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GRAFFITI -- October 04, 2004 thru October 10, 2004

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Welcome to Orb Graffiti, a place for me to write daily about life and computers. Contrary to popular belief, the two are not interchangeable.     About eMail - I publish email sometimes. If you send me an email and you want privacy or anonymity, please say so clearly at the beginning of your message.

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MONDAY    Tues    Wed    Thu    Fri    Sat    Sun   
October 4, 2004

2141 - Good evening. Oh, happy day! SpaceShipOne did the job, two trips to space in less than a week on the same hardware. Take that, NASA! And the pilots are older than I am. There's still a shot!

In other news... there is no other news. My legs know I went hiking yesterday, and that's not a bad thing. I spent the day upgrading some client site boxes to SP2, and thereafter dealing with the downside. What a PITA!

Okay, it's a new month. Last month there were nearly 57,000 page reads, and 2+ Gig of data moved for this site and its closest kin alone. Of interest on the search side of things, Miranda Richardson continues to be more popular than my second cousin (third? I dunno) Tom Brady. She's a wonderful actress, he throws a football around effectively. Miranda is funny and pretty, Tom ... throws a football around effectively. Of course, MSN for Linux is also higher rated than Tom Brady in my search stats. Hmmm, deranged people. And 92 countries, including the exalted Network, and US Commercial at the top of the heap, with single hits landing from Guatemala, Morocco, Macedonia and Viet Nam. Wow!

Thanks to everyone for continuing to stop by and read. I'll try and sound less like someone's great auntie, reciting a catalogue of her ailments, pains and remedies. Y'all deserve better than that. I'm hopeful of getting my toes wet in a few new ponds as a result of the impending job shift, and I'll talk about what's allowed, under the terms of my NDA. There's certain to be more BSD stuff, and a bit more focus on security, methinks.

I'm off for the evening. Have a good un!

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Mon    TUESDAY    Wed    Thu    Fri    Sat    Sun   
October 5, 2004

2124 - Good evening. A busy day updating a set of Linux boxen and documenting any last bits I can think about on the jobsite TWiki. I've got two more days of work there this week, and vast amounts to be done. But it'll all get done. I'm good for that.

During his travels to the Mojave to be there while Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne won the X Prize, Jerry had connectivity problems from the motel. I've sent him a short list of questions and assumptions, and some recommendations of things he can try, here they are again, generalized and paraphrased (as I used some specific information in that communication that doesn't belong in the Google cache)...

I'm not so much answering this specific message as commenting on the entire string. I may have missed one or two messages so I'll paraphrase what I think you were seeing, then suggest what might be causing it, and offer a suggestion or two to experiment with next time you're on travel.

Please note that if the suggestions seem like a good idea, then you may want to print this email out and put it with your travel networking kit so you'll have it when you can't get out to the world.

So first to paraphrase: The motel out in the Mojave said they had highspeed internet, you connected your gear and couldn't connect for some reason. The implied culprit in this case is DNS servers configured on your laptop/machine that didn't do DNS - you could see things by IP, but NOT by name. Is that a good summary?

Next, because I've not seen it in this discussion, but you've made mention of it from time to time on your site: You connect in strange places by connecting a gateway/router to the service, then connect your laptop to the gateway. Is this also so? Did you try their service by connecting the computer directly to the service line? (Not that I'd recommend that necessarily, but wondering if you tried).

If so, is your gateway configured to present the same subnet (something like 192.168.1.x) on the inside, so that you don't have to reconfigure the laptop? Is the laptop setup for static or dhcp IP addressing? If the former (which might be possible, since you connect to the gateway always, and never direct to the hotel service), then it's possible that you aren't using the provided information and they're blocking you from outside services in order to prevent their line from being used as a spam source or attack vector.

What you might do to see what's happening is to connect to the gateway after it comes online with the service, and look at the settings it acquired from the service's DHCP server. They may have specified DNS servers that are the only ones allowed from your connection. If I were running a highspeed service in that environment, I'd probably only allow outbound connections to HTTP, POP3, maybe IMAP and SMTP. That's enough to cover 98% of travellers, while minimizing exposure to being a source of problems.

Explicitly, when I try to connect to a known nameserver and it seems to be failing, I can try telnet to see if the connection even happens. I don't have to open a *dialog* with the DNS server as I might try with a POP3 server, but just telneting to port 53 of a DNS server, if the "connected" message happens, then I know that outbound connections on that port are not being blocked. Here's an example:

bilbrey@goldfinger ~ $ telnet 53
Connected to
Escape character is '^]'.
telnet> quit
Connection closed.

I typed CTRL-] to get the telnet prompt back, then quit. You can generalize this test to just about any service for which you know the port and an IP address which is known to be good for the purpose.

Next step. While you're at home, look at the configuration of your system, and cherrypick a few addresses and names. For example, from the network configuration properties, get your DNS server IP addresses. People in a domain usually have their domain server as the first DNS server, that's no help at all outside the domain network. Use others, from somewhere, often the configuration setup data from your ISP/service provider. For example, a passel of public UUnet DNS servers are found at 198.6.0.n, where n is at least [2..6].

Look at your email setup, get the names of the POP3 and SMTP servers, use ping as a quick cheat to get back the IP address:

bilbrey@goldfinger ~ $ ping mail.earthlink.net
PING mail.earthlink.net ( 56(84) bytes of data.

And now you know that your mail server (if you use Earthlink) is at the IP address of You can use the telnet command, those addresses, and the port number that corresponds to the service in order to test connections from where ever you are. So

telnet 110 

lets you test for a connection to the mail server you identified on the POP3 service port (110). Other popular services are DNS (53), IMAP4 (143), SMTP (25). Look up whatever services you use on an internet service port page like this one, or if you're on a Linux box, just look at the /etc/services file. Most everything you need to know about what TCP port is associated with what service can be found there.

Finally, if you simply know that DNS is borked, but do know your mail server names and IP addresses, then you can put that data in your hosts file, I think that's found in C:\windows\system32\driverstc\hosts on a windows box, and in /etc/hosts in a Linux box. The latter I'm sure of. IMPORTANT NOTE: When you put entries in your hosts table, you're preempting DNS. Only do this to work around broken DNS, and remove the entries when DNS is working again. Otherwise your service provider can move the services to a different IP address that resolves from the same name, and your stuff won't work anymore - much confusion results if you don't remember that you left an old entry in your hosts table.

Also know that specific host table entries are VERY useful for getting to services with known sites, like your mailserver. For general browsing, it helps not at all.

I hope all this helps you.

I hope it helps you, too, gentle reader. Now I've got to send another email or two, get things setup for tomorrow, and move a few files from here to there and back again (backups, always modifying my schtick). Have a great evening.

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Mon    Tues    WEDNESDAY    Thu    Fri    Sat    Sun   
October 6, 2004

2114 - Good evening. Doom 3 on Linux. Have a great evening!

2144 - And, as promised on the FAQ, ATI support via the fglrx driver doesn't work. Worse, it works for a while, then the game dumps out. I got all the way through orientation and on my way to the seargent by the fourth attempt, then I just stopped. I'll wait for the new ATI driver, I guess. Oh well, when it's running, it's just as detailed and fast as running under the GamingOS.

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Mon    Tues    Wed    THURSDAY    Fri    Sat    Sun   
October 7, 2004

2222 - Good evening. I'm not actually having a very good time these days... I *am* really looking forward to the new job, but leaving the old one behind is not fun. NERDS is a good company, with great people. And our clients, even the ones that tempt me to violate specific commandments, well, they're all good folks, too. I'm going to miss working with all of them ... a lot! Between that, taking care of the yard (I had core aeration and overseeding done), helping get the house ready for guests, and a really good CSI episode tonight, I just don't have more to report.

In better news, John Dominik's finally got a day gig again. Woooooo! Yay, John!

Now, time for bed. One more working day before the three day weekend coming up - Columbus Day, doncha know. Have a good evening.

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Mon    Tues    Wed    Thu    FRIDAY    Sat    Sun   
October 8, 2004

2131 - Whooo. TGIF! That, a nice supper and chat with niece Natali who's in town for a visit, some CSI on Spike and an otherwise early evening following a long-ish week. Perfect. And there's news from Magnatune, the record company that's not Evil - CD's:

* Physical CDs now available of all our albums

All 322 albums at Magnatune can now be purchased either as a download or as a physical CD.

The physical CD is a perfect copy of the master CD, and comes in a CD box with customized artwork. You can see what it looks like here:


Downloads are still priced $5 to $18 (you decide the price). When you buy a CD, you still decide the price you want to pay for the music, and we add on $4.97 ($7.97 non-USA), which goes directly to the company which makes the CD and ships it to you. Thus, $8 for the music gets you a CD to your door for $12.97

John Buckman's building a good thing at Magnatune. I can go there, an listen to all of the music streamed at decently high rates (128K). There's also a low-rate option available for dialup connections, but when choosing Classical music, the more bits the better. There's lots more than Classical, of course. I am perfectly happy to support artists with my hard-earned dollars. I'm terribly glad that I have a way to do that without paying money to the RIAA. Artists that want my business should talk to John Buckman. And now, should I want it, I can get CD's. I probably don't want that, since the downloadable tunage is all WAV files, easy to burn back to disc in PCM format. But it's a nice option to have, for an additional reasonable production and shipping fee. Magnatune Rocks! My name is Brian Bilbrey, and I approve this ad. Okay, I do not have a business relationship of any kind with Magnatune, but it's too insanely great not to keep mentioning.

Marcia's doing a bit of last minute work to wrap up before being on vacation for a week this week. I'll be taking the following week to decompress a bit between jobs. That sounds really nice and relaxing. I'll probably end up remodelling something and working my ass off. But I can dream of relaxing, really I can. Now go, it's Friday ... enjoy!

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Mon    Tues    Wed    Thu    Fri    SATURDAY    Sun   
October 9, 2004

2004 - Good evening. Today we went to the Sugarloaf Craft Festival at Gaithersburg. They have great stuff, it's a juried show, and everything is top notch quality. Of course, that costs quite a bit more than the corner flea market, but in Arts and Crafts, as elsewhere, you get what you pay for. We have some great ideas for art for the rooms due up for redecoration, thanks to the artisans at a number of booths. On the way home, we stopped at Hudson Trail Outfitters to pick up my pack and tent for the upcoming hike.

I made pasta, red sauce, and killer garlic bread for supper tonight. Marcia and Natali seemed to like it well enough, and both dogs drooled a river. I count that as a win in the cooking department. All my brain is good for now is giving me a rest following all the serious digestive activities.

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Mon    Tues    Wed    Thu    Fri    Sat    SUNDAY  
October 10, 2004

2159 - Good evening. Wow, sleepy. That's what comes of eating a pound or more of turkey. We baked a bird this afternoon while Marcia and Natali went shopping. I worked on the computer. Gentoo was behaving a little funny on me, so I thought I'd drop in on Debian for a while. I upgraded the kernel a couple of days ago, and I'd had two full-stop poweroff crashes in the last two days. Nothing to indicate any problem in the logs, just bang, gone. Not while I was actually sitting here or anything, though. So I'm running in Debian in the 2.6.8 kernel to see if things are different than in Gentoo. The only "downside" is that I'm unable to easily get the ATI fglrx kernel module built and running. So no OpenGL gaming for me in Linux.

Oh, I've done some mods to all the Daynotes sites, both daynotes.com, and the daynotes.net/.org complex. Check them out at your convenience.

We're off to pick up Marly at the airport in a few minutes. She's Marcia's friend from the Brazil office, up for a week of chatter and quilting. I guess I'd better get shoes on, and find the wallet and keys. Have a good evening.

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Visit the rest of the DAYNOTES GANG, a collection of bright minds and sharp wits. Really, I don't know why they tolerate me <grin>. My personal inspiration for these pages is Dr. Jerry Pournelle. I am also indebted to Bob Thompson and Tom Syroid for their patience, guidance and feedback. Of course, I am sustained by and beholden to my lovely wife, Marcia. You can find her online too, at http://www.dutchgirl.net/. Thanks for dropping by.

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