I'm still here though. But this "new-and-improved" thing, now, I haven't seen much of it yet, but the place is getting rather boring if all posts on all topics are just about how this "beta" thing sucks so bad -- like the worst thing since anyone can remember. Still, interesting to see the old posts about the terabucks and the Gjønnes station that now is a useful metro station again.
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I've read several stories about the sudden shift from netbooks with Linux to netbooks with Windows XP. And there are arguments about price or accusations of shenanigans, and the observation of the user base being lazy.
This latter is close, but the lazyness isn't just on the part of users, but on certain newspapers' and banks' choices of interfacing software. And it might not be lazyness as such; resistance to change is more accurate. Having to change the way one is used to things being done seems to be harder the older one gets, and it is hardest for those who never knew more than one system ever, and knows that system well. I've seen this in several other situations at work. It is probably where the saying "If it ain't broke don't fix it" comes from as well.
I have had the opportunity of seeing the process of a long-time Windows user getting comfortable with Linux. Beyond the fact that we have a mouse and a GUI with symbols to click on, the innards are as we know, fairly different.
This is a different way of using Linux than I do, having known how to use and program UNIX systems long before there were any MS-Windows at all, and I don't have the same banks, and I don't care about the newspaper video offerings to the same extent.
There is also a third place where there has been some less than helpful messages; that had to do with playing DVDs. I'll get to that in time.
So, here it begins: Vista did work flaky, with occasional refusal to start-up or shut down properly, so the owner of the computer had spoken with several friends, many of whom had suggested trying Linux. I am one of these and there are several others, and all of us had some varying ideas as to which distro would be the best one.
First we tried Fedora 10, as one of the friends had recommended that, and I have used various varieties of that as well, so that was tried. Installing was easy enough; making the maching dual-boot with Vista as another option in the start-up menu was easy for someone like me who is skilled in the art. Even a secondary partition that held non-OS files, was available from the Linux system, and clicking on
However, soon some desires for changing from the defaults came up, modifying the font sizes, moving the taskbar from the top to the bottom, and where was the control panel? So I showed how things could be grabbed and dragged around the screen, and that the control panel as such was replaced by some fairly easily discoverable dialogs under "preferences". This is a matter of relearning, but nothing really terribly difficult.
Then the bigger stumbling blocks appeared, in order of difficulty:
- Watching Flash videos from the newspapers VG and Dagbladet.
- Accessing MSN
- Getting the bank's certificates to work
- Playing DVDs
- Watching the videos provided by Aftenposten
The first one was not so hard. Adobe's flash plug-in was downloaded and installed and we could now see the video offerings on VG and Dagbladet. The videos on the third major newspaper, Aftenposten would not work however, as these are not Flash but something else
Then for MSN, I've used Gaim before, and now this is called Pidgin, so it was pulled down through the "Add/Remove programs", installed, started, and run.
Next was the bank. This uses some kind of certificates, and the online information indicated that this might be windows only, unless one was lucky and got it working on Linux
The first big headache came with DVD playing. No player was available at the system update place, and the reasons given were, paraphrased, that we did not support patented and closed systems, so go complain to the providers. Or take a hike, we're sitting on our high horse and ain't moving off.
This might be the correct stand from a legal point of view, as the legality of non-closed decoders is questionable in some countries at least, and then there is the legal questions about the mixing of the legal closed-source decoders with GPL licensed components, which thus makes the publisher wash their hands of the whole mess. However, we sit here, and we want to see the movie on a DVD which we have purchased and thus have the right to watch...
Trying obtaining the VLC media player therefore, but that came as a
Even persevering like this is way beyond what many other users would ever want to do, and it ends up looking like "linux is hard", ie. arcane.
A couple weeks later, on another suggestion, we try Ubuntu. There is a second computer available, and the disk is partitioned and this is made dual-boot as well, so now we have Ubuntu on one maching and Fedora on the other.
The first steps are much the same; the printer and open office works right out of the box. The menus ars slightly different, but no big deal. And now there are some "bad parts" available so we can even watch DVDs without too much hassle. This is better than Fedora who basically told us to sod off and complain to the distributers and not to them -- so who do we complain to about a DVD? The distributer? DVDCCA? Yeh right.
We only have Aftenposten left, it still needs the "Microsoft Media Server (MMS) Protocol Source" it says. Bang smack into the clutches of Bill and Steve...
In conclusion, a successful netbook or desktop OS must be able to work well with a number of external systems, and do so right out of the box. Windows on x86 does this, even if not perfect, it is at least good enough; Linux on x86 does parts of this (Flash, DVDs if you use the right distro) but fails utterly on some of the others. On Linux 64-bit which I have here, even Flash seems to be iffy; and chances are that a similar situation will occur on ARM-based netbook systems, whether Linux or Windows -- no Flash until Adobe gets it ported. And thus a lot of different sites' content won't be accessible when browsing.
Looking around in the news, there's this story about the US$ 683 trillion's worth of derivatives, that no-one's quite sure about who owns or who owes all this money. So the Fed steps in, and manages to do 300 billion here and 750 billion there, and thus there is now somewhere like US$ 682 trillion. Within a couple of significant figures anyways.
Take one down and pass it around, as it were.
Now, I'm already aware that there is financial troubles afoot, and I don't pretend to be the first or only one who's discovered another bit of scary-sounding news. The article referring to the money as "used toilet paper" does not exactly sound like praise either, it sounds more like they're all in the deep shite, is what it sounds like. Or perhaps it is on its way to a fan spinning merrily around somewhere
But 680-whatever trillions, how many zeros is that? Many, for sure, Uncle Scrooge of Disney-style numbers almost.
Except that he's a fiction, and these vast numbers are evidently appearing in Real Life. Arguably the actual money behind it is imaginary, but someone apparently has been pricing these derivatives, and here is the tag.
And it's real, US, dollars, and if you go and shop for the daily bread, you may have to pay 2 or so of them for it. It is not like the funny money such as zimbabwe dollars where you have inflation that makes you have to pay 2 million today and 3 million tomorrow, and 600 million next month. These things are like nano-bucks and shrinking, they are a different kind.
This is at a level way outta my, and possibly, everyone's league. Consider that the Fed put in 1050 giga-bucks and it just nudged the third digit. I know of no-one else who has any giga-bucks in numbers like that to throw around and even they made only a minor dent. First time I've seen giga-US bucks look like a pittance...
So how many zeros is this. Although prefixes like mega- and giga- are appropriate, they're just not big enough. We're approaching tera- and exa-buck scales here -- I can't remember having had to deal with such enormous numbers since calculating doping densities in semiconductors, back in college. And then we were talking about atoms and electrons within spaces of cubic centimeters -- obviously tiny things, so it would make sense that there would be many of them. One gets used to that. Dollars however, needed no such decimal notational tricks, there were never too many of them either debit or credit.
First, getting rid of these stupid "-illion" things, so that it is possible to see and speculate on the scale of it: 0.683*10^15, how does that sound? Then subtract the 10^12 which the Fed coughed up, and of course we're down to 0.682*10^15.
There's pi*10^7 seconds in a year. Spend a dollar a second, and this amount would have been counted after 2*10^7 years! Spend, or earn, a dollar per microsecond instead, or, spend or earn an entire megabuck per second, and you'll still have to keep it up at that rate for 20 years solid.
But spend it on what? Or if earning it, who'll be paying? Doesn't seem to be anyone else.... Is it the next stage in the progression that goes: If you owe the bank a million dollars it is your problem; if you owe the bank a billion dollars, it becomes the bank's problem; if you owe the bank a trillion dollars, it becomes the govenment's problem... but if you, or someone, anyone, owes 682 trillion dollars, is it then the world's problem?
It seems crazy and unreal. It is perhaps "funny money" after all. There's a bubble about to burst here it looks like... Then there will be a matter of figuring out what to do so that this kind of bubble is not allowed to be created again. Gold or silver standard, whatever.
On wanting to show some longer C program code, I got the "too many junk characters" -- well the characters are just the ones they should be, since it is OK for the compiler. The lameness filter sez otherwise.
int main(int argc, char **argv)
escount = 10;
for(j = 1; j<argc; j++) escount += strlen(argv[j]) + 2;
exstring = malloc(escount);
strcpy(exstring, "(" );
for(j = 1; j<argc; j+=1)
strcat(exstring, " " );
strcat(exstring, ")" );
fpo = fopen("kcal.c", "wt");
"int main() \n"
" double r;\n"
" r = %s;\n"
" printf(\"Result of %%s = %%G\\n\", \"%s\", r); \n"
system("cc -o kcal kcal.c -lm");
But I can show this in the Journal at least.
So I've dusted off the 468 scope again, the one I bought for 40 kroner or so, some years ago and had another investigation of its malfunction. It looks like there is something wrong with the ROMs as it doesn't get very far from start-up to halt. (pins 29 and 33 on the 8085 going both LOW). I've managed to find some memory dumps of these on the Internet, so I'll try burning 2764s and connecting these, then see what happens next.
Then there is the other acquisition, the HP3330B synthesizer. This thing works fine, so I've had no need to open up the box. But there's this interesting "remote control" connector on the back, and I have been able to procure the complete manual for this unit. Turns out this "remote control" interface includes a listen-only variant of IEEE-488, minus the cable-interface, so I could either construct that (just putting in some buffer-circuits) or make another parallell-interface, maybe via I2C or similar to a Picotux, so that I can put the synthesizer directly onto a local network. The signals are all 5V TTL-level ones, so there is just a matter of sticking some 74LS05 open collector inverters between the device and two PCF8574s, making both sides happy about the electrical loading. That was the easy part, figuring out this.
The slightly harder part is to verify which way is up and down, and which letters and numbers are used, although looking at omitted connections and seeing the correspondning non-connected fingers on the card edge sticking out, makes this an easily solved puzzle. There is basically 2 by 18 positions, and in the manual one side is numbered and the other side is marked by letters.
Running the synthesizer in sweep mode should make it generate pulses on the sweep-address outputs, so it should be reasonably easy to figure out where these are, and by elimination, which pins are the IEEE-488 set where the thing can be controlled.
The less-than-easy part has proven to be obtaining a 4 mm pitch card-edge connector. All the current places I've seen have only fancy 1.27mm and suchlike tiny-pitch connectors available now; the old and large 4mm pitch seems to be unobtanium... Even 2.54 mm, the old familiar standard, is getting harder to locate. And I haven't seen any 2mm pitch ones either, at least that would be somewhat compatible with the 4mm pitch connector, just removing every other pin, or maybe it can be aligned so that two pins match each finger. I will have to finagle something here... perhaps take one of the 2.54mm pitch connectors that I do have lying around, then pull out every other pin and cutting it up into slices and mount these on a circuit board, so that the spacing becomes the requisite 4mm.
I do not want to solder anything onto the card-edge and damage it.
Okay, what is up with the "home" page now? Looks like some unconnected CMOS input in the works, with what appears to be some random mixture of recently moderated comments, my own journal entries, comments that I have posted and other comments that I can't even remember having seen before...
Fortunately, the tabs there make sense at least, with Comments and Journals and Friends (which also includes Fans, Foes and the others) so not all is lost. It is not like I am threatening to leave as I've seen others here want to --
But the "home" page, that is a number of notches more curious than the "45 of 33 comments" seen on the front-page for the low-visibility stories, that I've never figured out.
And where has the slashdot.org journal logo selection gone to?
This morning, it was discovered that the earth underneath the metro tracks at Gjønnes station had shifted upwards. Picture here. The vertical alinement here used to be level -- now one track has a vertical curve like a hilltop, and the other is twisted sideways inwards towards the platform. The overhead wiring hangs in tatters -- some neighbor had seen a flash and heard a bang sometime during the night when the 750 V DC supply had shorted out --
There is a large mound of deposited rocks from a new railway tunnel that is being built nearby, and the weight of this eventually pushed the clay in the ground here downwards and made it move upwards under the metro track and Gjønnes station. This whole area is old seabed, from back when glaciers and ice had held the landmasses down.
I've had these Western Digital Worlbook units for a while now, and although I soon got the shell access to the Linux system on them, I didn't investigate them further until last week.
What I found is that there is an SMBUS/I2C function available on them, and that the kernel, right out of the box, contains the necessary drivers for this. The actual connection is to where an omitted RTC chip would have been. (The specific details is that U9 pin 5 is SDA, U9 pin 6 is SCL, U9 pin 4 is GND, and then get 3.3V from the serial-port connection, J4 pin 1) I hooked up a DS1621 temperature sensor chip there, and managed to talk to it via the
I'll be making a nice hardware modification (no loose wires all over the place) and there is space for an additional circuit board inside the cae. Only issue now is what kind of connector to use for the external i2c connection, for which I need four wires: Serial Clock, Serial Data, Ground, and Power for the pull-up resistors.
This opens up many interesting possibilities, imagine some kind of self-contained data-logging arrangement, where the system pulls information from sensors on the I2C-bus and stores it on the disk. Then just have this sit on the network somewhere...
Of course the USB-connector can be used for something similar, perhape even higher-bandwidth -- but the sensor hardware would not be that simple!
Finally, they managed to get a working fiber in here. The first one they pulled was no good, so the fiber-installing people had to come an put in a new one.
Then it was a matter of minutes before "We get signal!"
First thing I had to try was to download the Fedora 8 DVD ISO, just to see how fast it would be. This took some 20-odd minutes for 2.4 GB. I'm wondering if I got the whole thing, as that ISO is exactly 0x7FFFFFFF bytes long, which I've seen as having been a file-size limit on some 32-bit systems.... (such as the Western Digital Worldbooks) Since it is a DVD I'd think it is rather unlikely that it will have exactly this size. And I've checked that the file system on the machine I'm downloading to can handle bigger files, which it does, so any limitation is elsewhere.
But the fiber goodness is there: 10 Mbits/s in and 3 Mbits/s out, and there is a public IP-address assigned through a transparent modem, so there is the ability to run servers. Which will be of the "show the temperature here" variety at first.
Now that I have two different Internet connections here, there is the matter of having to loop around outside just so as to be able to access the fairly noisy machine sitting behind my back apart from USB-stick-net (the modern descendant of the floppy-net concept from the 1980s and 1990s) but eventually I'll be moving everything over to the fiber.
In other news, I've been doing a lot of moderation recently, getting the points 10 at a time instead of 5, but I've also noticed that a lot of Anonymous Coward posts show up at -1 now, even if their contents actually are at the very least Interesting, and even positively Insightful, even when they're not Informative. Looks like there is some new settings in slashcode: I modded one of these as Interesting, and looking at it now, it started off at -1, then it is 50% interesting and 50% informative with an up-rating of +1 for a total of 0. No idea where that Informative came from though, though this post is deserving of that as well; had I seen it as Informative in meta-mod, that I would consider Fair.
I hope there is not too much mixing up here, I'd hate to mod something Insightful and have it come up 50% Insightful and 50% Troll, although I have seen comments where that might be an appropriate combination... Still, this would be no big deal, as long as the direction on moderations agree, Insightful/Informative/Interesting, and Troll/Flamebait at least, where the specific choice is somewhat open as per the "don't sweat the small stuff" of the FAQ.
The fiber goodness is almost here. The electrical contractor responsible for the last branch lines from the poles along the road to the wall came by today. We had an appointment for today at 11 AM.
But after about half an hour of walking up and down the road, looking at the poles and cables betwene then, it became apparent that the company rolling out the fiber trunks hadn't got around to do this part of the neigborhood yet.
So I'll have to wait a bit longer; as I'm supposed to go out travelling sometime during the next weeks, I'll have to remain patient for a little longer. The hook-up cost is fixed, so this timing error won't cost me anything; no bill until there actually is an operating service here. Which is nice.
Stupid abbreviations again: 2k38 for 2038 ? Why the k instead of the zero? From component values, the unit or power of 1000 is occasionally used to substitute the decimal point, thus 2k7 is 2700 and 2k38 therefore becomes 2380; which year is too far into the future to even start worrying about....
2k038 or more usefully spelt: 2038, is of course when the 32-bit integer number of seconds since January 1 1970 goes from positive to negative in the early hours of January 19 (at 03.14.08), and that may or may not be any problem by then. Easy enough to test. On this machine, the time_t is 64 bits, so it will be OK (of course, the hardware will probably have died sometime in the intervening 30 years, but that's nothing to do with this.)
The Picotuxes however, have sizeof(time_t) equal to 4, so they will not make it past 2038/01/19, I just discovered. Consider this:
# date 011903102038
Tue Jan 19 03:10:00 UTC 2038
Tue Jan 19 03:10:06 UTC 2038
Tue Jan 19 03:13:59 UTC 2038
Tue Jan 19 03:14:06 UTC 2038
Fri Dec 13 20:45:56 UTC 1901
Fri Dec 13 20:46:02 UTC 1901
Friday the 13. oh well, just adds to the scariness. Just goes to show that using Julian Day numbers and 1/86400 fractions of them makes sense. These will remain good a lot longer than me or anyone reading this will be able to care about it personally.
As I may or may not have mentioned, I have a friend and her daughter living here for a while, before they find another place to stay. Now, she bought a new portable PC this fall, an ACER and this runs Windows Vista.
One early problem was that the DVD-drive, which also handles CDs didn't work right out of the box. I googled this, and found the fix was removing some strings from the Registry.
Now she installed Nero 8, and the drive went MIA again -- presumably the same problem, and the same fix. Which I'll record here, so as to be able to find it again. Rant will follow. Kudos to someone, name of Ryan for this. The recipe is as follows:
Go into the registry under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/CURRENTCONTROLSET/Control/Class/ then 4D36E965-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318 and wipe out any string-values named Upperfilter and Lowerfilter as these may exist.
So I did this, and lo and behold, the disk drive came back into view. So far so good.
However, since I use Linux on most of the machines here, I haven't had any problems with the disk drives disappearing like this at all. Neither do I have to install anything like Nero for burning disks either, it just works right away.
How come windows-depemdent people even think this is supposed to be the normal way of the world, that things won't work until finer surgery is done on them? No car buyer would accept that, in order to open the trunk, you'd have to disconnect certain wires under the hood.
Whatever happened to fitness for purpose? Even if not having certified the system for use in situations where life or limb is in jeopardy, one does have a reasonable expectation of things at least appearing to work right! Never mind EULAs and legal weasel-wording, if it is broke on delivery that is bad P.R. My friend is on the verge of writing an angry letter to Bill Gates, and ask him what kind of rubbish his company is pushing.
What are these filter-things supposed to be for anyway? Since things actually work when they are removed? They worked fine until Nero put them back in, then I had to look up the Martian phone number for the fix again. The last part of that number looks like a MAC address, and I noticed it was the first of a series of entries, where only the first set of digits were different. So the GUID becomes something else to ponder, but what is going on in there. Unfortunately there is no source code, so I can't have a look....
I see the paper has a headline "MS Explorer sank i natt" (which is the title in Norwegian, "MS explorer sank during the night" would be this title in English). MS Explorer is a cruise ship that ran into iceberge, but unlike the more famous Titanic, everyone on board had been rescued and are safe now that the ship has sunk.
But to me with my IT leanings, names like "Server" and "MS Explorer" have other connotations than ships. Servers, ships or otherwise, at least agree on crashing as a common failure mode, but the MS Explorer, well, "sinking" isn't the most likely failure mode there -- "Blue screen" (as opposed to the big blue sea (as opposed to C)) just appears a lot more plausible.
Thus leading to the initial question, what is up with the naming of the ships. Will we see some ship named Excel or maybe Fortran crash or sink or something, next?
I've been getting the suggestion for meta-moderation again, and this time several of the posts were from June onwards. It is as if I wonder if all the hullabaloo about the 10th anniversary pushed the metamod-invitation out of the way, and not everyone keeps remembering to go look at metamod.pl every now and then...
This meta-modding activity has also brought another set of 5 mod-points to be spent on the worthy, so things seem to be in fine order.
Now, the thread of interest was some meta-discussion on "Interesting vs Insightfui" as a flamewar with a set of jokers posting mild flames and another set of jokers moderating them Insightful or Interesting... Since the whole topic is about flamewars, this isn't really offtopic, but it is strictly not Insightful, though whether it is Interesting is more a matter of opinion. Informative it certainly isn't either, as it brings no new knowledge on the table. Funny? Could be, like Interesting, it depends on the audience. But did this post really show insight? Not obviously, though as a statement of opinion it could well be it did. Time to go look at the context.
And this one made me laugh: Someone with the name ov lexical (842527) says: I can't wait for these posts/mod to show up for meta-moderation....
Guess what! It just did, after some 5 months.
I won't reveal whether I considered the metamod fair or not.
What has been happening recently...
September 15 was the Ekeberg Market. There I bought a set of rubber gaskets for the doors and trunk of the old car, I managed to replace the one on the left front door so far, before the foot went sore: strange how it seemed just tired on the Saturday, but was hurting terribly on Sunday morning.
I had been walking too much or some such, and the shoes I had were quite worn, that might have contributed to the malady. I thought I'd try resting it for a couple days to see if it got better. In particular, trying to walk down stairs was not pleasant at all. So any trip down to the basement became a planned excursion, making sure I would not have to go back up for some tool or whatever.
Now since I work mostly with programming, the sore foot wasn't much in the way there, apart from the general painfulness that was not good for concentration. And then there were a couple of customers that wanted visits those days too, so I had to go out there. After having had to walk up and down the stairs at one of the on the Tuesday, I was not feeling very mobile on Wednesday. Sort of the "spoons" thing that Solemdragon used to talk about as a measure of exhaustion. This was the left foot, so I could still drive the E-car, fortunately. And I got a ride with a friend into Oslo when having to visit another customer there, then I could take a streetcar back towards home and save some walking that day.
As the foot still hurt after a week, it was time to see the doctor. Which appointment was after another 3 days. By then I'd gotten used to the pain in a way, it would be coming and going, and occasionally I'd feel something, a tendon or muscle shift around inside the foot, with a sense of tension and relief when it hit the detente. The doctor said this seemed to be inflamed tendons, and I should try to keep the load off, and take these "BREXIDOL" pills for a week. Now, these pills would be hard on the stomach, and another common side-effect would be a headache, so I thought, gee, now I'll be having a pain in the stomach and in the head in addition to the foot --
Fortunately, the headaches did not appear. The pills were large, hexagonal, with a slot right across them, looked like the heads of certain bolts more than anything else. So I got the week's worth of these, and they actually did help. I didn't even get more than slight nausea either, so they worked and the doctor was right.
Now, a month later, there is still some pain in the foot, but it is a lot better than it was. I don't have to plan my trips to the basement anymore either, and that is just as well, since I've been busy clearing stuff out of the rear rooms, since a friend and her daughter will be coming to stay here for a while, and I'll have to make room for them and their stuff.
Like the sin(x)/x function for a large negative x -- I sense the approach of a change, today I found a magazine addressed to this friend in the mail, one of the first concrete signs. Having been living in this big house by myself for years, there will be some re-adjustment when two others will come here to stay.