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User Journal

Journal Journal: Lazy, lazy, lazy...

I'm probably the laziest blogger on the intarweb.

Anyhow, I've been using VMware on and off for years, but I finally decided to get off my duff and set up a lab for Samba, LDAP and groupware testing. Surely someone will complain that I'm not running Xen, but if it would actually run on my hardware for more than 15 minutes without locking up, I would. Besides, I need windows machines in my lab, and since I don't have hyper-whatsit capabilities, free VMware it is.

I'm going to be working through Samba-3 by Example. I've done file- and print-sharing before of course, but I've never set up a PDC until now. I've got O'Reilly's LDAP book around here somewhere, which ought to come in handy later on in the tutorial.

Also planned is a journey into the scary world of groupware (ignore that page, it's way out of date and shows my previous ignorance). Several friends have used Kolab, but it's still a bear to set up, and I want to see how far I can get by rolling things out the hard way, piece by piece. iCal data can be transferred via IMAP, and I've gotten some experience lately with Dovecot, so maybe I can wrap my head around the problem (or make it explode, film at 11). My client software will be Thunderbird and Lightning, though I'm mad at the Mozilla leadership for their political blunders of late --- hopefully they won't completely ruin such a promising project.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Nokia 770: subtle bug causing continous reboots

A couple of months ago I bought a Nokia 770 Internet Tablet, along with a gigabye flash card and Stowaway bluetooth keyboard. I've basically enjoyed it, and took it to YAPC so all my friends from #perl could drool over it.

Never having owned any type of PDA (I know, the 770 isn't an actual PDA, but stick with me here), it's taken me a while to get used to the squint form-factor. Also the Stowaway isn't layed out very well, and some of the common keystrokes are a bit awkward, but I must admit it's way easier to type on that than to hunt-and-peck on the tablet itself.

Anyhow, about a week back I finally got around to upgrading the OS to 2006-final, but the device got stuck in perpetual-reboot mode. The upgrade when fine, but after an hour or so of adding applications and doing random customizations, things would start acting strange, and upon rebooting, the boot-statusbar would make it 2/3 of the way across the screen, and the unit would reboot. Again. And again. And...

It took me until tonight to figure out exactly what the problem was. Early on I figured out that once I gained root, the problem would start. Until I actually logged on as root, everything worked fine. Flashing the device always got me back to square one. Not knowing any better, I even wrote the author of becomeroot, thinking that I'd permanently messed something up by running his script, which came with a warning about "bricking" the device.

The culprit? It turns out that logging in as root was harmless, but one of the first things I'd do after becoming root was to change my default shell from "/bin/sh" to "/usr/bin/bash", after issuing the command "which bash" to determine the correct path. The bash .deb placed bash in "/usr/bin/bash", but /etc/shells lists "/bin/bash" as the path for bash. I had read comments on the web about reboot cycles occasionally being caused by the X-server not finding what it wants, and also something about X relying on the shell settings. Incidentally, I was not able to boot to the console after running "/flasher-2.0 --boot -R" on my SuSE box... maybe it doesn't work that way? Also, "/flasher-2.0 --set-rd-flags=no-lifeguard-reset" made the status bar go all the way across the screen, but after that all I saw was a white background.

I guess my next step is to add an entry for the actual location of the bash executable to /etc/shells to see if I that fixes the problem and allows me to change my default shell. If not, I'll put something in ~/.profile to start bash for me (right now I'm doing it manually). Oddly, that file doesn't exist, but /root/.profile does.
User Journal

Journal Journal: YAPC, Sunday continued... (yapcna2006)

NOTE: I apologize for the rambling and out-of-sequence data the rest of the YAPC blog entries will contain. Everything from Sunday evening on ended up being written much later. I'll try to not confuse my readers too much.

We were told that early registration would happen at MSV, an hour or so before everyone headed out to the arrival dinner at Goose Island. What they didn't tell us is that they wouldn't be ready for us ;-). We hung out for what seemed like an eternity, and at some point Josh's wife came up to me and asked if I had any scissors (duh). I told her that she might be able to find some at the 7-11. From what I understood, they had printed out the steenking name badges on large sheets of paper, but no one had cut them apart. Hilarious. Eventually someone managed to tear them apart with their teeth or something, whereupon the little slips of paper were handed out all at once.

Also while we were waiting to register, someone said that the campus wireless network went down, and mentioned something about the DHCP server falling over. Little did we know at the time that wireless issues would plague us for the entire conference.

Right after I got my badge, Uri or one of the other organizers said that we had to depart for the dinner, else we'd be too late. I put my badge in my wallet and figured I could register the next morning, and walked to the train platform with everyone else.

Sorry Uri, but Goose Island stank food-wise, just as I predicted. However, I wanted to be with my friends from IRC, so I bailed on the anti-arrival crowd and went to Goose Island anyway. I felt bad about deserting my fellow rebels, expecially since the anti-arrival dinner thing was my idea. From what I can gather, those folks mainly merged with the veggie BOF leaf-eaters and grazed together all week. I even bailed on the Chinatown outing on Wednesday, which I was really looking forward to, but Josh invited me to the speaker's party because of my help with the network, so I felt obliged to attend that, exhausted though I was.

I did enjoy hanging out with everyone at the arrival dinner. However, I became exhausted about halfway through the event, plus my back started acting up. The exhaustion ended up severely complicating things all week, and I ended up having to miss several presentations because I was simply too tired to attend them. I don't know what more I could have done to alleviate the problem.
User Journal

Journal Journal: YAPC, Sunday (yapcna2006)

I woke up at 8 AM on Sunday, got a shower and straggled to the cafeteria, where they informed me that they had no more meat to serve. I hate biscuits (the American kind) and don't eat cereal, so I bought an orange juice from 7-11 and somehow survived until brunch at the Bongo Room with about a dozen other YAPCers. I hate places like that, too much girlie food. However, I had bacon :-)

Anyhow, while sipping my OJ on a bench with a couple of other attenders that morning, Larry Wall walks over and talks with us for about half an hour. Neat guy. I ended up sitting next to him later on the train, where we swapped stories of missions work in third-world countries. Awesome :-)

Back at campus after brunch, I hung out for a while and goofed off at the piano at the dorm (MSV, by the way). I'd been playing Hammond B-3 at church since November or so, so the piano's action felt really stiff, though it sounded pretty good.

Note: see next blog entry for the remainder of Sunday.
User Journal

Journal Journal: So I made it to YAPC this year... (yapcna2006)

I had been wanting to attend for the last 2 years, and finally had the wherewithall this year to actually do it. So far, I've had a blast, but there have been a few issues here and there, bumps in the road, if you will. Nevertheless, I'm coming back next year, if at all possible.

There's a conference wiki that the interested reader might want to browse, and also mailing list archives exist somewhere, but here are my observances, such as they are.

My Saturday connecting flight out of Atlanta was delayed for 1 hour, which put me at O'Hare at 10PM. I guess I finally arrived at IIT at 11:30 or so (I really don't remember). The only food available was a coke and chocolate muffin from the 24-hour on-campus 7-11.

After getting some food, I hung out with someone (his name escapes me now) that helped me try to get online via the advertised wireless. My Nokia 770 Internet Tablet, which I've had for 2 weeks now, got right on, no issues, but my laptop was a different story. First off, X refused to start, complaining about libraries not existing (they do exist, and anyhow the thing worked fine before I left New Orleans), and dual-booting to WinXP also didn't give me any joy. I found out the next day that the Cat-5 jacks in my dorm room were hot, so at least I had something. The 770 is a cool tool, but trying to get serious with email or IRC on a squint form-factor machine isn't my idea of fun. I finally gave up trying to get a wireless connection at 1:30 AM or so, and went to bed.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Chocolate Town

From the article on WWLTV.COM (registration required, sorry):

Mayor Ray Nagin told a crowd gathered at City Hall for a Martin Luther King Day march that New Orleans will be "chocolate" again.

"We ask black people ... It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild New Orleans -- the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans," Nagin said Monday. "This city will be a majority African American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans."

The city was more than 60% black before Hurricane Katrina displaced about three-quarters of its population, but spared several predominantly white neighborhoods.

The city wasn't always disproportionately black. It wasn't until the 1970s when many whites fled to Chalmette, coupled with government incentives to poor unwed black mothers which made it economically attractive for them to stay unmarried and continually pregnant, that the city's population began to darken.

Since Nagin claims that God wanted New Orleans to become a "chocolate town", does that mean by extension that God is in favor of white flight? What about the practice of having baby after baby while living off welfare, with no husband in sight? Does God also approve of that? My white bible says that immorality is a sin, and that if a man won't work, he shouldn't be allowed to eat, either. Presumably this last judgement extends to women as well.

What about slavery? Surely the ancestors of the black people in New Orleans didn't swim here from Africa --- does Nagin think that it was God's will that the black man be stolen from his home all those years ago, put on slave ships, and sold on the auction block right here in our unfair city?

I don't believe God intended for any of this to turn out the way it has. The tree has fallen, however, and if we sincerely trust the Lord, He'll help us to cope with where it happens to lie. However, doing so might require us to humble ourselves and act like we love our complimentary-skinned brothers once in a while (I think both bibles say something about this), instead of revealing the divisive, hateful contents of our heart at public rallies.

NOTE: Here's another link to the story.

User Journal

Journal Journal: It Came, I Left

Yet another personal account of the disaster in New Orleans.

I was born in Louisiana and lived here for most of my life. We cajuns have always lived with the nagging fear of death and destruction falling from the skies. We remember Betsy and Camille. We've also seen the loss of our barrier islands and marshes that served as a buffer against the storms and knew that something bad was going to happen sooner or later.

My family is from Houma and the surrounding communities, about 60 miles south of New Orleans. Parts of Houma are 12 feet above sea level, whereas New Orleans averages about 5 feet below sea level, so in my seven years of living in the Big City, my first choice of where to evacuate (I've done this three times now, go figure) was south to Houma, a direction that always puzzled quite a number of my friends.

When I finally went to bed that Saturday, I suspected that the storm would at least sideswipe New Orleans. If memory serves, the winds were up to 135 MPH, but when I woke up 4 hours later at 6:30 AM (thanks, Amber), they had increased by 30 MPH. I couldn't believe that the windspeed had increased so much in such a short time. The storm looked huge on TV, and its eye stared at me onimously. I knew right then that we had to leave Metairie. We lived right off Metaire Road in Old Metairie at about 8 feet elevation, but I had been listening to Bob Breck for 7 years rant and rave about the bowl filling up and drowning everything in the entire metro area, so sticking around was not really an option.

To tell the truth, I really didn't feel comfortable weathering the storm at my parents' house. I was sure the storm was going to hit Terrebonne Parish. Andrew back in the 90s did considerable damage to the parish, and my Mom said that when the hurricane passed by, they thought the roof was going to come off due to the high winds. Fortunately, their roof sustained only minor damage. I was afraid that Katrina would pass even closer to their house, and that perhaps even the eye wall would pass over the area. My heart was filled with fear about the winds, because of the fact that in the space of just a few hours, the winds increased by 30 MPH, and by late morning they were reaching 175 MPH. I feared that they were going to strike our parish at speeds approaching 200 MPH, which would totally destroy any house standing in its path, in my mind. After talking it over with my Mom, I reluctantly decided to head down to their house to ride out the storm.

I managed to get our two vehicles packed and on the road by 12:30PM Sunday. I took what I deemed essential --- my business records, a few data CDs, 3 laptops, my desktop and a new server I had just acquired, the technical books I had recently been studying, and a few changes of clothes. My wife also packed the things she thought were necessary into her car and we left the city.

Airline Highway was jammed with cars, so we took the overpass to Jefferson Highway, made it to the Huey P. Long Bridge, and headed westbound down US Highway 90. As I anticipated, there was a bit of traffic from Avondale to Boutte. Once we got past the I-310 interchange, traffic was flowing quite well, and I think I got up to 65 MPH for a mile or so. However, as we approached the Raceland exit, there was a line of cars stretching for about a mile, and we were completely stopped for probably 20 minutes. Finally we started moving, and I considered getting off at the Kraemer exit, which would have brought us to Highway 308, but I decided against it and immediately regretted it. I did get off at Raceland once we started to move again, and 308 was clear, as was old Highway 90 (I forget the new name for it). We didn't have any more trouble getting to Mom's house.

During the drive to Mom's, my wife and I communicated with a pair of walkie-talkies I had picked up at Home Depot a few months earlier. I hadn't ever used them until the hurricane, but they worked very well, to my surprise. Incidentally, the trip normally takes 1 hour, but with all the traffic we made it in about 2.5 hours.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Thanks, FCC

It's been a whole 2 weeks since the FCC decided to let Bell stop sharing their lines with independent DSL providers, and I'm already out of a job. Admittedly, I'm only going to lose a couple hundred dollars a month, but I'm angry nonetheless.

My company provides occasional tech staffing for a smallish DSL provider less than 100 miles from New Orleans, and I was notified late Friday that as of October 1, they will be shutting off DSL service to their customers. I figured something like this would happen, since I started seeing commercials a week ago advertising DSL for $24.95 from BellSouth. My client (who asked me not to tell anyone about their decision until after they notified their customers, which is why I'm being evasive here) simply can't compete with $25 per month DSL.

In other words, Bell lowered their retail rates, but not the wholesale rates they quote to third-party vendors. The whole point of the AT&T breakup in 1984 was to stop Bell from using monopolistic practices against its competitors. I understand that the bottom dropped out of the long distance market a few years ago and they're looking for new revenue, and I'm also at least slightly sympathetic about their potential impending losses due to the the VoIP revolution, but I still say that this latest bit of deregulation was a bad move. With the stroke of a pen, the Federal Cracker Company has wiped out an entire industry.

Note to independent DSL providers: if you aren't partnered with an ILEC, you're toast.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Bang bang, shoot shoot

Here are the guns I would like to one day own:

Don't like my selections? Go get your own guns.

Seriously, I already have an old bolt-action .22 rifle, a Ruger Single Six .22 revolver, and a couple of old shotguns... oh, and a nifty blowgun (I can hit a coca-cola can more than half the time at 25 feet).

I'd like to step up a bit, and actually start practicing on a regular schedule. The air rifle can obviously be fired in stealth-mode and can replace the bolt-action for squirrels, and I always thought the Luger-style design looked cool, hence the MK6 :-) I really can't afford the .22 Beeman I really want, though that would be better for small game.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Have a laugh...

A posting on

Description: We have a site with a photos folder that is around 30 GB in size. This folder is causing us trouble when trying to download as these files are enormous and we keep erroring out on download. We think it may be because of the naming convention .JPG versus .jpg or that the FTP mod that is on the server just stinks. We do not know.

Here is what we need. We need YOU to troubleshoot as to why they are not downloading right,install a different type of FTP mod and try downloading again, or find some other method to back up this folder remotely that works and re-upload this folder to our new server. If you can successfully download this folder to say a backup drive that we can send you, that can work as well.

Can you do this?


User Journal

Journal Journal: New topic-specific blog

After much deliberation (or was it procrastination), I finally got around to putting up a ministry blog on my site. I coded the thing in PHP/MySQL yesterday, after much derision from the #perl crowd. In all of their comments about me being too naive about what actually went into writing a blog app, they never even considered that I would do it in PHP. Heh.

"What's a ministry blog?" Well, I need a place to put all my preacher-type rantings, and figured it would be best if I kept that separate from my personal diary.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Long time, no see

I guess I'm not a very good blogger. I'll try to do better, I really will.

So what's been happening?

  • I went out and got a business license about 18 months ago. I started from scratch (with maybe half a client), but gradually picked up business here and there. I'm just finishing a wiring job that will end up paying me over 7 grand (I've done 2 so far), and ride herd on quite a few company networks around the city.
  • I almost cut my left index finger off while working on the jobsite mentioned above. I had been using the back end of a hatchet to knock out pre-cut holes in a fabricated beam, and forgot the hachet on top of the ladder. When I pushed the ladder forward, the hatchet fell onto my hand. This was on a Saturday, and I was the only person on the property. Had it not been for my cellphone, I might not have survived the accident (I'm a ninny, and went into shock). The ambulance came about 10 minutes after I called 911 and bandaged me up, and I actually drove myself to a doctor, who used "steri-strips" to stabilize the cut and put me in a finger split for 10 days. Whoopie.
  • Ten days later, I broke a bone in my right foot. I stepped off a stack of sheetrock (drywall) at the jobsite, and onto a piece of styrofoam packing material. The styrofoam crumbled, and I went down, hard. One more trip to the doctor. They put me in a walking boot, which worked for about a week and a half. I switched to construction boots, which made getting around a lot easier.
  • I'm all healed up now, and $1200 poorer, thank you very much. I need to get insurance. Oh, and I had to use a lot more temporary laborers to complete the wire-pulling than I'd budgeted for. That's what LUG members are for, I guess. Thanks, guys :-)
  • I've started playing with Asterisk, the open-source PBX. I helped a fellow consultant on a 30-phone installation, and came home and got it working on my server, where I can tinker with it. One of my clients needs a few additional phones, along with voicemail for all employees, and I'm going to use Polycom SIP phones and Asterisk, tied into their existing Avaya PBX.

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