Tue, 31 May 2005

Kingdom of Heaven

Drew, one of my LCA2006 organising committee, had some free movie tickets that were due to expire today. He and his partner would not be able to use them, so he gave them to me yesterday. Raewyn and I are going out for dinner with friends tonight (which also happens to be because an offer expires today), so we went to see a movie last night - Kingdom of Heaven.

It was pretty good actually - the story was interesting, and the characters believable (but I did slightly expect Orlando to do some crazy leaping around on a giant elephant... er hang on, wrong movie). The tale is of the Crusades, and of Balian's travels to, and subsequent defence of Jerusalem. One thing that piqued my interest, was that King Baldwin was a leper. I now have an interest to learn more about leprosy...

[21:04] [/Life] [permanent link]

Hey, Me too!

David Starkoff talks of bagging Qantas... I've done it too, but not to a huge extent, I was just pretty miffed that my bag was lost on a short hop like that... dumbasses.

Anyway, reading David's link to this, I thoroughly enjoyed this comment:

I doubt it- those carriers aren't infested with EEO and wrongful dismissal laws. Business and 1st class in QF aren't bad- you have pillowbiters and manky old slappers all over you like a cheap suit; bit different back in the dog-box though. Any of the Asian carriers shit all over QF for service from a great height; I don't know about BA, haven't used them for a while but they used to have great fat old bags with smiles from the "Bumper Book of British Dental Hygiene" who looked like they should be behind the counter of the local chippie. US airlines are even worse than Qantas- Continental had some walrus who couldn't even fit her fat arse down the aisle of a DC10 so they sacked her, she sued and was re-instated, hopefully as a wheel chock. Ther sooner TG, SQ, MH and even JL get access to domestic legs the better- likelyhood? Zero.

Comment by PB -- 12/1/2005 @ 9:01 am

All in all, yeah, I've noticed that everytime I end up flying with Qantas, I feel dirty when I disembark. The service is crap, the plane feels sterile rather than cosy, and you just get that feeling of "Are we there yet?" nagging at you the whole way. About the only thing going for them is that they serve alcohol on domestic flights :> (Alcohol on flights is bad, I know, but it's my choice noddy, so bog off :P).

[20:44] [/Travel] [permanent link]

Mon, 30 May 2005

My New Tablet PC..

So, for various reasons, I've moved from my trusty old Toshiba TE2000 to a much smaller, and cooler, HP TC1100 Tablet PC. Basically the Toshy decided to croak it (whilst at LCA2005.. *mutter*) - turns out the connector between the internal power board and the motherboard was damaged. In the hope that it would be useful to one of my co-organisers for LCA2006, it is now repaired and in his possesion. Anyway, I digress...

So, it's pretty slick device, and I've spent an amount of time over the last 5 days getting all the neat bits of hardware working with a fresh Debian install (I just couldn't do the Ubuntu thing, it feels too much like two-timing). Everything, bar the little digitizer 'pad button' things, is working, including the lovely little SmartLink WinModem (haven't tested it yet, but I can talk to it with minicom).

For those that are clever, they'll recognise it as the Tablet that both Bdale and Edale^W, er.. Elizabeth were using at LCA2005. Bdale mentioned to me that he couldn't seem to get both the digitizer and accelerated graphics (via the official nvidia driver) to work together. I now wonder what problem he was having, as I didn't do anything special and it's working fine. I was worried though as I had it working well under the nv driver, but to get rotation working with xrandr I had to change to the nvidia driver. So, now Elizabeth will be jealous - I can now happily play tuxracer, and design new courses with the digitizer under gimp without restarting X :) .

I mentioned xrandr, because you can't use a tablet and not have the ability to flip around into "portrait" mode and use it as a tablet is meant to be used! After some fiddling, it was correctly rotating.. sadly, the X wacom driver didn't have the ability to rotate whilst X was running - you could happily add the "Rotate" option to the InputDevice entry in xorg.conf (yeah, XFree86 sucks, ok?), but that would require an X restart. The effect is somewhat disturbing when you attempt to use the stylus on the rotated screen.. :)

A little hunting uncovered this patch which appears to solve my problem. After downloading dilinger's Xorg source package, I was able to patch a recent linuxwacom driver, and slip it into the package build instead of the older version of the module there (If anyone would like a copy of my wacom_drv.o, email me). I also needed to build an updated xsetwacom that knew about the newly available 'rotate-while-running' feature.

After all that, I now have a 3D accelerated display with a working stylus, that can be easily rotated to a portrait mode with these two commands:

xrandr -o left
xsetwacom set "Wacom Stylus" Rotate CCW

So, some software to top things off. This chap wrote a nice little perl tool called tabatha that does a nice job of providing a little menu that you can access via the side buttons on the tablet (I use hotkeys for this, after mapping the keys to unused keycodes with setkeycodes somewhere in /etc/init.d). But, he really should have worked out that sudo would be a better tool to use within the config than making you run it as root. It appears I'm going to have to package this particular tool...

For Stylus input, I'm using both xvkbd and xstroke, the latter of which it appears I'll have to package too. And finally, a useful looking tool that works really well, and I'm so far enjoying immensely, is gournal (Which will be the third new package I have to churn out). Gournal is a note taking application that looks like it supports a networked collaborative mode, and also saves into a useful format - svg.

Well, that's enough boring detail for now - I guess at some stage I'll have to note down all the gory details on a webpage for future reference and for others to look at.. But I should be doing some work :)

[04:49] [/Hacking] [permanent link]

Tue, 24 May 2005


So, Ghosts of LCA's Past is over for this year.. Jon Oxer, Anthony Towns, Mark Tearle, Steven Hanley, Martin Pool, Tony Breeds*, Jeremy Kerr and Michael Davies descended on Dunedin, and spent the weekend with my Committee and I discussing our progress organising LCA2006, and passing on all that valuable knowledge that should make our task somewhat easier...

*: Lazy sod needs a blog!

They're all on an lca-ghosts list, and I've contemplated kicking the other two list owners off and making the list requre unsubscription authorization, then demand help of them over the next 8 months.. Muhahaha! But, nah, I couldn't do that. They're all great guys :).

Anyway, the airport was suffering with late arrivals on Friday due to fog in other centres, but only up to an hour, so it wasn't too bad. We were very lucky though, the weekend saw enough fog around the city that the airport was closed until around about the time of the first departing flight on Monday morning that Tony was on.

Anyway, as Steven mentioned after his Ghosts session for the LCA2005 crew, I also found that with 14 people in attendance, we still managed to make it through the agenda and then some, without a lot of long winded topic diversion... People tended to speak up only when it was really required - something that appears to happen when everyone is on target with the same goals.

So, we've got 8 months (approximately), to pull off a great conference, but I think we've got things pretty much sussed and under control - it's just all that tedious legwork now to make the plan happen. The conference is going to absolutely rock, I know it, and anyone who decides to give this one a miss will sorely regret it!

UPDATE 2005/05/25: I'm wrong, so sue me!
So, it appears that Tony does indeed have a blog, it's here.

[09:15] [/LCA] [permanent link]

Wed, 18 May 2005

A Waste of Time?

Alexander Schmehl posted a small, somewhat complex and inefficient shell snippet..

He must have been very bored - it finds any occurence of a given two letter combination, that has only one result when running 'apt-cache search <xy>' on it.. Give me strength!

(The easiest way to work something like this out, is to take the given snippet, and reflow it into a multi-line indented format that you can read)

[22:08] [/Hacking] [permanent link]

Tue, 17 May 2005

Abusing Keytool

Well, We've got this horrible java portal thingee running at work as a pilot to deciding if we actually want to run some sort of single sign-on portal for staff and students... It's nice, in that I don't have to do much, other than make sure the machine runs, and the tomcat service stays up - We've got a little 'portal team' that's doing all the hard work.

So, anyway, TPTB decided they wanted a calendar portlet - sadly nothing out there for uPortal is of any usable quality, so they wanted to use a php calendar served via apache+php in the back end, to an iframe channel in the portal. Yech. But, ok. My only stipulation was that the back end server would detect if it wasn't being run in the iframe, and redirect people to the portal proper, in an attempt to stop people finding the calendar URL and accessing it directly.

Well, to cut a long story short, the production system is served over SSL, whereas the dev system isn't. The dev system worked fine, the production didn't. It boiled down to the fact that the calendar installation for the production system wasn't on SSL, and this was throwing a spanner in the works with how the portal's iframe proxy thingee was requesting the calendar pages. Solution? enable SSL on the calendar URL.

So, the private key for the SSL certificate we're using, is hidden away in a java keystore. The cert is easy to get out for apache to use, but the key isn't. So, a little googling, and I found this. Very Very useful. So, basically, you can do this:

keytool -list -keystore <keystore> -storepass <password>  # (to get the approprate alias)
java ExportPriv <keystore> <alias> <password> > exported.key

Viola :)

[00:08] [/Work] [permanent link]

Fri, 13 May 2005

No Thanks to Bdale...

Well, actually, it really is Thanks to Bdale that you may have received a few mails from me containing gpg signatures... He made me feel somewhat guilty about the number of keys that I've got credentials for that I hadn't gotten around to signing..

So, I've only got a page of signing to do from Debconf3, and then I'm caught up. I'll do a Bdale and suggest that if you're sitting on a few pending keys to sign, get cracking! caff makes it so easy, without the hassle of that cabot stuff.

[10:09] [/Random] [permanent link]

Was is Worth it?

I spotted this on Michael Ellerman's blog, who's syndicated on Planet Linux Australia.

I wasn't really expecting the content, but hell, it certainly makes you stop and think.. Obviously something Bush didn't do.

[20:27] [/Random] [permanent link]

Thu, 12 May 2005

The X Config

Well, I've had at least one email asking about the X Config for my Triple head setup.. So, I thought I'd chuck it up here, explaining the relevant bits.

Ok, to start with, you need to make sure your ServerFlags section turns on Xinerama:

Section "ServerFlags"
    Option  "Xinerama"  "1"

Then, you need to create some Device sections for each head - with a dual head nvidia card, you can use the Screen option to distinguish between the outputs - I'm not sure if this is specific to the nvidia driver. With multiple cards, you must specify the BusID option - you can find out what the correct value is for your card by running 'X -scanbus' and checking the output (which on my system gets sent to /var/log/XFree86.0.log).

Here's what I use (First two are on a Dual head AGP card, the third is the PCI card):

Section "Device"
    Identifier  "nVidia GeForce FX 5200 - 0"
    Driver      "nvidia"
    BusID       "PCI:1:0:0"
    Option      "NvAgp" "1"
    Screen      0

Section "Device"
    Identifier  "nVidia GeForce FX 5200 - 1"
    Driver      "nvidia"
    BusID       "PCI:1:0:0"
    Option      "NvAgp" "1"
    Screen      1

Section "Device"
    Identifier  "nVidia GeForce2 MX400"
    Driver      "nvidia"
    BusID       "PCI:5:9:0"
    Option      "NvAgp" "1"

Next up, you need to create some relevant Screen sections to go with each of the above. Childs play - this is so far, all bog standard X stuff. I have:

Section "Screen"
    Identifier  "Screen <x>"
    Device      "<device>"
    Monitor     "HP L1925"
    DefaultDepth    24
    SubSection "Display"
        Depth       24
        Modes       "1280x1024"

Finally, You need to add each Screen to your ServerLayout section, to create a virtual definition of how your physical displays are set up. I have the following (note that the logical order of my displays in relation to the devices defined above is '2-0-1' from left to right)

Section "ServerLayout"
    Identifier  "Default Layout"
    Screen      0 "Screen 0"
    Screen      1 "Screen 1" rightOf "Screen 0"
    Screen      2 "Screen 2" leftOf "Screen 0"
    InputDevice ....

And that's it. X is clever enough to do the rest for you. I'm currently using XFree86 on Debian unstable, but I'd imagine the setup would be somewhat similar.

And just for reference, this is the Device section I used before going to 3 heads, which shows how to use TwinView:

Section "Device"
    Identifier  "nVidia GeForce FX 5200"
    Driver      "nvidia"
    BusID       "PCI:1:0:0"
    Option      "NvAgp"             "1"
    Option      "TwinView"
    Option      "SecondMonitorHorizSync"    "30-82"
    Option      "SecondMonitorVertRefresh"  "60"
    Option      "TwinViewOrientation"       "RightOf"
    Option      "ConnectedMonitor"      "CRT,CRT"
    Option      "MetaModes"   "1280x1024,1280x1024; 1280x1024,NULL"

You can use TwinView when you have more that two displays, if you're only using one nvidia card. (this is how Jon Oxer is still using TwinView)

[02:26] [/Work] [permanent link]


Well, I've spent a few hours over the last 2-3 days slowly converting all the entries in my blog to use Markdown syntax, mainly thanks to Andrew Cowie's entry regarding his escapades into the blogosphere. I'd wanted to get this sorted out for some time, since I was sick of writing HTML for relatively simple formatting.

Andrew's RSS2.0 and Atom feed code, munges with $ENV{TZ}, but sadly it appears the ctime() that Blosxom uses doesn't react well to it being set, so I took Andrew's code, and added a couple of splatterings of "delete $ENV{TZ};" to get around this. (Basically posts on your web version appear with GMT too, rather than just what's in your Syndicated feeds).

The result of this, is that I now have rss20 and atom 'flavours', in Blosxom speak, for my blog. I decided to use some of those funky little feed icons too. Now, at some stage, I may even get around to learning some CSS to change the look and feel of things... who knows!

[22:23] [/Hacking] [permanent link]

Wed, 11 May 2005

Drool Worthy

So, yesterday, the extra PCI video card I ordered arrived at work for my work desktop.. Ahh! so he's going to do dual-head you say. NO! Triple head actually.. :) And I oh so very much like it.. It's a damn shame I can't have this at home.

The new card happens to be an nVidia GF2 MX400. Having two cards, means that doing what's called "TwinView" on the first is no longer possible. Basically the nvidia driver would present a nice wide display to the X server, where in actual fact the driver internally is telling the card to use both outputs. As opposed to the X server actually knowing that there's more than one head being used.

Now, I have the X server knowing about all three heads, and running the Xinerama extension. Before, the nvidia driver was using it's internal Xinerama extension, which meant that to the X server, this one really big display was split in two.

I don't know how the X internals work, but I'd imagine that the configuration now, will have the X server copying between the different video memories when you drag windows between the heads. Whereas before, as one big display, it was only one video memory to X.. Obviously, there's a performance hit here. You notice it for sure, when you drag a really huge firefox window between the heads. Small windows are hardly affected.

Now, 3 Heads, or speedy window drags between heads? I'm willing to take that trade off :)

UPDATE 2005/05/11: Bastard

[23:06] [/Work] [permanent link]

Just for Mako..

I was out last night for an hour or so, attempting to find a few of the waypoints for a Multi-cache Geocache with Raewyn.. That's a complete other story, which I won't tell now (or probably ever, for that matter).

Anyway, on the way home we decided to pop by the little dairy[1] that sells this wondrous thing called "Country Fried Chicken" - Yes, a KFC ripoff. But, the chips[2] are so much better.

Whilst there, I spied a neat little sign that instantly reminded me of Mako, and his fascination with cultural language differences... Please excuse the quality, I currently do not have a digital camera, and I was limited to the 640x480 crap that my PocketPC/Phone/Camera/thing can do. Enjoy:

Translations for the silly Americans:
[1]: Corner Store, or 7/11 I guess.
[2]: Fries.

[22:51] [/Random] [permanent link]

Sat, 07 May 2005

Just Another Day...

...that happens to be my birthday. So, now that I'm officially an adult in my insurance company's eyes, my premium for the car policy will drop.. :)

Raewyn has been harrassing me all week - "What do you want for your birthday?", and yesterday she finally went shopping to try any find something... I ended up getting some questions via SMS messages that were indicating the general theme of what I was going to be getting.. well, ok, they were actually quite explicit.

Anyway, so last night she gave me the present she bought - the entire Blackadder series on DVD (Yes, REAL British comedy! None of this US canned laughter bollocks). Mmmmmmm. So, now, after dropping her at work, I'll go and do that morning stuff (S**t, Shower, Shave, as is said here), then blob in front of the DVD player for the morning.

I wonder if the day will get any better? The complete set of Open All Hours, or even Dad's Army would just rock!

[20:55] [/Life] [permanent link]

Fri, 06 May 2005

Unread Hell


(That's liferea, in case you didn't know - I'm such a slack bastard when it comes to staying up to date.. you don't want to see my mailboxes)

[08:22] [/Random] [permanent link]

Duty Free Booze - part 2

Previously, I blogged about passing through Sydney on my way home from LCA2005, and purchasing some Duty Free Alcohol...

So, It turns out that Downtown Duty Free were unable to do the 'free bottle for pickup' thing, and ended up offering me a complete refund of the AU$150. Sweet! I followed all of their directions - Fax a letter with a copy of the receipt, my Credit Card details, and proof that I actually had a bottle of 12yo Glenlivet, not 21 (basically just quote the barcode number).

That was about a week and a half ago. I received no return phonecall confirming that they'd received my fax.. I was in the dark (Damn, faxes are so last century... I'm amazed they still exist). Worrying, a little, since I knew a refund from an Australian company to my Visa would take a little more than 3-4 days, I decided to just call and verify that they'd received my fax...

Well, that was the rudest Customer Service rep I'd ever dealt with. I introduced myself, and asked if I could speak to the person I'd been dealing with about a refund due to an incorrect pickup.. They must not get many of these, as the rep knew about it, and said she'd pass me on to the person who knew what was happening (her boss probably). Anyway, she neglected to put me on hold as she spoke to this person who must have been nearby, as I could hear the other person saying things along the lines of "Just tell him that we've put the refund through, and that's all we're doing" - This was where the rep started getting rude with me.. About this time I was desperately trying to get the point across that I just wanted to know if they'd received my fax and things were underway.

After that call, I decided I didn't like Downtown very much - it wasn't my fault they screwed up, and I don't see why I should be paying $100 extra for something I didn't even want in the first place.. I was happy that they'd offered me a refund, but all I really wanted was for the bottle I had to be traded for the bottle I wanted. It's all water under the bridge anyway....

Now, this morning, I checked my bank balances via my banks internet banking website, and I noticed that my Visa appeared to have a drastically different balance to what I was expecting... The refund came through! Woot! So, how am I celebrating? By getting drunk on extremely nice 12 year old Glenlivet, that's how! It's even nicer, because the price is right!

Now, I just need to convince one of the Ghosts of past LCA attendees to purchase me the bottle I wanted, and I'll reimburse them when they get here... :)

[07:55] [/Life] [permanent link]