You can’t program the world to suit you

Last year, I was drafting more notes regarding the Free Software for SMB that I talked about before. While doing so I recognized that one of the biggest takeaway for myself is that successfully making a software project thrive takes a lot more than just good programmers, developers, designers. If you have customers you need people who know how to make a business work, you need people who can market your product, and you need people to remind you what the customers actually want as well as what they need.

It’s not an entirely new lesson — I wrote (in Italian) about helping Free Software without being a programmer fifteen years ago. I also wrote about the importance of teamwork two years ago. And I have spent a good chunk of my opensource and professional careers knee-deep in documentation matters.

I actually want to go back to the tweet that spawned the teamwork post:

Most things don’t work the way I think they work. That’s why I’m a programmer, so I can make them work the way I think they should work.

This is not meant to single out the author of the quoted phrase, but just to take it as an example of a feeling I get from many talks, and discussions, and in general just people out there. The idea that you can tech your way out of a problem. That by being a programmer you can change the way most things work.

And that’s not true, because the world is not running on servers, unless you found the Repository and I don’t know that. Indeed wielding “the power of programming”, thinking of changing the world just with that, sounds to me like a recipe for either failure or disaster.

I heard all kind of possible “solutions” to this — from insisting on teaching ethics in Software Engineering courses (with reasonable doubts about it), to regulating the heck out of any action businesses can take. I think the closest I have seen to something I would like (with all my biases of course) would be to make sure there is a mix of non-programming subjects in every university or high school that teaches programming as well. But even that has its own limitations, and I can totally say that I would probably have been frustrated by that and just ignored everything that’s not programming-related, when I was that age.

To make the example of Italy, that is under political turmoils most of the time, I could see a number of critiques of (in my opinion horrible) politicians based on where they went to school. In particular I saw some left-wing intellectuals criticising ministers (who have enough to be criticised about in deeds) based on the fact that they didn’t study in a lyceum but rather on a technical (or professional) school. Well, turns out I studied at a tech school, and I studied basic economics and (very basic) civic education for two years, and I found out the hard way that I know how VAT works much better than most of my local acquaintances who got an university degree after a lyceum: they never were introduced to the concept of VAT, the difference between types of taxes, and so on.

You could argue that there is no reason to know this particular tidbit, which is where I’m actually going to end up: there is no perfect education, the same way as there is no perfect solution. People need to learn to work with each other and they should know how to play each other’s strengths instead.

What I really would like to see proposed more often is focusing a lot more on teamwork. And not in the sense of “Here’s a topic for research, now work on it with your team”, which I had to do in high school — many of us have had the experience of being the only person working for a group assignment. What I would have loved to have would be cross-school year-long projects. Not competitions, but rather something that requires more than one type of expertise: trying to get three programming students in a room to work together, in my experience, turned to either two of them slacking off, because one of them actually enjoy doing the work, or if you’re lucky having someone with actual leadership skills telling them how to do their job… but still gives the impression that you just need programmers to do something like that.

In hindsight I would have loved instead if I had a project shared with some of my colleagues from electronics, mechanical and business tech-schools. Come up with a solution for a problem, that requires hardware and software, and a product plan that would include optimising the bill of material for small batch production and still make profits.

Sounds complicated? It is. Having had my own company, alone, for four years, made it very clear that there is a lot more than just being a programmer if you want to succeed. If you want to change the world, and in particular if you want to make the world a better place, then it takes even more energy, and a bigger group of people who can work together.

It also takes leadership. And that’s not something that I feel can be taught, and it’s the one that makes the most difference on whether the change is for good or not. I’m not good at leading people. I don’t have the right mindset most likely. I have trouble rallying people towards a common goal. I know that. I just hope that at some point, when I’ll be looking at more meaning in my work, I’ll find the right leader that can take what I can add to a good team, and let me shine through that.

I know it’s going to be repeating myself, but that is also what I mean with “there is no perfect solution”. If we decided that leadership is something that is important to score people, whether it is with school results, or with performance review at work, then we would be pretty much excluding a significant part of the population: not everyone wants to be a leader, are people who don’t want to be a leader worth less to society? Hint: this is not far from the question of how many multiples of a line worker a CEO should be worth.

And if you need a proper example of how “tech will not solve it”, just look at 2020 in general: tech is not really solving the Covid-19 world crisis. It does help, of course: videopresence, social network and chat services (including my employer’s), online “tabletop” games, shared documents infrastructure, online shopping, and so on… they all allowed people, isolating or not, to feel closer together. But it did not solve the problem. Even if we including medical sciences as “tech”, they still have not managed to find a way to deal with the crisis, because the crisis is not just medical.

People don’t ignore the lockdown requirements because they don’t have enough tech: it’s because there are other things in this world! It’s one thing to talk to my mother on the big screen of Portal, and another thing to spend a week at her house — including the fact that I can’t fix her house’s wiring while physically in another country. And then there is the big elephant in the room: the economy — tech can’t solve that problem, people working in industries that had to shut down because of the lockdown can’t just be “teched” into new roles; they can’t magically be vaccinated overnight; they need political leaders to make tough decisions around supporting them.

So no, you can’t program the world to suit your needs. Great for you if you have more tools in your toolbox – and there’s a lot more use for even basic programming literacy that has nothing to do with working as a programmer – but that doesn’t make you super-human, nor it allows you to ignore what’s going on in the world. If “being a programmer” is providing a superiority complex, I feel it’s more related to the fact that we’ve been well paid for a number of years now, and money makes the difference.

But that’s a topic for an entirely new rant, later on.

Like a vampire

I have problems with Sun, just a different kind of problem and a different kind of Sun. And I don’t mean I have a problem with the company, Sun Microsystems but rather with some of their products.

The first problem is that, as an upstream they aren’t pleasing to work with. For instance, they changed without notice the file containing the tarball of StudioExpress, just to add some checksumming functionality to make sure the file was properly downloaded before starting. They had the decency of adding a -v2 note on the filename, but it still doesn’t help that they don’t show any changelog for that change, or announce it. I guess somebody resumed looking at security bugs for this to happen since the thing happened almost at the same time as their bug tracker started spamming me many times a day with a notice that some of the bugs I reported has changed details.

The second problem is less of today and more a continuation if a long saga that is actually quite boring. I’ve tried again to get OpenSolaris to work on VirtualBox, but with the new networking support (the vboxnetflt module), the network is tremendously slow, and both NFS and SSH over it as as slot as using them on a 56k modem connection. The main problem being that from time to time the ssh stream freezes entirely, making it quite infeasible to run builds with. Since Solaris, VirtualBox and networking has never been quite that good, and the thing hasn’t improved much now that VirtualBox is developed directly by Sun.

So I decided to use the recently resurrected Enterprise to install OpenSolaris on a real box; the idea was to use the dismissed working disks from Yamato to install not only OpenSolaris but also FreeBSD, NetBSD, DragonFly and other operating systems so I could make sure that the software I work on is actually portable. Unfortunately since I moved to pure SATA (for hard disks at least) a longish time ago, it seems like it’s not that easy: OpenSolaris failed to see any of my disks.

Okay so today I finally took the time to look up an EIDE disk and set it up, I start the OpenSolaris live CD and ask for install. And again it fails to find the hard disks; I would have thought it would be a problem with the motherboard, if it wasn’t that using SysRescueCD I get everything exactly as it should be. Which is more than I can say of my MacBook Pro, whose logic board seems to be bad, and can’t find its own hard drive any longer. I’m waiting to know how much money would it cost me to repair it and then I’ll take it to be repaired (unless it is way too much). This has been unlucky since I had to buy a new laptop for my mother just last week (the iBook I’ve bought six years ago has a bad hard drive now).

So I still don’t have a working setup where to try OpenSolaris stuff, this is quite not nice since I really would like to have my stuff portable to OpenSolaris as well as Linux. Oh well.

Yamato on its way

Today I ordered the new box, that, as I said, is called Yamato. I’ll get on the reason for this particular name in a little :)

I got the money available with a short term loan; thanks to everybody who has (and might) chip in, in order (up to now) Raimund, Anton, Federico, William, Jürgen, Jim and Marcel, if I didn’t have at least some availability it wouldn’t have been possible for me to place the order.

So, what are the specs of the famous “expensive” computer? (at least for US standards) Two Opteron 2350 (Barcelona), Tyan Thunder n3600B motherboard, 16 GB of registered RAM, cheap-o-graphics X1550 video card (there is an embedded XGI but afaict it does not support dual DVI which is a requirement for me — the only one basically), a chassis, the cheapest black DVD burner, and a decent Active PFC PSU.

My original plan included a 3Ware hardware RAID card and 3x500GB Seagate HDs, which costed around €700 by themselves. But then, I can consider that in the future. As for why not using software RAID, well, I’ve been told to not rely on that at all. Actually, the motherboard I have should support “firwmare-based” RAID5, but even that. Who knows, at any rate I can consider the rest in the future, when I got a job to pay for that, rather than having to ask.

New disks or not, the idea for Yamato was for me to use the system installed in Enterprise as a basis, and going on with that, that’s why the name. The USS Yamato was, in Star Trek TNG, the twin sister starship of the flagship USS Enterprise, Galaxy class. The new box would have had a system cloned from Enterprise; in this case it will have the same system as I’ll be using the same disks.

The only thing will have to reconfigure the kernel from scratch as the only thing to remain the same will be the architecture (but the one I have now is just an UP kernel), the network card that is still Marvell, and the two cards that I’ll be importing from Enterprise (WiFi and Sound), and of course changing all the references to “enterprise”.

I hope my wire transfer will be received by Friday (SEPA transfer), so that the order can be shipped on Monday. I didn’t get the express shipment, as it would have costed €100 more alone, and I’m relying on standard UPS taking from three to four days usually. If I’m lucky, by the 22nd I’ll have the package here, and in the night Yamato should be up. It would be perfect because I’ll probably be in the hospital starting the 25th, and if Yamato is already up and running, I can coordinate its work from there too.

But my development work is not entirely stopped, so more posts will follow about topics I hinted at in the past weeks.

What did Enterprise do?

Now that enterprise died (or at least is pretty much sick), I am pointing toward a high-end system. I can understand it is difficult to accept that I don’t just get the cheapest box I can find at the local store, and be done with it.

Why is this? Well the first problem is that in Italy, prices are something very strange. It’s not unexpected for me to find components at half the price, or less, when looking them up in other European shops. In particular, in the local shops a good enough PSU rated 450W like the one I had before would cost me €140. Consider I paid mine €100 two years ago. I could get it from Germany paying less for it, included shipping, that I would get it from Italy, but, I’m not sure it’s the PSU itself, I don’t count on it. Why? Because there is a burning plastic smell when Enterprise is on, and it does not come from the PSU.

So rather than getting a new PSU, waiting to see if it’s the motherboard, or the CPU, or the memory, and then get one of those at a time, paying multiple time the shipment, I’m keen on replacing the box entirely. I was actually already planning on the update, the problem here is the timing: if it wasn’t happening while my health is in this status, I would have had enough availability to just replace Enterprise straight away.

But why am I spending €1300 on a system rather than spending, say, $600 to get the cheapest Intel quadcore available? First is, I don’t think I can get much for such a price, US prices are quite lower, even considering taxes, than the prices in Italy. I checked out newegg before, and the prices were almost half the prices on European shops, so it means a quarter of the prices of Italian suppliers. Unfortunately they don’t ship overseas. Of course I could just get it sent to me through some loophole, but again: getting it through customs would cost me between 40-50% of the nominal price shipment costs included, and it’d be impossible to get warranty out of it. And it’s not very good for most consumer-grade hardware, not having warranty.

On the other hand, a cheap Intel quadcore with a decent amount of memory could work well as a workstaiton, the problem is that Enterprise has never been your usual workstation.

Enterprise not only worked as my workstation, and used to be my media center, but most of all, it’s a development box. I’m not just rebuilding projects I work on, but I’m rebuilding many times the whole of portage. When I updated first to GCC 4.3, the first thing I did was rebuilding world; when glibc 2.8 was released, I rebuilt world; when a new autoconf or automake version is released, I rebuild world. Why? Because I can usually fix or at least give a good indication how to fix those problems.

The faster these rebuild are, the faster I can fix the problem, the faster they enter portage, usually. But it’s not just that.

For instance, Enterprise had a massively more aggressive --as-needed support: I force it through GCC specs. The result is that it stressed out linking, working around libtool brokenness and similar issues.

But this could warrant a multicore system, why going high end? Well, together with the standard system in /, Enterprise had a series of chroots, one handles the updates for the vserver where my blog is (but also xine’s Bugzilla, which is something useful for F/OSS, not just me), others handle corner-cases tests. Those are the ones building for instance a system with OpenPAM instead of Linux-PAM to see which parts of portage can work with it. Or testing cowstats with PIE enabled, to find programs that relay on the fact that they don’t need data relocations outside shared libraries.

It’s kinda like a tinderbox but it isn’t a tinderbox. It was a system that was almost never idling.

And, one thing I haven’t done, or improved in a few months, to be honest, is working on the linking collisions detection. The reason why I stopped doing that is that even using postgresql it takes a long time. And it wasn’t specifically testing for possibly embedded libraries yet.

While I do like devoting my time to Free Software development, a faster box means I can make better use of my time, which, considering my health problems, is probably a good thing (doing the same stuff in less time means I have more time to spend on other things, like going in and out of hospitals, or relaxing if I don’t feel good enough). Maybe I’m selfish but I’d rather spend money on a fast system with users’ help, than spending little money on a cheap system, and being forced to work less on Free Software so that I can handle hospitals and relax time.

So, thanks to all the users helping me with this, I’m doing my best to try securing the money for ordering the box ASAP so I can let it resume its tasks while I’m in the hospital too. And as soon as my health stops the downslide, I’ll be working on Free Software again.

Enterprise down…

So today I woke up to find a nasty surprise. At almost an exact year since my first hospitalisation (the year will be this night), Enterprise died.

I think it might just be the PSU giving up, as it does not turn on even the led light on the mainboard, but at this point, I’d say “who knows?”. My mother seen a “flash of light”, heard a BIIP from the UPS, and the computer turned off. I cannot turn it back on.

The UPS did likely cut the whole power as the external HD also was turned off when I woke up, but the HD itself is fine. the UPS is also charged, so that’s not it.

It’s the worst timing ever for my computer to break down. Not only I have my SSH key for the vserver on it (I can get it out probably, but that’s beside the point), but I also cannot do my job without that. Okay, it was planned already that I wouldn’t be working until after surgery, but it’s a bit of a problem if I cannot replace Enterprise in the mean time.

I was already planning on a replacement (which will obviously be called Yamato), and I have a components list I can look at right now, from Alternate (K&M does not carry Opterons, nor I can find those in Italy). The problem is that it’s around €2K.

So if anybody is willing to help me gathering the money, I’d be certainly happy, as I won’t be able to do work until middle of september, if not even later, and without Enterprise, I cannot do any kind of F/LOSS work, that means no Gentoo, no xine, no optimisation of smaller projects. If I can get the money, I’d be doing even more work on that as it will take very little time to run the build on Yamato.

Sorry for the request, but this really looks to me like an emergency, as it happened at the very worst time :/

Update: cutting out the hardware RAID 5 support I can get the price down to €1300 which is much more feasible.

So I’m back

And tonight, by doing my first three commits since I came home from the hospital, I officially came back.

Let’s try to summary what this re-installation was like: a hell! Beside a few packages not building, changes in kernels 2.6.22 and later broke lirc for me, as lirc_gpio won’t build anymore, and my TV card is not supported by the bttv IR driver, plus I have no clue how to add support for it for now.

I still miss alsa-plugins (fails to build, speex related), dvd+rw-tools (fails to build, linux-headers related), mpeg4ip (fails to build, gcc 4.2 incompatibility), htdig (fails to build, ICE in GCC 4.2.2), plus all the xine-based software packages because, well, I haven’t rebuilt xine yet (I build it manually).

Thanks to the availability of all the data (/var) and configuration (/etc) from the previous install, I don’t have to waste hours to set-up everything again, although I’ve decided to change a few things, plus I still need to copy the old data (storage, video, audio) from the old disks, I just don’t like having to create a 250GB partition for video – don’t ask – so I think I’ll wait till I can afford myself the DVDs for Boston Legal first and second seasons :)

On the other hand, I did my own screwups during the build: the previous configuration had xf86-video-ati unmasked and xf86-input-event using a live git ebuild (the last release at the time didn’t work for me). This created me some trouble with Xorg: the 6.8 pre-release of the radeon driver only supports xrandr 1.2 and drops support for MergedFB, but with my card (a 9250SE), it doesn’t seem to work that well: I end up seeing half the screen that should be on the second monitor on the first one; I reverted to 6.7 release candidates and that worked fine; I hope they’ll fix it before 6.8 is released, but I don’t count on it, considering that my card has quite some troubles in general (EXA not working, Xv not working well with MergedFB, the cursor disappear when coming near the splitting of the monitors, …) that have been reported with as much detail as feasible, and are still wandering in blackness. The event driver instead made my Xorg crash every time I clicked the right mouse button; luckily downgrading to last release fixed the issue, and the release is new enough to work for me it seems.

Anyway, I’m quite happy with the bumps done tonight: PAM integrated some patches from Debian for Hurd, nothing we really needed, but at least they make Linux-PAM more friendly for non-Linux OSes, and that means that one day I’ll be able to keyword it ~x86-fbsd; they also finally applied the fix for LDFLAGS/LDADD/LIBADD that I reported repeatedly, and that made me waste hours and hours to patch every other release: one less download for users, one less patch to maintain for me. I’m not happy with Qsynth new release, migrated to Qt4, as the author doesn’t seem to know autoconf that well, and he tries to lookup Qt4 by link-test when he should be using pkg-config, requiring me to append flags to get gcc and ld to look for the includes and the libraries for Qt4. I’ll probably write a proper patch tomorrow and send it upstream for next release, together with a note that the desktop file he’s shipping is not completely broken standing by the standard from FreeDesktop.

If you’re a jack-rack user and found it failing with the recent GTK+ update, 1.4.6 is also in tree with a patch to fix building, re-enabling deprecated features. Of course I’m quite sure that GTK+ 2.14 or 2.16 will break jack-rack again, so I hope the author will port it to the new API soon.

Okay, tomorrow’s plan: upgrade to baselayout 2 and make sure that everything still works :P

Ah I forgot, I also asked, as I was there, to finally mark stable the latest qjackctl (already Qt4), a newer Qsynth (not the Qt4 version yet), and of course the long-awaited PAM 0.99 stable request.

Status report on Enterprise and my wiring trouble

Okay, first of all, I have to say that my health is getting better, I started eating a bit more, and my fever is almost gone, with the flu. I started doing more “stuff”, which also means a bit more exercise, and this is activating my body way more than any medicine could. I still have my medicines to take, but the routine is taking care of that, and my INR value seems to be stable by taking half a dose of Coumadin (Warfarin) a day.

For what concerns Enterprise’s disks, I was able to go picking them up this morning, they are now installed on the VIA controller on Enterprise; the first one already passed SeaTools test, and the second one is under exam now (I always test new disks with at least something, to make sure they are not broken to begin with). Then I’ll have to choose how to install Gentoo… Sorry Andrew, but I won’t use GLI ;) I’m old school and I want to proceed with the stage. I don’t even want to download a new ISO, so I’ll probably just use 2006.1 minimal disk to proceed, if it has SSH that is.

I won’t be able to be at Enterprise’s console for long periods of time because my office will remain storage area probably for a long time still, but at least since next Tuesday, when I’ll have my room back, I think I can free some space up to allow me testing on console what needs to be tested in console.

My wiring trouble is, instead, virtually finished! Got some trouble with the fishhook today to pass the satellite cable for the aerial of my room, but thanks to the neighbour it’s settled now, I haven’t connected it to the splitter yet, but I can do that when I have more time.

The last of the wall sockets was mounted today, and now I have five fantastic outlets with blue metal frames… I love them. Thanks Vimar for such beautiful electric pieces, not like what I see in most American movies.

So okay, now I’m tired, very very tired, so I’ll just lay down and wait to have a shower before eating and sleeping.

Restructuring my room

It might not be clear, but even though I’m at home, I’m still limited to work from the MacBookPro, without Enterprise and without any test system. Why this? Well, there is still the problem of the hard drives, and then there are more problems.

The hard drive problem can be resolved quite easily, now that is basically October, the disks are available at my usual store, and I can just order two 320 GB disks for € 164 (and thanks to the people who donated, this isn’t a task as heavy as it would have been before).

The rest of problems are due to my sisters wanting to restructure my room. While I was in the ICU, I was tormented by the special mattress they use to avoid sores, and I asked them to buy me a new bed before I came home. Instead, they decided to buy me new furniture for the whole room; and paint it. At this point, I also wanted to change all the electrical plugs as the ones that are up now are… old and rusty, literally sometimes.

So in this moment my room is empty, totally empty; it was painted, and I’ll have to change the plugs this week, and on October 9th the new furniture will arrive, but before that… my stuff is sparse around the house and I’m sleeping (and living) in my mother’s room, on her bed, while she is on a temporary bed brought by a friend of her.

Even my office is full of stuff in cardboard boxes, which makes difficult to take Enterprise to put the new disks in it, and it’s even more difficult to give me a terminal, as the chair is full of stuff too, and there is no space for me to sit.

Anyway, this means that about after October 10th I should start coming back on track…

LiveCDs and ZeroConf

The big problem with hardware failing because of the temperature is that during August, buying stuff in Italy is a real mess. The Italian Postal Service, never renown for its punctuality, is basically useless, packages arrives weeks later than scheduled, and postcards sometimes don’t arrive at all, so I will certainly not leave my new computer in their hands. My usual local shops (where I would just buy the hard disks, so that they don’t have travel all the way down from Germany) are mostly closed, and their main storage facilities are not supplied.

Basically, I’ll just wait September as I’m used to (it’s not the first time I have to change a box which died during the summer). Oh and yeah, I’m thinking of replacing Enterprise entirely. Why this? Well I was already planning to do so when I’ll receive the money for the last jobs I’ve done, and this is just moving me forward on that line of thinking. If I buy a new box I can easily get the faulty disk RMA’d, and then use Enterprise as Gentoo/FreeBSD testbox in Prakesh stead (Prakesh is not mine, it was lent to me, so I’ll feel better when I’ll give it back to its owner). In addition to this, if I get a VT-X capable machine I can start making better use of the hardware by mean of virtual machines, for NetBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris (for xine-lib) and vanilla FreeBSD (to compare con Gentoo/FreeBSD).

Although of course I’ll put my remaining money into this as I am choosing to buy something bigger than I’d just suffice (replacement disks for Enterprise), help with this is obviously welcome, as I’m currently again unemployed for now.

Anyway In the mean time I decided to at least put back Enterprise as data storage as I have a lot of Anime to watch downloaded on its disks (hopefully the good one). To do this I simply downloaded a Knoppix DVD and burnt it on a DVD-RW media. The last time I used a graphical LiveCD for more than two minutes was a few years ago, mostly at school where we got no box with Linux installed; the situation for the time was quite on par with an installed distribution, and I hoped Knoppix was still keeping up with that. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like it did.

The first thing that dropped me off was that instead of using the extension mode of Xinerama, it uses clone mode.. okay not a big deal, i don’t have to be productive on it, I just need to move stuff around, and maybe download something new. Okay not a problem. Then I looked for KWalletManager to try remembering my own passwords.. no avail, the package seems missing on Knoppix entirely. But there is Java, there are Mono development packages, and a ton of other stuff too. I don’t need them but they are there and that might be good to someone else.

But what impressed me quite badly is the fact that there is not a single ZeroConf implementation as far as I can see. Albeit you can think that ZeroConf is useless for an home network with a fixed number of boxes that you configure yourself, a LiveCD is usually used without saved configuration, and that is a tremendously good use case for ZeroConf!

On Enterprise I simply named AppleTV.local the IP address of the AppleTV on /etc/hosts, but even if I did so on Knoppix, it wouldn’t work, as the configuration files are reset at the restart; having Avahi configured would have made it possible to just ask for “AppleTV.local” and find the correct IP. Thinking about the school use case, printers, file servers, and in general services can be set up to be discovered through mdns, then you can just start from the LiveCD and you’re set. In a computer science high school like the one I attended, the performances of a LiveCD/LiveDVD distribution are quite acceptable; once you got an editor and a compiler, both present on Knoppix, you’re basically set; leaving stateless the installed harddisk is an advantage rather than a bad thing, as students are supposed to print or save on a common file server their programs to avoid losing them if they change box, or to avoid them from leaking. In these cases, it’s quite simple to transform a Windows laboratory in a Linux one by just adding a server and using multiple copies of LiveDVDs, without having to repartition or so. ZeroConf would make it quite more comfortable!

Another use case of LiveCDs/LiveDVDs is to run it on a box in a network that you don’t know, when for instance having to use someone else’s computer and you don’t want to use the installed Windows system (because most likely if you got on someone else’s box you end up having Windows installed).In this case too, having ZeroConf would be a nice way to discover eventual services present on the local network.

To sum it up, why doesn’t Knoppix come with a pre-configured ZeroConf stack?

Enterprise KO

Tonight, during an emerge -e system (to complete a GCC 4.2 transition), Enterprise’s hard disk started failing on me. /usr got unmounted while merging xcb-util back into the live fs, and quite some fiddling didn’t bring anything useful.

After running xfs_repair from SystemRescueCD, I ended up without /usr/lib64. The files are there, in lost+found, but the directory hierarchy is long gone.

This means that Enterprise, my main box, is now offline. Luckily /home is safe under a software RAID1 that should cover even if one of the disks decide to give up. And in /home I keep basically everything but part of the PAM documentation (which anyway is in /var so it’s also fine from tonight’s failure).

Thanks to Javier (Paya) I now have a plan to restore the data tomorrow: I’ll check for the MD5 of the files in the Portage database, and then put every file where it belongs. The problem for this is that I first have to make sure that the disks aren’t dead on hardware-level, and I’m not sure how to do that.

Suggestion about that are welcome.

And as Joshua said.. what is this with my luck? Farragut’s disk died last week, this week it’s Enterprise’s, even if I run them with a LOT of fans to keep them cool. I suppose I should start NOT working during summer, and keep the computers offline.

Anyway bottomline is that you can’t expect stuff coming from me until I can do a surface check of the two disks and recover my data. And if one of the disks is faulty, I’m afraid you’ll have quite some time to wait till I get back — for a series of reason, I don’t want to run my main box counting on just one disk (and tonight has been a good demonstration of that). And for what it’s worth, I’m in a pinch even with Farragut, as I now don’t have a way to back up the content on another box.

This is what I hate of computers: maintenance costs.