status: <insert something clever here>
Sat Jun 28 01:03:34 EDT 2008
DISCLAIMER While all the events in this status report are real, the timeline of has been twisted for dramatic effect and laziness. (I finished it 2 months after I started it) FUNNY INTRO I started this update after 2 very quick pints with my roommate. If I were secure in my masculine identity, I'd have drunk light beer and felt sober enough to work on the servers. In may, I took a long pause to help bury yet another family member with drug/alcohol overdose problems. (sad, ironic, overly dramatic but true) Now (2008-06-28) I've just started a bachelor weekend with a couple pints of expensive manly beer. I want to finish this so I can move on to more exciting stuff like version control software, application frameworks and weakly typed languages. DANCING WITH ZOMBIES I'm getting less and less incompetent at dealing with compromised php scripts and/or the zombie  army mindlessly banging away trying to compromise them. http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0,,sid14_gci213422,00.html This week, [some weeks ago] a few thousand zombies kept trying to post comments on a blog site we host for a university group. Stuff like: Great post!! see my blog at <Viagra link here> When 40-50 zombies attack each second, the server collapses. The server load  was at 100. After more fumbling around than I'm willing to admit to, I got Stanisław Polak's script  to integrate iptables  and mod-security working. http://lifeaftercoffee.com/2006/03/13/unix-load-averages-explained/ http://www.icsr.agh.edu.pl/~polak/skrypty/ban-hackers.var  http://www.netfilter.org/ There were a few quirks to the script, so I sent Stan a patch. He was happy to hear from a user. I'm feeling pretty good because I was humble enough to **NOT** re-write the script in my style. FIRING A CUSTOMER I found one of the compromised php applications as I was leaving for a week away at a funeral. It was compromised badly enough to do drive-by virus downloads to any copy of Internet Explorer visiting the site. Since, the application wasn't one we installed, was not on a site that pays us support, and wasn't anyone from Lowell: I offered two options: 1) Do a clean re-install of the application 2) Host someplace else. The low point of the conversation was their tech guy's insistence that they had engaged an security expert who could clean the application without a re-install. Google turned up a 2007 page where the "expert" said something like: "I'm not an expert, I'm a high school student who can do some web things cheaply for you." I was a bit conflicted about whole problem, The group has a decent mission and they needed the site to do registration for a big event coming in a week. I even asked the experts at the debian-isp list for advice: http://lists.debian.org/debian-isp/2008/03/msg00053.html Oddly enough they selected both options #1 & #2 CRON SYNTACTIC Did you know that debian/etc/cron.daily/ filenames can't have: '.' ...in them if you expect them to run. Neither did I. The closest I've come to documentation of this unhappy and arbitrary fact is a patch against Lintian  to warn software packagers. http://firstname.lastname@example.org/msg06272.html It's stuff like this that makes me wonder how anyone can justify $50/hr. I don't have the bubbles to ask somebody to pay me $150 to figure out a couple misplaced periods. ASSESSMENT Thanks to our good friends at Jericho Road  we have an organizational assessment. See my cliff notes version  Jodi's kind comments on my crude summary and the actual assessment attached at the bottom   http://www.jerichoroadproject.org/ http://lists.thecsl.org/pipermail/divinerightofkings/2008-April/000623.html http://lists.thecsl.org/pipermail/divinerightofkings/2008-May/000634.html Coming soon is a business plan. NEATO PLUMBING TOOLS LINE We're about done upgrading our sarge machines to etch. A nifty, low learning curve tool is screen. You type: screen ...then the dog eats the wireless router, interrupting your interactive terminal session that can't safely be interrupted. No worries, after a brief and futile argument with the significant other about the humanity of dropping the dog in the canal, you re-connect and type: screen -d -r $PROCESS_ID ...and away you go. GLORY DAYS I've just been thinking about http://habitat.org, because Habitat was mentioned in a non-profit management book  I just read. ( I was sucking up to a possible big funder that recommended it.) I know most of the people quoted in the book from unjamming their printers or crawling under their desk to plug their power cable back in. http://www.amazon.com/Forces-Good-Practices-High-Impact-Nonprofits/dp/0787986127/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1214621648&sr=1-1 My big take-away from the book was that the winners write history. There was a lot of talk by about how habitat managed to grow from an agency run by 20 year old people who substituted sleep deprivation and hubris for experience and talent. The comments were written people now in their 50s and 60s who were jealous of the results, we (at the time) 20somethings got. I got a positive and honest reply to my sycophantic  emailed thoughts on the book. (The funder hadn't read the book, and doesn't see having the time to read the book soon) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sycophant Then I got to be thinking on My favorite over-played, sentimental 80s classic rock tune, Springsteen's "Glory Days": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOpIfbneeHg http://www.lyricsdepot.com/bruce-springsteen/glory-days.html When I was at Habitat, we did great stuff. In ***1993*** everyone had email (even the offices in Africa) We had a 3 million name donor database, We paid 3.5 cents per minute for long distance phone calls, When I wanted something, I wrote a PO and got it. My minions were guys taking leave from their rocket scientist jobs. They were happy to get basic health insurance, a place to live, a weekly $30 gift certificate at the piggly-wiggly supermarket and a shot at eliminating poverty housing from the face of the earth.. (I shit you not) It all worked. (except for the few days we spent recovering from the time I deleted the index file for everyone's email) Lowell MA is arguably a more cosmopolitan place than Americus GA  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americus,_Georgia ..but it is hard to argue these past 10 years were more productive than the 5 before in Americus. LTC got a file server, a bunch of people passed MCSE exams, some people learned about linux. We (mostly DS & EMA ) created the best online directory of social services in the world.  --the directory that completely covers only Lowell.  http://mvhub.com ..Nothing really compared to what we did in GA. The discrepancy is of course, what the prophet Joel explains in terms of Dolly Parton  http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/DevelopmentAbstraction.html It is possible my glory days are past. I hope that it's just this last year, that I've noticed that there was a whole layer of abstraction in GA that we haven't built here yet and that the glory days are yet to come. DREAMHOST NOT SO GREAT We're still moving toward ditching our hosting. I can't really say Dreamhost is better than we are any more. They're probably good enough  http://blog.dreamhost.com/2008/04/07/another-anatomy/ http://blog.dreamhost.com/2006/05/18/the-truth-about-overselling/ Coming soon is another message on where we're at with this.