MavEtJu's Distorted View of the World - 2008-10

Training in San Francisco (part 1)
HAMMER File System (not) on FreeBSD
src/share/zoneinfo updated to 2008h
BUGS and FreeBSD Goodies
Top Gear Australia
Software I have known
Project Vegetable Patch
Moving to Riverbed
src/share/zoneinfo updated to 2008g
Friday the 13th

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Training in San Francisco (part 1)

Posted on 2008-10-31 07:00:00
Tags: Travelling, San Francisco, Riverbed, Steelhead

In the next two weeks I will be on training for my new job at Riverbed in San Francisco and Sunnyvale. It will be two courses, Steelhead Appliance Deployment and Management and Steelhead Mobile Client Installation and Configuration.

A Steelhead Appliance is a device in your network, one centrally at your servers and one or more remotely on the user LANs, which provides WAN optimisation, WAN acceleration and Wide Area File Services. Or in plain English: It makes the data over your networks be transferred faster.

The best comparison for it is your webbrowser: When you initially a page with images, it will download them all from the webserver and store them in a local cache. If the next page you go to refers to these images, it will just use them from the cache instead of downloading them again. That is Wide Area File Services.

The next one, WAN optimisation, is the HTTP protocol. The old version setup a new TCP session for every HTTP request, the new version can continue on an earlier used TCP session.

And the last one, WAN acceleration, is compression of the static HTML pages by the webserver: Compressed data is often smaller, so it will be there faster.

The Steelhead appliances don't only work on the HTTP protocol, but also (including but not limited to) with CIFS (Windows File Sharing), MAPI (Exchange server), NFS. And for protocols it doesn't know about, it will still do compression.

That is the hardware version, which works on your WAN/LAN infrastructure. There is also the version called Steelhead Mobile for on notebooks computers, it will give you, at home over a VPN for example, the same performance boost as you have on your LAN at work.

Like I said, the first week is training, the next week is for getting my troubleshooting experience. From what I've read up so far it is pretty technical stuff I will get trained with, so it can't be all bad :-)

If you are in San Francisco between 2 November and 9 November or in Sunnyvale between 9 November and 14 November and want to meet up, drop me an email!

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HAMMER File System (not) on FreeBSD

Posted on 2008-10-15 11:30:00, modified on 2008-10-15 14:30:00
Tags: FreeBSD, HammerFS

I was just listening to the talk Matthew Dillon gave at the NYCBSDCon 2008 about the HAMMER File System.

One of the basic requirements of it is that the type ino_t has to be 64 bits. Unfortunately, on FreeBSD this is still 32 bits...

So for everybody who thinks that this is just a extra filesystem layer added to the FreeBSD operating system, it is a little bit more difficult. For example, the commit log for the DragonFlyBSD revision 1.11 was:

Make nlink_t 32bit and ino_t 64bit. Implement the old syscall numbers
for *stat by wrapping the new syscalls and truncation of the values.
Add a hack for boot2 to keep ino_t 32bit, otherwise we would have to
link the 64bit math code in and that would most likely overflow boot2.
Bump libc major to annotate changed ABI and work around a problem with
strip during installworld. strip is dynamically linked and doesn't play
well with the new libc otherwise.

Support for 64bit inode numbers is still incomplete, because the dirent
limited to 32bit. The checks for nlink_t have to be redone too.
Update at 2008-10-15: It seems that people are already doing work on experimenting with a 64 bit ino_t:
<EvilPete> Mavvie: I have patches in perforce (several versions in fact) that bump ino_t to 64 bits.
<EvilPete> Mavvie: nfsv3 has 64 bit inodes.  we have hacks to hash large nfs inode numbers into freebsd's smaller ones
<EvilPete> Mavvie: also, I increased nlink_t and mode_t from 16 to 32 bits.
<EvilPete> //depot/user/peter/ino64 is one of them

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src/share/zoneinfo updated to 2008h

Posted on 2008-10-14 16:00:00, modified on 2008-10-14 21:30:00
Tags: FreeBSD, zoneinfo

Still in time for the release of 7.1: src/share/zoneinfo is updated! Syria is still in summertime until 1 November 2008. For people in Argentinia, it is still unclear if you guys will have DST at the 19th of October, so if you have some form of information please tell me about it, with your sources. At this moment it is still assumed that you will have DST.

MFCs towards RELENG_7 and RELENG_6 have been requested, but not yet granted, but of course also available in the ports collection as misc/zoneinfo.

Update on 2008-10-14: MFCd into RELENG_7, RELENG_6 and 6.4.

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BUGS and FreeBSD Goodies

Posted on 2008-10-13 16:00:00
Tags: FreeBSD, BUGS

With a new job, the most important thing is to start with a new mug. I tried to find a nice one at CafePress, but there weren't really ones which would make me happy. So I made a couple myself :-)

The first batch has the BUGS (BSD Users Group Sydney) logo on it and are available from CafePress - BSD Users Group Sydney. Just mugs, that's all.

The first batch has the FreeBSD logo on it and are available from CafePress - FreeBSD Users Goodies. Mugs and stickers!

I have put a markup of one dollar per 10 dollars in price (and 50 cents for everything less than 10 dollars), which will be donated to the FreeBSD Foundation as described on FreeBSD Foundation Donations.

There are many more items available, for example clothing, but it's way too tricky to define them all in advance. If you want to have something, let me know and I'll add it!

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Top Gear Australia

Posted on 2008-10-11 22:00:00
Tags: Mass Media, Australia

SBS in Australia is currently broadcasting its own version of Top Gear, called Top Gear Australia. As an enthusiast cyclist and being with no interests for cars, I have a special bond with the original program.

The original Top Gear is currently presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. A grumpy journalist, a ADHD suffering DJ and a piano-teacher. Before I saw my first episode of Top Gear, I had seen Jeremy Clarkson at Robot Wars, where he used the same presenting style I later saw him with on Top Gear.

What does make Top Gear so good? It's just two reasons:

  • The absolute great shots they make of the cars during their reviews: If the sky is clear, the blue looks stunning. If the sky is clouded, the clouds look stunning. If it is raining, the rain looks stunning. In Spring everything looks green, in Autumn everything is golden. If the scenery is a desert then the dunes look great, if the scenery is in mountains then the mountains look great,if the scenery is in the green counties of the UK then the brushes and trees look great. Even if the cars are priced between one and five times my annual income (before taxes that is) and I will never be able to afford them, the pictures as a whole are absolutely stunning.
  • The challenges, in which the three presenters have to perform euhmm challenges. This is the part in which the characters and state of minds of of the presenters come out: Jemery Clarkson will always end up with the biggest car or the messiest approach to get it done, Richard Hammond will come up with something cute and desperately tries to convince Jeremy that his solution is working and James May will come up with a super-hack which will leave you stunned.
    For example the "Amphibious vehicles" challenge: Clarkson puts the biggest engine he can find on a Toyota Hilux pick-up truck, Hammond transforms a Volkswagen camper van into a narrowboat and May converts a classic Triumph Herald sports car into a sailing boat; Or the "Stretch limos" challenge where Clarkson got a greatly lengthened dual rear axled Fiat Panda, Hammond created a MG F "Sports Limo" and May ended up with a dual headed cross between an Alfa Romeo 164 and a Saab 9000.

Yes, I have left out the Stigs weekly run-around-the-track and the celebrity track. The Stig character is funny and great in his role in the challenges but the run-around-the-track is boring and the celebrity part is good for the interview but, as said earlier, the run-around-the-track is boring. And I didn't mention the Cool-Wall neither. You can see, I'm not interested in the cars themselves, only in the pictures made around them and in what these three people do with them.

So, how does Top Gear Australia run? First, if people think it will be the same the original Top Gear, then they must stop dreaming. Three different presenters, three different characters, three different ways of thinking and three different attitudes towards life. It will never be same as the original Top Gear.

So far only two episodes have aired, and since everybody and their dog has given their opinion, often negative because of the reason in the previous paragraph, about it I was going to give mine, hopefully positive, about it.

The presenters are Charlie Cox, Steve Pizzati and Warren Brown. Of the three of them, I only knew Warren Brown from the recreation of the 1907 Peking to Paris race in which they used the same cars or kind of cars as the original contestants and of the appearance of his cartoons now and then on the ABC or SBS.

Charlie Cox tries to be the main guy, but is missing the charisma Jeremy Clarkson has. Steve Pizzati has the hyperactive and please-approve-of-this,-Charlie approach and Warren Brown is the hacker of the three, so far he has come up (oh well, presented) with the car converted into a shark cage and the Smart Funeral car.

The style of the show is the same as the original Top Gear, with reviews plus the Stig, celebrities and challenges. Instead of the Cool-Wall there is the "What Were They Thinking?" section.

So what is the initial verdict? Quite some people I spoke were negative about it, but I blame that mostly on expectation: If they expected one-on-one copies of the characters of Clarkson, Hammond and May, they had woken up with a cold shower. The scenery in the shots so far are okay, hopefully they will show all parts of Australia (desert, rainforest, mountains, coastal roads, wetlands etc). The two car challenges (Sand and Snow in one day and Utes at the gold mining pits) and two hacking challenges (Shark Cage and Smart Funeral car) were surely with the same chaos and quality of the original Top Gear. The run-around-the-track is still boring and I haven't recognized any of the celebrities yet (but I blame that fully on myself and not on the show :-)

I will keep watching this show through the first season and hope that it will give me the same laughs and warm feelings of the original Top Gear!

ObReferences: A lot of the technical data from the Challenges paragraph was retrieved from Wikipedia (

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Software I have known

Posted on 2008-10-10 22:00:00
Tags: Memories, Computers, Happiness

Over the last years I've used a set of unique tools which names have faded into history but when mentioned still bring a warm feeling to people who have used these tools. These tools were on often on platforms which didn't stand the test of time, for good or bad reasons.

4DOS and 4OS2 by JP Software.

Everybody who has ever tried to write a batch script in the MS-DOS COMMAND.COM interpreter knows about its limitations. The 4DOS interpreter took these limitations away and replaced them with powerful features. Interactive batch files suddenly became possible, filename completion was introduced, coloured directory overviews and string manipulation became a piece of cake.

As long as MS-DOS was sold, 4DOS would live on. But the moment the command-line was replaced by the GUI of MS-Windows95, it was dead. Obsoleted because the operating system didn't run from the command-line interpreter anymore.


Qedit by SemWare.

By default, MS-DOS came with a editor called "edlin" which was enough to do some rough editing to get a system working again, but for the rest it was not worth mentioning.

Qedit on the other hand, it was full screen, it was fast, it had split window support, it had ASCII drawing support, it could change the resolution of the monitor to 43 or 50 lines and it could edit files hundreds of kilobytes big.

On the MS-DOS platform it was the best text editor you could get, but as so many other applications it didn't survive the migration to the GUI of MS-Windows: It had a more-or-less working text editor and the editors coming with software development suites had full blown IDEs.


ModPlay Pro by Mark J Cox.

Before the rise of the compressed music (read: MP3), the Amiga world developed a way to store music efficient: Instead of a stream of sound, it recorded samples and the patterns to play the samples in. Since the musical part of a song (so not the voice) consist of repeating elements, it was space-wise very cheap to store the song. And that is the MOD file format.

ModPlay Pro was text-based and had several views of the data being used. One was a frequency/volume overview and one was a tracker overview, in which you could exactly see the pattern being followed and the samples being played. And if you followed it often and intensive enough you started to involuntary "disassemble" songs you heard on the radio into the four tracks available in the MOD format.

The MOD format became popular before soundcards were widely available and affordable. The workaround for it was to build a simple D/A convertor on the parallel port of the computer with a cable to your stereo. And if you bought a second parallel port you could even have it in stereo!

With the rise of more powerful computers and faster networks the MOD format became unpopular in favour of the MP3 format.


TheDraw by TheSoft Programming Services.

TheDraw was the tool of ANSI BBS Administrators and wannabees to create fancy menus and of ANSI artist to create text based animations.

Creating a coloured line with ANSI codes isn't difficult, just cumbersome. To change a colour of the next character you need four characters of which one isn't printable ("ESCAPE [ 25 m"). Testing the menu out can be done from the command-line but figuring out where a colour change is necessary is next to impossible.

Not with TheDraw. With TheDraw you could design the ANSI menu as-is and then write the whole sequence of ANSI escape codes and strings to a file, ready to be displayed on your BBS.

Where did it go? With the rise of the WWW and the demise of the BBS, ANSI became an obsolete in favour of HTML and images.


DESQview by Quarterdeck

You have your Qedit editor, your Turbo C compiler and your ModPlay Pro, but you can not run them all at the same time. After all, this is all still the MS-DOS era! Luckely Quaterdeck developed a lightweigth text-based pre-emptive task switcher called DESQview. That way you could run multiple MS-DOS programs at the same time, without having to quit them or to suspend them. So you could edit your program, compile it in the next task and test it in a third task.

We all know what happened to the MS-DOS market, and DESQview is one of its victims...


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Project Vegetable Patch

Posted on 2008-10-09 16:00:00
Tags: Food, Project VP

It has been six months ago since I added Google Ads to my weblog and to my FreeBSD Mailinglist Archive and this month I received my first payment. Six months for US$ 100.-, that is about AU$ 130.-. Not enough to give up my dayjob, that's for sure, but enough for funny things. And the funny thing-du-jour is: Growing your own vegetables.

Wait... Computers, networks, electronics, children. How does that fit in? Euhmm... category children I would say. Nothing is as fun as doing funny things with them and working in the garden is one of them.

When I was young, my parents had a so called volkstuin, or allotment garden in the English language, were they grew vegetables. Not for the whole year around and not for the whole family, just a 10 by 10 meters lot. A lot of saturday mornings were spent there weeding the growth and in the summer with the late nights I often helped watering them.

So, how does 130 Australian dollars and vegetable patches come together? Simple: I used the money to buy some gardening tools and seeds.

Project Vegetable Patch has started its first phase, with the purchase of a spade and the turning over a square meter of grass in the back of the garden. The grass in the back of the garden is a little bit high, and very strong. So I limited myself to one square meter. Much less than my father did, but you have to start somewhere. The ground looked fine, it was wet and full of worms, lawn grubs (are lawn grubs a good sign?) and stones.

I bought pumpkin seeds and carrot seeds. The pumpkin needed to be sowed one meter apart, so they go on the edge-corners of the patch. And the carrots rows have to be 20-30 cm in between so I got three rows of them.

Add a little bit of water, add a little bit of worm-wee from the worm farm and wait for four months. Well, check every week to get rid of the grasses and to water it every day, but the idea is there.

If this works, next time I will go for more square meters!

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Moving to Riverbed

Posted on 2008-10-07 13:00:00
Tags: Jobs, Moving

So I left BarNet in July 2008 and of course the first thing I needed to do was to find a new job. That is easier said to do for a person whose interests lay in FreeBSD, networking and DNS/SMTP services.

First I tried the HR people at Google again, but the person who I spoke to two years ago said that my file was with the software development HR and that therefor I couldn't apply for a network or system administration role. Needless to say that such a "dynamic" company isn't what I was looking for.

I applied for a role at AAPT in the network / systems monitoring group which was responsible for the internal application accounting software, something which sounded like what I did at BarNet with regarding to the telephony accounting. After two interviews and a silence of two weeks they decided that the role wasn't properly defined and that it would become available again later this year.

TPG Development in Canberra is a group which does do, besides internal accounting, also telephony based on the Asterisk PABX, something I have been doing for the last three or four years. A month after the interview and the appearance of a similar ad in the papers I had to call them to hear that they wanted to keep my resume on file for later.

A systems management role with Yahoo! in Australia had two interviews and a dead silence, only to hear later that I wasn't chosen because of my "online precense", which after some further questioning was regarding to "how I present myself in online forums". Examples were not given, but I think that there are some old players from the Fatal Dimensions MUD, who never have reached the hero level and still let their life be miserable about it, now working at Yahoo! in Australia.

Macquary Telecom had a role as system and network escalation engineer, which was given to somebody else due to my lack of knowledge of the Windows operating system, despite that they explicitely said that it was an Unix / Linux environment and that knowledge of DNS was essential.

But finally the hunt is over, I have an offer with Riverbed as an level 3 escalation engineer! Riverbed makes WAN acceleration products based on data compression on the payload of the protocols itself. So it knows how to compress the chatter between Outlook and the Exchange server, between the Windows desktops and the SMB server and, not kidding, between the CVS server and the CVS clients. At least that is the stuff which everybody knows them from, they do much more these days, something I will find out soon! The start date is 20 October 2008, and I'm really looking forward to it. In the first month I will be visiting their head offices in San Francisco and Sunnyvale, so if you want to meet up somehow let me know!

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src/share/zoneinfo updated to 2008g

Posted on 2008-10-07 12:00:00, modified on 2008-10-14 21:25:00
Tags: FreeBSD, zoneinfo

Just in time for the release of 7.1: src/share/zoneinfo is updated! Changes are only for Brazil, which had clashes with the DST change during the Carnaval weekend.

Of course also available in the ports collection as misc/zoneinfo for people who don't track RELENG_6 or RELENG_7.

Update on 2008-10-14: MFCd into RELENG_6 and 6.4.

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Friday the 13th

Posted on 2008-10-03 15:00:00
Tags: Rant, Computers

The only thing missing which would explain everything is the date of when this all happened: It wasn't Friday the 13th...

Yesterday at noon I asked OfficeWorks to scan in and copy my employee contract with the new company I am going to work for (you don't know yet? You will soon). Nothing too fancy I thought. But when I picked up the paperwork, I was missing the original of my employee contract... Yes, that is the most important part of it I thought. Twenty minutes later they found it, it was still laying in one of the drawers of one of the copiers. On my way home, I found out in the chaos that they hadn't returned my USB stick with the scanned in documents neither...

When I was home, I got an urgent phonecall to not leave the house because the love-of-my-life had forgotten her keys. Assuming that she was on her way back, I stayed in the garden... a little bit longer than normal on the toilet... I watched a TV show... Cleaned up the garage a little bit... And two hours later she finally came home.

In the evening, Dirkie insisted in not eating anything from his plate. But he was very keen on having pasta, noodles, sprinkles, vegimite, sausage etc. So one and an hour later he ate the tiniest piece of bread of his plate, nearly choked on it so bad did it taste and finally was allowed to leave the table.

Normally when the two children are in bed, I have time to do things. Not today, not today. I made myself a nice cup of tea and Naomi came into the room with Hanorah on her arm saying that the little one had thrown up. I've been babies bringing up a lot of different kind of foods and in a vast varity of amounts, but this was really a new record... So I had to change the bed sheet, the sheet under it, the donah cover and turn the mattrass around...

Half an hour later, Hanorah back to bed and I try to stay awake to figure out what has happened in the virtual world of the FreeBSD community. Except that the last line of the screen of my computer said "INSERT BOOT DISK OR PRESS ENTER TO REBOOT". Rebooting resulted in a dreaded tick-tick-tick of the harddisk and the same message. We'll find out tomorrow what has happened here, it has RAID1 somewhere in the BIOS and I never got an alert from that that it didn't work.

Luckely I was too tired to worry about it, otherwise I would not have slept and would have been even more tired than I am now.

In the morning, I disconnect the two disks from the RAID1 array and hooked them up one by one to find out which one was the broken one. Finding the broken one is simple, just listen to the tick-tick-tick. Booting the correct one, that hasn't been accomplished yet...

Off to the shop and buy a bunch of new disks, and this time we'll use the FreeBSD Geom Mirror software! A bargain, 500Gb disks for AU$ 99.- and 1Tb disks for AU$ 199.-. And at home, I found out that one of them didn't work, it showed up as 32Gb in the BIOS, and that the other one worked fine. Back to the shop only to find out that they don't have other 1Tb disks...

So worst case I lost all my unread mail (YAY!), all my BarNet related software (which could be a good thing considering I don't do software development for them anymore) [this sounds like my computer wanted to make a clean start too!], all my RSS feeds and all my Seamonkey bookmarks and saved passwords (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAI). Plus my FreeBSD checked-out Subversion trees with all the patches I have submitted in the last year but have not been commited yet.

For the good thing: I finally will move to a different window manager, because fvwm95 is getting a little bit old (hey, it's 2008 :-) For now I will use vtwm and I hope I can get the control-left-right-up-and-down to work to change virtual desktops.

In the mean time, if you have a hardware RAID solution: MAKE SURE IT WORKS!

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