Name: Gregg Thomason
Member since: 2001-12-27 08:24:39
Last Login: N/A


Two notes. One, I'm a real newbie. Two, anything I say does not in any way reflect the views of my employer, any past employers, or a future employer, unless explicitly stated. Things I know: Windows (user and sysadmin), Unix (lots of types, user, sysadmin, and beginning hacker). Perl, PHP, and enough C to be dangerous, slowly, plus the usual assortment of stuff like shell scripting, HTML/ Javascript, some RealBasic (which I assume means some VisualBasic). Things I want to do: I'd love to have a developer come along and say, "Please help with documentation", because so far all my offers to help have been rebuffed. I'd love to help in whatever meager way I can in the administration of lists or web sites, for projects that need help (again, either I'm told 'We have enough admins, please write code for the project', or generally ignored.) Things I don't like: meaningless license wars and general bickering, by which I mean, argue about module Foo being attached to code Bar, don't futz about with abstracts. I am especially interested in a site/concept that promotes mentoring of younger or inexperienced programmers through 1)a real world project and 2)an environment free of flame wars. Lastly, I am particularly moved by Rob Pike's piece about systems research, and wish I could be involved in something that looks to break new ground.

Recent blog entries by opie

Rock Linux and it feels so good. I'll admit, I used the boot CD; I presently do not have sufficient resources to build from scratch. Now I am, though, in the process of building the system up. Half credit, I suppose.

2.4.17 on the way down the pipe... should be an adventure.


Tasked with installing IPMeter, but no one is around to give me the passwords to the boxes I need. The joys of third shift.

What I find interesting is that the docs continually promote BSD for use, saying the Linux packet capture mechanism is too unreliable.

I find this interesting. Was it written before the newer stuff (ipchains/iptables) came out? Is it BSD partisanship? Or is it really that bad (thousands and thousands of context switches compared to BSD)? Its interesting, though, to see what a complete package they put together.

Looked at the "spy report" on the Apple iWalk PDA. Got the videos and images. Probably a fake. The stills are very good, but the movies give it away. There are obvious hacks in the Newton-style handwriting recognition movie: pay VERY CLOSE attention to the upper-left-hand side of the screen. You'll see a blinking cursor, that matches the blinking cursor on the screen. I find it highly unlikely this artifact somehow made it into the movie/capture.

There are other things that scream "fake". The device appears to be a Cassopeia/Jornada with plastic bits glued on. There are problems with the OS as shown: the 't' in QuickTime isn't capitalized, for instance, although this could be explained away by the fact that this video is, in fact, slightly old and running a pre- release (ie, not 100% ready-for-primetime) OS version. The other interesting bit is that it says "Apple iWalk" on the boot-up screen (boot up time is about 2 seconds). Someone mentioned that the name "Apple" never appears in a prominent fashion on anything but their business cards and letterhead. It appears nowhere on the G3/G4 towers (except for "fine print"), iMac/iBook, or Powerbook. Also nowhere in OSX except for the 'About' dialog, and its small compared to the rest of the window.

There was also lots of debate about the viability of an Apple/Mac-branded PDA. The market is getting swamped with them, Palm is apparently going down as WinCE devices climb. The device, if it does exist, will certainly cost more than an iPod (I'm guessing it'll be no less than $600, probably closer to $800 for the first model). Pushing a grand gets you closer to iBook territory, and does it make sense to hurt iBook sales? I know lots of people that bought iBooks just because they were cheap, would run OS9, OSX, or Linux, and were not bad machines overall (just small screens).

Still, an Apple PDA would sell very well to the Apple faithful (who are somewhat abandoned by Palm, and totally ignored by MS). The fact that its probably an embedded G3 or G4, with a stripped-down OSX build, means you won't have to futz about with building for a new architecture (no cross-compiler needed, probably just some additional libraries). This would almost instantly solve the software availability problem, something Apple is struggling with daily.

One can dream, I guess.

Wheeee! CD burner is rolling away nicely. Can't wait!

Thinking last night about random crap. Due to a rather odd set of circumstances, I had NOTHING to due but "stay busy", which is as everyone knows is a business euphanism for "please don't fuck off".

(quick OSX gripe: why oh why can't carbonized apps have sheet dialogs? I hate bringing iTunes to the foreground, and having to wait to have it connect to my fav shoutcast channel, because it is locked in place by the modal "Prebuffering stream..." window... argh.. MacOSX is no better than Windows now, its getting in my way all the fucking time.)

So, anyway, I was thinking. First: I looked through /usr/ include on my OSX machine at work, and found some interesting things.

First and foremost, there's some interesting bits in there; the mix of K&R-style C (well, ANSI C) and internal Apple stuff (sksdjkfjLngPntrToSmeThngThtUsdToBPascal) in horrid Hungarian notation is frightening. I suggest if you get a chance, take a look; its a rather interesting mix of stuff in there.

The MOST interesting thing is how all the Carbon stuff is done via pre-compiled headers. You can look at all the kernel guts all day, but if you want to know just HOW the implement those sheet dialogs (perhaps, to fix iTunes!) you're lost.

My second thought was how alien Objective-C looks to my bright, newbie eyes. Perl looks more like C (at times, anyway) than ObjectiveC. All those odd things. It doesn't visually parse. Well, I suppoes it does, if you're used to it. The thing I'm trying to get at here is that for me, wholly unknowing, it didn't look like it was anything. C looks like its doing something. C++ looks like its working VERY HARD at doing something; perhaps so hard you'd better go lie down and leave it alone, thank you very much. Perl looks like its speaking in cheerful gibberish. But Objective C? Like maybe its thinking about something, and maybe its dreaming up ways to deal with it.

The great irony here is that its probably the language I was fated to become the master of, but I'm too dense to sit down and learn it. I'll stick to mangling C. Slowly. Argh, do I mean "address of" or "pointer to?" grin. I know, I just screw it up all the time. I'll post code soon, honest.

Yay, I am now officially in the fraternity (or sodality or whatever) of system and network engineers who work on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Here I am in the EMPTY freaking building, with NO real tickets and NO real engineering projects and NO customers calling and NO machine problems. Free money, but I would have really liked to kiss my girlfriend at midnight, as is tradition.

Anyway... I have started entertaining the notion of programming in C again, rather than doing every damn thing in Perl. I think the last time I actually opened an empty editor buffer on a .c file, and had to manually type out #include <stdio.h>, I was... ouch. OK, I don't even remember. (wait, I do, but it was to type in 'hello world' to test see why the compiler was broken - a bad stick of RAM, IIRC).

Its amazing what you forget. Years of Perl programming (as my primary language, and the first with which I had any sort of profiency, other than Javascript and HTML) have trained my fingers in the right motions - always end stuff in semicolons, proper formatting, and the like. Still, I hate having to actually sit down and remember the pointer rules, for example; how many times yesterday did I say to myself, "Wait, did I mean * or &? Aw, shit. Guess we'll see in a minute."

So lately, other than my autoconf hacks, I am trying to convert some of perl scripts into C.

Going to put Rock Linux on tomorrow, assuming my broke-ass CDRW will work. Its always an adventure, that thing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it chokes and dies. It seems to have a pattern where it gets tired. It works for a few weeks, then it has to be removed from the machine and placed in the extra hardware bucket. After a while, I need to burn a CD, and I pop it back it and it works for another couple weeks.

More PDA shopping. I still can't decide: Palm: works with every OS I have in my house (Linux, W2k, OSX, OS9). Cheaper. Nice form factor and plenty of apps. OTOH, they might go under before the end of the year, and the apps (and the device itself) are starting to show a little age, despite incremental improvements like colour and nicer screens. iPaq: Loaded down with features and IMO the only WinCE device worth owning. OTOH, expensive and only works fully with W2k. Also I would be buying "last years" model which, as anyone in the Windows world knows, is paying large money for obsolesence. Developer tools are expensive, and seriously non-Free. Still, for a WinCE device it has a BADASS form factor, a very nice screen, and very nice features.

My new machine will be running W2k, for purposes of games, so who knows. What bothers me is, that its lock-in. So I buy a machine for games, running Windows. Its the secret shame of many Linux/BSD people; they all have a machine around to play their fav Win32 games on. (OK, not all, don't take offense at that, I'm just talking here). So, its for games. AND, if I get the iPaq, it now is also for my PDA functions.

I want the PDA because I want it so that when I log into my computer first thing, I want to see: reminders and todos, all that shit, and to have them available to me all the time. So, given these contraints, that means I will have to log into my game box to sync, which means it now holds my PDA features, too.

BUT!!! One of the bonuses of the WinCE device is that it syncs automatically with Outlook, all that stuff. So if I want to take full advantage of the iPaq, I would need to move my mail from my Mac desktops to the Windows box.

Although in all seriousness, I'm going back to having my mail on my Linux box via IMAP, like it was before it died. That freaking ruled. Didn't matter where I was, it was all IMAP, all the time.

So, by introducing the WinCE device into the equation, it basically acts "virally" to cause me to spend a lot of time in front of the W2k box, doing my "personal productivity" thing. When allI want that box for is to play the latest 'Dark Age Of Camelot' and stuff. I have my OSX and OS9 boxes for Word, web design, etc, and my Linux boxes for server stuff.

Argh. Decisions, decisions. and nothing to do tonight.

IE on MacOSX sucks to degrees that I cannot begin to describe in words.

First, it contains a minimal feature set when compared to what the cretins on Win32 w/ IE5 are using. Which is sad, because I remember when it first came out, it was actually more standards compliant and generally better than Win32 IE. Then it succumbed to 'bit rot'.

Those top-flight coders at MS have done nothing but take the existing Classic codebase and drap a thin veneer of Carbon over it. The fact that it is just POOR when compared to other Carbonized applications should really reflect badly on MS. Thoth, for example, is a great Carbon app. Its fast and stable. The widgets ALWAYS look like Aqua widgets; IE can't decide when to render Aqua widgets, or Classic widgets. I should take some screenshots when this happens, its truly amazing.

On the new machine front: I'm going to try to get RockLinux installed on my main development server, then try to get it installed onto my Mac. Although I fear the yaboot thing; I could never get it to work and had to use SuSE.

My new machine shopping is going well: a fast Athlon XP with a Gainward GeForce3 and all the trimmings is $732 + S&H. Sadly this is going to be a game machine all the way... I think I am going to pawn some gear and use that to buy it. I might wait a little while longer, another couple of months, see how far prices go down.

I have a question I can never get answered to my satisfaction, because no one seems to have an answer. How far can prices on computers go? Right now, this machine is: EPoX mobo, Athlon XP 1500, 512MB ECC, SB Live!, Gainward Geforce3, and all the trimmings (HD, kb, mouse, etc etc). $732.

How much lower can this go? Obviously, in a year, it'll be worth fuck-all, as Intel will have its 2Ghz CPUs out, and the GeForce3 will be old/outdated or merely a reference for what performance is; the new cards will blow them away. It'll be worth about $50 if I sell/pawn it.

How far down can hardware go?

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