Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Computer Down!

Shortly after moving to Seattle I was given a laptop, tcong by someone that didn't want it anymore. It wasn't hard to see why; the laptop was a bulky desktop replacement, and its screen had a defect, where it would intermittently show red lines across the screen. It was annoying but usable, so when I went out to Mountain View for my first week at Google I took it with me. On the way home, laden with my much nicer work laptop, I put tcong in my checked bag, surrounded by lots of nice fluffy dirty laundry.

Now its display seems to have bitten the dust completely. Not only does its own screen show no data (the backlight works, but the screen just shows white all the time), but it doesn't seem to output anything over the external VGA port either (a monitor attached to that always shows black). It also has an S-Video output, but I can't test it (I don't currently have any displays that accept S-Video). I managed to blindly turn on sshd, so I can connect to it remotely and verify that the rest of the system works fine. In fact, Xorg starts, finds the GPU, and correctly polls both the built-in display and an external monitor's EDID.

It seems weird to me that physical damage would cause video signals to fail both on the built-in display and the external VGA port without causing any other problems, but that appears to be the case. So another second-hand laptop bites the dust due to, apparently, physical failure. Assuming I deem tcong pretty much useless, it will become the fourth member of my computer graveyard (consisting of all my named computers that have died for some reason).

  • flytrap, used from 2004-2007, was a third-hand PIII laptop that I bought from John because he didn't like it. It ran FreeBSD and served hard duty in my backpack and bike basket around campus, where I used it to write papers and display remote X programs running on UIUC's Big Iron. Its CD drive fell out, in a bank (!), shortly after I moved to Santa Clara, and I think the power supply failed in early 2007. I stupidly bought a PC Card network adapter for it shortly before it died; now that's something with no resale value!
  • montana, used from 2005-2007, was a cobbled-together PIII desktop with an enormous case. I initially ran FreeBSD on it. I don't think I ever even installed X; it had a severe RAM shortage, so running anything significant meant lots o' swapping. For some reason I lugged it around campus once for a class project, which was hilarious and dumb. In Santa Clara I used it as a general-purpose Plan 9 server. It hit the recyclery before I moved back to Chicago because it was obsolete, not useful, and huge.
  • talkingcookie, used from 2002-2009, was my main desktop computer, running Gentoo Linux, from the start of college until its power supply died. At that point, its major components were obsolete and flaky, so I replaced it with impulse as, well, a random impulse.
  • tcong, used from 2010-2011, was given to me by one of Jess' friends before he moved, because it was enormous and sort-of broken. It ran Ubuntu, and its most notable use was handling audio and video for Seattle's RPM 2011 listening party.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Oh No, Street Parking Horror!

While I was just in California, lots of people within a few blocks of me were hit with parking tickets for violating the Seattle law that cars can't be parked on the same block for more than 72 consecutive hours. I've heard several possible justifications for this law, but none really resonate. Some people call in 72-hour complaints about ugly junker parked on their blocks; moving them to another block for a few days doesn't really solve this “problem”. Some people think this law is a good tool to use against people storing stolen cars on their streets; in that case, there's a much larger violation going on, and a known location for stolen cars ought to be ripe for a sting (unfortunately finding stolen cars is less lucrative than ticketing them for parking illegally)! Ultimately this law is never going to be widely followed, and is impossible to enforce consistently, so it's enforced inconsistently, sometimes as a result of petty personal disputes (or, perhaps, municipal money-finding expeditions).

It really comes down to a question of whether there's a parking shortage. If there's not a parking shortage in a neighborhood, having people move their cars every three days is just a nuisance. If there is a parking shortage, well, there should never be a parking shortage! As with most goods and services, there will only be a shortage of parking if its price is set too low. Rather than forcing people to move their cars all the time, why not just have people on high-demand blocks rent specific parking spaces monthly? If there aren't enough spaces in a neighborhood there aren't enough spaces — people will find that out one way or another when they go to park. But this way, they won't have to circle the block all the time looking for spaces. The city government, owning all these roads it doesn't have the money to maintain, should be charging the users, but it should do so consistently instead of with arbitrary parking tickets.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I don't think Teh Valley has changed much...

... I've changed a lot, though. Although I certainly wouldn't want to live in Teh Valley or something, being in a better place in life than I was then makes being here less weird than it was back in 2006.

I'm in Palo Alto right now, because I'm starting a new job at Google tomorrow and Googlers have orientation in Mountain View. After getting a bit lost running in Rancho CaƱada del Oro I went walking around Palo Alto looking for something to eat. I came across a used bookstore called Know Knew Books holding a going-out-of-business sale, with everything half-off. I didn't have much cash on me, so I had to live behind an H. G. Wells combo and a couple old books about Seattle, but picked up a copy of Hunter S. Thompson's book about the Hell's Angels. Then some dude performed some monologues. The first was originally by a famous female monologist whose name I don't recall, and the second, I believe, was his own work. Really great stuff.

I brought ye olde guitar to work on some songs while I'm here, because I feel like I'm on the verge of getting somewhere on a few. I think I'm going to go back to my roots a bit for RPM 2012. Songs written from my own perspective or about personal concerns, more soft and acoustic sounds, harmonicas, clarinets. Maybe more piano. I'm thinking about trying to do one-word titles for all the songs.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Laurie Anderson for the win

When we lived in Cody it used to drive Jessica crazy that people would give directions like: "Go down the hill, then it's over pretty close to where the old post office used to be." I was just at Golden Oldies records in Wallingford browsing for new old CDs (and maybe later LPs), and I picked up the Laurie Anderson album Big Science. One of the songs starts with Laurie giving directions somewhere by reference to things that will be built in the future. I'd quote from the song but my CD player can't go back (to make a long story short, that function can only be performed with the remote, which was lost in a hotel room in Spearfish, South Dakota; I could probably get a replacement remote, but I've generally been OK with the limitation).

I think that's it.