April 4th, 2006


Brooding versus Breeding

I just finished with the third homework assignment for Bioinformatics, and I'm rather proud of this one. I managed to get enough free time to finish it (and the extra credit), and it's done cleanly and prettily. It took me a bit longer to finish than I anticipated because the assignment gave an algorithm for a certain part that was actually incorrect, but once I figured it out and devised a correct algorithm, things came together rather well.

On the laptop front, apparently one of the many tweaks I made to the system broke it in a very strange way: programs that use xresources no longer can parse colour names. Possessing much arcane knowledge, I inspected /usr/share/X11/rgb.txt (which is there and looks pretty normal) and made sure showrgb could see it (which it could). So.. xterm is useless to me right now, as:

tremor:~$ xterm -fg grey -bg black
Warning: Color name "black" is not defined
Warning: Color name "grey" is not defined

and the resulting window is all black. I can still specify colours by providing the hex name, but that's a pain and I really should just figure out what's going on. perl-Tk is also seriously mangled. Apparently some folk have managed to get FC5 happy with the stuff needed for my video card/screen, and in an RPM format no less -- when I get the time, I'll have to check that out. Oh, and Windowmaker segfaults as soon as it starts. I wonder what exactly I did to screw up my system this way. It may possibly be the results of my (stupidly) letting the ATI installer run and then my (more stupidly) attempting to undo its changes by hand. It may be something else. My present way to attempt to cope with this is to run scripts iterating over all packages and verifying them against the system. If this doesn't work, I'll just do a fresh copy onto my external HD and do a fresh install again. Meh.

For the first time ever, I have a laptop that can go to sleep, as Fedora5 has the magic needed to do that automagically. It's interesting (although it, for reasons I don't entirely understand, logs me out).

jwz had a rather amusing summary of the movie Closer:

Wow, I hated this movie. More specifically, I despised every character in it. It's a story set over a number of years in which two couples keep cheating on each other with members of the other couple. There's a whole lot of repeated "I need you, I can't live without you" dialog, which, every time, just left me thinking, "ok, why?" Which maybe was the point, but in the end it was just an exercise in watching hollow, untrustworthy people repeatedly betray each other, and really, who gives a shit.

I agree with him on it, partway, in that the characters really were all despicable, but they were also rather interesting in a Kundera-esque way. I am rather sensitive to portrayals of infidelity (and I don't think I could ever see John Lennon as being a particularly good person overall because of it), but with a bit of initial adjustment, I can still usually enjoy a film that portrays it. In particular, the film Kinsey comes to mind as having been worth seeing for its exploration of various conceptions of sex as well as the historical saga of Dr Kinsey itself.

I'm really enjoying the mustard I got in Paris a little over a year ago (wow, time really does fly..). It's a pity in some ways that I've gone mostly veggie again -- I don't know what mustard is normally eaten with apart from meat (it's decent with Rye bread..)

oy.. tired.


Windowmaker versus Gnome

I am presently moderately tempted to switch window managers, for the first time in at least .. hmm.. 6 years? I've been using Windowmaker all that time, because I like the NeXTStep-style interface, and because it's very fast, simple, and I know how it works. It's very easy to configure to do everything I want it to do, and it strikes a good balance between flash and simplicity. I am, however, lightly being seduced by Fedora5's default GNOME desktop interface (some odd mix of metacity/nautilus/gnome-panel/etc). It's also not excessively flashy, but more importantly it has nice tools for switching languages, monitors my battery, and otherwise is a very smooth, desktoppy feel. Its problems are that it's not quite as configurable as Windowmaker, I don't know how its configfiles work (presumably some horrid mess of XML going through gconf, another complex piece of software I don't understand), nor do I really understand how the whole thing is put together. This is kind of like the dilemma between the old VW Bug where I understand everything under the hood, it's not particularly flashy, but I've tweaked it a lot and am comfortable with it, versus a new sleek hovercar that can go over water, has an ultra-modern stereo system, and can fly for short periods at a time, but has far fewer options and the insides are a black box. There are also the issues that

  • Windowmaker has not seen updates for a fairly long while now
  • Last time I checked their website, it was offline (and still is)
It's painful to switch these kinds of things, just like every time I have switched between Vi(m) and (x)Emacs, it has taken me a long time to get comfortable again. Is it time to ditch Windowmaker?

Update: I have checked all the systems I put Fedora5 on at work, and none of them show any of the oddities (misbehaving applications) that my laptop has. Windowmaker works fine, X Resources are happy, Perl-Tk goes great, etc. Similarly, all this has nothing to do with my user environment, because running under a guest account, it all still fails horribly. *Much* to my surprise, the Perl-Tk issues are apparently tied to my X being hosed, because when I ssh to my other workstations, Perl-Tk fails the same way, whereas when I vnc to then, it works fine. I would not be surprised if WindowMaker is not actually broken either. The server or the resources subsystem are definitely messed up though. I can, amusingly, vnc elsewhere and then ssh back into my box, and things work fine. That's pretty messed up.

Possible causes of problems:

  1. Failed install of ATI drivers + Stupid removal attempts
  2. The deep voodoo xorg.conf I used to get video kinda working
  3. Additional packages I installed
  4. One of the many additional tweaks I did to the system after install
I am thinking now that I will likely do another backup/install onto my laptop, this time playing very close attention to when/if any of these things break. On the upside, I've done some cleaning of my home directory during all this moving around.

CORRECTION: I found the problem. It was user error, in particular a bad RgbPath specifier in my xorg.conf (that was valid in FC4). I'm surprised that X even loaded and as much worked as it did. So, I will not reinstall Fedora, and to my surprise, for the first time the gnome components interact nicely with Windowmaker as my desktop, and I get pretty much all the good desktop stuff I wanted on toolbars that otherwise slide out of the way. Cool! I just need to take the time to install the hacked graphics driver that some other fedoran folks have cooked up, and all will hopefully be good.


Sleeping on the Bellows

I have wanted to have a musical instrument again for a long time. While I hope that my friend Dmitriy will find a Balalaika for me while he visits Russia, I want to get an Accordion as well because they're really fun to play. I am looking at this one in particular, the Hohnica 2353. On the off chance that any of you have accordion knowledge, is this a good deal? Is this a good accordion? Should I be looking instead at a different one? The very few reviews I've found seem to indicate it's a pretty nice instrument, but I'd like more input.

Please respond soon if you're going to respond, because I want to order fairly soon. If I don't make music soon (beyond singing, which I do fairly often), I think I'm going to be rather unhappy.

UPDATE: I ordered it, and it will ship to my workplace. This, for some reason, amuses me greatly. I wonder if CMU has ever had an accordion go to a departmental mail area before.