Quote of the Week #16

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning, but without understanding.

– Justice Louis Brandeis, dissenting, Olmstead v US (1928)

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For Crying Out Loud

Remember how I rebooted my computer remotely and couldn’t get back into it again? Apparently holly’s BIOS felt it necessary to warn that there was no mouse attached at boot, so please press any key to continue. So it sat there. For five days.

For the record, whoever thought that was the proper failure mode for not having a mouse attached (if not having a mouse attached can even be considered a failure to begin with) is a moron.

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My RSS Feeds, version 2.0

As a result of rendering holly inaccessible recently, I was cut off from my old quick-and-dirty RSS aggregator: a PHP script that, on demand, downloaded the various feeds and rendered them all on a single page.

It worked, but downloading feeds on-demand caused noticeable slowdowns if the servers hosting the feeds were slow or unresponsive (*cough* LiveJournal *cough*). A stand-alone aggregator program would’ve (presumably) have this problem, but I rather like having a web interface to my favorite RSS feeds (which is the same reason I don’t use Firefox‘s new Live Bookmarks feature).

So, now was a good a time as any to write a new, improved aggregator.

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Murphy’s Law Strikes Back

Naturally, once I’m 300 miles away from holly, its root partition fills up to 100%, and something on it got screwed up to prevent logging in normally. I managed to free up a bunch of space through various back channels, but logins were still screwed up. So I tried rebooting.

Now I can’t contact it at all. Presumably something got hosed when it ran out of disk space, and I’ll need physical access to fix whatever’s stopping it from booting up all the way.

Physical access is hard to come by when you’re 300 miles away for the rest of the week.

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The only package I’ve encountered so far that doesn’t play nicely in my accountable pbuilder environment is gcc-3.4. For some reason the scripts that inject the accountability information hang indefinitely and cause the build to fail. None of the other packages I’ve built so far (including gcc-3.3, interestingly) have this problem; they all work fine.

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Fun with Productivity!

What a strangely productive weekend. The virtual memory OSes project is essentially finished, even in advance of the original deadline. (Take that, people begging for an extension!) My 590T project is also going nicely, now that most of the code is done.

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Quote of the Week #15

CS is supposed to stand for “Computer Science” but I think it’s more accurate to call it “Completely Sausage.”

– Josh Jersild

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Fun with Cryptic Errors!

The Perl program:

#! /usr/bin/perl

use IO::Socket::INET;
my $client = IO::Socket::INET->new(PeerAddr => 'www.google.com',
                                   PeerPort => 80,
                                   Proto    => 'TCP',
                                   Type     => SOCK_STREAM)
        or die "Couldn't connect: $!";
close $client;
print "Success\n";

The output:

Couldn't connect: No such file or directory at ./program line 5.

What’s the problem?

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Fun with Presentations!

A brief behind-the-scenes overview of the presentation on the paper “How to Play Any Mental Game” (by Goldreich, Micali, and Wigderson) I gave today.

[Fun fact: the paper is so old (from 1987), the figures are hand drawn.]

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Quote of the Week #14

Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure — or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that’s where you will find success.

– Thomas J. Watson, Sr.

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Math Blaster taught me time management

OK, it might’ve also helped me a little with math too. I can’t remember.

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C’s Revenge

Your C programming tip for today:

When freeing a block of memory, make absolutely sure that there’s nothing else that’s ever going to use it again first.

Especially when that block of memory is being used as part of the processor’s page tables. If you do, your program won’t segfault. It won’t even act strangely in the usual “undefined behavior in C” sense. Oh no. Now the processor’s going to be doing who knows what, since its very notions of what memory looks like have been mangled. There’s no telling what happens after that, but it certainly won’t be anything good.

Quote of the Week #13

The feminists in the room are probably unhappy that there’s no “woman” command. Sexist or not, you can’t do a “woman mount” and get anything useful.

– Howard Tayler

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The good news: I correctly predicted who would win 49 out of the 50 states in this presidential election.

The bad news: my prediction that Kerry would win Ohio wasn’t one of those 49.

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CNN’s New Motto

CNN: We Don’t Know (TM)