July 19, 2000

Advogato Entry 2

e2fsck: Attempt to read block from filesystem resulted
in short read while trying to open /dev/hdb1
Could this be a zero-length partition?


I had a particularly nasty crash this morning. For some reason, my hard drives can't handle extended writes, such as what you'd get from ripping the audio off a CD. I've even reformatted the damn things and they still do this (I had thought it was a slightly corrupted fs, but now I'm thinking it must be slightly broken hardware.. grr..)

On days like this when things aren't going my way, I just end up feeling so tired and alone. It doesn't help that my job seems to not allow any human interaction. I should have got a job with my roommate belaying for rock climbers at the local gym. He got a girlfriend right away.. *grumble* I'm way too old to have been single for so long. Oh well, complaining will probably only make things worse.

I looked at some of the LFP variable-width fonts yesterday. They weren't very variable in the widths, and a lot of them were too small for my display. Perhaps more people need to try out Gote and make some decent scalable fonts..

I decided to pass a `-gamma' flag to XFree 4.0.1, and I think it helps. But somehow, Slashdot's colors managed to get even uglier. Also, I see that many websites are designed for non-gamma-corrected displays. *sigh*

Ralph Nader was here in MN again over the weekend. He drew a big crowd for a rally on campus -- 1500 people in one lecture hall. I'm gonna vote for him this fall unless there's a drastic change in the other candidates. I tried to search for some more news about it on the websites of the nearby newspapers, but their search engines are so braindead that they give you the same link 10 times. Maybe I need to make my own search engine for this stuff..

Rode my bike into work today, as I'm sick and tired of waiting for the bus. That and the fact that it was actually cool enough outside to ride without dumping a gallon of sweat. The foliage around here is beautiful this summer -- we've had too much rain, so everything is a very deep green.


Finally figured out how to print from Linux to Novell. It was actually pretty easy, so this will save me the trouble of managing IP addresses for 50 printers..

I just tried out Evolution 0.2 (you can get it through helix-update, you know..) and I really like it! Not as light on the memory as I was hoping, but not as bad as I was fearing. It seems pretty fast (my box is a P166, though I have 128MB of RAM). Of course, the Lotus Notes POP3 server just decided to stop accepting my password..

Yesterday, I was thinking a lot about the reasons I started using Linux. It wasn't because Windows (3.1) was bad, it was because DOS sucked and because OS/2 Warp 4 decided to ignore my SB16 (literally -- Creative wouldn't be caught dead writing new drivers). Of course, what I had really wanted to do was 32-bit graphics development (try finding a free 32-bit DOS assembler), but that never really happened.

Posted by mike at 12:39 PM Central | Bike , Decision 2000 , Old Advogato Diary , Politics , Ralph Nader , Software , Work , XFree | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

July 22, 2000

Advogato Entry 6

4:00 AM

Can't really sleep for some reason. I guess it's all these thoughts I'm having about Linux, ease of use, and whatnot. ``GNU's Not Unix'' I think people forget that. Some think it's just a play on words, but I believe it. There's no reason why it shouldn't be true -- all of the `true' Unices I've dealt with have been annoying as hell. I love a lot of the GNU stuff. I can't live without GNU fileutils. I need bash. I love the Linux kernel (especially /proc ;-) Though I can't say I get along well with Emacs..

I posted a rant about crappy text editors to my local LUG's mailing list. Again. I think I've done it several times before, and each time I say how much I want to get away from pico and start using something decent. {g}vim is fairly nice, but there are some things I just don't like. Of course, it doesn't help that `true' vi sucks goats (especially for those with Dvorak keyboards), so none of this does me any good if I have to fix something on Solaris, for example. I was wondering if maybe there should be a system-wide file for common keybindings..

I wish I could go through every type of package and find the best one. What's the best text editor? Eesh. The best mailer? Do we need elm? mail? pine? The `best' ones probably haven't been created yet, but I really don't want to start these religious wars all over again. Maybe we should use Roxen instead of Apache. Perhaps there's an up-and-coming SQL database that's way better than PostgreSQL and MySQL. Should everything in Linux be re-written to be object-ified, so it's even easier to make complex and powerful programs from small parts? And why the hell am I running i386 binaries on an AMD K6-2?

So many questions, it all makes my head spin. There's no need for a Linux kernel-based OS to behave much like Unix at all, is there? Can we move beyond pipes to more advanced types of message passing, or do we always have to use Unix or TCP/IP sockets to communicate between local programs? Blah, I wish I knew more of the answers..

On a somewhat more serious note, would it be a good or bad idea to make devices directly accessible through some sort of /dev/bus/{usb,pci,i2c} hierarchy? Most of the PCI devices tell you exactly what resources they use, right? So, can you create generic devices that allow direct access to memory and registers. That way, programs like X don't need to be suid root (if the /dev/bus/pci/1/0.0 AGP video card is writable by the user), and no real video drivers have to be in the kernel.. maybe. But it might allow for neat tricks like setting up eth4 before eth[0123] by directly accessing the device.. It would certainly allow for more user-land development of drivers before trying to implement the same functionality in the kernel. I suppose there has to be some gatekeeper functionality, so it probably all depends on whether or not you can generalize that sort of thing.

If I was a kernel hacker, maybe I'd actually know this stuff. Right now, I have to be content to be one of those annoying `brainstormers' that don't have enough time/talent/knowledge to do this on their own. Sorry if I got anyone's hopes up...

Posted by mike at 02:30 AM Central | Old Advogato Diary , Software , XFree | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 27, 2000

Advogato Entry 9

S.5....T   /bin/ps
S.5....T   /bin/login

Heh. That's good.. This box has been broken into before, I guess nobody bothered to clean it up properly..

I've just been going around the different servers and setting up NTP daemons and fiddling with other stuff. The Linux boxes here have been surprisingly stable. One of them has been up 194 days at this point. I almost rebooted it yesterday, but then I realized things were behaving strangely because the automount daemon had died somehow, but the mountpoint hadn't been released. A simple umount did the trick. Maybe that thing will run for another 194 days. I just hope that it will come back up after it finally goes down -- we don't have a display or keyboard on the thing ;-)

Anyway, I'm hoping to work on a new project. I want to make a simple program that will let me input simplified bus schedules and then display them on a webpage (or output to a text file, whatever). It's sort of an effort to keep the campus busdrivers `honest'. The city buses in Minneapolis are very good about being on-time (IMHO). The campus buses for the University, however, vary from their prescribed times by quite a bit. If they could just get down to ±2 minutes (that's a 5-minute window), I'd be happy..

Hopefully, I'll be able to make something simple, yet powerful enough to handle the weirdness of big-city bus schedules..

Posted by mike at 10:18 AM Central | Old Advogato Diary , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 28, 2000

Advogato Entry 10

Hmm. Need to find a good, clean (and hopefully libre) method of getting Reflection X to work with SSH. Right now, it is heavily dependent upon Telnet or the r* commands.. blech. PuTTY is great for just being an SSH client, but if you need to tunnel X sessions, forget it. Perhaps I should just avoid tunnelling and go for direct X connections (ie. Set $DISPLAY to point to the client system rather than server:10 or whatever)..

Anyway, my boss gave me an Internet Security Scanner report about our servers yesterday. ISS guessed the SNMP community name and could change the system configuration. Oh yay. I went through and disabled quite a bit of stuff. At some point, I need to find all of the potentially sharp objects on the servers and make sure that they are safe. (mostly SUID root executables, but perhaps compilers and assemblers as well..)

We have a Linux Mandrake box that had some pretty nifty security stuff built in. I wish RedHat would do that.. However, Mandrake seemed to go a little too far in some places. I mean, should the /usr mountpoint only be readable by root? *shrug* At least it didn't start every service on the planet when I first booted it up. Of course, that system is the fallback fallback. Well, it will be primarily serving NFS shares. Secondary function is being a fallback NIS server. Tertiary function is being the fallback fallback shell server.

Anyway, the security report wasn't terrible, but not as nice as I had hoped. Of course, my Unix boxen were the only ones that didn't have the problem of predictable TCP sequence numbers (if they are not predictable, it is very hard to do complex IP address spoofing). The Novell servers were the worst, with ISS getting 100% of it's guesses correct about the sequence numbers. Most of the NT boxes were around 60%

I still want to work on my bus schedule proggie, but I don't know when I'll get the time. I can't live without my 8-9 hours of sleep (compared to most techies, I'm a total weenie). I might be able to live with less, but then I'd need to be able to sleep in until late (11AM or so). I'd also love to do some work with weather-related programs. You know, something that would send me a message if there's a Tornado Warning or something. I guess I just need to find a decent data source first.. Also, I hope the (U.S.) government will make NEXRAD radar data available publically when the radar contracts expire later this year. Getting hour-late images from Yahoo and other places just sucks. Besides, wouldn't you like to be able to zoom in on the images just like your forecasters do on TV? Or maybe make your very own 3-D flythrough?

Posted by mike at 01:05 PM Central | Old Advogato Diary , Software , Weather , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 29, 2000

Advogato Entry 11

Well, I finally got started on my bus schedule project. I'm probably a third of the way through making a decent parser to read in my data (it's full of redundant code, though I hope it will be moderately robust). Then, I actually have to do something with the data and output it into a decent format. I've got a bit of work ahead.

More guests last night. I stayed in my room most of the time, though.. They got in late, and I was busy coding. Bumped into them when I woke up, and they were gone in 30 minutes.

There isn't anything good on TV. Perhaps I should plunk down some change and give in to the cable gods.. Oh well, since there isn't anything on TV right now, maybe I'll actually do something useful. Part of the problem with the consumerized society here in the US is that people forget how to innovate on their own. I realized earlier this year that I had become afraid to be curious about a lot of things. There are so many warnings and locked doors around us these days that we forget what it's like to explore. It doesn't help that every corporation on the planet wants to patent everything they touch these days..

Hmm.. My bus schedule parser sucks.. I think I'll have to rewrite it..


I tend to forget how useful ANSI colors are. They're wonderful for debugging. Especially when you're trying to find a needle in the haystack of pages and pages of output..

Posted by mike at 04:42 PM Central | Old Advogato Diary , Software , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 30, 2000

Advogato Entry 12

Hey, djcb, fix your last entry -- you're missing a double-quote mark..


Went to the Twin Cities ``Rockin' Ribfest'' today and got a half rack of Roscoe's ribs, some fresh lemonade, and a Dove bar. All for $20.. Eesh. Yet another one of those *fests that that requires you to buy using tickets rather than paying in cash. But it was good.

I rode my bike there and back. There's a fairly nice half gravel/half asphalt road going along a railroad right-of-way. The road basically goes under all of the traffic, which is a much more pleasant way of getting places, IMHO. However, the road is suffering from potholes and washboarding. My arms were getting thoroughly tenderized for a while.

It would be really nice if the University would put a real bike path down there and connect it to the new bike/pedestrian bridge they just installed. One of these days.

I haven't gotten around to working on my bus schedule thing much today, though maybe I'll do something after Futurama and The Simpsons. However, I was pleased that I actually got Evolution to compile and run. Now I've got to try my luck at Nautilus..

One of the things that I worry about with Advogato is that the diary area could be prone to DoS-ing of various kinds. Individuals could presumably plaster diary entries all over the place, or post pages and pages of junk at a time. I imagine there are some checks for this already, but there's almost always a way around it.

Oh, I have a few mail-related problems. One is that I just started using procmail to filter my mail. Locally, I run an IMAP server so it's easier to view mail with disparate clients. Also, I think my mail actually gets loaded faster, as Netscape is not the most efficient at reading/parsing mailbox files. Anyway, I still have to find a way to get procmail to notify the IMAP server that it just dumped mail into a certain folder. Then, the IMAP server must be able to notify my client that there is new mail. This isn't happening automagically, and I'm not sure how to get it to work correctly. I suppose I may have to start using a different IMAP server or something.

In other news, I need to find a good way to consolidate mail at my workplace. Well, my mail doesn't matter, since I'm an admin and can basically do anything I want. However, the head of my department basically wants all mail to go through Lotus Notes (Domino?). I believe it is my task to now find a good way to get Notes to interoperate with my system and the Linux/Unix desktops of others in the organization. I imagine that the server can just run POP or (preferably) IMAP through stunnel. Then, any decent client can read the mail. However, calendaring still remains a bit of an issue, though Lotus is (or at least was) a supporter of the iCalendar protocol, which Evolution is going to support. My only question is, does Lotus actually support iCalendar or not?

August 01, 2000

Advogato Entry 14

I hate Solaris. Well, maybe that's a little strong. I'm just so used to Linux, and it bothers me when things aren't where I expect them to be. Oh well, I'll get over it.

Saw that links browser. I'll have to try it out sometime.

Work is pretty slow, though it's not like I don't have anything to do. I really need to reinstall WinNT on one of my boxes. I suppose I may actually have to sacrifice some RAM from one of the Linux boxes I have -- I think the NT box only has 32 right now, which means it's dog slow. Personally, I don't need NT, but I have users who run it on their own systems, and I need to test out software for them (PuTTY and other stuff).

Lately, I've been organizing a lot of documentation. Clearing out old cruft from The Big Manual that we have for all of our systems here. At some point I actually have to use it to re-install a database or two.

I saw David Boies on Charlie Rose last night. He was talking about the Napster case, and was very good. I knew that he exaggerated some things, but he cited the 1989 Audio Home Recording Act when saying that it's OK to sample music and to share music with your friends noncommercially. I think I'll have to do some reading. I haven't decided if I'm going to buy any music this month, but my musical mind seems to be withering. I think I'll have to go get a few (or a lot) of CDs.

The commercial advertising actor strike is really bothering me. Very few ads are being made, so advertisers do not have any variety in their ads anymore. My mind is going numb after seeing the same ads over and over and over. It's becoming sickening, and I've been avoiding TV.

Posted by mike at 01:12 PM Central | Law , Music , Old Advogato Diary , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 03, 2000

Advogato Entry 16

Diary entry 15


I just had a light bulb burn out in my room. The other one had burned out two days ago. I need to invest in those long-last bulbs, though I bet the ones I get will only last 6 months. (but then I could sue ;-)


The sun was out early this morning, and I almost got up. I really should have gotten up, because the sun disappeared again and I ended up feeling really lethargic.. That must be why I've been having trouble getting up lately -- it's been overcast in the mornings for quite a while now..

I've really got to look into this printing stuff a bit more. I saw reference to Grant Taylor and more CUPS stuff. The Linux/Unix printing system really does need to be revamped. I mean, I don't want to define a new printer in /etc/printcap just to be able to run at a different resolution or to print in color or whatever. This is something that has been missing for a long time. Of course, what's the best way to do this? You don't want every program that wants to print to be dependent upon a particular graphical widget or anything (of course, you don't want it to be dependent on graphics at all).

I don't want more printers to be using proprietary languages, and I think that has been named as one of the detractors to CUPS, whether it is true or not. Of course, perhaps the truth about that rumor is the fact that device manufacturers don't know how to make a `driver' for Ghostscript. AFAIK, all of the drivers are compiled into that program, which makes the distribution of drivers very difficult. Regardless, it sounds as though CUPS can help a lot on PostScript printers (using the PPD printer definition files), especially those that have extensions for landscape, portrait, double-sided printing, stapling, collating, etc. It's a heck of a lot easier to do those fancy printing modes by clicking a button and having your program insert the correct commands rather than going and editing the postscript output by hand..

Hmm.. kind of on the topic of printing, I wonder if there are yet any programs for reading the status of my Epson Stylus Color 640. I'd kind of like to know how much ink is left. I had thought that printer would be very nice, but it's really slow. The heads can get very jammed up with ink, making it impossible to print anything that looks good at all without going through three or four cleaning cycles.. All of these things that I have to buy.. must...resist..temptation...to...spend...money...

I do really need to go out and get a new hard drive. They're selling some pretty nice drives at fairly decent prices just a few blocks from where I live. I still have to dig around the web and see if $210 for a 30GB 7400RPM IBM drive is too much. Or should I just go whole-hog and get a 60GB 5400RPM Maxtor for $280? If that's twice the bit density.. would it be faster than the other one? Hmm...

Late Afternoon

Boy, this is getting to be a long entry.. Oh well. I saw gtaylor saw the previous version of this and gave me some pointers. Thanks for the info..

I've been fighting with CUPS this afternoon. It just doesn't want to behave on my system for some reason. I think the backend filters are getting passed the wrong arguments when they get called. I'll have to investigate that further (and wonder why nobody else noticed..) I suppose the mailing list holds the answer.

Posted by mike at 02:43 PM Central | Hardware , Old Advogato Diary , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 04, 2000

Advogato Entry 17

Entry 16

I'm finally learning a bit more about why I'm here doing this job that I'm doing. The business school where I work is trying to set up a fairly massive Oracle database which will contain all sorts of information, from who is enrolled in which class to the financial data that we have in a number of binary or ASCII data files on our main servers. It's sounding like it will be a massive thing. We've got a quad-processor Sun box (E425R, I think) with a RAID bank that will be running the database, eventually accessible via web, Java, and other front-ends (or so I'm told). Request Brokers and all of those fancy buzzwords were thrown at me. Certainly, Oracle is a nice database, but can't you just slap a PHP frontend on it and call it a day? (At least in the early stages?) Also, it seems like my efforts around here will go to waste if people are no longer logging into my boxen.. A web interface is just so sterile and with zero personality.. Then again, Solaris' ordinary personality really, really sucks..

Last login: Fri Aug  4 11:16:11 2000 from <...>
Sun Microsystems Inc.   SunOS 5.7       Generic October 1998
$ tpo^?^?^?^?^[[2~^?^[[F
tpo: not found
??: not found
: not found
?: not found
[[2~: not found
?: not found
?: not found
[[F: not found
$ top     
top: not found

At any rate, I just went put four copies of Seti@home on the server (they're really doing a number on the data chunks.. looks like about 10% every 30 minutes). Some Oracle guys will be coming in eventually to actually set up the database, but they want to have a good idea how it will be used before doing anything. Of course, nobody has really figured that out yet...

I have mentioned previously that I was working on a small NeXT box that has been gleefully serving web pages for years. They've been trying to port the backend of this thing over to NT for nearly the same amount of time. From what I can tell, it's just a medium-sized pile of Perl and TCL scripts. I'll have to see if it's hard to port it over to Linux or not. The box is not exactly in my jurisdiction, but only me and my boss are the only people around here who really seem to know how to administrate Unix-like systems...


Hmm.. I think I may pick up that 60 Gig Maxtor drive tonight, or perhaps tomorrow sometime. Of course, what sort of filesystem do you put on that thing? I need journaling if it's going to be that big. I see three options: ReiserFS, Ext3, and GlobalFilesystem. I'm kind of leaning toward GlobalFilesystem, just because I don't have to travel far to physically beat on the developers if something goes wrong ;-)

Posted by mike at 01:28 PM Central | Hardware , Old Advogato Diary , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 05, 2000

Advogato Entry 18

Entry 17

Well, I decided that I'm making enough money to go out and buy a new large IDE hard drive. I may regret this. Oh well, I can always sell something, like my Palm II, which has been going fairly unused..

Now I'm stuck with the task of figuring out what exactly to do with 60 GB of disk space. My /:/usr disk is 8 GB, and I figure I can move my 2 GB /home onto that disk. Of course, my big issue is that I want a decent filesystem now. I'm not sure how long an e2fsck will take on that much space, and I don't think I want to find out. I mentioned earlier that I see ReiserFS, Ext3, and GFS as options. I worry a bit about Ext3, even though I haven't tried it. Ext2 (semi-)compatility is nice.. I wonder if either ReiserFS or GFS have anything like Ext2's file attributes: immutable, append-only, etc. However, both ReiserFS and GFS are supposed to be significantly faster at many things than Ext2(/3?).

One of my concerns is that of large file support. Not that I expect to be coming across many large files (>2 GB). Apparently, this will all become moot when 2.4.x arrives, although GFS does support large files in 2.2.x. The other thing is journaling. Ext3 is basically designed to add journaling to Ext2. ReiserFS has had journaling for over a year. GFS's journaling is relatively new, added since their last release in late 1999 (it's in CVS). GFS really scores points for being a best-of-breed clustering filesystem (but I'll only be running it as a local FS, so that doesn't really matter), though Reiser counters by having interesting ideas behind it like behaving almost more like a database than a filesystem. If I had an Alpha, I'd probably jump for GFS. It's largely been developed on Alphas, where Reiser is geared more toward i386.

I understand that there were people at OLS from all of these different camps. The GFS people have some slides..

Blah, enough about filesystems. Hmm.. Oops! I forgot about a backup that I was supposed to be doing.. I'd better go do that.

Posted by mike at 08:46 PM Central | Hardware , Old Advogato Diary , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 06, 2000

Advogato Entry 19

Entry 18

Been reading through the Slashdot story about the protests surrounding the Republican Convention. I wish I could be a few degrees less separated from that situation -- then I could at least be reasonably sure I'm hearing the truth or being told an all-out lie. Regardless, it reminds us in the United States that we really have to stay vigilant about our rights. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people disagree about the definition of `civil disobedience' and the degree to which it is useful.. 90% of the time, I think you can be heard without getting in the way of anyone else (ie, walking/sitting on the street and blocking traffic). More than 99% of the time, violence is not going to help you. Oh well, just my opinion.

Wired ran their own story about the stuff in Philadelphia and mentioned phillyimc.org, a site gathering the views of `independent' reporters. It's pretty cool to hear that it's running on Slash, and the Wired article said that it had been put together by some of the core Debian coders (though Wired may have misinterpreted something..). It's neat to see how Free Software is helping people who are interested in protecting the freedoms of Real Life. This continued merging and mingling is really neat, and I hope that the actions of the people involved in this stuff will have an impact upon governments everywhere.

I think I'll use ReiserFS on my computer instead of Global Filesystem. I like the work of the GFS guys, but ReiserFS is far more likely to be a supported filesystem the next time I have to upgrade or re-install my system. Of course, GFS should definitely go into any product targeted at high-end servers or clusters (well, once the GFS team considers it `stable'). They'll both work on anything, but Reiser will be best suited for PCs, workstations, and individual servers.

Hmm.. I see that I said `Palm II' instead of `Palm III' yesterday. Actually, it's a Palm IIIx... (Why didn't they call 'em `Palm ][' and `Palm ]|[' ? That would have been cool ;-)

Posted by mike at 03:25 PM Central | Old Advogato Diary , Politics , Software , The Media | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 07, 2000

Advogato Entry 20

Entry 19

The Slashdot story about DOS being essentially removed from WinMe is interesting. Nobody would care, but a lot of programs are still being made for DOS, mostly in the firmware upgrade arena. I had to upgrade the BIOS on my system last night, as I had just purchased a UDMA/66 (or even /100) drive, but my motherboard only has a /33 controller. The drive wasn't detecting.

I went and found the right BIOS from FIC, then tried to copy it to a floppy. Floppies suck, BTW. They suck more than a cluster of Electrolux. Badblocks couldn't find the bad blocks on the diskette. Annoying. Anyway, I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to find a DOS boot disk, but the roommate actually had a 98 install disk (though he runs Win2k these days).

I guess it just shows we have to put more effort into FreeDOS.


The Quest for Companionship: Well, I just came into work. There was a girl on the bus today who I've seen a few times. Actually, she probably lives in the same building I do. Anyway, I waited an extra stop to get off where she did. There's basically no way in hell that I could talk to another person, so I just have to try to increase the chances of accidentally talking to her. Anyway, we both ended up dropping off to pick up something from the same vending area, so I'm somewhat encouraged. However, she pretty well booked out of there, so that's not such a good sign. Unfortunately, I've gone through a bad version of this before. Something I must be careful not to repeat.

There was a girl in High School that I really thought was The One or something along those lines. I lacked the charisma, or perhaps you would just call it the blatant idiocy, to just go up and talk to her. Pardon the use of that annoying phrase, but it was a long and strange trip. I remember the things that happened, and my whole being believes that there was something going on. I just never understood what that something was. Oh well, right now all it means is that there are years of my teenage life that I'll never have back, and that makes me feel terrible. I don't want those pains to come back, and I don't want to be the haunting force in anyone else's life ever again.

Posted by mike at 08:08 AM Central | Hardware , Old Advogato Diary , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 08, 2000

Advogato Entry 21

Entry 20


It rained tonight, quite hard. It rained much harder a while back, and there was a small leak. Today, it seemed as though the entire wall was leaking, seemingly coming throgh the window, streaming down the walls, and dripping all over. It actually wasn't as bad as that sounds, but I'm sure it will get worse if I don't say something. I'll have to talk to the management tomorrow. Sigh.


I had trouble getting up again this morning. I took a long nap after work yesterday, but then I stayed up very late mucking on IRC and doing other stuff. I decided to telecommute and have ended up having a very unproductive morning. I'm sure I'd be much more productive if I could just find some extra stimuli in my life. At least in High School I was forced to interact with people every day. At college, people aren't crammed so closely together, so they don't interact as much, or at least I don't.

Anyway, spent too much of my time reading Sinfest, which is really funny if you don't mind poking fun at God, swearing, and references to the sexual mentalities surrounding us these days.

I'm going to head out to actually work at work soon. The boss and I are a little worried that our developers are going to start using Microsoft J++ for communicating with the eventually-will-be-installed Oracle database. He gave me a copy of J++ to try out, in order for me to see if it's possible to actually produce something resembling pure Java with it. Unfortunately, my NT box is fairly underpowered, at least for NT4SP5 (P133 w/ 64MB RAM). I'm feeling masochistic, so I'm going to give Win2k a shot. My P166/128MB Linux box is extremely nice and snappy in comparison, though I really need to find a good video card for it (800x600 is becoming tiresome).

Late Afternoon

I'm displeased with my building's management right now. As I was walking out, I saw that we had a notice slid under the door stating that we owe $50 plus $25 penalty. Dunno what it's for, but I'll have to bring up my leaky wall when we talk to them about it.. Unfortunately, they keep relatively inaccessible hours like 9:00-4:30 or something, so I'll have to come to work late or leave work early some day. Blah.

I think I finally found something to hack on -- porting Secure Locate to Solaris. It's a small codebase, so it shouldn't take too long, though I'll have to read a bunch of man pages to refresh my memory about all of those functions. I think I'll be annotating a lot of source, too..

I'm annoyed with [X]Emacs, and *vi*, so I was looking around for decent editors. gIDE seems to be coming along nicely, and the syntax highlighting actually works (though it seems slow...). Finally, a text editor where I don't have to have a QWERTY keyboard (*vi*) or learn horrendous keystrokes ([X]Emacs). Not perfect, but it's something I can live with.

Oops.. I'd better quit before I start an editor war..


Somewhat disappointed that there was no mention of the multi-State suit against Big Music on the national news tonight. I guess it's not surprising, but it sure seems to prove the biases we believe to be out there these days. In a similar vein, it's amazing what is happening in China. I mean, the son of the President of the country is running a Linux company over there. It's basically impossible for interesting things to not happen because of this.

I've said too much today.. I'll be quiet now.

Posted by mike at 04:26 PM Central | Abode , Comedy , Law , Music , Old Advogato Diary , School , Software , Weather , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 09, 2000

Advogato Entry 22


Last night, I was asked to volunteer some time for the Minneapolis Independent Media Center. I think it's wonderful to have a media outlet that isn't influenced directly by corporate interests. However, the coverage that the various IMCs have been giving has been pretty heavily slanted towards covering protests and other action. It would be a waste for that to continue..

I remember watching the unveiling of Transmeta earlier this year (in RealVideo), and seeing how moronic the reporters were. The Transmeta guys went out and very clearly stated what they had done, and the reporters would go and ask questions that had already been clearly spelled out. Afterwards, I could tell which reporters had actually been there, and which ones were just reporting by reading reports.

The best reporters know a lot about what they're reporting on. Sometimes, the best person to report on a situation is not sitting there with a `Press' tag, but is just an interested observer.

Unfortunately, the IMC sites are just as susceptible to pranksters as Slashdot, kuro5hin, and Advogato.. I hope that they can find some fair-minded editors and contributors.


Hmm.. I'm probably spending too much time on diary entries. Better cut back. However, I just had to mention that Miguel de Icaza posted his OLS presentation. I knew that was what he was talking about, it's just that the people who reported on it in the beginning weren't very clear, and the Slashdotties went a bit nuts about it.

It's a wonderful article, and I hope Good Things will happen. However, I wonder how much of the old Unix/Linux will remain when it is all done.

I mentioned yesterday that there is a lot of interesting things going on in China. I see that there is now a story on the front page, and there was a Salon article about it today, saying essentially the opposite of what The Register posted yesterday..

Posted by mike at 09:56 AM Central | Hardware , Old Advogato Diary , Software , The Media | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 11, 2000

Advogato Entry 24


The 12 Coins Problem: It's really easy if you have a balance with 3 platters. You can even do it in two weighings..

Oooh.. here we go -- ``The A&E guide to the late summer big studio movie toilet. Approach with caution.'' Space Cowboys: How bad is it? James Garner seems to be edging his way off the set. The Replacements: Survival Tip: You won't. Take strychnine.

Sometimes, the campus newspaper just rocks ;-)

Anyway, I'm really impressed with the level of political debate in the US these days (and it's amusing to watch the coverage of the Reform Party convention ;-). I think Nader (and the others too) is really getting people talking. Of course, this begs the question -- how many people are going to be in the debates? I remember that there were some debates already, just involving the Democratic and Republican candidates. IIRC, the Republicans had 5 candidates, and the moderator was making a valiant but vain attempt to keep order. That many candidates is very difficult to handle. But I think that if you let in Nader, it's only right to let in others, namely Buchanan (who I hate, just so you know) and Browne (and there are probably others). This is an interesting year, though the primary candidates are very un-interesting (IMHO).

The electricians are apparently going to take quite a while to get the three new 30A plugs in. They managed to do the conduit for one of the plugs yesterday. That's about it. Oh well, we plugged our Sun E425R into some regular jacks for the time being. Still crunching Seti@home packets instead of serving an Oracle DB. We still don't know when that will happen. We don't know what tools will be used in the database project, so the Oracle people won't come and install the db. I have to help research Java development environments. Oh fun.

Finally moved some data over and started using my 60 GB drive. I'm not sure how well ReiserFS is doing it's job, but the drive is extremely quiet. Nice. At work, I'm still torturing myself with an 800x600 display. I think this is part of the reason why I'm having trouble getting work done -- I can't get enough stuff on the screen at once to see what I'm doing.

Enough rambling. Time to do some work.

August 12, 2000

Advogato Entry 25


pcburns: A `whois' indicates your scans came from the Beijing Province in China. Of course, they appear to be using the Internet Security Scanner, which is pretty silly, IMHO. ISS is messy and leaves a lot of tracks. However, it is good for doing security audits on your own systems.

More fun whois tricks: Add the line      whois.crsnic.net

to your /etc/hosts file, and you'll be able to look up whois entries without going to a webpage or using jwhois or whatever.

Late Morning

raph: I just have to say that the best solution I've seen to the problem of lack of reimbursement is by being involved in open source through an umbrella organization. You probably know everything I'm going to say, but I'm just going through the motions of writing down my thoughts on the subject...

This is probably easiest in the US Government(!), as much of the `intellectual property' created by the government is placed into the public domain. Beowulf really got its start this way, and there are plenty of other projects going on that involve the government that are or could be open source. Also, I'm not sure how many gov't employees have actually asked to make their projects open source..

Another place where this can work is when your work is funded by a university, though they seem to have that nasty habit of wanting to copyright it like ``Copyright the Regents of <university name here>.'' This is (at least partly) how the TeX/METAFONT fonts were funded and made.

And, obviously, you can do some work by working for some sort of business. OctobrX, Raster, and others are employed by Linux businesses, and they release a lot of graphics. I guess I haven't checked to see what sorts of licenses they want with them, but they don't really ask for any extra compensation, as they are already getting paid. Then again, I shouldn't attempt to put words in their mouths...

Posted by mike at 09:21 AM Central | Internet , Old Advogato Diary , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Advogato Entry 26


Well, I actually got out of the apartment today. Went `guy-shopping' with a friend of mine. To the computer shop (my friend needed a replacement 3" fan) and up to Best Buy. I got some music. Would have gotten more, but I'm always scared that I'll get crappy music. I suppose I can exercise the availability of Napster (et al) a little bit more..

This flap over Lieberman as V.P. nominee is confusing to me. I guess it'd be a bigger deal to me if I was Jewish, but I could really care less. The only interesting aspect of it is how it may affect US involvement in any Mid-East peace deals. Besides, Nader has a woman as his Veep nominee. She's a Native American -- Mississippi Band of the White Earth Anishinaabeg. Beat that with a stick.

As for open source stuff, I think I need to take a look at RIMPS and any other decent music playlist software. I need to set up something for my system that makes it easier to find music in my expanding collection (though I can't say I have many many gigabytes of it yet, though I now have the available disk space to start doing so). I did make a simple attempt of my own with PHP and MySQL, though I haven't really played with it for a few months..

August 14, 2000

Advogato Entry 27


Note to self: Learn how multicast works, and why my boxen will pick up all of the multicast data from a Ghost session when they aren't running Ghost clients. I'm not exactly sure how much extraneous data is getting pumped into my boxes right now, but the disk on my Debian box sure filled up quick by logging all of it. Debian has some pretty tight rules when it comes to firewalling, and they seem a little too tight right now...

I think I finally figured out why my NT box was so slow -- it was compressing all of the files on the hard disk. That would explain why the Cygwin installation took several hours...


I agreed to come into work early (~7:00 AM) to let the electricians into the server room. Oh fun. Better get to sleep soon if I have any chance of getting up in time.

I'm annoyed with myself for not getting into programming as much as I'd like. I'm not a whiz at it, but I'm not exactly a blockhead about it either. Oh well, I'll be taking some CSci classes starting next month, so maybe I'll become inspired..


I guess part of my problem is that there are so many different things that I'm interested in, and I can't focus on a single one very well. I spend a lot of time reading about this, that, and the other. Hours of my day are spend on news sites (both Computer news and Real Life news). I guess I just have to become less interested in the outside world and more interested in my local world, or something.

A girlfriend would help with that. I think. It's not like I have a lot of experience in that area... Blah.

Posted by mike at 07:50 PM Central | Old Advogato Diary , School , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 15, 2000

Advogato Entry 28


Well, it wasn't so bad getting to work at 7:00, though it's fairly surprising how many people are alive pre-7:00. Morning people. Ugh.

I tried to install Win2K on a P133/64MB. It didn't work. Er, actually, it's been hung on the startup screen for the past 18 hours or so.

One of the things that really annoys me about the lack of Linux support among (some) hardware vendors is the fact that many of their engineers probably run Linux at work or at home. You'd think they'd have an incentive to produce Linux drivers. Either that, or Linux is not as popular in the technical community as I thought.

Regardless, Linux and *BSD are quite popular with the college crowd. Even Michael Dell knows that -- he says that nearly 15 percent of the user base at places like UNC is running Linux (though I don't know if I should quote Michael Dell for such numbers). I know that there are a lot of people who run it here at UMN, though there have been problems (security is an issue, as the U's networks are scanned pretty frequently).

Which reminds me -- I still have to figure out how to tell the admin for my apartment's network that it listens to broadcast ICMP echo-requests. Every day, I get those packets. It's annoying. Especially since whoever is doing it obviously doesn't know what he's doing. Sending 1 packet every 30 seconds.. Hello? What are you doing? Trying to smurf from a 14.4k modem? Sheesh. (BTW - I've asked my building management about this already, they don't want to give out the information about how to contact my admin, as they have to pay extra when someone gets called in. Perhaps I should tell them that the network has been used to (attempt to) DoS Yahoo!, among others..)


nymia: Did you actually mean WinMe? You can still use bash, can't you?

mrorganic: I'm guessing you either have a crappy video card or are using it in framebuffer mode? If you want performance, you need to let X access the hardware directly, and don't use the FBDev X server.

In the long run, I expect the framebuffer to be the `right' way to display things, but there doesn't seem to be a huge amount of effort being put into making it usable (but maybe I just don't pay much attention). The Accelerated Framebuffer Library apparently hasn't been updated since last year..

In other news, I'm listening to the Gnome Press Conference right now.. (er, well, I was until just a second ago.. RealPlayer sucks..)

More Afternoon

nymia: I'm not sure if NT (which W2K is based on) ever had a DOS shell. It has something similar -- CMD.EXE, based upon CMD.EXE from OS/2.

Posted by mike at 12:30 PM Central | Internet , Old Advogato Diary , Software , Work , XFree | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 16, 2000

Advogato Entry 29


I've always wondered if someone `famous' used Linux. Someone you'd know from TV or movies.

Also, I wonder why women don't seem to get into Linux or `the community'. Girls are usually a lot more social than guys, so it would seem that this is a really screwed up world we all live in. Then again, the girls I know are highly susceptible to gossip, which can easily destroy social circles..

Hmm. I used `girls' instead of `women'. Blah, I'm not feeling PC today.

Anyway, I'm currently trying to do some wacky NFS sharing that is going to involve mounting loopback filesystems and other weird nonsense. There's probably another solution which is easier, but I haven't found that one yet.


Well, the loopback filesystem trick actually works (the problem was that the disk being shared didn't have enough space left, and it was supposed to be pretty much an exact mirror of another system. Symlinks to another filesystem don't work all that well with NFS, but maybe I could have still found a way..). Never thought I'd find a real use for loopback devices (other than viewing ISOs that haven't been burned and whatnot..). Then again, I guess a loopback fs is an important part of those bootable business cards, among other things.

Spent much of the afternoon mucking with TCP Wrappers on Solaris. Some of the daemons just don't want to run from tcpd.. Annoying..

I see that there are versions of tcpd that support IPv6. Might be fun to play with.. I've been interested in IPv6 for a long time, but it's only now really getting any use on the Internet at large. Debian 2.2 supports it though. Hopefully it will finally start to displace IPv4.

Kind of along the lines of why we need IPv6, I'm always scared by the DSL and Cable modem setups where you essentially get 25% efficiency WRT addresses. The lower number is the network number, the higher is the broadcast. The two left over are gateway and client IP. Scary..

And this brings me to a question I've had for a long time -- is there a system for NAT in IPv6? Ideally, this won't be necessary, but we all know that the service providers will only want to give you a single address if at all possible, meaning that they can bilk you for cash if you want more than one computer on your connection..

Annoying companies..


It's raining, and I'm getting interested in how Free Software can be used to distribute weather information. There's a system called EMWIN that I've looked at before, but I don't have the time/money/hardware to play with it. The best way to get info right now is probably to have a satellite downlink. They have a moderately powerful transmitter up there, so the dishes only have to be 2-3 ft in diameter. Not as small as the digital satellite TV dishes, but not exactly huge.

The important thing is that you can get real-time or at least close-to-real-time data, which is often better than what you can say for most of the current Internet sources. With EMWIN, you can get notified of watches and warnings at the same time as or earlier than your local TV and radio stations. Weatherguys.com is largely powered by EMWIN data.

At any rate, I have been wondering if the National Weather Service will make at least some radar data publically available on the Internet after some contracts expire at the end of next month. It looks like they have defined the layout for how things will be on their FTP server. This sort of thing is a prime candidate for mirroring and multicasting.

Posted by mike at 09:06 PM Central | Internet , Old Advogato Diary , Software , Weather , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 17, 2000

Advogato Entry 30


gtaylor: I've actually been using METAR data as the source for weather info on my home page for quite a while using a modified METAR Perl module. The version I use is laying around on my website somewhere..

At any rate, I seem to be able to retrieve NEXRAD radar data via FTP (wget works, though interactive clients (Netscape, ncftp, etc) can't handle it for some reason). I went looking around and found that the good folks at Goddard Space Flight Center have made some software available (much of it is GPLed) that can render radar data. Still working out some bugs..

In this process, I discovered that my fairly new ReiserFS /usr partition had been (slightly) corrupted. /usr/src/linux/include/asm/param.h had suddenly turned into a binary file, and all attempts to remove it would produce kernel panics and deadlocked processes. Fun. Even better -- reiserfsck wouldn't compile on my system (signal 11). Oh fun. Fortunately, I got it to compile on another box, and ran reiserfsck --rebuild-tree, which scared me a lot with it's warnings of it only being a beta-quality option.

In the end, it appears that all has turned out well, though I think there are a few files missing from that partition (param.h, for example). At some point, I'll have to try and run a RPM verify job, make sure that there aren't huge problems..

Anyway, I'll have to do some debugging with the radar package I downloaded. I think I may be missing a package. Shouldn't configure catch that?

Posted by mike at 11:06 AM Central | Old Advogato Diary , Software , Weather | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 18, 2000

Advogato Entry 31


I shouldn't have, but I wrote something to Fred Moody. Cripes. The guy has `sources' that span a continent of hatreds. NT guys that hate Linux. BSD guys that hate Linux. Security guys that say having source code is a risk. Guys that say having source is a good thing. He has managed to make just about the most self-contradictory article ever. Is he insane? Well, I wouldn't blame him for going a little nuts after having to read what many /. trolls sent him, but this goes above and beyond...

Anyway, I shouldn't waste my diary entry on that.

schoen: Yeah, I felt pretty much like that. Didn't get much work done today after seeing that. I was hoping for a good outcome, but the judge couldn't or wouldn't try to test the Constitutionality of it. It'll pretty much go to the Supremes whether we like it or not. Hopefully, the MPAA won't try to completely stall the case (though I expect they will).

On the radar data front, I have been slowly digging up information about data formats. There's a bit here and here. I'm not sure if the data available over FTP is currently being encrypted or not. Apparently, they have designated times when it is not encrypted to facilitate testing of software. The encryption will be removed once everyone is able to receive over FTP or some sort of multicast. There's an older system called NIDS that has to be phased out before everything can be publically available.. Kind of strange. The RSL system apparently can't decode the products that NOAA is currently releasing, and I don't know if it ever will -- it seems to understand a more raw form of data.

Anyway, I hope I'll be able to find some software to decode the stuff that will be available over FTP. Either that, or I'll just have to keep hunting for decent documentation about the file formats...


Grr. I wish Mapquest had an option for making biker-friendly maps and directions. It should basically ignore interstate highways (which are illegal to bike on, unless you have a permit or something), and add bike trails.

I want to go see The Cell tonight. I am still pissed about the MPAA-DeCSS debacle, but I'm in need of some mind-bending.

Posted by mike at 01:58 PM Central | Law , Movies , Old Advogato Diary , Software , Weather | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 23, 2000

Advogato Entry 34


Wow claudio. That's kind of a scary picture. I'm not exactly sure what kind I am. I try to avoid non-free software (Netscape is my big exception right now), I like point-and-click, though I understand (and use) the power of the command line (well, don't forget the fact that all graphical file managers for Linux are currently crap). I'm running bash2, and I'm a .tar.gz or .tar.bz2 person.

As for my xterms, I run with reverse-video white on black, and with ls aliased to ls --color=tty -F. I've also hacked up my own /etc/DIR_COLORS file. I remember some point a year or so ago when someone jokingly made `ls.themes.org'. I thought that was a great idea ;-)

In the area of documentation, I like it when programs are completely intuitive, or if they at least have some decent usage information when started with --help. However, I hate it when I want to look at the more advanced parts of programs, but I can't because of inadequate docs in /usr/doc or the man pages. I also hate info pages, unless I'm viewing them through gnome-help-browser.

Anyway, I'm having all sorts of trouble with this fraud detection box. Well, that's making it sound really bad. It was actually a pretty easy install. Unfortunately, the IP address it is using has been administratively blocked on one of the routers to the outside world. Getting that fixed has been pretty difficult. I do have it running on two different IPs right now, so at least it can be accessed. However, the DNS entry doesn't point to the publically accessible address. Oh well.

Hmm. `publicly' and `publically' are both correct spellings, according to M-W..


krftkndl: I, too, have heard the call of `just write another one,' and rejected it. However, I think there really are enough people pissed off about the current state of text editors that they would love to do that. But I just can't help thinking that someone has already made the editor I really, really want..

In the meantime, I'm counting down the minutes until I leave today. I'm not coming into work again until school starts (~10 days). I'm going to be really busy for the next week and a half...


``We will bury you,'' or something to that effect: LinuxToday links to the story. Does this mean I gotta boycott Sony? Dammit...

Posted by mike at 09:17 PM Central | Corporations , Old Advogato Diary , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 04, 2000

Advogato Entry 38


Well, well, well. I was disappointed in the US Presidential debates. Only 2 candidates. Sheesh.

There was a small rally on campus for Nader, which I participated in. We got about 75 people. Not huge, but decent. There were a few reporters (at least one each for newspaper, radio, and TV), but I haven't seen much coverage yet [picture]. There have been polls saying that about 75% of the public thinks that adding a third candidate would have made the debates more interesting. I understand that Dan Rather essentially called last night's debates a snorefest...

Anyway, on to some non-political stuff. For one of my CSci classes, I (along with a group) have to write some simple malloc() and free() routines. It was really funny how we did most of the development -- Borland Turbo C++ version 3.0 for DOS. DOS does not have sbrk(). DOS does not have 32-bit pointers. Anyway, we moved the files over to a Unix box to finish things up. We got them to compile, and a test program appeared to not crash, so maybe it actually works. At any rate, we still have to put in some code for checking for overruns and underruns (we have special buffers that contain a particular pattern. If the pattern fails somehow, we know that there was a problem). Hopefully we'll get it done by the due date and time (midnight on Thursday).

June 02, 2001

Advogato Entry 124

Phoon: you can hot swap PS/2 keyboards, but it's not a recommended practice as there's a distinct possibility that you'll fry the motherboard. I've never had much of a problem, although I've always had to reset the keyboard rate with `kbdrate'.

Hmm. My system decided to kill Konqueror and X at about 3AM last night, probably for using excessive amounts of memory. I didn't even know Konqueror was running when I went to bed, it must have been in one of those not-quite-exited states. Also, there's a pretty good chance that XScreensaver is the responsible party.

I'm considering adding weather information to the network monitor box that currently has Netsaint and MRTG. Apparently, we were under a tornado watch or warning yesterday while I was at work, and I had no idea..

I figure I can just use Geo::METAR to get temperature, humidity and so forth (that's what I use on my page), and then grab some images from the National Weather Service and merge them together into an animation of some kind (gif, png, mng, mpeg, or something).


Physical Hacking

I went to the Twin Cities Robo-- uh, I mean Mech Wars (apparently they got sued). I guess this was only their second event, and it showed in the construction of the arena, which was just made up of two-by-fours. One of the competitiors had been on Battlebots and had managed to throw a chunk of something through the plexiglass on the show, so the design of the arena will have to be improved by the end of the summer. There are going to be competitions daily during the Minnesota State Fair, so I'll have to head over there at least once to see some of the action (and I'll probably drag some of my friends along).

The event shoud have some coverage on WCCO and KMSP tonight.

Posted by mike at 08:27 AM Central | Old Advogato Diary , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 08, 2001

Advogato Entry 189

I was in #billennium on irc.openprojects.net. Wow ;-)

Our apartment's female friend appears to have picked the guy she's going to get to know the most. We'll see how that plays out.

Just saw AI at the cheap theater. I thought it was good, but then I suppose I had lowered expectations, since everyone I had talked to had just thought, ``meh...''

Put `set blink-matching-paren on' in /etc/inputrc or ~/.inputrc for paren matching in bash and other programs that use the readline library.

Append `user_pref("capability.policy.default.Window.open", "noAccess");' to your Mozilla prefs.js file to get rid of those stupid popup windows.

Posted by mike at 10:23 PM Central | Movies , Old Advogato Diary , Sarah , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 21, 2001

Advogato Entry 201

Galeon rocks! I still don't like lots of stuff that went into Mozilal/Gecko (stupid to build cross-platform widgets, IMHO), but this interface is really nice. I even noticed that if you middle-click on a folder in a bookmark toolbar, you open the entire folder in new tabs (or windows, if you like that sort of thing). Very cool.

I don't think I'll be writing too much in this diary for a while. My emotions have been stirred up, probably due to many things, and I'm not sure if emotion stuff is good to write here.

Suffice it to say that I've been really looking for interpersonal contact much more lately. It's not something I'm good at, and writing much about it would probably only make me more frustrated, forcing me to re-live failures. Anyway, I'm in a tough place right now.

My roommate has a very beautiful girlfriend, and I can't help but think I have a chance with her (yeah, right). I have to work to find someone else, otherwise I'll just drive myself nuts pursuing someone I can't have.

On a completely different topic, I've noticed how Sci-Fi literature, movies, and TV has really been around to help us explore possibilities -- ones that have turned into reality in the last month and a half.. Perhaps that's why I see the technical community seeing these events in a different light..

Posted by mike at 07:42 PM Central | Old Advogato Diary , Sarah , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 23, 2001

Advogato Entry 202

Thinking of hacking on `gv', just so that it will display right on my Xinerama desktop. All I want is for it to understand that my pixels are still roughly square.

Interesting that `xdpyinfo' reports

screen #0:
  dimensions:    2880x1200 pixels (330x252 millimeters)
  resolution:    222x121 dots per inch
Posted by mike at 10:02 PM Central | Old Advogato Diary , Software , XFree | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 24, 2001

Advogato Entry 203

Yay! I submitted a Xinerama patch for gnome-gv (a.k.a. ggv) to the Debian bug tracking system. Now to try for gv.


Got gv done before I headed to work (late) today.

Bug for gv. Bug for gnome-gv.

Posted by mike at 08:39 AM Central | Old Advogato Diary , Software , XFree | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 15, 2001

Advogato Entry 236

crap crap crap

Love is definitely a cool feature of being human. I just wish I knew where I misplaced the manual.. I'm really trying to push Sarah out of my mind. If I don't manage to do that over Christmas break, it will be a -- geez, I hate to say it -- painful holiday season. It kinda works now, but I'm only at the point where some thought about her pops in my head, and I swear under my breath. It seems like I've got a mild case of Tourettes ;-)

Anyway, it gets worse when I'm under stress, so I need to find ways to relax. May as well go out and get some stress squeeze toys. Heh, I need to work on my grip strength anyway ;-)

I had a somewhat crummy day on Friday. I was all worried about my Internet connection being down. I was certain that it wouldn't be fixed when I got home, or I'd have to rant at the network tech or something. I guess the expectation of having that way of venting just made things worse, as my connection was actually working when i got home.

``Come back and break it again! I need to yell at you!''

Anyway, I wanted to come home early from work, but managed to find some work to keep me there. Turns out that I've been using a bad version of GNU tar (1.13) for our Amanda backups. The index files were all broken, as some strange number was being inserted at the beginning of each line in the index. I upgraded tar on all of our Solaris servers to 1.13.25 (since they were the affected systems -- all of the Linux boxes had sane versions of tar).

Actually had to write a little code to go through and fix the broken indices. It wasn't much, though -- just a bash script for walking through the directory tree with a perl one-liner to strip off the leading garbage. The files also had to be gunziped and the gziped again.

Kind of funny, though. I think that script is probably the biggest time-saver I've ever made. It also actually runs for a non-trivial amount of time (though it's not like it goes and does stuff for hours). Finally, something that wasn't just a silly math problem that takes actual processing time.

Posted by mike at 09:20 AM Central | Internet , Old Advogato Diary , Sarah , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 09, 2002

Advogato Entry 247

Strange. Mozilla was jumping down a page whenever I pressed the spacebar when I tried to write earlier... Lotus Notes seems to cause Mozilla to have some funky behaviors..

Registered for two classes. One is a class I took before, got a D in it, so it didn't count. The other is a writing-intensive course (meaning that I have to write a few pages of stuff per week, generally) -- Ethical and Legal Issues in Computing. I need to get a new printer. Smeary bubblejet gunk just isn't going to cut it -- I think I need a laser. Dammit, those actually cost money.

I contacted the professor teaching a real-time systems course, as I need approval to take the class. I guess he has some lab stations set up with PlayStations, PCs, some input devices, and even `active' chairs for force-feedback of a sort. I don't know if the professor will let me in, and I know it would be challenging as I've never done such low-level programming before.

I'm on waiting lists for a few other classes. So damn close to graduating, but I won't be able to fit it all in this semester. I'd have to take 6 courses -- all Computer Science! Talk about a death wish.. Stupid classes are only worth 3 credits.

I talked to the undergraduate advisor about my problems, saying that I couldn't understand the professor in class. I think he believed that I couldn't comprehend the subject matter that was being taught, and told me that I should visit more office hours. But, I meant what I said -- I can't understand my professors a lot of the time. Excuse me for thinking that my professors should speak English.

I guess I should have tried to go to a smaller school. I think there are generally more Americans teaching in them.. But what do I know?

January 21, 2002

Advogato Entry 257

Well, I still haven't installed X 4.2.0 on my laptop. It's compiled, but I don't want to install it and toast my current packaging setup. I'd really like to see some .debs soon, but I don't know where to look for those..

Classes start tomorrow. I have to be somewhere at 8:15, and I need to look up where to go for some of the classes that I'm on waiting lists for.. It's going to be a looong day tomorrow..

Anyway, I've learned quite a lot in the last week about Sarah and me. I've written a bunch of stuff in a private diary about the junk going through my head. There's a lot of it that is just junk, but I hope it helped me figure things out.

I talked about stuff with my roommate and I hope I've found why I find her so interesting. I identify with her a lot -- we're both fairly similar emotionally, and I know what it's like for her when she just isn't feeling `worthy.' I don't know what needs to be done for either of us to get us out of those emotional holes sometimes, but I might be in a better position to help than the other people she knows.

We also have some strangely similar tastes in food and other things, but I suppose that might just be random.. We're also the only two people that hang around the apartment that like to say `pop' instead of `soda,' so it's kind of funny to have us stand against everyone else ;-)

At any rate, my roommate thinks that Sarah and I have an interesting ability to communicate. Well, she is someone who actually gets me to step away from the computer for a minute. I guess I'm not really sure what to think about that.

I actually mentioned some stuff to Sarah.. I told her that I wished I had a girlfriend like her. I'm not really sure what she thought of that -- of all things, I had to tell her over AIM.. Anyway, she told me that she was sure I'd find someone, someone smarter than her :-)

That was kind of funny, since that's the only real thing I don't like about her.. I was just surprised that she mentioned it..

Anyway, I slowly beginning to understand us, figuring out what I want, and what I can and can't have in the end.. We can be friends, and I'm sure we can get pretty close -- but there are things that just shouldn't happen between us. I just hope I haven't overstepped already, and that things will just get better as time goes by.

I hope I can remember this stuff, too, as I'm pretty sure it's about as close as I can come to finding the truth. It's going to take time to understand it fully, and I know I can be forgetful sometimes.

Posted by mike at 06:30 PM Central | Erik , Laptop , Old Advogato Diary , Sarah , School , Software , XFree | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 06, 2002

Advogato Entry 273

Haven't written for a while.. I've been busy trying to keep from drowning in homework and studying for exams.

Played with CodeWeavers' CrossOver Plugin package, and actually paid for a license. Seems to work pretty well, though I've only used it for QuickTime and Windows Media Player so far. WMP doesn't work right on my laptop (probably because I have a crummy AC'97 sound device), but QuickTime works fine (especially after I set it to always output at 48000Hz).

I've had some of my wishes come to fruition lately, though. I hear that Coca-Cola is looking into producing vanilla-flavored Coke, and Deep Space Nine is going to be on TV tonight. I just hope another wish or two comes true.

Posted by mike at 04:56 PM Central | Laptop , Old Advogato Diary , School , Software , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 09, 2002

Advogato Entry 274

Finally got sick enough of getting junk mail that I installed SpamAssassin. I'd been using Vipul's Razor for a while, but it hadn't been working well enough. Of course, once I bothered to look I noticed that SpamAssassin now checks the Razor database as well, so I can kill two birds with one stone. Of course, it has tons of rules, so it's actually like killing a few hundred birds with one stone.

Anyway, I saw someone post a little bit of code for drawing a simple graph of score vs. time on messages, and decided to make one of my own. I suppose it'll be a while before my graph looks like much of anything, though..

I just wish it was as easy to attack the bandwidth over-usage in my apartment building..

I also was happy to see anti-aliased text when I pulled down a copy of Galeon 1.2.0 and Mozilla 0.9.9 from Debian unstable. I played around and even got sub-pixel rendering working on my laptop. Very nice. Too bad that the Render extension doesn't work very well on Xinerama. Mozilla/Galeon actually works great, but gdkxft and StarOffice just gunk up the screen when they are used on the second head.. I guess the Gecko engine uses the Render extension in a different way than other programs do.

Also started using Evolution as my mail client. I was happy to see that it synchronizes quite nicely with my Palm IIIx. I haven't really used that thing to it's full potential.. Hopefully integrating mail, calendar, to-do, etc., will be good for me. Evolution just doesn't seem designed for the power user, though.. Sylpheed is still better in many ways..

Oh yeah, I switched partly because of Sylpheed being somewhat buggy with regard to GPG-signed messages. Of course, it looks like Sylpheed, mutt, and Evolution all occasionally produce broken messages. Well, maybe not mutt..

Uuuhh.. just saw a really freaky bug in the Gecko engine. For a moment there, I could type text into the scrollbar.. very weird.. Oh well, I can't seem to repeat it..

Posted by mike at 07:32 PM Central | Internet , Laptop , Old Advogato Diary , Software , XFree | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 12, 2002

Advogato Entry 277

Not really understanding the relationship between hotplug, cardmgr (PCMCIA), and usbmgr. Apparently, I can't use both cardmgr and hotplug at the same time. Okay, I can, but the kernel event daemon (keventd) and cardmgr will both start the networking scripts when I insert my wireless Ethernet card.

I haven't been able to get hotplug alone to work with my ethernet card, so I apparently have to run at least cardmgr. I guess this means that if I want to do USB stuff, I need to run usbmgr, which obviously doesn't try to start the networking scripts.. I guess it's good I don't have FireWire on my laptop, otherwise I'd have to see if there was a firemgr or similar program...

I suppose I probably just didn't properly set up hotplug..

Posted by mike at 04:17 PM Central | Laptop , Old Advogato Diary , Software , Wireless | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 12, 2002

Advogato Entry 286

Thinking that maybe I should start saying ``free and open software'' instead of ``open source software.'' Might be good, as ``free'' gets in there somewhere and strengthens ``open.'' However, the die-hard ``free software'' folks might feel it dilutes the word ``free.'' Hard to say.

Still wishing this week didn't exist. I want to get back to trying to have a life, rather than avoiding studying for finals and doing some projects.

This morning I realized that Sarah really brings out a part of me that I think has always been around, hiding beneath the surface. It's nothing fancy, just some of my silliness -- my imaginitive side that's been hiding for a long time. I think she helps me loosen up and bring that more to the front. Maybe that's why I like her so much. Hard to say.

One of my roommates graduated the other day, though he still has to take finals.

The joys of going to a huge school (what? 40,000? something like that..)

I shouldn't have come here, though I'm glad for friends I've made. I especially appreciate meeting Sarah, but it's still unlikely that will amount to anything.

Well, it's not like I can go and do it again. I just want to move forward, finish up classes this summer and clean up some somewhat loose ends at work. I just hope I can keep in touch with Sarah and other friends.

It'll be a huge load off when I get out of college. It's been too long.

Posted by mike at 06:56 PM Central | Dan , Old Advogato Diary , Sarah , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 28, 2002

Advogato Entry 296

Thought I'd post a note (mostly for the search engines out there) that the FujiFilm FinePix A303 camera works with Linux (as a USB storage device, at least). The camera can be configured in a "PC Camera" mode, but that doesn't work with Linux yet (the manual says that only works with Windows (XP?), and won't work with MacOS either). I was somewhat worried, as this camera uses xD-Picture Card media, rather than CompactFlash or SmartMedia.

Anyway, I guess my computer was set up for USB already, so I just had to mount the camera, which was a simple ``mount -t vfat /dev/sda1 /camera'' I decided to add a line to my /etc/fstab so I can just ``mount /camera'' to make it easier to copy images onto my laptop.

I've been thinking that I should try to find a way to automatically mount and unmount the camera when it is plugged in and unplugged, but I suspect someone has done that already. I had the thought that most of these filesystems have pseudorandom serial numbers on them (well, unless you get preformatted media, which often all have the same thing, which can lead to data corruption in certain situations). Anyway, you could make it so different serial numbers get mounted in different places. Any of the cards for your camera show up on /camera, while your MP3 player shows up on /boombox or something.

I just want something that does it automatically, because I always forget to unmount before unplugging the camera...

Posted by mike at 10:27 AM Central | Hardware , Old Advogato Diary , Photography , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 04, 2003

Advogato Entry 297

Sort of fixed a problem that I was having with Debian's murasaki package where it would basically hang on startup (when /etc/init.d/murasaki start was run). On my desktop, some initialization programs were not working right. They were trying to execve() something that didn't exist, but the programs were written under the assumption that the execve() would never return -- which is normally the case unless there's an error of some kind.

The program was made to fork() before each execution, so I'm just lucky the software didn't explode in my face as a fork bomb. I guess it just ended up being a "fork fire," as it didn't get out of control, but there were about 15 processes going at any one time..

I haven't found anything to automatically mount/unmount my camera and other USB/FireWire devices like I want, but I suppose I haven't looked all that hard yet.

I got a little pissed off about binary-dependent, pseudo-open-source software the other day after my X server died after an upgrade. I need to get a new HALlib module in order for my second head to work again. Matrox hasn't updated their driver packages for X 4.2.1 yet. Supposedly the precompiled files on their website should work for 4.2.1, but they don't work for me (causing the console to get toasted). I could also recompile stuff myself, but X is just too big a package for me to handle..

Matrox apparently doesn't have too many problems releasing specs for their boards, but the HALlib stuff apparently has to be binary-only because the software interfaces with chips that Matrox got from other companies, and they don't want specs released..

Hmm.. It occurs to me that there is code in the kernel framebuffer driver that allows you to activate the second head on the G400 (and probably some other Matrox cards). It's unaccelerated, if I recall, but I might have to look into whether it's possible to get that code to initialize the second head so I don't have to deal with this again (or, get stuck with a slow head, rather than just one head and a blank screen next to it).

Makes me wish I could start a "nice" hardware company that releases specs and decent documentation, doesn't use chips and stuff from other companies that don't like to release specs, uses good standards where possible, etc.. Sounds nice, but the profit margins are probably too thin in the PC industry to pull it off. Maybe it's possible.. I just keep running into hardware at every turn that isn't fully workable under Linux. Even my new camera, which I'll probably recommend to friends, is only half-working with Linux -- you can get files off it like a USB hard drive, but you can't use it as a webcam (though you can get decent Linux-compatible webcams for <$20 anyway..)

It's just annoying when you look at what works and what doesn't in your system, and you realize you really only have half a computer...

Posted by mike at 07:54 PM Central | Hardware , Laptop , Old Advogato Diary , Photography , Software , XFree | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 24, 2003

Advogato Entry 300

Found out today that the National Weather Service (USA) and the weather service in Canada changed the formula they use for calculating wind chill back in November of 2001. I'll have to go and tinker with some of the weather programs I have so that they do it right..

Posted by mike at 09:34 AM Central | Old Advogato Diary , Software , Weather | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 27, 2003

Codecs and Transports and Players, Oh My!

Over the last few days, I've been playing around with the mencoder video encoder from MPlayer. Mostly, I've been monkeying with options and trying to find the best ways to encode MPEG4 video using the libavcodec codecs.

Last night, I downloaded the final trailer for The Matrix Reloaded, and discovered that my computer (a 1.3GHz Athlon) wasn't fast enough to play the movie. This is probably due to the fact that there are no Linux-native players for QuickTime (at least, none for the Sorenson codecs that Apple uses these days). I can play the files under Linux because some smart programmers use some trickery to load software library files (DLLs and other paraphernelia) ordinarily used for Windows in a way that they can be used in Linux.

Since my computer wasn't fast enough to pull that trick, I re-encoded the file, and then played it. It probably took me about half an hour to get it right, but when I did, the image quality was pretty impressive. The Sorenson codecs appear to sharpen images a little bit, so the image seemed slightly fuzzier when I re-encoded it, but not much. I think if I had the same source material to encode in the first place, the free codec I used would probably compare pretty well with the commercial software used to encode the trailer I downloaded.

The video file has a resolution of 1000x540 (a previous teaser trailer had a resolution of 1024x464, which is actually considerably smaller). The original file had a compressed video bitrate of about 5 megabits/second, and I tried to do a fair comparison, so my encodings were done to the same bitrate. I got a bit frustrated at times, since I was encoding a video that had already been compressed. I could see there were compression artifacts, but it was hard to tell how much was there from the original encoding, and how much was from my second pass.

Anyway, it seemed to me that the codecs are very comparable. It might be good to run a sharpening filter on output from the MPEG4 codec, just to get some edges highlighted, but it's probably hard to do that right. Also, (for me at least), the MPEG4 codec needed much less CPU power.

Posted by mike at 04:38 PM Central | Movies , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 28, 2003


I'm probably going to spend a while tomorrow (tomorrow doesn't begin until 3 AM, remember? ;-) looking for or building a tool to convert my Advogato diary to a format that I can import on my new website. amars posted an entry with a link to a program that can at least parse the Advogato XML format. It probably won't be too hard to get it to generate the output Movable Type needs.

Posted by mike at 01:44 AM Central | Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 01, 2003

Blathering Blatherscythe!

Bah. I wanted to install MT-RSSFeed so I can sort of mangle a "friends" page of my own, like what people get on LiveJournal. Looks like some necessary Perl modules aren't available on my server. I tried installing them into my own space, but they require too many other things.. I might have to ask the administrators to install them, but for something as simple as a LiveJournal feed, I can probably just whip up some small program to do it. You don't need a full XML parser for that stuff..

Posted by mike at 01:28 AM Central | Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 06, 2003

Great Googly-Moogly

Ah yes, didn't you always want to run a caching proxy server written in Bourne Shell script? Well, now you can! apt-proxy is a slow-ass excuse for a daemon. It barely manages to do what I want it to do, since it slows things down as much as it speeds things up.

For people who want to know what I'm talking about, I installed some software on the computer I'm using as an internet gateway which keeps copies of software updates that I download. This makes it easier for me to go back to an old version if I have to, and it speeds things up when I have more than one computer downloading the same package. Unfortunately, the caching software was written by someone who should have known better.

Posted by mike at 11:25 PM Central | Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 07, 2003

Change the Music

For anyone who's gotten tired of the song selection in DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) and has decided they've paid enough money, there are alternatives. I stumbled across pyDDR on HappyPenguin. There are others out there too, like DWI (Dance With Intensity).

Posted by mike at 06:17 AM Central | Music , Software | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Push My Buttons

I bought a Logitech MX500 mouse shortly after I moved because the PS/2 port on my computer started acting flaky. The mouse pointer jumped all over the place. I thought the mouse had died, but it now appears that the port itself has gone bad, as my new mouse (a USB and PS/2 one) exhibits exactly the same problems when it's plugged into that port. Fortunately, it works fine on a USB port.

Anyway, this mouse has more buttons than I know what to do with. Well, not quite. When I first got it, the buttons were mapped really weird under Linux. Some of the extra ones would repeat the functionality of other buttons on the mouse. But, now I have most of them working like they should.

To get the buttons working, I had to edit /etc/X11/XF86Config and edit the section for my mouse. It now looks like

Section "InputDevice"
        Identifier      "Mouse1"
        Driver          "mouse"
        Option          "Protocol"      "ExplorerPS/2"
        Option          "Device"        "/dev/input/mice"
        Option          "Buttons"       "7"
        Option          "ZAxisMapping"  "6 7"
        Option          "SendCoreEvents"        "true"
        Option          "Emulate3Buttons"       "yes"

Note that this is for a secondary mouse entry. I still have my old PS/2 mouse configured as Mouse0, so if you only have one mouse, you'll have to remove the "SendCoreEvents" option and probably change the Identifier..

Unfortunately, editing the config file is not the only thing I had to do. I also have to run `xmodmap -e "pointer = 1 2 3 6 7 4 5"' to remap the scroll wheel "buttons" to 4 and 5, so that they will be accepted as scroll wheel buttons by most applications. Actually, I also have to run `xsetpointer Mouse1' or `xinput set-pointer Mouse1' before doing that, since I have to select which mouse I'm modifying. I may have to swap the order of the mice in my XF86Config file..

Additionally, I had to setup and run the imwheel program in order to get the extra buttons to do anything useful. Here's the contents of my ~/.imwheelrc:

#Default Settings
@Priority = -1000
None, Left, Control_L|Left
None, Right, Control_L|Right
Control_L, Left, Control_L|Left
Control_L, Right, Control_L|Right

Now, I run `imwheel -b 006700', and the buttons on the side of my mouse will take me forward and backward in my web browser window.

Geez, I don't know why more people don't use Linux :-p

Posted by mike at 09:19 PM Central | Hardware , Software , XFree | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 08, 2003

The Wandering Man

Went to Fairview-Riverside today for an appointment, then decided to stop in and see some people on my way back. I tried stopping by my old boss's office, but he wasn't around. It was when he usually went to lunch, so I decided to see if Sarah was at Rarig. She was, so we chatted a bit.

She mentioned that a place she had planned on moving into last year was owned by one of the Eischenses, who are well known in the area for being bad landlords. Students sue or attempt to sue them on a regular basis, but I guess they tend to countersue. That's not a pleasant thing for a student to think about.

Some people have discussed the article I linked to, some of them saying that if a place is not in good repair when you move in, you get what you deserve. However, I know Sarah got a bit sucked in by the whole thing, since there were a lot of promises made about fixing up the place she wanted to move into. In a way, I suppose she was fortunate. They didn't get the place cleaned up in time for her, so she ended up moving into a different place.

Anyway, it was good to chat with her again. Hopefully we'll get to hang out a little this summer, but we'll have to see how that goes. She said to expect something in the mail from her, but she didn't say what.. I have no idea what that could be..

After chatting with Sarah, I wandered back over to Carlson and talked to Carlos. Sounds like they've had some rough times there since I left, but probably no worse than anything I'd seen. I guess he's become a master at re-installing the Oracle database server and can do it in less than a day now. The Storage Area Network (SAN) is up and running, though apparently the storage controller (running some bastardized version of Windows NT 4) crashes on a fairly regular basis. Fortunately, that only causes things to freeze up for a short while until it reboots, and no data gets lost.

I pointed out the Soekris hardware I've mentioned here before to him. He thought they seemed to be reasonably priced (I think the prices aren't great, but definitely better than most other "embedded" products I've seen). Anyway, they'd be good for many things they need to do there with wireless firewalls and stuff..

We discussed SQLite a little bit, since it was mentioned in the recent Linux Journal. That's one of the backend options for Movable Type, so I'll have to take a look at it and see if it can make the editing interface for my website more responsive. Right now, it can take 30 seconds or more to update certain pages, which is no fun at all.

Anyway, after I got home, I was glad to sit down. I had some muscles on my sides that were hurting from walking so far (well, it's not so far, but I haven't been walking enough for the past few weeks). I'll have to see if they hurt tomorrow. If not, I'll have to go for a walk. If they do hurt, I'll have to go for a walk on Saturday and let the muscles heal a bit..

Posted by mike at 04:32 PM Central | Sarah , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 10, 2003

Zarro Boogs Found!

I've been monkeying with compiling software so that it is optimized for the processor in my computer. I've been trying to use the ‘apt-build’ utility to download code, compile with optimization, and install, all in one go. Linux geeks will realize that this is how the Gentoo distribution works (and *BSD geeks will say that it's nothing special).

Anyway, ‘apt-build’ is a finicky program, though, and doesn't work quite as advertised. Part of the problem is that it is dependent upon the ‘apt-get source’ command, which doesn't work right on my desktop. My system is set up to track two different versions of Debian GNU/Linux at the same time, obtaining packages from the newer of the two (the “unstable” version) only when they don't exist in the more stable one (“testing”, in this case).

The problem is that whenever I get the source packages (uncompiled) rather than binaries (compiled), the system only wants to download the newest version it sees. Unfortunately, this means I have to manually find the right files and download them, which is a real pain. There's an open bug for it, but they call it a “wishlist” item -- meaning it might never get fixed.. Oh well, I can dream.

On my laptop, which is only running “unstable”, I came across a bug in a utility called ‘apt-ftparchive’. The program is meant to build special files that you need when setting up archives of many binary packages. Unfortunately, the newest version is broken, so I had to fix that before compiling more stuff on my laptop.. I pushed it back to an older version (at least there was one I could access!), and continued monkeying.

I think I'll have to explain some more of what I've been doing, and post a mail message to the TCLUG mailing list.. I think a fair number of people will be interested in what I've been up to..

Posted by mike at 02:41 AM Central | Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 11, 2003


I think I'll write something and then go for a walk and get some supper.

I haven't done much today, mostly just mucking around with my computer. I submitted a few bugs to the Debian folks. One was for xscreensaver, and another one was for grep. I guess they were both minor bugs and should have been categorized as such, but I decided to just have them set as “normal”, and let the package maintainers change it if they want.

I'd like to go through some of the Debian bugs and fix any that I can, but I haven't found any that are simple enough for me to fix yet..

I've been a bit bored, so I started running webcollage on my desktop. It reminds you of how much weird stuff there is on the Internet.

I was looking at Ming yesterday and today. It's a neat library for creating Shockwave Flash objects that can be used with web servers. I kind of want to try it as a method for animating radar images. The National Weather Service might actually be interested in it if I can get something to work -- they currently use Java to make their animations, but Java always causes nothing but trouble for me..

Posted by mike at 06:15 PM Central | Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 13, 2003

Label Me

I stayed up late last night making a patch to the Linux ‘mount’ command. I was trying to get the system to mount disks via their volume labels rather than specifying the exact device to use. This is important for hot-pluggable drives, since you never know what order they're going to show up in. Depending on when I plug in my external FireWire drive and my digital camera, they can show up as either /dev/sda or /dev/sdb in the Linux nomenclature. This is similar to how drives magically pop up as the next available drive letter in Windows.

Anyway, mounting devices via their label makes it so I don't have to know the proper name -- the computer figures it out for me. Well, as long as I've remembered to label things uniquely.

I got the label support working for the Linux-native disk format, but I need to do some work if I want it to work with Windows-format disks. The Debian maintainer of mount has labeled that support as ‘wishlist’, so it's unlikely he'd fix it..

Posted by mike at 11:51 AM Central | Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Code Code Code

What I did today. Basically what I said I was going to do today.. I still have a few more bugs to squash tomorrow.

Tomorrow I have to make it so I'm able to mount and unmount labeled vfat filesystems as a user rather than the superuser. I can mount them now, but can't unmount them, so I guess I'm already over halfway done! ;-)

Update: I just had to add two lines of code, ones that the original programmer should have had in there to begin with (well, similar to what should be there, at least). He must have been having an off-day..

Posted by mike at 11:53 PM Central | Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 14, 2003

This Is My Wang

Sorry about the title—I've been reading Penny Arcade all day today, and have an odd desire to use the word “wang.” But, it's oddly relevant to this, since I've been mucking with something long and.. er, uhm..

I installed some new drivers for my sound card recently. The drivers I had been using seem to be unmaintained these days, and they are out-of-sync with some of the tools I need to use for turning on and off various features.

Anyway, I got my computer rebooted and brought up a mixer. The image there is actually expanded (it almost goes all the way across both of my monitors!), but I was shocked at how many different things there were to twiddle. The fun thing is that nobody really knows how it works, so it took me a good 20 minutes to actually get sound to come out of my speakers when I started.

But, I'm sure other people I know regularly manipulate much bigger wa—er, I mean, mixers than mine..

Posted by mike at 07:53 PM Central | Music , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 15, 2003


I've been monkeying a bit with my phone (Motorola C332), sending different commands to it. I bought a USB cable for it a while ago so I could try using it as a modem. It turns out that I can actually access the phone book and some other bits of the phone. I signed up to to get some developer access from Motorola, so hopefully I'll be able to get the full supported command set at some point.

I started playing with this because I came across gsmlib yesterday, but it didn't work. That library and tools supports a different variant of the commands than my phone does, so the library will have to be extended to handle that at some point..

Posted by mike at 04:41 PM Central | Hardware , Software , Wireless | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 16, 2003

Kinda Sorta Betta

Yeah, I was feeling pretty empty today. I tried to take a nap while my clothes were drying, and sort of succeeded. I finally felt better when I got up and looked in my mailbox to find a response to this:

> Anyway, I just added onto the mount-by-label support that mount has. 
> You've been able to mount filesystems by their volume labels for a
> while, but only well-thought-out filesystems like ext2/3, reiserfs, etc.
> (though mount-by-label support in the current version seems a bit
> wonky).  Nobody bothered with vfat support until now.

you are an uber-geek. :)


Systems Administrator
Real-Time Enterprises
Posted by mike at 05:31 PM Central | Self , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 20, 2003

I SCOld You!

So, this dumb company SCO is busying its lawyers with a lawsuit against IBM regarding some supposed intellectual property theft. SCO says that IBM took source code that SCO owns and cut-n-paste it into the source code of Linux. SCO hasn't really been very specific about what happened, and from some of what I've read, it sounds like they may not be concerned with Linux itself (if you want to get technical, Linux is just the kernel of an operating system—you can't really do anything useful with it until software is loaded on top of it), but with the surrounding libraries of code.

Many people say that the case is moot because even if IBM stole code from SCO and put it into Linux or the assosciated software, SCO probably took that code and redistributed it under the GNU General Public License, meaning that SCO effectively relicensed the code to be free. While that may technically free IBM from any wrongdoing, it would still be a nasty thing if it happened, and I'm sure people would want it to be corrected.

Of course, an interesting implication of the code being licensed under the GPL is that the Free Software Foundation has been granted control of the license. This isn't what always happens when code is GPLed, but many people do it.

Anyway, some people at SCO are still being jackasses and making all sorts of grandiose claims. Fortunately, Eric S. Raymond (ESR) has written a position paper that shows just how arrogantly they are acting. Of course, the position paper itself probably goes a bit too far at points, but it seems to be largely correct. It makes for interesting reading for anyone who likes learning about computing history.

SCO seems to be claiming that it has a great market share, has the only Unix-on-Intel implementation ever created, has software that is scalable to 32-CPU machines, and other outrageous statements. Many of their claims could be said to be merely filled with too much bravado, but the idea that they made the only flavor of Unix that runs on Intel-based processors is an outright lie. I can't blame ESR for getting a little worked up in response..

There are some rumors floating around that IBM may hire ESR as a Unix historian to help on their side of the case, so we'll see what happens. I'm not sure what effect that would have on the paper he wrote..

Posted by mike at 11:48 AM Central | Law , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 22, 2003

Togetherness, Brought To You By Perl

Since the guy upstairs from me was playing music at 8 AM, I got up and started hacking together a “friends” page of my own. It's not much yet, but you can see what I've done so far.

The script is meant to be embedded inside another page at some point. We'll see if I ever get that far.

It appears to only work when people have paid accounts on LiveJournal.

Posted by mike at 11:55 AM Central | Internet , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

I Thought Aggregation Involved Small Rocks

I'm tired and just about to go to bed. But, just so I don't forget, I'd like to point out some stuff that Jamie Zawinsky has come up with. There are some scripts for his Cheesegrater that I'd like to look at more thoroughly at some point when I'm awake. The portalizer script looks like it might be something I could use here.

Related to that, I discovered that JWZ has a LiveJournal. I would have figured he's too much of a hacker to use LJ. It's like Bill Gates using AOL or President Bush riding on a trike (okay, maybe that one isn't as big of a stretch as it should be ;-)

Posted by mike at 11:15 PM Central | Internet , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 23, 2003

The Page Contained No Data

Someone mentioned smstools to me, after I mentioned on the gsmlib mailing list that it doesn't support my phone. Unfortunately, it looks like smstools is very much focused on sending/receiving SMS messages, while I'm more interested in downloading/syncing the phonebook and other data stored on my phone.

I got Adam to befriend my LiveJounal syndication. This should mean that anyone can now access it, as the “cost” of using it has gone down. The problem is that it's currently only updating every 24 hours, but hopefully it won't keep doing that..

Posted by mike at 01:03 PM Central | Adam , Internet , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

At Least It Doesn't Emulate the CRT Whine

The most recent version of xscreensaver contains a nice little gem. Remember the Apple ][?

Ahh. Memories.

Posted by mike at 05:32 PM Central | Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 04, 2003

Am I Just a Number to You?

Weird. FibreChannel has so many different layers.

I have four physical addresses with the adapter cards I have. Unfortunately, the guy who made these cards hard-wired the addresses, so I would have to gain some talent with a soldering iron to change them. Dunno why he couldn't have just soldered a jumper block on there.. Anyway, my physical IDs are 108, 109, 110, and 111.

The FibreChannel loop seems to pick it's own addresses, apparently just numbering upward as it goes around the loop. I'm not sure if this is a convention of some kind, but my drives show up at 16, 17, 18, and 19 (well, when they all feel like talking). Linux prefers to use hexadecimal numbers for this, so the IDs show up as 10, 11, 12, and 13. The FibreChannel adapter in my computer shows up as ID 0. Confusingly, the loop IDs are in reverse order as the physical addresses. I plan to reverse the order of the adapters I have, and see if that makes the drives any more reliable..

FC drives also have hardware addresses, much like Ethernet MAC addresses. I guess this is fairly important because under certain conditions, you would want a particular drive to appear at the same place at the operating system level, no matter where it's plugged into an array. An example hardware address (called a WWN in FC parlance—I'm not sure what the abbreviation stands for) from one of my drives is 002037473DB7 (a hexadecimal address). Linux adds on a prefix (2100) to this (not sure where that comes from), so the full address that the kernel prints out looks like 2100002037473DB7

Of course, Linux doesn't have the drives show up at addresses independent of their loop ordering (well, not my installation, anyway). My kernel counts upward much like the loop IDs. Each device on the loop is given a SCSI ID. My kernel starts by giving the FC adapter an ID of 0, then the drives are numbered 1 through 4

What a mess.

Posted by mike at 11:47 AM Central | Hardware , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 21, 2003


Hmm. Just had an odd idea pop into my head. It's a peer-to-peer network (like gnutella and friends), but it would be a more restrictive system of distribution. It would only allow connections between people who have a web of trust (probably based around GNU Privacy Guard keys and signatures, or some other crypto system). This would in theory work a lot like Friendster, except that it would be a distributed system. You could do more than just send messages back and forth. All sorts of other data could be shifted around too.

Probably a fairly useless idea, though, and I'm sure other people have thought of it before...

Posted by mike at 06:09 PM Central | Internet , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 30, 2003

Crash and Burn

Just saw Linux crash in a new and interesting way. The system just stopped, but the Caps Lock and Scroll Lock LEDs on the keyboard were blinking. I found a reference to this online that said this happens when the kernel panics, but is in bad enough shape that it can't write to the console. Of course, I've seen systems crash even harder in the past—without any warning of any kind, they just stop.

Well, that was on a new kernel (Debian 2.4.21-1-k7). I went back to the one I had been using, and it seems to be fine so far. I hope there isn't something wrong with the rest of my computer. It's kind of disappointing, though, as the newer kernel is supposed to have some nice performance enhancements.

I would have been in a really pissy mood if I didn't have a journaling filesystem on this computer. I'm so glad I do..

I'm in the midst of updating some other software on the system, and it's not going well either. The testing distribution of Debian finally got Gnome 2. Sort of. Now I have to figure out how to fix everything that is broken with that...

Posted by mike at 11:29 PM Central | Software | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

July 02, 2003


I guess I could say that I did actual work today. Whether or not the stuff I'm doing will be useful is anyone's guess.

I'm getting interested in playing around with ACPI on Linux in. Dunno if I'll actually end up doing anything or not. A lot of the stuff I'm doing at work involves making systems go to sleep, and then praying that they'll wake back up again (okay, I haven't really had any problems yet, aside from when one system crashed after sleep-cycling about 90 times).

Anyway, most people who use Linux have to use APM, which is an old way of doing power management. Unfortunately, APM doesn't let you deal with fun things like hot-plugging of devices, and it looks like my system will never hibernate when using APM (support just doesn't exist in the BIOS).

Of course, ACPI has all sorts of other tricks you have to deal with, so I guess I might end up breaking something, which would be no fun.

Other than that, I have to figure out if I can get paid in this pay cycle or not. I'm not even sure who to report my times to, and with the holiday weekend, I don't know if anyone cares. Also, the team supervisor was already gone today.

My money might get a little bit tighter than I was expecting while this gets worked out (well, I still have money, but it's just at the point where I'd have to move some from somewhere else).

Posted by mike at 09:30 PM Central | Laptop , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 03, 2003

I'd Scan My Butt, But....

Spent about half the day trying to find a SCSI scanner that worked with Mac OS X, but didn't have much luck. Went through a pile of different scanners without any success. Finally, I plugged in an Agfa StudioScan IIsi, which sort of worked. The operating system and software recognized the scanner, but when I went to preview a scan, the scanner twiddled a bit, but never really did anything. When the software said it was 320% done, I figured it wasn't exactly working..

Hmm. SANE looks like it might do what I need. I don't think I've ever used that app, since I've never had a scanner connected to a Linux box before, but I've heard of it a lot.

I guess my vast knowledge of useless software is going to come in handy at this new job. Now I'll just have to figure out how to install that stuff. I think the box I've been working on didn't come with a compiler...

Posted by mike at 08:00 PM Central | Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 05, 2003


I think I'm going to look at DVD burners today. Looks like pretty much any drive should work with Linux, but the support for DVD burning in general appears to be a bit weak. I think my CD-RW drive was going on the fritz, and I pulled out my SCSI card a few weeks ago, so it hasn't been connected to anything.

I guess I haven't been using this Zip drive at all, so I can plug the new drive in that spot..

Oh, I suppose since I actually saw some people last night that I should comment. Went over to Erin's to BBBQ (I did not BYOBB, or even drink the BB—just stole some pop). I can call it &ldquoErin's” since Dan and Josh were gone.

Anyway, I guess most of the people there were upstairs people or friends of them, so I didn't really know what the hell was going on, but that's okay. Spike was there most of the time, and Kari and Becky showed up for a little while.

Though, I must say, it was nice to be surrounded by girls for once ;-)

I can't say the burger was the best I'd ever had, but the roasted veggies and other stuff they had were muy bien.

Some people had been trying to leave to go see fireworks for about half an hour, but others didn't want to go. Anyway, I headed back toward my place when we started hearing big booms, and finished watching fireworks over in the park across the street from my apartment. Seemed to be a reasonably good show, though I seem to recall being extremely impressed with Rochester's show a year or two ago.

I'm pretty happy with the location of my apartment, seems to be just about the right distance from everything ;-)

Posted by mike at 10:08 AM Central | Erin , Hardware , Kari , Software , Spike | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


I did get a DVD burner, the Sony DRU-510A, which can read and write everything except DVD-RAM (since that comes in a cartridge, or at least old versions of the format did). There were some cheaper drives there, but they didn't go as fast. The burn speed for CDs is up to 24x, not the fastest out there (dedicated CD-ROM/CD-RW drives can go faster), but not bad—it's much nicer waiting just a little over 4 minutes for a disc to burn than to sit around for 20 minutes like with my old burner.

I wasn't quite sure what “up to 24x” meant until I burned a CD. A CD in your normal audio player will rotate at a variable speed—this is so the bits on the disc will come off at a constant rate. However, when CD-ROM drives get up into the higher speeds, they switch over to a constant angular velocity and read the bits off at a variable rate. At the inner edge of a CD-R, my drive goes around 16x, but gradually gets faster until it reaches the outer edge, where speeds are 24x (or maybe a tiny bit faster).

Now I have to find out if any software for Linux will work with DVD stuff.. I want to send home some discs with episodes of Monk for my brother and parents to watch, since it looks like ABC won't be running it this year.. I need to find something that will do MPEG4 to MPEG2 video transcoding, though.

Oh, before I forget, I had a really nice girl do checkout for me today. Actually, she did checkout twice for me today, since I forgot that I needed some CD-Rs, so I went back. I almost considered asking for her number or something, but I also got a copy of a Prodigy CD. When she saw that, she asked me if I'd ever seen the video for “Smack My Bitch Up,” so I figured it would be in bad taste to ask right then...

Posted by mike at 03:51 PM Central | Family , Hardware , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 06, 2003


Hmm.. I didn't know until I upgraded my mail program that most of the unreadable junk mail I've been getting was in a Cyrillic character set. The previous version just attempted to convert the stuff to ASCII, so I figured it was some oriental character set...

I actually updated a lot of software. Most of it seems to be slower now... Bah. On the upside, I now have a nifty mouse cursor with a drop-shadow ;-)

Posted by mike at 04:18 PM Central | Internet , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 07, 2003

The Apples That Look Good When Grey

Work was work. I had to figure out some of the idiosyncracies of the Macintosh today. Actually, I suppose I was just re-learning some things.. Just before I left work on Thursday, I was playing around with display settings, and managed to put the display in an unusable state (it was a Dell/Sony Trinitron, not an Apple display). Who knew that 1280x960 at 60Hz could get messed up? Maybe it's something funky with the video drivers...

Anyway, I spent the first hour of my day tracking down how to fix that. You'd think that this would be a well-documented problem, but it took me a long time to find any information of value on the problem. I thought zapping the PRAM would help, but it didn't.. I found instructions on deleting some files by going through the single-user Unix command line, and they seemed to get me farther—but the display still went black about the time I'd expect a login window or the user desktop to pop up.

Finally, the problem was solved by doing a “safe boot” by holding down the Shift key. Bah. So simple! (In my recollection, the Mac was the first operating system to use the shift key for this, then it was copied in Windows and DOS). Well, I still had to change stuff in the display properties, and I think I had to either logout and log in to get things to save properly, or I had to shut down the machine. At any rate, it finally did get fixed.

After that, my day was filled with cursing at software incompatibilities, discovering that an ancient Apple scanner is not even worth trying to connect to a modern machine, seeing an OnStream ADR tape getting sucked out of my hand into the drive (quite cool), finding that tape drives don't show up in /dev like they do on other Unix operating systems, and downloading the Apple Developer's Toolkit in preparation for building some previously mentioned software..

My life isn't boring, it just revolves entirely around computers at the moment...

Posted by mike at 06:58 PM Central | Hardware , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 08, 2003

Improving Your Image

Hey hey hey! Finally got a scanner going at work today. A Jade2 made by Linotype-Hell (yes, that was a real company—though it was probably bought out by Umax at some point). So, I was really happy, until I connected the scanner to another computer. The thing just refused to work with the software I had. Bah.

Well, that other computer has different stuff on it, and lots of things are proving to be incompatible. Then again, at least one thing is working on that machine that isn't working on the other one (hey, they fixed a bug.. woo!)

I'm considering getting a DV camera, though I suppose I probably won't. I hardly ever take still pictures, and find very little need to do movies, but it would be fun to play with video editing. Well, I suppose if I come across a cheap one...

Heh, of course, it would be really fun to get one of those HDTV cameras, though they only cost $3000 or so ;-)

Hmm.. I notice that there is a big mix of 24fps versus 30/60fps cameras out there for HDTV. Obviously, the 24fps cameras are for people who want to do film without film, and the other cameras are for everyone else. I just wonder if some people are going to feel pissed off if they get the type they didn't expect..

Hmm.. That train of thought doesn't make much sense. I guess it's getting late for me...

Posted by mike at 10:05 PM Central | Hardware , Movies , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 09, 2003

They Must Have Attended Screw U

Attempted to go see Pirates of the Caribbean, but the folks at Block E don't want to sell tickets after the showing starts.. That annoyed me greatly—I think I will tend to go to other theaters if I can. The actual seating is nice, but the service there tends to suck, and who thought out that stupid bathroom positioning anyway? Oh well, I was not sure about how I felt about being near a certain couple for an extended period of time..

So, I ended up wasting time at Borders, and then went to Target with Spike and Erin. Picked up Weird Al's new CD, and was informed that he'll be at the State Fair. I may have to go to that..

Moved onto some different test platforms today at work. One involves the same model of laptop that my brother has, which is kind of neat. However, I ran into a problem as soon as I started. In theory, the thing is supposed to work, but I was greeted with the Mac's equivalent of a Blue Screen of Death. Of course, Apple decided that the crash message should be multi-lingual, which I don't quite get..

Anyway, I want to bring in my laptop, just to see if Linux behaves the same way as MacOS. Just curious.

I accidentally trashed the database containing my preferences and desired shows for MythTV. Oops. I guess I shouldn't give myself root access after about 11 PM.

Ugh. Hewlett-Packard has some really annoying Shockwave Flash banner ads on Yahoo now that use a ton of CPU power. Whenever I open a few pages from Yahoo news, my browser slows down to a snail's pace. Bastards..

Posted by mike at 11:13 PM Central | Erin , Hardware , Internet , Josh , Laptop , Movies , Music , Sarah , Software , Spike , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 10, 2003

Das Boot

Spent most of the day engaged in battle with a beige Mac G3 computer (it's non-translucent, what's up with that? ;-) That's a somewhat weird machine for a Mac—it has an IDE hard drive, but a SCSI CD-ROM and Zip drive (well, that's what the machine I was working on had). Unfortunately, that machine won't boot off of a SCSI CD drive, so I had to swap it with an IDE one.. And, of course, it's slow, so installing operating systems only takes a day and a half..

I hear that these boxes aren't going to be supported by upcoming versions of Mac OS X. If that's true, I guess Steve Jobs must just be trying to make everyone forget the period of time between when he left and when he came back and brought out the iMac...

I hit an actual traffic jam today coming back from work. Actually, I suppose I hit two of them. Don't really know why—the first one must have been due to a crash on U.S. 52 in or near St. Paul, since that off-ramp was backed up. I hit more traffic as I got close to the Huron exit in Minneapolis. I've had to slow down there before, but this was much worse than normal. Can I blame the Shriners?

Everybody at work was tired today. Maybe it's because of the weather. I was shocked that it was (momentarily) sunny when I left to go home.

Posted by mike at 07:30 PM Central | Car , Hardware , Software , Weather , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 12, 2003


The Linux users mailing list I usually post to seems to be rejecting my mail now. Not sure why that is. I think the University may have stopped allowing a certain form of authentication that the LUG mailing list was using to verify that my e-mail address was valid..

I bought High Fidelity at Best Buy today, 'cuz it was $10. There aren't any paper “liner notes” (or whatever you call it for a DVD), but there's a lot of extra stuff on the disc. About nine deleted scenes (which I looked at) and interviews with the cast and so forth (which I didn't). There are a few trailers for other lame movies, too.. Not the best film to DVD conversion I've ever seen (they shrunk the image slightly and put a black box around the whole thing), but hey it was cheap.

I'm really wanting to write a nice music program for Linux. Something that will do everything automagically (though I guess those various artists discs are always a trick..)

Most Linux software for music cataloguing and playing is either web-based or requires you to be running a database server on your system. Like I want to do that. That takes effort, dammit. I want something that requires no effort.

Reminds me of a comment a Math professor once made. Something along the lines of, “It's amazing how much effort a Math person will put into something to avoid doing actual work.” That applies to programmers as well...

Well, someone probably made the program I wanted. There was something called “xTunes” (referring to the X Window System that most people use on Linux), but I guess Apple sued or something since the name was too similar to “iTunes.”

Posted by mike at 08:21 PM Central | Movies , Music , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 13, 2003

Suck It

Has anyone else noticed that Coldplay's song “Clocks” is being used everywhere that people let you test speakers? Well, maybe not everywhere, but I heard it yesterday and today at Best Buy and CompUSA... It's a good song, but why is it everywhere?

Still wanna make an nice music program. I think I'll have to attack it bit by bit. Maybe I can use a relatively normal development model to do it. I'm trying to spec things out now, and slowly write a little code here and there just to get my brain figuring out how the little parts go together. It doesn't do anything yet, and I'll probably never get past this stage, but it's neat to think about.

The theory of the program will be much like that of Mutt: All Linux music players suck, this one just sucks less.

Posted by mike at 06:26 PM Central | Music , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 15, 2003

I'll Never Forget You

Boy, the 2.6.0-test1 kernel for Linux has lots of options. I've been sifting through them for an hour or so now.. In the good ol' days, it would only take me a few minutes to configure a kernel. Of course, back then, it was even possible to download a kernel over a phone line without wanting to hurt yourself. The source code must be more than ten times the size it was when I first started playing with it (wow, that's like 6 years ago now).

Anyway, lots of weird features. Have an old PC-XT keyboard that you just can't let go of? Whip up a parallel port adapter, and you can use it in Linux! Sheesh.

The weird thing is, I've been fighting with Apple machines lately where support for older hardware seems to be dropping like mad. In the Linux world, it's almost the opposite.

I went and read through “The Wonderful World of Linux 2.6” and it's amazing what sort of stuff has been added. Support for some stuff has been dropped, but it's an amazingly short list...

Linux probably works with more hardware than any other operating system out there. It doesn't necessarily work well with newer hardware, but stuff that's been around a while will probably work..

Posted by mike at 11:20 PM Central | Hardware , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 19, 2003


Looks like today is laundry day, and possibly haircut day. Might be clean-the-apartment day too.

I've really got to put more effort into doing chores in the evenings after work..

Speaking of work, it looks like I'm going to be getting to know Windows XP Media Center very well over the next week or so. The project I've been on is kind of up in the air, so we're moving on to something else for the time being.

I don't know much about Media Center yet, but I guess I'll soon be an expert ;-) At the moment, it looks like the software allows different companies to plug their software into some sort of a Media Center framework. So, for each system you come across, you'll have a different TV viewer, music player, etc. I think that's a dumb way of doing things—why not have a consistent interface? On the other hand, Microsoft would be accused of abusing their monopoly position if they did that.

Well, I've only seen the software in action for a sum total of 10 minutes so far, so maybe I'm just confused about how things work.

Another thing I learned/remembered from work: I'll have to be very careful the next time I upgrade my motherboard. For ages, PC users have been using a 33MHz PCI bus operating at 5 volts. The faster versions of the bus often require cards to operate at 3.3 volts, and I think the PCI-X bus does away with 5 volt slots altogether. I need to inventory the cards I have to see what works and what doesn't, and buy a motherboard that has the right selection of slots (many new motherboards have a mixture of the slot types).

With my luck, some of my most important cards wil only work at 5 volts... Well, it'll be a while before I upgrade my system anyway.

Posted by mike at 09:49 AM Central | Abode , Corporations , Hardware , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 21, 2003

Working for the Devil

Started working with Windows XP Media Center today. I have to admit, it is kind of cool, but there are certain design decisions that I don't really go for..

My car seems to be acting up and hesitating a bit on the highway. I'm concerned, because this is similar behavior to what has happened in the past when the fuel computer goes nuts. However, I think the O2 sensor must be getting gunked up with all of the driving I've been doing recently, so I'll have to look into replacing it.

I also have to remember to take the car in for an oil change. My new job means that the miles will add on pretty quick for this car, and I might even have to consider changing the oil every two months. I suppose I should just bring the car in for a checkup in the not too distant future as well, to make sure nothing is going to explode in my face while I'm halfway to Hudson, but the car seemed to be doing fine until the hesitation I was talking about..

I guess I was also thinking it might be the Vehicle Speed Sensor, but I think that would only affect driving under cruise control, but the problem still seems to exist when I'm controlling the throttle manually. Another option might be to disconnect the battery for a while, which would (in theory) cause the car's computer to forget some of the calculations it has made about the car's normal performance. But then I have to go and reprogram all of my radio stations ;-)

Oooh, some people might like this story about the annual “Lebowski Fest.” Hmm.. I think I'd be scared by a group of Jesuses walking down the street :-)

Posted by mike at 10:37 PM Central | Car , Movies , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 22, 2003

Wow. Good Stuff on TV. Whodathunkit?

I'm working on encoding a very interesting conversation that was on NOW with Bill Moyers this past weekend. I'm thinking I might start putting up a “video of the week” on my website, though I'll only really be able to have one very compressed video put up at a time due to limited storage space. Hopefully I've found an encoder setting that will work with Windows Media Player so all you people without Linux can actually play the video ;-)

(Actually, it should be possible to get video made with my system's best encoder to work on Windows, but it looks like it'd be vastly too much effort for an ordinary human being. If more people had Macs, though…)

Also, I just noticed that Jon Stewart had been on NOW last week. Dammit. I wonder if I accidentally deleted that recording. Bah. Oh well, the consolation prize is a very good transcript.

NOW is a good television news magazine—what 20/20 and Dateline NBC wish they were. 60 Minutes is probably fairly comparable, though.

The show was hyped quite a bit by PBS when it first came out, and I didn't think it lived up to the hype then. However, it seems to have gotten better over time. I don't like all of the stories they do (some are just on topics I don't give a rip about), but a lot of them are very interesting.

Oh yeah, I need to donate some cash to PBS again once I start getting paid. Possibly NPR too. Bah. My money is being pre-allocated way too fast.

Posted by mike at 08:19 PM Central | Daily Show , Internet , Software , The Media | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 23, 2003

Video Killed the Radio Star

Okay, I think I figured out how people can watch the video I made, so here goes… Note that it will only be available for a few days.

The video is a conversation (22 MB) between Bill Moyers and two British historians, Niall Ferguson and Simon Schama. They give a little perspective on Tony Blair's visit last week, and compare the current Imperial America to Imperial Britain of centuries past. I thought it was really interesting, but maybe that's just because I really like learning about history.

To play the video, I think that all you need is the ffdshow software, but I'm not entirely sure. I installed the ffvfw codec and it didn't seem to do anything. Then I installed ffdshow, and stuff worked (though on my desktop system at work, it showed the video upside down—fortunately there's a video output filter that fixes that! ;-)

Anyway, I'd recommend installing ffdshow first, and only install ffvfw if ffdshow didn't work. These are just codecs, not real programs. You just need to load my video in Windows Media Player or whatever to play it. Well, once the codecs work right at least. Even if the video doesn't work properly, the audio should work (it's MP3).

Installing ffdshow is easy, just download it and then double-click on the .exe.

There's a configuration dialog for ffdshow, which you might need to look at. I forget the exact name of the utility, but getting to it is something like

Start→Programs→ffdshow→ffdshow configuration

ffvfw is a tiny bit more complicated. First, download it, then extract it to some temporary location with your favorite unzipper (i.e. WinZip). Lastly, right-click on the .inf file and select Install.

For anyone who cares, the video was encoded with the MPEG4 codec from the FFMPEG project (it at least explains all of the “f”s in the names of the software I was talking about). The audio is approximately 96kbit/s stereo MP3, and the video was encoded at about 40kbit/s.

Posted by mike at 06:28 PM Central | Software , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 01, 2003

Die Another Day

Hmm. I must remember to go and buy the fourth season of Deep Space Nine on the 5th (or soon after). Hopefully I'll be able to get one that has the bonus DVD (I've gotten them for every other season so far).

Hopefully I'll have money to pay for it…

I thought my workstation here had gone schizophrenic earlier today, as it was only showing the system updates available about 1/4th of the time when I went to Windows Update. Turned out that the proxy firewall I had been using for IE wasn't working…

I hate proxies. Well, 99% of the time.

I think that an Apple G5 has been ordered for us, but I have no idea when it will show up here. That'll be fun.

Posted by mike at 11:55 AM Central | Hardware , Money , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 03, 2003

Trickle-Down Economics

The amount of cash in my checking account is deceptively high. I've handed in my rent check, and I have a few bills to pay soon.

I had been planning on going home to get cash out of my bank yesterday morning, but my parents came up to see a concert and brought a check for me with them. I didn't really want to take it, but I really wanted to go to the TCLUG meeting, and heading home to the bank would make it very hard for me to be back in Minneapolis in time. I haven't been able to go to any meetings for months, and was feeling the need to geek out with some Linux people.

I am going to head home this coming weekend, though. It's my mom's birthday on that Monday, so I guess I'll have to pick up something soon.

Negative cashflow sucks.

Went out to Ground Zero last night for the first time in nearly two months, I think… The crowd seemed different from what I was expecting.

I think today will be a chore-heavy day. Groceries, washing dishes, general apartment cleanup, etc.

A few months ago, I felt that my life was finally getting interesting, but things seem to have changed so much. Well, they're probably the same as they ever were.

Working in a male-dominated industry sucks. The fact that the only woman at my workplace is 60 definitely puts a damper on certain things.

Posted by mike at 11:59 AM Central | Abode , Family , Money , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 04, 2003

Become One with the Static

Weird mind-block day today. I'm stuck between two different projects at work, so nothing is happening today other than random miscellany.

I've tried to get a jump start on some stuff for the upcoming project, but I keep finding out that Microsoft Office applications never like to print the same way twice. Also, dealing with the errors like “blah can't be deleted because it is in use” gets to be annoying (that error is very uncommon in the Unix world). I was trying to rename a folder where one of the files inside it was open, and the system got mad at me.

I hope my paycheck arrives today. That would make going out to buy DS9 at Best Buy much less stressful tomorrow.

Posted by mike at 03:04 PM Central | Money , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 13, 2003

Modern English

The strange orangish-pink goo is collecting in my bathtub yet again. I feel like I need to call in The Ghostbusters, but for now bathroom cleaner must do.

I'm not exactly sure what it is, but it's slippery, so I need to clean it up every few weeks in the interest of safety. My best guess is that it's a combination of soap scum and rust from the water, but I don't really know.

I try to keep it from forming, but the faucet leaks a little bit, especially when there's a column of water standing in the pipe leading to the shower head. If I remember, I tap the thing that lets all the water flow out after I take a shower, but I usually forget, and it all drips out over the course of my workday.

Other than getting slimed, not much else is happening in my world. I've observed that the oft-shirtless guy living in my apartment building appears to have upgraded to a large Toyota SUV from his old purple Geo Metro. I just had to think, “People who still have Geo Metros are never going to give them up since they get great mileage,” and he went and got a new car.

So, I'm counter-controlling you all with my subconscious mind. Except I'm not. If I imagined myself as a bum, I'd be a millionaire or at least have a nice girlfriend. Yeah, think negative. That must be the ticket.

Oh, I'm also suffering from rebootitis (no, nothing to do with tits). It's a condition that affects long-time Linux users when they're forced into an environment that requires them to restart the computer whenever they install or uninstall anything. Mostly, the symptoms involve slightly erratic twitching, but it'll pass.

Posted by mike at 08:05 PM Central | Abode , Car , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 24, 2003

Total World Domination

Well, that pcHDTV card I talked about has hit Slashdot. I was going to send a link, but I decided to wait until my card arrives before advertising it to the world too much. It should show up at work on Monday.

Now, I'm in the process of designing an appropriate home theater PC that has the necessary CPU power to decode the video stream nicely. This will be a challenge, since I also ultimately want to have a system that is quiet. I think I've figured out what I want for the base system, though. Probably going to get an Athlon XP 3000+ running on a VIA KT600-powered motherboard. That gives me all the goodies like USB2, FireWire, Serial ATA, and whatnot. I would go for an nVidia nForce2-based system since they're faster, but nVidia only has closed-source drivers for some stuff, and nVidia motherboards apparently don't play nicely with non-nVidia video cards, at least in Linux.

I am looking at getting one of the wacky Zalman fan-shaped CPU coolers, but I guess the extreme size of these heatsinks could actually damage the CPU in certain situations. However, they're very quiet.

It would be awesome to get one of the Ahanix cases, but they're very spendy. I'm still hunting for a good power supply and some good fans as well, but I guess I can't find all of the parts I want right away—I may have to try a few different things before I get things just the way I like.

But, once everything is set up properly, it should last me a long time. The PC would replace the functionality of several A/V components, and it would be infinitely configurable and expandable.

This is one happy day ;-)

Posted by mike at 01:29 PM Central | Hardware , Internet , Movies , Music , MythTV , Software , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 27, 2003


Well my tuner card works. It probably doesn't have the greatest tuner in the world, but I've been able to get it to have a suitable signal on 4 channels: KTCI-16, WFTC-21, KMSP-26, and KTCA-34, though they tend to need slightly different antenna locations/orientations (of course). Two or three other channels taunt me by being just under the threshold. I'm curious if an amplifier would help with that, but it would probably just make things worse.

I'd really like to be able to pick up the big 3 networks, though I'll have to see what can be done with the ones I am able to receive. So far, the software I have has only been able to decode 480i programming. Higher resolutions seem to make the player app go nuts. But, I entirely expected some problems… Besides, the important thing is that the hardware works.

Anyway, I picked up a nifty looking antenna at Best Buy. People seemed to like it from what I read online, so I got it. It's kind of entertaining wandering through the apartment with it, since I almost feel like I'm carrying a divining rod…

Unfortunately, it sounds like the encoding method used for American broadcast digital TV is not well suited for urban environments. It outperforms the European standard over long distances, but people just a few miles from the tower can have problems.

Ah, America…

Posted by mike at 10:29 PM Central | Hardware , Software , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 02, 2003

John Doesn't Know We've Secretly Replaced His Operating System With Folgers Crystals

Time to go buy food. My fridge is damn near empty, so I'd better go get some stuff. Considering that the nearest grocery store is only about 3 blocks away, I sure don't get stuff very often. I should really get into the habit of going there every few days, but I'm still getting out of that once-every-two-months mode.

Had some food over at the bunker last night. Hmm. I don't like “the bunker” as a moniker, but I guess “the pit” has been done to death. Maybe I'll call the house “the yellow monster” ;-)

Anyway, had food there, met Elvis, etc. Then I checked out Sarah's new housing. Kind of a tall place for vertically-challenged people, but at least that gives room for the hot air to go in the warmer months.

The couch there has quite a stench and probably requires an IV drip of Febreze for the next month to be manageable, though maybe there are some cushion covers that could be washed…

At work, I'm actually researching things for a Linux project, though it's still 5e|<r1t. If anything ever actually comes of it, I'll be sure to talk about it with people endlessly.

Well, off to find supper.

Posted by mike at 06:14 PM Central | Erin , Food , Sarah , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 04, 2003

Error This!

So, there's Windows Update, but that's mostly just for Windows itself (and a few other closely-related programs). To update Microsoft Office, you need Office Update—and that doesn't want to run on my station at work.

It's hard enough to get people to go to one site to get updates, let multiple websites. That's why I really like using Debian GNU/Linux, since it's pretty easy to keep the system up-to-date. The “apt” utility that Debian uses has been ported to other Linux systems as well, and makes installing and updating software a breeze.

Did that sound like an advertisement? Sorry.

Posted by mike at 01:40 PM Central | Software | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

September 05, 2003

Battle Royale

Microsoft has been attacking me today, with a little help from Adobe. Something strange happened when I updated to Acrobat Reader 6.0—it wanted me to install Windows Journal Viewer. The thing is, it was already installed. Why did I install Windows Journal Viewer? Because it was easier to install it than to go dig through and tell Windows Update to not tell me about it.

Yeah, I'm lazy.

Anyway, so I ended up uninstalling the journal application, which seemed to make things happy. Then I went and reinstalled it, because I enjoy pain. Actually, I suppose I wanted to see if the thing would only want me to install the journal viewer when it was installed, and not care if it wasn't.

Later in the day, I was somewhat surprised to discover that the IvyTV project could probably support one of the Adaptec video capture products I've been working with. The VideOh! DVD Media Suite PCI Edition (more succintly known as the AVC-2410) uses many of the same chips as some other tuner cards out there.

The project has support for the Philips SAA7115 video decoder, the MSP3425G audio decoder, and the Conexant CX23416 MPEG encoder, all of which appear on the Adaptec board.


Then, this afternoon, Microsoft bit back at me when I updated some software, rebooting to find an error stating that the machine could not validate it's license.

Someday, someone will write a virus that installs Linux, and then everyone will be happy ;-)

Posted by mike at 04:24 PM Central | Hardware , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 08, 2003

Like Little House on the Prairie Only with More Sweaters

The decree comes down: All computers must have virus protection software or be disconnected from the network. Ergo, the first step in all of our testing will be “Turn off virus scanner and try again.”


I had a hell of a time sleeping last night, and this whole weekend was not the most restful on record. I'd probably been taking in way too much caffeine. By the time it wore off, I was able to sleep about 20 minutes before the guy upstairs decided that the best time of day to fully utilize his subwoofer is between 7:15 and 7:45 A.M. Well, that's generally the time frame when I like to get up—but I like to get up on my own terms, thankyouverymuch.

So, I was awake at some un${DIETY}ly hours today. I wasted time for a while doing a few things, but the number of potential activities was depleted rapidly. Lacking anything else to do, I defaulted into the mode of pining for a future girlfriend. The Internet is helpful for answering computer questions, but that usefulness does not translate into certain other things…

Now, off to pry some Windows Media Center install CDs out of the hands of the programmers upstairs. Ah, Windows, how often must I reinstall thee? Let me count the times…

Posted by mike at 10:25 AM Central | Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 11, 2003

I'll Have a Thick Face Burger with Cheese, Please

Scenario 1:

Insert driver
Observe crashed machine
Reboot and tweak driver
Observe white noise

Scenario 2:

Observe pretty output
Update driver and reboot
Observe no output
Undo driver update and reboot
Observe no output
Uninstall driver and reboot
Reinstall driver and reboot
Observe no output

I had to reimage that second box in order to get it working again. Something must have funked the registry. The first box, as you might imagine, was running Linux.

In other news, Hardee's has turned into The Church of Meat. Home of the 1/3 lb., 1/2 lb., and 2/3 lb. Thickburgers. And that's pretty much all that they sell for food.

Not quite sure what to make of that.

Posted by mike at 02:52 PM Central | Food , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 15, 2003

Ben Dover

Over the weekend, I posted this story to Slashdot. While it seems like just another whiny “I want my open source!” rant, I guess a lot of people missed the point I was trying to get at. And that's understandable, as I only wrote one paragraph worth of stuff when I probably should have opted for two.

As any audio-, video-, or other technophile knows, the FCC has mandated that broadcasters in the United States transition toward digital transmission of television. However, the standard being used in the United States for actually transmitting the signal (how the binary digits are encoded in the air) is not well-suited for city environments. People out in the boondocks 70 miles from a tower will probably get better signal than city dwellers ten times closer. Companies are working hard to tweak their hardware to handle these situations better, but in the meantime, I started wondering about how digital cable will work in the future.

Right now, if you have an analog TV set, you merely plug it in and tell it that it's connected to a cable TV system. Ta-da! It works.

However, digital cable is a completely different story today. You need a digital cable box, and many of those boxes are sub-par devices. When I last used a cable box in Minneapolis, it was impossible to hide or remove unwanted channels&mdasheven channels we didn't receive! The guide would sometimes freeze up while it loaded data, and various other annoyances would bother me from time to time, but I'd deal with it because the guide was better than nothing, and it let me see another two or three channels that I actually liked.

Yeah, most of the channels on digital cable suck, so there's the growing idea that the entire cable TV system will transition to being digital. In some ways that's good, but, as my Slashdot post indicated, this will be another battlegrounds where the media conglomerates are pushing for more and more control.

I'd be perfectly happy if I could only get non-premium channels with a digital cable tuner that I put in my computer. I don't need HBO and certain other channels, and even if I felt the need, they've always been accessed via extra descramblers anyway. However, the prospect of having no direct access to the video stream bothers me. It's hard to describe why, but it's like having someone say, “You can't read this book, you can only have an approved person read this to you.” What is this, the Reformation? Is some distant descendant of Martin Luther going to plaster technical documentation on the Internet now?

I dunno, it just creeps me out. I know that at least one father of a friend built his own NTSC TV set, and it was treasured as a family heirloom. Big companies just seem to be pushing so hard against that idea of individual experimentation that I cringe. The future seems like it's going to turn into another dark age.

Well, maybe it won't happen. While the American people tend to be deaf, dumb, and sheep-like, they do eventually take notice of things when beat over the head with them. We'll see if the public keels over and gives up their VCRs in the coming years.

Posted by mike at 10:02 PM Central | Corporations , Encryption , MythTV , Software , TV , The Media | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 16, 2003


I was playing with a system today that had a VIA EPIA-M10000 motherboard in it. It's a 1GHz VIA C3 processor surrounded by loads of connectivity—Ethernet, USB, FireWire, plus other goodies like S-Video and S/P-DIF output. Well, except that it only has one DDR SDRAM slot and one PCI slot. That's what you get with Mini-ITX (roughly 6" by 6" in size), but hey.

Anyway, the system was pretty snappy running RedHat 9.0, and it handled the OpenGL XScreenSaver hacks pretty well. The board basically lets you build your own thin client box at a reasonable price. $150 for a motherboard and CPU isn't too bad. You could build a nice tiny desktop for $400 (or less if 1GHz is too fast for you ;-)

Posted by mike at 11:06 PM Central | Hardware , MythTV , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 19, 2003

Where's My Parrot?

Yar. The good ship Akamai, she be adrift on the high seas. The wily RoadRunner nary can connect. Some o' me favorite sites be lost to the bit-bucket in Davy Jones's locker.

A treasure trove o' new software (a filly's undergarments it be not, alas) that I partook in testing was set upon the world yesterday. Two of 'em I dinna know about, and there be one I tested but they dinna release. I smell treachery of the highest order. There be marketers in them thar seas.

The winds will take me south tomorrow, as I go to lend a hand in the repainitng o' me parents' hideout. 'twould be the best color to hide a shanty on a beach, but I fear not so for the grassy lands o' Minnesota.

Posted by mike at 06:39 PM Central | Family , Internet , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 01, 2003

I2C Or Not I2C, That Is the Question

Looked at some documentation I probably have no right to see, and then tried to muck with code I probably have no right to fiddle with. Oh well, I still couldn't get it to work. I just hope I haven't burnt out anything…

A potential new job was outlined to me today. However, because it involves people currently employed by Adaptec, nothing can even start happening until November.

This requires debate.

My car's speedometer cable (I believe) is making squeaking and rubbing noises. The car made noise last winter, but I never did anything about it. The noise went away over the summer, but over the last month on days when it's been cold, the noise has returned. A little strategically placed grease should do the trick, but I'm not so sure I feel like dismantling a dashboard (though this really shouldn't be hard at all).

Posted by mike at 06:48 PM Central | Car , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 02, 2003

Brought to You by Glagnar's Human Rinds

Hmm. Interesting.

A possible response by TV networks to PVR devices such as TiVo is a simple one: change the name of your TV shows. This week, people who have machines set up to record “Enterprise” won't get anything. The name of the show has been changed to “Star Trek: Enterprise.”

Before you know it, TV shows will have names resembling subject lines of junk mail messages ;-)

I figured out the problem I was working on yesterday. Mostly, the solution involved plugging in a thing I forgot to plug in last week. Doh.

We went through and moved a bunch of USB and SCSI stuff off of the shelves at work, and then took down the shelves. Our main storage closet is very empty now.

At least I got paid yesterday :-D

Posted by mike at 09:15 PM Central | Hardware , MythTV , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 06, 2003

Think Dunk Tank

I got Think Tank by Blur the other day. The first time I listened to it, I thought it was amazing. The second time, not so much. However, I can't seem to stay away from the melodies and sound mixes of the disc for very long.

“Try Blur—It's Highly Addictive™”

For some reason, I really like the song “Faint” by Linkin Park (I must be losing it). I imagine the rest of the songs on that disc are probably not to my liking, so I must spend some time compiling one of those P2P clients to find out for certain.

The program I had been using a few months ago has become pretty difficult to set up and use, so I haven't been downloading much music for most of this year. Well, plus I'm weak-willed when authority figures tell me I'm doing something wrong…

Yeah, I'd never make it as President.

I totally fubared a computer today at work. Well, it's not really fubared. Truly destroying a Linux box takes effort (hmm… though there are a few commands I know&hellip). I managed to put a lot of files in a place where they shouldn't be—residing in place of other files.

“Oops, I mounted that partition again?” Bah.

On a few random political points:

The only thing I'll say about the impending California recall election is that Gray Davis makes me think of Johnny Carson impersonating a politician. And it creeps me out.

Israel attacked Syria the other day. Everyone was pissed off by that, except not. Syria is one of those countries that the U.S. administration has discussed in the past with potential military action in mind.

Wherever they got this reinvented idea of manifest destiny, I'll never know.

Posted by mike at 11:06 PM Central | Internet , Music , Politics , Software , War , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 08, 2003

Where's Dogbert When You Need Him?

A guy came into work today, apparently to assist in the shutdown of the site. It seems that he does that on a regular basis—traveling to sites that have been shut down, or that will be shut down, and handling some of the dirty work. He told some stories about how other people hadn't taken losing their jobs so well in the past, and just left huge messes in their wake.

I suppose the implication is that we are all pushovers for orderly doing what we're told, going down without a fight, etc.

Mostly, it just bugs me that this guy has done this at least a few times before. It's as though the company has a “shutdown squad”—probably not a bad idea, just a very creepy one.

Anyway, during our daily escape for lunch, we drove around some of the subdivisions under development in Hudson. I'll never understand the need to have a 45° slope (or greater) on a roof. I have no desire for my house to look like a church.

But, after getting pissed off by the appearance of what passes for housing these days, we drove through some of the back roads and got a hint of the fall colors. Just yesterday, I had been thinking that it would be nice to come back over the weekend to do a trip to see the leaves, but the leaves seem to be turning very quickly. The change from yesterday to today seemed very dramatic to me. Maybe the fairly low amount of rain we've gotten this year has something to do with that.

I think I'm going to go buy some more hardware for my PVR project over the weekend. My pocketbook will take a hit, but I'm really desiring the opportunity to have an extra system around to experiment with. I expect I'll continue using my main box for TV recording for quite a while, until I work out some bugs.

It's very difficult to do fairly low-level software development on a machine you depend on every day. I just need some more flexibility.

Oh, and LiveJournal appears to only be contacting my site every 24 hours for updates. It looks like their servers download my syndication feed at 5:30 PM, which is just around the time I usually get back from work. So, many of my updates will appear to be nearly a day behind now.


Posted by mike at 11:57 PM Central | Hardware , MythTV , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 11, 2003

I Compute, Therefore I Am

Went out and bought computer crap today. I'll call it my bonus for actually going to work for these next three days (pay for this week should about cover the parts).

The motherboard I got is pretty nifty, though it requires no less than 3 extra expansion slots to hold all of the excess connectors for USB, FireWire, and audio (although the board I got didn't come with the audio riser thingy—I may have to go order one, but I might just get a PCI sound card).

I've been battling with the IDE controller and Ethernet drivers. The Linux kernel that comes on a standard Debian install disc doesn't understand either one properly. I had purchased a 200GB drive earlier, but the older kernel only understod ATA100 drives and lower, meaning that I could only see the first ~137GB of the hard drive. So, I looked through my closet and found a 1GB drive (my former roommates at UV will recognize this one as the tormentor that I had placed in the sun room for my audio playback box). That installed fine, and I eventually was able to upgrade to a kernel that understands the IDE controller well enough to access the entire 200GB of my big disk.

Unfortunately, I still haven't gotten the gigabit Ethernet chip working (Broadcom Tigron3 5788). The most recent stable release of the Linux kernel (2.4.22) doesn't support the card, but there is a driver for the basic chipset “family” that it's in. I did some searches and discovered that the chipset should be supported properly in the prerelease kernels for 2.4.23. So, I've got to figure out how difficult it will be to compile this stuff.

Fortunately, I've had my 256MB USB keychain drive to sneakernet things onto this new box. I tried hooking the new machine up to my desktop system via FireWire, but something gets messed up whenever I try that.

There was a strange little sticker on one of the USB ports saying to not use that particular port when Bluetooth is in use. I haven't been able to figure out if there's actually a Bluetooth module on the motherboard, but it would be cool if there was. In theory, I could use that instead of finding an IR receiver for a remote control. Well, if a signal can manage to penetrate the computer case ;-)

Posted by mike at 10:55 PM Central | Hardware , Software , Wireless | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 12, 2003

It Is a Good Shrubbery

Well, I finally got high-resolution video playing back on my computer. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite seem to be flowing at full framerate yet. Looks like the Linux drivers for my motherboard's AGP slot need some work. In addition, the video drivers for my Matrox G550 have a limitation of a video size of 1024x1024. I'm not sure if that's a hardware limitation, or just an arbitrary limit that the driver author put in. Even if there is a hardware limitation, I wonder if it could be worked around in some way for 1280x720 video, which contains fewer pixels than a 1024x1024 square.

However, an alternative which already exists is to use the “texture engine” instead of doing traditional video overlay. This has advantages and disadvantages. With the G550 driver, this goes up to nearly 2048x2048. Also, you get gamma correction in the video output automatically. However, video doesn't seem to be synchronized with the scan of the monitor, so you get a shearing effect where, say, the top half of the screen is one frame of video, and the bottom half is the other. I'd get that problem with video overlay, but it was much less frequent. In addition, it just seems to be more CPU intensive, and scaling the video away from the “native” resolution slows the frame rate pretty dramatically.

I think I've finally figured out a good method for watching the video stream without the player crashing every 60 seconds when some corrupted data is received. It's amazing enough that I get a usable signal after it has been bounced off the school across the street—I have to expect some data loss (line-of-sight to the tower goes almost straight through the whole building I'm in).

So, I've been watching soothing high-definition video for the past hour. And it really is soothing—way too many pictures of nature scenes for you to think that this is being broadcast in 2003. In fact, there are so many flowers in the test streams that TPT sends out that you'd think HDTV was a pet project for a botanist (one short video was called On the Azalea Trail). Then again, there's so much green, you'd think that it was done by a golfer.

Now, I just need to figure out what needs to be tweaked so the video plays back more smoothly…

Posted by mike at 11:29 PM Central | Hardware , Software , TV , XFree | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 14, 2003

One Headlight (sort of)

I had a minor incident with my car yesterday. I was just a few blocks from home, driving down 4th St when I got stuck behind a moving van-style truck trying to turn onto the I-35W exit ramp. I guess the ramp lights must have been turned on, because he didn't go forward like I expected, and one of the posts hanging down in back of the truck clipped my headlamp and hood.

The damage is minor, but a quick glance at part prices on the Internet did not make me happy. Presumably, junkyard parts would be a lot cheaper (plus, I don't necessarily need to replace the hood, though it would be nice to have it look normal). Anyway, I'll get the car looked at on Thursday or Friday, and get the headlamp replaced as quickly as I can (though, amazingly, neither bulb broke—just the glass enclosure). I'm still thinking about what I want to do about the hood.

I brought my new computer to work today, just to see how well it works with a moderately good rooftop antenna. I could pick up a signal on every channel, though a few of them didn't always work very well. I'm not sure if that's due to a poor cable or what. I know that the analog channels had some pretty nasty junk pop up from time to time. Anyway, in a few days, I hope to bring the system down to my parents' place and see what sort of a signal I get there. On good days, they probably get as good or better reception than we have in Hudson (my parents have a bigger antenna and an amplifier), but it's hard to say how powerful the digital stations are in comparison…

Lots more stuff going into the dumpster today at work, although things seemed to have a lot more value today. A bunch of FibreChannel cards and other adapters that should probably be recycled rather than trashed (actually, the whole dumpster is largely paper and computer equipment). However, it looks like anyone looking to go dumpster diving will have to sift through a huge amount of stuff to get anything useful.

Oh, almost forgot. I plucked a copy of NeXTStep out of the stuff sliding down our makeshift chute today. I'll have to see if it is a full copy of a version appropriate for Dan's NeXT box.

Edit: Well, it turned out that the NeXT software was for i486/Pentium, so it went into the dumpster.

Posted by mike at 03:23 PM Central | Car , Dan , Family , Hardware , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 16, 2003

Shaq Would Not Approve

Yesterday was my last day of work. Nothing really special happened, though I just got my farewell handshakes from the crew there. Today, I started my job search anew, after stopping by Carlson to visit my old boss. We went out for lunch with some other guys there, and he explained some of the things they'd been working on. They had quite a time dealing with the Windows worms that broke out over the summer, but they had set up a separate virtual LAN to quarantine systems that got infected. He also mentioned the ways they're trying to avoid paying an arm and a leg for Oracle software. A quarter million dollars for a cluster of just a few systems? Uh, no thanks.

After that, I wandered over to the East Bank and did a quick search through the job postings at the I.T. Career Center. Not a whole lot of interesting stuff. Most of their postings were months old, which was pretty disappointing to see.

I wandered farther east to Tran Micro and picked up some fans for the new computer I've been fiddling with, though I had to backtrack a ways because I forgot to stop by the cash machine on the way there. I paid with a new $20, which got a comment or two.

For my trip back west, I took a detour back to the West Bank and stopped by Sarah's workplace just to see what's up. I hadn't seen the new system there yet, so that was pretty neat to see. I also told her that I'd seen Josh on the way into campus earlier in the day, and explained some of what he'd told me about our court case against Joe. Too bad it might get extended yet again, but it was nifty to hear that pretty much the Eischenses and Joe are the only landlords that the University wants out of their system.

I went home and tried to rest a bit, but remembered that I was hoping to go out and look for an S-Video to RCA adapter. I've been trying to get my Matrox G550 to output to my small TV, but I only have an RCA input on that thing. I have a VGA to S-Video and RCA that came with my G400, but it doesn't seem to work right. I don't get anything out of the RCA jack on it. I have a 7-pin S-Video to RCA adapter that came with another card, but it must be wired differently than the 7-pin output on my G400 adapter.

Anyway, I went to RadioShack and brought one to the counter. I forget the exact price the cashier told me, but it was approaching $30. Uh, what? A cheap (though out-of-spec) connector can be made with a few wires and a strategically placed capacitor. There's no reason for it to cost that much (the cashier said, “well, there's a computer in there,” and I just rolled my eyes), and I don't even know if the adapter would fix the problems I'm having. I'll have to lug my computer somewhere where there's a TV with an S-Video input, or maybe I'll just swap the video cards in my desktop and this new system temporarily (since I know that this card can do TV-out to RCA just fine).

Posted by mike at 06:17 PM Central | Hardware , Internet , Josh , Sarah , School , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 17, 2003

You Cannot Corrupt Me!

I swapped video cards last night, putting my G400 in the new box I've been working with. The TV output seems to work great, although I have started to see an annoying “banding” effect indicating that the card was scaling video so the interlacing didn't line up properly. Ugh. But that seemed to only happen with some of the video I fed in, so hopefully there's just a bug with some particular display mode.

I should have done some stuff today—mostly looking for parts for my car—but it just didn't happen. I kept being drawn back to the computer to try slightly different things, and then about mid-afternoon my energy level dropped like a stone.

One of my “atomic” clocks has been off for two days straight in the morning. I know it had gotten reset at some point last night, so it managed to get corrupted information about the time two mornings in a row. Very strange. I hope it stops. I expect my clocks to be correct, dammit.

Well, I should go find some supper.

Posted by mike at 07:25 PM Central | Car , Food , Hardware , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 20, 2003

Mux Me

Spent most of the day cursing the fact that something “standard” is not necessarily something free. I've been hunting all over for snippets of information on the different ways of encapsulating MPEG-2 video and audio, in an effort to more thoroughly understand how the video stream coming from my digital TV tuner card goes through the rest of my computer to be displayed on the screen. That stuff works okay, but it's nowhere near where I'd like it to be, so I'm trying to learn as much as I can so that I can improve things. But, the lack of definitive information is just frustrating…

Posted by mike at 11:54 PM Central | Hardware , Software , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 21, 2003


More demuxing work today. I've gotten far enough to see that TPT has encoded their time stuff wrong, indicating that daylight savings time ends at midnight on the 30th. Another channel is closer, indicating 2 AM on the 27th. But, at least one of the channels I've looked at is in fact giving the correct time and date of 2 AM on the 26th.

I've been learning a lot of interesting stuff. There are fields for transmitting electronic program guides both for over-the-air and cable, and the cable one even has a little flag for folks with A/B cable. There was also some work put into figuring out how to insert the EPG into the VBI of an analog broadcast, not that anyone will ever implement that…

Well, mostly just nuts-n-bolts work today. If I can stick with it, maybe I'll put together something neat, but I guess this is mostly just an exercise to stretch my programming muscle.

Like my real muscles, I'm not sure if I'm impressed or not yet…

Posted by mike at 11:05 PM Central | Software , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 22, 2003

You Must Ask Yourself, “What Would Boy George Do?”

Got an E-vite to a Halloween party, but I'm not sure what to do with that. I'm not a Halloween person. I generally feel incompatible with costumes. The most creative idea I've had would be to do the Tom Hanks character in Castaway, but Mike and shirtless is not a good combination. Especially if it's cold out.

I picked at the car a bit today, removing some more broken glass from the headlight. The car really doesn't look too bad, but it's unfortunate that the hit had to happen. I'm pretty sure I had been thinking “this car is in great condition” not long before the accident happened. Unfortunately, as much as having a pristine hood would make me happy, the cost of fixing it outweighs the benefit by a pretty wide margin.

Anyway, I picked the glass away to discover that it was attached with a few small clips, along with some pretty hefty adhesive. Removing enough of the glass and to put on new glass without damaging the (fiberglass?) assembly would be nearly impossible.

I drove out intending to buy some food (but mostly some beverages), but ended up buying the Indiana Jones set (along with some beverages). Now I just need to reattach my monitor to my main system so I can actually watch the DVDs.

Hmm. I could just attach my laptop to the monitor.

Anyway, my monitor is missing because it's in my bedroom attached to the new machine so I can play with HDTV stuff. If I had a job, I might just get a new monitor (actually, more likely an HDTV), but I don't. Hmm. Motivation to look for a job.

Still slowly slogging through the process of decoding the MPEG stream my digital TV tuner card spits out. Late last night, I figured out how to decode the short channel names used by broadcasters (like “TPT Wx,” “KSTP-DT,” etc.), and today I worked on decoding some more similar information. I'm almost at the point where I can actually seek through a stream, pick out the “programs” (basically subchannels), and demultiplex the packets I actually want. Some of this stuff just seems to be way more complicated than it should be.

I guess this is being difficult for me because I'm trying to go for a 100% implementation of functionality. All you need to know to decode a stream and watch something is about 10%, but the other 90% is sometimes useful. In order to do things properly, I've been slogging through a good portion of the 90% in preparation for doing the 10%. Well, this doesn't mean that I'm 90% done, just that I've already got a better foundation than most of the other software I've found.

Of course, progress has slowed today as I bothered to turn on my TV to see what was on. I Love the 80s Strikes Back took up much of the evening.

I Love the 80s Addendum: Snausages.

Posted by mike at 11:04 PM Central | Car , Hardware , Movies , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 24, 2003

Please Make Your Check Out to…

Well, my MPEG stream decoder project is still chugging along. I'll probably forget about it sometime next week. Anyway, in order to get a handle on how far I've gotten, I thought it would be nice to go and count the lines of code I've written. No, not by hand. We have computers for that sort of thing ;-)

Anyway, I figured off the top of my head that it might be 2000 lines. Not a whole lot in my book, but I suppose not so bad. I counted up the size of the different files to determine that I had 70 kB of source code, which I was pretty amazed at.

I downloaded a code counting program called SLOCCount, and ran it on my code. I was somewhat disappointed to see that it tallied 1534 lines of code. But, looking through more output, I saw that it estimated the development time to be nearly 4 months, and the cost of development (including overhead) ran $42,341.

Considering that I've only been working on it for about five days, I suppose I should take a break ;-)

Posted by mike at 04:46 PM Central | Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 25, 2003

Welcome to the Padded Room

I kinda hate my upstairs neighbor. The fact that his subwoofer seems to be putting out more noise than my entire stereo on most occasions is a factor. I suppose my resonance chamber of a bedroom doesn't help things. I really need to put more things on the walls, but I don't know if that would dampen the noise much.

The noise level is not excessive, just at that point where it is extremely irritating. I'm so glad I didn't put my main computer in my bedroom, or I'd get really pissed off. The bass I hear just interferes with my brain, making it impossible for me to put any coherent thought together.

And the boots! Don't get me started on the boots (or whatever footwear is used up there).

Well, anyway, I went to the HAM fest at RiverCentre with my brother today. I picked up a new 60mm fan to potentially replace the old one on my desktop's CPU heatsink for just $1. Plus $5 for parking and $10 for a ticket to get in. Yay.

Lots of old computer crap there, and a surprising number of Macs and Mac clones (there was a whole pallet load in one corner).

Tracked down a bug in my software that had been troubling me for the last two days or so. Turned out to be a simle thing where I thought a field was one byte shorter than it really was. Oops.

I'd kind of like to see a movie this weekend, but I think I had worked far enough down my list that movies were either gone or just didn't seem appealing enough. I could watch my DVD of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom since I already watched the first one, but Temple is my least favorite.

My parents will be up tomorrow for the Simon and Garfunkel concert and we'll probably be doing some bumming around town. My Mom has a stated interest in seeing the light rail terminals, which is oh so exciting.

Posted by mike at 09:18 PM Central | Abode , Family , Hardware , Movies , Music , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 29, 2003

Fight Fight Fight. Bite Bite Bite.

The team behind The Simpsons were almost sued by Fox News Channel for their fake news crawls (NPR interview ~6:00)? Priceless. That conglomerate has some serious issues to work out.

Spent the afternoon helping Adam install Debian on his old machine. I hope I didn't take control too much, but I could tell that it wasn't the best first impression of a Linux install. Oh well, that's Debian for ya.

I managed to snag a LiveJournal code from him, so I now have a user account there, which I will be using for the friends page.

Posted by mike at 07:44 PM Central | Comedy , Internet , News , Software , TV | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

October 31, 2003

40 Days and 40 Nights of Overcast Skies

Let's see. Viagra spammers should be put in jail, and have their cellmates force-fed the stuff. That should solve the problem.

It's been kind of dull around here lately, though I suppose the weather hasn't helped. The cold mixed with frequent light rain puts a damper on things. Strangely, the humidity is low enough for me to be getting severely chapped lips, and the occasional “geek problems.”

I wish the sky was clear, then I'd at least have a chance of seeing the Northern Lights. I don't think I've ever seen the aurora..

Looks like I'll be picking up a new headlight for my car next week unless my friend from back home calls me up today to say he has one. I had forgotten to call him about it before yesterday.

Microsoft has made a new command-line interface for Windows. It's called MSH, for Microsoft SHell—but the codename is “MONAD.” This just makes me wonder if the codename was the result of a bad Tupac Shakur joke (or Tupac Amaru, for that matter).

That just brought back some high school memories. It's been a long time…

Posted by mike at 10:59 AM Central | Car , Internet , School , Software , Weather | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 28, 2003

Take Aim with Your Mass Driver

Friggin' God damn piece of…Gaargh!

Why the hell doesn't Win98 have a simple generic USB mass storage device driver?

Stupid operating system.

Posted by mike at 04:15 PM Central | Software | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

December 16, 2003

Breakin' the Law

Ended up spending most of my day playing FreeCraft, a free WarCraft clone. I guess the original project has fallen under a cease and desist order by Blizzard, but it seems to still be in Debian's software tree (or maybe I just have an old copy).

Seems to be a pretty good implementation, though it seemed slow on my machine, which is better than ten times faster than the old system I played on back in freshman year.


Posted by mike at 09:16 PM Central | Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 17, 2003

I'm a Dapper Dan Man

I think today is the day for me to get a haircut. I should probably get it cut every 4-6 weeks, but procrastination usually takes hold and I double that on a regular basis. We'll see if I can get it cut in a way I like. The last time I went, the stylist said I should say, “Number 4 and blend it on the back and sides.”

Aagh! I played FreeCraft again, and now I see images of footmen, peasants, and farms whenever I blink. This may be one reason why I don't play video games all that often. When I forst got the original SimCity, I remember falling asleep to images of buildings with little flashing lightning bolts on top, indicating they didn't have any electricity.

My brain must be lacking interesting input these days (not surprising). Last night, I watched Celebrity Poker Showdown which had Nicole Sullivan (from Mad TV), Hank Azaria, and some other people I didn't know. Later, I had a dream of the voice of Hank Azaria—Not Hank Azaria himself, or any of the characters he plays, just a unembodied voice.

Of course, that's just another datapoint showing that my dreams just tend to be weird. Why they can't be about things that I want (like women), I'll never know. Why didn't my brain pick Nicole Sullivan? Why didn't it flash back to the clip I saw of Keri Russell in some random movie on KSTC? How about Jodie Foster on the night I saw Silence of the Lambs?.


Posted by mike at 01:50 PM Central | Movies , Self , Software , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 11, 2004

Where's Doc Brown When You Need Him?

0.008 kilowatts. That's what Radio K's FM signal is. Correcting for decimal stupidity, it's 8 watts. 8! I can't even run a decent fluorescent light off that!


Hmm. I guess I should try to figure out how to stream Quicktime audio in Linux (and don't forget the fact that “Quicktime” is deceptively non-descriptive). I suppose it probably sounds better than Ogg Vorbis, but at least Vorbis is natively supported by Winamp as well as my favorite Linux player.

I wouldn't complain, but the commercial stations in town are killing me with the same stuff over and over and over and over and over again. Plus, the stations I hit most frequently (Drive 105, KS95, Cities 97, and 93X) have quite an overlap on their playlists, so I will hear the same song more often if I go channel-surfing than if I stay on one station (but then I have to deal with commercial breaks every two songs).

I need music, or a girlfriend. To support either habit, I need a job.

Ugh, the weekend goes by too fast, even when you don't do anything the rest of the week.

Posted by mike at 07:29 PM Central | Music , Self , Software , The Media | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 20, 2004

Person to Person

The Big Five Personality Test
Extroverted|||||||||| 32%
Introverted |||||||||||||||| 68%
Friendly |||||||||||||||||| 76%
Aggressive |||||| 24%
Orderly |||||||||||| 42%
Disorderly |||||||||||||| 58%
Relaxed |||||||||||| 42%
Openminded |||||||||||||||| 66%
Closeminded |||||||||| 34%
Take Free Big 5 Personality Test

This is no real surprise

I guess I'd think that I'm even more introverted than the test says (in a weird sense, as introverted as I am friendly, I suspect). Also, I would have expected the test to show me as significantly more open-minded, but I suppose it's still relatively accurate considering how long it takes for me to accept new ideas sometimes.

Anyway, I shouldn't overthink it…

Grr. Car Talk switched their online show to use Windows Media Player, which (surprise, surprise) doesn't exist for Linux. Just like I can't listen to a non-crappy version of Radio K because there is no QuickTime player for Linux either. I'd like to recommend Ogg Vorbis for such things, but I guess I haven't listened to very many Vorbis streams and I don't know how well it really stacks up—plus it's geared more for “live” content, since I don't think many Vorbis players allow seeking (ff/rew) in audio streams that aren't stored on a local hard drive.

Well, blah blah blah. I've got to do taxes and find a job and find a girlfriend and do laundry and get food and… (not necessarily in that order)

Posted by mike at 02:42 PM Central | Internet , Music , Self , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 18, 2004

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Another day, another (not) dollar. I guess I spent most of the day reading. I picked up Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond several months ago, but never managed to get into it. I guess the introductory bits by David Diamond had turned me off, plus there was still some latent over-enthusiasm for the stock market and the represented businesses which had hit their high shortly before the book was finalized and sent to the printers. Still, it's a good book, and I'd recommend it to lots of people. Linus is definitely an entertaining character.

Not a whole lot was going on today in Kentucky, though my dad and I installed another handhold—this time in the master bathroom. I hadn't snuck into my grandparents' bedroom yet, so I didn't even know it was there. Anyway, this installation pretty much went off without a hitch—mostly since we'd done it twice before.

Like I said, I spent most of the day reading, though I guess I did more of it without my CD player upstairs rather than listening to the radio or CD with my earmuff headphones downstairs. My grandfather had gone into town to visit his broker and get a haircut, my dad was out at the hardware store, and my uncle Joe was still trekking back from Illinois where he'd spent the night (presumably working on something). I was upstairs to keep an eye or an ear or something on grandma, just in case she needed something. Mostly, I just sat in the other room and quietly read, since I was more in the mood to read rather than listen to her repeat her stories over and over.

I went for a walk in the afternoon when a physical therapist showed up to help my grandmother exercise a bit. I took a walk around the “block” (hard to call it a block, since it's one of those annoying suburban squiggle roads that loops back on itself) and visited the local convenience store for the hell of it. Man, I really need to get out and walk more often. One of my feet started hurting a little after a few hours, though I'm sure it won't bother me too much.

My dad and I will probably go into town tomorrow. Maybe we'll try to find an Internet café or something, but I'd still rather not put my computer on an insecure network. Maybe I should try to set up an IPSec gateway on my home firewall eventually. That would give me a minimal security net, though it would probably be impossible to get the different computers working with the same version. Plus, I'd have to recompile the kernel on that old box somehow, and I'd hate to disturb its uptime ;-)

Well, my uncle has laid down on the couch in the adjoining room, so I'd better stop typing so I can avoid keeping him awake…

Posted by mike at 08:30 PM Central | Books , Family , Hardware , Internet , Kentucky 2004 , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 24, 2004

OK Computer

Yesterday I started playing with GJay, a Linux-based program that analyzes music for audio frequency usage (which parts of the spectrum are heavily used) and BPM, giving the computer a fairly good idea of what a song sounds like. You can go in manually to give songs ratings and “colors,” which can be interpreted in any way you want.

I use the location on the color wheel (hue and saturation) to indicate genre. More saturated colors are used for “heavier” music in my system and less saturated colors (approaching white in the middle) are “lighter.” So far, I've got classic and modern rock in the blue and purple range, with red going into pop/hip-hop/rap, then circling around to techno/dance in the yellow/green range. Cyan, on the opposite side of the color wheel from red, is reserved for classical music, and occasionally sees other acoustic stuff. I use the value (brightness) scale to indicate how “happy” the song is, so it's kind of a representation of mood.

There's also rating, which the randomizer doesn't seem to use much other than to avoid certain songs below a cutoff point. It'll take forever for me to put all of the color/rating data into the system, and I'm sure the info will get corrupted at some point (at least it's in an XML file).

So, I get to cheat on the random playlist thingy going around (though some of the selections still aren't so good):

  1. Soul Coughing - Circles
  2. Blessid Union of Souls - Hey Leonoardo
  3. Filter - Take a Picture
  4. Sheryl Crow - Hole in My Pocket
  5. Ben Folds Five - Where's Summer B.
  6. California Guitar Trio
  7. Yoko Kanno - Tank!
  8. Ben Folds Five - One Angry Dwarf and Two Hundred Solemn Faces
  9. Bad Religion - The Handshake
  10. System of a Down - Marmalade
  11. A Perfect Circle - 3 Libras (Massive Attack remix)
  12. System of a Down - Chop Suey
  13. David Bowie - I'm Deranged
  14. BT - Flaming June
  15. Blur - Gene By Gene
  16. Blur - On the Way to the Club
  17. Bush - The Chemicals Between Us
  18. Blink 182 - All the Small Things
  19. Aurora feat. Naimee Coleman - Ordinary World
  20. Amber - Above the Clouds (J. Peters remix)

Heh, you might notice that most of the artist names start with A, B, or C. I've mostly only categorized the songs toward the (alphabetical) beginning of my music archive. My computer was still analyzing music when I woke up this morning (though it had gotten through over 50% of my collection overnight).

I was surprised to see that the “Just Played” feature of Drive 105's website is actually served by YES. They have computers that tune in various radio stations all over the country which do audio “fingerprinting” of the songs played. I imagine they don't actually have everything in their database, so that explains the gaps sometimes. At any rate, I think it's a sucky interface. You only see one song, while most people would want to see the last twenty—at least—in one glance.

Posted by mike at 07:38 AM Central | Music , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 25, 2004

Old Is New Again

Okay, I lied. My computer is still analyzing music. I had forgotten that I copied most of Dan's music collection off the living room computer one time, and I'd also copied some music back when I worked at CSOM (unfortunately, most of that turned out to be jazz, which I wasn't a huge fan of…) But, I think it'll be done soon (/me crosses fingers).

I need to find a program to tweak the volumes of the songs on my computer though. iTunes does this automatically, but my old player doesn't have this functionality built in. There are some plugins I can use, but one I tried in the past didn't pre-analyze the songs—it only went on the moment-to-moment volume of a file, which just seemed to mess things up more (and is generally not what I want anyway—I complained about this type of behavior the other day). There are some other tools I can try, but I'm not sure how well they work.

Anyway, this analyzer program is still doing a fairly good job so far. Having more music available to go between helps a lot. I've got something like 6770 music files (though many are duplicates or silly files), so there's plenty of wiggle room for the algorithms. One nifty thing is that the software is good at finding duplicate files. I've been getting files common to my normal collection and Dan's old one show up right next to each other in playlists. Sometimes the affinity for music by the same band is a little too heavy, though. I suppose I should just be glad I don't have a lot of stuff by Everclear ;-)

Posted by mike at 10:26 AM Central | Dan , Music , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 28, 2004

The Quotable Chode

Aagh! Life is not better with the butterfly. Stupid Flash-based ads keep on pegging my CPU from time to time. They pretty much lock up my browser every once in a while, but the really evil ones have at least been becoming less common lately. I have a hunch that the Linux version of the Flash player doesn't timeslice with the browser properly, though I suppose it could be the browser's fault.

I set up my computer to record Tripping the Rift on SciFi, but I don't know if I'll like it. I was kind of surprised by the fact that Gina Gershon plays Six in that. The voice in the ads sounds like Terry Farrell to me.

Oh weird—now that I look up Terry Farrell on IMDB, I see that she did do the voice of Six in a Tripping the Rift short made in 2000. Maybe they're making the ads from the original short? I dunno. Wow. She grew up in Iowa too. Funky.

Anyway, I really have no idea what Gina Gershon sounds like, so it would be hard for me to tell if they have similar voices. I only know Farrell's voice since she was on for most of Deep Space Nine and had been on Becker for quite a while (not that I ever watched it much). I think I've only seen significant amounts of two of Gershon's movies (neither of which is Bound or Showgirls, by the way). Such a sheltered life I lead…

Posted by mike at 06:27 PM Central | Internet , Software , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 08, 2004

An Ode to Maybe

Wow. LiveJournal timing out/closing connections/not working reminds me of the good ol' BBS days when I had to set up my computer to redial continuously. Sometimes I feel like I need a wardialer for web pages (like this most trusted non-friends thing that I've been trying to access for about a week). Other times I feel like I should just get off my ass and fix some code somewhere.

But I never do. *sigh*

I went around and changed the layout of my LiveJournal page and even made a new icon (though it was from an image I already had). I figured using the Tom Hanks icon all the time was somewhat disingenuous, though I suppose this one isn't significantly more genuine… I might change my homepage as well. I guess I did make a few tweaks, but there is a whole lot more I could do if I had the motivation.

I finally got around to IMing with Sarah a bit. I got out of the habit of talking to her for various reasons, though I suppose I never really talk to anybody. It was just noteworthy because I basically woke up one day this weekend thinking, “I should IM Sarah,” but wimped out because she was actually online at the time I crawled over to my computer. I wanted to talk, but had nothing to talk about, like normal.

Anyway, like I said, I finally got around to it. I mentioned a comment Adam made over the weekend at his party about her helpfulness to him on a song mix. She seemed down, and I knew it would make her feel better. Well, once I actually structured my comment in a way she could understand. It seems my IMing skillz leave something to be desired.

So, she might stay at the U. She might go to Brown or some other place. She might completely change directions and go to Aveda or something. I can't really give any advice on that last point :-D

Ugh. I need to try to get to sleep relatively early tonight, since the weekend messed up my schedule a bit. Staying up to 3AM cleaning up the muck left by Jedis fighting probe droids can only be done so often. (Er, I mean, you can only play Burnout 2 for so long…)

Posted by mike at 10:16 PM Central | Adam , Internet , Sarah , Software | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

March 18, 2004


Ugh. We had a power outage in my apartment building. It appears that only a few blocks were affected (maybe only ours), but maybe we were on the edge of something. Anyway, two of my three computers (er, three out of my four, if you count the laptop, but it's unaffected by piddly hour-long periods without current) are functioning now. One of them has experienced some hard disk corruption, it appears. Now, the challenge of finding a Linux recovery disk or CD that can handle the 200GB hard drive and the ATA133 controller.


The moment of community togetherness involved in the outage was my joining Adam and Kari on a trip to a bookstore. Well, it was a place I'd never been before, which was something I needed anyway.

I almost picked up a book named Tube about the history of television, but it was a $30 hardcover and I figured my money could be better spent on other things at the moment.

I want money.

Posted by mike at 06:42 PM Central | Abode , Adam , Books , Hardware , Kari , Laptop , Software , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 19, 2004

Endless Horizons

Yikes. The full version of Debian's next release will go on 13 CDs. Reminds me of back when I had to go through about 25 diskettes to install OS/2. Of course, you don't need all of the Debian discs to install Linux (and I guess about half that stuff would be source code). But hey, if you've got the disk space, why not?

Posted by mike at 07:01 PM Central | Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

March 24, 2004

Me Crush! Rawr!

Ugh. Why does it seem like web designers are getting worse and worse at writing JavaScript? Oh well, people have always had trouble getting that to work right.

So, I got up this morning, checked my friends page, and it looked like a lot of people were thinking heavily about their dreams last night. Well, relatively speaking. I had some weird stuff floating around last night too, though I guess it wasn't very memorable. Mostly, I can only recall thinking through some of the faces of girls I've liked in the past, though I know there was a lot of other totally unrelated dreaming going on at other points.

Anyway, it seems that I actually do have a “type” of woman that I really like, though apparently it's weird enough to confuse the heck out of me and out of things like this test. On one hand, the test tells me that I really like the idealized faces of movie stars, but then it also says that I don't buy into the “mainstream” image. So people who appeal to the mainstream are not the idealized figures in movies and on TV?

Another portion of the test said that I'm, well, read for yourself:

Very Open: You have a more open and accepting view of what makes a woman attractive than other men your age. In fact, you fall in the most open and non-traditional subgroup of men who have taken this test. Good for you! This doesn't necessarily mean that looks are less important to you than to other men. You simply have a unique set of criteria and keep your eyes out for special qualities that make a woman, who may seem ordinary to most, extraordinary to you.
Sure, I'd generally agree with that. Sort of. I don't know. I mean, there seems to be a type of girl that I really go for, but that particular type seems to be really popular with other guys too. I think that if you take a step back, though, and look at the few notches below my absolute ideal, I see things differently than most other guys. Plus, strangely, I'm not exactly attracted to every girl I see—I find it to be a relatiely rare moment when I turn my head to get another look. It's all very weird.

Also, one portion of the results said that I'd be one to skip over cheerleaders, which is funny since my two biggest crushes were cheerleaders in high school. :-p

I keep breaking the test, dammit.

In other news, my efforts to be nice to Erin are failing dramatically.

Posted by mike at 01:59 PM Central | Erin , Internet , Sarah , School , Self , Software | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)


Okay, so I finally found the avatar generator today. That's pretty awesome, though I guess if I were to pick on people, I'd say there weren't quite enough hairstyles or eyeglass types. But heck, it's free. BFD.

So I kinda went nuts making icons. My aforementioned difficulty with hair made it a challenge to find something that seemed appropriate for Dan, especially with his beard, but I finally came up with this:

Which seemed okay, I guess. No offense intended, Dan. But then, I thought that I'd have to do at least two more for him. He's mentioned his desire to obtain an appropriate aged scientist look when he's older. I suppose I mucked around a bit when I came up with a kooky image for him. Dan is also famed the world 'round for his sad face, and I did my best to emulate it given what was available. I suppose you could tweak these to be a bit better.

I tried doing Sarah, but I couldn't find hair that I liked. For one image, I ended up just giving her a hat (which doesn't really make sense, but it seemed good at the time), and then using a cop-out hairdo for another image. A while later, I came back and did another try with glasses.

I tried to do appropriate icons for the Mars rovers, attempting to do a slightly angst-ridden spiritrover and a somewhat too happy opportunitygrrl. I'm debating whether to point them out or not.

And, what entry would be complete without some self-flagellation?

Posted by mike at 07:32 PM Central | Dan , Internet , Sarah , Self , Software | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

March 25, 2004

Toys in Babeland

You will not believe me when I tell you that I have been battling piddles today. I'm completely serious. Well, in this context, a “piddle” is an integral datatype for the Perl Data Language. I've been working on making a plugin for The Gimp that uses the Scale2x algorithm to increase the resolution on bitmap images. It's a neat way to make images of old console games look nicer when used in modern emulators.

Unfortunately, the plugin interface for The Gimp is a bit slow, at least when you look at the simplest methods for doing things. My current “fast” version of the algorithm still takes a minute to run on fairly small images. The algorithm itself is light enough that it can run in real-time on computers that aren't all that fast, but this plugin is probably thousands of times slower. Hopefully I'll figure things out.

Still, I actually got it to work, which makes me happy. Here are a few samples I used from LiveJournal mood icons:

Posted by mike at 10:38 PM Central | Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 27, 2004

Break out the Wite-Out

The University probably has the most cumbersome job application process I've ever come across. I hate it. And yet, too many applications are received whenever a job comes up that I would be good for. I haven't even been applying for jobs for a long time because the return on my investment of time and effort is far too low.

Well, not that anything else I've done has worked.

I'm trying to renew my application now, but the Word-formatted version (which would allow me to nicely type things out) doesn't cooperate with OpenOffice very well, and I'm too stressed out at the moment to fill out the preprinted PDF version by hand properly. I'm having some sort of minor claustrophobic thing going on because some maintenance guy is making noise out in the hallway and, well, I just hate applying for jobs.

At face value, the University's system would seem to be a better candidate than most for webification. Especially if the thing could automagically fill in my work and education experience from the U.

I suppose I'm just a weakling.

Posted by mike at 03:23 PM Central | School , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 12, 2004

That's That

Okay, I watched the movie just to get it over with. I expected a good movie, albeit one that was depressing. It turned out that it was a crappy, meaningless film. Heh, I just had an image in my head of Rip Torn in Defending Your Life as he ate dirt (or something closely resembling dirt), proclaiming it to be delicious. I don't know what all the critics liked about the movie. So far, my experience has been that Rotten Tomatoes's ratings pretty closely match how I feel about big-screen flicks, but I'm baffled in this instance. My best description of the movie is “eclectic” due to the existence of a number of unusual elements added in. However, just putting a bunch of interesting but random bits together and running them through the blender doesn't make a good movie.

Well, that's over with, at least.

I guess the other thing I wanted to mention today was that I spent some time last night and today playing with DBMix, which is a music mixing program for Linux. It's kind of neat, allowing beat-matching and that sort of thing with just a mouse, but unfortunately the onboard sound on my motherboard doesn't play well with it, so I don't have a cue output, making it rather difficult to do anything useful. Argh. Maybe there's another driver that will work better than via82cxxx_audio.

Posted by mike at 09:49 PM Central | Movies , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 02, 2004


/me bows to the A/C

No really big plans this weekend, other than to find some way to get to Harriet Island tomorrow for Taste of Minnesota and the whole Grand Excursion thingamabob (I think that's where the steamboats are landing).

Next weekend, on the 11th, my parents are coming up to go to the 72nd annual Norway Day at Minnehaha Park. We'll probably take the light rail line down there. I'm not sure where we'll begin—it could potentially be a few minutes shorter to take the bus from my brother's place rather than coming from my neck of the woods.

Then again, things might be different if my parents want to start at the end of the line. I'll just have to remember to get them to sit or stand facing forward when we come back to downtown, since there's quite a nice view of the U of M campus, downtown, and other stuff from up on the bridge near the Lake Street station.

Supposedly David Sedaris will be on David Letterman tonight. I should try to catch that.

Hmm. Actually, I need to catch up on some NPR shows. Hmm. And I probably need to find out how to get the newer RealPlayer streams going if I want to listen to Car Talk. Stupid codecs.

Work is going, but it's not hugely wonderfully awesome or anything. I made a goof earlier in the day that may have messed some things up that I really didn't want to mess up. Also, I'm kind of wondering if I will be paid a bit more than when, which is not something I really appreciate.

For the moment, the plan is to move into the Inver Grove Heights office on Wednesday, since the long weekend has made it take a bit longer to get Internet access hooked up than it normally would. Supposedly, it'll be a full T1, a concept which is so much less exciting than it used to be way back when. How did I ever live at 1200 baud?

I'm getting really sick of bugs appearing in my apartment. Yet another downside to living on the -0.5th floor. I guess that's another reason why I'm going with the air conditioner.

Posted by mike at 07:10 PM Central | Abode , Family , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 13, 2004


Found a big bug in software that I didn't write but am quickly becoming responsible for. It's really bad. I was packaging the bugfix earlier today and it will be out tomorrow, hopefully.

My programming skills are warming up, and I anticipate that I will raise hell on the stuff that has been shoved my way. I'll be stomping bugs, optimizing/cleaning code, but probably a lot of effort will go into mucking with add-on packages.

A code repository is Coming Soon™, but I think we need to get a CVS book first.

I went over to The Railroad Club at the U of MN to see their model layout. Actually, I thought I was going to a sit-down meeting or something, but they were working on their layout in a back room of the 1701 building. My brother was there, and showed me their DCC controller setup, which is kind of nifty, but there's only one mainline so far. They're currently working on a helix to allow trains to move up and down levels, though there's really only one level at the moment.

Someone mentioned something about Free-mo layouts, modular setups that apparently run on 16V AC current, rather than the more standard 12V DC that most layouts do. Apparently. I'm curious and would like to know more about that, but that will have to wait for now.

I'm tired.

Posted by mike at 11:59 PM Central | Family , Software , Work | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

July 29, 2004


I did a nearly-90-minute support call with an Englishman today.

While he was in the UK.

Glad I'm not paying for that bill. I wonder if the $29.95 we charged him will cover it ;-)

And AT&T lied to me. I had to dial 011 + 44 + ..., not 01 + 44 + .... Whatever. Of course, I don't think AT&T is our phone provider anyway :-p

My life will become bug fixes for the next week or two, I think. Probably the simplest thing I need to do is not bug fixing, but simply making a configuration nicer (ie, DirectoryIndexing On, or whatever the Apache syntax is for automatically making index pages).

The product I'm working on (almost taking over, actually) is the reByte. Would I recommend one for you? Get back to me in two weeks when all the bugs are fixed ;-)

You can't blame me for version 2. 2.5, maybe (but that's a few months down the road yet).

Posted by mike at 09:46 PM Central | Software , Work | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

August 03, 2004

My Father Was a Poor Virginia Turd-Miner

Wow. I've got quite a headache.

I might end up doing a presentation for the LUG on User-Mode Linux if anyone else actually wants to have a meeting this month.

I'm interested in setting up a uClibc build environment in UML at some point, although there seem to be problems with the current version of UML—the console keeps freezing on me…

Posted by mike at 11:00 PM Central | Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 06, 2004

Bicycle Race

Well, I'm still planning on doing a UML presentation at the TCLUG meeting on Saturday. At the moment, I'm looking at using the Prosper class for LATEX to make the presentation and build it for PDF output. I don't think I'll do anything really complex with it, though. Maybe load an image or two, but my LATEX skills haven't been exercised in a long time.

My car is still acting up. I guess I'm thinking the fuel pump is on its way out or has loose wiring or something. I just hope it doesn't conk out in the next few days. After I get paid next week, I plan to take it in to have it checked out, and I might try to borrow my brother's car (though that's a manual and I haven't driven one of those for quite a while—I'd have to practice driving around a bit before getting on the highway, I think).

But, heck, the number of possible things that could be causing the hesitation seems nearly endless. Could be a sensor, the computer, something messed up with the throttle body, trouble with the engine vacuum, and who knows what else.

However, since I replaced the O2 sensor, it seems to be using less fuel, so I guess that's good with new record unadjusted-for-inflation oil prices out there. I continue to seriously consider getting a TDI Volkswagen—if only there was a Biodiesel pump in Minneapolis (the fuel would be expensive in the short term, but as I see it with China and India using more gas, the price can only get more attractive—of course, I actually need money to get a car).

Posted by mike at 07:08 AM Central | Car , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 07, 2004

Insane in the Membrane

The presentation got off to a rocky start, but ended alright I guess. I can't be faulted for not knowing all that much about something I've just mucked with for a week.

I watched To Die For on DVD finally. I'm surprised how much of the movie I recognized from catching fragments on TV. It was pretty good, but I guess I just don't like Joaquin Phoenix at all. Looking at his face for too long makes me want to break things.

Now I'm tired and confusing my sentences. Sleep is probably a good idea. Too much of my brain has been used for too long this week.

Posted by mike at 06:14 PM Central | Movies , Self , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 12, 2004


Support took less time today (finally), but I worry that it's just because I caught up with stuff that piled up over last weekend or something. Oh well, support is a neverending thing. At least several minor things are a lot better. I suppose there might be one more release fixing mostly minor things, and then I can start on the bigger stuff.

In my dreams, ha ha!

Posted by mike at 08:47 PM Central | Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 17, 2004

Rubber Band Man

It took me a long time to get anywhere at work today. Well, anywhere that I actually wanted to go, at least. I'd upgraded my desktop machine's kernel yesterday afternoon. It turns out now that I'd pretty much gotten everything right the first or second time, but some problems with our Internet gateway box caused trouble. Turns out that the Linksys WRK54G doesn't handle TCP ECN packets properly. Oh, my favorite little networking bug…

Anyway, for the longest time I thought there was something fubared with my network driver. In the end it was just a simple little tweak to fix. Oh well, at least I brought the kernel from Red Hat's random 2.4.20-8 up to 2.4.26 and then 2.4.27. Now, the 2.6 kernel I have trouble with… 2.4 I can still wrap my head around.

The old kernel my system was using had all sorts of missing things that I wanted, so it was good to start over. The audio driver for the onboard sound was missing, so I haven't had any music for weeks while my coworkers have spent much of the day with their headphones on.

One big problem with the way my computer was set up was that the Serial ATA driver would sit there pondering its existence for about a minute each time the computer booted. This tended to take so long that when I'd reboot the computer (unfortunately something I have to do fairly often), I'd totally forget what I was doing by the time it finished. It's so much nicer without that delay.

I noticed that the processor I have in that machine seems to be a HyperThreading P4, but for some reason I couldn't get an SMP kernel to properly compile. I guess I can fiddle with that later, no that I've figured out the most pressing issues. However, the most annoying thing is that the video driver I use for the Radeon 9200 video card in the box requires a recompile for each different kernel, and it doesn't like switching between different versions at all. So, no graphics for me when I'm doing this testing. It wouldn't be so bad if it was at least a Debian box where I could easily download the text-mode packages I need.

At the end of the day I finally fixed a bug that I had actually almost tracked down yesterday (I must have gotten distracted then or something). Oh well, I guess I got some support done too.

My car still seems to be acting up a bit. Looks like the oil is starting to run low. Maybe I should add a quart, or maybe I should just get it in for service a bit early. Well, actually, with the driving I'm doing these days, I probably qualify for the 6000–7500 mile oil changes. However, it'll still be three months pretty quick here.

Now it's hard to say if I'll be able to get out of the parking lot tomorrow morning, as they're going to be removing a tree next door, and will have equipment in the way. Maybe I'll just have to go into work early.

This Dutch Elm disease is sure going crazy, though. A bunch of trees were taken down nearby earlier this summer, and a few have popped up since then. Of course, the thing that probably annoyed me the most so far was that somebody broke down one of the small saplings at the park that was put in place of an old tree that had been cut up. It's hard to say if they'll replace that one too or not.

Hmm. The weather definitely seemed weird on my way home. It was with the creepy hazy sky where nothing has any definition and you can hardly tell if there are actually clouds or if the whole world has just turned gray. There's just no texture to the sky, so it just feels ucky.

I got some music from the Best Buy. We'll see if my purchase was really the least objectionable or not. I also stopped into Target for some birthday cards for my aunt and grandmother. So now how should I pay the 80¢ postage? Two 47¢ stamps is not enough, but three is way too much. Well, considering the time and effort it would take to get proper stamps… Oh, also at Target, I got some 12-packs for $2 each. That was sweet.

Posted by mike at 08:20 PM Central | Car , Hardware , Internet , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 18, 2004

PHP Number 5

Our music server at work only has about 5 GB of files. Weak.

I'm glad that the potholes that bugged in 5th Avenue are gone now. However, most of the road is gone too—ripped up in preparation for repaving, hopefully. However, it seems that they haven't finished 6th Ave yet (looks like only one layer of asphalt has been put down), so I'm a bit worried about how long it's going to take.

I'm curious if the Gopher Motor Lodge will ever reopen. That building has been under construction for a long time, though it looks like nothing has really happened to it for the past year. They must have run out of money or something. I don't know why they decided to put that silly copper sheeting on the sides. Heck, the building might be green by the time it opens.

I'm trying to remember if I actually did anything of substance at work today. I got bounced around between so many projects it's not even funny. I was sort of directed through a weird content management system named Mambo. Not really sure what I think of it yet.

I need to do something to get my website working better. Right now it seems to use massive amounts of CPU time, which doesn't seem good (especially since it's not really my server or anything, and I'm probably sitting on borrowed time as it is). Unfortunately, the server has a somewhat limited tool set to play with. I might try getting things moved over to SQLite again, but some Perl modules barfed pretty badly the last time I tried to compile them. I'd also like to move away from Movable Type since it's not open source, but so many things seem to require databases (another reason to look at SQLite, I suppose), more extensions to PHP than what I have available, or other languages like Python.


Posted by mike at 09:39 PM Central | Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 24, 2004

Boubonic Chronic

I'm up late. I suppose I'll hit the hay soon, but for now I want to post something. Anything.

So here it is:

The Gimp knows toilet paper

Posted by mike at 12:44 AM Central | Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 28, 2004

Minneapolis and Jew

I'm heavily overplaying Frou Frou at the moment. Oh well, it'll be fun while it lasts.

I'm playing around with web design bits now, not that I'd ever really make it as a web guru. However, I can still borrow from the might of others:

  • JSCookMenu is probably the nicest menuing system I've seen on the web. Granted, his demos don't look all that hot, but if you ever end up using Mambo, you'll see how good they are. The drop-down menus on the Mambo demo site (username/password: admin) show what it can do
  • Open Source Web Design has a bunch of nice templates that you can use, modify, or completely mangle if you so choose. IMHO, a lot of them suck, but maybe it's just because I don't like the color schemes (then again, picking good colors is pretty damn tough).

This research is partly due to work, and partly just because I'm interested in making my own site better. Of course, my site will never be cool, but I can at least tweak little bits here and there and hope for the best.

Posted by mike at 03:26 PM Central | Internet , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 04, 2004

Congressional Medal of Idiot

On Wednesday, I went to the fair with my brother in the afternoon. I suppose neither of us are really party animals, so I guess it wasn't the most exciting thing ever. Had some decent food, though I was surprised that the chicken pita I ordered was cold, with a filling kind of along the lines of potato salad. Whatever.

We discovered that if you take the regular city bus to/from the fair, you get the shaft. It's much better to just drive to the U of M lot and take the shuttle from there. We had to wait ~15 minutes each way, and end up paying $3 in total for tickets ($1.25 there, $1.75 back because of rush hour—though we got $2 off on fair admission), but the shuttle was leaving at a rate of about once every 90 seconds. Other than that, the bus worked out pretty well, since he lives just off Como Ave.

So, I guess I'd propose that Metro Transit make the regular buses that go past the fair free too. Like that'll ever happen.

I don't remember Thursday at all, but, oh yeah, that's because I brought some work home. I shouldn't do that.

On Friday, I figured the most exciting thing I'd do would be to add some oil to my car. It's been low for a while, and the engine seems to have been running rough. It seemed a little happier with fresh oil added, but I should really get an oil change soon anyway. I should have just found a Jiffy Lube. I guess I want to wait until I get paid for the last two weeks.

My boss put in my time on Thursday. Fortunately, he changed the amount of time I had in the system up to 80 hours, but some of the other guys who don't have such consistent time sheets kind of got shafted for a day's work. I was thinking that I might get paid early, but with Labor Day on Monday, the money will probably still get transferred on Tuesday. I like that I get weekends off, but why can't other people work then? ;-)

Anyway, so after planning to do nothing other than possibly eat on Friday night, Adam called me and said he was moving out. So, I helped him move stuff over to Adam Nu's place, and then almost accidentally stole his laptop (or at least a black laptop-sized briefcase—I presume that was his laptop). It was in its black case, in the back of my car, in the dark, so it was kind of hard to see.

Kari is theoretically moving in with Erin once they find a place, so it's almost a wife-swapping type of deal. Er, or maybe nothing like that at all ;-)

Aha! I just found the little thing to tweak on my browser to get my fonts displaying correctly in Galeon again. For some reason, the mimimum font size was set to 4, but then there were two other settings that had been stuck at 14. That explains why I could never see any difference when people used <small></small> tags. Anyway, I just went to about:config (which works in any Mozilla/Gecko-based browser, I guess) and tweaked the setting. Conveniently, those two things were in bold, though I don't know why that would be…

Hmm. This might also let me finally fix the fact that pretty much all font sets except for Korean show up correctly (er, I think) in my browser. I just end up with these little rectangles with the Unicode character number in them instead of actual characters.

Posted by mike at 11:04 AM Central | Adam , Car , Erin , Family , Internet , Kari , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 02, 2004


I've been working on a piece of wiki software for my own site. It uses Perl/CGI with SQLite for the database. The syntax is based off of what Wikipedia uses, since I use it all of the time and don't like having to remember different wiki styles :-p

The DB layout started off based on what Wikipedia uses, but I'm looking to make something that will have a weblog in it, along with comments and stuff, so it will diverge over time. I'll have to have some integrating SPAM-fighting capability, but it probably won't be anything fancy (it'll be fancier than what I have right now, however). I've got a very basic wiki running right now on my home machine. About 6kB of Perl code (not counting the libraries it's built on), so not too bad. It keeps old versions at the moment, but I don't have a history view yet or any way to do diffs (that'll be tricky). I'm not tracking links yet (and, well, I think I only have one page at the moment). I'm just working on the basics so far (what do you expect after only a few hours' work?).

I hope I'll be able to do security right.

The Daily Show folks have been all over lately. This is due to several factors colliding at once: Winning two more Emmys, having their audience get called “stoned slackers” by Bill O'Reilly, having their audience then be determined to be one of the smartest and most well-off groups of people around, and the release of America (The Book).

I saw them on (apparently a repeat of) Deborah Norville's show on MSNBC. I never watch her because I've always counted her among the media sources that TDS makes fun of all of the time. I dunno, maybe she was beginning to understand by the end of the show (which was still reasonably good despite her overexuberance). I kind of had the same reaction after catching a glimpse of one of the correspondents on Paula Zahn's show on CNN. Like two galaxies colliding or something strange.

Posted by mike at 07:23 PM Central | Comedy , Daily Show , Internet , Software , TV , The Media | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 06, 2004

B to the E

Blech. I really need to find a way to block Flash advertisements in my browser. They suck up way too much CPU power, and contribute heavily toward causing Galeon to crash. There are bugs open on Mozilla's Bugzilla, but nobody wants to do the work I guess.

Anyway, stuff is slowly progressing at work. I have started work on install scripts for the next version. Hmm. I should probably start fiddling with User Mode Linux again, since that would speed up my testing quite a bit if I can get it to work right.

Posted by mike at 07:59 PM Central | Internet , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 13, 2004

Let Forever Be

Microsoft's newest MSN ads made in Flash have caused my browser to go south too many times, so I've decided to disable Flash altogether for now. We'll see how long that lasts, although there tend to be very few sites where I actually need Flash (Unfortunately, those few sites tend to be some of the most interesting… Oh well)

Not a whole lot happening. Almost crashed into a guy who wasn't paying attention yesterday morning, and because the road was covered with that tar/gravel stuff, my tires did not squeal in protest like I would have hoped. Probably added 50% to my stopping distance too, though it's hard to say.

Then, it turned out that I didn't even need to go that way because I had forgotten the paycheck I was going to cash. Things like that happen to me way too often. I'll lay something out in order to bring it along, but then it just gets left at home. *sigh*

Posted by mike at 09:30 AM Central | Car , Internet , Self , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 18, 2004

The Larch

I've been starting to listen to BBC Radio 1 and KCRW's music stream lately. I guess I got interested in KCRW after hearing about the station on Frontline's "The Way the Music Died." They say that they were the first station to play artists such as Fiona Apple (yay!), Coldplay (yay!), and Norah Jones (meh). I dunno, KCRW certainly is "eclectic," but that doesn't necessarily mean that I'll like it.

Radio 1 seems to play more beat-heavy stuff, which can be both good and bad. I generally despise rap/hip-hop, which they play a lot more than I like. However, there's a lot of dance music there too (which some would argue is essentially the same, but whatever). Unfortunately, the best I can get from them is a 44kbps RealAudio stream. KCRW has a 128k MP3 stream, but it seems to either be down right now, or the ISP we have at work blocks it. Hard to say. I suppose both of these places have Windows Media Player streams too, but I use Linux and I don't want to pay for the CrossOver plugin at the moment.

Anyway, it's something different. I'm just sick of hearing the same stuff over and over on the local FM stations around here (and I usually only listen for 30-90 minutes while I'm in the car each day). The sameness is just mind-numbing.

Posted by mike at 11:29 AM Central | Internet , Music , Software , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 04, 2004

Julie Nelson Can Report Me Any Day

Interesting factoid of the day: The United States needs to maintain an average job growth rate of 150,000 jobs per month just to keep up with population growth.

I went to see the TCLUG presentation on the Ocaml programming language today. Sounds interesting, and I'll probably have to try learning it. It's descended from Lisp and ML, though, which will make it somewhat of a challenge. I did alright in Scheme (basically a Lisp dialect), but when a guy threw ML at me in one of my courses, I got lost (I think I was on the verge of getting burnt out, though). Of course, while Scheme was a functional language, Ocaml can be the big three all together: procedural, functional, and imperative. They've addressed many annoying problems, though it isn't a silver bullet.

The presenter today said that the language works better on big projects, though that doesn't mean that it can't work for small things. One guy set up a bunch of mini-benchmarks, and Ocaml came in not far behind C for most things (speed, memory use, etc.). The nice features of Ocaml don't really become apparent at that level, though, so it wouldn't be crazy to think it couldn't surpass C for at least some bigger things. Hard to say, though.

The grand theoretical concept behind Java's garbage collection is apparently the same as what is used in Ocaml, but Java's implementation is really bad. One interesting thing is that Ocaml's garbage collection algorithm makes the memory that is in use much more cache-friendly, so you gain a lot of speed by making the CPU wait much less frequently on cache misses than in other languages/environments. C makes the programmer manually handle memory usage, so it becomes nightmarish even on small things.

After that, I tried out the extended light-rail line and had just enough time to get some late lunch/early supper before heading back. I decided to just take the reliever bus on the way back, though I probably would have gotten to downtown faster if I'd waited in line and taken the train. The bus got pretty filled up, so a black kid sat next to me and his sister and mom sat farther back.

He felt like talking, so I learned a bit about him. He had just turned 11 yesterday, and wanted to spend some of the money he'd gotten as a gift. However, his mom and sister seem to have connived him into using it for rides at Camp Snoopy rather than something he could hold onto for a while—and it sounds like he ended up paying for them! That's not right, and he knew it.

The kid seemed pretty smart, but wasn't in the greatest environment. He had trouble spelling (seemed to have trouble telling S's and C's apart, maybe that would indicate dyslexia or something) and didn't like to read. After we talked about reading a bit, he asked me to give him a little spelling quiz. He used to live in Chicago, so a few words on, I asked him to spell that (S-H-O…S-A…). I don't know, maybe I can track down his school and get someone to spend some one-on-one time with him. It sounds like he may have been held back a grade already (he was in fourth, I'm pretty sure most kids his age would be at fifth).

Maybe I'm thinking too much of his abilities, I don't know. I took a test in sixth grade that said I was reading at the level of a college student (I always thought that seemed ludicrous, though). I might/should try calling to the schools in his neighborhood (he said he was fairly close to the 38th Steet station, and his school wasn't far from his house, so that narrows it down), and asking if he could get some one-on-one attention, though I know it might be asking a lot of the school. Maybe I could volunteer or something, but I have no idea where my life is going to be in the next few weeks/months.

Oh, and the train was packed. I'm glad I wasn't trying to catch a plane or anything. I think that on a good day, a trip from EE/CSci to the airport would take about 40 minutes (this is an important data point, since my brother is flying out to California this week for an interview at Intel).

Well, I needed a pick-me-up when I got home, so I watched Freaky Friday from my pile of Netflix movies. Even brief images of Lindsay Lohan tend to etch themselves with laser beams into my gray matter, so she'll probably pop into my head randomly for the next day or three. Is it the freckles? I don't understand it!

Posted by mike at 10:06 PM Central | Movies , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 26, 2005


Criminy.. I remember when the Linux kernel tar.gz was only about 5MB in size. Now the tar.bz2 is over 35MB (the tar.gz is approaching 45MB). Crazy. Well, I suppose some other things have had even worse records over the same time period (what, 8 years?)

Posted by mike at 11:20 PM Central | Software | Comments (0)

June 20, 2006

Off and On

According to the early reviews, the new Superman is really good. If that's true, the company that made the movie should fire their advertising department—the trailer is a stink bomb.

I saw Cars on opening night, and thought it was excellent. Then I saw A Prairie Home Companion the next day. That's a very different film, so it was hard to gauge. It seemed surprising how they played up the musical performers Robin and Linda Williams, and Jearlyn Steele. But whatever, it worked out alright.

I've continued to play with my camera, though I'm feeling a bit restricted by the graphics tools in Linux. The Gimp only handles 8 bits per color channel (24-bit graphics), which is normally fine, but it can cause images to turn out rather grainy if you start tweaking the brightness or whatever. Supposedly my camera can do something like 12 bits per color channel (36-bit graphics or thereabouts), and it would be really nice to have all of that color range used at least in the background while editing.

I know, I know, Cinepaint is supposed to let you do that, but there are two problems with it—it's a fork of the old 1.x version of The Gimp, and it's one of the buggiest pieces of software I've ever tried to run.

I occasionally try to get into an open source project here or there, but always get stuck because of the complexity. This case will probably be no different, but I'd like to take a shot at working on The Gimp to get it to handle higher bit depths. There's been some backend work already for GEGL, but that project has not yet reached a point where it can be integrated. I seem to recall hearing about that years ago, and it's not done. Well, software development takes time...

I've also tried to get some high dynamic range tools to work, where you combine multiple images into high bit depths using command-line tools, then convert that image into an 8-bit-per-channel image using special algorithms that mimic or trick the human visual system. Done right, you can get images of amazing color and detail. Here are a few examples: one two three. Well, those were actually made with a Windows program called Photomatix, but the same thing is possible on the command line. Unfortunately, one of the programs just doesn't work on my system. I point it at the JPEGs from my camera, and it says "no image found". I suspect that might be happening because my camera puts a bad string in one of the EXIF data fields...

Well, I finally wrote something after a month or so, but I've got to get ready for work.

Posted by mike at 08:42 AM Central | Movies , Photography , Software | Comments (0)