Health status report

For hose who’re still worried after my latest health post I have good news finally. In the past three weeks my blood sugar levels kept between 62 and 118 mg/dL which is definitely not bad. This is, though, while I’m taking both metformin and glibenclamide pills (400+2.5g each meal). I also increased my usual exercise, thanks to Nintendo’s Wii Fit (the best way to stop a geek from being sedentary: give him a chart to follow!).

My eyesight is, though, still fluctuating, although the €65 glasses I bought are definitely useful hen reading, especially stuff written quite small, I’m now using fewer days than I expected them to be used. They are also only for near sight obviously, so I can only use them to read or write, but that’s also fine. After all, they are temporarily and I paid them quite less than the ones I used before, even though the lenses are quite huge.

All in all, I cannot really complain at how things are going, if not for the fact that I’m really sleeping too little, between one thing and another; last night (at the time I’m writing) I was up till 5am to fix my radeon’s driver installation (and I just now remembered that I haven’t opened two bugs for it yet!), and the night before I was up till 3am to prepare charts for some Gentoo-related analysis.

This is mostly why I start to have a short fuse with people who attack me for the work I’m doing. I’m not expecting all the users to be thankful, and I know a lot will always complain about something, see the whole XMMS crap-spreading, but really it gets old after a while, given I’m not paid to do what I do already.


I’m writing this entry while I’m waiting for my pasta to get ready, in the lunch break I’m having between finishing some job task. For a series of reasons I’m going slowly at it because life in the past few days have been difficult. Adding to my problem with sleep, my neighbours resumed waking me up “early” in the morning (early by my standards, that is). Yes I know that for most people, 11am is not “early”, but given that I always tended to work during the night (easier not to be disturbed by family, friends, Windows users, …), and that they know that (not adding the fact that my father works shifts so he also works nights quite often), I wouldn’t expect such amount of noise.

With “such amount of noise” I mean that I get woken up, while sleeping with my iPod playing podcasts, the headphones in, with my room’s door closed. And no I don’t have light sleep, once I get to to sleep, unless I know I have to wake up (either to receive a parcel, to go to work remotely, or whatever). This weekend I ended up sleeping just shy of six hours per night, which is not good for my health either. I have now ordered a pair of noise-isolating in-ear phones, they should arrive tomorrow via UPS, they at least tend to be quite on time. On the other hand the Italian postal service, that should deliver me three Amazon packages, takes the usual eternity.

For what most of my readers are concerned, I still have my tinderbox running, after a few tweaks. First of all, Zac provided me a new revision of the script that generates the list of packages that need to be upgraded (or installed) in the system, which takes good care of USE dependencies so that when they are expressed I can see them before the system tries to merge them in. Then I’m wondering about the order of merge. Since I noticed that more than a couple of time I had to suspend the tinderbox run in the midst of it, the lower-end of the list of packages tended to not be merged as often as the upper-end (where quite a few packages I know still fail to merge). This time I executed the tinderbox from the bottom up (more useful since the sys-* packages are lower), but I’m considering next time to just sort the list randomly before feeding it to the merge command so that there are better chances for all the packages to be built in a couple of iterations.

Speaking about tinderbox and packages, I noticed that there are lots of packages that waste time without good reason, doing useless processing. This includes, for instance, compressing the man pages before Portage does so. While one can understand that upstream would like to provide the complete features to the users, it’s also usually a task that distributions do pick up, and would make sense to provide an option “I’m a packager” to not execute them.

Now, you could argue that those are very small tasks, and even for packages installing ten or twenty man pages it doesn’t feel like too much time wasted. But please think of two things first of all: the compression often enough is done with a for loop in sh rather than with multiple Make rules (which would be ran in parallel), serialising the build, and taking more time on multi-core systems. Secondarily, the man pages will have to be decompressed and compressed again by Portage, so it’s about three time the work strictly needed.

Another problem is with packages that, not knowing where to find an interpreter, be it Perl, Ruby, Python or whatever else, check for it in configure or with other methods and then replace it in all their scripts. And once again quite often using for in sh rather than Make rules. Instead of doing that they should just use /usr/bin/env $interpreter to let the system find the right one, and not hardcode it in the files at all (unless you need a specific version, but that’s another point altogether).

Well, I’ve eaten my pasta now (bigoli with pesto, for those interested), so I’ll get a coffee and be back to work. I’ll try to write a more useful blog later on today after I’m done with work. I have lots of things to write about, included something about XBMC (from an user standpoint, I don’t have time to approach it with the packager’s eye).

Buying sleep (by the minute)

One of the worst thing that can happen in somebody’s life is when your dreams are scaring you out of your own sleep. As it turns out I’m in one of those situations. A nice period of my life ended just before Christmas, and now I’m in a bit of a pinch, with a late job, and no future (stable) job in view. I’m also out of luck with publishers since the last article I submitted to LWN was not even worth a reply, it seems.

I should be at least well happy about my health, one would expect, given that I am feeling better after the surgery and I just need to visit the hospital for some check-ups now. But even that is out of schedule, since I was supposed to be in for January, and it’s middle February now. The professor I had to reach is unreachable, so I had to pass through another doctor in the staff (whom I’m very grateful to for my previous staying too!).

But as it is said in Italy “one Pope dead, a new one is made”; I admit I’m not sure what the English equivalent would be but I’d expect it to refer to kings.

I’m currently feeling in quite a bluish mood but it’s going to be just fine as soon as I get some good nights’ sleep; relaxed sleep. The problem as I said is that my own dreams, or rather the content and the characters of the dreams I’m having lately, chase me out of bed. Even though I cannot remember the dreams by themselves, the general mood follows me when I wake up and, even though they should be pleasant dreams, they upset me very much.

Luckily I learnt to fight dreams, and nightmares, since I went to the hospital. My way of keeping them away from my mind is to listen to something that turns my attention to something much different just before sleeping. Podcasts have helped a lot about that, but sometimes I need more, longer content I haven’t listened to before. This is especially true when, like right now, Bill Maher is not on HBO so I cannot listen to new Real Time’s podcast episodes. For these times I corrupt a bit of my soul and buy audiobooks from the iTunes Store, yes with the freedom-hungry DRM on.

I was thus quite pleased when an anonymous sent me The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy CDs from BBC Radio (and I have to say I envy British people for BBC Radio 4, News Quiz is one of my favourite shows). Even though it also sprouted for me a technical problem: how to convert the CDs in a format that makes use of 100% iPod’s features using just Free Software? I’m afraid I’m unable to answer that question just yet but I hope to be able to soon. Also thanks to the (for now unknown since it hasn’t arrived yet) person who sent me “I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue” CDs. I’m not sure what it is but I find the British humour refreshing. Yes I know this is neither normal nor sane …

The problem is that, the way this is going I’m unable to rest, even when I sleep, and thus I cannot work for more than a few hours on Free Software without my head starting to ache. And it’s difficult to sleep in the first place. While I would like to try cutting down on coffee, it turns out that I’m quite addicted to caffeine to the point that twice already in the past three weeks, when I tried to stay a day without getting one I would get a migraine so powerful I would be unable to crawl out of bed.

Anyway so that you know, even if I haven’t blogged about it in a while, nor I have opened new bugs, the tinderbox (or tinderflame to make it distinct from Patrick’s) is still working and crunching data. The new disks do help, since there was one (I’m afraid I know which one, I’ll write about it specifically in the future) that would make the system go stuck on pdflush, which as you might guess is not the nicest of the things. Now it seems to be working better.

Anyway, if you wish I made a special list to see if I can solve my sleep deprivation (although I’m waiting already a few things I ordered myself, so I should be set for a while), but even more importantly, there are two thing I’m going to ask users and developers reading me alike.

If you’re an user, try to raise concern with upstream projects about problems like proper --as-needed usage, parallel build and similar, I know my blog isn’t exactly the nicest place to look up information from but it should have enough to go around with issues like that. Any upstream package that fixes parallel make, --as-needed or autotools by itself is one less package I’ll have to look at when I decide to push forward my agenda of having proper packages around.

If instead you’re a developer, please help me by at least reviewing what I write, correcting me if needed, and especially submitting patches to my projects if you see they are wrong or incomplete. Having people collaborate on my projects is one thing I always miss.

Pills and schedules

Before my last visit to the hospital I had a schedule that, for most people, would have seen totally bogus and uncommon, but it’s probably not so uncommon in the geek community (to the point that XKCD talked about it).

Even though some of my relatives thought that it meant I slept for the biggest part of the day (which I didn’t, I woke up at 14 almost every other day, but I was going to sleep at 7am..), it wasn’t a bad schedule for me; I’m most productive when it’s not hot and humid outside, and during the day here it’s both.

Of course in the hospital I wasn’t able to keep such a schedule as you’re forced the hospital’s, but that’s the least. And I wanted to keep a more local schedule at home too, just for the sake of not having to switch schedule again when surgery-time arrived.

But there’s a difference between trying to keep a local schedule and being forced one. Right now, I have to take four pills in a day: one of Deursil 300 during breakfast, one of Lansox 30 at mid morning, and again Deursil, this time 450, once during lunch and once during dinner. This means that I cannot skip breakfast, and I cannot have a breakfast too near the lunch.

The past couple of days, when I write, I woke up at 11, and it was a true mess as I’d have to eat late, and skip a mid-afternoon snack. Very bad for my health.

So instead, I’ve now to force myself on a very local schedule, waking up at 8am and going to sleep as early as possible. Which is a problem as eve though I do listen to podcasts before going to sleep, two of my favourite ones won’t be available until September (Real time with Bill Maher – which I hope will be available again for Europeans too once the new season begins – and Friday Night Comedy), plus it doesn’t help because I’d tend to just listen to podcasts for hours rather than sleep.

One thing that lets me sleep at any hour is the sound of rain on my rooftop. Unfortunately finding recordings of that isn’t simple, I have seen something on the iTunes store (no-DRM, which makes it not evil), but the price is a bit high (€10) for the task. Now I just tried requesting Magnatune’s Relaxing compilation and I’ll see if I find some author that might help me sleeping, in there.

I wish I could go back to my own schedule :(

Relax and sleeping problems

As I said yesterday, I’ve started having sleeping problems again. If you remember my earlier blog posts, it has been something of a problem before, mostly because I do tend to think a lot about things, probably overthink most of the time, in the dark before sleeping. This is quite a problem because I also tend to have bad feelings whenever I do something that, while totally justified, might make upset some friend of mine, like I did in the past days.

One thing that I start to have clear now is that caffeine is just one part of the issue, it makes my head work again as it did before I stopped drinking coke, which is something that after the hospital I missed a lot. But then it’s my mind that keeps me away because of the things it thinks of: stuff I have to do for work, what I want to do with my life, and so on.

So the only thing I can do to start sleeping decently is to find a way to relax so that I’ll stop thinking about these things when there is no need for me to. I should also stop caring this much for quite a few things I can’t do anything about, like politics and environment. Sure I won’t start ignoring the related issues, but I’ll have to let it go so that I won’t start not sleeping because of those things. Not like that happens a lot but it’s a good example of stuff I care way too much for my health not to get a hit.

I already got a decent way to relax, the PlayStation 3. The only problem is that I’ve been waiting in the last three weeks for the new games I ordered from Amazon to arrive. They arrived Friday, but then there has been a few happening with a friend of mine that upset me to the point that caused my sleep deprivation yesterday.

I suppose I should really convince myself to play more when I have nothing better to do, rather than writing tools to analyse ELF files (which by the way tend to be useful only for xine-lib and little else) and run it over all the free software I contribute to in some way.

Talking about PlayStation 3, I think we should create a group of developers playing, and get one good networked game to play ;) Myself I just need to find a decent small table to put in my room and I’ll be trying keyboard and mouse to see if I can play UT3 on it… waiting for C&C RA2.

Get me another cup of coffee, will ya?

In ten days it will be nine months since my hospitalisation. It’s 34 of an year. It also will mean nine months since my last sip of coke.

I’m sure most people would think that the last sip of coke shouldn’t be such a critical issue, but anybody who has the experience of drinking more than a litre of coke a day for more than ten years probably knows how hard it is to actually give up on coke. It’s a real addictive, actually two of them: sugar and caffeine. Both alone can be addictive, together, it’s a tremendous combination.

Even though I give up coke, I recently picked up a new habit. After my visit to the ER for a migraine earlier this year, I’ve bought an Espresso machine, and I’m now drinking at least two cups of coffee a day. Very strong and thus very good coffee; some milk, no sugar. I could get black coffee but I like caffelatte better (it’s the Italian for “coffee and milk”, now you should be able to tell why you call it “latte”).

It’s interesting to note that, while typical Italian coffee is brewed in a moka, at least at home, I prefer the Espresso, not only for its taste, but also because it takes very little effort. Using the moka requires to wash it, fill it, put the coffee in, put it on the stove, and then wait till it’s ready. Most of the times when I needed a coffee on the moka – that is while my Espresso machine was away being repaired – I asked my mother, who’s always in the kitchen or at least downstairs. With the machine, I can just walk downstairs, put some powder on the filter, and then push one button.

This reminds me tremendously of Jim Qwilleran in The Cat Who series, whose only “advanced” device is an automatic coffee brewer. Although I doubt it’s the kind of machine I’d use. I admit I don’t remember the details but I suppose it would be one of the obnoxious American drip machines… that doesn’t even taste like coffee. And yes I tried it.

I’m no scientist, but I can tell you, caffeine is addictive for sure, I stopped assuming caffeine for a few months after the hospital, and migraine started. I asked my doctor, and he confirmed that caffeine withdrawal could have caused it. I started drinking coffee, I had just one other case of migraine, then nothing.

One thing I’m quite relieved of is that caffeine has no particular negative effect on me, at least for what concerns my Pancreas. Which probably makes it the only addictive drug I can take. Not that bad, it makes me productive, it solves my migraine problems, and it tastes good.

The only problem is that since I started taking coffee again, my tentatives of getting some normal sleep schedule went haywire as they always did before. I suppose that’s entirely caffeine’s fault, from a chemical point of view. On a different point of view, though, it’s probably related to my environment. To me going to sleep early it’s – anyway – midnight. Even if I go to sleep at midnight, I can easily wake up at 6 AM. As I have no reason not to, I usually sleep between 23 AM and 1011 AM. This means that between 4 and 5 AM, I’m in that phase of sleeping when a single noise can wake me up and get me in a very bad mood. Of course that’s the hour my father wakes up, even on Saturday. And that’s why I’m still awake (not already awake) at 7:32 in the morning.

If anybody knows decent solutions to this, it would be much appreciated. And no earplugs don’t work with me, I have a lot, both wax and sponge kinds.

On the other hand, I might just decide to hack a bit more on the Apple Aluminium keyboard support in Linux 2.6.25. I’ve sent a patch to fix the NumLock emulation, but I think it would be nice to actually get this type of keyboard not to report a NumLock at all, as the hardware doesn’t have it.

Melting, making order, compiling

Let’s start from the good news. I completed the build of the prerelease on Gentoo Linux, and worked fine. Monolithics are still missing, and I’m a bit tired of that, as they seems to be lagging down every time. I’ll be working on them later this afternoon if nobody takes care of those before. While doing the upgrade I also fixed a bug in smoke not building, so this is good.

Now the bad news: I’m melting. Building KDE 3.5.4 on this box for a whole day along made the temperature go way over my acceptable standards. At the same time, I have to clean up this room as a friend of mine has to come here Saturday, which is proving a hard task considering the temperature here.

Also, at least tonight I was able to sleep, not much, but well, and that feels so good after a month or two of not sleeping during the night at all.

Okay, just a short blog this time as a head-up that I’m not freezing (sorry for the pun) and that KDE 3.5.4 will be ready for Gentoo as soon as it’s released.

Something I hate…

… is being waked up in the exact moment I’m finally able to sleep after a difficult day… and then being unable to return to sleep because of roosters and dogs all around the house deciding it’s time to wake up everyone.

So, tonight, that I didn’t have insomnia, and I was ready to sleep my time, I’m awake again. Stupid summer.

On the other hand, I’ve just seen with my own eyes that xine still has trouble decoding H.264 streams. I’m not sure what’s causing this, as ffmpeg is used for H.264 decoding, and VLC and MPlayer are playing it fine (MPlayer with its own copy, VLC with the shared one), but I get a lot of errors on the verbose debug, unfortunately I built xine without debug and I’m now rebuilding it, maybe I’ll be able to find the reason why they don’t play well and fix it. You can thank lu_zero for this, as it’s the anime he just suggested me to have this glitch.

On a different note, I’ve added Timothy’s ebuild for diablo-jre-bin to the tree, now Gentoo/FreeBSD users can have a working JRE, with nsplugin and all that. Who said that Gentoo/FreeBSD is not ready for desktop? :P

Also, PulseAudio 0.9.3 is released and now in Portage, building out of the box on FreeBSD (although I’m still applying a patch because it’s needed but not enough convincing for upstream, and I understand this). Thanks Lennart for the work, pulse is working fine here :)

A note: from this version PulseAudio supports a System-Wide instance, similarly as how 0.9.2 did in Gentoo. The main change is that esd wrapper configuration is no more automatic if you use system wide (you need to configure auth-anonymous by yourself) and is gone (if you want a special script for the system wide instance you can use the conf.d to pass options to pulseaudio executable.

Oh just seen: there’s a bug in xine-lib, it fails to build when LOG is defined. Sigh.

I need sleep

So I need to sleep, it’s two weeks I sleep every other day and I really need to sleep.

From one side, this allowed me to work on the Gentoo/FreeBSD SSP support and last night to make TagLib++ working.
From the other, my life is messing up more and more. I suppose I should try to drink some relaxing infuse or something like that in the late night.

The series of problems with my “day job” and some other silly stuff that is going on in my life doesn’t really help, and that is probably the main problem: stress. Unfortunately I can’t even think of just taking a break from Gentoo and live with it for a while, especially now that I’m also a SoC mentor. Sigh.

Today I slept during the afternoon, and now I’m trying to see what I need to do for Gentoo today. I have a libtorrent/rtorrent bump to do, but the CVS is down so I can’t commit, and I need to drop an optimised use of templates to let it build at least with GCC 4.1.0 (trying to go with 3.4, too).

I’m trying to get Gentoo updated again on the iBook, but I’m having troubles with kdelibs, there are a few parallel make issues, and they are obnoxious to fix… oh well..