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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

March 31
A Scanner Darkly was absolutely excellent. I hadn't realised they did the whole thing in rotoscoping, but it worked really well particularly when they did background things like having the bookcases "breathing". Robert Downey Jr. played Barris to an absolute tee, and the extra dialogue really meshed well with Dick's original. Worth buying, methinks.

March 30
Fiddling around with image thumbnails. I think Flickr does a good job with sizing and layout so I'm approximately cloning that.

March 29
On the beer with Johnny. Hooray for beer!

March 28
Found a silly bug in the libnw code that was causing it to add track pointers twice in the v2 code. Poked at a few more bits of it, including trying to get nw-dump working some way reliably for v2 devices; it's not quite there yet, however.

March 27
Well, the mail server has yet to explode. I'll give it another few days before retiring the old one completely. The intention initially is to turn it into a MIDI sequencer/controller for my music toys.

March 26
Got IMAP working, yay. Turns out I'd been using it "wrong" for several years.

March 25
Still haven't figured out the clamav mess. Moving spamd instead, since that still seems to have a sane config.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Started stripping down the old webserver so I can identify what software I've left to migrate.

Star Trek: Nemesis was kinda funny at the start, but became sort of ho-hum as it went on. Not terrible, but not terribly good, either.

Made a rough attempt at getting the RSS Toy to work with RSS 2.0 (currently it normalizes everything to 1.0) but it made a bigger mess than I was happy with trying to sort out.

Flipped the mailserver. ClamAV is still bust, and I can't seem to get Dovecot's IMAP preauth back in operation, but everything else appears at least marginally sane.


March 24
Fiddling with RSS formats. Ignore the weirdness.

Still trying to move the mailserver stuff off the old box. Somehow the ClamAV config has gotten completely insane in FC6; there doesn't appear to be a default "install and it Just Works" package. I know that old saw about Linux having no viruses yadda yadda, but I use ClamAV to bounce virus-laden emails at the gateway.

Pierrepoint is a rather fascinating bio-pic of Albert Pierrepoint, who hanged over 600 people for the UK judicial system between 1933 and 1955. It's a well-made piece, and I'm now curious to find out which parts, if any, were fictionalised for the sake of a good story. One to watch.

March 23
Parents visiting my house, me visiting the pub.

March 22
More cleanup around the webserver. Met up with Lou after work for a drink and gossip. Hurrah for the Blue Note!

March 21
A few hiccups in the webserver move... forgot to install a few things, like autofs (which in turn requires portmap and nfs-utils for my setup) but nothing critical. Oh, and I forgot to update internal DNS to reflect the fact that the webserver and the mailserver are different machines now. Still not inclined to move the mailserver until things have settled down a little and I figure out whether anything else is broken.

March 20
So about 10 or 15 minutes into Lucky Number Slevin I was beginning to feel that the dialogue was a bit too slick, almost annoyingly so. But I kept watching, and then... The Twist. No, I did not see that coming. Excellently done; a couple of rough edges here and there, and the little bit of Hollywood at the end was kinda slack, but definitely one worth watching.

March 19
Net::DAAP::Client works rather nicely, despite having been untouched for the last several years. I wonder if it'd be easier to embed Perl into XMMS than use the libdaap library?

Back to the server rebuilding... I had forgotten to restart the DHCP server after I reconfigured it, plus I didn't have a working PXE setup, so I had to move all that over from the machine I'm stripping down.

Ok, if you can read this the new webserver is up and running. I just need to move the mail/imap server, then I can rebuild the box all this stuff used live on and I'll have a mostly clean config as a side-effect.

March 18
One-line Twitter client:
/usr/bin/wget --user=$USERNAME --password=$PASSWORD -O - -q http://twitter.com/statuses/update.xml?status="$STATUS" --post-data=""
I am so Web 2.0.

One-line Twitter status monitor, updated every two minutes:
watch --interval 120 'wget --user=$USERNAME --password=$PASSWORD -O - -q http://twitter.com/statuses/friends_timeline.xml | perl -MHTML::Entities -n -e "binmode STDOUT, \":utf8\"; chomp; \$_ = decode_entities( \$_ ); s/^\s+//; s@</?name>@@g and \$name=\$_; s@</?text>@@g and \$text = \$_; m@</user>@ and print \"\$name: \$text\n\";"'
Admittedly I guess the use of Perl to do the heavy lifting seems like some sort of cheating, but the alternative was a bunch of stupid awk, sed and/or bash tricks.

Tried out Democracy Player. Problem one, it wants all my memory. Problem 2, well, it's like Bruce Springsteen said - 57 channels and nothing on. What would be really neat would be to integrate it with something like MythTV so you could plug it into standard TV broadcasts as well as the Intarweb.

Since Ruadhrí gave me a bunch of mp4 files to listen to a while back, I've been meaning to add mp4 support to XMMS, which is still my audio player of choice despite the proliferation of alternatives. In poking at the plugins listed on the official site, I came across xmms-mp4, which failed to compile; while debugging the compilation I came across xmms-faad2, which is exactly what I needed in the first place. Hurrah! You can get it at Livna.

I grabbed a new version of gnome-bluetooth to see if the manager had been fixed, and lo... it's been removed. Doh.

The Ballad of Jack and Rose is another one for the "why on earth did I rent this?" pile. The only good bits were the music and Daniel Day-Lewis's scottish accent; the rest of it was rambling, slow, and not particularly engaging.


March 17
And a Happy St. Patrick's Day to you too.

Woke up far too early (must be the anticipation of the rugby or something) and figured I'd revisit my attempts to move my Web/DNS/DHCP/Mail server to a new platform, this time by moving services off it until it's idle.

Took the opportunity to clean a few things up: new SSL cert (now reflecting the public name of the server, not the hostname), a few CNAMEs for previously hard-coded services, etc. Also found a newer firmware update for my router which meantions MTU, so maybe someone's finally noticed the breakage and fixed it.

Figured out why some messages were unretrievable on my phone: apparently SMS PDU mode doesn't support them. Why, I have no idea, but switching to text mode works fine. That and asking the phone for messages as well as the SIM card.

Managed to persuade my phone to connect to IMAP-over-SSL, but it's balking at the unsigned cert each time, and there isn't an option to tell it to just accept it. I wonder if I can load the CA cert onto the phone instead?

March 16
Discovered that when I did the fan swapout on my fileserver earlier this year, I left the DVD burner disconnected... d'oh.

March 15
It bothers me mildly that my alleged 11Mbit wireless card is topping out at about 480k/s, i.e. less than half its "capacity", but it bothers me more that the driver is written so that it periodically locks up the entire machine while it processes an interrupt or some such.

March 14
Bluetooth hookup to phone mysteriously started working when I attempted to diagnose it. Gah. Also, the gnome-bluetooth-manager app is not only rubbish, it also doesn't work. In a "we deployed without testing" sort of way.

Had a look at dbus while I was doing the diagnostics above. I think it might be kinda nifty to have a dbus console app, something that attached to both system and session buses and logged messages therein. Useful for debugging if nothing else.

This can't be right: if I want to use cluck from Carp.pm, I have to explicitly import not only cluck but any other functions that would otherwise be automatically imported? That's just rubbish, that is.

March 13
Did a little more work on v2 file writing. I really need to settle on a proper datastructure collection for this rather than making it up as I go along.

March 12
Scary Movie 4 is something I rented because I'd seen the end of it some time ago and felt I should catch the rest of it. Kinda dull and predictable.

March 11
Much to I suspect everyone's surprise, England not only beat France, but did so by a comfortable margin. I think we might not have fared so well against the team fielded by the English today, had they showed up at Croke Park.

Poked at libnw some more, mainly throwing out a whole bunch of code that isn't really working and replacing it with code that is less "not working". On the plus side, I've started on file writes for v2 devices, which means I can now cause DAMAGE!


March 10
Revisiting something that puzzled me about the disconnect code for Gaim's MSN plugin: it either has to be blocking, or it has to do some other stupid trick to keep Gaim from shutting down until the disconnect is complete. It looks like it's using the former, although the only way I can tell for sure is if I trace it, I guess. At least on a manual walk-through of the code it looks like it's doing a blocking write to the socket, and not even bothering with such details as "did all the data actually get written?"

Rugby: Ireland just about beat Scotland, and Italy played a far superior game to Wales even if the play was a bit controversial...

March 9
This is probably one of the most useful snippets of elisp I've written in a long time:
;; useful when trying to fling files around the place
(defun select-filename()
 (interactive)
  (x-set-selection 'PRIMARY (buffer-file-name)))
It stuffs the filename of the current buffer into the X primary selection, which isreally, really handy when you're trying to scp the file from another machine (for example)...

I don't think there was anything I liked about The Tailor Of Panama, really. It seemed to be trying for comedy in some places, and it failed; it certainly wasn't much of a thriller, either. Even the send-ups of American Military gung-ho, British cronyism, and the "Special Relationship" between the UK and the US fell flat. Don't bother with this.

March 8
Beers with Pat and Cathal. This will hurt tomorrow, I'm sure.

March 7
Run Lola Run is a movie I've been meaning to see for a long, long time, but either the copy ScreenClick sent me months ago was unplayable or was lost in the post, I can't recall which. I finally got the disc again today, and it was worth waiting for. It's partly 80 minutes of a frantic and barely comprehensible music video for some generic europop and partly an excellent thriller. Definitely worth watching, and probably worth owning. There are some frankly beautiful cuts in this, too, particularly as the first two acts wind up. Even the credit sequence at the start is entertaining!

Got some more sample files for libnw, these ones off one of the HD walkman devices. More bits to play with!

March 6
Bought me a new toy today. Whee!

Brazil was on TV recently, but I neglected to watch it. This evening I was struck by an overwhelming urge to rectify that, and, well, it's part of my DVD collection, so I watched that instead. What a peculiar De Niro role, really. Great movie, though.

March 5
Cinema Paradiso didn't quite wind up like I'd expected it would, but it's a damn fine movie nonetheless. Definitely one to watch, possibly one to own.

For those of you keeping score, I appear to have mortally wounded yet another laptop.

March 4
Cleanup day. Apartment AND some computer stuff - all the HTML files I own (i.e. I'm skipping the ones that are mirrors/contribs) in one directory of my website now validates, and my mailbox is down to 20-something mails. Such productivity, eh?

Tried to get the bluetooth stuff on the laptop working again. I don't know when it broke, although I suspect it's a hidden side effect of my switching from Gnome to XFCE, but now I can't get it to work at all. Annoying - this is one of those things that should "just work", and doesn't. Apparently KDE has great bluetooth support, but it doesn't appear to be available by default for Fedora Core.

In A Man's World is a pretty grim tale of street life in Scotland. It's got similar raw brutality to City of God or Green Street, although it lacked the budget to be quite as graphic. The music was a little too loud throughout, rendering some of the dialogue inaudible, but on the whole this is worth a look.


March 3
It's been a while since I considered using a different mail client; I've been using VM for more than ten years at this point, and it's generally sufficient for what I want to do, but it has its weak points (some of which are actually weak points of Emacs) and every so often I get an urge to try something different. I've just had a look at Thunderbird and straight away found two things I didn't like: when I gave it an unresolvable address for a mail server, it complained that it couldn't log in, instead of a more useful message like "you mistyped the mail server name, you fool"; and there doesn't appear to be a convenient way for me to point it at my 200MB of existing mail folders and tell it to include them in its reckoning without, say, setting up a local IMAP server or something. Oh, and then I managed to hang it on mail fetching within minutes of starting it up. NEXT!

Kmail. Secure connection? Yes. Cert can't be verified, is that ok? Yes. Cannot connect, because the server doesn't support TLS. Er, why did you not point that out when I was configuring the account and you checked the security support on the server? Even when I go to the control panel to fix it, it's pretty insistent about trying to use TLS instead of SSL. Still, the UI is nice, particularly the little diagram of the mail structure and the interpretation of SpamAssassin headers.

File under phone weirdness: there are two messages on my phone right now which I can read on the phone, and the appropriate incantation on the phone's modem interface tells me there are two messages there, but there doesn't appear to be a way for me to retrieve them over the modem interface. WTF?

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada was recommended to me by Luke in the office, and it's an odd sort of movie. Initially I was kinda only vaguely taken in by it, but as the movie went on I got more and more caught up in it. It's not really a whodunnit, as the guilty party gets identified pretty early on, and it becomes a sort of quest movie after that. Peculiar, but very engaging, and worth watching.

Caught the tail-end of Beverly Hills Cop III as well; it's not a patch on the original, but it still passes the time.

March 2
The plot thickens: the ID3 data is in fact fine, it's just a newer version than my usual tagging tools can cope with.

Still a problem somehow with xchat shutting down when my little pile of hacks is loaded. Maybe I should use Gaim instead.

March 1
Went chasing a coredump in one of the libnw tools, and in the process tried to figure out why nw-cp wasn't copying metadata. Turns out it's because the particular file I chose to test it on didn't have any metadata... d'oh.

Well, that's what I thought, anyway. Tried it with a track with metadata and there's some other problem, and I've no idea so far what it is, particularly since the test suite passes just fine. Grr.

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Waider
March of the ... Penguins?