World ‘World Day’ Day — you know it makes sense.

Every day seems to be World Something Day. Today is World Meteorological Day. Tomorrow will be something else, and the day after something else again. And those are just the UN sanctioned ones.

I think we need to have a day to honour all the people that get together and organise topic-based days. It takes a lot of coordination and determination to make sure that everything finds its right place. You don’t want World Dog Day and World Cat Day occurring at once, or you’ll just have lots of trouble in lots of parks around the world. You probably don’t want World Chocolate Day and World Diabetes Day to coincide. Or International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day to clash with Alcohol Awareness Month.

So, when should we schedule World World Day Day, a day organised in honour of all those people who spend their time organising days in honour of people? Somewhere near Administrative Professionals’ Day, perhaps.

Organising an event like that would be a good use of someone’s time. Maybe we could have a day to celebrate them.

 

Fleas and so on.

 

Three finger salute killed a monitor

OK, weird stuff.

I have to use Windows (7) as well as RHEL at work. So I am used to hitting Ctrl-Alt-Del on the Windows lock screen to get the password dialogue to unlock the computer. Accidentally did it on RHEL 6

(details:

$ cat /etc/redhat-release
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server release 6.8 (Santiago)

$ uname -r
2.6.32-642.6.1.el6.x86_64

)

and now the monitor has stopped working! Very weird. I get a few seconds of vision when I turn the monitor on, or when I unplug it and plug it in again, but then it goes black again. I was running the monitor on a VGA cable. The DVI output is working fine, when I test with a second monitor, but does not work on the one that I was using on the VGA cable, and neither does VGA output. It’s like the monitor is going to sleep in only a few seconds. What’s more, even the monitor menu only flashes up and vanishes. It’s like the monitor itself has been screwed up. Like the three-finger salute rewrote the monitor firmware…?

The sort of monitor that was damaged. I don't know if the problem is model-specific.

The sort of monitor that was damaged. I don’t know if the problem is model-specific.

Even the ‘check signal cable’ message on the screwed up monitor only flashes up for a second… seems like three finger salute on the Linux unlock screen has somehow fried my monitor! (Samsung SyncMaster 950B). Very odd.

Plugged faulty monitor into Windows 7 box and rebooted Windows. Absolutely nothing.

So, yes, the monitor has been screwed up by using Ctrl-Alt-Del on RHEL 6.

Hmm.

An album a week (ha ha) #16: Goats Head Stew: A few nuggets amidst the gunge.

Goats Head Soup is a strange album. After what must have felt like eternity putting Exile together in Keith’s basement, who could blame the Stones for retreating to Jamaica and knocking out ten tracks pretty quickly? They were coming off one of the great runs in popular music history, four studio albums and their best live album, a dozen sides  that have a permanent pace in rock history.  And then it was job done, I reckon, ‘cos this album sure sounds like they weren’t too fussed. It’s all over the place. So much so that the only way to look at it is track by track. So here they are:

1. Dancing With Mr D
2. 100 Years Ago
3. Coming Down Again
4. Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)
5. Angie
6. Silver Train
7. Hide Your Love
8. Winter
9. Can You Hear the Music
10. Star Star

1. Dancing With Mr D

Starts with a certain slow menace, and then goes on and on and wears out its welcome. When you listen to the opener on Exile, ‘Rocks Off’, there’s just so much music and musicality in the first minute. Here there’s one or two ideas and they’re stretched out to five minutes. Hit the skip button? At least half the time.

2. 100 Years Ago

This one is like they had bits of three or four songs and just concatenated them to make one. It’s not boring. It starts off kind of jaunty and tuneful, then loses me when Mick tells me to call him ‘lazy bones’ before heading into some pretty much unconnected jam. Kind of entertaining, but not really a song as such. I like the bit about ‘bad red wine’. Hit the skip button? When I’m impatient.

3. Coming Down Again

‘Being hungry, it ain’t no crime’, Keith sings. Unless maybe you’re hungry for a hit of smack and your prioritizing of drugs over music is causing you to let your band-mates down… Having said that, he’s not singing about that kind of hunger in that song, and this is one of three pretty good slower tracks on the album. It feels like it was composed rather than flanged together. First track on the album that suggests maybe it’s not going to be a complete waste of time. Hit the skip button? Not usually.

4. Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)

Groovy funky doo doo doo doo doo etc. First track with a bit of energy, and one of only three on the whole album. A pretty solid second single, and really the only candidate. The menace here is kind of theoretical where on ‘Gimme Shelter’ or ‘Midnight Rambler’ it was actually felt, but the song comes along just in time to raise the pulse just enough to get you through the next track. Hit the skip button? Rarely if ever.

5. Angie

The big single. I read somewhere this album has sold more than 6 million copies. More than Exile, more than Beggar’s Banquet. And a big #1 hit is exactly (and solely) why. Radio play gets the sales to go beyond the fanbase. ‘Angie’ is a great tune. Not exactly fun. Nothing so far has been lyrically uplifting. Even ‘100 Years Ago’ suggests it’s sometimes wise to not grow up. But the tune is lovely and the vocals a good example of Jagger’s mannered delivery at its best. Hit skip? Rarely.

6. Silver Train

This is like lite imitation of a typical Exile track. ‘All Down the Line’ being the obvious one. The guitars honk away nicely and Jagger slurs his way through lyrics about anonymous sex, good solid Stones subject matter. Vocal hooks, a chunky tune, non-negative subject matter. One of the better ones. Hit skip? Nope.

7. Hide Your Love

I listened to this two days ago and I can hardly remember anything about it except that I was keen for it to end. This is one of (at least) three tracks that seem to have been stuck on to get the track listing up to 10 and the play time up over 40 minutes, the other two being ‘100 Years Ago’ and ‘Can You Hear the Music’. Skip? Yes.

8. Winter

This is the third tuneful, carefully-composed ballad n the album. Nice guitar work from Mick Taylor, well aimed vocal from Jagger. Cheerful? Well, it’s gonna be a long hot summer and the light of love will be burning bright, so it’s not all bad. Skip? Only if you’re after the danceable ones.

9. Can You Hear the Music

Man, what is this crap? Some kind of rehabilitated reject from Satanic Majesties? I can’t hear much music worth hearing on this track. Skip? How fast can I hit the button?

10. Star Star

The famously rude song that is called ‘Starfucker’ on bootlegs. Energy! Riffs! Humour! Good god, are we on the same album? Yes, it’s rude and kind of cheesy, but it’s also a rollicking rock ‘n’ roll song in the Chuck Berry tradition. Skip? Not usually.

So where does that leave us? Three rejects, plus ‘Mr D’ which is on the cusp, and half a dozen solid tracks, half ballads. Of these, ‘Angie’ is the only one in the Stones canon. Stacked up against the previous four albums of course it comes up short. But most albums by most acts would. Tackled 40+ years later, free of context, it’s really not bad. There are flashes of the brilliance of years before, as indeed there have been ever since. It is better than the album after it, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, which probably has fewer dogs on it but is more consistently mediocre. Does anyone but a Stones fan ‘need’ it? (I say ‘need’ in quotes because nobody needs pop songs to live.) No, but it’s worth a listen. I’m rather a fan of Keith’s vocal efforts, and ‘Coming Down Again’ is a good one. I listen to it more than I thought I would. Well, I listen to around 65% of it, anyway.

 

Think I’m gonna get on down, oh yeah.

The Sharp MZ-721 font in a terminal emulator

Long ago I made a LaTeX font out of the character glyphs from the Sharp MZ-721 8-bit microcomputer. Then I made a font for use in a terminal emulator. How did I do it? From the below, I seem to have used the pk file generated when the font was used in LaTeX, then realised I could go direct from the original Sharp character ROM. I made a bdf file, which is an old but usable format. You can download it from here, and the crap below will help you install it if you need help. But you can google ‘installing bdf fonts’ and get something more useful. And edit the fonts to make them better. Or not,. whatever.

I don’t remember any details. Here is the contents of a ‘note to self’ file I wrote at the time…

_________________________________________________________________

Installed gbdfed for AMD64 by downloading the following package:

Package: gbdfed (1.5-1.1)

https://packages.debian.org/squeeze/gbdfed

squeeze (oldoldstable) (x11): X11 font editor 1.5-1.1: amd64 armel i386 ia64 kfreebsd-amd64 kfreebsd-i386 mips mipsel powerpc s390 sparc

then

$ sudo dpkg -i gbdfed_1.5-1.1_amd64.deb

and it seems to work. Opened the pk file for the first MZ font and then saved as bdf. That is all so far.

How to use a BDF font file…

move it to

~/.fonts/mz/MZ7CGint.bdf
$ cd .fonts
$ mkfontdir
$ cd mz
$ mkfontdir
$ chmod 644 *
$ xset fp+ $HOME/.fonts/mz
$ xset fp rehash

If I go to the.fonts/mz and type

xterm -fn -unknown-mz7cgint-medium-r-normal–83-100-600-600-p-530-fontspecific-0

it works but the font is enormous, since it is just mapped directly as
a 600x600 bitmap.  Needs to be resized... look at gbdfed again

OK, changed font ascent, x-ren and y-resn in properties to 24 instead of 600.

No diff.  Set point size to 12.

OK, use xfontsel to get an idea of sensible parameters.

Still too big --- maybe go back to metafont and try as low res device:
$ mf '\mode=epsfast; input MZ7CGint'

$ gftopk  MZ7CGint.60gf

open and save with no modifications. Move it to… ~/.fonts/mz/MZ7CGint.bdf

Then:

$ mkfontdir
$ xset fp rehash
$ cat fonts.dir
$ xterm -fn -unknown-mz7cgint-medium-r-normal--10-100-60-72-p-60-fontspecific-0

and all good. Note that I had to delete all coloured pixels in char20 (hex) since it was filling up the screen with triangles. Note also that this mode proved a bit small… went and had another look at ftp://ftp.tex.ac.uk/tex-archive/fonts/modes/modes.mf and picked a mode a bit bigger, say about 100dpi…

$ mf '\mode=nextscrn; input MZ7CGint'

works pretty well. Font could do with some more leading. Play in font editor…
Problem is that we have an 8×8 font in a number of boxes that is not a multiple of 8. What other modes are there…

96 dpi? (atarins) — odd choices of blackened pixels.
120 (onetz)? — odd choices of blackened pixels.
120×144 (epswlo) — odd choices of blackened pixels.
144dpi lasf — odd choices of blackened pixels.
72×120 is epsdrft — nope
laserjet 300 dpi — nope
hifax 200dpi — looks great, but will font be huge?

Yes, it looks huge but works really well. Now, can we downsize it?

Now, fontforge can open the bdf file… That means one can make a PostScript font or similar… (maybe one day…)

$ sudo apt-get install bdfresize

$ bdfresize -f1/2 MZ7CGint.bdf > MZ7CGinthalf.bdf

OK, but not ideal. Problems with cursor not present when on a blank space… How is cursor chosen?

Anyway, the threequart(er) size one also looks excellent, since 24 and 28 have 4 as a common factor.

http://osr507doc.sco.com/en/GECG/X_Font_ProcAddFn.html

The cursor seems to be the empty space drawn in reverse, but it does not work here.

See ~/bin/mzterm … heh heh heh.

 cat  ~/bin/mzterm

rxvt -g 88x50 -cr white -pr white -bd blue -fg white -bg black -fn -unknown-mz7int1-medium-r-normal--16-160-72-72-c-240-fontspecific-0
#rxvt -g 88x50 -cr white -pr white -bd blue -fg white -bg black -fn -unknown-mz7cgintt-medium-r-normal--18-63-200-200-p-107-fontspecific-0 -e clearsh
#rxvt -cr white -pr white -bd blue -fg white -bg black -fn -unknown-mz7cgint-medium-r-normal--21-75-200-200-p-128-fontspecific-0 -e clearsh
#rxvt -cr white -pr white -bd blue -fg white -bg blue -fn -unknown-mz7cgint-medium-r-normal--21-75-200-200-p-128-fontspecific-0 -e clearsh
#xterm  -sb -leftbar -cr white -bd blue -fg white -bg blue -g 88x50 -fn -unknown-mz7int1-medium-r-normal--16-160-72-72-c-240-fontspecific-0

Still no cursor, though… don’t know why.

gdbfed can open the MZ-700 ROM directly as a console font…doofus.

Just need to put in an average width… BUT, the encoding is of course all over the shop.

Step 1 is to put out first half of the ROM to MZ7int1.ROM
Step 2 is to open this in gbdfed (console font)
Step 3 is to re-encode correctly:

$ mv MZ7int1.bdf MZ7int1_recode.bdf

Then change the encoding number in the file. I can’t be bothered right now. Easiest would be to use the re-encoding table I put into the C file for mz2mf to make the tex font… Done.

OK, play with scale of it using bdfresize — just 2 3 4x for now Done.

OK, these are the better fonts. No need to go via LaTeX. Just note it as possible and move on! Descenders are getting chopped off by the next line, but I don’t really care.

mzterm launches a terminal widow using the font. It is cute to do the white on blue look like the old machine, but directory names don’t look too good…

Translated all glyphs by 2 in Y to try to increase leading.

Copy to ~/.fonts/mz then cd there and mkfontdir etc
_____________________________________________________________________________

And here’s a picture….

mzterm

Ugly or what? The old Sharp defaulted to white on blue, so how about this:

$ xterm -sb -leftbar -cr white -bd blue -fg white -bg blue -g 88x50 -fn -unknown-mz7int1-medium-r-normal--16-160-72-72-c-240-fontspecific-0 &

mzterm_blue

Oh, enough wastage.

 

Word madness: Can’t save, won’t save. ‘A file error has occurred’

Word's useless error message. Notice the 'Was this information helpful'. What do you think?

Word’s useless error message. Notice the ‘Was this information helpful’. What do you think?

 

Got this error, and they had the temerity to ask me if it was helpful. Pricks. Anyway. Could not save to new name. Could not save to external media. Could not save elsewhere on C:. In short, could not save.

No.

No.

One bit of advice I have read is to wait till Word does an autosave, then kill Word using task manager. Then when Word is restarted it will give an option to rescue the file. Sounds dangerous to me. Waited but save did not come.

First thing I did was print to PDF with all track changes and everything visible so I would at least have a record of what the file looked like.

Then created a new blank file. Tested that it could be saved. Yes. And in the same folder as the original file. (I knew that should be OK since I printed to PDF into the same folder).

Went to file I wanted to rescue, with track changes visible and all comments visible. Ctrl-A, Ctrl-C
Went to new empty doc and pasted. Got text and comments but not the track changes information. Well, that is still useful as a backup.

Save.

Now, it should be possible to make a copy with track changes information.

https://word.tips.net/T001783_Pasting_Text_with_Track_Changes.html

Another handy way to copy the text is to use the spike. Word users are so familiar with using the Clipboard to cut, copy, and paste information that we often forget about the spike. This is an area of Word that acts like a secondary Clipboard, with some significant differences. (You can learn more about the spike in other issues of WordTips or in Word’s online Help.) To use the spike to copy and paste text with Track Changes markings intact, follow these steps:

  1. In the source document, select the text you want to copy.
  2. Press Ctrl+F3. The text is cut from the document and placed on the spike. (If you wanted to copy, not cut, then immediately press Ctrl+Z to undo the cut. The selected text still remains on the spike.)
  3. In the target document, place the insertion point where you want the text inserted.
  4. Make sure that Track Changes is turned off in the target document.
  5. Press Shift+Ctrl+F3 to clear the spike and insert the spike’s text into your document.

So I went to source document ant hit Ctrl-A, then Ctrl-F3.

Opened blank with same template, track changes turned off (it is by default I think).

Shift-Ctrl-F3

But does not save! The problems have come with it!

So that does not help.

Now, if I turn off track changes and accept all changes, I can save the document – so it is a bug somewhere in Word’s track changes code.
If the problem occurs again, can try the spike method with the different aspects of track changes turned on and off, to narrow it down.

So no satisfactory solution discovered. I do not know what change I put in that caused the issue, and it has never occurred before. So… I dunno. The above ideas are just partial solutions.

 

Solutions to problems nobody asks about.

Horrible errors on my Linux box.

Horrible errors on my Linux box. When trying to boot up. I mean, eventually it did boot, but this was not good:

Feb 27 15:17:00 lauequad kernel: [21057.921922] ata2.00: cmd 25/00:08:00:08:c3/00:00:16:00:00/e0 tag 0 dma 4096 in
Feb 27 15:17:00 lauequad kernel: [21057.921923]          res 40/00:00:00:4f:c2/00:00:00:00:00/00 Emask 0x14 (ATA bus error)
Feb 27 15:17:00 lauequad kernel: [21057.921924] ata2.00: status: { DRDY }
Feb 27 15:17:00 lauequad kernel: [21057.921932] ata2.00: hard resetting link
Feb 27 15:17:01 lauequad kernel: [21058.643829] ata2.01: hard resetting link
Feb 27 15:17:01 lauequad /USR/SBIN/CRON[6290]: (root) CMD (   cd / && run-parts --report /etc/cron.hourly)
Feb 27 15:17:01 lauequad kernel: [21059.118482] ata2.00: SATA link up 1.5 Gbps (SStatus 113 SControl 310)
Feb 27 15:17:01 lauequad kernel: [21059.118493] ata2.01: SATA link down (SStatus 0 SControl 300)
Feb 27 15:17:01 lauequad kernel: [21059.226065] ata2.00: configured for UDMA/33
Feb 27 15:17:01 lauequad kernel: [21059.250462] ata2.00: device reported invalid CHS sector 0
Feb 27 15:17:01 lauequad kernel: [21059.250466] ata2: EH complete
Feb 27 15:17:32 lauequad kernel: [21089.830651] ata2: lost interrupt (Status 0x50)
Feb 27 15:17:32 lauequad kernel: [21089.830669] ata2.00: exception Emask 0x52 SAct 0x0 SErr 0x58d0c02 action 0xe frozen
Feb 27 15:17:32 lauequad kernel: [21089.830672] ata2.00: SError: { RecovComm Proto HostInt PHYRdyChg CommWake 10B8B LinkSeq TrStaTrns DevExch }
Feb 27 15:17:32 lauequad kernel: [21089.830674] ata2.00: failed command: READ DMA EXT
Feb 27 15:17:32 lauequad kernel: [21089.830677] ata2.00: cmd 25/00:08:00:08:c3/00:00:16:00:00/e0 tag 0 dma 4096 in
Feb 27 15:17:32 lauequad kernel: [21089.830678]          res 40/00:00:00:4f:c2/00:00:00:00:00/00 Emask 0x56 (ATA bus error)
Feb 27 15:17:32 lauequad kernel: [21089.830679] ata2.00: status: { DRDY }

Except they were all nicely coloured and arranged by vim’s syntax highlighting.

/var/log/syslog

This was in the file /var/log/syslog

Freakin’ scary. I thought one of my hard drives was on the way out. Fortunately it’s not my main drive, the one that houses / and /home, but it’s the second drive which mounts at /home/username/Music.

So, I thought maybe the drive was on the way out. My back ups were up to date, but I noticed that when I want to have a look in ~/Music, there were some files that were corrupt. On boot the messages included one telling me to run fsck on /dev/sdb1 (the Music partition) and then dropping me into a shell, and then fsck told me it could not fix the drive…

Hmm…

Double-checked my backups were current, then unmounted the partition and used gparted to reformat it freshly as ext4. Started to copy the files across from the backup.

Stopped. Could not access the drive.

Hmm…

Remembered an old POST OF MY OWN.

SATA cable plugs sure do wiggle in their sockets. A lot more than old IDE ribbon cables.

Powered down. Removed power cable. Opened case. Noted which SATA cables went from which socket on the motherboard to which drive. Removed them all, blew some dry air into the plugs and cable ends. Replaced the cables and gave them a good wiggle, then left them, making sure they were not getting tugged out or sideways by tension but were square in the sockets. This involved rerouting some cables so they were more comfortable, and tying a bunch of unused power plugs up out of the way.

Reboot. No error messages. Mount back up drive. Copy 240+ GB of backups onto blank drive. All faultless. Seems to work perfectly.

Take home message: SATA cables are fussy and can cause problems that might look like something worse.

Something worse.

What services don’t you need on your Debian Linux box? sysv-rc-conf

Note to self:

On my Debian box there’s a bunch of stuff installed by default that I don’t need ‘cos it’s a workstation not a server. Anything that allows remote access, anything that talks to bluetooth, all that can be turned off, and it’s better to turn it off if you don’t need it, both for security reasons and boot time reasons. The easiest way to manage that on a Debian-based system is to install sysv-rc-conf, then run it as root and uncheck the boxes you don’t need by hitting the space bar. Anything beginning with ‘r’ is worth looking at, since that often means ‘remote’ and is likely to offer security issues. A lot of Linux stuff kind of assumes you’re running as a server, so there’ll be tools that allow access to network drives (nfs) and manage ports (portmap), and if your machine is a workstation in a home office, like mine, some or all that stuff is pointless and ought to be removed. I don’t need a webserver. Sometimes a good way to do it is uninstall the relevant packages. For example

$ sudo apt-get --purge remove nfs-kernel-server nfs-common portmap
$ sudo apt-get autoremove

But as noted, things can be left installed and just turned off. One easy way to do this is by installing sysv-rc-conf. This will control whether things get activated at startup. Makes it easy to manage services and only run what you want.

$ sudo apt-get install sysv-rc-conf
$ sysv-rc-conf
Arbitrary screen grab.

Arbitrary screen grab.

Anyway, you choose what you want to be activated at each different runlevel. It might be worth reading about runlevels a little but, but if there’s something you know you don’t want, just turn it off at all runlevels. (They are the 1 2 3 4 5 0 6 S labels across the top.)

You can also check out rcconf.

End reminder.

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane — just odd enough.

Well here’s a classic. One of those books you see in cheap anonymous editions in supermarkets and book shops. Out of copyright, low-grade editions flanged together on the cheap by various publishers you’ve never heard of. It’s famous. How’s it to read?

Cover of <i>The Red Badge of Courage</i> -- do not buy this edition!

Cover of The Red Badge of Courage — do not buy this edition!

 

Not bad.

The story is subtitled ‘an episode of the American civil war’ and it is in essence ‘young man learns lesson’. He learns how he will cope in a fight, and it’s not all good news. Shame, fear, braggadocio, boredom.

Our protagonist is mostly referred to as ‘the youth’, and the author gets close to him but dissects him dispassionately at the same time. It means that the tone of the book takes a little getting used to, but it works very well.

The story is leavened by flashes of wit and neat turns of phrase from the author.

He made a fine use of the third person.

He evidently complimented himself on the modesty of this statement.

Some in the regiment began to whoop frenziedly. Many were silent. Apparently they were trying to contemplate themselves.

He had performed his mistake in the dark, so he was still a man.

The youth’s friend had a geographical illusion concerning a stream…

The forest made a tremendous objection.

He had continued to curse, but it was now with the air of a man who was using his last box of oaths.

But I must advise no one to buy the edition illustrated above, It is one of the most carelessly put together volumes I have ever seen. Here is the contents page:

badge_bloomsbury_contents

…and I think you’ll agree it is of doubtful utility. More to the point, the book is full of typographical errors, including ‘rig2ht’ and ‘allusions’ for ‘illusions’ and the like. Most importantly, it drops two paragraphs from possibly the most crucial section of the book, such that the main character suddenly has a wound on his head and I can’t tell how. I spent a good half hour flipping through the book trying to work out when it had happened and assuming I had been distracted while reading and had not noticed; only recourse to another edition, a good one put out by a reputable publisher, was able to confirm that bits were missing.

To sum up: I can recommend this book, but not in this edition.

 

Classic.

A VGA font in a terminal emulator

How’d I do it? It was quite a while ago and I can’t remember, I can’t recall. I’m trying to reconstruct it…

I grew up in the IBM compatible, DOS era. That VGA font that you got by default in DOS still, to this day, looks ‘right’ to me on a terminal screen, even after years of using Linux and Mac OS X and what not. I know it is not a great font in numerous ways, but I am so familiar I don’t even see it. It’s invisible, like a good writing tool should be. So I wanted to use it in my terminal window on Debian. It’s not very hard, maybe. I can’t remember if these were all the things I needed to do…

I am using mrxvt because I like the simplicity of it. This is my very simple mrxvt configuration file, .mrxvtrc:

Mrxvt.sl: 65535
MRxvt.ps: true

Mrxvt.xft:                      1
Mrxvt.xftFont:                  Perfect DOS VGA 437 Win
Mrxvt.xftSize:                  16
Mrxvt.xftAntialias:             1

Mrxvt.saveLines:                10000

And I have aliased the command mrxvt to this string:

alias mrxvt='mrxvt-full -fade 50 -ps -title " " -tn rxvt'

So to get the VGA font, I first went and found a good X windows font, called “Perfect DOS VGA 437 Win”, which is a ttf (TrueType font) when I unzip the archive. I put the file (called Perfect_DOS_VGA_437_Win.ttf) in a subdirectory of my .fonts directory; I put it under ‘p’ for perfect, and ran fc-cache to update the list of available fonts:

$ ls ~/.fonts/p
Perfect_DOS_VGA_437_Win.ttf

$ sudo fc-cache -f -v .fonts

And, on a modern Linux system, that seems to be all that is required. Except I do notice that my .fonts.conf file looks like this (also serves as an example of what the font looks like in action):

Perfect DOS VGA 437 Win font used in mrxvt managed by FLWM.

Perfect DOS VGA 437 Win font used in mrxvt managed by FLWM.

Notice that the line at the end lists my local ~/.fonts directory? I think that might be important, but like I said it was a long time ago and I’m not sure.

So there you have it. Finding Perfect_DOS_VGA_437_Win.ttf somewhere on the web and putting it in your ~/.fonts directory and making sure that that directory is listed in your ~/.fonts.conf file and then changing the font selection line in the config file for whichever terminal emulator you are using might or might not let you use a font you don’t like.

 

 

Fonty McFontface.

Keith’s Life: What to trust?

First, I have to point out this: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/low_concept/2010/11/please_allow_me_to_correct_a_few_things.html.

Brilliant and mostly spot on.

Keith Richards is of course famous. He’s been playing geetar in some band since Moses was a boy and apparently the NME voted him ‘most likely to die in the next year’ ten times in a row in the 70s. But he’s still alive. The Stones just knocked out one of their better albums of the last [[insert preferred value here]] years, Blue and Lonesome which, tellingly, is all covers; they’ve still got their chops as players, but they (Keith and Mick) aren’t writing great tunes so often. Well, they did plenty way back when and they can’t all be gems. As long as Charlie is drumming there’s something worth hearing on a Stones record.

Speaking about way back when: Life is Keith’s ghosted autobiography, put together by James Fox from many hours of recorded interviews. It’s very thick. About 550 pages. If you like thick books about rock stars, it’s got you covered. It made a bit of a splash on release ‘cos Keith says lots of rude things about Mick Jagger. Well, you know, Keith wanted to sell copies, didn’t he? But in a sense those things are very telling. They put me on alert as a reader. Immediately I wonder; how much of the negative stuff he says is true? The shots about the size of Jagger’s cock are cheap, juvenile and the kind of thing designed to stir up tabloid press interest (and stir up Mick), none of which requires them to be true. Pete Townshend says the comments are wrong, anyway. So I’m wondering; if Keith is prepared to say pretty much anything to make a stir, what else in the book is unreliable? The whole thing is tarnished.

Take another little example, trivial of itself. He critiques Jagger’s (pretty terrible) solo output. She’s The Boss, Primitive Cool, Goddess in the Doorway, yeah, they’re all pretty dire attempts are hooking into the current fashion. But he strategically leaves out Wandering Spirit, easily Jagger’s best solo outing. Why? Probably ‘cos it’s the only one that isn’t disappointing. So he just omits it. Little bits of manipulation, when they come to your attention, they cast doubt on everything else, on much bigger and more interesting topics.

There is a sense of unreality about the whole book, despite the level of detail. Oh, much of it is most likely true, and when Keith talks about the music he loves or some of the intricacies of guitar tuning, or making bangers and mash, he’s genuinely affecting. So the bullshit becomes all the more disappointing.

He threatened Billy Preston with a knife when he was playing too loudly, he threatened a record exec with a knife when he dared make suggestions in a mixing booth, he shot this with a gun, that with a gun, took this, swallowed that, nearly died when this happened, nearly died when that happened… it’s probably all true, but I’m always thinking as I read: “Is this what happened, or is this designed to gild the Richards legend?” Keith is cool enough without all the dodgy claims.

And that is the core of the problem I have with the book. I don’t know if I can trust it, so I wonder why I am reading it. I mean, the incidents are entertaining and well told, but I’d like to know if it’s fact or fiction. He’s probably never cleaned his own kitchen or put a load of washing in the machine (I’m jealous). He’s never lived in the real world since he was 20, and he’s not starting to with this book.

The other problem is Keith himself. I don’t want a book full of agonising over what might have been/should have been/how he hurt people and so on (that’s Who I Am, by Pete Townshend), but a little admission that maybe he spent a lot of his life being pretty unhelpful (to put it in very mild terms) would have leant a little more reality to the proceedings.  He points out that while he was on heroin he made Exile on Main St and learned to ski, or whatever.  But he also made Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock n Roll, Black and Blue and Love You Live, none of which are exactly brilliant, though there are flashes enough to suggest that had he had it together the spark might have survived. And even after he kicked it, the great songs have been intermittent at best. (I’ll say this for the book, I listened to ‘How Can I Stop’ off the forgotten Bridges to Babylon with new ears, and, yes, it’s a great track.) In the 70s Mick Jagger held the band together and made Keith wealthy and kept the money flowing, while Keith spent his time making sure there’d be a hit of heroin waiting for him when the plane landed. Jagger was the grown-up and Keith perennially a child. But the magic of the Stones was gone ‘cos, really, the Stones were great when Keith was great, and in the 70s Keith was about drugs before he was about music. They say in sport ‘don’t flirt with your form’. When  you’re on a roll, don’t take your foot off the gas. By the time he got off heroin, the momentum was long gone. It’s flared up now and again since; his solo Talk is Cheap, made when he was pissed off at Jagger, is a great record if you like Keith’s riffology.

Is it a good read? Oh, yeah. If you’re a Stones fan or a Keith fan, yeah. But the Richards ego is enormous. He barely recognises the existence of contemporaries beyond the Beatles and Elvis, as if they had nothing to teach him. So if you’re a fan to 60s/70s music in the broader sense, there’s surprisingly little here for you.

Keith’s cool, Keith’s tough, Keith has played and made some great music, he’s had an amazing life. His story is worth reading. Just take it with a grain of salt (and a shot of tequila).

 

An album a what?