Monthly Archives: January 2010

Freeze, Deep

Right now, it’s unbelievably cold. We’ve already hit our freezing mark this winter, but today’s bluster from the north has me chilled to the bones. Bundle up; tonight’s gonna be a cold and lonely one.

Currently listening to VAST’s album “April”. Mostly stuff done on a side-project and some demos. I wish this band would put out something that’s a top-notch production with polished surfaces like their first two albums. The intimacy of imperfection is fine, but please, wow my socks off again.

Speaking of not wowing my socks off, this upgrade to Debian on my laptop hasn’t been all rainbows and puppies. Luckily I had the forethought, back when I first put Ubuntu on this, to set aside a separate partition for my /home directory, because that allows me to keep all of my files, customizations, and configuration settings between OS installations. That allowed me to practically hit the ground running with minimal time configuring the new install. It’s a nice ideal.

But, be that as it may, some of the config differences between Ubuntu and Debian left me with some very weird problems. The Compiz compositor isn’t installed by default on Debian Squeeze (weird, I know), and my Xorg user config was configured to use it. This comically resulted in windows with no GUI chrome (titlebar, status bar, menus, etc), because the compositor draws those; Xorg only draws the window contents. I installed Compiz and its config tool and all was fixed. Also, the Debian variant of Gnome doesn’t provide GUI options to force passwords on resume from Hibernate or Standby, which is a damn handy feature from the Ubuntu version. A few minutes in GConf (at /apps/gnome-power-manager/lock) fixed that.

However, somewhere along the way I may have installed a package or driver or flipped a config switch to cause Xorg to hang on resume. Like, I press the power button after a hibernate/standby, the computer wakes up and resumes, initializes the display, provides me with the Xlock login dialog, wherein I enter the password, then X draws the background image and halts. The mouse is movable, but the video is locked. Can’t even switch to a virtual terminal, but I can log into the laptop via SSH from another host. The only hint I can find is in /var/log/messages where it mentions “bonobo-activation-server cannot associate with desktop session”. Bonobo is a deprecated part of the Gnome GUI framework, but for some reason, some part of Gnome is still using it and hanging when trying to hand off control of the display from Xlock/Xscreensaver to Compiz. Kinda pisses me off, because this worked in Ubuntu. What did they do to make it work?

As a stopgap measure, I simply disabled the password requirement on resume. It’s insecure, but there it is. Why file a bug report? It works as designed!

Speaking of productive, this was a productive week at work. I’ll cap to actually putting my head in the game. If only I’d do that all the time, my life would be easier. At least it’d feel more fulfilling. I hate dragging my feet and/or ass; it’s half my issue with my life/job/hobbies.

So there’s my update. Maybe some time I’ll drop some mad science on you people to show that I can have deep thoughts on occasion. I used to do that waaaay back in the day. But like any muscle, if you don’t exercise it, it will atrophy. And boy howdy, it sure has.

Ubuntu Have No Idea How Debian I Am On Freshness

I spent some time Saturday night nerding out by upgrading my laptop’s OS from Ubuntu 9.04 to Debian Testing (Squeeze).

I say “upgrade” because moving to Debian is a major step up from Ubuntu. Canonical, Inc., the company that publishes Ubuntu, essentially takes a snapshot of the entire Debian project and all its software packages and over the span of a few months sorts out which packages are worthy of going into the next Ubuntu release, and which ones are too incomplete to make the cut. Meaning that by the time a Ubuntu version is released, the software within, especially from the active projects, is at least a few months old.

If you’re one of those late adopters, like me, by the time the dust settles after a release and you finally decide to install the new version, you could easily be trying to tolerate software that’s over a year old. And if you’re using one of the LTS (Long Term Support) versions, like I am on my desktop, then you’re looking at 2 years with no functionality improvements; nothing but security updates. That’s unacceptable.

The straw that broke the camel’s back is the crappy bluetooth stack that was packaged with Ubuntu 9.04. They froze the BlueZ package during a time when the project was undergoing a major push in improvement, so the version that got frozen was largely incomplete and had gaping holes in its functionality and stability. Again, this was largely unacceptable, because the best versions were posted, available for installation, right on the project’s website and was available as a package on Debian Testing, but nowhere to be found on Ubuntu.

See, I come from the Windows world, which to me means I can grab any piece of software, no matter how fresh or stale, and install it for use at any time. I’m used to that paradigm. But that kind of capability isn’t part of the Ubuntu/Debian package management ethos, and it sticks in my craw. Case in point, my desktop system is saddled with Firefox version 3.0.16 — the latest is 3.5. All I’ve gotten for the past 2 years is security updates. On any other OS, I could be rocking with the latest version’s bells and whistles. But not Ubuntu. This is weak sauce.

Hopefully sticking with the Testing branch of Debian will help me get the freshest packages; once any project publishes a new version with bugfixes and functionality improvements, Debian picks it up, does some essential testing during the Unstable phase, and then pushes it upstream to Testing. Following this track means taking some measured risk; in trying to keep up with the newest stuff, breaking something fundamental to the system’s function is a possibility (incompatible libraries being the biggest risk). It also means more frequent updates are required to stay current. But, right now, I feel it’s a worthwhile gamble.

Ubuntu’s coup de grâce is that they take the bother of finding the right drivers for most hardware and package them into their distribution media so most computer systems function right out of the box. This is their strength. They also take the hassle of putting together a cohesively-matched set of packages that work well together with hardly any configuration necessary. A beginner can throw Ubuntu on a box and within the evening be doing their thing with almost no effort. That’s commendable. Contrast that with the driver confusion I experienced (video and wireless drivers weren’t loaded so automatically), and you can understand why people who say “Yeah, I need to learn Linux” try Ubuntu first.

But I’ve already taken that class. Now it’s time for my bluetooth mouse and I to graduate.

What I’d Say If I Were Actually Busy

Yes. There’s that much going on in my life. You people have no idea how hard it is to live my fast-paced life. I can’t keep writing journal articles while I’m trying my best to find ways to kill the boredom, stiffle the ennui, and pay less attention to myself so I can actually focus on something else long enough to do something worthwhile. It’s a tough life, so stop yelling at me for not writing as often as you want me too. Jeez. So just lay off with the flood of blog comments, I hear you. Ok? Ok!

Thank you for understanding.



And so begins a new day, a new month, new year, a new decade. I feel hopeful for my future…kinda like I always do at this time of year. But I hope some of my lost potential can be regained. I’m sitting at this coffeeshop at my laptop, and I can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to life than this. I was up here last night doing the same thing, and 4 hours before the stroke of midnight I had a look around and noticed that the place was half-filled with a scattering of sad fucks at their laptops on a party night. It was then that I knew I didn’t want to be one of them. So I got up and left. Found a party.

There’s more to life, and sitting on my browser, hitting refresh constantly on Facebook, is not what I’d consider living fully. There are songs to be written. There are loves to be won. And that won’t happen here like this.