September 29, 2003

We're apparently alive!

After far more annoyance and hassle than I'd like, too. Regardless,'s now on its new home box. Much beefier (Athlon 1700, rather than a 300MHz Celeron, 512M RAM from 128M, 80G (soon to be 160G) HD from ~20G), much newer OS/Distro (2.4 Debian "Sarge", from a mutant RedHat 6.2 system) and mostly latest and greatest versions of the various pieces of software it runs. Oh, and I've switched from Sendmail to QMail, with some pain.

The transition's not been too bad, though there's stuff I'm not too happy with. Something keeps spewing packet messaages to the console, some of the web stuff didn't come over, and I needed to do some Berkely DB file upgrades for MT. (Which wouldn't have been bad if the db_upgrade program had been packaged with any of the Berkeley DB apt packages...) Still, mail's going in and out, mailing lists work, web works, MT works, FTP works, and POP/IMAP work.

All in all... could've been worse.

Posted by Dan at 10:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 28, 2003

Trying it yet again

This weekend I'm trying, again, to get moved over to the new server. This weekend it's going better than last time--at least now I can get to both virtual hosts on the webserver properly, and mailman seems to be working. I've not yet tested to see if some of the other stuff works out right, as my next task is to bring over userdirs and the mail spools. (Kinda tough to test MovableType without my public_html there...) With any luck, and will have a new facing machine that doesn't have too much wrong with it. I admit, I'll be happy if mail and web works, and I patch up the rest later. (I'm pretty sure FTP works, though)

Having done all this, I've been forcibly reminded, again, how many different ways there are to set up a damn Unix system. (I know, I know, "Linux", or, since it's Debian, "GNU/Linux". Whatever. Walk like a duck, quack like a duck...) The current system throws startup stuff in /etc/rc.d, the new one's just /etc. And don't get me started on all the "helpful" stuff that the nice Debian folks have done for me. As far as I can tell, none of the packages I've installed have gone anywhere near where the docs for the packages suggest. (Maybe it's just mailman and qmail where that's the case. Maybe not...) I'm fully expecting this to bite me in the future.

Computers. Feh. I hope I don't have to deal with this nonsense for another few years once this is done.

Posted by Dan at 04:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 26, 2003

It's time for Lightweight Languages again!

Yep, it's that time of year--the air's getting cooler, the leaves are changing color, and we're gearing up for the annual Lightweight Languages workshop, Saturday Nov 8th at the MIT campus in Cambridge, MA. There's a Scheme workshop Nov 7th at MIT, so you could make an extended holiday of it, were you so inclined.

We've just put out the Call for Presentations, which are due Oct 17th. Yeah, things are a bit tight for time. Next year we do better. Or you could get your presentation proposal for next year ready now, ready to pounce as soon as we announce the date!

This year, I put in a Parrot presentation proposal. Proposals about perl 5 or 6 are welcome, so if you've something to say, go for it. (And don't feel too nervous--hell, if they'll let me speak (I'm even on the program committee) they'll let anyone talk... :)

Posted by Dan at 10:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 25, 2003

Oddities of cooking

I found, tonight, that rice flour is only mostly substitutable for wheat flour. It's not the lack of gluten that's a problem--I expected that, and most of what I do with flour I don't want gluten. The bigger issue is how long it takes to hydrate, and the fact that it seems to come in a much coarser grind than wheat flour. (At least the stuff I got. I think I'll have to go find some alternative sources)

The longer hydration time means you need to let it sit in the liquid much longer than you might expect. This is an issue, because wheat flour hydrates immediately. With the rice flour, you really need to leave it sit in the liquid much longer, very much like corn meal, if you want a soft batter. It also, since it soaks up the liquids slowly, tends to mislead you as to how wet your batter is. (It gets drier as time goes on as the rice flour hydrates) It's also a bit gritty, much like corn meal. If you're doing anything with baking powder or baking soda, you definitely don't want to mix the dry ingredients all together, as the sit time it needs will let out a lot of the gas you'd want for loft. Instead, mix the liquids with the flour and let sit, while you mix all the other dry ingredients together and add them after the flour's sat for a while. 5-10 minutes seems good.

Anyway, it's not a bad substitute for wheat flour, though I'm glad I didn't find the non-dairy, non-soy margarine I was looking for last night, as the grind I got really isn't a good substitute for pastry flour, and I think it would've made a sub-optimal crust. (I was going to make a pie crust with it to make apple pie) I may hit one of the asian markets around here to see if I can find a finer grind. Might make an interesting pasta. It did make a nice batch of apple fritters, though. (Might make good cannoli shells too. Hrm....)

No dairy, no soy Apple Fritters

1 2/3 C rice flour
2t baking powder
1T cinnamon
1/2C sugar
2/3C apple cider
1 egg
1 apple, diced fine

(Note that you may need to adjust the amount of flour and sugar. Flour for texture, sugar for taste. The batter should be very thick)

Heat some frying oil (I used canola) to fry temperature, ~350F.

Beat the egg, add the apple cider, then chop the apple and mix it with the liquids. (Keeps it from going brown and mushy) Mix with rice flour. Let sit for 5 minutes. Sift together cinnamon, sugar, and baking powder (Add a tiny bit of nutmeg and ground clove if you want, though I'd hold off) and mix in with flour/liquid mixture. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls into the oil and fry 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Take out and drain on a rack over paper towel. Dust with powdered sugar.

Do not drain directly on paper towels, that'll leave you with greasy fritters. Yech. Instead, use a cooling rack laid directly on the paper towels, probably upside down (you want it sitting on the towels), and put the fritters on the rack.

If you want, you could take some apple cider and calvados and reduce it until its thick, and use it as a dipping sauce, possibly with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground clove mixed in. I didn't, but I may regret that as it can be really good.

Posted by Dan at 10:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Attack of the releases

While we missed International Talk Like A Pirate Day by a few hours, we did manage to get Parrot 0.0.11 (codename Doubloon) out, with much rejoicing. Yay us.

Jarkko also punted Perl 5.8.1 out the door too, and it should be on its way to a CPAN mirror near you. I figure I'll give it an install in a few days when my local CPAN mirror syncs up.

Lots of hard work all around. This means Jarkko gets some free time, too. Wonder if he's any idea what to do with it, it's been so long... :)

Posted by Dan at 01:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 23, 2003

"This isn't an argument, this is abuse!"

I am, once again, reminded of the utter, almost ineffable, crapulence that is C's variable length argument list handling. The tacked-on, hackish way this is handled is always just phenomenally annoying when I have to deal with it.

I understand why, though honestly since it's pissing me off right now, I don't care. I'm in the middle of generating ncurses wrappers for Parrot, which itself isn't a big deal. The NCI interface Parrot has means no C code is required, just some runtime setup. No biggie. Except... there are some vararg functions in the interface. Building a proper vararg list is horribly annoying in C, and I don't even want to attempt it in native assembly, though it's probably easier there.

Varargs. Foo. Just goes to show that understanding the reason for a choice doesn't make it any less annoying when you run into the ramifications.

Posted by Dan at 01:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 21, 2003

There's something telling...

In a houseful of servers laden with great gobs software, the workhorses are...

netcat and tar.

There's something just a little weird about that.

Posted by Dan at 04:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 18, 2003

A sign of the times

"I have always wished that my computer would be as easy to use as my
telephone. My wish has come true. I no longer know how to use my
telephone." - Bjarne Stroustrup

Posted by Dan at 03:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 15, 2003

Temptations of Locality

After getting the new server mostly set up, and the main wad of data copied over to it, I find I've got an embarrassment of free space. Alas, no matter how much space is free, there's never quite enough--with the paranoid partitioning scheme, there's not enough space for all of Project Gutenberg, which weighs in at about 35G, doubling yearly. (According to their warnings, at least)

CPAN, OTOH, is less than 2G, and there's plenty of space for that. Hmmmm....

It's a damn shame my upstream bandwidth's so restricted, or I'd act as a mirror site, not that it looks like either really needs one. Still, I feel kinda bad about sucking down and holding all this data without giving back somehow. A few CPAN modules doesn't seem to measure up, and I don't think the Dunsany I've got's out of copyright yet. :(

Posted by Dan at 02:20 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 04, 2003

"Joys" of a new server

Well, thanks largely to one of the guys at the office, my new server box actually boots up. That means it's server setup time.

For no reason other than it seems likely to involve the least hassle on my part, I'm installing the latest stable Debian release on this thing. I don't really care what distribution I use, as long as it gets me 90% of the way there and lets me get the rest of the way myself. (Which is all I really ask of a distro) I tried the minimal, mostly-over-the-net install of "Sarge", the latest Debian unstable release, but I took the fact that it couldn't read or write to the HD as a sign that perhaps it was a bit too bleeding edge. Latest Debian seems OK, as it merrily installs itself in the other room.

This means I'm in for a bit of work after it's all done, and I'm not looking forward to that. I've a bunch of user accounts and data to move over (websites, FTP archive data, mailing lists, and such) which is never any fun. I expect I've got a fair amount of group/owner twidding to deal with soon, which won't be much fun. And all the config movement should be just a joy as well. This won't do me much good if I don't also move over the DNS, DHCP, Apache, FTP, and IMAP settings. Nor the PPP stuff, though I've no idea why SNET decided that PPP-over-ethernet was a good idea. Go figure.

There's also software. Lots and lots of software, some of which I've probably completely forgotten about. Mailman, Movable Type, and SpamAssassin need installing and the current config has to be moved over. I need to switch from Sendmail to qmail, which also means installing a bunch of qmail patches to allow TLS and ClamAV processing. (And ClamAV needs installing and configuring) Plus I need to make sure Mailman will talk to it properly, as will procmail.

All that's easy next to the stuff that I need to deinstall and reinstall, or to install alternate versions of. This is a server box, and I'm really obligated to make sure it's as up-to-date as possible for security reasons, so the default Apache install probably needs reworking. (I'm hoping not, but...) As does PHP, I expect, and SquirrelMail. Then there's the languages--perl and python mainly, though possibly ruby as well. I don't care what version of the damn things that debian installed, I expect its out of date and needs a new version, but those aren't things that can be reasonably tossed and redone, so it means secondary installs, which is always such a joy. Who knows what version of BIND, FTP daemon, or IMAP daemon is installed.

But hey... with a little luck and a week or so, things should be up and running. It'll be nice to have a working SSHv2 setup, and SSL/TLS support for SMTP/IMAP/POP/HTTP without needing tunnels. This new beast is much faster than the old one, so it ought to be able to weather the onslaught of the next wave of viruses, which'll be nice, and its got something like four times the disk space of the old server, so there'll be room again on the house fileserver partitions. One of the drives in the current server'll get moved over to glastig once the changeover's done, so there'll be ~15G more on the Parrot OS X box. (And there should be an actual working tunnel from the outside world to that box for folks with accounts on it)

Makes me wonder if setting up the WinXP box will be as easy. At least it's going to be a clean install...

Posted by Dan at 08:24 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

I hate hardware!

Hate it. Hate, hate, hate. Bleah. Sucks almost as much as software does.

Because of the sobig thing, and the inevitable next wave, which I don't think my server will survive, I'm building a new server. Spiffy keen, with as much power as I can get for ~$300. (Which turns out to be a surprising amount) On Ask's indirect recommendation, I ordered the bits from So far, so good.

The stuff came in three cartons, over two days. FedEx, of course, felt that leaving the boxes in my apartment's stairwell was Just Fine, annoyingly enough, but that's a separate problem. I go to put the thing together, along with the cheapest video card I could dig up locally (I knew I'd forgotten something) and...

Nothing. Power supply fan doesn't kick on, CPU fan doesn't kick on, case fan doesn't kick on, and nothing on the board shows any signs of life. A quick minute with the multimeter shows there's power coming out of the power supply, so I'm presuming either the motherboard or the CPU is fried and dead. (Given that the CPU fan doesn't kick on, I'm assuming motherboard, but I might be wrong, and I'm not willing to leave it all energized long enough to poke around contacts with the multimeter--if the board is dead, but it fries the CPU in Very Bad Ways, it's not fit for replacement)

Feh. Now I get to test NewEgg's RMA policy, after one more go at it tonight. (Maybe I'll get lucky)

I do like NewEgg well enough to order the parts for the TPF Parrot/Perl5 WinXP box. I'll be really peeved if I get the windows box up and running before the server. (And doubly peeved if sobig.g hits first)

Posted by Dan at 08:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack