Older blog entries for mrorganic (starting at number 241)

Learn the wisdom of Master Foo and receive enlightenment.

Stuff like this is why I love Unix. I can't imagine a hacker spending the time and effort to write these things about Windows.

Also: learn at the knee of a master. Find out how Doug McIlroy can kill quicksort (i.e., make it go quadratic). qsort(), thou art undone!

Our mutual friend Darl McBride of SCO has excreted a masterful troll, which the geeks at Slashdot and LinuxToday are tearing into right now. I expect that ESR will unleash a rebuttal sometime soon; stay tuned.

On that same note, I see that Eric has written a nifty source-code comparison tool called Comparator. It's amazing what a pissed-off and motivated master-hacker can come up with.... This is also a natural companion to diff, which makes it a handy development tool.

8 Sep 2003 (updated 8 Sep 2003 at 17:56 UTC) »

Once again my weekend was eaten by weasels. I did not get my website set up, nor did I get any work on my essays done. A friend came over on Sunday, and my wife and I spent most of the day with her; it was fun, but it was no help in getting my "geek stuff" done.

I did buy another 25 ft. ethernet cable for my computer room to replace the one that broke. Here's a tip: never buy cables at Radio Shack. They clipped me $15 for a lousy Cat-5 patch cable! I should have just gone to some internet-based cable outfit and got one for $5 or so, but I was in a hurry. Still -- fifteen bucks for a damned cable! That's highway robbery! (And that's why I haven't shopped at a Radio Shack in years. How quickly I forget.)

[UPDATE]

I just sent $100 to the EFF. I had this money earmarked for music CD's, but the RIAA Lawsuit clusterf**k is under way, and I have no intention of funding their actions. Screw 'em. I'll buy my CD's used from now on; most of the music I like is old stuff anyhow.

Let me be clear: I support the idea of copyright. How could I not? I am a writer, and I would vigorously defend my own copyright against infringers. But this is little more than a dying industry trying to bully its customers into supporting its ludicrous business-model.

I have no problem in paying the artist for their work. I'm even willing to pay a distributor a value-add if they can package and promote the given work in a way that makes it more attractive or easier to use. But I refuse to pay what is in essence a tax simply to prop up a bloated do-nothing bureaucracy. There's no earthly reason a music CD should cost $18, and yet most new releases do (in fact, I've seem some that are as high as $21!). That's highway robbery.

So: I will either buy my CD's used (thus giving my trade to local businesses and depriving the RIAA of revenue all in one shot), and I will patronize artists who sell their own music over the web.

To the RIAA: that sound you hear is your doom approaching.

I had to re-retire the Sun box. It just...stopped...right as I was trying to compile a program. Then I remembered why I delegated it to a closet lo these many months ago: it has a flaky power supply. Or a bad motherboard. Or something.

So I went back to using my crappy old Pentium II as my server, which meant that much of today was spent installing and configuring Debian linux and the associated tools.

Hopefully I'll be able to spend tomorrow actually doing something productive.

I plan to devote at least a good chunk of the coming weekend to getting my personal website up. It's going to be a pretty old-school site; I'm a writer, not an artist, so the site will be text-heavy. (Plus my HTML skills are pretty rudimentary.)

Pursuant to this goal, I'll also be working on a couple of essays -- one about movies, and one about books.

The wife and I will probably also go poking around some junk shops (Antique Store is a gross misnomer in most cases). I've grown to enjoy this kind of thing -- there's always some interesting doodad that draws my interest. I really like the old photographs and postcards you find in these places because I enjoy wondering what motivated some of this stuff. What was Aunt Myrtle doing in Schenectady that summer? Why did Joe look so forlorn in that amusement-park picture? Who would take a picture outside an Akron Ford dealership? Here you have Mom, Dad, and the two tots at the Grand Canyon: but who took the picture?

Someday if I ever get back to fiction-writing, some of these postcards and photographs could be the basis for a novel or two. You just never know.

4 Sep 2003 (updated 4 Sep 2003 at 13:43 UTC) »

I ended up just installing Solaris 9 onto my Ultra 10 machine. I'm sure that with enough effort I could have gotten one of the BSD's working on it, but frankly it wasn't worth the trouble. I'm busily installing the GNU tools from Sun Freeware, and I've replaced the butt-ugly CDE GUI with Sun's GNOME desktop.

I've got a whole pile of semi-functional PC's that I'm going to have to do something with. They're not worth selling, and they're not worth keeping on my network. No one will want them as donations (the local non-profits are awash in offers for old computers). I guess the only alternative is to get rid of them; it's just that I hate to throw away computers that still work! I'll have to call around and see who accepts computers for recycling around here....

In another year or so, when the new Apple Power Mac G5 machines have been on the market for long enough to get the inevitable bugs worked out, I may invest in one. Mac OS X is actually a very able UNIX (since it's based in large part on FreeBSD), and the hardware specs are quite nice. The price is pretty steep, but that's usual for Apple machines.

Here is a fairly good PHB-friendly "Open Source In The Enterprise" article. It's from the ACM's new Queue webzine, which might be a good link to add to my bookmarks.

Well, I finally got around to the Great Reorganizing in my basement computer room. It's a job that's been needing done for a long time, but I finally had to get motivated when I noticed that a huge spider had taken up residence behind my bookcase and had turned the whole space into a gross killing-ground of insect carcasses and webbing. So in a whirlwind of cleaning and re-arranging, my computer room is now clean and somewhat organized.

At some point during the operation, I noticed that one of my network patch cables had broken (the end had separated from the cable part). So I need to buy another one someplace. Or maybe I should just buy a wireless card for all my computers and link them through an access-point to the cable modem.

I tried to get my Neuros mp3 player working with Linux yesterday with an application called Positron. It's a Python-based CLI application that talks to the Neuros via a mount-point. Except that it didn't talk; no matter what I tried, Positron insisted that the Neuros "drive" was a read-only device. From what I understand, this is a problem of long standing, and it could be anything: bad VFAT support in the kernel, USB mass-storage drivers, Positron bugs, or all of the above. Sigh.

I wanted the Linux stuff because I have a lot of Ogg Vorbis files that I'd like to listen to on the Neuros, and the new firmware should allow that; but Positron is the only software that understands how to move Ogg files to the device.

So the upshot is no Ogg support yet.

Well, NetBSD on my Sun Ultra 10 was no go. I got it installed okay, and it would run...for awhile. But eventually it would lock up, faster if I were doing something intensive (like compiling the kernel) and slower if the machine was just idle. I'm not upset because I didn't expect much anyway. Sun's machines have always been hard to support in OSS because Sun doesn't help much with the porting effort -- their attitude is "why aren't you running Solaris"?

I'll keep fooling around with the Ultra 10 when I have a bit more time; there's bound to be a BSD that works on it.

I've been perusing Eric Raymonds The Art of Unix Programming (and have also pre-ordered the book from Amazon). I have some quibbles about some of his points, but on the whole the book is a powerful argument in favor of the Unix Way of Doing Things.

It strikes me that no one would ever write such a book about Microsoft Windows. Windows has no guiding philosophy behind it. It has grown by accretion over the years, accumulating APIs and technologies without ever really designing them in. It is this lack of guiding principle, rather than any specific weakness, that makes Windows so insecure. There are so many unknown nooks and crannies, so many "dead" APIs (DDE leaps to mind) that must be kept for backward-compatibility. Let's face it: Windows is ugly.

So why did Windows become so dominant? Luck and timing. They bet on the right horse (the PC architecture) at a time when the Unix industry disdained the machines as toys, and they made a lot of canny business decisions over the years (ethical and otherwise) that grew their installed base to enormous proportions. It's maddening to those who see the technical failings of Windows so clearly, but then no one ever said life was fair.

I just hope the worm is starting to turn. As computers get cheaper and cheaper, the "Microsoft tax" is already starting to chafe a lot of people. This is especially true in developing countries -- why pay more for the OS than you did for the machine it runs on? The same is true for applications and utilities.

Linux is now just as good as Windows or Mac OS X for simple office-type tasks like word-processing or spreadsheets; it's actually better in some ways. It can be secured far easier than Windows can, it's not prone to e-mail virii, and it performs far better on older hardware. It's got world-class web browsers, e-mail clients, and office suites.

The great thing is that Linux is even coming along in the "home and enthusiast" arena. Linux has had great sound support for years, but now support for video codecs is coming along nicely. If you're not too concerned about the legal issues, you can already play DVDs and most video formats. You can set up a DVR solution called Freevo to digitally record your television programs. And you can do all this without paying a dime in tribute to Microsoft.

It's not just about being an anti-Microsoft hater. It's about wishing for a rich commons in which we can live our digital lives without getting nickle-and-dimed to death.

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