wonk mode

From: Kent Paul Dolan (xanthian_at_well.com)
Date: 08/04/05

Date: 4 Aug 2005 12:34:23 -0700


I managed at long last (thanks, mathew) to get a
workable Linux system for my home computer, and am
engaged (a simple script has been running doing this
for 24 hours now, and chewed up so far 8% of my hard
drive capacity in the process, with more to come) in
adding to a very stripped down "single CD" current
MEPIS release (replacing a much older "Fedora"
release of Red Hat Linux) as much as is salvagable
from a version 9.0 (antique) Mandrake release.

The first step was to find stuff to steal, the
second step (now underway) is to convert Mandrake's
Red Hat Package Monitor formatted software archives
to MEPIS "Debian" format (using a tool called,
appropriately enough, "alien"), all 675,048,004
bytes of "*.rpm" archive files (I'm a very eclectic
thief), so that the installation tool will be
happily presented with a format it understands, and
the third step will be to use the "dpkg" software
installation tool to see how much of this will
install without unconquerable conflicts with
existing software, not all that much based on a
previous pass with many fewer archives, where about
90% installed but only about half of it would then

  [I've another, more modern Linux release
  promised (thanks Lenore) to be on the way, with
  which I may overwrite MEPIS

    ['Though I'm in love with:

      - The X Windows 11 cut and paste text
        terminal window interface, as upgraded
        with a right mouse button menu;
      - the MEPIS "Komander" and "Konsole" KDE
        interface tools;
      - being logged in as "xanthian" and as "root"
        in two separate desktop sessions at once,
        swappable with just a hotkey keystroke, and
        with potentially many desktops per session;
        Cygwin is amazing, and makes using
        MS-Windows "just slightly more painful than
        a root canal that took five shots of
        novocaine", instead of "much more painful
        than a root canal without anesthetic", but
        it only gives you the *nix (how about
        "SPLATnix" as the "spoken name for generic
        Unix-like OSen"???) tools, not the splendid
        GUI interface assortment "out of the box";
      - having my optical three button wheel-mouse
        and IOmega 256 GibiByte USB external hard
        drive and 100 MibiByte Zip drive suddenly
        (after 18 tries) "just work";
      - having bash back again, and discovering its
        infinitely useful "select" automatic text
        menu command, an old friend from the Korn
        shell I didn't know bash implemented;
      - having all those MS_Win OS crashes suddenly
        not happen any more, despite that I'm doing
        _way_ spookier "blue smoke and mirrors"
        stuff with the OS now],

  or instead again steal all from it I can, _into_
  MEPIS, depending on my mood.

    ["Mood": installing MEPIS was "interesting".
    It took me, by actual count, 18 tries about 45
    CDROM-gronking minutes long each, before I got
    past all the hardware and media issues to the
    point where I could click on the "Install Me"
    icon (three days in real "depressive mode" time)
    for the very first time, and with a probably
    1X-speed CD-ROM with a broken tray held together
    with a strip of masking tape, threating to eat
    the media at any moment. I'm not all that keen
    to repeat the experience.]

  I'm a bit offput by all the stuff MEPIS took away
  (from Fedora), [mostly the many, many games I was
  winning -- "get a job, Kent") and would like lots
  of it back again (life without NetHack (from
  earlier) and Spider solitaire (from Fedora), both
  which I've played for decades isn't really worth
  living)]. When I get back on the Net (see "get a
  job", above, but really, I _am_ trying), that will
  be easy, but now I'm reduced to scavanger mode,
  eating from rotted software corpses for what
  nourishment they can provide. Luckily, I have Red
  Hat 6.0, Mandrake 9.0, current MEPIS, and some old
  Knoppix from which to feed. A friend (thanks,
  Mark) at FSU two years back dumped all his
  outdated software CD-ROMS on me. This was also
  lucky for another reason, because the textured
  back of the cloth zipper case of plastic CD
  sleeves in which he gave them to me is also my
  mouse pad; it seems even an optical mouse has
  trouble with a very smooth faux marble table top,
  mostly black, as a motion detection foreground for
  its optics.]

The net result is that I'm eating hard drive space
like a colony of starved army ants on the march,
which has me worried.

So, I decided to do something about that, mainly
watch it happen so I could worry faster and more
effectively. This little dandy script, line wrapped
shell script style to make it fit in a Usenet
article, but with original single line spaces and
command separating semicolons preserved:

  while [[ "`sleep 300`" == "" ]]; \
  do \
    echo "`date` `df . | grep dev | sed -e '{s/ */ /g}'`"; \

is the tool that does the job: in a loop, sleeping
for five minutes, then printing a line showing the
current day and date, and the more important line of
the two line output of the check on the amount of
hard drive used/still-available. The output from
start to "now" (as I'm typing this), where I've
reached "o" in the alphabet doing the archives in
alphabetical order, and skipping the intermediate
lines, looks like:

Mon Aug 1 23:30:09 EDT 2005 /dev/hda2 19078000 2949396 15159484 17% /
Tue Aug 2 15:51:36 EDT 2005 /dev/hda2 19078000 3397584 14711296 19% /

where the fourth from the end "word" shows the
number of disk blocks used, and the third from the
end "word" the quantity still available. That's
already a pretty wide line, but it would have been
much wider with the original spaces from the output
of "df", used to make it line up with an omitted
header line not shown here ("grep" got rid of it),
so the part of the loop script running above
starting at "sed" compresses all multiple spaces
within the line to single spaces, to make the output

The _point_ of this tedious excursion into the niche
of bizarrity known as "Unix geek" is the snippet of
that script that looks like


(for those of you using non-ASCII, non-"C"-standard
computer alphabets, who might see that set of glyphs
displayed differently depending on the "locale"
setting in your computer, that's a closing curly
brace, a right apostrophe ("single quote", "tic"), a
left apostrophe ("back single quote", "back tic"), a
(non-directional) double quote, and a semicolon).

I've been mostly, except for my WELL email account,
away from Unix for 4.5 years. It gives me a warm
fuzzy feeling in my second full day (yesterday) of
Linux use to produce something as a single command
line that has three different kinds of quotes
consecutively, and five pieces of punctuation in a
row, without an escape needed, a pure wonk mode
creation. Of such trivia is self-esteem built, and
faith in oneself as still "with it" reconstructed.

Now if I could just get past level 70 of
FrozenBubble, a level designed by a demon from hell
having a bad, bad day.


xanthian. [Life is] "not so easy in practice".
ObAttr: Robert Lynn Asprin, _A Phule and His Money_.

No chirping about the script, please, there are
surely many other ways to do the same thing, I just
liked the glamor of making the test condition in the
while loop exist purely for its side effect.

Somewhere along the way (incredulous that
SimplyMEPIS included neither vim nor emacs, only
vi), I built the most recent "vim" I could find,
from scratch, release 6.1, I seem to recall (it felt
like being missing a limb not to have vim), so I can
still create at least software written by others
(and someday I have hopes of being prosperous enough
to contribute to Bram's Uganda charity). Now if I
could only figure out how a "gvim" for *nix gets
built, the Makefile does them only for Windows32,
yet somehow I got one anyway, in an archive, but it
is linking with the wrong (more recent) MEPIS
distribution's dynamic libraries, to no evident harm
except for a bunch of annoying error messages when
it kicks off. It is easy enough to replace it with a
script that opens a terminal and then uses vim, but
I'd rather rebuild gvim so my fingers can do what
they do in automatic mode, and I can have any
"special stuff" gvim does that the usual terminal
window might not.

I notice in reviewing the above that production of
my Net-renowned "Kentish prose" is somehow related
to my being bone dead tired from having SPLATnix to
abuse again. Life is [therefore] good.

[Umm, and if anyone in the Linux community knows to
where Elias E. "Tad" Guy has disappeared, drop me a
line. I miss him a lot from our days at ODU sharing
upkeep responsibilities for xanth.odu.edu, where I
first learned Unix, mostly from him and Kyle Jones.]

[Written at home, posted from a rented Internet box,
days later.]