Brooknet Web Log

Thinking
I've calmed down after my tantrum this morning, when I was stamping around, shouting (quietly, cos' the other tenants were asleep) at various electronic items. Regarding the ABit AN8 motherboard, there appears to be a lot of development going on for this chipset and for the AMD64 platform - thing is, it's all rather new. It seems to me that no-one else has had the problems that I have had with this thing, but as with all things technical, there's bound to be a very simple solution for it and I expect that many others have been through this. The ABit Forums have been useful in helping me understand the issues.

I need to get out of the house and do some shopping: tomorrow morning. I just want to get out and breathe some air anyway.

21:26

Some good news: I've managed to find a distro with a kernel that seems nearly stable. I say 'nearly' because there are still problems. The distro is 'Ubuntu' and it's the 'Hoary Hedgehog' release. Using the 'expert' and 'noapic' and 'nolapic' options, the distro gets as far as hard drive partitioning before it hangs. That said, it doesn't completely hang - the LVM detection hangs, and mkfs.ext3 segfaults after an 'oops'. I've been unable to partition the disks so I cannot proceed any further. I'll try another filesystem. Why didn't I choose normal IDE drives instead of Serial ATA? Probably cos' these drives work so well on my other PC, 'Spatula'.
06.30.05 @ 05:44 PM GMT [link]



Not very happy
Warning: this blog entry is not very upbeat - in fact, it's downright depressing!

This week has been a bit of a disaster, sleep-wise: I have been waking up at many different times of the day and there's been very little stability to the ol' sleep pattern. The summer heat is unbearable, and it's interrupting my sleep, making me feel tired and generally bringing on the usual hayfever and irritable skin. I have finished building the Athlon 64 system. It looks 'boh' but does it work? No - not very well, anyway. It's got the following spec, in case I didn't mention it:

Motherboard: ABit AN8
Processor: Athlon64 3200+
RAM: 1GB (2 x 512MB DDR400 RAM - set me back about £150, that did..)
Chipset: NVIDIA CK804
Graphics: PCI Express NVIDIA 6600

Since a lot of my other systems run Gentoo, I attempted to install it on here. There's an AMD64-optimised kernel available. I downloaded the AMD64-specific LiveCD, optimistically chose the default 'gentoo' option, and pressed Enter. The screen blanked and a green line appeared at the top of the screen - nothing else happened. Looking at the boot options available, I tried many of them and settled with this:

gentoo-nofb nodetect noload=sata-promise nousb nohotplug noapic

With those kernel flags, enough of Gentoo loads to allow one to repartition the hard disk - but in general, the system is unstable and on my second attempt at running fdisk (I'd forgotten to add a /home partition) the system crashed with a fatal 'Oops'.

(A moth lands on my head, walks around a bit and flies off. It's one of those brown'ns with the long feathery antennae. I haven't seen one of those since the summer of 2003, back at Brook.)

The Gentoo AMD64 guide states that you MUST update the BIOS to the most recent before attempting an installation. What can I do? My BIOS is the most recent, and it's also very unstable; ABit have not produced any updates since February.

I tried a few other Linux varieties. tomsrtbt says 'Not enough memory'. Mandriva got the furthest, actually loading X and then hanging on the hard drive autodetection stage. Somewhere I read something about AMD64 supposedly having a 32-bit compatibility mode. Where is it, AMD?

In short, I feel conned and I feel like a fool. I don't know what it is that drives me to spend quadrillions of pounds on the latest computing platform, but I'm not going to follow that impulse any more - instead of making me happy, it's dragging me down into a nightmare world of constant system maintenance, noise and complexity, and I don't want that.

Anyone want an Athlon64-based computer?

[Editor's note: this offer does not apply any more as I have since fixed the problem. L., 20-Jul-05]
06.30.05 @ 02:11 AM GMT [link]

My birthday
Yesterday was my birthday. Already, the memory of the day is disappearing, to be replaced by my worries about what sort of state I'll be in tomorrow morning. I've got an appointment and I will need to be awake for it - but I got up at 13:30 today and so I will be awake very late tonight.

My dad was in Devon and he stayed at my gran's. I went to West Down in the afternoon, my nan made dinner and we went for a walk around a field - and me and my dad walked over Rock Hill and visited the new people at Brook Cottage. I was astonished at the changes at Brook, and also rather sad that I don't live there any more. Also, I knew I'd never, ever have been able to do the DIY necessary to get the place looking good, as the present owners have done. They'd got rid of the cupboard with the gas meters, added a new central heating system, lowered the floor in the dining room - so people wouldn't bang their heads going into the kitchen anymore. They have expanded the kitchen into the garage, which was previously completely closed. I think I must have had a strange look on my face as the new owners pointed out the changes. I was alternately thinking that I never really belonged in West Down, and also that I don't seem to belong anywhere. I was glad to leave the new Brook Cottage as it didn't feel anything like the place that I knew.

My nan made an excellent meal: chicken, sausages, salad, bread. That's the first time that I've had real (i.e. non-TV dinner) food since France.
06.27.05 @ 11:29 PM GMT [link]

Another dream
If anyone's interested in my stupid dreams, here's another one that I had the other day.
Warning: there is some sexual content - you're looking at my subconscious, after all. smile

02:03 (Wednesday 22-Jun-05): This room is totally intense in the dark - noise, coloured lights - it's.. something. I woke at 02:00, and before that, I had been awake from 23:15 to 01:00, listening to Anita Anand's
show, which was about chess, and punctuation - speaking of which, the punctuation in this sentence is terrible. This is the surprising thing: I had a lucid dream! I don't know why I woke up; the Aurora clock alarm went off shortly after I awoke, and then the vibration alarm on my watch (didn't know I'd set it) went off.

In the dream, I was shopping in Barnstaple, following lots of people around Green Lanes. Now I think about it, the dream was a bit sexual: I didn't notice at the time, but the people I was following were all women
and I was walking through the womens' clothing department, looking at lingerie. [ooeerr... Ed.]

I honestly didn't see that in the dream - that is not what made it lucid. What did that was this: we all got into a lift - I clearly remember that there was a girl in a grey and black school uniform standing outside the lift: she had shiny black shoes, grey socks, a black pleated skirt, white blouse, dark sweater. Her hair was dark brown and quite long (past her shoulders at the back, and to her ears at the side). She was very pretty. So, after that, we all got in the lift and there was a lot of fussing as to what floor we were all going to. I knew that I had to go somewhere so I got out on the ground floor, quickly walked to an exit - past the rows of clothes again. I was thinking that someone ... start again - I was thinking that something was incongruous and that it was odd. I was finding everything very amusing.
"That was the weirdest thing - where were they going? Who was that girl?"

We're tapping into my thoughts here: "It's pretty cool, this. What was I going to buy, anyway? I think I'll go to a cafe and have a cup of tea. Hang on..." (stops walking, almost at the doorway out of BHS, where crowds of people can be seen walking through Green Lanes as it is very busy today) - "I'm at BHS, right? There isn't a lift at BHS - that's at Marks & Spencers - got the lift upstairs and walked down on the stairs, but there's no lift at BHS. Why is there a lift here? If there's a lift then that's got to signify a transition - it's a symbol and it means that.. nah.. it can't be.. this is a DREAM?"

At that point, the whole environment changed and became colour - the most vivid colour I've ever seen. The doors of BHS remained and all of Green Lanes vanished and became a huge, wild field. There were many different types of almost-glowing light-green grass, bluebells, daisies, dandelions. The birds were singing and it was a beautiful day. I stepped out into the field, thinking "What do I do now?" and getting the reply "Whatever I feel..", and then knowing that I had to wake up for something.

I then noticed an incredibly beautiful butterfly on a leaf of a plant. It seemed out of place as everything around it was green, while it was quite dark but it glowed with patterns of rainbow colour, cycling through
colours as I watched. To describe the appearance of the butterfly again, it had simple triangular wings and long dark antennae. The lines of colour radiated along the wings from its abdomen to the outer edge. I followed it and then there was a lifting sensation and I was awake. My first thoughts were elation that it actually had been a dream and that I'd been right. The Aurora alarm clock then went off, followed by the vibration alarm on my watch.

For all these nights without remembering a single dream, to this one, what could have changed it? It might be something to do with my senses and having had my teeth done yesterday: the lower-left part of my jaw is
aching a bit still, and it might have made me more awake in the dream. That shiny-shoed girl was totally horny. I must stop going on about it. Now I'm awake, shall I try to go back to sleep or not? It's rather warm
tonight - has been for ages, of course. No, I'll get dressed - I practically am already.
06.24.05 @ 10:02 PM GMT [link]



Tik Tock
I have just bought a fabulously-expensive (£2.99) luxury talking alarm clock. I will list the instruction sheet for best joyfulness of customer:
Cheap silver-effect talking clock

DIRECTIONS OF TIME-REPORTING CLOCK
---. Functions in byief:
1. LCD Time display of three and a half words(12 hour system and 24 hour
system );
2. Voltage range of operation 2.4V~3.4V;
3. Time adjustment/open/close of alarm bell, and the adjustment of the
time range of alarm bell at "AM05:00~AM00:00" or "AM08:00-PM00:00" or
" 24hours open" or "24 hours close" (The customer can select one of them);
4. The sound of alarm bell can at will be selected as "Bi Bi" or " ****
cry ";
5. open /close key for reporting the rounded hour ,and " TALKING " key
for reporting the present time°
-. Schematic diagram of out ward appearance :
_
_. Diections of operation:
=
-
1. Selection of the sound of alarm bell :Press key , "HOUR" on normal
worhing condition to select thesound of " Bi Bi " or "**** cry° "
2. set up of reporting the tounded hour ;Press key " MIN " on normal work
ing condition .When LCD symbol "(<.>)" appears,it opens to ieport the
rouned hour ,otherwise it close°
3. Time adjwstment and set up of time of alarm bell :
*. Adjust time :press " MODE" key once and when LCD flash appears ,
adjust "HOUR" and "MIN" to the required time°
*. set up the time of alarm bell :Press " MODE" key .once more and when
LCD flash and symbol " AL" appear adjust "HOUR" and " MIN" to the required
time°
*. Close alarm bell :Press " MODE" Key once more ,when LCD symbol "symbol>" appears
*. Close alarm opem :press "MODE" key once more ,when LCD symbol "symbol>" announce
4. Directions of report of alarm bell :While alarm bell is reporting the
time , Press any key to stop report. The hormal reporting duration is one
minute . Press close When the report has not yet finished ,it witl repeat
the report once more in 10 minutes .
5. Directions of reporting the time :Press " TALKING" key at any time
and the clock will accwrately report the Dresent time.

I think that's all clear - yep, no problem understanding that at all. The instructions are further confused by the anti-swear word filters on my GM, which has replaced the name for a male chicken with asterisks - hence, I will refer to this as a 'rooster' from now on. You can get these on [EBay] (clocks, not chickens, though I wouldn't be surprised). Try searching for 'tik tock clock'.


Cheap silver-effect talking clock box

The box features the clock name ('Tik Tock') and the slogan 'Wake up to the spoken time when the alarm sounds!' and "When the alarm sounds - I tell you the time!" .. and "A modern, stylish clock that tells the time at the press of a button."
The clock is manufactured by a company with the unfortunate acronym "PMS".
It is important to note that the clock's alarm sounds are extremely realistic - I thought that there was a real chicken in the room! (...wouldn't be the first time that's happened...)

Sounds (all 8000 Hz, 16-bit .wav):
[Cuckoo]
[Pips]
[Rooster]
[Time announcement]
[Alarm]

When I enquired as to whether batteries were required, I asked the serving-woman, "Could you tell me please, is it included with batteries?" This is a classic example of my words getting tangled up and coming out backwards, which happens when I am nervous. Another example: in a Thai restaurant in London, I asked the woman who took my order: "Would you like me to serve you?" (I had intended to ask 'Would you like me to order now?')

I suppose you want to know what I've been doing all week? Haven't done much, apart from avoiding the heat. I had a dental appointment on Tuesday, got some shopping, got my replacement Netgear router back yesterday. It's my birthday on Sunday (26th). DOH! I've just been outbid on a fascinating EBay item titled "nothing" - my chance to buy absolutely nowt.. outbid! Shock!
06.24.05 @ 02:54 PM GMT [link]

Upgrades again
(I've put all links in square brackets because they aren't as visible as they should be, where the 'Off Tilt' template colours everything green.)

Today I learned a very important lesson - well, okay, I didn't; we can but hope. No, I went into Barnstaple again, braving the terrible heat of the summer. The heating on the bus was turned up to maximum, naturally, just to make everyone sweat and to help the germs multiply (I have a theory that there are always three people coughing on every bus, anywhere). Shops visited were PCWorld -- yes, I expect you know what's coming next -- WHSmith and Woolworths.

My PCWorld purchases will be the last for a bit - possibly for months. What can I say? The novelty of new hardware has worn off and I've upgraded everything I wanted to upgrade - except for 'Spatula'. This system was to be a replacement for '[Attraction]', which is a 3.0 GHz Pentium 4 machine with the usual 512MB of RAM. Mostly this machine is powered down, apart from today when I booted all of the machines and set them to work on the [ClimatePrediction.Net] BOINC project.

The plan went like this: I buy a new CPU, upgrade [Spatula] and sell the old motherboard and graphics card. I was all set to do this until today, when I recalled that it had taken me a long time to get everything set up on Spatula, and I didn't want to lose that. What was the alternative? Buy a new case for the new motherboard & CPU, get some RAM and turn it into a new computer. Naturally, I'd forgotten that I need more than that: I needed RAM, a CD/DVD drive of some sort, some cooling fans, a hard drive and a keyboard and mouse. To conclude: I entered PC World with £350 and left with £20. I returned an hour later - in a taxi - to pick up the stuff. For Spatula, I'd gone for a silver-and-black Jeantech case with one of those snazzy blue backlit fan/temperature panels on the front. This time, I got a Jeantech case called '[Butterfly V2]'. It hasn't got the temperature controller but it is black, sleek, and everything is hinged - the HD and motherboard can be serviced very easily. This will be the home for the newest computer, and it's going to be the last one that I build for a long time - with all of the existing systems on, it's already incredibly noisy in here (I like fans; I like them a lot - especially with all the AMD processors I have).

I think I have stated this before: it's ironic that having bought a new system to run cp.net, I am contributing to the greenhouse layer by using more electricity, and eventually these systems will have to be disposed of - though I hope that day is a long way off. As an example of how long computers last, Cranefly's system case dates back to 1998. Undertow (Apricot desktop PC, Max's old computer), sadly, is on its way out: I booted it yesterday to see if it was functioning. On the third try, it started GRUB and booted Linux (Red Hat 7.3). The last time I'd logged in was January 2004. I wrote a brief note in the system log (something like 'see you next year.. or never..') and switched it off. It has a memory fault which causes it to think that it occasionally has 8MB, sometimes 16MB and mostly 24MB of memory. I peeked at the motherboard and was amazed to see a neat little row of dusty old SIMM modules. I think it's got 24MB though I can't be sure. The hard drive's buggered as well.

Sorry, the motherboard and NVIDIA graphics card are no longer for sale, but I do have a Radeon 9700XT-VIO if anyone wants to make me an offer. I was very disappointed with the performance of this card under Linux, where the 'video in' function is completely unsupported and the accelerated graphics are much slower than comparable NVIDIA cards. It'll probably shine under a Windows environment - at least, until Windows falls over and dies - but for me, it's useless.

Oh yeah, some more news: I applied for a debit card and was accepted. The woman who interviewed me was very doubtful that I'd succeed because I am not on the electoral register, I don't have a job and I've moved house a lot. What can I say? I'm a jammy git - I got the card and will now be able to waste money without leaving the house. In an attempt to stop myself spending money like a drain, I've restricted myself to £100 per week (not including rent and any Direct Debit payments). I estimate that the money will run out in about a year, and that's the optimistic guess. Should I go on spending it like a fruitcake, it'll be gone in four months. I'm hoping that I might be able to become an EBay seller - do you need a credit card or is a debit card okay? - then I can sell some of my unwanted rubbish^Wequipment.
06.20.05 @ 07:13 PM GMT [link]

It's alive!
What's wrong with the weather? It's TOO HOT!

Never mind that, what about this?

First test of OpenWRT - obsolete branch, as I couldn't get the 'experimental' firmware to upload... and my use of 'pre' HTML tags here completely confuses Greymatter - sorry, GM..

lex@winter obsolete$ telnet 192.168.1.1
Trying 192.168.1.1...
Connected to 192.168.1.1.
Escape character is '^]'.


BusyBox v1.00 (2005.02.02-09:17+0000) Built-in shell (ash)
Enter 'help' for a list of built-in commands.

_______ ________ __
| |.-----.-----.-----.| | | |.----.| |_
| - || _ | -__| || | | || _|| _|
|_______|| __|_____|__|__||________||__| |____|
|__| W I R E L E S S F R E E D O M

^ [this says 'OpenWRT']

@nothing:/# # got it!
@nothing:/#
@nothing:/# date
Sat Jan 1 00:07:44 UTC 2000
@nothing:/# # wrong date of course
@nothing:/etc# cat /proc/mounts
rootfs / rootfs rw 0 0
/dev/root / squashfs ro 0 0
none /dev devfs rw 0 0
none /proc proc rw 0 0
/dev/mtdblock/4 /jffs jffs2 rw 0 0
none /tmp ramfs rw 0 0
@nothing:/etc# ls -l
@nothing:/etc# # this is too cool!
@nothing:/etc# ifconfig
br0 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 00:06:25:EA:DF:30
inet addr:192.168.1.1 Bcast:192.168.1.255 Mask:255.255.255.0
UP BROADCAST RUNNING MULTICAST MTU:1500 Metric:1
RX packets:466 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
TX packets:203 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
collisions:0 txqueuelen:0
RX bytes:53196 (51.9 KiB) TX bytes:14047 (13.7 KiB)

eth0 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 00:06:25:EA:DF:30
UP BROADCAST RUNNING PROMISC MULTICAST MTU:1500 Metric:1
RX packets:466 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
TX packets:203 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
collisions:0 txqueuelen:100
RX bytes:65324 (63.7 KiB) TX bytes:14859 (14.5 KiB)
Interrupt:3 Base address:0x2000

eth2 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 00:06:25:E8:6C:8D
UP BROADCAST RUNNING MULTICAST MTU:1500 Metric:1
RX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:3988
TX packets:117 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
collisions:0 txqueuelen:100
RX bytes:0 (0.0 B) TX bytes:41434 (40.4 KiB)
Interrupt:6 Base address:0x2000
lo Link encap:Local Loopback
inet addr:127.0.0.1 Mask:255.0.0.0
UP LOOPBACK RUNNING MTU:16436 Metric:1
RX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
TX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
collisions:0 txqueuelen:0
RX bytes:0 (0.0 B) TX bytes:0 (0.0 B)

vlan1 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 00:06:25:EA:DF:31
inet addr:10.0.0.1 Bcast:10.255.255.255 Mask:255.0.0.0
UP BROADCAST RUNNING MULTICAST MTU:1500 Metric:1
RX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
TX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
collisions:0 txqueuelen:0
RX bytes:0 (0.0 B) TX bytes:0 (0.0 B)

vlan2 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 00:06:25:EA:DF:30
UP BROADCAST RUNNING MULTICAST MTU:1500 Metric:1
RX packets:466 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
TX packets:203 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
collisions:0 txqueuelen:0
RX bytes:56936 (55.6 KiB) TX bytes:14859 (14.5 KiB)

@nothing:/etc# # wow.. look at that..
@nothing:/etc# # this is so cool!
@nothing:/etc# # my own little Linux box..
@nothing:/etc# # of course, I have the Zaurus, which is smaller - but
@nothing:/etc# # this is .. .. well, it only cost £55 for a start..
@nothing:/etc#
@nothing:/proc# cat cmdline
root=/dev/mtdblock2 rootfstype=squashfs init=/etc/preinit noinitrd console=ttyS0,115200
@nothing:/proc# cat cpuinfo
system type : Broadcom BCM947XX
processor : 0
cpu model : BCM4710 V0.0
BogoMIPS : 82.94
wait instruction : no
microsecond timers : yes
tlb_entries : 32
extra interrupt vector : no
hardware watchpoint : no
VCED exceptions : not available
VCEI exceptions : not available
dcache hits : 1299869700
dcache misses : 32100774
icache hits : 1071611661
icache misses : 114966171
instructions : 1190597068
@nothing:/proc# # i wonder if I can run UAE on here?
06.19.05 @ 08:59 AM GMT [link]

Noisy noisy
I'm wondering if I should have bothered adding this, but here goes: I have recorded a variety of electronic sounds, mp3'd them and put them on this server. Follow this link to find them. This should interest anyone with an interest in electronics, and probably not many other people. blush

And now, some basic Zaurus stuff. I've been experimenting with Bluetooth, having purchased a Bluemonkey Bluetooth card for the Zaurus. I am using the Bluez Bluetooth stack with the Cacko-Qt ROM. On the PC ('Circadian' - a Pentium 4-M laptop), I'm using a Belkin Bluetooth USB Adaptor, model number 'F8T001UK'. This adaptor has a Broadcom BCM2033 chipset. After an 'emerge ppp', I was all set.

I found that the rfcomm utility is slightly unstable, causing the occasional non-fatal Oops. I think that this may have been caused by minicom, which hangs when the local rfcomm tty disappears: minicom suddenly uses 100% CPU and you will need to exit it and close the rfcomm channel.

Here's how it works: you need to establish an rfcomm link before you start ppp; this is required for any use of rfcomm, not just ppp. The rfcomm utility will create the device and when a similar rfcomm device exists on the computer that you are communicating with, you can start the link. Things were a bit tricky if one side was open and the other not: as mentioned, the originating rfcomm would close immediately with an error, and minicom would not like it.

A simple example:

1. Establish the rfcomm channel.

zaurus1# rfcomm listen rfcomm1 2
circadian1# rfcomm connect rfcomm0 xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx 2

('xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx' should be replaced by the Bluetooth device address (six pairs of hexadecimal digits, separated by colons) of the device on the other end of the link)

2. Start pppd.

zaurus2: pppd /dev/rfcomm1 38400 10.0.0.1:10.0.0.2 noauth passive
circadian2# pppd call zaurus-rfcomm

Circadian's 'zaurus-rfcomm' peers file goes in /etc/ppp/peers. Here it is:

# BEGIN /etc/ppp/zaurus-rfcomm
rfcomm0
38400
10.0.0.2:10.0.0.1
noauth
local
nocrtscts
# END /etc/ppp/zaurus-rfcomm

This is a very basic peers file, and could do with some editing. The local and remote IP addresses are probably not needed - at least, you just need the local side ('10.0.0.2') because the Zaurus knows its address ('10.0.0.1'). Also, either 'local' or 'nocrtscts' is not required - I'd guess that 'local' is needed because there's no concept of a carrier signal on a Bluetooth link (no DCD).

If all is well, the Zaurus will announce an rfcomm connection when you connect to it, and '.pppd' will be running in the background after you start pppd (why does it rename itself? Don't know).

Terminating the PPP link: kill either of the pppds and the other will exit, possibly closing the rfcomm channel as well. This is all largely guesswork: all I have managed to do is get pppd working and I don't know if I can repeat it. I ought to be able to since I documented it.

Good luck!
06.18.05 @ 04:47 AM GMT [link]

Camera link
The weather was very muggy this week, and today the temperature soared while the clouds remained. I slept through the whole thing and woke at 20:30, when my alarm went off. Some good news - and some bad - regarding my washing machine and dryer: the washing machine has arrived but the guys who delivered it refused to help me upstairs with it, stating that they were 'only insured to carry goods up one flight of stairs'. I thought 'in that case, carry it up one flight of stairs and then have a rest and do it again.. and again.. and again.. and again - until it's done!' .. but they wouldn't budge an inch. When I ordered it (at Argos) I was told 'no problem - just tell them when they confirm delivery', and indeed I told them when they called and they still said it was okay.. oh, what's the point of me complaining? Trevor, the removals man, is going to help me shift the machine on Wednesday. In the meantime, another machine - a tumble dryer - is due to arrive. Let's hope that the other tenants don't mind.

I've just reset the camera, having noticed that it had crashed again. It started doing this when I upgraded the firmware; another upgrade might be available. I'll add a test to my net monitor script so it alerts me if it goes off again.

Security alert! My site has recently been targeted by a bunch of annoying spam-bots - presumably this thing looks for blogs and posts pages and pages of useless advertisements in the 'comments' section. Should this continue to occur, I may have to restrict comments (somehow - not sure how yet). I do not want to do this as it will impact all users of this blog, but I will if I have to; you can only push a man so far before he has to take action. Go for your guns, boys!
06.17.05 @ 10:13 PM GMT [link]

Happy birthday Elly!
Following a conversation with Ben in a previous blog entry, I've decided to get a Linksys WRT54G router to run Linux on. There are a few of these on EBay and I've put in a bid for one, although I notice that often they end up more expensive than the retail price. My bid is for a used display model which is going for a lot less than the others.

The BBC's 'Up All Night' featured an interview with a man from Microsoft concerning blogs. For once, they've realised the potential of these things early on - I can still remember that a number of years passed before they released a web browser with their Windows operating system, and their research arm is now very much more active (given the amount of money that they make, I'm not surprised).

Someone wrote in to their messaging system and talked about GNU. Disappointingly, neither of the correspondents knew what GNU was, and even Kevin Anderson, their Internet correspondent, admitted to having looked it up in an online Internet dictionary. They suggested that people write in with suggestions on which guests to have on: how about Linux Torvalds or Richard M. Stallman? It's taken people little time to take to instant messaging, mp3s and blogs, but will the general populace ever understand the importance of FOSS and the GPL? It'll happen, but slowly: ethics in the software world is not 'sexy' - if it doesn't appear to do anything, people will not listen.

If you've been following my Sharp Zaurus experimentings, you might be interested in this: LambdaMOO on the Z! Yes, it's what you've been waiting for - a whole virtual world in your pocket! Walk around, get on a bus, get off a bus and it carries on living its virtual existence, oblivious to the outside world - until the batteries run out. Get it in my Zaurus apps area. Hints on compiling it: I ran Configure with CC set to the host gcc because it would abort if I set it to 'armv5tel-cacko-linux-gcc' when it tried to execute a compiled program. I then edited the Makefile and just changed the 'CC = gcc -g' line to 'CC = armv5tel-cacko-linux-gcc -g' and did a 'make' as normal (not forgetting to do 'armv5tel-cacko-linux-strip moo' to reduce the size of the executable). I packaged the programs as a tarball (.tar.gz) instead of an IPK, owing to different filesystem standards being used on Zaurus systems.

P.S. Boy, the news is grim. I've worked it out: sit indoors all day, get no exercise, live on a diet of red meat, chocolates, coffee, lager and fish 'n' chips.. er.. don't eat vegetables and keep a dog and a cat and you'll probably be dead before you finish reading this sentence. I forgot something: use a computer a lot, or at least spend a lot of time in front of a cathode ray tube. I think I know this person (I think it's me - apart from the dog and cat).
06.15.05 @ 03:33 AM GMT [link]

Loopin'... not loopin'
Warning: today's entry is likely to contain technological thingies.

It's early morning and I have been awake since 16:06 yesterday afternoon, when I awoke after having slept for most of the day. The night before, I'd drunk approximately 3/4 of a bottle of wine and had watched 'The Shining'. The film scared the wits out of me. Since I was suitably soporific (sorry for the alliteration), I was able to sleep - and I overslept; I needed the sleep because I'd been awake for 36 hours.

Today is also going to be a long day: I am going into Barnstaple to get birthday presents for Bill and Elly. Why are their birthdays so close together? Tam should have waited a few more days before going into labour - it's so inconsiderate of her! Maybe Elly can move her birthday to another day - the Queen has two birthdays, so why shouldn't Elly?

Here's the 'gadgety bit': today marked the implementation of the computer known as 'Desree.brooknet' as a disk server - you can read this text and know that it's coming to you from a completely different computer, although it looks as though it's not (check the phpSysInfo!). All of Cranefly's /usr/local is on Des now, and is on an LVM2 logical volume. There's a jackdaw at the window. LVM2 is so flexible and so powerful, I don't know why I didn't set it up before. If I run out of disk space, I just add another disk and extend the LVM physical space and resize a logical volume - no reboot necessary. Also, making backups of an active filesystem is totally easy with the 'snapshot' system. This is just a guess: can LVM2 logical volumes span physical volumes? Of course - but can one of those physical volumes be on NFS and the other on something different, such as a ram disk? There's no reason why not. I think that LVM2 is just marvellous and I'd like to say thanks to the folks behind it: thanks, folks. The title of this blog entry refers to the 'public_html' area of my home directory: it used to be on a loop filesystem and it's not any more.

Other things: I might be getting a Linksys WRT54G to experiment with, and I have to buy a replacement kitchen blind (I broke the old one) because the flat is due to be inspected on Wednesday; the estate agents didn't give me much notice this time.

In a telephone conversation (via Skype, of course) to Simon last night, I asked what sort of present Bill would like. "Anything to do with cars - police cars, fire engines, ambulances, army vehicles," said Simon, even though their house is already overrun with all kinds of model vehicle. Choosing a present for Elly was more difficult, and I was so worried about getting the wrong thing that I called her (on Skype again - I do keep plugging Skype, don't I?) and asked. She'd like a 'CD Walkman', so that's what I'll get her.
06.13.05 @ 05:21 AM GMT [link]

64-bit
Today, Brooknet went 64-bit! I got the kit: AMD64 3200. I haven't built it yet, but it's just a matter of swapping a motherboard and some RAM, and fitting a chip. Yeah, I know that 3400 is probably the current chip, but it's waayyyyy too expensive - 3200'll have to do. As to what system I'll be running on it: Gentoo, as always.

I also watched 'The Shining' and it scared me witless. "Little piggies! Little piggies! May I come in?"

Plus, I decided that with the launderette being extremely expensive now, that I'd buy a washing machine and tumble dryer (condensing) - so I did so, parting with approximately £500. It hurt to do that but I knew it'd be worth it - no more will I have to cart my heavy bag of dirty washing across town to the launderette! Yippee!

If anyone wants a Sempron 2400 and motherboard, I have reduced the price to £230 now. I might even go lower than that if you haggle.
06.11.05 @ 10:20 PM GMT [link]

Ugh!
Update (18:02): I wrote this in the IrcLog. It concerns my thoughts about this country of my residence, the U.K./Britain/whatever. Take it with a pinch of salt, as always.

--- BEGIN IrcLog snippet ---

While I was at the launderette, I got to thinking what was so wrong with this country. I compiled a small list: everything very expensive, people constantly getting ripped-off by other people, most people not happy -
not unless they have LOTS of money, in which case they can buy a nice house in the country and not have to bother with 'common people' and their woes and misdemeanours.

I further decided that Britain has been suffering a loss of morale and spirit since devolution - i.e. Scotland, Ireland and Wales going their own ways. I then figured that maybe it all started with the breakup of the Colonies. I'm not saying that bringing the Colonies back would be a good idea - rather that us British have such a puny bit of land and are constantly bullied by our neighbours, and it makes us paranoid and insecure. This feeling of instability is passed down the generations where it is magnified and dissolved into the general attitude of the population: miserable; the idea that we are miserable because of the weather is totally bogus: we are miserable because that is who we have evolved to be. The solution: get a bigger plot - move out. What about Australia? (hmm, I think this has been tried before - besides, they don't want us now)

--- END IrcLog snippet ---

Because I went to the launderette, this means that I woke up earlier than usual to do all of the stuff that I decided not to do this morning. See, you can avoid it but in the end it catches you up! I was lugging a massive bag of dirty washing along, down a hill, across the harbour, into the amusement arcade, where I got some change - though they didn't have any 50ps and I made it to the launderette in time before the counter closed. I was able to get some 50ps then. Right, enough of that - it's boring.

Earlier blog comments follow.

Outage notice: Brooknet will be down for a few hours soon (can't say when - depends on my sleep pattern) while I move everything to a new disk server. The camera will still be available at this time. Whoops - it's been off for ages - it crashed.

'John on the M5' has invented a new word: 'confectious' - meaning 'addicted to chocolate'. That's me; I'm also addicted to biscuits, crisps and anything fattening and unhealthy. I've eaten little else this week, since the 'real food' ran out. I wake up every afternoon, around 15:00. Sometimes I go out, but mostly I don't, and I spend a lot of time compiling large 'TODO' lists. This morning's list includes these items and orders:

WASH CLOTHES
FOOD: BREAD, MILK, MEALS, LUNCH
GO TO BARNSTAPLE AND BUY A KITCHEN BLIND
X-BOX STEERING WHEEL
BIRTHDAY PRESENT FOR ELLY

There are many other items listed. At the top of the page I usually write the date upon which I compiled the list, followed by the day that I should buy the items. This date is often crossed out and a new date written as each deadline passes. Today I simply wrote "I CAN'T BE ARSED" and justified this by writing, in very tiny letters, "THE SUN IS TOO BRIGHT AND I'VE BEEN AWAKE ALL NIGHT AND I CAN'T BE BOTHERED". Tomorrow I will probably write another list, transfer all of the data from the former list to the new list, add more items to it as the night passes and then when morning comes calling, scrub the list out in black permanent marker and write another "CAN'T BE BOTHERED" phrase.

I share the biscuits and crisps with a herring gull which lands on the window frame and taps the window with its beak, occasionally emitting a 'quark' sound (want to see a video of this bird? See later).

Linux is brilliant - I knew it was anyway: I'm messing with MPlayer, the versatile Linux media player. Reading the manual ('man page') of this program confuses me as it has a great many options. If you have the patience to read it all the way through, MPlayer reveals itself to be a very professional and sophisticated tool. I prefer to use it to make Nicky Campbell sound like a duck:

mplayer 'rtsp://rmlivev8acl.bbc.net.uk/farm/*/ev7/live24/radio5/live/r5_tl_g2.ra' -af comp

Pressing the left square bracket slows the sound down. Pressing the right one speeds it up. You can pause the stream and go off and do something else. There's probably a way to record it but I haven't figured out how yet. The '-af comp' parameter uses the compression audio effect, and it is quite uncomfortable to listen to: the sound occasionally sways up into the treble end of the sound spectrum. I can verify that this is a 'feature' of the RealAudio codecs and is not related to use of the 'comp' effect.

So, that's what I'm doing at the moment; I haven't seen anyone since Tuesday, when I talked to a woman about money and getting a job. There's a swan sitting on the M6, heading south - people 'swerving to avoid'. Congestion around Slough. Heading North on the M1, there's an accident around Luton, and a lorry's 'lost its load of meat' at Castleside.

Okay, you want to see what my new glasses and coat look like on me? Want to see how weird I look in both of these items? There's also the usual pictures of sunsets here, and some movies.

"Ilfracombe at night": you can't see much here; I mainly recorded these for the sounds of drunken revellers, which takes on a ghostly quality as it drifts through the still air. I think it sounds a little like the sound of the TV in the movie 'Donnie Darko', where Donnie hears the American national anthem (that'll be the 'Star-Spangled Banner') playing when the TV is showing nothing but white noise.

Ilfracombe Friday night 1 (640x480 MPEG-PS, 180 seconds)
Ilfracombe Friday night 2 (160x112 MPEG-PS, 37 seconds)
Ilfracombe Friday night 3 (160x112 MPEG-PS, 132 seconds)
Ilfracombe Friday night 4 (160x112 MPEG-PS, 492 seconds)

Movies featuring a large herring gull:

Seagull 1 (640x480 MPEG-PS, 140 seconds)
Seagull 2 (640x480 MPEG-PS, 28 seconds)

Photos of sunsets:

Sunset 1
Sunset 2
Blurry, dull sunset
Ditto
A better picture (features a bird).

Me with my coat and my new glasses:

Well, at least I'm not pulling a stupid face.
The camera's on a cupboard.
06.09.05 @ 07:21 AM GMT [link]

Latest gadgets.
Today I went into Barnstaple, where as usual, I mooched around a bit and bought lots of stuff. For a change, the priority item was a new coat - it's rare for- good grief, what's that? I can hear a rowdy bunch of blokes singing somewhere. Back to the diary. I wanted to buy a new coat and I did: bought a khaki-coloured overcoat that looks a little like a raincoat and will possibly soon take on the unique smell of elderly yak urine which coats eventually aquire.

Other purchases, in brief:

1. Skype VoIP phone (got this yesterday). This works fine with Linux (Gentoo 2005.0), which recognised it immediately.
2. Plasma clock - looks excellent in the dark. It has a circular plasma tube around the clock face.
3. Plasma globe to go with '2'.
4. Battery charger.
5. Two large solar panels for '4'.
6. A new motherboard (ABit AN8) for Spatula.
7. CPU upgrade (AMD64 3200) for Spatula.
8. New graphics card (NVIDIA GeForce FX6600 - PCI Express version) for Spatula.

Would anyone like a 2400 Sempron, a motherboard and a graphics card? (No RAM cos' I'm using that in the new system).

The blokes have now stopped singing.

My DVD purchases lately have included 'Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines', which is okay-ish, I suppose - the effects are excellent, the female T-X is very sinister and Arnie does a really good impersonation of an obsolete Terminator making a last attempt at saving humanity from Skynet .. or something.

I seem to be buying more 'action movie' DVDs and less challenging, thought-provoking ones - worrying.

The plasma clock is lighting everything a spooky blue; the blokes are still singing and they sound very drunk.

I fed an entire sandwich to the herring gull (at least I think it's a herring gull - the markings and habitat check out) today: I have tons of food and if I eat it myself, I'll get fat(-ter) - besides, it's good to have a bit of company, even if it is a noisy old gull.
06.04.05 @ 10:29 PM GMT [link]

Skype 2
I am sitting at the kitchen table, drinking Earl Grey tea and eating a cake of some sort. What sort is it? Swiss Tart - nice.

Today in brief: I went to Barnstaple and for once, didn't spend all of the money in my pocket. What's more, I didn't withdraw any from a cashpoint. I had £70 on me and I bought an 802.11b Notebook Adaptor (Linksys WPC11-UK). I'm hoping that it'll have a Prism2 chipset in it [update: it hasn't! It's a version 4 and has a lousy Realtek chipset. I wanted a version 3 or less. Bugger.] - I took a gamble with that as I was not able to print out the list of Linux-compatible wireless cards and of course I have no idea of knowing what chipset is in this thing without connecting it to a computer. My other purchase was a 10-pack of DVD-RWs. Again, this was a gamble because I do not know if my computer (Winter) or my other computer (Attraction) can write these. I know for certain that Winter won't read or write DVD-RAM.

I've signed up for Skype-In as an extension to my Skype and Skype-Out subscriptions. This means that if you are in London, you can call me local rate. The number is: (020) 7871 5710. I've tested it and it rocks. Currently the voicemail doesn't work - I have to update the client to the Windows beta version, and since I am running Linux, I'll use WINE. This will take me a few hours to set up and I'm too tired to do this today.

I'll repeat my Skype-In number:

(020) 7871 5710

This afternoon I was treated to an hour of complete insanity as I blathered on the phone to a couple of guys at a call centre in India. I was calling to get an RMA number for my short-circuited Netgear router. This was one crazy, crazy call for a number of reasons. First, the hold music was seriously messed up: it was very, very slow. When it played, I would start nodding off and drooling, until someone talked to me again. "Your music-on-hold is really slow!" I said. "Yes sir," said the man, obviously not caring - he was very polite though. They wanted me to check that my router actually wasn't working. "If you could plug the PSU plug in, please sir," they said. "Plug plugged," I stated.

Netgear: "Now, do you see any lights on the router?"
Lex: "No."
Netgear: "Okay. Please press and hold the reset button for 30 seconds."
Lex: "Okay.. erm.. er.. still holding; hmm.. the power supply isn't squeaking - can't hear it because the traffic is too loud. I'm going to drop the phone."
Netgear: "Are you still holding the button, sir?"
Lex: "Yes."
Netgear: "Please release it. Do you see any lights on the router?"
Lex: "No."
Netgear: "Right. Could you try another power supply?"
Lex: "Yes - hang on.." (rummages around in a carrier bag full of heavy PSUs).. "Got it. I'm trying it now."
Netgear: "Okay, sir."
Lex: "Nope. Nope - nothing. It's.. it's squeaking... it's shorting out."

You get the idea? I wrote in my IrcLog, "half the time I wanted to shriek with laughter and the other time I wanted to bang my head against a wall." Spelling the town where I live was the worst, and especially the word 'Hillsborough', which is in my address. The man just didn't get it, and spelled it "HILLSBRUGH", "HILLSBROUGH" and "HILLSBROGH" before getting it right. In spite of all this, I felt very sympathetic towards these guys, who are working off a script, dealing with irritating gits such as myself, and probably getting paid a pittance. I really wanted to make this guy laugh though, and he wasn't having it. At the end, he said "Thank you for choosing Netgear. Have a wonderful day, sir. Goodbye." I didn't have time to say "well, actually I chose SMC first, but they're absolutely useless, so I tried you folks" - besides, when anyone tells me to 'have a wonderful day' it tends to take the wind out of my sails. I'll try SMC's technical support next, and it'll probably be even worse. I don't mean to have a go at SMC, but honestly, they've messed me around badly with my other router and they've just left me in the lurch with a half-working, unstable thing that regularly dumps me offline for no reason. It cost me money and I think they owe me a working product.
06.01.05 @ 12:55 PM GMT [link]

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