dvd backup

I have had enormous trouble with optical drives on my main Windows system. The CD burner that came with it died for unknown reasons. I bought a new DVD burner that did everything except dual layer, and either Ben (my 3 year old) or one of the other small kids who happened to be in the house that day pulled the tray out of the drive. Even though I managed to get the tray back in and physically functional, the drive no longer works.

A couple of days ago, a brand new drive arrived at my house – dual-layer all-format (except DVD-RAM) DVD burning. It burns DVD+R discs (the only kind I have at the moment) at 8X – about ten minutes for a full burn. It claims 11080KB/sec as it burns, which would be equivalent to a 73X CD burner.

Thanks to this new drive, I have a full backup of my main computer now, using three DVDs for a file-based backup and one CD for an MS backup of the “System State” which is a 500 MB file.

I have been trying to locate a utility to lock the tray on my drive so that kids can’t ruin another one, but the ones I have found all cost about $20. Can anyone either help me find a free one or dust off their keyboard and write me one?

I may end up buying one anyway — the cost of buying all these new drives is becoming irritating.


blog upgrade frenzy

Now that Nat has upgraded to version 1.2.1, version 1.2.2 has now come out.

I will be upgrading my blog from 1.2.1 to 1.2.2 in the near future. When I do, I will be temporarily going back to the default WordPress stylesheet. I will be attempting to distill Nat’s stylesheet to its essence, so that I can forge my own using the 1.2.2 stylesheet as a starting point.

Nat, I may need to enlist your direct assistance for this!


boot visualization

Yesterday slashdot had an article about a project to visualize the GNU/Linux boot process. For no reason other than satisfying my inner geek, I rebooted this server and obtained my own visualization. Read on for gory details.


almost the same

English is a cornucopia of homonyms. You can find the oddest ways to say almost anything, and generate misunderstanding because there’s another word that sounds exactly the same.

Some friends that I chat with every day were trading links as usual, and this video clip surfaced. This is a very funny clip of Ken Jennings on Jeopardy. It’s safe for most work environments – I would hate to work in a place that would fire you over it.


cancelling aol

AOL is the spawn of the devil. I believe everyone knows someone who has had an AOL account and had enormous trouble getting the account cancelled when it is no longer needed.

I just saw an installment of “Get Gephardt” where he helped someone cancel an AOL account after 18 months of continued credit card charges.

Kathy and I know someone who works on the AOL account at Convergys, on the signup side. This person says that the department that handles cancellations is actually called Account Retention. Apparently the people that work in this department face disciplinary action if they fail to retain two out of every three customers who call to cancel. If they can get you to say “OK” or “Yes” or any other affirmative response in the course of the conversation, they won’t cancel your account.

I’m told that the best way to get an account cancelled is to only say the words “cancel my account” during your conversation with AOL – don’t let them goad you into any kind of affirmative response.


lower lights madness

I am sometimes asked why I have taken on the burden of running a system for the Lower Lights community.

The answer to that question is mostly “because I can,” but there is a lot of nostalgia involved too. The friendships I forged on Lower Lights hastened the breakdown of my first marriage and helped me through the divorce. This was during my twenties, when the male of the species wakes up and begins to mature. The things that happen during this phase of your life have an enormous impact on who you are, even more than High School. I met a lot of people on Lower Lights, and the experience was for the most part very positive.

Running the site, I often feel like I am herding dozens of schoolchildren who have escaped from an insane asylum. I have banned a few users who were completely unwilling to adhere to the forum rules, which are fairly lenient. Despite this, I enjoy running it.

Read on for a look back at why I was in the right place at the right time to inherit the domain.

national treasure

Last night I had a rare treat — a date with my wife, sans offspring. We went to see the new movie National Treasure. I really enjoyed it.

Just so everyone is forewarned, the fact that I enjoyed a movie should not be taken as a sign that it’s a good movie. There are very few films that I have ever hated, and I have intentionally purchased movies on DVD that cause “normal” people to cringe and question my sanity. Thankfully, I know plenty of people who are not normal!

The movie has both Kathy (my wife) and me wishing we knew more of American history.

In some ways, this movie is a lot like Sneakers. The plot is so fantastic that it could be absurd, but the story works because it’s put together very well. I believe that Nicholas Cage is also part of its success — nobody else could have pulled off this role. There is always something peculiar about the characters he plays, and he’s good at peculiar.

And that wraps up my post. I was all set to go into detail about what I thought at certain points in the movie, but I’m suddenly drawing a blank.

ipcop firewall project

Along with the .org, .net, .com, and .info versions of my ‘elyograg’ domain, my server runs Lower Lights, the domains that my wife set aside for a business, and some of the pieces of my friend Nat‘s domain. Eventually all of Nat’s domain will reside on my server.

Currently I use a firewall product called Smoothwall to protect my Windows machines. Because of limitations in the free version of Smoothwall, my Linux servers are on the “outside” of the firewall.

The limitations in Smoothwall are intentional. It is built around the Linux kernel and a lot of other software pieces covered by the Gnu Public License (GPL). Because of this, they are required to make the program and the source code for all derivative works available for free. They are careful to adhere to this requirement, but they also have a commercial version which is where they actually put all their development energy. The components that are unique to the commercial version do not fall under the GPL, so they are able to make a large profit on them, even though the majority of the overall system is free software.

Smoothwall’s half-hearted stance towards the open source ideal has irritated a lot of people. One group of those people created a fork of the project and named it IPCop. Although it lags behind commercial Smoothwall in features, it is not by much. They are willing to listen to requests from the community, where Smoothwall only implements new features when it will make them money. One feature that I would like is not offered by any of the free firewall products — the ability to use the real public addresses on the Orange (DMZ) network. I can do without that for now.

So, one of these days I will convert my firewall to IPCop and put my Linux machines behind it, giving them better protection from all the Bad Stuff(tm) on the Internet. I have not had a security problem with the servers yet, mostly because Linux is inherently more secure than Windows. Additionally, I am diligent in using secure protocols and keeping my software up to date for all reported security vulnerabilities.


new blog name

Nat gave me an idea for my blogname — express the idea of “my thoughts” in Latin. Although much of it has turned to mush, I did take five years of Latin in high school. Drawing on the remnants in my head and access to an Internet dictionary, I came up with “mens mea” as a loose translation for “my thoughts.” The word “mens” has no exact translation in English. All of the following are in the dictionary for this one word: mind, understanding, intellect, judgment; feelings, disposition; courage; opinion, thoughts; intention, resolve. I am indebted to Nat for this idea and the results.

Those who have seen Legally Blonde and those with a legal background will see a similarity to the legal term “mens rea” which is literally translated “guilty mind” but is perhaps better expressed as “criminal intent.”

In other news, I have also shamelessly stolen (with permission) Nat’s stylesheet for WordPress. Standing on the shoulders of a giant, my blog looks better.


and so it begins

Inspired by my friend Nat’s blog and a recent post on it, I have taken a few minutes and installed some blogging software on my site.

We’ll see whether I actually take the time to keep on top of it. I’ve had a livejournal for a while now, but rarely ever updated it.

I’ll be taking suggestions for a blog name. “Heart of Darkness” was the first thing that came to mind when I set it up.