Older blog entries for mrorganic (starting at number 245)

I've had some real problems with CD-ripping. CDParanoia can't cope with a couple of spoken-word CD's that I have, and in any case, cdparanoia is slow. I don't know if I just have a crappy CD-ROM drive, or if Linux has a dodgy IDE-ATAPI driver, but whatever the cause, it makes the whole rip-encode cycle very painful.

This is one of the few times when I'd really prefer a SCSI CD-ROM rather than an ATAPI one.

13 Sep 2003 (updated 13 Sep 2003 at 11:56 UTC) »

An interesting question of coding style. In C and C++, some people write the strcmp() function as follows:

if (!strcmp(foo,bar)) {
    /* do something interesting */

This makes the code hard to read, in my opinion. You are checking a positive result -- in this case, that two strings are equal -- and yet (because C and C++ treat FALSE as zero and a non-zero value as TRUE) you must check a negative result. This is highly non-intuitive, and I think it should be considered bad coding style.

Instead, the code should be written this way:

if (strcmp(foo,bar) == 0) {
    /* do something interesting */

It's not that much more typing, and it's far clearer as to what the intent of the conditional really is.

But that's just me.

Sigh. That'll teach me to post on political topics on Advogato. Arguing politics or religion on the internet is the absolute pinnacle of pointlessness. That's why MeFi has turned into such a sump in the last couple of years. No minds are changed, harsh words are bandied about, and hard feelings ensue. I should know better by now.

But enough of that.

I finally figured out how to manage and play Ogg Vorbis files on my Neuros via Linux. It turns out there are a few tricks:

1. You need a recent kernel. I compiled and installed 2.4.22 on my Debian box with USB mass-storage drivers compiled in.

2. You need to mount the Neuros with the "-o sync" option. Asynch updates flat-out don't work with the Neuros. I'm not sure why.

3. You need to encode Vorbis files at about -q 3 or -q 4. I had a bunch of tunes encoded at -q 6, and they would play fine for a bit, but start stuttering and skipping after a minute or two. -q 3 files play fiine. I suspect that the Neuros doesn't have enough horsepower to decode high-bitrate files.

On the updside, the sound quality of -q 3 vorbis files is very good -- as good (or better) than 192-bitrate MP3 files.

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.)


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.

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