Wednesday, October 24, 2007

RIP, dear old Maxtor 71084A

I have an old computer, purchased in 1996, which has been serving for many years as our Internet gateway, firewall, DNS, and mail server. For an 11 year old computer I think it's doing pretty well. Aside from the CD-ROM, which died several years ago, it's held up pretty well. Until Sunday. Sunday, the primary hard drive, a venerable Maxtor 71084A manufactured in 1996, developed a handful of bad sectors, rendering the machine rather ill. One of the files affected was /bin/sh, which really hampered the usability of the machine.

The guy at Fry's was clearly amused when I told him I was replacing a 1 GB hard drive. The biggest problem I have replacing this drive is that IDE is on its way out; virtually everything is SATA now, and what IDE drives remain are, for the most part, superbig things over 200 GB in size. I'm not even sure that this old computer can handle a 200GB drive -- or that its motherboard would accept an accessory IDE or SATA controller. I mean, this computer has ISA slots, one of which holds a genuine 3C509B Etherlink III card complete with dual-media connectors (10-Base-T and 10-Base-2). Fortunately, it's still possible to get IDE drives as small as 40GB. The BIOS on this box can only see the first 8GB, but of course I'm a wise Linux admin and already have a small boot partition to hold the kernel and so forth, so I didn't have to cope with the issues that can raise. Recovery, after getting the drive, wasn't too hard: hang the old drive off my other Linux box, dd off the three live partitions (the fourth partition is a swap partition and can just be mkswaped) and the partition table, then attach the new drive, dd the partition table and the partitions onto the new drive, fsck each partition in turn, and restore any damaged files from backup. After doing all this, then, a little parted magic takes advantage of the fact that the drive is 38 times larger than it used to be, and now /home is 32GB instead of 0.5GB. Put the new drive into the old box, and it rebooted straightaway into Linux.

What truly amazes me is that this computer is the machine I used for so many years for GIMP development. And, for much of that, with just the 1GB drive that just finally died after 11 years of faithful service. If only all my hard drives would last so long.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Illness makes the code grow longer

I'm been stuck at home with a rather nasty cold the past few days, which has meant that about all I've been up to is sitting at the computer and typing (when I'm not asleep, that is, which I've also been doing a lot of). As a result, I've made significant progress on Myrtle. Basically all of the PHP code has been rough-translated, and the 105,000 lines of resulting code all compiles now. I'm now working on eliminating the PHP stub methods I created during the rough port. After that I'll have to take out the "array" class I had to define to cope with the fact that PHP arrays are weird. That will take somewhat longer as MediaWiki uses arrays in several different ways, and the replacement strategy varies (e.g. native language array, ArrayList, HashMap, or custom class) depending on the situation.

As always, progress is visible at

Monday, October 22, 2007

The disappointment of Citizendium

Citizendium officially launched in March of 2007. And still today, they have failed to develop any real identity for themselves; it still seems that virtually all discourse about what Citizendium is continues be "whatever we are, we're not Wikipedia!" and very little more. This is brought to my attention as I read some of the the essays being written by Citizendium contributors as Citizendium tries to decide what license to use for their content. Here we have Anthony Argyriou arguing for the CC-BY-SA-NC license; his main concern in choosing a license is to ensure that Citizendium's work cannot be reused by Wikipedia, which to me appears to be very little more than pettiness. Utkarshraj Atmaram's rebuttal is good (and he even recognizes that Citizendium might possibly have an identity other than "the site that isn't Wikipedia"). Unfortunately, his position seems to be in the minority; most of the commentators appear quite afraid that Citizendium content might be used on Wikipedia, thereby "harming participation", presumably because it would make Citizendium less unlike Wikipedia.

Of course, Citizendium continues to sport, as a defining document, a thorough explanation of how Citizendium is not Wikipedia. They really need to go past this and start working on defining Citizendium by what they are, and not by what they are not. Otherwise, they'll end up the Wicca of the internet, filled primarily with bitter ex-Wikipedians who can't agree on anything except for one thing: Jimbo isn't the godking.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Is that drama I smell?

No, it's just the lovely scent of the Hillside Landfill. But I digress.

It's been about a week since my last post, so I'd though I'd fill y'all in. I've been steadily working on Myrtle, which is now up to around 85,000 lines of code. I spent most of the weekend asleep, fighting off what was most likely a rotavirus, and what little time wasn't engaged in one of those activities was spent either dividing up and replanting the hostas along the front walk, or doing some preliminary data analysis on Wikimedia page view data that Greg Maxwell has graciously shared with me. (Our conclusions so far is that we need to collect the data again, with a better geolocator and more filtering of clearly invalid data.)

I probably won't be writing too very much about Wikipedia and Wikimedia anymore. It takes too much time to keep up with the drama there, and I have better things to do with that time than waste it on that. I'm certainly hoping that I'll be able to make it to November's WikiWednesday in Chicago, which (as far as I can tell) is being organized by the estimable Ted Ernst, of I know some of my regular readers are familiar with AboutUs; Ted introduced it to me at the Chicago Wiki-Meetup that I organized back in September. It looks like an interesting project. (Don't worry, guys, I'm not planning on joining. You don't need the trolls it would bring.)

For the rest of the Chicago folk, sorry, I won't be arranging any more wiki meetups. Tony did as much work to arrange the September one as I did; perhaps he'll take over the role and arrange another one now that the UofC students are back. (Hint: I'm told that Jimbo will be in Chicago sometime this month. Might want to see if you can make use of that.) If you do, let me know, and I'll stop in.

I suppose I'll have to change the subtitle of this blog; it's a bit inappropriate now given that it will probably have a lot more to do with things other than Wikipedia or Wikimedia. Anyone for some good ol' Illinois politics?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Another Wikimania I won't be going to

Well, my spies have informed me that the Wikimedia Travel and Entertainment Committee has decided to hold the 2008 Wikimania in Alexandria. I objected to the Alexandria bid in 2007 on concerns about GLBT safety, but apparently this factor was not a significant consideration for the "jury" in its deliberations.

I won't be going, not even if someone offers to pay all costs of attendance. Not a chance in hell. And it seems I'm not alone in this. If someone schedules a US/North America alternate event, though, I'll definitely consider going to that.