Friday, June 1, 2001

Advogato Entry 123

Well, most of my stuff is out of the old office. I left a large Sun monitor, since I didn't have anywhere to put it. Never fear, it'll probably join its (now headless) host next week.

Hmm. I'm distracted

Saturday, June 2, 2001

Advogato Entry 124

Phoon: you can hot swap PS/2 keyboards, but it's not a recommended practice as there's a distinct possibility that you'll fry the motherboard. I've never had much of a problem, although I've always had to reset the keyboard rate with `kbdrate'.

Hmm. My system decided to kill Konqueror and X at about 3AM last night, probably for using excessive amounts of memory. I didn't even know Konqueror was running when I went to bed, it must have been in one of those not-quite-exited states. Also, there's a pretty good chance that XScreensaver is the responsible party.

I'm considering adding weather information to the network monitor box that currently has Netsaint and MRTG. Apparently, we were under a tornado watch or warning yesterday while I was at work, and I had no idea..

I figure I can just use Geo::METAR to get temperature, humidity and so forth (that's what I use on my page), and then grab some images from the National Weather Service and merge them together into an animation of some kind (gif, png, mng, mpeg, or something).


Physical Hacking

I went to the Twin Cities Robo-- uh, I mean Mech Wars (apparently they got sued). I guess this was only their second event, and it showed in the construction of the arena, which was just made up of two-by-fours. One of the competitiors had been on Battlebots and had managed to throw a chunk of something through the plexiglass on the show, so the design of the arena will have to be improved by the end of the summer. There are going to be competitions daily during the Minnesota State Fair, so I'll have to head over there at least once to see some of the action (and I'll probably drag some of my friends along).

The event shoud have some coverage on WCCO and KMSP tonight.

Sunday, June 3, 2001

Advogato Entry 125

jschauma: Thanks for the heads-up about Linus, though I should point out that Fresh Air is not broadcast at the same time throughout the US. Check here for when it's on in your area.

Anyway, I got myself a new 'pooter today. Well, just a case, CPU, fan, memory, and motherboard, but it's a 1.3 GHz system. Unfortunately, I think I may have a CPU that can only run with a 200MHz FSB. I had them put those parts together, then I transferred the other guts later, so I'm not sure what the jumper on the motherbard is set to. Still, 1.3 GHz is nice. Stuff actually pops up right when I click a button (well, okay, Netscape still takes a few seconds).

I think I have an Enlight 7237 case. At any rate, it looks the same. I'm a little concerned about airflow in it though, and I might have to drill out the front holes like this.

I don't seem to have a temperature sensor onboard anywhere, which is disappointing. I may have to look around for one, though I'm not sure how I'd attach it to my system.. I guess I have a serial port available..

Hmm.. Does shared memory work at all on Linux 2.4.5? I have a line in /etc/fstab that uses tmpfs. Is that right? Maybe free just isn't working right. I find it hard to believe that over half of my memory is being used as cache right now, plus another 50 Megs of buffer, which would put me below 128 MB of memory being used by programs? Well, it looks like my swap is getting hit fairly well in the meantime..

Monday, June 4, 2001

Advogato Entry 126

Were having network problems here at work, and it looks to me that we've been having trouble since Thursday. Sounds like one of the switches may have been overheating, as two of my coworkers just carried a big fan out the door..

Anyway, I spent way too much time overnight playing with my new computer. I didn't really get to sleep until 5:00 AM, mostly because I was watching movies ;-) I highly recommend the VideoLan client for that task, as it provided the smoothest playback for me. Try the CVS version too, as it seems to have somewhat better audio support.

I played around with ML-View, an improvement on dxpc. Unfortunately, it won't compile with GCC 2.96, but it worked great with 2.95.3 (which I was happy to discover could be compiled really quickly on my system). It seems to be a pretty good program, though the syntax is pretty ugly. I think it would even be a good thing to use on a LAN, because it can cache a lot of things, rather than dealing with the latency involved in sending data back and forth across the network.

Tuesday, June 5, 2001

Advogato Entry 127

Bleh, Advogato's front page is screwed up

Anyway, I finally got desk space in my new cube today. I'll apparently be sharing the area with three other people, and I don't know where they'll fit. Anyway, I guess I have one more box to move before I'm done (I decided to give the guy that uses that system a little warning before I moved it).

Yesterday and today, I put together some packages for GPG-enabled Sylpheed. GPG 1.0.6, GPGME 0.2.1, and Sylpheed 0.4.66. Seems to work pretty well. And on the 10th anniversary of PGP, too.

Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Advogato Entry 128

for j in $((for i in $(cat /var/log/messages | egrep '(ICMP|SYN)'); do echo $i; done) | grep SRC | sed 's/SRC=//' | sort | uniq); do host $j || (echo -n $j: ; whois $ | head -2 | tail -1); done

I'm logging pings and SYNs on my box now. Just thought I'd see what has been peeking around on our apartment's network. My system should be set up to ignore broadcast pings, though, so I probably won't get [m]any scans.

Recently, a user here had his Lotus Notes account broken into. The cracker apparently sent out messages stating that the user was in failing health, and other strange statements. It's partially my fault, as I had sent a password for one of our Unix systems to him by mail, which he then forwarded to his Hotmail account. Someone apparently got into his Hotmail account, grabbed his password, logged into the Unix system, and then somehow managed to crack his Notes account.

Either that, or my boss just doesn't know what he's talking about.

Anyway, I mentioned that this is just one reason why cryptographic signatures are good things. Now if I can just find a way to get an OpenPGP implementation that works with Lotus Notes...


Perhaps I'm looking for S/MIME. There seem to be a lot of implementations of that for Notes.

Even Later

Gah! So much for that idea.

Thursday, June 7, 2001

Advogato Entry 129

Mmm.. secure NFS. Hope that happens.

Anyway, I got snookered into trying to build a bridge firewall for our wireless network. At this point, I can do a bridge or a firewall, but a bridge firewall is currently not working. I guess I have to patch the kernel to bring the bridging code up a layer and push the whole mess through an IP filter of some kind (ipchains, iptables, ipfilter)

We want to be able to filter out data from unknown MAC addresses. This is possible to do directly on the wireless gateways, but that would require keeping several boxes in sync, and those things have fairly limited amounts of memory, so keeping large tables of addresses is not easy to do.

I'm not sure how possible this is. If *BSD can do it, maybe that will finally convince me to try it. However, it may just be easier to re-number a subnet and use a more traditional router setup.

Linux 2.4 is the only OS I know of that has built-in filters for MAC addresses. Of course, I only took a very quick look at IP Filter.. Perhaps there's something obvious that I'm missing.

Friday, June 8, 2001

Advogato Entry 130

If only I knew how to get cp437 on the web..

o/~ I want your girlfriend to be my girlfriend... o/~

Dammit.. Way too many unwanted sexual images today. I'm noticing it because I'm depressed about my grades. I got two Cs and two Ds. At this University, a D usually means a failed course. Dammit. I was depressed this past semester, and unmotivated. I really didn't want to deal with differential equations again, but they forced it upon me. Why can't they just drop the math? Dammit.

My Dad's coming up tomorrow, basically to get me out of the apartment, I guess. He'll also probably try to do some amateur psychology. Not really looking forward to it, but I really do need to get out of this place for a while. Maybe I can get to a decent movie or something.

I'm really introverted, and I don't get into social situations as much as I should. Even when I'm in them, I don't say much, but just being around others and not being forced out of the loop makes me feel better and reminds me that these carbon entities that pass by me every day actually have brains.

I'm enjoying my work life, and I can't complain about my generous parents. I just wish that I'd had the strength to get to know some of the girls I went to High School with. I ended up fixating on one, which I'll probably never forgive myself for. I'm scared to death that she might be scared to death of me.

I just listened to ``Pink Moon'' by Nick Drake. It's a song that makes me wonder about what my classmates have done in their lives, as the song was featured in a Volkswagen ad a year or so ago. You may recall it -- several friends are driving along the road at night, enjoying the open air (since the top was down). They arrive at a party, where a drunk guy stumbles past their headlights. The friends in the car look at each other, then pull away from the party and continue driving around.

I've been to one party in my entire life. I'm definitely much more like the people in the Volkswagen than the folks at the party.

Anyway, I suppose I should actually put something about computers in here. I think I'll have to re-work some of my ideas behind the wireless ethernet firewall. Now I think that the bridge is a little too low-level. MAC addresess can be spoofed, after all. I think I'll use a combination of MAC address and IP filtering, plus VPN through PoPToP or something similar.

Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Advogato Entry 131

Wow davem -- I was just talking with my boss today about how Sun systems could probably work with standard PCI video cards, save for the fact that many of them have x86-specific BIOSes. It's cool to see that you appear to have a workaround. Of course, I don't think I'm going to benefit from that anytime soon, but it's something I can put in the `future weird references' pile.

My boss actually really enjoys it when I appear to pull a solution out of my ass. The real answer is that I read way too much stuff on the web, but hey..

Today, I was banging my head on the wall most of the day, trying to get serial console working on a new Sun Enterprise 220R server. Dual 450MHz with 2GB of RAM (in 16 128MB sticks), two 35GB 10,000 RPM drives, and even a DVD drive (it'll be the first DVD drive in our server room ;-)

Anyway, after playing with cables for several hours, trying this and that, I finally connected two together and got something to work, though it defies explanation. I installed Debian, which went amazingly quickly, though I've only previously installed on much slower systems.

The Debian install was largely due to the fact that it'll probably be a few days before we can get our hands on a copy of Solaris. We have to deal with the campus folk who handle the site license. I think it'll be a good idea if we keep Linux on the system -- it may prove to be useful if Solaris ever gets toasted. Linux's UFS support is pretty weak, from what I hear, but we'd at least be able to make a backup in a worst-case scenario, and it would be something good to have if someone ever breaks into the system.

When a really interesting break-in happens on campus, the networking folks like to come in with a Bootable Business Card and dump the whole hard drive over the network so they can examine it more thoroughly. Of course, nobody has ported the BBC to Sparc (though I doubt it'd be very hard).

I'm sure that we would be running Linux on all of our Sun boxes if it weren't for the fact that we need some proprietary applications that aren't available for Linux/Sparc yet (AFAIK). Heck, a lot of it doesn't even exist for Linux/x86. Of course, we may need 64-bit userland, so I dunno..

Anyway, I'm still just learning when it comes to non-x86 architectures. I really like Linux and the GNU utilities.

Hmm.. I'll have to try and see if any apps will work with the Solaris emulation.. I doubt it's good enough for us, but it's worth a shot.

Thursday, June 14, 2001

Advogato Entry 132

Well, we finally put the new Sun in one of our racks today. Unfortunately, the rack case is not quite big enough for it. We have to get rid of the front door for it to fit (and, of course, the stupid thing likes to slide out a little bit when you try to push it in). Oh well.

I got RPM up and running on the system's Solaris half yesterday. Before I left, I even got to the point of having OpenSSL and OpenSSH installed as RPMs (unfortunately, I haven't added in startup scripts for the SSH daemon, though I hope to fix that soon..)

Cripes. I should get chkconfig and some other goodies for Solaris as well. Porting RedHat's functions script for the init scripts would be another good thing to do.

Once we get proper licenses for Mathematica, Matlab, and other programs that will get used on this server, I'll just have to test them out on the Linux side and see if they can run there.

Also today, I went to a Net-People meeting -- a monthly gig where tech people from across the campus come together for a bitching session. Okay, it's definitely more productive and fun than that ;-) I went largely because I wanted to see what solutions the campus IT department was finding for wireless firewalls. I'm happy to find that I'm basically on the same wavelength as those guys. Unfortunately, that also means that they don't have a solution yet -- everything's just at an intermediate stage at the moment.

I'll probably just run PPTP for the moment. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if the problems with Microsoft's PPTP show up in their clients or their servers or what. At any rate, it's easier for me to get PPTP running on the system I have than it is to get IPsec going, as I don't have or want any compiler on the firewall..

Hopefully I'll get something up and going next week.

Oh yeah, sad to hear about the trouble around Netsaint. We use that at work, so I hope the project will continue.

Friday, June 15, 2001

Advogato Entry 133

I finally got some code down for retrieving more weather information. My local weather service station puts many of their products in an easily-accessible location, and the radar images aren't too hard to access either. Unfortunately, most sites appear to not provide the text messages in such a nice location.

The big problem with weather information is that the National Weather Service (and, indeed, much of the world) uses extremely cryptic standards (well, at first glance) for naming files and directories. I could be researching a huge amount, and still only scratch the surface. Cripes, I never said I wanted to be a meteorologist! Of course, maybe I can find a helpful one to get me to understand this stuff.. Maybe..

Anyway, I can download a few things, and I've set up a cronjob to make a radar loop using gifsicle.

Monday, June 18, 2001

Advogato Entry 134

Had my first Linux crash on my new system yesterday. I was looking at my radar loop in Mozilla. I'd looked at the image earlier, then had gone surfing elsewhere on the 'Net. I came back after a while, and discovered that Mozilla was only displaying a cached image. So, I did what anyone would do: Shift+Reload. It cleared the page, and started showing a few frames of the animation. Then, my swap just started growing like mad, and I ran out of memory in just a few seconds. Unfortunately, Linux 2.4 apparently can't handle it when you have 1:1 RAM:swap..

I could still ping the box, but I couldn't ssh in or anything. Dejected, I hit the reset button.

When the system came back up, I used GNU parted to shrink one of my partitions to give me enough room for a new ~256 MB swap partition (doubling my swap space to ~512 MB).

I tried it again. Again, my swap got chewed up really fast, the first 256 MB going by in just a few seconds. The system hung up for a few seconds when it reached the end of the first swap partition, but it came back shortly, albeit in a very unresponsive state.. (actually, now that I think about it, it's quite possible that the drives dropped out of UDMA mode at that point -- the responsiveness was much like a PIO IDE system under heavy disk load).

At that point, I slowly maneuvered the mouse up to the `X' to close Mozilla. Unfortunately, once the program was closed, the system still had a very large amount of swap space used up (a lot of stuff was still in buffers or cache, I guess).

I might go out and get another 256MB stick soon, but I wonder if I'll then have to bring my swap space up to 1 GB..

Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Advogato Entry 135

Been building more RPMs for Solaris. Ugh. I never said I wanted to become a distribution maintainer! ;-) Anyway, I spent most of yesterday trying to get gcc to build properly. Actually, it would always build fine, but I kept screwing up in the %file section. Annoying that I have to wait for a whole build cycle to test that (actually, I suppose there's an option to short-circuit to the end, but I'm not sure).

Today, I discovered that `cat' packaged with GNU textutils 2.0 will cat directories, just like Solaris' cat. That seemed really strange to me. I suppose I'll just have to pick up a newer package from

Anyway, I just keep finding more and more packages that I want. It's really enjoyable to grab a package from the FSF and do a pretty standard `configure; make; make install' (albeit in the ``RPM Way''), at least when you compare it to some of the other configuration systems in use out there..

Oh yeah, I thought it would be a grand idea to gzip the man pages on the packages I've been building. Unfortunately, I forgot that Solaris doesn't understand gzip-compressed files. Ugh. So I try to compile man (from on Solaris. No dice, and the configuration is a PITA as well.. Of course, I'd like to compile man for other reasons -- it has the nice feature of allowing you to do `man ./file.1' to load a file outside of the MANPATH..


Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Advogato Entry 136

Not much open-source hacking, but I did write to five companies that produce applications we're using on Solaris/Sparc, and asking if they could bother to try building Linux/Sparc versions. They all already had ports to Linux/Intel, and some of them had Linux/PPC and/or Linux/Alpha ports.

My boss and I agree that Linux is much nicer in a number of areas. Better security, better integration of cryptography (most distros come with SSH now, for instance), more user-friendly (I can't use a Unix box without GNU tools), and easier to administrate. It's so much easier to just `rpm -Uvh' or `apt-get install' a package than it is to bother recompiling, or fear downloading years-old packages from sunfreeware).

Solaris doesn't come with MD5 passwords, and I'm not sure if anyone has done it properly yet, while Linux has that integrated. Also, using the Global File System, Linux can have multiple systems reading/writing to a single shared device, which we'd really like to do with our RAID arrays. It comes with a real compiler, and you don't have to worry about whether the program you are about to run is the one in /usr/bin, /usr/ucb, /usr/ccs/bin, /usr/xpg4/bin or whatever..

Anyway, I'd be really happy if we get positive responses...and if they aren't all positive, I think we have some associates in other departments that would be happy to fire off a note voicing support.

Oh yeah, this is statistical/mathematical software like Mathematica, etc.

Thursday, June 21, 2001

Advogato Entry 137

I just figured I'd list the software we're hoping to get Linux/Sparc versions of, so that we can transition away from Solaris where I work:

If there are folks out there who also want to run this stuff on Linux/Sparc, please contact those companies.. Considering most of them already have Linux/Intel versions, it probably won't take much convincing, but I'd just be really happy to have some support from others.. I'll have to make a similar request elsewhere around campus, as I think some other departments have been wanting to do this..

Not much open source hacking. I just got an NT box in my cube yesterday (after waiting for one for about a year). I'm playing around with permissions, etc, trying to make it behave more like a Unix system, with a home directory and everything. It sort of works..

Friday, June 22, 2001

Advogato Entry 138

Excellent! SAS is available for Linux/Sparc! One down, four to go.


Well, I heard from two other places. They said they don't have their apps going on Linux/Sparc (yet). Those two are Gauss and Stata.

We're waiting on Matlab and Mathematica.

The really important apps are SAS and Matlab. Others can just be shoved off to our Linux/Intel servers, or put onto and old Sparc 20 (heh.. At least it has 2 processors ;-)

Hmm.. of course, if we keep a Solaris box, we may run into the problem that Solaris doesn't understand MD5 passwords (it does have PAM, so it should be possible to fix that, but I'm not sure how hard that is..)

Monday, June 25, 2001

Advogato Entry 139

I had an interesting weekend.. My apartment building's router died at about 1 AM on Saturday, so it didn't get fixed until about 8:30 on Monday. The stupid building management won't let anyone in to fix this sort of thing unless it's during business hours. I told the girl in the front office that this was unacceptible to me, as similar things have happened several times now..

It's likely that all that had to be done was to reset the router. I told them that if that was the case, they should just invest in a remote power switch accessible over the phone.

I'm getting curious as to what alternatives are available for our apartment.. DSL is probably more likely to work than a cable modem (seeing the tangle of boosters and things already here). It really sucks that one of the big selling points here was the Internet access..

Luckily, this coincided with a few friends coming into town, so we didn't just sit on our asses all weekend doing nothing.

I haven't heard from the Matlab or Mathematica people, though I did get pointed at GNU Octave again. I took a look at that -- I guess they strive to be at least semi-compatible with Matlab, which is pretty cool.

Today, I had a terrible time concentrating at work, so I left early and went for a bike ride (after my conversation with the front office folks..) and got burned..

<tangent> In High School, I became obsessed with one of the girls in my grade. I don't know why it happened, and I probably never will. Somehow I just got it in my head that we were somehow meant to be together. Even so, I kept my distance. I tried to talk to her, and we talked through a few phone calls and handwritten notes. It just didn't work, and I've had an empty part of me ever since High School ended.

My belief in possibilities turned her into a muse of sorts for me, though I guess it was all in my head. That's the most frustrating thing -- knowing that the pain I've felt by not being able to be with her is probably all due to my (then) over-active imagination.

Anyway, I thought I saw her the other day, which is partly why I decided to take my bike ride. A faint part of me still hopes that we'll see each other again, and finally speak face-to-face. I know the scales are against me, though I hope it would at least bring some much-needed closure.. </tangent>