The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Saturday, January 01, 2000

It's the end of the world as we know it

So with much fanfare, fireworks and music, we announced the arrival of The Year Two Thousand and depite the hype for the Year Two Thousand Bug, nothing much of not actually happened, which is a good thing.

The party was hosted by my friend Teen and her boyfriend outside their home in lovely Parkland, FL. They dig a pit for the bonfire and by the time I had arrived at 9 pm, it was pretty thick with coals already. By the time my friend Shane and I put the fire out, the coals were hot enough to melt glass.

The actual fanfare consisted of a lot of fireworks being set off by various party members. All of the fireworks consisted of variations on Roman Candles—none of the fireworks we had were capable of being fired up in the air—but we did have enough going that a large cloud of smoke was drifting its way lazily across the field and the nearby horses (the party was held near a stable) were all spooked and one broke out of its stable.

The fact that I still had a house, with power, was a plus.

The garage is over there, but you can't park there …

After getting up from the previous night's (and morning's) celebrations, I had enough time to check some email before heading out to the Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport to pick up some friends returning from visiting family.

The Ft. Lauderdale Airport used to be a decently designed airport—three terminals in a U-shaped configuration, with a parking garage nestled between the terminals. It was an easy matter of parking, and walking to the appropriate terminal. The airport itself is accessable directly from the freeway (exit 11B on I-595 east). Nice. Simple. Easy.

Well, it used to be.

Since I last picked someone up, they've started construction on a new terminal (renumbering the original ones) and a new parking garage, in front of the old one. Driving into the airport there was one of those large digital signs used for construction pointing the entrance to the new garage was this immediate left turn from which a few cars were trying to leave the garage. Just a mess.

Once parked, I found it impossible to find a way to actually walk out of the garage and to any of the terminals, and from what I could see, there was no way to get to the terminal I needed to be at (the one farthest back) except to leave this garage, and drive to the original one next door.

Fortunately, I wasn't parked long enough to accrue a charge, but still, I had to circle back around the airport, in which I missed the pickup lanes (I ended up on the upper level reserved for dropping off passengers). I did manage to find entry to the original parking garage but that did mean I was several minutes late in picking up my friends.

I walked into the airport and immediately found Paul. Which isn't hard when you're looking for a 6'4" bald guy. His wife, Lorie was on the upper level where the gates are, looking for me. So I told him to stay put and I'll go find his wife.

I head upstairs and I don't see her. Walk down the entire length of the terminal, head downstairs and walk back to Paul.

“Didn't find her,” I said. “Which gate did you come in?”

“The one above the stairs over there,” said Paul. I took leave again, rode the escalator up and found Lorie waiting for me at the top.

“I was worried you forgot about us,” she said.

“Nope, I just got stuck in the parking vortex of Hell,” I said. We then proceeded to walk downstairs, to collect Paul and the luggage and then headed out to my car.

I drove them home, then we went out for a nice dinner.

V2_OS and other strange brews

Checked up on VS_OS today. Surprise, surprise, they finally released the source code. Immediately downloaded it and took a look.

Nothing surprising really, except that the source code to the bootsector is missing. Or rather, there is code to a boot sector, but …

BOOTIMAGE    DB 0E9H, 011H, 001H, 0FFH, 0FFH, 0FFH, 0FFH, 0FFH, 02BH, 056H
             DB 032H, 05FH, 046H, 053H, 02BH, 000H, 030H, 030H, 030H, 02EH
             DB 030H, 030H, 035H, 000H, 080H, 000H, 000H, 000H, 000H, 000H
             DB 000H, 000H, 044H, 033H, 022H, 011H, 010H, 000H, 000H, 000H
             DB 000H, 000H, 000H, 000H, 000H, 000H, 00DH, 00AH, 056H, 032H
             DB 02DH, 04FH, 053H, 020H, 056H, 030H, 02EH, 031H, 020H, 028H
             DB 043H, 029H, 031H, 039H, 039H, 039H, 020H, 056H, 032H, 05FH
             DB 04CH, 061H, 062H, 02CH, 020H, 052H, 06FH, 074H, 074H, 065H
             DB 072H, 064H, 061H, 06DH, 02EH, 00DH, 00AH, 000H, 04CH, 06FH
             DB 061H, 064H, 069H, 06EH, 067H, 020H, 053H, 079H, 073H, 074H
             DB 065H, 06DH, 031H, 036H, 000H, 00DH, 00AH, 046H, 061H, 069H

And some interesting code like:

   MOV AL, 'f'
   MOV DS:[DI+0], AL
   MOV DS:[DI+16], AL
   MOV AL, 'd'
   MOV DS:[DI+1], AL
   MOV DS:[DI+17], AL
   MOV AL, '0'
   MOV DS:[DI+2], AL
   MOV DS:[DI+18], AL
   MOV AL, 0
   MOV DS:[DI+3], AL         ; 'FD0',0
   MOV DS:[DI+19], AL

Two things wrong here (at least for 80x86 Assembly):

  1. Using DI instead of EDI in 32-bit mode. This causes an extra byte of opcode to be generated for a 16-bit offset.
  2. Moving individual letters into locations. If you are doing this at this level, you can do better by:
    		mov	eax,$00306466           ; 'fd0',0
    		mov	[edi],eax               ; DS: override
    		mov	[edi+16],eax            ; not needed

In poking around, I found a link to RDOS, another 80x86 operating system written in Assembly. This one is impressive, if only because it's a functional OS in about 130,000 lines of Assembly (including TCP/IP). Haven't had much time to look around this one though.

We're Microsoft. We don't have to care.

Received email from a friend announcing the birth of their new child. Unfortunately that's all I know because:

Attached is an e-mail greeting created with American Greetings =
CreataCard software from Micrografx.

To view this greeting you must be running Microsoft Windows.


Sunday, January 02, 2000

Move along, nothing here …

Sick. Slept. Move along. Nothing here.

Monday, January 03, 2000


Sick. Sick sick sick. That's what I am. Spent most of the day being sick in bed. I'm achy all over, but I'm not nauseus so it's not quite the flu. My nose is runny but not entirely stuffed up, so it's not quite a cold. I am coughing, but it's not continuously, so it's not quite bronchitus. I do however, get these headaches.

Last night I got ready for bed, and between the time I walked from the bathroom to the bed it felt as if someone turned the tempurature down 40 degrees (C or F, take your pick) so I ended up shivering uncontrollably for maybe five to ten minutes before I started warming up. Then I would get too hot, move and again, it would feel like someone piped an artic blast of wind down the covers and I'd be shivering again.

Going to the bathroom was fun. Get up, oh my is it cold run run shut the door start a steaming hot shower going to warm me up, do my thing, shut the steaming hot shower down, leave bathroom oh my is it @#$@# cold run run dive under covers shiver until too warm.

Sometime this morning I realized I must have been sweating up a storm because I'm drenched. Any move I do brings in fresh cold air underneath the covers. Horrible.

Sometime around 1 pm, I can actually move around without feeling cold. I get up, take a shower, dress, remove sheets from bed, combine with sleeping clothes, and proceed to put them in the wash.

The effort drained me, so I sack out on the couch.

Three hours later I get up, move the items from the wash to the dryer, and go back to sleep.

Three or four hours later I get up. I'm no longer unduely cold, my nose isn't running, I'm not coughing and I don't exactly have a headache (but I am lightheaded). I'm not exactly tired, but I'm not exactly a walking ball of energy either. It's like I want to go to sleep, but I'm to tired to. I'm still somewhat out of things right now.

Tuesday, January 04, 2000

Sickness past, but sleep still eludes …

After sleeping for something like 20 hours yesturday I'm pretty much fine, although my all ready screwed up sleeping schedule is even more screwed up than usual (here it is nearly 7 am and I'm wide awake, but for how long I don't know).

After I wrote yesturday's entry I think I fell asleep again, only to get up around 8 pm or so, pull the sheets from the dryer, made my bed and was so exausted by the effort that I fell alseep for another three hours or so.

Feeling quite light-headed, I went to the Clock for dinner (that being the closest place still open for food) and that did help some. I got home, took a shower and did other stuff to get ready for bed, but by that time I was more or less awake.

So now I find myself not tired at 7 am.


One potato, two potato …

From the “Oh my …” Department (via Flutterby) is the story of a woman and her love of the potato. Not for the squemish or those under 18, if you get my drift.

Wednesday, January 05, 2000

Sick, part N

Still sick. Blah. It seems that most people (if not all) that attended Friday night's little Y2K party is sick. Perhaps it was being outdoors all night long that might have done something. Or all the smoke from the bonfire. Or something.

The local Internet2 POP

Curiousity got the better of me, and I found out that my old college, FAU, is part of the Internet2. Ah, to be part of a non-commercial highspeed network.

But in looking over FAU's proposal for hooking up to the Internet2, I notice that not one of the projects requiring use of the Internet2 is from the Computer Science and Engineering Department. Sadly, I don't find that at all surprising, especially when they're having all students turn in ANSI C programs in Microsoft Word format. I kid you not.

I, or my friend Mark, could go on and on about it all, but I'll stop here.

A Clockwork Orange Owl

Now, about that logo.

A Clockwork Orange Owl

The mascot of FAU is the burrowing owl, a small owl (perhaps six inches in hight) that lives under ground in burrows. To say that it actually burrows is an overstatement, since it actually doesn't burrow at all, but appropriates (read: steals) already burrowed burrows.

Around FAU they are the prime target for a large population of feral cats.

I don't know who came up with the picture but somehow I can't picture a burrowing owl hanging out with his fellow droogs at the local milk bar listening to Beethoven and engaging in a bit of the old ultra-violence.

But perhaps that's just me …

Linux bite) the Watt Tripoli!

My friend Hoade just got some speech recognition software and sent me a dictated email. Part of it reads:

I wonder if I didn't go a little too fast on the speech training. It seems that anything I say is clearly Miss Understood by this bucking basedface phase space based. OK at night wasn't saying octane no not octane docking note not docking awk and known not awk and octane octane you CK e u c k d you see today got the met at up

A delete this lettersentence the descendants to the descendants please delete this sentence

It gets more incoherent if you can believe that.

I think this technology needs a bit more work. It took what? Five years or so for the handwriting recognition on the Newton to actually work most of the time?

This is almost as amusing as the time Hoade ran his novel through Microsoft Word's “Summarize” feature. He ends his letter with:

The lecture h the lecture h the laughter h a the vector eight of the let tear that tear letter and

The letter H
The letter O
The letter A
The letter D
Will air E

I'm typing this part–AIEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

Thursday, January 06, 2000

You have got to be kidding!

I'm still trying to get an operating system installed on an old laptop given to me. 4M RAM and 120M harddrive and it's proving quite difficult. I figured an older version of Slackware would work but in the limited searching the oldest version I found was 3.3, which won't install from the floppy if there's only 4M. It'll install from the harddrive, but well … that's the problem … I can't get it on the harddrive unless I install it from the floppy …

So it looks like I'm going to have to go a route I did when I tried installing Thix on the machine—make a bootable disk image on my local system, then move the image over.

It's either that, or I write my own operating system.

Not that I haven't seriously considered that.

Yes, I am clinically insane …

Just for the record, it is possible to install Linux (a 2.0 kernel even!) on a system with only 4M RAM and 120M Harddrive.

Why anyone would want to do such a thing is another story.

Friday, January 07, 2000

iApple's iCEO iNtroduces iMac's iDisk

You can talk about eye-candy (in the hardware, or in the software) all you want (and I must admit, I'm liking it too), but the word is COMPATABILITY. I want to access and use my files from anywhere - I want to remotely call programs on my mac from some PC (using rpc, I guess :) ). I want to fire up an FTP program and access my files. I don't want to think about it too hard. I just want to do it…

This bubble has already been burst

There seems to be some buzz going on about Apple's Apple's recent announcement reguarding iDisk.

Some people are worried that Apple is trying to control both ends of the Web (and Jobs has been quoted as saying just that) but if you actually read the announcement, it seems they're going to be doing that Geocities thang of offering “free” web hosting (only in this case, it's not exactly free—you have to buy a iMac first) and making it very easy to create the site (it appears local to your machine).

Not a bad idea really. Take NFS (or Samba, or AppleTalk, or … ), add authentication to the protocol (well, NFS already required authentication but not to a user level) and the whole notion of FTP, or publishing, goes away.

You do have to be aware of security issues, so it might be better to start from scratch. Might have to check out the protocol used for iDisk.

Tuesday, January 11, 2000

I hate you, you hate me, let's be business partners!

Just because a company is transglobal in scope doesn't mean it's the same company everywhere. My friend Mark works for a large international company, Siemens.

Not to be confused with Siemens Stromberg Carlson, which is across the street from him. Nor from Siemens Rolm, which, if it still exists, is down the street from him. I don't recall exactly which Siemens he works for (and for that matter, I doubt if Mark recalls either) but while they may be all wholly owned subsidiaries of Siemens, they are in fact, vicious enemies that charge each other twice as much for the same equipment their competitors would sell them.

Why this should be remains a mystery that only PHBs can fully understand (without their heads exploding).

The Guy I Almost Was

I was able to crawl out of the debt-hole and bootstrap myself into the lower middle class. For the first time in my adult life, I can afford to eat in restaurants where I don't work.

The Guy I Almost Was

It's best to start from the beginning if you starting reading this comic. Not as outright hillarious as Sluggy Freelance but it's more subtle, a dryer form of humor.

I think programmers forget this sometimes …

Programmers do their work but once, while users are saddled with it ever thereafter.

Jef Raskin, original project lead for the Apple Macintosh


Thursday, January 13, 2000

And this is your government on drugs

I just have to wonder how far out government will go on the “War on Drugs.” It seems now they're willing to pay for anti-drug friendly TV programming in addition to regular advertising.

I'm not sure exactly how I feel about this. On the one hand, come on, it's TV. The networks are out to make money and if someone were willing to pay even more for pro-drug programming, we'd get more pro-drug programming (remember: always follow the money). And doesn't this also following along with the “Don't Drink and Drive” campaign? I wouldn't consider the “Don't Booze and Cruise” campaign to be that bad—heck, I like that better than the Prohibition we in the United States had in the 1920s. And it applies social pressure to solve a problem than legislative pressure which to me is always a good thing.

But this is “The War on Drugs” here (or as some of my friends would say, “The War on Some Drugs”). And the government. Where does this fervor for anti-drugs come from? Certainly not from the majority of my friends. Perhaps we should follow the money?

There are drugs, and then there are drugs

The United States has this small drug problem—the government wants to outlaw the use of drugs (well, some drugs), but watch TV for any length of time and what will you see?

Advertisements for drugs.

Okay, so it's not advertisements for marijuana or cocaine or even nicotine, but if you ever feel achy, stuffy, feverish, coughy, congested, constipated, asthmatic, pimply or just plain blah, there's a pill, elixor, syrup, patch, serium, drop, spray or inhalent to make you feel all better.

I remember as a kid taking medicine to help with the achy, stuffy head, fever and coughs for all the colds and flus I got. The one thing that I distinctly remember is that no matter how much medicine I would take, I would never feel as good as quickly and for as long as the ads said I should. Over time (and for a variety of reasons) I stopped taking all those medicines when sick and just let nature run its course (except for the rare times when I would get bronchitis—then it was run to the doctor to get antibiotics).

Now I rarely get sick and when I do (usually once a year or so) it's rarely bad enough to take me entirely out (but I feel lethargic for about a month as it works its way around my body). But a few years ago I did get a nasty flu while visiting Dad out in California.

Dad gave me some over the counter medication and I was amazed that it actually seemed to work like it said it would in the advertisements.

The reason I think it worked then and not before was that I had lost any resistance I may have had to the drugs. Take drugs all year round, and your body will build up resistance to it. Forsake them, and when you need them, they'll tend to work. I suspect the ads are true for those people who have never taken drugs (or so rarely take them).

It seemed to be that in my case.

But getting back to what I was talking about. You have a slew of advertisements saying drugs are bad. Then you have another slew of advertisements saying drugs are good. Is it any wonder we have a problem here?

“Hi, I'm an annoying computer program calling you to sell … ”



I pick up the phone. “Hello?” I croak. See, I'm still sick.

“Hello. Did you receive a computer over the holidays?”

“No—” but even before I can finish that …

“Do you need help in setting it up?”

“No, not—”

“Let me help! My name is Mark and I'm available at your convienence to set up your computer, teach you how to use it. I can even back up your harddrive on CD. My rate is—”


This was the second solicitation I received today over the phone.

The Chairman is dead … long live the Chairman!

It was bound to happen sooner or later, but Gates resigns!Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, stepped down, with Ballmer replacing him.

Was this prompted by the DOJ investigation? Possibly, but not in the way you think. Gates has been, for pretty much the late 80s and 90s, Microsoft. The two are one. Microsoft, Gates. Gates, Microsoft. Given the way Microsoft botched the DOJ trial, I almost think that this was orchestrated from the beginning as a way to allow Gates to retire from Microsoft without the stock tanking once he left.

Gates is nothing if not a brilliant (if not outright ruthless) businessman who's entire fortune is tied to a huge paper tiger. Even if he wanted to, he couldn't liquidate his stocks fast enough.

Then again, if Gates said they were splitting the company, he could pull it off without the hold DOJ thang to blame it on. He pulled the company around 180 degrees several times in the 90s to make up for missed opportunities without so much as a pause so maybe the whole DOJ thang was a blunder on their part.

I don't know.

Monday, January 17, 2000

Hi. I want to be a recovering system administrator …

Now I know why I hate system administration so much.

I've been re-hired by the company that fired me last September to fill in for their main system admin who is on vacation this week. I should have started last Thursday, but I still can't seem to shake this cold thang.

So my first day back to the office was today. And already I'm neck deep in email fires—from SPAM coming from BBN to a failing mail server running Qmail instead of Sendmail. Or maybe it's running both—I have no idea, the previous admin who worked on it no longer works here and I just found out, I have no account on the machine.


Delving back into the Scary Devil Monastery is always such fun.

“Uh, I think my mouth exploded … ”

I think my mouth exploded.

Wednesday, January 19, 2000

“If I tell you what I do, I have to kill you … ”

Employers are taking a harder line. They're making anyone they do business with sign contracts promising not to share company secrets. They're meeting with employees to explain exactly what should remain confidential. Some, like Starbucks, are telling even entry-level hires that they may have to abide by agreements barring them from joining competitors if they quit.

USA Today article on corporate secrets

Just a part of the plan to corporate serfdom. Not that I'm paranoid (then again, I don't work at Starbucks either).

Saturday, January 22, 2000

Dancing with the Devil

A few years later, several top-selling Marvel artists would break from the pack and form a new company called Image. In doing so, they would shift the debate from rights and principles to clout and competition, but both developments would share a common premise, one worth considering even today; that creators already have the right to control their art if they want it; all they have to do is not sign it away.

Scott McCloud, The Creator's Bill of Rights.

Remember, the next time you get that agent waving a million dollar recording contract in front of you what exactly it is you are giving up.

Wednesday, January 26, 2000

Secret agent man

The Central Intelligence Agency is vey good. So good that I had no clue I'm a CIA agent! Yes, I was caught on film in Tiajuana. I'm in the first group photo, number six. Besides, I doubt that number five is the actual head of the unit. Too obvious. No, it has to be number nine.

And yes, they are cool shades.

Tiajuana libel

I'm not sure what Spookbusters has against Jason and Wendy Simpson but whatever it is, it seems to be pretty intense.

I met them. The group photo was taken on a trip to San Diego where a large gathering from alt.society.generation-x came together to celebrate News Year's Eve for 1997. Fun trip.

But I still don't remember any CIAesque escopades I may have been involved with. Bummer.

Mild Mild Wreck

My friend Mark, Jeff and I watched Wild Wild West (or as I like to call it, “Mild Mild Wreck”). If you turn your brain off it's not that bad, but it wasn't worth the price of admission (and I paid the price of admission when it came out).

Seeing it on DVD, we played around with some of the features of the set Mark has after the movie. Mostly we zoomed in on Salma Hayek. Paused on Salma Hayek. Zoomed and paused on Salma Hayek. Ah, Salma Hayek. What can I say? Possibly the best part of the entire film.

Okay, the best part of the film.

Thursday, January 27, 2000

How do I get there from here?

On one of the mailing lists I'm on, a member posted her snailmail address, fairly confident that no one could find her place, living way out in the country like she does.

Five minutes at MapQuest and I had directions from my house in Lower Sheol to her house in Wisconsin (something like 1,750 miles door to door).

I also found another site, Etak, which does the same thing (pretty much got the same directions) plus gives out latitude and longitude information as well.

I've yet to hear back to see if the directions were any good or not.

White people with dreadlocks. What a long strange trip it's been.

So a friend comes by and takes me to this bar along the ocean (forgot the name of the bar) because a mutual friend of ours is the keyboardist for the Grateful Dead coverband Crazy Fingers (out of Ft. Lauderdale).

I'm not overly ga-ga over the Grateful Dead like most Dead Heads are, and I'm not into that whole Hippy thang either. But at the bar there were plenty of aging Hippies, neo-Hippies, HippyChicks, tie dye shirts, Birkenstocks and long flowing skirts, and white people with Dreadlocks. White people with Dreadlocks.

White people with Dreadlocks!

Typical Americans to co-opt what was a rebel statment against the whites and make it a fasion statement.

White people with Dreadlocks.


It was also amusing to see how many Dead Heads were into The Industry. I met at least five people who worked at various jobs within the Industry and there were probably more. My friend the keyboardist, is also in The Industry. He's also a paper millionaire, having sold his website for an ungodly amount to another company.

I think I have an easier time with a millionaire playing in a Grateful Dead coverband than I do with white people with Dreadlocks.

Friday, January 28, 2000

“We liked your site so much, we want you to submit it to us!”

First I'm a CIA agent and then I get this:

From: <>
To: Sean Conner
Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2000 18:20:37 -0800
Subject: It's Time to Submit Your Site to

Just a brief message to notify you that your site is currently not scheduled in the pending reviews for Brides and grooms will not be able to see your site through our upcoming service unless you submit yo ur URL at It's FREE! Now's the time!

It's just so … odd that I just had to check it out. No default background color (whoever did it assumed white—little do they realize my default is still that hideous gray color that Mosaic popularized in the early 90s) so it looks like crap.

But from the name, I suppose it's a wedding related site. But I have to wonder … they probably got my email address from my web site, so why did they spam me to have me send the URL of my site back to them? Are they totally incompetent?

And why am I asking rhetorical questions?

How about an Electric Daniel Webster?

I've done the Electric King James Bible and eventually, I'll get this journal electrified as well (and maybe improve the writing style to boot!).

But in the mean time the next fairly easy thing to work on (unlike my ideas for Shakespeare) is a dictionary. I have several to choose from, and it's more usuable for more people than the Bible (but the journal/web log module I want to write it going to be big).

It seems easy.

brings up the defintion for “organization,” while

Brings up all the definitions beginging with “o.”

But there's a problem. Say I want to do something like:

To bring up all the technical terms beginning with “ai.” Nice, only there there exists several entires starting with “ai,” including the very term “AI.” What if I just want “ai?” Or all terms starting with “ai?”

Not an easy problem then, is it?

I'm not about to get into the navigation schemes yet.

And how about an end-run around Open Source?

Create a new PC hardware architecture using a modified Transmeta Crusoe CPU at it's heart. The CPU is modified to contain an encryption/decryption engine and the code morphing software is updated to include the decryption of encrypted executable code. Code morphing is a general conversion process and there's nothing that says that the binary source has itself got to be executable on some existing CPU. As the results of code morphing appear only within an internal instruction cache it's very difficult to gain access to the unencrypted executable program code.

Geoff Lane, at osOpinion

I get this dread feeling that the Crusoe CPU from Transmeta is going to be used as an end-run around Open Source software. Just when you thought we were getting away from proprietary systems …

My celebrity match is …

My Celebrity Match is Shania Twain. Not a bad choice, even if I don't like country music all that much.

Sunday, January 30, 2000

Now that's darned rude!

It's 5:30. I'm with some friends when I get beeped. It's my home number. I call. It's my roommate. His RedHat 6.0 box was hacked. What should he do?

I mention a few things to look for, but it looks bad. Who ever broke in either got spooked, or was feeling malicious and the final two commands we found in the .bash_history file were:

rm -rf /var/log
rm -rf /*

My roommate, Rob, managed to stop it before it did more damage, but they still wiped out /boot, /bin and parts of /dev. Using Tom's RootBoot disk he was able to survey the damage and then waited until I got home.

From what I've been able to determine, it appears that some script kiddie was running a program to look for exploitable boxes (RedHat 6.0) because around noon yesturday someone tried to FTP into my box and Rob's other box from Harvard. This said script kiddie then had a list of hosts to exploit today and Rob's box was broken into and damaged around 5:30 pm EST.

Breaking in and looking around is one thing. Maliciously deleting files is another.

Monday, January 31, 2000

a visit to Obnoxico, Inc.

After lunch, Mark and I headed over to WalMart to kill some time (neither one of us had to be at work today).

“You realize,” Mark said, “that there are only four different layouts for WalMarts?”

“Easier to franchise,” I said. “Sign here, and pick layouts one, two, three or four.”

“And you realize that whenever one of these go up, the local Mom-n-Pop shops go out of business,” said Mark.

“Of course,” I replied (and yes, we did actually have this conversation), “How else can they compete with large volume cheaply made merchandise from Asia? And if a store in an area is not that profitable, who cares? The rest of the collective can support a non-profiting store for a while.”

Really, I hear these stories about communities that try to make WalMarts illegal, or otherwise make it very difficult for them to open up stores. But really, if a community really cared enough to keep a WalMart out, then the community as a whole should just boycott the store. If no one goes to WalMarts, then it brings in no money and in due time it will shut down.

Simple economics. Yet why the furvor and laws? Because a select few people think they know better than the community.

Sure, what WalMart does isn't nice. And I tend to prefer local stores over larger chains anyway. But on the flip side, for large volume cheaply made merchandise from Asia and 24-hour access, you really can't beat WalMart. And my schedule that is soemthing to keep in mind.

Although the selection in the entertainment area is pretty spotty. Unless you like Brittany Spheres or the movie “Joan of Arc” (man did that hit the video stores fast) you don't have much choice.

But they do sell Nerf guns. Of which Mark bought one for work.


After lunch and killing some time at Walmart, Mark and I headed to Office Depot to check to see if they had any webcams.

After the experiments I did with my digital camera and using it as a webcam, Mark got the itch to do something similar. Like me, he is Microsoft free.

And that's the main problem. Most new webcams are now USB based, and the USB support for Linux is spotty at best, and with that, only with the latest development kernels. Mark and I are still running Linux 2.0 kernels (why fix it when it isn't broken?).

And the one webcam that isn't USB based, the Logitech Quickcam VC, doesn't have Linux drivers—nor is Logitech being generous with programming informtation; they're downright hostile and no information is available. The older Connectix ones (Logitech bought Connectix) are supported under Linux.

There doesn't seem to be any reason why Logitech should keep this information under wraps, unless:

  1. Logitech doesn't want others to know just how lousy the hardware is.
  2. Logitech is getting presure from some company on high not to release information that would allow other competing operating systems to use the hardware (no names, but its initials are <cough>Microsoft<cough>—seriously, many companies are afraid of doing anything which might anger the Redmond giant and giving any OS competitors any slight edge might anger them).
  3. Logitech management (or rather, the lawyers) are relunctant to release anything which might be considered Intellectual Property.

I suspect the truth is “all of the above” to some degree.

Who owns who?

In trying to find the official Nerf site, I obviously tried Imagine my surprise when I ended up at Hasbro Interactive | Atari!

And according to the Nerf Gun FAQ, there is no official Nerf site.



I worked some more on the digital camera I have. The problem is one of focus. Or rather, the lack thereof.

The camera is a fixed-focus camera and you have to take the unit practically apart to refocus it. The lens assembly consists of two cylinders, one that slides inside another, with a screw/spring assembly on one side to adjust the position of the inner cylinder, which houses the lens, against the outer cylinder, which attaches to the mount on which the CCD rests.

When last I left it, I thought that since the screw/spring assembly was on one side, when tightened, one side was pulled in closer than the other side, thus leading to pictures that were half focused. My thought was to remove the screw/spring assembly, file down the end of the outter cylinder, allowing the inner one to adjust closer, and use some glue to hold it in place.

No avail.

During the machinations, I removed the blue filter that sits above the CCD. Interesting results. Two exceedingly blurry pictures that I find rather amusing:

Rhspdody in Red Rhapsody in Peace

Okay, so I'm not getting anywhere. I dig up the screw/spring assembly (I took the thing off back last November). The glue thing wasn't working (and I didn't have the right glue anyway, so it wasn't holding very well) so I reattached the screw/spring assembly minus one small wire piece that seemed to work against the spring (go figure).

So, with CCD filter, and newly reassembled cylinder assembly back in place, a few tweaks and finally success! (I'm holding a small Phillips screw driver in my mouth, and I'm hold up my hand to distinquish this photo from the 21 other ones I took)

Obligatory Picture

[Don't hate me for my sock monkey headphones.]

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

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