Frustration comes on ISO/OSI layer 2 (or: On one of the ways 3Com sucks)

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 01/27/2006 - 18:54
Over one month ago, I truly hoped an evasive network misbehavior issue was solved. In the institute, we had a strange situation which caused a (seemingly random) stack of switches to go out to lunch and leave one of the floors without network access until it decided to restore itself (usually power-cycling it was not enough). The equipment, ten 4200 SuperStack switches, is new, we got it ~September, so I expected 3Com to give me at least some support on the issue. The behavior was apparently random, and I could not track it down, only (thanks to the very nice Cacti) prove it existed. December 5 was terrible. The whole building's network refused to work. Switches were able to reply to my pings for no more than a minute after booting before they got flooded with "Spanning Tree CTRL MAC PAUSE: Quanta 65535" (according to another great tool, the Ethereal protocol analyzer). I had been bugging the support people at 3Com for at least three weeks before this incident, they kept promising they would come soon to help us track the cause of the ellusive problem - We threatened to send the switches back and pursue reimbursement through whatever means we could (we had much better stability and performance with our old 10Mbps hubs, so my boss insisted on replacing them), so we got them to come. The answer they gave me? Upgrade your firmware to version 2.50 (not available at their website, of course) and disable spanning tree functionality at the switches. I have to admit the big problem immediately ceased. This is not to say I was pleased with the response time or with the switches' software quality, but at least we could work. Happily, ~7 weeks passed by with no major outages (although with a few small ones). Yesterday, we got back the complete chaotic conditions. This time, though, I was able to get a good and useful tcpdump snapshot, passed it through Ethereal, and actually got something interesting (available to whoever requests it to me if it sounds interesting). In short: Something happens that confuses a switch (I guess it's a faulty NIC), and makes it request to all of the neighbouring switches (via spanning tree protocol - Yes, it's disabled, but still) for their complete ARP tables. But somehow, this noise or whatever keeps confusing it, so the spanning tree requests start repeating every two seconds for slightly over one minute. Then, the same switch which requested this information gets tired of too many ARP tables being thrown at it, and sends out a storm of packets (one each 0.04 seconds) asking every other switch _not_ to send updates anymore. This is broadcasted to all of each of the switches' ports, and the network dies. My grudge against 3Com is: How come this frigging noise (at least that's what I assume it to be) on one of the ports kill all of the network? If a switch is supposed to be smart, would it be too much for it just to disable the misbehaving port? Anyway... One and a half days went down the drain trying to find the cause for the problem, sending the report to the 3Com guy (who is very nice in person, yes, but that's by far not enough!), running up and down the stairs to reset different switches, lock down on the source of distress... And as my 3Com contact was busy with another client (who presumably had not yet given them money), I never got a call back from them. All my good intentions to spend a nice quiet time coding for three projects we currently need to have ready soon (one of them is in production and many of you have used, my dear Comas conference management system, but requires heavy tinkering to be able to extend it) were stuck at that: Good intentions. I seem to have locked down the problem in one of three computers (that is, network seems stable again once I disconnected them). I insist it must be a faulty NIC. My boss bets it's an über-contaminated Windows machine. My boss' boss insists we should get the switches double-grounded just to be sure that's not the reason for failure. I am tired, bad mooded, and -again- bored you to death with a too-long blog entry. Blame it all on 3Com.
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On the OpenSolaris round table at Debconf

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/17/2006 - 10:19
Tolimar, liw: Just to give an extra bit of ease, I know Alvaro Lopez, one of the talk's proponents. I am to some extent an instigator for this talk - Alvaro is definitively a Free Software guy. I know him for several years already. He has been as careful as possible, and told me about his frustration when the whole Nexenta mess erupted. As far as I can say, the cooperation intentions are as serious as you can expect from such a beast as Sun is - I cannot judge more, and I won't say more in this regard. I just assure you that this talk will not be a presentation on why Solaris is better than Hurd or anything like that. I trust Alvaro (and, transitively, I should also trust Simon). I do hope we get something interesting out of this talk. [update] Alvaro has answered. I'm linking it here as he is not syndicated in Planet Debian.
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No antialiased fonts here, thank you

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/17/2006 - 10:00
Edd Dumbill writes from time to time about hinting or using the right fonts so they look nicer - At the first glance, I found three such articles in ~six weeks. I don't know if I'm too atypical in this area as well... But for most of my work, I prefer fonts not to be beautified by antialiasing. Strangely, it seems to depend on which program (or, maybe, activity) I am working - I have no grudge against antialiasing in a web browser, but I swear to God that if you antialias my emacs or my xterms, I will hate you. It just gets more tiring. I have no rational explanation for this - I just noticed the fact after using it for a while. I get more tired if the borders of the letters are not crisp - and I don't really care about the little details in smaller sized fonts. Maybe that's part of the reason antialiasing is nicer in the browser - After all, it is common to find text too small to read there. At 1280x1024 (or 1400x1050 on the laptop) with the usual font size, I get a nice 170x66 rxvt. That's quite OK for most of the work that requires attention - and for following large amounts of text, decreasing the font size to a somewhat tiring size gives me a nice 200x92 window - almost always enough room. Crisp fonts. Easy to read. Does anybody else feel the same, or am I just too looney?
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The Universe is signalling you to change your ways

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 01/11/2006 - 10:29
David: You are suffering it now. You suffered from it before (sorry, cannot find the link) with your previous machine. Macs are sexy - But they are not meant to be yours. (Personally, and I hope not to spill any salt by doing this, I am completely satisfied with my iMac G5 and my Mac Mini - Fashion objects and quite expensive, but reliable, quiet and great looking) Give up. You deserve a brand that does not hate you.
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Early risers

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 01/06/2006 - 11:00
For many years already (probably since I have been a productive member of the society, or at least pretended so), I have been an early riser, unlike most people in the community. Today, I seldom stay awake after 12AM, and wake up shortly before 7. Some months ago, I think I was an hour or two more sleepful, but since I picked up morning excercise... Well :) But it worries me to see people in Debian following a trend to change for this more human-like lifestyle - I interact with many Europeans, and it's nice for me to have them online during the same period I am online - +- 9AM to 8PM. If more Debianers start waking up and going to sleep early, it will affect my interactions! Please, stay up late!
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This side of the ocean

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 01/05/2006 - 11:12
Well, after three non-posting weeks, this is my third blog post today! :) Martin: Please remember that not everything is lost on this side of the ocean - Probably, yes, this side of the ocean, this side of the Great Lakes, and that side of the Río Bravo. One of the few things I often cite that still make me very proud of my country is the complete (although slowly, slowly declining, but still quite complete) separation between church and state. In ~130 years, no president or important public figure has publicly stated they even had a religion - Of course, the current ruling party, PAN, is very catholic-oriented, and our current president _has_ attended mass, got and worn crucifixes and similar stuff... But at least, every time he (or a senior figure of the government) does that, there is loud criticism. And I do hope that PAN's stay in power does not last more than 6 years. We deserve better. And we have elections in a couple of months, whee.
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Re: Tabs

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 01/05/2006 - 10:59
Matt: Please don't forget you are talking about the language with the "there should be only one way to do it" motto, where you have to "program the way Guido indented it". I also feel much more at home where I can play with the way my program works and looks like. I like whitespace to be irrelevant - Yes, Python is a nice beast alltogether, but you cannot expect much space for personal preferences once you understand how it was designed. And yes, as a Perl guy I often hate the style some of the modules I maintain are written in, but then again... It's the most comfortable style for the main upstream author, the person who will do most work with the beast! ...But anyway... Emacs knows best. I just press tab and it works magically, either becoming a set of spaces or becoming a proper tab. And as long as other people understand what I wrote (which can become messy if some lines have supposedly eight-spaces-tabs and some are made up just of eight spaces), and specially the compiler doesn't barf at me, I'm OK with it. Using a decent editor helps you a lot when writing Python, YAML or such things..
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A rosary of watermelons

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 01/05/2006 - 09:08
A rosary is a string of beads that Catholics use for prayer. There is a very similar apparatus in the Islam, called tasbih - They look like this: Ok, now why is this relevant? Yesterday I was at a meeting with two people who were a couple for a long time, let's call them he and she. We had a talk along the following lines:
Me: Ok, I'll have you the system running on time. Just please remember to bug me every now and then. Torture me if I don't answer you. She: Ok, but you must know I can be quite heavy when torturing! He: She really means it. Sometimes she can be like a rosary of watermelons.
...I loved the image :)
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No wonder...

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 12/20/2005 - 14:22
Given my fine coordination, my very high frustration tolereance and the friendliness with which I greet people while busy doing my stuff, this was quite expectable. Your results:
You are Hulk
Hulk
75%
Superman
70%
Spider-Man
65%
Iron Man
55%
Green Lantern
55%
Catwoman
50%
Batman
50%
Supergirl
48%
The Flash
45%
Robin
40%
Wonder Woman
23%
You are a wanderer with
amazing strength.
Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...
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Moving between version control systems

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 12/15/2005 - 14:20
As many people have expressed in their blogs after Bubulle's initial rant, I am also joining the game :) Some weeks ago I decided to finally move my personal documents repository from CVS to SVN - Why SVN? Because I don't need a distributed system, I am the only person with write (or read) access to it... Besides, I'm too lazy - The one feature that made me start using SVN and not any other system is that you can use it just as if it were CVS, but without the ridiculous constraint placed by just integrating many individual files instead of managing the whole beast as a repository. I had a problem, though, that made me lose good part of an evening - I think it might be related to #333105, but I'm not sure: I converted my repository using cvs2svn, which saved all my five years worth of commit history (whee!), grouping commits that seemed to belong together in single SVN transactions (whee!!)... But binary files were all corrupted. To make things worse, I didn't notice this until I had to present a talk in Peru - and my laptop's working copy was severely FUBAR. Well... I managed to give my talk - And yesterday I finally decided to restore sanity to my life, reviving my doc_gwolf SVN tree. The stupid steps?
  • cvs2svn --encoding=ISO-8859-1 -s /home/cvs/doc_gwolf /home/svn/doc_gwolf
  • cd /tmp; svn co file:///home/svn/doc_gwolf
  • Locate all files which differ between the two checkouts
  • As I had done some work without committing, check against the list what was text, what was binary
  • For each of the binary files, svn remove $file;cp /tmp/cvs/doc_gwolf/$file $file; svn add $file
  • Add/replace all the files which were locally modified
  • Everything seems to work? Ok, svn ci, and be merry.
Phew :-/
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oa-(k)ste-PEC - oakstepéc (or the attack of the nested parenthesis)

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 12/14/2005 - 16:44
Yes, you can surely tell I am no guru when it comes to describing sounds - maybe that's because in Spanish every letter has one, or at most two, sounds? Anyway, Christian, that's the way to say it - The O sometimes sounds a little bit U-ish, in some places you could see this same sound (coming from Náhuatl, Mexico's main indigenous language) as huaks. The k (in the x) is usually pronounced, but quite soft - sometimes we just refer to the place as "Oastepec", and nobody gets hurt (or worse, sent to Oaxaca (Huajaka - yes, the X is the only letter whose sound truly changes (and that is because Spaniards used it as a wildcard for S, KS, SH, J - In fact, México is pronounced Méjico, but never (EVER) spelt that way besides what other Spanish speakers say. The original sound, though, was closer to Méshico))) And, yes, I am also one of many thousands of people longing to ride through the Copper Canyon. It's supposed to be really, really beautiful. Too bad Chihuahua is ~20 hours away from Mexico City :( And about Oaxtepec's location: It's 60km south of Mexico City, not of Downtown Mexico (that would still be out of the city, but not by that much). The best route is not straight, so from my house (in South-Western Mexico City, ~15m away from where the Cuernavaca highway begins) it's about 90 minutes. The highway is _very_ good and safe, don't worry. I do expect people coming by car from the USA. Here you have a good map of Morelos state. Oaxtepec is on the third column, second row, near Cuautla. Just for completeness sake, just North of Morelos you have Distrito Federal, where Mexico City (partly) lies. The airport, where most of you will arrive is again in the second row, third column (hmmm... A pattern starts to emerge! Lets see what that means...) - We are working so we don't have to explain to you all how to get from there to Oaxtepec, I hope we can provide buses covering the route, at least in the days with most arrivals.
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DebConf6 in May - Why?

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 12/13/2005 - 16:06
I see that plans start getting ready. Bubulle is coming, Wouter is not, and people will soon start getting their plans ready. I am quite excited about it! Of course, I need to devote more time to it, which is hard to me - but I will do it. Oaxtepec rules, you will _love_ the place. I went there again to spend a weekend with Nadezhda - Took some more photos, added them to the album. Debconf guys: Yes, I owe you a full report... It will come. Soon. Promise. Anyway... I'm excited. Debian friends, Mexican interested friends: What are you waiting for? Join us! Register! [update] Well, I published this entry, but then realized I wanted to answer to Wouter's question: Why in May? ;-) First of all, weather: The weather is plainly better in May. Somewhat warmer... The rainy season starts in May/June, but believe me, you don't want to have your laptop out during Morelos State's well known thunderstorms! Second, I fear of political instability. Next July we will be having our federal elections. We don't anticipate instability such as what we had in 1994 (which, please you all be quiet, didn't even mean violence in the streets), but still... It's better not to have Debconf too near the elections. Third, prices - Most places are noticeably more expensive during Summer. And, yes, I know some people will not be able to attend... I am sorry to learn you are one of them. Still, I'm sure some other people would not be able to make it in July.
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My presentation in VI SIIS in Tacna, Perú

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 11/30/2005 - 14:02
I am about to give a presentation in Tacna, Perú, at the VI SIIS, Universidad Nacional Jorge Basadre Grohmann. What is different this time? That I am waiting for the conference to start, sitting in my nice workplace at IIEc-UNAM. Yes, I was supposed to go and talk there (and was quite excited to go to the I ConclaDeb at Arequipa last week). Anyway, why cancel my talk, having the technical means to carry it out? Less than five minutes from now we will start. There is only one thing I regret: As a complete multimedia neophyte, I could not suggest an application to do this from within Linux - We will be using MSN for the presentation. I have a friend's computer on my desktop, and MSN worked great (and at the first try!) for this - Who can suggest me a free alternative for doing this (specially taking into account that I cannot go to the other end and do much configuration on their side - It must be something speaking a standard format) Anyway... Time to talk! I'll have my paper (Spanish only, sorry - Analizadores morfológicos aplicados al lenguaje natural, aplicaciones para la búsqueda de información) online. Right now I only have my presentation there, but in a couple of hours, the paper should be there as well.
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Pacman trouble

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 11/29/2005 - 17:31
I have found visual evidence that the Pacman xscreensaver hack levels are produced by random and, contrary to what many people say, were not simply copied off the console. Atari's good soul must thank ${DEITY} that this didn't happen to a human player! Still, it was funny watching this game, mainly as Pacman's speed is roughly 10% faster than the ghosts', and he cannot just stand still.
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My Perl name

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 11/23/2005 - 14:32
Thanks to Algernon, I also discovered my true Perl name: ''=~('(?{'.('^/@@[}'^'.])./]').'"'.(':^@@]/}}/,;_'^'}+..<]]*@@]}').',$/})') Isn't it crystal-clear? ...Seems I'll have to repeate Algernon's hint: Perl, enter, paste, Ctrl-D.
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