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VSarkiss (704)

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I haven't really taken the time to set this up, but you can look at my home node [] on Perl Monks.

Journal of VSarkiss (704)

Tuesday May 02, 2006
09:49 AM

XFS makes me nervous

I decided to play around with my new box after I installed Fedora Core 5 on it. Since it was brand new, I re-installed everything using XFS instead of the default ext2. (Aside: seems it should at least default to ext3....) I used XFS many moons ago when I was working with big honkin' SGI machines at animation houses -- back when SGI's logo still looked cool.

When FC5 booted, I thought it had bypassed running fsck -- which is a program near and dear to an old system admin's heart. I started reading the docs and remembered that fsck is a no-op on XFS: it checks the journal at mount time. So everything's working OK, it appears.

It makes me nervous, though. I like seeing a line like

/boot: clean, xxx files ...

when the machine's coming up. Just call me an old dog.

Sunday April 23, 2006
06:03 PM

What fresh hell is this?

I got a new computer after my hard disk died -- actually, it's my father's old computer. He wanted a new one, so in exchange for the footwork of getting him one, I got his old box.

I had to decide what to put on here -- I've used Fedora in the past, so FC5 was an obvious choice. I also dowloaded and burned a DVD of Kubuntu. The latter is supposed to be both installer and a live-CD system.

Kubuntu looked nice in live mode, but somehow it didn't want to install -- it would just hang. So I figgered I'd bring up FC5. And then a series of bad memories came back, like Gnome is the default instead of my preferred KDE, NTFS support isn't loaded, the samba setup is weird. But the biggest insult: typing gvim said it's not compiled with graphics enabled. Argh! Who made the brilliant choice to put gvim in a different package than "vim"? Sigh.

So I spent most of today updating stuff with yum, which started out saying:

Install      3 Package(s)
Update     169 Package(s)
Remove       0 Package(s)
Total download size: 481 M

And yes, I did steal the entry title from Dorothy Parker's biography by Marion Meade.

Thursday April 06, 2006
02:38 PM

Cingular-ly stupid

This is partly (OK, mostly) a rant, but it may also prove helpful to someone.

A while ago we called Cingular (where I ended up after they bought AT&T Wireless) to change our service plan. My wife and I have phones, and we gave a pair to my parents who are both in their 80s. We were informed we could upgrade all of them to Nokia 6102 phones for free, so we agreed.

We got four identical boxes that already had SIM cards installed. We called last night to activate mine and my wife's, and we told the agent the SIM numbers we wanted turned on. Beep-beep, activated, all happy.

The trouble began when I started scrolling thru the menus and found the "My number" entry in the address book: it was my Mom's number, and it's only viewable, not editable. The phone answered to the correct number, but it's annoying to have the wrong number appear in the display, so we called Cingular back. That was the real disaster. Eventually the manager came on the line and got worked up into such a froth that I had to tell her to stop talking so I could get a word in. Eventually I told her I'd take it to a store.

This morning I used the all-seeing eye to search for an answer, and lo and behold, it turns out all you have to do is find a compatible phone (either same network or unlocked) that has an "edit my number" function for the address book. My officemate's Motorola has the function (which he hadn't even seen up to that time), so we put my SIM card in his phone, edited the address book, and returned it to mine. Presto! Reality and picture coincide again.

Why my phone doesn't have an "Edit my number" function -- I don't know. Maybe it's hidden in the guts of some menu somewhere. But calling Cingular support was a complete waste of time. They had no idea what I was even talking about, and just managed to muddy the issue.

So here's some google bait in case anybody's searching for this problem:

  • Nokia 6102
  • address book
  • my number
  • how to edit
Wednesday March 22, 2006
12:03 PM

Dead disk, end of an era?

My Linux box started acting up last night, and this morning the main hard disk won't even spin up. So I dug up the most recent backup, which was over a year old, and inspected it on the WinXP box.

Much to my surprise, there isn't a whole lot out of date on the backup. I realized I haven't really been doing much of anything on the Linux box lately. Since I left self-employment, all I was doing there is picking up email from my forwarding address (mostly tossing spam, to be honest), some browsing, and some simple doc prep. I've repointed forwarding to Gmail, got most of my bookmarks from, and I'm really wondering what I should do with the box.

I built it about five years ago, and it's had two hard disks that have both been problematic. With the price of hardware these days, I wonder what's worth salvaging. If I don't bring it up, it'll be the first time in about ten years that I haven't had a Linux machine at home.

Wednesday January 11, 2006
10:10 PM

Busy, busy, busy

Just so it doesn't feel like I've abandoned this journal, here's a quick update.

The money pit
When my guest bathroom sink started leaking the day before, I started installing a new one on New Year's eve, only to get stuck after I'd turned the water off. (Remember, kids, it's a very bad idea to start plumbing projects on a holiday.) I had to call out a plumber and pay a bundle for him to cut out the old fixture with an acetylene torch and install the new one, so we could have water when our guests arrived.

On January 2nd, in a cold downpour, we smelled gas outside. The gas company came out, found the leak, and shut off our gas because the leak was right under our electric meter.... We had to have someone come out and do a temporary repair the same day so we could have heat and hot water. Ka-ching!

That same day, the rain started leaking through a window into the living room. Not expensive, since I could just weatherproof it myself, but it confirmed my superstition that bad news comes in threes.

Here a job, there a job
At the end of the year, when $client[0] couldn't get their budget worked out, I rolled off and started with $client[1]. Within a week, my first client ran into problems they couldn't fix, but managed to scrape up enough money to get me back for a week. It only took me four days to fix, so Friday I'll be back at $client[1] because they were happy with some of the quick optimizations I suggested on their application.

Be sure to tune in next week for another episode of "As the consultant turns".

Open your eyes
Even after more than a year, I never got used to my bifocals. They still can't fix presbyopia completely with surgery, but at least now they can make soft contact lenses for my myopia and astigmatism. (I tried gas-permeable contacts many years ago and couldn't wear them. The soft lenses are nothing like those -- they're very comfortable.)

I've been trying a monovision pair of soft contacts for a couple of weeks, but my eyes get too tired looking at a monitor all day. Next I'm going to try contacts to fully compensate for distance in both eyes, and add reading glasses if I need them.

Of course, the best solution would be to just stop aging, but I don't think they'll figure out that one anytime soon.

Friday December 16, 2005
02:44 PM

Popular news

I was scanning Yahoo News a few minutes ago. If you haven't seen it, it's grouped into areas like "Top Stories", "World", "US National", and a zeitgeist thing, "Most Popular".

Today's big news items include the US Senate's rejection of extending the Patriot Act, the vote in Iraq, an impending transit strike in New York, reports on whether the Bush administration broke the law in spying after 9/11, and Google's purchase of a big stake in AOL.

The most viewed news item? "Ashlee Simpson Hospitalized".


Wednesday November 23, 2005
10:40 AM

Puppy in fall colors

When we first got our puppy, I thought he was an Australian Shepherd. But after a couple of people at the dog park said things like "He looks like a Queensland Heeler", I did a little research, and I'm convinced that in fact he's an Australian Cattle Dog, right down to the Bentley mark.

The guide points out that ACD's are very intelligent and so easily bored. We keep trying to find treats he'll like and toys he'll play with, but he has, um, strange tastes. He won't chew rawhide, or munch on pigs' ears, or eat Greenies. But he does like to chew plastic toys, which in his mind include balls, shoes, and pens.

A couple of days ago I came home to find orange marks on the carpet, and his white forepaws a lovely shade of fall color. He'd gotten into the office and chewed up an orange magic marker. Fortunately it wasn't permanent marker, so I managed to clean his paws (and the carpet) with just a wet rag. But last night he was "skooching" his butt on the ground after I let him out, so I'm wondering if little plastic bits have made their way thru his digestive tract.

It's a little funny, but I saw an episode of Emergency Vets just recently where a dog had swallowed a pen and had to undergo surgery because it was blocking his intestine. I'm keeping a close eye on the little stinker.

Thursday November 17, 2005
10:48 AM

Numbing the mind

I haven't written here in a while, but I've been busy with @life = qw(kids family work health); Lazy lists would be really handy here...

At the moment, $work is a huge pain. The customer's reporting environment is a mess, mainly due to a group of consultants they got here a couple of years ago from $huge_report_vendor. We've been trying to clean it up but have been getting frustrated at every turn by the client's internal politics. Now we've been sidelined in favor of -- you guessed it -- consultants from the original vendor that created the mess. I'm relegated to administrative tasks of filling in metadata. Spare brain cells, anyone?

Another pain I'm currently fighting is that the Franchise Tax Board has lost one of my tax payments from last year. Yesterday they sent me a letter threatening collection, even after I've sent them copies of the cancelled checks. Argh!

What's going right is that our new puppy has been lots of fun. We've been taking him to an off-leash dog park in our city, and he's been playing really nicely. It's a lot of fun to watch. Pictures soon.

But the best thing I've got going now is starting karate again. Fitting two nights a week in my schedule was hard, but it's been worth it. I've been going for a couple of months now, and I can finish warmups without getting out of breath -- sweaty and breathing hard, but not feeling like I'm going to keel over. And of course, punching, kicking, and grappling are a terrific way to let off steam (in addition to ranting in a journal :-)

Tuesday October 11, 2005
02:42 PM

Gah! spam

Contrary to its name, link spam is not delicious.

I figured it was just a matter of time before somebody started abusing for this kind of thing, but it's still annoying when it shows up.

In case I'm rushing to judgement -- does anybody know that this is legitimate?

Friday September 23, 2005
08:52 AM

Too loud...

Lately I've been taking the bus rather than the train to work. At my current client location, it's more convenient, and cheaper to boot.

This morning a young man across the aisle from me had a Treo and was plugged in listening to music. It was loud enough to be annoying where I was sitting -- yes, even over the noise of the bus engine. I can only imagine what it was doing to his own eardrums.

No wonder iPod users are going deaf.