chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Herewith, some thoughts on various subjects.


Elizabeth Bear, a prolific writer, is wise on finding your voice in writing and in life.

Doing Things

For the past decade, I was Fundraising Czar for my Rotary club. The slightly humorous title aside, that meant I was responsible for raising the $25,000 to $35,000 a year our club spent on various charitable projects. This year, I handed that title off to another person. I'm still on his committee, so I get to see how he handles things, which is very differently then I did. There really is more than one way to skin a cat.

Computer Users

As an IT professional, I get irritated when people get errors on their system which they don't read. My irritation is that, having not read the error, they then call me because their system doesn't work. The picture below explains things from the end-user's perspective.

chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Because they're quick to post:

A) My Rotary club helped get solar panels installed at a local grade school.

B) No, Virginia, ADP is NOT emailing you an invoice, or, "it's a trap!" (Virus)

C) (Allegedly) actual (humorous) exchanges between pilots and control towers.

D) Useful advice for any emergency first, get some help.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
To avoid this blog becoming all-Hugo, all-the-time, have some links:

A) George Washington has some thoughts on Cliven Bundy. (Hint - he ain't on Bundy's side.)

B) On Tuesday, my Rotary club worked with local Girl Scouts on a food-packing for kids in our community.

C) An explanation of the "Heartbleed" bug (and many other "stack overflow" vulnerabilities) by xkcd.

D) A bit of humor - how to simulate life in the Navy on land.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
My new work computer proved balky - it wouldn't play nice with the port replicator we bought for it. All better now - got a different port replicator. Otherwise no news. Wit and wisdom resumes tomorrow.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
I went south to The Olde Sod for the weekend. The primary purpose was to install Dad's new Windows 8.1 PC, including migrating data and installing a real Start button.

After the PC was made fully operational, we attended a performance of the Danville Symphony Orchestra. Mom and Dad have season tickets, and Saturday night was a scheduled performance. The featured performer was a guy named Robert Bonfiglio, and billed as the "Paganini of the harmonica."

I was doubtful until the guy started playing. He was really impressive, both with classical tunes (Stephen Foster) and blues. Robert was also a bit of a character, with a humorous performing style. Overall, an interesting evening and a relaxing weekend.


Mar. 21st, 2014 10:36 am
chris_gerrib: (Me)
Various updates:


The fundraiser results are in - $17,500 profit from our inaugural Taste of Route 66 and $1600 from our Hoopsmania raffle sale. Go team!


My personal trainer has tossed in aerobic exercise to our sessions. We had a nice five-minute burst of activity at the end of the session last night.


Having developed the plot, or rather, seen the mental movie of my next novel, now comes the hard part - characters. I need to cast some characters to play the key roles in the movie.

Personal Tech

I ordered a Windows 8.1 laptop and docking station from Dell to replace the Windows XP desktop.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
So, from my pile to yours:

A) Back in the day, computing power was measured in kilo-girls! ;-)

B) An interesting article making the rounds about the 11 Nations Of America and how they affect our politics. Like most classification schemes, this one paints with a very broad brush, but it has some interesting uses.

C) is it an asteroid or a comet? Or, the case of the rock with six tails.

D) For much of history, physicians learned by doing on people. (How scary is that - somebody learning how to operate by cutting on you!) This doctor has a better idea.

E) A case of Obama channeling his inner Lincoln or just enough is enough?

F) An interesting article about a Maritime Academy. One of my COs was a US Maritime Academy grad.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
Back when I first started in information technology (IT), many corporate users accessed their data via something called a 3270 emulator. This was usually software or occasionally hardware on a PC that communicated with a mainframe, and made the PC look to the mainframe like a dumb terminal.

This worked, but it was text-only, and when Windows came along, everybody wanted a Graphical User Interface (GUI, AKA, "point and click on the screen.") Thus was born client-server software. The interface was gooey, but it was a pain-in-the-ass to keep updating multiple software products on hundreds if not thousands of PCs. Then came the Internet, and the idea of getting your software via a web browser.

This sounds great, but there's a real problem. Specifically, the end user is using the same application (a browser) to access trusted internal sites and Happy-Harry' This was not a problem in the 3270 world - a terminal emulator could only talk to a trusted host. What's worse is that much of what makes browser-based software user-friendly is also an extremely good way to download a virus.

Microsoft's solution to this is to create various zones in their browsers, each of which can have designated sites and separate security levels, all of which can be set via Group Policy. All of this is nice, but God help you if the security settings get fracked up.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I had my first session with my personal trainer yesterday. (She looks and acts like Central Casting's idea of a personal trainer.) Today, though, muscles I forgot I had are reminding me that they exist. [insert witty and/or funny transition here] Have some links:

1) In an attempt to get one step ahead of Internet bank fraud, IBM is offering a PC-on-a-stick.

2) I am not a cat person, so I read with amusement how your cat is making you crazy. There's a wonderful SF story or two in there.

3) Apparently, the current clown-car-crop of Republicans found biofuel funny. Well, the US Air Force dares you to laugh at their biofuel. It really is sad how stupid the current political debate has gotten.

4) A quick reminder of the costs of war and why we shouldn't be in a hurry to get in one.

5) A reminder - I will be down in Westville tomorrow signing books at our lovely new library.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
So, I was going to talk about Sheri Tepper's The Gates To Women's Country, but stuff came up. So, have some random thoughts.

Random Thought #1

So, what irritates me about posts like this one at Simberg's Flying Circus is the sheer ignorance of basic facts exhibited therein. For example, the post talks about DDT being banned for anti-malaria use (it's not) and (in comments) how not using DDT against bed bugs led to their resurgence. Well, bed bugs are immune to DDT, and have been for decades.

Regarding the article's headline (global warming "hoax"), somebody forgot to tell Arctic sea ice. It will be below average again, and the last five summers are the five minimum ice extent summers on record.

Random Thought #2

Those of us who support Microsoft-centric networks at work have all kinds of weird issues to deal with. For us at work, Windows 7 had had a tendency to not allow users to print. It appears that Windows likes to change registry keys, thus making calls to .dll files that don't exist. This post explains that in great detail. Of course, from this seven-page screed on a Microsoft site, one would think that Microsoft would actually, you know, fix the problem!
chris_gerrib: (Default)
As you may have heard, we had a winter storm over the weekend here in Chicago. The storm is over, but now we're dealing with single-digit (Fahrenheit) temperatures. Thank heaven that the heat in my house is fixed.

In other personal updates, I'm still fighting PC issues with my home machine. The "Win Defrag" malware loaded a metric shitload of other malware on my machine, and I've been picking out the corrupt stuff in batches. I did, however, print the labels for my out-of-town Christmas cards, which are now in the mail. Well, except for one that I have an old address for.

On Saturday, I attended the Chicago SF Community's close reading. It's a book discussion group, and we talked about a book I'd never read before, David Brin's book Startide Rising. I'd never read the book before, and I'm finding the whole book discussion process a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Signing off for now...
chris_gerrib: (Default)
So, my allergies attacked me this weekend, apparently over some boxes I helped my parents move. I'm finally back to almost normal, for which I'm very grateful.

In other news, my car, a Saturn Vue hybrid, was recalled for a battery problem. The new batteries finally came in, and they are being installed today. While it's being worked on, I'm driving a rental car - a Chevy Impala. Somebody at the dealership was smart - they have a rental kiosk on site, and they only rent GM cars. Not only that, the cars they rent are at the upper end of the line. So I'm driving a loaded Impala. It's pretty nice, and very responsive.

Speaking of smart, I wasn't. Despite being asked, I left my iPass (automated tollway meter) in my car at the shop. Driving away from the shop, I took back roads to avoid the tollway. Having researched the art of paying tolls online, I think I'll take the tollway going back.

Lastly, last night I got hit with the Win Defrag virus. This is yet another "helpful" utility that installs itself on your PC and threatens dire actions if you don't pay for a full version. I was too tired last night to deal with it, so tonight's project is to disinfect.

Update @ 3:30 PM The dealership just called - the battery replacement won't be done until tomorrow. I get to keep the Impala (which appears to brake just fine, thanks) until tomorrow.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Not mine, but I was there when it happened. I went out to dinner Saturday to a "casual dining" chain restaurant, name redacted to avoid undue bashing. At any rate, after I ordered they had a very minor power surge - maybe an instant, and the lights barely flickered.

But all the computers went out. More importantly, the attempt to reboot their system seemed to take a long time - like 15 minutes and counting when I left. Here are some general observations based on the crash:

1) Having cash is good - if I had to pay by credit card, I might still be there.
2) The store had the old-fashioned manual credit card machine (the "slide and click" type) but the youngish staff had never seen one in operation, and had no idea how to use it.
3) The store also didn't have near enough paper forms for a busy Saturday night.
4) All this could have been avoided by putting UPS devices on their PCs.

So, can your firm handle a power surge?

Odd Lots

Sep. 22nd, 2006 08:41 am
chris_gerrib: (Default)
A few random ramblings:

I may not have mentioned it, but I am taking a class on Cisco routers. Tuesday's lecture will be on ICMP, the subject of yesterday's post. The instructor announced the topic and said, "ICMP is legacy - we usually turn it off." I mentioned the problem [ profile] jeff_duntemann was having, and she immediately smiled and knew exactly what the problem was. So I emailed her the link to the article.

She quickly discovered that I had written a book, and was very excited about it. Since this class session was a lab not a lecture, we spent a few minutes talking about the whole writing / book marketing topic. Apparently her son has a photography book out, so the topic has some relevance to her.

Speaking of the book, TCM Reviews posted a review of The Mars Run. It's a "three of five" stars review, and you can read it here.

Speaking of reviews (I told you this was "random ramblings" day) I not only got reviewed by TCM Reviews, but I write reviews for them. John G. Hemry, writing as Jack Campbell, wrote an intense military SF novel called The Lost Fleet: Dauntless. I really liked it, and you can read my review here.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
My friend [ profile] jeff_duntemann, no slouch in the technology department, was having some weird problems with his PC. Specifically, some websites, such as and Vanguard, weren't letting him establish a secure connection. (I was more concerned about the Lulu site since that's where my book is sold from, but Jeff was more concerned about Vanguard so he could manage his money. Go figure.) The problem was, these web sites SHOULD work! And that's why I'll always have a job - things should work but they don't.

I can't take credit for this fix, though - Jeff finally got hold of somebody from Vanguard who understood his problem. "Your maximum transmission unit (MTU) is too big," they told him, and had him download drtcp.exe, a tool which allowed him to fix the problem. It worked, but he didn't know why. Actually, I've been in computer networking for 10 years and I didn't know why either. So I did some research, and here's the answer. (This web page from Cisco was helpful, but unless you've got a CCNA or are working on one, it's probably Greek.)

First, one needs to understand how computers talk. Say you want to download a 1 megabyte picture of Anna Kournikova. (Or Brad Pitt, but he doesn't do much for me.) Well, the server that has that picture breaks it down into packets of data. Each packet has a destination and return address, a sequence number (so it can be put back into order) and a bit of data. Each packet is put on the wire, and sent to your PC.

Every physical medium of transmission has a minimum and a maximum packet size, which is driven by the physics of sending electrical or optical signals down copper wire or fiber. Books have been written about this, many of which are great cures for insomnia. For our purposes, all we need to know is that Ethernet's default MTU is 1500 bytes. If you have high speed Internet at home or at the office, the connection from your PC is probably Ethernet, and so the PC sends everything out with a maximum packet size of 1500 unless told otherwise.

Well, the connection from your home or office to the server with Anna's picture on it is not Ethernet, and it has a different MTU. Since this problem first appeared on the Internet in the Reagan administration, routers are set to do two things. First, they "fragment" the too-big packets into a just-big-enough packet and a extra packet with the overflow. There are some problems with this, the biggest one is that the extra packet, because it's so small, can look like an attempt to hack the router. Second, they use a protocol called ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol) to tell the sending machine to send smaller packets.

Here's where things get really interesting. ICMP was written a long time ago, and doesn't so much have security holes as no security at all. So, a lot of router admins filter (AKA "turn off") ICMP. Thus, the sending machine never hears that it's sending oversized packets, and just keeps on keeping on. Remember, the path to Anna's picture may be hitting dozens of routers on the way, and in theory at least, each and every packet could take a different path through the network.

If you're downloading Anna's picture from somebody's personal website, this is not much of a problem. The packets keep flowing, although they come down a little slower (because the router is dis-assembling and re-assembling them) but it works. If you are using a secure tunneling protocol (like Secure Socket Layer (SSL), the standard for banking and e-commerce transactions) you might have a problem.

To simplify greatly, SSL works by taking a regular old data packet, encrypting it, and tacking on "stuff" on both ends so it can get to where it's going and be decrypted. Because of this overhead, you could end up with "double fragments" - the router has to fragment an already-encrypted packet. You get a flood of fragments. Remember that the small packets look like hacks? If the SSL host you're communicating with is paranoid (and since they have your financial data they should be) they may interpret this flood as an attack and shut down the web page.

There are several fixes to the problem. However, unless you control at least one major router in the path from you to them, the only fix is do change your MTU on your PC. The suggested size to start with is 1400 bytes. If you want to know how to use this tool, click here.

To summarize:
Q: How do I know I have a problem?

A: If you are able to connect to a site, sign into the SSL (secure) side, but things quit working AFTER that.

Q: How do I fix it?

A: Download and run DRTCP.

Warning! everybody's computer is different, so try this at your own risk!

Edited to add another helpful link . If you have a Linksys router connecting you to the Internet (and a lot of folks do) this link will help you fix the problem at the router level, which is preferred.


chris_gerrib: (Default)

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