Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   painted picture on a teevee screen
Wednesday, May 20 2009

Back in 2006 I worked on a website for a company that sells videogames for cellphones. The company is run by cheapskates and though they never took out a maintenance contract, they can be counted on to complain every few months (to the guy I subcontract through) about some issue, usually something related to a glitch in the way their now-vintage copy of phpBB stores sessions in the database. I've also had to deal with someone taking pwnership of the site, but at least that time I got paid to implement a fix. Today, though, I fielded a complaint that was as entertaining as it was preposterous. Someone (hopefully an unpaid intern) had "updated" the site's homepage and was wondering why it could no longer be updated via the various administrative tools. So I went to see what was what and found that the front page had been replaced with static HTML. For those of you who don't know what static HTML is, it's a web page with no hooks to access databases or other changing information. By contrast, the pages I create access huge libraries of functions that make calls to dozens of tables in a database. That's real computer code with real functions calling other functions, and sometimes there are even objects. All of that had been replaced with simple text marked up with HTML tags. It looked okay in all the major browsers, but there was no way it could reflect the contents of the database because it had been cut off from the database every bit as dramatically as Marie Antoinette's head had been cut off from her body in the last seconds of her life. And like Marie Antoinette's bodyless head captured in a closely-cropped photograph, the homepage looked fine. But it was completely dead. And now these morons thought our code was at fault and were lodging a complaint. It was as if they had painted a picture on a teevee screen and then wondered why their painting wasn't moving. In the world of web development, this fuckup is on the same level of hilarity as the classic tech support question, "Where on my keyboard is the 'any' key?"

I've been having trouble getting a dual-head PCI monitor to work with my dual-head PCI-Express x16 video card (I'm now using an Nvidia GeForce 9400 GT), so today I decided to explore an intriguing idea initially suggested by the Wikipedia entry for PCI-Express. It seems any PCI Express card can work in any PCI Express slot, even a small one that doesn't contact all its pins. Those extra pins are extra "lanes" that add to available bandwidth and increase the speed of the connection, but are not absolutely necessary. And even in its wimpiest incarnation (x1), PCI Express is two to four times faster than regular PCI. It turns out that my motherboard has two PCI Express x1 connectors on it, so why not try to put my other PCI Express videocard (a dual-head ATI Radeon) in it? The only problem was that my motherboard's PCI Expess x1 connectors end in a spot for which there is no corresponding slot in the ATI video card. I would have to carefully cut this end off. Had I not found other people doing this on the web, I wouldn't have tried it. While the others were doing their plastic surgery with a heated knife and inhaling toxic fumes, I decided to use a different approach. I have a small toothed wheel I can attach to my Dremel that can carefully remove wood or plastic from tight places, so that was the tool I used. I set the Dremel in its slowest speed setting and worked carefully, taking lots of breaks. The plastic never heated up and smoked but instead came off in tiny chips. I finished the work with a boxcutter and a dental pick (my favorite laboratory tools).
When I put the ATI PCI Express x16 card into the modified x1 slot, the computer recognized it but complained it couldn't be started. So I reversed the two PCI Express cards and this time it was the Nvidia GeForce 9400 GT in the little x1 slot and it started just fine; the ATI in the x16 card still refused to start; evidently its failure to do so was an incompatibility with the Nvidia card and had nothing to do with the size of the slot. Heartened, I ordered a second Nvidia GeForce 9400 GT card. Hopefully I can get all my video working through PCI Express. (It doesn't matter to me if two of my monitors are running at a 16th of the speed of the other two, particularly when the only other alternative, classic PCI, is even slower.)

It should have come as no surprise tonight when corn-fed middle-of-the-road blandly insipid married-to-a-blond, son-of-a-blond Kris won the American Idol finalé against wild, crazy, polished, talented, articulate, and unquestionably gay Adam. The crowd attracted to American Idol is the Kris demographic, not the Adam demographic. Adam is the brooding genius who gets picked on at school while Kris is the guy who grows a cheesy mustache, gets the fourth-hottest cheerleader pregnant, and then spends the rest of his life working at a place that changes tires. That Adam was going to lose became a foregone conclusion when the contestant pool was trimmed to three. Danny (#3) was a somewhat more-talented, unsouthern version of Kris, and when he went down his fans found more of a home as Kris fans than as Adam fans. Watching Adam lose to Kris was a little like watching Gore "lose" to GW Bush, although at least Kris had the humility and self-awareness to realize his win was undeserved. Gretchen took Adam's loss particularly badly, renewing her threats to move to Canada. It didn't matter that it was just a contest; a grave injustice had been committed.

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