December 18, 2002

Bugger Blogger!

For some reason I have not yet been able to fathom, I was for quite a while completely unable to post blogs, and the last archive entry was a broken link.

All attempts to get any kind of support from the team lead to either more error messages or an email black hole. What gives, guys?

All appears to be well now, but where have my archives gone? Guess this is just more WebFlakiness. Ah well, on to more interesting things. When can I blog in StructuredText?

November 6, 2002


Seems to me that what I need is a proxy between me and the web. What will it do? Scan each page for WikiWords, and when it finds one add dynamic menus offering links to the same
word in various other Wikis that I'm aware of. The advantages of this strange system? Well, mostly it would allow me to use WikiWikiWebs as a context for the various pieces of
information that come at me over the web, dynamically cross-referencing incoming information with what I already know, or know about.

November 1, 2002

Frameworks and Toolsets

I've been doing a lot of work with DreamWeaver - UltraDev mostly, though I have now dipped a toe into the MX waters - and have been impressed with its capabilities. Like most such tools, however, you sometimes end up having to stomp all over it to do what you want. It's good for some thing, but not others. This can be frustrating because after such changes the DW functionality doesn't work, or doesn't work as well. Typically DW will put a red exclamation mark next to something it no longer feels is correct, but usually this simply means "you're on your own from here on in, I can't parse this".

What I'd like is a framework that lets me do all the clever programmed things I want to do, but helps me rather than getting in my way. This might be a pipe dream (after all, it's expecting a bit much for a tool to parse arbitrary code it didn't write), but I'd like to investigate it. I suspect it will take a lot longer than I thought.

May 29, 2002

Travelling in Style

Well, travelling, anyway. California, Kentucky and Michigan all rear their heads for the coming month. Like you care ... this is a blog, after all, so what does it matter, there's OnlyMeReading. Anyway, time to work on the support infrastructure while I'm away from RealLife for a while. Ah, the joys of flying, room service and cable television (not) all at the same time. Despite my apparent tired cynicism I actually enjoy teaching very much. Otherwise why put up with the joys of ...

Minimalist experiments with DreamWeaver Ultradev persuade me that it's a useful tool. Do you want your own record in this four-page web? Easy, just think of a unique key ... but not index.html. It would be neat if there were a
Python backend as well as ASP, JSP, PHP and others. There are hooks ...

May 10, 2002

Blogging is Back

Well, blogging certainly hasn't been at the top of my priority list lately. This is probably not that surprising given the amazing amount of reorganization that's been taking place on the home front (moving bedroom furniture, working in the garden, etc).

There's also been a certain amount of network reorganization (because the basement has also had to be turned upside down), and the self-built Linux server, headrat, now has a 160 gigabytes of extra storage. This was added in the form of two Seagate Barracudas. I've used this series of drives for a long time, off and on, and have to say they are remarkably good value for money (I picked them up for $165 each at my local computer store). This will make it easier to back up the laptop, leaving me wondering what to do with the three 5" double-height SCSI drives that used to be my main storage system, They're even too heavy to ship anywhere!

I've been playing with the wxPython GUI a bit recently as it seems to support one of the more promising GUI-builder tools, Boa Constructor. The software is undergoing a lot of development right now, and it's great to see the new features coming in, but less great to have to modify my code to updates APIs. One of the problems with being at the bleeding edge, I suppose. It is finally becoming possible to build good-looking GUIs in a reasonable amount of time, though, which is nice. I think a really good RAD tool (like Delphi) would help increase Python's popularity a lot.

March 13, 2002

Teaching the Government to be Secure

This week I'm teaching a Unix and Linux security class for DISA, the Defense Intelligence Systems Agency. It's conventional, for some reason, to badmouth this Agency, but they have some incredibly smart people. As one friend said, "the longer you stand next to them, the dumber you feel".

So far we've covered the Unix basics and an overview of security. We spent this morning talking about TCP/IP security, a difficult subject to cover in a single morning, but Bob Cromwell, the course author, has done a great job of keeping the material at a high level but including useful references for those who want to understand in greater depth.

The new laptop is slowly getting fit to travel, though the DISA network doesn't seem to be as cooperative as it was the last time I was here, and that could be something to do with Internet settings. Certainly everything looks to be satisfactory. Not a matter needing urgent attention.

March 5, 2002

Those "Where Was That Disk Again" Blues

Moving information from one laptop computer to the next is a slow and painful operation when dozens of applications have to be carried forward, each with its data complete. I'll have to be more careful next time and not drop the laptop on the floor. I'm just happy the disk survived.

If only life weren't so complicated.

March 1, 2002

As the Sun Slowly Sinks in the West...

Back at AJ's for a quick goodbye, not as joyous as anticipated due to family circumstances. But good to see the Fardellas again.

The class seemed to go well, and the students appeared satisfied when they left. We shall see in a couple of weeks what they really thought, felt and knew about TCP/IP.

Now back to Dulles on a red-eye via Atlanta, benefiting yet again from the JoysOfBusinessTravel.

Do you know what a WikiWord is? See [2/19/2002 12:28:27 PM | Steve Holden]
Wiki meets Blogger, for example
. Many people have become familiar with the Wiki
aftter meeting the work of Cunningham and Cunnigham, Inc., at,
and in particular their Portland Pattern Repository's Wiki.

February 25, 2002

Say hello to the Readers, Tony

In Pittsburgh, CA coincidental to teaching class for a government agency. I've just spent the day setting up a two-server ten workstation network, and now I'm visiting my buddy AJ and his son Tony to deliver AJ's promised copy of the the book

February 19, 2002

Wiki meets Blogger

I just got an e-mail from Bill Seitz, who has managed to integrate two technologies which both make the web much more of a two-way medium. I wouldn't say I'm yet a convinced blogger, but obviously (since I do have a blog) I'm interested in the technology. I'm also interested in WikiWiki webs, which allow anybody to modify the content of just about any page. The resulting web can be found at

It's an interesting fusion of these two technologies. This will probably make Wikis more interesting to those of a paranoid mindset, too :-), because you can add comments to a page rather than editing the whole content. I'm presuming that Bill uses standard Zope protection mechanisms to stop me from completely editing his pages, because (contrary to the Wiki philosophy) this function requires login.

But, effectively, each page in the Wiki has become an individual blog. This means that the site owner (or others who have been granted appropriate login privileges) can modify the structure, and the regular day-to-day users can blog content. Nice one, Bill!

February 15, 2002

When your laptop is in pieces on the floor ...

Well, it's been an interesting couple of days. The "interest" coming mostly from tripping over the power cord of my laptop, resulting in its rather sudden demise. Aaarrrggghhh. Then I discovered that the home insurance policy we took out wasn't the all-risks policy we thought it was, so guess what: I'm not covered.

This gave me two problems: first, what am I going to use for a laptop? I've carried the [eventually] trusty ThinkPad with me just about everywhere I've been the last three years, and I wouldn't have been able to write the book without it, not to mention completing a number of paying contracts. Second, given that I have my usual two-week old backups, how do I carry everything both recent and important across to whatever replaces the seriously-defunct ThinkPad.

The first question was answered by a visit to Dell's web site, where I quickly configured a high-powered replacement for the demised thinker. 512 MB RAM, 48GB disk and a 1.13 GHz Pentium III processor, it's going to put all my other equipment in the shade. I'll also pass on a useful tip: since this machine will be tax-deductible I ended up facing a screen that asked me for the details of my incorporated entity. I don't have one, so I called Dell and spoke to a very helpful sales assistant who managed to get me fixed up with exactly the configuration I wanted and saved me $100 (I don't know how, I just challenged him to beat the price the web site had given me).

The second question has been partly answered by Symantec's wonderful Ghost program, which can copy disks and partitions like magic. For some reason (perhaps because of the fall, perhaps because of the disk's having been accidentally plugged in to a machine that was actively running Win2k (!) the system partition was badly damaged. I finally found a program by Steve Gibson (of Spin-Rite fame) origiannly written to fix up Chernobyl virus damage. After I insisted several times that I wanted it to continue, that finally managed to effect a complete repair to the FAT32 partition. If I hadn't put FAT32 on the system partition all would have been lost, including several years of email which I suddenly realised I hadn't been backing up at all -- by default OutOf:Luck Express stores mail somewhere down under the /WINDOWS directory. I might even figure out how to build a bootable SCSI from an IDE master if I'm extra lucky (and get extra help).

I'm just relieved to be able to not lose a couple of weeks work.

Interestingly none of my clients have had any problems (except that I'm repairing disks instead of working on their contracts) thanks to CVS with some and FTP with others. Everything I have delivered or am working on existed somewhere other than the laptop. I shall make this a formal practise after the week's somewhat narrow escape.

Next question: what the hell do you use to back up a 48 GB disk drive?

February 12, 2002

Trying to get a directory set up for these blogs, with proper archiving and all. I also need to change the setup to go to the right web page when I view the blog! Problems with templates seem to be over for now, anyway.
Not really sure whether blogging's for me. I see other people using it, but that doesn't necessarily signify. There's enough of my writing out there with the book plus my regular verbal diarrhoea (sorry, I can't even begin to guess how American will mangle that word) on comp.lang.python. Let's just see now, shall we?