computers suck

wireless dilemma

Okay, so I’ve got two wireless cardbus cards — an SMC 2435W and a D-Link DWL-650+. Both use the same chipset. Which to keep?

Yes, this evening saw Stewart wandering about his street in Scarborough seeing where each card gave out. I got some strange looks.

I think the D-Link card has the edge in range, being able to connect from across the street. It was a bit more expensive, and it has a bulkier aerial. The SMC is more svelte, and was less than half the price. I’d probably recommend both cards, if you can handle the hassle of building the acx100 driver.

I should really test their battery drain. I have a felling that the D-Link’s a bit of a hog, as my battery is dropping quite fast.

computers suck o canada

okay, so maybe it wasn’t so bad

So did actually work for us, but only under Mozilla on Catherine’s eMac. The process was actually quite painless, and their user interface is nice — if if works with your browser.

It’s strange that they claim that their system works with Linux, yet got into such a terrible mess with me.

Anyway, that’s our taxes filed. I’ll try not to spend all of my refund in the one shop.

computers suck General

happy computer = happy stewart

After only weeks of messing about with this ThinkPad, I’ve finally got the D-Link DWL-650+ wireless card working. So I’m enjoying the luxury of composing this entry unplugged, emerging some Gentoo packages, and listening to MC Honky. The joys of new computing facility are always short lived; it’s like the first and only time you go “Wow!” at how fast your new computer is. After that, it’s just how fast a computer should be.

(Talking of “wow”, the speakers on this T21 are just the perfect sound and separation to listen to lofi. The playlist has just skipped to Neutral Milk Hotel, and Jeff Mangum has just hollered I Love You, Jesus Christ like to raise my nape hairs.)

Anyway, I got the DWL-650+ working by following the instructions all the way through. Radical, no?

I also had to do some rescue work on the T21, as I’d accidentally found a way to bork /sbin/init (to none Unix types: about the same as deleting some choice DLLs in the System directory) by giving Gentoo a USE flag suggested by emerge -p -v baselayout. How was I supposed to know that the relatively innocuous build option is a special low level guaranteed-not-to-actually-build-this-don’t-even-think-of-using-this option.

With Holland, 1945 wailing out of the tiny tinny speakers, I can retire to bed happy.

computers suck


udontfile2003.png is seriously broken under Mozilla 1.6. I’ve wasted the last hour or so trying to stop their weird menus from overlapping. Online tax filing’s supposed to be quick, isn’t it? I wonder if I can charge the time I’ve wasted (at my usual contractor rate) to them?

computers suck General

Getting my fortran head together

It’s very strange to be getting back into a language as different to Perl as it is possible to be. I’m fairly conversant with the weird bits of Perl — map, grep, hash usage, objects — but Fortran has a completely different toolkit

That’s not to say it’s a bad toolkit, just very different, F’rinstance, trying to find all the distinct values in an array. In Perl, you just walk through a hash, parallel to the array, incrementing each key for every value found. In Fortran — well, it’s a different story.

computers suck goatee-stroking musing, or something

What I sound like

My voice is now on the GMU Accent Archive. Yeah, I really sound like this, minus the earth loop hum, of course.

Oh, and my first day at my new job was great.

computers suck goatee-stroking musing, or something

radio silence

Breaking radio silence to say that I’ve finally got a semblance of Gentoo running on the ThinkPad. I’ve had more fun.

Gnome installation is currently broken under Gentoo. That stalled it for a couple of days, at least.

computers suck sheesh!

Seemingly innocuous comment spam

In the last 12 hours or so, I’ve been getting a new kind of comment spam on this blog. The text is fairly harmless: “very interesting article”, or “if you are using Linux or unix you can take a look at”, but the link goes off to one of those pharmacy sites, or to russian car registration people.

Yes, I can run MT-Blacklist manually on them, and they are a bit lower key than the older style ones, but they’re still very annoying.

computers suck

the tyranny of configure

I’m building Gentoo Linux on my laptop. Every little package that wants to build goes off and calls a configure script, as built by gnu autoconf. Every one checks the presence of features by compiling a little test program.

This gets slow. Quite why a system can’t cache autoconf results, and tell configure that it has this, that and the other. My computers seem to spend half their time somewhere in a configure script (serves me right for using Gentoo), but there has to be a better way than the status quo.

computers suck

even cooler, simpler stuff

Yes, it’s just a generic-looking KDE desktop (you’ll probably have to sleect the thumbnail to see the full-size image). But this was from an IBM T21 laptop I bought from Laptop today. I plugged the network cable into my router, stuck the USB key in the back, and booted from an old (3.2) Knoppix CD. You can see it found both the network connection, and the USB key. Oh, and it can play MP3s too.

No configuration was done. I just booted, and this is what I got.

computers suck

SanDisk Cruzer + Gentoo

Sandisk Cruzer 256MB USB key

I love it when stuff just works. Plug it in, check dmesg to see what it says:

hub.c: new USB device 00:02.2-1.1, assigned address 7
scsi3 : SCSI emulation for USB Mass Storage devices
  Vendor: Generic   Model: STORAGE DEVICE    Rev: 1.02
  Type:   Direct-Access                      ANSI SCSI revision: 02
Attached scsi removable disk sdb at scsi3, channel 0, id 0, lun 0
SCSI device sdb: 512000 512-byte hdwr sectors (262 MB)
sdb: Write Protect is off
 /dev/scsi/host3/bus0/target0/lun0: p1
WARNING: USB Mass Storage data integrity not assured
USB Mass Storage device found at 7

So we know from the /dev/scsi/host3/bus0/target0/lun0: p1
line that the filesystem is at
/dev/scsi/host3/bus0/target0/lun0/part1. Create your
mountpoint as root: mkdir -m777 /mnt/cruzer, then edit
/etc/fstab, and add:

/dev/scsi/host3/bus0/target0/lun0/part1 /mnt/cruzer vfat noauto,user 0 0

Any user can mount the device with mount /mnt/cruzer,
and next time Nautilus starts up, the device can be mounted from the
desktop. Easy!

The hardest part was opening the packaging, but you know what I
have to say about SanDisk packaging

computers suck General

the nearly-new immigrants

Two years ago today, Catherine and I were huddled somewhat apprehensively in the immigration lobby of Toronto’s Pearson airport. After a couple of hours of waiting, paperwork and customs clearance (and several “Welcome to Canada!”s), we stepped out into the evening sleet, and headed straight for a Holiday Inn to crash.

We’ve done okay. There have been difficult times, but on the whole, we’re glad we came.

computers suck Wind Things

Sustainable Energy Fair

I survived the University of Toronto First Sustainable Energy Fair. The weather was pretty grim, despite the cold and the rain. Maybe some of the solar cooking events didn’t happen, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of all involved.

There was a good crowd, and I talked myself hoarse on the WindShare stand. There were some interesting people there, including the irrepressible Tom Karmo, and UofT‘s own cyborg, Steve Mann. And yes, I am really responsible for getting Winton Dahlström into wind energy; mea maxima culpa.

I have pictures of the sustainable energy fair here.

computers suck goatee-stroking musing, or something

Touching the camel

Paul asked about getting back
to maintaining some Perl code after an absence of a few years. Since I
do a lot of Perl, here are some of the time-savers that I can’t live

  • allows you
    to search all the publicly-available modules on CPAN. There are few problems in Perl that
    haven’t been at least partially solved by a CPAN module. At the very
    least, make sure any web scripts use appropriately. I still see
    hand-rolled code that parses CGI arguments, never as well as would
  • PerlMonks is where you go
    to ask about your Perl problems, and find solutions. It’s worth
    learning a bit about the search options so you don’t ask a very old
    question again. This is me on
    PerlMonks, incidentally.
  • The Perl FAQ,
    included in the documentation as /perlfaq[1-9]?/. The Perl Cookbook is
    basically just the Perl FAQ on paper. Nice to hold, but you can’t
    search it the same way you can with perldoc -q <keyword>.

I would always advise Perl programmers to be
. Not slothful, but spend a little time seeing if someone
has solved your problem before. Thus you can turn many routine
programming jobs into a small matter of configuration.

I would also advise learning some of the idiomatic Perl tricks,
like ‘... or die ...‘, inline
if/unless, careful use of
undef, and list operators like map and
grep. It’s not just because you’re likely to meet them in
everyday code, but they’re very convenient. Once you start to miss
them in other languages, you’ll know that you are One Of

computers suck General

sometimes you just have to …

… calculate the number of seconds in the current year using JavaScript:

function seconds_in_this_year() {
      // get length of this year by subtracting "Jan 1st, /This Year/"
      // from  "Jan 1st, /Next Year/"
      var now = new Date();
      var current_year = now.getFullYear();
      var jan_first = new Date(current_year, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0);
      var jan_next = new Date(current_year + 1, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0);
      return (jan_next.getTime() - jan_first.getTime()) / 1000;
computers suck

late cat

I think I’m about the last person on the planet to get a Digital Convergence CueCat — remember those freebie barcode scanners that were going to change the world, until the parent company crashed and burned?

Active Surplus has a whole case of late-model USB ones (model #68-1966 for those who care). Maybe $14.95 is a little steep, but it does cover all your barcode scanning needs.

computers suck

the slow erosion of mail

For the first time, my entire sympatico Inbox was spam this morning. How depressing.

computers suck General

Toronto, the MFP enquiry, and Linux

At a Green Economics meeting last night, we heard from councillors Paula Fletcher and Glenn De Baeremaeker about the Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry. It seems that the city is stuck with approximately 14000 Windows-NT class machines that it can no longer use, as Microsoft will not support its operating system.

I need to find out more on the specs of these machines, but I think it would be fair to say that they would be functional for most office applications with Linux. This has only been hinted at by other writers, but at least it could provide working, virus-proof computers to city staff at very little extra expense.

This could be something that the Toronto Linux User Group could look at.

computers suck General

Rendez-vous with the Triplets

triplets of belleville
Ah, how I love The Triplets of Belleville. I was brought up on a steady stream of Jacques Tati and Django Reinhardt, so it’s natural that I get along with this film very well. Especially since I scored a region-free copy in the UK. I can live with it being called Belleville Rendez-vous on the box.

It was robbed of an oscar. Finding Nemo was an amusing little merchandising platform, but ToB is genius. But what chance did a joint French-Canadian production have in a US-based competition?

computers suck goatee-stroking musing, or something

vuescan and gentoo

The very excellent VueScan for Linux now seems to require libusb. It’s no problem to install, but I don’t think I needed it for v7.6.69, but I do for v7.6.79.