Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

September 30
Still poking at RVP, now with added mod_perl! Whee! (by which I mean, "ow my brane")

September 29
Still trying to get the hang of working as opposed to slacking around in front of a computer all day. The upshot being that either I'm kinda zonked when I get home and not inclined to hack at much, or I'm hacking on something for the office that I can't really be wittering about.

September 28
Mild network tunnelling problem diagnosed as "you don't really need the entire 10.x.x.x space for a half-dozen computers... d'oh.

September 27
More RVP hacking. I can't as yet hand out the modded source for reasons to do with waving of hands, these are not the droids, yadda yadda.

September 26
Hacked at the more-or-less abandoned RVP plugin for Gaim over the weekend. Tried it out today. It sort of works! Now I need to clean it up and fix the bits I #ifdef'd out.

September 25
Sneaky Vodafone people changed the name of the login form on their site, which briefly broke my Vodafone-to-Flickr toy. I could probably code this more defensively, but meh. Don't feel like it just now.

So, Hero. Are there any chinese-legend-made-movies that aren't tragedies? Also, no matter how much I've come to expect it, I still dislike the wirework dancing-on-the-treetops scenes which are apparently a requirement for the genre. I was much happier with the pacing in this than with previous simliar movies, mind you. Plus there were some beautiful things done with colour and cinematography, especially for the mountain lake fight. The massed ranks of archers made me think of Lord of the Rings, in particular since the accompaning chants and music sounded pretty much the same - heavy bass and lots of shouting. As noted in IMDb, the movie's narrative is comparable to Rashomon in that several sequences are retold from different perspectives as the story unfolds; initially, I was wondering how the whole thing was going to last longer than, say, 45 minutes, until the first retelling. I'd definitely rate this above House of Flying Daggers, and quite probably above Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon also.

Also, in case anyone still cares, Alonso clinched the Formula 1 driver's championship today by finishing third. "Yay". Not to detract from his win, but what a crappy season it's been.

September 24
There is something distinctly weird about the RSS aggregating toy. I want to put in some code that deletes locally cached items after they've rolled off the relevant feed, but my attempts to do so thus far have resulted in me getting multiple copies of the same story which, deductively (is that a word?), must have appeared in a feed, vanished, and then reappeard. But that doesn't make sense to me, so I've just switched off the cleaner in favour of accumulating quantities of other peoples' writing and purging it every so often.

Well, that was annoying; up2date crashed my desktop session and left SELinux in some sort of messed-up state that I can't seem to recover from that's preventing me from logging in as a non-root user. Quick fix: disable SELinux. But really now.

September 23
And a few more beers with the guys. This morning: "You said on your blog that you hadn't seen Hero. Here it is." Cool!

September 22
Ok, ok, I'm not getting much non-work geeking done this week. I'm learning tons of stuff, but I can't tell you about any of it.

Actually, I've spent pretty much all my non-work time this week watching the Scrubs Season 2 DVD, which arrived in the post while I was driving around the country last week. The extras on Season 2 are far, far better, but I'm damned sure they've got a whole stack of outtakes that they're not sharing. Curse them! *shakes fist* If you're at all a fan of the show, though, I strongly recommend you buy the boxed sets since they're the absolute business.

Hmm, also somewhere in the copious_free_time I've been tweaking a script that I use to frob my DVDRentals wishlist, but since I've never actually pushed out the code that I'm tweaking into it (since it is part of the Giant Movie Thing I Will Probably Never Do Anything Useful With) there's not exactly anything to show there. I will admit it's embarrassing to look at the hoops I jumped through to make things like cookied logins work when all I really needed to do was to learn to use WWW::Mechanize. Web browser in a Perl Module, yo.

September 21
Out for a few drinks with new coworkers.

September 20
Phew. Long day of learning, mainly watching someone else solve problems so I could learn how it's done.

September 19
First day at work. Brane still intact, yay!

September 18
I can say this about The Aviator: it's long. I'm not sure what else I can say about it. I was by turns unimpressed with DiCaprio's limited range of facial expressions (appearing largely to consist of variations on Joey's "dividing two numbers in your head" look), and impressed with how, late in the movie, he looked quite like pictures I've seen of Howard Hughes. The IMDB-trivia tells me that various sections of the movie were postprocessed to look like the various film technologies of the decades spanned therein; this was utterly lost on me, and, I suspect, quite possibly a lot of people. I'm not entirely clear on what the point of that sort of technical fiddling is supposed to be if it's not the focus of the movie, or at least a major point therein. I thought Hughes' OCD was initially overfocussed on, too - the way it was highlighted was all but having a marching band across the bottom of the screen playing "OCD is here again", although maybe that's just my lack of familiarity with the disorder. I did watch the whole thing through, so I guess that's to its credit, but I did pause it a few times to check email, make a sandwich, etc. I'm sure if I played golf I'd have taken a break to do that. Priority: wash your dog first, as the man said.

September 17
Did a little more hacking on the Vodafone-to-Flickr toy; it now automatically detects Vodafone's stupid duplicate image bug, and inserts the date/time as an exif tag in the image so that Flickr can use it. It'll overwrite the original exif tag, mind, which might be The Wrong Thing if I get a better phonecam...

September 16
Fixing up the UTF8 handling in the RSS toy. By which I mean forcing everything into ISO-8859-1. I should really work it the other way, I guess. Is it valid to put out no charset in your content-type header and then specify UTF8 encoding in-line? I guess it must be.

Went to see Dylan Moran at the Olympia with John and his wife. The support act, Karl Spain, made me laugh harder, but Moran did keep me at least giggling for the hour he was on. There was some sort of mixup with tickets among the people on the row in front of us, made more amusing by the fact that there were two empty seats in our row that noone seemed interested in. Amusingly, one of the people involved in the mixup (who got quite angry about it, too) was a guy I used work with.

September 8-15
My brother's been visiting for the last week, so the computer's mostly just been sitting around doing whatever idle computers do.

The RSS Toy now defaults to just listing headlines, with an expand button to reveal the full article. This is obviously a no-brainer feature that I should've implemented ages ago.

September 7
Hosed a bunch of stuff off the webserver - it's a server, it doesn't need MP3-playing ability, or even a GUI. Pfft. I should probably put in the spare 256MB DIMM I have lying around, too.

September 6
Found a rather silly bug in the MPLE code where I was doing about half the bit manipulation required to flip the media serial number into usable shape. I could probably do a better job of the fix, but what I've put in works.

I wonder whose brilliant idea it was to break the version of tar that ships with FC4? Used be you could do tar cfz foo.tar.gz foo --exclude bar but now that attempts to treat --exclude and bar as filenames, which is plainly wrong and, as I say, used work just fine. I imagine this can only be some nonsensical POSIX-compilance rubbish, just like the ps command switch nonsense.

Made a go at cleaning up some of BBDB's configure stuff; autoconf is a serious pain in the neck to deal with, but it should ultimately clean up a lot of the mess in the current makefile.

September 5
More editing fun: I am fiddling with moonedit as a means of maintaining a todo.txt file from two different machines, potentially not running the same OS. Right now I'm trying to get my existing todo.txt into a file I've already opened, and I've run into two problems: firstly, moonedit doesn't cater for having multiple files open simultaneously. If you open a new file, it disconnects the current session to do so. And there doesn't appear to be an immediately obvious "insert file contents" option, either. Secondly, I've run into the same "who's got my selection" problem as I'd previously mentioned elsewhere: even explicitly setting the CLIPBOARD selection from Emacs fails to produce anything when I select Paste in moonedit. Couple all this with the fact that, as best I can tell, moonedit is closed-source - meaning I can't fix these bugs myself - I think it will soon be taking a long walk off a short pier.

Further experimentation:

Spent some time cleaning out the pile of half-patched, half-package software I've been meaning to do something with for the last, uh. While, I guess. I've packed up all the spca5xx tools including the driver, plus fixed pilot-link's Perl bindings as provided in the Fedora RPM (they're not build by default). Go me! Now I really should get back to hacking BBDB's RMAIL support.

So, ah, totem, the latest-and-greatest Fedora-provided movie player. What the hell can it actually play? Anything I've given it so far, it's complained that I don't have any means of dealing with it, e.g. Message: don't know how to handle video/mpeg. What good is a movie player that can't handle mpeg out of the box?

Bumper movie night! First up, House of Flying Daggers: if you liked Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon you'll probably like this. Personally, I was enjoying it until the whole thing sort of ground to a halt about 20 minutes from the end. The final fight was pretty dramatic, mind you, and I will be renting out Hero at some point since Flying Daggers is supposed to be a companion movie of sorts to it.

Next, Monty Python's classic And Now For Something Completely Different which I don't think I'd ever previously seen in its entirety - I'd seen a lot of the individual sketches, but not this particular assembley of them. Wonderful stuff, including the classic "my hovercraft is full of eels".

Finally, 9 Songs. Um. I really don't know what to make of this. I think there's about five to ten minutes' worth of plot, and the rest is either the main characters having sex, the main characters at a gig, or the male lead talking about Antartica. Actually, that's the entire movie; the male lead's voiceover, largely done over shots of Antartica, constitutes the storyline, such as it is. Really, the only noteworthy feature about this movie is the much-talked-about fact that the leads did in fact have omigosh actual sex on film (well, DV cam) and if that's the only thing of note in the movie then you might as well not bother watching it. I'm rather disappointed; much was made about how the movie was supposed to portray an evolving relationship, but really, it didn't do that at all. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind did a far better job of that, to name but one movie I've seen recently.

September 4
Hmm, I may have been overly hasty in my dismissal of the available Perl modules for dealing with iCal files; just that the ones I was looking at were particularly bad. Here's the current state of affairs, as best I can tell: So I think maybe I'll try the Tie::iCal one and see how well it works out. About the only downside I can see is that it requires me to pass the data through a file rather than dealing directly with the DAV server, but hey.

Uh. I gave it a calendar file with 224 entries, and it just sat there. For a long, long time. I gave up waiting for it and went out running, and it was done when I came back. I think I'll fire it off again, and time it this time, but realistically I think I'm looking at using libical at this point.

Attempting to hack together a quick UI in Glade, I find two problems: firstly, there are two stock Forward buttons and Glade-2 doesn't appear to be able to differentiate then, and secondly, icon-only buttons don't seem to shrink down to the size of the icon. So that lot's going in the bin.

Hmm. I was annoyed that the static binary for the last.fm player was looking for a library I didn't have, and then further annoyed when MoonEdit appeared to be looking for the same thing, then lo and behold I discovered it is available for my platform, just not installed by default. So I build a specfile for the last.fm player, packed it up and installed it. Yay!

September 3
Turned the script I'd been using to pull pics off Vodafone's site into a module; the intention is to have it sit somewhere polling the Vodafone site on, say, a half-hourly basis and dumping RSS or maybe flinging anything it finds up to Flickr.

I am poking around, therefore, at the Flickr API. And while it's all nice and groovy, there does not appear to be a simple documented way of saying, "here's my username and password, go upload a file". There's this damned key-exchange crap which requires me to log into the site using a browser in order to authenticate yadda yadda yadda. I guess I can do it once manually and then wing it from there.

Okay, that seems to work - a one-off auth, and save the token resulting from it. Further discoveries: if you don't provide an image filename on uploading, you get an "Invalid Signature" error.

Anyway. After all that, I now have a scraper that will pull pictures out of my Vodafone picture album and post them to Flickr, including any information available (date, time, 'subject'). Gnee!

September 2
Bug in DART timetable doohickey due to site weirdness on Iarnród Éireann's part. Fixed. Sorry if you were trying to use this and couldn't. Ironically, in fixing it, I was late catching the DART to town...

Fiddling with video stuff again. Hmm, wasn't I messing around with ffmpeg builds a few years back?

Glued the geocoding hack from yesterday onto Google Maps. Cackled a lot. I'm easily amused.

After much banging about with Mozilla Calendar (which is a piece of junk), Palm Desktop, Perl, ColdSync, and an iCal-format calendar, I have managed to scrape the six or seven Palm Datebook databases into one consolidated database, possibly still with some duplicates. The fun and games included:I keep thinking it would help if I read the vCal specs (for PalmOS) or the iCal specs (for Mozilla and, I guess, everyone else) but then I remember that these things tend to pick and choose their interpretation of the specs anyway and it's far easier to just bang bits together until something catches fire. Anyway, at this point I have a convertor that will eat a DateBook PDB and spit out either Palm, Palm Desktop, or Mozilla-friendly .vcs files, and another that will download my calendar and attempt to merge it into the active DateBook PDB. Neither is complete, particularly in the area of repeat rules, but tomorrow I'll try and stick the two ends together and hopefully come up with a Coldsync conduit that will sync against the iCal file. Of course, then I need to find an iCal application that doesn't fall over every time you try to use it. And no, I'm not going to even think about touching the KDE or Gnome PIMs or Evolution. Maybe I'll dig out the vcal code I wrote for emacs a few years back and bolt everything onto emacs' diary.

September 1
Happy Birthday, Donal!

Stupid web tricks: using someone's free mapping site as a geocoding server. Bwahaha. Sorry.

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Waider | back to school, back to work