Older blog entries for Zaitcev (starting at number 223)

28 Nov 2006 (updated 30 Nov 2006 at 01:09 UTC) »

Burying ub@OLPC

I had some communication with Blizzard about difficulties OLPC was having when booting off USB. A large part of it is down to usb-storage steadily getting worse and worse, as far as bootstrapping is concerned, because of improvements elsewhere in it.

The original, main problem is how the scanning for available devices is decoupled from the module initialization (for a reason). Thus, modprobe or a static initialization return before the scanning has completed or even started. All sorts of early userland adapted to this by waiting an arbitrary amount of time.

Over time we started to delay the scanning more and more. The khubd, SCSI EH, worker thread, and the ad-hoc scanning thread each add their own delays. Every new delay blows up the old userland. Worse, it only happens sometimes, when something goes wrong and SCSI recovery kicks in. I have to deal with this to support IBM Bladecenter, and I thought I would end with a heart disease. Now the OLPC folks are in the same boat with me.

I hinted Blizzard that it might make sense just to switch to ub for OLPC and thus solve these problems, but he ignored me. I looked at public information about OLPC closer, and I think I know why. A USB stack comes into play twice: first time it's run by firmware, and second time it's run by OS. Neither is likely to use ub.

At the second stage, OLPC people won't deconfigure SCSI completely, in case it's needed for some unspecified use in the future. Although there's no sensible reason now, maybe some tinpot dictator in the Middle East would strip his kids from OLPC kits, make a huge Beowulf cluster for calculating his nukes' performance, and boot them off iSCSI over IPv6. Hey, it can happen. So they want to keep SCSI. But if both ub and usb-storage are in use, there's an additional complexity, which is addressed clumsily by the current Linux, so they won't do it.

Looking at the first stage, I thought that at least LinuxBIOS was a perfect fit, but no, it's not the case. As it turns out, LinuxBIOS actually does not boot squat in case of USB (or so it seems from the mailing lists). Instead, it loads standalone booloaders, which actually boot things. I saw some console traces which showed usb-storage being used, but that code seems to be just a transplant, and a temporary one. The OLPC Hardware Spec page says: "LinuxBIOS is our BIOS for production units; Open Firmware is used as the bootloader."

Now that I wrote this down, I'm going to forget it all ASAP and go hack on Xen.

Syndicated 2006-11-28 00:13:55 (Updated 2006-11-28 21:05:51) from Pete Zaitcev

26 Nov 2006 (updated 30 Nov 2006 at 01:09 UTC) »

Binary usbmon is here

Oh, brother, I am slow. I threw the first code at people.redhat.com a few minutes ago. I have a convenient blog entry to remind me that Paolo Albeni forced the issue of binary API for usbmon on October 8. In the event I thought it would be a couple days of work, starting in two weeks. Six weeks later we've got the first useable patch. The whole thing weights at about 1700 lines of kernel patch and 520 lines of a patch for usbutils. The latter adds usbmon(8) and its man page. Paolo also supplied 193 lines of a patch to libpcap. Unbeknownst to me, it had a support for the text API already.

So it was Happy Thanksgiving and happy hacking.

Meanwhile, Markus was prodding me to work on Xen's PV as I promised two months ago.

Syndicated 2006-11-26 03:09:26 (Updated 2006-11-26 03:09:59) from Pete Zaitcev

How can a DVD destroy your OS?

I came this close to registering to Bridgebunnies, because of this comment:

The reason I have time to type this is because when we put the second DVD of Dual! into his player (he uses a mini-box to drive his HDTV and record programs to a hard drive instead of a TIVO), it hard-crashed the system. Somehow, it not only did that, but it fubared the operating system. So now we get the entirely unjoyful experience of reinstalling XP and all his DVD programs. Instead of watching anime.

The desire to gloat was near-overwhelming. But let those Mac users to stoop to it.

Actually, I'm joking. The real reason was that hate commenting where registration is required.

Also, herding MythTV is no picnic. We have an enthusiast or two of it a local LUG (CVALE.org), and I keep hearing war stories and seeing live demonstrations at installfests.

And thirdly... Coincidently, fuzz testing of our filesystems uncorked some nasty stuff just recently. I suspect that fs/udf/ might not be a shining example of bulletproof coding, and some people would have little trouble making magic DVD images.

Syndicated 2006-11-25 04:58:49 from Pete Zaitcev

24 Nov 2006 (updated 30 Nov 2006 at 01:09 UTC) »

Deities in material world

Whenever I see things like this, I wonder if Miko can touch Yashima.

In all likelyhood, she just can't help herself reaching out. But still, what if...

{Update 2006/11/25: Steven mentions the following moment in the comments:

The brush Yashima is weilding and the tags are certainly real here.

Truth to be told, I forgot about this moment. But I saw other such moments, such as when Yashima rides a pigeon. I somehow expected a certain intransitive relationship (e.g. god can touch you, but you can't touch god). There's also a common excuse of mind-to-mind contact, as when Yurie was sick and went visiting, then overdid it. Still, even then she never went through any walls. And postulating an intransitive touch has its own problems.

So, assigning "some" physical presence to Yashima seems like a winner. It makes him an exact equivalent to the out-of-body Yurie who flies through open windows. Although then I have to wonder just why he won't fly around when necessary. Maybe it's just because he's an ineffectual loser who can't fly. Curiously, the winning model does not do any favours to Yashima's chances with human chicks. I am not sure if I like that. In some sense, it's bad for him, because you know, scoring with Ben-ten is really not on the cards. On the other hand, maybe it's better this way, for a host of reasons we won't mention on a family-friendly blog.}

Syndicated 2006-11-24 06:41:57 (Updated 2006-11-26 03:40:03) from Pete Zaitcev

Anyone remembers Totem?

I saw a note at Bastien's blog:

Codewise, Totem finally switched to the GStreamer backend as the default. This was some time coming, and the reasons are multiple. []

GStreamer backend users are still waiting for ... DVD playback []

Emphasis is mine.

Syndicated 2006-11-23 04:18:38 from Pete Zaitcev

23 Nov 2006 (updated 30 Nov 2006 at 01:09 UTC) »

Anime for cheap

Apropos Hanaukyo Maid Tai, or Team, Steven writes that RACS has it for $47.98. This reminds me that in the endless quest to find cheap stuff, I found someone who angles to undercut RACS on price: DVD Pacific (as suggested by one gentleman under the nick "ryx" on #anime at OPN/Freenode). They are a generic DVD store, not specific to anime. They sell Hanakyo Maid Team for $37.24, with reasonable S+H rates (about $4.70).

RACS is the paragon of excellent service among anime merch outfits, so the onus is on these pacific people not to screw the order too badly. The ten bucks of difference can buy me a few rounds of DDR, or perhaps a deeply discounted R1 DVD. I can bear the difference easily, if it means not dealing with aggravation.

Syndicated 2006-11-23 01:13:01 (Updated 2006-11-29 02:01:29) from Pete Zaitcev

21 Nov 2006 (updated 30 Nov 2006 at 01:09 UTC) »

Gaim is insufferable

By far the worst thing in Gaim is how it persists in not providing users with any information about the sources of messages, even when it can to provide the information. The classic example is the most useless information window ever:

Not even the account through which the user is coming is mentioned.

But wait, it gets worse. The dialog above is summoned with a user action. But actually, you can spam anyone completely anonymously with these popups:

Just what were they thinking when they coded the thing?

I try to stay away from UI debates. I am not a UI expert, so what do I know. But this is just weak, people, totally weak.

{Update: I understand that the spam payload is delivered in the guise of a server message, which is why it gets its popup. Thus, the message is not associated with a specific originator, and the fault is with Gtalk for allowing Brazilians to abuse itself this way. The point, however, is that Gaim should not throw pop-ups for no good reason. Just create a "server message" tab if protocol is so weak.

I created a couple of RFEs and see how far it goes. Not that it would shame anonymous retards from making idiotic comments, but the point "you should file bugs" is made often by reasonable people as well.

1602801: Do not Pop Up, Use A Tab.
1602806: Create a Join Window Mode. }

{Update 2006/11/25: Regrettably, I have to abort the experiment with Kopete and stick with Gaim. I just managed to get it to work, but it was too much of an effort. Also, it pulls too many dependencies. I removed kdebase, kdenetwork, kdnssd-avahi, kdelibs, kon2-fonts, kcc, kon2, and qca-tls, but I do not know if I got them all. In the end I do not know it Kopete produces popups on server messages like Gaim. But it does have a separate window for chats, so it's not a groundbreaking improvement.}

Syndicated 2006-11-21 06:18:05 (Updated 2006-11-25 20:05:48) from Pete Zaitcev

19 Nov 2006 (updated 30 Nov 2006 at 01:09 UTC) »

Web 2.0 at ANN

Anime News Network has a very interesting feature, a rating histogram. It presents a better readout than traditional one-dimentional rating number.

I find this histogram a great way to know what the great unwashed thinks about a particular title. But there's more. Users vote by registering the series they watched. Therefore, it's possible to transpose the table and collect a list of all anime a particular user has seen, with ratings. My list is there too.

However, for an unknown reason, ANN decided to make this exceedingly difficult. There is no link to one's own list. When users want to share their lists, they must 1) find a valid URL which contains "MyAnime/" (by following "public lists", perhaps), then 2) edit it and remove explicit collection (this shows all collections). Wow, just wow. I don't think I saw anything as kinky since learning how to fetch rating values at Advogato.

Also, users must set their own lists to be public explicitly, but that is an understandable nod to privacy concerns.

{Update: I wish ANN had a list for "Rejected Unseen", similarly to SDB's "Future Series".}

Syndicated 2006-11-19 04:06:38 (Updated 2006-11-19 19:42:42) from Pete Zaitcev

18 Nov 2006 (updated 30 Nov 2006 at 01:09 UTC) »

Naruto DVD

Viz decided to throw a wrench in my works with Naruto releases, which I wanted to buy selectively. Thanks to explanations at RACS, I discovered that the scattered volumes upon which I built my plan actually contain a repackaged broadcast version, sold at $15.98 a disc, 4 episodes per volume, or $4 per episode. Which would be all right, but I do not want the broadcast version. In the same time, RACS sell an "uncut" version at $39.98 a set for 13-episode thinpack. At $3.08 per episode, this would be savings... for someone who wanted to buy everything.

Using my old map, and expecting each set to have 13 episodes, the thinpack scatters like so:

set eps needed
1 1-13 none
2 14-26 19, 22
3 27-39 32
4 40-52 none
5 53-65 53

This is going to be expensive.

On the other hand, it's not a disaster like "Cardcaptors". One might say that Viz is doing fans a service by releasing the real footage. They could have as easily sent us to CDjapan.

{Update: Side-by-side comparisons of edited scenes are available from anime-editz.net (beware of spoilers): ep.19, ep.26 (massive mousbleed removals :-)).}

Syndicated 2006-11-18 05:40:25 (Updated 2006-11-18 05:55:16) from Pete Zaitcev

17 Nov 2006 (updated 30 Nov 2006 at 01:09 UTC) »

DS and "Kanji Brain"

From an article comparing top sales:

Software Sales - This Week | Total Sales
1.) Common Knowledge Training (NDS, Nintendo) - 102,240 | 451,106
2.) Pokémon Diamond (NDS, The Pokémon Company) - 78,744 | 1,682,896
3.) Kirby: Squeak Squad (NDS, Nintendo) - 77,949 | 244,081
4.) Pokémon Pearl (NDS, The Pokémon Company) - 65,574 | 1,423,990
5.) Kanji Brain (NDS, IE Institute) - 33,932 | NEW
6.) New Super Mario Bros. (NDS, Nintendo) - 27,361 | 3,393,921
7.) More Brain Age (NDS, Nintendo) - 24,166 | 3,412,008
8.) Winning Eleven DS (NDS, Konami) - 23,653 | 112,928
9.) Ridge Racer 7 (PS3, Bandai Namco) - 21,655 | NEW
10.) Gundam: Target Sight (PS3, Bandai Namco) - 21,310 | NEW

And... DS is region free! I know what I want to Christmas now.

There's just one small problem: there is a bunch of kanji games for DS, so identifying the one may prove difficult. Known before are Rakubiki Jiten (aka: "DS Rakuhiki Jiten: Kanji Sono Mama") and KanKen DS (aka "Zaidan Houjin Nippon Kanji Nouryoku Kentei Kyoukai Kounin: KanKen DS"). After a short googling it appears that what they really mean is "Zaidan Houjin Nippon Kanji Nouryoku Kentei Kyoukai Koushiki Soft: 200 Mannin no KanKen: Tokoton Kanji Nou". I do not know how it is customarily shortened. The jacket says "tokoton kanji nou", so perhaps it's Tokoton. The game is available at Play-Asia.

BTW, I suspect that the game got into the best-selling list because of Japanese parents who buy it for their kids. Kids can't be crazy enough to buy them on their own. On the other hand, I'm sure we can find 30,000 Americans with midlife crisis and Japanese fetish at any given week. Maybe they are who buys all those games.

Syndicated 2006-11-17 04:36:33 (Updated 2006-11-17 04:39:52) from Pete Zaitcev

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