Monday, October 1, 2007

Bearly Trash

Bearly Trash

Bearly Trash
Originally uploaded by epc

flickr posted this at 13:46 GMT on 1-Oct-2007 from DUMBO, Brooklyn, NY.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Declaring Chap. 13 Data Bankruptcy

So, about two weeks back I loaded and aimed a large thermonuclear device at my proverbial foot and deleted C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\DRIVERS\IOMDISK.SYS. Technically I did not delete it, I moved it to C:\TMP\IOMDISK.SYS, but the effect was about the same: on rebooting my system ground to a halt with error 0x0000007 in some part of the system I was too lazy to write down.

In my history of computing I've been able to do some absolutely bizarre things with data recovery: copying unreadable MS-DOS floppies on an SE-30 with a Superdisk, manually patching a disk sector table (once) to ignore a visibly bad part of the disk (it had a hole in it, damn 5¼ floppies). I had a Thinkpad 240 I bought for commuting to Sydney which had a bad boot sector for most of the time I worked on the Sydney Olympic Games project: I hibernated it instead of shutting it down, and had a spare drive which I (somehow, the neural data has been lost) used to bootstrap the machine when I did shut it down.

I've built Mac System 7 systems using floppies, OS/2 systems using disk images downloaded through an EBCDIC RSCS network and then ftp'd over to a system and yet managed to build (mostly). I gave in and switched to Windows '98 years ago when I could not view the latest redesign on OS/2 and I'd tired of swapping drives in/out of my 755CE.

I initially set my Thinkpad x31 aside for a week to cool down (as though the rest would allow the bits to magically realign). I then spent about 20 hours farting around with various rebuild options, trying the "recovery" option of Windows XP installation (doesn't work so well with OEM builds I've learned), installing a separate Windows install on the disk (aside from chewing up what little disk space remained, the new install was clueless about pretty much every device on the system including networking. I ended up networking it via Firewire to a Mac Mini).

Before any big trip, even many little trips, I like to back up my data. Now, not one of those fancy rebuild-your-system backups, no, just a simple rsync of most of my data off to a ~300Gb drive. This mostly works, most of my data is under my c:\documents and settings\epc directory (except for Intuit's Quicken which insists on storing data off in \program files\ land). One minor glitch is that rsync (cygwin's rsync) apparently copies over the NT file ownership as well. Luckily this is only recognized by Windows, the Mac happily reads all of the data.

Anyway, I concede defeat. I again spent several hours today trying to resurrect the damn thing and you know, it isn't worth it. Microsoft has made what could have been a relatively easy process a nightmare, and I have better things to do with my time.

Now, while you might expect that I'm going to drop Microsoft like the wet bag of dog excrement that it is, I'll likely buy another Thinkpad with Windows XP on it (because Apple seems incapable of building a laptop that weighs less than 2kg).

But I am declaring data bankruptcy, which is a new term I conveniently made up about twenty minutes ago. In keeping with my earlier rants on keeping too much digital cruft around, too much physical crap around, I'm starting from scratch on the new system (with a couple of minor exceptions for digital IDs).

In Alex's book, Glut, he wrote about how conquering armies would burn the conquered peoples' libraries, destroying their history and replacing it with their own. I concede defeat, Microsoft has conquered my carefully manicured collection of bits and rendered them (nearly) useless. While not quite degaussed, the collective effects of digital rights management, Windows "Genuine" crap, Windows Activation, Adobe Activation (g-d, remember how much time I wasted bringing Acrobat up to a "current" service level?), etc. have rendered my digital library useless.

e.p.c. posted this at 21:42 GMT on 3-Oct-2007 from Brooklyn, NY.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Only slightly posed

Only slightly posed

Only slightly posed
Originally uploaded by epc

Sailor's getting into the hang of the whole park bench sitting thing.

flickr posted this at 16:10 GMT on 10-Oct-2007 .

Please Wait

I declared data bankruptcy last week, giving up my attempts to restore a 2004-era IBM Thinkpad x31 with Windows XP to some semblance of a running state. Truth be told, I was holding out a little hope that the Microsoft Windows XP SP2 CD I'd ordered would magically restore everything.


The backstory is this: Windows has some sort of "recovery" feature where you can have the Windows installer zip through and fix up an installation. I have two Windows XP CDs and was using one of those CDs to attempt the repair job. After the initial repair install was laid down, the system would reboot and after a few minutes of spinning, ask for asms from the Windows XP Professional SP2 Installation CD. This was a dead stop, it wouldn't continue onwards. So, I ordered the Windows XP SP2 CD for USD$3.something in shipping costs.

It arrived Monday and I went to work with it last night. I mean, while I have written off the system, it would be nice to get it to boot one last time so I can clean up permissions, unencrypt some stuff which may or may not be decryptable on the new system, and generally muck around for reasons I can't quite elucidate.

I restarted the process, it asked for the SP2 CD which I put into the drive.

I click "Ok".

The system asks for the Windows XP Professional SP2 Installation CD. I am somewhat concerned.

I shut down, and boot up the bland Windows XP installation which is on the same system and check out the CD. While the CD has the Windows XP Service Pack 2 on it, the service pack is in a zip file and is not in the normal Windows installation directory. I unzip the file into c:\SP2 and reboot.

On rebooting the system again asks for asms, I dutifully point it to c:\sp2\i386 and it happily moves on.

It stops again, this time asking for NT5INF.CAT from the Windows XP Professional SP2 Installation CD. I'm puzzled though since I already pointed it to the service pack files, or so I thought. I punch in the directory and… no joy. Again it asks for NT5INF.CAT from Windows XP Professional SP2 Installation CD.

You may have noticed that I keep repeating Windows XP Professional SP2 Installation CD. This is not some lame attempt at Google Juice but a reminder that the problem could be staring me (you) right in the face and I'll blithely ignore it.

It occurs to me to take a look at the CD I've been using for the recovery installation. Interestingly, it is titled Windows XP Professional SP2 Installation CD. I did not need to order the service pack CD from Microsoft after all, I'd had it here all along.

Except, of course, the system doesn't think that asms, NT5INF.CAT and about 10,000 other files are not on the CD.

I boot over into the other image again to take a close look at the CD.

Interestingly, I find the asms package, the NT5INF.CAT file and 9,998 other files the system had been complaining it could not find.

I invoke the google and dig around.

Turns out that Microsoft Windows XP Professional has a slight problem in that when installing from CD, it can forget about the CD and lose the ability to read from the CD. Ooops, sorry, why don't you consider upgrading to Microsoft Vista?

I should add that I remained mostly calm through most of this, only dragging the dogs out for a walk once. No computers went flying, no displays sent crashing, no mice squealing.

So, I muck around a bit and discover I can get a command shell while in the midst of the recovery installation GUI and use that to see what drives I can actually see. I discover that the GUI which has lost the ability to read the CD can still read the 5Gb CF card which has been sitting in the CD slot. I reboot again to the other installation and proceed to copy the \i386 tree to the CF card.

On completion of that, I reboot again (this was getting to be like installing OS/2 on a Model-80 in the 1990s). The system comes up with the now familiar request for asms, and so forth. I point all requests off to the CF card and it runs. Runs, runs, runs. Runs happily.

Then I get to the dreaded request for the Microsoft XP Professional product key. This is on the obverse side of the system which I pry out of the dock and manage to enter in. Correctly.

However, that product key is for an OEM install, not a CD install, and is therefore useless. I can only use the OEM key if I invoke the mystery recovery process which includes wiping out my system entirely.

No worries, I use the product key from the CD packaging. I'm not worried about activating the system, I just want the damn thing to boot. Once.

The system purrs on, happily copying files off the CF card, until it stops.

There's a collection of files which I won't enumerate having to do with the Out-of-box experience, which of course is different between the CD and OEM installs. The installer complains that it cannot copy these files, any of them, but allows me to escape and ignore the error and continue on with the recovery install.

I hold my hand down on the Esc key for awhile.

Finally the system says it's done and can be rebooted.

It reboots and I'm greeted with the now really too familiar Windows logo screen, with the message "Please wait…"

e.p.c. posted this at 16:37 GMT on 10-Oct-2007 from Brooklyn, NY.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fiber-Optic Art Installation


Originally uploaded by epc

It's not lit up yet (or if it was, had been turned off for the night when I walked the dogs), titled The Third Bridge, sponsored by Dumbo Arts Center.

flickr posted this at 06:19 GMT on 14-Oct-2007 .

echo >> ~/.killfile

echo >> ~/.killfile



You have blocked davewiner. screenshot from

e.p.c. posted this at 21:54 GMT on 14-Oct-2007 from Brooklyn, NY.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Google Maps: Insanely Detailed about Ground Zero?

I was trolling around Google Maps this afternoon and noticed something odd about its building details for the WTC construction site, a/k/a Ground Zero. The building outlines they have for NYC are quite accurate, I don't know if they get them from the Department of Buildings or a clutch of gnomes riding around in Prii measuring the dimensions. But I think they've either gone overboard or just have a glitch in their tiles for the former 10248 zip code:

Screenshot of Google Maps tiles for the WTC Screenshot of Google Maps tiles for the WTC

It appears that Google are now displaying the construction trailers dotting the WTC site (though if they're that accurate I'd expect a better job showing the temporary PATH station).

Update: I have no idea what the gray blobs are in the images (perhaps inserted by the demo copy of Pixelmator I used?)

Here's an embedded Google Map which may or may not show what I am writing about depending on various things in the URL which I don't understand:

View Larger Map

e.p.c. posted this at 22:00 GMT on 15-Oct-2007 from Brooklyn, NY. , Comments [2]

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ethernet vs. Token Ring

Todd wrote a post today about Chris Anderson of Wired magazine using two Ethernet cables at his desk: one went to the Conde-Nast internal network, the other goes out to the wild internet, without the corporate firewall intervening.

I tried to leave this as a comment to Todd's blog, but comments seem to be hosed on multiple levels (starting with using style="visibility:hidden" in a <div> around the spam-test block, but since the comment URL 404's when I tried to force a post from the command line, I'm adding my comment here, and outing myself to the IBM Internet Coordinating Council as a flagrant violator of some security principle or another. Fire me.)

When we moved the team to 55 Broad in 1996, we unexpectedly had to use Internet connectivity through an ISP in the building since IBM's own networking group failed to have any connectivity for us in place until nearly four months after we moved in. So, for much of that time we all got used to having great access to the Internet, and lousy access to IBM's internal network. Trust me, there wasn't much to access on IBM's internal network, but doing Lotus Notes' replication over dialup was incredibly painful.

Anyway, when Advantis/IBM Global Network got their act together and finally configured our networking, they included both a T1 to IBM's internal 9. network as well as a T1 (that sounded so cool then, our own T1!) to the wide world, unfiltered, unfettered.

Most of the time, that external T1 sat dormant.

But one day I got incredibly frustrated that the socks gateway, which wasn't even formally officially supported by the CIO until maybe late 1997 or 1998 even, was overloaded beyond belief and I couldn't get in to see what was going on with the site I was responsible for,

So I got to thinking: self, you have an Internet connection here. You're smart and not running windows, so why not just hook in?

Everything in the office ran on neutral cat-5 cabling. We were required to run Token Ring by IBM's real estate fiefdom for reasons which have been long erased from my memory. But all of our RS/6000s had Ethernet built in, and we had Ethernet adapters for many of our PCs.

So… it became a regular habit of mine to flip networks and surf/work/etc. using the unfiltered, unfirewalled, unprotected T1 I had access to. While it would have been trivial to sit on both networks simultaneously, it was actually a pain in the ass since OS/2 and then Windows (which I'd switch to in mid-1998) really hated having multiple routes and multiple adapters in use at the same time. You could do it, and I'm not denying that it's possible that mistakenly I did do it, but it wasn't a practical way to work.

Eventually socks gateways would become better supported and managed and provisioned (and I assume aren't even in use anymore, transparent NAT firewalls having supplanted them).

But I totally understand where Chris Anderson is coming from in having both ways of getting online (my personal preference was to have a red cable for the un–firewalled connection).

And to any members ICC "family" who'd like to complain: feel free to get me hired to get me fired over this offence (though technically, as the ICC site representative, I reviewed and approved the connectivity in question).

P.S.: will someone please fix Todd's blog setup? The comment form is hosed, the comment URL 404's and the trackback URL will do a redirect, which is wrong since trackbacks are supposed to be POSTed and as any newbie webmaster knows, POSTs are not redirected.

e.p.c. posted this at 03:51 GMT on 19-Oct-2007 from Brooklyn, NY. , Comments [2]

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Just what I wanted in an email application

In my youth, about every six months someone would pitch me a 3D application for use on They'd tell me it'd be revolutionary, it would dramatically change user interaction with the site, it would set IBM apart. People would interact via avatars (though I had difficulty picturing an avatar for RETAIN or IBMLink). Oddly, I was never pitched about how 3D would increase customer satisfaction or sales, or the most important thing: my rating at the end of the year.

It was all moot as I was prohibited by various laws (corporate, natural, federal) from infringing on the user experience side of the house, lest I turn the homepage a deep blue color.

But today, today I see the error of my ways, via TechCrunch: an introduction to 3D Mail:

Since that is unlikely to come through in RSS, try this Youtube link. Mere words cannot describe the …impact of recasting mail as jumbo jets landing at LAX.

e.p.c. posted this at 17:33 GMT on 25-Oct-2007 from Brooklyn, NY. Source, , Comments [2]

Monday, October 29, 2007

Miscellaneous 10 for Monday the 29th October 2007

  1. Had a disappointing shopping experience with Levi's over the weekend. I've been wearing the same style black jeans for maybe ten years and discovered that Levi's has dropped the style entirely (they still have black jeans, but they look like jeans now and not the dressier style I've been wearing). I'd heard that as a 40 year old I should mature and stop wearing jeans everywhere but didn't expect the manufacturer to enforce it!
  2. The dogs and I are heading to Amagansett, NY today to work on a non-profit's web site.
  3. On Sunday morning we'll be at our usual mile 14-ish point on the ING New York City Marathon route, handing out tissues to runners. This is the seventh year I've done it and 8th or 9th year Lisa has done it. It's a lot of fun and about the only way I'm ever going to participate in a marathon.
  4. Later on Sunday I am heading to Denver, CO for the Defrag conference. Sort of an anti-O'Reilly conference (if only because it's not within spitting distance of the Pacific).
  5. Our kitchen renovation continues. I've been posting pictures on flickr (restricted to friends and family, sorry. I just can't bear the thought of my bare kitchen counters and walls being exposed to the world). Theoretically the main work will complete this week.
  6. I haven't read anything interesting to note here. Have bought many books, which some day I'll find the time to glance at and regret never reading.
  7. I'm still working through setting up my new Lenovo Thinkpad x61. I'm mostly liking it. Couple of minor complaints: I got the EVDO setup but didn't realize that there's an external antenna (not pictured on the web site). The system came with an Office 2003 trial version pre-installed, which is nice, but I found the process of excising the Business Contact Manager to be a pain (BCM comes with SQL Server 2005 and consumes every possible resource. I've found it to be useless to me in the past). Also didn't realize that there's either a hardware limit or O/S limit to usable memory so the system is only using 3 out of the 4Gb RAM I had installed.
  8. On the plus side, the entire process of ordering the laptop from Lenovo was unbelievably easy and quick. A complete turnaround from the time I tried ordering my last laptop (when IBM was selling off PCD).
  9. Fall has finally arrived in New York. Actually it was here for two days last week and left, it was 40°F this morning. I assume we'll have a six week stretch of bitter cold this winter, to be followed by a three day spring.
  10. I was toying with setting up and writing a separate blog working through picking and endorsing a Presidential candidate for next year's election. I realized though that 1) no one cares 2) I have never voted for a Republican for US President and am highly unlikely to do so, 3) Of the Democrats I only like Obama and Clinton (though I'm troubled by how Obama's campaign is being run, and wish Clinton would stop focus-grouping every last decision, take a firm stand against the war and against domestic espionage already) so 4) there's not much to write about in a political blog except to point out repeatedly that a Republican led Congress repeatedly increased US debt and spending while ceding more and more power to the Executive branch.
  11. BTW, as my 11/10th item, the Republican created and managed Department of Homeland Security has proposed that all travelers in the U.S., regardless of citizenship, file papers documenting their travel itineraries with the option of vetoing said travel itineraries, even if it's domestic travel. How many rights do we need to cede?

e.p.c. posted this at 13:04 GMT on 29-Oct-2007 from Brooklyn, NY.

Slightly acerbic and eccentric dog walker who masquerades as a web developer and occasional CTO.

Spent five years running the technology side of the circus known as

More about me here.