June 2004 Archives

stfw. Trivially modifiable to use a GUI browser. Bonus points for asking the admin to install it in /usr/bin

Pretty cool — somebody new to blosxom got interested in its internals and how it works, and ended up creating a web-based annotation of the source code, in a couple different forms. This should be a good resource not only for people trying to understand blosxom, but Perl idiom in general.

Richard Smith has the lowdown that will help the hardcore geeks decide where to cast their votes: a compare’n’contrast piece on the web server platform choice and security of the Kerry and Bush campaigns. No big surprises: Kerry on Apache/Linux, Bush on ISS/Win, and security rather poor on both.

I am of course joking when I say this will be the deciding factor for the hardcore geeks. Hardcore geeks get into that “information wants to be free” thing, which puts them pretty squarely at odds with the secrecy-obsessed Bush administration.

Well, the DNS appears to have propagated (at least here at home and at the couple other places I can check), and I got some time tonight to throw down some conceptual scaffolding — so if you haven’t already, take a look at the Sysadminery wiki. If you’re one of those admin-type people, that is.

Big week. I wish the stuff I read didn’t come out so bunched up, time-wise; the heavy weeks don’t make up for the lean ones.

Sleeper: All False Moves TPB: Second collection of the series. A deep undercover agent has been cut off from his organization, orphaned inside the criminal syndicate that he’s investigating — and he’s starting to “go native”. Oh, and all the criminals (and the agent) have super-powers. It’s an interesting, albeit dark and ultraviolent read.

Conan 5: Conan continues his attempts to escape the lotus-bloom prison of Hyperborea. Not sure how much longer I’ll be sticking with this one; the art isn’t doing much for me, and I got most of my fill of Conan reading the Howard books 20 years ago.

Astonishing X-Men 1: Director’s Cut: Save your four bucks unless you’re a huge, huge fanboy. Despite what the “director’s cut” subhead on the cover might lead you to believe, this is the exact same story as the regular first issue, with the addition of a few extra covers, character sketches, and a bit of script.

Astonishing X-Men 2: Whedon is moving fast — lots of plot development here. Cassaday’s art is, as usual, fantastic, but I’m really not happy with the freakish snout he’s hung on Beast. sigh Ultimate Beast gets killed off, and Astonishing Beast looks like a Shar-Pei. Where’s the blue furry love?

Wanted 4: I was starting to wonder if this was ever going to come out. Things are building towards a climax, as our anti-hero begins to question whether being an all-powerful super-villain is all that it’s cracked up to be.

The Authority: More Kev 2: Mostly back story and scene setting, but done in the classic Ennis “lots of gore and freakish sex” fashion.

The Losers 13 I really like the art in thisseries. Lots of effectively used negative space stuff — very reminiscent of “100 Bullets”, but distinct.

30 Days of Night: Return to Barrow 4: The vampires begin to attack in an unexpected fashion, and Templesmith shows that he does have colors besides black, grey, and red in his palette. Very effective, and very nice.

The Goon 7: This ended up in my pulls, presumably because my pull list includes “anything Hellboy” and this is a Mike Mignola co-penned tale. The cross-over mechanism is cheesy (no surprise), but once that’s out of the way, interesting mayhem ensues. The Goon looks interesting enough that I might pick up a collection at some point; not so interesting that it’ll get added to the pull list.

Okay, the wiki alluded to a couple posts ago is live now. While we’re waiting for DNS to propagate so that sysadminery.com will work, the site is accessible at sysadminery.com.hg.sabren.com. Have fun, play nice.

Righteous indignation and ignorance of your subject matter are a potent combination. In ‘Role Fragmentation: Divide and Conquer - Why IT Administrators Have Become All-Powerful Demi-Gods’, Robin Sharp sets out the thesis that the whole problem with software development today is that the developers aren’t given enough leeway, don’t get enough respect, and have to spend far too much of their time dealing with those arrogant pains-in-the-ass, admins. From reviewing the comments on the site and in the /. thread, it appears that this view is not uncommon among developers — and the opposite view, best expressed as “this job would be great, except for the damnfool developers!”, is pretty common in the sysadmin set too.

Now, being an admin myself, I’ve run into both of these perspectives a few thousand times — to the point where I’ve come around to the viewpoint being articulated by the few sane voices in the threads: there are spectacular examples of idiotcy on both sides of the fence, widespread amounts of just-competent-enough-to-not-get-fired-itis, and a few shining examples of competence working together to keep the whole show limping along.

In thinking about this, I noticed a curious difference between the developers and the admins: the developers realize they have a problem, and are trying to fix it, or at least talking about ways to make things better. You’ve got Design Patterns, Anti-Patterns, eXtreme, Agile, and/or Pragmatic Programming, and all the rest of the methodologies du jour. The Portland Pattern Repository’s Wiki (aka WardsWiki) has an absolutely astounding amount of peer-reviewed thought on the art and practice of computer programming, and it’s getting bigger by the day.

But whither the sysadmins? There are a few books available — Frisch’s ORA classic, Kirk Bauer’s recent book on automation — but those tend to focus on specific details and documentation, not abstract principles and patterns. There’s some overlap with best practices from programming, but there are also things unique to sysadminery. Why isn’t anybody talking about those? I can see a great need for something like WardsWiki, but devoted to systems administration, rather than programming. I have registered sysadminery.com; I’m going to set up a wiki just as soon as I save this entry. We’ll see what happens next.

I seem to be taking part in lots of conversations about changing organizations here lately — with friends, who are struggling with trying to decide whether to change their current organization, or change to a new one, and with various groups of people at work, some that I supervise and some that I only interact with and advise. Lots and lots of change in the air — either because it’s summer, or an election year, or maybe because the cicadas came out. Anyway, when I stumbled across the Change Your Organization Diary on WardsWiki, I read the entire thing, even though I really had other stuff I should have been doing. It’s a fascinating anthropological document. I recognized a lot of my organization in some of the things the author writes about; if you work in any aspect of IT, it’s likely you will too.

If you don’t want to read the whole diary (it’s a good 20 to 30 minute read), you should at least glance at the Change Your Organization Tactics. I think I might just print those out and distribute them selectively…

Steve talks about the CSPI’s take on “fresh mex” chains.

I eat a fair number of burritos, but I’m not a huge fan of Chipolte — too much rice, not enough salsa variation. I generally opt for the chicken, because I’m aware of the fat content of the beef choices. I’ll bypass Chipolte or Baja Fresh in a heartbeat, however, if CalTor is a possibility — superior hot sauce selection, spunky staff, and the ability to order your burrito in a “small”, which is just right for lunch. So, basically, I agree with most of the stuff in the CSPI report, but there’s a particular piece of advice I want to quibble with:

Chipotle’s Chicken Burrito Bols—burritos without the 340-calorie flour tortillas—are CSPI’s only recommended “Better Bites” at Chipotle. A Bol with chicken, black beans, lettuce, and salsa [no rice, sour cream or cheese! - seb], has just 430 calories and four grams of saturated fat. Rice instead of lettuce adds about 200 calories.

Emphasis mine

Kids, the tortilla is the burrito. This low-carb-craze-fueled “naked burrito” movement is marketing crap, nothing more, nothing less. Your “Burrito Bol”? Dude, that’s a salad. Nothing wrong with having a salad for lunch; I do it myself from time to time. Just don’t try to fool yourself into thinking that you’re having something from the burrito family. Burritos come in tortillas.

Geez, now I’m all hungry.

Today’s diary entry has some new pictures of TheBaby, getting her cute on. Enjoy.

We’ve started to get a bit more structured at work, in terms of task reporting and things like that. It’s a change, but probably for the best. Reading Mitch Kapor’s How We Work this morning makes me wonder whether we should also be setting goals for ourselves, rather than just keeping track of the fires that we put out.

Gnat’s What The Perl Community Needs Is a Good Enema speech could probably be easily mapped on to domains other than “the Perl community”. Consider: if the CW is right, and paradigm shifts come about when all the believers in the old paradigm die off, how do we effectively catalyze paradigm shifts on Internet Time?

Kill the Oldbies, of course. (Metaphorically speaking, that is.)

One of my Father’s Day gifts was a new camera. I’ve been wanting something small, something that I could basically carry around with me all the time — and the 300D, while a very, very nice camera, doesn’t fit that bill. The new Canon PowerShot A60, however, does. Nothing too exciting — 2MP, 3X optical zoom — but it’ll do the job. Here’s a shot of the Virginia Is For Haters bumpersticker now gracing the back of the Saturn:

virginia is for haters

In no particular order… (well, actually, in the order they ended up in after reading…)

Ex Machina #1: Brian “Y: The Last Man” Vaughan takes on the story of an ex-superhero who rides his fame into the New York City Mayor’s office. Some interesting setup and what looks like it’s going to be a fascinating story — Vaughan’s work on “Y” has proven that he can set ‘em up and knock ‘em down. Also worth picking up for the heart-wrenching last full-page panel.

PVP 7: The “Francis gropes Jade” storyline from the well-known web comic.

Ultimate Fantastic Four 7: The first Warren Ellis-penned issue — mainly Dr. Doom setup, but also delves into Sue and Reed dealing with the aftermath of their transformations. Easiest way to tell it’s Ellis: Sue calling Reed a “butthat”.

The Authority 13: Continuing the long slow slide into “why am I still reading this?” with the time travel shark-jump. yawn

Runaways 16: Another Vaughan title. The identity of the “mole” within the group is finally revealed, and the scene is set for some sort of conclusion. Not sure what the long-term future for this book is, and looking forward to seeing what Vaughan pulls out of his hat next.

Seaguy 2: Grant Morrison is one weird dude. Fitting for the middle of a three-parter, this issue moves the plot along, fills in a few more blanks in the world, and gives Morrison ample opportunity for more acid-flashback-inspired freakshow. Ends on a bit of a down note.

I also picked up the 24 hour comics book, but I haven’t finished reading it just yet — I’ve found that if I sit down and try to read big chunks at a stretch, I burn out quickly, so I’m sort of crawling through it.

Song of the day: The Weakerthans’ Plea from a Cat Named Virtute:

Why don’t you ever want to play?
I’m tired of this piece of string.
You sleep as much as I do now,
and you don’t eat much of anything.

I don’t know who you’re talking to -
I made a search through every room,
but all I found was dust that moved
in shadows of the afternoon.

And listen, about those bitter songs you sing?
They’re not helping anything.
They won’t make you strong.

So, we should open up the house.
Invite the tabby two doors down.
You could ask your sister,
if she doesn’t bring her Basset Hound.

Ask the things you shouldn’t miss:
tape-hiss and the Modern Man,
The Cold War and Card Catalogues,
to come and join us if they can,
for girly drinks and parlor games.
We’ll pass around the easy lie
of absolutely no regrets,
and later maybe you could try
to let your losses dangle off
the sharp edge of a century,
and talk about the weather,
or how the weather used to be.

And I’ll cater with all the birds that I can kill.
Let their tiny feathers fill disappointment.


Lie down; lick the sorrow from your skin.
Scratch the terror and begin to believe you’re strong.

All you ever want to do
is drink and watch TV,
and frankly that thing doesn’t really interest me.

I swear I’m going to bite you hard
and taste your tinny blood
if you don’t stop the self-defeating lies
you’ve been repeating since the day you brought me home.

I know you’re strong.

The MP3 is available for free over at Epitaph Records. I strongly suggest that you do the right thing and go listen to it right right right now.

Nerve interviews a female Muslim sex advice columnist. A look at an aspect of Muslim culture that doesn’t get covered much (or is covered up all too much), and from an also-under-represented liberal Muslim viewpoint to boot.

Author-lawyer Scott Turow deconstructs recent moves by the DoJ in the Padilla “dirty bomber” case:

For argument’s sake, let’s assume that Padilla might well be the lethal spawn of Osama bin Laden. But even if that’s true, the fundamental legal question is whether , as an American citizen , he is entitled to a real day in court before being locked away. While the Bush administration claims that Padilla’s status as someone who was allegedly fighting on behalf of our enemies deprives him of normal due process rights, I have a hard time believing that the framers of the Constitution, after fighting the abuses of the English monarch, had any intention of ever allowing a president to imprison citizens simply on his say-so.

From Sunday’s Post: Virginia’s New Jim Crow:

In the Marriage Affirmation Act, Virginia appears to abridge gay individuals’ right to enter into private contracts with each other. On its face, the law could interfere with wills, medical directives, powers of attorney, child custody and property arrangements, even perhaps joint bank accounts. … It is by entering into contracts that we bind ourselves to each other. Without the right of contract, participation in economic and social life is impossible; thus is that right enshrined in Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution. Slaves could not enter into contracts because they were the property of others rather than themselves; nor could children, who were wards of their parents. To be barred from contract, the founders understood, is to lose ownership of oneself. To abridge the right of contract for same-sex partners, then, is to deny not just gay coupledom, in the law’s eyes, but gay personhood. It disenfranchises gay people as individuals. It makes us nonpersons, subcitizens. By stripping us of our bonds to each other, it strips us even of ownership of ourselves.

Virginia is for Haters.

October Surprise asks “What tricks will BushCo pull to attempt to win the election in November?” #4 is a dark horse fave in my book.

Molly Ivins on the recent Ashcroft testimony:

When, in future, you find yourself wondering, “Whatever happened to the Constitution?” you will want to go back and look at June 8, 2004. That was the day the attorney general of the United States - a.k.a. “the nation’s top law enforcement officer” - refused to provide the Senate Judiciary Committee with his department’s memos concerning torture.

Missy has some more Reagan funeral procession pics, and I also saw an editorial cartoon that matches my memory of his tenure much better than a lot of the stuff that came out in the past week.

This charmingly bare-bones site hosts a Mozilla Firefox plugin that provides a Pubmed search capability.

Pontiac has a model called the Vibe.

Even better, the ad slogan for this model is “Uninhibited”.

This is pretty cool — all the books in Bruce Perens’ Open Source series are available for download as PDFs. Rapid Application Development with Mozilla and The Linux Development Platform look particularly interesting.

Bite Club 3: This title has been a little slow out of the gate, but I’ve been trying to cut Chaykin some slack — given that it’s a vampire book, you have to expect that there’s going to be a little bit of scene-setting and establishing of rules as things spin up. But this is the third issue, fer Pete’s sake, and the plot is continuing to limp along, spurting big gouts of exposition left and right. Something needs to kick the plot into fast forward, or this book is going to fall off my buy list.

Global Frequency 12: After a long wait, a very fitting conclusion to this series. Ellis’s writing is dead on, and Gene Ha’s artwork is amazing — for my money, he nails Aleph. Certainly worth picking up if you haven’t been following this title.

Stormwatch: Team Achilles 23: What’s up with the cheesy covers on this one lately? Story line is thrashing around and not making much sense either. Comic Book Shop Guy tells me that this is the last issue, due to author Micah Ian Wright’s recent troubles — which is sort of a shame, as it looks like issue 24 would wrap up the current story arc, instead of leaving things hanging. (Yes, even if it sucks, I’d like to see things finish.)

Ultimate X-Men 47: Still pissed that they killed off Beast.

Mike has pictures of the Reagan funerary procession. My feelings on the whole thing are much closer to Brad’s than Mike’s — and that’s about all I’m going to say about that.

The St. Petersburg Times comes up with the story on three Saudi nationals that did a lot of flying around the country… on 13 Sept 2001, when commercial aviation was all still grounded. As the story says:

“They got the approval somewhere,” [Manuel Perez, a retired FBI agent who accompanied the Saudis on the flight,] is quoted as telling [Author Craig Unger, who first disclosed the possibility of a post-9/11 Saudi airlift in his book House of Bush, House of Saud]. “It must have come from the highest levels of government.”

The “highest levels” had no comment, of course.

The May Harper’s Index is out:

Chance that an American adult believes that “politics and government are too complicated to understand” : 1 in 3

Chance that an American who was home-schooled feels this way : 1 in 25

Nerve covers the basics of polyamory in “Multi-Player Option”. Not a bad read.

Virginia is for Haters is calling for a boycott of Virgina to protest HB 751, which I’ve mentioned before. I plan on supporting this boycott, and urge all my metro DC area readers to do the same. (And yes, the bumper sticker has been ordered…)

Paul Rieckhoff gave the Democratic Response to President Bush’s weekly national radio address about a month ago. You should just go read the whole thing, but here are a few choice bits:

Good morning. My name is Paul Rieckhoff. I am addressing you this morning as a US citizen and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I served with the US Army in Iraq for 10 months, concluding in February, 2004.

But when we got to Baghdad, we soon found out that the people who planned this war were not ready for us. There were not enough vehicles, not enough ammunition, not enough medical supplies, not enough water. Many days, we patrolled the streets of Baghdad in 120 degree heat with only one bottle of water per soldier. There was not enough body armor, leaving my men to dodge bullets with Vietnam-era flak vests. We had to write home and ask for batteries to be included in our care packages. Our soldiers deserved better.

The other image is of President Bush at his press conference 2 weeks ago. After all the waiting, after all the mistakes we had experienced first hand over in Iraq, after another year of a policy that was not making the situation any better for our friends who are still there, he told us we were staying the course. He told us we were making progress. And he told us that, “We’re carrying out a decision that has already been made and will not change.”

Our troops are still waiting for more body armor. They are still waiting for better equipment. They are still waiting for a policy that brings in the rest of the world and relieves their burden. Our troops are still waiting for help.

I am not angry with our President, but I am disappointed.

HubMed offers RSS feeds of PubMed searches. If I was still doing research, I’d be all over this…

Via Al, natch.

There are a number of source code control systems competing to supplement or supplant CVS. I’ve brushed up against a couple of them, in trying out various bleeding-edge software that had to be checked out from a developer’s repository prior to building, and Arch seems like the strangest, most alien of the lot. After reading Nick Moffitt’s Arch for CVS Users, things seem a bit less murky — but I think I’ll be sticking with CVS for my personal use for the time being.

So, our special guy in Iraq, Ahmad Chalabi, turns out to have been spying for Iran. The current administration gave his organization millions and millions of dollars, he provided intelligence that was key in preparing for the war in Iraq, and it turns out to have all been a scam. Where’s the outrage here? Where the hell are the special Congressional investigations?

At the risk of echoing Lyn, kick ‘em out.

Interesting Viridian Note on effects of air pollution. In addition to causing heart disease, it also causes germline mutations (i.e., changes that are passed on to offspring) in mice. I wonder if it’s possible to fit HEPA filters to a car…

Mike ponders the 60GB iPod. An important variable to keep in mind is the bit rate used to encode the MP3s. The collection at Chez GeneHack, fer instance, weighs in at 52GB for 10,352 tracks, the majority of which are variable bit rate (VBR) encoded. If you wanted to use a constant, very high quality bit rate, 60GB wouldn’t be that extreme…

In other MP3 player-related bloggage, Ed Vielmetti is solicting portable music player recommendations. I’m still sporting the 20GB Archos brick. My car stereo unit has a front mounted phono plug, which makes it easy to use there. It’s not great for exercise, however; any sort of bumping or moving around makes it skip too much.

JWZ was looking for a new multitool to replace a broken Leatherman, and ended up settling on a Gerber Recoil, which he’s unhappy with. The comment thread is worth checking out; it includes a link to a new forth-coming Leatherman model, the Charge. It sounds very nice but also somewhat pricy.

A while back, I tried switching to GNU Emacs. In general, I liked it okay, and a number of things were easier to deal with (because it seems most of the stuff I use in emacsen is written with GNU Emacs in mind, and then ported slowly and fitfully to XEmacs). I ended up switching back to XEmacs, though, because I couldn’t use GNU Emacs in the way I wanted to: with one master process running all the time, and me popping up frames when and where I wanted withgnuclient.

Recently, I discovered that somebody was adding multi-TTY support to GNU Emacs. This morning, I downloaded the project’s Arch repository, and built the tree. Initial tests have confirmed that I can now use GNU Emacs just like XEmacs — a master process running a server, and other processes connecting to that from terminals and X. This is pretty cool. “Convert back to GNU Emacs” goes onto the todo list now, I think.

Huge list of Linux LiveCDs — seemingly one for every purpose under the sun, including “CNC Metalworking” (whatever that is).

Blogs Are Dead:

Not cool - Blogs aren’t cool anymore, since every kid happens to have his own. When you come across somebody’s blog which appears to be very interesting, do you take the time to read through his archives? Of course not. More bit bricks.

Right, well, I guess that’s settled then, eh?

We’d like to put up some shelving in the newly-painted study, to put knick-knacks and pictures on. It needs to be wall-mounted, able to match the other (dark wood) furniture we have in the room, and not look goofy in abundance. Those systems where you mount metal rails on the wall are right out. There’s a chair rail on the wall, so anything floor-mounted is out.

Anybody have any pointers to anything that might fit the bill?

I’m not sure whether I’d apply any of these to my camera (and the probability is even lower while the warranty is in effect…), but the Canon 300D Tips and Tricks page claims to have a hacked firmware that gets a 300D a bit closer to the capabilities of a 10D, as well as a lot of other stuff.

Scott Kurtz, creator of the web- and print-comic pVp has been getting harassed by Macintosh zealots, and he’s taken an interesting approach to dealing with the problem: telling them that if they want him to use a Mac so badly, they should donate some money to make it possible for him to buy one. (Worth looking at just to see the graph of how much money has been donated so far…)

Whump posted his four-thousandth entry this weekend, which got me to pondering my own numbers — now much easier to see, given the new design of the archives section. I still need to add back in the archives from older versions of Genehack (September 1998 through 2002) to get an accurate count, but I’ll be surprised if I break 2,000.

(I am planning on adding those archives, by the way. The project is currently in the “now how the hell do I do this?” stage; I’m staring down 1482558 bytes of hand-coded HTML (that’s about 1.6 megabytes) and trying to decide if attempting to parse it is worth while, or if I should just say “screw it” and fire up XEmacs and get busy.)

While I was cleaning out a closet yesterday afternoon, the above thoughts segued into more of a “how many of the old-timers are left, and how many posts have they racked up?” vein. The first part of that is pretty easy to figure out: hit jjg’s ‘the page of only weblogs’ and see how many of ‘ye olde skool’ bloggers are still updating their sites. When I checked this morning, of the 23 sites listed, 17 were still active blogs — not necessarily at the exact same URL; Bradlands now lists Brad’s various subsites, for example. That’s decent longevity, considering that all the sites listed were actively blogging in late 1998. (All the URLs are still active, too, although one (psyberspace) is being squatted by a domain reseller.)

The second half of the question is harder. I could probably jigger up a spider and crawl the active sites and get half an idea, but I’m lazy, so I’ll just throw the query out there: if you’re one of ‘ye olde skool’, how many posts have you made since you started blogging?