somewhat daily mutterings

/Computing Google Search Coincidence Explained

Yesterday I wrote about a set of Google searches that led to my site, all looking for The Unix-haters Handbook online. I wondered if it was a side-effect of a Slashdot post, and today I got my answer.

Posted: Mon Apr 28 08:07:37 -0700 2003

/Programming/Projects/Gemcast Fix to "Recent Googles" Code

Apparently, google has some other formats for queries in its URL parameters. Sometimes you get an 'as_q=' or 'es_q=' (or even both, apparently). I assume that's from someone filling in the advanced search form. The result of attempting to process queries like this is a blank entry in my list. Because regular expressions aren't great for dealing with n occurences of a given string (or maybe more because my regular expression skills aren't up to it), I decided to put in the following hack:

grep '\.google.*search.*[?&]q=' /var/apache/logs/referer_log

This bit of hackery forces the grep to find only searches that don't use the special query parameters. Cheesy but effective.

Posted: Sun Apr 27 22:16:45 -0700 2003

/Computing Weird Google Search Coincidence

So, I'm looking at my most recent Google hits, and I see a very odd pattern:

  • heine+gerick
  • sun+ultra+10+specs+440
  • EJB+resume+ANT+Together
  • Meshtex+Jacket
  • Pokemon+Ruby+version+handbook
  • The++Unix-Hater+Handbook+download
  • unix-haters-handbook+download
  • "+hull+speed"+calculation
  • "UNIX+Hater+Handbook"+AND+download
  • "The+UNIX-Haters+Handbook"+pdf

I think to myself, "boy, this person really wants that download!" But then I look a little further, and realize that all those repetive queries come from different IP addresses. Odd. I wonder if this is some sort of slashdot-like phenomenon. Not saying I've been slashdotted, per se, but I wonder if slashdot posted something about The Unix-haters Handbook there, which caused a bunch of people to run searches, and some of them to actually come to my site. Boy were they disappointed!

Posted: Sun Apr 27 20:52:02 -0700 2003

/Computing/Sun I'm Bringing Sparky Back to Life

Sparky is my Sun SPARC 10 box. He came into my life a few years ago as a way for me to learn more about Unix administration (it worked). He served as my web server for a while, and then was put into duty as a MySQL server among other light fooling-around duties when I got my Ultra 1. A few months ago his hard drive failed, and I've just recently gotten around to bidding on a new drive for him on eBay. So, I have a 'new' 2.1G SCSI drive on the way, and more exciting, a pair of 125mhz Bridgeport processors to replace his current pair of 50mhz Sun SM50s. Well, it's exciting to me, anwyay.

If you have any inclination at all to run older high-quality Unix hardware, I recommend you do a little shopping on eBay for Sun SPARCs and UltraSPARCs. I just saw a 4x100mhz SPARC 20, with keyboard, mouse and monitor sell on eBay for $200. It's enough to make me cry. What a sweet machine. I paid $400 for sparky (just the system unit) a few years ago. These machines are easily up to the task of serving up web sites, running databases, doing SETI crunching (albeit slowly), routing, firewalling, etc., etc. They are very fine machines, and there's something really cool about running a machine in your house that used to cost $10-20k.

Posted: Sun Apr 27 16:27:17 -0700 2003

/Motorcycling Test Riding the BMW R1150R "Rockster"

I was at the BMW dealership yesterday to pick up a couple of badges I'd ordered for the goblin (as in green goblin, my palmetto green K1100RS). While I was there, I decided to sit on a Rockster they had in the showroom to see if it still felt right. It did. As I was sitting there going "vroom vroom", one of the salesmen asked if I wanted to ride one. I responded, "Does George Bush say 'nukeyular?', hell yeah, I want to ride one -- I didn't know you had the demo yet!" So he set me up, and I was off.

My first impression was one of more comfort than the vanilla R1150R. The Rockster comes with a higher standard seat than the RR, and it made all the difference, both in increased leg comfort and decreased twig-n-berries pressure. Second thing is that the bar is as wide as steer horns. Well, OK, they're as wide as the R1150GS' bars, though not quite as high. This took a little getting used to, since my K's bars are about as wide as a tricycle's. But in no time, I was pretty comfy, and really enjoying the tremendous torque that the bike has to offer.

I took my standard cruise through the curvy streets of the Denver Tech Center, and after a slightly cautious first turn, was whipping around faster than I usually go on my K (I still can't figure out this phenomenon). The bike handles great, and feels light as a feather at stops. The upright position, wide bars, and lack of any real fairing (yeah, there's a bikini, but it's only one cup) made my upper body into a parachute, to some degree, but it seemed less bothersome than when I rode the RR a couple of weeks ago. This is the naked BMW I could live with, except for the colors. These things are going to look ridiculous in a few years, unlike my elegant and understated bright-metallic-green K ;-).

They needed the Rockster back quickly, so I headed back to the dealership after just a couple of spins around the DTC. When I got back, I noticed the used '95 R1100RS was still there, and when I inquired the salesman thought it was ready for a test ride. However, he was busy, and I really kind of wanted to get home, so I left that test ride for another time.

Posted: Sun Apr 27 16:14:06 -0700 2003

/Computing/Mac The Sounds of Silence (new Power Supply)

The new power supply for my G4 (mirrored drive) arrived last week and I finally got around to putting it in today. I'm amazed at the difference! As a matter of fact I'm a little worried that I didn't install it right, and that the fan isn't running (however, I can feel air moving out the back where the main fan is, so I'm not going to obsess over it). If I'd been a little more industrious I would have recorded before and after so my faithful readers (who care about Mac stuff) could hear the difference. But I'm not all that industrious -- actually I'm surprised I did the install so soon. Anyway, if any of you are holding off on the upgrade/correction, it's highly recommended, and worth the 20 bucks, and hour's worth of labor (I'm slow)!

Posted: Sun Apr 27 15:53:13 -0700 2003

/Programming/Projects/Gemcast Implementing the "Recent Googles" Sidebar Box with a Shell Script

The other day I turned on referer logging on my Apache instance. Almost immediately, I noticed Google searches that had led to my site. I though to myself, "wouldn't it be cool if I could display a sidebar box on my site containing the last n Googles that had led to my site?" "Yes", myself replied.

gemcast, the weblogging software I wrote for this site, has a feature that looks for '.box' files in its content directories. When it finds a '.box' file, it creates a sidebar box for the page it's building. Simple. So, about a half-hour later I had a shell script that generates a list of the last ten Google searches, along with the content that makes the output good for a .box entry. Then I created a cron job run this script every 15 minutes and send its output to my root gemcast content directory, so it would display on the "top" page.

Here is the script:

1  echo "10 Recent Googles Leading to"
2  grep '\.google.*search' /var/apache/logs/referer_log |
3    awk {'print $2'} |
4      sed 's/http.*q=/<li>/;s/%22/"/g;s/\&.*$//' |
5        uniq |
6          tail -10
7  echo "Generated on `date`"

For those of you who aren't Unix script hackers, a line-by-line explanation is in order:

  1. Print the title of the box.
  2. Search the apache referer log for lines containing Google search URLs.
  3. Use 'awk' to extract the 2nd field, which is the URL. Given that I'm just using awk to extract a field, I could have used 'cut' as well, but I'm much more familiar with awk's syntax.
  4. Use 'sed' to replace the first bit of the URL, up to the 'q=' query string, with HTML list item markup, replace '%22' with a '"' character, and eat off everything after the query parameter. The result is the encoded query parameter, prefixed with an '<li>' HTML element, like so: "<li>this+is+the+query".
  5. Strip out duplicates.
  6. Only show the 10 most recent queries.
  7. Print the time that the script was run.

Note that lines 2-6 constitute a pipeline -- each command's result is fed into the next command as input. In reality I could have used awk to the entire script. However, that would have required me to write a much more sophisticated awk script. I'd rather string together Unix commands that do a single job (or few jobs) well. To me, it makes the script more obvious, and since I know the Unix commands pretty well, I was definitely done more quickly than if I'd have to hack out and debug an awk script. Also, if I was going to do an awk script that complicated, I might as well use Ruby.

Posted: Fri Apr 25 05:29:01 -0700 2003

/Motorcycling Test Riding the BMW R1100RS and F650CS

OK, I owe my reader (yes, "reader", no plural) an overview of my latest test rides. I rode a R1100RS again because I was (and I guess still am) considering the purchase of same. On this particular trip to the dealership I also rode an F650CS just for the hell of it.

Riding the F-CS

I went to the dealership intending to ride a used '95 R1100RS with around 35k miles. Ever since riding an R-RS, I've kind of liked the idea of owning one, and this particular one had a very attractive price (I was hoping to get out with an almost even trade for my bike). Unfortunately, the bike is on consignment and had a dead battery, so it looked as though I wouldn't be able to ride it. I decided to try an F650CS while the salesman tried to work out a battery swap. I'm not interested in the bike really, but I'd get yet another entry in the BMW sweepstakes for riding it, and I thought it might be an interesting experience.

When I mounted the F-CS, I was immediately struck by how light and small it felt. I commented on this to the salesman, who cautioned me that these small bikes are the ones that people (including salespeople) wreck, because they don't take the bikes seriously. I thought to myself, "I'm too much of a wimp to not take any bike seriously", and took off, completely innocent of the fact that I'd soon be making an ass of myself.

The ass-making occured as I entered a right-hand turn off of a major road onto a minor one. The turn isn't very tight really, and I've done it a million times. Problem was, I hadn't done it a million times on the F-CS. As I apexed the turn and started applying gas, I realized that I was probably a bit over-geared, so downshifted and goosed it a little. Well, next thing I know the bike is shaking like a pissed pit bull on the other end of a tug-toy. I rode it out fine, but for a second there I was definitely surprised and confused. It took me a second, but what had happened is that I'd downshifted into first from second in that turn, and the first gear on this bike is a stump-puller. Best I can figure is that I didn't give it enough gas to make up for the low gearing and the rear broke loose (even though I didn't hear a chirp - just a very high-revving engine) and started fishtailing. Luckily, I didn't panic (I think I was too surprised),and shifting back into second got everything back into perspective. Note that this little SNAFU was not brought about by me "not taking the bike seriously" - it was a simple miscalculation that had never happened on any other bike, ever. (In case you're reading, sorry Ben, but all's well that ends well, right?).

So, the upside of this experience is that I got into a scary/unusual situation on a motorcycle, didn't panic, and came out of it just fine. The downside is that, after this little episode, I didn't trust the F-CS's footing enough to much enjoy the rest of the ride. I'm sure that this was unfair to the F-CS, but that's what nerves will do to you. My main impression of the bike is that it feels like riding a lawnmower (the same impression I'd gotten when riding an F650GS). YMMV.

Riding the R-RS

As I said above, I couldn't ride the R-RS that I was interested in maybe buying. Instead, I rode a much newer one (a 2000 model, I think), with 9000 miles. Actually, this was the same bike I'd ridden (and reported on) a couple of weeks ago. This time I kept it out for over an hour, and got to know the bike a little better. I was still a little conservative on this bike, having been humbled a bit on the F-CS, so my traditional ride through the Denver Tech Center was a little tentative. On my previous ride I'd been very impressed by how planted the R-RS felt on the DTC roads, but this time I just never got into a groove.

I still really like the 'R' engine, but the longer-term test ride left me with a reduced lust for the R-RS. By about halfway through the ride my butt was really sore -- the kind of soreness that doesn't really set in on my K1100RS until I've done well over an hour of riding. Also, my wrists were killing me by the time I was heading back to the dealership. The R-RS does have adjustable handlebars, so that could probably be fixed, but it still left me a little less excited about the bike. Also, this particular bike is not the one that I was considering buying, so I didn't have a lot of incentive to take the ride very seriously.

The "Rockster"

This is the "street-fighter" version of the R1150R, a bike I really like a lot. The dealership had two of these on the floor, one in each weird/cool color combo. No, I didn't test ride one because the dealership didn't yet have a demo model. But I have to say, this is a bike that causes me serious "wannas". A guy was buying one while I was at the dealership, having not even ridden the thing. I sat on one of the bikes, and liked the seating position much more than the stock R1150R. The seat was a bit higher and the bars a bit lower. The salesman told me they'd be getting a demo in a couple of weeks. I must ride one. As always, I will report here once I do.

Posted: Wed Apr 23 21:06:08 -0700 2003

/Computing Back in Networking Heaven

OK, after lots of suffering, is back up (obviously it is, or you wouldn't be reading this). The problem turned out to be that I suck. Well, not so much that, but that I'm not a network heavy. Anyway, I finally stopped thinking about how to configure my network, and just followed the instructions for each component (imagine that - just following instructions). I followed Qwest's instructions for the Cisco 678, and Linksys' instructions for the Wireless-G. I gave the Wireless-G one of the static IPs from my account, and did the DNS request for that IP. The next morning I could see from my home network. However, no one else could see it.

I puzzled over this for a couple of days. Then it hit me - I had never finished configuring buzz (my Sun Ultra 1, which is my web server) for my new setup. I'd given up in frustration a few days ago when I couldn't figure out how to set up the networking in Solaris (it had been too long since my last Solaris networking config). The reason I could see from inside and not outside is that buzz and apache were running, but buzz didn't know about the gateway. Therefore, from any client other than buzz, I could do an HTTP request to, which would be resolved to my IP address and end up at buzz. Buzz would answer the request, which would be locally routed (I think). So, I could browse inside, but not out.

So, with this bit of reasoning in mind, I thought to look at my old computing weblog 'This Old Sparc for hints on how to proceed with getting buzz on-line. Sure enough I'd documented the steps. Within an hour, was really up.

Posted: Mon Apr 21 08:34:14 -0700 2003

/Personal_Mythology Pop-Tart Complaint Successful

I'm very surprised, but it seems that my Pop-Tart Complaint was heard. Now the machine is stocked only with delicious Strawberry, Cherry, and Brown Sugar & Cinnamon varieties (although something may need to be done about the latter :-)).

Posted: Mon Apr 21 08:13:09 -0700 2003

/Computing Networking Hell

OK, I'm writing this entry even though I know it won't be visible to my (very few) readers for a while. Why isn't it visible? Because I don't have an advanced degree in networking, and I've been attempting to convert my network from a software-based approach (WinProxy) to a hardware-based one (Cisco 678 and Linksys Wireless-G). My WinProxy setup was fairly simple, but it didn't work with VPN and, well, WiFi has been calling. At the moment, my network is up, but not set up with a static IP. Nor can I figure out how to make my Solaris on my Ultra 1 happy with the network config. It was always pretty simple with WinProxy (I know I posted some directions to my old weblog long, long ago).

Actually, the wireless part came up pretty effortlessly. My only test device is my Zaurus, for which I purchased a NetGear 701 WiFi CF card. I basically plugged it in, added a LAN networking protocol to the networking config, and it worked. Then it stopped working. But that was actually the LAN connection from the 678 being finicky. Once it came back to life the WiFi worked great. I haven't done any range tests yet, but I will.

Posted: Sun Apr 13 21:39:25 -0700 2003

/Motorcycling Test Riding the BMW R1150GS and R1150R

Yesterday was just beautiful, weather-wise, but I couldn't get out on my bike until mid-afternoon. Not having tons of time to ride out somewhere, I decided to head over to BMW of Denver and ride some bikes. I may have said it before, but I have to say it again - I love BMW's attitude toward test rides. They not only offer them, they encourage them! This makes test riding a few bikes a nice way to spend an afternoon or morning, as long as you don't mind only riding BMWs (now if only a Ducati dealership allowed test rides, then we'd be in business!).

The R1150GS
Anyway, the first bike I rode was a new R1150GS, in yellow. I'd wanted to ride one a couple of weeks ago, but it was so popular that day that I never got to ride it (I rode an R-RS and an R-S -- see the separate review). My first impression of the GS, once underway, was that of feeling like a circus bear on a bicycle -- the bars are very high, close, and wide, so you sit bolt-upright on this machine. My second impression was that the thing seems to accelerate like crazy. Now, this is the same engine as in the other R-bikes (give or take a few cc's and tuning), but it felt very strong. It must be tuned for torque down low, because it certainly has it. The bike handles much better than I expected, given this oddly upright position. I took my DTC ride, and kept a higher average speed through the area than I normally do on my own K1100RS. The bike feels planted, but it is weird to be riding agressively while sitting so stiffly. One very annoying thing is that, because of the seating position, you take bumps directly in your spine. There is no weight at all distributed to your arms. Another related effect is that under hard acceleration, you have to fight to stay upright on the bike by pulling yourself forward against your body's inertia. On bikes with some forward lean, you don't have to work so hard. All in all, not my cup of tea.

The R1150R
Next on the menu was the R1150R. This is a beautiful, buff, naked-bike. I've loved the styling since I first saw one last year. This is the bike I was sure I'd buy when I did my test rides last October (I found the K1100RS instead). Anyway, I've been looking forward to riding this bike again because my test ride last fall is lost in hazy recollections -- all those early test rides were my first rides in years, aside from my MSF class, so I was in no position to analyze things like handling and riding position. The salesman set me up on a silver bike with no fairing whatsoever, not even a bikini. That was fine by me -- I wanted the unadulterated experience. On this particular bike, the idle was super-smooth -- not something I've experienced a lot on R-bikes. The seating position is, like that of the R1150GS, pretty upright. It felt a bit more natural than the GS, but not as natural as my K1100RS feels to me (naturally). I was also aware of the need to hold the bars tightly under hard acceleration. But the low-slung feel of the bike provided tons of confidence in the turns.

I really want to love this bike, but there was one major problem with it for me: seat comfort. The seat on this bike is significantly stepped. The slot that my fat ass has to fit into is pretty narrow. It was impossible not to feel wedged against the gas tank. This resulted in significant gonad-crushing, and had me fiddling with my boys at nearly every stop light (OK, maybe I'd do that anyway, but this particular fiddling wasn't for fun). The peg position also felt strangely cramped, like being on the R1100S, but with an upgright upper body. My final opinion is that this bike is not for me, but if it fits you, I bet you'll like it.

Side Notes
OK, I think it's worth mentioning that yesterday was a sunny, 80+ degree, day. I really couldn't bear the thought of getting into my thick black CyclePort riding pants, so I rode in jeans, jacket, boots, and gloves. My god, it felt good! At speed, I was very comfy, and at stop lights I didn't start sweating immediately, like I would have in my full-on riding pants. I don't think I rode any more conservatively than usual (I'm pretty darn conservative anyway), and I still enjoyed the ride -- no thoughts of skin grafts entered my head (well except for when I was doing 80+ mph down I-25).

Another thing is I noticed that my helmet was much quieter on both bikes than on my K-RS. This surprised me, but then I remembered reading that the real problem with helmet noise is often turbulence from the bike's fairing. I believe the GS must have routed the turbs well over my head, while the R let my helmet do its own aero work. When I got back on my bike, I experimented a bit with the spoiler on the windscreen, and my head position and could never get it as quiet as on either of those bikes. Maybe an alternate windscreen would be a good idea. I don't know.

It's worth mentioning that I was happy to be back on my K-RS. No, it doesn't have that "on rails" feel that the telelever front-end seems to provide, but it fits me great, and certainly handles well enough. I spoke to the salesman about converting to better springs to stiffen up my front-end, rather than buying a new bike with telelever, and he said that doing so would definitely make a positive difference.

All that being said, there's a used blue '95 R1100RS at the dealership with 35K miles on it. Asking price is $6500 ($500 less than my K-RS was marked). The tires are very worn, and the bags are pretty scuffed (they are the shiny kind). The salesman said that the bike is being sold on consignment, and that the seller is "motivated", and that I could probably name some conditions of sale (like new tires) and get a great deal. The shop was closing soon, so I didn't have time to ride it. I'm off this coming Wednesday (my birthday), so I'll probably go and ride it. If I'm going to trade away my K-RS and get decent trade for it, I feel that I need to do so before it goes over 10k miles. This may be the chance!

Posted: Sun Apr 13 07:18:01 -0700 2003

/Personal_Mythology People Suck (or is it just me?)

So, I headed down to the public bathroom/lockerroom/shower in our building at day's end to change into my cycling clothes. The changing room and shower are actually a small anteroom of the bathroom. There was already someone in the room when I got there, so I had to wait for five or so minutes before going in. No big deal. But then, when the guy came out, I went in to discover the floor almost completely wet. I'm not talking about the shower floor itself, but the entire 5x5 foot changing/locker room. (Some background: this has happened many times before, and it really pisses me off. For some reason, I have a pet peeve about folks leaving the room in what I consider to be a shambles (as we'll see, maybe that's just me)). So, for me, it's now basically impossible for to change in that room without getting my feet and/or clothing wet, so I have to pack up my stuff and head upstairs to change in the bathroom up there.

Anyway, the guy is still standing at the lavatories as I behold the wet floor, and I just couldn't help myself -- I had to say something. So, I say, "how'd the floor get so wet?" He responds, in a 'duh' tone, "I just took a shower". "Why don't you pull in the curtain?", I say. He says, "I did pull in the curtain." I decide not to respond to this, since I don't comprehend how the floor could get so flooded if you did pull in the curtain. But, as I pack my stuff up to take upstairs, I get more and more pissed. I just can't help myself, so as I walk past the guy I say, "somehow I manage to take a shower in there without getting the whole floor wet". "You're a great man then", he says (or something to that effect). My witty retort as I went out the door: "yeah, and you suck".

I guess I should be glad he didn't follow me out the door and start a fight.

I reflected on this on my bike ride home, and just couldn't see how I could be in the wrong in this matter. Isn't it simple courtesy to leave the shower room basically like you found it? (BTW, when I'm done in there, you wouldn't know that I'd taken a shower there except for the wet shower floor). I felt justified, even though I did feel a little bad about mouthing off to the guy. Did it make me a whiner to complain about it? Or did it mean that I was just being assertive?

I decided to get MB's opinion on the subject. I told her the story, feeling sure that she'd agree with me that people, in general, suck (but thinking she'd also worry about me mixing it up with a stranger). Surprise! Her opinion was basically this: that I shouldn't expect everyone else to be as anal-retentive as I am, and that I shouldn't be surprised to see the floor covered in water, given that it's a public shower (although we're talking about a changing area, IMO). Her point was that my reaction was my particular reaction, and maybe my standards are just too high.

I can see her point, although it took me a while to get there. So, what do you think? Was the guy a messy a-hole, or am I an anal-retentive baby? The world wants to know (or at least I do).

Posted: Wed Apr 09 21:00:33 -0700 2003

/Motorcycling This Looks Cool (pun intended)

Miracool - a hydrophilic cooling vest. Would be nice under a jacket in summer, I'm sure:

The dude in the construction hat and scarf looks like he's become separated from the Village People, though.

Posted: Mon Apr 07 09:07:35 -0700 2003

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