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I Do Not Like To Lose

And so, I shall win.

WoW progress

Progress on WoW has slowed significantly since the early days, but this morning saw a significant advancement. Logins are now supported on Facebook as well as Bebo. From the log:

type name timestamp message
init LithiumPolymer 2008-02-01 12:56:14 Hero init Player object for “LithiumPolymer”, a level 36 Automator
init LithiumPolymer 2008-02-01 12:56:14 Army init {‘pikemen’: 0, ‘soldiers’: 0, ‘total’: 7776564, ‘elites’: 7774388, ‘knights’: 2176}
init LithiumPolymer 2008-02-01 12:56:13 Land init {‘training grounds’: 0, ‘forts’: 0, ‘mines’: 733955, ‘amplifiers’: 0, ‘barriers’: 0, ‘barracks’: 0, ‘total’: 733955}
init LithiumPolymer 2008-02-01 12:56:10 Server warbook.freewebz.com gave session id 76453c05449b33ad5f520f257a519e82
init LithiumPolymer 2008-02-01 12:56:07 Initializing

FYI, LithiumPolymer is my main Warbook account.

This is especially nice because it will allow me to do things like this:

p = Player('LithiumPolymer')
p.land.allocate_to_state({'training grounds': 0, 'forts': 0, 'mines': 1, 'amplifiers': 0, 'barriers': 0, 'barracks': 0})

To reallocate all of my land to mines. Currently, this takes about 30 mouse clicks and about 4 minutes. It can now be done in about 10 seconds — and all of that time is server latency.

Amazon MP3

I’m not sure if I’ve ever posted to the effect, but I was turned off to the iTunes music store as soon as they upgraded their DRM, breaking the tool I was using that allowed me to continue using my music player of preference, foobar2000.

In conversations since then, I have always maintained that I would become a music consumer once again as soon as I found a store that would sell me the music I wanted without the stupid (breakable) strings attached that came with other services. For example, it would have been easy enough to burn my iTunes music to a CD, and then rip it using EAC and encode it with LAME, but that required work that I didn’t have to do if I just typed a name into eMule and downloaded the song in a few minutes.

I am happy to announce that I have recently discovered the store that I was looking for, and to find it I didn’t have to go very far. Local retail powerhouse Amazon.com has introduced high-quality DRM-free MP3s at a reasonable price at the Amazon MP3 Store. I am once again a music consumer. See, music industry, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Com0Com — Null Modem Emulator

The right tool makes any job easy. Thats why I like posting about when I find the perfect tool for a job. In this case, I was testing out a serial translator program I wrote yesterday for a former coworker. The program I wrote takes in one stream of bytes from one com port and outputs another, translated stream of bytes to another com port.

To avoid using three computers and two cables for testing, I needed to connect two virtual com ports to each other on one computer. Com0Com to the rescue!

It installed quickly and painlessly, was intuitive and easy to use, and did exactly what I needed. I input characters using a terminal emulator to one virtual com port, and they magically came out of the virtually connected com port, then went through my program, and out a real com port to my laptop, which saw the translated stream just as expected.

WoW now under development

Bobby and I have started development on an application we call WoW, short for “Win on Warbook,” and of course a play on the popular MMORPG. The basic idea is to help us dominate the online game Warbook, a Facebook application that Joel hooked me on a while back. It is my first attempt at coding an actual project in Python;  it is also my first time using Mercurial. After some initial glitches, both Py and Hg seem be to going smoothly.

Domination is forthcoming.

RILOE to the Rescue

After attempted to run the open-source Math software Sage on Frankenputen and being harshly greeted by an error message claiming that libc was out of date, Bobby and I decided that it was time to upgrade the Dapper Drake edition of Ubuntu Linux that was running the server to the modern Gutsy Gibbon edition.

The first attempt was an abject failure. Used to Debian’s nearly perfect reliability, I thought I could get away with upgrading direct from Dapper to Gutsy by simply changing my sources.list file, the running apt-get update followed by apt-get dist-upgrade. Well, this series of actions ended quite poorly — what was left over was a pretty broken, not very-installed hybrid of Dapper and Gutsy. So, after some tinkering and with some help from Bobby, we managed to revert — eventually — to Dapper. Bobby then set about doing a more incremental upgrade, stepping from Dapper to Edgy to Feisty and then to Gutsy (notice the progression of letters). This apparently worked, almost.

Well, it did work, but at the same time something else broke. Namely, the kernel version shipped with Gutsy — 2.6.22 — and a package called evms do not coexist peacefully. The result was a system that would being the boot procedure and then get stuck in an infinite loop of error messages. The key services — such as SSH — that we would normally use to try to fix the problem never came up, so all hope was lost, right? Well, not quite.

Back when Dan purchased all the smograsbord (sp?) of technology that now comprises Frankenputen, the computer currently responsible for serving much of silverfir.net’s content, he had the foresight to purchase an nice little piece of technology called a RILOE card. RILOE stands for Remote Insight: Lights Out Edition. Basically, its a video card with a network port on the back. It runs a web server, which allows administrators to access a variety of functions on the server as if the administrator where at the computer physically. Even more spectacularly, it has a virtual local console — basically a virtual screen that shows exactly what would be on the real screen. So when the server was dead to the rest of the world, after a little tinkering, I was able to log in and watch the system boot from the ground up — even the BIOS messages are visible! Its really like being at the computer in pretty much every pertinent way expect physical proximity.

Watching the system come up gave some error messages which Google turned into problem-solving tips. Then, by booting an older kernel, uninstalling evms, and rebooting, the machine was back to working as good as old. But with a bunch of upgrades of course!

Motorolla RAZR V3xx MMS/SMS problem

A few months ago I picked up a Motorola RAZR V3xx phone along with a new 2-year contract from AT&T Cingular AT&T. I have been quite happy with the phone, and I have even managed to treat it considerably better than my old T720. The phone’s slim profile lets me keep in in the pocket with my wallet; the T720 had to live with my keys, which were not the nicest to its shiny finish.

At any rate, back on Thanksgiving day, my phone started sending MMS (aka “Multimedia”) messages instead of the regular SMS (“Text”) messages. This was confusing to recipients because they thought I was sending them blank slide shows, and it was distressing to me because I’m sure MMS messages are at the very least as expensive as SMS messages. So today, I finally stumbled across the solution to this vexing problem, and it makes absolutely no sense.

Apparently, this bug shows up when there are too many messages in the phone memory. By deleting every message in my inbox after giving the same treatment to my outbox, the problem simply went away. And this occurred despite the memory being nowhere near full — I had over 450 messages in my inbox, and that rated only a 4/7 on the memory usage meter. Nevertheless, clearing my messages promptly did the trick. I guess this world could use a good test engineer. Of course, I’m sure it could use a good developer as well. <g>