Depressed by the middle east

Last night, I watched a most fine documentary on SBS which talked about the historical (archaeological) evidence for and against the Biblical story of exodus, and surrounding the origins of Israel. It was refreshingly objective, but it left me thinking about the middle east as it stands, and how impossible it seems to root out hatreds whose origins are already the subject of unverifiably ancient myth. Time clearly has not healed this wound.

My workmate, currently on holiday, left a copy of a recent Time magazine on his desk. The cover article was all about the current resurgent conflagration in Beruit and that whole part of the world.

I propose a solution. I can’t help but think that I am probably not the first person to suggest this:

  1. Define a region which covers the contested area.
  2. Evacuate everyone who can be peaceably removed from that area, given that you have explained to everyone in the region why they’re being moved. Those who violently insist on remaining will be deemed to have waived all right to aid or further consideration.
  3. Dust the entire contested area with radioactives of several thousand years half-life. Dust heavily enough that the area is no longer survivable for periods of more than a five minutes. Make sure the ‘dust’ agent is heavy and non-soluble, so that it will stay where it’s put, forever.
  4. If conflict expands to go around this region, expand the region. If there is eventually no human-habitable land between Yemen and Turkey, between Suez and Tehran, so be it. Humanity as a whole has forfeit the right to these lands.

Disclaimer: This idea may be a measure of my slightly depressed frame of mind. It is certainly not a serious suggestion, nor do I pretend to hold moral superiority or judgement over any party in the present conflict. Violence begets revenge. We would be a better species if we had outgrown this kind of behaviour, but we haven’t, and we’re not.

Food Courts, and Double Trouble looms a bit more

I am working in Melbourne Central Towerexternal link, a place of great evil all too easily likenedto one of The Two Towers (no, not WTC!), as it looks out balefully over the teeming abyss of Swanston St to the lesser tower, built in imitation of the Great Coneexternal link: QVexternal link.
Today I decided to spend a few bucks of my shiny new pay-packet on lunch in one of the many food-court places under one of these places. I walked for half an hour, and was eventually rewarded by Bubble Teaexternal link down in QV. A treat which seems to have all but vanished from the streets of Melbourne in the last few months. Clearly, that fad is over. Time for the next fadexternal link. What I did not find was anything terribly interesting or original in the way of food. I passed two eeeevil Max Brennerexternal link stores, both of which called softly to me in their muffled, chocolatey voices, but they only offered After Lunch, not Lunch itself.
Eventually I wound up eating a few terribly disappointing sushi train plates at a place called Tomodachi. I do not recommend.
On the whole I am now siezed by doubt about the sanity of the Food Court as an idea… there is a certain pressing mediocrity enforced by competition for custom and space, and by the restricted modes of customer service. Tattersalls lane is a much better option, methinks.

double Trouble has achieved a new milestone as of yesterday: It now upholds the holy grail of website design: Single-Sign-On. The combination of enforced https (SSL) with Apache’sexternal link “Basic” authentication against my LDAP means that SquirrelMail, MoinMoin, WordPress, the doc server, the remote admin interface and web-server statistics pages will all use a common single login, a login authenticated against the same store which drives UNIX shell access, IMAP and SMTP mail, etc, etc, etc. It is most sweeeeeet!

Clothes, Tom Cruise Sucks, Ramblings

Owing to a couple of major australian clothing and homewares shops having new-financial-year sales of great magnitude, and the generosity of Erins, and the general madness which ensues when huge sales and a genuine need for stuff combine with a vague fascination for a new thing… this sentence got much too long. The clothing thing: it is fixed. I have a couple of magnificent new pairs of pants and a whole bunch of new Van Heusen shirts of much niftiness.
Now all I need is to somehow get enough sleep, and I will actually look something like a professional when I’m at work! Wow!

We watched War of the Worlds a-la Spielberg and Cruise on Tuesday night. While it did a number of special effects rather well, it still managed to suck quite a lot. Cruise played his generic anti-hero, with no respect at all to the H.G.Wells story, and Spielberg made vague almost flippant references to it through the naming and arrangement of a few characters and narrative signposts, then leapt wholeheartedly into the worst part of the original story: the it-was-all-alright-in-the-end-because-of-bacteria,-three-cheers-for-science ending. Eugh! Blech!
The sound effects were particularly good in my opinion. The noises of the intial ‘landings’ and all the many sounds made by the tripods were just right. I have decided that I have a real thing for some specific sound-effects. Those of you with a similar propensity will recall the hair-raising noise made by the ghost-zapping backpacks in Ghostbusters when they were first powered up. There’s a similarity to the alien ships, and also to the noise of a really big capacitor charging up. Thorne likes…

Anyhoo. That’s all the even semi-interesting things I have to say for today. Double Trouble is getting steadily closer, but there still isn’t anything particularly newsworthy to report. Soon!

Too casual? More trouble. Signal Failure!?

For some reason, I have been giving more thought than usual to clothes lately. My new role at Kaz calls for a somewhat higher standard of formality than was called for in my previous jobs. Consequently, I have become very conscious of:

  1. The poor quality of my pants; most of my pairs of coservative business pants are either way to tight or visibly falling to bits.
  2. The high degree of casualness of my clothes; many of my shirts are very brightly coloured things, or black, typical of the semi-casual wear you might find at Riversexternal link. I also have a lot of pants which are white or cut like jeans, with externally sewn pockets and so forth.
  3. The contrast; my workmates on this floor often don’t wear suits or ties, but they wear a much higer standard of formal clothing than I’m used to. Black, grey, tan or beige pants, but always strictly cut as formal work-wear. Business shirts with subdued, non-contrasting buttons and such. They are always clean-shaven, or with neatly trimmed well-maintained beards.

Clearly I need to make time and set aside funds to get into line. Equally clearly, I can no longer go two weeks between washing day. Argh!

On the Geeky front, Double Trouble is still living up to its name: the modem hadn’t failed yesterday, rather something has gone wrong in the innards of Double which prevents ssh logins from working, and makes the whole process incredibly slow. There was nothing in the logs last night, but I have left a monitor plugged into the bastard with a logged-in session running ‘top’, in the hope that I might see what’s slowing it down when I get home.

Travelling on the Trains every day is good for my budget, and the walking is doubtless good for my health, but sometimes the train can be a truly horrible way to get around: last night there was aparrently a “Signal Failure” at Flinders St, with the result that the entirety of Platform 1 at Melbourne Central (my station) was closed; all passengers for those lines were directed to catch the #86 tram instead!!! My line was just suffering from a 20-minute delay, combined with multiple train cancellations. This meant that the entire 4:55pm-5:25pm shockwave of peak commuters were compelled to fit into a single train. People were screaming… it was difficult to find enough room to breathe until at least Clayton. By Springvale (where I got off) it was only down to the point where people were getting down off the seat-backs. Still a struggle for standing room. Hellish.

Trouble V: Revenge of the Modem & Trouble VI: Trouble Strikes Back

It has been a while since I posted anything about Trouble; it had been a while since I brought myself to even look at the damned thing.
Still, on sunday morning I did so, and was rewarded: finally I have eradicated the accursed SATA Disk Bug From Hell. For those of a non-geeky persuasion, skip this next text box. I publish it here for the benefit of all those who may, like I was, be stumbling through the net, lost in confusion, unable to obtain even the vaguest hint of answer from Kernel Developers anywhere.


The SATA Disk Bug From Hell

In my case, this problem occurred with a Shuttle SD31P SFF PC, using Western Digital 250GB SATA II drives. These factors probably aren’t necessary, but I include them here just in case. The fault has only been verified to occur on Linux 2.6 series kernels prior to 2.6.16. In my case it involved the Intel ICH7 SATA controller, but this may also not be necessary.
It goes like this: The above hardware comes by default with the two case-top drive holders pre-cabled to connect to the first and second SATA plugs (of three total) on the motherboard. Under Linux this appears to make both drives come from the same SATA controller (ata1), with the second controller (ata2) disabled. When configured thus, the system works fine initially, but within minutes the fist drive starts making a wide variety of nasty errors which look for all the world like the cable is unplugged or faulty. Other tests such as the Hitachi Disk Fitness Testexternal link will show that both drives are fine.
If you pull the drives out and swap them, the fault will continue to occur on only the first drive. Any inquiries lauched at lkmlexternal link or suchlike will likely come back with “Are your cables ok?” or “Are your disks faulty?” or such.
The answer is much simpler: Trace the SATA data cables, and on the motherboard, unplug drive 2 (the rear drive). Now plug it into SATA connector #3. Your dmesg output should now show the drives as being on separate ATA controllers. The bug will go away. The sun will shine, the birds will sing.

All of that being said, Double Trouble is down again today: my relentlessly reliable modem which never crashed with PeopleInternet is crashing every 48 hours or so with Internode. Time to review my options modem-wise.

Back to work then.