I’m free, and things *work*

Woo! Yesterday marked my last day of finals. Though now I’m finding that I miss my classes. Ah well, plenty to do this summer.

The computer situation has been fixed. The motherboard, it seems, had some “issues.” On top of that, two drives were going bad. The reason for all the lockups and kernel panics were probably a result of bad sectors where the virtual memory was. So now I have a new, better motherboard and a replacement harddrive for the two that were failing.

Oh, but now that that’s all fixed up, the mouse decided it’s time to die. No real surprise there.

I wonder what I’m going to do with 8 USB ports and 3 firewire ports…

Computer Issues and Filesystem Corruption

It’s never a good thing when your daily alarm on your computer (which is basically XMMS here) doesn’t go off in the morning. Seeing the keyboard LEDs blinking and a frozen screen saver aren’t much better. Once again, this new box kernel panicked in the middle of the night.

I’m not sure whether to blame the hardware, or the 2.4.26 kernel. The RAM checked out fine, and nearly everything works otherwise, with a few exceptions. My IntelliMouse Explorer keeps losing the ability to function, and I have to unplug it from the USB port and plug it back in every 20 minutes or so. I replaced mice, and it seems to work now. However, now the IntelliMouse is working fine in the iMac. I can’t tell if the mouse is going dead or if it’s a kernel issue.

I couldn’t get 2.4.26 working on the server box (which used to be my main desktop). It would lose all network connectivity, no matter what I did. Oddly, the same configuration works on this box, using the same network card. I suspect 2.4.26 is just a buggy kernel, but I haven’t seen a whole lot from other people to indicate that.

So anyhow, this morning, I rebooted and it came up with a whole bunch of filesystem errors. All kinds of stuff. Several of the errors said, "attempt to read block from filesystem resulted in short read." A quick google search indicates that this could be the disk going bad, so I’m sure I’m in for a lot of fun these next few days. Fortunately, the only data I lost were a bunch of KDE .desktop files and some .m4 files that apparently weren’t even lost. No clue what happened there. *sigh*

Some days, I really miss using my Commodore 64.

Random Stuff

Well, finals week is coming up. I feel relatively confident in my ability to pass my finals, though regardless, I’m not looking forward to them :). Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to prepare for school-related things the past few days.

Accident

Last night, my grandparents got into a car accident while leaving town to take a trip to Sacramento. They’re alright, though in some pain. It doesn’t look like anything is broken though. When we saw the name of our local hospital on the caller ID last night, we tensed up. I’m just glad everything turned out as good as it did.

Fun With The Girls

I’m probably taking a few of the girls to the local Concert In The Park this Saturday. It’d be a fun night of music, food, and whatever. A few of us went out last Thursday for the Farmer’s Market. We shopped around, bought presents for my friend Dell, and got ice cream. The following day was Dell’s birthday, which ended up lasting 2-3 days for some of us. Great weekend. Hopefully we’ll manage to do that more often, especially with summer coming up.

Galago

I managed to hit a rather annoying bug in galago-daemon. While I’m certain it’ll turn out to be a very simple, couple-line fix, I haven’t had the time to go and actually fix it. As soon as finals are over, I plan to get things ready for a 0.1 release, and write up the protocol docs.

Goodbye, server. I’ll miss you.

Yesterday at approximately 09:12 PST, my server died. This was bad timing, but wasn’t really unexpected. It’s about 8 years old, and has spent the last 5 or 6 years of its life running Linux. It has only been turned off 2 or 3 times a year, and those times were a result of power outages or hardware upgrades.

The timing was unfortunate, but I managed to get up and running again by the time I went to bed. Yeah, it took all day. I ended up turning my desktop into the server and just put the old drives in it. The server went from a 166MHz Pentium with 96MB of RAM to a 1GHz P3 with 512MB RAM. My new desktop is a 2.4GHz P4 with 512MB RAM. I went ahead and upgraded the video card and CD-RW while I was at it. It’s nice and fast so far.

I’ll have to give the old server a proper burial. It’s been good to me.

Updated: 5-May-2004, 14:40: That’s the last time I write a blog entry when I’ve been awake no more than 10 minutes, especially after getting almost no sleep. Hopefully now, some of the above will be more clear.

Gmail

Being an active user of Blogger.com when Google purchased it, my brother was offered a gmail.com account roughly a week ago. As part of this, after several days of use, he was given the ability to invite two people. One of the people he chose was me.

So far, I’m quite impressed with what Google has done here, though not surprised. When Google sets their mind to something, they seem to usually do it right. The interface is very clean, and nearly everything you see is something you will regularly use. That is quite different from the webmail interfaces I’ve used previously.

I use mutt for all my e-mail, as I can simply SSH in from school and send mail or check discussions. Another reason for using mutt is the keyboard shortcuts. I can get around pretty quickly without using the mouse. Those two reasons are why I currently do not use Evolution for all my e-mail, and the keyboard issue is why I’ve never used webmail systems.

Gmail solves the issue of using my e-mail remotely, which isn’t surprising. It is, after all, a webmail system. What did surprise me was the fact that it has keyboard shortcut support, and let me tell you, it works well. I can quickly jump to my inbox (g, i), read a message (enter) and all its threads (or in gmail terms, “conversations” — more on this in a second). If I hit r, it lets me reply to an e-mail. Hit c, and I can compose a new e-mail. There’s far more than that, and I would link to the list of shortcuts, but it appears you must be a gmail.com subscriber first.

E-mails are represented in an interesting fashion. Instead of threads, you have “conversations.” These look like stacked cards. You can see them below:

gmail.com conversation stacks

The first unread e-mail in a conversation is presented first. Each e-mail shows the name and e-mail address of the sender and the date/time sent, or how long ago it was sent. If the e-mail is partially covered, it will show a snippet of text from the e-mail. Multiple e-mails can be shown at once, or you can hide all but one, if you choose. It’s flexible, and it works. If you’d rather see the quoted text from the previous e-mail, click the little “Show quoted text” link and it’ll just unfold. No reloading or anything silly.

Conversations take up a single entry in the Inbox. You can see a list of the contributors in the conversation, how many unread messages it contains, and then the label (more on that in a sec), the subject, a snippet of text, and the date/time info. When a conversation has a new, unread e-mail, it will appear at the top of the Inbox. Clicking it will bring you back to the conversation view with the unread e-mails unfolded.

Gmail has a hidden frame or something that it reloads regularly. When it does this, it checks for new mail. If it finds new mail, it will update the interface. No more periodic reloading of the entire page, or manual reloading.

Labels are one of gmail’s ways of organizing e-mails. A label is like a folder, except that multiple labels can be assigned to an e-mail. You can quickly set labels on a per-e-mail/conversation basis, or through filters. Clicking the label in the Labels box on the left of gmail’s interface will display all e-mails with that label. For quick reference, each e-mail will have its attached labels prepended to the subject.

Stars are another method of organization. If there’s a particular thread you wish to follow, click the star next to it. It will automatically appear in your Starred mailbox (keyboard shortcut g-s).

The search features work wonderfully, and should be included in every e-mail client. You can put in a simple search for anything and get immediate results, or click “Show search options” to be more specific.

The overall interface for gmail is lightweight, and very responsive. I never find myself waiting for anything, and I can get around to any e-mail effortlessly. It doesn’t behave like a webpage, rather it’s more like an actual application.

Like other e-mail applications, gmail has a handy Check Spelling option when composing conversations. It doesn’t check on the fly, but rather when you wish to check, you click the little link. It’ll replace the textbox with some custom javascript control of some kind, and highlight all misspelled words. The traditional pop-up menu with suggested replacements and an option for editting the dictionary is available for all misspelled words. When finished, click “Resume editting” and you’re back in business.

gmail.com conversation stacks

For those who keep address book entries (Gmail automatically helps with this a bit), Gmail also provides auto-complete in the To: box.

gmail.com conversation stacks

Finally, I’d like to comment on the ads that struck so much controversy. For those who don’t know, when you read an e-mail, “Sponsored Links” appear on the right of the e-mail box. These are often related to the e-mail in some way. For example, a conversation on gaim-devel talking about various IM and networking protocols produces ads for “Tcp/ip Protocols” and “Network Protocol Poster.” I haven’t found them to be annoying, and at least right now, Google doesn’t put any ads in the e-mails you write.

Underneath the Sponsored Links is a list of Related Pages. Sometimes. These don’t always show up, but when they do, they’re usually relevant in some way. However, I think that they may need some work.

Overall, I’m very impressed with Gmail. I will be using it for some time, though it probably won’t be my primary e-mail interface. I figure I’ll subscribe some of my listservs to it and use its powerful search capabilities. And you’ve got to love that “You are currently using 0MB (0%) of your 1000MB.”