jc blog - tales of a modern-day nomadic hunter-gatherer

Follow jcomeau_ictx on Twitter This is the weblog of Intrepid Wanderer. You never know what you might find here; graphic descriptions of bodily functions, computer programming secrets, proselytizing for the antichrist, miscellaneous ranting and kvetching, valuable information on living off the land... if you don't share my rather weird interests you may want to try slashdot instead.

You can consider my Del.icio.us links an extension to my blog, as are my LifeTango goals and my other to-do items. My to-buy list is also public, but only for sharing any useful ideas that might be there; I'm not requesting charity, neither do I offer it.

You can find me easily in google searches, as jcomeau, jcomeau_ictx, or jcomeauictx. There are lots of other jcomeaus, but AFAIK I'm the only jcomeau_ictx out there so far.

If you want to comment on anything you see here, try the new Facebook comments, reachable by clicking the "[comment]" link at the end of each post. If for some reason that isn't working, go ahead and email me, jc.unternet.net. You know what to do with the first dot. Make the 'subject' line something reasonably intelligent-looking or it goes plunk! into the spambasket unread.

This page generally sucks less using Mozilla Firefox. RSS Feed


2004-11-30-0131Z

I need some tequila first. Hang on a sec.

Mmmmm, that's better. Now, where do I start?

OK, had to go into SD today to pick up some important mail. Filled out some forms for my SSA disability and mailed them back. On the way back to Baja I stopped to apply at Labor Ready in Chula Vista.

Labor Ready, in case you aren't familiar with them, is a day labor agency. You show up about 5 AM, wait around, get carted off to a jobsite, put in your 8 hours or so, and get paid the same day. I had come here to apply some weeks ago, but didn't have a Social Security card at the time, and now I do, so I came back to take the qualification test.

This "test" is something you get one shot at; if you blow it, you have to wait a full year to take it again. I've never failed any such pre-qualification test in my life, so didn't expect to fail; however, luckily, I didn't expect to pass either. I kept my mind open to avoid stress and possible disappointment.

There are 70 questions, none of which is as intellectually challenging as "2 + 2 = ?" with 4 multiple choice answers of 4, 4444, "George W. Bush", and "Winston Niles Rumfoord". Instead they are apparently designed to assess your propensity to steal, fistfight, and take drugs, with a few tossed in regarding stress and ability to accept criticism, maybe a few other minor topics. Most of the 70 are on the big 3 I mentioned.

Since I don't steal, fight, or use drugs besides moderate amounts of alcohol, you'd think I'd do pretty well, wouldn't you? Well, you've got to take the test and see how they word things. Where they asked me if I had fought, I truthfully answered no. But there were many questions probing the circumstances under which you might be tempted to fight, and how I thought I'd do if I were to engage in a fight, and, based upon my street experience and my Hikuta training, I answered those as carefully and honestly as I could.

Anyway, as you probably guessed by now, I failed to qualify. The place is filled with jailbirds who would probably kill me for a quarter, and I'm the one who's an unacceptable risk. I took the news calmly and walked out. I started getting pissed off later.

Now here I am back in Rosarito, and I'm trying to get a refund for my customer, who sent me $102 so I could purchase the full version of dsForth from DeloSoft, apparently a gang of Russki hackers trying to make a quasi-honest living. I should have known they were going to be trouble when their FAQ showed them telling a customer who wanted a refund to cancel the credit card transaction.

Because that's what I need to do. The full version seems to have the same 120K limit on executable size as the free beta version does. And they didn't answer my email. So I'm trying to navigate fucking PayPal's site to cancel the transaction and their goddamned online forms either say the transaction cannot be contested because it's incomplete (but in fact it's completed), or, if I attempt to jump through their hoops to send them an email, after I type in all the information and hit 'submit', it blithely drops me back to my account overview.

So here I am, cursing at the computer screen, I can't do a goddamned thing to these incompetent pricks who deliberately design their systems to annoy customers and eliminate any chance that they'd have to actually solve a customer's problem. So why do I continue to use Paypal, you wonder? Because they're the only game in town! The other companies are FAR WORSE! Doesn't that suck?

I'm gonna get wasted. I probably won't get this programming job because I don't have much to show for my first 10 hours coding, and I'm not going to do any more without a commitment from the customer in the form of $1000 for the time I already spent. I'm not qualified to do day labor with a bunch of jailbirds and crack addicts. I can't get a refund for useless software and Paypal hasn't fixed their broken systems in the year or so since I last attempted to use them.

If I survive this half-liter of tequila, I'll probably update my blog eventually. Otherwise, peace out. Love ya. [comment]

2004-11-26-0510Z

I've been drinking Mexicali lately, a sweet, cidery ale (? not sure, but it sure doesn't taste like a pilsner) apparently made by the Tecate brewery. It's only a dollar a bottle at El Museo de Pancho Villa, my ex-favorite Rosarito bar now becoming my favorite again. Some other Rosarito bargains I've probably mentioned here and there before: Carnitas La Huacana Michoacan, 3 blocks south of the Electra store on Blvd. Benito Juarez, two tacos for $12 pesos. Full-size tacos too, not the mini-tacos that are 3 for a dollar at Taco Bell in Tijuana, but these are low-quality, containing a lot of fat, gristle, and skin. However, if you're hungry and low on funds they'll fill you up just fine. The salsa verde is bien picante, so take it easy on it or you'll regret it! Like many taco places, also, you can munch on radishes while you're there. Another 3 blocks south of that is Tacos El Paisa, my favorite place for a quesadilla. If all you know of these is what you get at TGI Friday's or the like, then you haven't had one. It's like a burrito with a slice of cheese melted onto the tortilla, then stuffed with about a quarter pound of fresh-cut beef or pork or whatever you want, and topped with fresh onions, cilantro, salsa and guacamole. All that for two dollars (22 pesos). They of course serve tacos there too, $10 pesos each but much better quality than those at La Huacana. Cross the street and down three houses on the left is the cheapest internet café in Rosarito, mine of course, 8 pesos per hour with only a 15-minute ($2 pesos) minimum. Also the best price on good Colombian coffee, $6 pesos for 12 ounces. Another two blocks south and you hit Tacos Manuel (one of several with the same name), probably the busiest taco place in all of Rosarito. Not any better than Paisa as far as I'm concerned though, and a little farther to walk, and no place to sit down, so not my particular favorite. [comment]

2004-11-25-2316Z

A lot happening, but I can't give out details because they involve people other than myself who have already expressed disapproval of appearing in my blog. But I guess I can relate that I'm now clean-shaven and dressed somewhat normally rather than my usual Vagabond Chic. I will probably know in the next 48 hours whether or not I get a fairly lucrative contract job which ought to cover my next year's expenses unless I splurge (which I'll probably do, but that's another story). And I'm slowly getting back on track on some of the projects that died with my laptop earlier this year.

Quick tip: don't use zdiff when you don't have to; it's excruciatingly inefficient, slow, and resource-intensive; apparently it decompresses the targets into /tmp and then compares them! For gzipped files, use cmp with the -i switch to skip the timestamps in the headers:

$ for file in chr*; do cmp -i 8 $file 2bit/$file; done [comment]

2004-11-22-0822Z

At the friendly encouragement of a netizen, I've finished the first draft of my bus company, ambitiously labeled "JC's World Transit". If you're planning on traveling somewhere I've been, see if my info can save you some cash. [comment]

2004-11-21-2001Z

Another carb binge yesterday: pastries, cookies, tortillas (quesadillas), beer... but, amazingly, no noticeable acidosis this morning. Was it the two shots of tequila with which I finished up the night at the karaoke bar? Or maybe the chiles I ate during breakfast, so picante that they gave me hiccups? Whatever helped, I'm amazed. I fully expected a headache, nausea, diarrhea, the works.

I went for breakfast to the seafood restaurant that serves up an enormous bowl of caldo de mariscos for 35 pesos. Had a Negra Modelo and some tostadas with it. As long as this $100 dollars holds out (down to about $53 now) I'm livin' large. Opened the café early. You can often catch my ugly mug on the webcam during the day. Today's special: free cup of coffee if you catch me picking my nose. You've got to save the picture, with timestamp, print it, and bring it in. [comment]

2004-11-20-0128Z

Just a quickie -- went to S.Y. today, running errands. On the way back, stopped at the computer store where I'd bought the bad U.P.S. several weeks ago. They still hadn't sent it in for repair, but to my pleasant surprise, they actually offered to refund my money! Of course I took it -- I now have (or rather, had... already spent some) a hundred bucks in my pocket, compared to the chump change I've been living on the last few days/weeks. Of course, it won't last long, but what the hell. I'm in the doghouse again so I need my booze money. [comment]

2004-11-17-0244Z

OK, the goddamned thing works. Here's my smb.conf:

[global]
 workgroup = workgroup
 guest ok = yes
 encrypt passwords = yes
 printing = cups
 printcap name = cups

[cdrom] comment = Samba server's CD-ROM path = /mnt/cdrom

[printers] comment = All Printers path = /tmp printable = yes

[print$] comment = Printer Drivers path = /var/lib/samba/printers browseable = yes read only = yes

The cdrom thing was just for testing, now I can get rid of it. I had to set up a null password for user 'internet' using smbpasswd -a internet. And I couldn't figure out how to get the w2k printer wizard to let me specify the username, so I did it first from the CMD commandline: net use lpt1: \\zero\gsx140 /persistent:yes /user:internet. Then I used the wizard to add a local printer LPT1. Told it that it was an Epson 24-pin (this Citizen model is compatible) and to print me a test page; lo and behold, it worked. The test page didn't come out absolutely perfect, but close enough. Man, what a pain in the ass that was. Sure, it's not secure at all. Go ahead, world, hack my printer. [comment]

2004-11-17-0234Z

Getting some help with my samba setup from K-12 Linux. More details when I get the printer actually working from Windows 2000. [comment]

2004-11-16-0303Z

Fuck samba. Fuck windows. Fuck linux. Fuck 'em all. Can't get a goddamn printer share working. Always the same hassle, useless error messages, tcpdump full of CACACACA. Good choice of a string, Bill, pretty much sums up your goddamned protocol of choice.

Still haven't left yet, obviously, though I updated the status page of c0D3 r3D to indicate it was closed. I think I ought to wait for my RAC payment to clear first, so I'll have a few bucks to eat with, without having to dip my checking account below the $100 minimum balance. [comment]

2004-11-14-1800Z

The Gringo Gazette has two interesting stories on its front page, one about a "million years" worth of energy for Baja California and the western coast of the United States in the form of methane off Ensenada, and the other about a real estate scandal in which Hugo Torres, "owner of the Rosarito Beach Hotel and Rosarito's leading businessman", is allegedly embroiled.

The first might be part of a plan to convince the United States to purchase Baja from Mexico, a meme which seems to be gaining ground since I first heard it from a famous pundit on a private web forum. My own, related, fear is that shrub, on finding out about energy reserves in Baja, might decide to liberate this part of Mexico from its "ruthless dictator". Hell, for shrub's purposes, Torres could serve as the dictator. Who the fuck cares about accuracy anyway? [comment]

2004-11-14-0558Z

Why the hell am I not coding an online casino? Wonder how long I could get away with it before the Federales come looking for their cut... [comment]

2004-11-14-0129Z

Finally got the hardware upgrades done, the café moved into the adjoining room, Asterisk reinstalled and connected to Free World Dialup and ringing to an X-Lite softphone on my new old laptop. My number is 491380 if you want to help me test the setup, I'm not sure I've gotten it right yet.

Anyway, now that I have that all set to go, I'm getting restless again. I might just have to leave any day now and go back to the desert or some other remote location. Loneliness is much easier for me to handle when I'm really alone. At least I think it is... I guess I'll know when I get there. [comment]

2004-11-11-0029Z

So what's with Yahoo mail lately, serving up ads in Italian and Dutch besides English? What do they think, I'm some kind of Renaissance Man or something?

Finally installed dot net last night and got the samples working. What a load of crap, takes bloatware to an all new level. Maybe it'll get me more work though if I learn how to use it.

Too much stuff now, have to pare back and focus on some goals. That ought to help with the depression too. Walked along the beach for a while this morning but all the trash and pollution wasn't very inspiring. [comment]

2004-11-09-0738Z

OK, I promised to tell you about Richard. I saw this guy, quite obviously American -- it's rather easy to pick Americans out in Tijuana -- right after exiting the taxi. About 300 pounds, once obviously very muscular but somewhat flabby now, long reddish-blond hair and carrying a duffelbag. He asked me if I spoke English and, when I answered in the affirmative, asked me if today were Veteran's day. I hadn't a clue and told him so; I said if we saw the US border guards grinning ear-to-ear we might suspect so, because they'd be getting holiday pay.

I normally try to distance myself from other people, especially Americans, but he kept up the pace easily, though he was sweating rather profusely. He talked about CP/M and DOS programming, microscopes, nanotech, all of which, of course, kept me hooked. Then he mentioned college chemistry class, where he enjoyed his (mostly babe) co-students and had a lab partner, all set to go, and then -- when he walked into class the following week -- no-one from the original class, except for himself, was there. He mistakenly said "cast" instead of "class" at first, then corrected himself, but I immediately wondered if in fact he was right the first time. As I mentioned before, my own 1974 school year at WPI had similar overtones, though it wasn't overtly quite as weird as Richard's experience. He also mentioned something wrong with his eyes.

Once we had bought our daypasses and were on the trolley, I asked him to elaborate on what was wrong with his eyes. It turns out he had gone in for routine surgery once for some scar tissue, and when he came out of anaesthesia he had a cast over his entire head; it turns out he had stitches all over his scalp (I didn't verify this), and since then he has been suffering temporary blindness. He mentioned he couldn't figure out why anyone would have done this, since he wasn't rich. I answered that being rich or poor might have nothing to do with it, if the government for some reason had decided to use him as a guinea pig for some experiments with implants for mind control.

That's all he needed to hear. He looked at me straight in the eye and said, "Well, let me tell you. They're looking at you right now -- with my eyes." He went on to discuss ideas he had: artificial control of pH level of the body, air conditioned helmets, other things, but he said he couldn't develop a lot of his ideas because he didn't want to give them to "them". I said maybe they can just read his brainwaves -- he said that was possible but he thought the technology for that wasn't very accurate yet.

So anyway, that was the conversation, more or less accurately. What do you think? Total nutcase? Drug addict? Victim of electrode implants a la Kurt Vonnegut's Sirens of Titan? Or maybe just a replicant with a buggy memory?

I was hoping that experience would draw me out of my own emotional down, and it did for a while, but not long enough. I might have to put myself back into a survival situation for a while just to keep my sanity. [comment]

2004-11-09-0336Z

I'm waiting for the guy with the 11g PCMCIA card for $25 that I found on Craigslist. I'm at the Starbucks near SDSU. Gotta remember to tell you about Richard, the yankee I met in TJ today on my way to the border. We had quite an interesting conversation before he got off the trolley at Palm, and I continued on. [comment]

2004-11-08-0146Z

Installed the webcam package according to http://www.aboutdebian.com/webcam.htm and it works! Check c0D3 r3D's cam here. Not much to see most of the time, so try and catch it during dawn or dusk, when the light is enough to see but not so much as to cause washout. Eventually I'll install the motion package, or configure/hack webcam differently, so I can review a stream of images in case somebody steals something (conveniently at one of the 30 minutes a day when the goings-on are visible!)

Note that the input = webcam parameter in webcam.conf (or .webcamrc) is not valid, neither is the example given in the manpage. I don't know what the hell they mean. I just commented out the parameter altogether and it worked. You can get rid of the tmp = parameter too, it's nonintuitive (to me) and it has a built-in default that works. [comment]

2004-11-06-0105Z

Amazing. My webcam just decided to start working; hadn't played with it for a while, and haven't made any changes that I know of that would have affected it; tonight I modprobed spca50x and the LED lit up instantly; ran xawtv and it complained about perms on /dev/video0. Went to root and chmod'ed 666 /dev/video* and tried again; bingo! There was the sunset on my screen. Nice. Now I can maybe use it as a security camera. But it sucks in low light level; with the little fluorescent I'm using now, it shows no detail at all. But at least it's good for daytime. It's a start.

Yesterday afternoon I went across the border to buy a laptop advertised on Craigslist for $200. Not a bad deal; actually I got better than what I bargained for, as this has not just a CD burner but DVD player as well. Comes with W2K but no install disks so if I screw it up, it's gone. No wifi, but I'll eventually find a cheap card I can use; I used to have one, don't know what happened to it. Oh, well. It's got ethernet, so I can use the web for free at the Kinko's stores that still offer it. Now that I've got a Windows machine again, I can get back to my software development projects that got stalled when my last laptop died. [comment]

2004-11-04-0717Z

Heh. Found my "confidential" info with a Google search today. I'm not the only one who blabs, thank goodness.

Didn't do jack shit today. Gotta get my ass in gear. [comment]

2004-11-04-0108Z

I got back early this morning from otro lado. I got my microscope, my 200G (not 160 as I mistakenly remembered) hard drive, and my chance to vote. For what little good it did. This assclown is now going to believe he has a mandate. Considering the way he behaved without one, all I can say is: lotsa luck, world.

Bush & Co.: Immanentizin' th' Eschaton, Baby. Every Goddamn Day.

I took a nap before opening the café this afternoon. Had a very strange dream. All that I remember clearly was some pools of water with underground passageways, and seeing that my navel was almost gone, and "remembering" that that was a sign of spiritual maturity. Locura.

I got fairly buzzed at the Outback yesterday evening, and shot off my mouth about something I wasn't supposed to be discussing. That always happens. Pisses me off. [comment]

2004-11-01-2118Z

A pet peeve of mine is when programmers embed escape sequences into their programs, so that printing them to the screen or certain lineprinters (I remember the LN03... grr...) causes them to be interpreted rather than displayed. I've extracted Knopper's color codes to a separate file that ought to work on all versions of ash and bash. I'll try to get him to use it, but if you think it's a good idea let him know. [comment]

2004-11-01-2043Z

Great, By installing ALSA yesterday on the bootserver, I've managed to fuck up the Knoppix magic soundcard setup on the clients, even though I disabled the ALSA startup script on them. Now it's gonna be a bitch to figure out the problem, since I never bothered to see how that worked in the first place... grr... one step forward, 2 steps back. All the goddamned time. [comment]

2004-11-01-1827Z

Finally figured out how to get ssh logins working on Sveasoft's satori firmware, one of the last free releases. After enabling SSH and telnet via the HTTP interface, login as root via telnet, and then:

cat >> /tmp/.ssh/authorized_keys

And in another window,

cat ~/.ssh/id_dsa.pub

Or whatever your public key is named, of course. Then paste the key from window two into window one. Hit <ENTER> in window one, then control-D. Logout of your telnet session and log back in via ssh:

ssh -l root 192.168.1.1

Nothing very difficult, but I never tried very hard before because the download was listed as not having sshd, if I remember right. Now that Sveasoft's firmware is no longer free, I have lost interest in it. I don't blame the guy for wanting to make a living, but he's gonna have to make it without my contribution. [comment]

2004-11-01-0703Z

Neglected to mention I made $170 thanks to Craigslist over the past two days. Sold the parts of my dead laptop. Craig kicks ass. [comment]

2004-11-01-0505Z

OK, so I pissed away another month without much progress. Asterisk was no problem to install, but I haven't been able to test it because I can't find a SIP softphone with a small enough footprint to install on my puny hard drive. And still haven't gone into SD to pick up my new 160 gigger. But I will day after tomorrow, when I go in to help fire Bush and give someone else a chance to fuck the US and the world over for 4 years. I don't really expect a lot out of Bush's sorority sister, but he can't possibly be any worse... can he? Please tell me "no".

Finally figured out how to configure nirc using the .nircrc file rather than using 'vi' on the binary, isn't that nice? Also set up my fake identd service again to speed up connections to some IRC servers. Not much of an accomplishment, but every little bit helps. Now to get back to testing more softphones... laterz... [comment]

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