Thursday, March 1, 2001

Advogato Entry 60

Finally decided to play with the CueCat that my family got from Wired. I was wondering why the decoding software that I was using just wouldn't work. Then I realized that the software doesn't directly touch the hardware and was reading cooked input. These programs don't like Dvorak layouts ;-) I guess that someone (maybe me, but I doubt I'll put that much effort into it) will have to re-write some of the software so it can play nicely with different keyboard layouts.. It'd also be nice if I could somehow power down that damn bright red light, but I think it's hardwired to always be on..

Anywho, not much else going on. Had dinner with some friends at Baker's Square and finally tried out the French Apple Cheesecake -- good stuff, though I think my favorite is still Caramel Apple á la Mode. Of course, I don't think it helped my (so far pretty vain) attempts at exercising. I'd really like to cut down on my soda-pop belly, but there's no way I can get myself to work out every day or every other day. I did manage to look up some `ab' exercises, so maybe I'll at least find a few minutes here and there to do those..


[root@3po][~]# reiserfsck /dev/hdc3

<-------------reiserfsck, 2000------------->
reiserfsprogs 3.x.0f
Will read-only check consistency of the partition
Will put log info to stderr
Do you want to run this program?[N/Yes] (note need to type Yes):Yes
Segmentation fault (core dumped)


Friday, March 2, 2001

Advogato Entry 61

Well, I got TV listings on my homepage again. They seem to be somewhat flaky, though, since the source of the data has been acting weird all day. I still have to figure out a way to sort the channels to be in numerical order, but that shouldn't take too long..

In the process of figuring out all of the right channel numbers, I discovered that NASA TV is running a Robot Wars-esque competition right now. It's pretty entertaining ;-)

Sunday, March 4, 2001

Advogato Entry 62

Wasting my weekend again -- I should really make an attempt to study and do some homework. And do laundry. And eat. Well, OK, it's not hard to convince me to eat.

Anyway, I watched The Whole Nine Yards last night. Very funny movie. Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry make for a great combination. Unfortunately, that movie kept me up far too late. Oh well.

I can't wait to see The Lone Gunmen on Fox tonight. I hope it will be an entertaining show. I suspect my expectations are high, though, so there's a good chance I'll be disappointed.

Well, I'd better start doing stuff..

Monday, March 5, 2001

Advogato Entry 63


What the heck is wrong with me? Bah. Total lack of drive to do any sort of school work. It's accompanied by a significant drive to do other stuff like hack on some random Gnome panel applets (which doesn't display seconds for some reason...)

I have a sense that I'd feel a lot more motivated to do the stuff I need to do if I had a gf, but that would probably just make me want to do all sorts of other stuff (like actually getting away from the apartment more than once every week or so).


My homework doesn't look too bad. I just hope I can get it done before my brain turns to mush (which will happen in a few hours).

I'm getting a little tired of all of the censorship/DMCA/etc stuff that's getting posted on Slashdot.. That's what the Your Rights Online section is for dudes..

Tuesday, March 6, 2001

Advogato Entry 64

Today in my History of Computing class, the lecture was about the time in IBM's life when the company decided to unbundle software from hardware. The decision to unbundle was made in the mid-1960s, and a task force was put together in order to figure out exactly how to do it.

They weren't concerned about how to price the software. Mostly, they wanted to know how they could `protect' their software. They thought about patents, but at the time, they didn't even know if software could be patented. Also, they didn't feel it was a good idea to flood the Patent Office with SW patents.

Next, they thought about protecting their code by making it a trade secret. Unfortunately, that doesn't work very well either, since once a trade secret is out in the open, it ceases to be a trade secret and no longer has any legal protection. It would be very hard to keep it secret, because of the large numbers of developers that would have to interact with it regularly.

Lastly, they considered copyrighting the stuff, but the folks at IBM thought that copyright protection was very weak and didn't provide for much. I'm not sure if my prof said exactly what they decided, but I suppose that all of this is why we have all sorts of crazy software licenses today.

Wednesday, March 7, 2001

Advogato Entry 65

It all started innocently enough. I wrote a simple message in reply to fears about advertisers going and changing homepages on Windoze boxes:

On Mon, 5 Mar 2001 wrote:
> Something of interest: > > I would think home page hijacking is an easy thing to fix. It would be a trivial task for a moderately talented programmer to write a program that periodically checks to see if the browser homepage has been changed. If I had a Windows box, I wouldn't hesitate to write such a utility and distribute it freely. Also, it may be possible to deter this activity by simply making the browser preferences file read-only. Certainly, this is more complicated than some people would like, but it's a miniscule task in the grand scheme of things..

So, today, I hear from my boss that his boss heard that I was going to go teach a class on programming now. What? I guess the note got forwarded all over the place, and now people think I'm ultra-talented or something.


I guess I shouldn't have said ``...wouldn't hesitate to write...'', since my job is not a programming job -- we're not supposed to do that (much) because the tech staff would get inundated with little programming requests. I suppose I should have made it more clear that it was not a job thing, more a personal one. And I suspect that I would have had to have been bitten by this before really wanting to write such a utility..

Friday, March 9, 2001

Advogato Entry 66

If everyone admitted their `illegal' copying, and all marched to the police stations to be put in jail, what would happen? ``I'm sorry officer, I helped my Mom copy her favorite CD to a tape so she could listen to it in her car..''

Saturday, March 10, 2001

Advogato Entry 67


[mike@3po][~]$ ls -l /dev/cdrom
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root     root     2923625285389647875 Dec  8 02:00 /dev/cdrom -> hdd

Advogato Entry 68

fucking Linux fucking filesystems fucking can't fucking crash fucking sanely fucking...

And Fucking ReiserFuckingFS doesn't have a fucking fsck that works.

The only way I can fsck my Reiser partition right now is to copy it's contents to another (ext2) partition, format, and copy everything back..

Seeing the kupdate process with a dreaded `D' flag when doing `ps ax' doesn't exactly make me feel wonderful either. Lots of things stop working after that, like sync and shutdown.


I want to go to sleep...

Sunday, March 11, 2001

Advogato Entry 69


Well, I managed to move most of my files off of my ReiserFS partiton. I reformatted -- probably good to have a RFS 3.6 partition to use with kernel 2.4.x, as opposed to the 3.5 version that I'd carried over from the 2.2.x days.. Maybe that's why reiserfsck was crashing.

Anyway, I discovered that I had a number of music CDs that I hadn't ripped yet. grip is a great tool -- the thing I like best is that you can rip a CD, eject it, let the computer keep compressing the files, and start ripping another CD. Right now, I have about 90 tracks queued up to be compressed. Too bad the Vorbis encoder isn't superfast yet ;-)

Of course, the computer really chugs when it's ripping and compressing and doing other stuff. I'll have to stop ripping for a while when I do some work later and let oggenc catch up..

Monday, March 12, 2001

Advogato Entry 70


Well, guess what? grip managed to cause my ReiserFS partition to die again. I guess reformatting didn't work. Next time, I'm trying Global File System instead.

Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Advogato Entry 71


Isn't misspelling `grammar' just about as bad as misspelling `spelling'?

Well, my computer and I have been having an on again, off again relationship lately. Something is flaky when it comes to the filesystems.. I want to get a new motherboard -- one that has known-good IDE(/SCSI) chipsets. Of course, if I'm going to get a new motherboard, I'd really like to get a really kickass one, like a dual athlon system (which is still vaporware, if I remember right).

Anyway, ripping CDs is a pretty scary thing for me to do. It has been the source of the most crashes for me. Really annoying.

Well, I'd better get going and see if I can get any work done.

Moments Later...

[mike@3po][~/mp3]$ ls
Segmentation fault


/me kicks himself for not yet replacing ReiserFS with Global File System

Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Advogato Entry 72

I tried Nautilus 1.0. I was actually fairly impressed. I had tried earlier versions of Nautilus and was not so happy. I think I really need to turn off the image scanning bit, since that's what really seems to slow it down and make it use tons of memory. I'm still not using it as my desktop, though.

Once Mozilla, Nautilus, and Evolution stabilize, my desktop is going to go through it's greatest transformation since I started using Gnome (way back around 0.13! ;-) Heck, it might even be the greatest change since I went from OS/2 to Linux.

A few things I noticed about Nautilus:

  • The desktop icons do not move down to get out from under a panel at the top of the screen.
  • There doesn't appear to be any way to configure the Mozilla component (I really don't like serif fonts when browsing, and I like to turn off underlined links).
  • There doesn't appear to be any way to configure the text viewing widget (when viewing text, I like monospaced fontns)
  • The background drawing system doesn't appear to work with programs like xplanet.
  • I'd like a little more control over exactly how the files are sorted. For example, when viewing icons by Type, the ordering is pretty wacky. Nautilus appears to sort things by MIME type, but the types themselves don't appear to be sorted at all. It would be good to have something where media files are grouped, compressed files are grouped, documents are grouped, etc.
  • Also, the windows don't seem to remember much information, like size.. I like it when a program remembers how big it's windows were from the last time (well, usually -- sometimes it just makes problems).
  • For the Intermediate and/or Advanced users, it'd be great to have a button on the toolbar that would toggle the inclusion of dotfiles in the file listings
  • If I'm going to use Nautilus to browse the web a lot, I really need something equivalent to Netscape's Personal Toolbar, where I can put my frequently used bookmarks

I also tried the latest Evolution snapshot. I was happy to see some GPG/PGP support. Unfortunately, the composer component seems to be broken, so I can read messages, but can't write them. I also don't know if there is GPG support for sending messages. I think the broken composer is just a configuration error on my system somewhere -- I just have to find it. Evolution still has problems, though it hasn't reached the fabled 1.0:

  • It doesn't remember window sizes either.
  • It took me forever to see that you configure the message viewer widget (GtkHTML?) through Gnome's Control Center, so there should be a link to that in Evolution's menus.
  • Back when the composer did work, I don't think it could from .signatures that were named pipes.
  • Evolution also displays my signature incorrectly, and I need to figure out why that is..

Mozilla is pretty good these days, but it isn't exactly a speed demon. In comparison, any version of Netscape is blazing fast. I guess the biggest problem is that Netscape seems to handle a heavily loaded system much better than Mozilla does. If you're compiling a kernel in the background, it feels icky (to me) to be running Mozilla instead of Netscape..

Anyway, I'm hoping to move away from Netscape as my main application. I'd like to use Mozilla as a browser or a widget (such as within Nautilus) and Evolution for mail/calendaring. I just wish Mozilla used Gtk+/Gnome widgets rather than those ugly XPWidgets (or whatever they're called). Then my desktop would finally look consistent..

Advogato Entry 73


Well, finally dumped ReiserFS and installed GFS. I used CVS, since the 4.0 version of GFS didn't have a patch for Linux 2.4.2. Hopefully that wasn't a dumb idea.

Still, I managed to crash the system while I was copying the data onto the newly-formatted partition -- I probably shouldn't have tried starting up X at the same time :-/ I just hope that GFS works better than Reiser did. At least Reiser actually had a fsck utility, even though it didn't work all that well.. GFS doesn't have a consistency-checking utility, AFAIK. Hopefully, that means that they put some more effort into making sure the code worked right ;-) If not, I only have to walk about a mile to show my distaste to the developers in person.

They do appear to have code for Sparc/UltraSparc systems, so maybe it wouldn't be an entirely bad idea to make a real cluster at work where all of the databases can be on a cluster of disks accessed through a big SCSI bus... Of course, our Sun boxes run some proprietary software, so it probably wouldn't work so well, not to mention the fact that there probably aren't any Linux utilities for managing the RAID arrays..

There's no doubt in my mind though -- if you want to run a clustered system, use Linux.

I'm kind of curious, though -- is GFS a good replacement for NFS? It's a journaled filesystem, and each client needs its own journal, so that may cause some problems. I suppose you could just make a lot of fairly small journals -- 16MB or something (default is 128MB, IIRC). I guess security might be an issue -- if you get a root compromise on a client to an NFS server, it's not a huge deal if you have things set up right. With GFS, an attacker could really do some damage.

'kay -- if any of that doesn't make sense, blame it on me being up way too late once again..

Thursday, March 15, 2001

Advogato Entry 74

Hmm.. People don't seem to be posting as many diary entries lately. Is everybody on sabbatical?

Guess what my computer's going to be doing while I sleep tonight?

[root@3po][~]# badblocks -o badblocks-hdc3.txt -svw /dev/hdc3 44403660

That's right! It'll be checking for bad blocks on my hard disk -- and it probably won't find any!

I've now tried three different filesystems in as many days. First was Reiser, which I already knew was choking. Second at bat was GFS. It seemed to be doing alright, but then strange things began to happen -- I'd start up a new song, and it was like the file had overlapped another. XMMS would start up in the middle of another song, often one that was nearby in the playlist (and therefore probably nearby on the filesystem). I even wrote up a little perl script for testing stuff:


my ($orig) = "/usr/music";
my ($test) = "/media/music";
my ($goodout) = "good.txt";
my ($badout) = "bad.txt";

open (GOOD, ">$goodout");
open (BAD, ">$badout");

chdir ($orig);
open (ORIG, "find . -type f|");
@origlines = <ORIG>;
close (ORIG);

my ($numgood, $numbad) = (0, 0);
my ($starttime) = time ();
my ($eta, $etas, $etam, $etah, $etastr);

for $i (0 .. $#origlines)
 $file = $origlines[$i];
 chomp ($file);
 $file =~ s|^\./||;
 if (system ("cmp", "-s", "$orig/$file", "$test/$file") == 0)
   print (GOOD "$test/$file\n");
   print (BAD "$test/$file\n");
 $goodpercent = $numgood/$#origlines * 100;
 $badpercent = $numbad/$#origlines * 100;
 $totalpercent = ($i+1)/$#origlines * 100;
 $time = time();
 if (($time - $starttime != 0) && ($totalpercent != 0))
   $elapsed = $time - $starttime;
   # estimated total time
   $est_total = int $elapsed/($totalpercent/100);
   # estimated time remaining
   $eta = $est_total - $elapsed;
   $etas = $eta % 60;
   $etam = (($eta-$etas)/60) % 60;
   $etah = int $eta / 3600;
   $etastr = sprintf ("%02d:%02d:%02d", $etah, $etam, $etas);
 printf ("Good: %d [%.2f%]  Bad: %d [%.2f%]  Total: %d/%d [%.2f%]  ".
         "ETA: %s\r",
         $numgood, $goodpercent, $numbad, $badpercent, $i, $#origlines,
         $totalpercent, $etastr);

close (GOOD);
close (BAD);

print ("\nDone.\n");

Anyway, I hope badblocks does find something, otherwise I have a bad drive that only shows it's true colors depending on the phase of the moon. On a higher note, I might just be able to lug my computer over to Sistina and have them take a look.

Then again, I should probably restore the original CPU clockspeed to this thing. I'm running an AMD K6-2 at 392 MHz with a 112MHz bus. The IDE controller, AFAICT, is running at 37MHz.

Friday, March 16, 2001

Advogato Entry 75


Well, I haven't gotten around to running my system at it's normal clockspeed yet (350MHz w/100 MHz FSB and 33MHz IDE), though I did run at 400MHz. The numbers seem to break down like this: 400MHz CPU clock, 100MHz front side bus, 33MHz IDE subsystem. Previously, the CPU was running at 392MHz with a 112MHz front side bus and a 37MHz IDE subsystem. I actually booted the system once by passing the `idebus=50', which might have set the IDE subsystem to run at 50MHz.

Did any of it make a difference? Not really. If anything, the errors are now less consistent than ever. Then again, they may not have been very consistent in the first place.

My motherboard is a FIC VA-503+..

Oh joy -- I just did a Google search on `corruption va-503+'. Guess what came up? `The WORST Board Ever'


Not that I should necessarily trust NBCi user opinions, but his experience is fairly similar to mine. I haven't had any major trouble with my video card, though running X does appear to make the system more prone to faults. I cannot burn CDs while in X -- they get corrupted, even though I have a pretty decent SCSI burner that has a 2MB buffer. CDs don't burn with 100% reliability in console mode, but it's better than when in X.

I once tried hooking up a USB mouse through a USB dongle thingy (this motherboard is half-n-half AT/ATX, so it doesn't have the rear riser with USB built in). I must have connected it backwards, since the mouse ceased to function after that..

The IDE controller is a VT82C586, my mention of which once to the linux-kernel mailing list made one developer cringe in a reply to me.

Needless to say, I'm in a fairly bad mood right now (playing some Weird Al a little while ago helped a bit), and I'm wondering when/if any dual-Athlon boards will ever become available..

Well, the roommates rented Nurse Betty.. Hopefully it will be good.

Sunday, March 18, 2001

Advogato Entry 76

Hmm.. I suppose I should install XF4.0.3 pretty soon, though I should wait until Matrox releases a driver for it.

I bought a Matrox card to get away from the `proprietary driver' model that came with NVidia cards. I guess Matrox isn't a whole lot better, though I only need to use their binary HALLib when I want to do dual-head stuff. I suspect this is because of Macrovision and other licensed stuff on the second head. We can't have those filthy Linux users playing DVDs now can we?

Of course, somebody has figured out how to display video on the second head anyway...

Well, I've had a very strange week or two. My sleep schedule has gone way out of whack (not that it was very good to begin with -- my roommate snores a lot before 1 AM, so even if I get to bed at 10, it doesn't help).

I'm debating whether I should just buy a new motherboard/processor now (hopefully a DDR-capable board and a fast proc), or if I should try to wait until the fabled AMD 770 chipset-based boards emerge from the mists of vaporware.

I suppose something I could do is buy a fast processor with a decent but inexpensive motherboard, then buy another processor and a good dual board when the 770-based boards actually show up.

Spring Break is coming next week. Not that I'm doing anything but going home, though. I'll be glad that I don't have cable -- it won't take any effort to avoid MTV ;-)

Monday, March 19, 2001

Advogato Entry 77

I Will Crush You!

Earlier today, I got a message from CrushLink. I have a secret admirer! Well, maybe. It's basically a viral e-mail harvesting system. I was in an odd enough mood (and, well, my address was in their system anyway), so I decided to try to take a stab at guessing who this person was. Little did I know that I had to add 5 more addresses to their list before they'd tell me anything. To top it off, they even insult you once you've entered 5 addresses -- ``You need help.'' or something to that effect. More than likely, my address was just a filler address for someone else.

Wake Up!

Anyway, didn't do too much today. I got up fairly early for once -- and I think I found a few good reasons for actually getting up at ~7 AM. Batman Beyond is on WB at 7, and Comedy Central usually starts a movie then as well. If I'm feeling sleepy, I can just wait until The Daily Show comes on at 9 ;-)

Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Advogato Entry 78

Would you like a free taco?

Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Advogato Entry 79





Saturday, March 24, 2001

Advogato Entry 80

Well, I'm finally on break. Hopefully I'll have a good week.

Today, I did some research on the FM radio stations in the Twin Cities area. The results are moderately interesting.

Of course, once I was done, I found this stuff from NorthPine (still haven't figured out who they are...)

Monday, March 26, 2001

Advogato Entry 81

Home again, home again, jiggidy jig

I'm back at home now. I'll be here for at least a few days. I found a new computer in my bedroom. No, it's not a gift for me or anything -- I think it'll basically be the Windows box where Dad can do his taxes and where Mom can program her sewing machine cartridges. Of course, I'm trying to add everything I need to connect with my Linux box up at my apartment.

This is actually a good thing, since I need some experience setting up stuff like Cygwin and some sort of X server for Windows boxes at work (I don't have one -- I have a spare computer I could install it on, but it's only a P133 with 32 or 64MB of RAM...)

I was pretty surprised to see that Cygwin comes with OpenSSH 2.5.1p2. I also installed the experimental PuTTY that comes with X forwarding support. Unfortunately, the only X server I have right now is WeirdX, which runs extremely slowly on Win98. It looks like Cygnus has done some good work on XFree, so I'm going to try out their implementation soon.

Saturday, March 31, 2001

Advogato Entry 82

Spring Break wasn't that great -- of course, all I did was go home and get sick :-p

The `energy crunch' that the US is experiencing these days has made me worry about what role I might be playing in the whole scenario, especially considering that I'm in the computing field. I mean, how do the numbers break down anyway? What is using the biggest chunk of electricity these days? What is burning the most fuel? I know the United States is way ahead of everyone else in terms of energy used per capita (though I'm curious where Japan is), so we should really be the ones trying to figure this out, IMHO..

Interesting that this DoE article shows some interesting trends. Petroleum consumption is now the highest in 20 years (yeah, we actually used less gas for a while), and natural gas usage dropped around 1970 only to come back up to that level a few years ago. Coal and nuclear usage has climbed steadily for the past 25 years or so.

Interestingly, the consumption of electricity is only about 1/3 efficient. Losses incurred when producing and distributing the electricity cause 2/3 of the energy to disappear into thin air. However, electricity that does make it to the home is on a bee-line to overtake natural gas as the biggest chunk of residential/commercial usage. Making electrical devices more efficient is certainly important. Producing and distributing the electricity more efficiently would also help. There are nuclear plants out there that produce gigawatts of electricity. However, since the losses incurred in distributing the electricity are so great, it would seem a better idea to make many more small plants (of course, that might make things less efficient in other ways). Coal is the fuel used most in generating electricity, so making it clean and efficient is important.

Anyway, just some random thoughts induced by the fact that I had to replace three light bulbs today (actually, I need to replace more, but that was all of the 60-watt bulbs I had..) I don't understand why they only last 1000 hours, which ends up being something like two months in a lot of cases. If the lights in my apartment run 6 hours a day on average, one will fail each week. :-p