Older blog entries for dcoombs (starting at number 83)

Secure Token Service

One of the things I've been working on recently at my new company is a PHP-based managed infocard Secure Token Service, the Carillon STS, compatible with Windows CardSpace.

There's long been a PHP Relying Party freely available for CardSpace, but there's only been a Java-based open-source managed STS until now. Our new STS, combined with the firefox identity-selector plugin, makes it that much easier for anyone to experiment with CardSpace using free, interoperable tools.

Happily, Kim Cameron (Microsoft's CardSpace architect) has waxed enthusiastic about our work, including its support for X.509-certificate-based authentication for CardSpace.

Of course there's plenty of work still to be done, but positive feedback about an initial release is always nice!


Let me tell you the story about how The GAP nearly broke my arm. For Your Convenience, this story will be told in reverse-chronological order, with irrelevant pictures thrown in for good measure.

The End

Yesterday evening, I left the emergency ward and went home to try to get some sleep. The doctor, clearly taxed by long, irregular shifts in Québec's notoriously well run hospitals, punctuated his sentences with dramatic yawns as he twisted and contorted my arm in interesting ways, and announced that it is "99.99% probably not broken".

My arm and I were shown to an eye-examination room when our name was finally called.

[photo: Edifice-preference in seagulls and pigeons]

Three and a half hours in an emergency-ward waiting room isn't really so bad, I guess, but there's very little to do. I was able to eat supper awkwardly with my left hand when someone in radiology donated a plastic fork from his lunch. He was recompensed with France's mother's fudge.

My ice pack completely melted. The soaked cloth was dropped to the ground, left in a disused, soggy heap for the cleaning staff to deal with. A cleaning lady failed to take it, assuming it was mine.

Carney and I passed the time by talking about the impossibility of driving from North America to South America, Prince Roy of the Principality of Sealand, and other random fascinating things.

I was given an assortment of loose ice wrapped in a piece of cloth, and instructed to keep it on my arm. As the ice melted, it became evident that no plastic had been included in the construction of this ice pack, and my clothes were becoming very wet.

[photo: Gunnera plant in Stanley Park, Vancouver]

Traffic was unpleasant. The taxi driver wasn't very nice, but I suppose that's his job. He left us somewhere near the emergency ward and drove off without indicating where we might find a door on this cold night. And me without my sweater.

Simon let me borrow his stash of ibuprofen, I threw my sweater into my office, and left work with Carney in tow.

I was still feeling nausea and the pain wasn't abating. Well, it would abate insofar as it was a throbbing pain, but it would always come roaring right back, as throbbing pains are wont to do. It had been close to 45 minutes since I fell, so going to the hospital was starting to make a lot of sense. Certainly more sense than what I was already doing: lying on the couch like a whimpering idiot, trying to listen to my team continue their meeting without me.

[photo: Nikhil's housewarming party]

And back to my meeting. There's work to be done, and I wasn't going to bail out of it like some sort of whimpering idiot.

Immediately I felt a wave of nausea and realized I might have just broken my arm. Nonetheless, I continued up the stairs, as I had business to take care of. All the while I was pondering the subtle, minute motions that individual body parts carry out while you perform routine activities. Have you ever thought about what your arm muscles, bones, and joints are actually doing when you reach over for some cheap office-building single-ply whisper-thin toilet paper? Isn't it (ow) amazing that your brain (ergh) can coordinate these actions without any (yaarrrrkkhl) real conscious effort? You think about these things when they hurt like bananas.

It's too bad I had taken my sweater off. The sleeve's inherent bounciness might have spared me a lot of pain.

Not really paying attention, I started up the stairs to the bathroom, slipped, and began accelerating downwards, just like any other piece of matter hovering near a planet affected by gravity. I broke the fall with my left hand on the stairs, but somehow sent my right arm flailing, causing my ulna to connect with a resounding burst of pain against the unforgiving wrought-iron handrail.

There is nothing worse than squirming in a chair during a meeting because you need to attend to certain biological functions.

Our meeting was being quite productive, and we were finding all kind of interesting problems we'll need to fix before releasing. At some point I started feeling hot and decided to take my sweater off. I guess it doesn't conduct heat very well after all, I thought to myself.

[photo: Seal, Boston Aquarium]

Peter told me he liked my new sweater. Yay! No time to chit chat, though, I was on my way to an important all-day planning session with my group.

Mmm, breakfast.

F: Hey, your new sweater looks good on you.
me: Thanks!
F: What's it made of?
me: I don't remember... mainly cotton, some nylon, ... rubber ... aluminum ...
F: Rubber and aluminum.
me: Yeah, it's a really .. light-weight .. alloy. And very bouncy.
F: And does it conduct heat well?
me: Mmm, yes and no.

Oh, coffee. Sweet sweet coffee.

Bluh? Snrt? Awake. Morning. Crap.

[photo: Sutton, Eastern Townships, Québec]


Last weekend I bought a sweater at The GAP. It's green.

Great Punmanship

Some of you have heard this story already, but too bad: the rest of you haven't.

When jnc and I were interviewing sfllaw for a co-op job a couple years ago, the following exchange occurred:

Joe: It says on your resume that your worst vice is bad puns.
Simon: Yes.
Joe: Let's have an example. Please pun for us.
Simon: What? Oh no. .. Uh ..
Dave: He's panicking, Joe! It's just another panicked pun day!
[stunned silence all around]

I had been saving that one for years, and suddenly it finally made sense. I couldn't believe it.

Dear United States of America,

I thought you might appreciate knowing that your border security is still a bit spotty. After waiting in line for over two and a half hours to enter your country, I had the following conversation with one of your border guards:

Guard: Where are you from?
Me: Montréal.
Guard: Where are you going?
Me: North Hero State Park, in Vermont.
Guard: Good idea. It's nice there. I hope you haven't been too troubled by this delay.
Me: OK.

And that was it. After waiting in a hot car for that long, it was actually a little disappointing.

Also, we do not have accents. You do. And they're funny. Furthermore, your mosquito population is extraordinarily impressive.

and so on.

[photos from trip]

Meanwhile, in Canada

Parliament has decided that gay marriage will be legal. Good stuff. My brother went out to celebrate in Ottawa last night, and he sure picked the right place to go, as he wound up schmoozing with Jack Layton, Ed Broadbent, Pierre Pettigrew, Anne MacLellan, Carolyn Parrish, Belinda Stronach, etc. That, I daresay, is awesome.


I'll be in Ottawa on Friday, and then Washington DC for a week. If anybody in DC would like to eat, drink, and talk about linuxy things, please email me.

An Important Note About Grains

Thanks to Rachel Lejeune for supplying me with an informative description of the difference between burghul and cracked wheat. One of these days, Rachel Lejeune, I shall figure out who you are. One of these days.

30 May 2005 (updated 30 May 2005 at 21:35 UTC) »

It is raining. This is a turkey.

Furthermore, it is utterly disgusting that a USB-to-DB9 serial converter cable costs $80. I mean really. Yes, I guess there's some twiddling involved, but yeesh.

I'm not going to mention the big honking expensive shiny brand-new server that only has an RS-232 port to configure it, nor will I mention that ordinary people's laptops haven't had such ports in nearly a decade and rely on USB instead, because it's ever so much saner. Really, I'm not. The juxtaposition hurts too much.

It has been a 19200 8N1 kind of day.

At least it's blue. The cable that is. And see-through. Ooh.

26 May 2005 (updated 27 May 2005 at 13:23 UTC) »

We came. We got wet. We bought cheese. (Translating this to Latin and founding an educational institution with corresponding motto is left as an exercise to the reader. nymia?)

[random photos]

Upcoming Travel

In approximately chronological order, the next few months will likely see me in Toronto, Waterloo, North Carolina, Washington D.C., Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver, possibly Seattle, and Thunder Bay.

If you are in these places and I know you, or if you think I should like to know you, then send me an email and maybe we can meet up, talk about $things, and consume $beverages.

Abuse of Telephone Privileges

So, I guess I wasn't really sure if people like this actually existed. Evidently they do, which is rather unsettling, although perhaps not entirely surprising.

Phone rang last night. F answered. It was a guy, asking if she remembered him. Nope. He gave his name, and said that they had crossed paths at a mall a few months ago and chatted for a while, and that she had given him her phone number. She remembers none of this. He said he just found the paper with her number ("in your handwriting"), but without her name on it, underneath his microwave. Said he recognized her voice and remembered having met her. He wanted to chit chat, possibly get together, blah blah whatever.

F remembers none of this, told him so, and politely got rid of him. But this is weird, and what does it mean? Could this have actually happened and she just forgot? Could it have happened longer ago than he thought, because she hadn't been to that mall lately? But she wouldn't have given her number without writing her name on it... Did he, perhaps, meet someone three months ago who gave him a fake phone number that happened to be hers? But wait, how could he say he remembered meeting at the mall before plausibly being able to figure out who she was?


A quick call to the police this morning confirmed that there has been a spate of reports lately of guys phoning random women, claiming to have met them somewhere at some point, and trying to convince them to meet them. Lovely.

He sounded like a perfectly nice guy, too. I wonder if he is. But I hope not to actually find out.

My Poor Fragile Psyche

So as of today, not one, not two, but three separate people have now told me that before they found out I was a computer engineer, they assumed I was a ballet dancer. A ballet dancer!

I don't know what to make of this.

Perhaps nobody else can fall on their face with the same kind of grace and poise that I can. I injured my face with a zipper this morning, I did. I've hurt my shoulder on a light switch. I am forever accidentally whacking my elbows on things.

A ballet dancer indeed.

19 Apr 2005 (updated 19 Apr 2005 at 16:07 UTC) »

I just discovered that Google Maps now covers the United Kingdom, and practically wet my pants. Their map of London is very, very, very nice. Note the prominence given to Tube stations.

sfllaw and I decided that it would be cooler still if, in addition to map and satellite, they added some sort of transit view for major urban centres, which would show subway and bus routes. (Bonus points if they can do transit directions showing transfer points and whatnot!) We've submitted a feature request.

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