walters is currently certified at Master level.

Name: Colin Walters
Member since: 2001-02-28 06:32:58
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My diary entries have moved to my homepage. I like advogato in general, but it was kinda slow sometimes, plus I just wanted to have a bit more control over my diary. And moreover pyblosxom just rules.

Free Software

SyntaxPolice and I have been hacking a ton on our apt tree. It basically works. So hopefully fairly soon Debian users will get completely secure software updates. Last time we sent the patch jgg rather trashed it, but we've realized that he was completely right, and hopefully all the issues are fixed now.

I really wish I'd get some time to hack on Rhythmbox again.

I've been playing with arch a bit more lately (I'm using it for a school project), and I must say I'm impressed. I was getting frustated by the limitations of Subversion (mainly its centalization). Arch has some weird things about it (like its strict archive/category/branch/version system), and that to do a commit you have to first do 'larch make-log', edit the file it generates, then 'larch commit'. But I think I'm getting used to it. It definitely has a good overall architecture I think.


School looks like it should be fun this quarter; almost all my clases involve some sort of programming, which makes me happy. This "Advanced Operating Systems Laboratory" class looks like it's going to be completely trivial. Our big project for the quarter is to write a simple shell. I mean seriously, I could like do that in my sleep.

18 Mar 2003 (updated 18 Mar 2003 at 03:15 UTC) »
Laptop and Knoppix

I've been doing some research lately on a new laptop. I think I am going to give up on Apple. The iBook is nice, but I'm looking for something with a larger screen. The Powerbook is just overpriced.

I've been looking at PC laptops again. In particular, the Gateway 450XL has caught my attention. It has a nice screen (1440x1050 resolution too), integrated wireless and integrated ethernet, plus you can swap the DVD drive for a second battery. Oh, and the Radeon in it supports simultaneous dual-head display! It would be sweet to hook the thing up to my 19" monitor at home and do some coding.

So I went to the local Gateway store, armed with a Knoppix CD, to see how well Linux and XFree worked on it....and, wow, Knoppix was impressive. It autodetected the ethernet, DVD, mouse, USB, and Radeon card, and got X up and running perfectly, in beautiful full-resolution accelerated glory. All the hardware just plain worked. The Gateway sales rep's eyes definitely bulged. I myself resolved to make sure Debian's next installer gets this kind of autodetection ability.

The only issue I encountered was that it did freeze twice, but I am going to put that off as beta software, or maybe ACPI/APM weirdness. Now I really have my heart set on this machine, especially if I can get sleep to work. And I still need to find out if the wireless chipset is supported by Linux, I forgot to do that. But barring that it looks like an awesome machine to run GNU/Linux on.

The other minor downside for me is that it is a bit thicker and taller than my PowerBook; it wouldn't quite fit in my (admittedly rather small) bag, which is disappointing. My Powerbook just barely fit. The 450 is still a pretty lightweight machine though.

Incidentally, someone really needs to make a version of Knoppix that uses GNOME instead of KDE though.

Free Software

My D-BUS Debian packages just got ACCEPTed into the main Debian pool, yay! I also just uploaded a new version of gucharmap. It's a damn cool piece of software, you should check it out. Hm, my list of packages is getting a bit long.


Just got done with two of my hardest finals, only one more to go! I am really looking forward to being done with this quarter and getting back to some major free software hacking.


The downside of course of finals week is that I have to catch up on the class I'm teaching; I still have 3 labs to grade, plus grading the final is going to suck. It took me hours last time.

TALUG talk

Just got back from giving a Debian talk at Toledo Area Linux Users Group. It went pretty well. People asked some good questions, which is always a good sign.

MapQuest said it would take me three hours to get there. It took me a little over two. I am starting to realize that MapQuest assumes people drive at the speed limit...


I can't believe it's almost finals week. This quarter went so fast. Well, back to math homework...

12 Mar 2003 (updated 12 Mar 2003 at 01:42 UTC) »
Death by SUV

Saw my ex-girlfriend of several years ago while crossing Woodruff Ave today. We had a pretty traumatic breakup, and it's always kind of a shock to see her around campus, since I almost never do. I don't really have any hard feelings anymore, but I think she does.

She was driving her big-ass Ford Explorer SUV, and I was going to cross the street. The light was green in her direction, but traffic was stopped, so I could have walked across in between the cars. After a few seconds the car in front of her started moving a bit, but she stayed in the same place, and kind of looked at me expressionlessly, as if offering to let me walk in front of her car to cross the street.

I almost started to do that, since I was in a hurry, but right before I stepped out in front of her car, I realized that she wasn't offering to let me go in front, she was daring me to. I decided it would be a good idea to wait for the crosswalk signal. She drove off.


Yesterday, I took my laptop to MacMobile, a local Mac repair place. If you're in Columbus, Ohio and you need your Mac repaired, I highly recommend them. They expertly extracted the mini-CD stuck in my drive, which put me out about $70. Seems fairly reasonable.

Then I mentioned the real problem, which was it crashing. Of course when he booted it up into MacOS X from an external FireWire hard drive, it ran perfectly. But Linux still crashed while trying to mount my XFS partition. One of the techs suggested filesystem corruption, and I realized that I'd never even thought of that. XFS has been rock solid for me for a year, but it was possible. So I decided to take it home and try reinstalling Debian on it.

First in order to do that, I needed to install MacOS X to download the Debian installation bits, so I went ahead and did that. While I was in MacOS X, I tried beating on the computer by ripping a CD with iTunes, copying files around, etc. It ran perfectly.

I was at this time almost totally convinced the problem was software, so I tried installing Debian. The installer hung halfway through. MacOS X continued to work perfectly. I was starting to feel like my laptop had decided it only wanted to run proprietary software. Then, the next day, MacOS X hung hard when I tried waking the computer up from sleep, and it's fairly repeatable. So now I'm convinced again it's hardware. Damn.

SyntaxPolice: Thanks for the links to PC laptops. I think I'm still wanting to buy a Mac, mainly because figuring out what PC laptop hardware has Linux and XFree drivers is a big pain in the ass. Plus the Mac battery life rules. I dunno though, if someone pointed me at a PC laptop in the $1200-$1700 price range with integrated ethernet (and maybe integrated 802.11{b,g}, that had good Linux/XFree drivers, I might consider it.


Got my midterm in math back yesterday. I'd studied a lot for it, but since I really need to do well in this class in order to stay in school, I had a bit of anxiety about getting it back. When the teacher handed me the test, I flipped it over, and on the front was a score of 44...out of 100. I felt this complete and total sense of failure. I didn't even bother to look at the rest of the test; I just stared a the wall in front of me, thinking about how I was going to get kicked out of school and wondering what I would do.

But after a minute or two I sort of shook myself out of my brief melancholy, and decided to see what I had done wrong. That's when I noticed that the handwriting didn't look much like fact, it wasn't my name at the top of the test. I felt a sense of relief that was much like an equal but opposite reaction to my first. It turned out that I got an 85, which is good enough for me. Maybe I won't be kicked out of school after all.

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