Books discarded

What I forgot to mention in my last posting was how many books we managed to weed out. Well, we don’t know exactly, but it’s probably about 500 or so.

We ought to know exactly. As we laboriously went through each box, we marked them off in our spreadsheet. Unfortunately, something weird happened to the spreadsheet about six boxes before we were done, and we lost most of this effort. (Note: we were editing the spreadsheet in OpenOffice on Linux. This may have been an unfortunate accident…but maybe not. On Saturday evening, we almost lost a lot of work when Linux seemed to freeze up entirely. The hard disks were thrashing like crazy, so something was happening–just not in the GUI, which was effectively dead. Yes, I’m having some murmerings of dissatisfaction with this year’s Linux.)

So anyway, we’ll need to go through the boxes of discards (seven of them, plus a large Ikea paper bag) in order to cross them off our list. This isn’t actually a bad thing, because we also need to sort them according to how we want to get rid of them. Some are eBay-able, we think, while some are destined to return to the great charity shop in the sky (or Barnardos, whichever is closer).

I guess that’s next weekend’s activities taken care of, then.

Weekend workout

Phew. What a weekend. It started off very early on Saturday morning. Alex woke up crying before six. I got up and took him though to the spare bedroom, to see if he would go back to sleep with me there, but he squirmed and moaned and didn’t really want to lie still. I think I dozed off a few times, but at about seven he really wanted to get up.

We went downstairs, and I gave him some juice, and then some Weetabix, and then he threw it all up. Over me, the couch, and himself.

But that was the worst of it. He still felt rotten, but he was clearly relieved that his tummy didn’t feel so bad any more. And it kick-started us into the rest of the day: Alex shower-monkeyed with me, and we got clean while Abi got up and whipped the covers off of the couch downstairs and started stuffing them through the laundry. (Big bonus points to Abi for having the foresight to have bought two sets of covers when we got the sofa!) Then after Alex was dressed, I did all the dishes that had been piling up. After that, we put the other covers on the sofa, and suddenly the whole downstairs seemed clean and fresh again!

Alex fell asleep just before noon. Given that he’d had an interrupted night’s sleep, we fully expected him to sleep for a while, so I headed out to do some shopping. Alex was still asleep when I got back two hours later, and Abi only woke up briefly enough to say hello and settle back down again (she was napping, too; it was about two o’clock before we got to bed the night before, so Alex wasn’t the only one who didn’t get enough sleep). I unpacked the groceries, and then started installing Apache on my Linux box. But the tiredness caught up with me, too, so while the make process was running, I lay down on the sofa and took forty winks, too.

And that was just the start of the day. For the rest of Saturday, and most of today, we’ve been weeding the Sutherland library. We have about 2,500 books, most of them stored in boxes (23, before this weekend) up in our loft. A few years ago, we went through a phase of intensive second-hand book-buying. We targeted sections of Edinburgh, and then systematically trawled through every charity shop, picking up almost anything that looked like science fiction or fantasy. We would come home with 60 or 70 books crammed into our backpacks and shopping bags. There was never really any chance we would read all of them. A large proportion of them were junk that, realistically, we wouldn’t even want to read.

Also, over the years, we’ve bought a lot of books, read them, and just added them to the stacks without much really considering whether they’re worth keeping, or whether we’d ever read them again. Abi and I are both love books. They are very important to us, even just the fact of having them. The idea of buying a book, reading it, and immediately selling it on, giving it away, or even (gasp) throwing it out is quite alien to us.

Our habit is to buy books we think we’ll read, and put them on the shelves. Maybe we’ll read them, but then again maybe not. There are more books that we fancy reading (and buy) than we actually have time to consume. It’s a terrible thing, but these days I rarely get through more than one book a week, which is a paltry fifty books a year. I’d guess that when we got married back in 1993, Abi and I had maybe 500 books between us. That means we’ve been buying–on average–about 200 books a year.

But we don’t mind this. We don’t mind the idea that there are book we’ll buy that we’ll never read. They’re books that we might read, or that look interesting. Plus, they’re books. They’re our little paper friends.

But still…2,500 of them is quite a lot. And there really are some of them that we just don’t want any more. Books that we’d never read again, or books that, if we were honest with ourselves, we never had any intention of reading even when we bought them.

We have them all nicely catalogued, of course. A couple of weeks ago, we had both individually gone through the spreadsheet and marked off which books we thought we’d be happy to discard. The final exercise was to bring all the boxes down from the loft, and do a manual sort through them to see if there were any more that sprang out as obvious junkers, or whether any of the ones we’d marked were actually keepers.

We finished the process earlier this evening. Phew. Not only was it tough mentally and emotionally (putting away books is hard), but because we only have a ladder up to our loft, it was physically demanding, too (putting away boxes of books is hard). And of course, Alex wanted to help, so we had him to wrangle at the same time. We’re both going to be sore in the morning.

(In between the sorting and stacking, we found time to have a wee adventure today as well. We walked to Straiton Park, where we stopped of at Tk-Maxx and got me a nice new autumn jacket, and bought some stuff at Ikea. We had intended to just buy some more packing boxes, but they were out of stock. So we came back with a new chopping board, a wooden tray, and a packet of coat hangers instead. I like a fundamental law of nature: it’s not possible to visit Ikea and not buy anything. But we had a very nice walk out there–the haar didn’t close in until after we had got there.)

Phew, again. I think I’m going to sleep well tonight.

Networking with SuSE

Martin's Annual Linux Experience 2002Yesterday evening I installed the Samba package, so that Abi can now browse my machine over the network again, just as if I had been running Windows. The only difference being that it took me 2 hours to get set up, whereas on Windows XP it’s just a matter of clicking “Create new network share” or something simple like that.

Right now I’m trying to get network browsing working in the other direction, so that I can browse Abi’s laptop and our server. This, again, is not as easy a task as one would like it to be. Aparently KDE has modules included in it which allow LAN browsing. For some reason, SuSE appears not to have included these in the 8.1 Personal distribution. Maybe they think home users won’t be using Windows as well as Linux? Given all the other miscellaneous odds and ends that are included in the distribution, it’s hard to think why they would have left out what seems to me a fairly core piece of functionality.

But never mind, because we have broadband. This is allowing me to suck down the latest version of KDE (3.0.4, just released yesterday) in a reasonable time. Let’s see what happens…

Update: It works! And only a short trip into Dependency Hell. kdenetwork3-lisa installed without a hitch, but kdenetwork3-lan required me to grab kio-fish and smbclient, both of which were on the SuSE CDs. And after a little bit of twiddling with the LAN browing setup in the control panel, I was able to see our server. Yay!

Movable Type 2.5

Woo! Movable Type 2.5 is out! Happy Birthday MT!

I’m going to take some time to get to grips with the new features before actually installing it on sunpig. “Getting to grips with it” will involve getting it up and running locally, on my happy new Linux box, under Apache. It’s all a big, exciting adventure.

What I’ve learned so far

Martin's Annual Linux Experience 2002 Over the weekend I was ping-ponging back and forth between installations of Mandrake 9.0 and SuSE 8.1–I think a must have done about seven or eight of them in total. During the course of this experience, I learned a number of things:

  • Having your /home directory on a separate disk partition is a good thing. That way, you don’t lose all your personal settings and tweaks when you reformat and reinstall.
  • Mandrake 9.0 is much better than SuSE 8.1 about auto-detecting and enabling hardware. Mandrake picked up my PCMCIA wireless network card without any problems, and my MS Intellimouse, too. SuSE needed some twekaing to get both of these going.
  • Even if I tell YaST (the SuSE installer) during the hardware detection phase that I’m using a PCMCIA card, I still have to explicitly specify the PCMCIA package and tools in the package selection step, or it won’t install them.
  • Even when the PCMCIA tools are installed, I have to manually configure some variables in the file /etc/sysconfig/pcmcia (specifically, PCMCIA_PCIC=”i82365″)
  • Although SuSE picks up that I’m using an Intellimouse, it won’t enable the mouse wheel until I’ve manually specified that I want to use the “IMPS/2” driver (in the SaX2 configuration app), and added a line to my .xinitrc file to start up the imwheel service. (All described in /usr/share/doc/packages/imwheel/README, and in various newsgroup postings).
  • TrueType font support in KDE3 is much better than in previous versions. I was able to do a very simple import of all of the fonts I use in Windows, and they were available straight away.
  • On the other hand, the anti-aliasing and rendering of these fonts is still not as good as on Windows. And there are still far too many different places where you have to configure the fonts to make them work consistently across the system.
  • Install the STATIC version of Opera, not the dynamically linked one. Trying to install the dynamic version leads straight into Dependency Hell.
  • Double-clicking on a shell script in Konqueror will run the file rather than fire it up in a text editor. Obviously. (Even though it’s still just a text file…)
  • The .xinitrc shell script restarts the X server. Obviously. Don’t double-click it, thinking that it will open up in a text editor instead. When you still have work unsaved. Arse.
  • KBear is a nice, graphical FTP client. That’s my replacement for WS-FTP sorted.
  • KMail is an elegant replacement for Outlook Express, and it will even import messages and folders from an OE message store. Unfortunately it doesn’t import the OE folder hierarchy. Also unfortunately, you can’t drag and drop folders into other folders. So I spent a long time going into each folder’s preferences, and setting its parent folder from a drop-down list.
  • I’m still looking for a replacement for my favourite text editor (TextPad), though. Emacs and vi are just silly, unless you either a) enjoy the pain of obscure user interfaces, or b) have worked with them for long enough that you don’t notice the pain any more. jEdit looks like it’ll work, until I find something better.

I have a lot more to explore, but for the moment, the system feels moderately comfortable. It will definitely take a lot more tweaking to get me completely happy with it. Whether I stick with it this year will depend on how quickly I get too frustrated with all the effort that goes into tweaking…