A response to Danny Nalliah

(Non-technical post: Fedora folks can skip this if they like, I just feel the need to rant as this offends me deeply)

Context: My city of Brisbane, Australia is currently experiencing the worst floods in the region since 1974; Outlying areas and regional towns and cities are cut off and practically underwater. 9 have died and 72 people unaccounted for in Toowoomba, about 1hr outside of Brisbane.

This evangelical preacher, Pastor Daniel Nalliah of “Catch The Fire” Church believes this is his God’s wrath for an ex-Prime Minister asking the state of Israel to participate in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty)

Here’s my response: Originally sent as a comment, but posted here for posterity (and because I suspect Pastor Nalliah has the moral courage to approve comments not matching his own viewpoints)

As a Brisbanite currently preparing for the worst of these floods I take extreme offense to this post and the ignorant, spiteful rhetoric you appear to espouse.

To blame natural disasters affecting hundreds of thousands of people on a politician’s failure to back your *political* belief of choice is utterly vile and as un-Christian as a person of sound mind can conceive.

I (as a practicing Zen Buddhist amenable to the core beliefs of other faiths) have been under the impression that Christ and his followers showed compassion to their brothers and sisters, especially in times of hardship? Am I mistaken? Is compassion in your church only applicable to those who follow your beliefs in lock-step fashion?

If you are truly a Christian (or a decent human being of any ethical / moral character irrespective of believe or lack thereof) then you’ll recant your comments and apologize to the people of Brisbane.

If you truly believe in your heart that the people of Brisbane deserve to suffer because a former Prime Minister’s reasonable call for a government to disengage from creation / proliferation of weaponry capable of killing millons – then frankly I pity you and consider you a poor excuse for a human being with no place in providing ethical and moral guidance to anyone and may your God have mercy on *you*.

While I doubt that this comment will be posted to your site at all (as I’m not preaching to the choir :-)) I would be sincerely interested in a considered response. I will also be posting it to my own blog for the consideration of others, even if you fail to publish it.

Gassho,

Michael Fleming

Too Fscking Clever

  • If you have six discrete crontabs for a relatively small set of tasks instead of two (or even just one) you may be Too Fscking Clever.
  • If your SQL statement has five or more JOINS in it, you may be Too Fscking Clever (or a web development framework ORM)
  • If you are asked to forward ports to a host and instead DNAT the entire IP address, you may find that your Too Fscking Clever-ness will bite your arse when the usage case changes. Thinking it won’t is a sign of severe Too Fscking Clever Syndrome.
  • “We should cache this data for as long as humanly possible (what’s stale data?)” or “We should only cache this in RAM for 5mins (and refetch from a  large table?)” are classic Too Fscking Clever symptoms.

If you or someone you know has symptoms of Too Fscking Clever syndrome, often identifiable as a frequent need to overengineer what should be a simple solution, invite design by committee or overthink a problem ignoring practical usage cases and requirements,  suggest seeking immediate help before TFC develops into Solution Looking For A Problem Disease, which can in turn lead to madness or a career in Windows Server administration.

Treatment often involves simple counselling (of the W. Venema “what problem are you actually trying to solve” method or similar), introduction to Occam’s Razor, or in extreme cases flogging the subject with a copy of Plan 9 until s/he has an epiphany and tries to simply just get the job done.

This has been a Public Service Announcement.

Some updates, and a little “open sermon”

  • I’m in the unusual position of being inside, yet rugged up with a jacket and scarf with what feels like a cold. I can’t say I’m happy about it.
  • Upgraded WordPress here to 2.7.1 (Fedora 11 RPM rebuilt for F10) without too many hassles. It kept retrying the database upgrade(!) but disabling the plugins and a little bit of tinkering (clean cookies, rebuild config, even restarted memcached / set SELinux to Permissive) got it working. I suspect clearing memcached was the trick.
  • Sorry to my Planet readers for some cruft in the RSS, the Related Posts plugin needed to be *ahem* disciplined. It should be fixed now.
  • Loving the Leonidas release – the adventure during upgrade (died partway, restarted, left behind most of F10 for some reason) seems to have cleared out a lot of stuff I didn’t need or use and the rest is a definite improvement. Well done to all concerned!
  • Disappointed that our local news sources are running the front pages with soft non-news pap, when there’s rioting and apparent vote fraud in Iran. Their people are suffering and getting shafted, and you’re running crap about actresses doing nude scenes to get ahead…

To our dear Fedora users:  Please don’t attribute  malicious intent where it’s not warranted. I’ve had one comment here and just responded to a thread on fedora-list from users making some frankly melodramatic claims around how / why decisions are made and features disabled/changed/not kept up to date.

A large chunk of us are not on the Red Hat payroll,  we’re volunteers. Why do we do this? Because we enjoy what we do and are passionate about it. These users should remember that we use it too (“eating our own dogfood”) and want to deliver a top quality distribution.

However you can’t please all of the people all of the time – but just because a feature / change doesn’t suit you, doesn’t mean that the developer / packager  is out to get you

The distinct advantage of an open community is just that: it’s an open community.

If you don’t like a feature, suggest/contribute changes and/or send a patch. If the documentation is lacking, why not write up a how-to and publish it, help update the wiki or the distro documentation? Likewise if the art isn’t to your taste,  I’m sure the Art team welcome volunteers. If you’re fairly knowledgeable, share it with other users on the lists / IRC / forums.

A “This is broken, you guys suck and out to get us” attitude is not helpful, please let such attitudes die off.

Cheers,

A user, packager, infrastructure hacker and occasional developer (since Red Hat 5.1)

Result may be fit, social with an open messaging standard on top.

Techie Happenings:

I’ve been tinkering with more XMPP (Jabber to you oldies) messaging in general, as it happens. I’ve had a look at the python Yahoo transport and found it a little lacking – it’s config is a little too different to the python MSN / ICQ / AIM transports than I’d personally like, which I’m already packaging and running plus it tends to die/misbehave at unusual times. It has been worth a look though and if enough people would want it, I’ll make the RPM available – but be warned it’s not really to my usual standard.

Speaking of which, there’s a persistent room for chatting around the packages generally – just as an experiment and because I can – at thatfleminggent-rpm@conference.thatfleminggent.com.

I’m still tinkering / debugging my publish-subscribe nodes for thatfleminggent.com (Ejabberd for those interested). I’m sure I’ve configured it right with PEP (Personal Eventing) but I wonder how strong support is client side? Gajim does some PEP (Mood/Activity/Tune for instance) but it updates sporadically if at all.

(Which leads me to wonder how widespread support for that and Service Discovery protocol are client-side, as aside Gajim/PSI it seems sparse and many XMPP goodies are unseen without it. I’d be keen to know more from those in the know)

I’ve signed up on identi.ca (as “thatfleminggent“) and liking it – there’s less noise and spambot followers than Twitter and some very nice XMPP/OpenID integration too.

Better support from the Windows clients would be nice (twhirl does but it’s in the minority, and I’ve preferred TweetDeck or TwitterFox when on a Win desktop) but the Linux clients have been fabulous, especially the current Gwibber version in Fedora.

While there’s been a few “oh no, a slip!” comments being bandied around the tubes regarding the Leonidas release, it’s being done for good reasons. Your august poster here has seen his share of *ahem* “Gold” releases from commercial vendors (no, not just Microsoft but I’ve seen lots of theirs over the years) that many FOSS devs would regard as paper-bag. There’s nothing worse than that corner case bug that inevitably bites us (because Murphy loves a systems tech) so it’s good to delay and get it right than get it out quick and brace for a mess.

Oh, and a protip for those converting local shell accounts to LDAP (or similar) – be prepared to get some uid/gid mismatches unless you’ve been REALLY careful :-). I just did and thought I had consistent ID’s before, but no such luck. It’s trivial to reorganize though.

Life In General:

My girlfriend, bless her heart is a fitness buff and that means that of course yours truly will be convinced to give her current “hey here’s an idea to improve our health” ideas a go.

Thursday’s “let’s go for a good walk” turned out to be a marathon, possibly literally. I’m not sure if I covered a complete 25miles (~42km for those of us on the metric system) on Thursday but it felt like it. This was followed by Friday’s “just a bit of a jog up some stairs” – a 30 degree incline and a 200m stretch! (colloquially known as “The Hill” at Teneriffe in Brisbane) a half dozen times with minimal rest..

Of course I can’t feel anything but lactic acid from the knees down now (I’m not in possession of a runner’s build – I was a weightlifter / shotputter in my youth)

My better half is of course as good as gold 😀

Went to see Angels and Demons (the inner UNIX geek keeps wanting to write it as “Daemons”) on Wednesday night. Not as good as The DaVinci Code, but still better than a lot of the fluff in my local cinemas at the moment. It also helps my local cinema is licensed; a bottle of wine helps get through some poorly chosen movies..

I’m headed back to the office on Monday – feeling better after a break, knowing nothing’s gone amiss in my absence, with a few ideas on how to improve things (equals “make my job easier”) in the back of my mind 🙂

This is why I’m not a “webmaster”

In an effort to help my girlfriends website generate a bit of traffic  – and some business for her 🙂 – I’ve spent a bit of time (probably a little too much for a holidaying techie, but it’s a “love job”) trying to get my head around more indepth search engine optimisation and Google Analytics / Webmaster tools in particular.

In summary I still think a lot of it is voodoo 😀 .

Generating the sitemap etc. is easy, as is submitting it (except Yahoo, too many hoops, FIXME) but the resulting information can be just a tad opaque – bounce rates for example (mine seems high at over 70%, maybe because of the package downloads) plus GoogleBot’s view of my site seems rather different to mine (or what awstats tell me about visitors) – I suspect the poor old META tag doesn’t get the importance it did in times past, and this old curmudgeon is still in the tech-bubble era regarding search visibility.

But I’m learning again – there seems to be some positive results already and it’s another string to my bow.

An impressive practical use of Google Maps (and Twitter to get the word out) during the flooding here in Brisbane:

Google Map of the affected areas and road closures

Fortunately I’m in the inner city and a floor up in an apartment, so wasn’t affected, unlike far too many (including a close friend who arrived home from the pub to a flooded front lounge and no electricity 🙁 )

I also attempted to split my IPv6 allocation (a mere /64) over 2 physical links – bad idea and an epic failure on my part. It was worth a shot I guess.

All of my revision controlled code has been switched from bzr to git – I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner – it’s been a breeze, and the learning curve hasn’t been steep at all – or perhaps my needs aren’t too complex? (I’ve been primarily a bzr/cvs/Subversion user). The “tailor” package from the main Fedora repository was also helpful – it’s not the easiest to use, but the results were excellent.

I’m converting my rather venerable Samba domain controller to an LDAP backend (it’s currently tdbsam and a pain to manage) – using Fedora Directory Server (ahem “389” now – admittedly good vendor-neutral branding there folks) has been fairly painless, barring my unfamiliarity regarding how it manages ACLs (or perhaps that’s just the management console not doing what I think it is)

Speaking of which – I’ve had a dreadful experience with LDAP management apps – both gq and lat crash on me badly and while I don’t mind phpldapadmin (and use it at work) it’s not particularly fast. I welcome suggestions for alternatives 🙂

I’m currently hand-editing via ldapvi and feeling rather old-school.  A little Perl CGI app called “pluma” has piqued my interest – I’ll package it up if it turns out to be worthwhile.

Murphy is my co-pilot.

After moving what seems to be several mountains at the workplace over the last few weeks, I’m finally on holiday. Additionally, my girlfriend is back from interstate, which makes me even happier.

Alas, nature doesn’t like us and lo, as soon as she stepped off the plane it started raining – and it hasn’t stopped. It knows when I’m trying to chill, I tell you, it’s some sort of celestial conspiracy.

Aside from pottering about my apartment while it pours and she rests I’ve whipped up a couple of quick packages for the WordPresss user: WP-Syntax and an updated WP-Supercache (the latter is a bit experimental) – they’re in the repositories for all versions / arches I support. I’m using the former here so you should be able to put code snippets in comments (and I in posts) now.

(Fedora contribs: These plugins are very easy to package; I’m happy to contribute a spec template to rpmdev or even submit them for review if there’s sufficient interest)

I’m also having a crack at gluster – It builds on Fedora OK sans Apache/Lighttpd module support, merely needs a bit of init-script massaging. I’m happy to provide an eat-your-brane build for the keen/brave.

Where to from here?

I seem to have found myself at a crossroads. Not a personal one (well, not really) but hobby / professional. Make of that what you will.

Firstly, I’ve been doing IT support and systems administration for a living for nigh on nine years now. I’d been a Linux tinkerer well before then (I got into mail systems first due to spam fighting; Sendmail and UNIX / Linux with Slackware back in 1997). I did a long stint doing Windows Server systems admin – which is actually fairly interesting tech sometimes, even if it can be clunky and buggy – and do Red Hat for a living again now.

But it can get old. Over the years IT has become something of a “regular” service, the support staff and admin like janitors and there’s no glamour in the job. Depending on the area and your businesses’ line of work there’s fewer interesting “toys” to tinker with. This describes my situation well.

In short I think I need a good project to sink my teeth into. DotProfile is doing things I’ve already done to death (XMPP and messaging  / DNS) and I’m not really a programmer per se. I’ve done OpenID, as you can see here. Ditto IPv6, also on show here. My infrastructure does DKIM, GeoIP, SPF, greylisting, XMPP. I’ve even had a disasterous run as a Tor exit node.

I’ve been asked if I’d do webhosting – no thanks; there are far too many kids (in the literal and figurative sense) overselling their little VPS to small business for a razor-thin profit. I don’t want to get in amongst that shit, I take pride in quality servers and reliability.

Even the package repository for Fedora feels thin. There’s only so much out there in the way of interesting software to package, and even new packages in Fedora proper are getting a little obscure. I suspect most of my users are here for Courier IMAP anyway 😉

I do memcached at work (and I’m building libmemcached in the background here, just because) but I personally have little use for it. Do I go back to my usenet roots and run INN? (Am I that much of a masochist? I remember cyclic overview rebuilds even now, they weren’t fun). I suck at art so design is out, and I just can’t consider being a bigger blogger / pundit or SEO hack without laughing at the thought. Cloud computing? Yes please – but how / who will bankroll? 🙂

I’m a systems architect at heart. /me needs a challenge, fast.

(Or I end up getting ITIL / PRINCE2 qualifications, sell out and become management ;-))

Crackberries, Earth Hour and Web 2.0 boredom

After having a good laugh at “crackberry” users and their addiction for what seemed like forever, I gave in and traded in my not-trusty-at-all Nokia Slide for a Blackberry Storm.

After playing with it for a while, I must say it’s not bad. Getting used to typing with it was a pain in the arse (protip: turn off smart type and flip it horizontally – you get QWERTY keyboard goodness) but it’s growing on me. The browser is decent too (using the BB one not Vodafone’s to avoid data usage) and I’ve added Alex King’s WordPress Mobile plugin, so mobile users will see something readable (I love the theme I have but it’s not good on tablets / smartphones)

Having my home email pushed to the handset is nice – I’m not a fan of webmail and it’s not always convenient to ssh in and fire up alpine in some places. The twitter app isn’t bad, nor is the MSN messenger one. I’ll need the SSH client though.

Oh, and Lazyweb: Any Cisco VPN or compatible clients out there? Inquiring minds want to know.

I’m doing the decent thing and participating in Earth Hour and so is my site – the little bar at the top of my site? Check it out, especially if you’re a WordPress user.

We’ve all heard about the new Facebook layout: yeah, it sucks, looks like Twitter feeds etc. – these days I just can’t get into it at all, I guess being in technology I’m becoming less enthused with the idea of socialising online – I’d much prefer to be in a real pub or backyard / apartment balcony with friends than write on Walls and SuperPoke people.

I also wonder how I’m picking up a diverse range of Twitter followers – PUAs (Pick Up Artists for those not in the know), social media wonks (not you @lozz you’re a good friend whom I miss :-)) and fellow techies – but even BigPond and ABC Radio are following me. Am I more interesting than I credit myself with or are you just picking me out at random? 🙂

Smallish things.

Well, one thing is fairly important if you’re a long time user. “enlartenment.com” is gradually going away.

I’ve had the domain for what seems like forever and no one seems to understand the etymology. In essence it’s a bit hackish – a mashup of “enlightenment” and “LART”. Previous webpages here explained it but I got the feeling it never came across well. “thatfleminggent.com” seems much better, cleaner, easier to understand. Most of my traffic comes to that domain now, especially since the move to WordPress for most things.

I’ve moved most of my email to @thatfleminggent.com now, so gradually it’ll just drift off until I bother not to renew.

On other matters – Vodafone is in my bad books. I went to upgrade my phone from a Nokia 6500 Slide to a Blackberry Storm (useful for work) but after giving me the 3rd degree re: identity and doing the paperwork they wouldn’t give me the phone!

The antiquated garbage that they call a “billing system” still shows an outstanding balance, despite me being paid up – I even gave them the transaction number from the bank. Fucking idiots. They can take the money OK – the bank confirmed the transfer – but they haven’t gotten around to processing it yet. This is 2009 for fuck’s sake – have they got some old woman with an old calculator doing their accounts? Unacceptable in this day and age.

I too see the “new” Facebook, and yes, I think it looks like Twitter too. So much for the vaunted innovation of “Web 2.D’oh”! 🙂

That said, I’ll at least have The Jacket (which has taken forever to pay off :-)), a replacement Bluetooth dongle to replace my semi-broken one – and hopefully some better hosting (the Aussie dollar is steady, which is good)

The one about yoga, marketing and DNS.

I’ve been fairly flat out this week. No blog entries, even my Twitter updates are sparse in comparison to the norm for me.

Speaking of Twitter – dear Marketing people: I know you won’t listen because you don’t really care unless you can make a buck out of it, but we would like at least one popular use of the Internet that has a decent signal-to-noise ratio. It’s not there as a cheap way for you to flog products, it can be a useful and simple communications tool for the savvy masses.

I point blank refuse to buy anything spammed in such a manner and I’d rather eat my own testicles than shill for you in any way shape or form. I’d rather follow someone with something compelling to read – Stephen Fry is an excellent example.

Even while my dearest is out of town I’m continuing with the “hot yoga” classes. It’s getting a little easier although doing so in loose shirts is probably not a great idea. Late in the lesson when you’ve sweat about a litre they tend to hang off me like a heavy towel, which is not fun. A singlet would be more sensible.

I did say I’d move the “technical” blogging to DotProfile, but I’ll make a break here – my network is BIND-free; I’m the maintainer of the MaraDNS package in Fedora (having inherited it from the previous maintainer who has moved on to other things) but haven’t used it as much as I should have.

As there’s a newer version (and a buglet in the current package’s init script) I rolled a new one and tried it on my internal servers – it’s running very nicely now, a touch quicker than BIND and while the zone format is rather odd, it’s still simpler to configure than BIND. So now I’ve got one PowerDNS box (qbert) and one MaraDNS (pong). I’m starting to run out of nameservers to try (having run djbdns, nsd, unbound, dnsmasq and posadis in the past here, and MS-DNS at previous workplaces.)

Oh, expect a new maradns release for Fedora very soon. It’s already in Rawhide.