Tuesday, February 29, 2000
Life in Unixland
Life before noon does not exist
Computer Art anyone?
Conslutting as a way of life
Patent yourself for fun and profit
ytalk doesn't work on linus (my home system). Nor does
talk. Strange, I have it enabled, but it just isn't working and
it seems to be horribly damaged.
This is Unix. So what else is new?
Seriously. There are at least two different talk protocols,
neither one documented (unless you count source code to be usuable
documentation, much like uuencode when you get down to it) and both
incompatible with each other. Which is why ytalk is nice---it
preportedly talks both so it doesn't matter.
Only it's not working.
Over the years I've found it harder and harder to find working
implementations of *talk on any system but I did have a working
version I could use to talk to a few friends with before the install of
RedHat 5.2 on linus (it was running RedHat 5.0 before).
Now it's general braindamage all over the place.
In trying to debug the problem, I found that /etc/inetd.conf had a
bogus entry for dtalk (whatever that is) so I commented it out.
Still didn't work. Uncomment telnet on the advice of
Mark to see if
inetd is okay.
telnet isn't working. What the ... ? I try killing off
inetd and restarting it. Same deal.
Is it possible for a newer release to exhibit so much lossage? That isn't a
Try re-enabling FTP. Same lossage.
Turns out I had neglected to install TCP-wrappers. Nice that the RedHat
install program neglected to make a dependancy on that. But it includes
Perl. Goes out of its way to include Perl.
Such is life in Unixland.
I should note that I get easily upset when stuff that should work
doesn't. Computers don't have to be this difficult. There shouldn't be
this much lossage and braindeath in dealing with computers. But I suspect
that most programmers can't cope with such ideas. Programmers give
programming a bad name.
* * * * *
Ring. Eh? I thought.
Ring. Is it already time to get up? Wait a second ... that doesn't
sound like the alarm clock.
Ring. Crap! The phone! I hoped I wasn't too late---it'll be
really annoying if the answering machine picks up. ``Hello?''
``Hi. You've reached area code three zero five ...'' Great. Answering
machine got it. Now I have to make the 30 second commute to the Computer
Room and stop it. And what bloody time is it anyway? It had better be the
A/C guys---I called yesturday and left a message with them. I stumbled
around, turned off the machine. ``Hello?''
``Hey guy! It's 9:30! We need you here!''
It was C. S., a salesdroid from Atlantic Internet. I've been helping him
with some projects lately and he needed help. Good thing he was 15 miles
away or he would have needed some help. ``When can you come in?''
``After two,'' I said. I think. I don't fully remember the conversation.
Life doesn't begin before noon.
``Okay, see you then.'' He sounded entirely too chippy. What is it with
people being up at these ungodly hours?
* * * * *
``Salvation Army, can you hold?'' I don't have enough time to answer before
I'm put on hold. Several minutes go by. ``Salvation Army, may I help
``Yes, I'd like to donate some old computer equipment,'' I said. I have a
ton of old computer equipment I'd like to get rid of. About a dozen
monitors (mostly monochrome or CGA), a dozen or so PCs (of XT or 286-AT
class) and some other miscellaneous equipment I've accumulated over the
``Is this an office?''
``No, it's a private house.'' I swear I could hear the person on the other
end blinking in disbelief. ``I have some older equipment I want to get rid
of.'' More blinking. ``Can you pick it up?''
``Are they usable as home computers? If not, then we'll just throw them
away and that actually costs us money.''
Interesting question. The monitors work. Most of the PCs work but are
large and bulky. About the only thing you can run on them is MS-DOS, maybe
up to version 3.3 or so. Throw Procomm or Qmodem and they'll make decent,
if bulky, terminals. But who ya gonna call, eh?
``Probably not,'' I answer.
``Okay. Thanks for calling.'' We hung up.
Maybe painting the whole lot gold and selling it as art on
eBay is the way to go.
* * * * *
Conslutted with Atlantic Internet. Easy few hundred dollars for a couple
of hours work. This, and investing should make it easy for me to avoid
real work. Can't complain.
But I can complain that I still haven't been able to get a hold of
the A/C guys. Voice mail. Answer it. Sheesh.
* * * * *
LONDON (Reuters) - A British woman has become the first person to attempt to
patent herself, the national patent office said Tuesday.
Woman Files Patent
Application on Herself via
Interesting concept, but does that mean after the patent expires, people can
use her without paying?
Monday, February 28, 2000
just a typical monday
The world runs on a different, and worse, an alien clock, to me. I called
the A/C repair people because the A/C that was just installed seems to be
freezing up. I called around 3:30 pm (I got up around 2 pm) and I got voice
mail. Does that mean I'm going to have to get up at some ungodly hour like
10 am or so just to make sure I get actual human beings at the A/C repair
It also makes it rather ... interesting playing the stock market, seeing how
it closes down at 4 pm EST. Supposedly there are ``after market'' hours but
I haven't seen much evidance of that.
It's not that I'm lazy mind you---it's just that I might have a condition
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome.
Don't laugh, it does exist but there are very few doctors that have heard
about it. Sigh.
I also spent the day looking for a stock to invest in as well as updating
the journal entry here.
Sunday, February 27, 2000
Spent the day staying up way too late this morning, getting too little sleep
and then helping my friends Paul and Lorie move from their two story
townhome to a second story appartment all day, then staying up way too late
hanging out with other friends.
I arrived at Paul and Lorie's a bit past 10 am. I was running a bit late,
but then again, I don't understand how anyone can function before noon on a
Jeff and Sarah were already there, helping Paul and Lorie load the truck
with boxes. When I arrived, the loading of furniture commensed, along with
the majority of remaining boxes.
Getting the furniture downstairs was fun---having to navigate turn halfway
down made it all the more fun. Paul wasn't sure what to do with the large
entertainment center in the living room---it was huge and there was concern
about moving it into the new apartment (remember, it's on the second floor).
After a small attempt to move it and have one section separate from another
(think of three shelve units bolted together and you get an idea of what
this thing was like) I suggested that the unit be taken apart---just remove
the top and the sides would just pop off.
No tools, so Jeff and I went to Jeff's house to pick up his tool box. Came
back and spent maybe half an hour taking the thing apart. Had to remove the
back (well, part of the back) as well as the top but it made it more
manageable, but the truck by that point was nearly full so it was left
behind (along with some other bulky furniture) for a second trip.
At the new place, the stairs leading to the second floor of the apartment
went up half a flight, landing, then continued up the other direction to a
walkway, where it was several hundred feet to the apartment door (around
three turns no less---large apartment building). Kurt had arrived by this
time so an assembly line formed---Jeff in the truck bringing boxes to the
loading door, Paul carrying the boxes and lifting them to me, standing on
the lower stair landing where I would walk up two or three steps and toss
them on the second floor landing, where Kurt, Sarah and Lorie would then
pick the a box (or two) up and carry it (or cart it) to the apartment.
After the boxes, any long item would be handed directly up to someone
leaning over the second floor railing who would catch and bring it up over
the railing and place it for someone to come by and cart it off to the
Lunch. Then the second trip, much like the first. Then dinner.
By that time everyone was exhausted.
So of course I hung out with
Mark and Jeff
(a different Jeff) that night.
Saturday, February 26, 2000
I'm updating my code on tumblers.
Tumblers is a crucial portion of
Xanadu, the hypertext
system designed by Ted Nelson and still being worked on (only 40 years
My tumblers work differently than the Xanalogical mode. There they are true
numbers on which certain operations like addition and subtraction can be
applied to address nodes (and all the nodes contained therein) whereas mine
are not numerical at at and the operations that are performed on them do not
have mathematical relationships. At least not in the Xanalogical sense.
Both systems (mine and Ted's) do allow ranges to be specified, but the
mechanics differ. I'm not going to go into how Xanalogical tumblers work
since that's described elsewhere. But I am going to describe what I'm
Basically, my tumblers (for lack of a better term, that's why I'm using it
currently) is just a list of node identifiers, with those listed first
higher up than those below it, much like USENET groups. You have
comp that contain all the computer related discussion groups, and
below that you have comp.lang, which contain all the articles
pertaining to computer languages to finally having comp.lang.forth, dealing with a
particular computer language. And you are not limited to just the period
for separating nodes---I also use slash and colon (for several reasons I
won't get into right now).
But another aspect is describing ranges. A range specifier consists of left
and right sides separated by a dash. The left side specifies the starting
node, while the right side specifies the ending node, relative to the
starting node. So that:
would specify the nodes A.b.1, A.b.2 and A.b.3. Notice
that there are three node segments on the left side and only one on the
right. That's important. The missing segments on the right side are
inherited from the left. This inheritance only takes place if the right
side has fewer segments than the left side. If the right side is longer
than the left, it is assumed that the right side is a full specifier, like
the left side is.
And so far, the code I have in
those cases (dealing with the King James Bible for now). What it
doesn't handle are separate but related ranges.
The interpretation I use would return nodes A.b.1 and
A.b.5 but nothing else in between. In this case, the comma is used
to specify to independant nodes, but with the same relationship rules used
in ranges. So far so good, but I want to be able to handle something like:
Which is a complex specification for:
I'm close to getting the parsing done.
1.5.3 through 1.5.5
1.3.8 through 1.4.1
* * * * *
I was hanging out with Mark and Jeff and one of the
topics of conversation was over filesystems.
Okay, I'll admit up front we tend to be a bit geeky.
Anyway, a conversation about filesystems. I don't like the way Unix handles
the filesystem, slapping everything under one tree, but I came from a rather
heavy MS-DOS, VMS and AmigaOS background where you had volume labels (okay,
so the support under MS-DOS was rather weak and ineffectual). Under
AmigaDOS (for instance) if I have a floppy with a name of ``StarControl''
(which I actually do) and I insert it, I now have a volume I can look
through called ``StarControl:''. And if there is a program on that disk
(which there is) it can reference files from the volume ``StarControl:''
such as ``StarControl:config'' or ``StarControl:scenarios/galactic war''.
And, copy protection concerns aside, I can copy the files off the floppy
disk onto the harddrive (``Captain Napalm:'') into a games directory and
then set the volume ``StarControl:'' to be equivalent to ``Captain
Napalm:games/star.control'' and have everything work without problem.
``Ahha!'' said Mark. ``That's all great and everything but what if you
insert two floppies with the same name?'' Erm ... ah ... <cough>
<cough> ``And what if,'' he continued, ``I have a lot of volumes?
There could be name clashes. Like both the C compiler and Pascal compiler
looking for files from volume Compile?'' Erm ... uh ... look! The Sweedish
``And why have a different syntax for the the volume name and then the rest
of the filesystem?'' asks Mark, avoiding my transparent attempt at changing
the subject. ``Do you allow slashes in the volume name?''
``Sure,'' I said.
``And do you allow colons in filenames?''
``I'm sadistic enough of a programmer to say yes.''
``AAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee,'' he said. But point taken.
Mark, on the other hand, like the One Tree, Über Alles
approach to a file system. Other machines on the network would appear
under, say, /net. But that seems wrong to me. Each local machine
is the top of their respective trees when it seems like it should be the
other way around.
``But if I'm on a non-networked machine, just where should the root be?
Should it be under /net/machinename?'' Mark asked.
``No,'' I repled. ``It should have a volume name.''
Friday, February 25, 2000
Hack the Source, Part II
Conman Laboratories monitors at Area 51
written some pages
about hacking the
Atalk driver in Linux. Another note not noted in the note: he reported
that it doesn't work on another of his Linux systems---the major difference
being a different network card. Is the Linux kernel that fragile
that a difference in network causes a protocol stack to fail?
* * * * *
Mark wrote in
today to say that reverse lookups for my domain weren't working properly.
And lo, nslookup was having a hard time finding the machine it was
At first I thought maybe it was a problem with what I was trying to do with
the latest version of bind. You see, I set things up such that I
control the reverse lookup on the 32 IP addresses
This is done via an interesting hack. For the appropriate
in-addr.arpa file, I have:
And so on for the 32 addresses I've been assigned. Then, for the namesever
here in the Computer Room, I have:
0 IN NS linus.slab.conman.org.
1 IN NS linus.slab.conman.org.
I've also set the nameserver to think it's a master for the
in-addr.arpa zone I appear in.
1 IN PTR isdn.slab.conman.org.
2 IN PTR area51.slab.conman.org
3 IN PTR linus.slab.conman.org.
32 IN NS ns1a.aibusiness.net.
33 IN NS ns1a.aibusiness.net.
253 IN NS ns1a.aibusiness.net.
254 IN NS ns1a.aibusiness.net.
255 IN NS ns1a.aibusiness.net.
So anyway, I thought the latest version of bind wasn't liking that.
And it turned out that was true, to a degree.
There is no such TLD as .apra. Stupid typo.
* * * * *
Not that I'm inviting anyone to try, but good luck trying to break into
area51.slab.conman.org. You won't get very far nor is it a very
interesting box. A Compaq 486DX/2 running at 66MHz with 20M of RAM and no
Yet it is on the network.
It's running a modifed
Tom's Rootboot disk
distribution with some network monitoring software I wrote. I just thought
the name was cute.
Thursday, February 24, 2000
Back from the Dead
Netscape, version Proxy Authorization Required
If Bill had a dollar for every blue screen ...
So I finally got linus (my main computer) back in operational status after
last week's little fit (starting with a dying and now dead mouse). Yea!
* * * * *
Since I installed a later version of RedHat (5.2) on linus that was on there
before (5.0) I have a newer version of Netscape. Instead of version 4.04
(the NOTFOUND version) I now have 4.07 (the PROXYAUTHREQ
Okay, so you have to be a webgeek to get the joke.
* * * * *
If Bill [Gates] had one dollar for every blue screen ... oh wait. He does.
Wednesday, February 23, 2000
``Uh, my mouth just exploded.''
Those Computer Blues ...
Hack the Source
My roommate Rob
came into the Computer Room this morning and asked if I wanted to go to
lunch. He was going out with some of the tech crew from
(who so kindly provide my connectivity) and wanted to know if I wanted to go
along. I wasn't all that hungry, having actually had breakfast before 8am
(long hacking run last night, more on that later) but since I decided to
stay up anyway (cleaning woman---yes I'm that lazy) why not?
We ended up going to Lucille's, a local BBQ place in Boca Raton. I was
feeling a bit sluggish by the time the food arrived, and the waitress, at
request, brought over not one, but two of the hottest sauces
I remember Endorphine Rush from the
last time I was there. The other
one was a new one they just got: Blair's After Death Sauce. I was
the only one there to actually try it.
The opening was slightly crusted over with dried sauce so it took some
coaxing to get a small dab out, which is all I dared. Then dipped my fork
into the dab, then tried it.
``Oh---'' is all I got out before slamming down my iced tea while motioning
wildly at the waitress for more. She quickly returned with a glass of milk,
which I slammed down, and by that time she had a refill on the iced tea,
which I nearly slammed down. And when I say ``slammed down,'' I mean chug.
Big time. Like I've never chugged before.
I was no longer tired. I was wide awake after that.
And checking the bottle after a few minutes showed the sauce had eaten away
at the drived sauce crust over the end of the bottle. Yikes!
Endorphine Rush wasn't that bad. No effect for a few seconds then
WHAM! It hits. Pretty hard. Blair's After Death Sauce
hits fast and hard. Liquid fire this was. Ouch. Wasabi doesn't hit this
hard with so little.
* * * * *
I haven't updated in the past few days. That's okay, because I have an
excuse: my computer was dying.
Well, it wasn't exactly dying, but X Windows---sorry, A Windowing System
Called X, was dying. It happened last week when the mouse suddenly went
spastic then died. Then shortly thereafter A Windowing System Called X died
too. Most horrible. Even worse, I didn't have the CD I installed Linux
from (nor a CD-ROM but that's beside the point). Even worse, it was
the Metrolink X
Server that died.
The system was a RedHat 5.0 system. I did not want to upgrade or
install RedHat 6.0 or 6.1. I wanted 5.2. Mark found his copy of RedHat
So, I decided it was probably time to do a fresh install. I slapped a 1G
drive, backed up what needed to be backed up (and missed /root and
/tmp in the process---oh well, probably didn't need those files
anyway) and then proceeded to the installation.
I've found out that trying to install RedHat 5.2 across the network from a
RedHat 6.1 box is a futile exercise. NFS or FTP the
network performance was so poor that doing a disk install of Slackware would
Then it hit me---I was reinstalling my primary nameserver. This is also the
nameserver that resolves reverse lookups. Even my roommate's computer would
eventually contact my machine for reverse lookups on the IP addresses.
Quickly fix that, but still find that installing RedHat 5.2 from a RedHat
6.1 box is a futile exercise.
I tried three CD-ROM drives in the computer and not once was it recognized.
Of course I was putting the CD-ROM in the second IDE controller on
the motherboard but I think the second IDE controller doesn't work.
Disconnect the 1G drive and put the CD-ROM in there, and it worked (of
course at first I thought it didn't since the BIOS wouldn't
recognize it. Mark was like ``Duh! It's not IDE! It's
ATAPI. The linux kernel will find it.''
The install went smoothly. I repartitioned the drives the way I like (4M
/boot, twice the RAM for swap, and the rest for /) and installed
RedHat 5.2. I was expecting the Metrolink X server to install, but it
Twice more and it still didn't. Guess Metrolink stopped shipping their
server with RedHat. And XFree86 doesn't support my card (or at least it
didn't when RedHat 5.2 came out and like I said, I'm not going RedHat 6.x
nor spending hours downloading the current XFree86 and configuring it).
I finally got X working though, and restored from the backup IDE
Oh, and there was that extended hacking session last night.
* * * * *
So I wound up at Mark's house last night. He
wanted to get AppleTalk running so he could mount his Linux drives on his
He was going to do this on his primary development machine
kwalitee, but was relunctant to loose the uptime on it. I
suggested ortho, his primary file server.
He was overwhelmed by the sheer obviousness of the suggestion.
Compile kernel. Download userland code. Install. Reboot. Select
``Chooser'' on the Mac. And there is ortho, ready to serve up files. We
were both amazed at how easy it was---especially given the difficulty of
Samba, or the insanity that are the automounter documentation (the man
pages, how-to's and other documentation for the automounter bear no
relationship to the actual program that he used. It's like learning Unix
from MS-DOS manuals).
Until he had to make a slight configuration change. The AppleTalk server
wasn't returning the correct type or application for MP3s (I'll save the
discussion of finding and uncompressing an MP3 player for the Mac for
later). Okay, tweak a configuration file and restart the AppleTalk daemon.
Only it won't restart.
Nothing we do will restart it short of a reboot. So we reboot.
And reboot and reboot and reboot and reboot. Any change we make to the
AppleTalk configuration file requires a reboot of Linux. Had Mark made the
driver a module and unloaded it, then we wouldn't have to reboot. But
having a modular kernel as a server is a potential security hole and Mark
doesn't want that risk.
So it's reboot reboot reboot.
We then scour the net for updated anything.
It seems it's a known problem that you have to reboot if you change any
configuration for AppleTalk.
Linux is Open Source, right?
Mark wants to reconfigure AppleTalk and not have to reboot. He's got this
So, he hacks the kernel.