Sophie’s new batch of kittens has arrived. We thought she’d need a comfortable place to park the new cats, so we cut a cardboard box to what seemed like a good size and shape and put some old quilts in it. Sophie didn’t seem too interested when we placed the box in a protected area of the garage. But when the time came she apparently decided it was the best location around. There are six healthy little critters; five appear pure white and one is sort of a calico. Right now they look more like tiny little fur-covered pigs than kittens.
Our move to the new office proceeded without any major catastrophies. The changeover in Internet providers has proceed as well as can be expected too. The Planet has provided excellent technical support so far, including some onsite help at late hours on a weekend to help with a T1 issue. They even got a Southwestern Bell tech to show up onsite at 11pm one night when one of the new smartjack cards died. Most of the logistical issues have been solved and we’ll be spending the next week or so unpacking boxes. We’ve been exploring the Deep Ellum area and there’s certainly no shortage of resaurants here. We’ll be trying new places to eat lunch for weeks.
The abandoned mother cat and two kittens previouly mentioned are not only still with us but a new twist has developed in the story. I noticed the other day that Sophie, the mother cat, seemed to be gaining a bit of weight and I kidded Susan about feeding her too much. A couple of days later we realized something was up and Susan took Sophie to the vet. It turns out there are more little kittens on the way. We had been planning on having Sophie fixed but because the two kittens we found her with were so young, we didn’t think she should be away from them for too long. It hadn’t occurred to us she could generate a new batch so soon. The vet said it was unusual but not unheard of it and, in all likelyhood, Sophie was already pregnant when we took her in. Yikes.
NCC will definitely be moving to new offices. We’ll be moving to a renovated loft area in the old Studebaker Building located in the historic Deep Ellum area of downtown Dallas. We’re going to be switching our upstream Internet provider at the same time, from Verio to The Planet. We’re planning two weeks of overlap to allow time to migrate all our servers. The next few weeks should be interesting.
You can always tell when things are getting busy at NCC because the frequency of my news updates drops. We’ve got two big projects that may be starting in the next couple of weeks and I’ve been madly going through my todo list trying to get all the small things done while I’ve still got time.
Erin solved her long-standing connectivity problems finally. Since she moved to McKinney, she’s been unable to find a good connection to the net. The phone lines are so bad she wasn’t able use a modem reliably. DSL isn’t available. I talked her into trying ISDN, but it turned out she had constant line problems just like with the POTS line. She had tried two different ISPs with the ISDN setup and still no luck. Finally, this friday, she was able to get a cable modem. And it works! It’s fast and, so far, hasn’t had any downtime.
Randy did something friday that he’s been talking about for nearly a year – he bought a digital camera. It’s a Casio QV-3000Plus. It’s got an imager with 2048 x 1536 resolution and includes a 340mb IBM micro-drive for storage. It came with Windows software for the USB interface. I’ll have to check on Linux USB drivers. I’ve seen a few other digital camera drivers mentioned on the USB list lately. Pretty cool but I’m sticking with my analog Canon T90 for now. I’d be tempted by some of the professional digital cameras if the prices weren’t so high. The new Fuji S1 is the closest I’ve seen yet. At $4000, it’s still more than I want to spend but it’s less than a third the cost of previous hi-end digital cameras and the 3040 x 2016 imager is getting into the range where it could compete with analog for a lot of stuff.
My increased efforts at dealing with the all the spam we’ve been getting lately seems to be having some effect. The good news is that I’ve accumulated a dozen or so “kills” – mostly just throw-away accounts but at least one web site & domain shut down by an ISP. The bad news is that one or more of the spammers seems to have targeted us for a counter-attack. The last several days have seen continued attempts to crack our systems. Mostly by script-kiddies and all unsuccessful so far. I spent the weekend upgrading some of our security measures and will be doing more security work this week.
The last couple of days have been spent helping Erin get up and running on ISDN. She lives in an area where DSL is not available and she’s got a terrible quality analog phone line that prevents a good modem connection. You’d think by now that the phone companies would have ISDN down to a science but we ran into an unbelievable number of problems.
The worst was that her ISP, SWBELL, is a long-distance call from her area. She had metro service on her analog line but apparently this sort thing doesn’t work on ISDN data calls. SWBELL was apparently well aware of this problem but didn’t think it worth mentioning until after she’d gotten ISDN installed, the analog line disconnected, and we’d spent hours trying to determine why things weren’t working. Needless to say, she’s no longer using SWBELL as her ISP. After finding a local ISP she discovered the next problem – the same physical wiring was used for her ISDN as had been used for her unusually noisy analog line. The ISDN line is now suffering from a variety of intermittent problem that have so far prevented reliable use and allow only minimal use of one B channel. SWBELL (the phone company, not the ISP) is now “monitoring” her line.
If you’ve followed the saga of NCC’s T1 problems you’ll probably know that “monitoring” never works. The last attempt by SWBELL to monitor our T1 for 24 hours took over a week. First they monitored the wrong line, several times they scheduled the right line to be monitored but later claimed no one had carried out the monitoring. Eventually they claimed to have found the right line and actually monitored it but did not log any of the data. “Monitoring” as used by SWBELL apparently means that someone just wanders by from time to time and checks to see if your line (or perhaps some other line nearby) is up. No automated logging is done and they never provide any evidence that they’ve really done anything. They claimed that no errors were detected during a 24 hour period. During the same 24 hour period our router log showed around 100 line drops pretty evenly distributed over the entire time period. Hopefully Erin will have better luck with her ISDN. Hmmm…
Susan and I just returned from a long walk around the neighborhood to inspect all the Christmas lights that are going up. It looks like quite a few of our more industrious neighbors have already installed lights on their houses, trees, and bushes. There also seems to be quite an assortment of large, internally lighted, plastic creatures such as reindeer, angels, elves, and santas. I don’t usually do any special Christmas lighting on our house but it’s always fun to see what weird stuff everyone else is doing. Hmmm… We did decorate our corporate web site with a nice wreath – does that count?
If anybody is looking for some used ISDN stuff, NCC has a few interesting items on eBay right now. We’re selling an old Ascend Pipe 50 and a Netgear ISDN modem. And if you like really old stuff, we’re selling a Hayes ISDN adapter – it’s not very fast but it would make a nice POTS adapter so you could use your phone on the ISDN line. Check out our eBay listings if you’re interested.
There’s a great Slashdot article on host naming schemes today. It talks about the struggle of smart people who want to give their machines useful and fun names based on consistant naming schemes such as Soviet leaders (Leonid, Yuri, etc.) or French Wines (Pauillac, Pomerol, etc.) versus stupid managment types who want to give them meaningless and confusing names like xyzibm34211, xyzspc25502. It’s loads of fun to read about all the crazy naming systems people have come up with. And I’d never realized there were any RFC’s on creating host naming systems but there are two. RFC1178 gives a lot of useful and interesting guidelines for creating a naming system and RFC2100 is, well, worth reading anyway.
The host names at NCC are all creatures from Science Fiction. Triffid, Horta, Nimon, Rodan, Mothra, Vorta, Ferengi, Krynoid, Vorlon, Zanti, and Wirrin so far with more to come. Eventually we hope to give each host a web page of it’s own explaining the origin of the name. We only have a couple of them up so far as you can see from the links above but more will go up as time allows.
The one problem at NCC is that Randy still names all of his machines wrr[something] – in violation of multiple provisions of RFC1178 it seems. Maybe he’ll read the article and become enlightened.