2008-02-24

I am having Internet issues to-day, and it's not my fault. While I am writing these posts, I cannot view them because my host provider is inaccessible. I wanted to find out which Ubuntu package had a given file in it, so I went to their package search page just now, and it was inaccessible as well. I must remember not to become too attached to the cloud because it remains, like other clouds, ephemeral.

Ubuntu Unwired

So, quite a few posts of mine are meant to be instructive to my future self, recording how I manage something so that I won't have to stumble through it again. Letting these be public here might allow the odd other person to benefit from my experience.

So, a Netgear MA111 wireless USB adapter. I wanted to get one working with my Acer Travelmate, Skedge. Sadly, the MA111 only supports WEP. So does my travelmate, but Linux doesn't seem to support its hot-swapping between Wireless and Wired. I have to set that at boot while the BIOS is in control, so I'd have to reboot to change the setting. Fortunately, the main environment I want to use this wirelessly in is on campus, and that doesn't employ WEP or WPA. (Crazy kids.) They only require authentication before your packets will be routed. Yay.

Anyway, the point of this post is to record what small change I had to made to have this work in Ubuntu. This forum thread discusses a few different methods, including "download the source and build it yourself". I'm getting bored with doing that, so instead I went to packages.ubuntu.com and searched for the module I needed, prism2_usb.ko. Results. I then apt-get'd the one for my kernel (i386), let it install, and yay, workingness.

I'm not sure how relevant this is, but I did also install linux-wlanctl-ng through apt-get and ran the following two commands from the forum thread.

$ sudo modprobe prism2_usb prism2_doreset=1
$ sudo wlanctl-ng wlan0 lnxreq_ifstate ifstate=enable

The Skedge Revival

So, Belladonna -my newer Acer- has fallen ill. Hard drive issues, you know. Consequently, after some engineering and purchasing, Skedge is revived. Skedge is the hostname of my 3 year old tablet PC (also an Acer) that had also suffered hard drive issues. It's issues are hilarious, though. You see, the connector with which the hard drive connects has lost its ability to grip my hard drive. Consequently, with a little shaking, the hard drive would slip far enough out that Linux would receive a string of I/O errors, go read-only, and cause me data loss. (What else could it do? The hard drive had run away :|). Anyway, it's battery had been dying last year, so I replaced that then. Also, the AC adapter had become hazardous to the health of its users, so I have now replaced that, too. I am now employing static-free foam (that came with the adapter :) in the hard drive compartment to keep it tightly secured in place. No more issues!

I want to never own another Acer again. It's mostly structural quality that bothers me, I think. I don't think I am unduly rough on my computers, but their cases have a dozen cracks each, even in odd places that could impact usability as a whole. As well, most Acer laptops I have known (including two friends in here) easily leave key marks in the LCD screens. Consequently, I usually use a thin sheet between the keys and screen to prevent it. I knew to from my friends whose screens are awful now. The few times I have forgot have led to preliminary markings. Boo. My tablet doesn't share the same fate. The screen is remarkably durable, for the sake of its tablet experience.

I will play around with the much newer Belladonna again later, trying another hard drive to narrow down where the problem lies. I hope it is just the hard drive and not the laptop itself. It tempts me with the idea of buying Yet Another New Laptop. I am surprised at how capable Skedge still is. 256MB of RAM really can be enough. Well, as long as you don't want to run Eclipse or OpenOffice ;)

Skedge is especially delightful for its small size, as well as its tablet capabilities. Despite smaller notebooks like the Eee PC, I still get compliments regarding the petite size of Skedge. Swivelling the screen to enable drawing still impresses as well. Finally, the Linux kernel supports its quirky ACPI by default, giving me a battery indicator and functioning sleep! I haven't tried suspend to disk, but that's not too necessary for me. The multimedia keys still do not work by default. I will still have to install acerhk for those. I don't recall what I had to do to get the tablet aspect working. I formerly had to fiddle with a serial configuration file and Xorg.conf. I'm sure some future reinstallation will necessitate relearning this.

Anyway, now I have a dead desktop, and a working inferior one, as well as a dead laptop, and a working mostly inferior one. One step forward, two steps back, eh?

2008-02-23

Norn-Linux Revival

TetriNET is fun. I have got my girlfriend to play it with me. The Creatures game Docking Station has successfully installed. gtk+.i386 (gtk+ 1.2) needed to be installed. For posterity, here are some instructions.

  • Go to Creatures' website
  • Download Docking Station Linux client (>)
  • make it executable: chmod +x dockingstation.run
  • Install gtk+ 1.2 for the sake of imageconvert. (Did you get the following error?)
    Converting images to local format                                               
    ./imageconvert: error while loading shared libraries: libgtk-1.2.so.0: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory
    If you're on a 64 bit computer, realise that this is a 32-bit programme and will want the 32 bit gtk+ 1.2. On Fedora 8, I installed gtk+.i686, and in Ubuntu I installed libgtk1.2. For Fedora:
    # yum install gtk+.i686
    For Ubuntu:
    # apt-get install libgtk1.2
  • run the installer as root: sudo ./dockingstation.run. If you already tried to run it once and have to run it again, and you see the following:
    File /usr/local/bin/dockingstation is already a symbolic
    link to a different place.  The installer is trying
    to make a link to /usr/local/games/dockingstation/dstation-install.
    Then just remove the old symbolic link: sudo rm /usr/local/bin/dockingstation
  • To actually run it, I was advised to type dockingstation nocheck, but the usage of dirname in the dockingstation script fails. That is, you might get the following error:
    dirname: missing operand
    Try `dirname --help' for more information.
    dockingstation is just a symbolic link in /usr/local/bin/ linking to /usr/local/games/dockingstation/dstation-install. I can successfully run /usr/local/games/dockingstation/dstation-install nocheck instead. To save myself the trouble of retyping it, I can replace /usr/local/bin/dockingstation (a symbolic link) with an actual executable file/script including the following:
    #!/bin/sh
    /usr/local/games/dockingstation/dstation-install nocheck
  • Yay, now it works. My norns can now party hardily. Hardily indeed.

2008-02-19

Ninja spotted, me bored days later

Ninja Parade Slips Through Town Unnoticed. It's not just the content of the video that pleases me. It's also the branding of Current TV. It feels very good, like something ideal from during my time in high school. A Google search suggests that it is the work of Al Gore.

Messiah

Randall Munroe, the fellow from XKCD, is to be revered by future generations, I think. He's a good mind and has a good impact on-line, indeed. I've not read a periodical so enlightening before. He also keeps a good blag. His recent laser elevator post is a good example. Also, consider his side projects, like TheFairest.info, and LimerickDB. I hope I can contribute half as much as he does someday. Ha, I'm even his elder!

I do like the highest rated limerick of to-day:

There once was a buggy AI
Who decided her subject should die.
When the plot was uncovered,
The subjected discovered
That sadly the cake was a lie.

I'll clarify that I don't feel competitive. That would be painfully ridiculous. But the effect he has pleases me so dearly.

Google cannot be my champion

Google is eventually migrating away from XMPP for the Android platform's Google Talk service. I'm not going to argue that it shouldn't, or that XMPP is superior to a binary protocol. But I'll discuss the appearance and what bothers me about it.

I enjoy Linux and GNOME and open source because it holds the promise for the ideal future platform for me. Open Source provides me the with the greatest flexibility and capability. For me to enjoy my work, I need Open Source to thrive. I have a rough, "big picture" for the future of the Open Source desktop, and I hope I get to contribute to it.

The appearance of Google's move is that they're migrating away from an open standard for message communication toward a proprietary, binary protocol. Toward the type of protocol that they and the open source community argue against. Of course, they could make their protocol well-documented and provide a good library with a good API for third-party clients. I do not yet understand whether they'll use the binary protocol for Android and provide a gateway between itself and the current XMPP network, or whether all Google Talk services will migrate.

While Google is currently very friendly toward the Open Source movement and open standards, they cannot be trusted absolutely to be so forever. I need to look toward alternatives and not find myself bound to Google. Fortunately, I can pull my blogs via their ATOM API; my e-mail via IMAP and POP3; my calendar via iCal; I don't think I can download my Google Reader data, but it's not a huge loss. I am very grateful for the services that they provide and the access to my data that they allow. I wonder if they would take issue with the term "my data"? However, I am very interested in the rise of Open Services. There are a few out there right now. Ones that are built on Open Source software, employ open standards, and leave data ownership with the user. I need to investigate them more. However, I will at the present remain the subject of convenience, and pretty Googlish interfaces :D

2008-02-18

A song.

As I work on my assignment, in the background the movie The Duke is playing. It features a song "Don't Want to Lose You" performed by Julie Thiel.

A Yahoo! user reproduced the lyrics in an enquiry as to what song it was. I'll replicate them here for posterity's sake, as there's little reference to it elsewhere.

Don't see any rainbow
All I see is raindrops falling
don't see any moon light
All I see is darkness falling

I don't want to be here
and i don't want a lifetime here without you

Don't hear any children
All i hear are mothers calling
Suddenly the silence
Everything is slowly falling

I don't want to be here
And I don't want a lifetime here without you

I can't stand to watch you go
Isn't there a prayer we all know
I can barely look into your eyes now
I don't want to lose you
and I don't want to lose you now

I can't stand to watch you go
Isn't there a prayer we all know
I can barely look into your eyes now

2008-02-15

I (don't) Want Candy

So, I'm working late in the labs, after attending a formal, to finish an assignment due tomorrow before the break. I spent $3 on chocolate bars to supply me with my sustenance. I recall in first year how I had given up on conventional junk food and had moved to fruit for most of my sugar requirements. It's only been recently at jobs that didn't supply nourishment in any other form that I resumed eating chocolate bars and chips. I still don't eat many chips. Anyway, I think I will try to trend toward home-baked goods and fruit again. Much pseudohealth lies in my future.

2008-02-12

Can open termcap database file :)

So, after some struggling, I've decided that, for this assignment, it would probably be more productive for me to try and compile and install emacs as a user in my lab account rather than endure with vi. Compilation went much more smoothly than it had with synergy the other day, except that, afterward, when I tried to run it, I would get the following error:

emacs: "Cannot open termcap database file"

And the process would exit. That wasn't nice. I tried googling the matter, and couldn't find any solution in the first few pages. Well, there were solutions, just not ones I could use. A lot of them recommended installing libncurses or a compatibility library, neither of which I have the rights to do. It eventually dawned on me to read the the termcap manual, discovered the environment variable TERMCAP and, after a `locate`, found an example TERMCAP database file on my system for xterm. Copy, set variable, run emacs. Success!

I hope this helps someone at some point. I should really post this as a reply to others with the same issue. "If it can't find the database, tell it where one is!" Ah well, maybe during the weekend :)

2008-02-11

A tool's tool

My laptop is ill indeed. On a fun note, I did look at the hard drive, and it is much better secured than in my tablet PC. I was sort of hoping they would be having the same problem. Consequently, I am stranded in the computer labs on campus using our HP workstations. They're not that bad, but it is inconvenient not having access to my regular environment, my regular tools. For instance, I enjoy emacs a good deal, but they don't have it installed here in the lab. I can compile it, but after trying a little and running through a number of dependencies, I think it might be high time to learn vi. Vi, a tool's tool. A tool for tools. That's my little jab at it.

I just went through vimtutor (we have vim 7.0 installed) and it wasn't as bad as I expected. Its modal nature definitely feels different conceptually, but so did emacs when I started learning that. At least with "the Single Unix Specification", I can expect vi to be installed on most PCs. I'm not sure what the value is of learning so many different tools. I enjoy a well-rounded experience, but when tools are to a large degree substitutes for one another, perhaps depth in one is sufficient.

Anyway, back to being productive. Let's go vi :|

Oh! And, it's pretty funny the errors I'm making hopping between Google Docs and vi. Perhaps there's a plugin I can use to enable vi key-bindings in my web browser's text entry forms? I don't really understand why browser's use their own, petty text input devices rather than launching a mini-editor. Oh pluggable components!

On a side note, this does make me happy that I kept the / and /home partitions separate. If it's not the hard drive and I have to re-install an OS at some point, at least that will be simple.

The automatic fsck on boot encountered errors it didn't know how to deal with, so it aborted, dropped me to a recovery shell (thanks Fedora) and asked me to manually do it. So I did. Perhaps the problems here are just from random, anomalous freezes (still going back to open radeon driver) and file system inconsistency due to hard rebooting. Ah well.

I've just lost my panel applets again. A large chunk of launchers, that is. Ah well. It feels ominous. I am otherwise presently rsync'ing my home directory onto my external drive. I obey the methodology outlined by Mike Rubel. It's pretty nice and pleasant to think about. I should replicate it somewhere in case that page ever goes down :)

Essentially, he advocates a methods including the one I use (and trailing slashes are important):

mv backup.3 backup.tmp
mv backup.2 backup.3
mv backup.1 backup.2
mv backup.0 backup.1
rsync -a --delete --link-dest=../backup.1 someSourceDirectory/ backup.0/

Once I have a better storage solution, I think I will go through my computer and 'archive' stuff. That is, I will remove data I rarely use to external storage. While it might impair access to my information, the idea will be that it wasn't anything I was really using, anyway, and that I'll have a cleaner home directory. Also, perhaps I should have a networked file system solution, where I (and I alone) could access my data over the Internets. I wish I knew more about web security in that regard. I have a very patch-work knowledge from a variety of experience. (I am grateful for that one co-op job.)

I suppose I should retire for the night now. I'll note one grievance I have with Blogger, though: I really dislike how it presumes I want implicit <br />s everytime I use a newline in my text, even though for actual publishing I have the option disabled. Tee hee!

This I wasn't really expecting. I think my year-old laptop is dying. Earlier to-day it had froze awkwardly. Sometimes it would be saturated with IO and unresponsive and other times it would just be unresponsive and inactive. I thought this might have resulted from a recent kernel upgrade, or perhaps the proprietary ATI drivers I have been using for a couple of weeks. A couple minutes ago, my terminals received a message about an error with the journal and the file system going read-only. I rebooted (hard) and started receiving error messages regarding my ethernet card! After rebooting a couple times, I just got a generic boot error and a couple of beeps. I tried to boot from my USB key just now. While that didn't work, the hard drive did start booting successfully. It's now scanning the file system for errors it believes are present. BLEH!

Perhaps it is just overheating from being too busy to-day. I tried to build GNOME on it via jhbuild. Perhaps not a good idea. I think this is just wishful thinking, though. Thankfully, I have a small tablet PC I can use if it really does die. One problem with that is that it doesn't have a safe AC adapter here. That would be at my father's. I would mostly like to get my Trends in Distributed Systems assignment off of this machine before class tomorrow. Grr. I'm glad that I did do a relatively complete system back-up a couple months ago. The only real one I have anymore. It would still be very sad to lose the data since. Especially my photos!

My girlfriend and I have been discussing the dispensing of old possessions. She can do it much more readily than I. I see a lot of potential use or nostalgic memory in things, so I hoard them. She sees the burden of maintainership in them and freedom in independence from them. Data is ephemeral, too. I can't rely on its permanence a quarter as much as I can rely on my own, bodily faculties (and not even those, for too long). Hmm, I wonder how free I really am? I wonder whether I will really be any more free after I graduate.

Now to find a LiveCD that I might recover files off of that hard drive ...

Productivity

I think I have done reasonably well with my networking assignment. There are ways in which it could be better, but it's effectively complete, and I have other work to do. I was hoping to start on the databases assignment (due Friday) this weekend. Instead, I'll read over one more time and go to sleep. I feel I'll know the distributed systems material fairly well for the midterm, given this assignment. Yay.

2008-02-10

I suffer from a mild form of information addiction. Last semester I had instituted new policies on when I could access certain "addictive" information. Mostly, blogs and Slashdot. I still allow myself my to actively search out information. (Let's find out more about FTP on the wikipedia!) But I try to minimise information that wasn't directly solicited. (Oh, Google Reader!) I let myself do such pleasure reading on weekends now. Usually one day a week. I had done very well keeping that up after last semester throughout the break, but when school started again, that resolve dissolved. That wasn't much of a problem, because I haven't had much school work with which it could interfere. This next week, however, I have two midterms and two assignments due. This past week, it has been interfering. So, until next Saturday, no more pleasure news. Oh no!

The compulsion to keep up with the current is strange. The fellow(s) at Mindhacks.com don't seem to believe in Internet addiction very much, coming from a psychologist's perspective. But then I'm not sure what to call it. A very strong compulsion that usually wins out except when situations begin to seem dire, and sometimes even then. At least when it matters, it seems I'm capable of controlling it. I just wish it was easier still, so that it wouldn't be a detriment at all.

Fale Cake

It was a friend's birthday the other week and, wanting cake, I baked a cake for said event. Some things had to be improvised. I also rarely see the wireless access points whose presence signs oft note. Welcome to Williams Coffee Pub, where subtly is off the menu!

2008-02-08

I am having an issue with a classmate and I'm not quite sure what went wrong. They gave a presentation (on OLAP) but I failed to understand whether there was anything distinctive about OLAP that separated it from regular DBs, besides the scale and potential visualisations. It seemed that everything discussed could be achieved through the use of comprehensive queries on a database, though the performance would be awful, and an attentive user, sprinkled with pretty visualisations. I feel I was misunderstood on two points, that I had a criticism of OLAP and the nature of multidimensionality with regard to a regular database.

I don't know enough about OLAP to criticise it or not. What I do have a is a question: what distinguishes it? And, I'm beginning to see how a focus on multidimensionality that exists in OLAP is absent (though possible) in a RDB.

Anyway, rather than making myself understood, I should I have opted to research it independently. However, I feel the classmate could have handled it more diplomatically theirself. Eventually, they decided that "we agree to disagree." That doesn't make much sense to me, as I never agreed to disagree, and I'm not sure what we would be disagreeing on. I don't dispute the arguments, I do want to know what makes OLAP different, though. Now I search.

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I am aeronautical, vanship-style.  I am olympic and mythical.  I rest on my laurels.