East of the Sun, West of the Moon

2005/5/31

Get it straight!

Filed under: Software — Erwin @ 2:53 pm

Dear credit-card-website-creators,

  • Choose one of log out, log off, sign out, sign off or exit and stick with it.
  • Choose a location, whether that’s upper left, upper right, menu bar on the left, menu bar at the top, menu bar somewhere hidden under the doormat, and stick with it.

Thanks!

2005/5/27

Retro-Computing

Filed under: Technology — Erwin @ 4:43 pm

[USB floppy drive]I was walking around to pick up a cheapo DVD burner when I spotted this gadget: A floppy disk drive that you connect to your computer using USB and claims to read & write at twice the usual speed. I couldn’t resist, of course. I think in the half a dozen computers around the house there are only 2 that have a floppy drive and I’m not sure I trust them to work right still. I’ve already done a massive backup run a few years ago, but every now and then you may run into something and want to rescue the data before it gets lost.

2005/5/26

Bits’n’pieces

Filed under: Software,Technology — Erwin @ 11:01 am

If you too are tired of seeing blue leds everywhere. read this article (courtesy of Wired) and know you’re not alone:

A rare sight only five years ago, blue LEDs now seem to be everywhere: on laptops, DVD players, air ionizers and even toothbrushes. And they have some consumers seeing red.


Want to annoy those emacs-using colleagues? Buy this vi reference mug! Or, if your preference is rather the opposite, there is the emacs reference mug, of course.


Bruce Schneier comments on a recent court ruling:

An appeals court in Minnesota has ruled that the presence of encryption software on a computer may be viewed as evidence of criminal intent.

I am speechless.

That was roughly the way I felt when I read that, too. What I found much more interesting was this quote from the referenced CNET article:

Randall favorably cited testimony given by retired police officer Brooke Schaub, who prepared a computer forensics report–called an EnCase Report–for the prosecution. Schaub testified that PGP “can basically encrypt any file” and “other than the National Security Agency,” nobody could break it.

Really now, does the NSA have knowledge that other crypto-experts don’t? I hope we can discard this as a simplification of facts by the retired police officer here and assume that it was merely an indication of the agency having a bit more computing power available than the average person.


And the Belgians are living up to their reputation (as it’s known in the Netherlands, at least). When I heard about this plan on the radio I couldn’t help but wondering if it was someone’s idea of a horrible joke:

A new Belgian electronic ID card contains typos introduced purposely to confound potential fraudsters, Luc Vanneste, General Director Population and Institutions of the Belgian Home Office, proudly announced this week.

But they appear to be quite serious about it.

2005/5/23

Privacy

Filed under: Software — Erwin @ 7:42 pm

The price of privacy is… slow connections. Or at least that’s the idea you get when putting the Tor software to good use.

I wouldn’t recommend it for major downloads, and interactive uses like an ssh or telnet session are not very practical, but if you’re browsing a website and think it’s none of their business to know that it’s you, that’s a sensible application. Ditto with IM, where some protocols reveal your real ipnumber more easily than others. If you can re-route their traffic this way, that can cause stalkers to look for you in the entirely wrong place. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So aside from Tor you’ll want some of the following packages:

Combining one or more of these you can wrap most programs that are otherwise completely unaware of Tor’s existence.

While in theory it would be possible to wrap the BitTorrent protocol with proxychains, in practice there seem to be a few obstacles that make it not very practical, for instance because you cannot reach your peers/seeds. I haven’t researched this (yet) so I may be talking complete and utter nonsense here.

All in all a fun experiment, though. To log into a (friendly) computer and see that you appear to have logged in from, say, Finland, can be quite amusing. ๐Ÿ™‚

2005/5/22

Pfffffft

Filed under: Software,Technology — Erwin @ 4:15 pm

It’s quite amazing how much software gets installed over time when a machine just keeps on running, occasionally rebooting for hardware changes only.

Today I replaced the firewall machine and had to reinstall/reconfigure at least the following packages:

  • ap-utils
  • apt-proxy
  • bacula-fd
  • bind9
  • ClamAV, FreshClam & ClamAV-milter
  • ddclient
  • dhcp daemon
  • dnsutils
  • fetchmail
  • gidentd
  • host
  • iptable rules
  • jwhois
  • lha
  • MySQL server
  • ntp-server
  • rsync
  • sendmail
  • ssh
  • SNMP daemon
  • squid proxy
  • screen
  • smartmontools
  • tinyfugue
  • unarj
  • unzip
  • wget

And I probably forgot a few.

2005/5/20

Various updates

Filed under: News,Software — Erwin @ 8:00 pm

After a recent upgrade, the TWiki that I’d set up for DGD had ended up in a broken state. An indication of how little it is used is that it probably took 1-2 weeks before someone noticed this. Then work got in the way and I didn’t immediately find time to sit down and figure out the best approach to fix the problem, so it took another week until I could finally sit down, move files around, merge the necessary bits’n’pieces, and announce that it was available again.

What bothers me is that I don’t recall seeing any warning during the upgrade process, not during the interactive phase nor was an email sent to the administrator. Apparently they just assume that you’re psychic, realize something’s wrong, and have plenty of time to immediately sit down and sort out a few hundred modified files, or that you have an identical test-system, just for times like this.


On an unrelated note, I’m slowly but surely preparing to phase out my old firewall machine (It’s a Pentium MMX 233 MHz, to give you an idea) with my old workstation (dual Pentium III, 550 MHz each). It isn’t until you actually begin a process like this that you realize how much crap is running on the old machine, the software packages that need to be added to the mix, the configurations that need to be finetuned, and, oh, the hardware that needs to be added to my old workstation as it currently only has one ethernet card and it’ll need to have three! Oops.


I seem to have collected a nice set of podcasts for music & news to have playing while I work, to complement the set of podcasts that provide tech and science news which are nice and all, but very distracting if I play them during work hours.

2005/5/17

Podcasting

Filed under: Site — Erwin @ 11:33 am

I’ve added some Podcasting directories of sorts to the collection of links in the column on the right. That collection has been getting a bit out of hand and I’m pondering moving it to a static page all by itself, instead. I’m sure that would be doable with a bit of PHP trickery so that I can still manage them through the WordPress interface. But for now, they stay.

2005/5/15

Updating desktop background

Filed under: OS X — Erwin @ 11:21 pm

First I attempted some trickery where I pointed the OS X desktop to a dedicated folder in which it would find one (or two, one being a symlink) file that regularly found itself replaced with a fresh version; This seemed to cause problems, somehow, as I’ve never seen the dock (crash, I assume, and) restart so many times in 72 hours.

A much more elegant solution is to use a bit of AppleScript magic:

/usr/bin/osascript <<END
tell application "Finder"
        set pFile to POSIX file "$1" as string
        set desktop picture to file pFile
        end tell
END

My thanks to Harold Bakker who wrote this script. It was written as a learning exercise in (perl and) osascript for him, and it taught me a new trick as well.

Huff’n’puff

Filed under: News — Erwin @ 9:29 am

Last week a new site popped up on the web, the Huffington Post.

It seems an interesting place, but I’ll be the first to admit I had no idea who this Arianna Huffington is, or what she’s been up to so far. If you’re in a similar situation, perhaps these articles may give you an idea. ๐Ÿ™‚

On an unrelated note, that Newsweek article had an ad on its page that startled the hell out of me because it was a 10-20 second movie with rather loud audio. Glad I’m not in an office, that would’ve been a dead giveaway that I’m browsing news instead of doing my work. I wonder if anyone else has been embarassed by that yet and consider it a bad move from the ad agency, sheesh.

2005/5/14

I detect a pattern

Filed under: Humo(u)r,Technology — Erwin @ 9:04 am

I’m sure you will too:

  • Acoustic Bruce Springsteen Bosses His Audience Around:

    “Turn the cell phones off, โ€˜cause I donโ€™t want to charge through the crowd with a chainsaw; …”

  • (Billy) Crystal Upset By Cellphones:

    “So I finish the show, I come out, it was really hard to do, they gave me a great ovation… I said, `Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve been a great audience except we had 12 cellphones go off, so for the 12 of you who may have ruined it for these other people, the next time you go into a theatre… don’t put on your cellphone, I was very kind, turn it off or don’t take them, or simply shove them up your a**.’ It’s just horrible.”

You would think that after the first interruption others would doublecheck that their cellphone is off, but no… idiots.

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