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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

June 30
Back on the BBDB trail again; I fixed a configuration bug, found a bug in the finger code, and then implemented a new feature in the ftp code.

I'm trying to clean out an overpopulated downloads directory; in doing so, I found something I'd meant to RPMify, so I went back at my makerpm.pl script again and made it actually work a bit better. Of course, as soon as I noticed that the package I was working with had a spec file already (broken, but saveable), I gave up and used that instead.

Added a function to cddb-mode.el to split a multi-artist list of TTITLE lines out into TTITLE and TARTIST lines.

June 29
Eek. Another hangover. Ow, dammit.

I bought a computer desk, because all other things aside it's really hard to get into hacking while I'm sitting on the floor cross-legged... after putting it in place, and rearranging the room to cope, I somehow had MORE room than when I started. I can't figure this out. Maybe the desk has negative volume or something. Anyway. I now need to get a new chair, because my current one is rusted at the wrong height, meaning the only practical way of using the desk is to put my feet up on it and put the laptop on, well, top of my lap, funnilly enough. Also, my current chair doesn't have wheels, and I really want a wheely chair. Zoom! Zoom!

June 28
Thanks to AjD, my home page is now HTML 4.01 strict/CSS2 compliant, and still looks approximately the way I want, i.e. I got rid of the nasty box around the Google logo. Of course, you losers with crappy browsers probably won't notice anything.

June 27
Followed by a hangover. Goddammit, how did that happen? I had three pints of beer and nothing else, and it wasn't even particularly smoky in the pub.

Catching up on the book log, since I've been neglecting it: Enigma Variations was not a bad read, but not a terrifically good one. Its connection to Bletchley Park was through the author's working there, but she doesn't have a whole lot to say about it even though it's now declassified. Most of the book was concerned with her partner/fiancé/husband who joined the fledgling SAS and then became part of the biggest loss they had during World War II. Coincidentally, one of the 21 other people on the missing plane was from the same county as me. Wow.

I've started on The Years of Rice and Salt which my parents bought for my birthday. It's interesting, but the random free verse that kept appearing in the first section was irritating, as was the end-of-chapter "read the next chapter to find out what happens next" refrain. That's the sort of thing I'd expect to find in a kid's book, which this isn't.

The Hacker Ethic, or whatever it's called, continues to irritate me, and I continue to swear I'll finish it. That, or burn it, I guess.

Added ScaryGoRound to snorq

June 26
Lordy. More diary backfilling required. Anyway, laptop returned with fully-functioning screen and everything else. Popped the 20GB hard drive back in and all is well. Next, Micromail update.

Followed by BEER.

June 25
YAY. Laptop repaired. Will, no doubt, take another day to get back to me. Fuck you very much, UPS.

June 24
Met up with Audrey and got the full story on her "I was run over by a boat in Cambodia" episode. Woah. She's very lucky to be alive. Also, it's just as well I'm not particularly squeamish.

Got a note from the repair people to say they'd received the laptop, followed by another to say the repair would be delayed while they waited for parts. Here's the UPS tracking log, by the way, for the journey the laptop took to get to the repair shop:

Date Time Location Activity
Jun 24, 2002  9:36 A.M. DUBLIN, IE DELIVERY
Jun 21, 2002 7:56 P.M. DUBLIN, IE ORIGIN SCAN

(Hideous coloration courtesy of UPS)

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, in order to send a package via the express service from the south of Dublin to the North of Dublin, a distance I've covered in rush-hour traffic in under two hours, took UPS THREE DAYS including a depot stop.

June 23
Went to Maplin. Bought the smallest torx driver they had; I had misgivings about the markings on it (Torx 7), but the head looked about the right size. I even tried measuring it to be sure. Got home, dammit, it's too big. Die, Compaq, die. Oh yeah, you already have, kinda. The New HP. SNORK.

Forumla 1: Barrichello wins, Schumacher second. They didn't play team switcheroo this time. Oh, and Fisichella made a rookie mistake to make sure that neither Jordan was in contention, the idiot. And the Giant Chin and Montoya managed to take each other out rather amusingly.

June 22
Went to town, had coffee, met Pete in the Levis shop, bought too many clothes off him. D'oh. Arrived home to realised I'd forgotten to buy a torx screwdriver to dismantle the disk caddy in the new laptop. See, I want to put my home laptop drive in it, and the caddy is new, improved, get your hands off it already you non-approved person. And it requires a torx screwdriver that's something like 1.5 or 2mm across. The smallest torx driver I have is, like, bigger than the head of the screw I'm trying to remove.

Made a brief trip to Woodie's DIY (hur hur, he said "woody") to check if they had anything useful, also to check if they had the necessary bits for me to renovate the old bench out back. It looks like a stolen park bench, but that's no excuse for not renovating it. I could always put a name plaque on it, like "Donated by Waider" and sneak it back into one of the local parks. Which would make for a fun conversation if Someone In Authority caught me, I'm sure. "no, really, officer, I'm putting it BACK.".

June 21
Laptop collected at 9am. Still hadn't arrived at repair shop, on the other side of Dublin, at 5:30pm. Er, what? This is UPS' Express service.

Went to see Hardball, a Keanu Reeves feel-good redemption movie. I'm a sucker for this sort of thing if it's done well. Which, IMHO, this is. Enjoyed it, laughed, almost cried, etc.

June 20
Put a bunch of XML-related stuff on the new server for one of the other developers. I should really be packaging this stuff into an RPM for easy roll-outs.

Called Compaq support to get the laptop booked for fixin'. Contrary to the irritating message on the support phone line, you cannot book your service call over the web. Idiots. Oh, and despite my super-duper warranty, they can't collect the laptop until tomorrow.

Went to see Spider-Man, and enjoyed it. It's not the greatest movie in the world, or anything, but it's a damn fine comic book/superhero conversion. Some excellent funny bits where Peter Parker is learning about his new abilities, some nice action sequences, and the CGI pretty much blends into the movie when you're in a cinema. Which is good, because the isolated CGI shots on the TV trailers were pretty cruddy-looking.

June 19
Woohoo! New laptop! Compaq Evo N600c. This is a rather nice piece of kit. Now I can finally get around to sending the home laptop in for repairs again.

June 18
Went on a mad binge of package upgrading on one of the work servers. In the process, hacked at updateme.pl again. I am thinking that what I really need to do is boil it down into a simple piece of non-replicating code, but that could be said of many of my hacks...

One of the guys in the office has a dead hard drive. As best I can tell, Netscape/Mozilla decided to scribble all over the start of his hard drive. Or maybe the filesystem did it. Either way, his journal inode was, in fact, a little GIF of a stop sign. Kinda appropriate for the effect that had on the machine. I decided, in my infinite kindness (and more to the point, my nerd genes) to try and recover as much of the disk as possible. This entailed me looking at a lot of disk recovery tools, reading their READMEs, inspecting their requirements, and discarding them. I eventually settled on scripting some tomfoolery with debugfs, one of the e2fsprogs toolset. This, would you believe, is far better than any of the recovery tools I was trying. If I'd been more inclined to hack it, and my laptop LCD had been working, the plan of action would have been approximately to iterate over every inode, see if it's collecting any inodes we already know about (i.e. it's a parent directory of something we've seen), make a note of that fact by discarding the thing we've already seen, and do until end of inodes. At end of inodes, extract everything you've got. Then instead of a lost+found directory of 57 million files, you get a structured tree with only the toplevel names missing, and several of them are guessable (such as /usr, /lib, etc.). But instead I just extracted all the inodes and did the above sorting manually.

June 17
Aha. SMTP AUTH nailed. Turns out I was missing the Cyrus SASL PLAIN/LOGIN support. Once that was in place, a quick sendmail.cf tweak got everything working. Yay! I rule!

Also, fixed my dialup problem by having it expect ~ instead of CONNECT at the end of the chat script. Woohoo!

June 16
Oy vey. Spent several hours trying to figure out what was wrong with my parents' computer, only to discover it was the Klez.E virus which I now know far too much about. I then spent several more hours cleaning it up before driving back to Dublin, during which journey I narrowly avoided collecting a COW.

No, really.

Oh yeah. We got beaten on penalties by a Spanish side that didn't deserve the win. Boo, hiss.

June 15
Got my wireless stuff running on 2.4, so I sat downstairs watching TV with the laptop on my lap hooked to the net via the box upstairs. GNEE!

Later on, drove down to my parents' place to surprise Dad for Father's Day.

June 14
Spent most of the day in the office poking at SMTP AUTH to no avail. I'm missing something here and I've no idea what it is.

June 13
Visited supplier of laptops today on unrelated business. Laptops tomorrow, maybe. Or maybe not. Hope hope hope.

Having got the linux-wlan driver working, and patched to provide RSSI info in /proc, and then bundled all that into an RPM for RedHat 6.1, I'm upgrading the 6.1 box to 6.2 to do a rebuild again. I'm upgrading the other 6.1 box to 7.3, at which point all hell should break loose as I try and get the driver working under a 2.4 kernel. Confused by all the numbers yet? That's 802.11 for you.

June 12
After "soggy" comes "crunchy". Ick. So I dismantled the keyboard in the slimed area, and cleaned it up as best I could. Don't try this at home, kids! (Yes, I know, My carpet is horrible. Not my choice or anything.)

Shiny laptops arrived at the office, only to be sent back again because they were one model down from what we were supposed to get. As soon as my new laptop turns up, I'm sending Klortho in for repairs.

June 11
Hurrah! Ireland are through to the second round of the World Cup! So of course I had to go drinking.

Which is why I managed to splash Yop (a yoghurt drink) across the right-hand side of my laptop. D'oh. No apparent physical damage, but the keyboard's a bit, uh, soggy.

June 10
Booya! Got the wireless network running Linux-to-Linux at last, albeit still without link lights. The solution to the last bit of the puzzle was to swap the PCMCIA-to-PCI card with the Video Adapter, and then force the PCMCIA-to-PCI card to route all IRQs via PCI rather than ISA. Presto, working. And it only took about a dozen reboots to figure out.

The dialup failure I mentioned yesterday seems to be some sort of oddball timing problem. It may be that the USB stuff is generating interrupts in some way that is causing the PPP daemon to drop characters. It certainly appears to be set at the correct line speed, though. HMMM.

June 9
After a little tweakery I managed to get the 3Com USB ISDN TA that Bob gave me some, er, months ago working. The (theoretical) advantage of this is that it'll run fast enough that the connection isn't getting throttled at the TA/PC connection to 115k down from 128k, giving me a whopping 13k of extra bandwidth. Woo woo. First trial, doing a CVS update on Wine, and I got 144000 b/s in and 168000 b/s out, compared to 108000/122784 on the Hayes Accura. Woah.

On the down side, it seems to be failing a bit more often on the connections, but maybe that's just temporary insanity on the part of Eircom.

Flushed with success, I went back to hacking on the wireless LAN stuff, and after some abuse came up with a working setup on the laptop borrowed from the office. Strangely, the link light doesn't come on. I still haven't got the non-laptop one working, either, meaning I had to run a kludgey Windows plus half-arsed proxy setup in order to get from the laptop to the server and on out to the Internet. Still, it works, and it works all over the house, too.

June 8
Shopping in Maplin again today. They're going to think I'm paranoid about getting lost, and also addicted to constructing cables.

Finished rereading Foucault's Pendulum. It's an entertaining book, although a little spoiled by Eco's constant foreshadowing early on in the story, and the occasional reminders that The Plan is an invention. Lest you get carried away, I guess.

June 7
Secure IMAP, check. Chasing down why it wasn't working was complicated by the fact that it was logging (via syslog) to three different places, and the initial error was a bit offputting (concerning a duff response from an ident query, which apparently can't be switched off - it's an xinetd feature).

Tried playing with the WLAN card again, this time in a laptop from the office that's running a 2.2 kernel. And it's claiming to fail the self-test, which isn't even as far as the desktop-with-kludgey-PCMCIA-card got. Rather disappointing. My next trick will be to get all the exact versions it's supposed to have been tested with, and see if I can make it work with those. After that, it's Hammer Time.

June 6
Investigating secure things, like secure IMAP and so forth. Hmm hoom.

Cleaned up my room in lieu of doing anything useful. If you're waiting for me to do something with BBDB, my busted monitor is preventing me from doing any serious hacking (spare monitor is blurry) for now, so apologies.

I've backfilled some of the diary entries for the Europe trip. Possibly once I'm done backfilling I'll collect 'em into a proper trip report. But don't bet on that, either.

June 5
Got another phone today - work phone. Hmm. I could turn into Techno Bill at this point.

Went out cycling, damn near killed myself with the effort.

June 4
First day at the new office. Gotta love it: one of the machines was running xmatrix when I arrived in, and there's a LotR poster on one wall. Oh, and a Pac-Man poster on another wall.

June 3
Please bear with me while I shake the memories of the last two weeks into a format suitable for filling out the missing gaps in the diary. But don't expect an entry like "Beer!" to get much better. Photos from my little excursion are over on the hairballs page.

New geekery toy: Acorn A3010. Allegedly will run Linux, muahahah.

June 2
Back in Dublin via Helsinki. No, really. I have a picture of a Helsinki Airport bus to prove it.

Compare and contrast: I spent a week in two different countries where there's a good public transport infrastructure that has a strong tendency to run on time; on my return, the national airline is on strike, taxis are near impossible to find, and the commuter rail service is partially closed while they rebuild a bridge - besides which it and the busses are on Sunday Service anyway, which means they run far less often. Bah.

June 1
Hurrah! Ireland drew 1-1 with Cameroon in their opening World Cup match, giving a fantastic second-half performance that should have seen them win the game.

In less amusing news, my laptop screen has AGAIN decided to stop working. Bob has suggested that I leave it powered down for a bit, so I'll try that and see if it improves the situation any.

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Ireland for the World Cup!