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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

June 30
Yay! Good demo today!

June 29
Ow. Playing Scalectrix and Frisbee with a 5-year-old isn't the best way to treat a hangover.

June 28
James' birthday party, which was fun. His birthday was on Monday, but happy birthday anyway, James!

June 27
Further movie notes: The Fast and the Furious is Point Break with cars instead of surfboards, less people dead at the end, and someone more wooden than Keanu Reeves in a leading rôle - Vin Diesel. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider doesn't live up to its potential - but I already knew that - and basically plays like a poor video game. Neither movie completely sucked, but I've seen a hell of a lot better.

June 26
In which I relearn some Cisco config, including the all-important "if you want it to demand-dial you need to give it a number to dial" lesson.

Billy, Billy Connoly's biography, is an interesting topic rendered terribly by someone who, while probably well placed to write about the man (being his spouse and all) is most definitely not a particularly good writer. It's very disjoint and mostly reminded me of He Died With A Felafel In His Hand, the way it rambles from one story to the next. And the name dropping. What was that about? Trying to make the point that he's gone from tenements in Glasgow to the high life in Hollywood? Fine. You could've made that point in, um, a sentence. Maybe a paragraph at most. You don't really need to keep reeling off names at every possible opportunity.

Much entertainment with Aer Lingus yesterday and today. I was trying to book flights yesterday and kept getting an error which suggested I call the helpdesk. So I did, and they told me that I should just enter "Dublin" for the county, not "County Dublin". Er. Right, still the same message. So then I tried an alternative tack: rather than putting my credit card details in at purchase time, I tried getting my credit catd details into my user profile on the site. Haha. Apparently this falls foul of some "You're Not Using IE" bug. So I fired up IE (on Linux, gnee) and registered my credit card details, then tried using the saved details. Which got me a message about how they couldn't validate my card. At this point I'd run out of spare time and went back to work. I tried again in the evening to no avail. In the interim, I'd used my credit card to pay for parking, so the card was definitely ok.

This morning, I checked my credit card statement online and was somewhat surprised to discover almost €1500 in unconfirmed charges. I phoned up the credit card company and asked for details; they said there were six attempts to charge airline tickets to my card. Some discussion on how long it takes for dud charges to expire off the bill (they affect my credit limit, even if they're not actually real charges, see below) and the nice lady on the phone gave me the times and auth codes for each charge. I then phoned Aer Lingus. The first person I talked to suggested that there was a problem with my card, told me that the charges were solely "sufficient credit" checks (i.e. not real charges unless I actually managed to book a ticket), and told me no, I did not have reservations on the flight. Then she passed me off to manual reservations, who proceeded to leave their phone ring for several minutes. Tired, and in need of coffee, I grabbed a mug from the kitchen and went back to the website, thinking maybe whatever was glitched yesterday might be working today. Nope, no such luck; claiming they couldn't validate the card again. So I called the helpdesk again, gave the much-friendlier-than-the-first-one girl the details, and she offered to take my reservation over the phone there and then. Yay! So she proceeded through the details, and lo and behold, the credit card validated. I mentioned that I'd used the site some weeks back without any problems, and she said that they'd made some changes to the site at the weekend and it'd turned up "a few niggling problems". Mmm. Indeed. Anyway, end of saga. At least, it will be once those dud charges vanish off my credit card. The credit card company said they'd disappear after five days if the money wasn't called for, and Aer Lingus said 48 hours. Whatever.

June 25
Hmm. May have tracked down the work problem from the last two days.

June 24
My bank, Bank of Ireland, made much ado about how they've revamped their online banking section. The only difference I can see so far is that I can no longer log into the site using Mozilla. The two credit card accounts I closed some months back are still displayed on the list with the balance marked "UNAVAILABLE", too. Good to know the various bits of interest they charge their customers are being put to good use.

More of the "stuff not work in office, stuff work at home" routine. BAH.

Hacked up a silly little RSS toy to display some feeds in a Mozilla sidebar. Verdict so far: 1. I need to learn some scripting and CSS to do some sort of hide/reveal or tree view; 2. XML::RSS is very noisy sometimes; 3. Not everyone who offers a RSS feed offers a useful RSS feed.

June 23
Tiresome day. Stuff that was working perfectly last week is not working today, the sole reason being - as far as I can tell - that I have to release it. Spent the day doing all manner of dead chicken waving and invocations to higher powers to no avail. Of course, I bring it home to test stuff and find it appears to be working fine. Sigh.

June 22
Party good, hangover bad. Ugh.

Upgraded Klortho to Red Hat 9. I'm thinking I might redo it as a fresh install, but for now it's happily downloading updates.

Heh. Got mail offering me $$$ if I put CAB creation into cabarc; told the guy that there's already at least one project out there to create CAB files on non-Microsoft platforms, viz. lcab.

Woo, got my serial problem kinda sorted; close enough to allow it to work, albeit slowly. This means one less Windows box required in the office, woohoo! Now if I can figure out how to make it work above 19,200 baud...

I'm having a lot of trouble with USB-Serial devices on the work laptop. Specifically Jun 22 19:19:33 qaz kernel: usb-uhci.c: interrupt, status 3, frame# 820. Research on the problem suggested I should maybe install the last Red Hat 8 kernel, which appeared to be working and then, er, didn't. The really irritating bit is that PilotManager gracefully handles all this by locking up. GAH.

Recently seen movies, thanks to my subscription to DVDRentals.ie (whose site still sucks if you don't have IE) and a cinema trip: Next up is "The Fast and the Furious". I think I might just about manage to hit my monthly limit, which is 8 DVDs.

June 21
Spent most of the day puzzling over a serial comms problem. I really need to run a line tap or something to figure this out. That, or reverse-engineer a badly-written Windows executable. Urk.

Finally did something I should have done ages ago: I made Gonzo trap all outgoing SMTP traffic and redirect it to itself. This means I don't have to keep frobbing my laptop sendmail config to cater for the fact that my ISP's dialup address space is largely blacklisted, since Gonzo knows about bouncing mail off the ISP's relay instead of going direct.

And off to a party, whee!

June 20
Congrats to Bob and Gemma on their new arrival...

More productive work. I still have a certain dislike for fiddling with Cisco boxes, but hey. sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

Tweaked makerpm.pl a little. I really should do some more work on this because it's quite a useful tool.

June 19
Hard but productive day working; it's nice when things work, not just in that "hurrah it was flawless" way, but also in that "doh, it wasn't broken, I was just being stupid" way.

Happy Birthday, Jaime!

More fun with IRC bot. It now logs messages for people.

June 18
Mostly some fun today. Made the bot use the Shakespearean insult server, as well as a few other tweaks. Redid the hack I mentioned ages back for having FVWM track window focus for me; now the XChat hack I use to alert me if someone's talking to me while I'm not looking at XChat actually knows if I'm looking at XChat or not. It's still a bit screwy because FVWM doesn't escape the arguments it passes using Current so if you've got a window with a single quote in the title you end up with an error instead of a logged focus change. But close enough for government use, anyway.

June 17
Fun and games with IMAP on the dspsrv box; seems like some messages don't want to be deleted, and Hary and I can't really figure out why that is.

Here's a good page on Serial Console for Linux, including configuring Grub to use the serial line. The only thing I found wrong with it is that the line-speed change from boot to agetty tends to mess up your terminal.

Used the POE cookbook example to rustle up a simple bot for the office IRC channel, mainly to give one of my coworkers abuse for his awful puns.

June 16
Why is it that my multi-tasking threaded Mozilla browser gets completely wedged on either connection or lookup despite the fact that it is 2003 and this sort of problem was fairly conclusively dismantled and solved, oh, years ago? Is it some freaky sort of nostalgia? I set it opening a half-dozen tabs, and it half-loads some of the pages, and sits on about:blank with others, and there is no indication of what it's actually doing because hey, the status bar says, "Done". This is what happens when the people writing the software have top-line hardware and multi-megabit connections.

June 15
At the seminar, still.

Yay, Ferrari bring home the bacon again. Schuey Sr. did one of those tricksy fuel stop manouevres and came out barely in front at lap 20, and spent the rest of the race holding off the two Williams drivers. The win gives him a three-point lead in the drivers' championship, too. Go Schuey! Go Schuey!

June 14
And the seminar continues.

Schuey Jr. on pole in Canada, with Schuey Sr. in 3rd. Hmm. And how did Firman manage 4th fastest in pre-qualifying?

June 13
Spending my weekend at a seminar.

June 12
Bug in Gaim, which I dislike anyway: it doesn't correctly parse the http_proxy environment variable. Bug in Ayttm, the successor to EveryBuddy: it can't seem to connect to at least AIM and ICQ, instead sitting there forever moving its "I'm doing something" bars, and it prints up a load of errors when connecting to MSN but still shows me being connected. And EveryBuddy simply won't compile on Red Hat 9. GAH.

June 11
Continuing failure of USB toy to work for Palm syncing. I'm a little unhappy about this.

Since it took me way too long to find out: if you'd like to test your shiny new GNOME 2.0 panel applet without installing it or editing systemwide files or whatever, set BONOBO_ACTIVATION_PATH to include the directory where your applet's .server file is before you run the panel. Once I knew that, of course, it was a bit easier to find it on the 'net, but I ended up unpacking the source and looking for calls to getenv(). Brute force.

June 10
Spent some time trying to hack an office tool into GNOME 2.0. Doesn't help that the panel documentation shipped with Red Hat 9 doesn't actually correspond to what's in the header files. Grr.

June 9
If xmms tells you it can't find libartscbackend.la, you need to install the arts-devel package. You don't need to bug the guys at XMMS.org, who appear to have enough problems on their hands right now.

Mmmph. Can't seem to get the USB/Serial dohickey for my Palm V to work on Qaz. That's not useful. On the other hand, I managed to sync via IR with no hassles, so that's okay.

Yay, one of my patches for spamass-milter finally made it into CVS.

June 8
Donated a small hack to XScreenSaver, courtesy of spending too much time looking at The Matrix.

Finally migrated enough things to Qaz (the repaired office laptop) to go back to using it as my primary machine. I've been a little more careful about changing things this time, including obsessive attention to making things RPM-controlled, so it should be a little easier to reclone things back to Klortho when I do a Red Hat 9 install there. Oh, and while being obsessive I decided to go through my entire Perl directory and clean up warnings.

June 7
Converted my two stock ticker toys into a module plus some auxilliary code. That's been a long time coming.

June 6
For some reading material I picked up Robert Ludlum's "The Paris Option", which is posthumous and, I hope, in no way indicative of the sort of stuff Ludlum would have allowed to be published if he was still alive, because it is one of the most godawful thrillers I've ever read. What's worse is that I can't even figure out what's wrong with it. I read over a paragraph trying to figure out how it could be redone to work better, and failed miserably. Save yourself some cash and don't buy this book, or buy some "pure" Ludlum like his Jason Bourne trilogy instead.

June 5
Hacker/Sick Puppy #2: Boot machine from Knoppix. NFS-mount directory off laptop, since Knoppix is all read-only stuff. Use mount --bind to get appropriate bits of the writable NFS share into appropriate bits of the Knoppix machine's tree. Compile things.

June 4
Call Yourself A Hacker, or at least a sick puppy: networking toy wants an inbound connection. I'm firewalled. I do, however, have a server in the real world. ssh -R port:localhost:port myserver, run rinetd on myserver because SSH's port forwarding only listens on the loopback interface, then tell the client to lie about its IP address. Bonus points if you know what client I'm talking about.

8 Mile is a good movie, but Brittany Murphy's role was a bit weird, almost like an afterthought. The freestyle Rap Battles on the DVD were pretty amazing, too.

June 3
Stupid Hacks'R'Us: in addition to having a mailer hook that prevents me from putting inappropriate quotes into office emails, I now have a FVWM startup command that loads wallpaper based on what domain I'm connected to.

Digging into the mystery world of video transcoding again ("I know! Let's invent another video format!") and I found one of the coolest things ever: a Perl script to clean up a dirty signal. A very specific sort of dirty signal; the one generated by M*cr*v*s**n, if'n you know what I mean.

June 2
GNEE. Doing some work on Micromail which involved beating someone else's HTML into the correct shape, and I got fed up of all the manual editing and scratched up a 15-line Emacs macro to do the job instead. M-x honk...

June 1
Well, Schumacher managed to drag himself up to 3rd, while Barrichello didn't do quite so well. Alas.

Finally reworked the films.pl script to use a new source, and yay, also cleaned up the code lots. We'll see how long the current source of listings lasts.

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Wahey! Summer!