Lewis' Blog Tales from the trenches of information technology


Noisy utility company email

Why do utility companies feel the need to email and phone to advise of their readiness for an impending storm? Would I otherwise suppose they were not ready? And, if they were indeed not ready, then what?

On top of this, my phone rings incessantly with this nonsense, advising me that they are prepared for the coming nor'easter (for those of you unfamiliar with this type of storm, these are particularly nasty - high winds, lots of rain - in the northeast US). Anyone living on Long Island (New York State) more than a year should be quite familiar with these regular occurrences. So, why is my Inbox filled with this junk? (Okay, my Sophos UTM catches most of these, but sadly can't do anything about the telephone ringing.)

This is a tremendous waste of resources. Don't tell me that you're ready, just focus on being ready.

Regular readers here will know of my profound distaste for poor email etiquette, and sending superfluous email falls into that category. Messages should be sent when relevant (they don't need to advertise to me; I have no real choice in the matter, other than slapping immense, ugly solar panels all over my roof).


Navigating Coinbase’s customer support

A company with which I am involved recently reconfigured its Coinbase account. This was precipitated by a change in the Stripe API, where Stripe shifted away from Coinpayments.net to another exchange for handling cryptocurrencies.

So, while this company had a prior arm's length arrangement with Coinbase, it never actually had to deal with the entity directly...until recently.


Some thoughts on my friend and colleague, Howard Plotnik

Clients and friends have heard me say the words many times over the years, "no worries; I'll order one up from Howie," or "I'll ask Howie about what fits that connector." For well over two decades, Howie and I maintained a close personal friendship and a good professional one.

Filed under: Personal Continue reading

Something entirely unrelated: Star Trek

Ugh. I saw STID 1 this evening at the National Air & Space Mueum Udvar-Hazy IMAX, which happens to be the biggest screen in Virginia, apparently 2 . As a Smithsonian member, I get a discount on movie tickets, and I really do enjoy that theatre. However...

  1. Star Trek Into Darkness
  2. well, that's what the recorded preamble says, at least

Warpstock 2012, Portland Oregon, USA

Embassy Suites Portland Airport

Well, after another round of considerations and deliberations, the Warpstock Board of Directors finally decided upon the Embassy Suites, Portland Airport for the site of this year's OS/2 & eComStation conference, August 17-19.

Full details are available on the Warpstock site, but meanwhile, here are a couple of highlights:


Why I still use OS/2 (eComStation)

As a consultant, I look at computers and operating systems from a "best tool for the job" perspective. Some systems are better suited to some things than others. I wouldn't expect to play modern computer games, written for Win32 or Win64 on Linux or OS/2, no matter how far advanced Wine or Odin was/were. Likewise, I wouldn't consider running a web server on the Win32 or Win64 platform vs Linux or OS/2.

Along with other suitability considerations, I factor in my own (or the client's own) comfortability factor with a particular environment. The Mac object oriented desktop is quite nice, though it's not my environment of choice. On Linux, I prefer KDE to Gnome, but neither of those nor the Mac desktop nor Windows Explorer approaches the level of comfort, familiarity, or ease-of-use which I experience using the Workplace Shell, which is - for me, at least - the main reason I stick with eCS.

Stability concerns? These affect all platforms at one time or another. Unless the problems are inherent to the overall system design (Windows' weak security model and the dangers of the single registry paradigm), such things need to be considered in the course of business. that is to say, they happen. Cars break down, too, but I'm not quite ready to go back to a horse and cart (and carts break - ever change a wagon wheel?).


Working with talented people is always a good thing

I'm sure that somewhere, William Shakespeare wrote of the riches of surrounding oneself with good and talented people, but his words escape me just now (my mother would have known right off the top of her head, so learned and familiar was she with his works, even those lesser known). Still, it's something I'm certain we've all been told at one time or another. Truly, we are known by the company we keep.

Hang around personally or professionally with buffoons, and naturally, people take you for one (water tends to seek its own level, or so we're taught). Maintain good company, and the reflection is bright.

I had occasion recently to enlist the assistance of a colleague, Matt Surico, for a web project I'd been muddling through. The project involved Joomla!, a sports-related component for it (JoomSport), and of course, the requisite server underpinnings of Apache, MySQL, and PHP (the AMP stack, which on Linux, is commonly known as LAMP; on NetWare, NAMP; and - unfortunately, insofar as the pronunciation of acronyms is concerned - on OS/2, OAMP...huh?).


Warpstock 2011: Prepping for the event, dinner, and more

A busy pre-event day.

The hotel Wi-Fi (DoubleTree Suites Raleigh-Duram) seems adequate. The service is apparently provided via Wayport, and we have an event promotional code which gets us free access. Authentication is via captive portal, and there appears to be enough signal to saturate most areas of the building without dropouts. We tested a Skype connection with video (yes, in order to run Skype, I had to reboot to Windows...probably the sixth time this year my T43 booted into XP), and all went fairly well.

Lunch in the restaurant was quite good, and the portions were quite generous. Pricing was fair, too.

More arrivals in the afternoon, and of course, the requisite (for me) administrative tasks to perform, as Treasurer of Warpstock Corp. Surely, less hassle than I've had in the past, and all things considered, easily accomplished. I found some time later in the day to retire to the library (yes, the hotel has a quiet reading room) to work on my presentation for Saturday, on WPA & WPA2 connections using XWLAN and the WPA Supplicant (the difference is between the two implementations, the 4-way handshake, RC4 vs CCMP/AES, and what the various debug screens look like from the supplicant). I set up a refurbed Cisco E2000 router and got several good screen shots of various types of behavior.

Dinner was excellent. We had NC BBQ for the buffet fare, and there was more than enough to go around. Some late-comers missed dinner, unfortunately. I was even able to get crowd favorite Steven Levine to say a few words about eCS 2.1, and give a preview of some of his talk slated for Sunday. This, of course, led to a Q&A session which ran longer than our allotted time for the room, yet the staff was courteous and allowed us to continue, never once suggesting that we wrap up and skidaddle.

We had our Board meeting in John Edwards' suite, which was my first opportunity to see the accommodations, which were roomy and comfortable. As I'd already registered the couple walk-ins, we were all heartened that attendance may even be better than expected. A good meeting, indeed.

On my way out, I got snagged to look at a network connection which wasn't cooperating. After advising my friend that he needed to give up on the wired connection and switch to Wi-Fi, I had to debug his somewhat mangled PROTOCOL.INI which was keeping his GenMAC driver from loading and activating his Intel card. More conversation followed, and I finally got out about 1am.

Looking forward to Saturday's sessions.


Warpstock 2011: Before the fun

Just arrived at my buddy's house in Cary, NC this evening. The official kickoff for Warpstock 2011 in Duram is tomorrow evening, but there's still much to do to get ready, so tomorrow morning, we get to check out the quality of a Skype video session on the hotel Wi-Fi.

I'll follow up with a full report on that tomorrow, as well as some thoughts of mine concerning Skype, in general, from a security perspective as well as the concept of convergence.


The Telltale Hard Drive

And so it came to pass that my 160GB 5400 RPM Travelstar in my ThinkPad T43 became full. In late 2010, finding large 2.5" PATA drives was becoming more and more difficult. Searching, I found that Western Digital had just what I needed: a 320GB 5400 RPM Scorpio Blue.

I ordered the drive from a trusted supplier, never looking to find complaints about newer Scorpio or "Green" models (not that I would have necessarily viewed a Scorpio as a "green" drive, anyway). The price was acceptable, and the shipment was quickly delivered.

Using my favorite cloning utility, DFSee, I cloned much of my trusty Travelstar to the new Scorpio Blue. Some partitions needed changing, though: my handy HPFS eCS maintenance partition, for example, really needed to be migrated to a JFS volume, and my type 35 JFS data volume, consisting of two segments, really cried out to be recreated as a single type 7 JFS partition. As such, these took a little more manual work (read: xcopy /s/e/r/h/t).

Ah, the fun...