Blog: 2001-12

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Posted some accumulated changes to debian-tcsh.csh.

While waiting in a very long and very slow line at the main post office in Cambridge to buy stamps, since both stamp machines were out of order, waiters-in-line got peeks at the odd city hall building as the line advanced past the series of narrow windows. (Yes, I know the photo is a little washed out, and if I were more dedicated, I would've thrown myself to the floor of the post office so that I could angle up more.)

Tried Mozilla 0.9.7, and am liking it more. It uses ungodly amounts of memory, and won't run acceptably on my laptop, but it handles sites that want CSS and such much better than Netscape Navigator 4.x does. I'll stick with Netscape for now, anyway.

A random comment on manageable software projects: human capacity for dealing with complexity does not grow at the same rate that CPU and RAM capacity does.

I found a new wintertime beverage: small glass of V8 vegetable juice, nuked til it's warm. Please be advised that www.v8juice.com is the site for V8; www.v8.com appears to be a pornographic site that involves vegetables only peripherally.

The last day of 2001 was slow. Ending the year on a whimper.

After a long hiatus from Guile hacking, I grabbed the latest Guile CVS tree, with the intention of polishing up and releasing a bunch of the Guile modules I wrote in April or so, since I don't know if/when I'll get back to them.

Update of Sample Junkbuster Blockfile for the Donnie something in some dotcom.

I've heard enough wisecracks about yesterday's photo of the Olympic torch runner (e.g., "Neil, you need a camera with a fast shutter," and "I can see dead people!"). In my defense, I had no idea there was going to be runners at all, til the two-second opportunity window they were within the viewfield window of my front window.

Advice from the animal kingdom, courtesy of SatireWire: "THE PANDA BEAR: You must ask yourself, 'Do I live in a safely enclosed area where I am well fed and admired and cheered when I have sex?' If this is not your arrangement, then you are doing something wrong. But you must always beware the zookeeper with the cold fingers."

This afternoon, I was photographing birds on the iced-over river water outside the CambridgeSide Galleria when a small motorboat made some waves. Then, lasting for at least a minute, there was the sound of dolphin music and cracking, as the stresses on the ice caused it to break up.

I had no idea there was a Winter Olympics happening, til I saw this ghostly runner pass by my front window tonight.

A light snowfall started this morning as I was walking to the laundromat, continued through the 20 minutes I was standing out front waiting for the laundromat to open, and stopped just as I returned home. Odd start to the day.

Tried out USB for the first time this morning. Most of the time was spent trying to figure out why gPhoto 2.0 was yielding only the cryptic error message of Unknown port. Tigert helped me out and it quickly became clear that I'd been typing --port usb when I should've been typing --port usb:. After getting gPhoto to work, I ended up going back to S10sh anyway, since it preserves the timestamps of when the photos were taken. Of course, now I'm using S10sh over USB instead of RS232, so downloads are 50-100 times faster, making for an entirely different user experience.

I'll have to figure out how best to give permissions to the digicam when it's plugged into USB. Maybe hack usb_perms to give ownership to whomever is logged in on the console. I could also make it automatically download all photos on the camera into my home directory if I'm on the console when the camera is plugged in. Plug in camera, wait a few seconds for beep, unplug.

I looked at Tofurky in the store, but it was pricy, and the photo on the front of people wrestling over a vegan-safe wishbone crossed the line of cute. But I can say that the gravy isn't bad over rice.

After a roughly 9-hour process, my main server/workstation has been upgraded from Red Hat to Debian GNU/Linux, making me a 100% Debian shop. I'd been meaning to move that box to Debian for months, and now was a good time since I wasn't in the middle of a project and wasn't expecting urgent email.

Added a couple more rules to debian-tcsh.csh.

The box that acts as my email server will be down for at least a few hours, starting at about 22:00 EST today. Phone if you need to reach me.

This evening, I wanted to take a look at PyGTK for doing GTK in Python. But at 17:11, the newly released Python 2.2 was not yet in Debian, and I was stuck at 2.1.99c1-1, and I cried out unto the network, "Oh my Debian! Why hast thou forsaken me?!" By 17:37, Debian had the 2.2 final release, and I begged absolution for my lapse of faith.

I reworked and extended debian-tcsh.csh.

At my crunchy-granola co-op grocery tonight, I found tofu chai. It sounded so foul, that I bought it. Doesn't taste like the chai I've had before, but it's actually not too bad, and they've done a respectable job of reducing the putrid aftertaste that one usually expects from soy milk products.

I posted debian-tcsh.csh, some Tcsh completion rules for Debian GNU/Linux. Just a quick kludge.

I use Tcsh mainly for historical reasons: when I started with Unix, there was only Bourne and C-shell, and you used the former for scripting and the latter for interaction. Zsh is a bit tempting, but has enough archaic shell-isms in it that it's not worth the hassle of switching for me. I'm thinking of hacking an interactive shell that's extensible in Guile, though. Maybe if I get a few free days over the holiday.

Submitted a large document this morning after a final-stretch all-nighter. Slept. Took multivitamin supplement. Sipping hot chocolate. Starting to catch up on all the little things I've been putting off.

One little Debian convenience thing I've been meaning to do for awhile is to use Sudo for managing packages. Oddly, most Sudo documentation I've seen seems less accessible than it needs to be. If you just want to be able to run apt-get from your normal user shell, simply add a line like the following to file /etc/sudoers (substituting your username for yourusername):

yourusername ALL = NOPASSWD: /usr/bin/apt-get

You may wish to then alias the apt-get command in your shell so that you don't have to prefix it with sudo. For example, in Tcsh, add the following to your ~/.cshrc file:

alias apt-get sudo apt-get

I've also just created some Tcsh completion rules for Debian package management, but I'll post those tomorrow.

I'd been trying to finish a major project by Friday afternoon, but hadn't been able to sleep much for a couple days, had started to feel flu symptoms, and by Thursday afternoon felt my work quality dropping and my productivity rate plummeting. So I did the atypically sensible thing, and postponed my goal and went to bed. Woke up early this morning, feeling infinitely better. Not a recovery my body could've pulled off so well when I had poison coffee pumping through my veins.

At about 4:15pm yesterday, I arrived in Central Square just as some fire trucks were (photo scaled down to 800x600). For this shot, I had the Canon S10's normal exposure compensation and automatic shutter speed, and braced the back of my arm against a pole to help steady it. I've found (by practicing on the fire engines that pass my livingroom window at night) that the S10's "fast shutter" mode gives a much clearer shot of a speeding fire engine itself but loses the light show excitement.

I usually carry my digicam when out walking, but rarely shoot emergency scenes, as it seems like tasteless gawking when people people are being carried out on stretchers (as happened a couple weeks ago in Central Square), so is best left to a small set of professionals. I decided to shoot the one yesterday because it appeared to be a minor fire with nobody harmed (the firefighters had come down the ladder, and the other ladder truck is driving away), but there was an impressive show of rapid firefighting deployment from I think two stations.

Saturday night was the first snow of the winter here in Cambridge, so I went outside shortly before 1 AM Sunday morning and snapped a few shots with the Canon S10 and tripod. One lucky shot turned out to have a rainbow effect in the falling snow that I didn't notice until after downloading. (That's unmodified except for scaling down to 800x600 and re-compressing with JPEG. Here's a PNG of the cropped but unscaled original.) It was especially serendipitous, as I was shooting rapidly to keep my camera from getting wet, had come out of B&W mode just before that shot, and took only shot before shooting in other directions. A good luck omen would come in handy right now.

To keep yourself from upgrading your Debian sid box too often, you should have a rule that you have to make up a new Debian song each time.

My distro turned ten just the other day
So close to six gigs, I just had to say
Son, I'm proud of you, can you uptime awhile
He synced his disks, then mailed root with a smile
What I'd really like, Dad, is to upgrade your libc
See you later, can you apt-get please

A side benefit of everyone doing this is that, according to the Massively-Parallel Itch-Scratching theory of loosely-coupled collaboration, eventually a really first-rate Debian theme song will emerge.

Still working on my paper, but wanted to report that I've finally removed the venerable XV from all of my boxes. I've been using XV since 1990 or so, but the last straw was when I discovered that XV-generated EPS files were making my paper.ps file 12MB, but using Gimp-generated EPS files reduced the size of paper.ps by almost 80%.

I already use Gimp for virtually all of my pixmap file editing, and use GQview and Qiv for thumbnail browsing and quick viewing, respectively.

On the beverage front, I've taught myself to like herbal fruit and mint teas, and am currently working on reducing the amount of honey I was using to mask the taste of tea water.

Earlier to... 2001-11

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