Older blog entries for ncm (starting at number 153)

12 Dec 2006 (updated 13 Dec 2006 at 22:35 UTC) »

I dist-upgraded my brother's Toshiba laptop to Ubuntu Edgy, and now it can't find open wireless hubs any more. In particular, the waproamd daemon won't even run any more; libc insists it's passing the wrong number of arguments to some apparently undocumented system call. The web (but not the package system!) is plastered with warnings that waproamd is obsolete and buggy. However, waproamd always worked perfectly for my brother, where wpa_supplicant doesn't (yet?). Furthermore, iftab no longer works reliably across ACPI suspensions to give the wireless interface a stable name. This upgrade was a decided downgrade, for him; his computer is entirely unusable until I can get anonymous wireless networking going again. On the good side, the PCMCIA slot works now, as does DMA on the DVD drive.

I just fixed a problem in my mother-in-law's Firefox 2 on Ubuntu: the bodies of her Yahoo mail messages showed up blank. The NoScript plug-in turned out to be at fault, and the workaround turned out to be clicking the checkbox in its configuration that caused it to display all domain names, not just 2nd-level, allowing them to be turned on and off individually. I didn't actually need to turn any on or off; just displaying them sufficed. That was another downgrade; one wouldn't say 1.5 "worked fine" (*cough* memory leaks! *cough*) but...

Hibernating this Dell Latitude D620 with swsuspend2 seems to work OK except that the "snd_hda_intel" driver for the mixer (variously identified as a SigmaTel STAC9200, Intel ICH7 82801G, and Intel HDA) gets very confused, and ultimately unable to produce audio. I don't know who to tell about it, so here you-all get to hear about it.

Zaitcev: How curious that the chart omits G.W. Bush. I suppose it's not clear yet whether he will ultimately achieve placement in the 1M+ group. It seems worth noting that Hitler, unlike most others in the list, was legally elected. (Others: Ataturk? Mussolini?)

bi: I created the Orkut group "Libertarians Make Me Laugh" some years ago. Still the silliest thing posted there was a (real!) quote from Eric Raymond insisting that markets weren't invented, but were rather a natural phenomenon, spontaneously discovered: "the free market isn't a 'device' any more than love or gravity or sunshine are devices". Big-"L" Libertarianism is best understood not as a political philosophy, but rather as a religion, closely akin to Scientology and Marxism, and also, curiously, (under the name Objectivism) a sexual perversion. (I'll bet you thought those didn't exist any more!)

elanthis: Years ago I was driving behind a Dodge pickup truck that rear-ended a little Mazda Miata. The front of the Dodge truck was all stove in, a real mess. The Miata came away looking barely touched -- a couple of minor scratches on the bumper that might already have been there. My major professor used to boast of the number of Volvos he had totalled with the backside of his VW Rabbit. 28 years ago I stove in the front of a Rabbit, myself, on the back of a Datsun pickup with no bumper, also left undamaged.

[Update:] Zaitcev: Collars are both a Victorian fetish, and currently popular among cross-dressers to obscure their protruding Adam's-apple. (Cf. Tootsie) I don't know how those tie into anime, but fetishism seems inextricable with the genre. I just saw Nausicaa, and the protagonist's omission of a certain often-fetishized article of clothing must have been meant as a sly dig at genre fans.

30 Nov 2006 (updated 30 Nov 2006 at 16:33 UTC) »

Listening to the Red Elvises, a sort of gypsy-punk band from Siberia, on their soundtrack from the movie Six-String Samurai. The music was by far the best thing about that movie. That, Supersuckers' "Must've Been High", Satan's Pilgrims' "At Home with ...", and some Cocteau Twins and Mazzy Star are all the music I feel a need to carry in my USB key.

This Dell Latitude D620 does a funny thing when I turn it back on after swsuspend2 has done its work: it ignores that headphones are plugged in, and just plays through the one tinny speaker under the keyboard.

lkcl: Monotone doesn't care what SQL database it uses. Plug in PostgreSQL and see how it goes. Nathaniel says Hg is fast even though it's in Python because it's organized entirely around the blocks moving to and from disk. I doubt any SQL database offers enough control to do that. Over and over, though, the world changes and what was faster than the database way becomes slower. (I wonder what happens when you keep the SQLite volume on a flash key.)

24 Nov 2006 (updated 24 Nov 2006 at 22:54 UTC) »

Today (or Saturday, your choice) is international Buy Nothing Day, "black Friday" sales notwithstanding. It's easy to participate: just don't buy anything. If you want to do more, promote the idea. A monthly Buy Nothing Day would be a good idea. A weekly Buy Nothing Day might be confused with a sabbath :-).

It turns out that, despite the upcoming regime change in the U.S., the elections really were successfully defrauded. At least 3 million votes were miscounted, concentrated in the close races. What happened? The number of fraudulent votes was calibrated to polls a month before the election, but turned out not to be quite enough come election day. In other words, what looked like close races weren't. Races where the incumbent apparently managed to hang onto his seat by a few points (hello Doolittle, R-CA) are successful frauds. I'm sure the fraudsters will learn from the experience and be better prepared in 2008. Fortunately for California, we succeeded in electing a Secretary of State whose primary goal is to secure the voting system, so with any luck it won't happen again here.

A lonely voice in what they call "principled conservatism", Austin W. Bramwell, dared to speak the truth, and was fired for it. Worth reading, worth forwarding.

But enough with politics.

Thanks to whoever else used Darren Naish's blog Tetrapod Zoology donation button. If you donate, please post that you did. There's still time to make him the Advogato Paleontologist in Residence for the month. (I don't think charitable donations count against Buy Nothing Day.)

21 Nov 2006 (updated 6 Jan 2007 at 08:50 UTC) »

Technically probably spam, but harmless and weird: MUKUBE.

Darren Naish, at my behest, now has a (too-discreet) Paypal donation button on his page; please kick in what you can afford. His current topic is pterosaurs. The other place I have donated lately is Hullabaloo. I had to cut way down on reading blogs, and it's the only political blog I still read, unless you count Brad DeLong.

20 Nov 2006 (updated 23 Jan 2007 at 22:51 UTC) »

[erstwhile spammers deleted]

19 Nov 2006 (updated 21 Nov 2006 at 21:56 UTC) »

I just sent US$100 to Darren Naish, of "Tetrapod Zoology" blog fame, and you can too. His Paypal address is eotyrannus at gmail dot com. Your money will be much appreciated as he is desperately unemployed since achieving his doctoral degree. If Advogatoans (Advogateros?) were to send him enough to live on, at least for this month, he would be our de facto paleontologist-in- residence, at least for this month. How many other blog aggregators can claim one?

I built a 2.6.19-pre5 swsuspend2 kernel for my Latitude D620, and it works fine, more or less. I like that now, when it's suspended, it draws no power from the battery, which makes up for it taking longer both to sleep and to wake. I still need to get it wired in so it will go off when I shut the lid. No more progress on the bcm4311, but now my orinoco cards don't work at all, either. I may need to roll back to 2.6.18.

There's something sinfully gratifying about being the person finally responsible for a spam account being cancelled. If I were Catholic I would feel obliged to try to be the first person to mark them as spam, so as not to be indulging. But I'm not.

This last month I have been involved in unholy surgery, patching into Putty to use it as a library. This is the first time in two decades I have done much of anything with C, as such. Despite what I may have said about C puzzles, there can be nothing refreshing about any body of C code bigger than 5000 lines (unless, perhaps, you're coming back to it from Java).

13 Nov 2006 (updated 14 Nov 2006 at 06:59 UTC) »

It's gratifying to see that Sun has finally acknowledged the fundamental strategic irrelevance of Java. As proof, they didn't just "open-source" it, they actually "freed" it, under the GPL, something they never do with anything they care about. (That's not to say that "under the GPL" means strategically irrelevant; rather, just that Sun acts as if it did.) Slightly less gratifying is that the mass of IT hacks will shortly be seen scurrying like rats from the bilges, overboard and up over the gunwales of the MSS Dot Net. At least the pretense will be gone.

I have acquired a new vice. I write "SMALL PENIS" in the dust on the back windows of Hummers. (No, I have no fear of their owners' ire; consider the fundamental truth backing the previous sentence.) I had already taught my kids to point and laugh whenever they see one, explaining that the front wheels fall off in traffic. (True: the Sacramento Bee's car reviewer had one fall off before he got out of the parking lot. Years later, it still happens.) It's much better to laugh than to glare.

Still no success with the bcm43xx driver on the 4311 chip I find in the 1390 wireless card in my Dell D620. With 2.6.19-pre5 and Larry's patches, it now sees the chip, but cannot seem to get a signal. Meanwhile, suspend/resume is very flaky with any but the stock Debian-unstable kernel. Probably it's time to go to kernel-based swsuspend2 instead of depending on ACPI; the BIOS startup is now actually fast enough to make it a viable choice.

slamb: I agree with you, in detail, about pthreads cancellation. Fortunately, C++ thread interruption will not depend on pthreads cancellation. However, it also (your point 7) probably will not interrupt C "cancelation points", only C++ "interruption points". That may sound bad, but when C++ has its own Standard sockets and threads libraries, in addition to filebuf, there will be less need to use the C calls. That, and the enormous pressure on C libraries to support non-blocking modes, should make C++ interruption more useful with time. People will always complain that interruption isn't forceful enough, but (if sanity prevails) it will have the great virtue of not breaking existing code.

I wondered why the ipw3945 driver I managed to build for my new Dell Latitude D620 didn't find the chip... it turns out that's because it doesn't have one, Google notwithstanding. Rather, it has a Broadcom bcm43xx. Apparently that's a consequence of ordering it with the cheaper mini-PCI card that does "b/g" but not "a", for a savings of, what, $29? Unfortunately, the bcm43xx driver in the 2.6.18.2 kernel I just built doesn't find it either.

slamb: Thanks for the welcome. It means a lot, coming from you. BTW, the C++ Standard committee is finally talking seriously about a substitute for pthread cancellation. My bet is they will adopt Java interruption almost unchanged. This may be the first time something adopted from Java into C++ had a chance of improving it.

I've found the Holy Grail of Ogg players. It's called NEXBlack, from Frontier Labs, and it has a Compact Flash slot instead of built-in flash or disk. It runs on ordinary AA batteries. Unfortunately it seems to be available only from Hong Kong for US$46 + $35 shipping.

In order to throw the bums out, Americans had to cast 32M votes to just barely overcome the gerrymandered 24.5M votes to "stay the course". That's not counting the votes that weren't counted as a result of election fraud and myriad dirty tricks. Restoration of law in the Senate remains uncertain, although at worst it might be achieved later as felonious incumbents are obliged to resign.

2 Nov 2006 (updated 8 Nov 2006 at 06:52 UTC) »

Plenty to report since last posting...

Got a new job at Aspera in Berkeley. Who knew file transfer was not only not a solved problem, but still interesting?! I'm finding myself coding C again, for practically the first time in two decades. I'll need to fix that pretty soon. Another surprise, LinkedIn turned out useful for more than keeping track of what people I used to know are up to, because the job was posted there.

Attended an ISO C++ Standard meeting this month, for the first time in five years. The people were mostly the same as before, but some are professors instead of grad students. Exciting things are happening in C++. It's getting a complete network sockets library (based on Boost asio, you can use it already), a threads library (similar to Boost's, to be extended with "futures" soon after), a date/time library (similar to Boost's), extended regular expressions (similar to Boost's), and rigorously defined psueudo-random numbers. In the core language, "auto" variable declarations, explicit "concepts" (e.g. enforcing STL requirements lists) making template library error messages comprehensible, and a module system. Meanwhile, I'm trying to see if we can add support for zero-copy techniques into iostreams & sockets without serious disruption.

Installed Debian unstable on a Dell Latitude D620 (dual CPU, WXGA+ 1440x900 display driven by nv) and on a Shuttle xpc (single CPU, Intel i915G cycle-stealing video) this month. The Dell install wasn't bad, except the Debian sarge kernel didn't know about the network chip (tg3) so I had to get an updated kernel into it via a USB key. Support for it on the net is good. I'll get the ipw3945 wireless working eventually, but in the meantime my old orinoco pcmcia card works *almost* well enough (albeit not with SMP enabled, if OOPSes are to be believed). I'm told an all-new ipw3945 driver is coming out this month, which is good, because the old one totally stinks. On the Shuttle, it took an appallingly long time to figure out I needed to install the 915resolution package and hand-edit its config file so that my 1680x1050 display wouldn't look like ass. Remarkably, Google was not very helpful.

Cracked the depression dogging me for the last three years, using ordinary over-the-counter broad-spectrum mineral supplements. It took about three months. Goodbye bupropion!

Google finally ponied up $122 for AdSense (most of which was for Firefox conversions) leaving $33 -- already earned at the time the check was printed -- to be paid maybe six months from now, a couple of months after the balance exceeds $100 again. That seems pretty evil, no? Or maybe just rude.

Any new blog will be linked from my home page, cantrip.org.

I just passed the US$100 mark for Google's AdSense -- to be precise, $104.24, including $61.85 for 100 Firefox downloads. It appears they will take just less than two months to get around to sending a check.

For the (final) record, Orkut's "I hate Java" is at 727 members, "I resent LISP" at 56, "I hate Perl" at 285, "I hate Python" at 51; "Java" at 36,364, "Lisp" at 997, "Perl" at 5,595, "Python" at 3,647.

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