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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

January 31
Johnno texted me at about 7:30 to come to the pub. What else could I do but comply?

January 30
Yay! My new battery arrived from Dabs. Now if only I had something to put it into...

January 29
Sent the laptop back to Tri-Tec again.

January 28
Looked at Glade; it reminds me of XDesigner, only not as immediately intuitive. After a while I kinda got the hang of it.

Happy Birthday, sis!

January 27
Hmm. The mouse seems to have restored itself to sanity.

Reading through my BBDB folder resulted in about 50 deleted messages and two pages of notes on things that either need fixing, documenting, or checking if they're still broken. Yeesh.

January 26
And now my mouse is starting to misbehave. Truly this is indeed the laptop of doom.

I built a fresh copy of Transgaming's WineX, and much to my delight it failed to crash when I tried it with Mobil 1 Rally Championship. However, it also failed to grab the keys or mouse correctly (or something) and took over the entire display with a window I couldn't hide or interact with. So, um. Not quite a runner just yet. Further experiments with Unreal and Incoming revealed other problems, although after sitting there for a good minute Unreal launched into its opening sequence - complete with animated icon when I minimized the window! Neat! Alas, it blew up when I tried to maximize the window. After a little more frobbing I got the game going, but it seems there's definitely a problem with grabs - it grabs the mouse, but not the keyboard, I think. I played around with running it as a managed window, and a few other things, and eventually decided that it's something to look at some other day. Yes, I am aware there are specific details on making Unreal work on Linux. There shouldn't need to be, though.

Added the Incoming soundtrack to my jukebox while I had the disc handy.

Wrote up a page to cover the bunch of patches I've accumulated over the last while. I should probably freshen the older ones, as they may no longer apply cleanly. I've started with pilot-link out of the simple necessity to have it working. So that's up to date, at least. I've modified it at the RPM level; the new spec file (& patch) defines a perl-PDA-Pilot package which can be switched on or off from the specfile, and builds in the build root thanks to some abuse of MakeMaker.

I like this: honesty in online sales. I'm buying a new battery from these people.

Went on a mad cleanup spree through my src directory, with some success in cleaning up things I've not touched in ages or that have been superceded.

Microsoft's VPN client is an awful piece of junk. I get better performance and service out of the PPTP client for Linux. The really irritating part of the Windows client is that if for any reason it doesn't connect first time, you have to reboot or at least log out and log in again before it'll even try connecting again.

January 25
Converted one of my share toys to €, since it's a bit pointless telling me about £.

PTV have changed their mailer format, so I need to update my procmailrc, dammit.

Hacked on the diary helper again. Now it's a little more sane about how C-o works. Next, I need to go over the back-filling code.

Perl/Tk is, at times, frustratingly awkward to work with. I can't tell you why, or I'd have to kill you. I should probably go learn Perl/Gtk or something.

Manual-reading. It's a great hobby. I should do more of it. Then I wouldn't be manhandling cookies when HTTP::Cookie can manhandle them for me, for example.

And another discovery, although less, um, whatever: Mozilla's bookmarks sidebar is an excellent way of managing your bookmarks. You know, rearranging, renaming, that sort of nonsense.

January 24
Wow. My laptop's really in a mess. I should ... go out and watch LotR again, and then meet up with some friends in the pub.

January 23
This laptop is doom incarnate, I'm sure. I tried to phone Tri-Tec, the people who carried out the repair, using the phone number listed on the delivery docket that accompanied the box. It was a disconnected number. Then I noticed that the address on the docket was also incorrect. So I phoned directory enquiries, and discovered that they didn't have a listing for Tri-Tec. Eventually I resorted to Google (after trying a few likely web addresses) and turned up their site, which listed the phone number, which I called, and it rang out the first time. Second time, though, I got onto the person whose name was on the delivery docket, and explained the problem. Fine, she said, send it back, but get a new RMA from Compaq support. So. Laptop will be going back for what is now trip #4 to the repair shop next week.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to clean up the mess I made of the laptop. Basically, instead of doing a patient restore of the system, I installed RedHat 7.1 (I had the CDs lying around), admired KDE for about 20 minutes, and then restored the old files straight over the running system. Now, this is bad for all sorts of reasons, but mainly because I now have fifty billion extra packages installed that aren't registered with RPM, so it's going to be "amusing" cleaning them out again. I am currently contemplating a tool to assist with this.

January 22
Laptop returns from repairs; they replaced the entire monitor section, including the casing. Which means I no longer have Badtz Maru on the cover, boo. And once I'd gotten the machine up and running, I discovered that the new display has a single-pixel glitch running the entire height of the screen. GAAAAAAH. So, now I have to return it to the fix-it people (who I was going to commend for prompt service) and get the job done properly.

That last set of hacks I did to the diary helper code seems to have wrecked it utterly... I guess I need to fix all that. Oh, hmm. It helps if I keep the diary entries "well-formed" as they say in XML circles.

January 21
Email from repair people to tell me it's fixed and they're sending it back. Cool!

January 20
And now, the Win95 install. It couldn't find the mouse (which I'd cunningly plugged into COM2 instead of COM1, but other than that it was pretty straightforward. Bear in mind this is 1996/7 Windows (OSR2) versus 2001 Linux. The desktop was a lot snappier but it ran into a slew of problems with the NE2000, which I ripped out and replaced with the Etherlink card... which worked just fine. Spent the rest of the day testing various bits of hardware, and throwing things out.

January 19
Happy Birthday Hannah!

Returned from "down south" (hey, why not go SCUBA diving this year?) with more computer parts - Pentium 133 on a Zida Tomato 5DVX motherboard with 32MB of RAM, an AT case, and an S3 ViRGE video card. I decided to do a head-to-head Win95 vs. Linux comparison on the machine, to which end I loaded up RedHat 7.1 with the GNOME desktop (stop laughing, you at the back) and discovered exactly how hungry it is for power, disk and memory. The installation itself was fun; I couldn't find a working CD-ROM, and the various IDE drives I have are all damaged in one way or another, and I finally got it installed with a net install from Gonzo where I'd mounted the CD. Changing CDs was entertaining...

RedHat's installer didn't seem to be happy enough to go graphical, either.

After bootup, Linux swore blind that my 3c509 was, in fact, 2 3c509s, complete with unique hardware addresses, neither of which seemed to want to accept DHCPOFFER packets. I couldn't convince it otherwise (bear in mind that it was able to install from this network card) and tossed it in favour of a NE2000 clone (D-Link, I think) instead.

January 18
Found my way to the approximate area of the appropriate business park to drop in the laptop, but Maporama was a little misleading about the precise location so I had to resort to asking directions. Eventually located the repair shop and left in the laptop, after which I drove down the country for my niece's birthday.

January 17
Discovered - much to my amusement - that the HP LaserJet in the office runs an FTP server that you can use to print files. Really. Simply put the file and watch it print. I got a fit of the giggles after that.

Talked to the nice people at Compaq and got a RMA number for my laptop. I'll drop it off for repairs tomorrow after I've done the prerequisite backup-and-install-original-disk-image crap.

Finally saw Johnny Mnemonic, which wasn't quite the utter crap I'd been told it was. The cyberspace sequence was fantastic, and the rest of the movie was reasonable. I'm not gonna say it was a GREAT movie, but still.

January 16
After the frenzied efforts to get the release out last night, I chilled out this evening by getting back to some assorted archiving duties that I'd put off for a bit too long... i.e. cleaning up the pile of floppy disks that's been thrown on the floor for the last two weeks.

January 15
Oh good GRIEF. Now my laptop backlight appears to have died, and it looks like that's not covered by the warranty either. Of course, I can't tell for certain yet, because the warranty page says, "does not apply to screens X and Y" and when I follow the link to find out what screen my machine ships with, it tells me, "we recognise the serial number as belonging to model BLAH, but we don't have any details for model BLAH".

And that's why I'm typing this in text mode on a 14-inch monitor.

Still, I did release BBDB 2.34... Hurrah!

January 14
Back in the Arklow office. Urgh. Commuting sucks.

January 13
Helped Andy determine that his single-floppy router wasn't working (looks like it can't find the network card, and it doesn't have a console to allow you to manually fix it). Neat idea, though - having your router/dialup box be a floppy-only low-grade machine, so that you don't have to listen to the gentle whine of hard disks all the time. I may well have found a use for the disassembled 486 sitting in the wardrobe.

I had planned on getting a BBDB release out this evening, but it remains to be seen if I achieve that goal. The issue of supporting assorted versions of Emacs is a real pain.

January 12
BPC's roomie, Andy, has a scary number of computers in his room. And the new Wolfenstein game is very, very pretty.

January 11
Off to Bath to help BPC with his 30th birthday.

Turns out that MBNA's site isn't hosed after all; it's apparently "a browser issue". GRR. Irritatingly, it works better in Links (although I still can't log in).

January 10
Modified the advert server to properly wrap the fortunes it prints.

MBNA's online access to credit card details has been offline with a "500 Server Error" for the last couple of days, with no explanation. In fact, the front page still invites you to log in.

January 9
A little more Micromail work, mostly cleaning up non-essential references to what's now being referred to as "the old currency".

Wrote the beginnings of an automated test system for BBDB, and used it to fix a few more oddball bugs in completion.

January 7
Hmm. Clearing your history, or maybe it's your cache, in Mozilla deletes all those nice little icons. I can see why that might be, but I think it's wrong.

More Micromail tweakery.

January 6
Gave the scanner some abuse with the help of Anthony Sale's GT6801 driver, and after some false starts (hack the makefile for modversions, make sure the USB stuff is loaded), I got as far as a failed IOCTL on the device. Well, better than nothing, even if it's still not usable...

Micromail update.

Hacked the diary helper to add some more heuristics to C-o, so it now allows me to extend an existing diary entry. It's not terribly bright, but then it doesn't have to be.

Aigh. Noticed that Gonzo had far too much stuff listening on the external (dialup) interface, so set about configuring it all away. This is not quite as easy as simply editing hosts.allow, since I don't even want these services listening on the outboard interface. Plus, not everyone pays attention to those files. I could just firewall off the whole lot using ipchains/iptables, but I'd be happier not to rely on that being present!

Started copying all my old floppy disks to the zips I bought yesterday. I should, of course, have started doing this before the disks deteriorated beyond use...

A little reading, and I discover that my wireless card is indeed Prism-based, and covered by WLAN NG. D'oh.

Klortho hard-crashed while I was playing with the WLAN stuff, so I took the opportunity to take Gonzo down as well and relocate things in my room some more. Gonzo received a pair of USB sockets in the process (USB on the motherboard, but I never bothered with the sockets) and also I managed to fry one of the USB ports. Fortunately, the other is fine, and I have a hub. AND the room is almost presentable now.

Built Emacs 21.1 to investigate a possible build problem with BBDB, and discovered that the fontifed-buffer stuff is much, much faster. Also, Emacs 21.1 looks suspiciously like XEmacs did when it first appeared. It's only taken GNU nine years to catch up...

Did a big compiler-whining cleanup on BBDB. I discovered that the reason the VM compile is so quiet is that Kyle switches off a bunch of warnings! I'm more inclined to fix the source of the warnings where possible. There are several different fixes, none pretty, and all used arbitrarily, which I will fix up in the next release. For now, though, I'm gonna spend the rest of this week making ONLY bugfix changes, and then release at the end of the week.

January 5
Made a brief attempt to clean up the room, then left for CompuW^HStore who were blathering about a sale (I don't like 'em, but they're the nearest well-stocked computer shop to me). I now have an Artec Ultima 2000 e+ scanner (not Linux-friendly, it seems), a ZoomAir wireless PCMCIA card (haven't checked Linux-friendlyness yet) and a half-dozen blank Zip drives. Damn you, impulse shopping urge!

Hrm. It appears that my PCMCIA support broke while I wasn't looking. I wonder what caused that? Perhaps when I reverted to using stock RedHat kernels instead of home-grown ones... a quick poke at the config showed that I didn't have a PCMCIA package installed (although I did have the tools, from a source build) so up2date --install kernel-pcmcia-cs and the problem appears to have been solved.

For the driver, some poking around led me to ftp://ftp.linux-wlan.org/pub/linux-wlan-ng/, where there appears to be some source code and even RPMs. Alas, the RPMs are for the NG WLAN stuff, which doesn't apply to my humble card... oh dear. I'll have to *gasp* actually compile stuff?

Huh. Just noticed that my fiddlings with iso-10646 appear to have rendered (hah!) my Japanese files into little blocks again. Dammit.

January 4
Ah, finally the weekend. I might be able to catch up on some of the sleep I missed this week...

Ran elp on BBDB reading and displaying my entire database. No, not Emerson, Lake, and Palmer! Emacs Lisp Profiler. Interesting stuff, if you're interested in bumming cycles.

January 3
Set my office Emacs and xterms to use iso-8859-15 fonts, and frobbed the keymap so that AltGr-4 produced a €-sign. Then Exchange blew up at me for some reason when I sent an email with a € in the subject line.

I gotta say, I really don't like how it looks. It utterly fails to blend in with the characters around it, and it looks like a stylized 'c' more than it does an 'E'. Here's a ¢-sign, for completeness. €1 = 100¢ = IR£0.787564.

January 2
Dunno how I hadn't heard of this before. Xkeymacs is a systray toy that gives all your Windows applications Emacs keystrokes. Magic!

More Euro fun and games.

January 1
First hack of the New Year was to assault my Emacs diary assistant to cope with the year rollover. Which was harder than I had expected, largely due to the haphazard way in which I wrote the code.

Euro launch seems to have happened more-or-less as planned. Damn but these coins are fiddly.

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Happy New Euro