Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Publishing woes...

I'm still hitting the "Broken Pipe" error when trying to re-publish my blog - even after moving the website to a new server with plenty of space. I'm beginning to suspect that Blogger is to blame. It looks like I am able to post new entries fine, but re-publish the entire blog fails. It would be nice if they gave you more diagnostics information...

Time to look into hosting my own blogging server?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Pfft! Another test

Blogger is lame and won't let me publish my blog after I change my template, so I have to publish an entry instead...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Freaky pizza recipe

Apparently, Americans think you're weird if you put tuna on your pizza! (My girlfriend had previously only seen this in Germany, and teases me whenever I try to make tuna pizza at home).

Last night I tried something new, and it turned out relaly well, so here's a quick recipe.
  • Pizza dough (make your own, or buy some ready-made dough, e.g. at Trader Joe's)
  • Trader Joe's Indian Relish
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese (I used a Spanish sheep/cow's milk cheese from Trader Joe's)
  • 1 Small can of tuna (in water), drained
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into 1-2mm thick slices
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to season

Roll out the dough and put it on a baking sheet or pizza stone. Spread the relish on the dough (not too much, it should just cover the dough, but you don't need a thick layer everywhere). Spread the tuna over the pizza, cover with shredded cheese, then the zucchini and onion. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Bake in a 425F oven for 15 minutes or until the pizza is slightly brown around the edges and the cheese is bubbly.

The Indian relish gives this a nice spicy, fruity tang. You could substitute a good fruit chutney instead (like Mrs. Balls Chutney from South Africa)

"I got the Blue Death"

Another quick plumber story befor I forget... (See "The week from Hell" for the setup to this)

When the plumber came out last Wednesday (after the flooding and general mayhem on Tuesday), he complained about having "the blue death" while on his phone in the parking lot. I thought I had mis-heard and perhaps there was an illness in his family...
Later it turned out his phone had gotten wet the previous day, and his screen was now on the fritz and only showed an eerie blue glow.

He probably was trying to say "Blue Screen of Death" (BSOD) - referring to the bugcheck (kernel crash) screen Windows is infamous for. I think "Blue Death" sounds far better, though.

I wonder what colour the bugcheck screen in Vista is?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Time for a "Sea change"?

Bill Gates' memo to senior execs at Microsoft was leaked to the press this week. In it he calls for a "sea change" within the company - which made me wonder what the origin of that phrase is?

World Wide Words to the rescue! (More at http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-sea1.htm)
The phrase is a quotation from Shakespeare. It comes from Ariel’s wonderfully evocative song in The Tempest:
Full fathom five thy father lies:
Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

Michael Quinion runs World Wide Words and has a brilliant weekly newsletter on words and language, plus several books.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Sony DRM fun

If you read Slashdot, you've no doubt seen this, but if not... Mark Russinovich's blog aired some of Sony's dirty laundry last week, when he outlined how one of their copy-protected CD's installs a kernel-mode rootkit on your machine without your knowledge.

His initial analysis is really interesting, as is his analysis of the "patch" and phone-home behaviour of the rootkit, and his follow-up to the counter-claims from the software's developers.
The ability to effect change by complaining on your personal blog depends on havign an audience, and having credibility. It's cool to see the effect these postings have had - Sony are scrambling to fix this and the press coverage means more people will be aware of CD copy-protection and copy-protection in general.

Update - Nov 9th: The next round from on Mark's blog is here, in which he slices and dices the uninstall process that SonyBMG makes you jump through.

Update - Nov 14th: Sony will no longer manufacture any CDs using this DRM technology, and is re-evaluating their DRM initiative. Microsoft's Anti-Spyware tool will include a signature to recognize the rootkit and allow it to be removed.

The Week from Hell

Last week was a doozy! (If you're South African you may think "doozy" think that has something to do with the Dusi Canoe Marathon, but they just sound the same).

I was going to go into the gory details with a long post last week, but I think a bulleted list is better. It's still long and fairly gory - sorry. Here goes:
  • Plumber finally came to install new water heater. Price had already jumped from $1000 initial quote (on the phone) to $2500 (after adding all the stuff required to bring it "to code").
  • Plumber did lots of soldering (pronounced "saw-der-ing" in the US) and found out that blowtorch + fire sprinkler head = BOOM!
  • Fire sprinkler heads dump a LOT of water when they go BOOM! Plus, the fire alarm sounds and you have to call 911 to get the Fire Department out to shut off the sprinkler.
  • Fire Department came out, were very friendly, and shut off the alarm. They actually didn't do much else - the plumber shut off the fire sprinkler and called in water damage restoration folks.
  • New water heater could now be installed in the soggy tranquility following the Fire Department's departure. Only one problem- it's too big to fit in the "closet" in my condo. (By about 2 mm)
  • Plumber: "It's not going to fit. I can't do it... I'll have to call the office... They ordered the wrong heater..."
    Me: "Are there any smaller hydronic water heaters that we could try?"
    Plumber: "Nope, they are all bigger now thanks to the new energy-efficient burners. You won't find a smaller one." (Later proven to be BS when I saw my downstairs neighbour's unit - but then they have a larger closet and easier plumbing too, so they definitely got lucky!)
  • Me: "How about you rotate it this way a little so the side pipes don't get stuck on the wall?"
    Plumber: "Nah, that won't work... Never... It's the laws of physics" (This was favourite quote of his - apparently heat rising is also a law of phsyics!)
    Me: "Let's try"
  • Plumbing proceeds without too much more drama. The fire sprinkler guy comes out to put a new sprinkler head on (after all the soldering is done), and re-pressurizes the system. The water damage restoration folks come out and put fans a dehumidifiers in my unit, and the two below me... Water damage is not too bad - and we're due to get new carpets soon anyway :)
  • Still waiting to hear from the Lowe's carpeting contractor.
  • End of Tuesday...


  • Spent the night in a jet-engine turbine - at least that's what the fans sounded like.
  • I notice a leak from one of the pipes connected to the water heater - way up next to the ceiling and the fire sprinkler head that went BOOM the previous day. Also, my hydronic heating system makes a chunka-chunka-chunka noise when it's turned on - the pump is not happy. Call the plumber - he can come out around lunch time... I head in to work, leave early, meet the plumber, and realize I don't want him to solder and risk the fire sprinkler going off again, so I call the fire sprinkler guy. He can come on Thursday at 2pm. So, we re-schedule for then.
  • Still waiting to hear from the Lowe's carpeting contractor.


  • Another night in the jet turbine. Steerpike is starting to get brave and will actually walk into the lounge within a few feet of one of the fans, but Thandi is still shell-shocked and hides in the bedroom.
  • Plumber comes out at 2pm. Fire-sprinkler guy comes out and shuts off the fire sprinkler system's water. He wraps the sprinkler head in a wet rag (if only we'd thought of that on Tuesday!) Plumber does some soldering, cuts out a flow check valve, solders in some pipe so now my water heater looks a bit like a Frankenheater.
  • Everything gets re-connected. All seems well!
  • We finally get ahold of the carpeting contractor - they can come out on Saturday. In the meantime our old carpet and floor is drying out slowly. (The carpet is dry already, but as we'll see on Saturday, the sub-floor is still damp)


  • Alyssum's car won't start, so I need to get up WAY TOO EARLY and give her a ride to work. (Getting up at 6:30am is probably even earlier than sparrow-fart...)
  • To prepare for Saturday's carpeting fun, we so a few more runs down to our storage unit to get rid of furniture we won't need for the next week or two.
  • I check my bank accounts online around midnight, and notice my credit card is strangely under water... A theme of the week, maybe? Some skelm (crook) in South Africa has helped themselves to $4500 from an ATM using a copy of my credit card! Technically, you wonder how that works... Did they get my credit card info from an online database (hacked a web merchant?), and then make a card? How did they get the PIN? Are they able to program their own?
    Frantic attempts to call my bank prove fruitless - their 24-hour support number is really a 10-hour support number with 14-hour voicemail. Still, their website lets me go "WTF?!" for each unauthorized charge.


  • Call the bank in the morning, explaing the credit card fraud. They cancel my card and let me know there are some more pending charges to watch out for. Later VISA call me and run through the same thing. This will be my 2nd new card due to fraud this year. All this re-affirms by view that the credit card system is fundamentally broken and I'm amazed VISA and the other companies haven't moved to a more secure system yet. "Verified by Visa" sounds good, but no-one is using it yet - how about forcing all online vendors to use it? How about fixing in-store credit purchases so that the clerk can't make a copy of your card number and then party on it?
  • Carpeting went smoothly, and while we had to move everything left in the condo 3 times (once into the lounge, then into the bedrooms, then back), we had stripped out enough stuff that it was not too bad.

Mark surely-nothing-more-can-go-wrong?