Saturday, July 29, 2006

Minimum wage increase (well, sort of)

So there's a bill to increase minimum wage for the first time in a decade, but of course the Republicans have jammed it into the same bill that provides a huge inheritance tax cut to millionaires. I have to give the Republicans some credit - this was a pretty sneaky way to get their tax cut. What are the Democrats going to do? Vote against raising the minimum wage?

Lou Dobbs has an interesting commentary about how Congress has raised their own salary every year for the last decade while still not raising minimum wage:

Friday, July 28, 2006


Work has been pretty good lately. Got my project under control and moving on to the next cool thing. Wrote a pretty neat mechanism for finding dead PHP code. It involves a modified version of the PHP language parser that reports all the declared functions/methods and corresponding calls. Much better than my first rev, which was just a bunch of grep/sed routines. The key value in the new model is that it can find dead code even in cases where there are two objects with the same method name where one of the objects has a method that is never called (the grep model wasn't smart enough to identify the owning class).

Last night Vikki took me to Caravan of Dreams on 6th and 1st Avenue. Had a pretty good Tofu and Pesto sandwich. Then we came back and watched Super Size Me, something which I had wanted to see for a while and Tivo'd a few days ago.

Shamoun got me all jazzed about breaking out my Lego Mindstorms and building something. Have not played with them for a few years, so it will be cool to get them rolling again. Suggestions welcome.

Today is Friday, which is nice since it means company lunch.

Monday, July 24, 2006


It's 8pm and I'm just now wrapping up the project I have been working on all weekend. I think it's in reasonably good shape. Still going to be some debugging and integration pains over the next couple of days, but primary development is completed. Next onto the nightmare that is state and configuration management....

Vikki showed up at the office this afternoon with flowers and cookies. Very sweet of her. Shared the cookies with fellow programmers, as demanded by the included card.


Bloomberg is siding with ConEd on the Queens blackout. Bastards.

Picked up an annual subscription to NewsWeek last night. Should give me something to read on the subway to work in the morning. Haven't had a subscription since 1997, so I'm actually looking forward to it.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

... or so said my refrigerator, which started working again today (Mark Twain said it too at some point). Wow, and I was so hoping to get a new fridge that didn't look like it came off the set of the Brady Bunch...

Vikki and I went to see Clerks 2. Was pretty good. Reminded me of the fact that I was in college when the first one came out and that, like the characters in the movie, I'm starting to wonder what the hell I'm doing with my own life.

Worked most of the day. Still not done. Need to think of a strategy of how to approach this tomorrow morning.

Dinner at Zen Palette.

If any of you are looking for a kickass beverage to cool off with, I would recommend the Dunkin Donuts' Strawberry and Banana smoothie. I had one yesterday, and it was awesome. It's got yogurt in it too! Yummy.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Back at the office. Got here at 1:00pm. Talked to Peter for quite some time about a variety of non-work related topics (which was good). Got some work done. Left at 5:00 to get a haircut at Astor Place.

On the way back I got caught in the rain and ducked into Strand Books on 12th Street. Strand Books is like the Barnes and Noble of used books. It has multiple floors and claims to have 18 miles of books. I had been looking for a copy of "Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age" since Bob Miller from church recommended it to me in 2001. It's been out of print for years, but I found it there for $13.00. Also picked up a copy of "Mythical Man Month" for $6.50 and "Where wizards stay up late" for $6.00.

Having difficulty getting the motivation to work. It's a crappy Saturday afternoon, so it's not like I can blame it on wanting to play outside. Would have rather gone to the HOPE Conference today, or visited the family, or hung out with Vikki. Dan invited me to go with him to Atlantic City today. But alas, I am here at work.

Peter gave me a bunch of Axis cameras yesterday that he got from a consulting gig a few years ago. I have wanted to play with one since around 2000 when I first heard about them, but could never justify the cost (around $500.00 each). Now I have seven of them (three standalone and four that run off a single concentrator). Looking forward to playing with them, since they run on an embedded Linux and the kernel source is GPL.

Friday, July 21, 2006

R.I.P. Ol' Chiller (1971-2006)

So I have power back for the most part, but it looks like the refrigerator in fact did not survive the episode.

Came home early because I feel like crap. Going to lay down for a while.

On the bright side, apparently it's now legal in North Carolina for me to live with a woman without being married to her. Go civil liberties!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Weather update

Well it's now been 44 hours and I still have virtually no power in my apartment. I had enough juice to run the A/C for about five minutes. No TV. No lights (hence no reading). Spotty Internet depending on whether my router or cable modem are rebooting (until my laptop runs out of power in 2 hours).

It's actually hotter in my refrigerator than in my apartment.


Went drinking with people from work tonight and then Joe, Naoum, and I went to a diner. Home now. Looks like I'm going to have to work the weekend.

No Power Day 2

Well, still now power since 2am yesterday morning (32 hours). Fortunately it's not that hot out and there is a breeze blowing through the apartment. I have so little electricity that I can count the blades on my ceiling fan as it spins.

Needless to say I didn't do anything productive last night (although I did grab dinner with Dan at the Broadway).

Going to see if I can get my job engine in working order today. I think I now have all the core components; I just need to do the integration (Naoum is already working on pulling the SOAP code he has been working on into into the tree).

Must shower, then off to work...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Woke up in the middle of the night to a clicking noise. Turns up my Tivo was resetting continuously because of a brownout. Also noticed it was a zillion degrees in my apartment.

Woke up. Effectively no power in Astoria. Fortunately the subways are running on a modified schedule. Came in early.

Had a big breakfast: orange juice, two yogurts. For once I had some food in my fridge, thanks to Vikki, and now what remains will probably go bad. That's irony for you.

Didn't sleep well. Wish I had just taken the day off, but then I would be at home boiling in my apartment instead of feeling like crap here in the air conditioning. Such is life.

More on the NSA wiretapping scandel. Gonzales admitted that Bush denied access to the DOJ when the inquired about the program:

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Ever feel like you drop in productivity by 30% when your boss is around? I'm having one of those weeks.

My air conditioning keeps throwing the circuit breaker. I think it's because there is a low voltage condition in the neighborhood.

Doing a bit more investigation into building my MythTV setup. The Hauppauge PVR-150 drivers have come a long way since I looked at them last year.

Not sure how I'm going to spend this weekend. The HOPE conference is this weekend, but I was may have to work in order to get my project finished. Quite annoying.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Had a good weekend. Saturday, came down to NJ. Vikki and I had lunch with her grandmother, then went to Paul's barbeque. Was good to catch up a bit with Paul, Alex, and Ken R. Afterwards met up with Vikki's friends Vanessa and her boyfriend for dinner in Hazlet. Went to Point Pleasant for the first time this year. Bought some new clothes and sneakers.

Today had breakfast with Lauren and Julie. Lunch with Marc and Bonnie (who I found out last night are now engaged). Yes, friends and family, my cousin Marc is engaged. Crap I'm getting old.

Will get some work done this afternoon. Vikki is going to meet me back in NYC tonight.

I've been on-call 24/7 since Wednesday, and so far not a single call. This is a very good thing. On the upside, the company issued laptop has Verizon wireless, so I am writing this entry from the train on the way back to the city. Pretty neat.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Linux kernel debugging

So I bought a PCI 802.11g wireless card for my desktop computer a few weeks ago. Specifically went with a particular model (Zyxel) because it advertised Linux support. I'm tired of the 25 foot piece of Cat 5 cable stretched across my living room floor.

Well, it intermittently hangs the PC. And I mean "have to reach down and hit the power switch" hang.

Since I have a bit of experience with Linux kernel debugging, I figured I would take a look. It's surprising though how much I have taken for granted with my development environment at Netilla. What I thought would be a simple operation was, well, not so much.

First off, there's X11. Having a system with X makes it much more difficult to debug since when it locks up you can't get access to the console. So you need a serial console, which means you need another computer. Having the logs go to a second computer is a good idea anyway, since you can save them to a file (something which you typically can't do on a system that has panic'd)

For me, that meant I needed to:
  • Get a USB to serial adapter for my iBook
  • Download and install OpenDarwin
  • Install minicom
  • Find my serial cable
  • Find my null modem adapter
  • Reconfigure inittab to spawn a console on /dev/ttyS0
  • Modify grub to support console on both tty0 and ttyS0 (setting the baud rate appropriately)
  • Increasing the kernel log level
  • Enable the magic SysRq key
  • Download the Suse kernel source
  • Figure out where the hell Suse keeps third-party kernel module source code

I am familar with each of these steps since I was responsible for kernel debugging at Netilla, but I guess I didn't appreciate what a pain in the ass it would be to reproduce such an environment in my apartment.

And so I do all this and I am now getting kernel debug output to dump to minicom and save to a file on my iBook. And of course, I have been successfully connected through my wireless card for the last hour and now I can't reproduce the problem. That's just my luck....

How homeland security funds are being distributed

Here's an interesting CNN article:

Security funding list: Bean fest, but not Times Square?

Here are a few interesting snippets:

A Homeland Security database of vulnerable terror targets in the United States, which includes an insect zoo but not the Statue of Liberty, is too flawed to determine allocation of federal security funds, the department's internal watchdog found.

Much of the study by Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner appears to have been done before the department announced in May it would cut security grants to New York and Washington by 40 percent this year.

The report, which was released Tuesday, affirmed the fury of those two cities -- the two targets of the September 11, 2001, attacks -- which claimed the department did not accurately assess their risks.

Instead, the department's database of vulnerable critical infrastructure and key resources included an insect zoo, a bourbon festival, a bean fest and a kangaroo conservation center. They represent examples of key assets identified in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, and Maryland.

This whole thing is in response to cuts in Homeland Security funding to NYC and DC, while seeing substantial increases in, shall we say, more rural states.

Coming from a computer security background, I have some rather unpopular views on how money should be spent to protect the United States. When I say 'unpopular', I don't mean extremist, but rather they are a product of a rational and pragmatic approach to security rather than public sensationalism. I believe security is all about trade-offs and have costs (whether they be financial or in terms of civil liberties), and I don't necessarily think we do everything in our power to make the world 'safe' from terrorism no matter the cost.

If you're interested in learning more about how to evaluate the cost of security, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of Bruce Schneier's Beyond Fear (ISBN 0387026207 available on Amazon for $15.75).

Here's another really good academic paper written on the costs of Homeland Security (sorry, it's a PDF):

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Galileo Satellite signal cracked

Thought this was interesting. European's own version of GPS satellites transit a signal that, unlike GPS, is only available to those who pay a license. Well a group at Cornell cracked the PRNG and can now receive telemetry.

Cracking the Secret Codes of Europe's Galileo Satellite

This prompted a few questions from people when I mentioned this:

Q: Why does Europe charge for access to their satellites when GPS is freely available?

A: GPS was built by the U.S. military with taxpayer dollars. The European equivalent was funded by commercial entities who want to recover their investment.

Q: Why did Europe deploy their own satellites? Why didn't they just use the existing GPS?

A: The GPS system is owned by the U.S. government. It was originally designed with Selective Availability. This is an intentional distortion in the signal that makes commercial receives inaccurate while U.S. military receivers can still get an accurate signal. While Selective Availability was turned off in 2000, the Europeans are concerned about the control that the U.S. government could exercise over them if they wanted to (for example, in response to a political disagreement). By Europe having its own equivalent to GPS the European countries would not be at the mercy of the U.S. government.

Wikipedia has a pretty good article on the Galileo satellite network.

Italy Pictures Online

Finally got the Italy pictures online. Click here

My luggage finally showed up in the middle of the night. This morning went online and ordered a GSM SIM card reader so I will be able to backup my phone address book. After some research, ended up going with this one. Did some digging around and found the M.U.S.C.L.E. Project(Movement for the Use of Smart Cards in a Linux Environment). Looks like they have the tools I will need to access the card, but I am thinking about writing some front-end integration with one of the GNOME address book APIs.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Not dead

Vikki and I got back late last night from Italy. My luggage (including my cell phone) is still travelling somewhere in Germany.

Will write more later (and post some pictures).

Saturday, July 1, 2006