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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

January 31
Cleaning up some of the loose ends of things I seldom use on the Cube and therefore haven't noticed were still broken. One peculiar one is that file sharing wasn't working, and on investigation I discovered that the AppleFileServer binary was not executable. Weird. Anyway, chmod +x and all was well again.

Having not done anything with it since I last mentioned it, I figured I'd just trash the corrupted Time Machine backup and start it again from scratch, although this time I'll try sticking to Apple protocols (afp, specifically) instead of using anything else.

January 30
Taken is a fairly straightforward action movie with little (or no) slack; and I'm almost sure I saw Liam Neeson grinning at one point at the fairly fast-paced punch-ups he was getting in to. Definitely worth watching.

January 25
Continuing to learn Ruby. Some minor features of this language seem like they were laid down as requirements in advance and then the major stuff was worked around them, which I'm not sure is a good thing.

January 24
The aforementioned plan to use a more-or-less default Apple setup for the webserver actually looks like it'll work. Neat.

January 23
Hard drive: wiped.

January 22
Swapped the new drive into the Cube, and now I'm wiping the old one so I can dismantle it and toss it in the recycling.

January 21
Odd. dovecot was broken this morning: authentication had mysteriously stopped working. This, in turn, revealed a rather irritating bug in Mail.app: the modal password input box disappeared behind the main Mail.app window, and there was no way for me to retrieve it, so I wound up using Force Quit on it. It's disappointing to see Apple making basic UI errors like this, when good UI is supposed to be their thing.

January 20
Almost all the bits are back in place. I'm toying with the idea of using a near-stock web server configuration, but it looks like the RSS toy has broken it already, so I may need to tune that. Other things that tripped me up: dovecot needs both a file in /etc/pam.d and about half an hour to regenerate its SSL parameters; postfix is bailing out and I'm not sure why; dhcpd as distributed by Fink has a broken startup file which I should probably submit a patch for; and a bunch of other Fink stuff comes with startup files that don't do shutdown.

Also: Snow Leopard meets Gentoo, produces Homebrew. I particularly like the comment that the code is optimised for Mac, because let's face it, your Mac is too slow to run this code otherwise, right?

Monsters vs. Aliens: fantastic. Where can I get a cuddly toy of Insectosaurus?

January 19
I finally installed all the updates, and then Apple produced another one... Fink installations proceed apace. The performance of 10.5 on the Cube is surprisingly good, given that it's way under spec for the OS; it's a little bit sluggish, but it's usable.

January 18
Good grief, after doing the basic "factory install" of 10.5 there's a never-ending stream of updates to get the various patches since it was released. Reboot, reboot, reboot.

January 17
I hope Ray Bradbury sued over A Sound of Thunder. It's bloody awful.

Continuing the Cube upgrade; the installer comes with a nice data migration thing that's currently dragging files from the internal drive to the firewire drive - rather slowly, I might add; I have a vague suspicion it found the symlink to the iTunes library living on the external USB drive, which is unbelieveably slow, and is attempting to shoehorn the data found there into a much smaller space... Once that's done, I think I'll put Fink in place and start reconstructing the installed non-Apple toys rather than trying to migrate them directly.

January 16
Woohoo! Installed OS 9 on an external drive attached to the Cube, then applied the software updates which, crucually, included a firmware update, then booted from the OS X CD and got the " your computer is too wimpy for this OS" message; applied the lying to installer bit, and presto, OS X is now installing on the external drive as planned.

January 14
Vodafone called to ask me how I was enjoying their service (more or less). The call was dropped mid-conversation by the Vodafone network. When the agent called back and I pointed out the irony, he didn't seem amused...

January 13
Since I watched the rest of the Harry Potter movies last year, I felt I should go back and watch Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone again; oddly enough, it's better than I remember. It's particularly interesting to see things like the Snape/Quirrel bait-and-switch on film, but in such a way that you can watch it a second time and see what's really going on. The green-screen work is a bit more obvious than I noticed the first time, but then I originally saw this in the cinema and my experience has been that green-screen generally looks worse on the small screen, perhaps due to the difference between the means of display.

January 12
Still investigating why it is that I can't seem to even boot the OS X 10.5 disk in the Cube. Current theory: firmware needs updating. Spanner in works: firmware update needs OS 9.

January 11
I took the tram to work on account of the inclement weather. At the Museum stop, there was a five-minute delay as they... rebooted the tram. No, seriously.

January 10
Despite its age, I'd not seen Outbreak before. Not bad, if not something I'd rush out to buy or rent. Quite the cast, mind you.

January 9
Body of Lies shares a lot with Syriana: it doesn't default to being sympathetic to the obvious side of Middle East conflict (well, obvious from this side of the world); it's a bit muddled; it stars a big-name actor on the "wrong" side; and so on. It's a bit too long, really, but aside from that is more-or-less on par with Syriana, so if you liked that, you'll like this. I'm still trying to figure out if I actually liked either.

Had a bit of a scare with the Cube abuse: I left a drive clone running while I was out, or in bed, or in some way not attending to the computer; the intention was to move the current setup from a 20G to a 60G drive to allow for, well, more stupidity, I guess... anyway, some part of the process resulted in something untoward happening the target disk, and in such a way that not only did it cause the running system to lock up hard, it also prevented it from booting while the impaired disk was present. I've had this happen to me before, and wound up cobbling together a tool to recover the data on a Linux box so I could trash and reformat the drive... anyway. Swapped the original drive back in (in under two minutes!) and it all booted up normally, so I can go back and try again.

January 8
Today in Nerdsville: attempting to squeeze MacOS 10.5 onto the Cube, which falls under the heading of "unsupported hardware". First attempt, using advice on lying to the installer about the CPU speed, resulted in a kernel panic, the upshot of which appears to be that something can't find a driver for the "PowerMac5,1" platform. Rather peculiar - I suspect a problem with my install disk.

January 7
It looks like the Time Machine backups are pretty resolutely dead. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I'm doing the backups in an unsupported fashion: over a network to a fileserver that isn't a Time Capsule or whatever. On the other hand, the fileserver is a Mac, and running a new enough version of MacOS that the Time Machine engine is willing to talk to it - which, from what I've read, means that it theoretically supports the "no seriously, write this data to disk" option that Time Machine on Snow Leopard requires. I'm debating whether it's worth my while spending any more time trying to revive the 150GB of dead space on the drive, or if I should just nuke it and let TM start again from scratch.

I'm obviously not a die-hard Trekkie as I felt the only thing really wrong with Star Trek was the presence of a cast member from the original series. I think a completely clean break with no hocus-pocus would have been good, but I guess some franchise rules had to be followed somehow. On the whole I enjoyed the movie, and while I wouldn't buy it I'd certainly watch it again.

January 6
I don't much care how far it drifted from source, I really, really enjoyed Sherlock Holmes. It's basically a 19th century Lethal Weapon with Doctor Watson in the Danny Glover seat, but it's really well done, and polished, and going on my shopping list as soon as it's on DVD.

January 5
After a few months of working rather well despite occasional network upsets, my not-quite-kosher Apple Time Machine backup system appears to have decided to trash the entire backup disk. It's not a huge issue since I tend to rely more on multiple copies of data I care about, but it's a bit annoying. Then again, as noted, I'm not exactly using an approved configuration.

January 4
Ah, NTL. It's bad enough that my telco curse struck again resulting in a protracted round of customer abuse that ultimately wound up with a refund and a month's free subscription, but now they've decided that we don't need that nasty television thing and if we really want it we'll have to wait for a technician to show up on Wednesday to explain to us what's wrong.

Also this choice exchange from this evening's call:
me: no picture. it's just showing an error screen from the digibox.
customer support: have you checked if your SCART lead is connected?
I leave it to my reader (readers?) to figure out how the error screen might be displayed if my SCART lead were disconnected (and granted, yes, the guy's working from a three-ring binder, but really now).

It would be ironic if the alledged free subscription was what's causing this, but not surprising.

January 3
One of the presents that arrived for the Winter Solstice is Wreck This Journal - a book whose purpose in life is for you to destory it. You must understand that this is somewhat anathema to how I regard books, but I will do my best both to comply with the requirements of the book and periodically note my progress here.

In geek news, I've been fiddling about with my Motorola E770v (still alive, despite my best efforts) to try and understand how it stores SMS messages. I've used Moto4lin to retrieve the principal files involved - MDSM_FAT_FILE and MDSM_MSG_BLK_FILE for ordinary messages, and a few others for MMS and the like - and I've been gradually comparing the phone's display with what's in the file. One of the more peculiar things is that the timestamps for messages include the year, stored as an offset from... 1970. And it's not a standard Unix timestamp, which is what you'd expect for such an offset; it's the timestamp broken into components, so there's a byte for each of the year, month, date, hour, minute and second. How odd.

January 2
Due to a failure to correctly anticipate the arrival of 2010, my spam filter (actually, a lot of peoples' spam filters) was possibly tagging good email as junk yesterday. This should be fixed now, but if you sent me an email yesterday it might be a good idea to try again.

That doesn't include the 5000 spammers who've already been in touch.

Made a half-hearted attempt at getting the InstaPaper link working. It's a little trickier than I'd thought, so I went back to playing with reverse-engineering file formats again.

The Last Mistress felt a little bit like Dangerous Liasons - I guess being set in a similar period helps - but the overwhelming letdown was the predictability of the plot. Nothing utterly terrible, but not exactly unmissable either.

I'm not entirely sure I got The Fountain; it seems like it's basically running the Wheel of Life / Reincarnation bit, but for all I'd heard about the movie I'd expected something more. Again, nothing terrible, but not a run-out-and-see movie either.

January 1
Nerd task for the day turned out to be an iPhone upgrade, which was a little worrisome in that I had to re-unlock the phone after all the restoring and syncing was done. Eek!

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Happy New... Decade?