Archive for November, 2003

damn annoying paperwork

I’m filling out applications, and the whole damn thing is so annoying. In part, it’s because I’m getting around to it so late; I should have done this a month ago. But then again, I’m not sure I could have, because I wasn’t sure what classes I’ll be taking next semester. I just decided that this past week.

So Toronto wants me to put everything (recommendations, transcripts, and everything) in one big envelope. And the University of Washington wants me to HAVE IT THERE by Dec. 15th, where I was only prepared to have it sent by then. So to do everything right, I’d better have my first 5 apps out this week, which means Tuesday. Get cracking, Leon!

And every application asks the same questions in slightly different ways. Some want additional essays, and some use awkward wording that makes you wonder what they mean. For example, one had a check box next to “previous school attended” that said “degree received.” That could mean two things: did I receive my degree yet, or will I get one from that school (as opposed to just taking a class or two)?

And then I don’t know about ETSU. I took two classes there over two different summers, and I don’t really want to list it. If I do, then I have to get the transcripts now now now! And I don’t even know how to get transcripts sent from there, especially if they want forms. Maybe I could have Dada print and fill in the forms. Anyway, I’ll ask a professor if I need to list ETSU.

And I have to have these 5 done by Tuesday night. Hurry, dammit!

Kate really likes the screensaver “WebCollage,” and I imagine she’d be using it if there was a Windows version. It pulls up random web images, which means that every so often there’ll be a boob or penis. Not that I object, but it’s not the sort of thing you want to have if someone’s going to visit. Especially parents.

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poor Louis

I’m writing from a CS colloquium. Whee. It’s about real-time garbage collection, and I’m pleased to find that I can understand a lot of it.

I need to transfer any computer work onto my laptop so that I can take it over Thanksgiving. I’ll want my work for Cindy, possibly my work for Jim, and certainly my CSLANG work (which I already have). I won’t know my final AI project untiafter Thanksgiving, however.

I can see somebody working on their Powerbook, and I’ve gotta tell you, Mac OSX looks really good. I wish I could write a program something that looked that good.


It’s now evening. Louis has had a bad day. He got carried, examined, scraped, and poked. We took him to the vet, and the vet looked in his ears and all. He said that Louis did indeed have mites, but he took some skin scrapings to verify it. He didn’t find any actual mites, though he did find some of the egg sacs. He said it was good that we’d brought Louis to him so early in his affliction, so that treatment would be easier, and he wouldn’t suffer as much. He gave Louis a shot, and we’ll need to go back in ten days for a second shot. At least Louis will be healed soon.

He also recommended using corncob bedding instead of pine, so we went ahead and bought a bag. At $25 a bag, it had better get long use. At least it should be better on little Louis’s health; apparently, pine bedding isn’t all that good for pigs.

We cleaned the cage, of course, to rid it of any mites. We’ll freeze his wood and vacuum and wash in the apartment.

You know, I always remarked on him being an itchy pig. I guess I was right. There wasn’t much vector for him to have gotten them other than to have had them when we got him. So he must have been unusually itchy all this time. At least he’ll finally be cured.

When the doctor was examining, he squeaked in a way I’d never heard before. The nurse called it screaming, and she was probably right. I felt very bad for our little pig; Kate comforted me instead of Louis. It was for the best, of course, but he was so scared and unhappy. Poor baby. I felt like crying for him. When I held him while the doctor was inspecting the skin scraping, Louis climbed right up onto my arm to be safe. I’m glad he feels safe there.

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I wrote a post, but then I tried to upload a pictures, so I had to restart charm, and I managed to screw everything up so I lost my post. I’m a dumbass. *make backups*

I found a really funny sci-fi webcomic, Schlock Mercenary. It’s really quite amusing, and I like the scientific side. The author was influenced by Niven’s Known Space, which is pseudo-scientific. They worry about relativistic mass, but not the time-travel aspect of moving faster than light. Still, it’s something. And it just makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Kate was mildly upset that I was going to recommend it to Sam but not to her, but she’s already told me that she doesn’t like webcomics with aliens. So why should I subject her to another one?

I am reminded of a math joke I heard:
What is purple and commutes?
An abelian grape
Yeah, it’s dorky, but I actually did “LoL”.

This morning I searched frantically for my passport. I tried to think like the idiot who failed to put it in the sensible place, but that didn’t help. Fortunately, I had put it in the sensible place … inside an empty box of checks. I’m not making that mistake again. In any case, it expired in 2002 (minors need to get theirs renewed after 5 years), so it’s not going to be renewed in time for the Canada flight. So I’ll need to use my birth certificate.

I need a better system for important documents. I’m getting a little better, but not a whole lot.


present this!

Man, I suck.

I had to present today in front of 40 graduate students and professors. I really suck at presenting. The most polite thing you could say is that there are so many things to say that I get out of order and leave important things out. And that’s a pretty bad thing. Afterwards, Cindy said I should have practiced for her at least once, but damn it, I’m busy and I hate presenting. And it’s not like she suggested anything of the sort before.

The question portion of the presentation was focused on how I could have had better pictures. I could use textures to make things clearer or just use objects with more distinct shapes than, say, an apple. I might want to use the blending thing to open up an object so you can see several sides.

In summary, I suck. I need to learn how to present. If I don’t, how will I ever be able to teach? Or present in front of a thousand people at SIGGRAPH?

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my writing

I’m waiting for the shuttle and writing on my trusty laptop. It’s well worth what I paid, though I’m still tempted to buy a brand-new one. I can resist, though.

This research thing keeps being more and more work. I have to present for all these things, and that involves a lot of preparation. On Saturday, I’ll have to talk at “FlatGraph”, a new Midwest graphics conference. There’ll be about 30 people there, and I have to talk for 10 minutes and then answer questions for 10 more. I can do it, but I am not looking forward to it. It’s cutting into my time for application to grad school, dammit. Plus, Saturday is when we’re supposed to pick up Kate’s car from her parents in some town between here and there. I should have thought about that when they were making plans, but it slipped my mind. Maybe it won’t interfere (I’m speaking before noon), and maybe if it does conflict we can reschedule it.

Kate and I were going to go listen to jazz tonight in Holmes Lounge to research for our review papers, but it turns out it’s cancelled. Of course. There’ll be more jazz playing before Thanksgiving, but that leaves us limited time to write (Due Dec. 3).

On the other hand, there will be a discussion on copyright law at Holmes Lounge tonight, and Kate wanted to go to that for research for a paper of hers, and I’d be interested. Still, I wonder if I should (since it’s not necessary and there are more important things to do). I feel fairly certain I’ll go, though.

I did a lot of the coding for my group project last night. I find that it’s easier to just do it than to teach Varun and Larry, my partners. I think I help them some, but not as much as perhaps I should. Still, all I did was the basics. It works, but there’s lots of elaboration we could or should do. That’s in their hands, though.

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Now this is what the Matrix was supposed to be all about. If you’re good enough to see the code, then you can control the Matrix.

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So, I took the presidential quiz thing that Kate referred me to here. The results weren’t that surprising. I even knew I liked some things about Howard Dean, and this confirms it.

1. Your ideal theoretical candidate. (100%)
2. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT – Democrat (78%) Click here for info
3. Kucinich, Rep. Dennis, OH – Democrat (74%) Click here for info
4. Edwards, Senator John, NC – Democrat (65%) Click here for info
5. Clark, Retired General Wesley K., AR – Democrat (64%) Click here for info
6. Gephardt, Rep. Dick, MO – Democrat (59%) Click here for info
7. Sharpton, Reverend Al – Democrat (52%) Click here for info
8. Kerry, Senator John, MA – Democrat (48%) Click here for info
9. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. – Democrat (47%) Click here for info
10. Lieberman, Senator Joe, CT – Democrat (38%) Click here for info
11. Libertarian Candidate (32%) Click here for info
12. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol, IL – Democrat (29%) Click here for info
13. Phillips, Howard – Constitution (8%) Click here for info
14. Bush, President George W. – Republican (1%) Click here for info

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I’m writing a HOWTO explaining how to put Linux on an Itronix laptop like I have. Here’s the current text, which I’ll probably post to USENET (alt.os.linux) within the week. That’s a bold move, as USENET tends to be pretty vicious.


Itronix Laptop HOWTO
Leon Barrett
v0.1, 7 November 2003

Itronix is a company that makes “ruggedized” laptops.
At the time of writing, their newest, ruggedest laptops are in the “GoBook Max” line.
For $175, I purchased an elderly XC 6250, which boasts a 200 MHz Pentium 1, 32 MB of memory, and a 3 GB hard drive.
It has 2 PCMCIA slots, a parallel port, a serial port, a VGA port, and a built-in-modem.
However, it has no drives with removable media (e.g. CDROM drives, floppy drives).
I have gotten Linux to boot on it and gotten the PCMCIA system working (which did not work with the kernel driver), all on my own.
This resource is for those who lack the time to mess around with the system until it works.

I am not making this as a full linux laptop howto.
I assume you have installed Linux on a machine before.
If not, you may want to read about the standard process before actually wiping out anything on your laptop.
This is only intended to be a secondary aid to let you transfer that general knowledge to this specific laptop.


If you have a cheaper or older model that has no removable media, getting data onto the system can be a problem.
Instead of using traditional CD-ROM media, you will have to use some sort of networking.
I bought a 16-bit PCMCIA ethernet card from Netgear to do this.
However, Windows 95 did not have the drivers, and without a connection, there was no way to get them.
Therefore, I used a parallel-port direct-connect cable and the Windows “Direct Connect” tool to link to a Windows computer that was able to acquire the drivers.
I then copied the drivers over.
For networking, I then used the ethernet card rather than the parallel cable because it is so much faster.
This network connection allowed me to transfer the necessary installation data to the laptop.


If your laptop has a bootable drive with removable media (e.g. a CD-ROM drive), then this will not be an issue for you.
However, if you lack this, know that messing up the operating system can render your machine unbootable.
In this case, you will have to purchase a PCMCIA CD-ROM drive or floppy drive.
These cost on the order of $100-$200, which may be more than you paid for the laptop.
Therefore, if possible, be careful to always maintain one bootable system.
I have two Linux installations, so if I manage to screw one up, I can boot from the second one and fix the first.


Note: I am talking about this a little in advance.
The actual partitioning will not take place until the installation process.
However, it is wise to think about this issue before you actually do it.

I was lucky enough that my hard drive was already partitioned into two 1.5 GB partitions.
Therefore, I was able to remove one and have both Linux and Windows installed simultaneously, leaving me a safety net (see Sec. 3, BASIC PRECAUTIONS).
If you cannot do that and you have no bootable media, make sure that you have your network working before installing Linux onto a partition previously occupied by Windows.
Preferrably, you would use a partition editor (e.g. parted) to shrink the single Windows partition to leave enough empty space (100-200 MB) to install Linux.


The primary issue with installing is the lack of bootable devices.
As a result, it is necessary to use some other method to boot.
I used loadlin, a DOS program that re-initializes the system and loads a Linux kernel and ramdisk.
If these terms are unfamiliar, you may want to read about them now.
For a kernel and initial ramdisk image, I used the kernel and initrd that came with the distribution I was using (Slackware,


You have to have some copy of a Linux system to install it.
Usually, this will come on a CD-ROM.
You must have some way of accessing this source from the installer in order to install.
If you have multiple partitions on your hard drive, you might be able to keep a copy of the source on one partition and install to the other.
If you lack this, you will have to get networking working from your installer boot to access the source media over the network.
This is a bit of a hassle; read below for instructions on the PCMCIA system.
Fortunately, I was in the first category, so I didn’t have to worry about the PCMCIA stuff until later.


I don’t know how much of this applies to your laptop, but it certainly affected me.
The kernel has PCMCIA support, and it even has a driver for the PCMCIA bridge used in my laptop.
This bridge is the “Cirrus Logic CL 6729”.
The appropriate driver is the i82365 module.
This module is available in the kernel, but the kernel driver DOES NOT WORK WITH THIS HARDWARE.
The module loads (the logs all look right), but any PCMCIA cards inserted are recognized as “anonymous memory”.
However, the standalone PCMCIA drivers (available at ) do indeed work.
All you have to do is unzip the kernel sources, unzip the pcmcia-cs package, and compile it.
I did it on a second system because of limited space and processing power on the laptop.
I then copied the modules over (replacing the kernel driver files) and installed the i82365 module via modprobe.
After that, my network card was recognized properly.
For configuration of PCMCIA cards, see your distribution’s documentation.


Some things still don’t work.
I cannot activate the backlight under Linux.
During lilo and while the kernel is loading, it can still be turned on, but as soon as the kernel loads, it fails.
I assume this is because the kernel is grabbing some interrupt, but I am not entirely sure how to determine what interrupt or get the kernel to let it pass by.
Also, apm always reports the battery charge that exists when the apm module was loaded, which is a bug.

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I’m writing in class! Whee!
I got a 90/90 on my test! Wowie-zowie!
My anus is bleeding! Hooray!
(if you don’t get the reference, don’t sweat it)

I feel a need to post some sort of picture or art or something. Unfortunately, I don’t really think I have anything of the sort. Maybe I’ll finally look up those pictures from the Chicago museum that I thought were interesting and post them (with credit give appropriately, of course).

I find myself amazingly fascinated by the idea of a new laptop. This one finally works as I want it to, yet still I want something better and fancier. I still plan to buy a desktop next year, and I know that I can make it for a couple of years with this one. Nevertheless, they look so alluring. The Panasonic Toughbook 28 looks really nice; built-in wireless, a reasonably fast processor, plenty of memory, a color touchscreen, a magnesium alloy case (maybe not quite as durable as this, but it looks pretty good). And it folds up into a box like a silver suitcase. Granted, rubber is probably much more practical, but all that metal looks good. Someday, I’ll have enough money to budget myself a laptop fund, and I’ll get one.

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GRE day

I took two tests today. First was the Computer Science GRE, which really didn’t go as well as I wanted it to. It had all these internet protocol questions I didn’t expect, and I skipped two questions and missed at least one more. I still have the potential to do quite well, but I don’t feel as good as I did going in. The only thing it really matters for is the NSF Fellowship, but man that’d be nice to have. $27K a year for 3 years, which would help a buttload. And the freedom to choose my own advisor, also a great boon.

The next test was suggested by Kate. Now, at long last, I know what operating system I am. Kate’s is much better; she’s Debian Linux, which is supposed to be similar to Slackware, which I use and like. At least I wasn’t some Windows version.

You are Apple Dos. Simple and primitive with a good understanding of the common man.  You're still a work in progress, but a good start.
Which OS are You?

Kate got awfully angry when I didn’t want to cheat at Spades when a confirmed jackass was beating us. Even if he was a jackass, it’d be unfair to his partner, and besides, I only cheat on other cheaters. It makes me feel a lot better about the game that way.