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Week of 10 May 2004

Latest Update : Thursday, 13 May 2004 11:56 -0400


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Monday, 10 May 2004

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9:27 - It was a busy weekend, but I didn't get as much as I'd hoped done on the book. That's okay. I needed a break.

Friday night, we visited a new observing site on a property that belongs to friends of Steve Childers, who is one of our club members. We only had a couple of hours from full dark until moonrise, and the conditions were pretty hazy, but we could still tell that this will be a very good observing site.

Saturday, Brian and Greg were dealing with the transition from our old server, rocket, to our new server, zidane. Rocket had gone flaky, with frequent spontaneous reboots. It was probably a power supply problem, but the hosting company wasn't interested in repairing the machine. Instead, we ended up on a new machine, which meant that Greg and Brian had to migrate everything over to the new box. They did an incredibly good job, thinking of nearly everything in advance. There were, of course, a few glitches. There always are with such a major overhaul. But mail, web, the messageboards, mailing lists, and so on are all working now, and I've reconfigured all of Barbara's and my machines to work properly with the new server.

One weird thing I noticed is that my page count is up a bit on all my sites. For example, the daily page reads on this site were in the 2,000 to 2,300 per day range on 1 May and 2 May, which is normal for a weekend. The page reads for Monday, 3 May are in the 6,000 range, which is normal for a Monday. But then they start climbing rapidly, peaking at nearly 30,000 page reads for Friday, 7 May. At first, I thought something weird had happened during the move to the new server. But Brian pointed out that these are real page reads, most of which were generated by msnbot64061.search.msn.com. Hmmmm. I wonder how many other people have suffered a DoS attack from Microsoft.

Then, when Barbara came home yesterday, she pushed the button to raise the garage door. It went up properly, but when she pulled into the garage and pushed the button again, the garage door opener (closer?) went wonky. It kept trying to close, made it a foot or so down, and then reversed. It was banging the hell out of itself, to the extent that one of the bogie wheels that rides in the track came out of the track. I removed the bracket and reseated the bogie wheel, but there was no joy. I left the thing unplugged and Barbara just parked outside for the night.

This morning, I called a garage door repair place and spoke to a nice young woman. She asked me the symptoms. When I told her, she said they probably didn't need to come out, because it sounded to her as though the "safety eye" was blocked. I didn't think we had one of those, but I hung up and went downstairs to look. Sure enough, we don't have a safety eye, which I assume must be some sort of electric eye near ground level. The doors do reverse automatically if they run into something, but I assume that must be some sort of sensor in the drive itself. So, we made an appointment for them to come out tomorrow afternoon.

It's back to work for me. I have to get this book finished up, so there won't be much around here for a while longer.

 

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Tuesday, 11 May 2004

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9:41 - I hardly need warn my readers, but it's probably worth repeating that all of us should pass along warnings to our less computer-literate friends and colleagues that Microsoft never sends out patch executables via email. I received the following email, supposedly from Microsoft, yesterday evening.

ms-patch.jpg (131989 bytes)

To those of us who deal with these things regularly, it's a never-ending source of amazement that so many people blithely execute attachments they receive with email messages from unknown sources. But I have no doubt that thousands, probably tens of thousands, of people have already executed this "patch", thereby infecting their own machines and probably any other machines on their networks.

I am really looking forward to the day when I can convert entirely to Linux and Linux-based applications. The main hold-up at this point is MS Word, which I need for writing books. I'll be starting work on another book soon, and I'm wondering if now is the time to make the break to OpenOffice.org. I may ask O'Reilly when they intend to add support for OOo in their author templates. If not this coming book, perhaps I'll be able to use OOo for the next one.

And here is a series of messages in the continuing sage of Microsoft's DoS attacks against a couple of my domains.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: DoS attack by Microsoft
Date: Mon, 10 May 2004 18:42:14 -0400
From: Robert Bruce Thompson
To: Brian Bilbrey, Greg Lincoln

My sites are being DoS'd by Microsoft. This is no longer a joke. That searchbot at msn.com has now made something like a quarter million hits on ttgnet.com and hardwareguys.com, and sucked down something like 5 GB of bandwidth. When it comes time to renew my hosting service with you guys, I'm going to send the invoice for excess bandwidth to Bill Gates.

Is there some way to block msn.com from abusing my sites?

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: DoS attack by Microsoft
Date: Mon, 10 May 2004 19:53:47 -0400
From: Brian Bilbrey
Organization: Orb Designs
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
CC: Greg Lincoln


-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

msnbot64126.search.msn.com and several others, with variations in the
digits...

Bingo

Address range in use at the moment is 65.54.164.0/24

This rule in our IPTABLES filter kicks it in the head.

## Searchbot.msn
iptables -A INPUT -i eth0 -s 65.54.164.0/24 -p tcp --dport 80 -j DROP


If they have other ranges, eventually we'll catch them and kill them.

Here's what's happened since the last log roll, at
02/May/2004:04:03:42 until now, at 10/May/2004:18:41:42

$ cat ttgnet_access_log | wc
~ 242383 3967770 55281748

$ grep search.msn.com ttgnet_access_log | wc
~ 119599 1555253 25505700

49% of your ttgnet hits over the last 8 days were msn.com search

$ cat hwguys_access_log | wc
~ 244534 4057642 55639749

$ grep search.msn.com hwguys_access_log | wc
~ 106685 1387149 20972844

43% of your hardwareguys hits over the same period, msn.com search

Hell, I'd send MS a bill NOW!

.brian

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: DoS attack by Microsoft
Date: Mon, 10 May 2004 20:15:35 -0400
From: Robert Bruce Thompson
To: Bill Gates
CC: Brian Bilbrey, Greg Lincoln, Jerry Pournelle

Hi, Bill

As you can see from the following sequence of messages, several of your searchbot machines at msn.com have launched what amounts to a DoS attack against some of my domains. I mean, really. Was it necessary for your searchbots to generate hundreds of thousands of hits and nearly 5 GB of data transfer against my domains, all in a week or so?

Although we have since blocked the netblock in question, that leaves the question of payment for the bandwidth overages that your DoS attack may make me liable for. I'm CC'ing this message to Greg Lincoln and Brian Bilbrey, who run the server that hosts my sites. I'm sure they can give you an approximate cost for bandwidth overages. I'd appreciate you sending me a check for that amount as soon as possible.

Thank you.

Best regards.

Bob

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: DoS attack by Microsoft
Date: Mon, 10 May 2004 20:21:19 -0400
From: Brian Bilbrey
To: Robert Bruce Thompson, Greg Lincoln

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

Robert Bruce Thompson wrote:
| Hi, Bill
[snip]
| I'm sure they can give you an approximate cost for bandwidth
| overages. I'd appreciate you sending me a check for that amount as
| soon as possible.


Before I send a "formal" reply, I'm guesstimating that a reasonable
sum would approximate the amount that they paid to SCO for the *NIX
licence. I mean, it's all pocket change anyway, right?

What was the number I heard the other day? That MS could go 5 years
without making a DIME, based upon cash in the bank right now. Wowsers.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: DoS attack by Microsoft
Date: Mon, 10 May 2004 20:29:19 -0400
From: Robert Bruce Thompson
To: Brian Bilbrey
CC: Greg Lincoln

Let's not be greedy. Tell him $10 million and we'll split it three ways. (I get the extra penny).

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: DoS attack by Microsoft
Date: Mon, 10 May 2004 20:32:18 -0400
From: Brian Bilbrey
To: Robert Bruce Thompson, Greg Lincoln

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

Why the hell NOT be greedy? But more to the point, I think I found out
the REASON for the DOS attack from MS. Have you checked out the number
one item on Google when you search on your email address?

<here>

That must have made for interesting reading in the Executive Suite.
Additionally, I'm surpised you haven't received a prospecting letter
from lawyers represenging the Theodore Geisel estate.

Grin.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: RE: DoS attack by Microsoft
Date: Mon, 10 May 2004 22:27:47 -0700
From: Jerry Pournelle
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

I must have missed the beginning?

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: DoS attack by Microsoft
Date: Tue, 11 May 2004 09:08:06 -0400
From: Robert Bruce Thompson
To: Jerry Pournelle

For the last couple of weeks, various searchbot/spidering machines at MSN have been hammering two of my domains, ttgnet.com and hardwareguys.com, in what amounts to a Denial of Service attack.

It peaked last Friday, with a total of nearly 60,000 page reads that day. That's six or seven times the number of page reads I normally get on a heavy day, let alone a Friday, and three or four times what your site gets on a heavy day.

It's annoying because the MSN bots are soaking up many gigabytes of transfer, about 5 GB in the last week alone. When it comes time to renew my service with Greg & Brian, I'm going to get charged for my average transfer amounts, so what the MSN bots are doing is going to cost me money.

When I noticed yesterday what was going on, I told Greg and Brian, and they blocked the MSN hosts, so the worst should be over.

 

 

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Wednesday, 12 May 2004

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9:46 - Still working on the Chapter That Will Not Die.

I was thinking last night how fortunate most of us are. I was out in the den surfing the Web, while Barbara was back in her office talking to a young woman who volunteers for Carolina Border Collie Rescue. At one point, Barbara shouted to me to ask if comet NEAT would be visible from Baghdad. As it turns out, this young woman's husband, who is an amateur astronomer, is stationed in Baghdad, where he'll be until next March. I can't imagine what it must be like for her. For a young married couple to be separated for a year is difficult enough, but what must run through her mind every time the news reports yet another bomb blast in Baghdad?

The one blessing is email. I reset my astronomy software to give the view from Baghdad, and as I told her about where the comet would be-Friday and particularly Saturday nights are excellent, because the comet is almost inside M44, the Beehive Cluster--I heard her keyboard clicking away. She then clicked Send and her message was away to her husband halfway across the world. It's nice that technology can make things at least a bit easier for families that have been split by the war.

15:08 - I believe Fred Reed has lost his mind. He now equates Islamic terrorist acts with the actions that Israel takes to defend itself, such as assassinating terrorist leaders. Palestinian outrages? Israeli outrages? No difference, according to Fred.

Give me a break. There's a huge difference here, and if Fred can't see it I pity him. A Palestinian Islamic who suicide bombs a shopping mall is a terrorist, pure and simple. His intention is to slaughter randomly. His goal is to create terror. The Israelis aren't slaughtering random Islamics, although I could certainly understand it if they decided to do so. The Israelis are targeting specific Islamics, those who are terrorist leaders. We should congratulate, not condemn, the Israelis for each terrorist leader they succeed in killing.

We have a similar situation with the so-called abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison versus the beheading of an American at the hands of Islamic terrorists. As a few courageous American politicians and journalists have pointed out, the Abu Ghraib prison issue is a tempest in a teapot.

Let's keep in mind who these prisoners are. Are they Iraqi soldiers who were captured while in uniform? Or perhaps Iraqi civilians who accumulated too many parking tickets or failed to pay child support? Nope. At least some, perhaps all, of the prisoners in question are terrorists. That is, they were taken prisoner while out of uniform, many while engaged in combat against US forces. That means they have effectively no rights, not even the right to continue breathing.

I am not a lawyer, but the last time I looked, under international law and the laws of war, such hostile combatants are terrorists and can be summarily shot, which is what those who captured them should have done. That's what they should do now. Pick out a hundred terrorists from the Abu Ghraib prison cells, and shoot them in retaliation for the murder of Mr. Berg. Hell, pick out a thousand.

But stop whining about the "abuse" at Abu Ghraib prison. Hell, those prisoners should consider themselves very lucky to be alive.

 

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Thursday, 13 May 2004

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8:47 - The Chapter That Will Not Die is moribund, but still wiggling. I'll put a stake in it today, but I think I'll let it sit for a while before I send it off to my editors. I'd like to work on something else for a couple days and then come back to re-read this one.

I have one more large chapter, a smaller one, and the Preface to write. All three are in progress, and I'm hoping to finish them up by the end of the month. That's probably optimistic. We'll see.

11:56 - I don't care for cats. I consider them to be nothing more than four-footed serial killers. Useful in their place, around the barn, but I can't imagine why anyone would want one as a pet. When a dog looks at its human, you can see the love and admiration in its eyes. Stories of dogs rescuing humans abound throughout history. But when a cat looks at its human, you can tell it's thinking, "I'd kill and eat you, if only you were smaller."

So, I should warn you that if you are a cat person, you probably don't want to click this link, which I came across last night while I was surfing the web. I started laughing so hard that I almost literally sprayed my Coke out through my nose. Even Barbara thought it was funny, and she doesn't mind cats.

 

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Friday, 14 May 2004

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Saturday, 15 May 2004

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Sunday, 16 May 2004

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