Trustworthy consulting

Friday, 6/16/00
NT security consulting. I think there’s a special place in hell for recruiters, slimebags that they are, but I’m starting to wonder if that place isn’t next door to the special place for consultants. I took a consulting gig that basically amounts to setting up an NT domain correctly–how many times does one have to say don’t put a server on DHCP, just give it an IP address? It’ll probably also involve building a Linux box to serve as a firewall, since this is a school that suspects its students have been tapping into the office network from the lab and nuking (or possibly changing) files. Kids today, I’ll tell ya…

Putting the two networks on separate NT domains and TCP/IP subnets should make that difficult, but with a Linux box that doesn’t speak SMB sitting between the two networks, it should be impossible. It’s also tempting to just unbind TCP/IP from the MS client and use NetBEUI as the networking protocol in the office for added security. That way, even if someone did manage to get into the Linux box, they still wouldn’t be able to do anything useful.

Come to think of it, with TCP/IP unbound from the MS client, do they even need a firewall? Maybe those extraneous protocols that shipped with Windows are useful for something after all… NetBEUI’s awfully chatty, too chatty for large networks, but this is a small network.

I speak harshly of consultants because my predecessor documented absolutely nothing that he did. I mean, I understand the temptation to make a client dependent on you, but if you do a good job and then hand over total documentation of their network, why on earth would any sane client go to another consultant afterward? Methinks they’d trust you to the death.

Then again, maybe I still have a naive, idealistic view of human nature…

Look out, George Brett… Can’t resist. The company picnic was today, and I played softball. Led off and played catcher (yes, I was the odd catcher batting leadoff, and the odd leadoff batter who can’t run). I went 1-for-2. Thought I stroked a single to right my first at-bat, but it curved foul, and I fanned on the next pitch. Next at-bat, with a runner on and two out, I stroked a single to right. The runner advanced to third on the play; I was thrown out trying to take second on a close play.

I thought swinging the bat would be a good test on my wrists, and it was. They held up. Hitting everything to right field indicates low bat speed, but that’s to be expected I think. I was a bit surprised I could swing the bat at all, let alone do anything productive with it. Now if I’d only stayed at first, because the batter after me led off the next inning with a long homer to center, which would have been a three-run shot if I’d been more conservative.

BIOS tweaking leads to successful Linux install

Thursday, 6/15/00
Power supplies and Linux installs… I swapped out a power supply last night for Steve DeLassus (there’s something mildly amusing about an electrical engineer asking a journalist for help with a power supply issue), and I installed Mandrake 7 on one of my PCs so I could get ready to mess with Apache. It kept dying during install, so I reset the BIOS defaults, after which it worked fine. Probably it was memory timing sensitivity but I didn’t feel like messing with it. Linux is much more sensitive to such things than Windows, which may explain some people’s installation difficulties (I think nothing of messing with my BIOS settings until I get it right, but some people understandably never think to check those). Loading BIOS defaults, or, better yet, safe defaults if available, may tame the beast.

Apache… I’m not going to say I can change the world, but some of the things you can do with Apache are totally out of sight. I can’t wait until I can type well enough again to really start experimenting. I’m no pioneer in doing these things, but if I start explaining how to do them, then I will be. If you think I’m looking at this to be one of the big selling points of the next book, you’re dead on.

Until next week…

Supplements help ailing wrists

Wednesday, 6/14/00
Supplement attacks… The alfalfa continues to help (my right arm is better, in some regards, than it’s been since I popped my elbow trying to throw fastballs in the lower 90s some 10 years ago). Time to ship a big bottle of this stuff to Jose Rosado, to see if it can help his ailing left shoulder so he can come back and help the Royals’ atrocious pitching.

I also added a trio of fatty acids, after Chris Ward-Johnson suggested them. Two of them come from fish oil, the source of the third I can’t remember offhand, but they made sense, since they’re all used not only for inflammation, but also for heart health (since my dad died at 51 of a heart attack, I watch that) and for healthy skin. If something helps three conditions I have, it sounds reasonable that I should take it–by my logic, that sounds like a good indication of a deficiency. I know more about DEC VAX mainframes than I know about these supplements, but I’m learning.

And my chiropractor is impressed with my progress.

When’s comeback time? Hard to say. The new book has to take priority once I’m physically capable of typing in large quantities again. I’ll probably use my small-quantity typing energies to resume editing. Expect me to be more of an Occasionalnoter than a Daynoter for a good while.

Read this if you have an Iomega drive of any sort. More reports of Jaz/Zip problems here. Whether Steve Gibson’s TIP will help is hard to say. But at any rate, I’ve entrusted data to an Iomega product for the last time… Count on it.

‘Scuse me while I go pawn my Zip drive and disks.

Nursing my wrists back to health

Friday, 6/9/00
Dave here… Not back for good yet, but I’m much better today. Thanks go out to all of my well-wishers.

As for treatment… The combination of chiropractics, vitamins and alfalfa seems to be working. My conventional doctors would be aghast, but this stuff’s working, whereas they weren’t interested in listening to what was going on, so until I succeed in finding a local general practitioner who’s interested in listening to patients, I’ll stay this course.

I’m currently on massive doses of alfalfa, which makes me “a freaky hippie vegetarian type who takes it in pill form because he’s too lazy to chew food,” in the opinion of one Tim Coleman. (This–or something very much like it–he said after he asked if I chew my own cud.) Chlorophyl helps joints and cartilige, supposedly, and alfalfa is also rich in a chemical called MSM that according to many sources I’ve found has numerous healing properties. Alfalfa is also reported to be very good at de-toxing the body.

I don’t care so much how it works as much as that it does work. Seeing as it takes an act of Congress to get in to see my regular doctor and he doesn’t have anything useful to say anyway, and a bottle of alfalfa costs $4, I’ll take that route and keep seeing my chiropractor. We’ll know on Monday when he hits me again with the ultrasound how things are going. The less it hurts, the better off I am.

In addition to finding out about alfalfa, my research seems to indicate I’m deficient in magnesium, potasium, and fatty acids (whatever those are). But I’m mostly interested in solving the typing problem. Leg cramps and premature gray hair aren’t keeping me from writing books, after all.

Besides the alfalfa, I’m also on Vitamins E, B complex, and extra vitamin B6. I’ve been on B6 for about a month; the others for a little over a week I think.

Well, I should be in absolute agony by now, but I’m not. I’m going to back off now, though. Your first move after stepping out of the wheelchair shouldn’t be to run the Boston Marathon.

Important disclaimer: I claim to know absolutely nothing about why any of this stuff works and whether it would be suitable for anything. Yes, so my dad, grandfather, and grandmother were all doctors. They knew the human body inside and out and knew nothing about computers. I know computers inside and out and know nothing about the human body, other than that I’ve got one.

Killing a process in Unix

My Linux gateway likes to fall off the Internet occasionally. I think it’s Southwestern Bell’s fault, because it always seems to happen right after it tries to renew its DHCP lease. Rebooting fixes the problem, but I wanted a cleaner way.
Here it is. Do a tail /var/log/messages to get the PID for pumpd. [Or, better, use the command pidof [program name] –DF, 5/25/02] Do a kill -9 [PID] to eliminate the problem process. (This process tends to keep the network from restarting.) Then, do a /etc/rc.d/rc3.d/S10network restart to stop and restart the network. [Better: use /etc/init.d/network restart, which is runlevel independent and works on more than just Red Hat-derived distros. –DF, 5/25/02] Try pinging out just to make sure the Internet’s working again, and bingo. Back in business.

I don’t know that this is the best or most elegant way of doing it, but it works and it’s much faster than waiting for that old 486 clunker to do a warm boot.

Upgrades, remedies and a diagnosis

(originally from 5/21/00)
Upgrade Central. I got a steal of a deal on a pair of Antec 300W power supplies, so I did the power supply shuffle this weekend. While I was at it, I also threw in bunches of memory while I had the systems open. My dual 366 runs a lot better now with 320 MB of RAM in it. Never skimp on RAM, especially on dual-CPU systems.

I can’t resist. Microsoft Remedies. Someone sent in some complaints about Outlook, viruses and scripting, which I’d love to post but it takes a lot of effort to do that right now. Suffice it to say, Gary, I think you’re right, but I don’t think Microsoft gives a rip about anything but driving competition, real or imagined, out of business using any means possible. Security and quality be damned. (Notice they’re not exactly falling all over themselves to remedy the performance problems Internet Explorer causes, even though it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to do.)

So, proposed remedies… Put Mehdi Ali and Irving Gould in charge. Who? They’re two guys who knew how to chase short-term profits without stifling innovation. You’re still asking who? Ask any Amiga fan who they are, then duck.

And it’s almost official. I’ve been diagnosed (at least, I have a preliminary diagnosis) with the dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome. I don’t know if it’s a matter of psychology, having been hit too many places with reflex hammers, or the Vitamin B6 shocking my system, but whatever it was, I was a mess Saturday.

Expect updates to be brief and less frequent than before for a while. I’ll do my best to answer my mail, but I’m still trying to devise a plan. (I do feel a bit better today, at least I’m using my shift key, unlike yesterday.) And I wrote this much with the two-finger method, rather than touch-typing–I’m a very fast touch-typist when healthy.

Using math to find new music

Wednesday, 5/17/00
MongoMusic [may be defunct now–DF] is a service where you punch in a song title, and it’ll generate a list of songs that are in some way similar. It also works for artists and albums. I punched in Up by R.E.M., and it suggested albums by XTC, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. I think they’re all a reach, but agree that if you like Up there’s a pretty good chance you’ll like those others.

So, let’s try a song. While we’re being obscure, we’ll analyze “I’ll Fall With Your Knife,” by Peter Murphy. We get “Good God’s://Urge,” by Porno For Pyros (Perry Farrell’s post-Jane’s Addiction band). I know that one. I have no idea what they’re thinking. Perry Farrell’s even weirder than Peter Murphy. “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” by Crash Test Dummies is #2. I don’t see it. #3 is “Listen,” by Collective Soul. I don’t think I’ve heard that one. #4 is “Bushfire,” by Midnight Oil. I haven’t heard that, but knowing Midnight Oil, maybe. #5 is another Murphy track. That’s cheating. #6 is “Letting the Cables Sleep,” by Bush. Gavin “I think I’m a Pretty Boy Kurt Cobain” Rossdale isn’t even worthy of passing The Great Peter Murphy on the street, let alone being mentioned alongside him. Next. #7 is “Californication,” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. No idea where they’re getting that one. #8 is “Father of Mine,” by Everclear–a song of slightly higher caliber than the average Bush song. Exit. Next. #9 is “The Body,” by Public Image Ltd. No idea on that, but Johnny Rotten may have done something like that. And #10 is another Murphy track, this one from the same album. What was that I said about cheating?

Let’s try an artist. Echo and the Bunnymen. #1 is Television. They were an underground British band around the same time. I’ve heard them mentioned in the same context. #2 is Mekons. I’ve heard the name. #3 is The Teardrop Explodes. Ditto. #4 is The Bolshoi. No idea. #5 is The Lemonheads. I’m thinking on that one. Their singers sing in the same vocal range… I don’t dislike The Lemonheads, but I wouldn’t pay money to go see them. #6 is Morrissey. I can see that one, but Morrissey’s a space cadet. #7 is Play Dead. Who? #8 is Soul Coughing. Reaching a bit, aren’t we? #9 and #10 are UK Subs and The Southern Death Cult. Cool names. I’d have remembered them if I’d heard of them. #11 and #12 are Television Personalities and Sleepers. Ditto. #13 is Sponge. Detroit punk updated for the ’90s. I don’t see the similarity, except that both bands came from industrial cities (Echo is from Manchester, England). #14 is The Church. Now that I see, big time. #15-17 I can see almost as much: Joy Division, The Smiths (Morrissey’s old band), The Cure.

Well, a computer can analyze a work’s mathematical qualities characteristics (I refuse to use the word “qualities” when referring to works by Bush) and try to find something possessing one or more of the same characteristics, but the results here show that musicmaking is more art than science, as you can probably see by my harsh reaction to comparing Peter Murphy with Bush. Most Bush fans wouldn’t like Peter Murphy either.

The analysis seems to work a lot better with albums, and still better with artists.

Mail. The mail pours in, but I’m sore and it’s a couple of hours before I can do another dose of ibuprofen, so it’ll wait for tomorrow. Methinks I got a bit carried away here.

Putting the squeeze play on Linux

Want the smallest, fastest OS possible? I stumbled across several Linux assembly language projects today. There’s asmutils, which attempts to give full functionality of various common Linux tools but in smaller, faster assembly language packages, and there’s Tiny ELF, a page of assembly language utilities that are somewhat useful, but the intent appears to be more to just see how small of a program he can write.
If you want to see just how far the insanity can go, check out this, which is about the craziest thing I’ve seen in a long time. I remember that mentality. It was the mentality of an Atari 2600 programmer. As one who replaced most of the standard Amiga commands with smaller, faster versions, I can appreciate these two projects. Maybe I’m just an old-timer or a sicko, but for some reason I get a kick out of seeing that my text editor uses a scant 68K of memory (with a large file open). The scary thing is, the command window that allows you to run all these tiny programs will itself occupy a meg or more. Sigh. Progress.

A lean, mean word processor for Windows

Tired of document bloat? I gave AbiWord another look because I thought it might be useful for a quick side project a friend of mine suggested (it requires quick-and-dirty creation of PDFs, I know how to make PDFs out of XML documents, and AbiWord is XML-based). It’s still not quite ready for my everyday use (I can create documents that crash it on reload), but I expect it to get there pretty quickly. One feature that impressed me is the ability to save its documents in GZIP-compressed form. While BZ2 is more effective, for text documents the size AbiWord will be creating, the difference is probably negligible, and GZIP is more widespread anyway. I created a document containing a couple of fairly long paragraphs and a lot of formatting and saved it. Then I saved it in compressed form. It was about 33% the size of the original. Nice. It opened flawlessly.
I’m also impressed with its CPU usage. I got the Win32 version, brought up Task Manager and watched AbiWord’s CPU usage as I typed. Even with spell checking on the fly turned on, CPU usage stayed below 2 percent. This is a dual Celeron-366 system, so on slower systems it’ll probably be higher, but just for comparison, I tried the same test with NoteTab. It typically ran between 2 and 5 percent. So, we’re talking a real word processor for the price of a text editor. Nice.

How compliments and criticisms affect relationships

I played hooky from church yesterday. I made the mistake (depending on point of view) of turning on the local Christian station as I was getting ready for church, caught the tail-end of a message about unanswered prayer, then went into a message about patience. Seeing as I have little, I listened intently. It was good stuff, so I stayed home and listened. By the time that was over, services had started, so I listened to a third message. This one was supposed to be about marriage, which isn’t terribly useful to me at present, but quickly veered off topic. The pastor had no focus whatsoever, but there was lots of good stuff in there. Among them: Write down the five greatest compliments you’ve ever received and who said them. Then, flip the piece of paper over and write down the five most lingering cuts/criticisms. The lesson: The criticisms are probably older than the compliments, and probably come to mind more quickly. The source also tells something. I wondered why I was never able to have an effective relationship with two particular people, and suddenly I understood why. One was responsible for two of the top five; another was responsible for a definite one and another that arguably belongs in the top five. Suddenly it made sense.
The other thing that came from that: It typically takes nine compliments to counter a cut. I’d heard that before, but in this context it clicked. So, those two people I had trouble establishing any kind of healthy relationship with? Well, one of them never said nine nice things about anyone, at least not with that person present.

But hey. They’re both figures in history and very likely to stay that way. Now I don’t have to feel guilty about that.

As good as Pastor John’s messages always are, I don’t think he could have packed as much into his 20-minute messages as I got from that hour fifteen or so from three different people.