The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker


| November 29, 2003

I took another look at Freevo and grabbed the latest version.

They've FIXED the speed problem!

As the freevo user (though if you make it world readable, it doesn't seem to matter), you need to run freevo cache which caches the tags in the files. It sits there and chews on it for many minutes and then load times are measured in seconds, not minutes.

So, I canned MythTV.

I think I shall read and listen to music now.

Night all.

wine still isn't quite there yet

| November 29, 2003

Tried to install some video games:

Starcraft – Works flawlessly XCOM – UFO Defense (Windows version) – Chokes on install. Says that UninstallShield is in use HalfLife – Supposed to work flawlessly, and other people can get it to work, however, for me it bitches about not having enough temporary storage space. Don't know how to fix it.

So, still need the wintendo.

In other news, I'm playing with MythTV (because Freevo, while good, is slow). MythTV has a list of dependencies longer than my schlong, and after getting them ALL installed – it gives me 500+ lines of compile errors. Poop.

Freevo, on the other hand, is lean and mean – it just takes forever to recurse through a list of directories and build a randm playlist, or to use an XMMS playlist. Aside from that, I like it very much.

Perhaps I should try and fix it instead of trying MythTV (MythTV is far more than I need, honestly).

Hmmm. Will have to think on this for awhile. Gives me an excuse to learn Python…

Mikey and Arthur made friends

| November 29, 2003

Need to make a turkey sandwich.

Mikey and Arthur lying together

I love the internet

| November 29, 2003

I just did 90% of my christmas shopping in 2 hours on the internet.

Played with more distros

| November 28, 2003

In evaluating other Linux distributions (I do this whenever “upgrade time” comes around) today I looked at: Fedora Core 1 Knoppix Mepis One thing to bear in mind – it must work on all my systems. Consequently, I like to test on Laptops, since they have more of the “wierd stuff” (PCMCIA, IEEE1394, wireless cards, etc.) that’s not on other machines I have. Fedora is what the “end user” version of RedHat is now called. Knoppix is Debian based distro, famous for being a “Linux on a bootable CD” (called a Live CD) distro. Mepis is also Debian based, and is also a Live-CD distro. The difference is that while Knoppix’s hard disk install is kind of an afterthought, Mepis’s is designed that way from the get-go. Fedora is exactly what you would expect from RedHat, just with a different name. Stuff just works (for the most part) and the only real downside is the fact that apt is generally thought to be nicer than rpm. However, with stuff like Apt4RPM this is less of an issue. Considering I rarely use the package management stuff anyway, it’s even less of an issue for me. Knoppix is slick – it installs very simply, but doesn’t help you much. You need to know how you should partition your drive, and it only seems to install to 1 partition – if you want other ones (like /home or /usr/local), you need to do them afterwards. Also, there is a bug in certain versions of the cardmgr stuff whereby you do a ‘cardctl scheme foo’, and it changes the scheme. However, on some distros, when you then bring up the interface (done automatically after the scheme thing), it kills the WEP key you just set on the card. I fixed this in RH8, reported it, and in RH9 (and presumably Fedora Core 1, didn’t check) it just worked. This is still broken in Knoppix, and presumably other Debian based distros. Mepis.. well, Mepis didn’t boot. It hung at cardmgr starting. Now, in all fairness, Knoppix had a problem with it too – except it forked the process to the background, so the rest of the system still came up. Mepis just stopped. Consequently, all I can do is tell you how nice their screenshots work. I’ll probably try gentoo tomorrow, but it’s more curiosity than anything – I don’t view it as viable for cookiecutter production systems. Stuff I found: QTParted Partition magic clone written using QT toolkit K3B Nice looking CD/DVD burning software. Haven’t tried it yet, though. In other news, Thanksgiving was very nice. Quiet, not a whole lot of the family, good conversation, good food. My folks lamented the lack of a traditional turkey dinner, so I ended up making one for dinner tonight and everyone came down. So, it was good. I keep feeling like I need to go back to work tomorrow, but I don’t. Feels like Sunday for some reason.

Just one of those days

| November 26, 2003

Vanilla Sky is one of those very, very strange movies. So, a bunch of folks were headed out to the bar today. I went with them, but there was this person whose company I dislike who went with them as well. So, I left and went home. There’s been a lot of news in the past week or so: Best Buy is getting sued because they are trying to use the DMCA to quash people publishing Black Friday sale prices. SCO may sue Google next. Google uses about 10,000 Linux machines and SCO says that people should pay them $700 for each machine. This, of course, is about $7 million. a href=”″>This paper explains it pretty well in 4 pages. The MPAA and RIAA are seeking a permanent Anti-Trust exemption. So much for price-fixing lawsuits and all that crap. Additionally, several indie labels are threatening to sue the RIAA unless the RAA removes them from its members list. Apparently, their names got on the RIAA’s member list without them actually becoming members. Since many people are boycotting the RIAA, their business is being affected. Also, the MPAA has found a new way to fight P2P – child pornography. They’re lobbying for strong anti-peer to peer measures to fight “intellectual property infringement and child pornography”. Right, like they have anything in common. Novell, RedHat, and Sun are committing to a Linux desktop Oh, and for the folks who like Knoppix (it’s a linux distro that boots from a CD), you can install it to your hard disk which is pretty nifty. Yep, Vanilly Sky was a strange movie. The bit about his memorial – the man says that “he was missed”. Would I be? I wonder. It’s what I always liked about It’s a Wonderful Life.

What a day…

| November 22, 2003

Last night, I had dinner with Liz, and she said that she had to go to the pet store to get some kitty litter for Mikey, and she had to find a present for her sister-in-law’s birthday. She asked if I wanted to come, and I told her that I would go wherever she was going to drive. Of course, she’s a sneaky woman, and she decided that since I said that, she’d drive to Providence place. For those of you who aren’t from around here, please allow me to describe this mall. It was billed in the local papers as the “high class mall” or, by critics, the “yuppie mall”. In all truth, it’s not all that upscale. It’s the stuff you’d expect in any regular mall – Banana Republic, Eddie Bauer, The Limited, Bath and Body works, etc. I suppose what makes it upscale is the fact that Nordstroms and Lord and Taylor replace the typical Filenes, JC Penney or Sears as the anchor stores, and there isn’t an Old Navy. So, it’s not like it’s annoyingly blue-blooded rich folk annoying or anything, but it’s of limited use to me because I don’t shot at those stores much. I’m not into “high end” clothes. For work, I buy clothes wherever – from Wal-Mart to Filenes, but that is about as high end as I go. For not-work, I stick to cargo pants and T-Shirts, which means stuff like Old Navy. It’s just not worth spending a lot of money on clothes, because I don’t care that much. As far as the other stores in there, they’re marginally useful; the stuff like Crate & Barrel and the Pottery Barn are nice, but between Wal-Mart’s prices on the shit you don’t care about the quality, and Kitchens, etc. and Bed Bath and Beyond for the stuff you do, you end up being able to do it cheaper, and the stores in Warwick are larger with more selection and inventory. That was how unimpressed I was with the shops – they layout is downright horrible. Emerald Square Mall, in Attleboro, is a big box. Easy to find things, nice and open. This mall is all twisty and turny large groups of people spread out then have to bunch up again when you hit a choke point. The overhangs and shit on the ceiling stop you from being able to see stores until you’re right on top of them. On the plus side, I found some nifty bits: The perfect tea kettle The perfect T-Shirt This one isn’t bad either Nifty lamps, box of 4 for $80. Probably el-cheapo, but they’re lamps. Who cares. Now, the only problem with the T-Shirts is that they’re from Hot Topic. I’ve never been in Hot Topic before, merely heard the name and heard it made fun of. Now, I personally didn’t have a problem with it, any more than I have a problem with any other trendy clothing store, but I see people’s points. To be part of a “scene” in its infancy, then to have it exploited by some chain store where a portion of your identity is reduced to some drop down menu asking “What’s your scene?”. Then, you see these little Yuppie children who get deposited on the steps of the mall by their mom’s Lincoln Navigator decked out from head to toe in their punk scene Hot Topic gear. Anyway, that has nothing to do with why the mall sucks, but has pretty much covered the mall itself. Oh, it was crowded – that too. Then there’s the parking garage. To imagine this debacle, take everything you know about proper traffic flow and how people drive for the last, oh, well, since there have been cars, and toss it out the window. In fact, forget just ignoring it – if you actively apply knowledge of good parking garage design, then invert it, you have an approximation of how bad this is. For example: – Make the turns at the corners so narrow that 2 cars cannot pass, yet traffic is supposed to flow both ways – Make those corners blind – Don’t put in any stop signs or anything – Have the in and out lanes switched around (you know, going up the parking garage is on the left, and down is on the right) – But, have the traffic flow proceed in a semi-normal clockwise direction – So that the up traffic has to turn in front of the people trying to head out, and the people heading out have to cross in front of them – Then make all these corners blind – And make you have to slalom between concrete pillars just to get in the right lane to hit the middle exit toll booth Fucking stupid. Now, the ride into the city is, of course, the same as it always is – you ride through this fucking ghetto and abandoned industrial shit, blowing by it at 55 like it doesn’t matter. Then, you nearly get into an accident because the exit ramp you need is about 100 feet from an on ramp that is, of course, clogged with people trying to get on. Cities. Why anyone wants to live in such a dirty place is beyond me. Although, I’ve seen some okay cities – in the Midwest. But most of Providence is like fucking Trenton. It’s a hole.

Week is over

| November 21, 2003

It's been a crazy week.

On Saturday (couldn't talk about it until the deal was announced), they told me that Atlantek (where I work) was about to be acquired by Zebra technologies. On Monday, it was. So, I now work for Zebra.

They're a successful large cap (something like $3 bn) company, and they own one of our two major competitors. We're going to take over the high end/low volume printer business (which is something we do well in) and they will continue with the low end/high volume business (which is something that we don't do as well in). Good strategic partnership and all that.

Of course, what the company says about itself and what other people say about it are two different things. Liz's brother has had experience with their barcode printers, and basically the quality is marginal and the driver sucks. It sucks so hard that another compnay reverse engineered Zebra's comms protocols to bypass the drivers and talk to them directly. So, they're not all that popular amongst the engineering crowd – they're just a big name so they get used.

Now, the other thing is I'm not sure what all I can talk about – Atlantek was a small company and they were pretty loose. This Zebra is hard; harsh locked down NDA's and rough contracts that make you sign away all your rights, noncompetes, the whole deal. I suppose that's all I can say, because they'll probably fire me for violating NDA if I say too much. I wonder if they realize that this is detrimental to the whole idea of free-spirited creativity?

Meanwhile, I'm trying to get the first cut of the beta out, and all these meetings and all that are going on delaying stuff. We still made it, I would have just like to test it more. But, it's a beta, so people expect things not to work 100%. Of course, I think it's more stable than a lot of betas I've used.

I need to play video games.

Rebooting again.

| November 18, 2003

It's NUCLEAR, Mr. Bush.

Apparently, I'm not the only person annoyed by this.


| November 18, 2003

(Waiting for my f%^&$ Windows machine at work to reboot)

A nice take on the “if you buy drugs, you're supporting terrorism” ads.