jc blog - tales of a modern-day nomadic hunter-gatherer

Follow jcomeau_ictx on Twitter This is the weblog of Intrepid Wanderer. You never know what you might find here; graphic descriptions of bodily functions, computer programming secrets, proselytizing for the antichrist, miscellaneous ranting and kvetching, valuable information on living off the land... if you don't share my rather weird interests you may want to try slashdot instead.

You can consider my Del.icio.us links an extension to my blog, as are my LifeTango goals and my other to-do items. My to-buy list is also public, but only for sharing any useful ideas that might be there; I'm not requesting charity, neither do I offer it.

You can find me easily in google searches, as jcomeau, jcomeau_ictx, or jcomeauictx. There are lots of other jcomeaus, but AFAIK I'm the only jcomeau_ictx out there so far.

If you want to comment on anything you see here, try the new Facebook comments, reachable by clicking the "[comment]" link at the end of each post. If for some reason that isn't working, go ahead and email me, jc.unternet.net. You know what to do with the first dot. Make the 'subject' line something reasonably intelligent-looking or it goes plunk! into the spambasket unread.

This RSS feed may or may not work. Haven't fiddled with it in forever. RSS Feed


Word on the street in Rosarito is that business is off, outside of the downtown area, due to the harrassment of tourists by the cops. Specifically, their stopping Americans for any or no reason, and writing them a ticket hoping to get a payoff. The locals have a name for it, mordido gabachos or something similar (biting the Yankees? not sure). The end result is that many stopped driving down; they take a bus to the hotel from San Ysidro or Tijuana, and hang around the hotel district only.

In related news, someone killed the chief of police here. It probably had more to do with a recent crackdown on drug trafficking than the irate businessmen though. The drug kings get along OK with the cops as long as they take their payoffs and look the other way. Why am I concerned? I don't want the army moving in and imposing curfews, that's all. They finally fixed the lights along Blvd. Benito Juarez a couple of nights ago, so I can walk to and from Barandas in relative safety again; it would be a shame to lose access to my drug of choice (cerveza).

But that's not likely to happen. One, Rosarito is dependent on tourism, and two, the Palomas police station was shot up by Dope, Inc. about the time I moved to Deming last year, and things blew over pretty quickly. So I don't expect much will happen here; the new chief will play nice with the drug people, and everyone will live happily ever after. [comment]


Not sure if I mentioned this before, but when you're working on Windows, I'm sure you know that it's safer to be logged in with the lowest privileges possible (same on Unix, of course, but then everybody does that already, right?). Problem is, our good friend Bill didn't provide a 'su' command for us to gain admin privs when we need them. Therefore a lot of people still do everything as root (Administrator) so they don't have to logout/login each time they want to install software. Even though XP provides the 'switch user' option that's not ideal either; since it saves both user's states, an underpowered machine (like my old laptop) can be dog-slow using that method. Using Cygwin, you can setup sshd as a service, and ssh -l Administrator localhost, but that won't get you GUI access to any programs for some reason I haven't bothered to investigate. And in the Windows world, almost everything is done using point-and-drool.

So anyway, here's my best workaround to date, for w2k and xp, and maybe even NT: start -> run -> \cygwin\bin\administer.bat. It will leave you with a "root shell" from which you can launch any program as Administrator. Of course, you don't really need the batch file, but I can never figure out the arcane syntax of "runas". [comment]


These goddamned Mexicans are getting on my nerves. Every fucking day I go through TJ to the border, one or more of these assholes has to make some stupid remark. "Cowboy" because of the hat. "Bin Laden" or "Jesus" because of the hair and beard. Lately, because I shaved off the mustache to make drinking easier, it's "Lincoln". I felt like saying "Lincoln was an asshole, and so are you" but didn't want to push my luck.

About 1/4 of the way through Nabokov's Glory. Most of the pressure is off on my programming jobs, so finding more time to read. Like Martin, the protagonist, I'm living the life of the idle rich, only minus the money.

Tried to find the nudist area of Silver Strand Beach today, but no luck; once I was far from all the other beachgoers, however, I peeled and took a quick dip. What looked from a distance like a couple of illegals on the prowl for a quick buck, a common sight in New Mexico, kept approaching the place where I was, and I put off running to the ocean for a while until they turned away. It wouldn't take long for them to grab my pants and run, leaving me naked and penniless. But once I'd dressed and walked back to the road, one of them followed me. I picked up a piece of bamboo or other reed and continued walking, then the person called to me -- in the voice of an American female. Oops. Turned out the land I was walking over was a game preserve. Endangered species, even the military from the base next door wasn't allowed in. I protested that I hadn't seen any sign to that effect, and she cops this attitude like I'm some kind of idiot, as it was so "obviously" marked off with these flexible plastic sticks stuck in the sand. I said they didn't mean a thing to me. Anyway, now I've been warned. Big deal.

Thinking it over later, I wished I had said something to the effect of "That doesn't surprise me, most areas are off-limits to the homeless. Talk about an endangered species." Anyway, what they're doing is very likely ridiculously ineffective anyway. We as a culture are destroying anwhere between 50 and 250 species per day, depending on whose estimate you want to believe. What are they doing to counteract that? Sticks in the sand. Sticks against the river, as Daniel Quinn says. One killer wave and their whole preserve disappears anyway. [comment]


Spent a good part of the last two days waiting for something, so had a chance to finish Pynchon's V. this evening. The book didn't mention the Vatican except in the last few pages; when I first saw the description of V. towards the beginning of the book, that's what I thought it stood for. And it might, along with many other possibilities. It's going to require a few more readings to unlock its secrets. [comment]


Making some progress with a hobby job, converting old Ensoniq VFX-SD diskettes into something usable with a Python script. The meat is in vfxsequence, link to it like so:

$ ln -s ~/src/eps.py ~/bin/vfxsequence

Then, after dumping the disk as described in pydoc eps:

$ mkdir /tmp/workdisk
$ ~/eps.py ~/ensoniq/workdisk.dat dumpfiles /tmp/workdisk
$ vfxsequence /tmp/workdisk/FREAK.efv > /tmp/freak.mid.dmp
$ midiundump /tmp/freak.mid.dmp
$ midiplay /tmp/freak.mid.dmp.mid

The latter two commands being symlinks to my midi.py script, written when I was first learning Python so it's even shittier than my more recent efforts.

Yes, I'm aware of Giebler's programs, but it's shareware, it requires MS-DOS, and even though I could probably get it working under FreeDOS, I figured it would be worth it to figure out the format for myself. It's been a while since I reverse-engineered anything of this level of complexity for something other than money.

I've got a ways left to go, so far just getting the note and time-delay values more or less correct, and have two files that seem to be corrupted or show a bug in my track-extraction routine. But for the hobbyist with some old Ensoniq diskettes it may be a help. [comment]


Took a few hours and solved the dependency hell on my server. Mpage was working, but due to a conflict in libpaperg and libpaper1 packages wasn't completely configured, and apt-get kept complaining about it. Tried all combinations of -f, -m and other crap, no joy. Finally removed the goddamned package and reinstalled with -t unstable. Jeezus, what a pain. Just as bad as Red Hat with its fucking rpm shit. Then got my Subversion installation going again by upgrading that package, but had to edit my .svn/entries files and change the URLs to point to my server instead of to 'localhost'; seems I had been developing on the server itself and had then copied the directory trees from the server onto my laptop.

Well, anyway, now I've got my version control system working before my codebase got too complicated, and can now make changes without worrying too much about reverting when things go wrong. Not fun when all you're using is RCS.

I need beta testers for my customer's top-secret product. If you play golf, have any type of PDA, Blackberry, or smartphone that you're comfortable with cold-resetting if necessary, and can give me some usable feedback on problems, I'd like to hear from you: jc.jcomeau.com; you know what to do with the first dot. I can't pay you anything but you of course get to use the software for free; can't say anything more than that publicly, but it will probably be of interest to you if you meet the above prerequisites. Or if you have some friends, family, or acquaintances who do, and whose integrity you can vouch for (I don't want people who are going to give away copies of the program of course), go ahead and give them my email address. Thanks. [comment]


These afternoon naps sometimes give me the strangest dreams. I was just now somewhere in California, maybe some years in the future, in a post office or some other building, and saw some glossy pamplet with a story about some 1988 cellphone call made Powell the POTUS for a few minutes, and that Congress won't reveal the truth about it.

Now why would my mind make this shit up? I don't follow the news, and I no longer care shit about what those jackasses are doing in Washington. I don't know if "Powell" was referring to Colin Powell or not; in the dream I thought it was referring to some white guy.

I wonder if perhaps we time-travel into the not-so-distant future sometimes, or just jump into alternate universes like Vonnegut's characters tend to do. My body didn't want to come out of this nap so I could write this down, but luckily my bladder disagreed strongly enough. I had a little "accident" with my Stadium Pal yesterday afternoon so I don't rely on it any more.

Googling powell 1988 cellphone OR phone call president comes up with a story about astrologer Sydney Omarr and Ronald Reagan on the WWW, which mentions Colin Powell; and in Google Groups, something about a guy named James Powell in alt.assassination.jfk. But at least in the first few results, nothing matching my dream.

Another thing, regarding Vonnegut: why do his books show up in the "Literature" section of bookstores like Barnes and Noble, while Heinlein's is in Science Fiction? Is there something conspiratorial about this? I don't know which department is more "marginalizing" to a book's popularity, but in my case at least I always avoided Vonnegut until one day I figured I had to force myself to get "cultured", and picked up a few of his books, only to find out I liked them immensely. And I similarly avoided JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye until conspiratorialists mentioned that mind-controlled killers read it (John Lennon's killer was reading it while waiting for the cops to arrive), and I wanted to see what might be in it of interest (sure didn't find it, whatever it was).

OK, enough musing for now. My customer just sent me another payment this morning, and he'd like to see some improvement in the MIDP program, so maybe I ought to get cracking. [comment]


Hmm, just figured out something. When you POST an IPN verification to Paypal's servers and you get this huge HTML page back instead of the expected "VERIFIED" or "INVALID", it may be because your query didn't have a content-length header. This is probably in the w3 documents, I didn't RTFS. Anyway, now I can hopefully get the IPN stuff working. [comment]


When I went to San Diego yesterday to pick up my mail, I was really hoping for a pleasant surprise with those Hypnoskates I bought. But it wasn't to be; too small. This was my third strike with blade skates. I made it a point to buy one size too large this time and still it wasn't enough. So I'm selling them on eBay, and to hell with Hypno (they were going to make me pay shipping both ways for a replacement with a larger size).

Anyway, I bought an expensive but well-made Insul Mat Überlite at the REI store in La Mesa. And some solder from Radio Shack to finish my battery pack. In the mail also was my pee tube, which I have yet to try on, and yet another copy of My Ishmael, a gift for someone I love.

So I'm back at the treadmill, cranking out code for Paypal integration for this programming project. I'd forgotten, but found again, the secret of getting data back to your "return" script, using the hidden variable "rm" with a value of "2". Use that with your IPN script to make it more difficult for people to steal your software.

Also verified information on the bus I mentioned previously, and updated my Tijuana - Rosarito page. [comment]


Installed the experimental binary of OpenWRT on my new router today, in particular openwrt-wrt54g-squashfs.bin. Just used the default firmware's upgrade feature, from the Administration page. I thought something went wrong when the progress bar was only about 1/4 of the way across when I got the page informing me that the upgrade was successful, but after a couple of minutes I was in. Nice new feature: as soon as you telnet in, it prompts you (but doesn't force you) to run passwd. As soon as you do -- telnet is disabled, and you can now get back in with:

$ ssh -l root

Big improvement. Good job, guys! I wasn't sure it would run when the model number showed v.3, but I think it's still close enough to 2.2. Anyway, I have to do some more work before I can say how usable it is. [comment]

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