Michael Zucchi

 B.E. (Comp. Sys. Eng.)

  also known as zed
  & handle of notzed


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Wednesday, 04 December 2019, 16:34

New PC / GNU / Linux / ?

So I got my new pc bits yesterday and put them together. It's just sitting 'open bench' at the moment with an old HD5770 as the gpu.

It's got a lot of LEDs ...

I thought I might try a different GNU distribution, i'm pretty sick of ubuntu and well systemd is a load of shit so I wanted to try others. Last time I got a new machine i set it up with the same config as my work machines (ubuntu 16.04), but I don't want this to have anything to do with work.

I also ordered a couple of 24" 16:10 1920x1200 monitors. I don't really like monitors bigger than that and one just isn't enough. Maybe I should've gone for 4K monitors but I didn't. They haven't shipped yet but fingers crossed I get them by the end of the week.


Artix is a systemd-less arch. I managed to get it up and going but it just didn't feel great. It asks too many questions about what to install (e.g. xfce4 has about 20 sub-packages, I have no idea what i need) and the defaults are really pants. xterm is almost unusable. The install documentation misses a few steps which result in broken systems. And actually I forgot to install jfs-utils so it broke after a power cycle anyway. Sigh. Well it's not like I don't forget to install jfs-utils on other distributions as well, but I just couldn't be fucked fixin it this time.


A bunch of stuff in artix is from gentoo so i gave that a good look, it's got some interesting features. But I dunno, I didn't even try to install this one after further thought it just seemed like too much hassle - I don't really want to maintain my own distro which is basically what it amounts to.

The gentoo documentation is pretty odd, it obviously originated many years ago but is also written from the perspective of someone who has never used linux at all.


I tried installing guix. I actually managed to find a way to create a bootable image with a standard kernel (that linux-libre thing just wont cut it), and got it booting. And then it all fell down - it has zero support for jfs, which is the only filesystem i will use after being burnt by others. Given it took most of a day to find that out i'm pretty pissed off, and would probably be more pissed off it i literally had anything better to do while my hip heals.

I find the guix documentation ... poor as it effectively assumes you already know how to use it. It's also hard as fuck to explore anything due to the long paths and the inability to just edit things like syslog.conf.

It's also almost impossible to find anything about guix on the internet - using duckduckgo it basically ignores "guix" if it's supplied (even in quotes), and google is barely any better. Makes them both useless.

I was hoping for more, but maybe i'll try it in virtualbox later on.

For anyone interested, to get a standard kernel installer I started here: Installing GUIX on a NUC but the boot image config.scm shown didn't work. Instead I found (using find???) an install.scm I presume from the nonguix channel. On my system it was in /gnu/store/pis1cw2b6zx0m5hwilq8n7bi52ackiwn-nonguix-ecf5742/nongnu/system/install.scm


So now i'm downloading an install image for slackware64-current and will give that a go. Hopefully the kernel is new enough.

Update a little later: Well that went fairly easily. I just installed everything and and am pruning bits and pieces away that I don't need like bluetooth and printer applets, networkmanager, pulseaudio and so on. I'm using wireless for the moment but it's hardcoded in wpa_supplicant.conf easily enough. Packages seem pretty up to date and the pure-alsa-system stuff in extra is a nice touch.

I'm trying KDE as a desktop this time. I don't think i've ever used it before. It's got some weird shit but i've managed to get the window manager to be almost right, if a bit fugly.

One thing in general the 'wraith prism' heatsink which comes with the 3900X is a little under-specced. It doesn't have enough thermal mass so the fan ramps up rapidly all the time. Oh well so be it. The machine certainly feels snappy but the nvme drive probably helps a lot there.

Now I just gotta find something to do with all those threads.

Tagged hacking.
Sunday, 01 December 2019, 11:02

New Computer

Being stuck in the house is getting boring so I finally pulled the pin on buying a new computer. Well enough bits to build one anyway.

I've ordered a Ryzen 3900X, 32GB/RAM, a 1TB NVME SSD, and a X570 mITX motherboard. My long-term aim is to build a case for it but I probably wont be able to do that for a while due to the broken hip. For now I'll use an old ATX case. I'll also use an old GPU for now. I'll probably install Slackware.

Hopefully it doesn't take too long to arrive, the shopfront claims everything is in stock but maybe being 'black Friday' when I ordered it will make a difference - it was purely coincidence that I ordered on that particular Friday (I mean we don't have thanksgiving so it's nonsense here anyway).

I don't really know what i'll do with all those threads - compling Java or C is quick enough for my projects and I have barely been doing any programming anyway. Shrug.

My bung leg is proving to be very frustrating. I can't really go anywhere or do anything, I can't carry anything. It still hurts when sitting or lying down or pretty much anything else. The crutches get in the way all the time and to move you need clean hands so cooking is a pain - i've been baking bread regularly. I'll have to have them until after xmas so it's going to be a long slow month. They're also precarious and just take a lot of effort and concentration to use.

Tagged biographical.
Tuesday, 19 November 2019, 13:44

Broke my hip

Well that was fun.

I hadn't been out for a recreational ride on my road bike for a long time - probably over a year - and thought i'd go for an easy warm up ride down to the beach, drop by the city for a beer and then home again.

15 mintues into the journey i took a slow corner off a main road onto a side road, the front wheel started skidding and i landed on my hip - breaking it. I wasn't breaking, I was maybe going 15km/hr, the road surface was decent. I think maybe I hit a small round twig that rolled - I saw something like that afterwards although it wasn't quite where I thought i'd ridden.

Fortunately I didn't need a hip replacement (at my age) but I had an operation to screw the fermal neck together to hold it while the bone heals. I'm on crutches for 6 weeks and then physiotherapy for a while before I can walk proper distances and more before i'm on a bike again. This is pretty inconvenient given it's my only form of transport.

Fell off Thursday morning about 1045, operated on at 1930, and on crutches alone going to the toilet by Friday 1900. So I was home from the hospital by Saturday night and a friend help me setup the house so I don't have to nagivate a few steps that split part of the house.

Mentally i'm going ok enough for now, newphew is coming to stay with me to help around the house, and maybe this will get some friends to visit me for once. On the other hand the pain is making sleep a bit difficult so I don't think it would take much for the facade to wear away.

Sitting, lying, standing, pretty much anything gets painful fairly quickly so I can't really do much and i'm off work for a while. The client has run low on money so i'm only doing a couple of days a week now - my contract boss wants me to get involved in other projects ... but i'm not too keen at the moment (actually it was part of the reason I went for the ride in the first place).

I guess it'll give me plenty of time to think, maybe i need to change my life.

This is about all the typing i can manage in a session so ta ta.

Tagged biographical.
Monday, 28 October 2019, 16:24

Java 13 Upgrade

I upgraded a bunch of projects from Java 11 to Java 13 over the weekend. It was just a drop in replacement and all I had to do was change some paths.

Unfortunately gluon are still not distributing the GPL-covered JavaFX properly. They only have downloads for the binaries. I made a mention of this for JavaFX 11 the only way I could find at the time - via their 'support system' i.e. stack overflow - but they just said to get it from maven central. There's a pretty big problem with that: for starters they don't link to maven central and there are multiple javafx artifacts present. The other problem is maven central just doesn't work with my browser (firefox) it just comes back with some obtuse error. And finally ... the source archive on maven is the IDE "java sources" archive and NOT the machine-readable corresponding source-code to their release. That means it's basically just contains some of the sources that match the class files which lets you browse or get the documentation from NetBeans, but it doesn't contain any of the platform specific code or native code, build system and so forth. They don't even link to the mercurial (or is it git now?) source coded repository and tag.

I've made a few changes to nativez/jjmpeg/zcl since the last release of each but i'm not sure when i'll do another set.

On Java 13, netbeans 11 doesn't support the new features so it's pretty inconvenient to get to them but i'm not terribly interested in most of them anyway. I've been reading reddit of late (way too much) but one thing i've discovered via a regular poster pron98 is there are no longer 'major releases' of Java. And the "LTS" releases are only "long term support" for paying customers - and aren't stable platforms like one would expect from the name. So it's easier just to upgrade when a new one comes out. I don't work on anything mission critical so I don't have much to test other than 'yep, it works'.

Tagged java, javafx, jjmpeg, nativez, zcl.
Wednesday, 23 October 2019, 18:28

Fuck Adelaide, Fuck South Australia

So last night I was chatting to some younger people about what used to be at Glenelg near the Patawalonga. It was just a big umaintained carpark that on a Friday/Saturday night used be filled with bikies ('bikers' in USA talk), kids doing burnouts, booze, grass and other drugs, and generally a good time had by all (sans the 1984 riots, but oh well, these things happen - it was probably the lead in everyone's blood as children).

That's all gone now.

In it's place is an ugly shitty miserable development called Holdfast Shores. That land was donated to the people of South Australia and the corrupt councilers just sold it off to the highest bidder - illegaly as it was bequethed on the condition that it was never commericlaised. It was a relative of one of my aunties and she was very upset about it.

Anyway ... point is, there is just nothing like that any more. Can you imagine a place where people just hang out, have fun, booze and drugs IN PUBLIC ... and entirely for free? FUCK NO! Everything is now commercialised. You pay to get in, you pay too much for your watered down booze, and everything is controlled by someone. If you congrate in that volume now the filth come in and arrest everyone for having too much unpaid fun. Unless it's inside a gated 'festival' with private security and plenty of nods and winks.

And for all that all the drink and drugs happens anyway.

This is really sad and quite upsetting now I think about how much we've lost.

Fuck this town. Fuck Adelaide, fuck South Australia. What a shithole. Beer's good but.

Tagged biographical.
Sunday, 20 October 2019, 09:29

Frame Accurate Seeking in H.264 streams with libavformat, FFmpeg

I had the need for accurate seeking in H.264 streams using jjmpeg (FFmpeg/libavformat) and spent some time over the last few days trying to work it out. JJMediaReader has a seek that works quite well but I knew it wasn't correct as it was offsetting the read timestamp by the stream start - I can't exactly remember why I did this but I think its because it didn't work very well otherwise.

Anyway ... I finally found out why. Depending on the container, when seeking it will go to the next or equal keyframe rather than the previous or equal. Sigh. So that offset I was using just happened to be enough to work most of the time and as it reported the same start-relative time it appeared to work properly.

So I changed the seek code to use a reverse offset for the seek point, and then it will run forward to get to the correct frame. This is based on the framerate rather than a fixed time offset because some of the video I have uses low framerates. This works but can be a bit slow as it might seek back too far.

To reduce some of the redundant work I thought of using the packet byte position to read the exact packet of the closest previous keyframe. Unfortunately it seems the container formats i'm using don't support AVSEEK_FLAG_BYTE so that idea went nowhere. Fuck.

The best solution so far has been to implement a two-value seek function. The first argument is the keyframe timestamp and the second argument is the desired frame timestamp. Thus it seeks to the keyframe first and then advances by single frames until the desired frame is decoded. Short forward seeks bypass the seek step This requires an external index but the application in question needed it anyway as it requires a wall-clock-time to frame-time mapping as well.


Tagged hacking, jjmpeg.
Thursday, 03 October 2019, 12:06


I went to Thailand for a couple of weeks in September with a mate from the pub. We ate too much good food and drank too much warm beer. The food was fantastic and the place was interesting although after a couple of weeks I needed a break. I've got a ton of photos and if i ever sort them out i'll put up a post. We were up north and only spent a night in Bangkok on the way home, and avoided the seedy strips. He grew up in Thailand so did all the talking and we visited some relatives so it was a nice mix of touristy and local action.

Looking south from a lookout at Pai during sunrise. We hired a scooter and rode the 4 hours from Chaing Mai. The roads were very good.

I haven't travelled anywhere for nearly 15 years and while it was fun it hasn't sparked any desire to travel again anytime soon. The flying is to physically tortuous and the constant action is pretty exhausting.

It's also made me hate Adelaide even more! This town is starting to suck a lot. Thr urban development is turning it into a shitty overdeveloped town but without any of the benefits of becoming a real city - it's not dense enough and the road design is from the 50s where cars are absolute king. Makes it pretty human-unfriendly. And the people can suck. Somehow i've seemed to basically run out of friends. I just don't fit in with anyone and when I reach out and try I just get spat in the face in one way or another. I guess I must just suck or something. I don't really feel like i have anything to do with my copious spare time apart from go to the pub and i'm pretty sick of that. Lately i've only been going to try to get out of the house but it's just made things worse and I think i'll stay in for a while.

Work is pretty dull too. I'm doing some machine learning stuff so that's a lot of data preparation and then waiting for shit to run. It's not very interesting and it's not fun at all, and the application itself eats away at my soul. I sometimes think of getting another job but I don't want to have to apply for one and I don't have enough money to retire yet (depending on how long I might live).

Apart from all that I've not been doing a lot apart from wasting my life away reading reddit. As i've been using it for work there are some small changes to jjmpeg that i've committed but not released but otherwise I haven't been doing any coding. I've downloaded java and javafx 13 and will migrate to that soon, it should be a simple transition from java 11.

Made and installed these steps this week. Apart from the woodwork I had to clean away a big pile of bricks my brother left in that corner and extend the paving.

I've spent a good amount of time lately in the yard, from cleaning up weeds to finishing long-outstanding projects like installing the set of steps above. The two big things left are what to do under the verndah and some sort of shed floor. Either paving under the verandah and cement shed floor or decking under the verndah and paving in the shed. Might be a while yet on those.

It's a nice warm day today and I haven't decided what to do. Probably not the pub, or at least only one or two if i do. I should probably go for a ride but I don't really feel like it, i haven't had a decent ride in a long time. I'm taking a half break off work because I'm ahead of where I need to be and I don't feel like working. Next week the weather is turning to shit so I'll get back to it then.

Tagged biographical.
Saturday, 20 July 2019, 16:49

Not quite a new computer!

Well I decided I'm sick of piss farting about thinking about a new computer so I would just go and buy the bits to build one. And I was looking forward to having something to do on the weekend.

intel outside logo

But for various reasons I wanted to pay cash and of course an online shop-front doesn't have that option, so I email the retailer regarding the list of items i'd arrived at. Do they have them on hand, are they compatible, that sort of thing.

But alas, still no reply two days later.

So that bummed me out.

Then I looked at another retailer in another state, but they don't sell a single 32GB memory kit that's present in tested memory list for the only suitable motherboard they have. I'm after an itx board so that severely limits the options.

So that bummed me out further and I decided I'd just walk in to the first shop I tried and just go buy it in person. Unfortunately I ran into a mate who I haven't seen in yonks so I just ended up catching up with him all afternoon and never made it.

And now i've got a hangover and what was really just an impulse buy has turned into a hassle and so I guess it's off the table for this weekend at least. Maybe next week.

I'll probably still just end up going to them if i've still got a pocket full of cash because the retailer options are so limited in this tiny city. If they're still in business anyway, they don't seem to be too keen on making money. The chips will only get better althgough RAM is volatile so who knows there.

For what it's worth this is what I came up with:

The motherboard is the only ITX available that I can find here (or really, anywhere in the whole country in ready supply), but at least this shop says the BIOS is already upgraded. I've already got a power supply. The aim would be to build a case ... but it's a bit involved so I may never get around to it and i've got some old shit lying around I can use in the mean time. GPU is a bit of a pain, really I just want a short 1 or 2 slot AMD card (for the proper free software linux drivers). Rare as fucking hens teeth here though, the shop I was going to has had no AMD graphics cards at all for months until the 5700 came out and now that's all they have. No one else local has anything below RX 580 nor any of the workstation line which would do, if a little pricey. I have an old HD 5770 that i'll use to start with. It's a double pain if i build my own case as I need to make sure whatever i end up with will fit. And if i get a new one it may as well be the latest design. I'll probably have to order online, whatever I decide.

Tagged biographical, rants.
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