Recent blog entries for chexum

Work

I have a new job, after staying at one for seven years. Most of my coworkers gradually disappeared from the old place, so I also started looking around in the job market a few months ago. I had a few interesting interviews, many in English and/or abroad. You could ask what's so special in an English interview, but I've grown my knowledge of that language sitting years before a CRT, so sometimes I probably have a difficult to understand accent. But because most of the time I have few problems *understanding* people in English (well, except maybe the mumbling), I mostly forgot to tell that I need some practice smoothing off the unintelligible parts of my speech.

Well, for a while I thought that caused one of the prospective employers to back off. But thinking about it, maybe they disliked something else, since I talked to quite a few people -- or maybe they all thought they won't understand me on the phone, and voted me off :)

Another letdown was when some thought I will not be able to cope with interruptions and switching tasks. One would think spending a few years as a sole system administrator would be a bit hard to bear without that capability... But that's life, when you know what turned off them, that's the problem, when you don't, it's as much irritating :)

Anyway, all of that was in effect a very positive experience for me, I've met some people I should have recognized, but I was unprepared for such encounters. There really were a company I'd really like to be at. Too bad they did not chose me, but so be it.

I've also flown where flight attendants didn't know what a GPS was (is it using laser?), so they agreed I can use that on-board.

Development

I've slacked off in the last few years from projects I'd like to follow, but my free time was diminishing week by week. I hope I get back where I wanted to be. For the better, many of the free software projects are so usable out-of-the-tarball, that it's sometimes difficult to feel there are really things to be done with them.

Work

I'm having weird problems with making a simple bootable Linux CD. Probably just didn't get enough sleep in the last few weeks, it should be an easy task.. It's a P133 laptop I'm about to recycle for Linux, finally. It's a real relic, noone wants to use it, its battery depletes in around 5 minutes, has LCD screen, no ACPI, broken PS/2 connector, no touchpad, no USB, etc.. It cannot even read rewritable CDs, so I must test on other machines, mainly mine, and constant reboots are making me feel like a slave in the MS empire.

Sleep

Will do. We just got a new bed and a little home reorganization was done late in the night. It's really more comfortable than the older one which was moved to the parents' house in the weekend. But more testing is needed :)

Weirdness

I clicked on freshmeat's "Take me to a random project", and it took me to Pseudo Random Number Generator Daemon. Random, indeed.

rbultje, what you mean by 5.1 surround is probably AC-3, which is handled perfectly by liba52 (AKA a52dec, ac3dec). The downsampling is also standardized, and is done in such a way, that the two-channel "stereo" output can be decoded by any decade old Dolby Surround receiver to get to a bearable imitation of 5.1. That is, Left, Center, Right, and one Surround, going to two rear speakers. The .1 is just a low-pass filter away :)

With the majority of consumer gear, it is not easily said that discrete 5.1 is better or worse from Dolby Surround-style faking of it... And the latter is not really different from a good stereo amplifier's sound, if you are listening right at the "sweet spot". Dolby Surround largely does what your ears are doing. Yes, you can find some missing details with advanced systems, but you decide how much does it worth...

Interestingly, the reason most older DVDs had 5.1ch and 2ch "mixes" of the sound is that one is a bit more "optimized" for Dolby Surround decoding.. Nowadays you are hard pressed to find anything lesser than 5.1, even for re-released movies originally recorded in 2ch or less(!). But, more interestingly some movies shot even in 1968, like "The Planet of the Apes", "2001: A Space Odyssey" were recorded in 4 channel systems at that time according to imdb.

English

schemata is the plural of schema? These rules of English plural seems very awkward to me at times. Yes, I know, they really are, but this is a rant :) Those who wanted stigma pluralized as stigmata are probably striving for the same elegance and (semi-)correctness that hackers do when inventing words like mouses. Defining correctness, when left to dictionaries, is just carving them in stone, but apparently this interweb thing will allow for more flexibility for changes in language.

Just an example, why these irregular plurals disturb me; you spell solos (plural of solo according to Wikipedia) and not soloes because it's Italian or Spanish word. In contrast the plural of Magyar is apparently Magyars, yet, this is the name Hungarians use for themselves in their own language, and its plural is "magyarok". But to add to the confusion, "a group of magyarok", or "some magyarok" would be incorrect, since this native plural is not used in this construct, but mostly in constructs with definite articles, like "those magyarok", "the magyarok are loud".

Ok, it's obvious, Greek words, and their knowledge is a bit more entrenched in the current English than Hungarian words; but IMHO it would be sensible not to rigorously enforce some of the historical ballast it accumulated, and try to let the language find its own ways to advance. Or, call the Hungarians "magyarok" as defined please :)

Work

The Progress database collapsed at work, and it took most of the day to recover from the last backup. Yes, the backups are fine, and less than a minutes worth of transactions were lost, but this is the second time in a few years this Progress thing detected an internal error caused by normal, but uncommon operation, and refused to start the database again. All this for heaps of money. Yes, probably we could pay much more, and have someone able to recover from this mess. At the risk of sounding a bit hypocrite, no free software bug (or user/admin error) would leave me so helpless than bugs and arbitrary internal errors in proprietary systems.

Are they after me?

I like Tor, which seems to me a lighter version of Freenet, which, in addition is working. It is not designed only for anonymous publishing, it also allows normal TCP connections, somewhat anonymized, and TCP connections between two anonymous party. The "somewhat" part is there only because there is not really humongous crowd of anonymizing servers yet, but it's still very nice.

Travel

Among other stuff, we just got back from a camping trip in Transsylvania. Politics aside, it's a beautiful place.

Politics

The sorry state of European software patents, which just proves the politians are there in for their money only, got me thinking sideways. Free Software clearly improves the working conditions, and ultimately the life of its users, as it adds to choices. As such, this is much more significant for me than stuffing the pockets of anyone else, including mysterious irresponsible corporations and their mighty stockholders. As a consequence, it should be an utmost priority that Free Software should be Free to develop and use, that is, unhindered by "intellectual property", (mainly so called patents).

Any "inventor" who claims their superior priming-bubble-sort is allowing a software vendor to compete more efficiently should get a reward from said vendor, yes. From proprietary vendors (vendors of arbitrarily restricted software), that would be royalties, from Free Software vendors and developers, the reward should be the Free Software itself, which the inventor is free to sell/support. What I mean if there is a possibility of patenting algorithms and other intangible ideas, then so be it, but the use of them should be free for Free Software.

I don't find this principle much different than the current exceptions about some governments ability to copyright items, and probably use "inventions" as they see fit (for weapons development maybe?)

Oh well, this pre-federation Earth sucks.

A year late again... Updates? New SO; thus some general upgrades at the house (A/C at last!). Some more devices: a long planned Tannoy MX4 got out of production, now an equally specced unit is called MX4-M; will be checked out. Also, there are a few more HD's, now there are four "usually on" PC's at home. There's a new 5MP camera too, doesn't help my hacking abilities.. Being somewhat early in the email game, all my emails are simply drowned in spam, and while I am aware of the semi-solutions, I got a bit fed up on this type of communication (again). DSPAM is the current candidate to implement... Also, I started the process to get a drivers license (which is a bit less trivial than in the US, I gather :)

mailfront is the nicest addition to qmail, but it has a few different quirks, so qmail opponents need not apply. :)

trs80: bittorrent is nice indeed! I have devoted 32kbit for that torrent of the mirror too in the company for a while, use it people :) Bittorrent works best when there are many people downloading; I cheated a bit, fetched the image from one .uk mirror at near 1Mb/s, and am now particicipating in the same torrent for y'all. BTW, This is the first time I will visit a conference, however virtual that experience will be :)

Oh, about the lost year.. I'll tell more later. :)

Waldo: hdparm -X does not do what you suppose it does. -X needs to be 64+UDMA mode, i.e. -X 68 for UDMA66, -X 69 for UDMA100 (udma5 in hdparm -i). And you shouldn't go higher than your chipset allows. I was bitten by this when I moved a hard disk to another VIA-based computer, and the VIA chipsets are sometimes too similar to detect their incapabilities, and using UDMA100 timings on an UDMA66 chipset wreaked havoc on the (duplicate, fortunately) data on the disk.

At least my hdparm works this way, if I'm not misinterpreting the manual page :)

last month
Nothing particular, I got distracted by interesting things. I wrote a replacement to nc, it had too many things done I did not wish. The result is yet another tcp proxy/tcp forwarder/etc, for a change, supporting connections through SOCKS5. openssh has a nice feature that allows it to use another program as a proxy connector, this is really a nice way to ssh out of a multi-level VPN-ed/firewalled network.

Spammers are still at it, I had to find a solution to refuse mail delivery to non-existent local users. The quirk is that I don't want to give up on qmail, which doesn't support this at all. A few days later, I'm using mailfront (with qmail still), which is an SMTP frontend to qmail. I prepared a few home-brewed patch (sent to the author), which does just that what I wanted. In turn, the author, Bruce Guenter, has an auto-reply bot to direct me to the mailing list with support questions... A nice idea with respect to the community knowledge, but I just sent a patch... Whatever, it's working well now, the rate of invalid recipients (forged by a Texan spammer) fell to a few tens per day. (Knock wood.) Some people still report abuse at our domain...

work
In this weekend, I planned to restore a not mission critical, but important Oracle server. After import failure, Oracle no longer starts. No help anywhere (and no DBA either, I just assumed that role...), but a lengthy internal error dump, which might have lead to the error, but nothing else since then. It just says mounted and opened, and in fact didn't. I went and went and recreated the database, then on Friday evening the server hiccuped (2.2.19 with ext3). Physical visit Saturday, kick some hardware, fsck in doubt to continue, bless some more, home again, recreating the database, importing the stuff again. A few hours later, another ext3 consistency failure. Great. No way I'm going to work more this weekend. On another server, I tried to update to 2.2.21, it didn't even come back up... That's all for work on Easter... :)

environment
For a more pleasant surprise, I was always an avid fan of SVGATextMode, but it got stale, and the supply of VGA cards with supported chipsets dried up in the past years. Craving some fun, I almost accidentally tried the framebuffer support in the kernel, and while the first few experiences weren't of *anything* useful, it clicked together. Now I can use rivafb in 800x600@100Hz, with 37x88 consoles. Finally. I also updated my favourite console font (t.fnt, I can't live without it) to psfu, and 9x16 format (looked just wrong in 8x16), and now I finally have the same great console I had a few years ago, but with 100Hz, and working even better. To tell the truth, I was only playing with the fb stuff to see how the console would look like in 1024x768, in case I really get a TFT with a fixed resolution. Well, 1024x768 is still too large, but this fbcon stuff is great now...

It could spare me from a few months staring at 25x80 consoles, if people advertised fbcon as a real good replacement for SVGATextMode. I can't stand X and its fonts longer than about a half hour.

Another surprise is a Logitech Internet Keyboard. I just wanted to play with USB keyboards, and it looked great. Maybe toyish, but comfortably so. Well, it even feels great, better than the soft keys on the Amiga 1200, with a few (yet unused) extra toy keys, and a wheel, which works as a mouse wheel in X... If used with the PS/2 connector, this wheel is working as a cursor up/down wheel, another nice point. It's just that the Linux USB keyboard subsystem seems to translate the extra keycodes to something really different than in the PS/2 mode; even turns some of the buttons into *mouse* buttons... I always find rough edges in stuff. :)

I'm still toying with buying a: 15/17" TFT (probably not 17", it costs too much), some D-Link wireless cards (like scandal :) These DWL-650/500 things are everywhere apparently. I hope it's really available in our country, not just on price lists (has happened a few times). And finally an Ipaq/Jornada to run Linux, and have a wireless LCD terminal too. Not great plans for a life, I agree.. :)

rant again
I'm this >< close to giving up on email. The tons of spam on mailing lists is almost manageable, even with some Korean (and possibly some Chinese) spam, but now that Ralsky (spamford spawn) guy won't stop forging my hosts domain name. On top of that, clueless newbies engage in unsubscribe storms on every other mailing lists every week (and never reply to any help offer); quoting standards (and netiquette) fractured due to Microsoft MUAs; same company offers worldwide virus distribution services for anyone wanting it. The only (real) solution is throwaway addresses, which means giving up fighting spammers, and using their tricks.

TMDA? Yes, I was using a similar method almost five years ago, see <slrn5lrvt9.4dp$1@shadow.banki.hu>, but spammers still try to spam my addresses used in 1997...

OTOH, no other communication form is safe from these problems.. IRC, (any IM too, as I hear, I'm left out), web boards, SMS.

The Internet needs an overhaul as it stands, increasing capacity is no longer working (ignoring the fact that companies don't want to give it us either..) I've read a summary the other day about some traffic research in cities. The gist of it was if you increase the capacity of the roads, more people use them, and after a short period, it will be as crowded as now. Interestingly, it works both ways, if you reduce the capacity (road blocks, digging, parking restrictions), cars seem to disappear from the limited areas. The same seems to happen on internet. If you give a bunch of 2 hours@56k modem users 24h@10 mbits a day connection, they will use it up the same way doing nothing really more (but mirroring 600M iso images just to have them at hand). It must be our instinct... We must work it around, as much technically, as mentally. Is this the same as the tragedy of the commons?

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