Monthly Archives: December 2010


The end of the year, regardless of which calendar you follow, is frequently used as a time for reflection. Why that’s the case is anybody’s guess, but I like to think that it comes down to the prospect of a new year; we can look back with a rose-tinted view of the horrors of the previous year and comfort ourselves that the next year may be better.

We have now been living in the US for over three years. This means that the date will soon end in 2011, despite the fact that 2006, 1997, and 1989 are still really quite recent. Additionally, my young wife and I will both be 40 this year, whatever that means. Obviously that’s not true, because we’re still 24, but we do appear to be moving through time a great deal faster than ever before. Einstein accurately described what happens as you speed up: you increase mass! And fuck me that’s exactly what’s happened (to me anyway)!

Humans are extremely adept at adapting to new surroundings and conditions – in fact that’s probably one of our most valuable qualities. However as a result of this talent we find it extremely difficult to assess our experiences; after a brief periods of adaption, every thing just seems…sort of…normal. But now and again it pays to enumerate some of ones achievements, no matter how minor and inconsequential they seem at the time, just for posterity.

Now, I started writing this last night and ran out of steam at this point. But tonight, frankly, I can’t be arsed either.

It snowed a bit.

Lameness: crackers and crappers

This is geeky. Be warned.

There are some telltale signs when a server has been hacked – and nowadays I can smell them as clearly as I can smell bacon. Last night one of our servers exhibited the dead-cert-hack behaviour. To cut a long and tedious story short, I didn’t get to bed until around 3, and the problem was still not solved despite having access (albeit limited and a bit crap) to a KVM.
On reflection it’s hardly surprising the box got hacked – it was running Debian “Etch” which lost support in 2009. But what got me was how far wrong I was with my assumptions.

I’d assumed the rootkit was a kernel module and thus a right bugger to shift. It wasn’t. In fact it was an old fashioned SHV5 rootkit which nobbles programs like ifconfig, netstat, ps and friends. I didn’t think people still used them! Consequently they should be really easy to fix…but they weren’t. As root, trying to delete any of them failed with a “Permission Denied” error. This confirmed my theory that a kernel module was involved. The worst problem with this was that no matter how I tried to boot a clean kernel – these files were still immutable. It was really quite distressing.

After some Googling, I’d noticed a pattern in the clueless comments of users that asserted the protection of these binaries was down to filesystem attributes such as “immutable”. Obviously, in this day and age this was rubbish! If you 0wn the kernel, you can do what you like. But out of desperation, I tried using lsattr and chattr…and, fuck me, it worked!

The entire rootkit was removed without any special booting or rescue disk. Jesus guys – that is so 2000!

Meanwhile my colleague, and benefactor, on the other side of the globe, had been running some backups to protect against the worse case scenario. Our hacker friend was coming from a netblock in Poland, and no matter what I did, the fucker still managed to get back in. It was driving me mad!

I had blocked every single hole: pam libraries, sshd, etc etc yet the fucker was still able to glide in and do his bandwidth-destroying work!

It was only during an IM session with my colleague that a correlation became apparent: every time he started a backup job, it got killed. I checked his IP address and realised that for the past few hours I was battling against him! The crackers hadn’t tried anything else all day – I was tilting at Windmills (well, at my friend).

In defence, his netblock was very similar to our Polish friend’s. But it doesn’t stop me feeling like a bit of a prick.

Wikipedowankers, Thin Lizzy and Christmas

It’s official, I do not exist. This came as quite a shock to me because it means everything I’ve ever done and experienced is an illusion. My wife’s gonna kill me!
This astonishing find came to light when a couple of particularly dimwitted and highly authoritarian Wikipedia editors proved that I am simply an invention of my friend, colleague and guru, Mr Fritz. When work finds out there’ll be trouble – he’s been claiming two salaries!

Obviously, I wouldn’t have believed this, but I can’t dispute the facts: The CheckUser Tool (whoever he may be) has CONFIRMED I don’t exist! What a massively impressive tool he is.

As I may have mentioned before, all of this ridiculousness led me away from ever wanting any interaction with Wikipedia again. It saddens me on so many levels, but I can’t help appreciating the irony of the situation. Not only did I get banned as a result of trying to persuade my work colleague that Wikipedia editors aren’t a bunch of jumped-up, paranoid, power-mongers, but also the final insult was being accused of “Excessive vandalism” – despite the vast majority of my edits being concerned with reverting acts of vandalism.

In the end, it would be unfair to blame the specific Fascists, twats and witless dullards involved in this case, because the entire administrator class of Wikipedia is currently severely broken.

Wikipedia has turned out to be a brilliant model of the Russian Revolution. Initially grand ideas about equality and justice caused the movement. Slowly a class system became established which was fraught with paranoia and fear – all of the enforcers believing that they were acting on behalf of “the cause”, but losing track of what that meant. Stalin was the ultimate exponent of this.

Luckily Wikipedia is just a website. If it were a state, then “deletionism” would have quite sinister overtones.

It’s ok, I will not mention this business again. Even my bitterness has receded, only to be replaced by sadness, disappointment and pity.

But good things have happened too, not least of which was discovering that the Thin Lizzy album I bought 15 years ago turns out not to be crap after all and instead it’s really bloody excellent. Is this what age does to us? Or is it just because I’ve finally got my vinyl hooked up again after so many years?

Also we had our office Christmas “do” on Monday. One of the great things about eating out with the rest of your workplace (apart from the free food and drink) is the considerable amount of entropy involved in seating. You end up sitting around people you don’t normally talk to for the rest of the year. Obviously it can go either way, but unless you’re really unlucky, it’s usually more positive than negative.

It’s cold.

Lazy Sunday

treeIt’s that time of year when we endanger the entire house by putting more dubious electrical lighting in yet more dangerous places. So, we now have a bunch of light-up birdies on the front porch, and our traditional beautiful tree. Luckily we also have a GFPC on the circuit.

Other than that, I spent the day watching films that added more fuel to my internal fire: Collapse and The Corporation. The first of the two is something that I’d recommend every left-leaning USA resident watches: it’s essentially one guy talking about oil, economics and the planet. I can’t say any more – just watch it.

Also a couple of episodes of Firefly; one was genuinely brilliant, one was mediocre. The only thing I can say with conviction about that series is that I genuinely wish someone would just throw “River” out into space.

Deleting Deletionism: Pt 2

Well, here’s a funny thing. Since the last post I have proved myself absolutely wrong.
Writing about the individual events is irritating and pretty pointless. In a nutshell, I will no longer be contributing to Wikipedia in any way (i.e. in spirit or in cash). If you are interested in petty crap and you’re also extremely bored, then by all means try some of the following:

Deleting Deletionism

Everyone who isn’t wrong loves Wikipedia and how it has affected the world. But there are many people who feel alienated and disillusioned by the culture that has developed within the editorial ranks.
The disillusionment obviously has many different faces (which is how the bizarre and ridiculous Conservapedia got started) and disagreement is always going to be an issue in a site like Wikipedia. But there is one aspect of the editor culture that really gets on my tits, and on the collective tits of most people that I know in the real world (who care about wikipedia); it’s the new concept of Deletionism.
Apart from having an abominable name, it is an abominable concept: that removing articles on the basis of the nebulous concept of “notability” improves the quality of Wikipedia. This idea, under reductio ad absurdum, results in removing all articles to achieve total quality.
Now, in my case at least, this isn’t a NIMBY argument; weirdly, articles that I have created or care about still exist. My personal beef is with articles I’ve linked to in the past, which have since disappeared! Surely, if people link to them from an article deemed “notable” they they themselves are notable! Google would defend me on that assertion.
But all is not lost, and if you are also annoyed by the deletionist vandals then it is your duty to take action! Stop whinging, and take action people! It doesn’t take much work either.
One random evening I was particularly irritated by the deletion of the article “Bhuna” and, if you follow the previous link, you’ll see what was said. For posterity, the sage advice given to me was as follows:

  • Importance is not a reason for inclusion or exclusion, notability is. You have to find references to it in newspapers journals or books. That’s the only way Wikipedia has of measuring ‘imporance’, not the number of interested people which no one has measured. If you can find a survey saying lots of people are interested that would establish notability in itself! You can always contest a proposed deletion by removing the tag – it says so when such a tag is stuck on an article. Dmcq (talk) 11:39, 21 June 2010 (UTC)
  • You can also recruit people to contest a deletion by putting a notice about it on a relevant project page or closely related article talk page. See WP:Canvassing and beware of votestacking described there. Dmcq (talk) 12:17, 21 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Talking to the deleting admin, going to WP:REFUND or seeking a deletion review are options. Only articles meeting the criteria for speedy deletion can be deleted by a single user. WP:PROD stays open a week and can be contested by anyone at any time, even after deletion. WP:AFD invites input from anyone and the closing admin considers consensus, so rarely does one user’s whim decide AFD debates. Fences&Windows 01:15, 23 June 2010 (UTC)

So, here’s what to do if an article you value is deleted:

  1. See if you can find the original article’s source somewhere (Google is your friend here because so many sites scrape and keep Wikipedia).
  2. Recreate the article using the material.
  3. Wikify it as much as you can and link to references!
  4. Check it regularly! if someone tries to delete it, take the above advice and fight your corner.
  5. Repeat.

Good luck.

Selling broken crap

Imagine inventing something that would be absolutely wonderful if it worked, but doesn’t. What would you do? Rip it up and start again?
Try to invent something else?

Alternatively, what about selling it in massive quantities, for vast profits, despite it not working? This is what vendors of Voice Recognition technology have done.

Voice recognition does not work. Never has. Never will (probably). Yet massive corporations buy it and use it all over the world. If you’ve ever had the experience of trying to persuade these robotic bastards that the customer id you just read to them is correct, you’ll understand. It feels like someone is deliberately trying to get you angry, just for a laugh. This technology clearly doesn’t work, yet these big companies keep buying it and using it. Why?

Well, there are two possible answers:

  1. They don’t know it doesn’t work, and buy it, and use it, in the belief that it works really well.
  2. They don’t give a fucking fuck because the only people using it are the customers who are, frankly, scum.

I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to decide which it is.

Either way, I’d love to be able to sell a shit, broken, product to millions of massive companies around the world.

Maybe we could call it Windows.