“These are serious times and the senator is not a serious man. And so we have a campaign that has a sharper position on Mary Cheney’s lesbianism and the deficiencies of Laura Bush’s curriculum vitae than on the central question of the age.”

— Mark Steyn

Sanitizing Apache with PF


About 45 minutes elapsed between the moment that I first turned this server on and the arrival of the first virus/worm/hacker probes. It was obvious that most of them were looking for Windows-based web servers, so they were harmless to me.

Still, I like to review the logs occasionally, and the sheer volume of this crap was getting annoying. Later, when I raised munitions.com from the dead, I discovered that it was getting more than 30,000 hits a day for a file containing the word “ok”. Worst of all, as I prepare to restore my photo archives, I know that I can’t afford to pay for the bandwidth while they’re slurped up by every search engine, cache site, obsessive collector, Usenet reposter, and eBay scammer on the planet.

Enter PF, the OpenBSD packet filter.

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Unrepentant sinner


Undergrads love free Internet porn. This is not news. Undergrads will go to great lengths to hide their porn collections from the sysadmins. This also is not news. Sometimes they outsmart themselves. This is just plain fun.

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Pissing in your whiskey


Han shot first.

We never saw Newt’s family.

There was no World War II scene.

The government agents had guns.

Think of your favorite movies, the way you remember them. Pick them up on DVD, and there’s a disturbingly high chance that the movie you see will be different somehow. Maybe it’s subtle, adding a few minutes here and there that were originally chopped out for runtime or ratings issues. Maybe it’s dramatic, restoring huge chunks of material that were arbitrarily slashed away by a clueless studio. More and more often, though, it’s the result of a director revisiting his earlier work and simply changing his mind about how best to tell the story.

I call this “pissing in your whiskey,” because the director is insisting that the best work he could do ten years ago has soured in the barrel, and needs an infusion of mature creative juices.

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Sometimes it’s not the network


My job was Unix support for Corporate Services, which basically referred to everything in the company that wasn’t related to developing, selling, or training customers how to use our products. In practice, though, it usually just meant MIS, because HR and Legal were composed entirely of Mac people, who had their own support team.

The oddest exception started one day when an HR manager asked me to help him set up a beta-test of a Lotus Notes-based applicant tracking system. The application was being developed on OS/2 servers and PC clients, but we wanted to test it with a SunOS server and Mac clients, since that’s what we had.

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Backups? What backups?


A.J. was worried. For several months, he’d been growing more and more concerned about the reliability of the Unix server backup system that he operated every day. He was just the latest in a long string of junior contractors paid to change tapes, but he actually cared about doing a good job, and something wasn’t right.

He had raised his concerns with the manager of Core Services and the Senior System Administrators who were responsible for the corporate infrastructure, but they assured him that any problems were only temporary, and that he should wait until they had the new system in place. A.J. resigned himself to pretending to do his job, and grudgingly agreed to stall for more time whenever a restore was requested that he couldn’t accomplish.

And then the system just stopped working.

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Foods nature never made


No, not the genemod stuff. Frankly, if I could find a grocery that sold produce that was guaranteed genetically modified, grown with artificial fertilizers, sprayed with pesticides, and then irradiated, I’d shop there every day. Modern technology has done wonders for the quality and safety of food, contrary to the claims of people who confuse natural with safe and healthy. Don’t even get me started on their abuse of the word organic.

No, I’m talking about the single-serving can of fruit I’m holding in my hand. The label reads “raspberry-flavored peaches.”

What were they thinking?

Attack of the killer ants!


Brian Tiemann has an ant problem. No surprise there; I think it’s on the Universal New House Checklist, right after “otherwise quiet neighbor with yapping dog.” What surprised me, though, was that he was willing to accept their presence in the house as long as they didn’t get too aggressive.

Not me. Slaughter-and-sanitize is my motto, and their right to life ends with the very first bread crumb.

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Mystery Hill on the level


It happened in 1980, I think. My father and I were vacationing in Michigan, in the general vicinity of Manistee, when some of the local kids told us about a special place they were calling Mystery Hill, where if you put your car in neutral, it would roll uphill.

It’s a fairly common optical illusion that often results in the creation of a cheesy tourist trap. By happy coincidence, on the day we went out to see it, my father had a toolbox in the back of his truck. It contained a carpenter’s level. We set it down on the allegedly-uphill road and let the universe reveal the truth of the matter.

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”