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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 [4] army mindlessly banging away
 trying to compromise them.
 
 [4]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 [4] was at 100. After
 more fumbling around than I'm willing to admit to,
 I got Stanisław Polak's script [5] to integrate
 iptables [6] and mod-security 	working.
 
 [4]http://lifeaftercoffee.com/2006/03/13/unix-load-averages-explained/
 	
 [5]http://www.icsr.agh.edu.pl/~polak/skrypty/ban-hackers.var
 
 [6] 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 [5] to warn
 software packagers.
 
 [5]http://www.mail-archive.com/debian-lint-maint@lists.debian.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 [6] we have an organizational assessment.
 See my cliff notes version [7] 	Jodi's kind
 comments on my crude summary and the actual
 assessment attached at the bottom [8]
 
 	[6] http://www.jerichoroadproject.org/
 
 [7]http://lists.thecsl.org/pipermail/divinerightofkings/2008-April/000623.html 
 	[8]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 [9] 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.
 	[9]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 [10] emailed thoughts on the
 book. (The funder hadn't read the book,
 and doesn't see having the time to read
 the book soon)
 
 [10]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
 
 [11] 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. [12] --the directory
 that  completely covers  only Lowell.
 
 [12] 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 [13]
 
 [13]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 [15]
 
 [14]http://blog.dreamhost.com/2008/04/07/another-anatomy/
 [15]http://blog.dreamhost.com/2006/05/18/the-truth-about-overselling/
 
 Coming soon is another message on where we're at with this.