Debian Package Search?

Search page for Debian

Originally uploaded by eidolon

Seems like a simple request. I’d like to search the Debian packages to find out information about something I want to install. “Oh wait, I can just use the site to look at the package and it’s history.” Hah, how naive I was.

Off to said site I go, I click on search and see… debian search disabled. I can use google, though!

“Wait, I remember this being disabled ages ago. They still haven’t fixed it?” – The text even still says ‘disabled for now, we’re working on it.’ But down at the bottom “Last modified: Mon, Dec 30 03:27:07 UTC 2002”

Boy I want that job. 5 years to make a search work. And it’s still not done yet!

Well, gee. Lets see if the google search they have there is working. Maybe they have it functional, and updating the comment has just slipped their mind. Type in the package I’m looking for (happens to be ‘ytnef’), and click *google search*

And get… a weekly news report in 18 different languages from 2005, which, luckily, includes a link to the package I wanted. If this package hadn’t been mentioned in the news article, I’d never have found it.

Come on Debian. No one in the entire volunteer organization can edit one HTML file?

Getting a release out the door

It feels good when you finally push a release of a product out the door.
The last 2 months I’ve been spending a chunk of time doing updates on Keystone. It’s always fascinating working on code that is pushing 10 years old, seeing things I remember writing during the dotcom boom, and finding other tidbits that make me go “What the HECK was I thinking?”
This release is interesting in that much of the work was pay-for contract updates from a customer who wanted to see some bugs fixed and a few enhancements added in. It’s nice working on something you enjoy, and getting paid for it as well.
The code is just about ready for it’s next major overhaul though. I’m trying to get up the gumption to rip out the entire database back end code and replace it with ADODB. I wrote my own database abstraction layer back in, oh, 1998-ish, but really, the world has moved on a bit since then. It’s time to move with the times.


TOTAL geek squee.
Starcraft 2 is official. And it’s not a huge variation from the original game – updated after, what, 8 years, naturally, but same 3 races, new vehicles and ships, new engines, all that, but it’s the same game, redone.
Starcraft was one of the few games that totally sucked me in, and I still occasionally play it, years and years later.
The Wikipedia article on Starcraft II is under heavy editing right now, but the details are there.
I highly recommend watching the full cinematic trailer. It totally rocks.

KDE Gripe Du Jour

So this sure doesn’t make sense.
I like pushing my desktop around a bunch, seeing what it can do, what it can’t do. To me this is the way good software gets made. Use it, try to do what you want to do with it, find out where it fails. The trick in this approach is avoiding the “I want it to do what {XXX} application does, and do it JUST THAT WAY!” – that will ultimately result in failure. The question you should ask is “What am I trying to accomplish, and how would I do that with this tool?”
Today’s puzzlement was born of humble beginnings. I wanted to change the ‘new mail’ notification sound that Thunderbird uses. Simple enough, eh?

Continue reading “KDE Gripe Du Jour”

Just checking in!

It’s nice to know some things remain consistent. Every year or two I re-take the keirsey test to find out what my ‘personality type’ is. It’s been remarkably consistent. Tonight, once again, I scored as an INTP (Introverted Intuitive Thinking Perceiving).
The test I used is here.

Days of Sunshine, Days of Clouds

The Linux environment is such a love-hate world for me. In general, it’s mostly love. All the tools I want, speed, eye candy, toys, productivity, it’s all there.
Then there are the cloudy days. When things that should work, don’t, and I can’t figure out how to make them work.
After a couple sunny weeks, I’ve hit the equivalent of spring showers, and the clouds have rolled in.
First, I’m having all sorts of performance problems with Thunderbird. I suspect this is down to some twitchy DNS problem, but I’ve never seen it before, and others have not seen it as well. Right now I’m in ‘suck it up and deal’ mode, but it’s infuriating waiting 5-6 seconds of total GUI lockup whenever I hit Alt-Enter.
Second, I’m still working on setting up the new replacement machine for my roommate. This is a bellwether project for me – can I replace a windows machine completely with Linux. For the most part, we’re ready to go, except I cannot get the VPN to their Windows server (a PPTP connection) to work properly. I had great hopes for a new KDE tool called KVPNC, but either due to the programs’ newness or traditional complexity of setting up VPNs under Linux, I have had no success. At the moment, this is a showstopper on the project.
And last night, I wanted to edit some recordings I had done with my minidisc recorder at band practice. “No problem!” sez I, “I’ll just use Audacity,” an excellent free multitrack editor. BZZT! Audacity refuses to talk ALSA properly, and I cannot play the tracks I’m editing. I’ve used Audacity many times under Windows, and I thought I had also used it under Linux, but now on startup Audacity is yelling about not being able to access the ALSA device. Various forums have said that is because ALSA has sound device locking issues (which I mentally flag as bogus – wasn’t ALSA’s point to allow multiple applications to access the sound device at the same time? Avoiding the dreaded /dev/dsp lock? Frustrating)
So I have 2 projects held up, and one constant, ongoing annoyance. And, over on the side, my windows machine running quite smoothly, without any of these problems.
I want the sunshine back.

When Blogs Go Bad – The Fall of

I hate to see a good thing get ruined.
One of my daily joys was waiting until around 1pm when TheDailyWTF would update with a well written story about some workplace / tech related problem that really made the reader go “Wha de FU?” The articles were very well put together, the story behind each posting was interesting and detailed, and it was nice hearing about oddities in the tech sector each day.
Around the middle of last year, the writers added a new feature, the “Code Snippet Of The Day”. A sidebar bit of content where code-specific WTF’s were posted and readers would comment on where the problems were and how they might be fixed. I found the CodeSOD entries somewhat distracting – the writing style was stilted and boring, and would classh with the normal content.
Then, the site changed it’s name.
It was no longer “The Daily WTF” – it was now “Worse Than Failure”. The various reasonings behind this move were shallow and rang hollow. It was simply the next step in a blog owner trying to broaden their content base to be able to provide more diverse content. New posters were brought in, and the article quality dropped precipitously. Instead of one high quality article a day, we had a 3-5 poorly written articles, intermixed with CodeSOD’s.
Now, the final insult.
This week they are running “Classics Week”. Now, I’m all for nostalgia. It’s great going back into the archives and pulling out truly outstanding articles from the past and reminiscing. But the authors on TheDailyWTF are doing no such thing. They are posting classic articles from as recent as nine weeks ago.
Ladies and gentlemen, a classic is something I may have missed in the distant past, or something that stood above all the others and should be brought back. When doing ‘classics’, you don’t just repost recent articles.
I’m sorry, but TheDailyWTF has destroyed itself in the process of trying to expand itself, a process all too common in successful blogs. I bear no antipathy toward Alex Papadimoulis, the owner of TheDailyWTF, but if I were to make one suggestion to him, it would be “Alex, stop. Return to what you were doing well. The new content is not working.”

Ubuntu Postfix relayhost configuring

This is primarily so I can remember how to do this. I have yawl set up as a postfix host here at Chez Geek, but my smart mailhost is actually off in colocation land.

So with my problems with Thunderbird still unresolved, it was time to try setting yawl up as a smarter mail client.

First things first, make sure postfix is installed. With Ubuntu, it comes installed by default, but not enabled.

Second, set up an /etc/postfix/ file, and put in there:

relayhost =
myorigin =

Obviously substitute in whatever domain you're using normally for ''.

Restart (or start) postfix:

/etc/init.d/postfix start

Make sure there's no problems:

tail /var/log/mail.log

And off you go!

Update : several hours later... this has NOT resolved the slow performance problem with Thunderbird, and its' maddening. T-bird on my windows box runs perfectly fast over an ssh tunnel to the same host (cept using securecrt there). Very frustrating

Total Fanboy Squee – Robot Chicken Starwars Special

So it’s no secret I’m a screaming fan of Robot Chicken, and introduce folks to it whenever I can. RC has been doing various star wars spoofs for a while, but now they apparently have their own special coming up.

June 17 will be the premier of the Robot Chicken Starwars Special. From the site:

Adult Swim’s “Robot Chicken” travels to a galaxy far, far away to create an all Star Wars-themed special. Premiering on June 17, “Robot Chicken: Star Wars” brazenly combines the satirical sensibilities of Seth Green and Matthew Senreich’s (Stoopid Monkey Productions) “Robot Chicken” with the unforgettable moments and favorite characters of the Star Wars universe — among them, its creator himself, George Lucas. Transformed into the stop-motion animated characters that are the hallmark of Adult Swim’s “Robot Chicken,” and in conjunction with ShadowMachine Films (Alex Bulkley/Corey Campodonicos), the Star Wars galaxy takes on an entirely different attitude.

The site also has a link to the trailer for the special. There’s a lot of material that’s already been shown on RC, but a lot of new stuff as well. Can’t wait!

Edit – ah, here’s the link to the trailer.