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pne (661)

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Honourary member and involuntarily prolific poster. Self-taught Perl hacker. Language geek.

Journal of pne (661)

Wednesday March 27, 2002
10:02 AM

The Sims: Vacation

So the latest expansion pack for "The Sims" just came out in the US yesterday or so, and it looks interesting. Reports on the newsgroup have sounded positive (as in "it works great", as opposed to some of the problems people faced with some of the patches Maxis had posted to previous expansion packs).

And today SimFreaks's Stine showed me some screenshots someone else had made -- the two threads entitled "Vacation Screens" on this EZBoard. Hm, sounds interesting.

Now I just need to find the time and money to get a hold of it... I'm only just beginning to get around installing my copy of Hot Date that we got for Christmas: since my registry is hosed, see my journal passim, and the game doesn't remember it's installed, I thought I might as well install all the packs through Hot Date when I reinstall the game. Previously the highest pack I had was House Party.

Argh. So little time!

Monday March 25, 2002
03:23 AM

(Windows Registry)--

So I finally got around to re-installing Windows on my computer after it had crashed four weeks ago. A little nudge in the form of renaming the existing WIN.COM into XIN.COM took care of persuading the OEM version to install over the existing operating system.

So now I had a Windows installation that was sort of half-complete -- the start menu was pretty much the way it was before (except that the ordering had gone from the submenus), but most of the programs had some problem or another because they stored data in the registry, which was (of course) hosed by the new installation. Shareware programs had forgotten they were registered, other programs didn't know they had been correctly installed, and so on. Fortunately, my three most heavily-used programs (MUA, news reader, and browser) appeared to work fine -- the first two keep their configuration data in local files.

I don't know whether the file format of the registry is open or not, but that's secondary -- the point is that it's a binary format, and so it's pretty difficult to merge the original data with the current registry, even if I had saved it (well, it's on another partition somewhere inside a big tarball, but I don't want to overwrite the entire registry). Binary configuration files bad, mmkay?

Thursday March 21, 2002
05:49 AM

I'm back

I'm back from a quick trip to England (Blaby, near Leicester) to attend the funeral of my grandmother. It was also an occasion to see my English relatives (such as some cousins once removed I didn't know I had).

Thursday March 07, 2002
11:02 AM


Yesterday, we talked about intelligence and truth. One of the points that was made was that intelligence is basically applied knowledge -- that is, it doesn't help someone if he knows a lot but doesn't apply this knowledge in his life. We also talked about how truth basically is the knowledge of unchanging principles.

An interesting parallel was drawn between knowing a gospel principle and knowing a secular principle such as grammar or mathematics -- if someone knows a gospel principle and applies it in his life, then that is often termed "obedience". Yet the action is basically the same as when someone takes a grammatical rule and uses it to string along words to make a sentence, or someone who takes two mathematical laws and uses the principles of logic to derive a third law from the two of them. In both cases, there is knowledge of a truth, and the application of that knowledge. So in a way, a person who writes a grammatical sentence is obeying a rule or an underlying principle in the same way that someone who observes a gospel principle is doing so -- or an architect who obeys certain rules in designing a structure, or (I suppose) a programmer who implements an algorithm.

Tuesday February 26, 2002
04:09 AM


Wishing Elaine all the best now that she's decided to stop smoking (as of yesterday).

Saturday February 23, 2002
04:30 AM

All software sucks

Yesterday evening, Stella and I wanted to do our taxes, so I installed the 2001 version of the tax software we subscribed to. I already found it disconcerting that the installation involved several DLLs in the Windows system directory, including DAO components. It made me wonder again why software doesn't check whether those DLLs aren't currently there in a suitable version and if so, at least ask.

Anyway, after rebooting (???), I found a window open which appeared to consist only of a short titlebar which was blank. The corresponding button on the taskbar also had no text. Bizarre. Attempting to close that window didn't produce any results. Anyway, we went ahead and did our taxes; it looks as if we'll get a tidy bundle back from the government. [Side note -- the tax program attempted to register, but it appeared to send email automatically through a system that was misconfigured because I never use that way of sending emails. Why not open a socket to their server and talk to it directly or something?] After that, I read some mail and news.

Then I tried again to close the funny window -- and I got a white window telling me that my Internet connection software had a problem, with two buttons 'Close' and 'Ignore'. I clicked on close. Then my email program supposedly had a problem, but clicking Ignore didn't help; I finally clicked Close and then the same thing with my newsreader. When I attempted to shut down the system, I got the same window for 'Explorer' and the system hung. Sigh.

After a hard reset, Windows ran Scandisk for me (of course) -- and then refused to start Windows because VMM32.VXD was missing. WTF? I had a look for that file but found it nowhere on C:. A look at SCANDISK.LOG told me that there were four files in C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM with illegal characters in their filenames and that those directory entries were removed, and also that some orphaned FAT blocks were found which were converted to free space. Frustrated, I turned off the computer.

This morning I though "ah, but I've got all of the CAB files on the disk, so I'll just extract that VMM32.VXD file", which I did; then I tried to restart Windows. Only to find that about three dozen files were missing, all of them *.VXD files in the directory C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM\VMM32. Arrrgh.

I'll probably end up re-installing the system. Software sucks.

Friday February 22, 2002
04:58 AM

Snow, Snow, thick thick snow[1]

Once again, the forces of nature had a contest with public transportation. Nature won.

After waiting at the bus stop for ten minutes without seeing a bus, I decided to walk to the station, which took about half an hour. There, I managed to catch another bus which was surprisingly on-time.

It's almost predictable how things break down as soon as we have five or ten centimetres of snow.

[1] STR

Thursday February 21, 2002
07:35 AM

Perl modules

I finally decided to get off my behind and submit Games::Dice to the PAUSE. I was rather shamed when I saw that the files were dated April 1999... they've been sitting around my hard drive here at work for a long time. But I decided it was probably best to "release early, release often" so I cast it loose. And as I remember the docs were fairly decent and the module worked last time I touched it. It doesn't have any tests beyond the one h2xs gives you, though (but testing random things is a tad difficult, anyway).

It used to be that I had one module on the Module List but not on CPAN and several on CPAN but not on the Module List... well, now my Module List module is also on CPAN. I uploaded v0.02 the next day after minor tweaking (changing my email address and adding a licence); v0.01 will probably go away again. I do wish that I got some reaction to my request for registering the other modules. appears to be a black hole at times... but that's another story.

I also had a go at implementing yEnc. For that module, I really did "release early, release often": v0.01 of Convert::yEnc had no decoding, v0.02 had no prerequisites listed in Makefile.PL and v0.03 still has no decent docs or tests. But at least it compiles! Maybe I'll get around to working on it some more later.

I'm also wondering whether there are any modules dealing with "metric time" (100 seconds to the minute, 100 minutes to the hour, 10 hours to the day) or with the 28-hour day (which you can read about in a couple of places on the web; briefly, it divides the week into 6*28 hours rather than 7*24). A quick glance at didn't unearth anything likely.

07:22 AM

Weird feeling in my left ear

I had a 90-minute phone call with a customer this morning which left me with a weird feeling in my left ear (where the receiver had been) and eight pages filled with notes which I'm now in the middle of typing into the computer and sorting out a little.

After the phone call was done, I felt like "whew!". But it's been productive; I learned a fair bit about the job which we will have to do. I got answers to the questions I had and also background information that the customer volunteered himself, which was extremely useful.

Wednesday February 20, 2002
02:57 AM

English phonetics

Today, while practising English verbs with my wife, I remembered something I had read somewhere -- that English distinguishes word-final voiced consonants not so much by the voicing but by the length of the vowel.

And when I think about it and consider minimal pairs such as bag and back, or send and sent, the word ending in a voiced consonant does have a considerably longer vowel sound. Yet I never used to think about it and thought the only difference was in the voicing of the consonant.

Perhaps something to think about for people such as Russian and German speakers who devoice final voiced consonants -- if they lengthen the vowel properly it might make up for their difficulty in voicing the consonant.