My DSL speed upgrade must have gone through in the last day. I just transferred a 4781357-byte file from, and back to, my ISP's server. From, 308 Kbytes/sec; to, 51.7 Kbytes/sec. So, roughly speaking, 2.4 Mbits/sec inbound, and 415 kbits/sec outbound.
The background: June 12, 1999: after some inquiries about Linux-friendly ISPs (I wanted plain PPP dialup, Internet connectivity, and Usenet, plus maybe a shell account), on a recommendation from a friend who's a Linux user and who runs a small-business ISP, I sign up for a dialup+shell account with a company called Tsoft. This proves eminently satisfactory (no busy signals, dropped connections, nor other annoyances). The proprieter eventually drops the Tsoft name, and starts doing all his business as "Raw Bandwidth Communications." March/April 2000: Raw Bandwidth starts offering residential ADSL service, on Pac Bell lines, at a price that's competitive at the time. I sign up. Meanwhile, the company I work for has to relocate on short notice, losing its old Net connection; as a stopgap measure, we inquire about a Raw Bandwidth static-IP dialup account (we ended up using this in August/September, as part of a grand shuffle). In late April, the phone company installer shows up (we didn't have self-install kits in those days). After some screwups by Pac Bell on both ends of the line, it works, and I have a nice bridged connection, with a static IP address, and no futzing around with that PPPoE nonsense that a lot of the DSL providers insisted on. Speed is "up to 1.5M/128k" - which are in fact the speeds I observe. May 4, 2000: I register gumbyware.com via Raw Bandwidth; DNS hosting is all taken care of, and the name points at my static IP address. August 1, 2005: There comes an announcement that there's a new rate table, and that by signing a new 1-year term agreement, existing customers can get a lower rate, or upgrade to a higher speed for little more money. November 17, 2005: After some inquiries, and reassurance that the transition will involve only a slight hiccup and not synchronized equipment changes, I put in an order for an upgrade to "1.5-3M/384-512k" service, which should happen in about a week. November 22, 2005: I notice that my incoming speed seems a bit peppier than before. I run the test mentioned above. Yessss!
So, for $2.45/month extra, I get some extra incoming bandwidth (about 60% more, not that it makes that much difference), and a bunch of extra outgoing bandwidth (more than triple, and that does make a difference).
Sometimes it's really nice to deal with a competent ISP... if you're in Northern California, and looking for a competent (not bargain-basement) ISP, and don't need a lot of hand-holding, definitely check out this one. Tell 'em Gumby sent you - maybe I'll get a kickback!
Hmmm... the "What kind of humanist are you" test classifies me as a hardhat atheist. With Marx as one of my heroes? That's almost (but not quite) as wrong as the test that said I was "combat infantry." Of course, some of the questions had more than one possible answer for me... for the "visiting a cathedral" one, I said I'd admire the architecture, but that assumes it's strictly a historic site; if it feels actively religious, I'm more likely to run away screaming.
You are an atheist, a rationalist, a believer in the triumph of science and of reason over libido. You can’t stand mumbo jumbo, ritual, spiritual nonsense of any kind, and you refuse to allow for these longings in others.
Astrologers, Scientologists and new–age crystal ball creeps are no different in your view from priests, rabbis and imams. They’re all just weak–minded pilgrims on the road to easy answers. Nature as revealed by science is awesome enough for you, but it’s a nature that needs curbing and taming by us on our evolutionary journey to perfection.
Your heros are Einstein, Darwin, Marx and — these days — Gould, Blakemore, Watson, Crick and Rosalind Franklin. Could you be hiding a little behind those absolutist views, worried that, if you let in a few doubts and contradictory ideas, the whole edifice might crumble? Loosen up a bit and try to enjoy the amazing variety of human belief systems. Don’t worry — it’s unlikely you’ll end up chanting your days away in some distant mountain cult.
What kind of humanist are you? Click here to find out.
Oh, the correct answer? Well, I'm certainly not a One-True-God monotheist, but I'm not properly an atheist either: I believe (after a fashion) that the number of gods (as usually understood) is either zero or many. This, of course, doesn't rule out covenant monotheism ("This is our god. There are many like him, but this one is ours."), nor the various forms of polytheism (who is the god of computer malfunctions, anyway?).
I haven't gotten nearly as wound up as some people about the Bush administration's shenanigans in the GWOT, but the case of Jose Padilla has bothered me right from the get-go. I don't care what FDR's tame Supreme Court said back in WWII; a U.S. citizen apprehended on U.S. soil is entitled to the full protection of the U.S. Constitution, unlike someone captured on some foreign battlefield. While taking Tinga to the vet (yet again), I heard on the radio that Padilla is finally to be treated as a criminal defendant, not as a military detainee. Oh, and that the charges don't include anything related to the dirty-bomb accusations. Hmm... the remaining charges all seem to relate to actions taken, or planned to be taken, abroad. Jurisdiction gets interesting. Oh, well - I guess if the U.S. had jurisdiction over Noriega, it has jurisdiction over everything.
Slashdot points to a Stanford experiment with a plenoptic camera (so that's what it's called!) - a gadget that, for each pixel, captures a light vector, not just the intensity. This allows refocusing of the image after the fact. Nifty! I'd had vague thoughts along this line a couple of years ago, while out walking the dog, but (a) didn't have any notion how to design a vector pixel sensor, and (b) figured the image file would come out way the heck too big for practical storage (though with advances in storage technology, the latter objection tends to go away). I did come up with a related concept: an "in-focus filter"... a (presumably holographic) filter that sits in the focal plane and reflects (or absorbs) any light that isn't arriving in the right direction (at each point on the filter) to be coming from an in-focus object. Dunno if this would be practical to implement, nor if the result would be any good (it could remove the light coming from fuzzy small stuff in the foreground, such as a chain-link fence, but couldn't very well interpolate what was behind it). Ummm... I wonder if that could, though, be adapted as a sort of instant-autofocus sensor? Especialy for SLR cameras, where the filter wouldn't have to be in the sensor/film path, but could borrow some light from the viewfinder path. How do autofocus systems work, anyway?
I've been wanting to come up with a mechanism for turning PC board layouts in EAGLE into 3D mechanical models in VariCAD. Trouble is, VariCAD, at least the Linux version, didn't support importation of 3D models from any foreign formats, and I didn't want to try reverse-engineering the native file format. Well, now VariCAD for Linux supports 3D importation! From STEP format. Which turns out to be ISO 10303, meant to be a sort of successor to IGES. Looks like I could buy a copy of the ISO standard, if I didn't mind forking over a couple of thousand Swiss francs. Or, I could attempt to figure out which sections I actually needed, at a mere couple of hundred SF per section. Or - happy thought! - since VariCAD also does STEP export, I could create a series of simple drawings, export them, and examine the STEP files. It's not like I need a bunch of advanced features; I just want to be able to place rectangular solids, cylinders, and such. So, I create a simple 3D drawing of a rectangular solid, 1 by 4 by 9, and export it. Oy! Three and a half freakin' pages of cruft, most of it apparently relating, in some way, to the manner in which a simple rectangular solid is represented in this wonky language. Now, what I'd really like is the ability to feed a script to VariCAD, with commands and parameters, to place objects where my translation program (roughly speaking, a pick-and-place simulator) wants them. Alas, that capability seems to be lacking. Perhaps I'll suggest it to the vendor.... Happy thought: BRL-CAD does the sort of constructive solid geometry I want, though it doesn't do the sort of CAD stuff I want. Perhaps it can serve as a translator. Alas, the web site is missing most of the manual (including the section on converting geometry between formats), so I don't know if it handles conversion to STEP. Ah, well... time to download the new release (it's up to 7.6.4, as of a few days ago), and see if the documentation is included. And, no, Blender isn't the answer; it supports many import/export formats, but STEP isn't among them. I may have to hunt down a book that explains the rudiments of how STEP is used to represent graphics... which is really all I need, for my purposes.
Update: finished downloading BRL-CAD 7.6.4; unpacked it; looks like the manual section for translating formats doesn't currently exist, but that when it last existed, STEP wasn't one of the supported formats (IGES was, but, while VariCAD will export IGES 3D, it won't import it).
Additional: I really wish the committees that come up with these things would give them distinctive names, not acronyms that come out as common words. Especially words that are common in the titles of self-help books.
Rumor has it that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has possibly been killed. Not the first time this has been rumored, of course. If confirmed, maybe we'll finally learn how many legs Ol' Blue really has - seems like he's usually described as having one leg, but sometimes he has two. One might almost suspect that there are two of him, but that would be a bit too much like something out of The Avengers, or perhaps Dudley Do-Right.
Update: now CNN is reporting that "a White House Official" doubts the tale.
OK, so last night I finally got around to seeing Highlander. (A movie set in Scotland, with Sean Connery playing a Spaniard, or maybe an Egyptian with a Spanish name. This makes lots of sense.)
Anyway, part of the reason for seeing the movie was a suspicion that this recent Slashdot story was on somewhat of a wrong track. Now, if you combine that story with (as noted) this one, and with this, then you truly have a fearless, immortal mouse, with awesome powers of regeneration, capable of recovering from just about anything except destruction of its brain.
Would this be a Highlander Hybrid Mouse?
The possibilities are mind-boggling:
"The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take the heads of all the other Immortals."
"Actually, I'm a mouse who's been made Immortal by an experiment in genetic engineering."
"I think so, Brain, but why would the Japanese smith mark the sword '600 BC'?"
Well, once again, spreadsheets are getting misused... and this time, I'm the one doing it. I've got this Big List O'Signals for new automated test equipment we're building for a client - mapping signal names & descriptions to control bits to connector pin numbers to destinations of the various types of devices that'll be tested using this new gadget. The obvious quick & dirty way to represent this is as a few tables in a spreadsheet (more than one table because there are multiple flavors of signals, with different information associated). Trouble is, now there's a need for an additional column per device type, to contain information that I'd much rather somebody else filled in. Now we're talking multi-user spreadsheet (which of course is one of the big gotchas with using a spreadsheet to keep track of stuff; it only exists in one place, though copies may get distributed).
So, here's an idea I'll toss out: a networked, multi-user spreadsheet-like application, with the data stored on a server (perhaps with an RDBMS backend, preferably with some sort of revision tracking), and a (Java?) client to give a spreadsheet-like view. Also, of course, a well-documented server/client protocol, with client libraries at least for Perl and Java, to make custom report generation and development of additional client applications easy. Doesn't need a lot of calculating power, but a fair amount of data-organizing capability is in order.
Yet another project to work on, IMCFT.
(Hmmm... gotta take a look at OpenOffice.org Base, which appears to be some sort of easy-databasey thing; might be handy for setting up quickie databeese, if it'll talk to my PostgreSQL server. Can't do much with it until /home moves to the new server and file-locking over FTP starts working, so's OpenOffice.org 2.0 will work. Dunno if it'll really do what I have in mind, though, with column groupings and whatnot. Also, a Java applet client would make the whole thing readily web-accessible.)
While out on errands, I had the car radio on... and got a sound bite about white phosphorus: "...it's the same thing that makes the white flashes in your Fourth of July fireworks." BZZZT! Thanks for playing, better luck next time. White flashes in fireworks are produced using aluminum or magnesium powder, plus an oxidizer. I believe WP is used in some highly specialized display pyrotechnics (aha: liquid-fire rockets; see here), but such use is far from common.
For some useful information about the military use of WP, see here (among other recent articles).
Personally, I'd be leery of breathing the smoke from phosphorus; apart from the threat of traces of unburned WP (nastily toxic), I'd expect the smoke to be mostly phosphorus pentoxide and/or phosphoric acid (which, IIRC, is the corrosive ingredient in Coca-Cola). Makes a good rust remover, tho'.
Additional: Jason Van Steenwyk has been covering the WP foofaraw for a while. Here's his latest.
Update: I looked at a can of Coca-Cola. It does indeed contain phosphoric acid. Chemical weapon! (Thinks of the Coke-machine scene from Silent Movie.)
So, I'd been trying to build Subversion on my nice shiny FreeBSD 6.0 system... the package installs fine, but doesn't include mod_dav_svn, which I wanted, so I had to build the port. Didn't work. Grabbing the current stable source direct from subversion.tigris.org and configuring and compiling didn't work, either. Same error when I tried to install: missing symbols (e.g., free_error_table) in libkrb5 and libasn1. Errors remarkably like this - seems it's been bouncing around for years, in one form or another, and there isn't a nice answer available by Googling. Well, here's the deal. If you're coming up with errors relating to libkrb5 and/or libasn1, and you're missing symbols like com_right, free_error_table, init_error_table, and initialize_error_table_r, then here's the solution: Deinstall the security/krb5 port. I dunno why there's a port for it, given that Kerberos5 is part of the base distribution. Anyway, having the port (or its corresponding package) installed seems to cause confusion when building things that depend on the built-in libkrb5.
Thirteen reasons (some more serious than others) to switch to Firefox. (Personally, I'm somewhat inclined to switch from Firefox to Konqueror, at least when I'm on a Linux system, but I'd sure rather use FF than IE!) (Via The Daily Brief.)
Oh, and Akinoluna has fixed her site so it renders properly in Firefox!
I finally got around to seeing Office Space yesterday evening. The protagonists exhibit a complete lack of aptitude in the evil-genius department.
Look, here's the scenario: in a new release of widely-used banking software, you've introduced a rounding-off "feature" which is meant to put fractions of cents into a bank account to which you have access. Owing to a minor coding glitch, the money is moving too fast, making it certain that the discrepancy will be noticed almost immediately, and the money traced to you. What's the obvious thing to do?
Withdraw the money, close the account, and slip the money and a signed confession under the door of your hated boss's office, or
Transfer all the money to your hated boss's bank account, so it looks like he was the thief?
I mean, c'mon, guys... this oughta be a no-brainer!
Consider an explosion-driven organ pipe. OK, so maybe a calliope pipe. You'd want an expansion chamber to capture the burst of pressure from the explosion, and release it as a more moderate surge of pressure. Should be doable. Now, if we only have one pipe, we'll want to drill holes in it, with valves to change the pitch. Look at any modern woodwind instrument. Add a set of cams to operate the valves. Now, once we've got the cams positioned to select the pitch, we fire a gun through the expansion chamber, and the pipe goes POOT! Graft one of these puppies on the front of a Gatling gun, and, as you turn the crank, it'll spray bullets and play "Over the Waves" at the same time!
I just donated $100 to Project Valour-IT, a program to provide laptop PCs with voice-control software to wounded soldiers, so they can write letters home, memoirs, blog entries, and so forth, without needing use of their hands. There's a bit of inter-service rivalry going on. Since they don't have a Team Defense Contractor (OK, so I'm a sub-sub-subcontractor), I supported Team Air Force, 'cause I don't like mud and I get seasick easy. Besides, they're falling behind (Army and Navy are above quota, and Marines aren't too far behind, but Air Force is decidedly lagging).
Woke up with the graft site a little sore, but not a big deal. Took an Amoxicillin (required) and a Toradol (probably a good idea), but no Darvocet... if memory serves, I may need those later, but not this morning. Check the morning mail... among the spam that made it past my filter, there's this:
Best Narcotic Solutions
Gee, I think my best narcotic solution this morning is to leave 'em in the bottle.
I guess my liver must be in good shape. Yesterday, I took 20mg of Valium at 12:45, another 10mg at 2:00, and a Darvocet at 3:45. The doctor said I shouldn't drive for 12 hours (presumably relative to 2:00). The fact sheet for Valium says it has a half-life of 6-8 hours. I was certainly wobbly from 1:30 to around 5, and had my father drive me home a bit before 6 (retrieving my car is left as an exercise for later). By 6:30, though, I had my balance back - not enough that I'd want to go rock-hopping, but I wasn't having to be careful about moving around - and was almost up to my normal level of alertness.
Today's care package from Amazon: Der Ring des Nibelungen (not the same production Patterico got; we'll have to compare notes). Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Looney Toons Golden Collection, Vol. 3 Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends, Season 3
And, not for this weekend particularly, Subversion Version Control ...which shouild be useful for work-related activities. Later.