B.E. (Comp. Sys. Eng.)
also known as zed
& handle of notzed
Summer Cruising aka Long Service Leave
Overcrowding at Grange at midday.
The warm weather is winding down here but I did get a chance to
get to the beach a couple of times. The water was a little brisk
but on the refreshing end rather than numb appendages end of the
I didn't get there as much as one would like but then our summer
was a bit of a fizzer, I think we only had a couple of days over
40 and not many more over 35. After a dry winter we've had a
drier summer so the garden needed constant watering, the veggies
were a bit shit but i should be getting a decent crop of chillies
- the only problem is they're about 2 months too late and will
shortly stop growing but maybe some of the ones in the pots will
keep going for a bit longer if i can find a sunnier spot in the
Apart from that I'm just trying to enjoy my `long service leave'
of indeterminable length. I've had some jobs suggested to me but
it just turns my mind off, I feel really burnt out still. I've
been trying to get into various hobbies from photography to video
games to electronics, cooking, wood/metal work, sewing, reading
... but I just can't seem to get past a littler tinkering before
losing interest in most things. I guess I need some specific
projects, I should finish my workbench for one but it's a bit
tricky getting shit without a car.
Trying to keep active socially as well, spending too much time at
pubs and bars (which is getting a bit bloody expensive these days)
but also trying to visit friends more often. Cycling a lot more
than I have done in a long time although far short of where I've
been in the past. Walking quite a lot. I lost a little weight
and gained a lot of fitness at least. My broken hip hurts pretty
much constantly but it isn't enough to bother me most of the time
and whilst being active brings different pains it's better than
sitting for lengthy periods so that's another factor driving me
off my arse and potentially out of the house.
My "new" computer isn't doing much - it's just a web box most of
the time. I keep the kernel and Slackware-current updated and
have been keeping a loose eye on technology like Java but it's
more out of habit than anything. I'm not doing any hacking - i'm
still using playerz every day to play music but I was half-way
through some work on playlists when I stopped. I guess the
weather's been too good a lot of the time to waste it inside
Quit my job!
Decided to finally pull the pin on work. It's been coming for
years but some issues regarding long service leave and some
minor conflicts with the new manager finally tipped me over.
It's uncanny just how much my mood has lifted since the decision
to leave - and is still up there a week later after a bit of a
hard slog working on handover material.
I have absolutely no plans! I've got savings enough to tide me
over for an extended period so I don't even have to rush to look
Not sure what else i'll get up to but i'm sure along the way i'll
have time to dabble in more Free Software than I have for a while
and maybe start interacting with the wider "commnity" more. The
music player continues to come along too and more on that later.
playerz: a music player
I got sick of mocp crashing every couple of days so i've finally
got the music player I was working on last year into a state good
enough to replace what I was using it for. It's still early alpha
software and I don't have a project page for it or any
documentation but the code is
It requires an old version
possibly the earliest that was checked in but I haven't checked.
Originally I was coding this for a beagleboard or the like where
the player would be used without a graphical interface. It would
automatically detect and scan new media and remember old media so
re-inserting media would be fast. I also experimented with a 'talking' menu driven by a remote (Mele airmouse). Since i've now moved my old pc
to under the TV i'm just targeting that now.
It consists of a bunch of services which comminucate using posix
Plays the music and allows navigation forward/reverse
through the (shuffled) playlist. A rudimentary 'talking menu'
has been implemented using espeak-ng but seems broken at the
ffmpeg is used to parse and decode the media and to perform
automatic volume leveling, and ALSA is used for audio output.
Recursively scans mounted disks (or directories) looking for
music files and gathers metadata from them and writes them to
an index. It handles re-scans efficiently by only scanning for
changes. It also generates the shuffle table across all files.
lmdb is used for the database backend.
Monitors a raw input device for user input and sends
commands off to the player. It is hard-coded to the
Mele air-mouse but due to some issues with the USB stack
device naming in Linux it can't always find the mouse device
which is used for some of the controls.
Checks for removable media to become available or be removed
via raw kernel UEVENTs. New media is mounted read-only and
passed to the disk indexer for a (re)scan. Removed media is
marked as unavailable.
A command line tool to send various commands to the player
such as next or previous and so on.
mocp was having trouble with a collection of about 160K music
files I have, and the TUI was pretty slow every time I started it.
Indexing same said files takes about 20 minutes with playerz (I
dunno roughly on par with mocp?) but restarting the player is
I'm doing some web stuff for work at the moment so will probably
look at some web control stuff, although for now the Mele
air-mouse does most of what I need (skip to next song).
Even though i've done fuck all this year i'm getting a bit sick of
work. Nothing interesting to work on and the company I work for
has been trying to bilk me out of long service leave (13 weeks
paid time off) - something I should have had 5 years ago. Really
just want to retire but i'm a bit too young yet for that even if I
have really nothing to work for anymore.
Still going though.
At some point a few months ago I almost completely lost interest
in coding - my new computer has just been collecting dust. This
is the first time i've turned it on in a couple of months, and all
I did at that time was upgrade the kernel. Same with this time
actually but I also upgraded netbeans to 12.0 because I wasn't
doing anything else.
Work is super-slow, partly due to COVID, partly due to timing with
respect to breaking my leg, partly the project i'm on and a good
dose of I don't give a fuck.
I've been spending a lot of time alone at home, again partly due
to COVID but also plenty of I don't give a fuck. Even on a cold
day if there's sun about sitting in the backyard with a book and
some (nettle) tea is preferrable to drinking beer alone in a cold
pub. I seem to feel the cold terribly these days. I'm getting
out when I feel the need to, the feeling comes and goes.
I've spent a bit of time playing games, mostly No Man's Sky and a
lot of Dreams. Once I got to >$U 4billion in NMS there doesn't
seem much point since I avoid the multiplayer but I still go poke
around every now and then to see what's cooking.
Dreams is a lot more interesting so i've spent a lot of time in
that. I worked on a few starts of games, but I find desiging
levels isn boring as fuck so I usually don't get past working out
the base gameplay and a demo level. Dreams logic is very limited
so it makes doing much with it a bit difficult, but just the
challenge of those restrictions is entertaining enough, at least
in measured doses. There's some really impressive stuff in there
though if you can find it. Should be interesting to see what the
PS5 can do with it, and if there's a new PSVR coming.
Till next time ...
New PC Gets a Box
I finally built a box for the
bought back in December.
It's very red. Not quite AMD red but I had the paint from the
speakers and it's still AMDish. It cost $90 for a litre, you
might be seeing more of it.
I made it out of 12mm MDF. MDF really sucks, it's heavy and it's
fragile but its' cheap and available - here in Adelaide you
can't get much (for any decent price) and I don't have the
machinery to dress wood anyway.
Because you need to take the lid off to get to the insides you
can't just screw into the MDF directly, partly with 12mm board.
So you need to get some way of strengthening the wood.
The threaded-insert 'nut' screws into wood using an Allen
Key and the M6 bolt goes into that. It means you can screw
and unscrew many times without fowling the wood.
The only part I could find locally was an M6 screw insert but it
requires a 9mm hole so it's too wide for the 12mm MDF. So I had
to create wooden lugs to mount these. I was going to try using
MDF but it just seemed like too much risk with such shitty wood
and it would make drilling the holes more difficult and require
more days for glue to set and so on. I used some salvaged scrap
and mounted them using 2 screws to the MDF (and glue).
The initial design document and cutting plan. Initially I
was going to mount the fans externally but changed my mind.
I also kept thinking I was working with 11mm MDF hence the
172mm front panel (needs to be 174mm!).
I started with a 450mmx1800mm piece and used under half - I got
my brother to buy it when I was on crutches and I hadn't worked
out a design yet. I cut 2x280mm pieces, which I then cut a
150mm strip from each - these became the sides and top and
bottom. Then I cut one more 174mm strip which became the front
with a small piece of scrap. Basically the sides go the full
length of the case, and front end-caps everything.
The outdoor workshop. The weather was nice so I took
advantage of it. My shed (quite new) is not ready yet and
full of dust and shit and doesn't have a proper floor.
So I didn't take any photos until I had the box nearly done so
I'll briefly describe the steps. First I cut all the pieces and
sanded down the edges. In particular the top and bottom pieces
had to be true and square on at least 3 sides. I worked out
where I was going to mount the top fans and cut the holes for
those using a jigsaw, a compass helps to centre the circle
I don't have any corner clamps so instead i used a square and a
square piece of wood (the 'scrap' from the cutting) to align one
piece at a time, glue and screw, clamp, and leave overnight to
set. I did that for the bottom first. Then I did it with the
top, also ensuring it was parallel to the bottom and square to
the front. And finally the front could just be screwed and
glued on. Fool: I didn't roughen up the flat of the MDF
enough so the glue isn't as strong as it should be - after all
the painting and sanding the rear top began to split off but
only a few mm worth (I'd kept the screws out while I was
I had intended to use some dowels, I even bought an overpriced
dowel jig for the purpose - but I bought the wrong sized dowels
(I think they were on the wrong hook in the shop and I didn't
check) and the dowel jig was absolute junk. I got one OK hole
and then it wouldn't sit in the right place. Helped by the
fucking shitty 'dowel drills' which I also bought which just
weren't straight. $130 down the drain basically. Fuck
Bunnings. Why does everything they sell have to be fucking
Once I had a box to work with I set about solving how to mount
the side panel. I cut a strip from a bit of old wood and then
made lugs out of them. For the threaded insert I did an 8.5mm
hole deep and a 9mm hole half way for an extra-snug fit. It was
tricky screwing them in straight. Idiot: I should've spent
more time squaring up the strips! Luckily it's good enough.
I decided to go with screws to mount the lugs, which I
countersunk. The screws are just at the limit of fitting
within the 12mm MDF but they seem OK. Later on I glued them
in place as well.
I drilled the holes in the front panel. First a couple by
measurements then I made a pin to drop into the inserts which
marked the spot. I should've got some dowel markers - should've
just got those instead of the shitty jig in the first place.
Mistakes were made, not the last. I countersunk them to match
the stainless steel bolts and then screwed it all together.
Then took a couple of afternoons to sand it all square.
Next was positioning and mounting. The hard constraint was at
the top - where the fans go. At the bottom the GPU and the lugs
collide so that set another hard limit, and the PSU just had go
to where it fit. I think I should've positioned the mounting
board a bit further toward the bottom (right) but it's no big
deal and something that isn't too difficult to change.
Lets hear it for the fans.
The base-plate was from an old PC I took apart years ago to build
a small case (which I never built), I'd chopped it up for an ITX
board with a single slot which just happened to be almost
exactly right but I did trim it a bit further to give more
options for the PSU. I just screwed it to the wood with tiny
PSU mounting details. Also a good shot of the threaded insert
mounting lug for the side panel.
The PSU was more work, I went through a couple of ideas but
settled on a pair of brackets. A small angle on the bottom and
a corner bracket for the top, leaving room for cables, airflow
and any front-panel stuff behind it. The power cord was quite a
problem, I had to hack away most of the cable support plastic
and even the front so the IEC plug pushed in far enough and the
wires didn't stick into the fan. At the time the modular power
cables from the output were pressing up against the GPU so I
couldn't move the PSU any further away from the fans - but with
some adjustments I made more room. So the PSU could potentially
be moved but I haven't done so and the IEC cable would still
need some hacking anyway.
Everything in place, doing some heat testing.
It took me a while to work out how to create support for the PCI
bracket. A flat bit of metal? Some angle? The problem is that
the IO panel and the GPU and the rest of the design mean I can't
just use a piece of wood as the back plate as there isn't
enough support area or there's no way to then get the computer
together. And that means any PCI support wont be well supported
either. I toyed with using the PCI mounting plate from the
computer I'd chopped up but I couldn't quite work out a way to
mount it (actually in hindsight this is one reason the base
plate is where it is, it was just enough for 4 slots with the
board against the base). That probably would've worked but
instead I went with using a piece of square tubing. I cut a
slot out at the bottom of the tubing so that it slides onto the
end of the PCI bracket, and then I use another pair of lugs to
mount the bar to the case.
It's a bit tight and probably slightly out of position but it's
solid and supports the card well.
So I put it all together and started doing some heat testing. I
made some vents in the side panel based on the position of the
GPU and other constraints like the mounting lugs. The upper
vents align with the GPU vents on this particular GPU.
The idea is the bottom ones feed cold air to everything and the
higher ones can vent some GPU exhaust if they get hot. In
practice air just seems to come from all of them. My GPU fan
never goes above the bottom rate anyway, I don't play games so
it isn't doing much more than running the desktop now.
More heat testing.
I normally run eco mode (65W) on the Ryzen 3900X, but I turned
that off to try it out. Running blender and the Mandelbrot
OpenCL stuff from the previous blog the CPU got up to about 81C
and the GPU in the 70s. There was a bit of a hot-spot near the
front end of the GPU but it didn't seem too bad.
On the other hand the cables were stuffed in pretty badly,
particularly behind the PSU and up against the GPU. So I worked
out a way to fold them and tie them up and it improved airflow
quite a bit. I also chopped up the HDD cable from the PSU and
soldered on one of the fans - this motherboard only has a single
fan header, and I got the PWM fans. It works better if they're
both on 'flat out' anyway - they're only low rpm fans and it
keeps the CPU cooler so it makes less noise. There's a shot
later with this one.
Second undercoat drying.
Painting. It sucks. You paint, you clean, you sand, you paint,
you clean, you sand. Makes a mess. Stinks. Expensive.
Actually before I painted it I detailed it.
- Added a 45° bevel to all the main edges. It's
simple, helps protect the edges and I think it looks nice. I
used a trimmer router for this.
- Added a smaller bevel to the case-side edges of the side
panel and the corresponding edges on the main box. To
protect the edges for a removable part but also to 'hide'
any small misalignment.
- Cleaned up the fan holes - made them round and square.
- Cleaned up the vent holes.
- Created a hole in the front for the power switch.
After final coat. The enamel needs sanding with wet and dry
sandpaper with water, otherwise it clogs up the sandpaper.
Water and red dust just makes more mess.
And I fucked it up quite badly. 1x coat of sanding sealer, 3x
white undercoats, and 3x enamel overcoats ... but the final
overcoat is full of dust and hair and bubbles and isn't even
enough. It could probably be fixed with a sand and recoat - but
I just gave up.
I worked out later at least one mistake I made, shaking up the
can rather than stirring it aerated the paint which came out
when I used a roller. Oops.
Before I painted it I decided to cut matching slots on the other
side panel, to help airflow a bit more but mostly for
aesthetics. And of course I totally fucked it up - I put the
upper slots in the wrong place because I measured from the
inside and not the outside. Fucking idiot! That really pissed
me off for days but what can you do eh? The base plate was
always going to cover some of the upper rear slot but I could've
cut some of it away, but I just gave up.
Here I've mounted the power button as well. I don't know what
to do for the button - it's a bit fiddly making anything that
will push onto it, but it works as a 'hidden push-button' hole in
the case anyway.
I decided I should probably cover the fans, don't want a stray
screw falling inside or something. I used some aluminium fly
Nearly finished, fans, motherboard, power supply. Here the
cables have been tidied up. The reset switch is just hanging
out the back for now.
And that big-arse GPU is in now too! After tidying up the cables there is ample room.
I also detailed the galvanised square tubing - I ran a wire
brush over it with the drill to give it a satin finish and then
put on a couple of coats of Penetrol. I haven't used it before
but it's supposed to be 'the shit' for a natural metal finish (I
got it for my kilt belt buckle but haven't used it yet). The
steel bar doubles as a mounting point for the magnetic antenna
that came with the motherboard.
Due to the issues mentioned earlier there's no rear panel yet.
Maybe i'll do some steel and attach to the bar or something. In
hindesight the case could've been another 15mm long so the bar
could be recessed ... but it's too late now (unless I get a
shorter GPU). The case could have been any depth!
Despite 24 hours drying in good weather the Penetrol and paint
were still a little tacky feeling (or rather, set but soft).
Because of this I only did up the screws lightly, but perhaps I
should've waited a few more days for the paints to harden more.
I also should have sanded down the internal surfaces where the
paint created a thicker edge too, already a couple of bits have
pulled off but they're inside.
It is still on the dining table because my computer desk is occupied
with junk, my old Kaveri machine, and a giant old full-tower from work.
ZCL and Project Panama
So I've been really busy working on zcl again, porting it to the
Well that's after I ruffled some feathers on the mailing list, I
guess I just have strong opinions on C, but I thought I'd better
put my money where my mouth was before upsetting anyone too much.
To be honest the Oracle engineers have been the most polite and
overwhelmingly patient of all the projects I've interacted with
lately - guix guys just weren't very polite (that's not entirely
fair, some were nice), the google guys for clspv were just
condescending, and well the ffmpeg devs never did reply
to my patch for a kinect indev.
Anyway back to the topic at hand. I wrote a fairly rushed but
quite detailed overview of the issues I came across and some of
the features I implemented or needed to change. I titled
it JNI to
Java with project panama. The prose doesn't flow very well
but at least I ran it through ispell which is a habit I'm trying
to get into.
Even the lowly HD7970 with the Mesa Driver isn't bad. 1/4 rate
DP doesn't hurt this one.
Although it crashes after a few minutes from what looks like a
big leak in the OpenCL runtime.
I was originally just going to put into a readme in project
panamaz but since I got so far with the development I just
published it separately and created a new branch
in the zcl repository. The article above has some checkout
details about checking it out. It's still work in progress and
I'm still making some internal changes but I added a fun little
Mandelbrot zoomer to it. The javadocs are pretty shit but for
uploaded those too and will try to keep them relatively up to
date while I work on it.
I'm also using the project to experiment with
the maven and junit, and now a
demo-runner snippet for GNU
It was sort of because I was working in the panamaz project but I
wrote almost all of this new code in emacs rather than netbeans.
Damn I knew it pissed me off but I didn't realise it wasn't
writing Java that was the problem, netbeans keeps just fucking
getting in the way when you're trying to write code and those
interruptions constantly break you out of 'flow'. I mean the
completion and the real-time syntax checking is pretty good but I
don't know why the editor has to be such an annoying prick all the
Verified Maven Central from GNU Make
Well after the previous post I tried looking at the signature verification step. There isn't too much to it.
mkdir -p bin/lib
wget -O $$@ $(CENTRAL)/$(subst .,/,$1)/$2/$3/$2-$3.jar
wget -O $$@ $(CENTRAL)/$(subst .,/,$1)/$2/$3/$2-$3.jar.asc
gpg --batch --verify $$@ $$< || ( rm $$@ ; echo "GPG verification failed, you may need to import the public key." )
If it fails you need to import the keys using gpg manually. This
might be a bit annoying but otherwise you may as well not bother.
gpg will pass the check if the key simply exists in your key
store and ignores any trust setting, but that's just the way gpg works.
Maven Central from GNU Make
I had a look
yesterday. It's all driven by maven so that's a bit of a pain but
using the ant example I trivially converted it to use GNU make.
As expected, it's somewhat fewer lines of code to just use a
generic build tool than either of the other tools which are
specifically designed for Java projects. I will integrate it into
java.make eventually, although as I don't use any projects that
require it I haven't done that yet.
So for this prototyping example you just define a couple of
variables. The interesting one just lists the
group:artifact:version in a relatively simple/readable format.
And well that's about it. It hooks into the makefile system at
the right place to download the libraries. I don't do any
signature checks but I can't imagine that would be very to add
It only requires a simple macro to download the packages.
mkdir -p bin/lib
wget -O $$@ $(CENTRAL)/$(subst .,/,$1)/$2/$3/$2-$3.jar
$(foreach nver, $(CENTRAL_JARS), $(eval $(call maven_func,$(word 1,$(subst :, ,$(nver))),$(word 2,$(subst :, ,$(nver))),$(word 3,$(subst :, ,$(nver))))))
Although calling it is a little clumsy, but that's a hidden detail.
To hook it in you have to add
jmh-generator-annprocess to the class path of
bin/.classes: setup $(SOURCES)
javac -d bin/classes \
-cp bin/lib/jmh-core-1.18.jar:bin/lib/jmh-generator-annprocess-1.18.jar \
jmh is typically run using a standalone jar file but for
simplicity it can just be run in-place from the build directory.
Creating a standalone jar wouldn't be that much hard to add, just
a few invocations of jar to explode and repack the classes.
java -cp bin/classes:bin/lib/jmh-core-1.18.jar:bin/lib/jopt-simple-4.6.jar:bin/lib/commons-math3-3.2.jar \
In the final iteration I will add some code to the macro to create
this classpath so it is easier to use.
Regarding a previous post i've discovered that the annotation
mechanism i've been using is probably not the approach to use and
there is a lower-level interface. I'm still yet to start on
supporting that in the code generator but i've nutted out most of
the machinery it will require.
I've bugged the panama developers quite a bit about what I see as
some shortcomings in the api. Their idea of a 'C api' is very
limited, for example they think that Java shouldn't be able to
dereference a C-allocated pointer without signifying 'unsafe'
code and passing some scary arguments to the compiler and jvm.
Sure, many modern api's want to wrap trivial memory operations in
multiple layers of 'accessor' functions but even those typically
const char * for a string so you
can't even access those without a mess. This seems a little odd
because what you can do without resorting to 'unsafe' api's has no
safety guarantees already, and infact you can trivially implement
an arbitrary whole-memory-access function by just
memcpy. Anyway there is hope it is changed
by release because it's an unecessary restriction that can be
bypassed trivially and just adds more developer work for no good
reason. In my experience such complexity just leads to more of
the type of errors they're trying to safeguard against.
Copyright (C) 2019 Michael Zucchi, All Rights Reserved.
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