catsidhe: (Default)
Mim's desktop was getting more and more unreliable. First it started playing sillybuggers on boot by turning the CPU fan full blast and refusing to turn it down unless the box was soft-rebooted. Then it started refusing to turn on unless the button was mashed for a while.

Then, on the Queen's Birthday, it decided to refuse to boot at all until I started futzing with it.

So I went looking for a new power supply. Only to find that while the required model of PS costs a bit over $30 on the internet, no-one in Melbourne has one to sell. The nearest I could find was a $99 case of the right sort, with the power supply included.

And then, this evening, when I opened it up, not only was that PS of a subtly different model, but I couldn't get the old one out without removing the motherboard anyway. So I did a full transplant of the old guts into the new box.

And, sure, I've been doing this sort of thing for twenty years, but there's always a held breath when booting a computer you've done this sort of work to, and a long sigh of relief when it boots.

And a happy little skip when it works better than it used to.
catsidhe: (Default)
Angela: “So we look at the email headers of the letter, and it was sent to this IP address...”

Sweets: “What just happened?” as the screen changes to a view through a webcam.

Angela: “... and now we have complete control over the computer that email was sent to.”

Cue Mimdancer glaring at Catsidhe as he gives a burst of hysterical laughter.

No, seriously. There is so much very much wrong in that two seconds of Bones that I don't think it's possible to adequately describe the fractal wrongness to anyone who does not already get it.
catsidhe: (Default)
So, last Friday — Friday the thirteenth — was sufficient to make Richard Dawkins superstitious.

First, I hear that there was a burst water main on Punt rd, and traffic was likely to be horrible.
Then, I am passed by a police car on its way to a car accident just up the road (and on my way), where a car had gone into a front yard over a brick wall, and ended up on its roof. This was not long before I passed it, and Hatzolah (the Jewish ambulance service) already had the driver on the lawn. That's all I saw as I passed, and I know no more of the matter.

Then, at work, I find there's a small crisis. The previous day I had investigated the troubles of one of my users, who had trouble with her roaming profile. (A common situation when the users go over quota and don't realise, which they don't with roaming profiles until it's too late.) As part of this problem, there was a directory which shouldn't have been there, where her profile was being put, which means she had two copies of her profile, which made her that much more over quota, and in my efforts to figure out what was going on, I made her account unusable. I asked the sysad what was going on, and he got curious and fiddled (with a very old, very complicated, very brittle Samba v2 (!) installation, and managed to break it, and several people were unable to log in. And for about a year, that Samba install has been broken, such that we couldn't actually join any computers to it, which means we could fix those users until the other problem was fixed. Luckily, he did, and fixed the other problem too. But the morning was written off. And the afternoon was given over to a machine with (I think) a virus which made the machine unusable, and while it did work in safe mode, the virus checker didn't, and and and arrgh.

And there was Drama in a certain list.

And I thought that was that.

Then on Saturday morning, I got a phone call from my Grandmother.

It seems that while I was having a dies horribilis, my Grandfather's ashes were being interred, and my family hadn't even bothered to tell me. Neither did my mother know about it until Friday evening. And my Grandmother was very upset when she discovered that I wasn't there because no-one had told me, which is why she called.

Leaving out any other family drama on that front, it feels very much like that branch of the family is writing us (my mother, sister and myself) out of it. And it seems that they aren't extending the favour to the third branch either. My cousin only found out and was able to attend because he coincidentally asked his mother the night before what she was doing that day.

I don't even know where he is interred, beyond ‘Eltham’.

Yes, I'm upset. But what really is pissing me off is that this isn't an isolated incident of forgetfulness: I had to chase them up to find out when the bloody funeral was, and when there, discovered that they had divvied it up between themselves. I wasn't even asked if there was anything I'd like to say. Only the children of that branch of the family got to speak.

I was willing to overlook it then, give the benefit of the doubt. But this just pisses me off. And I have had no contact from them since, either.

I intend to have a quiet word at Christmas. Let's see what they say.


Oct. 19th, 2009 09:26 pm
catsidhe: (Default)
Sinus infection. Sinus headache was so bad this morning, I thought I was about to start throwing up. Distinctly unpleasant.

I am on horse tablets of Amoxycillin and something called ‘Clavulanic Acid’.

And thanks to a “please think of the children” moral panic, where the risk/benefit analysis was done by insane lobotomised monkeys, products like Pseudoephidrene with Codeine are simply no longer made. Excruciating sinus headache? Better hope that Pseudoephidrene with anti-inflammatories will do the job, or else Phenylepherine with Codeine, because that's all that's available. Turns out, it doesn't do the same job, and I've been headachy and vaguely nauseous all day, because I might take my twenty tablets of Pseudoephidrene and make a couple of moles of speed with it.

In the meantime, I have tripped over a bug in Xorg, whereby X stops passing mouse clicks and keypresses to its clients. Mouse still moves, but clicks do nothing. Keyboard still does something, but nothing gets passed to clients. (Switching to virtual consoles works, because this is outside of X proper, and when in the console everything works, because this has nothing to do with X. But nothing works inside X any more. And it seems that in Ubuntu 9.04 (in all desktop manager versions), they helpfully turned off CTRL+ALT+BKSP. (it can be restored, apparently, by typing sudo dontzap --enable), but luckily, logging on to a virtual console and sudo /etc/init.d/[kg]dm restart still works. Still ugly, but less bad than a hard restart. The chatter in the bug tracking communities says something about an IRQ conflict involving the NVidia driver, but that doesn't help me.

What now?

Sep. 29th, 2009 01:50 pm
catsidhe: (Default)
So, for quite some time now, I've been working on a Great Project.

It started as something simple: I wanted to take the Irish Annals from the CELT project, and make an index of the names therein. So that I'd have a handy reference on hand at SCA Heraldry meetings where we discuss the historicity of proposed persona names for registration.

What I have done, and why... )

In summary: I have
  1. one Perl module (actually a small set of interconnecting modules) which provide an SGML parser (and a specific TEI parser, and a specific CELT parser) in pure Perl.
  2. A program which uses (1) to display an SGML file in a human-browseable way (although not yet able to edit or meaningfully search that file).
  3. A program which applies rules from a bespoke language to apply simple transformations to an SGML file (parsed with (1)), sufficient to generate output which is a compilable LaTeX file
  4. A METAFONT font for Gaelic, which includes the full Roman character set and several paleographic characters, in an entire family of shapes. A bit of work with Fontforge can easily turn this into a postscript or truetype font (indeed, I have done this to an older version, and those bits which are displayed in this font in the output from (3) are also displayed in this font on screen when I view it in (2).

And I have a question for those of you in the programming community: now what do I do with them?

None of them are complete to my satisfaction, but then, it's entirely possible that they will never be, if I hide them from the world and continue to do all the work in my copious free time whenever I have a flash of insight or a moment to get into it.

I imagine that the SGML parser module could be submitted to CPAN, and the font to CTAN. But I've been putting it off and putting it off, partially because I don't know where to begin, partially because I'm just really nervous about putting my code out there for others to pick over.

As for the other stuff... Sourceforge? For all that I've been supporting others with subversion and the like, I've never used it in anger myself, and find that worrying about this is yet another excuse to hold off doing anything.

Indeed, I've been meaning to post this cry for advice for weeks now, but kept ... putting it off.

So: what do I do with all this now?
catsidhe: (Default)
Goddammit, Linux, stop fucking with me!

My laptop was getting unstable... the last straw was when every media player on the system started to segfault. It's amazing how many programs have media players as plugins.

And when I tried to reinstall the relevant packages, and they still failed, I gave it up as terminal and fading, and this morning I plugged it in at work and started a dist-upgrade.

"Ah," I thought, "It'll want to go to 8.10 before it goes to 9.04, so this'll take a while."
I was pleasantly surprised when it told me that it was going to jump straight to Jaunty, that it would use the Aarnet mirrors, and to come back in a few hours.

I came back in a few hours, and it was basically done.

And the disappointment started.

KDE4.2 is wonderful and shiny and slick and great... if you have a Gb or more of RAM to spare. This machine has 512Mb. So, not so much. It's... so... very... slow... to... do... a...ny...thing.

It's almost usable, but it's not pleasant.

So I installed XFCE as a lightweight alternative. It's so lightweight as to be almost as unusable. I'm sure that there's a way to get the keyboard shortcuts I rely on to work, but I don't have the time, the patience, or the inclination to suffer through finding out.

So I installed Gnome. This is a big step for me, I've always thought of Gnome as a warm fuzzy straightjacket, where it was possible to do anything, if the writers of Gnome thought you should be able to do it.

But Xorg under Gnome uses 10% CPU time, as opposed to Xorg under KDE, which sits around 90%.

Alas, in the effort to install Gnome, I missed out on the bit that makes the network work.

So here I am with a machine I can either use quickly, or on the network, but not both.

At least I figured out how to work around a problem I've been beating my head against at work for more than a week now. So that's something.
catsidhe: (Default)
Mother-in-law/Landlord got her Land Tax bill today. Last year it was $8500 or so. This year it is over $20,000. She is, somewhat understandably, a little freaked. And as our low rent is dependant on her ability to subsidise us, so are we.

There are several varieties of virus/trojan/worm going around which have in common that they use the autorun.inf file as vector. The first time I ran into this, once I figured out what was going on, I was a little impressed. Now I just want to find 1. everyone responsible for making this possible, and 2. everyone who takes advantage of (2)'s culpable stupidity, and beat them all to a fine paste. Like Microsoft, I will put forward a reward to my finding these people. The reward is that you get to help me in the aforementioned beatings. There was one yesterday for which the user was continually in my face (“it's still not working. It's still not working. It's still not...”), until I re-ghosted his machine: completely nuked it fresh. This morning, he comes in saying that it's infected again. His USB key, the one I had scanned and thought was OK, had reinfected him. It had the autorun.inf on the key, and the infection itself was hidden as a boot-time system file, one set in \WINDOWS\ini (this directory should not exist), and the other in \WINDOWS\Fonts (there should be no executables in there, no *.exe, no *.dll. And the usual hidden dlls in \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\ and \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\DRIVERS. I really have better things to do with my life.

Why, in the name of all that's holy, does the autorun.inf have the power to insert arbitrary dlls into Windows Explorer (and thus effectively the kernel) just by sticking a disk into a drive? Why the fuck are you able to change the very way the file browser, and by extension, the OS operates simply by inserting a disk, before you've had a chance to agree to anything? Autorun.inf is useful for 1. autostarting a program (if you have decided to allow it to, otherwise either ask every time or simply don't and make people click on a link like they had to in the old days, and 2. changing the favicon for the device. That's it. Whoever decided to make it able to arbitrarily insert dlls into explorer should be strung up by their genitals and beaten like a piñata. Fuck!

And I read today that someone has pointed out that the .desktop files in KDE and Gnome have similar power (although not the all-encompassing power as in Windows, but its bad enough).

Creating the image for the labs continues apace. After an email pointing out that I didn't know where to even find half the things I had to install, and that I could find, I had no idea which bits to install, and what license servers to use, and, and, and... I had people replying that they were putting it in the file store as they were typing, or the precise path in the tangled mess which is the ECR repository where I could find the exact version with the proper hacks needed to work... Each major package adds another 1-2GB to the image. And in the interest of students from anywhere in Engineering being able to work in any lab in Engineering, they all have to be installed everywhere. There are about 10 of them. Give you an idea: one of them is MatLab. And it's not one of the biggest. This is going to be a monster image. Then we (I) have to start figuring out the Default profile, and setting up two of them so that the image can be used if the machine has to be used as a standalone instead of on the AD, and then seeing if all this crap still works when you log on as a user, and, oh christ can I get drunk yet?

On a complete tangent: LUST!

And completely unconnected, “... But that hasn’t stopped neoclassical economists from touting how great their theory is, nor from making pronouncements that indicate they still really don’t get it.” Shorter Steve Keen: NeoClassical Economists don't only not know what they're talking about, they either don't realise that they don't know, or else they're wilfully ignoring anyone who tries to point out that their assumptions are just as often completely insane.

What was once BoltWatch, and then became the Blair/Bolt Watch Project, has expanded its mandate and is now based at Crikey! as Pure Poison. “And you know what? It’s not just a duty - taking these guys on is actually a pleasure. The columnists we’ve been watching - and the ones we’ll be adding to the roll at Pure Poison, from both the left and right - produce volumes of the stuff each week. A lot of it is so disingenuous, misleading, nasty or simply nonsensical that it’s extremely satisfying to send up. All that’s needed is a space in which to do it, and an audience that’s been looking for an antidote to this sort of malevolent intellectual dishonesty.
catsidhe: (unhappy)
I have been tasked with installing a certain software package into a lab. Not a problem; that's my job.

First We have to download it. I go to the website, and for a while I couldn't find where the 'download' link was, to save my life. I eventually tripped over it purely by chance. At which point I found myself looking at a login before I could access the actual downloads. Anyway, I wasn't sure exactly which version I was supposed to be downloading in any case...

The Tuesday before the Friday after the Friday I originally was planning to have this thing installed, the local contact gets the license info. The two days later he gets around to sending it to my boss. As we are testing a new job tracking system (a whole rant in itself), he put three of the four PDF files into a ticket, killing two birds with one stone. Why three? Because the new system will only allow three attachments to a ticket. (in total? in one transaction? the process was so painful he wasn't willing to experiment.) He decided to leave out the "Welcome Letter", and included everything which mentioned "license". As it turns out, the Welcome Letter had the magic details. From there it was:
  1. go to the indicated site
  2. click the link, which opened a new window.
  3. click the next link, which opened a new window.
  4. click through the ActiveX/Javascript/Ajax/Ruby on Rails/WTF little tree to get to the correct software and version, and click on that which...
  5. opens a new window, which loads another AX/J/A/RoR/WTF page which prompts for the Magic Username/Password.
  6. And the supplied details work (a small mercy). Thence, we find ourselves looking at an ActiveX plugin installation toolbar. Um, wait, what?
  7. *sigh* Install the plugin.
  8. Be presented with another scripted presentation of information. First there is a bespoke frame with the Readme in it. If you had not reflexively resized the window from where the script had shrunk it, you would not see that there are two scrollbars, one to the textblock, one to the window. Whatever, scroll the window down to where there is a plea to not redistribute these files at all ever pretty pretty please, then another bespoke frame, complete with bespoke scrollbar, all because there is one line of contents more than there is room to display. Why not simply resize the window to fit One More Damn Line? Buggered if I know. Maybe the Skript Kiddy Kookbook didn't include that code. So you are asked to check which files you want to download. The meat of the deal is the installation_CD_ISO.exe: 918MB. I'm hoping that this is a self-expanding archive of two ISO images, but I'm not going to bet on anything so sensible just yet.
  9. Click "Download selected files".
  10. Nothing happens.
  11. *sigh* redo steps 1—5, activate the plugin, then proceed back to this point, at which time you are presented with a window asking where you want to save the files. Select the preprepared location, and click "OK".
  12. Be awed and impressed (for all the wrong reasons) at what is presented to you now.
    • Shaded backgrounds, so that a line of text looks like it's presented on a bump, are obviously cool, so every text line is done thus, making the thing look corrugated.
    • When it starts up, the "Transfer Rate" is obviously zero bytes in zero seconds. You might present this as "--", or leave it blank, or some such, but no. You are presented here with "NaN kB/s" I kid you not. At least it doesn't divide by zero and bluescreen the PC...
    • There are mouseover help areas, where the mouse cursor gets a little question mark. Well, one such area. It is at the top where the message is "Download enabled". The tooltip which pops up tells you "This indicates whether downloads are enabled or disabled." I mean, WHAT THE HELL IS THE POINT!?!?!? Why go to all that trouble to tell me the bleeding obvious?!
    • This isn't presentation, but an associated WTF: the maximum speed I have seen on this download is 57kB/s... for 918MB. Do your own calculations.

  13. This is now past the end of the working day, so go home. Come in the next morning to find that the ActiveX thing has crashed at some point. *sigh* *curse* Redo from start.
And in investigating if there was a cache where this thing was downloading to before crashing, we discovered the various temp directories, containing the downloaded remnants (last night it got to about 300MB before dying), and a .dat file, containing wchar_t text of the download destination, the temp directory location, and the source. So if they were going to all this trouble to hide the download source, they didn't to a very good job. I couldn't get it to work by cut-n-pasting into a browser, but there's probably field data embedded in the header with the login or something.

Whatever. Another three hours or so to go at this point, and then we get to see (maybe, all going well), whether we can progress to the stage of actually preparing to install this bugger.

There is a license server involved.

Just to reiterate: all of this bullshit skriptkiddie activeX kookbook k0ding to protect their precious precious download files, with security not appreciably more than simply having an authenticated SFTP download site and allowing the browser to take care of it, but plenty of downsides which SFTP doesn't have, all to get you to the point where you can set up the license server so that, after having made you jump through flaming hoops to get this thing, you have to set up more hoops to allow you to run it.

FFS. It's not like I have better things to do or something.

And as an aside, after an "upgrade" on the central servers, I find my self with no usenet access, which means I can't even rant in the Monastery. Not Having A Good Time, TYVM.

Update(4:25pm) — five hours later; it downloaded successfully. It was an auto-extraction file, which just set up a directory with 940MB of installation files in it, which I then burnt to a DVD ('CD image' my eye...), which is currently installing on the template. Then setting up a license server, pushing out the image... easy!

catsidhe: (Default)
Decided to set up my desktop with the 2.6.20 kernel. Maybe they've fixed the bug where plugging my mobile into the computer crashed the USB module. Did some fiddling with the .config, to hopefully enable some hardware I had not previously been able to get working (like the framebuffer console).




Yay! Framebuffer works! I get a reasonable resolution, and see a penguin up the top corner. Thus, I get a wonderful opportunity to really look at the kernel not being able to find the root partition, and panicking.

Ah, fsck.

At least the previous kernel works fine. Giggling shows that one problem may be with the initramfs. Eh. Recompilation in progress. Let's see if that fixes it.

Edit: Nope. Telling it not to use initramfs in the kernel did nothing. Just tried mkinitfs, let's see how this goes.

Edit: Nope. Bugger. Why does this kernel not work where the previous one does? Something to do with its handling of initrd? Some problem with the hard drive drivers? Gah.


catsidhe: (Default)
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