December 19, 2014
In real life there's probably a common-sense answer to this dilemma, one that involves lawyers and escrow accounts. But this is not a blog about real life, it's a blog about cryptography. And if you've ever read a crypto paper, you'll understand that the right way to solve this problem is to dream up an absolutely crazy technical solution.
Zero Knowledge Proofs: An illustrated primer - Matthew Green
October 13, 2011
RIP, Dennis Ritchie
August 22, 2011
Just once I'd like to ask a question that doesn't have a stupid answer!
The Mercury Men, a lovingly retro web-based sci-fi serial. Diggin' it.
November 10, 2009
Verizon DSL Outage
Second morning in a row. 6:20 am, no Internet. Recording this from work.
I at least hope it is back up in the evening when I get home, as it was last night, but this is pretty curious...
And we're back in service...
November 09, 2009
Verizon DSL Outage
This seems to happen frequently. I use the Internet at home happily right up until bedtime. Then I retire, get a good night's sleep, get up and get ready for work, tralala. Sometime during the morning I start up the computer, and lo, no Internet! Several power cycles and modem reboots later, still no Internet.
So to recap, Internet service good into the evening, next morning no Internet.
Given that I'm getting ready to go into work, I don't really have the time to spend navigating the Verizon voicemail maze and walking an all-too-familiar diagnostic tree with some underpaid tech, so I usually have to let it go. It's fifty-fifty whether the Internet service is up again by the time I get home in the evening.
So rather than go with my hazy memory and complain about service outages again, I'm going to start registering them on the weblog. Over time this will give me a better measure of actual reliability. So...
This morning, 11/09/09, the Internet connection was down when I checked it at 6:20am, and continued to be down until I left at 7:20am. Multiple power cycles of both the computer and router, multiple reboots of the router. I'm posting this from work, for the record.
After work, and we're mysteriously online again!
February 14, 2008
Just a quick note to observe that Verizon has managed to fumble my home Internet connection again. I'm posting this from work. We lost connectivity sometime Tuesday night, and haven't got it back yet. So...
- Major outage when they insisted that I had to be switched from Frame Relay to ATM, for "reliability"
- Outage for several days to replace a DSL modem that I'd had for less than a year.
- Now an outage which the tech took an hour to diagnose (ending in the winning quote "you don't have Internet access"). To be fair, I think he meant that there was a connection, just no TCP/IP stack, since he could see my DSL modem from his office, and I could see it from my computer, so theoretically there's an end-to-end connection...
The "Central Office" called yesterday to say that the problem was fixed. Of course it wasn't. Jean was home yesterday, and she called tech support again, did the hour-long diagnostic two-step, and finally got the answer, "your modem is failing." Again. After it was replaced seven months ago. Maybe if Verizon put a little more quality into their equipment, they wouldn't have to spend so much money on tech support.
Anyway, they're shipping us a replacement, which will probably arrive sometime next week. Only then will we see if the diagnosis is correct this time...
And, we're back. Got the new DSL modem, hooked it up, configured it, and encountered the annoying redirect to Verizon portal page. This has happened each time I've had a major problem. Just when I think I'm done, I have to call Verizon tech support again to have them walk me through the secret backdoor to turn off the stupid redirect. I think I know how to do it myself now, but it's just damned annoying that they put hurdle after hurdle in your way for a product you've paid for.
Anyway, hi alls!
February 09, 2008
I'm not even sure anyone will be able to read this for awhile, but I'll record it for my own amusement.
This morning I was awoken by cats, and the first thing I hear upon getting up is "my keyboard won't work." Jean has been trying to log into her computer in the dining room, but it doesn't seem to want to take input. So I wandered into the dining area, and began tapping on keys. It turns out that the 'escape' key and the caps lock key both work. So I rebooted in 'safe mode' (hold down the shift key while rebooting, to disable non-Apple extensions), and that worked, so I now knew that the shift key worked as well. But I was still unable to use the alphanumeric keys.
Now I decided to unplug every peripheral but the keyboard and the mouse (which coincidentally continued to work throughout the entire ordeal). One of the things I unplugged was Renee's graphics pad. Reboot, and magically, the keyboard began working! Jean guessed that the graphics pad was somehow interfering with the keyboard, and I'm happy to go with that for now.
Second experience, I went to my own computer and started up the web browser, which is set to go directly to www.terebi2.org. Instead it failed to find the page, and Verizon 'helpfully' stepped in with a search page saying terebi2 "does not exist or is not available!", instead of allowing the 404. I tried pinging the URL, and got "PING web2.fwd.easydns.com (22.214.171.124): 56 data bytes" with zero throughput. I did a whois, and yes, I still own the domain. I know I am paid up with the ISP who hosts the webpages, so I went to easydns to check. I can log in, and I'm paid up. But, they record that they've been under a Denial of Service (DOS) attack since yesterday.
They claim that they've mostly fixed the problem, but I know from experience that it takes awhile for the name forwarding to propagate again, hence Verizon's claim that this site doesn't exist. I only get to the article posting page because it links directly to the ISP. So I hope that this post will be visible before the weekend is out, otherwise I'll have to play hot potato with Easydns and Verizon as to who is responsible.
Hope you see me soon!
As noted in the first comment to this post, Mark Jeftovic, a techie for easyDNS, actually tracked down my post (I left no help message after figuring out what was happening). He actually left me an email explaining in greater detail what had happened. When I asked how he'd spotted my post, he told me he has a buncha search tools that look for mentions of easyDNS. Pretty neat.
Adam, thanks for confirming visibility. I'll have to log onto the IRC channel soon and catch up with you.
Lisa, you use Windows, right? Interesting to see that similar peripherals can give headaches on that platform and Mac OS X. Anyway, I am back online. Good to get feedback from all of you.
October 17, 2007
Mysterious System Failure
Just in case you think I'm an uncritical Apple fanboy, relax. While I've preferred to own Macs for as long as I could afford them, I am well aware that they sometimes fail. Case in point:
My iBook began telling time sort-of-randomly early last week. I tried setting the timezone multiple times, but it kept ending up in weird timezones like WGST. I could, with some effort, get the timezone to change, just never to PST/PDT. So on Friday I threw in the towel and made a reservation at the Apple 'Genius Bar' in Bridgeport Village (online, from my web browser, so convenient).
In the end, all the tricks I've learned over the years (disk repair, deleting corrupt preference files, booting in safe mode, etc., etc.) were of no avail. They had to do a clean install of the system software. Somehow, something got buggy, and manifested as a cracked time reading. It took something like two hours to resolve. Fortunately, with 'archive and install', all my data was preserved, so I didn't have to dig out my backup drive after the repair.
So yes, Apple computers have problems (ask me about failed hard drives sometime), but they still mostly just work.
October 07, 2007
Good IT Citizen
I've had the same backup methodology for a few years now. Basically, I have a portable hard drive with three partitions, one for each computer in active use in our household. On Saturday mornings, after I've done my paperwork for the week, I do a backup of my computer in the den. When I'm feeling a bit more ambitious, I drag the drive around the house backing up Jean's computer and the laptop. That seems to happen once a month or even less frequently.
However, with my approximately year-old computer purchase came a much larger hard drive. I've actually had to cull stuff off the drive because my backup partition wouldn't hold it, twice. So when I saw that Costco had a 500GB external drive on sale, I grabbed one. Tonight I formatted it and dedicated it completely to Revy, my computer in the den. The original backup drive got reformatted and partitioned into two slots, for Haruko, Jean's computer, and Mikura, my laptop. That smaller backup drive now sits next to Jean's machine, so I think it's safe to say that it will get backed up more frequently than once a month.
And no, I don't have a backup plan that will survive a house fire. If that happens, I figure I've got bigger problems to worry about than what happened to my amateur photography files.
June 25, 2007
Twelve (point Eight) Days Later
This evening I finally got Internet access back in my home. I don't want to go into the details, suffice to say that when things are going right, Verizon is fine as bandwidth vendor. When they go wrong, they go spectacularly wrong. Verizon can be staggeringly incompetent when the wind blows the wrong way, and this is such an occasion. I've had busloads of frustration, trying to get correct answers, and get back online.
Tonight, I plugged in the ATM modem they finally sent me, and the first thing it did was redirect every, single, URL to their DSL registration page. Following the directions just started a stalled download for software I don't need or want. I called them up, steaming, and got a tech to walk me through steps to turn off some kind of firewall that's on by default in their router (and undocumented in the PDF they sent on the CD, as far as I can see) which was responsible for it wanting to download and install software from the mothership.
I tell you, if I hadn't heard even worse horror stories about Comcast from some of my friends, I would have jumped ship by now. If ever there is a third bandwidth vendor in our area, truly interested in selling me bandwidth at a reasonable price, Verizon is on the trash heap!
June 18, 2007
While I haven't exactly been prolific in posting recently, I've been offline for a more direct reason of late. Verizon has royally mucked up my internet connection, such that I've had no connectivity at home whatsoever from last Wednesday morning. I won't go into the incompetence or the massive voice-menu mazes I've had to deal with, but at best, I don't expect to have Internet bandwidth again until this Wednesday. And I'm not laying any bets on that.
Just a short post from work, for those of you who care.
And Tom, I'm still a kid. I took that Tachikoma toy to work, and it's sitting under my moniter, distracting me repeatedly.
November 28, 2006
In keeping with my habit of naming my computers after annoying anime females... that I'm currently enchanted with:
I could have taken a cue from Ergo Proxy and named it after the occasional heroine there, but then I'd have to decide if it was named Ril or Lir (come on, guys, it's obviouslyLil Meyer).
November 18, 2006
I'm now the first few episodes into Black Lagoon - The Second Barrage, and all I wanna say is that my next computer almost certainly has to be named Revy. Nothing says geek like naming your computer after a fictional sociopath bounty hunter, eh?
September 26, 2006
A couple of the guys whose weblogs I read have publicly announced that they are switching away from Mac OS X to Ubuntu Linux. Individually, I'm sure their arguments are subtly different, but it seems to boil down to dissatisfaction with the proprietary lock-in of various file formats (iTunes, iPhoto, etc.). In a couple cases, vocal anger over DRM factors in as well. I admit that I dislike the DRM on iTunes music, even if I've purchased a number of tunes since the store opened. The fact is, were it not for the DRM, I'd be a lot more cavalier with my money. So I can understand where these guys are coming from, even if I'm not ready to abandon Mac OS X.
Anyway, some but not all of these folk claim that Ubuntu fills all their needs, and is just as easy to use as Mac OS X. Curious, I decided to install it on my laptop for a week or two, just to see for myself. The experiment has been concluded, and my laptop is running Mac OS X again. This in itself is not a judgement, as I fully intended to put it back after some period. However, I'm here to tell you that Ubuntu is not fully baked yet. Maybe in a year or two, since they seem dedicated to improving. But right out of the gates, I ran into obstacles. The wireless networking doesn't work, and a laptop without wireless is too annoying to contemplate. Sure, you can grab fwcutter and an open source driver for the wireless card used in iBooks, then patch the kernel and tweak some config files. You can also drive a nail into your temple, but it wouldn't be half as much fun.
See, that's why I use Macs at home. My sysadmin activities are usually limited to running Software Update a couple of times a month, and doing regular backups. The tools I use work. Sure, some of the tools have proprietary formats, but if I care, I can use open source tools on Mac OS X. I don't have to switch to an entire other operating system. And in practice, I manage my data just fine where it is. Should the world change and DRM go away, I'll be the first to celebrate. In the meantime, I'll just spend a little less money at the iTunes Music Store than I would otherwise. And while I'll save RAW files from my digital camera, if a particular image is important to me, I'll convert it to a TIFF or JPEG. So I'm still in control.
And in the meantime, I won't be spending my evenings tweaking the kernel of my OS.
September 13, 2006
Brute Force Wins
I mentioned earlier that I accidentally mangled the super-seekrit code for my first purchase of Microsoft Monopoly Money. After much scrutinizing with a magnifying glass and a bright light source, I concluded that there were four characters which were most in doubt. One could have been a 'C' or an 'O'. Another could have been a 'P' or an 'F'. And so on... Holding all the other characters constant and generating all the permutations meant that there were 24 possible matches.
I wrote up a quick program in Python to generate all the possible strings, then sat down and started trying them, one after another. On try number 11, I succeeded! Glad I only had to try less than half the combos, since 'typing' with a game controller sucks.
Just for chuckles, here's the Python 'brute force' program, with the fake 'constant' characters to protect the innocent:
def gen_stuff(): ONE = "PX" TWO = "MN " THR = "EF" FOU = "G 12345 67890 HIJ" FIV = "Z" for ONE_ in ["C", "O"]: for TWO_ in ["P", "F"]: for THR_ in ["E", "F", "P"]: for FOU_ in ["E", "F"]: print ''.join([ONE, ONE_, TWO, TWO_, THR, THR_, FOU, FOU_, FIV]) gen_stuff()
The bonus of this geeky little exercise is that I -- all unawares -- turned a problem into a 'problem', and got a giggly little boost instead of a headache!
I decided I liked the example program better with 'real' letters, so I amended my sample above with substitutes. That allows me to inflict the result on you:
PXCMN PEFEG 12345 67890 HIJEZ PXCMN PEFEG 12345 67890 HIJFZ PXCMN PEFFG 12345 67890 HIJEZ PXCMN PEFFG 12345 67890 HIJFZ PXCMN PEFPG 12345 67890 HIJEZ PXCMN PEFPG 12345 67890 HIJFZ PXCMN FEFEG 12345 67890 HIJEZ PXCMN FEFEG 12345 67890 HIJFZ PXCMN FEFFG 12345 67890 HIJEZ PXCMN FEFFG 12345 67890 HIJFZ PXCMN FEFPG 12345 67890 HIJEZ <== TeH Winx0rz!! PXCMN FEFPG 12345 67890 HIJFZ PXOMN PEFEG 12345 67890 HIJEZ PXOMN PEFEG 12345 67890 HIJFZ PXOMN PEFFG 12345 67890 HIJEZ PXOMN PEFFG 12345 67890 HIJFZ PXOMN PEFPG 12345 67890 HIJEZ PXOMN PEFPG 12345 67890 HIJFZ PXOMN FEFEG 12345 67890 HIJEZ PXOMN FEFEG 12345 67890 HIJFZ PXOMN FEFFG 12345 67890 HIJEZ PXOMN FEFFG 12345 67890 HIJFZ PXOMN FEFPG 12345 67890 HIJEZ PXOMN FEFPG 12345 67890 HIJFZ
Yeah, something like that.
November 23, 2005
Whoops. Missed my five year weblogging anniversary. I started out on Weblogs.com with the URL terebi.weblogs.com, then moved to my local ISP using Greymatter, and lately using various incarnations of Movable Type.
Anyway, my first post was this, now archived at the current site. Dated October 4, 2000. I may not post as diligently any more, but it's still a source of occasional amusement.
August 12, 2005
I've been holding off on purchasing Tiger for my iMacs, since (a) the feature additions seem uninteresting and (b) early releases have seemed very unstable to judge by the forum chatter at various Mac troubleshooting websites. But now I've seen something that I must have! The Oblique Strategies widget, which only runs on Tiger. What is it? It's a little quick access desktop tool that replicates Brian Eno and Peter Norton's card deck of the same name.
Readers of this site know that I'm a long time fan of Brian Eno, especially his 'pop rock period'. These cards come from around that same timeframe, and remind me of gentler days. Will I really run out and buy Tiger so I can run this widget? Nah. But the next time I'm weighing the usefulness of Tiger, this will put a thumb on the scale.
May 15, 2005
I bought my latest laptop in March of 2004. Now, over a year later, I finally broke down and bought a micro-fiber cloth and some screen cleaning spray. The screen has some physical divots in it, but I didn't really know that until I'd cleaned the caked dust off the LCD. The iLamp has fared a little better.
Posted by dpwakefield at 04:01 PM
April 22, 2005
Megumi Is Home
I drove to the Apple Store and picked up my iLamp, the powerful Megumi-chan, this afternoon. I've been restoring and tweaking and maintaining ever since. She's up and running as if she were never gone. In fact, I'm soaking in it!
The verdict was in fact a dead hard disk, rather than the much less painful loose connection I tried to bargain out of reality. The consequence is that they replaced the dead drive (free! Gotta love my AppleCare contract), but there was no data to put on it. I am so glad I'm reasonably diligent about back-ups. After setting things up, I did a full restore, and lost only about a week's worth of data, none of which really hurts. True, I'm scrambling to grab some anime Kelly's been watching, but other than that, we're golden.
So for the next few days I'll be closeted with my uber-gadget, bonding and renewing ties. Sad, ain't it?
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:53 PM
April 15, 2005
Computer on the Fritz
I saw this phenomenon once before. My den computer doesn't want to boot up. It can't see the hard disk. Last time, I held down 'shift' while booting, and after a few tries, it found the hard disk, and all was well again. That really shouldn't have worked. 'Shift' during boot means "go into safe mode", or no extensions. This time it ain't working. Instead it just shows the icon of a folder with a question mark. This means "where's my disk?" Since last time when my computer 'healed', the hard disk had all it's data intact, I theorized an intermittent loose connection.
I tried jiggling the computer before a reboot, trying to adjust the 'loose connection' I was theorizing about. It worked. Now my computer complains about the missing disk much sooner during the attempted boot sequence.
So tomorrow I'll clean it up, blow compressed air into it, and if that doesn't work, I'm off to the Apple Store at the mall. They were very quick about fixing Jean's computer, so I can only hope that they do the same for me. Especially if my theory of a bad cable is correct. Wish me luck.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:16 PM
October 22, 2004
Alright, stop it. Some people have decided that it's cute, or something to pluralize the Internet, as in "I found it on the Internets." I first noticed this on Boing Boing (bad Boing Boing, no linky for you). Today i was listening to a podcast from Engadget (likewise, stinkers), where they repeatedly used it, in arch tones, stifling giggles and everything.
Who started this? Who thinks it's cool? The Internet is the network of all connected networks. To have two Internets, they'd have to be not connected, got it? Like one is on Mars, or something. So get over your coy abuse of terminology and use the right terms, okay? Also, unless you wish to have a midlife career change to soprano, don't let me catch you ever saying "the Interweb."
October 13, 2004
For my own reference, here's the MySQL command to close comments on posts over 20 days old:
% mysql --user=me --password CONNECT ME UPDATE mt_entry SET entry_allow_comments=2 WHERE entry_allow_comments=1 \ AND TO_DAYS(NOW()) - TO_DAYS(entry_created_on) >= 21;
And... It works!
Posted by dpwakefield at 10:06 AM
October 12, 2004
Continuing on the theme established in this post, I should note that my latest computer, the iBook, is named Mikura, while my iPod is named Sumomo. Still anime females (though Ryo-Oki was a cabbit (cat/rabbit) and Sumomo is a miniature robot, fitting for the iPod).
You Found Me!
Okay, either you followed my note on the old website, you got redirected from that home page, or you've been using terebi2.org (good for you), which redirects to this new location. Anyway, this is the same ISP, same basic directory, just a fresh tree to support using MovableType 3.11 and mySQL. I'm hoping the improved comment management facilities will let me tame the comment spammers while allowing those occasional helpful comments I still get. Crossing fingers!
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:18 PM
June 26, 2004
You've Got Gmail
Or I do, anyway. This will only matter to the geeks in my audience (are there any?), but I got a Gmail invite today thanks to a helpful stranger. I saw him post that he had a bunch he wasn't using, and I asked if he'd mind parting with one for me. So now I've got one, and there's yet another way to reach me:
Posted by dpwakefield at 03:46 PM
June 15, 2004
Terebi II started out life as Terebi, on weblogs.com, and up until recently, you could still go there to read the archived pages. I left voluntarily about three and a half years ago, as the load increased and responsiveness decreased. My posts were all (mostly) long and (mostly) thoughtful because it cost too much in wait time to post a short note or a link I wanted to remember for later.
Still, it was my testbed for the world of weblogging, and I'm grateful for the start. Thanks, Dave, however much you have irritated me in the past, you were more than generous with this resource.
Posted by dpwakefield at 10:07 PM
March 02, 2004
I first started reading Test-Driven Development, by Kent Beck, several months ago. The plan was to map his examples, primarily written in Java and Python, to my own world of C++. I tried, really I did, but there's just too much cognitive dissonance.
The principles made sense, and some of them reflected my own experience. But the examples in Java were just too foreign to me, and the Python example seemed foreign to the author, so I was left with the theory, and not the practice. I may get around to grabbing one of the C++ unit testing frameworks, but it's my impression that when they work at all, they work best with the more modern dialects, and we're still waiting on the port to GCC 3.2.2.
So maybe in another year you'll hear a review on this methodology again. In the meantime, I'll store this baby on my shelf...
Posted by dpwakefield at 01:45 PM
February 01, 2004
This morning I noted that the MyDoom.A virus is scheduled to go active today. I started to explain to Kelly how the virus would take over people's computers and send requests to SCO, flooding their website and preventing genuine requests. Kelly jumped in before I finished and gave a pretty damn good definition of a DDOS. As far as I know, no one had taught her this, unless grade school is a lot different than I remember!
Excuse me a minute, I think I'm gonna tear up here.
Posted by dpwakefield at 05:45 PM
November 13, 2003
The great project has begun. Today over lunch I bought the Panther release of Mac OS X. I'm mostly done with the install on my iBook. The plan is to complete the install, give it a week to stabilize, then move on to the iLamp in the den. After that one's taken care of, I'll wait until Christmas vacation to overhaul the kitchen computer.
So far the only snag is some irregularity with Mail. As that's one of the main jobs of the kitchen computer, I'll have to unkink the other boxes first. But I've already got printing working from the laptop! It's always fun to learn the ropes on a new OS release.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:09 PM
November 09, 2003
Ooh! Ooh! I gotta be there! Maybe I can get a T-Shirt. Nah, I need to take my daughter to swim class that morning, so by the time I got to the Apple Store, I would surely not be one of the first 1,000 people in the store. Still, I wanna go ho-ho-ho!
Posted by dpwakefield at 10:10 PM
August 25, 2003
I confess to feeling deliciously wicked this morning when I arrived at work. In my leather tote was my Blueberry iBook, on which I keep a copy of all my music (cheaper than buying an iPod, for now).
Posted at every entrance was a stern warning not to connect any laptops to the corporate network until you had gone to your building's virus triage center to get scrubbed.
Yep, I just got on the elevator and went to my office, carrying my 'unscrubbed' laptop with me. It isn't hooked up to the network, but I could, at any time...
MWAH Hah hah!
For the humor-impaired, my laptop is a Macintosh, and can't be infected by the SoBig.F or Lovsan virii. "Now Zoidberg is the popular one!"