Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Another reason why having a configuration tool to build servers is a good idea

Forgive me reader, it's been a month since my last post. Sorry about that.

At work we've got Ansible.  It rocks. If you build servers by hand you have my sympathy, and stop doing that.  Check this out:

I have hypervisors running Proxmox. Which is openvz with frills.

On these hypervisors, I have a whole lotta containers. Two containers are 32-bit Ubuntu, 4gb of RAM. Found out today, at lunch, I need them to be 64-bit Ubuntu with 8gb of RAM.

Not very long ago, this would be a big deal, involving a lot of money, and time and frustation. Today I simply did this:

  • Stop and delete the old containers. 
  • Edit a file.  Change MEM=4096 to MEM=8192. Change OS=ubuntu32 to OS=ubuntu64. 
  • Run a shell script - answer the prompts. There are four of these. 
  • Shell script runs an Ansible playbook, which is a yml file telling Ansible what to do. 
  • Sit back and watch Ansible do it's thing. 
  • Five minutes later I have two new servers, the application is deployed and running. 

The book keeper wandered up.  I gestured: look!  She started at my terminal, printing line after line of text telling me what Ansible is doing to my server.  What ..

'My life-long ambition to reduce my job to pushing a button once in a while is coming to fruition! Muh-ha-ha!'

She gave me a 'bless your heart' [1] smile and warily backed away.  No doubt she was looking for a sharp stick in case I got out of hand ...

I love what I do for a living.

I need to point out that none of this Just Happens: The playbook that builds the container is a 2nd or 3rd generation playbook here.  It works well because we have done the hard work of making playbooks that didn't work so good.  At least my playbooks were lame and clunky.

An astute observer would also notice that the process does not yet do a very good job of editing proxmox container values on the fly.  That is I _should_ be able to edit the MEM value and rest easy knowing that Ansible will make that change for me.  It doesn't do that, yet, but I have plans ...

Also I would be remiss if I did not point out that there is a team effort at work here and my contributions are very much built on the platform I inherited when I arrived.  If I'm any good with these tools it's because the guys I work with did a great job of setting them up.

[1] Most of my readers may know this is Southern for 'You are insane and bear watching'.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hi-Point 45 ACP - October 2013

Being an occasional repot on a Hi-Point 45 ACP.  I own one, I'll shoot it when I can.  I'm not a gun expert, or a firearms aficionado.  I'm just this guy, you know?  Always remember: the plural of anecdote is not data.

October, 2013.  Fired fifty rounds.  No mis-feeds, jams, or excitement. Hit the target, a man-sized silhouette at 12 and 25 yards.  All rounds except one landed in the black, with consistent grouping down and to the left because the shooter is human, and weak.  The errant round was the last fired; the shooter got lazy and jerked it off.

Based on the collective wisdom of nerdy aficionados on the internet, I expected the thing to mis-feed, jam, explode, catch fire, sodomize a cat, or a combination of any and all the above.  Disappointed that I appear to have a firearm that, while not pretty, Just Works.

Until Next Time, Joe Bob says Check It Out.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Robert E. Lee of SF writers

When I look at the competition, think about the gifted, smart people I work with, our tool set, the shiny machines, the really nifty hardware we're installing in the data center ...

I need to remind myself ...

"Listen to me now: There has never been a military in the entire history of the human race that has gone to war equipped with more than the least that it needs to fight the enemy. War is expensive.  It costs money and it costs lives and no civilization has an infinite amount of either.  So when you fight, you conserve. You use and equip only as much as you have to, never more. 
He stared at us grimly.  "Is any of this getting through?  Do any of you understand what I'm trying to tell you?  You don't have these shiny new bodies and pretty new weapons because we want to give you an unfair advantage.  You have these bodies and these weapons because they are the absolute minimum that will allow you to fight and survive out there.  We didn't want to give you these bodies, you dipsh*ts.  It's just that if we didn't, the human race would already be extinct
"Do you understand now?  Do you finally have an idea of what you're up against?  Do you?"

Scalzi's online persona is a a bit of a dipsh*t.  Produces readable, but not great, fiction.

He is, come to think of it, the Robert E. Lee of SF writers in a world of Lost Cause a**holes.

But he's about got it spot on, here.

Gotta be humble.

Monday, September 16, 2013

PLEASE America do nothing to promote gun control

When I heard the news I thought: 'Stand by for stuff to get stupid'.

Feinstein and the Fonz did not disappoint.

In a world of higgedly-piggedly, it's good to know people's knees will jerk predictably.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Placeholder Post

Dear S4C Readers.

The story of the trailer house, the ferret smell, and the flush toilets, will remain unpublished until after the law suit is concluded.


The Mgt


It's been too long since I've filled the house with the smell of baking bread.

Far, far, longer, I gather from the land lord, since this house has had people in who bake.

I'm not a wild-eyed mystic but I do, I do, believe a home retains a certain presence from what is done within: cutting a pine board, baking bread.

That stuff gets into the walls, man, and makes a place feel like a home.

Dough rising as I type.  Bread will be done at 6:00.  Be here by 6:15 or the Teenagers will not leave you a crumb.

I'm seeing things:

But that doesn't mean they are not there.

Look at this picture of the Caprica City skyline ( from the title track of Battlestar Galactica): front and center is a building that looks like an old-model Cylon head.

Man: those guys are tricky.

At least I'm pretty sure it is  Maybe not enough coffee.  Or too much.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Three Years From Right Now

It had just now occurred to me that Datomic is well suited to be the backend for things that guys like Nick Szabo - and others - are always going on about: smart contracts, digital property, secure titles.

You know: the stuff that will enable actually existing anarcho-capitalism.

Me?  Oh, I've been out in the world.  Acquired a new job.  Lost the cat.  Downsized a mountain of stuff, moved, was homeless for a week, moved again.

Details later, maybe.  But man: do check Datomic out.

Saturday, July 06, 2013


It is big. Heavy. In the basement.  Just your average Hide-A-Bed.

It's gotta go. Next stop: the dump.

Getting it down there involved removing the door at the stop of the stairs and - if memory serves - a lot of energetic shoving down a narrow stair case.

Not looking forward to this.

Inspiration: courtesy of a dear friend, I have use of a Sawzall.

Funnest thing I've done all day.  I gotta get me one of those.

Also: with the metal bits sawed loose of the frame, I've got a nice chunk of metal for the salvage yard.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Opportunity knocks once let's reach out and grab it, 
Together we'll nab it, 
We'll hitchhike, bus or yellow cab it!

Movin' Right Along (YouTube)

We're moving!  New home, state, new company.

Gonna be fun.

More, later.

Saturday, June 08, 2013


Smells like rolling probable cause
Your Ma's gonna know what you been doin'

Visited Mom, back at the home place.  Brought a bottle of wine as a gift because I was raised right.

Was violently reminded of the perils of 'sun' [1] mixed with 'June' combined with 'Oklahoma' when I left the wine in the wagon for a few hours after arrival, and the predictable happened.

Messy, but not impossible to clean.  And the car now has a 'winey' smell that is faint, and not-unpleasing.

[1] That damned luminous orb.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Robert E. Lee Was Not A Good General

From the Twitter:

A Guy: Robert E. Lee was excellent.
Me: Oh boy: there is a long ranty post about Lee's short comings, but not written. Yet.

And I sat down to write it tonight and thought 'Hey, I have written that.  And so I have and here it is;

Robert E. Lee was not a good general. He fiddle-fracked around on campaigns of no possible benefit, wasted the only resource he could not afford to waste - his manpower. He was a fool, unable to adapt to the changing times.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Gold was the light that shone in the towers of Ethras,

Green was the mountain where Protas stood, alone with his thoughts,

White were the clouds that cast shade on the nourishing plain.

Black is the sky this day.

The plain flashes red.

Red sparks as numerous as stars honed edges gleaming

The color of hills that are clothed in murmuring flame,

The color of blood washing the threshold of the library.

Say the ravagers: this is the wrath of the over-God

Of whom we are the instrument in this world of things.

Things that we are. Things that you are.

Things that you have made with the work of clever hands

Things that by right share a common doom.

No Mynster, no crypt, no labyrinth can shelter us this day, but only the wastes that stretch beyond the ken of even the most abject slines.

From Lament For the Third Sack

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

No wonder 90% of TrekContent is lame and stupid: it's built on a foundation of finger-wagging

As early as 1964, Gene Roddenberry drafted a proposal for the science fiction series that would become Star Trek. Although he publicly marketed it as a Western in outer space—a so-called "Wagon Train to the Stars" (like the popular Western TV series)[2]—he privately told friends that he was modeling it on Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, intending each episode to act on two levels: as a suspenseful adventure story and as a morality tale. 
Suddenly a light dawns: Roddenberry was lecturing without the intelligence of a Rod Serling or the wit of a Jonathan Swift.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Don't Marry a Soldier

48. If you train a soldier to shoot a five year old without batting an eye, on the grounds the child might be concealing a grenade, you have to expect him to be somewhat callous when he returns to family life. He will think nothing of dashing his infant son against a wall or threatening his wife with a handgun if she fails to do the dishes. 

Man. I cannot tell you the number of times after a tense night with an ear cracked for incoming and then I rise at 0530 for my early-morning PT and there is a dirty dish in the sink and CHARLIE IN THE WIRE FIRE FOR EFFECT DANGER CLOSE DANGER-CLOSE SMOKEY THIS IS NOT 'NAM, THIS IS BOWLING THERE ARE RULES and suddenly I'm waving my handgun around like a nitwad's wet dream.

On the one hand, having to deal with social services and the kids crying and the cops and all is a bummer.  On the other, a good flashback really gets the ol' blood moving.

Semper Fi.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

M1 Garand

I do not, not, not, like firearms for their own sake. They're tools, is all. Tools with a singular purpose, granted. But: tools.

 But I got to hold an M1 Garand last weekend, ran through the manual of arms ... 

  • That is a well-made, solid, machine, brother. 
  • I want one. 
  • The difference between my M16 (7 pounds unloaded) and an M1 ( 9 1/2 pounds unloaded ) was surprising. As in 'whoa, that sucker is heavy'. 
  • I get the Baby Boom, now. 

After lugging an M1 all over the damned world, over beaches, up the hilly willies and down the hilly willies ... GI Joe was a buff mother-f*cker.

Mary Jane from back on the block just couldn't help herself.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

All Dogs All The Time - I'd Watch It

In the last two days we've been told there were three bombs, a fire, one unexploded bomb, cell phones were cut off, there were only two bombs, and no fire, a guy was under arrest, cell phone coverage was not cut off, a guy wasn't under arrest, another guy was arrested, except now he isn't but any minute now someone could be. Stay tuned!  Eleventy!

If CNN and company care to get actual, factual, news published they might as well take a deep breath, research their stories, put out an hourly news cast, once a day, fill the rest of the time with Puppy Channel.

Ratings would go through the roof, I bet.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


A man exits a diner, trying to be inconspicuous.  A string of balloons and a flying saucer crash next to him.

Then things get weird.

The US Navy circa 1930 fights off an alien armada in New York harbor.  Iowa launches a nuclear shell right _up_ the spout of a _HUGE_ alien battleship's cannon, detonating _INSIDE_ the dreadnaught and it was beautiful.  I had an aerial view for that one.

There are close-ups of plucky resistance fighters potting individual alien soldiers with wee little nukes, at a marina. Most of the aliens die, but almost none of the resistance fighters do, and then we're all on a bus high-fiving.

Friday, April 05, 2013

We have met the enemy and he is us

He [Obama] said that such worries would just feed “into fears about government. You hear some of these folks: ‘I need a gun to protect myself from the government. We can’t do background checks because the government’s going to come take my guns away.’ The government’s us. These officials are elected by you … I am constrained as they are constrained by the system that our founders put in place.

This would be the same guy that executes American citizens without a trial.

Related: 'Stop hitting yourself!  Stop hitting yourself!' said every grade school bully, ever.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I forgot to write, and forgot to observe, the annual giving up of something for Lent.

Buy-bye social media.  See you in April.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Life imitates art

I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.

- Steve Martin

I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff.  Got me a gold rolex.  Bruce Lee memorabilia.  An Eddie Van Halen guitar.  A hat that Michael Jackson wore.  And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.

- Jesse Jackson, Jr

Friday, February 15, 2013

Hypothetical bicycle

I have a bicycle. 

It is worth $20.

I want to sell it.

My state has a law that says all bicycles must be sold for no less than $40.

I am not going to sell my bicycle.

Related (youtube): Edgar the Exploiter is going to be all right.  Simon is screwed six ways to Sunday.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


He's two.  Glides into the room.  Draped in Nonna's bathrobe.

Oh ... scary!  Are you a ghost?

Pause.  "I ... BAT-man ... cape!"

Exit, giggling.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Tab Clearing

Make your own soap, make your own bread.  Ammunition?  Ammunition.

Free, open, secure and convenient communications: Can we finally replace Skype, Viber, Twitter and Facebook?

Stross is some kind of Communist? And he finally has woken up to the consequences of his foolishness. Political failure modes and the beige dictatorship.

ssh-ident Wrapper around ssh to prepare ssh-agent and load identities.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mr. Snake, why did you do that? Now I will surely die!

About that Kill List Business ..

I am told that there are now righteous citizens who are now all het up about the Executive extra-judicially killing American citizens.  Straw-man summary ..

'I voted for Obama and this makes me mad.'


They knew before voting for that jack-wagon he was murdering citizens.  There were viable choices.  They voted knowing what he was, they don't get to be all remorseful about letting that snake back in the hen house after the fact.

I read this and wish I had not

Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer.

A complete waste of time.  A fascinating premise, which is wasted by the author. Cardboard characters. The world building is tone deaf and implausible.

Some guys can get away with this. This fella ain't one of them, at least not with this novel.

Joe Bob says he wants his time back.

Friday, February 01, 2013

If it looks good it is good

All said and done, this

VAR=$(openssl rand -base64 8)

looks better than this

VAR=`openssl rand -base64 8`

Something-something good design looks right something-something.

Restated: F*ck backticks.

Also: Obama still has a kill list.  But hey, bangs, and economic minutia, and skeet shooting at Camp David.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Now I have that off my chest

Re: It is all Lee's fault

Rick C: *cough* So you don't refer to it as "the war of Northern aggression," I assume.

I don't even know anyone who was killed in the American Civil War and the subject irks me.  Bothers me to visit quiet country graveyards, and see so many markers of young men under the sod.  Pisses me off, thinking of the waste, and ruin that follow armies like a plague.

The Confederacy was led by evil, stupid, men, founded on an evil, loathsome, institution.  They were wrong to hold slaves, stupid and wrong to secede.

The Union was wrong, wrong, wrong, to distort the constitution out of true to force the Secessionists back into the Union.

The only, only, good that came out of that war was ending the wicked practice of slavery. 

And, perhaps, making this country, in the long run, a more sane, humane, and civilized place to live.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

It is all Lee's fault

In the simplistic tv-movie-of-the-week view of the American Civil War, in THIS corner there was superb, gentleman-solider Robert E. Lee.  In the other corner was brutal, never met a frontal assault he didn't like, butcher and drunkard, U.S. Grant.  Lee lost, Grant won, because Lee was crushed under the brutal frontal assaults of US Grant, southern gentlemen buried under a mountain of blue-coated dead.

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit; Robert E. Lee was not a good general.  He fiddle-fracked around on campaigns of no possible benefit, wasted the only resource he could not afford to waste - his manpower.  He was a fool, unable to adapt to the changing times.

Grant was a superb general.  Probably the best we've ever fielded.  He knew how to seize the main chance, was adaptable, and understood in his bones how to use the weapons that his country gave him to achieve tactical and strategic ends.
If there was justice in this world, those so-called Lost Cause ass-hats would never have gotten any traction, their warped view of that conflict would be as derided as Holocaust Denier thing.  High schools in Virginia would be named after Chamberlin, Grant, Sheridan, Hancock and not that pack of vain-glorious popinjays that styled themselves officers in the Confederate Army.

And 'States Rights' would not be identified with racists and yahoos with St. Andrews flag decals on their trucks.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sack of Rome

Everything I knew about Alaric I sacking Rome was wrong.

I will allow this wasn't much.  I got most of it from a comic book called 'GI Combat'.  I am not kidding.  It went like this:

Some gangers rode into the Roman Empire one day, trashed the place, set everything on fire, then rode out of town.  The End.

Don't let them tell you public education isn't on the job.

What really happened is way more complicated, and involves a lot of politics and people and ends up with Alaric I outside the walls of Rome with 30,000 barbarians and then somehow a gate were opened ( I thought you locked the door! ) and the city was sacked.

But it was a nice sacking, as those things go.  People were allowed sanctuary, generally were unmolested.  Everything valuable not nailed down - and a lot that was - was hauled away.

But I was struck, on reading, and hearing, was thinking about the discipline that must have been required to 1) march to Rome in good order then 2) maintain even a notional siege of a walled city and 3) ransack the place without going berserk.

Alaric wasn't the head of a biker gang: he had himself an army. 


Blackout / All Clear - Connie Willis

A science fiction novel that is really a love letter to everyone who won World War II by doing their part.  Which, often, consisted of getting up and going to work in spite of the German Air Force doing their best to murder you and everyone you loved.

I do not know how they did it.  Before the war, I read elsewhere, the government was convinced that just a few short weeks of that thing and everyone would be dead, fled, or rebelling.  But no - they stood up to it for eight months.  Nobody special, not soldiers or Spartans, just ... people.

Anyway: love letter, Blitz, V1, V2, Dunkirk, time traveling historians.  Who have a problem with time management, and always miss some terrifically important events going on right under their noses.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dan Carlin

Remember James Burke?  Science historian.  Old guy, made science and history sound cool just by force of personality and some great writing?

ConnectionsDay The Universe Changed.  That guy.

Found a guy enough like him to make me smile but different enough to make me pay attention: Dan Carlin.

Mr. Carlin does two podcasts: Common Sense and Hardcore History

Hardcore History ... listening to Carlin riff about Magellan, and Globalization v 1.0 and The Blitz, on and on ... I was reminded very strongly of Burke at his best when he was cranking along and things would come out of left field and you'd go all whoa and things would fire in your brain and it was good times in the brain housing group.

Common Sense is what a.m. talk radio should be, but isn't because it has to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Joe Bob sez checkit out.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Today I learned how to tell Redhat to run a bit of software as a service.

Init script, I've done those: no problem.
Read an inch deep on the Redhat's little ways of making init scripts run as services: easy-peasey.
Puppet module to drop the script and some other bits [1] in place: check.

Pride before fall.  'service blah does not support chkconfig' I was told.

It means that, in hindsight, the RHEL-centric init script examples I glanced at were suspiciously well documented.

In every sh script you will look at, and many you don't, this means 'remark'.  Documentation.  A note to your future self.

# chkconfig: 2345 95 05

In Redhat-land it means 'hey, chkconfig, this is the run level and priorities for the script you are running'.


Chase that idea around: in every sh file on your computer - and there are a metric f*ck-ton of them - '#' is 'remark' except for one very special set of sh files used by one very special program on boot.

Who thought this was a good idea, and can I meet this man because I admire his sense of self and certainty.

I'll probably find out, now, that this makes a depressing amount of sense.  Maybe '#' really was not meant for 'remark' and this is the only instance remaining in the world where it is used correctly and everyone else is wrong, wrong, wrong.

[1] But not deploying software.  Not yet.  Non-RPM packaged software is just out of my reach.  For now.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

... shall not perish from the earth

Some Guys want to build a fortified town out in Idaho.

The Citadel Community will house between 3,500 and 7,000 patriotic American families who agree that being prepared for the emergencies of life and being proficient with the American icon of Liberty — the Rifle — are prudent measures. There will be no HOA. There will be no recycling police and no local ordinance enforcers from City Hall.

These guys are looking for a solution to this problem: that a nation conceived in liberty, then run by a pack of vandals for their own selfish ends, cannot long endure. 

The bill is going to come due, the piper will want to be paid, a lot of somebodies are going to find themselves odd man out in a game of musical chairs.

Nobody wants to be 'it' when the music stops.

Collecting a few thousand people in a single town is the wrong answer.  What you got there is a place just begging for Federal attention and if things are going the way these guys expect the last thing you want is the FBI knocking down your door with a tank.

The way of the future is, yes, like minded individuals coming together.  But using discretion.  Networks of interest over the internet.  A few guys here, a few there.  Establish trusted friendships with this fellow down the block, that dude in the next town over.  Bob is a nut about reloading.  Kevin knows crypto.  Samantha programs drones.  Jimmy can grow anything.  Roberta is a nurse.

John Robb calls these resilient communities.

If the state is going to wander away, it won't go quietly.  Better a live, prosperous, and discrete network than a militant stronghold that will be smeared into the dirt.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Technology outpaces law and custom

Moh's smart gun is here.

“Gaia, it’s hot,” he muttered.
“Thirty-one Celsius,” said the gun.
He liked hearing the gun. It gave him a wired feeling. Only a screensight read-out, but he heard it with his eyes like Sign.
“What’ll it be tonight? Cranks or creeps?”
“Beginning search.”
“Stop.” He didn’t want it racking its memory for an educated guess; he wanted it looking.

Scotty don't need to beam me up to the future, it's here.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

You Will Poke Your Eye Out

Dear Government,

'When you are wrestling for possession of a sword, the man with the handle always wins.'



Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Pay Off

Spending the last three months learning Puppet is starting to pay off.

Learned the puppet 'language' which is Ruby.  More-or-less.  Wrote some really lame classes. Re-wrote them. Spent some time learning how not to use the tool.  I'm now on the third or fourth iteration of that cycle.  Got things humming along in a pilot.  Now I'm pushing it to production ...

Last night I extracted a host from template.  This morning I added the classes to it's .pp file, launched the agent and .. thirty minutes later I had a host running with all of our company-specific bits on it, security locked down, postfix running correctly, and so on and so forth.

A day-long process [1] now completes in thirty minutes.  One minute of typing, twenty-nine watching the server configure itself.  Click and go, man.  Click and go, baby.

[1] Three man-hours but honestly, it's really hard around the office to just do one thing for three hours without interruption.  So we'll call it 'a day'.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Grand Child Update Two: Bossing Dogs Around

He's learned a few commands to boss the big dog around, here at S4C Central.  With hand gestures!

She pays him no mind because he can't enunciate, yet.

But he's getting there.  Kid will be 'sitting' and 'manners'ing and 'dead dog'ing her yet.

Grand Child Update: How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin and Put the Tot to Sleep

At nearly two he is the right age for 'Just So Stories'.

There is cadence and wordplay to keep him engaged.  Just enough pictures to keep him in one's lap and quiet, not so many he rouses to engage with them.  Stories just long enough for a tot.

I think he stayed awake to see the Parsee Man win over the big stupid rhino with guile and subtlety (lesson!) but it was close.

Plus you learn how things came to be as you see them now.