DIARY 2004















Tue, Mar 30

<00:59> Spent the weekend in socio-technical moods, tweaking Tiikki's Linux machines once again on Sunday. Saturday night went by with Rigorist and a few cognacs and bourbons. Naturally we discussed the play Kerreejät, but also our usual stuff, and I lost the game of chess quite starkly.

Among other thing my future plans have been under grave ponderance lately, considering I probably have only three weeks left at Voionmaa. Several people are wooing me into furthering my career in education, but I feel it is not my greatest passion after all. Admittedly it has been great fun and it has put my talent into good use, but it is not the single best thing there is. I guess I could go on and on, arguing for and against a teaching job. The main con, however, is this: there are greater things in the world than mankind. I say this not only as a scientist, but also as an introverted person. Been said before, the intensely social situations at work are a huge energy drain to me. No matter how important and interesting the main cause, the everyday working experience must be enjoyable as well. And it works both ways: for example, I cannot imagine working for the military, despite the potential k3w1itude of the actual work.

<17:36> Seems like I'm getting a full ten-hour shift today, with only four 'hours' of teaching. I've solved a lot of the problems with the Windows-only language software by installing it on a Samba share on our real-OS server.

Even so, that software has caused a number of problems here before. And it's one of the few reasons why the school needs student workstations with Windows at all; we have a nice policy of open formats, and new machines have stuff like Firefox and Open/Staroffice. The problems of course accumulate because of this braindead software that needs the putrid-dingos-kidney non-operating system. Today I've witnessed miracles as the system has worked for a change. And it's quite comforting to have backups on a Linux server. I hate the sick way I love this job.

Fri, Mar 26

<21:53> Kerreejät premiered last night and we were there naturally via the kind arrangement of Rigorist, who played several parts in this surreal absurdity. Tremendous fun with a little mindfuck thrown in. In fact my thoughts that night were seriously derailed. Gsus4Fnord.

<21:57> Even so I had a surprisingly good night's sleep before waking up at 6:28 for the day's work. I had to redo the manual Gentoo backup, as it turned out the server had been rebooted on Tuesday :( Now it' s chugging along once more, and to make use of the CPU time I left setiathome and dnetc running on that P4 ;)

In the afternoon I went to a meeting of the city's high-school CS teachers. We're drafting a plan for a basic mandatory IT course for the 7th graders. It was not that boring, I sensed a nice feeling of power and responsibility, and we finished off in an hour. We're having another one in a week, but it's not bad as we get paid for the meetings by the usual rate.

<22:59> I feel overwhelmed by style. After very recently experiencing Blueberry and Kerreejät, I've finished reading Preludes & Nocturnes: the first volume of Neil Gaiman's Sandman. I'm not too impressed by the coherence of the storyline, but there are certainly inquiring ideas floating around, and the visuals are almost frighteningly k3w1. I've been told the script is going to get better by the second volume, hence I shall not stop here.

This has been an interesting read from the point of view that I was never that much into comics, and it's been years since I've read any serious examples of the medium. I still feel too focused on the script and lines. It's going to be a new kind of delta and I look forward to getting deeper.

Wed, Mar 24

<22:04> Om mani padme hum! Beauty + style = Blueberry :-)

<22:06> For another nicety, my hack on the backup script worked just they way I wanted. That one machine I had to back up manually with the Gentoo LiveCD turned out a little more problematic than expected, but it was not impossible. It seems that Linux crashed on the Serial ATA controllers, so I had to tweak the BIOS a little to get around them. Fortunately it was only the first PATA drive that had to be imaged. I'm starting to feel considerably less pressurized by the admin work, though I know there are new challenges awaiting me soon.

Tue, Mar 23

<00:13> I have no stamina left and I must node. As I started the client on Willow this morning, it got a PID of 13373. It was so 0x539 that I still have that process, though it's stopped for now. Such cool things you can do with unix, getting a process out of the way without killing. But before that I had already read the day's blog entry of Naula where he'd discovered color output of grep. It was new to me, and nice enough to use in an exercise in my OS class later in the day.

On Sunday I filed my first direct kernel-hacker bugreport to two ide-cdrom developers. Problems had started on Friday when I was toasting a DVD+R full of DivXs, and it failed to mount. Rigorist was here during the latter half; I had hoped our Linux curse had been broken by his successful Gentoo install ;-)

Having woken up in the nice post-pardey feelings I tried to mount some of my older DVDs. They failed in the exact same way. I hoped it would be a mere kernel bug, instead of hardware failure. It turned out 2.6.1 was the latest kernel that could mount it; I couldn't find any obvious fault in patch-2.6.2 (not that I looked hard enough) so off the mail went. Unfortunately, MPlayer and Xine didn't work properly under that kernel, but at least I can copy files the hard way. Interestingly enough, the burnination had gone fine under the new kernel (currently 2.6.5-rc2).

Now on to the networking glitches at school. I narrowed the problem down to a lack of HOSTNAME that should be sent by the DHCP server. I could circumvent the problem by adding explicit host-name (sic) options to dhcpd.conf, but I didn't feel good about doing it separately for each machine. Of course it was possible to script through it; I used Python of course. I did try sed as well, but I found Python's regular expression syntax much more deterministic and convenient. Not surprising considering my general feelings about Monty's Flying Programming Language :-)

For another backup-system problem I burned the minimal Gentoo LiveCD, which being something in between Knoppix and tomsrtbt should be great for my purposes. In fact at 90 MB or so, it might fit on one of those business card CDs. I would have probably made the whole install CD, but the first CDRW I found at school was 650 MB :-)

Now the interesting part is that both of these breakthroughs are still untested. I naturally didn't feel like going back to school at 7-8 pm when I was finished. But I'm pretty confident they will work, because I've finally gotten into the heart of the problem set, instead of blindly trying different things. I'm somewhat pissed off at the lack of documentation regarding our backup system; in fact the regular IT guy seems strangely ignorant about its details, though I understand his level of focus during his current sick leave.

If you've read this far: I'm looking for suggestions on improving this diary and/or my entire site. I feel like playing a little with CSS and possibly PHP, though I probably won't give up the superior thing that is frames.

Sun, Mar 21

<00:19> Kink has been in the air for the past few days. I obviously cannot give out every little detail, but I'll start with Wednesday night when we watched a strange piece of anime. It had a lot less porn than expected, however the themes were quite sexual in a very comical way. The main character was a frustrated teenage boy, who at one point was granted the use of a penis-enhancing alien creature. It was massive fun to watch late in the night, in a somewhat exhausted state.

In fact the queerie mood had started earlier in the Chinese restaurant at Kauppahalli. They were playing background music with obvious Chinese melodies and harmonies, but the sounds brought to mind retro-electronica artists such as Tero and Aavikko. It was a little off-putting, but in some way it was bad enough to be good.

On thursday night we went to see The Visitor, as there was a viewing advertised by the local SciFi society 42. I still can't make a head or tail of the movie, and it was bad in many ways, but again the quality went past the point of negative infinity into Camp B. Meaning it had plenty of unintentional comedy, for example the gory effects with the assaulting birds.

Friday night was the long expected 10th anniversary club of dA JoRMaS. Ilokivi seemed a little deserted for a party of such magnitude, but the tragic events of that day may have had some effect. On the other hand, it was nice to have more dancing room. I've put a few pictures online.

I made a number of new acquaintances there, but most importantly I met Naula. I didn't have much to speak with him, and I admit feeling slightly awestruck by his fame. I mentioned Sektori as one of the places we've kind of met before, and he said he vaguely remembers me :) Of course I was later mentioned briefly in his blog.

Wed, Mar 17

<00:22> Spent the afternoon at Tiikki's place doing some tweaks. He had asked me ages ago to upgrade his firewall distro, and we finally found a common time slot. I had decided on Gentoo, of course, despite the machine's low endianness at 75 MHz; the install CD would have plenty of binary packages.

Unfortunately, we ran into hardware problems starting from the motherboard's inability to boot a CD, going through some floppy drive flakiness into kernel panics. In addition the machine sounded like it was suffering mechanically. We gave up and Tiikki decided to get some new components, though the current firewall is still working. In addition I did a little tweaking on his other machines.

Then we watched a DVD of Dobermann. I had heard of this movie a lot from Tiikki and Taino (the other guy I met at CERN), and my main impression had been a violent one. I was very positively taken by this viewing. The camera work and cutting were extremely stylish, and the French language pushed it further down the Kelvin scale. In fact, the violence turned out not so overwhelming but quite carefully placed, though many scenes were very rough, even somewhat kinky, justifying the age limit of 18 years. My immediate comparison was Fifth Element with its uninhibited kewlitude, which IMHO remains superior if only for the less violent themes.

Mon, Mar 15

<00:51> Having read through the year 2001 of naula's blog is probably a good excuse to write about a few silly hacks. First of all, I wrote a bash version of my SETI@home performance monitor (originally in Python). I had thought of this before, but it wasn't possible in pure bash because it can't handle floating point maths. However, one of naula's scripts suggested the use of bc which is pretty universal in unix installations. This was nice because the original script seemed too simplistic to require Python, and it's also faster (not that you can see the difference :).

The other of today's bash scripts was hacked up quickly as I wanted to burn some of my photos on a CD. I had more than a GB of them, arranged in directories according to date. The script picked a maximum of 700 MB of directories, starting from the earliest. I then burned them using a mkisofs | cdrecord pipe for the first time, and it seemed to work very nicely. No need to make ISO images any more.

Rigorist had sent me a DivX of Ringu that was just over a CDful at 704 MB, and he asked me to truncate and burn it for him. MPlayer's mencoder did the trick using -oac copy -ovc copy -endpos 1:32:11. It left out just the ending credits without doing any encoding or decoding, so it took something like a minute to process it all. Besides the speed issue, it would be bad for quality to decode+encode something in a lossy way.

Final note: I do have a DVD±RW toaster and blanks, but not all machines can read them. That includes my laptop Willow.

Sun, Mar 14

<00:29> It's been one hack of a night with Rigorist here. We solved the problems with his laptop and PCMCIA by a practical way of swapping our network cards. For some reason his DFE-680TX made his Satellite 1700-400 panic, but it works fine on my Sat 2060CDS. Interestingly, I had my share of problems with that card too, but it turned out to be the cable that had the twisted pairs the wrong way (I didn't make it!). It used to work fine with my 10base-T though.

We also did some hardware hacking on Rigorist's Hyystmachine as the screen hinges were seemingly breaking apart, and witnessed some bad design and metal fatigue. The hinges obviously needed some lubrication, and all I had was some tea tree oil, but I swear it did help a little, along with the tightening of some screws.

There was also time for a little discussion on human relationships and related pseudo-angst. For the neatest hack of the night, I modified the network scripts on Hyystmachine to fake the MAC address to suit the dorm network. I know it's rather simple and well documented, but nevertheless it was surprisingly nice to see it work the first time :)

<01:18> It seems me and Rigorist's hack is getting out of control, but first I'd like to mention something more about the cable problem. With the bad cable, the link/activity LED was flashing constantly, but now it's only flashing with data transfers. With the twisted pairs messed up, big inductive loops were formed, so I guess there was crosstalk between the send and receive pairs. The cable was mirroring packets back to the sender, or something equally gross.

Currently I'm emerging a bunch of packages on Hyystmachine, via ssh and screen, so obviously we are both online. It feels pretty cool. The only problem is that Rigorist isn't seeing what I do so he won't learn it all. Well, of course he could use screen's duplicate viewing capabilities if he were awake :)

<20:48> Rigorist got X, Fluxbox, Firebird and related stuff running today, and I'm getting less and less involved to let him tweak and learn his Gentoo for himself. So things are nice for Hyystmachine, though there is some tweaking left to do.

On the other hand, my W98SE hacks at school are not going so smoothly. I'll see about it tomorrow again, today I've made some Windows Updates and let the backups roll. I found out something related to our Linux-based backup glitches, fdisk showed the partition as an LBA type and I changed it, and things seemed to work fine. I can't help wondering why the filesystem needs to know about the HD access mode, and it's impossible to debug under Windoze which completely confuses the ideas of hard drives, filesystems and partitions with its fscking (pun intended) "C drive" terminology.

Moreover, I'm constantly amazed at W98's need to reboot after every little configuration change. Despite the proper software that it's now running, the underlying non-operating system keeps showing its weaknesses. :( xP

Sat, Mar 13

<00:50> Been a long long day of work with six hours of lessons and five of admin stuff. I had two extra maths lessons in exchange for future compensation, which I'll probably use as a holiday on one of my two-lesson days.

One of my major frustrations at the school has been the install base of Windows 98 machines, with their number of apparently unfixable problems. Mainly that their lost the ability to connect to network resources (SMB stuff) and the DLL inferno, which affected some language teaching programs; the latter are probably the only valid reason for keeping Windows machines around for students.

I had felt truly helpless about it, and I realized the only thing I can do is a fresh OS install. Even using the same w98. While doing that I decided to do some security and opensource changes:

Naturally I asked the regular IT guy if these were OK, and he positively approved. I think some teachers might be annoyed about the loss of Word, but it's kind of a general school policy that we move on to OOo. This naturally paves the way for further use of Linux, and enables better communication with our existing Linux workstations.

The change is not quite complete. I ran into a problem with our Linux-based backup system, as it could not mount the filesystem. In fact I had an unfinished defrag, which might have been the reason, and I'm currently waiting for it to finish. Meaning I have to go back sometime during the weekend. Extra work is of course evil, but I think it'll mean less hassle for me in the future.

Sun, Mar 7

<15:50> Got some "fan mail" from a guy in Norway concerning my writings on the Ortoperspekta sound system. I replied to him with details on signal mixings and wirings. I may have to write it up properly some day, as there aren't too many resources on the system online.

Yesterday afternoon I finally tried the passive-cooling mod on Hoo, and it's still running fine.

Tue, Mar 2

<01:15> Feel like I'm too busy to think, or to do anything productive, from all this socializing. I keep getting these comments that I'm too socially active to be a true geek, but at least these are geek friends and geeky activities. :-)

Monday started pretty painfully with a teachers' meeting at 8 am, though my lessons would only start at noon. I only got a couple of hours of sleep, and my phone alarm interrupted a nice disturbing psychedelic dream. We voted on the issue of wearing hats indoors, which has caused some stir recently, and the majority decided they should be taken off in the hall and in classrooms. I was alive enough to ask where the line should be drawn, considering one of our teachers regularly wears a scarf completely covering her hair. The principal replied, at least woolly hats and baseball caps should be banned, and I shall keep this in mind to give the students all the freedom they can get that does not clash with my goals in the subject taught.

I was feeling particularly angsty after the holiday, as I had not planned the courses very much. One is on operating systems (basically Linux) and the other is on Internet publishing (mainly website creation). In fact I don't want to plan these too much as they are fairly open-ended courses and I know my shit well enough to improvise. So today we started the Linux course with some basic command line stuff, which seemed to work quite well.

For the next musing I'll have to get back to Sunday night. I broke a plate while washing dishes, which was unfortunate as it was nice, shiny black, a fairly recent acquisition, and excessively brittle in my experiences. I was shallowly wounded as I was wrapping the pieces for litter, not much bleeding but a particularly nasty place between my thumb and my index finger, left hand. A concentration of variable strain in both direction and magnitude, annoying as hell for its minor mechanical dimension.

Later I performed Neti in my usual manner where I use the left palm for measuring the salt and closing the jug for stirring. I took care not to expose the wound to the nasty crystals, but I couldn't help thinking of the phrase of rubbing salt into wounds. It was because of some recent events which had the potential of wounding a friendship, but fortunately this did not happen as far as I can tell.

Monday's geeky socializations involved getting some Amazon orders and a power supply from Tiikki, using a pizza to pay for the latter. Later in the evening Rigorist dropped by, even though I had warned him of my early working morning on IRC. He had not read his logs, and we didn't take the time to finalize the Linuxification his laptop, but we had fun chatting and watching some hentai anime. ;-)

Risto A. Paju