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Present Perfect


Filed under: General — Thomas @ 20:24


On our floor at work there are two toilet cubicles in the restroom. A few months ago some new light switches were installed with timers that were way too short, forcing you to press the damn button every minute when you're taking a dump while reading a copy of Hacker's Delight or the RTP book or whatever was lying around when I decided to take one. Of course the damn button is placed such that you really do have to lift your ass a little to be able to push it.

So taking a dump had gone from an enjoyable pastime and an opportunity for learning to a nerve-wrecking ass-lifting button-pushing hell.

Luckily I wasn't the only one who tried raising a tiny fist cursing "the system" by putting bits of paper and assorted desk items into the button mechanism to keep the button depressed. One day I even had the whole button pressed with a ball of paper and a few layers of gaffa tape - the really sticky kind used at concerts and festivals to keep cables in their place even though 60000 people walk over it all the time.

But I digress.

For the last few weeks, cubicle one has had its light switch continuously depressed through some way I have yet to figure out (but I applaud the mysterious Robin Hood who did this), while the other one had the regular button. So toilet A has the light burning all the time, while toilet B doesn't. Mysteriously, toilet A also always has the toilet seat *up*. toilet B has the seat *down*.

What is *up* with that ? If you were to use a toilet only for stand-up peeing, would it matter much if the light stayed on for less than a minute ? Yet the one that is comfortably set up for a long session of dump-n-read has the seat *up*.

By the way, I should mention that there are two normal standing toilets (for peeing) right next to the two cubicles. So there's no reason someone should go into the cubicle with light, put the seat up, and pee, and leave the seat up.

Can somebody with a passing knowledge of antropology, sociology, psychology or urology please explain this to me ? Thank you.

An entry on my actual anal fixations will follow later.

A tip for budding Belgian bands

GStreamer 0.9.6

Filed under: Hacking,Releases — Thomas @ 22:35


GStreamer 0.9.6 is out. For those not in the know, a new stable release is less than two weeks away ! This release incorporates all the API changes we had queued up over the last month. It was a bit of a commit- and bug-closing frenzy, so it was two days late, but it's out now.

If you've written an application using GStreamer, better late than never to try and port your application and point out any possible problems we might have forgotten about...

I'm looking forward (though with a little anxiety) to the stable release - I'm very happy with all the love the core has gotten, and we've been able to layer lots of quality all over - automatic build testing, unit tests, automatic valgrinding, ... Edward is working on a media test suite which will be out soon as well. Seems #gstreamer has really caught on to what it takes to produce and improve quality, which makes me happy.

I remember a few weeks ago when someone proposed a port of the matroska muxer to 0.9 and I said "well, your patch is missing a unit test". I was expecting him to tell me to take a hike. But no - he wrote a unit test, submitted it, and added "writing this unit test I found a few bugs in my muxer." G-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-eat !

Anyway, I'm sure all other libs out there were already doing this, and this is nothing new - but it makes me happy we've come this far.

Now, on to cleaning up more of our tree and moving some stuff around...

Even more hardware

Filed under: General — Thomas @ 22:07


So, Peter en Tinneke dropped by. It's always nice to have friends pay you a visit, bringing a piece of home to your home. Among other things, we dropped by the Razzmatazz on Friday evening to see Soulwax - the Nite versions. We had to queue for an hour even though we had tickets. It made Peter even more happy though than before, go figure !

Soulwax was disappointing. I had read rave reviews about their rebuilt remixed album and their live performances based on them. I hardly recognized anything except for a few shards of lyrics, there was almost no singing, everything sounded the same... I guess I'm just destined to be a regular rock kid.

Saturday, among other things, Peter and I went window-shopping for hardware. I wanted to show him the block that has all the computer stores. I think he liked it - we went to more than ten stores. I realized I hadn't been to more than three or four myself, not realizing the difference between the stores. I guess I don't have a hardware buddy round here the way Peter was back in Belgium :) Each store seems to have taken up some specialty. We were especially hunting for an acceptable case, but it seems a lot of stores specialize in butt-ugly cases to attract gamers. We only found one reasonably acceptable Asus case at first. When we had decided to finally give up and go back to meet the girls, we passed by a store that had cases from brands we found on the internet. We spent another half hour looking over the store, they specialized in HTPC components, and were willing to order whatever we found on the internet that they weren't selling.

The weekend after that, I played around with an old Epia board I had lying around. It was one of the first out there, it has a 500 Mhz Samuel CPU. After quite a bit of fiddling, I got it to net-boot various distros, and a very optimized MPlayer seems to almost be able to keep a constant framerate going for playback. One of the nice things about this board is that TV-out just works right from the start - even the BIOS shows up. Another nice thing is that it can operate completely fanless and driveless. So I'm seriously considering redoing my home setup with a server stashed somewhere, and one or more clients netbooting off the server. While the noise in the living room wasn't terrible, it was noticeable, even from the bedroom.

So I am now browsing for nice cases that I would consider using in either setup.

Some of the cases I've been looking at:

If anyone knows about more decent HTPC case producers, or has any first-hand experience, feel free to share and drop me a line at thomas at apestaart dot org


Filed under: General — Thomas @ 18:01


Have I ever mentioned before that I hate hardware ? The only good thing about hardware is that it lets me transfer chunks of creation in my mind to something real. But other than that, I hate it with a passion.

Two weeks ago on Tuesday, there was a day off, which I switched for a Friday because Peter and Tinneke were going to be there on that Friday. So I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to switch out my personal hard drive which was in Fluendo's router (after last year's hard drive crash - CUE OMINOUS MUSIC) for a new one I bought. Only Andy and me in the office, so not too much complaining about not having Internet, right ?

So I press the little switchityswitch button on the KVM thingamole to go to the router screen and shut it down. Passing by one of the screens I noticed a lot of "hda", "{ ... }", "DMA" and "error" bits across one of the screens. Oh, great - clocktime, our 64-bit test machine was having hard drive issues. I restarted it to fsck the machine, but fsck told me the root directory's inode was lost. So that made most of the files end up in lost+found, without any names (sigh), and fsck complained during checking that lost+found was too small to hold everything... The only thing I had going for me that day was that we happened to have a big enough hard drive lying around being used for a development board that didn't have that much installed on it.

I dd'd the smaller firewall HD onto the new one, then resized the ext2 partitions (first time, but worked fine), except that GRUB didn't really work anymore after that.
I couldn't boot the firewall's machine off a CD either, so in the end I had to fiddle to get PXE booting going just to be able to start up a rescue environment. grub-install didn't seem to correct the problem. So I thought I'd run an upgrade with the same distro version (FC3), to fix my bootloader settings, which didn't happen because that only gets done if it upgrades the kernel. Sigh - would be nice if you could do this somehow from the install CD. Booted again in rescue mode, removed the kernel, rebooted, tried to install again - it still didn't want to install a kernel.

It took me pretty much the whole day to fix up both machines - big waste of time. It should have been a routine upgrade.

In the same week, my Dave/Dina system at home started mysteriously hanging roughly every six hours. The week before, it was consistently hanging whenever any video had lots of white in it. It kept getting worse, and the hard drive started throwing errors as well. Sigh. It also started hanging a lot faster. By the time Peter and Tinneke arrived, it wouldn't run for more than an hour.

So, among other things, I bought a new hard drive - and some extra RAM for the home machine, now that I'm running VMWare a lot - to copy Dave/Dina's music over. Only, sadly, the drive was already too far gone, throwing input/output errors for most directories. Luckily, I had made a copy of everything on it just two weeks before - for Peter's birthday. See - being a nice person pays off. Peter had brought his USB drive to Barcelona and I ended up with a full restore of the music.

Flat with nine drives
but they're dead, Jim

We ran memtest on a bunch of memory chips, and it came up with errors, but not the kind we're used to. Then Peter started to spin an amazing tale about bulging and leaky capacitors. And yes - the capacitors on the board looked a little brownish and bulgy. But I could hardly believe that whole ranges of motherboards were broken because some board maker stole the secret formula for the electrolyte. It sounded like bad James Bond. But Peter was convinced, and showed me some webpages documenting the problem. And a few days a similar story was on SlashDot - so I guess it must be true.

Anyway, long story short - Dave/Dina is currently broken, leaving us without music and series to watch. So, time for some new hardware soon...

Belgium breezed by

Filed under: Life — Thomas @ 23:23


Almost a week spent in Old Country. Arrived and got picked up by Wiebe and Peter at the airport - great to have friends. Went out for some drinks and gave Peter his birthday present. Went to meet my new godson, Arthur.

Babies are cute

Went to a reunion of our university radio, was good to see a bunch of people again, though some were dearly missed. Also enjoyed a concert from Belgium's most underachieving band -
Grrr Tfff, the punk folkers from Gent.

Spent part of Saturday in Leuven to make newly born Finn's acquaintance. Went out for dinner on a boat with Tamara - pretty good food. Sunday was spent watching Atame again (which is starting to show its age) and dinner at my godson's house with the family - excellent steaks.

Chunks of monday disappeared into my dad's computer - upgrading, putting in a decent DVD writer that allows the machine to boot, upgrade packages (his laptop was still on Red Hat 8). The evening was spent with Ellen at an Art Brut concert in the AB. Excellent stuff. Apparently they've been talking to the kids since 2003. A short Tuesday later I was back at home in Barcelona.

My dad's take on computer security