DIARY 2004















Fri, Apr 30

<21:35> Spam count going massively down after installing Razor alongside Pyzor. On the other hand, it seems the overall spam traffic has gone slightly down in the past days. I'm too lazy to keep long term statistics, though. It's the overall experience of not seeing too much noetkoett in my inbox.

Which brings to mind, I've finally, after almost six years of usage, seeing the limits of Pine and considering Mutt: when a spam gets through, I pipe it into my spamreport account, but you cannot save these pipes. The most recent pipe does keep during the Pine session, which is not bad since I like keeping it in a Screen, but it's not the best possible thing for a Unix program to do.

Seeing Kill Bill: Volume 2 on Wednesday was a positive surprise, as I had some issues with the first half. This one was much less of a gore-fest. It was a curiously seamless marriage of tasteless camp and psychological conflict. Both a fluent continuation and a contrasting complement to the first part. The final scenes brought to mind the beginning song "Bang bang" of the first part with a haunting sense of pieces locking together.

Now today. It's supposed to be Wappu or something, and I'm not particularly in the mood. Firstly, there are better reasons to celebrate than an arbitrary date on the calendar. Secondly, this is traditionally a day of colourful and fancy dressing, which makes me feel a little strange as I do it every now and then (not quite every day IMHO, but some might disagree). It makes it more obvious that people are bored with their looks, and they need excuses to dress up; I don't think 'need' this side of Wappu myself.

Anyhow, I don't much oppose playing with colours in general, so I gladly accepted an offer from one of my students to dye the delta in my hair bright yellow. There's still some of it left in the scalp after a vigorous shower.

Tue, Apr 27

<01:48> I feel like elaborating on some of the themes in Big Fish. One of the more obvious of these is the choice between factual and romanticized versions of truth. I maintain my preference for fact, and while you can argue that some people in some situations cannot handle the truth, it is IMHO better to give no information than a distortion thereof.

On the other hand, the hyperbolic stories of Edward Bloom must have been in part metaphorical, which brings us to a more subtle theme. When in grave danger, he reminded himself of the vision of his own death, thus assuring himself of survival from everything else. For example in the haunted woods near Spectre there was a great scene where the trees became alive to capture the hero, only to recover into their usual state when he regained faith in himself.

This very much resembles a meditational approach to life's problems, in fact it gets me back to when I discovered transcendental meditation at the age of 15. Mr. Bloom's refusal to die was by no means an act of suppressive thought, quite the contrary; by focusing on death he could defeat it. In a somewhat analogous way, I have sometimes done away with headaches and other discomforts by increasing the awareness of them. I believe this is not unusual among people who practice yoga or other forms of meditation.

It is a fortunate coincidence that I got to watch the film now, as I have felt an elevated irritability in the past days or even weeks. It is probably related to changes in my expected job duration; I was looking forward to quit already. In addition I feel bad about teaching C as a first programming language, a stupid idea in itself that is made worse by my inexperience in that language.

Mon, Apr 26

<22:21> Last night I planned to watch Kill Bill: Volume 1 by myself when Rigorist dropped by. The film exudes cool, but leaves little food for thought. Which is not exceptional in a Tarantino movie. New to his style were the extensive use of martial arts in the spirit of The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, along with hints of 1960s agent stories. The stylistic whole worked well together. But I have the feeling that all of it has already been done before, and there is little dramatic tension or open questions.

Today we turned to Big Fish which was quite expectedly a different experience, with some more profundities to ponder upon. The dramatic flow was very smooth, which occasionally meant too few surprises and hyperboles for a Tim Burton movie. This impression crystallized at the ending which was somehow lame IMHO. But overall it's one of the better movies I've seen recently, with a good level of provoking thought.

Sat, Apr 24

<15:28> Last night my playing around with NFS got a litte rough. I'd thought I could upgrade gcc and glibc from the binaries built on Hoo, since they don't use CPU-specific compiler optimizations and don't have many additional dependencies. So I used Gentoo's quickpkg to make binary packages of gcc on both machines (for the obvious backup plan).

Of course it didn't work. It turned out that gcc does have i686 vs. i386 optimizations, and Willow being a K6-III+ is an i586 when it comes to gcc. Good thing the backups were there....

Now emerge didn't work and I couldn't install the old package. Emerge uses Python which depends on C++ runtime libraries of gcc. Shit.

But Hoo worked as usual. So I mounted Willow's root partition via NFS on Hoo, and did ROOT=/mnt/tmp emerge -K "=gcc-3.3.2-r5". It worked easily because Hoo and Willow share the portage tree via NFS, which also contains the binary packages.

Emerge had to be aborted after the install, because it was about to uninstall Hoo's gcc-3.3.3, which is something to remember if you ever do this. I also installed the same gcc on Willow to fix the package database.

At this point and old friend appeared on IRC. His nick Aridif didn't seem familiar, but he turned out to be a military mate of mine, now a student of space science. We had a long chat of course, including common experiences like Star Wreck and 'Jurassic Trek'.

On Thursday there was a nice cultural exposure at the school, provided by Wattana Girls' Chorus of Thailand. They were on tour for a Moscow choir festival, which explained the unusual choice of Kalinka as one of the songs. They started out with very Western/Christian pieces like a section of Bach's Mass in B Minor, which sounded very familiar to me as I've sang through the entire mass with Magsoc chorus+orchestra back @Cam. Fortunately they soon turned to more Oriental styles, with a few pieces done in solo and accompanied with a 'Thai Instrument' (this is the word used in the English pamphlet).

<17:10> Thi gcc episode should mean that I can share the binaries between Prkl and Hoo which are both i686-class machines. The same should go for glibc and many other packages. I'd like to stress that compiling these packages does not use compiler optimizization options, but the source has forks for i386 and i686. Gcc's compiler options are much more fine-grained, for example k6-3 for Willow and pentium3 for Prkl and Hoo. (There isn't yet a c3-2 option for the Nehemiah in the stable release of gcc.)

Fri, Apr 23

<17:45> Willow's Gentoo transition has gone pretty smoothly. /usr/portage is being NFS'd from Hoo to avoid extra copying over the DSL. I've got all the basic stuff like Apache2, Exim/Pyzor, LaTeX and X running fine. I installed a few packages like X from binaries on the packages ISO and saved some precious compile time. Of course Distcc has been extensively used too. Life is pretty kewl with a trinity of Gentoos humming along in an emergent fashion :)

Wed, Apr 21

<19:32> Retrying the Willow Gentoo install; I've already wiped the root partition, of course after doing a backup tarball so I can easily go back to Mandrake. The modules glitch was solved by doing a depmod -a which was a little tricky as the modules.dep file was on the install CD, thus read-only. So I just moved the /lib partition onto a ramdisk, and it worked as expected. Right now I'm doing the install from Hoo via SSH so I can read the docs on the same screen :)

<20:03> Earlier today I spread a little opensource gospel by helping my colleague Varja install No glithces there. A harder bit was converting her old Word Perfect files. I found libwpd whose Windows standalone binary did the trick, though it stripped off scandinavian characters in some documents.

Tue, Apr 20

<19:58> The weekend was Jyrock time. Initially, my main interest was Hidria Spacefolk who played on Friday. It turned out a mild disappointment; the music that somewhat echoes Kingston Wall and Shpongle works better with focused listening, not so well in a rock festival gig. Nevertheless, it was a bliss to experience them live for the first time.

The evening had started with even more ambient soundscapes provided by Hotguitars. It was so intriguing I ended up buying their mini-CD that came with recordings of their on-site rehearsals. The gig was visually quite interesting though minimal; on their desk there was an Apple laptop and a messy pile of cables and gadgets. On occasion, the electronics guy would accompaly the lead guitarist with a rhythm guitar.

With Hotguitars, the way the music was performed was possibly more interesting than the music itself. The lead guitarist made heavy use of acoustic feedback and a dishwashing brush, and occasionally played by the neck only.

<20:22> Later that night I focused on two bands, first of these being Datarock from Norway. That was another disappointment, though I didn't know much about them beforehand. While the gig had interesting elements, it seemed that every time they sounded good they were not very original. There was a feeling of MTV-like mainstream atmosphere every now and then, and a sense of trying too much.

Last but most certainly not least there was Kuusumun profeetta. The band has a peculiarly voiced lead singer, profound philosphical lyrics, and music of quite professional quality. The live gig was amazingly captivating, with the beautiful androgynous character playing a silver saxophone in the middle. Overall the visual impression was not particularly flashy, but the band members seemed very stylish in looks and manners. The heavy-metal encore of Muistokirjoitus ended the set beautifully, leaving a sense of magic in all of us.

<21:35> On Saturday there weren't so many bands of special interest, and we delayed entry until around midnight. As we got to Ilokivi, Uusi fantasia was getting started upstairs. They played something like country-flavoured parodies of 90s techno, tongue firmly set in cheek. At first it wasn't particularly interesting, but after a few songs it was getting nice and groovy. The hardware comprised of keyboards, electroacoustic guitar, elecrtic violin, a trombone, and various electronic gadgets. The brass section gave particular depth to the sound. The violin unfortunately was mixed too quiet.

I had thought of going there earlier to see Zarkus Poussa play at 10 pm, but our schedules got skewed as usual. For this reason it was a nice surprise that Zarkus joined Uusi fantasia for a drum solo near the end of their gig. My interest in his music stems from his contribution to the Rinneradio record Nao; strangely enough, Veikka Erkola of Uusi fantasia was also involved with that record. I wonder if the band has deeper connections with RR, considering the members were dressed/masked beyond any obvious recognition.

The last gig was from the Jyrock veteran 22-Pistepirkko, whom I've already had a pleasure to hear back in Cambridge in 1999. I didn't get much from that gig, partly due to general fatigue and the overly crowded room. But overall this was an enjoyable weekend, if only mainly because of Kuusumu.

<21:51> Today I attempted to install Gentoo on Willow. I'd backed up the root partition to Hoo over NFS. Unfortunately, the LiveCD has screwed up module dependencies, and I could not get PCMCIA (for the network) running. Then after rebooting I thought of Devfs, whether it would work with my recently upgraded kernel; for some reason I haven't used Devfs on Willow yet, though it's worked without flaw on the other machines.

It worked alright, the only problem being with the msr module which is needed by the k6mult program to control the CPU multiplier. Turns out devfs for msr is not there in the vanilla Linux kernel, but there was a patch to enable this. I compiled the module, getting it to work with no reboots :)

<22:08> And for the obligatory fiction experience.. today's whatsup entries are already too scattered but what the heck, it should be obvious by now why I didn't write things up during the weekend... last night I finished reading Sandman 2: The Doll's House which I enjoyed quite a bit more than the first part. The story accumulates quite nicely to explain past events, so obviously it gets better. I particularly liked the history episode, even though it was less connected with the main storyline, or perhaps for the very reason. Now I actually feel like reading something else for a while, given the boost in my passion for fiction from the Sandman experience.

Thu, Apr 15

<15:57> I've finally updated Willow to a recent Linux kernel, namely 2.4.26. The previous version was 2.4.21 from last summer or thereabouts. I kept having problems with a PCMCIA NIC driver module, which currently is tulip_cb. Now I noticed that "modprobe tulip_cb" complained about unresolved symbols called crc32 and bitreverse. I recalled that recent kernel configs have an option for CRC32 library routines; it must have been built-in by default in older kernels. So, I merely compiled the CRC32 module and got the thing running with no extra reboots.

Tue, Apr 13

<00:18> Succumbing to the hype we went to see The Splatter of the Christ or whatever the movie was called. My expectations were not particularly high, I certainly wouldn't have watched the movie by myself, but it was even worse by some means. I believe the story of Jesus has been told a number of times before in film, and this one offered nothing new except the supposedly realistic gore factor.

I got the impression from several reviews that the graphic violence somehow gains a deeper meaning in this story, compared to that found in so many average action films. As if viewers would get a sense of the suffering of Christ, and its meaning to Christian faith. Not surprisinly, this only works if you're a devout Christian to begin with. Because the violent acts were overly repeating, I quickly became indifferent to it, like what happens when watching B-class splatter like Bad Taste. There was nothing more noble about this film, except probably the underlying story, for which there are much better ways of learning.

On a bright side, I was intrigued by many aspects, for instance the balanced portrayal of different sides; the Roman government, the Jewish folk, the high priests, and the followers of Jesus. Aramaic and Latin were used appropriately throughout the movie. That kind of attention to detail is respectable, though it should not be an exception these days. But in summary, I think the two hours with the hogs would have been better spent with a board game or a similar activity.

<21:57> Sometimes a downgrade is good. After a long break I'm using the Gtk+ 1.2 version of Mozilla Firefox even though the 2.0 version has been available for ages. In fact, I never quite preferred the 2.0 version but 1.2. nightly builds have been broken until now.

The problem may have been with my Gtk2/XFont theme and/or setup, but in any case the supposedly new and slick interface looks worse. Some fonts do look better with subpixel antialiasing, but many widgets are too rounded and even XP-ish, taking up too much screen real estate which is rather scarce on Willow. Also, the 1.2 version is somewhat faster which also makes a difference on this machine.

The sixth period started today, with my programming students doing the Hello World in C. Having said it to everyone already, I feel like repeating that C sucks for a beginner language, especially for high-school kids. The language wasn't up to me of course (pun intended).

<22:50> Today I've also played with NFS with the ongoing intent of sharing Hoo's Portage tree with my other machines. This would greatly help me migrate Willow into Gentoo as well. I had some weird but repeatable lock-ups with Prkl, but they seemed to go away when I set rsize and wsize to smaller values; the default seems to be 32768, and I've now set it down to 4096. Since Willow works fine with the defaults, my hunch is that Prkl's poor old ISA NIC has something to do with it. (I mainly node this for my own reference :)

Mon, Apr 12

<15:15> The hogs were still in town, and I joined some of them for two games of Dungeon Quest last night. That was massive fun. The game strikes a good balance between complexity and flowing playability, as well as between randomness and tactical choices. Unfortunately we also watched the crucial episode of Miljonääri-Jussi. It was a fun experience in a way, but it also served to strengthen my dislike for television.

Sun, Apr 11

<01:19> Finally met up with several Smial Everholt members that I've come to know on IRC. Saturday's pardey was great fun with board games and a little boozing up with them hogs. Took a few pictures naturally.

Installed Wine on Hoo to get Iris running. It was weird to watch the program install itself and run without any obvious problems. I'll definitely try other Windows-only stuff later, such as my digital camera software.

Thu, Apr 8

<20:41> The period is finished, and there's one more six-weeker to go before summer holiday. We finished both of the CS courses by watching remotely related videos. The Unix course had only one lesson available, as I'd prepared a brief exam, and Star Wreck 5 was a perfect fit with its 45 minutes. I think the studentes received it quite well, judging by the laughs. This naturally pleases me both as the teacher and someone with SW connections.

With the Internet course we had a full double lesson, and that means a full length film. Of several choices the students voted for Hackers, which has plenty of relevance to the course contents. People seemed to take it quite well likewise, though it's harder to judge as it's not that much of a comedy. I was also glad to watch it again, and while the movie has its flaws, it actually makes some good points about hacking:

Tue, Apr 6

<14:55> Pyzor's cutting along quite nicely. So far it lets about 1/3 of spam, eggs, sausage and spam through -- it's got not much spam in it. And there are no false positives so far. IMHO, the point of spam filters is pretty moot if you have to check the junk occasionally for false positives, but I feel like doing it now to be assured. I'll probably need to spread the spamtrap address around more, with aliases as well.

Mon, Apr 5

<23:56> A nice day with admin work for a change. One of the WLANICs I mentioned on Saturday went into its destined Windows machine today. I had anticipated the possibility of a complete W98SE reinstall, but fortunately the machine was a HP Brio whose backup had already been polished by me previously. So I merely installed Freezip, and the WLAN driver. In fact I didn't configure the WLAN, as I'll check it later with Otto who's done it before. I had a nice feeling of general balance and accomplishment. After all it was a springy day and I'd had a great weekend :)

I've been inspired by Naula's online diary to check out mail transfer/processing software with a particular eye on spam filtering. I've felt uneasy about these before, because of the risk of false positives with many heuristic applications. However, I've chosen to try Pyzor for now, which I believe will be quite safe while letting some junk through.

I first installed Pyzor on Voimax, thinking it would be nice to share its benefits with other users at the school. However, it seemed that the city's network admins have blocked the required ports, and in any case it makes more sense to try this out on my own machines. I considered installing Fetchmail. However, Willow has always had the Exim MTA for outgoing mail, thus I simply activated it to receive mail as well. IMHO this scenario is better for the net as it reduces overall traffic, and it gives a nice feeling of power and independence to run one's own mail server.

On a side note, Gentoo has introduced me into sSMTP which is a simple outgoing-only mailer. Something that would have sufficed on Willow until now, with a hugely simpler configuration. But I may install a proper MTA on Hoo as well, to run as a backup mail server in case I continue this scheme. It might depend on how anal my ISP is about running servers, but at least I'm forced to use their SMTP relay for outgoing mail, which IMHO is a good policy.

To get started, this Pyzor HOWTO turned out quite useful. Pyzor depends on spam-only mail accounts to learn the smell of canned meat, so I'd like anti-vegan adverts to be sent to ; }

Sun, Apr 4

<20:12> This recipe begs for immediate note-taking. I tried one of these pre-assembled Indian sauces after a long break, with mixed anticipations. This one is Patak's Jalfrezi Mild. Since I'm used to Jalfrezi being the second hottest thing after Vindaloo, I added a teaspoonful of minced chili.

I used about 300g of mixed vegetables with the sauce. With the rice I cooked red lentils (about half the dry volume of rice), as it usually turns out better than lentils in the sauce. The end result is pretty delicious, and despite the extra chili, it's not noticeably hot, just a tad spicy :)

<20:25> This thing is freaking good! I may end up snarfing the two-day dose to-day. Next time I might add a little more vegetables to increase the overall volume.

Now for Thursday, which I've left unblogged. In the afternoon I had a chat with a Hare Krishna guy. I made it clear quite early that I'm really into Buddhism and I'm not planning on converting. In fact I didn't get much from the actual conversation, but I liked something about the man, he reminded me of my Buddhist mentor in Cambridge, Dharmasiddhi. It left a nice warm feeling in me. I refused to buy any of the books as I'd read a couple of Krishna books before, and disagreed heavily. But in exchange for a little donation he gave me a bag of dried fruits, which felt strangely nice, as I had just considered buying those to fulfill my craving for regular candies.

In the evening The RDKH got together after a long break, which had been something like a month. We obviously didn't get into perfect shape immediately, but we discovered new ways of having fun with music. Most notably, we improvised hip-hop and 'humppa' versions of our usual pieces.

<20:38> Watched Ringu with my gf last night. It was not the first time for me, and I was surprised how well I recalled everything, but it was still scary enough.

Sat, Apr 3

<02:15> Tuesday's duties did stretch up into eleven and a half hours. It was not that fun in the end. For the rest of that evening I was profoundly pissed off, and I felt like punching someone in the face, but I also went through a disturbing euphoria.

On Friday I finally started to see the benefits of the now working Samba-shared language software for the students. I felt like I had done something important after all, despite the Windows crud. There was a minor problem with heavy network usage at some points, and you could see the marginal benefits of local installs, but overall it was running fine.

Today I've also had a Linux go with the wireless NICs, namely D-Link DWL-G520+, that we're going to install next week at school. Turned out there is no Linux driver. It constantly amazes me how little hardware companies are bothering with Linux drivers, despite the likely positive effect on their sales. Of course, for my own hardware purchases, it's fairly easy to check the Linux status beforehand, and boycott appropriately. Right now there's an article mentioned on Slashdot which probably sheds some light on the matter.

Risto A. Paju