Will ANYTHING new ever work?

ComputerZen.com – Scott Hanselman’s Weblog – Will ANYTHING new ever work?

bq. There is a subtle (as a brick in the face) difference between “It just works” and “I got it to work.”

When I think about it, I realize how much this applies to the things I do on a day-to-day basis. Certainly most things in my life “just work”; cars, telephones (but not cell phones), kitchen stuff, light switches, hot water heater, laundry, furnace, and on and on. (Can you imagine what life would be like if they didn’t?)

And then there are computers (and other bits of computerised technology, like VCRs), where sometimes things “just work”, and sometimes “I got it to work”, and sometimes “I threw it out the window in disgust”. I’m often surprised by items in all three categories; sometimes things I expect will require a hammer and a lot of elbow grease “just work”, and (frustratingly) sometimes the opposite.

Where I work, we try very hard to make software that works, and yet are continually surprised by the bizarre things people do with their configurations before they call and complain. Reliability in the face of unexpected problems with computers and networks is one thing; reliability in the face of determined administrators is another thing entirely.

Anyway, I’m not sure where I’m going with this, so I’ll stop. Go read Scott’s article; I think it is interesting.

posted at 9:49 am on Sunday, May 30, 2004 in Links, Programming, Science and Technology | Comments Off on Will ANYTHING new ever work?

Traffic Analysis

We actually didn’t get that much traffic last night from the slashdot crowd, other than one Australian tool who kept fetching image files over and over again with various random query arguments. 1734 fetches of one image; 1144 fetches of a slightly larger one. It might have been a browser bug, but somehow I doubt it. It was single-handedly responsible for about 250Mb of traffic in a few minutes; Fortunately that was at 1AM, so I don’t think anyone would have noticed. Into the black hole…

Meanwhile, some other jerk in Japan has been downloading over and over again from blog.org, resulting in almost a gigabyte of traffic in the last two days!!! He downloaded the same (large) pages, over and over again (200 or so times each), sometimes minutes apart; Unbelievable! Also into the black hole…

By comparison, total combined traffic from slashdot.org _and_ all traffic for the referenced paper is only about 180Mb in the last week. Even without the redirects in place, we would only have transferred between 170Mb and 480Mb of additional data (depending on the number of clients that support gzip compression).

I hate computers :-)

posted at 10:05 am on Thursday, May 27, 2004 in Site News | Comments Off on Traffic Analysis


Several years ago (back when this machine was still a 486, actually), I put a global apache rewrite rule on the server to deny access to anyone who came here from slashdot. This was to avoid the so-called “slashdot effect”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slashdot_effect.

Well, the rule has finally been triggered, thanks to “Extensible Programming for the 21st Century”:http://developers.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/05/26/2231214 (A link to one of Greg’s articles).

Apparently denying the page was somewhat confusing, so I changed the rule to redirect to “this page”:http://www.cfrq.net/slashdot.html instead.

The server is holding up remarkably well under the load (much better than it did with comment spammers before I rate-limited the mt-comments.cgi scripts). Still, there is a lot of dynamic content here, and I don’t think Michelle wants the bandwidth headaches, so the rule stays.

posted at 9:19 pm on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 in Site News | Comments (4)
  1. joy says:

    You slashdot denying heathen! :-P

  2. Mark says:

    I read the article at http://www.third-bit.com/~gvwilson/xmlprog.html
    (my browser shows it was the link I visited) as refered by /. shortly after it was posted and did not notice any lag, /. effect or redirection.

    I thought it was hosted at UofT or HP.

    If it was hosted on your box then, good job! What sort of net connection do you have?


  3. Harald says:

    This site is currently redirecting automatically to the pyre.third-bit.com mirror (which is at UofT), but only for slashdot referers, so you might have read it here instead.

    As for our network connection, we are trying to use as little as possible of our generous host’s 3Mb/768Kb business-class DSL…

  4. Mark says:

    I was refered from slashdot, but due to a bug/feature of Galeon (as shipped with RH9.0) the referer field is not set when you open a new tab on a link.

    So http://www.third-bit.com served the page (your server survived). :)

    Here’s a test where pone.html was loaded by typing it into the address
    bar, ptwo.html was loaded via opening a new tab on a link from pone,
    and pthree was opened by clicking on a link from ptwo.

    Note referer is “-” except when it is set by the direct click loading of pthree.html. – – [28/May/2004:19:57:53 -0400] “GET /pone.html HTTP/1.1” 200 342 “-” “Mozilla/5.0 Galeon/1.2.7 (X11; Linux i686; U;) Gecko/20030131” – – [28/May/2004:19:57:57 -0400] “GET /ptwo.html HTTP/1.1” 200 346 “-” “Mozilla/5.0 Galeon/1.2.7 (X11; Linux i686; U;) Gecko/20030131” – – [28/May/2004:19:58:01 -0400] “GET /pthree.html HTTP/1.1” 200 342 “” “Mozilla/5.0 Galeon/1.2.7 (X11; Linux i686; U;) Gecko/20030131”


The 80s Survey

15 gang members were surveyed. Here is the resulting list of top 80s songs:

1. The Buggles – Video Killed The Radio Star (85)
2. J. Geils Band – Centerfold (81)
3. Katrina And The Waves – Walking On Sunshine (66)
4. Duran Duran – Rio (62)
5. Bon Jovi – Livin’ On A Prayer (59)
6. Depeche Mode – I Just Can’t Get Enough (54)
7. David Bowie – Modern Love (49)
8. Romantics – What I Like About You (39)
9. A-Ha – Take On Me (39)
10. New Order – Bizarre Love Triangle (37)
11. Culture Club – Karma Chameleon (37)
12. Animotion – Obsession (36)
13. Dead or Alive – You Spin Me Round (36)
14. The Bangles – Walk Like An Egyptian (34)
15. Yaz – Situation (31)
16. Soft Cell – Tainted Love (31)
17. Bananarama – Venus (30)
18. Violent Femmes – Blister In The Sun (29)
19. J. Geils Band – Freeze Frame (29)
20. Prince – Let’s Go Crazy (29)
21. Eurythmics – Revival (28)
22. Go-Gos – We’ve Got The Beat (28)
23. B-52s – Love Shack (27)
24. B-52s – Rock Lobster (27)
25. Laura Branigan – Gloria (24)

Psychoanalysis is left as an exercise for the reader.

(The dance was a lot of fun :-)

posted at 11:24 am on Sunday, May 23, 2004 in Personal | Comments Off on The 80s Survey

More Hardware Questing

I’m looking for a joystick or game controller for the boy for his Wintel box, but I have no idea what too look for in technology these days; I grew up on those little atari joysticks, and modern Nintendo/Sony/X-Box controllers have way too many buttons and knobs for my tiny brain.

Add that PC joysticks are all potentiometer based, not contact based like the old Ataris, and you get a clueless me :)

Does anyone have recommendations? What to look for? What to avoid?

posted at 9:25 am on Saturday, May 22, 2004 in Personal | Comments Off on More Hardware Questing


With the price of gas today, it’s no longer worth the drive to Acton…

(via “jack-fm”:http://www.925jackfm.com/ :)

posted at 8:54 am on Wednesday, May 19, 2004 in Humour | Comments (3)
  1. Jeff K says:

    You are aware the Old Hyde House has a location on Queen Street? Or was it a general joke? Let’s do the math: You’re yearly gas bill is $1500 @.89/L => 1666L @ 10L/100km => 16660km – 50weeks*5days*40km to/from work = 6660km of personal travel => 133km/week => It was worth the drive to where, exactly?

    Now how about me. Retired 76 Impala with 170000km, ’82 Honda 184000km, 75 TransAm +100000, 87 Mustang 60000km, 89 Topaz 330000, ’95 Intrepid 240000 = 1,084,000km or about $4000/yr for gas in today’s dollars for 24 years.

    Whatever, the facts are straight, but I’m mostly joking to put your “woes” in perspective. In order to get $49.99 DVD players at Walmart, you have to let the Asian countries use some fuel to ship stuff around. (HiFi VCRs in 1991 were about $600).

    …but um, don’t let anyone rip you off! I need all the people I can to care about Hydro & gas & taxes. I’m rather much too busy with my hobbies to spend time worrying about such things. Btw, everything the Liberals have done has been a violation of LAW not just nefarious lying. They’re simply repealing the laws, like good criminals would do.

    As an aside, BitTorrent does not work well for me. The ftp in Mozzila is completely useless, but “Bullet Proof FTP” did an amazing job getting Fedora Core 2. [from less.cogeco.net] Now all I have to do is install it. Yawn, the sun came up a while ago, didn’t it….?

  2. Jeff K says:

    Doh. It’s on Richmond, I think. Also, I forgot about my 2000 Windstar, 60,000km. Also, you can add in my dearest wife’s km’s if you’re so inclined, which would be another 1/2 dozen cars and about 400,000km.

  3. Jeff K says:

    s/Old Hyde/Olde Hide/ It’s on King street.

New Ontario Health Tax

Our take-home pay just dropped by $1500 / year, thanks to the new Ontario budget. That’s my yearly gas bill, for comparison.

This just the new Health Tax; I haven’t calculated the net effect of all the other taxes. Liquor taxes are up, for example.

My benefits are going to cost my employer more, now that they’ve delisted several common services (like eye exams and physiotherapy).


posted at 11:37 pm on Tuesday, May 18, 2004 in Rants | Comments (1)
  1. Jeff K says:

    Yes, but according to the front page article on yesterday’s national post, the average Canadian home owner made $30,000 on paper last year on their homes due to real-estate inflation. Time to draw up a balance sheet and count yourself lucky.

    Anyway, I’m all for a recall election, if only it were legal. Did they make any promises they kept? I think they officially ran out of any semblance of integrity quite some time ago.

    The official excuse of course is that they relied on the previous bunch of liars. Wasn’t a Tory booted out for using the “Liar” word yesterday? It’s like watching monkeys in a zoo.

    Take a pass on the caffeine and the liquor and drown your troubles in Fedora Core 2, which is out. Even using bit torrent, it looks like I won’t have the DVD image downloaded until Thursday. Maybe Qt, PERL & gclibs might actually work in this release.

    This way we can all take advantage of the expanded community mental health services your $1500 is buying when Fedora Core 2 finally drives us crazy.


For those of you looking to maximize (or minimize) your caffeine consumption, CTV news presents caffeine concentrations in Canadian coffee:

|_. Brand |_. Caffeine mg/100 ml |
| Second Cup | 66.0 |
| Starbuck’s | 63.4 |
| Timothy’s | 45.9 |
| Tim Horton’s | 45.5 |
| Country Style | 39.2 |

(via “CTV News”:http://www.ctv.ca/generic/WebSpecials/coffee/main_frameset.html)

Health Canada’s maximum recommended daily intake of caffeine is 400mg, which is approximately _one_ 20oz cup of coffee from Starbuck’s or Second Cup.

Another recent study (I’ll see if I can find the link) showed that caffeine works better, and has fewer side effects, if it is given in low doses throughout the day, rather than as large doses (such as from a 20oz cup during your morning commute).

Conclusions are left as an exercise for the reader :-)

posted at 11:24 pm on Tuesday, May 18, 2004 in Links | Comments Off on Caffeine

How do I use Movable Type?

Mena asks “How are you using the tool?”:http://www.sixapart.com/log/2004/05/how_are_you_usi.shtml

Much of this information is elsewhere, but I’ll summarize here:

“www.cfrq.net”:http://www.cfrq.net/ is a personal hobby server. I set it up years ago because I wanted a secure, stable platform for my e-mail, and only later started experimenting with various web technologies. It has always been built from scrounged resources; an old 486, borrowed bandwidth, etc. The only remotely commercial stuff here is a small marketing site for Michaéla’s now dormant consulting business.

We personally have three “weblogs”: “The Blog of Harald”:http://blog.cfrq.net/chk/, “Michaéla – Thoughts”:http://blog.cfrq.net/mnrk/, and the RPG game log, “Gang Rolemaster Resources”:http://www.cfrq.net/~rolemaster/. The first two are individual author weblogs, but the game log has “9 authors”:http://www.cfrq.net/~rolemaster/aedor/authors.php?author=bob ; this is the site that is killed by the new license terms.

There are other weblogs here (although I think everything but “blog.org”:http://blog.org/ and “Greg Wilson, Day by Day”:http://www.third-bit.com/~gvwilson/blog/ are defunct). In the New World Order, they would have to deal with their own licensing, although they’d still get installation help from me.

posted at 10:25 am on Tuesday, May 18, 2004 in Personal | Comments Off on How do I use Movable Type?

External enclosure for DVD-RW

My DVD writer is currently installed in my linux server, but there are times when I’d like to be able to create DVDs directly from my new Windows XP box. I’m looking for an external enclosure that will let me do this. The drive is IDE (as opposed to SCSI). Both computers have on-board USB 1.1 ports, which (I believe) are too slow for DVD writing, so I don’t care about Firewire vs. USB, because I’ll have to buy a pair of PCI cards (USB 2.0 or Firewire) also.

Do any of my readers have recommendations?

posted at 3:14 pm on Monday, May 17, 2004 in Personal | Comments (3)
  1. Jeff K says:

    “New XP Box”, gee I went the other way and got *rid* of my XP box. In any event, experiment with CD-RW’s across the network several times before you commit to a DVD-R burn across the network. I’ve tried that a couple of times. It mostly works, which means I lost too many CD-R’s to justify doing it on an ongoing basis. DVD-R’s cost too much to do anything but run them in the system most likely to create them, which unfortunately, also has to be the fastest since it’s the one one would edit home-videos on, but that’s another story.

    I have a spare IEEE-1394 card, but I’m not too sure what you wanted the Firewire for, I kinda missed the gist of your message.

  2. Harald says:

    The idea is to place the DVD writer into an external enclosure, either USB or firewire, so that I can connect it to whichever computer is best for the job I need to do.

    The DVD writer lives in the linux server, because it is mainly used for backups. But I sometimes need to do DVD stuff on the desktop, so I want to be able to move the drive around (without shutting down and disassembling computers).

    Eventually I’ll probably get another DVD writer, but the standards need to stabalize and the prices come down before I do that. :)

  3. Jeff K says:

    Oh I get it, you’re building a gadget not xferring files. I would have just installed 1Gb Ethernet and shovelled the files over to the system with the DVD burner. In fact, 100Mb Ethernet is not so bad for that. I only generate a couple hundred Meg of new data on a good week and Fedora Testing is so rough I use CD-RWs for it anyway. Actually, since I do it peace-meal and delete half the photos I download from the camera and such, I barely notice the file transfers.

Another related comment

Don Park’s Daily Habit – Losing It

bq. I wrote two posts today but trashed them both because I didn’t want to bother with the backlash.

Sounds familiar…

posted at 1:15 pm on Monday, May 17, 2004 in Links | Comments Off on Another related comment

I changed my mind

I don’t want to “chime in” anymore. The whole thing has gotten quite silly; a tempest in a teapot. I’ve toned down (and pared down) my rant several times, but I’m pretty sure I’m done now.

I suppose that says something about where this weblog is going (or not going :). I used to be willing to throw my opinions into the ether willy nillly. Now I wait, and waffle, and second guess myself…

I must be getting old :-)

posted at 10:46 am on Sunday, May 16, 2004 in Personal | Comments Off on I changed my mind

Chiming in on the MT 3.0 controversy

[ Ok, I’ve re-written this about a zillion times now… ]

First off, I would like to thank Six Apart for making some cool software and giving it away for free. Somewhere in all of this frenzy of Movable Type rhetoric, I forgot about that…

As usual, “Chuqui captures my feelings on MT 3.0”:http://www.plaidworks.com/chuqui/blog/001474.html:

bq. But — those of us who are fairly simple blog users, but who don’t want to host at TypePad, don’t fit into their new model well. Since I want to continue to self-host my blog, TypePad’s not an option. Since there are two of us at Plaidworks blogging, I don’t qualify for the free license.

and in “another essay”:http://www.plaidworks.com/chuqui/blog/001475.html:

bq. the new licensing terms indicated to me that Six Apart doesn’t know how its users are using the product.

I’m not in “Six Apart’s”:http://www.sixapart.com/ target market either. cfrq.net is a hobby for me, and a low-cost one at that. I’m not willing to spend a lot of money on it; I simply have other higher priority demands on my cash. We run this place as a “virtual co-op”:http://www.net-co-op.org/:

* the server upgrade was sponsored by “Greg Wilson”:http://www.third-bit.com/~gvwilson/ (and third-bit.com)
* the machine lives at a friend’s office (it used to live at mine, but my new employer doesn’t allow that sort of thing :-)
* the bandwidth is “excess” bandwidth from their Internet connection, and we’re careful to keep our usage low and our host secure, staying off the corporate radar.
* I sysadmin the site in my spare time (because I enjoy it), and some of the others help with specific applications when I don’t have the time.

So what are my options with Six Apart?

* A “TypePad account”:http://www.typepad.com/site/features/ is at least $60 (US) per year. That’s a good price for what they’re offering, but I _like_ hosting my own applications; I don’t _want_ to pay someone else to do it, never mind the cost / convenience ratio.
* A “MoveableType 3.0 license”:http://secure.sixapart.com/ for cfrq.net would be more than $190 (US), thanks to the multi-author “RoleMaster Game Log”:http://www.cfrq.net/~rolemaster/. My weblogs just aren’t important enough for me to spend that much money!
* My users could each install their own Movable Type (either Free or Personal licenses), but I apparently can’t do it for them, and we’d all have to have separate copies (so we can’t share plugins as easily, for example).

Do I feel betrayed? Nah. Am I one of those people who doesn’t want to pay for things? No; I’ve purchased lots of good software over the years (examples from recent memory include Desktop To Go, HanDBase, the Nelson Email Organiser…). Although I’m embarassed to admit that I intended to donate to Movable Type, but never got around to it. Anyway, for me it’s simple on two axes:

* I don’t want to spend _that much_ money on weblogging.
* There are options that are just as good (for me) that are free (speech _and_ beer), including staying with MT 2.6 (modulo the comment spam problem).

Anyway, while browsing around I found a couple of other comments that I liked:

bq. it seems that they’ve screwed up one of the most basic rules in pricing: never take away features and charge for them. You can charge for new features – but taking away features that were included for free before always pisses off your most loyal customers. They feel suckered. They feel like you’ve pulled a bait and switch on them. In this case, many MT users set up multiple blogs with multiple authors. That’s what the software encouraged them to do. Now, they’re looking at the pricing and realizing to continue doing so on the new platform would cost them around $600. “Costs more for doing less” isn’t a way to make users happy.

(via “TechDirt”:http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20040513/183228_F.shtml)

bq. You can’t be a software company and a service company under one roof, for you will inevitably end up competing with your customers.

( via “Jeff Jarvis”:http://www.buzzmachine.com/archives/2004_05_15.html#007062)

posted at 10:47 pm on Friday, May 14, 2004 in Links | Comments (1)
  1. Debbie says:

    I’m just catching up on the controversy now. Excellent comments, Harald.

Speaking of Alternative Medicine

Diet of worms protects against bowel cancer

bq. REGULAR doses of worms really do rid people of inflammatory bowel disease.

bq. “A lot of researchers couldn’t believe this treatment was effective, but people are always sceptical when confronted with new ideas,” Weinstock says.

bq. Weinstock’s theory is that our immune systems have evolved to cope with the presence of such parasites, and can become overactive without them.

posted at 10:32 pm on Friday, May 14, 2004 in Health | Comments Off on Speaking of Alternative Medicine


I have opinions on the whole exceptions debate, but nothing earth shattering (and nothing that hasn’t been expressed elswhere. But I had to laugh at “this particular snippet”:http://six-fourteen.blogspot.com/#106642385892403242

bq. Fortunately for me I mostly ignore exceptions because I don’t really give a damn how well my software works – just that I get paid (and quick!).

I have days like that…

posted at 6:57 pm on Friday, May 14, 2004 in Links | Comments Off on Exceptions

Yes, Fat Kills…

Wired News: How Does Fat Kill Thee? Many Ways

bq. Research into the biology of fat is turning up some surprising new insights about how obesity kills. The weight of the evidence: It’s the toxic mischief of the flesh itself.

bq. Experts have realized for decades that large people die young, and the explanation long seemed obvious. Carrying around all those extra pounds must put a deadly strain on the heart and other organs.

bq. Obvious but wrong, it turns out. While the physical burden contributes to arthritis and sleep apnea, among other things, it is a minor hazard compared with the complex and insidious damage wrought by the oily, yellowish globs of fat that cover human bodies like never before.


posted at 11:21 am on Wednesday, May 12, 2004 in Health | Comments (1)
  1. Ruth says:

    30% body fat equeal 3 months of not eating…..
    Scary to think there’s someone who could feed a small town on body fat alone.

On Digicams

ongoing – On Digicams

bq. The digital-camera world is in motion and there’s a lot of interesting stuff out there to read. Herewith a quick summary of the state of play, with pointers.

posted at 11:28 am on Tuesday, May 11, 2004 in Links | Comments Off on On Digicams

Plain English Introduction to a Wiki

A short but interesting read:

Common Craft – Online Community Strategies: Wiki and the Perfect Camping Trip

bq. This entry should provide an easy-to-understand (but fictional) example of a wiki at work for people new to the technology/concept.

posted at 11:26 am on Tuesday, May 11, 2004 in Links | Comments Off on Plain English Introduction to a Wiki


Gareth turns 8 today.


Happy Birthday, kiddo!

posted at 11:28 am on Wednesday, May 05, 2004 in Personal | Comments (1)
  1. Debbie Ohi says:

    Holy cow, I’m old.

Big Companies

There are advantages to working for a big company.

I’m working in Ottawa this week. About a quarter of a floor here is space for “mobile workers”; people who are out in the field most of the time, and so don’t have a dedicated office. But they’re available to any employee who needs a desk and a network connection away from home. They have (direct dial!) telephones, printers, and even coffee!

In the Baltimore days I would have had to find a Second Cup or Starbucks with wireless internet access, and work over our (relatively primitive) VPN service. Now I just show up, flash my badge, grab a desk, and I’m on the corporate network.

(I think I accidentally swiped someone else’s “normal” desk, though :-)

posted at 9:58 am on Tuesday, May 04, 2004 in Personal | Comments Off on Big Companies