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Tue 30th Mar 2010 @ 00:26 2010: NGINX

I have heard a few things about the nginx ("engine x") webserver; this is just the latest. According to the article, NetCraft reckons that 7% of websites are already running nginx. It appears to be taking space from lighttpd and the well-known Apache webserver (probably more than from Microsoft's IIS).

It doesn’t necessarily have to be used on its own, and many sites use it together with for example Apache for specific tasks.

Nginx was developed by Igor Sysoev for use with one of Russia’s largest sites: Rambler (a web portal).

According to the Q&A with the sole developer, the usage is estimated to be (probably more as a proxy server):
  1. static files + proxying + cache
  2. static files + FastCGI
  3. load balancing
  4. static files

I shall certainly be evaluating nginx for the next project that would otherwise suggest lighttpd, or even a full-blown Squid or Apache.

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Mon 22nd Mar 2010 @ 00:39 2010: 2010 recordings has recordings (and some videos) of the Linux.Conf.Au conference from January this year.

The official mirror site is - the latter has a blank robots.txt, the former allows wget to /pub/ at least.

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Sat 20th Mar 2010 @ 01:21 2010: YouTube led me to this post by Zahavah Levine, YouTube Chief Counsel about action taken against YouTube by Viacom. Levine says "YouTube has long been a leader in providing media companies with 21st century tools to control, distribute, and make money from their content online. Working in cooperation with rights holders, our Content ID system scans over 100 years worth of video every day and lets rights holders choose whether to block, leave up, or monetize those videos."

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Fri 19th Mar 2010 @ 19:52 2010: mkfile

mkddOracle Solaris (sorry, that still sounds strange to say) - and I think other flavours of Unix too - have a utility called mkfile ( Linux does not have this particular facility, though dd is as good. Some people are more familiar with mkfile though, and I have meant for years to get around to writing a wrapper. So here it is.

Its syntax is slightly different from the Solaris mkfile:

  • It depends on bash and generally assumes that it is running on Linux, though it should work on Solaris with bash
  • -v (verbose) is not supported, though -q makes it more quiet.
  • -n is not supported, because I am too lazy.
  • -b specifies a block size to use (default 512 bytes, like Solaris).
  • -i specifies the input file (default is /dev/zero; you may want to use /dev/random, /dev/sda or anything else, depending in your needs).
  • If you specify "-b 10k 11k" to create an 11Kb file in 10Kb blocks, you will get a warning message and 10Kb file.

Apparently there is also a game called "Mario Karts Double Dash" which seems to fill google's search results for "mk dd"...

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Tue 16th Mar 2010 @ 23:36 2010: Why DRM Doesn't Work

In Why DRM Doesn't Work, security guru Bruce Schneier links to; one commenter on Schneier's blog links to Another says:

aterimperator> "In the IP-holder's dream world you pay for a limited number of viewings/listens/playthroughs/uses and DRM forces you to pay for more uses
Nobody> That's just paranoid, if that were true they would launch new music and video formats every few years forcing you to buy the same content over again.

We used to have copy-protected floppy-disks, VHS tapes, etc, but all gave way to the fact that copies are easily made of any media, analogue or digital, and putting barriers in the way of those who want to access the content merely serves piracy.

For another example, I launched a game on my 10-year-old Sony PlayStation recently, and was forced to watch about 5 minutes worth of adverts, disclaimers, copyright statements and the like before being able to play the game. On my current Nintendo Wii, I get about 1 minute of disclaimers (basically, "don't throw the remote into your TV set") and the rest can be clicked through, taking you to the game far more quickly. This tells me that the console-makers have learned that - as the "The Brad" cartoon above depicts, hassling your genuine users simply makes so-called piracy more attractive to everyone.

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Tue 16th Mar 2010 @ 01:27 2010: End of an Era

Puppy! is apparently Joel Spolsky's final blog post, or at least his last "Why You Have To Buy a $10,000 Italian Espresso Machine for your Programmers" style post, which has been the mode for the self-professed professional bloggers for the past decade or so.

tacoYes, I admit that I had followed his blog (he does suggest not unsubscribing) and that is why I am posting this here, on ... erm ... on my blog. I don't see the two in quite the same light, though. The thoughts of Spolsky, JWZ, Paul Graham, et al, have made for interesting reading to those of us out of the US VC world. This blog has a rather less specific, or certainly a less business-oriented focus - this is a *nix pro offering his opinions on the latest moves in IT.

Still, I shall miss Joel's updates - even if I have not found every one to be directly relevant to myself, they have always been well written and clearly laid out. It has been very interesting to read the insights of such trailblazers.

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Sat 13th Mar 2010 @ 00:22 2010: Battery chargers exploit your PC shocker!

According to The Register, software to control your batter charger via your PC (for whatever reason you may want to do such a thing) has included a back-door which allows for "sending files to the remote attacker or downloading other strains of malware, as instructed via commands on a back channel controlled by hackers" since 2007.

Sure, most people don't care what runs on their PC or where it came from; if you need to go to, download and run something you know nothing about, that must be fine, surely - especially when it's a brand name, like Energizer Batteries.

Here's their press report:

There is simply no way to validate what happened in the development process of this code, how developers were contracted, who worked on what, how, and why.

Compare this with (say) the Debian GNU/Linux distribution - contains most of the packagers/developers' grumbles, contains the reported bugs, contains links to source and binary packages included in the distribution - if you want to know what it does, you can find out.

I don't understand the concept that simpler is better when such things are involved - I don't know about you, but some of my PCs store personal financial information, information about customers and their server configurations - all sorts of things that I must not let some random employee of a battery company get their hands on.

Due Diligence must surely require running Free / Open Source Software. This is simply yet another example of this tautology.

Proprietary software has its place (until the revolution, comrades!), but it must come from trusted sources who can certify their work, and will take responsibility for such unforeseen side-effects.

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Thu 11th Mar 2010 @ 00:09 2010: Tory

I'm not sure that is the Tory leader's official website, but it certainly made me laugh...

If you like this one, do check out the posters - if not, the other pictures there may not rock your boat either...

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Tue 9th Mar 2010 @ 23:39 2010: The Future (and history) of Faith

Debian Developer John Goerzen reviews Harvey Cox's book The Future of Faith and it does sound quite interesting.

John's link ( says that Cox was until recently Professor of Divinity at the Harvard Divinity School.

As Goerzen summarises it,

Cox separates the history of Christianity into three periods: the age of faith, stretching from the time of Jesus only a few centuries until Constantine; the age of belief, stretching from Constantine until the 20th century; and the age of the spirit, now dawning. During the age of faith, “their sharing in the living Spirit of Christ united Christians with each other, and ‘faith’ meant hope and assurance in the dawning of a new era of freedom, healing, and compassion that Jesus had demonstrated.” Cox makes the point that doctrinal questions just weren’t all that important back then, and though differences existed, they weren’t considered to be fundamental to the religion. “Confidence in Christ was their primary orientation, and hope for his [earthly] Kingdom their motivating drive.” Further, he argues that the age of the spirit is a return to this earlier age, albeit with modern twists.

I am not sure that "doctrinal questions just weren’t all that important back then, and though differences existed, they weren’t considered to be fundamental to the religion" really fits in with Paul's writings; he regularly rebuked believers (or, as Cox prefers, "followers of the Way", a label I like) for petty bickerings.

The reviews on the Amazon site (linked above) are also quite interesting.

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Wed 3rd Mar 2010 @ 23:33 2010: OK Go - This too shall pass

I'm not normally one for passing on random YouTube videos, but this is a very nice video.

I think it was done in at least 2 takes (look at the curtain move around 2m30s) but very impressive - and presumably on a budget far lower than Honda paid for their Accord advert just a few years ago

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