Older blog entries for robey (starting at number 18)

More dreary rain. This time i'm up in the city (SF, for anyone reading outside the bay area). Greg and Erin's friend Andy is visiting after traveling around various parts of Asia, and so probably annoyed that most of the food in this neighborhood is some form of Asian cuisine. Breakfast was a comfort food of grilled corn scramble at Q, then a huddled march to Green Apple Books where we must've spent at least an hour. I picked up a copy of "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" (yes, i'm a mass-marketed sucker, but it looked good) and a relatively small tome on Roman history.

The say2 webpage has been updated finally, with links to snapshots of the current perl (curses) client and the sephiroth server. Greg has finally checked in his prototype java gui client, which is looking pretty cool so far -- maybe a snapshot will be posted soon. Also i went to a little effort to describe the protocol better, now that clients are being written. Josh has started work on a Windows VB client, too, i think.

Work has been fairly annoying. The install stuff is shaping up pretty well, but it's all starting to be tested, and everyone thinks their bug has higher priority than anyone else's, and they're all "blockers" (bugs that block other people from working), which becomes a zero-sum game where i stop caring. Everyone in my group except me is going to Guadec in Copenhagen this April, and i can't pay my own way (i'll be lucky to get my taxes covered this year) so it's kinda depressing. I try not think about it. Also it's been hard to concentrate when i'm at my desk because our building has gotten so crowded now that there's a constant stream of people wandering through our cube and chatting.

Oops, let's talk about cheery things again. Greg got me the Final Fantasy anthology (games 5 and 6) as a late Christmas present, so i've been playing 5 a lot to unwind. Even with the crappy Nintendo graphics, it's a really engaging game, and i keep getting caught up in it.

Rain rain rain, it was cool for a while but now it's starting to get a little old. I hope some dam somewhere is saving up all this water for electricity uses. The halfway house got hit by a rolling blackout last week and my main Linux box was offline for two hours: no fun. The UPS kicked in, which ruled, but unfortunately all the hubs and routers were out, so nobody really got a warning that it was about to do a clean shutdown. Oh well i guess i can't be too picky about it: it cleanly shutdown twice.

Greg got "suspended" from work last week, along with another coworker, for having a bad attitude. (They had to return to work on Friday after everyone had chilled out.) Man, i wish that would happen to me -- i'd love to have a week off! He read books and rode his bike around and went to MOMA and played lots of FF9. And he started working on a java-based GUI say2 client, which he's been hacking on all weekend and is starting to be somewhat usable. The first GUI client, yay!

Work has mostly involved hacking on the bootstrap installer, which is sort of like a crumpled bike. I can keep banging on it and straightening the wheels and stuff, but it's never going to be a very good bike, only an acceptable one. It's not so bad though -- considering what a piece of last-minute crap the PR3 installer was, i'm surprised we didn't get that many bug reports about it. The 1.0 installer will be using the new install-lib guts, though, so i predict many corner cases will be discovered.

Marx Brothers' Room Service was on TV last night -- Direct TV rulez. :) Also can't stop listening to Idlewild and the New Pornographers lately. And picked up a CD by Death Cab For Cutie after hearing a catchy song on the radio in Atlanta over winter break, and the CD (while being nothing like that catchy song) is mighty fine.

I'm back from the grueling Nautilus PR3 death march. Actually it was more grueling for me than it really had to be, since Greg gave me the flu during the last week of it. I'd come into work even grumpier than usual and be all achey and tired and sniffly all day, and not get as much useful work done as i should have.

But luckily, i didn't get the flu nearly as bad as Greg did: he was sick for multiple weeks and is still coughing. I went on the offensive with mine, and ate pounds of zinc cough drops and echinacea, which was working for a few days until my poor weakened body gave up. Something i ate last Thursday night just pushed my poor stomach over the edge and i stayed up all night periodically expelling my stomach's contents. The good side of all that is that it pretty much scared the crap out of my flu. The flu germs all decided, "This guy is a mess! He's not gonna be a good carrier; he's just gonna die in the middle of the street somewhere. Abandon host!"

So this past week has been a nice breather: A good chunk of people (including i think a total of one engineer) were in New York for LinuxWorld, so the office was pretty empty. I spent Wednesday and Thursday relaxing myself into a total state of corba zen: becoming one with the corba. Then i rewrote large chunks of the corba interface to the installer with my newfound knowledge, and it felt nice. Much newfound confidence in it, and it looks like a lot less memory leakage.

Now it is time for breakfast.

Weird, i just noticed that it's been a long time since i posted a diary that wasn't on a single-digit or 20-something day of the month. Okay sorry, that was even more geeky than usual for me.

Typical Friday: I woke up early to make it into work in time for a special "lunch" my group is having, and i fail to notice when everyone leaves without me, assuming i know where it is or how to get there. Instead, i went back home and had an extremely productive day doing long-neglected housechores, so i suppose i should be thankful.

The clueless corporation that we rent from sent us a letter, just like clockwork, announcing that we had new landlords. How can a company be in such distress for so long? We get new landlords about every 6 months. This time the welcome letter contained not only the usual array of typos and mispellings, but a request that we write back and tell them just who the heck is living here. It makes me wonder: if we don't write back, will they assume nobody lives here and stop charging us rent? How can a company forget who it rented to? Unbelievable.

The PR3 crunch is coming up at work, but i postponed a lot of grunt work for 1.0, so i'm doing okay so far. The install view of Nautilus will look different, but will behave exactly the same as PR2. Massive changes in its behavior will hit for 1.0 (and i'm looking forward to them with glee). My friend Rupe noticed that at night, you can see the entire inside of one of Eazel's conference rooms (including the whiteboard contents) through the plate glass windows on the front of the building. He called it "the open source conference room".

This mention of cubicles is merely to please skef.

Saw "crouching dragon, hidden tiger" (or similar name) at the Metreon last weekend. (Insert standard rant about the Metreon.) Okay, so like, this is an artsy Ang Lee movie and it's in Mandarin, so why the heck was every bubba in the bay area clamoring to get into this movie? I was perplexed. I can only assume that some TV show somewhere said it was a great "action movie" or something. Once the subtitles started, there was a general grumbling about "I didn't know this was subtitled", and there were several points in the movie where people laughed at just inexplicably inappropriate times. At any rate, the great hubbub of Stallone fans didn't prevent me from enjoying what may be my favorite movie of the year: it somehow managed to have awesome kung-fu scenes and still be emotional and interesting. You actually cared what was going to happen to these people, and nobody was cast as absolutely good or absolutely evil. Highly recommend.

The next night we tried to get into the new Coen brothers movie (sold out), so we got in a really long line for "Traffic" -- i guess it was let's see a movie weekend in SF! This long line i could understand, though, it's a movie by the "Erin Brockovich" dude. And the movie was worth being in a long line and cramming into the crowded theater. But i think i'll pass on new movies for a while now until the crowds chill out.

Been back at work for a few days now and starting to get into the rhythm again. For the first day or two i felt strangely antisocial, probably just coming down from all the socialness of the holidays. Eskil's still out of town for another week (and then probably further weeks for INS bullshit) so i've been peeking around in his code, figuring it out and filling in some spots.

On New Year's, Greg found out about this "porn-e-okie" thing being held by Chicken John in SF. Not many people were interested in this kind of concept, but he was eager so i went with him and Walt to check it out. Turned out to be what the name suggests: karaoke done over bad porn movies. Some of the movies involved dwarves and clowns, which was more than a little disturbing. And the karaoke selection had obviously been chosen with care, since it included songs like "Like a Virgin" and "Hit Me With Your Best Shot". After i got into the goofy mood of it, it turned out to be a lot of fun. The yuppies all left before midnight, and it turned out to be just a group of goofy creative people.

Got DirecTV[tm] set up, and it kicks so much ass. Free cable could never be this good. Went out and bought the equipment on the 27th on an impulse, and got the dish roughly configured and reception working within a day -- not too tough but i wouldn't recommend it for anyone who doesn't fix things around the house. "Professional" installation was free through a promo they were running, but i wanted the instant gratification of setting it up the very day i bought it. (I'm like that a lot.) Plus i'd heard that the Food Network was going to be running a marathon of Iron Chef over New Year's Eve and i wanted to be able to tape as much of that as possible. :) Anyway the next day i bought some tools and bolted the dish way down into my balcony, such that it may never be able to be removed, and got it tuned to about 80% reception, which seems to be as good as it can get, but which is plenty good enough to receive everything with no visible glitches.

That very night BBC America ran a marathon of Red Dwarf, so we stayed in and watched.

Haven't worked on my projects (say2 or goo) recently, because of all the distractions. Looks like say2 will need some loving soon, though.

Mmm Phoenix.

Our flight back from Atlanta made its first hop without incident: to Phoenix. But then when it came time for the next hop (to San Jose), the fates were not smiling. No, they were frowning. One might even say they were having a little temper tantrum. Okay, actually it wasn't that bad.

I'd been bragging to my parents that i had figured out how to avoid the Christmas airline crap: fly America West, which always transfers through Phoenix. Phoenix has no snow, no wind, no rain -- no weather to speak of. Therefore your connection can never be messed up! Well, obviously this direct challenge to my bad flying karma could not be ignored, so on our flight from Phoenix, the airplane's computer system blew up and could not be fixed.

I get very depressed when something like that happens, because i know what follows: many hours without food, sleep, comfort, or any resolution about how they're going to get you home. But, against all my expectations, America West did an absolutely incredible job about resolving things. We were herded downstairs to the ticket counters and given hotel vouchers (for hotels that actually had rooms available!) and some food vouchers and info on our new flight, leaving at 7.33 the next morning, in virtually identical seats to our original ones.

Feeling better, we took the shuttle to the hotel, got settled into what was actually a very nice room, and set about getting food. The desk clerk suggested that Papa John's would deliver to the hotel, but a quick call corrected that misinterpretation. "Nearest food?" we asked various people, including hotel staff (who, i thought, might have a personal interest in the answer), and we were consistently directed to the ampm across the street. (East coasters: it's like a 7- 11.)

Walking around a few blocks of Phoenix was just like I remembered it from my last visit a couple of years ago: the city seems to almost always be completely vacant. City blocks were about 1km to a side, filled with short flat unidentifiable buildings (offices? stores? hard to tell), poorly lit and spread out over unimaginable space. So we hiked "across the street" (actually a good city block for normal cities) to the ampm, got cold turkey pita sandwiches and doritos and went back to the hotel to watch Galaxy Quest on cable before passing out.

At what felt like about 10 minutes later, the alarm went off and we stumbled off to the airport to catch our early worm flight. Just to tease me, the pilot announced that they were having computer problems and we had to wait about an hour before the plane actually got fixed and took off. ("What, is this the same plane?" Greg asked.)

Anyway, we finally got back. Yay. My faith in America West is restored -- they still kick Delta's ass to Pluto and back.

Whoops, been too long since i wrote one of these... Work got really busy right before i left for winter break, and the dialup connections from eastern Tennessee aren't exactly the fastest and most reliable ones in the universe.

The week before i left, the cable in my apartment went out and never came back on. Prognosis: TCI finally figured out that we never paid for cable. But still, that seems kind of rude. There ought to some kind of statue of limitations on free cable -- if TCI couldn't figure out in 3 years that they never charged us for cable, they should've long since forfeit their right to complain about it.

Oh well, i think i'm going to try to get DirecTV instead now. The old TCI was only worth "free", since it had crap-all for channels, and less than 50 at that. In my parents' town, those little tiny dishes are everywhere! My parents even got it, in addition to still having cable. [???] I played around with it, and it's definitely a lot better than TCI ever provided, so i'll probably buy a starter kit when i get back to Mountain View, and see if i can get it set up before the end of the year.

Greg and i flew into Atlanta on the 19th, and in retrospect the whole thing was hilarious. First, it was snowing when we got there so the whole city was in a shambles. (Yes, it may have been only 1-2cm of snow, but this is the deep south, so that's enough to cause massive chaos.) Second, we went shopping the next day and traffic was just completely out of control. It was way worse than any bay area traffic i've seen, and i'm not sure they were consciously trying to immitate it. It was just that nobody knew how to deal with traffic, so they would do the stupidest things to cause it to foul up even more -- wasn't too fun to be in but sure is hilarious to think about in retrospect.

More later.

It's starting to become painfully evident that I need a haircut. I'm a little loathe to mention this particular piece of my personal life, since the last time i mentioned my hair, a whole website of hair fetishists found me through search engines and started spamming me with email. Please don't do that this time people.

Didn't do very much this weekend: bought a bunch of new CDs, went shopping for Chinese restaurant dishware (got two nice tea cups and some tiny plates) and watched Yojimbo [Kurasawa], and Wonderboys, both of which were very good, and not nearly as depressing as Requiem for a Dream. A bunch of us from work went to see that one last week, and while it's also a very good movie, it was obviously written and directed by someone who hates life.

Left say2 alone for now and did a little hacking on new goo innards. Probably just futzing around right now, but i did decide to go ahead and use antlr (a better yacc) and C++ this time. Amusingly that seems to have coincided with some sort of C++ revival -- several people have brought it up recently and i noticed that Advogato's main page has an article about it. Really it's very simple: C++ is not evil, but people who use C++ because they don't know how to code, that is evil.

I haven't had time lately to do even the most minimal of tasks (buy groceries, pay bills, etc). I'm really looking forward to Christmas break. Part of this is my own fault, though, i think maybe sometimes i enjoy having too much to do. We have some insane January deadline at work and still i find time to hack on my own projects a little bit. Whee...

Well that was a nice Thanksgiving. After work hell for the first half of the week, i worked "from home" on Wednesday and then avoided email and IRC/say2 from Thursday to Sunday: i highly recommend it.

Since i've forbidden myself to buy Final Fantasy IX until i finish a music project, i went by Blockbuster and picked up the "Final Fantasy Anthology" (V and VI). Both are more primitive than VII, obviously, but i liked V enough that i've gotten hooked and it's looking like renting them was an unwise choice. I think i'm going to have to wean myself from it before the late fees pile up too bad.

For Thanksgiving, Greg and i picked up some stuff from Safeway and make a nice "baked chicken" meal with veggies and bread, and watched Vertigo -- you know, the traditional Thanksgiving movie! I had a vague idea for veggies: slices of zucchini and squash cooked in a big pan. Greg was able to magically transform my vague idea into a viable dish (which was good!). I've learned to leave all vegetable cooking to him: anyone who can chop vegetables so well must be an expert.

Strick is back in town, so on Sunday night we all went (with Rupe, Matt, and Geoff) down to Santa Cruz and pigged out at Pink Godzilla sushi (a long-overdue idea). Strick and i swapped ideas about say2 and smilax on the way back, plus he'd been thinking of a say2-like mod to IRC, which proved to me that we're on the right track.

Got CVS working on the Mac, so i could hack on goo (and maybe even say2) over the coming holidays. Plugged my home machine into a fairly cheap (but servicable) UPS so it can shutdown cleanly when the monthly PG&E power outage happens. Otherwise avoiding work because i'm frustrated with the state of the installer, but hopefully it will be okay after they do this "patch" release, and we can stop wasting time and actually fix the broken parts.

Eazel rearranged the cube layout in our building last week (to add more cubes) so i arrived on Monday to find the building more "full" than before, and spent most of the day unpacking my stuff and getting my computers set up right. Shane, Mike, Eskil and i are now in one big (or not so big) cube. It's nice to sit close enough to the people i work with that i don't have to shout across the building anymore.

We're going to do another release of the bootstrap Nautilus installer early next week to fix some of the immediate bugs that were causing heartache: memory leaks, odd error messages, its uncanny desire to erase KDE packages -- the usual stuff that makes me doubt my own sanity. (Do i write code or just bugs?)

Greg and i got the rack-mount machine installed last weekend and it's pretty nice. It's weird now, because it's not in my living room anymore so i don't think about it much, but it's always around. I guess having a machine in a coloc is a lot like not having a machine at all, if it runs itself well.

In the post-PR2 lull i got a little bit more work done on say2 (but not a whole lot). I decided to try to tackle the SSL stuff because it's made me curious for a long time and nobody seems to know how the heck it works -- or how the heck to make it do anything useful. Getting client-mode SSL to work in ammonite was mostly copying other people's code and twiddling it until magic happened. So after fighting tooth and nail with this stuff, i finally managed to get some socket code written that can be an SSL server or client with a minimum of fuss. Wonder if any other gnome projects could use that? They'd probably rather write their own, i bet.

So the next step will be setting up cert swapping between sephiroth (say2 server) and the perl client, and getting them to make a secure connection. Hopefully this part will be a little easier (though i'm in utter fear of what the perl openssl library API looks like).

Just finished a very funny book Eli lent me: "Youth In Revolt" -- highly recommend it. Now halfway through "Soul of a New Machine", non-fiction about a computer company in Boston in the Carter era. I looked it up on the web: Data General was indeed a real company. Scary how quickly some things can fade into oblivion.

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