Sun, 16 Nov 2003

Linux season

With winter here, I'm spending more time indoors, now. Linux gets most of my indoor time. After a long summer of neglecting Linux in favor of bicycling, I've refocused on extending my Linux knowledge and skill.

I've been reading The Art of UNIX Programming by Eric S. Raymond. This isn't the kind of book I would normally purchase. It is virtually devoid of any in-depth technical material, source code listings, and detailed explanation of technique. I spent nearly two hours at Barnes and Noble thumbing through a copy before I decided I had to take it home with me.

I've learned great deal from the book that I wouldn't have gotten from a more technical treatise. I learned, for example, which IPC mechanisms are preferred, and that some, although documented, are deprecated and should not be used. There's a lot of best practices information to be gleaned from Eric's new book.

And there were a few threads to chase, as well. Eric referred to Pic as one of his examples of mini-languages. Pic, it turns out, is a tool I immediately put to use. I generated the images in my Vernier scale post a few days ago using Pic.

Pic was originally written by Brian Kernighan. I used the GNU version, gpic, which is part of the groff package.

That lead me on a search for a similar mini-language to use for 3D modeling. I really wanted such a tool when I wrote my Summer Solstice post in June. What I found was POV-ray. POV-ray's scene description language does, indeed, allow me to quickly and easily describe simple models like the one I needed for the Solstice post. It goes far beyond, however. A visit to the POV-ray Hall of Fame (a continuously updated gallery of scenes) is well worth the time.

I bought a used flat bed scanner, an Epson Perfection 1200U, on eBay. When it arrived, I discovered I did not have support compiled into the Linux kernel for USB scanners. Normally, that would be a simple matter of compiling the necessary module and installing it individually. But somewhere along the line, probably with and upgrade to gcc, the 2.4.20 kernel source would no longer compile.

Linux is so stable that there has been no need, whatsoever, for me to keep on top of the kernel releases, recently. So, the need to get the new flatbed scanner working resulted in a download and compile of the 2.4.22 kernel. That was, as always, a trouble free experience. And my sound card now has native kernel support, so I was able to drop the Alsa sound drivers I was using previously.

I'll need some time to experiment with the scanner, but so far, the SANE scanner utilities seem to be doing a perfect job.

Linux certainly hasn't lost it's appeal for me; I'm looking forward to plenty of time with it this winter.

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