Several Thousand Words in Pictures

Pardon the lack of geeky stuff for a moment, for this brief bit of political commentary in pictures:

Google Image Search for Tiananmen – USA


Google Image Search for Tiananmen – China


Idea via Charles Miller

While I think time will ultimately tell – and I also think that Google is motivated by Wall Street, and Wall Street abides censorship as long as it results in money, it is perhaps a sheep in wolf’s clothing. A good thing long term.

It’s mighty, mighty hard to stop access to information, and attempts to do so, while they work in the short run, never work over the long run. It’s perhaps naive, but the truth will always come out because the information certainly will (which is why censorship never really works as a security measure, but there’s some stories in that that are close to home that I’ll save for another day).

At the least, this will make things interesting for a while.

How to Unsubscribe From NCSU Lists

So after about a half-dozen “please unsubscribe me” emails to our campus PackMUG mailing list today (one with an all caps subject) – it sort of begged for a response. Which I did.

One day they are going to come for me. Likely with straightjackets and/or pitchforks.

Subject: [packmug] How To Unsubscribe
Date: January 26, 2006 10:54:03 AM EST

So because I’m a crusty old system administrator, and I don’t run the packmug list, and I’m not actually responsible for doing any user support – but seem to be roped in to doing a lot of it – I thereby have the license to be snarky. (I really, really need to get a snarky license printed up, but I’m still waiting for my updated copy of photoshop to get here 🙂

So I’m about to be a little snarky about unsubscribing. I’m going to help you really, just not quite in the way you want.

The Macintosh platform is fantastic, it includes a very capable web browser that comes from Apple called “Safari” You’ll find that Safari can help you find all kinds of information, including, among other things, how to unsubscribe from the list. Really! (you should just hear the chorus of claps, cheers, and acapella notes from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir that I have in my head right now)

Now you might not have a Macintosh, because the PackMUG list doesn’t discriminate, I mean, the list mail even goes to people that use Solaris – but you really are going to need one of these to unsubscribe. So step one for unsubscribing is to go buy a Macintosh.

I know buying a Macintosh seems like a lot, a big expense just to get off a mailing list. But think of it as a investment in your future (there goes that chorus again, this time with bells).

Now, it is theoretically possible to use a Windows computer to unsubscribe but then you might be tempted to use Internet Explorer, and the ramifications of that are huge – too much even to consider. It might even be borderline criminally negligent to suggest that you could use Internet Explorer for anything, and I just don’t want that on my conscience – so if you don’t have a Mac, please go buy one. The NCSU Bookstore has some great deals on Macintosh computers.

If you already have a Macintosh, great! That is fantastic. Congratulations on owning, um, er, … wait a second, I need to find my script ….

Congratulations on owning the world’s most advanced operating system. Instantly find what you’re looking for. Get information with a single click. Mac OS X Tiger delivers 200+ new features which make it easier than ever to find, access and enjoy everything on your computer. Whether that machine is Intel- or PowerPC-based, you’ll enjoy 21st century innovations before anyone else. (text copyright 2006, Apple Computer, all rights reserved, coming soon to a Pixney/Disar full-length animated feature. Unauthorized retransmission not permitted without the express written consent of Steve Jobs and Major League Baseball. Do not eat Macintosh)

(wow, that glockenspiel is getting supremely annoying)

Okay, so you have your Macintosh, it gets easy from here, I promise.

Run Safari. Well, not literally. Safari is a little overweight and somewhat out of shape, and it probably would be better to ease it into a brisk walk. But once you’ve started Safari, you are on the way to unsubscribing.

Now, Go to Google. Again, not literally. If you actually Go to Google, and start searching around there, you might get arrested. Not that I really know this or anything. But getting arrested means this whole thing about the Group W bench, and 8×10 glossy pictures with circles and arrows, and hanging out with Alice, and you just don’t want to do that. (though dinner at Alice’s can’t be beat). It’s just a long process, and already it’s taken long enough for you to unsubscribe, and the last thing you need to be is stuck in jail in Mountain View.

You’ll want to go to google’s home page. Or use the little magnifying glass thing in the upper right corner of the Safari window.

And type this there:

unsubscribe from list

That will search for the words “unsubscribe” “from” and “list” and restrict the search to all the websites indexed by Google that end in

Now, you might get several different results from your Google Search. This is where that College Degree comes in handy. No scratch that, they don’t teach this in College. This is where watching American Idol really comes in handy, especially the first couple of shows. Because some of the results aren’t very useful. Kind of like how some of the American Idol singers are really, really bad. And they don’t know it.

  • The first result will likely be from, and is completely irrelevant – and should look so (for help, just imagine Simon Cowell saying “I think this is just completely abysmal”)
  • The second result is from a mirror of the PHP (a web programming language) site that’s hosted at NCSU, and while it looks nice, it’s completely irrelevant. (Randy says “You alright dawg, but you aren’t really what we are looking for”)
  • The third result is NCSU Information Technology’s official documentation on how to unsubscribe from lists handled at (Paula: “You are beautiful! You are going to Hollywood!”).

So, at this point, you should be able to unsubscribe from the mailing list.

You could also read the significantly less snarky notes that have now been posted to the packmug list. Those should be helpful too.


(For real dawg, doing a little research and learning about mailing lists will help you go a long way in this wacky online world)

bash man

Reading man pages is like eating spinach. Good for you, even if you hate it.

Like all good Macintosh users, I stick with the default bash shell, but one of its default features, I absolutely despise – the [bleeping] beeping when you are lazy and want path completion, even when there are multiple items that match what you are trying to match.

After doing this before, and completely forgetting how, and neglecting to put it in my weblog, I finally gave up and grep’d through the bash man page – where lo and behold – I found that creating a ~/.inputrc with the lines:

set bell-style none set show-all-if-ambiguous On

has now made me a happy(ier) man. No more [bleeping] beeping terminal because I’m too lazy to type out the full names of things.

Trivia Tuesday

So, because I want to ask both the PackMug and the extension system IT folks about their own naming schemes – this week’s trivia question (and the inagural one of I hope a continuing series) is:

What do you name your computers? (for system admins both servers, desktops, – but especially your own machine)


I’ve already mentioned my current server naming scheme (in my last job, we did boring things like engr##[id] where [id] was a type of server, e.g a webserver was “ws” – and ## an increasing count for the number of servers of that [id]).

Once thing I didn’t mention in the the previous post was that I name virtual ip addresses (additional ip’s assigned to a server interface) as machinename-virtual-hexcode (all NCSU main campus ip’s are 152.1.something – so I convert the last two octets to a hex code and use that as part of the A record – e.g. a virual IP for the host “gehrig” might be “gehrig-virtual-AABB”).


I don’t support enough desktops to care about a naming scheme – so I ask the peer staff what they want – if I “own” a supported box, I use baseball names like the servers.

My own computers

I usually avoid anthropomorphizing any personal computers and tend to go with song names that I identify with. My desktop at home is named “copperline” after the James Taylor song of the same name and my laptop is named “walkingman” also after the James Taylor song of the same name, because I am fond of and identify with both songs. My desktop at work is named “rambleon” – because that is pretty indicative of what I do ;-). It’s a name loosely inspired by the Allman Brothers song “Ramblin’ Man”

I’m not Crazy, really

I also learned today that there is whole wiki of naming schemes and not one, but two RFC’s (RFC1178, and RFC2100) on the matter. There you go.

Words about Pictures

So in completely non-system administrator news, I have decided to buy a new digital camera. It’s been a little too long since I’ve spent some time pursuing any semblance photography hobby. My current camera is a Nikon Coolpix 5700 that I’ve had for for almost 3 years now and that seems to be showing some age. It’s always had trouble focusing in low light – but I’m having trouble getting anything that’s not blurry out of it, except in perfect light. And it’s cumbersome to take along just about anywhere. All the size/weight disadvantages of a real digital SLR, with few of the benefits. It’s served me well, and it’s still a great macro camera, but I need to do something else to try to revive the hobby – and that means taking pictures, a lot more than I do now.

Eventually I’ll be buying a digital SLR, today that would be something like the Nikon D200, or the Canon EOS 20D. But I’m not quite ready to make that investment right now. So I’ve ordered a Panasonic FX9. I’m excited, and I think that I’m really going to be able to make good use of the image stabilizations, given that I drink way too much caffiene :-). It seems to be about the best price/performance very compact point-and-shoot out vis-a-vis the canon, casio, nikon, and sony crowd. The kind of camera I can keep with me just about all the time.

This will make the 4th digital camera I’ve owned. I’ve gone from my very first digital – the Epson PhotoPC 600 bought for a cross-country roadtrip to Yellowstone and back, to the Canon Powershot G2 that really kicked off my desire and fun at taking photographs, and then the aforementioned Nikon 5700. I’ll probably do the Digital SLR thing sometime next year, but I’m hoping that a good point and shoot will keep me going until then.

Jay of All Trades, Master of None

I almost titled this post “If we weren’t all crazy, we’d all go insane” – because it would have been wildly appropriate. That and I probably could use a few stiff boat drinks.

A good chunk of my time last week was caught up in understanding a java/tomcat package (volano) that eXtension purchased last year for public chats, and in transitioning it to a new server (and working with peer staff at Kentucky to make sure we were on the same sheet of music regarding the service). This led me to thinking about all the technologies that I’ve had to spend quality time with since we we started buying equipment in October. By quality time, I mean multiple hours and days in manuals and configuration files.

The list is rather long. And my personality is such that I feel like I have to be an expert in all of it, and sadly, that’s quite impossible. Here’s the list:

Apache HTTP Server Apple File Protocol Services Cyrus IMAPd Fogbugz iptables jabberd2 (and/or wildfire and/or ejabberd and several clients) Macintosh OS X Macintosh OS X Server (documentation) mailman mediawiki MySQL NFS OpenDirectory (see also OpenLDAP) OpenLDAP (see also OpenDirectory) OpenSSL PHP phpMyAdmin Postfix Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS (documentation) Rsync SpamAssassin Squirrelmail Subversion tomcat volano websvn Windows XP wordpress

Now, some of that might be partially redundant. I mean, one should understand a little about the Apple File Services if they have to deal with OS X Server, and iptables if they have to deal with Red Hat Enterprise Linux, but I’ve had to delve into the docs for both enough that they are really separate products until themselves. Linux is listed because I don’t even bother including things like ssh/sshd or PAM in the list, but I’ve had to delve into those too. This list doesn’t even include the various and sundry client side software running on OS X client and Windows XP, and having to have a fair amount of knowledge in those – especially things like web browsers and email clients and their configuration settings. Oh yeah, I get pulled into user support for just about every connection to the above services.

Then there’s trying to stay on top of hardware for this, notably the Dell Poweredge Servers, the Apple XServe, and the Apple XServe Raid – not to mention a smattering of the client hardware, especially as it deals with supporting non-IT oriented peer staff.

Oh yeah, and the there are technologies that I haven’t even really touched yet, but have to imminently:

Debian (or Fedora Core) (see jabber and rails) Fedora Core (or Debian) (see jabber and rails) lighttpd (possibly, see Rails) Macromedia Breeze (I sure hope not, but if so, Windows 2003 server too) Nagios Quicktime Streaming Server Ruby (w/ Rails) VMWare ESX Server (or Xen) (see jabber and rails) vtsurvey (probable) Xen (or VMWare ESX Server) (see jabber and rails)

And other things like VPN’s and VPN clients – and keeping up with various aspects (and competitors) of all of the above. Unfortunately there’s not much overlap with my IT peers and their roles here (although if I could coax them into dealing, support, and helping more with things like mediawiki, lighttpd, apache, and some of the other stuff I will 😉 )

Oh yeah, there’s a fair amount of coordination and project management that I pull myself into.

Such is the life of the University System Administrator. But this is a whole heapin’ ton of stuff when you get down to it.

It’s really time to hire someone and some students (and then add people and more project management to all of the above 🙂 )

Whew. Some days I just want to go back to that kid that started doing System 7 desktop support and writing inventory applications in hypercard at 19, and slap him around a bit and tell him to go back to chemical engineering or something.

PayPal spam

The paypal spammers are getting good:


A professional looking clip art graphic, use of “case id’s” And the writing is almost getting better.

It has come to our attention that your PayPal Billing Information. Failure to update your records will result in account termination. Please update your records in maximum 72 hours. Once you have updated them, your PayPal session will not be interrupted and will continue as normal. Failure to update them will result in cancellation of service, Terms of Service (TOS) violations or future billing problems.

Of course they can’t quite fake all the headers yet:

From: Subject: Please update your PayPal account ! Date: January 11, 2006 5:04:20 PM EST Return-Path: … Received: from (unknown []) by (Postfix) with ESMTP id 719403FF83D for ; Wed, 11 Jan 2006 17:07:30 -0500 (EST) Received: by (Postfix, from userid 1035) id 648541578837; Wed, 11 Jan 2006 23:04:20 +0100 (CET)

And of course, I’m not running Windows, or an Internet Explorer-based email client or even Internet Explorer (even if VMWare wants me too 😉 ) – so I don’t an an obfuscated URL yet – and can tell that:

is definitely not

But they are getting much better. I feel sorry for the folks that fall for it. (maybe they’ll find this in google and won’t).