I hate computers

You know how I was supposed to be working on Vellum, right? And thinking up a new name, the current lead candidates for which are “Vellum Polygon” and “Vellum Palimpsest” — thanks for the suggestions, all, by the way: I actually prefer (after Dorothea) the second (Vellum Palimpsest), but I’m not sure I can face typing it in a lot, and it doesn’t have namecheck recognition except to word geeks like me and Dorothea, even if we are destined to rule the world and all you illiterate riffraff. Anyway, right, on top of that I’m also about to start playing with the Blender3d game engine for the Bloke vs. Bloke project. I’m also trying to write a thing that lets you split up one long mp3 of an album into its constituent tracks (not automatically; you have to go through and set where tracks end, but it should be nice and graphical). All fun stuff.

So, naturally, nature reacts to the idea of me being able to do fun stuff by creating work for me to do that must be done first. Nature being the bitch that she is, her green and pleasant self is inflicting on me the thing that fills me most with dread.

Computers breaking.

You see, I hack on applications. In scripting languages. Something going wrong with a computer at a lower level — hardware failing, kernel not working, crashes — is about six abstraction layers below what I do, and I am therefore completely crap at it. Recompiling a kernel is stressful — not that I can’t do it, I just hate having to sod about at that sort of level. I’m much like jwz in this sort of thing; that’s a solved problem. I have to recompile my kernel, because the usbdnet stuff to connect to the Zaurus lets me put individual things over using FTP (and I use my handy ipkgput script) but locks up the whole machine if I try and do anything larger like, say, back the fucker up with QtopiaDesktop. Apparently there were some bugs which have now been fixed, but I have to upgrade to 2.4.20 and repatch the kernel with usbdnet. Which means worrying about whether the alsa stuff will work after I’ve built the kernel, which it probably won’t. Oh, and when my machine reboots it sometimes doesn’t start up again, because it doesn’t think that there’s a fan plugged in to the motherboard, and so the BIOS stops it booting. Even though there is not only the chip fan but a separate fan that doesn’t do anything (it just sits in a hard drive bay inside the machine, out of the way) just to try and convince it that there is a fan plugged in.

So, that’s what I have to do to my machine. I found out on Wednesday that the fan in angel, the machine that hosts kryogenix.org (and dellah.com, and a few other things), is beginning to die. So, I need to fix that; really, what I need is to buy a new angel, because it’s pretty slow, which means I need a ton fifty that isn’t going on any other projects, which I haven’t got. The fan in tara, the firewall (an identical machine to angel) is also beginning to crap out, and if that dies I don’t have a spare machine to put in its place, which would be a catastrophe.

And finally, spike, my wife’s machine, is almost completely fubar. It crashes.

Without warning. For no reason. Under both Linux and Windows. It doesn’t seem to be reproducible, and it doesn’t happen if you just leave the machine sitting there not doing anything. But you can’t do anything (read mail, surf the web, play Escape From Monkey Island) for more than about ten minutes without it either locking up solid or rebooting. Oh, and then of course it has to fsck all the drives, and fsck can’t automatically fix the problem and therefore goes into Emergency Panic Mode and makes you log in as root and run fsck yourself (and lean on the “y” key), which is obviously brilliant for Sam who doesn’t even know what fsck does. How the hell do you troubleshoot a problem like that without, oh, just replacing all the components in the machine, which I can’t do on grounds of both technical ability and component shortage? I’ve got a whiteboard with a list of about fifteen things on it that are wrong with various computers here in Castle Langridge. Printing doesn’t work from spike or giles. Syncing the Palm IIIx doesn’t work on spike. DHCP on tara isn’t issuing the same IP addresses back to machines when they’re rebooted, so the port-forward of port 22 to giles so I can ssh in from outside doesn’t work. The mouse attached to dawn appears to be giving up the ghost, and I haven’t got any more serial mice. On and on and on until my head explodes.

Computers are shit. I’ve got this enormous pile of medium or incredible difficulty stuff that I need to do, and it’s sapping my will to live. I’ve got this Easter holiday to fix it all while I have some time to myself, so I might be quiet for a few days.

Then again, I might be very unquiet for a few days as I browse the web and post a lot to avoid work, which is a not unreasonable estimate of what I’m likely to do. I should get on with it now. But I think that I’m going to have a drink and read a book for a bit.

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