Sitsofe's diary for July 2002

31 July, 2002

Well I finally managed to break the news of my lack of degree to my bank manager. Bizarrely, this was a situation I have been dreading ever since I got back to Yatton and in some ways was more difficult than breaking the news to my Mum (she knew pretty early on that things were going downhill). To some extent, I just wish I hadn't talked to people about my doing a University degree in the first place which I know is the wrong attitude to take but that's how I feel. What I should be thinking is "Well there wouldn't have been a problem if I had got a degree".

Spent another evening chasing people up for the paintball event that Dave and I are organising for this Sunday.

30 July, 2002

While I was chatting to the Milliways regulars on SUCS, I learned that the University now has a webcam on Fulton House (it needed Java when I visited it). I suppose I should also quickly mention the SUCS room webcam too.

Today I decided to test out Valgrind (an Opensource memory debugger for Linux). I settled upon the most recent CVS version Milliways code to see how much memory was being stomped on and generally misused and was mildly disappointed to find that actually very little code was being leaked or misused (I did replace a part of one small function though).

Note to self — when creating software that uses automake and needs to be installed to a non-default place you only need --prefix=newpath to have everything installed under newpath.

Jon came round and for many hours I explored the world of Zelda 64 (and very well put together it is too). While I was not rapturously enthralled by it, there is without a shadow of a doubt much to merit it.

27 July, 2002

Went over to Kim's house for his birthday. After playing some of the myriad of sub games in Super Monkey ball we watched Shaolin Soccer (which was hilarious despite a low budget and weak plot) before going outside for a barbecue.

The phrase "RAW PORK" will live on in infamy thanks to a hygiene comment from Jon. Raw pork can be substituted into phrases in a variety of amusing ways:

Two legs good, raw pork bad!
Raw pork, because I'm worth it!
Just raw pork it.
Pride and raw pork.
Don't forget your raw pork

appreciate the full comic humour...

The second big screen disappointment of the week came courtesy of Resident Evil. Now I haven't played may way through all of the first game (I think I have it currently on loan from Dave) but I never remember it being this awful. Janglely loud "music" coupled with a complete lack of subtlety conspire with characters I couldn't wait to be killed off to make a rather tedious horror movie. Definitely not the best videogame to movie adaptation (I think that dubious crown still belongs to Mortal Kombat).

26 July, 2002

It was telling that there were only six people (including myself and my Mum) in the theatre when I went to see Scooby Doo this evening. I've always been a fan of the cartoon series but the wafer thin plot (there really was only one) doesn't translate so well to the big screen but most of the familiar gags are faithfully reproduced. Scrappy Doo makes an appearance but his detractors won't be too displeased. Shaggy is played well and the CGI Scooby isn't bad either.

22 July, 2002

Well it looks like both full fat milk and chicken nuggets are off the menu for me here back in Yatton. You see my Mum read Is there a time bomb in your diet? Exploding the myths about milk in the Sunday Times (registration required). Basically it talks about how milk also has harmful effects (such as an increased chance of prostate cancer) in addition to the well known benefit of strengthening bones.

As for the chicken nuggets, well there might not actually be that much chicken in them — isn't modern food science wonderful? In Fowl Play the Guardian talks about some of the more dubious practices in food creation.

Why can't the bad news about food be delivered in food I don't eat like say apples. Or alternatively, why can't food that is good for us taste genuinely better than the flavour enhanced stuff? I hate to admit it but I prefer the taste of additive enhanced food, which is probably why they enhance it in the first place.

21 July, 2002

Invited Dave over and after discussing various preparations and reschedules for next week talked at length about OpenBSD and firewalling. Which leads me nicely to some OpenBSD/firewall links:

OpenBSD 3.0 honeypot white paper: Michael Anuzis set up an honeypot running OpenBSD 3.0 and ensnared two script kiddies. This is a great example of why systems have to be constantly updated when they are running net facing services...

Back when I was at my student house I noticed the following in the router authorisation logs: Jun 10 00:48:32 roo sshd[11387]: Did not receive identification string from
Jun 10 00:48:32 roo sshd[22612]: Protocol major versions differ for SSH-2.0-OpenSSH_3.1 vs. SSH-1.5-
Jun 12 12:40:13 roo sshd[26092]: Did not receive identification string from
Jun 12 12:40:13 roo sshd[17831]: Protocol major versions differ for SSH-2.0-OpenSSH_3.1 vs. SSH-1.5-

A quick Google search has led me to believe it was an intrusion attempt (see the follow up too). My sshd settings prevent connections using the version 1 protocol so this attempt was never going to get very far (even though it's been fixed in modern version of OpenSSH).

I gave the Advance Campaign in Advance Wars a quick go last night and it's ridiculously difficult. I might well resort to this Advance Wars FAQ if I continue to fail to move off the first level...

18 July, 2002

Today I went on an inadvisable walk with no planning or preparation. I think I can safely add such 15 mile walks to my list of stupid things I've done that I won't do again.

I would like to take this moment to complain about roads which lack pavements or cut grass verges. In fact, I'm going to stick my neck out and say that I'll agree that pedestrians shouldn't be on allowed on to roads at the moment when there are pavements on at least one side of every road and cars are no longer parked with two wheels on the pavement.

You see at various points on my walk (the most notable being when I was in Tickenham and Kenn) there were no pavements or verges on either side of the road. It is no fun sprinting round a corner hoping that a car doesn't round the bend and run you over. Sure it gets the adrenaline running but actually having to jump low walls or be faced being crushed against it by an oncoming lorry does not cut it with me. Also, if you are a driver overtaking a pedestrian in the road could you slow down as you overtake? Just because there is a verge next to me doesn't mean I'm going to jump into it if you try and run me over. Some of those verges (such as that between Kenn and Yatton) have rivers of unknown depth running through them and truth be told I'd rather walk on the road and have people drive round me than risk slipping into it.

There is also the small matter of public thoroughfares across fields. They are farmers sick jokes aren't they? Most of them are conveniently overgrown by various spiky bushes and are thus inaccessible (nice...). Another one led me into a field with a river on three sides (with a hedge hiding the river on the far side). Not funny given that I was going across the field to avoid having to run along a piece of road without any pavement/verge.

17 July, 2002

Gareth has put up his graduation photos (he graduated on Monday). Looks like it all took place on a nice sunny (although a bit windy) day down at the Patti Pavillion. Gareth has pointed out a few inaccuracies so I'll let him talk about it:

The day wasn't really windy until after the ceremony when we took a couple of photos. It was a glorious day on the whole and took place at the Brangwyn Hall mate, not the Patti Pav.

14 July, 2002

A few days ago I read a fascinating article detailing an interview by the Israeli defence minister with two would be suicide bombers. What's more interesting are his differing responses to the two different people.

A few weeks ago I read a wired story about a black Mac enthusiast who committed suicide. There is one point that irritates me however:

"What if all of Rodney's passion and devotion was put toward something else other than a computer company?" asked Gabrys. "Now, that truly could have changed the world."

as "trivial" for I do not believe he was hurting other people or society at large. Quite the opposite — given the out pouring of grief it sounds like he helped quite a lot of people. We should not have to be passionate about healing the sick to be doing something worthy.

More recently Gene Kan of Gnutella fame also took his own life. Here's an articulate article in which he speculates on what P2P will be doing in the future (hint — it's not the disruptive networks that we currently have). I don't completely understand why he felt a failure when he put together a company that Sun went on to purchase.

If only it were easier for people to understand why they are so unhappy then perhaps these sorts of tragedies could be prevented. The mind is perfectly capable of keeping secrets from itself which can be to its benefit and detriment.

It looks like Halo will be coming to the PC and Mac in 2003.

13 July, 2002

One of my allergies flared up today making my face all blotchy and weird. Some days I wonder if I've become allergic to the outside.

Today I learned about email extensions. I can easily give out new addresses by using sits+account1@ sits+dontspamme@ and they all get forwarded to my regular account.

11 July, 2002

After receiving a spurious error from pine about the permissions on /var/spool/mail I decided to take a peek at the RedHat pine RPM and found that it had been heavily patched. So I added the downloaded patch to the the RPM and recompiled.

10 July, 2002

I've patched and recompiled a personal pine binary to get a nicer threading mode. I used the following options: ./build DEBUG=-O SYSTEM_PINERC=/etc/pine.conf SYSTEM_PINERC_FIXED=/etc/pine.conf.fixed NOSSL NOLDAP lrh
and stripped the binary to keep the size down. Now I just have to hope it doesn't have any bugs in it ;)

9 July, 2002

Dave and I are trying to make arrangements with people to organise some sort of paintball get together but quite a few of my friends seem to be difficult to get hold of and those who I can contact are extremely busy...

8 July, 2002

Today, while happily portering about on the computer, my attention was attracted to what I guessed was a splash sound. I turned round, watched a drop of water fall from the ceiling and splash on my bed. Shortly after this I was upstairs in the kitchen turning off the tap hooked up to the washing machine and mopping up a small reservoir of water.

The tap had squirted water over a large part of the kitchen and linoleum floor was still holding lots of water. Between my Mum and I it took about three quarters of an hour to get rid of the bulk of the water.

This isn't the first time this has happened but it's been more than a few years since it last did. What seems to happen is the water makes it way through the upstairs floor and becomes channelled towards the light fitting in my room below before dripping through it and writing it off.

Went over to Dave's house (all Dave's from now on will refer to David Little until further notice) and finished off Metal Gear Solid 2. I think it's fair to say that while the story was fairly engaging, it was also incredibly convoluted and definitely overly drawn out by the end of the game. The various uninteractive plot developments were professionally done but instead of making their point and moving on they would often drone on for minutes on end. A quick call from another character would rapidly become stretched out past the point of boredom for the player creating a unsatisfying passive experience. Even the simple act of saving could become an arduous battle with mountains of dialogue, some of it entirely unnecessary. Why they felt the need to go on so I'm not entirely sure — it really made such parts very tedious. Why cover the same ground again and again — it doesn't add anything...

7 July, 2002

Managed to catch the end of the last day of the UKUUG but now I'm back I feel kind of tired.

Here's a New Scientist article essentially talking about the GPL and whether its model would succeed in the development of things other than software.

There seem to be an endless stream of problems that stem from trying to write web pages that work in all the browsers. Oh and some of the browsers are really broken (Netscape4 *cough*) and deserve to die (or at least not be shown fancy pages in case they have a heart attack). On top of that people then go out and write shoddy pages too which just worsens matters. I'm just paraphrasing CodeBitch who puts the above so much more eloquently than I do in her various columns and tends to provoke a response at the same time.

6 July, 2002

I went down to the UKUUG Linux Developers' Conference in Bristol today and bumped into various people (like Dave Green of NTK fame, Steve 'rohan who's always on Milliways' Whitehouse and Dick Porter of Ximian and bloke round Justin's house fame). Oh and I've got to say thanks to Alasdair Kergon (one of the organisers of the event, uh, fame) for giving me cut price entrance and letting me in :).

I've been wondering for a while whether calendars should be marked up with a tables or with CSS in HTML. In real life they are often displayed as rows of data but need not be. To an extent the table is just a presentational issue however Dive into mark comes down firmly on the side of using tables.

5 July, 2002

I've made some small improvements to my diary generating scripts. I've known for a while that the scripts were spending most of their time doing SQL queries (three per month) so I've made a change and it now only does one query for all the months. It meant writing a bit more code but the speed improvement is obvious. Here's what time reported before the changes: 3.56user 0.24system 0:56.33elapsed 6%CPU (0avgtext+0avgdata 0maxresident)k
0inputs+0outputs (8667major+7367minor)pagefaults 0swaps
and after: 3.50user 0.21system 0:12.00elapsed 30%CPU (0avgtext+0avgdata 0maxresident)k
0inputs+0outputs (8667major+7444minor)pagefaults 0swaps
Here's a summary of what the above means: at the expense of a tiny bit of memory I've had nearly a 500% speed increase.

I'm off to see Minority Report this evening.

[...] Well Dave (Little) and I were dropped off outside the cinema at about 5:45 and we decided to grab a bite to eat at TGI Friday. I'd never been to a TGI and was kinda interested to see what it was like.

After being patronised for asking "So how does this place work?" we ordered our food drinks and waited. The drinks arrived and I promptly finished off my pint of lemonade.

And waited.

By 6:10 Jon and his girlfriend Sara had turned up so I went outside to have a chat and tell them that we were still waiting for food and that we would probably just make the start of the film at 6:30. Jon pointed out that the film showing was actually staring 6:15 (I seem to be making a lot of time mistakes these days)... Jon gave me the tickets for Dave, Kim and myself and said he would go in and get a place.

When I got back I found my lemonade glass had been topped up (TGI offer a free top up service on drinks). I asked one of the waitresses what had happened to the food and she explained there had been something of a stuff-up and that our food would be on its way as soon as possible. I slurped a bit more of my lemonade and Dave went out to see if he could find Kim. As Dave came out of one set of doors I saw Kim running towards another set but they managed to see each other and sort things out. I polish off my remaining lemonade.

My pint glass of lemonade is filled up again (I absolutely love that service). Dave returned and our food arrived at about 6:20. Cue some frantic eating and 10 minutes (and another empty glass of lemonade) later Dave and I dash into the cinema.

Minority Report turned out to be a good well structured film (although I think it could have had a bigger impact without the protracted ending) but I was forced to the toilets about half and hour in by a screaming bladder. When it rains it pours (or something).

After the show we all went to Burger King and the discussion eventually led to people drawing little Xs on napkins in an attempt to solve the following puzzle:

Two columns of three Xs

There are three Xs in a column on the left and three in a column on the right. The puzzle is to draw three lines from each of the Xs on the left to all of the three Xs on the right. Lines are allowed to curve but are not allowed to cross over each other. Simple eh?

3 July, 2002

Here's an article Jason (who is rumoured to still use Windows 3.11) might find interesting — Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network. Basically documents how a guy got an old 386 running MS-DOS talking to a Linux server.

Managed to talk (well actually they asked about it) some more people into using Spamassassin.

2 July, 2002

There is something weird going on when I try to browse lots of sites in tabs all at once in Mozilla/Opera on both Linux and Windows. I've noticed that after a while data just stops being transferred even though not all of the pages have finished loading. Looking at netstat shows that the OS thinks the connections are still unfinished but the data is never transmitted...

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