Vortimax and Elkmar

I’ve got a weblog/portal project coming up and have been looking at what’s out there as far as software. Nothing seems to be available that does everything I want. Slash doesn’t appear to be very configurable – every site I look at that uses it looks exactly like slashdot. Slash also requires the use of MySQL while I’d prefer to use only free software like PostgreSQL for this project. Scoop looks much easier to use and modify and, while it also requires MySQL, it appears to use DBI so it should be possible to adapt it to PostgreSQL without too much trouble. Both Scoop and Slash use Perl which is good. Squishdot, being Python-based, is right out. There’s also mod_virgule, which has a number of advantages such as being written in C, having a cool trust metric system and XML support but it also lacks a few features I want. I’ve had a mod_virgule test system running for a while and I’ll probably set up scoop this week for comparison. Being Perl-based, it may be faster to hack a trust metric and PostgreSQL support into Scoop. Hmmm…

Sunday, Susan and I spent the afternoon at the Dallas Artfest 2000. It was not as interesting as previous years but it was still worthwhile. Lots of strange art and music.

I’ve been pondering Irish names lately. Erin is going to be having her second boy soon and wants a good Irish name for him. I think they’re leaning toward Rory at the moment. I’ve suggested a couple of nice ones like Vortimax and Elkmar but I think they’re more in the market for a name like Kevin or Colin. Turlough is a good one too (it always makes me think of the Fifth Doctor’s rather unpredictable companion).

Build Your Own Robot

Roger just called to say he saw Karl Lunt’s new book, Build Your Own Robot, at the book store. Despite the title, it’s more of a collection of his old Nut & Volts Magazine columns than some sort of guide to building your own robot. I haven’t bought my copy yet but I’m sure it’ll have some interesting stuff in it for anyone interested in robotics or generally hacking on microcontrollers and electronics.

The market seems to be down again today. Red Hat stock hit a new 52 week low today. It’s getting harder every day to resist buying a few shares.

Mahler Symphony No. 8

I’ve been keeping busy today writing Perl code as usual. This weekend Susan and I attended the last regular concert of the season at the Dallas Symphony. It was a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8. The 8th requires a lot of performers and, in addition to the usual Symphony and Chorus performers, there were quite a few additional performers present including several well known soloists. An extension to the stage and choral terrace had to be constructed to make room for everyone. This is apparently the first time Mahler’s 8th has been done in Dallas and the performance was recorded by Delos for release on CD. While Mahler isn’t my favorite composer, it was definitely an enjoyable evening.

I managed to avoid going to the office all weekend and, other than swimming laps at the pool and going to the symphony, didn’t really do too much.

I spent a little time today hacking on newslog. I may release a new version soon.

You Have Now Received the Unix Virus

Most of the people I know have been unscathed by the viruses that have been in the news lately as they primarily exploit the poor security of the Windows operating system. It seems odd to watch so many large corporations complain about how much damage they’ve suffered from each new virus and yet continue to use the Microsoft products that support their propogation. Maybe they’ll get a clue someday. In the meantime, I got a good laugh from an email I received yesterday – I think this is the first Unix “virus” I’ve ever seen:

>Date: Mon, 15 May 2000 18:21:37 -0500
>From: Jim Brown
>To: R. Steven Rainwater
>Subject: [Fwd: FW: Unix virus notice]
>   This virus works on the honor system:
>   If you're running a variant of unix or linux, please forward
>   this message to everyone you know and delete a bunch of your
>   files at random.
> ---------

Swimming with Fire

I’ve managed to get a few minutes of free time today so I’d better post some news while I’ve got the chance. The last week has mostly been taken up with work on a couple of big projects we’ve got going on simultaneously so there hasn’t been too much of interest to report. The only really amusing event occured this weekend when Susan and I decided it was time to begin our weekly lap swimming for the summer at the Northlake college pool.

After we’d been doing laps for about 15 minutes, a fire alarm went off. The lifeguards insisted that everyone leave the pool and wait outside the enclosed pool area. This seems rather odd to me. The entire structure is made from cement, concrete, bricks, and filled with water – how likely is a fire? Okay, maybe a towel or the clip board with the sign-in sheet might catch fire but that’s not too life-threatening. In fact, the only thing nearby that could possibly burn is the college itself. And if the college was on a fire, what better place to escape than a large body of water?

In any case, we were all herded out of the pool area and had to stand beside the nearby buildings (the ones that seemed more likely to burn than a pool). A local police car showed up within minutes and police rushed to the scene ready protect everyone from danger by filling out paper work. No one had actually seen any smoke or fire and the general concensus was that some kids had pulled the fire alarm as a joke when they were leaving the pool area. The police were apparently authorized to fill out reports stating that the pool was not on fire but could not actually tell us if a non-burning pool was safe for humans to enter – only the fire departement could determine such things.

After waiting a while longer, we heard the fire truck coming. The street layout at Northlake college is a bit circuitous and there are not always enough signs to figure out how to get where you want to go. As a result, we watched the fire truck drive around in the distance and take wrong turns for several minutes and then vanish around the other side of the campus. We could still hear the siren about 5 minutes later when the police finished their paper work and decided to move on. All this time the alarm was still sounding since no one seemed to have the key to turn it off. The lifegaurds eventually got tired of waiting for the lost firetruck and allowed us to get back in the water. We did laps accompanied by the quadrophonic sound of four 90db fire alarms (one at each corner of the pool) for another 10 minutes before the fire truck finally arrived and turned off the alarm.