Monthly Archives: November 2004


Today was Beth‘s birthday. I treid to surprise her by decorating her apartment a bit and sticking her presents in there. Later, Chris and I took her out to eat. Then Chris had to go be responsible so Beth and I had her cake (it’s embarrassing singing ‘Happy Birthday’ alone) and watched Barbarella.

Today I installed my new 120GB hard drive.

Today my cold cathode light nearly caught on fire. Yesterday as I was working on the drive (see above) I had to take one of the lights out (wire issues). As I was formatting the drive, the light was sitting on the desk, still on, and I was (stupidly) idly playing with it. It gave me a mild electric shock, which surprised me as the wire wasn’t apparently damaged anywhere. I left it running for a while longer as I finished with the drive and there were no more issues for a time. After I finished with the drive and closed everything back up today, I looked into my case only to notice that only one of the lights was lit- when I looked more closely at the unlit light I noticed that one end of it was smoldering. I quickly turned everything off and removed the power, and then the entire light gimmick. I think I may just write to the manufacturer and send them the damaged light- shoddiness may well be a widespread issue….

Edit: Pictures of the damage to the cathode tube/wire: 1 2

MP3 woes

Recently, (after upgrading xmms) I’ve noticed that a non-trivial portion of my mp3s have starting skpipping/making weird noises. In addition, the ‘elapsed time’ will jump around, as will the ‘total time’. When I try to play the same mp3s in mpg123, I get errors like th following:

tekniklr@minips1:~ $ mpg123 Harry_and_the_Potters-Wizard_Chess.mp3
High Performance MPEG 1.0/2.0/2.5 Audio Player for Layer 1, 2 and 3.
Version 0.59s-r7 (2000/Oct/27). Written and copyrights by Michael Hipp.
Uses code from various people. See 'README' for more!
Title : Wizard Chess Artist: Harry and the Potters
Album : Harry and the Potters Year : 2003
Comment: Genre : Unknown

Playing MPEG stream from Harry_and_the_Potters-Wizard_Chess.mp3 ...
MPEG 1.0 layer III, 128 kbit/s, 44100 Hz joint-stereo
Illegal Audio-MPEG-Header 0xfa9260bb at offset 0xa000.
Skipped 417 bytes in input.
Illegal Audio-MPEG-Header 0xfa92605a at offset 0xab6d.
Skipped 417 bytes in input.

This has been happening on both my computers simultaneously, and as I haven’t noticed any widespread mp3 file changes being propagated between the two (via unison), I am left to conclude that these files have always been this way, and my computers have simply recently decided to take issue with them.

I tried downgrading xmms all the way back to 1.2.8 (which I know was behaving properly), but the issues persist. Ironically, mpg321 seems to play these files, while not perfectly, still much better than either xmms or mpg123.

After doing a bit of googling, I determined that these problems seem to be the result of variable bit rate (VBR) mp3s having malformed headers – telling the mp3 decoder that frames are different sizes than they actually are. I found accounts from other people who seemed to be having the exact same problems when xmms tries to play an affected file.

Let me reiterate the fact that these files (to the best of my knowledge) have not been changed (nor do both of my computers have identical hardware failings). Regardless, on both of my systems most of my mp3 players are suddenly incapable of playing these files through to completion without either skipping or making horrible scratching noises, while just a few weeks ago I was not experiencing any problems.

Now, since I don’t have a good explanation (except possibly that something like audiofile or libid3tag got upgraded simultaneously on both systems, and that has some new bug) I decided I’d simply try to ignore the reasons and instead concentrate on fixing the borken files.

First I tried mp3check. For shits and giggles (because the problems I’ve noticed are widespread, and because I can use the aforementioned unison program to revert my changes) I ran the program against my entire playlist with the following command:
   mp3check -r --fix-headers --cut-junk-start --cut-junk-end --fix-crc mp3s/Playlist/
and was shocked to see this as an end result (afterseveral minutes and a whole lot of scrollback)
   910 files checked, 666 erroneous files found
Repeating the command gave this result:
   910 files checked, 665 erroneous files found
Well, crap. At least one file got fixed (nevermind that approximately 66% of my mp3s have issues- a more serious problem then I had thought). If you care, here is what the output of that command looks like for the same file I tried before with mpg123:

tekniklr@minips1:~ $ mp3check --fix-headers --cut-junk-start --cut-junk-end --fix-crc Harry_and_the_Potters-Wizard_Chess.mp3
cut-junk-start: no junk found
cut-junk-end: valid id3 tag trailer v1.0 found, protecting it
cut-junk-end: no junk found
valid id3 tag trailer v1.0 found
frame 97/ 0:02: frame too short at 0x00009e5e, 1 byte mising
frame 104/ 0:02: frame too short at 0x0000a9cb, 1 byte mising
frame 469/ 0:12: frame too short at 0x0002fdb5, 1 byte mising
frame 733/ 0:19: frame too short at 0x0004acb9, 1 byte mising
frame 988/ 0:25: frame too short at 0x00064d0c, 1 byte mising
frame 1098/ 0:28: frame too short at 0x000700a2, 1 byte mising
frame 2037/ 0:53: frame too short at 0x000cfdb1, 1 byte mising
frame 2085/ 0:54: frame too short at 0x000d4c0e, 1 byte mising
frame 2273/ 0:59: frame too short at 0x000e7efd, 1 byte mising
frame 2861/ 1:14: frame too short at 0x00123efc, 1 byte mising
frame 2997/ 1:18: frame too short at 0x00131d06, 1 byte mising

md5sums tell me that the file is unchanged at the end of the command.

This post is long enough for now, but I’m going to keep trying other programs. I’ve already tried mp3asm with no better luck, and mp3_check is going to be the program I try next. I’ll possibly update later, if/when I have more information or a solution, but if anyone has any related experience, I’d appreciate it if you drop me a note.

Oh, and happy thanksgiving (what’s left of it).

Another big negative for the DS….

…. It only plays Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance games. And the GBA-GameCube link cable won’t work with it either. So Chris really did screw me out of four swords goodness when he sold his GBA and all his games (as well as one of mine). Oh well, I’m used to not playing multiplayer games, I suppose. (But I would have liked to at least beat this one first…)

Power outage

All of the power to Cornell (as well as to Varna and to some of the rest of Ithaca) went out around lunchtime today, so I got to get off work early. Yaay!

Ironically, now that the power is back, I’m at home continuing some of the work I couldn’t do earlier today because of the power failure. Shh! Don’t tell anyone- I don’t want to look productive or anything (wrong impressions and all).

Yeah…. should be heading back to NJ in an hour or so. See y’all there (in spirit anyway)!

Nintendo DS update

  • [-] My DS has two dead pixels. I think I may take Nintendo up on their offer to get it fixed/replaced, but it’s not annoying me too much at the moment (in fact, I hardly even notice them while playing, even though they are near the middle of the screen) so I’ll probably wait until sometime next year to bug Nintendo about fixing it (if I end up doing it at all).
  • [-] Using the bottom screen as a d-pad in Mario DS is really hard. It may be easier if I had longer thumbs (I can’t imagine how bad it is for kids), but right now it makes my hands and arms a bit sore trying to contort in such a way that using it feels natural (ironic, that).
  • [-] It’s really annoying how if you go into any menu in the firmware, there is no way ‘back’- you are stuck in that menu until you shut down the system (which is what the button that should take you back to the main screen prompts you to do).
  • [-] The calendar feature in the firmware would have been useful if they had only made it so you could cycle through, or add events. Instead, it’s just kinda, there.
  • [+] It’s really cool that you can have a game boy advance (/color/etc.) game in the system at the same time as a DS game. Even cooler is that GBA games feel like they ‘belong’ there (instead of sticking out about 3 miles, for instance).
  • [+] The new games are so über-small and cool that I feel like I’m living in the year 2000 as predicted in the year 1950 (flying cars and all).
  • [+] It is really cool that the power adaptor is the same as the GBA SP- it’s like I suddenly have an extra adaptor for travel now.

A lot of that sounds awfully negative, but I really do enjoy the system so far. I’m hoping that I get over the control difficulties I’m having (ouch), because I really do want to believe that this truly is a better handheld overall than the GBA SP. I feel that my reputation as a geek and a gamer may be shattered if I don’t! Besides, it is an incredibly cool toy (which makes me cool by association, because I probably have one before you).


I think I did pretty poorly on my exam today, though probably not so spectacularly bad as I did on the last one (being less spectacular does not imply a necessarily better grade, as the last one set a precendent).

In happier news, I got my Nintendo DS a day early – thats today to those of you who aren’t paying attention to my pining.

I now leave you with a bit of spam zen:

My lozenge is a modern fat-adhere addendum which takes away fat from a fare we wolf!


This past weekend Peter and Mike came up from NJ to visit. And I didn’t go to work today.

First, the weekend- it involved a lot of Halo 2, but to the relief of Mike and myself we got to do other stuff as well. Mike got in Friday evening, and Peter arrived in the wee hours of Saturday morning (bearing gifts of penguins ^^ ).

On Saturday we hit the commons for a bit and did the same old stuff (though I did finally get Zendo, as well as Essential Spider-man #6, which I didn’t even know was out yet. Then we went over the the maul [sic] so I could show Peter the Nintendo DS they had for demo (aside: I should get mine on Wednesday!). For some unforseen reason, Peter seemed to have no knowledge of the existence of the DS, and even after playing with one he didn’t seem impressed. After that Peter wanted to visit the arcade, and I ended up finagling him into winning me (after a few misadventures) a ginormous Mario doll. On the way home, Peter mentioned that he would have liked to see some gorges, but by that time it was already getting dark. I told him that they will be more impressive once everything has frozen anyway, so now he has an excuse to visit in a few months. :)

After that came a bunch more Halo 2 for Chris and Peter, while Mike and I managed to escape for a bit to watch the end of Utena (less disappointing than some other anime endings I can probably name [if I haven’t blocked them out yet]). This confirmed what I already knew: my computer needs a new video card badly. So, while the others ordered pizza I ordered a new video card (which will be a xmas present from my dad).

On Sunday, everyone got sick of our boring lives and Halo 2, so they left (after watching a bit of ROD TV). Well, something like that (Peter had to go ballooning) :)

Today I took a sick day. I wasn’t exactly sick, per se, (though I did have a headache last night…. [which is a better excuse than “almost sprained my ankle”]) but it occurred to me that it may be a good idea to study for my exam (which I am likely to fail) tomorrow. Well, for various reasons (mostly consisting of me fixing a clogged toilet and then relaxing with Sudeki all day) that hasn’t happened yet. There’s still time, though! Right….

Computer woes

My computer crashed twice today, both times while I was trying to emerge -u xfree. It got locked up hard, and I have no idea why. After work I came home and tried it again, and this time it worked. Of course, this time I also didn’t lock the computer and sat there watching it the whole time. Eh, it compiled, so I guess that’s the important part…. I’m still a bit worried, however.

On a related note, my face is a bit red because I realized today (while reading logs trying to debug the aforementioned crashes) that it is in fact abnormal for a system with ~1024 MB RAM to only list 896 MB. Yeah, I compiled high memory support into my kernel and now the numbers look quite a bit better. I’ve only had this much ram for 6ish months, you’d think I would’ve noticed this by now. Oh well.

Fun with fonics

I went to Syracuse today with Chris and Beth. While there, I bought several items- one of which is a book which contains such atrocious grammar that I felt the need to share it with you all. Here is a sample, re: the planet Venus (pgs. 162-163)

It is not the case that, from space, the Earth’s surface can be easily seen while the surface of Venus remains invisible also to the more powerful instruments: the refraction is too strong. That which is observed from the telescope, therefore, is not the surface of Venus, but the top of its atmosphere: carbon dioxide, in fact, is a gas that reflects visible and infrared radiation in a more efficient way. For this same reason, the mean temperature of the planet is extremely elevated: in the neighborhood of 500°C, quite higher than on Mercury. This value – decidedly too elevated to be produced only from soloar radiation, even if this is, however, greater compared to that found on the Earth – explained as the result of millennia of hich percentage of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Moreover in the high atmosphere, winds blow at a velocity of more than 400 km/h: the speed of rotation of the planet, in fact, it varies considerably whether it is the clouds or the surface which are observed. While the clouds complete a rotation in little more than 4 days, the surface takes approximately 243 days to complete a rotation. Since a Venusian year (that is the time it takes to complete an entire revolution around the sun) is 224 days, the day on the surface of Venus is longer than a year. For this reason, on the surface, the wind never exceeds a few kilometers per hour. But not enough. The equipment released from Venera 10 that suceeded in landing undamaged, was destroyed after few hours of operation above all because of the strong pressure. However, in those hours they sended unequivocable data: under the planet’s enormous gas cloak, the sunlight scarcely penetrates and the brightness of the Venusian sky is equal to that of a day of intense fog on Earth. In this warmest penumbra, moreover, there is a constant rain of sulfuric acid droplets mixed with water. Surveyings of the probes have also allowed us to know a lot about the surface of Venus. [sic++]

Judging by the afore-linked review, there are much worse bits in there, but I’m just skimming at the moment and around this passage is the point where I lost patience. Yeah, there is plenty of useful information in there, it just takes quite a bit more effort to parse it all out :)

Seriously, it reads like some foreign student did a bunch of research on the Internet, moved around some sentences and added some “moreover”s (to avoid being caught plagiarizing), and then ran the resulting mishmash through babelfish a few times.

I guess that technically most of that may be grammatically correct….. but only in a ack basswords Yoda-speak sort of way.

I guess TAJ books doesn’t hire any editors. :)

Anyway, if nothing else the pictures make the purchase worthwhile.