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Showing posts from 2008

Emacs 22.3 on Windows

I've been using Emacs 21.3 happily for years. Since 2003 apparently, because I looked at the release dates today when I discovered a new version 22 had been released this year for the first time in a long time. Here's what I found.
Happily, the gnuclientw function has been integrated, as emacsclientw, and all that's needed in .emacs is (start server)They recommend setting an environment var for some reason: set ALTERNATE_EDITOR to runemacs.exeNow I can associate files with emacsclientw.exe to open them in my current emacs session. However, add the '-n' argument so it doesn't maintain a link to explorer, and ask you to hit a keystroke to release the editing buffer. A puzzling default behavior.
I also had to get rid of 'lazy-lock' and 'resize-minibuffer-mode' from my .emacs, but that was it. I turned off the toolbar, too, of course. Easy, painless upgrade.

I was surprised when it was slow to shut down the first time, but it has been much faster each …

Compact flash disk image with dd and cygwin

I found a way to make an exact duplicate of a compact flash card using cygwin. I suspect this method only works with identical flash cards - i.e. both the same capacity, and possibly both from the same manufacturer.
Anyhow, based on Reimaging CompactFlash cards tutorial, I looked in Computer Management, Disk Manager, and discovered my compact flash card was 'disk 2'
Then, using 'a' for disk 0, and 'c' for disk 2, at the cygwin command prompt:
dd if=/dev/sdc of=b2.img
It reports this, for a 32Mb flash card:62592+0 records in
62592+0 records out
32047104 bytes (32 MB) copied, 10.725 s, 3.0 MB/sThen, 'eject' the flash card in explorer, and insert the new one (to be erased and copied over). In cygwin again, note 'if' and 'of' swap:
dd of=/dev/sdc if=b2.img
62592+0 records in
62592+0 records out
32047104 bytes (32 MB) copied, 43.448 s, 738 kB/s
And it works! It's even bootable.
I'm still puzzled by a cygwin list suggestion, which has weird syntax…

Bash script, filenames with spaces

Sometimes these things can be really annoying. Anyhow, good hint here:
Handling filenames with spaces in a bash for or while loop.
Helps loop over filenames which include spaces. Like most normal people do, nowadays.
I also got caught trying to extract substrings. We had the date embedded in the name of some backup files. The substring operator looks like this:
${file:19:8}Get a substring, starting as position 19, 8 chars long.
I wanted from the end, so you make the position negative. But you have to use parens, otherwise it looks like the default-val operator
${file:(-19):8} and not ${file:-19:8}Then I found that the year started with a zero, so it was getting treated as octal, and 08 is not a valid octal number. So I ended up with this to extract the 2 digit year into a integer var:
# 10# in front says 'use base 10', because the 08 was being interpreted as octal.
let file_year="10#${file:(-19):2}"
# get days by asking 'date' to convert the date string for us.
l…

Election day, go libertarians.

I voted. I hope Mike Munger, the libertarian candidate for governor in NC, gets his 2%, so he can automatically be on the ballot next time. I think that's the condition....

CVS, cvsnt, and Norton Antivirus

Here's a friendly way to start your day:
$ cvs update
....
cvs [update aborted]: cannot rename file CVS/Entries.Backup to CVS/Entries: Permission denied
This error occurs at random part way through the update, on a different directory each time. There are no files named Entries.Backup in the directory I'm trying to update.
Or how about this one?
cvs update: cannot remove xml directory: Directory not emptyGuess what fixed the problem? Disabling Norton AntiVirus 2009 on my CVS server. No, not the client (my development PC), where I'm running the 'cvs update' command and don't even have anti-virus installed. The Windows XP box that's running CVS NT server.

I was clued in when I was able to replicate the problem using cygwin cvs or cvsnt cvs, and inside WinCVS too. So it's not the fact that I just re-installed Windows on the client. It seems that this clean, speedy box is now too fast for the server to keep up with, but only if Norton is doing SOMETHING STUPID on …

OpenEmbedded Angstrom for Advantech PCM-9375 Part 2

Last time, I made a successful setup for the Angstrom distribution of OpenEmbedded. I replicated it on a second PC, and checked my initial steps.

And it failed to complete! Darn. It took a long time to compile, like several hours, then failed here:
NOTE: package linux-geodelx-2.6.11: started
NOTE: package linux-geodelx-2.6.11-r0: task do_compile: started
ERROR: function do_compile failed
ERROR: see log in /home/helser/deltasphere/oe/angstrom-stable//work/geodelx-angstrom-linux/linux-geodelx-2.6.11-r0/temp/log.do_compile.25513
NOTE: Task failed: /home/helser/deltasphere/oe/angstrom-stable//work/geodelx-angstrom-linux/linux-geodelx-2.6.11-r0/temp/log.do_compile.25513
NOTE: package linux-geodelx-2.6.11-r0: task do_compile: failed
ERROR: TaskFailed event exception, aborting
NOTE: package linux-geodelx-2.6.11: failed
ERROR: Build of /home/helser/deltasphere/oe/org.openembedded.stable/packages/linux/linux-geodelx_2.6.11.bb do_compile failed
ERROR: Task 157 (/home/helser/deltasphere/oe/org.openembedded…

More coffee, India Elk Hill Estate

We got an 'air pot' of coffee from Driade for a party this week, and everyone loved the India Elk Hill Estate batch that we got. We've been using a batch of Sumatra beans at home, and my wife and I both liked it initially, but later press-pots have been rejected by her. I think they're ok, but a bit smokey and bitter. IDK what changed.

OpenEmbedded Angstrom for Advantech PCM-9375

I'm attempting to install a modern embedded linux OS on a 3.5" single-board computer (SBC), made by Advantech, the PCM-9375. It uses an AMD Geode processor, and has lots of connectors, but the main one we need is the PC/104 connector, because we have a PC/104 board for a laser rangefinder we use.

After some investigation, I found that Cliff Blake at BEC systems has successfully used OpenEmbedded and the Anstrom distribution on this SBC. I'm going to attempt the same thing myself, then go beg for help. :)

First, I upgraded my box to Ubuntu Hardy Heron, 8.04

Next, follow the Anstrom build page: Get bitbake and OpenEmbedded
I look at the GettingStarted wiki page, and it points to OE and your Distro, which says make sure Dash is not /bin/sh. It was on my system, so I did:
"sudo dpkg-reconfigure dash" and select No when it asks you to install dash as /bin/sh.
as instructed.

Next install a bunch of stuff. I checked these off in System .. Administration .. Synaptic Package Ma…

Sentences to ponder

BLDGBLOG is occasionally amazing:
"Barack Obama campaigned today in the early 1960s by visiting a small pancake house near Springdale..."Here's another:
"President Bush stopped off today with a group of people who read Harry Potter novels – the eleventh-largest demographic group in the United States – to discuss the ongoing financial crisis..."

Allegro coffee, Ethiopia Sidamo Titira, review

Organic Ethiopia Sidamo Titira coffee by Allegro, purchased at Whole Foods.

I was surprised that I really did not like this light-roast coffee. We purchased it ground, and tried it both drip with a paper filter and in a french press. It has a strong green flavor which was unpleasant. Possibly the first bag of coffee I've been unwilling to finish unless I mix it with something else first!

Bad Penny Brown Ale

From Big Boss Brewing Company, in Raleigh, NC. Local for me.

This beer is one my wife and I agree on. It's dark enough for me, and not too bitter for her. I go for porters and stouts as a rule, and avoid the hoppy lighter beers. This is just a bit lighter than a porter, but it is slightly sweet, which I think appeals to her. So a good second six to keep next to whatever seasonal dark I pick up.

Stuff I've been reading

Making Comics by Scott McCloud
I know I can't put in the time, but this is one of the things I've wondered about doing. I like deconstructing comics, and coming out seeing what has been done a bit clearer.

The Thief
The Queen of Attolia
(up next) The King of Attolia
by Megan Whalen Turner
My wife's sister gave these to us. Young-adult targeted, still a pretty good fantasy yarn.

WorldChanging (A User's guide for the 21st century) by lots of people.
Started. This is where I want to go. If I don't do it, do I really think someone else will step up instead, for exactly the thing I might have done? Still, I'm annoyed by fallacies that are presented as basic facts. It'll be work to separate the gems here.

The Lying Stones of Marrakech, by Stephen Jay Gould.
Started, keeps getting pushed down the stack. Natural history essays, I enjoy, but they aren't holding my attention like Wonderful Life did.

Asus Eee PC 900

Fun! I got my hands on an Eee PC for a few days. The 900 has a 8.9 inch screen, and most significantly it´s 1024 pixels wide. That´s enough that most web pages render normally without side scrolling. I find all the web sites I´ve visited to be usable, perhaps with google reader getting a bit cramped.

I was actually most curious about the keyboard, which is why I´m writing this post. I´m finding that most letters are easy to hit without making typos, but the extra keys are the challenge - I´m retyping my quotes and dashes and things several times, and erasing the stray Enter keys that show up when I try to kit the shift key or ´ key. But after just a few paragraphs I´m getting the hang of it, so I don´t really thing it would be a problem to get used to.

I find touchpads a bit annoying, and this one is no exception. Mostly, I find that when I´m trying to drag or just move the cursor a long distance, it seems to think I´ve tapped - random clicks in the middle of my intended action tend to …

Patriot Games by Tom Clancy

Is Clancy as rich as J.K. Rowling, of the Harry Potter Empire? We know he didn't make as much as an author, because Rowling was the first author to break $1B. But maybe with his video game company, he's close to that? I would guess he's a $100 millionaire, which puts him within an order of magnitude.

Patriot Games is gripping, fast paced, and written before editors were afraid to tell him to cut stuff. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's dated, because it deals with the IRA as terrorists, and with the lack of terrorist attacks on US soil.

I watched the movie right after finishing the book. Contrasts with the movie were numerous. Especially the end. I thought the book flowed better at the end. It was more complicated, because there were a lot of terrorists, instead of just four in the movie, and they actually captured Jack and the prince for a bit in the book, until they were rescued by Jack's bud, Robby. The neat wrap up in the movie where all the bad guys die (surprise, …

Politics Lost by Joe Klein

Politics Lost: How American Democracy Was Trivialized By People Who Think You're Stupid at PBSwap
Author: Joe Klein
Fun, mostly a tour of the last several presidential campaigns, and what the author/reporter knows about the influence of pollsters and consultants on the candidates campaigns, for better or worse.

I'm cringing right after the Iowa caucus to hear every single damn Democrat say that they are the candidate for 'change', after Obama won. Stupid to try to rip Obama's consistent message, when it hasn't been their message. Of course, Hillary is trying to say I'm for change, but I have experience too! And I've changed things, too! I don't think people are buying it, much.

I wrote that on Jan 8, and I agree now. Seems like Douglas Rushkoff agrees with me. Or rather I agree with him.

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson, Bk 1) at PBSwap
Author: Patricia Briggs

It's a page turner. Modern day setting, with magical creatures of all sorts trying to hide and thrive in modern settings. In this book, murder and dominance, a bit of lust, and mysterious crime solving in werewolf packs.

Strangely, even though I've not followed the comic books, only the movies, I found strong similarities to the X-men. The 'fae' have been exposed to the public and media, but the stronger/more dangerous magical beings like werewolves and vampires are still secret. Criminal forensics has made the existence of werewolves an 'open secret', in that the FBI as an organization seems to know of their existence.

Sounds a _lot_ like the mutants being exposed to media attention in X-men, and the backlash and reaction. I think it lets the author explore some interesting moral dilemmas, but there's not much of that in this first book.

I was bothered by the overwhelming presence of violence …

Odds of Dying - NSC

From the National Safety Council: Odds of Dying. One of those things you never know when you'll need.
Update: new link.

Weird dates

Someday I might get the hang of this. I put out two new posts, Kavalier and Clay and Coffin for Dimitrios, but their dates stuck at when I started the post, not when I finished it. So my recent posts were inserted a while back. Weird.

Marginal Revolution book forum, The Logic of Life, Chapter 8

I had a strong moment of self-recognition with this chapter. In talking about rational approaches to voting, Harford described the person who is going to vote, but knows that they have hardly any chance of affecting the outcome (casting the winning vote). So they vote like that - like they can't affect the outcome. I do that. I think about voting, especially in local elections. I try to pay attention, and learn something about the candidates. But I can't motivate myself to spend time, search, and make in-depth comparisons. I rely on bumping in to information, and other people's analysis, if I'm lucky. If I'm not, I end up voting based on party. And in a non-swing state, that means my vote doesn't matter much. Interesting vicious circle, eh?

Marginal Revolution book forum, The Logic of Life, Chapter 2

The second chapter is discussed. Fabio Rojas has a great discussion. From this, I'm realizing that I don't have an objection to people being mostly rational, most of the time. I object to equilibrium. Game theory was developed in the framework of equilibrium, and outside of ideal situations like a poker game, I don't see where it applies.

It's like fluid dynamics. We can write down an exact equation for how fluids flow. (Lorentz or somebody, I should know this). But when we try to solve them, they are horrendously complicated, and exhibit chaotic behavior. So instead, for practical results, we using finite simulations, where we don't get the exact answer, but limit ourselves to some time and spatial resolution. That is often good enough, and gets better with every cycle of Moore's law.

But how do we tell when it's "good enough"? With fluid dynamics, we can see some of the results in films - digital water has gotten better, from The Abyss to Titanic …

Launch external editor for file:// urls in Firefox

We maintain many docs in html format on a local shared drive. I wanted to launch my html editor of choice from within Firefox. I found the extension Launchy that does what I want.

Unfortunately, it didn't find Komposer, the bug-fix release of Nvu, automatically. I had to generate a launchy.xml file as explained on the main page.

I also learned that the 'command' entry should not contain double quotes! Otherwise Launchy ignores the entry.

Marginal Revolution book forum, The Logic of Life

I'm going to at least follow along with the book forum over at Marginal Revolution. I've read just the intro and first chapter so far. I was sighing a bit at the emphasis on the rational actor, but heartened as Tim Hartford took pains to dismantle the 'Economic Man', who can perfectly respond to all new information with perfect solutions to partial differential equations. There is much more acknowledgment of partial information, human shortcuts, and even irrational behavior. So far totally missing is the interesting new work involving computer simulations, as in The Origin of Wealth, or as Adam says in Mandelbrot's book.

The Logic of Life, by Tim Harford

Update: First installment on Wed. The author, Tim Harford, is commenting on the main posts and replying to comments.

Baghdad Burning, by Riverbend

Subtitle: Girl Blog from Iraq
ISBN: 155861489-3

It's wrenching to read. I've sometime tried to imagine what it would be like to live through a war, and I've shied away from it. I feel strong empathy for her and her family, and I feel ashamed at the actions that my country has taken in Iraq. The book publishes the first year of her blog, and covers capturing Sadam, the first suppression in Falloojeh, and the Abu Ghraib torture abuse photo scandal. Her view of the early Iraq government is telling - sarcastic, the 'Puppets', and dismissive of these exiles and outsiders who don't have much invested in Iraq, except an opportunity to grab power.

Try to imagine living in a city, which reaches 100+ degrees every day in the summer, with electricity on for 2 hours, off for 4. Water available only some of the time, and pressure so low that it only comes out the lower outside faucet. Riverbend is unusually articulate for a computer programmer. I think she's still going at…

Books

I haven't decided how to use this tool yet, so I've not posted in a bit. I'm working on reviews of:
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Politics LostCoffin for DimitriosVisionary in Residence: Stories, by Bruce Sterlingpossibly the Team Rodent, Disney rant pamphletBaghdad Burning, by riverbend, I'm currently reading...Does anyone care to discuss?

Adam reviewed The Origin of Wealth, and I should respond again.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

by Michael Chabon.
I loved it. Highly recommended.

Mild spoilers ahead!

The distorted history of comic books is explored, through the very personal saga of two creators. Kavalier is jewish, and is unable to save his family from the Nazis after he escapes. Clay is homosexual, but doesn't realize it until later in life. He then suppresses it when he experiences persecution and abuse.

Some of it is familiar, but I was drawn in (ha!) by the unlikely combination of subjects that meshed in the narrative. A new chapter that tells the story of a comic book character - but wait, is it a character? engaging.

I haven't tried to track down whether the congressional hearing condemning comics was real, but it felt like it was taken from a real event, and the exposure of Clay as a homosexual on the second day was added. The remark that, paraphrasing, he should have said that adding a side-kick to a hero immediately increases sales by 19% or whatever was memorable for me.

The heart wrenching prepos…