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posts about ranting.

today i discovered why sometimes, some of my latex output contains tildes (~) in the dvi/pdf version. usually, if you use a tilde in a tex file, it is interpreted as a non-breakable space (except in special circumstances, such as verbatim environments or in \url{…}). but thanks to a “bugfix” to texi2dvi/texi2pdf, which is a wonderful tool as it runs (pdf)latex often enough together with bibtex, makeindex etc., tildes appearing in tex files are now shown as tildes in the dvi/pdf output. which is absolutely inacceptable behaviour.
it seems that this already was reported (see here, here, here), but it is still around. i don’t really know what to think of this – is nobody responsible for working on texi2dvi/texi2pdf? or did people stop using it as it is broken?
anyway, i fixed my local installed version (/usr/bin/texi2dvi) by chaning the line catcode_special=true to catcode_special=false. a more sophisticated version would be nice, which only changes catcode_special for tex files (and not for texinfo files), but i don’t have time for that now.

something which annoys the heck out of me, already for some time, which i wanted to mention here but never managed to.
its about the current (official) version of ubuntu: natty. (yeah, another ubuntu rant. yay.)
this distribution contains at least two packages which are broken. i.e. the programs contained in the packages are useless, they just don’t work. by default. since the release (in april), nothing changed. (yes, i checked the backports and the proposed updates.) needless to say that you can find out which source code lines to modify in many web forums, as well as bug reports here and there.
the packuages in question are xpdf and sshpass. two programs i used a lot. used, because now they are broken. xpdf crashes when you open a pdf file. and sshpass just hangs. for xpdf, i now use evince as a quick drop-in, but it is different. i want xpdf back. and for sshpass, i use… well, the keyboard.
i really don’t understand how something like this can happen. that packages break is ok. but that months after bugs have been reported, fixes have been described in the report’s discussions, that after this time, nothing happens? that’s just not acceptable.
of course, i can just fix the issue by deinstalling the packages, downloading the source, and compiling the programs myself. but then, i’m responsible to check for updates and security fixes myself. auto update will just ignore the programs. i’m not really willing to do that anymore. i have better things to do with my time.
maybe i should just install arch linux the next time i want to set up a new machine. or i should even just reinstall a machine and install arch linux instead of ubuntu. cannot get worse.

posted in: computer

it’s not the first time i’m annoyed by php, and surely not the last one. i’ve often called php an ad-hoc language, which is changed a lot and contains many inconsistencies. and often tends to break backwards compatibility. for example, i recently upgraded to php 5.3 (while upgrading the server; before, it was running 5.2 if i recall correctly). this instantly broke the openid server i’m using to login to mathoverflow. this was easy to fix, apparently some behaviour changed and i had to replace two or three lines of codes by almost identical ones to make it work again. now i stumbled about something else, while posting something new on blackness. namely, the member function setdate of the datetime object changed a little bit: on success, it no longer returns null, but the object itself. (in case of an error, it still returns false.) well, the blackness editor was expecting null to indicate success, and complained that the data was invalid. great.
i mean, its nicer to return the object (to allow cascadation, at least if one is sure no error occurs – otherwise one is screwed), but why just change this between two versions?! such changes make upgrading php a russian roulette: it might break your programs. and in many cases (like this), it might take you a long time to find out that your program is broken. and when you found out it’s broken, you have to search for the problem, identify it, only to find out that php just changed the rules a little bit. this is just bad. and yet another reason not to use php for anything serious.
(and a programming language not useable for anything serious is, well, to be bluntly: a big pile of crap.)

posted in: computer www

tuesday night, i attended a concert by the chilenian progressive doom metal band mar de grises, the islandic viking metal band sólstafir, and the finnish death doom metal band swallow the sun, held in the matrix in bochum. i went to this for two reasons: first, to see swallow the sun another time; last time i saw them was last year before christmas in leipzig. the second reason is mar de grises. i was really glad to finally have a chance to see them.
i arrived slightly late, due to bad weather, which was no problem since the concert was opened by two local bands i didn’t really wanted to see. the first one seemed to be a doom band, and i didn’t really like the second band’s music style. they both were ok, but i would have rather not seen them and heard mar de grises playing longer ;-) both opening bands were pretty much ok though, compared to many other openers i’ve seen so far…
while the openers were playing, i checked out the merchandizing booth. there was nothing new of interest in the swallow the sun section, so i inspected the mar de grises section. they had a special edition of draining the waterheart (including a 16 minute bonus track called unconscious passenger), the new album, some t-shirts, and two albums from other chilenian bands, one of them a funeral doom band called lethargy of death, a project of one of the band members. i bought the digipack, the new album, the lethargy of death album as well as the last available unconscious passenger t-shirt. some money invested well, i hoped. (and so far, i’m right about this :-) )
after the two openers, mar de grises started playing for 45 minutes. i was in the front row, which was no problem since the location wasn’t exactly stuffed, and nobody tried to be at the very front. in fact, i was like two meters away from the stage. unfortunately, the audio quality was really bad. i don’t know whose fault this was, if it was the mixing, the location, or whatever, but it was just bad. i was happy that i knew many of the songs they played, so i knew what it was supposed to sound like, so it was more a problem for sólstafir, since i heard them the first time…
well. despite the poor sound quality, mar de grises‘ performance was great. i really like this band. following mar de grises, sólstafir entered the stage. at that point, i wasn’t feeling very well, thanks to all the fucking bastards smoking inside the location. you can’t really enjoy a concert with itching eyes and having a headache. i really miss the nonsmoker protection laws i experienced in canada and other parts of europe…
i didn’t like sólstafir‘s performance too much, but i’m not sure whether this is just related to the horrible air and the awful sound quality, or if it’s their music. some time ago i listened to a couple of songs of them, and i don’t remember being disappointed back then. so maybe i have to give them another try…
finally, swallow the sun started playing. they played songs from all over their albums, which was really nice. some of my favorites, such as the giant, were played as well!
unfortunately, it seemed that the crowd got thinner and thinner. when they went off the stage before the encore, luckily enough people were still there to make some noise. they came back pretty fast, before the people started making noise and launching an awkward silence. they played descending winters, and after that the concert was over.
well. if the sound and air quality would have been better, this concert would have been really great. but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case… (but that’s not the bands’ fault…)

when installing a new ubuntu, i had essentially two programs which were replaced by alternatives i had trouble with – amarok1 was replaced by amarok2, and gqview was replaced by geeqie. compared to amarok2 pretty much not working at all, geeqie is working, though partially not as expected. the worst part of it is getting confused with directories. assume you store your photos in a more complex directory structure, say


now you go into the photos/germany/2010-05-01/ directory, look at some pictures, and decide to go one directory up. as expected, the current marked directory is 2010-05-01. so, when you go another directory up, you’d except the current marked directory to be germany. but well, as opposed to any sane program (such as gqview), geeqie selects the first in the list. this is really, really annoying, and i have no idea who implemented something like this…
anyway, i just found a forum post describing how to install gqview and make sure ubuntu won’t automatically update to geeqie for you… in case this annoys you as well, follow the instructions :)

posted in: computer daily life

i upgraded to a new ubuntu a week ago, after buying a new harddisk. this resulted in getting amarok2 instead of amarok1, which i was used to. and it was a complete failure. it ignored my music, didn’t show anything in the collection, and some tries to change this didn’t do anything. well. so i decided to try out exaile. this worked well, until i noticed that changing to the desktop exaile was running on took up to five seconds. i don’t know why. but this is clearly inacceptable, this should take way less than one second. so i started looking around. i tried rhythmbox, the standard gnome player, but it didn’t really managed to read my music collection. then, i tried xmms2 and various frontends. so far, i didn’t really found a frontend which convinced me. but at least the backend is working fine. maybe i should start hacking my own frontend together, to do exactly what i want it to do.
it is not exactly satisfactory, but for the moment, i think i’ll stay with xmms2. at least it works fine so far, accepts my music collection, and has no strange hickups.

while i was searching for a plug-in which allows access control to posts based on users and/or user groups, i stumbled about many different plug-ins, some of them very promising, but either dead, not updated for a long time, or simply not exactly usable by producing a long list of php error messages already in the admin screen after activating them. grrreat. well, of course, i could also try to do it myself, as usual. but hey, that sucks: i’d be better of writing my own blog software.
well, i talked about the problem a bit with kornel, and we concluded that an optimal blog system would be a very slim piece of software, just providing the very basic features, i.e. managing posts, comments and pages, users and user groups/roles/whatever, and access privileges, while everything else—such as galleries, embedding videos, gadgets, comfortable post editors, …—is implemented as plugins.
anyone want’s to do this, and produce a well-documented, slim, bug-free blog system with a good plugin interface, together with a few standard plugins? :)

yesterday evening, i wanted to grab a few cds. while cdparanoia was running, i copied a text file to another place. then, i noticed that the content of the copy was garbled. a quick check showed that the content of the original file wasn’t. tried it again, the same result. and again. then, i stopped cdparanoia, and after that, copying worked. well. after restarting cdparanoia, copying still worked fine. so i stopped thinking about this and continued working – which was a fatal error.
this morning, when i turned the macbook on again, the desktop was pretty garbled and the dock was at the wrong position and had the wrong size and the wrong content, i.e. everything i changed since i first got my macbook was gone. moreover, skype wanted to know a user name and a password, and adium seemed to have forgotten a lot of things i taught it, too. after starting the terminal (which is not so easy to find, if it’s not in your dock) i quickly checked some files i created yesterday – all garbled! what the heck. the older files seem to be ok. after some more trying around, it turned out that some other files from yesterday evening (namely, the music which i ripped) was fine, too. so, what happened? i don’t know. well, most of the files which were garbled i had backuped on the institute’s server, so that wasn’t a problem. but there was one file, called termine.txt, where i collected all appointments for the next months, which i changed yesterday evening and which i created in the last few days in long hours, and which i hadn’t backuped yet: now it’s garbled, too. screwed.
well. i don’t know what happened or whose fault it was. but for me, garbling data is something which an operation system should never ever do. well, good for me that i ordered a thinkpad yesterday, so i’ll switch back to linux soon anyway, hoping it will be less annoying… after all, all big data losses i had in the last years, which weren’t related to dying hard disks, happened on osx.

well, after this rant, something more constructive. one thing what could have happened is that for some reason, something screwed up with the realtime disk encryption i enabled on the macbook. maybe, for some reason, a screwed up dma transfer (maybe initiated by cdparanoia?) somehow managed to screw this up. just guessing.

today i was again thinking on backup solutions. my current backup harddisks use ext2 resp. ext3, a linux file system. but now i’m forced to use osx, as my linux machine completely died. it turns out that osx can read ext2/ext3 using ext2fsx, but that one is pretty instable and already killed one ext2 partition of mine (note: don’t mount anything as writeable!). i began looking for a file system which both osx and linux can write and read (and which is known to be stable). but… so far, i found: nothing. well, except fat32. i mean, hey, what the heck?! it can’t be that fat32 is the only one supported by both of them; fat32 is a relict from the stone age of computing, nothing which you want to use on a modern computer. well, maybe, but only if you store your stuff in tar files, another pretty antique, but at least somehow useful thing. this makes it pretty much impossible to browse the backup data, to see what’s in it, to easily extract certain files, but at least provides a working alternative. but, well, is this really the only one?!
another reason why we’re still in the stone age of computing…

somehow, it’s funny that people don’t complain when planes get delayed for two hours, but almost start crying when a train is say 30 minutes late…