Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Photobucket bulk uploader applet now works in Ubuntu

It's probably been close to a year, or a bit more than that, since I gave up on the Photobucket java bulk uploader. Back then, the applet worked in Windows but photobucket didn't care enough to make it work on Linux (there were forum posts about how it didn't work on non-Windows boxes).

I did upload some files from either my wife's windows partition (which we keep for legacy devices that work only in Windows, e.g., a Sony NW-HD1 that was given to us and that doesn't seem to have any linux support at all). I remember using windows under vmware to test the bulk uploader too.

I recently upgraded to Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid) and I'm glad to report that the bulk uploader now works with the Sun Java 1.6 JVM. I don't have 1.5 installed just now, so I don't know if it'll work with that. But I'm glad that I've finally got a working setup.

Friday, July 04, 2008

svn:externals and git

A previous post has a comment from Jakub Narebski pointing me at git submodules. A quick google points me at: Andy Parkins' post on git submodules and svn:externals on kerneltrap.

That's cool. And if the anyone on my subversion using team ever uses svn:externals I'll be glad of the workaround. I hope, though, that git-svn support for svn:externals will mature before then :-).

I'm very happy with how flexible and powerful git is, and how I'm able to work on our svn repository while taking advantage of git capabilities that aren't in svn or are very painful to use. But I'm drowning quite well in java and erlang just now, and I'm not going to be able to spend time figuring out git nuances. Much better to sit around minding my own business while the product matures :-).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

git-log --name-status

I've been using git for the past month (I just realized that today was my first whole month at work) and I'm very happy with it. I'm used to svn (and before that, CVS) and I'd gotten around the ugly (so much so that I never used the version discussed in the subversion book for versions below 1.5) merging in svn by using svnmerge (which, while not making merging painless, did make it sufficiently less painful that it was actually usable).

For a long time I looked at git but never actually dived in head first since casual acquaintance with git made me feel dumb. Now that I've been using it for a month though (well, with git-svn, since my current project uses svn), I'm getting used to it, I've got the basic workflow down and I'm slowly learning more advanced workflows.

For a long time too I didn't like git because I thought it didn't have an equivalent to "svn log -v", that is, show the revision number, author, message, and the affected files. git-log showed the first three, but not the last. I was probably looking at an early version of git though, this would have been in 2006 or so. Sometime in revision 1.4, git-log got --name-status, but I didn't notice. Anyway, it required -r if you wanted to see recursive changes. 1.5 has better behavior now. --name-status shows filenames and what was done to them (deleted, added, modified, etc), and the -r is implied.

There are still some things I'm not clear on (e.g., how to do the equivalent of svn:externals, which is probably a SMORTD, a simple matter of reading the documentation). But given that the main VCS at work is SVN, how to work with svn:externals with git and git-svn :-).

I'll get there though. Although it may take a while since, in fact, we don't use svn:externals or similar in our current projects (in fact, the reason I decided to use git and git-svn was because we don't have the regular trunk and branches structure either, and being the new guy, I didn't want to be creating a test branch for myself at the root of the svn tree :-).

In any case, git-reset and friends (i haven't tried the --interactive options to git-commit or git-rebase and friends yet, but I will, one of these days) are great helps and because of their (admittedly, simple) enhancements to my workflow, I'm not going to be switching back to pure svn.

Our project isn't so large that the git vs svn speed difference is a factor, but I have (at a previous job) worked with sufficiently large trees and branches that the speed of git would have been a huge help. On the other hand, as smart as my co-workers were, at that job, I think that pushing git into the organization would have been too big a challenge in the time I had. svn was certainly the better choice there (since svnmerge was available, before I learned svnmerge, I spent far too much time hand-merging between branches).

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Recovering, not so gracefully

My laptop's DVD-RW drive stopped working a month or two ago. I didn't mind much since it's not essential. I can always use my wife's laptop when we have DVDs for our son to watch. I ordered Ubuntu Hardy desktop and server CDs via shipit and I got those a few weeks ago. I did want to install Hardy, but it wasn't a big deal, so I waited until I could figure out how safely.

The only thing I really *needed* the DVD drive for was for booting rescue DVDs. I didn't want to try to do an online Hardy upgrade if I couldn't go into a rescue DVD if something broke and the laptop couldn't reboot (that's happened to me once or twice, on doing an online update).

I downloaded the RIPLinux iso and installed it to my USB flash drive. I thought I could use that for rescue. Unfortunately, when I tried to do some grub surgery on my laptop, I made it unbootable. Mainly, because I'm not intimately familiar with grub (I'm a lilo man, myself, and the only thing I really dislike about Ubuntu is that it's inherently grub-centric), but also because it thought my hard drive was at /dev/hdc but Ubuntu sees it at /dev/sda. I couldn't fix that either since RIPLinux would boot and assign the flash drive it was booting from to /dev/sda.

Fortunately, when I went to Pendrive Linux and saw a tutorial on how to install Hardy onto a USB drive FROM the ISO. The recipe there worked flawlessly and I've now got a flash drive that is an Ubuntu Hardy installer as well as a live Linux. If I go to an internet cafe, or someone else's computer, I can use it and not worry about the viruses they've got running around in their Windows installation.

So I've got Hardy installed now. I'll bring the laptop to work tomorrow, update, and install all the development packages I need that aren't on the default Desktop install. I work at Catalyst IT Limited. Online updates and apt-get are very fast at work since Catalyst hosts the New Zealand mirrors for Ubuntu and Debian (and a bunch of other distributions).

Next, I need to figure out how to install OpenSolaris from some device other than the install CD :-).

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Java and Erlang

I just got through my first week at work. It's a great environment, lots of geeks around. My primary project is in java, and I'm taking some time to re-acclimate. I'd avoided java in the last 5-7 years or so because I thought it had gotten over-complex. I have now just jumped into the deep end :-). I'll survive, of course, and maybe even learn something. As to whether what I'll learn is going to be worth the trouble, I'm not sure. It probably will be. Although it's going to be painful for a few months.

My secondary project is to be the backup (or go-to, I'm not very clear on that yet) guy on a project that was done in erlang. I've been interested in learning erlang, so I'm certainly interested in doing the project. On the other hand, the guy who implemented it (and who has since left the company for a job in Paris) gave me an introduction to the system and it was overwhelming.

I've just jumped into the deep end twice. I'm going to be gasping for air for a while.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Tom Lane pics

I've always wondered what Tom Lane looks like. He's a great presence on the postgresql mailing lists, always informative, always polite and knows incredible amounts of postgresql implementation details.

Now there are pics of Tom Lane from PGCon2

Ehem, apparently a Mac user :-). I'm not going to be swayed to switch to Mac just because Tom uses one. Well, maybe a little. But not enough to buy one :-).

Friday, May 16, 2008


I just got an offer of employment at New Zealand's largest open source oriented company. I'm looking forward to working with 80+ geeks. I'm going to be working in Java though, with some PHP. I've worked with java a lot in the past, but I'm not up-to-date on the latest developments. As it happens, I've been told that most of the code is still 1.4. That's a mixed blessing. Some things in 1.5 and later are nice, but a lot else is horrible. Still, I'm going to miss autoboxing.

I've got a week to learn some basic things. I'm going to see how much of Java, Tomcat and Spring I can learn in 9 days or so :-)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Nontechnical, but must-post

OK, there have been a whole slew of articles about recent discoveries regarding platypus genes. I didn't post about them because it was enough that I read about them (frankly, I only read one of those links, I only searched for the other links so that I could have a whole slew of links here :-).

I finally broke down and posted about the discoveries though because, after all, who can resist a headline like this?

Platypus Genes Hint at Human Scrotum Origins

Of course, Pharyngula on this whole thing is better. The original study would be even better, but I am avoiding embarrassment by ignorance, and also sleep by boredom, so I'm not reading that :-).

Thursday, May 08, 2008

GW Bush: Impeach, Prosecute, Convict, Execute

I've got "Impeach, Prosecute, Convict, Execute" in my email sig, in reference to that Abject and Miserable Failure, George W Bush.

I'm taking that part off temporarily though, since I'm sending out job applications. No need to ruffle the feathers of any strongly anti-death-sentence hiring managers out there :-).

I had also taken off URLs for this blog and my other me since someone pointed to a spamhaus post that indicated it might be used by (and related properties) as an indicator of spam. In fact, I added the impeach, prosecute, convict, execute text because I had removed the blog links and wanted something to take their place :-).

Well, when I stop emailing job applications, I'll put something back in the sig.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Finally, Debian on NSLU2

I won a linksys NSLU2 at a TradeMe auction last month.

I couldn't get it running immediately since the power supply that came with it wasn't the right one. The seller had bought it in Australia and I think he got a unit where the power supply had been switched (maybe it was a U.S. unit and the australian seller replaced the power supply since the outlet jacks are different). In any case, Phil (the seller from whom I was buying), didn't know the power supply didn't work since he never got around to turning it on.

It took a while to get in contact with him (yahoo was filtering my outgoing email to Phil, considering it spam for some reason, probably because of some text on my sig). After some back and forth we finally sorted it out and, he sent a replacement power supply, we had to have that replaced again because the jack was the wrogn size too, and we finally got the right power supply and I got it working today.

I immediately installed Debian on it. That does take a while to install since the CPU is pretty slow, so I guess unpacking, installing and generating cryptographic keys and such take a while. I'm going to de-underclock the NSLU2 one of these days. Apparently, the CPU in there is forced down to half its speed. I can remove a resistor and double the speed. On the other hand, I'll take my time since I have a history of breaking hardware :-). Best to take my time and do things right :-).

I had planned to have it boot from one of my 60GB external USB drives, but there was a problem with that. It thought the drive had bad sectors. It didn't though, I ran badblocks on it (well, actually, mkfs.ext3 -c -c) and there are no media errors. Maybe it's just the low quality drive enclosure making the drive seem marginal. I just installed debian on a flash drive and then (with some work with fdisk, mkfs, mkswap, etc) copied the flash data to the external hard drive. The Slug is now booting from the 60GB drive, after those gymnastics.

I've got a self-powered Maxtor hard drive enclosure with two full size (3.5") drives in there. I'll use that as my secondary drive for the NSLU2. I used a power meter to measure power draw by my laptop, by the NSLU2+USB laptop drive, and by the Maxtor drive, and the Maxtor drive takes so much power I don't want it to be on all day :-). The NSLU2 with one external laptop drive only draws between 7 and 11 watts. That's very nice. The Maxtor enclosure, by itself, draws 26 watts even when there's no activity. That's not so cool since my laptop draws less than that at low CPU speed, and only around 48 watts at high CPU speed with the CPU fully loaded.

I've got just a basic install on the SLUG for now (well, I installed build-essentials, although there's not much profit from building from source on a 133Mhz CPU :-). I'll build it up slowly, probably installing an openvpn server (I've got openvpn on my laptops now, and firewall rules on the router to let openvpn through) and possibly moving my postfix+dovecot+fetchmail+ypops+bogofilter+spamassassin setup to the SLUG.

My thanks to ian sison for pointing me at the NSLU2. He told me about it maybe a year ago, but my wife and I were in the midst of preparations to immigrate to New Zealand, so I didn't try to buy one then. I've had a few months at home, taking care of Timmy and after losing one or two trademe auctions on an NSLU2, I've got one now :-).

I'd love to upgrade the memory on this NSLU2 too, but I can't do it, so I'll need to see if I get to know anyone with the requisite soldering skills :-).

Thursday, April 17, 2008

regionset is cool, thanks Cedric

I've moved to New Zealand with my family and after a few weeks getting all set up, I went to the library and got a library card. I then borrowed some children's DVDs for my son to watch occasionally.

I found, though, that I couldn't use them on my laptop. Fortunately, we left the original windows on my wife's laptop (but dual-booting to linux, which she uses almost exclusively). I found that I could play the DVDs there.

After two weeks of messing around with this I finally posted a question on the Philippine Linux Users Group mailing list and got exactly the answer I needed (this answer probably also helping dido sevilla, who had the exact same problem). It seems my DVD drive has a region setting hardcoded into it somewhere. If playing a DVD with a different region setting, it's necessary to change the hardcoded region. Unfortunately, there's a small number of changes available. Beyond that, I suppose it won't change anymore. Fortunately I didn't bring any US region DVDs with me, so I won't have to worry about having one laptop be for US DVDs and another laptop be for NZ DVDs :-).

sudo apt-get install regionset
sudo regionset

and then choose the region (4, for Australia, New Zealand).

For Phil Wynn

Hi Phil,

I've emailed you but I see no reply. Possibly an anti-spam filter is eating things, so I'll post the text of my reply to you here and send you an innocuous email with the link.

---- message follows ---
Re: Trade Me Auction: 148561162 -- Linksys NSLU2 Network Attached Storage (NAS)
From: Gerald Quimpo
To: "Phil Wynn"

Hi Phil,

On Monday 14 April 2008 13:16:36 you wrote:
> Just checking, did you receive the parcel?

Yes I did. I also emailed you, but possibly that got lost (or eaten by a spam
filter) or something.

here's what I said then:
>>>>On Wednesday 09 April 2008 07:59:15 you wrote:
> If you dont receive the package within a couple of days, please let me
> know.

I received it the other day. Didn't get around to looking at it til
just now.

Did you get this working at all? Where did you buy it? I've been trying
to get the power jack in and it won't go in. It's not that it's too tight,
it doesn't even seem to be the right size (although it *looks* right,
it won't go in at all though, even when I exert some force).

Do you have the receipt from when you bought it? Might need to
have it repaired or the power pack replaced.

oh, and I signed it "tiger", which is my nickname, but possibly why you
might have ignored it :-).

by the way, i think i'm mistaken about the jack being the wrogn
size. instead, the inner part of the power conection (the part in the
NSLU2 seems not to be a regular cylinder. instead, most of it
is a cylinder but part of it seems to have some metal protruding
or welded on so that the power cable can't mate with it. but i'm
not really very sure about all this, weak eyes and i have no
magnifying glass available.


---- message ends ----

Friday, March 28, 2008

Switching to Kmail

I've used Gnome Evolution for many years. I've looked at various email clients over the years (sylpheed, kmail, thunderbird, and very long ago, pine, mutt, elm and mail) and Evolution had the right mix of features that I needed.

Mainly, I stuck with Evolution because it has realtime-updated search folders. That is, it's possible to create a virtual "Folder" that is actually a search into other real folders, with logical criteria. It's like a view in SQL.

I used that for having an "Everything" folder, which was a view into all emails in all real folders (because I cut my email apart into many folders, for easier management, and so that I don't have a single large Inbox with 50,000+ emails in it). I also used it for showing unread email for some very voluminous mailing lists. In evolution, it's not convenient to find the next unread message (well, I never spent the time to find the keyboard shortcut for that, although there probably is one). So I just created search folders that showed only unread messages.

An upgrade to ubuntu gutsy's Evolution has left evolution slightly unstable though. Evolution would crash for no reason, or it would crash because, just after starting it, while it was fetching mail, I would click on the fetch mail icon and it would get confused. Evolution also feels like it's not being maintained. That's no big deal since it's already pretty complete, but I've been seeing it get unstable as crash bugs aren't fixed while some new features get in. So I decided I needed to switch to some other mailer.

I looked at Kmail and Thunderbird. Sylpheed-claws doesn't install cleanly as a package in Gutsy (or in my config, anyway), so I just ignored that.

Kmail has pretty much all the features I needed (and some I wanted):

1. Choice of maildir or mbox (I tested maildir last night on reiserfs and xfs,
I expected reiserfs to be much faster than xfs. Was very surprised to see
xfs (1.5 minutes) beat reiserfs (2.5 minutes) in a simple little "read many
little files and search for a string" benchmark). Fortunately, my /home is
already a luks encrypted xfs.

2. Strong mail filtering functionality. A nice surprise is the automatic
anti-spam support. It supports both bogofilter and spamassassin, and
it creates filters which will register an email as either spam or ham
using the bayesian classifier in either of those. The filters just
classify the email as spam or ham and then either move the email to the
spam directory or keep it in the current directory. I had scripts to
do that in Evolution. Didn't think to do it with Evolution's built-in
filters though.

3. Search/Virtual folders.

It's slow though. Slower than evolution at most things, and I can make it pause with some large tasks (evolution seems to be much more multi-threaded or multi-process or whatever, in any case, it's harder to make the UI pause). And the Search/Virtual folders have a stupid bug (or maybe it's a feature, I don't understand how that could be though). When the preview pane is displayed, clicking on a virtual folder makes all unread email in that folder automatically change their status to read. This is bogus. It might make sense if the email that is selected in that folder is marked read, but not ALL of them. There's a bug report on it. I don't know why it's a wishlist. I think I saw this bug already the last time I looked at Kmail and I backed off from switching then.

This time I switched anyway because Kmail has keyboard shortcuts to go to the first, next, prev,last unread emails. That's enough of a workaround that I can deal with switching. I'll be able to work with my large mailing list email folders. I won't be using Saved/Virtual folders for much else and I can wait for this bogosity to be resolved.

I looked at Thunderbird, but there are too many things missing. For one thing, I can't run a filter on a set of selected emails. As far as I can tell, one has to run a filter on a whole folder. Sometimes though, I need to do subset filtering (particularly when developing a new filter incrementally, on a very large folder, so that whole folder filtering is very slow). I can't run external commands in a filter (can't do that in the filter definition either in Kmail, but you *can* do it in the filter action. Thunderbird can't do it in the filter action either). And there's no maildir support. maildir support is important because if the mailer gets unstable, you lose just one or a very few (depending on number of working threads) messages. An unstable mailer that uses mbox can lose the entire mbox if it really loses its mind. In fact, the reason I decided to switch away from Evolution is because after a security upgrade (pilot error, I had it run the upgrade while evolution was still running, I should have stopped the client) it deleted all email in my inbox with dates after Dec 7, 2008 (approximately, I forget the exact last date).

I may look at Thunderbird again in a few months, particularly if Kmail doesn't fix that bogosity.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Loyalty is short-lived

While Telecom's customer service is outstanding, the actual internet service isn't that great. In particular, the bandwidth cap (in my case 3GB/month) is the sum of downloads and uploads. This isn't what I was told at the telecom sales office we subscribed at. I'm sure the telecom sales guy was just confused. He wasn't trying to lie to us, he just didn't know that the cap is the sum. He thought uploads weren't counted at all and that only downloads contributed to the cap.

As it is, this is going to put a cramp into my posting Timmy Videos to youtube. Or pushing pictures up to photobucket. With me, objective measures win over soft, touchy-feelie values. All things being equal, I'd stick with Telecom because their customer service has been great. But if some broadband provider were to suddenly provide internet access without caps, or with higher caps or no upload limit, then I'd switch immediately. Or maybe wait two to three months for telecom to catch up, and if they didn't come up with a competitive offering, then switch. Touchy-feelie good feelings are great. But bandwidth trumps touchy-feelie :-).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"Lost" some email

In a glitch that I don't quite understand, I "lost" some email. It's not really lost. I keep a copy of everything on gmail. So it's still there. But it's very inconvenient to try to restore what was lost because gmail doesn't have a flexible way of saying, "reset the end of my already-downloaded list of emails to this particular email". Instead, I can either download everything again, give up on the "lost" email, or workaround somehow.

I'll probably give up. The email is on gmail, so I can always get back to it. I could workaround by forwarding all those emails to myself and then, on the receiving side, editing the From: and date sent of each email. But that's no fun. I certainly don't want to download everything again because I'm in New Zealand, and broadband here has a bandwidth cap. Mine is 3GB/month. When I go over, download speeds will drop to 64kbps or so. That's not too bad, but this isn't important enough for that.

I think that evolution got confused because evolution was running, and then I ran Ubuntu's automatic updater and evolution got updated. Possibly there was some confusion regarding evolution-data-server or similar. That'll teach me to keep programs running which are being updated. I think, though, that this is the first time I've been caught by updates updating running programs. Ah well, live and learn. Or maybe not. I'll probably forget and this'll happen to me again.

I've been putting off running postfix, fetchmail and an imapd daemon locally. I've done that in the past, it helps with reliability, automatic backup and spam classification with .procmailrc, etc.

I think I'll put it off some more though. Gmail has a copy of all my mail, and I can get a relatively recent copy of my Inbox (the only file affected) from my rdiff-backup backups. That'll bring my Inbox forward to sometime early this month. Then I'll just have about a week and a half of personal mail left on gmail. I would probably then forward those to myself since there'd be few enough of them.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Quality Service from Telecom

I've been busy with moving to New Zealand with my family. This process has been going on for close on two years now. We arrived a 5 weeks ago, my wife is now working at the foremost open source oriented software development company in New Zealand, we've moved into a new rental home, things are moving forward quickly.

As part of moving into our new home (it's not an apartment, although it is a rental, since it's a standalone house with a little garden and garage) we had the utilities registered in our name, and we subscribed to Telecom for our home phone. We also went ahead and subscribed to telecom's broadband plans. This was mainly for convenience. New Zealand has naked DSL, it's possible to get DSL without a landline phone service. We thought we'd just go the convenient way and get both, and then switch later as necessary.

We probably won't now though, because I've been very happy with Telecom's call center service. I rang the call center and ordered the broadband service. All of this was done over the phone. I then rang again because I wanted to get some dialup service for the week or so that it would take to receive the ADSL modem/router. First of all, on the broadband, I was told that they had a promotion for online subscriptions. Online subscribers would get free 2 months of service. But the call center operator said that we'd get the free 2 months of service anyway even though we weren't subscribing online, because she'd just enter the order and we'd get the promotional 2 months free. She also said that Telecom had a promo on the broadband hardware package. There was an NZ$100 discount on the package (ADSL modem/wifi router and a few ADSL filters) so it would only cost NZ$100. Good deal.

I later called Telecom because I wanted to subscribe to their dialup service for a month, just til the DSL was up and running. I was told that normally broadband subscribers were given free dialup accounts to use until DSL was up. Good deal.

The Telecom call center support person later called me because he said he'd reviewed my broadband application and there was something wrogn with the order for the broadband router. That's pretty good service, good initiative.

So finally I called the call center again, spoke with someone who sounded Filipino (I guess they don't hire just Kiwi accents) and she investigated the error, and fixed it by removing the old order and re-creating it. I had to do the third call since the second support center person (the one who discovered the problem) was in the dialup support section and couldn't help me with broadband.

Altogether, it was very good to see really good, pro-active, genuinely customer satisfaction oriented service in action. I may still jump ship to some other broadband suppliers, but the barrier to jumping ship is now higher than it used to be.

Friday, February 15, 2008

WPA finally

My family and I are in New Zealand and I'm happy to see that, where I'm staying, the telco that installed the DSL (and all wifi-routers that I can see in range, between 3 and 9) have WPA configured by default.

They have to do that, of course, because most NZ broadband has bandwidth caps. For instance, where I'm staying, the cap is 3GB per month. If we exceed that we don't get slapped with excessive per MB charges, nor is the bandwidth cut-off, but speed will drop to 64kbps.

Clearly, leeching off someone else's wifi signal could be very profitable (in the sense of having someone else pay for the download) and very anti-social. So the telco is pretty much required to (1) provide the wifi-routers [because customers will connect wifi anyway, better for the telco to do it right) and (2) make sure the wifi-router is configured to be secure.

It took me a week to get wifi on my (and my wife's) laptop working though. I got very rushed instructions on the password, and then my host left for a week. I couldn't get the password to work, nor any of the obvious variations I tried. My host just got back from his weeklong trip and we worked out the password after he looked in his documentation. After a bit of fiddling with wpa_supplicant, I've finally got it working. As it happens, I *did* try the password that finally worked, but I guess I had other wpa_supplicant settings not quite right.

This has been a good experience. For a week, we just used an ethernet cable to connect to the router, so we were still able to use the internet, but in the meantime I've learned much about the nitty gritty of wpa_supplicant.

In another life I kept my wifi-router open (and then moved to mac auth) because I was interested in watching what people would do with it (and if they'd sniff and spoof vald mac addresses). With bandwidth caps as implemented in NZ though, I'm clearly going to have to use WPA, so it's a good thing to get a handle on how to get it working, for when we rent our own apartment and get our own broadband.

Monday, February 04, 2008

encrypted filesystems finally

I've been waiting for linux encrypted filesystems to finally become easy to use. They finally are. There are a few sweet and simple instructions online (the first one I used was similar to the one I finally used, but didn't mention /etc/crypttab, so I hacked up the ubuntu init files to manually luksOpen).

Steve Parker finally has a very easy to follow discussion on how to setup encrypted filesystems on debian. This works perfectly for me on ubuntu, except I didn't do the encrypted root thing. I only encrypt /home and my external backup drives for now. I'll probably do encrypted root after testing a few times on vmware.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

internet cafes and viruses

I went to the corner internet cafe to have a map printed. The map was a .ppt and when I saved it to the USB disk the .ppt became a .swf. I didn't know this, and at the cafe they couldn't open it, so I went back home to save it as a graphic. I was in a rush, so I just took a screen shot of gmail, saved it as a .png and brought it back to the cafe.

When I saved the .png back to the USB flash drive I saw that there was an autorun.inf file in there. Clearly I'd been infected by a virus. I went ahead and worked with the USB drive though since I don't care about windows viruses. I *could* get infected through wine, I guess, but I don't have that configured to autorun anything from devices. I don't even know if it *can* be configured to autorun programs and installers from removable devices.

The map got printed and the party was great fun.

I don't care too much about viruses since I don't use windows and am probably fairly immune. The thing to take away from this though is that windows viruses are everywhere. even if the windows user is 100% up-to-date with his/her antivirus definitions and runs two or three anti-virus programs (thus slowing down the computer by a LOT, buy twice or thrice the computer you'll really need if you want to run windows and antivirus) and practices safe computing practices, virus infection is probably inevitable (if only because, at some point, you're going to receive a real work related document from someone who isn't as virus safe as you, and they got hit by a zero-day virus and passed it on to you on the same day).

It's probably possible to go a year or two without virus infection by practicing ultra-safe windows computing. But everyone will get infected at some point. Ultra-safe windows computing is a pain too (never open attachments from anyone, never use removable media, never run as root, never go online to the internet, or if you do, never run flash, activex, java, javascript, don't run IE) and regular users just won't do it. Only geeks can be really safe from viruses, and even they are likely to weaken windows security because it's just too inconvenient. Oh yeah, don't visit pr0n sites, don't download and install free programs, etc.

Windows. What. A. Pain.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Rude Poisoned Well

My wife, son and I are going to New Zealand in a few weeks. We applied for Work-to-Residence as Skilled migrants, were accepted and are on our way.

My wife, as principal applicant will work, while I, as burned out office worker, will take care of house and home. I am very liberated, but also trepidated :-).

We've got a program of sending out one work application per day while we wait for departure day (or, as ian sison would say, deportation day :-). Today sol sent out an application with a painstakingly crafted cover letter which got a rude reply to read the job specification, NZ residents only.

Either the employer didn't read to the end of the cover letter where it says that we're allowed to work in NZ (and just sent out a one sentence, accurate but rude reply), doesn't think that WTR matters because he means *currently*in*new*zealand*right*now*, or possibly is reacting rudely because the well has been poisoned by too many non-NZ applications who want the employer to work out their work visas.

It could be any of those, or any combination of those factors. In any case I'm glad that this was one of the jobs that I'm not enthusiastic about. We won't mind if the employer sticks by his guns and won't talk to us anymore since I doubt that my wife would actually want to work with anyone so rude. His loss too, my wife is an excellent developer with 15 years of software development experience in 4 languages.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

exploding gifs

I saw If WWII had been played in Age of Empires... on Reddit. That gif needs to be exploded into its individual frames. It slows down my computer something awful, and some parts of it run fast enough that I can't quite keep up (much like Age Of Empires, actually :-).

Some googling pointed me at GifSplitter (I've lost the link, and I don't care to link to it anyway). It's windows software, so I tried to get it to work with wine. It needs the vb6 runtime. I downloaded that, and it failed on some unimplemented OLE API function.

fixme:ole:OLEPictureImpl_SaveAsFile (0x144da8)->(0xa60be4, 1, (nil)), hacked stub.

A bit more googling pointed me at gifsicle. A quick sudo apt-get install gifsicle later and I was able to do:

gifsicle -e ghg.gif

which gave me the individual frames as ghg.gif_###, and another quick bash for loop later and I have the individual frames now. Next I need to actually do something with them, like put them into a powerpoint file or similar :-). Yeah, OpenOffice Impress is the RIGHT file format for this, but I bow to reality here. Maybe 1/3 of the people I email the file to will be able to read Impress, the others need an MS-Office compatible file. Reality sucks.

Monday, January 14, 2008

VB.Net uninstall

Despite using Linux for almost everything I do, I don't hold to any particular tech religion. I'm tech agnostic. So I don't see anything particularly wrogn with using FREE closed-source software.

I installed VB.Net Express Edition on a (legal) windows installation a few weeks ago. I've been trying to uninstall it today. Twice now. Both times I've given up because the uninstall starts but blocks at a certain point. I'm running it for the third time now and it's blocked again. I'm probably going to have to blow that Windows installation away and reinstall.

This reminds me of why I use Linux almost all the time.

I just wanted to learn C# and test it in Mono and and in Windows. But of course, the windows side is crepe. I haven't stressed the linux side enough yet to see what the quality is like there.

Follow-up. OK, the VB.Net uninstall never finished. I think I'll first try to repair the installation and then uninstall it. If that doesn't work, then I'll reinstall VB.Net Express and try to uninstall *THAT*. If that still doesn't work, then it's time to euthanize windows and reinstall everything from scratch.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I'm with Orly on Bandwidth. He's on Globe, but I get similar quality with my entry-level PLDT-DSL account. Last night I downloaded the CentOS 5 DVD. That finished overnight. Today I'm downloading opensolaris, one the developer edition installer itself, and one the pre-built vmware image. Those will finish by tomorrow (unless Sun's bandwidth gets flaky, as it did when I downloaded a previous opensolaris DVD installer). Or maybe that was PLDT, I don't think it was though, I was downloading from other sources at the time and they were'nt slow.

But, yeah, it's great that for a relatively low price (much less than unlimited dialup cost just 3 years or so ago, in Cagayan de Oro, anyway) I can download DVD ISOs overnight. I remember downloading linux CD ISOs over a week and a half (on dialup though).

My family and I are going to New Zealand. Apparently, the low end residential broadband offerings there have monthly bandwidth caps (which are less than a single DVD ISO) and once the cap is hit, either the subscriber pays per extra GB or bandwidth drops to 64kbps (or so). That's fine most of the time, but when I need to download legitimate software it's going to be a problem. I'll download everything I'll need between now and when I leave so that I can minimize the number of times I'll hit my bandwidth cap :-).