February 2000 Archives

Well, I didn’t get a defense scheduled on Friday, because several committee members hadn’t read my thesis, and hence couldn’t sign the Magic Paper allowing said scheduling to occur. sigh I’m hopeful that this will come together today, however.

The rock has been brought for the last time. Sad to see ya go Jason; good luck in your future endeavors, and if I ever get to State College, I’ll take you up on the sticky buns.

Caught the latest Real Sex on HBO this weekend, featuring the very interesting Punany Poets, an African-American erotic performance art collective. Those of you in the Bay Area may want to check them out.

Sometimes, a worm is bait: What really happened to worm.sdsc.edu describes how a team of security people at the San Diego Supercomputer Center set up a patsy system to determine how long it would take for a stock Red Hat 5.2 install directly connected to the ‘net to get r00ted.

Hey, Miguel has a diary too! Geez, I need to revise my start pages one of these days.

Project Gutenbook, a Perl/GTK+ app for getting and reading Project Gutenberg eTexts. Hey, they’ve got most of the works of H. Rider Haggard over there! Now to acquire something reasonably portable to read them on…

Looks like I’ll be going to WACUG meetings after we move. Can any of the DC area readers tell me if this is the best LUG-like group in the area, or if I should be looking at another?

Tigert has quite a few Gimp color palettes, available for all you nx graphic kids, including a couple of web-safe ones.

Forgot to mention it at the time, but last week, Brig mentioned some changes at Clip2.com that have occurred since she left (see the last paragraph in the 2.24.00 entry). I checked it out, and sure enough, they had changed my mail prefs. I looked around for an account cancellation method on their site, couldn’t find one, and instead settled for changing my name (in the preferences) to be a bit ruder (“That’s Mister Off to you!”), and my email address to damn_spammers@clip2.com. I suggest you do the same.

Hmm, maybe I will head off and rework the Daily Dose pages. It’s either that or hack more on the new Secret Project. decisions, decisions

Probably won’t be an update tomorrow, as I’ve got to go back to Phoenix to pick up Laura. The interviewing went well, and she’s basically accepted a position at DegreeChk.com, although all the details still have to be hashed out. I think this means we’re (un)officially part of the Internet economy, or something.


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I had a long day — took my wife to Phoenix, to put her on a plane to Chicago, where she has a job interview. Hopefully that will go well; she seems excited by what the company is trying to do. It would be somewhat of a switch for her, but she seems to want that too. (Yes, I’m being deliberately vague about who this company is. No, I can’t really give you a good reason why — afraid of jinxing the deal?)

On the way back, I stopped in at the Phoenix-area Fry’s Electronics, to pick up some blank CD-R’s. This was my first visit to a Fry’s, and I was suitably impressed — so much stuff!. I wasn’t able to give it the time it deserved, unfortunately, as I needed to beat the gawd-aweful Phoenix rush-hour traffic, so that I could have dinner with a post-doc candidate who’s in town for the weekend. Can’t beat that free food…

I’d offer up a link to Fry’s, but they don’t seem to have a web site. Maybe that’s part of the magic. There is Breakfast at Fry’s, however, which makes more sense now that I’ve been to one.

Because of all this, I didn’t really get any surfing done, so I don’t really have an update to speak of. Sorry ‘bout that — hopefully next week will be a bit better.

Before I stumble off to bed, a couple of personal shout-outs:

First, best of luck to Lynette as she enters the beginning of the end.

And, happy birthday to my paternal grandfather, who turns 90 on Saturday. Happy Birthday, Grandpa Anderson! Wish I could be there for the bash…


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Thanks to Running Tally (for the reminder), and Napster (for the file), who combined to produce today’s title. You’re not like most people, Stuart, here in the trailer park.

Tell me again about much better the European education system is? A study in a British medical journal has found that health services by phone are hampered, because people don’t know the meaning of ‘unconscious’.

This little bit pinched from Nature talks about concentrating conservation resources into ‘hot-spots’: places with more biodiversity than average. I don’t really know enough about ecology to have a strong opinion on this, but I will say I’ve always been a bit confused about the wisdom of long-term efforts to preserve specialized, fragile environments and the species that are somewhat over-adapted to them. Anybody out there care to educate me as to why this is a Good Thing?

Referrer log gazing: churlish, at www.skittykittys.com — getting the link because of the cool URL.

Shamelessly filched from Dan, here’s another look at the recent series of DoS attacks, which gives a bit of historical context in addition to a more in-depth critique of the media analysis. As I’ve said before, one of the more interesting aspects of the whole DoS hoopla is the how people project their own fears (and hopes) onto the motivations of the entities behind the attacks.

While I’m stealin’, LIM pointed out this interview with Al Gore today, featuring this gem:

[Interviewer]: Are there people on death row elsewhere, or federal death row, who are innocent? Isn’t that something we should be worried about?

[Gore]: I would hope not. But I’ll tell you this: I think that any honest and candid supporter of the death penalty has to acknowledge that that support comes in spite of the fact that there will inevitably be some mistakes. And that’s a harsh concession to make, but I think it’s the only honest concession to make, and it should spur us to have appreciation for habeas corpus, for the procedural safeguards for the accused, and for the fairness that’s a part of the American judicial system and to resist efforts to take away the procedural safeguards.

Just makes you love that two party system all that much more, doesn’t it?

I got the work box up and running today, which was a good thing. Spent way too long getting it configured, and it’s still not quite done — still need to crawl through a few more sections in dselect. Also got the page proofs back for my paper, and got them back out to the journal — so I’m hopeful that we’ll make the March issue.

box wraslin'

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I spent about 4 hours last night and all day today trying (and failing) to switch my work computer from Red Hat to Debian. Fortunately, someone on the debian-users list came through with a lovely little kludge-y work-around, so hopefully I’ll be able to get up and running tomorrow. I’m really fighting the temptation to go back into work and fix it tonight, because I know if I do that, I’ll be compelled to do all the other config too — which would mean no update again. See the sacrifices I make for you kids?

Now playing: The Portable Galaxie 500 (listen, the snow is falling…)

While I’m thinking of it, my second column is up over at BlueButtBunny. That site is launching this week, and they’re giving away a load of stuff — and based on the traffic that they’re sending my way, your chances might be pretty good ;^)=

What happens when people have too much time on their hands: RJ’s Perl Obfuscator:

The Perl Obfuscator attempts to intuit your Perl code. It randomizes variable and subroutine names; removing decorative whitespace, tabbing and comments from your code. The result is what many over-30 programmers call job security.

Dig the camel with the black out bar over its eyes!

How much is your thesis worth?

David Cohen comes through again, with a pointer to this NY Times article on a new DNA-bead technique that can do most or all of the things that current gene chips can do, but doesn’t require advance knowledge of the sequences involved. It’s also more focused on determining differences in gene expression (between cancerous and non-cancerous cells, for example), rather than absolute levels in a single population. I wonder if 32 bases is enough to really distinguish all the different genes in a human cell? That seems a bit on the low side…

This interview with Douglas Coupland actually makes me less likely to buy Miss Wyoming.

You can’t tell the players without a program: Who’s Who in Linux/PPC.

(Some of the following are me attempting to clean out my bookmarks file, and get it into the ‘blog — for that far off day when I get the whole thing shifted over to a database which will store bookmarks for me on the back end and spit ‘blog entries out the from end for y’all — just in case you’re wondering about the relatively light commentary.)

Some interesting applets for your Gnome panel.

jwz talks about whole bunches of stuff — including an Emacs time-line, several things about mail storage formats and proper message threading, and this gem about Linux usability.

There’s a whole slew of PC font sites out there; now that I’ve got TrueType support working, I’ll have to check some of those out. That reminds me, I was working on a redesign…

Randal Schwartz has a whole bunch of columns from WebTechniques available on his site — lots of good Perl stuff.

Here’s a big review of most of the popular Linux window managers: part I and part II. (Part II covers Sawmill, my WM of choice.)

GimpMill is a Gimp plug-in to simply making themes for Sawmill.

Short tutorial on setting up a MySQL-backed web site.

‘Kay, I think that’s about enough for one night. See ya tomorrow.

As always, I’m having one of those “What the hell happened to the week-end?” moments late Sunday night. I didn’t even get that much goofing off done, fer Ghu’s sake! Guess I was a bit behind on sleep…

I did get the thesis handed out on Friday, which means that I’m still on schedule to graduate when I’m planning. It also means I get to do some real coding this week, in between bouts of biting my fingernails and wondering what my committee members are thinking as they read my work.

I also spent quite a bit of time tweaking computer stuff this weekend — which is a time sink if there ever was one. I think I’ve got everything set up ‘The Right Way’ — at least until next weekend… One of these days I’ll get some screen shots from the new box posted.

Oh yes, and I did fun things like sort old mail to see if there was anything I needed in there (there wasn’t), and fixed ID tags in mp3 files, so that everything gets picked up right in xmms. I should have spent that time blogging, but oh well — that’s what late nights are for… on with the update.

(These are pretty much in the (reverse) order they were bookmarked in; I’m not going to bother to topicalize them. You understand, I’m sure…)

With all the design flap going on in the ‘blog world, I decided I should probably get my fonts set up correctly, so that I could see what all the fuss is about. The TrueType Fonts in Debian mini-HOWTO was invaluable in that respect, and the web now looks quite a bit better. Some of you high-falutin’ design types might want to try to rustle up a stock Linux box, without any of the ‘doze TrueType fonts installed, and have a look see at how your pages render…it’s not terribly pretty.

One of the HotWired editors bags on the effects of the VA Linux/Andover merger on /. Nothing too surprising, although I’d forgotten that VA tried to buy out Rob and co. before Andover succeeded — that is a bit cheesy.

Simon Cozens takes on the Top 10 Myths about Perl. My favorite? Number two: Perl looks like line noise:

Each time I look at a piece of Perl that seems to have been uploaded in EBCDIC over a noisy serial line, I stop and wonder `what possesses someone to write something so ugly?’ Over time, I’ve come to realise that a consequence of Perl being easy to use is that it’s easy to abuse as well.

In short, Perl doesn’t write illegible Perl, people do. If you can stop yourself being one of them, we can agree that Perl’s reputation for looking like line noise is no more than a myth.

Most non-geeky people haven’t heard about UCITA yet — check out UCITA 101: What You Should Know About the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act, and then hit this page to find out when to mount the fight in your state.

Last week, Salon reviewed Rattling the Cage, a new book arguing that some of the (other) higher primates should be granted some of the legal privileges of ‘people’. Book sounds moderately interesting, but I’m linking it because it made me go back and re-read Heinlein’s Jerry Was a Man, which covered much the same ground — over 50 years ago.

Remember how you learned in biology that all proteins start with the same amino acid, methionine? That’s wrong.

Another piece on the always-fascinating Lake Vostok mentions some new data (new to me, at least) concerning bacteria in deep ice cores. The piece also expounds on the Europa connection a bit — a good intro if you have no idea what I’m talking about…

And now, the other side of the story:

Justice Department and FBI officials Wednesday told a Senate panel that last week’s denial of service attacks provide ample reason to give law enforcement bigger budgets and additional powers.

I’m shocked! Shocked, I say!

The Gnome Project now has a Documentation Status table up. Just the thing if you’d like to pitch in and help, but can’t code a lick…

Last week’s RISKS digest talks about the recent denial of service (DoS) attacks, as well as a couple other interesting bits.

Speaking of DoS, the results of my recent poll were interesting — I expected the MPAA to score higher than it did. Overall, you seem like a fairly mature bunch…

LinuxPPC popped out a new release last week. Sounds pretty good — one of these days I’ll get around to re-populating the second drive of the 7500 with some flavor of Linux — although at the rate I’m going, Debian’s will be out, and I’ll just use that.

LinuxPlanet interviewed Alan Cox last week — he’s the number two kernel hacker, after Linus, and, from the sound of it, a fairly interesting guy.

Whew! That’s probably enought — and I’m starting to run low on links, too, so it all works out.

Before I go, a hardy wave to my aunt and cousin, who’ve apparently taken to wandering through here occasionally — I’ll be getting back to you on the mail thing directly. Actually, there are several people I owe mail to — I’m working on it. Additionally, I’m making another run at ICQ; these last for a bit, and then I quit using it because nobody else does, apparently. Add me if you’d like; my UIN is 57685922. See you tomorrow…

Oh, and good luck to LIM!

so close...

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If all goes well, I should be handing my thesis out tomorrow. I’ve got some stuff to blog, but no time — have to keep my head down and stay focused, and get this puppy out the door! hopefully I’ll get to the ‘blogging this weekend, after I catch up on a bit of sleep.


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In the last push towards getting it out to the committee for approval; after which I’ll have a period of (hopefully) lessened pressure leading up to the defense. I have the feeling that I’m just about at the point in the log curve where it kinks and takes off straight up…

(Axes on that graph? Stuff vs. time, of course. Thanks for asking.)

It looks like I’ll be in the DC area for a couple of days around the beginning of March to apartmet hunt and so forth; dates are still getting settled down. If there are any readers out there in that corner of the world, getting together for a drink or coffee and talking about living in the area would be cool — drop me a line.

Things might be a bit slack ‘round here this week; if you’d like notification when the site gets updated, send a blank mail to <genehack-update-subscribe@eGroups.com>. (I’ll quit flogging that horse sometime this week, too.)

Want your Linux box to look more Mac-ish? Try KiDEr, a series of KDE mods that does actually end up looking pretty good.

Speaking of window managers, I switched back to Window Maker this weekend, after some problems with Sawmill. I don’t think it’s going to last, however — I’ve gotten too used to the way Sawmill works, and don’t really have time to re-create that environment in Window Maker.

Perl.com has published the second half of a spam-trapping HOWTO. I linked to the first half on Linux Planet quite a while back, and had been wondering what happened to the second half. According to the author, “the editors decided not to publish the rest of the series”. Kind of annoying that they didn’t even see fit to mention that — bad editors, no link for you!

This weekend’s addition to the Leaning Tower of Documentation was Beginning Linux Programming — so far it’s been okay, but I’m only part way into the second chapter. We’ll see how long my attention span lasts. One of the nice things about the new post-doc is that I’ll be able to read stuff like that at work…

This is kind of cool — mp3.com has released a Linux version of their Beam-It client. Half a point off for only releasing x86 binaries, by the way. sigh Another half point for not mapping *.tar.gz to downloadable in their server’s mimetype set-up.

If you didn’t vote last weekend, go ahead and take the latest poll. If you did already vote, the results are over here — I like the EvilPopupWindows.com suggestion.

Well, I’m going to try to catch up on some email now; see you ‘round.

I need to buy one of those mini-recorders; I keep thinking of something, and then thinking I should ‘blog it, and then forgetting what the original thought was. I hate that.

A report at HMS Beagle attempts to dissect the effects of PubMed Central, the new life sciences document archive at the NIH/NCBI. Hopefully this is the beginning of the end of the traditional paper based journals, although I expect that they’ll hold on for another decade or so. That reminds me, I need to think about a method of archiving all the article .pdf’s I’ve got laying around…

Speaking of papers, my most recent is officially accepted. I’ll post a pointer when it’s actually published.

Several other people pointed at the Salon article on the DVD/DeCSS mess; if you haven’t checked it out, or have no idea what I’m even talking about, you really should have a look.

Should have linked this yesterday, but better late than never. When I first heard about the distributed DoS attacks shutting down amazon.com, eBay, and others, my first thought was, “I wonder how long before somebody alleges it’s actually the NSA?”. The answer? Not very long at all. (Filched from /..) Salon also deconstructs the attacks today. I think the most interesting part of this whole thing has been listening to the speculations about who’s doing it; people’s choice of boogeyman is often a pretty good clue as to how their mind works.

In that spirit, I present the GeneHack DoS Free Association Poll (You have to go to the external site, because I’m allowing people to add their own responses. Please play nice.) If you’ve already voted, the results are over here.

Also on Salon, an article that talks about what jwz has been doing since he quit Netscape/AOL — and it’s not coding. Interesting use of .com dividends; I wonder how much more of this type of thing we’re going to see, and what the long term effects will be?

There’s either been a dearth of good stuff lately, or more likely, my head-down-thesis-workin’-not-sleeping schedule is preventing me from finding it. Hang in there, Loyal Readers, I think we’re getting towards the end of the tunnel…

Ack! Sorry about the unexpected lack of updates. Getting the new box set up and configured and all that has been taking a bit longer than expected, which I should have expected. Or something. More about that in a couple of days, if all goes well.

When I haven’t been up to my elbows in computer guts and sound card drivers, I’ve been working on the thesis. Precious little surfing going on, sad to say. Today’s update is consequently on the short side. I should get to do a more typical update tomorrow, I hope…

Of course, there’s always the chance that I won’t have time to get to it. If you’re subscribed to the notification list, you’ll know, because you won’t get mail from me — this will allow you to save those precious seconds that would otherwise have been wasted checking this page — seconds that could be used to, aw hell, I don’t know, check if /. updated. You get the point — send some mail to <genehack-update-subscribe@eGroups.com> to join.

Maximum Density’s link page describes GeneHack as “Tech, sexuality, and more.” What’s up with that? If you’re really looking for sexuality, try Pursed Lips, or maybe Flutterby — Debra and Dan each do a much better job on the sex tip than I do.

Trampling all over that not-so-thin line between mean but funny and just plain mean, it’s Weblog Junior High. Personally, I didn’t think it was all that good; the earlier Bloats were much more amusing in my opinion, but I’m a just a boring geek nerd, so take that with a grain of salt, I guess. Feh.

Jim Roepcke went off on Evolution the other day, mostly on the basis of its UI (or lack thereof). I’d join the forum thing-ama-bob on his site and give some feedback, but (ironically), I hate the UI of web-based discussion groups, so I’m just going to do it here. First, it’s early days for the project, and I’m not sure judging it by those screenshots is fair. Second, unless Microsoft really revved Outlook when I wasn’t looking, or the aim of the Evolution project has really changed, the underlying guts of the two apps are going to be totally different. Evolution is going to attempt to implement jwz’s intertwingle idea, IIRC. That’s why I’m excited by it, not because of the way it looks.

David Cohen pointed me to this NY Times article on human stem cell research, which talks about the ban on federal funding, how that’s driven the research mainly into the private sector, and some of the unanticipated consequences of that. As David said in his mail, “Good stuff”.

While I’m catching up on my backlog, I should note that Matt Haughey pointed me to this Wired article about the efforts in the state legislature to ban net.porn on state campuses. While the story does mention that the crackpot behind the idea also wants to ban opposite-sex visitors to dorm rooms, they fail to mention that she also wants the name of the UA Womens Studies department changed to Lesbian Studies. There is no word on her position on same-sex visitors to the dorm rooms of lesbians, but I suspect that she would probably be in favor of just banning the lesbians from campus too.

Did I mention I was looking forward to leaving Arizona?

Oh, and speaking of slimey, underhanded schemes, those of you that have tight control over your servers might want to block Cyveillance at the IP level:

We are currently developing a high-speed search technology designed to crawl the Internet to locate and index specific information on behalf of our clients, who are seeking to better understand how their companies are being impacted by the Internet.

Or, in other words, we’re trolling for copyright violations, and figure when we find some, we’ll be able to annoy some money out of somebody. These guys and epidemic.com are really re-affirming my faith in humanity, let me tell you.

Random observation: Husker Du’s The Living End actually sounds pretty good pumped through cheap-o computer speakers that are turned up so loud they start to distort. Singing along at the top of your lungs helps too.

The sleep deprivation is starting to kick in. The next couple of days should be interesting; I can already feel myself starting to get brittle and somewhat random.

I actually did go into the lab today, for a meeting. This resulted in me missing the UPS man, and not getting to play with the new computer. Sigh. At least I know I’ll be getting it tomorrow — boxen buildin’! Debian install! geek-out-fest. yeehaw. Tomorrow’s update may be consequently absent. For a workaround to that pressing problem,sign up for the GeneHack update notification list — send a blank email to genehack-update-subscribe@eGroups.com to get the ball rolling.

In the “I can’t believe this was even a question” section: California court bans juror exclusion based on sexual orientation.

Linux World Expo is this week, and Wired has a wrap up of some of the ‘desktop’ apps being demo’d. I’ve been using Linux as my sole (well, >90%) desktop OS for over a year, and I find it to be quite satisfactory. Don’t buy the “it’s almost ready for the desktop” hype; if you’ve got enough of a Clue to read and follow documentation, you can use Linux right now.

In another bit from Wired (actually seen first at EatonWeb), researchers are reporting that “hostile” people not only die younger, they also get fatter ‘round the middle. Well, that explains the spare tire I grew in gradual school, I guess. Ordinarily, I don’t get too stirred up ‘bout this type of research, but this quote caught my eye:

Both Davis and Niaura agreed that hostile people are creating a miserable environment for themselves as well as for people around them.

“High hostility people are making their own world stressful and in general are big sourpusses,” Niaura said.

I would really, really like to give that guy a wedgie. I bet the person who has the thankless task of taking care of that bozo’s computers would help, too. Sourpusses, my ass; bite me, you sanctimonious twit.

(See, brittle. And random.)