The Friday Grab Bag: Adobe AIR, Chromium vs Firefox, Ext4 and More

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Been a busy week here at RedMonk HQ as the sun sets on summer, and frankly next week’s not looking much better with an out and back trip to San Francisco and San Jose (I still have Monday afternoon free, FYI) Monday through Wednesday. It’s the good kind of busy, fortunately: we’re busier than we’ve ever been. So while I’ll grumble about the schedule, I’m not really complaining, it being better to busy than not. These days, more than any other.

Anyway, while I wait on a couple of inquiries to finish the piece planned for today, I might as well indulge in a Friday afternoon tradition: a grab bag of items that might deserve their own posts but aren’t getting them.

Adobe AIR & the Default Browser

The always useful Lifehacker has a nice roundup of the various workarounds for the Adobe AIR platform’s most frustrating bug: the refusal to use the user selected default browser. My question for the Adobe folks is: why is this necessary? It seems trivial, I know, but when you’re moving from browser to browser weekly, having Twhirl or Tweetdeck initiate a new browser instance for every click through is seriously disruptive. The platform is nice and attractive, but why are they the only applications that can’t use the desktop’s settings?

Chromium Update

Speaking of browsers, a quick update: after going back and forth between Chromium and Firefox 3.5 the past few weeks, I have mostly transitioned to Chromium as my default browser. This isn’t a permanent decision, but Chromium feels faster for me at the moment, and it’s easier to keep it out of the way from a UI perspective. I’ve been meaning to give Firefox 3.6 a try, as the accelerometer integration looks really interesting, but the 3.6 builds from Fabien Tassin’s PPA have been segfaulting on me with a:

Could not initialize engine 'bookmarks': Component returned failure code: 0x80570016 (NS_ERROR_XPC_GS_RETURNED_FAILURE) [nsIJSCID.getService]2009-10-16 13:39:34Service.Engines ERROR Could not initialize engine 'bookmarks': Component returned failure code: 0x80570016 (NS_ERROR_XPC_GS_RETURNED_FAILURE) [nsIJSCID.getService]
Could not initialize engine 'history': Component returned failure code: 0x80570016 (NS_ERROR_XPC_GS_RETURNED_FAILURE) [nsIJSCID.getService]2009-10-16 13:39:35 Service.Engines ERROR Could not initialize engine 'history': Component returned failure code: 0x80570016 (NS_ERROR_XPC_GS_RETURNED_FAILURE) [nsIJSCID.getService]
Segmentation fault (core dumped)

I might add the Ubuntu Daily builds PPA and see if that fares better.

Lazy Web: Failed ext4 conversion

After lamenting the fact that my in-place update to Ubuntu 9.10 left me out of the ext4 upgrade cycle, Jeff Waugh mentioned that he hadn’t had any issues making the jump to ext4 on several of his systems. So I decided to take a chance and upgrade the workstation’s filesystem from the pre-9.10 standard ext3 to the shinier new ext4. After backing up the important stuff, I followed Kyle Baker’s instructions here and pretty much destroyed my filesystem.

Here’s what I did:
[email protected]:~$ df -k
Filesystem 1K-blocks Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda1 73742752 64918068 5078732 93% /
udev 1545724 304 1545420 1% /dev
none 1545724 556 1545168 1% /dev/shm
none 1545724 340 1545384 1% /var/run
none 1545724 0 1545724 0% /var/lock
none 1545724 0 1545724 0% /lib/init/rw

[email protected]:~$ sudo tune2fs -O extents,uninit_bg,dir_index /dev/sda1
[sudo] password for sog:
tune2fs 1.41.9 (22-Aug-2009)

Please run e2fsck on the filesystem.

[email protected]:~$ fsck -pf /dev/sda1
fsck from util-linux-ng 2.16
/dev/sda1 is mounted.

WARNING!!! Running e2fsck on a mounted filesystem may cause
SEVERE filesystem damage.

Do you really want to continue (y/n)? yes

fsck.ext3: Permission denied while trying to open /dev/sda1
You must have r/w access to the filesystem or be root
[email protected]:~$ sudo fsck -pf /dev/sda1
fsck from util-linux-ng 2.16
/dev/sda1 is mounted.

WARNING!!! Running e2fsck on a mounted filesystem may cause
SEVERE filesystem damage.

Do you really want to continue (y/n)? yes

/dev/sda1: recovering journal
fsck.ext3: Bad magic number in super-block while trying to re-open /dev/sda1
e2fsck: io manager magic bad!
[email protected]:~$

I’m no filesystem expert, but that didn’t look good to me. And, indeed, it wasn’t. This was what I got on reboot.

uh oh

Clearly this is no one’s fault but my own, as I clearly did something pretty wrong during the upgrade. That said, if anyone out there has an idea on how to fix it, I’d be most appreciative. I have the important stuff, so I can always just pave the machine and start over, but I’d really prefer not to if I can avoid it.

Travel and the Economy

Far be it from me to root for a down economy – it’s just awful to see friends out of work – but I will miss the travel restrictions it initially wrought. For a few months last year, my travel was down on the order of fifty percent. A few conferences dried up and blew away, projects that would have been in person were instead done over the phone, and we tightened our own belt a bit and I skipped one or two things I might normally have made time for.

As far as I can tell, that’s all over now. We’re traveling as much as we ever have, with shows seemingly every other week when they aren’t right on top of one another. There only being three of us at RedMonk and one of us at GreenMonk, there are only so many shows we can get to. But if you’re looking at travel as a proxy for the economy, I’d say things are looking up, because I’m on planes all the time now.


  1. I have shot myself in the foot screwing with my partitions more than once. Each time, as long as the data is still there and it’s just the partition table that got borked, TestDisk has saved me easily and quickly.

    I’ve gone from unbootable to a blank partition table in a GParted live CD to a restored, booting system in 30 minutes flat. In case it’s not obvious, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s apt-get installable from your nearest Ubuntu live CD. 🙂

    TestDisk: http://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/TestDisk

  2. Oh no… you said “yes” to all the warnings suggesting you shouldn’t be doing this on a mounted filesystem!

    WARNING!!! Running e2fsck on a mounted filesystem may cause SEVERE filesystem damage.

    Do you really want to continue (y/n)? yes

    That is not a prompt to answer “yes” to. 🙂

    Next time, boot up the LiveCD and do everything there. Sadly, I have no idea how to fix the filesystem after something like this has happened… I suspect you might be doing a fresh install and restore. 🙁

  3. Hi Stephen, someone from the AIR team would have more definitive info than me, but the Adobe Integrated Runtime is less a “browser of the WWW” per se, and more an application development environment. The included WebKit HTML runtime lets developers create applications using HTML/JS/CSS techniques.

    For a slightly off-kilter parallel, consider why people don’t usually consider “the browser vendors” to include Adobe… we’re not providing universal surfing services, so much as rendering an application’s HTML instructions.

    That said, it could be a reasonable feature-request to open HTML pages from Tweetdeck in the current computer’s preferred HTML renderer. The design team has been conservative on invoking system-level resources (it’s always easier to keep the genie stopped up than to re-bottle ‘im), but if you haven’t done so already, you could submit the change-request to the team directly at http://www.adobe.com/go/wish , thanks.


  4. […] it remains the fastest and lowest UI footprint browser available. For the time being, I’ve mostly cut over to using it as my primary browser, although I still spin up Firefox a half dozen times of day when […]

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