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Sun 29th Jun 2008 @ 12:45 2008: A response to "7 Ways Religion Is Detrimental To Science"

John Goerzen posts a very good, clear refutation of 7 ways religion is detrimental to science, namely:

  1. Faith and the Scientific Method are Opposites
  2. People Vote Base on Religious Ideas
  3. Religion Removes the Need For Science
  4. People Lean on Religion, When They Could Benefit From Science
  5. The Church Takes Up Natural Resources
  6. The Church Takes Up Monetary Resources
  7. Religion is A Strong Meme

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Fri 27th Jun 2008 @ 23:31 2008: The lunatic has taken over the asylum

Who put this man in charge?!! He became CEO in 2000 ... have the company been improving since then?

Oh well, let's just enjoy Developers Developers Developers now we've done Dance Monkey Boy:

And here he is on TV, sounding about as smart as Dubya:

Right. He's in charge. Oh, that's nice, then. Be seeing ya.


Fri 27th Jun 2008 @ 02:00 2008: Russian Spammers taking the p*ss

It's trivial to fake the "From: " header in an email, yet many postmasters still send bounces to the From: address when the To: address does not exist. Why? Well, because they are brain-dead, basically.

So, every now and then, some spammer chooses "" as their "From: " address, and I get a bucket load of bounces from all over the world.

Now... some Russian spammer is sending Russian spam, in Russian, from "me", and I'm getting the bounces from the badly-configured Russian postmasters. So far, I've had 7 bounces in 14 minutes.

At the same time, some botnet (I don't know who runs it) is trying to post spam to this blog (though they've been tamed by recent updates).

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Thu 26th Jun 2008 @ 18:22 2008: Tennis

I don't really follow tennis, but it seems that IBM are doing the timing, and Rolex are doing the computer simulations.

Is it me, or is there something a little bit odd about that?!

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Thu 26th Jun 2008 @ 11:30 2008: Great Thinkers

Shakespeare: To be or not to be.
Nietzsche: To do is to be.
Sartre: To be is to do.
Sinatra: Do be do be do.

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Thu 26th Jun 2008 @ 11:10 2008: Magic Battery

My laptop was on battery power, and dying, so I thought I'd let it fully discharge before starting to recharge it (I've heard that's a good thing to do from time to time; there's presumably as many good reasons not to, but...). So with a few minutes battery life remaining, I rebooted single-user mode, umounted all filesystems bar root, and ran a while loop:

while :
cat /proc/acpi/battery/BAT1/state
sleep 2

It seems the state gets updated once every few minutes, which probably explains this output:
present:                 yes
capacity state: critical
charging state: discharging
present rate: 0 mA
remaining capacity: 0 mAh
present voltage: 11100 mV
Now that's one wonderful battery that can keep a laptop powered for a few minutes with no juice left in it whatsoever!

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Wed 25th Jun 2008 @ 17:42 2008: Lovely Spammers

Thanks to the lovely spammers, the post block is still on, but I've updated it ever so slightly, because it was hard for me to see if there were any valid posts being blocked. This should make it a little bit easier to find any valid posts amongst the chaff. Let me know if there are any problems!


Tue 24th Jun 2008 @ 23:19 2008: Fish

fishI've got a fish sticker for my laptop. Well, it's actually a vinyl decal, apparently. Although I've never been the kind of Christian who feels the urge to put a fish on cars and things (why?!), I feel that it is important to be seen to be a Christian in the workplace. However, my workplace is whatever-customer-i've-been-sent-to-this-week, so the drop-subtle-hints option is less often available, so I've gone for a fish.

tackyfishI didn't want a tacky sticker though, and that was a challenge; it seems that the Christian fish market has got bored of the simple logo, and insists on gaudy colours, extra text (even "icthus" is more than I wanted for this), stylised shapes, and so on. Eventually, I've found this nice, clean, just plain black vinyl fish, which (hopefully) doesn't ruin the nice clean look of the laptop. (Lenovo did get a bit confused when designing it, apparently; it's all black on the inside (bar a few unnecessary volume buttons which i'm tempted to paint black), and all silver on the outside, so I opted for a black fish on the outside).

So... I'm either boldly making my statement to the world, or I'm just another sheep with a fish sticker. Well, it's one or the other.

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Sun 22nd Jun 2008 @ 00:42 2008: Bill Gates Rewriting history

"We tried to get everyone who did productivity software to come along and support Windows," [Gates] says.

"But they were quite slow, so our own Windows applications, Word, Excel, were doing incredibly well."

Interview with BBC Money Programme

Oh, right. So because the rest of the world wouldn't support your OS, you were forced to write your own applications, is that it? Is that why you were forced to use undocumented APIs to ensure that your apps were more efficient than Third Party apps, which had to code the long way around, with insufficient documentation of even the allegedly-documented APIs, and - of course - no access at all to the OS source code, which would have been so very useful to all those developers who you "tried to get" to write for Windows?

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Sat 21st Jun 2008 @ 22:50 2008: $150,000 per file please... no, I don't have any proof. Pay up anyway.

MPAA on CrackThe Motion Picture Association of America said Friday intellectual-property holders should have the right to collect damages, perhaps as much as $150,000 per copyright violation, without having to prove infringement.

I want some of the crack the MPAA is smoking; it's not cheap stuff, it must be the really, really good stuff (after all, they can afford it!)

Pass the crack pipe along when you're done with it....

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Thu 19th Jun 2008 @ 23:35 2008: Road Trip

As I was coming home from Essex today, I saw a few things; one jackknifed lorry on the M6 (I do hope the driver is okay), one Audi estate smashed into a tree (that engine will never turn over again), and the most perfect rainbow I have ever seen: A total 180 rainbow, brilliantly clear from end to end, with a small outer rainbow too. That was from the M6, too, just near Crewe. It kind of takes the magic away, but that's where it was, so that's where it was. It was beautiful.

None of those things did I have the time to take a picture of, though two of them will turn out to have been very expensive and ugly, and the other was free and beautiful.

What I did take pictures of, were (click thumbnails for larger pictures):

Ferrari1) A black Ferrari (sorry, I can't tell one Ferrari from another), with black wheels, in matte black (it really did look good, honest!), and the numberplate "N1GHT". I'm not usually bothered about personalised numberplates, but this one really did suit the look of the car. The matte black effect worked really well. He was merging in to the roadworks at the M25/M1 junction; notice the huge gap ahead of him, and all the traffic stuck behind him; why is it the supercars that hold up everybody else?

2) IKEA - home is the most important place in the world An IKEA lorry, with the slogan "Home is the most important place in the world". Maybe it is naff, but as I was on my way home, and thinking about what is important in life, it felt like a truism about humanity everywhere. Something about the fact that the statement refers to a different place for everyone (modulo 2.8 or whatever the average population of the average house might be) that reads it was kind of cool, too.

Safety Car3) The Safety Car for the upcoming BritCar 24h race at Silverstone in September. Quite what it was doing on the M1, I'm not sure, but I was somewhat tempted to follow it; I settled for taking its photo.

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Thu 19th Jun 2008 @ 22:42 2008: Google on Net Neutrality

Google are getting political about Net Neutrality.

I'm all for Net Neutrality, it is an important topic, and it seems to be the hot topic in the States in particular at the moment (and whatever they do, we inevitably copy a few years later). I'm just a little surprised to see Google making such a clear statement on any subject. I suppose with a topic like this, Google have to be either totally neutral or totally against (or possibly totally for, though it would change their business model dramatically). So, I guess it's good to have such a big company clearly on the side of "the internet" versus "big business". It just feels a little uncomfortable, as Google are a really good example of both of those labels...

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Tue 17th Jun 2008 @ 00:53 2008: Open HA Cluster

I missed this one...

Solaris Cluster (as SunCluster is known these days) has now been Open Sourced. This satisfies the statement one year ago, 6 months ahead of schedule.

Press Release

There's also prebuilt binaries available to run on Solaris Express Community Edition.

In many ways, this isn't going to affect Enterprise customers much, because they'll always get Solaris Cluster from Sun; and it isn't going to affect non-Enterprise customers much, because they're likely to prefer something simpler (Solaris Cluster is very very good if it's configured right, but potentially very hazardous if one puts faith into a poorly-configured Cluster). However, this should be of significant benefit to the OpenSolaris-derived distributions, in much the same way that CentOS and WhiteBoxLinux can claim compatibility, it's now possible (in theory at least) to run OpenSolaris + Open HA Cluster and have basically the same system as a Nevada + Solaris Cluster install. So that's a pretty good sign for the future. It's been trendy to knock Sun for at least a decade, but they do have BSD roots, and they do still have some people who know what F/OSS is about. Not just in SLOC, but in terms of real investment, Sun are one of the big players in F/OSS at the moment.

Who needs a Campus Cluster anyway?fire

oh. you do. well, you did. bit late now.

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Mon 16th Jun 2008 @ 23:52 2008: Typing

It's not just me: No Escape

My home keys are something like Q W E ; [ , with finger on space, and my right hand drops down for arrow keys when necessary. It's so nice to find a kindred spirit!

I see he also gives "real" names to DHCP clients - nice touch!

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Sat 14th Jun 2008 @ 00:16 2008: Nokia + Qt

I missed that one.

Ted T'so has a very Solomonic approach to offer to a recent debate about F/OSS and DRM in particular:

Many people do not react well to being told that they need to learn something even if it is true that they do. Admitting that they need to learn is for some people tantamount to admitting ignorance, or even worse admitting stupidity, and so they are loath to do this. Telling them this just makes them defensive and angry.

My suggestion for how get people to learn without making them defensive is to use a modified Socratic method. It works especially well with the Open Source crowd, because many of them are engineers, and engineers are by nature problem solvers. So if you give them a problem to solve, they will go to work trying to find potential solutions, and thus start thinking and learning about the problem from a different point of view
Ted is being very insightful here; offering Nokia a way of understanding not just the community's view of DRM, but also what does make the community tick.

Bruce Perens has some more useful comments on the practicalities of combining F/OSS with DRM.

As my mind happens to be focussed* on the history of UNIX, Free Software, GNU, Linux, and the Open Source movement, this seems to be a particularly apt example of the pragmatism of the Open Source movement as compared with the idealism of the Free Software movement.

(I'm not trying to create or imply any major schisms here; that's all been dealt with many times about a decade ago now. I'm just reflecting on the different approaches.)

It is just interesting to observe how this stark Business / Community divide has been noted, the points that it raises, and how it is the Open Source community who are working to bridge the apparent gap. The Free Software community would (without wanting to put words into anybody's mouths, and as someone who is almost entirely an observer) not be particularly interested in collaborating in the first place.

* For reasons I can probably admit to, now I've cleared it with everybody I need to clear it with: I'm supposed to be writing a book on GNU/Linux Shell Scripting. I say "supposed"; it turns out to be a lot harder than one might assume, but the first couple of chapters are nearly ready for submission. Why not start with a bit of background history, though - hence the current focus.

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Fri 13th Jun 2008 @ 23:21 2008: p2p

581KiB/s; it's not only easier, cheaper and more convenient than going to BlockBusters, it seems to even be quicker, too!

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Thu 12th Jun 2008 @ 00:23 2008: Manchester Congestion Zone

The Guardian have a strange view of Manchester, which is odd, as it's where the Guardian comes from, as I understand it.

Apparently, Manchester has shrunk by a factor of four since they were last there.


I reckon that these maps are approximately to the same scale. Not perfect, but one map isn't twice the size of the other, right? So how come Google's "2 mile" marker is about 74 pixels long, (37 pixels per mile) whilst the Guardian's "1 mile" marker is about 78 pixels long, (therefore 78 pixels to the mile, of course)?

Does it rain so much in Manchester that the water has caused it to shrink since Google last visted?!

What media coverage would we see if the Government proposed to expand the London Congestion Charge to cover the entire M25? That is the equivalent to what is being proposed for the Manchester charging. It depends what you measure, when you measure it, and how you choose to measure it, of course, but the M60 is one of the busiest motorways in Europe. Simply charging us extra for the privilege of being within it is absolutely ridiculous.

This is in no way comparable to the London congestion charge, which enjoyed widespread media coverage before, during, and after its introduction. This Manchester charge is the most ridiculous proposal ever suggested for UK motorways; if the Commons pass it, the Lords must surely reject it.

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Wed 11th Jun 2008 @ 23:35 2008: RedHat - D'oh!

RedHat - D'oh!When I first saw this on RedHat's homepage, my initial reaction was: "But RedHat's not 20 years old..."

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Tue 10th Jun 2008 @ 23:55 2008: Context [NSFW]

Hmm; what was that about "reading in context"?

Most Badass Bible Verses (not a phrase which I was previously aware existed in the English grammar)

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Tue 10th Jun 2008 @ 00:05 2008: Joel on Desks

Joel Spolsky has provided great insights through his blog over the years. Recently, it's just Joel on Desks.

I think he's turning from geek to management. I wonder when he'll realise it ;-)

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Mon 9th Jun 2008 @ 23:36 2008: Virus Spam

Who is loving you? Do you want to know? Just click here and choose either Open or RunI'm sure I'm not the only one who clicks on spam links just to see how stupid they think we are. (it was only when I used Windows as a daily machine a while ago that I realised that this sport can be dangerous... under GNU/Linux it's generally just entertaining - or possibly an extreme sport!)

This spam was a simple one-liner:

Subject: Only Wanna Be With You
Can't stay away from you

The bald failure to even try to disguise the IP as a legitimate website, along with the brevity, got me curious.

The linked page has a nicely-designed logo, though a quick google images search shows that it has been pilfered from a kosher website. The text ties in nicely with the image, though, so the impression is pretty good. It's better than most, anyway.

The GIMP screenshot (should have used GNOME, but I'm too lazy to delete all my irrelevant toolbars again, and deal with the rounded window borders) doesn't show the mouse pointer, but it shows (in the status bar) that the link is to "loveyou.exe", and the instructions are to "Open" or "Run".

I haven't looked at the exe; I wouldn't know what to look for, other than to pass it off to an existing AV tool, which would presumably pick up some form of malware.

Given the brevity of the spam, and the sparse webpage, it's possibly not so surprising that the theme is "ILOVEYOU", and the suggestion that the recipient has been directly targetted. (Does the growth of social networking sites increase, or decrease, the likelihood of this claim being believed? I'm not sure). The entire campaign is a kind of case-study in redux malware distribution.

Since I've taken a copy of the page, and the email content, I may as well document the rest, as it's so nice and clean:

from \
( by with SMTP; \
9 Jun 2008 14:55:15 -0700

from [] (helo=xsj) by \ with smtp (Exim 4.62 (FreeBSD))\
id 1K6HS-0004QB-Nt; Mon, 9 Jun 2008 17:03:20 -0500\


The binary is fairly small, and the MD5SUM doesn't seem to have been picked up by Google; maybe an AV program wouldn't catch it?:
$ ls -l loveyou.exe 
-rw-r--r-- 1 steve steve 118272 2008-06-10 00:38 loveyou.exe
$ md5sum loveyou.exe
60481ad58c4aaf165b5063a5efec7090 loveyou.exe

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Mon 9th Jun 2008 @ 23:04 2008: Word of the Day: Quirk

It's taken me a good five minutes to work out (by random typing "kwirk", "querk", "querque", "cwirq", and every combination I could think of, and the occasional google search for confirmation) to remember how to spell "quirk".

It's a word which only the Anglo-Saxons could have come up with, surely. I see that Wikipedia reckons it comes from the Isle of Man. Still, it's got to be Word of The Day.

Try to work "quirk" into a conversation today!

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Sun 8th Jun 2008 @ 23:58 2008: Hamilton

I wonder if Hamilton ever went to the Tufty Club: Red Means Stop, Lewis.

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Thu 5th Jun 2008 @ 22:11 2008: Wine

/tmp/wine-0.9.60$ tools/wineinstall
[ lots omitted ]
Installation complete for now. Good luck (this is still beta software).
If you have problems with WINE, please read the documentation first,
as many kinds of potential problems are explained there.

Wow, software that really instills confidence!

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Tue 3rd Jun 2008 @ 22:23 2008: Overheated CPU

Dear Lazyweb,

My desktop PC (Intel D865GBF / Intel 2.8GHz P4HT) shut down earlier today, and wouldn't power on again until I'd removed power from the internal disks (2xHDD, 1xDVD) - trying to power it on would result in (possibly) a "siren" style high/low/high/low tone for a few seconds max, and then the power would go.

Detaching the internal disks allowed it to start the BIOS, which stated:

The CPU was previously shutdown due to a thermal event (overheating)
Service the unit right away to resolve this

On looking at the machine, the heatsink came away really easily (I thought it was supposed to stay "sticky" to the CPU and heatsink?), and the thermal paste appears to have dried up. Would that be the cause of the problem?

Running the BIOS's thermal sensor, it claims that (with no disks attached, just running the BIOS) the CPU is running between 37-42C, which does seem unreasonably hot. It doesn't feel that hot, though of course, it took me quite some time to get the disks out, then the IDE/Power cables, unscrew the Mobo, get the heatsink off, to feel the CPU!

So, my dear lazyweb... does this sound like I just need to replace the thermal paste, or are my mobo temperature sensors screwed?

Other stuff.. the fan's always been noisy, but it's okay. I blew a fair amount of dust out of the heatsink, but it wasn't filthy. Erm, can't think of anything else.

If anyone does reply, please don't include "h t t p" in any links, as there are about 100 spam per day being submitted to the blog, and that's as open as I can do it for now!


Tue 3rd Jun 2008 @ 00:41 2008: Comment Spam

Quick update on the recent comment spamming which has been going on... hopefully you won't have noticed any problems, other than the inability to post. So far, I am only aware of one genuine attempt to post a comment (this is hardly slashdot, after all!) which has been blocked. Sorry, John.

A few hundred spammy comments have been blocked; I'm now diverting unblocked spam into a separate queue for processing, and adding to the blocked list as appropriate. So far, over 60 IP addresses (including some large ranges) have been seen and blocked; once the IP blocking stems the flow, comments will be re-enabled.

Such a crude method as blocking IPs appears to be the only reasonable choice; the bots use a wide variety of User-Agent strings, and also GET the form page before POSTing it, so any "POST-without-GET" logic would fail, and presumably, they are also parsing the form to spot any changes.

Changing the URL would probably work, but that would break Google and other caches, too.

If this was a huge portal, I would put lots of time, effort and money into fixing the problem. As it is, I've got none of the above, so comments remain blocked for now, though the blocking is getting smarter by the day.

It doesn't feel like this is as large an operation as The Storm; it's generally localised around China, Russia and the Ukraine, though blocking those entire ranges would seem to be a rather drastic measure, and contrary to the principle of an open internet. If Westerners started arbitrarily blocking Easterners from their web content, it would effectively create another Great Firewall of China; there are enough entities (MPAA, RIAA, QoS-vs-Net-Neutrality) trying to bring down the open internet as it is, without the average web content publisher / blogger blocking entire IP ranges.

Hopefully the recent attempts (which have - AFAIK - had no negative affect on the site itself, or for the users of the site) will prove a short-lived thing, which will produce a finite list of IPs to block, with a clear method available for unblocking (mail me).

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Tue 3rd Jun 2008 @ 00:17 2008: EH Smith

EHSmithWHSmith is well known for creating a news agency retail chain.

His smaller brother Eh? Smith ended up in haulage:

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Sun 1st Jun 2008 @ 01:59 2008: Gartner on F/OSS

Gartner on the recent Debian OpenSSL issue:

Pescatore noted that the OpenSSL developers' mailing list shows that Debian developers tried to communicate with the OpenSSL development community, but that the informal communication processes "were clearly inadequate in this instance" .

Occasionally Gartner get things right. In this instance, they obviously just felt the need to put their oar in.

Yes, something slipped through the net here; one would assume that the assigned Debian Developer (DD) would have tried-and-tested communication channels with the Upstream developer(s). In this case, it seems that the DD used the listed mailing list, which was later stated by the OpenSSL devs to be not read by OpenSSL devs.

It wasn't an "informal communication process"; it was a communication failure, however. The address is listed once on the website, according to Google, as debug text in a 2006 patch. This address has not been communicated outside (or even within?) the OpenSSL community. The DD would have needed to be tightly integrated with the OpenSSL developers to be aware of this mailing list's existence.

If some minor package is part of a mainstream GNU/Linux distro, it's probably a feather in their cap - something to be proud of, and a relationship to maintain. For something as central as OpenSSL, they can't be concerned with every particular aggregator who chooses to use their software. They also carry a responsibility to be generally open and involved in the wider community of which they are a part; an unlisted email alias (and ignoring the listed one) does not constitute participating in any form of community. OpenSSL does not live in isolation.

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