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.

Friday, September 01, 2017

The quest is over


[And you thought vampires are bad. They're nothing compared to the alien white squirrels!]

Two days after my quest, I received an email naming a price (which was pretty much what I thought it would be) and that they had set aside one of the banners. Unfortunately, I received the email too late to pick it up that day. I replied that I would pick it up on Friday as we were leaving town. Shortly thereafter, I received another reply that it would be waiting for me at the front desk.

Unfortunately, on Friday, with all the packing and loading of the car and it being o'god-it's-too-early-to-be-doing-this, we were a solid fifty miles out of town before I remembered I was supposed to pick up the banner.


I called to say I would call back on Monday to do the order and have it shipped.

On Monday, I called, only to find out the person responsible was out of the office and would call me back on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, I called just before they closed and again, the person responsible was out of the office.

On Wednesday, at o'god-who-is-this-calling-me-at-this-time-of-the-day, I finally received a call back. The sale was made, the shipping was paid, and then it was a waiting game.

I did not expect it to be delivered so quickly.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Cleaning up the cobwebs

As a holiday project, I decided to make a few changes to the old website (why yes, I have an actual website in addition to the blog, in case you didn't know), as it has been a few years since the last major update. The big changes were redirecting the “Software” section to my github page, removing the merchandising link (yes, there was one—and no, I never made any money from that) and cleaning up the “Projects” section.

I also went over the entire site (excluding the blog) and either removed or updated any links. It was amazing at just how many of them were dead (actually, the domains still existed, but were now owned by squatters wanting to sell the domain at an exorbitant prices). Especially in the “Metasearch Engine Years” section. Yes, I probably could have made links to The Wayback Machine (like Armigeron) but the issue there is when current owners of the domain put up a restrictive robots.txt— The Wayback Machine will then make the archive of said domain unavailable.

Why take the risk of potentially breaking the site? It's probably best to just remove the links and let the past be the past.

It was also a bit sobering to think that “Project: Brainstorm” (aka “Project: Brainstem” as it was called around The Office at the time) is far enough in the past that, if it were alive, it could legally drink! I still recall writing the software, using a text editor written in 1982 for MS-DOS 1.0 and a version of make from Microsoft. This was pretty much about six months after Java was officially released and there were no IDEs for it (not that I use IDEs as I'm a language maven, but the one time I tried using one, it crashed hard). The one problem I had not mentioned was writing myself into a circular dependency with the Java classes where you couldn't compile the code solely from source—class A required class B to be compiled first, and class B required class A to be compiled first. It's all too easy to fall into that trap with incremental development, and not quite so easy to break the cycle once one finds out.

There were some other minor changes I made, but they will probably go unnoticed by most people.

What can I say?

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Something wicked this way comes

I'm at The Ft. Lauderdale Office of The Corporation, and as I'm stowing my computers into an inner office, I see this out of the window of another office in our new space:

[I … I don't think that's fog enveloping the airport …]

That's the Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport, and the odd thing is, Hurricane Irma is to the east, the airport is to our west!


Thursday, September 07, 2017

And here I thought it was a mass of clouds headed our way

From the “So Obvious It's Obvious Department,” comes this lovely piece of email from OnStar:

"OnStar Member Services" <>
A hurricane is on the way. OnStar Crisis Assist can help
Thu, 07 Sep 2017 13:02:07 -0600

Hurricane Irma is coming your way. OnStar Crisis Assist can help keep you safe.

Please be advised that a hurricane is heading your way …

My initial thought was, no XXXX, but it's clear that OnStar is trying to say they can help us to survive Hurricane Irma (it's mainly “we can help you travel safely out of the area”). I think what I found most egregious about this email is the subject line, “A hurricane is on the way.” Perhaps a better subject line would have been “Let OnStar help protect you and your family durring the hurricane.” Because if you haven't heard there's a hurricane coming to town, you are either a misanthropic hermit living the middle of a Florida swamp, or in a coma for the past two weeks.

But it's nice to know that OnStar cares enough to send an email, though.

All sealed up at Chez Boca

Bunny and I are preparing Chez Boca for our most unwelcome guest, Hurricane Irma. It looks like Mother Nature is really giving it to the US right up the ol' Florida.


[It's now a room without much of a view.  Not that there will be much to look at during Hurricane Irma—rain, wind, the occasional piece of debris, Margaret Hamilton riding around on a bicycle.  Besides, it's better to be safe than sorry.]

We've good our food, water, batteries and other supplies already laid in. We've got most of the shutters in place. The only ones left are the large sliding glass doors on the back porch and we'll be doing those tomorrow. As well as bringing in items from the back porch inside.

Chez Boca itself is concrete construction so it should weather the storm. I'm not particularly worried about the storm per se, but the loss of power after the hurricane passes.

That's going to suck!

Friday, September 08, 2017

An increase of storm activity over time

The article “What Lies In Irma's Path” has an interesting graph:

[The first satellite was launched by Russia in October of 1957, yet this graph shows a remarkable uptick in storms starting around 1951.  I have to wonder what changed to cause more storms to be tracked.  The National Hurricane Research Project, which later became the National Hurricane Center, wasn't started until 1955.  Perhaps alien white squirrels?]

That uptick in activity around 1950 is due to better weather monitoring and not because of some anthropomorphic deity trying to smite us out of existance. The rest of the article isn't really worth reading as it comes across as scare-mongering, much like the rest of the reporting about Hurricane Irma. Personally, I find the reporting from the National Hurricane Center to be the best—it's level headed and not so “in-your-face” about the dangers. But they don't try to sugar coat the threat either. It's actually quite refreshing from the rest of the media storm (pun intended) going on.

And meanwhile, Bunny and I await the coming storm.

And now we wait

Well, let's see …

  1. Food … ✓
  2. Water … ✓
  3. Shutters … ✓
  4. Clean porch … ✓
  5. Batteries … ✓ (except for 6 volt batteries—we didn't get any in time)
  6. Gas … ✓
  7. Kerosene … ✓
  8. Generator … ✓
  9. Obsessively checking the National Hurricane Center for updates … ✓

Nothing much more to do than to wait.

Are we there yet?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Report from the far side

Well, that was interesting.

Hurricane Irma went further west before turning north, so while Tampa got hit (I guess) with the full force of an operational hurricane, all we got here in Chez Boca was maybe hurricane class 1 type winds and rain.

We lost internet connectivity (our DSL failed way before our power did, and as of this writing (3:00 am) we've been sans power for about twelve hours now.

The only weird thing to have happened was around 8:30 am Sunday as the storm was approaching. The door bell rang suddenly, and when I looked out the peep hole, I could have sworn I saw someone at the front screen door. The person wasn't there very long, for when I looked back to make sure I saw what I saw, no one was there! Dun dun dun!

Sleeping in the bedroom was difficult, as the bougainvillea was trying its damdest to get inside out of the storm. It was a horrible racket that made sleeping difficult. And yes, that's pretty much what we did today—sleep. Not much else to do except listen to the squeals of the UPSs as the power finally died.

So now the storm is past. We're one of the few neighborhoods here in Boca without power (as is usual for our area). So unless the power is back on in the morning, we shall be hooking up the generator! Dun dun dun!

Murphy's Law strikes again

Hmm … interesting.

I'm having to use the web interface to post to my blog and unfortunately, it's one of the least tested parts of the code since I rarely use the web interface (mainly because editing in the web browser sucks). I generally use the email interface, but given the lack of power around here, that's not an option.

Anyway, I wrote the previous entry and when I went to view it before posting it, nothing happened other than the browser just sitting there, waiting for a response back from the server. I did that several times before I remembered the definition of insanity. Then I just tried posting it. The entry was posted, but the browser was still waiting for a reposnse from the server.

At least that isolates where the problem might be.

Anyway, I'm just writing this so I remember to come back and fix this once power is restored.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

“And why did you skip high school?” “Because I was governor of Vermont.”

BRISTOL - Whether by design or accident, Vermont's founders imposed no age requirement on those who could run for governor of this state.

The constitutional quirk paved the way for Ethan Sonneborn, 13, of Bristol, to announce this summer that he's running for governor.

Eligible candidates must have simply lived in Vermont for four years before the election — "which I’ve tripled, and then some," said Sonneborn, a 13-year resident of Vermont.

[H]e admits it will be challenging to travel the state and simultaneously attend eighth grade. Hitting the campaign trail will mean getting rides from his parents. But he expects that ultimately his age will be an asset, not a liability.

"We elected our oldest president ever," Sonneborn said, "and he tweets like a kindergartner."

Via Jason Kottke, Meet the 13-year old running for Vermont governor

I'm like, this is amusing! Bunny is like, “Of course, it's Vermont!

More power to you, Ethan Sonneborn.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Survival, day 3

We're still on generator power, so we aren't completely dying in the heat and humidity, just mostly dying in the heat and humidity with a few fans to keep us company.

So I get word that The Ft. Lauderdale Office of the Corporation has power, which means Internet and more importantly, air conditioning! The elevators aren't working, but hey, what's eight flights of stairs when there's sweet sweet A/C at the end?

A XXXXXXX ton of stairs, that's what.

But hey, that sweet sweet air conditioning!

It's also amazing that our office received a ton of water damage. Yes, we're on the eighth floor of a ten story building, and no, none of the windows were smashed. The office does have a patio and the doors aren't exactly water tight so there was several inches of standing water in that portion of the office.

But other than the standing water and non-working elevators, things are fine at The Ft. Lauderdale Office of the Corporation.

The neighborhood around Chez Boca isn't too bad either. Yes, there were tons of downed branches and palm fronds (and one house with an uprooted banyan tree that miraculously missed the house) but no real significant damage. And the traffic to the Ft. Lauderdale Office of the Corporation wasn't insane or even heavy. I'll have to enjoy that while I can, because Real Soon Now™ “The Season” starts and traffic really becomes a mess.

So other than the lack of power, things could be worse. And for that, I am thankful.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Survival, day 6

When the power goes out for the neighborhood, it's always the same few score of houses that are without power. Bunny and I suspect it's because we're at the tail end of our particular power grid and there's a critical breaker tripped or wire down that is feeding our neighborhood. And because of the low number of houses affected by our particular outage, it's likely we would be one of the last group of people FPL will fix due to Hurricane Irma. We're expecting sometime around tomorrow evening.

Also of concern here at Chez Boca is the Internet connection. It went out first, and from what we heard from The Monopolistic Phone Company, it wouldn't be until next week before we get the land line fixed (we have DSL).

We're roughing it here. And I don't even like camping!

So this morning as I was sleeping, something in my hind-brain noticed that it wasn't as miserably hot and humid in the bedroom—it actually felt cool! What? I look—and there's the alarm clock blinking. Blinking? Blinking … this means somethi—POWER!

We have POWER!

Oh that sweet sweet air conditioning! Praise be FPL!

That still meant we have a week or so before we get Internet connectivity back, but lo', it too, was back up!

Praise be The Monopolisic … er … no. I just can't praise the Monopolistic Phone Company.

Anyway, all is right with the world (or at least our little corner of it). We have Internet. We have power. What could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Wake up! Time for DDoS

"MrSmith" <>
DDoS Warning
Tue, 19 Sep 2017 22:08:05 +0400



We are Phantom Squad

Your network will be DDoS-ed starting Sept 30st 2017 if you don’t pay protection fee - 0.2 Bitcoin @ 1W5FWQjvHGMkaPeuR4SvRNojsv64WgJNt.

If you don’t pay by Sept 30st 2017, attack will start, yours service going down permanently price to stop will increase to 20 BTC and will go up 10 BTC for every day of attack.

This is not a joke.

Not quite as dramatic as the last email I received from a black-hat cracker but I do have to wonder—why me?

I'm not a company. I don't make money from this blog. Heck, I don't make any money from my website at all. So why target me? It doesn't make sense—I'm not a big enough target. Why not go after something with a bit more money, like a sports gambling site?

I mean, if this is the same Phantom Squad that took down XBox Live and PlayStaton Network over Christmas of 2015, then yes, this could be bad. But as far as I could tell, that's the only attack Phantom Squad has done and they've been very quiet since. This might even be a scam.

I talked with my hosting company, and they said not to worry. If it happens, just give them a call and they can start working with their upstream provider to mitigate the attack. And under no circumstance am I to pay the danegeld (which at the time of writing, 0.2 BTC is worth $802.46).

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