computing Imported From Epistula intertwingularity


I am a qualified sysadmin. Whilst I currently am in a “I will never be on-call ever again” phase of my career (Very much like the “I will never drink again” phase of a hangover, with much the same future), the fear of people coming to your desk at 17:25 saying “The little lights have stopped flashing on my disk drive, and I’ve got a report for the board due, is this a problem?” never truly goes away. The other thing that office-environment sysadmins learn to hate with a passion usually reserved for Windows ME is this:

Wireless Networking.

It used to be a truism of security that the only secure computer was one with six inches of air beyond every port. Then came WiFi, Bluetooth, IRDA and such other mechanisms. Unfortunately, it appears that every single writer of wireless router firmware, Wireless card firmware and wireless card driver software is the type of person who go to “Information wants to be free” rallies. Everything is fine, providing you don’t, ever, try to do something as freedom-limiting as secure your wireless fucking network.

(Aside: I know of no way of fucking wired-ly, and that all fucking networks will, by their nature, be mostly wireless. I can, in fact, not think of any exceptions to this last statement and would further request that I not be educated in this regard. Aside ends)

I have borrowed a Belkin wireless router for my new flat, which I configured in no-time flat. Well, no time I was being paid for, at any rate, so in contractor terms it was free. In actual terms it was several hours of faffing with ports and cables and netmasks and reset switches and that was before I turned on the wireless network.

Then I turned on the wireless network. I configured it to be WEP secured with a 128 bit key, generated from a ten byte string set by the administrator – me. I fed this to my laptop, and it was happy. I was suspicious, because my laptop is rarely happy with anything, but I moved on.

My desktop, though it won’t be on wireless often, was also happy. I began to fear.

Sure enough, the Wii disagreed, and demanded I enter the full hex key. Since I don’t have a USB keyboard right now, I did so with the wiimote, over a Long Time.

I’ve borrowed an iPhone from work (I may get one, because (a) SHINY, and (b) I hate freedom). That required the full hex key too.

So did my Windows Mobile smartphone.

I’m beginning to notice a pattern here. Every device without a proper keyboard demands the full hex key. Every device with easy entry of such just needs the passphrase.

I hate computers.

Imported From Epistula intertwingularity social trutap web development weblog

It's not for you

Chris Selland:

But as a biz dev guy (who doesn’t have time – or a reason – to be online much) – and despite the fact that my job is all about relationships – I find twitter to be pretty pointless. LinkedIn, on the other hand, I use every single day.



I’ve been watching the Social Networking backlash with something of a professional interest, seeming as I’m working for a company whose primary product is to interact with many of them, and my primary response to “I can’t use Facebook as a professional Customer Relationship Management system” and “Twitter’s no use in maintaining business relationships” and “Google’s not helping my website get more hits” is… er…:



Twitter is ambient sociality. It’s what it is good at. It’s for “this is what I’m doing” and – more often – a ping in the background with something that someone else is doing. Attempting to use it as a network management tool, either for people or servers, is not what it is designed to do. It works suprisingly well as a command-line interface to remote websites (I’m a new convert to remember the milk), but complaining that Twitter doesn’t help you manage your business is kin to complaining that you can’t use lego for your corporate HQ. It may look the right shape, but you need a heavier tool.

Facebook is at its best as a social – in the “go out with friends” sense – network. Not as a network of everyone you have ever met, but as everyone you’ve ever wanted to keep in touch with. I have a simple criteria for adding people to facebook. a) Can I remember something you’ve said to me, b) Were you on fire, would I look an extinguisher or piss on it if the former is not an option. Subquestion: If the former _is_ an option. As a kind of online contacts directory of everyone I’ve ever met or worked with, or wish to maintain a professional relationship with, it’s not really the target market.

LinkedIn is, though. Facebook I use daily – more this week than ever before – LinkedIn I’ll visit periodically to add someone I’ve worked with/for, or more often if I’m looking for people to work with (trutap is, incidentally, hiring perldevs, Ops team & QA folks), but I wouldn’t use it to keep track of – for example – my best friends from secondary school.

There appears to be a tendency within the web technologist literati to see there only being one online social network to which you throw your allegiances and all others can hang, but they’re all better at some things than others, and until we can transport all our networks from one place to another though an defined standard format (I have my doubts as to this ever actually happening, but leave the floor open to the more optimistic) you’re always going to have more people on one network than another, so you have to decide on whether you’re going to miss out on a person for a website account, which – to me – isn’t any choice at all.

There is no silver bullet. There’s no best language as there will never be a best social network, best operating system, best text editor (though emacs will retain it’s bottom position, obviously), there is merely the best tool for what you’re looking for right now, and you can find me on most of them.

And if just one of them is perfect for everyone you want to list as a friend,



Apple Imported From Epistula intertwingularity

Using a Samsung Z500 with a Powerbook with Vodafone Live over Bluetooth

Gosh, isn’t networking easier when you just plug things in? Ah well.

You will require:

  • A Powerbook with bluetooth.

    Download the scripts, unsit them and dump them in /Library/Modem Scripts

    The easy bit is getting the Powerbook to talk to the Z500. You turn on Bluetooth on both and then “Setup Bluetooth Device” from the Bluetooth system preferences.

    You’ll need to tap in the security number the Powerbook gives you into the Samsung.

    The settings are as follows:

    Phone Number/APN: “internet”
    Username: “web”
    Password: “web”

    (note, these are for the UK Vodafone Live service. Ross Barkman’s site has listings for many others on his site. He is a god within our midsts and should be bought beer)

    The modem type is “Generic 3G CID #1”.

    That’s it, it should just work now.

Imported From Epistula intertwingularity

Installing NTL Broadband Without Using The CD

We now have NTL Broadband. They came, they installed it, they went away to get more cable, they came back, they connected it.

They were polite, on time, and quick.

They gave me the cables, told me to use the CD on the computer, and went away.

And I ignored them.

I plugged in the router, connected to it, and tried to find the magic address where you register your PIN number and everything, which – until you register – is the only site you are able to access at all.

This magic address which took me several hours to find is:

This guide to installing NTL under Linux is also really helpful.

computing Imported From Epistula intertwingularity windows

Magic Blue Smoke and Mirrors

Okay, so I melted a floppy drive. Could happen to anyone. Who hasn’t done it? I mean, there they are, solid plastic, sitting in your computer case. Obviously at some point it’s going to melt. It’s just going to.

So this is what happened, This is why I hate technology and am going to forthwidth go live in a bunker. No. A monestary. Get me to a monestary, because if this is what it means to be free, I don’t need it.

(Today’s obscure reference brought to you by Winamp)

(Tails of technological woe start in three paragraphs time, feel free to skip to them)

I had a computer called reef. It was a good computer, the heart of it was the Celeron 333 my parents bought me for my 18th birthday. It’s a grandfather’s axe thing, I’ve replaced the Mobo, memory, hard-drive, graphics card, case, keyboard, mouse, floppy-drive and network port, but it’s still the Celeron my parents bought me.

The Mobo is a little dead, in fact, as at some point 2002 the PS/2 ports on it died, and since it lacks decent USB support (Or anything else) it means I can only access it remotely, which isn’t any problem as it’s a server. It’s main functions were replaced mid last year by Atoll, a 2ghz Athlon doing exactly the same things at 5x the speed, so here I have a spare box doing nothing that I can’t use as a desktop.

I also have a new broadband connection arriving on Tuesday, and the router I used to use with it is an ADSL router, and this is cable. New solution time. I decided to turn reef into an IPCop box (I’ve used IPCop before, I’m used to how it works, and I understand it in a way that I don’t for – for example – Cisco routers) which would stand between our network and the rest of the world. So far, so hoopy. Pol has also lent me a Wireless Router, and I can therefore switch to Wireless and get rid of the unsightly cables that have littered every other house I’ve lived in.

Because I can’t plug a keyboard into reef (prospective firewall, welcome back, woe fans) I decide to put the componants into Maelstrom (my desktop box) install IPCop onto the HDD like that, and then transfer it all to reef and then go. I get as far as turning reef into a reef/maelstrom hybrid and halfway though formatting the old HDD before I realise that maelstrom has a 6 gig + 20 gig HDD, and reef has a 20 gig HDD which it doesn’t need. I therefore put Maelstrom back together, rescue important things from the six gig HDD (onto the secondary HDD) and install IPCop onto that. It’s about this time that I realise I’m going to need another NIC, so I put Maelstrom back together to get online and buy that.

‘cept I’ve just reformatted my Windows drive, so I’m going to have to reinstall Windows (No broadband + No install CDs + Winmodem == No Linux). It’s about this time that I plug the power for the floppy drive one pin to the right of where it should be. I wonder where the smell of TCP is coming from. I start the install process, with my Unattended Install Floppy in the drive (This floppy, as you may remember, makes Windows install itself without any input from me). Setup doesn’t read it. The smell is getting stronger. I note that the BIOS doesn’t see the Floppy drive on reboot. It’s really starting to smell quite bad now. I turn off the computer and check the connections, realising that the floppy-drive power cable is really quite hot now. A short tug and I have a twisted mass of plastic, two pins of the power connector, and a really fucked floppy drive.

Did I mention the floppy drive has my WinXP Serial number on it? It does.

Did I mention that this number’s only other place of existance is in the home directory of the server that I now cannot access because my computer is buggered?

It is.

So, girlfriend’s laptop, serial number, reinstall Windows.

“Drive F: (Secondary hard-drive) isn’t formatted. Would you like to format the drive you put all the important files on three paragraphs ago?”


“It looks like you’re having a bad day. Would you like some help?”

Fuck off.

I ordered some new parts from Dabs. They arrived next day. Yay Dabs.

I fiddled with the cables. I could see my old Hard-Drive. Yay cables.

I installed IPCop with the new NIC. It worked. yay IPCop.

It didn’t boot. Boo IPCop.

I tried to reinstall IPCop, but it wouldn’t boot. Boo IPCop.

I tried to reboot windows, but it wouldn’t boot. Boo Windows.

I tried to boot with a handy Gentoo Live CD, but it wouldn’t boot. Oh bother.

Apparently the secondary hard-drive was still not working. I discovered this by a process of elimination about an hour later.

I installed IPCop. It worked. It booted. I put reef back together. It booted. I put maelstrom back together with the new floppy drive I bought from Dabs. It booted, but performance was crap. I reinstalled Windows. It booted. It worked. I watched Bubblegum Crisis 2040 for several hours. Yay Anime.

Right, part two. Wireless networking.

On one side of my bedroom, I set up the wireless router and plugged it into my hub.

On the other side of my bedroom, I set up maelstrom with the new PCI Wireless NIC I’d bought from Dabs. After a little mucking around and leaning on the reset switch of the router until it forgot it’s old password, I configured the router to work.

(Not work the way I want it to. All I want it to do is act as a hub and forward packets to the router. I don’t want it to filter them – that’s why I want IPCop – or be a DHCP server – that’s why I have another server. All I want it to do is allow access to anyone with the password, which is – in case you’re in Letchworth – Swordf1sh)

It was now accepting packets (Though not doing anything with them. No point until the ipcop box is online) but could the Wireless Card see it?

Could it hell.

Was it that the Router wasn’t configured right?

Was it that the card wasn’t working/configured properly?

How the hell could I tell the difference?

Upon all these questions I gave up and went to bed. It was late, and I was tired.

Next morning they were both able to see each other.

No idea why.

Two hours later I couldn’t see WLAN (The router’s Wireless Network) at all, but was apparently connected to ‘default’. Yay open wireless networks. In this case, someone running XP with default config (I was even able to access the net with it for about 10 minutes. Then it broke. No idea why).

Then Maelstrom stopped being able to see the secondary hard-drive again.

Now it can’t see the wireless card.

I hate computers.

So I went to watch anime instead.

Then I ran out of episodes.

I hate everything. I’m going to bed.

Imported From Epistula internet intertwingularity

Event Share Framework

gilmae alerted me to the fact that someone is creating an RSS 2 extension called Event Share Framework or ESF. This could be interesting.

I’ve just sent them this email:

I’ve just discovered your site, You should probably be aware that there is a syndication standard called ‘ESF’, the Epistula Syndication Format, invented at the height of the ‘RSS needs to be extended’ argument two years ago. It’s more or less obscure, but a high number of people are still generating it (Sam Ruby, for example, at and there exists a number of modules and extensions for weblogging systems to use it. The spec is at
I would – as the creator of an existing syndication standard – prefer it if your syndication standard extension did not share the name, to be honest.

aqcom Aquaintances epistula Imported From Epistula intertwingularity XML


Aquaintances now exports a valid OPML file.

This was far more work than it needed to be, because I have been unable to find a reference for a valid OPML file anywhere, OPML files got imported by Dave’s Wonderful New Toy as “0 feeds added”, which is odd, because they were in exactly the same format as Dave’s old Blogroll before he redesigned Grr.

Paul? Does this lower my Winer Scorecard number?

Oh, yeah, the other thing I’ve done today.

Banners are sticky. That is, it seems a shame to lose all these nice banners I spend ages making, so they now stick to the archive. If I can find my archive of all the ones I did last time I did the rotating banner thing, I’ll put those up too, but right now it’s just this weeks and January’s.

And yes, I’ll explain the “Frowny Lightbulb” thing soon. Promise.

Imported From Epistula intertwingularity XML

Living in Syn

Hot topic within the geekoblogsphere this month is – in reverse order – the WOX project and WinerWatch.

I’m going to ignore WinerWatch (which is password protected now).

The WAX project – also known as “PIE” or “nECHO”, but I like “WOX” to stand for “Weblogs over XML” Eventually they’ll think of a better name and a permanent one, ‘till then I’ll call it WOX.

The project, whatever it’s name, is really simple at it’s heart. They are trying to define an XML format for weblogs. Problem is they are making a number of mistakes, and because I don’t trust Wikism they’ll never know I think that. (I was involved in Everything2, one of the first wiki-likes, and then went away for three months. In that time the mood of the site and general consensus was changed, and half my work was deleted. I’m now extremely wary of putting anything into that kind of public editing process) so you get this rant instead 🙂

When I wrote XML is the new black I meant it. All-things-to-all-people will be the death of XML. If you look at RSS2 you can see exactly why Dave Winer doesn’t like Funky Feeds (Which a careful calculation has seen means “Anything that uses name spaces”), but his reasoning is different to mine.

My point, and the reason I created ESF last year, is that when you are sending out a version of your site that’ll be collected once every hour or so by anyone who is even vaguely interested in what you say, you want to keep the amount of bandwidth that is being taken up by that feed to an absolute minimum. To a site like Aqcom where most of my visitors are normal browsers this isn’t much of an issue, but for people like Mark or Stuart where a large percentage of their readership browses with aggregators (Last time I saw Kryogenix’s stats (Which were updated in April on the page I found) his XML-feed count was twice his home-page hit-count. RSS Readers account for 1.58% of my readership (IE 49.74%, Moz 22.7%)) this is a bandwidth-breaker. It’s the reason Mark only puts excepts in his feeds. If you feed your entire site, including meta-data, I can’t help think you’re giving too much away.

Syndication means feeding your content out so other people can use it. The current model includes facilities for extending the feed infinitely using name spaces (meaning you can include foaf, ent dc or whatever data you want in your feed) which seems like a neat idea, until you have to support it. Do you know how many XML specifications there are for categories? DC has one, ENT _is_ one, WOX itself has a proposed “metadata” tag for this kind of thing, how is an aggregator meant to be able to tell what it is? The problem with names-spaced XML is that in order to display a page correctly, you have to understand each and every tin-pot format the creator has used, meaning it’s ideal in an enclosed environment where somebody somewhere defines what name spaces the document uses, but loose on the Internet it means that any given aggregator has to keep track of hundreds of specifications if it wants to get all the information it can out of the feed, not to mention the problems of people who pollute the given name of a – and I use this phrase in the loosest possible sense – standard. On top of all this metadata for the entry, you are now putting in metadata for the feed itself, meaning that for every element of data you include, you have to explain it, further bloating the feed.

This is why I think WOX is making the large mistakes. Also, I disagree with the decision that trackbacks and pingbacks are comments, and have to be treated as such, when I don’t.

aqcom epistula Imported From Epistula intertwingularity

The Sin in Syndication

After discovering – via an inbound link from Solitude – that CDF files should not be served as text/xml but as application/cdf instead, and also within moments from gilmae that my CDF files were invalid I’ve fixed both of these. IE Users can now just click any CDF file and make a menu of my last ten items in any category or section appear in your start menu. Neatocool.

Also, magic linking is starting to happen. Eventually this is going to be vector-based searching and crossreferencing, but for now it’s simply the last few items in each category that this entry is in. Due to technical issues this only works on entries added after I switched it on, but I’m working on this…

Imported From Epistula intertwingularity Personal

Independance Day

Today the US celebrates it’s separation from the Empire that founded it. One day, I hope my country does the same.

So, the Interview thing, then. Wednesday afternoon I got an email saying that the people who I applied to would like to interview me, and would tomorrow be okay. This was interesting. I’ve never had an interview with more than 24hrs notice ever, so that was less of a problem. Casting Summon Parental Bail-out so I had enough cash to get to London for it was annoying, though. Monday morning I wandered down to London, found the place, met ccooke for breakfast in King’s Cross station, wandered over and was interviewed for an hour or so. The company looks great, it’s doing something I’m really interested in, and I think I did quite well. Even if I don’t get the job I’m going to watch them very carefully, and when they go public with it I’ll be the first in line to get involved.

Beyond that, shtum, since if they aren’t saying anything, I’m not going to either.

I _do_ hope I get it though. They were interested in Aqcom and Epistula (And ESF, which is spooky) and I got to rationalise the theroy behind ESF, which was interesting and something I’ll probably write up some point soon, because the artists currently known as The Necho Project are falling down the same holes that led from RSS to ESF.

Today, however, I tripped over Silence of the Lambs: The Musical, which is just weird