Pat's Log
Fri, 30 Apr 2004

Hack of the Month
20040429 Today started out great. The weather was fantastic, I was rested. Took the laptop out on the deck and started working away at finishing Celestia/Gnome. It's definitely ready to go out now. The perfect onion in the photo contributed to a delicious lunch. But the real fun started in the evening.

The Evening Story
The connection to the EngSoc machines was down. At first, it appeared that Carleton was down, but then that came up. I could even access other EngSoc machines not on the main subnet, but the core machines were definitely not reachable at 23:00.

There were three options: fire, UPS failure, or router-machine failure. Upon arriving at the office, I noticed all the machines were running, the router was misbehaving in terms of network interfaces; restarting networking on it seemed to help, but actually did nothing.

The next step was to turn my attention to the back of the rack. Immediately I noticed that every LED on the main Nortel BayStack switch was lit up, and very, very dimly: "shit."

I unplugged everything, took it to the workbench, plugged it in: still no good. I opened it up, nothing seemed torched. "Power supply? Maybe. But where am I going to get a 5.0V 4A supply at this time?"

I decided the best bet was to try to rig up some of the Linksys and 3Com wireless routers, each with 5 ports or so on the back, and maybe get minimal services back up. As I was about to do this, it hit me that they use 5.0V 2.5A power supplies! Sure enough, a D-Link power supply made the BayStack work just dandy with no load. Indeed, the original BayStack power supply smelled quite charred.

I considered for a while just using the D-Link power supply, but with the switch fully loaded, I worried it would overload. That would make everything bad happen again and cost a power supply. So, I started thinking how to run two of them in parallel. Too much work, far too delicate without a good supply of solderable plugs.

As all this was being considered, an old AT power supply caught my eye. Hm. Perfect! The label even says +5.0V 5A.

In the end, I found a wire and plug that was already severed from a dead 12V power supply, shoved some solder into the plug's hole to make it about the right size for the BayStack, shoved the stripped its leads into the holes for the red and black wires on the power supply, moved all this into the rack, plugged all the network cables back in... you know, it works!

That's the story of a Pat Suwalski solution. It is 01:28 and I shall go to bed now. First day of full-time employment in the morning.

[] | posted @ 05:33 | link
Thu, 29 Apr 2004

No More Teachers, No More Books...
20040428 Last exam was yesterday. It is so nice to be free. Summer work starts Friday. For now, I am enjoying the freedom, working mostly on my big boat, getting in some much needed reinforcement on the propeller shafts. I had that out on the pond this week, and had forgotten just how fast it is! Today, the tax papers were done; expecting good money back. Also discovered that SuSE has issues with their Gnome configuration, and GConf install rules do not work very well. The crowning achievement was getting back on ten or so eMails that were up to six weeks out of date. The important thing is that I got to them eventually, right? So, therefore, the photo of the day is a beauty shot of my laptop keyboard... just because...

[] | posted @ 03:49 | link
Mon, 26 Apr 2004

Multi-Channel Alsa
In study boredom today, I thought I would try to get multi-channel mixing working on my soundcard working once again. Got it, this time. Alsa dmix is awesome. I can have any number of audio streams simulataneously, as well as sound notifications in Gaim and whatnot. This is definitely what I've been missing in Linux!

PS: That Centrino sticker was about ten times easier to remove than the Windows XP sticker.

[] | posted @ 03:10 | link
Sat, 24 Apr 2004

Exams... Almost Done!
20040423 That Comm Theory exam was brutal. Never have I seen so many disappointed people. There were people literally trying to reregister for the summer section right after the exam. Th other two exam since were fair. Only Statistics remains now. Once Tuesday comes and goes, I am free.

Gnome development work is very exciting. I've subscribed to the Gnome desktop-development-list, and there are some very stimulating discussions there, as there are on the various Project Utopia mailing lists. For the most part, I'm attempting to keep my mouth shut, and help out the occasional newb if there is a simple solution to their problem. I'm still not at the point where I can just sit down and hack away at code easily, so I'll continue to do supportive work. This week I made a p.g.o head for Joe Shaw, and my cleaner version of the Gnome SVG logo made it to Jeff Waugh's Logo Site. Next, maybe the t-shirt design?

The Centrino sticker has started bugging me, so I removed it from the laptop. Now it has a dull spot amongst the shined up paint. It's amazing that this 6-month-old laptop is already showing areas where the paint is completely worn through.

Celestia is getting final polish. I redesigned the autoconf script to force a front-end selection and be less ambiguous throughout. Just a few very minor bugs left.

[] | posted @ 03:57 | link
Sun, 11 Apr 2004

Exams Quickly Approaching.
20040410 I'm worried. I'm always worried when it comes to Comm Theory. The exam is coming up Thursday, the day after a much less stressful real-time systems exam. Spent the day studying on and off. Filed a few ALSA-related bugs. Some Gnome programs go nuts if OSS mixer emulation is turned off, apparently.

In my boredom over the last several days, I've added the first model I built, a Klingon Vor'cha Cruiser, to the models page. Not much of a build-up: flat paint job and not much else. But it was enough to motivate me to create more. I spent hours making the thing look more interesting in the Gimp; it was an excellent learning experience about how Gimp handles layers, transparency, and so on.

Also over the last several days, Project Utopia components just started working on my laptop. It's nice to see that this stuff works, and is extremely promising. I've attempted to write a patch that produces more verbose messages and places them in the system log. It got sort of turned down, looks like Havoc Pennington would like a much more elaborate solution: some configuration file options, a little more selectivity in what gets put in the log, etcetera. I might just try to make these things happen.

To aid with this exam studying, went out and bought Don Giovanni by Mozart. Excellent studying music. Highly recommended.

Back to studying...

[] | posted @ 03:28 | link
Wed, 07 Apr 2004

Time - Drift Bignesses.

Tonight, for the boat club meeting I decided to be the first with a boat in the water this year. There was just enough water. The boat doesn't have a motor, or even for that matter, a propeller, but I'm fairly certain it still counts. Just got back from the monthly OCLUG meeting, where there was a very interesting presentation from a man involved with running Canada's time servers at the NRC. Apparently, Canadian time is based on NTP running on three Sparc 2's. A person asked what the units of drift that NTP uses are, and the man responded saying "drift bignesses." That's the quote of the day.

Also, often after meetings like this, I go to Shirley's Bay by the Ottawa River and code or whatever. In this case, the Java TFTP server/client due tomorrow-ish. As I was going there, I passed a cop car going somewhere between 70 and 90 in the 40 zone leading up to there, and luckily nothing bad came of it. Then, while sitting in my car with the laptop, another cop came by and shone the big light on the roof of his car at me to make sure I was alright. Finally, on the way home, I passed another police car. That's a lot of police.

[] | posted @ 03:44 | link
Mon, 05 Apr 2004

Last Week of School... Sort Of.
This week dragged on and on. It's the feeling that it should be done by now but it still isn't.

The TFTP project presentation at school went not-so-well. This thing's finally due this week, and I'll be glad to be rid of it. It's not the actual workings that make this project ugly, it's having to pollute the code with debug functions that prove it handles errors.

Bought a whole load of computer things for school. It's great trying to spend as much of the budget as can be justified. The guy at the computer store actually asked me: "Stocking up on network cards?"

Started helping out with the model boat classes again this weekend. Since exam time is approaching, I decided to start going at my hobbies again. Strange how that happens every exam period.

Regarding exams, it looks like they will be mostly straightforward. I'm not terribly worried about anything besides Communications Theory. Even the content on that can be accurately predicted, it's my ability to answer it that's uncertain.

Can't wait for this school year to just get by me one way or another. The apathy is starting to set in.

[] | posted @ 03:41 | link

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