This Space for Rent

May 29, 2004


When .mp3's were all the rage, I stuck with CDs.
When people were music sharing like there was no tomorrow (note: there wasn't), I stuck with CDs.
When people starting buying mp3 mobiles, iSnobs, and whatever other portable things you could wedge .mp3s into, I stuck with CDs.

I ended up with a small collection of mp3s as fallout from building mix CDs, of course, and it was nice to be able to play some of them when I was upstairs at my home pc, but the important music stayed on CD and vinyl. But what ended up happening was our CD players started getting old and the laser diodes began to fail, so we had to retrench to worse and worse CD players. Eventually I started thinking that using a computer as an integrated amp/cd-player might be a good idea, and as a preamble to this I had to convert our CD collection to Ogg Vorbis files.

So I bought a used CD tower, set up a Freebsd box to drive it, and started slurping up the CDS. 30 or so CDs later, I was poking around the output directory on one of the windows PCs upstairs, and went through a loop of

  • I haven't played this one for years
  • <clickity>

4 or 5 songs later, I realized what the point was. Now to get ogg players for every room in the house.

May 28, 2004

So, how did that -l get in.

On FreeBSD, the natd program will log all the aliasing it does when you pass in the -l flag. This log is written to /var/log/alias.log, and is supposed to be truncated whenever natd restarts. So what happens when you start, say, a home gateway server and then leave it running forever like you should be able to do with a Unix box? Well, after a few months, /var/log/alias.log is on the order of a gigabyte, and, of course, it won't go away because natd is running.

When you discover this and are tempted to just kill and restart natd, be sure you don't do it from the outside world, because natd sticks itself to the outside interface of the box and when you kill it, the box goes and blows away the connection you just entered the kill command from.

When I get home, I'll restart natd without the -l flag.

May 27, 2004

Fun freebsd bug of the day

I was trying to pull a track off an audio CD the other day and the Freebsd 4.9 box I was doing it on spat out a couple of scsi transport errors, then rebooted. I thought that was funny, so I tried it again, and once again the machine rebooted (I made it to the console that time, so I was able to see the kernel panic message before the machine rebooted). I then grubbed through our music pile for CDs which were known to be skippy on our CD player and fed them into the computer for what appeared to be hours of rebooting fun (punctuated by an occasional crash that was so bad that FreeBSD just hung up trying to sync the disk.)

On egypt (my Mastodon build box), no such hilarity happened; the cdparanoia process simply came to a grinding stop while the Linux 2.0.28 IDE subsystem started looping on the offending sector (and still is, 5 or so hours after I left home for work.)

The FreeBSD box has a SCSI cd-rom, while egypt has an IDE one. It's possible the buslogic device driver in the FreeBSD box is not the most reliable driver on the planet, and it's poking fingers into places where they shouldn't be.

May 26, 2004

Fun with FreeBSD packages

I've got a few music CDs that aren't indexed in the internet CD catalog, and I was wondering if there were any CD reading programs that supported the CD-text extension which, apparently, many modern CDs use to actually put the music information on the CD. I'd already been bitten by ports and decided that the prebuilt packages were the way to go, so I fired up /stand/sysinstall, navigated my way to the audio section of package install, picked a likely candidate, and let fly.

And, boy, did it let fly. With imake, 45 different xml libraries, random gnu tools, image processing libraries, and the thrice-damned vanity language p*th*n; I don't know how many unneeded things it would have added if I hadn't have hit the package abort button when I saw the 3dvl start installing.

I [heart] Al Gore

Dominance is not really a strategic policy or political philosophy at all. It is a seductive illusion that tempts the powerful to satiate their hunger for more power still by striking a Faustian bargain. And as always happens - sooner or later - to those who shake hands with the devil, they find out too late that what they have given up in the bargain is their soul.

-- Al Gore, 26-May-2004

May 25, 2004

Saving the butt of the Seattle Monorail?

Some people in Seattle are trying to set up a recall election to roll back the big tax increase that's intended to pay for building a actual transit monorail in Seattle. I have the nasty suspicion that this is merely another symptom of the free-lunchers and their evil no-taxes-but-we-still-want-services attitude, but I'll take the silver lining; if that $1.75 billion is yanked, the knotheads who intend to destroy the existing Seattle monorail in favor of a new and completely incompatable one will end up out on the street, thus keeping the (last intact?) Alweg monorail alive for a while longer.

After all, if the Seattle Monrail people want Disney, a $79 advance purchase on Southwest will get them there without destroying a nice part of Seattle in the process.

Is Scarygoround doing The Inferno?

Why else would Natalie be trying to be Shelley's guide?

May 24, 2004

Joy of pet ownership, The. (4:30am edition)

There's nothing like waking up to the HukHukHukHuk! of a cat vomiting up the contents of its stomach, unless you add in waking up at 4:30 am, and unless you wake up to realize that the offending cat had thrown up on

  • The floor
  • Clothes on the floor
  • The sofa
  • Clothes on the sofa

Extra bonus points for it being a lot of puke, so it managed to soak into the sofa and probably ruin it (it's a futon sofa that I wanted to get rid of anyway, so it's not a particularly great loss, but we're still out one large piece of furniture that we need to replace.

Extra extra bonus points for me not being able to sleep, so the goddamn cat woke me up after only about 2 hours of sleep.

May 23, 2004

The joy of Unix.

I don't know which is more annoying. Either

  1. The GNU configure system, or
  2. The FreeBSD version of ports

Both of these started out as a brilliant idea, years ago. GNU configure used to be a nice simple way to set up your makefiles on some random system, but it has since warped into some sort of horrible byzantine thing that takes about twice as much time to run configure as it does to actually compile the resulting code. And a lot of that is because the stupid configure script spends approximately 45 years looking to see if esoteric routines like strcat exist on the target machine.

The FreeBSD ports system is also very nice when it works, but they keep fucking with the way the ports are made up, leading to stupid messages like

There is a COMMENTFILE in this port.
COMMENTFILEs have been deprecated in
favor of COMMENT variables.
Please, rectify this.

when you try to build an esoteric port like, um, a mp3 encoder (and the bug isn't in the mp3 encoder, of course; it's down past three or four levels of gnu crapware that the port must have to compile.

At least the FreeBSD people haven't yet depreciated their packages collection, because there's actually a fighting chance of getting the toolset without having to chase around Robin Hoods barn thirty or forty times.

On the bright side, this is probably the encouragement I need to update mastodon to a 2.6 kernel.

Field Trip

We drove, in the pouring rain (and just barely missing a landslide on I84), to Bonneville Dam yesterday, just to see the fish hatchery. Discovering that I can take a not-completely-horrible picture through the wall of the fishpool was an unexpected bonus.

May 22, 2004

One good reason for a low carb diet.

Julie and I went to a Krispy Kreme this morning and picked up a dozen donuts. I ate a couple of them around 10:45, and even after drinking tea to get the taste out of my mouth, I'm still tasting the nasty things.

Yuck! Maybe I'll eat a cup of pure sugar just to get the nasty donut taste out of my mouth.

later... Eating a couple of anchovies did the trick of forcing the nasty industrial sugar taste down into my throat. I'm sure my digestive system will have some rather unpleasant things to say about the whole idea of sugar frosted grease bombs, but I'm just happy I'm not tasting them anymore.

even later... Seven hours later, I tried a bite of the now-cold remaining donuts. Why, it was even worse; nothing like a shot of sweet, but stale, taste with a rancid overtone of pretend maple to make you appreciate real donuts even more. Or, at least, I'll be able to appreciate the things when I finish using a wirebrush to get the nasty Krispy Kreme aftertaste out of my system.

May 21, 2004

Waaa! Waaa! Waa!

As I may have mentioned once or twice, I've been refusing MAIL FROM:<> into pell for the last few weeks because all of the mail I've been getting from <> is either spam, viruses, or ``helpful'' virus bounces from antivirus programs that caught a virus that had a forged from address.

This morning, I got a long hysterical screed from some site (I'll call it, because that's what it was) telling me that they would no longer accept mail from pell because I am violating the RFCs by not accepting mail from:<>. After several paragraphs of "ohmygodyoucan'tfloutstandardsbecauseotherwisemicrosoftwillwin!" style writing, the message that was bounced was added to the end; it was, as you might expect, a bounced message from an antivirus program to a forged from address.

I bounced the waaa!waaa!waa! message back. Their mail server accepted it without comment.

May 20, 2004

Our descent into barbarism

It is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.

--Hermann Goering

The joys of personal transport

Today is a nice sunny day in Portland, so (after not going to sleep until very late because the cutest horsemen of the apocolypse didn't go to sleep until 11:30pm) I decided to ride my bicycle. Which had a flat. And when I tried to pump up the tire, the valve stem broke off. Which made the tire useless. Spares? Yes! Er, 14 years old. No.

At least when the bus has a flat tire someone else fixes it.

May 19, 2004

New Code

Postoffice has been rolled up to 1.0.7, because I got some spam from verizon and discovered, to my intense dismay, that verizon has instituted a callback mechanism to verify MAIL FROM:. If your mail server is like postoffice was before the lastest round of hackery, this would result in a 4xx error message, which verizon would incorrectly treat as a fatal error and thus, you couldn't send the thrice-damned abuse report. Normally I'd just bung the bastards into my blacklist alongside all the spamhouses and idiots who try to make you use some sort of stupid non-Lynx-compatable web-graphics-cgi opt-in web page before they'll accept your abuse report, but my little brother is on verizon and it's traditional to not reject mail from your family just because they're using some halfwitted net connection (I've already tried that trick, but my family is a lot more stubborn than I am.)

So, I changed the greylist to always accept MAIL FROM, but to return 4xx when a greylisted account does the DATA command. I'm waiting to see what the filthy scumsucking spammers think of to exploit this behavior.

May 18, 2004

EPT #100

This SW-1 has been running on Portland Traction since well before I was born. And we've been driving by the Eng!'s [(tm) Silas] for the past 4 years without having a camera in tow (or, worse yet, forgetting that we had it until we were too far away to turn back.) But this sunday, finally, we had the camera in hand and the offending SW-1 was available. Parked in the middle of a string of boxcars. But I'm not picky.

I believe that the reason the #100 is parked in the middle of this string of cars is because the nearest passing siding is located 4.5 miles away in the remains of the East Portland yard. Thus they have to do fancy switching to get the cars into and out of the industrial sidings in the Milwaukie industrial park.

Manifest Destiny

I built a railroad table for Russell and Silas this afternoon, and plunked it down in the library.

Alas, it soon proved to be too small for the cutest robber barons in the whole wide world:

The ongoing war against spam.

Since I put postoffice on pell, I've been logging some of the more interesting statistics it's been gathering (how many wrong numbers, how many machines in the blacklist, and how many viruses.) I've finally written scripts to chart all of this:

I get a small but steady stream of viruses, and I used to get dictionary probes up the wazoo before I started blocking MAIL FROM:<> (yes, this violates rfc822, but I never get valid mail from <> and I used to get in the ballpark of 400 dictionary attacks a day.)

Note the steadily increasing number of banned connection attempts; these are primarily attempts to deliver mail from dialup IPs (which I refuse; most ISPs have their own mail servers which I will accept mail from) and I can only guess that there are more and more spammers using virus-infested computers as spam relay hosts as their regular connections are traced and shut down. (This would qualify as "spammers are scum", but it's not too hard to find proof of that these days.)

Update: On the 20th, I started refusing mail from sites that don't have properly configured reverse DNS. I'm doing soft bounces (4xx instead of 5xx) to give the site owners a chance to correct their DNS and get their spam into pell, so as a result I'm now seeing a whole lot of sites that get the 4xx and go into a crazed frenzy of hammering against postoffice until they get bunged into the firewall deny list. There appear to be quite a few sites out there that just don't want to take come back later for an answer (joining the proud ranks of sites that go apeshit if the door is answered by someone who doesn't look exactly like sendmail), but which feel that if they batter really hard at the door then I'll give in and let them deliver their rotting bundles of spam and windows viruses.

May 15, 2004

New Code

Postoffice has been updated to version 1.06; I've added in a relay-host configuration option so I can punt all remote mail out through a mail host. Why? Because at home I'm using @home AT&T Broadband Comcast to connect to the outside world and if I don't relay mail through their mail server no mail server (and this includes pell) will accept mail from my home machine.

So, new code! Hopefully no heaping plateful of security violations yet, but I'm sure I'll find some sooner or later.

May 12, 2004

The cutest babies in the whole wide world.

New Trolley Line!

The transit agency has opened their new trolley line (and complete street rebuilding, thus cranking the per-mile cost up to $60 million dollars a mile so the people who haven't abandoned Interstate Ave for I5 can ride without enjoying the car-eating potholes that used to be there.) Instead of riding the trolleys, we drove along the line in our $20,000 gas-electric baby stroller (we had already ridden a trolley along the line before it opened) and I got a few pictures of opening day:

We caught up to the first trolley at Russell Street.

Passed a second one north of the Fremont bridge

Then spent most of the rest of the way up to Paul Bunyan trying to get a picture of a #5 bus. I thought I got a good picture of one as we tried to turn around, but it hid on the other side of a line pole just as I snapped the picture.

New Bugs!

I found a spiffy featurelet with the posting page. Since I don't have the (broken?) { pic } thing handling widths, I was entering pictures by typing the url and wrapping it in a href so it could be clicked on. Well, I forgot to leave off the ending , and the whole posting page became one big link.

Sigh. I'm sure that there will be many more opportunities like this to help coax me into doing a blggr format xml interface.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

--WB Yeats

May 03, 2004

More tuning

It would be useful to have the homepage hold more than just the articles posted this month; change the code to have it display the last [display] articles on the homepage instead.

May 01, 2004

Well, it worked

The month-end archive rollover worked, leaving me with a completely blank page except for the bookmarks. I need to fix that and have it keep an entry or two of context.