Sunday, October 15, 2006

An Autumnal Saturday Update

Today it was chilly enough that we could no longer deny the arrival of fall. So we fired up the woodstove. Our cats are psyched -- they're sleeping soundly in the living room, which is where our stove is. One is sprawled right in front of the stove. The heat is quite nice and cozy.

Yesterday I successfully purchased whole milk. A few days earlier I had attempted to purchase whole milk but got non-fat milk instead,. I realized why I made the mistake. At the store there are two brands of organic milk, and each occupies one row in a particular refrigerator case. On one row the milk is arranged left to right, in order of increasing milkfat content. One the row below, milkfat decreases as one goes left to right. Unnecessarily confusing.

An additional clarification about milk. A friend who is a milk fanatic read my previous entry and responded very enthusiastically. However, I don't drink milk. Nor does Doreen. A few weeks ago we got a yogurt maker and we use the milk to make yogurt. It's quite good. We also got a an ice cream maker at the same time we got the yogurt maker. So we've also been using the milk to make various ice creams. I can't remember the last time I drank a glass of milk, but it must have been a long, long time ago. I don't really have anything against milk, it's just pretty far down on a list of fluids that I'd like to drink.

In other news, Thursday afternoon/evening I did some routine upgrading of various software packages on my laptop. Everything seemed to go fine -- I just set it to do a bunch of upgrades while I was doing work on my desktop at school. However, when I got home and tried to turn it was clear that something had gone horribly wrong. The machine didn't even boot -- it would hang part way through. Hitting "control-alt-backspace" got me into terminal mode and a login prompt. However, after typing in my username I would instantly get another login prompt, and never a prompt for a password. I was quickly in a state of despair.

I spent a good bit of time Friday and today figuring out what went wrong and fixing it. It turns out that there were two things that got messed up when upgrading. First, I updated PAM modules, which are used for login authentication, among other things. However, the net result was that certain PAM libraries were simply missing, which is why I couldn't log in at all. As if this wasn't enough, upgrading gtk2 had somehow messed up the ability for lots of graphical programs to handle png image files. The result of this was that these programs sometimes just crashed or hung. This included the graphical stuff that happens when the machine boots. Once I got rid of the new version of gtk2 and re-installed the old one, things were back to normal.

So I've spent much more time than I had planned the past few days dealing with my laptop. I had been living a charmed life computationally -- I hadn't had a crash or any sort of incident in a very, very long time. Some bad karma must have caught up with me on Thursday. Both snafus seem very weird, and it's even weirder that they occurred at the same time.

Tomorrow will be a day of yardwork and much grading.

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