Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Intel NUC

My NUC decided to die tonight. After only a few weeks. Luckily, google
helped me find the problem.

It had lost its mind/marbles. It couldnt find the root hard drive.

After fiddling in the BIOS, I found that resetting the defaults fixed
the problem.

It is 2014. Issues with BIOS date back to around about 1990 or so - that
was when one bothered to go into the BIOS and configure pointless items.
Since then, stuff works. Thanks Intel. That really is poor software
development - a 24x7 machine suddenly needing a screen to reset the BIOS

Yes, I need to update the BIOS, but go search for BIOS updates for NUC,
and be startingly confused by how many versions there are and advice
not to use the latest one.

Why is the software industry going backwards? Its not just Intel. But
every major software manufacturer is adding functionality and usability
by actively removing it.

Post created by CRiSP v11.0.33a-b6757

Monday, 4 August 2014

Keep at 'em

I keep watching the stats on requests to my rss feed. Google seems
to like me, which is encouraging, and so do some other bots/trackers.

I see the occasional nasty connection trying to break stuff, and
enjoy myself watching some of the attacks. I assume they are attacks
but there may be a reason for some of them. Eg a Japanese person
may be trying out a Unicode request, based on some indirect link
from google, for example.

It did break a record today, and if this keeps up, I can start
figuring out how to really handle high load. At the moment,
the load is low, and even although the feed is written for speed of
development, and not optimal cpu usage - its a great exercise for
some future optimisations to really decide how to sustain higher

I ought to give it a real name, since the P and Q pages are not
really indicative of what the service is.

Definitely an interesting experiment.

BTW I have used 250MB of mobile bandwidth in 3-4 months (to my phone).
I cannot believe how low my bandwidth is, now that all adverts and
other HTML window dressing is removed from the equation.

Who needs 4G? This works at 9600 baud really well :-)


Post created by CRiSP v11.0.33a-b6757

Monday, 21 July 2014

Problems with RSS

RSS Feed

Not sure what did it - maybe I ran as root, accidentally when I didnt mean
to, but nothing would update, despite changing permissions and resetting
some internal state. In the end decided just to clean it all out and
start again. If you are reading the feed, you likely wont notice much
and in a few hours, the differing RSS feeds will race ahead with their
usual updates.

Despite the simplicity of the code, theres always a surprise lurking
in the code - but then, thats the fun of the fair !

Post created by CRiSP v11.0.33a-b6757

Sunday, 20 July 2014

A real good read... (Xplain)


I do like a good read, and the above link is a nicely written way to
understand X Windows and X11 and related. I remember the first time I heard
of X, and had some consultants explain it, a long long time ago. And it
took me a while to get used to it - the day I moved from a character based
terminal to a Sun/3 workstation with an infinite set of display options,
and a whoopingly large 1600x1200 display. It took nearly 20y to be able to
afford one of these at home, and today, we finally have 1920x1080 (alas,
no more 1920x1200), 2560x1440, 3200x1800 and real 4k and 8k screens
coming, with prices dropping on a weekly basis.

Have fun

Post created by CRiSP v11.0.33a-b6757

Saturday, 12 July 2014

A sad day...A glorious day

It is a sad day. I am going to decommission the CRiSP FTP server.
This is a macmini - PPC vintage (400MHz) I think. It has performed
absolutely admirably. 9y of service - the oldest file seems to
be March 2005.

At the time the PPC mac mini came out - it was a brilliant device.
It still is. It has not murmured in the last 9y, despite 24x7 operation.
A *huge* 80G hard drive, 256MB of RAM. This is a *big* machine compared
to my earliest machine. (My earliest machine - had *1K* of RAM; my
first real PC had 4MB of RAM, 20MHz i386 and 20MB of disk space). My
Galaxy Gear watch beats the pants out of all of these.

The PPC (I cally it "minny") hasnt misbehaved - but it was
murmuring a little - but I attribute this to either some DNS lookup
delays, or my news aggregator Perl script. The news aggregator
has a bug/memory leak, so after a few weeks of operation its used about
200min of CPU and a whopping 40MB of RAM. One of my weekend jobs is
to fix the memory leak.

Now the good news. Intel NUC. I keep seeing these devices, and they
are cute. Of course, one never buys a machine because it is cute, but,
err...ok, I did. The Intel NUC (go see Amazon or Intel for details) is
a device slightly taller than the old style Mac Mini, but smaller - about
the size of a CD case. I kept trying to decide what to do; previously
I had purchased a Raspberry Pi, as a replacement for minny, but I was not
happy with the Pi - too low performance, horrible dangly wires and
protusions and unreliable power supply. The NUC is good - I opted
for the outdated Intel Celeron model - the cheapest. I thought I would
use USB for hard drive or an SSD disk. But why pay for SSD. A 1TB
disk was about 50 pounds. Add 26 pounds for 4GB RAM, and we are looking
at a new machine for about 170 pounds. The machine screams.

I installed Ubuntu 14.04 - the same as my other machines, and I can now
divorce myself from the PPC vs x86 binary compatibility problems.

I never filled the 80GB drive in the mac mini and I definitely wont
fill the 1TB drive in the new machine. Of course, the new machine needs
a name - "nucky" - after Nucky Thompson, from "Boardwalk".

I am presently copying the old crisp releases on to the machine so it can
transparently take over from minny. And thats about it.

In all the years of minny - bots have been continuously attempting
automated dictionary attacks to break into the machine. Maybe, because
its a PPC, that no-one ever succeeded. I like to think they wont
on nucky, but, there is nothing to steal from there. It would be
darned annoying.

This new "mini" machine is great; I might get a higher end one - an i3 or i5,
but the price differential seems obsurd. The Celeron chip is a dual
core chip - with a decent size cache. Its a great CPU for this purpose. It
might not be for intensive video (but should be sufficient for watching
videos), or gaming.

So, say hello to "nucky" the next time you grab some news from the
aggregator, or a copy of CRiSP, or a copy of dtrace, etc.

Post created by CRiSP v11.0.33a-b6757

sort -V : Thanks. That was not helpful

Was just looking at the code in CRiSP which checks whether a new
software update is available. It works by downloading an index
file with version information, and comparing the version
you are running against the master index. Very
simply mechanism.

The current latest release of CRiSP (for linux 32/64 bit systems), is
11.0.32. I am staring at the generated file, and it says "11.0.9". So,
anyone using the "Check for updates" menu in CRiSP will have no idea
that new versions are available.

But why?

Looking at the script to generate the updates - the last time I touched
this was in 2003. I know the script worked at some point in the last
few years. I rarely need to see if I am running the latest version of
CRiSP - so it would not show up as an issue.

The root of the issue lies in how the script gets an index
of all the indexed files:

get_latest ()
find . -name crisp-$1-b\*.* -print |
sed -e 's;^./;;' | sort -n | tail -1

The "find" command is getting a list of filenames - files are stored
in version directories (eg 11.0.31/). And because the build (b) number
is at the end of the filename, we want to sort all the available versions
of the files, but we want to sort numerically on the version numbers.
This means that something like:


would come out in a natural order. The "sort -n" does that in the
shell script above.

Turns out the "sort" people changed the behavior of a numeric sort
in the presence of text: they ignore the attempt to sort! So
instead of generating a list of the most recent versions of CRiSP,
we have a list of the oldest versions available instead. Not very
helpful. A quick scan of "sort"'s switches shows that I needed
to use "-V". I had never seen it before, but am glad it is there and
now generates the correct version information.

This illustrates a problem with all software, that by depending on
other tools and libraries, you will one day be silently broken
and may not realise it.

Post created by CRiSP v11.0.33a-b6754

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Musing on Android Wear

I have a Galaxy Gear 1 watch. I consider it to be a great gadget -
I became comfortable flashing the "null_" ROM on it, and the fact
that I can "adb" to talk to the device of USB is great. I dont like
Android - simply because its a bastardised Linux kernel. I somewhat
refuse to use Eclipse to create apps or edit files, when CRiSP serves
all my needs. The lack of a proper shell is a real nuisance. The
built in shell, and lack of root/su is really a two finger exercise
to the people who pay for these products. (This includes all Android
phones and tablets).

OTOH, I love the freedom of Android compared to the Apple products;
I love Samsungs multi-window mode - I just wish Apple and Google would
wake up to adding real features I want, rather than rejiggling the
Setup menus on each release, and preventing me from either deleting or
removing the built in apps. There are more and more Google apps, and
I have a hard time telling what they do and try to avoid them. (Not all
of them, but the "we know what you want - HERE YOU ARE!" is annoying;
Apple and Microsoft are no different).

But I am talking about watches. Not long after the Galaxy Gear 1
came out was the Tizen based Galaxy Gear 2 (or whatever Samsung
want to call it). A really good way to destroy customer loyalty by
confusing and diluting the market. Fortunately, you can put Tizen
on to the Gear 1 (see xda-forums - brilliant site). I dont know *why*
I would want to do that; and a few months later (i.e. now), we have
Android Wear. I feel I have walked into a department store and
am trying to choose from the 300 brands of soap!

The Galaxy Gear 1 is great - fairly robust; let down by amateurish
software and user interface (why do I get to choose from "white" or
"orange" text? What happened to the other 2^24-2 colors?)

But heres the kicker. Because it has to be charged daily, I have
to take it off at night. And, in the morning, I forget to put it on.
(I have my old watch for night time - it has a luminous dial; having a watch
blind you with a searchlight brightness everytime you move your arm, meant
it lasted about 2mins in bed). So - I am a "loyal" or eager person for
these devices.

But the silly design means I forget to take it with me. That is worse
than forgetting your phone; if you leave your phone at home, you know
it very quickly into your work day. So you just dont do it. But,
leaving the watch behind - well, sorry, but that is flawed marketing.

All because it cannot last 24h of use.

The new Android range from LG, Samsung and Motorola look great - options
at reasonable prices with high spec hardware (although varying screen
resolutions). I see many complain of the price (which is lower than
the silly extortionate price Samsung wanted when the Gear 1 originally
came out).

Oh well...

I see Apple are finally going to come out with a phone with 128GB of
storage! Yippee! I waited 5+y for that to happen, and now I can have
144GB or 160GB of flash at less than half the price Apple will charge for
their device. I think Apple missed the boat.

It is very relaxing to use Android and use a variety of mechanisms to
copy files to the devices, vs the sole use of iTunes. And even in iOS 7,
the video player looks to be written by a child - totally unusable;
totally ignoring playlists; a horrible interface for deleting videos.
Unrecognizable icons.

I fear that computing has now peaked. The new generation of software
is rapidly worse than the prior releases of software, simply because
"change is good".

Post created by CRiSP v11.0.32a-b6748