This Space for Rent

Jun 30, 2004

The Spencer North Carolina roundhouse, in 360° panorama

This image (which is, even as a jpeg, fairly large -- click on it at your own risk) was glued together with the software we got with our Canon A70. If you look carefully, you can see Silas, his cousin Tyler, his grandfather Lawrence Ross, and little bits of Russell because he was behind Lawrence at the time.

Jun 25, 2004

Click! Click! Click!

The Canon A70 is a fine camera, but I'd really like to get a digital camera back so I could buy a telephoto lens and get much better pictures of flying birds.

Having quicker picture-to-picture times would be nice, too (The A70 still takes a couple of seconds to warm up and a second or so between snaps; much better than the 9 seconds my old Polaroid PDC3000 took, but still not quite fast enough.)

Jun 24, 2004

About to fill in the Atlantic Ocean

The bold nautical engineer, about to go to work.

Jun 23, 2004

What’s your NSA rating?

Russell and Silas have developed a scrabble variant which appears to be to simply put all the pieces on the board adjacent to each other.


The beach looks much nicer when you’re in the shade

From here, it doesn't look like it's in the 90s.

I've been spending most of my time sitting inside one air-conditioned house or another; the rental summer camps out here (and most of the non-rental ones) are packed in tightly enough so the traditional lots-of-openable-windows camp would be pretty close. I suspect that in the height of summer, the area from Cape Fear to the South Carolina border consumes more electricity than Portland does.

Jun 22, 2004

Trip highlights

One of the unexpected highlights of the trip out to North Carolina was the dinosaur skeleton in the United terminal in Chicago.

It is much larger than the bears.


The obligatory BOFH rant

I came down to North Carolina with 4 computers. One was my first-generation apple Airport, running the Karlbridge routing software, one was the oggOmatic running NetBSD despite my dire threats to convert it to FreeBSD, one ran R*hd*t so I could work on porting the FreeBSD password database file to Linux, and one ran Mastodon; Well, within 24 hours of arriving here, the power supply on the Mastodon laptop died (this is the second one that the Micron Transport has eaten, so I may be retiring the PC instead of going out and buying Yet Another 18v 1.25amp power supply) and I discovered that the R*dh*t laptop was shipped without a working dhclient (I already rank the ISC up with the FSF for blatant shameless advertising, and having to write a stupid client configuration script before dhcp will work puts them right up there in the realm of stupid featurettes that make their code unusable.)

So I moved the hard drive from the Micron over to the ex-R*dh*t computer, brought it up (with the usual lack of pain that I've come to expect when using my own Linux distribution), and, armed with one less laptop, decided that this would be a good time to download pictures from my camera so I could stuff them onto this website.

The pcmcia controller on the IBM 600e doesn't get along with the pcmcia software on Mastodon. Trivial things like wavelan cards work, but not the compact flash card with all of the pictures on it.

Sigh.

We're at the beach in North Carolina, and we got some nice pictures of the pedestrians of the apocolypse at the airport in Chicago, but you can't see them.

All hardware sucks. All software sucks.

Jun 18, 2004

Construction project of the day (if you split it into 1-2 hour sessions over the past week)

I built a little roundhouse for the bears, so they could have a place to keep some of their eng!!s out of the pretend rain.

This enginehouse is made of a single piece of maple from a scrapbag I bought at The Joinery (Once upon a time, we could afford to buy furniture there, but then the long national nightmare of peace and prosperity came to an end; now we can afford to spend US$30 every six or seven months to buy a pile of hardwood scraps.) It's almost drawn to plan; for this project, I actually measured before I started chopping the slab of maple down into planks, and if you stand far enough away it looks almost like it was done by someone who knows what they are doing.

I tried to convince Russell that Th*m*s style engines (Engines don't have faces -- Me) would be happier in a shed, but he insisted that it be a proper roundhouse.

Jun 17, 2004

Not software engineering’s finest moment.

Since the oggOmatic uses a C3, it doesn't have very much floating point processing power to throw at decoding .ogg files. So you can imagine that I was quite pleased to see that xiph has an integer-only version of their ogg decoder. So, when I reformatted the disk on the oggomatic (the jukebox was about 1gb too small) I installed igg123 instead of ogg123, and, wanting to bask in the better performance of an integer decoder, I fired it up and ran top to watch.

Hmm, that was funny; it seemed to be taking 15% of the cpu while the floating point version was only taking 10%. So I compiled ogg123 (I didn't use the prebuilt port, because it wanted me to load up a wad of other decoders, and I definitely didn't compile the port because ports are broken and it would try to drag in 700mb of gnuware to build those stupid other decoders; fighting with the new! almost portable! configure was pretty small potatoes compared to this) I got the chance to time each of them:

igg123 (integer party) 293.36 real, 38.11 user, 2.31 system.

ogg123 (floating point party) 293.30 real, 31.23 user, 2.34 system.

Timed them again. Same numbers.

That's pretty amazing; integer math being slower than floating point math on a machine with a sucky floating point unit. (yes, I know that integer ops are generally slower than floating point ops, but (a) decoding a .ogg file seems like it's something that could be easily optimized and (b) the C3 has really sucky floating point, so I'd think it could do better.) Perhaps this integer version is for running in integer-only processors, and they just punted on performance so they just get it done now.


Not in shape anymore

Since today was nice, I decided that I would ride my bicycle in to work this morning. It's a little less than 5 miles, and it took me a whopping 40 minutes. 8mph average speed? Tour de Banana Slug here I come!

The really sad thing is that the first mile was averaging about 15mph, the second was down to 10mph, and it just kept going downhill from there. The piddly little headwind (1mph, gusting to 2mph) and the arduous 65ft hillclimb at the end of the trip didn't help much either.

Oh, well, tomorrow will be faster; I expect that I'll be able to cut it down to about 25 minutes in a couple of weeks (the last half mile is through city streets, so even if I suddenly got real bike racer legs and lungs I'd still be stuck plodding through traffic lights and dodging potholes for the last bit of the trip), which is probably as fast as I'll ever be able to do it.


Another 15 minutes of fame

Via linked to my description of how I built my home workstation.

Jun 16, 2004

Summertime!

Last week at this time it was rainy and about 60°F out.

Today it's been sunny all day, and the temperature is pushing 90°F. When I get home today, I'm going to the bikeshop and buying a couple of new tubes (the replacement tube has already disintegrated from old age), and by G-d I'm going to ride my bicycle to work tomorrow.


Userfriendly? What does that word mean?

To adjust the volume on the oggOmatic, I'm doing the remendously intiutive

mixerctl -w outputs.master=x,x

What could be easier? What could be more intuitive?

I know!

The program juke (a nc*rs*s-based jukebox program with no documentation except the source code) uses <- and -> to navigate into and out of albums, and 'a' to pick a track/album to play. The [return] key doesn't appear to do anything, nor does the [tab]. (using these keys to pick defaults has been common for at least 20 years.)

Yeah, yeah, Open Source(r)(tm)(c) rulez! Who needs helpfiles, manpages, sensible command interfaces, and all that square shit when you can just look at the source code instead?


An annoying NetBSD discovery

I put NetBSD on the oggOmatic because I didn't want to carry all of the bloat of FreeBSD onto a network appliance, and it seems to be working out pretty well (they fixed the installer up so it looks really pretty; I'm going to have to rearrange the Mastodon installer to make it look a little closer to the NetBSD one) except for one teeny little problem; I was playing a bunch of music this morning and all of a sudden the computer complained twice about getting seeing a duplicate IP address, spat out a vr0: reset never completed!, and that was it for the network connection until I hit the Big Red Switch.

The problems I was having could be because the NetBSD core team are using the goddamn ISC dhclient (with its stupid stupid stupid built-in advertising that converts a simple binding error to a multipage it's broken but we don't want your bug reports whine), but the error messages look like the kernel has gotten well and thoroughly polloxed.

Oh, bugger!

I guess I'll be installing FreeBSD after all.

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Jun 15, 2004

New Computer Case (finally finished)

It took me a few days to get around to trying to paint it, and then a couple more days to strip the paint off and varnish it, but it's now ready for me to install a version of Berkeley Unix and use it to to store musc.


Reading about people whining about email

In the list of webzines I read, all of a sudden it's as if everyone has discovered email overload. There's too much mail, we can't keep our mail sorted, we can't reply to all of our real mail, we don't know where our delete function is!

Admittedly, I'm not in the best situation to respond to this, because I'm an antisocial bastard who doesn't tend to keep up mail conversations, but, really, there are solutions that don't involve hurling the baby out the kitchen door.

Just off the top of my head, I can think of just not replying to the email. I've done that; someone sends me a note that doesn't need a response and I just leave it in my mailbox or file it away uncommented. It's been a long time since I planned romantic liaisons via email (I've not needed to since the one night stand that went horribly wrong) , so any important messages can come in by the telephone.

If you're someone who dislikes the telephone more than I do, or feel that your street cred will be horribly compromised by using a technology that's more than 50 years old, you could reduce your email burden in a high-tech way by having

  1. your mail server refuse all unauthenticated connections, pointing the caller to a
  2. web page where you let them pay for a authtoken with a credit card, which they can then use to
  3. connect back to the mailserver and send you mail.

You'd probably need to whitelist mailing lists, friends, and lovers, since they might not see the humor in being asked to put in 25¢ to continue their calls.

Extra points for having the auth tokens expire after a while, so that people have to keep paying you money to send you mail.

The crafty spammers will no doubt start whipping out their stolen credit cards so they can send their rotting packages of viagra and nigerian 419 scams, but that's merely a way for them to get nailed for wire fraud if we ever get the Democratic party back into power in the USA and convert the government back into a government instead of a massive fraud ring.

In case someone hasn't thought of this scheme, I'll claim my little bit of prior art right now.

Jun 14, 2004

A couple of sucky things about Mozilla Fire(bird?fox?wombat?)

The first sucky thing is that, unlike IE and Netscape 4, Firebird doesn't seem to want to let you navigate around new html documents when it's still loading and resizing images. This is really annoying when you've only got a cablemodem or T-1 and everything grinds to a stop while the ~1mb of images on TSFR load in.

The second sucky thing is that, on Windows 2000, I can pretty reliably *crash* my home workstation if I dare do something like try and kill one of these mysteriously frozen Firewombat windows. One minute, Windows 2000 will be chirping happily along, playing music piped in from the jukebox, and the next minute I'm looking at the stupid Mini-ITX bios screen while the computer starts climbing up the bootstrap mountain again.

I could use IE, of course, but I'm really sick and tired of all the goddamn popups, popunders, javascript delayed popups, javascript delayed screen takeovers, flash popups, floating flash windows, and god only knows what else the stupid stupid stupid browser lets through. (No, I can't use Opera; Opera suffers from the we want to be our own window manager disease even worse than Firefox does, plus my experience with it on Linux and FreeBSD leads me to suspect that it's about as unreliable as you can get.)

I swear to G-d, having to deal with non-Microsoft browsers makes me really appreciate the programming skills of the orcs up in suburban Mordor, WA. If Bill Gates would order his minions to put in a (a) Linux version of IE (a.out, please! If I'm going to ask for a pony it might as well be one I can use. I'll even come up to Mordor and convert Mastodon to Microsoft Mastodon, if need be) and (b) a version of IE that wasn't quite so enthusiastic about putting up windows, flash, and stupid messages complaining when I've tried to disable them, I'd be a very happy man.

Yeah, yeah, Free Software Rah! Rah! Frankly, I don't give a damn.


Spray paint can be your friend, or it can be your enemy.

I (finally) got around to trying to spray paint the stereo-ish computer last night, and, as you might expect, it was a disaster. I sprayed the paint outside, then tucked it into the garage to dry, and when I came back to put a second coat on I discovered that not only had the paint dripped (on the one vertical surface; the front of the case) but a whole bunch of dust had gotten into it before it dried.

Sigh.

Today's plan to finish the case is to strip all of the paint off, then either simply varish the bare metal or try again to spray-paint the thing.

If I had a better workshop, I'd give up and simply build a new aluminum case, but I don't, so I won't. sigh again.


UPDATE: I stopped at the hardware store, bought a paint stripping wheel for my electric drill, and stripped all the paint off. The bare steel case looks really good, so I've just applied a coat of clear varnish to it and. hopefully, I'll be able to oil the walnut end pieces and varnish the case tomorrow afternoon.

Jun 13, 2004

kernel programming fun

At work, we're, um, stressing the poor Linux kernel. If you have a lot of users running Pick, even a really big system goes completely to hell. One of the symptoms of the machine going to hell is it gets into a canoe where 9000 or so processes are beating away at the machine trying to get pages, and eventually a process like lpd tries to fork, can't reserve memory for the half a dozen picky little things that fork wants to copy, and bombs out even though we've still got 15gb free in swap, because if I'm reading the 2.4 kernel properly when kmalloc() can't get a block because there's no free core [or not enough free core; the 2.4 kernel never completely exhausts core, but gets to within 10mb of exhaustion and starts pretending that there's no more core], it kicks kswapd and puts the forking process at the end of the task queue, hoping that when it comes back around it will have the 4 or 5 pages it wants.

Well, with 8999 other processes in the system, kswapd may have pushed out some old pages (at this point the system has driven itself 20-30 seconds into swap), but some of the other 8999 processes appear to be grabbing the pages away for their own nefarious purposes (because the system would rather give them these brand new pages instead of pushing other pages into swap), and when our hero the forking process comes back around, those pages that kswapd freed up for it have been taken away by one of the other 2000 copies of pick. So fork() fails, lpd complains, waits a second, then tries to fork() again.

Where it starts to get really fun is when this happens on a process that was written with the assumption that the machine has infinite memory and thus fork() will never fail. So if it fails, EOF is returned to the program, which then eventually sends a signal to pid EOF. kill() loves to send signals to EOF, particularly when you're root and nobody can resist your evil intentions.

So I've been trying to harden fork() so that it will be a bit more stubborn about failing, with a complete lack of success; first, I can't completely harden it because the Linux boxes we've got won't allow more than ~15000 processes at a time (I suspect that's because that's all that will fit in a 32 bit kernel process), and secondly, because the whole idea of Unix is that system calls can fail and you need to retry the call when it fails.

The first pass was to simply retry each kmalloc() inside do_fork(). It didn't seem to fail, but it didn't seem to make any difference to the failure cases on dumb synthetic tests. The second pass was to have dofork() yield the timeslice up to 12 times to give additional chances to drive pages out, which didn't seem to fail, but didn't seem to make any difference.

The third attempt was far more amusing; instead of just yielding the processor, I'd just put the offending process to sleep for a second, then retry the allocation. At least that was the plan. In reality, what ended up happening was the machine filled up with test programs, stopped forking completely, and appears to have converted into Shelly Winters ca. fall 2002.

I don't think I'll be putting that version of the fork hardening onto any customer sites.

Jun 12, 2004

Now this is something new…

When doing our usual trip by the Eng!!s tonight, we saw a brand new engine; an EMD switcher (SW7ish) with part of a Northern Pacific paint scheme, and lettered as EPT 802.

It may not be very noticable, but this engine has got dynamic brakes (see the grilles and the top of the fan at the very back of the hood?); I'm guessing it came off some logging or mining railroad, and got the NP paint job when it got onto the EPT property.

Their GP7 is looking increasingly forlorn, with doors open, battery boxes empty, and generally looking as if something important failed and they're now in the throes of gutting it for components to put into #'s 100 and 802. (Maybe even for components into their NW5, but who knows?)


Another fun thing about building new computers

Is that I've pretty much abandoned floppy disks at Chateau Chaos. Of all of the machines in out house, a grand total of, um, 1 machine [other than laptops (the laptop I use most often doesn't have one) and testing machines (up in my office and haven't been turned on since soon after the start of the new millenium)] has a floppy drive, and that's Julie's machine in the library. The Oggomatic has a mini-itx motherboard on it, so it will boot the OS of choice {either NetBSD or FreeBSD, since Mastodon hasn't been upgraded to a 2.6.x kernel and all the other crap that 2.6.x carries along for the ride) from a bootable CD, but the electric picture frame case has an old Advantech SBC in it, which doesn't support booting from CD, and thus has to have a floppy disk cabled to it so I can load up Mastodon and maintain the cosmic balance.

So what I have to do is find a few floppy disks, use Julie's machine to put a INST0067 bootdisk on all of them (floppies are kind of unreliable, so I need duplicates in case one of the floppies goes south on the trip to the baeement. run downstairs, and plug the computer in and hope it actually can read from the floppy.

If the install works, well, I can pull the floppy connector and go back to trying to wedge the CD drive into the case. If not, I'll whip out my handy dictionary of obscure profanities and improve my grasp of the english language.

Jun 11, 2004

Spam, or an attempt to verify email addresses for spam?

In my mailbox this morning: One of our users is looking into your background.

Email from Support Department of some alleged shared experiences website, complete with a link to a page showing, well, nothing. But nothing regarding an email address which, although valid, hasn't been used for about six years, and allegedly from people with professional contacts with me.

And, to demonstrate that they are trustworthy, their spam is bounced through a dialup IP address. *snort* Nice try, thimbleheads. You might get a better response if you whined about my mail server, but I doubt it.

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Trying to fit things into a computer case…

(Like, say, this one ) ... can sometimes be a pain. I'd put a CD drive into the case, so I could plug a CD of photos in and have it display photos without a network connection, but since I'd lifted the motherboard up on spacers to clear the infrared connector, it meant that I had to put the computer connection in the middle of the drive cable, like:

   +-----------[=====cd drive=====]
    |
    |------ computer
    |
   +------------[hard drive]

Electrical engineers will immediately realize this was a horrible mistake (probably because of cable termination.) I, of course, am not an electrical engineer (the extent of my electrical engineering skills is being able to figure out what wattage a transformer can put on and, if I have a cheat sheet handy, being able to figure out what sort of register I need to attach a noise-emitting diode to a 12v power line) and thus did not realize this until after I'd glued up internal supports and assembled the whole box.

So what I needed to do (and did, last night, during the 30 minute case building window) was to rip the entire pile of guts out of the box, so I can (tonight) go back and redo the cabling like:

  +---------[======cd drive=====]
   |
   |--[hard drive]
   |
  computer

Which, of course, means I have to dismantle the infrared connector and move the serial interface part of it up over the top of the system board. This should be a pretty trivial exercise. The only thing that's likely to drive me to screaming distraction is having to drill holes on the inside of a hickory-wood box so I can attach a shelf to put the hard and CD-ROM drives on.

It would be much easier to just put USB connections into the box and attach an external USB drive, but that would sort of defeat the whole idea of a nice pretty box to put into the living room.

Jun 10, 2004

Every now and then I am reminded

That though Microsoft Windows may have reached the point where it sucks less than many other operating systems for a user, it is still plunging downwards into the dark abyss of being pretty damn near impossible to maintain or install without being driven into a screaming rage.

I'm installing Windows 2000 on a workstation at work, because I need to configure a fiber channel disk array for a Linux box (the choices are to use the point and drool windows program, to use some point and drool program on Linux, or to use some command line interface that uses java on Linux. Since ccd and vinum have scarred me for life [freebsd may be an excellent operating system, but those two products are pretty much classic examples of how not to do a good user interface or documentation] about command line configuration of disk arrays, I have the choice of either (a) installing r*dh*t Linux and "I'm not KDE!" or installing Windows 2000. Windows 2000 has the advantage that that's what the people upstairs in hardware engineering use, so I can take advantage of their experience in disk arrays.

Of course I have to install it. I can't do my workstation, because it's running XP (which the fiber channel configuration program will not run on -- way to effing go, IBM!) and if I blew it away and put in Windows 2000, the nazgul in IT will swoop down and leave my eviscerated body as an encouragement to the others. So I installed in on a machine of my own, which has a wad of SIS hardware in it to do ethernet, video, sound, and so on. NONE of this hardware is recognised by Windows 2000. So I'm doing the exciting chore (after the windows install took all of 40 minutes) of digging up prospective drivers, hand-carrying them to this box, and seeing if the Windows install-device-drivers software will accept them. And, to make matters even more fun, I'm rolling up all of the important Microsoft updates to their system, just in case the fiber channel configuration program goes out to the public network and retrieves a fistful of viruses.

This has taken a couple of hours so far.

I will be very happy when the stupid fiber channel configuration program (which, of course, won't run on a 16 color VGA display, thus resulting in several rounds of hunt the device driver) has set up a pair of nice 100gb partitions for people to play with, and I can then stop doing that and try to pick up on a couple of programs I was trying to do about two months ago (and have totally forgotten about.)

Jun 09, 2004

Computer Assembly enhanced by small children

I'm adding a infrared port to the wooden picture box PC with Russell and Silas assisting me. As you can expect, the whole process has been streamlined to the point where doing things as simple as adding in mounting brackets ends up taking approximately three days. Sigh.

Jun 08, 2004

Wait until 2012

Despite planning to watch the transit of Venus last night (via webcast, because it wasn't visible in Oregon) I managed to completely space out on it while trying to put The Babies to sleep. So, to avoid forgetting, I've sent myself mail (to be delivered on June 5, 2012) reminding me that it's time to set up to watch the transit. Looking at the star charts, I see that it will be visible from the Western USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, so I'll have some leeway for places to be (the western USA if we're able to drive the fascists out of power, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand if we have to flee for a free country) to see this twice-in-a-lifetime event.

I'd prefer to be alive when it does the 2117 transit, but living to 157 (and furthermore still being in possession of my senses) seems a bit optimistic, given that the oldest person ever (modulo some dubious biblical references) only lived to be 124 and she was getting close to blind near the end of her tenure.

It's more likely that Russell or Silas would live until 2117, because they'd only (for appropriately insanely optimistic values of only) be 117 and 115 at the time.

Jun 07, 2004

Yet another new computer case.

The new case

This one isn't home-made; I ripped apart an old cash register computer to get the parts, had Moreland Frameworks frame the LCD screen, commissioned Wood Works by Val to build a case, then stuffed all of the pieces into it. It's fanless, of course, and it's a bit slower than the mini-itx motherboards (it's got an AMD k5/133 underclocked to 75mhz), but it's going to be used primarily as an electronic picture frame.

It used to look like this:

so I think that, in the grand scheme of things, the new case is just slightly nicer to have in the living room.


Don’t be an asshole … vote Democratic in 2004

According to a large swath of news and gossip sources, the White House appears to have circulated a pro-torture memo that (roughly) says that if anyone wants to torture somebody, they should get Maximum Leader Genius to sign off on it because authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president.".

Aside from this being the smoking gun showing that the systematic and profound moral rot in the Bush junta goes all the way up to the top, it also shows the profound contempt those people have for trivial documents like the Constitution of the United States of America (look closely at article II, section 3) .

They are filthy traitors. It's long past time for them to go.

Jun 05, 2004

New Computer Case!

The latest homemade computer case I'm working on is this tiny little stereo-component style case that's wrapped around a mini-ITX motherboard, a Morex D2D power converter, and a quiet quiet quiet fujitsu hard disk.

.

It's not quite finished; besides an operating system, I need to paint the metal part of the case (it used to be a Sony CD-Rom drive) and finish the slabs of walnut that make up the sides of the case.

Like my home workstation, this box doesn't have any CD-ROM drive or floppy drive. I'll simply install the operating system from USB floppy and the network.

It's not even a particularly tight fit inside.

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Adventures in carpentry, chapter 2

We had bought some cheap plastic stacking bins on wheels for Russell and Silas to use to stack brio and blocks in. Well, the blocks were too heavy for the bins and started to collapse the wheels. To fix that problem, I built a toyshelf out of scraps from the large pile of junk wood from the (now thankfully-demised) Deck and the Stupid room.

Jun 03, 2004

The oh-so-reliable IBM 40gb hard drive

A couple of years ago, I bought three IBM XP75 (40gb) drives to put into a backup server. Last year, around the beginning of summer, all three of them just stopped working within about a week of each other. So I got the RMAs, packaged them up, and mailed them off to IBM for replacement. This morning, I went down into the basement to finish up the migration of a machine from FreeBSD 4.9 to 4.10, and there was my backup server going click! click! click! click! while error messages about ad4: timeout rolled across the console.

A few reboots later, I had a new 80gb disk in the machine (which, due to the age of the machine was only being recognised as a 32gb drive. sigh) and could go off to work, where I checked the RMA status and discovered that I had a whopping 22 days of warranty left on this replacement drive. Ugh. So this makes 4 out of 3 defective IBM hard drives. I fully expect that the other two will follow this drive to hell in the next day or so -- time to take a backup of / so I can recover it when the bottom falls out.

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Jun 02, 2004

The Seattle Monorail, again.

Meanwhile, on Monday, one of the two monorail cars in Seattle suffered a traction motor fire and ended up with large holes burned in it. This monorail was filled with people, and the city ended up bringing in fire trucks (no catwalks on the line) to evacuate it, because, for some reason, they couldn't get people across to the other monorail car?

Nobody died, thank goodness, and nobody had to jump for their life either, so in the grand scheme of things everything worked out. I don't know what the reaction of the monorail loons is (the big monorail loon website is basically the equivalent of the John Birch society, with trolley cars taking the place of communists), but the anti-monorail loons (all libertarians, of course) are bringing out the usual crop of twittery about how this proves that the city (or the pretend private company that's building the new!, incompatable! Seattle monorail) is wasting money because

  • People will have to jump to their deaths from at least a mile up! ((a) the fire inspector has mandated walkways, so that won't happen, (b) 60 feet max.)
  • You can't move a monorail because if commuting patterns change you won't be able to change the route of the railroad to accomodate that (something that no doubt would come as a surprise to the various electric railroads that have done line relocations, abandoned old lines, and put up new lines when commuting patterns changed. But the anti-monorail loons are simple folk who can't really comprehend difficult things like civil engineering, so one must make allowances for their special needs.)
  • It would cost money! (unlike highways, which spring up like mushrooms after a spring rain.)

I don't know if the monorail recall people are kooks or not, but if I lived in Seattle I'd look at their reason #13 as a reason to support the recall, even if the rest of their reasons sound like typical anti-transit frothing.

Update: I've been looking at some of the anti-monorail loon websites on the web over lunch, and I've come to the conclusion that monorails are kook magnets. Some of the anti-monorail loon websites are claiming that monorail beams can't be put over streets unless they put drip pans under the beams, and that this is some sort of deal-breaker for a monorail. WTF? I strongly suspect that any drippage from the monorail beam would simply drip down to the bottom of the beam, then drip off. So you put a little tiny pan underneath the beam. I can see how that would be a deal breaker to have a little tiny metal pan under a 3ft by 5ft main beam. Sheeesh!

But compared to the PRT supporters, the monorail and anti-monorail loons are sanity themselves. If the +/- monorail loons are like libertarians, the PRT supporters are like Lyndon Larouche (or George "war in our time" Bush) fans.


Good lord, FreeBSD 4.9 is a piece of crap.

Reliability? Well, yes, if your measure of reliability is how many more times per day that the system will crash out than Microsoft Windows 95. All I have to do is put in a CD that's got either a data track or has a scratch and the stupid system will hammer itself to death in fairly quick order trying to deal with the scsi transport errors. It certainly looks like even though FreeBSD may be the bees knees for reliability and performance if you have perfect hardware, you're risking death and dismemberment if you even walk near it with media that isn't a bit-by-bit image of the glory of G-d (I'll not even start to discuss vinum, because when I think about that product of the programmers art my vision starts to blur red and I start feeling like I really need to start taking bites out of my shield.)

I've got R*dh*t 8 sitting at home (a copy for work, which is having its own set of troubles with free software; but 3600 users running Pick on a 4x P4 box with 8gb of memory is a rather different kettle of fish than a single-user box attached to a bank of CD drives) and I can always try to upgrade the existing FreeBSD installation from 4.9 to 4.10 (but I'll probably just replace the disk with a bigger one and do a fresh install across the net), but either way the 8 crashes (each ending up with the stupid machine wanting human intervention because the crash made / vomit all over itself) in the last 16 hours means 4.9 delenta est!

Jun 01, 2004

1984, or 2004?

The consequences of being at war, and therefore in danger, makes the handing-over of power to a small caste seem the natural, unavoidable condition of survival…

It does not matter whether the war is actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not matter whether the war is going well or badly. All that is needed is that a state of war should exist.

--George Orwell


A heart-warming tale about outsourcing

Via the Register.

The now-outsourced staff may not have had BOFH on their business cards, but I'm sure that was only an oversight.


Why I still use IE on Windows

IE, despite a host of security flaws and other generally annoying misfeatures, at least doesn't regularly get hopelessly confused about whether a web page exists. Mozilla and its ilk have this annoying habit, at least on a network that's connected through a Microsoft proxy server, of occasionally deciding that a web page just doesn't exist, even if you're using the back button to go back to a page you just exited.

It's really annoying when you're trying to validate a webpage on a nonmicrosoft browser. It's even more annoying when you get hit by a flurry of popup, popunder, popthrough, pop-containing-flash (etc etc etc) pages in IE, because Mozilla and its ilk are very good at refusing to allow those stupid popups.

GRRR! I say again: GRRRR!

—30—

Obéir c'est trahir, Désobéir c'est servir
orc@pell.portland.or.us

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