Lars Wirzenius: June, 2005


Thursday, June 30, 2005

System administration: UBCD and broken hard disk

Ranting is fun and productive. If I hadn't ranted, I wouldn't have had a flood of people tell me about the Ultimate Boot CD, a CD compilation of hardware diagnostics tool (from lots of different manufacturers), and other related tools. This is so cool. It has the same HUTIL.EXE program that Samsung provides, but in a format that I can actually boot on my computers.

Thank you, Nick, Doug, Erçin, and others I've already forgotten (because they talked to me on IRC or whatever; my permanent memory is in my Archive folder in Evolution).

I'd be even happier if Samsung's utility hadn't confirmed that the disk is broken and unfixable, and also if the utility hadn't frozen my computer hard three times (ctrl-alt-del not working, power button reset the only option) before it got through the entire sequence. Ah well.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Rant: Hard disk diagnostics utilities

If anyone who reads this has a contact with Samsung, or any other hard disk manufacturer, would they please forward the following message to them. I tried to send feedback directly to Samsung, but they do their best to make it difficult: their web pages are a maze (and want to pop up a new window for every other link), they hide e-mail addresses (and those that I found were badly documented), and they strongly prefer me to use web forms. The web forms are country specific: I couldn't use the English language one without an address in the USA. The Finnish one wanted me to specify information Samsung has no right to ask, and they default the "yes I want to be spammed by Samsung" checkbox to "yes", which is in bad taste and against official privacy recommendations. In other words, they're trying to trick people into allowing Samsung to send them advertisments. In other words, they're untrustworthy scum.

Anyway, the message I'd like hard disk manufacturers to get: NOT EVERYONE USES WINDOWS! FLOPPY DRIVES HAVE DISAPPEARED!


Every time I need a hard disk diagnostic utility from a manufacturer, I find out that they distribute it only as a Windows executable that extracts files from itself and creates a bootable floppy. Newsflash: I don't have Windows, at all, on any machine, and I don't have a floppy drive in any of my newer machines.

Floppy drives are fragile devices that I don't need for anything else than hard disk diagnostic utilities. They are, in fact, an unnecessary expense.

Requiring Windows and floppies is PLAIN STUPID.

A CD image would be more generally useful, these days. Every self-respecting Windows CD burning software can burn them. Of course, providing the floppy stuff in addition would be good.

Extra hint: using freedos or something else that doesn't require paying royalties to Microsoft would be a way to save some money. That money could then be channeled into making web pages that don't suck.

Thanks. I'm feeling better now.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Debian: piuparts 0.5

I made a new version of piuparts, my tool for testing installation, upgrades, and removals of Debian packages. The major change is that it now can test upgrades between Debian releases (say, woody to sarge to etch to sid).

See piuparts-0.5.tar.gz for the code. No Debian package yet, sorry.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Personal life: Today in the past

Today, six years ago, I started work at Wapit. Today, four years ago, Wapit was bankrupt and I had my last day there. Today, three years ago, Keko Technologies was bankrupt and I had my last day there. On the whole, however, today is a good day. The two years at Wapit were quite an exciting and educational adventure and I'm glad I did it.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Debian: Oops

Bah. That "This & that" entry wasn't meant to go live. I'm not sure how it happened. Sorry for breaking Planet's RSS feed, though, really, needs to be fixed to do things properly. My rss feed has the ampersand properly encoded, but puts an unescaped ampersand in its feed.

Debian: piuparts 0.4

Frank Lichtenheld and others have brought up the idea of automatically testing installation, upgrading, and removal of packages. It struck me that it should be pretty simple to implement at least basic versions of this. The result: piuparts (now at version 0.4). From the manual page:

piuparts tests that Debian packages can be installed and removed without ill effects. It is meant for people who create Debian packages to test them before they upload them to the Debian package archive.

piuparts creates a chroot environment with a minimal Debian installation, plus any packages that are needed for the test. It then installs the packages, and removes and purges them, and checks that no files are left behind, and that no extra files are removed.

If the package is known to apt-cache, piuparts also does an upgrade test, where it first installs the package with apt-get, and then installs from the package files given on the command line, and finally removes and purges everything that got installed. The assumption is that the version apt-get finds is older than the package file.

The current version is quite simplistic. It may well be too simplistic to work for more than in simple cases, but it's a start.

I'd be very curious to hear about suggestions for improvements. Comments on this preferably to the debian-devel mailing list, thanks.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Rant: "As we all know"

I hate the phrase "as we all know". Usually, we don't all know. The phrase just reveals that the speaker or writer thinks everyone is exactly like them, and I prefer to not have my naive assumption of their appreciation of diversity shattered unnecessarily.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Debian: Sarge!

Sarge has been released. Yay!

Many people have worked hard to make this happen. At the risk of forgetting someone important, I would still like to especially point out the release managers and assistants: Steve Langasek, Colin Watson, Joey Hess, Andreas Barth, and Frank Lichtenheld. Anthony Towns, the previous release manager, has also been crucial. Joey Hess has been essential for the installer, doing much of the work, and leading the project. All of them deserve a great big thanks. If we ever meet in person, I'll buy drinks or dinner.

In addition, everyone else who maintained packages, translated things, fixed bugs, reported bugs, maintained infrastructure, or otherwise helped with the development of sarge or the running of Debian deserves a thank you. I am alas not rich and can't buy drinks or dinner for so many people.

Now is a good time to celebrate, and relax, and pat ourselves on the back. It took a long time, but we did it: we're good, and today we can smile easily and be satisfied. We can finally rest our tortured brains and stop coming up with woody jokes. Work on the next release, etch, will start soon enough, but we can worry about that tomorrow, or next week.

Debian: Vera in Debian as mistake?

Some time ago my friend Vera showed interest in becoming involved with Debian development. She now suggests unconventional approaches to marketing and other things. And here I thought hot-babe was controversial. I'm not sure that Debian is quite ready for Vera yet.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Random thought: I protest!

Now I have participated in a public protest demonstration against something, namely, software patents. There were around sixty people, and it went well, given how suddenly it had to be arranged. There was little press, and only a few members of parliament were confronted, and those only a little. Jyrki Kasvi talked to us at length, but then he's generally clueful about why software patents are evil.

Much praise to mjr for taking the initiative for this.

Something organized with a bit of advance warning would probably be fun. Might be possible to get a few hundred people, if publicized properly beforehand.

Random thought: Demonstration against software patents

There is going to be a demonstration against software patents in Helsinki in about four hours. For more information, see the invitation.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Debian: RFP?

There seems to be over one thousand open Request For Package bugs against the wnpp pseudo-package. I wonder whether they server any purpose in this age. I think we've established pretty well that anything that anyone's ever written is something someone somewhere wants packaged for Debian.