Hibernate Ubuntu Edgy

I took the plunge yesterday and upgraded my laptop from Kubuntu Dapper to Edgy. For the most part I like it. Evolution is snappier, Firefox 2 is awesome, Amarok 1.4.3 works almost perfectly with my mp3 player. One thing I lost though, was the ability to hibernate my laptop. I did gain back the capability to suspend, which I'm sure I'll use because it's a lot quicker. But when I leave work at the end of the night I prefer to hibernate because who knows how long the system might sit in my bag.

But I got it working. Here's what I did. Now understand that this is just based on a few things I pulled together so that it Just Works(tm), but it may not be the Right Way(tm).

Bacon


I've been working on a Unified Theory of Bacon lately. I have come to realize that anything tastes better with bacon. That's not to say that bacon can make a spew-a-licious carrot salad (you know the one with shredded carrot, mayo and raisins) into an edible side dish, but it wouldn't taste nearly so vile.

To put it simply, I love bacon. I was therefore delighted when I saw a tip on America's Test Kitchen about how to store bacon for easy use. We normally buy an extra package of bacon, cut it in half and freeze each of those. What if you just need a couple slices of bacon, say for some bacon mashed potatoes (which I'm making right at this very moment)? Instead of freezing the whole slab, take each piece and roll it up like it was a cinnamon bun. Toss them into a bag and stick them in the freezer. It's then a cinch to take out exactly how many you need (do plan 20 minutes ahead so they can thaw). It does take a little time to roll up an entire package of bacon, but really not too bad. Certainly no more than it does to split a 5 pound pile of hamburger into half pound portions.

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Spam Research Update

Back in April I started an informal spam research project to see if the conventional wisdom is true, namely that when you put your email address on a website it collects spam. Basically I littered my site with a email addresses and then kept watch to see when messages were delivered. Today I removed them from the site and would like to share my results so far.

Here are the email addresses I used, where I placed them and how many messages they received:

  • st1 - plain text in an html comment, at /blog - received 29
  • st2 - href=mailto in an html comment, at /blog - received 17
  • st3 - href=mailto in plain sight, at /blog - received 23
  • st4 - plain text in an html comment, at /gallery - received 8
  • st5 - href=mailto in an html comment, at /gallery - received 8
  • st6 - href=mailto in plain sight, at /gallery - received 7
  • Total messages: 92
  • First hit: 2006-05-05 04:21:39
  • First hit address: st2
  • Unique hosts: 38
  • Hosts sending only a single message: 22
  • Most messages from a single host: 8
  • Hosts listed in Spamhaus SBL-XBL: 25
  • Messages blocked by SBL-XBL: 37
  • Separate attacks: 18
  • Attacks with delays between messages: 6
  • Number of countries: 19
  • Most common countries: China (5), South Korea (6), U.S. (5)

The next step is to see how long I continue to receive messages at these addresses. I suspect it'll continue for at least 2 months. We'll see.

Finally, I came up with a clever way to trace back when these messages get skimmed off the server. Instead of a static address (st1, st2, etc.), I wrote up a simple little bit of php code to generate a unique email address of the form stT<date>T<ip address>. The things I'm most curious to find out are 1) how long spammers continue to use a certain address, 2) how widely the skimmed addresses are shared and 3) how far from the crawler the email address wanders. I'll let you know.

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MegaRAID Nagios Script

Last year we bought some Dell PowerEdge 2850 servers with a PERC 4e/DC RAID controller. It's based on the LSI MegaRAID chipset which we really liked. It's fast which is great, although so far it hasn't be entirely stable, which is greatly annoying. To that end, I was tasked with get a Nagios script in place to monitor the array and alert us if it fails (again!).

With the server came a disk with some utilities. One of those is the MegaServ and its corresponding MegaCtrl. It seems like a good idea, but the blasted thing doesn't work in any sane manner. It generates alerts for things like how many percent a rebuild is at and when the battery starts charging. It can get bad. Worse still is that it stopped sending any alerts.

But today I found another utility for Dell. It's an extension to snmpd, named percsnmp that polls a daemon for the current status of the controllers. It's great and so full of good info. For now I'm just looking at the online state, but given all these other fields I may have further uses for it. Most especially I'm interested in the settable rebuildRateInPercent field since rebuild rate can't be set through the megamgr (a copy of the BIOS-level tool).

Copyright Reform

Go read the Podcasting Legal Guide. Be careful, it took me about three days to make it all the way through. It's Long. Then, once you've read it, tell me that the copyright system hasn't become bloated and unweildy. It would take a cadre of lawyers to produce a podcast that incorporates commercially available music. I don't even want to think about the difficulty that say a movie producer must go through. Not that I really feel sorry for the media companies who have made their own bed.

And considering all the parties affected by a possible redrafting of title 17, I find it doubtful that we could ever come to a reasonable solution that would accurately reflect the Constitution's original compromise. Yes, I'm saying it's pretty much hopeless. Except for Lawrence "The Hopester" Lessig's Creative Commons. It's concise, easy to read (in both legalese and lay terms) and it puts real power into the hands of the author. It's a breath of fresh air in these times of muddy copyright law. Go Larry!

(This blog post, like all the others on this site is provided under the Attribution-ShareAlike CC license)

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Taste Test: 2% Milk


There's a local dairy just up the road from my house, maybe a mile away. In the summer time it's quite a treat to go over there for a refreshing ice cream cone. Delicious stuff. They also, of course, have milk. I've been wanting to start getting my milk from there, for a few reasons. First, they're local and I always prefer to support that. They also don't use hormones and steroids on their cows. I prefer that as well, just like I would choose an organic apple if possible. But, as you can probably guess, their milk is more expensive than my standard Walmart brand milk. Would the switch be worth it? Scientific research to the rescue!

I acquired a gallon of 2% milk from both Reed's Dairy and Walmart. I like my milk as creamy as possible. How can I say no to cream? The answer is, I can't, of course. I poured about 2 ounces of each in small glasses each labeled on the bottom. Due to the opaqueness of the milk, I had no way to see the label. I then had my wife mix them up while I closed my eyes.

Visually I couldn't tell them apart. Both were white and milky, imagine that. They both smelled the same. It really all boiled down to taste, as you would probably expect give the extent the FDA has its fingers in the milk supply. Basically they tasted the same, but one had a creamier and richer flavor. It wasn't strong or overwhelming, but noticable. Unsurprisingly the creamier one was from Reed's Dairy.

I haven't fully contemplated the ramifications of this test. The taste was definitely enough that I could differentiate even on cereal or drinking with dinner. All things being equal, I would prefer the Reed's Dairy milk. The problem I find is that I don't really care to make a separate trip just for milk, especially considering how much milk we consume with 2 little tikes.

The solution might be home delivery. I'm just not sure how much it costs. I've asked each of the last two times I've been in for a price schedule but both times they've only had the out-of-town list, which is no help to me. Their website is a little pathetic in this regard as well. Until I find out just how much that would cost, it's a no-go for me. We'll see when I can finally find time to give a call over there during the day. Maybe Tuesday when I've got the day off. That's a good idea. Thanks, I thought so too. You're so smart. Oh, I know.

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Taste Test: Cheerios

This test wasn't nearly so blind as many of my others have been. My apologies if your sense of scientific adventure is spoiled.

Here's the back story. My wife refuses to eat anything but Cheerios, but based on $$$ I bought a box of Walmart's off-brand toasted oats for the baby's snacks at church. Since we had them both, I ate a bowl of each.

The Cheerios were nice and cruchy. They have a balanced oat flavor with a nice after-taste. I prefer unsweetened cereals and these fit the bill nicely. They have good taste without being sweet.

The Walmart brand didn't have the same crunch. It's hard to describe, but even out of the box they just weren't as crisp to the tooth. Maybe a little stale tasting, but that's not quite the right description. The taste was pretty similar but wasn't as pleasing.

From then on we've been a Cheerios household. The baby even enjoys them more. Who'd have thought he had such discerning tastes?

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Read-only Comments

I get the infrequent comment spam posted to the site. Actually, I added the "Recent comments" box to the left side of the sight specifically so I could monitor the situation. Plus I enjoy reading what you guys have to say. In an attempt to limit the former without unnecessarily burdening the latter I have written a crontab to update all my blog posts to set comments to read-only after 4 months. I hope that's enough time for feedback from everybody. Let me know if you feel otherwise.

For the curious, here's the script:

#!/bin/sh

echo "update node set comment = '1' where comment = '2' and unix_timestamp(now()) > changed and unix_timestamp(now()) - changed > 10368000 order by from_unixtime(changed);" | mysql -u comments -ppassword blog

And I created a special user just for this task:

mysql> grant update,select on blog.node to comments@localhost identified by 'password';

And added it to the system crontab:

15 2 * * * nobody /usr/local/bin/disable-comments.sh

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Taste Test: Chicken Broth

This is the first in a new category which you may or may not have noticed, named Taste Tests where I pit two or more products head to head to see which is really the best. I've been doing this off and on for the last few years. My goal is to save money on no-name brands where taste makes no difference but spend the big bucks where it really does. Like when you buy butter instead of margarine, or shiitake mushrooms instead of button mushrooms. On with the show!

Yesterday I tried out a new (to me) recipe for tortilla soup. It turned out quite delicious by the way, despite my initial fears that it was lacking in the seasonings department. The calls for 4 cups of chicken stock or broth. We were at the dreaded Walmart picking up supplies and I couldn't decide whether to get the Swanson's or the Great Value (cheap Walmart brand). Since I needed two 14.5 ounce cans, I grabbed one of each.

To test I poured small amounts (since I needed the rest for the soup) into two small glasses. One had cute flowers on it so they were easy to differentiate. My wife warmed them up in the microwave since generally (always?) chicken broth will be eaten warm. I closed my eyes and she gave me the glasses one at a time.

The first one had a nice round taste. Not too much of anything, and certainly not too salty which was my primary fear. I probably could have enjoyed a bowl of that with some noodles and called it lunch.

The second had some good flavors, don't get me wrong, but my first reaction upon taste was "gimme the other one back". I took a few sips but couldn't identify what it was that I didn't like. It wasn't salt, that would have been too easy. The flavors just didn't marry well. The only way I can think to describe it is with music. Go play a nice C chord. That was the first sample. Now add an F#. That's the second one. You can still pick out the nice sound, but you would much rather it stop.

The result? The second was Great Value. I should have (and did) guess based on the package. Swanson's is just so much more appetizing. And we all know that old story about a book and its cover. "Don't eat a book or its cover. Have some Swanson's chicken broth instead."

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Amarok

Many moons ago, Stuart pointed me at a great little music jukebox named Rhythmbox. It worked OK, but I'm not really into Gnome. I wanted somemthing that fit in with KDE, used the same widgets and the same file selector. Basically I'm picky.

For quite a while I've been using Juk and for the most part it does what I need. Let me rephrase that. It works great and has all the features I need, except when it crashes. That I most certainly don't need. It didn't used to crash all the time. Rarely, if ever. Seems to be linked to when I review the history, but certainly not limited to that. The last crash was when I opened the tag editor. I got fed up. Now, I felt a little obligated to report a bug to the mailing list, but really I just don't care to put that much effort into it.

That's when I stumbled upon Amarok. It just happened to be the default media player in Kubuntu and I think I've found my new jukebox. Here are some of the fun things I've discovered so far.

  • Keeps track of times a song has been played. Rhythmbox did that too and I miss it.
  • Calculates how much you like a song based on some magic algorythm. I haven't decided if it's accurate yet, but anybody who's tried to rank all their mp3s can appreciate some automation in this area.
  • It's got the eye candy. The spectrum analyzer, the colors, everything is done well but not overdone. That's a tough balance.
  • Album covers pulled from Amazon. Juk added this recently, but it's more pretty in Amarok (see last point).
  • Lyrics pulled from the Internet. Who knows where, but sometimes you miss reading the album art. I've got it all somewhere, but what's the point in pulling out the CD?
  • Wikipedia. You can browse the Wikipedia article about the artist you're currently listening to. I wasted a couple good hours last night reading about U2 and Alanis Morissette. It's one of those "why didn't I think of that!" ideas.

But, it's no panacea. The playlist can be a little hard to manage. When you create an automatic playlist, there's no easy way to browse it without disturbing the play queue. That's annoying. Even more annoying is that the interface will jump around at the beginning and end of songs. So if you're browsing your collection and a song ends, it flips you back over to the track information.

Still, it runs all the time and that's more than I can say about Juk. So far it's a keeper.

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