When mailing lists go wrong

Thanks to Scott, I can bring to you a hilarious example of what happens when mailing lists are mis-configured:
Subject: Email Problems
Date: Thu, 25 Nov 2004 21:38:37 +1100 (EST)
From: Mick Houlahan
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Over the last week we have had a number of problems with the student email

Last Thursday, a large number of students were invited by email to
participate in a survey. Unfortunately the list mechanism that was used to
issue this invitation was incorrectly configured. The end result was that
each reply to the survey instead of being directed to the survey author
was copied to each and every other member of the list. With some 20,000
students invited to participate, one can imagine the flow on effect of
each reply generating a further 20,000 emails.

Although the UWS IT Group became aware of this on Friday morning and took
immediate steps to adjust the list processing configuration, much of the
damage had already been done. Mail queues on the student email server were
saturated with close to half a million messages in the queue at its
peak. The server was still severely stressed on Monday of this week having
been spent the weekend trying to handle the mail load. As well as the
sheer number of emails, the file systems on the server filled up and
exacerbated the problem.

A disk failure on Tuesday no doubt brought on by the severe processing
load didn't help things at all!

The end result for most students has been an unreliable email service for
much of the last week with a large number of students receiving numerous
messages responding to the survey.

The University does apologise for any inconvenience that these disruptions
have caused. The survey department has been briefed on the appropriate
procedures to be followed for any future surveys in order to avoid a
recurrence in the future.

Mick Houlahan


Tales from the post office .01

Once up on a time an old lady lived by herself in a tidy little cottage, tugged away in a corner of Sydney suburbia. She lived alone after her husband died and her children moved away, spending her last days in solitude, as time ruthlessly chip away at her body, her mind, her memories.

Each day at 10 past 3, the postman would rumble by in his orange safety vest and AusPost issued bike laden with letters. Eagerly our lady (not old lady any more, for old is a such sad word) would wait for communicate from her bloodline, some tenuous link to her once glorious youthful past.

On a post card summer day (blue skies, white clouds, birds in the trees, the works), the postman arrived with clockwork precision at 10 past 3. He bent down from his seat and inserted a letter into post box no. 11 Evergreen Rd. If you were right above him, and the angle just so, I bet you would have seen in his helmet's reflection, our lady dismounting her front porch stairs with great vigour and marching towards that little imitation of a house mounted on a pole. Flashing a big grand-motherly smile at the postman, she bent forward in that stuttering manner that betrays her advancing arthritis and delicately extracts a small white envelope addressed to "My dearest Grand Mother". As the postman rode off to his next appointment our lady walked back to her cottage with her precious letter.

Once inside she placed it carefully on the drawing table and with hands shaking slightly picked up a rarely used letter opener. With precision that comes to all women through a life time of sewing and stitching, she neatly sliced the envelop open and its content came tumbling out. A printed letter with all the usual niceties, sentimental words (generated by a script somewhere on the net), and a not so subtle reminder - "My birthday next week, I am really looking forward to it." With joy in her heart, our lady packed her bag: wallet, jewellery, spare keys, and other stuff old ladies put in their bags (probably pepper spray too, in that day and age). After locking her door she sets off on a 40minute journey to the post office, her mind's eye saw a face vaguely remembered from obligatory family functions, made handsome and adorable by time's passage (with a disturbing resemblance to her dead husband when he was young).

A slightly fluttered and out of breath is how we found our lady when she arrived at the post office, cheeks flushed with a healthy glow, one outshone by the glow of her eyes. After waiting in line, she was finally served. A few short minutes later a carefully made money order was ready, a card selected with great consideration and finally a package of adoration and love was made and sent on its way across the land. Bursting with ecstasy of her accomplishment our lady starts her long trek home, every one she encountered a receiver of her smile.

The post office lady looked on with great sadness and helplessness at her departing back as it vanishes into the harsh glare of the afternoon sun. For the 4th time in 2 month, she helped our lady craft her packets of affection destined to the same grand child.


501 years from now

A new star will be born in the sky. An incandescent flare of rainbow colors shall crown its descend from amongst the stars. Its birth shall herald not the second coming of Christ, but messages from the past.

Welcome home KEO.

KEO is a time capsule for all of humanity. It is designed to take a snap shot of where humanity stands now, our culture, our dreams, our knowledge. 501 years from now, roughly the time it took modern civilisation to evolve, it shall come back to Earth as its orbit decays, to provide our great-great-great-great-great-children a treasured and diverse glimpse back into a critical moment in humanity's history.

Every one is invited to store a message. Only then can KEO provide a complete picture of the state of humanity, across a range of incomes, background, religion, political alignment, tv-show fandom, geological location, the list goes on. When KEO is opened by our descendents, it will contain sufficient data for them to fully appreciate who we are: human beings trying to do what is right.

Regardless of who you are, I implore you to act now. Entry for messages closes soon, so don't miss out on this once in a life time opportunity. Who knows, one day your descendents might read your message :)

If you have no idea what to write, then write about your dreams and aspirations. For what reveals better who we are then what we strive to achieve? It defines our life, for it drives it.

Picture of the day

I finished all my exams today, so I am now FREE!!!!!!! I was going to make a post about it, but decided not to. In the course of finding a suitable link however, I came across this:

Get well soon emma! :*)



Notes! Fresh notes for sale! Get them while they are relevant!

Only $2.99! And if you pay by credit card, you get next years notes FREE!!

See you on the other side...


Printing over a network: Linux to Windows


Helped greatly by this guide I managed to get my laptop (which is dual boot Debian/Windows XP) to print across the network (which is all run on XP) using CUPS.

Package setup

First, I had to get all the required packages, which was accomplished by the following rather lengthy command:

apt-get install cupsys cupsys-bsd cupsys-client foomatic-bin samba smbclient gs-esp a2ps

I don't know what all of those do, but apparently they're necessary.

Printer/host discovery

The next thing to do is to use the samba client to have a look at the shared printers on the network:

/usr/bin/smbclient -L [host name] -U [username]

Instead of using the host name, the IP address can be used instead, with -I instead of -L.
This will bring up a list of shared resources, which will tell you the name of the printer (if you didn't know it already).

CUPS setup

The following command is to verify that CUPS has the smb backend (again, not quite sure what this is about, but the guide told me to do it...)

ls -l /usr/lib/cups/backend/smb

Lastly, you need to set up the printer(s) you want to use:

lpadmin -p [printer name] -v smb://[username]:[password]@[host name]/[printer name]

/usr/bin/enable [printer name]
/usr/sbin/accept [printer name]
/usr/sbin/lpadmin [printer name]
Integration with KDE

You should then be able to go into the KDE printing manager (application menu -> settings -> printing manager) and add your printer . Since you've already added with the above commands, KDE will find it in localhost. Down the bottom of the printing manager, where it says "Print system currently used:" select CUPS. Then you can right-click on the printer and click "Test printer..." to print a test page, which prints you a nice colour wheel and information on the page size etc.

Last words

So now I can just print straight from Linux, without having to reboot into Windows. :) Now all I need is a Linux-compatible wireless card and I won't need Windows much at all...



World calamity

NOOOOO!!! *cries* Alright, that's it, the world is screwed. I'm moving to Mars - anyone got a spare spaceship I can borrow?

In case you hadn't guessed, I'm referring to the results of the US election. Techinically not quite over, but I have a sinking feeling there aren't going to be any last-minute miracles for Kerry. :( Four more years of random invasions and ware to increase terror, and up to three more years of watching our PM suck up to a moronic redneck cowboy. All I can say is: bugger!



'live and kicking

Sorry to disappointed every one, but I am still not dead yet ;)

stuvac has well and truely commenced, and along with it the cramming and note making. Being a nice guy, here are my notes for elec1102.

Nothing much to report otherwise, all is quiet on the western front (a quote Collateral reminded to use again).

Oh, one last thing, if you ever have to deal with file names with spaces in them, and xargs doesn't treat them properly, as it delimits on \n and whitespace, you can use find -print0 and pipe into xargs -0 and that ought to fix it.

find ./ -name "*.java" -print0 | xargs -0 javac"
Will handle files like transactionLog(edited at uni).java *rolls eyes*

If you are american, remember to vote! I'll be watching....

Till next times, cheers and good faith,