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June 2002 Archives

June 1, 2002

James James... the man so nice, they named him twice.

Tracy was here this weekend.

Woo hoo!

Now she's gone.

Boo. :-(


I bought some new CD's -- it's been a while since I've bought any. I got Garbage's Beautiful Garbage and something by Afrocelt Soundsystem, Volume 3: Further In Time.

The Garbage CD is cool, similar in style to their other 2 popular CD's, and I wasn't disappointed.

The Afrocelt Soundsystem CD is interesting. I got it after listening to a few tracks in the store. It's techno-trance-ish, so it has a good beat, but isn't totally spazzy. It has some guest vocals on it by Peter Gabriel and Robert Plant. I think I'm gonna have to find the other 2 volumes in this series.


Here's an amusing fact: IU's sendmail configuration classifies RNJournal entries as spam. :-)

Speaking of Arun, I still get 5-10 Klez e-mails a week.

This has nothing directly to do with Arun (although, through a convoluted series of subsidiary corporations and offshore holdings, direct lineage to All That Is Evil can be traced to Arun. That's a different story -- be sure to buy my upcoming book, "Hello, My Name is Arun; I'm From the Government, and I'm Here To Help / An Anthology of Evil"), but it has amusing to me that virus writers just recently picked up on a trick that I did to Arun years ago -- sending random mail from random users with random subjects so as not to be able to [easily] tell that they are fake mails. :-)

But on the other hand: would people freekin' update their anti-virus on their machines and stop sending this crap? It's getting annoying...

All the mailing lists on our mail server (including LAM, MTL, etc.) have been picked up by spammers. There has been a notable increase in spam sent to the lists over the last 4-6 months. Thank goodness for decent listserver software (GNU Mailman) that blocks the vast majority of it before it hits the list.


I joined the Tivolution last weekend. I've been thinking about it for quite a while, and finally broke down and bought a Tivo. I was partially inspired by the fact that I missed a key Alias episode a few weeks ago. :-)

It's a Tivo series 2 with a maximum of 60 hours of recording time. I really enjoy the scheduling features that it has, since I'm down here in analog cable land. It's quite convenient. The subscription to the service follows the Tivo unit itself, not its physical location, so naturally, the unit will come back to Louisville with me when I head home (whenever that is!).

It seems to be great, but it has crappy reception on channels 2-5 (which unfortunately includes NBC and CNN; two channels that I watch rather frequently). It's not clear yet if this is a Tivo problem or a cable problem. The apartment maintenance dudes are going to come in today and see if it's a cable problem.

More details on the Tivo as I play with it more...


I IM'ed with CPT Klak (Michelle) this weekend and last weekend. All is going [relatively] well in Southwest Asia. Apparently, she has recently got general web access, and therefore posted a whole schload of stuff to her journal last weekend.

It's evidently now ok to say that she's been deployed to Kuwait. It is hot hot hot over there -- it averages around 115 F with regular hair-drier-hot breezes in your face.

But there's a Baskin Robins there, so all is well in the universe.


I'm was at Ft. Monmouth, NJ (CECOM headquarters) this past week for a big ribbon-cutting ceremony as CECOM opened up a new high-tech testing facility. I was there to be part of the ceremony and give a pitch/demo of some of the Great And Wonderful things that we do for CECOM out at Ft. Huachuca.

It was interesting to see CECOM's headquarters and all the people than run stuff there. It's one thing to talk to people on the phone and/or have them come out and visit your site to do some work. But to really get an appreciation of their work, you have to visit their work site. This trip was most helpful for that (as have been all my TDY's for the Army these past 6 months).

I gave a "CECOM/Ft. Huachuca is Great!" pitch to the head of SEC, the CG of CECOM, and an NJ Congressman. It went over pretty well; our boss (the head of SEC) was very pleased because the CG and Congressman were impressed.

Some quickies about my trip to NJ/Ft. Monmouth:


  • I enjoyed seeing all the green and trees in NJ. Mmmmm... who thought that one would miss the color green?

  • It's humid here in NJ. I had pretty much forgotten what that was like.

  • I got a DoD CAC (Department of Defense Common Access Card) while here at Monmouth.

  • It takes a day to travel from west to east. Woof.

  • The beds in the Monmouth BOQ (Basic Officer Quarters -- essentially a hotel on post) have mattresses that are made from NJ's finest plywood.

  • Had some Unexpected Good Sideffects of visiting Monmouth for some other projects that I'm working on down at Ft. Huachuca. More details to come on those, but it could be quite interesting.


For all you ex-bones out there:

I say space, you say Needle
space - needle
space - needle
SPAAACE - NEEEEEEEEEDUL

Another good quote: "We sang songs, we abused crudwells, and we had a big black skillet with billions of stuff in it and no one could figure this game out. Maybe that game could have been more obvious- I don't think so."

Big black frying pans ROCK!

As usual, I offer neither explanation nor apology.


Returning to AZ after being gone for a week, I have the following to say:


  • Pine's threaded mail headers are a Very Good Thing.

  • Arizona is hot. It's not humid, but who cares? It's hot! 100-110 degrees with breezes like a hair-dryer in your face. It's probably not quite as bad as Kuwait, but it's gotta be in the ballpark...

  • Jeremy F still loves Fabreeze.

  • AZ is surprisingly green. I don't know how it happened, because there hasn't been any rain since about January, but a bunch of the desert shrubbery is now green. The colors here are still primarily pastels (browns, tans, etc.), but there is definitely some green out there as well. <shrug> Go figure.

June 2, 2002

Secret 597: Whoop, there it is!

Wow -- my last journal entry was tagged by IU as spam.

This is especially amusing because I ragged on Arun's journal for being tagged as spam. :-)

Here's what IU said about my last journal entry:

 X-Perlmx-Spam: Gauge=XXXXX, ProbabilityP%, Report=CTYPE_JUST_HTML, PORN_3,      SMTPD_IN_RCVD 

I can't do anything about the CTYPE_JUST_HTML and SMTPD_IN_RCVD items, but PORN_3? What the heck did I say to deserve PORN_3?

Clearly, my clandestine plot of subversive pornography spam has somehow manifested itself in my journal. Curses! Foiled again!


Turns out that my bad reception problems on the Tivo were actually due to bad cable wiring in the wall.

Fixed.

Woo hoo!!


I forgot to mention some things about my trip to New Jersey. In addition to seeing green and an abundance of trees, I also got to see two other things that I rarely see in Arizona:


  • Fog
  • Morning dew (particularly on a car)


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I accidentally stumbled across a cool perl script for doing PGP (GPG) things in pine. It's called the Pine Privacy Guard. It allows the secure caching of PGP passphrases for the entire pine session -- yummy! This has been a headache of mine for years -- I always have to re-type my passphrase to decrypt every encrypted mail and to send every encrypted mail. Pine Privacy Guard also displays the output of the gpg run better than my scripty-foo does. It also supports mail-to-PGP-key aliases/mappings, something that I could have used many times in the past.

But it doesn't support having multiple encrypted sections in an encrypted mail, nor does it support having unencrypted text in an encrypted mail. So I mailed the author and asked if he would support that.

I also re-discovered the $HOME/.pinercex file. When you use a global pine configuration file via IMAP (like I do), you can have a local $HOME/.pinercex file that has overrides of individual settings from the global file.

This is quite handy for specifying local executable names for display filters, etc.


I went to see The Sum of All Fears today. Wow. Quite a chilling movie. I read the book several years ago, so I don't remember all the details of the plot, but I do remember at least a few things that are different. The imagery is quite vivid and explicit. Not a film for kids, especially after 11 Sept.

Ben Affleck did a good job as Jack Ryan, though. Kudos!

I give this movie 15 minutes.



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June 15, 2002

And we have a new favorite vegetable, which is asparagus.

Funny note:

So I got this cool CAC (Common Access Card) -- the new DoD ID card, complete with chip, three encryption certificates, etc., when I was back in NJ a few weeks ago. But it has "1LT Jeff Squyres" written right on the front.

Hence, when I get promoted in the near future, I'll have to get a new card. But Ft. Huachuca doesn't have the CAC yet (sounds like a disease, doesn't it? "I've got a bad case of the CAC...", "My CAC flares up whenever it rains", and "Friends don't let friends get the CAC"). So when I get promoted and get a new card, it will be the old green, low-tech one.

How amusing.


I finally broke down and got one of those windshield reflector thingies for my car. I did, however, manage, to get an annoying blue one rather than the default/de facto silver ones that most others seem to have. This has the unexpected benefit of making my car easy to find in a crowded parking lot.

It does make the car noticeably cooler after sitting in the sun, and makes it possibly to touch the steering wheel without burning one's hands.

Wahoo.


On the topic of pine vs. mutt...

I was recently reviewing mutt (again) on the promise that it was "much better" than pine. After trolling through its web pages and supporting material, I decided that I needed to make a qualitative comparison.

The following uses a scale of: poor - adequate - average - good - excellent.

Feature Mutt Pine
MIME support Excellent (many hooks) Good ($HOME/.mailcap)
Index/message threading Excellent (graphic depiction) Good (no graphics)
Index coloring Excellent Excellent
Message coloring Excellent Good
gpg support Excellent (builtin) Average (use external hooks)
LDAP access Excellent Excellent
Remote personal addressbook N/A (nonexistant) Excellent
Remote personal configuration N/A (nonexistant) Excellent
Roles / identities Average (can sorta do it) Excellent
Message scoring ? Excellent (not quite regular expressions, but quite functional)
Message filtering ? Excellent (ditto)
IMAP support Average Good
Documentation Adequate Excellent

(I think that mutt supports message scoring and filtering, but mutt's documentation was so poor that I didn't want to spend the time trying to figure it out, so mutt got "?" for these categories)

Generally, mutt:


  • more sophisticated MIME support than pine
  • threading support is much better than pine's
  • mutt's message coloring is somewhat better
  • mutt has builtin gpg support; pine can do good stuff, but requires external hooks

Here's a list of roughly equivalent features:


  • index coloring
  • LDAP access

pine seems to have better everything else:


  • remote addressbook -- this is extremely important to me because I check my mail from lots of different machines

  • remote configuration (including local exceptions) -- ditto on importance

  • roles / identities
  • message scoring

  • native IMAP/SSL service. mutt supports IMAP/SSL, but pine has better built-in support (particularly for multiple folders).

  • built in filtering
  • built in NNTP client

  • oodles and oodles of built-in documentation. Not just on-line descriptions of key bindings, but paragraphs and pages describing concepts and features, all cross-indexed with each other. That rocks. mutt's formal documentation consists of short man pages, and oodles of personal web pages on the net saying "here's my .muttrc -- hope it helps you."

Something that pine is missing -- features like the BBDB offers. That each member in the addressbook can have multiple e-mail addresses, and when you "reply", it will automatically trim the "to" and "cc" lists so that there's only one address per recipient.

So in my mind, pine rocks. It seems to have a lot more functional features, and craploads of high-quality documentation.


Some random quickies:


  • I had a long conversation with Tim about the stock market and technology.

  • Conversation with Liza about USC band actually liking to come to ND because we were "nice" to them.

  • Because the price of Pepsi never went up in Greely Hall, the Coke machines went forced to go back to $0.50. All is now Right in the universe.

  • www.osl.iu.edu has an uptime of 107 days. heracles.lsc.nd.edu has an uptime 187 days.

  • "You can hear the pink. This is what I'm saying."

  • "It's all the little things. I can't think of anything bigger."

  • I saw Vanilla Sky. Hmm. Somewhat disappointing. 5 minutes.


I found some CD's at home that I had forgotten to take to AZ, notably the Go soundtrack, the Office Space soundtrack, the Groove soundtrack, and Music for the Masses (a collection of Depeche Mode covers). I re-encoded them with Ogg/Vorbis and noticed some new effects that I never heard before. For example, in the initial dialogue on the Groove soundtrack ("No obstacles; only challenges"), it sounds like it is raining.

Perk did a MP3 vs. Ogg analysis:

Cdawg and I have spent many, many hours comparing digital audio CODECs. We have reviewed MP3, AAC, VQF, and Ogg Vorbis at various bitrates. We "critically listened" to them, a process developed by audiophiles to track subtle distortions and colorations in music. I listened to "Closer" by NIN, since it it such a versatile song that I am very familiar with. I must have listened to it about a hundred times this week.

If you are interested in reading about our results, you can browse:

http://www.engr.ucsb.edu/~kjh/CODEC_comparison.pdf

However, as Jeff pointed out, the paper may not be that intelligible without a glossary of audiophilia, so that you can understand what we mean by "bright", "attack", "airy", "sound staging", etc. However, some of the terms are adequately descriptive, like, "muffled", "harsh", etc. Or, I should say that they have a lot of adequatulence.

If you don't want to read the pdf, just take my word for it that Ogg Vorbis is the best technology available, across the boards. If you are looking for the best quality, multi-channel compression, variable bit rate, open source (i.e. no annoying royalties and licensing), and general coolness, you cannot loose with Ogg Vorbis. Encode at >= 96 kbps, and your sound will rock.

I'm going to start looking for hardware that supports Ogg Vorbis. So far, the only one I've found is Creative Lab's Nomad, but that costs like $400. A device that plays .ogg files off of CDR's would be optimal.

This audiophile course has been really fun and I've learned a lot of useful info. I think that it was a bit overboard in some ways. For example, I will never care that much about sound to analyze the difference between $2000 and $3000 speaker cables, but overall most of the information will be useful.


This came up in the Thought For the Day today:

Premature optimization is the root of all evil.
-- D.E. Knuth

I'd heard it before (from Rich and/or Jason Z, IIRC), but it's still a great quote, and is still very true.


I was stop-lossed last week. This means that I cannot voluntarily leave the Army. This does not necessarily mean that I can't be de-mobilized (i.e., go home and go back to reserve status) -- it just means that I cannot leave the Army.

Doh. We'll see how this plays out.

June 18, 2002

That sound that you're hearing... you know, that boom? That's my mind. Blowing.

I brought some speakers back from my trip to Louisville a few weekends ago.

I can now listen to my oggs in much better quality than the little speakers in my laptop. Amusingly enough, the audio from the modem also goes across the speakers. So I get to hear that in much better quality as well -- I think I can almost hear the 1's and 0's...


I saw The Bourne Identity today. I think the best way to sum it up is "good but not great". As usual, Hollywood took some liberties with the story. Indeed, there were at least 1 (possibly 2) sequels to the book, and interestingly enough, the movie didn't really seem to leave itself open for a sequel. But it was enjoyable, and I've always like Matt Damon -- he's a good actor.

All in all, I give it 10 minutes.

I saw Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones with Tracy when I was in Louisville. Although I generally liked Episode I, I liked AOTC even better. Lots of action, very good tie-ins to the rest of the story line (i.e., you can see why some things happened in episodes 4, 5, and 6), etc. I give AOTC 20 minutes.

I'm still waiting for a few other movies this summer:


  • MIB II
  • K-19: The Widowmaker
  • ...? I know there's some others, but I can't think of them right now...


We finally released a public web site for my organization today. Want to know about who I work for in the Army?

https://cecomifs-www.hua.army.mil/

My specific organization is "Tactical Automation Support", or "TAS" (there's a tan tab for it), but the whole IFS base organization is here at Ft. Huachuca.

Enjoy. :-)


Watch this space.


A new season of Witchblade started Sunday, with a bonus episode on Monday. Very cool stuff. They're changing a whole lot of stuff, so it should be quite interesting.

My perception of watch TV has changed with my Tivo. I now no longer ensure to get to the TV right as a show starts. I can literally watch it anytime. There are two major advantages with a Tivo in this respect:


  • The ability to pause live TV (which is surprisingly useful), and zip back-and-forth through a program that you're currently watching (including live TV). Of course, you can't zip forward beyond "now" -- Tivo is a recorder, after all -- but I think you get my point.

  • The ability to watch one recorded thing while another is being recorded. This is actually more significant than it sounds. So if I previously taped show A, and am currently recording show B, I can still watch show A. For example, if I wanted to record a whole bunch of shows on a given weeknight from 8-11pm, I could start watching around 8:30-9pm, and watch all the shows commercial-free.

Essentially, if I want to watch something, I can watch it whenever I want. That can be right when it's on TV, 1 minute after it starts, 2 days after it finished, or whenever. Hence, it allows me to choose to watch TV when I want to, not when the TV says its on. This is different from a VCR because although a VCR allows you to watch a show while it is being recorded, a Tivo allows you to watch at time X while it is actually recording at time Y. Think about it -- it's quite handy.

All in all, my approach to watching TV has become more much relaxed, because I can watch anything anytime.


It's all about OSCAR:


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June 30, 2002

Next order of business -- marketing department: yes or no?

Last weekend, I saw an old friend.

I hadn't seen Dangy for almost a decade. I got to meet her fiance (Jeff) and saw their house in Tucson. We went out to dinner and had great conversation for several hours. They both teach computer certification classes, so we had lots of stuff to talk about. The wedding is in a few months -- I think they'll enjoy married life.

I'm embarrassed that it took me 7 months to finally get up into Tucson to see them -- I hope to see more of them for the remainder of my time here.


This past week at work I led a working group for web portals and business intelligence technology, and how it applies to the Army (specifically to my organization). It was surprisingly interesting stuff. We had guests in from all over the country from other CECOM / SEC organizations who came and talked about this stuff.

It was good for others in my organization to hear people besides me to talk about this stuff. It sounds like there's some pretty interesting work ahead. It may not be parallel / distributed high performance computing, but it is good stuff nonetheless.


In doing a little perl work for my dad this past week, I found a minor bug in the CPAN module Mail::Message::Body::Multipart. It didn't do case-insensitive parsing of MIME stuff properly. For example, multipart messages sent from pine wouldn't parse properly -- some methods in the module would detect that it was multipart, but you couldn't retrieve the separate parts.

I submitted a suggested patch to the author, and he sent me back a better one. Coolness.

Just doing my part to make a better world.


The OSCAR group had a 2-day meeting at Ericsson in Canada last week, followed by most everyone attending the Ottawa Linux Symposium. It looks like a good time was had by all, and lots of interesting things were discussed. For example, collaboration with Mandrake was one of the topics. Given my bias for Mandrake (it's been my distro of choice for years), this could be a Good Thing. :-)

Wish I could have been there!

It still amuses me that I'm the chair of the OSCAR group and I haven't been able to attend a single OSCAR event during my tenure. :-)


Tonight, I had dinner at Liza and Robert's. Good food and conversation. They have a house a bit south of town on several acres land with lots of trees. It has a fabulous view of the mountains. We talked about all kinds of things, including, of course computer geek stuff (both Liza and Robert work in IT fields).

We sat on their back porch and actually watched a small thunderstorm. It was great -- although I was in a small rain shower earlier this week, I haven't seen real rain since I've gotten down here. The thunder literally rolls down the mountains here, so you can hear it multiple times as it changes aspect (e.g., left to right, across the mountains).

Apparently, this area of Arizona has a heavy monsoon season every year, traditionally starting right around the 4th of July. Hence, the name "Mt. Huachuca" (thunder mountain). I always wondered about how it got that name -- it seemed fairly strange for mountains in the middle of the desert. Now that I know about the monsoon season, it makes sense. :-)

The rains can get pretty severe, which can lead to a lot of flooding because the ground is so solid that the water does not soak in.

Good thing I actually brought an umbrella down here.

About June 2002

This page contains all entries posted to JeffJournal in June 2002. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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