Sep 30, 2002

Ever wanted to print a man page in unix? You can't simply pipe the output straight to a printer device, it just won't work. Most normal workstations will have a2ps installed, a tool that converts ascii text to a PostScript file.

To print a man page: man {someSubject} | a2ps -m -P {printerName}

To save a man page in PS format: man {someSubject} | a2ps -m -o {fileName}


One of the best Slashdot posts I have ever seen, it actually made me laugh out loud:
I can see it now; toe to toe late one night ata stoplight. One man revs his engines, the other responds with a growl of his own. The other prepares his mind for the upcoming duel, the other is hurriedly inputing up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a.....
Original here.

Sep 29, 2002

More important than a new laptop, I got to see Elaine last night! She moved from Ann Arbor to Philadephia quite awhile ago, so it was great to see her. She was having dinner with a bunch of her friends from her last job, working at a comic book store. She was a bit concerned that I wouldn't fit in. Me, not fit in? I was just as geeky as the rest of them, it just didn't show as much... Just kidding, they seemed like a great bunch of people.

I would like to thank IBM for having such a crappy online ordering process that I have decided to buy from a different company. I would have purchased an IBM Thinkpad R, but whenever I would try to pick the parts I wanted, the price would always be "NA". Maybe that means they are sold out of Thinkpad Rs, but they could have told me in a better fashion.

Because of this set back, I might just buy a laptop from Compaq. If someone had told me last week that I was going to get a Compaq, I would have laughed my ass off. Instead, I have fallen in love with the Compaq Presario 900. As of right now, it is looking like I will be getting these specs:
  • Mobile Athlon XP 2000+
  • 256 MB 266MHz DDR
  • 30 gig hard drive
  • 8x DVD drive
  • 14.1" XGA Display
  • Built-in 56k modem and 10/100 NIC
The laptop is a bit beefier than my last one (1.5" thick and 6.8 lbs), but it shouldn't be a noticeable difference.

Sep 25, 2002

You know you are a software engineering geek when:

An every day problem comes along, and instead of just trying to solve it immediately, you have to plan for it. "Well, we first have to figure out what the real problem is before we can solve it." Then you have a requirements phase, trying to figure out what will need to be done to solve the problem. Then you have a design phase, trying to come up with a good way to solve the problem. Then you actually do it.

I need to spend more time with biology and less with computer science. It's pervasive.

Sep 24, 2002

The engineering job fair was this week. I don't want to say much, but there were three companies that were quite interested in me. Two are on the West coast and the other is on the East coast. I don't think I am ready to move just yet. Real life is pretty scary.

Sprint PCS sucks.

There is a very good reason that the greeting on my phone has been Sprint POS ever since I got it. Let's go over what happened to me this month: I moved from Ann Arbor to Livonia back to Ann Arbor. I changed my address on the Sprint PCS site about a week after I moved to the new Ann Arbor apartment. The changes just wouldn't stick. I would change the address, save the changes, reload and the old address would be back. I tried for about 3 days to get it to stick, no luck.

Eventually, I just couldn't log into the website. I make all of my payments online, so this was going to be a problem when September 7th rolled around (my billing date). Obviously, that day blew past. I couldn't log into the website for a couple weeks and my bill was overdue. They didn't turn my phone off for a couple weeks, so I thought I was set. No so much. They turned it off yesterday. I STILL can't get into the website.

This morning, I called their customer service number. I had to PAY $3 to get my address changed over the phone. That is strike 1.

My new apartment is in the basement of a house. My cellular reception is extremely spotty and random. Sprint PCS rarely works in university buildings. My job, classes and main study area are all in such buildings. Thus, my cell phone only works when I am walking to and from my destinations.

What cellular provider should I go with?

Sep 19, 2002

When people thing of Mac accessories, they think fruity colors and translucency. Not any more, meet Hubzilla.

*Still* sick!

Sep 13, 2002

As much as I hate using this page as a place to rant, sometimes it has to be done.

The first assignment for my senior design project is due this Wednesday. Basically, it is a presentation that explains the requirements of the project. In order to do the presentation, we need to have a good idea of what the project will be. Since our project was pretty open-ended, that required meeting with the client (in this case, the biomedical engineering professor). Professors are busy people, and thus he could not meet with us until today. He found an opening in his schedule and emailed us at 11:15 AM saying he was free from noon until 2 PM. None of my other group members could make it, which is understandable given the short notice. Thus, I had to meet with the professor by myself, while still extremely sick. Luckily, I was able to be partially coherent and not spray snot all over his office walls.

Since I am poor and car-less, I took the bus from north campus back to central campus after the meeting. There was one kid standing up in front of my seat while myself and the kid next to me were trying to get off the bus. I let the kid next to me get up first, then I started to stand up. When the first kid got up, the guy that was standing slid back and was directly in front of me. Without even looking above me, I stood up. I stood up directly into the guys elbow. Crack, right on top of my head. Now my leg and my head hurts.

On top of still being very very sick, I was woken up this morning at 5:45 AM with the most excruciating charley horse in my right leg. It probably only lasted 15 seconds, but it felt more like a minute. Here we are, seven hours later, and my leg is still in pain. I need to reboot my body.

Sep 12, 2002

Trojaned OpenBSD CDs. Making your own ISO of OpenBSD is a trivial exercise. Hell, I make an i386 specific ISO every time a new version of OpenBSD comes out. You can still get the latest one here. People buy the CD to support the project, and that's it. No one that has the technical knowledge to need/want/use OpenBSD would be unable to make their own CD. To all the people that bought this trojaned CD, installed it and got 0wn3d, you deserved it.

TCP/IP Sequence Number Analysis. Instead of simply stating that Mac OS 9 has a very predictable TCP/IP sequence, there are graphs that show the spread of such "random" numbers. Very enlightening.

Sep 11, 2002

A sinus infection has left me completely incapacitated. I had to skip class yesterday, and I may do the same today. I woke up this morning feeling like I had the worst hangover of my life. My stomach hurt, my head was throbbing and my muscles were sore. Yesterday, my nose was leaking like a burst water main. It was quite odd, minding my own business, playing on the computer, then feeling a hot river of snot pour from my nose with undying fury. The taste, that was what got to me the most. Today, my combination of ibuprofen, asprin, claritin, generic over-the-counter decongestant and antihistamine and mulit-vitamins might keep this sickness in check

Sep 9, 2002

I finally got my MDE project:

We run some large image processing tasks that run over many processors. We've developed our own code to distribute computations over several Unix systems, but it's really out of date. In particular, we need to take advantage of the compute power in Linux clusters. We have our own small cluster and we would liek to exploit the capabilities of the large cluster in the Center for Parallel Computing. One of my students provided the following request. I think this would make a great senior design project with real applicability in the commercial world....
How about a tool set for running background C code or MatLab jobs. Kind of like the launch program, but for use on our local Athlons. A script would detect what machines are idle and launch jobs in a joblist serially. Alternatively, and even better, they could get an account at the Center for Parallel Computing for the Athlon clusters. These clusters use SMP parallel computing additions to the C language. For independent C processes like our tracking, it would not be that hard to write scripts that modify the C code so it can run on these Athlon clusters, and maybe even automatically launch it and give feedback in the process. So users can run independent C code on these systems without having to learn the SMP additions or details about the parallel cluster. Automatic transfer of files without interactive authentication and big/little endian compensation may pose some challenges.
This is a seriously under-developed project description. We are going to have a meeting with the professor that suggested this project to get some solid details. The cool part about this professor is that he works in the biomedical engineering department. My bio degree will make it easier to get in his head.

Sep 8, 2002

I have another project to add to my list. Hopefully I will finish one of these this semester.

For the sake of argument, I will define the "lifespan" of an operating system to be from the day it is released to the public (either for purchase or for download) to the time *two* new versions of the operating system have come out. An example would be OpenBSD 2.9. It was released on June 1st of 2001. Since OpenBSD 3.1 (the second version past 2.9) came out on May 19th of 2002, the lifespan of OpenBSD 2.9 was 06/01/2001 to 05/19/2002.

Over the lifespan of OpenBSD 2.9, there were 27 different patches. That might not seem like much, but that is over two patches a month. For a company that has many servers, that could be a lot of patching. Likewise, the current version of OpenBSD (3.1) has 14 patches already. That version had only been available for under three months when the last patch was issued.

Now that I have that cleared up, time for the actual project: An OpenBSD version of Windows Update. Since no self-respecting BSD admin would go to a website for their patches, BSDUpdate would be a command-line tool. It would check the current state of your system, verify which patches were needed, and download them. The tool can then install the patches and restart services as/if necessary. The tool could also be put in "automatic mode" and placed into a cron job for completely seamless updating.

This is actually a very easy project (but also time consuming). Nevertheless, I will be damned if I ever finish it.

School started this week, which is the main reason why my post frequency has dropped to near-zero. My classes for this term include Operating Systems, Molecular Biology and the Major Design Experience.

Operating Systems is not as cool as I thought it would be. Instead of getting an overview of the 1.9 million topics involved with operating systems, we are only learning threads and file systems. So disappointing. Molecular has been good so far, which is surprising. By now, I thought I would be horrifically sick of anything biology related. I talked to someone new in class for the first time in practically three years, so that might help. And finally, the Major Design Experience (MDE): 8 credits for a single project. We were given something like 30 projects to choose from. We got to pick our top three, then the professors will put us into groups. My choices were:
  1. Writing a set of UNIX/Linux tools to ease administration of a network that includes UNIX, Linux, Windows and Mac workstations.
  2. Add an extension to the university LDAP server so that email groups can have their list archived or sent as a digest version.
  3. Rebuild the EECS website, both the design and the database backend.
I don't care which one I get, they should all be fairly easy. Time consuming, but easy.

Once I get into the swing of things, I am sure I will be back to posting (almost) everyday. I don't even have a desk in my room yet, so it might be awhile.

Sep 4, 2002

I don't have time to properly comment, but just read this short story. It is extremely geek-heavy, I warn you.

Sep 2, 2002

Even though I just posted about the Hot Snakes last week, I am already the 13th listing on google for the keywords Hot Snakes show. Put that in quotes and I am #2. Woohoo. I am in the top 100 for just Hot Snakes.

Cannot ... spin ... pen ... So frustrating!