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Volume 9, Issue 122; 18 Dec 2006; last modified 08 Oct 2010

The thing about digital technology is, either it works or it doesn't.

A distributed system is one in which the failure of a computer you didn't even know existed can render your own computer unusable.

Leslie Lamport

Epigraphs aside, the computer in question was my own laptop. Halfway through a telcon (one for which I was chair and scribe, of course, because Murphy has a perverse sense of humor), my laptop went “click”. Black screen: no input, no output. Not even over ssh, so it wasn't simply an X11 issue.

Reboot, get back to where I was, “click”.


As it turns out, I'd run apt-get upgrade that morning and gotten a new kernel. So I spent half the day trying to back out the obviously busted upgrade. Long story short, it wasn't the upgrade. Confirmation came when it did exactly the same thing in the middle of restoring Windows (because IBM support doesn't support Linux). Twice. It also died running a memory test overnight.

Curiously, it went through the IBM PC Doctor diagnostics without tripping. So while it's boxed up now and on its way to be repaired, I'm a little worried that they're going to have difficulty reproducing the problem.

It took a day and a half, more or less, to get the environment on my desktop box back into workable shape and copy all the data off my laptop hard disk.

I did bungle the DSPAM install though. As a result, I wound up with nearly 2,000 spam messages to sort through by hand. If you sent me mail in the last five to seven days, expected a timely reply, and haven't heard from me, you might want to try again. It's certainly possible that I dropped some mail on the floor.

Now if I can just get used to the layout on this desktop keyboard…


Keyboard layouts...

Here they only sell laptops with UK layout. Like the US layout I've grown accustomed to, but with subtle, thus annoying differences (reversed @ and ", to name one). I've tried it all - ordering a US keyboard for the laptop itself - possible but prohibitively expensive. Getting a external USB keyboard with UK layout, and then get used to using UK. Got two of them, but they have those small changes - like Ins/Del Home/End Pup/Pdn is laid out vertical instead of horizontal which you never get used to.

Now I simply always use US layout, whatever the actual layout is, don't look and hammer away. Works as long as I don't look.

—Posted by Marc de Graauw on 18 Dec 2006 @ 08:00 UTC #

Hi Norm; this is somewhat off-topic: whom is your first quotation from? Is it from Leslie Lamport also, or from someone else?

—Posted by Aristotle Pagaltzis on 20 Dec 2006 @ 09:11 UTC #

The first quotation? You mean "The thing about digital technology..."? That's just the abstract for this essay. I think I made it up, but I suppose it could be a subconscious recollection of someone else's quotation.

—Posted by Norman Walsh on 20 Dec 2006 @ 09:21 UTC #

Ah. Well, I loved it so I wanted an accurate attribution before quoting it myself, but because of the formatting I wasn’t sure whether your Lamport attribution applied to it or only to “the other quote,” and Google found it only in your entry and syndicated copies of your entry. From that confusion arose my question. Thanks.

—Posted by Aristotle Pagaltzis on 20 Dec 2006 @ 10:17 UTC #