SLUG Pearls #6 For 9 Jul 2000

By Jeff Waugh

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Table Of Contents

1. Fallout from the Debate

3 Jul 2000 - 4 Jul 2000 (6 posts) Archive Link: "Vi is for newbies"

People: Anand KumriaSteve KowalikJamie Honan

The first SLUG Religious Wars debate was held, the topic being 'That Vi is for Newbies', argued by users of both Vi and Emacs. The topic was a tough one; the Vi team were arguing the negative.

With excellent speakers all around - notably Stuart Cooper arguing brilliantly as first speaker for the Emacs team, and Roland Turner destroying both teams arguments as third speaker for Vi - the debate was an entertaining addition to the SLUG meeting lineup.

Of course, the choice of winner was always going to be controversial! Before the audience of SLUGgers had a chance to vote, Roland Turner took the opportunity to remind us that the topic was indeed 'That Vi is for Newbies', and should be voted on as such. Unsurprisingly, it was unanimously decided that Vi was not for newbies, and thus the Vi team won.

Should I go through that again?

By Monday morning (after the shock had settled in, one assumes), there was some comment on the results of the debate. Anand Kumria, replying to Steve Kowalik's defense of the Vi team's victory:

So the vi team won on technical grounds. In reality though I think both teams won. I found the emacs team very convincing (I use both daily btw); I'll be using Emacs more for sure. I think a better topic should have been selected myself (although I'm to blame for that one being selected :-/).

That would have allowed each team to argue their strengths (the topic basically asked each team to argue the weakness of its editor).

I wonder if perhaps the best thing to do would be to have each side simply present their strengths. Instead of deciding the "winner" as we did last week; a better way would be to see who is going to try either of the editors/other religious war topic.

Steve Kowalik (second speaker, Vi) felt that "presenting the 'winner' as the team who convinced more people to use such and such" may in fact be the best way to judge the debates in the future. Jamie Honan (first speaker, Vi) noted that he tried Emacs to solve a problem he'd come across, having learned something from the debate:

A line struck me from the affirmative to the effect that emacs only works on part of your file at once, doesn't neccessarily read the whole thing in memory. I didn't know that about emacs, it's certainly something to keep in mind.

The only argument that is worthwhile is one that changes your mind. ( kindly provided the prizes for this event.

2. Pearler of the Week

3 Jul 2000 (3 posts) Archive Link: "SLUGWIRE: Fun with the ATO"

People: Jamie HonanConrad Parker

I've been saving the Pearler of the Week award for something 'special'!

Jamie Honan commented on last week's weather information thread, recommending that,

If you _have_ to 'screen scrape', I've found the following perl modules very useful.

use LWP::UserAgent;
use HTTP::Cookies;
use HTTP::Request::Common qw(POST);
use HTML::Form;

Tempting to apply for 50,000 ABN numbers (don't do this!)

His last comment referred to a recent addition to the Australian Tax Office website that allowed registration of ABNs (Australian Business Numbers) over the web. The Pearler of the Week award goes to Conrad Parker for this email:


SLUGWIRE Mon Jul 3 12:22:01 EST 2000
Exploiting a "hole" in the Australian Tax Office meta-process, users of the Linux computer operating system today bombarded the ATO web site with thousands of Australian Business ABN Number requests, in what they describe as a "Denial of Non-Service" attack. SLUG elder Hamie Jonan denied that Larry Wall appeared to him in a dream and told him to take action, and continued by saying "I just thought it was a funny idea at the time -- I forgot to take into account that every stupid idea mentioned on the SLUG mailing list gets done by someone, somewhere, within 48 hours".

"I just wanted to be able to do my taxes without pausing CivCTP," explained SLUG member Ranthony 'Umble, "and in order to do that I had to import Win4Lin. The Tax Office specifies in detail what you need for the GST, but 'cluefulness' isn't part of it".

But while the course of action was clear to the SLUGgers, some finer points tripped them up early on. For example, they spent the first 36 hours arguing about what editor to use to write the script in. "Sure, it was a ten-line script" explained Langus Ees, "but like hell I'm looking at that without syntax highlighting". Fourteen people replied instantly to this comment, variously pointing out that vim has syntax highlighting, that jed has syntax highlighting, and that syntax highlighting is for weenies.

Even before the script had been written, Kanand Umria had released a debian package for it. "I had to make it a virtual package, seeing as the code didn't exist yet," he explained, "but of course, Debian's good for that sort of thing". The package is configured to bombard the Tax Office every morning at 7am, and, in passing, it makes toast and jam. "What can I say -- I like toast and jam," said Umria, "that's why I use Debian".

Four meaningless flamewars later, the script was ready to go. After passing through various incarnations in perl, python and php4, it was decided to write the final version in visual basic script. "The package management on Linux systems is pretty good," explained Bason Jall, "and Napster is even better, but we realised the most effective way to distribute software today is using Outlook Express". "Outlook Express sux!" chimed in one user. "Besides," continued Jall, "this way everyone will just blame Bill Gates, and he gets away with this sort of thing all the time".

Within minutes of the attack being launched an urgent message appeared on the SLUG list from one, who wrote "</lurk> Hey, cut it out ppl. We'll let you use Linux for the GST, but first you've gotta hack GnuCash so it _works_. If you start now you can probably get it done by next July.

"While I'm here," he continued, "can anyone help me? I'm trying to write a script to add 10% to every number in a file ..."

3. PDF Quickies

4 Jul 2000 (4 posts) Archive Link: "Cool tip for the day (make pdf's for free)"

People: Tim SuttonSimon RumbleJeffrey Borg

Tim Sutton posted a quick tip for making PDF files under Linux:

So I have been dreaming for some time of how to create my own .pdf files without paying a heap for Adobe Acrobat. Most of the docs I want to pdfify (pdf - i - fy) are M$ word docs. The new import filters are good enough to handle most word docs, so I nowsimply load the .doc file. Then I do a print to file (e.g. which I then run through ps2pdf (e.g. ps2pdf myfile.pdf). Churn churn and a few seconds later you have yourself a nifty looking platform independent free pdf file.

Simon Rumble had a cool idea for this:

If you're really clever you can turn this into a printer share and let people print to it from their Windows boxes and either (if authenticated) have the pdf emailed to them or turn up in some shared temporary directory a few moments later. After all, even Windows can produce Postscript!

Jeffrey Borg also mentioned that Adobe's drivers under Windows were - surprise, surprise - better than Microsoft's.

4. Talk about ReiserFS

4 Jul 2000 - 5 Jul 2000 (13 posts) Archive Link: "Reiser file system"

People: Dean HamsteadColin HumphreysJames WilkinsonAravind NaiduJill Rowling

Heracles asked,

I have only a rudimentary understanding of journalling filesystems, so please be gentle with my rather basic question. I installed my system SuSE 6.4 using the Reiser FS and found it to be slower than the regular ext2 FS by quite a large amount. So much so that I reinstalled using ext2. (My Linux box is only a Cyrix 686 166+) Is a journalling FS usually slower or is it just my box?

Dean Hamstead gave a quick and dirty overview of journalling:

journeling goes

"ok im going to write data"
"write data"
"i just wrote data"

so if it crashes any way through nothing is lost
ext2 just goes

"write data"

yeah, thats pretty much journelling in a nut shell

Aravind Naidu installed ReiserFS on his Thinkpad, and reported that his deliberate crashes didn't confuse it at all. He felt that it may be faster, but he was also comparing Mandrake to RedHat, so wasn't certain that it was ResierFS's doing.

James Wilkinson mentioned that it was running fine on his 28.5GB mp3 storage drive, whilst Colin Humphreys has been running it since March on a very heavily used mail server, "Reiserfs has real skill with small files.... I think there are some stats on the homepage..."

Jill Rowling finally answered Heracles' problem, noting that running E with only 64MB of RAM would swap heavily. In addition to this, most journalling filesystems require a bit more overhead than standard FS'es like ext2.

5. Loopback Mounting

5 Jul 2000 (6 posts) Archive Link: "mounting off a loop device in 2.2.12"

People: Shuv ChakrabortyHerbert XuAngus LeesJoshua Marshall

Shuv Chakraborty was having trouble mounting a CD image using the loop device:

this is the error i am getting when i try to mount a iso image.

#mount -t vfat -o loop /home/schakrab/shuv.iso /mnt/cdrom
ioctl: LOOP_SET_FD: Invalid argument

thanx in advance !


ps- kernel is 2.2.12 which has loop device support ( modular ). i already did an "insmod loop"

i can also provide the detailed strace message if u want :)

Angus Lees and Joshua Marshall both commented that CDs are usually ISO9660 filesystems, not FAT, whilst Herbert Xu mentioned that "You can't loop mount over a file that's on an NFS file system or any other file system without bmap support."

There was no reply.

6. Nerd or Geek?

6 Jul 2000 (32 posts) Archive Link: "OT: Nerds and geeks"

People: Peter VogelGraeme MerralRachel PolanskisDean HamsteadJames WilkinsonHoward Loundes

Peter Vogel:

This may seem like a silly question but I need to know:

What are the finer distinctions between NERD and GEEK?

Which if wither would you like to be?

A number of SLUGgers referred Peter to the Jargon File, which seems to favour nerd over geek. It seemed, however, that many SLUGgers disagreed with this, and prefer the term 'geek'. Graeme Merral:

A geek on the otherhand os more 'normalised'. Not socially backward - quite the opposite, not as concerned with own appearance but more clothing concious (vendorware :), general hacker mentality. Knowledge hungry and either knows a lot about a lot, or is at least knowledgeable in many technical aspects. That's why if you ask *any* question on SLUG you'll get lotsa answers from lotsa people :)

Rachel Polanskis had a particularly detailed opinion:

Nerds are people who pursue unusual activities of a non "sport" nature and are often social outcasts of one form or another. They are not neccessarily "clever" or have outstanding IQ's - they may in fact be the dumbest kid in the classroom. They are typically socially ostracized maybe because they look different or act differently.

Geeks are more typically educated in something and are passionate about whatever it is. You can have maths geeks, computer geeks or even history or linguistic geeks. They are often confused with nerds because they may look or act the same.

Children are the most conservative of conservatives - they do not like their peers to be different from the others in their group. If one kid acts funny, looks funny or talks funny they will often be classed as a "nerd". Nerds with enough brain power to realise their predicament and find a form of escape usually graduate to being geeks. Those that don't, join the army, drive taxis or become single mothers....

Dean Hamstead's parting comments:

I think a nerd may want to be a geek but has somehow lost it on the way.

Bottom line
Nerds are nerdy
Geeks are kewl =)

Cantanker replied with the slogan, "So remember: (G)eek is (G)ood, (N)erd is (N)ot good. :)" , to which James Wilkinson replied with one of the only differing views:

The funny thing is, in my experience, 'geek' is the derogatory term and 'nerd' is the term of praise. I get called 'nerdy' by my non-computer literate friends, and amongst my comp-literate friends we call each other 'nerd'. 'Geek', I feel holds negative connotations; it sounds too much like 'freak'.

Nerd is Nice,
Geek is Grotesque.

Another geeky pastime followed, with detailed analysis of which bastardisations of English annoyed us most. David had the ill-fortune to start this, asking whether it was correct to write 'site or 'sight' when referring to a (hopefully) organised group of web pages. Howard Loundes explained, as only he could:

Site, simply because they are under permanent construction.

A sight is what you call a woman whom you want to upset, instead of calling her a vision.







Sharon And Joy

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