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June 27, 2008

OpenVMS, it isn't as dead as you may think


As much as HP would like it to go away, OpenVMS still has a strong foothold in many niche computing sectors.  While my background is mainly in Unix and Windows, I've had a chance to dabble a bit in OpenVMS over the years.  It wasn't really my cup of tea, but it is pretty amazing what kind of longevity and stability some of these systems have.  I'm aware of two or three examples signal processing code written on the VAX back in the eary 80's that is still running on a daily basis.  While the hardware starts to fade and crumble, virtualization and processor emulation might have the same programs running for the next 50 years on virtualized platforms.  For the kids out there that want to try their hand at OpenVMS, Vistech runs what they call the "Deathrow" cluster of OpenVMS systems available over the internet.  They are nice enough to provide SSH access to several machines, where you can mess around to your heart's content, as long as you are not malicious.  If you have a lot of time on your hands and are bored with messing with Linux and BSD, give OpenVMS a try.  It is one of those things like COBOL, which everyone says is dead, but people still are making money off consulting! 


Oh, and the deathrow thing, I assume that refers to the various cancellations and end of life announcements over the years and not to music produced by Suge Knight, but I've been known to be wrong...


June 25, 2008



For those of you who are interested in different Open Source and *nix-y operating systems, Sun would like you to take a look at OpenSolaris.  For those folks who are too lazy to download the ISO of the disk image, Sun will even ship you a copy of the CD to your home or workplace.  That's not such a bad deal, and makes such a better drink coaster than the AOL CD-ROMs.  Seriously, it might be worth a look if you like messing with different BSD and Linux distributions.



Update 6/27/08 - I came home yesterday to a sparkling new CD from Sun.  That is a FAST turnaround.  Less than 36 hours!


June 23, 2008

Open Source AdvFS!

Unless you've worked with Compaq/HP/Dec DigitalUnix/OSF1/Tru64 Unix you haven't had the pleasure of working with AdvFS.  While Sun is getting all the media attention by having Apple adopt ZFS into their core OS release, the beauty of AdvFS is now going Open Source.  In a previous life, I spent a lot of time working with Tru64 Unix on the Alpha platform.  The stability and recoverability of their file system compared with UFS was amazing.  One of the best features of this file system is that it didn't kill its wife.


June 18, 2008

Avant Garde Humor

Everyone has their guilty pleasures.  One of mine is Tom Green's movie Freddy Got Fingered
This movie is foul, rude, obscene and so many other adjectives.  Green overtly tries to push the limits way beyond what is comfortable.  How absurd the situations are make this spectacle transcends simple poop and weiner humor and takes it to a new level of pure art.  What Green is trying to express through his "art", I have no idea.   Does it take a Canadian for us to explain freedom of speech and expression to Americans?  Okay, I'm not really that serious...

Roger Ebert wrote this about the movie:

"This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels."

 Daddy can I have some sausages


To have that kind of reaction from a film luminary, Tom must be some sort of genius.  Maybe that might be stretching things, but he still makes me laugh.  I hope I can do something in my life that will garner such a spirited reaction.

If you enjoyed this movie, you might also enjoy a Colon Pal

June 16, 2008


There are not enough lolcats in the world these days, so I bring you beauty and splendor!

Mr. F has been enjoying his time at the ranch. 

June 14, 2008

How to recycle old PC hardware, freaky style

Here is a scenario: At your organization you have just finished a forklift upgrade of all your old enduser workstations.  You have wiped the drives (using DBAN or some other great software) and now want to be green and recycle the machines.  Since you've nuked the operating system and software off the machines, they are totally useless now, or are they...

(Photo Credit: Michael Surran - Extra Ketchup on Flickr

FreeGeek of Portland, Oregon has come up with a distribution plan that they call the "Freekbox".  Using donated parts, they build machines that have a similar range of processing power and load up Ubuntu Linux, which is rich with multimedia and productivity applications.  So a box that wouldn't run Vista in a corporate environment is now screaming along running Linux and keeping it out of a landfill.  Huzzah!  FreeGeek's criteria for their "Freekbox" machines are this:

  • Processor speed: 1.5 - 2.2 ghz
  • 256 MB RAM
  • 20 - 30 GB hard drive
  • CD-R/RW drive
  • Floppy disk drive
  • 17 inch color monitor
  • 56k internal Modem
  • 10/100 Network card
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Speakers

For the people that they've adopted to receive these machines, this is a real godsent.  Since almost all of this hardware is most likely not ROHS compliant (i.e. this stuff is usually full of lead, arsenic and other toxic stuff), it keeps it out of the landfills for as long as possible.  Having a similar operating environment on all the machines keeps the support for this volunteer organization very manageable.  They also hold clinics on how to build computers, which helps expand their volunteer base and gives people marketable skills.  Kudos!

June 13, 2008

Dreams of future BART expansion

Those who know me personally, know that I am a big supporter of mass transit.  While it is not always as clean, safe, and comfortable as your "car bubble zone", it can reduce transit times, lowers pollution and all that environmental stuff.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, there are many transit agencies, but the most wide spread and highest rider concentration is on the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, or BART.  While they are currently expanding down from Fremont to San Jose, and exploring the different routes of connecting to other areas such as Livermore/Tracy and Brentwood/Antioch areas, the vision is starting to seem somewhat blurry. 

I'm getting bored of the diesel locomotive ideas.  One word will answer all questions:



'nuff said. Hoyven Glaven or bust. 

BART System Expansion Plans:


June 12, 2008

A Study in Network Intrusion

Recently Verizon did an analysis of 500 network intrusions to see if they could determine if there were any major trends.   I found these items from the overview the most interesting:

  • Most breaches resulted from a combination of events rather than a single action. Sixty-two percent of breaches were attributed to significant internal errors that either directly or indirectly contributed to a breach. For breaches that were deliberate, 59 percent were the result of hacking and intrusions.

  • Of those breaches caused by hacking, 39 percent were aimed at the application or software layer. Attacks to the application, software and services layer were much more commonplace than operating system platform exploits, which made up 23 percent. Fewer than 25 percent of attacks took advantage of a known or unknown vulnerability. Significantly, 90 percent of known vulnerabilities exploited had patches available for at least six months prior to the breach.

  • The study’s findings show a marked increase in the number and type of international incidents. For example, attacks from Asia, particularly in China and Vietnam, often involve application exploits leading to data compromise, while defacements frequently originate from the Middle East. Internet protocol (IP) addresses from Eastern Europe and Russia are commonly associated with the compromise of point-of-sale systems.


Annoying site registrations

Sometimes you'll get a link from someone regarding an article or paper that requires registration.  Instead of spending the time to create yet another account to remember, you might want to check out BugMeNot.  Their service most likely violates the terms of service on a lot of web sites, but does that really bother you?  Many newspapers and periodicals are part of the "dark web" of unsearchable or controlled content.  Instead of giving away all of your personal information once again to read an article, borrow a throwaway account from BugMeNot.  I wouldn't advocate a service like this if it were to be used to share a paid service, as that would be theft.

The service is pretty simple..  you enter the web site you want an account for, and it returns a listing of account/password combos.  If it doesn't work for you, you vote that account combo down, so the next sucker doesn't waste more of their precious time.






Conspiracy theories and operational security

Earlier in the year I read the online article "Unmarked Planes & Hidden Geographies" by Trevor Paglen in the Vectors Journal at  USC.  Different from the normal Area 51 and Dreamland internet conspiracy theory hogwash, it was a truly interesting take on the usage of open source intelligence (or OSINT as they call it in the biz).

Since I was staying at the Luxor hotel in Las Vegas a few weeks after I read this, I decided to see what I could do with a digital point and shoot camera.  With 16x zoom (4x optical and the rest digital) I couldn't make out the tail numbers, but it just shows that there are only a few thousand yards between secrets and slot machines in Las Vegas.



June 11, 2008

Wi-Fi on BART - Part 2

Back in February I wrote a post about BART getting WiFi service.  Last time I flew through SFO, I decided that I'd play around with the wireless signal when I was riding on the train.  In a nutshell, the signal was only available in the underground stations in downtown San Francisco from Civic Center to Embarcadero.   I was really hoping that that the signal would be available while the trains were moving, but unfortunately, no luck.  Just keeping a signal a few feet after leaving the stations was an impossible feat for my cheap Linksys wireless card.  Below are a few screen captures from the connectivity in the four station run.

1. The SSID's available as we rolled into Civic Center Station



2. The captive portal login screen


3. The SSID's available at the Embarcadero station, just before hitting the Transbay tube


The cellular providers use the "leaky coax" method to distribute cellular signals in the 800 and 1900MHz bands in the tunnels, so I don't see how hard it would be to do this at 2.4GHz.  A caveat as well...  I took this trip back in early May, so they may have improved the coverage since then.

This better be the pre-alpha testing, or they are going to have problems with their long term plans... 

June 07, 2008

Online education cranks up the appeal

When I finished my Master's degree, one of the things that I lamented was the loss of my access to a lot of really great online research tools.  One of the cool things that Capella University is doing as of a few weeks ago, is giving alumni access to these tools at at a small cost after they graduate.  While google and wikipedia might have great tools to find a car dealership or to win a bar bet, having access to volumes of peer reviewed journals and other texts is not something you normally have access to after you finish your degree.  Other schools such as University of Phoenix also have policies allowing free electronic access to the research library after graduation, which is really a great marketing tool.

"Publication: Latest Headlines - Alumni Library now available
Source: Capella Editor
Modified: 05/28/2008  9:05AM
Alumni now have access to select library databases through Capella's Alumni Library. This high-demand benefit is free for alumni through January 31, 2009.
While enrolled at Capella University, many learners come to rely on access to the Capella Library, and mourn the day they lose access following the completion of their degree.

"While enrolled, our learners get addicted to having such a rich resource at their fingertips," says Jen Swanson, alumni director at Capella University. "Even after their coursework is complete and their graduation final, many alumni miss having daily access to the library databases that keep them current on the research and discourse in their profession."

The Alumni Association is pleased to announce that they are launching a new Alumni Library, with access to some of the most in-demand library databases. While the Alumni Library services are different than those provided to learners during their period of study at Capella, the Alumni Library offers many databases with scholarly journal, magazine and newspaper articles, encyclopedias, e-books and dissertations to support the research and academic needs of Capella Alumni.

To celebrate the introduction of this alumni benefit, it will be available to alumni for free until January 31, 2009, at which point alumni will be able to access it for an annual subscription fee of $50 per year. Access the Alumni Library now."

June 05, 2008

A well oiled solar system

Back in August 2007, my wife and I set our alarms very early to see a full lunar eclipse from the comfort of our back yard.   Sometimes when we are too busy with our overscheduled lives, we forget to open our eyes and look at what the world has to show us.  For $0.00, you too can experience the wonder and awe that scared the crap out of people just hundreds of years ago.  NASA has some wonderful resources on the Internet that can help you find out the dates and times of the upcoming eclipse that can be seen from North America.

Eclipse - http://www.flickr.com/photos/drome/409258605/ 

(Photo: "shadow over the moon 3-3-2007" Courtesy Drome @ Flickr)   


NASA's Eclipse Site: http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse/eclipse.html


Here are the events that I'm going to try to view. 

2008: http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse/OH/OH2008.html

  •    2008 Aug 01: Total Solar Eclipse

  •    2008 Aug 16: Partial Lunar Eclipse

2009: http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse/OH/OH2009.html

  •     2009 Jan 26: Annular Solar Eclipse

  •     2009 Feb 09: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

  •     2009 Jul 07: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

  •     2009 Jul 22: Total Solar Eclipse

  •     2009 Aug 06: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

  •     2009 Dec 31: Partial Lunar Eclipse


What's up with your ear?

Yesterday evening I was surfing through Spock to see if I could track down an old college friend and ran across a new website called Tracing Vincent, which is all about Vincent Van Gogh.  While the website is fairly interesting for people that are interested in the life and work of Vincent, I was saddened to see that my favorite painting "Wheatfield under Thunderclouds" done in 1890 was not one of the featured works. 

Wheatfield under Thunderclouds, 1890, Vincent Van Gogh

I am by no means an authority on art.  Other than taking one class in  mesoamerican art in college, all I know about art came from Fred Keep's Humanities class in high school.  I have been lucky to see wonderful museums around the world in my travels (Lovre, Hermitage, etc.), but have never taken to a single painting like I did with this one on a trip to the Van Gogh Musesum in Amsterdam.  The jpeg file doesn't do it justice and in person it is simply huge.  Vincent was an enigmatic fellow.  His mental illness and quirky behavior give him some distrinction, but I wonder sometimes if he would have painted unremarkable watercolors  if they had Prozac back a few hundred years.  



June 03, 2008

Everybody is blogging these days

I know this post is so five years ago, but it seems that everyone is blogging these days.  It is not just the techno savvy youngsters, witty political pundits or gossip merchants, but the young families that want to communicate across continents and time zones.  How else are we going to get details on the Preschool graduation of the century?  I hear that P-diddy planned the party with his playground posse.

In the future (or even now) there is no absolute privacy, so you have to take control and reign in digital identity from birth.  An interesting take on this comes in the form of a short story written in 2000 by Cory Doctorow called "The Rebranding of Billy Bailey".

June 02, 2008

July 1st Deadline

A few weeks ago, I received a mailing list announcement reminding me about the new Cellular Phone law that goes into effect on July 1st in California. With less than 30 days to go, I figured I should start looking into some solutions.

While I work on getting my TerdPhone(tm) hooked up to some sort of headset or hands free driving setup (it is true, I don't have bluetooth on my cell phone, how sad is that),  the thing that was interesting is that there is an exemption for two way radios service. So as long as you are a licensed ham radio operator, I doubt you will have trouble from the police.

Costco and some other office supply stores have some great deals on bluetooth handsfree speakerphones for the car, so there is no excuse for being a bad driver. 

My wife has been using the Jabra SP5050 for about a week, and that this is great, all for $49 USD. 

From the ARRL East Bay Mailing List: 

"There has been a lot of confusion around this issue and I am still
receiving questions from concerned Amateurs. Apparently, there was some
incorrect information on the DMV web site that added to the confusion.
DMV has updated their web site and makes it clear that the law applies
to "wireless telephone' use and not "dedicated two-way radio" use. For
more information go to the FAQ section at:

For amateur radio operators, you might also look into the TalkSafe Ranger (doc file) product from RPF Communications in the UK. This unit provides Bluetooth connectivity to all manner of radio units. While it isn't required by law, it might be the safest bet.


June 01, 2008

Mr. F

This post is somewhat humorous and sad at the same time.  We have a new visitor staying at Chateau de Anderer and his name is Mr. F

Mr. F in all his glory 

As you can see, Mr. F is a really big boy.  Here comes the sad part.  Mr. F, or "Mr. Fatty" as she named him, came from the house of my wife's good friend that passed away last week.  Although she only had him for about eight months, he was her beloved companion.  We chose to truncate his name in honor of one of our favorite shows, Arrested Development, and the fact that calling this cat fat is sort of like throwing stones in glass houses. ;) 


He's a temporary guest at the ranch right now. Unfortunately he can't fit through the cat doors (actually we installed medium sized dog doors).  While he is spry, he makes our other 18 pound cat look like a dwarf.  He's looking for a permanent home, but until then he'll be camping out on our couch.

You can see more pictures at: