Older blog entries for mascot (starting at number 57)

Scary. People I know are googling me and finding this page. How embarrassing ;-)

As people may have noticed, I don't actively maintain my journal here any more; I just posted this whilst passing through to remove all references to my (somewhat abandoned) project previously known as MailTrack, due to trademark reasons......

Well, here I am in Cambridge University, starting a computer science course on Thursday. It's been an exhausting few days, but I'm enjoying it (although I was horrified to hear that I have 9am lectures every day - including Saturday!). I packed too much to fit into my small-ish room, but never mind. (Except I had to lug it all up three floors...)

And the download speeds here are amazing :-) After being stuck on 64 kbit/s ISDN for ages, downloading stuff at speeds approaching 40 Mbit/s is quite a shock to the system!

Spam, spam, spam, spam....

You know you've been spending too long organising spam filtering when you start writing <spam class=...> in a block of HTML!

The new UK anti-spam law is, um, a bit odd. I can't see the logic in not banning spam sent to businesses. Is this so we're allowed to spam the spammers back in revenge? :-)

Well, it's been a long time since I posted here - too long considering I've (in theory) had loads of spare time for the past month!

Real life

Starting with the "old news": I'm definitely going to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and I've had a few billion forms to fill in about this... Two other people I know are going there, which is nice, and others are going to different colleges in the same university. I travel down on 4th October... and before then I've got to have sorted out everything I want to take with me, which will not be easy considering the state of my room!

I bought my Undergraduate Gown today (which I need on the second day in Trinity Hall, for the Matriculation Photograph). It's plain black. That's boring. Perhaps I should have chosen one of the colleges, e.g. Gonville and Caius which has a blue one. Oh well, never mind, at least my college is pronounceable!


The mailing list program I mentioned in my last entry works well now, and I've been paid. A few more features - fairly extensive ones - have been requested, and I'll hopefully have time to implement those (for a further payment, of course!). I would have started earlier, except there's been a disagreement over code licensing - but I think I've finally got permission to continue GPLing it (or at least I got "Thanks for the clarification; please proceed" which I think means the same). (Memo to self: sort out licensing before writing any code next time...) Thanks to aes for his help and suggestions in resolving this.

I've also started programming in C again - just a little bit, writing fixes for aes's calculator app - but I haven't done this for years, and have never before done any GUI work in C. Great fun. But my method of teaching myself probably means I'll end up with really bad coding style... (I suppose that's what my imminent CompSci course is for!)

The Network From Hell

A DNS server I set up a few months ago for a large, wide-area company network has started choking, complaining of excessive connections. This server is supposed to only handle DNS lookups for the Internet and for the non-Windows portion of their network (and there isn't much of that) - lookups for internal Windows machines should be handled by various NT Domain Servers before the queries get to my server. But no: it turns out that for the past couple of years, they've been doing their Windows DNS stuff completely wrong (mainly because they were using Windows NT techniques on Windows 2000 servers, I think) and this results in huge numbers of bogus queries being dumped on my server. E.g. a machine wants to find another Windows machine called "ABCD123". My server shouldn't see this request at all, since it should be handled by either a Windows NT Domain Controller or a Windows 2000 Active Directory Controller. But instead my server is thrown requests for "ABCD123.subdomain.domain.co.uk.", "ABCD123.domain.co.uk.", "ABCD123.co.uk.", "ABCD123.uk." and "ABCD123.". None of which exist. And this is happening hundreds of times a second from different machines all over the network...

And for once I can just say "it's not my fault; fix your network" :-) It's nice when it's Someone Else's Problem.


(Not something I do regularly, but why not, once in a while...)

I helped organise a small LAN party at a friend's house last weekend - and amazingly everything worked as planned. Now, with the enthusiasm gained at the LAN party, I'm trying to set up a Linux dedicated server for UT2003; this worked perfectly for about half an hour today, then mysteriously stopped working and nothing I do will make it work again. Clients just get stuck in some sort of loop whilst connecting, sending out about 10 six-byte UDP packets per second to the server. Oh well, more tweakage needed.


I've got far too many projects on the go at the moment. The 'most current' one is a mailing list system with tracking facilities. I.e. when someone clicks a link in a message, the system records that they did that, and (the controversial bit) also tracks when they open the message, via a remotely-loaded image. (It's not designed for spamming. It's designed for small-scale mailing lists; I doubt it could even cope with the quantities of mail spammers send.) My excuse is that I'm being paid to write this...


...doesn't boot on my system. It freezes just after initialising the speaker. (It's a hardware-fault-esque freeze - even SysRq doesn't do anything.)

And now my old, previously working configuration of 2.4.20-gentoo-r6 also dies on bootup as well; I've managed to strip out a load of extras (preemptile kernel, ACPI, APIC, low-latency, etc.) and now it boots. The difference is that I can't get 2.6.0-test3-bk1 to boot whatever I do to the configuration.

I'm not sure exactly what's causing it to freeze - that's a job for tomorrow. But to add insult to injury, my PC boots Windows XP fine...

I hope it's not a hardware fault. I can't really afford to go buying a new motherboard at the moment. (And I've swapped almost everything else around, so if it's hardware, it's the motherboard, CPU, graphics card, or hard disk.)

Real life

Well, in under eight hours I'll have my A-level results and will (hopefully) know which university I'm going to (first choice: Cambridge, second choice: Manchester).

I hope the events of the past day weren't supposed to be an omen or something... all sorts of things have gone wrong, starting with my box suddenly refusing to boot my Linux kernel (above), and culminating with me dropping two years' worth of heavy computer magazines onto the floor from ceiling height, narrowly missing my Mum and my sister. (They were tied together with string, and attached to the end of a rope, so they could be hoisted into the attic. The string snapped. Enough said.)

Hopefully that will have got all of this week's bad luck out of the way before my results arrive. :-)

Arrived back from my holiday in Austria yesterday. The holiday was great; I got a lot of mountain walking done, and took over 1Gb of photos - 300Mb more than last year. (But I took them in a higher quality mode, so I suppose that was cheating. I actually took slightly less in number - 1051 this year, 1097 last year.)

The journey back went smoothly, except that the one brief torrential rainstorm in Manchester that day had to coincide with when we were moving luggage around outside...

And we arrived home to find that, to our surprise, our house had grown scaffolding whilst we were away. Apparently the builders are starting some work on our slate-covered wall (i.e. attaching the slates properly, so they don't fall off and hit people) which we asked them to do sometime last year, but we were told it would be some time before they could start. So, naturally, they manage to pick a time to start whilst we're on holiday. Oh well, they haven't wrecked much yet.


Going away tomorrow to Austria for a fortnight. It'll probably do me good to have no Internet access for a while...

On last year's Austria holiday I took over 700Mb of photos. I wonder if I can beat that this year? :-)


According to University Challenge on TV this evening, "daemon" is actually an acronym for "disk and execution monitor". Well, fancy that. The word has evolved though to mean a lot more than that, so perhaps their attempt to be up-to-date backfired slightly...

(Probably old Unix hands will already know that. But I'd never heard it before. It just means "background process" as far as I'm concerned.)

On Thursday, I finished my exams (all but one went OK), and yesterday I finished school. It feels really weird - I've been at that school for the past nine years, and I've grown to quite like the place. Having spent an appreciable fraction of my life there, it was sort of like a second home. Over the past two years, the A-level Further Maths set (of which I was a member) grew a really strong sense of community - and now I might not see some of them ever again. The past year in particular has been the peak of my time there.

But I suppose good things can't last forever, and there's a time when we all have to move on. I've applied to study Computer Science at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and I'm fairly confident I'll make the grades. One other friend from Further Maths has applied to the same college, for Engineering - his offer is a little more steep than mine, but I hope he manages it.

And now for the summer. I'm hoping to get a job at my Dad's work (a supermarket chain) in the IT department. I've worked at that company before, for Work Experience, but they could only fit me into the Accounts dept. I hope I can get a better job than folding letters and sorting invoices into order this time...

But for now... free coding time! At last I can get back to something other than revision for exams. I've collected a huge To Do list over the past few months (mostly for my friend's hosting business) and hopefully I'll be able to have a stab at it over the long summer.

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