Tuesday, May 29, 2007

May Geekdinner

So I went to the Geek Dinner at the Wild Pig last night. Not bad, all things considered. The complimentary wine from GETWINE.co.za was quite pleasant, the food was good, and at around R115 with tip, reasonably priced.

The venue did suffer from poor acoustics, making it hard to talk to people ore than a chair or two away, which limited the ability to get to know people a bit.

The talks were fairly varied:
  • The "Python vs PHP" talk didn't really say anything new (although it was entertaining)
  • The "Project Management in 5 minutes" suffered from being overly short, and so not able to address the major issue with software project management, namely that by the time the problem is sufficiently defined that most classical project management concepts can be applied, the problem has been largely solved.
  • The "Ruby on Rails" talk didn't convert me, but since I don't work with web frameworks, that is not such a surprise.
  • The OLPC talk, while not saying anything new, did have novelty value since it was silent.
  • I don't follow AI closely enough any more to really be that interested in the mind games talk, although I should read up on AI Go systems sometime
  • The unscheduled talk about ripple was interesting, and the whole distributed credit idea is something I'm going to have to read up on carefully. On the face of it, there are several interesting abuses possible from having both distributed authentication and distributed trust, so I'm curious as to how these have been addressed.
Still, worth attending, and I may make the effort to attend the next one.

My photos are up at at my usual photos page.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Weekend Summary

This weekend was mainly notable for a CT BookCrossing's meetup. It took place at the Coffee Bean, unfortunately at the same time as the rugby. It sad how the Coffee Bean has been reduced to yet another place to watch TV, although the management probably disagrees.

I offloaded 3 books into the pile, and picked up a mildly interestig looking murder mystery which I hope to read soon. Simon and Adrianna attendned, and it was somewhat amusing to watch them try to stay polite while a couple of the other members tried to explain the BookCrossing's concept in very small words.

Afterwards, we had the usual games evening. I won at Captain Park, and ended up in an awkward siuation in Jacob Marley, which ended up helping Adrianna win. the game ended off with several rounds of Stoner Fluxx, which was quite entertaining ("What were we doing" is just a great Fluxx card)

Hot Fuzz

After the (sadly not that unexpected) disappointment that was Spiderman 3, it was a relief that Hot Fuzz, which I saw on Wednesday, was indeed as funny as I'd hoped.

Yet, despite being a very funny movie, it has vanished from the circuit very quickly. When I went to see it, it was only showing at Long Beach, which, in the cold weather, made the trip to go so it rather more effort than I liked (the ride back got very cold indeed) and is now completely off circuit in the Western Cape. I am at a loss to understand why, as it has done good business elsewhere, and seems like it should have been given an opportunity to built up some momentum locally.

Anyway, it has at least restored my belief in the ability of movies to be entertaining. Here's hoping Prates 3 is at least fun.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Another news'ish post

So, recent developments in my life that are blog worthy?

The major news this week is the sudden and dramatic arrival of the winter cold. Given that my car is still unusable, this has been a source of considerable annoyance, as the commute in to work as become decidedly cool on the bike. I've also discovered various points where the windows in my flat now allow the cold winds to whistle in, so I'll have to spend some time getting those sealed up.

Otherwise, nothing of major importance. I skipped the weekend's VtES tournament - it was a cold and windy day, and driving across to Cape Town for it was just not appealing in the conditions. It did clear up in the evening, which made the drive across for the usual games evening doable, but then was wet and windy for the drive back, which was less than ideal. The actual games evening was quite fun - we had a close'ish game of Enemy Chocolatier for a change, although Simon still won. We tried Get Out with three dice, which suffers a bit by overly rewarding the half jobs. I had some horrible luck in the game, so was never in the running. We finished up with Give Me the Brain, where my luck was a lot better.

In addition, I went to see Spiderman 3. I've ranted about this elsewhere, so I won't repeat that, but, despite being warned about the movie, and having low expectation anyway, it still managed to disappoint.

On the technical side, I spent some time crawling around the freevo code, trying to work out why tron would no longer play my DVDs, to eventually discover that this was due to kaa-metadata not being compiled with libdvdread support. A quite recompile with the appropriate dev package installed, and all was well.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


So, the third CTPUG meeting went off without undue hitches. The bandwidth barn worked quite well as a venue, and we had a larger attendance than the previous meeting, wich is good.

Getting to CTPUG was made complicated for me by the never ending mess that is the N2 at the moment, and the less said about that part of the trip, the better.

After the meeting, a group went out to dinner at a nice enough place called Greens, near Kloof street and from there Simon, Aridanna and I joined Kevin for the usual weekend games evening. This got somewhat delayed by Simon and I playing with trying to get my laptop to talk to his wireless network, which was eventually achieved.

After a game of CTB, and some rounds of Fluxx, we called it a night. The ride back was made more interesting by a very heavy misty patch on the N2, but was otherwise uneventful.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The upgrade that didn't quite go according to plan

Today (well, yesterday now), I replaced the machine that had been hosting dip.sun.ac.za with a much faster and shinier bit of hardware. To keep the upgrade simple, I had planned to move the old hard disks across and go from there. Since it's very new and shiny hardware, I spent some time ensuring dip had a new enough kernel and all that, so everything should have been fairly smooth.

I wish.

One of the hard drives failed when moved across. No problem, says I, I have a spare, and it's a raid array, so plug in the spare, let the array rebuild and all will be OK. The spare was the right size for the array, only the failed drive had hosted raid space + some extra reserved for swap and a couple of dirs, like /tmp that didn't need to be on the raid array. Aha, says I, I have another extra drive handy, so plug that in, make swap space and the file-systems, and everything is hunky dory. That done, I sat a twiddled my thumbs for a couple of hours while the RAID array rebuild (I did go and have supper while doing this). Once the array had rebuild, and after I'd fixed udev's naming oif the network devices, I rebooted - and the system did not come up. With very little info as to why. Eventually, I booted up using a rescue disk, to discover the problem was because the drive I'd shoved in to provide the swap space had some old lvm metadata left on it, that was stopping the lvm partitions being found correctly. Once this got sufficiently nuked, the machine was happy. I was less so, since by this stage the upgrade had eaten up a lot more time than I wanted.

Still, new shiny machine is running, and seems to be running very fast, so all looks to be well at the moment. I also took the opportunity to upgrade dip to etch, since I was breaking stuff anyway. Other than a brief hiccup with Openldap, it went often without a hitch.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

News, News, get your news here (or what happened since I last posted)

Not a lot, or I might have posted it.

Saturday was Free comic day - I went to Outer Limits, and collected the Wolfman comic on offer, as looking quite decent. I also read the Spiderman one while in the store. In addition to the free stuff, I purchased another Volume of Fables, and the first Hellboy Trade, as well as the 1st book of Peter Morwood's Russia series.

Thereafter, I joined up with Simon,. Adrianna and Phillip to play some vampire. Things where quite fun. My modified Osebo deck lost (not drawing enough strike cards, so I wasn't really able to pressurise anyone), but showed some defensive promise with the modified crypt. The Arhimane deck I threw together won, although it really shouldn't have. It benefited heavily from the extreme combat nature of the table, and some luck. I have to play it again to see how the concept actually works. The last game saw me playing my Malkavian deck, which as usual, did fairly well. I was ousted by Simon's Baali deck, partly due to my not managing the end game carefully enough. I was probably one turn away from ousting Adrianna at the time, which would have probably allowed me to sweep the table.

On the ride home from that, I encountered a car going the wrong way on the N2, which is a first (and hopefully last) for me. I have no idea how the driver managed to be going the wrong way, and, in truth, don't particualrly want to know, but it was a surprising experience.

Otherwise, Tuesday saw me pop across to see the clug talk, which was quite interesting. I now have a much better idea of what the OLPC project's laptop can do. Also got a chance to catch up with Kevin, as he was busy over the weekend and didn't join the games evening. Nothing exciting happened on the trip home this time, thankfully.

The end of dial-up (almost)

I'm almost off dial-up as may main connection from home. Yesterday, my line was changed over to ADSL, and today, I collected my free modem (using telkom's self install special offer). I've conencted everything up, and all appears working, I just need to contact telkom and get them to change my dial up account over to a ADSL one, so hopefully, tomorrow morning, I should be able to connect via ADSL, and join the legion of users who curse telkom's ridiculous cap. Ive also setup a webafrica account, so I should be able to use their ADSL options to supplement telkom's. All going well, this should be the last evening I'm using dial up exclusively. The we'll see just how fast I can burn through the allowed cap - it's likely to be quite spectacular.

The modem, telkom's wireless combo, is, to my delight, running a Linux kernel on a mips chip. It's possible, although I'll have to look carefully at this, that I could shove Freifunk or the like on this.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

What I did with my extra long weekend

Other than the usual weekend games session (which was quite fun, although I did horribly in the Big Cheese, and got left in awful position in US Patent No 1), and watching the world cup final, I mainly upgraded tron to debian etch.

Why did this take so long?

Well, the downloading everything over dialup part played a role. Convincing the lirc modules to compile was also a bit of a pain (a combination of out of date docs, and not wanting to dial up during the day on Monday meaning I solved the problem in a rather convoluted way). Migrating the settings from freevo-1.5 to freevo-1.7 was fairly painless, but what took the most time was my very clever idea to replace the awkward custom scripts fro running freevo with gdm & autologin. This worked fine, but I spent several iterations getting the session configured so that freevo would start by default. All is now solved, and tron is up and running better than ever. My local tweaks, based off patches in the freevo bug tracking system, are now unnessecary. Of course, I completed everything just in time to notice that freevo-1.7.1 had been released, so I'll have to update to that soon as well, but that should be a fairly minor issue, especially as I've setup freevo in a dedicated directory under /opt

One advantage of the newer combination of kernel and lirc modules, is that all my remote buttons are now recognised correctly, which has simplified my .lircrc configuration for freevo, so I feel the effort has not been wasted.