLib-GObject-CRITICAL **: gtype.c:2215: initialization assertion failed, use IA__g_type_init() prior to this function

(mysql-workbench-bin:2784): GLib-GObject-CRITICAL **: g_type_register_static: assertion `parent_type > 0' failed

(mysql-workbench-bin:2784): GLib-GObject-CRITICAL **: g_type_register_static: assertion `parent_type > 0' failed

(mysql-workbench-bin:2784): GLib-GObject-CRITICAL **: g_type_add_interface_static: assertion `G_TYPE_IS_INSTANTIATABLE (instance_type)' failed
(mysql-workbench-bin:2784): GLib-GObject-CRITICAL **: g_type_register_static: assertion `parent_type > 0' failed
/usr/bin/mysql-workbench: line 18:  2784 Segmentation fault      $PRG-bin $*

Seems I’m not the first person to experience this, already recorded as Bug #19595.

Checking the current rpm list against Compiling dependancies as a rough guide:


No libsigc++20, ,gtkmm, glibmm indeed these rpm’s are not even on the 5 FC5 Cd’s.
I think we need a pre-checker executable which checks the health of your OS to determine if all dependancies are in place.

Also of interest is the official GTK download site lists the current GTK as 2.8, yet the atk and pango versions that are included in FC5 aren’t available from the official download site???

tar xvfz mysql-workbench-1.0.6beta-linux-i386.tar.gz

Same errors. Well at least that’s one thing.

I’m waiting on some feedback from the MySQL AB team before I go installing more software. In particular I’d like to get a run-time environment under FC5, rather then compiling from source.

Machine 3 – Windows XP

In summary, Workbench starts and works reasonably well here. Problem is the first model I created, I wanted to export, and the Export as Image option is disabled? Still waiting on a response here.

How I work

My work life is really fragmented at present, so I’ve decided a split approach in answer to Dave Rosenberg’s How I Work–what I have learned so far .

What is your role?
Support Developer providing sole support an internal client web based system (Java, Oracle) with 1000+ users producing >$1m daily revenue. Independent Database Consultant. Specialising in Database Modelling, Large Systems Design and Web Development Technologies. Strong proponent of Agile Development Methodologies (specifically Extreme Programming – XP).
What is your computer setup?
Dell Optiplex GX280 (P4, 1GB, 17″ CRT) running Redhat FC4.
(When I started only 2 months ago I got lumped with a similar speced machine running Windows XP, and upteen windows apps (like 4 different versions of TOAD for example) . This OS was contry to my understanding provided in the interview process.
Primary – Dell Inspiron 5150 (P4/3.2GHz, 1GB, 120GB, 15″ + 21″ CRT)
Secondary – Generic (P3/600MHz, 1GB, lots of HDD ~500GB, 17″ CRT)
Both with very impressive Saitek backlit keyboards (one red, one blue) Great at night. See image at bottom.
What desktop software applications do you use daily?
RedHat Fedora Core 4
Eclipse 3.1, FireFox 1.5, Thunderbird 1.5, WebSphere Application Server 5.1, J2DK 1.4.2, Oracle SQL Developer, Open Office 2, XMMS and SSH client (which I use most)
Due to legacy internal systems and support I also must run under Wine (Internet Exploder), and First Class (email client).
Not to stop there, I also must run under Citrix ICA Client apps (FocalPoint, Heat Call Logging, and Microsoft Word for internal forms that won’t work under OO2.) And before somebody suggests why not try VMWare or other clients, I have tried, but software like Focalpoint can’t install?
CentOS 4.3
FireFox 1.5, ThunderBird 1.5, Gaim, SSH, Skype, Open Office 2.
Maybe not all of these every day, but some combination of each day –> MySQL 4.1, MySQL 5.0, MySQL 5.1, MySQL Workbench, Eclipse 3.1, J2DK 1.4.2, J2DK 5.0, Apache Tomcat 5.0.28, Apache Httpd 2.0.53, JMeter.

Presently also configuring a new laptop drive running Ubuntu Dapper 6.06 RC. For the Record, Beta 2, Flight 6 and Flight 7 all failed.
What websites do you visit every day?
Internal Wiki (all day)
At Lunch Google Sci-Tech News
Google Sci-Tech News
PlanetMySQL (if I haven’t already got to them).
What mobile device or cell phone do you use?
N/A NEC e606 3G phone (which I’ve had for probably 3 years now) operating on a 3G network with video calls, again for 3 years.
Do you use IM?
No. All access is blocked other then an internal Jabber server, that I use rarely, never for communication, just a cut/paste of command or syntax. Speaking of blocked, SSH access to my production servers is blocked, and even reading news like Skypes Call Out is blocked by WebSense. Extensively, however due to current employement policy, I’m very hamstrung unless before/after hours.
I use Gaim as I have AIM, MSN and Google Talk accounts, and Skype. My preference was always AIM, but as clients come and go, I’ve had to accumulate more accounts.
Do you use a VoIP phone?
No. Not at present, however for many years I worked with US clients and used Packet 8. Still have the hard phone somewhere.
I’ve also used Skype talk for one or one or conference calls. Of late in Australia to New Zealand and Singapore. Indeed, the quality to Singapore has been excellent, when living in the US, calls to Singapore on Skype were clearer then my Packet8 phone to US numbers.
Do you have a personal organization/time management theory?
Current contract employees a number of disjointed methods, which in observation just shows so much inefficency, it’s worth documenting just to highlight what not to do. We have daily team meetings (10 mins), each listing your top 2 daily tasks. Weekly we have to also submit weekly goals. Weekly combined meetings with another team where we again give weekly top 2 tasks. We use two seperate systems (with manual double entry) for work identification, one for call centre logging issues, and Bugzilla for software bugs, and enhancements. We also use XPlanner (again duplicating a lot of tasks) for time management.
With all this rigid structure, I am daily given either other work to do, or investigate, and in over 3 months, I would rarely end a week anywhere near where it was so described at the start of the week.
With all the technology possible, I actually do not have any electronic management gadget, never had. I use a combination of notebook, plain paper (usually for daily notes etc, which I discard regularly), a diary, and normally a lot of emails which I normally send to/from home.
Given that email is used so much, I basically use Draft Emails for any electronic notes.

Anything else?
Perhaps there is merit in How I work now, and How I’d like to work now.

Saitek Keyboard

A better VNC

I’ve been using VNCViewer from RealVNC under Linux to remote connect to an older machine running windows. Two reasons, I don’t need yet another screen on my desk, and I need windows to adequately test and use the MySQL GUI products, in particular MySQL Workbench.

I never realised there was a better way, particularly over a local network, a command called rdesktop which is capable of natively speaking Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).

$ su -
$ yum install rdesktop

This did only give me version 1.3.1. The current version 1.4.1 available from the rdesktop Website does provide greater commands including the syntax I use.

su -
cd /src
wget http://optusnet.dl.sourceforge.net/sourceforge/rdesktop/rdesktop-1.4.1.tar.gz
tar xvfz rdesktop-1.4.1.tar.gz
cd rdesktop-1.4.1
make install

Example Usage

$ rdesktop -u <username> -p <password> -K -N -z -a 16 -x b -P 

Some additional common options include -d <domain> and -f for fullscreen.

Comand Syntax

$ rdesktop
rdesktop: A Remote Desktop Protocol client.
Version 1.4.1. Copyright (C) 1999-2005 Matt Chapman.
See http://www.rdesktop.org/ for more information.

Usage: rdesktop [options] server[:port]
   -u: user name
   -d: domain
   -s: shell
   -c: working directory
   -p: password (- to prompt)
   -n: client hostname
   -k: keyboard layout on server (en-us, de, sv, etc.)
   -g: desktop geometry (WxH)
   -f: full-screen mode
   -b: force bitmap updates
   -L: local codepage
   -B: use BackingStore of X-server (if available)
   -e: disable encryption (French TS)
   -E: disable encryption from client to server
   -m: do not send motion events
   -C: use private colour map
   -D: hide window manager decorations
   -K: keep window manager key bindings
   -S: caption button size (single application mode)
   -T: window title
   -N: enable numlock syncronization
   -X: embed into another window with a given id.
   -a: connection colour depth
   -z: enable rdp compression
   -x: RDP5 experience (m[odem 28.8], b[roadband], l[an] or hex nr.)
   -P: use persistent bitmap caching
   -r: enable specified device redirection (this flag can be repeated)
         '-r comport:COM1=/dev/ttyS0': enable serial redirection of /dev/ttyS0 to COM1
             or      COM1=/dev/ttyS0,COM2=/dev/ttyS1
         '-r disk:floppy=/mnt/floppy': enable redirection of /mnt/floppy to 'floppy' share
             or   'floppy=/mnt/floppy,cdrom=/mnt/cdrom'
         '-r clientname=': Set the client name displayed
             for redirected disks
         '-r lptport:LPT1=/dev/lp0': enable parallel redirection of /dev/lp0 to LPT1
             or      LPT1=/dev/lp0,LPT2=/dev/lp1
         '-r printer:mydeskjet': enable printer redirection
             or      mydeskjet="HP LaserJet IIIP" to enter server driver as well
         '-r sound:[local|off|remote]': enable sound redirection
                     remote would leave sound on server
   -0: attach to console
   -4: use RDP version 4
   -5: use RDP version 5 (default)

I haven’t reviewed the security implications but considering I’m only running in my own internal network, it’s not a major priority.