Dodging the bullet

While our sysadmins run around trying to save the exchange server from yet another NetSky variant, I can’t help but gloat (just a little ;-) as I connect to out qmail server (we use both) with evolution and wonder what a virus looks like. While I know “pride goeth before the fall” and all that, It’s nice to know, at least this once, I made a good choice when I decided to back Linux. I’ve used Linux as my work, developement, and play desktop almost exclusively since ’98 and, for the most part, it hasn’t let me down. I haven’t alway been able to do all the things my counterparts in the Win32 world can do (et. la. shockwave, directx games) but they rarely can do what I take for granted (loopback file systems, open just about any disk format, tun/tap wizardry, use a real shell, etc, etc, etc…)


A year of Groking the Law

Pamela Jones is celebrating the one-year anniversary of Groklaw with an pretty good overview of the SCO vs. the World lawsuit(s) and Groklaw’s unwaivering support of the truth through all of the silliness coming out of Lindon, Utah. I’d like to acknowledge this momentous occasion by standing up and saying, “Hi, my name is Chris, and I am a Groklaw addict.” (everyone respond – “Hi, Chris!”)

I’m not sure when I became an addict, I can’t really remember the first time I read Groklaw, or when it became a “three check-a-day” habit, but I can’t imagine life without this island of sanity in a mad, mad, mad, mad world! Like most addicts, I’ve rode the highs and the lows, felt the jitters when it get’s too long between fixes, tried to quit only to find myself putting the RSS feed on my web site and my Evolution summary. While SCO’s future is looking gloriously bleak, I can see one dark cloud hanging over the inevitable conclusion of the case – Who’s going to sponsor the 12-step program to help us addicts deal with being forced to go cold turkey!?

The good news (well, really, the bad news) is that I doubt that SCO is the last bastion of stupid attempts to stave off the natural evolution of software developement through litigation. OSS has happened, it’s here, and it’s not going away. When the tide is coming in, it’s crazy to ignore it, build a wall against it, take the ocean and moon to court, or try to convince others it’s evil and unconstitutional. It makes far more sense to learn to float, swim, or better yet, get a good surfboard and enjoy the ride!


CPU cycle recycling

One of the side effects of being a computer geek seems to be the proliferation of junker computers on the home network. Currently we have 4 machines running pretty much full time and another 3 that get used off and on. While these machines are on all/most of the time, it doesn’t mean they are doing anything useful, they basically idle, burning electricity and wasting CPU cycles. I’m not the 1st to notice this “waste”, there are a number of “distributed computing” projects designed give those bored computers a reason to live:

  • Seti@Home
    While not the first, this project put distributed computing into the mainstream with it’s cool screensaver and the chance of finding ET by scanning radio telescope data for intelligent signals
  • Folding@Home
    Following on the success of S@H, this project hopes to understand the processes that turn the long chains of protein created using DNA instructions into the complex, chemical “nanomachines” that makes life possible. While the direct result of any one computer’s work isn’t as exciting as finding ET, the rewards are higher, because understanding protein folding will lead to tailor-made therapies for everything from Mad Cow disease to old age.
  • Distributed.Net RC5
    While not as noble as proving we are not alone in the universe or ridding the world of disease, Distributed.Net’s goal of breaking RC5 encrypting keys by brute force has lead to higher standards in encryption key sizes and security in general. A 56 bit test key fell in 250 days, a 64 bit key took 1757 days, and a 72 bit keys is being chip away at a rate of about 147,300,000,000 keys per second!
  • More Projects
    The above are just some projects I’ve tried, but there are many more. The above link lists many of them.

My Favorite OSS Projects

I think most IT types have an open source project or two that they follow. Whether it’s for business, watching for patches and security issues, or for fun, tracking cool enhancements and living on the bleeding edge, it can become a bit of an obsession. I was just checking some of my favs, in auto-pilot surfing mode, when I thought I should list them here, just in case this blogging thing lasts long enough for me to look back and see what I was “in to”. Understand, I’m not saying these projects are better than others, I just happen to be hooked on them …


411 on 419

OW! My sides hurt! I ran across this site, while skimming /. What a riot! If you’ve ever received spam that offers you millions of dollars if you’ll just send your bank account number as a form of ID, or send a few thousand buck so the shipping company will release the documents to you, allowing you access a bank account full of free money, then you’ve hav a brush with a 419 scam. Named after the Nigerian justice code section covering these type of scams, they often originate in some african or middle eastern country.

Well, the folks at EbolaMonkeyMan are having too much fun scamming the scammers, stringing them along with elaborate stories and characters, and getting them to waste thier time and money creating hilarious “identification” photos (which end up on the website). I almost blew a soda out of my nose when I saw the pictures of scammers holding up signs with “names” like Father Will U. Tuchme and Sister Anita Hanchob.


MindStorms in the grass

My “Intro to Programming” kids attended a “Learning Day” event today. It was meant to give them (and other homeschoolers) an opportunity show off what they have been learning. It didn’t work out that way – the person that was supposed to let everyone into the build didn’t show. After waiting for a while, the dozen of so families that showed up choose to make the best of a bad situation and setup their displays and projects on the lawn. We managed to get some space on a concrete entryway so the ‘bots could run, but MindStorm’s classic roverbot doesn’t run well on rough surfaces and the linefollow code we created didn’t like the bright sunlight.

The good thing about kids is they don’t always know when to be disappointed. After messing with ‘bots for a while, a challenge was issued between my group and another group with a MindStorm (I’m not sure who threw down the gauntlet first ;-). An impromptu round of BattleBots ensued

Since we lost 1 round and tied three, I’m betting I can motivate the guys to work on their programming/engineering skills before the next time we play sumo-bots.

The lesson I learned today is that given the choice writing cool programs and writing cool programs that allow you to attack your opponent and destroy his ‘bot, any group of pre-teen boys will go with door number two every time!


BloGTK – testing one, two, three

I’ve decided it would be nice to do my blogging in something other than an html/javascript based editor. While this may really be a subconscious attempt on my part to void updating my blog, it’s not working, because it only took me a few minutes to find something and get it installed.

BloGTK is a simple Python/GTK editor that posts through MT xml-rpc interface. And it checks my spelling – whoopie!

I’ve added my Linux Counter emblem to my main page – I can’t believe I signed up almost 5 1/2 years ago (sept 98). I seem to remember it was one of the MeLUG guys that 1st pointed it out to me. Not that my memory is all that great, but I figure it couldn’t have been more than a year or so before that when I installed my 1st linux box. I think it was RedHat 4.2.


Testing 1, 2, 3

Trying to match my WebGUI theme to my MovableType theme is getting to be a bear…