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04 December 2012

vi or emacs?

It might actually make sense to ask this sometimes

A few days ago we were talking with someone who we thought he would join our team (in fact he did a few days later). When all seemed to be asked and answered, half out of wittiness, I asked the "big" question: "vi or emacs?"

Turns out, that question is actually quite valid in a "hiring" situation for a programmer job. It's not that I actually care what people are using (besides, vi is so clearly better, there's no contest). But the resulting discussion gave me some insight into the "geek level" and the approach to many work process related questions of the person sitting in front of me. All in a non-threatening, easygoing topic, since come on, nobody really discusses this on a serious level.

It boils down to: The choice of tool might not define good workmanship, but the approach of how someone chose their tools sure gives some insight. You can feel how sure they are of their work, what level of expertise they have, how they approach learning new tools, and so forth. What if someone would really get on a rant when posed such a question? Well, that gives you an answer too, doesn't it?

Posted by betabug at 18:39 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
06 December 2012

Ein weiterer, trauriger Jahrestag

6. Dezember 2008

Gestern hörte ich in der Metro eine Ankündigung, dass die Stationen Syntagma und Panepistimio "auf Befehl der Polizei" ab 9 Uhr morgens heute geschlossen sein werden. Griechenland mag sich als Geburtsstätte der Demokratie preisen, doch die aktuelle Regierung betrachtet die Verfassung und die Rechte ihrer Bürger als nicht bindend.

Heute vor 4 Jahren erschoss ein Polizist einen 15-jährigen Schüler. Ohne Grund oder wirklichen Anlass. Danach gab es wochenlang Proteste von Jugendlichen. Wider erwarten sitzt der Polizist im Gefängnis, doch sein Kollege und Mittäter wurde trotz mehrjähriger Haftstrafe nach ein paar Monaten entlassen. Wie jedes Jahr gibt es auch dieses Jahr wieder Demonstrationen von Schülern und Studenten an diesem Tag. Die Polizei lässt in diesem Fall keinerlei Schuldbewusstsein erkennen. Statt dessen haben sich auch dieses Jahr wieder die Demonstrationen in eine Gewaltorgie entwickelt.

Posted by betabug at 19:30 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
09 December 2012

Train Information on Line 1

It took some time
Information panel at Metro Line 1 station

Ever since the Athens Metro Line 1 (ΗΣΑΠ / ISAP, what athenians call το τρένο, "the train") was overhauled, there were those information panels that should show the waiting times to the next train on the stations. But they were not working. Until now. I noticed some days ago that they were properly showing the waiting time now. Very convenient.

Posted by betabug at 12:01 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
18 December 2012

Films arrived

Slackers need films too
Lots of new films arrived... coincidally at xmas

Never mind that I'm slacking at photography. Never mind that I have a huge backlog of stuff to scan. Never mind that I have even a huger (is that even a word?) backlog of pictures to post process or that I can't even call my printing backlog a "backlog" any more... I ordered some more films.

Here they are, next to the Christmas presents. Which really, really is a coincidence, since the films are not a present. Also notice how the box of films is already open, while the presents are closed. I had almost ran out of films and despite not taking many pictures right now, it was time to re-order.

Also in the box: some sweets

So here we have: Tons of the new Kodak Portra 160 in roll film 120. A few Portra 400 in roll film 120, and a few more Portra 400 in 135 (I already tried that film in 135, but due to backlog of scanning, can't really say much about it, besides that it appears quite fine grained). Then there is good old Kodak Tri-X, some beloved Fuji Acros 100 (both in 120). Then there is another experiment, some Kentmere 100 and 400 in 135. Let's see how that one turns out.

There's also a gallon-sized portion of Diafine (b+w developer). The Diafine I develop my films with is still going strong, but I want to have some around for when it stops doing its magic. Since the stuff is in powder, inside a sealed can, it won't go bad for a while.

Also in the box: A tiny, little bag of sweets. I ordered these films from Macodirect, same as I did for a few years now. They always arrive in a short time, they have good prices and the films are always fresh. Once I had a small problem with them (I ordered 4 boxes of 5x Tri-X and received 4 x 1 Tri-X), which was resolved quick and uncomplicated. So I'm a happy customer and now they even bribed me with sugary sweets!

Posted by betabug at 13:07 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
20 December 2012

Lightning, Strikes, and other small Calamities

Happens all the time

On Monday evening there were some thunderstorms here around Athens. Not far from the house a lightning must have hit some part of the electricity system, because part of the electricity went down. What's even worse, at the neighbors the lightning strike fried a TV set and an ADSL router. No Internet for now, as we share the connection with our neighbors. Lucky me, some days ago I had gotten a "mifi" device (a thing that gets a mobile Internet connection and shares it, acting as a wifi access point). It's good to have a plan B, and this one was just in time.

Today I was on the way to town, in the bus. I noticed people asking if this particular bus would go all the way to Athens center. No it wouldn't. It went to the Metro station, where I planned to take the Metro for the rest of the way. Too bad though, that the Metro is on strike today - which everybody except me must have known already. Once I figured it out, I just took the bus back. Not much lost, but some time. I'll just go another day.

Posted by betabug at 12:47 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
21 December 2012

Real Napkins for Atmosphere

Get rid of the paper stuff
Real napkins, no more paper towels

Last weekend we bought a bunch of real napkins, not made out of paper, not made to be thrown away. The basic thought was to get away from buying throwaway paper napkins, since those are ecologically a bad idea. Calculating the ecological footprint of an action is always a difficult thing (e.g. how do you handle that these might have been made on the other side of the globe and shipped over, the needed washing and all that...). Unless we eat a lot of spaghetti and sea food, I guess we can use these for a week before washing them.

But textile napkins are also something much more nice to look at on the table. They give the table a more festive appearance, even if it is just some everyday lunch (with some simple but tasty lentils in the pic). They are also much nicer to handle, to hold in your hand, and I even get inspired to put them on my legs while eating.

Posted by betabug at 15:01 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
22 December 2012

Public - ποιον κοροϊδεύετε με αυτήν την τιμή;

Ερευνα αγοράς

Χτες βράδυ λόγω εποχής και κίνησης είχα κολλήσει στο Mall στον Αγ. Δημήτριο. Πάω μια βόλτα από το Public εκεί να χαζεύω gadgets. Και τι βλέπω; Είχαν το Bookeen Opus (ebook reader) για "μόνο" 228 Ευρώ. Το "μόνο" είναι σε εισαγωγικά, γιατί online το αγοράζεις στο με 99 Ευρώ. Ποιον κοροϊδεύετε με αυτή την τιμή ρε Public; Περιμένετε να περάσει κάποιος στο χριστουγεννιάτικο στρες που δεν έχει την παραμικρή ιδέα και δεν ξέρει να ψάξει 5 λεπτά online;

Posted by betabug at 14:19 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
23 December 2012

Playing around with multipath routing on OpenBSD

Two options, two paths

Yesterday the router that was fried in a lightning strike has been replaced. After making the necessary changes to the repeater, I thought it would be a good moment to play around with network stuff, since I have now two network options. There is the reinstated ADSL connection and the mifi that I used as my Plan B.

So I went to the Networking chapter of the OpenBSD FAQ, where I had seen the sample setup for equal-cost multipath routing. I think the instructions are quite clear, but it sure is something that I wanted to try to see how it "feels" and works. Good for me that I have a splendid Laptop with OpenBSD installed, which has an Ethernet port as well as a working wifi card (ok, more or less working, but as long as the router is in the same room, it does work). So my setup is:

  1. ADSL-Connection, passing through an Access Point with OpenWRT that is configured as a repeater. The OpenWRT router has one Ethernet port and here I used that to connect to the em0 interface on the laptop.
  2. Mobile connection (3G / HSDPA, whatever the reception) in the shape of a little "mifi" access point. This little beast is actually faster than the ADSL connection, but then, it's a tiny ADSL connection. I use the iwn0 interface on the laptop to connect to this one.

On the em0 Ethernet interface I set up a static IP in the range, on the iwn0 wifi interface I have dhcp configured, which gives me an address in The last time I tried the mifi with a static address, it didn't like it, something was blocking there, maybe that thing is configured to give access only to DHCP clients in order to be able to limit access to 5 clients? Further investigation will be needed there.

Next thing was to set the sysctl parameter for multipath routing and then to set up the routes, like in the FAQ. Easy enough, I could ping both gateways... but then, I couldn't actually get further out from one of the gateways. Looking at the routes, they had different priorities: em0 had 8, iwn0 12. Maybe this was an effect of having one of the routes created by dhclient. In any case I flushed the routes and created them new, setting -priority 8 on both of them. That did the trick.

Now looking at netstat -r they both had the same priority and both started to have increasing numbers in the "Use" column. The "P" flag for multipath was also present in the routes. Then I opened to terminals with ntop and had fun for a while watching various connections pop up on each interface. The effect could also be felt: I uploaded something big, which likely saturated one of the (tiny) uplinks, but still I was typing in ssh without any delay. Sure I have a nice pf setup with queues and ACK priorization, but with such an upload still there is a little delay noticeable. With the dual uplinks, it seems that the connections balanced out better. Definitely though, the max speed of a connection is defined by the speed of each one of the interfaces, not by the sum of both of them.

I haven't yet understood every detail of how this works, e.g. what algorithm is used to balance connections or which interface is chosen. I guess that once opened, a connection stays on the same interface, as some protocols won't take it well if your source IP jumps around (also see some explanations here). Definitely it also does not do "fail over" out of the box, but there are various solutions for that.

Conclusion: Using this on my laptop is not going to be something that I will do every day. But using an OpenBSD router for example in an office setup, where multiple people access the internet, it could be a nice option. Combine two or more cheaper Internet connections and have people not hinder each other, no matter if someone downloads or uploads some bigger files for a while. Then add some failover capabilities and connectivity through different ISPs and you will gain a little bit of uptime too.

Posted by betabug at 18:16 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
29 December 2012

An Experiment with PC-BSD on the Thinkpad X220

Not going to buy it anyway, you know

Background: There are some things that you know you're not going to switch to, but still you want to try. For myself, I know that I like the command line. I switched to OpenBSD from the Mac (ok, I still do some things on the Mac, e.g. full scale image editing), after deciding that I spend all my time on the command line anyway. I now use cwm and tmux. Still I wanted to give PC-BSD a try. For one thing, my laptop's hardware is supported very well in OpenBSD, but it's not supported perfectly. Maybe FreeBSD could improve on that, and the easiest way to find out (without having to digg into FreeBSD's config world) would be PC-BSD. And then, I just like to tinker with this stuff...

Continue reading "An Experiment with PC-BSD on the Thinkpad X220"
Posted by betabug at 21:26 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)