Well at least they have a sense of humor

So our copyright law is completely asinine – but at least the copyright office has a sense of humor

From the FAQ:

How do I protect my sighting of Elvis? Copyright law does not protect sightings. However, copyright law will protect your photo (or other depiction) of your sighting of Elvis. Just send it to us with a Form VA application and the filing fee. No one can lawfully use your photo of your sighting, although someone else may file his own photo of his sighting. Copyright law protects the original photograph, not the subject of the photograph.

(although – it really could be an FAQ)

Geek Tracking

There have been a couple of changes to the wordpress install here in the last day or so. I changed out the theme – using the “widget friendly” wp-colors theme from Kalina Web Designs (and modified slightly).

If you are like me, and you rarely if ever, visit the web pages anymore of the sites you commonly follow, well you’ll never see the new theme. Don’t worry, it’s nothing spectacular. It’s only meant to provide a nice landing page if anyone arrives from Google. Really, there’s nothing to see there.

I did some of the “widgets” things – namely the flickr widget and the del.icio.us widget (more on that in a second). But it seems like that the only point of those is to give more data points about the other places to keep track of me online (see also the links on my about the author page). My online world is almost solely viewed through an aggregator. The only point of rambleon is to have a place to point (or initially publish) those things that are likely in your aggregators.

In the process, I did sign up for a del.icio.us account, probably a few years after all the alpha geeks. I’m slowly but surely pulling myself out of the desktop. Most of my bookmarks contain items of interest to those that might be interested in the blog – if it’s personal, it’ll stay in the browser, but the rest belong in the network somewhere. I’ve never been much of a bookmarker, mainly because they often go stale eventually anyway, and Google is a better search than any hierarchical list I could create in my browser.

So, if you like rambleon.org – you might like my del.icio.us links. And hopefully in the next few months, flickr will get far more interesting (well, it’s already interesting, but my flickr in particular).

It’s an aggregator life. Get yours now 🙂

The more things change, the more things stay the same

I just ran the original software restore on my wife’s old Snow iMac, prepping it to give it away (yes, it’s getting upgraded to at least 10.3 😉 )

It booted from restore in OS 9 by default, and the registration was great – the line of the day was during the network connection dialog, one of the options was:

“I am not ready for the Internet right now”

Some days, me neither little iMac. Me neither.

Year in review – the google chapter

So, having sold out more of my personal data than ever should be sold out to Google – I’ve been using Google Personalized Search since March – and inspired by this Google operating system blog post – here are my top searches for 2006:

  1. rdiff-backup
  2. ruby class variables
  3. rpmforge
  4. cattr_accessor
  5. ruby getoptlong
  6. darwin ports
  7. dag wieers
  8. ubuntu
  9. rails wiki
  10. ncsu gym

For the last 30 days? (can you tell what I’ve been working on?)

  1. ruby regex
  2. wake county spca
  3. variable method ruby
  4. store apache combined logs database
  5. ruby mysql
  6. ruby getoptlong
  7. ruby file i/o
  8. regex for apache combined logs
  9. move one subversion repository to another
  10. logrotate

I’m such a complete geek.

And of course – here’s the graph:


I wonder what’s up with Tuesdays and Fridays?

Open Letter to Online Retailers

Dear Online Retailers.

(This includes Staples – and a few other sites I can’t mention because my wife reads my blog).

That thing you do – where you make people create a whole freaking account at your website in order to spend money with you?

Please stop.

Thanks, Jason

Upgrade IE Now

As if you didn’t already need more proof that continuing to strongly support a internet browser that was released on August 27, 2001 is not just wrong, it’s borderline corrupt – here comes more proof.

Not one, but four remotely exploitable vulnerabilities:

I can’t believe how the IT shops and web development shops continue to put up with this travesty of a piece of software. I know exactly how it happens, because I’ve been right in the thick of it, but it still boggles my mind how we (the IT industry we) accept this.

I understand that writing browser software is incredibly difficult. I’ve touched enough web applications, and written software on Windows – I completely understand how hard this is. But the software is now over 5 years old, continues to have critical security problems, lost productivity, lockups and very little support for the modern web features that everyone is clamoring for. I equally understand the challenge of IT shops to try and upgrade their desktops with browser that’s so core to windows that bugs in the browser actually can cause windows lockups when the browser hangs on bad html/css/javascript. (Safari can do this on the Macintosh too, usually it stays isolated to Safari though) – but this should be mission #1 for the Windows shops out there, getting rid of IE 6.

In any other engineering industry there would be class action lawsuits galore, and product safety commissions all over a product like this – and heads would be rolling all over the place for shops still encouraging and targeting its use. Imagine a child seat, or swing, or car, or microwave, or any product this bad. You can’t, because any other company in any other industry would have been sued into oblivion.

Really, collectively, when are we going to stop putting up with this? (and yes, I am as pot/kettle/black on that as anyone, I’ve done my part on the things I can directly control though).

Whew, That’s some park, that park jurassic

Reading my feeds this morning, there’s another well-written (but borderline obtuse) article from Rands about what he’s calling “Malcolm Events” – those seemingly inconsequential details in the course of a project that you have to capture and make common knowledge in your group (nee, your whole organization) – or you are screwed.

You have to read the article, but I’m going to cherry pick a quote that I found particular useful:

A well-written specification will document all of your details, but do you have time to write and maintain specifications? I don’t. I’m coming up on a decade and a half of working at fairly successful companies and I can count the number of useful specifications I’ve read on two hands. Really.

The issue isn’t that specifications are a bad idea, it’s that they are time-consuming and, remember, we’re in a hurry.

It’s semi-orthogonal to the whole post, so I’d recommend reading the whole thing. You’ll probably have to two or three times (or just a good read once – My speed-reading techniques don’t work on Rands posts – it’s like watching Studio 60 – you have to pay attention the whole time)

Incidentally, my favorite quote from Jurassic Park is this one:

“I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here: it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could and before you even knew what you had you patented it and packaged it and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you’re selling it, you want to sell it!”


And I don’t mean the fun little spell from Harry Potter.

Note to fellow system admins: the first thing you should do is always check /tmp.


Did I say always?

So my bug tracking system, FogBugz, was creating empty calls for inbound email tonight. I discovered this, because like an idiot, I checked my email at 9:30pm. And I see there’s a problem, and can I leave it until the next morning? NOOOOOOOO, of course not. (okay, so maybe that’s the real mistake).

So because FogBugz is a finicky little creature, and because I’ve made changes to the mailhandling code in it recently to allow us to mirror outbound email from it for tracking and troubleshooting purposes – at first I thought it was broken. Which is weird that it just stops working after days of working fine.

Get that, “just stops working” – which kinds of things make things “just stop work” – yeah that’s right, filesystems filling up. Did I check that? of course not. I’m an almost 15-year experienced systems manager/administrator and an (immodestly) bad-ass troubleshooter. Of course it had to be something big, BIG I say.

After ruling out FogBugz – what do I do? I start rebuilding my cyrus-imapd mailboxes. Did that help? of course not.

Then I start testing PHP and IMAP with IMAP test code, figuring that there’s something really wrong there.

I get corrupt headers back from the imap_headers command – YES! IMAP IS BROKEN! Maybe Cyrus is broken!

I run wireshark to see what’s coming back from the Pop3 requests (Fogbugz uses Pop3, the IMAP lib in PHP can do Pop3, my IMAP server does Pop3). Yes you read that, I’m freakin’ sniffing the wire to figure out what’s wrong. Guess what? That looked great! Which of course means….

Yep, PHP/IMAP is broken! Cyrus is not broken!

OMG! the imap/pop3 test works from another machine

EGADS! my PHP installation has suddenly broken! It’s corrupt! maybe I’ve been hacked!!!

No, the imap.so dates and filesizes are the same machine to machine.


I then check the email again. Hmmmm…. my mysqldumps are failing every hour with a “Got error 28 from storage engine (1030)” error

Could that be related? Let’s ask Google…

Hmmm… it says something about the partition being full

$ df … … 100% /tmp …

Which of course resulted in something akin to “damnit” – though more vociferous and I think I turned red from embarrassment – though no one saw, because everybody else, is soundly asleep, where I should have been 2 hours ago.

And then sheepishly I clear out /tmp (still need to figure out why it filled up, it’s related to wsvn running on the same machine I think)

The lesson my friends? Sometimes you can completely overthink a problem. So before you break out the packet sniffer, make sure to run df.

The public service message brought to you by the letters I, D, I, O, T – that would be me.