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FEBRUARY, 2003 → ← APRIL, 2003

25th of March, 2003 ANTE·MERIDIEM 10:34

The Unix Hater’s Handbook is available in its entirety; http://​research.​microsoft.​com/​~daniel/​unix-haters.​html Grazie, muxway.org .

24th of March, 2003 POST·MERIDIEM 04:44

Some commentary on the Keith Packard brouhaha currently happening over at http://​www.​xfree86.​org/​#core ; someone (I think it was Mark Vojkovich) responded with incredulity to someone else’s interjection that the current problems could be related to public relations. Umm, well, yes it’s a public relations question. XFree86 is stable code, it’s reliable, it’s portable, it’s functional beyond anything else currently available. Yet the activity around it is a small fraction of what it could be, and should be, in this world of broadband and massively powerful personal computers.

Two possible reasons for this in my mind;
I) The unhappy co-incidence of the committers and release engineers being few in number and very busy with the rest of their lives means the backlog on patches & fixes is huge, and discouraging to people with other projects to hack.

II) It’s not a GPLed app, and the mindshare that Linus choosing that licence gave to the GPL means that those who haven’t the skills to hack other projects wrinkle their noses in disgust at it, and go learn something else. At some point they’ll probably stop being GPL bigots, but by that stage, they’ll probably be in camp I.

And, if I were to give a monetary value to the above, it wouldn’t be 2¢ :-) .

24th of March, 2003 ANTE·MERIDIEM 08:51

So, yeah, cocktails. Yum! In other news, I just passed a civilized weekend, where I wrote my first Win32 program. What a needlessly baroque API. But hey, the standard system libraries ship with a PlaySound function! Maybe as a Unix-head, my priorities have been twisted all these years.

Via http://​www.​taint.​org/​ ; the Bundesnachrichendienstes [1] have published a cook book, “Topf Secret,” whence “You may ask yourself, why on earth the federal intelligence service is publishing such a book? Well, it’s quite simple dear readers: cooking is something you would never have associated the secret service with.” As the Guardian puts it, that begs more questions than it answers.

Oh, and I am really not impressed with Amazon.fr’s delivery speed, and the speed with which they hunt down orders that they don’t have in stock. First book of two sent the 4th March, not arrived yet, second book still not sent.

[1] Well, with a name like that, it couldn’t be anything but  the German secret Service, could it.

18th of March, 2003 ANTE·MERIDIEM 12:35

X Window support back working, if you care; c.f. http://​marc.​theaimsgroup.​com/​?m=104752516813169 . So yeah, a life, Real Soon Now.

Oh, and I’m 16 today. Finally, I can legally ... No, wait, the laws aren’t in hexadecimal. Crap, six years wasted.

I didn’t watch much television last night, but Robin Cook is a really good public speaker, isn’t he?

14th of March, 2003 ANTE·MERIDIEM 10:52

Yes, The Clap were good, in the end—much better than hearsay and their previous performances had lead anyone to expect. The two axe-wielding giants (well, one giant(ish) and one intimidating stick insect) made people laugh and go “cool” in pretty equal measure. So, well done Ste and Karl, we’re all proud, we hope the next one is soon and better. Pictures and links at Ste’s[1] page, whence he links to some further pictures from Cliph.

Let me muse on beer for a second; it occurs to me that Heineken probably tastes pretty good in Holland. I mean, Budvar tastes pretty excellent in the Czech Republic; the strength of the alcohol and the taste of the beverage make just the right combination. In the Temple Bar Music Centre, moderately sober, Budvar tastes crap, and I assume this is because it’s much less strong, as are most continental beers that get exported here. So, given that I’ve only tasted the Irish version of Heineken, I’m probably quite mistaken on this issue.

So, yeah, with regard to boring Unix stuff; XFree86 4.3.0 won’t work, full stop, on the machine, neither under NetBSD nor Linux. The installed version on Linux is 4.2.1, and that works pretty good. Since I had a copy of the 4.3.0 source tree to hand, I built a copy of the server + driver module with RADEON_DEBUG turned on under Linux, and did

# (sleep 15 && killall XFree86) &
# XFree86

and the debug output included a modeline, which is a plus—I can shove that in /etc/X11/XF86Config, and use a driver module which doesn’t access the BIOS. (It normally accesses the BIOS to get information on the screen size and capabilities; a modeline includes most of this info already.)

Unfortunately, that invocation didn’t give anything useful on the screen, so I’m going to have to build a server + driver for XFree86 4.2.1 on NetBSD with BIOS access turned off to have a decent chance of it working.

[1] http://​netsoc.​tcd.​ie/​~ste/​index3.​html

13th of March, 2003 ANTE·MERIDIEM 12:55

No, it doesn’t have the problem in Gentoo. (If this is a bit autochtonous, read the previous post.) It reads the data from the BIOS fine, and starts up X in the monitor’s native resolution—at 1400x1050, 15”, the 75dpi Xterm fonts in Gentoo are pretty painful—so it’s a platform-specific thing, almost certainly related to the dmesg line at boot which said that a given BIOS address was too high, and that the kernel was ignoring it. A work-around for the moment will be to write an XF86Config for NetBSD with the data autodetected in Gentoo specified, and disable the BIOS calls in radeon_drv.o.

BTW, I’m much impressed with Gentoo; it assumes literacy on your part, and seems to have a lot of energy going into the finesse-the-distribution stuff. Still, Daniel Robbins uses “data” as a singular in his IBM DeveloperWorks articles[2], so I can’t judge them too literate :-) .

What else; I’m heading over to the TBMC presently, to listen to the vaunted sounds of The Clap[1]—relevant quote; “because we’re irritating сunts”—so I think I’ll put an end to this entry. See you all, people.

[1] http://​netsoc.​tcd.​ie/​~ste/​index3.​html

[2] http://​www-106.​ibm.​com/​developerworks/​linux/​library/​l-fs12/​

11th of March, 2003 ANTE·MERIDIEM 11:16

Right, I’m arsing around with my new piece of hardware, and I’ve got all of Windows XP Pro, NetBSD-current, and Gentoo Linux 1.4pre-something  installed. The latter two aren’t entirely set up as I’d like, but the drives are partitioned, and the thing is mostly booting, which is a good start. I also made the credit card scream in pain some more; I bought a 128mb USB memory stick (no MP3 player included this time—maybe next), and it happily works in all three. Isn’t that great? :-)

Annoying bit is; the version of XFree86 that ships with NetBSD 1.6 won’t start up on the box. Which does irk a little, because the BIOS bugs that this Compaq machine ship with—c.f. the first entry in Google for “linux 1510us”—mean that console mode is slightly erratic at best. I’m going to upgrade the firmware this evening, and that will certainly fix some of the keyboard crapness, but I don’t know about X starting.

The last bit from XFree86.0.log is the following;

(II) RADEON(0): Primary Display == Type 2
(II) RADEON(0): Panel ID string: ÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿ
(II) RADEON(0): Panel Size from BIOS: 65535x65535

Fatal server error:
Caught signal 11. Server aborting
So. “LATIN SMALL LETTER Y WITH DIAERESIS,” is, as you all know, entry 255 in the Latin 1 character set. 255 is -1 in 8 bit two’s complement arithmetic, and 65535 is -1 in 16 bit two’s complement arithmetic. Why does XFree86 think that all the data associated with the LCD panel are -1? Let’s see ... whence does it get the info? Ah, a BIOS call. Nngh.

How can I work around this? I’m not entirely sure at the moment—the BIOS it’s reading is the Radeon’s BIOS, not the PC’s, so flashing it may not make much difference. The link I mentioned in the second paragraph doesn’t mention that problem for Linux either; maybe I won’t have it in Gentoo? (Hah!)

2nd of March, 2003 POST·MERIDIEM 04:50

Raglan Road — Patrick Kavanagh 

On Raglan Road of an autumn day I saw her first and knew,
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue,
I saw the danger yet I passed along the enchanted way,
And I said let grief be a fallen leaf,
At the dawning of the day.

On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge,
Of a deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion’s pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay,
Oh I loved too much and by such, by such,
Is happiness thrown away.

I gave her gifts of the mind, I gave her the secret sign,
That’s known to the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone,
And word and tint I did not stint, for I gave her poems to say,
With her own name there and her own dark hair,
Like clouds over fields of May.

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now,
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow,
That I had loved not as I should, a creature made of clay,
When the angel woos the clay,
He’ll lose his wings at the dawn of day.

Our primary school’s headmaster, PJ Arthur, initially of Ennis, Co. Clare, used to teach this as one of the first tunes on the tin whistle. It’s a fine song, but its strength isn’t in the tune, which is pretty pedestrian, whereas the words are pretty sublime, as befits something by Patrick Kavanagh. No, he never taught us the words :-/ .