Sun, 20 Nov 2005

Hard drive failure

On Thursday, I went up to my father's house to pick up my desktop, now that I finally have Internet access at home so I can have permanent access to it from a more convenient place. While I was there, I decided it'd be a good idea to do an upgrade on my dad's box.

While I was doing this, the nfs share of the Debian mirror in the home server that serves this blog stopped working, and I couldn't ssh in, although the console and ICMP appeared to work. Having no monitor attached to that box, I decided to reboot it and resolve the problem in a lame way. Had I known my primary hard drive had decided enough is enough, I would have looked for a monitor instead.

After reboot, the server started doing a very loud and scary noise, which was not new to me. When the BIOS tried to probe the disk, it would not start up and would instead whine like that. When this happened in the past, switching the box for a few minutes and trying again was enough. Not this time, though, it looked like it was the end.

Horrified by the fact that I had no really useful backup of /etc and /home, I tried over and over to get it working. I plugged the HD into another old AT box (which once served as my GNU Hurd playground), but I still got those scary noises. At least I knew it had nothing to do with the mother board.

As it was getting late, I decided to take the HD with me, and another Maxtor of the same size (but not exact model) with me, to have a look in office the next day. I thought I'd have to restort to try to transplant the logic board from the good one to the faulty disk, but before that, I realised I could try mounting it in a USB cage. For some reason or another, this worked, and I quickly saved thetwo partitions it contained with no read errors.

After this, I realised I had not done the copy as root, so I had lost all my ownerships. I plugged the disk again, and re-rsynced. It still worked. Alleviated, I went back home, copied the data to another old disk, and I don't remember why, I tried mounting the faulty disk again. I got scary noises even using the USB case, and no other tries have been successful, so I think it's completely dead now, just before my final mount which saved the data.

The box is now back online, using a Seagate disk I had stored in a drawer and with no notes on it about it having any kind of problem. I suspect I will need to do real backups now, because the drive isn't as safe as it looked...

hda: dma_timer_expiry: dma status == 0x20
hda: DMA timeout retry
hda: timeout waiting for DMA
hda: status error: status=0x58 { DriveReady SeekComplete DataRequest }

hda: drive not ready for command
hda: status timeout: status=0xd0 { Busy }

hda: drive not ready for command
ide0: reset: success

My little P150 needs a 6GB drive. I'll have to find one somewhere.

Thu, 17 Nov 2005

One year of Blue Gold

Today, my magic metro card is one year old.

When I bought it twelve months ago, I never thought I'd be so lucky. I don't know exact figures, but I think I've done 200 more train rides that it should have let me, and the card should have expired the 1st of February. But it didn't, and I've been using it over and over throught the year. I only was very, very careful when inserting the card or storing it in my wallet so it wouldn't bend or be damaged in some way... it's worth a lot of money!

While my primary means of transportation is the bicycle once again, having this handy is a great way to save maybe 25€ every month.

The Blue Gold Rush is eternal, although time does leave marks on it.

The magic card, when I found its magic properties

After some hundred uses...

Go on, my blue friend!

I should find someone with equipment that can copy the data in the magnetic band. That would rock.

Wed, 16 Nov 2005

Charles de Gaulle, worse than the NYC Stock Exchange

Yesterday we did meet zufus and gravity for lunch, then mika joined us for bubbles tea. There also was a somewhat unexpected couple joining the group at that point: kiko and his sister. gravity and zufus had to go back to work though, so it was mika, micah, kiko, zuzi and I who went for some Freedom Trail discovery.

The weather wasn't that good, and I didn't have too much time either, but we did manage to see a few things around the centre, like the memorial grave yard and a park with tons of fearless squirrels.

We headed back to the Acetarium, I quickly took a shower and packed, and we left to the metro, a bit behind on my planned schedule. mika left me two stops before the one I needed to get down in, and instructions to get to the airport from there, using the shuttle.

It's not amusing how slow something can appear to be when you're in a hurry. The driver of the bus said it took 5 minutes, but I had to go to the very last stop at terminal E, and it was like an eternity. In the end, I arrived at the terminal at 18:40, when my idea was 18:00, and I ran and ran until I found Air France's desk. There was no queue or anything, only me.

During the flight, I tried killing time with War of the Worlds, which was a timekiller but nothing more, and The Island, which I wouldn't recommend unless you care too much about hot female characters.

After 6 hours of flight, I was in Paris, apparently on time. But the doors opened much later that when we landed, so my connection started to be endangered. Again, I ran and ran, from one terminal to the other, around the chaos that is CDG. In vain, as my checkin was closed after arriving only 20 minutes before the departure.

Much annoyed, I went to the transfer desk, to discover the next flight to València was cancelled, so the next one was the next morning. The quick alternative via Madrid was full, so I now have tickets for CDG-BCN-VLC, which is extending my travel plan in 7 very nice hours.

I have no idea of where my luggage is, but at this point I don't care. I only wonder at what time I'll get sleep. What I do know, is that these fucking idiots claim there is free wireless in this spot of Terminal 2F, but it's not true at all.

Tue, 15 Nov 2005

Not that Cambridge

As predicted, the morning was not productive at all. At one point I slightly became concious and saw sladen fetching his bike, opening the door and telling me "Back in two hours!". We didn't know anything about him until 24 hours later. As we started waking up, we tried to think of a plan for the day. The morning was gone, though.

Clint took us to a restaurant two blocks away for breakfast, or actually brunch, because that was the only food in many hours. I ate some "pancakes" with banana in them, and barely could finish them; they are very filling. We went to the promenade for a last look at the Manhattan skyline and took some pictures while we tried to figure out what to do.

A last view over Manhattan

Mako was developing a plan in secret, though, which involved micah and his car. Micah found out soon after. We went back to Clint's, expecting to find sladen somewhere, but we didn't. I packed my things, and when we really needed to go, we resolved to put his things in the entrance so he could find then and do whatever he wanted on his return.

We went on the Metro to Union Square, where, hear this helix, I saw TONS of raperos doing their break-dance thing (ok, maybe not tons, but I did see them). And two blocks away, we arrived to the most incredible book store.

Mako has blogged many times about buying very rare books at the Strand for ridiculous prices, but this was totally unexpected. The Strand is huge. On the outside, there's carts with hundreds of second-hand books, all for one dollar. Mako used to go there and browse the books to find interesting stuff. The Acetarium is full of them! Most of the dollar books are total crap though. A very high percent talk about god, religion, "our troops" and stuff like that. Mentally filtering what might be good and what is not is not easy when you haven't done it before.

Mako started scanning the shelves as soon as we arrived, and every now and them he'd pick some totally stupid title. I was on my own shelf, missing many good stuff, while mika, Clint and mako did their own. Clint found quite a few titles, but mako didn't find anything good. I got lucky though, and found the precious book of the day: The Spanish Anarchists. The heroic years 1868-1936, by Murray Bookchin. Although old, it was in very good condition, and mako immediately asked if I was taking it. :) I won!

The inside of the Strand was incredible too. Three very big floors packed with books, plus the half-priced "reviewer's copies" at the basement. I was totally overwhelmed by the amount of books I'd be interested in buying, and the limited weight I should be carrying back, so I did my best not to look too carefully.

For a few hours, I didn't have a too clear idea of what mako's plans were. At some point, micah phoned him and we rushed to the PATH, the train that goes to New Jersey. Apparently we were meeting micah at Newark, but I still didn't know why we had to go there. During our ride, I could see how pleasant New Jersey is to the human eye. Miles and miles of heavy industries. I'm pretty sure it's the ugliest place I've ever seen. What I couldn't see, and I'm still disappointed, is any of the viciously arrogant rats of the New York metro system. Mako had told me about how they look at you, like saying "if you come down here, you'll be left with 9 fingers", and the incredible number of them on the tracks. Unfortunately I couldn't see any. I blame Michael Bloomberg.

At Newark, micah appeared in his car, and we all hopped into it. We apparently were going by car to Boston... including Clint. I was puzzled, as he had to work on Monday, but he'd said that he'd simply "come back". There was a problem though, mako had dilinger's keys, and he was going back to NYC from Boston, and we didn't have time to get to Boston before he left, so we had to find a way of leaving the keys in NYC so he could get into his appartment. Finally, mako resolved that Clint would be left in a cold street, in a rough area of NYC, and he would handle the keys problem. I still didn't understand what was going on.

We headed North, and I quickly fell asleep on mika's lap. I'm getting old. When the car stopped again and I suddenly woke up, I looked ahead and... HORROR! We were at the door of a McDonads. WTF WAS GOING ON? So it seems that when you're on the road, there's no much other choice than shit food. After a quick discussion with mako about how badly those burgers taste, I quickly went back to sleep, until we were in Boston. It took a while to find a parking spot, because all of them "permit only". It's impossible to park if you come from somewhere else.

I was finally at the Acetarium, a very cool flat in Cambridge, 15 minutes away from the MIT. It was 3:30 in the morning.

The day after, we woke up pretty late, and as I opened my laptop and found a privmsg from sladen, he was was knocking at the door. This man has an incredible ability to disappear and reappear when he's most unexpected. Apparently he managed to grab his stuff in NYC, fetch the bus and arrive at 2AM in Boston, meeting dilinger at the station, and mako as he went out to MIT.

micah and I went to explore Boston, but never managed. We consumed a few hours when trying to ship some equipment to micah's colo, and then trying to find food. When we were ready to go, micah got a very badly timed call, which made him go back to the Acetarium: a server at work was dying or dead. At one point, it was late enough that going to Boston wasn't worth it, so we went to visit the Media Lab instead.

On our way there, micah and I kept chatting about this and that, and found out how small the internet is. We both know a bunch of common people from uncommon places like Perú, from our involvement in social projects in the net like Indymedia and

The MIT is incredible, specially the Stata Center by Frank Gehry. We wandered around as we only got voice mail from mako, until an hour later we found we was like 20 metres away from us. He gave us a tour through the Media lab, and it was incredible. I had never seen something like that. Every lab was colourful and fun, and very cool developments were going on everywhere. I also saw the coolest mame box ever, with an arcade case and everything.

The Stata Center, right next to the Media Lab

After the tour, micah and I headed back, while sladen stayed to have a look at one of mako's projects. When we got back to the flat, there were a few people already there for mika's sushi party, and I rolled my first sushi rolls, which was fun. A bunch of Debian people joined us, including zufus and gravity, and had a great chat with them. The party ended way too late and after too many beers.

sladen used his secret disappearing abilities, and a few colleagues from mako crashed, so there was a bit of overbooking. Mako's solution was simple. mika, him and I could share their bed.

I can't say I have slept too much, because mako would keep pulling the blanket and leave me out in the cold, and I was trying not to squish mika. But it went ok, although we discovered too late that mika was hot while I was cold, and we swapped our places just before we ended up waking up.

Today, we'll go find the Freedom Trail and walk a bit around it, meet gravity and zufus for lunch, and I will sadly have to go back to Cambridge, quickly pack and head to the airport to catch my plane. My hours in North America are expiring.

Sun, 13 Nov 2005

The source of all evil

Yesterday was a very, very intense day, and I had lots of fun.

Clint, sladen and I headed to Chinatown walking, with a few detours to be able to checkout Manhattan's skyline. The view from the other shore is awesome, even with the two towers missing. When I compare the current view with how it was four years ago, I understand how much the city has changed without them. They were so impressively big that I just can't picture them too well in my mind.

The skyline of South Manhattan

We walked over the Brooklyn bridge, giving me other very cool views of Manhattan, while I hammered Clint with questions about this and that. I saw that since 9/11, you can't go past the Town Hall. "Security reasons", of course. I was very surprised to see police cars in every single street. It's like a Police State, and if you ask me, it didn't make me feel safer.

After some walk, we finally got in Chinatown, which is the craziest place ever. People sell stuff on the sidewalks, and many streets are packed with people. We had to meet with micah, biella, dilinger and his cat at some Chinese place for breakfast/lunch. The place, as Chinatown itself, was crazy. As soon as we sat down a few waitresses landed a few plates on the table, without asking or anything. A few minutes later I could see that the way they serve you is going around with carts with lost of food, and you either want it or not.

We left dilinger at the metro station, and moved on to the SoHo. I wanted to go to the SoHo Apple Store to see if they knew about replacement Spanish keyboards for my Powerbook. My powerbook was bought in the US last year, so it has a US keyboard. This is mostly ok, but only mostly as it's missing a key.

After SoHo, we went back to Chinatown to pick up bubbles. It was nice to see her after Debconf, and she made the effort to come just for a few hours even if she was ill and had lots to do in Philly. We headed to South Street Port, where I had a long chat about Cuba with micah while we sat on a bench looking at Brooklyn bridge.

And then, we gathered all our braveness and headed to the heart of the beast, to the kernel of the system. We walked into the Financial District, and soon enough I was walking in Wall Street no less. If I breathed hard, I could smell the money. The road was paved in gold, and there were skyscrapers everywhere. I discovered the rulers of this world had opened a "public space" in JP Morgan's building. To their despair, probably, it had been taken over by the poor. I wonder what Bloomberg will do about it.

As I walked up the street, a strange feeling in my heart grew and grew, until, behind a corner, I saw it. The source of all evil was ahead of me, guarded by George Washington himself.

The New York Stock exchange and its black evil aura of Capitalism

I was standing ahead of this building where so many people behave like bastards everyday, pushing millions to povery for a bit more profit margin. The doors were closed and surrounded by security officers, which despite being asked politely, didn't let us in for "security reasons".

Next to it was the Church of Capitalism, at the end of the street. It's curious that such an old church still stands where it was build near the harbour probably a century ago, now surrounded by some of the most modern and tallest buildings in the planet. And then, we visited the bull, which I didn't know is the "friendly" symbol of how Capitalism works.

I had Capitalism by the balls

We moved down to Battery Square, past the old US Customs building with the four statues representing the four continents. We saw the damaged sculpture which lived in the WTC, and sat down at the pier to watch a beautiful sunset over the Statue of Liberty.

The Statue of Liberty seen from South Manhattan

At that point, biella and micah had to meet some friends at one cinema to see the Wal-Mart documentary. We went to a funky place to have some tea, decided to go see Times Square and then walk to Central Park. At the time, mako was arriving to NYC on the Chinatown bus, so we agreed to meet in a restaurant to have lunch. Paul Sladen finally managed to get lost, after many tries during the day, and wasn't seen until we got back home.

Mako and Mika waited for us at the door of an... ethiopian restaurant in the SoHo, despite Mako knows I can't stand spicy food. But in the end it wasn't so bad, I just needed a few more glasses of water than average. And I finally got to know mika, after lots of time of chatting over IRC. Greg, SPI's lawyer, also appeared, and was a nice addition to the group.

Mako knew where to take us after that. The Belgian bar was packed, but there was a private party in one of the spaces and we took over some of that space. After a few rounds, we were ready to leave the pub and go for Falafel and some tea. I was terribly falling asleep though, so instead of tea we took a cap back to Brooklyn, where we found Paul waiting at the door.

After an hour of inflating a mattress, we were ready for sleep, at 4AM. It didn't look like the morning after would be very productive...

Sat, 12 Nov 2005

Good Morning New York!

After a not-so-easy ride with James Blackwell, and the last minute surprise of Paul Sladen joining us, we arrived in New York. The sky was dark already.

Instead of arriving at 15:00 or so as expected, we arrived at something like 20:00. Behind, we had left great perils like an empty gas tank and finding no gas station, and noticing one tire could use some pumping; evil officials at the US border not liking the fact that it was the first time I entered the country, which involved fingerprints and a smily face at the customs offices after a long wait; a great meal (after a long wait to get served) at probably the best restaurant in the whole State of New York; the three of us becoming terribly sleepy half an hour after resuming the drive, and having to stop for a short nap and stopping for gas once again around 70 miles away from NYC.

When we did arrive, we managed to get lost a few times around the city. We crossed four bridges on our way to Brooklyn, which accidentally let me admire the Manhattan skyline by night, and finally, got to Clint's place.

When we were parking, I noticed the tire was mostly flat now. Surely not the best way to land in the city. We also found out Clint and the rest had left for dinner after a long wait, as neither they or us expected to arrive so late, and we were way too freaked out with the crazy traffic and finding our way to phone them.

After a while, both problems were sorted out; Clint appeared and James was able to leave. James, thanks for all you did! I owe you a big one next time! We spent some time with Clint, dilinger, biella and micah, saw the great view of Manhattan from the roof of his appartment, and eventually went to bed.

Apparently, they are taking me to a place called "Dim Sum" for breakfast. I wonder how dilinger's cat tastes.

Fri, 11 Nov 2005

The East Coast Road Trip

Tomorrow I leave Montréal, Québec and Canada and will move down to the US, on my way to New York City. This part of my stay in North America is a bit (others would rather say "totally") improvised, and the plans are not too accurate even now, 8 hours before our departure.

The first idea for this was to travel on a night bus from Montréal to Boston, meet mako and mika and then move to New York City during the weekend.

The unavailability of any buses that did this route in less than thirteen hours made me look for alternatives. Chatting with mdz, I found out he was flying with Mark and Jane to NYC very early on Friday night, on the private jet. Sounded like a plan. Only it had a big flaw: non commercial flights entering the US require visas for everyone aboard, apparently. If you don't have it, the reports say you're really, really fucked up. So, having no visa as I don't need it in normal conditions, this was discarded too.

Finally I learned that jblack was driving down to Pennsylvania after the conference. I asked him if it was possible to go with him on his way South, and he said yes. He could drop me in the nearest point to Boston, or drive me straight to NYC. As NYC is the easiest for me and jblack and Clint has no problem with hosting me one extra day, that's what we're going to do.

(After having everything more or less clear, Paul Sladen came along and proposed yet another plan involving a bicycle and hitch-hiking. I was able to say no, though.)

Here starts this crazy road trip. Wish me luck, and see you in NYC!

Thu, 10 Nov 2005

Better not comment

Lately, there's a clear trend in my webserver stats. Since mid September, the top three search strings for are:

  1. Naked men (with like 60% of occurrences)
  2. Fernando Alonso
  3. Skinny dipping

I'm glad I never posted about Leonor...

Wed, 09 Nov 2005

Discovering Montréal

It's been a week since I arrived in Montréal, and had not had a free minute to blog about it. There's tons of things to write about, the activity and fun has been mostly non-stop.

The travelling wasn't perfect, as always I could not sleep a single minute. Instead, I watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which I had wanted to see for some time and was nice, and Batman Begins, which was positively surprising, being a Batman movie.

When I arrived at Montréal's airport, the fun started soon enough. Coming from Spain and having this scary looking face and beard didn't help much to survive customs. When I got in the line and handed my arrival card, I was sent to the immigration office straight away. I was asked what I was coming to Canada for. "To a computer conference", I said. Well, having no "invitation" or anything for this conference made me a quick suspect. After being freed, I walked on my way out, and on the next control, I had my bag searched. And again... "Do you have any document about this conference?". And then, to the real baggage inspection room.

As the guy started opening my bag, I suddenly remembered about the fuet I was carrying for Vicente, while I had said, confidently, "No I don't carry any food" in my card. Luckily he saw I was carrying a DragonLance book, liked it and let me go.

The next thing was, while waiting for the bus that should take me to Downtown Montréal, my first conversation with a non-airport staff Canadian. So this old woman in her seventies comes along... and the first thing she says... "I hate those fucking moslems". I try to not look too much like "WTF!?" and without replying, listen to this totally moronic and racist monologue about how moslems in Canada come to the country to not work and live of the country's welfare. "Why should they work? They stay at home, and watch TV and fuck. That's all they do. The more kids they have, the more money they get. I don't believe in welfare". So I got on the bus quite shocked.

After a bus trip and lots of walking due to forgetting I had to get on another one, I got into the hotel, and started meeting all the people. My first dinner was with Gustavo, Salgado and Carlos, and I felt I wanted to die, I couldn't keep my eyes open. The conference started next morning for me, and has been the usual dynamic as always, only that now it's the first time that I really find myself somewhat useful during the sessions. :)

Meeting mdz and kiko happened that morning. That was when all kinds of stuff started to happen. Why do I have to get such bad influences?

Kiko and I managed to not fall over while taking all of these pics in Mont Royal

Thu, 03 Nov 2005

Installing GNOME 2.12 in Debian

GNOME 2.12 is mostly in experimental now (for i386, builds for powerpc are very welcome), only missing a control center and gnome-panel upload, plus gal being ACCEPTed so evolution 2.4 can be installed.

Trying these packages is easy: on an up to date unstable system, just issue:

apt-get install -t experimental gnome-desktop-environment

Due to a dbus transition, you might get some packages removed if they don't have an experimental build using the new versions. In many cases, there's nothing we can do about it so it's a matter of waiting.

The good news is that KDE has finally entered testing, so I'd expect that we'll be able to upload all of these packages to unstable quite soon. Hopefully before April, when GNOME 2.14 is due. :)

Update: By the way, in case you're still cursing about that major evolution breakage the other day... yes, it was totally me to blame. :)

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