The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

I don't need to buy a new laptop – yayy

| September 29, 2007

My laptop was overheating, so I took it apart to clean it.

The power adapter (crappy friction fit kind) kept falling out, so while I was at it, I figured I'd fixed it. While pulling the part out I needed to fiddle with, I ripped a resistor off the board.


I had the resistor, and is was pretty big, isolated, and surface mount. The first two are good. The last, not so good.

So, I broke out the soldering iron, soldered it back on, fixed the other thing, and fired it up.

And it works. So, this box's life is prolonged for another year or more, hopefully. My laptops never get obsolete – they get broken. I'd like to have one which I retire because it's finally too old, rather than because it's busted.

Some updates

| September 28, 2007

  • Arthur has not returned, but Liz doesn't think that the fur is his. I do not know if this is good or bad.

  • My NY Pistol permit arrived. So, tomorrow I'm headed out to the gun store to pick up the first of my guns to come back home. The rest will be one a week for the next two months or so. (This is a federal thing, not a state thing. If I do them all at once, it requires a pile of extra forms and takes longer and such).

Games (Video and Otherwise)

| September 27, 2007

Video Games: I’ve stopped playing Baldur’s gate for a bit – it just got too monotonous, and makes me long for real RPG’s. So, I started playing Warzone 2100 again, when I realize that it suffers from a fatal flaw – you can’t restart a mission from the beginning. If you get to a point where you can’t win, even from your last save point (easily possible with the time limited games), you start over from the beginning. I did, and it keeps locking up on me. Now, I’ve gotten past this point before, so I’m not sure why it is happening now, but I’m not going to chase it down. Given that what I was really looking for was a RTS fix (like StarCraft), I figured I’d just install Starcraft and play that. True to a vow I had made to try all these games under Wine before loading them on the Wintendo, I did. You know what? It worked. Almost flawlessly. We’ll call it 95%. Game installed. Expansion installed. Patch installed. Running the game worked, but sound was choppy and I could still see the top and bottom taskbars from my window manager. A quick firing up of wineconfig and a tweaked the sound emulation settings and the “let WM manage windows” for Starcraft.exe (apparently you can have per-executable emulation settings, so if Starcraft wants to behave differently than notepad, it can. Very nice.) Of course, then I was talking about this to a friend of mine, and he was mentioning X-Com. Since I have the collector’s edition which runs under Windows, I tossed that in under Wine as well. Doesn’t work. The app DB says it does, but it doesn’t. Well, it runs fine in a Window, but not full screen, no matter what I tried. Tossed it onto the Wintendo, only to find that it runs too fast. Not too fast to be playable per se, but fast enough to be annoying. I googled around, and happened upon UFO: Alien Invasion. This is an open source game based around one of the Quake engines and done in the style of the original X-Com. Aside from the various issues one would expect of a game in development, it is very, very good. However, the unwillingness of the developers to add an “in mission save” button basically makes it unplayable. I am an adult. I need to be able to save and quit a game NOW because something else demands my attention. I do not accept this from other computer games (and I take a hard look at console games which lack this feature as well, going to far as to make such a stink that the store let me return Black. Resident Evil 4 gets a pass because I can save at any time – as long as I go find a typewriter, which is usually only a few minute walk away. Call of Duty autosaves at checkpoints which are about 5 mins apart, so that’s okay too. Red Steel annoys me because it doesn’t allow a proper save except at the very end of a mission. But, anyway…) When that failed to hold my interest, I installed UFO Aftermath. The problem with this one is that the fonts are all goofy in the Wintendo. Maybe it’s the video card, maybe it’s the game – who knows? It worked on my laptop, so it’s cool on XP, it just doesn’t seem to work on this box for some reason. At this point, I’m a little annoyed, so I think I’m going to go back to playing console games and working on other hobby related stuff… which brings us to…. Tabletop games: I found a local gaming store, RK Sports, which has local game nights, but it’s cramped and seems to cater to more of a younger crowd. The “sports” in their name comes from the fact that they do a brisk trade in sports cards. They seem to focus on Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000. Their prices are good, but the selection is small, though they can order you whatever you like for less than it would cost to order it from GW (sticker price is MSRP, but then everything is discounted a variable amount depending on what you buy). I am not sure if I will show up and play. 40K is nice, but I like to play other games too. Regardless, I have some retooling of my armies before I can. My Tau army seems to be up to date, I just need to paint it. My Dark Angels Army got a new codex. A first glance, the net result is that things will cost about the same, but some options go away, others I get for free, and my squad sizes are no longer limited by the size of the transport, but rather the size the codex says (this holds 6 guys, but I can only have 5 man squads, so the extra space is wasted). I’ve also decided to fix a problem with the paint scheme. Basically, I had used a light green highlight color which looks sharp but is a pain to get right. The problem is, in order to paint the new guys without it, I have to go back and paint over the color on all the old guys, then hit them with a shot of varnish so it doesn’t rub off. I’ve been hesitant to do that, but I think I’ll just bite the bullet on this one and just do it. It will save time in the long run, and it will stop people from thinking these guys are some custom chapter, since this highlighting makes them not look like Dark Angels. I’ll also be casting more blocks and building terrain, painting Battletech minis, and painting microarmor for FOW Modern (or any other modern game). I should note that I have no idea when I’ll play these games, but it is a hobby which keeps me entertained and allows me to de-stress, and that counts for a lot. Oh, there is a local con put on by the Schenectady Wargamers Association, which I was considering attending, but they charge con fee (normal) plus a per-game GM fee (this is a dead idea which no one does anymore, since waiving the GM’s con fee (which these guys do as well) is more money than you make off the players, and the $10 or so you’ll get from the players for running the game is not even remotely worth the time. Be a bigger person and do it for the love of the hobby). As such, I refuse to attend. These guys also run weekly gaming, but it’s the same deal – per game fee. Now, that might be a deal worked out with the venue; I’m not sure. I accept this from stores, who look to make money – they stay open another 4 hours to do a 40k night and everyone who shows up to play contributes $5 and the store makes money from the game night. Now, I don’t think this is good business practice, but I at least understand it. But not from a gaming club. I’ve also been thinking of posting an entry over at Pen and Paper Games. Put it out there, see what comes up. The problem is, gamers can be .. sketchy. I’d much rather meet someone and get to know them and then game with them, rather than meet them through gaming, not like them, have a falling out, etc. Maybe I’m just paranoid. After all, that is kind of how my first group got together. I was in the coffeeshop, talking about RPG’s, someone overheard us and say “hey, my boyfriend and I would be interested, and maybe a friend of ours, etc.” and before I new it, I had 5 players.


| September 24, 2007

So, for the past two weeks ago, I have been playing with spamato, both the standalone proxy and the Thunderbird plugin.

First, the concept is interesting – it's actually a bunch of different anti-spam solutions and if some number of them (default two) think something is spam, then it is.

I tested the proxy a little bit, but it doesn't really work – it frequently times out, fails to get mail, etc. I want more response time than that. This may be how it is designed, but this is not an acceptable level of performance for me.

So, I ended up doing most of my testing with the Thunderbird plugin. This has a number of deficiencies:

  • It uses a LOT of CPU horsepower. Starting it up in the morning and processing 500 message or so will end up pegging my CPU for about 10 minutes. I also cannot read email while this is going on.

  • Spam is put in a local folder, which means that there is no way to share it between computers. There is no way to change this folder.

  • It is too likely to find spam, at least in the default settings.

In the end, I'm canning it because it “catches too much”, so much so that I can't trust it – and if I have to check piles of messages anyway, I might as well just grab them from my in box and tag them as junk there.


| September 24, 2007

I have not seen Arthur in 36 hours.

I found fur in the yard. No blood, just clumps of Arthur colored fur.

And my father in law saw some coyote scat a couple of days ago.

I am concerned.

I also realize that I haven't seen any rabbits for the past few weeks – when we moved in, we were flush with them.

All other kittens are accounted for and will be remaining inside until Arthur returns or we start seeing rabbits again.

Long day

| September 23, 2007

This was one of those weekends where I worked on a lot and made a lot of progress, but didn't really finish anything. But, progress is progress, I suppose.

I also found a gaming shop about half an hour away which does open gaming several times a week, so I'll probably show up and play. Of course, 40K is out for a little bit, since GW changed all the books I need, again, so I need to grab up to date ones and rejigger my army to conform to the rules.

I also hung out and talked about conspiracy theories and other odd bits of unexplainable trivia with a neighbor from up the street. He's a friend of my father in law, and ended up building a house up around the bend.

One interesting topic to come out of the discussion was that he was reading that archaeologists have uncovered evidence of multiple nuclear incidents from about 8000 years ago, which leads to discussion of an advanced society and/or extraterrestrial nuclear war. You can google “ancient nuclear war” for more information. Maybe it's just nutty conspiracy theory, but if these were indeed ancient nuclear explosions, where did they come from? If they were not, what are they?

I haven't seen Arthur all day. Usually he comes out and hangs out when I'm working in the yard, and he also usually comes in at about this time at night. I have to say that I am a little concerned, but Liz also thinks I'm a little paranoid. Still, my father in law found some coyote scat down by the creek, so hopefully Arthur is okay.

Also, apparently New Jersey exported some bears to upstate NY, because they have a bear problem, but the environmental management folks didn't want to issue hunting licenses for them because “the girls in the office thought it was mean to kill the cute bears”. So we now have them in NY, where permits will be issued for the bears (they're extending the bear hunting season in the Catskill region by something like 3 days this year because of bear overpopulation there).

Now, both Coyotes and Bears will generally leave people alone (barring rabies and protecting cubs), but Arthur would make either of them a nice snack.

In other news, my father in law put up a trailcam, and we've been seeing about one deer per day on it. I also saw two does this evening, and the aforementioned neighbor said that he's seen two bucks running around.

He's also heading out to Wyoming shortly.. for elk, I believe.

I forsee a need to order from these fellows (because I like sausages). Summer sausages… polish sausages.. breakfast susages. Mmmmmmm.

Why are people so blind?

| September 22, 2007

Linky to what prompted this

Look, it's simple:

  • The largest scale massacres in history were perpetrated by governments (aka “state actors”).
  • By attempting to ban sale of arms to “non-state actors”, you facilitate these massacres
  • When these massacres are against a specific racial/ethnic group, we call this genocide.

This is important, so I will make it clear:

The UN is not your friend. The UN is populated by regimes which routinely deny human rights in the name of government stability. They would seek to disarm all people, restrict small arms to military and police only, and then will sit and vote on resolutions chastizing governments when they abuse that monopoly on force (or, the resolution will get vetoed because China decides it's not really a human rights violation).

I prefer a more direct approach. I offer up this Rifleman's Prayer:

Oh Lord, I would live my life in freedom, peace and happiness, enjoying the simple pleasures of hearth and home. I would die an old, old man in my own bed, preferably of sexual overexertion.

But if that is not to be, Lord, if monsters such as this should find their way to my little corner of the world on my watch, then help me to sweep those bastards from the ramparts, because doing that is good, and right, and just.

And if in this I should fall, let me be found atop a pile of brass, behind the wall I made of their corpses.

Call me simple, but my ideas of right, wrong, and justice don't seem to be nearly as fragile as the ones these UN folks hold.

I just don't get the appeal of IDE's

| September 22, 2007

Can someone explain to me why everyone love's IDE's? It seems to me that the things they are good at (debugging, laying things out, finding where things are) can be accomplished almost as well if not equally well as other tools, but the core use – writing code, is hampered by code editors which fundamentally suck.


I am writing code, and it occurs to me that I need to go fix something in another part of the code.

In the IDE scenario, I can use the menu command to split the window, or open up another copy of the editor and drag it from a tab bar item to a second window, then double click to open the correct file and make my change. Meanwhile, my original view has gotten smaller, or I need to flip between the two.

Contrast this with using a dedicated editor like emacs. I am editing my file, then do ctl-x 5 2 which opens up a new window, which I then point into with the mouse (to make it active) and do ctl-x ctl-f to open up the right file (yes, I realize that these may seem to be nonstandard keybindings, but this is because emacs was written about 25 years ago, when someone thought that bindings such as these were a good idea. You'd think it's a pain, but you get used to it really quickly).

It just.. interrupts the flow, and makes programming inelegant.

Then, when you want to use their other features, they have to slurp in all your project stuff – you can't just use the debugger in most of them, you need to have used the IDE from the beginning, or whatnot.

Finally, the “finding where stuff is” is easily accomplished by a documentation package (like JavaDoc), which automagically builds docs every time you compile something, because you added something like that to your makefile, right? So, you can have a browser tab with the core Java library documentation open, and another one with your projects documentation open.

Or maybe I'm just not hip enough.

Red Dawn

| September 19, 2007

So, it has come to my attention that Venezuela is undergoing a military buildup. Now, this doesn't really concern me per se, but I have to wonder what their ambitions are. Given that, I can't help but wonder if Red Dawn was 25 years early.

It makes you think, doesn't it?

Now, if I can only find out what hardware they are buying and what their military organization is like, I can build an interesting modern microarmor scenario around it…

Computermachine stuff

| September 19, 2007

For some time, one of the hard drives in my disk array was clicking. I new it was failing, but didn’t know which one. So, I figured I’d wait for it to fail, then replace it. Last week, the array got very slow. So, I checked the array and got the following: Unit UnitType Status %RCmpl %V/I/M Stripe Size(GB) Cache AVrfy ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ u0 RAID-5 DEGRADED - - 64K 534.34 ON - Port Status Unit Size Blocks Serial --------------------------------------------------------------- p0 OK u0 76.33 GB 160086528 V80PKTLC p1 OK u0 76.33 GB 160086528 V80PTS3C p2 OK u0 76.33 GB 160086528 V80Q5M2C p3 OK u0 76.33 GB 160086528 V80PH1PC p4 OK u0 76.33 GB 160086528 V80PKTVC p5 OK u0 76.33 GB 160086528 V80PKV7C p6 OK u0 76.33 GB 160086528 V80Q6LDC p7 DEGRADED u0 76.33 GB 160086528 V80Q6L1C Unit UnitType Status %RCmpl %V/I/M Port Stripe Size(GB) ------------------------------------------------------------------------ u0 RAID-5 DEGRADED - - - 64K 534.34 u0-0 DISK OK - - p0 - 76.3342 u0-1 DISK OK - - p1 - 76.3342 u0-2 DISK OK - - p2 - 76.3342 u0-3 DISK OK - - p3 - 76.3342 u0-4 DISK OK - - p4 - 76.3342 u0-5 DISK OK - - p5 - 76.3342 u0-6 DISK OK - - p6 - 76.3342 u0-7 DISK DEGRADED - - p7 - 76.3342 Great. So, I change out the drive, and it goes to rebuild.. then fails. WTF? So, I retry the rebuild again. Still fails. Change the drive out with yet another spare, and it rebuilds just fine. So, I chuck the drive into a spare motherboard and run badblocks on it. I let it go all night, and it’s still going. The scary part is that this was the boot drive of the machine which I retired. In the end, no data was lost, so all is well. In other news, AMD released 900 pages of ATI specs. This means that I don’t have to deal with Intel video card stuff if I don’t want to. So, since I prefer the Opterons anyway, I think I’ll head in that direction, which leads me to a Tyan n3400B. It’s sweet – SLI, legacy PCI, yadda yadda. I figure I’ll chuck in a pair of 750GB HDD’s, a Dual Core Opteron, and 4GB of RAM, and call it good. End price will be about $1250 or so, and then I’ll add in an external 1TB firewire drive. Finally, I’m going to poke Java and Eclipse and see where that leads me. I figure that I should have a look at these newfangled IDE’s (everyone keeps telling me that emacs and make are outdated, but hey). Now, if I might pontificate a bit: The current state of the industry is crap. Somewhere between 50% and 95% of programmers need to be fired (depending on my mood) because they are incompetent. This incompetency varies. Some are lazy, some are stupid, some are too educated with not enough experience. Additionally there is too much of a “shiny new” aspect. We have a proliferation of languages and frameworks, most of which are both of dubious quality and are designed to humor stupid programmers. Visual Basic is often much maligned as being not suitable for real work, but I would go so far as to put PHP, Python and Ruby in that camp as well. (Perl is a special case in that it is not suitable for “real work” in the traditional sense, but is rather a very powerful admin tool – a replacement for bash+sed+awk+other stuff, but should not be used for things like web services, etc.). I’d argue that the only decent languages and frameworks created recently are: C, C++, C# and Java. If you want to do something serious, use one of those, and don’t be an idiot when implementing it. All the rest of them are pretty much useless and not suited for real work. If you want to use PHP/Ruby/etc for some personal, low volume website, then great, but that is different than “real work”. Oh, and Mono, in theory, is decent, but it seems to suffer from a large degree of brokenness, especially in the GUI/Widget department.