Thursday, September 28, 2006

Notes on a Broken iPod

  1. The Genius Bar is a good thing: free face-to-face troubleshooting for any Apple product. Note, however: (a) you need an appointment, which you can get online, (b) you apparently need to sign in even if you have an appointment, which is not at all clear when you arrive, and (c) there is a separate Genius Bar just for iPods, which is past the regular Genius Bar, and which really, really isn't clear when you arrive.

  2. It actually can be cost effective to repair an iPod. Portatronics replaced my batter and my clickwheel in under 10 minutes. The charge was, IIRC, $30 for labor, $20 for a the wheel, and $50 for the battery. Which means as long as my hard drive doesn't die (knock wood), I've got an essentially new 30GB iPod for about $100. Apple wanted to sell me a 5GB Nano for $120.

  3. Trying to get your iPod working with Linux is not worth the effort.* The filesystem is liable to get corrupted if you look at it funny and gtkPod is laughably unusable.

* For those of you who are non-technical or who are tired of the Linux posts: I have my reasons!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

John Hodgman on Comedy

From an interview with Radar:

Comedy may be an exaggeration of the truth, but it always resonates, sometimes painfully, in the body's truth-recognizing mechanism (a small chamber-and-membrane structure in the skull) or else it does not produce laughter. Often, it is a truth that we do not wish to hear, or that we have been trained to be embarrassed by—comedy breaks taboos. What is unique about our life today is that The Daily Show is breaking a taboo simply by making plain, truthful, obvious observations about our existing government, its bankruptcy of competence and vision when faced with the basic jobs with which it is tasked.

Friday, September 22, 2006

IRQ, PCI, Linux, Broadcom, Nvidia

(If the title looks like gibberish, move along.)

Oh, woe. Woe. Woe!

The setup: a Dell Inspiron 6400, an nVidia GeForce Go 7300, a built-in Broadcom BCM4401 wireless chip, and Ubuntu Dapper 6.06 with the latest kernel patches (2.6.15-27-686 SMP PREEMPT).

The only way I've gotten the Broadcom to work is with a custom-compiled version of ndiswrapper and bcmwl5.inf. The free driver that's shipped with the kernel could but doesn't support the particular variant of the wireless chip that I have (code no 4311). (Support has been checked into CVS and will eventually trickle down to peons like me.)

I currently have the graphics card running under a proprietary driver (nvidia-glx) that was installed by Automatix. Previously, I was running a stock driver that caused the display to die on Suspend. (Now, the display only occassionally dies on Suspend.)

Since I installed the graphics driver several days ago, my PC has started periodically crashing, hard. Since this morning, my PC has started crashing hard and often. (It occurs to me that the hardware has gotten itself stuck in some crash-erific state and that possibly a solution is to somehow reset the hardware. However, this strategy, should it succeed, would still leave me facing intermittent crashes in the future.)

Here's the thing: the nVidia driver and ndiswrapper share IRQ 169. Here's the log of the crash:

Sep 22 11:33:25 localhost kernel: [17179867.804000] [__report_bad_irq+42/160] __report_bad_irq+0x2a/0xa0
Sep 22 11:33:25 localhost kernel: [17179867.804000] [handle_IRQ_event+61/112] handle_IRQ_event+0x3d/0x70
Sep 22 11:33:25 localhost kernel: [17179867.804000] [note_interrupt+135/240] note_interrupt+0x87/0xf0
Sep 22 11:33:25 localhost kernel: [17179867.804000] [__do_IRQ+253/272] __do_IRQ+0xfd/0x110
Sep 22 11:33:25 localhost kernel: [17179867.804000] [do_IRQ+25/48] do_IRQ+0x19/0x30
Sep 22 11:33:25 localhost kernel: [17179867.804000] [common_interrupt+26/32] common_interrupt+0x1a/0x20

This invariably happens after I bring up the wireless connection.

Egads! What to do?! Live without Suspend? Live without Wireless? Can you call that living?

SIDE NOTE: "Aha!" I thought, "I have an old, reliable Orinoco card. Let's try that!" But... is it possible my laptop doesn't have PC Card slot? What gives? What is this PC Card-shaped slot that the card won't slide into? What is its purpose other than to make me angry?

P.S. I have heard complaints about similar problems from students running other Linux versions/distros.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes

Not, in fact, crazy delicious. Sort of inedible, really. You could do better at your average PTA bakesale.

Note that, contra Ittai, the problem here is not with pouring cake batter into a cup. The batter itself lacks moist goodness and would be unacceptable in cake or cup form.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

You know what's cheap in India?

Everything. You know what's particularly, surprisingly cheap? CDs. New, popular, major label CDs cost Rs 149 (about $3). Right before I left, I went to Planet M and bought 3 CDs and a DVD* for about $15.

Yesterday, I went to Other Music and spent $50 on 4 CDs. (And 3 of them were on sale!) Boo!

* Are you curious? No? Well I don't care. They were: Asian Flava Vol 2 (a compilation of Indian hip-hop, which I developed an inexplicable fondness for), the soundtrack to Omkara (because the main single off that (the name of which I do not know because I don't understand Hindi) makes me want to shake my booty like I just don't care), Himesh Reshaminiya (because I like his beard), and the DVD of The Killer (which H and I almost went to see in Shimla, before we decided to spend the evening frantically trying (and largely failing) to make train reservations).

[UPDATE 9/17/2006] The booty-shaking track from Omkara is "Beedi". Go forth and get funky.

NYU Sandwiches

After my cry for help last week, I've visited three new (to me) sandwich places in the NYU area.

  • bite is in that weird flattish building at Lafayette and Bleeker (the one that used to be a clothing store of some kind, I think, but I'm showing my age, because apparently it's been bite for several years now). It is a good replacement for Pamela's: it has the same kind of up-scale fancy cheese, fancy meat sandwiches, some of which are pressed and toasted. I had the fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, and sun-dried tomato panini and I had no complaints. It's a little pricey though: $7 for the sandwich and a lemonade, plus I went halvsies on a $2 brownie.

  • BB Sandwich Bar (W 3rd between MacDougal and 6th) serves exactly one thing: a cheese steak sandwich. It comes on a kaiser roll, with white American cheese, onions, and some kind of ketchup/chili sauce. It is $4.50 for regular people and $2.75 for NYU people. It is very yummy. (They also have cupcakes, which I didn't try and which Ittai said he had never tried because he, "doesn't like cupcakes." Jackass.)

  • 'wichcraft (8th Street between Mercer and Broadway) is Top Chef Tom Colicchio's foray into "fast food." I got turned onto this place by the NYU paper, which adorably thinks the "East Village" is between 5th Avenue and Broadway. I had the bacon, lettuce, and heirloom tomato sandwich, which cost an absurd $10 (it comes with aioli, not mayo, you cretins). Honestly, it was about as good as a BLT is going to get outside of a fine dining restaurant. But, even so, the tomato was a little mushy. Come on, guys, for ten bucks you can toss out a few mushy tomatoes! The "cheap" side of the menu is a $5 PB&J and grilled gruyere for $5.50. You can also get oatmeal, granola, or grits for $4.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Changing file extensions in bash

for f in *.old; do mv "$f" "${f%%\.old}.new"; done

The quotes take care of possible spaces in the filename.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

It's Like 9/11 All Over Again

LonelyGirl15 is totally fake. Via Ms. Heffernen.

It's odd: in the last week, as the noose tightened, the videos got much more plot-ty and contrived. The first roughly 15 videos had only the barest whiff of plot, which is what made them so intriguing. I think they were trying to seriously advance the story before the Internets tracked them down...

Big Apple Takedown: A WWE Novel


Monday, September 11, 2006

I Was Out Ahead on George Allen

Searching for "soccer" in my previous posts turns up this post, pre-macaca, describing George Allen as "deeply odd and odious." I am so fucking smart!

BTW, see here for why Mr. Allen totally knew what he was saying was racist (though his audience probably didn't). Hint: He's part French!

Quesadilla, Red Hook style

Quesadilla, Red Hook style
Originally uploaded by C+H.

Let's keep it a secret between you and me and the readers of the New York Times, there's some really great cheap Latin food available down by the Red Hook soccer fields. Tacos, pupusas, quesadillas so big they'll break off your arm. Last year when we went, we were the only white people around. Now, there's white people everywhere... If you've got a Fairway and some nice pupusas, you've got yourself a neighborhood.

[UPDATE 9/11/2006] Food is available every Saturday and Sunday during soccer season. You should go soon, because the season ends in a few weeks.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

ATM: Success

My Indian Citibank ATM card worked at the local Citibank branch. It did not work at the deli ATM or at some other random bank (Commerce Bank, I think). This is good because, without my knowledge (due to the closure of my company email account), I got a final payroll deposit of several hundred dollars.

Friday, September 08, 2006

N.Y. Dosas

I had my first post-India dosa today and... it met expectations. Which expectations were to be disappointed.

You may ask yourself: why would someone just two weeks back from India buy a dosa in New York anyway? And I would answer: because the dosa guy is one of the only interesting places to get a "fast" lunch near NYU.* The other top contenders are Two Boots and Mamoun's.** (Now that I think about it, I haven't been to Two Boots or Mamoun's yet. Somehow today I had the overpowering urge for a dosa. (Damn you, id!))

On the upside, I noticed that the dosa guy also offers uttapam and puttu, which I know I like, but have not had often enough to be a snob about (yet).

People of the world: NYU lunch joints. Recommend. A satisfying lunch has to be purchasable for $5 or less*** and it has to be fast take-out.**** Within five minutes of Warren Weaver Hall is preferred. (Joe's and Two Boots have me covered for pizza slices. Falafel, schwarma, and South Indian are also covered. (Duh.) If I start going to Chipotle on a regular basis, Hilleary will divorce me.)

* This will seem absurd to some. Having haunted the NYU area for 11 years, I am ridiculously jaded.

** Pamela's merits an honorable mention (primarily and inexplicably for the peanut butter and apple butter sandwich), but they closed over the summer...

*** Private to Tobi: that's like five billion Rupees.

**** Fellow NYU grad students seem to think sitting down for an hour at lunch is reasonable. They are wrong.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Invitation to Waste an Hour (Or More)

Is lonelygirl15 real? Is she suspiciously attractive, entertaining, and well lit? You decide! Watch her videos. Watch her boyfriend's videos. Wonder and marvel! The New York Times summarizes the case, for and against.

[UPDATE] The New York Times' Virginia Hefferman is completely and totally obsessed to to the point where she's starting to freak me out. Sort of a lot, actually.

[UPDATE 2] Freak out!

One of the interesting side stories here---besides the well known rip-remix-burn subculture on YouTube (e.g., the P. Monkey press conference, I am the very model...)---is the idea of "response videos" which work like blog trackbacks. You've got gohepcat, The Mirrored Cowboy; guys trying to hit on her; girls trying to hit on him; and people who just want to help. It's a scene, man.

[UPDATE 9/12/2006] Aw, man.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Laundering Money

For the benefit of future foreign MSRI employees and other Americans in possession of a Citibank Suvidha account:

1) It is possible to transfer your Rupees to a US bank, see below.
2) I have not been able to use my Citibank India ATM card in the US, but I haven't actually tried very hard. It is not a PIN issue, as I can check my balance---it just won't let me take out cash.

To transfer your money to the US, you need to:

a) Have your passport, visa, and pay slips that have been signed and sealed by the company. In my case, I brought every single pay slip and they were stamped and signed by HR.

a) Go to the Citibank Suvidha office in the Prestige Meridien building on MG Road. This is not the regular Citibank branch office out front, but a special office which is reached by walking around the building to the left, up a staircase, and past a Cafe Coffee Day. You will be asked to sign in. You need to talk to, IIRC, Shamila at the second desk on the left.

b) Fill out a form requesting "Remission for the Maintenence of Family". Do not ask to close your account. This will cause a controversy. For the amount you will write something like "X Rupees in USD" to signify the conversion of your Rupee balance to US dollars. I believe there is a fee of Rs 1200 for the transfer.

c) Be careful when you sign the forms. The most commonly heard phrase in the Suvidha office is "signature mismatch". (Do you actually know how to sign your own name? You'll get to find out!)

D) Et voila. Your money will appear in your US bank account within a week.

[UPDATE 9/9/2006] ATM card works in U.S. Citibank ATMs. Has not worked as yet in non-Citibank ATMs.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Thrilling Conclusion to the Mystery of the Stolen Whiskey!

On August 21, 2006, the company purchased me a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label* which I promptly turned over to Jonathan, who had gifted me the stolen whiskey. By some twisted Indian logic, this event was precipitated by my mentor's threat to buy me a bottle of whiskey himself by the end of the day if the company wouldn't. Thus endeth the Story of the Whiskey.

* Let's ignore the difference between Tennessee and Scotland and call it even.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Back in NY

So, yes, I am back in NY. I arrived back last Sunday. It is surprisingly not-weird to be here. It feels just like... being home.

I dropped off the face of the blogging Earth two weeks ago because (a) I had an enormous amount of work to do before I left Bangalore, (b) I've been just totally disoriented since I got back, and (c) NYU handed me a new laptop on Monday and I've spent all of my computer fiddling time since then trying to get wireless and "suspend to RAM" (i.e., sleep) working under Linux* (not responding to email, catching up on blogs, or getting any real work done).

I've actually got a bunch of things stacked up that I need to blog about, including: an end to the Saga of the Whiskey, the final lessons of India, the irritating trip home amid the Liquid Explosives Scare of '06, the Ballad of the Lost Bag, and "closeted gay friends: what's the deal?" Stay tuned.

* Anybody? Tips? The PC's a Dell Inspiron 6400, the wireless card's a Broadcom 1390, which I finally got working with a custom-compiled ndiswrapper**. Suspend to RAM seems hopeless.***

** NDIS!! Oh, how I loathe you!

*** As a result of my summer employment, I am feeling marginally more inclined to fuck it and just run Windows XP. The thing is, I spent an inordinate amount of my summer trying to get Cygwin and MSVC to play nice together and I long for a nice, reasonable command shell and a compiler to go with it.