the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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The Opposite of Awesome

This evening, my MacPro decided that "restart" was an important and necessary part of "wake from sleep." It starts to wake normally, but hiccups and suddenly it's booting again. I've done just about everything I can do to it over the past three hours, including a complete restore from the install media, and it still persists in its little delusion. I may try shifting it to another circuit or swap in different UPSes or surge protectors or something (maybe my UPS got pissed and can't cope with the power dip needed to wake the machine?).

It's safe to say that I am not very happy about this turn of events.

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Comic Life

So I discovered the other day that my new Mac came bundled with Plasq's nifty Comic Life, a program that lets you easily drop your photos and other images into comic book layouts, add effects and word balloons, and generally cause you to lose track of time.

I started putting together a simple page last night to see what it could do, and show Liz how cool it was, and it kind of got out of hand after that--becoming a three-page mini story of going to our friends' wedding in October:

It has a few little quirks that annoy (trying to get the right thing selected can be tricky once it's been dropped into place, and the fancy lettering really doesn't like to export to PDF without a fight), but it's probably one of the most fun and imaginative apps I've played with in a long, long time.

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The Week That Would Not Stop

Bleah. Totally run down. Stressed out, burned out, and all-around fried. But still clinging desperately to life in the hopes that it might all settle down at some point. (It has to settle down, right?)

Thanks to a bumper crop of ragweed, I have spent the last two weeks wanting to claw my eyes out. Puffy. Sore. Goopy. Crusted over when I wake up. I feel like someone has scraped sandpaper over my corneas. I feel like I haven't slept since the allergies really kicked in.

Work is a super giant happy fun ball of stress as I attempt to coordinate a lot of last-minute things, deal with incomprehensible bug reports, and generally attempt to save the world. So far... meh... I think the world's still in trouble. It's taken me until today to start working on the things I was supposed to be doing on Monday. I guess it would help if I could get more than five minutes of uninterrupted time, but apparently that's out of the question at this point. *sigh*

I'm way behind on dealing with some vaguely important email for Clepy. I have had a tiff with DirecTV over their habit of failing to send me a bill and then charging me lots of late fees. (Surprisingly, not the first time they've done that to me...)

And it doesn't help that I've had things to do every night this week: Clepy (and post-Clepy festivities) on Monday, wine group Tuesday, German class Wednesday, and an appointment tonight. Tomorrow, I expect I'll probably just stay late at work, except that the parts for the new closet organizer system thing have arrived and I want to get started on that too.

Good lord, it's Thursday, and I still haven't picked up the new Star Wars DVD's, with the Han-shoots-first-thank-you-very-much original cut. For those that know me, that should give you an indication of what a general shitstorm it's been lately.

On the plus side, I finished The Confusion over Labor Day weekend. On the minus side, I still have about a thousand pages (hardback!) of The System of the World still to go... by which point I suspect that I will need to re-read Cryptonomicon since it has enough bits that tie in with the other books. It'd be easier if my eyes didn't feel like they were about to explode out of my head (see above).

...And I think I might have finally hit the point where Gentoo in particular, and Linux in general, is dead to me, the way someone who crosses Tony Soprano ends up in the deli slicer, or taken out to the Pine Barrens and disappeared. Midway through my third (fourth?) day of trying to get the emerge -eav world step of the upgrade to gcc-4.1, I am just about at the end of my geek rope. I fell in love with Gentoo because its packaging and update system "just worked", freeing me up to waste my time configuring and tweaking everything else to be just so. But this update is just insultingly murderous, as all kinds of supposedly stable things just won't fucking build right--because, y'know, that would be too easy. So, even if I have to turn in my geek badge and live life as a lesser mortal, beholden to the software update whims of Apple, I think that'd be okay with me, because this kind of time-waste is something I simply cannot allow in my life any longer.

Grr. Argh!

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January Link-o-Rama

Now that I've gotten caught up on my huge backlog of email, it's time to close some tabs and share some links, because it's more fun than doing anything productive. Submitted for your approval:

Chunk Norris Facts will teach you all sorts of interesting things about Chuck Norris; for example, "the chief export of Chuck Norris is pain." Not to be missed.

Learn all about sushi with the Sushi Eating HOWTO. (Kind of self-explanatory.)

Can't get enough "Firefly?" I certainly can't. Check out Escape Key's "Mal's Song", an expanded version of the "Firefly" theme. It's a bit filkier than my tastes usually run, but I've gotten it stuck in my head anyway. Plus, if you didn't fill your belly with sushi (see above), you probably have room for a tasty Fruity Oaty Bar!

When you're done watching the Fruity Oaty Bar video (and putting the MP3 on a loop for a few hours; don't be embarrassed, it's perfectly normal), some of you might be amused by IBM's Linux cartoons. While I was entertained, my inner shareholder wonders how much they paid for those.

Transformer di Roboter present "Stranger in Moscow", a musical gem that uses the Macintosh startup chord as its bassline. No, seriously!

Retrievr lets you search Flickr by sketching. It's wickedly mind-blowing!

I hooked up my new keyboard (a Christmas present) today to see how effective I'd be at typing without any labels on any of the keys. It turns out, with the exception of well-formed (aka tricky) passwords, I'm quite good with it. I also really like how different regions of the keyboard have different resistance to touch, so your hands get a good feel for what keys are what as they are being struck. The only thing that kind of pisses me off is that the Scroll Lock and Caps Lock lights don't seem to light at all (the Caps Lock would probably be helpful, don't you think?), and the Num Lock light seems to be flaking out--typing causes this LED to flash and sometimes go completely dark. I guess I wouldn't particularly miss these if they went away, but they are kind of annoying and really detract from the overall quality of the keyboard. Alas, I think my search for a new "perfect keyboard" must press any key to continue... (Time to find someone who makes a USB equivalent of the old Apple Saratoga keyboard.)

Finally, Minifesto is a cute tool for making animated icons out of your favorite snippet of text, suitable for generating excellent customized LiveJournal icons.

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All the King's Horses

I'm slowly but surely getting my main home Gentoo box back in order after deciding to blow it away and reinstall last weekend. I had been running an amd64-native environment for about a year, and along the way I had gotten really tired of all the packages that weren't available, didn't work right, and things that were outright unsupported--like any sort of 3D acceleration for my video card whatsoever, though I will grant that it was my fault for not taking 64-bit into account when checking hardware compatibility.

I've managed to get most things working again, plus a few things that I hadn't managed to win the battle with before:

  • Mostly stable kernel--needs some small tweaks but mostly solid
  • Onboard gigabit ethernet (yay)
  • X with honest-to-goodness hardware acceleration, GL, all manner of goodness
  • A comfortable Fluxbox/ROX desktop setup
  • Automated rsync of iTunes library from my iMac to the Gentoo box; 36 GB later, all is happy
  • SlimServer, so that the house is again filled with music
  • Apache (required figuring out the Gentoo Apache maintainers' latest round of WTF)
  • Internal dev & staging environments for pirnat.com
  • photos.pirnat.com is alive again
  • PHP iCalendar installed and running again to provide personal calendar service
  • ...which means WebDAV is back too, so that Liz and I (and my folks) can all publish our calendars to each other again
  • emergeminion, my silly little emerge --sync && emerge -upv world script that mails me every morning with stuff that needs to be updated, is finally able to send mail again
  • Python 2.4.1, so that I can start catching up on some of the more recent additions to the language

I still need to futz around with:

  • Framebuffer/bootsplash
  • Onboard sound -- almost working
  • MoinMoin -- to start rebuilding my wine wiki, as I managed to lose it all when I incorrectly assumed that I had backed up the data
  • TurboGears -- to start experimenting with the latest, shiniest thing in Python web app development
  • I could have sworn I wasn't using 91% of my main disk before I blew away & reinstalled everything... Have to track down where all my space has gone.

Some useful things I picked up along the way (some after much swearing and frustration):

  • Tiger no longer seems to like burning CD's straight from ISO images. It instead turns them into very lovely ISO-9660/hybrid discs with an ISO on them--aka coasters. Dragon Burn is your friend.
  • The new Gentoo Apache setup for vhosts doesn't like to have a vhost config that begins with 01_ -- for reasons passing understanding, it wanted to always serve up index.cgi as the default resource, even without having index.cgi in the DirectoryIndex directive, and even when there were index.html and index.shtml files that it should have used in preference.
  • If SlimServer doesn't want to read your iTunes Library.xml file, even if you tell it exactly where it is, turn on debugging. This will cause everything to magically just start working--while it may cause slight embarassment on the SlimDevices mailing list, at least you've got all your playlists and music again.
  • A stage3 x86 Gentoo install can really bite your ass when you want to start updating packages if you've changed your make.conf to use a more appropriate march setting. You will have all manner of issues with things wanting to use a gcc that you never even had on your box, and no amount of fix_libtool_files.sh will save you (though it will help slightly). The trick here is needing to do emerge -e system so that the underlying system gets its act together, and then following it with an emerge -e world. It's time-consuming, but it gets the job done.
  • sstmp, the default mailer that gets installed when you throw a cron system onto your box, needs a little bit of love before it will actually do anything useful when it comes to talking to the outside world. The particularly important bits are:
    root=your_email@your_isp.com
    mailhub=mail.your_isp.com
    rewriteDomain=your_domain
    hostname=_HOSTNAME_
    FromLineOverride=YES

Once I check a few more things off of the "gosh, I'd really like to take care of that" list, I'll hopefully free up enough time or energy for something more useful--I'd like to spiff up the look of pirnat.com a bit, dive into some coding, figure out what (if anything) I might (be able to) work with Dave on presenting at PyCon in February...

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