I've just made an amazingly wonderful discovery. I'm jabbering with Toddler and his boss about some Linux deal, and in between waiting for the Short Attention Span Twins to actually type something, I'm browsing Dans Data. (His site is where I first heard about the remote control tanks that shoot airsoft pellets. I read him occasionally, and he's always entertaining and informative.) Anyway. I was reading one of his past reviews, and came across his review of a brand-new IBM model 42H1292 101-key keyboard. New. He bought it brand new. I got to get me some of those.
For those that don't know it, I'm an absolute freak when it comes to keyboards. I like the older ones. The ones that have a switch under every key, make a huge clicky noise when a keypress is successful, and weigh like 12 pounds. I have an IBM 42H1292 at work that was made in 1984, and it's my pride and joy. I can type about a billion words per minute on it. It's also the loudest keyboard I've ever heard in my life. Just say no to officemates, I say.
The trouble with those keyboards is that they are very hard to find in decent condition. You can get ones like it, but they invariably have Windows keys, which are worse than useless because they shorten the space bar, obfuscate the control and alt keys, and add no value whatsoever to one's keyboarding experience. Keytronic make a few nice keyboards. They're fairly clicky, have a good heft to them and are about the same size as the IBMs. All the new ones have Windows keys, however. You can occasionally find older non-Windows key models. I'm using one now, as a matter of fact. It's not quite as nice as the IBM, but it does the trick. I've got 7 of them in my closet just in case. So imagine my joy when I happened on Dan's review.
Apparently the Lexmark keyboard stuff was bought out by this company called Unicomp and they make and sell the same keyboard. It's $50, though. That's gotta hurt. A little searching and I find a supplier of old computer parts that sells original IBM 42H1292s for $20 each. That sounds just lovely to me.
I'm ordering one right now. If it's the real deal, I'll be back for a few more.
Google apparently has a new calculator function. It will evaluate lots of different mathematical expressions, but my favorite feature is the conversions it can do. You can convert things like miles to kilometers of figure out how many teaspoons there are in half a cup. It'll even tell you more obscure things like how many watts of power my Toyota can produce or what the speed of light is in furlongs per fortnight.
It's not quite perfect, though. I you want to, for example, calculate the
density of lead in stones per hogshead, then you'd be out of luck. It's still a pretty nice feature.
Yesterday I came home to find that the plates had come for my new car. Today I came home and found a weirdly-shaped envelope for me from Toyota Financial Services. It's a banner week for the USPS and my 4Runner.
The envelope was very fancy. It had a couple different layers of nice-feeling paper in a "take one pocket out of the other" sort of arrangement. Like a DVD case inside a sleeve. Sorta. Inside the smallest pocket of nice paper was a leather folder about 8" x 4". Apparently since I financed my second Toyota through TFS, I got a holder for my registration, insurance card, parking permit, etc. Which is terribly cool.
I opened the doc holder to find a translucent, wedding invitation-like sheet that said I should go to this certain web address and pick out a free gift, as a token of their thanks. That's awfully nice of them. I mean, I don't need a present. I'd actually rather they lower the finance charge a little. And honestly, part of me badly wanted to dissect the URLs in order to see what other "prizes" one can get. Presumeably they have better gifts for people buying their 13th Toyota, right? My "offer code" was a not-very-long decimal number. What other numbers are there? What else did my purchase subsidize? Inquiring minds want to know!
After about 2 minutes of rational thought I shelved all that nonsense and went to the site. After all, I only paid a couple hundred over dealer invoice, and I was happy with my deal. Who cares about the stuff paid for by the guy who pays what the sticker says?
They have some pretty nice gifts I must admit, even without the hax0ring. What to get? I like the rechargeable hand vac. The wheeling duffel would be nice. I don't need tools. The radios are something I've wanted for a long time, however. I'll get them.
So if you have a machine which has been compromised by this security flaw, aren't you pretty much done for? If you have another user on your machine who is savvy enough to figure out what you're typing by timing the keystrokes sent to the system's entropy pool, you're pretty much screwed at that point, right? I mean, you'd almost certainly have to have larger issues.
Although on a public system (like a mail server or something) with a few hundred users, I could see someone trying to sit there and listen for when root logs in or whatever. But still... it's not exactly "easily exploitable" (especially if you type like me or Toddler) and someone using it to get root on a box probably has a hundred extra things he knows to try first.
I'm wondering what I'll do for movie reviews now that the Filthy Critic is dead. Even though some of his reviews were a little gratuitous, they always seemed to be right-on. If he disliked something, then I typically disliked it. If he liked something, more often than not, I thought it was pretty good too. And his reviews were pretty amusing. He certainly had a refreshingly original concept of telling it like it was. When something sucks, it sucks. (Take a look at the "Quote Whore of the Week" sidebar in the lower right of his site for a quick comparison between Filthy and a "normal" movie critic.) He said over and over again that Hollywood makes crappy movies because they have no incentive to do anything besides make money. I never thought about that until he brought it up. I always thought quality automatically meant success, but I guess not. He felt that everyone (Hollywood as well as critics) kept this not-so-secret arrangement alive with smarmy insincerity, or outrigth deception. So when he reviewed a movie which sucked, it got one honest finger. I can respect that.
Is Filthy really dead? Yes. And no. I did a little searching during lunch. The main thing I found was this interview with Matt Weatherford, Filthy's normal alter ego. It was apparently given on August 13th, 5 days after Filthy died wobbling down the slow lane.
I never knew Filthy's real name until I read that interview. It's nowhere on his web site. So was Matt dead? A little more searching leads to Ben Garvey's web site (which also links to the interview above; I would have rather been to Ben's site first and gotten it all out of the way in one shot). Ben emailed Filthy's cronies at bigempire.com about Matt. Turns out that Filthy is indeed dead, Matt not so much.
I'm glad that no non-virtual people got hurt, but I'm also sad that I won't get to see what Filthy thinks about the latest movies.
Like a lot of people, I've been getting a lot of email as a result of the Sobig.F trojan. It doesn't look like it's going to let up any time soon, either. And while I'm completely immune to the effects of the trojan, I'm very much not immune to having my inbox fill up from hundreds of bogus emails every few hours.
If you have your mail delivered by a Linux or Unix (or even Mac OS X) mail server, chances are that you have procmail installed. If not, get it. It works very well. (If you have an account at Hurricane Electric, then you have procmail already.) Once you know you can use procmail, create a file in your home directory called .procmailrc. In it, add the following lines:
* ^ *Content-Disposition: attachment;
That will send every email which has an attachment with the extensions .pif or .exe or .scr to the bit bucket. You won't see any more Sobig emails ever again. There's a downside, though: if someone sends you a "real" email with an executable (like a self-extracting zip file, a program to run, etc.) attached, you won't see that either. And it's non-recoverable. Once somethimg gets sent to /dev/null it's gone forever. I personally never want any executable attachments sent to me, so I'm fine with always throwing them away. If you'd rather send the filtered email to a folder, just change the last line to something like this:
(Obviously, unless your username is 'wee', you should change it to reflect your account.) Once it's set up that way, you can go through the 'trojan' folder and see what's being filtered. If, after a suffcienly long length of time, you decide that no "real" email has been wrongly maligned, you can simply change the target line back to /dev/null.
BTW, you can also use procmail to filter out normal spam and such. I use it to "blackhole" certain email addresses. I even block whole domains. For example, I will never get any mail from mp3.com (because they just refuse to stop spamming me) or shaw.ca (because 99% of all the email I get from that ISP is spam). Once you start using procmail it's nearly unthinkable to go without it.
So I awoke to find my Gentoo install installed. Upon reboot, I get a surprise: I boffed something in the kernel compile. And the boot floppy I made as part of the install doesn't work. So that's not so fun.
I mostly just want to be able to keep my system upgraded and working. I mean, I don't mind spending 3 hours to test out a new distribution, but if it doesn't work, then I'm not going to go through the whole process again unless I have to. So time to look for another solution. I'll have to come back to Gentoo when I have the time to sit down and figure out what's what. I should probably try a non-laptop install anyway.
This all got me thinking about apt again. It does essentially what I need. If I could just find the right repositories then I'd be set. After a little googling, I came across the KDE for Red Hat Project. They have the newest KDE software -- but in RPM format, munged up like Red Hat likes them, in an apt repository. I added the right lines to my sources list, ran three commands, and when I restarted KDE, I was using the latest version (3.1.3). Then I went and grabbed Quanta (I had to see if I could install a new KDE app) from the KDE ftp site and installed it. Works like a charm. I'm fish'ed over to work and everything. The new version of Quanta seems *much* faster than that the older version that comes with Red Hat 9.
Having once built (upgraded) KDE from sources, I can tell you that I am now a huge fan of apt for RPM.
One more note: Dag Wieers maintains an apt repository that looks to have a lot of nice software in it (including a lot of perl modules and such). It's worth a look as well.
If I can find enough repositories, I might just be able to keep Red Hat even after it's been EOL'ed.
My cell phone just rang, and when I answered it (a rarity for me since the phone is either off or in my car or both) I got an earful from a very pissed off fellow. He was not phoning nicely. Luckily, it was a wrong number. Kinda.
Near as I can figure out, at some point in the recent past these lawyers moved offices, and by doing so changed their number. Their new number is one digit off from that of my cell phone. I used to get the occassional call, and I didn't sweat it. My home phone is one digit off from the local Domino's Pizza, and that's way more annoying (although it can be fun if I happen to be in a spiteful mood).
The problem is that in the last two months, the call volume I've been getting to that "wrong" number has increased substantially. I get very irate calls filling up my voicemail box. I've been getting a lot of calls for that lawyer guy. Some of them are pretty angry, too. A lot of people want to know why "I" haven't called them back or why "I" wasn't at some place or the other. They start bitching pretty much as soon as I say hello. Every once in a while I can get a question in edgewise through their hate speech. I did so just a few minutes ago and I think I know what's going on.
Come to find out, a few months ago one of the lawyers there started giving people my number instead of his. Yeah: the lawyer got his own number wrong, and I'm getting calls. Whether the lawyer got his number wrong on purpose is a matter I'll leave to the angry dude that I just hung up with. Although judging from the increase in not-so-nice phone calls for this lawyer, I just might suspend impartiality and side with him on the issue. The guy who just called swears he was given my number. Other callers have said the same thing. It does seem awfully coincidental.
So I guess my only recourse is to call the law offices and tell them that they might want to double check their number before they give it out to people. I just hope they haven't printed up business cards with my number or something. Although... Is it a crime to impersonate a lawyer over the phone?
While waiting for Gentoo to compile, I went browsing the web. I came across one of the coolest programming languages I've ever seen: Chef. That's just genius. I even started writing a little program using their Perl interpreter. But then I had to go over to my install, and when I turned back to my other PC I found my interest had waned somewhat. I'll get back to it one day. It'd be a perfect way to burn through an airplane flight, for instance.
Going back to the dub dub (my install isn't yet finished, it just needed my momentary attention), I came across a langauge I'd been meaning to learn for a long time now: Brainfuck. (Don't bag on me about the non-family-safe naming of the language; I didn't choose it, but it certainly is accurate.) I finally wrote my very first BF program:
It doesn't do much, but now my head hurts. Time for bed.
So I've been on a quest for the last couple months. I'm looking for a new operating system. Or maybe a new version of the one that I use already. I've been a Red Hat user (as a server platform and as a workstation/desktop OS) for a few years now, and it's been nice. Nice enough to buy RHAT, even. I've been using Linux in one way or another since late 1994. While I've also used BSD and Solaris off and on during that period, I'm most comfortable with Linux. It feels right, in a way that Windows never did. I always feel like I'm using someone else's computer when I use Windows, like too many decisions have been made without my input. I don't know how to describe it. I'd like to stick with Linux, but lately Red Hat has made some decisions (no more freely-available and supported consumer products, and absurdly short end-of-life times for past releases being two big ones) that will leave me either hanging, paying, or putting up with whatever I happen to get. So I need to find something else.
Since I've used Red Hat for so long, I'm used to their packaging system, which is called RPM. Other Linux distributions use RPM as well, and so I started taking a look at a couple of them.
I liked SuSE quite a lot. Their install process was amazingly cool. It let me configure everything exactly how I wanted it, and it went out and patched all its software before it was done with the install. That's very nice. It was also a pretty install, nice and graphical. I liked YAST (their set-up and configuration tool) quite a lot as well. Unfortunately, SuSE didn't like my laptop at all; I couldn't get XFree86 4.3 to work to save my life. I even dropped in an X 4.3 config file from when the laptop had Red Hat 9 on it and it just wouldn't work. All I could get operational was framebuffer support. Ugh. No thanks.
I looked at Mandrake next. There was something... weird about it. I can't put my finger on what it was that put me off. It just felt weird. I don't know... like it was too graphical or something. Knoppix was the same way for me. I don't think I can use Mandrake.
The only other distrubutions I can think of that use RPM are Lycoris and Ark Linux. I actually downloaded Ark Linux, but the hardware detection left a little to be desired, and I couldn't install via CD-ROM on my laptop. I'm (mostly unwittingly) using my laptop as a sort of litmus test, since I'd like to have one distribution that I can use on every machine I have. If it won't "easily" go onto my laptop, I have to move on. (Lycoris, BTW, was a non-starter. I detest the Windows XP style.)
So, no RPM for me. But that might not be a bad thing. I've been using apt for RPM in addition to normal up2date on one of my home machines for a few months now, and I've been liking it. Unless I use up2date, I don't get that warm fuzzy feeling that comes with seeing the colored icons in the panel applet for up2date, but c'est al vie.
Moving on to other packaging systems, I take a look at Debian. everyone's been raving about apt for so long, and I've been using it on Red Hat, that I might as well get with the program, eh? The problem with Debian is that there are far too many install choices (with too little information about what comes with each one), and when you get it all installed you're running software that's well over a year old. While that's great for a server, I'm leaning more toward bleeding edge. You know, like a 2.4 kernel or a version of KDE from this century. Something. And yes, I know it's easy to upgrade everything all at once it's the OS installed, but isn't that like installing twice? Why? And, frankly, the whole debate over whether the OS should be called "GNU/Linux" or "Linux" (or "XFree86/KDE/GNU/Linux", or whatever) is just utterly pointless. And more than a little annoying. Debian is not for me I think.
So I found Gentoo. It's configurable, stable, highly customizable, and you can build a system optimized for particular architecture (I've seen reports of a 10% speed increase in certain apps). The package system it uses is called 'portage', and it's based on BSD's 'ports' system. It's pretty darn handy.
I had looked at Gentoo last fall sometime, and had even downloaded a "live cd" (their term for a bootable install CD). I never got around to playing with it very much. I was recently in an email discussion with Eric Lafoon, the fellow that makes Quanta Plus, and we wound up lamenting the recent changes in Red Hat's business strategy. I was originally asking him how I would go about getting an updated version fo Quanta. It only comes with KDE, apparently. To get a new version, I'm going to have to either upgrade KDE (over Red Hat's extensive changes -- a very painful option) or muck around in kde.org's ftp site, grab what I think I need, and tweak things until Quanta compiles. No fun there.
All that led us to a discussion of the relative merits of various Linux distributions. Eric mentioned that if I was using something like Gentoo (or Debian), upgrading anything I want would have been brutally easy. He made some very good points about what Gentoo has over Red Hat.
Paraphrasing Eric, Gentoo users will:
Like I said, those are all very convincing points. The only thing I can see lacking (and this is only because I haven't looked around yet) is some sort of kickstart system like what Red Hat has. We use that at work for every Linux box we install. Gentoo, as far as I can tell, has a fairly detailed install process, even when using their binaries. Gento may take a little more time to install (since you can compile everything, if you want), but the end result will give you a better distribution. My machines at home and work are going to have serious support issues when we can no longer get patches for security holes and the like. And neither me nor my employer can afford the cost of the Advanced Workstation/Server, so we have to figure something out.
I downloaded both the ISOs today (at over 28 megabits per second, thanks to the university-to-university connection betwen my workstation and the mirror site). I'm going to give Gentoo a shot this week on the laptop and see how it goes. It might be what I've been looking for, it might suck. We might end with the "userland" and mildly-supported Red Hat Linux regardless. Either way, having a choice is cool.
(BTW, if you're casting about for Linux distributions to try, have a look at Distribution Watch. They're pretty informative.)
Every once in a while I see something that makes me want to move to Australia. Or New Zealand maybe. Somewhere.
Ever wondered what goes on in the cockpit (and between the pilots and the tower) before an airliner crashes? I always have. Well, wonder no longer.
It's pretty sad stuff...
This one's much better. Not as agile, but that intelligence combined with three special attacks??? Nobody can stand up against my mighty PorkNozzle!
Gee, I don't know... Should I pay SCO? Or FedEx them a bag of human feces? Which, do you think?
Either way, I'm putting corn on the dinner menu, just in case.