22 October 2003

Laptop

I started running out of space on my laptop, so decided it would be easier to buy a new hard disk rather than clean things up (after all, I could get a 40GB drive for about AU$200, which would give me more than 3 times as much storage, and had almost identical power requirements). If only things were that easy …

After backing everything up, the first problem was taking the old hard disk out of the machine. The m300 is quite a nice machine, as you only need to undo one screw to remove the hard drive mounting. Getting the hard drive out of the mounting was a bit more of a problem as there were two torx screws holding the drive in. Moreover, I didn’t have access to a small enough torx driver :(. Luckily the screw heads were raised enough that it was possible to undo them using some pliers without damaging anything.

After getting the new drive into the mounting frame and into the machine, I needed to get Windows 98 onto the drive. This was required to get the hibernation working under Linux (the BIOS saves the contents of memory to a special file on the Windows partition). It turned out that the CD that came with the laptop was a quick restore disk, and wanted to create a full 40GB partition, rather than use the use the smaller partition I had already created. It them proceeded to screw up the restore, leaving me with a system that (a) wouldn’t boot fully, and (b) was convinced that there were errors on the hard disk, but just couldn’t find them. I guess that the restore CD managed to mis-format the drive somehow. In the end, I had to borrow a 98 CD and do a clean install, which worked perfectly (and let me install to a smaller partition). I can see how a quick restore CD could be useful in many common cases, but this one was nowhere near as robust as I would have liked.

Compared to this, getting Linux up and running was trivial. After completing the restore, I did a few tests with hdparm -Tt which showed that the new disk had a read performance of 25MB/s (in comparison, the old disk did 13MB/s), which has resulted in noticably shorter compile times on the laptop. It is also a lot quieter when busy.

This should put off the need to get a new laptop for quite a while.

Gnome 2.5

Updated my system to CVS head, and things are looking good. The new Nautilus feels even faster (especially in spatial mode). Apparently metadata plugins are planned for 2.6, which should be interesting. It should allow people to implement things like TortoiseCVS, augmenting the existing views rather than creating a completely new view like Apotheke does.

Python

Been reading over Ulrich Drepper’s paper on how to write shared libraries, and it struck me that use of the PyArg_ParseTupleAndKeywords() function will result in a lot of relocations that can’t be avoided.

I did a few tests using some dummy extension modules that contained a number of functions. I tried varying the number of functions, number of arguments for each function, and whether keyword arguments were supported.

I found that in the PyArg_ParseTuple() case, the number of relocations was proportional to the number of functions (as expected — a few relocations for each entry in the PyMethodDefarray. For the PyArg_ParseTupleAndKeywords() case, there was also one relocation for each argument listed in the keyword list array, which dominated as the number of arguments went up.

I haven’t checked how much influence this has on the startup speed, but it would make a difference to the amount of code shareable between processes for larger modules.

1 October 2003

linux.conf.au

They accepted my abstract submission for LCA in January! The lineup is of invited speakers looks really good, so everyone should register. Hopefully they can outdo the conference we put on in Perth :).

.au Politics

A number of changes to the federal government cabinet this week, because Richard Alston (aka World’s Biggest Luddite) is resigning as Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. He is getting replaced by the current Attorney-General Daryl Williams, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

As part of the reshuffle Phillip Ruddock, the immigration minister, is taking over as Attorney-General, which prompted this quote:

“To move Mr Ruddock, who’s an international law breaker, who’s incarcerated innocent people behind razor wire in conditions which would be unacceptable in most prisons in Australia to chief law officer of the land is appalling”

Bob Brown, Greens Senator

I guess this is partly related to the reports of Immigration officials encouraging asylum seekers to obtain illegal travel documents so that they can be deported to some other country.

The new immigration minister is Amanda Vanstone, who I remember most for screwing up education.