Recent blog entries for jbowman

Hm. 9 months since last diary entry. Ah well, lets do some updates then:

Birthday: Was fun. Nice, quiet. Just what I wanted. Holidays: Sucked. Hardcore. New Rule for Divorced Parents: Don't get together on Christmas for dinner when you hate each other. It ruins the entire evening, even if you're not yelling at each other.

Ethical dilemma - Solved.

Monitor - Purchased (and very nice, too :). My actual problem turned out to be the port on the video card (which was weird, because I had the problem on my other machine with a different card, but then it magically vanished afterwards...). Oh well. Now I have a nice 17" TFT instead, and my 21" sits and gathers dust. At some point, I'll get dual-monitor support on my video card...

Wacky Hard Drive problems: Bad cable (RedHat's support staff actually thanked me for providing them with more symptom data for this)

SSH: Openssh is so much groovier... The 'official' SSH folks finally got around to releasing Source RPMS though. I'd missed this little feature since I moved to openssh, but they apparently decided to break the ssh1 support by renaming the ssh2/3 packages back to the "ssh" package name. *sigh* Earth to SSH folks! If the packages are named the same, you can't install them alongside each other cleanly! Ah well.

Debian - libranet sucked. Progeny was cool, and I had it running on my old internet gateway box. Sad to hear the news that Progeny closed its doors though. It was the closest to a 'usable' Debian system I've had in a while.

Mud - Ah, my mud. So fun! We're about at the beta-testing stage now, which is only 3 months or so later than I had originally hoped. Real, paid work (y'know, the kind that takes care of rent? :) has been occupying most of the coding team for a while now, so things are a bit sluggish.

The Job - Ah, the job. What can I say about the job? Too much and too little. It's an excellent series starring Denis Leary. :)

Seriously though, I've managed to get a better handle on job stress in the past year, so I ultimately worry less about work. After dealing with clients needing security work these past couple of weeks, it makes me wonder whether the whole "Microsoft Admin Security Mentality" that I've griped about in the past isn't indicative of a more wide-spread "Incompetent Admin Mentality". Quoth the magic eight ball: My Sources Say Yes.

Spinweb: Spinweb started out as such a neat idea, and has since gone off into some rather oddball waters. We had it setup to run at work from the secure webserver via a cgi script, but after we put a new user shell server in place a couple of months ago it broke the web-based spinweb system since it was no longer running on the same system as the shell server.

The solution? Whack spinweb with a mallet until it works with McFeely. It was actually pretty fun to do, as it gave me some insights into distributed network architecture and how to work with it from a programming standpoint.

RedHat: 7.2 came out, and it's so smooth and slick it's amazing. We're finally using it for kickstarts here at work, and so far things have been running quite smoothly.

["I'm really missin' it in so many ways, I anticipate us making out..."]

28 Apr 2001 (updated 28 Apr 2001 at 06:19 UTC) »

I hate ethical dilemmas. They make things so messy. Then again, I suppose that my innate curiosity in sorting out said messes is why I took a very in-depth Critical Thinking skills course back in school. Time to dust off the old notes and get cracking, I guess.

Had some interesting discussions with the other primary coder on the mud I'm quietly working on today concerning some of the prototypes I built for a new system of creating and handling skills and spells. He's a very bright guy, and is quite savvy with the code, so when he came to me scratching his head and asking for an explanation of how all the new stuff worked, I realized that perhaps I've quietly crossed the boundary where what are normally highly advanced topics seem fairly easy to deal with. Sheesh. Instead of being able to bask in my 3l33tness, I'm stuck scratching my head and trying to decide the best way to document all this stuff out in an easier-to-understand manner. Hoo boy.

Well, libranet's a flop. After fighting my way through the god-awful stock debian installer (why, why, _why_ can't they put a useful installer on that thing??) I found myself staring at a LI prompt instead of a nice, shiny, LILO prompt. Progeny is just about finished downloading, so we'll see if that will actually install properly onto my aging K6-233. And hopefully it'll have a decent installer too.

kernel-2.4.4 is out too. Wow, talk about a busy night for my linux boxen. We'll get to see whether the promised VIA fixes for UDMA stuff actually work or not. Ah well. Time to make sure my cd-r/w drive still works under Linux like it should.

[ "Yeah I found god and he was absolutely nothin' like me." ]

27 Apr 2001 (updated 27 Apr 2001 at 05:40 UTC) »

Well, I just finished hacking gzip'd file support into suso's randomsig program. Now I can read my mail inbox live, even though it's in gzip format (for those wondering, I use mutt with the spiffy compressed-folders patch in order to handle my mailboxes). Of course, it's a pretty quick and dirty hack, but hey, if it inspires Suso to actually get off his butt and get moving on refining randomsig, I'm all for it. :)

Another badly broken promise to the staff at work by the higher ups, another straw on this camel's back. One of these days I'll get fed up and find work elsewhere, but it's hard overcoming the inertia of having a) a job with little danger of losing it and b) liking the _work_ I do just fine. Bleh, bleh, and bleh again.

Downloading the latest version of the Libranet distro now. I read some good reviews on it, and it has the packages I want/need, and it's high time I started dabbling in other distros again. Being a RedHat junkie is great because we use it exclusively at work, but it's also limiting to not get out there and see what else is around. Besides, I want to see if the 'real' apt-get is the "All That And A Bag Of Chips" its proponents make it out to be.

For once in my life, I'm actually looking forward to summer. How frightening. The big difference between this summer and all the rest is the fact I'll be getting to share it with a fabulous young lady with whom I'm quite taken. I'm going to take a good week or two off from work and go... someplace. I dunno where yet, but someplace, for certain. Hopefully with her, but since she'll have a full-time job this summer as well, we'll have to see how things go.

Quest for Monitor, that rousing adventure game, seems to be headed for a close. I've actually been mostly talked into getting a 17" LCD flat-panel from Samsung after seeing one up close and personal and getting to play around with a friend's 15" version. The image clarity on those things is truly astounding, and the 17" model will do 1280x1024 which, while not what I'd ideally like, is something I think I can work with in terms of screen space. I'll just have to use more virtual desktops in X I guess. *grumble*

Hmm. New ideas for a rewrite of randomsig popped into my head while writing this. Glad I jotted them down. I'll have to flesh them out more and pester Suso about it tomorrow sometime.Perhaps over lunch. Or poker in the evening. One of the two, I'm sure.

[ Jack the sound barrier. Bring the noise! ]

17 Apr 2001 (updated 18 Apr 2001 at 01:18 UTC) »

Ahhh. New speakers. Yummy. I purchased a new set of Cambridge Soundworks speakers. No, not the really nice sets they offer on the webpage, but the rather cheap variety that Soundblaster markets at the home computer user. I previously had an older set of their 4.1 surround speakers, which I've sold to my roommate since he managed to finish killing the crappy pair of speakers he had previously. Now I have the DTT2200, which at first I thought was just the same speakers I had previously painted black and with a center-channel added. Boy, was I wrong. :) Both the satellites and the subwoofer are substantially nicer (and larger) this time around, and the physical volume control-widget that was permanently a part of the cables connecting sound card to subwoofer before is now a much easier to use independent entity with its own socket on the subwoofer.

Okay, enough on speaker reviews. I'm not an audiophile by any gigantic stretch of the term, so I'm just happy that my system sounds noticeably better and that it was accomplished rather cheaply.

Somebody submitted a bug report on my ithought specfile last night. Gack! Looks like I'd managed to mistakenly use the wrong prefix when compiling the darn thing, so people were having problems getting it to run on some systems (the weird thing being, it's worked fine on all the systems I've tried it on). In any event, the new specfile's in cvs, and new rpms have been shipped off to voltron to get tossed up on the website.

Spinwebd (at least, the daemon portion) went live yesterday afternoon to, well, very little fanfare. Which is good, I think, since it's not anything major compared to the other stuff going on atm. Just a few little changes here and there around the website, and presto! we're live. I need to wrap up writing the command-line client and then release the next version of the darn thing since the version that's up on systhug is woefully, woefully both out-of-date and rather inadequate. After I get this version of it wrapped up I can go about adding in config-file support to make using somewhere other than here at work much easier. :)

Monitor shopping is turning out to be harder than I thought. Nobody seems to want to carry the really high-end CRT monitors I've been looking at. It's a bit weird that the 1920x1440 resolution I enjoy under my current 21" monitor is considered "high-end". I had no idea I was so far up the max. resolution totem pole until I started looking around and discovered that only about half the monitor manufacturers out there even make monitors that support it. Of course, they all have super-high-end wall panel displays and what-not that support it, but no actual, honest-to-goodness monitors designed to actuallys it on someone's desktop. Ah well. It just means that replacing my dying monitor is going to be more expensive than initially planned *grumble*.

Back in more linux-oriented news, I upgraded to the full version of Rhat 7.1 last night (I'd be running the Wolverine beta for the longest time). I'm damn disappointed in our friends with the spiffy little fedoras. Inside the graphical installer, where there was once a nice, friendly (albeit it hard to read) description of the packages that were being installed flashing by as the system installed them, there's now a bunch of big, shiny, RedHat-logoized ads for various Rhat services such as their certification courses. Bleh! The marketing machine claims another vicitm. I honestly can't say that it wasn't entirely a surprise, but that doesn't really lessen the disappointment any. I need to poke around more to be sure nothing else has changed from the beta, but I don't think there are going to be too many differences.

Oof. Diary entry getting long-ish. More soon, hopefully.

[ "If you want to destroy my sweater..." ]

*yawn* A nice, lazy weekend is truly something that is underappreciated, I think. Lots of progress on getting spinwebd up and running at work this week. I need to spend some time holed up with the documentation for Perl modules and Exporter at some point so I can do things a bit more 'properly'. Otherwise, we're looking at putting spinwebd into official production here this week (hopefully) or at the latest next week. Once that happens, I'll go over my code a few more times to make sure the darn thing is easy to configure and isn't using the insane settings we need to use at work due to the arrangement of our web architecture. suso did a nice job putting it together, but trying to span multiple servers of users with a single utility has all sorts of nifty little implications... :)

voltron's been busily hacking away at ithought, which seems a bit cleaner now. Unfortunately, it requires libxml2, which is surprisingly difficult to come by RPM-wise. RedHat's still floating around at 1.8.10, the "official" RPMs linked to off the libxml homepage don't exist, and the only reference ot them on rpmfind is to the Caldera Technology Preview from a year ago, and the source RPMs are b0rked. Looks like I may have to whip out those l33t rpm-building skillz I've been working on... *laugh*

Speaking of RPM, ahosey and I were discussing some problems he was having with a broken source RPM this week, and he asked how in the world getting a completely thrashed source RPM was possible (in this case, the Makefile was broken so that files were being installed in horribly incorrect locations and not in the temporary directory RPM uses for building the RPM). I pointed out the "-bs" flag, which is used to build _only_ the source RPM and does none of the actual processing the man page for RPM says it does. All -bs does is take a specfile, a tarball, and whatever patches you've specified and throws them together into a source RPM without bothering to do any processing or checking first. So, you could theoretically build a source RPM of the kernel with a 0-byte kernel source tarball in place of what's supposed to be there. Some interesting discussion ensued therein, with many cries of "That's _wrong_!" to be heard, with the general conclusion being that the "-bs" flag is, well, exactly it's namesake. :)

Caugh Denis Leary's new series (on ABC I think...) called "The Job". As a big Denis Leary fan, I was _really_ looking forward to seeing this, as it appeared to be tailor-made for him from the commercials. I was definitely not disappointed, as I spent almost the entire show laughing my ass off. Now I'm left hoping that it'll be a hit with more, hmm..., "normal" people than I so that it'll stay on TV for a nice long time.

[ "They've got a pitch and a proposal
The run-around might be a better term for it."

11 Mar 2001 (updated 11 Mar 2001 at 02:07 UTC) »

Hm. Amusing. Found the answer to my RedHat 7.1 beta boot/install problems in... *drumroll* Alan Cox's 2.4.2 patch from March 6th. Now to go wake up the Bugzilla kernel support team over at RedHat as to what the left hand has been doing. Assuming this new kernel I'm building actually works properly with DMA, that is.

Update: Actually, after doing some more digging and swapping a few cables around, it appears that I have a bad 80-pin IDE cable. I managed to figure this out after tracking down a VIA UDMA error report that someone had sent to the kernel mailing list (matching my errors from the 2.4.x kernel exactly) that Andre Hedrick had replied to saying that it was a cable crosstalk issue, likely due to a bad cable. Amazingly enough, this problem only cropped up for me in the 2.4.x kernel... Windows and 2.2.x-series Linux worked beautifully for me. Ah well. Time to go let the RHAT folks in on the good news. Fortunately I figured this out before posting about the AC patches. :)

I've been reading the various "eFront" ICQ logs that've been floating around there. Vastly amusing stuff, as it's a beautiful "insider's look" into the online advertising biz. Lots of controversy over this stuff though, so it will be interesting to see the ramifications that occur.

Glad to see voltron doing a hacking binge on ithought. I definitely need to motivate my sorry butt towards seriously learning GTK programming at some point. If you have any resource recommendations for learning GTK, feel free to drop them my way.

Walking my roommate through reinstalling Windows and Linux this evening. Definitely a Good Thing, since he's been complaining about not having enough space for Windows and not being able to cleanly use his LInux partition. So far we're up to waiting for Windows to slowly creep along through its install process... *twiddle*

Sigh. Looks like company politics are going to kill off yet another promise that was made to employees. I don't blame the people forced to make the decisions that are being made, I blame the people responsible for making those decisions be forced ones in the first place. It's just sad and disappointing to see yet another benefit provided to employees being scaled back from what was promised.

[ "So please excuse me while I tell them how I feel..." ]

Ugh, it's late. I should be going to bed, but instead I'm writing my thoughts down in my diary. Ah well, bed is almost here.

Lots of spinwebd hacking going on. Building up the command- line client now and further modularizing things. I really should put up a new version, but since it's a) not listed anywhere outside of advogato and b) doesn't appear to have anyone using it, I'm not too worried. suso and I probably need to sit down and chat at some point, as he's doing some work with frontpage server extensions that I could probably fold into spinweb in some manner.

Looks like both I and my roommate will be performing our own mini install-fest this weekend. He needs to rearrange his partitions so he can play more l33t W1nd0z3 G@m3z, and I need to both rebuild the NAT box we use as a gateway to the world and resurrect the RedHat install on my workstation so I can actually work on it again. The RH 7.1 betas ate most of my disk, unfortunately, and I've been busy with stick-stuff so I've not had a chance to get to it yet. The NAT gateway just needs upgrading as it's some weird mix of RedHat 6.2 and 7.0 beta, I think. I may try the 7.1 beta on it to see how it goes (and to make my life a bit easier, as it's already got 2.4.x and iptables). I also need to go in and actually audit/rewrite the firewalling stuff I use, as it's currently lacking in some areas. It had been servicing a 56k modem line for so long that some things are no longer optimized properly. Also, I need to go over my NAT entries to make sure the proper things are getting SNAT'd and DNAT'd. I think I have a few things that are slightly off in those areas, which would explain the occasional oddity for outbound connections.

DSL rocks my tiny yellow world. That's all I'll say on that subject.

Looking back over my various perl projects both present and past, I'm amazed at far I've come. I "know" I learn really fast, but looking back over the products of that learning ability still amazes me sometimes.

Hmmm. I didn't mention this last update, but I recently quit the mud I've been playing/Imm'ing/playing/chatting on for almost 6 years. Even my mile-wide stubborn streak apparently has its limits, as I finally got tired of dealing with the bullshit and lies. It's disappointing when the head Imp is an unrepentent jerk. Sigh. Anyway, I had a very long, very colorful history playing on there, along with some fun memories, but it's time to move on and pursue other interests. Like finally getting around to actually _producing_ a 'reay for public consumption' mud again. Writing more serious code for that sort of requires I get a working Linux install on my workstation, however, so see above.

This past week or so has been a good demonstration of the sheer idiocy our management can conspire to bring about and allow to continue to exist. It's been a particularly grumbly week for jlf. If I hadn't already given him his Morphine, I'd suggest a nice drug cocktail to ease his troubles.

Looks like voltron finally broke the coding block and has started in on redesigning portions of ithought. This reinforces my desire to get my workstation back up and running properlym, so I can build RPMs and try my best to learn how to hack with gtk. :)

Ahh, time for sleep.

[ "Sometimes I give myself the creeps..." ]

Oof. What a week the past 7 days have been. Lots of things to learn and do. I'm glad I have the next three weeks to digest everything, because my brain is very, very full right now. On the plus side, I can now get back to working on spinwebd and then get on to expanding it into logwatchd "soon". I'm also going to be redesigning the scheduling system we use to track who's on call, as it's beginning to age a bit and we need new features.

Been on a Reel Big Fish kick lately for some reason. Perhaps my musical compass has swung back around towards Ska. Time to find out what I did with my Mighty Mighty Bosstones albums...

In the non-opensource world, I finally got around to installing Halflife again and I managed to take play Counterstrike for a while. Definitely some fun, fun shit when people actually bother to play as a team (which most people seem to do, fortunately). I've also been slowly making progress on the mud I currently code for. I finally got around to implementing a ranged targeting system and fixed a few annoying cosmetic bugs that I stumbled across in the process. I've also been brainstorming on ways to represent rooms of varying sizes inside the mud. If I were building a mud from the ground up this might be easy to do, but wedging this concept into a system that is designed with the fundamental assumption that all the virtual rooms are of equal size is a very interesting challenge for my brain to pour over.

I need more caffeine.

[ "And if I get drunk well I'll just pass out on the floor now baby. You won't bother me no more." ]

26 Feb 2001 (updated 26 Feb 2001 at 17:37 UTC) »

So I'm the Stick now. Interesting. Although I don't particularly feel bark-covered or capable of photosynthesis, I suppose that will come with time.

I suppose I should explain. The "Stick" is the person in the systems department that is the currently designated point man. Got a problem? Send it to the Stick. You say the webserver has had a horrible crash? Send it to the Stick. Flesh-eating weasels running amok in the office? Send them to the Stick. Or something.

In any event, the whole Stick thing marks my transistion from being a customer-dedicated Sysadmin to a more hybrid role. More power, more responsibility, etc... as well as a more diverse experience in general system administration as well. Given our current Linux-related client roster, I'm more likely to be administering 'new' technology as part of "Systems" as a whole, rather than in my own little corner of the company, which is basically what I was prior to today.

Being the only person in the company dedicated to sysadmin'ing our Linux clients has given me a lot of userful experience, but I think I've hit a plateau in what there is for me to learn in that area. Our clients usually wind up wanting fairly simple things, which I think is fine, but it doesn't leave a lot for work-driven learning after you master the half-dozen or so things the clients are wanting.

Systems, on the other hand, has lots of different pies for me to stick my grubby little fingers in, which broadens the scope of my work-driven learning significantly. I think that may have been a large contributor to the burnt out feeling I was beginning to get. At first I thought it was due to my being the only person handling client sysadmin work, and it may still be a portion of it, but I think now that it's more due to having hit that learning plateau. With little or nothing different or "new" coming down the pipes, I think the routine was beginning to wear on me.

Hm. What else is new since my last entry. Had one of my best friends betray me by forwarding a personal email to his boss (who then proceeded to call me directly and give me an earful). My roommate questions my wisdom in sending said email in the first place, but I had _thought_ that I could send my friend open, honest emails without worrying about this sort of thing. I guess my trust was misplaced. :( This has been a very disappointing period, not only because of the loss of a friend, but because in order to for this to have happened my friend would have had to have either a) deliberately betray me, and then lie about the reasons he gave for doing it or b) if the reasons he gave for doing it were true, my friend would have had to have lost all semblance of good judgement and common sense. Then again, "b)" would explain some of the choices he continues to make... *sigh*

Saw an article on /. this morning about yet another "Apt rules, RPM sux0rs!" article. This one went so far as to say that unless the current commercial distros adopt Debian as a standard, Debian "will eventually rear up and bite them all in the bahootie". Um, yeah, right. I've seen too many of these articles cropping up lately, and it's getting on my nerves. Most of them have the same fundamental problems. Namely: 1)They compared apt-get to the stock command-line rpm. 2) They ignore the existance of rpm-compatible apt-get, courtesy of Conectiva. 3) They compare the 'flawless' packaging of the 'core' debian apt repository's .deb's to the sum total of all RPMs in existance.

#1 is bad because apt-get is a front-end that's capable of working with multiple formats. The "rpm" command is base-level RPM manipulation tool. It's companion in the world of .deb would be "dpkg", not "apt-get".

#2 is just plain bad. All the features of apt-get with full support for RPM files. "Hello? McFly??"

#3 is like comparing your nicely-kept set of trash-cans on the curb to the city landfill. You cannot compare Debian's stable packages to the entire world of RPM. It's not a valid comparison. Try comparing it to the distribution tree of the file format's creator, and suddenly you not only have a much more valid comparison, but a lot of the complaints about incompatible packages and bad dependencies go away. Oops.

Then again, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at this sort of thing. It's basically news article "trolling" that's designed to elicit exactly the sort of response I'm providing here. Fortunately, I'm not responding in a method that would provide the various journalistic trolls with any food, so I guess it turns out alright in the end.

My god, I just came across this on everything2. Proof positive that world is a very, very disturbed place.

[ "Walk softly, and carry a black stick." ]

Well, here I am, posting from my (very) slightly-tweaked version of ithought. Definitely a fun program. I'm sending off a patch to voltron and I've got RedHat 7 rpms built too. Whee!

Today (Friday) was (insert ominous music) Cable Modem Day. Why in hell they can't call you before coming by in the gigantic four-hour window they set aside is beyond me (if only I had that leeway with _my_ clients!). Yes, I finally broke down and ordered cable modem service. Being stuck on my 56k modem pining away for DSL access finally became too much. Just watch, though. DSL services will be rolled out next week, and I'll be cursing up a storm..

A friend of mine dropped off a copy of Solaris 8 for x86 earlier this week. Should be interesting to try it out. I'll probably play around with it tomorrow to see what it's like

Spending some time poking around ithought gives me some interest in learning some gtk programming. Marked myself as a contributer to the project, and hopefully after I learn a bit more about gtk I'll be able to upgrade myself to a developer. Hmmm. An interesting thought just popped into my head: Combining ithought with cdent's advogato sucker. Read your favorite people's diary entries while writing your own. Hmmm....

[ "It will make your whites whiter, your brights brighter!" ]

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