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As always

What will create trouble when updating to a new system? Non-FOSS. You can take that to the bank.

If it's not the greatest vpn client of all time, its vmware, the greatest virtualization solution on the planet *cough*.

This time, vmplayer 2.5.3 actually starts up despite kernel 2.6.31. But the guest system is unable to grab the mouse.

Turns out that the version of gtk is "wrong", and the solution is to tell the player to use its own (why isn't that the default anyway?):


Add that to /usr/bin/vmplayer, and you're done. Until the next kernel update.

Update: Just as I said, till the next kernel update. Just did one, and vmware can't find the kernel headers anymore. The solution is simple: comment the above line, compile the modules, comment it out again.


What's quite unlikely in these times? A power failure.
What's even more unlikely? Me upgrading at the exact minute of the power failure to the first release candidate of Mandriva 2010.

System didn't boot at first, but that could be fixed by a straightforward repair of grub. After that, it became obvious that all further updates were complicated by the fact that the rpm database contained more than 600 duplicates, i.e., the system believed to have the same package installed in both 2009.1 and 2010.0 version. An 'rpm --rebuilddb' didn't help. What to do?

rpm -qa --queryformat '%{NAME}-%{VERSION}\n' | sort | uniq -d > duplicates_0
while read pkg; do rpm -q "$pkg" > duplicates_1; done < duplicates_0
sed -i '/2010/d' duplicates_1
while read pkg; do urpme "$pkg" && echo "$pkg"; done < duplicates_1

Instead of the sed command, you can also load duplicates_1 in vim, and:


Join lines

I've been asked two questions about my latest rant.

Why I'm so concerned about the length of lines? Well, look here. When working on a manuscript, I have two A4-sized windows open side-by-side, and the actual text width amounts to 72 characters (no kidding, I just counted ;) ).

And how I'm dealing with it? Well, most of the texts I have to edit also contain entirely legitimate line breaks, such as those in the bibliography. An automated solution is thus not easy to realize.

A single paragraph can easily be justified in most editors with 'ctrl-j' (that also applies to Kile, but not to Texmaker). It is, however, truly cumbersome to format each paragraph separately. Hence, I'm using vim which allows you to not only join the lines in one paragraph using 'J', or 'gqap', but also to reformat a whole range of text with 'ctrl-v gq'. Prior to these commands, set the texwidth to a very large value, such as 'set tw=10000'.

Things which make you go "hmmm"

I'm working a lot on the text of others. I mean, really a lot. Today, for example, I stayed at home because of a nasty cold, but I still worked 5 hours on the text of others.

Now, there are more than one or two things which drive me nuts when looking at the text of others, particularly if the text is actually a LaTeX source. I'll tell you about them another time.

Today, let's talk about something so basic that most people never even think about it. Basic text formatting aka the length of lines.

Remember the rule in the late eighties/early nineties: make a linebreak at 72 characters? Then you're my man. I followed that rule too. :)

Have a look at that:


This type of writer was never informed that the above 72 character rule became obsolete 15 years ago. Evidently, people of this type also tend to exaggerate, but are at least strict in their mania. Nowadays, no editor, news or e-mail client I'm aware of has any problems with longer lines. To obey to this unwritten rule with an iron discipline in the 21 century is a tell-tale of an unflexible mind.

What's much worse than the above is the second type of writer, which is, unfortunately, far more numerous. This type basically follows the word wrap of its editor, but additionally inserts linebreaks accidentally, inadvertently ... stochastically. I don't really know. Nor do I care.


When I see such a text, I could just blow him apart (the writer).

What I want is so simple: let the editor do its job.


Oh well. Remember the song? ;)

Bare necessities

Windows 7, which is due at October 22nd, has received unusually positive and even enthusiastic reviews in blogs and forums alike. It is mostly understood and presented as a redemption from Vista.

Well, that is actually to be expected. People are desperate: Windows XP is a relict from the stone age, and Vista is a glaring disaster. Every half-bred improvement would seem like a quantum leap.

As my next gaming rig will run under Windows 7, I've installed the release candidate a couple of months ago in a virtual box. My impressions are, altogether, positive ones in the given context.

What context? Well, it's Windows! ;)

  • After installing it, you still have no applications besides the worst editor, the worst browser, and the worst image viewer (now with ribbons!) ever conceived.
  • The automatic updates still involve only Windows and MS applications. To obtain updates for all other applications is your job. That's the reason why exploits for Adobe Flash and Reader have become widespread and are successful beyond all expectations.
  • The security concept is still the same as in Vista: you are administrator by default, but applications start with restricted permissions. Should an application require elevated permissions, a dialog will pop up (the infamous UAC). The security flaw inherent in the default settings of Windows 7 has not been corrected so far.

Speedwise, Windows 7 feels certainly faster than Vista. However, a freshly started Windows 7 needs about 400 MB RAM, and I honestly don't understand the reports certifying Windows 7 to be netbook-ready. If it has to be Windows, try XP: it only needs 70 MB RAM after a fresh install and is much more responsive than 7.

In any case, I still feel almost as forlorn and helpless as with any Windows system I'm confronted with. The new menu helps, however: it incorporates the desktop search and thus reliably finds settings, applications and documents.

I still consider some tools to be absolutely crucial when using Windows, whether it's 7 or not.

First and foremost Secunia's PSI, which constitutes a rudimentary package management. Without PSI, I'd consider it to be essentially impossible to keep a Windows system up-to-date in a timely fashion.

Second, Kay Brun's SuRun. I couldn't do without it. It's more secure and much more convenient than UAC.

And third:

Desktops offers four virtual desktops. You need, however, at least 1 GB of RAM to enjoy this toy. ;)
Launchy is essential for Windows XP. In Windows 7, you can start programs by typing their name in the search box. Still, launchy is fun.

And of course, there's a number of other stuff you need for being able to do anything productive with this darn Windows:

Browser E-mail Instant messaging IRC Editor LaTeX LaTeX editor Postscript viewer PDF viewer PDF split and merge Office Image editor Image viewer Vector graphics Desktop publishing DVD burner Mediaplayer

etc. etc. ...

Oh yes: you really need to click on each of these links, download the installer, start it, click through it, and eventually install the application you are interested in. Lot's of work, I know, but hey, that's Windows. It's so userfriendly since you can install everything with a doubleclick. :D

And if you are (still) silently favoring Windows: here's the output of PSI for a fully patched Windows 7 at 09/09/12:


Insecure, no solution.

RAM can only be replaced by more RAM

Got plenty of RAM? Like, 2 GB?

Start up a fully equipped KDE 4.3 and a few applications such as kmail, krusader, klipper and zim. Throw in nepomuk and spamassassin as well as two browsers, such as opera and firefox. Add two virtual machines: one running Windows XP just for a quick plot in Origin, and the second running ArchLinux for serious business. You'll find how easy it is to occupy 2 GB of RAM. Listen to the sound of swap. :(

RAM offer

Salvation! The world looks entirely different when viewed with 8 GB RAM. :)

I run circles around you. :D


Less is not more

Windows users, as we all know, need Word for viewing text files. Advanced Windows users may use Notepad (now with ribbons :D ). Ubuntu users take OpenOffice. And Unix veterans use more.

Sitting beside such a Unix veteran can be painful.

UV: I told you it wouldn't work!
Cob: let's check the log files, shall we?
UV: hmhm.
Cob: would you just search /var/log/Xorg.0.log for capital double e?
UV: grep EE /var/log/Xorg.log | more
UV: oh... (types very carefully and slowly) grep EE /var/log/Xorg.log.0 | more
UV: damn ;)
Cob: You don't need to type that all the time, the bash remembers it. Just use the up arrow.
UV: oh. thx.
Cob: tab completion is another very useful convenience of the modern shell ...
UV: oh?
Cob: yeah, see? *type ... tab*
UV: hey, look at that! thx.
Cob: anyway, let's look at that log file
UV: right. *types very slowly* grep EE /var/log/Xorg.0.log |
Cob: STOP! You don't need more here. And why the FUCK are you using more anyway? Less exists since 1985! You can't even go backward with more! More is nothing but an anachronism!
UV: Well ... I don't know. But less sounds really less than more, doesn't it?
Cob: *tilt*

He's not even much older than I am. But a Solaris user. And a very nice guy in general. ;)

And what does the German Wikipedia say?

Da auf aktuellen Linux-Distributionen more ein Alias für less ist, ist ein gängiger Witz less is more (weniger ist mehr).

Really? I'd be thrilled to know which Linux distri is linking more to less. Mandriva doesn't. Debian and Ubuntu don't. OpenSuse? No. And ArchLinux certainly not. So, which one?

At the end of this rant (thx, I feel much better now), let me remind you of a few really nice features of less:

  • after less /var/log/Xorg.0.log, press 'F'. This replaces tail -f.

  • less '+/*holladiewildsau' *.pdf searches for "holladiewildsau" in all pdf files in the present directory. Go to the next hit with an 'n' (less follows vim in many of its commands).

  • you are in less, viewing a file, but changed your mind and want to edit it? Press 'v' ;)

Mad Max lives

The x-ray simulation program 'MadMax', which I helped to develop, was written on and compiled for Win32. Recently, I'm getting mails from users who'd like to use it on Win64, but without success. Is MadMax dead?

No, it's alive and kickin'. See for yourself:


All you need is the latest version, which you can get here.

In any case: thanks a lot for your mails, and all the encouragement and support! I just love to hear that you like MadMax. :)

Most people, by the way, like MadMax for its speed. Let's have a look:

MadMax Performance

More than 4 million points/s: that's not bad at all. Still, the next version of MadMax (0.99x) will be multithreaded. Promise. ;)

Lovely spam, wonderful spam

Everybody knows spam. And everybody hates spam. Right?

For a long time, I was largely ignorant of the topic since I simply didn't get any. Spam, I mean. One per week, perhaps. That's just not enough to merit attention.

However, the frequency gradually increased. In 2003, it was about one per day, which motivated me to finally install a spamfilter (namely, Spamassassin). In the following years, the amount of spam increased further. I installed Razor. The spammers increased the frequency. I increased the detection rate.

That was the time when I made a virtue of necessity. I wrote scripts to automate the learning of my spamfilters (plural, since spamassassin was soon complemented upstream by bogofilter, a configuration I much recommend). I also wrote scripts enabling me to analyze the spam I was receiving. These were the times of 100 spams per day, and 99.95% detection rate. A thousand spams, and not even one slipped through. Ha!

And nowadays? I'm back to "one spam a day":

And the detection rate is a mediocre 86%. What happened?

Well, now all of my mail providers have their own spam filters. Shouldn't I be happy thus? Yes, I should. Am I? No. I miss my spam...

At least it's an interesting mathematical problem: having two sequential filters, and knowing the detection rate of one of them, one should be able to calculate the detection rate of the other. If one knows the degree of correlation between the two filters, that is. ;)

DNS servers

I've found a series of excellent articles, quite unexpectedly, on ZDNet. All of them are from Christoph H. Hochstätter. He evidently knows his business when talking about DNS servers. I've updated my article according to his list.

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