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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

February 28
Ok, so in order to change an Exim box from primary to secondary MX, aside from the obvious DNS changes you just need to take the relevant domain out of the local hosts list. That was easy. How come it was such a pain to find out?

I also put in a sitewide redirect for the alternative location of my old website to sling traffic at the new location, since it appears quite a few things are pointing at the wrong address.

Spent far too much time trying to talk sense into a laptop running SuSE Linux 9.0. The biggest problem was that I didn't have any install media to hand. The second biggest problem was that it being a laptop and a 2.4 kernel, there were "issues" with power management. Installing a 2.6 kernel cured that but broke some other things, and the 2.6 kernel in question is old enough that it predates the actual release version of 2.4 so a scratch-built kernel is probably in order. I've since set our fileserver building a yum repository for SuSE, which may prove interesting since all the public repositories, while nominally "just RPMs" are really Red Hat-oriented.

February 27
Urk. Managed to trip the main circuit breaker in the house this morning (possibly due to the combination of electric heaters running...) which in turn appears to have fried the PCMCIA card that linked my DSL line to my LAN. The DSL box also has a USB interface so I'm going to see if I can get that up and running; in the meantime there's a LAN, and the Internet, and an air gap. I guess it means my LAN's secure, at least...

After some jugging, the LAN's back on the net. Silliness continues. And further investigation reveals the culprit to be my toaster, which has apparently croaked in some ELCB-tripping fashion. Bah.

And yay, we beat England at rugby. That puts us three for three in the Six Nations, and puts England zero for three which is pretty startlingly bad for the World Champions...

Added a little more Wireless Extensions goop to the WLAN driver. Trying to figure out what SPY does, exactly, so I can see about implementing it; it seems to be a means of measuring signal strength to something we're not connected to, and I'm not sure if I can manage that.

February 26
Shall We Dance? is not a movie I'd have gone to see by myself, but my parents had planned on seeing Sideways and when we got to the cinema it was sold out, so we ended up watching a Gere/Lopez rom-com instead. And it was surprisingly excellent - plenty laughs, a bit of schmaltz, and some spectacular dancing.

February 25
Tooling around with an Emacs version (ish) of Notational Velocity, which seems like a neat idea.

February 24
My 11Mbit wireless card appears to be marginally insane, but only under Windows: it's decided to communicate only in infrequent bursts, going by what I can see from various clients trying to use it. I have no idea why this suddenly started happening to a card that was working perfectly well last week. It still works fine in Linux, but then the Linux drivers don't start out by downloading temporary firmware and using that as the card's brain, which is what the Windows drivers do.

February 23
Drinking with friends in Bono's hotel, thus a certain lack of geekery. Although we did discuss the Star Wars movies at some point.

February 22
Purple Rain is mostly what you'd expect from a vanity project: crap writing, crap acting, and the occasional bright spot to alleviate the general crappiness. The performance of the title song is outstanding, and Apollonia's all cute'n'stuff, but the rest isn't worth wasting your time on.

February 21
We started using Mozilla Calendar at work. It's nothing special; just another ical-based piece of software. In the interests of syncing data before it got out of control, I had a look at parsing the .ics files in Perl which would then allow me to spit them out via Coldsync to my Palm or whatever. The story so far:

If you're using Mozilla Calendar, btw, check out Apple's Calendar Library.

Found a really dopey bug in the WLAN code which I'd introduced when I made it work on 2.4; I could've sworn I'd tested the 2.2 code that remained, but apparently not.

February 20
Mr. Deeds is an excellent piece of work, well worth watching. It's somewhat predictable, it's schmaltzy in places, but it's very well executed and that carries it. Particularly amusing is Emilio, the sneaky butler ("I fear you are underestimating the sneakiness sir."), and the whole rescuing-cats-from-the-fire shtick. Oh, plus the final shot is hilarious. Go see it!

I'm redoing my Wireless Extensions patch for the Linux WLAN driver, since the original was a bit of a mess. I figure if I completely implement the version with the last Red Hat 6.2 kernel update (that's version 10) I'll have at least a base for futher development. I've already compiled the 7.3 wireless tools SRPM on 6.2, and it built without a hitch, so now I just need to make the driver react to what iwconfig and friends do to it.

Ok, most of the read stuff for Wireless Extensions v10 is now implemented to a reasonable degree of accuracy. Go me!

Time to call it a night:
[root@fozzie wireless_tools.23]# cat /proc/net/wireless 
Inter-| sta-|   Quality        |   Discarded packets
 face | tus | link level noise |  nwid  crypt   misc
  eth1: 0001    0     0     0        0      0      0
(fozzie is a 486 running Red Hat 6.2, in case you're wondering, and like the 386 running Red Hat 1.1 (!), its CMOS battery has expired and so it occasionally loses its mind. But it's good enough to use as a testbed for this stuff.)

February 19
Finally got around to cleaning up (somewhat) the mess that was formerly known as "the desk in the bedroom". Currently going through a stack of hardware trying to figure out what's alive and what's not. Oh, and throwing caution to the wind, the MiniITX box is running Gronk again. Low load this time, though; it's using mpg123 as the player, and it's not streaming.

That's kinda amusing: my 13-year-old 5.25" drive still works. The floppy that's been in it for the last five years or more is a bit dead, though.

February 18
Poking at the office current server, I discover that someone has created "The Next-Generation Package Manager" for FC3 (possibly also older Red Hat systems) which, er, well, why doesn't someone actually finish the current generation, instead of building these half-assed systems and declaring them to be better than everything that preceded them? Oh, plus this new toy is called "smart", which isn't very, er, smart, since there's already a well-known package with a very similar name (smartd, which is a monitor for low-level diagnostic events on IDE drives).

February 17
Bloody hell. Software releases coming out my ears.

Also, I need to read up on the tech I use a bit more.

February 16
Ocean's 12 is a little too clever, especially by comparison to the fairly direct plot in the first movie, but it's definitely fun and worth a look.

February 15
Added a little more to the junkmail cleaner. Now, the real smart thing to do would be to bolt this directly onto my mail server to stop the stuff before it even gets onto my disk.

February 14
Nnnngh. Silly bugs. I hate 'em.

Also, the DSPsrv is back, but I'm keeping my site and mailserver on my home box. Heck, as I said, I've been meaning to move 'em here for ages.

Also, here's some shiny new code: a text/HTML/WML timetable doodad for the DART.

February 13
I've started piecing together an editor for my del.icio.us stuff. This has been interesting, in particular chasing not-quite-bugs in code I'd already written. del.icio.us is an intriguing idea, and whether it succeeds or fails it's a really useful way of sharing bookmarks across several machines. Since I've moved all of my non-private bookmarks there, I should probably back up my collection at some point...

Bloom is an interesting take on Ulysses, although I'll need to finish reading the book to find out what went in and what was left out. One thing that did catch my eye was the ingenious use of the camera where exterior location shots were required; it's shown nicely as the credits start, where a shot of Bloom standing in front of Trinity College pans around to follow him as he walks, revealing a far more contemporary Westmoreland Street complete with pedestrians, buses and a minor traffic jam.

February 12
Much faffing about to not much effect. I did watch Ireland pretty much stomping Scotland into the ground at Murrayfield.

I'm still appalled at how long rpmbuild -ba kernel.spec takes.

February 11
Woo, software release today.

Installed filelight (including hacking source, reinstalling KDE developer libs, etc.) to find out where the hell all my diskspace has gone. Discovered, surprise surprise, that it's taken up by Lotus Notes (long, whiny story) and a Win2k config for VMware (shorter, no less whiny story). Plus a bunch of other stuff, but those are the two main culprits.

Ok, that's stupid. I delete ONE FILE from filelight, and it rescans the entire space I'm viewing. Which is ~waider, consisting of 5GB in 50,000+ files. Takes a bit of time, y'know?

February 10
Grr. I've been tooling with a CGI script that alters its output depending on the environment it's run in: if you run it as a command-line, it takes options from the command-line and produces plain text; if you hit it with a WAP browser, it produces WML; and if you hit it with a proper web browser, it produces HTML. By playing with this I have discovered thatSo much for smart programming.

Went on a cleaning rampage through the /tmp directory, throwing out or otherwise dealing with stuff I've collected over the last few days or weeks for the inevitable "round tuit" pile.

February 9
NW-23 discoveries to date:This last bit is how I know it doesn't need to be visible on the USB bus, and makes me hopeful that I should be able to hack it into operation with WINE. Right now, the MP3 manager runs but claims that the device has been disconnected, so evidently it's making some sort of syscall that's not returning the expected value.

February 8
Das Boot has been sitting on my table for the last week waiting for me to get around to watching it, and I finally did so tonight. Very gritty portrayal of life on a sub, with particular emphasis on the hopelessness of being cornered by faster boats with nowhere to go but down, and on the cramped lifestyle aboard the boat. Oh, and the ending's a real bitch, too.

February 7
Email and web for waider.ie now comes right into my house, which I'd planned on doing at some point but I guess there's nothing like a hardware failure to force me into action... I still need to tweak the old mailserver to let it know that it's a secondary MX now, but that's a minor detail.

One thing about the changeover is that I've realised that my RSS toy is a total resource hog. I've started tweaking it to be less so, but it'll take a while - basically I'm converting it to pull from a database rather than scraping crap out of the filesystem every time you hit the CGI script.

February 6
12:30ish: server is coming back and leaving again. I guess one of the other admins is on the job (Hi Dave!)

Hurk. Turns out that one of the bits holding the heatsink on the chip snapped, resulting very shortly thereafter in a cooked CPU. RIP motherboard. We're currently limping along on a spare motherboard and this site has moved (i.e. if you can read this you're on my DSL line right now).

New toy! My brother got me a Sony Network Walkman NW-S23 for Christmas, but for various handwaving reasons I didn't actually get it until now. I will have to have words with the Windows-only software but whee, this is going to be an improvement to in-car CD or carrying my old MiniDisc player around... and I'm curious to see if Sony's decision to support MP3 natively will affect my particular piece of hardware.

February 5
And back to Dublin again. The photos I took at the wedding were uniformly crap; I need to tool around with the camera's notion of light settings and point of focus and suchlike because I got a lot of well-lit shots of people's backs, dimly lit shots of things I wanted to capture, and random blurs. Grr.

22:20ish: wah! where's my server gone?

February 4
Off to Clare for a wedding. About the geekiest thing I did was to preload my mapping toy with maps of the area...

February 3
Typical: I implement a workaround and then the thing I'm trying to work around gets fixed. Bah.

February 2
Hurrah! Final outcome of my mortal battle with Vodafone: a callback from the supervisor, who herself was apparently having some trouble getting the Terminals people to call her back. In summary, the unit is broken as designed; the repair shop should have made this clear to me the first time I gave them the phone; I shouldn't have had to spend three months plus an hour of phone time trying to find this out. (Note to other Sagem My-V55 users: the "Photo Album" option on the camera menu doesn't, and can't ever, work.) I did get some compensation for my troubles, so that's okay.

New adventures in hardware: finally, after several attempts over the past few years, one of my Enterasys "Silver" wireless cards is now a "Gold" card, i.e. it's capable of strong(er) encryption.

February 1
I should know better than this. I go to all the trouble of neatly tucking a machine into the spare corner of my desk, then switch it on and get beep codes. Every other time I set up a new box, I leave it strewn all over the place so I can get at the innards and find out why it's beeping. Crap.

The phone saga has not yet resolved itself, but today's update is that it appears that the phone does actually ship broken, cannot be fixed, and the tech support supervisor is waiting on a callback from the handsets division to confirm that this is indeed the case. I can't really understand how it is that Vodafone sell an own-brand phone with features that don't work, and more to the point why, if the handsets division is aware of this deficiency, it's taken me three months to find someone who can pass that information on to paying customers.

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Woah. What happened to January?