Mount a Windows CD on a Mac like a Windows PC would see it

So you’ve got a PC without a CD-ROM drive. (Err, DVD-ROM, DVD-RW, whatever). Or you bought a new PC motherboard without realizing it lacks an IDE port for your antiquated DVD player. Then you bought some software on physical media like it was the 90’s. (Perhaps you got a great deal on tax software, for example). So you have a Mac that has a DVD drive, and you’d like to copy the installer off the Mac but when you insert the CD into the Mac it mounts the Mac partition, not the PC partition.

Drop to the command line and figure out where the CD is getting mounted:

$ diskutil list

Make a temporary directory to mount the image:

$ mkdir /tmp/mnt

Mount the iso9660 partition at that location:

sudo mount -t cd9660 -o nodev,nosuid /dev/disk3s1 /tmp/mnt

Replace /dev/disk3s1 with your CD’s location.

GMO food

The New York Times has a great article on the fight over banning GMO crops on the big island in Hawaii. It covers the science, the pseudoscience and the hysteria over what GMO food supplies might do to people and the environment.

This prompted me to revisit a blog post I wrote in 2007 on cloned cattle: FDA says cloned livestock is safe to eat. I had written:

    What happens when 10%, 20% or maybe even 50% of our beef comes from the same DNA “mother cow”, or possibly a small genetically similar group of cows? It seems like then it would just be a matter of time until a virus or bacteria strain crops up that has adapted to exploit some weakness of that cow, and then it spreads like wildfire throughout our cattle. But what if that virus was undetectable some how, and turned out to be the next Mad Cow Disease?

Reading that again I sound a little hysterical. To clarify, by “just a matter of time” I was thinking a span of decades or centuries. But I do still have the same concern and I haven’t heard anyone address it yet (at least not in any media sources I follow). If we dramatically decrease the genetic diversity of a crop (animal or plant) could that introduce a single point-of-failure on our food supply?

I’m not convinced there is a health risk with GMO food to a single consumer or group of consumers… but is there a risk to the industry producing that crop?

To illustrate, I will actually get a little hysterical: Imagine 50 years from now Golden Rice is a huge success and its being grown everywhere. It now makes up 99% of the world’s rice production. (The other 1% is non-GMO organic sold only at Whole Foods and other stores that only 1%’ers can afford to shop at ;). So basically all of the world’s rice is now genetically very similar. Now imagine there is a random mutation in a pathogen that effects rice (like RGSV — Rice Grassy Stunt Virus), and this mutation effects Golden Rice particularly bad. Because there is so little genetic diversity the virus could probably rip through the world’s rice fields faster than we could control it. This would be an economic and human disaster.

This is probably a far-fetched scenario, but it is my one concern with GMO crop production.

VirtualBox DKMS with custom kernel

I have a custom kernel on my linux machine (that I apparently did not install correctly) so when I went to use VirtualBox I got an error about DKMS not being ready. The docs say I needed to update my “virtualbox-ose-dkms” package to the latest version but when I did that it failed to install, saying the module could not be built.

Running the reconfigure command manually gave me this error:

$ sudo dpkg-reconfigure virtualbox-dkms
Deleting module version: 4.1.12
completely from the DKMS tree.
Loading new virtualbox-4.1.12 DKMS files...
Building only for 3.2.37-32corexeon
Module build for the currently running kernel was skipped since the
kernel source for this kernel does not seem to be installed.
* Stopping VirtualBox kernel modules [ OK ]
* Starting VirtualBox kernel modules
* No suitable module for running kernel found [fail]
invoke-rc.d: initscript virtualbox, action "restart" failed.

What you’ll find online if you search for this error is its missing the linux-headers-`uname -r` package. I had it installed, but it still wasn’t finding it.

The issue turned out to be my /lib/modules/3.2.37-32corexeon directory was linking to the original location where I had compiled the kernel, but I had since moved those files. I updated this symlink and then it worked:

-> /usr/src/linux-headers-3.2.37-32corexeon/

Thanks *nix notes!

Continue reading “VirtualBox DKMS with custom kernel”

Coin solves a problem I have but not a problem I think I should have

“Coin” is a swipe/credit/reward card emulator that’s tied to your smartphone. You load it up with all of your cards so that presumably you only have to carry the Coin instead of a stack of plastic.

I want to love this device for its cleverness, but I hate that a device like this is even being considered as a viable product. It shouldn’t need to exist.

Take credit/debit cards: Do you really need to carry so many forms of payment? What’s wrong with just credit and debit? Or perhaps you should reject short-term loans completely, live within your means and go with just a single debit card?

Take rewards cards: Are you finally accepting rewards cards are here to stay? Do you ever question why a retailer needs a rewards card to track your identity when they already have your identity via the debit card you are about to pay with? Have you ever noticed that a lot of retailers have a “cheater card” under the counter that gives you the same discount you would get with your own? Have you noticed some will actually let you sign up for a new card every time you shop, holding everyone up in the line behind you while you fill out the form for the Nth time?

Yes, I’m that guy.

Thank you Coin for acknowledging what a sad state personal commerce is in.

Footnote: Coin reminded me of a struggle I had as a kid when I bought my first wallet: I’m about to spend money on something that will hold money. But it won’t hold all of my money, because I’ll just have spent some of it on the wallet. I’ll have more money if I turn around and don’t buy the thing to hold the money. But then I might lose my money if I don’t have something to keep it in. This went on for probably 15 minutes. I almost considered holding my money in a ziploc bag. I ended up buying the cheapest wallet I could find.

Exploring personal finance tools

My wife’s debit card got hacked; just noticed it last night. Friendly reminder: routinely check your bank statement. You usually only have 60 days to report a fraudulent charge, but it’s easier to deal with the sooner you recognize it.

This sent me down a multi-hour exploration of personal finance tools to see if there was anything out there that could passively (maybe with some training) categorize account transactions and detect fraud. As in, iPhone notification: “What’s this $1000 you just spent on eBay? You haven’t used eBay in 7 years.”  I’m sure the financial industry has tools they’re not sharing that look for patterns of behavior across accounts, but I thought this being 2013 someone would have some software out there to do this for individuals.

Thinking if anything were out there, this being 2013, it would probably be built into an existing personal finance tool. I found and tried these tools: (positioned as Quicken Online, essentially), Gnu Cash, PageOnce, Personal Capital and Wave Personal.

None of them really worked all that great in terms of transaction classification.  A bunch of transactions that were clearly restaurants (just cross-ref with a Yelp database) showed up uncategorized. Re-categorizing transactions was agonizing with all of them, but Gnu Cash was especially agonizing. I expected them to say, for example, “Hey I see you set this one to clothing, do you want me to set all others that match this to clothing also?”  With the online tools I would have thought that they would have at least one other customer in their database who had already categorized something from that vendor and used that data to help me out.

And none of them seemed to do any kind of real-time, push notification categorization.  It was all up to me to login, sort by uncategorized, and then start clicking away.

Of the four tools, I spent the most time with Personal Capital. The checking account management features were weak compared to the others but it had an interesting mutual fund fee analysis tool. It visualized how much I’m spending on mutual fund fees (mostly from my 401k) and what that’s going to cost me over a lifetime. You can tweak with the inputs to see how certain adjustments to your investments would change the fee structure. Informative.

Another thing I decided I “needed” through this was a historical investment performance tool. The data is all there to plot how my investments have been doing over the last couple of years but none of the tools seemed to have the capability.  Most of them didn’t even try; they said I had $0 yesterday. As a tangent I figured out how to export as much data as I could from my 401k as a CSV and pulled together some performance plots in Excel. (Cumbersome, but it’s possible). I also read about the Open Financial Exchange protocol and discovered its really not that hard to extract this data yourself. I’m surprised there aren’t more tools out there.

In the end I cancelled my accounts with all of the online tools. None of the tools solved the fraud problem the way I wanted to deal with it (push notify) and the investment tools I can reload again if I wanted to see them, but I’ll probably pull together my own next time.

Oh Mac Mail, why are you so full of disappoint

I used to love Mac Mail. It was simple and relatively fast. And when I started working at an office where everything was on Exchange server, it was a nice alternative to Outlook.

But Mountain Lion (10.8) ruined everything. I don’t know what they did to Mac Mail but its the buggiest piece of software on all of Mac OS at the moment. It’s frequently unresponsive to GUI interaction (click reply and nothing happens), it doesn’t show email messages (“this message has no content”), or it simply locks up. In all situations I have to quit and restart it to get it back.

I want the old Mac Mail 🙁

The future is cybernetic modification, not wearables

That was my first thought after seeing this picture of William Gibson trying on Google Glass:

TechCrunch contributor Mike Butcher has a good writeup on what’s wrong with this kind of wearable: here.

For information to seamlessly integrate with your experience it needs to be presentable anywhere you are looking. Either that or it needs to plug directly into your consciousness. We may get there eventually with glasses, but it won’t become commonplace until its simply a part of your body. Gibson figured this out 30 years ago.

Space Economy Game

I was browsing through my hard drive on an old computer this evening and came across a player narrative I wrote in 2007 for a game concept I called the “Space Economy Game.”  The main idea with this game was to create a game around two core mechanics: M.U.L.E. style resource auctions and currency creation/management/exchange.  I wanted a game economy that could be played on two scales, micro and macro–real-time and long-term.  The primary interface would be 3D/MMO, but there would also be a mobile component that lets you tweak your auctions when you’re not in the game.

I wrote this player narrative as a way to convey to others (and myself) what the first hour in the game world would feel like.


“Glad you could make it out here Jim.”

A scruff voice is speaking to you over your intercom.  You’ve been traveling for God-only-knows how long through deep space.  You left your family, your friends, your job–everything you knew behind you back on Earth to find out if you have what it takes to make it on the new frontier.

“This is Earth Federation 721 to N792AC.  Jim: DO YOU READ?”

You’ve been in deep space so long the only human voices you’ve heard were from your old-time movies you brought along to keep you entertained during the journey.  This voice was real, and it was getting agitated.

“Ahem, yes.  I mean, N792AC to Earth Federation 721.  This is Jim.  I read you.”

“Ah, glad to have you with us Jim.  I know it’s been a long journey but we have a lot of work for you to do.  As you may recall, your contract with Earth Federation may grant you 10,000 EFCs, but you’re expected to pay that back to us — WITH INTEREST.”

“EFCs?” you think to yourself.  Oh yeah, Earth Federation Credits.  In exchange for the flight out here on this rinky-dink spaceship, you basically sold yourself into a form of space indentured servitude.  If you ever expect to make it out here on the new frontier you’ll need to repay your debt to the Earth Federation.

You pause for a moment.  You could just ignore the Earth Federation star ship that’s hailing you.  After all, they’re still many AU away.  They’re in a big slow star ship and you could jump back out to deep space in no time.  Maybe you could band together with a few other newcomers to the frontier and put together a rag-tag team of pirates.  Hmmm…

“Affirmative Earth Federation 721,” you say begrudgingly.

“Good.  We get plenty of idiots out here who think they can take our money and run back out into deep space and make a living on their own.  Little do they know that we have a ONE HUNDRED PERCENT SUCCESS RATE hunting them down and reclaiming our assets, with a heavy penalty of course.”

The voice in the intercom laughs uncomfortably.  You get the sense the voice on the other end may not be speaking the whole truth.

“Anyways.  It’s time for you to get started.  We’ve just discovered a new asteroid belt in quadrant D7.2, and our research scanners believe it to be highly enriched with uranium.  Uranium is a big growth commodity these days, and there’s a lot of money to be made mining it.  If you head over to the space depot in that quadrant you can pick up a uranium mining device and start collecting.”

“Sounds good.  And where do I find the space depot?”

“Quadrant D6.0.  It should be on your map.”  (A blinking light appears on your HUD).  “Oh, and Jim.  One more thing.  You’re in the new frontier now.  It’s dangerous out here.  Since we’ve ‘extended’ you a loan we’ll protect you–when it suits us.” (*laughs*)  “Most of the time you gotta watch out for yourself ’round these parts.  If you ever get into some serious trouble you can call us for assistance, but we’ll assess a penalty if the protection isn’t ‘warranted.'”

“What exactly do you mean?”

“It’s in your loan agreement.  If you call us to protect assets that are not under a lean by the Earth Federation you will have to reimburse us for our troubles.”

“But the Earth Federation gave me the loan to get out here.  Isn’t pretty much everything I own under lean by the Earth Federation until I pay off my debts?!”

“Haha!  You’re a bright one Jim, but it doesn’t *exactly* work like that.  Until you start to pay off your debt, yes, *everything* you own is under lean of the Earth Federation.  But as you pay off your debt to the ‘Fed your ownership in the assets you hold is pro-rated based on the percentage of debt that you have payed off.”

“So if I’ve payed off half my debt to the Earth Federation and I call for protection, I’m responsible to reimburse you for half of the protection costs.”

“That’s right!  But why am I having this conversation with you?  This is all in your loan agreement.  You have been granted permission to collect uranium.  Head over to the space depot and pick up some equipment.”


The space depot is bustling with traffic.  The intercom has so much chatter on the public channels that you’ve decided to squelch it temporarily.  You link your com up to the depot’s trading house.

No response.

A half minute goes by and you try again.

No response for another half minute.  No one wants to trade with you!  Then suddenly:

“Aha!  Fresh meat!  Err, I mean, hello there… JIM.  Pleased to meet you.  I see you’re a new recruit.  You probably need to be outfitted with some mining equipment?  I can help you with that!  Real cheap!”

“Yeah, thanks.”  This guy sounds like a total swindler, but he’s the first person that responded to your requests to trade.  “I need to collect uranium.  Can you set me up with the necessary gear?”

“Ha!  Fresh meat, you’re going to need a bit more than ‘gear’ to collect uranium.  First you need to mine the uranium, right?  To do that you need a uranium miner.  But then you need to transport the uranium somewhere so you can sell it, right?  To do that you need a transport vessel.  And then you want to sell the uranium to make money, right?  Haha.  To do *that* you need a licensed market agent — at least within Earth Federation space anyways — and *I* would be more than happy to be your agent.”

“That doesn’t sound too bad.  How about I’ll buy one of these uranium miners and just use my own ship to transport the uranium?”

“That’s not a problem at all.  In fact, with your measly Earth Federation loan I doubt you could afford to buy a decent miner and transporter anyways.”

“Sounds good.  But why do I need an agent to sell the product?”

“In ‘Fed space they require a license to trade on the market.  Licenses insure sure the Fed gets their taxes.  The Feds’ really got everyone by the gonads here; first they issue all of the money, then they charge interest for you to use the money, then in order to exchange money they require you to pay a tax when you exchange it!  It’s a crazy system, but some of us manage to eek out a living in it.”

The shrewd trader lowers his voice: “It’s not like this everywhere out in deep space ya’know.  There are other star systems out here that *are not* controlled by the ‘Fed.  They’re controlled by other groups that broke away from the ‘Fed a long time ago.  Some of them are a lot more ‘business friendly’ if you know what I mean.”

“Well why aren’t you there then?”

“Here’s your mining equipment.  Get off of my channel.”

Did you hit a nerve there?  Maybe this guy has some shady dealings outside the Fed he doesn’t like to discuss…


You’ve taken your uranium miner and positioned it next to a nearby asteroid and have made two trips to pick up your mined uranium and sell it at the market.  The market is busy place.  With the assistance of the trader you were able to place the uranium you collected up for sale and set an asking price.  But your uranium only sells at a rate of one unit per second.  At any time you can connect back with your trader over the com and adjust your selling price.  They say it’s based on M.U.L.E. theory, but you were never one to pay attention in school.

A couple times you set your price extremely low to entice a buyer.  Once you had them hooked you jumped back on the market com and started to slowly jack up the price.  This worked well on one occasion when you were the only person selling, but once someone else jumped in the market to sell uranium too you had to compete with them for price.  There’s a lot of potential here for manipulating the market, but it requires careful collusion with other players…


It’s been almost an hour now and you’ve been making some serious money mining uranium and carefully selling it.  You’re in the market now doing another sale, when out of nowhere a message pops up on your HUD: Your uranium mining units are being attacked!

A chill comes over you.  What do you do?  You move your display over to your mining operation.  Another ship is firing at your mining units.  As quickly as you can, you select the ship to get more information.  Who is this?  Unknown.  Can you defeat them?  Unlikely.  Can you get help?  Right!  You can call for help!  You contact Earth Federation HQ and request assistance.

Within seconds the ‘Fed descends on the attacking ship.  The attacker stops firing.  Several seconds go by and nothing seems to be happening.  Then a crate of goods appears next to the offending ship.  What’s happening?  Then, without notice, the offending ship turns around and flies off.  The ‘Fed picks up the crate of goods and leaves.

Earth Federation contacts you: “Hello Jim, we’ve taken care of the situation.  Since you’ve repaid 10% of your debt, you’re responsible for 10% of our protection costs.  We suggest you start to consider PROTECTING YOURSELF rather than disturbing us.  We’re very busy.”

Protect yourself?  Now there’s a novel idea!  You head back to the space port to see what your options are.  There are many different models of “defense drones” available, but none of them are within your purchasing power!  What to do?  Just then a voice comes over your com:

“Need to defend yourself but can’t afford a defense drone?  Come to our factory and build one yourself!  We’d be happy to help.”  The position of the factory appears on your HUD.

You fly over to the factory to check things out.  A basic defense drone can be built with 20 uranium and 20 steel.  The base unit has an attack power of 50 and a movement speed of 50.  Sounds great!  But wait, you have no steel…

You remember passing by a steel processing facility earlier.  You head back over there to check things out.  Maybe you can get steel there?

The steel processing facility, sure enough, makes steel.  For every 15 iron ore you supply, they give you 10 steel.  (The process actually produces one steel for every one iron ore, but they charge a hefty commission!)  Next problem: you don’t have any iron ore.

You could buy iron ore.  Actually, you could just buy steel–both are sold on the market.  Or you could mine iron ore and then use the facility to produce your steel, but that would require an investment in iron ore mining drones.

Decisions, decisions.  Before you plop down the credits to buy an iron miner, you check the market prices for iron ore.  What happened??  The market for iron has dropped significantly, it looks like a buyers market!  You jump in and go for 30 iron ore.  You get a great deal on most of it before the prices start to climb back up.

You take the iron to the processing facility, get your 20 steel for 30 iron ore (which takes a few minutes), stop by your uranium miner to pick up 20 uranium, and then head over to the factory to build yourself a defense drone.  You’re all set to make the purchase when the factory controller comes over your com:

“Wait a second here, are you sure you just want the BASE model?”

“What do you mean?  I thought the base model with 50 attack / 50 movement was my only option?”

“Oh not at all!!  At this facility, every additional steel you add to the construction of your defense drone will increase its attack, and every additional uranium you add will increase its movement.”

“By how much?” you ask skeptically.

“It’s.. variable.  Making defense drones is not an exact science.  We do the best we can, but we can’t guarantee what will happen during the manufacturing process.  The quality of the steel, the purity of the uranium, it’s all very complicated…”

“Cut to the chase!  What do I *get* for adding additional steel and uranium?”

“Every additional 1 steel will add somewhere between 2 and 4 additional attack.  Every additional 1 uranium will add somewhere between 1 and 6 additional movement.  Like I said, it’s not an exact science and the solar flares effect the process substantially…”

More decisions!