Thursday, November 30
I got home this evening to discover that there'd been a blackout while I was away, and all the computers had shut down. So I power them all back up, and the Linux boxes seem to come up (even the broken one - see comments to previous post). But not the Windows box. Oh no. It won't even try to boot. I put the Knoppix CD in, and it doesn't seem to like that either.
I want to check on the Linux boxes, but I normally access those via SSH, either from my Windows box - which is dead - or from my Notebook - which might as well be dead, since after I got it back from "repair", where it was wiped and reinstalled, I wiped it and reinstalled it again, whereupon it promptly went back to its crashy ways so that I never managed to install any sort of useful software on it.
So I have:
One Linux box which has the best part of two terabytes of fansubbed anime on it, and which I can now ping, and that's about it.
One Linux box which was working fine right up until I tried to do a backup, whereupon it developed a severe case of FRUDS.*
One Windows box which will not boot, apparently, from anything.
One Windows notebook which is just about capable of playing a round of Minesweeper between reboots. If you choose the smallest game area.
At least when that iTunes upgrade destroyed my boot drive I had a mostly-working notebook. (And a good thing too, because it took two weeks to recover from that one.)
Right now - just so you know - right now I am typing this on a screen running at 800x600 in 16 colours. I managed to boot into Windows repair mode (which is crappy, but not completely useless) and repair the boot drive to a bootable state, but along the way it ate half my drivers. Which was fun when it came to trying to get networking working again.
Oh, and my old DVD combo drive has gotten stuck the way my CD burner did. Just plain will not open.
Dum de dum.
I should have a video driver in another five minutes or so.
The disk drives seem to have survived, mostly.
La la la...
Why don't Nvidia have an Australian mirror, dammit? This would take 30 seconds from my ISP's FTP server.
Dee dee dee...
iTunes does not work in 16 colour mode. Seriously. It's unuseable. You just get this overlay of text on your previous application. No buttons, no window borders, nothing.
Doo doo doo...
And when the text is in Japanese but the character set is screwed up so that it shows random gibberish, this doesn't really do you much good at all.
97%... 98%... 99%... Ping!
Install install install. Oh, now I get to reboot. How sweet!
So I tell iTunes - which is running, of course - yes, fuck off, I really want to reboot right now, and then wander off to the bathroom, and when I get back I have a Windows desktop with no applications.
Now it clearly hasn't rebooted, because (a) it didn't have the time and (b) it should be at the login screen, not at the desktop. So I go Start->Shutdown->Restart, and off it goes.
And doesn't come back. It won't boot.
So I put the Windows CD back in, and while it's booting I go into the kitchen to make some dinner, and when I come back it's gone straight into recovery mode and is asking which installation I want to log in to, the options being (1) C:\Windows, and nothing else. So I press Enter.
And this being Microsoft, and Microsoft having the user-interface design sense of a dead bug, it reboots.
Now while I was waiting for the video driver to download I was at least able to SSH in to my Linux boxes and restart the DNS and proxy and file servers and stuff, so at least at this point I can go and try the notebook and maybe at least bring up a web page. Which I do, while Windows crawls back toward its suckovery mode.
And I run another chkdsk, and naturally it finds some more errors, and then I reboot again, and Windows comes up.
Still in 800x600, 16 colours.
I will cut short the next hour and a half of screwing around, of uncounted reboots and failed driver installs. Needless to say, I am still at 800x600, 16 colours. A little surprisingly, I have had no further problems with rebooting, which is a good thing considering how many times I have had to do so.
The situation is, as far as I can tell, this: I have an Nvidia 6600GT. It was working perfectly this morning, as it has done every day since The Sims 2 was released.** I have the latest drivers installed.
Windows chooses not to use it. It says, not entirely helpfully, this:
This device cannot find enough free resources that it can use. (Code 12)I have disabled every non-essential device. (Ignoring the fact that it all worked this morning.) I have scoured the interweb, and learned that this can be caused by problems with the motherboard drivers. I have installed the latest drivers, since it appeared that I was running a very old version. This required three attempts and three reboots, and has not resolved the problem, or, as far as I can tell, done anything at all.
If you want to use this device, you will need to disable one of the other devices on this system.
Click Troubleshoot to start the troubleshooter for this device.
The troubleshooter is as helpful as ever; that is to say, not in the slightest.
What I can do at this point is open the case, take out the current boot disk, put in the new 320GB disk, put the current boot disk in the external case, reinstall everything from scratch, and copy all my files back again, having had a working computer for just over two months this time round.
Or I could heave the damned thing out the window and take up basket-weaving. Two problems with that: First, I don't know how to weave baskets, and don't expect that I'd make much money at it even if I learned; second, I live on the ground floor.
Oh, and iTunes has apparently decided that my iPod is broken and wants to wipe it clean and rebuild it.
The iPod itself is working just fine, except that I can no longer update it.
I was going to write a short post about that, but then I found a more interesting topic.
But until I can resolve this, I can't listen to any new episodes of the Penn Jillette show on my way to work.
My notebook crashes if you ask it to do anything involving I/O or heavy processing, but the screen works.
My desktop works fine except for the display being stuck in 1986.
Remote Desktop! I get everything except for ClearType. I'll live.
Update: Aha part two! Too many USB drives means that the iPod collided with one of my network drives. When that happens, iTunes goes insane. I mean, what else would it do? Going into Disk Management and changing my iPod to drive A sorted that out. Of course, it's now completely blank, but that just means I leave it to sync overnight.
Update: Actually, changing it to drive A seemed to drive iTunes insane. Insaner. Changing it to drive Z, though, that did the trick.
And running iTunes over Remote Desktop is an education in itself.
* Frequent random unlogged death syndrome.
** My old ATI 9600XT crashed when I ran The Sims 2, which necessitated a sudden upgrade.
Wednesday, November 29
Has anyone else noticed that when you leave VMWare Server running for a prolonged period on a Windows PC it slugs everything up, including itself? It's not so bad on my office machine, but on my home machine, a lowly 2.6GHz P4, it gets pretty painful.
So much so that I gave up, and started pricing a new Linux box.
But then I realised that I have a Linux box right here.* Okay, so it's got 500-odd gigabytes of stuff on it that I'd have to get rid of so that I could reformat and reinstall, but some of that is probably duplicates, and I could just get another 320GB external drive for the rest, which is, like, heaps cheaper than a new PC.
So I did.
I got another of the
evil Blue-Eye cases I bought last time - two actually, the second so I can put my semi-dead former C drive in and try to scrape some more data off. (When I was recovering data from it I frequently needed to power-cycle the thing, which becomes a lot simpler when it's in an external case. Which, yes, has a power switch. Right on the front.)
Had to slide my monitor a couple of inches to the right to hide the new one too.
I have a couple of 120GB drives sitting around unused, so when I've done with Mr C, I can pop one of those in. Which will give me three three-port powered USB2 hubs on my desk.
And an eerie blue glow when the lights are out. Okay, an eerie blue glow that you can read by, but the thought is there.
* This is my old Linux box. I'm not touching my main Linux box, which has a couple of terabytes of fansubbed anime on it. That one is sacrosanct.
150 things to do before you die. I think I'll be around for a while.
01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it And I wasn't even drunk at the time.
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise Damn it, it's shining on my monitor!
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables Tassssty carrrrots!
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper - No, but I have been puked on enough times that I think I qualify by any reasonable exchange rate.
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower - Does one count as a shower?
23. Gotten drunk on champagne - Urrrgh.
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment Well, worst isn't well-defined. A bad moment, sure.
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger - She was a bit unusual maybe, but I wouldn't call her strange.
30. Had a snowball fight - What's this "snow" you speak of?
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb - Bits of, sure.
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer - Two? Two?!
40. Visited all 50 states (Not even close.) - There's fifty of them?
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk - Me?
42. Had amazing friends - You bet.
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip - On the road again...
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs - But they've been de-alphabetized for some time now.
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day - I assume that bathroom breaks are allowed.
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving - Not entirely successfully, but yes.
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud - Yay for mud!
64. Played in the rain - See mud.
65. Gone to a drive-in theater - Do those things still exist?
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business - Dum de dum.
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken -
69. Toured ancient sites
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight - And I'm not even talking about computer versions!
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days - Came close, recently.
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Got flowers for no reason - And given, too.
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark - It's better fried.
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds - I'd want to put on at least 40 pounds first.
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol - Air rifle only.
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours - In the course of not eating for 5 days.
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states - Depends how you define "foreign".
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat - It's pretty good.
127. Eaten sushi - Hate sushi.
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
132. Touched a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions - Hahahaha!
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language - You betcha. Three to date.
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts - Oh yes. And of all of them, only one didn't work.
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident - Well, technically, I caused a pedestrian to get hit by a moving vehicle. But the pedestrian was me, and the vehicle was moving at about 2km/h, so there wasn't a whole lot of damage to either party.
150. Saved someone’s life
And their funny product names.
I had that once. Well, sort of. It was just a case of eating too much... um, something. I've forgotten now. Thankfully.
Tuesday, November 28
Anyone out there who uses Plesk? Either as a server administrator or as an end user?
I'm thinking of installing it on the servers for New Project, just to have a convenient web interface. It only adds $10 per month, doesn't look like it will get in the way, and saves me from setting up a few things that I would otherwise have to install myself.
Also, it's pretty.
I'll probably get the $99 10-domain version and install it on a server at home and see how it behaves.
The scanner I bought last year (a Canon Lide500F) has been superseded by the Canon Lide600F, which has twice the resolution. 4800dpi instead of 2400. Same price.
I wonder if it makes any practical difference whatsoever.
256GB on an A4 sheet of paper? The solution to all your storage needs?
No. It's physically impossible.
Also, about 50% of the people on Slashdot have no understanding whatsoever of information theory. More surprisingly, the other 50% do.
Same goes for the discussion here. Half the people are pointing out that it's completely impossible, an obvious scam, and the other half are saying "But what if I use lots of colours/shapes?" Even after it's been explained fifty times that this does not help.
A bit is a bit is a bit. Yes, with a 3x3 grid of pixels, you can display 512 different shapes*, but that is still just 9 bits of information. If each pixel can be one of 256 colours, that's 256^9 different combinations (not 256*512), but only 72 bits of data.
* Ignoring all types of symmetry for the moment.
I needed a small server for a project I was working on with another company. They said no problem, they'd either find one or buy one and send it to me.
It arrived today.
It's a quad Opteron.
It doesn't have a CD-ROM drive.
Sunday, November 26
Or, why I hate Google Image Search
Bad Example is a typical mid-list blog. It's actively updated, it has a certain number fans, it gets a decent number of readers and comments.
It's been trucking along at 20 to 30GB of bandwidth per month, until last month, when it suddenly spiked to nearly 100GB. So far this month it's over 130GB. And I couldn't work out why.
Until I trawled through the Apache logs.
And found 25,000 hits to the archive page for September '05 in the past five days.
Turns out that page just happens to be the number 2 hit on Google Image Search for "olsen twins nude".* And the number 1 search is obviously an error, so...
So. Here's Pixy's Tip of the Day: Forget all that SEO crap. It doesn't work. Just post pictures of the Olsen twins wearing butterfly pasties, and watch your server go up in smoke.
Thursday, November 23
We've been having power glitches at the office all afternoon, just half a second or so. My PC rebooted earlier, but it has a cheap power supply, so that was no surprise. Most of the other, older, machines survived.
One of the servers rebooted after the last glitch. It's on a UPS.
Wednesday, November 22
Violets are blue. *
My DVDs arrived.
Probably won't get to watch anything until the weekend, though.
Monday, November 20
From a review of Stephen Baxter's Omegatropic:
As a critic, Baxter pulls no punches. His comments about others' work on similar themes to his own books (future history and space opera, etc) are often strident but also highly perceptive. Unsurprisingly, it is American writers that are the main targets of Baxter's incisive analysis. He's justly intolerant of implausibility in both plot development and character motivation, and derides US authors for their lack of any sense of irony. Baxter seems to suggest that this last bit of typically British sensibility is an essential part of any SF writer's mindset, irrespective of their nationality. This is not to say that Baxter slams optimism, only that American blue-sky thinking ought to be tempered with an awareness and deep consideration of the alternatives.Riiiight.
I've just read Baxter's Timelike Infinity and Ring, the second and fourth books of his Xeelee sequence. The first, Raft, is out of print (or nearly so); the third, Flux, I bounced off after two pages.
With the small size of my sample set noted, it must also be noted that the plots of the two books I have read, and indeed the overall plot arc of the Xeelee sequence (which is outlined in those two books), is only possible if the great majority of Baxter's characters, and indeed of all sentient life-forms in his universe, are either brain-damaged or insane.
They build a starship to go on a five million light-year cruise, dragging one end of a wormhole with it, and their primary concern is the stability of the society on the ship during the cruise. The ship is churning across five million light-years of space at a velocity so great that only a thousand years will pass on board (and that includes deceleration and the return voyage!) and they are worried about social interactions. Medical techniques have advanced to the point that at least two of the original crew survive the journey; computer technology has advanced to the point that human minds can be (and are) uploaded into machines and so are effectively immortal, and they can't keep a starship crew functional for a thousand years. One of the characters is five million years old, and they can't...
And then they drop the wormhole and break it.
They have time travel. They have working time travel. In both directions. They've actually used it. And they still can't get anything right.
And while this is going on, the human race takes over the galaxy, gets wiped out by the race that controls the rest of the universe, which is then destroyed (for a rather dubious value of destroyed) by something even the humans have known about for five million years (and which has been around for twenty billion years, and just happens to crop up now), and apparently no-one involved ever bothers to talk to anyone else.
The astrophysics are complete baloney too. If you artificially cool the hydrogen core of a main-sequence star so that fusion ceases and it collapses under its own gravity, you might very well get helium fusion in the surrounding layers and something that resembles a regular red giant. But the hydrogen core is still there, even if it's collapsed into degenerate matter, and if you ever remove the artificial cooling you'll have an instant supernova.
And, and, and, red dwarfs are among the most useful stellar objects for a species planning seriously for the long term. A small red dwarf can keep up hydrogen fusion for a trillion years or more, a long time even to the Xeelee. And they're everywhere. Space is littered with the blasted things. Oh noes, we have no yellow stars, we are done for! What crap.
All of which criticism would not be nearly so mordant, if it were not for that one sentence from that review:
He's justly intolerant of implausibility in both plot development and character motivation, and derides US authors for their lack of any sense of irony.Yeah, well, Baxter certainly has a keen sense of... something.
P.S. American blue-sky thinking ought to be tempered with an awareness and deep consideration of the alternatives. Yeah. Baxter's characters manage to commit suicide on behalf of not just the human race, but almost all life in the galaxy, through wilful and persistent stupidity. Mr Baxter, I have given deep consideration to your alternatives, and they suck.
P.P.S. I'm off to watch Sumomomo Momomo. Add half an eye-sparkle to my earlier review. It's no classic, but it's silly and fun.
P.P.P.S. That line about "American blue-sky thinking" still has me steamed. But having not read the book in question, I don't know how well it represents what Baxter actually wrote - it could well be something the reviewer read into it rather than something that is actually there - so I'll lay off awaiting further data.
Missing volume 1 of Card Captor Sakura.
I wasn't sure if I'd bought the complete series; turns out I had. But now I have the complete series minus one.
Sunday, November 19
Today, I did nothing.
And, while I was busy doing that nothing, I decided to watch some anime. Now that my notebook is back from repair - not actually repaired, mind you, but back - I plugged it in to my shiny new* TV and took a look at the new season.
That Boku Show
Watched: 10 minutes
Rating: 1 boku out of 5
Review: I, My, Me: Strawberry Eggs, only with worse artwork and animation and an even more contrived plot. If there even is a plot. Pointy chins.
Watched: 4 episodes
Rating: 3 uguus out of 5
Review: Our hero,
Kyon Yuuichi transfers to a school in Siberia, in a town where all the girls have had their memories erased. Except that would be interesting. Beautifully animated and very cute, but dull as dishwater. In the preview for episode 4, there was a hint that something might actually happen. As it turns out, it was just a preview of a hint that something might happen. So far, nothing has.
Watched: 1 episode
Rating: 2.5 kunoichi out of 5
Review: Don't take the dramatic introduction seriously. The show certainly doesn't. Looks like it's a nonsense slapstick comedy (with ninja girls), and I'm willing to watch some more to see how it develops. Art and animation are unamazing but decent.
1 6 episodes
Rating: 3.5 eye-sparkles out of 5
Review: Ranma ½ meets Rizelmine. If the writers can keep the male lead from becoming an idiot, they may have something. If not, that rating may plummet.
I'll see if I can watch some more of this now; my video player (I use Core Media Player) has stopped working, something that is almost certainly not its fault. I have Media Player Classic on the notebook as well, so I can probably get by with that until I get a chance to reformat the little bastard again.
Updated: Continues to be a very enjoyable and very silly show. I was surprised to see that it's slated for 26 episodes - I expected it to be 13 - but the pacing does become evident by epsiode 6. I don't know how well they'll keep up the humour over that length, but for now, I'm going to keep watching.
* And hardly used.
Saturday, November 18
One: Internode turns on ADSL2 Annex M. That means upstream speeds of 2.5Mbits, up from 1Mbit.
Two: SoftLayer launches quad-core servers. Including dual-processor quad-core models. And they're not much more expensive than the dual-core versions.
Kick: One of the munu sites has a leetle hole in it, and has been used as a spam relay. Not Movable Type or Minx, but a PHP app somewhere. I've had to disable outgoing email until I can find out which PHP app. Which shouldn't be that hard, except I'm otherwise occupied.
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