Sunday, October 20, 2013

An almost-painless OS upgrade: OpenSUSE 12.3

I must be prone to bouts of gratuitous optimism, because this upgrade had its rough spots.

Getting the download image was easy enough. Went to the OpenSUSE website and downloaded it. ("It" here means the 32-bit DVD image.) I used an ancient powerbook to burn a DVD, as my old DVD writer stopped working some time back. I slid the DVD into the drive on this old IBM lease return I got a few years ago for $150 or whatever. It's got 1GB of RAM and a 32-bit P4 processor (bogomips : 6384.75).

It booted fine, with speed what you'd expect from an optical drive. But it took the longest time to probe disk drives and to find Linux partitions. Some time (an hour?) later, there was an error message... I suspected too many retries on the DVD reader.

Fine. Made a bootable USB drive following these instructions and booted it.

Well, it still took too long (IMO) to probe disk drives and find Linux partitions; in fact I gave up once, powered the box down and disconnected the DVD drive cable because I suspected it was goofing things up. It still took an awfully long time (literally hours) but finally I got to the place where it asked me if I wanted to continue.

I clicked the Next button, and then... installation just hung while updating the boot configuration. Huh? The lovely Carol was out, so I slid my chair to her computer and did a web search on "opensuse installation hangs" which landed me here, which included this:

are you sure you are not running out of disk space? (sorry, i know you
are probably have plenty of room, but what partitioning scheme did you
elect to use...that is: is /tmp on its own partition and is it REALLY
REALLY big?)
Whoa! ctl-alt-f2 and "df" -- my root partition was like 93% full. Ouch!

Freed up some space, and things started moving again. Whew! I was working on a shell script for the lovely Carol, and the next time I looked at my Linux box, there was the login screen. Yippee! I typed my login and password and... can't find home directory. Dang!

My homedir is NFS mounted; more than that, it's automounted. So I asked if nfs was running. Yes, but NFS whined at me: "portmap/rpcbind" was not running. OK, chkconfig portmap but apparently OpenSUSE doesn't use "portmap" any more.

$ chkconfig portmap
portmap: unknown service
$ chkconfig rpcbind
rpcbind  off
O...kay. I started rpcbind, and now nfs was happy. Was automounter running? You guessed it. So I said "chkconfig autofs" and of course it was off.

Enabled that, explicitly started it (going Neanderthal, I typed
$ /etc/init.d/autofs start
then alt-f7 back to the X11 screen, logged out and back in and... voilà! all was good.

I ejected the USB stick (which by now was /dev/sdb) and rebooted, and things pretty much worked. Google-chrome (upon which I'm typing this post) didn't, though; library incompatibility. I downloaded a new RPM, then
$ sudo rpm -Uvh Downloads/google-chrome-stable_current_i386
and after a few minutes (it had to delete the previous version) that was working too.

But wait; there's more!

I decided to try to get mail(1) working. xhost +; sudo yast2 and said I had a permanent connection to the mail server. Then I typed something like
date|mail -s test
and messages like these appeared:
postdrop: warning: mail_queue_enter: create file maildrop/856011.3977: Permission denied
postdrop: warning: mail_queue_enter: create file maildrop/856204.3977: Permission denied
postdrop: warning: mail_queue_enter: create file maildrop/856417.3977: Permission denied
postdrop: warning: mail_queue_enter: create file maildrop/856738.3977: Permission denied
postdrop: warning: mail_queue_enter: create file maildrop/857467.3977: Permission denied
…and just kept coming. A web search led me to a couple of helpful links: And now I've got working mail too.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Matthew Explains Himself

No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. from Matthew 11:27

We are going through Matthew in our marvelous Sunday morning group. Last week, our teacher asked, How does Jesus (“the Son” in the passage above) decide who will get to know the Father?

Immediately John 14:23 came to mind, where Jesus says, If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. But another answer, probably a better one, is close at hand. Rather than going to another gospel, we can look around, right where we are. Here's a bit more of the context:

25At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.

27“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:27-30
To whom does the Son reveal the Father? Those who come to him and take his (easy) yoke upon them! Now that's not a mathematical proof, but look at verse 25: things (such as "who is the Father?") have been revealed to little children (i.e., those who follow Jesus—that is, those who came to Jesus) but were hidden from the "wise and learned" who did not.

The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom

That was last week; this week's passage included a verse about secrets: The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. (from Matthew 13:11, NIV)

What are the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, and how did Jesus’ listeners get this knowledge? Again my mind went quickly to John (in 8:32 Jesus says, "Then you will know the truth") but why go there when there's plenty right here?

2[H]e got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. … 9He who has ears, let him hear."

10The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?"

11He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.

from Matthew 13:2–12
What am I saying here? As our teacher pointed out this week, Jesus was in a boat, and a crowd stood on the shore. As he spoke, his words landed on various kinds of people in the crowd, just as the farmer's seeds landed on various kinds of soil in the parable.

After Jesus’s closing line, He who has ears, let him hear, many in the crowd said, "Great sermon, Rabbi," and went home with no idea of what Jesus had just said. But some came to him—Matthew calls them "disciples" (i.e., followers)—and said, basically, "Huh?"

It is exactly to these people that Jesus says, "You've got the knowledge of kingdom secrets." The secrets actually come to one big secret, an open one: it's Jesus. To paraphrase Archilochus: the wise and learned know many things; Jesus’s disciples know one big thing.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Nobody has the right to be this happy

Have you ever had one of those days when you can't believe how fortunate you are? I get together with a small group on Fridays, and we tell each other what God has done, as Psalm 16:23-24 says. At one of these gatherings, I told my friends it's easy for me to love God because he is so good to me.

Tuesday morning started early—earlier than expected, because I had trouble sleeping, worrying uselessly about something or another. Happily, I found this beautiful passage from Merton's No Man Is an Island:

All nature is meant to make us think of paradise. Woods, fields, valleys, hills, the rivers and the sea, the clouds traveling across the sky, light and darkness, sun and stars, remind us that the world was first created as a paradise for the first Adam…. Heaven is even now mirrored in created things. All God's creatures invite us to forget our vain cares and enter into our own hearts, which God Himself has made to be His paradise and our own. If we have God dwelling within us, making our souls His paradise, then the world around us can also become for us what it was meant to be for Adam—his paradise. But if we seek paradise outside ourselves, we cannot have paradise in our hearts.
chapter 6 (Asceticism and Sacrifice) 15 (p. 115)
I went back to sleep with the thought that God is working to make my heart a paradise, for him and for me.

A few hours later I rose for a prayer meeting at church. They even provided coffee! It was a sweet time of fellowship, talking and praying with men and women who so love the church[audio].

After the prayer and fellowship, I drove my '86 Corolla (which still runs great!) to a side street, then ran like heck to catch the just-arriving Caltrain. Little did I know that my younger daughter had seen me running, and was leaving a note for me even as I rode the train—yes, I made it!

At work, I was putting a few finishing touches on a project when the boss cropped by my cubicle. She was happy about my results (we'd had a phone conference with India the night before) and stopped by to congratulate me on well-done job. That's not an everyday occurrence! The other thing was, she asked me how I would feel about working on a certain other project—something I'd mentioned before as an area I'd like to focus. So "I'd love to!" was no surprise.

At lunch, I went for a walk around the block, a little over a mile, and enjoyed the beautiful weather.

I had another chat with the boss after lunch, where she went further and told me to go ahead and spend some time on that new project, managing my time with the other two things I'm working on. She also indicated that there were things I could do that would gain "points" and that would be interesting (if not as much fun as actually writing code) and not all that difficult. I spent the rest of the day working on some code, which as usual put me in a good mood.

Walking out to catch the light rail, I pulled out my phone and called Peet's, because I had coffee duty for the evening meeting at church. The barista/manager said they'd start on those right away; it had been a hectic day, she said. I told her I'd be by just about six (i.e., about 10 minutes later than the "reservation" time) so no need to rush. I congratulated myself for remembering to call ahead.

Returning to my car in Menlo Park, I found the note Sheri had left for me. My heart overflowed with thankfulness. It occurred to me that we can bring joy to God's heart by expressing our love to him.

Dinner was served at our meeting, which is always nice; the meeting itself started with Scripture, a little sharing of things we were thankful for, and prayer. (I didn't say anything because once I started I might have taken the whole time.) There were some significant issues, but I enjoyed the blessings of fellowship and the presence of God's Spirit as we thought and discussed together.

Sing to the Lord, all the earth;
    proclaim his salvation day after day. 
Declare his glory among the nations, 
     his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
Psalm 16:23-24

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

How to Use Your Lottery Winnings

That wasn't the subtitle of Babette’s Feast, but that’s how I took it. Let me explain.

There's a backstory (several actually), but here's a very brief outline: The pastor in a village in Jutland had two daughters, who have spent their lives caring for the poor in their village. Now elderly themselves, they take in an impoverished French cook to help them with their work. One day the news arrives: their cook has won the lottery! She desires to use her bounty to prepare a feast for the village, as the centenary of the pastor's birth approaches. The sisters are reluctant, but are won over by their cook's earnest desire.

Babette prepares her eponymous feast. The sisters assume that after this feast is served, Babette will return to France to live in luxury. They are surprised, however, to learn that Babette has spent all her winnings to host this fabulous meal.

Earlier in life, I would have thought Babette ridiculous, but I begin to appreciate Babette's extravagance.

In reality, is Babette brilliantly generous, or imprudently profligate? What do you think? Suppose Babette died the next morning; would that change your thinking?

And what would/should/could I do with my winnings? Because in a real sense, I have won the lottery: my prize is the days that lie ahead. How should I use them? Who should I bless with them? Because I certainly can't take them with me.