Monthly Archives: July 2008

the dark knight

Well, I finally saw Batman last night. I’ll get right to it — I didn’t like it. It just wasn’t anywhere near what I was hoping for at all. It’s not an action movie, it’s an intense psychological thriller. A little long, too.

Don’t get me wrong, the film itself was great, from the acting to the script to the story, but it was a bit too intense for me, plus it just wasn’t anything like Batman Begins, which is what I was really hoping for.

The story was really well done, though.  The Joker was extremely freaky, and had the real feel of a sociopathic killer — someone who was in control of his faculties, but just simply insane.  There were so many rough pulls of moral dilemma in the movie, and I don’t really go for those — at least, not portrayed violently.  I don’t like war movies, either, and I imagine some of them would be kind of like this.  So, the type of movie just wasn’t my taste.

Of course, I really can’t stand the original Batman movie either. In fact, the only ones I really will even watch (as in, a second time) are Batman Returns and Batman Begins. Those were both excellent, and I didn’t like any of the others.

That’s about that. The soundtrack was great, too.

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finally rebuilding

I’ve put this off for a long time, but I’m finally rebuilding my desktop from scratch. Actually, my one at work, too. Today is a state holiday here in Utah, and it’s great taking a day off in the middle of the week. I honestly have no idea what time it even is right now.

Anyway, at home my box is a dual-core AMD Athlon64 something or other. I’ve stopped building boxes a while ago after realizing that while it may be only around $300 to get started, it ends up costing another $400 for all the stuff I really wanna get on there, like a decent video card and quiet power supply, so this has been my box for a while. In fact, I’m running the exact same motherboard in my media server as well. It’s actually really nice knowing that I can swap hardware between the two boxes in a pinch (which has already happened) without worrying about the specs.

This box has been doing great, and I really don’t use it for much more than just surfing the web, writing email and of course Gentoo development. I’ve had problems on and off with XFCE and X. Exiting out would kill all input, and I could never figure out the cause. It wouldn’t matter which video driver or video card I used, so I just worked around it — I’d switch to the shell if I wanted to kill X, instead of just logging out, etc. But, one thing I sorely miss is using tuxonice, so today I finally decided to take the plunge and scratch it all.

It has been a long time coming, too. I can’t even remember the last time I installed the system on here. Generally speaking, I usually reinstall anyway just to clear out cruft and what not about every 18 months or so. It’s also a good way to keep me on my toes with new installs — my biggest problem is *still* forgetting to change my root password from a fresh stage3 install.

I’ve gotten pretty far, as I’m writing this in Seamonkey right now, and I started this morning. I’ve already been going through the list of stuff I had installed and it’s amazing how many applications I try out and then completely forget about. I’m actually excited to try out the new jobs and resume options in portage, see how that changes things around.

Actually, the thing that kicked off the reinstall at home was that I finally broke down and decided to do my one at work, first. The box is also a dual-core 64-bit machine, but it’s an Intel Pentium D. Now, for some reason, I have *never* had much luck with any of the Intel boxes. I always have some stupid problem where they just end up unresponsive for some reason that I’ve never had on the AMD boxes. I’ve never been able to pin it down, and so I’ve been methodically getting rid of any Intel-based boxes I have around.

This one at work is particularly painful though, though it’s mostly my fault. It’s only got 512 megs of RAM in there which is the obvious bottleneck in today’s modern desktop scenario — especially for a Linux workstation like mine where running a dozen applications all at once is the norm. At first I tried to resist doing anything about it so I changed my CFLAGS to -Os to save on memory (which I probably should have done in the first place), and while that helped, everything of course slowed down by a huge magnitude. Still, at least I wasn’t having jerkiness — it just took everything twice as long to load and save.

I finally broke down this week and shelled out $50 to buy 2 gigs of RAM for the machine. I haven’t been watching computer prices at all recently, so I was quite surprised by how cheap it was. In fact, I’m tempted to put more in my box at home. I’m sure that’ll fix things up alright. In the meantime, it’s reinstalling right now, chugging along, and seeming to do fine. I think I needed my head cleared of all the crap more than that box did, really. Sometimes, even though we technically don’t need to reinstall, it’s just a good mental relief knowing that you’ve done everything you can to make things run better. That’s a hard belief to argue against.

One thing I also did on my box at home is I finally switched over to ~amd64. I’m running unstable, which may not seem that big of a deal, but my policy over the last six years or so of using Gentoo, on my desktop at least, was to use the stable tree. Slowly, though, one by one, on all my other boxes, I’d switch them over to unstable and just run that tree, and I found that more often than not, it runs just fine without a hitch. I first switched over with my myth box, when I realized that my package.keywords file was longer than my arm — if there was one thing I always wanted the very latest bleeding edge code of, it was all the bugfixes and improvements for the multimedia software. The myth box is an obvious choice, and even then, you get it to a working point and then just leave it alone for an eternity. Those last two sentences just contradicted each other, I realize, but anyway, the point was — well, I forget.

Ooh, this –jobs option is pretty cool. Good work, Zack. :) Gentoo rocks, what more can I say.  After all this time, I’m still a fan.

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what i'm watching, part two

Boy I haven’t had time to write about movies lately.  In fact, tonight I finally went out to go skating, but it started raining when I got there, so I just wandered around and got wet for about 20 minutes, which actually felt pretty nice.  It’s a nice, cool, summer night out.  I couldn’t skate, so I came back here to write about movies.  Rock on.

I just finished watching an old Sherlock Holmes movie today.  I’ve had the entire collection of the Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce movies done by Universal from the 1930s or whatever for a long time, but I’ve only seen half of them.  Part of the problem when I go to watch one is I can’t remember which ones I’ve seen and which I haven’t (there’s about twelve total, I think), so instead of going through the trouble of figuring it out, I’ll just watch something else.

This one was The Spider Woman (oops, 1944, not 1930s, ah well), and it was pretty good, comparing them to the other ones.  The movies themselves are actually really toned down compared to the radio drama show starring the two actors, who both do a great job in their roles.  I have about every MP3 of the old time radio show, I think … I’m probably missing a few, and if you can dig them up (I haven’t looked at OTR websites in a long time) they are well worth the effort.  The name of the show was The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and the sponsor was Petri Wine.  They sure knew how to do advertising back then, that’s for sure.

This weekend was like the first in a month or so that I’ve had time to myself and didn’t have anything to do.  I have had my Netflix account on hold since I knew I was gonna start moving, and finally activated it the week before, with the 8 at a time plan.  So I got a ton of movies in the mail and got to go through them.  About 5 of them were junk, and didn’t pass the 5-minute test, but the others were cool enough to keep me watching.

One I got to watch was Always.  Now, I should say that I’ve never been a big fan of Spielberg, at all.  Not because I didn’t like his movies, just because he seemed so extremely overrated by everyone else’s opinion, and since his movies always seemed no better or worse than everyone else’s, I’d always watch his with extreme skepticism.  I’ve never seen Always, but I knew the general premise, having seen bits and pieces on TV or whatever.  I gotta say, this one was really good, and it grew on me a bit.  Holly Hunter did a great acting job.  Richard Dreyfuss did alright, though it felt a little static.  I’ve never seen him in a starring role other than What About Bob? so I kept waiting for him to go crazy at any moment.

The movie really dragged on, though.  I remember watching it and thinking my crap a lot has happened, and then I realized it’d only been twenty minutes, and I knew I was in for a long one.  Sheesh, I hate it when that happens.  Never look to see how long a movie is.  The less you know about it before watching it, the less expectations, and therefore, disappointments, you’ll have.

Anyway, I’ve never been terribly impressed with Spielberg’s work, but I had happened to record Jurassic Park at the same time on my Tivo, so I watched that the next day.  Looking back now, I still think it’s a great movie, really well done.  I kept thinking that, for its time, the CGI and animatronics are extremely well done.  You still don’t see movies done that well today on a regular basis.  Universal must have put a lot of cash into that one.  The thing that I realized watching this one, though, was that Spielberg does a great job of capturing on film the human condition on a realistic level when they are in dire situations.  The thing that got me thinking about it was remembering his remake of War of the Worlds.  I remember watching it in the theater, and thinking that this was exactly how I imagined society would react during a huge calamity — bundling together for just survival and a sense of cohesion, but so fragile that they can all easily snap and turn into a mass of of self-preserving hysteria outbursts at any moment.

I have to interject something funny about Netflix here… it thinks I’ll hate every single movie, it’s pretty funny.  Netflix’s guesses for what I’d like are always at least half a star lower than everyone else’s.  My rating system is pretty strict, though, so it makes sense.  I *rarely* give anything five stars, which in my mind is a mind-blowing can watch the movie any time and I never get tired of it, so perfect, no problems kind of movie.  There’s only a small handful of those.  A four would be something that was between that and average.  A three means I’d watch it again, and so anything I don’t like gets two stars.  And since my success rate of finding movies is around 2% or so, Netflix just thinks I hate everything.  Which, technically, I guess I do, but whatever.  I really like the ones I do like, so it all evens out. :)

One other one I caught recently was I Am Sam.  I’ve been meaning to watch this one for a while.  I’ve always thought Sean Penn was a good actor, but wow he did a good job in this one.  I’ve never seen Michelle Pfeiffer do so well, either.  She seems to be one of those actresses that doesn’t get challenged much, and she really shone in this one.  As far as the story, it really seemed forced to try and make you feel emotional, and so I got tired of that pretty quick.  Plus, I’m tired of seeing that little kid in every movie that’s been out.  How many 8 year olds have already starred in 23 movies or whatever.  Sheesh.  I’m all about movies that find unknowns and give them a chance.  It’s nice watching a movie when you don’t instantly know who the star is because it lets you forget where the story “should” be focusing on, and instead lets you decide for yourself who and what it revolves around.

Which reminds me of another movie that I’ve been meaning to comment on for a long time.  I saw this a long time ago, but it was so stunning.  The Winslow Boy by David Mamet.  This is one of those that so rarely comes along that you watch it, and it so unique and stunning that you are mesmerized and the next time you blink is about an hour later.  That’s exactly what happened with watching this one. I can’t describe it, the style was just really cool, very succinct, quick moving, interesting, about a minor moral struggle that the kid it involved was completely indifferent about anyway, and it was just amazing.  All of David Mamet’s stuff is just that way though.  If you haven’t seen The Spanish Prisoner, go check it out.  I can’t recommend that one enough.  There’s a movie you could spend a long time studying.

Ah, I swear there’s more, but I can’t remember them right now.  Just watched Better Off Dead, a classic 80s flick.  John Cusack has been doing films for a long time, and he’s a great actor.  Good stuff.  What else.

Well, I can’t remember.  I’m sure there’s one I just can’t think of right now.  And for the record, no, I haven’t seen The Dark Knight yet.  Gah, what kind of a Batman fan am I, anyway?  My pillowcase is a Batman one, I kid you not.  He rocks, man.  I gotta go see it — the longer I put it off, the more I’m going to find out about it from other people.  Don’t tell me anything!  Punks.

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mplayer and transcode fixes

Since things are finally starting to settle down (hey, I’ve had Internet for a week now, cool), I’ve started getting back to poking at stuff, slowly. Today I cleaned up some mplayer and transcode stuff in the portage tree, and I just thought I’d mention what’s new.

First of all, mplayer. The latest revision is 1.0_rc2_p27120. The snapshot itself is about a month old, and I don’t know of anything particularly major that’s in there (I haven’t had time to follow development for the past month anyway). It’s been masked for testing, not because upstream has done anything funky, but because there are some new use flags, which have helped me to go back and clean up some stuff that I should have done a long time ago. I haven’t heard a peep from anyone on bugzilla so either no one’s tried it, or it works great.

The big changes that I can think of off the top of my head are this: first of all, there’s an ewarn added if you enable the cpudetection flag. It finally dawned on me that this one might not make sense. Here’s what it *doesn’t* do — magically make the build detect and build for your CPU architecture. The build system already automatically detects and installs with the correct instruction set by default, using stuff like MMX, SSE, and friends. The only reason (that I can think of) that you would use that, is if you were deploying the binary package on another computer, since it is a runtime feature, not a buildtime one. So, you’ll get a little warning if you enable it, because, in general, desktop users don’t need it. I also fixed the use.local.desc to be a bit more specific as well.

Secondly, there’s a new use flag: custom-cpuopts which should finally solve the long-standing dance of trying to outwit users who always break their system but still allow real tweakers to do exactly what they want. Here’s how it works. MPlayer’s build system, again, by default, will automatically detect the CPU optimizations that are supportd for your platform (MMX, SSE, again, etc.). That means that, again, if you leave everything by default — it should work fine.

Originally the problem we would have is that people would have their CPU optimization use flags turned off (like mmx), which would normally break the build. The ebuild is written to only disable them if they are turned off, so my solution for a long time was to tell people to just turn them all on and let MPlayer *not* disable them, therefore, revert back to autodetection. This would then cause problems, though, for those few who were building MPlayer for some other box, and they wanted specific CPU opts on or off. This use flag will fix just that.

What custom-cpuopts will do, when enabled, is forcibly enable or disable the actual CPU optimization use flags you set. This will help out those on certain profiles and setups who need to tweak their build for whatever reason. For normal desktop users, you don’t need to enable it — if it’s turned off, the ebuild will completely ignore the other use flags (for CPU optimizations) and just use the default checks … which work great. It also means that your build will be optimized the best it can, yay!

I know I really went into depth on that one, but it’s been an issue with the build and users for a long time and I’m glad I finally got a cleaner solution working. Now everyone has the options to do whatever they want, but by default, everything should build and be optimized wonderfully.

Oh yes, one last thing — if someone wants to fix bug 228799, and submit a patch upstream, I’d be extremely grateful. That would clean up the LINGUAS hack in our ebuild, which I’ve heard breaks on paludis anyway.

As far as transcode — I’ve been out of the loop, and the media-video team has been taking things over and cleaning up (I don’t even know who, sorry guys, haven’t taken the time to look into that either — I know loki_val fixed up some imagemagick / ffmpeg dep crap that I didn’t want to touch, thanks man!). 1.0.5 is back in the tree, and should be the next stable candidate. I also added another rc for 1.0.6, and I have to add the 1.10 beta sometime.

That’s about it for now. Have fun. Go break your box. :)

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novelty overload

I’m still dealing with, what I call, novelty overload — so much new stuff to setup and play with that my head is spinning wildly with the possibilities and I’m trying to absorb it all at once.  It’s like trying to drink from a fire hose.

I’ve got my Internet back again and now a phone line to, and Ive been trying to get Grand Central all hooked up and working right.  I still haven’t been able to verify that it’s actually ringing both phones at once — there might be some latency on the Comcast line or something.  My cell phone will always ring though.  Maybe I just set something up wrong, who knows.

Also, first impressions of the Comcast digital voice setup — it sucks.  I was gonna write a whole post about it, but I’ll probably not be that coherent enough anytime soon.  One thing I don’t like about it is that you can’t turn the voice mail option off at all.  That may be an odd request, but my opinion is that if you are going to add any feature, the first option should be to have it available.  In my case, I don’t care about any voice mails that go to my home phone, because I’m not giving out that number so anyone who calls there directly has either got the wrong number or is trying to sell something.

Their online interface is just really buggy.  To delete or view details about a voicemail, you have to listen to it first.  Even then, it will only delete the very last one in the list (there’s a bug), so if you want to delete all of them you have to do it from the bottom up.  Secondly, I went into the preferences menu (I forgot which one now, and this is totally anecdotal so feel free to ignore because of lack of details), changed two options which had nothing to do with each other, and got an error response.  Whoops.  One other thing that was weird was that in my account details it has my *old* address listed on the account.  Fail.  Finally, and this is the thing that I find kind of freaky, is it shows *all* incoming and outgoing calls made up to a month back.  Normally that would be cool — if I was the one making the calls.  It should have displayed the logs based on my activation date.  Plus I already got a voicemail of someone calling the old guy’s number and mentioning him by name, so if I really wanted to be evil I could go on a little identity theft digging spree based on the past call activity.  Not that I would, but being as paranoid when it comes to security as I am, the thought just naturally comes to me.

Despite all that, I’ll probably stick with it anyway — I still want to find a decent phone, and while this request may seem odd, I’d like to get one that at least has as the same basic features as my cell phone (minus playing games, of course).  I think stuff like hanging up on an incoming call but still letting it ring through, or changing call volume or simple stuff like that should be standard.  I dunno how much home phones have changed over the years, it’s been a long time since I bought one, and I just grabbed the first one that looked decent at Shop-Ko so I could have something.

As far as everything else in my life, it’s all been busy.  I’m going to be looking for a new job here in the next month, my family has been visiting recently (which is a rare occurrence which just happened to fall on the exact time I’m moving), and I’ve still got to move in and get all that crap done.

I *started* looking at Gentoo stuff finally this morning for the first time since who remembers when.  Between it being summer, skating, and getting a new PS3, it seriously cut into my time and desire to work on Gentoo stuff a lot, so I’ve been taking a bit of a long break.  What worries me though is that this is the first time that I’m getting the feeling that there’s too much to do and users are nagging on bugzilla to get their stuff done (contribute patches, people!  “me too!” comments on bugs totally suck), so I think I really need to scale back what I’ve taken on over the years and see where I really can and want to make a difference.  I’ve already stopped supporting or maintaining a lot of stuff in the tree that I used to take care of (little stuff, mostly) because of time constraints and lack of energy.  I dunno where I’m gonna refocus my efforts yet.  I dunno.  Too much going on right now to think about it anyway.

Well, that’s all the brain dump I can leak out right now.  I sure could use a week off of work right now just to get my life in order, but I’ll have to settle with doing what I can when I can.  It’s all good, I guess.  I’m just not accustomed to having so many things going on all at once.

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grand central

My brother got me a Grand Central phone number tonight (thanks, man).  No, you can’t have my phone number.  I hate getting phone calls (which I’m sure will inspire at least one of you to track me down and call me up).

Since I don’t get cell phone coverage on my block, this is going to come in really handy.  I can have it ring both my home phone and cell phone all at once.  I’m most excited about freely giving out the # to businesses though so when they sell me out, I can mark their incoming calls as spam.  I don’t know why I get a kick out of that.

Anyway, hopefully I’ll get my Internets back tomorrow and another piece of the puzzle will be put back together.  My new place is really nice, I’m liking it.  I think the best way to describe it is it’s simple.  The layout is simple and nice, the rooms are nice and big and just well designed.  Plus, the walls are really thick so I can watch movies loudly without annoying anyone.  Tonight I popped in ‘Flight of the Navigator’.  What a great flick.  The soundtrack is pretty awesome, too.  I wonder if I could find a t-shirt or something.  Okay, I did find some black and white t-shirt but it’s not that great looking.  My TRON t-shirt really rocks.  I’ll post a pic sometime.

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moving in

Well, I’m all moved in to my new place now, which is actually pretty nice.  I’ve gotten the bug now to do some home improvement this time around, because I really wanna get this place cleaned up and tweaked.  I want to do some electrical and plumbing work where I can, just gotta figure out how to do that without killing myself.

In the meantime, I’m just trying to get unpacked, and get a sense of normalcy and stability back in my life.  I don’t have an Internet connection yet, and Comcast is coming out this week.  I don’t have cell phone coverage in my house (or the whole street, even), so I’ve got to get a landline installed as well.  I’m gonna have them install that as well.  Strangely enough,  all my neighbors use Qwest / DirecTV, so I’m hoping the cable guy doesn’t come out here and surprise me with the fact that they can’t install anything at my place — partially because then I’ll have to wait two weeks to get anything else in there and be cut off from the world even longer, and also because I can’t stand Qwest.

On the plus side, Civilization for the PS3 is supposed to come out tomorrow, and I can’t wait for that.  I did get Overlord this weekend, and that’s been fun (though harder than I imagined).

Anyway, I can’t wait for life to get back to a normal routine.  At least I’m sleeping, though.  Half my life might be in boxes right now, but at least I get plenty of sleep at night.

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