Greg
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September 2001
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Saturday, 1 September 2001 Echunga
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Spring is here again! And unlike this time last year, the water tank is full. But like last year, it's still raining. It's been a dry winter, but now it's promising to be a wet spring.

Slept in late this morning, and apart from mail didn't do much with the computers; for once in a while I took it easy, apart from removing some more packing cases from the shed. They've been there for over four years, and it shows. Maybe we'll get the whole thing cleaned out soon.


Sunday, 2 September 2001 Echunga
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Another quiet day. Did a bit of reading, decided to download the Cygwin stuff to my Microsoft laptop. Cygwin has grown since I last downloaded it; now it's somewhere round 70 MB of binaries, with another 13 MB for Emacs. The result still reminds me that you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.


Monday, 3 September 2001 Echunga
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Today was show day in Adelaide, and Yana had no school. As a result I had planned to do non-work activities, and by the time I discovered it was a work day after all, I had difficulty convincing myself to change. Did some miscellaneous administrative stuff instead, including completing my expenses. Using Microsoft is really painful.


Tuesday, 4 September 2001 Echunga
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A frustrating day. Came into the office in the morning to discover that wantadilla, my main machine, had paniced in the evening with some soft updates inconsistency. Took a dump, but it seems that I have long since lost the debug kernel. It's nearly a year old, anyway, so maybe it's just telling me it's time to upgrade.

In the morning somebody asked me for PDF files on the Vinum web site; obviously a Microsoft user. Tried to do that and discovered that the mdoc macros have changed beyond belief, and instead of a few minutes it took me a few hours.

Later in the afternoon spent more time looking at the Vinum root file system again. It shouldn't be that difficult, but it's a complete restructure.

More talk about satellite options. Looks like the way to go, but the card they use only has a Linux driver. Downloaded the source for that and took a look at it, but it'll be non-trivial to modify it for FreeBSD. I suspect that, at least in the short term, I'll end up having a Linux box.


Wednesday, 5 September 2001 Echunga
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Another frustrating day. Decided to get my cvs updates working correctly, and spent most of the day “updating” the binutils tree. There's something funny going on there: I downloaded it only a few weeks back, but it seems that it replaced everything. Anyway, it's a good idea to get it to happen automatically every night. That took most of the day.

In the meantime, working on getting Vinum root file system stuff working, and made some good headway. There are still some style issues: the current disk structures contain some bogons (like 6 partitions in a Microsoft partition table, which can only take 4, and the lack of obvious device minor numbers) which will require discussion.

setuid (Dave Desrosiers) appeared on IRC again, so I got him to explain to me how to use jpilot. Got something done, but it involved a complete reset of the Palm Pilot, and after running sync, I only got the new data, not the old. There are lots of ways to shoot yourself in the foot with this software.

To band practice in the evening. They've moved sites, to the other side of the freeway, almost in Littlehampton, and it was very cold. Let's hope we find a solution to that one. I still don't have music for most of the pieces.


Thursday, 6 September 2001 Echunga
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Nice weather for once. Spent the morning arranging the satellite service. After some consideration, decided to take a 400 kb/s downlink; I could get more, but it's more expensive, and I'm not sure that the uplink via modem could keep up with ACK packets for a 2 Mb/s link.

While writing the letter to order the satellite connection, discovered that my upgrades to groff to track the new man page macros had broken my real text formatting capability; everything came out in Courier. Spent some time restoring font descriptions.

In the afternoon, more messing around with cross compilation. What a pain.


Friday, 7 September 2001 Echunga
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Into town today to talk to the tax man, which didn't leave me much time to do much else. Ah well, I should be taking it easier anyway.

More power failures today. The main machines are UPS protected, but I need to decide what to do with the test machines, and since the failure of the Deltec UPS, I need to come to a conclusion about that as well.


Saturday, 8 September 2001 Echunga
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What a day! It poured with rain, and Yvonne was away in Victoria picking up a horse, and I didn't feel particularly motivated. That was before I looked in on IRC and discovered that VA Linux has laid off effectively all of their good people, though for some reason they haven't made it official in Australia yet. That means that they will have to wait until Tuesday to know for sure. And at IBM we're planning a celebration opening our new office in Canberra. sigh

Coincidentally there's some discussion going on about oplocks in FreeBSD. They're needed for Samba, so a lot of the same people were involved in that discussion. It looks as if Jonathan Lemon will take charge of that one.

Upgraded a couple of -CURRENT machines. It's looking relatively stable now.


Sunday, 9 September 2001 Echunga
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Another quiet day. Decided to update canberra, my new laptop, prior to leaving for Canberra. That seemed to work OK, but it no longer found the mouse, so I had to fall back to the old kernel. Grr.


Monday, 10 September 2001 Echunga –> Canberra
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Up at a relatively civilized time this morning, but that didn't stop me leaving without the charger for my laptop. Had an uneventful flight, but in Canberra had some repercussions of my upgrade yesterday, and X would no longer start. Spent at least half an hour messing around before dropping back to 4-STABLE.

The celebration was normal enough. Lots of people there, including all the Canberra VA people, who are still in limbo. Doubtless the other shoe will fall soon.

In the evening, with Alan Modra to Santa Lucia again to try again the quails which I had on 15 June, but they were no longer on the menu. Good food, but not as satisfying as last time.


Tuesday, 11 September 2001 Canberra
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I was woken up at 4 am by some idiot at the taxi rank outside with all doors open and his radio turned up. Grrr.

Not much going on at work. Using Microsoft proves to be a continual challenge. Spent some time getting the latest version of binutils cross compiling; with Alan's help discovered two separate bugs, each causing the same effects, and finally got it to work.

In the evening to an Indian place, still not brilliant, but with far too much food. Early to bed.


Wednesday, 12 September 2001 Canberra
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Woke up just a little too late to get the beginning of the news this morning, hearing “honest” John Howard talking about his sympathies with the American people. It was still a bit of a shock when I got the real news about the destruction of the New York World Trade Center.

People on IRC were talking about retaliation to whatever their favourite theory of who the perpetrators might be. It's amazing how much more seriously they take the event than the daily reports of terrorism in the Holy Land. And they still seem to think that they can defeat terrorism with conventional warfare, even if the terrorists are prepared to die for their cause. sigh

Work was relatively uninteresting. Somehow people are just too busy to talk. I wonder if we even really need to be together to do this sort of thing.

To a Turkish restaurant, the “Harem”, this evening. Alan liked the food.


Thursday, 13 September 2001 Canberra
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First day of our induction training, “Becoming one Voice”. There were about 17 of us, including most of OzLabs and some GSA people. Interesting enough stuff; IBM tends to do this training well, and this course seems to have been no exception.

In the evening out to dinner with the Ozlabs people. “La Rustica”, yet another restaurant in the Kingston Square.


Friday, 14 September 2001 Canberra –> Echunga
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The day was taken up by the rest of the course. Ansett Airways, with whom we came on Monday, has collapsed, so we went back with Qantas. As a result of the turmoil, got there an hour early, only to discover that the plane was delayed by 2 hours. What a week.

Going through the security check, they noticed I had a corkscrew in my handbag. I had to surrender that, and to be a good boy, I surrendered the entire pouch in which it was, which also contained a packaging knife of the kind allegedly used to hijack the US planes, and also a screwdriver. In the Qantas Club they had removed all metal knives and replaced them with plastic ones. The forks were still metal, and they have always been more dangerous than the knives. They've got a way to go before they understand what to do.

The same applies to SkynetGlobal. Their network now works, if you remember the network name, but they still don't have reverse DNS on their mail server. sigh.


Saturday, 15 September 2001 Echunga
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Lots of toys to play with today. I brought back three differential SCSI cards from Canberra, so I can finally connect up some of the disk drives that I received on 6 February. Things went relatively smoothly, though I was using the old ncr driver for the NCR 875 chips on the cards; the sym driver should be better, and hopefully it won't panic with an obvious race condition when I install two cards.

Spent some time copying various test scenarios to disk, and then tried to boot. Grrr. These cards were designed for non-Intel machines, so they don't have any PC-style BIOS. As a result, the system didn't recognize them, though FreeBSD had no trouble, and I couldn't boot for them. I need to think a bit more.


Sunday, 16 September 2001 Echunga
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Came in this morning and found that echunga had paniced with a soft updates inconsistency. Grrr. It had been up for 150 days, and was a strong contender to follow flame, which had been up for 348.

Spent the morning installing Linux on a box in preparation for the satellite receiver installation on Tuesday. Somehow it's always difficult to install Linux. I settled on Red Hat 7.0, mainly because it's the most recent one I have, and it asked silly questions like whether I wanted a server or a workstation. Took several attempts to get it to run, and it still didn't have all the stuff I wanted. Not as bad as Debian, but by no means as complete as FreeBSD. For example, no ntp, although it's supposed to be a server.

In the afternoon out riding for the first time for quite a while; it's been too wet up to now. Had a relatively long ride, and finally I was able to get Darah to the stage where she didn't want to trot all the time. We need to do this more often. She's really fat again.

In the evening had trouble with the residual current switch in the house switchboard. It seemed to be tripping on something in the Mike Smith Memorial Room. I suspected the new disk drawers, but turning them off didn't stop the problem, and while we were having dinner it failed again and I didn't hear the warnings from the UPSs. By the time Yvonne went back an hour later, everything was dead, not a sparc from flame. Grr. I was not happy.


Monday, 17 September 2001 Echunga
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Painters in today. We're finally getting our renovations completed.

Since flame had gone down anyway, I decided that I might as well do the reconfiguration I had planned before installing the satellite dish tomorrow. That may have been a mistake; in any case, a complete series of catastrophes ensued. I tried replacing echunga with the Duron box I had bought last month, and for some reason the name server decided that the zone files were invalid, though they hadn't been changed for months. wantadilla got in on the act by exhibiting multiple problems which I still don't understand, but which looked like hardware failure. I also had the rather inappropriate idea, at least of this juncture, of putting another display card in echunga. I had just found a PCI Mach 64 card, but since I would have to move furniture to place another monitor, left that for another day. The whole time the residual current device kept tripping, and I kept rotating the machines that were on and off to find out what was causing it. Not a good day.


Tuesday, 18 September 2001 Echunga
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Up early to reinstall the Linux box. Tried Red Hat 7.0, which annoyingly hung twice just before finishing the installation. The satellite installers came in force, a total of four of them, and installed the dish in much less time than it took me to fail to install Linux. In the end gave up, and in sheer desperation decided to install Microsoft on the box, since that was what Trev, the software member of the satellite team, knew best. That was an unmitigated disaster: Microsoft comes with no useful Ethernet drivers at all, and we spent a lot of time swapping Ethernet cards and drivers to get one which it could work with. Finally I gave up and let them go, assuming that I should be able to install the software on Linux myself.

While that was going on, Barry Engel, the electrician, came and had a look at the residual current switch. There's nothing with it, but he did find plenty of ants in the power connector for the irrigation pump. Those pumps will drive me crazy, but I think we're safe from unexpected trips for a while. Obviously we need to separate the two circuits.

It seems that the problem with Red Hat hanging was my choice of display card: a 1989 Orchid ProDesigner, based on a Tseng 3000. But why should I buy a new display card for a machine which will only ever have a monitor connected for debugging purposes? Got RedHat installed and tried to compile the driver, which was more difficult than I thought. Finally installed the 2.4.9 kernel sources and tried building that, in the process learning more about Linux than I ever wanted to know. Also established that the driver sources I had were for the 2.0.x kernel, and so had to get a new one. Didn't finish by the evening.


Wednesday, 19 September 2001 Echunga
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Carried on with the satellite receiver code today, with some success. I suppose I could have done it more quickly, but the environment was really messy, and I needed something which would reliably restart without manual intervention.

Finally got the stuff finished and discovered that the instructions were incomplete: the module brings up an interface called sm200d, which needs to be configured:

sm200d    Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr 00:90:BC:01:4D:B0
          inet addr:10.0.0.1  Bcast:10.255.255.255  Mask:255.0.0.0
          UP BROADCAST RUNNING MULTICAST  MTU:1500  Metric:1
          RX packets:314 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
          TX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
          collisions:0 txqueuelen:100
          Interrupt:10 Base address:0x1000
    

Amusingly, the IP address is not completely irrelevant: it should not be the correct link end address, since that interface needs to send data in a different direction.

After all that, things worked, and I was able to get my expected connectivity. Getting services to use the route wasn't so simple, though: I need to think about this more.

In the evening, noticed that Microsoft abusers are making life even tougher. The “Code Red” worm has cost me over a GB of traffic in the last month, and now there's a new one out, “Nimda” (“admin” spelt backwards), which caused 40 MB of traffic in the last 14 hours. It all gets reaped by the firewall, of course, but it costs money. Called Telstra and asked them to block http, but they said they could only do it for 24 hours. I asked them to reconsider, and they said they'd see what they could do.


Thursday, 20 September 2001 Echunga
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The mains power failed at 5 am this morning. When I got up, I discovered that both of the cupboard machines (air-gw, a 486 running FreeBSD and controlling the wireless cards, also now providing the return IP for the satellite service, and satanas, the Red Hat box running the satellite card) had not come back up. The former had a configuration error causing it to hang on NFS mounts, the latter had not powered back on. There's something I don't like about these ATX motherboards.

From there, things went to hell. While copying some files on echunga, it paniced. Not once, but 3 times. Since echunga has a new motherboard, processor and memory, I suspected that, but swapping in zaphod's memory made no difference, so I decided to move the disks to zaphod until I had time to do something about it. Even that didn't help: I got a panic with duplicate vnode allocation, which suggests that the file system had sustained undetected damage. Decided to back up the file systems and re-newfs, but for some reason rwho connections were being refused. Moved the tape hardware to echunga, where I ended up with obscure SCSI errors which seemed to be related to the cable (the same one I had been using for years on wantadilla). Also managed to provoke another panic. Out of sympathy, both wantadilla and battunga paniced, and the residual current switch decided to trip again.

Finally got things back up, and Mike called from Telstra saying he had to take the http block off the Internet feed. Decided to limit the routed address space to 192.109.197.80/28, which should reduce the traffic by a factor of 16. To make up for that, connectivity to America disappeared, apparently due to some cable problems and BBN getting its routing messed up.

Later, while trying to send a 24 page fax, had both continual line drops and a jammed fax machine. What a day. In fact, what a week. I can't recall ever having so much trouble all together.


Friday, 21 September 2001 Echunga
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Mercifully, things went better today. Took it quiet and played around with the stuff I had installed, and finally got good download Internet connectivity. There's certainly a lot of stuff to think about with the asynchronous routing I'm doing, and I'll probably end up putting it off until I get back from the AUUG conference. At least proved that there's nothing basically wrong with the hardware in the new Duron box, which is currently working as a satellite gateway.

The weather was nice today, and Greg Edmonds brought his spray unit along, but of course we had put the battery charger on the tractor too late, and I couldn't start it. sigh.


Saturday, 22 September 2001 Echunga Images for 22 September 2001
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Finally things are getting back to normal a bit. Finally finished my slides for the AUUG conference, and spent some time playing with satellite IP routing. Things are looking as good as I think I'll let them get before the conference.


Sunday, 23 September 2001 Echunga
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More preparations for the conference. Martin Ramsch is visiting, and so we went out riding, Martin on Pebbles. Despite her age (she's 24, I think), she's still pretty vigorous. Rode for two hours, which was enough for Pebbles, but not for Darah.


Monday, 24 September 2001 Echunga –> Sydney
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Preparations for the conference today. It's good to be able to leave in the afternoon; left me plenty of time to do my preparations.

The flight to Sydney was uneventful, but when I got to the hotel they had moved most of us to another floor, though we had asked for the 8th because of the wireless networking we were putting up. Not very impressive.

Out to dinner with a whole lot of people, early to bed.


Tuesday, 25 September 2001 Sydney Images for 25 September 2001
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Up early this morning to set up the tutorials, which was fun. Then to the exec meeting, which was mercifully short, and then tried to catch up with my mail.

Peter Salus' tutorial in the afternoon. I've heard Peter talking before, and much of the material was the same, but it was surprisingly interesting nonetheless. The other attendees agreed. A nice, interactive story. At one point Peter talked about a stencil used for painting Rob Pike's picture onto water towers, and it turned out that Warren Toomey, present, had the stencil.

In the evening to the speakers' reception, which was quite pleasant. By the time it was over, I was ready for bed, but somehow managed to go out to far too much dinner with David Mandala, David Newall and Rob Hart. Not too late to bed, nevertheless.


Wednesday, 26 September 2001 Sydney
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David Purdue, the AUUG president, had to leave before the beginning of the conference: they had some crisis at work. As a result, Michael Paddon had to do the opening.

In the morning tea break, phone call from Yvonne: the bloody residual current switch had tripped again, and this time the UPS had complained and wouldn't stop complaining, not even when we removed all load. What a load of junk. And why does this have to happen when I'm out of town? Looks like we'll have to have Barry Engel back to fix things.

My talk was on later in the morning; despite my concerns about the material, it went across well. Peter Chubb had more technical questions, of course, but that wasn't the topic this time.

AGM in the late afternoon. We got a lot more participation than last year; maybe my alarm message came across.

In the evening the networking reception. It's a whole different situation when you're organizing the event, and it was quite tiring. After that off eating too much again at Yet Another Chinese restaurant. Late to bed.


Thursday, 27 September 2001 Sydney
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Rob Kolstad started off the show this morning, talking about systems administration, not exactly what I would have thought of as the ideal talk for our people. It was very interesting though, and gave some insight into how the industry is changing: percentually fewer and fewer people are programming, but systems administrators are in increasing demand. Something to think about.

Rusty Russell couldn't make it to the conference, so Tridge gave an impromptu talk about a case of copyright infringement on free software (using Samba as an example, of course). I'd heard it before, but it was very interesting.

Nothing too much in the afternoon, so took the opportunity to catch up on my mail. It was really good to have the wireless network.

In the evening had the conference dinner, during which Rob did his quiz show. Evi had signed me up to participate, but I didn't do very well. Interestingly, no sports questions.

After that to the room party. This year we didn't have any big rooms, so we squeezed into Malcolm Caldwell's room, with overflow into mine, which was next door. Much alcohol was consumed. Finally got chased out by the hotel security at about 1:45 am; we were apparently too noisy.


Friday, 28 September 2001 Sydney
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Up a little late this morning, but I couldn't be too late, since I was chairing the late morning session. Brett Lymn did an interesting talk about code hacking while commuting (by train) with laptops, something like a poor man's version of Richard Sharpe's “Cutting Code in the Qantas club lounges” last November.

In the afternoon Michael Paddon did a talk on intrusion into local networks. His figures we far lower than mine. During the talk echunga blocked 5,000 Nimda setup packets.

Finally the conference was over, leaving a bit of a letdown feeling. Most of the people left the same evening. To dinner alone with Malcolm Caldwell, and early to bed.


Saturday, 29 September 2001 Sydney –> Echunga
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Up late, and gradually found my way to Peter Chubb's place for lunch. Spent the afternoon playing various music that we could sight read (in my case, somewhat hampered by my lack of understanding of renaissance rhythms). They have an impressive collection of books, maybe no more than we have, but significantly more interesting.

Off to the airport and discovered I was just in time to get on an additional flight that Qantas had put on, so ended up home 40 minutes earlier than expected. More visitors at home, Claudia Maier and Daniel Thörig from Zürich. Had Sweet's Anglo-Saxon primer in my hands for the second time in one afternoon, and was able to confirm the claim I had made to Peter that Anglo-Saxon is quite easy for people who speak modern German to understand. I suspect that the (German) Swiss find it easier than the Germans, since they're more used to trying to understand dialects they don't know.


Sunday, 30 September 2001 Echunga
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Up late, making up for the lack of sleep of the last week, and found something like 3,000 mail messages to sift through. That kept me busy for a while.

While I was doing that, Daniel came in and wanted to use the computer. Problem: he doesn't do UNIX, only Microsoft, and his idea of use was something like WordPad or whatever it's called. I couldn't do that, but I gave him an Emacs to see how he got on. He had no trouble at all, which I find rather amusing. Later he wanted to send mail with the document he had written. I didn't feel up to showing him the intricacies of mutt, so I just entered

$ mail < reiseprogramm dani@foo.com
    

“What, that's all”? They were really impressed. It's interesting how difficult UNIX looks from the way people think it is. I also suspect that Microsoft has become so obfuscated in recent years that it's really not easy at all. Certainly I have my difficulties.

In the afternoon to McLaren Vale to do some wine tasting, also brought back several months' supply of wine. Sadly, Wirra Wirra didn't have any more of that interesting Sauvignon Blanc that I bought last time, but they had a very fruity blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, so bought a couple of cartons of that instead. Also much more at Rosemount.


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