Domain pain continued…

So I took a bit longer than expected to get back to the domain saga.. I went in this evening and pushed the domains from my eNomCentral account to my new retail account (which worked instantly) and then proceeded to renew the domains, and found the price was better, but $29.95 is still not what I asked for. Much clicking around in the main account found a “report” of my price change request, and in the downloadable spreadsheet version was a notes column, which told me that the price I had set actually needed to be $15.36, and not the bare minimum I tried putting in before. Okey dokey.. I went in circles and set things to the new price, emptied and refilled my shopping cart a few times before the new price appeared. Yaay! I saved a bunch of money.. and have now renewed the domains. Whew.

Still stuck in eNOM, but I can’t move them for another month and a half, as that 60 day change limit set by CIRA still applies.

*sets note to self in iCal for early March*

Domain Pain!

So I had a few domains left in my eNom account.. and I was slowly moving them out as they came up for renewal, and it came time to renew the last 2 domains. No problem, right? Well… I would not be writing this if it had been easy!

Why bother moving them? Well, my eNom account is a reseller account, and requires filling the account with a $100 USD increments. No way am I paying that for the last 2 domains in there.

I updated the registrant details, since both clients email accounts were no longer valid. Silly me I update the entire contact info to my data, instead of just the email account. Once updated I pushed out the EPP code so I could transfer the domains. I then logged into my account to transfer them over.

Ugh. Domains are still locked. Did I mention that they are both .ca’s? That’ll come up again soon.. so I call and they tell me that eNom must have a second level of unlock they need to do, ie. somebody has to push a button manually!

So I call eNom, and the nice gentleman tells me that the domains are locked by CIRA. Huh? Well, it turns out that when you update all the registrant details then CIRA locks the domain for 60 days. He suggests I transfer the domains to eNomcentral, their retail arm, so I can renew just one domain at a time, instead of dumping in a hundred bucks.

So I call CIRA the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, and am told by the nice lady that this is a security measure and that it has always been in place, and that there is nothing they can do. I wonder why they bother letting me change the email address, since that is all I need to change if I were going to steal a domain.

So I transfer the 2 domains to eNomcentral, a painless process I must add, it takes all of a few seconds to create a new account on eNomcentral and then push them across. At this point i’m annoyed, but happy that i’ve found a workaround…

Then I hit the renew button on the 2 domains and discover eNomcentral wants $39.95 each domain!? WTF? I was paying $13.95 each at eNom. $26 markup is outrageous.

After much time on hold I get through to Tech Support at eNomcentral. Can’t help me, passing me on to Sales. I’m on hold again… and they can’t help me. *sigh* i’m being passed off to support again.

Yaay! There is a way to resolve it: I created a sub account in my enom reseller account, which is a “retail account” and then push the domains into there. Since I set the price for my retail accounts I do not have to add any markup, and I can renew the domains for less!

Figuring I should do this early I set the renewal cost for .ca’s in that retail account to no markup. It’s in the queue.

More news next week!



Giving Marketcircle my 2 cents!

The fine folks at Marketcircle, makers of the amazing Mac CRM, Daylite, and invoicing application, Billings, have got people riled up by a recent blog posting of theirs.

We (that’s not a Royal we, that’s myself and a few other folks I know who use their products) have always been frustrated with the Report Engine and the difficulty in customizing invoices and reports in it.

Anyhow, the blog post is here: Stop InDesign Invoicing – Templates Aren’t Enough, and a pile of comments follow it…

My 2 cents?

Dave says:

I know WTL and what he is not saying is that he is a designer and programmer.. and if he thinks the invoice designer needs to be “burned to the ground and rewritten” you’ve got a serious problem!

I’m a consultant, and when clients come to me asking about Invoices, templates, reports, etc in Daylite and Billings, I just shake my head. Not worth the headache, and I have had lots of time to try to figure it out, I have been using Billings since 2006.

So Marketcircle? Go look at Filemaker and see that a super powerful system can be made friendly, and we can all actually use it. I’m sure you can build a layer on top of the designer that would let us do what we want, or even a separate application.

While we’re at it, can we get PDF invoices from Billings Touch? And not these mobile invoices, please follow the numbering in the main app! It’s ok to check out a few invoice numbers when we sync and hold onto them in BT until we sync back. HTML invoices make me look bad. My clients want PDFs!

I recommend Billings to my clients. Keep it up, you’ve got fantastic products that really should only get better!

I’d love to know what you use for invoicing and time tracking.. drop me a line at dave at theconsultant dot net

The perils of VOIP and cluelessness!

OK, so it’s really not VOIP’s fault.. here’s my clueless CSR story of the day:

My mom called to let me know that everything was fine, and that they would be offline until they come back from their home-away-from-home in Florida. What happened? Well, it turns out that when your phone is VOIP and you call Comcast (their local cableco) and tell them to disable the internet in a week, they just hear “disconnect”. The call dropped about 15 seconds later.

After a day of calling on their cell phone and trying to get the service reinstated *for just one week*, and not getting anywhere they gave up.

fun, eh?

Stoopid WordPress

Just a quick rant.

I [censored] hate WordPress’ “I am smarter then stoopid user” attitude, esp attempts to close what it thinks to be HTML tag. #include <foo.h> in between <pre> and </pre> does NOT mean that it needs to change the code to #include <foo .h> (see space?), and add </foo> at the end of the post for me. Aaaaarrggh!

Why the [censored] does software assume that user is stupider then it is? Why isn’t there a way to turn off input sanitization? Case in point with HTML: <p> tag doesn’t need </p> at the end of the paragraph. Never did. And in my world never will. I just want a paragraph break, dammit!!! Same idea with <br> tag. I just want a newline, not <br> to close it off (and WTF is <br> any way?)

Oh, and if I add &lt s in the body, next time around editing, they get replaced by <s, which upon next save end up tripping Word Press’ input sanitization insanity. Why why oh why?

Aaaaarrgggh! /me bangs head on the wall

We obviously overengineered. Maybe it’s time to EMP every computer on earth and start all over again.

Mac OS X/mach: Identifying architecture and CPU type

Platform independent endinanness check:

#include <stdio.h>
union foo
  char p[4];
  int k;

int main()
  int j;
  union foo bar;
  printf("$Id: endianness.c,v 1.1 2006/07/09 17:48:14 stany Exp stany $nChecks endianness of your platformn");
  printf("Bigendian platform (ie Mac OS X PPC) would return "abcd"n");
  printf("Littleendian platform (ie Linux x86) would return "dcba"n");
  printf("Your platform returned ");
  bar.k = 0x61626364;
  for(j=0; j<4 ; j++) 

  return 0;


Platform dependent tell me everything check:

 * $Id: cpuid.c,v 1.2 2002/08/03 23:38:39 stany Exp stany $

#include <mach-o/arch.h>
#include <stdio.h>

const char *byte_order_strings[]  = {
        "Little Endian",
        "Big Endian",

int main() {

  const NXArchInfo *p=NXGetLocalArchInfo();
  printf("$Id: cpuid.c,v 1.2 2002/08/03 23:38:39 stany Exp stany $ n");
  printf("Identifies Darwin CPU typen");
  printf("Name: %sn", p->name);
  printf("Description: %sn", p->description);
  printf("ByteOrder: %sn", byte_order_strings[p->byteorder]);
  printf("CPUtype: %dn", p->cputype);
  printf("CPUSubtype: %dnn", p->cpusubtype);
  printf("nFor scary explanation of what CPUSubtype and CPUtype stand for, nlook into /usr/include/mach/machine.hnn
ppc750t-tG3nppc7400t-tslower G4nppc7450t-tfaster G4nppc970t-tG5n");

return 0;

Ecological Impact of Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar)

I had to do this paper as part of independent research for BIOL 1004 (Biology II) at Carleton this summer. As I’ve handed it in (two days ago), I am posting it here as well.

Stany, 20060622

Department of Biology

Introductory Biology II
Summer Term 2006

Ecological Impact of Gypsy Moth

(Lymantria dispar)

Date Due: 20060720

“This paper is the sole work of the undersigned, does not contain unattributed material from any source and compiles with the Academic Regulations section 14.1-4 (Instructional Offences) of the Carleton University Calendar.” (Biology Department, 2006, p10).


Превед Кроссафчег

Stanislav N. Vardomskiy


In North America, gypsy moth is a serious pest of agriculture and deciduous forests that causes significant economical and environmental damage.

Gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) is an insect native of Asia and Europe with very few natural predators in North America (Chaplin III, 2000). Asian and European races of Lymantria dispar differ by size, flight characteristics and host preferences. Asian gypsy moth is larger then it’s European counterpart and is known to prefer over 500 tree species. In addition, both genders of Asian gypsy moth are strong fliers, compared to only males of European gypsy moth (Humble and Stewart, 1994).

Until recently, most of attention to gypsy moth in North America centered around European gypsy moth, however in 1991 a race of Asian gypsy moth was discovered in Vancouver, BC and in the states of Washington, Oregon and Ohio (Humble and Stewart 1994 and APHIS 2003).

European Gypsy Moth

In late 1860s, Etienne Leopold Trouvelote, an amateur entomologist, imported a gypsy moth egg cluster from France in hopes of cross-breeding disease-resistant gypsy moth and local varieties. He cultured some of these eggs in the trees of his suburban Boston home, when some of the larvae escaped and infected nearby trees – first on his street, and soon in the neighborhood of Boston. (Leibhold, 2003)

Trouvelote realized the significance of escaped larvae, and notified local entomologiests, however for close to 20 years problem was largely ignored (Leibhold, 2003). Gradually more and more trees in the vicinity got infected.

First outbreak of moth occurred on his street in 1882, just as he left the country, but at the time very little was done. First attempt at containment and eradication of gypsy moth larvae was organized by Massachusetts State Board of Agriculture in 1889. At the time efforts consisted of manual removal of egg clusters, application of early insecticide, and burning of infected trees. A lot of money and effort was spent, however infestation continued to spread. Eradication methods in Massachusetts were abandoned by 1900 (Leibhold, 2003).

In Canada European gypsy moth is well established in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario and threatens parts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (Humble and Stewart, 1994).

Asian Gypsy Moth

Asian race of gypsy moth was accidentally introduced to Vancouver in 1991, when larvae hatched on ships in harbor was blown ashore by the wind. Male moths were trapped, and application of insecticide Btk eradicated the problem. Currently egg masses are increasingly detected on the ships, and since 1991 infected ships have been banned from inshore areas during periods of egg hatch and larval development (Humble and Stewart, 1994).

Asian gypsy moth is not established in Canada, however egg masses have been intercepted in shipments as early as in 1911, and have been intercepted almost yearly since 1982 (Humble and Stewart, 1994). In United States individual infestations occurred in Washington and Oregon 1991 and in North Carolina in 1997. In 2000 Asian gypsy moth were again discovered in Portland, OR. In all cases infestations were eradicated through aggressive trapping and spraying (APHIS 2003).

Gypsy Moth Life Cycle

Life cycle of gypsy moths consists of four stages: eggs, larva, pupae and adult moths. Adult moths generally lay egg clusters on tree trunks and branches, however any sheltered location can be used. Egg clusters are laid in August and the embryos develop over the warm days of summer. In about a month larvae is fully formed, and ready to hatch, however, instead larvae shuts down metabolic activities, and goes into diapause, becoming insensitive to cold. In the spring, as the temperature increase, larvae inside the eggs becomes more and more active. In mid-May larvae chews through the egg shells, and emerges (Duvall, 2006)

Before commencing feeding, larvae spreads through the forest by a behavior called ballooning. The larvae climbs to the top of the tree on which it hatched, and proceeds to dangle in the air on a silk thread. At this point larvae is still very light, so when wind catches larvae and breaks the thread, larvae is carried on the wind. Silk thread and long body hairs slow larvae’s descent. Most larvae land within 100 meters of where whey hatched (Durvall 2006), however some travel as far as a kilometer away from the hatch site (Sharov 1997).

Once larvae lands, it proceeds to feed. Depending on sex, larvae will feed for five to six weeks. Females feed longer, in order to collect fat necessary for laying eggs. Approximately once a week larvae grow too big for it’s exoskeleton, and molts. Molts separate the larval periods into stages called instars. In the first three instars larvae feeds during the day, however by fourth instar they start to feed at night and hide during the day in order to avoid predators (Duvall 2006). Approximately 90% of total leaf mass will be consumed by larvae in the last two instars (Herms and Shutlar 2000).

In five or six weeks, larva grows to the size of 4 to 6 cm. By mid-June – early July, larva reaches maturity, and starts looking for a safe place to pupulate. Once a safe spot is found, larva sheds its’ skin, and it’s new skin hardens into a brown shell. In process larva can hide on vehicles and spread further during pupitation. Pupae is immobile during most of this stage, as its’ body is transformed into that of a winged insect. After one to two week pupation, adult moth breaks free of a pupal shell and emerges (Duvall, 2006).

Adult gypsy moth females are about 4 cm long, and are white with black stripe on their forewings. Females of European race can not fly, and will fall to the ground if disturbed, while Asian race females will fly away. Male gypsy moths are larger then females, have large feathery antennae, and a mottled grey and brown in color, giving them similarity to native moth species. Male gypsy moths search for females in late afternoons, that allows to distinguish them from native species that search for mates at night (Duvall, 2006).

In the adult stage gypsy moths can not feed, and have about 2 weeks in which to mate. Females release pheromones that assist males in finding them. Male searches for pheromone trace, and flies up wind until finds a suitable female. Once a male and female moths find each other and mate, female lays all her eggs in a single tear-dropped shape and camouflages them with it’s own yellowish hair. Depending on how well female larvae fed in the last two instars, female can lay between 50 and 1000 eggs (Duvall, 2006).


In the larval stage of the lifecycle, gypsy moth consumes tree foliage. European race is known to favor approximately 300 plant species, while Asian race is known to consume foliate of approximately 500 plant species (Humble and Stewart, 1994). During the first three instars, gypsy moths prefer foliage of a limited selection of trees (apple, aspen, birch, larch, oak, willow, alder, hazel, etc), however once larvae gets to approximately 2 cm in size (third instar), it starts to consume foliage of many more trees, such as spruce, pine, chestnut and hemlock (Ravlin and Stein 2001).

As majority of foliage is consumed by larvae in the last two instars, very wide variety of trees can be affected.

Ravlin and Stein did work on tree classification that permits to statistically analyze forest composition, and predict the defoliation effects of an infestation. Generally forests that have a high composition of ash, balsam and Fraser fir, juniper, maple, mulberry, red cedar or sycamore are significantly less affected then forests that primarily consist of oak and birch (Ravlin and Stein, 2001).

Approximately once every 5 to 10 years a very severe infestation, termed outbreak occurs. In case of gypsy moth, early theories postulated that in low density infestation small mammal predators, such as deer mice, regulate the population, keeping equilibrium. At some point natural population of predators drops because of random failure in some other food source, and moth population rapidly jumps to a higher equilibrium level. As the density of moth population increases, various pathogens rapidly infect the population, causing the collapse of the outbreak. Current theories suggest that this is only part of a story, and involve induce-defence hypothesis, that postulates that decrease in available foliage causes a decrease in moth population (Stone 2004) – in other words, moths consume all available food and starve out.

Furthermore, Jones demonstrated that while in the northeastern United States large population of the white-footed mice control outbreaks of gypsy moth, white-footed mice also spread Lyme disease, whereas small population of the mice decrease incidence of Lyme disease but allow gypsy moth to breed (Jones 1998). Relationships such as these make theoretic explanations of outbreaks extremely complicated.

Depending on the severity of infestation, up to 100% of the tree foliage can get destroyed. Normally a healthy tree would survive such an event, and generate a second generation of trees by end of July, however any strained tree would be further stressed. In turn, stressed trees are more susceptible to fungus and diseases, and do not grow as much as unaffected trees.

Establishment of gypsy moth in any new habitat can causes economical damage. Any lumber, tree nursery products or natural products leaving affected area could have trading restrictions applied to them. Affected forests grow slower, with higher incidence of tree death. As larvae eats leaves of fruit trees, blueberries, strawberries and other foodcrops, gypsy moth has potential to severely affect agriculture (BCgov 2006). Asian race of gypsy moths is less picky about their food, and consumes coniferous trees, such as larch (Humble and Stewart, 1994).

During outbreaks, gypsy moth caterpillars are considered to be a nuisance in residential areas of Eastern North America. In urban environments larvae can congregate on buildings, driveways and sidewalks, as they search for food. Caterpillar hairs, shed by larvae are allergens that cause hazards to human health. (BCgov 2006).

Containment and Control

Gypsy moth is an exotic invasive species in North America, and doesn’t have as many natural controls in North America as it does in Europe or Asia. In North America natural predators of gypsy moth include birds, insects, and small mammals (Herms & Shetlar, 2000) with most important being shrews (Sorex spp), deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) (Leibhold 2003b) and white footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) (Jones 1998). As most small mammals are generalists, there is no strong correlation between abundance of moths and abundance of small mammals (Leibhold 2003b).

Presence of hair on larvae makes that moth lifestage unattractive to most birds, but a few species, such as yellow-billed (Coccyzus americanus) (MSU 1997) and black-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus) seem to enjoy eating larvae. Overall, in North America birds do not significantly contribute to the decline of gypsy moth population (Leibhold 2003b).

It is established that gypsy moth in North America can not be eradicated (Leibhold, 2003) so current efforts are concentrated on reduction of damage and on prevention of infestation (Diss 1998).

Damage reduction consists of silvicultural (change in tree planting and harvesting) control to make forests less habitable by the moth and minimize the damage, biological control to slow the growth of population and control outbreaks, killing the caterpillars and removal of egg masses (Diss 1998).

Prevention consists of inspection and quarantine of vehicles that might transport larvae (Humble and Stewart 1994), combined with monitoring for new infestations.

Mating pheromones of gypsy moth, disparlure ((7R,8S)-7,8-Epoxy-2-methyloctadecane and cis-7,8-Epoxy-2-methyloctadecane) were synthesized in 1970s, and since then many attempts were made to manage low-level infestations by disrupting mating habits. Disparlure was found to be effective only in low density infestations (Sharov et al. 2002), or as trap bait in order to check for presence of males (Humble and Stewart, 1994).

Over 20 species of insect predators and parasites have been released in wild in order to control population of gypsy moth (Leibhold 2003a) with various degrees of success.

Natural bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki is the base of a commercial available insecticide Btk that is commonly used against gypsy moth infestations (Humble and Stewart, 1994). Unfortunately Btk is extremely sensitive to timing, and is only effective for a few days after being spread. In that time slot it must be consumed by feeding larva in order for it to be effective (KC 2006). Statistics gathered by Washington State Department of Agriculture indicate that Btk based insecticides are fallible, and possibly produce effects that are not better then disparlure (WSDA 2005).

Gypsy moth is most susceptible to nucleopolyhedrosis virus (NPV), more commonly known as the “wilt”. Infection happens once the larvae consumes foliage that is contaminated with viral bodies. Once inside the larvae, NPV invades through the gut wall, and rapidly reproduces in internal tissues, disintegrating internal organs and eventually causing rapture. Once host raptures, viral oclusion bodies spread, and infect other individuals (Leibhold 2003c).

NPV particles persist in the soil, and in low density gypsy moth populations, however with fewer hosts to infect, NPV causes little mortality. During moth outbreaks, NPV rapidly propagates, and inflicts heavy casualties on the larvae population. NPV is the most common cause of the collapse of the outbreaks.

Research is being performed on development of NPV into a biological pesticide. Currently limited qualities of this material, referred to as “Gypchek” are available for control of the outbreaks, however it is costly to produce, as manufacturing process currently requires moth larvae (Leibhold 2003c).

While total eradication of gypsy moth in North America is currently not possible, containment measures consisting of infestation prevention and damage reduction are slowing down gypsy moth proliferation (Diss 1998). Leibhold indicates that only about 25% of the potential habitat of gypsy moth have in fact been infected so far (Leibhold 1992, Leibhold 2003).


APHIS 2003, Asian Gypsy Moth, United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Accessed 20060620

Biology Department. 2006. Introductory Biology II BIOL 1004 Summer Term Laboratory Manual, Carleton University Press, Ottawa, Ontario

BCgov 2006 Gypsy Moth Government of British Columbia Accessed 20060617

Chaplin III, F. Stuart, Zavaleta, Erica S., Eviner, T. Valierie, et all. 2000. Consequences of Changing Biodiversity, Nature, vol 405 p234-242

Diss, Andrea, 1998. Containing Gypsy Moth, Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine, Accessed 20060619

Duvall, Matt. 2006 Gypsy Moth in Wisconsin – Lifecycle and Biology Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Accessed 20060614

Herms, Daniel A., Shetlar, David J. 2000 Accessing Options for Managing Gypsy Moth Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Humble, L., Stewart, A.J. 1994 Forest Pest Leaflet: Gypsy Moth Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada, Burnaby, BC. Electronic version accessed on 20060619

Jones, C. G., Ostfeld, R. S., Richard, M. P., Schauber, E. M. & Wolff, J. O. 1998. Chain reactions linking acorns to gypsy moth outbreaks and Lyme disease risk. Science vol 279, p1023–1026

KC 2006 Pest Control Public Health, Seattle and King County Accessed 20060613

Liebhold A.M., Halverson J.A. & Elmes G.A. 1992. Gypsy moth invasion in North
America: a quantitative analysis. J. Biogeog., 19, p513-520. Electronic Version Accessed 20060615

Leibhold, Sandy. 2003 E. Leopold Trouvelot, Perpetrator of our Problem USDA Forest Service Accessed 20060617

Leibhold, Sandy 2003a Gypsy Moth in North America USDA Forest Service Accessed 20060620

Leibhold, Sandy 2003b Gypsy Moth Natural Enemies – Vertebrates USDA Forest Service Accessed 20060619

Leibhold, Sandy 2003c Gypsy Moth Nucleopolyhedrosis Virus USDA Forest Service Accessed 20060619

MSU 1997 Natural Enemies of Gypsy Moth Michigan State University Accessed 20060918

Ravlin, William F., Stein, Kenneth J. 2001 Feeding preferences of gypsy moth caterpillars Virginia Tech Accessed 20060619

Sharov, Alexei. 1997 Model of Slowing Gypsy Moth Spread Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech. Accessed 20060619

Sharov Alexei A, Leonard D, Liebhold A M, Clemens NS. 2002. Evaluation of preventive treatments in low-density gypsy moth populations using pheromone traps. J. Econ Entomol. 2002 Dec 95(6) p1205-15.

Stone, Lewi. 2004. A Three-Player Solution, Nature, vol 430, p299-300

WSDA 2006 Gypsy Moth Facts – January 2006 Washington State Department of Agriculture Accessed 20060620

WSDA 2005 Gypsy Moth Report – Summary Report 2005 Washington State Department of Agriculture Accessed 20060619

On camps and money

Yesterday was a Tim Hortons Camp Day. It was preceeded by “Send a kid to camp” advertising in all the stores. Basic premise is that on June 7th, proceedes from every coffee sold at any Tim Hortons store go towards funding of operation of childrens camps.

When I face a “Send a Kid to Camp” poster, I invariably think “Concentration Camp or Labor Camp?”, but I freely admit that it might make more sense to Merkins who didn’t grow up in the society where at any given time, half the population was uniting with workers of the other countries, and the other was doing hard labor, roles reversing every once in a while.

But this is not a story about labor or kid camps.

Food services on Carleton U campus are managed and operated by Aramark, a multinational company that is in the food catering business. They operate the Subway store, Tim Hortons store, and pretty much everything else.

So yesterday that were contractually obligated to give all of their proceeds to Tim Hortons Children Foundation.

This morning I wander in, and see a sign saying that “Due to computer problems, coffee prices are 10 – 20 cents higher today”. Indeed, computer wants 1.71$ instead of 1.59$ for an extra large cup of coffee, 1.31$ instead of 1.23$ for a medium, etc. When I attempted to give them what I know to be correct change (prices for extra large cup of coffee are still listed as 1.49 + tax on the wall) of 1.59$ to Aramark employee at the counter, she apologized, but told me that she can’t accept less then what computer says.

*sigh* Coincidence?

I don’t blame the employee, she is just a cog in the machine, but…..

Dear Aramark.

If you want to steal money from students, please find a somewhat less blatent way of doing it.

Money grabbing bastards.

Farewell, National Capital Freenet

I’ve been a member of National Capital Freenet for about 11 years. For about a year prior to getting an account on Freenet, I were using vt320 terminals at Ottawa Public Library and were logging in as guest to read the newsfroops. At some point I got the parents and guardians involved, and they co-signed on my behalf, and I got my own freenet userid: cn119.

Freenet changed over years. Originally it was a primarily text based service, with ability to dial in for up to half an hour a day using PPP on 9600 modem, and connect to internet. Freeport software was the primary means of interaction with the system. It had a god awful e-mail interface, with pico to compose e-mails (nothing like introducing new users to bad unix habits, right? ) until Mark Mielke finally hacked together elm and duct-taped it onto FreePort. FreePort had a bunch of holes – San Mehat at one point showed me that one can drop to a real shell. I seem to recall that it was possible to trick early versions of lynx to execute a real shell on NCF as well, but this was 10 years ago, so my memory is hazy.

In any event, before I started at iStar, and had a real newsfeed (Thank you, John Henders@bogon/whimsey, wherever you are. Heck, thank you to all the folks at iStar NOC, and DIAL. Oh, and Jason “froggy” Blackey, for sure. And Tim Welsh. Jeff Libby. Steven Gallagher, whom I must have given plenty of white hairs. Most defintely GJ/Jennifer tag team. And Mike Storm. And farewell, Chris Portman), NCF was my primary way of reading alt.sysadmin.recovery. For a while, many moons ago cn119@freenet.carleton.seeay was my primary e-mail address.

I guess this is over by now.

Partying was somewhat bittersweet.

A few years ago NCF got swamped by spam. I remember having to delete ~700 spam messages a day. Some sort of mail filtering solution was implemented – I never really cared, as by that point I weren’t using NCF e-mail for anything, but spam stopped. A couple years later I’ve noticed that all mail kind of stopped too.

(In retrospect, to the best of my current understanding (and I really don’t care), a dedicated procmail system was implemented, and in turn was filtering to the POP3 accessable mail queue on a dedicated system, or somesuch. And, of course, I’ve never checked pop3 mail queue, and for years weren’t aware of it’s existance. Telnet, baby, telnet).

By ~2002 the only thing I were using NCF for were newsfroops, as I could read alot more efficiently through a real newsreader then through a web interface.

I guess I should mention that NCF operates on donations. Every year one is expected to donate some money to keep NCF running. In order to do that, NCF accounts expire every year, and one has to go to Dunton tower at Carleton to renew them, and, hopefully give them some money. Every year I’d donate between 20 and 50$, and even after e-mail renewal notices stopped coming, for a couple of years I’d be on Carleton campus writing a final, and remember to stop by, and remind folks at NCF that I am still around and still care. One day I’ve asked if one has to donate in order to get one’s account renewed, but turned out that no, one can donate nil, and still keep on using Freenet. Hrm. Then why expire accounts, then? It’s so you would remember to donate.

This year I’ve forgot to renew my account.

So last Thursday I’ve logged in, only to see

cn119@'s password:
Last login: some date from some ip address.
Sun Microsystems Inc.   SunOS 5.8       Generic Patch   October 2001

This National Capital FreeNet       |          Le compte de cet usager du
user account has been archived.     |   Libertel de la Capitale Nationale
                                    |                      a ete archive.

NCF Office / Bureau LCN : (613) 520-9001

Connection to closed.

That morning I were at work, in a dark basement with no cell phone coverage, and someone on the phone convinced that I care about the fact that his blueberry iMac’s power supply failed, and will find him a replacement power supply for cheap. Why do I always get cheap customers?

So the plan was to look for something similar on, and failing that, order a replacement G4 chassis from CPUsed in Toronto. This is where the plan didn’t go as planned, as I couldn’t log in into NCF.

So, logically, one should ask someone at NCF to “unarchive” my account (in practice, change my login shell back to FreePort, as I know that my home directory is still there, as I can access and see the same old junk that was there for the last 7 or 8 years.), and promise to stop by in person and give NCF more money.

I’ve called the above number, only to hear it ring, and be told that noone is around to answer my call, and I should call 520-5777. Oh, and I could leave voice mail.

So I’ve called 520-5777. It rang once, and then told me that noone is available, and that I should leave voice mail. I’ve hanged up, and called again in 5 minutes. Same result. After calling over and over in 5 – 10 minute intervals seven times, I’ve left voice mail. I identified myself, and the problem I were experiending. In it I’ve pointed out that I am unimpressed by lack of warning regarding account expiry, and unimpressed that I can’t talk to a human being about it. I mentioned that I am not sure that anyone will call me back, and that’s why I am not really happy with voice mail. I’ve pointed out that I don’t have coverage where I am, so they will have to leave voice mail when they call back. If they call back. I guess I were overly snarky in my message.

Around 4 pm I got out of the basement for a breath of fresh air. My cell phone chirped with “new message” message, and I learned that I have new voice mail. Voice mail was from Brian at NCF, and ran for over 7 minutes. In it Brian (or Ryan) was telling me how busy he is, how Freenet has over Eight Thousand members and by talking to me he is not talking to someone else on the phone, and how upset he is with me, etc. Main idea of the message was that I should come in person to Dunton Tower.

Frankly I weren’t impressed by this point. I were expecting one of “Your account is renewed, do stop by and remember to donate” or “Stop by Dunton tower, we will renew your account then”. Instead I got 7 minutes of telling me how busy someone is and how bad I am for taking Ryan (or Brian) away from answering phones, and how ungrateful I am for not donating so that Brian could be hired full time.

While listening to it, I had a WTF moment. Admittedly it wasn’t the first one of the day, as I get WTF moments at work all the time, but still….

So next day I’ve stopped by NCF offices at Carleton’s Dunton tower in person. I got to observe Brian in his natural habitat. Frankly, he reminded me of someone…. Of myself, about 10 years ago. Back when my ego was bigger, and was more easily bruised. Back when I thought that I am really hardcore, and everyone else is less so.

For about 10 minutes I’ve listened how Brian was talking to someone who sounded like a shut-in in search of human interaction, and tried to explain to him where to click. I hear conversations like this at work all the time – they are the bank breakers, as a technican spends a good hour or two hand-holding someone with no financial renumeration at all. Talking for an hour to someone, who has limited grasp of computing, and at the end telling him to see if he has a friend with some other ISP dial-up account, who will let him try his phone number and user id to see if the software will recognize a modem and will successfully negotiate PPP? Why not cut one’s losses, and talk to any of the other people in the call queue, and maybe actually help them?

Eventually Brian and I had a conversation. It didn’t go over too well. Brian was reluctant to do anything, however he repeatedly pointed out that he is not answering the phones while talking to me.

He pointed out that NCF serves over 8000 members. I’ve mentioned that I don’t find that all that impressive, because around 1997 they had 30000 active members, and seem to just be hemmoraging users over the last 10 years. I remember when ‘w’ on freeport would list pages and pages of logged in users, not about 20 users (10 of which would be xxnnn accounts, which are the accounts of freenet volunteers) that it shows now. In other words, FreeNet’s 8000 users is nothing. Cyberus has many more. iStar had about eighty thousand users when I worked for them.

Brian mentioned that the reason NCF doesn’t have a hold queue is because there is voice mail. He expanded upon it by saying that he is not the kind of person that would call department of transportation, but would go there in person. I wondered if he realized that the time that they spent talking to him in person they could have spent answering someone on the phone.

Brian also pointed out that NCF was the first ISP in Ottawa, if not in Canada. I am not too sure, and pointed out that (I happened to know Steve Birnbaum, in another life) started in 1993 too, maybe even earlier. Brian snorted, and asked where resudox is now. Heck, if I’d have rent-free space, donated bandwidth, servers, phone lines, modem racks, etc., I’d also be around for years. Somehow noone else has such advantage, and thus actually have to make money somehow.

Ot was obvious that we weren’t seeing things eye to eye.

At that point I’ve asked him directly if he can renew my account, and he told me that matter will be refered to the executive director of NCF, John Selwyn, for review. Only he can renew my account.

I’ve called John, and left him voice mail (note a common theme in my dealings with NCF?) Yesterday I’ve stopped by offices 2018 and 2019 in Dunton Tower, to see if he might be in, and I could talk to him.

So far no answer.

I am not holding my breath.

Frankly, if all the complaints about lack of funding made by Brian are true, NCF loses more by losing yet another member, who was donating. I can use

Farewell, NCF. It was a long ride, but I guess it’s over now.

In any event, I want to thank all folks who at one point made NCF great, and whom I more, or less knew.

Paul Tomblin, NCF’s newsadmin. I forgot by now what it is that Paul helped me out to with many many years ago, but the feeling of grattitude remains. But NCF news server works, and I am not upset that it doesn’t carry alt.binaries 😛

Ian! D. Allen. formerly technical director of NCF. I’ve interacted with him many a time at OCLUG meetings.

Mark Mielke, who, besides hacking NCF, also hacked LCInet at Lisgar. Lisgar was a melting pot of folks. I’ve met Sierra Bellows at Lisgar too. She is a step-daughter of Ian! D. Allen. Somewhere I have a CD with her singing from 1995 or so. Small world.

Roy Hooper, who gave up on running NCF, and instead ended up running Cyberus (and hiring me to run Cyberus instead), and, now, I’ve heard, runs CIRA. Roy used to be NCF’s sysadmin.

GJ Hagenaars, who also gave up on running NCF, and instead ended up running DIAL at iStar (and hired me “to write technical documentation. Part time.”). GJ was NCF’s Postmaster, and, coincidentially, is responsible for my hate of sendmail and love of exim.

Jennifer Witham, who was right, and in her “tough love” way very supportive. Jennifer, you were right, you hear. I were wrong. Oh, Jennifer was a volunteer of the month, back in 1997.

Pat Drummond, for always being helpful, and Chris Hawley, I guess also for being helpful. By now I forgot what it is that Chris Hawley did, and it might have been minor, like changing permissions on something in my ~, but it was a huge deal back then, and feeling of grattitude remains.

Thank you, folks.

April 26th, 1986, Pripyat, USSR, 1:25:58 AM local time

I’ve had an opportunity to dinner with a nuclear scientist on Saturday. He works as one of the technical safety managers (or somesuch) for Atomic Energy of Canada Limited at Chalk River in Deep River, Ontario.

We ended up talking about reactor safety, and I’ve mentioned a curious paragraph from RMBK-1000 (Реактор Большой Мощности Канальный) design document (it has some pictures for English speakers).

The manual says (and I translate):

Энергоблоки с реакторами РБМК электрической мощностью 1000 МВт (РБМК-1000) находятся в эксплуатации на Ленинградской, Курской, Чернобыльской АЭС, Смоленской АЭС. Они зарекомендовали себя как надежные и безопасные установки с высокими технико-экономическими показателями. Если их специально не взрывать.

Energy blocks with RBMK reactors with energy capacity of 1000 MWt (RBMK-1000) are in use in Leningrad, Kursk, Chernobyl, Smolensk nuclear power plants. They demonstrated themselves are reliable and safe devices with high technologically-enonomical characteristics. If they are not made critical on purpose.

I’ve cited that paragraph, and asked what was the opinion of the esteemed scientist on the last sentence. He told me that what the manual says is basically true – he is familiar with design and operation of RMBK-1000, was in a control room of Kurst nuclear power plant, and indeed, if you don’t make one go critical on purpose, they are perfectly safe, if not as energy efficient as pressurized water types.

I were refered to a publication titled Chernobyl – A Canadian Perspective, by Dr. Victor Snell, Director of Safety and Licensing at AECL, on the exact reasons why Chernobyl happened.

Personally, I am not interested in laying blame. Who is there to blame? One of the theories is that the operators were poorly trained or that they bypassed safety mechanisms on purpose (either due to poor training or due to political pressures). Maybe, however after reading a book (rus) on what really happened by former deputy operating engineer A.S. Dyatlov, I am not so sure. Another theory was a design flaw. Could be. Was it on purpose? I doubt it.

Inventor of RBMK style reactors, and chief theme leader was a full member of Academy of Sciences of USSR Professor A. P. Allexandrov (rus). Chief Designer of RBMK was Nikolai Dollezhal.

Nuclear power should not be feared. Most of the time, fear is there from lack of understanding. It should be respected, and proper safety procedures built into it. Decisions like this should not be made by politicans (“Build it faster, who cares about safety, prestige of the nation is at stake”), Bible (or Quaran) Thumpers (“For the glory of $DEITY, we will power our homes, and charge up our nukes, and rain fire and brimstone from above on anyone who disagrees with us!”), or hillbillies with loud voices (“Not in my backyard”). They should be made by folks who actually know what they are doing, and care about things like safety, and

Personally, I fully realize that there are things I know nothing about. I can play a scientist on interweb (because anyone can be anyone on interweb, and if you sound reasonably competent, most of the time people will think that you are an authority), but I should not be in charge of a nuclear plant design (or should run a government, etc). However, there are folks out there who actually dedicated their lives to nuclear energy.

If Patrick Moore one of Greenpeace original founer now thinks that nuclear is the way to go, maybe he actually knows what he is talking about. If Stewart Brand, original publisher of “Whole Earth Cataloguethinks that folks should all read Rad Decision, maybe he is right.

So for a few moments, please remember all the folks who died while harnessing nuclear energy. Not only those who died from tyroid cancer in a Chernobyl aftermath, but Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims, even Marie Sadovski-Curie.

Some links to photos:

Special project of on 20th Annaversary of Chernobyl Nuclear Incident (with photos).

More photos of Chernobyl