Hacked

So I don’t know if you keep track of this sort of thing, but there’s apparently some kind of hack that works on older WordPress installations that allows people to put whatever they want into the spot where Google reads the title from.

As such, for the last little while, my blog could be found under searches for phentermin and zoloft.

I have no idea what’s up with that.

The Computer is Dead, Long Live the Computer

So here’s how to waste time for a week…

On Monday we had a thunderstorm and we shut off our computers because we didn’t want them to get destroyed via electrical surges. All well and good, but my regular computer (it runs FreeBSD) didn’t come back on after the storm had past.

It hadn’t been destroyed by lightning. We’d actually been having trouble with it for a while. Basically the only way to get it to turn on after turning it off was to let it sit for bit after turning it on. Then after you rebooted it, it would spontaneously boot the operating system.

This time that didn’t work.

So, on Friday I bought a new computer.

Friday night turned out to be a hellish experience. Here’s why: I intended to install either Linux or FreeBSD on the computer. Neither worked.

It took me several attempts to realize that the DVD writer on our other (Windows XP) computer had issues. After that, I installed XP temporarily on the new computer, used it’s DVD writer to burn DVD’s of Ubuntu and PC-BSD (a user oriented distribution of FreeBSD), and decided to keep whichever of the two installed most easily.

PC-BSD gave me a workable resolution for my video, detected the sound card, and failed to detect the network adapter.

Ubuntu Linux gave me an unworkable resolution (800 x 600), failed to detect the sound card, and inconsistently detected the network adapter. It also didn’t allow me to install the Nvidia drivers that would probably have allowed me to use the video card effectively.

I ended up sticking with PC-BSD and scavenging the network adapter from the dead computer.

Now everything works.

Well, sort of. I’m still tempted to buy a separate video card for the computer, allowing me a better resolution and the use of Google Earth (a package for PC-BSD…).

Next up, I plan to install all the applications that make me comfortable on a computer.

Because I Work in Pie-T Too

Once or twice a year I get the urge to link to a post from the blog “Worse Than Failure,” formerly known as “The Daily WTF.”

This is one of those times.

It’s a blog about bizarre occurrences in the jobs of computer professionals. Sometimes the humor is related to bad programming practices and isn’t very accessible.

This isn’t one of those times.

There’s nothing that I can add in my attempt to entice you to read it that wouldn’t blow the funniest bit in it. Just go there. The piece is entitled:


The Pie T Department

Annoying Mac Thing

I recently got out my iBook (which I like) after not using it for a bit.

In between the last time I’ve used it and the present, virtually everything that I care about has moved from being usable on Mac OS 10.2.8 to being unavailable except on 10.3 or better.

Ah, you say to yourself, just go update your iBook.

Alas, it’s not that simple. To update, I’ve got to go buy OS X again. Even for a slightly older point release that’s still something like $129.

Which is just plain annoying.

Mind you, I like Apple’s aesthetic. It’s just that (coming out of Windows and FreeBSD/Linux) I’m not used to paying for point releases. It just seems wrong somehow.

You might argue, of course, that Windows 98 was simply a point release for 95 and that XP was little more than a point release for 2000, but, for the moment, I’m going to pretend not to believe you.

Ruby On or Off Rails

I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I got interested in Ruby on Rails late in 2005.

I messed around with it a bit, got an extensive hosting account with a Rails friendly provider (for my business), and then stopped doing much with it. This isn’t because it’s not interesting or I came to dislike Ruby on Rails, but rather because I got sick of not knowing ruby.

Though I imagine it would have been possible to just push through and teach myself ruby and Rails simultaneously, I decided that I’d be happier if I just concentrated on learning ruby for a bit–and that’s where I am now.

I’m thinking that I might post exercises that I’ve done online for everyone’s entertainment and criticism. We’ll see if that happens though. I’m not completely sure if I want to leave a permanent record of clueless coding online.

So Maybe That’s How Linux Takes Over?

Well, via Slashdot and more specifically ITWire comes the knowledge that some people are supposedly replacing Microsoft Office with Google Apps.

As someone who works with several non-profits as they make their decisions about technology, I’ve noticed that Microsoft Office is often overkill for the actual needs of said non-profits. This is probably also true of small businesses as well. I’m not sure that we’ll see massive use of Google apps among non-profits in part because most non-profits can get XP and Office practically for free through Techsoup and similar programs.

With regards to small business, who knows? Open Office (though cool) isn’t as familiar to people as MS Office and is just as complex. Goople apps might work pretty well for small business in that sense.

It would be funny at any rate. With all the talk of Linux/Open Source replacing Microsoft products (and the fact that it’s not happening very quickly), it would be funny if it happened indirectly with Google as the mediator.

It certainly seems more likely to happen that way than it is that my parents will install Ubuntu.

Big Red Button

The Daily WTF is on my RSS feeds list. It’s a website devoted to remarkably dumb things done in programming and in IT generally.

Today’s post involves Take-Your-Child-To-Work Day, crucial servers, and a big, red button.

Now that I think about it, you don’t even have to read the post after that description. Nonetheless, I’ll just mention that as someone who has kids, it seems very true to life. In fairness to my children, however, I should mention that they don’t casually visit destruction on my computers.

Well, not recently anyway.

Feeling Stupid While Setting Up CVS

I don’t know if this happens to other people, but personally it seems like the most frustrating problems I’ve faced in programming/system administration have been caused by myself.

For example, a few nights ago I set up a cvs repository. While setting it up was no problem, I found it absolutely impossible to access the CVS repository remotely. For some reason I was getting errors along the lines “No connection:I/O Error:blah-blah-blah:no such repository…”

This was rather irritating as I knew for a fact that there was such a repository.

I then spent a great deal of time experimenting with the various ways I could configure CVS on a CVS client, but no matter what I did, the client never connected.

I also checked out the inetd.conf file. “inetd” for those of you who don’t know is the unix daemon used to control connections from outside computers to yours. In the case of CVS, you’re supposed to enable a line that allows the particular CVS protocol that you’re using. Part of this line describes the path to the CVS repository. Get it wrong and you risk allowing people access to your machine.

I got it wrong.

Bearing in mind that the computer was on my home network, this was not a security problem. Nonetheless it took me a few days to notice this despite checking the file several times.

Grr…

FreeBSD/PC-BSD Ports System

Here’s another post that will bore my wife to tears. Actually, bearing in mind that I now know that both her sisters have seen my blog, I have the potential of boring her entire family–and probably most of mine too.

So anyway…

I’m using my FreeBSD box a lot these days. That, of course, means that I have a lot of time to meditate upon what like and dislike about the FreeBSD ports system.

For those of you who don’t know:
One of the more annoying things about unix is that sometimes when you install a program, you find that it won’t work without another (or possibly many more) program(s). There are various systems of getting around this. One of them is the FreeBSD ports/packaging system which actively downloads all the programs that your program depends on so that you don’t have to track them all down individually.

This is great when it works.

What’s not great is when you install a program that depends on many different things, none of which you’re running (such as, for example, the entire GNOME desktop environment). Worse, while it can find packages for some of the programs, it can’t find them for all. Thus, it actually compiles the program in question.

The end result is that sometimes your computer will end up compiling late into the night. Sometimes, it will not only compile late into the night, but when you come back the next day, you will find that some selection of programs no longer works.

For example, even as I write this, I am theoretically installing eclipse. The last time I installed eclipse, it forced most but not all of my GNOME desktop installation to upgrade and I was forced to repair it.

This sucked beyond words.

Not coincidentally, I’m not using GNOME anymore. Thus, it can’t mess up my desktop. Nonetheless, it’s irritating that in order to run a program that’s written in java, a language that’s not dependent upon the local computer, it is somehow necessary to install the entire GNOME desktop and not just a few libraries.

FreeBSD’s ports system is usually great, but this is one of those things that irritates me. I’m sure that someone will figure out a solution to it someday, but until then, I’m stuck watching piles of largely superfluous packages install on my machine.