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September 2001 Archives

September 2, 2001

Dave, what does "sagacious" mean?

Quote of the day:

Turning off L2-cache is of course an effective way of throttling performance, if that was what you were thinking of.

I have found a potentially security issue with the US Postal Service. It involves the asynchronous delivery of addressed messages.

Let me start by saying that I love the US Postal Service. The provide a great service that works pretty well. Their operating procedures are quite sound; I think they are modeled off UDP.

Let me explain: you drop off a message at any random point in the network, and as long as it's properly addressed and paid for, the US Postal Service will do a pretty darn good job of getting your message to the destination. If the USPS can't get the message delivered properly, it will be returned to you. Failing that, go to the bitbucket for a year or so (the dead letter post office). This is very much like UDP (although dropped packets certainly don't stick around for a year in any present implementation -- I think the US Postal Service just has chosen to have a Very High Quality Implementation of UDP).

I put outgoing mail in my mailbox at home all the time, and put the flag up to indicate that there is mail to be delivered. The mailman comes along at some point in the day (admittedly, the exact time of which has proven to be fairly random -- they probably use Microsoft schedulers). He takes my outgoing mail and inserts it into UDP^H^H^Hpostal network. My mailbox works as a termination point as well -- the mailman put messages addressed to me in it.

Overall, the system works pretty well.

Until now.

This morning, I put a bunch of outgoing messages in my mailbox, and raised the semaphore ("put the flag up"). Later this afternoon, I did a sema_trywait() and noticed that I had, indeed, failed to decrement the semaphore (because the mailman already did), so my new messages must have arrived.

I went out to my mailbox and dequeued my messages. I was flipping through then when to my surprise I discovered that the last message in the pile was actually one of my outgoing letters! Clearly, I had caused a buffer overflow in the mailman, and as a safeguard he just transferred the outgoing message back over to the incoming queue so that it wouldn't be lost. So you gotta admire that -- even in a catastrophic failure, no data was lost. Pretty cool.

But it causes me to wonder -- could I execute arbitrary code on the mailman? Don't be a pervert; just think -- what if I could write a 1-3 code snipit that would allow me to view other users' mail? The potential damage could be quite severe.

Write your congressman; this issue needs to be addressed.

September 8, 2001

Jeff's Journal


We flew out of Louisville at oh-dark-hundred. Somehow we got bumped up to 1st class on our flight to St. Louis, which was nice. Too bad it was only the flight to St. Louis. The flight to San Francisco was uneventful enough -- it was on a 757. I don't think that I had ever been on a 757 before; it had a surprising amount of space and leg room. So I'd actually have to say that it was the most comfortable continental coach flight that I've ever had -- I actually sat in the middle seat and had plenty of room. Tracy sat in the window seat and was amazed by the Rockies and whatnot (she's never been further west than Iowa).

The movie on the flight was Dr. Doolittle 2 (Eddie Murphy), which I found to be quite amusing. It was a cute little movie, and I had a several big laughs, so I recommend it -- I'll give it 7.5 minutes. I finished The Fellowship of the Ring on the plane. Although I did bring the next book in the series, The Two Towers, with me this week (always pre-plan your reading schedule when traveling!), there wasn't much time left in the air after I had finished the Ring.
On a whim, we upgraded our rental car to a Volvo S80. Pretty nice car, actually -- lots more buttons and toys than our Honda Civics. It had a Magellan GPS device thingy built in as well, and it worked surprisingly well. We punched in Darrell's address and it started giving us directions (audio and visual, on its little monitor screen
-- "Turn left in 2 miles", "Turn left in 1 mile", "Be ready to turn left", "Turn left now"). It was surprisingly accurate. Halfway to Darrell's, we decided to get some lunch, so we got off US 101 at Palo Alto and looked up "restaurants" on the GPS device and found a nice pub-like place. Then we punched Darrell's address again, got directions back to the highway, and it literally took us to Darrell's front door. Pretty cool.

We hung out with Darrell and Dian all day, had some wine, Darrell made chicken cordon bleu for dinner which was great (he insisted that it sucked). But it was quite yummy. It was a lot of fun hanging out with D&D all day.


Did more hanging out with Darrell and Dian (haven't seen them in so long...). Lots of good conversation, laughs, etc. Darrell took us to see the new Yahoo! complex... sorry, campus... which was very cool. They just moved into this campus about 4-5 months ago. Their corporate setup is extraordinary. Everyone has their own cubicle (which is not extraordinary), but there are millions of little random conference rooms, each of which has a full computerized A/V setup including a teleconference phone, white board, conference room and comfy chairs, etc., etc. Lots of little break areas (coffee and sodas and whatnot are free) scattered around the buildings (there 4-5 buildings in this campus, BTW). They even have lots of Yahoo!-style furniture, meaning that it's purple and yellow, somewhat ornate or fairly modern-looking in design, yet pretty comfortable to sit in.

There's a building that has an enormous fitness/health center, a huge restaurant, complete with outdoor grills and private dining rooms for official functions, a conference/learning center with at least a half dozen or so classrooms (each of which has a full computerized A/V setup, of course). Incredible setup.

Whoever their designer is, they did a very tasteful job of incorporating purple into everything. Even the sprinkler heads on the grounds were purple. We didn't get in to see the development group's server farm (Darrell is in the Yahoo! Infrastructure Development group -- his official title is "Technical Yahoo") because Darrell hadn't yet activated his proxy key to work on the door to the room in the new complex. Bummer. It was the weekend, so there were no sysadmins around to let us in, either. We might stop at Yahoo! on the way back from Carmel later this week; we'll see.

We moved Darrell's old Atari Star Wars video game (full size) upstairs, and not without a good bit of effort. He'd been intending to move it there for quite some time, but never had the manpower to do so (in the end, it took me, Darrell, and Tracy to get it up the stairs). I'm no judge of weight, but this thing must have weighed at least over 100 pounds. There was much rejoicing when we got it up there, and we all played a few games (it's rigged to not need quarters, of course). A little while later, we were all downstairs again when we smelled a electrical-burning odor. We went up stairs and found that the game's video monitor had fried itself. So sad. :-( It's unique in that it's an X-Y monitor, not a raster monitor. Darrell has no idea how to even begin to fix it since he knows nothing about television repair. Doh. :-(

We went to Outback for dinner because it was Darrell's birthday (he loves the steaks there). Always good food and fun at the Outback.


Work up early for some reason and did some work. Played with the new automake with my dissertation code. It certainly seems to fix a bunch of bugs that existed in automake 1.4. Here's what I found:

  • Don't need to include a bogus PROGRAMS line in a top-level directory when making convenience libraries.

  • Don't need to have a bogus noinst_HEADERS line in a top-level directory to make the tags target work properly.

  • Seems to be better about making the various *clean targets, even in the directories that are not conditionally selected.

  • The new automatic-dependency-generation scheme seems to work, but I don't have anything other than gcc to test it with at the moment; hopefully it will work with KCC and the Solaris Forte compilers as well.

  • The ar replacement stuff doesn't seem to work with libtool; it only seems to work with the static linking that is built into automake. And unfortunately, you still need libtool to make the multiple-directory-library thing work. :-(

We went to Carmel-by-the-sea today. The Magellan took us there pretty much without fail. We stopped at a random pub-like place for lunch somewhere on the way down (again, with the help of the Magellan, but it was slightly off in the final destination). We checked into our hotel in mid/late-afternoon. It's mounted very high on a hill overlooking the Pacific and has a great view of the sea, the waves, and the rocky coast. It's quite breathtaking. Since it was so late in the afternoon, we just lounged by the pool and walked around on the hill trails and whatnot before going to dinner.

Amusingly enough, my cell phone doesn't get any service at the hotel. Not that anyone has called me, but it makes the battery drain at a high rate, as if it is in a cellular area. We must be just so high above Carmel proper that we're out of range of the cell/digital towers.

We went to the hotel restaurant for dinner, and I had some excellent local fish for dinner (don't remember what it was) and a local wheat beer; Tracy had a local vintage wine with her dinner. It was all yummy. We even had a working wood fireplace in our room, so we felt compelled to try it out. Fire, fire! (Beavis voice) :-)


We drove up to Monterey today to see the Monterey Aquarium and generally bum around the town. The Aquarium was neat; I got a fuzzy penguin for my desk. We walked around the town a bit and saw all the local sites and whatnot before heading back to Carmel for dinner at a local grill in the middle of town. More local food and vintage again, but some of it didn't agree with Tracy. :-(

Allison called Tracy back today and they decided that we'll go see her and her husband on Thursday evening before going out to dinner somewhere.

We did the 17 mile drive throughout the Monterey peninsula that winds around the coast and through the famous Pebble Beach golf course (and some others whose names I don't remember). Quite beautiful scenery, and some really big/expensive houses. We saw the official Pebble Beach tree -- it's over 240 years old.

It seems that I'm tromping through The Two Towers at an alarming speed and I might actually finish it before the week is out, and I didn't bring the last book in the Ring series with me this week. Doh! So we stopped in a bookstore and I bought the new Clancy book, The Bear and the Dragon since it's now out in paperback. This will definitely last me through the rest of the week and the flight back.


Some random notes about the Magellan GPS receiver:

  • The + and - buttons, which are for zoom out and zoom in, respectively (yes, you read that order correctly), are opposite of what one would expect. + means zoom out; I guess that means "show more map". - means zoom in; I guess that means "show less map".

  • We would periodically lose the satellite signal when in the foothills in various areas, and it would think that we weren't on any roads. Hence, it would tell us, "please proceed to the indicated route", even though we were already on the route.

  • When you look up something by category (say, a restaurant), you can't directly tell it to take you there. Instead, you have to remember the street address, exit out of the search functionality, and then go enter that address in the "plan a route" section. Pretty lame.

  • You can't insert waypoints at all -- so you can't say, "take me to A, then to B, then to C." You can only say "take me to A". Waypoints are a very useful feature; it would be quite a good feature to add.

  • It seems that roads/ramps/etc. that have been surveyed for GPS are marked in green. Other roads are marked in grey. Took a while to figure that out.

  • You can switch from the "map view" to the "turn by turn" view, but the directions / street names are clipped (vs. wrapped) in the "turn by turn" view. That's somewhat difficult, especially when you're not familiar with the area, and half the name of the street is missing.

  • They really need "page down" and "page up" buttons. Currently, you can only scroll by individual items.

All in all, the GPS was somewhat off in some cases, but it was remarkably accurate (all things considered), and it ended up saving us a lot of time and hassle trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B.

We left Carmel this morning, and drove up the coast on CA route 1 to take in the scenery. Very beautiful stuff; some areas of the CA coast are actually cliffs and quite dramatic. We took a hard right at one point and headed back to Yahoo! so that Darrell could give us a tour of the development server room (geeky, yes, but I really wanted to see it :-).

Whew -- that hard right took across large hills with lots of windy, turny roads with harrowing 10 mph, hairpin 270 degree turns. Somewhat stressful to drive across. But we finally got there. Darrell met us at Yahoo!, and escorted us into the server room. It was pretty cool. A big room, just full of racks and racks of machines. Probably about only half of the racks were full, but it was still a lot of machines. This is the server farm of just the development group of Yahoo! -- the production clusters are distributed around the world, and are much, much larger (Darrell says that the one located in Sunnyvale is about the size of the football field). It was pretty impressive.

We got to see the Yahoo! campus with a few people in it (there was nobody there over the holiday weekend). We also visited the Yahoo! store because it was closed over the weekend, and I bought a few things.

Discovered another cool feature of our car -- the rear-view mirror has no knobby thingy to adjust for night-time driving when headlights are bright. Instead, the mirror itself detects the bright headlights and tints the mirror to dim them. Handy.

Tracy and I continued on to San Francisco and checked into our hotel. The carpool lane on US 101 is a Good Thing.

We were pretty beat from all the driving and whatnot, so we just had a quiet dinner at a local diner and planned out Thursday's activities.


We woke up early and took a bus tour of San Francisco. We saw all the major sites, and got to walk around at some of the higher outlooks over San Francisco. Great scenery. In the afternoon, we hung out on Fisherman's Warf, had lunch, did a little shopping, and waited for our ferry to Alcatraz.

Alcatraz was more interesting than I thought it would be. It was about a 10 minute ferry ride to the island. We watched a short video named The Secrets of Alcatraz that gave a brief history of the island and the things that have occurred there. Alcatraz was a military encampment, a defensive fort, and a prison. The island itself is only 12 acres. You can't walk too much around the island --
most of it is closed off. You can walk around some of the old Army barracks/guard apartments, up the hill to the cell block, and around in the cell block itself. Outside, only some of the walkways are open, including the recreation yard.

We took a walking audio tour by renting little audio devices (probably an MP3 player) that did a pretty good job of giving a history of Alcatraz (concentrating mostly on the history of the cellblock), had surprisingly good sound, and had you walk through various parts of the cell block while it talked about them.

After the audio tour, Tracy and I wandered around the island a bit. We strolled around in the recreation yard off the cell block building, and we randomly ran into Steve D., a previous grad student at Notre Dame in Computer Science, with whom I shared an office for a year or two. He currently lives in the SF area somewhere, and was taking his visiting brother to see Alcatraz. How random is that?

We wandered around on Fisherman's warf a bit more when we came back from the island, and then took a cablecar back to our hotel. The cablecars are kinda neat -- there is actually a cable running under the streets that the cars grab onto in order to move, and let go in order to stop. There are always pairs of cables running in parallel to each other -- one for a track in each direction. Not sexy technology, but it seems to work well enough.

We picked up the cable car at the end of its line. Each car has a distinct front and back, so when it reaches the end of the line, it has to be turned around. Since it's a cable, you can't really have a circular track. So what they do is run the car off the end of the track onto a big rotating wooden disk (that has no cable underneath is). Workers then spin the disk by physically pushing the car around so that it's pointing up the track in the opposite direction. They then push the car onto the new track, and start it up going in that direction. Again, not sexy technology, but it's worked well for quite a long time.

We met Tracy's college roommate Allison and her husband Jack for dinner. It took us a while to find a parking space and an open restaurant, but we finally did. Dinner was good, and the conversation was fun; I know that Tracy and Allison were glad to see each other again. Jack's a funny guy, so we all had a good time. The conversation drifted from what-are-we-doing-these-days to the DOJ's surprise announcement of not wanting to break up Microsoft anymore (don't get me started...). We left Jack and Allison at their apartment and headed back to our hotel.

The grade of the some of the hills in SF is just unbelievable. Wow.


We went up to the Napa Valley today and had lunch in Napa itself at some random restaurant (good club sandwich). We wandered around Napa and found a store that sold the wineglass trinkets that Darrell had (handy little sets of trinkets that you attach to a wineglass so that you can uniquely identify your glass from among a set -- say at a dinner or something). We continued up into the Napa valley and took a tour at the Mondavi winery (Tracy had made reservations in the morning). It was pretty interesting. They had a pretty modern setup (they renovated their winery within the last 2-3 years); hearing about their process and whatnot was pretty cool. The woman who gave the tour had obviously been with the winery for a long, long time, and her performance was flawless (very polished).

We tasted some wines at the end of the tour - a chardonnay, a cabarnet savingnon (sp?), and some dessert wine whose name I don't remember. Then we went to the wine store, and after a bunch more thinking and a little more tasting, we bought four bottles to take home with us. Yum.

Traffic was pretty heavy on the way back to San Francisco, so it actually took quite a while to get back to the hotel. On the way, we drove down "the curveyist street in the world". I'm quite sure that I've seen this street in a movie somewhere, but I don't remember which one. It's an amazing street -- I have no numerical stats on it, but it's a one-lane, one-way street that comprises of a series of 270 degree turns going down an extremely steep grade. Woof -- I can't even imagine living on that street.

We went to a random Irish pub for dinner. Yum.


We got up at oh-dark-hundred for our flight. The GPS device had a "Return to Hertz" feature. Even though it came up with a whacky way to get to the airport, it was still cool. :-)

We took an early flight back to St. Louis (it was all that was left when we booked our tickets). It was on the same kind of big plane that we flew out so there was plenty of room, plus the flight wasn't nearly full.

The in-flight movie was Bridget Jones's Diary, a romantic comedy. It was cute, and had Hugh Grant in it, as well as a bunch of other random British actors. The second movie was Shreck. Three words: funny as hell. But we only got to see about half of it before we landed in St. Louis. Doh!! So I'm sure that we'll end up renting it sometime in the near future to see the whole movie. Plus, it will be good to see all the details -- the screens on the plane were pretty small and a little distance away. So the DVD clarity will be nice to see.

We actually landed early, and the flight to Louisville was uneventful. So we're home again, home again. Whew! I'll submit this entry now; I've got some other random notes, but I'll keep this entry specific to the California trip.

Bill-centric? Bill-licious? Bill-bastic?

A little explanation... the previous journal entry was the recap of Tracy's and my vacation out to California. Sorry for the lack of explanation...

Oh yeah, and I finished The Two Towers today on the plane. On to the last book in the series...

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

September 9, 2001

Voschlag = suggestion

sagacious \Sa*ga'cious\, a. [L. sagax, sagacis, akin to sagire to perceive quickly or keenly, and probably to E. seek. See Seek, and cf. Presage.]

  1. Of quick sense perceptions; keen-scented; skilled in following a trail.

    Sagacious of his quarry from so far. --Milton.

  2. Hence, of quick intellectual perceptions; of keen penetration and judgment; discerning and judicious; knowing; far-sighted; shrewd; sage; wise; as, a sagacious man; a sagacious remark.

    Instinct . . . makes them, many times, sagacious above our apprehension. --Dr. H. More.
    Only sagacious heads light on these observations, and reduce them into general propositions. --Locke.

Syn: See Shrewd. -- Sa*ga"cious*ly, adv. -- Sa*ga"cious*ness, n.

Tracy and I bought 3 CDs while in CA for our driving pleasure since we were driving all over the place and couldn't get a consistent radio station for more than 30-40 miles.

  • Enya: The Memory of Trees. More of the same classic Enya style. Good trance-like music for those mellow coding days.

  • George Winston: Summer. Piano stuff. I kinda tuned it out in the "background classical elevator muzak" category when we played it in the car, so I can't really comment on it intelligently.

  • Various: Friends again, songs from the show Friends. A few good songs, and some funny clips from the show. I can see a small number of those songs making it into a regular listening schedule.

After ripping these three CD's into MP3s, I'm still only using 38%
of my disk (a 45GB disk) that I bought specifically for music. A rough count shows that I have about 266 CDs encoded as MP3s. This still leaves me plenty of space to re-encode all my music in .ogg format when the ogg/vorbis encoder goes stable. Yummy!

My server went catatonic at some point while I was gone (possibly Wednesday). I found it this way when I returned Saturday evening. According to the logs, the server was still functioning, but it was extremely slow in responding from the net (such that a "GET / HTTP/1.0" effectively never returned anything, and ssh would hang while connecting). So I power cycled it.

I don't quite know what happened -- I suppose that it has done this before when I was running the dual NIC configuration, but according to Don, it went really, really, r e a l l y sloooowwww before it died. This unfortunately happened on the day that fhffl.com was doing their draft, and it screwed up the process royally. Doh. :-(

Apparently, Don and Ed realized part way through the process that they had a CVS checked-out copy of slightly older files on Don's laptop, and so he fired up apache and ran the rest of the draft from there. Still a bummer, though.

This also screwed up John's access to his e-mail. Double doh. :-(

While I'm certainly happy to provide these services to my friends, it does say something that I don't use these services myself -- I pay someone to host squyres.com's e-mail and important web sites (my friends all know this -- Don and John were just unfortunately burned by this). I don't run anything like a production environment, nor do I want to (at least not out of my home). For example, I don't want the rest of my family's e-mail to be affected if/when I need to take my server down for maintenance. Indeed, in the (literally) years that I've had the squyres.com e-mail hosted with Pennyhost, I've really only had one problem
-- my dad's mail went into the void for about 2-3 days when Pennyhost moved over to new servers (but no one else's mail was affected --
). The rest has been essentially 24/7 continued service.

Indeed, my DSL modem has been crashing a bit recently (don't know why that is happening, either...). Although this is the first problem that I've had with the server itself, I'm not around all the time to make quick fixes when something goes wrong.

outpost.com is quickly falling out of favor with me. I ordered 2 things for Darrell's birthday last Monday. I had them directly shipped to Darrell instead of to me.

I came home last night to find a call from outpost.com calling to verify the order because I had it shipped to someone else. That was initially annoying because it had delayed the shipment, but then I thought about it, and was actually pleased with outpost.com for doing this -- they were looking after my interests, after all. So that was ok.

The message included a phone number, which I called. I gave my order number and said that I wanted to confirm the order. "Oh, that's already been approved," the woman told me. "We checked with your credit card company."


  1. Why would they check with my credit card company for verification of my order?
  2. What exactly did my credit card company tell them? They certainly know nothing of Darrell's address.

Of course, I didn't think of these questions until after I had hung up. But it's still somewhat annoying.

Even worse, only one of the items that I ordered was shipped. The other was "out of stock", even though it was clearly "in stock" when I ordered it on Monday (at least, that's what their web site said!). And then to add insult to injury, outpost.com doesn't know when they will get any more of this second item -- "The manufacturer hasn't informed us of when we'll get more."


So Darrell has a ReplayTV unit and was expounding on its greatness while we were there last week. So I went on the web while watching the ND/Nebraska game (and why not? The game was barely worth watching...) and checked out their web site. It seems that just this past week they announced a new model -- the 7000.

It certainly seems impressive, and the fact that it carries no monthly fee is compelling. Especially since TiVo's future is uncertain. Then I noticed the price tag -- starting at $700. Yow.

I'm also unclear how it works with my cable receiver box. Darrell says that it works via RS232 or IR relaying to the receiver box. I don't quite know how the RS232 would work (there's so many different cable receivers out there; I can't imagine that they interface to all of them, unless there's an industry standard interface, but I kinda doubt it), and D says that the IR relaying is somewhat shaky. Hmm.

There's no reason to act on this impulse right away. Indeed, seeing Darrell's impressive setup gives a lot of food for thought about how I want to do my home entertainment center anyway. Heck, Tracy and I spent an extended lunch talking about possibilities for a whole-home digital entertainment system at some random Irish pub last week. This will take time and a lot of thought/planning.

I should mention the ND/Nebraska game. The first quarter was dismal. Dismal, dismal, dismal. It really showed that this was our first game of the season, and Nebraska's third.

Our defense woke up in the second half and generally did a pretty good job. But our offense continued to suck throughout the whole game (pretty much the story of last year...). I'm not sure that I agree with this while 2-QB strategy; it can be tough for a team to sync up with 2 different QB's. You can tell that we have young QB's; they don't have a lot of experience and need to calm their game down a bit.

Granted, Nebraska is a very good team. As a rule, I don't bash on the ND football team, especially since I know just how hard it is to be an NCAA athlete at ND (read: extremely difficult, both academically and athletically). But some refinement is definitely necessary, and darn quick. It would have been nice to be able to score one more time in the fourth quarter.

We'll see what happens with the rest of the season.

This past week, I was traveling and had no access to the internet. I only had my laptop with me. I was playing around with jam (the make-redux thingy) during various down-times throughout the week. Since I had a small screen, I was using lynx (a text-based web browser) to read their docs (which are in HTML). There are no images in the docs, and even if there were, they wouldn't have mattered much to what I was trying to do (read and re-read textual information).

Later in the week, I accidentally had Netscape (or Konquerer --
can't remember which) up, so I brought up the jam docs in that instead. I was amazed at the visual difference. The presentation of the same text with the same HTML in lynx vs. Konq/Nets was enormous. I found the text much easier to read in Konq/Nets. I liken the difference to coding in plain vi vs. coding in colorized emacs or vim. Even though one intellectually knows that colorizing keywords and the like will "help", you can't truly appreciate the difference and assistance that proper syntax-hilighting does for code until you start using it regularly (i.e., it's an enormous help, no matter how good of a programmer you are).

Here's some of the things that I noticed:

  • lynx uses the same colors for multiple things (I'm sure that you can change this, but I was going with the defaults -- i.e., what most users see)

  • lynx does not visually separate between <LI> items (and possibly some other things; I didn't compare closely)

  • lynx does not show "." or numbers to start each <LI> item (<UL> vs. <OL>)

K/N pretty much does the opposite of what I mention above. As a result, I immediately switched to K/N for reading the docs because it made the job of reading much easier.

I fired off an e-mail to Jeremiah (who uses lynx almost religiously). We frequently tease him about using lynx, and he's almost always had good answers to our teasing along the lines of "lynx doesn't crash", and "lynx is pretty solid and reliable", and "lynx is a lot faster" (although that last one is less important with generally faster machines these days). I asked him the following questions:

  • Have you experienced this? (the loss of textual information due to presentation)

  • Have you ever compared the output of the same HTML between lynx and a gui browser? (since he generally browses text-heavy web sites when he surfs, such as news sites and the like)

I'm genuinely curious. Even though I have only traditionally used lynx for quick-read kinds of things (like docs on a local hard drive), I will probably not continue this practice, and use something like K/N in the future because of this experience.

September 11, 2001

September 11, 2001

What a horrible day.

There isn't much that I can say that can sum up what we all are feeling; many others who are much more eloquent than I have said better words than I can muster. Along the same lines, there's a bunch of idiots saying just clearly stupid things. The media has clearly been sensationalizing this tragedy. I had to stop to get gas to make it back to Louisville; it was amazing what some of the locals were saying inside the gas station (e.g., I actually heard someone say "Buy guns. No one is safe.").

Driving out of Bloomington today, there were tremendously long lines for gas at every gas station. Some of the stations had clearly artificially raised prices. The Louisville news showed a gas sign at
$2.50 for unleaded (the normal price around here 2 days ago was about
$1.60-1.70). Is there no end to greed?

But then again, I was truly inspired hearing about all the stories of random New York people helping others. Thousands of volunteers just showing up asking for what they can do to help. Blood banks filling with hundreds of volunteers -- all over the country.

This is a horrendous tragedy. Like most others, I'm still finding it hard to believe that this has happened. "It's just like a movie," I've heard many say.

But this is just what the terrorists want. The first part of that word is "terror" -- that's the real win for these people. Not just a horrific event, but the long-term affects of creating terror in our lives.

I refuse to submit.

I will continue to live my life. I will grieve with the rest of this country, and try to comprehend what has happened. But I will not live in terror.

And so must everyone else. Will there be heightened security? Probably so. But I will still be me, and you will still be you. Remember that, and remember that we Americans are a resilient people... even if it doesn't feel that way right now. We will live on. We are resilient people.

Remember that, and be that.

What about retribution?

This is actually a complicated issue; my feelings on this are varied and conflicting. The outraged American male in me wants immediate public, brutal retribution on all who were responsible. Seeing the TV shots of Palistineans rejoicing at our loss is just incomprehensible. And I do not doubt that the US government will activate the military in the next 24 hours for some kind of retribution. However, swift retribution by the US will undoubtedly spawn additional anti-American sentiment, and potentially create a downward spiral of cause and effect. But doing nothing would create the perception that the US is weak, and potentially invite more terrorist activity in the US.

I can do anything about this, so I can only hope and pray that the US's response (as I believe that there inevitably will be one) is a directed attack and only the guilty are affected.

As with the rest of American and American-friendly parts of the world, my thoughts and prayers go out to all who were affected today.

September 12, 2001

More aftermath

Just a quick journal entry to answer a question that many have asked me over the past 24 hours...

Many friends and family have anxiously asked if I am being activated in response to the terrorist attacks on the US yesterday.

The short answer: no. I am a computer geek; there's little that I could do to help in a situation like this. I highly doubt that I will be activated because of what happened yesterday. Never say "never", of course, but strongly doubt that it will happen.

I do really appreciate the concern, however. It's touching to know that many people know and care about Tracy and I; thank you so much for asking.

Clan Squyres was fortunate enough to be unscathed by yesterday's events [at least directly]. Cousin Maggie and Uncle Jim are all safe and sound. Deyun, and old-time LSC'er, works right near the towers, but is also safe.

Remember: refuse to submit to the terror. Today is a new day. In many ways, the world is different than it was yesterday, but it is still a new day. And that is something.

Jeff's Journal

For the memories.

It has been said that the shuttle disaster was the JFK of my generation. Indeed, I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I first heard about the shuttle blowing up (freshman in high school, standing at my locker when the guy with the locker next to mine told me about it). Why do I need two of these kinds of events in my life?

I was at IU/Bloomington. We were having a working meeting of members of the OSCAR core group. September 11th was the second day of the working meeting. We had worked until about 10pm the night before, and I had gotten in to the conference room a little early that morning to write some notes up on the board, outlining what we had decided the nigh before, etc.

A few minutes after 8am (Central time), the first of the others walked in the room and said, "Did you hear the news? A few minutes ago, a plane slammed into the World Trade Center in New York."

Over the course of the next 30 minutes, the rest of the OSCAR group came in and each had a new bit of information: a second plane slammed into the second tower. Rumors of a plane hitting the pentagon. And so on.

Brian came in during this time with the router so that we could all hook up our laptops and start surfing the web to find some concrete information. Unfortunately, as it was happening, there was little information on the web. News sites were hard to reach; cnn.com was especially difficult to get to. It took quite a while to get hard details from the web, and rumors abounded (sensationalistic journalists didn't help, either).

Since we had limited time together, we tried to work through the day, and tried to not surf for news except during our breaks. Reports of the towers falling down were met with initial disbelief (comments like "I can't believe that that's true"); it took quite a long time before concrete confirmations were available on the internet.

Several of the OSCAR group members were federal employees (they're researchers for the federal labs), so they got updates from their home offices via cell phone and e-mail fairly regularly. Most of them had closed for the day, and/or gone to higher alert statuses. Notre Dame closed. IU didn't. Brian mentioned that he was glad that he wasn't at Sandia; Sandia is physically located on an Air Force base -- the security there (particularly since they do Secret stuff at Sandia) must be super-tight.

Some of the OSCAR folks had driven to IU, so they had no problems getting home. Others had flown in from far away; they had to drive back home because all the flights were canceled. Luckily, they all had rental cars already, so they at least didn't have to fight to get a car.

There were oodles of IU students hanging around in lobbies and hallways watching TV's with shocked looks on their faces. Most were spellbound. I have to admit, that I kinda envied them on the ability to just sit back for the entire day and soak it in -- we had to work through the day, and it was quite distracting to think of the tragedy unfolding; work seemed rather trite at some points during the day.

Heading home after the meeting, I was walking off the edge of the IU campus and saw a lot of film cameras and TV gear. I saw some guy doing promos for a special episode of "America's Most Wanted" for this Saturday evening. Why the AMW crew was in Bloomington, I have no idea. But apparently there's going to be some special episode (about the WTC attacks, of course) this Saturday evening on FOX. There you go...

I had only about a half tank of gas; it takes roughly about a half tank of gas to get from Louisville to Bloomington with the AC on. So I figured that I'd have to stop at a gas station on the way out of Bloomies. I turned on the radio (it was still tuned to Bob-n-Tom's native station in Indianapolis) and head more updates on what had been happening during the day (remember: I had pretty much been limited to internet information all day). I heard Bob (from the Bob-n-Tom show) talking about it, and reporting on various effects across the country.

He mentioned about how there was already some price gouging on gas going on in Indianapolis and how there were really long lines in some places. He strongly said (paraphrasing), "Look folks, there's no need for this. Getting gas is not going to help you. The prices are not going to go up, and if they are, it's temporary greed."

Sure enough, all throughout Bloomies, there were lines at all the gas stations. The prices seemed normal, though.

"No problem," I though. "I have to drive through a lot of nowheresville, IN. Surely there will be a gas station in one of these small towns that doesn't have super long lines." So I headed out of Bloomies and started on my normal back roads way home.

Amazing. Even in Nowheresville, IN, there were lines. At the first 3 gas stations that I passed in random small towns in Indiana, big lines. One of them had prices over $2.

I finally found one with no lines. So I pulled up behind someone, waited for them to finish, and then drove up to the pump. The station had some kind of problem with their pay-at-the-pump system because my credit card failed to work twice in a row (even though it worked for the woman in front of me). By this time, lines were starting to grow. Amazing.

So I went inside to pay and saw that, indeed, their credit card system was down. So there was a long line to pay as well. I heard some interesting conversation while in that gas station in good old, rural Indiana. Suffice it to say that I consider most of what I heard to be uninformed, racially- and anger- motivated, and generally completely ignorant. I won't even dignify repeating what I heard here.

I finally drove out of there (fortunately, I had cash) and drove the rest of the way home without incident.

I found out more information from the radio than I had gotten all day from the internet (granted, much more time had now elapsed, and there was generally more information available anyway). Tracy's day had been similar to mine -- she didn't find out until sometime after 10am (Eastern time), but they pretty much tried to keep working throughout the day. TVs were on, but people tried to keep working.

Lots of companies (including GE) have made today an "optional" day, and GE has organized a blood drive here in Louisville. I'll probably wait for the lines to die down a bit and head over (might actually be tomorrow) because I have O- blood, which is the universal donor.

So that's my story. I just put it here for posterity.

God Bless America.

September 15, 2001

You got fired from Lucky Burger? How humilating!

The previous owner of my phone number -- Shelby R. -- is the bane of my existence. I keep getting calls for him.


Got several new CDs:

  • The Crystal Method: Tweekend
  • The Chemical Brothers: Dig Your Own Hole
  • Juno Reactor: Bible of Dreams
  • ATB / George Acosta: Trance Nation / America Two

I haven't had a chance to listen to them all thoroughly yet, but they all sounds pretty promising. Tweekend, in particular, is pretty cool.

I still get one to two dozen hits of Code Red each day.

Gotta seed my lawn this weekend. Ugh.

I talked to Kevin Barker this week, which was cool. We talked about all kinds of things, like his upcoming Ph.D. proposal, C++ Friday lunch, linksys DSL routers, and lots of random Notre Dame and William and Mary gossip to include lots of laughs. It was good to talk to Kevin again.

I had a long chat w/ Brian about our plans for fault tolerance in LAM/MPI. It seems that I never filled him in on some of the discussions that Lummy and I have had, as well as some of the thoughts that I've had on the subject. Whoops; my [big] bad. I think that this happened because of the whole distance thing -- imagine three corners of a triangle. Communications along one leg does not imply communications along the other two legs.

When each of the corners are physically separated from the others, it makes it difficult to keep track of communications that occurred between any pair of corners. We'll have to work on that.

We have to spend the rest of the weekend working on a document about Brian's work at Sandia; gotta get it to Brian's boss very early next week.

The OSCAR meeting at IU went very well. While much remains to be decided, many topics were hashed out, thrown out, new ideas introduced, etc. It was a good working meeting. It very much reminded me of the MPI forum meetings, but with less people.

We might have another meeting at IU in about 2 weeks, but it's not completely clear yet.

An unexpected effect from the WTC attack this past week...

My church here in Louisville has DSL; I helped them set it up a few months ago. On Thursday evening, they dropped off the air; I sent something to one of their mailing lists and wondered why it hadn't showed up 30 minutes later. I then checked the web site, and saw that the name wasn't even resolvable. Doh!

After a while, it dawned on me that the DSL company, Intercom Online, is located somewhere in New York City. A whois confirmed this, which I cross-referenced with mapquest. Sure enough, they're only a few blocks away from the WTC.

Even worse, on Friday morning, I got the LSC mail server nightly report that said that it rejected a bunch of mails from intercom.com because the domainname didn't resolve (a common anti-spam tactic). Doh! I assume that this (or something similar) had happened because they sent mails after their DNS servers had failed.

I had heard stories of ISPs in lower Manhattan who were dropping off the air on Thursday because their backup generators ran out of gas, and the lack of civilian traffic in lower Manhattan prohibited them from getting any more. I assumed that this is what had happened to Intercom Online.

A few panicked calls to Dog and Curt later, I had that anti-spam tactic temporarily disabled on the LSC mail server so that if the mails eventually tried to be resent again (e.g., if they were already delivered halfway to me to some intermediary server that was not down, and would eventually be retransmitted), they wouldn't be rejected.

This morning (Saturday), I got all the back e-mails in addition to one more status message from Intercom Online. It seems that a water pump failed in their backup generator on Thursday evening, and they had to have a new one shipped in. Given the state of disarray in NYC, it took about 36 hours to get a new one shipped in, setup, and functioning. They restored services very early on Saturday morning.

On the one hand, they're a business. My church paid for services, and we should expect nothing less than exemplary service from them (I'll tell you -- those services aren't cheap!). Indeed, none of the church staff has internet access on Thursday evening or Friday, and it was an impediment to their normal business. So going to extraordinary measures to keep service running is what we should expect.

But then again, given all that is going on in NYC right now, I think one day of inconvenience and lack of internet is absolutely nothing compared to what those folks must be going through. Indeed, with all the tragedy and strife in NYC at the moment, these people are professional enough to go to extraordinary measures and spend even more time away from their families in order to restore services to their customers.

And that's amazing.

So major props to Intercom Online. Thanks. While we certainly greatly appreciate your efforts, we're more happy that you're all apparently safe.

I went to give blood yesterday at the GE blood drive. Here's the results:

  • Time elapsed: 5 hours
  • Needle holes in my right arm: 2
  • Needle holes in my left arm: 1
  • Bruises on my arms: 2 (around the needle holes)
  • Blood given: much less than 1 pint
  • Free dinner: consumed

So I tried to do my citizen-ly duty, but my blood somehow wouldn't flow into the darned bag. It apparently flowed out into the rest of my arm (i.e., the bruises). Doh. :-(

Go give blood.

Pine 4.40 is out. It built fairly easily, in contrast to previous attempts. I credit this to the fact that SSL is built into the source code itself -- for Linux, I just did "./build slx SSLTYPE=unix". But I did have to edit imap/c-client/OSCFLAGS to have the right -I flags for where the OpenSSL include files live.

On to the LAM/Sandia document...

September 18, 2001

Once you envision Lord Vader as McNemara, it all falls into place.

Checking my logs since May 4th, Telocity has provided me with a total uptime of 88% (this is with 214,056 data points).

This means that I was able to ping my DNS server (a Telocity machine), Excite, and Notre Dame 88% of the time.

Adding in the times where only 2 of those conditions were met, it's closer to 95% (for example, there have been many times when ND wasn't reachable, but that was through no fault of Telocity).

95% is pretty darn good for a home-subscriber DSL, actually. 95%
is actually a total of 18.25 days down out of every year, and that's not really all that good, but for a home-based service, that's a heckuva lot better than what most other companies provide!

Spent most of the weekend writing the Sandia LAM doc. Woof. Had a big pow-wow w/ Brian and Andy to hash out more of the plan on Monday afternoon.

Found a possible culprit for my web server going bonkers -- power failures in Louisville. It happened again yesterday -- DSL worked fine in the morning, but when I got to Bloomies, I got no love when trying to connect to squyres.com. Doh!

When Tracy got home, queeg had been rebooted, and the server was hung. So I think it was a "quickie" power blip that caused queeg to reboot properly, but only caused the server to go catatonic and not fully reboot properly. Hmm. Might need to buy a cheapie UPS or something.

As a result, I'm downloading a bunch of mp3's to my laptop from my server. This will allow me to listen to my mp3s:

  • When squyres.com is down
  • When I'm not connected to a network

Tunes for life!

Had a pow-wow for the OSL today about what the vision for the lab was, etc. It was a good synchronization point for all of us. For any of you outsiders reading this, go read our web page: http://www.osl.iu.edu/. :-)

Back to the LAM document...

September 25, 2001

Who is Nixon? Yoda. Yoda was a muppet.

I had a fairly lengthy journal entry about Terry's wedding this past weekend, and it got lost. :-(

It was a great weekend; Tracy and I flew to Baltimore last Thursday (no problem), and then drove to Philly. We met with friends and family all weekend. If I tried to explain all the inside jokes and family one liners, it wouldn't work at all.

Suffice it to say that the ceremony was great, Terry and Alan are now married, and a new family legend was born: my teenage cousin Patrick was bawling his eyes out on the altar.

Tracy and I caught Terry and Alan on Sunday morning before they left for their honeymoon, and then drove back to Baltimore and flew back to Louisville (again, no real problems).

A good weekend. Now I have another brother.

Brian and I tied up a bunch of loose ends in LAM. Including the infamous "set_stdio" problem that has been plaguing us for weeks --
we've just never had time to look into it properly. A helpful LAM user supplied us with a key hint that I don't know how long it would have taken us to figure out if he hadn't told it to us. The problem was a faulty socket.h in RedHat 7.1, such that the setup for a STREAMS control message was broken for non-gcc compilers because it was missing a key preprocessor protection block. Blech.

Rich's work at Sun is now finally public. Very cool stuff:


Still working on the LAM paper.

September 26, 2001

Reactions to WTC

Nimda! Nimda! Nimda!

My web sever is getting hit with it all the time. I've modified my code red script to also look for Nimda signatures (all 16), and to mail the owner back (if they're running an SMTP server). It will also mail abuse@telocity.com if they source is in telocity.com. I could probably expand it to mail "abuse" (and others) at any two-level domain, but I'm not that ambitious. :-)

10854 hits of Nimda and counting.

This dwarfs the total number of Code Red (and variant) hits that I've gotten: 3283.

Some of my new CD's contain beeps that sound identical the beep from my mail program (pine) indicating that there is new mail.

It causes many false positive indications of mail.

I am quite concerned about some of the proposed legislation in Congress in response to the WTC attack. This is my particular field of expertise, so I'll keep it to the facts.

  • The administration has taken the opportunity of the WTC attacks to bring back proposed legislation for mandatory "backdoor" access to all cryptography products. Essentially, this means that the FBI will have a "backdoor" to be able to instantly decrypt anything that is encrypted with cryptography software that is made in the US. From a law-enforcement standpoint, this is not a bad thing. You can always see what the Bad Guys are saying -- right now, there are most likely all kinds of Bad Guys using encryption to hide their nefarious plans. Even if the FBI (legally) intercepts their communications, they can't decrypt them, so they can't get a lead on what the Bad Guys are planning. This is obviously Bad.

    However, the proposed solution solves nothing. It solves nothing because there are many software companies outside of the US that produce crypto products that do not have these backdoors. So:

    • American crypto products will be weaker than the rest of the world's crypto products
    • Terrorists will use non-American crypto products
    • US law enforcement will be in the same situation where it is today (can't decrypt terrorist communications)
    • Americans will have to use weaker (and potentially breakable) crypto

    Before you say, "who cares?", consider what this means to you. What happens when you buy something on the web, say from amazon.com? You're using crypto. "But so what if the FBI can crack that -- what do they want with my credit card number, anyway?" Nothing. That's not the problem. There are two main problems:

    • The potential for abuse here is amazing. If the government (not just the FBI, mind you) can arbitrarily decrypt anything that is legal for a US citizen to use, then nothing is safe from the government. Don't get me wrong, I'm a believer in big government, but I don't trust them that much. Sorry, I digress from facts here.

    • Undoubtedly, the "backdoor" will be leaked into the Bad Guys. I guarantee that it will happen -- there is no computer system in the world that is secure enough to hold this precious data. Plus the fact that the data will selectively have to be released to government personnel to be used. With the number of people that "need" to know the backdoors for actual legal use, they'll be leaked sooner or later. And then we'll all be screwed, because all US-based encryption will be breakable by anyone.

      I simply do not believe that the backdoors can be protected (by anyone, not just the government). Look what happened with DVD encryption -- the "backdoors" (for lack of a longer explanation and better name) are almost common knowledge today. The recording industry has turned to litigation to protect DVDs -- do you want to use litigation to protect your company's secrets and/or your financial data? I don't think so -- that's reactionary. You can only protect it after it's been stolen. Kinda defeats the point of encryption, doesn't it?

      How will you feel when your credit card can get trivially stolen by some random script kiddie (i.e, a 12 year old) when you buy something from amazon.com?

  • There's also stuff before Congress about the ability to conduct wiretapping operations without a court order. I believe that it has to be suspected terrorist activity in order for this to occur (i.e., without a court order), but that's a pretty broad term. This is really, really scary -- the government can just tap into whatever you're doing (and remember, everything is open to them because they can decrypt everything you do). So it's up to random FBI agents to determine if what you're doing is "suspected terrorist activity". I'm sure they have to file some paperwork, but so what? Who's really going to question their judgment? Regardless of the usage, the government will always be able to fall back on "we thought it might be terrorist activity".

    The fact of the matter is that court orders for wiretapping are not perfect. But it does create a check-and-balance system such that one agency does not have the authority to conduct survelliance by itself. There's a good reason that this system was put in place -- to prevent abuse. Why is it suddenly a good idea to ditch that check-and-balance system now?

  • There are ever articles being published about how the FBI wants to install Carnivore at all ISPs, "just for future use". Wow. Amazing. Are we going to a Big Brother government, or what? "Just trust us" is effectively what the FBI is saying -- "we'll only look when it matters". But the problem is that with that kind of mechanism in place, especially if you don't need a court order to do wiretapping, abuse is virtually unavoidable. And it will be called legal.

  • Ashcroft has proposed legislation to classify all hacking as "terrorist activities", and to carry huge penalties (e.g., life in prison). Hackers would have to give DNA samples and effectively be treated like sex offenders. I have to say that I'm pretty divided on this one -- while I'm certainly all for stiffer penalties for hackers, this legislation is just opportunistic. With the speed that this legislation was introduced, I seriously doubt that enough thought has been given to the issue and/or the ramifications of this legislation. It scares me because it will have wide-reaching effects on the bullets mentioned above (use of Carnivore, wiretapping without court order, and mandatory breakable encryption), and it may seriously curtail legitimate activity. Will attempts to reverse-engineer IIS to try and find exploits in my own web server in order to make it more secure be "terrorist activities"? If nothing else -- the corner cases have not been clearly delineated such that legitimate users won't be affected by this law. It's too fast, and too reactionary to what has just happened to the WTC.

Indeed, even if the FBI/government gets all these measures, how the heck is the US government going to enforce all of this? They don't have anything approaching the number of trained personnel to make this a reality. This means we'll get untrained bozos doing the job who won't understand the issues, and [more] mistakes will be made. Innocent users will become targets.

I can even cite a concrete reactionary example of my fears coming to life.

I know an employee of one of our national government labs. This story takes place in the wake of the events of the data being stolen by the alleged spy from Sandia -- it was about a month or two after the fact. This friend of mine was writing some PHP web pages. He made a mistake at one point, and realized that he had actually written a security vulnerability in his web pages. In order to confirm the problem, he tested it (as any good scientist would). He sent multiple HTTP requests to his web server and exploited his security vulnerability to retrieve the /etc/passwd file from the server.

Keep in mind that this was his server -- he has superuser access on the machine and can easily examine /etc/passwd (and /etc/shadow, for that matter) any time he wants to. It was not a lab-owned server, and there was no confidential data leaked.

His HTTP requests tripped an electronic alarm, and an "incident" report went up the chain of command. I saw the initial report myself
-- the technician even said something to the effect of: "I'm pretty sure that this 'friendly fire' incident..." Meaning that he recognized that it was someone testing their own code, and it wasn't a "real" incident.

But the whole thing escalated into a week long struggle for my friend to keep his job. He was almost fired and convicted. For "hacking" his own server.
I can foresee this scenario (and countless others like it) repeating across the country. It's just like sexual harassment -- it doesn't matter at all whether a sexual harassment claim is true or not. Once an allegation is made, most people assume that the person is guilty.

Reactionary legislation and its fallout cannot be good for any of us.

In summary, I am not convinced at all that these proposed measures will have any noticeable effect on preventing terrorism. Instead, they will curtail our civil liberties with no tangible benefit. We'll become a police state. Terrorists will still use unbreakable crypto. If all of our actions are watched, it is inevitable that law-abiding citizens risk having their legitimate practices brought up before a judge.

We are giving in to the terror, which is exactly what the terrorists want.

This does not sit well with me at all.

September 28, 2001

No one hears your screams

I heard a dance mix version of November Rain today (by Guns and Roses).


Last night, I finished working on queeg (my desktop machine here at home) somewhere between 11pm and midnight, turned off the monitor, and went to bed. This is fairly normal for me; queeg runs 24/7 and generally only gets rebooted at power failures.

I woke up this morning, turned on the monitor, and tried to fire up pine (my mail program). It just sat there. Weird.

I hit ctrl-C a few times, but to no avail. WTF?

I tried some other commands, some of which hung, others of which managed to run. ps in particular shows that there were schloads of CROND processes running. WTF?!?!

So I logout of X.

Nothing. It freezes while trying to quit X. ARRGGHHH!!!

Ctrl-alt-bk does nothing either.

Ctrl-alt-del does nothing either.

Serious error.
Linux refuses to work.
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.

So I power cycle the machine.

    Invalid session number of type of track
    Checking ReiserFS transaction log (device 03:05) ...
    attempt to access beyond end of device
    [...other ReiserFS badness messages...]
    Kernel panic: VFS: Unable to mount route fs on 03:05 

And so linux refuses to boot.


ReiserFS crashed,
Killing the root filesystem
No one hears your screams

This is really what I needed today.

I had a journal entry half-typed on queeg (my desktop machine at home), but that's now gone. Bonk.

Even worse, I had oodles of changes for the LAM paper on the local hard drive of queeg which are now effectively lost.

A file that big?
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.
Having been erased,
The document you're seeking
Must now be retyped

A new version of Mandrake is out (8.1). I am considering installing it 'cause I have noticed a few bugs in 8.0, plus all the normal updates and whatnot. In light of my current ReiserFS problems (and general Bad Things that I have heard about ReiserFS over the past several months), I'd really like to switch to EXT3.

So I might try to find a few hours over the next week or two and reinstall my laptop.

Since 8.1 had literally just been released, it took quite a while to find an FTP server yesterday that had all three ISO images for the 3 Mandrake CDs. I downloaded all three, but they're sitting on queeg's now-defunct hard drive. <sigh>

This morning, I happened to notice that there's two 'drake mirrors in indiana.edu. Woo hoo! I downloaded all three ISOs to my local IU account and in an amazing 10 minutes. I put them up on my local web page, and am now streaming them to DSL server so that I can burn them onto CDs. I'm getting a pretty good download rate from IU --
146KB/sec (and it's slowly going up).

Mind. Screen. Both are blank.

I notice that pine 4.40 has a better HTML renderer than previous versions.

So those of you who are reading mail with pine and it screwed up the haiku's in the last journal entry, upgrade. :-)

September 29, 2001

It's a loooooooooove seat!

This is the third time I've tried this journal entry.

I have found that jjc doesn't catch the fact that X quits and therefore doesn't save the half-typed entry. Doh!

Quote of the week:

I hear what you're saying, I'm just not interested.

Another great quote -- Brian found this one when he was reading papers about fault tolerant message passing systems:

[Unnamed software project] is mostly written in OCaml, and is therefore highly portable, although the current version only runs on Linux with either Fast Ethernet or Myrinet

It amazes me that computer scientists get away with writing these kinds of statements. OCaml == "highly portable"? Only Linux/Ethernet/Myrinet == "highly portable"?

Totally, totally, lame.

Stupid ABC.

They advertised that they were going to carry the whole ND/Aggie game today. But of course, the stupid KSU/OU game ran over, and so we missed just about the whole first half. Not that we missed much, but still...

The solution: RealAudio streaming. After trying for 5 minutes to get it to work properly on my Linux laptop, I gave up and we went to the windoze desktop upstairs (which worked like a champ right away). Yet another reason that Linux is not yet ready for the Common User.

Although I do feel compelled to mention that many Windoze problems also cause horridness, too -- all things being equal, I still wouldn't use Windoze because it generally sucks more. A lot more, actually.

Anyway, I eventually got RealAudio working, but not without a little struggle. Ugh.

queeg is still down, so I'm gonna submit this entry before I lose it.

But hey, at least we had positive offensive yards...

Got a voltmeter today so that I could measure the input to my server so that I can get a UPS.

Since queeg died, and I'm really under the gun to get the LAM paper out, I decided to postpone recovery operations until later and work solely off my laptop for the time being.

I hooked up my docking station and whatnot (so that I could use a full sized keyboard and mouse), plugged in my laptop, and turned it on. First problem -- the monitor is a different (smaller) resolution than my laptop.

Ugh. This means figuring out all the X thingies such that I can easily swap between two different monitors. Brian pointed me towards a yahoo list that is specifically for linux on dell laptops, and a quick search shows that others are using the docking station ("Advanced Port Replicator", in Dell nomenclature), so I'm sure that either the answer or some good clues can be found in there somewhere.

Ok, not enough time to do that right now, so I just pulled the laptop out and continued working with the laptop keyboard and mouse.

I had the beginnings of another journal entry started yesterday, but I think it got lost because I logged out/turned off my laptop without quitting jjc. Doh!

I'm gonna have to do something about that, 'cause with my docking station, I'll apparently be doing this a lot (you have to power cycle when you put it in / take it out; kind of a bummer but oh well).

Although I did find (after the fact, of course) that the temp files for jjc are still around, so i can use those to recover.


I've experienced some angst trying to get PGP to work under Mandrake 8.0. The PGP binaries don't work because they require some older version of libstdc++.so. The sources don't compile (it looks like some OS data structures changed).

I finally investigated using gnupg, and it has a direct import feature. Woo hoo! It'll probably less flaky than PGP 6.5.8 (the linux version, anyway -- I think NAI didn't try to hard with that linux version), and it seems to have a lot more features. So I imported all my keys, deleted some old keys, added some of my new e-mail addresses to my key, and I'll probably convert my e-mail setup to use gpg everywhere now.

Quote of the ND game today:

There were a lot of close games across the country today; this isn't one of them.

And even after that, ABC left the ND game before it was over, I think because it was halfway through the 4th quarter and it was totally hopeless.

Woof. A depressing game to watch. Renzo was there, too. I hope we get better by the end of the season. It is true that we have had a really hard schedule so far, so perhaps we can actually get a few wins under our belt by the end of the season.

Davie has just got to go. I hear that he is just barely above Faust's record. Wow.

September 30, 2001

I don't ever want to hear about footwear from you again. Don't even talk to me about socks.

I got sick of mis-typing in my horizontal bar tokens (normally it's "=====" on a line by itself, sometimes I would type 4 or 6 dashes instead of 5, or put a space at the end, or something else equally dumb.

So I hacked out a 5 minute extension yesterday that will search for such things and warn me about it before I submit.

Perk is finally moving his virtual life completely over to his new grad school. I got the obligatory "don't use my nd.edu e-mail address anymore..." e-mail yesterday. Good luck, Perk!

We've been having conversations about his setup over at UCSB recently as well. He had really bad luck with 2 linksys DSL routers. Big bummer. They both malfunctioned in exactly the same way, and we could come up with no reason for it. They weren't consistent failures, either -- they would only sometimes fail, which made it all the more difficult to track down.

He finally got a different brand router and it worked just fine.

My best guess is that he got 2 routers from the same bad batch; I have one of these exact same routers and I know several others do to, and we have no such problems. But that's total speculation; I have no idea why his 2 routers failed.

We've also been discussing the wonders of the pine mail/news reader. pine rocks -- there are so many features! Most of them are disabled by default, though -- you have to find them and turn them on. For example, I'm a big fan of the one-global-addressbook-thats-stored-on-my-IMAP-server feature. Similarly, I love the one-config-file-thats-stored-on-my-IMAP-server feature. This allows me to use pine anywhere and use the same config and addressbook. This is extremely handy.

In light of my woes with getting the linux PGP to work on recent distributions, I just converted to using (gpg) instead. Heck, there was nothing else to do during the ND game yesterday...

gpg compiles everywhere (but only with gcc on Solaris... grrr...), and has a direct import of PGP keys (they might even be the same file format -- I dunno. All I know is that I "imported" them and it worked like a champ). I switched over my pine config to use gpg (actually, I switch over the helper scripts, and just updated the paths in my pine config file). Related to that...

Although the config-file-stored-on-the-IMAP-server is a great feature, there is one aspect of it that I don't like. If you want to supply any auxiliary helper commands (such as PGP encrypt/decrypt), you have to specify the absolute pathname. You cannot use a relative pathname. This is really annoying when using the same pine config file on multiple architectures and/or multiple sites where the same executable may be located in different places.

For example, my PGP helper script on my laptop is:


But at IU, my $HOME is different:


I finally found a way around this. It turns out that you can specify multiple input/output filters in pine. At run time, pine will only show the ones that exist on the machine that you are currently running on. This is somewhat klunky, but it works.

I'd much rather have some kind of "local override" such that you can have a global config file with a small number of local overrides to the global settings -- the pathname to the input/output filters is a perfect example.

Another extremely handy thing for those of you who have to login to lots of different sites -- CVS your dot files. I have my .tcshrc, .login, .logout (and so on) all under CVS. They're conveniently split into "global" and "local" parts, so that the global config applies everywhere, and you can have local overrides (just like what I want with pine config).

So when I login to a new machine, I cvs checkout, logout, log back in, and I get my normal shell prompt, all my aliases, etc.

Extremely handy.

And when I make a change to my config files, I just cvs update everywhere, and I get all the changes. No need to keep track of where has been updated and where hasn't -- CVS takes care of it for me.

It turns out that my DSL server draws...


Literally right as I was about to measure the power on my server so that I could go buy a UPS today, the power went out.

Is that bad karma, or what?

I guess this journal entry will have to sit for a little while longer before it gets sent in (good thing I'm on a laptop with a battery, eh?).

...a little over an hour later, power came back, so I'll submit this entry.

About September 2001

This page contains all entries posted to JeffJournal in September 2001. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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