Recent Entries in Geek

Drinking an espresso in 1842. Haven't done this in a while. Actually, I'm kind of just staring at it, not because it tastes bad, but because I'm anticipating a terrible day, if yesterday's events are any indication. Let me 'splain:

Our *dreaded* customer called me up a little while ago, saying that some of their servers weren't doing something they were supposed to (I'm not getting any more specific). I explained that they shouldn't be doing anything, since they weren't configured for this specific behaviour. They persisted, saying their other vendor (an authentication service) said so. Turns out this other vendor *didn't* say so, and they plainly explained that in an email. They *did* say they wanted this behaviour, however, so the customer asked me to reconfigure the servers. This was unusual, since they like to test everything before doing ... well, anything. I looked at the configuration, thinking that this could be a problem for their users, if anything went wrong, and strongly suggested testing on a backup server. I even went so far as to configure the backup server in the hopes that they would test it. But they were insistent.

In an attempt to please them, I followed their instructions, and waited for the other vendor to confirm the configuration. Late in the day, they reported not seeing any changes. So I checked on the servers last night, only to find that users were having problems logging in. I reverted the configuration immediately, and sent a note to all parties, citing the reason.

About 2 hours later the customer's tech support team sent an emergency note, telling that their users were reporting problems authenticating. I told them what had happened, and that I fixed the problem earlier.

So, now, I'm awaiting the inevitable conference call about why this could happen, and why didn't we do more to prevent it, etc, etc. I've had this pain in the pit of my stomach ever since this whole thing started, knowing fully how it would end. I feel like a psychic who has foreseen his own doom. Well, it's not that bad, I suppose. No one's ever proven any kind of psychic ability under controlled tests, so I'm probably overstating the matter.

At least I've got a mountain of correspondence to back myself up. Sure the results were strange -- our servers should have performed perfectly in this situation, unless they had some kind of firewall or other network measure which interfered. But it certainly wasn't my fault.

But I bet that at some time during the conference call, it will become my responsibility.

Recently, I've been swamped with a new kind of spam. Or maybe not. Let's call them "smeat" for now.

Who are these musicSUBMIT.com people, and why are they flooding me with musician's resumés? I've gotten 3 in the last hour, singing the praises of bands/singers/musicians from around the U.S. I'm not sure why they chose to send them to me, of all people. I mean, sure, the MissingLinks page has a music column, but it's not ever been thought of as a place to showcase musicians...

I took a look at their website to see if they were legit, or just another spammer, trying to convince me that my penis is too small. Turns out that everything seems to jibe with what they're trying to do. Trevor Lyman's name is on the email, and on the website -- another plus for the legitimate side of things. Then I had a look at their overview, to see why an unknown blogger, such as myself, has any reason to be on their radar.

Sure enough, I'm one of their targets, although I'm still not sure where they're coming from, or how they found me (surely I'm not very "googleable" as they put it):

We’ll Take It From Here!

Your submission process begins once we’ve received your completed submission form.

Each month, your materials will be submitted to a combination of 50 Internet-based resources like:

- Blogs: Rapidly taking over the role of print media as a way to discover new music, blogs have the remarkable ability to move and expose bands with speed unattainable by traditional print resources.

- Directories: Not only do we save you the time it would take to submit yourself to international, regional, and genre-based music directories and search engines, but we also save you the many hours it takes to search the web and find them all.

- Internet Radio Stations: Popular radio stations that appear first in the search results and stations hosted by large internet radio portals such as live365.com.

- Online Music Magazines: Our opt-in list of music writers and online music magazines will receive your press release. These are music news industry persons who have agreed to accept press release submissions from musicSUBMIT.com clients.

So, blogs ... okay. I'm a blogger. Makes sense now. Wait, only a "combination of 50 Internet-based resources"? I'm one of 50? Cewl. But hey, wait a minute ... that's bullshit. I'm not that popular. Check this out:

Submissions are sent via email and you’ll ONLY be submitted to resources that are interested in receiving music from independent artists in your music genre.

Hey, that's also bullshit, since I've never once shown an interest in "receiving music from independent artists in your music genre". I mean I grab a few things from BitTorrent now and again, but I don't think that's what Trevor means. Either something got screwed up royally, or this musicSUBMIT.com is actually just a spamming service for musicians. Me, I'm thinking the latter, but I'll give the guy the benefit of the doubt and keep his musician files for now. Maybe I'll even look/listen to/at them. Not promising anything, but ... to be honest, Trevor made me feel good about myself. Like I matter in this world. Not too many spammers can do that, not even those Nigerian bank scammers can do that.

To be honest, I kind of like the idea. I (along with many other tin-ears) like to think of myself as a budding musician, so naturally this kind of promotion appeals even to me. However, I would like Trevor to start sending me stuff in *my* genre. I'm not really that much into Country and Western, regardless of what I look like in chaps. Maybe Trevor can send me some ambient/trance/techno/chillout/political stuff. That'd be something to write about. Also, how about something more regional to my part of the world (i.e. Toronto, or Kitchener/Waterloo)? Well, looks like that's also taken care of. You can sign up with these guys, and submit yourself as a recipient of these spams. So that's also kind of cool, if you like getting sent a bunch of emails -- at least they're no longer unsolicited.

  Mr. and Mrs. Power Outage

Had to hand the AirCard back to werk, so I'm not able to blog from away very well. I'm sitting in my basement, working on my webserver that crashed last night when we lost power in the thunderstorm. Apparently, lightning struck a tree two blocks down and it pulled a bunch of wires with it. Serves me right for not losing power during the last big blackout.

I've got to get a new UPS for my system. Right now, I've got an APC BackUPS ES -- sort of a powerbar with lead/acid batteries in it, problem is, it won't run both my micro-ATX server and a monitor, so I can't shut the thing down manually. I may be able to find some drivers for the serial control on it, but my main point is that I *should* be able to shut it down manually if I want. When I get the new rack together, I'll be able to close everything up inside it and get a real UPS for whatever I'm going to put in it (I'm also looking at getting a real server, something with rails).

Since the house was dark last night, we decided to go see "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," which, thankfully, wasn't another "Gigli". It was, however, a strange hybrid chick flick/action comedy. R apologized for bringing me to a "couples movie," but I had no problem with it. It was definitely a combination of "War of the Roses" and "True Lies". Strangely, I didn't find any real sexuality in this film (luckily I don't equate violence with intimacy), and -- is this just me, or is Angelina Jolie just not very sexy? I mean she was wearing a dominatrix outfit at one point in the film, and I'm thinking "Man, what a cool outfit, bet it would look sexy on anyone but Angelina Jolie." OK, I wasn't really thinking that, but it was at the back of my head somewhere. Anyway, good film. Lots of violence. Some good jokes. A comedy of errors.

  Revenge of the SIMs

I had a weird dream last night about infiltrating an evil government compound, using a stolen SIM card and an electronic government ID device that looked like a Blackberry. Yesterday, a sales guy kept bugging me about helping him insert a SIM card into his BlackBerry. Coincidence?

I'm sitting in the Starbucks at King and Weber this morning. It's running busy today, but no one is sitting down; everyone's hurrying off to werk. I drove R to her job because she wanted to walk home. I was going to go to the gym, but I didn't have anything ready, so I decided to blog instead. Seems to me that I need to find places other than coffee shops to do this.

I'm drinking a grande latte, by the way. It's the only time I put milk in my coffee anymore.

Looks like a nice day today -- apparently it's going to be nice on the weekend too. That's good. I'm looking at having a BBQ and inviting a couple of friends over. I'm working Monday, so it's not a long weekend for me (sigh).

Echo Weekly has this terrific review/commentary of George Lucas and the Star Wars franchise -- how he moves from the traditional good/evil dichotomy in the first trilogy to blurring the lines and commenting on absolutism in the second trilogy -- he's widely seen as making an anti-Bush comment with Anakin Skywalker's remark "If you're not with me, you're my enemy." I remember hearing ideologically similar remarks from Bush I and Reagan when they were in power. The article is here, at http://www.echoweekly.com.

Spent much of the evening playing JK2 while R sat beside me and played Tropico2. Here's my reasoning: George Lucas has ruined Star Wars for me. I would rather play JK2 than go see "Revenge of the Sith". It's probably more realistic, probably has a better storyline, better acting (even with those creepy, hollow-looking models). But here's the big reason: Luke Skywalker is now the only cool character in the Star Wars saga (actually, it's a toss-up between him and Lando Calrissian).

Obviously, Darth Vader's been ruined for me by the Episode1 and 2 fiascos -- The pouty Hayden Christensen is Darth Vader? I mean, come on! Darth Vader's supposed to be cool! Give him some room -- make him a rebel without a cause -- an emotionally detatched lone wolf, or something. The first time I knew there was trouble was when Darth said that he was Luke's father. I thought for a moment that it was a clever ploy to mentally destabilize Luke. But then I saw "Jedi" and was disappointed. Oh, and then, there was all the midi-chlorion crap and virgin birth jokes of "Episode 1".

Boba Fett was pretty cool; you know, galaxy's greatest bounty hunter and all that -- mysterious origins, maybe descended from Mandalorians, given his "unique" armour. We'll guess what. Now we've got his dad, this half-assed bounty hunter, Jango Fett, who just happens to own a Mandalorian second-time-around store, and we have (literally) the same thing that's going on in Star Wars Galaxies right now -- everyone wants to be Boba Fett. And guess what? Everyone is! Millions of clones of Boba Fett just wandering around the galaxy. And some "hidden origin" too: I was a clone. I have 300 million brothers. My useless dad was killed by a jedi. This made me the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy. Oh yeah, and I'm clumsily devoured by a Sarlacc in "Jedi".

That leaves Han Solo. Yeah, well, until Greedo shot first. Now he's got nothing.

And Chewbacca was never cool. I'm sorry Chewie.

I was going to include IG-88 on the list. It was pretty cool and a little scary -- a droid that went on killing things. Became a lot less cool because of all the crap done with droids (roger-roger) in the "first" episodes. But he really didn't have a speaking part, so doesn't really count.

So, last night I started playing JK2 again. I've had my fill. Got a sore back, and stiff legs from sitting for so long. But at least I got my fill of decapitating stormtroopers and listening to a great soundtrack. But there are limits to what a great soundtrack can do for a film. So I will remain skeptical about "Episode 3" until -- well, probably forever. In Lucas's striving for closure, he's been tying up plot threads like a kitten in a yarn basket. I bet we'll be introduced to a baby Han Solo, and a teenage Jabba ... and I can totally see a scene where a cantina owner applies for a liquor license on Tatooine.

  Power Outage

Back at werk. Just finished rebooting all the systems and making sure the Internet and firewall are working. Gets nasty in the morning when people can't get to the pictures on the Inter-Web. So I figured since I'm the ranking officer, it's my duty to get things back online.

OK, so I've done that. I'm going home now.

[still_at_werk.jpg]

Ok, there wasn't anything at Sears Home in Kitchener. Man, they sure have a lot of plain-looking stuff in there today. It's a drastic change from what they had, say, a couple of months back. For one, they had several cool serving bars and coffee tables. Now it's all chunky dark brown wooden legs and overstuffed couches -- more like what I was expecting at The Brick. And, no, I didn't stop in at The Brick to look for anything.

I did happen to walk by that "Urbanspace*" place beside the Princess Twin, but it's tiny and cramped, and there were three dour individuals inside, and I'd rather not deal with that kind of attitude tonight. I can deal with a handful of apathetic salespeople when it's at an enormous warehouse, like Sears Home, but not in a closet of hipness like "Urbanspace*".

I'm sitting at 1842, finishing off a double espresso, and staring at a big, heavy chunk of chocolate cheesecake, which I tried desparately to finish, but couldn't. I honestly couldn't -- it has the texture of wax, and tastes like a stale piece of chocolate in another room might smell. One thing I will say, they really know how to decorate a plate around here. It was as if someone gave a five-year-old a bottle of caramel sauce and a whipped cream gun and said "play nice with the oversized plate, dear." Yeah, it's like someone got Jackson Pollock to garnish this cake.

There was a lot of crap fallout from that page over the weekend. Some tiny mom and pop company with maybe 50 customers was giving us grief because they didn't know how to configure their own server. The guy was a serious split personality disorder with his emails. It was as if a Law and Order episode was playing out over my Blackberry -- this guy was both good cop and bad cop when it came to getting things sorted out. He was all nice and apologetic and lovey-dovey over the phone, but about an hour later, he started screaming at the sales rep, then at the sales manager, then at whoever else would listen. Sales guy dropped him like hot china from the dishwasher. The best line I heard was "tell your tech support guy to get out of his hot tub and help me." That was absolutely precious. I want to go buy a hot tub now.

  Dead Customer Pool

Werk had this thing at Dooly's for a couple of hours. A "release party" or something. We played a little pool, threw some darts, and ate some junkfood. It petered out pretty quickly, and everyone went their own way. I was all set to do nothing more, but R suggested we go see "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" at Kings College. It was a pretty good film, but lacked plot, and was a little slow at times. Good movie, though. And a good translation of the book as well. All of Ebert's points were valid -- the film was a little twee.

Tonight I've got one of those customers from hell (no, not that customer). He had a problem on his end with a RADIUS server, and we agreed over the phone that he'd need his RADIUS expert to come in and look at the problem. However, now he's emailed the powers-that-be and is demanding a refund because *we* couldn't make it work. (sigh) I wish I could record phone conversations. He's quoting some kind of sales agreement, and blaming his configuration problems on us. Like there's anything I can do for him.

This isn't the first time this has happened -- that a customer has done something or acted a certain way over the phone, then turned 180 degrees when talking to the Sales team.

  Do the Hustle

Finally got to see "Kung Fu Hustle" last night. We almost missed it, waiting for Elbie at werk. Something about a crashing hard drive on a mail server kept him busy until just about 10pm. Luckily, we were standing by, ready to speed him off to Conestoga and catch the late show. Earlier, we ate at the Jane Bond, where I had the most garlicy caesar salad, ever. Now, I'm a big fan of garlic ... a really big fan. But this salad hurt. I've never been hurt by a salad before, and it's not a pleasant feeling. I think I can still taste it now.

Film was ... oh, how do I say this? Awesome. It was cartoony, fun, exciting, engrossing. I was still laughing about the cobras 20 minutes after the fact. It was all good. I have to admit, though, that I was a little worried at some points in the film -- that it would follow my expectations, and fall into some of the same routines I've seen in other films. The beginning of the film was surprisingly violent, immediately establishing itself as a non-kids film, despite what the trailers, or reviewers might say. I was concerned it wasn't going to lighten up any. At one point, the film seemed a little over-the-top cartoony, and like "The Mask", a pedestrian translation of the neat and extremely violent comic book, it wouldn't be able to pull back from the brink of Bugs Bunny-esque madness -- but it did. I was nervous that "Kung Fu Hustle" was going to pull punches (pun somewhat intended), and resort to only campy situations, and mediocre laughs. But, pull away the humour and the zany special effects, and you had a great and reasonably serious Kung Fu fable film, just like we've been seeing for years. This one's just much more fun -- especially fun when it came to all the film and pop-culture references: KFH poked fun at other martial artists, like Jackie Chan, Let Li, and even Stephen Chow; it managed to mix "Gangs of New York," "Spiderman," "The Matrix," and "Gone With the Wind" together; it even made fun of "Shaolin Soccer," when the main character, Sing (Stephen Chow) steps on a soccer ball and yells, "No more soccer!"

I'm going to see this film again. At my earliest convenience.

  Schway Webcam

Dig this schway webcam I picked up from Tiger Direct. Saw it in the catalogue, and it was super cheap (like $30).

[new_webcam.jpg]

Takes nice enough pictures, and it's much smaller than carrying around a digital camera. Also, I wouldn't be sad to have this lost/destroyed/stolen. It's more for the novelty than anything else, but handy to have if I ever need a webcam.

[me_at_werk.jpg]

  Blackberry test

Finally got my replacement Blackberry from werk. It's a schway 7280 colour model, with unlmited data for the first couple of months. Wanted to see if I could blog from it.

If you can read this, then, yes, I can blog from it.

I spent about an hour and a half yesterday on the phone with Rogers tech support. Apparently, the rep who sent us this machine mistook it for a Treo, and set us up with the wrong plan. It too 3 tech/account reps to get this thing activated. Thanks to Thomas, the Quebecois guy, for actually knowing what he was talking about. A most helpful support rep.

Can't find a single copy of Win98 French or any other language, save English. Don't know what those QA guys do around here, but the place is a mess. I think I found a half-eaten sandwich among the different test machines.

Turns out the Dev guys figured the problem without my help. So all my searching and ghosting isn't really necessary. Maybe I'll go find a patio and start drinking a little early. Maybe my own patio (huzzah!).

[davepic_041005.jpg]

I know, what's a cute guy such as myself doing in a place like this on a day like today? Gettin the hell outta here, is what.

I've got a training session today for a vendor who keeps yelling at me. As is expected with these guys, they took our generous offer of free training, and changed it around to suit their ADHD needs. They removed a guy, added a guy, added another, then reduced the training to one day, then expanded what they wanted taught, then asked to be trained on something Idon't even train on. Now I've got no idea what I'm presenting, and have to squeeze in three different products into an afternoon session. I bet someone steals my training room too.

This is all on top of the existing high priority issue of configuring these 4 servers for the other guys. Apparently the IBM x346es don't like FreeBSD 4.x installed on them, even after a BIOS upgrade. These machines are so weird, I need a CD to change the hardware RAID on them. I can *never* lose this CD, or I'll never be able to change the HW RAID volumes. I may have to keep a CD in each machine, in case a drive ever fails....

Got a rare treat last night. Got to walk around my backyard and use the barbecue for the first time in a while. It's still beautiful, even with all the dead post-winter vegetation. Luckily, the snow from the weekend is gone and we're starting to get into a proper spring. R cleaned out the pond and raked up some detritus. The lazy, parasitic goldfish (plural) who killed 6 neons and devoured most of the aquarium plants over the winter got sent back outside, and are now quietly floating on their sides in what R thinks (hopes) is just a state of suspended animation. I reassured her that they're quite probably still alive, but promised to fish them out (pun intended) and give them a proper burial if they are dead.

I was up at Home Despot earlier, so I picked up some extra briquettes (figured I'd add a little more thermal mass to the system), and a raised second grill for the BBQ. I also finally got to try out the smoke box that Toxin gave me some years ago. Put some wet hickory in there, and burrowed it under the grill. Man, it was the smokiest veggie burger I ever had. Smelled like I was cooking around a campfire, and made me all nostalgic about camping again. As soon as the weather gets warmer, I want to head out to Algonquin again. Maybe sometime in May.

Note to self: Don't put the buns into the BBQ when it's smoking. Made the buns taste funny and kind of bitter.

I know, I know. Even I think that smoking a veggie burger seems kind of a waste of this little cast iron box. This was a dry run. I'll just have to invite some friends over, and get some steaks, sausages, and portabello mushrooms on there, and put this thing to some real use.

Had a trickle of water invade the furnace room the other night. Looks like I might have to do something about the water softener. Got a plumber coming to look at it, so I put it on bypass until then. Sounds like it might not be anything big -- they say if it's going to crack, it'll be around the top of the fiberglass tank. I didn't see anything, but then again, I don't know how old the machine is. I'm hoping not to have to replace the whole tank. Maybe a tax refund will offset the price a little.

This cake is a lot less sweet than I thought it would be. I got a little hungry, but I'm not going to finish it. Someone remind me next time that the caramel cake isn't very good. The Americano got a little cold while I was typing, so I'm gulping it down quickly. It's a little bitter around the sides and back of the tongue. It's not as good as I remember it, but I don't think I've ever had to choke back a bland caramel cake with it before.

  Weekend Write-off

Despite the heavy snowfall, the weekend wasn't totally a bust. Got to hang out with some friends on Friday night. K+D invited us for dinner, consisting of a delicious (and spicy) stir-fry, some satay tofu, a really tasty (and not too sweet) fruit and lettuce salad. We got to see their new house, and the improvements they made subsequent to moving in.

Saturday was a complete write-off due to the lousy weather, although I was able to get R out to see "Sin City". Neat film -- really stylized, and probably the entirely expected outcome of having a film directed by Miller, Rodriguez, and Tarantino. Think of it as if "From Dusk Till Dawn", "Kill Bill", "White Heat" and Bruce Willis all got rammed together in a car crusher, then had someone desaturate the final mess, and hand it off to Ralph Bakshi for some final touches of sexism and cartoonishness.

Yesterday, we picked up a DVD of the "Lone Gunmen" TV series. Pretty fun series -- too bad it didn't last. It's like Chris Carter suffered some kind of stigma when he tried to come up with anything after "X-Files".

R's been really sick this past week, and I've been trying to keep her comfortable. We've been trying to get at those outstanding chores, such as dishes and the never-ending pile of laundry. I'd like to get at some of the outside chores too, and maybe get the car fixed up for the summer. Looks like the rest of the week will be perfect for these things.

My Blackberry finally gave up the ghost. I'll probably be getting a new one this week, unless I can convince werk to pay for 1X to my cell phone. The pager ended up getting little wet while doing laundry (that's the official explanation), and now it still works, but only to the extent that it says "battery inserted incorrectly" on its screen. The funny thing is that it does this even without a battery inserted. I took it apart, and sure enough, there's a 1 inch lithium-ion battery inside. Well, it doesn't matter too much, since we were going to grandfather these anyway. Now I've got an excuse to speed up the replacement process.

Still, it's been really good this weekend. I only had to go into work on Friday for a couple of hours, and I only got called 4 times yesterday. I know it sounds like a lot, but that's actually a little quieter than a normal weekend for me.

Been looking at the latest build of the Linux wireless gateway software from the folks at PublicIP. They've done some pretty cewl things with it since I last had a look, including allowing users from one zone access to other zones with the same username/password, as well as storing configurations on USB drives -- since the whole thing boots from CD, you can store individual customizations on a USB drive so that it picks them up on a reboot.

You can also control bandwidth for different kinds of users. That's the best part. I can open up my wireless network, but allow only certain ports, and I can filter content as well. Such is the price of free, anonymous internet around my house.

Now I just need them to build in support for the USR wifi card I've got sitting around... This way, I don't need a separate wireless router. Either that, or they should support Orinoco cards. If you get a chance, check them out at http://www.publicip.net/. I believe this project could be a great and free alternative to the pay network that's cropping up in Waterloo.

For a change of pace, I removed the Beta Big Band piece off my phone, and replaced the ring tone with the Muppet Show theme. This was kind of a nod to the Leader, who had a monophonic ring on his Nokia some time ago. Man, every time that thing went off, I laughed. Now, every time my phone rings, I get giggles from everyone around me. OK, it's not the desired effect -- to be ridiculed for a ring tone on my cell. To be honest, I'm not sure what the desired effect was... but I still think it's pretty funny, so I'll leave it on there for a little while longer. I'll silence the phone while I'm in meetings or on conference calls (cause nothing screams professionalism more than the Muppet Show theme).


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