Merry Christmas, One and All

I believe in Santa Claus. He may not be the guy on Coca-Cola commercials swigging a glass of coke while delivering presents to everyone... but during these cold dark months when Winter begins its hold on this part of the world.. the Spirit of Christmas is what reminds us that there is a hope of longer days, new fields aplanting, and summer crops. I see Santa Claus everytime someone gets a gift for someone they don't know. I see Santa Claus when the war vet in the grocery line finds his grocery paid for by someone in front of them.. I see Santa Claus when the little kid with 3rd hand clothes finds a box left on his house doorstep with a new teddy bear in it. I see Santa Claus everywhere.. which is how I remember that come 90 dark days from now.. there will be new blossoms on the trees, fresh blackberries on the brambles, and life goes on.

And to little Tommy who in 3rd grade told me that there was no Santa Claus: BAH HUMBUG!


Congrats: Matt Domsch

I am very happy to say that I did not win the board position and a better person got it. Thankyou for all the people who approved or didn't approve of me... I will try to do better for the next board elections. I will also plan to spend a heck of a lot of time on EPEL side of things in the coming 6 months as I am not going to school in the Spring.

Instead I will be working on a checklist of items
  1. Learn python
  2. Write a major java application for the Google phone
  3. Spend time with my family as they sacrificed a lot of time for me in the Fall. (Thankyou guys).


About the Fedora elections

I would like to say some things about the candidates for the Fedora Board seat.
  1. Matt Domsch. If you found like me that the last couple of Fedora releases have had much better mirroring and downloads.. you can thank Matt Domsch. He is a great guy who has been supporting Linux inside of Dell for many many years.
  2. Tom "Spot" Callaway. The Aurora Linux guy and hardcore Fedora advocate.
  3. Mike McGrath. Mike has done tons of work on EPEL, Extras, Smolt, and a ton of other important things that are needed to get a Fedora release out the door.
  4. Stephen Smoogen. Well I have no idea why this guy is running. He hasnt done much and seems to be resting on his laurels from writing down a 'history' of Red Hat releases a while back.
In any case, I think all of the candidates (except that last guy) would be a good pick for the one seat. Remember the elections use approval voting... which means that the person with the most approval gets the seat. So don't click on the last guys button. Really.. I (I mean someone) have a bet riding on how few votes he gets.


Running for Fedora Board

I have absolutely no qualifications but damn-it.. its my way of making sure that people who are intelligent (ie not me) are voted in.

Stephen Smoogen (smooge)

  • Goal Statement: On this December 4th of 2007, a day that shall live in unfamy, I put my hat into the ring of Fedora Project Board. My goals are to help represent Enterprise customers into Fedora and make sure that their voices are heard. My statement is that I promise an OS in every pot.. and will make sure that PPC, Sparc, and ARM get their day in the sun as full-fledged members to the best of their non-Intel ability. I realize that I am a bit of a loonm, but I would like to help Fedora grow and mature, and will do so even if not elected.
  • Past Work Summary: Employee # of Red Hat. I have been in and out of Fedora for the last several years, and would like to move back into helping Fedora meet the needs of colleges and universities. I am currently working with Fedora EPEL, but in a limited capacity.
  • Future plans: My plans for the Spring of 2008 will be to work on EPEL and help its infrastructure grow to more packages and more builds.
  • Anything else: I worked at Red Hat from 1997-2001 and then worked at various undisclosed places in New Mexico since then. I am currently a Systems Administrator at the University of New Mexico working towards an eventual Masters in Computer Science.


Oh My Goodness I so want this

I think I will start on my aquarium this week! [The image is copyright of the XKCD author who I can't remember and is used under the Creative Commons license. Please see http://www.xkcd.org/license.html for more information.]


Ketchup #5: Oh boy thanksgiving

Well I spent the last couple of days on a lot of different things.. and got a little bit done on all of them..
  1. cfengine.. is not like falling off of a bicycle. I keep looking at it and thinking.. if it were python I would do this.. too much school I guess.
  2. class stuff. Got grades back on kudosu and turned in parser program. Got the final project today and got my deadlines on it. I will have to work every night for about 4 hours to get this thing done.
  3. decided not to take a spring class this year. I have to focus on catching up with work load and getting family house issues dealt with.
  4. had Sister-In-Law visit. Lovely as always.. wish I had had more time to spend and not be so grumpy from other stuff.
  5. took pictures of the dog, house, family. Gave camera to paul.. he took 40 more pictures :). Then tried to get data off of camera. Seems that the camera no longer talks to the Macintosh or Linux boxes.. spent most of Sunday working on why (looks like firmware problem in camera... have to install Windows ME to fix.. time to get a new camera I think).
  6. worked on jphoto and started seeing what would be needed to get it to work with 2.6 kernel (lots of work). then realized that the camera doesnt talk correctly anyway and that I might as well start over.
  7. Family had a good time with everything. Lisa made lots of good food that we ate. Paul and I played Kingdom Hearts.. til the PS2 started to show its age and go into lockup mode. Sigh...
  8. Played with android and found I could not get hello world to work in Fedora8. Not sure exactly why yet.. have to futz with it a bit.
Thats all folks.


Another Round on Passwords

Another Round on Passwords

I have to grudgingly agree with Dr Spafford on this. On our public ssh servers our main problem used to be users who set passwords to guessable words. However, while we have this occur everynow and then, the bigger problem is where users use the same password everywhere. While we limit the number of ssh attempts, make the users pick stronger passwords.. we can't stop them from using it at AOL etc. And even SSH blocking is limited as the crackers have parallelized their tools enough that as we block one host another picks up right where we blocked the last and they come from all over the internet that we can't really shut everything down.

And even if we were able to block all that.. we would just be the mythical bosun on the Titanic that Dr Spafford mentions.. making our selves useful as the ship sinks.
  1. We can't make the users patch their systems since the majority of them are privately owned. [State laws or some such.]
  2. It seems impossible to train common sense. You can tell people "Don't give your password to someone.", "Don't use the same password in multiple locations.", "Be careful of attachments.", etc and they will still do stupid things. Maybe because there is no evolutionary consequences.. "So you opened that attachment. Well its time to install Eunuchs on you."
  3. Even if we were able to patch the systems AND train the users.. there are too many tools that are too expensive to replace that have to run un-encrypted etc to make much of a difference.

Oh well...


What I would do if I had $400.00

The OLPC project has gotten to the point of shipping models to people. If I currently had the spare money, this is what I would buy:


The laptops are cool, great, wonderful, and meaningful to help children in the world. I am currently trying to find some projects who will pay me in one (well two.. one for the kid somewhere who needs a computer.)

Ketchup #4: Whee...

So what I have been working on the last 9 days has been pretty much the same-old,same-old.. but not realizing 9 days had gone by :).

  1. Installing and working with cobbler so that we can have a unified build system at work.
  2. Installing and working with venerable cfengine for our change mangement system at work. I had looked at puppet, func and some others.. but the need to be old-fashioned, boring, and stable won out when looking at what each one had and what systems we needed to support (Majority of RHEL-3 and earlier systems with few updates due to legacy software).
  3. Working on CS homework. The latest problem was a variant on the old write a reverse polish calculator problem. We were given a minimal language and needed to write a tree and parser for it. The work on this is ongoing as I need to get the evaluator done by Friday.
  4. Helping the kid play Kingdom Hearts. Yes its old.. but it is an excellent story and RPG that has gotten Paul completely emmersed.
  5. Try to help the wife with a house blessing. We have had lots of problems with the current house, and felt we needed to come to peace with it. It was a beautiful ceremony and it seemed to go well except for the cat who is probably going on Cat Prozac as the number of people in the house freaked her out.
  6. Trying to work on a couple of projects for EPEL.
  7. MOST important for some people.. trying to find time to QA CentOS-5.1
Thats about it... my brain has exploded so I am cleaning up.


QMAIL: 10 years later


I would like to say that I am not a qmail fanatic, and Daniel J Bernstein is not a friend of mine :). Actually I remember some testy emails back in 1997/8 where I was rather brash and talking out my ass and thinking he was doing the same. However, I would like to say a couple of things nice about qmail and DJB.

  1. 10 years ago, while there were other email server software's.. the majority of it was sendmail, and most people used it whether they liked it or not. It basically took a lot of grok-foo to be able to understand the sendmail language, and if you got it wrong you ended up with poor security and poor performance. However, once you had 'earned' your stripes, you weren't likely to ever want to learn another email language. qmail changed that for a lot of admins... and it changed it enough that the monopoly hold was broken and things like postfix and exim got a larger mindshare than they would have 15+ years ago.
  2. Qmail invalidated a psychological tendency I had seen with some Unix admins to ever patch, or touch their email servers. Sendmail was hard enough to get working minimally for some people, and so patching it was out of the question. I remember one site I worked had a process that would replace any sendmail after SunOS patches with 'sendmail-working' which was basicially an unpatched version of sendmail that they knew worked from 5 years ago...
  3. I really would like to focus on this sentance:
    "In retrospect, some of qmail's "security" mechanisms were half-baked ideas that didn't actually accomplish anything and that could have been omitted with no loss of security." The DJB of 10 years ago would not have said that... but he was getting attacked everyday for this or that. A secure coder should always be able to look back at their code and be able to say that and believe it. I would like to think that I could be able to say that someday about my code (which is perfect, has no problems, and doesnt need patching as all my ideas are perfect, no problems, and never need patching :)).


Colbert foiled!


US TV comedian Stephen Colbert appears to have failed in his attempt to enter the 2008 presidential election.

Despite stumping up a $2,500 (£1,250) deposit, Colbert's application to stand in South Carolina's Democratic primary was rejected by 13 votes to three.


And his "policy platform" won him instant notoriety when he promised to "crush" neighbouring Georgia if elected.


Personally I think that yes Colbert was playing SC for an act, but to be honest I think both parties were worried that too many people would vote for him than the current 'annointed' candidates. I looked at his candidacy as a 'none of the above' vote.. and if I were still living in SC would have voted for him on whatever ticket he had been on.
If for any reason, it was because he was addressing an important item I read in the school texts in State History: The creation of Georgia stole most of the territory that South Carolina had been 'granted'. Well not in so many words, but the various graphs of showing SC as stretching to the Pacific before Georgia ( a prison colony as pointed out several times in the text) and then just having a small strip in the far Northwest corner that was eventually stolen (sorry realigned) by Georgia later on.

Oh well, hopefully Ron Paul will still be on the ballot in NM by the time that primary rolls around.


Bad tricks grown-ups play on Halloween

So I took the kid on a trick-or-treat romp last night and came across what seems to be the latest fad in playing mean tricks on little kids.
  1. Put on lots of decorations in the yard and house
  2. Put on the outside lights
  3. Leave for the night.
  4. For extra credit have a sound track that makes it sound like you are walking up to the door after the doorbell is rung.
  5. For extra extra credit, do this to the house down the street with the family you knew were on vacation.
As it was.. I can see why some people find their houses covered in TP.


Remembering those less fortunate

It is the time of year in the Northern Hemisphere where many of us give thanks for living another year, the harvests that have come in, and the friends and family that we have. It is also the time of year that we try to do what we can for those who don't have it as easy, safe, or nice as we might. It is also the time of year where I begin to go maudlin because there is so many who need help be it just a Teddy Bear to sleep with at night or an extra pair of socks to keep their feet warm. So when I was reading through the BBC today, the above picture brought forth the usual feelings of helplessness and sadness that have always predominated my Winters.

For what I try to do (buy 2 OLPC laptops for some child to have a better future, test various kid learning games so that K12LTSP is better, etc) how can I help a child who cries himself asleep at night thinking no one loves him, without at least a teddy bear to talk to about what life could have been. Well today all I can think of is that if you end up reading this, please take a moment and try to help someone who needs it. Remember those whose lives are short, filled with pain and loneliness, and try to do something for them. Even if its buying a teddy bear for a kid in Intensive Care at a hospital.

Feature Request for Perl7: UTF-X preprocessor

One of the biggest problems with perl5 is that it isn't enough like line noise at times. Oh people say that a true Perl wizard only outputs line-noise, but it only looks like a limited segment of ASCII-7 bit noise. You really can't write code with Ĕ all the time.. but what if you were able to set up a preprocessor and you were able to just set up a many:1 relationship between various 'line-noise' and text/keywords/etc.


print "HelloWorld!"



in this case " could be replaced by ⅝ and ‡ and who knows what other text.

Once we are able to meet this, we will be one step closer to meeting Perl is line noise!


Response to lamonitor editorial


Richardson's disinterest leaves bad taste behind

What began as an upbeat reception ended in disappointment a week ago Monday in Santa Fe when presidential candidate Bill Richardson ignored two requests to address his position on Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Given the financial uncertainties plaguing LANL and Sandia National Laboratories, we thought the former secretary of energy and our current governor would jump at the chance to clear up the conflicting messages he's recently expressed on the subject.

We were wrong.


Actually I think Richardson had a very good reason to not answer the questions. One, Bill Richardson got royally screwed by Los Alamos National Labs when he was Secretary of Energy. The various security problems and the passive aggressive way the lab shared data with DOE made things worse and made his testimony in front of Congress laughable when LANL management told him everything was 'contained' and after his testimony 'updated' him that the proverbial (and previously non-existant) poop was going to be in the NY Times the next day.

The second reason is that NNSA was not a great solution for the problems at LANL. Adding another layer of bureaucracy, political agendas, and indirection does not bring more sunlight onto a moldy place. Moving the groups now under NNSA over to DOD or finding ways to remove the layers that already existed above it would have done wonders in getting to the heart of the problems at the labs.


Legit Linux Codecs In the U.S.

An interesting article from Computer Security source Cerias about how hard it is to get legal codecs for Linux (and the various BSD's) to play their training and other videos. My hope is that Fluendo will be able to release the rest of the codec's needed to watch h.264 and DVD items soon. I have bought a bunch from them to help support the company, but was disappointed that I couldn't play a DVD yet. Oh well... back to coding my game applets.

Legit Linux Codecs In the U.S.


In Honor of Fedora 8

I saw a werewolf with a Compviz menu in his hand
Walking through the streets of Boston in the rain
He was looking for a place called Fed Ho Ro's
Going to get a big dish of packages Yum mein

Ah-ooooo, werewolves of Fedora
Ah-ooooo, werewolves of Fedora

If you hear him howling around your Server door
You better not let him in
Little old admin got mutilated late last night
Werewolves of Fedora again


They're the hairy-faced gents who ran amok in Swansea,
Lately they've been overheard in Raleigh
You better stay away from them
They'll rip your deb's out, Mark
Ha, I'd like to meet his lawyer


Well, I saw David Jones walking with the DVD
Doing the werewolves of Fedora
I saw Jesse Keating walking with the DVD
Doing the werewolves of Fedora
I saw a werewolf making a Respin at Trader Vic's
His LiveCD was perfect

Ah-ooooo, werewolves of London
Ah-ooooo, werewolves of London

Original Lyrics by LeRoy Marinell, Waddy Wachtel, and Warren Zevon
Mutilated as a Parody by Stephen Smoogen


Meme Train 002

So I found out about the great Stupid Linux rater, and had to try it out.. sadly I am not as cool as Dave Jones, but was more popular than Natalie Portman. I was also more popular than Val Henson who was the creator of the ranking software. Ms Henderson is the coolest Linux (TM) kernel hacker I have ever met, even surpassing Alan Cox (though not as cool as Telsa, Alan's better half).

There that should increase the rankings of myself and Val :).


Obituary: Great Uncle Wilfrid Newland

Been sick this week so I am rather behind on blogging. I found out on Sunday that my great Uncle Wilfrid had died. Wilfrid Newland (my mother's mother's younger brother) was one of my last links to the English side of my family. Every time I met him, he always came across as Britain from long ago. He had been born in 1917, and had served in World War II as a commando... possibly in the same unit as the actor Christopher Lee (having read about some of Mr Lee's exploits during the war.. they were in the same area doing the same kind of work.) After the war, he had been in various 'diplomatic channels' doing 'overseas' work of various sorts.

I would remember my Grandmother reading a letter or two of his from various parts of the world, and I remember how frostily he would treat my Grandfather whenever he came across the pond to check on his sister (Grandmother had married down in class to a chauffer's son ). The big worry came around 1979 or so when he was 'assigned' to Iran and had to be evacuated with the rest of the British embassy during the revolution.

I remember him visiting in 1987 or so, doing his morning regimental walk, doing 1 arm pushups, and showing how to drive a car in case of being chased by bandits (which in some ways seemed to be the way he always drove in America...) He always had his tea in the afternoon, and brought his sister Turkish delight from across the pond (though never too much as he detested the stuff). He is always what I thought of as an English gentleman, and now I wish him a well earned rest.


Stealth Force Beta ... a new generation

So I was walking our new dog during the evening along one of the Albuquerque arroyos. Most of these are concrete lined behemoths that are filled with skaters during the non-rainy season.. and they can be filled with 10 foot of rapidly moving water (and any slow skaters) during the rainy season. Along the path there are multiple holes where various drainage tubes join in from various roads and such. One along the way has been very tempting because it looks like it is about 8 foot in diameter and goes under one of the roads.

As we were walking along the path, two lanky youth came out with mining caps, flashlights and what looked like a piece of paper they were sketching on. They saw me and got the usual "Ah shoot we are busted." look that one gets when you are being looked down by an old guy and a 45 kg German Shephard. I figured the best way to break the ice was to ask them if they found anything interesting, and they ran up and showed me the map. It was basically an outline they had done by timing their walking under the road.. it seems the tube goes quite a distance as they had timed themselves at 15 -20 minutes on the far hand. I told them to be careful because one can get caught in a tunnel with no-one knowing where you are... and alluded to being caught under an Elevator back at New Mexico Tech. They both looked at me and said "You were in Stealth Force Beta?" To which I had to sadly answer "Nah, I was never that cool."

Stealth Force Beta was an underground organization that pulled some cool pranks at New Mexico Tech when I went to school there. It had become a SlashDot article a couple of years ago when the Statue of Limitations ran out on any possible 'crimes' that their stunts might have been construed as. Most of the items were on the orders of "Hey you know the size of the rooms in this building would say that there is a large hidden room behind this wall. Hey cool there is a large hidden room behind here and a set of tunnels.. lets map them." And then some of their stunts did have some administrators pulling their hair about how their office got completely turned 90 degrees overnight (though that may have been the work of another group). Myself, I was more like Stealth Force Gamma Delta Epsilon.. I would hear about things and then go find out myself during some time when I had insomnia and nothing to do at 3am in the morning during the summer. That was how I got stuck under an elevator.

Anyway the two college students I ran into had both heard of Stealth Force Beta and were just doing the same thing.. there was a tube and they needed to map it. Thankfully they got out before the rain hit (and they didnt find any bodies that sometimes show up in rain tubes when someone needs to hide their hit.) Anyway, it was good to see that the spirit of hacking was known outside of NMT.


Getting on the Meme Train

In reading Seth's and other Fedorans blogs I found this. I have thus joined my first meme train. I do not believe any of the below, except where it describes me :).

Your Brain Usage Profile:

Auditory : 52%
Visual : 47%
Left : 45%
Right : 55%

smooge, you are moderately right-hemisphere dominant and have even preferences between auditory and visual processing, traits that might make people perceive you as "slightly off balance."

You are most likely to be slightly disorganized, a "dreamer" and a person who focuses more on the end result than the immediate task at hand. You are creative and spontaneous if somewhat lacking in direction and focus. You are a learner who is generally patient and a person for whom time is an ally, not an enemy.

You are more passionate than most people with regard to life and learning and recognize your own intuitive abilities. You have sufficient goal-direction to satisfy yourself and guarantee success without being or feeling driven. You are willing to be reflective about yourself and others without getting lost in rumination.

The balance of your sensory modes allows for both learning and expressive capabilities achieved by few. You are active and "seeing" while retaining an equally strong propensity for being reflective which slows you down a little but allows for a more comprehensive perception and analysis of situations and problems. You do not spend excessive time analyzing since you mostly trust your perceptions.

In all likelihood, you have a tendency to overcommit and cannot under- stand why others get upset since you operate on a different "time table" than they do. Your organizational abilities are frequently overwhelmed by the stimulation seeking and active nature of your mind as well as by the tendency to create new categories and gloss over details, making categorization and classification almost impossible at times.

To the extent that your career path allows for creativity and abstraction as well as a bit of disorganization, you should find yourself equipped to handle any learning that is required. Your own personal adjustment to your style should come naturally although you are likely to feel frus- trated by your own limited discipline and often wonder "Why?"


Misogyny in Computing

I was reading my normal blog entries, and ran into Mairin Duffy's reaction to the crap postings people took the time to spew in the comment section of an LWN.net article about an O'Reilly series of articles on women in computing. The trolls seemed to have arrived in force for todays postings also.

The amount of hatred spewed by people in these two LWN articles just seems to underscore how little self esteem many of us in the computer industry have. The threat of another sex getting into the profession and showing that maybe we aren't as smart as we say we are.. seems to bring out lots of anger and hatred.

To painfully quote George Lucas/Yoda:
Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. ... which leads back to fear. It is a buddhist recursive circle. We are afraid of things we can't understand, we are afraid of social interaction (maybe because a lot of us are autistic or borderline autistic), we get angry and we hate those feelings so we lash out at others who represent that which we are afraid of..

Sadly, looking at most biological systems that get into this state... we are off to extinction unless we can learn to better tolerate the change that is going to happen as computing becomes more ubiquitous.

Off to sleep... my above post makes no sense, but I post it anyway :).


Extreme Programming: Another Fiendish Plot Against Autistics

Today's class covered some fun things in Java like abstract classes, extending classes, and the very cool (to a person used to awk) interfaces. I can see lots of uses of the above for dealing with my project to bring old-school Creative Computing games to the masses once more :).

And then we got to Extreme Programming. I will say that the professor did preface this part with saying that it wasn't as great as the hype and like any religion, you have to be careful of the zeolots.. and I do like the basic ideas behind it (which are much like any philosophy):
  1. Respect for the code, programmer(s), and customer
  2. Focus on communication between the above.
  3. Simplicity of Code
  4. Continual Feedback
  5. The Courage to Continually Change
And then we got to the 'practices':
  1. Test Driven Development
  2. Continuous Integration of Code
  3. Clear Coding Standards
  4. Collective Code Ownership between programmers and customers (as in no code is untouchable just because XYZ developer wrote it).
  5. Pair Programming
Number 5, is where I see the insiduous plot against autistics.. getting us to communicate to a customer at all is hard enough, having us let someone else type while we watch is like torture I say this because during the lab, I either wanted to do all the typing myself or tell the other person what to type (which of course endeared me to my partner). And since our grade was a joint one, my partner is stuck with the lowest grade (we were told we shared the least from the observations). Oh well, I hope he doesn't get stuck with me again.

On my other tasks, I am still going through the DOD Unix STIG to see what is needed to bring a CentOS- X.X EL system to meet it...


Ketchup #3: Another week, another cs problem

Well this week and weekend has flown by again.. with lots of things I keep saying "Oooh I should write that down" and then by the time I get to a computer.. go "What was that?" or "Crap I need to get that server back up."

So this weekend, we adopted the dog we had babysat a weekend ago. The family came down on Sunday, and dropped off KC who was bounding out of the car and went to check that her chew toy was still in the kid's room. (It was.) It has been walks 2x a day and getting myself used to a schedule of getting up early enough to get here up the trails and me back before I am late to work. So far this week it is Days On Time: 1, Days Off Time: 1. Will see how that progresses.

We got our second large programming assignment this week. It is basically a specialized stenography problem. Take a dictionary, and find the words that hide the word that is given to you. Make sure it covers all cases, make it as optimal as possible. So I spent a lot of the weekend and last night looking over various Java data structures that would help me accomplish this in the most optimized lookup time. The professor upped the anty yesterday by adding a prize to the person who gets the top 3 spots, having to beat him and the T.A. also. So far the lookup costs look to be:

  1. comparing the Given Word (GW) against any given Dictionary Word (DW). Given Word has a length of M and Dictionary Word needs to be at least M in size. The easiest solution would be to loop over the letters in GW and see if they exist in DW taking in account of duplicate letters.
  2. finding words that would make good guesses to compare against versus going through the dictionary word by word to find a choice.
My insane option was to create a bitmap of every word in the dictionary to make good guesses against. Since we are dealling with UTF-16 characters and I want to see if a letter resides in it.. the key would be a 65536 'bit' string, the data would be a tree of words meeting that mask. A word would be converted into said bit map ( mapper would be something 1 for a, 1 for m, 1 for p, 1 for e , 1 for the r 'bit') and then do a bit against that and the query word so that pam, ampre , etc would look down that shorter list of words for possible matches. The word mappp would also go to that queue but would not match against mapper but might match against something else in the queue. However, as I said it was an insane idea.. I have to come up with something else.

I did look up trie (short for retrieval) trees as they are used a lot in dictionary lookups but that doesnt seem to meet the goal as it seems to be better for ordered lookups versus anagram like lookups. Will post more later.. back to a server that died.


What did you really expect?

What did you really expect?

In having dealt with multiple 'reformed' hackers, I have to reluctantly agree with Spafford on this. When I was a teenager in the early 1980's, I started into 'cracking' encryption codes on software.. not because I wanted to use the software (versus the game Choplifter and Adventures) but mainly because I wanted to see how people were trying to hide stuff and make a programmable floppy drive 'play' with bits and bites. Or trying to figure out how a telephone system works, lock tumblers, or password systems. But at some point, it became sort of an obsession, and I was more going for the amount of cracked software I had in my house compared to others. Our standards were the number of years we would spend in prison on consecutive prison terms, and how much we owed in fines. The first person who broke 200 years in prison was the coolest etc. Looking back on it.. it was plain STUPID. I think I began to be aware of its 'stupidity' when I started using GPL software, and realized that the only thing that made the GPL strong was the COPYING license. It made no logical sense to disregard other people's licenses and then say that the GPL license was better because of this that or the other... And looking at myself further, I realized that most of the arguments I had used to justify my actions were selfish lies in the same vein as why an addict says stealling money from the family is ok. What I was addicted to was the rush of doing something illicite that few other people could do... and at some point I had a "Come to Jesus" moment, and realized that doing it wasnt helping anyone and eventually hurting others. So I basically went to being a GPL-freak for a while, didn't use any closed source licenses I had not paid for, and started working on protecting other people's rights versus violating them.

And like some other people that conversions happen to.. I went through a period where I believed everyone could do it, and that when someone said they were 'clean'... they meant it. I have helped hire some former crackers, and very often found that what they said and what they did were two different things. It might be I am on the wrong side of the statistics, but looking back on 10 years in the business.. 8 out of the 9 went back to cracking at some point, and we had to let them go. There is some sort of 'rush' when you get that password off the wire, when you find that supposed closed system is wide open from some office telephone/modem, and it is addictive. And then comes the feeling of superiority that you are mightier than anyone else... and with that feeling comes the usual drive to take advantage of it because of some percieved slight. Heck it sounds like all the classic feelings and symptoms people on crack mention (but probably at a different level).

Anyway, I have come to believe that like many bad things, it takes an act of conversion to get out of Cracking. And then probably in many cases, a 10 step program to make it stick. I guess Luke 11:24-11:26 is probably a good summary to show this has gone on for a long time with people.


Ketchup #2: Week in Review

Well the week has gone as follows:
  1. Turn in homework and realize I missed dealing with NULL input.
  2. Went to class and covered inheritence, good old linked lists, and today implemented a binary search.... good-times.. good-times.
  3. Worked on wumpus outline. I think I am going to try and do a classic 'BSD-games' in Java over Christmas break, and then work through the various Creative Computing games that I used to teach myself Pascal, Fortran, and Apple Assembly back in the day.
  4. Found a cool site for algorithms at lunch: LiteratePrograms. It probably has been there a while but I missed it on past surfing.
  5. Worked on work build scripts for CentOS-5/RHEL-5. Got them to grab and install files.. but need to do some testing.
  6. Dog went home on Sunday, but we will be adopting her. She should be coming to live with us in a week or so.


Got Dog?

Yesterday we started dog-sitting a 4 year old German Shephard mix to see if we wanted to adopt her. The current owners are out to a wedding, and have been having to travel a lot so would like to find some people who could spend more time with her. Her name is Casey, and she is a pretty big dog.. but really really lovable. On every walk we have had, she has had to say hello to every dog even the ones growling at her. She just lets them sniff and or rolls over to play "beta" which is funny when she as the 40kg dog did it to the 4kg small poodle.

Right now she is sleeping in the living room. The family loves her quite a bit... well except for the cat. Pascal the cat is an alpha cat who once went after a stag deer who got on our porch when we lived in North Carolina. I am quite sure she thinks she is 50kg versus 5 kg, and quite happy to show anyone who comes into her territory... which Casey did. Currently we have a small barrier seperating the two... until some sort of peace comes up.

Updated (2007-09-14T21:20+0000): Pascal in order to show who was the boss just came out and walked over to Casey's dogfood and ate out of it while Casey looked on. Then Pascal looked over at Casey if to say "Oh wait you are still here?" and went back to her room.

Computer Class Update

Well this week has been hacking on the first computer assignment.. a simple 'stack' engine that you push items onto and off of.. and do various string operations with them. I should have the first version done by tonight (late late tonight)... if this cold/stomach bug doesn't kill me first.

Things I have learned from the program so far:
  1. BufferedReader and BufferedWriter are good for using versus System.out/err
  2. StringWriter is good for being wrapped by BufferedReader/Writer so JUnit can find things.
  3. Writing one method at a time and writing a test routine for it is better than throwing up code.
  4. Do NOT PANIC.
  5. More later... bug calls.


Switch/case can not be used on strings... need to figure out return types in a way to do this.


Septermber 11, 2007

Six years ago today, my life like so many others changed. I had just turned on the TV for my morning TV fix and found that all the channels were glued on a story about an airplane flying into one of the World Trade Center. And then the second plane hit, and then what seemed so long, but was really short time as the fires took off and they kept sending firemen in to try and stop it. I remember praying that the steel wouldnt fatigue under the high heat... and then watching the inevitable collapses and knowing that so many people had just died. And then there was the sitting there with the baby in his sleep 'sack' and me watching it happen over and over again.. and the feeling of complete help-less-ness.

Then there was the panicing of trying to get up to New York City or Washington D.C. to try and maybe just maybe save someone from that horrible wreck. Thankfully, my wife made me realize I wasn't trained and the best thing I could do was go to the local Red Cross chapter and get their teams ready to roll out.

And finally there was the gut-wrenching wonder if that was just the first step.. would there be car bombs in cities? suicide bombers at malls? snipers on highway overpasses? I remember that as all of us in our North Carolina neighborhood went from house to house asking what we could do... that we all stood in the street mostly to get away from the TV's that were playing those last few seconds of the planes crashing and towers falling. I remember the lady across the street voicing the realization that I think was on all our subconscious's, we hadn't seen or heard a plane overhead in hours.

And if by magic, a National Guard helicopter flew overhead fully loaded with personell. It was frightening in one sense that we all realized the comfortable world we lived in was changed... and yet it was oddly reassuring... and we began waving at the helicopter and someone pulled off the flag from their front porch, and for a minute we were waving it around and they were waving back to us... and somehow all our panic went away.

So to all the firefighters, policemen, national guardsmen, military personell, AND to all their families... THANK-YOU. Your sacrifices are what allows me the Freedom to write this, and I know I can never pay that back.


High School Reunion (the musical)

[I wonder what Disney will do with that in 20 years.. Gabriella ended up married to Ryan after Zach and her went to different colleges... Zach and Ryan have a sing/dance fight over her.. but run out of breath and collapse. Gabriella leaves with Chad who had been married to Sharpay but had been left with their 2 kids as she pursued her future in Broadway.]

Well my 20th High School reunion occurred this weekend, and I was unable to attend. Its funny, most of my memories of high school seem to have been tinged with dread, fear, or boredom (probably the feelings that cover most people's memories of High School).. but this summer I was actually hoping to be able to make it out and see people. I got some emails from people I had not heard from in years.. and it was really nice to hear from them. I wish I had been more self-confidant back then.. as I probably would have been a better friend versus the pseudo-goth (well I couldn't afford black clothing, but listened to much of the same Cure music as the goths) who lived in the library and the chemistry lab. To the people who made it, I salute you.. and hope you had a fun evening.

One of the funny memories that came up this summer was how many chemicals and the quantities our Chapman High School had... most of them had been given to it by the various textile labs as they had either closed down or were needing to get a tax right off. A lot of it was pretty 'useless' to a high school lab as it would take close to 100 years to use up the 1kg of pure sodium and potassium we had. Add in the large containers of every caustic acid used in textiles and it is amazing the school building did not spontaneously explode (especially when all of it was stored in a small closet with only passive venting in it). I am guessing most of it was disposed of after September 11th (if not before then) as having that much material in an unguarded depo was silly.


Ketchup #1: Labor Day weekend

This was a 3 day weekend in the United States which completely blew my normal routine. No class on Monday, and Tuesday was ketchup (catch up) with various computer security issues that had piled up over the weekend... especially with UNM not having a dedicated Cyber-Security group (just 2 overworked individuals and the mess of people running with their heads cut off trying to keep up).

Things I got completed were:
  1. CentOS - Dell LiveCD scripts. They are a pretty cheezy set of items, but should allow someone to build their own Dell linux cdrom with OMSA and firmware updates.
  2. More work on the new website... It will just be a moin-moin setup with some pass through for mailman, archives and downloads.. but should be done soon (say October maybe).
  3. Did some 'cleanup' of a neighbors computer. I really need to take a course on Windows spyware.. I am sure that my brain-surgery on their computer could have gone better.
  4. Moved into a new office at work. Moving phones costs over $80.00 so I am just using my old bosses number for the time being... time to update phone-books.
  5. Finished my assignment for CS-259.. went to class on Wednesday and realized I screwed up several items I should have not have missed. [Now to figure out why xxx-- didnt do what I wanted for some reason.]
Thats about it.. off to a meeting about DNS.


Survived Week 2 of CS

Well I survived the second week of my Introductory class... which seems to have been better than others.. the first class had a lot of people trying to sign into a max course.. and by today we actually had empty seats for the first time.

We have gone over objects, references to objects, and a whirlwind of JUnit testing. The most challenging part of the course has been doing the labs in the last 45 minutes of class. I keep trying to add more tests or overthinking things.. and end up having to be kicked out before the next class can come in.

Still enjoying it however.


Grumpy Old Man Post 002: Parents

A friend of the family is having a hard time getting a school PTA going. Why is it that so many parents treat their kids like check-marks they needed to be a true-adult, and then expect someone else to take care of their children as it gets in the way of their own lives? This is a problem I have seen going across political boundries... the worst offender I knew seemed to hold the back of their car together with bumber stickers of "Bush/Cheney 200X", "Pro-Life Republican", "DittoHead", etc. However, every day it would be bitching about how the kid needed extra tutoring, how the teacher assigned homework that needed their time to complete, etc etc. I do not doubt that I would meet others who had as many "Kucinich for President Someday.." and "My President is Al Gore!".

As Stan Lee penned long ago.. "With great power, comes great responsibility." One of the greatest powers we have is bringing new humans into this world. With that power comes the responsibility to raise that human to be a responsible adult who will try to make the world a better place than it is now. That means making sure that they have an education, can make informed decisions, and will not be resentful of us when we are old and feeble :).

Ok back to other topics.


Alpha The Omega The Haas Or Something

So today I was what in the world the trailer I had seen before the Transformers movie that has no name.. basically it looked like some Godzilla movie from the viewpoint of random people getting smushed as you have the Statue of Liberty flying across the screen and crushing some people. Going to imdb.com I ended up with what someone thought was a link to the movie called:


which after solving some puzzles, you come to


I will say that I think this might be where gaming might go in the next 10 years. A gaming company would need to have a viral marketing scheme and then having a website and gaming that competes with WoW etc on how the characters, story, and game are shown to the players. I am guessing that this is what Hasbro has in mind with the D&D 4.0

The reason for bringing it up was that I had been looking at what in
1991 was pretty unique in RPG's, West End Games Torg campaign. In it there was a fairly interactive item called the Infiniverse campaign setting and
the rumour mill. WEG would send out a monthly newsletter with items from peoples campaigns, new rules, etc and they would have a section where you could run various small adventures or just vote that you thought something was happening in your world or not (or if the heroes were able to stop the badguys.) If enough badguy plots were stopped, things went well for players... and vice versa. It had a 2-4 month lag from what you wrote back in as everything happened via postal mail.. and you might not be able to run every rumour past your group.

My guess would be that if WEG were to do Torg now, it would be with a website where you build out your campaign and then have players and groups deal with rumours and storylines on a timed basis.. every world would be different but you could calculate a
center-state universe that would be 'the main' one.

There is also the grumpy old moment where I think to myself.. in my day we just used our imaginations, paper and pencils... and WE LIKED IT. Getting too damn old to have to carry a laptop to every game session... and why do I need a USB dice collection?

On the other hand.. while I do not think I could make something as slick as AlphaOmega.. there might be something that could be done via GoogleGears... will mull on that for later.


Goodbye SysAdmin Magazine

Got a card in the mail today saying that SysAdmin magazine was going out of print as of August 2007. The magazine covered Unix Systems Administration, and had a bevy of articles every month for Solaris, AIX, and Linux. I had been subscribing to the magazine since I had worked at Red Hat back in 1997 or so.. and had a couple of articles I was going to submit this fall for possible publication. I had noticed the magazine had gotten thinner and thinner over time.. my guess was that circulation was increasingly down as less Unix systems were around and more people get their information from the web. However the articles were surprisingly useful at times when I needed to figure out some arcane Unix issue that only occurred on version X.Y of Bubonix.
The good point, they are offering to fulfill my subscription with a CD-rom of all issues in pdf format from 1994 to 2007 so I will be able to have my back issues available for grepping about how to handle our aging AIX and Solaris boxes here at the University. The bad point will be that I will have to find out where to get up-to-date Systems Administration information these days. I should probably join LOPSA or SAGE again to see what they offer. Off to find out what magazines are good these days.. and what I can afford on a University salary.

I will try to put up my articles on puppet and computer security sometime in the future.

Thankyou to the editors and writers of the magazine over the years. You have been very helpful.


Not seeing the forest for the trees.

So a question on our first homework was something like:

What is the answer? (Hint: The answer should be the following:

I then spend the next couple of hours trying to decode the data via hexdump, xxd, looking for what google has on the various 16 bit pieces [4cc7 9ff6, etc etc]... looking for repeating patterns etc. Of course the answer is a lot simpler.. if I just didn't think about it.


Transformers... the pain

Went to see Transformers the movie Sunday night with an old college buddy. It was an altogether dreadful experience. First the theatre was packed with people bringing their little kids to watch it. I would say that 1/2 of the theatre was under 13.. and some were definately as young as 4 or 5 (from the screaming kid who had to be taken out during one of the battle scenes.) My grumpy old man post is that there is a rating for a reason: 1 so you have an idea what might be too intense for children.. and 2 so us grumpy old people do not have to hear little kids crying when we are trying to enjoy a movie with large explosions etc. I seem to have bad movie karma.. every movie I have gone to in the last 4 years has had this happen.. even the 11pm showing of the Matrix 2. I haven't gone to many movies lately because it has become such a trend of parents who believe that inflicting nightmares on little Jimmy is ok for me to watch as much as the movie.

Next, the movie was pretty much written via the Summer Blockbuster Committee.
  1. Loser Boy (Shia LaBeouf) who might become a Man, Check.
  2. Large explosions, Check.
  3. Not-so-subliminal political and moral comments, Check.
  4. Girl with a past (Megan Fox) who falls for Loser Boy even when the car is a better boyfriend, Check.
  5. Every other scene being a short comedy skit with teen actors we are trying to groom for the next 3 years of movies, Check.
  6. Standard stereotypes of bit characters who are not seen 20 minutes after introduction. Check.
  7. Government conspiracy group that couldnt do a competent action throughout the movie. Check.
  8. Horrible gobbledy gook science that was passe when War Games came out. Check.

I will give the movie an A for giving me the most disturbing scene I have seen in a PG-13 movie.. and probably why the movie got a PG-13 over a PG. The story is a boy gets car, boy gets girl, boy learns that girl has a juvie record, boy loses girl to car, and the boy gets girl back in the end (for some reason.. honest honey.. stick to the car!). So for our "Boy becomes man and gets reward from the maiden" checkmark we have the boy and girl making out ONTOP of the transformer car, WITH the rest of the Autobots looking on. I was expecting to hear comments from rachet on "Boy, her pheremones shot up when you touched her there.. please do so again so that I can confirm my analysis." I don't know but it was like watching someone makeout while laying ontop of their brother.

Finally, I had a hard time not comparing the movie to Independance Day (and finding Independance Day coming out on top.) I kept coming up with ways that I would have loved to rewrite/redirect the movie to make it a bit better here, a different point.

The best acting/storylines in the movie to me were the US Soldiers and
Mikaela Banes (Girl with past). I still believe she should have dumped the boy and stuck with Bumblebee versus 'just' dating the boy (Oh I said that before didnt' I?) I ended up with a complete rewrite in my head with the Decepticons coming after the two groups because one had a clue to the Cube, and the other a clue to where Megatron was. Cut the cast in 1/3 so there was a lot more screen time and still have a short amount of robot time because CGI that good costs money. Oh well.. when I take a screen writing class next year.. I will use that as my basis (GI Joe Meets the Transformers!)

First Day Of CS Classes

Today was the first day of my 'academic' renewal. In 1994, I had gotten a bachelor's in Physics w/Astrophysics option from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology... and had left the school very burnt out and not wanting to ever see a University again... after 13 years... the school bug has bitten again, and I have decided to venture back into Academia with the long term goal of getting a PhD in Computer Science or similar field.

However, a long time has passed since my CS courses (Pascal and Fortran are no longer used as much in classes... and the assembly courses no longer use the M68k for their target CPU). To address that problem, I decided to start from 'scratch' again by taking CS259, a course that combines the first two UNM CS courses into one firehose class. I got to school early this morning... found the classroom on time... and got caught up with how people program in the 21st century by writing a 'Goodbye dear world' program using Java and Eclipse. I will say that I liked my professor's style... no PowerPoint presentation as others use.. no just good old fashioned lecture-mode in Emacs. This week is basically the first chapter of Arnold, Gosling, and Holmes , 'The Java Programming Language'. and some esoterical questions about the idioms of programming in Java these days.

Ubiquitous First Post

Well after many years, I decided to start a new blog as my last blog ended in 2001 around the time I left my job at Red Hat. The purpose of this blog is to be like many others.. a biographical log of my life, points of views etc. We will will see how this progresses.

The subjects that I will probably cover the most are:
Getting a PhD.

Computer Security
l Projects

Edited (2007/08/21): To make font bigger so people could read it.