Older blog entries for topher (starting at number 15)

2 Oct 2000 (updated 2 Oct 2000 at 05:30 UTC) »

The Return...

Well, I seem to have returned. Like so many others around here, I kept up with my journal entries really well for a while, but then real life rudely interupted, and I've been bad about it lately. I'm hoping to do better, though. ;-)

The Job...

Well, on Wednesday, I quit my job. Been there for three and a half years, and during an argument with my boss, I realized I had absolutely no desire to work there anymore. So I told him to take me off the schedule and that I was leaving the company.

And I'm feeling great about it. ;-)

Now, what has to be the most amazing thing, which almost caused me to fall out of my chair, about an hour after I got home from quiting work, I got a call from a company asking me to come in and interview for a recent opening they had. Is that out there, or what? I've been walking around waiting for lightning to strike me or something, because things like that do *not* happen in real life. Not in my life, anyway. ;-)

As if that wasn't good enough, I've managed to land two additional interviews for next week, with the possibility of a third. I only wonder why I waited as long as I did to quit. I think it's one of those things where you just get really comfortable, and it's more convenient to just keep doing a job, even if you don't like it much, than to deal with finding another one.

The only major downside is that I'm prolly gonna have to go full time, and I don't know that I can find a job that will work around my schedule as well as my last one did. So, the couple of classes I'm taking during the days might have to get dropped and retaken later. Not good, but such is life.

The Lightning Strikes...

I should have just shut up and been happy. Now I'm paying for it.

A week or so ago, I upgraded my Debian box to XFree86 4.0.1, using the experimental Debian packages. Everything worked great. Life was good. The only odd thing, is that on starting up X, if I started an Eterm, it took about 60-90 seconds before the text would be displayed. And if I started an X-Chat session without waiting a minute or two, X would crash on me. Oh, well, minor issues.

Today, I upgraded to the newest Debian package for X-4.0.1. Then I started my Eterm, prepared to wait a bit, and without thinking, I started up X-Chat. As previously mentioned, X died on me. However, this time it didn't just crash. It crashed and burned.

Help me!!!

As of now, I can't get my monitor to display anything. Upon powering it on, it will enter powersave mode within 3-4 seconds. I've tried everything I can think of, including going so far as to hook it up to a seperate working box (the one I'm typing this on, in fact) and it will not stay out of power save. I've got this terrible feeling that something in that last crash managed to hose my monitor for real. My monitor should still be covered by warranty, but if anyone out there happens to have any ideas at al on fixing this without sending it in, I would really like to hear from you. Please e-mail me at <topher at zyp dot org> with any suggestions. The monitor is a Panasonic PanaSync S70. Two years old, prior to this, ran absolutely beautifully, without a hint of trouble.

The Advert...

Okay, as if my monitor dying wasn't bad enough, it gets worse. I just got a phone call, at 12:15 am. It was one of those stupid recorded message phone call things, and the blasted thing was an advertisement. Unfortunately, the caller ID came up blank, and *69 wouldn't give me the number. I'd love to report that company to the Better Business Bureau, because that is really a bad thing when someone does that. We're talking after midnight, here. Sheesh.


Done. Last final was today.


Just talked to a good friend of mine, and found out that Princess Mononoke is playing at a theater in Lincoln (Which is about 40 miles from Omaha, where I am). This looks like a very cool movie.

My all time favorite Anime is Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, which was also done by Miyazaki (the guy doing this one). If this can manage to be even close to half as good as Nausicaa was, then I'll be in heaven seeing it on the big screen. ;-)


Nil. Been too busy with studying and stuff.


I'm nearly finished with Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I should have been done days ago, but studying had to take priority. It's been an interesting, and very worthwhile, read. If you like Douglas Adams, you'll prolly thoroughly enjoy this book.


I hate it when I really want to listen to a CD, and I can't find it. My Us And Them: Symphonic Pink Floyd CD is missing. I really hope that turns up soon, because I really love that album. ;-)


Just when I was feeling good, Work had to go and screw it up. They've called me in for tomorrow morning. What does this mean? This means I'm going to miss out on the ultimate in sleeping in time, that prime selection of "Morning after finals" sleeping in. Ah, well. I guess such is life. At least I only have to work for 3 hours tomorrow. ('Course, working at 8am is the worst possible 3 hours....)


The joys of school. I took my second to last final today, in my Business Communications class. This one really din't worry me much, since I managed a 96% on the first test, and a 98% on the second. It was actually a halfway interesting class, if kinda easy.

It was kinda interesting, though, I was asked by my professor to get her some information on teaching at the local Community College that I teach at. It seems she recently had a baby, and she's considering doing that part time, instead of teaching at the University full time.

Microsoft Stupidity...

I was glancing through the free copy of InfoWorld that shows up every week (despite the fact that I don't remember ever subscribing for it), and came across an interesting, if somewhat scary, article. It's in Ed Foster's latest column.

Basically, it describes how Microsoft is going to start disallowing OEM's to include Windows installation CDs with the computer systems they sell. They're taking a fairly quiet stance, and basically telling OEM's to tell customers themselves. They're also forcing OEM's to come up with their own solution to this problem. Something of a, "Yeah, we're screwing the customer over and making life damn inconvenient for them. And what's worse, is we're going to screw you over and make you deal with it. You get to tell them what's going on, and you get to try to fix it." Of course, their solutions are subject to Microsoft approval....meaning it has to be a CD locked to *that* specific machine, or an image on the hard drive, or something like that.

I think this has to be one of the stupidest things I've ever seen. I can't count the number of times I've had to reinstall Windows, or even pull out the CD so it could copy files when adding new hardware. The inconvenience this is going to cause is mind boggling.

This whole 'medialess' OS thing is supposed to reduce piracy....but, after thinking about it, I almost think this will increase the number of pirated copies of Windows that are floating around. Why? Becuase people will be forced to pirate copies of the retail version just so they can reinstall or fix their existing Windows installations.

I dunno who came up with this new policy, but I can't help but feel they must be truly clueless.


I think I've come up with an idea to waste my summer with. I've pretty much worked out an idea for a program that will include just about all the programming technologies that I'm interested in, but have never, so far, gotten around to playing with. This halfway impressive list inlcudes, but is not limited to:

  • Graphical Interface Programming
  • GTK
  • Gnome
  • zlib
  • XML
  • LDAP
  • Basic encryption
  • Some sort of module interface
  • Autoconf/Automake
  • Anything else I can fit in ;-)
I'm thinking the best way to really dig into this stuff, is to actually use it in a program. This looks like it's going to be a very educational, if busy, summer.

I'll post a better description of the program as I flesh out the details in a tangible format.


Work sucks, especially when I'm only going to get about 4 hours of sleep due to my bad habit of staying up and playing when I shouldn't be....doing things like making diary entries on a certain site.

labisso: You aren't wasting your money with that book. However, do make sure you get the second edition. The C Programming Langauge, 2nd Edition, by Kernighan and Ritchie is truly one of the best books I've ever read. It manages to capture all of the elegance, power, and efficiency of the C langauge and explain it accordingly.

It isn't an introduction to programming type book, however. It assumes that you are either comfortable with programming logic, or have access to a friend who is. If you are already comfortable with a different language, though, I know of no better book to learn C from.

Other recommendations, would be The Practice of Programming, by Kernighan and Pike. It has a wealth of tips, suggestions, hints, and good knowledge. The kind of stuff that really helps when you're programming.

ingvar: I'm positive that the 3com 3c905b-tx cards work in Linux, and it should work in any 2.2.x kernel, I believe. I know that it at least works in the later ones. A guy at work is using one in a Linux box right now, in fact (He's using a 2.2.14 kernel, just upgraded from a 2.2.12). The corect kernel driver for this card is 3c59x.o, so make sure you got that one....there's quite a few 3com drivers in there, so it's easy to miss it.

If that still isn't getting it, you might want to check IRQ's and make sure that there isn't some kind of conflict going on. Especially in slighty older machines (slower than 300MHz), where they didn't know how to share IRQs properly, it's easy to come up with those.

In general, I would prolly suggest upgrading to a 2.2.14 kernel either way, as it does provide some important updates. If you still can't get it to work, let me know and I'll see if I can come up with anything else. (My job for the past three years as a cable modem installer involves doing a *lot* of NIC installations. ;-)

Fun with colors...

Props to Ankh for recognising that you can slip color in by using style="color: #123456" inside of other tags. Being someone who generally sticks with basic and simple HTML, I find this rather nifty. Thanks for the idea. ;-)

Update: I just talked to Ankh, and he told me he wasn't the first one to use this, although he was the first one I noticed doing it. Whoever it is that first realized you can do this, thanks for the idea. ;-)


I just discovered some excellent news. There is a Warner Brothers cartoon exhibit at a local museum near me. They're featuring a number of original animation cells, as well as character and cartoon information. A number of my favorite cartoon characters are old WB Loonytoon characters, such as Bugs, Foghorn Legnorn, Elmer, Wile E. Coyote, Porky, Taz, and all the others. This looks to be really cool, and I can't wait to check it out. It sounds like it's a nationally travelling exhibit, so I'll prolly post a review after I see it.

My Search Continues...

I've spent the past few days searching video rental stores for one of my favorite old movies, Flash Gordon. Unfortunately, my searches have so far proven fruitless. I'm actually rather amazed at that. Does anyone else remember that movie? It was just so cool. One of my childhood classics. I think I might try a little calling around tonight, see if I can find it anywhere.


I read more in depth on the Red Hat backdoor security problem. I've been hearing about it for a few days now, but since I don't use Red Hat, I haven't taken the time to investigate it much. For all the publicity I've seen, I expected some kind of majorly nasty backdoor that would give instant root on any Red Hat 6.2 install or something. Imagine my surprise when I find out this backdoor only leads into the cellar, and it's one that most decent admins will have locked up without a second thought.

I agree that this is an annoying bug, but I don't think it's that big of a deal. I think the people who will be hit worst by it will be home users. Any professional admins who are enabling software, especially some tipe of remote administration software, without investigating it thoroughly and making sure they understand it should look for a new line of work. And anyone who enables a service without changing any and all default passwords should look into some security classes.

Especially when this only affects a small class of people, those who installed clustering software (a very interesting area of research, but definitely not something your average person would play with) this hole becomes even less relevant. Overall, I chalk it up to more hype than anything.

New Toys...

I'm considering buying a laptop soon. I don't plan on getting anything super hot top of the line, I'm looking more at the sub-$1500 range, something nice but not state of the art. My minimum requirements are 300 mhz, 64 MB of RAM, and a 13" TFT screen that will do 1024x768. I don't care how thin it is, how much it weighs, or much of anything else. However, while I know desktop machines and manufacturers like the back of my hand, I have very limited experience with laptops....and laptops are very different beasts from desktops. You can't just pop it open and swap out something if you have problems. Therefore, anyone who has suggestions, recommendations, or anything else, I would greatly appreciate what manufacturer and/or laptop models you would recommend.


*sigh* Work sucks. I've been installing cable modems for over three years now. It was actually kinda fun when I started....unfortunately, there is absolutely no challenge anymore, I'm not learning anything interesting, and I feel like I'm wasting my time. The only reason I'm still there is because they pay reasonably well for part time work, and work around school haflway decently. It's odd, but I actually wish they didn't pay as well and work around classes as well. It'd make it a lot easier to move on to something different. I wish more companies would be willing to take people on part time in technology positions. Oh, well. I guess I'll keep persevering until I gradgimitate or find something better.

Trust, Ratings, Advogato...

In the wake of the numerous articles and such about advogato and it's trust metric, I've decided to go ahead and throw out my oppinion. I think the advogato style community could be a good idea, but I don't entirely agree with how it's done here. First of all, I don't think programming skill or how much you've contributed to open source projects should have much of anything to do with it. In addition, if you're going to have more than one trust level, you really ought to attach meaning to them. For example, instead of rating programming experience, let's just use it as a basic level of trust here. Let me try to explain.

You've just come across advogato, and you think to yourself that this is a pretty nifty place. So, you go ahead and set up an account for yourself. You are now an Observer. At this point, you can't really do anything, except for read. This lasts for a mandatory week or so, basically so you can get a feel for the site before you are allowed to post.

After your initial week as an Observer, you are automatically moved up to the next level, say Novice. At this point, you are allowed to post personal diary entries, but nothing more. This stage should prolly continue until a combination of a certain number of diary entries have been posted, a certain number of people have certified that you aren't a complete fool (based on your diary entries) and a minimum time period.

After you've proven that you can contribute in your own little way, and by doing diary entries, you've shown everyone else a little bit about you, your interests, and why you're here, you will be bumped up to the next level, which could be called Apprentice. Understand that an apprentice is not someone to be looked down upon, but simply somone who is still learning. You now will be capable of participating in discussions on the main page, by posting replies to articles. Ideally, these discussions would be threaded for ease of understanding and to aid in the flow of the discussion. This stage would generally last for another few weeks, perhaps until a certain number of comments or additional diary entries were posted, a certain number of 'approval' certifications, whatever.

Eventually, you would pass on beyond that, and enter the Adept level. At this level, you can post articles on the front page, along with everything else. At this point, you have become adept at participating in the Internet Community.

By now, you've prolly noticed a few things. First of all, this style would encourage the majority of people to eventually become Adepts. This is because I think everyone has the potential to be at the same level, and it also removes some of the elitism that many people feel is espoused on advogato. There is no reason to place someone up on a pedestal here, simply because they have more experience or 'visibility' as an open source programmer. Heck, I know people here who could blow me away with their coding skill, and yet I'm a Journeyer and they're just Apprentices. This should be about the community, not just on wizbang coding skill.

I would also suggest changing the certification system. Instead of certifying people by specifying a certain level, just make it an 'approval' certification. The number of them will determine the level, along with other factors such as how long they've been around, how many diary entries they've posted, etc. With this system, people should also be encouraged to certify people more readily. Because you are no longer certifying based on a skill set that most people could never really know about other people they've never met or really worked with, it should be easier to certify people. You're no longer saying, "This person is a 'master'". You're now just saying, "Hey, I've read a diary entry or two, and an article reply, from this person, and they seem pretty cool. I'm going to go ahead and certify them with my approval." Certification from someone at the Adept level should prolly carry slightly more weight than someone at a lower level, and so on, but there should only be one certification type.

Opinions anyone? I know it's not perfect, but I think this could make a slightly improved Internet Community site.

Diary Listings...

It's been remarked a few times that it becomes difficult to follow diaries becuase of the number of entries, and the fact that once they scroll off of the recent entries page, there is no way to keep track of them. I think it would be very cool if we did have diary entry replies and threading, although I think each person should be able to choose whether such links are visible from their own personal informaiton pages.

I also think it'd be really cool if you could view diary entries by project membership groupings. This type of feature could make a system like Advogato's really helpful as an informal group collaboration tool on projects. It could go a long ways towards helping keep everyone informed of what everyone else is doing.

Sleep before shootings...

Okay, now that I've written an entry that was too long, and on a topic that a lot of people are prolly tired of reading about, I'm going to bed before I get shot or anything. ;-)


The joy of returning to work on a glorious Monday morning. I worked for something over 12 hours today, so I basically didn't get much of anything else accomplished. So it goes.

Fun Flicks...

I watched Cruel Intentions again tonight. I think that's the third time I've watched it all the way through. It's a rather odd movie, but it really is pretty good. I like it, anyway.

I'm breaking out The Lawnmower Man, an old favorite, and The Last Starfighter, an excellent old classic SF flick, tomorrow. Gotta love the fun old movies.

At this rate, I'll end up breaking out all the old John Hughes movies in a few weeks. Hrm.

LDAP Revisited...

I got two questions privately, and I saw it posted once in a diary today, that someone else is interested in LDAP. The diary post dealt with a desire to research it, apearantly for work. The two private queries were asking for more information on it.

I can very easily understand why I received those questions. One thing I noticed as well when I was first becoming interested in LDAP, there is very little good documentation on it. It's a shame, really, because even my limited exposure has shown a lot of potential for it.

Well, in my attempt to try to help as much as I can, little though it may be, here are some of the better sites I've run across for LDAP info:

An IBM Red Book in PDF format. This is one of the best resources I've found on LDAP, although it's not very implementation specific. This will provide you with the understanding and overview you need to use LDAP, and to know why and when you should use LDAP. This is basically a full (almost) 200 page book. Highly recommended:


Mostly links to other LDAP stuff:


PADL sells some LDAP stuff commercially, and they also provide a number of utilities, many GPL'ed. Among them are the libnss_ldap, the library that allows you to replace some /etc flat files with LDAP entries on machines using GLIBC2. (It uses the Name Service Switch) Also, they have tools to migrate some /etc flat files to use LDAP as a replacement:


A good bit of LDAP information, especially in regards to using LDAP to replace some /etc flat files. Somewhat dated, mostly referes to U. Mich. LDAP server, but still good info:


An explanation of why LDAP is 'good' from (I think) one of the creators:


The main page for LDAP information at U. Mich. Somewhat dated in a number of places:


An excellent introduction to LDAP, although a little dated. Written for the U. Mich. LDAP server, but most of it applies to OpenLDAP:


The home page for the OpenLDAP project. They're maintaining an excellent free LDAP server, based I believe on the U. Mich. LDAP codebase.


Good article on LDAP by a co-author:


LDAP Article on Sun's SunWorld site, good introduction. This also has one of the best collections of links at the bottom for further information I've seen:


IETF's page about LDAP extensions. Inlcudes links at the bottom to pretty much all of the LDAP related IETF docs. IETF is in charge of the LDAP protocols, for those who don't know:


An interesting site with some good links. Most of the onsite info is still fairly incomplete, but worth peeking at:


I hope some of this can be of help to someone. If anyone has any other good LDAP references, tutorials, or anything else, please pass 'em on to me. ;-)


Okay, now that I'm finished with those, I'm going to bed. G'Night everyone. ;-)


Had an enjoyable Easter. I hope everyone else who celebrates the holiday had a similarly nice day. It was absolutely beautiful here. I actually spent a good bit of the day outside just because it was so nice. I also totally stuffed myself. And loved it.

LDAP Fun...

I started playing with LDAP again today. I'd like to eventually set it up with libnss_ldap to replace some of the flat files in /etc as an alternative to NIS.

I'd also like to set up a web accessible address book for my own personal use. It could make things easier on me.

I am finding out that LDAP is really cool, though. Whether I can get it working like I want or not, I'm definitely gonna be playing with it more. I also came across a nice 'Understanding LDAP' book in PDF format from IBM. It provides a nice overview and introduction to what it is, how it can be used, etc.

I wonder what else I can do with LDAP....


Started playing with QScheme, but it's a touch more work than I'd hoped to setup and install. It requires the installation of a few custom libraries, seemingly by the same author, but I couldn't find much in the README's about them being seperate projects. Out of the three parts, only one uses auto*. That makes Debianizing them a touch more work than I was expecting, so I'm putting it off for a few days.

Good Omens...

I'm a good 50 pages into Good Omens (Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman) and I have to say, so far it's been good. It does have a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy feel to it.


I watched End Of Days today, for the first time. It was a pretty decent flick. It's weird, I seem to be into some kind of religious 'thriller' movie kick. In the past week or so, I've also watched The Prophecy, one of my favorite movies, and Stigmatta, another movie that I enjoyed a lot. I wonder what'll be next?


I've had a pretty bleh day. I've mostly just sat around and done nothing. Perhaps I'll be able to gather up the motivation to do something later....I'm not sure yet.


I've started playing with QScheme and I have to say, I'm rather impressed. It is a very fast interpreter, and it seems to be a nice a project. It doesn't have any kind of sockets library, yet, though. If it still seems as cool in a week or two as it does now, I might consider trying to write one.


Either way, I might try to Debianize the program shortly. I originally intended to apply to become a Debian developer right at the time that New Maintainer closed. Since then, I've been waiting for it to reopen, and watched the three programs I was going to package each get taken by an existing developer. So it goes. Now seems like a good time to look into it again, though.

Broken Windows...

I tried to install Microsoft OFfice 2000 on a Windows NT 4 box today. I will not be doing that again. Amazingly enough, it actually hosed NT. NT wouldn't boot. I had to dig out my NT CD, boot from that, run it's rescue, and have it recopy most of the system files. Of course, now half the Apps that are installed don't work, so I'm gonna have to go through and reinstall most of them. What was I thinking? Next time, I'm sticking with Office 97.

Book: "Good Omens"

I've just started reading a new book (well, new for me) called Good Omens. It's by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. A number of the quotes, including some from big name authors, compare it favorably to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. If it manages to be anywhere close to that, it'll be worth my time to read it.

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