Computer Time syncing best practice

I started a thread about syncing time between machines in an office over at the Red Hat nahant list. Feck I hate mailman. The thread continues in the next month, detailing NTP syncing best practices.

A summary:

Mobile Gaming

I bought a (early Xmas present) Nintendo DS with Mario Kart for a 190AUD. Antoine and I have been playing wirelessly between floors in the hostel we’re staying in. I have never bought a Nintendo before and it is amazing to play such a slick game.

Though it is quite difficult to co-ordinate a LAN game in seperate rooms, as it is impossible to hop into or get instant messaged via PICTOCHAT whilst in another mode.

Paranoid: I am always thinking to myself, what happens if I find a bug? How do I update this?

We tried playing Advance Wars DS with “Direct Play” (as I don’t have the cartridge) and sadly the realtime game mode SUCKS SUCKS SUCKS.

So really there seems to be only Mario Kart as the mobile wireless game. Oh well, we have to start somewhere.

I was hoping to use the DS as a Wireless AP detector. Sadly it is nowhere near as sensitive as my Thinkpad T30. I’ve yet to try Nintendo’s WIFI service. The launch seems to have been done pretty badly. There is only a couple of hotspots in that Australian state of Victoria in places I have never heard of.

There was talk of hotspots in McDonalds. Oh well, all this “free” wifi hotspot stuff never seems to get off the ground sadly. :(

They must be worried that laptop users are going to leech the Free Internet.


So Mozilla went from stupid popups to hidden headers in pages, which people ignore as they expect it to be a popup warning.


I hate having to restart Firefox after updating an extension. If it kept the state of all my open tabs like Opera does, then OK, maybe.

This update system scares me a little. Surely it undermines the Debian package system?

Why are Web forums so popular?
  • Web forums can be indexed by Google and hence show up in search results
  • Web forum sysops can easily decorate a forum as they please, creating a little more personality than an average mailing list
  • Forums often have fine controls in how posts as seen to the outside world
  • Forums are easier to moderate - UI in place for banning IPs etc.
  • Forums generally have a better community feel
  • Generally have DB backend, making it easier to do queries to see how many posts a certain user has made etc.
  • Instant gratification - you can confirm your post is live

Mailing list problems:

  • Hard to subscribe
  • Sometimes difficult to confirm your post actually was posted
  • Cliquey atmosphere
  • Often no public archives or poor Web archives

If you're a fan like myself of email, please consider taking up a project to write a decent mailing list Web archive system.

Speaker's Corner

Kai giving a hate speech about Melbourne

Every Sunday in Melbourne I go down to the State Library to read Private Eye, play some chess and perhaps give a speech outside at the “Speaker’s Corner”.

Last week I gave a speech about why Melbourne sucks.

I have given a speech on my travels, the Muslim religion (from my experiences in Pakistan) and almost did one about Organic food. I lost my notebook with the notes about Organic food, so I didn’t end up giving that one. I’ll always come up with some tirade when I meet an Organic salesman besides.

This week I was thinking of giving one about science. That’s because I fealt the need to explain evolution to many of those crazed Christians around and about, and throw in the interesting topic of climate change “denial”. It is very interesting reading Wikipedia’s article on Nuclear Power. From time to time I have to re-read it. It is definitely a hot current issue to wise up on.

IT recruitment & contracting

I have a lot to say about IT recruitment practices. Friends and I have been “temping” whilst travelling so I like to think I have good understanding of how the market works.

The recruiters:

  • They generally do not know anything about computers
  • You’re really lucky if you manage to avoid these people
  • You are worth at least 5000 AUD to them
  • They only care about certain keywords and years of experience in a particular industry. Make sure your CV reflects that to catch their eye.
  • They sometimes forward you a copy of what their client wants in order for you to manipulate your CV to look better. Man-in-the-middle.
  • If they’re nice they’ll put your CV into their format and take care of this for you. Not so nice, you’ll have to do it.
  • They might get you to sign a hair-brained NDA for the client and then ask exactly what you do during a contract to violate it’s terms
  • You’ll get paid via these people weekly via an awful timesheet/fax system
  • Usually based out of Collins Street in Melbourne
  • They won’t tell you their commission
  • They don’t give a flying fuck about you
  • If they sponsor you which they probably will do, you’ll have to work for them for the next 2 years and no one else. Sponsorship invalidates your working holiday visa. Great deal, eh? This will probably screw up any hopes of a pay rise.
  • You’ll need to call them voice instead of emailing them to achieve anything

The company:

  • Usually clueless
  • Too clueless to even put an advertisement on a Website such as seek or Monster. Though those sites are rubbish. That’s why they need the human touch of recruiters.
  • Usually large
  • Usually have a late/overbudget/derailed project to work on
  • Usually far from ideal working conditions with staff sporting low morale
  • Probably high staff turnover in your section
  • They don’t pay in cash. They want company invoices. You should earnestly follow them up on payment if you doing a job directly with them.
  • Usually pay by the hour. In Melbourne at least 40AUD an hour. Triple the rate that for some short “on call” job.
  • Want you to fill in a timesheet. They will probably scrutinize your hours or make you feel guilty for not working exact hours.
  • Usually has some clueless manager/supervisor to bother you
  • Loaded on painful bullshit speak – e-commerce, enterprise, portals, firewalls, security
  • Really bad communication
  • Will have some demented view on security
  • Wants you to document stuff in Word or something stupid
  • Usually they want you to use Java (if not M$!). Introduction of new (free) technologies with probably scare them
  • Other employees aren’t as friendly as you would like as they know you’ll temping for something/someone
  • If they want to sponsor you, they will have to pay out the recruiter

My advice is to be calm and not afraid to ask for more money and be up front about it. Because ultimately this torture is all about the money.

Printing from HTML

I discovered Prince from a printing from HTML article whilst looking for a date picker on a list apart. I’ve yet to find a decent date picker. I’ll probably have to wait for one.

The samples really show off Prince. Too pricey (for me) at 3800USD to run on a server.

The idea of manipulating Web content (or rather XHTML+CSS) to print via PDF (cough) is especially important nowadays as there needs to be some sort of fusion between print and Web applications. I wish we could somehow avoid the PDF phase, having this functionality inbuilt into Firefox or something. Currently printing HTML from either Firefox or IE sucks!

Though I’m no latex expert, I am confident I can get the same results with latex tools. See my poorly titled letter writing Web application for a demonstration.

XHTML is a sore point. Finding someone or some tool to write XHTML period…

And everyone who did a serious degree or research knows latex, right? ;)

Debian social
  1. Friend with Ipod nano notices Debian user’s cool music
  2. Debian user offers to copy some albums over to the nano
  3. Easily done with gnupod-tools and friend thinks Debian user is cool
  4. Friend says Itunes now refuses to sync with the Ipod nano
  5. Debian user knows nothing about Itunes other than it sucks. How about installing Debian?
  6. Friend thinks Debian user is anti-social
Ubuntu upgrade

Although the Package Manager annouces a new release called Breezy I couldn’t figure out to select it and upgrade to it.

In the end I had to edit the /etc/apt/sources.list and replace every occurance of hoary with breezy in vim.

The dist-upgrade requires 461MB to be downloaded. Holy crap that’s a lot. Lucky it’s just one machine atm at work otherwise I would have to spend time configuring some sort of apt proxy.

Every 6 months a release eh? They should make it a year.

Dreamhost attacked

I had trouble reading my mail and you might as well had trouble accessing this site. Evidently Dreamhost was dealing with a distributed denial of service attack.

I liked the way they updated their status page humourously. Some other admins would have been hopping mad.

I don’t run anything too critical on Dreamhost. Though I often suggest companies outsource their mail to them. So if I was using Dreamhost for managing a company’s IT needs, the company’s email et al would have been out of action for half the day.

unstable is just that

“unstable is just that” is what some dork says to me on #debian when I said:

i’ve nuked my machine from a dist-upgrade from unstable last night. It won’t boot. The shell doesn’t look right. help. :)

To make matters worse. Last night I did some house cleaning and ripped out all my old kernels to save space. My 6.5G root partition (everything except home) was full!

  1. Ok, try dpkg or apt news on #debian. Nothing.
  2. How about blog postings on Debian Planet? Bah…
  3. I quickly page in mutt and see if debian-devel has talked about it. Hmmm, seemingly no.
  4. Perhaps debian-user via the lurker interface. Hmmm no.
  5. Ok, people in #debian-devel will hate me, but I’ll ask there.
  6. They point to the topic: FUCKED: yaird/kernels (#343042/#343048) Aha!

Ok, I need a rescue CD. Which one I wonder? Let’s try this one grml.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have some sort of Web page like telling about current high priority problems that will probably affect most Debian users? Right now, I have to look all over the place. Very tiring.



I have an ex-girlfriend with a business background that recently took a job with Accenture as an IT Consultant.

I can tell you she doesn’t know anything about Computers. She barely manages to use hotmail.

She told me after an intensive one month of training she now knows everything is to know about VB and Java.

Christ, one has to wonder.

LiveCD Nuke


LiveCD that detects hard drives on board and copies random junk to the hard drive in order to securely erase all data on the disk(s).

Hopefully this can be done quickly or at least with some sort of progress bar.


Tsunami strikes

I have this crappy keyboard at work with a Fn key underneath the Enter key.

I’ve discovered whilst running WinXP that holding down Fn+Right cursor shuts down the workstation.

Cool huh?


Holidaying in the Andaman

I am making arrangements to go to New Caledonia on my travels from Saturday. So I won’t be packaging imminent releases of:

Sorry. I am pissed with Debian the last couple of days. Boiling. Yes I’m stressed, yes Debian is my scapegoat.

My unstable system is completely b0rked. :(

I tried. Honestly. I tried.

I am running the 2.4 kernel which no matter how many modules I insert can’t seem to get X running with mouse support. I expected perhaps I need to dpkg-reconfigure xserver but then that reported I had a broken installation. WTF! Thanks mate.

Paging around the end of virtual consoles in 2.4 which I have to do now, also does not bloody work. If I go off the edge it gets stuck. ALT+arrows don’t work. CTRL+ALT+F-keys don’t either. Nightmare. Reboot. Fsck errors. Fuck.

dpkg -i of a 2.6.14 kernel just bombs out too while trying to make a mysteriously complicated initrd. I can’t really debug this problem as I don’t have Internet connectivity with my laptop either. Internet connectivity problems aren’t to do with Debian. That’s Australia’s fault.

To add to my miseries I’ve caught a cold. I’ve also been playing around with sed all morning, trying to parse Debian LDAP output. Nightmare.

To think I wanted to do my Debian New Maintainer stuff this month. Moray got back to me last month (or the month before that?) saying he was too busy (again). I’ve written to debian nm frontdesk for another AM and I’ve yet to hear from them. Oh well, I’m going to roast my ass in the tropics for a while and try forget computers ever existed.

Oracle security

Oracle and security. What a sad joke!

Their critical patch update is a complete nightmare to apply, to put it mildly.

It looks like they might be addressing some of the zillions of problems with their source code, but what’s important with security fixes is how you deploy them.

Oracle hasn’t a clue about this.

My approach is once you have a database installed (that’s a miracle in itself), limit it to “trusted user” IPs with /etc/hosts.allow or firewall filtering. And pray.

md5sum rss feed

Idea: Upstream publishes md5sums of releases which Debian can check with.

* This makes it easier for maintainers
* Better security for users
* Piece of mind for upstream

* Upstream will probably need some tool to generate the RSS
* Non-trivial to parse RSS
* Version number mismatch

Rant: Mailing lists

Free software mailing lists suck. Especially Apache’s.

  • Many of them have a CRAP Web interface or worse:
  • Posting limited to subscribers

For weeks I have been struggling with Apache mailing lists (apache-users and spamassassin) and now recently with mutt lists.

I know with Apache lists you can use a special syntax:

You can start a subscription for an alternate address, for example "john@host.domain", just add a hyphen and your address (with '=' instead of '@') after the command word: <>

But when I do it via mutt or a `echo test | mail`. I get no response from the automated mailing list manager. :(

So, If I ever get subscribed it’s generally thanks to the mailing list owner.

Then after lurking a bit, I try post. That never works as the return paths don’t match the email I am subscribed with. Return paths change all the time depending on which machine I sent it from. It could be anything from:

  • (from my shell)
  • (from my laptop)
  • (from work)

And the first two aren’t working email addresses!

If you must filter, can’t you filter on my From OR Reply-To email address FFS:

All I suggest is for Apache to start using something usable like Google Groups for user support.

Does anyone else feel my frustration?