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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

February 29
A few beers with the office to "celeberate" leap day, also to relax after another busy day. Hurrah!

February 28
Terrifically busy day at work (I had planned on getting out of the office during the day; I barely even managed to leave my desk) followed by gym. Right now I'm feeling pretty tired.

February 27
Met up with Lou for coffee hot chocolate and gossip. Abandoned the location after we were inundated with people, however. NO GEEKING WHATSOEVER (except for the bits that snuck into the conversation).

February 26
Watched the rest of THX 1138. Even the car chase was uninteresting. Sheesh. Well, that's 90 minutes I won't get back.

February 25
Started watching THX 1138 and kinda got bored. I've about another 40 minutes of it to watch and, well, yeah. I'm in no hurry except that I need to send the DVD back in order to get another. It's sort of 1984-ish, and, er, that's about it. What's far more entertaining is the things that have been sampled in music I have; the voice of the confession booth, for example, shows up on a Shamen track, while the noise of the robot beating the prisoner is at the start of a Nine Inch Nails track.

February 24
A little too cold to spend too much time outside today (but I did leave the house, honest) so I pulled out The 51st State and watched that. It's a terrific piece of work: it's not too long, the action shots are good, the comedy is excellent, and the whole thing hangs together really, really well. If you've not seen this, you should. I mean, Samuel L. Jackson in a kilt. What's not to like?

Examined the AFS stuff a bit more closely. For some reason the particular piece I've been jumping through hoops to build (aklog, whatever that is) is explicitly switched off for the environment in which I'm building (i386 Linux with a 2.4 kernel). I can hack around this, but I should probably find out why it's switched off first.

February 23
Surprised to discover three rugby games on the box today, when I was only expecting two; Ireland, Wales and England were the victors.

And lo, The Bourne Identity showed up on ITV. So I had to watch that, really. Still don't like what they did to the original story, but it's a good movie all the same.

AFS stuff continues to confound me. Must actually try concentrating on it, as opposed to setting things running while I'm watching movies and then trying to figure them out afterwards.

February 22
Today work was pretty awesome, but obviously I can't expand on that here. On top of that, my dad sent one of the funniest emails I've ever read. And, you know, I've read some pretty funny emails.

February 21
Still fiddling with the AFS stuff. Dammit.

I still think the massive deviations from the book in the second Jason Bourne movie were a bad mistake, but the third movie in the franchise, The Bourne Ultimatum, is pretty good. I don't think the original storyline would look quite as good, not least because Matt Damon would be way too young to play a 50-year-old Bourne... given the movie's predecessors, the car chase is surprisingly weak, but on the whole I quite enjoyed this and kinda want to go back and watch the other two again.

February 20
Had some fun fiddling around with loops on GarageBand, since it doesn't require me to do the painful pointy-clicky stuff that assembling my own patterns does. I think I need to locate a USB mouse in the hardware pile so I can tool around with this properly.

Last night's attempt to install gcc from MacPorts was less than successful. I should probably go read some documentation or something and figure out which one of the 27 different versions of GCC I should be installing. Maybe all of them. MacPorts also helpfully tells you if a port is installing files outside its own little area, but it doesn't tell you where it's installing the files. Bah.

The AFS build completed. So I fired up my script which updates my local pile of RPMs. And, er, it started rebuilding everything. D'oh.

February 19
Managed to bodge together a working AFS build. Now I'm waiting for it to finish building. In the meantime, I've decided that some of my problems with MacPorts might be fixed if it had its own version of gcc to play with instead of using the Apple-provided one; it's hard to tell. Really, this stuff needs a binary RPM-like repository.

February 18
So the AFS-docs-vs.-AFS-programs problem seems to be multilayered: I'm not using the latest version of either, basically. On top of that, trying to build the new version is running foul of some unsupported RPM features or something like that. And it being a gym night, I'm a bit too tired to try and figure it all out right now.

February 17
Met up with Lou for lunch, then assisted in the purchase of a large bookshelf - by which I mean I helped lug it back to her house. Ow. After that we spent about two hours tooling around with Burnout on PS3, which was pretty fun.

I'm having a little difficulty getting some of my Perl scripts up and running on the Mac: the main problem is with Perl modules which require third-party libraries. I can generally use MacPorts to install the missing libraries, but that also wants its own version of Perl, and hilarity (by which I mean "total failure") ensues. Because of the lack of a native packaging system, I'm reluctant to go the alternative route of installing things directly into the Mac's system directories - not least because applying system patches could well mess things up, or be messed up by this. I shall have to consider this further, I suspect, and really I should be hacking on the whole AFS server thing anyway. It's been hampered thus far by the fact that the docs don't agree with the tools.

In the mean time, the pure-Perl and non-library-requiring Perl stuff is coming along nicely. I now have a third script for backing up text messages off my phone in something resembling mailbox format, mainly because the first one I've more-or-less abandoned and the second wanted one of the aforementioned difficult modules installed (through a long chain of dependencies) before it'd fly, and my phone is FULL and needs cleaning out. Of course, if I wasn't obsessively saving text messages this wouldn't be a problem... also for this hack, I have a module that pulls my phone bills from Vodafone's website and attempts to turn them into something useful (Vodafone provide them as PDFs, which look lovely, but are utterly useless to a computer) which needed some more abuse because some minor thing in the billing format changed. It works now, though. Some of the parts are in the workshop, although not the Vodafone stuff, currently.

February 16
Something I've been meaning to do for a while: grab backups of my pictures from Flickr, since most of them got there via the clunky Vodafone Picture Album hack, and I don't have local copies. The Mac application everyone suggests for this - FlickrBackup - wasn't working for me, and wasn't even giving an error message. The Perl module for talking to Flickr doesn't have an implementation for the one bit I wanted ("give me a list of all my photos"). So I wound up using Python; James Clarke's flickr.py, plus a hacked-up script I found that was intended to upload copies to Amazon's S3 service. And now I have backups, hurrah!

SherryBaby was just plain depressing. I have no idea why I rented this. If you don't think you'd like a movie about a trailer-trash single mom trying to cope with Life After Prison, you should very much skip this.

February 15
I'd intended meeting Lou for coffee, but we had a shuffle of heads at work and the new boss was conveniently located in a nearby pub with a credit card, so we took advantage of that instead. Hurrah!

February 14
So the current crazy plan - actually, a crazy plan I toyed with ages ago and abandoned because I didn't have sufficient motive for it - is to go to the trouble of getting a full AFS service running on the fileserver, so that the Macintosh will talk to it happily. Yes, the Mac will also do the same thing with SMB/CIFS and NFS, but not happily enough for my liking, and I'm also sort of keen on seeing a live AFS setup in action. Back in my student days, I wrote a paper comparing AFS and NFS without having had practical experience of either; it'd be nice, some 18 years later, to actually see if my conclusions were correct. Assuming I can remember them, or find the paper.

[Guide for Mom: AFS, SMB, CIFS and NFS are all varying ways of allowing one computer to use the disks on another, with varying degrees of success, robustness, security, etc. SMB and CIFS are both variants of Windows File and Printer sharing, as seen on your Windows machine. NFS and AFS are from the Unix world.]

February 13
3:10 to Yuma: a good old-fashioned cowboy movie. Well worth watching, even if the storyline is completely predictable.

February 12
Gym night, followed by random faffing about on the net. Fileserver continues to try and resolve dependencies for an install I started on, erm, Sunday. I'd be faster doing the job manually, I suspect.

February 11
Shiny new Linksys router (to keep Shiny new MacBook happy) arrived today. After being briefly appalled by the Windows-only setup CD, I configured it from my old laptop before swapping it into place instead of the 3com. No more router-based crashing! I got the WR54TGL (the "L" is for "Linux") so that I'd have the option of fiddling with the firmware on the router, but from what I've looked through on the configuration it seems the only thing it's really missing that I'd like is remote logging (i.e. send log messages to one of my servers for safe-keeping) which is really a pretty minor thing.

February 10
Italy v. England turned out to be a pretty close game, with England barely hanging onto victory at the end. It was not wholly unlike the Ireland v. France game: Italy generally had more possession, but left the opposition through to score some woefully silly tries which they spent the rest of the game trying to claw back.

I've been watching Dangerous Days: The Making of Blade Runner over the past two days, and it's a fascinating piece. What's amusing about the documentary, though, is that they very obviously didn't sit all - or even any - of these people down together to talk to them, and in the intercutting from one interview to another you can see there's some disagreement on what the actual true story is - particularly from those viewed in hindsight as the money-grubbing bad guys who foisted a happy ending and a voiceover on a movie that didn't need either (Scott says that both were actually his response to poor initial screenings) who, aware of their image, go to great lengths to explain why they did the things they did.

February 9
Cleaned up the legacy package installs on my fileserver I'd mentioned some time ago.

Today's rugby results: Wales beat Scotland pretty soundly, and France beat Ireland despite a spirited second-half revival from the latter. I pretty much expected this to be the outcome for today, but I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen in tomorrow's Italy v. England game.

February 8
Upgraded my MacBook's RAM to 4GB this morning. I've actually had the chips sitting on the table for the last two or three days but I've been otherwise occupied with the gym and movies...

While I'm waiting for a hardware fix for the crashing wireless connection (I ordered a Linksys router to replace the 3com), I figured I'd at least make sure the 3com had its latest firmware upgrade applied. Cue ten minutes of disconnection from the net: the upgrade process tells you to back up your configuration, but then tells you that you can't apply the old config to the new firmware anyway, so unless you've either got back-out firmware, or your upgrade fails, the backup is pointless. I'm fairly sure the last time I did a firmware upgrade it kept all my settings; this time, it did a factory reset for me, so I ended up having to dig out the A4 sheet with my DSL-side connections on it (no, I do not have my IP address, subnet mask and default router engraved on my brain) and then took a further five minutes to figure out that it had reset itself to 192.168 space, which I don't use. On the plus side, either work's change in VPN kit or the patched firmware means that I can now enable the Stateful Packet Inspection feature of the firewall without it killing off the VPN tunnel. Of course, it's all moot; this time next week that router will join the stack of to-be-disposed-of hardware in my hall.

I can see from the DVD extras that Hoffman's performance in Capote at least caught the essence of the author, but I'm not sure there was anything Oscar-worthy about the movie. Capote seems like a thoroughly dislikable character, more concerned with the struggle to finish his own book than the lives involved in the story he wrote about, and I'm never hugely fond of movies where a lead character isn't someone you actually like (c.f. several other movies I've mentioned here). Plus, it's a pretty long movie, and I'm not sure it needs to be. I'd be interested in seeing the other takes on this story - there's the film adaptation of the book Capote was writing (In Cold Blood), and there's another contemporary take on the metastory (Infamous). Would I recommend you watch it? I guess I would, but I wouldn't say it's a must-see.

February 7
The Simpsons Movie: a TV episode, only longer. It's actually pretty good, if you're into The Simpsons: it's got pretty much all the gags you'd expect, albeit more focussed on the main characters than usual. Worth seeing.

Flesh & Blood, on the other hand, is typical Verhoeven fare: gore, crap dialogue, liberal gratuituous nudity. I spent much of the movie trying to figure out who one of the actors was; turns out it was the guy who played Leon in Blade Runner - and Rutger Hauer, who was the lead Replicant in that movie, was the lead actor in this. Funny how these things go.

February 6
In case anyone was wondering: the gym telemetry is still broken. However, I've talked to the manager about it, and he very defensively blamed the guys who support the system (Fitlinxx or thereabouts). I was skeptical, but then had this corroborated by one of the fitness instructors who was also ticked off at the brokenness. So, I'm not expending any more than the occasional "pffft" at the problem, since there's not a whole lot I can do about it.

February 5
Catching up on series 6 of Scrubs.

I've been collecting my new computer experiences onto another page, which I shall title The Mac Experience. Enjoy, and check back now and again for updates - if I were diligent enough there'd be a separate RSS feed for it, but hey.

I've been looking at the Lua scripting language recently, because some crazy guy did a good port of it to the Palm and then bolted on Palm-specific features like UI elements and access to the Palm databases. It's quite neat, but programming on the Palm is a complete pain particularly with the newer version of Grafitti and its totally awkward punctuation. Still, something to play with when I'm bored, I guess, as long as I have the docs close at hand.

February 4
Weird; I had flaky connectivity all day today, and when I finally tracked down a possible cause, it looks like my crappy little router has become a bit crappier. I'm guessing it spent the day rebooting at random intervals; I can't tell, because when it reboots, it appears to lose track of where it's supposed to send syslog information. Of course, it could be that someone's sending a very carefully-crafted attack at the thing, which (a) disables syslog (b) reboots it (c) doesn't do anything else.

It would be funny if it was the syslog access itself which is breaking it... and funnier still if it was the Mac doing the damage. I guess it's time I got one of those fancy Linksys toys all the cool kids have.

After some brief diagnostics (i.e. shutting down the Mac) it looks like, yes, the MacBook causes the problem. Excellent! Dear 3com, your products all suck, even the ones I got for free.

February 3
First diary entry written on the Mac. Woohoo! I have yet to see if my site-update tool works because it's an awful mix of shell and Perl, but being able to write the actual diary entries is a good start.

Well, that took a little more hacking than I expected, but it looks like it's working now. While waiting for things to download, I watched Evan Almighty, which wasn't actually as bad as I expected it'd be. It's another pretty much by-the-book movie, so no surprises, but nothing egregiously bad, either.

Six Nations rugby for today: Scotland had France do the stompy-dance on them at Murrayfield. Not a good showing for our fellow celts at all.

February 2
...and that'll be the hangover. Ouch.

A Mac oddity: iTunes balked at my home-grown podcast (which is just stuff I've downloaded recently and want to put on the iPod) because some of the filenames had odd characters in them and I hadn't used URI-escaping to clean them up. The reason this is an oddity is that iTunes on Windows has had no such issues. Still, best practices and all.

Six Nations rugby season is on again, and we beat Italy at Croke Park in the opening match, but it was hardly a legendary game. Far more impressive was England v. Wales; Wales got trampled on, but not irrecoverably so, for the first half of the game, but came out in the second half with renewed vigour in the face of a rudderless England squad, and the net result was a stunning win for the leeky lads...

I spent the rest of the day tooling around with stuff on the new toy. I'm running into a few more rough edges than I'd expected, but I'm keeping a note of them all and will put up the Mac Experience on a separate page.

Half-watched Big Fat Liar, which was one of those no-effort children's comedies that you never heard of and you're not missing anything. Completely by-the-numbers stuff. If it wasn't for the fact that I happened to be camped out on the sofa with the Mac I'd not have bothered it.

February 1
Out for "a few drinks" with the office. Ran into two other sets of people while I was there.

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Wait, where did January go?