Archive for January, 2008


My roommate and I are both nerds. My nerdy nature is probably already widely known to people online (due in part to this blog), and to associates in The Real World (due to my attire, language, topics of conversation, and general social awkwardness). However, I felt it necessary to establish that my roommate is with me on this.

So, what did we do with part of our extended, three day weekend? No, I can truthfully say that it had absolutely nothing to do with the dixie-cups. No! We were constructive! We built a Beowulf cluster!

Behold: Project FragMano.

While, in the past, a project to get a permanent gaming server running for my dorm floor was titled this, the majority of gamers are gone, and it’s much too cool a name to waste.

What you see here (aside from my back and amazing Hootenuity t-shirt) is our (poor) estimate of about 3.5Ghz of combined processing power. They’ll be running Ubuntu Linux (server install) with OpenMosix. We’ll use them for rendering Blender stuff, possibly a little folding@home, and (of course) seeing if we can program games that utilize the cluster effectively.

Right now, the task is getting the stupid things running, much less talking to each other. Two of them are missing vital organs such as hard disks, ram and cables. One of them is missing a processor. A few are under the mistaken belief that they have no physical storage media implanted within them.We’re working on it. Andy is a hybrid hardware/software guy, and I’m mostly software, so it works out quite nicely. My priority is installing Linux, recompiling the kernel, and getting the cluster software on as many of them as possible, while he figures out the happy hardware and network configuration. Or something. In theory.

We would like to note that there are now no less than eleven x86 based machines in the room. There are even more computers than that if you count our calculators, the hacked routers, and Andy’s game console. Isn’t being a computer science major just amazing?

Check out our Flickr stream for more photos of our progress as it develops.


The Moon is a Lie!

This is how I spend so much stupid time not doing homework.

  1. I need to do physics homework like a good student
  2. It’s online! How handy. Let’s go to Lon-Cappa
  3. Hmm. This problem requires that I use the gravitational acceleration constant for the moon. I don’t know that, and it’s not stated in the problem or the book.
  4. I know! Wikipedia. Not always 100% reliable, but can be handy for things like this.
  5. That’s a really short article. Doesn’t have the number I need. But hey, look! It’s a reference to faked moon landings. Wow!
  6. Ok, don’t get distracted. Some other website must have it.
  7. Volia! 1.62m/s^2. How easy!
  8. Gah! It says the answer was wrong! Stupid site gave me bad info. Good thing I’ve still got four tries left on the problem.
  9. Click! I close the tab of the treacherous website. Oh, look. It’s the wikipedia page on faked moon landings.
  10. Time passes…
  11. Wait, it’s how late? Gah!

Tune in next week, when James SSHes to letnet… and certain doom!

Programming Languages #1

I just completed the first programming assignment of the semester! Huzzah. Clock time: about five hours for ~100 lines of code. Blah. Most of the main code was written in like fourty-five minutes. Alll the rest was debug. *sigh*.

I assume C++ gets faster with practice. Python, thou shall be missed.

My Firefox Configuration

Upon reinstalling Ubuntu, the first thing I did was pull up a Tomboy note I save useful Firefox settings in. It occurred to me that I had some rather useful tweaks saved, and it would be a shame to hoard them all to myself. So, this is my Firefox configuration of choice. Yay.

Adblock Plus
Google Gears

Tango Gnome theme


  1. browser.startup.homepage =
  2. browser.tabs.tabMinWidth = 32
  3. browser.tabs.closeButtons = 0
  4. browser.urlbar.hideGoButton = true
  5. network.cookie.cookieBehavior = 1
  6. browser.backspace_action = 0
  7. layout.spellcheckDefault = 2
  8. keyword.URL =
  9. middlemouse.loadContentURL = false
  10. general.autoScroll = true

What it does

  1. Set homepage
  2. Make minimum tab size smaller
  3. Only show a close button on the current tab
  4. Hide the GO button on the address bar
  5. Only load cookies from the current site
  6. Make hitting backspace go back.
  7. Enable spellcheck in one-line fields
  8. Enable Google searchs in the main address bar
  9. Disable middle-clicking on tabs to goto URL in clipboard
  10. Middle click to scroll

Thanks to Joey Day for the “Google search in the address bar” tip. I believe he currently uses YubNub.

Stylish CSS
Combine Stop and Reload buttons

The “Ubuntu Upgrade Process” Compared Unfavorably Against “A Pile of Trash”

Dear Ubuntu,

I am mad and ranting. This is flamebait because it’s been a major problem every single Ubuntu release since I got involved four versions ago. Four freaking versions! That’s two years.

A little over one year ago, I was using Ubuntu 6.06. It was a good release, and it served me well. Then I tried to upgrade to version 6.10, and it was the worst upgrade I have ever done in my entire life. The IRC channels were flooded with people who said their systems were broken, mine included. Based on what I was told, the fact I had once used an early version of Automatix to install the fglrx 3D acceleration drivers had somehow made significant changes to my machine that lurked deep within the system, waiting to resurface and bite my head off when I upgrade. In retrospect, this was BS. There were a lot of things gone wrong with the upgrade that Automatix had absolutely nothing to do with.
I ended up reverting to 6.06 until 7.04 came out, when I backed everything up and did a clean install. This is what was have been using up until about noon today.

At noon, I made the decision that I had waited long enough, and the time had come to check out 7.10. After all, two months after release, the upgrade should be a smooth process, right? This was a horrible, horrible mistake. First, I needed to download 1.1 gigs of packages. This took three hours. Then, they were installed. This ran until 9pm.
Yes, I repeat, this was a nine hour upgrade. During this period, I was instructed not to use any programs because of “data loss.”

Oh, but it’s not an unattended upgrade either. Periodically, a dialog box would appear asking if I wanted to replace X configuration file I didn’t know existed with Y configuration file provided by the new package. While this box was on the screen, the entire upgrade would grind to a halt. There were like six of these things, spaced about 45 minutes apart. What the heck? In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is bad design. This is disrespectful to the user. This is stupid.

Right, so the install finally completes. I reboot, to be greeted with a blank black screen. This blank screen stayed for a very long time (blinking occasionally) until the login box appeared. I decided to chalk up the long boot time to first boot and the blank screen to… a bug or whatever.

I logged into Gnome. There was an absurdly long login period, which I also attributed to first run. My processor indicator instantly shoots up to 100%. The system becomes sluggish and unresponsive. Apparently that nifty new “Tracker Desktop Search” tool is preset to begin indexing aggressively the first time an existing user logs in. I kill the process.

My mouse and windows are still sluggish. Running glxinfo reveals that my previously working fglrx drivers no longer are providing 3D acceleration. A popup message randomly appears in the center of the desktop telling me that non-free drivers are available for my hardware. It appears that it has clipped off the edge of the taskbar and taken it with it. I click it and it vanishes. Nothing happens. I eventually locate the icon in the tray that the bubble was supposed to be attached to. I double click it and it vanishes. Nothing happens. I go to the restricted drivers control panel and discover that the alert was for my unused dial-up modem; fglrx is indeed enabled. Great.

I try unchecking and rechecking it my double clicking. The desktop disappears and I am presented with the login screen. I log in again. Very long wait again. I decide to get online to find out how to fix the graphics drivers. The upgrade has uninstalled my wifi program of choice, Wicd, so I try to use the network control panel manually. Nothing happens. I try to change the essid of the network to a nonexistant network. Whoops, didn’t like that. Now I can’t get the control panel to come up at all.

Before Wicd, I used NetworkManager. It used to be buggy and not able to connect to hidden WEP networks. I’ve updated the network since than to a hidden WAP network. It connects! Yay! I’m connected to the internet! Suddenly, almost all the plugins on my taskbar all crash at the same time. Then my mouse freezes. Then the screen goes black. I wait for three minutes. Nothing happens. I’ve had better experiences with Windows ME.

At this point, I’ve wasted like thirty minutes messing with the stupid thing, in addition to the nine hour upgrade where I was hovering nearby checking every 15 minutes for “Replace configuration file?” dialogs.

This is completely unacceptable. You know what, I’m not even gonna bother anymore. I’ll just back up my recent data, wipe the entire thing, and start from scratch. It’ll take two hours, tops. Am I overreacting? No. You just wasted my day.

The Ubuntu upgrade process is junk. I’ve never had a Debian or Windows upgrade that ended as horribly as either of the times I’ve used the Ubuntu major version updater. Windows is trash. QED: The Ubuntu upgrade process performs worse than a pile of trash.

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This stuff is licensed under a Creative Commons License.