The boring rants of a lazy nerd

Friday, December 21, 2007

Samsung SyncMaster 226BW

I bought it online, had it delivered by UPS next business day (50 NIS). Knock on my door at 08:40 - no phone calls or anything. Setup was very easy, probably thanks to the nvidia settings app that comes with their drivers. It's beautiful and bright. I did not calibrate it yet and did not even check what model panel is inside. 1720 NIS (~$436) vs. $310 at NewEgg before the $40 mail-in rebate.

Three weeks in

Over lunch told G. the meaning of T.'s phraze "ברחל בתך הקטנה" which is from Genesis 29:18 and means a contract so specific it cannot be misinterpreted (of course, in the story, the hero was still weaseled out of his bride and had to work for her seven more years). He listened and said "and I thought it was just like באמא שלך!". As T. would say: אלוהים אדירים! אתה מבין למה אני מתכוון?

Saturday, December 08, 2007


I am trying to keep this blog anonymous (as in, people I work with are not supposed to read it) so I won't mention things by name and don't link to anything, to make finding it harder.

In the end of November P. has referred me to a startup company he has interviewed at. He decided he didn't want to work there but that I might want to (I think he said he decided that because the place was hardcore, not because it sucked). Anyway they were pretty eager to hire me and after an interview process that was more of a chat than an interview I was hired. They immediately agreed to my price, so maybe I asked too little. So far I have been working there for a week.

It is a small internet startup, about half a year old. They have some very competent people working there. My boss is acting in a self contradictory manner trying to both encourage me to work faster (because we're behind schedule) and not to completely shatter my self esteem, which is obviously low enough already. I have been feeling young and stupid all week. Some is because I have never worked in Java, some because I have not been working for real for two years (my service in the IDF, though it began pretty well and taught me a great deal, past a certain point was pointless and depressing, and ended in a fucking nightmare).

I work eleven and half hour days, with an hour of commute each way. I need to sit and read/learn a lot of stuff, but I have no time. I did not accomplish anything this weekend. I think I will have to learn better time management if I am to survive this.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I just want to say: Elizabeth Kucinich.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Just felt one, about ten minutes ago.

Friday, November 23, 2007


So, influenza. Wonderful thing. Simply splendid. Spilled tea on my old Genius keyboard, had to replace it with one that has the "\" under the enter key until I buy a new one.

P. might even get me gainfully employed if I get off my lazy ass.

Reading about how Catch-22 was originally Catch-18 I discovered I don't know who the Jeeves fellow is, or any of P. G. Wodehouse's characters. Looked it up and what do you know? I've seen it mentioned in Hugh Laurie's short biography blurb or something, but I knew the guy playing House was known for parodying British nobility. I didn't know he was actually raised like a minor British aristocrat, but I guess they wouldn't let him parody Eton & Oxbridge graduates if he wasn't one himself. Anyway, have downloaded four seasons of Jeeves and Wooster, a bit too slapsticky but the accent is worth it. And the episode sets. English subtitles help.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Kindness of Strangers

Hm. I don't know where to start. If another person reads this, or even me several months or years down the line, I should establish quite a bit of context for anything to make sense. But I don't want to write a novel, and I don't really wish to air other people's dirty laundry.


At a young age I have decided that as an individualist I will learn things my own way, by making my own mistakes, rather than emulating my parents and making their mistakes. It wasn't the wisest decision, but it does suit my character. In the course of my life, I have made a shit load of mistakes and sometimes have independently discovered very banal truths.

One of these ideas is something I have watched happen a number of times during my military service and have tried to explain to younger people in the months preceding my discharge.

At least in the military, the regular state of everything is snafu. People in non-grunt positions*, usually commissioned officers, are replaced every two years. Most of them are average (by definition). At best, the overall situation stays the same. Because of some form of the second law of thermodynamics, things tend to decline and stagnate. People sort of follow the prescribed procedures and they sort of mostly work, and if something is important enough then a person with authority overrides things such that things get done.

Once in a while, the new person in some position is of a higher caliber. He looks around, sees that things suck and does his best to do something about it. Through more or less heroic efforts, he changes something for the better. The surrounding parts of the organization notice this and change their m.o. to reroute things through his department - suddenly a lot more things are his responsibility. Also, to deal with the higher throughput of his department, others have to raise their efficiency as well.
The difference could be huge, but, most of the time, unless that person is very wise, the change is only skin deep: the prescribed work does not change, the rules and regulations do not change, and, most importantly, the HR profile for this person's replacement does not change.
The way work is done is very different, but unless the new attitude manages to inspire others to do the same, in two year's time when the person who started it all gets reassigned, horrible things happen. While the change from snafu to snafu is barely noticeable, the change from the way things should be done (but very rarely do) back to snafu is hard. The amount of work to be done is large, because people piped work to this suddenly productive department. New projects were started, that depend on this irregular behavior. New people's expectations of the system are completely unrealistic. The fall is hard and painful, but thankfully short.

The thing is, I believe that unless the betterment can be made permanent, i.e. regulations, or better yet, staffing profiles changed, the short period when some department kicks ass, when considered long term, is more negative than positive for the organization as a whole.

When I was younger I admired those people and believed that the reason big incompetent organizations don't break down is that all over the place in their structure, there are people such as this that get assigned to every position every x generations and bring things back up from stagnation. And of course productivity drops when they leave, but in a number of generations another one of them will be assigned there and he will fix it again. And as long as such a person is available to fix things before they completely break down, the organization will carry on doing its job, as incompetently as ever. To me, those people were heroes.

But later I decided that it is not worth it. That the short good season is just a tease. The disappointment of its passing is not worth the joy of living it. And since bringing permanent change is beyond the limited abilities of young passionate and foolish people, it is doomed to a lot of pain.

I know it sounds like deciding to live alone because you don't want to get divorced down the line. It sounds cowardly and unreasonable. But I got burned a few times, and thought it was enough.


In February, I found out that FA's IT is in abysmal shape and it desperately needs help. I volunteered. After a short email detailing my completely unverifiable credentials as an Oracle development DBA and a dotNET and C++ persistence layer developer being interested and able to maintain a LAMP project, I was cheerfully given all the keys to the castle and told the ghosts and now my problem. Really, now that I think of it, people were very eager to give me root passwords for production servers. And when I asked about some stuff, I was told I can change whatever I want. I don't have to get permission. I don't have to consult with anyone. If I think installing a different OS, web server, database, programming language runtime, email system etc. is for the best – more power to me, etc. WTF?

There are mailing lists full of people with experience far greater than mine. People who helped build the systems. Some bounce, the rest apparently abandoned the subscribed email account or configured the list as spam. Including the list moderators. There are known severe bugs in production, unfixed for years. The database is full of junk. Things that had bugs were disabled instead of being fixed. Like deleting. There is a heavy odor of decay over everything. It is the image of science-fiction post apocalyptic return to the dark ages: ancient machines no one understands or is able to maintain are worshiped as they fail one by one.

I started fixing things, more in the order of my understanding than severity. But I fixed a lot of stuff. I have documented the need and plans for fixing other stuff. But I don't feel very welcome. People are not eager to help me. Instead, I feel like I am a nuisance. As if before I came and pronounced that something needs fixing it worked just fine. The people in charge pay lip service to what I feel is important, but I don't see any interest in what I do and I don't see any support. And now I stop and I think. What if there is a reason all those smart capable people who built the thing are gone? What if it is not by chance that I am the only techie who does any work on the fic management system?

What if it was supposed to die of neglect and close down, soon, and because of my intervention it is doomed to long suffering? What if I, in effect, put it on life support? I am against euthanasia for people, but I think I am in favor of euthanasia for software.

So now I am in a moral dilemma. Do I continue, knowing that what I do is right and important, even if others disagree? Or do I acknowledge I was mistaken and not everything should be saved? I have not created permanent change; things I have fixed will break down again, until another chump will be found to fix them. Have I only teased the users with the dream of good IT?

Sunday, September 09, 2007


Context. So. Back in 2002, when I was in basic training I met this guy who was into antisemitism. He was a recent immigrant from somewhere in the former USSR. He made aliyah because he thought he could get rich in Israel and he could get citizenship because he had (or said he had) some Jewish grandparent. He didn't last six months in the army. I think he was from Petach-Tiqwa, where I live. Where these guys are from. I don't think he is one of them because he's my age and the article says the oldest is 21. And I don't know anything about him. But I've met the type. Russian nationalists. They form gangs where they have nothing in common except their hate for Jews, gays and non-white people. And they go out and beat people up. For fun. Not even to mug them or anything. Three guys like that from my high school almost killed a guy they didn't know because one of them was frustrated that day because his girlfriend dumped him. Have you read "A Clockwork Orange"?

Thursday, September 06, 2007


I'm a civilian now. Not even a reservist. Most of the trouble was getting rid of my cellphone - they wanted me to schedule an appointment to return the damn thing next week, when I had to do it today to get discharged. Eventually they agreed to accept it back but not in Tel-Aviv because there are lines. ::rollseyes::

Other than that it was very painless and rather efficient, considering the inefficiency of conscripted labor in a government-run organization.

Time to send those c.v.s. I haven't written yet.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Portage has been acting up, not showing updates when I do emerge -avuDN world, so I did this: emerge -pv `equery l -i | sed 's/\(.*\)-[0-9].*/\1/' | grep '/'` | grep -v '\[ebuild R' and it worked. It's ugly and inefficient, but it worked.

In completely unrelated news, 8088 Corruption is one of the most amazing things ever.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Grey's Anatomy

So, I'm watching the first season of Grey's Anatomy because there's no House till end of September. It's like E.R. mixed with more Bridget Jones' Diary (or maybe Ally McBeal). I don't think surgical interns are actually that promiscuous, but then again, I didn't think people where fucking during programming course either… My discharge date is September 6th.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


My parents bought a Pitaya, not knowing that it was. It's tasty, though the cost is prohibitive. Nowhere near as awesome as Litchi, so I think I'll pass next time. My father used to cultivate cacti in Leningrad where it was difficult, and my parents tell me of a date they had in the botanic gardens the night it was announced on the radio that a queen of the night is about to blossom. He didn't pick up the hobby here because it's not challenging in sub tropical climate.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


This retelling of the DH is better than the original, despite the Americanismsm net-speak and spelling mistakes.


gentoo compiles fast, especially when cpu is overclocked and undervolted(!). cflags for core 2 duo on 32bit with gcc-4.2. lm_sensors requires 2.6.22 kernel to monitor mobo. can't read geforce thermal monitor yet, but nvidia-settinsg can. nvidia-settings can underclock geforce to get manageable temps. 4.1 with alsa is not so hard. testing proggy helps a lot. beryl is complicated. missing ubuntu's bash package missing tips. settings up k3b. figuring out use flags. w375 usb is hard. ethernet is called sky2. dunno why. no wifi yet, no driver in mainline, maybe binary driver from manufacturer, maybe untested driver for a similar chipset. need to check out asus' driver pack for linux. same modeline on nv and nvidia drivers results in two different (but close) monitor modes. ksensors dual core bug. firefox audio settings for flash. can't hear samsung drive and its acoustic management is off! and it's only 38C. weird locale shit. expand later. dev-libs/STLport-5.1.2 has to be compiled without the boost USE flag or openoffice won't compile. trying using hash-style=both now. Linux 2.6.23-rc1 includes rtl8187 for my on board usb wireless lan. Too bad I don't have any other wifi thingy to test against.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Too New Hardware

Ah, hardware so new Knoppix doesn't support it. Glorious!

BIOS that came on the motherboard if the first release version, 0201. Doesn't recognize the E6550 so complains about being unable to load microcode. Also BIOS updates are very important. So that should be addressed first.

The BIOS image is 2MB so doesn't fit 1.44 floppy (connecting the floppy drive was a bitch!). Have to flash it using either a USB mass storage device (which I don't have handy) and the BIOS built-in flasher or through Windows-based flasher (but no Windows live-cd here either) or by burning an ISO CD image with FreeDOS, the ASUS DOS flasher and the unzipped BIOS image itself to a CDRW and booting off that.

But can't burn a CD if booted from the burner, so attach the trusty old Toshiba SD-M1402 to the sole IDE port, enable JMicron IDE controller in BIOS (on by default), boot into Knoppix from the PATA drive. Find out SATA drive is not recognized by Knoppix 5.1.1 (Linux 2.6.19) when set to IDE mode in BIOS. Only when set to AHCI in BIOS will it get recognized. Ubuntu 7.04 install disk (Linux 2.6.20) does recognize the drive in IDE mode, so that is fixed already. Create proper CD image using fdos builder template and gleaning the right mkisofs command line parameters from the WinNT batch files, burn image in K3B. Again, the ASUS SATA DVD drive won't boot off the CD, so boot off the PATA drive, type afuflash /i0503.rom in DOS, wait a while thinking "I knew I should've bought a UPS!" and voilà, new BIOS.

Still can't overclock without lm-sensors working, and for that need new kernel.

Still don't know how to flash the optical drive without running RedmondOS.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Deathly Hallows

So. The End. I was disappointed by Book 5 and disillusioned by Book 6. The Horcruxes sucked badly and the Hallows, impossibly, suck even more. I have honestly read much better fan fiction. It was childish. All of it. The plot twists (Snape/Lily!), the action (Ma Weasley vs. Bella?!), the romance (Ron learning to court Hermione from a book!!!), the morals (Jesus!Harry :O). Everything. I was cringing and imagining the flame I'd have written if I'd been reading this on FFN. I think even the twelve year olds expect more these days. I believe a population deserves whatever leader they have, and JKR's wizarding Britain deserved Tom's police state, if they needed a kid to save them, and I was half heartedly rooting for the Death Eaters for most of the book.

New Computer

So. Now I have an almost functional computer once again. It lacks a hard drive, but while I'm waiting for someone to sell me one of these, I'm running the Ubuntu 7.04 install CD (the ASUS DRW-1814BLT won't run Knoppix 5.1.1). I'm buying a USB storage device tomorrow when a shop opens (about time). I have not yet overclocked the thing or even ran 3D graphics. I don't know whether the built-in sound device is bearable. The version of lm-sensors and the kernel that come with Ubuntu 7.04 don't support my motherboard. But the computer is damn quiet, so I'm pleased. I need to flash the BIOS and the firmware on the burner, and find out how to underclock the video card in Linux (I think nVidia's closed-source driver does that).

The usual price comparison over US prices, all except one are from and are for today, without rebates and without shipping and handling.

 Make & ModelUS priceIsrael price (NIS)US price in NISripoff pct
CPUIntel Core2Duo E6550184995772.828.75
MBASUS P5K-E WiFi-AP2109708829.98
RAMCorsair TWIN2X2048-6400C4D1791242751.865.2
VideoASUS EN8600GT Silent137900575.456.41
CaseAntec P15016091067235.42
HDDSamsung HD321KJ8049033645.83
MonitorSamsung 226BW3502081147041.56
OpticalASUS DRW-1814BLT34249142.874.37
Total 133478375602.839.88
exchange rate4.2   

Notice the 65% "tax" on performance RAM.

Except for the hard drive, for which the price comes from with no guarantee on my part for anything, all other parts are available at and except for the monitor were successfully purchased for those prices by me personally. I have personally witnessed the monitor being available and am thinking of buying it (once I'm sure I don't want to go for the LG L226WTQ which over here is $50 USD cheaper than the Samsung).

The optical drive can be bought for 200NIS, and it's so cheap anyway that I don't count it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


After convincing my superiors that I am completely fed up with my work (turns out not being productive and spending 21 days (actually 18) in the brig does the trick) I now have three colonels' signatures on my discharge papers. I think I need two more colonels. I was told it can take a week and then I'll have a discharge date which should be this month, maybe even immediately after all signatures are present. A small personal victory, though getting transferred to a decent place a year ago would've been much better.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

grandpa died

My aunt just called dad. He had Parkinson's for as long as I remember him. Lately he's been worse, and it's kind of expected. I don't know how I feel about it yet. I loved him, considering the 70+ years age gap, he gave good (unsolicited) advice.יהי זכרו ברוך.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Long Time No Update

I did not forget R.J., but I keep forgetting to visit.

My WD400, bought in May 2001, finally died. Didn't lose much data as it has been dying for a while now and I had backups. Removed it and the Maxtor from March 2000 (that died a couple of months ago) and bought a Seagate 320GB 7200.10. It's quieter, but I think it runs warmer. I don't see a performance difference, though I know there must be, despite the same interface and rotation speed, what with the platers being at least ten times denser now. Cost me 120 USD, 50% more than the listed price on KSP, where I bought the Barracuda and the Caviar, have very no-nonsense but efficient service. I think I was in and out in under 60 seconds, and it's a five minute walk from Azrieli Towers.

Weather is weird: very hot and raining a bit.

Again sitting in one room with M. Is loud, looking for ways to cope.

Boss says I might be able to get an early discharge. Will see.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


At the end of January I've seen a post by (as I later found out) the person who wrote's fiction handling system about FA needing techies.
An an aside, nowadays, I mostly get my fanfic fix at and, both of which mostly feature Harry Potter fan fiction by men, for men (read: boys). It basically means (and here I accentuate, not exaggerate) the Jane Austen references are replaced by sex and violence, sometime together (I skip those). I find it suits me better than SQ, though I'd read stuff from SQ if someone would recommend a specific story.
Anyway, I thought it would be cool to lend a hand, me being a fan and a techie. Also, I've never worked on a large site before, I could stand to learn a few things. So I've signed up and now I'm there, learning. I won't be posting about anything I do for FA on the blog, as they consider everything going on as "confidential", but if someone wonders why her new chapter isn't up yet, it's probably because I screwed up, so feel free to complain. That reminds me, I still have no idea how complaint mail is handled …

Edit: typo.

The Americanification of Harry Potter

How do you know when fan fic is going to be about Harry going to the states and discovering how the USA is cooler than Britain? Well, the sentence "the things Harry missed most about the muggle world when he was away at the Burrow or Hogwarts were Coke and pizza." is a good clue.

I don't mind people being patriotic, but turning a very British boarding school story to "adventures of a frat boy" leads me to suspect someone has seen one too many teen flicks.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Tech - Women in Industry

I have written about this before, and about my personal experience of working with females. Today I've read this post by female BSD admin/advocate/instructor Dru Lavigne (make sure you read this comment as well, possibly even instead of the blog post as it's shorter) and I agree — after a woman proves her worth, she gets treated with respect; trying to survive on "cute" or attempting to be all macho only alienates colleagues. The environment is very macho, lots of dick measuring contests and posturing. The first reaction to a female is always like the title of the section under the photo at Erinn Clark's about page (LOL by the way) — here's a recent example from my own blog.

Where I work there is the added difficulty of not only IT being male-dominant but the "outside" organization being the cliché male-dominant society. Dev leads are commissioned officers and are expected to act like it, which leads to lots of silliness and quite a bit of angst.

My hot female teammate is scheduled for officer's training in a couple of months. I have disagreed with all my bosses about her prospects as a future team lead, but I really do wish her the best. I believe I might be overcompensating in her case, but I have observed the debilitating effect on myself and others too many times not to be wary. You see, I find smart women attractive. But sadly, the link works both ways, and I perceive women I find attractive as being smarter. I'm not the only one. I am absolutely sure E.G. had a crush on her when he praised her, and since he praised her technical abilities (which leave much to be desired), he probably overestimated her leadership abilities as well. I know her supervisor accurately estimated her skill as a developer, but he too vehemently defended her potential as a good officer, though he did blurt something like "yeah, a guy with her skills would be pretty useless, but if she can properly work her feminine wiles she would get the job done". So I manage not to notice how good looking she is, and I try to be objective, and I don't see any special leadership skills beyond not being socially inept. And she would need to earn the respect of a technically competent geek for her team to produce anything worthwhile. I think it would be very educational for me to watch her do it.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Harry Finds Jesus

Disclaimer: I have never flamed Aaran-St-Vines, and I was outraged with the Kokopelli@SQ wank.

As a reply to Kokopelli's beta notes author's notes at the bottom of the latest chapter of Aaran-St-Vines' dual fic (two parallel novels, one for H/G, the other for H/H) posted at FFA I wish to quote from the chapter:

Father William came in to inquire about Occlumency lessons that night, but stopped when he saw how Harry was attired. Harry told him of his mission. The priest volunteered to pray for his success, and told Harry that he'd enlist the prayers of those of the friary who knew of the magical world.

Harry didn't quite understand why this comforted him so, but every time Fr. William prayed, good seemed to come of it, and he wasn't stupid enough to turn down any help.

Harry had come to the conclusion that since there was Evil in the world, there had to be Good, and he was unwilling for that to be some mystical goodie-goodie force. Good and Evil had faces in this world, and Harry felt that these matters were personal - not personal meaning 'for each person to decide,' that was nonsense to him. It either was or wasn't true, and all his wishing wouldn't make Voldemort go away.

No, when he thought that Evil and Good were personal, he meant they were person-like, as if there were a God and a Devil. He viewed it not as simplistic or simple-minded, but simply, manifestly true.

Harry believed in magic, which most Muggles thought didn't exist. Why did it take so much more faith to believe that God or a Devil existed? He wasn't planning on going on a crusade for his beliefs, nor was he going to force others to believe as he did. He just believed. He had received too much comfort from reading the scriptures. Father William often quoted a passage, which said that faith came from hearing the Word of God, and Harry had found great peace reading about David, the boy who had defied all odds and defeated the giant.

It wasn't that Harry went looking for peace and found it, as in he manufactured it in his head when reading the book the priest gave him. No, he read the book and found that peace came to him unsolicited. If Father William wanted to pray for him, he was all for it.

Now, my reply: This is not like mentioning ghosts or Greek mythology creatures. Here the main character Believes, with capital B. So yes, unlike canon, this story has religion in it. Politeness says it should come with a disclaimer. That's all what I wanted to say at the moment.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Me - Life

So, I've read this blog post by some guy who was a computer science professor at Leeds. And he describes the profile of a type of student he calls a BBM. Well, I didn't even have the perseverance (or brains) to get my sorry ass to college, but the symptoms are the same. I wonder if it's a studied problem and whether there are good methods to deal with it. Reading up about it on Wikipedia.

Blog Archive

About Me

GCS d- s-: a-- C++$ UL++ P+++ L+++ E--- W+++ N o? K? w++$ !O !M !V PS-(+) PE Y+ PGP+(-) t--@ 5++(+++) !X R-- tv-- b+>++ DI+++ D+ G e h! r* y--(-)>+++