Satya's blog - 2005/07/

Jul 31 2005 16:31 Digital fortress
I'm reading Dan Brown's Digital Fortress, which is all about computers and cryptohgraphy. It's Brown's usual mix of fact and fiction, only this time I know what's what. The story is good, but it has little grounding in reality. What kind of sysadmin performs maintenance and upgrades by soldering chips into a computer, on his back, in the 21st century? (Where the solder can fall onto his face, no less!) It's very interesting as long as I pretend it's all in a parallel universe.

Tag: book

Jul 29 2005 21:59 NYC Hudson Day
I've been going through the train magazines that Crawcram gave me -- I think it's time to pass them on. But I keep seeing a NY Central Hudson everywhere. That's interesting because I have a (plastic) model of this locomotive. So of course I notice it whenever I see it and it's probably pretty common. Would be similar if I had a Dash-9 or something.

(As usual, click on the image to get a bigger version, and see the rest of the album.)

Last updated: Jan 22 2006 09:15

Tag: model

Jul 27 2005 15:19 Making a deb file
Debian Linux distributes software in files called deb files (.deb). Most end users don't have to worry about them, as the package manager programs, some of which are pretty (see synaptic), do all the work. Other Linux distributions use other packaging formats, like RPM.

But when you write new software, you should make a deb (or RPM or whatever -- since I use Debian, I'll talk about making a deb) so it's easier for others to install your software. Sure, you can distribute a tar.gz like I've done all this time, but that's not very user-friendly.

How do you make a deb file? It's not simple, because the instructions are opaque. The method I give here is probably completely wrong, but it's worked enough for me to obtain a home-grown for-internal-use-only no-frills deb package.

  1. Grab your tarball and put it somewhere like ~/deb/yourprogram.tar.gz (I just make up the deb directory. It's going to get cluttered later, so make a new directory and call it whatever you want. I use 'deb'.)
  2. Untar it, so you have a directory like ~/deb/yourprogram-1.1, or whatever the version happens to be.
  3. Make a Makefile, if you don't have one already. Here's an example:
        #whatever commans are needed to compile or configure
        #whatever commands are needed to 
        # install. it should behave as if 
        # $(DESTDIR) is the target of the install
        cp -r home $(DESTDIR)
        cp -r etc $(DESTDIR)
        # to get a pristine package, without object files etc. 
        # should basically reverse whatever build does.
        -rm -rf $DESTDIR.etc
    You can leave one or more blank. The build process runs make and make install on your source. This causes or should case your software to be installed into a skeletal filesystem under debian/yourprogram so that it can then be packed into a deb. The buildprocess then runs a make clean to get rid of that stuff.
  4. Run dh_make. I think it comes from dpkg-dev or something. Find it.
  5. Edit the debian/control file that just appeared in ~/deb/yourprogram-version or you can leave it alone. You can also add preinst, postinst, etc., but I won't tell you anything about them and if you can do that on your own, or even know what the heck I'm on about, you don't need these instructions.
  6. You should now be able to run dpkg-buildpackage -rfakeroot and if it runs without errors you might find a file in ~/deb/ called something like yourprogram_version-1.i386.deb

That is all. If I find out what the heck I'm doing wrong, I'll update this.

Tag: tech debian howto

Jul 23 2005 10:43 Blograp
I've just created a project on Sourceforge called blograp. This project is the release of my home-grown blog scripts. I've been cleaning them up. Files have been put in CVS, but they need more cleanup and documentation.

Last updated: Jul 23 2005 12:47

Tag: blog

Jul 17 2005 18:17 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released yesterday... and the library showed it as available (lots of people had placed hols, we were 50-something in line, but the library has over 200 copies) that morning. So here I am, reading it.

It could definitely do with some editing. The first chapter, for example, was unnecessary. The pace is slow, but not too slow... but neither is it fast. Some people could get bored with it.

Shades of Star Wars. Harry says he must face Voldemort. Can you imagine Dumbledore as Obi-wan, going "You *must* face Voldemort again." Flitwick would make a good Yoda. Then there's Voldemort saying "Greatness inspires envy, envy engenders spite, spite spawns lies." Yoda said something similar, I think. Then there's Dumbledore saying things like I have no wand, I am defenseless. "Give in to your hate", no.

Tag: book

Jul 16 2005 11:23 The Changing of the Bridge
The old Cooper river bridges are closed today.
Old Cooper river bridges
(The new-old bridge eclipses the old-old bridge in this picture.)

The new Cooper river bridge is opening today.
New Cooper river bridge
(The new bridge eclipses both old bridges in this picture.)

Frank Starmer, a resident of these parts, has been taking pictures and writing about the new bridge construction for the last two years. One of his many web sites:

Last updated: Jan 22 2006 09:12

Tag: exp

Jul 11 2005 18:54 Lakshya
'Lakshya' has to be the first decent Hindi movie I've seen for some time. Credible performances by Hrithik Roshan, Preity Zinta, Amitabh Bachchan, and others. No over-the-top acting, no overly emotional scenes, everything moderate but just enough to give you a feel for the characters. Just the right amount of humor. Even the musical numbers aren't completely out of place. No "dream sequences" -- yet. The scenes of Hrithik's character's background are decently done, too.

It still has the usual war movie cliches: the friend who dies, the girl back home (though she's a reporter who gets involved -- another cliche). And the obligatory "why are we fighting" "because we have to" shouting match between the civilian observer and the military guy -- again, properly done, not over the top. It's probably exactly what an army guy would come up with in that situation anyway. And they had a random extra do it, not the lead, which is good. Extras are people, too.

Alright, the romantic sub-plot was unnecessary.

Hey, Amitabh's character is shown to be Maharashtrian. I wonder if he really knows Marathi or was he just mouthing sounds.

So at one point a bus pulls up and unloads a wounded soldier. That looked so much like MASH -- I've been watching the DVDs in broadcast order -- I was expecting Hawkeye to come running up.

Okay, everything I said before goes for the first half -- the first 90 minutes or so. Around the 2-hour mark I was wondering, how much more?

Tag: hindi movie

Jul 11 2005 18:50 Meta tags
Now my blog software has tags! (If you're on my web site, see the blog menu on the right... otherwise, go to my web site!)

Update 20050715: The tag stuff is now AJAX! It is a Rich Internet Application! Yay!

Last updated: Jul 15 2005 12:08

Tag: blog web

Jul 06 2005 13:41 One ping only
Today I wanted to ssh to a box sitting across the room but didn't know its hostname or IP address. So I figure I could ping xxx.xx.107.255 and see what responds. A nicer thing to do would be to ping each IP in the range (only 254 possibilities, of which I can rule out my own and a couple of others) once.

<Sean Connery>One ping only.</SeanConnery>

Last updated: Jul 06 2005 13:46

Jul 05 2005 10:45 Stirling Engine
I want to build a Stirling Engine!
Jul 04 2005 22:43 Jigsaw: Hodgson Water Mill
Between buying and building new models, I completed the Hodgson Water Mill jigsaw puzzle, a cheap 500-piece one that I picked up in some random shop (Walgreens?). It sucked. I think this is the same water mill that's on some grocery store products -- I remember seeing something in the store.

Water Mill jigsaw

Last updated: Jan 22 2006 09:11

Tag: jigsaw

Jul 04 2005 20:25 The Ladykillers
I'm watching the 1955 version of the movie _The Ladykillers_ starring Sir Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, and others. The young Sir Alec isn't quite Tom Hanks, and those false teeth make him look really weird. but it's the same voice we all heard in Star Wars as Obi-wan Kenobi, and in _Bridge over the River Kwai_.

The DVD's sound quality sucks, there are no closed captions, and the first half of the movie is all "what's going on?" but the second half is funny.