Wednesday 29 September 2010, 11:57
When I switched to the new computer I found that a lot of my trickier LaTeX code - including, for instance, the files I use to produce my Japanese-language flash cards - no longer worked with the TeX/LaTeX installation that came with the new Slackware, and I was faced with a choice of going forward (converting all my code to work with some new installation, whether that or another), or going back (and restoring the entire TeX/LaTeX installation from the old machine). I decided to go forward. As a result I've spent a fair bit of time in the last few days tweaking different pieces of software. The astrological chart service is probably still down, though I'm getting closer to having it work again; I couldn't get CJK and its associated packages to work at all in the amount of time I was willing to spend, so I ended up taking "grendelkhan"'s suggestion and switching to XeTeX for my Asian-language typesetting. I ended up also switching the book manuscript to XeTeX for other reasons, and that was an adventure because of compatibility between XeTeX, the sffms class, and the commercial font I wanted to use.
The news, however, is this: I just got mail from Anthony Owen, the designer of the Starfont astrological fonts, and he confirms that he has released them to the public domain. Yay! There had formerly been some uncertainty and people were hesitant to use or distribute the fonts for that reason. So it's now on my list to put together a new version of the LaTeX package I wrote - but of course I also want to go in and add all the updates and fixes that have come up in the years since I last updated it, so there'll be some nontrivial work involved beyond just changing the licensing notes.
Sunday 26 September 2010, 13:08
The Japanese-English dictionary program "kiten" has an annoying misfeature whereby if you do a search that has no results, instead of saying there are no results it will automatically change the search type to try to get more results for you. For instance, an "Exact Match" search might be changed to a "Match Anywhere" search. Google does that sometimes (for instance, changing phrase searches to bag-of-words searches) and that's annoying too, but at least Google warns you when it does it, and the stateless nature of Google searches means that the change is local to a single search. With kiten, the search type change is permanent (even saved in the config file when you exit). That's a problem if you are doing many searches successively, for instance during translation, and you have to keep resetting the search type. It's an even bigger problem if you have the ill-advised, but default and encouraged, "Automatically Search Clipboard Selections" feature turned on: because then just selecting text in some other application can permanently change your kiten configuration.
Sunday 26 September 2010, 12:40
Big news! I've finally achieved one of my most-wanted misfeature fixes with KDE4: disabling the ugly huge-ass animated tooltips in the panel. I think a lot of others wanted this as well, so I'm hoping they'll link here.
Saturday 18 September 2010, 22:08
KDE4 introduced a stupid useless icon that you can't get rid of, in the upper right corner of the desktop. The developer of the relevant code has adamantly refused to introduce any possibility of making it optional; but a civic-minded third party created the "I Hate the Cashew!" "plasmoid" to make it go away. That's all well and good.
The bad news is that "I Hate the Cashew" is no longer maintained, and doesn't work anymore with the current version of KDE, 4.5.1 as I write this. The good news is that with some digging, I found a solution in a Web log comment from someone using the name "Newar," and that works. The trick: you can now move the cashew to your choice of corner. So move the panel out of the way temporarily (for instance to the left edge of the screen), move the cashew to a corner that will be covered by the panel (lower right), and then move the panel back to its usual location. The cashew is still theoretically there, but at least it's no longer all up in your face. Thank you, Newar!
Saturday 18 September 2010, 11:37
I'm not planning to post further continuous updates on my move to the new computer, but at least one correspondent commented that she hadn't seen any further updates in a while and hoped the new machine was working, so I thought I'd better wrap up some loose ends.
The new machine works. It will be a long time before I'm fully "settled in" on it, and a lot of software that used to work, doesn't work now because of the change. I will be fixing things as they come up, one at a time. But I've moved over my home directory, email is flowing in both directions, and a snapshot of the old machine at the time of the crash is now archived to DVDs, independent of my other backup measures. I'm basically back in business. A few loose ends and other comments, below.
Wednesday 15 September 2010, 15:40
So, here we are. It's 3:45pm on Wednesday, and I'm home again after a relatively brief trip to Waterloo. I wanted to be there this morning for a meet-n-greet meeting with some new students, but I found that (because of two and a half hours' sleep last night) I wasn't getting any work done, so I left shortly after noon.
As of 6:15am when I departed, the RAID build was in progress and estimated to finish in four hours, so about 10:15. It has certainly finished now. One other thing to report from the intervening time is that I managed to get through on the phone to the fellow from TigerDirect who had called me, and it turned out he wasn't phoning about the RAM RMA after all! It's just that they have some sort of AI that flags customers who look like they might be buying for a business, to get a personal call inviting them to use the company's B2B service. I wasn't a business and so he didn't have much to say to me. He listened politely to my description of the RAM troubles, but that clearly wasn't his department and he didn't and couldn't tell me anything I didn't already know about it.
So I shipped the RAM back to TigerDirect. I'd been holding off until I was able to talk to their representative, in case it was going to turn out that he'd tell me not to ship it back for some reason. It remains to be seen how much of it they'll reimburse.
Now, as the lady said to the tinker, let's have another round.
Tuesday 14 September 2010, 18:07
Tuesday, 6:05pm: Today I took time out from work for a trip out to Kennedy (the Eastern terminus of the main Toronto subway line) to visit Canada Computers (whose downtown store is out of commission, apparently because of a fire) and buy some G.SKILL memory to replace the Corsair memory that failed me. I was a little worried about this because the new modules are exactly the same spec as the old - DDR3 1333, CL9-9-9-24, 4x 2G modules, 1.5v. If the others didn't work, these shouldn't. However, the others said they were "for Intel" and these say "for Intel or AMD."
And they do work - at least as far as the computer will POST with two of them inserted. Next, I insert the others and make sure it still does; and then I start plugging in hard drives. My plan (since I have five drive bays, four drives I want to use long-term, and two drives to recover) is to start with three new drives; build a degraded RAID array (technically, several) with those; then attach the two old drives, recover their data to the array, remove the old drive and put in the remaining new one, and resync the array.
But first I pour a drink (sparkling water, I've run out of alcohol) and maybe think about some tacos, because it's going to be a long night. The next several updates will be additions to this entry rather than new entries.
Monday 13 September 2010, 13:50
I'm going to experiment with updating this entry in near-real-time as I work on putting together my new computer system. As of now (first posting) it's about 1:45pm. UPS, after claiming to have tried to deliver the package of parts at 10:23*, now says they will try again between 2 and 3. I plan to spend that hour waiting in the lobby to intercept the delivery person so there can be no excuse of "we tried to buzz you and you weren't there."
* I don't believe this claim because I was here at that time, they didn't buzz me, the buzzer is unlikely to be broken, and they didn't leave a "we missed you" card, as they would have if they'd actually gotten to the door and been unable to get farther. I suspect the driver took one look at the construction on Roncesvalles Avenue (which, granted, is scary), aborted the attempt, and told his** supervisors I hadn't answered. On the plus side, the customer service people I talked to subsequently were very polite and alleviated my anger a bit. The real test will be whether the delivery actually occurs, 15-75 minutes from now.
** Not a sexist assumption - I am talking about a specific individual known to be male; or at least, the customer service people told me they'd talked to "him" on the phone.
Thursday 9 September 2010, 23:01
Smoke test with new power supply, and opal's motherboard in diamond's case: no go. The fans spin up and then spin down immediately. On roughly one boot attempt in four, seemingly random iid, it gets as far as the single beep that is normal, and lasts a few seconds before shutting down. But nothing ever comes up on the video output. Same behaviour if I disconnect all the drives from the motherboard, except that (if left connected to the power supply) the drives by themselves will remain spinning. So it's pretty clear that the motherboard (or something attached to it so intimately as to effectively be part of it, such as the CPU or RAM modules) is fatally damaged.
Conclusion: This motherboard is dead. I have to buy a new computer. If I'm lucky, I'll be able to salvage the data from at least one of the hard drives. All the important stuff is on both, via RAID-1, so recovering one is enough to salvage that; and all the critically important stuff is off-site, so it wouldn't be an absolute disaster even if I lost both drives; but some low-priority (replaceable with annoyance) data is striped on RAID-0, so recovering it requires recovering both; and obviously it'd be nice to salvage as much as I can.
Thursday 9 September 2010, 20:59
Geekery below. This entry is in English notwithstanding the title, which is supposed to mean "from ashes, a new computer."