Diary of a geek

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Andrew Pollock

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Wednesday, 31 August 2005

Firefox's Live Bookmarks are the business!

Yesterday I figured out how to do Live Bookmarks in Firefox, and so today I reorganised my toolbar so that I had the feeds from the Planets that I usually read, as well as Google News. So now I can see at a glance if there are any new posts. Very cool.

Screenshot of my Live Bookmarks in action

[17:04] [tech] [permalink]

Curses. Foiled again.

Courtesy of The New Inventors, it appears that someone else already came up with my latest brilliant idea of diverting rainwater from downpipes to somewhere more useful than the storm water drain.

[04:33] [life] [permalink]

Fun with LVM2 snapshots

So I thought I'd have a bit of a fiddle with LVM2's snapshot feature, given there's been a bit of discussion about it lately.

Turns out, if pbuilder were to use this, it'd greatly speed up the chroot creation time.

What I did was create a logical volume for use as the chroot "master" if you will, and unpacked a tarball of a pbuilder chroot into it.

I then created a snapshot logical volume that used this "master" logical volume. Pretty much instant copy. Mounted the snapshot volume, and ran amok on it. Then unmounted it, removed it, and the original "master" logical volume is still in its original state. Sounds good to me. I wonder if the Debian buildds would benefit from this as well?

[01:59] [tech] [permalink]

Monday, 29 August 2005

Look Ma, I got me a USB key!

I finally got around to buying myself a USB key at the Computer Fair on the weekend, largely because some changes to my work environment were going to require that I start sneaker-netting files around a lot more, and also because I'd wanted one for a while.

I wanted to get a 1GB one, because I could stick a whole ISO image on it, as well as have a bit of room for playing around. I also wanted to be able to shove a Debian installation ISO of some sort on it, so I could boot from the key if I so desired.

So far, despite really clear instructions, I haven't had a lot of luck on the booting front, and I discovered today that Windows seems to only show the first partition of the key, which is a bit limiting. That said, it certainly came in handy today.

Last week I got a new desktop workstation, because my work laptop was being reimaged with the new corporate SOE, and was to be solely used for accessing the corporate VPN. The desktop was to do actual work on on the client's management LAN. The workstation was some sort of Dell (can't remember the exact model), and it came with two 17" LCD flat panels. I decided to dual boot it between Windows XP and Debian, with the intention of spending most of the time in Linux if I could manage it.

The one downside: no Internet access from this management LAN, hence the USB key.

I did a base installation with the first Sarge CD, and then did some nasty hackery to do the rest sneakernet style, ferrying files between my laptop on the (very slow) corporate VPN with Internet access, and the desktop. It worked fairly well. I wrote a little shell script called offline-apt-get, which basically just spat out the URLs of the files it needed to download, and I redirected this to a file, and then ran a wget --input-file on this file on my laptop, and then copied all the .debs retrieved into /var/cache/apt/archives, and proceeded to apt-get install as normal. apt-get updateing was achieved in a similar manner, except I copied the relevant Packages files into /var/lib/apt/lists with the appropriate names to match the entries in my sources.list.

So I ended up a sources.list that mentioned externally unreachable Debian mirrors just like a normal install would, and just a bit more manual labour in terms of fetching files.

For the record, the offline-apt-get script just looked like:

apt-get -y -qq --print-uris $* | awk '{ print $1 }' | sed "s/'//g"

[05:26] [tech] [permalink]

Sunday, 28 August 2005

Yay!

Kynan's blog feed has finally stopped looking like utter poo and is actually readable in my personal Planet. This is a good thing, as I've been trying to read his blog, but it's been an uphill battle in terms of legibility.

[06:03] [life] [permalink]

Saturday, 27 August 2005

Wedding photos

All 243 of the professional ones are now up here.

I want to take this opportunity to sing the praises of Andrew Sawatske of Hi-tide Photography. Sarah vaguely knew him from triathlon circles. He does a lot of sports photography as well as weddings.

He's from the Central Coast, so as part of the photography package, we put him up at University House, where most of the wedding guests were staying, and he came to reception as well, and sat on the triathlete table. He really enjoyed himself, which I think is reflected in the extra work he did.

So not only did we get excellent wedding photos, he also sent us a DVD slide-show at no extra cost. We got all of this, including high-resolution digital copies of all the photos on DVD, four weeks after the wedding.

[19:21] [life] [permalink]

Wednesday, 24 August 2005

Fun with xargs

Had some fun with xargs this morning. I came up with such a monstrosity, I have to record it for posterity.

The situation was one where we had a script that was scping a whole pile of files around, and the source directory got so big, that a straight "scp ${SOURCE}/* $DESTINATION" was resulting in the good old command-line too long situation.

Sounds like a job for xargs I say. But how do we tack the destination on the end? I'm used to situations where you just want to pass a whole lot of arguments to a command, but not have a constant value on the end. Oh, and this was on Solaris for good measure, so I was fully expecting to not be able to do it.

Did some prototyping. Put "a-z" in /tmp/alphabet, one per line.

apollock@caesar:~$ cat /tmp/alphabet | xargs -L 6 echo
a b c d e f
g h i j k l
m n o p q r
s t u v w x
y z

Right, so that solved the argument length issues, but I needed a constant argument on the end. I tried

apollock@caesar:~$ cat /tmp/alphabet | xargs -L 6 -i echo '{}' foo
a foo
b foo
c foo
d foo
e foo
.
.
.

But as you can see, (and so the manpage says), -i implies -l1 (which is the same as -L 1). Bummer.

So then I came up with this ripper:

apollock@caesar:~$ cat /tmp/alphabet | xargs -L 6 echo | xargs -i echo '{}' foo
a b c d e f foo
g h i j k l foo
m n o p q r foo
s t u v w x foo
y z foo

That's the ticket!

[17:31] [work] [permalink]

Finally

One of the things I wanted to do when I first got my PowerBook was connect to the Internet via the GPRS connection of my T630 over Bluetooth. It's always eluded me.

I recently reinstalled my PowerBook because I wanted to reduce the amount of space dedicated to Linux, and generally give it a clean out. Tonight, I was reinstalling bits and pieces and decided to revisit this chestnut again.

After a bit of concerted Googling, I found the homepage of Ross Barkman, who has some useful extra scripts for the T630, which for some reason, Apple doesn't ship with MacOS X. After throwing this into my /Library/Modem Scripts/ directory, and following the detailed instructions included with the scripts, I had things working very nicely indeed via Telstra.

Thanks Ross, I owe you a pint.

[03:51] [tech] [permalink]

Tuesday, 23 August 2005

Yeah baby!

A.N.D.R.E.W.: Artificial
Networked Destruction and Rational Exploration Worker

[23:08] [geek] [permalink]

Dropping out

Well, taking leave from the program is the official term.

I had a shit of a Monday yesterday, and that just threw me over the edge, so I decided to withdraw from this semester. Apparently I can take 12 months leave without any dramas. The only downside is that it starts from the start of this semester, so I need to resume study or reapply for another 12 months at the start of second semester next year. We'll see what happens.

I feel a bit hollow at the moment about doing it. I feel particularly bad about letting down my two assignment partners for COMP2110. I'm going to miss hanging out with my friend Tiane as well.

Sigh.

[05:32] [uni] [permalink]

Friday, 19 August 2005

National "Mate" day

As opposed to National Mating Day.

Apparently some directive that the security guards at Parliament House may no longer address members of the public as "mate" has caused a bit of outrage.

The local radio station certainly wasted no time in seizing upon it.

So... G'day maaaaaaaaaaate!

[05:15] [life] [permalink]

Thursday, 18 August 2005

To withdraw or not to withdraw?

That is the question.

Never before has a University census date been something I have been eyeballing so closely. I am in two minds about whether or not to persist with this semester's study.

Why?

Well there is a reasonable chance that I won't be in the country come exam time. The conundrum becomes: do I risk that I will, persist with my study, blow my fees, and hope I'm here (and pass my exams)? Or do I want to spend my final days in the country relaxing a bit more? That option is starting to appeal to me. Especially given that I really don't feel like I've engaged terribly well this semester with all the other distractions in my life lately (potential changes in employment, marriage, overseas trips, excessive trips to Brisbane).

That and the two courses I'm doing are a combination of damn hard and damn boring: Software Design is boring, and Concurrent and Distributed Systems is extremely hard, with a track record in failing students (quite a few are repeating it). To cap it off, the boring one is actually more important as far as prerequisites for third year go.

I already feel behind. I have two assignments on the boil right now (one of them a group one), and I'm going to Brisbane for the weekend, so this weekend is a write-off.

So I can spend every night next week at Uni, as well as all of next weekend, and flog myself silly, and I might just get somewhere remotely close to back on track again, just to find out that I have to withdraw further down the track anyway (possibly with academic as well as financial consequences) or I can just withdraw now, presumably get my money back, and not get a blight on my record.

The one downside to doing this is it fucks up my original (and future) plans for returning full-time and knocking over 3rd year in one hit. I'd still be two courses shy of graduating.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm ever going to get this degree. Sometimes I wonder if it really matters. Then I remember how close I came to probably not being able to get a US work visa at all because of my lack of a degree, and I remember...

Sigh. Waiting sucks.

[23:46] [uni] [permalink]

So cut

And that's just my car tyres.

I had my usual 9am Friday lecture this morning, so I went straight to Uni from home, and parked at the usual set of parking meters close to where my lecture is, at about 8:45am. I was the first car there.

At about 10:10am, I returned to my car to discover that the back two tyres were flat, and the front left one was also looking a bit short of breath. I was a bit stumped on what to do with that many flats for a while, and finally called the NRMA to try and organise a tow.

The operator tells me they'll have someone there "within the hour". So I sit in the car and twiddle my thumbs. An hour and a bit passes, and there's no sign of anybody, so I call again, just to check they've got the location correct. They tell me that they were only going to send a patrol car (one that can jump start your car, give you emergency fuel, look under your bonnet, that sort of thing) not a tow truck. I tell them that that isn't really going to help me with three flat tyres, and so could they please send me a tow truck. They agree, and say that one will be dispatched.

Shortly afterwards, I get a telephone call back from someone at the NRMA trying to talk me out of getting a tow truck and just getting a patrol vehicle. They put me on hold for a bit and say something about getting the patrol vehicle to swap the spare and blow up the rest and see how we go. I couldn't be bothered arguing with them, and at this stage I wasn't sure why my tyres were flat, so I agreed. Another hour passes.

The patrol vehicle turns up at about 12:15pm, and proceeds to blow up the back two tyres with a portable air compressor, and sure enough, the knife slash points become quite obvious because air is pissing out of them. Great. To cap it off, I'm not entitled to free towing because it is malicious damage as opposed to a breakdown. Maybe that's why they wanted to send a patrol vehicle so badly. The patrol dude tells me it'll cost $88 for the NRMA to tow me to a tyre place, but he rings a mate who says he'll do it for $65 or $55 or something (didn't quite make it out over the radio), and be there in another hour or so. So we (Sarah had come and joined me, and my study buddy Tiane had as well) settle back and wait some more. Steve happens to wander past as well. We could have had a right party in the car at this point.

An hour and 20 minutes pass, and no tow truck. So I call the NRMA and ask them to call the patrolman and get me the number of the tow company he'd called. I get that, call them, and they have no idea what I'm talking about, and tell me that it'd normally cost $170 for a tow, but they'll do it for $80 cash and be there in another hour.

That tow truck rolled up a bit quicker than that though, which was a relief. The car's now sitting at the tyre shop until Monday because everyone seems to need to order in the type of tyres I have on my car, and don't keep them in stock. Lucky we're going to Brisbane for the weekend.

So I ended up getting to work at about 3pm. I'd love to know who slashed my tyres and why. I don't recall causing any road rage on the way to Uni, and it's been a huge inconvenience. Parking around the Uni is hard enough as it is, without putting me off parking in the one spot I can usually get a carpark.

Sigh.

[22:56] [life] [permalink]

Wednesday, 17 August 2005

Yes, those lca2005 papers are mostly available

Martin and Mikal jumped the gun slightly and have mentioned that the papers from the conference are available. I'm actually in the final stages of extracting the last remaining ones from a few speakers who haven't coughed up yet (you know who you are).

I was suggesting Steven hold off announcing to lca-announce until such time as the majority of the papers were up, so people wouldn't have to keep checking back for the one paper that wasn't there yet, but was wanted.

Oh, and while you can browse at http://lca2005.linux.org.au/Papers, the papers are also linked in from the conference program pages, which may make finding a specific paper easier.

[20:34] [lca] [permalink]

Don't get on the wrong side of Rove McManus

Sarah and I went to see Rove McManus Stands Up this evening. It's been a while since I've seen some stand up comedy.

I think the first thing that took both of us back a bit was his gratuitous use of the word "fuck". It's not like I've never seen a comedy act that didn't rely on massive amounts of cursing and swearing to get a laugh, it was just a bit of a surprise to hear it coming out of Rove's mouth, compared to what you see from him on TV. I'm personally don't think it's all that necessary either.

The thing I was most impressed about was his ability to ad-lib and adapt his act to what was going on in the audience. That and the fact that he localised things a bit. He made reference to catching a bus to Woden for example. Little things like that showed that he took the time to research where he was performing.

Overall, good value for money. Good night out.

Oh, and why shouldn't you get on the wrong side of him? Well he spent a sizable chunk of the evening paying out on Australian Idol's Anthony Callea, which apparently stemmed back to a rehearsal for the Logies, where one of Callea's minders asked him not to make a short joke about him.

[06:07] [life] [permalink]

Monday, 15 August 2005

Sheesh

My
computer geek score is greater than 83% of all people in the world! How do
you compare? Click here to find out!

Not as geeky as some...

[16:20] [geek] [permalink]

Sunday, 14 August 2005

Introducing Sarah Pollock

I need to boost her Google-juice a bit. Sarah Pollock managed to make a meal of renaming her blog last time she tried, but this time it Just Worked.

I suspect the other Sarah Pollock is going to remain more interesting to Google, though.

I wonder if this just negates the Google-juice-boosting attempt?

[00:57] [life] [permalink]

Saturday, 13 August 2005

Inflation by stealth

I had a crack at making some herbed meatballs for dinner last night, and I went to the supermarket to get some of the ingredients. The recipe book called for a 440g tin of tomato soup, but all I could find was a 420g tin.

I'd always heard of how manufacturers did one of two things over time to bump the price: raise the price, or reduce what you got for your money. This was the first time I'd seen an example of the latter first hand.

Bad inflation. No donut for you.

[16:29] [life] [permalink]

Wednesday, 10 August 2005

Do you know your IMEI?

Kynan lost his phone, and is regretting not knowing his IMEI. I realised I didn't have a readily accessible record of mine, so after a spot of Googling, determined that to get a Sony-Ericsson T610 to give up its IMEI, you enter *#06#. I could have sworn that Nokias used *#0000#, but Sarah's 5110 needed *#06# as well...

[03:39] [life] [permalink]

Tuesday, 09 August 2005

Nice work

Good to see Discovery made it back in one piece.

[05:12] [life] [permalink]

Last enforcement modules migrated

This morning and last Tuesday morning saw me in at work at stupid o'clock again migrating the last two enforcement modules in this site. Both went fine, and it's nice to have semi-completed a project. There's another site up in Sydney that I'm nominally supposed to also be migrated, but due to some contractual changes, I'm being pulled off this contract back into the general Professional Services practice at the office. Fine by me, a change is as good as a holiday.

[03:56] [work] [permalink]

Sunday, 07 August 2005

New laptop

I recently ordered a new laptop for myself, as I shortly have to get my work laptop reimaged with the new corporate SOE, which is most likely going to exclude dual-booting. My work laptop is a Dell D600, and I've been fairly happy with the performance of Linux on it, so I elected to buy a D610, as it seemed to have superceded the D600. I didn't do any further homework. Fatal mistake.

Turns out that the D610 is not just a new D600, aside from being drastically different, the video chipset seems to differ between Intel i915 and and some sort of ATI Radeon Mobility M300. I have the latter, however I've seen stuff on linux-on-laptops.com, which alludes to D610s with the former. From what I've read, I think I'm glad I have the ATI.

Anyway, Debian Sarge just works on a D600. Debian Sarge with a 2.6 kernel can't even see the hard drive (SATA, whoa) of a D610, but strangely the 2.4 kernel can. So I've ended up installing Sarge with a 2.4 kernel, then installing the 2.6.12 kernel from unstable, and then having my 2.6 kernel and a hard drive. Good stuff. But I can't see the CDROM. It's SATA too (wtf?), and apparently you need to tweak the kernel a bit. I hate tweaking kernels. Once you start, you never get it right.

Next, ACPI suspend to RAM doesn't work. It goes into suspend and then wakes back up straight away. So while I'm building my own kernel, I might be needing to build Suspend2 into it as well. I had to use the X.org packages from unstable to get X working, but then it just worked. So currently I'm running more of unstable than stable. I suspect I might reinstall again and see how much of just Etch I can run, as ideally I'd like to track testing with this laptop, not unstable, but it's obviously going to take a bit of work to get this thing to where I want to have it.

For the record, what I got was:

  • 512Mb RAM
  • Pentium M 1.60Ghz processor
  • 80GB hard drive
  • the super dooper burn everything under the sun optical drive
  • the spanky 1400x1050 screen with the ATI Radeon Mobility M300 graphics chipset and something like 64M of video RAM
  • the bluetooth option
  • Intel Centrino 2200 wireless chipset, because that's what the D600 had I knew it worked (I think it was also a tad cheaper than the other alternative)

All this for the princely sum of $2,200 AUD. I'm fairly happy. Not as happy as if it worked out of the box like a D600, but happier than if I'd bought a total lemon. I am typing this from Linux, wirelessly, at 1400x1050, so it's not all bad. If it slept when I closed the lid it'd be mostly all good.

[00:02] [tech] [permalink]

Thursday, 04 August 2005

I'm feeling lucky

That is all.

[18:23] [life] [permalink]