Older blog entries for pcolijn (starting at number 31)


I love wireless. The people downstairs, or the neighbours, or somebody around here, has an open AP. I was thinking of shelling out $80 or whatever at Future Shop for an AP myself, but pretty much everywhere I live there seems to be an open one, so screw it.

Thank you, random people who leave your APs open! Since I appreciate them so much when I come across them, I might actually purposely leave mine open if I were to get one. I'd definitely change the password from the default 'admin', but unless somebody was eating up tons of my bandwith or otherwise bothering me, why not? Maybe I'm just too innocent :)


Started yesterday. My classes mostly seem ok, except for my French class, which looks like it might be way too easy since most people don't understand a word of French, even though it's a course for people who have high school French (which is what I have, plus some time in Holland where I did school partly in French). Speaks volumes for our French program in Canada. I don't think I've ever met a single person who only took high school French (not immersion) and can actually speak it to any extent. I guess it's tough in anglophone Canada, since there's no daily need, but I think the classes could also be a lot better. Just watch Europeans teach languages; they know how it's done.

Real time (aka "trains") looks fun though. They had an unannounced tutorial today to explain how to actually boot your code, etc. It would have been nice if they'd posted it on the newsgroup yesterday, but at least the course staff seem pretty competent, and they go fast enough that it's not boring (AFAICT).


On Monday, my friends and I went to Vulcan, Alberta. It's a tiny little town, probably not more than 2000 people. They had the name long before Star Trek started up, but about 10 years ago they decided to milk it to get all the trekkies they could to go there and spend money on worthless Star Trek crap. It works.

My friends Thap, Spif and Mel give the Enterprise a once over

While in Vulcan, I also met some nice young ladies.

My new girlfriends

Plus, we saw the first Vulcan-Klingon couple!

Spif and Mel: pioneers in love!


Well, I don't know if I can really call it "work" since I'm not working at Niti right now. But whatever. After building a few Debian dev packages by hand, I was able to get evolution-dev installed on my laptop, and then build ExchangeItEvolution. It does work ok on PowerPC, but there are 34 failures for the WvMAPI unit tests on PPC, so it's kind of surprising that calendar entries and contacts show up at all :) In any case, I'm cooking up a patch to fix it.

All this simply because I'm bored...


School starts on Monday. Ugh. I'm heading to Winnipeg briefly before then, to see my mum who's working there for the next 8 months. I've never been, so it should be interesting. I'm flying on Sept. 10th (tomorrow) and Sept. 12th, narrowly avoiding any flights on Sept. 11th. It didn't even occur to me when I booked the flights, and I'm not really one for superstition, but it's kind of quirky.

6 Sep 2004 (updated 6 Sep 2004 at 03:55 UTC) »

Was excellent. I had a great time. The party for my aunt and uncle was very successful. It was held at the castle in Doorn where Wilhelm II of Germany lived after being exiled. There were tours of the castle, and a lovely meal.

Wilhelm II's last home in Doorn

Guests enjoy a nice meal

As you can see, we had some lovely uncharacteristic (for Holland) weather for the party, which was great. The previous day it poured buckets.

My sister and I visited Amsterdam the next day, and saw the Uit Markt, which was pretty fun. We saw a strange "low rider" bike show. I had no idea that people were at all interested in low rider bicycles; I thought the design was only really popular for choppers. They certainly look uncomfortable for any serious kind of cycling, but it was interesting nonetheless.

A low rider cycle at the Uit Markt

Later in the week, we went to Bergen and Bergen aan Zee. Despite the name, there are no "real" mountains at Bergen (unlike the one in Norway). We went for a nice cycle through the dunes to the beach, which was fun.

Hills in Holland? That's unpossible! Actually, they're dunes

My sister and I enjoy some pannenkoeken in Bergen

The beach was nice, the water was a bit cold but there were some people swimming. It wasn't too busy either, since quite a few schools are already back in session.

A stroll along the beach at Bergen aan Zee

On the way back, I ended up going through Toronto instead of Montreal due to some flight screwups. Since it was Lufthansa/Air Canada, I got to see what they're calling the "new" Terminal 1. It's fancy, but it looks like there's a lot of wasted space, and a beer sets you back $9.23 CDN. I didn't really care that much, since I was tired and I just wanted a beer, but geaawd, that's almost as bad as Norway. At least it's better than the old Terminal 1. That place sucked.

The "new" Terminal 1. Fanciness


So now I'm in Calgary, which is rather different from Holland. Oddly, there were a bunch of Dutch people on the plane from Toronto to Calgary, and I spent almost the entire flight speaking Dutch with a nice woman from Amsterdam. When we landed, I got off the plane and one of Calgary's airport hospitality people said "howdy" to me. That was a bit of a shock.

It's been fun so far though; last night I got royally shitfaced with a bunch of friends at Bottlescrew Bill's, a nice pub with a great selection of beers, including a number of Unibroue beers. Then I slept until 3 today. Now that's what I call a vacation.


I'm still revising my work report. Ugh. But it's the last one! And I hope this one will actually be useful to some people at Niti, so it doesn't feel quite like the sham it usually is.

I tried to install ExchangeItEvolution on my laptop today, but the stupid dependencies for evolution-dev are broken in DebianUnstable right now. At least for PowerPC. Geaaawd, I hate Debian sometimes. apt is great when it works. Unfortunately, I find that it rarely actually works well enough to make it as useful as everybody says it is.


While we're on the subject of my laptop, I'll do a little ranting. This last trip was the first time I've taken my laptop on a trip since installing Linux. I discovered that I get way less time on battery than I used to with OS X. I could easily get 2.5 to 3 hours of active use in OS X, now I'm lucky to get 1.5 hours. And the GNOME battery applet has an annoying habit of showing around 35% power left, and then dropping suddenly to 0% (at which point it suspends the laptop). I don't know whether the battery really is almost fully discharged, or whether the GNOME battery applet is just lying, but I suspect the latter.

It's not like I'm not trying, either: I have cpufreqd installed, and pmud, and the whole deal, but it doesn't seem to help much. I guess I'll try some new profiles for cpufreqd, maybe to force it down to 500MHz (from 700MHz) when it's on battery or something, because I don't care too much about the speed, and the auto-adjust profile I have right now seems to run it at full speed almost all the time.

However, I do like having Linux + GNOME on my laptop. I like it more than OS X, which is saying something for the Linux desktop, because people often tout OS X as some kind of "gold standard" in interface design.

20 Aug 2004 (updated 20 Aug 2004 at 05:41 UTC) »

Apparently, ppatters and wlach thought highly enough of my work this term to give me a good evaluation. And I thought they were going to beat me into submission and then fire me. Or something. Considering dcoombs has claimed to have fired me at least twice now, I was pleasantly surprised :)

I've obviously been very happy at Niti. I really like how co-ops are treated just like any other employee, and can get just as involved in the things they're doing. This wasn't true at the first place I worked, where a lot of things about where the company was going were kept from myself and the other co-ops there, because we were co-ops. I found it a lot harder to relate to what I was doing and be motivated under those circumstances.


I'm going to Holland next week, leaving on Thursday. Which means this weekend I have to write a work report and pack up all my random crap, as well as arrange for some of it be sent to Waterloo by Greyhound. Not the greatest weekend, but I guess we did all have a good time last week at Oka. On that note, I give you a picture of the classiest man alive:

Sorry andrew, jklink has you beat here

It'll be nice to spend some time in Amsterdam though. I've already arranged to meet up with some of my friends, en het zou goed zijn om en beetje Nederlands te praten. Rediculously, the flight was only 650 CDN, on Lufthansa. I've paid more than that to fly from Toronto to Calgary, for crying out loud!


It's been busy lately, but good. Today we got out another release of ExchangeItEvolution, which brings a few new features, several bugfixes, support for v4 of the protocol, and is built against WvStreams 4.0. Some of the coolest new stuff in this version was done by hub, who seems to have gotten pretty cozy with the code pretty quickly.

Saturday and today I spent a bunch of time packaging things. I actually find packaging strangely relaxing, at times. Other times it's just tedious. Fortunately, today was mostly just relaxing.

Numerous people have now suggested that it would probably be a good idea for me to go somewhere else for my next term, and I'm now considering that pretty seriously. I really like it at Niti, enough to buy the office an espresso machine! But I think one of the opportunities co-op provides is the opportunity to get a variety of experience, and I should probably take advantage of that. I'm pretty sure it'll just be an excercise in convincing me that everywhere else sucks, but you never know, I guess.


My uncle in Holland is turning 80 on August 28th, and there's going to be a huge party at their place (birthdays are a very big thing in Holland). Since my uncle is fairly well-known, there will be some fairly prominent figures there, former prime ministers and so on. I found out this weekend that I'd been invited, and I'm now toying with the idea of going. It'd be a lot of fun, and a chance to hook up with some friends in Amsterdam, but I was planning on moving all my various pieces of crap back to Waterloo that day. Sigh.

I got into real-time after being on the waiting list for a month. So mag and I will be cracking it up next term, which should be fun. And by fun, I mean the kind of fun you get when a bunch of pasty white computer geeks sit in a lab in MC for 40 hours straight without showering. I might need a nose plug.

Along with real-time, I'm also taking some other incredibly challenging courses, like: French 151, Music 101, and The Physics of How Things Work. All courses whose real names should be "Show up once and we'll pass you". And then I've got CS 370, which I've heard isn't too bad. We'll see, I guess.

mrwise also discovered that the place where we were living last term, 87 Euclid Ave, is up for rent again. Since we're too lazy to look for anywhere else, we're just going to stay there again, which keeps things nice and simple. It also means the neighbours will get treated to my classy belching once again. I bet they missed me.


pphaneuf: I use kernels straight off kernel.org, and have for years, without having a problem. So I'd be kinda peeved if they left it "up to the distributors" to stabilise it. I mean dude, have you tried a freaking Fedora or Debian kernel lately? They're pretty crappy. The Debian kernel on my laptop, while it does support power management stuff, likes to kernel panic when playing DVDs (discovered this today) so I'll be compiling a vanilla one shortly...

Ever since my first days with Slackware, kernel.org kernels were a bastion of sanity for me. So seeing that go makes me sad for sentimental reasons as much as it does for the practical reasons above. sniff


I briefly had 0 open bugs filed against me today. Wow. It felt kinda weird. Don't worry though, the situation has since been alleviated: mrwise assigned me a UniConf bug, and I got a few more since then too.

Having 0 bugs is the kind of thing you don't want to say too loudly around the office :) It looks as if there are a bunch of interesting options for things I could be doing for the rest of the term, though, so that's cool.

hub seems to be making good progress with the ExchangeItEvolution plugin: it now actually tells you when you entered bad auth info, and prompts for the password again (ooh, so advanced :) I'm kind of wondering what the "roadmap" will be for officially releasing it, as it's looking increasingly sane these days. It runs for weeks on my box without complaining, etc.


Man, it's pretty hot in Montréal these days. I don't think the temperature is actually all that high, but it's been incredibly humid these past few days. Our office is air-conditioned, of course, but my apartment is not, which means I tend to employ some of pphaneuf's clothing practices around the apartment (sorry mrwise!) I guess he's making a lot of converts, since he got dcoombs too.


Got up at 9 (!) today. I was feeling pretty groggy, but I got my lazy arse onto my bike and headed up the mountain before work. It felt great, so I'm going to try to start doing it more often. I'm also going to make an effort to get into work before noon, like jnc, though I'm not going to go to quite the same measures if I fail. I'm typically pretty good about getting in between noon and one (well, if you can count that as "good" in any kind of way :) but last week that slipped twice to 2, which really is too late to be starting your day...


Handed off the ExchangeItEvolution stuff to hub. Sucker! Seriously though, I'm sure he'll do a great job.

I've been given a few things to do involving nss, PAM and UniConf, which is interesting because it's the kind of stuff I don't usually do. I'm not sure exactly what I'll be doing for the rest of the term after these few things, though.


So I recently installed Linux on my iBook. My reasoning was that I spent about 95% of my time in OS X using Terminal and Safari, the other 5% breaking down into iTunes and iPhoto, both of which are kinda cool, but not earth-shattering. Plus I wanted to be able to do GNOME development stuff more easily.

My Linux/PPC adventures started with Gentoo. Their PPC support was pretty decent; the LiveCD had support for sound, airport, and ethernet, so I could listen to music while installing. Genkernel also managed to build me a kernel that had everything necessary to support all the power management stuff (CPU frequency scaling, sleep, LCD powersave, etc.) without any intervention. And, surprisingly, there was a pretty large library of binary PPC packages available. However, it turned out not to be quite large enough; every once in a while, there'd be something fairly big (like galeon) for which there was no binary package, and since the machine has only a 700MHz G3, compiling stuff like galeon tends to get old pretty fast.

Then I tried Fedora. Wow, what a huge waste of time. I'm sure Fedora is pretty reasonable on x86, but their PPC stuff sure has a long way to go. They don't even have an install CD; you have to boot from one CD, and then install over NFS. And there are extremely few binary packages available for Fedora/PPC. Ironically, Gentoo had way more binaries available. Plus, yum must be the absolute worst package tool in existence. It took the stupid thing 10 minutes to figure out the dependencies to install totem! 10 minutes! It compiled in less than that on Gentoo, for crying out loud! Oh, and I had to recompile the Fedora kernel to do such eccentric tasks as, say, setting my clock. Lovely.

So I finally settled on Debian. I'm not the biggest fan, as some of you know, but nothing beats Debian for cross-platform support. The default 2.6 kernel available in unstable right now supports all the power-management hardware, and getting it going was just a few apt-gets and Googles away. I still maintain that update-rc.d is the worst init script tool ever written, however.

Ah well, live and learn, I guess. (Whatever that means.)


It's nice that it's back. During its absence, I set up a blog of my own, here. I'm going to keep it and my advo blog synchronised; I'm aiming to write some doo-hickey one of these NDFs that makes that easier.


I just (more or less) finished stuff with the file server. It's serving NFS, DNS and DHCP again, and I'm actually listening to my mp3s right now instead of some cruddy internet radio station, so that's good.

Installing Gentoo has made me realise how much I like the distro, though. I'm about to go on a bit of a rant, so watch out :) What I don't like is how Gentoo gets so much flak for attracting new users, or "newbies". I've heard quite a few people (long-time Debian users especially) generalise Gentoo users as a bunch of idiots who don't know what they're doing and think they're l337 just because they compile stuff.

I'll be the first person to admit there are a lot of people use Gentoo who are pretty new to linux. Just go over to their forums and read some of the posts, and you'll see that most of the users aren't exactly 10 year sysadmin veterans. I don't see the problem with this. Shouldn't a distro, any distro, be commended for attracting new users to Linux?

In any case, the fact remains that Gentoo is one sweet distro. The tools are great. The package management is great. The package maintainers aren't idiots. They get back to you pretty quickly when you file bugs. It's easy to get new packages into the distro, even if you don't have CVS access. File a bug, and if it's reasonable, somebody will put it in.

It's also nice and stable. Some people might laugh at me as I make that claim, but if you set up non-idiotic CFLAGS you get a really up-to-date system that's also very stable. It beats any other distro I've seen at being able to stay up-to-date and stable at the same time. I've been running "~x86" on my workstation at home for over 2 years, and in that time, I've seen maybe 3 things break: a glibc upgrade broke Wine once, and mod_perl broke twice. Try that with Debian unstable.

I have nothing against Debian or any other distro. Use what you like. But what pisses me off is when I say "I use Gentoo" and I get that "oh". As in "oh, you must be an idiot then, because only idiots use Gentoo."


Going pretty well, although several things I though were going to be easy turned out being more work than I thought they would be. It just seems to happen that way with MAPI and TNEFs.

I'm currently working on some UI code, which is a bit of a change from working with our TNEF parser and conversion code, although I must say, column sizing in GtkTreeViews is a right pain in ass.


We've had a few nice sunny days in Montreal recently, which has been nice, though today it was rainy. I'm definitely enjoying being out of Waterloo for a while. The ability to buy nice, fresh slices of pizza at 3am is truly one of the greatest acheivements of mankind.

File Server

Success! My roommate and I came in to work on the weekend, and copied all our data onto three (!) of the test servers in the office, nuked all the disks, rebuilt the array, and copied it all back. So far so good. It's installing Gentoo right now.

I actually built a custom Gentoo LiveCD with the driver for our RAID card on it, and I gotta say, the Gentoo folks have sure put together some nice tools. It was trivial to write an ebuild for the driver module, and really easy to make "spec" files for Catalyst, a Gentoo tool for creating LiveCDs, "stage" tarballs, portage snapshots, and (probably) other things. Fun stuff to play around with, anyway. A Gentoo LiveCD totally saved my ass once when I was working as a sysadmin.. they're handy to have around.


Well, it looks like I'm going to get to help wlach get Evolution ExchangeIt 1.0 out the door, which I think will be satisfying for both of us. After that, it remains to be seen exactly what I'll be doing. I suppose it might just be getting to work right away on the next version of the plugin, or it could be something else entirely.

As for hacking gnome, it looks like I'll be doing less of that this term, which is a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed doing it last term, but I'm also interested in other stuff, and I can do gnome hacking whenever I like. Of course, there's nothing like a deadline to make it actually happen, instead of it just being a theoretical possibility :)


Had waffles and poffertjes with my sister this morning. They were good, and I realised I should make poffertjes more often. Due to flex time at Niti, I can have as long a morning as I like before heading to work. And nothing gets you going like a plate of buttery poffertjes covered in icing sugar. Actually, when I eat them, I use much less butter and icing sugar than in the picture above...

JoeNotCharles: Don't worry, I did that too last week, so my landlord thinks I'm an idiot too :) I at least had my keys with me, it's just that I'd failed to actually put the key to my apartment on my keychain (I have 4 apartment-related keys: building, post box, laundry room and the apartment itself; I had the other three :)

File Server

The prognosis is not good. I determined that the motherboard, power supply and RAM all had problems, and replaced all three. Now I need a new video card for the darn thing because I didn't realise the one I was using in the old board was not a 1.5V card, so it won't work in the new board. Stupid me.

I'm pretty sure that when I plugged the machine into that "sketchy" socket, there was a power surge that damaged all this stuff. Otherwise, I can't see how the machine was running at all before. In that light, the random kernel panics are probably not Promise's fault. But the BIOS that never detects your drives is, and after a fair bit of Googling I came across the following solution: plug a mouse into the system. Works great! What complete idiots: how many people have a mouse on a server? There's absolutely no mention of this on Promise's website either, and multiple attempts at contacting support turned up nothing.

Anyway, my hope is that with all this new stuff, and the new drivers and new BIOS, I'll be able to rebuild the array problem free. Otherwise, I can kiss all my collections of Star Trek, various anime series and, most important of all, my MadTV lorraine skits, goodbye. That'll teach me never to use another suspicious-looking socket again, even if it is in a convenient location.

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