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March 2001
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Thursday, 1 March 2001 Boston –>
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And autumn has started in Australia! Nothing to see of that here, where winter is still fully in charge. When I got up the temperature was -5°, and by the time I left it was still only 0°.

Spent the day doing various odds and ends, including a code review and a phone interview for a potential kernel hacker. Off to the airport and home with little ado, taking a fair amount of hardware with me.


Friday, 2 March 2001
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Sleep.


Saturday, 3 March 2001 –> Echunga
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Arrived in Melbourne on time, and pretty quickly through immigration, where I got a particularly stuffy official who wanted to know where I had been, who I had been talking to (right, everybody knows Sitara, right? I should have said IBM). She decided I was suspicious enough to order a full search of my baggage. I wonder if she didn't like the job description “Hacker”.

The customs person was a lot more sensible, and didn't even want to open the box with the QosWorks box inside. As I was leaving, I asked her why, and she said “Because I believe you—which is more than I can say for those people over there”. She could have had it easier.

Back home, and unpacked stuff. After a bit of network reconfiguration found:

Mar  3 14:06:35 echunga dhcpd: BOOTREQUEST from 00:04:c1:1e:14:c0 via xl0
Mar  3 14:06:35 echunga dhcpd: No applicable record for BOOTP host 00:04:c1:1e:14:c0 via xl0

A quick check showed that all machines connected to the switch were up and running, and that none matched the MAC address. After a while it dawned on me: it was the switch itself, a Cisco 2900. Must find a way to shut it up: it's filling my log files.


Sunday, 4 March 2001 Echunga
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Another day catching up with mail. I did find enough time to install the QoSworks box, though, and also to get the Cisco switch configured so that it stopped creating those annoying console messages. I had really intended to go riding, and the weather was good, but the spirit was weak.


Monday, 5 March 2001 Echunga
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Everything's happening at once. Linuxsa has decided that they want to incorporate, and I suspect that they don't know what can of worms they are opening. I also don't think that there's enough room for another established society in SA; it would make more sense for AUUG to merge with them.

Plenty of things to keep me busy. While reading mail, I found a description of an IBM System/390 emulator, so started porting that. I must be crazy.

Qantas have sent me a brochure about wireless Ethernet in the Qantas club. It's supplied by a company called Skynet Global, which despite the name is an Australian company. Called them up for details, and of course got the usual Microsoft-oriented “you install your card and click on login”. Sent them a message asking for details.


Tuesday, 6 March 2001 Echunga
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No reply from Skynet about how to use their service with FreeBSD. Called them up again and got another bloke who, after finding my questions too much for his understanding of the material, called me back and said that, according to his “Product Manager”, it was not possible to use the service with Free BSD (whatever that may be). That was in direct contradiction to what I had read in the FAQ, so I asked for a senior technical person to call me. The way he replied left me in no doubt that he would not do anything more about it.

Into town later to talk to Geoff Richmond about forming a company. Looks like now is the time to go after it.

After that to the Qantas club, where they gave me a different number for Skynet. I wasn't able to set up the service immediately, so called the number and got on to a bloke who knew what he was doing. It's pretty straightforward: managed mode (of course), no encryption and a specific BSSID. After entering that, I was able to connect to their login screen (apparently they hijack the entire HTTP traffic and forward it to their authentication server, which, amusingly, I couldn't ping). Here's a description of what you need. Since the service is also available from partners in the USA, this should be pretty applicable to most airline lounge networks.

Went home and signed up, and note that Skynet doesn't have reverse DNS on their mail servers. I hope they fix that, or that I can convince them to do so.


Wednesday, 7 March 2001 Echunga
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It looked as if Magia was on heat last night, so today we were going to take her and El Mago to Jorge de Moya's. The horses decided otherwise, and after a frustrating 45 minutes we decided we would need help, so shelved the idea for today.

Long talk with Geoff Steckel on the phone after that, then spent the rest of the day trying to get the instant port working.


Thursday, 8 March 2001 Echunga
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Woke up this morning to discover that Bill Reid was on his way over here to help us load Magia and El Mago into the float. That worked pretty well, so took them to Victoria. A whole day's drive (740 km). Well, I suppose that it's sometimes a good thing to get out of the office. At least I was able to get some phone calls in.


Friday, 9 March 2001 Echunga
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Back to work on the “instant server” today. Somehow I'm having difficulty sticking to it. I'd much rather work on the S/390 emulator, though I have no use for it.

As part of the “instant workstation”, made a port for xtset, a program I've been using for nearly 10 years. I wonder why I didn't do it earlier.


Saturday, 10 March 2001 Echunga
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More work on the instant workstation, and finally got it committed. That's a load off my mind.


Sunday, 11 March 2001 Echunga
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As the ports freeze approaches, there's been a lot of activity on the lists, and I find myself involved for once. Found a number of dependency problems with the instant workstation, and also committed a first stab at the instant server.

As if that wasn't enough, Matthew Dodd was able to reproduce a panic in Vinum, and that during the code freeze. Looks like I forgot to commit my RFCs. Grrr.


Monday, 12 March 2001 Echunga
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More work on the instant workstations and servers. Somehow I'm getting nothing done. At least it looks as if Matthew Dodd's problem was pilot error, though I don't understand how that made a difference, and Matthew wasn't able to get a dump.

Finalized my plans for the Singapore trip.


Tuesday, 13 March 2001 Echunga
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Now my instant ports seem to obe OK, and all I need to do is to get the text sorted out. Not helped by preparations for the relaunch of the SA chapter of AUUG.

In the evening into town for the revival. We had nearly 50 people there, much more than Phil and Co. had last December. We ran out of pizza, but fortunately not out of beer. Told people about what AUUG was all about (mainly geeks and beer), but I didn't seem to have done a very good job. Ah well, we can keep working on them.


Wednesday, 14 March 2001 Echunga
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Everything seems to be happening at once again. Today was the ADUUG lunch, where I saw a lot of the faces from last night. At 13 people, it was also one of the better frequented events. At Maya's, an (Asian) Indian restaurant off Gouger St. Not a place I shall go to again for the food.

In the evening, another dinner, with Daniel Demuth and his parents, also Diane Saunders. We had planned it before Mark Prior planned today's lunch. What did we eat? Indian food. I will come back here again for food.


Thursday, 15 March 2001 Echunga
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I'm working too much. Spent over three hours on the phone today talking to people about possible work; I should just stop. Read a lot about cacheing.


Friday, 16 March 2001 Echunga
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Finally some rain! It's been a particularly hot and dry summer, the paddocks were turning to dust, and thanks to our accident in September we were getting worried about our water supplies. But what the Bureau of Meteorology called “a few showers” turned out to be 30mm, just what we wanted.

More work on the presentation for next week. In addition, IBM has come with an interesting offer which would really be worthwhile. sigh.


Saturday, 17 March 2001 Echunga
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Another quiet day. Why is it taking me such a long time to get this workshop put together?

Discovered that my latest shuffling of data around on disk had caused my incremental backups to overflow, even though I only did a total backup last week. Decided that things hadn't changed enough to warrant overwriting the oldest backup, so wrote to the last backup instead. You should never do that, right? But what are the chances that a disk would fail exactly during the backup?

Well, one failed. I still don't know the extent of the damage, but I may have lost data. The silly thing is, I should know better, so I have only myself to blame.


Sunday, 18 March 2001 Echunga
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Again the lull before the storm. I feel less prepared for this journey than I have done for a long time. Didn't have time to create a CD-R with all the goodies I wanted to show off, but I did have my laptop, so put all the stuff I needed there and planned for an NFS-based install. This stuff takes forever to build; over 5 hours.


Monday, 19 March 2001 Echunga –> Singapore
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For a change didn't have to get up in the middle of the night today, and spent the morning catching up on things, including my breath.

To the airport and to try out the Skynet Global service. With the config file I worked out on 6 March, I was connected to the system immediately. Login seemed to work, but then timed out and returned me to the login screen. I found I could ping a few hops, and then hit what was presumably a firewall: DNS lookups back home got through.

Called the Skynet service line. “Will you please reboot your machine, Sir?”. When I refused, she said “well then I can't help you”, which was probably the truest thing she said.

Turned out we were delayed: the plane caught a bird in one of the engines while landing, and it took them a couple of hours to clean up the mess. During that time we had a number of phone calls, but they didn't manage to get the routing sorted out. At least I was able to get beyond L1 support and get the network people looking at it.

Good arrival at Singapore. Within 19 minutes of touchdown I was leaving in a taxi. The most surprising thing about that was that I was able to get a taxi that quickly.

Had a beer in the hotel. $20! That must be the most expensive beer I've ever had.


Tuesday, 20 March 2001 Singapore
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Woke up at a normal enough time and down to have breakfast, then out to find out where I was. All out at sea, sort of: on the other side of the war memorial from Raffles City. When I was a kid, that was all water. I was reminded to my cost that shops don't open early here: I got to Raffles City at about 9 am, and everything was close. Decided to walk to Sim Lim Square, where I arrived at 9:30, and things were still mainly closed, so walked on to Mohd. Mustafa Samsuddin, where things were open, and where I got most things I wanted, including a new wireless telephone setup. Then back to Sim Lim Square looking for an IBM DTLA 307045 45 GB disk. Plenty of people advertised them, at quite competitive prices as well, but nobody had them. In the end gave up and bought a Western Digital WD400BB, only 40 “GB”, and more expensive. Grr.

In the late afternoon finally to the convention centre to set up for my tutorial tomorrow. A good thing I insisted: the machine they had brought in had USB keyboard and mouse, and it paniced in horror during boot when it saw the hardware. People finally dragged in another machine, which had an Intel 815 chipset with integrated display, and we couldn't work out how to get XFree86 to talk to it. In the end they brought in a Matrox G200, and we were able to install with no problems. Back to the hotel at 10 pm.


Wednesday, 21 March 2001 Singapore Images for 21 March 2001
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Tutorial today, which started out pretty well until I tried to install the instant workstation. Disaster! It turned out that my tree on the laptop had symlinks into my network at home, and though it didn't fail to install, it first wanted to build the packages, not quite the thing I could afford to do during a tutorial. Fixed it in the end, but not without a bit of egg on my face.

After lunch, the hardware ganged up against me. Suddenly the Ethernet interface on my laptop stopped working; later examination showed that the dongle cable was damaged. While I was investigating that, the Ethernet interface on the installation machine started doing funny things as well. We never quite found out what it was, but it was nothing that a new card couldn't fix.

Despite all that, finished the tutorial material in mid-afternoon. It's amazing how much easier it is to install the system now than just a few years ago. Spent the rest of the time talking about other system administration issues. Richard Sharpe came in and was able to field a couple of the questions which I couldn't answer adequately.

In the evening to the LUGS annual excellence award presentation. I'm quite impressed by the things these people do, as well as some of the things for which awards were made, notably the Celestix Internet server. Took a number of other photos.


Thursday, 22 March 2001 Singapore Images for 22 March 2001
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First day of the conference, and not too much to do. Did my talk in the afternoon as planned.

In the evening to the Speaker's Reception at a Middle Eastern restaurant with the rather unlikely name “Cleopatra”. The main interest was a belly dancer, who evoked a lot of interest:


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Friday, 23 March 2001 Singapore Images for 23 March 2001
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I can go where I want, my mail follows me. It's been pretty difficult just to keep up.

Richard Sharpe and I were about to go to Sim Lim Square to look for things like Ethernet cards when we were invited to lunch with Richard Stallman. During the lunch an overhead display failed with a Microsoft error messages, creating much mirth:


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Later rms and I discussed a segfault.org report, which I had planned to read out just before the closing keynote. rms pointed out (as he had to!) that there was no GNU involved, so we modified the story somewhat, coming up with this, which I did read out.

Unfortunately, the original is no longer on segfault.org, and I haven't been able to locate a copy. All I have is our version.

rms did his talk despite having had no sleep for two days, and disproved his claim that he had done the talk so many times that he could do it in his sleep: he nodded off for a few seconds in the middle. We pumped some tea into him and later went out to dinner with many of the same blokes with whom I ate on the 10 November 2000. Again we got some photos, including a spectacularly sleepy rms:


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Back home with rms by taxi, once we found one. The taxi driver didn't seem to know his way around town, and I had to show him (rms was staying at the Allson, not my favourite hotel). Sheesh. Singapore needs to do something about its taxis.


Saturday, 24 March 2001 Singapore –> Images for 24 March 2001
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Up later this morning and took my time packing up and leaving. Went across the road to the exhibition, which was doing much better than I expected, and spent some time talking to people. Alla Polumieva of ASP Linux wanted me to come and take a look at her new horse, but first I had to go and get my hair cut, and we didn't leave until 5 pm.

Down to the Bukit Timah Saddle club, where I took a look at the horses she was considering. Both quite nice looking animals, but one had obviously learnt some bad habits, while the other one (the grey, whose name I keep forgetting) was very friendly, willing and intelligent. There's only the question of what harm he might have taken by being raced at such an early age—he's only 4. Took more photos, then off to the airport.


Sunday, 25 March 2001 –> Echunga Images for 25 March 2001
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How I hate these short flights! Only 3 hours sleep. For the first time ever on an intercontinental flight, though, I didn't have any checked-in baggage, and was out of the airport within 5 minutes of disembarking.

To Audrey Schaedel's place to pick up my father, and found that the house has been sold. It's true it wasn't much of a house, but for all my life it's been one of the invariants, that Audrey lived in that house.

Back home and caught up on my sleep, then on my diary and the 3000 odd mail messages that were waiting. Autumn has come with a bang. After a very dry summer, we're finally getting some rain.


Monday, 26 March 2001 Echunga
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Tidying up today, in the truest sense of the word. Everything seems to be happening at once, but I was able to make fair progress on various things that have been left around for ever.


Tuesday, 27 March 2001 Echunga
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Spent most of the day tidying up and catching up on loose ends. There wasn't much to show for it, but I certainly felt a lot happier about the work I'm doing than I have for a long time. Packed up the Yoyodyne box.


Wednesday, 28 March 2001 Echunga
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Ah, it's good to have all the admin stuff behind me. Spent some time on the new book, also talking to IBM. It's pretty certain now that I'll take the job.


Thursday, 29 March 2001 Echunga
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Spent the day on a variety of things: a new Vinum bug that has mysteriously crept up, books, course material. Finally signed the contract with IBM.


Friday, 30 March 2001 Echunga
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Finally found the bug in Vinum, after rebuilding my test setup. Forgot part of an MFC. There should be a better way to ensure reliable updates.

Working on merging the Sitara source tree back to the FreeBSD source tree. The good news is that it's not as painful as merging SMPng.


Saturday, 31 March 2001 Echunga
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Trying to take it a bit easier today, and was only partially successful. Out riding for the first time in weeks, with Darah and La Tigre into Kuitpo Forest. La Tigre still needs a lot of work.

Back home, and Diane Saunders came along to pick up some cat food. She found a starving kitten in her shed. Went back with her to look at it. She had thought it was only about 4 weeks old, but I'd put it between 8 and 10 weeks, and not in nearly as poor a condition as she had suggested. It looks like a pure bred cat: long-haired tortoiseshell chinchilla, not the kind of moggie you see every day. We may end up taking her.

While I was there, took a look at her horse Harry, who has also been developing the same sort of white spots as Darah. At least that pretty much rules out anything hereditary, since Harry's an American Saddlebred.


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