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Geek Jokes

``The great thing about mod_rewrite is it gives you all the configurability and flexibility of Sendmail. The downside to mod_rewrite is that it gives you all the configurability and flexibility of Sendmail.''

-- Brian Behlendorf
Apache Group

``I had a source code management problem, so I started using CVS. Now i have two problems''

-- Anon

12:48 PM, 26 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Not sure if Europe is my second or third home...

But Carsten Clasohm's photo's in his personal website are enough to make my jump on a plane right now.

BreathtakingAmazing, and Cows!

11:30 AM, 26 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Speeding Linux Boot with make!

James Hunt is obviously an out of the box thinker from IBM - he has written this article on a neat idea of his to build a new startup process using make.

Sounds dumb, but think of it - gnu makefiles allow us to very simply define dependancies, and parallelize execution based on these dependencies.

Worth a read if you like that sort of geekiness, or if you are designing a custom corporate build and halving the boot time will make you popular...

10:03 AM, 23 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Michael Jackson hospitalized for chest pains

In 1990 Michael Jackson was hospitalized for chest pains, on my birthday!

This amazing fact came from the VERY comprehensive Historic Events & Birthdates site run by Scope Systems.

Scope Systems seem to be some kind of electronics repair company, so I guess the staff just have a thing for interesting trivia facts! They claim over 3 million hits - I hope they're not paying for outbound traffic...

09:54 AM, 22 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Who is WHOIS ?

While surfing the ICANN site, I noticeded a memo on the future of the now very fragmented whois system: external link

09:43 AM, 22 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

All your Web typos are belong to us

Dubbed the "wildcard" service, Verisign (the US for profit company that manages top level domains .com .net and others), Verisign's dns servers dynamically generate bogus records that redirect you to their own search site, eith (of course) paid advertising...

For example, will take you to - ICANN (the US not-for-profit organisation responsible for many of the technical standards of the Internet) has issued an advisory asking Verisign to retract this "service" while it completess technical studies into the ramifications.

For a start it means that when you register a domain name it will take another 450 or 900 seconds (the timeout given with the wildcard dns - depending on your ISPs dns settings) for the name to come into effect, and I am sure there are more nasty side effects I have not had the time to think of.

The Register points out that this destroys the usefullnes of checking for spam by checking that the sendors domain exists - since now every .com or .net permutation resolves correctly.

If you do a dns query for a non existant domain in a Verisign name space, you get an "IN A" record with the IP address - which takes you to - real nasty :/

The title of this blog was snarfed from the following The Register article: external article

09:42 AM, 22 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

A piece of Australia has passed away

Slim Dusty, Australia's most well known and well loved country music singer, died in his bed yesterday after a long battle with cancer: external link

We will miss you Slim, and I hope you have found a place where the pub never runs out of beer.

07:47 PM, 19 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Cool Links

Here is a bunch of cool things I have stumbled across recently:

07:41 PM, 19 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

RSS Feed

For anyone who had been trying to (unsuccessfully) use my blog's RSS feed, you will be very pleased to know it works again, this time with the correct urls!

08:30 PM, 18 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Silly favourite

Speaking of favourites, the University of Minnesota Chemistry department has posted a webpage with instructions for making your own Silly Putty :)

11:07 PM, 17 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Wireless commuting

My favourite US city now has a very cool commuting option:

Entrepreneur equips luxury shuttles from Boston to New York with satellite radio and bandwidth.

Not as much fun as the T, but probably comfier and with wi-fi what more reason do you need! And the bus route might even use The Big Dig :)

11:04 PM, 17 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Fun with fusion

This UTAH high school student should make all physics geeks feel inadequate: external article

Looking at Farnsworth's plans [for a nuclear fusion reactor] for the first time, Craig and his father both had the same thought: Now there's a science project.

About 30 such devices exist around the country, owned by such entities as Los Alamos National Laboratories, NASA and universities. ("I bet I'm the only high school student that has one," Craig Wallace said.)

I wouldn't want to be the guy having to justify Los Alamos's next round of budget requests!

12:39 AM, 17 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

F1 issues

The week of an F1 race is always a problem - it's not until wednesday that I have caught up on enough sleep to feel human again!

Monza was a pretty good race - the last third or so was a little predictable, once Montoya seemed to have lost his will to catch Michael, but as has been the case recently, the start and first few corners were pretty exciting, as this photo of Alonso threatening to take off shows!

Next stop Indianapolis :) For those of you who don't have a good grasp on why F1 is the most exciting and technically interesting racing format, has a great series of articles on the different technical and strategy aspects of F1 racing. For F1 news, check out

11:36 PM, 16 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Today's Blog brought to you by the letter U

Or not... as the case may be with Apple Open firmware:

ATN 107666 : Open Firmware: Password Not Recognized When It Contains the Letter "U"

Don't use a capital letter "U" when setting up an Open Firmware password. Change your password if necessary.


Thank's to Rusty for that stupidbase entry!

12:07 PM, 12 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

All in all, Unix can support up to 12kg of laundry

Limited oak means less UNIX: they're not expensive, only hard to make.

While researching the SCO cases, I have come across some really cool Unix history and trivia! Unix has a very rich heritage, which goes a way to explaining it's maturity, power, complexity and quirkiness. It also, Dr Warren Toomey is quoted as saying in this SMH article, the reason why SCO has absolutely no idea what it does and does not own. Allegedly SCO did not even have a copy of the Sys III code (which it owns), and also apparently AT&T included a lot of university research code (much from Australia) without attribution (which SCO does therefore not own).

More cool stuff courtesy of The Unix Heritage Society:

Back around 1970-71, Unix on the PDP-11/20 ran on hardware that not only did not support virtual memory, but didn't support any kind of hardware memory mapping or protection, for example against writing over the kernel. This was a pain, because we were using the machine for multiple users. When anyone was working on a program, it was considered a courtesy to yell "A.OUT?" before trying it, to warn others to save whatever they were editing.
You can also view online scans of the original first edition Unix Programmer's Manual "typed" November 3, 1971 on a Model 37 Teletype terminal that was evidently not in perfect tune, which only makes it cooler!

Now I am well known for compiling and running OS's for the joy of it, but I am bemused that people would spend serious time bringing "the features of 4.4BSD to the PDP-11s with 22-bit addressing" in 2.11 BSD. Or maybe I'm just getting boring.

Footnote: the quirky UNIX branded goods featured in this blog entry can be found at this link.

06:58 AM, 09 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Novell to be a linux catalyst?

I discussed Novell a little in my blog entry on Sun's Mad Hatter project below, but along with their acquisition, Novell has announced a bold new strategy revolving around linux.

In a nutshell, they plan to attack the server and desktop. The server side of their strategy is currently the most clear:

  • Unbundle the file, print, office, directory services, application services from Netware and serve them from a linux platform
  • Offer clients the choice of a Netware or linux kernal inside their Novell server
  • Remove the dependancy on the Novell login client and open up directory authentication to java etc.
  • I think this strategy makes a lot of sense - Novell has long had best of breed directory and file/print services. In ten years neither Microsoft nor Unix vendors have come close. But Netware is even more proprietary and closed than Windows (if that is possible), and on occasion has trouble playing in mixed environments. A move to base these services on linux is a masterstroke - and if some of Novell's genius for simple stability is brought to the linux core, then all the better.

Their approach to the desktop is less clear. Novell has no track record as a desktop company - their few forays (like GroupWise) are great products - but far from run away successes. Partly because they are a bit quirky, which you can get away with on a server but not a client, and partly because your CIO is unlikely to have heard of them.

Novell's recent acquisition of Ximian points to their desire to be a force in the open source desktop world, as does the recent statement of CEO Jack Messman:

Desktop Linux is seen by many in this industry as the next big thing. Novell intends to be a catalyst in this development
Novell does have the potential to break the back of the Exchange/Outlook juggernaut with Ximian Evolution and it's office productivity servers. Ximian red carpet also gives it the foundation of good desktop distro support.

It will be very interesting to see what comes of this - Novell with Ximian rock the services and productivity side of the equation - Sun have StarOffice... let's get ready to rumble!


09:22 PM, 08 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Old time computer lovin - Woz style

As reported throughout the computer press (Wired article), a guy called Vince Briel is making and selling $US200 replicas of the Apple I. Worried about the IP (intellectual property) contained in the Apple I ROM and unable to get an answer from Apple, Vince contacted Woz directly. Woz was, as you would imagine, amped that Vince was making the relicas and gave his personal OK. It turns out Woz had already released the code and schematics to the infamous Homebrew Computer Club before he and Steve Jobs comercialised it, so it was already in the public domain (I can't imagine Woz put a copyright disclaimer in his code - very un-Woz-like).

I especially love how Vince spent days UNimplementing features in the modern chipsets he is using (I mean how boring would life be if you could backspace!). Unfortunately ASCII encoded keyboards are hard to come by these days, so the replica has a PS2 port. Urgh - he could at least have used ADB and then we could use a IIGS keyboard...

The one missing feature is the cassette interface - so no storing your programs. Apparently someone is workin on it. Besides, you need the cassette interface to generate audio into your hifi - or was the on the Apple II only?

Also those of us who have a luxurious 625 scan lines on our TV will need to dig up an NTSC format monitor from somewhere...

08:15 PM, 08 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Secure Email

The world has outgrown SMTP, it's as simple as that. It's old, insecure and unreliable in it's implementation variety. I have been advocating for a while an IPV6 style long term replacement strategy for Internet email transport, but in the mean time (or possibly forever) we must live with what we have.

Without getting into the slightly complex political ramifications, we already have cheap or free and open options for digitally signing and/or encrypting email that integrates with popular Windows, Mac and Linux mail clients.

One very thorny issue, however, is the whole CA (Ceritificate Authority) structure and the associated costs. But there are simple solutions that while not 100% perfect, are 110% better than unprotected email.

One of the pieces in the puzzle is running your own self-signed CA. For a small business (or large business), however, the supporting infrastructure of a self-signed CA can seem daunting. Mostly, it's just because the commandline arguments of the OpenSSL software is complex and sometimes reverse-intuitive. A recent O'Reilly Network article (available at this link) has some good instructions about OpenSSL CA's and PKI (public key infrastructure), but it's ideas about making s/mime email parts at the commandline are not what I would consider to be best practice!

12:36 AM, 08 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

OSX on G5 (IBM PPC 970) win for Virginia Tech cluster

Virginia Tech has settled on an 1100 G5 cluster for their new supercomputer. Apple/IBM's system/CPU offering beat Dell, HP, Sun and others (AMD, Intel and Sparc offerings). OSX or Darwin will be used as the host OS - ostensibly because the linux gcc port is not currently optimised for the G5, but I would imagine that Apple's diffs could be easily imported.

It will be very interesting to see the assembled system head to head against similar clusters.

12:16 AM, 08 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Microsoft forks out to Be Inc, but sad news for Be fans

Microsoft and Be Inc. settled their law suit with Microsoft paying Be $US23 million plus costs. Again, Microsoft avoids having to admit that they illegally squashed a competitor operating system, but they achieved their aim of protecting their turf for a relatively small sum. Be will apparently now fold, using the monies to repy creditors and shareholders.

It's so sad because BeOS was such a sweet OS. I really think it had a chance to carve out a niche in video and animation, kinda like a new age Amiga (not to be confused with the new Amiga OS).

Oh well, I still have my BeOS Book (with R1 PPC cd sealed in the back - filed along with my mint condition eWorld book + cd!) when I want to reminisce. Of course there are still people keeping R5 alive: BeOS 5 Personal Edition ; and an open source clean room implementation of BeOS: Open BeOS

12:08 AM, 08 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Linux on the desktop in Aus gets dial tone

Telstra (Australia's incumbant near-monopoly telco) has launched a project code named Firefly aimed at reducing the TCO of their desktops.

Nothing particularly new in that. But in addition to the expected Wyse thin client option, the bulk of the test revolves around users with Linux as their desktop - and the application suite of Sun StarOffice, Ximian Evolution and the Mozilla web browser.

In fact, Telstra CIO Jeff Smith was quoted as saying "I would see a big movement from Windows and Unix to Linux". Wielding a $A 1.5 Billion IT budget, he is not a man to ignore!

Perhaps the biggest impact on this for the rest of the Australian IT community, is that it gives a ringing endorsement to Linux and Open Source technologies. Mr Smith was also very clear that Sun's SunOne strategy and product line was more comprehensive than Microsoft's - which opens the way to completely remove even Microsoft Exchange from the backend.

On the heels of Sun's own announcement of their Mad Hatter project, things are staring to look rosey for Linux on the desktop. Interesting times we live in.

Interestingly, there was no mention in the article of testing a directory system to potentially replace the horrendus Active Directory from Microsoft. With the obvious strong Sun partnership Novell's NDS (or eDirectory as it seems to be called now) seems like a non-starter, and LDAP is yet to have the sort of corporate products around it that Telstra would be looking for - it will be interesting to watch Apple replace NetInfo with LDAP over the coming iterations of MacOS X. But wait a minute, I hear you ask, didn't Novell buy Ximain last month? True, so guess we should also expect Evolution to integrate well with Novell Groupwise in the future, which in turn integrates well with eDirectory (of course), and since the demise of Banyan, eDirectory is probably the directory system most capable of handling an organisation like Telstra... and eDirectory supports LDAP, and will increasingly integrate with Linux via Novell's Nterprise Linux Services

Speaking of Apple and MacOS X, both are noticeably absent from the Telstra picture. Telstra has never been very cosy with Apple - their cable internet product still barely supports the OS. Optus, the main rival to Telstra, was once a very large Apple user, but increasingly less so.

Anyway, I'm getting off topic! You can read an article about the Telstra announcement in today's Australian IT section, or online: external link.

08:14 AM, 02 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

PostgreSQL, Inc. Releases Open Source Replication

PostgreSQL Inc has a policy that they open source all commercially released products within 24 months of initial release. How cool are they?!

Replication has been a serious lack in Postgres. While I have yet to try out eRServer(the product name), assuming it is even half decent, it opens up Postgres as a much more solid competitor to Oracle, and (in my opinion) completely removes just about any reason to use MySQL except for very simple very speed intensive mostly read only database requirements. Apologies for the poor grammar and structure - it's late ok!)

You can read the announcement here (email archive) and here (pdf).

eRserver is "a trigger-based single-master/multi-slave asynchronous replication system" - when i have had a chance to test it out, I will be sure to post my findings here.

09:18 AM, 01 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

CVS Goodness

CVS (Concurrent Versioning System) is the version tracking system of choice for most Unix developers and others. As it is now a standard part of MacOS X, and it's developer environment, it will hopefully start getting a bit more friendly.

Kevin O'Malley of the O'Rielly network has just written a third part in an excellent CVS tutorial for MacOS X developers. (I'm sure there's a joke involving an O'Malley and O'Rielly...) It is actually good for any beginner CVS users as it also talks plenty about the basic concepts and command line tools. I like it anyway. You can read the article at this link.

08:54 AM, 01 Sep 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)


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