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24 February 2008

Uni and Computers

Filed under: Gentoo,Haskell,Uni — Ivan Miljenovic @ 9:51 PM

The first semester of 2008 starts tomorrow. This year, I’ll be doing Honours in Mathematics at the University of Queensland. I’ve also got a couple more computers to put Gentoo onto!

Honours

The working title for my Honours Thesis is Graph Theoretic Analysis of Static Data. You can find my project proposal here. Short form is, I’m going to try and develop some libraries (in Haskell!!!) to simplify analysis of data using graph theory (probably focusing on complexity analysis). To cap it off, I’m going to use it to develop an application that does simple analysis on Haskell source code. You can find a discussion about the suitability of this on the Haskell-Cafe mailing list here. My supervisor isn’t that happy though…. he clumps Haskell in with Scheme which he loathes. This is despite me re-implementing (in the sense that it did the same thing, not in the actual algorithms) from scratch (this was my first ever Haskell program, mind) a C program that he had to generate Partial Latin Squares… and finding more results than he did, with quite reasonable run-time (we never could find the bugs in his code…)!

A stack of boxes

Just to make life more interesting whilst I get started on my thesis (not to mention the other three subjects I’m taking this semester, and the tutoring I’ll be doing) I’m going to be installing Gentoo on a couple of computers.

A serve of that thanks

I picked up an old PIII IBM desktop last year, which I plan on turning into a simple file server (probably use it as a darcs server as well to provide a modicum of backups for my work). After putting in a network card from another box my brother pulled apart but couldn’t put together again and replacing a 64MB RAM module with a 256MB one I started installing Gentoo on it yesterday. At the moment, it’s still installing… though as soon as the kernel finishes compiling, all I have to do is install grub and then it’s all installed… I hope! It won’t be usable yet, as I haven’t actually installed anything more than the bare minimum yet, but we’ll see how it goes.

I’m eating my words

I have been rather vocal in the past to family and friends in how much I dislike Dell, mainly due to their annoying TV ads and how they bundle a whole bunch of unwanted junk on your laptop. However, I now find myself in the unenviable position of having to eaten my words, because the impossible happened: I’ve bought a Dell!

After almost breaking my back carrying it around all through this year’s linux.conf.au, I decided that it was time to replace my 15″, 2.6kg+ Acer Travelmate 803LCi laptop (a first-generation Centrino, which IIRC was top of the line when it came out) with something a little smaller, especially if I was going to be taking it to Uni every day. I had originally planned to buy a new desktop computer over the holidays, but due to time constraints (to be able to research and choose parts, etc.) I decided not to. Even whilst visiting with family after LCA, I started to look around for a 12″ laptop, and I settled on what at the time I thought was the best available for around $2000: HP Compaq Presario B1246TU. It wasn’t perfect (I wanted 4 GB of RAM rather than the default 2 GB, but at first glance the price appeared prohibitive), but HP was meant to have decent Linux support and the offerings from other manufacturers in the main had either lower specifications, a higher price or both.

When I came back, I was in the process of shopping around for who had the best price when I decided to have one last look at the various laptop manufacturers. Despite my misgivings, I also looked at Dell’s website but decided to have a look at their business offerings (the only standard laptop they had that came close to what I wanted was a 13.3″ XPS, which was slightly larger and dearer than my ideal). There, I found their new(-ish) Vostro 1200 models. The default high-specced model was almost identical to the HP (with a newer processor version!) for around 3/4 of the price. Also, for another few days they had some deals where you got an extra GB of RAM, a bluetooth mouse and a slipcover free! Whilst I couldn’t get rid of Vista like I wanted, they did let you downgrade (upgrade?) from Vista Business to any other version or XP Pro, so downgrading to Vista Basic saved me $100. Also – unlike most Dells – since these are aimed at business the only pre-loaded software is M$ Works (an oxymoron if ever I’ve seen one), McAfee anti-virus and Dell utilities.

Talking with a representative last Monday (which was the last possible day to get the mouse+slipcover offer), I managed to get a fully upgraded (hardware-wise) model with an extra power adaptor as well as Dell’s top-of-the-line 22″ monitor (which by all accounts is quite good) for $2002!!! This includes $150 off for the monitor (since low-end ones are available with $50 if bundled with a laptop) and $100 for getting Vista installed even though I didn’t want it!

Unfortunately, I still haven’t received it yet :(. Despite the website saying delivery takes 7-10 days, the expected delivery date is 6/3/08, which by my calculations is closer to 15 business days after ordering!. This is particularly frustrating, since their order status site says that it’s built and in transit to Australia… oh well, guess I’ve got some time to play with the old box whilst I wait ;-)

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