Stefano Rivera (tumbleweed)'s Website, Blog, collected bits of code, cruft and other stuff.

Laptop battery woes

My Acer Ferrari 4005’s battery is on it’s way out. From around 3hrs when new, it’s down to 20 mins, at the lowest screen brightness.

I’m even getting error messages from gnome-power-manager, telling me it doesn’t even think my battery’s capacity is valid :-)

Gnome-Power-Manager message telling me my battery is not valid :-)

/me is getting tempted to replace it with a MacBook (but don’t tell it that)

Conversion with Openoffice

Finally, there is a decent way to use openoffice as a file-converter!

I keep an eye on a (currently dysfunctional) e-mail→fax system. The hard part is converting random incoming files to PDF. Especially nasty proprietary-format ones…

I first used WV, a venerable library, which was capable of getting text out of MS word files and into LaTeX. Great for linux sysadmins, but not so good for people who expect their formatting to survive the transition.

Then I moved on to AbiWord. AbiWord has supposedly taken on the WV torch, but it’s given it’s fair share of problems too:

  • It’s command-line PDF conversion has been broken for a while
  • It’s command-line PS conversion was broken for a while, but has since been fixed.
  • Excepting the latest development versions, it requires an X server. I got away with using Xvfb.

Now, I read about unoconv. This looks like exactly what I’ve been looking for! It’ll support all the document types supported by openoffice. Sure the fax server is going to be using a lot more RAM, but this could make it a hell of a lot nicer to work with!

Chip and Pin Woes

I have the pleasure of having a UK money in a bank account and credit card. This is great, because UK cards are the only ones that don’t charge exorbitant currency-conversion charges when you use them overseas. I live in Cape Town, so I’m almost always using it overseas.

Chip and Pin, never used to be supported on South African credit card equipment, but these days, it’s mandatory in UK, and supported on almost all credit card machines. Back when it wasn’t supported people just used to swipe the card. Now, they actually try and read the chip. The procedure is something like this:

  • Ready”
  • Insert card”
  • Swipe card”
  • Insert card”
  • etc.

At some point, they give up, and ask for another card. The good ones can go between swiping and poking in a fraction of a second, in the belief that the faster they do it, the more likely it is to work. The only real solution seems to be to get the supervisor card out, and override Chip mode….

I thought that was all, until yesterday, when I got an even more interesting error message: “The PAN length does not comply with the min/max length in the BIN file”. Does anyone know WTF that means??? :-)

Hardware sucks

I spent a morning trying to debug my LTSP server, which wasn’t booting after it’s feisty upgrade.

I assume it was something to do with RAID & LVM on the root initially, but after I got through that, it still wouldn’t boot.

Aah, but the recovery option worked

Ok, so maybe it’s something with usplash, restart and boot without quiet but with splash. Boots.

Eventually I found that it just needed a few extra seconds of spin-time in the grub screen (increase timeout to 10), and now it works.

Bloody hardware!

Sarge -> Etch Upgrade and apache2

Thanks to Debian bug 407171, if you had mod_proxy installed in apache2, and upgrade to etch, it’ll also install mod_disk_cache, which means your /var partition is going to fill up quite quickly.

This happened to 2 CLUG servers.

I don’t think this is the correct behaviour, and I’m even more suprised to see that it the appearance of the bug is documented in a bug-report.

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