March, 2007:

March Poker Update

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Those of you who know me, know that I’ve had a 2.5 year obsession with online poker. Lately, it has fizzled a bit (OK, more than a bit). Not for lack of interest, but for lack of time, and other obsessions not letting go.

Last night and today, I finally played a bit. That prompted me to look at my online stats for March, since the site keeps only 30 days of history easily accessible.

So, I didn’t play at all the first 16 days of March. From September 2004 – September 2005, I think I missed one day without playing at least one game (just to put this 16 day non-playing stretch into perspective!).

I played one tournament on March 17th. One on March 24th. One on March 25th. Last night (the 30th) I played in 4 tourneys, and today I played in 5. That makes a total of 12 in all of March. I’ve had days where I’ve played in more than 12 tourneys. 😉

Anyway, on the 17th, 24th and 25th, I was 0 for 3. Last night, I had a first and a third out of the 4 tourneys I played in. Today, a win and a second out of the 5 that I played in. Unfortunately, I played in two multi-table tourneys (last night and today) that were a tad more expensive than the ones I won, so I made money, but gave more back than the percentages would indicate.

Here’s the bottom line: I risked a grand total of $135.10 (about $11 on average for each tourney), and netted a +$17.12 for the month! Woo hoo. 🙂

So, I’m thinking, if I give up my day job, perhaps I can pay the rent with my stellar poker playing skills. 😉

Rediscovering Live Music

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Sorry folks, this is likely gonna be another long one. It’s 5:30pm on a Sunday, and I’m relaxing in the hotel down near Zope, and this is what I feel like doing at the moment…

From my mid-teens until my early twenties, I was a fanatic for going to live concerts. I went to a variety of shows, but by far it was mostly rock or folk. Among my favorites back then were Dylan, David Bromberg, The Greatful Dead, The Allman Brothers, Santana, etc.

The greatest concert I ever attended was a 12 hour affair. My friends and I drove from NYC to Washington, D.C. for a concert at RFK Stadium. I was 16, and only had a learner’s permit (this will become important later in the story). 😉 At noon, the warm-up group came on, The New Riders of the Purple Sage. They played for 2 hours, and were excellent. At 2pm, The Greatful Dead came on, and played for 5 hours. At 7pm, The Allman Brothers Band came on, and played for another 5 hours.

Both the Dead and the Allman Brothers were awesome. Hard to pick between them that day, but perhaps (just perhaps), the Brothers outdid them a bit. Of course, since they got to go last, it could simply have been that their stuff was still ringing in our ears all the way home. 🙂

Anyway, when we left (hitting the parking lot at 12:30am), the driver (the only female in our group) was too tired to drive at all. So were the other two. I felt fine, but wasn’t legally allowed to drive at night, without an adult, and oh yeah, I had never driven on a highway either! 😉

Suffice it to say, it was quite an experience for me, and a drive that normally takes 4+ hours took a little more than 3.

I can still remember my last live concert (of that era) like it was yesterday. I got two tickets to see David Bromberg at Town Hall. First row in the Balcony. I was incredibly excited. I had seen Bromberg live 5 times before, and each one was better than the one before. He’s a magical live performer who really connects with the audience.

Much to my surprise (and chagrin), the audience was mostly teeny boppers. I was all of (perhaps) 23, so I was truly mature… It seemed to me that I was the only person in the audience who had ever heard of Bromberg, and came to actually see him specifically. The rest seemed to be out for the evening, hanging with their friends. They never stopped talking (loudly) even for a second. At least twice, Bromberg stopped playing in the middle of a song (I had never seen something like that ever before) and practically begged the audience to be quiet. They didn’t comply… 🙁

I decided that night to stop going to see live music…

That pretty much held true until nearly 15 years later. The Greatful Dead were playing Madison Square Garden, and I was able to get two tickets in the fifth row center as part of a charity thing. I wanted to do it both because I was crazy about the Dead, and because I wanted to share this kind of experience with Lois, who had never seen a band like the Dead play live.

We were grossly disappointed. Everyone stood the entire evening, and Lois could barely see the stage even standing on her seat (and we were 5 rows back!). The selection of music was a little strange as well, and they played the shortest concert I’ve ever seen them do, in the 5 times I’ve seen them live. Oh well, my admonition not to go to live concerts seemed safely back on…

I think the only exception to that rule was an evening at a Jazz Club in NYC (Birdland) to see Stanley Jordan. If you don’t know him, he plays an amazing style of guitar whereby he taps on the strings on the frets, rather than ever picking or strumming. He creates quite unique sounds, and is a fantastic performer. I enjoyed the evening. That night was more about an evening out with friends, including dinner, rather than the concert being a real destination.

Then it all changed (albeit a little more slowly to begin with) 😉

On January 17th, 2003, our godson (who was a junior at Duke at the time) came for a long weekend with some of his friends from school. Lois is a master planner and goes out of her way to try and pack as many interesting things to do whenever people come to visit. Our godson played the trumpet in the Duke marching band so Lois looked around to see if any famous trumpet players were in town. Indeed, Arturo Sandoval was playing at the Blue Note.

I think there were 7 of us there for the show, and we had dinner beforehand, and totally enjoyed the show. As much as I love jazz (and I really do!), Arturo’s style isn’t necessarily my favorite, but seeing him perform live was still a wonderful experience. In December 2003, our godson returned with a nearly identical set of friends for an encore (I think there was one swap in the group). We went back to the Blue Note, and saw Jane Monheit. Wow, can this lady sing. I got in trouble on this trip because we got to the club a little later than usual, and had the worst seats in the house (which aren’t that bad!), but Lois still hasn’t forgiven me, over three years later…

From that point on, we went occasionally to the Blue Note, either by ourselves, or when someone was visiting from out of town, and once even went with local friends (if you can believe that). 🙂 Among the people we saw there (I can’t remember them all) were Bob James (writer of the theme song from the TV show Taxi), Maynard Ferguson (twice, unfortunately now deceased), Acoustic Alchemy (probably my favorite jazz group!), Chuck Mangione (was my favorite for a long time, and is still amazing live) and probably another one or two.

This was over a period of three years, which is why I said above that it built slowly at first. Last September, it hit a fevered pitch, as we broadened our venues beyond the Blue Note. I started actively searching for tour dates for some of my favorite groups, and immediately found out that David Bromberg was playing at BB King Blues Club. We had never been there. The show was awesome, and included an hour of a group called Angel Band (which is three women who sing harmonies like angels, including David’s wife Nancy Josephson).

Since then, we’ve been to BB King’s many times. We’ve seen a wide variety of shows there, including the following groups: Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby (who tour and record together now, which we didn’t know in advance. They were awesome.), Shawn Colvin, Paul Thorn (he opened for Ricky and Bruce, and was a delightful surprise), Quicksilver Messenger Service (they were boring), Jefferson Starship (used to be a favorite, but they’re over the hill, were awful, and we left early!), The Commitments (from the movie of the same name), Yama Bandit (unannounced opening group for The Commitments), Sunday Gospel Brunch (tons of fun!), perhaps one or two others…

We also discovered a fantastic small club in NYC called Joe’s Pub. The first group we saw there is one of my recent favorites, The Duhks. Then we saw Master McCarthy and Fools for April with our godchildren. Finally, we saw David Bromberg solo there. A great treat!

We saw Dave Koz at the Beacon Theater on Valentine’s Day. It was an amazing show, even though the acoustics were horrible! He had two special guests that played most of the evening with him and his band. David Benoit and Jonathan Butler. David Benoit is one of the great jazz pianists. Lois is now one of his biggest fans. I had never heard of Jonathan Butler before. He’s a South African singer and guitarist. He blew me away. Anita Baker was supposed to be a special guest, but she got snowed in and couldn’t make it. Koz got his buddy Be Be Winans to step in at the last minute. Be Be sings “The Dance” on the Koz album of the same name, and is one of our favorites. It was a special treat to see him sing that song live!

Last week we saw Chris Thile and his new band The Tensions Mountain Boys at Zankel Hall, which is part of Carnegie Hall. Chris is considered by some to be the world’s greatest mandolin player. We used to think his last name was pronounced “teal”, but it turns out it’s “theely”, who knew. After recording a few albums on his own, he was the lead person in Nickel Creek (one of my favorite groups), before forming this group. Zankel Hall is under ground at Carnegie Hall, and perhaps the best acoustical venue we’ve ever been in.

That pretty much catches you up on what we’ve done. We have two more shows coming up in the next month. On April 3rd, we were supposed to see The Allman Brothers Band together at the Beacon Theater. Two weeks ago, we were having dinner with two of our favorite people, and we realized that the guy was a big Allman Brothers fan. Lois isn’t (simply because she hasn’t listened to them much, not because she actively dislikes them), and we offered up her ticket to him. Instead, Lois and his wife are now scheduled to see Abigal Washburn and Bethany Yarrow + Rufus Cappadocia at Joe’s Pub. We found out about Abigail Washburn when we were seeing Yama Bandit at BB King, and the person next to us (who was friends with the Yama Bandit band) told us how great Abigail is.

Finally, friends of ours who got dizzy when we recounted the above to them over sushi, surprised us a few weeks back and told us that they bought four tickets to see Harry Connick Jr. at Radio City Music Hall on April 21st (inspired by us). We’re looking forward to that show as well. 🙂

Whew! Done at 8:10pm…

XM Radio

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Two years ago, very good friends of ours bought me an amazing present, a Roady 2 XM Radio player, along with a monthly subscription. I had thought about getting one before they got it for me. It’s a relatively obvious thing for people who spend as much time in the car as we do. I didn’t get it because I didn’t research it enough to realize that you could install it yourself in under 3 minutes! I assumed it would require professional installation…

Anyway, we’ve been enjoying it mightily ever since (as I said above, for 2 years). About a year ago, I was curious to check out the accompanying service on the Net to listen live to the same stations. I never got around to doing it for a number of reasons, most notably because I never bothered to ask my friends for the login information to manage the account.

This past weekend, we were visiting them, and I got the info, and have successfully set up my account to listen live online. Wow! It’s simply too cool! In addition to being able to listen to an amazing variety of music all day long (which is what I’ve been doing while working here at Zope all day today), you can see what’s playing live on all the stations at once through the web. That means that even if I’m enjoying a song, if I notice that another station is playing a favorite of mine, or an artist I’ve always wanted to check out, with a single click, I’m there, listening to it.

They stream at 32kpbs, so it doesn’t soak up any bandwidth whatsoever (if you’re on a broadband connection, and if you’re not, stop reading my posts!) 😉

The only (incredibly minor) disappointment is that they don’t have all of the stations available online. One example is the main Country station (#11). No biggie, but worth mentioning.

Anyway, my only regret is not having enabled this last year…

P.S. Did I mention that this is a free service if you are an existing subscriber with a real XM Radio receiver? That makes it even cooler. Of course, if you don’t have an XM Radio, you might find this worth subscribing to as your primary Net Radio service 🙂

Shavers and Brand Names

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I hate to shave. I’m sure there are a few guys who don’t mind it, or even like it, but not me.

That said, while I don’t mind having stubble, I don’t feel like growing a beard nor a moustache (and I’m not sure Lois would allow me to either). Further, if I go 4+ days without shaving, then shaving is painful and annoying, making it slightly less painful to shave every few days…

So, when we’re at Zope, I shave every other day, and when we’re home, I shave every 3rd or 4th day (and suffer on the 4th ones…).

Most of my life, I’ve been a shaver guy, not a razor guy. I have used a razor plenty of times, but in general, prefer a shaver.

Now to the point of this post 😉

For decades I have been a true blue Norelco shaver user. I have loved them, and considered all other shavers wannabes. I felt so strongly about my favorite brand that when I needed a new shaver, if I couldn’t find a Norelco, I would wait and use a razor in the meantime (see above) 😉

I had tried a Braun a while ago, only because the commercials had a certain mystique. I was wildly disappointed. I also tried a few others over the years (most of them too many years ago to really count…).

I have the problem of having a number of places where I regularly shave: house, apartment, hotel. I prefer to have a shaver in my house and apartment, and a third one in my bag packed at all times for the hotel.

A year ago, my travel shaver was starting to go. I went to Walmart where they carry Norelcos, but they were out. I suffered my less-than-optimal travel shaver for another few trips, each time checking the local Walmart. After a number of failed attempts, I very reluctantly bought a new Remington shaver.

All I can say is wow! It has consistently outperformed my other Norelcos by far. If I wasn’t such a cheapskate, I’d replace the two Norelcos that are in the house and apartment with new Remingtons (but, alas, I truly am a cheapskate, and those shavers still work well enough).

So much for brand loyalty… No, wait, I’m still loyal to a brand, it just happens to be a new one: Remington! 🙂

Delectable Duck!

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My most loyal readers should already be salivating, as they have all personally had the experience I’m about to describe. 🙂

Those who know me know that perhaps my favorite restaurant (though there are many that I love) is the Peking Duck House in mid-town in NYC. I had dinner there last night. This isn’t unusual, as Lois and I have calculated that (including delivery) we have enjoyed somewhere between 500-1000 meals in/from that restaurant over the past 25 years!

I’m writing about it now because last night was the first time I was there since I started blogging, and the meals there are at least worth mentioning once. 😉

There are many restaurants in NYC that serve Peking Duck. There are relatively few that serve it outside of the major metropolitan cities. This is largely due to the fact that it’s a time-consuming process to prepare the duck (typically 24 hours!), and it’s expensive. So, restaurants don’t want to prepare a number of ducks, only to have them go unordered.

When your main calling is delivering delectable ducks to the majority of your customers, you don’t worry about this, and prepare an insane number of ducks every single day. Their home page currently highlights a picture of what the duck looks like sliced up, but I don’t know if they rotate the home page photos regularly…

Last night, Lois and I had the pleasure of going with a couple who had not dined there before. That said, both are Peking Duck lovers, who considered the duck at Shun Lee Palace to be “the best”. I’ve eaten there many times in my life, including having the duck there. I hadn’t been there in over 10 years, but went there for lunch a month ago with another VC who chose the place. It’s a fantastic restaurant, and I have nothing but praise to heap on them, but unfortunately (for them), their duck, as outstanding as it is, doesn’t measure up to the Duck House.

So, I will admit to being a little nervous as to how our friends would rate their new duck experience with “the best”. All I can say is that they are either very classy and very good actors, or I should believe them when they say that the duck they had last night was officially the best duck they had ever had (Shun Lee Palace included). Whew 🙂

Basically, this post is done, since it’s ostensibly about the duck. For those who clicked on this only for the duck, stop reading!

OK, if you’re still here, then you either know that the rest of the menu is fantastic as well, or you just couldn’t resist finding out what else I had to say about this restaurant…

Over the years, with as many meals as we’ve enjoyed there, we have developed a set of favorite dishes that never fails to satisfy. Amazingly enough, nothing that has ever been on that list has ever fallen off due to a decline in the consistency or taste satisfaction. Dishes sometimes don’t make the cut because there are too many great choices, and new favorites end up bumping down an old standby which simply won’t fit in your stomach during that particular meal.

Last night is a good example. Typically, a duck produces 10 pancakes. When there are only a few people sharing the duck, the waiters at the Duck House will stuff each pancake a little more, knowing that two people won’t necessarily want five pancakes each. Lois never eats the duck (don’t ask) 😉 so there were only three duck eaters last night.

That could have been three pancakes each, easily. For most people, that’s an entire meal. For sure if you add any soup/appetizers and rice, etc. But, somehow, we always manage to order more than we should there. Last night was different, as we wanted our friends to at least taste a few of our favorites. They were certainly game. 😉

So, we ordered our current top three non-duck favorites:

  1. Orange Chicken (undoubtedly the greatest version of this dish ever created, anywhere on earth, I’ll bet on it!). This has been my personal top choice for 25 years, and I’ve never waivered.
  2. Grand Marnier Prawns (a relatively new favorite at this restaurant, as it was introduced less than 2 years ago there. We were enjoying it 20 years ago at a long-gone place called Fu’s.) This dish is also mind-bogglingly delicious.
  3. Paradise Beef. This is their take on filet mignon. Lois and I are always amused when people realize they can get top quality steak, in a Chinese restaurant. This dish has been consistently outstanding for 25 years as well.

There wasn’t room (in any of us) to even consider other dishes, like the amazing Prawns in Chili Sauce, etc. In fact, as I mentioned above, I really thought we’d each just sample the above dishes. Not only did we devour all of the dishes (there was one measly strip of Paradise Beef left that I think everyone was eyeing but somehow thought that it would look like we weren’t gluttons if we left something on at least one plate). 😉

Of course, then there was dessert (Lois and I are such regulars over the years the we always get dessert on the house, whether we want it or not!). Green Tea ice cream, Red Bean ice cream and lychee nuts (and of course, chocolate and vanilla ice cream as well). I’m very proud to say we only finished 1/2 of the dessert… 😉

All in all, a fantastic evening of great food, even better company and yet another fond memory of a meal at the Duck House. I’m sure we added two more regulars to their roster…

P.S. Now for another irony that the universe loves to throw at me. I had considered blogging about this even before we went last night. When we got home, I was sure that I would do it when I finally had a second to breathe today (which turned out to be mid-afternoon). But, in the morning, a good friend, fellow VC, many-time co-investor with me, LP in my fund, etc., etc., etc., wrote out of the blue to say that he and the family would be in town in two weeks, and could Lois and I join them for a meal at the Duck House. Guess who first introduced him to it? 😉

Unfortunately, we’ll be down at Zope on the day they come to town, but they have already confirmed that they’re going without us, so apparently we are not the primary attraction in this city… 😉

I’m a Phone Weenie

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OK, I admit it. Rob Page, CEO of Zope Corporation officially coined me a phone weenie a number of weeks ago. He’s right. Of course, he also directly benefits from that feature in me, since I am the primary Asterisk PBX administrator at Zope Corp. 😉

So, what does it mean to be a phone weenie? Basically, it means that I get excited about every possible way to interconnect phone systems, even where there are little practical uses for doing so. 😉

For example, here are a variety of ways that I have at my disposal to “speak on the phone” (and by phone, I often really mean headset connected to my laptop). First (and in this case foremost), I run multiple Asterisk PBX servers. One in my house, one in my apartment, one on opticality.com which is in a data center in Virginia, one at Zope Corporation (which I’m in charge of), and one or two other ones that I’ve set up for friends. This is my primary way of getting phone calls. It’s also the only way (other than her cell phone) that Lois makes phone calls.

I (on the other hand), rarely make PSTN outgoing calls via Asterisk any longer (though I certainly used to, for years). In addition to Asterisk, I’ve had accounts with a variety of VoIP providers (mostly SIP) for years, including: FreeWorldDialup (FWD), SIPPhone (also providers of the Gizmo Project), etc. Of course, I’ve also had a Skype account for years.

Being a phone weenie, I eschewed the use of Skype for a long time, and only launched it when someone else specifically asked me to have a conversation via Skype. Why? Because Skype isn’t standards compliant and therefore can’t interact (easily) with other systems, including SIP, Asterisk, etc. That said, everything that people said about Skype was also true, namely that it was easy to use, had great sound quality, could get through most firewalls (which is why corporate America rightfully hates it!), etc.

Last year, Skype offered 7 months of unlimited calling to any US or Canadian land-line or cell phone (using their SkypeOut service), if you were a US or Canadian based caller. Who could pass on free calls? So, I used Skype a number of times for that. For the most part, the quality was good, so when I remembered to, I’d use it for long-distance calls. The only downside was that I wasn’t sending my own Caller ID. To some, that’s a positive, but since I am not a telemarketer, I don’t mind people knowing that it’s me that’s calling. 😉

In January of this year, Skype stopped the free service, but for $30/year, gave the same unlimited calling. But, if you act now (or rather before January 31, 2007), you could get the same service for $14.95 for all of 2007. I did. It works. I like it.

But, I still didn’t launch Skype unless I was about to make a long-distance call, or someone asked me (typically via email) to get on Skype. Lately, I’ve been doing some business with a company in Europe. Of course, no one wants to pay for International calls. It turns out that they are all Mac users, and all had Skype installed already. So, rather than fighting the tide, I now launch Skype regularly (still not automatically at login), and I speak to them on the phone frequently, and use Skype IM more than I thought I would. It’s still a very nice package with excellent sound quality.

But, that’s not really the purpose of this post. As usual, I type way too much before getting to the point. I don’t mind, because I’m only blogging for myself at the moment, and these are the specific thoughts that I want to capture for myself for posterity, for now…

Here’s the point of this post 🙂

When it was first announced, I got very excited about Google Talk (Gtalk). I thought it would be a formidable opponent to Skype, but would be more standards compliant and therefore interoperable. Well, there may be a ton of people using it, but none of the people that I interact with have ever asked me to have a conversation with them via Google Talk! Ironically, Gtalk licensed the same codec that Skype did (from Global IP Sound) so their sound quality is pretty exceptional as well.

In any event, Gtalk was supposed to be more interoperable because they were based on XMPP (which is the protocol underneath the fantastic Jabber IM service). That has finally turned out to be true, but it was a long time coming. The fact that it can interoperate with other Jabber servers is of minor interest to me personally. I run my own Jabber server, and can interact with any other Jabber server on the planet that turns on that feature.

What has been interesting to me (in theory) is whether Gtalk can be a client with critical mass distribution (like Skype is already), but be able to work seemlessly with things like Asterisk (and other existing and as yet to be developed services). Google has the brand and the muscle to move as many free clients as Skype, so my dream lives on.

So, the latest version of Asterisk (1.4.x, which just became 1.4.1 this week) has support for Gtalk built in. I don’t know whether it works well or not, because I run the more proven 1.2.x branch (now at 1.2.16 as of this week). That doesn’t have the support.

Today, I read a posting on the Asterisk mailing list by someone who used a new service to connect the two, without installing any software on my server or my client! What? Yes, that’s right, and I have to say that I got it working pretty easily, and it’s usefulness is much greater than simply connecting Asterisk to Google Talk.

The service is called gtalk2voip. It’s extremely cool, and completely free for basic services, which is all I am interested in! It is a gateway service that knows how to communicate with Google Talk, MSN Live Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger. In addition to being able to send IM (through gtalk2voip) between the services (I know, big deal), they can connect voice calls between the three services. That alone would be cool, though I suspect that over time, the services will connect to each other (as many IM services have done in the past, reluctantly). But, what this service can do (and trivially!), is connect any of the three services to any SIP address on any arbitrary SIP provider (including Asterisk, which has built-in SIP support).

So, I clicked one button on the home page of gtalk2voip.com and typed in my gmail address (which is tied to my Gtalk service). One second later, I had a message in Gtalk asking me if I wanted to add a new Contact “service@gtalk2voip.com”. Once I said yes, the new service IM’ed me with instructions on how to use the service (cool). I made a 2-line change to my Asterisk configuration (many wouldn’t need to even do that), and I was able to make a call from Gtalk to my home phone, entirely through SIP (Asterisk controls all of my phones).

I was then able to add a new extension in Asterisk, and when I dialed it from my home phone, Gtalk started ringing. It just worked. No downloads, no real work. If you have a SIP address on any service (FWD, SIPPhone, GizmoProject, or your own server, etc.), then you have zero configuration after you’ve accepted “service@gtalk2voip.com” as your new contact. I wasn’t publishing a SIP address to the world, since my Asterisk gets called when people dial my real PSTN number, so I had to add a few lines to expose a SIP address…

OK, so this is way cool, except that I still don’t think Gtalk has really caught on yet. But, if it does, I’m already ready, which is wildly exciting.

Now for a bit of irony to conclude this long post. For the past 10+ years, perhaps closer to 15, I have been a member of a computer book club which has had a number of names, now called Computer Books Direct. It’s a pretty darn good book club, but since I stopped working as a programmer, I haven’t bought a book from them, which has been 9 years now. I haven’t canceled my membership because I have 38 member credits which I can use for either free books, or greatly reduced pricing. Some day, I suspect I’ll use them. In the meantime, I have to watch my snail mail like a hawk, to ensure that I don’t forget to cancel this month’s selections. I haven’t missed in at least 8 years, so I’m good at it.

Today (that’s right, today!), after I started writing this post, but before I finished it (obviously), the mail came, and in it was my monthly selection that I needed to cancel. There were two selections today, both about Google. The top selection was a book called Google Talking, I kid you not! Here is a link to their page. I’m not buying it, but somehow, somewhere, the universe is nudging me in that direction… 🙂

SPAM is back under control

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I know, what a silly thing to say, and in public at that!

Previously, I posted on my woes in having old SpamBayes filtering starting to fail and new procmail rules that I foolishly put in myself causing me to suffer from spam more than usual. I am happy to report that it’s back under control, mostly thanks to the fact that I’ve finally spent some time studying other people’s procmail rules, and learning a bunch of techniques that I was previously unaware of. The truth is that I was a complete luddite in terms of using procmail in a completely vanilla fashion.

My biggest single breakthrough was in realizing that I could run any set of tests against any arbirtrary file, rather than having to wait for an email to come in and see whether my new test worked or not. Doh! So now, when an email comes in that I believe I can trap in the future, I copy it out, write some rules, run procmail against that file until I’m happy, and insert the rule into my real procmail file. Cool!

Paying appropirate homage to the ones I learned from, here are two sites that got my juices flowing:

The first site above concludes by saying that you don’t need to know what he just taught you, as you can install SpamBouncer instead. I installed it, and I have to say it’s a mind-bogglingly sophisticated system. I can’t believe how much work has gone into this. That said, while I learned a lot there too, and will probably go back again and again to some of the recipes and techniques in there, I am not going to “put it into production”.

Why? Essentially three reasons:

  1. It’s incredibly slow in processing messages (understandably so!) as it goes through more tests than you can shake a stick at (and possibly connects to outside servers as well, but I’m not 100% sure about that yet).
  2. It’s very cpu intensive. I could likely live with the slowness, given how good a job it does, but I run many other things on the machine, including some sensitive applications (e.g., Asterisk) so I prefer not to load the cpu when possible.
  3. The last time SpamBouncer was updated was 4/16/2006. It’s too large a system for me to want to actively maintain, and given the speed with which spammers morph their capabilities, it’s simply easier for me to toss in a new rule or two into my own anemic set of rules.

Anyway, all I can say is hooray 🙂

Now, in case it hasn’t been completely obvious to my numerous readers, I’m a relatively passionate person (OK, let’s not use euphemisms, the correct term is obsessive). As a result, much of my recent “free time” has been spent in this pursuit. As a result, my other previous obsession (online Poker), has taken a back seat. I have played a total of 2-3 hours of online Poker in the past 3+ weeks. For those who know me, that has to be a shocking fact 😉

Noting the above, it’s clear that there are other ways to solve this problem. Notably, my good friend, and one of the most tech-savvy people I have ever meet, Jamie Thingelstad, chose to throw in the towel. I completely understand his decision, and might arrive there at some point in the future. Still, the contents of my emails are the heart of my business, and I can’t imagine parting with them and putting them in someone else’s care (at least not yet). He, and many others, have been trying to get me to switch to a Mac for years as well, and that hasn’t happened yet either 😉

         
 

In Praise of SIDUX

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I said I wouldn’t write about the old Dell Latitude L400 again, unless there was a “breakthrough”. Well, there hasn’t been one, so I’m not really writing about that machine (but of course, I really am) 😉

Really, this is more of a Linux posting than a specific laptop one…

So, unless you’re a real geek, or someone else is making decisions for you, it’s simply mind-boggling how many Linux distributions (“distros”) there are out there. For the techies at heart, perhaps that’s a good thing, as there has to be some distro out there that is preconfigured to your personal taste. Statistically speaking, since there seems to be at least one distro for every three people on the planet, that statement has to be true, right? 😉

No wonder that Linux doesn’t catch on with the mainstream public. I don’t pretend to understand all of the issues with why one should pick one distro over another, nor why so many distros get “forked” or built on top of, etc. I listen to what other geeks have to say (many of whom work at Zope Corporation) and hear which ones they use and wish others did, etc.

Anyway, back to the old laptop, of which this post is ostensibly not about 🙂

I decided to completely abandon any hope of using it for the originally intended purposes (Poker and remote Slingbox machine). Still, I was happy with it for the short time that I was using it as a guest browsing machine in my apartment. At that time it was running Ubuntu 6.06. A number of the developers at Zope Corp swear by it. In all of my trials and tribulations on this laptop, it was by far the most stable and least hassle to get running.

So, I decided that I would wipe out all traces of my previous attempts to install a dozen other operating systems, and go back to Ubuntu 6.06. Of course, I couldn’t get the same exact CD that I previously used to install again. Go figure… 🙁

I downloaded Ubuntu 6.10 (the current stable release), and it took me numerous tries before I got it installed. When I did, it wouldn’t stably boot, even with APCI=OFF (which wasn’t necessary to add the last time I successfully installed Ubuntu).

Those of you who have read my previous rants on this laptop know that I had hoped to use PCLinuxOS as my personal distro. Apparently, they still have “problems”, and my setup was not spared. In particular, I could never get my WiFi card working, and it’s an Orinoco, which you’d think every distro would correctly support, if they do any WiFi at all…

So, on to find another distro, or finally, toss this machine into the actual garbage dump.

Looking on the wonderful Distrowatch site, I happened to spot a distro called SIDUX. It had all of the features that appealed to me with PCLinuxOS, but was Debian-based (like Ubuntu), and I’ve had good personal success with Debian-based systems in the past, including Xandros.

All I can say is wow! It just works. It installed correctly the first time, had the Firefox (I mean Iceweasel) 2.0.0.2 update when it came out, etc. I had it up and running for three straight days (not under any particular load, but still, pretty amazing for this particular machine). It has crashed a few times, so there’s still something sickly wrong with the laptop, but this has been by far the most stable operating system that I’ve had on the box, and it’s attractive and reasonably peppy (on ancient hardware) to boot.

I’m pleased that I now have a reasonable guest browsing machine, and I do not intend to dork with it any longer, and this time, I’m serious. 🙂

P.S. On SIDUX, I was able to connect to a remote RDP server, over NAT from a hotel, using an SSH tunnel, and play in one full Poker tournament without anything crashing. The graphics were painful, so I won’t be doing it again, but the fact that I could do it at all was shockingly cool! Unnfortunately, I finished one of out the money (bubble boy), so SIDUX didn’t help in that regard… 😉