Archive for December, 2005


Hrm… I think I’ll try something new this year. As some of you know, 12/31 is my birthday, and I’m 26 now. That makes it twice as good to look back on my life and reflect. So what’s changed? Quite a bit. I always had a goal growing up, that when I was 25, it would be the one of the best years of my life. Looking back, I think that it very well could be.


This was my first full year in Virginia. Went with jackie back to visit friends in Michigan a couple times and realized how much I dislike Virginia. Growing up, I couldn’t wait to get out of michigan… now that I’m here I want to go back. That was quite a shock.

I worked at SPX(I still don’t use their full name here) for a full year, and went from junior developer to developer to webmaster to system admin to lead developer, which those last 3 all happening at the same time. I left the company over money issues and ended up with CSX(again, no full name), where I’m a full time Linux System Administrator. The job is great. I’ve been with them for 3 months as of christmas eve. It also allowed us to afford a new bed- the original move down here did a number on my back, and has been messed up for the last year. I went and saw a doctor and got some anti-inflammitories about the same time as we got the bed, and for the first time in a year, I was able to sleep 8 hours straight. I just ran out of the naproxin, but my back is in much better shape than it was.

We’ve been at our apartment complex for over a year now- This is the first time I’ve stayed at a single apartment this long since I started college. It’s not a huge apartment but it is quite expensive. We’ve also been digging ourself slowly out of debt. We did end up taking on a new debt- my Ford Tempo finally died, and we bought a new Toyota Corolla (my first foreign car; has a lot more meaning to someone from MI). The car is great, but we added a whole lot more debt to our lives.


Family has been good and bad, lots of interesting things going on. Jackie spent a good chunk of the year working 70 hours/week in New Jersey working on a case that her lawfirm ended up being disqualified for. The big bonus she was promised? well, she got 1/3 of it. She’s the 3rd person I’ve talked to this year who got screwed on a year end project based bonus through no fault of her own. From now on she ONLY works 40 hours a week. If they don’t like that, she can go elsewhere and make 50% more.

And to round things up:

  • Chaos, the cat who lives up to her name, turned 1 and has calmed down. She isn’t quite… “domesticated,” but she’s calm enough now that I don’t want to throw her off the balcony.
  • Toby still hides under the bed.
  • My brother Jamie broke his hand punching a guy, then got his ass kicked a few months later by a mob.
  • My brother Brian is still playing trumpet at UofM- his second year there I think.
  • My mom has been bowling a lot
  • My dad shot Bambi in the spine. He says Bambi is delicious.
  • My good friend Jeff got married to his girlfriend Corrie
  • my Mother in law Rhonda got married to her boyfriend jerry


It’s been a Good year for hobbies- or bad, depending on how you look at it. I’ve been hitting the guitar with a renewed passion after finding the Guitar Grimoire series of books and Rockhouse “Learn to Play Guitar” DVDs. Before this year I could only play chords and single notes- I was a rhythm guitarist essentially. Now I can play all 5 modes of the pentatonic scale and the first mode of the F major scale. I still got a ways to go, but this was a big hurdle for me; one I thought I’d never get past. Now I’m to the point of being able to understand music a whole lot better.

I’ve gotten back into art with the purchase of a Wacom graphic tablet. I’ve started working on several drawings, mainly pictures of old DnD characters I’ve played. lots of fun and interesting stuff.

For writing, I finally decided to write a story about the DnD world I created- Willis. since I can’t play DnD, I figured I could at least write about it. I got about 10k words in and realized that my outline had stopped being an outline. went back through and started writing a first draft, got about 1500 words in and got sidetracked with other projects.

One thing I’ve wanted to get into since I was 10 was electronics- never got the chance though. Well, the last 2-3 months I’ve decided it would be cool to make my own guitar pedals, so I picked up “Demystifying Electronics” and started learning. It’s a slow process, but I’m getting there. Right now I have a 130 in 1 electronics kit, and I plan on getting a real breadboard in another month or two (to make sure this isn’t another failed hobby).

And of course there’s my programming. I’ve been working on a bot named Ziggy who is based on one of my favorite DnD characters. He’s become quite a source of amusement to me, though I think he’s wearing a little thin on others. I’ve also started working on a Streaming Radio interface to allow me to tag and catagorize songs and create shows. It’s called Ridllr. If I can get this up to a certain level, I’d like to place it under a GPL license and sell support for it (though I doubt there’d be many takers). The hardest part was coming up with enough music to stress test it with large loads. Fortunately there was a used CD store down the block from me at SPXwith cheap CDs.

Linux is of course my bread and butter now, so I’m continually learning about new services and such. at CSX, I’m using Redhat, which I’ve honestly not had much experience with- I’m relieved to learn that it’s reall not much different, it just has some minor annoyances. the updates and security issue is really the most annoying. I’ve done a lot of work with apache, subversion and bind this year, and quite a bit with perl.

Lets see, hobbies that are going into stasis… Jow Gar is obviously since 1) there’s no place to practice and 2) my teacher is still in MI. Chainmailing is as well because I’ve always got my hands full with my other hobbies….


As I mentioned in the section above, Jeff got married. Shabbs got his wife pregnant and she popped out little zsolt …”skullteddy”.. ugh I’m horrible with spelling that, so phonetic will have to do for now. Made some new friends- Pete(dendrite) who I actually met in 2004 but we’ve kept in touch after both leaving SPX. There’s also Tony, who’s well on his way to a bright music career. Worked with him at SPX as well. Met William(shaldannon) and Ben(ben) who we hired at SPX right before I left- I keep in touch with them to help them when I can.

Of course there’s my new coworkers, but I differenciate between coworkers and friends to keep the lines unmuddied.

I also spoke to porter for the first time in over 5 years. I’ve come to the conclusion that being pissed off at people, no matter what crime (real or imagined) isn’t worth keeping up the hate. I doubt we’ll ever be close friends again, but at least it’s less thing I have to deal with. being mad at someone is entirely too much work. That said, he hasn’t continually annoyed me like other people I’ve put on a mental banlist. He’s never claimed to own my friends; he’s never threw temper tantrums and forced me to remove him; etc. Perhaps next year I’ll bury another hatchet.

I’ve spend a lot of time back in the #asp channel, so now I have a place to focus and vent my anger and hate. Met VP in real life, and he’s just as scary in person as he is to a clueless noob who wanders into #asp. But they’re all good guys generally and a very valuable information source.

All in all, it’s been a very good year. I have a pretty good idea how I’m gonna top it next year, but that’s my secret… for now.

Enjoy 2006 and happy birthday to ME, MUAHAHAHA.

a new trick: Electronics

One thing I’ve been putting off for years was learning electronics. Like everything else, I’m not immediately good at it, but I think with persistence I’ll learn the basics and hopefully become competent.

I picked up an Electronics Demystified book about 3 months ago and read the first chapter; I decided to put off reading more until I had a chance to get my 130 in one electronics kit that I got when I was younger. Now that I’ve got the kit, I’ve started reading again- I’m almost halfway through, although the retention rate is about 5%. Once I’m done I’m going to go back through the book and take a lot of notes.

The end goal to all of this is I want to make my own guitar pedals.

in a month or so I plan on picking up a nice bread board and some components and putting together a simple Fuzz pedal. I’ve started collecting interesting simple schematics- finding things that will be easy to make.

Finding good programs for linux has been interesting as well. I found a schema creator called gschem which seems to be the leader of the pack so far- it’s still a bit clunky, but it’s usable. As I make breakthroughs in my studies I’ll post them to the blog.

redhats named

a question I had in IRC today… anyone want to take a shot?

08:21 < morgajelWork> ok, explain this to me.
08:21 < morgajelWork> I wrote an iptables script that was pretty strict.
08:22 < morgajelWork> it only allows tcp and udp on 53 for dns, and tcp for ssh. and related,established for all
08:22 < morgajelWork> the defauly policy is to drop
08:22 < morgajelWork> when I try to halt this redhat box, it locked up while trying to shut down Named
08:23 < morgajelWork> so I on a fluke change the default policy to ACCEPT
08:23 < morgajelWork> BAM it works
08:23 < morgajelWork> so riddle me this…
08:23 < morgajelWork> WTF is redhat’s /etc/init.d/named doing to lock up like that?

and yes, this is RHEL v3 with the latest updates.

Things every new Gentoo admin/user should know.

I’ve been using Gentoo for over 2 years now. Before that it was Debian. Before that it was Redhat. Spattered inbetween I’ve used slackware, mandrake, suse, knoppix, ubuntu, xandros and sorceror.

I’ve noticed when I pick up a new distribution, there’s always little bits and tips that people forget to tell you about. I’m gonna try to make a list for gentoo.


Emerge is the main package management tool for gentoo- as such, there are several useful tips that may make your life easier.

  • emerge -up world This is your basic command to update your system
  • emerge -uvpDN world is what I use to update my system

As you can see, I use 3 extra flags, the –verbose flag, the –deep flag, and the –new flag. What do these do?

  • –verbose One of the most useful flags you’ll ever use, it shows how big the download is (and hence the ability to make a guess at how long it’ll take). it also shows you which USE flags are available for a package for example, bitchx has a gtk flag, meaning it apparently has a gui version as well, which is something I didn’t know.
  • –deep The deep flag is a blessing and a curse. emerge -up world only updates immediate dependencies, while –deep causes the entire tree to be checked. if you want to *completely* update your tree, this is how you do it. Here’s where the curse part comes in- if you’ve never used –deep before, be prepared for a bumpy ride. it sometimes breaks things, like library dependencies. These should be cleared up with a revdep-rebuild, which I’ll get to in a bit.
  • –newThe -N flag serves a purpose similar to –deep. when you add/change a USE variable, for one package, for example adding GTK so you can install bitchx with the gtk gui, several things happen. first, when you try to install bitchx after enabling this flag, it installs all the gtk-based packages that are needed to allow the gtk gui on bitchx. suppose later on you decide to update your system. well, it turns out many many other programs can use gtk now that the gtk flag is enabled. The -N flag brings them out of the woodwork. it should be noted that this works for both adding and removing flags from the use variable.


Sometimes when you update your system, you update to newer versions of libraries.
so what happens to all the programs already installed and compiled to use when you remove it and install

well, they break sometimes. This is a common problem with using the -D flag when upgrading. how do you get around it? You run revdep-rebuild. revdep goes through a few phases- Collecting system binaries and libraries, Collecting complete LD_LIBRARY_PATH, Checking dynamic linking consistency, Assigning files to ebuilds, and emerging new packages.
Basically it checks all your binaries for the libraries they use, then check to see if the libs exist. if not, it determines which packages containt the binaries looking for the missing packages and recompiles them. I usually watch this process very carefully and stop it after it identifies which libraries are breaking binaries. a ctrl-c will break out of this, but you have to make sure you remove the temporary files in root’s home dir, ~/.revdep.*

This is a great way to find programs that slip through the cracks- for example, I’ve been using kde for a while now and recently upgraded my flac libraries. later, when I upgraded to kde 3.5, kde 3.4.3 was not removed. as I ran revdep-rebuild, it complained that kdemultimedia-3.4.3 was looking for the old version of flac. I ran
emerge -vp unmerge kdemultimedia
and sure enough it showed I had not only kde 3.4.3 and 3.5.0 installed, but 3.3.2 and 3.2.3 installed! I had left them in place “just incase” and each time forgot to remove the previous verson. I unmerged the old versions, removed the revdep temporary files and ran it again. everything was happy.

perl-cleaner and python-updater

These two programs piss me off to no end. Perl-cleaner serves many functions, but the main on is it reviews all the emerged-installed perl packages and re-emerges them. useful for when perl is updated, but a shame it’s not more automatic.

Python-updater needs to be run when you update python. What happens if you don’t? well, nothing that uses python will work for one. no warnings, no messages nothing- just a blip that scrolls by in the middle of a world upgrade. I found this gem in the gentoo forums after the cedega installer “point2play” broke for no apparent reason.

well I’m sure this list will get longer, but this is all you’re getting for now. I probably shouldn’t have ended on a down note, so think about puppies or something. good luck and enjoy gentoo.

UPDATE 20051220-

Something else I should have mentioned when talking about the use flags and the -N flag: if you ONLY want a single package to have a flag enabled, and the default action for the rest, rather than adding the flag to the USE variable in /etc/make.conf, you can add it to /etc/portage/package.use .
for example- suppose you only wanted bitchx to have the GTK flag. it WILL still requite all the gtk dependencies, but this way you don’t have to recompile openoffice, lame, mplayer, distcc, etc. to do this, you could add any of the following to /etc/portage/package.use:

net-irc/bitchx gtk
=net-irc/bitchx-1.1-r1 gtk
=net-irc/bitchx-1.1* gtk

each one has a different level of granularity. The first options covers all versions of the package. The second version is very specific: only that version. the third version is a hybrid- any subversion of 1.1- useful in case they find a security hole that needs to be patched but doesn’t warrant a new version.

There are actually several different files that can go in /etc/portage and provide similar functionality and syntax, but serve different purposes.

besides use, keywords is the second most useful- it allows you to accept keywords for certaint packages, allowing you to mix stable and unstable packages. Here’s an example that is somehwhat outdated- when kde 3.4 came out, I was too impatient to wait for it to be given stable status in gentoo(stable for the x86 platform is “x86”, unstable is “~x86”), so I added the following lines for each package:
=kde-base/kdeedu-3.4.0 ~x86

and then when I went to emerge, the 3.4 version of the packages were available.

insomnia is teh suck

so the cat woke me up at 2:50am hoarkin’ and I’ve been up since.

I’ve been having sleep problems since I was about 14. probably longer than that, but that’s roughly when I got my own room and could stay up half the night. it’s weird, like my clock is set for a 30 hour day with two 4 hour naps rather than 24 with 8 hours of sleep.

I have about 2 hours before I normally get up. I’m still somewhat tired and sore, but I really don’t have a choice. I guess I’ll try to finish my debian bible so I can move onto electronics.

fun at my old job

so it sounds like the two new hires are discovering the joy of working for my old company.
poor bastards.

SPX apparently decided to have the christmas party early in december, so I didn’t get a chance to warn them…
here’s what they had to look forward to…

  • dinner at the smithsonian
  • a live band

Oh, but that wasn’t all they got- they also got the following:

  • no actual food.
  • sitting at the kiddie table
  • staring at a tray full of sandwiches that the band got to eat
  • a table from the back room when they realized there weren’t enough seats.
  • no more glasses of water once the bar closed.

SPX has never really been a class act, but something you’d think they’d at least be competent enough to get a proper headcount for the entrees and make sure therewas a plate or two extra just in case- hard to believe they skimped on food when they rented the damn air and space museum to host it.

goodbye slashdot

This started with a comment from my friend Shedao about putting a life ban on slashdot. I’ve been reading slashdot since 2000 or so. I’ve seen the ups and downs. I listened to geeks in space and cheered when katz went away.

So why am I deciding to leave slashdot? Because of Beatle Beatle, the submission spammer. You see, slashdot has a lot of power in the google pagerank system because of it’s size, links and traffic. There is a new breed of spammers that are submitting articles to slashdot and having their link increase the pagerank of their spam sites. What it all amounts to is slashdot helping spammers. There are several courses of action they could take, and so far they haven’t done anything.

That said, my new time-wasting site is slashdot is out of my rss feed, and digg is in.

Goodbye Slashdot. it’s been fun.


After being tracked down by a guy I went to HS with, I’ve decided, hell, I’m not hiding from anyone. I might as well attach a picture to the name. I think of it this way- if someone was to do a casual search, they won’t find a recent picture of me via GIS, but if they really wanted to, they could find me.
So, here it is.


Pod XT Live

So jackie and I did our christmas stuff early (sorta- we’re still trying to pick out a monitor for her) and I got a Pod XT Live.

Pod XT Live

My friend Ryan told me about his brother’s Pod way back when I started playing guitar, and it seemed pretty cool. I’ve wanted one ever since.

What’s it do? it models certain amplifiers, stompboxes and setups, effectively emulating thousands of dollars of equipment I could never afford. Obviously it’s not 100% perfect, but since I’ve never used 99% of the stuff it’s modeling, I can’t tell the difference.

This will be replacing my Boss ME-X pedalboard, DOD American Metal Stopbox, Dunlop Crybaby Wah pedal, and Boss Blues Driver stopbox. As of right now, these are all up for sale- so if you’re in the market, contact me.

I’ve been playing with the pod in the living room- when I get it moved to the office I’ll hook it up and record some stuff.

I love my new job

a coworker from my last job just told me the following (names changed to protect the moronic):

13:06 [ shaldannon] sooo
13:07 [ shaldannon] Bill got assigned to relocate a link to a form from one page to another
13:07 [ shaldannon] the "SPX Invention Disclosure Form"
13:08 [ shaldannon] JK asked Bill to alphabetize it under 'I' for 'Invention ...' rather than under 'S'
13:08 [ shaldannon] thing'
13:08 [ shaldannon] it's the only link on the page
13:08 [ shaldannon] how do you realphabetize a single item???
13:09 [ shaldannon] and Chris B. replied to the email with the summation, "Good idea"
13:09 * shaldannon shoots himself

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