Friday, May 23, 2008

New Map, Old Blog

Back in the early days of BIT House I tried to run a blog here on DinkNet. It was on a very old, slow box running Windows 2003 Server. Waiting for it to load was painful. I tried to move it to the GoDaddy site, but I couldn't get it to work.

Well, something happened. It started working. Or rather, the test blog I was hacking away on started to work. I suppose it started to work after I "upgraded" to .Net sometime last year. Whatever the reason, it's back online now and you can select it from the Ye Olde UT Blog link over there on the right side of the page under Hinky Links.

It's a nice little package called Pretty Cool Blog (PCBlog). It never caught on, but version 1.0 is still available at SourceForge.

It's very likely insecure as Hell. I imagine I'll find out sooner or later.

Last weekend I started hacking away at the map. All I wanted to do was change the color of the damned markers. A different color marker for different servers.

It sounded like a simple idea at the time.

It took all fucking day to figure it out. Google was a lot of help, but for as Google-able as the Google Maps API is, it was a nightmare digging up the exact details. I searched all day. Got a tidbit here, a snippet there, but nothing worked.

I discovered you just can't change the color, you have to make your own markers (and forget the Web sites that claim to make them for you because they're the wrong format - learned that the hard way). So armed with Gimp (another program I'm not an expert at) and a few screen captures, I rolled my own.

But it still didn't work right.

I finally found the right code on a non-Google site after a full eight hours of trial and error and, although I've said this before and been proved a liar, it works better than ever.

Knock on wood.

The EXP /// players are shown with yellow markers, BOT House players are in red (a much nicer red than the old default color). After watching it run almost flawlessly for the past week, I think I finally have most of the bugs worked out.

This weekend I'll bring up BITCH House and maybe Classic ]i[ just to see some green and blue markers for a change.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Scientific Linux LiveCD

The other day I was wasting my time trying to configure a disk array on a turn-of-the-century Compaq Smart 3200 disk controller. Deep down, I knew this was futile because the controller was rescued from the junk pile and the box I had put it in wasn't a turn-of-the-century Compaq server. It was a modern-ish generic Intel server often relabeled as a Dell. I had already gotten lucky with an identical box and an HP NetRAID controller and I tought I was on a roll.

I had tried everything, including booting off a vintage 2000 Compaq "SmartStart" CD that I happened to have in my car that day. Nothing worked.

I finally stumbled over to to try to dig somethng to get the array configured. I hate that place. It's been a slow, difficult to navigate pile of shit for over twelve years. But I did find a Linux array configuration utility, in various revisions so I downloaded them all.

As my luck would have it, the utility was wrapped up in an rpm (RedHat Package Manager), which ruled out 90% of the Linux LiveCDs I could run it from, since most (well, the best) are based on Slackware or Debian or ...ugh... Knoppix.

The first CD I tried was CentOS-based. CentOS is essentially RedHat with all the logos and trademarks removed. It choked on boot. There was just something about the hardware it didn't like, so I googled for other RedHat/Fedora based LiveCDs. What I found was the Scientific Linux LiveCD (version 5.1) and I was sufficiently impressed with it to sit down and spew out this little bloggie about it.

First, do not go to It's a Plone site and last time I checked it was trashed. Plone is a joke designed by Python fanatics (I don't care if the CIA uses it for their Web site, it's still a joke).

I hope they get it fixed soon but until then everything you need to know about the Scinetific Linux LiveCD is on this nice little Swiss Web site.

Not only did it survive booting the odd-ball hardware on the server I was trying to build, but it presented a multi-lingual option before bringing up the desktop, a clean, Gnome-ish desktop without all the drama of "forensic" CDs (like BackTrack) or the cuteness of Slax and company. Clean, functiona, everything you need (and things you don't - like Gimp, but everybody includes Gimp for some reason).

And most importantly, it installed the array configuration utility rpm without a hitch. Of course, that didn't work anyway, but the experience of that particular failure was heightened by the simplicity and functionality that is Scientific Linux.

Download it. Boot it. Try it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ban-O-Matic //

I spent my Mother's Day morning re-writing Ban-O-Matic.

Earlier this week I thought I had fixed it, but it was back to its old tricks of banning the wrong damned players. My apologies for that. I never meant to piss off the good people of BOT House. Only the jerks and cheaters.

I was done by noon and then spent the next two and a half hours chasing down a missing right brace ( "}" ). What a pain in the ass.

I have declared a general amnesty while the Banned IP List rebuilds itself.

If you see some players you don't like they should be gone in about a minute. They don't actually disappear, the game just slows down for them (heh) and they don't play so good anymore.

The Ban List has 200 names in it now. Recent nominees include Patch.*, KillerQueen, Pimp.*, Switch.*, and AmericanBadass.

And as per BOT House tradition anyone with a clannish moniker is banned as well.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

BOT House Long Distance

When I was sixteen, I got my first job. It was Aprilish and I got a phone call on a Saturday morning with an instant job offer from a restaurant I had applied to the summer before (it seems they held on to my application until after I turned 16). I said what the heck I'll be right there!

I got there and they pointed me at the dishwasher (a big ass Hobart), showed me the ropes, and told me to get to work.

Not a bad job for a 16 year old kid, even though at the time mini-wage was $1.65/hour (two bonus points if you can figure out what year that was).

I did weekends only. Eventually they made me the Chef Salad tosser as well (the cooks didn't like to be bothered with making them). The job, as first jobs go, was great.

Then, one Sunday in May I walked into work and the shit hit the fan.

It was Mothers Day. Nobody warned me.

I suppose if they had I would've called in sick.

The place was packed solid all day. The dishes piled up. People kept ordering Chefs Salads. I had a hard time keeping up. It was insane. I was worked to a frazzle for the first time in my life.

I went home dazed and exhausted and promised myself I would never set foot in a restaurant on Mothers Day again.

All these years later I have managed to keep that vow.

So, today, the Day Before Mothers Day 2008, I did a 250 mile road trip to see my dear old gray haired mother and take her out for lunch. She really doesn't mind since she hangs out with Church Ladies on Sundays anyway. I guess their kids are jerks, too.

As luck would have it, Mom has a neighbor who has a wide-open wireless router hooked up to a CenturyTel cable modem. I brought my laptop with me and jacked in to play UT on BOT House.

I was impressed.

I don't often get a chance to play from the Internet, since the server's right here on DinkNET. In the comfort of my own home I get a UT ping of ~18 but I kick it back with a PktLag (packet lag) value of about 120 so people don't know it's me. I hadn't played off-DinkNET since before the uplink speed was doubled and I was interested in seeing how much the upgrade had improved things.

I got a "Low" 802.11g connection (about 2 bars) to the wireless router in my Mom's neighbor's house with a wireless connection speed of about 18 megabits/sec (somewhat sucky for g) and I still got a ~46-64 ping on the server.

That is unheard of around here. Low 80s, yes. High 70s? Maybe. Rarely. But 40s? No way. It just doesn't happen.

So when I finally made it home I did a traceroute and ping test back to the neighbor's wireless router (I got the IP address from my logs).

The results: 9 hops with a 35ms ping. It doesn't get much better than that.

For instance, my covert VPN (OpenVPN - HIGHLY recommended) back to work, which is only 22 miles away, has a 35-40 ms ping and goes through no less than 13 router hops, 12 of which, oddly enough, simply bounce around inside RoadRunner's network (WTF is up with that?).

From the traceroute test it turns out there is only Level3 (a Big Ass™ Internet backbone carrier) between CenturyTel and RoadRunner.

In other words, there's probably no better place on Earth to play BOT House from than from this guy's Internet connection (although you'd probably get the same results from any CenturyTel connection in Northern Ohio).

As an unbiased test of the BOT House upgrade I probably couldn't have picked a worse connection. It was just too damned good.

I told Mom (jokingly of course) she should get a computer since she has free wireless nearby.

I wonder if she'd play UT.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Great Scumbolini™

I've been using the moniker "Scumbolini" for one reason or another for over fifteen years. Today it occurred to me I should Google the word "Scumbolini" just to see where it may have popped up over the last few years.

It hasn't. Let me clarify that. No one besides myself in recent Google-able history has used the name/term/word "Scumbolini" for anything, anywhere. It is unique to me. Therefore I hereby copyright it for now and forever. It is mine. Don't touch it.

Some have suggested that it is a perversion of "Thumbalina" since there is something of an obsession about her at BOT House. Nothing could be further from the truth. Scumbolini predates Thumbalina (well, our Thumbalina, at least) by many years.

And here's the story for posterity.

I never considered myself a huckster or snake oil salesman or wheeler-dealer, but in the early 90s I was looking for a way to make an extra buck or two.

I heard of a salvor (a person who salvages things) who stumbled on to a literal truckload of used, functional Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) from - of all places - CompuServe, a company long ago swallowed up by AOL. He had the product, I had the market (long story), the means to advertise to that market, and - most importantly - a way to deliver that product to the market. He wanted $50 each and I knew the market would consider $75 a sweat deal (a brand new UPS in those days was about $350).

Cut to the chase, this guy was a complete doofus. I had the market all charged up and ready to buy. I was even taking orders. He left the truck out one night and all the UPSes froze, popping the batteries, and ruining the lot.

A total loss, and a major embarrassment to me because I couldn't deliver the product. And of course he got stuck with a truckload of JUNK. A potentially great deal gone sour.

So anyway, this guy's name was "Tony Scambalone".

When I first saw his name on his business card I thought it was pronounced "SCAM baloney". That in itself nicely summed up the UPS deal.

However, he pronounced his name "SCUM -ba-loan".

I took his pronunciation and my own and came up with "SCUM baloney". From there it was a short hop to "Scumbolini".

Somewhat disrespectful, but the deal went so badly I didn't suffer any guilt over it. Still don't.
I never saw him again but I appropriated his mutated name for my own purposes over the years.

For all I know Tony is in that Big Salvage Yard in the Sky now.