June 29, 2003 (Sun)
Sometimes you have to wonder about coincidence. Last night I noticed
that I was having some framerate issues. M suggested I try rebooting.
When I did, the system decided to
fsck most of the
partitions (not surprising, as it claimed that some of them hadn't
been checked for 200 days). And damned if it didn't find unrepairable
problems on not one, but two partitions. One of which, of course, was
The machine still ran, though, so I was able to backup the partition—doing manual backups of some special directories, such as my e-mail
and my CVS repository. So that's good, at least.
I also backed up a couple of other parts of the disk—some of
/etc—and dumped a list of the
packages I have installed.
And, it turns out, the other damaged partition was
and, not coincidentally, some of the problems were with files in
/var/lib/dpkg/info, which strongly suggests that the problems I had in early May were
caused by the disk degradation.
Oh, and our home Mac decided that now would be a good time to have its
drive (or drives, we're still not sure) die, too. Apparently it's
spinning its drives down, and sometimes they're not coming back up
again. In fact, not long after we'd started investigating the
problems with my machine, the Mac decided to pretend it had no drives
Luckily, again, I talked M into buying a FireWire disk a few weeks
ago, and she'd done some backups. She's managed to get the machine to
come back again and is busy doing newer backups of everything on both
drives, just in case.
And we thought it was because of buggy drivers for the iSight.
By the way, although I am somewhat pissed off at Apple right now, I do
have to say that the iSight is a nice webcam. Would've been nice if
they'd provided a way to mount it on one of their LCDs that didn't
involve sticky disks, though (maybe suction cups?). I expect that the
market may fill in the gaps, as it has with the iPods, for which there
are an amazing number of products available, from cases to extra
battery packs to miniature radio broadcasting station attachments.
Yes, I spent way too much time wandering around the Apple
Store last Friday.
Meanwhile, I've gotten lots of reading done.
I finished Erik Larsen's The Devil in the White City
yesterday. It was every bit as good as I'd hoped after hearing about
it and then watching Larsen read from it on C-SPAN.
Everyone I've told bits of stories from the book has expressed
disbelief—“And this is a true story?”
Well, yes, it is. Technically, it's two true stories wrapped around
each other. On the one hand, we have the devil, Herman Mudgett, MD,
better known as H.H. Holmes, a serial killer before anyone had ever
heard of serial killers. And on the other we have the creators of the
White City, Chicago's World Columbian Exposition of 1892–1893, Henry
Burnham and his collaborators—Frederick Law Olmstead, Charles
McKim, Louis Sullivan, et al. While Holmes manipulates and murders,
the architects design and build a fantastic, iconic architectural
wonder that had a massive impact on American architecture (good or
bad, depending on your school of thought).
Larsen is an excellent writer, and, while the book is extensively
documented with end notes, the book reads almost like a novel.
I've just finished William Gibson's latest, Pattern
Recognition, which is easily his best book since Count
Zero, and with many of the same themes.
I can't say that I was that fond of the last few Gibson books. They
all had some good stuff in them, but never quite struck a chord with
me. Pattern Recognition, though, reminds me strongly of
Banks's The Business, D.F. Wallace's Infinite
Jest, and various bits of Pynchon, especially the more
accessible Pynchon, such as Vineland.
The main character, Cayce Pollard, is a “coolhunter”, hired by corporations and advertising agencies to
sniff out the next cool thing that will sweep the global market.
She's lost her dad in the World Trade Center attack, and suffers from
some odd psychic allergies to spokesthings, logos, and labels. I
She's hired to vet a new logo, then to seek out the creators of some
mysterious “footage”, apparently parts of an enigmatic film, that
appear in different locations on the web and are sought after and
obsessively discussed by cliques on various websites.
Meanwhile, we get some nice insights into how such collectives work
(that mesh with my experiences, anyway), some interesting theories
about how the Sinclair ZX-81 fueled the creation of British computer
programmers, and nice pointers to interesting products, past and
present, such as Curta calculators
(which I've thought looked cool since I saw some in a display case at
the school I work for) and Buzz
Rickson's otakuesque reproductions of U.S. military
Next up, the new Harry Potter, in original UK hardback. BTW, the site
I mentioned that had a list of
differences between the UK and US editions seems to have died and been
taken over by some scummy site squatters. Looks like the list is now
available from a Geocities site
My Initial is going to have to go
back to the factory for repair. The pen itself is fine—it's
actually gotten nicer and nicer to use as time has gone on—but the
clip has come loose and I can't get it to stay in place. It's really
a shame, especially as I finally gave in and admitted that no one else
was going to buy me an ErgoDesk. and bought one myself.
Of course it arrived on Friday, and I haven't yet had a chance to use
it to see if it works for me or not.