Sun, 30 Mar 2003
Operating system upgrade nightmare

So I was pretty excited when Mandrake 9.1 was released last Friday - I've been waiting for a long time to upgrade from 8.1 (I never install a dot-zero release, even given the good reception 9.0 received).

Download and CD burn went smoothly. The CD didn't boot on my machine though, which had me concerned for a while. Reading the docs though, they mention that the first CD has some new-fangled autoboot mechanism. The second CD has the old, reliable mechanism. I used that, and it worked fine. The install went without a hitch, detecting my old partitions and all (though they don't seem to detect existing users, which would be extremely useful...)

This all happened in the space of about half an hour, and I was very happy. Until I booted up. X11 just refused to work. All flickery and such. After poking around for a while, I discovered that it wasn't X11 - that worked fine - but all KDE applications just quit as soon as they opened a window. Turns out that Mandrake had compiled Qt (a fundamental building-clock of KDE) to require the RENDER extension in X11 - and my crappy cheap video card doesn't support that. I discovered this after about a couple of hours and several emails on the very helpful mandrake mailing lists (using Evolution ... shudder.) I installed nicer Qt RPMs supplied by one of the mailing list users, and all was well.

Then on to firewall configuration. Well, long story short is that it took me another few hours to convince the Mandrake tools that I don't have a ppp+ connection to the internet, and yes I'd like Rachel's PC to be able to use my shared drives even if I don't want the rest of the Internet to.

I ended up upgrading to a GeForce 4 (AU$100 for a name-brand 440SE with 64Mb RAM - nice bargain) and all was well and zoomy (850fps in gears, nice :).

That was until my boot hard disk appeared to catch fire (no, really, it made an orange flash and there was a strong burning smell!)

So now I'm looking for a new boot disk (fortunately, it was the boot disk, not one of the data disks).

path: /stuff | permanent link |
Thu, 27 Mar 2003
Woohoo, Firefly on DVD!

Rachel says:

Whedonesque reports that a DVD release of Firefly has been confirmed by Fox. Woo hoo!
path: /stuff | permanent link |
Wed, 26 Mar 2003
"Wrong war. Wrong reasoning. Wrong priorities. Wrong timing."

"Return to the state of nature" by David Held.

The US-led war on Iraq is more than a failure of American strategy, diplomacy and thinking; in its heedless rejection of international institutions and their norms of co-operation, it represents a dangerous retreat to the law of the jungle.
path: /stuff | permanent link |
Mon, 24 Mar 2003
Why I'm still protesting

Protesters may be angrier in some demonstrations overseas, but they're anything but that here in Melbourne, Australia. The two rallies I went to at the end of last week (about 15-20,000 people attending each time) were perfectly peaceful affairs (though missing that air of hopefulness of the pre-war rallies). And they retained the same mix of people; young, old, feral, middle-class, ...

I can't speak for the rest of the people at the rally, but I'm protesting the human cost of this war - not necessarily from direct bombing. The number of Iraqis that will be killed due to the destruction of their infrastructure remains to be seen, but it will be high, and it's not even being acknowledged by the media hacks "informing" the public.

There's other reasons too, but they border on conspiracy-theory nutjob stuff that I won't go into (you know, the US plans to take over the world, or at least make sure the greenback doesn't lose its current country-whalloping power...)

It's important to me that I stand up and make it known that just because the war's started, I haven't just changed my mind and decided that it's a good idea after all.

I don't really believe it's possible for the troops to be withdrawn at this late stage (though the withdrawal of our troops really wouldn't affect things, would it?) - I just want to add my voice to the masses that are saying that we didn't want this war.

As for the "shock and awe" war guaranteed to be over within the American attention span ... well, it looks like the Iraqis aren't just rolling over. The Yanks still have to take several major cities (including the one holding Bush's Grail) and that fighting is going to be extraordinarily ugly, and drawn out. I desperately hope I'm wrong about this, but I can't see this war being over any time soon.

path: /stuff | permanent link |
Wed, 19 Mar 2003
Life in the world of Open Source Projects

Gawd, it's all ups and downs, innit.

When I started Roundup out, I told Ka-Ping Yee (the author of the original design) about it and he said words to the effect of "woohoo!" - I've since lost the email though, which is a shame.

Roundup's been in development a long time, and many a good and bad idea have been tried and hopefully in the case of the bad, discarded. It's been fun, mostly, and I've had a relatively loyal following of users who are willing to put up with the changes in templating, tracker configuration, etc.

I even get some words of encouragement - sometimes from people I admire - and that's something that really helps keep me motivated. As one of these people observed, because it's an open-source project, there's often no reason for users to feed back to the author(s) when things are going well, just when they're going wrong. Most of the feedback is embedded in message of thanks after I help users out with a particular problem (a sample of these may be found on the Roundup website)

Then, there's the occasional ... well, misguided user who just wants to point out all the things that are wrong in your software. Never mind that they've not offered to help remedy any of it. They're just pointing out that your software sucks in this way, this way, this way, and that they're never going to use it.

A pointer for those who approach open-source projects this way: don't tell the author(s) that their software sucks. Take note of the bugs, and file bug reports. Help them build a better piece of software. You're achieving fuckall by just putting them down.

On this point, I just noticed that the Mozilla project has Bugzilla Etiquette which outlines some guidlines and indicates that "...developers are generally a friendly bunch, and will be towards you as long as you follow these guidelines." It covers some of the things I've already said here. At least I'm not alone in all this :)

path: /python | permanent link |
Fri, 07 Mar 2003
I've been quiet lately...

... because I've changed jobs and have had little time to do anything else. I'm now working for Common Ground Publishing, doing more Zope and Python work (yay!)

Not much else to report on though... except that I'm using OS X again, and that's very cool. Even better, I'm using KDE 3.1 apps seamlessly under OS X. Well, the X11 window manager for OS X, quartz-wm, is seamless, but it lacks a lot of useful generic WM features, and stuffs up some WM hints so KDE apps somtimes don't get window resize handles (or do when they shouldn't). It's nice to be able to use iTunes, OmniGraffle and a bunch of other OS X apps right alongside Konsole, Konqueror (mmm... KIOSlaves) and KMail :)

Oh, and having an antialiased Helvetica is something I'm still getting used to :)

path: /stuff | permanent link |
Tue, 04 Mar 2003
I'd like a "George", please...

Dan, of Dan's data, reviews a couple of miniscule MP3 players - in his usual fairly thorough/rambling manner. Go read it, it's interesting. To cut a long story short, he names "George" the winningest of the two players reviewed, for a number of reasons including usability, battery life, price, and sound quality (I think that's a complete set, actually).

Anyway, if anyone's paying attention out there, I'd like a "George", please :)

path: /stuff | permanent link |