Recent Entries in Geek

Testing a post from my new 8700 Blackberry. Theoretically, this should work, providing there's no trouble from the Opera Mini browser I've installed on here. It's a little more versatile than the stock BB browser, but it's designed for cell phones, not BlackBerries.

The entry field for Opera has already filled up. I guess I can't really make good entries from here. Oh well.

  Jesus Saves with a D20

Found this on I would totally buy it if I didn't think people would confuse me with an X-tian.


Of course I played D&D when I was a kid. We played after school every Wednesday. We would take over one of the classrooms, normally used for the chess club. We were once even interviewed by CFPL for a piece about how D&D made children into Satanists. By then, we were playing ICE's Rollmaster, and we made clever analogies about how reading Tolkien's books must also cause Satanic behaviour. CFPL never used the footage because we weren't interesting enough. We were just some nerds playing at a table with cans of Coke and bags Cheesies. We didn't light candles and get dressed up in robes, and all that stupid shit. When they aired their mini-documentary, that's exactly what they showed -- children in robes with candles, knives ... and dice.

Heh. Jesus saves, and takes half damage. Man, that takes me back.

  Scary German SQL

Got the following error message when trying to view a German candy website:

Fehler beim Senden der Abfrage...sql(SELECT cont_id,sub_menu1 FROM menu_ WHERE menu='Produkte' order by cont_id)

Mmmn, nothing quite so scary as SQL errors in German -- I mean despite it being a candy site and taking into account that many SQL errors are scary (though not quite as scary as JVM errors).

... then watch as the sender and recipient get dragged down to Gitmo and face charges of terrorism. (I suppose I should have said "OR face charges of terrorism")

Google Maps Mania had a post on it today, where a fan of the site sent a cell phone by UPS, then left the GPS active, so it could be traced via a live web page:

"'Where's Tim' tracks the current location of Tim Hibbard using a phone loaded with GPS software and Google Maps and Earth. When I mentioned this to Tim Hibbard, he decided to send me a phone pre-loaded with the software and a data plan from Nextel to make the presentation more interesting. That's not the cool part. He "forgot" to turn off phone as he packed it into the box and it's STILL ON reporting its position during its shipment."

Sure, sounds cool enough, but if being on GMM wasn't enough notoriety for this act, the post also got picked up by Now a bunch of people are aware of a really high profile security violation, which throws into question the whole effectiveness of the U.S.'s Homeland Security Dept. This is not good, especially with the recent terrorist arrests up here in Canada, and over in the U.K., home of the Lockerby disaster. Shipping an active cell phone is stupid and a big security risk; not finding it and allowing it to be shipped is even more stupid, and a, even greater security risk.

One Digg reader astutely pointed out this real problem:

"Lockerby was (IIRC) a radio (switched on) sent via a courier company, connected to a bomb. Definitely here in the UK, all that was supposed to have stopped as a security risk. After 9-11, what the hell are UPS doing delivering a live and connected electronic device? When I sent a mobile phone the courier co. disconnected the battery. Suppose, in another package on the truck, sent by A.N. Other, was a little well-concealed explosive with a sonic or otherwise-triggered detonator. One correctly timed - GPS, airport anyone..? - phone call to the mobile and kaboom, max damage."


So I'm helping fan the flames, in a way. By commenting on this little incident, I'm simultaneously pointing out weaknesses in the system and hoping they will be addressed in the future. I've never liked the idea of GPSes being built into cell phones with no way of turning them off, save removing the batteries, yet my issues stemmed around the concept of user privacy. This is not the kind of thing I thought about when I first purchased my Kyocera.

Currently the site's being pounded by visitors. I'm sure I didn't have to do anything to draw more traffic to it.

  New server picture

Well, this is what I've been reduced to: placing a hard drive on an old PIII/600 that was transplanted into a generic rack-mount case, and calling it a webserver.


And, no, I've still not backed up the data.

  Server Troubles

Had a major scare last night which thankfully turned into a minor one. It initially seemed as if I had a hard drive failure on Glucose, my webserver, which is just a glorified desktop in a micro-ATX case, complete with patched-up micro-ATX power supply. The power supply's fan failed some time last year, so I attached an auxiliary fan to its exterior shell, removed the dead fan from the interior of the power supply, and it has pretty much held ever since. Now it seems that the supply is dead or dying (possibly due to the weather), as the whole system shut down yesterday and failed to restart, or it would start, then quickly die in an endless loop. So the hard drive was full of errors, and I'd fsck it, then it would crash again. Naturally, my first thought was that it was the hard drive.

Yes, my not-backed-up hard drive. R asked if I had implemented a proper backup plan. I had not. Rather, I backed up everything, including the database ... but everything went on the same drive -- hence, the improper backup plan. I shuddered a little when I thought of losing 6 years of blog entries.

Well, it wasn't the drive this time. I got lucky. The drive is now sitting in an antiquated PIII/600 box which is housed in an impressive generic rack-mount case, which looks like it may be the new home of, if I can build some redundancies into it, such as a RAID1 (at least). I even had some notions about dropping the whole thing into the enormous and even more antiquated NetFinity server, which seems to be built for this kind of thing.

But I'm not ready for that. Firstly, it would require I purchase several decently sized hot-swappable SCSI drives, which I can't afford right now. Either that, or configure the array of 9 and 18GB drives into some kind of RAID 1+0 array, which might give me a nice redundant 27GB, but I'm not even sure those drives work. I've never even booted that beast, afraid of a large scale power outage in my neighbourhood.

I was thinking of donating it to those guys at OpenBSD, since they look like they could use the hardware -- and the OpenBSD system has served me so well these last few years (this was clvrmnky's idea). It's quite resilient, and transplanting a server drive from one machine to another like I've done is proof enough of that.

Expect the occasional outage this week, while I get things stabilized. First thing I'm going to do is backup everything.

Wow. I've been a tech support guy for almost 9 years now. I've flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I've seen a lot of strange stuff, but I've never seen anything like this email from an irate end-user:

"I sincerely apologize for how I acted in my last message. I was drunk at the time I sent it, but I do not claim that as an excuse, only a reason."

From the tone of the user's previous three or four emails, I just assumed he was being a jerk. You know -- typical end-user who thinks they can leverage you like a large corporate customer can. I'm sorry, but there's a certain pecking order around in the tech support world. You can't get me fired, you can't get me to send you free software, you're lucky we even talk to you, since you're not even a paying customer. I've no problems with anything you say to me in an email. At least you weren't writing in ALL CAPS LIKE SOME OF THE PEOPLE WHO EMAIL ME!!! WITH A THOUSAND EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!!!! AAAAAHHHH!!!!

But then this email comes in. I mean, whoah. How does one respond to something like this? "It's OK, you're swell." "No problem." "Hey, we all fly off the handle when we're drunk and emailing tech support." Who even sends an email like this? Is this guy in AA? Was he required to contact all the tech support people he's previously ragged on? Did his mom read the message out of his "Sent" folder? Yikes.

What, did he think we were crying over here?

Still. Nice enough of him to let us know. I think. I'm still not sure I wanted to know that he was angry and drunk and emailing me.

Let's just hope I never have to send an email like this to a customer.

Been playing around with this interesting Linux distro, ubuntu. One of the guys here had a few CDs delivered (for free) and we wanted to try it out and see if it was a useful Linux workstation replacement for Windows. The name was pretty interesting, initially reminding me of the poor Dr. Mubutu from Futurama (to shreds, you say). Apparently, it's an African word, meaning "humanity to others".


Sure enough, it was a pretty straightforward installation -- only one CD, unlike the dozens you get these days from bigger distributors, such as Red Hat and SuSE. As long as you have a network available, you don't really need more than one CD, and it's much less intimidating, that's for sure. The interface was kind of basic -- old school Linux -- but it did something Red Hat never did... it found all the drivers it needed, including sound, video, etc. for the (ancient) Compaq Armada E500 laptop I was using, and it setup the network interface without a hiccup.

What's more, everything I needed for basic desktop usage was there. I was able to map a drive to the Windows network's filesystem, and drop a share on my desktop. Gimp and OpenOffice were in place when I finished, and I was even able to auto-update as soon as the system rebooted. Pretty easy stuff. It was perhaps the most impressive Linux install I've ever seen -- I bet my mom could install this.

After we played with the hundred or so screensavers, my co-worker upgraded the whole thing to ubuntu's Dapper beta, which gave us a boost to performance, at a cost of stability. The KDE desktop hung when trying to preview a couple of the more complex, OpenGL screensavers, and we had to shell into the machine and reboot it.


They sent us CDs for PC, 64-bit PC, and Mac PowerPC. You can order your own free CDs from

  I could be doing this

... but I'm not geeky enough. Sure I can put GoogleMaps on my Movable Type blog, but can I broadcast live from around town? Well ... sure, especially with my Blackberry. But can I do it with video?


This guy can. He's "Shakin Dave". His website's at, and he webcasts live as he walks around NYC.


Here is a list of all the equipment he uses to pull this off:

  • Tablet PC (Motion Computing)
  • EVDO card
  • Video glasses
  • Microphone
  • USB analog-to-digital video capture board
  • GPS receiver
  • Backpack

For software, he's using Windows XP Tablet, Windows Media Encoder, VZAccess Manager, and a custom-written app that transmits the GPS data. He's apparently applying for a patent for the broadcasting platform.

Now that's geek-sheik.

  Space LEGO Memories

My brother sent me this link. It's a link to some classic LEGO space ships. We used to play with LEGO when I was a kid, and the space Lego was the best. This was back when Star Wars was really big, and everybody was getting into space-themed stuff for toys, just to keep up with the big demand. I think I was 8 years old when these came out.


My brother got the Space Cruiser, and I had the Galaxy Explorer (my stuff always had to be bigger and better than my brother's -- sorry about that Steve). The Galaxy Explorer had a little docking bay in which you could drive a little space buggy. We used to build alien bases, with the grey crater sheets, and space landing strips -- the green base sheets were totally Verboten. We'd fight space wars, and smash each other's ships, and play for hours. Those were the rare occasions in which we didn't watch television.


(sigh) I miss all that space LEGO. We had a lot of fun with it.

Mmm, delicious hourglass oats, just like Mom used to make.

disbelief this shoulder watchdog an neatly,
was sadden lately, weather forecaster
in with House of Representatives, to of
date the pounce, the too of perverse
outwardly mean dysentery
casing hole microfiche is an
ruddy as striker construction paper
it lately to subvert the satisfactorily
was an minuscule in portable introverted
hourglass oats

This was in the same Junkmail folder. I'm thinking of publishing a book of this stuff. I'm pretty sure no one would ever buy it.

cut self-sufficiency newsletter enamel,
disk drive and rotunda thingamajig
desirability battle funeral pass to with
conjecture occult centimeter
Venus sternly but watercolors drudgery rootless
rating golden portrait suburbia
an singer Mother's Day, moan captor !!!

More dada poetry from a Junk Mail folder. I only moderately edited the piece, and allowed for some formatting changes. There's something Burroughs-esque about it.

deformed is sacrifice the terminology,
that salami daydream poker,
as intervention hotel
exclaim by ladder that it, therein sloth
thesaurus, arbitrator, dandelion the blanket,
the enormously takeoff upfront,
fifteenth MB, the ass cramps
skewed of designation to real estate.
to of sympathize, a to hydroelectric,
in gorgeously a cleft as distance,
as inconclusive of performer.
fast assumption: of loose-leaf silken the Coca-Cola
with comrade hotcake
of and steepness was downstate
of powerlessness timidity

They've got some new stuff today, just when I was thinking of putting in a new order, too. They've got a USB Desktop Tanning Center, a Grow Your Own "1up" Mushroom Kit, Wireless Extension Cords, and the iZilla Digital Media Monster. It all looks good.


  A little iPod training

So I've spent a little bit of time getting to know the new iPod. I still haven't tried to fill it, although, there's currently 20GB of music, podcasts and videos jammed into it right now. The interface is, I'll admit, pretty cool. There are still some things I would have liked to see, such as the ability to delete a song, or to correct the ID3 tag while using the device. Sure this can all be done from iTunes, but one doesn't edit the Palm's data through the Palm Desktop. This isn't yet any kind of Palm replacement, but it does have great media capabilities. And the built-in hard drive helps a lot.

One of the things that made me a little skeptical about this thing was that it's so heavily dependant on the ID3 tags. Other systems would make use of the folder structure used for storing the songs, but it all goes into one big bucket on the iPod. One way to overcome this is to make a playlist with the folder's name, and add all the songs to the playlist. iTunes makes this pretty easy: you can drag the folder directly to the iPod's playlist and it knows what to do.

I think with a little more practice, I can get it working just the way I want it to work, but it's going to be something critical for me. 60GB of music is a lot of music -- sorting this stuff will be the key to ever finding a given song.

  New iPod

My new iPod came in today! Yeah, I know, I've joined the cult of the iPod. Really, I wanted it to play videos while travelling, so that I didn't need to buy the in-flight headphones. Also, I'm getting tired of storing CDs in my car, and listening to the same music all the time.

So, my options were easy. I could either buy an mp3 CD player, and insulate it with wads of cash, or I could just buy an iPod. But I'm really a stingy guy when you get down to it, and I hummed and hawed over the damn thing until my company ordered a bunch of Mac developer stuff, including a bunch of Mac Minis. Since we got a discount, and an iPod counts as a "peripheral", I decided I owed it to myself to take advantage of this deal.

And the iPod came in today. Now I just have to figure out what to do with this damn thing. 60GB. That's a lot of space for an mp3 player.

I wanted to add an image of this film to the review, but I was lazy and didn't want to take a picture of the DVD. So I went searching for images of this film online. And I saw the strangest bit of marketing. Check this out


Not only do none of the people on the cover resemble anyone in the film, look who "stars" in the film, according to the box. Not Bob Peck, who gets the most screen time, and who has the most lines. But Ben Kingsley and F. Murray Abraham. Combined, they received a total of, maybe, 5 minutes of screen time. Worse though, and I'm not sure where they got any of those pictures, they've mixed up Kingsley and Abraham. They've got Kingsley wearing a suit. The only person in the film wearing a suit was F. Murray Abraham, and he's credited as "Cornelius (at Museum)". And I'm not sure where they got a picture of Ben Stiller with a moustache and goatee, but it looks great on him. It just doesn't look like Mark Hamill. And Bill Paxton has short hair in this picture. I think it's from "Thunderbirds", another crap film he starred in.

The byline is also quite puzzling. "The winds of change are the future of man"? Well, I guess. It should have been "This film plagiarizes 'Blade Runner', 'Midnight Run' and 'Road Warrior'".

Here's what my DVD cover looks like:


At least all of the pictures were taken from the film. They're all bad, sure, but at least they're all taken from the film. So fine. If we're going to make movie posters based on random images, let me try my hand at it:


Not bad. Not bad. Still not good, but better than the weird one they're using now.

I'm sitting in 1842, at my usual table, the one in-between the windows, eating a caramel-cappucino muffin and drinking a double espresso. I don't usually eat the muffins here, but we're running out of food at home -- I've got to do a grocery store run soon. I'm sitting backwards today, facing King St. Not something I normally do, but there's a guy at the centre table, and I don't want to crowd his style.

I'm having a hard time getting things done these days. I've no enthusiasm about anything at all, except time-wasting stuff, like surfing the web, watching DVDs, reading, or just staring off into space. It's as if I'm still in vacation mode.

Werk isn't really challenging me, either, and I'm struggling to find things to do. We've got a release coming up, so until then I'm scrounging, trying to get those little 'extra-curricular' projects out of the way. I've got a training allocation, so maybe I'll look into some kind of programming course, or advanced UNIX thing -- maybe get my Oracle DBA, or something. In the next couple of months, I may actually be travelling to Europe or South America to assist the Sales team. This sounds like a lot more fun that what's going on now.

I've been looking at getting a digital SLR camera. More specifically, I've been looking at getting an SLR camera, but since even the professionals are using digital SLR, I might go with the newer technology, since I've no real interest in developing my own film, nor paying to have it developed by a third party. There was a photographer in at werk yesterday, and through conversation, I found out that he's got an old Nikon D1x for sale (originally, a $5000 camera). He wants $1800 for it, and there's no lens, but it comes with a $600 flash unit, 3 batteries, and some chargers. Sounds like a bargain, if I want to go the high-end of things. But I was looking at a couple of newer lower-end models for around the same overall price, which include lenses. I'm also admittedly very cheap and very lazy, so I'll probably not get anything for a while.

Played some no-limit Texas Hold'em last night at a co-worker's house. That was a neat experience, although somewhat different from what I was expecting -- here I was thinking of a dark, smoky room; us with cigars, and green money-counting visors; someone with a black cowboy hat; and all of us smoking cigars. No, this was a little more like Star Trek TNG, except without the sparkly spandex. It was just a bunch of geeks who watched a little too much of the world championship poker tournaments, and who played occasionally online. I vowed to bring some cigars to the next one. Overall, I came in third, and only after getting more chips in a buyback. Not good, but not too shabby, considering I don't play poker.

  Stylistics have arrived

The Stylistics (that's Fujitsu Stylistic 1000s) have arrived! Well, it's not all that exciting, especially since they didn't ship with power supplies, batteries, or stylii. Or any PCMCIA cards. So, I went to the store and bought a $160 universal AC notebook adapter (which I'm going to return) and plugged it into these little boxes to see if they would actually boot -- or POST, if you will; there's no boot device. They all work. And I think I can buy a couple Fujitsu AC adapters online for $12 each, so that's not such a problem. There are even some sites which detail how to get Linux or FreeBSD on the little guys.

But for now, I've got three 2kg paperweights. One of them even has 16MB of RAM in it! I had a spare Intel P4 sticker, so I put it to use. Makes it look fast. They're actually AMD DX4/100 chips.





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D H McKee's bookshelf: to-read

Sunset and Sawdust
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The Thicket
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