Archive for the 'blather' Category


crossing the line

Sunday, January 6th, 2002

I always knew there would come a time when it occurred to me that a line had been crossed. Maybe the first time I take the laptop to bed. Or when I get a network connection in the bathroom.

I think it may have happened tonight. I’m in my basement office doing some ‘pooter stuff and I see that my wife Clare has come on to Yahoo Instant Messenger from the kitchen upstairs to send some mail to her mother. We have an IM discussion about the hyperactive kids who are right there beside her, niggling each other as kids do.

How very Jetsons.


assert( !(.net) );

Friday, January 4th, 2002

Shane McChesney, like me, is Skipping Dot Net. Shane’s from southern Ontario too, about 100km away. Must be something in the air.

My friend Tim Aiello and I have both been doing a lot of Linux learning lately. La La La. A Lot of Linux Learning Lately. Lovely alliteration.


C’mon in, the water’s fine!

Thursday, January 3rd, 2002

I turned off my NT box last night. I’ll still bring it up a couple more times before formatting it for its new life as a friend’s home desktop, but it’s no longer the server I depend on for daily …well …serving.

It was a whirlwind week of learning. I wasn’t starting from nothing – I had dabbled with Linux before a bit – but in order to be confident in replacing my main machine, I had to do a lot of studying. Hard work, but all well worth the investment.

Although the OS cost me nothing but a download and some cd blanks, I did spend over $200 on books, each carefully chosen. Notable ones are:

The heaviest bits of learning and planning surrounded security and permissions, especially on exposed services. Not stuff to be taken lightly.

My family website was a treat to convert from ASP to Perl CGI because I had used ASP with PerlScript. Global replace “$Response->Write” with “print”, slap a “use CGI;” at the top, a couple more tweaks, and Brent’s a happy nerdboy.

I replaced my JSRS Select Box demo based on ASP/.MDB with a PHP/MySql version.

Cool tools:

  • Webmin – great set of tools. The best part is that you can delegate some limited root-only activity to specific users without giving them the keys to the kingdom
  • Mandrake‘s own Software Manager
  • Samba and SWAT – although I like messing with the bare conf file
  • Midnight Commander – an absolute must if you ever used Norton Commander for DOS. Even if you didn’t!

The swimming’s great. Pull up a partition and I’ll meet you by the pool.


Taking control

Friday, December 28th, 2001

I’ve been a tireless enthusiastic supporter of Microsoft and their products since 1980. BASIC-in-ROM, DOS, Windows, QuickBASIC, VB, IIS/ASP, IE, Word, Excel. I’ve been an MS developer and/or MSDN member personally or through employment since 1987. Microsoft’s support for its developer community was without parallel.

Over the years, while Microsoft’s product groups have continued to focus on some pretty great products, the company’s direction has become increasingly coloured by avarice, lock-in, manipulation. Customers are no longer pulled but pushed, developers no longer regarded as partners but servants. It’s beginning to remind me of Frank Capra’s Bedford Falls when it became Pottersville without George Bailey’s influence. A heartless, callous place.

I’ve decided this week to retire my NT server.

“Pentia” is a dual-P166-MMX box running NT4 which has been my home server for a number of years, serving up file, print, scan, dial, fax, http, ftp, dns, smtp, proxy, cd-rw, vnc, various perl daemons, and acting as my main workstation too for some time, running Visual Studio, MS Office, my accounting package, pretty well everything under the sun. It’s been a great machine. It’s been a great platform.

I’m replacing it with Douglas, my new Mandrake Linux box. I’ve got Samba providing file and print, Apache/PHP/MySql for http apps, ftp. I’ve long since moved my dns hosting to zoneedit, scan and fax to my Win2kPro workstation machine. I was going to run VMWare on it to support some IIS stuff, but I’ve decided to port it to PHP instead.

I still have my test machine, with numerous slide-in drive drawers, to run development environments and testbeds for Microsoft products when necessary, and I will still run Win2k on my workstations and notebooks in order to stay compatible with my client base, but on my server, I will no longer be reliant on Microsoft.

And by becoming comfortable with Linux, I will be preparing myself for wider vistas of learning and expanded opportunities.

It’s not expensive to do, you know. A refurbished pentium machine can be had for less than $100CDN. Linux is free to download or very cheap to buy. It’s in your best interest.

When asked, I will recommend to all my clients to move all but the most entrenched MS applications to other platforms. I truly believe it makes good business sense to do so.

Microsoft will stop being a bully and a brat on the day when people show them that they will lose business unless they smarten up and stop treating us like cattle.

We’re not cattle. We refuse to have you steer us to your abattoir.

I’m bustin’ out of this corral. Who’s coming with me?


Mountains of luncheon meat

Thursday, December 27th, 2001

Hugh Brown charts his Spam Volume with MRTG, confirming what we have already come to know – i.e. the net is constantly overtaxed by these imbecilic cretins.

Of course, that type of spam ain’t luncheon meat at all.

And if spam wasn’t enough, a new trend is goofball domain service providers sending their custom http agents to your website to sprinkle your referer logs with links to their page. They figure that if you’re a log harvester, you’ll be interested in their domain services. On a slow day, my blog gets more “referrals” from these bogus twits than from real visitors.


House of mirrors

Thursday, December 20th, 2001

I’m using my laptop (kerouac – my ‘on the road’ machine), running the VNC client on Win2000 to connect my Linux box (douglas – guess I should really change that static ip to 42), where I get an Xvnc session in which I’m running VMWare on Linux to host NT4 (ntvm) to support some IIS stuff.

I’ve downloaded VNC to load onto the virtual NT box that’s running in the virtual X session on douglas that I’m viewing from kerouac, so now I can minimize the VMWare window, disconnect from douglas leaving the Xvnc session running, and connect “directly” to ntvm via vnc.


The maze of actual and virtual connections reminds me of the conversation Jasmine and I had at the dinner table tonight about our complicated extended family tree connected by various direct and indirect levels of blood, adoption, and friendship.


Ready for prime time

Tuesday, December 18th, 2001

I’ve been saying for ages that Linux will never be ready for prime time until I can take a bare machine, pop the disk in, and have it up and configured pretty well automatically, without partitioning, farting with X parameters, finding drivers, all that.

Well, today I got myself a dedicated box to run Linux on – a used Compaq Deskpro PII-400/6Gig/64Meg/CD/100bT + 128MegSIMM altogether for $375CDN ($250US) from Factory Direct.

Plugged the thing in, connected my monitor, schlepped in my cut-from-downloaded-iso-images Mandrake 8.1 CD #1, and in about a half an hour, I had me a complete Linux server and X workstation running. Auto-detected everything, partitioned itself, the whole whack. Pulled off the monitor, connected by VNC, voila, a headless X server.

Now I got me some serious spelunking to do.


Funky Claude was running in and out

Thursday, December 6th, 2001

Adam Curry, in one of his true-life rock’n’roll stories, this one about Robert Palmer but with a small bit about Deep Purple:

A little known fact is that Deep Purple’s anthem Smoke on the Water was not only recorded in Montreux, but is about a mishap there.

Funny that it’s a “little known fact” when it’s all spelled out right there in the lyrics. You gotta be high on drugs not to get the connection.

Oh yeah, Deep Purple. Nevermind.