Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Buddha's Holy Cow Abattoir

Looking over the last half of my life I can see that I've found a lot of so-called wisdom. Much of it was out of date and the more specific it was the faster it became irrelevant.

One thing that aggravated me was the way that some authors attributed their ideas to much older times, locations or individuals. I thought that they were trying to add gravitas while destroying a good wine by trying to artificially age it. Now, with more experience, I have found that it is much easier to explain an idea if you disassociate yourself from that idea. Often people will waste time asking for the source rather than considering the point, or trying to understand how they could arrive at the same understanding. This is the difference between being show and being a Seeker.

That said, here is some, 'ancient wisdom':

The spoon does not have to make a loud noise to effect change - it moves silently touching only those closest to it.

Do not presume that your prayers will purify you; Slaughter your holy-cows and find the silent voice that knows best.

Be kind and generous and considerate; Try to find the right balance between all three:

Love, hope and charity;
simplicity, patience, compassion - these things often travel in threes.

Do your Tai-chi in the dark, not in the park; Before stretching your muscles, stretch your ego.

If you clatter about yelling at the world how wrong it is then you are contributing to the problem - be the change and wait for others to realise you're perfect. When they ask what is so special about you, rebuff them with a shrug and, a simple, 'nothing'.

Enlightenment can not be taught or bought.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

DNS; What more do you need?

Today is the day of SOPA protests, and I hope that by the time you are reading this you have to search to find out what the SOPA bill was.

All you need to know, for this post: If you are in favour of freedom then you are against SOPA, and anything else that you say is lies dressed up in fancy words.

 When it comes to the Internet I firmly believe that everyone should be able to say that I am wrong, (as long as it makes a funny video about it.) The funny thing is, with most of the Internet, for every service or software program that you need, there is a free version available, (that is often much better than the ones that you pay for.)

Take DNS. If you have one domain and need DNS services, then the place to go is the Free DNS people over at http://freedns.afraid.org/ (they do my DNS.)

  • Web browser - Firefox, though Opera, (and sometimes Chrome) are good.
  • PDF viewer    - Sumatra PDF (one guy > $(a whole corporation) )
  • Image browser- irfanview (again one guy!)
  • Password store - Keepass
  • Image manipulation - GIMP (you can keep your PS)
  •  ... and the list goes on, (to another post.)

If you want software for windows then, ninite or Portable apps.com will provide a good list, (even if you are on Linux or Apple then you can still look at these places for a list. The one exception that I know of is that on apple I would suggest Adium where, on windows I use Pidgin as my chat-client. )

There is no longer a single program that I need, that isn't free, (to download, often with the complete source.)

So where does the Internet go from here?  The three things that are left:

  • $1 a-year .com domains; £1 a year .uk domains. (Though domain squatters should be charged 1000 times as much to clear out the domain-space for those that want to use it.)
  • http://convergence.io/ to become a IETF RFC standard, (so that compromised x509 SSL certificates can become free; I thought it would be by a PGP like web-of-trust crossed with openSSH); Each ISP runs its own DNS cache, so they should also run their own TLS notary.
  • Education - we all want to enjoy and benefit from the Internet in our own way. If there are any misguided attempts to control the Internet then it will simply create a greater use of darknets, just as surely as a evolutionary pressures find their own solutions, (well not a perfect analogy, but you get the point). So we have to continually educate those that would try to control the Internet, until the Internet generation is in charge, (why does that scare me a little bit?) 
Get to it The Internet!

As ever, what ever you are doing, set up your backup first, (because you can't do it after you lose your data; as soon as you have data you can lose it.)

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Open Source ideas

Morning all,

Today I looked at the weather forecast for the weekend, (hoping that it would rain so that I could stay in and program.)

Like a weather forecast crossed with a spell cast, I would like, (and expect that the Internet will provide):


  1. A Google Chrome Extension of/for http://convergence.io/ (there is already a firefox one.)
  2. A C/C++ version of http://www.funtoo.org/wiki/Keychain: I find this very helpful, and it is written by a brilliant person, (and though I also love BASH I think it is time for a program rather than a script.)
  3. A Google Chrome Extension port of Last-Tab
That is all I have for today. The wild-card idea is a C/C++ container that has google v8 and webkit in it that lets you write something in javascript and then compile it into the container. The resulting program would be a closed source black-box where you and the user would not be able to view the javascript/CSS inside.

I'm envisioning someone taking this web-cube and writing a youtube client, or a gmail client. The browser would become a bit like a virtual machine, and though it would be nice, (for code-recycling and FOSS) to have the container be able to have add-on programs, (lets call them lumps of sugar) that would provide the actual functionality, knowing the PERL::Acme type people - it would not be long before one lump was created just to expose/sell-out any of the others.

Xombrero is already 95% of this, (and GnuPG and NSIS could provided 3-4% of the rest of this idea.)

Friday, 5 October 2012

Things I do not need (free software)

I promised, in a previous post to list free software. It seems slightly redundant when these lists already exists for all the things that I could need, (and even things that I do not need - but you might.)

The main problem with creating a list of software, (unless it is regularly edited) is that by next week it is already out-of-date, (as seen here in my own software evolution.)

This list is already getting long enough that some people will feel lost, (though I am impressed that they have managed to keep it this short.)  I guess that the natural progression would be a list where a social network or accountable experts could tag and sort by preference each of the pieces of software.

(For example I would rank
 Sumatra PDF as being more useful than
 Foxit Reader on the simple criteria of size and speed, though I have happily used both over 'that other one'; This might be a good way to automatically sort software, or simply  list each one with the amount of RAM and CPU that they use and time-to-load from cold, and let people draw their own conclusion.)

If you install a version of Linux, (like Ubuntu) then "free software" is like Chinese food when you are in China, (i.e. food.) Even then a directory can be helpful to find the name of the program that you are going to need.

So installed right now I have:
tangoGPS, Firefox, Pidgin, Rhythmbox, Epiphany, Quarry, GRAMPS, Libra Office, Audacity, Avidemux, GIMP and WINE, (and bash, perl, python, two SQL servers and many other unix tools.)

On the last XP machine that I was asked to clean up, I added a wifi scannera weichi game and chess as well as a planetarium. (I used to recommend Celestia but I find stellarium easy to use for most of my star related tasks.)

For me, it seems that gone are the crax-n-warez days. I am sure that there are still closed-source proprietary programs that some people can not live without. If you would kindly just add your list of such programs to the comments and we, (the Internet) can start writing free replacements for you.

Recently someone blogged about git, and suggested that like Linux it was great and powerful, but complained that it would not stop you shooting yourself in the foot, (they concluded that many people will be going back to SVN.)

It occurred to me that this is true, (the libertarian nature of Linux,) but then I considered extending the analogy in the vein of http://www.projectcartoon.com/. I'll start you off with,

"Linux lets you shoot yourself in the foot, for free."

"Windows charges you, shoots you in the foot without warning and then two other people offer to protect you against bullets by selling you anti-bullet and bullit-aware."

"Apple charge you double for a very nice looking gun, but make your gun incompatible with the new bullets a few months later."

(You get the idea, just riff on it. Take it away, run with it.. in a fun way.)

Can't hear myself!

This morning I turned on and decrypted by home computer, (like any usual morning.)
I kicked in screen and went to make a hot beverage, (but I pronounced it beveridge.)
I came back to my screen, unlocked it and found that my computer had failed to ssh into my development server, but HAD managed to ssh into my house server. I set up key exchange as soon as I built both servers, and it has been working ever since.

I tried, (http, https, ssh -vv) my development server, (over with the good people at Bytemark Hosting) but nothing, (I never thought that the problem that I'm about to report was at their end - Bytemark are so nice that no one would want to DDoS them, and too /good/ to have a partial outage.)

Then a little application called WhatPuse told me that it could not get to its server, (possibly not using SSH) and I opened pidgin while thinking about the problem. I was seeing a partial outage, (which is a real pain because reporting "my ssh does not work but most websites are fine" to any ISP other than aa.net.uk is going to be frustrating.)

My first reaction was: My dev server! I've spent two weeks rebuilding that from scratch for a new project and I did not back-up before I went to bed, (I'm kidding ofcourse [alot]- backup is encrypted and automatic.) No, what I really thought was, "I wonder what I did to make that crash? It was up last night - I'd better check the KVM-console". But alarms were going off in my head. Pidgin claimed to authenticate, (using XMPP) with Google Talk, (talk.google.com:5222) but pidgin reported an error authenticating with MSN, (well it might not have got to authentication - I just knew at this point that it had not worked.)

By now I had a browser open, (Google Chrome) and tried to Google "can't ssh or msn but https works", and it "did", (with the EFF add-on Chrome defaults to https if it can; Which it did.) Nothing jumped out at me, as I looked for outage reports and other similar descriptions.

So what was happening? Had the firewall.uk broken? http://www.bbc.co.uk/ worked, but again that was just one protocol.

I set nmap going against my own remote server: All scanned ports on dev-null.alexx.net are filtered.
hmm. Maybe my local software firewall updated last night - I check and even flush it: still nothing.
The next gate is obviously my local router - I log in and check the 'firewall' part of it, and then turn that off as well. Still http, (and even youtube is working) but the website of my hosting company is not available to me - but http://www.downforeveryone.com claims that it is up, (as are all of my sites. So that is reassuring.)

So my end seems to be working, and from somewhere on the Internet the other end was working - traceroute time. I know that my connection, (today) is carried by completel.net, (so I check their website, and that works.) I then look at the exchange point between them and my hosting company. That shows up in the trace as raw IPv4, but a quick whois tells me, Neo Telecoms. hmm http://www.neotelecoms.com/ does _not_ work, (maybe that isn't their website - quick google shows that it probably is, but also a helpful tweet from 2011 that looks like an outage report.) https://twitter.com/NeoTelecoms has no such update this morning.

... and then my routing flips over to those-people-who-are-less-that-Level4 and the Internet is shiny and new.... all of my websites start working, I go to try ssh aaaaand then it flips back to "Neo Telecoms", (they don't feel much like "The One"). So, (feels like playing Cludo) is it Mr http://www.lonap.net with the faulty switch, Miss https://www.euro-ix.net/ with the faulty router or is Neo the one, (sorry) responsible?

Then I realise - just because I can debug this problem does not mean that I should. I should just report the outage, but I'm a friend of a customer of a reseller of completel.net.

All of this took me a few minutes to diagnose and about an hour to blog.

The routing, meanwhile flip-flops between Neo and level3 like a dieing fish, (or more likely a netops who is trying to solve the problem - which is reassuring - but having been there they may have cost of routing weighing down one side of the scales.)

Service resumes 79 minutes later.... (but I can quite imagine that someone has been up all night trying to fix this - if there is a netops sysadmin out there on their way to a well deserved rest, "Thank you". )

Update 01: This works, (for me) as a lonap status page, (and shows that there wasn't a blip this morning). I'm still looking for the euro-ix and $other_providers equivalent - RIPE or .eu should have a status.eu that shows the latest version of these for each Internet exchange and another for each ISP that wants to offer it.)

Update 02franceix, (yes, still with a hiddious 90's URL) is the sort of thing that I'm looking for. www.neotelecoms.com fail to provide useful information, (other than a glorified sales catalogue) and their /en/ is covered with french, but both are better than http://www.parix.net which is offline. PARIX seems to be owned by France Telecom, and in an odd twist they were bought by the mobile, (cell) phone company Orange.com... that do not offer graphs of their network, (which I understand, but parix.net _should_.)

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Qt big?

So you want to build something using Qt? How much space are you going to need?

Well if you skip the full SDK and Qt Creator and just go for the libraries you will need:

  223 MB 4.8.3 for the lib
but uncompressed that could be almost
  700 MB (900 MB if you don't remove the src file)
Then configure and make and that src directory grows to over
  1.6 GB (1.8 GB)
Then sudo make install and that adds
  435 MB (2.2 GB total.)

So those of you that sail close to the wind on a very old laptop, make sure you have enough space before you start, (oh and start make about seven hours before you need Qt on 1.2Ghz Centrion Duo laptop.)

Not surprising or shocking, (I'm sure some GTK+ person is laughing) but annoying if your disk fills up part way through compiling.


update

I like the zetcode qt4 lib guide.

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