Older blog entries for logic (starting at number 75)

I'm back.
A vacation was exactly what the doctor ordered. My head is clearer than when I left, and at least for now, I'm able to take a step back from work and see the things that are really frustrating me with it, rather than the "emergency of the moment" that has always seemed to loom as the dominant problem. The realization: I just don't like doing this anymore, or, more accurately, don't like doing it the way I'm currently doing it. I take the most joy in my day out of helping people turn on the little lightbulb over their heads, not out of doing what I've actually been hired to do. I think I've reached the point of a career change, but there is still much contemplation to be done.
As far as the rumored layoff went, nothing happened while I was gone, except for an all-company meeting (where "extreme cost cutting measures" were emphasized) and the dismissal of a few of the consultants around the office. The rumor mill is now speculating that we'll see something happen on Friday, though, and it appears that the co-worker that I was concerned about is no longer on the list. But, it's all just speculation at this point.
Vacation rundown
Okay, so I've been informed that people actually read these entries I make every once in a while, so I'd better give a quick rundown of the two weeks. My other half and I hit the road for two days driving through St. Cloud, MN, US and back to Brandon, MB, Canada, where I finally had a chance to catch up with some old friends, under much better circumstances than the last time I saw them. Then, another day on the road to get to Unity, SK, Canada, where we stayed with Mom for a few days, visiting with my sister, one of my brothers, and their respective families. There, I was witness to something I hadn't seen for a while; someone who has never used a computer before trying to figure out the basic means of making it "do stuff". A few days of playing Solitaire, and her mousing skills improved dramatically, and she can even double-click with some dexterity now, but she's got quite the learning curve ahead of her. Anyways, then we were off for three days of driving stopping in again in Brandon, then in Kenora, Thunder Bay, and finally Niagra Falls, all in Ontario. We spent a day there, seeing the sights (the Clifton Hill area is definitely worth walking around) and getting wet (there are numorous opportunities for drenching near the larger Horseshoe Falls). Then, a final day's drive home to Naperville, IL, US. A lot of driving (well over 4000 miles), but definitely worthwhile, especially getting a chance to see the falls. Yes, it really is that impressive when you hop aboard a Maid of the Mist boat and slide right up to the foot of the falls, assuming you can see them through all the water spraying at you ;- ).
Revision Control
<RANT>ClearCase sucks.</RANT> Specifically, ClearCase for Linux sucks. Even more specifically, MVFS for Linux (their versioning filesystem) sucks. I can hack in third-party patches into kernels all day long, but there isn't a damn thing I can do with that binary blob they're calling "Linux support" when it fails. So, tomorrow comes a whack at upgrading to ClearCase 4.2, and trying it out for the first time with a 2.4.x-series kernel. I'm not holding my breath.
No computer-related books this time around; this episode of "Ed's Book Club" features good 'ol Western annoyance (see above) meeting up with Eastern thought. First stop: Thomas Cleary's excellent The Essential Tao, which includes modern translations of both the Tao Te Ching and Chuang Tzu, along with an extensive series of interpretive notes. For the geeks, consider this the Taoist reference guide. ;-)
The second book on today's list is Zen and the Art of Making a Living by Laurence G. Boldt. At first, I was pretty skeptical about this one, expecting a cheezy self-help guide, but I was bored in the bookstore and it was there, so I quickly flipped through it. An hour later, I decided I should probably just buy it and give the chair up for someone else. It's a hefty read, and I'm only partially into it so far, but the first few chapters deal heavily with the work you do, how all workers are really artisans, and the importance of building your life's work by following the Way (seeking your bliss, doing what makes you happy, or a host of other ways to put it). If you find comfort in this manner of contemplation, and find yourself stressed about work regularly, this is the read for you. Surprisingly, it's also an accessable way to understand the Zen mindset (or arguably, the lack thereof).
And, as an added bonus, both of these are a low-cost buy. $10 for the first, $14 for the second, assuming you get them in paperback (although, I'm considering spending the $18 on the hardcover edition of The Essential Tao).
Oh hell, I guess I did pick up a geek book after all. I grabbed RHCE Red Hat Certified Engineer Study Guide (Exam RH302) by Bill McCarty, mostly for the CDROM tests so I can be sure I won't waste my money if I decide to go for the RH302 exam. Once I've had a chance to read through it, I'll try and remember to give it a quick review here. A point of amusement for me: the testing software and CDROM frontend only run under Windows, despite the subject matter. (The entire book, however, comes on the CD as PDFs, which is rather handy if you're still into using Adobe products. ;-)
I have a backlog of rblcheck email that I haven't responded to. :-( Need to get on that pretty soon; I've been too busy playing around with my Jabber server, now that I have decent connectivity at home.
Enough already; this is turning into a thesis. More later.
Visual C++
goingware: Visual C++ is truly evil; you have my deepest sympathies. As far as the STL implementation goes, there are patches available from the people who wrote it, and they'll be glad to sell you a version that doesn't suck as well (nice little game they have going with Microsoft there, eh?). But if you're used to GCC, cygwin or mingw is probably a better bet anyway. Watch out for the licensing trap with cygwin.dll with Cygwin, though; last time I looked, that DLL was GPL'd, which will bite you in the ass if you're doing commercial development with it. Mingw avoids that problem.
Last day...
...before vacation. Kick ass. Plus, the parts for my Mom's computer arrived (it's hard to turn down a $69 ECS K7VZA motherboard with a $29 AMD Duron 800MHz CPU, even if it gives her twice the computer I currently have; btw, that pricing was for the combo only), so I've got a toy to play with tonight. :-)

Signing off for two weeks. Later, folks.

Happy <July-leading day off of your choice>!
I worked (am currenly working) through both July holidays that I ought to have celebrated in some manner (yeah, I'm an American Canuck). But hey, I get Friday off, which means a head start on that two-week vacation. Translation: don't expect any updates from me until at least the 23rd. Two weeks of doing real work (helping out around my mom's place) rather than being tethered to a computer 12 hours a day. Whee!
It's surprisingly stress-free when there are only two other people in the building with you. :-) I can't believe how much backlogged work I'm getting done.
Interesting discovery: my problems getting various online games working properly through my Linux router/firewall/proxy appear to not have been due to any fault of my own. Rather, it was because my 56kbps connection simply sucked rocks; at 1.5Mbps, things are running exactly as they should, without any modification from what I was trying before. It's rather reassuring to find out that you really did know what you were doing, and the problem was simply something out of your hands.
The layoff rumors are abounding again, and I'm hearing that a fellow IS staffer is being considered for the cut. The word is that the axe will fall on the 16th, giving plenty of time to finish up the product release and get all the necessary knowledge transfer done before letting people know they're no longer needed. Which also coincides with the middle of my vacation, which means I won't have the ability to walk out in protest along with said fellow staffer, should it happen (thus partially losing my ability to help leverage my threat of leaving against cutting him; we can't function effectively without him, and they can't afford to release me because of my intimate knowledge of how everything works around here). *sigh* Round two; you'd think I'd be used to this after the first time this happened, but I still think the lack of ethics when playing with people's livelihoods is unconscionable; "Thanks for busting your ass for the last six months to get this product release out the door; here's your pink slip!".
Finally got it. 1.5Mbps down, 386Kbps up; mighty nice improvement over the 56k link I've been suffering on all these years. I'm actually impressed with the provider I selected; their provisioning system doesn't leave much room for the usual screwups. They resell for another CLEC but that will probably give them a little more flexibility should their supplier end up like so many others. Ahhh. It's nice to be able to place some of my favorite games online without being at the office. ;-)
10 days...
...and counting until my vacation. It can't come any sooner; I now truly understand the concept of burning out.
Weird Day
Today had a number of interesting things happen. First, the total solar eclipse. Next, it's the first day of summer solstice. Then, we have Mars making a quick pass near earth. And finally, it is the 42nd day since the passing of Douglas Adams. What a strange set of coincidences.
Damn those LANCE ethernet ports. You should take this to understand that I have not yet gotten "theseus" working properly yet; runs Solaris 8 like a champ, but so far I'm not able to talk to the ethernet port, in either 32-bit or 64-bit mode (as a side point, if you have a CG3 right now, don't plan on using it under 64-bit Solaris 8; there's a CG6 driver, but no CG3...and yes, I know about the deadlock problem with Ultra-1s less that 200 MHz in 64-bit mode, don't worry). The interface is configured correctly, but there's no link light on the hub. Grr. Surprisingly, I'm not getting the incessant "le0: link down or cable problem?" messages. I poked around eBay a bit, and found a 10/100 Sun Swift card for about $70, but I'd really rather get le0 working properly.
Shopping for Geeks
Hit a dotcom death sale today (second trip in the past few months), and actually sprung for a few items: an old Ultra 1/160 (dubbed "theseus"; nice step up from the Sparc 2 (minos) I'm using to prop the new one up right now), a quad-head Matrox G200 ($700 card, picked it up for $75; I love liquidation sales), and an old VT510 terminal. I was expecting much distress from my partner in crime, but she was unconcerned. Of course, she passed her second MCSE test today, so that may have contributed to the lack of concern. :-)
By the way, if you're looking for cheap Linux games, swing past EBgames. All of their titles are selling for $10 each (Quake III, Soldier of Fortune, Myth II, Heretic II, Heavy Gear II, etc). I finally broke down and ordered Quake III and Soldier of Fortune (Quake III is the tin box version too, nice and shiny ;-).
Way behind schedule on everything, due to constantly changing requirements. Deployed QA FreeBSD system today, will be deploying three development FreeBSD systems tomorrow morning, along with cloning yet another webserver for the co-lo facility. Brewing in the background is the need to finish off the Red Hat Linux systems, and get the hardware ordered for the Solaris boxen (can you hear those requirements changing as I type this?). Then, maybe, I'll be able to spend a little time hardening the Oracle system before the service rolls out. :-P
Received an extremely interesting invitation to talk to Compaq regarding a position in Singapore as a senior consultant (Tru64 and VMS shops, no surprise there). Strangely enough, I'm seriously considering talking to them; a little paid travel would be just what the doctor ordered, and after speaking with my girlfriend, it appears that she would be fine with a temporary change of locale (emphasis on temporary, of course).
sergio: Perhaps, rather than assuming defeat, you could spark a conversation that you consider interesting?
ask: That 75GB IBM drive is probably only running at 7200 RPMs, which will contribute to the access rate, but something that might be killing you is contention. Make sure it's on an IDE channel by itself, or at least not on a chain with another actively-used drive (ie. with a CDROM would be fine, but slaving with the drive you swap to is asking for it). Given the option, unless I know I'll never need more than two drives in a system, SCSI is always my pick. ;-)
Work and Hacking
Finally, the two intersect. I have a question for the audience, and it hits right to the heart of something that I've been (peripherally, at least) sucked into. Target platform is FreeBSD, although that's largely irrelevant.
Say you have an application which links implicitly to libc and a few other libraries as necessary (libm, libsocket, etc; the usual suspects). You have a series of shared libraries you're dlopen()ing at runtime, some of which you've developed, and some of which you've received from third-parties (with source). Some of these libraries are implicitly loaded along with your main executable, as well as with each other. Another third-party library which you're implicitly linking your main executable (and some dlopen()'d shared libraries with) overrides a large number of functions in libc() and other libraries (little things, like strlen() and fopen()). There is no documentation regarding the interdependancies of these libraries, so you see a rather varied mix of linking going on in an attempt to forego problems with missing symbols. You're seeing semi-random behavior from what should be straightforward code.
The question, then, is two-fold:
  1. Is this a problem?
  2. If it is, what is your reaction/what do you do?
Somehow, I've become tangled in this as someone who can provide an "expert opinion" on the subject. I need to learn not to let on what I know about things, and just do what needs doing.
"Keep your mouth shut, guard the senses, and life is ever full. Open your mouth, always be busy, and life is beyond hope." - Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Vacation for two weeks in July was approved, with nary a word of discussion; whee, back to Canada! Picked up a set of wood-carved chinese letters for above the bed, which I need to concoct some mechanism for hanging now (the bedroom has a distinct oriental theme to it, just like each room in the apartment has taken on a specific flavor). Still in need of a good headboard or an entire bedframe (I found a headboard I like, but it's a little pricey), and some knick-knacks for the bathroom. Co-habitating with a female of the species helps with one's interest in a comfortable living space. :-)
I've been "re-prioritized" again at work. The end result, I'm beginning to see, is an inability for me to complete anything, since I don't work on any particular project long enough to figure out where it was left previously.
Personal resolution: stop complaining about work, and solve the problem already. I've learned all I can where I'm at right now, and now it's just draining me. Time to move on.
Solaris and large IDE disks
It appears that I will never get these 60GB disks working properly in the Ultra 10s under Solaris 2.6. Since the project specifically requires that version of Solaris, I'm going to have to put in an order for a bunch of 32GB or less disks and stripe them (IDE and RAID are such a bad idea together, I can't even begin to describe it) or pick up a few Symbios SCSI controllers and some 18GB or 36GB SCSI disks. The problem, if anyone is interested, is that Solaris versions up to and including Solaris 8 can support IDE disks up to 32GB (although 2.5.1 and 2.6 require patching to successfully see anything bigger than 8GB, and this contradicts the FAQ entry on the subject), but to get past that 32GB barrier, you need to move to SCSI or Solaris 8 10/00 (according to this article). Further to that, I found an article which suggests that 8.1 (or whatever it's called) will have this fixed as well.


Blues Fest was cool; loud blues and folk music from all corners of Grant Park, with the smell of hot dogs wafting through the air (vegans need not apply :-). Which lead to dinner afterwards...

Good Eats

If you find yourself in the Chicago area, I highly recommend giving your tastebuds a treat and stopping by Heaven on Seven. Fantastic "n'awlins" cooking; I wish there was one out in the suburbs so I wouldn't have to brave downtown traffic to eat there. If you feel up to it, order the "Hot as a Mutha"; you have to sign a waiver, and if you finish it (yes, I ate the whole thing ;-) you get a spanky little fridge magnet that proclaims "I survived the Mutha!" and a bottle of "Hot as a Mutha" hot sauce (a tasty habenero blend). They'll also feed you for free, provided you can supply a bottle of hot sauce that they don't already have on their wall-o-sauces.

Solaris and large IDE disks

IDE and Solaris just don't mix, but this at least makes it bearable; you'll finally be able to support "large" (ie. 8G or more) IDE disks under Solaris versions earlier than 7. I'm still working on getting it to work correctly, but at least Solaris sees the drive now, which is a huge improvement over previous attempts. Ye ghods, just give me SCSI...

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