Team Murder No Brain No Headache.

31Jan/04Off

Your Wrists And Eyes Will Thank You

While trying to take a chunk out of my ridiculous weekly reading list I fired up the laptop for the first time in weeks and inadvertently ended up banging on the newer version of the Ion which is cleverly called Ion2. I'm pretty much convinced that it might be the ultimate wm for laptops. I liked the fact that the first time you load it up the man page opens automagically so you're not caught trying to jog your failing memory with quick jabs to random function keys. Another significant improvement is the addition of the root menu bound to the F12 key. In previous versions that key simply logged you out. I have some cognitive dissonance caused by switching back and forth between Debian and Gentoo so sometimes having that menu available as opposed to grepping /usr/bin through a less pipe is mighty handy. I haven't done much customizing but I really, really like how this guy set it up for using the Gimp. It's nicely encapsulated with his settings and avoids the typical windows scattered around like flyshit on a window sill interface that most of us have grown accustomed to working around. After fiddling around for a while I hardly noticed when unclutter kicked in and made my mouse cursor disappear. That alone is enough to convince me to fool around with it more.

Oh, this is handy as well: A Mozilla tip that gives you the skinny on switching the URL bar font to monospace. This makes pasting to and from the bar a whole lot simpler. Set that up and install Flash click to view and you're back on the path to sanity.

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29Jan/04Off

Counting To Ten Just Isn’t Working

I'm tired of being forced into the role of Windows apologist. I'm tired of formulating semi-snappy comebacks when I'm verbally assaulted by a user for the shortcomings of Windows. The latest IE bullshit has actually been a pretty powerful tool for me. Point the user at that document, tell them to actually read it, and use that as a general diagnosis for some of the things that are horribly wrong with Windows. Paired with a simple statement that "I don't use anything Microsoft on any of my machines" seems to shut people up. That probably isn't the wisest or most charitable tactic but it beats the holy bejeesus out of me clubbing end users to death with a "* For Dummies" boxed set.

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28Jan/04Off

Bad Eggs…

We were pretty lucky with the worm at work. Out of a few hundred workstations only a handful were infected because the virus definitions were up to date for once. I won't mention the Slammer fiasco when I had to actually get facilities management to remove a locked office door to get at a 350Mhz workstation completely fouling up the network on that leg of the campus. Of course, there's already a 'B' variant so I'm not counting myself lucky yet.

I forgot to mention that I played around with XPde a little bit over the past few days. It's an XP clone interface for X that looks spookily like its parent. Unfortunately the project is pretty much at an alpha stage so it's even more broken than the real thing. I took a screenshot of it running on my Gentoo box. I'm not brave enough to launch it as a session by itself so it's running on top of Fluxbox. You can see the toolbar overlapping the XPde taskbar at the bottom of the shot. Mostly broken or not, it does act a lot like Windows XP and once there's an addition layer of polish on top of it I think most casual users would be pretty comfortable within its confines. That's the mouse configuration tool on top of the stack of windows with the main control panel underneath. The system component simply refuses to launch and most of the other parts work partially. I remember when this project was launched and it really has come a long way in a short period of time. Far enough to creep me the hell out anyway.

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27Jan/04Off

Burning Down The House

Sometimes you really need to just finish homework and answer the mouldering piles of neglected email. I wish I could do that without pangs of conscience but instead feel oddly guilty (against myself, of course) for this. Luckily part of the assigned reading for this week is Anne Bradstreet, the puritan who wrote such uplifting poems as Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 18th, 1666. Suddenly I feel much better.

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26Jan/04Off

Even More Doom…

Ack. I figured there was some new worm afoot after recieving the third or fourth piece of mail with a "Message Failed: " subject and obviously bogus headers. The first actually persuaded me to mail my web host because I thought they were genuine bounces from spammers forging a team murder address. Duh. A couple hundred of them later and I'm no longer fooled. It took reading this:

At Tue Jan 27 00:38:25 2004 the virus scanner said:
lguw.zip contains Worm.SCO.A

to realize that this worm might be a slight bit more pointed in target than ones in the recent past. According to Symantec my gut feeling was right for a change:

o Deletes files: n/a
o Modifies files: n/a
o Degrades performance: Performs DoS against www.sco.com.
o Causes system instability: n/a
o Releases confidential info: n/a
o Compromises security settings: Allows unauthorized remote access.

and, of course, the list of strings excluded from the email address smash n' grab is pretty telling:

foo.
berkeley
unix
math
bsd
mit.e
gnu
fsf.
ibm.com
google
kernel
linux

I'd love to enthusiastically endorse this but I can't since I'm one of the folks that will cleaning up after it. Doesn't look particularly malicious but still, when you're following the elephant with a broom and dustpan everything starts looking like shit.

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25Jan/04Off

Two To Annoy…

Ugh. I've been reading up on the future of weblog flooding by assholes and I don't have the energy to go fishing for answers at the moment although there is a work around to pairing the patch mentioned in the above allowing it to coexist with MT-Blacklist but mucking around with Perl on a snowy Sunday night just sounds horrible. Note to self: fix this in the next week and by 'this' I do not mean your unwillingness to look at Perl.

I also had a brief moment of paranoia after reading this tale of woe about Firebird and its possible vulnerability to exploit by the spyware shits. I shouldn't worry about it too much since it's actually shitware let in the door by everyone's favorite chewtoy and punching bag Internet Explorer. Still, it's more bad news than I need. The rundown of the crudware is interesting and it jars a few dead sockets in memory looking at some of the offending registry keys. The annoying/funny variant replaces IE favorites with porn links. Sucks to be you...

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24Jan/04Off

I Wish I Could Say That I Didn’t Look At This Stuff

So normally I try not to geek out about case mods or if I do to at least limit that geeking out to the seldom to never category but after checking out the Mac Plus to Athlon conversion that was for reasons I don't understand Slashdot cover star I started checking out some of the links in the comments attached to the story and stumbled on AppleFritter. It's sort of a meta-site for Mac mods of all sorts. The creativity there was a nice break from the continual flow of "I stuck a mini-ATX in a tissue box now give me a cupcake" fodder. The TronBook is my favorite and seems like it was an incredible pain in the ass. There's also a brutal yet brilliant Amiga laptop mod that also looks like it was a symphony of mashed fingers and toxic chemical inhalation. I admire that dedication but it's unusual that I even remember to put my case all the way together again once I have it open.

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22Jan/04Off

Send More Bullets. Wish You Were Here.

I've been pretty absent here lately for the nth time in the last couple of months which is weird because this is what little downtime there will be in what promises to be a very brutal semester with a reading load that fills me with anxiety every time I consult a syllabus. It shouldn't be that big a deal and I'm actually working fewer days a week which gives me mental respite from the gibbering of desktop users and all of their incurable complaints. It doesn't seem to matter and I'm actually working on some things that aren't ready to haul out of exhibition quite yet. The work pace of things external to school is slowing to a near stop so don't expect any announcements in the near future.

I've been playing with a Gentoo reinstall in small pieces. It doesn't boot by itself yet because I'm trying to do everything the right way instead of the dead tired and 2 a.m. way. It's just too fun not to mess around with. The utility that auto-generates kernels is still broken but at least it's now possible to downgrade it and compile kernel modules. I'm going to try to put in one late night this weekend to get the odd bits and pieces straightened out. There is actually a reason that I want to get more familiar with the internals but that long and rambling discussion is for a different day.

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20Jan/04Off

The Sleepy And Headachey Post That I Don’t Care About

The much missed new packages in unstable has been reincarnated as an integrated part of the packages server. This is a good thing since looking at incoming is not going to be helpful for most people. That's good news. The bad news is over at Gentoo where bug reports about the kernel generation problems that basically make it uninstallable are being closed left and right without resolution. So close and yet so far...

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19Jan/04Off

A Hasty Retreat, Dripping Blood And Too Tired To Run Anymore

So, a dozen or days after my initial outing into Gentooland, I'm back in a Debian environment and truly appreciating the stability of it for a change. I made some major mistakes with glibc under Gentoo and tried to do a fresh install.

I say tried because a number of important tools were updated with completely different sets of options. Normally this wouldn't be such a bad thing but when there is no available documentation either of the online variety or man/info pages to give you a clue as to what you should be doing things become frustrating very quickly. What exacerbates this is that older versions of the tool that were doing a wonderful job before this were simply taken out of portage with no recourse but to simply feel your way through a new tool. The problem here is that kernel compilation would never quite finish and bombed out somewhere in module stage. In a sane distribution, the failure of convenient tools would simply mean reverting to the make menuconfig && make clean bzImage modules modules_install variant. This simply failed to make with no errors. It just stopped. It took me six or seven very frustrating hours to figure out that nothing but a 2.6 series of kernel was going to get further than compiling the actual kernel. I would've just sucked it up but I need modules for both my video card and sound card. After another six or seven hours of minesweeper style removing support from the kernel for x and frantically tailing the log while the whole mess was compiling, I managed to get a kernel that would actually boot although not without sacrificing either PPPoE capability or the USB hub. After having a taste of New! Sexy! Broken! shoved down my throat for all of last night and most of today I limped back to the glacial pace of Debian, stable Debian.

This all sounds like a huge diss on Gentoo and I'm not intending it that way at all. Gentoo development moves at an absolutely terrifying and ferocious pace that is exhausting to keep up with especially when you're compiling huge chunks of your operating system continually. The whole thing with genkernel was the slap in the face that I needed. Twelve hours to get a nearly usable kernel is not anywhere near my sweet spot. That said, Gentoo is really, really fun. There are aspects of it that are astoundingly cool but the relentless breakage and workarounds and emerging huge numbers of ebuilds nearly killed me. Eventually Gentoo seems like that really dangerous dirt bike that's really fun to tear around on until you end up in traction and would really like to be able to take from point a to point b without risking life and limb in the process. Unfortunately the semester begins again for me in less than twelve hours so I'm going to actually need a stable machine that doesn't blow up in my face on a weekly basis no matter how much fun it is.

The review of Onebase definitely piqued my interest but there were enough showstoppers mentioned in the review (hardware detections every boot that overwrite your configs?!) to make me hesistant to even mess with it. Yet.

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18Jan/04Off

Compiling Holes In My Stomach

I'd say that my entire week of using Gentoo has taught me more about the intricacies of gcc optimization flags than I've ever wanted to know. I've spent hour upon hour trying to get MySQL installed only to have some tweakiness on the part of glibc make really common utilities like top, uptime, and, more importantly for my purposes, ps consistently segfault. Not only is this irritating and potentially requires the recompiling of large chunks of the operating system but MySQL needs ps working to run. This is hard to consider in seriousness when the "meal" I had at Casa Bonita among indoor cliff divers and men in gorilla suits is twisting my stomach into configurations I'm fairly certain it does not belong in.

The moral of the story: sometimes mini-vacations are more tiring than just going to work. No, that's not really it but at the moment my partially functioning system is making me wish that I had less time to fool with it.

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17Jan/04Off

Have I Mentioned That I’m Majoring In English?

This Penny Arcade strip resonates strongly with me for some reason. Probably because I have almost no control over my potty mouth and scream things like "This shit is so motherfucking cool!!!" in the toy department of K-Mart. I fear for the day when my usual evaluation of broken software, bad configurations, and planned obsolescence as a business plan operating systems doesn't fly by the standards of some uptight middle manager. So much is conveyed with a simple "That shit is fucked."

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16Jan/04Off

Non-Optional Sleep

I just woke up from one of those dreaded evening naps that was direly necessary. I'm feeling the pressure mounting to finish some of the smaller projects that I started over Christmas break and the solution so far has been to forgo sleeping more than a few hours a night. Somehow I always manage to delude myself into thinking that I'll eventually catch up somehow. Bad, bad assumption. Earlier tonight I started seeing sparkly things in my peripheral vision. This is generally a bad sign.

The infamous and incredibly troll friendly goatse.cx has been yanked after complaints to the registrar. There is a petition up to bring back this catalyst for many a pained facial expression and spastic lunge for the browser back button. I switched the home page of a friend's browser while he was away on vacation and I'm a little depressed that I'll never be able to plant a ticking time bomb like that again. For the sake of malicious pranksters everywhere, go sign the petition.

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15Jan/04Off

Ink Spilled, Real Cheap

I scored a bunch of awesome deals at an indoor sidewalk sale (oooh, those quirky quirky indie sellers that pay their workers minimum wage...) so I've been thumbing through a couple of old but still servicable versions of the Emacs manual and a couple of books on C that I hadn't seen before. I also picked up a Don DeLillo book for the first time since finishing Underworld. Details aside, the entire venture only set me back about ten bucks to add nearly three more feet to one of the many piles of books. There are few things that I get genuinely excited about but book sales and cheap computer books are definitely two of them.

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14Jan/04Off

Like Clockwork, They Fail

Figures that the forms password protection in Microsoft Word is bogus. I only mention this because a couple days ago a user at my work was praising this feature highly. I should probably let her know while snickering self-righteously, of course.

Solution:

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13Jan/04Off

More Suing With Even Less Merit

I haven't been a huge fan of Linux and Main for a long time or at least until Dennis started shooting his mouth off about the war. It started with a lot of promise and despite being ugly enough to cost you several years of site seemed to carry a lot of original stuff in an impressive timeframe. I checked in to see if anything had changed in the last couple of months and it looks about the same. The reason that I was even checking was looking for more information about a defamation suit against Dennis from Loki Games. Of course, nothing and Newsforge is the only place that has really mentioned it. Guess I'll have to wait for the inevitable Slashdot coverage to find out anything. Looks like a pretty meritless suit given that the "Going Out Of Business" signs were clearly up at Loki long before Dennis mentioned anything about it. I don't agree with the guy on many things but I wish him luck in dealing with another company desperately trying to grab some cash on their way out.

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13Jan/04Off

Scattered And Flaky Per Usual

The Debian packages server is back up with a number of improvements. I'm glad that the web folks took the time during the eternity that it was down to include some additional functionality in the interface. Package listings now have available architectures in their entries and the top of the page lets you know what section and branch of Debian you're browsing in. Nice work and worth the time that it was unavailable.debtakeover also seems promising. On the other side of that Gentoo's main rsync server has been messed up pretty much all day. Annoying. Actually hours after I'd abandoned this on a virtual desktop far, far away from where work is getting done the whole portage tree sync'ed and I'm much happier.

The funny thing about really stupid scams is that they often work once but only once. The second time around you get a ferocious working over with a wet noodle.

There's actually proof that the Phantom console exists. I'm still on the PSOne so I don't think I'll be biting any time soon but I do like the concept. Subscriptions aren't my favorite thing but according to the specs the Phantom is capable of having a hard drive. The not so cool stuff:

All games, be they full versions, time stamped rentals or free demos, are delivered securely and quickly through the Internet by a revision of video on-demand buffering technology. This means that while every PC game in all of existence is technically capable of playing on a Phantom, only those approved for online distribution and modified for that delivery scheme will be playable.

Sounding less enticing the more I read.

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12Jan/04Off

But Isn’t Vengeance Supposed To Be Fun?

Since no one else has mentioned this: Penguin Blood Ninja Fiasco is the best game/commentary that I've seen on the entire SCO mess yet although the game isn't actually about that. It's about ninja penguins, evil lawyers, and GPL upgrades. Really. I wish there were more levels because it's actually kind of fun.

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11Jan/04Off

Another Worthy Project Beginning To Fizzle…

Crap. It looks like the project leader of the DebToo project is running out of time and energy to keep hacking away on it. This is a shame because it's a great pairing of resources without the crash and burn factor that Gentoo can sometimes have for people.

From the DebToo-Devel mailing list:

*Sigh* Allthough this was my "baby" I just don't have the time for it.I just switched our home PC to Deb Unstable and it took several months toget around to _that_.This is a great idea and the concept can be applied to RedHat (yes even Enterprise Server), Mandrake, Slackware, etc. I would love to see and use DebToo 1.0.Anyone want to carry the torch? There are some great developers who have already contributed so much nice work; it'd be a shame to just drop theproject just 'cause I can't help.../dev/idal_DebToo-Devel mailing list [email protected] http://jaxlug.org/mailman/listinfo/debtoo-devel

I really wish I had the time to get any further than even successfully configuring apt-build. Someone needs to step up to the plate on this one...

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10Jan/04Off

One Of The Best Gets Even Better

Noticed an article at Newsforge on a new version of Knoppix with the always scary NTFS write support included via Captive. I've heard nothing but good stuff about Captive and it's got to be a helluva lot better than the 2.4 kernel's experimental NTFS write module. This would make Knoppix even more valuable as a rescue tool than it already is. Knoppix has really been kicking ass in the pragmatism department for quite some time now and it's cool to watch it continually evolve and get better.

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10Jan/04Off

These Things That You Want — You Don’t Really Want Them

Another unnecessarily hectic work day so I didn't get much time to either think or read much of anything but I did find a couple things worth relaying. I also learned today that one of my co-workers can solve a Rubik's Cube, no matter how scrambled I tried to make it, in less than five minutes. I know, I know Kids Are People Too flashbacks and everything...

Lately the Debian-CD mailing list has literally been flooded with folks complaining about the absence of netinstall images. Somebody mentioned that you can also grab those images from
ftp://mandrake-forum.org/pub/Debian/
and
ftp://mandrakeusers.org/pub/Debian/
all of that said, some of the mirrors on the netinstall page are still active so I'm not sure what the excitement is all about. I guess the slow-as-frozen-molasses pace of everything associated with Debian isn't for everyone. It hasn't been for me lately.

Zipdecode is an application that does things near to my heart and close to my current batch of code.It's unfortunately Java-based so my interest is primarily academic. Click on the pretty dots and resolve your zip code.

Black Black Ocean is my new favorite band from Denver. If they happen to pass through your town on tour please go check them out

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9Jan/04Off

Relicense, Relanguage

This will probably get Slashdotted any second now but MozillaZine has a preannouncement about the completion of all permissions necessary for relicensing Mozilla under a triple license (MPL/LGPL/GPL) in the not-so-distant future. Finished or not, this is an important milestone for the project especially after every pundit in the world predicted their demise post Netscape. Congratulations Mozilla Folk!

Also noticed an article about the difficulties Red Flag Linux is having in releasing an English language variant of their distribution. It is a "duh business" sort of write up but the resignation due to personal matters of the company's president. Interesting but ultimately not very important.

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8Jan/04Off

The Shower Countdown

So after three days of broken pipes and woes we finally have indoor plumbing again albeit without hot water for a couple of hours. I feel so sorry for my landlord who spent the better part of three days toiling tirelessly in cramped and dusty confines to get us up and running again only to have the same pipe breaking nightmare happen at his own house this morning. All because... well, all because my neighbor is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I'm accustomed to utter failure and disaster at work and school but at home I just want hot water when I need it although I've quickly learned to value having any water at all.

I've been checking in to Planet Debian (which I heard about from Debian Planet) a couple of times today despite my current disinterest with Debian as a distribution. It's good stuffr and gives you a way more gestalt view of how large projects work and also makes developers seem a little more like people and less like cranky robots who hunch over tty detached vim terminals all day in a windowless room. Planet Gnome is another frequent stop for me although I'm not terribly interested in Gnome either. I'm really into this server side aggregation stuff. I can extract and obfuscate relationships with a client; it's nice to have things assembled in a way complimentary to the people who contribute to the site. Either site is interesting reading if you have any relationship to coding whatsoever. They feel your pain, man.

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8Jan/04Off

Pity My Condition.

Now it's my turn to make a call out into the void which will hopefully reach more Windows savvy ears than usual. Here's the situation: I had to clean up after a reimage/new deployment. Normally this isn't a huge issue but in this case the woman had accumulated many pst files generated by Outlook. I could tell by the arrangement that the last person who was forced to make this arrangement work did so by kludging everything together into a rats nest of aliases and multiple associations with single files. I did the same thing and basically loaded what was already a clusterfuck onto a shitslide to hell.

What I'd love to do is find a utility that will intelligently merge pst files. I'm thinking about trying to make a script that will do this but I hate hate hate duplicating effort. Any clues? Kenneth are you listening?

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8Jan/04Off

I’m Not Exactly Lovin’ It

A help desk ticket, another voiceless user screaming into the void:

XXXXXXX, xxxxxx her workstudy xxxxxxx at x6-xxxx
reported getting email from over 200 students and is going to report the
incident to the police

I hate the week after vacation....

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6Jan/04Off

Hating Means Effort. I Hate Effort.

I've been sick and otherwise busy so there really hasn't been much time or necessary motivation to add much here. In fact what made me realize how long it's been was loading up the site and looking at it consuming itself. The sickness is pretty much over with although the general apathy and lack of energy is still hanging on. This might just be the bonus round from the holiday talking though. The burn is seemingly inevitable. I'm not the most socialable person on the planet and I'm pretty quickly overwhelmed by too many people friendly or otherwise.

We found out at our last practice that our drummer is likely skipping town sometime in the spring. He's headed back to Ohio contingent on whether they can sell the house. Bummer both in the losing a set of friends (and their pending offspring) to a faraway state and losing a drummer who is both sane and reliable. The search is already on.

I've done three installs of Gentoo since my first tentative install over the break. It's running full time on two of three machines. I hate to add any fuel to the ongoing shit slinging but I'm seriously having far more fun playing with and using Gentoo than I am continually working against dpkg and the menuing system. Although I think the Debian Desktop Project is a really great one that is not supported by enough Debian developers but it seems like a tug of war that will be won by strength of numbers. Lately even submitting bug reports has become a total flame fest that I don't have the time or patience to deal with. So, I'm concentrating less on fighting with people I don't know and more on learning things and having fun with my own machines. If I'd wanted to join the Army or the Catholic Church there would've been much easier ways. Of course,I'll still keep up with the unstable branch in the cd sets because you can't punish an operating system for having some incredibly short sighted developers. That thread I linked above is just so fucking typical of the sentiments I get from many of the developers -- the tangent about optimization for platforms beyond i386 is fucking insane. I've run Debian on this exact configuration of hardware for the past two years and i686 compiled software is easily twice as fast. Argh.

I had incredibly good pho today at a little place that has no real signage and I found out about only by being dragged there by co-workers. The decor is exactly like a factory lunch room and you know that is a prerequisite for kick ass food. On a day when the wind was blowing so hard and cold that I felt like I was standing outside in a t-shirt even when I was armored in a sweater and my warmest coat pho is the motherfucking answer.

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2Jan/04Off

Because It’s Late And I’m Sick

For someone who just exited over a week of vacation from work I sure feel like I've been busy the entire time. I think this Gentoo install has kind of winded me. It's incredibly fun to tinker with since it's basically designed as a honeypot for those who like to mess around and is impressively resistant to self destruction if you're willing to RTFM. In the case of DevFS, I kinda wish that I hadn't read the documentation because it created this huge abstraction in my head between what the file system was capable of and what I needed to do. I nicknamed it The Devil's File System at the time although it turned to be a huge time saver and way more convenient than I'd thought. The weirdness with symlinks (like not being able to add and delete them as root) bothered me initially but the system is sensible enough to dispel that quickly.

Running Gentoo after spending so much time on machines running Debian and other binary distributions built from the ground up for older machines (with Debian there are also 11 or so architectures to worry about as well) is really a little like piloting a fighter jet or something. I've compiled just about everything as I started from a Stage Two install minus the bootstrapping of the GNU utilities and it really is noticeably more responsive. Mozilla, notorious for being large and slow, loads in less than two seconds and runs like a bat out of hell. I'm not sure how to balance the efficiency between the actual compiling of each application and the kernel optimizations. It is pretty cool to be able to compile a kernel without losing any performance from either video or audio. The downside to this is that recompiling the kernel becomes almost a reflex by the time you've set up a functional machine. The upside of that is that I've become absolutely ruthless about what support is compiled into the kernel which leads to many recompiles but also boots in 20 seconds or so. That trade off between performance and convenience is sort of the Achilles heel of Gentoo. I like flying the fighter jet and I don't mind reorienting myself towards an alien toolset to do it. Most people either can't or won't. I'm not sure that the necessary dirtying of hands would be worth it for most folks who seem to have enough trouble dealing with mounting CD manually and whatnot. You can figure out what that means.

Aaron redesigned. It looks really good. Clear your cache first.

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