Tuesday, May 1, 2001

Advogato Entry 96

I ended up being pretty helpful in my LUGs today.. I guess the questions being asked have just been about things I know.. Anyway, hopefully I've actually been helpful ;-)

gweather is funky -- it's behavior is different lately. I had submitted a patch a while back to get weather radar images directly from National Weather Service servers, but I guess nobody liked it. I also made a patch that would include Wind Chill calculations. *shrug* They added radar images from weather.com, but they're apparently pointing at images that are from January 5th. Oops.

It'd be really cool if that app could be developed further, into something like WeatherBug, only less gimmicky and without all of the ads ;-) Since I live in Minnesota, where the weather is always changing, it'd be nice if it supported weather watches and warnings, but who knows if that'll ever happen. Historical data would be cool too -- if you could get some simple graphs of the temperature in the last day or week, it might be useful. (sidenote -- is anyone ever going to write a replacement system for Gnuplot, or have I just not been paying attention? Gnuplot is somewhat misnamed, for those wondering -- it's not GNU.)

Actually, the best thing that could happen would be if a good system could be set up for multicasting weather data from the National Weather Service to everyone who wants it.. I know they do that for some people that already have dedicated connections and special software, but it would be cool if it could be on a larger scale. The NWS actually spews out a few gigs each day, IIRC. Of course, most of that data is useless to the layperson. I suppose it would be best to create some specialized `packages' that include a few radars, the watch/warning messages for a state or three, and so on.

Anyway, on to other stuff..

I noticed a while back that GTK+ has problems recognizing the size of my second head. Menus and things can drop down into the `blank' space below it (my first head is 1600x1200, the second is 1280x1024, so there's a 1280x176 area of dead space). Of course, all of the toolkits I've seen have problems with it..

I'm still trying to figure out how to properly set up a music server/database. I want it to be easy to find the music you want, I want to properly credit the people who made the music. For instance, `South Side' by Moby and featuring Gwen Stefani should go where, exactly? Should a search for Propellerheads return results where they remixed a song, rather than creating something original? How do I avoid counting songs twice, especially when just making a simple playlist for XMMS? Also, how easy is it to automate the `beautifying' of filenames and ID3 (etc.) tags? What genre does this song fit in?

Maybe someone has found an answer to all of my questions, but I kind of doubt it.. I don't know why I'm anal retentive about my music collection. I just am. Of course, I'd also really like it if I could find a very good DJ program that could properly choose the music for me. It never ends..

I added a few quips to bugzilla.gnome.org. Hope people like them..

Oh yeah, I've been considering sending a note to LKML regarding some funny behavior with named pipes. My .signature file is a named pipe, so I can get random sigs attached to my e-mail messages. Strangely, in kernel 2.4 (and late 2.3.x as well, IIRC), the signature will occasionally `double up' -- I'll get four lines of signature (normal), and then those four lines repeated again. If you've been having trouble with named pipes in 2.4.x, this may be why. Of course, the program that powers the whole mess is a piece of junk that I wrote in two hours, so I suppose I should really re-write it first.

Wednesday, May 2, 2001

Advogato Entry 97

kgb: I've seen my computer lock up many times with xscreensaver, though I haven't tried RedHat 7.1. Sometimes, it was because I was running OpenGL stuff. Other times, it just randomly happened. I think I can still blame it on my kooky VIA chipset.

My system has RedHat 7.0 on it now. I've been thinking about trying one of the new 2.4.x kernels, just to see if the VIA chipset problems have been resolved at all, but I've been a bit scared to do that. Also, my build environment doesn't appear to be set up right yet, as the last time I tried, the compile died pretty quickly..

I see that AMD is continuing to drop prices on their chips, so hopefully a T-bird will be coming my way soon. I just hope the chipsets are better on the newer systems.

Anyway, I just got out of a meeting for work where there was a presentation of our new ``data warehouse.'' It's an Oracle server that contains all sorts of stuff regarding what goes on here at the University. Course evaluations, some scheduling data, etc. It'll be really interesting. My job is to help manage the box it runs on.. Hopefully we will be able to keep it secure and properly backed up.

Still, the presentation (using Oracle's Discoverer) gave me a bunch of ideas. Man, I wish I could have gotten into a database class -- that's so much more interesting to me than compilers and numerical computation stuff.. Of course, I'd mostly just apply that knowledge to creating a good music database.

I think, though, that the presentation showed me how good it can be to have well-structured databases. Is a simple database of ID3v1 tags any good? Hell no! Those tags don't contain enough information to be very useful. Heck, you can't even fit the names of some bands, songs, or albums in them. ``The Presidents of the United States of '' Hmm..

I saw that they had applied the idea of aliases to course evaluations. Do you remember how to spell your professor's name? For some reason, those misspellings were put into the database verbatim. It can make the data get really messed up, but aliases seem like a good way to clean it up. Of course, it does seem like the Micros~1 way of doing things (sorry about that pseudo-pun..)

Anyway, I think I'll have to do something like that, just so I can keep my music like ``Amos, Tori'' and my roommate can have his set up like ``Tori Amos''..

I think I'll have to find myself a good SQL book.. I should learn more about transactions, too. If I understand correctly, they make database operations more atomic, so client program code doesn't have to do as many multiple queries.. They can kind of be stacked together, making the database do more of the work, cutting down on traffic between client and server, among other things.

Just 8 days until my last final of the semester!

Thursday, May 3, 2001

Advogato Entry 98

Hmm.. Can I put my DNA under GNU GPL? I suppose I have to figure out how to publish it first ;-) Actually, I don't think I'd like a GPL-like license for my DNA -- I'm not too big on the idea of modifying it, except through natural processes. Verbatim distribution permitted..

I'm just trying to figure out how to combat Microsoft's funny behavior lately. Perhaps a big campaign -- posters, t-shirts, bumper stickers, etc. all bearing the slogan ``Democracy is Open Source.''

I like that one.

Saturday, May 5, 2001

Advogato Entry 99

I'm discovering that a girl I know is basically turning out to be a muse for me. Unfortunately, I have no control over when she shows up (she's a girlfriend of a friend), and thus my motivation is as chaotic as ever. Ugh.. So confusing. If only life came with a manual page.

LIFE(8)          Universe Programmer's Manual            LIFE(8)

NAME
      life

SYNOPSIS
      live; die

DESCRIPTION
      Life is spawned.  It does stuff, then dies.

BUGS
      It's difficult to get working right.  This manual could be
      spruced up a bit, too.

Anyway, I had a good day, though. Went to the local LUG's meeting on OpenNMS. It looks like a really nice tool, but you really need some horsepower to run it. It uses Java, which is part of the problem. The good thing is that it seems to be pretty portable -- you just need a few hundred megs of RAM, a fairly large hard drive, and a few hundred MHz. I think I'm going to stay with Netsaint for now.

I hung around with a friend from High School for most of the afternoon. We discussed a lot of stuff, though it largely centered around computers. I don't think I've `geeked out' for a while, so that was nice. He's having trouble finding a job, though I guess he's not very sure if he wants to get a job doing computer stuff.

He totally agreed with me that it appears that one problem with electricity generation in this country is that it's too centralized -- something like 2/3rds of the electricity evaporates before it reaches customers. Decentralizing power is probably better -- no need to worry about the losses of sending power huge distances. Of course, I don't know if there are enough people to manage a lot of small power plants or fuel-cell shacks effectively.

Well, if I can find some motivation, I should do some studying for my finals this coming week..

Later

Why the hell isn't anyone running IPv6 or Multicast yet? Is having support for these things in all modern host and router operating systems not enough? sheesh..

Sunday, May 6, 2001

Advogato Entry 100

I listened to Richard Stallman's recent talk at MIT, Copyright and Globalization in the Age of Computer Networks. It seemed pretty good, and I'm considering burning it onto CD (after converting Ogg/Vorbis->CDDA) and sending it into at least one of my national representatives. That led me to look up the definition of `verbatim,' as Stallman always says something to the effect of ``verbatim distribution permitted.'' I was worried that it meant that I wouldn't be able to change the audio format, but Merriam-Webster defines it as ``in the exact words,'' or ``word for word,'' so I shouldn't have to worry, since the words are preserved.

The idea of putting the speech on CD made me think, because I believe that CDs are supposed to support audio other than stereo 44.1kHz audio, but who knows how many players actually work with different formats. Regardless, cdrecord doesn't appear to support anything else, so I figure I'll just convert from mono 44.1kHz to stereo. This has the unfortunate side effect of making it fit on two CDs instead of one, but that's survivable.

A while later, I was wandering over to NPR's web site to listen to their news report, and I was wondering how well they might be able to transition away from RealAudio and Windows Media, so I made a simple test stream to see how low bitrate Ogg/Vorbis files sound. The output was not as good as I was hoping, and I could only convince it to go down to about 16kbps by using 8000 kHz audio, mono, 16-bit input. It seems to require about twice as much bandwidth as RealPlayer to produce the same quality output. Obviously, this is because the Xiph folks haven't optimized it for low-rate stuff yet..

I did some searching for low bitrate voice encoders, and it looks like GSM is the most popular method. I used sox to encode the same input, and the output quality of GSM seems to be pretty similar to Ogg/Vorbis, and the bitrate ends up being pretty close, as GSM works at about 13kbps. Oh, before I forget, I just used `sox' and it's accompanying script, `play', to encode and play GSM audio.

This is also tangentially related to my short comment yesterday. I wonder when we'll finally see multicast get more widely deployed. I guess it'll be around the time I get myself an IPv6 address, which should be shortly before Mickey Mouse lands in the public domain.

Later

Hmm.. I should make a GSM input plugin for XMMS. Heck, a GSM output plugin wouldn't be that hard, either. Actually, I suppose a generic plugin that can just run sox might be good, too..

Actually, I think the whole development of audio and video should become somewhat more centralized. Individuals or relatively small teams would work on each codec, but it would all fit into a larger architecture. Of course, I'm not the only one that had that idea, which is why we have GStreamer and other projects..

Looking beyond the player and back to the input stream, I'm thinking that an effort needs to be made to generalize the streaming formats out there, so many things can be streamed much more readily. GSM audio, for instance. There's probably been significant effort put forth in that area, though I think the `generic' streaming formats have not really been that generic. QuickTime and MPEG2, if I recall correctly, are examples where this hasn't quite worked out right. Anyway, I suppose there has to be a distinction of sorts between unicast streams and multicast streams (again, note that multicast has not been as widely deployed as it probably should be..)

bleh.. I'm writing too much, and not studying enough..

Monday, May 7, 2001

Advogato Entry 101

voltron: Yeah, I have gone through some periods here at college where I haven't dreamt for months. I don't notice until I meet someone new or actually do something intellectually stimulating and then have a very vivid dream. Shows how interesting I find college..

Some people laugh about things like `dream analysis.' Heck, I do too, but I think our society forgets that dreams are a natural fsck, clearing out the junk in our heads and helping us to re-index everything. Certainly, the content of dreams can be interesting, but if you aren't having any at all, then something's probably wrong about your environment...

Heh, it seems like I and plenty of others need some sort of ``Geek Guide to Sanity'' which outlines some good ways to stay productive and motivated without driving ourselves nuts. Things like getting outside at least once every day or two, and finding things to do that can stimulate the dreaming process.

Personally, I need to find a way to keep from locking up when I reach a certain stress level. When my `todo' list gets too big (and sometimes, this means just a few things), I find that I just can't get started on anything. I have a theory that getting a girlfriend would help, but I'm too heavily introverted for that to happen anytime soon (and, obviously, significant others can often add a lot of stress at inopportune times..)

Too bad it's so much harder to fix the bugs in life than it is to fix the bugs in software..

Wednesday, May 9, 2001

Advogato Entry 102

I think I've figured out why it's so hard for me to succeed here at college. I guess it's not just one thing, but a combination (well, that's obvious). However, I'm pretty sure I've found a significant combination that has caused things to be really difficult for me.

I grew up in a fairly small town, only two or three thousand people (it's hard to get a good number, because it's been growing rapidly for the past 20 or so years). The number of people in a grade usually worked out to somewhere around 100. When you see these people every day, year after year, it's impossible to not get to know them. No matter what class you take, you'll see people you know.

I made a rather silly mistake of going to a large college, the University of Minnesota. I've never been able to pin down the numbers, but there are something like 40,000 people enrolled here. When I came up for orientation and whatever, we had student guides tell us that this place could be as large or as small as we'd like -- depending on how you make friends and where they are, you can have a large community around you or a small one. It's pretty true. However, I forgot to notice that these student guides are probably fairly motivated people that tend to make friends pretty easily.

I'm neither of those. I don't have any natural charm or anything, so if I get a friend, it's not because I made an effort or anything. This has made it hard for me, since I don't share classes with anyone I know. In other words, I let this school get too big for me.

Unfortunately, now that I've been here for four years, it's kind of hard to change my ways. I suppose now that I've made the realization, I may be able to correct for it, but I'm not sure.

I'd rather just go and get a job at a small to mid-sized company, where I can see the same people every day and get to know them. Well, at least I'll be able to start working a regular schedule again on Monday. Maybe I'll have to make a greater effort to hang out with the people there, even though all or most of them are older than me (I think).

Thursday, May 10, 2001

Advogato Entry 103

I wasn't very coherent yesterday. My thought process might be a little easier to understand if I turn it around.

When I have people in my classes that I know, or that I get to know through group work, I do a lot better than when I don't know anybody and when I am not allowed to work with anyone.

This semester, I have been pretty much stuck on my own, and I think this is a low point in my college career. I'm enjoying other parts of my life.. It's just when my schoolwork comes crashing down on me that I get really down.

Anyway, like I've been saying for a while, I'll be happy to have my job and be able to do real work this summer. Hopefully I just won't work myself into the ground ;-)

Friday, May 11, 2001

Advogato Entry 104

I've been trying out Konqueror. It's pretty fast, and doesn't bog down my machine much if at all when it runs. I think it even uses less resources than Netscape 4.77. Unfortunately, there are a few things I really don't like.

I really prefer to have the `Back' option be the first on the list when right-clicking on a web page. Konqueror has `Up' there, which kind of works, but not quite. `Back' is sitting just below that. Secondly, when I tell the browser to open a link in a new window, either by middle-clicking or by going through the menu, I prefer the window to be `cloned,' at least in terms of window size. At the moment, doing that will open a new window that is wide and short.. At least there is a `Duplicate Window' option on the `Location' menu, so I've been doing that and then dragging a link to the new window. Lastly, fonts continue to be an issue. At least with Netscape, I can decide to largely ignore the fonts that web sites tell it to use, and just use helvetica and lucidatypewriter.

I don't understand why Advogato uses lucida as a font, because Unix systems seem to frequently pick a monospaced font for that.. I really don't enjoy reading large amounts of material that is monospaced..

Oh yeah, I'm posting this through Netscape because I can't log in through Konqueror at the moment...

Moments Later...

Okay, so I figured out how to fix some of the problems. Advogato was just acting funny, I guess, and I can save the window size by using the `Control View Profiles...' option on the Window menu. The fonts are still ugly, though. I had tried to get Render support working, but I'm not sure if I have munged the right files and environment variables..

Sunday, May 13, 2001

Advogato Entry 105

Well, everybody's moving out. At least it means that the traffic has died down around here. I have a friend who will be moving into my apartment with me and two others this fall. He dropped off some stuf that he doesn't need this summer (he'll be a climbing instructor at at a camp, I guess). I've tried to pile it into a small corner, but I had to be careful since that's where the air-return vent is..

He left last night with his parents, and his girlfriend left earlier in the afternoon to go to her hometown. She's going to be working at a paper company where she'll probably have a near-death experience or two. Shoving around rolls weighing hundreds/thousands of pounds is not my idea of fun.

I'll be going in to work tomorrow, and all week! Hopefully I won't bore myself to death. I'm also supposed to pick up a good system for running Windows (needed for testing client connectivity to the Unix systems). Perhaps a laptop, which might be fun. I've been surviving with a P166 running Linux (though it has 128 Megs in it). There are just a bunch of projects that require box capable of running Win2k.

Well, called my Mom, though I didn't say much. I'll have to find a present for her, for when I go home in a few weeks. I also have to get gifts for my brother and my Dad, since they both have birthdays this week.

Monday, May 14, 2001

Advogato Entry 106

Grr. We're getting rid of two Linux boxes. One of them I couldn't care less about. Actually, I don't care much about either of them, but it means that we will be down to one Linux server, with a bunch of Solaris boxes. We're also picking up a HP/UX box to be a web front-end to our Oracle server.

I'd rather see more Linux rather than less, though a lot of that is probably because I don't understand Solaris very well. Linux is far more user-friendly, so perhaps we're trying to annoy the users? I dunno..

Of course, we need systems that can actually run Linux and the right software. Mathematica for Linux on UltraSparc? Yeah, right. Hell, they won't even port to the Alpha, though there apparently is a LinuxPPC version.

The new Sun box is going to be connected to an existing RAID bank as a failover mechanism. I don't know how well that's going to work. It would be much safer to get Linux going so that we could run GFS. If we accidentally had two Solaris systems mounting the same partition at the same time, really bad things could happen.

We do need to get at least one Linux box in the server room. In the very least, we have found that we need a system that can monitor the temperature in there (the A/C went dead on Friday, and has been causing problems).

I've also been trying to muck with Oracle a bit, but I don't have any permission to the views or tables. They had changed the system password because of sensitive data being stored there, and I can't grant myself any access anymore.

Our network is so screwy here.. I wish I could tear it down and start over again, but I'm just a little peon.. Besides, I'm just annoyed that I can't play with Linux as much as I'd like to...

Tuesday, May 15, 2001

Advogato Entry 107

The Windows folks here have been running around trying to get their Lotus Notes mail hub up and running again. It must have at least a few cool features, but I'm not sure that it's worth the trouble they have with it. I just have the servers set up to forward mail to me, though they apparently don't understand ESMTP's ETRN command..

The bad thing was that they didn't have any secondary MX hosts set up until last night, so mail hadn't been flowing much at all..

I just picked up a DAT drive from my boss. I might have to take it home and play with it.

Hopefully I will be able to pick up a new computer for my office later today. I need a Win2k system. I might be getting a laptop.. We'll see.

Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Advogato Entry 108

Obsolete

I've been playing with some old tape drives by hooking them up to an old Sun SPARCServer 20 (a dual 50MHz system, IIRC). There's a DAT drive (DDS-2) that seems to work pretty well, though it's fairly slow. Apparently we have piles of media laying around somewhere, and the amount of storage (somewhere between 1 and 4 gigs) is good for backing up some of our smaller systems.

I'm in the process of erasing an 8mm tape (I laughed when I saw that it could take 8mm video cartridges) to see if we can expect any level of reliability from that drive. I guess it can handle tapes of 5 gigs or so, though I'm not sure if that's compressed or not.

We're trying to set up a backup procedure that can go over ssh or another secure channel, so this old SS20 doesn't quite cut the mustard. I think we're going to get a SCSI card for a 333MHz Pentium II system that we have. It should be able to handle it just fine.

Of course, the problem is that we don't have a good backup utility. I've been looking at Amanda, but that just seems to be more than what we need. I think I'm going to do something simple with tar. The problem with tar is that there isn't a quick way to get a listing of the files in the archive. I figure I'll just run `find' and dump the output to the tape before running tar. That way, we'll have alternating `files' on the tape -- a directory listing, then the tar, a directory listing, tar, etc.

If I get ambitious, I think I will take some of the ideas from Amanda, but just leave out their scheduling system. The `scratch' partition sounds like a good idea to me, though I don't know if I'll ever find enough spare storage to do that here. In order to keep track of what files are where, I'd like to have a decent indexing system. That index data could be put both on the tape and on the tape host. Knowing where a particular file is hiding is very important. Hmm.. We do have an Oracle database ;-)

GNU tar can apparently go in a `dry-run' mode, where it just reports what the size of a dump would be. If I use non-compressed tapes, but just have tar report the size to me, then I will know when space is running low.

Amanda sounds really good, but it seems to take just a little too much control away from the operator (knowing what data will go on which tape at what time, for instance). Then again, I haven't managed to set it up yet. Maybe appearances are deceiving.

Moments Later

My boss just showed me an interesting IIS exploit. Just point your browser at http://some-iis-host/scripts/.%252e/.%252e/winnt/system32/cmd.exe?/c+dir to get a directory listing. Heh. Just change those last three letters to do more interesting things than just dir.

Thursday, May 17, 2001

Advogato Entry 109

I wonder what it would be like if we could get everyone to shut everything off for a day. I guess it'd be quiet -- that'd be nice for once. No car, airplane, A/C, or other noises.. It'll never happen, though.

Anyway, I picked up a laptop that we're thinking of using as a `console' for our Unix boxes. Unfortunately, we can't really use it for a true console, since we don't have the appropriate hardware to hook up all of the serial consoles.. We'd also need to use a PC for that (using a multiport card from Cyclades or somewhere). A laptop's not going to do it.

Still, as soon as I get a floppy drive for this thing (it can't boot off the CD), I'm going to put a minimal Debian on it.

I'm still thinking about how to properly do fairly simple tape backups. I thought it would be nice to put a header on the tape, but I don't know how to do that on a drive that likes to compress things. I guess it'd just have to be something really simple, that will always fit in a single block or something. Keep it under 512 bytes, and it should be okay, though I think it would require some testing..

I'd probably just do a simple header:

TapeID: daily-incremental-1
NumArchives: 2
Archive: somewhere.com:/home:gnutar
Archive: somewhere.com:/usr:gnutar/gzip

The layout of the tape would be something like:

  1. Header
  2. Archive 1: File Listing
  3. Archive 1: Data
  4. Archive 2: File Listing
  5. Archive 2: Data
etc.

I did some searching on Freshmeat. Looks like some people have had similar ideas, though I don't know how well they've been fleshed out.

I think that there haven't been many backup systems for Linux because it's usually so expensive to get tape drives. They require a decent investment, and often need SCSI, which a lot of people don't have.

I might have to pick up a 4 or 8mm drive for myself. The prices don't seem quite as outrageous to me anymore, but then again, I've been desensitized to computer hardware prices by working at a place that has a couple of spendy Sun boxes.

I sent off a note to sales@alphapoweredlinux.com, just to see if anyone is home (their site hasn't been updated since 1999), and whether they'd be willing to just let me buy an Alpha CPU and motherboard. Even if I could cut a deal, it's probably still much more than I'd like to spend. I probably have enough money to buy a decent system, but the money I have in the bank is one of my security blankets..

Anyway.. I'm talking too much.

Friday, May 18, 2001

Advogato Entry 110

manuel: Nice to know there are others out there who are somewhere in between backing up a single system versus a huge cluster ;-) And, don't worry about your English -- I think you probably write better than I do..

I sent an e-mail off to an Alpha reseller (not the folks I mentioned yesterday), trying to find out what it would cost to get an Alpha board that had AGP on it. I got a response back -- the guy thought there weren't any Alpha boards with AGP. I had to point out two to him: UP1000 (discontinued), UP1100. They're boards based around AMD's 751 chipset -- the same chips that are in some Athlon boards (recall that Athlons use the Alpha's EV6 bus, so some of the parts are fairly interchangeable).

Of course, I'm really scared to see what the cost is. I know I can afford an Alpha 21164 (the folks I'm talking to have a 21164 ``Cheap Alpha'' for $650), but I don't know about the 21264, which is what the UP1x00 boards support. Even though an equivalent Athlon board would cost $100, I'm probably looking at a 10x jump.. Damn economies of scale...

Well, I'd better go. My boss just told me to check two of our Sun boxes for any sort of logs that would indicate how/where the sadmind/IIS worm has been moving around. Hopefully, those systems weren't compromised, but I guess that there are some very significant problems with IIS right now (all of the web servers here have to be reinstalled, apparently).

Afternoon

I guess we're getting a 5% discount on a Sun E220R since we're trading in an old SPARCStation 20. $1000 for a slow old SS20? Sure, I'll take that ;-) Of course, this probably means that we're getting roally reamed on the 220..

Saturday, May 19, 2001

Advogato Entry 111

Spent several hours compiling Gnome on Solaris 2.6. Then I discovered that I can't finish because gnome-vfs needs recursive mutexes for threads, which don't exist on 2.6. 7 and 8 have them, but there's a chance that the system will deadlock when using them. Heh, fun.

Anyway, it was still an interesting experience. Even though I was compiling on a fairly old operating system, it appeared to work almost flawlessly up to this point. Of course, I had to update some of the other software on the system (texinfo, gettext, etc.), but all in all, it was very simple -- just the basic ./configure; make; make install.

Didn't hear back from the Alpha guy, so who knows if he's just ignoring me now or what. Then again, maybe he didn't even work on Friday or something.

Looks like we might be getting rid of both of our old Sparc 20s. Strangely, I think I'll be sad to see them go. I hope they find nice homes.

I've been working on a laptop system that we're hoping to use as a `console' to some of our servers. Unfortunately, it's not going to do the trick. We need something that can plug into the serial ports of all of our servers, so the laptop will probably get replaced with a PC with a multi-port serial card. If we can find the money in our budget, we might get a small 1U Cyclades terminal server instead, which would be very cool.

We need to get a SCSI card for at least one of the Linux boxes at work, since I've been playing with getting some tape drives going on one of the Sparc 20s. If it goes away, we need another system to plug into.

It feels like it's been a month since school finished, though it's only been a week. That's good, though, since it means I've actually been interested in the stuff I've been doing.

Hmm.. It's the weekend. I should go outside.

Sunday, May 20, 2001

Advogato Entry 112

jmallett: You managed to remind me that I've been forgetting to find a copy of NEXTStep to put on a `pizza box' NeXT system we have here at my apartment. I haven't been able to determine if there's supposed to be free/cheap media available from Apple or anywhere. I did find one guy that would burn a copy for me, but that was a few months ago, and I never found a good time to go over and do it..

Anyway, I just read this interesting article at Byte. Interesting to see that some of the limitations in Linux actually appear to be due to the fact that PC hardware sucks. x86 processors have certain limitations, like only being able to have memory page sizes of 4kB (too small) or 4MB (too big). IDE has problems as well. It's amazing how willing the kernel developers are to find workarounds for hardware problems..

I'm all alone in the apartment. Two of my roommates are in Milwaukee (though one's coming back today), and the other is out East somewhere, doing something for his job (he's an engineering intern at Northwest Airlines).

Monday, May 21, 2001

Advogato Entry 113

It's a Monday, alright. A little tough getting up this morning -- it was cool and cloudy this morning, compared to last week when it was pretty light out at 6:00 or so.

Anyway, I'm just trying to make our Solaris boxes a little more user-friendly (well, more friendly to me, at least). I just tried compiling vim, thinking it would work better than the system's vi in terms of key handling (arrows, backspace, delete, etc), but it wasn't. *sigh*

It's really annoying that we don't have bash in the same spot on all of our servers, so I can't easily set up accounts to use /bin/bash if bash exists in /usr/local/bin/bash on other systems in the NIS domain. I suppose I should try to change that somehow. I'm really tired of sh.

I'm putting together a list of the software I'd like to put on right away when we get the next Sun box. Things like GNU fileutils. We've been using a lot of packages from Sun Freeware, but they're annoying to use. I'd like to get rpm installed, since it's easier for me to use, and because it's usually very easy to make packages (well, if the .spec files are included in the source tarballs, anyway).

I'd rather just use Linux, but I'll make do with what we've got..

Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Advogato Entry 114

I'm in the process of attempting to get RPM (yes, RedHat Package Manager) working on Solaris 2.6 and 7. I have one box that I'm attempting to strip out all of the Free software that we've already installed, so that I can determine exactly what it is I need to get RPM up and running.

I figure I need a compiler (stupidly, we don't have Sun's compiler on this box, but that's okay since the RPM docs say you need gcc anyway), some libraries, and that's about it. Once RPM itself is up and running, those packages have to be recompiled and made into RPMs. The Sun pkg files would be removed, and the RPMs would be installed, and RPM itself will probably have to be recompiled and reinstalled.

Once that's accomplished, it should be insanely easy to build packages for Solaris (whee!), or at least a helluva lot easier than making pkgs.

One thing I'm not so sure about: should the RPMs all be built to be put their files in /usr/local? The Linux Way of doing things is growing on me, so I'd personally rather put packages in more normal locations, but I suspect there's a chance that doing so could cause Really Bad Things to happen.

At least it doesn't matter too much if I screw up -- the system I'm doing this on right now is an old Sparc 20 that's going away fairly soon, and I'll probably fiddle with another UltraSparc system before it gets taken down when the new E220R comes in.

Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Advogato Entry 115

Well, I got a few e-mails from people regarding RPM on Solaris. I'm sure that by the time I get home, there will be a bunch more waiting. They'll probably all have obvious answers to the things I've been trying to accomplish ;-)

Early on, I had tried to just build from RedHat Source RPMs, but I eventually figured out how doing that wasn't the greatest idea in the world. RedHat patches things like crazy, and even though they invented RPMs, some people there certainly don't seem to know how to use it properly. I see that there's a lot of power in RPM that gets pretty well squashed when someone goes in and assumes that a particular file will go in a certain spot. I have had to go through and make my own .spec files for each package -- something I never wanted to do in my entire life, but hey.. It makes me wonder if people are going to create .spec file archives at some point.

At any rate, I do have it up and running -- 5 packages built so far, only about a hundred to go :-p

Thursday, May 24, 2001

Advogato Entry 116

I'm very tired right now.. I've been staying up working on getting packages built on Solaris. I should really take a hint, and only work on it during daylight hours. Or, at least, stop trying to do all of it on a Sparc 20 ;-)

I think that once I get to the point of having rpm built as an RPM (which appears to be only a package or two away at this point), I'm going to try and move this development onto a faster system.

I'm seeing that there are a lot of nasty little tricks that people have to do when building RPMs. Patches galore. I still think a .spec file repository is a good idea. They'd be cross-platform files that worked on as many systems as possible. If enough programs just use autoconf/automake, most of the work is already done, and the spec file just worries about where all of the files end up, plus the install/remove scripts.

If that were to be successful, I think it would just be more evidence of Linux being a unifying force in the Unix world. Granted, this would just be due to a program, but a program that originally came from Linux.

Looks like we're getting a new Intel box to run Linux on here at work. The plan is to make it be a log host, have a multi-port serial card to have serial console access to all of our servers, have it run Netsaint, and (I think) have a SCSI card in there so we can control a DAT drive to run some backups on the smaller systems.

Friday, May 25, 2001

Advogato Entry 117

Well, we had a scare at work -- one of our RAID arrays is giving us trouble. I left early today, though -- went home for Memorial Day weekend. I still have to pick up a gift for my Mom (belated Mothers' Day gift), and one for Dad (his birthday was six days later). I do have a gift for my brother, though (his birthday landed three days after Mothers' Day).

RPM building for Solaris/Sparc went pretty well today, though I didn't get too many packages done due to the problems with the RAID. install-info continues to give me trouble, as it can't seem to find the gzip binary when it gets run from an RPM post-install script. Maybe I have to append things to the $PATH? I'd hate to have that sort of stuff in an install script...

Saturday, May 26, 2001

Advogato Entry 118

Well, I picked up some gifts for the family. Got Dad a small Mag-Lite and a fiber-optic adapter, for working on computers.. Got a set for myself, too, though I wonder if there's really enough light going through the cable. Perhaps I should have tried to find the 20 inch version. Also got Mom a t-shirt that said ``I want to be a Millionaire (and that's my final answer).'' Got my brother Secrets and Lies by Bruce Schneier.

Got gettext packaged on Solaris. I still should really go through and re-compile a lot of stuff, though I should probably try to at least move this compile stuff onto the dual-processor Sparc 20 (though I'd still have to install Solaris first -- it has Debian on it at the moment).

Hmm.. Underline tags (<ul>?) seem to be broken on advogato, or at least on whatever version of Netscape I'm using.

Sunday, May 27, 2001

Advogato Entry 119

Instead of watching TV, since reception is bad these days (the 14 foot antenna on our roof has probably been slowly deteriorating), my family and I have been listening to the radio. Car Talk, A Prairie Home Companion, and Whad'ya Know. Probably much more entertaining than anything we could have found on TV anyway.

We're planning to go see The Tailor of Panama tonight.

Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Advogato Entry 120

I'm a little concerned that Microsoft will probably be in posession of the personal information (names, addresses, credit card numbers) of hundreds of millions of people by this time next year. Apparently, when you first log onto the Internet on Windows XP, it asks you all sorts of things. It's supposed to make things easier for the consumer -- you can easily buy things without having to re-enter information, for example -- but how much do you trust Microsoft?

At work, we're inheriting a dual-processor workstation that we'll be using as a print server, log host, and monitoring system. Hopefully it'll work out.

My boss is acting pretty crazy, getting ready for our new server. I hope I'm actually doing the work he wants me to do.

I think I'm supposed to move to a new office tomorrow, but I'm not really sure. Fun.

Late Evening

Well, I finally got around to downgrading glibc on my system -- looks like it helped. I had been having trouble with a lot of `Illegal Instruction' errors while attempting to compile things. I had picked up glibc-2.2.2-10 from RedHat 7.1, thinking that it would work okay on RH 7.0, but it didn't. Picking up glibc-2.2-12 from RedHat's updates appears to have done the trick.

Er, almost. Still got an `Internal error: Segmentation Fault' on gcc when making sylpheed, but there are not nearly as many errors as what I was getting.. Maybe I picked up a mismatched gcc as well. Hmm.

Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Advogato Entry 121

Stopped by Blockbuster last night, even though I knew Tora! Tora! Tora! was going to be checked out. If I'm going to watch a movie about Pearl Harbor, I might as well watch a good one ;-)

No other movies really jumped out at me, and it's hard for me to actively decide to get a DVD. It does provide a better viewing experience, but I still have moral issues with it.

Tried out John the Ripper here at work. Well, well, well. It cracked 20 passwords in about as many seconds (okay, it took longer than that, but only because I was using a P133). Now I just need to find something that works on an SMP machine ;-)

gcc still barfs on my machine at home every so often. Maybe I got a bad version of binutils, too... I still think RedHat has been compiling stuff for i686 rather than i586 (or less). Or maybe K6's just suck.

Thursday, May 31, 2001

Advogato Entry 122

I'm now officially in the process of moving from my office to the new place. I'm not exactly sure what to call it -- it's the room outside the server room, and I'll be sitting near some lab support people.

I have to move my stuff out of the old office because it's getting painted on Monday, but I won't get a decent desk setup in my new location until Tuesday. I moved two servers down and have them running in a corner that's relatively out of the way.

I put my workstation (heh `workstation' is a poor description of a P166, but it had been up and running for 283 days when I shut it down ;-) on the desk that is currently there, but I'm not sure if I have enough room for two more systems that I have to bring down, not counting the box that I will be using as a Win2k system pretty soon (That one will just have to wait, I think). However, I guess I can just run the Sparc 20 headless for a while, and I think I can find room for the Intel box I still have to bring down. It's just annoying to think that I have to re-arrange things again on Tuesday.

Ah yes, those folks are going to love me, with all of the fan noise and heat I'll be generating with my systems ;-)

There's a Netsaint box that I should really muck around with some more, but it's going to be upgraded/replaced soon, so maybe I shouldn't get ahead of myself.