Monthly Archives: April 2012

06

And here are some pics from 2006. Yet another apartment. It would seem that I moved pretty much every year. Not so much lately.

A smooth 3×17″ setup. Though, one screen was for my OpenBSD box, and two for my main desktop. I was running Xubuntu back then it would seem. I also seem to remember trying Gentoo for a few months around that time, but i don’t think i have any pictorial evidence to support my claims. The cactus on the left there sadly passed away last month after years of malnurishment and bad care.

Here we have my iBook G4 (also taken in 2006) that i had back in college, as well as my Nokia E60. I liked that phone. Man it was built to fucking last, and it had Symbian S60 on it. What you see there is my right hand, the iBook, and the phone during some lecture. The phone, if i recall, was running some S60 IRC-client, so i could uh.. multitask? Something inane like that, but it felt cool at time time. A lot of us had Apple laptops back then. Some had Sony’s.

There’s one last apartment of my own that I don’t seem to find any pictures of. My first place after I moved away from my parents in ’05.  Then of course, I’m going to raid my parent’s old photo albums to try and find pictures of my *really* old workstations from the 90’s. That ought to be fun!

Deeper and deeper

..into the mists of history. Here’s my workstation in 2009, a different apartment again.

 

Some explanations may be in order. No, not all systems were hooked up at the time. But most were in some use or another at some point in time. Either for practicing something, a lab or something, or just in storage before it went to some new owner. On the printer on the left, the Canon Mp500 (which was a good piece of work despite not working in Linux), is a disassembled X-box 360. The first one i owned, which broke, and was out of warranty, so naturally, i had to take it apart.

Those speakers i got from M, and were really fucking good, except they broke down a bit after this picture was taken (i think?). The white box under the desk was my OpenBSD box, which still exists (though in a different piece of hardware, and with a later version of OpenBSD). I still have that Keytronic KT-2000 on the left there, and it’s a superb keyboard to this day. The chair sucked dicks, and was discarded later, when i was able to get an old office chair from the company i worked for at the time.

And something from 2010

A picture from my previous apartment, taken 06/02/2010

Okay, maybe I’ll write up some of the components there. The big lug on the left, under the desk, was a Dell server that i was running various things on. I think it was mostly a file server with something like 6 SCSI disks. The grey box was actually an HP desktop that was the BSD-box at that time. The big case next to that was work in progress, some AMD based thing. On the desk on the left is a Samsung N140 netbook. On the desk, 2×22″ Samsungs. A linksys WRT54G, a Procurve 1400, and a Thinkpad X41 (which i still have). The desktop is pretty much the same as I have today.

Contrast

 

I posted the picture of my workstation taken about 10 years ago. Here’s my workstation now:

I am aware the lamp is ugly, and that the picture has some noise. I blame..badgers.

Note that the desk has changed here after we moved. This is still the same IKEA Galant desk system, only a straight configuration instead of the corner model i had previously. That went to B. The current one i have is 160x80cm, dark wood, with the T-type legs.

The old system is a lighter wood (cherry?). The big corner piece, plus an extension piece which was 120x60cm i think. A-type legs.

Contributions

I wrote down a hazy line one evening in notepad and then saved it. It says: “open source contribution if you are not a programmer?”. I think I’ve pontificated on this issue in the past as well, but let’s see what thoughts I have on it now.

I’ve done very minor contributions, because I’m not a programmer. More on this later. What I’ve done includes mostly submitting bug-reports, the odd translation effort here and there, and some documentation (mostly the latter). I’ve always like documenting stuff, because I know how much it can suck to use a program that has little to no documentation. I’ve worked in customer service, and in the help desk, so I think I have some kind of idea of what the end user wants to read in regards to documentation. Of course, this isn’t based on decades of working with people, but some years.

This question gets tossed around a lot. “How can I help? I couldn’t program my way out of a paper bag!”. I’ve taken a few programming courses in my life, trust me. From basic, perl and php to c++ and assembly. But I don’t like it. I’m not good at it, which is probably a product of the former statement. If you don’t like something, it’s generally very hard to get a grasp of the subject. The closest thing I’ll do to programming is writing shell scripts, or modifying some existing perl or python script to suit my needs. I can read source and kind of understand what is happening. Kind of like how i know Spanish. I can get the topic of the conversation or the sentence, but god help me if I have to produce anything more than “Una cerveza, por favor”. As a kid, I remember me and a friend worked on a role playing game in BASIC. It worked pretty well and we had implemented buying and selling items, gambling and even combat. But then my friend, who later went on to become a whiz kid of mathematics or whatever, suggested we take up a more advanced language and port the game over to that. At this point my interest dwindled and the thing kind of died out.

But I digress. Back to the question: How can I help? The four main answers that usually get spit out are:

  • Help new users by tutoring them
  • Document something that needs it
  • Translate a program
  • Report bugs whenever you see them

Helping new users should be second nature to all geeks. We all start out somewhere. B used to say, “Senior guys don’t fuck with you, they teach you”. Paraphrased. Your mileage will vary, as most people are not so friendly towards the budding geek. Some are outright hostile, telling people with seemingly stupid or simple questions to piss off. This is a major problem in free software and open source in my opinion. Personally, I love explaining how something works, as soon as I understand it myself. It’s a few minutes out of your life (as long as you remember your “No, I won’t fix your computer” t-shirt), and can set someone off on a lifelong hobby or career.

Documentation. Now this usually splits people down the middle. Sometimes literally. From my experiences, most people hate it. It’s that arduous task that someone has to do after a project is completed, because no one thought of doing it as they went along. Documentation, I am afraid to say, is usually of utter shit quality; hard to read, badly structured and written for someone like the writer (as opposed to a new user). Gurus will rarely look at documentation anyway, except when smoke starts rising, so why not gear it toward the new user instead?

Translation. This I’ve personally found out is pretty fun. If you’re adept at a language, and most of us have at least one primary language that they actually know, why not share it? Some projects make translation easier than others. They give you a file or files and you translate the different bits that are designated, like pieces of the UI, menus etc. Though, not everyone has a knack for language, and the result ends up as a horrible mess. But at least it’s a start. Usually better than google translate, anyway.

Reporting bugs. This is a mixed bag. Some programs make it very easy to report bugs. This is key. If reporting bugs is a fucking hassle, nobody will ever bother, except for the developers, and they rarely see all of the weird issues that the actual users do. If you’ve ever done help desk duties or tech support, you know that sometimes the end users can create such a mess inside a program, I doubt any automated testing or developers poking around would have found. They should be the ones doing testing. But since they are not as savy as you, the developer, you need to meet them in the middle. If a crash happens, and it’s fairly controlled, give the user an option to automagically collect relevant data about the software, the plaform it’s running on etc, and then send it off, along with a brief description of what you were doing. Some are really good at this, like Firefox. Some are notoriously bad.

Also, a bane in any bug reporting system is usually duplicates. New users have no idea that there could possibly be someone else with the same issue, and the end result is 50 reports on the same issue. And then you have devs and community managers running round telling people to “search first and then report”. If this isn’t easy, nobody will bother. Granted, usually someone will either point the user in the right direction, or even merge the issues. Sometimes, all they get are some hasty quips and a closed bug report. Improving these systems, in my opinion, should be a priority. Make the system look up key words from already posted bugs, and then try to match those up with what the user is writing. If we find similarities, suggest courses of action, or give clear, simple instructions on how to proceed with uncertainties.

Users also neglect to report key issues, and instead the reports are usually “I was typing and all of a sudden everything went black, please fix it!!!!11”. The solution might be user education, but also, automated data gathering, and clearer instructions on what to include and in what kind of format.

Of course, none of these issues will fix people that simply neglect every bit of documentation, information and guidelines. But it’s a start.

In closing, not everyone is a programmer. I remember back in college, a lot of courses centered on programming. And I felt desperate. Is this all IT is? Programming in different languages? The school seemed to think so. Some pushed through. Most didn’t. I think out of some 40 odd students in my class, less than 10 graduated.

And eventually, I found what i was looking for: A job in IT that isn’t programming. And here I am, installing server clusters for programmers to use as platforms. Who’da thunk it? It isn’t all just programming!

 

Upcoming stuff

That photo i posted two posts back? Yeah, i was thinking: I’m gonna go through all of the old photos i have, and that are at my parents place, and scan/copy every photo that has a picture of my former computers and / or workstations. Then post them here, with a description if i can remember. I remember i do have some photo’s of my 286, or 386 from the early 90’s, and then possibly later on as well. And if not the PC’s, then some pics of my NES in action 🙂

So that’s upcoming.

It’s been a long time

…since i last wrote on here. I guess i can pretend i was busy. That might be true?

First things first. My grandfather passed away on the morning of the 13th last month. He was 91. I ofcourse, attended the funeral, and I was a pallbearer. It was a short and beautiful event, though sad. Crazily enough, it was the first funeral i’ve attended. And i’m close to 30 years old. I guess they’ll become more common as i get older …

Ok, sad subjects aside, and onwards. I finished my mega-reading project, “REAMDE” by Neal Stephenson. I’m probably going to spoil some, so if you wish to be unspoilt, move to the nexst paragraph. The book was a whopping 1100 pages or so, and possibly the longest book i’ve ever read (i’m not even sure my 60’s paperback edition of Lord of the Rings is longer?). The book starts off as a rivetting drama, but in the end decays to cheap thrills and action, in my humble opinion. The characters are well built, and some are downright likable. The main plot sounds interesting: chinese gold-miners strike back with a virus that extorts people to give away their virtual money, which is then converted to real life currency. The book centers around the maker of the game, and his family. The events are kicked off when some russian gangsters have their money stolen by the chinese goldminers,, and go on a revenge-binge. Sounds cool? I thought so too. But the last few hundred pages lose sight of thise entirely, and even the game is pretty much forgotten. Instead, we’re wrapped in this cat and mouse game that is played between Islamic terrorists, and a bunch of more or less innocent people caught in their wake, somewhere in Brittish Columbia.

I’m not sure what I’ll read next. I considered The Hunger Games, but then, everyone is reading that, plus it might be a kids book like Harry Potter, so I’m not so sure I want to risk it. Plus it’s three parts or whatever? Another series i considered was Game of Thrones. I’ve seen season one, and reading anymore will most certainly spoil the rest of the show for me. Then again, people usually say you should read the book before you see the film. I don’t know. I’ve considered Kevin Mitnick’s autobiography “Ghost In the Wires”, but i haven’t gotten around to ordering that yet.

Cabin-season is beginning. We’re heading out this easter weekend. We had massive storm damage during december, so there’s a lot of stuff to work on once we get there. We bought a new chainsaw so we can start working on cleaning the lot. We’ll have enough firewood to last us, honestly, a decade. I’m really looking forward to going there. I’ve missed the place, i’ve missed the projects, the nature. Which is a stark contrast to what i do for a living: sitting in front of a computer 8-14 hours every day. But i love that too, don’t get me wrong.

I was raging over some random blog, where a chick is describing how a bar used to be different in the “good old days”. And then i remember this chick is 22 years old. Now, i don’t know how young she was when she used to hang out in that bar in the “good old days”, but uh.. *grinding of gears*

Augh. Well, the weekend went well. It was slightly cold, but not too cold to do things. We were cleaning up the yard from that storm i wrote about. There’s so much crap everywhere it’s not even funny. Warmed up the sauna for the first time this season, which was fun. We had to break the ice, literally, with an iron pike or whatever it’s called. Still had about 7 -10 cm’s of ice there, so it’ll be a good month  or so before we get rid of the ice entirely. Usually it’s on the first of may, at the latest.

We should go watch Iron  Sky at some point here. I had the opportunity to see it as part of some.. uh.. half-day-seminar/excuse to see the movie for free, but i passed for some reason. Probably because i want to see it with H. On this topic, i was reading some crackpot’s blog about how Iron  Sky is actually a propaganda-film to prepare humanity for the eventual coming of our uh.. heavenly benefactor space-alien types. Oh and they oppose communism and represent the same values as the aryans. Great! …