Lars Wirzenius: June, 2004


Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Personal life: New phone number

I'm moving to a new mobile phone number, since the old one seems to have leaked to a number of companies who want to sell me stuff. My new number is sort-of private: it won't be in any phone books or information services, and I don't intend to give it to any companies, either. My old number will work at least until the beginning of August, and I'll be mailing my friends about it later.

It is sad that the only way to avoid sales calls is to make yourself unavailable to most people. With e-mail, I have automatic filters that can deal with most of the junk, and with e-mail I refuse to keep switching addresses.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Personal life: I vaguely remember having a memory once

I'm starting to slowly heal from being overworked, but there are occasional setbacks, such as surprising memory problems. Today, I got up from IRC to go have a shower so I can go shop things. I discovered that the bathroom floor was wet: clearly someone had already had a shower. I have no recollection of having had a shower today, so I must have forgotten about it. The other possibility is that someone else had a shower today, which would mean that I have forgotten that I live with someone.

Random thought: Packaging system wars: how boring

The topic of religious flame wars about packaging systems recently arose briefly in a discussion. I repeated my opinion, which has not changed for years: It's not the technical features of the packaging software that counts, but the quality and integration of the packages into a working whole. Some of the technical features are quite important: e.g., having dependencies or post-installation scripts that are run automatically make many things possible that would not otherwise be. The thing that really matters, however, is that all packages are of high quality and that they work well together. The packages, not the packaging tools.

The Debian policy document is of crucial importance here for the Debian project. When you have a large number of people working together, oral tradition is not enough, you need to write down decisions made about how things should be done.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Random thought: Stress symptom

I have recognized a clear symptom that I'm under too much stress: I start playing computer games. I don't usually play any, since they tend to be boring, but when I'm having trouble pushing thoughts about work aside before going to bed, I find that playing GNOME Iagno or Mahjongg for a few hours helps.

Somehow I don't think the makers of those programs are very happy about them being used only in desperation.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Personal life: Ex libris

Jukka "montana" Rajala made me an ex libris. I like it very much.

I spent some time trying to place 21 copies (3 by 7) of it on an A4 sized page so that I could print it on sticky labels. These would make it easy to mark all my books with the ex libris, but I ran into problems. First, the layout guide I was using (an A4 sized paper with the edges of the labels clearly marked) was meant for another brand of labels. The actual sheets had 24 labels (3 by 8). Then, I started to wonder whether the glue in the labels was actually a very good thing and decided to drop the sticky label idea.

I now print 16 copies of the ex libris per page on plain A4 paper. The Postscript file is about 52 megabytes; if I knew anything about editing graphics, I could probably reduce that to a few kilobytes, which would make printing much easier and faster. But I don't, so I can't, but luckily I'm not in a great hurry with the printing.

I'll be using a normal paper glue for attaching the ex libris to each book. This has worked for hundreds of years, so perhaps it will work for me as well, even if I'm using modern glue, modern paper, and modern laser printer ink.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Debian: Debian sauna

Thanks to Jaakko "liiwi" Niemi, my long lost identical twin brother, we have got F-Secure to sponsor a sauna for us. It will be on Saturday, July 3, 12-16. I'll mail those who indicated interest earlier.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Oliotalo: Resignation

I have now resigned from Oliotalo. I need to give two months's notice, and additionally, since I want Oliotalo to do well, I have agreed to stay on for an extra two months so that the company has time to find and train a replacement for me. Well, I guess I'll do the training. Thus, I'll stay on until the end of October. What I'll do after that, I have no idea whatsoever.

This wasn't exactly an easy decision, but I think it was necessary for me. I'm not feeling relieved right now; if anything, I'm feeling more anxious and depressed.

Oliotalo: I hate my job

I can't remember when I've last felt good about my job. Every time I think things are beginning to become better, something stupid happens again and drags me down again. Right now, after a sleepless night too many, I can't see any way out except resignation.

By the way, if anyone from Aplicom is reading this: calling my boss about things I write in my log that upset you really is not the way to deal with the problems I have with you. Anyone with half a brain would know that.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Personal life: EU parliament elections


Saturday, June 12, 2004

Random thought: foo.c:123: Function is too slow

In embedded programming especially it is important to avoid excessive time or space requirements. It would be nice if the compiler could check at compile time that a function fulfills its performance requirements. This is, obviously, somewhat untrivial, but perhaps it would be possible in enough cases that it would be useful enough.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Debian: DebConf5 in Finland?

I'm told that DebConf5 will be arranged in Helsinki, Finland, next year. This is exciting. I created mailing lists for this on, on request from Andreas Schuldei, and he is supposed to advertise them in the appropriate locations.

Although I've been pretty exhausted the past year, due to work, and not done very much for Debian, I'll at least try to become active in organizing DebConf5. I might even finally get around to updating my Debian Lessons text. I have a bunch of ideas for improvements, but haven't had the energy to do the update.

Rant: Nokia didn't really spam me, their employee did

It seems that the spammish mails from Nokia were of the type where an enthusiastic person goes ahead and advertises without thinking things through and commits spam almost accidentally. Thus I can't hold the incident against Nokia the corporation. The difference is small, admittedly.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Rant: Nokia spams

It seems that Nokia has a workshop about using Python on their phones. For some reason, they have decided that it is a good idea to send mail about this to random people, such as myself. The mail is badly formatted, and markets Nokia's developer forum and includes a 70 kilobyte Word file as an attachment. It is unsolicited, commercial bulk e-mail; also known as spam. For shame, Nokia should know better. Of course, it might be that Tapio T. from Nokia, who seems to have sent the message, just made a mistake, but really, they should know better.

Given the massive proportion of the spam problem in the past year, anyone wanting to send marketing e-mails should think really carefully about it. Not doing so is incompetent.

Since this mail was sent within Finland, Finnish laws about marketing apply, and those laws say that the sender needs to inform the recipient where they have collected the address from. Nokia did not do it.

Given Nokia's lobbying for software patents, and this spamming incident, and the fact that my almost-new Nokia phone has keyboard trouble, I'm finding it difficult to find reasons to not dislike Nokia.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Review: Courtesans by Susan Griffin

If you're looking for pornography, The Book of the Courtesans: A Catalogue of Their Virtues by Susan Griffin is not your book. It is also not a collection of biographies of famous prostitutes. Instead, the author looks at the kinds of qualities women needed to not only survive but become successful in past societies.

Through many centuries and many parts of Europe, women could not own wealth. If they were noble, they were dependent on their husbands or relatives to support them. If they were commoners, they were still dependent, but also had to work hard for a living. An unmarried woman, or a widow, would find it difficult to earn a living. Some might escape to convents, many more would prostitue themselves.

Among the prostitutes, some were more successful than others. The most successful ones were called courtesans and were accepted, even respected in society. Where women ordinarily would not be allowed to own anything, a courtesan might be richer and more powerful than any man except the monarch. Such success required special talent, special qualities, and good luck. It is these qualities (virtues) Griffin looks at.

Griffin lists seven virtues, special qualities a courtesan needed: timing, beauty, cheek, brilliance, gaiety, grace, and charm. She then describes how these worked together to make her irresistible and helped her gather wealth and power. Her analysis seems emotional at times, as if she admires the successes of the women she writes about, but without glorifying or judging the things they had to do.

Intermixed with the analysis of the virtues is a fair amount about the lives of several famous courtesans, from several centuries, though always from Europe or the US. These mini-biographies are embedded in discussions about the virtues, and sometimes sprinkled over several chapters. This makes it difficult to follow them, but since the book focuses on the virtues, not the women, this is understandable.

Not having studied history, I am not qualified to judge whether Griffin's facts are correct, but I didn't spot any errors, either. She does write well, however, and if read purely as entertainment, Courtesans is certainly a good book.