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.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Oh, so that WAS the problem

The problem wasn't with OSPFit was with the port settings.

Sigh.

I keep forgetting that on Cisco routers, interfaces named “Ethernet” are only 10Mbps, while “FastEthernet” are 100Mbps. Also, 10Mbps interfaces are not full duplex, but half duplex.

Now that I've made those changes, the problem seems to have gone away.

I have to remember: Ethernet are 10Mbps, FastEthernet are 100Mbps.


“I promise—THIS is a webkiller!”

From
"Its Here" <XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX>
To
sean@conman.org
Subject
Web Killer
Date
01 May 2006 12:38:34 -0500

Web Killer is the code name for V2, a new technology that will eventually replace the World Wide Web. We finely have a technology to take us to the next level of online computing.Find out where its going, what it means for you and how you can be apart of the journey. (www.OsiXs.org)

Welcome to the First Phase …

There isn't much to the site that actually describes what V2 is, or does, or how it accomplishes or wishes to accomplish what it wants done, or much of anything other than “Hey! The Internet as you know it is dead! And we're the ones that are going to replace it with our cool technology! Please donate!”

Believe are not, you are witnessing history in the making. Write here and write now we are preparing to launch a totally new online world apart from the World Wide Web.

From OsiXs.org and what you see is exactly what appeared on the website.

There's even less here than at the website of the fastest proprietary 80x86 based operating system (at least at the time, you got something that booted), and from the looks of things, V2_OS (I doubt there's a relation between the two, but you never know) it failed to take the Internet by storm (in the seven years since I first linked to it).

They have some lofty goals (“It will eventually cut your taxes because government will be streamlined and a lot more efficient in utilizing and administering its resources.”) but until I see something more substantial (“show me something!”) I personally don't see this going anywhere fast.


The Google Conspriacy A-go-go (for lack of a better title)

The more I read this site that's critical of Google, the less I understand what the heck Google is trying to do (and yes, I realize the site in question is heavily biased against Google, but unlike some other sites, this one doesn't come across like a conspriacy laden crack pot).

I always thought that Google made their money selling intranet (read: large private networks) search appliances and that the IPO was a legal requirement due to their number of outstanding shares. But from their recent filing (link via this page) they're no longer making the money they once were—perhaps they saturated the intranet search market?

I just don't understand what's going on inside Google.

Anyways, I decided to check how the Google AdSense is doing, and lo! I've made some money! I'm now up to stratospheric $8.19! I can afford lunch! Woot! I'm guessing some of the changes I've made behind the scenes have actually worked (basically, adding <!-- google_ad_section_start --> and <!-- google_ad_section_end --> around the actual content) so the Google Ads get to stay for the moment.

I also checked Amazon and while I'm doing way better with them, it's actually less money than I made in the same amount of time last year—I think the “mad money” I made with Amazon had more to do with timing than anything else.


One of the few bands that I'll bother to see in concert

I don't care for concerts and I've only been to a handfull in my life (well, excluding the ones I worked when I worked for the FAU auditorium stage crew) but there are a few bands (half a dozen) that I might make an exception and actually attend a concert.

I'm not sure what I dislike about concerts—the crowds of people, the huge venues (although I've only been to once arena concert—the rest have been at clubs) or the opening acts (none of the opening acts I've seen have been worth it—in fact, for once concert there were two opening acts; the first sucked, and the second one sucked loudly—fortunately the actual band we came for more than made up for the horrible opening acts) or the fact that concerts never start at the time printed upon the ticket.

And last night, there was an hour wait (tickets said 7:00 pm, things didn't start until 8:00 pm) and the opening act was … eh. Half the friends I went with found the opening act (forgot his name, but he played a ukelele and most of the songs seemed to have the same melody but different lyrics) and the other half hated the guy. Mercifully he only played for half an hour.

Half an hour later—

They Might Be Giants

—took to the stage.

Woot!

[They Might Be Giants, but they seem much bigger to me] [Confetti, shot during the song James K. Polk]

You'll have to excuse the pictures—those are the best ones that my cell phone took during the concert.

It's been awhile since I last saw them in concert—90? 91? 92?—back then it was just the Johns. This time it was the Johns and the Dans (although the drummer wasn't a Dan, oddly enough). And since it's been awhile, about half the material was new to me, which was nice.

But oddly enough, of what I consider their “signature” songs, Particle Man, Instanbul (was once Contantinople) and Birdhouse in your Soul, they didn't play Particle Man. Minor nit-pick though.

And they were certainly worth the horror of the ukelele playing opening act.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Silver change II

I saw the price of silver today (over $14/ounce) and I recalled that I have an actual silver quarter dollar. Back when I first found it, it was worth 59¢ (just in terms of silver content). On a lark, I recalculated the value today, and it came out worth a bit over $1.90, just in terms of silver content, enough for a cup of coffee.


Another one for the Cracker Files …

/*
* expand_stack SMP race local root exploit
*
* Copyright (C) 2005 Christophe Devine and Julien Tinnes
*
* This program is quite unreliable - you may have to run it
* several times before getting a rootshell. It was only tested
* so far on a bi-xeon running Debian testing / Linux 2.4.29-rc1.
*
* Vulnerability discovered by Paul Starzetz <ihaquer at isec.pl>
* http://www.isec.pl/vulnerabilities/isec-0022-pagefault.txt

Nice try, I'll give them that.

I got a call from Dan the Network engineer that a machine I manage had registered a large network spike overnight. When I heard that it was a large spike from the machine, I knew it wasn't a DoS attack, but was probably participating in one.

I unplugged the machine from the network then logged in from the console. I was able to find the rouge process (masquerading as an Apache process—nice job!) listening in one some randomly picked port, giving anyone that connected to that port a commande line:

#!/usr/bin/perl
# Telnet-like Standard Daemon 1.0
#
#    Dark_Anjo - dark_anjo666@hotmail.com
#            - dark_anjo@nucleozero.com.br
#            - www.xn.rg3.net
#            - www.red.not.br/xn
#
#  For those guys that still like to open ports
#  and use non-rooted boxes
#
#  This has been developed to join in the TocToc
#  project code, now it's done and I'm distributing
#  this separated
#
#  This one i made without IO::Pty so it uses
#  only standard modules... enjoy it
#
#  tested on linux boxes.. probably will work fine on others
#  any problem... #expl0its@irc.brasnet.org
#

But fortunately, the exploit (quoted at the top) didn't work on the machine so the shell obtained was a non-root shell.

Apparently, the customer account information was leaked and the crackers were able to FTP their scripts onto the server. Not much that can be done about that, other than telling the customer to keep a tighter lid on their login information.

And as I like to remind myself, it could have been worse

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Styling feeds III

A comment I received about styling feeds:

If you are concerned about the people reading your entries via RSS, change your feed to only include a subject, a link, and maybe a small snip of the entry so they will be forced to view your site to read the full entry.

That's how I've seen most RSS feeds do it these day's anyways

Squeaky

I responded that doing so would cut my readership (those that read through RSS would drop, and yes, it would. Some of the experiments I've read about, providing just the titles, or titles and an extract of the post, garners fewer readers than providing the entirety of the post in the feed.

And I have a nice number of people that read my site through my feed (Squeaky included). I'm also surprised this hasn't been addresses yet. Or if it has, I haven't come across anyone addressing this issue yet.

(Yes, today was a rather quiet day—why do you ask?)


Gives a whole new meaning to the term “war driving”

The expert gang suspected of stealing two of David Beckham's BMW X5 SUVs in the last six months did so by using software programs on a laptop to wirelessly break into the car's computer, open the doors, and start the engine.

Via Instapundit, Gone in 20 Minutes: using laptops to steal cars

Wow … that's pretty slick.

I wonder how long until a car gets a virus?

On second thought … I wish I didn't have that thought …

Thursday, May 04, 2006

And of course, it was related to spam

OK, so why is any of this information—about a company completely unrelated to Six Apart—important background? Because according to a post on the North American Network Operators Group mailing list, at some point yesterday the people at Blue Security decided that the best way to deal with the attack was to point the hostname www.bluesecurity.com to their TypePad-hosted weblog, bluesecurity.blogs.com.

Via shadesong, The dishonor of Blue Security

Changing DNS records to fend off a DDoS attack is certainly a novel approach to the problem. And from reading up on Blue Security, their spam fighting approach seemed to have pissed off the major spammers enough to launch a DDoS against them.

But I suspect this has much larger implications than just if Blue Security was right in what they did or not—it gives more fuel to the AT&Ts and Comcasts that want to carve up the Internet into fiefdoms of classed services, for our protection of course.

The little conspriacy theorist inside me wonders if the likes of AT&T and Comcast aren't indirectly funding spamming companies in the hope of pushing people over the edge into accepting a more tiered service plan for our protections, of course.


Less bogarts this time

The T-1 card for XXXXXXXX came in today, and around 5:30 I showed up at the office to install it. And of course F, who I informed earlier in the day I was coming over, had neglected to inform anyone until after I showed up.

It was rather amusing actually. I was in the server room with C when F called C to say I was coming over. C said okay, then hung up. C then told me to install the card, which requires turning off the router (most Cisco routers have hot-swappable parts—not this particular model though). Less than a minute F calls C saying the network was down. C then said yes, might it have something to do with Sean, who already showed up, installing the T-1?

Okay, perhaps you had to be there.

But it was amusing to see just how addicted to the Internet everyone at XXXXXXXX is.

Anyway, I came prepared with the configuration printed out in case the interfaces were renumbered (they were) and with the special console cable (which I did use to configure the T-1 card). The T-1 circuit however, failed to come up, and remained down even after poking at it from The Office (I could still get to XXXXXXXX's router from the DSL connection). In the end, I had to call in a trouble ticket with The Monopolistic Phone Company.

Later in the evening I got a call back from The Monopolistic Phone Company—their stuff is perfect, it must be something from the T-1 jack onwards at the XXXXXXXX side. Cable, misconfigured T-1 card, not their bailiwick.

Sigh.

Friday, May 05, 2006

It's the fifth of something …

At times, all it takes to ruin the rest of the day is a small event.

Today, I dropped my cell phone.

I've accidentally dropped my previous phone multiple times, and it never suffered any damage (other than cosmetic scuff marks). But not so with my new phone. No scuff marks, but the display is now malfunctioning—half the scan lines are now white, making it hard to read anything on the display.

I just want to crawl back into bed.

Update on Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

I should have stayed in bed. Just after writing this, I called Smirk telling him I was too sick to stay at work—I had barely enough time to make it to the bathroom before making my offering to the Great Porcelain God.

Traffic driving back home was bumper to bumper.

I don't remember much after hitting the bed.

Blarg.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Pings from a Plane

[Spent most of yesterday in bed—when I wasn't in bed, I did some surfing and came across this link worthy of being mentioned, but didn't have the energy. Good thing, since I can use it for today when I, thinking I was feeling better, did stuff I probably shouldn't have and paid for it later on. Oi. —Editor]

I just saw my plane cross the mid-Atlantic, not by looking out the window, but by watching routing updates cascade across the Internet. I'm writing from a Lufthansa jet right now, travelling from Munich to Boston. This plane offers the (relatively) new Connexion by Boeing wifi + satellite Internet service. It's seriously cool stuff—high latency, but absolutely functional. I've been aware of it for a while since the Boeing folks did a NANOG presentation about it last year. But this is the first time I've been able to use it.

Via jwz, Tracking Plane Flight on Internet

Now that's just darned neat. I know that Dan the Network engineer is playing around with BGP (setting up a dedicated BGP server to handle the full BGP routing table instead of trying to shoehorn the full BGP routing table into our routers) and I think it would be neat to see an Internet visualization via BGP routing (which is more a policy based routing protocol through autonomous systems than a technical based routing protocol like OSPF).

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Stiff, sore, sick.

Yesterday's activities (which, while a good idea, was probably something I shouldn't have done but did anyway, sigh) left me incredibly sore which meant I had a lovely night trying to sleep, leaving me this morning feeling quite ill—almost, but not quite to the level I was on Friday.

I'm beginning to think I should have stayed in bed both Friday and Saturday.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Nothing like a Monday to start off the week

Feeling much better today , except that the box that was hacked last week was hacked again this week (box was involentarily serving up files of dubious legality). The customer on said box mentioned the possibility of an insecure PHP script and this time, I threatened to shut off PHP if the script isn't fixed or removed the next time I had to fix this problem.

I also tested the cabling of the non-functioning T-1 and it's okay, which leaves a misconfigured T-1 card to muck with.

Nothing quite like Mondays.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Notes about a cold call received on a tech support line

“Hello, technical support,” I said.

This was followed by a two minute schpiel extolling the benefits of obtaining, free, for 30 days, a special hands-free phone that allows one to walk up to 300′ away from the base unit and all they need to do is confirm out mailing address at such-n-such a street.

“We're not interested,” I said.

This in turn was followed by two more minutes imploring me to consider the benefits of a hands-free phone and that yes, truely, we can try it out for 30 days and return it no obligation if we so care to, and we were located in Boca Raton, right?

“Still not interested,” I said.

I was then subjected to two minutes of a hard sell, imploring us to accept the unit least the employers will release the hounds upon them least they fail to send us the special hands-free phone that works up to 300′ away from the base unit and to confirm that we are indeed located in Florida.

“Still not interested,” I said.

This in turn was followed by much wailing and sobbing and then the caller thanked me for my time.

“You're welcome,” I said. I could have sworn I hear baying in the background as I hung up the phone.


Can't I just sleep until next week?

It turned out to be the cable after all.

Sigh.

Now I just need to figure out how to get OSPF to communicate over the DSL link (which it isn't) and that will be that.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I think Nigeria has run out of money—a rash of dying government officials leaving millions to be siphoned off from banks will do that to a country.

From
Jamil Troure <jamil_troure88@hotmail.com>
To
sean <sean@conman.org>
Subject
Urgent Response Needed
Date
Fri, 5 May 2006 17:55:00 -0400 (EDT)

Goodday Sir/Madam,

I am pleased to introduce a business opportunity that will be beneficial to both you and me. It involves transferring to your overseas account the sum of ($7.5;US Dollars) Seven Thousand, Five Hundred Dollars [emphasis added], from one of the Fidelity Finance & Security Company here in Dakar-Senegal.

I am Jamil A. Troure the Auditor General in the Fidelity finance & Security Company here in Dakar Senegal west Africa, During the course of our auditing , I discovered a floating fund in an account opened since 1982 and till date no body has operated or filed papers to claim the fund.

After going through the records I discovered that the owner of the account, Engr. Mahmoud Al-Salem Shafiq an Iraqi oil merchant, died in the month of October 2005 in an auto crash. Since there was not infomation concerning additional members of his family, next of kin or known relation, the fund has been declared floating and if nobody comes forward for it, will be forfeited to the government.

Since I hardly know any foreigner,I am only contacting you as a foreigner to stand and apply as his next of kin because this money can not be approved to a local person here as his next of kin.

I need your full co-operation to make this work fine because the management is ready to approve this payment to any foreigner who has correct information of this account, which I will give to you upon your positive response and once I am convinced of your capability and assurance that you will never never let me down.

At the conclussion of this project ,we may proceed into an investment as equal partners with you in charge, pending my resignation from the company, but method of sharing profit should be based on 15% for you and rest for me and my colleague.

Regarding moral justification of the fund ,i wouldn't want you to consider it sinful. If you had being the victim ,Certainly you wouldn't be happy having your hard earned fund shared among government as an unclaimed deposit I believe they are many other aspects of life we may contribute with this fund to help the less priveledged and the needy in our society .

Furnish me with your direct telephone & Fax number for easy comminucation and please reply to me on this emails:

jamil_troure88@yahoo.com
jamil_troure@she.com

I look forward to your earliest response.

Jamil A. Troure

Man, they must have run out of money in Nigeria because this is the lowest amount I've ever seen in a 419 scam—only 7½ thounsand dollars? I'm supposed to be tempted to help someone gain illicit funds for only $1,125?


Although, with people like these, maybe Nigeria isn't running out of money

An enduring trait of Nigerian letter scammers—indeed, of most con artists—is their reluctance to walk away from a mark before his resources are exhausted. On February 5, 2003, several days after the checks were revealed as phony, after Worley was under siege by investigators, after his bank account had been frozen, after he had called his partners “evil bastards,” Worley received one more e-mail from Mercy Nduka.

“I am quite sympathetic about all your predicaments,” she wrote, “but the truth is that we are at the final step and I am not willing to let go, especially with all of these amounts of money that you say that you have to pay back.” She needed just one more thing from Worley and the millions would be theirs: another three thousand dollars.

“You have to trust somebody at times like this,” she wrote. “I am waiting your response.”

Via Flutterby!, THE PERFECT MARK

Nothing more to add other than it's a scam, people!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.”

From this point, things can only go up.

I'll skip the blow-by-blow details since even I don't care to remember them. But briefly:

  1. Of the three carriers we have for Internet connectivity, one suffered not one, but two (2) fibre cuts today, so our connection to them was pretty much toast; the second one was suffering massive network connectivity issues themselves, but declined to go into more detail than just “shut up! Yes! We have issues!” And the third one wasn't announcing all our routes properly, so we were pretty much dead in the water.
  2. Because of the one above, we in the office were dead in the water because of DNS issues on our own XXXX network! (we use resolving only DNS servers, and if they can't get to the root servers, then … well … yeah, can't even resolve local domains all that well). So even checking email locally wasn't an option.
  3. Because of the one above (don't ask), I was reminded of just how much I hate the labelling of ports on the Riverstone router/switch we use. It's way to easy to mix up ports on the Riverstone.
  4. Control panel. Webmail. IMAP/POP server. None of which are working together on a server for a customer. Enough said.
  5. The display on my phone took a turn for the worse. Of course, it didn't help things when I slammed it on the floor because I couldn't deal with two phone calls on the thing at the same time and lost both calls. More on this later.

I could never get the hang of Thursdays.


Methinks they missed the point

“For Spanish, press one.”

From an actual voice mail system I called today.

One of the few amusing bits from today.


I have it good.

“I don't see what you have anything to be upset about,” screamed Smirk. I guess he heard me bitch about control panels one too many times today. “You have it good! You still have all your hair!

This was one of the other amusing bits from today.


Now, about that cell phone …

Last week I dropped my new cell phone. Maybe three feet total. And the display went wonky. Over the week it got worse. Oh sure, I could still send and receive calls and still take pictures. But I couldn't read anything on the phone. Now my previous phone has been dropped countless times and it still works (I still have it and it's currently in service, for reasons that will become apparent in a moment). But the new phone?

Pretty much unusable.

So I called the service number for my provider.

Let me state that their phone mail system is a twisty maze of voice mail boxes, all alike. Really. I thought I got into a loop the first time I called. The second time I peristed enough to talk to a Real Live Operator.

Where I learned that any physical damage to the phone, such as liquids being spilled on it, being dropped more than one inch, being breathed on too hard, is not covered by the warentee (the service provider warentee—the warentee from the manufacturer might be different), but that I might have insurance to cover a replacement phone.

So a transfer, and another twisty maze of voice mail boxes and I'm now talking to the insurance department of my cell phone provider where I'm told that no, my account does not have insurance on the phones.

Well.

Good thing the darned thing was free to begin with.

You can see the outside display was pretty bad—pretty looking image, but it's supposed to be displaying stuff like the battery status, time, photos of people that call; not an abstract painting.

[The outside screen is pretty, but it's also pretty badly damaged]

And the inside display is even worse off.

[Ooooh ... pretty ... ]

Mr. Cellphone, meet Mr. Hammer.

[Beauty and the Beast]

Yes, that's right, snuggle up close now.

[Don't they make a cute couple?]

I realize that this cell phone wasn't the cause of my problems today, but it certainly didn't help matters either. And the fact that Sony Ericssons are known to be rather fragile and can't handle drops from more than a few inches doesn't help either.

[As my friend Gregory would say, “RMA THIS!”]

But it sure felt good.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Calm

Much to my relief, today was a much calmer day than yesterday. Yes, I had to answer a backlog of tickets and a backlog of voice mail messages due to the network outtage, but other than that, it was quite quiet today.

And really, the only outstanding problem right now is getting OSPF working over the DSL link.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

When the far right and far left agree on a topic, you know something is rotten in the city of Washtingon, D.C.

The Gun Owners of America sent out an op ed piece to conservative news outlets Monday explaining why it has teamed with the bane of the far right, Moveon.org, in the fight for network neutrality.

Network neutrality, or how much control broadband networks have over their pipes, is one of the key issues in telecommunications reform legislation currently being debated in Congress.

Via Flutterby, Gun Owners Make Neutrality Case To Conservatives

Smirk and I were talking about this the other day and it has him quite worried—worried enough to entertain the notion of nationalizing the phone lines in this country (and if you know Smirk, that's a radical position for him to take—very radical). He asked me what my opinion on this was, and my thought was that instead of breaking Ma Bell into RBOCs (a geographic breakup), we should have instead broken it up into the physical infrastructure and services (a service-oriented breakup). The physical company would have the pipes to the homes (and the right-of-way) and let them charge people for transferring whatever they want (phone, TV, data) over the wires.

Or better yet, get rid of Federal corporate subsidies and let companies actually compete on service and price instead of competing with lobbyists in Washington.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Another calm day

It's another calm day today (as it should be); I took Spring & Co. out for dinner (squid eyeballs—it's her favorite food) but otherwise, it's been a very relaxing day.

squid eyeballs
What some people call “sushi” I call “squid eyeballs.”

Monday, May 15, 2006

It's just another manic Monday

If Mondays keep being like this I may just not bother getting out of bed on this particular day of the week.

It started out innocently enough when M, who has a few co-located servers here, came over for some help with a Linux server that wasn't booting. It would start to boot then freeze hard at a certain point when running the start up scripts. Even booting into single user mode with a backup kernel would fail at about the same point.

It was then that I received a call from Dan the Network Engineer that our entire network was melting down.

Sure enough, our network was hosed.

Thus began several tortuous hours trying to track down the target of the attack. Much madly rushing about, unplugging network connections, probing the routers, the switches and various servers trying to track down the target of the attack, or even the source (or sources) of the attack.

Turns out it was M's machine that had problems booting. It was the target for the denial of service attack (well, no wonder it couldn't boot—it probably crashed when the network interface came up and it was faced with half a millions packets per second).

We found the attacking IP address and Smirk called the people responsible for that address. He ended up talking to some “just hired this week” junior network admin who knew next to nothing about networking; all I got was Smirk's side of the conversation, but it was amusing in a schaudenfraude kind of way.

Once we identified the source and target, we were able to stop the attack rather quickly.

And I got to install a new server to replace the one that was slagged by an onslaught of hostile network activity.

Joy.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Spillover from yesterday

Today started out like yesterday ended. I was awaken by a call early this morning because a server I manage was down. I call over to the datacenter to have it rebooted, only to have it still down half an hour later.

Sigh.

Get into the data center to find: Keyboard error. Press <F1> to continue across the screen.

Sigh.

After that, I had to give the new server the old IP address, only it kept refusing to accept the new IP address, saying that some other machine was using it. That's odd, I thought. I could have sworn the old machine was unplugged from the network. And lo, when I checked, it was.

Turns out Smirk had moved the site that was on the old server to one of our servers temporarily, but neglected to inform me of that little detail.

Sigh.

Then a rash of calls and support tickets screaming about email. Over and over again I had to inform our customers that because of the denial of service attack, email got backed up and our email server was having to process a huge backlog of emails just please be patient.

Sigh.

Things calmed down after that.

And I'm not saying anything past that—I don't fancy jinxing myself.


That little routing issue

I also did manage to find a work-around for the little OSPF problem I've been having. What's happening is that on the customer's router, when the T-1 link is up, the routes, including the all important default route, are populated through OSPF. If the T-1 goes down, then all the OSPF generated routes disappear, including the all important default route.

Upshot—if the T-1 goes down, the customer can't see the Internet.

But oddly enough, when the T-1 goes down, OSPF still shows a neighbor connection through the DSL link. But it won't populate the routes.

The work-around? A static default route through the DSL connection but weighted so heavily that the default route through OSPF (in which case goes through the T-1) is preferred if it exists.

So now, the T-1 goes down, the OSPF routes disappear, leaving the static default route over the DSL so the customer can still see the Internet.

It works, but I don't like it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Is this anything like “Snakes on a Plane”?

[Chum in a Drum]

“Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water …” (oh wait … that's been used! Drat!)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Is it okay to say that white men can't jump?

I should really quit reading education oriented blogs, because of stuff like this:

Cultural Racism:

Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as “other”, different, less than, or render them invisible. Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored, having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers.

Via Right on the Left Coast, Seattle Public Schools: Definitions of Racism

“Having a future time orientation” is racism?

Hello?

Planning for the future?

Did no one on the Seattle School Board read The Ant and the Grasshopper? (My thought—these people should be forced to drive cars they themselves designed and built—sheesh!)

And I have to wonder what they'll make of this:

UPDATE: The Senate has agreed to the Inhofe Amendment by a vote of 63-34.

Another quick post to let you know that I am co-sponsoring Senator Inhofe's amendment to declare English as the national language of the United States.

This amendment also makes English is the default language for government communication and redesigns the naturalization exam.

Via Instapundit, English Should Be Declared America's National Language

[Personally, I'm conflicted about this bill and deep down, I feel this shouldn't even be an issue (and given that even the Founding Fathers decided against a national language (which would have been German of all things) should count for something) but given the recent illegal immigration issues cropping up, I can see why this is happening, but getting back to the Seattle School Board …]

Even their definition of “racism” comes across as racist to me:

The systematic subordination of members of targeted racial groups who have relatively little social power in the United States (Blacks, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asians), by the members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power (Whites). The subordination is supported by the actions of individuals, cultural norms and values, and the institutional structures and practices of society.

Via Right on the Left Coast, Seattle Public Schools: Definitions of Racism

So, only whites can be racist.

Yeah.

I should really stop reading those educational blogs.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Florida Ghosts

It has come to my attention (thanks, Lorie) that the TV show “Ghost Hunters” recently did a show about ghosts in North Florida. Much like I did six years ago with my friend Kurt.

And from what I understand, the “Ghost Hunters” got the same results as we did: nothing. I'm also to understand they not only work for Roto-Router during the say (“Call Roto-Router, that's the name, and all your ghosts go down the drain”) but they take a skeptical view of ghosts—wish we had cable to watch the show. Sounds interesting.

Also, in doing some searching for this entry, I came across The Florida Ghost Hunters, which I need to check out futher when I have some time.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

… and oddly enough, the movie was better than the book.

My friend Bunny and I went to see The Da Vinci Code. I had read the book a couple of years ago, and as I explained to my friend Hoade (who's written a book) that the writing was bad—amateurish, choppy, simple vocabulary, chapters that were at most four pages or so, wooden charaters, and I was able to guess the next “reveal” before the characters did (except for the identity of “The Teacher”).

In short, a really bad book.

But, as I futher explained, one that I (and fourty zillion other people) couldn't put down. Not only a fast read, but a real page turner (so Dan Brown, the author, did something right).

So it was with rather low expectations that I went to the film, and given such low expectations, it was rather good. A decent mindless escapist entertaining piece of film, but not for those of you who don't want the divinity of Jesus Christ called into question.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A little fire never hurt anyone

This weekend was definitely a film weekend for me. Today I got around to viewing my current Netflix (which has been sitting on my desk for a good month or so) The Wicker Man, a low budget intelligent horror film starring Christopher Lee as the Scotish Lord Summerisle that worships the old Pagan (or Druidic) gods and Edward Woodward as a God fearing police officer sent to investigate a missing child on the Lord Summerisle's island.

It was a rather refreshing horror film—more of an essay on clashing values between Christianity and Paganism than a sea of blood and gore. In fact, there's very little gore in the film at all and only one death (at the very end). There is however, a decent amount of nudity as various Pagan rights are shown but it doesn't come across as gratuitous but as something these people do.

And to Spring's delight, it also has several musical numbers, but unlike most Bollywood films (or musicals in general) these numbers don't feel forced at all since again, it's part of their culture and the music happens organically in the film (at a pub, during a festival and during attempted seduction by Britt Ekland (who's very easy on the eyes) of Edward Woodward's character).

Now, I've forgotten why I put the film in my queue, but it was definitely worth seeing.

Monday, May 22, 2006

I guess it beats spam

PandaLabs has detected a network of computers infected with the bot Clickbot.A, which is being used to defraud “pay per click” systems, registering clicks automatically and providing lucrative returns for the creators. According to the data collected so far, the scam is exploiting a global network comprising more than 34,000 zombie computers (those infected by the bot).

“Renting and selling of botnets has become a genuine business model for cyber-crooks. The scam we have now uncovered exploits infected systems to generate profits through ‘Pay per Click’ systems, instead of by installing spyware sending spam,” explains Luis Corrons, director of PandaLabs. “Given the proliferation of these networks, it is highly advisable for users to scan their systems with fully up-to-date anti-malware solutions, as bots like those involved in this case can be perfectly concealed on computers”.

“Pay Per Click” fraud botnet discovered

It's almost refreshing that using zombie machines to defraud AdWords and AdSense is more lucrative than sending spam (and from what I've been reading, it's no really within Google's best short term interest to stop this).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

If this is realistic, I'd hate to see what an unrealistic techno-thriller would be.

Digital Fortess is the best and most realistic techno-thriller to reach the market in years … A chilling thrill a minute.”

–The Midwest Book Review

My friend Bunny had mentioned reading Digital Fortress and finding it quite good. I had my doubts, given my feelings towards Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code but I said I would read the book (which I borrowed from Bunny) and take notes.

Well, I'm about a quarter the way through the book and boy, do I have notes. Aside from the poor writing style, radical shifting of viewpoint, choppy sentances and short chapters (I'm on page 123, in which Chapter 29 starts), I'm alternating between laughter and screaming at the book.

Often times simultaneously.

His recounting of recent computer history is anywhere from five years too early (widespread interest in public key cryptography started in 1992 with the release of Phil Zimmerman's PGP and not in 1987) to nearly 15 years (he has the public Internet as being available in the early 80s when it was 1994 when the commercial restrictions were lifted and the Internet because publically available on a national scale) and at the same time, he has the NSA with quantum computing, which is still in its infancy (and speaking of the NSA, one of his major characters supposedly never heard of the agency even though it was outted in 1982's The Puzzle Palace—sheesh!).

Then there's the little fact that Dan Brown has absolutely no clue about programming. The NSA's prize computer, TRANSLTR, a custom built machine with 3,000,000 processors to brute force encrypted messages, has a virus checker! As if! There's no way a virus could run on the thing unless it was specifically written for the computer and this thing doesn't officially “exist.” Even if the thing was built using off-the-shelf processors like the Intel Pentium, a Windows based virus wouldn't get very far, not finding Windows on the machine (I suppose—it's never stated what operating system it runs, but I can't see Windows scaling to a 3,000,000 processor system).

Then there's the email tracer a main character uses to track where an email messages finally arrives. I'm sorry, but if I received such an email it wouldn't “automatically” detect the IP address and scurry back to the NSA without a trace; my email client doesn't execute anything coming in from email (doesn't even understand HTML) and there's certainly nothing in SMTP that even mandates a return receipt.

Sorry Dan.

And the whole premise of the book, that the NSA's little computer TRANSLTR can't crack a message because of a newly found “unbreakable” encryption system, is bogus because there already exists such an ecryption system! Obviously Dan Brown never heard of one-time pads (or if he did, ignored them outright).

A one-time pad where you generate purely random data (preferably from some external source like neutron decay or static from a dead television) and use as many bits of said random data as the encryption key as there are bits in the messsage. What you get out is a stream of random data (obviously the recipient has to have the randomly generated key to decrypt the message but that's inherent in all non-public key encryption systems).

So I'm having fun with this book, taking notes in order to rip it apart.

More on this when I finish.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Snippit of a conversation overheard between an American and a Swede about nothing in particular

“I have a few questions for you.”

“I have an alibi. I didn't do it. You can't prove it.”

“How about I torture it out of you? … Ah, I see you have no answer to that!”


Apropos of nothing in particular but that I think it's neat and to flush out a pretty spare day with another rather silly entry whose title is longer than the actual content.

There's nothing quite like learning how to do a blind hem stitch on a surger.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The wierd things we like

My friend Bunny slightly mistook my entry on Dan Brown's Digital Fortress, thinking I was looking down on her for liking the book. Not in the sightest—I personally don't like the book, but hey, people have raved about Gravity's Rainbow, claiming it a literary masterpiece of the 20th Century; I couldn't get past 50 pages. Heck, I couldn't get into Lord of the Rings and that pretty much makes me a pariah in Geek Circles.

On the flip side, there are things that I like that I am hesitant to even mention liking that I know are bad, such as my fascination with the singing career of William Shatner (it's not that I like it … oh heck, yes! I like it! There!). So while Bunny likes Digital Fortress, I like a guy that can't even sing properly.

Sigh.


Towel Day

Hmm … seems today was Towel Day, in tribute to Douglas Adams (link via Wil “I'm over Weasley Crusher—No, really!” Wheaton).

Darn.

Well, maybe next year.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Road Trip

I'm a few hours away from a road trip with Gregory & Co. to visit a friend of ours who lives in Blountstown, Florida (a nine hour trip and we're still haven't left the state).

The last time I went on a road trip through North Florida, it was with my friend Kurt (who is also going with us to Blountstown) it was to hunt ghosts (which we never found).

But the last time I went on a road trip with this crew (more or less), there were five of us (and we're not small people) crammed into a Dodge Neon as we travelled to Orlando and Tampa to visit various theme parks. That trip ended up being a miserable trip for me as I got quite ill (and had to make multiple offerings to the Porcelain Gods).

Hopefully this trip won't be quite as bad as that one (for one thing, we're travelling in a van, not a Dodge Neon).


Entry from a Personal Data Assistant

So here I am, writing an entry using a Pocket PC to test this out before Gregory arrives to kidnap pick me up. The intent is so that I can make entries from the road.

Although I'm finding the keyboard on this thing very annoying. Typing letters is okay, but any type of punctation short of the comma and period is highly annoying , not to mention other non-punctuation symbols. It's taking me about five times as long to use this Pocket PC to make an entry as it does with a computer with any type of computer. The most annoying aspect is the virtual keyboard one can bring up—a small window that has more or less a real layout one can then tap using the stylus. But the second you use the actual (if very small) keyboard on the device (which I find faster for letters) the virtual keyboard goes away, which I don't want—I want the virtual keyboard to stick around for the non-letter keys.

There may be a setting for this; I'll hunt around to see.


Finally on the road.

It is now 8:06 pm and we are now on our way to Blountstown, now that we aren't driving around in circles.

This high tech stuff is pretty cool—I'm making this entry from the Florida Turnpike (aka the Ronald Reagan Turnpike) as we're watching “The Cannonball Run.”

Cool.


Traffic Jam at the Reststop

We're at the Fort Drum Service Plaza (it's 10:00 pm) and the place is insanely crowded for a Friday night—perhaps its the throngs of people headed to the Temple of the Rat God.


Pulp Fiction

Since I'm sitting shotgun I can't watch “Pulp Fiction” but that's okay since it's the type of film with such great dialog that it doesn't matter that I can't see it.


It's obviously a wrong number but I think you're too stoned to realize it. Or something like that.

I missed a call, so when I called back, the person was horribly confused, asking me how I had Becky's phone. I had to keep telling him that no, I didn't have Bucky's phone, that this was Sean.

And no, I didn't have Bucky's phone, and the only reason I had his number is because he called me.

He then asked me myu age and location, because, as he relayed to me, there was a girl there with him, that wanted to meet me (wink wink nudge nudge),but since I was travelling, they would call me back.

Wierd doesn't even cover this.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Finally There

We have finally arrived at Joe's house!

It's only 4:00 am!

Woot.

Now, sleep.


Cast of Characters

So, to make things clear, here's the cast of characters on this little trip.

So with that, I can continue with the trip.


Birds

Sometime during the night, we stop off at some gas station somewhere in North Forida. Tom gets out of the van and as he's looking around, notices the ground is covered in bird droppings. He then looks up.

[The Birds, although Hitchcock himself is nowhere to be found]

“Um, guys,” he says. “I think we better move the van.”

[The Birds, a detail]

We moved the van.


Talk about rural

[Using this hose is going to be a lot of hard work]

Joe lives in a rual place.

A very rural place.

So rural that you need a hand pump to water the lawn.


A day in the country

So here we are, Gregory, Tom, Russ, Jeff, Kurt and myself, really in the middle of nowhere, visiting our friend Joe for the weekend. We awoke around 8:00 am to Joe's son running into the living room, jumping into the huge king size 3′ thick air mattress Gregory was sleeping on, and yelling “You are realy him?”

There wasn't much point in sleeping any longer.

Heck, there wasn't much quiet to sleep any longer.


An hour or so later and a party of seven (Gregory, Tom, Russ, Jeff, Kurt, Joe and myself) are in Joe's van headed towards a local restaurant for breakfast. The only remarkable things about the restaurant was the vast choice of food (two eggs, two eggs and bacon, two eggs and ham, two eggs and saugage, two eggs with grits, two eggs with grits and bacon, two eggs with grits and ham, two eggs with hashbrowns, two eggs with hashbrowns and bacon, two eggs with hashbrowns and sausage, two eggs with hashbrowns and ham, and even two eggs with pancakes! Wooooo) and the inability of our waitron to keep our orders straight (I wonder why).


[The Crew: Gregory, Russ, Tom, Joe, Kurt]

Left to right: Gregory, Russ, Tom, Joe, Kurt (and behind Joe, you can just make out Jeff)

By early afternoon we found ourselves on Joe's Family Farm (owned by his parents for over 30 years). The original homestead had long since fallen apart, leaving only the chimney, but it's not like the farm is in disuse. There's a new house on site, and a replacement barn (steel with a reinforced concrete foundation to support a car lift) and a lot of heavy equipment (Gregory got to take the tractor for a spin—we weren't allowed to drive the backhoe).

[Farm living is the life for me]

While there, we met up with our friend Larry, who just quit his job as an insurance agent (which now means I have to find a new agent) to follow his dream of selling hot dogs. It beats having to talk to angry customers on the phone.

[Larry's dream job]

Foreground: Larry showing off his hotdog stand

Background, left to right: Russ, Greg


On the way to lunch, Gregory expressed concern over the state of the back tires on Joe's van. Joe shrugged the concern off, saying the tires have lasted this long—they'll certainly last until we get back to his house.

After having lunch at Sunny's BBQ, we were headed back to Joe's house when we heard a large thump and the van started to shake violently. Joe maneuvered the van off the side of I-10 and yup. We had a blowout.

[A rather bad blowout] [Jeff, as Vanna White, marks the spot of the blowout] [Kurt pries the tail pipe back into position]

Fortunately, eating at Sunny's probably saved our lives, as the increase in weight stabalized the van to keep it from flipping over (anyone from Sunny's take note: we're available for an add campaign—Sunny's saved our lives!). The outer thread of the tire flew right off and much of the steel band was exposed. Once Kurt got the tail pipe untangled from the wheel, the changing of the tire went pretty quickly, and we safely made it back to Joe's.


The rest of the day was spent playing a role playing game, and those that weren't playing were catching up on sleep. Around dinner time, those that weren't asleep (sleeping: Gregory, Kurt) nor having to attend to a bunch of kids (Joe) headed out for dinner (Tom, Russ, Jeff, myself). We first thought of going to this Mexican restaurant we saw in downtown Blountstown, but upon a closer inspection, it looked more like a bar than a restaurant (and the patrons sitting outside looked a bit rough), so instead we went across the street to the local Chinese buffet.

The Chinese place certainly catered to their clientel—not only your typical American-Chinese fare (sweet-n-sour pork, fried rice, egg rolls) were some Southern touches (greens, okra, etc). The food wasn't bad, given the price.

Then it was back to Joe's, where we finished out the night playing games. Then to sleep.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A long way to go

[Why is it taking me so long to write these entries? I don't know … I don't feel like writing lately. The past few weeks have been interesting, in the Chinese “may you live in interesting times” kind of interesting rather than the “this is very neat” interesting and I have to work myself up to writing these. I'll get caught up eventually. —Editor on Sunday, June 4th, 2006]

I think we were all tired this morning as none of us stirred as a thundering heard of kids ran throughout the house in preparations for Sunday Church services. I think we slept for another hour or so after Joe, Kelly and their kids had left. The last person to get up was Gregory, and I had been joking that we should just leave him to sleep as he really needed it.

Joe & Co. arrived back home just as we were leaving so we were able to say our final farewells before heading on the road back to South Florida and in search of a Waffle House for breakfast.

About an hour later, we found ourselves at a very crowded Waffle House with maybe a half hour, hour wait for a table for six (or two booths—it wasn't a very big place). After a few minutes of discussion, we decided to try a Sonic Drive-in that's in the area. Gregory started to drive, but wasn't feeling all that well, so I took over for him.

I've been to other drive-ins (years ago), but not a Sonic. Interesting that they had “walk up” boards you could order from, next to several picnic tables. I'm also impressed that they were able to find workers that could actually calculate change in their heads (the staff had “coin belts”—I'm not exactly sure what they're called, but four steel cylinders that one wears on a belt for giving out change). The food wasn't bad either, and the weather was nice for eating outdoors.

After that, it was driving. Eight hours of driving. I lasted another three to three and a half hours before I started getting too loopy to drive. Russ then took over. I don't recall what movies were watched, as I was either driving, or napping [and I now realize, I could have written these entries then, since I did have my laptop, and Gregory provided a power strip in the van for laptop use. Ah well. —Editor]. Gregory also slept most, of not the entire, way back. I even took over driving from Russ after he (Jeff and Kurt) were dropped off.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Parody Code

Some cute links for this Memorial Day Holiday. They have nothing to do with Memorial Day, but hey, it's worth an entry.

Anyway, first up is The Norman Rockwell Code (link via Flutterby)—a parody of The Da Vinci Code. I will say that the main actor does a killer impression of Don Knotts as Barney Fife (only here, he's playing Barney Fife's son).

The second one is The Albino Code (link via kisrael.com), yet another parody of The Da Vinci Code, only not as good as the first one (it could have stood a rewrite and some serious editing) as it tries to show how silly it is to have an albino monk as your stealth assasin.


Plan 9 from Outer Space wasn't quite as silly

Well, I've finished reading Digital Fortress and I have to say, much like The Da Vinci Code, the writing was amateurish, with very short sentances in very short chapters, probably written with our current attention deficit population in mind. It also read like a movie, with each chapter being a scene. And it certainly doesn't hurt that it has several chase scenes and a major explosion towards the end.

But dispite the poor writing, poor characterizations, poor research and a plot that closely follows The Da Vinci Code (reknown male is killed in the opening scene, a handsom and yet very intelligent professor gets a call to help investigate some conspriacy involving said dead man who has a gorgeous bombshell with a Ph.D. helping him over the next 24 hours) I still found it to be a real page turner.

I think because I was curious as to just how bad it could be.

It was pretty bad (and don't read if you don't want spoilers).

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Fat fingers

Today was a really bad day.

All I was trying to do was switch the servers from their normal power outlets to managed power outlets so we can do remote reboots if necessary. Things were going along smoothly until I got to our internal office server (that is also runs our trouble ticket system), a server with redunant power supplies.

I managed to somehow kill it.

Along with taking down (unbeknownst to me) half our name servers because I accidentily unplugged the power strip they were on; it also took down the video switch box, so with all this equipment suddenly not working, I thought thing were way worse than they were.

Sigh.

Fortunately, we had a little used server with identical hardware to the one I killed, so bringing that system back up was easy. And once Smirk found the unplugged power strip that fixed a whole slew of problems there.

I don't handle stress well.


Graphing websites

HTML consists of so-called tags, like the A tag for links, IMG tag for images and so on. Since tags are nested in other tags, they are arranged in a hierarchical manner, and that hierarchy can be represented as a graph. I've written a little app that visualizes such a graph, and here are some screenshots of websites that I often look at.

Via YARGB, Websites as graphs

He's even made the applet available for use. It's pretty cool. Here's the structure of my homepage:

[Graph of http://www.conman.org/people/spc/]

A fairly simple structure, and that grey blob in the upper left hand corner is the <HEAD> section with all the metadata for the page. For comparrison, here is The Boston Diaries:

[Graph of http://boston.conman.org/]

And again, that grey blob in the lower right hand corner is the <HEAD> section, with the multitude of metadata. This page is still well structured, but with a lot more content.

It's a pretty cool app.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bright side of life

Today's Irregular Webcomic reminds me of an office rule Smirk enforces: all news, irreguardless of how bad it is, has to be stated as good news.

So, for instance, for yesterday's debacle, I would have to state it to Smirk as: “I was able to save ourselves about an hour's worth of electricity, and our main office server is no longer able to be hacked at all!”

Always look on the bright side of life and all that.

Speaking of bright sides, starting today I get to work mostly from home. Smirk has finally gotten the phone system straightened out, and is forwarding the office lines to whomever is on shift at the moment. And the office phone is working out quite well.

At least now it'll be easier for me to make it to work on time.


Some memories of telecommuting

The last time I telecommuted was in January-February of '96. I had just lost my car in the middle of Georgia (halfway between Christmas and New Year's Eve, on a Saturday no less!) so I was more or less forced to telecommute until I could find a car.

I was, oddly enough, the most productive I've ever been at work.

Then again, there wasn't much else I could do, being without a car at the time.

Obligatory Picture

[Here I am, enjoying my vacaton in a rain forest.]

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

You have my permission to link freely to any entry here. Go ahead, I won't bite. I promise.

The dates are the permanent links to that day's entries (or entry, if there is only one entry). The titles are the permanent links to that entry only. The format for the links are simple: Start with the base link for this site: http://boston.conman.org/, then add the date you are interested in, say 2000/08/01, so that would make the final URL:

http://boston.conman.org/2000/08/01

You can also specify the entire month by leaving off the day portion. You can even select an arbitrary portion of time.

You may also note subtle shading of the links and that's intentional: the “closer” the link is (relative to the page) the “brighter” it appears. It's an experiment in using color shading to denote the distance a link is from here. If you don't notice it, don't worry; it's not all that important.

It is assumed that every brand name, slogan, corporate name, symbol, design element, et cetera mentioned in these pages is a protected and/or trademarked entity, the sole property of its owner(s), and acknowledgement of this status is implied.

Copyright © 1999-2017 by Sean Conner. All Rights Reserved.