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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

March 31
The Day After Tomorrow was pretty much what I expected: a bunch of "Gee Whiz" setpiece shots (L.A being destroyed by tornadoes, New York vs. Tidal Wave and then Blizzard, etc.) with a thin layer of alleged story holding them together. If you want a good (and recent) disaster movie, try Twister (small scale disaster, but well made) or even Armageddon, both of which put a bit more effort into story and character (despite one reviewer's claims that the latter promises no such thing; sure, it's not high literature, but it's at least got some story and character development). TDAT also features that wonderful Hollywood Global View: Freak Weather Destroys Such Places As New York, L.A., Des Moines, Boise, Bad Ass (TX) And, Er, EuropeAndNorthernAsia, as represented by two tiny set pieces whose distinguishing features were a blizzard with some RAF helicopters (Scotland), and a street with oriental signage and people (dunno. Tokyo? San Francisco?). At least Armageddon had the decency to run a chunk of space rock up the Champs Elysses.

My attempt to hack the Sony stuff into the stock mpg123 plugin is confounded by the mass of global variables in use in that module. I'm not quite clear on what's going wrong, but after a few track skips the module loses track of which file it's playing and thus the conversion matrix no longer works.

Went back to the commandline stuff plus generic library routines to manage the Sony format instead, and spent an entertaining hour or more trying to figure out how to handle ID3 tags without having to write my own parsing code. Eventually gave up on ID3lib after discovering that a function I needed in the C interface didn't actually seem to be implemented - despite being declared in the header file. Tried libid3tag instead, which is more useful to us C types but is less documented. Eventually got it working and went back to the library routines. At this point I've gotten it to add a folder to the device, but it doesn't fully write out the playlist as I've not finished that chunk of code yet. Also there are a few sort of "this works, but needs to be revisited" spots in the code. With luck and a bit of effort I'll finish the library stuff over the weekend and go back to playing with a plugin for XMMS.

March 30
Hmm. This new unified repository format as proposed by the Yum people isn't a bad idea, except that Fedora Core's up2date doesn't use it. Argh. I guess I have to maintain both index formats until that gets fixed.

Ow. That hurt. Machine locked hard, for no reason I can detect, but I strongly suspect SMBFS. Plus, when I rebooted it, I thought half the keyboard had died, but it was just NumLock being engaged without the light coming on...

March 29
Per yesterday's comments, started out by making a standalone build for the mpg123 plugin. Not too difficult, although I still know nothing useful about the whole auto* toolchain.

March 28
I totally rock, I do. I've fully decoded the (non-ATRAC) music files on the Sony player, and decoded enough of the playlist files to understand them, and built a plugin for XMMS that will play the files right off the Sony when it's in USB drive mode. Go me!

xmms /media/NW-S23 gnee gnee giggle giggle

Actually, what I've got is essentially a heavily modified mpg123 plugin. I should really see about folding my changes into that, and allowing the Sony files as just another thing it can handle. Tomorrow, maybe. Right now it's time to sleep.

March 27
Minor tweak to the films.pl script to allow me to filter what channels it shows me. No point in seeing listings for channels I don't have... and yes, I do have an XMLTV version of this knocking around somewhere!

Wow. Out of curiosity I went digging at the files on my MP3ATRAC3 player. Looks like the "ATRAC3" files generated by the on-device conversion tool are MP3 files stripped of their tags, run through an isomorphic convertor, and bolted onto a 32-byte header.

March 26
Tears Of The Sun is pretty much a Vietnam war movie in the mould of Apocalypse Now for people who can't identify with the Vietnam war. Lots of gritty "horror of war" stuff, disobeying orders to do the right thing, etc. etc. etc. Not actually a bad movie, but not essential viewing either. Amusingly, I spotted pretty early that Hans Zimmer was involved in the music.

March 25
Happy Birthday, Mom!

It's nice that Red Hat's up2date tool now supports yum repositories, but it would be nicer if they fixed it so that it can recover from broken repositories by e.g. jumping to the next available mirror.

Huh. I'd just decided I'd redo the rather nasty code I'd used to talk to my phone using gsmlib, and it turns out it doesn't build on Fedora Core. "yay."

March 24
I watched Danny O'Brien's "Life Hacks" talk from last year's Notcon, and one of the more interesting snippets that cropped up was some guy who was looking at his filesystem by mtime - essentially identifying groups of files modified on the same date. It's a novel way of looking at stuff, so I hacked up a bit of Perl to play with it. Can't say I've any idea what to do with this, though!

Finally switched the home box to using spamass-milter so that definite spam gets rejected before it even reaches my mailbox. We'll see if that improves the state of my spam statistics any.

From the "works better if you plug it in" department: the wireless mouse works a lot better if both mouse and receiver are on the same channel. And despite the modern wonder of wireless technology, the Palm cradle needs to be plugged into the laptop in order for syncing to work. D'oh and double d'oh.

And for good measure, the problem with the IrDA stuff appears simply to have been that the incredibly crappy Sagem IrDA implementation had crashed. Power-cycling the phone appears to have solved the problem.

March 23
Right, I think my laptop is finally somewhere approximating Fedora Core 3. I'm still slightly concerned that disk partitions appear to be overlapping, but I'm not going to worry about that just yet since it'll require a full disk scrub to resolve.

Modified my junkmail handler to cope with the changes in SpamAssassin 3.x.

Aha. IrDA stuff is broken because I'm now using udev, apparently. I need to learn a whole new device management metaphor. This breaks a few other things, including my Pilot syncing, but I shall, as ever, cope.

March 22
Mean Machine is an absolute barrel of laughs and definitely worth watching. Simple enough premise: footballer gets sent to HMP Broadhurst and trains a team of convicts to play a soccer match against the guards. The match itself takes up the last 35 minutes of the game, and is a comedy all by itself. Vinnie Jones plays the footballer, with an ensemble cast of the usual (English) suspects on his team.

March 21
Hmm. My ACPI/APM toy is busywaiting, and my IrDA toy is completely broken. Not good.

March 20
XChat 2 is like XChat 1's ugly cousin. This is not helped by there being no migration of settings from XChat 1 to XChat 2. I started hacking up a perl script to do so, got as far as discovering that the semantics of the network groups have changed, and punted the thing in favour of simply getting back online. Maybe tomorrow.

March 19
More BAH. We lost to Wales, AND France pretty much trashed the Italians, so we didn't even get second place in the rugby. Also, there was a F1 race in Malaysia this weekend but I payed it little attention.

Laptop is crawling towards being more FC2 than not, but still somewhat crippled.

March 18
Laptop slightly crippled through upgrade attempts. Fedora Core 2 is kinda halfway onto the machine and I'm relying on updates to clean up most of the mess; the problem is waiting for them to install. XChat 2 does not import the XChat 1 settings, which is a pain in the ass, because that's my connection to all my messaging stuff. Gah.

I watched Solaris, the 1972 movie that spawned (eventually) the recent George Clooney outing, and you know, with a little editing it'd be pretty hard to choose between the two. This is helped by the fact that the Russian leads do, in fact, look not entirely dissimilar to Clooney and McElhone, and the DVD print is easily good enough to stand up next to current direct-to-DVD offerings. The English dubbed audio track seems to be missing bits here and there where only Russian is available, but I went back to the menus and switched it to Russian audio with English subtitles if only to hear how this was originally supposed to sound. The extras don't amount to much, although there is an interview with Natalya Bondarchuk years after the movie which is interesting and informative and definitely worth watching. It's definitely worth watching if only to appreciate that the Cold-War Soviets were as capable of turning out a decent SciFi movie as the Americans, modulo the occasional over-long tracking shots and the whole Following Man On City Roads bit in the first part. Speaking of length, the only reason I can imagine that the marginally-sub-three-hour movie is spread over two discs is that they includeded three different Dolby 5.1 soundtracks, since both discs appear to sport the same bonus features. This movie held my interest far better than I'd expected for 70's sci-fi (2001: A Space Odyssey being one of the most boring movies I've ever had to sit through, and with a time-dilating fever at that) and seems far more modern than its age would suggest.

March 17
I broke Skype. Or rather, it broke itself when I tried to upgrade from the 0.93ish beta I've been running to an actual 1.0 release. It apparently can't parse its own language files, making the UI completely useless.

Road Trip was actually not a bad movie - no gross-out jokes, despite the presence of both Tom Green and Seann William Scott, a reasonable plot, and some pretty good laughs. Also stars Paulo Costanzo, aka Michael from Joey... playing a guy who's smart to the point where he's somewhat excluding the more mundane parts of life. Typecast, anyone?

Why does Fedora Core 3 hate my laptop?

March 16
NNNNGH. Not once, but TWICE today I clicked "close other tabs" instead of "close this tab" on Firefox. What a stupid, irritating thing to do. Worse, what a stupid, irritating, easy thing to do.

Hart's War was on TV this evening, and I ended up watching it pretty much out of not being inclined to do anything else. It's not bad, but it felt at least partly like someone sat down in a brainstorming meeting and said, "Courtrooms are great! Wars are great! Let's have a courtroom... in a WAR!" and everyone went out for martinis.

March 15
Still impressed with Last FM, although it's a bit inclined to shovel heavymetal at me at the moment.

Had a brief look at doing some scripting in Open Office. Ick.

March 14
Last FM is a lovely idea, but dammit it's a pain in the ass to make the radio station work in Firefox on Linux. I eventually resorted to telling Firefox it knew nothing about MP3 playlists, upon which clicking the Personal Radio button gave me a dialogue box asking if it should open it in realplayer. Now, that's more-or-less what I wanted, but how does it even know to ask if I've told it not to handle the damn files? Anyway, it's working now, but I'm afraid to find out what I've broken in the process.

March 13
Further inspection of the cursor key at fault reveals it is, in fact, unrepairable - the rubber boot is actually broken most of the way around, so the first time you depress it it turns halfway inside-out and doesn't come back. As I say, it's still usable, just the tactile feedback is all wrong.

City Of God is grim, and the flashback explanation of the shooting of one of the principals towards the end comes across as a bit contrived, but definitely this is a movie worth watching.

March 12
Bah. Ireland 19, France 26. Bah, bah, bah.

March 11
One of my cursor keys is a bit flaked out; it's no longer returning to the unpressed position properly. I went to the trouble of dismantling it, which was a far more involved process than I expected, and after fixing the rubber boot that's supposed to cause it to pop up, I reassembled it, only to discover it was still flaky. It's not actually sending bad signals or anything, just the tactile sensation from it is all screwed up. Shame, that.

Out socialising in Northside Dublin this evening. Mr. Computer came along a little wardriving en route.

March 10
Hah. First DVD sent to the office arrives the day after it was posted. I'm a dummy for not doing this sooner, although I shouldn't really have to change my delivery address to get a reliable postal service. Maybe I should write a sternly-worded letter, although it might not get delivered.

March 9
Further arguments with autoconf/make/header and RPM, although I think I've got it working at this point. Doesn't mean it's pretty or that I like it, but.

Since the post office persists in either not delivering my mail in a timely fashion (4 days from the city centre to my house?) or delivering it to my upstairs neighbour, I've switched my DVD Rentals delivery address to the office. Tune in next episode when it turns out they can't find that, either.

Hmm. Mozilla calendar has a task list, on which items have both a checkbox to indicate that they're done, and a "% done" thing. These aren't linked, i.e. when you set "%done" to 100%, the checkbox for "done" doesn't update.

My plan to make the WLAN code use the pcmcia wireless bits is slightly stymied by the fact that, er, they're not present in the Red Hat version I'm baselining on (6.2). No, they're in the source, but they get overwritten with some Red Hat-specific code during the build. Hmm. Plan B required.

March 8
How or why does anyone build GNOME tray applets? The hoops that need to be jumped through are insane, never mind trying to move from GNOME 1 to GNOME 2, and REALLY never mind trying to build on Red Hat and SuSE from the same source. I'm sure I must be missing something really obvious here.

Also, the less said about the whole autoconf/make/header mess, the better. Good grief. This makes things easier?

March 7
I'm really getting carried away with this Mozilla calendar doodad. I've just set up DAV services at home so I can keep a calendar there. I don't like DAV, but it's what the calendar uses.

March 6
Fisi managed to lead pretty much the entire race (which I didn't watch). Schu left the track with Nick Heidfeld after not gaining very many places at all. And miraclously, the two Jordans finished the race.

I have no excuse other than "it was a REALLY lazy Sunday" to defend my watching Stepsister From Planet Weird, but once I'd started a sort of horrific fascination took over. Some of it wasn't bad, per se, but the dialogue sounded like it had been written by the same guy who wrote that l33tsp35k document that Microsoft posted recently - you know, an adult's view of how kids talk. Yes, yes, I know, I'm hardly one to be in a position to judge this correctly, but hey, if I think it's crap, what's an actual kid going to make of it?

March 5
Off down the country to see Sheila being an actor. Actress. Thespian. You know the routine. Much laughter, also beer, and no geeking to speak of.

Oh, and we're back into F1 season again, if anyone still cares. Fisichella leads the charge at Albert Park, and Schuey is down in 18th due to, apparently, inclement weather.

March 4
More tooling with WLAN. For some reason the automatic dependencies aren't working right, so when I modified a shared header file the module started crashing and I didn't realise what was wrong until I'd spent rather too much time backing out several days' worth of changes. Having figured it out I've started implementing the Wireless Extensions write ioctls, so at some reasonably close-at-hand point I should be able to switch the PCMCIA config over to using the Wireless Extension tools instead of the wlanctl tool provided with the WLAN drivers. At which point I will possibly consider it to be 0.3.5-pre2 or something.

March 3
I am slightly confused by SuSE. Having finally got the yum repository set up for it, yum is finding newer packages than SuSE's own update manager. Er. WTF?

Having spent some time digging around the WLAN driver's "SNIF" code, I think I can get it to implement the Wireless Extension SPY stuff. I'm unclear on why it's not seeing my 11Mbit network, though. Gain 1 clue, Lose 1 clue, Net 0 clues. Drat.

March 2
Thanks to a tip from Eric, I have no more grief with my multi-install machines and their ever-changing SSH keys: my config file now has per-machine entries for these boxes which include
UserKnownHostsFile /dev/null
StrictHostKeyChecking no
(I already had the StrictHostKeyChecking bit, the UserKnownHostsFile is the secret sauce that makes it so I needn't ever care about changed host keys). Thanks, Eric!

March 1
Still waiting on SuSE repo to build. La la la.

Shaun of the Dead was a good laugh; I recognised at least one tip of the hat to one of the original "...of the Dead" movies, and the opening buildup was truly excellent. It flagged a bit during the pub sequence in order to make a fairly slack point about the lead character's inability to plan, but aside from that it's definitely one I'd recommend.

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"March is supposed to come in like a lion;
this year it's more of a snow leopard" - TV Weatherman