Older blog entries for jonas (starting at number 33)

This monday I begun working at the Department of Informatics at the School of Economics and Commercial Law in Gothenburg University. My tasks there involves taking care of their web services and securing the long-term issues related to those services. This suits me rather well since it's something I've been doing for the FSF for a long time.

It also means that I will spend a small amount of my time doing system administration on their GNU/Linux boxes (primarily those running the web server), which also suits me well.

All in all, I'm fairly happy with the tasks and the environment around the university. Much, much, better than Volvo where I used to work. Much more freedom and a much better understanding of what is important.

The only downside right now is that someone seems to be feeding for christmas. Feeding on IP packets that is. Roughly 47% packet loss on the network between two buildings, but hopefully that will sort itself out eventually.

Things have obviously slowed down in the community as christmas approaches. Many I know are taking a few weeks off from hacking and so some things that I thought I would have time to do this week will have to be postponed until after christmas, which probably is a good idea anyway.

It's amazing how much time you can spend christmas shopping. In two days shopping I've bought as many presents, and I'm not even halfway through my list. But it's a great deal of fun, and I've found almost as much stuff for myself as for others in the process! ;-)

I have been convinced again to accept a regular job, this time as an administrator for a departments web services on one of the local universities. The upside of this is that it removes a fair bit of economical stress.

This last weekend we had visitors from Stockholm (primarily). It was a great deal of fun, but hardly any hacking was done. This week I've been busy with a few deadlines, so I've been primarily busy writing and having horrible hiccups (two days straight now; I'm exhausted).

Other tasks that have occupied me as of late is some things related to the FSF Europe and getting my inbox down to a manageable size. Also wrote a patch for findutils that enables `rm' to accept a list of nullterminated strings on stdin which it treats as files and promptly removes. I think it's completely useless. It was caused by a friends innocent comment and my approaching deadline.

Burried alive under heaps of email. Spent a lot of time yesterday writing various bits and pieces for future work, and spent some time caring for my sick girlfriend who was home from work.

Other than that, I got around to playing with freeWAIS a bit more. I then got the idea that I should modernize it and spent some time on this. Then I asked myself, "why?" and stopped doing it :-) The reason is that WAIS is based on Z39.50 (I believe), version 1 or so. Version 3 is what most people use and advocate today and there's some free utilities to deal with that already, such as those by the Danish company Indexdata.

27 Nov 2001 (updated 27 Nov 2001 at 14:59 UTC) »

Monday. I think I'll leave it at that for today. I just want to note that I finally got around to installing a new GIMP, and of course I had to play around with it a bit. With inspiration from a friend, I managed to produce something utterly meaningless; Scripttease!.

Update: I found a copy of Norton(tm) AntiVirus / Personal Firewall 2001 (OEM Version) that I got with my motherboard. So I had to install it.

Yesterday I got back from my mothers place where I had been celebrating my birthday. Today I finished the C++ tutorial and then went on to learn basic Java. It's not really difficult at all. In fact, it's actually easy, but it will probably take some time until one learns all the packages that are available for use.

After that, I setup my computer so it's now able to play DivX ;-) files, which my girlfriend likes very much. We have a plan to put a terminal in the living room and store movies on our DLT tapedrive.

Birthday! And what do I do? Yes, I book a time with the dentist just after lunch. Hopefully that will not take too long though. Been listening a lot to Mike Batt's recording of The Hunting of the Snark lately. It's really very, very good. I'm looking forward for their new recording of it. I've also gotten a book with many of Lewis Carrolls' works, including The Hunting of the Snark. I think I've gotten Snark fever.

mpawlo: The issue of free software and democracy is an interesting one that I havn't made up my mind about yet. In general though, I feel that free software might be a tool to further a decmocratic society, but it doesn't necessarily promote democracy in itself.

I want to speak to you about some FSF Europe issues though. I'll send you an email about it or something of that kind next week.

Birthday tomorrow so doing laundry and stuff today instead. Noticed in the process that I need to find a dentist soon because my wisdom teeths are beginning to become a nuisance and I'm getting crankier and crankier the more my body deteriorates. I think I'm ready for my cane soon :-)

Thought of the day: email. What thomasvs wrote made me think about a discussion I had a few days ago. The topic of the discussion was email and, in particular, how clueless users are trying to make it do something it was never intended to do and administrators are trying to make them understand why it was never intended to do so.

It struck me then that noone, to my knowledge, had decided to implement email using XML. This seemed odd to me since everyone and their grandparents seems to want to do everything with XML these days. So I had to look it up. It turns out that Graham Klyne wrote a draft for the XML emails in January. I'm not the least bit surprised at this.

The second topic of discussion was the large attachements that users like to send and that's causing all sorts of grief. I think that we have to accept that users will keep sending messages as attachements, no matter what we think of it. The reason is that it's a fairly natural process to do so. The problem is not the emails themselves it seems, but rather the framework that has been built around the email services. The nature of an MTA is to be dumb. It will accept a message, forward it somewhere or deliver it and then forget it ever saw it.

Now, imagine for a change that the MUAs and MTAs were a bit smarter. Imagine that MUAs had a reliable way to tell the MTAs that "to this message, the user wants to attach this, this and this file." The MTA could say, "send them to me" or "no, I already have those". When forwarding to an MTA, the exchange could be something like this:


  Sender: Here is message A. Message A has attachement B.

  Receiver: Okay, I've got message A. Please send attachement B.

  Sender: Here is attachement B to message A.

  Receiver: Okay, I've got attachement B to message A.

  Sender: Here is message C. Message C has attachement B.

  Receiver: I already have attachement B.

  Sender: Here is attachement B to message A.

  Receiver: I told you I already have attachement B.

            For your crimes you shall not be allowed to eat tonight, nor shall

            you be allowed to send any more attachements for three days and you

            must remain in your address space where you will contemplate the

            errors of your ways until the full moon rises again. Now begone!

Okay, so it's not a very likely scenario, but still. It's not the users fault that they want to use the features of their software. It's the industry that has adopted features without understanding their implications on the underlying framework. I hope this changes in our lifetime.

The job I went to look at looked really, really fun. I'll hear from them again first week in december so we'll see then what happens. When I got back I spent some time oggifying some CDs and played musical chairs with some larger files to make them fit in their proper places.

Not a lot of things happening otherwise, except an email from Lockheed-Martin telling about their use of the GNU Libg++ in an Air Traffic Control system for the FAA and requesting input on future availability of the product. That was interesting.

So then it turned monday again. Today has been relatively unproductive since I still havn't gotten into any high gears. Hopefully, that will not be a problem tomorrow since I have a job interview quite early.

What I've been toying with today is various DNS visualizations. My first feeble attempts made me realize that I'm about 1GB RAM and 1GHz of CPU too short, but I think I've managed to overcome that now and the visualization software only eats about 547 MB RAM. Of course, that's for a limited map of about 900 nodes and corresponding edges.

The software outputs its information as Postscript files, which is generally nice except when they contain 900 nodes and corresponding edges. Ghostscript failed miserably and Gimp took two hours and then crashed telling me that it was "unable to seek to tile location on disk". It took the rest of my desktop with it too.

After sorting out those problems I spent a few hours investigating some statistical algorithms and methods and realised just how little math I attended at the university. Had I spent about two years more there I would likely be able to whip up some much faster algorithms for the work I'm trying to do. Right now I'm substituting fast algorithms for plenty of CPU time.

Somewhat related, I got around to setting up a home directory for me on my AFS server, so I can now push things into AFS space. I also have a tool that basically just takes a command, pushes information about it over to another machine and executes the command when there is CPU time available and then mails me when it's done. This helps in theory those long tedious waits for things to finish and I can crash my desktop to my hearts delight without affecting those runs.

This was in theory. In practice, I do them on my desktop machine anyway since the only other available machine is a 486dx33 with a constant load of about 6 or 7 since it's also doing other tasks. Of course, it doesn't really help that the machine in question has 48 MB RAM in total, and the things I want to do need more than ten times that much.

In unrelated news, my girlfriend was delighted today as she received her first SirCam virus in Spanish. Personally, I've been spared most spam today which I think is a first for a long, long time. I didn't escape the spam from the postal office though and I had to sort through a pile of paper until I found a notice from my bank telling me about a deposit to my account. Now I need to get to the post office tomorrow to drop off another load of Penguin Mints.

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