Monday, April 2, 2001

Advogato Entry 83

Fatboy Slim, ``Weapon of Choice'' -- the video for that is awesome. Hey! It's Christopher Walken! Dancing! LOL!

Hell, I'd buy that video..

I'd say more, but I really need to get to class today...

Tuesday, April 3, 2001

Advogato Entry 84

Fear the Almighty Bush!

Heh, I think that headline graphic was supposed to strike fear in my heart, but it only made me start laughing...

I wonder if Comedy Central's ``That's My Bush!'' will be any good..

Thursday, April 12, 2001

Advogato Entry 85

Blah.. I've been in a bad mood for quite a while. I felt a bit better these last few days, though. I think it must have all started when I noticed how rampantly my computer was corrupting files. It's kind of like having a sick pet, I suppose. I've changed clock speeds to something a little more standard, disabled DMA, and fiddled with the BIOS settings a bit. I think I can play with the BIOS some more, but I don't know how much of an effect that will have.

After Spring Break, I had a really crummy week -- I had absolutely no motivation to do homework. My computer didn't help me much, since it just printed out garbage one morning. I've tried to turn myself around, catch up on homework and reading and start on my work early, but I don't know if I'll survive this semester grade-wise.

For the first time in years, I'm actually hanging out with friends that don't live twenty feet away from me. I just don't know if I'll be able to stay in college due to my stunning lack of motivation. I've got a decent job. I guess I'm not really tied to it, though my boss would hate to see me leave (he needs the help).

I've been writing down a lot of stuff for work, trying to organize my thoughts about what we're planning to do this summer (since many projects end up getting pushed to the summer months, when students aren't taxing the systems as much).

Well, anyway, I don't want to dwell on my depressing thoughts too much -- If I think about it too much, I just shut down. Better to just get my work done.

Monday, April 16, 2001

Advogato Entry 86

So much stuff I want to spend money on.. I want to go out and get a new processor and motherboard, since my current board is behaving badly (VIA MVP3), though I still haven't really figured out why. If I have energy tonight, I might go and try removing my SCSI card, my SBLive!, and swapping my Matrox G400 for a PCI video card, just to see if it changes anything..

I've played with some BIOS settings, and I just read about a few more I should probably try, though people have mostly been talking about Athlon chipsets, while the MVP3 is a K6 chipset. (PCI Delay Transaction: off, PCI Master Read Caching: off) I also heard that some people had better luck compiling the kernel for 586, rather than K7. I've been compiling 2.4 for K6, so maybe that would help.

It would be extremely fun to get a dual-Athlon with DDR memory. I've wanted a dual system for a long time, though maybe there isn't much point to it. Also, these new processors use a lot of electricity (~70 Watts) and therefore throw off a lot of heat. Therefore, I'd need to get a new case and probably a new power supply. Hopefully my hard drives are OK. Hmm.. If I get a DDR motherboard, I'll have to get some DDR RAM.

It'd be cool if I could also pick up an HDTV tuner card. With the prices of actual HDTVs, I won't be able to buy one for a while, but putting down ~$400 for a PCI card wouldn't be so bad.

I should also get an Uninterruptible Power Supply -- The power just blinked off for a second the other day, forcing me to go through some annoying fscks..

Let me take a look at the local prices..

  • Socket A Motherboard (w/DDR): $200
  • 1.33 GHz Athlon: $300
  • 256MB DDR 2100 RAM: $170
  • Case and Power Supply: $75

And I can get a WinTV-HD card online for $385. Of course, none of this includes shipping or tax.

Without the HDTV card (which probably doesn't work in Linux anyway), that comes to about $740. Add tax, about $785.

Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Advogato Entry 87

Hmm.. This thought has been brewing for a while. I have slowly come to the realization that my mind can only handle one stream of words at a time. Well, I can handle more than one, but I can only interpret one at a time. This is why I can't talk on the phone while watching TV, or read a book when music is blaring (music with words, mind you).

Maybe this is why `classical' music supposedly helps people think. I really like to have music when I'm studying or trying to think, though if I start paying attention to words, everything pretty much comes crashing to a halt.

Anyway, I'm sure a lot of other people have come to the same realization already.

Thursday, April 19, 2001

Advogato Entry 88

I posted my first article moments ago. It started off as a diary entry, but I figured it was long enough and actually structured enough to become an article. I suppose it's mostly just a rant, but maybe it will spur on some intelligent thought (it begs the question, was it an intelligent thought in the first place?)

Saturday, April 21, 2001

Advogato Entry 89

Random ramblings..

I've been thinking about my article and the replies to it. Maybe this is why I got confused about my major -- Computer Science. All of my classes have been dealing with stuff I really don't care much about. How many times do I have to write a routine to integrate a function, or sort data into a binary tree? I'm much more interested in getting computers to do more work for people, not making programmers do the same thing over and over.

People keep bringing up the fact that Linux is largely based on 30 year old technology. Obviously, that isn't entirely true, since Unix systems have robust networking capabilities (though TCP/IP is still 20 years old or so). Still, we have to put it in perspective. When a corporation makes an investment of many millions of dollars, they generally expect whatever they paid for to last. Today, airlines fly planes that are decades old, though no plane that old is still flying in its original configuration. Strip mining companies have huge machines that last the lifetime of their operations, and those machines are often updated with new sensors and other technology as time goes by.

Unix is much like the framework of these massive machines, a skeleton on which everything else hangs. Sometimes, a major component is changed or replaced, but the basic framework is still there.

It can take a decade or more to design and build a new airplane, ship, or building. When people want to create new operating systems or environments, the same care must be taken. This is difficult to handle, since computer hardware progresses so rapidly.

I suppose I should be careful, because some very complex things have been designed and built in a very short amount of time. Builders of cruise ships can go from an empty wharf to a gleaming vessel in a matter of months. They accomplish it through componentization. The same idea has worked in the past with software projects, but software often has some very complex interfaces between components, and I'm not sure if anyone has figured out how to make that easier.

Part of the problem on Unix is that some components seem to be absolutely huge, and that many of them barely interconnect to each other at all. Many people don't realize how extraordinary the simple Unix pipe system is. If that were extended (as was apparently done in the Plan 9 and Inferno operating systems), some very interesting stuff could be done by basically just stringing commands together. When we think of building a program out of components today, we generally think of libraries and functions that are compiled into or otherwise linked to a binary program file.

What if you could combine GUI elements with just a command line (or, at worst, a description in XML)? Make a new e-mail program in hours or days. Building a GUI interface to your database would be just as fast as building a Web interface.

I think that's what people are trying to do with Bonobo and other component architectures. However, I believe that a lot of people are being hampered by their operating systems, be it Unix or Windows (I'm not sure where MacOS fits in anymore...). Fortunately, operating systems of today are flexible enough that many of these things can be grafted on, but just as it would be very hard to retrofit a 747 to do Mach 3, it will be hard for Unix and Windows to keep up.

Update a moment later

It seems to me that the reason Web interfaces are taking off so much is that web pages can be powered by scripts that can take advantage of componentization that is much easier to use than what you'd get by programming in C or almost anything else these days. When you're running a script on a Unix system, you can pipe data here, there, and everywhere. Still, even the web systems are pretty crufty..

Monday, April 23, 2001

Advogato Entry 90

My first `real' job was at a printing company in my hometown. When I started there, my job was to take a bunch of old 286, 386, 486, and Pentium systems and shuffle them around so we only had 486s and Pentiums. In the beginning, almost everyone (except the programmers and network admins) had diskless workstations that booted off the network. It put a heavy strain on the servers, though, because each person had their own copy of Windows 3.1 (oh, before I forget, this was in 1997). Many of the workstations (the ones out on the floor, for instance) just ran DOS and a scripting system called Metaview.

The irony of it was that even though we were moving forward by installing hard disks and putting a (mostly) 32-bit operating system (Win95) on these computers, we were in fact taking a large step backwards in the ease-of-administration department. Since most of the systems were similar, you could log into almost any of them with your regular username/password. When we installed the OS locally, that was no longer the case. Well, you could do some stuff, but you didn't have your familiar desktop and other configuration information.

In businesses and other large organizations, we see the same problem. There are people out there trying to fix it, such as Sun and IBM, with their thin-client systems, but I don't think enough people are seeing these problems in their proper light. Microsoft seems to be ignoring the problem, but then again, I don't really like to keep watch over what Microsoft is doing (besides, it's a pretty huge company at this point).

I'm not sure if Linux is the solution, at least not the Linux we see today. IMHO, the Unix user/group model is a little too simplistic. I think a larger hierarchy system might be in order. Of course, the more complex your user/group system, the less likely people are to use it. Hell, the Unix user/group system is usually not put to its fullest potential. Beyond that, I think a good caching network filesystem would be good for client systems (for example, when you run Matlab, it would copy the files it used to the local disk, so they will load up quickly the next time).

Well, it all depends on how much money and time people want to spend dealing with this stuff..

Update, a few hours later

Hmm, maybe I'm really looking for Plan 9 or a similar OS. I remember that I gave Inferno a half-hearted try a few years ago, but it would seem to me that it would be best to use an operating system that has been largely designed to work with the C programming language (well, plus others, but..)

It seems there are some really good ideas out there regarding distributed computing.. Makes Beowulf look really lame, IMHO..

Linux has been a really good system for me. However, I started using it because it was stable, 32-bit, and because it supported my SoundBlaster 16 (when OS/2 did not). That's not enough of a reason for me anymore. I want an environment that helps me to collaborate with others by allowing me to easily and securely share data and messages, keeps my data, documents, and media files organized, and helps me remember when I have homework due ;-)

Tuesday, April 24, 2001

Advogato Entry 91

So, Linux and other Unix-like systems suck. They just suck less than Windows and many other commercial OSes.

Allow me to qualify my statements.. Unix has had many technologies tacked onto it. Since it started its life in a manner somehow resembling Open Source/Free Software, it was easy to change the source and add new things. However, the core ideas of Unix did not really change.. Networking is fairly well integrated, but it is obvious that the graphical system (X Windows) was duct-taped to the side of the system.

Now, I just have to find more people that feel the same way.

Oh yeah, I put down some ideas on what I think a next-generation operating system should be like. Actually, my ideas went beyond the operating system itself and into the area of the `operating environment,' through which the user interacts with the system. On so many OSes, the developers forgot that people actually need to use the system. Hopefully the next big thing will address those issues properly..

Advogato Entry 92


Well, I re-installed RedHat 7.0 on my box. I wanted to try Debian on my box, but I didn't feel like going through the configuration bits associated with a Debian install, plus I didn't have a Debian CD readily available. I thought about getting RedHat 7.1, but it seems that everybody is heavily bogging down any servers that have it, and many servers don't even have complete mirrors.

Anyway, I'm installing Ximian Gnome 1.4 at the moment, which might not be the greatest idea in the world. Annoyingly, these installer programs open up the RPM database while they do their thing, and never close it unless they finish.. So much for querying the database for other info.. Kind of lame.

Ugh.. Why doesn't my Backspace key work? For some reason, I have to ^H my way through X Windows. Must be because I use the Dvorak layout.. No sane person would release an OS with such a flaw..

My VIA chipset bugginess (the reason for the re-install) only seems to show up heavily in Linux 2.4, though I think that some variations on Linux 2.2 could get it to show up to, such as when I added in ReiserFS support. Anyway, I just have to be careful from now on. I just hope it gets better...

Well, I should really roll into bed, though I'd really like to get X working with Xinerama again before then, just so my regular desktop will greet me in the morning.. Still..

Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Advogato Entry 93


Well, I got RedHat 7.0 back in working order. It's been pretty much impossible to access RedHat mirrors. The one I've been able to access regularly ( has not been terribly fast, and it only has packages for 7.1, none of the 7.0 updates. Hey, that's what package management is for ;-)

Anyway, I've got X 4.0.3 running, along with Ximian Gnome 1.4. I managed to update some important things that actually talk to the network (ntp, ssh, X), and I had to update glibc to get some Guile apps working right, but things seem okay now. I just wish it hadn't taken so long.

Red Carpet isn't working yet -- the servers are too busy for it to download anything, even just the channel information. While I was dealing with the Ximian installer, though, I was wondering why these apps want to put a lock on the RPM database for the entire time that they are open? Certainly, someone could come in and change things while the program was downloading stuff, but the locking mechanism is so heavy that I can't even query what packages are installed and other useful info.. Oh well.

I tried using Nautilus. Heh. I couldn't even open a window, though maybe that's because I had an older glibc.. Hmm. Now, I'm trying to fix some special keymappings I cooked up with the extra buttons on my keyboard. I use the Wake, Sleep, and Power buttons to move forward a track, backward a track, and to start the music playing. The Pause button is what I use for stop.. Anyway, X is seeing the keycode and putting up the right XKeysym, but it's not giving the right button name.. Oh well, I'll get it working again sooner or later.

Anyway, one of my female friends called my apartment this afternoon -- I guess she's going to be an aunt soon. Of course, she also has homework to do tonight (30 page paper), so hopefully that news won't prevent her from getting things done..

Speaking of getting things done, why the hell am I writing this instead of doing my homework?

Thursday, April 26, 2001

Advogato Entry 94

I think maybe I should put together a simple system (probably w/ an SQL database and a PHP front-end) where owners of troublesome VIA motherboards can go and catalog their hardware. Maybe there's a common thread somewhere.

Unfortunately, I don't think I'd have anywhere to put it. I could run it on my box, but I don't want to worry about someone hacking my system, etc. Also, I'm not sure if my ISP would get mad at me for doing that. I never signed anything terms-of-service agreement with my ISP, it's just a connection I get through my building..

Oh well, the traffic probably wouldn't be significant enough for them to care. If I was serving tons of music, OTOH...

Anyway, I guess I'll see if I can set something up.

Saturday, April 28, 2001

Advogato Entry 95

Well, I haven't been doing much lately. I should have done some homework today. Heck, I should have done some of it a week ago. I'm really not enjoying my schoolwork this semester, and it looks like that will be evident in my grades. Oh well, in two weeks, I will be able to spend time at work fixing real problems and putting together real solutions. I enjoy that so much better than running fifty tests to see which algorithm is better at finding the integral of a particular function..

I would like to have a less stressful school year next time around -- I want to actually get a life this fall. Who knows if that will happen. Still, it seems that college is a last best chance to get a girlfriend before I wander out into the real world. Speaking of which, my roommates, another friend, and I have all been getting to know this one girl lately. It's pretty weird for me, as we're all competing for her attention. My friend has been hanging around with her the most, though he's going to move into the apartment in the fall. Just a weird situation that I've never been in before -- I just hope it won't bring out the worst in us..