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.

Thursday, February 01, 2001

Cosmic Wimpout!

I have this game! Neat to see it still around, and that the rules are even online at the site.


Outtage, Part II

I'm looking over the data collected by my program and so far, it looks like I'm experiencing about two to three outtages an hour, for an average of 17 seconds per outtage. It looks like there's a pattern going, but I won't know more until I do some actual processing on the data.

Friday, February 02, 2001

Outage, Part III

I put the program I wrote on Mark's network to monitor it for a few days. From the log file it looks like he has a nice reliable connection.

More on this as it develops …

Saturday, February 03, 2001

Happy Kwanzaa!

Happy Birthday Spring!

Nuts about pistachios

Mmmmmmmm. I scored myself a bag of pistachios at work. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

The Neverending Website

The Neverending Tale is a web-based tool allowing students to collaborate on creative and expository writing. Students choose their own path through a story line. Each page contains text and a list of choices to follow. Each choice branches off into a new page, with its own text and choices. The outcome of the story depends on what choices the reader makes on each page. The program has been shown to be most useful for students in grades 4 through 8.

The Neverending Tale

This is another good example of non-linear hypertext writing. While it might not contain good writing per say, I think the concept is quite cool.

Hanging with Borg Collective Refugees

Woo hoo! The 41ST Tropical Hamboree is today! After work, I'm calling up the gang (I know they won't like getting up this early) and we're headed down to Miami and hang out with grown men looking like refugees from a Borg Collective and oogle cheap computer equipment.

Just like we do every year.

Phone Calls I






“Hey Kelly!” I said. It's 8:13 am. HAM fest time. “Going to the HAM fest?”

“Yuah. Kabaklader.”

“Okay, I'll call you about 9:30, 10?”

“Yuah, fine.”

Looks like I'm gonna have to kickstart all my friends.

Phone Calls II






“Hello. This is Mark. I'm at home right now, but if you leave your name and message, I'll get back to you as soon as I leave the house. Thanks.” Beep.

“Hey Mark, this is Sean. HAM fest time. Well, looks like you're still sleeping so I'll give you a call back in a few minutes. Bye.”

Phone Calls III






“Hey Jeff. Sean.”


“HAM fest?”

“Sure. Are Kelly and Mark going?”

“Yup. Figured we could meet here at my house and carpool down there.”

“Okay. Let me get up and shower. I'll call back later.”

Phone Calls IV



“Did you just call me?”

“Yup. HAM fest?”

“Uh, what time is it?”

“10:00 am. Figured I give you a chance to sleep.”

“Ugh. Did you call Kelly?”

“He's still sleeping.”

“Call me back when you wake him up.”

Phone Calls V






“Hey Kelly. HAM fest?”

“Um, sure. Is Mark going?

“Yea. He said to wake him up when you wake up.”

“Call me back when he wakes up.”


My roommate Rob was watching me make all these calls with amusement. Since we're all computer geeks we usually tend not to keep such early hours but I figure that since this is a once-a-year event, it's not that bad.

We finally got the plans worked out. Kelly would drive down with his Dad, and Mark, JeffK, Rob and I would meet at my house and we'd drive down.

Around 11:00 am Mark and JeffK arrive. We pile into my car (it being both te cleanest and the largest) and after a short stop by an ATM and gas station, we start the hourish long drive to west Miami.

We got off at the wrong exit, getting off at 41ST St. instead of U.S. 41, but we were only detoured for less than a minute. And as it turned out, we were only a few blocks north of our intended exit anyway. As we neared the fair grounds, Kelly called, saying there were good parking spots in the second row.

We pulled in, found a close parking spot and met Kelly and his Dad just outside the fairgrounds. There was some confusion at the ticket stand as a rumor spread that the booth had run out of dollar bills so we were trying to figure out a way to pay for all our tickets with a exact change. But it turned out that the rumor was just that—a rumor. We all got in with change and proceeded inside.


Once inside, we started past the primary exhibit area, like we do every year, and headed towards the back of the hall where they house the swap meet. We pass the obligatory food stalls and walk into a nearly empty back hall.

We looked around.


No swap meet.

Slow panic starts to build as we search around and find one of the side loading dock doors to the hall open and people milling in and out. Through the door we could see another building that people were entering and leaving and it looked like they had moved the swap meet to a separate building this year. Odd, but perhaps they had more people and needed the space to house them.

We worked our way over there, picked a random starting direction (right) and started to work the rows.

This year was a very disappointing year.

It turned out there were fewer exhibitors this year and possibly the reason for the change of location was to mask that. Usually there are three huge areas in the back of the main exhibit hall for the swap meet, but the building they held the swap meet in this year was about half the size usually set aside for this.

It also turned out there was less interesting equipment. For the first year no one ended up buying a computer, although there was a very interesting military spec 486 PC (which turned out to be the only interesting computer this year, unlike last year (of which I didn't write about sadly) were someone hacked up a GRiD pentop computer to run Linux but the price was too high). It was a portable (read: luggable) in an Army Green metal case, removable harddrive, detatchable keyboard that fastened to the front to form a lid and came with I think 8M RAM. was a fairly standard PC inside even though at first I thought it was a piece of test equipment. The asking price was a bit high, and upon investigation, the power transformer was too hot to keep it running although it was very tempting. I wanted to buy it for use as area51 the firewall/NAT server I want to reset up.

We did however, come across more IBM PS/2 keyboards (which are the keyboard to have—everything else is crap) at one table. Not only IBM PS/2, but black IBM PS/2 with the pencil eraser mouse between the G and H keys. Between the five of us, we bought all the black IBM PS/2 keyboards. You can never have enough of them. They're indestructable, feel wonderful and you can bludgeon lusers with them. Perfect for the BOFH in your life.

The only other interesting thing was a huge UPS (on the order of 900W) that Mark scored for only $25, still in working condition.

Other than that, nothing.

All in all, a very dissapointing HAM fest this year.


Home. Much needed sleep.

Then work.


Sunday, February 04, 2001

Two Dollars

One of the techs here at The Company just got a talking to. Apparently, it is not appropriate to state that the Microsoft NT servers go up and down more often than a two dollar whore.

Random CVS Notes

I've been thinking of running CVS so I can check source code out from home to work on it elsewhere (oh, say, like from work!). Via camworld I came across this:

- cvs sucks. But it sucks less than anything else. Be prepared for weirdness, but don't panic– there are *so* many people using it, the weirdness is likely relatively harmless or relatively easy to fix.

Random CVS notes

Uhhh …

Random Links and Green Lasers

Woo hoo! It's Links Night!

I already owned one green laser pointer. I bought a 2nd one specificly to take apart. I knew that there was a risk but I have been doing this for years (taking things apart that were not supposed to be) and have become very good at it. I don't care what anybody says, there ARE user serviceable parts inside. :)

Dissection of a Green Laser Pointer from Sam's Laser FAQ

This guy spent $350 to take apart a green laser. Ouch! Now I'm begining to feel as if I should have gotten that military spec 486 at the HAM fest.

Black Coolness

So I'm using the black IBM PS/2 keybaord and I'm finding that while it has a slightly “different” feel than the other one, it's still a nice feel that I like. Really like.

And it's so black, it's cool!

The New England Rubbish Deconstruction Society

So, it wanted to start in reverse, but we wanted to go forward? No big deal, we left the transmission there for just this class of problem. Our solution: “reverse-reverse”. To get rolling, we would start with the transmission in reverse, and the engine controls in "full gear" reverse. Once rolling we would switch both engine and transmission into a forward gear, in a process of complex coordination that deserved the “fire drill” name it got.

This was a four step process that had to be both done quickly and be coordinated between driver (controller of the shift lever) and motorman (throttle, and Johnson bar). At a signal, the motorman closed the throttle, and started moving the Johnson bar. (This was held from moving by a wing nut, which took pliers to budge). Once the throttle was closed, the driver would start to shift. The shift took time, as the crankshaft (with flywheel) was spinning not just at a different speed (like trying to shift a car without the clutch), but in the opposite direction. You had to use the synchronizer to help bring things to a stop. The motorman would announce that the bar was locked in place, and (in the eventually adopted system) the driver would open the throttle, once the shift was completed. We even managed to shift correctly some of the times during the race. We also blew a few, luckily without any real trauma to our engine. Our coupling system did take some significant knocks while learning to do this. Anything less than the motorcycle chain we chose would have parted.

While steam engines are not the best at containing all their fluids, ours seemed worse than usual. We discovered that the piston gland leaked, as, to a lesser extent, so did the cylinder end covers. Again, with the luxury of testing time, we were able to find the problem and after a bit of tightening, we were significantly reduce (but not eliminate) the leaks. We didn't have to put up with the power (and steam) losses they represented, because we didn't find them until we were actually racing.

Steam Car in a Day

I came across the The New England Rubbish Desconstruction Society; The NERDS, which is an American team that has appeared on the Brittish TV show Scrapheap Challenge (Junkyard Wars to those Brittishly challenged). Fascinating reading. The wet-sub. The steam powered car. Stuff that sounds so fun to do, and underscores just how much math and science it takes to have real fun.

Just reading this makes me realize just how little I really understand of mechanical engineering (as if I really needed reminding of that).

Monday, February 05, 2001

Fantasia Sleepiness

Slept an ungodly amount today. Still tired when I got up. Watched Fantasia and fell asleep.


I also realized that cheap DVD players are not worth it, as


e movi

too much.

Tuesday, February 06, 2001

Not quite so lazy day

Woke up rather early today, around noon (considering I work third shift, that's early). It's a beautiful day out today; not too cold, not too hot, not a cloud in the sky.

I finally got around to depositing paychecks, grabbed lunch and afterwards, started the much needed laundry. I also managed to play around a bit with the digital camera, as you can see.

Money laundering

During the laundry, I found I had inadverantly left some dollar bills in a pocket somewhere. I'm wondering if I'm now guilty of money laundering.

Thursday, February 08, 2001

A little diagram of Unix history

This diagram is only a very simplify unix history. There are a lot more unix like systems than those listed in this chart, maybe 10 times more ! Some years ago, every electronic company has it's own unix system. For example, my company was selling an unix, derivated from another one, and those two are not in this chart because there are too small. So this diagram is only the upper part of an iceberg, with a penguin on it ;-).

Unix History

It's simplified. It's also 9 feet in length! Three meters for those of you who are Imperially challenged. It makes a neat poster, although I'm not sure where I can hang a 9 foot poster.

“Spam, spam, spam, spam!”

Wallace said his site is being victimized by a “typo squatter,” a person or company that has registered various misspellings of Web addresses. In Wallace's case, a company called has registered the name “” (missing an “s”) that also launches multiple windows when someone tries to exit the site.

“Usually these are not reputable companies … I'm about to start taking legal action,” Wallace said.

“Spam King” leads new trend in annoying promotions

First reaction: Pot. Kettle. Black.

Second reaction: Ick. He's back.

Third reaction: “I'm in browser pop-up hell!”

Linux Kernel Graphing Project

I downloaded the code to generate a graph of the Linux kernel. The code downloaded is for the 2.4.0 kernel, but I run 2.0.x at home.

So I decided to see if it would work for the 2.0.x kernel. Sure enough, a few tweaks in the makefile to remove some sections that aren't in the 2.0.x kernel and about three hours later, the analysis phase is done (I did this at work were I have some serious horse power). I then generated the postscript files.

I generated the 6x6 display, which consisted of 36 sheets of 8.5" by 11" paper. Each file was approximately 12 megabytes in size.




Uncompressed, each file was 53 megabytes in size.

Good God Almighty!

I printed out the first two pages, and at 4'3" by 5'6" it's too small to make out any detail.

I then generated a 9x9 poster, making it 6'4.5" by 8'3" in size, and it's still too small!

Good Lord, how big do I need to make this thing?

Lily The Pink

This is a cute page. Shows what song was #1 the day you were born.

On my birthday, Marvin Gaye's I Heard it Through the Grapevine was the #1 song in the US. The Scaffold's Lily The Pink was the #1 song in the U.K. Who?

Friday, February 09, 2001

The Huge Linux Kernel Graph

I decided to generate a 15x15 poster of the Linux Kernel, which would make it 10'7.5" X 13'8" in size. It was just big enough to make out the detail, but there looks to be a bug in the software in that it generated all these smears across the page.

Shhh, don't let them in on it …

From the Internet's perspective, your computer was never on the Internet at all. If someone traces the connections back, the packets will all look like they came from the hijacked connection. This is especially useful when dealing with monitored conversations (see Echelon, Carnivore, the ultra-secret level-3 DeadMan monitoring stations that pepper the globe like icepick wounds in Trotsky's skull).

Note that I'm talking about taking over lower-level connections, *not* impersonating users to make it look like they sent an email or a Usenet post. That sort of stuff is relatively trivial. I'm talking about physical and data-link OSI-level takeover. I was going to use this very technique to send this post, but it takes finding a physical close computer that is running Win9x or “Win2K”, and the scanning program to find such a computer has not been ported to Windows 2000 (which is the program I am using to compose this article).)

Alien Internet Conspriracy

Uh, yea. Right.

Saturday, February 10, 2001

“Just missed her by that much … ”

I get into work and one of the tech staff, JW, comes over, asking me to join him on a smoke break. Even though I don't smoke, I usually join the other techs on smoke break—I mean, why should they get all the fun?

But I really didn't want to; I was tired and was still trying to get settled in at work. But JW persisted and I relented.

Came back a few minutes later, finished getting settled in (which involves signing into half a dozen different webservers to monitor the various monitoring tools and what not) and launched an instant messaging program (from my home computer—we're not allowed to run the AOL Instant Messaging software from work, but there was nothing stating we couldn't run it from home). It was then I discovered that my girlfriend Spring had just logged off and gone to bed.

Man, what a horrible way to start the night at work.



Very tired.

So tired I think I'll take lunch and fallllllllllllllllllllllllllllll


It's the politics that'll get ya …

Technically, the job here at The Company is very easy. Politically it's like walking through a mine field using a map of Chicago. I know I'm going to catch flak over an incident here.


It's not like there were any customers on the box. Jeeze …

Homebrew DSL

While reading Slashdot I came across a reference to homebrewing your own DSL connection. In theory, it's simple enough—you order an unconditioned copper pair from the phone company between the two points you want connected (and that will run you about $20/month), then you get the actual DSL equipment needed for either end, plug it in, and bam! Instant DSL connection.

Of course, that's theory. Here in The Real World things are much, much more complicated than that. It seems you have to check with your state (and possibly Federal) regulations for the type of copper lines you need; it also helps to know the lingo (or depending upon the phone company, the part number) and heaven help you if the Phone Cops, those Boys from Bell, ever find out you're getting DSL on the cheap.

Sunday, February 11, 2001

XML Pointers (Yes, Virginia, they do exist)

These specifications seem to be addressing what I'm attempting to do on my own, but from a quick glance over them, it seems to be mostly referencing parts of a document as per the XML structure of the document (as in, give me the contents of the third <P> tag) which isn't all that bad but the URLs get rather ugly, rather fast.

That's not to say that URLs aren't getting ugly now, but in trying to print these out, or even type them in is getting difficult to say the least.

Days of Confused

I'm getting horribly confused as to what days are what. I've been trying to update the journal here and it's been a rather painful experience trying to remember what I did on which day, mainly due to my working schedule.


Tuesday, February 13, 2001

Outtage, Part II

I talked to Velotel today about my IDSL connectivity problems. I also finished and ran the program to process the data I've been collecting. And the stats aren't … well … they aren't all that good:

Threshold:                      5s
Outtages:                     862
Total time:                    13d 12h 24m  9s
Percentage down:              1.037292%

Total outtage:                  3h 21m 54s
Minimum outtage:                6s
Maximum outtage:               20s
Average outtage:               14s
Std. Deviation:               3.354110
Total time between outtage:    13d  9h  2m 15s
Minimum time between outtage:  25s
Maximum time between outtage:  25m 26s
Average time between outtage:  22m 22s
Std. Deviation:               119.640103

(Threshold is the outtage time below which I ignore for the generation of this report, as to remove the possibility of network congestion if I'm download large files)

So I mailed those results off, as well as the raw data file. Now I sit back and wait results.

Wednesday, February 14, 2001

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day ... Straight form the Heart!

Thursday, February 15, 2001

Russian dolls

JV, fellow cow-orker, installed Windows 2000 under VMWare. He then proceeded to setup Samba between Linux and the virtual Windows 2000 machine, so he could play MP3s using Windows 2000.

Next step: setting up MAME under Windows 2000 so he can emulate old video games under a virtual machine running under Linux.


To sleep or shop?

I get home about an hour late from work, intent on going directly to sleep. But my roommate Rob was up and mentioned wanting to go to CompUSA.


I planned on going to CompUSA yesturday to get a digital camera for Spring but didn't get up in time. And I wasn't sure if I would make it today if I went to bed right then.

I didn't get to bed until nearly 1:00 pm.

But I did get the digital camera and mailed off to Spring.

Second chance

I woke up in horror and lo, my alarm clock read 11:47 pm.

I'm supposed to be at work by 11:30 pm.

I begin panicing, wondering why both my alarm clock and beeper failed to go off. My alarm clock, okay. Over the past few weeks I've been missetting it more and more often, to the am time in stead of the pm time. So that might explain why the alarm clock didn't go off. But the beeper? That's set correctly, since it saved me yesturday, and I hadn't reset it.

I check my beeper, which I was wearing to bed (I had been napping you see, just prior to going to work) and I had been paged. Was I beeped? I though. Did the page come in and interfere with the alarm? My pager is set to vibrate upon a page, but the alarm sounds off with a shrill sound. The page itself was a garbled text message but what there was of it lead me to believe that someone was expecting to meet me outside in the parking lot.

I stumble my way through the house, and the front door (which is a nice set of double doors) is unlocked. I don't think anything of this as I clumsily make my way outdoors.

Of course no one is there.

I head back in, and as I'm closing the door this small lap rat of a dog comes shooting into the house. I start yelling at it to leave and just before it's about to disappear into my room it stops, turns around, and as I'm still yelling at it, comes back and leaves out the door. I slam the door shut.

At that point, my alarm clock goes off.


I found myself in bed, horribly confused. I look over at the alarm clock, which reads 10:58 pm.

I need more sleep.

Friday, February 16, 2001

Whatever …

“Battlefield Earth”? Well, where do you start? Can we overlook that it was made for $80 million, and only recouped 21 million? This movie is a nightmare, the low point of John Travolta's career. The low point of Hollywood cinema. Rumor has it that L Ron Hubbard ( creepy Scientology guy ) came back from the dead just to tell Travolta what an idiot he was. This makes “Look Who's Talking” and all the talking dogs sequels which followed look like “Citizen Kane” by comparison. This makes Ed Wood look competent.

Whatever-Dude::When Movies Go Bad: Part One

In fact, the entire site is hilarious. Cynical, sarcastic, what's not to like?

Saturday, February 17, 2001

Offices of times past

I'm not sure why the thought came up, but I'm thinking back to the time I worked on the Math Department at FAU. While technically I shared the office with one or two other people, they were rare, if ever, there and I practically had the office all to myself.

And it wasn't a small office either—a decent 15' X 30' office, filled with books on every conceivable topic, a real blackboard, beautiful desk lamps (I would often turn off the overhead flourescents and light the office with nothing but the desk lamps) and an SGI workstation pretty much to myself.

Okay, the only down side was the lack of windows. But man, it still was a cool office.

Twisty maze of directories all alike

One of the techs called me over to check something out. I get there and he's showing me a recursive listing of a directory on one of the Unix systems here. And it's going deeper, and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and …

“Hmmm,” I said. “Looks like it's cyclically linked.”

“It's not symbolically linked,” the tech said.

“Could be hard linked,” I said. I did a listing to show the inode nubmer. Then went down another level, and did another listing. Different inode numbers. “Guess not.”

“Guess the customer had a buggy script,” said the tech.

“Guess so,” I said.

I think it finally bottomed out around 40 or so levels.

Collapsing tumblers

I had a long discussion with Mark about this journal. Specifically, about how to handle multiple tumbler requests.

Generally, I'm trying to support a generalized syntax to select single entries, such as “2000/2/3,” but I can also handle ranges, like “2000/2/3-18” or even “2000/2-7/6.” I can even handle multiple requests, such as “2000/2/3-18,4/8,5/1-5/10” but the problem is how to handle overlapped requests? How should I handle something like “2000/2/3-18,2/15-20?” Or even something as silly as ”2000/2/1-10,10-1?”

Mark was of the opinion to give the user what they typed, and if they get repeated entries, so be it. I was more of the opinion that ranges should be collapsed, so that “2000/2/3-18,2/15-20” be collapsed as if you selected “2000/2/3-20.” Mark didn't agree, and I don't fully agree with him.

His next suggestion was to make it an option for either case.

For right now, I'm not allowing multiple selections.

I want to get this code out someday!

Sunday, February 18, 2001


If you are currently with America Online, please don't bother to sign up! You have been warned…

This advice will save both you and us needless frustration. We are incompatible with your computer system as screwed-up by AOL configuration software and You. In fact, a lawsuit is in the works against AOL. So be warned, NO REFUNDS or CREDITS will be given.

As a general rule, America Online users are not computer savvy or it seems, capable of the level of technical sophistication necessary to operate a computer outside of an AOL environment. Sign-up

This is the type of ISP that Mark would like.

More on CVS

I finally got around to setting up CVS. I find that I like being able to easily (with one command) snarf down code from a central location (like my home system here) anywhere (such as work), hack away, and then with one command, ship the code back to the central location (home).

What I don't like is the inability (unless I haven't read the documentation enough) to update the change log per file, instead of just one change log for every file that's changed.

The code I'm writing is still in serious development phase, and so this constant checking-in and checkout-out is making the revisions pile up.

Perhaps I'll have to rething my log updating stragedy.

Tuesday, February 20, 2001

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

I heard back from Velotel about my IDSL problems. NorthPoint has yet to get back with them on the problem.

So I wait …

Wednesday, February 21, 2001

“Fresh domains! Get your fresh domains!”

This is amazing! A list of all (or just a large number thereof) of domains that have expired today.

Updated daily!


Lorem ipsum

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ulliam corper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis autem veleum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat, vel willum lunombro dolore eu feugiat nulla facilisis at vero eros et accumsan et iusto odio dignissim qui blandit praesent luptatum zzril delenit augue duis dolore te feugait nulla facilisi.

Li Europan lingues es membres del sam familie. Lor separat existentie es un myth. Por scientie, musica, sport etc., li tot Europa usa li sam vocabularium. Li lingues differe solmen in li grammatica, li pronunciation e li plu commun vocabules. Omnicos directe al desirabilit^! de un nov lingua franca: on refusa continuar payar custosi traductores. It solmen va esser necessi far uniform grammatica, pronunciation e plu sommun paroles.

Ma quande lingues coalesce, li grammatica del resultant lingue es plu simplic e regulari quam ti del coalescent lingues. Li nov lingua franca va esser plu simplic e regulari quam li existent Europan lingues. It va esser tam simplic quam Occidental: in fact, it va esser Occidental. A un Angleso it va semblar un simplificat Angles, quam un skeptic Cambridge amico dit me que Occidental es.

I look like a cheap s1ut?

From: []
Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2001 7:09 AM
To: sconner@XXXXXXXXX
Subject: What the hell are you doing?

WHATS YOUR PROBLEM?  We break up for 2 weeks and then Brad sends
me this url:   What the hell are you doing?
You look like a cheap s1ut!  Is that what you want?  Everyone to
think you are a WH0RE?  Fine if that's the deal, then I'm gunna
send this email to every person that I can.  Now the world
will know exactly how skanky you are!

                              BURN IN HELL BlTCH!
                              Love Eric

Go here and see what a WH0RE my ex girlfriend is:

If you got this letter by mistake and want me to take you off of my list,
click reply and include the word REMOVE on the subject line.

One of the more intriguing pieces of spam I've received.

At work no less.

I've given no one my work email address, other than my fellow cow-orkers and yet, I get this crap. I'm begining to think that The Company sells email addresses.

Thursday, February 22, 2001

Finding God (well, a goddess)

I first stumbled across GoddessKRING maybe four years ago from a mailing list where I found out about this odd public access cable show in Seattle. One of the members of the list put up a page on his website (which no longer exists. Pitty, it was a cool site). Another member did a photo shoot of GoddessKRING.

And now, just by randomly surfing around, I find GoddessKRING's website.

Now the question is: how come I can remember trivial stuff like this?

Coke Head

This sucks.

I'm wide awake.

And I'm craving a Coke.

“I am a coke head!”

Grounded Coffee

“Got enough coffee there, Rob?

“Yea, why? Dear God! You have enough coffee there?”


“Wait a second. You don't drink coffee.”


“And I've been here a year and a half … ”

“Do you really want to know how old it is?”


Liquid layout problems

Mark called this evening with a few questions about webservers. He's having to write one for a project he's working on at work (to basically stream MP3s to a software component they don't have the source code to and it wants to talk to a webserver before it'll play an MP3).

Talk then shifted to the journal and the new layout I'm working on. Okay, so I'm following the Upgrade Campaign Jeffrey Zeldman is spearheading and I've done my part, using HTML 4.01 strict and CCS (importing it on the sly so Netscape 4x doesn't crash). But Mark runs Windows NT at 640x480 (yes, he really does. Surprised me when he first mentioned it) and the page isn't laying out as intented—two columns side by side. Instead the right side is slipping down below the left, giving it a somewhat weird look. Spring reported the same thing. I made the font smaller (in fact, I specified it, whereas before I didn't) but Mark was still having problems with layout and expressed dismay that it did that.

I told him that was the result of using a liquid layout, but he asked if there was anything that could be done to stop that. Funny, coming from a guy who isn't a web designer and usually could care less how a site looks. At least the site is readable, if a bit funky at low resolutions.

He then mentioned that it should be possible to get the screen size of the client browser, but I'm not aware of anything the browser sends to the server that would allow me to determine that. Mark assured me that it was possible, but in the years I've been doing web programming (okay, mostly backend stuff with little reguard to the visual display of pages) I haven't heard of that at all.

Friday, February 23, 2001

Why haven't I heard of this?

I mention the problems Mark is having displaying the journal to JV, my fellow cow-orker, and he mentions that it should be possible to get the screen resolution of the browser since he's heard it's possible.

Why has everyone who doesn't do web work heard of this but me?

I will definitely have to investigate this.

“We're the phone company, we don't have to care about DSL … ”

This is at the heart of why Verizon cancelled its purchase of Northpoint. It is why Northpoint is suing Verizon, and why some Verizon customers are suing over delayed DSL deployments. The ILECs actually WANT to delay DSL deployment. They don't want the technology to succeed too quickly because that would mean massive upgrades to field gear and cuts into profits. The only reason why any ILEC built out a DSL product line was because of competitive pressure from CLECs and that darned Telecommunications Act of 1996, which they wanted so much at the time but now hate.

Via Robot Wisdom, Why Your Phone Company Hates DSL

Now that he mentions it …

I was happy with ISDN when I had it, even if the price was outrageous (although I wasn't paying for it). When BellSouth first offered ISDN, it was at a flat rate, but that didn't last when they had to provide universal ISDN service. So metered service came in to cover the installation costs to places like (need to find a remote Florida city).

But I lost my ISDN connection. Or rather, the party that was paying for it decided to pay for it no longer and the hours I keep on the Internet, I couldn't afford to pay those bills. So out it went.

I just hope my IDSL service stays up …

New Jersey Syle

About a year later we hired a young kid from Pittsburgh named Jamie Zawinski. He was not much more than 20 years old and came highly recommended by Scott Fahlman. We called him “The Kid.” He was a lot of fun to have around: not a bad hacker and definitely in a demographic we didn't have much of at Lucid. He wanted to find out about the people at the company, particularly me since I had been the one to take a risk on him, including moving him to the West Coast. His way of finding out was to look through my computer directories - none of them were protected. He found the EuroPAL paper, and found the part about worse is better. He connected these ideas to those of Richard Stallman, whom I knew fairly well since I had been a spokesman for the League for Programming Freedom for a number of years. JWZ excerpted the worse-is-better sections and sent them to his friends at CMU, who sent them to their friends at Bell Labs, who sent them to their friends everywhere.

Worse is Better

This is the history of the rather famous Computer Science paper “Worse is Better” and the context in which it was oringally intended.

And yes, it's that Jamie Zawinski.

Hubba hubba

Just to have my ass whooped by her in Quake.

JV, follow cow-orker on seeing Stevie Case, Game Designer

And to think she's dating John Romero.

Saturday, February 24, 2001


Reading my email at work, I see this one from E, my boss:

[Out department] just observed a momentary connectivity problem with the [city 1] data center. This was caused by the [city 2] circuit bouncing and traffic being momentarily routed through [city 3]. The circuit restored itself and appears normal at this time, however the [primary] NOC has opened [a trouble ticket] and is monitoring this circuit for additional problems.

I don't know why this upset me so much. I mean, the other email I got tonight was much worse than this (again, critical of the work done on third shift, like what else is new) but I think it has something to do with a misconception of just how the Internet works.

The closest city mentioned is well over 600 miles away, on The Company backbone (technically, we're on The Company backbone, but being way down here in South Florida, it's more of a spur than a backbone. A fast spur yes, but a spur nonetheless). And on a network the size we have here (even the network here in Boca Raton is a site to see and I don't think it's the largest one The Company has) it's expected there to be some transitory glitches. I mean, why else have redundant routes?

I think what bugs me is that most of our clients (heck, even our fellow employees) don't realize that TCP/IP is an unreliable (read: best effort) protocol and there are no guarentees on delivery of packets. And that if the routers are configured correctly (and we have some pretty sharp network engineers working here—I mean, The Company does run a backbone here) that one router doing down won't effect the connectivity (since there are redundant routes throughout the routing mesh). Okay, it may take a few minutes, but that's to be expected as routing tables restabalize.

Let me say that again: it may take a few minutes!

Like email delivery. We get calls from customers complaining that it's taking fifteen minutes for email to get through. Thankfully I'm not on the phones least I be tempted to tell these people that email is not an instant messaging protocol and that it's faster than the alternative, the snail mail postal service. Depending upon network congestion, it may take several hours for email to get through.

I'm fond of saying “Email is not FTP.” I may have to amend that to be: “Email is not FTP nor IM!”

This is also related to an incident that happened a few days ago. Just as 1st shift was coming in, we lost connectivity with a machine we manage over in Europe. Doing a traceroute showed the loss of connectivity happening within Cable and Wireless, about three hops into their network. My thought—okay, it's not us, just inform the techs that we can't reach the machine in question and it's outside our hands.

Yet JM, 1st shift worker, came in, and opened a trouble ticket with our primary NOC, even though the outtage was in a different backbone several hops inside. For some reason that bothered me too, I think for similar reasons. Given the amount of email we get about outtages of routers all along our backbone you'd think our networking staff would have enough work just on our equipment; why bother adding to the case load about other companies' equipment? But alas, JM did it anway, as part of the CYA attitude around here.


More grumbles

Along those lines, a webserver yesturday had a very bad hard drive crash and The Company has been having some difficulty in doing a proper restore (having to rebuild an entire server, and primarily doing a network based recover when a (poorly announced, but announced nonetheless) router reboot caused it to fail part way through (or so I'm lead to believe), so it's taking some time to get everything back.

But clients are complaining about The Company loosing some, but not all, the files. And complainint bitterly. Okay, fine. We had a hardware failure. Whole server blown out of the water. Recovery taking some time, and yes, there was a window where files may have been lost between the last good backup and the failure, if any files were updated during that window.

But come on—you have a hosted website and you (or the company that did your website) don't have a current backup yourself? What's this you say? The hosting company is responsible for backups? They say they backup? Here, let me fill you in on something: THWACK! Don't ever count on the hosting company to keep current backups. It would be better (and probably faster recovery) for you to keep a backup of your site and restore it yourself. Even if the hosting company keeps good backups, they're usually so large it takes several hours to recover the data to begin with.

Microsoft rethink

Our computers are big and powerful now, and at AAAS I came to the conclusion that Moore's First Law has about 50 years to run, while there are ways to circumvent Moore's Second Law (this will be in my reports). That argues enough computer power to make anything run fast. The cycles and memory will be out there. Perhaps it is time to START OVER with OS. Heck, I'd like to see Niklaus Wirth's Oberon and Modula 2 come back. I would even be interested in an OS that was written in and ran ADA as its assembly language. We are no longer constrained by memory and and cycles limits. I think it is time to break free from not only Microsoft but unintelligible code like C (which means we break free of LINUX and the other UNIX type systems too).

Jerry Pournelle on Microsoft and Linux

The page will move in a few days, so if the above link doesn't work, try this one.

Wow. I really didn't expect Jerry Pournelle to come out and say this, seeing how he tends to get personal tech support from CEOs and is an active Microsoft supporter. The times, they are a'changing.

Following the scent

Leaving work I ran into one of the techs and we started chatting a bit about the problems with the webserver we were having. I gave my rant about the clients.

“I know, and you know,” he said, “that they have a backup copy of the site on their development machines.”

“But why don't they just upload the copy they have then?”

“Because they can bitch at us and demand money back for lost services.”

“So their business isn't important enough to get the website back up and running quickly?”

“Webservers are still unreliable. It's expected they'll go down. Give it several more years, but right now, it's expected they'll go down.”

“Uh … ”

“And further more,” he said, pausing to take another drag on the cigarette he was smoking, “the dealers make out.” The server in question is used mostly be resellers—we don't deal with the owners of the sites in question, the dealers do. “They'll bitch at us for a refund, but do you think they'll refund their customers' money?” Another drag. “No, they'll keep billing 'em! Pocket the money.”


“You know, The Company is going to loose a lot of money over this.”

I had forgotten the cardinal sin learned in the 70s: Follow The Money!

Why I haven't heard of it

I'm still not convinced. I wrote a quick program to act as a webserver (it serves up the same page reguardless of what you request) and had it log the request the client sends it. I got this from the most widely used browser:

GET /~spc/bm/ HTTP/1.1
Accept: image/gif, image/x-xbitmap, image/jpeg, image/pjpeg, */*
Accept-Language: en-us
Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate
User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.0; Windows 98; DigExt)
Connection: Keep-Alive

Nothing about screen size or resolution as far as I can see.

God, are we lazy!

Transcript of an AIM session between my roommate Rob and myself:

azagy214: so where do you want to go for lunch?

spc476: Hmmm …

spc476: Restaurant?

azagy214: any particular one?

spc476: One with edible food?

azagy214: care to narrow it done more?

azagy214: oopps done = down

spc476:(oh, check out http://XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX/~spc/webcam/ 8-)

spc476: Diner?

azagy214: cute

azagy214: diner works for me

spc476: Okay. When?

azagy214: now?

spc476: Sure.

spc476: I'll be over there in a few seconds …

azagy214: ok =)

I should mention that we were about twenty feet apart.

Heh … why not?



“Hey Sean. It's Jeff.” It's my friend JeffC. “Can I ask a favor?”

“Sure. What's up?”

“Sarah and I are moving,” he said. Sarah is his fiancée. “And we need some help.” D'oh! “You only have to help unload the truck.”

I haven't been to sleep since 9:00 pm yesturday. It is now 3:00 pm. I'm still wide awake, and for the first time since October, I don't have to work tonight. Hey, how bad could it be? “Sure. Get me get dressed and I'll be right over.”

Famous last words

“See you later, Rob.” I said.

“What's up?”

“I'm off to help a friend move,” I said. “I only have to help unload the truck.”

“Watch it! They could be moving to a third floor apartment,” he said.

“Yea … right. See you later.”

Twenty-eight stairs

A bazillion boxes.

Twenty-eight stairs.

Three floors.

Two landings.

And one full truck.

Yea, right, indeed.

Plumbing lessons

My friend Kurt (same one I went haunted house hunting with last year) arrived to help help us movie. He had just finished a class in checking back-flow prevention valves, which is actually more interesting than it sounds.

Kurt is currently a high school English teacher who is burned out—long hours a poor pay have taken their toll on him, so he's getting into the family business of plumbing. Only it's not plumbing as in plumbing repair, it's more like plumbing engineering.

Between hauling boxes and furniture up to the apartment he would stop and explain how back-flow prevention valves work. Basically there are three chambers. The first one is at a high pressure, say, 40 PSI. It hits a plate separating the first and second chambers and that plate has a spring holding it in place, but the spring has a much less pressure, say, 5 PSI. That means the water from the first chamber enters the second chamber but at a reduced pressure, which is the difference between the water presure of the first chamber minus the pressure of the plate; in this example, the water in the second chamber is now 35 PSI. There's another plate between the second and third chambers, and this one supplies even less pressure, say 1 PSI, so the water in the final chamber will only be 34 PSI.

Now, in the bottom of the second chamber is a diaphram, and water from the first chamber is directly allowed to fill the area below the diaphram. This pushes the diaphram up, because the pressure above is lower than below (35 PSI above, 40 below). Now, if the presure in the third chamber rises, it shuts the plate, causing the pressure to rise in the second chamber. This pushes the diaphram down, opening a valve to release the water directly out of the system instead of letting it build up into the system.

Quite interesting. And you have to be careful in checking some of these back-flow valves, especially the larger ones, as they can quite literally explode in your face if you're not careful.

Now a word from our sponsor …

Price of truck rental: $39.95
Price of pizza for friends: $40.00
Price of dolly from back of truck: $5.00
Price of passing out on floor from sheer exhaustion: Priceless

Sunday, February 25, 2001

Pain. Oh pain.

Pain. Oh pain.


Rob and I are driving to dinner when I take my glasses off, put them on my leg and start rubbing my eyes (I'm still a bit tired). He takes off suddenly and my glasses go flying into the back seat. I reach behind the seat and start fishing around for them.

“What's up?” asked Rob.

“My glasses flew into the back seat,” I said. “I'm trying to find them.” Rob turns on the overhead light. I'm still fishing.

“Here,” he said, handing me a flashlight.

“Uh, Rob. That doesn't help.” He looked perplexed. “I'm like Thelma from Scooby-Doo—I'm blind without my glasses.”


Monday, February 26, 2001

US Hegemony

This loathing quickly communicated itself to President Nixon. He was personally beholden to Donald Kendall, the president of Pepsi Cola, who had given him his first corporate account when, as a young lawyer, he had joined John Mitchell's New York firm. A series of Washington meetings, held within 11 days of Allende's electoral victory, essentially settled the fate of Chilean democracy. After discussions with interested parties, and with CIA director Richard Helms, Kissinger went with Helms to the Oval Office. Helms's notes of the meeting show that Nixon wasted little breath in making his wishes known. Allende was not to assume office. “Not concerned risks involved. No involvement of embassy. $10,000,000 available, more if necessary. Full-time job—best men we have … Make the economy scream. 48 hours for plan of action.”

Declassified documents show that Kissinger—who had previously neither known nor cared about Chile, describing it offhandedly as “a dagger pointed at the heart of Antarctica”—took seriously this chance to impress his boss. A group was set up in Langley, Virginia, with the express purpose of running a “two track” policy for Chile: one the ostensible diplomatic one and the other—unknown to the State Department or the US ambassador to Chile, Edward Korry—a strategy of destabilisation, kidnap and assassination, designed to provoke a military coup.

Via my dog wants to be on the radio, Why has he got away with it?

Reading articles like this explains why the United States isn't well liked overseas. I think I'll just remain quiet on this; I'd rather not have the Secret Service pay a visit.

Wednesday, February 28, 2001


Blah. Headache. Stuffy nose. Lethergy. Work.


The down side of selling out

… If OSDN and/or VA collapsed someday then the OSDN web sites would not be simply released back into the wild but rather be liquidated as assets to the highest bidder, and you can bet the new owners would gladly run these sites into the ground for every last penny they can quickly earn from them. So at least you can be glad the original founders of these web sites still work here and they care a lot about how this web site works for you, the community. And if we're not able to turn a profit here despite our best efforts, whoever ends up grabbing our helm here will most likely toss this whole crew overboard, and I can assure you that the new crew will care far less about "community" then we ever did….

Kurt Gray, lead programmer for OSDN's ad system about Making Ad Banners Suck Less

Okay, so the Slashdot Crew got several million when they sold out to VA Linux. This is something that hasn't actually been addressed all that much and to a degree, does concern me. I mean, will Slashdot be around in another five years? Will CmdrTaco still be around with spelling and grammar mistakes? Will he bolt once his options vest? Or will the entire thing collapse and be run into the ground?

More importantly, will anybody care at that point?


Spring and I were talking about resumés this morning. She's agreed to help a friend rewrite his and we were going over our own respective ones. I told her that originally, mine had as the objective: “To obtain gainful employment to satisfy my friends' inability to deal with me not working.”

She countered that her original objective was “to gain a convincing front of employment to obscure my acquisiton of wealth in the drug trade.” Not that she's actively in the drug trade! It's a joke. Ha ha.

Laugh damn it!

Economics of Love

Spring and I also ended up talking about economics and the gold standard. I had just finished reading The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession by Peter Bernstein and I learned that the Gold Standard was only around for aproximately 100 years. Before that, gold was actually circulated as coins, and it was recently that paper money backed by gold was employed in the West (although it had been going on for centuries over in China). So we were chatting about that, and about economics in general (for instance: get cancer? GNP goes up. Car crash? GNP goes up. Volunteer? GNP drops).

Nerdness knows no bounds.

Comics gone and forgotten

I don't know if you've ever had the chance to catch this … this movie, but if you did, it probably means that you wake up really really early on Sunday morning with nothing better to do than watch the local unaffiliated station's lame sci-fi movie show. Film stars Clint Walker as some guy who gets harassed by a Bulldozer, and Robert Urich as I don't remember what, because I haven't bothered to watch this heap of failure a second time 'round.


Truely bad, and I mean bad, comic books from history past. And yes, that's where they belong.

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