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User Journal

Journal Journal: The Horse, Hunter, and Stag

The Horse, Hunter, and Stag
An Aesop's Fable

A quarrel had arisen between the Horse and the Stag, so the Horse came to a Hunter to ask his help to take revenge on the Stag. The Hunter agreed, but said: "If you desire to conquer the Stag, you must permit me to place this piece of iron between your jaws, so that I may guide you with these reins, and allow this saddle to be placed upon your back so that I may keep steady upon you as we follow after the enemy." The Horse agreed to the conditions, and the Hunter soon saddled and bridled him. Then with the aid of the Hunter the Horse soon overcame the Stag, and said to the Hunter: "Now, get off, and remove those things from my mouth and back."

"Not so fast, friend," said the Hunter. "I have now got you under bit and spur, and prefer to keep you as you are at present."

User Journal

Journal Journal: A scathing pun that Microsoft wouldn't like 4

I unintentionally used this pun over the weekend discussing Microsoft with my wife.

Given Microsoft's success rate with Surface, Windows Phone, Zune, and the negative publicity the next Xbox has received, it seems the best way to hurt Microsoft is to leave them to their own devices.

User Journal

Journal Journal: A Future Without Email 2

As perhaps the least secure system in common use today, I've been wondering for about a decade what would replace email. I don't like it, I use it only for automated forms, and I generally think it needs to be superseded. All the efforts to extend or somehow "fix" the system end up optional and thus mostly useless, between the insecure infrastructure making spam extremely easy to send and the lack of compulsory encryption (which would have the advantage of ensuring its support by default in clients/interfaces). It seems like the only way to fix it is a fully incompatible replacement, with the unfortunate likelihood that some form of bridging would end up existing even then, opening up any new system to the problems of the old.

User Journal

Journal Journal: New job 8

Coming up on a month into a new job. One of the worst things about it? My predecessor's documentation consisted of a few outdated spreadsheets hidden in a directory on one of the servers, a list of passwords, a couple folders with license keys, and a file cabinet filled with printouts of howto documents from the Internet with no clue what he used them for (including countless ones for functions and features I have discovered we do not use, as well as software we do not use.)

One recent fun discovery? He assigned an unknown number of undocumented and unreserved IPs within our DHCP block to desktops, with no clues as to specifically why. I discovered this when I installed a virtual machine to test with and clobbered my boss's (the owner's) static IP. He was gone for almost a month before I came on. So far, the static IPs seem related to our copier's scan function, but I can't guarantee that is the only reason, and I see no reason to meddle with the systems that are working. DHCP reservations, here we come!

Now to see if I can get the desktop hubs replaced with switches...

User Journal

Journal Journal: EU racing against US, USSR to build GPS 2

Story link

Having launched one of the thirty satellites required, the eight-member commercial consortium tasked with building Galileo, the EU's planned rival to the American NAVSTAR (better known as GPS) and Soviet GLONASS systems, has apparently declined to invest further money in the project. Future funding will consist entirely of another $4bn and change from EU taxpayers, since the consortium is no longer confident of getting a return on their own investment. (Somehow, it sounds almost as if they doubt the commercial prospects of being the third to launch a service which has already been available to everyone free of charge for over a decade...)

Despite this setback, with a further influx of EU funding, the European Commission hopes to have the constellation online by 2011; the American and Russian counterparts were completed in 1995 and 1994 respectively.

Just imagine how far behind the Soviet Union the EU would be without the influx of billions in extra funding to speed things up...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Multiply and conquer 5

Time to follow the herd, I suppose: Multiply. Go there, and find out who it was who sent me an e-mail last week - asking me what my e-mail address is...
User Journal

Journal Journal: Server death, the sequel... 4

*sniff* Alas, poor Server!

My current server, home to some of my websites, some e-mail and half my DNS service, has decided it would make life more fun if it rebooted spontaneously every few minutes. Nothing in the logs, just unsolicited rebooting - possibly a power supply issue of some sort. (All I know is SMART shows the hard drive is OK; I'd expect most memory or CPU problems to give different symptoms, but being eight time zones away makes diagnostics rather limited.)

I was going to have to change all my domain registrations anyway, since the IP address was going to change soon because of new transit arrangements with their transit provider, but now it's rather more urgent: I have a production site which is only sporadically available! :-(

My plan is to get a second virtual server (I had one virtual and one physical, until now) and set everything up to be replicated between them (currently, I only have DNS and MySQL replicated fully, with some web sites rsynced when I change them, others only hosted on one machine or the other). Email will be more of a pain: I have a few mailing lists under ezmlm, which I'll probably convert to use MySQL for replicated list management (so list posts get delivered to and distributed by either of the two) - but my mailboxes themselves can only live on a single host, really.

The one big advantage of having a physical server was the value: for about the same money, I got far more disk space, RAM and bandwidth, with a dedicated CPU instead of sharing a couple of Xeon cores with a dozen or two other users. On the downside, no console access (I did have for a while, but that disappeared at some point), less control (a couple of times I ordered remote power-cycling through the host's web interface, while still logged in to the server; from the fact I was still logged in, the reboot didn't seem as successful as the site claimed!) - and no protection against hardware failure, which suddenly seems much more important now...

Has anyone in the zoo set up things like this before? Or, for that matter, got any ideas why my previously-reliable server suddenly starts rebooting itself? Any hosting recommendations for me?

User Journal

Journal Journal: "Only" being paid $200k is a "constitutional crisis" 10

According to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts, paying his colleagues a "mere" $200k, with federal district court judges languishing on just $165k, is "inadequate" and "has now reached the level of a constitutional crisis."

Inadequate compensation directly threatens the viability of life tenure, and if tenure in office is made uncertain, the strength and independence judges need to uphold the rule of law - even when it is unpopular to do so - will be seriously eroded

Frankly, I'm not convinced of his core assumption that "life tenure" is desirable, let alone essential - I'd prefer term limits, the very opposite, or at least having them face regular election to make them accountable to those they profess to serve. Perhaps he does have a point that without the taxpayer making judges rich directly, their greed will drive them into the pockets of lobbyists, but I suspect the opposite is more likely: make them richer and you'll be attracting more people motivated by money, rather than more laudable motives, as in the Simpsons episode where America entrusts the trillion dollar bill to Montgomery Burns: as the richest man, clearly he's the least corrupt.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The SJ degree 2

1. State I'd rather live in: TX
2. Stranded on island/desert: I'll take the dessert, please.
3. What "catches your eye" first in the opposite sex? Head - face, hair, expression, eyes.
4. How much do you think a guy should spend on an engagement ring? No idea
5. How old do you want to be when you retire? N/A - the idea of stopping work just because you hit some arbitrary age seems daft.
6. ? Probably.
7. Would you rather be the smartest person in the world or the most attractive person in the world? Smartest: looks fade much more readily.
8. Do you think tattoos are hot? Not really.
9. What was your first pet? A black Labrador.
10. Where did you go on your first Spring Break? Nope.
11. Are you scared of spiders or snakes? Not unless they're dangerous ones.
12. What was your first job? IT, scraping mangled bits off mangled servers.
13. What is in your front, right pocket? Handkerchief, some coins.
14. Do you put up a real Christmas tree each year? Usually - it's in the back of the car ATM...
15. How many blankets are on your bed? Just the one duvet.
16. Do you have a TV in your bedroom? No, just three or four computers.
17. When was the last time you received a card in the mail? This morning.
18. There is no question 18. Wrong: it's just rhetorical.
19. Who was the last person that text-messaged you? Probably my brother.
20. Who was the first person you saw today? Ditto - we're heading out for our weekly lunch together soon.
21. Do you have any awards hanging on your wall? No.
22. Do you own glasses? Yes - tried contacts, didn't like them.
23. When is the last time you shaved something on your body? My face, yesterday.
24. MIA.
25. What was your first vehicle? A Peugeot, with slightly dodgy brakes, which embedded itself in the back of something solid on its first outing. Not a good start.
26. Do you miss high school? Sometimes.
27. Are you more of a neat or messy person? Ask the team searching for the carpet.
28. Do you think that everyone should have a cell phone? Yes. Preferably one which only rings silently.
29. Do you remember your first family vacation? France - when my brother was taken ill and my mother had to explain to the doctor why she didn't want to give a two year old child aspirin.
30. Ever been in a fight with a best friend? Sort of - we argue over technical points all the time.
31. Ever puked in public? Only once - on the ceiling.
32. Would you prefer dinner and a movie or bowling and ice cream? The former.
33. Do you sleep with your door open or closed at night? Slightly open, so my cat can get in and out.
34. How far do you live from work? 20-odd miles, costing about $18/day by public transport. Not good value, even with $7/gallon as the alternative.
35. Do you believe in afterlife? Not particularly.
36. How many credit cards do you own? Five: one AmEx (which I normally use for the loyalty points), one Visa (which I normally use in places which don't take AmEx) and three MasterCard (two disused, one which I use at the moment becase it's interest free until September).
37. Would you move to another country tomorrow, if you were offered a $100,000 job? That depends on the country. The US, Australia, Canada? In a heartbeat. Iraq? Probably not.
38. How many kids do you see yourself having? Probably one or two, depending on circumstances.
39. Were you a trouble child? In some ways; I wasn't a big fan of rules.
40. Do you like butterflies? Yes.
41. Can you shake your booty? Erm... never tried - not really my thing.
42. Do you shower at night or in the morning? Morning.
43. Where is your favorite place to eat? It varies. I'm planning to try this place soon - most of my favorites are similar to that. There's a good Thai place in town where I'll probably have lunch today, though.
44. What did you wear to bed last night? A cat and a duvet.
45. Do you have to sleep with something "ON" every night in order to sleep? I like to have some music, although XP x64's driver "issues" robbed me of that lately :-(
46. On average, how much TV do you watch a day? Two hours, I suppose, while multi-tasking.
47. Do you have any piercings? No.
48. Would you rather go snorkeling in the Caribbean or hiking on the Appalachian Trail? Hiking: I'm too attached to being able to breathe.
49. Have you ever taken karate lessons? No, just judo.
50. Do you think if you got married, you would ever get a divorce? It's possible, but I hope not.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Weird spam 7

Hrm. The latest piece of spam to hit my spambucket had a German title ("Gesundheit u. Medizin"), and the sender address was Ethelred. Apparently he's giving away Cadillac Escalades...

Then two more: one with content of "shagface" (and nothing else - no URL, nothing being advertised, nothing!) - and "Hey, Thanks for everything. I really appreciate all your help. Lila", which claimed to come from an Israeli email address and was sent to at least 8 addresses on this domain.

I can understand spammers promoting their online Viagra sales or whatever - but bizarre partly-German messages about free Cadillacs? Maybe they're just trying to validate their list, by seeing how many people actually reply - assuming the return address they put is actually valid?

Maybe I should just be glad they're still identified as spam, usually because of the open relays being abused to deliver them...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Meme me 2

1. Legal first name? James
2. Were you named after anyone? No
3. Do you wish on stars? No
4. When did you last cry? When my cat died a few years ago, I think.
5. What is your favorite lunch meat? Chicken or beef, I suppose.
6. What is your birth date? Feb 24
7. If you were another person, would YOU be friends with you? Probably
8. Do you use sarcasm a lot? Yep.
9. What are your nicknames? None.
10. Would you ever bungee jump? Maybe.
11. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? Not normally.
12. Do you think that you are strong? Fairly
13. What is your favorite ice cream flavour? Mint choc chip
14. Shoe size? 11 UK, 12 US I think - varies a little with manufacturer
15. Red or pink? Red
16. Who do you miss most? Moving targets.
18. What color pants and shoes are you wearing? None right now, usually jeans and black shoes.
19. What are you listening to right now? A TV show
20. What did you eat for breakfast? Toasted cheese
21. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Stripey :-)
22. What is the weather like right now? Cold, Damp and grey. It's Scotland.
23. Last person you talked to on the phone? My best friend, if text counts; my mother if not.
24. The first thing you notice about the opposite sex? Hair.
25. Do you like the person who sent this to you? I saw it in a set of friends' JEs; I guess I like them!
26. Favorite drink? Lemonade or coffee.
27. Hair color? Dark brown
28. Do you wear contacts? No.
29. Favorite food? Steak.
30. Last movie you watched? Erm... no idea.
31. Favorite day of the year? No idea
32. Scary movies or happy endings? Scary
33. Summer or winter? Winter
34. Hugs or kisses? Yes please :P
35. What is your favorite dessert? Cheesecake
36. Living arrangements? House.
38. What's on your mouse pad? The rest of the chair.
39. What did you watch last night on TV? ST:TNG, right now.
40. Favorite smell?
41. Favorite junk food?
42. Rolling Stones or Beatles? No.
43. What's the farthest you've been from home? Physically, Texas; culturally, France, whose Prime Minister was apparently talking about the need to "clean the immigrant scum with a power hose". Lovely.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Soylent Green is ... the source of BSE?!

Apparently a new study indicates BSE (Mad Cow Disease) may have first infected cattle as a result of human remains in their feed. An interesting reversal of the previous assumptions about CJD's origins - which raises the obvious chicken/egg problem: if CJD actually spread to cattle to become BSE, where did CJD really come from?
User Journal

Journal Journal: Mad doctors 6

These are actual notes from Doctors' patient charts...

1. Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.

2. On the 2nd day the knee was better and on the 3rd day it disappeared completely.

3. She has had no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot in bed last night.

4. The patient has been depressed ever since she began seeing me in 1993.

5. The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.

6. Discharge status: Alive but without permission.

7. Healthy appearing decrepit 69 year-old male. Mentally alert but forgetful.

8. The patient refused an autopsy.

9. The patient has no past history of suicides.

10. Patient has left his white blood cells at another hospital.

11. Patient's past medical history has been remarkably insignificant with only a 40 pound weight gain in the past three days.

12. Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.

13. Between you and me, we ought to be able to get this lady pregnant.

14. Since she can't get pregnant with her husband, I thought you might like to work her up.

15. She is numb from her toes down.

16. While in the ER, she was examined, X-rated and sent home.

17. The skin was moist and dry.

18. Occasional, constant, infrequent headaches.

19. Patient was alert and unresponsive.

20. Rectal exam revealed a normal size thyroid.

21. She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life, until she got a divorce.

22. I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.

23. Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation.

24. Exam of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized.

25. The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.

26. The patient was to have a bowel re-section. However, he took a job as a lawyer instead.

27. Skin: Somewhat pale but present.

28. The pelvic examination will be done later on the floor.

29. Patient was seen in consultation by Dr. Blank, who felt we should sit on the abdomen and I agree.

30. Large brown stool ambulating in the hall.

31. Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr 14

(This rant brought to you by a chunk of my life wasted trying to achieve something in Excel which should have been trivial, but was needlessly complicated by Microsoft's use of defective bacteria to write software.)

You might think a search and replace function was trivial. Indeed, I'm sure that even the non-programmers among us could figure it out given a good book or two and a few hours to experiment. However, that is why you aren't working for Microsoft, developing infuriating paperclips...

Yep, that's right. The lobotomized ass-spawn who brought us such masterpieces of user-friendly software as MS Bob and That Infernal Paperclip managed to screw up one of the most basic text manipulation functions, "Replace". Try it on a cell too large, you're hit with "Formula too large." Never mind that it is text, with no formula in sight. Never mind that Excel allows manual editing (plus saving, loading, importing and exporting) of this data just fine. Never mind that OpenOffice's spreadsheet component manages it just fine. *snarl*. Where would I like to go today? Well, how about a trip a decade into the future, by which time hopefully Microsoft have managed to recruit somebody with programming skills good enough to pass at least a high school beginners' programming exam?

Never one to be outdone by Microsoft, the Novell DHCP server decides this would be a good day to start disabling DHCP allocations. Time to retire that particular bug collection, I think.

Finally, to crown it all, I find out a guy from my old school (a couple of years below me) died yesterday. Can anything else find a way to go wrong before bed?

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