August 2006 Posts

Looking back over the historical record, one thing becomes clear: it is what is tangible that has defined our view of history. We go back all the way to the pyramids and tombs of Egypt, and we can read the hieroglyphs on the walls. The edifices themselves tell us stories of their builders. The Greeks and Romans produced copious amounts of literate for us to consume, and their structures still stand as a testament to the collective genius of their civilizations. Is it possible, then, that we could be living in one of the worst documented times in human history? A time that future historians, thousands of years from now, will regard as a “dark period” because of a lack of any real record of the era? Let it be said that more literature is being produced than ever before. Mass printing has completely changed the dynamics; now, almost anyone can produce anything simplistically. Modern construction methods have rendered the craft of the ancient stonemasons simple in that what once took years to be built can now literally be built in a matter of weeks. Is any of this durable, though? Will it last? So much of what we do now is on computers - the irony of writing this warning on a digital journal does not escape me, by the way - and once something is wiped from the magnetic memory of a hard disk it is gone forever. There is no storing in clay jars for a hard disk. Lots of things are being produced these days, but will any of it last? What will historians two millennia from now have to say about us as a civilization - of course assuming humanity is around at all, and that we haven’t destroyed ourselves in nuclear war or massive climate change, or been wiped out my Thor’s Hammer. Always best to end on a high note.
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One of my big complaints about Gentoo is how they can’t seem to do the same thing on two different days. Portage is easy until they mess with it. Take, for instance, MySQL. I was upgrading PHP my test box to 5.1, and I figured I would go ahead and upgrade to My5 to take advantage of all the new features in some of the apps I’m working on. Unfortunately, someone at Gentoo who builds the MySQL ebuilds decided to do some weird “slotting” thing wherein they allow you to have multiple MySQL installations on the same box. So Portage was installing everything as “mysql-500” instead of “mysql” like it should. It also didn’t install a corresponding init script, making it essentially useless lest I have to go make my own init. In Googling about to find a solution for the problem, I find that “Due to the negative response from our user base, the MySQL team has decided to go back to unslotted MySQL.” They simply haven’t delegated the updated packages to all the mirrors yet (I synced before attempting) and still have the packages masked. So I had to unmerge the MySQL package I had installed, unmasked the working unslotted packages, and reemerge the newer “unslotted” version. This really sucks because this situation should never have happened. A change like this should never have been merged into the main tree without having been tested among a group of users to find their input. Instead, this package was put into the main tree to wait for the general userbase’s comments. It’s what I call the “Microsoft Method” of software development: why bother with testing when you can have your users test it for you?
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