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Entries posted in January 2005

My first post

13 January 2005 21:03

Well since the problems that I've been having with Advogato it's time to have my own blog for Debian related things that could be copied into Planet Debian.

Advogato was a lot of fun for a long time, but since it lost my first account, and is being strange with my replacement account I see no reason to continue. The site has several problems which remain unfixed, so I guess its just time to move on.

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wakeonlan accepted

13 January 2005 21:50

My newest package wakeonlan was recently accepted into the Debian archive, and within a day had already received two bug reports.

I've just made a new upload to correct these, so hopefully all will be well in a day or two when the new package makes it into the archive.

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13 January 2005 21:50

Debian Updates

debian-updates is yet another program for letting you know if a Debian Stable machine needs a security update.

I've been using it pretty widely for a few months now, if not longer. This week the DSA-636 glibc update broke it.

Because the DSA was issued against 'glibc' not the package name 'libc6' my script didn't believe that I had it installed, and so didn't email me to let me know which machines to update. D'oh.

I've made a few changes to handle this case, comparing against package source names as well as package names to catch similar updates.

I still think we should have a tool like this in the main archive - ideally a graphical thing that can be used by "normal" users, something that will alert them when they have a new update available and offer to install it for them. Perhaps somebody could code a gtk/qt application..?

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18 January 2005 21:50


I managed to break my kettle a while ago, so I've been shopping for a new one.

In my life I've had the following kettles:

  1. Family Kettle used when I lived at home age "born" - 18.
  2. Kettle my mom gave me when I moved to Edinburgh, to attend University 1994-1995
  3. A different kettle in each of the 10+ flats I lived in for the next 8 years, after realising that kettle number two I never used
  4. A kettle from an Ex given to me in 2001 when I bought my first flat, kept until this year.

I reckon that's around 13 kettles I've had in my life. Almost everybody in the UK has a kettle.

(I know from my American babe that over there people just have kettles on the stove, and kettles are a rarity).

So .. the population of the UK is around 60 million people (in 2003) and every home has around one kettle - they must be mass produced? They must be common? People must replace them infrequently?

This I'd imagine means they're dead cheap to buy.

Sadly not, which frankly I dont understand.

I kinda resent having to spend 20 pounds on a kettle. Sure it's gonna last. Sure I'm gonna use it every day. But twenty pounds??

This is today's shallow "hardware" rant.


I got paid in advance for setting up awstats on a domain.

I'm currently waiting for it to import 3Gb of historical Apache logfiles and it's taking its sweet time, over three hours so far.

Still it's nice to get paid for stuff, and I'm certainly sticking to my current plan of "Cash in advance, always" for all existing "customers".

(I learnt that lesson before after waiting a few months to be paid, but now I'm certain that this is the right thing to do).

This time round I'm getting paid in DVDs again, mostly copies of "Yes Minister", and "Yes Prime Minister", classic British political comedy - and unlike anything around today.

I also managed to snag a copy of Red Dwarf Series V - featuring my single favourite episode Back To Reality and containing my single favourite Red Dwarf one-liner of all time, from Rimmer:

I'm going to beat you to within an inch of your life, and then I'm going to <i>have</i> you

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25 January 2005 21:50

Website Suffering

So there's this server I "look after". Last night I got a call to tell me it was being slow, and would I take a look at it.

At the time Apache + MySQL were both going wild, and the box was dying hard. As it's a virtual machine with only 128Mb of memory it was having a terrible time coping. Most obviously /tmp was full and there were swapping processes all over the place.

I patched it up, dropped a few machines who were trying to attack it with a PHPBB security exploit via the firewall and went to bed.

This morning?

machinima:/var/log/apache# ps -ef |grep apache | wc -l
machinima:/var/log/apache# ps -ef |grep mysql | wc -l
machinima:/var/log/apache# uptime
 09:32:30 up  6:44,  1 user,  load average: 23.28, 23.16, 23.56

Look at that - 156 Apache processes. 364 MySQL processes and the kind of load you could fry your breakfast on.

Seems to be humming along service pages slowly, so I'm going to leave it alone for the moment.

I've suggested the owners of the machine increase the memory and then consider moving the database + webservers onto seperate machines to make things more controlled in the future.

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Java and The Hobbit!

26 January 2005 21:50

The Hobbit

At the start of The Hobbit Bilbo is listening to tales of the Dwarfs and he blurts out "Struck by lightening".

I've wondered about that for years - what was that about?????


Once upon a time I did a lot of Java coding, and now it seems I must do some more. The first thing I did was look at some of my old Java code.

Once upon a time I wrote a simple Java Shell.

It was a toy to learn about reflection and Java class-loaders, no job control or anything fancy.

I came across a big problem - if I loaded a class and tried to treat it as an application, invoking main when the program called exit my shell would exit too.

My solution was I think even now pretty inspired.

I added a SecurityManager and trapped calls to System.exit effectively ignoring it.

This worked wonderfully, I could load arbitary .class files, and invoke them as if they had been executed normally. But there was a new problem. My shell wouldn't ever exit itself!

What did I do? I told my new SecurityManager class to only allow the System.exit() call if the exit value was a magic constant, a number that no loaded program would ever use, but that I could tell the Shell itself to use when it wanted to terminate.

The number? It was my home phone number at the time .. I wonder how many people realised?

I wouldn't do that again ..!

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Devices which are too clever

28 January 2005 21:50


I have a sleep problem.

It's nothing serious like Sleep Apnea (which is where your breathing stops when you're asleep) or narcolepsy where people spontaneously fall asleep.

My problem is that I sleep too easily, I get tired lots and will be asleep without much effort at all. I'm yawning constantly throughout the day regardless of how much excercise, activity, sleep, or caffeine I've had.

This tends to last for around 6-8 months at a time.

I sleep deeply, more than once I've woken up to find somebody taking my pulse, or checking my breathing.


My problem with alarm clocks is that almost all the ones I've tried suck.

I used to have a lovely CD-player which woke me up pretty reliably, it measured its volume in decibels which was a cute touch.

Right now I have three clocks :

  • A brass-bell windup clock
  • A clock-radio-alarm-clock
  • An Amstrad CD-Player

The first I tend to forget to wind up, so it's useless.

The second is too clever - although the volume on the radio goes up very to a high level there's a "limiter" built into the alarm clock. Presumably as the result of some stupid lawsuit or something. Anyway you set the clock and set the volume to "10". The next morning the alarm clock turns on the radio at volume level "3".

There's no way to make the radio volume loud when it's in alarm mode.

Finally the Amstrad (yes Amstrad) branded CD-player will "reduce it's volume by 10% for every hour the device is left in the power-off state". (Paraphrasing from the manual).

Presumably this too is designed to avoid you turning it on at 4AM and going deaf, however it's a case of a device being too clever for its own good, and it annoys me.

Some people need a loud noise to wake them up. I do. I need three, or four, or five.



Sweet dreams people.

(PS. Apart from maing stupid mistakes at times when I really should know better I'm fine - I went to a doctor a time or two a few years ago. Apart from diagnosing depression and offering me happy-pills which I declined they didn't have any useful advice, so I'm used to periods of insomnia/sleepyness averaging 6-8months at a time).

Update OK It looks like it is Sleep Apnea after all…

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