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July 16, 2000

Many days no business come my hut

Been working at home this weekend, and caught a few movies on cable. Additionally, saw X-Men with Dog on Friday, and then rented some movies at Blockbuster last night. Here's Jeff's movie criticisms (a fallback career):

X-Men: A good flick. I walked into it not knowing anything about the whole X-Men lifestyle/genre/thing. Walked out having enjoyed a good action flick, seeing some good fx, and (contrary to my criticism colleagues Arun "I've never seen a movie that I didn't not necessarily not throughly perhaps enjoy" Rodrigues and Pete "if the fx weren't done with Linux, it's shite" Rijks), I had no wont of "transformation", or "extreme-transformation", or "super-ultra-bogo-fantasmic-trepedacious-transformation", or whatever the kids are calling it these days. Good story, bunches of funnyisms (e.g., "Prove it" / "You're a dick" -- watch the movie, you'll understand). That and the opening-night crowd made the movie well worth it. The special fx are also worth the movie theater exper˙˙˙˙ience rather than a TV. After the movie Dog was telling me about how the movie actually dealt pretty well with the 30+ years of comic book history that the X-Men series has. Amazing. The movie left a lot of unresolved questions at the end (intentionally, I'm sure), such that there could well be one or more sequels. I'd pay to see them. I'll give the movie 30 minutes.

She's All That: Came on cable Friday night after I got home from X-Men. Cute derivative of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. And since I'm a Shakespeare, I had to like this. It's probably no The Cheerleader, but it was enjoyable, and easy to do some coding to while it was on in the background, so this movie also gets two thumbs up. I'll give this movie 5 minutes --
while I'm a Shakespeare fan, you have to be in the right mood to watch it.

Fight Club: Arun has been raving about this movie for some time now, not to mention that I've heard the soundtrack dozens of times (Arun has this h˙˙˙˙orrible habit of playing the same CD over and over and over and over again. I must not have trained him well), and I've been meaning to rent it for quite a while (it's actually on the pay-per-view circuit right now). Normally I am morally opposed to renting movies that are on the ppv circuit, but since I'm immanently moving to Kentucky where they just recently got running water, advanced technologies such as "cable" (much less "HBO"), "electricity", and "toothpaste" are foreign concepts. Hence, I figured it was ok to rent this. One word to describe this movie: trippy. A most excellent movie. If you like messed up, intelligent, dark, and just generally trippy movies, I can't recomend this one enough. And a bunch of dark humor, too. Great line: "Ah... flashback humor." Two thumbs up. This is a 50 minute movie (the penultimate rating of 60 minutes is very, very hard to achive. This was close).

Dogma: "Mass genocide is one of the most exhausting a˙˙˙˙ctivity that one can engage in. Next to soccer." Any movie with Loki in it automatically starts off in the lead. Not for the religious faint of heart, though -- very irreverent and an extremely satirical view of religion and whatnot. All star cast, and extremely funny. Gets a little slow in the middle (which was a bit disappointing -- should have had more Affleck/Damon dialogue), but still has an overall goodness. Who knew that Alanis Morissette was god? I'll give it 5 minutes.

BTW, the rating system goes like this:

  • 60 minutes: fantastic movie. Go see it without delay; do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not stop at Dairy Queen on the way.

  • 0 (no units, also known as "sympathy"): A take-it-or-leave-it film. You'd see and, and probably... well, you wouldn't enjoy it, but you wouldn't not enjoy it, either. It's a very middle-of-the-road kind of movie. Meaning that if it was available and you had the time, you'd watch it. But if it inconvenienced ˙˙˙˙you in the slightest, it wouldn't be worth it.

  • 100 feet: Horrible, absolutely awful movie. Avoid it at all costs. If you surf by it by accident when it starts showing up on cable, avert your eyes immediately for fear of being blinded, and hit the mute button so that you will not become more stupid for having heard its dialogue.

That's it from Jeff's movie criticisms today. The rest of Saturday and probably most of today will be wedding planning stuff...

August 2, 2000

18 wheels on a big rig

The drive from South Bend to Louisville is very boring. It's almost entirely highways (although annoyingly punctuated -- this seems to be my Word of the Week, by the way -- with stoplights here and there, particularly in Kokomo). While I was driving down I-64 between Indianapolis and Louisville yesterday, for no apparent reason, I started noticing the aerodynamic tops of tractor trailer cabs. I am neither a mechanical nor aerospace engineer, so I can't say exactly why this struck me. I started thinking about when these kinds of things were first introduced. I believe it was sometime during my grad school years; I have a vague recollection of touring a trucking company with my Boy Sprout troop and having the tour guy explain this "great new invention" that saved them $0.001/mile in gas. And that in just a few months, this invention (and all its associated installation costs) would pay for itself. So I started noticing the different kind of aerodynamic features on the tops of tractor trailer cabs today. Let me state the conditions and assumptions for my study:
  • I only examined tractor trailers that are of the 18-wheel or greater variety
  • Only trucks with one or more full-sized trailers were examined; no flatbeds, cylindrical liquid-carrying trucks, or other kinds of "big rig" trucks were examined.
  • The time of this experiment ranged between 7:30-9:15pm, EDT, on Tuesday, 1 July, 2000. The location was the approximately 110 miles on I-65 between Indianapolis, IN, and Louisville, KY.
The results of my study show that there are what I have categorized as four main types of aerodynamic fixtures in use on trucks today. I list them below, in order of frequency (highest first), and give some observations of each:
  1. Full-height aerodynamic bubble. A full-height aerodynamic bubble is a fixture on the top of the cab that extends vertically all the way to the top of the trailer that is being towed by the cab. It looks something like this:
     Wind  / ____________________________________________
          / /            |
         / /             |   Tractor
    ----/ /    Bubble    |      Trailer
         /               |
        /                |
       |               | |
       |      Cab      | | 
    I should clarify that there are many types of these full-height bubbles. For one thing, their lengths are highly varied. Some start immediately above the windshield. Others start anywhere to about halfway back along the cab. I won't even pretend to understand why this is, but if I had to make a guess, I'd say that it was somehow related to the angle of the windshield and/or hood (many of which -- contrary to what is shown in the simple pictures in this presentation, are sloped, not completely vertical). Additionally, the widths of these full-height bubbles can vary greatly. Some are have a distinctly rounded point and sharply fall away on the left and right side. Others have a much shallower gradient. Regardless, the one thing that all these fixtures share is that they extend all the way to the top of the trailer that they are towing (plus or minus a few inches). This bubble is typically part of the cab itself -- it seems obvious that the cabs were specifically designed with an overhead bubble in mind. As such, the bubble typically extended behind the cab right to the horizontal beginning of the trailer, providing a seamless channel for the wind to travel along until it hits the trailer surface. One conspicuous exception to this is UPS trucks; their cabs are the classic square/boxy type and have a bubble attached in a seemingly ad-hoc fashion. This leads the observer to believe that UPS "upgraded" their fleet for more aerodynamicicty in a cost saving paradigm shift (it should be noted that Louisville is UPS's national hub; hence I saw a lot of UPS trucks). Most bubbles had some kind of logo emblazoned on them (typically in the front), although some were just a plain color. Of the logos, the vast majority were corporate logos; a few personal logos were sighted (perhaps from independent truckers), but the vast majority were advertising in nature. Some even had lighted logos.
  2. No aerodynamic fixture. It was surprising to see many trucks still out there with no aerodynamic fixture at all. And the vast majority of these were the HR > ________________________________ Wind | | Tractor ====================>| Trailer | | ================= | | | | | Cab | | The wind comes in and hits both the square front of the cab and front of the trailer. Since the air is not directed, it must effectively 90 degree change in direction. This seems to be obviously inefficient (indeed, while there were a good number of trucks without fixtures, they were vastly outnumbered by the numbers of trucks that had some kind of fixture).
  3. Half-height aerodynamic fixture. The half-height fixtures (not quite rounded enough to be termed a "bubble", like the full-heights) -- and again, we're not talking about lengths or widths here -- typically only spanned half the distance from the top of the cab to the top of the trailer:
             Wind        ________________________________
        /===============>|   Tractor
       / _______________ |      Trailer
    --/ /              | |
       /               | |
       ================= |
       |               | |
       |      Cab      | | 
    The picture is somewhat misleading here -- there were two main aerodynamicicity se awareness of aerodynamicictytypes of half-heights:
    1. Tall cabs. Some cabs were just taller than average -- they had the same classic box/square shape, but had an obvious half-height bubble-like extension on the roof in an attempt to channel at least some airflow.
    2. Add-ons. Other cabs had half-height bubbles attached to the tops of their roofs (see picture, above). Some of these half-height bubbles had a fin located at their top rear that looked like an attempt to provide some measure of airflow channeling rather than having the wind have to make a sudden 90 degree shift. Something like:
               Wind      / _______________________________
                        /  |
          /============/ | |   Tractor
         / _____________/| |      Trailer
      --/ /              | |
         /               | |
         ================= |
         |               | |
         |      Cab      | | 
    Just as with the full-height bubbles, many of these half-height fixtures had logos emblazoned on them as well. The percentages were roughly the same between corporate, personalized, and plain as with the full-heights.
  4. Wind redirecting slab. The last kind of fixture is typically the simplest -- a small fixture on top of the cab that attempts to provide minimal airflow channeling, but provides some kind of sloped edge rather than force a 90 degree wind turn. There are two distinct types:
    1. Simple. The simple slabs were typically straight sheets (although a very small number of curved sheets were observed) with slightly tapered edges mounted at an angle on the top of the cab:
         Wind    /         ________________________________
                / /        |
               / /         |   Tractor
      ========/ /          |      Trailer
               /\          |
              /  \         |
         ================= |
         |               | |
         |      Cab      | | 
      Of course, as with the full-height bubbles, the exact horizontal placement and width of the slab varied. Note the strut support on the back edge. Some struts were designed such that the slab could be lowered for when the cab was driving without a trailer, which seemed like a good idea:
          Retracted slab
         =================    (No trailer)
         |               |
         |      Cab      | 
    2. Airfoil. Other slabs were clearly influenced by airplane wing design. They tended to look like inverted mini-wings on the top of the cab, something like:
                      /    ________________________________
           Wind      /     |
                    /      |   Tractor
                   / |     |      Trailer ____________/ /      |
                  _)       |
         ================= |
         |               | |
         |      Cab      | | 
      Although the ASCII art really doesn't do it justice. The mini-wings typically did not span the entire width of the cab -- they were usually between 1/2 and 3/4 of the width. I can't really speculate why an airfoil design would be helpful in such a case here. i.e., I'm not sure what the "win" is in using an airfoil over the simple slab -- the airfoil must be more expensive to design and build; it must have better wind directing capabilities somehow.
You may be asking yourself why I conducted of big rigs in our world today. It is a frequently overlooked, yet critical aspect of our society. I might even be so bold as to say that aerodynamic fixtures on tractor trailer cabs are the unsung heros of our society. Just imagine what a world would be without them. Well, actually, most people ignore these fixtures, so it probably isn't hard to imagine a world without them. Never mind. So I guess the reason that I did this is that I was bored. Plain and simple. LocalWords: stoplights UL LI pm OL Kokomo PRE aerodynamicicty UPS's

August 3, 2000

Where does it end?

When I was driving down to Louisville 2 days ago, I reset my sports watch (which has 2 timezones on it) to have the primary timezone as Louisville, and the secondary as South Bend (it's always been the other away around).

Likewise, I changed my "home time zone" on my pilot (mandatory and shameless plug: DateBk4 rocks!!) to be EST/EDT (vs. plain EST).

Likewise, with my laptop, the timezone has been switched to EST/EDT.

So in terms of all of my technology, I have moved to Louisville, KY.

August 8, 2000

Not above me...

What do I like about Netscape? Nothing at all.

I saw that Netscape 6pr2 was out today. I'm waiting for a huge disk copy to complete so that I can put my router back together (just installed a 45GB drive to hold all my MP3s -- legal MP3s, mind you; I own each and every CD!), so I figured that I'd get the latest mozilla and give it a whirl.

I downloaded it, and it was surprisingly small (45k .tgz file). Expanded it, and it makes a subdir with "netscape-installer" in it. I ran it. Brings up a little GUI. I clicked on the required buttons, and clicked on "Install" to start the process.

A window pops up with a progress bar in it, and Something starts happening. It claims to download some stuff, but then dies horribly. After trying this several times with identical results, I finally got "./netscape-installer: line 48: 21437 Segmentation fault (core dumped) ./netscape-installer-bin --sync" and a friendly core file. Whoops. I must have something setup wrong. Check the README file. It directs me to the release notes on in

I was amazed to see in the release notes:

Currently the installation causes a segmentation fault, but the installation is successful and Netscape 6 can be run.

What morons do they have working at Netscape thinking that releasing an installer that they know to seg fault is a Good Thing? Additionally, they clearly don't understand why it is seg faulting, however, because netscape certainly didn't install on my machine, and I can't run it.

A truly amateur performance from the folks at Netscape. I'm reminded of the mantra of many freshmen and sophomores, "well, it finally compiled, so it must be right!"

August 16, 2000

Netscape must die

Three times, netscape has crashed and rebooted my linux desktop.

I was sitting across the room, minding my own business -- not even near the computer, mind you, when it suddenly (and with no warning or provocation), rebooted.

"Crap!", I thought. "Must have something to do with the fact that Compaq sucks," instantly blaming the hardware.

So I rebooted. KDE fired up and put all my windows in the wrong place (as it normally does if you reboot without quitting KDE). So I replaced them, and then fired up Netscape.


Or should I say... the sound of one hand clapping.

Yep. Instant Cold Miser -- Mr. Freeze.

By now, my tried little brain is starting to put the two events together. I reboot (again), and place all my KDE windows (again). I futz around, check that my mail hasn't gone into oblivion on the server because of two crashes when my mail was open. Generally everything seems to be fine.

So I fire up netscape.

Do you know what happened?

It sucked!! That's what happened!

So now I'm trying to download the latest and greatest netscape in the hope that it fixes whatever the hell it decided to do to itself earlier today. Try downloading netscape with lynx. Just try it. <sigh>.

Netscape must die.

August 18, 2000

Tastykakes Too

Oops -- I just realized that there are two outstanding LAM issues: the PTY/SCO deal is one thing, but there's also the fact that the fault-tolerant mode of LAM also seems to fail under SCO.

This leads nicely into my theory of a secretive bouguios crypto-fascist plot by Caldera and the flying monkeys (you know, from the Wizard of Oz). You see, they just want a nice cup of coffee in the morning. Not being a coffee drinker myself (reference: worst cup of coffee ever made at Ft. Knox), I don't quite understand this want-slash-need, but hey -- whatever fills your tires.

So how does a good cup of coffee relate to problems with SCO/Unix and LAM? Let me explain.

The monkeys are actually all from a fairly rural town in Wisconsin. They did the Oz gig a few years ago, but do the issues with the MPAA, they really got screwed with the licensing deal (you should have heard them today after hearing about the DVD/DeCSS case --
you've never shrill screeching until you've told a Monkey that he can't pirate a DVD of his own movie. In effect, you're telling him to go spank himself). Hence, moved (where else?) to Canada, where they heard that flying monkeys could get good work.

There were several years of various overnight delivery service jobs, telephone repair jobs (who else can safely get to the top of those telephone poles?), and that whole Planet of the Apes thing (had to hide the wings for that one, and bulk up on steroids to boot), but nothing really grabbed their passion. These years were generally considered to be "The Blue Collar Years".

They eventually migrated back to the States, and, as all good monkeys do, got jobs in upper-level management. I won't tell you where, because a) it would first surprise you, but then you would say "oh, well that actually makes a lot of things make sense", and b) there's a good chance that you work for one of them. Yes, you, Gentle Reader.

So the monkeys prospered as upper-level managers. They got married, got a house, an Audi, had 2.4 flying monkey children, invested in their 401(k) plans, etc., etc. They were generally successful flying monkeys. But still, there was no passion.

To be a monkey
And a flying one at that
Yea -- enlightenment

One day, one of the monkeys finally realized just how passionless their lives were. They had a big meeting with all the flying monkeys (tip: do *not* park your car outside a bar where there is a flying monkey meeting going on. You know that Far Side cartoon, "How birds view the world"? Drunk monkeys are worse. Much worse.) And unto this meeting was born The Plan.

The Plan was simple.

The Plan was elegant.

The Plan is what all right-thinking people do when they realize that they have no passion in their lives.

The Plan was for all the monkeys to become programmers. The Plan was to Engineer with Extreme Prejudice. The Plan was to justify their existence with solid warez. "Justification through Righteous Code!", they cried.

This was The Plan.

And the monkeys set off to accomplish their Plan.

Their leader, Bill Gates (oops -- was that out loud?), kick-started the whole process by buying a little-known operating system named DOS and selling/licensing it for ridiculously large sums of money (inadvertently setting a downward-spiral trend for the entire barter trade system of a small planet in the Alpha-Centauri system that eventually ended in a bloody revolt which caused the abolishment of the letter Q in their language, but that's a whole different story).

The majority rest of the tale most readers are familiar with. It's the same old story (we've heard it hundreds of times) where flying monkey feels passionless, flying monkey starts with noble ideals and resolves to obtain Passion, flying monkey strives for Justification Through Righteous Code, flying monkey becomes the leader of a multi-national super company, flying monkey realizes that he has finally obtained Passion, but since he's the multi-billioniare owner of a multi-national super company, never has anything less than a $100 bill in his pocket (which the coffee machines simply do not take), flying monkey falls into despair about the lack of coffee, flying monkey plots to destroy civilization as we know it, simply because he can, so flying monkey decides to sabotage all Righteous Code (i.e., LAM/MPI) during Phase 7 of The Revised Plan to destroy civilization by making it impossible to port it successfully to all POSIX-like platforms.

It's the same old story. Hollywood's done it dozens of times.

But it's all true. I swear it.

"I had lots of ideas last night at 3am, and all of them were really good..."

My DSL alarm light continues to flash alarmingly. I think it's mad that I haven't gone to bed yet.

August 26, 2000

GGCL makes my brain hurt

Amusing quote on one of the whiteboards in my office (there are an amazing 6 whiteboards in my office here at LBL):

cat /dev/mouth > /dev/null

Here's another:

cp ~jason/brain/* /etc/evil

You just gotta wonder what the conversations were that precipitated these remarks...

I just noticed that the motion detector in my office (that is used instead of a conventional light switch) has two LEDs -- a green LED and a red LED. Different hand/arm motions from my desk seem to trigger different LEDs, but in no conceivable pattern (reference: blind baboon's sock drawer arrangement). Perhaps further reading of the GGCL docs will shed some light on this puzzle.

August 27, 2000

There's no crying in baseball

Saw Fight Club with Lummy yesterday on DVD. Although he gave it an overall thumbs up, I don't think he appreciated it as much as I do. Today's lunch break is "Harold and Maude" (DVD), which he claims is one of his management movies.

I'm up to page 115 of the GGCL docs, and counting... It's exhausting work, because I'm reading both for comprehension and checking for errors. It's neat stuff though; I don't really have the zen of generic programming, but I do fully intend on using the GGCL in Minime for some of the network route-planning and status subsystems.

Might be going over to Eric's for dinner tonight; could be fun.

sed is your friend. The following sed regular expressions fixed the majority of the GGCL inconsistent spacing issues:

s/\([a-zA-Z0-9]\),\([a-zA-Z0-9]\)/\1, \2/g
s/\([a-zA-Z0-9]\)\/ /\1 \/ /g
s/ \/\([a-zA-Z0-9]\)/ \/ \1/g
s/\([a-zA-Z0-9]\)\/\([a-zA-Z0-9]\)/\1 \/ \2/g

The first is obvious, but who can tell what the rest do?

These are less interesting, but they also fixed a bunch of cases where std:: and boost:: were forgotten.


"Some of us have dogs. The rest of us have [ef]*grep. And sed."

(ispell really didn't like this journal entry :-)

August 30, 2000

Midnight in the garden of good and evil

It's past midnight here in at LBL.

There are a few night owls here in Berkeley besides Lumsdaine and myself. Just now I heard a wailing, anguished cry from down the hall. It sounded like sheep dying.

I don't ask what happens down there at the end of the hall; they're all mathematicians. They scare me.

September 5, 2000

We are pleased

I got KDE working on my new box!

And there was much rejoycing.

September 6, 2000

Fun for the whole family

Here's a fun trick than anyone with an Intel-class machine, 6GHz or below can try!

Want to make your MP3s have that cool "Max Headroom" effect?

While playing your MP3s, do some task that is even mildly CPU or I/O intensive. It's as simple as that! Wow -- listen to that distortion and "echo". And to think that real recording studios pay big money to make effects like this!

September 10, 2000

Laser printer toner flavored ice cream

I learned an important fact about searching the internet today:

When searching for movie soundtrack CD's, thou shalt not include the word "soundtrack" in the search query, lest one incur the wrath of the Search Gods and receive their angry reply, "No matches found."

It seems that "soundtrack" is frequently a category, not part of the title. Whoops.

Network music search
Naievely using "soundtrack"
No one hears my screams
Surfing for music
I dare to use the "s word"
Search God anger shows
A quest for soundtracks
Do not utter their true names
For fear of evil
Soundtrack soundtrack sound
Track soundtrack soundtrack soundtrack
Soundtrack soundtrack sound?

September 20, 2000

Life is like a box of vanillas

Today's /bin/fortune wisdom:

If all the Chinese simultaneously jumped into the Pacific off a 10 foot platform erected 10 feet off their coast, it would cause a tidal wave that would destroy everything in this country west of Nebraska.

Where does potpourri go when it dies?

Having a /proc filesystem when you're tracking down a file descriptor leak is really helpful.

10/100 switch
I ordered from
Anxiously await

How do you normalize the average number of cars per hour (at any given on a random freeway) in terms of kumquats?

GNU Mailman rocks.

Apparently, Industry Day at ND was a success today. Lots of new toys in the LSC.

From a thread on /.:

we will now go back in time a year or two, and you find me at someone else's house, working on his phone line...

Me: (with phone line in mouth for safe storage... still plugged in) whoopty whoo... i'll have this done in a jiffy!

Him:Are you sure you should have that in your mouth?

Me: Sure.... I'm being 'careful'.

Me: <pauses and contorts my body> F*CK!

Him: What?

Me: weakly: Your phone's ringing.

Why is the above funny? Because I've done the same damn thing!! It's good to know that I'm not alone.

September 21, 2000

Does anyone know what time it is?

I feel the need to announce this amazing fact...

My friend Darrell just bought himself a 1PPS GPS device so that he can run a stratum-1 time server for his home DSL network.

"When you really, really need to know what time it is..."

September 24, 2000

24 hours of non-stop Wham!

My 100Mbps switch rocks. I'm ripping a few CD's for Janna, and I noticed that one of them was The Matrix soundtrack. No problem -- I already have it ripped, so why bother ripping/encoding it again? So I scp'ed it from my router machine (where the big MP3 hard disk is), and it shot across my LAN like a bat out of hell. And especially considering that it was The Matrix soundtrack, shooting like a bat out of hell is probably quite appropriate.

Not only was it way faster, it confirmed my beliefs that on my old hub, collisions were killing my performance (from watching the throughput and collision lights). With every collision, there would be a delay before transmission started again (binary backoff and all that). Hence, performance sucked.

But no longer. Wooo hooo!!

The new GNU Mailman (2.0b6) came out last night. Good stuff! Anyone who's running Mailman -- go update.

Perhaps its coolest new feature (IMHO) is that it now inserts special headers in the messages that it sends across lists that some mail clients (including pine, of course) understand. These special headers tell the mail client how to subscribe, unsubscribe, port to the list, etc. For example, at the end of a message with these headers in it, pine provides a link to "email list management functions". Selecting that link provides a bunch of links to subscribe, unsubscribe, post, etc., etc.

Way cool.

I'm still trying to get used to 6 virtual desktops in KDE. I finally made the switch from 4 desktops earlier this past week when I found myself [shrudder] overlapping windows just because I had too many things actively running at once.

You wouldn't think that this would be a major change -- I've been running tvtwm for years at Notre Dame with 8 desktops. However, I didn't use the linear key bindings for next-virtual-desktop and previous-virtual-desktop to switch between desktops with tvtwm. I do this all the time with KDE. Hence, I now sometimes have to hit next/prev 2 more times to get to where I want to go. Takes a bit of getting used to. But it's all for the best.

I've considered switching to other desktops -- SawMill, for example. But why? Everyone complains that KDE is huge and sluggish (and indeed, on Solaris, it was way too slow for me -- I stuck with tvtwm for that very reason. I think tvtwm is about the most bare-bones virtual-desktop-enabled window manager that you can get), but on my 800mhz machine, I don't notice it being slow at all.

That may well be a chicken/egg problem -- since it's a fairly hefty machine, KDE's slowness is not evident. But I've been using KDE on my little 233 laptop for quite some time (a year or two?), and haven't found it to be too bad.

So I think I'm reluctant to change mainly because I don't want to have to learn new key bindings. That is, I'm not impressed with new, cool features in a window manager. I want it to be fast --
that's the most important feature for me. And now, since I've started using KDE, key bindings for just about everything are important (it really bothers me in tvtwm that I can't use key bindings between windows. I've used key bindings in tvtwm to switch between virtual desktops for years, but tvtwm does have key bindings for switching between windows, but they're global --
not per virtual desktop -- which is useless, IMHO). That is, I rarely use the mouse with KDE; I only use it for selecting and pasting things in non-emacs environments (xterm, pine, netscape). And of course for GUI programs (like grip) that don't have command line or key bindings equivalents.

So here's what I look for in a window manager:

  • Virtual desktops. This is a must. I can't work in a single desktop anymore. I am inherently multi-tasking; while something is running in a window that take more than 5-10 seconds, I will likely go to something else.

  • Speed. If the window manager can't keep up with me, forget it. I only discovered that this was a prerequisite when I tried to use KDE under Solaris. It was so slow that it would sometimes lag my actions by multiple keystrokes, which was completely unacceptable.

  • Key bindings for navigation. i.e., using key bindings to switch between windows and desktops. This is now just about a must as well
    -- I'm so acclimated to KDE's key bindings that it has become a part of the way that I work.

Things that do not impress me in a window manager (admittedly, some of these are functionality items which can be turned off. KDE, for example, has many of these. I turn them all off):

  • 6 billion widgets and gadgets. I won't use them.

  • 6 billion options for how my background and windows and displays and ... look. I won't use those, either. A plain color or gradient color background is fine. Most default color schemes are fine. I'm trying to work, not customize up the wahzoo.

  • Animated events. Scrolling title bars really annoy the crap out of me. And who needs to wait for windows to appear and disappear? When I dismiss or iconize a window, I want it gone -- I don't want it swirling around the vortex of an imaginary drain in the center of my screen for the next 30 seconds.

  • Non-arrow pointer icons. These also annoy the crap out of me. If it's not an arrow, there's always the question of "which side is actually pointing?" i.e., what part of the icon do I have to have over a widget to be able to click on it?

  • Sounds that accompany window manager functions. I don't need noises to tell me that I just opened or closed a window -- I just did it, I don't need an audio queue to remind me of what I just did.

It has been my experience that all of these things simply waste time, not just in the time that you have to wait for them to execute, but in the time that you spend setting them up. And then, a week later, when you are tired of all of them, you spend more time setting them up again, or perhaps you'll make or go download a new theme. Who needs it?

To be fair, I haven't tried KDE under Solaris in quite a while --
there have been quite a few releases since then. Indeed, KDE 2.0 is on the horizon, which may make it worthwhile on Solaris now. I'll probably give it a whirl in the not-too-distant future.

September 28, 2000

Soup for everyone

The bandwidth between and is great in the morning (particularly since we're currently an hour apart). I can edit, CVS, and type with ease -- very little latency. Within about 2-3 hours, it all goes to hell, though. I attribute this to undergraduates waking up and realizing that their napster clients are no longer downloading free music. Even in a groggy wake-up state, experienced napsterphiles can restart downloads in 3.7 seconds or less.

Truly, a sight to behold (but not a pretty one -- they did just wake up, after all)

Hence, I have been forced to switch down to "emacs
" for my coding on machines. Regular GUI emacs was just too darn slow after 9-10am. I suppose I'll live, but I really do miss the context color highlighting...

In the universal scheme of things, I guess I'm helping prevent the heat death of the universe (using the rationale that X interfaces generate more heat, 'cause, well, they make the computer think more). Plus, I'm freeing up cycles for my client. So all things being equal, and all colors being black and white, all is well.

Emacs interface
Bandwidth forces termcap mode
Save the universe

So I'm working on making my thread booter skip failed nodes today (yesterday, too). It's easy to do stuff to skip nodes where rsh/ssh is rejected -- they return right away, and you can just go to the next node in the list. But when you try to rsh to a node that is down, rsh takes a long time to time out... What to do here? I don't know yet. Perhaps playing three songs at once through my speakers will help me understand...

Sidenote: this is a trick that I found that I can do -- run grip for each of my 2 CD devices and xmms to play an MP3. They all send their output to the same device -- my speakers. You can have interesting musical deathmatches this way. Consider: Amy Grant vs. Metallica vs. John Denver (clear winner here). Or The Matrix vs. Enya vs. a data CD (a tough call).

Tracy has lots of soft music CD's for me to draw upon whenever I wish to "fix" the competition and increase my winnings (shh!). The gambling commission is starting to snoop around, though. May need to lie low for a while.

October 3, 2000

To Be or Not To Be

First entry in a while... (started this entry yesterday)

I am thoroughly worn out. I have just spent about 48 hours trying to get PBS configured properly for the hydra after all the nodes and front ends have been upgraded to Solaris 7/64 bit. I was finally [mostly] victorious, but I am left feeling cynical and wondering why I waster 2 days of valuable time when I could have been working on my dissertation. I must rant.


First, some technical details about why this was difficult, and why a seemingly simple thing took so long to do. We don't use a vanilla distribution of PBS. We use a clever patch (and a few extra executables) from Dale Southard to enable proper AFS authentication when our PBS jobs are run. This package needs libraries to perform AFS authentication; you can use the proprietary Transarc AFS libraries or the freeware krb4 libraries (

My initial goal was to build everything in 64 bit mode, because a) Curt had some horror stories about trying to run 32 bit AFS binaries in 64 bit mode, and b) it seemed the Right Thing to Do. Knowing that everything had to be 64 bit in order to link properly, I set about trying to build PBS in 64 bit mode.

It took a bit of research (thanks!) to figure out how to compile in 64 bit mode in the first place. It took further research into the PBS docs to figure out all the ./configure flags that I wanted, etc., etc. (the PBS docs are somewhat hard to read, IMHO...). This all took a good chunk of time -- I just wanted to build a vanilla PBS first, and then try to build Dale's stuff (and probably recompile PBS to integrate it).

Being a forward-thinking person, I took Dale's stuff and updated all of it (because I forsee the need to do this whole process again in the not-too-distant future). I put in a proper automake process, with a full configure script to automagically figure out all the things that it needs to figure out so that you don't have to go fill in the Makefile yourself. That took a while, but I believe that it was worthwhile to do.

After as bunch of experimenting and poking around, I determined that the provided Transarc libraries are all 32 bit. Useless. So I went and got the krb4 package, and tried to compile it in 64 bit mode. Unfortunately, krb4 didn't want to compile in 64 bit -- it complained about some missing types.


So I said "Fuck it, I'll just build everything in 32 bit mode. Who cares?"

And I did.

And it worked.

...sort of.

The PBS mom's would periodically randomly die. I figured that it was because Dale's PBS patch had bit rotted, and was causing badness in the mom. So I put in all kinds of syslog() calls trying to track down where the problem was. I never saw any of the syslog messages. It made me think that the problem wasn't with the AFS code (!).

Luckily, Bob Henderson of PBS/Veridian, came to my rescue and informed me that if PBS is to be run in a 64 bit environment (like Solaris 7), it too, must be compiled in 64 bit mode so that it can read /proc properly. Without that, PBS will surely crash.

Arf. So now I have to get everything to compile in 64 bit mode.

krb4 took some tweaking (it's missing some typedefs that don't appear to be a problem if you compile in 32 bit mode -- go figure), but I finally got it compile properly.

Dale's stuff also use the RSA encryption routines from rsaref, so I had to compile that, too. Wow -- that thing must have been written a long time ago, 'cause about nothin' is standard. It's weird as hell. For example, it compiles to rsaref.a, not librsaref.a. Weird...

After that, I got Dale's stuff to link properly. It wasn't until much later that I discovered that rsaref wasn't happy in 64 bit mode. Trying to generate some keys, it sat and spun endlessly instead of actually producing output. Dale actually rescued me here
-- he pointed to a web page that indicated that there is a bad typedef for UINT4 in rsaref/source/global.h that is an unsigned long instead of an unsigned int
-- hence, in Solaris 7/64 bit mode, it was coming up as 8 bytes instead of 4 bytes. Changing the typedef and recompiling rsaref fixed everything, but figuring that out and fixing it took quite a while.

Dale's stuff links into the PBS mom, and I had some serious linker issues here. Turns out that both AFS (krb4) and PBS define routines for some MD5 stuff. It took a bit of creative side stepping, and changing Dale's patch, but I finally got it to work right.

After that, I had ended up creating 3 different PBS configurations: one for the PBS server (heracles), one for all the PBS client machines (athos, etc.), and one for all the hydra nodes. And I wrote a script to install each one. Not difficult, but not trivial either -- it took a lot of iterations to get the three scripts right.

So all in all, it took the better part of 2 days to get this all figured out an working properly. Ugh.

So why am I unhappy about this? It's not the work -- I don't mind that. And I learned some good stuff while doing this. But I really need to be working on graduating. And this is not such work. Even worse, we're doing this for people who don't care -- they expect that we do this. They use the hydra much more heavily than we do, but we have to take all the pain of administrating it.

Don't get me wrong, I like all of our users -- they're nice people, after all -- but they all don't have a clue as to how much work it takes to keep it running (which, in retrospect, is the mark of a good sysadmin). We're basically doing this out of the goodness of our hearts, and losing valuable time because of it. After about 10am this morning, I couldn't help thinking to myself, "Why am I doing this? Is anyone going to notice? Is anyone going to care?" These questions are quite cynical, and reflected my frustration at the time. Indeed, the answer to the second question is "no", which is one of the reasons that I can say that we are good sysadmins (more about this below).

The long and the short of this ends up at my philosophy of system administration: system administration is like sex. Any system administration is good system administration. But you don't know bad system administration until you've had good system administration. An admittedly biased view, as I consider myself a fairly good sysadmin (I'm certainly not perfect, but I'm pretty good for a part-time sysadmin who's trying to get a degree). I say this because I've seen a lot of sysadmins, and I've see a lot of bad sysadmins. Hence, I know what good and bad sysadmin is.

Just to be clear -- I'm defining "good sysadmin" from the viewpoint of a user. Users who have a good sysadmin barely know that they have a sysadmin; for the most part, things just "work". They don't have to keep continually updating their personal work habits to work with their computing environment. i.e., there is one environment, and it stays more or less uniform so that after users make the initial adjustment to work within it, they are rewarded with a fairly constant look and feel. This is not a hard and fast definition, but I think you can get the sense of what I am trying to say.

Bad sysadmins have exceptions for foo, you have to update your .cshrc to get the new version of bar, have no plans for uniform distributed environments, no backup schedules, no cohesive set of services, don't check their system logs, etc., etc. Users, however, unless they have had a good sysadmin, don't know the difference. In a society that tolerates (nay... expects) to reboot a Windoze machine multiple times a day, having exceptions for foo, or needing to type the full pathname to get the new version of bar seems like no big deal. It's extra pain that I (the user) must go through to do my real job; that's just the way it is. Users don't realize that it can be better.

But is this bad? If people don't realize that they have a sub-optimal arrangement, and just get used to dealing with the constant change, some things working and others not -- if they really don't know any better, what difference does it make? Probably little. However, I think this disturbs me philosophically at some level.

I have walked into 2 professional organizations where I worked as a system administrator (both, coincidentally, for the army). Both had horrendous (IMHO) sysadmins before me. Here's an example conversation that I had on my third day in the second organization (in a networked Unix environment):

Me: "I've installed the new version of Netscape; the one that was out there was a few versions back from the current release."

User: "Great! How do I access it?"

Me (puzzled): "What do you mean?"

User: "How to I bring up the new version?"

Me (still puzzled): "Well how do you bring up netscape now?"

User: "It's on one of the pulldown menus in my window manager."

Me: "Just access it the same way -- the next time you fire up netscape, it will be the new version."

The user literally sat there blinking at me for a few seconds. He had no concept of just doing the same thing and having updates automagically appear. This is one of many examples as to why I maintain that they had a bad sysadmin before me. Not that I'm self-aggrandizing, but doesn't it seem odd that when I announce the installation of a new version, the users assume that they'll have to do something different? ("You mean I don't have to reboot my unix machine multiple times a day? Why not? I think I'd still feel better if I rebooted it anyway." -- actual quote from a user when their desktop workstation was converted to unix)

The goal of good sysadmin is not only to keep everything working, but to hide as much of the work as possible from the user. The users have enough to worry about; they have their real jobs to do -- they shouldn't need to worry about fighting their computer to get their job done. It's the sysadmin's job to keep the computer running and make all of its services [relatively] easily accessible to its users. A sysadmin who does not make a "seamless" (i.e., as much as can be -- it cannot be 100% seamless) work environment for users is not doing their job, IMHO. A computer is supposed to be a labor-saving device -- this should be the sysadmin's mantra. More to the point, the technology itself should not make user's work harder than it already is (and I'm not talking about the evolution of using hand written foils that took 5 minutes to create to picture-perfect powerpoint presentations that take endless hours to create -- this is artificial demand that has been created by users; this is a different discussion).

Hence, the two organizations where I have done professional sysadmin (outside of ND that is) -- and again, I'm not trying to be self-aggrandizing -- now have a completely different view of sysadmin. They now expect a lot more from their sysadmin (as they should, IMHO). They don't want to fight the system anymore, to have to remember the three different ways to access netscape, etc., etc. They just want netscape, and they just want it "to work".

So how does this all tie in to how I'm annoyed with the hydra?

Well, to be blunt and arrogant, we've done a pretty darn good job with the hydra. Yes, we've screwed up a few times -- :-( -- but all in all, that system is pretty darn reliable and uniform. It "just works" for the most part, and users have had very few complaints. As such, our users have never had bad sysadmin. I dare say that we are under appreciated mainly because we set the initial level of service too high (most of the credit actually goes to our boss, Lummy, who infused me with many of the qualities of good sysadmin that I described above early in my graduate career, and I have done my best to pass these on to other grad students. i.e., these qualities don't just apply to sysadmin; they apply to research [and so on] in general. But that's a different conversation...).

I cite two reasons why we are "good" sysadmins:

  1. Our users have no concept how much work it takes to run the hydra (sure, once it's running, it pretty much runs itself, but, for example, this weekend's upgrade to the combined resources of two good sysadmins for multiple long-hour days to accomplish).

  2. Multiple groups have come to us asking if we'd sysadmin their cluster for them.

The second point kills me; it's further proof of the first point. Being a sysadmin is not our business; being a grad student is our business. If I were being paid to be a sysadmin, I'd be happy to do it without complaining. But how many other research assistants have to put in double digit hours a week on keeping their own (and others'!) systems running? This is the job that someone should be paid to do, not a job that someone should have to do in their spare time, or at the expense of their real job.

Not that I'm faulting anyone here -- indeed, I have learned a lot as a sysadmin over the years, and I honestly think that it has made me a better computer scientist. And I do seem to recall that we volunteered to sysadmin the hydra, etc., not really realizing what a big job it would be. As such, it's probably our own fault for raising user expectation levels so high -- they've always gotten this service for free, and don't realize that sysadmins out in Silicon Valley get 6 digit salaries to do what we do.

Indeed, we have taken pretty much the same attitude with the LSC software trees for Solaris 7. That is, for Solaris 2.5.1 and 2.6, the LSC had extensive software trees out in AFS that many, many users at ND used because the OIT-provided software trees were inadequate. The OIT trees were out of date, didn't include all the software that we needed, etc., etc. Hence, we made our own trees, and maintained them fairly well. For Solaris 7, we have pretty much refused to do this because -- just like the hydra -- it is just a time sink. We end up supporting all kinds of people instead of just us, and this takes time away from our real jobs. So if we end up with software trees for Solaris 7 (we haven't really yet, because the OIT has some Quality people who are actively being good sysadmins), we might very well lock them to LSC personnel only. We're not in the sysadmin business... but people think that we are.

More to the point -- look at the investment/reward ratio for the hydra. We barely use the hydra. The main users of it are CHEGs and civil engineers. We use the hydra for some development work, but we don't consume the vast majority of cycles on it. But we're still investing huge amounts of time in the hydra when we get very little back out of it. This is time that could be spent elsewhere, doing things that are relevant to our own work, not others' work.

So at the end of this long ramble, I guess I have no one to blame by myself. When you provide a good service (which is rare in today's society), people expect it to keep going -- especially when it's free. Indeed, our users don't even have the concept that such work should cost money. The very aspects of what makes a good sysadmin create a self-perpetuating cycle of raising the level of service that is simply not sustainable by someone who is not a full time sysadmin. However, we never put down limits on what we would do as sysadmins, so we continually fed the fire of user demand without realizing that we were damning ourselves even more.

As such, I think it is time for us to gracefully back out of this business. We have provided a good service for several years to our users, but we just can't do it anymore. Indeed, Lummy has already initiated this process -- he assures me that we will not be sysadmining the hydra past 1 Jan, 2001. I do feel badly about this, because I feel a commitment to my users, but it is necessary for us to continue our real jobs. :-(


Please keep these comments in context -- I have no ill feelings toward any of our users at all. Indeed, I find most of them to be very friendly people, and we have gotten along well with them for several years. And I don't think that I'm the best sysadmin in the world; in the field of computer science, there is always more to learn. I've met some highly accomplished sysadmins who make my sysadmin knowledge look like belly button lint. I'm not trying to make myself sound like the world's best sysadmin; I only mention these kinds of things to give my rant a frame of reference.

The above rant is just out of frustration because I'm trying to get my own work done, and can't because of artificial demands placed on me. Miles to code before I sleep...

October 6, 2000


It's 7:18pm, SBN time.

I'm in the LSC. Some time ago, DJ-Jazzy-Arun was spinning up the MP3s, and a hauntingly beautiful modern rock ballad kind of song came on. Entranced, I asked the DJ Man, "What song is this?"

He replied, "It's that song 'Slut' that I was raving about not long ago. I used to listen to it 50-60 times a day, but I'm much better now."

"Good," I said, "Put it on repeat."

That was a while ago (where "a while" >= 2 hours). It's still playing.

I don't know how many times I've heard the song now, but it's not enough. Amazing.

We need more speakers in here.

October 16, 2000

It's pronounced "Eeeee-velin"

News Radio is brilliant.


October 18, 2000

Advice that rhymes

I have a beef with Kentucky. "Where's the beef?" you ask. Right here.

I was out and about today, running errands, as the time approached noon. Feeling a little peckish (that's "hungry", you pervert), I was hit with a craving for one of those new Kentucky Fried Chicken wrap things -- a few chicken strips in a burrito wrap-thing, along with some lettuce, tomatoes, and some sauce. I had one when they first came out a month ago or so, and they were quite yummy.

So I decided that I'd like to have one today for lunch.

So I'm driving around, and driving around... and driving around...

I can't find any flippin' Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants anywhere!!

What the hell? I mean, I'm in Kentucky -- you'd think that there'd be one on just about every corner (just like Waffle House
-- man, those things are everywhere!). But no. I could not find a single one. I know of precisely one KFC restaurant around here, and it was a good distance from me (probably about 15-20 minutes driving time), and I wasn't about to drive all the way out there.

I was so flabbergasted that I couldn't find a KFC that I had to settle for Wendy's (yummy stuff, but not my first choice today).

How can you not find a KFC when you're actually in Kentucky? I'm beginning to think that KFC actually has nothing to do with Kentucky at all -- COL Sanders is just a sham. He was probably a Canadian (them's be shifty types; can't trust 'em). I can easily imagine that KFC is a Canadian plot designed to subterfuge the American public into thinking that "take off, a" is a normal expression.

Just my opinion.

Haiku for you

Some amusing haiku (haikus?) between myself and Kevin Barker today and yesterday:

From me:

To extern or not
Uninitialized is bad
Beep, crash. EOF

From Kevin:

Very nice haiku
We received much enjoyment
Keep up the good work

From me:

-mt is good You must use it everywhere LAM/MPI, too

From me -- an old one, but I still love it:


October 23, 2000

Is he related to Jack Pontiac?

I just watched News Radio (brilliant show) -- the "Cane" episode. Amazing, as always.

But what really blew me away was that A&E apparently has a totally different opening credits sequence than I have ever seen before. A brief recap for listeners just joining in...

I noticed a week or two ago that News Radio was on down here in Louisville on A&E (actually, Tracy pointed it out to me). I have happily been watching ever since, every night at 6:30pm.

Er... well... actually, it's usually around 6:32:07pm, when I look up from my coding, shout, "Gadzooks!!" and race off to the television to catch this fabulous show. Hence, I hadn't seen A&E's opening credits yet. Until tonight.

Tonight, I was actually a little hungry, so I emerged from The Coding State around 6:27pm. I heated up some soup (gas ranges are awesome -- I highly recommend them over conventional ranges. Buy GO, of course), and made it out to the TV by 6:30pm. I was delighted to see that the "Cane" episode was on (I've seen it several times before). But I almost spilled my soup when the opening spiel was over and the credits started.

It has shots of New York, cabs, busy people walking around... nothing like I'd ever seen when I watched it in South Bend (Philadelphia, too, I think). It just goes to show you -- even something that you have enjoyed for a long time can have new twists and turns to keep it exciting.

It's the little things in life.

That, and good parking spots. That's what makes life worth living.

Day of a 1,000 journal entries

Criminey, could I write any more journal entries in one day?

Apparently so.

Click, bing! You've got mail!
Jeff Squyres can write a lot
But he is now done
This is just to say
That I won't write more today
No more mail ('cept this)

October 24, 2000

xmms blows/It does not clean up its threads/Suckage, yea, suckage

xmms sucks.

It just barfed on me (seg faulted) after running for at least a week or two continuously on my desktop. I tried to start it again, and it "finished" immediately, but with no error messages.

Puzzled, I started looking around as to why.

As reported in previous journal entries, I found many, many xmms processes running in the background (935, to be exact). Assumedly, xmms is not cleaning up its threads properly (since Linux mimics threads with "cloned" processes).

On the bright side, though, I'd like to see any Windoze machine run upwards of 900 processes and continue functioning properly! (i.e., everything else in my system was functioning properly; I think xmms was bailing because it was trying to contact the other "running" xmms instances properly).

December 7, 2000

...and the no feet guy said, "There is such a thing as a budget, and WNYX is over it."

I have to admit, I'm not impressed by the latest Mozilla.

Within 3 minutes of installation, it managed to freeze my window manager. All I did was try to go to "Encrypt sensitive information" (one of the options off their drop down menus), and whammo. Or, I guess I should say, "...", because that's more like what really happened.

Additionally, I'm disappointed that it still doesn't come with crypto installed. The US export restrictions have all but been removed, so why not ship with it? SSL is necessary for a large portion of web usage these days (i.e., e-commerce sites), so why do I have to go through a second step to go get crypto and install it?

Additionally, the crypto that I installed only seems to work for root. Doesn't work for my regular user. <sigh>.

Saw a great article referenced from slashdot yesterday on the [lack of] software quality. I highly recommend reading it; it'll take 10 minutes of your time.

The vorbis-dev list is still down, which is annoying, 'cause I've got some questions about the DSP encoding stuff, and how to share boundary values in the persistent state...

December 8, 2000

Every office has a spunky red head

Just saw a great quote from Donald Knuth (read "the man") via Ron Garcia (probably paraphrased, but so what):

Premature optimization is the root of all evil.

Some other random great quotes that are popping into my head right now:

  • Welcome to the LSC. If this if your first night, you have to code.

Ok, that's the only one that's coming to mind right now. But it's a great quote, nonetheless.

Interestingly enough, my cell phone is acting a bit whacky. The other day, I found a few new features in it that I activated, including one for "audible alerts when switching between analog/digital." Yesterday afternoon, it was sitting in its charging stand over on the other side of my computer room, quietly minding its own business, when all the sudden, amid the clatter of the clicking keys of copious coding, "BEEPBEEP!" shrilled from that corner of the room.

Startled (and almost knocking over my soda), I whirled around to see what it was. Nothing was out of place. Nothing had moved. No telltale signs of destruction from a burglar who had somehow managed to sneak in, rip up my computer room, and leave (all in the span of a single "BEEPBEEP!") while my attention was focused on coding.

Weird. Chalk it up to sun spots.

Seconds later, "BEEPBEEP!" shrilled again.

This time, I did knock over my soda.

Swearing loudly, and cursing the Gods of the Phantom Beep, I endeavored to figure out what the hell was beeping. I acted like a hunter; standing quite still (in the corner of the room with my back against the wall), controlling my breath, only moving my eyes in an ever-watchful dance around the room. These tactics will trick the Beepbeep to come out in the open -- if I'm not moving, surely it can't see me.

Indeed, 3 hours, 14 minutes, and 27.2 seconds later, my skillful hunting prowess was rewarded: "BEEPBEEP!". My eyes quickly located the source of the sound, and were rewarded with seeing a quick change on the screen of my cell phone -- too quick to read. It must have heard my heart jump at its shrilling, and frightened the text on the screen back into the depths of its circuitry.

Immediately, I pounced -- intimidation is the only method that works here. "Say it!!!" I screamed. "Sayitsayitsayit!!!" (Sam would be proud). And the frightened cell phone meekly said, "beepbeep", and it paused the words on its face long enough for me to read them:

Switching mode / analog to digital

After this little "encounter", it took some time to heal the emotional wounds between my cell phone and I. But we're better now; I think the counselor is helping a lot.

A contradiction in terms? You mean like "swiss cheese"?

Ok, here's another great quote:

"There are three types of people in this world: those who can count, and those who can't."

February 16, 2003

It's got butter on the table, right there between Butter James and Butter Peter... an almost mind-blowing vortex of art and material...

Doncha hate it when you go to wind the grandfather clock, only to find that the hour hand is over one of the winding sockets? That means that you have to remember to come back at least 30 minutes later (but possibly not 2 hours later -- when it could be covering the next socket).

March 23, 2003

xmms sucks

The randomizer in xmms is truly horrible.

Out of my playlist of 1966 songs, it has played Chumbawumba at least 4 times today. I only have 34 Chumbawumba songs in my playlist (numbers 150 through 183). That's about 1.7% of my entire playlist. Yet xmms has chosen within that 1.7% at least 4 times today.

Perhaps its time to upgrade... Err... no. Apparently, v1.2.7 (the version that I have) is the most recent version.


May 30, 2003

Secret sauce?

Great thinkers have pondered throughout the centuries: which gets worse first -- cold fries or cold McNuggets? Truly -- a difficult question to answer. On the one hand, you have the french fries: light, slightly crispy, lightly salted (or heavily salted, depending on your pallette), piping hot (but not _too_ hot) -- simply perfection when just right. A vat of perfect french fries and a lifetime supply of Krispy Kremes would make most people content for life. On the other hand is the mcnuggets: warm, scrummy delights of chicken (or chicken-like substances) wrapped in tender battered... er... _material_ dipped in your favorite sauce. A perfect chicken nugget is comprable to life itself. So which do you eat (and enjoy) first? The obvious answers include: * Eat the fries first. Enjoy the golden, crispy fries to their fullest perfection. Unfortunately, in the mean time, the nuggets get cold and lump, resemling brown coal (and sometimes burning just as well, creating toxic gasses and contributing to the greenhouse effect). * Eat the nuggets first. Delight in the warmth and tenderness of the little pieces of happiness. Sadly, the fries will inevitably become damp, limp, and sometimes turn a pasty shade of green. Disgusting a best, suitable for national defense at worst. * Attempt to eat both at the same time -- alternating between one and the other. Your first few samples of each will be wonderful. But then the sickly side turns -- each asymptomatically approaches their terrifying "death-like" states, all the while you are cursed with the knowledge that you could have prevented this tragedy by making a better choice. This option is not recommended. * Eat one first while keeping the other in a dry, heated location. Unfortunately, the half-life of both items after leaving the hands of a qualified fast-food attendant is about 1.3 minutes, regardless of environmental conditions, temperator, and/or nurturing care (such as a microwave). Attempts to revive the foods after they have come into your possession are fruitless and will result in food implosions and/or serious injury. This method is not recommended. * Force everything down very quickly (perhaps accompanied by a tasty milkshake). This provides instant gratification for some sickos, but usually results in indigestion, lack of satisfaction, general listlessness, embarrissing gas, alienation of friends, despair, and eventual suicide. This method is not recommended. * Use a potato masher to make a mash of all the ingredients (the milkshake is optional) until it has a shephard's pie-like consistency. Eat the resulting cement with a spoon until it hardens and you are no longer able to extract the spoon. However, in doing so, you lose the individuality of each sensual delight, and instead are left with a Soilent-Green version of a meal. Unless you're an avid Science Fiction fan and enjoy long walks on the beach and cannibalism, this option is also not recommended. * Only purchase one food at a time, thereby keeping the other in the hands of trained fast-food professionals. When finished with the first food, purchase the second. What are you, French? With no challenge, there's no life! How can you look your children in the eye if you can't say that you have attempted the impossible, tried to seize the day, or lusted for life! Don't surrender now -- try, try, and try again! So what to do? I guess someone smarter than me will have to answer this. For my part, I know I'll be doomed to keep trying to solve the eternal quandry. And trying again. And trying again. And...

July 15, 2003


July 16, 2003

Two pops don't make a thunk

A real-life experience from a friend:
While in Oregon last week I observed this on a bumper sticker; "Remember, I'm just as BAD a driver as you". Made me stop and think.. How does this person know how bad a drive I are anyway... Needless to say, I stop following that car as soon as possible. I may be crazy but I not going to allow anyone to out class my driving skills or lack of...

July 25, 2003


Who wouldn’t want a purple polar bear?

August 5, 2003

It's alive!

One of the most recent Slashdot t-shirt contest entries features someone that looks exactly like Perk:

August 7, 2003

A few fries short of a Happy Meal

Some random quickies (shocking, I know):

  • Gas is a whole lot more expensive in Bloomington than elsewhere (even compared to I-65 in IN, or Louisville). Some days, it's $.20 (or higher) more in Bloomington.
  • Duck... duck... duck... duck... duck... grey duck...
  • I'm down to 2 Diet Cokes a day. Yay for me!
  • I'm doing a few Army AT days (active duty, for lack of a longer explanation). I was heading home from work, and went to the dry cleaners to pick up some uniforms. The woman started asking me about Army stuff (if I was at Ft. Knox, etc.). She even asked me, "Do you guys have dress-down days?" "Um, no." :-)
  • It's been a while since I've seen a movie in a theater. My movie quotient is very low. Mmm. Should fix this.

August 17, 2003

A green-ish shade of red

I think that all right-thinking people in this country are sick and tired of being told that ordinary decent people are fed up in this country with being sick and tired. I'm certainly not. But I'm sick and tired of being told that I am.
- Monty Python

I agree 100%.

I write today to mourn the loss of my watch band. It broke today while I was reaching for something and the end of it got caught on the edge of the counter, and snapped off. We all looked on in shock as it fell to the floor, bounced a few times, and came to a sickening, heart-wrenching, thudding stop.

I don't think that any of us -- at that moment -- realized exactly what it meant: the loss of a long-held, deeply-felt friendship. Indeed, every single day that wrist band was felt against my lower arm/wrist. Every day. For years. I've know people and other animals less time than I've known this wrist band. How do you replace a loss like this?

Sure, you can simply go to the mall and buy a new one, but is it the same? Just because it's the same color/brand/model, is it the same?

September 10, 2003

Google... calculator?

Darrell just pointed this out to me, and it's the coolest -- Google's calculator. Here's an example: ever wonder what 1.21 GW / 88 mph was? More fun ones:

You gotta love a company that continues to explore and do "fun" things just for the sake of doing them.

September 11, 2003

She hijacked a busload of penguins

This has now happened to me too many times to be a coincidence: People send me personalized mailing labels. For no reason. They're correct labels -- they have my name spelled correctly with my correct home address, and a variety of decorative designs ranging from American flags to annoying smiley faces. On the infrequent occassion when I actually send a snail mail, these labels are quite handy -- they save me the trouble of writing my own address block in the return address area of the envelope. So I'm thankful. But I'm still mystified. I never asked for these labels, and as far as I know, I've never been charged for them. They just show up (in the mail, of course -- which just seems funny to me: send materials for mailing things through the mail). This has now happened several times, and I have a veritable plethora of valid mailing labels sitting in my drawer. Don't get me wrong -- I do appreciate having a free stock of mailing labels. But where does it stop? Will I soon have a house full of mailing labels? Even though I do sometimes send snail mail, it really isn't all that often. Will I soon have a filing cabenit full of labels? And soon after that, I can imagine horrific images of my entire office brimming over with mailing labels (just picture a few labels leaking out of the windows onto my lawn, like a leaky faucet). Will this mass of mailing labels someday become so large and dense that it causes the implodation of the earth and transform it into a black hole? What fiendish, morally bankrupt person would be responsible for such an outlandish scheme? I have taken it upon myself to ensure that this doesn't happen. The goal here is to distribute the mass so as not to have them all concentrated in one place (thereby avoiding the impending implodation). I think I might have to start affixing 2 or 3 labels per envelope just to get rid of the things before the next batch of labels [inevitably] arrives (in the mail, of course). Perhaps I should start sticking them on other items to help deplete my stock: milk cartons, blades of grass, small dogs. Does this happen to anyone else?

February 2, 2004

Airlines suck

I was reminded today that I hate the airlines. American Airlines, in particular. I was in Santa Fe recently for an extended period of time. Hence, I brought two suitcases -- one large, and one small. I hate lugging suitcases through the airport, so I almost always check my luggage -- even if it's small enough to carry on the plane (the smaller of my two suitcases was small enough to carry on the plane). While I was in Santa Fe, I picked up several technical books and Very Large Printouts (VPLs), on the order of 300+ pages each. These all went in my luggage. My smaller suitcase was already stuffed with clothes, so I just dumped the books in the larger suitcase. When I got to the airport, I was told by the American Airlines representative that my luggage was overweight. Grumble. I figured that the books/VLPs had put me over the limit. "Well, it's only your big bag that's overweight. You can move stuff from the big suitcase to the little one, which should put you underweight." Er... what? Yes, that's exactly what he meant. They weren't weighing both my bags _together_ -- they were weighing them separately, and judging my luggage oveweight because one of them was overweight. This, in spite of the fact that the combined total weight of both bags was comfortably below twice the allowable weight for a single bag. And so they charged me $25 because my baggage was overweight. This is clearly a total scam by the airlines (American Airlines in particular), since the math -- literally -- doesn't add up. Grrrr....

February 22, 2004

I know it's not exciting, but it's kinda fun to watch


  • The quote in the title of this entry is actually from this year’s Super Bowl TV commentary. I’m not kidding.
  • I really need a favicon for JJC. Anyone got any suggestions?
  • Here’s another good quote:

“Coding is not just about writing code.”

  • My dissertation looks like it’s going to be 8 chapters and 5 appendices. Woof!

March 15, 2004


So I’m sitting here waiting for my jobs to run on AVIDD-B. They’re going to run for quite a long time, and I’ll probably be up all night shepharding the jobs, ensuring that they keep running. So it’s blog time.

Here’s something I don’t understand: people who throw cigarette butts out car windows.

It always ticks me off when I’m driving behind someone and they throw a butt out their window. I always feel like screeching to a halt, picking up the butt, and following the car until they stop — perhaps at the next light. Then getting out and walking up to their window, knocking on it, and saying “Here — you dropped something.” And throwing the butt back at them.

  • Why do cigarette smokers feel like the world is their ashtray?
  • If you’re smoking in your car, your car is already going to smell bad. There’s no good reason to not use your ashtray. Laziness does not count (not wanting to empty the ashtray).
  • Throwing a butt out the window is littering. Plain and simple. Why does society seem to attach a big stigma to all forms of littering… except for cigarette butts?

Butt-throwers should be condemned to pick up all the butts along the sides of highways. It’s surprising, disappointing, and disgusting how many butts there are along our roadways. I remember being a Boy Scout and doing various community projects such as picking up trash along roads and highways — cigarette butts were, by far, the largest collection of trash that we would pick up.


April 15, 2004

Haircuts considered harmful

So I have a dilemma; I think I’ve mentioned it here before. But now I want other opinions.

I’ve been in the military for the past 15 years or so. For the past 10 of those years, I’ve more-or-less consistently gotten skin-tight high-and-tight haircuts. I admit to being a lazy bastard — they’re easy to ask for, easy to maintain, and generally provide better aerodynamic performance at high speed.

But now that I’m out of the army, I suddenly have a choice. And that’s just weird! I’m not accustomed to having to think about “where do I want to go with my hair today.” Do I need to start watching conditioner commercials on TV? Do I need to learn a whole new dialect of hairstyling lingo? What on earth do I ask for when I go to a barbershop? I don’t even know the names of other kinds of haircuts! Oh, the horror!

So here’s my question to you gentle reader — if you’re a male over the age of 18, and you regularly visit a barber for your haircuts (I don’t see myself going to a salon any time in the near future), what do you ask for, and why?

June 2, 2004

It's all about kumquats

Ever wonder what the favicon is on this site?

In the spirit of the previous entry, I was [still] killing time waiting for a lengthy compile (didn’t want to fully swap out the project that I was working on), and did a search for “kumquat” on my blog. I found 4 results (this entry makes 5). In reverse chronological order:

August 8, 2004

A note for future journal entries

BK = DK.

That’s all that I have to say about that.

June 15, 2005

Fluffy bunny

Note to self: brushing teeth with cool mint gel toothpaste immediately after finishing a honey-lemon cough drop — not a good idea.

September 10, 2005

A bowl full of mush

Random quickies:

  • ClusterMonkey has been launched. We’re still working on more content (current effort is concentrated on converting all the old ClusterWorld magazine content), but we’re getting there. W00t!
  • ND won at football against Pitt last week. Who was that team? They looked really good! Today will be a tough game, too — Michigan. We’ll see what happens (Renzo has opinions, as does Freakazoid).
  • Kathryn likes putting things in other things.
  • Kaitlyn likes opening and closing doors.
  • Submitted bugs to both Automake and Subversion this week. Yay open source.
  • Open MPI is coming along swimmingly. We’re zeroing in on our first release (but man, shared memory collective operations are complicated!).
  • Next Friday is’s 6th birthday
  • The new server (marvin) is online, but isn’t serving up the domains yet (the guys are working on moving everything over from wopr)
  • The “s” key on my keyboard is slowly dying (sometimes a character does not come out when I hit the “s” key).

August 27, 2006

Can you hear me now?

Here’s a fun story that ends with Jeff getting screwed.

I’ve been a Verizon wireless customer for many years. Tracy and I bought each other cell phones back in the mid-90’s when we were driving back and forth between Louisville and Notre Dame all the time. It wasn’t Verizon Wireless back then, but it was some company who got bought out and then bought out again by Verizon Wireless. So I think I’ve been an official VW customer for 6-8 years or so.

Several years ago, we converted the two phones onto a family plan — where you have multiple phones on a single bill. The idea is that you pay the bulk for the first phone and then a smaller increment for each additional phone on the account, and you all share a common pool of minutes per month. When we made the change, it was a net savings for us, and seemed like a good deal.

Over time, we’ve upgraded our phones. Verizon has a “new every 2” program where they basically heavily subsidize [sometimes even to the point of fully paying for] a new phone every 2 years. This is actually a good deal for Verizon because it virtually eliminates all the older technology phones deployed by customers (apparently many people come in every 2 years to the day to upgrade their phones — we tended to wait until our phones died, which was typically around 2.5-3 years). They also lock you into a contract for 1-2 years when you exercise the “free” upgrade, so this also guarantees monthly fees for Verizon.

Flash forward to early this year. Tracy and I finally decided that it was time to ditch the second phone on the family plan — we rarely used it and it was just an additional $20/month that wasn’t worth paying. So I called Verizon and inquired about canceling it. “Sorry, that phone is still under contract until November of 2006.”


Well, ok. I did agree to that when we upgraded that phone last time, so I’ll cope. I dutifully put a to-do item on my calendar in November to cancel that phone (there is the possibility of terminating the contract early, but it carries a hefty penalty fee — the math worked out that it was cheaper to ride out the contract than to pay the penalty fee).

Flash forward to June. I get the cell phone bill and see a bunch of calls to and from India on the second phone. Egads — we’re now a victim of this identity theft stuff that’s all the rage these days! ☹

It took some back-tracking to figure out how this happened. Best that we can guess is that Tracy accidentally took the second cell phone on her business trip to India in early 2006 and then had it stolen (we never use the phone, so we didn’t even notice that it wasn’t anywhere to be found in the house). We don’t know why it took several months for the phone to be abused. [shrug]

So I called up Verizon and explained the situation to them. The representative was quite helpful; once she fully understood the situation, she credited back the cost of all the fradulent calls. No problem there. But here’s where the fun part comes in.

“I have deactivated that phone so that no more fradulent calls can be made from it,” she said. “Do you have another phone here in the US that you want to transfer that number to, or do you want to go get a new phone at a local Verizon store?”

“Well, we actually don’t use that phone much and are just waiting out the contract, which expires in a few months,” I said. “Given the fact that the phone was stolen and there’s no way that we can use it, can we cancel it now?”

“Let me check,” she said. [sound of typing] “It looks like that phone is under contract that does not expire until November. So it looks like you have three options:

  1. You could cancel now for an early termination fee of $175, or
  2. We can transfer the phone number to a new or existing phone, or
  3. We can leave it like it is — the phone number is not connected to any phone.”

I was definitely not interested in paying a hefty cancellation fee ($20/month for the next few months is far cheaper), nor was I interested in buying a new phone (and potentially getting locked into a new contract). And I don’t have any old cell phones to hook the number to (we donated them all).

“So let me get this straight,” I said. “I’m going to pay $20/month until November for:

  1. The privilege of having a phone number that will not ring anywhere, and
  2. An account that I can’t possibly make any phone calls from

Basically: I’m paying $20/month for Verizon to do nothing. Is that right?” I asked.

“Er…” she said, obviously embarrissed. “Yes. Sorry.”

I even tried the “I’ve been a Verizon customer for many years” card, but to no avail. I realize that the letter of the law of the contract that we signed 2 years ago says that we’re bound until November 2006, but… really. Given the circumstances, I would think that the rules could be bent a little to show a little customer appreciation. Apparently not.

So I’m paying $20/month to Verizon for absolutely nothing. That’s awesome.

June 3, 2007


You know you’re old when you catch yourself singing along in the grocery store.


Don’t laugh. It’ll happen to you, too.

August 18, 2007

Comments on ...?

  • I am firmly, definitely not a cinnamon toothpaste person.
  • I have salt and pepper shakers made by Peugeot. They are both sporty and very fast to crank out the spices.
  • Kaitlyn likes to rip birthday presents open. Kathryn likes to take each piece of tape off and unfold the wrapping paper.
  • My sister created v3.0.1 and v3.0.2 recently (to complement the already-released v1 and v2, each from several years ago).
  • I recently popped a rivet on one of my rollerblades and was dismayed at the prospect of paying ~$150 for new blades. But thankfully a local small bike/shakeboard/blade shop fixed it up for the paltry sum of $5.
  • A friend of mine just shipped out to Kuwait for 1.5 years. Keep in mind that there are thousands of men and women protecting freedom out there (and you never hear about the good things that they do in the news).
  • In checking my annual free credit report, Capitol One is (by far) biggest checker of my credit ratings.
  • Kathryn likes tomato sauce on her spaghetti. Kaitlyn likes her spaghetti plain.
  • iLife’08 is truly cool. I will likely be posting all new pictures on my .Mac web site through iPhoto instead of through my existing Gallery web site.
  • I recently switched my church to use Google Apps after dismal service and performance from our prior ISP. The church has a permanent staff of about 12 people. They loves the Gmail.

March 3, 2008

An amazing offer

We got a postcard in the mail today:

We have identified you and you are now ON RECORD. We are happy to contact you directly at your residence to inform you that you have been confirmed to receive this notice for a Vacation Package. This offer is real and is no mistake. Please respond prompt so that we may process you.


(all caps and emphasis are theirs)

Do people really fall for this stuff? That is both slimy and sad at the same time.

April 10, 2009

O. M. G.


I’m speechless.

April 18, 2009

The prodigal son returns

After having been missing for nearly a year, I found my MacBook Pro keyboard protector the other day. It’s a rectangle of soft cloth that just barely covers the keyboard when you close the MBP lid — it protects the screen from getting an imprint of the keyboard. It’s small, light, and easily misplaced.

I suspect that it was off seeing the world, sowing its wild oats, getting into trouble, etc. (perhaps a mid-life crisis?). Or perhaps it was off wherever socks go. Maybe it didn’t like the fruity drinks wherever it went.


Regardless, it’s home now. We’ve reconciled, and have mostly moved on beyond this incident (although the “rebuilding trust” therapy will continue for a while).

May 3, 2009

Star-shaped circles

Some random quickies:

  • I have a broken SD card reader. So I ordered a new one off the internet (about $20). Less than 24 hours later, I found that I had another working SD card reader upstairs in a pile of spare parts. Doh!
  • Brian passed his PhD. defense. w00t! That’s Dr. Mr. Brian, to you.
  • Tivo caught A Knight’s Tale the other day. Eh. I give it a zero (sympathy), which exactly fits the situation (I made no effort to catch the movie; Tivo caught it by chance).
  • I saw Body of Lies last night. Enjoyable, but dark. Perhaps even somewhat accurate. Shrug. 7.5 minutes.
  • I also saw The Dark Knight somewhat recently. Wow, the Joker had a fantastic performance. Excellent flick; 20 minutes.
  • The 2 weeks before the Kentucky Derby are the busiest of the year for Louisville.
    • We tried to go to the balloon race last weekend, but it was delayed 3 times due to high winds, and we therefore missed the actual race.
    • We took the munchkins to the Pegasus Parade (a Derby-themed parade in downtown Louisville) this past week. Good stuff. Downtown Louisville is more or less in the landing pattern of the Louisville airport; we could see private jet after private jet after private jet in the landing pattern — presumably for the Derby.
    • Tracy got tickets to the Kentucy Oaks race through work (Oaks = the race that all the Louisville locals go to; Derby = the day after the Oaks, the race that all the tourists go to). We saw a bunch of other GE people and generally had a great time.
    • Pictures and a movie of both the Pegasus parade and the Oaks Day are here:
    • My Blackberry performed terribly at Churchill Downs while we were at the Oaks. Granted, there were nearly 150k people there, probably just about all of them trying to use their phones as well, but others seemed to have no problems getting and placing phone calls. My BB couldn’t place any calls (every single call resulted in “Call Failed”), and it randomly rebooted at least 4 times during the day (I saw it reboot twice, and twice I saw typical slowness / “optimizing index” behavior that happens after a reboot).

About Random

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to JeffJournal in the Random category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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