This Space for Rent

Feb 28, 2006

Feeling left out that the US missed the communist revolution boat way back in the early 1900s?

Don't be. The United States was just slow at getting the required crop of aristocratic know-nothings, and the modern Evil Party is hurrying to correct that horrible mishap even as we speak.

In the short term, the only visible sign of the gutting of a country to feed the insatiable appetites of the self-proclaimed aristocracy is that everyone else becomes poorer and poorer and, as services are withdrawn because the hyperrich want that money, people end up dying in the street while the royals sit down for their afternoon tea. But in the long run, the proletariat will remember that they have nothing to lose but their chains, and then their pent up rage will sweep the perfumed classes out of power.

Things may not get better after that (the Cultural Revolution and the petite revolution that the Khmer Rouge performed are a couple of examples of how an insane revolutionary leadership can make the petty despotism of the now deposed and swinging from the gallows royals seem like any other day), but the one universal truth is that the aristocracy will end up shattered and either fleeing for their lives or dead by the hands of the revolution. And, you know, nobody aside from the J. Peterman catalogue will spare even a spoonful of tears for the now abruptly exed royals.

And there's even a song that the socialist revolution can use.

(link to the Paul Krugman column via ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES)

High technology, sewing machine style

I just got a belated Christmas present from my ex-stepmother-in-law Lynne, in the form of a Singer Centennial Featherweight sewing machine. This has the potential of being very useful in our house, because we've got approximately 5000 fabric samples (from SCRAP and Trillium Artisans) which have been stored away waiting for me to find a way of sewing them together that does not involve sewing by hand. I'm sure that there are some curtains, pillows, and misshapen irregular quilts out there that were just waiting for me to get an automatic sewing device, and there's always the cushion I'd need to make if I was going to make this sofa:

... even though I don't think it would look quite the same with the sort of fabric I'll be using to make up the cushion. I may like the craftsman style, but my color preferences are a little bit more, um, colo(u)rful than the titans of Arts & Crafts might have preferred.

Feb 27, 2006

Say what you will about Tony Bliar, but you can’t say that he thinks small.

After noting that the progress of tyranny in the American Imperium is being slightly impaired by the teeny detail that it's all illegal and that Mount Doom on the Potomac has to occasionally go and get their minions in the Senate to retroactively legalize their crimes, the Labour party has proposed a bill that will effectively abolish Parliament, by allowing the ruling party (remember the old days when the Labour party was a liberal party?) to modify any law (including the law that allows them to modify any law) by ministerial fiat as long as it doesn't increase taxation or impose a >2 year prison sentence.

Note I said "modify any law"; those pesky "increase taxation or impose a >2 year prison sentence" clauses are just as modifiable as anything else.

Oh? And when the last law was down, and the devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws being all flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down (and you're just the man to do it) d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

Now, I'm sure it's possible that the entire stinking Labour cabinet has suddenly been struck with a realization that they've been desperately and pathetically wrong about how they should govern the country, and that they don't realize that once this incarnation of the Enabling Act was passed that a future corrupt government could use it to drag the lot of them to the gibbet, but I am not convinced. If Labour did not intend to cause harm, why would they read the bill out on a nice quiet day when almost nobody was in the House of Commons?

On a related note, I see that the movie version of Moore & Lloyd's V for Vendetta is about to be released. The comic was escapist fiction, but the movie might be more of a documentary.

New Code!

Because I'm now maintaining a bunch of R*dh*t machines at work, I've had to roll postoffice up to version 1.2.4 so I can get a version of it that can be built into a rpm package and installed on those machines. (I have been building it by hand and hand-installing it, but that way screws up the built-in package system and leaves the risk of some upgrade overwriting it with the latest version of sendmail. I like sendmail, but I don't like it enough to want to maintain it, and the alternatives (postfix, qm**l, and their ilk) replace the horrible complexity of sendmail with a DIFFERENT and less readable complexity that I can duplicate in two or three lines in a file.


Feb 26, 2006

Octavia Butler, RIP

She died last friday after tripping, falling, and hitting her head. And she was only 58 years old. It seems like there are never enough good women writing science fiction, and Ms. Butler was one of the great ones.

Feb 25, 2006


Bacteria could help transform a key component of disposable cups, plates and utensils into a useful eco-friendly plastic, significantly reducing the environmental impact of this ubiquitous, but difficult-to-recycle waste stream, according to a study scheduled to appear in the April 1 issue of the American Chemical Society journal, Environmental Science & Technology.

A good idea, if it works. But aside from the normal precautions you need to take if you're doing research, perhaps you should call a bacterial holiday before you reach strain #59, because otherwise ...

In a dozen tunnels, trains ground down to a halt. Hordes of terrified commuters made their way anxiously along dark, musty tunnels to the lights and safety of the next station. There were minor explosions, fires, and the failure of a million wires and cables. As the dissolution of plastic proceeded and accelerated in rate, the elegant order of the system gradually turned into complete chaos.

... and, before you know it, there will be tardises appearing all over the subways, with a thousand Harry "Snapper" Organs clones popping out and shouting "What's all this then?" to the terrified commuters.

(via Bouphonia)

A message for the ages that, alas, I will not pay attention to

(--quote via Roger Parsons, image via's einstein text generator)

Feb 24, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Greetings, Earthling!

The bears have managed to hide Dust Mite in a place where I can't find it, so I had to dig out one of the old pictures of our vacation on Mars. Here dust mite is returning to the rover after going back to (unsuccessfully) get a replacement solar panel.

I prefer to be called a Magpie-American

I'm sure that the whole idea is to drag you into buying cabinetry from them, but it's an amusingly simplistic quiz that tries to guess what style of cabinets are right for you.

What's my style quiz


Thank you for completing the quiz. We hope you had fun! Based on your answers we think you would most like our Eclectic style of cabinetry. For additional selections, you also scored high in the Country Traditional style, so you might want to check those out as well.

Visit our Photo Gallery to See More Eclectic Images, and access links to our product detail pages.

Learn about design elements that you can add to a room to help make it more Eclectic.

I do like the glass-fronted cabinets, but I suspect that the carefully tidied up rooms they show in those pictures would look like an absolute disaster area after stirring in a couple of children.

(link to quiz from Westinmoreland House, via Houseblogs)

Life on the river (#9)

One of the Ross Island Sand & Gravel tugboats pushes a barge back to pick up a new load of Ross Island. Picture taken from the #19 bus as it crossed the Ross Island bridge this evening.

Oh, fuck me.

So, how does the state of Oregon top passing their "no icky gay marriages here" amendment as part of their race towards being a somewhat more mountainous version of Mississippi? Oh, that's easy; lets find some way to sneakily kidnap their children under the guise of "no icky gay adoptions here."

And I'm paying taxes to support these goddamn bigots.

Welcome to Oregon! We hate you, your children, your schools, and the environment, but we'll happily take your tax money while treating you like some pathetic second (or third, thanks to the ancien régime amendment) class scum.


Feb 23, 2006

Trolley picture of the day

After a delay of many many weeks where I've been too sick to even get an indifferent picture of anything on rails, I finally found myself returning to work after yet another visit to the doctor's office at a time when there was actually light outside. It had been so long since I'd taken any pictures that I sat dumbly by and watched several trolleys go by before I realized that I was lugging my Pentax around with me as usual.

I didn't realize how dirty the lenses were until after the pictures were taken; despite appearances, there were no little green ghosts sitting under the Burnside bridge

Feb 22, 2006

A stain that will never wash out.

Overall, eight people in U.S. custody were tortured to death.

Where is the shining city on a hill, the paragon of morality and dignity that the rest of the world is supposed to look up to? It's gone; blown to bits in an unprovoked aggressive war, then tortured to death in the American Gulag. And for what? Nothing except an orgy of war profiteering by the "distinguished" members of the Republican party and their fellow traffickers in death and degradation.

Damn them. Damn them all.

(via Michael Froomkin)

It is all about “us” vs. “them”

But the US in this question is "friends and relations of the B*sh junta", and the THEM is everybody else. So, when P&O sells out to the emirate of Dubai, it's not the jingo-media approved "our plucky British Friends selling out to those Swarthy Arabs™". No, it's actually "Stupid lapdogs helping to enrich friends of the family". And of course a deal like this will be sloppy enough so that if you're well connected, you can just stick out your hat and make a few more millions.

It's the same logic that had the CIA, which has an almost Israeli disregard for collateral damage, decide not to try to do a rocket attack on ObL a few years ago because ObL was visiting with the same good friends of the B*sh junta who are getting control of those ports. Because, you know, brown people are a dime a dozen, unless they are members of the family. I don't know why anyone is surprised at this; it's the way the Coward in Chief always works.

I expect the Evil Party "outrage" over the Dubai ports purchase will subside in the next few days when it becomes obvious that, despite Paul Weyrich's best efforts, same-sex marriage is still tolerated in Massachusetts.

(via Pen And Sword, Sisyphus Shrugged, and the Big Dog)


Feb 20, 2006

New Code!

Postoffice has been bumped up to version 1.2.2 because of an extremely trivial feature enhancement: traditionally, postoffice didn't support the sort of runq daemon that every other MTA for Unix supports. Well, it turns out that I want to replace Allman sendmail on a few r*dh*t (or less-expensive derivative) boxes, and it's a lot easier to just plug in a rpm package than it is to download sources, extract sendmail with a crowbar, and stuff postoffice in while hoping that the next upgrade down the line won't replace postoffice with That Other MTA.

So, it's upgrade time. And I've actually tested it enough to verify that the runq daemon works just like sendmail -q inside an infinite loop, so it's perfect™ by Open Source®™© standards.

The Industrial Revolution starts at home

High technology, lego style (6.6mb MOV file)

Russell built a couple of lego machines, so I showed him how factories used to be built by attaching the engines to our lego electric motor by belts and an overhead line drive.


Hunting, Dick Cheney style

Monty Python anticipates 'sportmanship', Dick Cheney-style
We've staked the quail down so that the hunting party won't have to spend too much time away from their SUVs.

Feb 19, 2006

Doing my part to contribute to the debate over the American health care system

1 comment

Feb 17, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Oh, bother! Dust Mite's been listening to right-wing talk radio again!

A conversation with Silas

(setting: late this afternoon, after I came home from work and was lying collapsed on the bed. SILAS enters and starts trying to coax me into action. He has a fever, so he's fairly warm.)

ORC (trying to coax SILAS into cuddling): ... you're so warm, you're like a space heater.
SILAS: I not space heater!
ORC: But you're warm and cozy.
SILAS: If you have a rocketship and it gets cold, thats what you use a space heater for. I not space heater!
ORC: ...

1 comment

Submitted without comment

(via Talking Points Memo)


“Justice” in the American Imperium

A few years ago, the Canadian citizen Maher Arar was kidnapped by US officials out of the JFK transit lounge when changing planes on his way back to Canada from a vacation in Tunisia. Since he was guilty of having a semitic last name, he was "renditioned" away to Syria where the Syrian government spent a year or so attempting to torture a terrorism confession out of him. The Canadian government, after a ridiculous delay, managed to get him freed and returned to Canada, where he (and other civil libertarians) started pursuing legal actions against the governments of Canada and the USA (the case in the USA was pursued by the Center of Constitutional Rights on behalf of Mr. Arar.)

Well, just the other day a US appeals court decided to drop Mr. Arar's case on the floor. Why? Was it on the merits of the case, in that being kidnapped and taken away to be tortured by agents of the American gulag wasn't a compelling reason for legal action against the American Imperium? Oh, no, nothing as concrete as that. No, the reason why Judge David Trager dropped the case (and, incidentally, more of the international reputation that the United States of American used to have before the coup de etat in 2000) was because "One need not have much imagination to contemplate the negative effect on our relations with Canada if discovery were to proceed in this case and were it to turn out that certain high Canadian officials had, despite public denials, acquiesced in Arar’s removal to Syria."

Civil liberties? Sure, you can have all the civil liberties you want, as long as they don't run the risk of embarrassing any government officials in a state that's being governed by conservatives. Because, heavens, if the US was to blame a Canadian for turning a blind eye to the US kidnapping and torturing another Canadian citizen, Stephen Harper might have to stand up and defend Canada, which would run the risk of derailing Paul Weyrich's grand plan of exporting his jihad against gay people up to the great white north™.

Continuing the slow evisceration of civil liberties in the United States? Well, sure, because if you left civil liberties alone then the terrorists wouldn't have won and we couldn't do our next unprovoked aggressive war against a near eastern state. But this one, well, it's just a little reminder for Stephen Harper; telling him that if he doesn't play along with the Evil Party plans for a theocratic state he might be in for a quick and unpleasant end at the hands of the tory press when he has to decide whether to sell out or support Canada.

Feb 16, 2006

Open Source®™© feature of the day

The the people who, for lack of a better word, "develop" the Free Software Foundation's "configure" program, have decided that it's really important that configure check for the existance of a f77 compiler along with the approximately 65,000 other stupid things that configure checks for.

They can't look in /usr/local for anything, oh no, because that would be, um, THE TRADITIONAL PLACE TO PUT THIRD-PARTY SOFTWARE ON A UNIX BOX, but they can, along with the ongoing breakage of their "portability" support on Linux machines (if you're running on a Linux box that doesn't have the gnu bloatware de jour, it's a coinflip whether a particular "configure"d package will properly configure. And G-d help you if you take defaults on "configure"d prerequisites, because it will put them into /usr/local and then the next "configure"d package won't even find them. Yay Linux!) always check to see if you're running f77.


Not getting it, Stupid Party style

In the past few months, the Stupid party has rolled over on

  1. bagman Roberts
  2. bagman Scalito
  3. Maximum Leader Genius's long-running illegal spying on American citizens
  4. There are others, of course, but the latest round of photos from the goddamn American gulag has concentrated my ire to the point where I'm not thinking clearly.

And has only managed to rise from its slumbers to threaten Paul Hackett's contributers as part of a (successful) attempt to drive him out of the Democratic Party, because primary elections, well, if you do those then the wrong sort of candidate might win the election.

And what do the moderates say in response to this?

Simply put, Senate and House Democrats have decided, based on the advice of the consultants, not to have any replays of 2002. If there is any issue of national security this year, other than Iraq, that is a 50-50 issue where Democrats can risk any losses by taking a stand, then the lesson the consultants have taken from 2002 is that it is better for the party to not let Bush move to their right. The consultants apparently have convinced the Capitol Hill leadership that it was too risky for Democrats to mount an all-out offensive on the NSA spying issue if the polling numbers were no better than 50-50 and if there was any chance at all that Rove would succeed at doing what he clearly said he was planning to do this year: ram national security down our throats this fall. So as a result, there will be no frontal challenge to Bush on the NSA issue this year because the Capitol Hill leadership has decided to play it safe and try and gain parity this fall in both houses by running a cautious and yes, conservative campaign that doesn’t get caught flat-footed on national security again like they did in 2002. I’m not saying its right, and I’m not condoning this, but it is now clear to me what game is afoot between now and November.


Let it go. Waging war on our own Senators and representatives between now and November is just what the GOP wants. Sure, we feel the Democrats are potentially making another big mistake this year by not challenging the GOP and White House, but the decision has been made and the consultants have gained the ear of the leadership once again to play it safe and hope the six-year itch will turn out the GOP through a cautious campaign based on “culture of corruption” and “we’re not a rubber stamp.

--Steve Soto, writing in the Left Coaster

And then he asks "Will it work?"

I'd think that this is a huge joke, but later on in the same article he says "Let the GOP attack both of those ideas this year, so that we can shift the argument on these two issues onto turf more favorable to us while we act like we are joined at the hip with Bush when it comes to monitoring Al Qaeda."

That klunk klunk klunk sound you hear? That's me, pounding my head against the table and screaming "No, no, no!" They did this in 2002. They did this in 2004. And, while Osama bin Laden ran free, Al Qaeda went from strength to strength, and the goddamn United States of American went on a fucking torture and murder spree, the incompetent pack of morons who stood by and picked their noses as Al Qaeda chatted nonchalantly about their terror plans (we know this because the US government was already spying on them, but didn't bother to do anything because it was vacation time for the B*sh junta) got close enough in the polls so they could "win" the elections again, and again, and again.

"Let it go"?

"Let it go"?

"Let It Go"?

Oh, fuck you. Fuck the lot of you. I'm not going to *let it go* because I've let it go for too damn long already, and I've been left holding an empty bag again and again. I'm not going to be the Democratic Party's monkey once again -- find yourself a whole new bunch of rubes to fleece because I'm done with you.

And your stupid focus-group tested pretend "issues" (universal heath care, but not single payer or socialized, because that would be like the mapleleaf menace from the North) or "public funding" of campaigns (remember the last time congress passed a bill about campaign financing? The one where the Evil Party defanged it by getting John McCain to cosponsor it, and which ended up being filled with loopholes so that the Evil Party could continue to rake in their millions while blocking the traditional Stupid Party donors. Oh, yeah, that's the sort of fucking issue that will make the unwashed masses just *fly* to the polls)? You can fuck yourselves with them, because nobody will believe that the milquetoast party would ever pursue those pretend "issues" if they were stupid enough to give you the reins of power again.

If I want to support the Argentinianisation of the United States, the growing network of deathcamps, or the looting of the treasury or the planet, I'll just give money to the Evil Party because I know that I'll get $ome immediate payback for it.


Feb 15, 2006

Usenet? Internet? Close enough for this post.

If there is someone on your blogroll who makes your world a better place just because that person exists and who you would not have met (in real life or not) without the internet, then post this same sentence on your blog.

If it were up to me, I'd replace the horrible name "blog" with "weblog", and the equally horrible "on your blogroll" with "in your bookmarks", but that would spoil it.

(via Badgerings)

Ermächtigungsgesetz? Pfft, that’s ancient history.

Who needs an enabling act when your lickspittles in congress will not even bother to investigate when you break the law? After all, you need a supermajority to get amendments passed, but a simple majority is enough to have congress ignore your crimes.

It's probably all for the best. After all, the time that congress spends doing work is time taken away from proposing those important new ethnic purity laws.


Feb 14, 2006


Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments
. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

(-- a merchant's son, via ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES)

Gun control, Evil Party style.

«Man shot and wounded by Vice President Cheney suffers "minor heart attack" after birdshot becomes lodged in his heart, hospital spokesman says.»

--CNN, as quoted by Atrios

But Cheney regrets not buying a (US$7) bird stamp before the hunt, so there's nothing to worry about.

1 comment

Ms. found in my mailbox

From: Northwest Airlines<>
Subject: Important Announcement

Effective immediately, we'll be using e-mail instead of traditional mail to inform you of exclusive airfare discounts and other important messages. .
. To no longer receive future NWA E-mail, excluding important service e-mail, click here to [20]unsubscribe.

Oh, really? Not to that email address you won't.

# ed /etc/aliases
nwa-orc: <redacted>
# newaliases
/etc/aliases: 214 aliases, longest is 89 bytes, 2649 bytes total.

Have a nice day!



Feb 13, 2006

Finally found: an exception to IOKIYAR

Remember, even if you're a B*sh super leet pioneer, it's still your fault if Dick Cheney shoots you in the face while "hunting". Remember, kids, gun safety conventions do not apply to the king!


The Springwater trail creeps towards completion (pt 2)

The engineers are starting to hang the deck suspenders, and a picture taken during the daytime shows the refined elegance of the commercial neighborhood around the trail as it crosses 99e.

Feb 12, 2006

Our tax dollars at waste

The government concluded its "Cyber Storm" wargame Friday, its biggest-ever exercise to test how it would respond to devastating attacks over the Internet from anti-globalization activists, underground hackers and bloggers.

Threats to security, including the majestic bløgger!!

A Bløgger once bit my sister ...

No realli! She was Karving her initials on the bløgger with the sharpened end of an interspace tøøthbrush given her by Svenge - her brother-in-law - an Oslo dentist and star of many Norwegian møvies: "The Høt Hands of an Oslo Dentist", "Fillings of Passion", "The Huge Mølars of Horst Nordfink".

Mynd you, bløgger bites Kan be pretty nasti...


Railroad picture of the day

Railfans watch a freight heading south out of the Albina yard (click to hugeify.)

Feb 11, 2006

Annoying Unix featurette of the day

Postoffice comes with a much more complete set of manual pages than most of my other code comes with, and I was fairly pleased that I was actually able to get these pages written (most of them using the same macro set that the Allman sendmail (8.8.5, I think) I used to use used. Why? I hadn't written the manpages for postoffice yet, so the sendmail manpages were still lying around) and they actually more-or-less described the code as written.

So I had a working mail server, working manpages, and everyone was happy, right?

Um, wrong. About the time I was finishing up with the great netbsd/sparc64 portability dance, Pierre-Philipp Braun sent me a note saying, more or less, "if you're going to do feature enhancements, could you modify the manpages so apropos works for them?"

Um, what, you mean it doesn't work now? <clickity clickity> ... Um, no, they don't seem to work on either Mastodon, FreeBSD, or NetBSD. And it appears that they don't work because I used the wrong set of manpage macros.


.Nm smtpd
.Nd the
.Nm postoffice
SMTP mail server
... does not work, but ...
.Nm smtpd
.Nd the postoffice SMTP mail server
... does work (on FreeBSD; the horrible script that is left over from the original manpages on Pell simply ignores (or eats) the NAME section.)

It looks like if I want it to work on Pell (and any other version of Linux that continues to use the horrible script that I'm using) I need to redo the manpages in the stupider BIG LETTER MACROS AND NOTHING FANCY LIKE TABLES format that so many other manpages use.

Or I could just drink heavily.

All hardware sucks, all software sucks, and I can't take a hammer to the software.


New Code!

Postoffice has been pushed up to version 1.2.1, which is primarily a continuation of the portability cleanup that started with 1.1.11, but which does contain proper support for the mailwrapper program which all modern versions of {Free|Open|Net|etc}BSD have.

There is one new feature in 1.2.1, which is not very visible; the dns code now silently ignores mxes that resolve to

For people who are interested in my development process, here are the changelog entries for the last week:

Add a `tools' rule to make the little test programs for mx and b64


Use inet_makeaddr() to convert in_addr_t into struct in_addr


inet_makeaddr() accepts things in host order, inet_addr() generates things in network order. Grumble


Change address() and addresslist() so that they will not add MXes which resolve to localhost, to avoid a particularly nasty sort of spammer trick for avoiding the rage of the consumer


Put a note in saying how the scanner is supposed to work

Provide arguments to hosts_ctl() when we call it, because some versions of the tcp wrappers header files have prototypes in them, thus causing gcc (it's always gcc that breaks) to have a shrieking hissy fit about a function that doesn't have parameters

Say what the default hopcount is

If the --with-av argument does not begin with a |, prefix it with one. Make the checking for mailwrappers output a little terser

Always install authexpire and ?dbm

If --use-mailwrappers is set (default), check to see if there's a valid mailwrappers installation on the system and set the makefile to install into it.

Split up the install rules into rules for mailwrappers and rules for regular installs


include config.h, check for HAVE_BASENAME and HAVE_LIBGEN_H

Feb 10, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Now that it's sunny again, Dust Mite is able to go sightseeing in the Columbia River gorge.

Not the most compelling ‘stability’ argument

I've been running Linux for a long long time now (I think I flipped pell over to 0.12 or .99(something) sometime in fall 1992; I was certainly running it before I met the best in 1993) and one of the things I've always liked about it is that it's a pretty stable system on the crash recovery front. Pell (which, about 6 motherboards, cases, and hard disks ago, was the very first Linux box I set up) has been running pretty much continuously since 1992 with a grand total of one (1) case of data failure after a crash, and that happened when I overfilled the box with SCSI cards and it blew the power supply right in the middle of a news expire. I lost the inn history file, and had to regenerate it after I reshuffled the scsi busses.) And this is with the Linux ext2 filesystem, which, as all of the BSD fanatics will tell you, is Horribly! Unreliable! And! You! Run! The! Risk! Of! Data! Loss! If! You! Use! It! (an argument I found hard to believe to start with, and believed even less after the second or third freebsd crash which left me with a handful of files with good metadata, but containing nothing but pagefuls of ^A characters.) The other Linux machines I've run have been about as reliable, almost never dropping things on the floor when the local power company decided to play basketball with the mains power (these power failures taught me a few important things about the bsds, and those are:

  1. Not to use softupdates on filesystems that are important, unless you really like having to play disk recovery games to get back the contents of your /etc directory.
  2. Not to use either of the software disk array systems that a certain popular version of BSD uses, unless you really like to have heart palpitations at the thought that the SDAS de jour has just eaten 8 years of data when you see it pop up a syslog message claiming it's going to copy from the new hotswap disk over onto the old non-dead disk.)

But, be that as it may, the version of Linux I use is now old enough so that I can't just drop it onto new hardware and have it work. I bought a used Toshiba notebook computer a few months back that has an embedded wavelan card in it, and that card is new enough so that it's not properly supported by the (by now fairly ancient) driver that ships with the 2.0.28 kernel that Mastodon uses. So, since we're using RHEL3 at work, I decided that I'd get as close to RHEL3 as I could get without having to pay the boys in the research triangle a large wad of money; so I went out and got Centos, aka "RHEL without a large payment", and stuffed it onto the machine.

It has been, um, an interesting experience. Since I've put Centos on the laptop, it's crashed four times (two times because I disconnected the mains connection, and "used laptop" means "no battery left", once because firefox ran berserk and ate so much of the system that I couldn't get a C-A-BS through to the X server, and one mysterious "hey, it's tuesday! time to kernel panic") and, of those four crashes, two of them have lead to fsck eating the entire contents of /etc/pcmcia and, for good measure, wiping out the parts of /lib/modules that contain all the USB drivers.

And I'm running ext3 with journaling, too. And I want journalling, because I'd like to put Linux onto my main fileserver so I could set up a big old lvm and use filesystem snapshots to freeze my data so I'm not backing up live 60gb filesystems. But I certainly won't use it if a crash means I end up picking parts of a dead root filesystem. So I stick with BSD on my servers, even though the BSD filesystem support sucks and I have to keep a backup server running to do periodic rsyncs from the working server, because it's better than having to periodically reload the system from scratch and hope I don't miss anything when rebuilding it.

Sigh. And I really wanted to use lvm on linux.


How can you tell that a Republican is lying?

The statement from the B*sh junta:

«"The hurricane started to depart the area on Monday, and then Tuesday morning the levee broke and the water started to flood into New Orleans," Mr. Chertoff said on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Sept. 4, the weekend after the hurricane hit.»

What really happened:

«The Federal Emergency Management Agency official, Marty Bahamonde, first heard of a major levee breach Monday morning. By late Monday afternoon, Mr. Bahamonde had hitched a ride on a Coast Guard helicopter over the breach at the 17th Street Canal to confirm the extensive flooding. He then telephoned his report to FEMA headquarters in Washington, which notified the Homeland Security Department

FEMA photo taken on monday afternoon

The enraged response by Evil Party apologists:

(via the New York Times)

Feb 09, 2006

View From A Bus

Mount St. Helens, with Mount Rainier in the distance.

Mount Hood

On a clear day, the view from the #19 bus as it crosses the Ross Island Bridge is spectacular enough to make up for my indifferent photoshop abilities.

Cute spammer trick.

If you read my post from the day before yesterday about bizarre (spam) fishing expeditions, you might have noticed, prominently placed right up near the top, two little pieces of bait that are not like the others:

Note the domains. They aren't me, either with the Portland address or with the Chicago address. But what they are is something far more malign:

orc@boobook(orc)$ host -t mx mail is handled by 10
orc@boobook(orc)$ host has address
orc@boobook(orc)$ host -t mx mail is handled by 10 localhost.

Yupper, these two addresses are set up to try and trick mail servers into delivering them locally (or, worse yet, to make it more difficult to send abuse complaints to the spamhauses); I've run into spam like this before, and I'm always happy to do the appropriate whois lookups to bounce the abuse complaints up and up the wire until I reach the toplevel domain for the ip space. But it's still a pain to deal with. Fortunately for me, I've written my own smtp server, and can code around noxious dns tricks like this. For the next postoffice release, I've modified mx.c so that it will ignore mxes that resolve to localhost. I won't reduce spam very much, but it will very nicely reduce my annoyance when I have to go in and hand-address a we-don't-accept-spam-here message to the spamhouse, their IP provider, and their little dog too.

How can you tell that a Republican is lying (protecting us against terrorism™ edition)?

So, Mr "President", just how do you hijack an airplane with a shoe bomb? And why are you telling us this now instead in 2002 when you allegedly caught the ringleader?

Feb 08, 2006

I am impressed

Usually a new conservative government takes several months to reveal the full glory of how they, um, creatively bring respect and dignity back to the country that they just took power in. But the new CPC government in Canada is, apparently, fully aware of their pathetically weak government, so they've decided to just unzip and let it all fall out at the very start of their regime.

I think they deserve some sort of award. But is it for giving the trade ministry to the suddenly ex-liberal ex-CEO of Canfor, nevermind the storm of protest when Belinda Stronach crossed the aisle in the other direction? Or is it that the brand sparkling new Trade minister, who is supposed to work on the long-running softwood exports dispute with the United States, has recused himself from involvement with direct dealings with Canfor (Canada's largest forestry company, and one that is specifically accused of dumping softwood in the United States) and their subsidiaries?

Or perhaps it's, after stating that you'd need to be elected to Parliament before you could take a seat in his cabinet, Stephen Harper appointed his not-elected-to-anything-at-all campaign co-chair to that very same cabinet? To be fair, Michael Fortier is now a senator (just barely; Harper appointed him at the same time he appointed him to the cabinet), but that does leave the tiny detail that Harper promised not to appoint senators, but have them elected instead.

How about appointing a justice minister who pleaded guilty to breaking provincial campaign laws in Manitoba? Or the new Defence Minister who is in charge of arranging to buy military transport aircraft which, um, he was lobbying for the government to buy from his clients just a year and a half ago?

It's impressive. I've not seen such a festival of conservative hilarity since the B*sh junta took over the united states in 2001 (a festival that became much less hilarious after the B*sh junta ignored what turned out to be a 40 foot tall pile of warnings all reading "Osama bin Laden is going to try another suicide attack with aircraft in September"; the level of competence didn't go up, but the "loyal opposition" collapsed like a wet paper bag and let the Evil Party run wild over the smoking ruins of the American republic.) If I was paranoid, I could let my imagination run wild, but since the Canadians can do a vote of no confidence at basically any time, it's less likely that Stephen Harper and his merry band can run quite so roughshod over Canada as the conservatives did in the United States, and it's certainly impressive to watch them try to, er, function.

(links galore via Canadian Cynic, A BCer in Toronto, and Peace, order, and good government, eh?)

Move along, there’s nothing to see here.

No, there's no global warming going on. I don't know where you'd get that silly idea from.

Feb 07, 2006

bizarre fishing expedition of the day

Like everyone else who runs a server connected to a public network, I've got a mailserver that spends approximately 100% of its time rejecting spam and thwarting address-fishing expeditions. Over the last couple of days the address-fishers have been getting very busy, and have been hammering my machine with 3-500 wrong numbers a day. Some of them look like they're just the usual crop of phone-book fishing, but some of them are, um, a little bit stranger: That's not a email address, that's a message-id. And, furthermore, it's not a messageid that any of the mail or news software I use will generate. Have the spammers started to do mix and match domain x username, on the hopes that they'll find the motherload of macgyver usernames somewhere?


My only word on the Danish anti-semitic cartoon controversy

So. Crude anti-semitic cartoons aimed at Islam? good. But if they're aimed at Jeeeeeeezus? bad bad bad, and we're not going to print them.

Someone's playing a nasty racist game here, and pulling in a lot of fishies.

"But but but Saudi Arabia hates the Jews!!!" Yes, the government (and a distressingly large subset of the population) does; they're nasty fundamentalist thugs and hating Jews is what fundamentalists thugs do. But I don't see you supporting their "right of free speech" by reprinting the torrent of spectacularly evil anti-Jewish cartoons they publish. So why are you reprinting a torrent of anti-Islamic cartoons that were originally published by a bunch of religious bigots, and then whining when the victims register their complaints?

I have very little truck with the whole "pictures of Mohammad (pbuh) are forbidden!" argument that some of the more dimwitted muslim fundamentalists are using. Islamic artists have been producing pictures of the prophet for over a millenia, and there's a world of difference between a picture of him worshipping before the Ka'aba and that filth that the right wingers in Denmark vomited up before the world. If someone wants to show "solidarity" with a free press, they should reprint this picture of the prophet, or this one, or this one.

(links to newspaper articles via Xymphora and Sisyphus Shrugged)

Feb 06, 2006

The B*sh junta thinks that their supporters are a pack of idiots

President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale.

--Abu Gonzales, peeing on the Republicans in the Senate earlier today

Now, maybe it's just that I didn't go to the elite private schools that the movers and shakers of the Evil Party went to, but to my knowledge there were no electronic devices that George Washington could use to spy on the, um, British subjects who were engaged in a bloody revolution against King George. Does the B*sh junta think that their dimwitted supporters will see the name "George" and snap to attention like a pack of well trained pointers? Why, yes, they do; and they haven't been disappointed yet.

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New Code!

This was the weekend for updating postoffice; after rolling the code up to 1.1.11 on friday, I spent the weekend discovering that the whole world is not actually a VAX, and as part of the big effort to make the code bugfree and more portable, I took a slight detour back to some of the old never-finished smtp authentication code, and implemented AUTH LOGIN for people in virtual domains, so they can use the same login and password they use for their vm-pop3d sessions to relay mail messages out to the rest of the world. This is a big enough feature to require a major version# bump, thus the new release is version 1.2.0.

AUTH LOGIN has the potential of being a huge honking security bug, of course, so it's currently only enabled if you configure postoffice with --with-auth; a polite thing to do would be to add STARTTLS to the smtp daemon, then allow people who aren't in a virtual domain to log in and relay mail, but politeness needs to wait until the existing code has been put in for long enough to be throughly tested against security and coding holes.

Once again, thanks to Pierre-Philipp Braun, of nethence, for giving me extensive feedback and root access to his systems over the past few days; without actually having access to a non-ia32 machine, it would have been much more difficult to actually find some of the cases where the world is not really a VAX.

Picture of the day

Mount Hood, a lenticular cloud, and a flock of geese. Picture taken from the Milwaukie and Bybee bus stop this morning at around 8:50am, just before I hopped on the bus and started another week of slaving away in the coding mills.

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Why the Democratic Party is going to lose ground in the 2006 election, in one easy lesson

There is little doubt that a nuclear Iran is the largest threat that the world now faces--the most pressing foreign policy issue facing us today.

--some idiot on Kos

Sure, Iran with multiple nukes would be a somewhat more potent foe than Iran was in 1995 (I am convinced that the Iranian goverment managed to put together at least one uranium bomb sometime between the illegal invasion of Iraq and the 2004 "election", because they changed their tone from being a fairly quiet brutal religious dictatorship to being almost as irrational in their public pronouncements as North Korea [another new member of the nuke club, and one that, unlike Iran, has missiles capable of striking the United States]), but a foreign policy issue, let alone the most pressing foreign issue?

Sure, Iran with a nuke might be a problem to Israel, because that means that if the Israeli goverment decides to unload 100 or so of their nuclear weapons at Iran they might get Tel Aviv glassed in return, but I'd think that the solution there is, just possibly, to not do a preemptive nuclear attack. And, judging from the history of nuclear weapons since 1944, just how much of a problem is it? Rounding up to the nearest whole number, I'd say it's Zero; So far, there have only been two cases where a nuclear power has dropped The Bomb on an enemy, and since then 60+ years have gone by, complete with other nuclear powers disintegrating into a bunch of squabbling city-states, and not one single bomb has been detonated.

But, no, all the B*sh junta needs to do is wave their latest political campaign in the air and the stupid stupid stupid liberals in the United States throw their hands up in the air and start wailing about oh oh oh, the sky is falling, and someone has to save us!!!

And, come November 2nd, they will, thanks to being spineless enough to get a dozen or so key races close enough to steal, get "saved" in the way that only the Evil Party can arrange. And, you know something? They'll deserve it. If the liberals in the United States haven't figured out that when they stand around passing Captain Codpiece buckets of gasoline, valuable things end up burning, they'll end up really losing elections and they'll have nobody to blame but themselves.

Feb 05, 2006

Sunday photo dump

Look! A 10,000 foot volcano just east of Portland!

Amazingly, it was clear and sunny all day today, so we decided this morning that we should go out to the Columbia Gorge to look at waterfalls, hike around, and take pictures of trains. As befitting a household containing children, we got on our way at the bright and early hour of 2 pm, which turned out to be fine because the bears decided that they were done with being outside after we'd driven about 12 miles, and had to be coaxed along for the two hours we actually spent out there.

Crown Point through the telephoto.  The verdict? BO-ORING!

For example, Crown Point was not considered to be very much of a baby attraction, nor were any of the waterfalls. The stream at the foot of Multnomah Falls, well, that was a completely different story, and we spent about 30 minutes with the bears playing around it before it got dark and we started heading home for dinner.

Now *this* is quality entertainment!

And as for trains, well, we were on the south side of the Columbia River, which is where the Union Pacific operates. As we were heading east out of the city, we saw train after train just sitting stopped on the tracks, and what trains that were moving kept waiting until we were a long ways away from the railroad before they went thundering by. Finally, just after we decided to head on home, we spotted a single solitary Union Pacific train slowing to a stop for a red signal out east of Horsetail Falls.

Two UP engines stopped dead at a signal.

If you look closely at this last picture, you'll get some idea about the amount of light that was available. "None" would be a pretty good bet, and I'm going to fork out some money for a 50mm prime lens pretty soon so that I can have a fighting chance of actually getting a good picture in the sort of minimal light we had left by the time we actually saw the head end of a train.

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Feb 04, 2006

The joys of loan-sharking, American style

As part of my quest to consume less electricity (in the land of Enron, electricity is very expensive; when our local power company was taken over by Enron, the floormats who call themselves the Oregon PUC let them crank the rates way up to help pay for the bribes administrative costs associated with the looting takeover. Along with the usual crop of electrical things in the house, I used to run about a dozen power-hungry PCs with a monthly power bill of between US$60 and US$80; these days we've gone down to three PCs, and our monthly bill has gone up to about US$105. Ugh) I ordered a couple of cheap wattmeters from last week. They arrived today, and along with the usual invoice and wad of packing materials, Amazon included a little advertising flyer from a large east coast bank I'll call Citibank, for that is their name.

Citibank has a Great! Offer! For! Homeowners! in that if you set up a home equity loan from them they'll give you a Free! iPod! nano! for Free! And it's Free! All you need to do is get a home equity loan from them!

It's got a few little conditions which are pretty awe-inspiring in the way they will screw you over if you're foolish enough to take them up on the deal. To get the (US$199 street price) iPod nano, you have to

  • Sign up for a three year home equity loan, which costs US$50/year.
  • Borrow a minimum of US$25000, at what they call "market rates."
  • "market rates" are set to "a maximum of" 18%, which I read as being a minimum of 18%.
  • And if you decide to settle the home equity loan early, they'll charge you US$500 to US$11,000 (US$23000 in New York state) "early closure release fee" for all the work they needed to do to dip you in boiling water and pluck all your feathers out.

What a deal, eh? To save US$200 on an iPod, you'll end up paying Citibank several thousand dollars more for a loan that you could get at a better rate from your local credit union.

You'd think they'd be ashamed of themselves, but that's not how American capitalism works; with the spiffy new screw the working classes bankruptcy law, there's a huge incentive for banks to dangle all sorts of worthless baubles out to catch the unwary, because once you're caught there isn't anything you can do to get away.

If I didn't know better, I'd say that they really want a socialist revolution to occur. Give it time; it's not as if the Evil Party is going to do anything to make life better for anyone other than the super-rich.

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Feb 03, 2006

The Springwater trail creeps towards completion

The superstructure of the new Springwater Trail bridge over 99e, taken, at dusk, from the front seat of the mighty Prius as we headed through the Clackamas Curtain for my mother's birthday party.

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

A birthday cake, garnished with a Dust Mite

New Code! (pt 3)

To continue with the stream of tiny code releases I've been sending out, I've done another patch release to magicfilter, which is now up to version 2.3.e 2.3.f, which contains a couple of patches I made last year, but forgot to check into version control, plus some small cleanups of the magic.m4 filter template so that you can define(TEXT,false) and have the filter then pipe text through your pstext or enscript program. The older patches correct a little buglet with new versions of libmagic on NetBSD 3.x machines, where -lmagic requires -lz to work (so libmagic can look inside some compressed files, which may turn out to be an exciting source of later bugs) and cleans up some of the filtering so that I'm not passing naked escapes around, which are invariably eaten by one thing or another, leaving me with difficult to reproduce bug reports, and the new patch unbreaks some of the PJL processing and, as I already mentioned, printing of text files to non-text printers.

I'm still planning (in my copious free time; my corporate masters expect me to do productive work, and the bears expect me to do productive play, which leaves me with not much free time or available braincells) to write a configuration tool that takes advantage of the foomatic big-database-of-printer-descriptions to autogenerate filters instead of using my little library of increasingly-obsolete printer filters, but at least these now 4 month old changes are published like they should have been in 2.3.d

Feb 02, 2006

New Code! (pt 2)

Annotations has been pushed up to version Why the teeny tiny version change? Two things were added; first, and most trivially, I've started adding support for categories, so you can (provided I write the generator routines) set things up so that people can read your railroad posts without reading about your icky liberal politics. Secondly, and probably more usefully, I've patched the code so that it will compile on redhat 8.0, so people who don't run Mastodon Linux have a slightly more fighting chance of actually making the code work.

New Code!

Postoffice has been upgraded to version 1.1.10 1.1.11. This release is because of a recent(?) enhancement to NetBSD where they depreciated statfs() by the simple expedient of stripping out the definition of struct statfs while leaving the function call in libc (and leaving the manpage to say that the structure can be found in the traditional include files that had been swept free of the evil taint of backward compatability.) This makes my traditional approach of checking to see if the function exists, then assuming that the header files associated with the function will actually contain stuff having to do with the function a somewhat less than useful approach. So I've redone the configure scripts to check for both statfs() and struct statfs, and to have postoffice pay attention to all the appropriate definitions when building.

There is no guarantee that this new code will actually work on a system that only has statvfs, because all of my development machines are old enough so that they don't have the New Standard Function installed on them. But it does configure and build properly on FreeBSD 4.8 and Mastodon INSTsomethingrecent, so there's actually a fighting chance that it will just work™ on a new machine.

(h/t to Pierre-Philipp Braun for the bug report and for giving me an account on his system for debugging)

Feb 01, 2006

Inside every cartoonist there’s a disgruntled sysadmin trying to get out.

Some of them hide it better than others, but some of them don't even try. A case in point is r*k*milholland's online comic Something Positive (which may be the best online comic out there; he combines some incredibly savage sarcasm and bitterness with some of the sweetest and most touching storylines and characters I've ever seen), which is just coming off a sad storyline. And the last strip of that storyline (the Feb 1 strip) has one of the main characters talking to an ER doctor, who has a little nametag that looks suspiciously familiar:

I'm not positive that that's a comma, but D,NA is, ahem, the motto of the monastery. Coincidence, conspiracy, or simply the outward cry of a damned soul that wants to spend the rest of their life fighting with end-users?

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