Linux Distro Meme

1) Which was your Linux distribution story?

I started using Linux in 1992 or so with MCC Interim Linux. I had been working with a realtime Linux called LynxOS porting a primitive version of Sendmail to it so it could actually send me mail if the remote telescope it was supposed to operate was functioning.

2) What is your preferred $your_distribution version?

I primarily use CentOS-5 as a desktop these days. While it is very far behind what the cool kids are using.. it matches the servers (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) I am running so code I compile/run are better assured at working at it. When I get a chance I switch to Fedora on desktops that are my preview systems so I know what the servers will be later. However I constantly run into projects that lifetimes for the core OS API's are 5 to 7 years which leaves using Fedora on them not much of an option.

3) Write a short story (more like an anecdote) about your past distribution.

I had spent a month or so working on that versus my school work and one of the technicians downstairs decided to help by bringing up a stack of floppy disks... in 2 days of loading (getting replacement floppies etc) I then got a bunch of tar-balls and got a lot of things working that had cost us over 10k for. While the kernel did not have a millisecond realtime factor.. we were actually getting a lot of stuff done we had not expected to have done. I think we then went to TAMU and SLS over the next couple of months as they had X and other things 'working' in them. By the end of 1993.. we had a working SLIP connection over a 50 km microwave link using custom hardware. By the middle of 1994 I had gotten my own 386 and was using Slackware for everything. I used it until 1996, when I worked for a company that was infamous for giving Microsoft Internet Explorer 1-> 3 and somewhat infamous for Red Baron browser.


The lack of blogging and Lessons learned.

Well I have been 'vacationing' from Fedora for a bit, and work has been rather crazy with various people trying to make up for the 2 jobs David Northrop did.. so I have not really had much urge to blog. However I am going to be changing that hopefully in the coming weeks as the school goes into winter break and I can work on puppet and stuff.

One thing that I have done is work with other operating systems during my vacation to get an idea of where OS's are these days.

1. OpenSolaris. Wow.. this really could do with a 'modern' package management system. I guess some of the blends come with one, but the version I tried on my Sparc Blade was painful to work with. I thought about doing some rpm work there but ran into other issues.

2. MacOS-10.4. Ok I got to spend some time seeing how this OS is set up and I can see the pretty factor.. Installation and removal of stuff seems pretty easy (well except when it isnt) but wow. it is a pain in the butt to find applications at time. I have applications in my tree, my kid's tree and in the main tree.. and some of them are duplicates.. and wow.

3. MacOS-10.5. I now understand the beauty of a 5 second startup. I spend most of my time watching servers where each peripheal card can take 5-20 seconds to set-itself up. The amount of time to get X going is a trivial amount of waiting compared to the various other times. But sitting at the Imac and being able to get to a browser within 30 seconds of turning the system on does have an emotional impact I was not aware of. Finding applications is still a pain.. I guess I am still too menu driven in my logic to understand the Mac way.. but it has been interesting to see what the various Desktop groups are trying to 'keep' up with.

I will be looking at 'administration' of these systems next to see what they have that might be nice to have and what I just can't grok. After that.. I am hoping to have a system where I can run 'Vista' so I can get a full spectrum of what computing is like for others. And then it will be time to look at Fedora Server projects that would be useful to jump into.


American Elections and Such

On November 4, 2008, the people of the United States decided to 'peacefully' change governments as it has done in various forms for the 220 years. As with all elections there are winners and losers. One can look at successful elections when the winners remember that they do not just represent those that voted for them, but all Americans. Another sign of successful sign is when those that did not 'win' do not sit around in sack-cloth and ashes being obstinate and snarly.

One of my grandfather's was about as 'Red' as you can think of someone. He was a Goldwater Republican, a Reagan Republican, and proud of it. But I also remember him getting angry and upset at various people who when Republicans lost during the 1970's wanted to go into 'slash and burn' politics. This was not what he had fought for in World War II, for what he had seen in the camps in Europe after the war was the result of such politics. People have to stand for what they believe in, but also must be able to know that they are usually wrong. [Nobody bats over 0.500 without drugs.]

Its funny, my grandfather didn't 'have much use for Kennedy' but thought that he spoke a truism that people should follow:

"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

So what does all this have to do with Free Software Projects?

When you are voted into a position on a board, remember that you represent not just the 50%+ X VOTES who selected you, but everyone.. even the 'ingrate' who called your previous decision to remove XVi from a base build the biggest step backwards your project has ever done. Make sure that while you may not be able to please that 'ingrate'.. you at least listen to them.

When your candidate does not win, do not spend the next four years making sure those that did win can't even tie their shoes without failing. Cutting off one's nose to spite ones face is a time-honoured position of those who have only fear, anger, hatred and despair to rely on. If one can not stand the present governance, work towards changing it, making it listen, or in the end finding a project that better suits ones needs.

And finally, do not ask what your project will do for you, but what 'together we' can do for the Freedom/Libre/Openness of Mankind.


In Memorium: David J Northrop

Today, my good friend David Northrop died at work today. He was my boss and also my friend. While I had heard of him years ago when I was at New Mexico Tech, I had never met David until I was interviewing for a job at UNM a couple of years ago. David was smart, inquisitive and had done it all: startup, big business, hypno-therapist. The hypno therapist was the biggest reason I took the job. From what David told me, he had done hypnotism mainly as a way to hack the brain. It was a pure computer geeks view of how malleable we all are. David was one of those few computer geeks who could do computers and manage people. He was always available when a crisis occurred and was very good about getting out of people's ways when they were getting stuff fixed.

Anyway, he was a good friend, and I will miss him. As David always said on the way out... "Nighty night"


Taking a vacation from Fedora...

Looking over my posts over the last couple of months, I have turned into the stereotypical grey-beard with lots of complaints about changes and ideas. I have come to realize that what I want from a distro is not the same as others and I should not be the standard to which to hold them.

So I am taking some time to do some thinking and see if I can remember what I enjoyed about computers a while back.

Happy hacking and good luck with Fedora 10.


The Fedora Culture Wars...

One of the things happening on a lot of lists lately has been a lot of heavy reactions to changes. Most of the changes usually start off with someone who is trying to fix something, changes it and then finding that he is getting an email box filled with angry emotional letters that they respond to because they feel they have been attacked. Why all the anger?

I believe that its caused by many factors. The first one that comes to mind is the age-old anonymous nature of the Internet. The inhibitions that many people's brains have aren't triggered that there might be a backlash for emotionally attacking someone. In fact, the brain seems to trigger the sadist's joy of knowing that the other one is powerless to do anything about what you do.

A second feature is email/forums/etc do not have the keys that our brains are wired to understand. We do not see the others face, we don't hear their voice, we can't smell the pheremones they emit.. and so our brain makes up a lot of stuff to fill in the gaps. And because the brain is wired for survival (thats why its there), we usually assume the worst so that we can survive later. So while someone was trying to help in pointing out a problem, our brain says they are going to kill us, and we respond accordingly. If this were 10th century Iceland.. there would be a lot of people with atgeirs embedded in them.

Another big issue is that our communities have grown 'old', and we have developed cultures. Cultures are what we humans build to make sure that we 'collectively' survive out. Not just our genes, but our ideas, our memories, and whatever else we have picked up as something a culture agrees with. Cultures are ways that we know that ALT-F1 is the place to fix your computer, that right click is where you get menus, and that people with Red Hat's are different from people who with Green Lizards. They tell us who we are most likely to agree with, get protection, and just feel safe.

When something changes a 'tenet' that people have relied on for years, it causes a dis appropriate reaction as people work out who is on what side. Our emotional centers that reward loyalty and attack dissension get highly activated, and we war until either one side wins, we meet a consensus, a new side enters and defeats the separate groups, or we completely split into new cultural tribes.

So in the end, we should not be suprised by the fear, anger, and virtual hatred. We just need to make sure we have ways to work through it peacefully versus erupting into a new 100 Year War because someone changed a color from A0E143 to A0E043.


Many Many Thanks to Remi: OCS-ng

I am working on getting asset management together at work, and while working on Smolt would be prefered.. my time line didn't allow for adding that. So looking around, there is an excellent program called OCS-ng which has all the agents I need for Windows, Mac, etc. However, its instructions for setup are rather sparse.. which is where Fedora contributor Remi comes in. His instructions while in a language I can't parse was enough for me to setup the OCS and get a snapshot of some systems to show management. Many thanks.

Bikeshedding or Ur Doing it Wrong

Currently there is a long thread of Fedora Devel list about what names should be used to describe different levels of packager. Like all bike-shedding experiments it goes terribly wrong because words are all overloaded.

I can understand where people are coming from. I think that if some 'quaint' southern phrases for engineers had been used instead of 'Uber-packager' we would have gotten some equivalent feedback on the western side of the Atlantic.

On the other hand, English can be summarized as "We are in ur language, stealing ur words."

I think its the reason some linguists hate English so much.. you can't pin it down and say this is proper English or not.. if you are in York what you say is different from Liverpool.. and don't even go into the differences between Manhatten English and Bronx English. You might be able to define the "Queen's English" but very few speak it as such.


How I deal with political blogs on Fedora Planet

I skip them :).


I agree with the right for people to say what they want as long as it does not harm others.. but Politics rapidly gets into the spot were our Ape brains start hooting and throwing jaw bones at each other. And watching monkeys through poo at each other isn't fun at the zoo, and it isn't fun to read. [And if you do find it fun to watch it.. well I have even less I want to read about.]

So in the end, if it turns out to be something political.. I skip it. It keeps me sane, and if you find yourself working yourself in a foaming lather because of some neo-conservative or social-progressive post.. its probably just a good idea to skip and go onto reading about things that matter...

like if Jesse's kid has gotten a root shell outside of parallels and is installing Fedora-X on Jesse's real computer.

Happy Birthday Fedora... sorry for being a grump.


Geek Gaming.. I feel old.

Wil Weaton's going down. I will definitely meet him in some backroom for a game of Nuclear War someday... see how well he handles Skippy the Wonder Virus and a 100 Megaton. But only chumps drink Dr Pepper.. you going to play NW, bring the Jolt. Of course if Wil Weaton can make Chuck Norris cry.. maybe I should think about it a bit more... [And hopefully he will be a GURPS GM who won't allow for min-maxing.]

Seriously... I realized that I haven't played Nuclear War in 15 years. I have all the decks and expansions in my closet. I guess I should see if I can get someone to remind me of the rules.. not that I have ever won a game. I think I am usually the first to go nuclear wipeout.. Heck I never even won a game of Gammarauders playing the Gammasarus.

Oh Mr Weaton, thanks for rule 17b, it really helped working with my kid on Talisman. And with that I should go back to working on GROT (Generic Roleplaying Omniversal Tasksystem).. a Creative Commons RPG :).


Greg! Can you dig it.

Because one good turn deserves another.. The GregDK theme song 0.3

Who’s the GPL public coder
That’s a hex machine to all the loader’s
Ya damn right!

Who is the coder that would risk his shares
For his brother man?
Can you dig it?

Who’s the cat that won’t page out
When there’s swappin all about?
Right On!

They say this cat Greg is a bad mother
I’m talkin’ ’bout Greg.

He’s a complicated coder
But no one understands him but his program


Almost End of August (finally)

This has been a pretty crummy month.. the dog is getting better (we think), and I have gotten out of hernia surgery and will be recovering for the next 6 weeks ... no lifting anything over 15 pounds (6.8 kg) so its a good thing we have stopped using Sendmail as the Bat book is close to that I think.

On some pain-killers at the moment so sleepy and then 'really-really' lucid (right). Anyway I am celebrating my 20th year of working on Unix's (if for nothing more than learning to compile so I could play my version of nethack that I could win).

Going to spend this next week at home working on some Wiki stuff for EPEL and other websites that have been 'waiting' for a break.. hopefully what is written makes sense :).

Hope everyone has a good September too.


Crappy Week...

This week has been in the real crapper... and still going downhill still so I figured I would post before something else goes on :). So just tab to somewhere else if you don't want to listen to some Generation W whining.

  1. This week was scheduled SANS 401 Community Training, and I was a volunteer co-ordinator. Basically supposed to shuttle around, get students registered, food dealt with etc. Spent the weekend, working on stuff til Saturday afternoon when I develop a small case of food poisoning. Saturday/Sunday mostly not pleasant.
  2. Monday get up real early to get the room ready for the conference. Dog gets up with me and goes for a quick walk.. eats breakfast seems well. Go to conference and deal with the usual 'missing' packets that happen at any conference, my own billing for the conference (University supposedly will reimburse me, etc). Get a call from wife asking if Dog was ok when I left... her leg has swollen up and she is panting a lot. Wife takes dog to vet because Dog to make sure its not a snake/spider bite. Vet says it looks like a pulled shoulder as dog isn't running a large temp, etc. Get home and go 'wow, thats pretty swollen. The Dog is meant to see another vet on Tuesday as it might be related to her auto-immune disease that had affected her skin this spring. [Lets just say that what we thought were spring allergies.. weren't... she has been pretty happy and not seeming to suffer much. Humans with the condition literally melt.]
  3. Tuesday get up and dog seems better.. her swelling seems down and she goes for quick walk with me and eats her breakfast. Get to work and find that the parking lot reserved for the SANS students is full with cars. Due to construction, new students were sent to this parking lot.. SANS students try to find parking and end up with various tickets for where they parked. Go try and deal with that but realizes its better left to the professionals who got it all fixed. Get home and see dog is still okish. [Other vet didn't see it as a problem with medications, and it looked like pulled shoulder joint.]
  4. Wednesday morning. Dog is listless and not moving.. so its off to the emergency room. Dog has high fever and is puffed up in chest. They get her ready for surgery and find that she has a deep internal abcess and possible necrotic cancer. Get sent home as there isn't much to do. Go to University to drop off the keys as I was the person supposed to open up the computer lab for the SANS students. [Thanks to the people at UNM who covered for me.] Go home and wait by the phone. Explain to 7 year old about why the dog isn't home when he gets back from school, and what is probably happening. [Best question ever: "Dad if I was sick like Dog would you leave me alone at the hospital?"] Get phone call from surgeon in afternoon. Dog is doing better but under super heavy anti-biotics. They have taken samples and cultures, but don't think there was a cancer.. Dog will stay overnight. Spend the night waking up and checking on the Dog who of course, isnt there.
  5. Thursday morning. Go to get Dog, stay in waiting room while they deal with some other customers.. The lobby is playing the NBC Olympics which seems to be 60% ads, 30% replays of past races, and 10% of whatever is going on right now... with lots of not-so-subtle political commentary.. it was bad enough that the Amercian women didn't place in some 700+ m swimming contest.. but to be beaten by Russians.. I was expecting for a canned 'hiss' from the audience. My wife has to tell me to shut up about my not-so-subtle comments at the tv. The Dog is brought in and she has a nice large tube to drain the abcess and several bottles of drugs to pump her full of bacteria killers. Try to pay for the vet bill and bounce the card... remember that all the other vet bills this month have basically filled it up. Work out a split bill, and take the dog home. On the way home, get 'pushed' by someone in Nevada plates who is shaking his fist and making hand gestures about me not accelerating like a maniac. Have him pass me and watch him get stuck at the next light and then pull into the Starbucks. Get dog out of the car and onto blankets.. deal with 'drainage'. Go try and get some sleep for a while and get a call on my Work cell-phone from some robo-telemarketer telling me that if we drill offshore we can cut gas by a third in 2009. Hang up and come to post because its been one of those weeks.
And of course... I have that the EPEL meeting is for next Monday, but everyone else was sure it was this Monday. Oh well, I have food, a place over my head, and hopefully a job to go back to tomorrow


CaveMan Programming: Xrange

Oook thanks many bloggers who told Oook about xrange(). Xrange make Oook's code not take 1.5 GB of RAM any more. Oook happy :).

Oook not so happy about finding out about Hernia surgery. Oook should not have done big split reaching for books at FUDCon it would seem. Oook going to get a week of being able to just focus on Python.. so Oook sort of looking forward to it.

[Look forward to Oook on painkillers learning Python.]


CaveMan Programming: Smooge Learns Python

Ok I will admit that I love to write little scripts and stuff, but haven't really progressed in my programming from writing Pascal and BASIC programs of my teenage years.. I see myself as being very much Oook the programmer. Oook gets up, fights T-Rex mailserver, tries to learn new cave painting programming language, and then Oook goes off to slap a Bronto-DNS server and forgets cave-paintings. My long term programming goals are:

  1. Go beyond bourne/awk/sed and learn a modern language like python. [My perl never progressed beyond Perl-4.]
  2. Write a configuration management language using Python and Puppets syntax.. called Ruppet (pronounced with a Scooby-Doo lisp).
  3. Write a hack like game in Java for telephones using a RPG system I am designing for Paper and Pencils.
Well I am still on step 1, and learning lots of things people probably know and will get a kick out of seeing Oook learn. Oook is working seeing what average dice-rolls would be from rolling an openended (eg if a dice rolls a magic number you roll again and add). Oook had done this in awk, but decides he will try new cave paintings called python.

Todays lesson: for loops can use memory.

LOTS of memory if you don't know what you are doing. That is because they aren't your C loop... they are a foreach loop. So when you do a

dicerolls = 10
for i in range(0,dicerolls):
blah open-ended rolling blah

That doesn't look very interesting.. or use a lot of memory... but when Oook changes the number of dicerolls from 10 to 1 billion.. the 32 bit system gets OOM and Oook looks and wonders what went wrong. So Ook goes to 100 million, and starts the open-ended simulation again... Oook then hears disk drives spinning and wonders what is going on.. Oook brings up a top and sees that 100% of the CPU and 1.5 GB of ram is being used by a Python process. Oook then goes to browser to look up why python use so much memory.. his earlier awk script didnt... but browser take long time and disk drive work harder.. Oook remember to kill dice program and tries again. Oook learns that for expands everything out so he had created a list of 1 billion (Oook puts finger to side of mouth when he says that) and that was a lot of memory...

Oook thinks for a bit.. Oook reads about lambdas and other things but does not think he is ready for that level of Witch Doctor Magic. Oook reads web-page further and finds that he could use while loop.

dicerolls = 1000000000
count = 0
while (count < dicerolls):
blah blah blah
count = count + 1

Oook watches diceroll come up and sees that it matches what he wants.. Oook happy. Oook goes back to Bronto DNS server that decided to eat Oooks IP address.


Range Voting, and my grumpy self.

Ok I can see that Range Voting is supposedly a fairer voting method for single seat elections.. but it misses the whole point of elections. They aren't supposed to be fair... they are really only supposed to help placate our hormone driven non-rational monkey brains that we won a war against some other band of monkeys outside of our general 'sphere' without killing (m)any others. Take the fun out of 'stomping' out some other band of monkeys out of existance and you take the fun out of democracy.. and I expect people just don't vote anymore... there is no emotional feeling to keep the majority of the brain engaged.

Anyway, this post is brought to you by the current Fedora 10 naming election, where you can vote for the name of the Fedora 10 release (and by a large lack of sleep and a work project that is augering in due to lack of sleep).
  • Cambridge
  • Famsworth
  • Mississippi
  • Nile
  • Nitrate
  • Saltpetre
  • Terror
  • Water
  • Whiskey Run
Range Voting Links:
  1. http://www.rangevoting.org/
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Range_voting
Monkey Brain stuff:
  1. http://www.cracked.com/article_14990_what-monkeysphere.html
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkeysphere
  3. and a lot of links on how non-rational we humans really are though we won't admit it.
So I am voting for "Whiskey Run", ook.


Red Hat Summit/FudCON final thoughts...

I was going to post a recollection of things.. but its been a weird week back at home (we have been taking the dog to the vet due to some skin sickness.).. so its all gone in my head now. I want to thank Red Hat for sponsoring me and I appreciate all the help people were on making sure I didn't get lost in Boston (I did once on the way to the hotel on Saturday.. some nice Boston University students helped me get to the train which while just outside of the Saturday place.. I somehow went left instead of right and ended up in lala land.)

I do regret not meeting Clint Savage, I have taken several courses from his employer Gurulabs and wanted to go over what they are doing in the future (also I want to get a hold of nice blue sillyputty they give out at the classes in Utah.. ). And I wanted to meet the CIO of Red Hat to go over how they are learning and using ITIL for methods.. but in the long run, I really really enjoyed myself, and will now get back to playing with cfengine/puppet/BfCFG2 for some projects.

Voter Turnout for Fedora

I am very disappointed by the voter turnout for the elections. I will say that every time I vote for it, I am a bit confused by the voting system. I think for the number of possible voters in the system (4096) having something like "pick 3 out of 5" is going to be 'good' enough... or having a simple choose x candidates, or none-of-the-above. However, I read through the docs (once again) and figured out how to vote for people... and did it.

When I found out that only 250 people voted, I asked if we could get a breakdown of who voted.. I wanted to see why some people were more 'motivated' to vote than others, but forgot that such a question is emotionally charged (did Red Hat press people to vote? did dell.com press people not to vote? did a gang of wild gutsy gibbons come in and sway the vote?) Duh.. human emotions are hard, can I go back to hacking?


Odd problems in Fedora 9

  1. Mouse keeps jumping from left handed to right handed on home computer. The system will log in with a left handed mouse, and will continue to be so until the screensaver kicks in. Then it becomes a right handed mouse (and seems to be slower as if its doing a double shift of every mouse click). Nothing in the logs that I can find to say why.. The only way to fix it is with going into the mouse menu and telling it is a left handed mouse again. No idea what to file that under.
  2. Weird problem on laptop with NetworkManager. Either I fill up the logs with wlan0 disconnects when the box is on the wired network in the docking station.. or every now and then I get a bunch of killswitch logs and the rsyslogd gets killed by millions of NetworkManager messages.

    [Bug 448889] NM enters endless loop, floods /var/log/messages

  3. Had problems with my own virtual machines in my home directory versus in default place. Selinux was having some issues, but I worked with the selinux guys on a policy to do something different.. and it worked out fine. [I always go into a release to learn new things about Selinux.. so thats cool]
  4. I need to work on Fedora-Sparc it would seem... I am getting a Sparc box and I am not sure that I want Solaris11 on it :).


FudCon to the Rescue!

So it was one of those "chose a career day" at summer camp, and the kid wanted to be a "code worker". So what should he wear? The questions of do code workers have uniforms and such came up.. so I lucked out as Seth had given me a small FudCON t-shirt last week. So my kid is in a standard code-worker uniform: t-shirt from some random trade-show, shorts, and flip-flops. I only wish I had gotten an OLPC as that would have finished it out for him.


The Andromeda Pain [Spoilers]

On Saturday, I had to leave FudCON early so I could catch an early plane from Providence RI. Taking the T commuter on the weekend seems to be a packed occurrence.. even without a game it was pretty full. [The conductor for our end of the train sat next to me on the last run, and was saying he had been running up and down all day... ] When I got out at Providence, I went to get a cab, but the driver said it would cost me 3.00 to get there and I only needed to walk a couple of blocks.. so I did and got lost :). Not too bad, the big issue was that there was construction and I kept going to the wrong hotel. It was a nice experience, the downtown river is set up for Naples gondoliers (and smells much nicer than Naples)... so I watched that for a bit. When I got to the hotel, I was really beat and laid down and watched whatever looked appealing. It was there that I got caught up in the A&E movie "The Andromeda Strain" where they take Micheal Crichton's book and try to make it into a 6+ hour series.

I had read some painful reviews of the movie, and it surpassed most of them. I switched between channels but I can only watch so much high-stakes Poker... and I didn't want to turn on the computer and I wanted to save my book reading for the next day's flight. In the end, I kept coming back to the "Andromeda Pain" and coming up with a list of where this was really broken. I liked the actors for the most part, and they seemed to be making as much of what was broken, but the editing and the story had so many problems.. it was hard for them to keep a straight face in some scenes.
  1. My number one peeve is.. if you have to use time-travel to save your story.. you should start from ground zero. Time travel is really really hard to do without coming up with general paradoxes, not alone large ones. As in, if the future Earth is being wiped out by some sulphur based lifeform, would they use basic chemistry and come up with a Silver based chemical to break it down (aha what I learned from Fedora 9... silver reacts violently to sulphur)... or create a wormhole device that will send back in time to the time when 'Bacterus Infernus' (some bacteria that is going to be wiped out when the US starts deep-vent mining..) especially when they know that by doing so they probably help set up the events of it wiping out the future Earth.
  2. If you are going to stage an assassignation of your lower end goons at the end of the movie so they won't talk, make sure it will pass general examination that anyone watching 2 CSI episodes would know about now. Don't use a silenced gun and then plant it on the one person especially when the shot angles and burn residue is not going to work.
  3. If you are going to wipe out all the witnesses (e.g. the scientists who were stopping the plague in your super secret CDC location)... don't do it by setting the lab to self-destruct with its internal nuke especially when you learned earlier that the life-form mutates massively with radiation.
  4. Originally, the plague starts in Utah, and becomes a pathogen that interacts via people, air, and water.. in order to keep the tension up, we have it riding a storm.. which must be somehow affected by the wormhole as it is going East to West.. heading towards Las Vegas and eventually California where the President has sent his family for safe-keeping. Fronts head west to east due to lots of factors.. and anyone who watches the evening news is going to see that.
  5. If you are going to put a nuke on a plane make sure it looks like a nuke that every other movie has used. Don't put a single sidewinder on a jet and make it out as a kiloton strength nuke.
  6. If your nuke goes off... make sure you have 2 windstorms pushing and pulling the air to and from the blast. And yes, if you have a storm from going East to West... people to the southwest should be affected by the fallout versus just being all fine.
  7. ASCII is 7 bit and not 8 bit. If your time-travelling geeks from the future are going to send a message back in time... please send it in something a bit clearer than alternating molecules of rhobedium and potassium (or something). A carved record works just as well.
  8. If you are going to store your virus that you stole from your own lab.. don't store it on the International Space station... right next to where the Sozuz capsule connects.. I don't think the Russians or the Japanese are going to not miss your secret lab there.
  9. If the CDC does have these sort of labs all around the country in case of mysterious plague.. make sure you have a physicist, a mathematician, a chemist, and a computer scientist on your team.. having 4 'medical' doctor/scientists try to piece all that together could have destroyed the world.
The story seemed to be a mashup of every left-wing conspiracy theory I have ever heard about the government, the military, the press, etc. It was to the point where the only acceptable theory was that it was written by a room of right-wing writers who were trying to lampoon every "Social Liberal" conspiracy theory they could google up. For a movie really trying to be "The Stand" it was almost too painful to watch (well I did stick it out to the final "gotcha" where we see that the time loop is firmly going to happen.. and the future is forced to be destroyed).


Fudcon Reports in reverse order

I am currently at Boston University after 2+ days and finally have some time to blog. It has been a blast.. and I have lots to cover in a couple of blogs probably Monday (when I get sleep.) I would like to thank Red Hat once again for making sure I could make it here. It was great to see so many people I only knew from IRC or had not seen since 2001 when I left Red Hat.

I will say that the most common comment that came to me when I ever met someone that I did not know "Wow, you don't look like anything I expected"
  1. Max Spevack is not 6 foot 2.
  2. John Puelma does look like Rick Astley
  3. Yingbull is not a Chinese Cowboy from Texas
  4. Seth Vidal is a really nice person :).


Going to FudCon Boston!

Well it looks pretty certain that I will be going to FudCon Boston this year. I want to thank Red Hat (Max Spevack and Paul Frields especially) for making this possible this year. I would also like to thank my employer University of New Mexico, for letting me have the time off to do this.

I will be manning the Fedora booth for a good portion, and talking up EPEL with people. I am going through the old storage bins for classic Red Hat t-shirts. I hope they will be acceptable wear (I won't be wearing the Red Hat Mirrors shirt.. I am not sure anyone wants to know the size of my internet pipe whatever that means).

Hope to see lots of people who I only know via IRC and email.. plus see if I can finally get a finished version of my treatise on Red Hat naming history.. I got 2/3 of the way through last time and threw it away because it was getting rather repetitive and rather tall in the telling (in Jun 1998, the memo-list had another flame war about naming conventions... causuality listings were 1 developer and 8 marketing people. The smell of burnt pompadours filled the complex for weeks.)

Ketchup: Back From Carolina

Well, the kid and I survived the trip to Carolina even though the heat wave and other events seemed to conspire against us. I had hoped to go on some nature hikes but with heat index's over 110 it was pretty much a stay indoors and spend time with the grand-parents. Thankfully we didn't kill each other though I believe we were coming close at the end :).

Good Things We Did
  1. Showed how to make a camp-fire from natural items. Granddad showed how to get cedar bark, twigs, how to make a fire circle, and what order to put materials on the embers. However, he had to cheat because his flint and steel were at the other grand-kids... and his other spark making stuff was too much of a fire threat.
  2. Went on a short boat trip and saw snapper fish, some fish, and got chased by mud-swallows for going near their nests. Didn't get to play pirate though and hide treasure.. the heat was getting too much.
  3. Got to camp out with the kid for one night. Well it was a camper versus a tent.. but it was nice to pretend we were on safari.
  4. The area has changed a lot. My old high school is now an intermediate school, and the 'new' high school is at least 100% larger. I took the kid to my elementary school and saw that most of the places we were sure had ghosts had been torn down.
  5. Marshmellows! The campfire ended with spooky stories and got to roast a bag of marshmellows. We tried to cook over the fire, but the amount of time it took was longer than attention spans :).

Things To Avoid
  1. Walnut Grove Plantation. When I was young, we would go there and see various exhibits about making fabrics and life in the 1700's. While not as lively as HopeWell Furnace, it was fun to learn how to make dies and such. It would seem that most of the things I remembered were only available once a year now. We got there at opening time, and were told to wait while they got ready. Then when we got in, we were told we had missed the opening tour and the next one would be in 50 minutes.. I was less than impressed with the Southern hospitality. The tour was short and only talked about a limited list of items per room. The "Do you have any questions" kept stumping the guide. The old ghost stories were no longer told since the 'blood stain' had been disproven, and the guides seemed more interested in getting back to the air-conditioning than explaining how things were done. The kids words summed it up: "Blech".
  2. Humidity and heat make for a broken Smooge. I have had a bad eye problem since 1997 which leads to little 'blow-out' patches in the layer above the retina. Almost on queue, 24 hours after I got to the Carolinas.. I got a bad headache, and pop there goes my left eye again. Thankfully this one is not in the central area so didn't affect driving too much.
  3. Television.. We don't have commercial TV or cable at the house.. and I got to remember why. While there was some good tv out there (We liked Ben-10).. the amount of crap being foisted for "Kung-Fu Panda", "Hulk", etc was amazing. The nice thing was that Grandma's video collection is extensive and I could take a break with my favorite Autistic hero: Sherlock Holmes.
That's about it. I really wanted to see my sister in Tennessee, but schedules just didn't line up this year. Hopefully next year. It is nice to be back in New Mexico, even if my allergies fired up as soon as the plane went below 10,000 feet :).


Zombies in the Playground

Day X in South Carolina... temperatures over 100, humidity over 100... Fedora 9 not installing on old desktops.... sleep needed..

But we have a new meme to try!

You are in a mall when zombies attack. You have:

  1. One weapon
  2. One song blasting on the speakers
  3. One famous person to fight along side you.


  1. Sawed off semi-auto shotgun
  2. Blue Oyster Cult: Fire of Unknown Origin
  3. HellBoy (Ron Perlman)

1. Sawed off semi-auto shotgun.


Relicensing work... Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License

When I first started this blog, I put a Creative Commons License on it, but scared of what I should licence it.. I put that people could not make money off of what I post. After reading through Karsten's and other comments I realized that I really didn't need to put the non-commercial.. its not like I am Cory Doctorow swimming in money from my work already :). So I am hear by re-licensing all my blog contents as "Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License".


Autism, children, and Survivor...

As a person with autism like symptoms and a father of a child with autism.. stories about children being 'mistreated' because of their autism... hits me in the gut. Having spent most of my youth being the painful butt of jokes for being different and not understanding why they occurred, I can say I understand the fear and sadness this child is going through. I can also feel blessed with the professionals and teachers that have helped us the last 5 years. I just wish there were more of them so that so many parents did not have to go through that Hell. [And I realize there are 2 sides to every story.. with usually the teacher being the one getting the short end of the story. I just hope that the teacher and the school learn something from this to come up with better ways to handle students with autism.]

  • http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2008/may/23/st-lucie-teacher-has-class-vote-whether-5-year-old/
  • http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/6319

Grumpy Old Man Post: F-9

So this weekend, I moved my laptop from CentOS 5.1 to Fedora-9 so I could use the 'encrypt' partition rules on LVM since I will be doing a lot of travel in the next month. And so far its been a long day of "huh why doesn't that work". Most of it is the stuff that comes from jumping from Fedora-5.9 to Fedora-9 should entail.

  1. Pulseaudio does not start up when I log in. This causes some apps to leave nasty-grams in .xsession-errors and such. Changing gconf did not seem to help things... so I went old school and rm'd .gconf, .gnome, .mcop, .i-have-no-idea and anything else that I figured migth set up a session. And went through and reset up my 'account'.
  2. Wrestling with the fluendo site to get the updated drivers I paid for a while back. The Fedora codeina doesn't talk to the new website, and the codeina in SVN at fluendo doesn't 'deal' with Firefox-3.0x very well. Lots of bug-buddy dumps on my screen as I tried and failed to get that working.
  3. I use CNTRL a lot.. between emacs, screen, and other things it is probably the most used key on my keyboard. Having it in the lower left really caused my RSI to flair up.. so I have usually gone with the 'Sun' layout with swapping my Caps lock and Control. Well for some reason F-9 lights up the caps lock LED everytime I tap the remapped Control key. It never did this before.. so I am trying to figure out what I screwed up.
  4. I completely failed the google apps treasure hunt this weekend. I forgot binomial theorum, my scripts came up with the wrong numbers to 'add/multiply' together.. and I felt like a complete idjut by the end.
  5. I need more bran I think.
On the good news..
  1. my fonts look nicer in F-9
  2. my laptop is now encrypted so I won't be a bad news story if it gets ripped off from me while I am on travel this year.
  3. my laptop can now do 3d effects!
  4. I am going to FudCon!


Fedora 9: Take 2.

Well I ran into a bug in the preupgrade with the unison package.. I am not sure exactly what happened but anaconda said it couldn't update the pacakge and could not continue the upgrade.. but then when I rebooted into rescue mode on the system... the two unison packages had been upgraded to F9 versions. Since there was a lot of half-cleaned up packages... so I figured a good old reinstall would let me build some encrypted partitions and everything.

Fedora 9 has been pretty fun so far... my only complaint is that packagekit doesnt seem to allow for multiple packages at once... so I am off to use yum for a bit until I figure out that.


Why the OPEC can't increase production...

One of the big issues going around everywhere is the high price of Oil and why doesn't OPEC increase production... and this will drop oil prices. The sad fact is that it doesn't work that way:
  1. Most of the Opec countries are at near-maximum capacity currently. They can increase production in small amounts but at the expense of downtimes etc for facilities... without those small downtimes.. the oil producers end up with bigger problems.
  2. Many of the mid-east OPEC companies do not sell the crude US refineries like. US refineries like 'sweet' crude that Texas, Mexico and Venezuela produce. This is the oil that is at ~125.00 per barrel. The price for the oil that Saudia Arabia, Iran, etc sell is mostly sour which takes longer to process and clean. The standard 'Sour' grade is around 100.00 per barrel with some lower Sour's not selling at 80.00. [The cost of removing the sulfur and other deposits seems to be over $40.00/barrel for these 'grades'.]
  3. Refineries have been rebuilt over the last couple of decades to run 'cleaner' and want the lighter stuff. They are running near capacity in the US and would need down time to change to heavier crude oils. [This is also one of the reasons for higher diesel prices.. more of the refineries are being used to make 3 grades of gasoline and less for diesel.]
  4. One of the things that goes against oil tapping in the Alaskan refuge is that the oil there looks to be mostly heavy sour oil like other parts of the north slope. This oil even if it were as large as the Saudi fields would not help the price of the oil that is most used.
Actually one of the things that would cut gas prices was to remove the need for mid-grade gasoline. Most cars run well on lowtest or on high-test. The mid-test supposedly takes up 1/5 of refining capacity which could be converted to low-test. This would boost domestic gas production or diesel production which would lower prices. I expect that in the case of gas prices going north of US$4.00-$4.50 that this will go through congress and states will push for 55 mph speed limits as that would reduce consumption enough to lower prices to $4.00 stage.

Anyway... this is what happens when you give me a napkin, a pen, and a meeting I didn't need to be in :).


Keeping things in perspective

I was catching up with my OLPC emails and trying to make heads and tails of who to work with or help these days... when I looked down at the Starbucks cup in front of me..

All children need a laptop. Not a computer, a human laptop. Moms, dads, grannies, and grandpas, aunts, uncles -- someone to hold them, read to them, reach them. Loved ones who will embrace them and pass on the experience, rituals, and knowledge of a hundred previous generations. Loved ones who will pass to the next generations their expectations of them, their hopes, their dreams.
General Colin L Powell

Odd what shows up in places when you don't expect them.


Fedora 9: Impressions

Well I am currently still downloading at home using preupgrade... I expect it will be ready by this weekend. [xDSL is not that fast where I live... though if I switch all my phones to Qwest I can get fiber-optics for $100.00/month or some such thing.... which at a University salary ain't happening anytime soon.]

I was able to torrent at work the live cdrom image and the DVD... I don't know exactly what Nemoy's problems were... I couldn't duplicate them on the downloads. The USB key was created and I am going to be installing hardware this week using the persistent image on some networks without DHCP/PXE. [Install key, install live image, install RHEL-5 for the server.]


Ketchup: Aleph -Aleph-Null

Well I have fallen behind in doing my EPEL chores and about everything... so am spending today recovering from stomach bug to try and ketchup again.

1. Went to see Speed Racer Was better than I was expecting... it was not camp and did keep to the silliness of the original series without going overboard (well ok my wife didn't think so.. but this is definately a boys movie.) Of course coming out of the movie I felt like everything was going toooooo slow. I am not sure if that helped the stomach bug to come on or it was coincidental.. but boy did I feel a wreck on Sunday. [I have come to hate camp... it was ok for the Brady Bunch movies... but when every 1960's/70's remake is a camp extravaganza it gets old.. I am really upset in seeing that Land of the Lost is going to end up as a Will Ferrel beast.]

2. Allergies have been pretty bad this year. I wasn't allergic to much until I moved to Illinois in 1995.. and since then its been a slide downhill. [Of course I am getting old...] So its a constant haze of benedryl and itchy noses.

3. EPEL is moving along in spite of me... I will have the reports up soon.


I can only boggle also

A couple of days ago, Walter Bender announced that he was leaving the OLPC project to do some other things... and this brought about a lot of "OLPC is whithering/dead" talk. Having heard this kind of talk about a lot of projects in the past (FSF, Red Hat, Debian, SuSE, etc etc), I figured I should be the wise old man and post how this is not always the case because organizations change, people leave as things change..

And like most "wise old man", I was an ass. After reading some articles about possible changes at OLPC.. I will go eat my crow. So instead of saying anything beyond.. sorry for being an ass, I figured I would link to someone who is more articulate. Michael Tiemann wrote exactly how I am feeling about OLPC this morning..

I think the part that rankles me is that I don't consider myself a zealot about Open Source, but consider it a useful business decision to make about hardware+software in the developing world.


Fedora: Bug Tracking != Incident Tracking != Project Tracking

Bugzilla like most bug-tracking software is an extremely useful tool. It can be used for tracking incidents, bugs, service requests, project plans, etc.. it is the screwdriver of Fedora/Red Hat that gets used by developers,etc for a hammer, plunger, and any other tool that is needed. And that is a major problem for people when they look at it.

A good while ago, I looked for open bugs in Kerberos, and found some that I had opened at a former job in 2003ish. According to bugzilla they had not been looked at, touched, felt, changed etc.. and that made me very pissed. Then I remembered that I had talked to the developer a couple of times on those very bugs. He was using the bugs as a reminder that this was a long standing issue that needed to be dealt with in RHEL-2.1 at some point or to see if it showed up later. My guess was that he and I both forgot about it as it didn't show up in later versions and well I wasn't so bothered by it that I opened up a trouble ticket with Red Hat. However, looking at it fresh from 4 years later.. my immediate emotional reaction was anger.. and a week later it became a problem with my former job and Red Hat because the former workplace saw it as money they wasted with Red Hat.

Now there are lots of ways the ticket could have been dealt with... most of them things I should have done.. but I would like to outline one that might be useful.

Keeping the ticket in the main bugzilla was useful for a while with the developer because he could track it as something that might be a bigger problem or was part of a project.. but it was not easy for someone outside to see it, nor was it useful after we both forgot it. And its not hard to forget it when you have a package with hundreds of 'issues' that need to be fixed or tracked with upstream.

Anyway my pondering on this made me wonder if there was a way to split up the bug database into multiple 'sub-ones' with an overall tracker available. The sub databases would be 'triage' where all initial bugs go into, 'incident' where things that are obviously broken get pushed to for a patch to be tracked and put out on, and 'project' where bugs in triage that are going to take a large amount to fix go. Incidents might go out there if the fix is a work-around but the real fix is a major rewrite. There might be another one or two (service requests), but I think those 3 cover the majority (80% solution) of what Bugzilla gets used for. People when putting in a bug see it goes into triage. There is gets dealt with by a set of people who get enough info to see if it goes somewhere else in the hierarchy and what the 'priority' of the bug would be (the background is supposed to be fe:00:00 not fd:00:00 is low, bash drops setuid core dumps is a bit higher.) and then it gets pushed to incidents or projects where it lives out its merry long life.

Anyway, a brainstorm I figured I needed to write before I forgot.

Note from Republican Elitist: Obama got it right

Note this will be my only political blog for April 2008 etc.. I am supposed to be talking about EPEL and such :).

I have been a Republican since 1992 when I tossed a dice and the 1:6 chance of joining that party came up. I mean the party subscribed at that time to some of my views (balanced budget, term-limits, streamlined government, etc) but veered from others which pretty much is the same for every other party I could have joined... some of my views not all of them.

And what I can tell from the last 16 years of TV ads, telephone calls, get out the vote people dropping by my door.. they all play on bitterness, fear, anger, and cynicism. And from the ones who come over for my wife's vote (she is a different party), it is the same. From all the emails I get from various relations, acquaintances, random people I don't know.. the message is the same: bitterness, fear, anger, and cynicism. Yell that the other politicians are going to take away your babies, your guns, your rights, your jobs, or yell that they are going to make you have more babies, more guns, but take away your rights and your jobs. All of it stoking fear, bitterness, anger, and hatred. All of it pushing buttons in our heads to suffer more... with the idea that voting for the person in front of you, the suffering will stop.

And when someone comes out and talks about the elephant in the room.. we all act like the chimps who have to beat up the new chimp because he is going to get a banana and we are all going to get hosed again.

So I am going to say "Hell Yeah", and the next pollster who calls or comes to my door is going to get a "Why are you trying to make me bitter?" in the face... because all it takes is the removal of one t and you have "biter".. and thats what I am going to be. [But not on this blog.. expect EPEL, CentOS, and RHEL posts soon.]


Meme, MiniMe [Shell History Meme]

Following along!

[smooge@canopus ~]$ history | awk '{a[$2]++ } END{for(i in a){print a[i] " " i}}'|sort -rn|head
709 ls
600 john
357 awk
356 grep
184 cd
181 tcpdump
137 emacs
128 sed
125 ssh
124 cat

I need to use python more it would seem.. but I have gotten out of the habit that I learned on the Vax... sync; sync; every 4 commands.


The Incredible Shrinking Dr. Dobbs Journal

My wife and I have been a long time subscriber and reader of the Dr Dobbs Journal, and have seen it expand and shrink over the years. Lately though it has been shrinking quite a bit. All my favorite columns had been dropped (embedded programming, etc), and the articles had gotten smaller and smaller with each issue. So I had decided not to re-subscribe as Michael Swaine's flames while entertaining were not worth the price :). As each of the last issues have come in, each seemed thinner than the last with fewer and fewer pages.. the final arrived last week, and it would seem it is the thinnest of all: 3 pages. A Cover page saying "This is your last issue", and the cover/end sheet of the magazine.. sans content.

My only guess is that the Post Office seeing that I was unsubscribing just wanted to show me what the magazine was going to be in 4 issues. On the good news, I became a Usenix member for the first time, and found that the ;login: magazine to be more than a makeup for my lost SysAdmin and Dr Dobbs. I wish I had joined earlier.


Standards and meeting them

The next time I make a web page and run into it not looking correctly on the various versions of FireFox/Safari/Explorer... before I get a contract out on some programmers.. I will reread:


Which reminds us how various standards develop over time using an analogy about Martian headphones and why they all act slightly different.

My favorite quote so far:

If you’ve ever visited the ultra-orthodox Jewish communities of Jerusalem, all of whom agree in complete and utter adherence to every iota of Jewish law, you will discover that despite general agreement on what constitutes kosher food, that you will not find a rabbi from one ultra-orthodox community who is willing to eat at the home of a rabbi from a different ultra-orthodox community. And the web designers are discovering what the Jews of Mea Shearim have known for decades: just because you all agree to follow one book doesn’t ensure compatibility, because the laws are so complex and complicated and convoluted that it’s almost impossible to understand them all well enough to avoid traps and landmines, and you’re safer just asking for the fruit plate.

The precise problem here is that you’re pretending that there’s one standard, but since nobody has a way to test against the standard, it’s not a real standard: it’s a platonic ideal and a set of misinterpretations, and therefore the standard is not serving the desired goal of reducing the test matrix in a MANY-MANY market.

DOCTYPE is a myth.


This is something I remember getting drummed into our heads at Spyglass when we brought in a bunch of SGML Gurus. Let us repeat... "DOCTYPE is a myth." QAing a browser is a painful experience... you have this specification that says

must be at end of a paragraph... AND NO_ONE USES IT! Well they do now.. sometimes.. if they remember.

Oh well... my migraine medicine is not rated for this so I am going to end with a good memory... nope blood vessel popped and I can't remember it anymore.



Superglueing USB/Firewall ports (LANL)

One of the latest security trends is being able to grab sensitive data from a machine with just a USB key. This got me to thinking about one of the most harumphed thing from LANL employees.. the superglue-ing of external ports of all lab computers and the lock-down of laptops.

Not that its going to quiet down any, but a lot of people could not see any reason why you would want to do this and poo-poo'd the scenarios where someone could steal something from their computer (or use their computer for something bad). Well it turns out that the scenarios were not too far fetched, and you can try it soon yourself with 'DaisyDukes' a memory sniffer that will read data from a 'locked' laptop or office computer... whether its running Linux or Windows.

And if you have any computer with Firewire (hi Macs!) you are even more hosed. The firewire port has direct access to memory and can walk through all the protected parts. And depending on what your USB is and what drivers.. this can be the case also. While most of the published papers have been made public in the last couple of months.. a lot of this has been outlined in public research 2 or 3 years old... [and supposedly older, but I can't read Chinese to confirm or deny.]

I am not saying to go out and superglue your computers USB/Firewire/video-card ports (I am waiting for someone to figure out how to get into a computer with some of the latest video cards memory access).. Just be aware that someone with casual physical access to your computer can get more out of it without needing to take it apart.
  1. Make sure you know who has access to your computer when its on and off. The more sensitive the data you have on it, the more you need to control that access.
  2. Make sure you have a BIOS password and its not 00000, 123456, etc.
  3. Make sure your computer does NOT boot from a plugged in USB key etc.
As with all things security related, you are trying to make yourself less of a casual target...


Red Hat IT plans..

Thank you for the post. I will say that this is a lot more open communication than many years ago (though that was because we were in constant firefighter mode).

As someone who has been going through various ITIL training lately.. I can say it does look good and can make a difference because it is stuff that most people do but forget because we are usually in firefighting mode. And when we forget.. we usually have to go back and do it again.

The main concern to deal with is when we get to the point we feel we have to have proper change/incident/problem management before we can make a pot of coffee in the morning (I have seen ISO projects go this way.. it becomes paperwork driven because too many people get in the wrong mindset... they can only see the swamp without alligators and other people can only see the alligators.)

The second issue is that a lot of us in the IT industry are used to being the Scotty: Under promise and over deliver. It sounds like customer service... but it can also cause dependency issues where people know that you will somehow deliver a miracle because you have always done things you said were impossible before.

ITIL is about promise exactly X and deliver exactly X and only charge for X. which allows you to then say you will do miracle Y but it will cost you Y. Which makes sure that you don't overwork people.. but again you have to be careful of going too far along that way. IT people do not want to feel that they are working at McDonald's where everything is scripted down to how to lay out the fries.

As with any process change, it has to be watched closely because people have a tendency to go too far without some sort of external governance (just like an engine.. you have various governors to make sure it doesn't go too slow or too fast).

Anyway, thank you for being so open about this. I can point this out to other CIO's.


Supposedly there was no inflation last month...

I have the feeling something is out of whack on the inflation numbers. According to the U.S. Federal Government, the core rate of inflation was flat last month. I don't know how they came up with those numbers.. but they sure didn't look at our house :). Prices on food have gone up in all the stores we go to in NM and from talking to my sister in Tenn and my parents in SC its gone up there too, and we have all had to cut back on things.

My feeling is that this is going to be one of those numbers that's going to be revised a couple of times (probably during days when there are other crisis that will bury it on the back page.) I know its a standard thing during election years to play with the economic numbers at first to make sure that things don't look that bad.

I mean we could say that the US unemployment is only 4.6%.. because we only now measure who is actively looking for employment. If you add in the people who have part-time employment and are wanting full-time.. that number shoots to over 8%. And if you count in the number of people who were looking and have given up because its been 2+ years since they were employed.. the number goes over 12%.. but well that would look like... France or somewhere.

[Addendum:] Duh.. the core inflation does not cover food and energy. Of course with the fact that we are spending a LOT more on those 2 items.. we can't buy anything else.. so those prices would not go up. Well, not until people ask for more raises to cover the fact that they can't buy clothes, washing machines, etc.. because food+energy is so much of the budget.



So its been a month.. what have I been doing? Not blogging is one thing.

  1. I have been reading the latest Wild Cards book: Inside Straight. I have also been going over what it would take to run an RPG campaign of the game. I have been enjoying the book pretty much... the Wild Cards series was very gritty and realistic about what people with super powers would be like.. and one thing is that a good many were not very likable. This one twists it in a new way, what if people really wanted to be heros beyond just some reality TV. I found that moving and I look forward to the next books. I like being inspired again by 'superheroes'.. especially when I find most modern comics to be stuck in the heroes arent inspiring mode.
  2. I got my book signed by the authors... that was really cool.
  3. I have not been playing Kingdom Hearts with my kid. We are currently taking a break while he reads me a lot of books. Its great to see him grow and finding new worlds for himself to explore.
  4. I got a position on the EPEL steering committee, and started trying to help out on packages. I am looking to 'shepard' about 8 or so packages so that rt3 can be produced. I have a wishlist of getting the normal network security apps over also.
  5. I got a promotion to being EPEL steering committee chairman. I am working on getting my life in order for that (being on time, etc).
  6. Since my life has not been in order, I am no longer the QA Lead for CentOS. Tim Verhoeven has been doing an excellent job of this.. so I am quite happy.
  7. I am dealing with my Passive Aggressive problems. I realize I have them, and I have inflected them on a lot of people. Please call me on this if I inflect them on you.


Grumpy Man Report: Why US Taxes will have to go up

Taxes are going to have to go up because the US has to pay off its debts at some point. No matter what snake-oil politicians and some economists will tell you, a nation can't continue to borrow forever any more than a family can. As a nation, we have spent trillions of our children's money on our current happiness.. and eventually we will have to pay for it with interest. And we have not only squandered our children's futures, but we have heavily borrowed from countries that rarely have our nation been 'good friends' with. Personally, I think thats a base form of treason, but I am a grumpy old man here.

The only solution I see are the following guidelines:

  1. We (every citizen of the US) are responsible for our nation's debt. We voted in the people who spent the money, we didn't get enough people to oppose it in the past, and in general we have been happy with all the things they bought us. That's our fault, and we have to take responsibility for that. Vote for people who promise to work for a balanced budget AND a removal of the US's past debt, keep on them to stick to their promise, and vote them out if they don't follow through.
  2. A balanced budget amendment. The federal government may only borrow in times of national emergency which have been approved by 3/4 of the house of representatives. It must pay back any borrowed money within 20 years of its issuance. It must set aside no less than 5% of its budget to pay back the principle on any past debts.
  3. Congress must have a 'fixed' budget for special projects. Pork projects are part of the game of democracy.. as there are always special 'needs' that fall outside of the normal games. However, I would like to give each Representative and Senator a fixed allowance (like we do our kids) per fiscal year. They can wheel and deal that money between themselves as much as they want, but it is a fixed amount that once spent is gone for that year. The amount of money is approved by a super majority and is public knowledge.
  4. A line item veto amendment. Most states have this, and yes it does give more power to the Executive branch.. but it is also the tool with which to make sure that Congress is kept in check.
  5. Transparency in government spending. Make sure that your local, state, and other governments are transparent in how they spend their money. See if they can use the Missouri state software and website as a model for showing where every penny of taxpayer money is spent.
My general work for this election campaign will be to ask everyone I am voting for what their stand on these issues are, and how they are going to make them happen by 2010. If they can't or won't answer.. they do not get my vote... and even if they are elected.. I will continue to petition them on those items.

Well this has rambled on enough... the attendant is going to take me over to the sunlight for my nap time.



Version: GnuPG v1.4.5 (GNU/Linux)



Have you quit beating your wife, InformationWeek style

I found out this week that a set of former Los Alamos National Lab (LANL) coworkers of mine have gone into the startup business. They are using some netflow security code that they worked really hard on internally to get the business rolling. Yesterday was the official rollout of the code and getting all the usual press buzz. 24 hours later you get the inevitable counter-ads by people.

The article basically does the usual backhanded compliments and mischaracterizations that make me steamed even when I don't know the people slaving away at the project.

  1. Did the author download and try the software? From the article it doesn't seem so. That clearly makes the author more of an expert than if he had done so.
  2. Was the author able to make spurious associations about the product and where it came from? Yes. The only thing he missed was the free Google hit by saying "Los Alamos, birthplace of the nuclear bomb." By quoting various computer security problems that either happened outside of the LANL network (the email breach was done from home computers if I recall correctly) or events that were completely physical in nature, he is assured to get a free blog post to various blogs.
  3. Could the article be spun also negatively if its main premise was the opposite? Yes. The author could have rewritten the article as "Company tries to leave the slime of its origin behind" if Packet Analytics had not mentioned where the software was started. He makes a big deal about the connection between LANL and the startup when a good portion of the press I read yesterday was about how the software had helped FBI issues.
  4. Does Net/FSE do what it claims to? Who would know.. fact checking would seem to be outside of knowing what a startup really offers.
I will state for the record that Los Alamos National Labs has a lot of issues, but that doesn't tell anyone about what the startup is really about.


Even grumpier old man comment...

On reading through the actual article on Java Programming, I can see that they are complaining about the dumbing down of CS for todays environment.. however, I have to say it sounds like the inevitable anger about change..

Let us propose the following principle: The irresistible beauty of programming consists in the reduction of complex formal processes to a very small set of primitive operations. Java, instead of exposing this beauty, encourages the programmer to approach problem-solving like a plumber in a hardware store: by rummaging through a multitude of drawers (i.e. packages) we will end up finding some gadget (i.e. class) that does roughly what we want. How it does it is not interesting! The result is a student who knows how to put a simple program together, but does not know how to program. A further pitfall of the early use of Java libraries and frameworks is that it is impossible for the student to develop a sense of the run-time cost of what is written because it is extremely hard to know what any method call will eventually execute. A lucid analysis of the problem is presented in [4].

Well that is one way to look at it, but really isn't this what computer scientists have been wanting for multiple years? I mean a good portion of the Mythical Man Month was about the fact that there wasn't a plumber's tool-kit but every programmer had to make their own. The issue is what should be seen as a time for radical rethought of what Computer Science/Engineering is and means to be in a day when the pocket watch the average student has on them contains more CPU than the IBM 360 that most older Phd's wrote their thesis on.

What is Computer Science? Is it a math heavy course where a person should be able to write a proof of every 'line of code' that is written? How does one prove a hundred million lines of code without a hundred million different people?

What is Computer Engineering? Is it the design of computer circuits? Or is it the process of using the plumbing developed by others to build larger projects than were possible 10 years ago? Is it knowing how to safely do this with a set of known tools that can be trusted to some extent?

Yes machine programming is important.. but with the trend towards virtual machines inside of real hardware.. what is more important to teach? Yes math is important, but so is pair-programming techniques and being able to interact with human beings.. where is that taught?

In many cases, I think that this is where CS/CE is going to break down into many different sub-fields that people will focus on.. and like when this happens in other sciences.. there will be all the turf wars and stupid name calling of saying the other isn't a real field (as in Biological Physics arguments with Astro Physics students... blech).

Anyway.. no idea where this post is going.. so end it now.

Grumpy Old Man link

In responding to a blog comment about Java programming these days.. which was a lot like C programming in the 1980's (everything is an OS with these programmers, etc).. I ended up with a lengthy diatribe.. which I figured was good enough for a blog post:

[The state of generational programmers has always been the case where some set of people think that everything is a "web-app", "OS", "AI program", etc.] It has been the case for pretty much every language when it gets to a certain size. Everything was Fortran or Snobol in the 1970’s. Everything was a LISP program in the 1980’s. Everything was a C program in the early 1990’s and then C++ in the late 1990’s. Now everything is either C# or Java.

Industry wants to standardize on a small set of languages… mainly because its hard to figure out how to manage people who are writing a project in Haskell, Perl, LISP, C, and Python… how do you count defect rates? which people get paid what wage? Are things being efficient enough for our budgets and deadlines? Will competitors be able to take our code and steal it? etc etc.

Industry then chooses some language for X years, and tells colleges, we want more people who know this. Colleges then gear their programs towards that as that is grant money etc.

The big issue though is how do colleges teach these courses? A good many places I have been.. you have a set of professors who have taught “how to write a Shell Sort” in whatever language is around.. and then they teach students a bunch of stuff that they aren’t going to do as efficiently as provided libraries. Or they will do catchup of how to make Java into Snobol in their heads and use whatever shortcuts (as in its all in the standard library which is what I remember in a C++ course in the 1990’s).

Very few colleges try to teach the budding engineer/scientist how to think, it is sort of expected that you know this already (Just use your common sense… was a reply I heard in the 1980’s to the question of how to solve a problem). The thing that CS courses should teach is the same as other engineering and science courses.. how to think like a computer, how to break a problem down for the computer to access it, what are the first principles of the issue? what are the tools that you can use to solve it? When do you need to try something better and when do you use existing practices? How to QA your or someone elses code? And then the final part, how to interact with the customer (more MBAish, but needed today more than 30 years ago).

These are things that I have seen over and over again lacking in people coming out of colleges with CS or CE degrees. Instead you have to spend 3-4 years breaking in people before they would be the equivalent of graduates from other sciences or engineering courses.

[Bitter old man comments free of charge and under a CC attribution required license]


Passing of a Pioneer

Passing of a Pioneer

There are many people you don't know until they leave.. and James P. Anderson, Jr seems to have been one of them. Reading through the memorial that Spaf wrote I came to realize that many of the books I have read through the 1980's on computer security were edited or had been worked on by Mr Anderson. (OK I am silly guy who has read the Orange book as a page turner even if I couldn't understand it all.. ).


Jim had broad interests, deep concerns, great insight and a rare willingness to operate out of the spotlight. His sense of humor and patience with those earnestly seeking knowledge were greatly admired, as were his candid responses to the clueless and self-important.


If I get half as nice a memorial as that.. I would be lucky.


New Year Resolutions

Time to make a checklist of items I am going to work on by Dec 31 of 2008.

  1. Update http://www.smoogespace.com. It has been a long time in getting an updated website and I haven't done much with it in 7 years. Time to change the engine to something else that I can pages too faster.
  2. Rebuild and restart http://www.jitagames.com and http://www.justintimeadventures.com. Both were meant to be RPG companies back in 2000 but never got anything done on them. Too bad for me.. time to do something or quit paying for them.
  3. Learn Python. Make sure that every exercise in O'Reilly's Python book is done, and convert most of my old sysadmin tools from bash to python.
  4. Really learn Emacs. Go through the O'Reilly books and learn enough about emacs that I can write my own extensions.
  5. Write a big Java game for the Google phone. Make it GPL.
  6. Work on getting my RHCE re-certified by end of 2008.
  7. Package up items for Fedora Astronomy and into EPEL (GNU radio, AIPS, etc).
  8. Work on the Generic Roleplaying Of Tomorrow (GROT) RPG system. Have a working SRD by August. Game rules are to be licensed under CC Attribution required and the Game Code under GPL.
  9. Resume taking CS courses this Summer from either UNM or New Mexico Tech.
  10. Bring my weight down to 190 pounds. [Hey every new years list has to have a weight goal in it.]

Happy New Year.. Happy Russian Xmas soon

Didn't post over the break... over trying to watch the kid and being pretty sick.. I just didn't have the energy to do so. However.. I am back (mostly.. my left lung has a cool gurgle to it).

Xmas was ok for the kid. He got lots of goodies from the family, and got to veg out for a while... spent the first couple of days after Xmas trying to give equal time to each gift. Not enough snow though and when there was snow.. Dad wasn't able to take him sledding so I would call it even. He has 5 more days til school so I am not sure where our sanity will be at by then.

On the CS front, I didn't do too well on my project, but it is over and now its time to focus on what I will be working on this Spring. I won't have time for classes.. so I will have to work through 'Head First Design Patterns' and then the Platypus book. Have been reading a bit of Knuth and realizing that a lot of math background in proofs will be needed.

Spent some time over break talking with friends over games. One is of the D&D 3.0 is broken camp, and so it was basically a long set of emails about that. And while D&D 3.0 does have a lot of flaws (what game doesn't).. his arguments had just enough little errors that I had to keep picking at them. In the end, I of course lost because one who argues with rocks will only wear himself down. Oh well, it did give me a bunch of ideas for a new game system... will work on in my copious spare time and will release under a CC license. More on that later.

Did not have the energy to do any Android work.. so I realized I don't have the gumption to try out for the Google prize. However, I think I will still work on a nethack for it just to learn more about programming this spring.

Anyway Happy New Year, and Happy upcoming Russian Xmas.