The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

I can't do this for much longer

| June 28, 2004

So, after being on vacation for a week and coming back to work, I realize that I can’t do this anymore and really need to get out. Unfortunately, I kind of made a gentleman’s agreement with my boss to stick around for another year. He would like me to stay longer (not out of any obligation, just as friendly advice he thinks it would be good for my career), but honestly, I just can’t do it anymore. I’m so tired of the everpresent tension, ever-changing specifications and fixed deadlines. I wonder who at work is going to flip out next (and I’m not innocent of doing it either). I thought that after my vacation, I might give a shit again. What I find is that I care less. I think that I’m seriously underpaid for what I do, and that basically they should either give me like a 20% raise or just make me a developer again. The stress just isn’t worth the paycheck. So, Liz is looking at Cornell for grad school, and, while the plan was always to go with her, maybe I’ll go back to grad school too. I guess really what it comes down to is that I’ve basically bought all the toys that I want, and I’ll probably save up money so that I can live by Cornell, and do something that I want to do – some research or something that is a lot less stress and more interesting. In other news, no one should rent from Kingston Gardens. On Friday ad 4:30, the knob broke off my shower faucet. I called maintenance, but got the answering service – everyone had left at 1. Oh, okay. No worries about it tonight, I’m headed to my girlfriend’s anyway. Saturday, they call me – “Can you stay at your girlfriend’s all night; we don’t want to call the plumber on Saturday”. Well, that’s nice. Sure, whatever, I’ll be nice. Today, I come home. Sure, it’s fixed, but they had to tear out a wall to do it, and they left sheetrock dust all over the place, as well as emptying out the closet (the pipes run through one side of the closet), not putting anything back, and removing one of the braces for one of the shelves. It’s a good thing I own a vacuum and a hammer, eh? Oh, and they tripped a breaker while working on this, turning off the air conditioner, so when I got back, the apartment was like 90+ deg F (32 + deg 5). I don’t suppose I need to tell anyone that the temperature alarms and auto-shutdown procedures on my roughly $5,000US of computer hardware start going off at 35C. This is not an isolated incident – this is representative of the quality of service you can expect from these folks. Liz thinks I should write them a “constructive criticism” letter. I think that I’m moving out, so why bother? Leave on good terms and not bother with it. But, Liz is rather insistent, so I’ll see how I feel about it tomorrow. It’s probably not good to write about it when I’m angry anyway. I’m going to play StarCraft now…

Can't say I didn't warn you

| June 26, 2004

So, someone has finally put 2 + 2 together, using vulnerabilities in MS's IIS to infect IIS servers, which then infect people who visit them through unpatched vulnerabilities in MS IE. The result? Identity theft, password snarfing, the whole deal.

Solutions: 1.) Buy a Mac. 2.) Install Linux (or BSD or whatever) on a computer you have already, or buy one with Linux (or BSD or whatever) on it. 3.) At least install a different browser and use it instead. FireFox is my preference for web browsing, and Thunderbird is my preference for email. It's MUCH safer than IE/OE.

In other news, the Senate has passed a bill allowing criminal prosecution of people who record movies within theaters. Now, I don't have a problem with this being a criminal offense. What I do have a problem with is that the penalties are 3-5 years for a first time, and 10 for the second. Isn't this a little bit out of the mold of “punishment fits the crime”? Don't you get in less trouble for various drug offenses? What about carrying a weapon without permit / illegal posession of a firearm? I would call those far worse on the “damage to society” scale than simply affecting some megacorp's bottom line, wouldn't you?

Hello All

| June 24, 2004

So, the apartment is all neatened up; as much as it can be with not enough space. Now I'm just relaxing and playing video games. I fired up the wintendo and started using it to play video games again. Of course, since it sits idle for most of the time, I installed the United Device software to look for a cure for cancer or do smallpox research (whichever project they need it to work on). Unfortunately, it only runs on windows machines. Kind of silly of them – imagine how much work they could get done with a bunch of idle dual G5 boxen…

So, has anyone else noticed that the SK town water has gotten really bad recently? Liz says it always tasted like that, but I'm convinced that it has at least contributed to my stomach troubles of late – I've been worried about being dehydrated, so I've been drinking something like 2-3 liters of water a day, but I feel worse. I switched to bottled spring water a couple days ago, and I feel much better, and a lot less thirsty.

Mikey (Liz's cat) has been staying with me this week since I'm home. Being with Arthur gives him someone to play with, and I can keep an eye on them. It's good for them to play together, especially since they'll be living together in a month. It's going to be nuts this month: Back to work: 4 days Birthday: 14 days Historicon: 20 days Start painting the apartment/moving in: 25 days Big move in: 30 days

We need to have like 4 parties to rotate though the various groups of friends and invite everyone over.

the cat in the rack Mikey in the rack. No, the shelf isn’t broken – he just decided to jump in after I had removed all the screws.

Good morning all

| June 19, 2004

As some of you may know, I had 52 hours of vacation to kill, so I'm on vacation this week. Nothing special planned, just puttering around the house; cleaning up and organizing in preparation for the move. Liz and I have also been having layout discussions about stuff in the living room, and she has banned the big black rack from being in the living room next to the TV. So, it will not be an entertainment stack, but will be a computer rack next to my desk.

I started my vacation off in a grand fashion yesterday by going to Staples and ordering a 2 drawer file cabinet on casters to replace my plastic box-type one. Then I proceeded over to Shaws and bought an ungodly amount of food – after all, I'm going to be around all week; I can COOK! Oh, I also picked up the half-life anthology (half-life and all the expansions) for like $40. What can I say, it's a fun game?

Came home, played video games for way too long, and had some salmon in a Lawry's Baja Chipotle marinade. I wasn't sure about this pairing, but it ended up being quite good.

This morning, I am having a leisurely breakfast of a grapefruit, probably followed by cereal, and then I shall put on some coffee and start to organize the apartment.

As an aside – does anyone else find fruit juice to be too sweet? I'm talking normal, unsweetened, 100% juice? Except for citrus juices that are supposed to be tart, they are all just way to sweet. I end up doing half juice, half water.

My troubles with CD ripping on modern, fast, UDMA CD drives The above solution (using my laptop to rip cd’s), has led to the following (rather amusing) desk layout): my desk Note my grapefruit and juice. See mom, no Krispy Kreme! Oh, and I’ve decided that pulling that tower in and out whenever I want to do something with it is a PITA, so I ordered some casters for it.

Finally entering the modern age

| June 15, 2004

Okay, after running FVWM for like 5 years, I've decided that it's just too ugly.

Sure, I can use the fvwm-themes, or other stuff, but it's just not what I want.

Enough people have raved about XFce, so I gave it a whirl. It aims to be a light, fast, standards-compliant wm. It has a few glitches, but nothing really gating, and they're supposed to be fixed (namely, having a launcher that can set states of a window when loaded (like sticky) would be useful).

Then, in poking at stuff, the XFce fellows spoke so highly about GKrellM. I like…

Click for a full size screenshot (1400 x 1050, 340K) screenshot


| June 10, 2004

There's a really good article with Glenn Henry, founder of VIA subsidiary Centaur. They make the CPU that is in the board we used for the vw beetle project.

Anyway, he says:

Our next processor — I haven’t ever told anyone, so I won’t say what it is — but our next processor has even more things in it that I think will be just as quickly adopted by the open source software world, and provide even more value. It’s always bothered me that hardware can do so many things relatively easily and fast that aren’t done today because there’s no software to support it. We just decided to try to break the mold. We were going to do hardware that, literally, had no software support at the start. And now the software is there, in several variations, and people are starting to use it. I actually think that’s only going to happen in the open source world.

And that's really true. Look at modern computing – Apple has made 64bit mainstream. I could trivially do a 64bit box running Linux too (and plan to, sometime). I don't mean 64bit running 32bit software, either. I mean the real deal. And where is Microsoft? Oh, Longhorn will be out in 2005. Oh, wait 2006. Well, that's only the beta, the real product will be out…

The problem is that, with me, undercutting it all is this fear of being left behind, professionally, I mean. Driver stuff is career suicide, which is why the management thing is good for me, but like it or not, I'm doing Windows 100% of the time at work. Several folks have floated the idea of OSX and Linux drivers (and there is some commonality here – about half to three quarters of the code would be portable between the two platforms), but we always get shot down, because we can't put together ROI numbers that anyone believes. The problem is that Microsoft's market dominance numbers are overly inflated, and that no one believes that Linux is going to take off. Yesterday, the statement was made that “when I start seeing business ads about Linux on the desktop, then I'll be worried”.

Guess what – when you see those, it will be too late. It will take a year to write these, and if our competition is keeping a Linux/OSX driver in their back pocket, then we're screwed.

I really need to get into a company doing Linux stuff within the next two years. Otherwise, I'm going to be out of the game. I'm going to be one of the Windows wankers that, right now, I laugh at.

Windows boxen = 80% of spam

| June 8, 2004


In a nutshell, virus/worm/trojan infected Windows machines are being used to spam people.

As I've said before – Windows represents a clear an present danger to the stability of the internet.

Oh, and I love this bit:

“As a complement to existing mail server and client based tools, service providers need to arm themselves with network-based anti-spam defences and combat this growing form of malicious traffic.”

  • Marc Morin, Sandvine (the guys who posted these numbers), quoted here.

Not anything akin to “we need to stop Windows Losers from getting their machines compromised” or anything like that.

Come on folks – these boxes are getting rooted and no one cares. It's like MS is completely off the hook here. WTF?


| June 6, 2004

I was doing two things at once and logged out not realizing that I still had logjam opened with lots of stuff written and hadn't hit submit yet, so I lost it all.

The nutshell is that Liz and I went shopping yesterday, and I bought some DVD's and a new desk to replace the old, ugly, too huge one, plus a bunch of plastic containers to attempt to organize my life.

And, I installed For you adventurous souls, here's the skinny:

(drop to a tty) /etc/init.d/xfs stop /etc/init.d/xdm stop emerge –unmerge xfree ACCEPT_KEYWORDS=”~x86″ emerge xorg-x11 wine (go to sleep) etc-update (or do it manually) /etc/init.d/xfs start /etc/init.d/sdm start

The only incompatibility I've found is with old versions of wine, hence why you need to install the ~x86 version.

What a nice weekend

| June 1, 2004

Saturday, I ran errands, paid bills, and cooked food for Sunday.

Sunday a spent the say with my parents at their house. My dad fired up his smoker and we had some wonderful smoked meats. I made potato salad and cucumbers/peppers in balsamic vinegar. Lots of folks showed up, including many of my brother's friends. There were LOTS of motorcycles (they're all in to bikes).

Monday (for those of you not in the US, Monday is a holiday here), I helped Liz strip old paint off her bureau. Not the most fun job, but it gave me an excuse to buy and play with a power tool (an orbital sander).

– Put in my new RAID 5 card, a 3ware escalade 7500-8. This is basically the current 7506 card, only with a 33MHz interface. Not really a big deal considering that the max throughput (say 80MB/s at best) is nowhere near the limit of the 64bit/33MHz interface that the 7500 has. However, given that I got it at 1/3 the price of the 7506, it’s worth it. Super-simple upgrade too – just replace the card, cable up the drives correctly, and it just works. Meanwhile, my data transfer (as reported by hdparm -tT) went from 20MB/s to 50MB/s. (For comparison, my 7200 RPM Maxtor 160GB ATA/133 is about 55MB/s. Bear in mind that the RAID drives are 5400RPM 80GB Maxtors). Not too shabby, eh? – Putting the finishing touches on my gentoo installation; some custom scripts, like that. – Flipped from XFree86 to So far, so good. Haven’t tried it on a machine that handles DRI yet, and right now wine seems broken (even after re-emerging. I don’t know why). Aside from that, it’s working. Wine not working is a showstopper though, but I need to put some time in before I flip back. – By the way, someone said something awhile back that cheesed me off. Some anonymous lamer posted and said that I was a hypocrite because I was so against Gentoo back in college, and that now I said that it was the best thing since sliced bread. That’s wrong on a couple counts: 1.) One can change one’s mind – it’s been two years since I’ve graduated; do you think that my life has stood still? 2.) I never said that Gentoo sucked. I’ve said: – It’s not suitable for mainstream use – It’s not suitable for production use – It is a nice hobbyist distro, but not much else. Let us expand on this: It is not suitable for mainstream use My brother can install Redhat, Mandrake, Suse, etc. He probably could install Gentoo if he wanted to put his mind to it, but it’s more than he wants to do. It’s more than most people want to do. Hell, it took a long time for ME to get it working, and I’ve been using Linux for years. For a newbie/casual user? Heck no. It is not suitable for production user By this, I primarily mean servers, and there are a couple issues. The main issue is one of consistency – I have a bunch of servers, and I want them to be using the same versions of everything and have a similar configuration. Now, this is actually an easily solveable problem. Doing some research, I realized that I can set up a portage mirror for all the boxen. The mirror gets packages first, and then all the other boxen use the same versions that the server is using. This, coupled with very stringent installation instructions (I think it’s up to something like 10 pages), keeps machines nice and consistent. It is a nice hobbyist distro, but not much else Even though I’ve worked around the production problems, I still wouldn’t necessarily choose this for mainstream deployment at work. Debian may still be the best choice here. I’d have to think really hard about it. However, realize something: all the stuff I post here IS hobbyist. They’re my home machines. They’re NOT used by hundreds of people each day. I try things, I hack them up, and I play with things. This comes back to item 1 above – I HAVE changed my mind. I used to insist upon running things that other people (friends, businesses, etc.) would be running. Now, I just don’t care. I’m more interested in using things that haven’t made it to the mainstream yet than I am using things that I can recommend to other people. I want to be right on the hairy edge, because that’s where the cool stuff is happening. So, hope that explains it all, and be forewarned – my policy is to delete all unsigned/incompletely signed anonymous posts. For example, it’s okay for Liz to just write Liz, because I know who it is. However, if someone signs it “Bob”, then I have no idea who you are, and had better sign your full name of “Bob Jones” or whatever.