Monday, December 22, 2008

TSO in Knoxville Tn

Lee Ann and I went to Knoxville to see the Trans Siberian Orchestra for our anniversary. It was a good show. Too bad Thompson-Boling Area messed things up by not putting up signs for the Will Call. We walked up to the entrance (3 Flights?) in 24 degF temps only to be told that we had to go back down for the Will Call. I noticed lots of others walking back down. I should have caught a clue.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Windows, USB drives, Military

If you hadn't heard, there is a ban on removable re-writable media in effect for the US Military. From what I'm hearing, this could be indefinite. I'm not in any position to know this for a fact, but I've heard that they're looking for a solution to this problem. If it was as easy to fix as not enabling autorun, I'm sure that it would have blown over and personnel would be getting their usb drives back.

The above really illustrates the problem of security in a Windows environment. Targeted exploits are being written that are not caught by virus scanners because they're not common enough in the wild. The virus scanners are doing pattern matching and no one has entered the new pattern. Consumer Reports pointed out just how bad the situation was in 2006.

The interesting thing about this is that this worm/virus probably propagated without the user having admin access. Most people take for granted that when running as a limited user it's harder to infect the system. It looks like this didn't stop this virus, since most of those users won't be running as an admin.

Perhaps it's time that the U.S. Military stopped depending on Windows and decided to use other operating systems. The NSA has provided a very valuable Linux kernel security addon called SELinux. It should be possible to create policies that would prevent this from happening on a linux system.

To begin, the USB drive should not be mounted with execute permission. This will prevent casual program execution. Using SELinux, it should be possible to limit the user to running only applications specified by the admin in the most restricted environment. I don't know how it's done, but it should be possible to prevent all shells and interpreted programs from running code from the USB drive.

I know what you're going to say next. There's a lot of windows applications that are needed. Run them in a virtual machine, but prevent that virtual machine from having access to USB drives. If the user needs data from a drive, the user will have to copy it to an appropriate location. This option will work well in the field. Laptops with virtualization enabled processors will be able to run VMWare or some other vm product reasonably well enough for most applications. Harden the laptop with all of the security that it needs.

In an office environment skip Citrix and provide the users with a virtual machine running on a software like Qumranet's (purchased by RedHat recently) virtual machine products. Watch the video of 1080p HD video being streamed from the virtual machine to a thin client. I hear that Wyse, makers of thin clients, is having a record year with the economy in a slump.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Fragility of the Economic System

I watch the Bozo Business reporters on CNBC and Fox. Mostly CNBC early in the morning and during lunch. They're pretty much cluess and I don't mean that in a nice way. Here's an excellent example of this. Follow the link and watch the video. It contains interviews with Peter Schiff on various news programs. The video was floating amongst the traders.
Trader Talk

Here's an interview with Nassim Taleb and Benoit Mandelbroit on the economy. They're very worried about what will happen.

Read more by Taleb at his website Fooled by Randomness. I've read his book The Black Swan, but haven't read the book Fooled by Randomness.

I'm in the process of reading Mandelbroit's book The (Mis)Behavior of Markets.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Computers, Malware, Law

Simplification: A substitute teach was charged with showing students pornography when windows with pictures of naked people started popping up on the classroom computer. She could have gone to jail for a long time. It's an example of how clueless law enforcement is when it comes to computers. There was no forensic investigation as to what happened with the computer. It's hard to believe that New London County State's Attorney Michael Regan kept his job.

She was cleared of the pornography charges but still had to plead guilty to disorderly conduct. I suppose that this was a face saving move by Michael Regan.

Go here to get more detail: Connecticut drops felony charges against Julie Amero, four years after her arrest

Reviews, Bonuses, Loyalty

Since it's the time of year for reviews and bonuses, there's been a few articles to come out recently. The following link is to a posting of Bob Sutton's that contains links to information about performance reviews. Sam Culbert in the Wall Street Journal: Get Rid of the Performance Review!

What’s the Value of a Big Bonus?
What would you expect the results to be? When we posed this question to a group of business students, they said they expected performance to improve with the amount of the reward. But this was not what we found. The people offered medium bonuses performed no better, or worse, than those offered low bonuses. But what was most interesting was that the group offered the biggest bonus did worse than the other two groups across all the tasks.

None of the above is new. Annual performance reviews are, at best, a time to rank people. It's easier to justify who to layoff or fire.

When given yearly, bonuses are expected. When it becomes an expectation, it's not really a bonus anymore. It's a part of the yearly compensation. If there's a year when one isn't given, you'll find out that someone was expecting that money to buy their kids something for Christmas or pay some type of expense. Worst yet, you may be sending a signal to employees that things aren't working out so well at the company. Ideally, the company is open honest with it's employees such that company performance is known and isn't a surprise. The employees should have been treated well enough that you wouldn't expect them to leave when bad news is announced. This is called loyalty and it's something today's worker can't afford to give lightly.

Companies that want loyalty should know that it isn't earned easily. It's earned with trust which is built on honesty. Employees need to trust their supervisors and management. Trust comes from being able to believe what management says.

If I were an autoworker, there's no way that I would have any loyalty to automakers. It was obvious from the testimony before congress that don't know what they're doing. They danced around questions and couldn't give good direct answers. They can't be trusted.

It's the same thing with politics. I'm an independent because I can't trust what either party says. I won't sign up for the dogma that is espoused by either side, because I don't believe that they're honest.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sutton on Automaker Mgmt.

Instead of pointing the finger at the workers and their compensation perhaps it time to talk about mgmt. Bob Sutton does this in his post, The Auto Industry Bailout: Thoughts About Why GM Executives Are Clueless And Their Destructive “No We Can’t” Mindset

I could list hundreds of management, cultural, and operational reasons why I believe that GM is such a flawed organization, but to me, a pair of root causes standout: Most of the senior executives -- and many of the managers -- are (1) clueless about what matters most and (2) suffer from a "no we can't" mindset.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Joe Biden Anti-Tech Guy

I've never really cared for Joe Biden this CNET article sums it up for me. Looks like I have even more of a reason to write in Ron Paul's name.

He's just another example of big government advocates trying to help maintain the status quo.
Last year, Biden sponsored an RIAA-backed bill called the Perform Act aimed at restricting Americans' ability to record and play back individual songs from satellite and Internet radio services. (The RIAA sued XM Satellite Radio over precisely this point.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Clients Can't be Assholes

Here's a presentation by Obie Fernandez on running a consulting business. There are some good ideas here. I like the part near the end (30 minute mark) where he says that they don't tolerate asshole clients. He provides an example of client "misbehaviour." His remedy was that the person had to apologize to the entire team.

This ties in well to the book The No Asshole Rule by Bob Sutton. Obie's goal is to head off "asshole poisoning." By not allowing this behaviour, he maintains a good working environment.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Build Times

Oh I wish that the product that I work with could have build times like the linux kernel.
For example, for the kernel, I can literally rebuild my whole kernel (which is just what I use on _that_ machine) in about 16 seconds. This is _not_ using ccache or anything else - it's rebuilding the whole tree with -j16.

Obviously Linus has a machine with at least 8 cores if not a machine that has 4 quad core processors. Also, he has enough memory to keep the entire kernel tree in the buffers. In addition, the kernel is highly modular so there aren't as many dependencies between systems. This means that there aren't a lot of extraneous header files that would slow down the build.

If you know about agile, you know why this is important. Fast build times means:

  • An automated build that can let you know at the minimum that your project is/is not building.

  • Fast builds "probably" means that your product doesn't have a lot of dependencies if it is large and this lends itself to incorporating tests and running those test via automation as well.

The above is the beginning of continuous integration. It can help your software quality especially if you take it seriously and start doing the other things that go along with Agile processes.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


This is a follow up to the Bias and Diets post earlier. The latest long term study on diets suggests that low carb diets work better than the low fat diets.
The biggest weight loss happened in the first five months of the diet — low-fat and Mediterranean dieters lost about 10 pounds, and low-carbohydrate dieters lost 14 pounds.

By the end of two years, all the dieters had regained some, but not all, of the lost weight. The low-fat dieters showed a net loss of six pounds, and the Mediterranean and low-carbohydrate dieters both lost about 10 pounds.

Another article about this study has more information:
For people with cholesterol problems, the low-carb diet seemed best; for those at risk for diabetes, the Mediterranean diet provided more health benefits.

"The take-home message should be that we should abandon the idea that low fat diets are the number one way for people to lose weight –- it wasn’t the best diet, it can be helpful for some people, but overall I think the first choice should be the Mediterranean or the low carb," he said.

Dunbar's Number, Rule of 150

I came across Dunbar's Number or the Rule of 150 while reading the The Tipping Point. I've noticed that the small companies where I've worked have been less than 150 people. BMH was approaching 150 employee's when it was purchased.

Since being bought out by a much larger company, the BMH operation has changed quite a bit. It no longer has the same feel even though I work with the same basic people. This probably has to do with the way in which the more common processes have been changed and the fact that one of the founders of BMH has become part time as he transitions into retirement.

Don't get me wrong about the above statements. I am not trying to be derogatory toward my current employer. It's more of comment/observation about the fact that small companies that want to grow need to realize that will need to change or they won't be successful.

Management has to prepare for the change and make that change easy or else they will lose the people that made them successful. (They may lose them anyway.) The Hutterite communities mentioned both in the article and the book recognized this early on and have a rule that communities must split once they reach 150 members.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bias and Diets

Here's an interesting blog post about Bias and Diets.
Why is Taubes so interested in bias? For several decades, it has been the conventional wisdom that dietary fat (and especially saturated fat) contributes to obesity, heart disease, and cancer. Judging from Taubes’ exhaustive research -- indeed, I'd be surprised if any other book examined bias within a particular scientific field in such detail -- the conventional wisdom was based on unreliable and slender evidence that, once established and institutionalized in government funding, set a pattern of confirmation bias by which further research was judged (or ignored).

I recommend that you read the article and read the interviews at the bottom. If there's this much bias just for diets, it makes you wonder about the global warming debate.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tomato Firmware

After listening to the discussion regarding wireless routers n the TWUUG list, I finally decided to buy a WRT54GL. About 4 years ago I purchased a Linksys WRT54GS v1.1 with the intention of replacing it's bios with one of the custom firmware releases. I never got around to it and I didn't want to brick my only router. So I bought the WRTG54L since it's the only one of the WRT54G/GS models that you can put Linux on now. All of the others have limited memory and only run VxWorks.

I installed OpenWRT. It installed without a problem. I wanted a nice webgui, but the latest didn't have one or I didn't find it. Instead, I used Tomato.

Tomato's webgui is nice. I set it up within a few minutes and replaced the old router with the new. The network statistics are cool. It provides a realtime graph that can be viewed in the browser and it maintains a daily, weekly, and monthly log.

I've turned on QOS, but I don't know how well it is working. This week should give me an idea of how well the QOS works. I set my Vonage voip device to have the highest settings.

I need the extra router for a trip to the beach later this month. After that I'll play around with OpenWRT. There are some interesting things that can run on the router. I want to play around with Asterisk. I've got some actual voip phones that I can use.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

CC licensed images

Here's an interesting post about the usage of Creative Commons material available on the internet.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Processor support for 64 bit?

While chatting with a friend online the other day I became curious how one would determine if a processor supports 64bit and if the kernel is 64bits. Know the answer to first question could have helped me out a few weeks ago when I tried to install the x86_64 version of Fedora 9 on my wife's laptop. Unfortunately when I booted the install disk, the installer message stated that it was not 64bit capable.

To determine if you processor supports 64bit mode in Linux, the easiest thing to do is:
grep lm /proc/cpuinfo

The lm stands for long mode and it's in the cpu flags section. If more than one line is returned with the same information, the processor has multiple cores.

To determine if the OS kernel what instruction set it is running use:
uname -m

A value of x86_64 indicates that it is running the 64 bit extensions for Intel/AMD.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Could not chdir to home directory /home/xxx

I recently installed Fedora 9 x86_64 on my home machine. This is the first time that I've run the 64 bit version. I didn't disable SELinux this time either.

I've got most things working well on the machine. The most annoying issue that I've had is when I used ssh to access my machine from somewhere else. Everytime that I logged in I would get the the following message and get dumped to the / directory.

Could not chdir to home directory /home/xxx: Permission denied

I could type cd and it would take me to my home directory. I could read files in those directories. Looking around I found that others were having problems but usually it was a pam problem or something else related to authentication. Eventually I decided that it was a SELinux issue.

Since I've never run SELinux on my machine, it stands to reason that none of the proper contexts were ever applied to the home directories. After digging around with google and figuring out what I needed I discovered the problem. Below is what my context looked like:

> ls -Zd *
drwx------ xxx xxx system_u:object_r:file_t:s0 xxx

I created another user and discovered that what it should look like is this:

drwx------ aaa aaa system_u:object_r:user_home_dir_t:s0 aaa

To change the context to be that I used:

>chcon -t user_home_dir_t xxx
> ls -Zd *
drwx------ xxx xxx system_u:object_r:file_t:s0 xxx

SELinux tended to be difficult to use. Fedora and the other distributions are working hard to make it easier to use. Consider leaving it enabled when working with newer distributions. It could prevent a zero day exploit from taking over your machine.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

New Railing and Storm Doors

We decided to put up railing last year. It's not required by code but we figured that it would help improve the look of the house and prevent any unwanted accidents. We wanted it to last but didn't want to spend a fortune for it. We finally settled on ColorGuard railing. Each piece of railing comes with everything that you need.

Some of the original posts had some rot on them. They looked nice but were not pressure treated. Two of them would have need to be replaced this summer no matter what. The posts were replaced with pressure treated 4x4 posts that had a vinyl sleeve placed over them.

New Larson Tradewinds storm doors were installed. These have the retractable screen. The door on the front of the house is a full view and the one on the back is a mid view. The retractable screen is nice since you can open the door at any time and pull down the glass to reveal the screen. There's no mess with the removing glass and installing the screen.

Here's the before pics.

The new look:

Monday, May 05, 2008

Family and Cancer

Lee Ann's cousin's wife has cancer. She has been documenting her progress on her MySpace site. She and her family are doing as well as can be expected. I can't even imagine what it must be like to deal with it.

The brother of my best friend from high school had his son diagnosed with Leukemia a couple of years ago. He's made it through the chemo and I believe that they have stated that it's in remission. Again, it's not a situation that's easy to imagine. There is a good documentary called A Lion in the House that appeared on PBS a couple of years ago that deal with children and cancer. It's probably one of the saddest things I've watched.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


I needed to learn a little about pthreads so that I could modify some code for work. Below is a sample program that does some basic counting in threads. I've used pthread_join to wait for the threads to finish. I did this because I wanted to signal to the threads when to finish. There's a global value, thread_exit, that is shared with the threads. Setting thread_exit = true signals all of the threads to exit. It is set after the program sleeps for 1 second.

If a thread needs to do a certain amount of work and finish during it's own time, a status flag could be passed into the thread. When the thread is finished, the flag would be set. This method is described in the pthread_join man page.

Numerous examples demonstrating the use of pthreads can be found using google.

Put iostream and pthread.h between the <>.

// Name : pthread_test.cpp
// Author : James Hubbard
// Version :
// Copyright : Public Domain
// Description : Pthread Example

#include <>
#include <>

using namespace std;
bool thread_exit = false;

void *thread_test(void *arg) {
int thread_num = *((int *)arg);
int *count = new int(0); //clean up elsewhere
while (!thread_exit) {
//if ( !(*count%5000000) )
// cout << "thread " << thread_num << ": " << *count << endl;
cout << "Thread " << thread_num << " complete: " << *count << endl;
return (void *)count;

int main() {
int num_threads = 10;
pthread_t *thread_id = new pthread_t[num_threads];

cout << "Pthread Test" << endl;
for (int i = 0; i < num_threads; i++) {
int error = pthread_create (&thread_id[i], NULL,
thread_test, (void *)&i);
if (error)
cout << "Error: " << error << endl;

thread_exit = true;
int *count_value[num_threads];

for (int i = 0; i < num_threads; i++ )
pthread_join(thread_id[i], (void **)&count_value[i]);

cout << endl;
for (int i = 0; i < num_threads; i++) {
cout << "main count " << i << ": " << *count_value[i] << endl;
delete count_value[i]; //cleanup counts from threads

delete thread_id;

return 0;

Monday, March 31, 2008

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism

After watching the primaries this year it's obvious that all of the news agencies are biased. Fox News is just as bad. I have less faith in Fox News than I do in CNN. They are truly horrible. Without a doubt, they pushed other candidates aside to so that they would not have a chance. Ron Paul raised more money than any other Republican candidate directly from the people. At every turn he didn't get the coverage that he deserved.

Here's an interesting video on Fox News:
Outfoxed: Rupert Murchoch's War on Journalism

Update 1: Just so you know I don't really care for any of the news networks. This article by Chez should give you an idea of just how bad it is at CNN. I used to watch a lot of CNBC, but the housing crisis and current economic woes illustrates just how clueless they are. I find myself watching MythBusters and How it's Made on the Discovery channel more and more.

Update 2: Here's another example of why I don't watch CNBC, Larry Kudlow. He's one of those that has been talking up the economy. He's been calling it Goldilocks for more than 1.5 years now. During this time he's give Roubini and others that have been talking about how bad it was getting and is now the short end of the stick.

Kudlow is a real cheerleader for less gov't regulation and intervention. To a certain point I think less is more. The gov't economists really don't know how to model the economy. (It would be nice to have a scoreboard to see how badly they've done.) Almost all of the regulation seems to have come after major problems like Great Depression, Savings/Loan, Long Term Capital Managment, Dot.Com Bubble and now Subprime.

The Subprime problem has essentially fixed itself. The banks are scared, people now know not to buy a home they can't afford. (Keep on charging the card though.) The only reason to enact legislation now is to clean up some of the bad mortgage and loan procedures. It will also provide a reminder for later generations 40 years from now when they start doing stupid stuff again.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Your rental is being foreclosed

Quinn's situation isn't unique. It's happening in a lot of places. It's just a shock when someone you know is having it happen to them. What probably happened is that the owner took out a sub prime loan or took out too much equity thinking that he would be able to sell it at a profit. The housing market in HI is doing fine from the reports that I had been hearing, but it's not crazy. Local lenders had been more conservative as well. Most of the subprime problem in Hawai'i has been caused by outside lenders.

Update: Fix spelling mistake in title. Also note that it is Washington Mutual that owns the mortgage. WaMu is in trouble because of all of their subprime lending.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pics from Ohio and Niagara Falls

We went to Ohio and Niagara Falls the March 3 - 7. When we got to Ohio there was 3"-4" of snow on the ground. The snow melted on Monday when it was in the 60s F. When we left Ohio Wednesday there was some snow on top of the .5"-1" ice/sleet that had fallen the night before. There was ice on the trees from Ohio to somewhere in Pennsylvania. In Niagara, there was snow on the ground but none on the roads. The river was frozen below the falls.

The low value of the dollar makes going to Niagara expensive. One US dollar is about or less than one Canadian dollar. A meal at TGIF was $100CDN for 4 people that didn't order expensive dishes compared to other items on the menu. Fish & Chips, quesidilla, salad, and another chicken dish was ordered. The 4 soft drinks cost ~$16CDN.

Sleet/Ice falling in Independence, OH.

Sleet/Ice with snow on top the next morning.

Picture of a bird taken at Bird Kingdom in Niagara.

Driving on I-79 in Northwestern Pennsylvania on Friday. It wasn't very fun for about an hour.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Fix Patent Law Not Protect Special Interests

Looks like someone owns the patents cover check scanning and clearing those checks electronically. Instead of fixing the patent laws, Congress is planning to pass some special measures to protect the banking industry. I wish that I could buy a couple of congress people to help protect me.

Laptop Suspends in Dock

I hadn't tried suspending my laptop while it was on the dock in a long time. Sunday evening I decided to give it a try. It worked. Hurray!!! It's good to know that this is finally working. Suspend has worked well in Fedora 7. The are only few issue that I have so far. On my wife's laptop, if you play with the touchpad it seems to cause the keyboard and touchpad not to work. I have to close the lid and wait for it to suspend again.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Comcast Filtering Pushing Customers Away

Comcast has briefed the FCC on their traffic policies. They are shaping the traffic to slow down some user's data transfers. Music and video transfers are two that are being slowed.

Time Warner is running a trial of hard bandwidth caps. Comcast is also considering the same thing. A fee will be charged for exceeding the bandwidth cap.

All of this makes me think that I should cancel my Comcast service. Luckily, I live in an area where I have some choice. I can get satellite from Direct or Dish. Embarq offers DSL and I've used their service. It looks like speed of 10Mbps/860kbps (Down/Up) is available.

I spend about $100/mth with Comcast. I'm guessing that Embarq will cost about $55-$65/mth. Direct will probably cost another $50-$60. Is it worth the potential extra $120/yr plus equipment costs? If it will help make Comcast wake up, maybe it is.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Subprime and Black Swans

It goes without say that the subprime mess is a Black Swan event, though many people will say that it was obvious. (We didn't purchase a home in Va Beach in 2005-2006 because of it.) The abundance of cheap money fueled a bubble. This is a well known phenomenon. It happened with the DotComs and other things. It caught the money people on Wall Street off guard. (Are they ever really on guard?) Everyone was looking to get fantastic returns so they kept pumping money into the system.

Another Black Swan event is the shown in this article from this article of the Financial Times.

Here's a quote:
In particular, it seems that mathematical models used to predict future default rates, based on past patterns of losses, have gone wrong because they did not adjust to reflect shifts in household behavior. Or, to put it another way, financiers have been tripped up because they ignored one of the most basic rules of investment, which is usually found in product literature: the past is not always a guide to the future.

What makes this a Black Swan event is the fact that the models being used didn't take into consideration a potential shift in the way that people value their possessions. A home used to important. It was the American Dream. Homeowners wouldn't stop paying the monthly bill. Money was saved to purchase a place where the children would be raised. Credit cards would be paid last.

Consider the fact that homes have been used as cash dispensers and there was no down payment for most of the non prime loans, people have no reason to stay in the home. From what I've been reading, foreclosure only hurts credit scores for two years so long as all of the other bills are paid on time. People are walking away from what is bad investment. Traders do the same thing with stock why shouldn't regular Joe's do the same thing?

The modelers and their models never considered this change in human behavior. They used the past as a predictor of things to come. It's a past based only on a few years of observation. It's weak and their short sightedness is going to cost everyone big.

(Roubini has some things to say about "Jingle Mail" phenomenon.)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Google, MS, Yahoo

Google is complaining about Microsoft. I still can't setup a multiuser (group) chat using a pidigin. It's only available to google talk gadget users.

I went to my neighbor's house for a birthday get together. Everybody there had a Yahoo! account and no one wants them to be bought by Microsoft. Some of these people were over 70 years old. What does that tell you about Microsoft's credibility?

Zimbra users are concerned about the Microsoft offer to purchase Yahoo!. Zimbra is an Exchange competitor. It uses a pseudo opensource license that is similar to Mozilla's. It requires attribution. It is possible to fork it, but whom ever does will have to put a powered by Zimbra notice at the bottom of the web pages served.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Cat Plays Fetch

Our cat Mossy plays fetch. One of her favorite toys is a wire tie. (Plastic coated wire.) The video is 2.5MB.

Update: If you can't see this under windows you'll need to download and install ffdshow.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

"The Two Party Swindle"

This is a good post discussing the our Two Party System.

And I dare say the Big Mess is not likely to be cleaned up, until the Republifans and Demofans realize that in many ways they have more in common with other Voters than with "their" Politicians; or, at the very least, stop enthusiastically cheering for rich lawyers because they wear certain colors, and begin judging them as employees severely derelict in their duties.

Until then, the wheel will turn, one sector rising and one sector falling, with a great tumult of lamentation and cheers - and turn again, with uninhibited cries of joy or apprehension - turn again and again, and not go anywhere.

Getting emotional over politics as though it were a sports game - identifying with one color and screaming cheers for them, while heaping abuse on the other color's fans - is a very good thing for the Professional Players' Team; not so much for Team Voters.