(TL note: nareshov's diary)

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Updates as of 27th March, ’09

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Nothing much. Mundane. Lethargic. Hopeful. Bleak.

A few days ago, the Students’ Gymkhana in the campus came up with a somewhat “April Fool’s Prank”-like decision when they were serious about dropping Techkriti and Megabucks from the Gymkhana calendar and introducing a “techno-entrepreneurial” festival. Now, don’t ask me what “techno-entrepreneurial” is. At the moment, it sounds like certain people in the campus are catching the Capitalist world’s bugs or something. It’ll probably be a techfest like usual with some gambling in the name of “business”, perhaps. What is sad is that the name “Techkriti” shall no longer be in active use. The Gymkhana President has called for an Open-house meeting on this. I can only hope that those in power don’t kill off Techkriti so easily. Megabucks has been disappointing to some no matter what people claim and Techkriti was just hitting the popularity charts among the technical college croud in this part of the country. Sub-events like FOSSkriti have made a huge mark in the past two years and several corners of the planet recognise FOSSkriti as part of “Techkriti – IITK’s premiere techfest”. Afterall, Megabucks, too, started off as part of Techkriti back in ’98 (approx.) – if reducing the number of events per Gymkhana term is a concern, merging Megabucks back into Techkriti should surely cause less harm than blowing the daylights out of Techkriti itself?

Speaking about the number of events that are organised in the campus; IITK, primarily, is an institute of technology. Some bright young ones recently claimed that so is MIT- and yet, MIT doesn’t restrict itself to activites purely technical in nature. Sure, MIT is a huge place with a large faculty in various fields and all – and more importantly with geniunely interested students. Unlike the scenario in our campus – where research isn’t really a flagmark these days (mind you, we’ve got some excellent professors here and yet most theses or undergraduate final year projects aren’t as awesome as they are elsewhere), the activities in other larger institutes that seemingly betray their name have a good reason to be doing so – there are *people* who’re not, say, selfishly looking for personal gains alone. The local newsgroup has been pretty active at discussing these outright Talibanistic decisions that were made in the present Gymkahana’s first meet. I hope this doesn’t cause too much of a damage in the long run. Slow Talibanisation has been happening right here in the campus for a while and very few seem to notice it. Also, I seriously suggest we drop NNTP altogether and switch to reddit’s code – unless there’s a sizeable population still stuck with console-based nntp-clients.

Galaxy – a controversial event in its own right has been resurrected. Well, it’s good and all. But hey, the end-semester exams are right around the corner. But last night’s “Naruto Fan Quiz” was a welcome addition to the set of mundane events that happen in any cultural fest up here – dancing to crappy tunes, lame drama, etc. About half of L1 was filled up last night. It was a good surprise. But the anime community as such exists in fragments. Could be a good thing if the junior batches put aside differences and for a single community. Oh, but wait, I think they’re mostly fragmented because there hasn’t been enough interaction across batches in the past couple of years (thanks to anti-ragging policies which hasn’t really helped those who actually require it). Meh, whatever.

Apparently, Galaxy was resurrected in the hope that Hall days of respective halls would be put an end to. I mean, honestly, they were all a waste. Cheap, half-assed entertainment, the same old standard party food (various kinds of Indian bread, some panneer, you know, the exact same old food which people never seem to get bored of), obligatory invitations, general noise pollution, and so on. One Galaxy for a few days, in several venues throughout the academic and Outreach area, fought between teams made up of members from a bunch of halls, may not be such a bad idea.

I happened to notice a particular feature of Google Chrome (yes, I haven’t looked up the list of features of Chrome yet, and I believe that good interaction design is when one doesn’t need to go through a list or read up plenty on – at least on a browser, duh). So, here it is. You may have visited several websites that have a general search box in them. The next time you want to search something in such a box, don’t visit the site as yet. Type the URL, for example: “” and notice what appears on the right-end of the address bar.

Google Chrome search

Google Chrome: enter search keywords and hit enter

Google Chrome: enter search keywords and hit enter

Now, press TAB as it says, and enter your search keywords. Hit ENTER. Voila. Beat that fat-fugly-browsers.

Another Gentoo loyalist turns to Ubuntu in the campus

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This is the second person. Earlier it was Mandu. Who said that it was fun but it took too much it and that he doesn’t want to spend too much of the precious resource – time.
Yesterday, ManuBansal posts on iitk.questions.unix:

Manu Bansal wrote:
> Another Gentoo loyal turned away.
> All I wanted to do was to upgrade to Valknut-3.8 from 3.7. dclib won't
> compile, and I wouldn't know why. Nobody would know why. Then suddenly,
> working on a project one day, it would occur to me that probably new code
> wouldn't compile with my relatively old gcc. And I would decide to upgrade
> gcc. I wouldn't know why the system is not using the newer gcc, and then,
> not being that noob, I would unmerge the old gcc, in the hope that the new
> gcc would come in effect. It still wouldn't, so I would update environment
> etc, but that wouldn't help either. And then I would take the plunge,
> without knowing that I was about to, and reboot. And nothing would work
> anymore! All applications would bail out for missing glibc. So I would
> realize I've lost glibc, and apps were compiled against the old one. So I
> would again try to emerge the old one, and even python would complain for
> the lib! Wow! That IS stranded. Then, and only then, would I get to know
> that there's a full Gentoo gcc upgrade guide.
> That I was able to put back my system did have a good effect - it raised
> my confidence in my hack-debug-skills. But then what would I do?
> An "emerge -eav system" and then "emerge -eav world". And then I will
> realize ebuilds for half of my packages don't exist anymore!
> I'm still not saying Gentoo package management is bad. But is it useful at
> all? A system which CAN benefit from compile optimization benefits would
> die compiling packages before they can be used. A system that can compile
> fast doesn't need those optimizations. And even the never-beatable
> dependency management goes for a ride when you upgrade 200 packages (half
> of them being kde) at a go. And gcc upgrade remains dirty - all it has is
> some suite of grep-based scripts, in addition to usual emerge.
> If one has still to upgrade all 100-200 packages, wouldn't bins/rpms be
> better?
> "Murphy's Law of Gentoo installation: If a compile can fail, it will."
> -- source:
> What is it called? Ubuntu? Or Fedora? ...
> Manu.

And you know what? I forgot to mention the funniest idea they have in
emerge - once in a while, a package emerge would beep for 10 seconds,
trying to draw your attention to a super-important message about a followup
action to the installation, maybe even something like "follow the gcc
upgrade guide". And that will happen in a compile of 4 hours on a P4 with
abundant RAM, after which the compile will spit enough to drive out the
message from display cache. Do they expect us to sit and stare at the
compile all this while?

All this leaves me wondering. Was he so out of touch after all? Looking at the need to upgrade his gcc for the valknut upgrade, it hints that he hadn’t updated his system in a long-time. And that too, long enough not to realize that there’s a proper way to upgrade his gcc. He unmerged his gcc! At least, he could’ve unmerged it with the = and version number…

emerge -Cav =sys-devel/gcc-3.4.6-r4

(assuming that 3.4.6-r4 was the old version he was trying to get rid of). It still is a mystery why he had to do that when he could’ve googled to figure out that there’s a handy tool called gcc-config.
About the info warn qa messages – he should’ve made use of the ELOG system the recent versions of portage come with.
Here’s a snip of the /etc/make.conf.example

# logging related variables:
# PORTAGE_ELOG_CLASSES: selects messages to be logged, possible values are:
# info, warn, error, log, qa
# Warning: commenting this will disable elog
PORTAGE_ELOG_CLASSES="warn error log"

# PORTAGE_ELOG_SYSTEM: selects the module(s) to process the log messages. Modules
# included in portage are (empty means logging is disabled):
# save (saves one log per package in $PORT_LOGDIR/elog,
# /var/log/portage/elog if $PORT_LOGDIR is unset)
# custom (passes all messages to $PORTAGE_ELOG_COMMAND)
# syslog (sends all messages to syslog)
# mail (send all messages to the mailserver defined
# save_summary (like "save" but merges all messages
# in $PORT_LOGDIR/elog/summary.log,
# /var/log/portage/elog/summary.log if
# $PORT_LOGDIR is unset)
# mail_summary (like "mail" but sends all messages in
# a single mail when emerge exits)
# To use elog you should enable at least one module

# PORTAGE_ELOG_COMMAND: only used with the "custom" logging module. Specifies a command
# to process log messages. Two variables are expanded:
# ${PACKAGE} - expands to the cpv entry of the processed
# package (see $PVR in ebuild(5))
# ${LOGFILE} - absolute path to the logfile
# Both variables have to be quoted with single quotes
#PORTAGE_ELOG_COMMAND="/path/to/logprocessor -p '\${PACKAGE}' -f '\${LOGFILE}'"

# PORTAGE_ELOG_MAILURI: this variable holds all important settings for the mail
# module. In most cases listing the recipient address and
# the receiving mailserver should be sufficient, but you can
# also use advanced settings like authentication or TLS. The
# full syntax is:
# address [[user:passwd@]mailserver[:port]]
# where
# address: recipient address
# user: username for smtp auth (defaults to none)
# passwd: password for smtp auth (defaults to none)
# mailserver: smtp server that should be used to deliver the mail (defaults to localhost)
# alternatively this can also be a the path to a sendmail binary if you don't want to use smtp
# port: port to use on the given smtp server (defaults to 25, values > 100000 indicate that starttls should be used on (port-100000))
# Examples:
#PORTAGE_ELOG_MAILURI="root@localhost localhost" (this is also the default setting)
#PORTAGE_ELOG_MAILURI="user@some.domain mail.some.domain" (sends mails to user@some.domain using the mailserver mail.some.domain)
#PORTAGE_ELOG_MAILURI="user@some.domain user:secret@mail.some.domain:100465" (this is left uncommented as a reader exercise ;)

# PORTAGE_ELOG_MAILFROM: you can set the from-address of logmails with this variable,
# if unset mails are sent by "portage" (this default may fail
# in some environments).

# PORTAGE_ELOG_MAILSUBJECT: template string to be used as subject for logmails. The following
# variables are expanded:
# ${PACKAGE} - see description of PORTAGE_ELOG_COMMAND
# ${HOST} - FQDN of the host portage is running on
#PORTAGE_ELOG_MAILSUBJECT="package \${PACKAGE} merged on \${HOST} with notice"

It was all there. Gentoo might not be just about optimizations. There’s unlimited scope for flexibility here. A little reading up saves a hell lot of headache later. And, why do you have to read so much? Because, probably, it was your choice to use Gentoo in the first place – and Gentoo doesn’t come to you as a desktop-distribution but as a meta-distribution. Do the initial setup well and live happily ever after.

Written by Naresh

March 28, 2007 at 1:18 am

Posted in College Life, Newsgroups, Software

Tagged with , ,