blarg?

This is going to be an all-geek article, so those of you who don’t use Linux
can just skip it. I’ll be more entertaining next week.

A few days a go this
guy
wrote a neat bit about how to install WinXP in href="http://diveintomark.org/archives/2003/08/04/xp">five hours or
less. I thought that was about right, but I knew that I had a
Linux reinstall coming due, so I thought I’d take my own notes on the
process. The end result, if you don’t want to read all the way through,
is that it takes about four hours on a very slow machine, but that it
doesn’t really care much what options you do or don’t pick, ’cause it
apparently knows better.

So, here’s the story:

I’m due for a reinstall, because things aren’t working the way I
want them to, and uninstalling things in RedHat has been a bit of a
disaster.

Here’s the spec:

The Hardware: An old Transmonde laptop, PII/266, 512K L2 cache, 128Mb
RAM. Well-supported trackpad, C&T 65555 2MB video card driving a
1024×768 LCD. Four gig hard drive. No problem; It’s run Linux before,
and it will again. Basically, I’m looking for a system that gives me a
decent network experience, useful terminal-window functionality, MP3s,
gcc, vim, make and not a hell of a lot else, and does those things at
something better than a snail’s pace. Linux, as is its wont, promises me
all these things, as well as clean teeth, the fragrant smell of fresh-cut
flowers, low total cost of ownership and, I’m told, the moon.

So, booting from RedHat 9 CD#1,
go.

  1. Boots up to text mode. Upgrade or install Linux in graphical
    mode
    , that sounds about like what I’m going to be doing. Enter.

  2. I speak english good. My keyboard is a standard U.S. english
    keyboard.

  3. My mouse does not have three buttons. Sure, I’ll emulate that last
    one, whatever that means. I hope that’s OK.

  4. Let the installer remove all the partitions on the system. Go
    ahead. Yes, 98 Meg for /boot, 3556 for root and the last 256 for swap
    seems fine. Take the machine’s word for it.

  5. Wait a few minutes while it formats everything.
  6. Set the security level to medium and allow incoming SSH, because
    I don’t want a repeat of the X-out-of-disk-space
    disaster
    from a few weeks ago.

  7. Set my time zone.
  8. Set my root password.
  9. Enable MD5 and shadow passwords.
  10. Choose some packages. This part is going to be straighforward, but I
    know from previous experience that it absolutely has to be done right,
    because RedHat’s “Add/Remove Applications” GUI tools (and, in fact,
    RPM underneath them) are a digital atrocity, the State Machine of Lum
    the Mad. I don’t know anyone who even pretends they’re functional;
    getting them to actually add/remove stuff is just as simple, easy and
    fun as wiping your ass with a pit bull. Here goes.

    Choosing packages, I do the following:

  11. Turn off Gnome and
    anything that has anything to do with Gnome. I’m keeping href="http://jirka.org/gdm.html">gdm, ’cause it looks pretty and
    that’s nice, but Gnome has all the lean, graceful efficiency of Jabba
    the Hutt. It’s painfully, onerously slow. I’m going to get something
    useful later, but for now I choose KDE.

  12. Under X Window System, I ditch XDM, Switchdesk (figuring that I won’t
    need to switch desktops on the fly) and anything that says “print”,
    “gnome” or “gtk” in it. Lose xisdnload, too. Ponder briefly over who
    in the world might actually use ISDN.

  13. Ponder why clicking anywhere in the name of a thing toggles the
    associated checkbox, as opposed to the way it works everywhere else in
    the universe, where you have to click the actual checkbox.

  14. Uncheck “GNOME”. Under KDE, keep autorun and kkdeadmin. Lose the
    rest. Under Editors, get Vim and Vim-X11. Silently blame the Emacs
    people for screwing up the keyboard shorcuts in terminal windows for
    the rest of us.

  15. No Engineering and Scientific stuff. We can get that later. Likewise
    “Graphical Internet”. I get Konqueror for free with KDE, and I’ll
    get Mozilla soon enough, a much more recent version than appears on
    these CDs. Get Lynx, though, in case of emergency. Get rid of all
    the rest of the stuff in Text-Based Internet, because this isn’t the
    freaking bronze age anymore. We might go back for SLRN later.

  16. Uncheck “Authoring and publishing”. If I haven’t had to know
    what DocBook is yet I don’t need to know now. I’ll get it if and when
    I need it. Which is to say, later. Likewise “Graphics” – don’t need,
    so for now don’t want.

  17. For the love of God, ditch Open Office. This instantly cuts half
    a gigabyte out of my install-space requirement, and there’s nothing
    quite as satisfying as waiting five minutes for a “productivity tool”
    to get running. Take the xpdf viewer and GhostView and walk.

  18. Pick your poison as far as sound support goes, I’m not going to
    be burning anything here so I’ll stick with cdda2wav, cdp, cdparanoia
    and XMMS. I’ll have to get mpg-123 later. I make a note.

  19. Take “kdegames” for some dumb little amusements out of “Games and
    Entertainment”, and deselect the rest. They’re all to beefy for this
    little video card anyway. OpenGL? What’s that?

  20. Accidentally uncheck “Servers Configuration Tools”, and then go
    back and reset the whole thing, because Red Hat doesn’t remember your
    settings. Nice work, guys. Nice. So, deselect redhat-config-bind,
    -httpd, -nfs, -printer, -printer-gui, -samba, -mail, -mail-gnome,
    -printer and -printer-gnome.

  21. No Mail server, no Web server, no Windows fileserver, no name
    server. I want to be able, I say again, to SSH into this machine in
    a crisis, and that’s all. No News server, no SQL server. Go into the
    “Network Servers” bit at the very end and deselect them all. Keep DHCP,
    in case somebody wants to do some crossover cable networking. Make a
    note to be sure it’s turned off by default.

  22. Pick your poison again, as far as development packages go. I’m making
    sure to pick up the kernel packages, and a few other things. Avoid GNOME,
    as usual, and I feel confident saying that I won’t need to compile any
    ADA95 or Fortran anytime soon. Out of the System tools, I’m keeping
    ethereal and nmap.

  23. We’ll come back to this later, but I’d like to reiterate that I
    have deselected the “Printing Support” options.

  24. Moving on.

  25. Install. Wait an hour, occasionally pop in another CD.
  26. No, I don’t want to make a boot disk. Yes, I’ll reboot.
  27. Using my inner voice, express serious doubt and consternation
    about the fact it didn’t ask me about things like a hostname or X
    configuration.

  28. This gets to be the fun part. Gaze in wonder at the startup
    messages. Cups, Sendmail and a bunch of their friends all start up
    [ OK ]. Things that I specifically told the selection
    process that I didn’t want.

  29. Close my eyes, so I can feel my pulse pushing my temples apart.
  30. Log in to a very grainy-looking GDM. Mentally prepare myself to fix
    the X display settings, but before I get there, I see the panel at the
    bottom of the screen. It contains:

    1. A Red Hat icon.

    2. A Mozilla icon that doesn’t work.
    3. A printer icon that does.

    Fuck you, RedHat. Fuck you very much. I have enough computer problems
    in my life without having to wrestle with an installer that lies to
    me
    . Especially when it won’t let me actually undo any of the damage
    later. Christ.

  31. Correctly set the X display settings, restart the server and log in again.
  32. Go into the service configuration utility to see what’s running. Hey,
    look, everything that I specifically asked not be installed is right
    there, running right now. Nice. Somehow, I’m flashing back to the old
    IIS/CodeRed debacle. Shut down cups, isdn, netfs, nfs, nfslock, portmap,
    rawdevices, rhnsd, sendmail and uncheck them all. Wonder what Lisa,
    described as “Lisa is a small daemon which is intended to run on”, does.
    Nothing quite like having to do the same job twice.

  33. On a lark, go into “add/remove software” and check out the situation.

    The situation there is grim. The print utilities are now thoroughly
    selected, despite my previous uncheck-that-box-related efforts, and it
    is impossible to deselect them. Uninstalling anything at all through
    this UI is absolutely impossible. I feel something akin to homesickness
    when I think about how well Debian’s apt-get treated me in the distant
    past. Well, once the services have been turned off I guess that’ll
    do. The drive space is a writeoff, I suppose.

    I hate you guys. Configuring peripherals, my ass.

  34. Go home, get dinner.
  35. Use the GUI to set up my USB Ethernet adapter. The GUI works for that,
    mercifully. Set the machine name to “Protagonist” while I’m in there.

  36. Ifup eth0 at a console, login to KDE and fire up Konqueror. Futz
    around looking for right-click/save-as, give up, try dragging
    and dropping in a second window which seems to work. Use this
    to get Firebird 0.6.1,
    linux-wlan-ng-0.2.0,
    rxvt and href="http://evilwm.sourceforge.net/">evilwm.

  37. That seems to work. gunzip, untar, Configure, make, make
    install. Move xterm to xterm-old and replace it with a symlink to
    rxvt so that EvilWM opens rxvt instead. We’ll get to that in a minute,
    but that seems to work.

  38. Compile and install linux-wlan-ng-0.2.0. Brace self for lots more
    manual-reading, because now that I’ve rebooted cardmgr doesn’t seem to
    be running.

  39. Scratch head.
  40. Install Evilwm, and set up gdm to respect its authoratah. I’ve
    done this before: it’s trivial, but non-obvious. Under
    /usr/share/apps/switchdesk/ copy one of the XClients files to
    XClients.evilwm and change the line that says “exec whatever” to
    “exec evilwm”.

  41. You know, that “switchdesk” that I deliberately deselected earlier.
    I’d like to reiterate that I haven’t seen any warning messages or
    other notifications about switchdesk being necessary to anything.

  42. Futz around with .Xresources files to get rxvt to look right.
  43. Get that right, finally, and go to sleep. Except hey, the machine
    doesn’t power down all the way now – it just gets to the last line and
    then tells me to push the switch myself. Sweet.

That’s where I am now. I’m not done banging my head against the
wireless stuff, but this brings my machine to a point that I’d consider
usable. I’m going to install some GDM themes, because I like some
pretty pictures every now and then, but aside from that my machine is
now sufficiently fast-moving and well-featured to my taste. I’ll have
more links in here this afternoon, but for now this is pretty much the
size of it. I’m still pretty pissed off that all that printing-related
stuff crept in there, but I guess there’s some kind of dependency
somewhere that requires it, or else it just thinks it knows better than
I do.

More soon.

Update: When will then be soon? Now.

I’ve added some links to the above and polished it a little, but
that’s about it. I’ve got mpg-123
working, ACPI still doesn’t work properly anymore, and I’ll
be damned if I can figure out what I did to bone it. Getting wireless
working is, I’m sure, going to be it’s own private nightmare that
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on right now. Suffice to say
that cardmgr hasn’t worked right since the first time I rebooted, so
I’m probably going to have to do something scripty and gross to get
it glued back together. Elapsed time, from one end to another, about
three hours including compile time, though not dinner.

On the upside, there’s no registration problems, no screwing
around with turning dumb blinky stuff in the UI off. On the
downside, it’s hard to express how infuriating it is to tell
an installer that you don’t want some service whose name href="http://www.google.ca/search?q=sendmail+security+hole">you’ve heard
before only to find it running in the background after the first
reboot anyway, without so much as a note explaining that this service is
somehow necessary or important. I suspect I dodged a bullet by skipping
the KDE configuration completely in favor of EvilWM, but EvilWM will
still take some tweaking – control-alt-plus, a useful window-resizing
key, is dangerously close on my keyboard to control-alt-backspace, which
pulls the ripcord on my X sessions without asking me if I maybe meant
something other than “close all five terminals, both browser windows,
set yourself on fire and fling yourself off the nearest parapet”,
a well-understood default behaviour for X.

So in short, as compared to the aforementioned href="http://diveintomark.org/archives/2003/08/04/xp">five-hour WinXP
install experience, Mark had to spend a lot more time fighting with
the Microsoft registration, driver wizards, downloads and interface
tweaks, but on the other hand at the end of the process he actually got
what he had asked for. I think I’m going to have to figure out how to
get in on this Red
Carpet
action that Shaver
says he’s a big fan of. Because, when it gets right down to it, a program
that lies to you and silently decides to install crap you’ve explicitly
told it not to install is pretty fucking insulting, and there’s no way
I’m putting up with that bullshit again.

A word about signals, noise, a certain brand of processed luncheon
meat and a certain class of “entrepreneur” who habitually enjoys carnal
relations with the creatures that purvey that luncheon meat, typically
while the luncheon meat in question can still push back. Though not,
perhaps, exclusively.

Paul Graham wrote an interesting
page or two about dealing
with spam
, in which he talked about the possibility of a “learning”
filtering system. The whole thing looks good, and I thought it was cool,
but the direct consequence of the Bayesian filters he has inspired is
that I’m now getting spam composed entirely out of random strings of
commonly-used words
, not advertising anything, presumably designed
to make the whole “e-mail” thing completely unusable for people who
employ those filters. Sort of the same way it’s completely unusable
for everyone who doesn’t use filters these days.

You evil bunch of pigfuckers.

Ok, apropos the blackout. The good:

  • The local Pizza Pizza found themselves a generator and, being the
    only people for miles serving food, they made out like bandits.

  • Those local merchants selling staples like water and candles, who
    could overcome their primal fear of basic math also overcame the lack
    of cash registers and likewise did very well for themselves.

  • People were for the most part incredibly civilized about the whole
    thing, so much more than usual that I thought that they should turn
    all the traffic lights off every weekend. At major intersections that
    I passed everybody was being patient and had a good sense of how things
    should work and when their turn was, and it worked out pretty well.

  • The demo of my little distributed-processing toy, for which I was
    woefully unprepared, was pushed back to a later date, and subsequently
    well. I feel I am watched over by a long line of strange and powerful
    coincidences.

The bad:

  • Dear Idiot Teenagers: if you’re going to vandalize something, don’t
    choose the 24-hour bagel store which, under any other circumstances
    short of Ragnarok, would have two police cars parked in the lot virtually
    all the time. Civilized people do not shit where they eat. Smart people
    definitely don’t shit where on-duty cops eat. Morons.

  • Dear CBC: As you are no doubt aware,
    you are the freaking CBC. People turn to you
    for information. Please, for the love of all that journalists might
    possibly hold holy, don’t fluff out your programming in the middle of the
    largest blackout in North American history with insipid human interest
    stories. This is just one man’s opinion, but people might not care so
    much about home maintenance tips and the Indomitable Human Spirit when
    they have questions about whether the water’s safe to drink, where it’s
    safe to go for medical help and when they can expect the power to come
    back up. For a while there, I thought that Fox News had seized control
    of your transmitter under cover of darkness. I sensed a great cringe,
    as though a billions of neurons suddenly twitched reflexively, and were
    suddenly silenced.

  • Dear Right Wingers, My Brother True Believers To The North And The
    South: Good work guys, you were right, the whole mad scheme worked
    out great. For an encore, you can deregulate my left nut. Bunch of
    fucking idiots.

I’ve got me a new wireless NIC, an ASUS, and as usual trying to
accomplish anything with Linux that less than ten zillion other people
have also done with identical hardware is an unmitigated nightmare. I
thought I was off the reinstall treadmill, but I guess not. I’m
going to have to keep better notes this time, because I’m tired of
having this machine lie to me about what’s going on. Starting
PCMCIA services [ OK  color="white">]
my pasty-white ass. If it was color="white">[ OK ],
I wouldn’t have had to cobble this together and sudo it whenever I felt
like beating my head against the wall again:


[root@Protagonist sbin]# cat gocard
#!/bin/bash

insmod pcmcia_core
insmod yenta_socket
insmod ds

/etc/init.d/pcmcia start

I hate having to do crap like that. In addition to exposing my marginal
competence to the harsh light of day, it’s also a sign that I have to
employ said marginal competence to deal with the marginal competence
of a bunch of other people. It’s like the Yin and Yang of pissing me off.

I’m not one to let a line like that stand on its own, no sirree. Nobody
would believe me. They won’t anyway, but what the hell.

I’ve got to write a big honking report on it in the next little
while, but the gist of it is that I’ve finished up a working
Java-based task-distribution client that permits any computer
(cool bit: any OS, any processor, as long as it speaks
Java and Sockets) among a set of collaborators farm out fragments
of jobs to its peers, where the job fragments are run, returned
and reassembled. The basic gist of it is that task Objects are href="http://www.acm.org/crossroads/xrds4-2/serial.html">serialized,
shipped over the href="http://java.sun.com/j2se/1.4.2/docs/api/java/net/InetSocketAddress.html">network
to collaborating peers, each fragment is run in its own href="http://java.sun.com/j2se/1.4.2/docs/api/java/lang/Thread.html">thread
and sent back to its parent machine. The joy of it is that any machine
can inject a task into the system and expect to get it back.

It’s early, and it’s clearly not good code, but it works. Which is
to say, Booya!

The whole thing was inspired by href="http://www.press-citizen.com/news/010403barn.htm">this, the
legendary Amish Mobile Home. Many hands, the line goes, make light work,
and if you haven’t got some big iron to apply to problems that size,
sometimes you can get the friends you’ve got together to get the job
done just as well.

A few observations:

  • Java’s networking libraries are very shiny.
  • Their threading functionality is also pretty easy to work with.
  • It takes surprisingly little irresponsible threadwork to bury a WinXP system.
  • Use sleep(), kids, ’cause wait() just won’t do what you think it does.
  • I need more design experience.
  • It would be really nice if Java gave up on the syntax that looks
    like C, and went with a syntax that actually works like C. C’mon, guys:
    you’re damn near mugging everyone else for their functionality at the
    moment, why not get back to your roots? I realize it’s about a decade
    too late to fix it, but I don’t understand why “==” means “is the same
    object as”, rather than the more common-sensical “contains
    identical information”. Probably the same reason that the hashing
    algorithm apparently involves the object’s reference, which almost
    certainly involved drugs. Again, too-late-I-know, but maybe if they
    gave you the option of a non-reference-dependent hashing process,
    then you could get switch statements to work with objects. Like, say,
    Strings. Which would also be sweet.

  • There’s always the possibility that I’m just an ignorant crackpot, here,
    so I’m keeping that in mind.

    Source code soon.

At some point, I’m convinced, my friends are going to have to work
pretty hard to figure out exactly why they like me.

I had more to say here, about how Linux sucks, D-Link can bite
me, and how the power outage was pretty neat, but I don’t think I’m
up for it right now.

The project is nearing completion, more soon.

I haven’t been eating or sleeping right. I think the food
component of the geek lifestyle is an absolutely critical
part of the mix: I’m completely unable to focus if I’m not
eating right and properly caffeinated, and while twenty hours
of coding over a weekend might seem weak and pussified to the
more hardcore among you, when your work environment consists
a school computer lab with the ergonomic savoir-faire of an href="http://www.lawbuzz.com/tyranny/torture/iron_maiden.htm">Iron
Maiden, where greenish halogen lights are finely tuned to bring the
60Hz flicker out of the monitors, those monitors are so badly burned-in
they need glass skin grafts and the plastic chairs are moulded from
whatever spare scraps of anguished suffering are lying around the floors
of Hell on sweep-up night, all told I think I did pretty well. The
problem is this onerous day job of mine, which is turning out title="Bling, I say, Bling!">alright except for the fact
that it’s keeping me from sleeping in when I get to bed at four in
the morning.

And the sleep, the sleep is terrible when you’ve gone with too little
for too long. I don’t remember dreams but I find myself waking up
wondering why all my tooth-fragments are back in place, flashing
back to some bizzare collage of a literary crossover like “The Vampire
Lestrade” or “Paradise Lost Boys”, strange visions of software that
worked back in the lab after you made just a few changes you can’t
quite remember. Horrifying. You drift in and out trying to wake up
to a clock radio whose scratchy voice is telling you in no uncertain
terms that if you overwater your cancer victim, the crime rate will
predict 90% humidity in the awful traffic, and then the other
alarm clock comes on, the one that sounds exactly like the Little
Cube Van That Could is trying to back over your head, and you try
to shake it off and stumble into the bathroom to soak the red out of
your eyes, so you can start the whole process over again. A few days
ago I managed to cut off the circulation in my legs before waking
up, so when I lept out of bed to avoid the truck backing out of my
bedside table I got to spend a lovely few minutes flopping around on my
floor like a harp seal that’s been shot in the spine. My mornings are
full of adventure, that’s what those bloodshot eyes mean. I’m getting
paid on Thursday, and I’m going to buy an n-tuple espresso, where n is href="http://www.rsasecurity.com/rsalabs/challenges/factoring/challengenumbers.txt">large.
I’m going to buy an espresso I can swim in, and I’m going to bask
in it. I will drink the coffee and roll around in the grinds like a
wallowing pig. I intend to grunt accordingly.

I am writing, am almost done writing, a general-purpose distributed
processing client, one that lets you distribute large tasks (previously
divided-up large tasks, really) across any number of peer machines
that are willing to participate. Any machine can inject a task into
the network, and all the machines that are playing along will pitch in
their effort. And it’s almost done. The first 90% is done, anyway. The
next 90% is going to be tough going. One of the things that I’m going
to report back about, venerated reader, is what I had to say to href="http://off.net/~shaver/diary/">Shaver a few months ago about href="http://neon.polkaroo.net/~mhoye/blarg/2003/03/#xrefactor">Extreme
Programming, something that might be a middle ground between having
somebody look over your shoulder, which I’m sure would drive me batty
right away, and working completely alone, which I can promise you from
being here in the labs all weekend is a pretty lonely, alienating
process. I’m starting to come around, in short. Not all the way – I
still think having somebody looking at the same screen as you is nuts –
but taking a few minutes out every two hours or so to talk about what’s
hanging you up with other people, just to bat ideas around, has been
a huge help in the last few days. Woo, progress, woo!

Soon, I hope to have a working project. Then, I will have metrics, then,
the world! Right now, though I need some decent error messages, maybe
even some instrumentation, in the worst possible way.

DistributedClient me = new DistributedClient();
System.out.println("Starting.");
try{ me.go(); }
catch(Exception e) {System.out.println("No go!\n" + e.toString() ); }

Somehow, I think “No go!” just isn’t going to cut it, but that’s what
happens when I’m out of gas.

It is about 4:00 P.M. right now, and you’ve got between right now and
a minute after I finish this entry to get your utilities-related house
in order, because that’s when the Shower will start.

Today, our team played really, really well. Our team is not composed
of monster athleticism or the “super” brand of natural talent, and that
may be the thing that I like most about it. We’ve got some really good
players here, for sure, but there aren’t any all-stars – I play on a team
of grinders, men and women who bust their asses every single point to get
the job done because they have to, and I love it. 1-1 on the day,
we really got our shit together in that first game. We came back from
12-10 down to pull out a 15-14 win on our first game of the day against
a far better-staffed team, as clean and hard-fought a win as you’d ever
be likely to see. There were a lot of better teams at this tournament
with a lot more athleticism and talent than we could bring to the field,
that showed a lot less drive and class this weekend than we did.

Two quotes:

“It doesn’t take talent to hustle.”
- H. Jackson Brown

“When you get into the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.”
-
Tom Landry

Now, for the Shower.

Update: GAH! Sean has knocked on my door, and wants to get
dinner! I am thwarted! Curse you, Gadget!

Today, I biked out to href="http://www.mapquest.com/directions/main.adp?do=rer&1g=bz3L%2bBvmzxE%3d&1y=CA&2a=%5b1460%2d1800%5d%20%20Manotick%20Station%20Rd&1z=K1S%202S2&2s=ON&2c=Manotick&1l=xtS7Kl66HC0%3d&2ex=1&2g=DQIoYeXdXCU%3d&did=1059882533&1a=24%20Melgund%20Ave&un=k&2y=CA&1s=ON&1c=Ottawa&2l=dJ1iMVXtDzg%3d&go=1&ct=NA&r=f">Manotick,
so that I could play three consecutive games of href="http://www.ocua.ca/aboutulti/what_is_ultimate.html">Ultimate
at a tournament called “Co-Ed Jamboree”. I am amazed at how little
that the game takes out of me these days, even after an hour’s ride. I
can play hard for hours, now. Being in shape is so, so sweet.

I’m apparently not working hard enough, though, because our team is
0-3 on the day. I’m going to have rabies on the field tomorrow, I can
just tell.

Tomorrow night, and if you’re a citizen of California I feel you should
take note, I am going to have an absolutely epic shower. This shower
will be a Saga of shower-taking, the Mother of All Showers, before
which all other showers will seem as merely a brief rinse. I intend to
carve a notch out of the North American fresh water supply that will
cause automated alarms across the arid desert states of the South to
clamor in desperate unison. My great-grandchildren will remember this
shower, and speak of it only in hushed and reverent tones. In centuries
to come the story of this shower, through the telling and retelling,
will become myth and then legend. I intend to stride boldly, without
fear or hesitation, into that uncharted territory on the far side of
prune-fingered, to peer through the steam with clear eyes and face
whatever destiny might hold.

I’ll let you know how
it turns out
.

Some entertainment for the rest of you, to tide you over
until get towelled off and put some damn clothes on; href="http://www.theforce.net/theater/shortfilms/batman_deadend/">Batman:
Dead End is pretty cluttered for a short film, but every piece of
that clutter is supercool.

Before I get into the geek stuff, and I assure you there will be
geek stuff
, I would like to get the following questions out of the
way. I don’t normally like to blog politics, because the world situation
is currently so appalling that I struggle to write anything brief or
competent about it, and if there’s anything that the world already has
enough of, it’s mediocre political punditry. I try, but what results is
either pages and pages of anger, confusion, bile and fear, or nothing.

But here, I hope briefly enough, are some things that I’ve wanted to
put pen to ether about recently.

  • Once they’ve href="http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/1059576855436_19/?hub=TopStories">caught
    Hussein, what are they going to do with him? Assuming they
    take him alive, they’re going to charge him with… failure to
    kowtow to the U.N.? That would set one hell of a precedent. Failure
    to put up a decent fight? Failing to live up to expectations? It’s href="http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/213/nation/US_debates_bid_to_kill_Hussein_and_avoid_trial+.shtml">hard
    to know either way, but if being shot
    in the head can now be referred to as being href="http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/07/25/1059084190346.html">brought
    to justice then I know where my money is.

  • If anyone can tell me why ref="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/08/01/MN110656.DTL">this
    managed to pass muster as a good idea, I’d love to hear
    about the process. You’d think that the Israelis, being,
    you know, largely jewish, would find laws like that href="http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/documents/gerblood.htm">uncomfortably
    familiar, but I guess not. Achtung, Palestinians!

  • href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A54345-2003Jul27.html">“If
    you want your family released, turn yourself
    in.” People are aware that taking hostages is
    a war crime, right? I’m going to make a mental note to href="http://www.highclearing.com/archivesuo/week_2003_07_27.html#004283">append
    those words to any further discussions of military policy in the
    region, just to put them into the proper perspective. “The Iraqis will href="http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0709-06.htm">welcome us as
    liberators; if you want your family released, turn yourself in.”

Every time I open a newspaper, I want to cry.

On to the geekery.

Ok, so as you might have guessed, it’s really all my
fault. I learned an awful lot more than I cared to about how href="http://www.xfree86.org">X organizes its fonts before I twigged
to the fact that they’re all stored in gzipped files, and that a failure
to open one might not be because X hates me, or because I spoke ill of
gdm while gdm was listening, or whatever.

[mhoye@Protagonist mhoye]$ df
Filesystem            1K-blocks      Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/hda2               3651144   3651144         0 100% /
/dev/hda1                 97570     10423     82109  12% /boot
none                      30708         0     30708   0% /dev/shm

There’s the culprit. Where did all my drivespace go? I don’t have
any mp3s or movies in here or anything. Where are have all my gigs
gone? I had at least a couple of gigs, I thought. Well, I didn’t have
that many, but I guess I’m going to have to get some more. I’m going
to try to get myself some X source code and see if I can make head or
tail of it. I stand by my assertion that the error message in question
was completely uninformative. Mike
Bruce
even suggested that if the X server was so deeply fond of
“fixed” then it should be compiled right in, and I agree completely
with that assessment.