Lars Wirzenius: August, 2004


Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Personal life: 35

Just about right now, I turn 35. Happy birthday to me.

This past year has been really stressful due to work, but that will end in the fairly near future. I hope the coming year will give me more time and energy to devote to the fun things in life, such as friends and photography, and endless hours of hack mode.

I already had a birthday party a month ago. Summer parties are so much nicer than autumn parties, which is why I don't care much to celebrate my birthday on the correct date. Modesty Blaise is my idol in this regard.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

System administration: Laptop breaking down

My laptop seems to be breaking down slowly. First, the catch on the lock stopped working. Then, the optical drive. Now the touchpad is becoming worse almost every day. I've set up a scratch computer and have moved my stuff there and on Monday I'm sending in my laptop for repairs. Hopefully this won't ruin me. I'm writing this entry on the scratch computer. I will hopefully be able to work with this, but it might be that I won't be doing very much computer stuff before I get my laptop back. We'll see. If nothing else, sitting at my desk is much less comfortable than sitting in an armchair with my laptop.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Review: Underworld

I should have watched Underworld in a movie theater. It is a very pretty movie, and the experience would have been so much better on a big screen. Still good from DVD.

Of course, people who are not falling in love with the goth look as perpetrated by Hollywood might not think it pretty. Their loss.

The plot was OK, though not very gripping. The actors played their parts adequately, though not memorably. They looked good, and for this movie, that was enough.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Quote: Serenity prayer

Katri forwarded this to me, she heard it at work. I've no idea who wrote this first:

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to leave untested things I cannot test;
courage to test the things I can;
and wisdom to know when to refactor.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Enemies of Carlotta: Development release 1.1.0

After liiwi prodded me on IRC, I finally made a new release of EoC. It is, however, a development release, as I haven't given it enough testing yet. See the announcement for information about the bug reporting contest.

Random thought: Measuring broadband connection uptime

Among broadband users, many tales are told about the relative quality of different ISPs. It would be interesting to have fairly reliable statistics of this. Something like this: a distributed project where a few people at each ISP run a statistics gathering program and send the results to a central server, which then makes pretty tables and pictures of them. The clients might do something like try to connect to half a dozen very well known servers around the world (,, and similar, probably permission should be asked) and fetch the headers for the front page with HTTP every 15 minutes.

The results should be arranged geographically so that people from all over the world could use the information easily to compare their ISPs.

I'm too busy and too tired to implement this myself right now, perhaps some day. There are all sorts of reliability issues here that need to be thought out: how can you trust a client's report is not faked, for example. If this were to become popular, ISPs would have an incentive to fake things to make themselves look better, or their competitors worse. Of course, if this were implemented and became influental, it would probably mean that ISPs would actually have to work harder to provide good service.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Random thought: Subway systems

Four cities. Four subway systems. Four maps. One of these cities is not a multimillion person metropol.

New York City

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Debian: Happy Birthday, Debian

Yesterday, Debian became eleven years old. I went out for an ex tempore drink with liiwi and part, two other Finnish Debian developers. Perhaps we should plan for something more formal for the next birthday.

I don't have any memory of when I became a Debian developer. I know it happened while Bruce Perens was the Debian project leader, but that doesn't narrow it down enough. I seem to have written to the comp.os.linux.misc newsgroup in August, 1995, recommending Debian. I mention in that article that I've used Debian for a year, so I probably became a Debian user during the summer or early autumn of 1994.

A couple of quotes that amuse me follow.

Debian is still BETA, and their package tools are still evolving. However, it works, at least if you're willing to use the command line package installation tool. They don't have all the small goodies that Slackware has in a pre-packaged form, but that is changing, since it is possible (I don't know about easy, since I've never done it myself) to produce Debian format packages. The archives are slowly filling up.

Well, that surely has changed: as far as I can tell, Debian is now bigger than any other distribution.

A Debian package is _one_ file, which includes a description, and doesn't give a damn about which floppy it should be stored on. In fact, the way to install Debian is roughly:

  1. Boot from installation floppy.
  2. Install base system from a three floppy set.
  3. Boot base system, and configure it.

Install rest by doing essentially:

mount /cdrom

cd /cdrom/debian/binary

dpkg --install --auto `find . -name "*.deb"`

go eat something, or something


The debian-installer has taken Debian quite a long way from those days.

Debian lacks some frills, like colors during installation, but the system works pretty well.

Ah yes, colors, that's what was missing from the installation.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Rant: The price of the C standard, part 2

In my previous entry, I wrote that in the ANSI on-line store the price of the C standard is $270. It still is, if you search with the code 9899:1999. However, if you search with the code 9899-1999 (dash, not colon) the price is $18. I think they're confused. I did not try to buy a copy, as I have one already (courtesy of a previous employer), and was looking for the price for other reasons.

I'm not going to report this to ANSI for at least a week, in case they decide to fix it by removing the $18 price. If you want a copy, then, get it now...

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Rant: The price of the C standard

I wanted to have a look at the C99 version of the C standard. I had the impression that it would cost about $18 at the ANSI on-line standards store. This is what I found:

ANSI wants $270 for the standard.

$270 is way too much for a popular programming language standard. Blah.

The Finnish standards organization only sells a paper copy for about a hundred euros and that is something that has been published in 1993, so it's not even current anymore. Blah.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Personal life: New backpack

I bought a new backpack, a Haglöfs Tight Pro Large. It is about 30 liters, weighs about a kilogram, and is very nice to carry. I filled it at the store with the contents of my old backpack (mainly my laptop), and a plastic bag full of clothes, and it still wasn't full. Then I strapped the old backpack on top of the new one, and it was still comfortable and nice. The old one wasn't very comfortable even when almost empty, so this is now much better. I got the ultramarin/black version; too bad they don't make a burgundy/black one.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Debian: dd-list

Every now and then, there is a need to produce a list of Debian packages, for example when discussing an upcoming mass-filing of bugs. If such lists are long, it is best to sort them according to the maintainers of those packages to make it easier for people to find their packages. I assume there is some tool for this, but I failed to find one and wrote dd-list. Perhaps it will be of some use for someone, but if not, it was a nice waste of time while I waited for something else to compile.

Debian: Did some Debian work, finally

I have yesterday uploaded a package of my own (publib) to fix a release critical bug (the package failed to build from source), and today I have adopted gif2png from John Goerzen and uploaded it to fix a minor bug (badly generated manual page source). Despite the heat wave, it seems that my brain is finally starting to function. I even seem to be getting over my disappointment in the Debian project. Now, if only it decided to get some actual work for my employer, things would be good.

Photography: "Digital Deception" by Bruce Goldfarb

Bruce Goldfarb has a nice essay about faked photographs. While trick photography is as old as photography itself, it is becoming commonplace. Goldfarb's essay has several revealing examples of how common it is, as it is done both by people with too much free time, and by newspapers. Even live television is not safe.

Random hacks: McKenzie's dnd-list

Callum McKenzie wrote dnd-list, a small tool for displaying the drag and drop types provided by an application. I have had a need for this earlier, and will have again once I start working on Lodju again. To make it a tad nicer for my use, I added a "Clear" button and made the window size a bit larger and sent the patch to McKenzie.