Whatever I'm enthused about at the moment ;-p

I told my boss to hire my frands

2013-08-26 - computing

I was lonely at work. So I told my boss to hire my frands. ;-p @ Travis Poppe.

Oculus Rift Roller Coaster

2013-07-26 - computing

Korey And The Oculus Rift Roller Coaster - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpc-2gAtNxM

One of my servers downstairs shut itself off

2013-03-02 - computing

One of my servers downstairs shut itself off. CPU fan stopped turning. I didn't have a replacement CPU fan on hand, so I simply blew the old one out with canned air, removed the globs of cat hair out of it, generously applied WD-40, and blammo! I'm back in business. I think it's time to do a bit of hardware shuffling. Out with the old, in with the slightly less-old.

MySQL 5.5 and InnoDB

2013-01-19 - computing

Welp, this totally screwed me over today as I spent hours wondering why my Perl script's MySQL insert and update statements weren't working on some tables. If you've recently upgraded to MySQL 5.5, new tables that you create are InnoDB instead of MyISAM, and so AutoCommit must be turned on or you can just do a commit statement after your inserts and updates. FFFFUUUUUU. PHP has AutoCommit turned on by default, evidently, so it is not effected.


Windows administrator privileges

2012-12-17 - computing

I know, I've been bitching about software on FB all day. But I have another one. You know how on a lot of the mainstream Linux distributions, when you log into the X Window System as root, there's a bunch of red, flashing lights of some sort that say "you're logged in as root! be extremely careful!" or "gee, you should create a regular user account and use that instead for security purposes!" So, why doesn't the Windows operating system do this when you log in with administrator privileges? I'm getting tired of fixing people's Windows boxes who've been solely using an administrator account since they first fired up their brand new PC. Maybe the Internet wouldn't be the virus ridden mess that it is today if Microsoft had included this one, basic installation step: create a standard user account so you don't hose your system after 5 seconds of connecting to the net.

XScreensaver XFlame!

2012-11-29 - computing

XScreensaver XFlame!I was just flipping through all the xscreensaver selections and decided to go with XFlame which is a flaming J.R. Dobbs (see attached image). And then of course I had to go google around for who this Dobbs guy was (yeah, I know, it was a vital missing part of my FOSS history knowledge... I am ashamed) and that eventually led me to this wikipedia article and whoooaaa nelly it's John Darwinism Newman --> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Stang

RHEL 6 to Ubuntu 12.10 workstation migration

2012-11-15 - computing

My RHEL 6 to Ubuntu 12.10 workstation migration at ISU is complete! Here are a few notable notes I took note of for whomever's benefit it can be a benefit to:

My Old Nasty Linux Workstation

2011-05-15 - computing

I'm kind of a stubborn stick in the mud when it comes to my home PC. It's an AMD Athlon XP 2500+ (single core, 1.8 Ghz) with 1 GB of memory and a Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 video card. I run XUbuntu linux on it and it works fine. But then along comes Firefox 4, that has new and improved graphics hardware acceleration, and it just so happens that it doesn't work with Linux very well. Search around on Google to read about the Firefox team's bitches and complaints about making their software work with Xorg drivers. Well, it works pretty well on Linux if you've got some new fancy hardware or something. But, hey, I run Linux BECAUSE IT IS LIGHTWEIGHT AND I DON'T HAVE TO BUY NEW FANCY HARDWARE DAMMIT. :-) So, there's this wonderful web browser test page created by the good folks at Mozilla, and it's located here: http://demos.hacks.mozilla.org/openweb/HWACCEL/ Go ahead, give it a try, see what you get. It's a good test to see if A) your browser supports crazy CSS stuff and B) how well your browser performs graphically. This is becoming an increasingly more important thing since sites like Facebook are using CSS to layer things like photo collections over a web page shown in the background. Yup, that feature requires some decent CPU and graphics card and it is slower than beans on an old PC running Firefox 4. And here's my results on my lovely little home PC:

So, guess what browser I'm using right now to type this? Opera! Yup, going back to using good old snappy Opera. Opera is pretty close to Firefox in that it has lots of user preferences AND it has that search box in the upper right that I use like 3 trillion times a day. Now I just need to figure out how to add more search selections to it. I'm sure there's a web page decidated to that. The fiendish Opera fanboi club is smaller, but about 10 times as violently loyal to their chosen browser as the Firefox club. :-) Matthew Wheelock, if you're reading this, I know you are shedding a tear of pride that I am using Opera. :-p

EDIT: Wow, to add a search engine to Opera, you simply go to whatever search site you want (like imdb.com), right click in its search box, and select "Create search".  Damn, that's nice.

NVidia S-Video Problem Solved!

2010-12-04 - computing

I love using the old PC sitting next to my television to watch various online videos with my family and friends.  It features an old NVidia GeForce MX 4000 v ideo card with S-video out.  It is perfectly matched to my old 32 inch Panasonic CRT television (stop laughing!).  Yeah, I know, I'm in dire need of an upgrade.  Recently, I upgraded the PC to XUbunt u 10.10, and that's when I starting having X problems.  When X attempted to start, I got the following error (here's the one from /var/log/Xorg.0.log):

[    12.330] (II) Loading /usr/lib/xorg/extra-modules/nvidia_drv.so
[    12.331] dlopen: /usr/lib/xorg/extra-modules/nvidia_drv.so: undefined
symbol: miEmptyData
[    12.331] (EE) Failed to load /usr/lib/xorg/extra-modules/nvidia_drv.so
[    12.331] (II) UnloadModule: "nvidia"
[    12.331] (EE) Failed to load module "nvidia" (loader failed, 7)
[    12.331] (EE) No drivers available.
[    12.331]
Fatal server error:
[    12.331] no screens found
I gave the nv (open source NVidia) driver a try after this by simply renaming my /etc/X11/Xorg.conf file to something else.  This allows Xorg to automatically assign whatever driver it deems appropri ate when X starts.  The nv driver works fine, except an attempt to send video out to my TV with xrandr didn't work out.  The video on the TV rolled vertically and was black and white, no matter what settings I used.  Here's an example xrandr command that I used:
xrandr --output TV-1 --mode 800x600

Not sure what the problem was there.

I knew before the upgrade that the NVidia binary drivers worked fine in this exact setup, so I searched google for the "dlopen" error you see in the X log above.  The first search result led me right to the answer on this launchpad page:

SOLVED (for 32-bit arch): NVIDIA released a new legacy driver ======================= Version: 96.43.19 Certified Release Date: 2010.11.16 Operating System: Linux Language: English (U.S.) File Size: 15.7 MB =======================

You may download it here: http://www.nvidia.com/object/linux-display-ia32-96.43.19-driver.html

After installing this driver, everything is fine.

I downloaded the driver, made it executable, ran it, and then it complained that X can't be running during installation.  So, I put the non-working xorg.conf in place and rebooted, which booted Ubuntu into console mode.  Later, I found that using "sudo /etc/init.d/gdm stop" was a much more elegant method of stopping X.  Ahem.

While running the driver installation program in console mode, it asked if a new xorg.conf should be written, and I said yes to that.  After rebooting, everything was perfect.  I could then use the Applications -> System -> NVidia X Server Settings program to output video to my TV just like I was able to before.  Yayz!

After all this, a friend of mine suggested I try the "nouveau" driver which is supposed to be the new open source NVidia driver.  It didn't seem to be a drop-in replacement for nv (X gave yet another error and died), and since the NVidia propriety drivers work great, I decided to let things be.  Please write a comment if you think I should have dug into this further!

Update, December 19, 2010 - I was swapping around hard drives in a geeky frenzy this weekend and so I had to reinstall XUbuntu 10.10 on the living room PC.  I noticed that when I installed version 96.43.19 of the NVidia drivers for my GeForce MX 4000 video card, it would then remove /usr/lib/libvdpau.so.1 and so that would mess up mplayer.  This is really irritating because mplayer is my all time favorite media player.  It is so minimalist and simple.  That's the way software is supposed to be, even if it requires us to read documentation to use it (ok, maybe not all the time)!  Ok, so what did I do to fix this?

aptitude reinstall libvdpau1

Alrighty then, well, problem solved.  Why did this happen?  Well, probably because the GeForce MX 4000 is rather old and no one really cares about it any more.  Well, it works fine for my needs.  With enough command line bludgeoning, anyone can usually solve any problem in Linux.  Ubuntu rocks.

Installing Linux On Your Neighbor's Computer

2010-11-23 - computing

The story you are about to read is completely true.  Or at least most of it is. I'm a computer geek and quite a few people in my neighborhood know this.  And being a good neighbor, I give them advice and help with their computing needs.  They babysit my kids every now and then, so this is a good trade!  I encourage all you geeks out there to create a similar barter system with your neighbors!  It builds great friendships and everyone wins!  :-)  But, I must confess, I have an ulterior motive for my supposed kindness.  I have been dying to install my favorite Linux distribution, XUbuntu, on an average user's computer and use them as a Guinea pig to see what their experience with it is like.  *queue lightning, thunder, organ music, howling wolves, and hideous laughter* This article is about a family who lives near me who have a couple of average laptops that run Windows XP.  Or at least they try to run it.  The hardware is rather meager and Windows XP enjoys taking up most of the system resources.  And then the viruses that live on the systems take up the rest.  This leaves very little room for doing anything useful at all with these machines.  Rather than go out and buy the latest anti-virus, which would cost money and take up its own computing resources, the family would prefer a better solution.  And I really don't believe getting usefulness out of old laptops is a difficult thing to achieve.  This is the year 2010 and we have options! In fact, using a laptop that's a few years old can work just fine for today's most popular computing activities if you've got the right operating system.

What Do You Use Computers To Do?

Naturally, the first question I asked them is, "so, how do you use computers?"  Here's a summary of what they said:
  1. Facebook and Farmville!  Whee!
  2. I love YouTube.  Gotta have my music vids.
  3. The kids need the ability to research online for school work.
  4. Document creation for school is a must.
  5. Some other things like a media player and some games would be nice, but isn't terribly necessary.  Music, video, and games are an online thing nowadays.
This list wasn't too awfully surprising.  I think it is safe to say that most of today's computer users use their PCs and laptops to do these same activities and do not have anything else to add to this list.  The exponential growth of Web technology and variety has swallowed up a lot of the demand for traditional desktop software.  Give them a Web browser and they can do anything! The family owned 2 laptops, both with slightly less than 1 GB of RAM each, and some fairly modern CPUs.  One of the laptops had not been turned on for a long time since viruses has brought it to its knees many months ago.  They told me to take it and turn it into a useful machine.  After asking if there were no useful files on the machine, I downloaded the new XUbuntu 10.10, burned it to CD, installed it on the laptop, and handed it back to them!

Oooh, Aaah!!

That is what they said when I came over and gave them a demonstration of how quickly XUbuntu boots up, and how quick and easy it was to navigate all the neat bells and whistles that come pre-installed.  I showed them how to connect to their wireless Internet connection, how to fire up Firefox, OpenOffice, and several other popular software items.  Then I told them to go crazy!  Heck yeah, feel free to roam around the menus, try out all the software, install software from the massive software repository; bang around all you want because you probably can't break anything.  I believe that was definitely music to their ears since they'd had quite the opposite experience in the Windows world, as I'm sure we all have had at some point.  Breaking, screwing up, b0rking, and totally hosing a Windows system, that is.  It's child's play.  Anyone can do it.  :-) I watched while the high school aged daughter fired up Facebook and she was instantly impressed with just how fast she could navigate, add content, and so on.  While she was enthralled with catching up on her friend's latest activities, I rubbed my sinister hands together and slipped out the front door.  "The transformation is nearly complete!  bwaahahaha!", I hissed.  Ok, not really, but drama makes these articles so much more entertaining.  Ahem.

So How Are Thing Going After A Few Weeks?

After two weeks, I dropped by to see how they were doing with their new software environment.  I was expecting them to have some complaints about how they used to run Software XYZ and it wouldn't work with Linux or something similar.  But instead they had nothing but good to say about their experience.  When I entered the house, the daughter was watching a YouTube music video on the laptop in full-screen mode, and I was surprised at the high quality appearance of the video and how it wasn't pausing  or hiccuping at all.  I then asked her about how she was doing with her writing assignments and so forth.  She said that it was quite easy to write documents in OpenOffice Writer, and print them (I guess she set the USB connected printer up herself).  She also said that taking them to school on her thumb drive and opening them in Microsoft Office also worked, by default, without saving them in .doc format.  I didn't even know that was possible!  (I tried that today, actually, and it does indeed work on my copy of MS Office 2007.) She went on to talk about how her younger sister uses the Dictionary program to look up words all the time (I'd never used that program before, either).  I asked her if she had any problems playing mp3s or movies, and she said she did all those sorts of things on YouTube.  Just to give it a shot, I downloaded an mp3 from my home server and attempted to play it.  The default media player said it was missing the correct codec to play the file, so I popped open the software center, searched for mp3, and installed the gstreamer codec package, which listed all kinds of file types that it can play.  Then the mp3 played fine! Next, the family asked if I could install XUbuntu on their other laptop.  I asked them if they were completely sure they wanted me to do that,  and they told me they were.  So I showed them how to connect to the Windows XP laptop via the Gigolo program, copied their personal documents and photos  over, and then I handed the eldest daughter the installation CD and told her to install it herself!  I think this brings up a couple of important reasons why Linux is good for computer users:
  1. It breaks people out of their comfort zone and allows them to start exploring the fundamentals of computing concepts, rather than blindly following the prescribed process that Windows provides for them.  Instead of mindlessly following a wizard, they think instead in terms of "where does the data need to go and how do I access it" and "what protocol do I need to use".
  2. Linux gives people options.  If you don't like a particular distribution, window environment or piece of software, you have the power to do something else.  Open source software is all about freedom and choice.
I will continue to communicate with my neighbors and find out what their continued experience is like with XUbuntu.  The eldest daughter of the family seems to really enjoy computers and I think she has a knack for them.  I'll definitely encourage her to continue the pursuit of educating herself in computing concepts.  After all, women are the next wave of IT professionals, it has been my observation!

Jamie Zawinski quotes

2010-11-08 - computing

Hehe. Jamie Zawinski (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamie_Zawinski) quotes: "Using these toolkits is like trying to make a bookshelf out of mashed potatoes." "Some people, when confronted with a problem, think 'I know, I'll use regular expressions.' Now they have two problems."

I think my phone is running over

2010-10-28 - computing

Hehe. When ever my cow orker is walking through the hall and hears his office phone ring, he starts walking briskly towards his office saying "uh oh, I think my phone is running over..."

Introducing the hardware security device!

2010-08-19 - computing

Welp, Intel just snagged McAfee. At first I was like "uh... what? that aquisition makes no sense." But after thinking about it, I thought that it'd be kind of cool to have a security device of some kind that you pop into one of the slots on your motherboard which analyzes everything that goes through your computer, thus taking that task off of your CPU. Yeah, software antivirus takes a significant amount of computing resources. That's actually one of the top things that makes me claw my eyeballs out about Windows. People go out and buy a modern, fast PC, then they put Windows on it, and between their antivirus and all the other bloated garbage that collects on Windows, by the end of the week their running a 486. :-)

Anywho, a device that plugs into your motherboard to analyze all the crap flowing through your PC wouldn't work. The inteligence would have to be built in to your CPU and/or Ethernet card, or else all that stuff would have to flow through this "security device" and that'd be a bottleneck. Then again, adding inteligence into your CPU or Ethernet card to do that would also slow things down. Let's face it, security on your PC slows things down just like security at the airport does.

So, the answer is for OS makers and software authors to take the time to produce optimized and secure software, so that we can all stop this madness. Everyone wouldn't have to buy new PCs every friggin 3 years if software was written with more care. But I'm sure Intel isn't a cheerleader for this effort. Optimized software would mean less hardware sales! Oh noes!!!

Meanwhile, I'm happily using Linux on 6 year old hardware. :-)

The Difference Between A Disk And A Drive

2010-07-12 - computing

Wow, I feel retarded. I was just talking to my cow-orker (definition: http://catb.org/jargon/html/C/cow-orker.html) about our tape backup system. He started talking about tapes and drives and such and I was trying to think about the big, fat tape library machine and where all those names fit into the puzzle. And then he said, "the machine has 4 drives" and I said, "you mean, there's 4 places inside the machine where the machine plops the tapes to read and write to?" and he said "yup."

It was then that I found enlightenment.

Tapes, floppy disks, cd-roms, and DVDs are all just plain old disks/media. Media that has no built in motor to spin or move the media, and no way to read and write to/from the media. However, a hard drive has all that stuff built in to the same device. Or at least modern ones do (I don't think the really ancient ones did).

So, is it correct to say "hard disk" or "hard drive"? Well, both! :-D Both terms are used interchangeably all the time since those devices have a disk AND a drive built into the same device. Actually HDD, a common abbreviation for a hard drive, stands for "hard disk drive", which is the correct term for them.

Now go, and teach others these valuable lessons! :-p

Simple Eggdrop Bot On Ubuntu

2010-05-27 - computing

Here's something for all you IRC kiddies to sink your teeth into!  :-D Yesterday, I was hanging out in the usual IRC channels I gab in.  In one of these channels, there is a friend or two of mine that shares a common interest of mine: stock investing.  One of these friends has a nifty little bot for getting stock quotes.  You simply type "qq:pir" to get the latest quote on Pier 1 Imports, for instance.  qq is the IRC nick of the bot and pir is the stock symbol for Pier 1 Imports.  Simple and useful! His bot, however, did not support stock index quotes.  Stock indexes, such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500, are pretty useful since they give a general overview of what the economy is doing.  If the Dow or the S&P goes up, it makes it much easier for most other stocks to follow.  If the Dow and S&P are flat or going down, most other stocks are going to show similar patterns.  Ok, this is not a finance seminar, so I'll get back to talking about technical things.  :-) I had already developed a very short, sweet little Perl script for grabbing the Dow quote from msn.com.  Why did I choose msn.com?  Well, they get so much traffic and they're such a huge, conglomerate, find-everything-here portal site that they probably don't care if someone is using programs to spider their site or grab their info.  Besides, this is my insidious little stab at Microsoft!  AR HAR HAR HAR.  Ahem.  No, not really. So, here's the little Perl script:

use LWP::Simple;

$url = "http://moneycentral.msn.com/home.asp";

$html = get $url;
@html = split(/\n/,$html);

foreach $a (@html) {
    if ($a =~ /%24INDU/) {

sub getquote {
@one = split(/>/,$a);
$one[19] =~ s/<\/div//;
print "DJIA: $one[19]\n";
There's lots of ways to parse HTML.  This is my way.  :-)  This script will output "DJIA: 10,123" or whatever number the Dow happens to be at.  I mostly follow the Dow, so I didn't bother with the S&P data. Next, I used aptitude to install eggdrop on one of my home Ubuntu servers.  Eggdrop is the world's most popular IRC bot, and it has more features than I would ever use.  The next step was to follow the instructions listed in the README file, which is located here:
This involved creating an eggdrop user and group, and then reading through and editing the giant configuration file (yes, this takes a while).  I pointed this to an empty channel on irc.freenode.net for testing purposes, and then fired it up. Eggdrop scripts are written in tcl.  I don't know the tcl language, but it appears somewhat simple.  I downloaded some eggdrop scripts online that are designed for executing and displaying the output of other programs, since this was my idea for utilizing my handy dandy Perl script.  Here was the tcl script I came up with:
set userflag "-"
set trig "!dow"
bind PUB $userflag $trig main_func

proc main_func {nick uhost hand chan arg} {
set fp [open "| ./dow.pl"]
set data [read $fp]
close $fp
putserv "PRIVMSG $chan :$data"
This script will execute my Perl script (dow.pl) whenever someone types "!dow" in the channel.  It turned out that this system works pretty well!  My stock watching finance friends and I are now happily watching the Dow and chatting vigorously about how the economy is going down the toilet on IRC!  Isn't open source software wonderful?

Dirty IT job

2010-04-14 - computing

Dirty IT job No. 3: Professional scapegoat Wanted: Manager willing to take charge of enormous projects doomed to almost certain failure; ability to work tirelessly and alone; must be physically fit enough to shoulder all the blame. Reminds me of the IT Managers at my former workplace. Hehe.

Nasty RedHat Enterprise Linux 5 work PC

2010-03-30 - computing

After an hour of searching for, downloading, and installing about 20 rpm's, I've got mplayer running on my nasty RedHat Enterprise Linux 5 work PC. Gah. Ubuntu was created so that people didn't have to do this kind of crap anymore!!!!

LaTeX upgrade

2010-02-27 - computing

Claws his eyeballs out while LaTeX takes several centuries to upgrade. They should really make a lighter LaTeX system for those of us who don't need Greek, Hebrew, Cyrillic, and a bazillion other character sets.

Haven't booted up Windows XP

2010-02-13 - computing

I just realized I haven't booted up Windows XP on his home PC ever since he left his former workplace! Maybe this will be the year that I completely phase that nasty OS out of my life! :-D Yes, I've tried Windows 7. And, no, it didn't impress me. :-p

Oracle finalizes Sun purchase

2010-02-12 - computing

It took so long for Oracle to finalize the Sun purchase, that I sort of fell asleep and missed the actual finale. It's kind of weird getting redirected to Oracle.com when I type in Sun.com. I'll miss you, Sun. *sniffle* http://www.oracle.com/features/suncustomers.html

Bittorrent clients

2010-02-03 - computing

I love console bittorrent clients. I was having difficulties with Bittorrent (the original) so I installed Bittornado (the experimental version) and now life is good. No more "can't connect to tracker" errors. \o/ With a console client, I can think of something I'd like to download at work, login to my home server, fire it up, and it's ready to go in 24 - 48 hours! :DDDD

Zen Of Programming

2010-01-14 - computing

At my last job, I was constantly reading Visual Basic 6 documentation at Microsoft's MSDN site. At my current job, I'm reading about C, Perl, and shell programming from man pages, online open source software HOW-TOs, and O'Reilly books. This feels so much more Zen to me :-)

Now that I work for ISU

2009-11-23 - computing

Now that I work for ISU, I am surfing facebook with Firefox on RedHat Linux. So now I don't know if the facebook errors are related to facebook problems or my funky browser version. I have discovered, however, that Firefox on Sun Solaris 10 really doesn't work. I think everyone can definately agree that Solaris does't make a good desktop. :-)


2009-09-16 - computing

It gives me a headache thinking about the horrendous programming that must be involved with the project described in this article:http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/172102/google_buys_recaptcha_to_boost_book_scanning_efforts.html

It's Saturday and I'm working on an awful program for work.

2009-08-22 - computing

It's Saturday and I'm working on an awful program for work. Ah, well, the things we complete today will make room for the pleasures of tomorrow! Or maybe the weekend after next. Meh. Crap.

I hate Internet Explorer.

2009-07-03 - computing

The main reason I don't use IE is because it tends to freeze for like 3 or 4 seconds while trying to render a page. You can click any browser buttons, you just have to sit and stare at your screen until IE comes back to life. Firefox doesn't do that. While Firefox is rendering something, you can still use the browser. Open up a new tab and surf on!

4th of July Parade 2007

2008-11-01 - computing

4th of July Parade 20074th of July Parade 2007 ISLUG - I believe the sign says "Chuck Norris Uses Linux" — with Emily Anne and 4 others.

IRC Database Project: An Attempt At Finding Local IRC Users :-P

2005-07-18 - computing

It's amazing just how much information about a person you can gather on IRC. In fact, I really can't think of any other Internet resource that automatically offers so much information about a person. From a simple IRC /whois you can usually get someone's name and IP address. And from the IP address, you can deduce their ISP and location. This is all assuming, of course, that they include their name in their IRC client setup info and that their hostname isn't cloaked. About a month ago I decided I wanted to see if I could build a database of IRC users so I could search for local geeks. Why? Well, I've met local geeks before and it's a lot of fun getting together with people of like mind. Anyway, the following is the tale of how I went about this endeavor.

Networks and Channel Lists

It was my goal to get the largest number of IRC users possible to increase my chances of finding people in my small region of the world. To do this, I wanted to find only the most populated networks and channels and not bother with the small ones. Also the larger channels and networks would be less likely to notice any silly little IRC bots I would create to gather my data, tee hee! Yes, I was rather unsure that some parts of this project were 100% legal :-P Anyway, I first went to places like searchirc.com and irc.netsplit.de to find out what the world's most populated networks were, got the hostnames of about the top 30, and then made a simple bot (I use the POE::Component::IRC module in Perl to make my IRC bots, by the way. Yes, I'm a lame script kiddie XD) to visit each one and do a /list command. Actually, before I made this bot, I was using a program written in C (written by zer0python) that performed the /list on a specified server, but I decided to write my own for the sake of flexibility of features. This worked well only about 50% of the time since many networks truncate the output of the list command. Meh. I then recorded all channels with at least 30 users in a MySQL database so that I would have maximum flexibility for manipulating the data. Perl was a wise choice of programming language for this project since it involved extensive text parsing ;-)

Venturing Into The Channels

I then wrote a bot for simply connecting to a specified channel, joining a specified channel, performing a /who, sleeping for about 2 minutes, then disconnecting. After doing a few trial runs of this maneuver, I found out that most of the networks I was connecting to cloaked the hostnames of the all the users. Drat. I needed to have complete hostnames or ip addresses of users or else this whole project would be rather pointless. So I set out to find out which of the 46 networks I had gathered didn't mess with the users' hostnames and there were only 5:

At this point, I decided I'd better just find out the top 100 or so most populated channels of these networks, gather all those users, and go from there. So I created a script (netsplit_info.pl) to download the most highly populated channel listings for these networks from irc.netsplit.de and another script (netsplit_import.pl) to stash the channels in the database.

Lists O' Users

Next, I had to write a script to connect to a network and visit each of the channels for that network in the database. Thus I didst create *DUN DUN DUNNNN!!!* chan_spider.pl! Yes, I know, there's a lot of repititious subroutines at the bottom of that program, but I wrote it that way because POE::Component would complain otherwise. Anyway, it's just a silly Perl script, relax. :-P It's supposed to be hideous. XD And here (link removed) is the script for parsing and dumping the output of the channel spider into the database. Pretty nifty, aye?

After spidering freenode, I had about 18,000 user records in my database. But after using the SQL distinct function, I found that I only had around 4,000 distinct users. This is partially because A) most users are in multiple channels and B) my channel spider script was quite buggy and did stupid things like performing a /who multiple times in the same channel and other bizarrities. I'm not sure whether this was a bug in POE::Component::IRC or my code. If you have a comment on this, feel free to give me a holler. :-P So, to find out whether or not these people lived in my vicinity, I found out the netranges of local ISPs in my area using the whois program, which is available for all *nix operating systems. For those of you who aren't aware, when you give whois an ip address, it will look it up in one of the four Network Information Centers (NICs): APNIC, ARIN, LACNIC and RIPE NCC. The whois program then returns information about what ISP owns the ip address, the netrange that the ip address belongs to, and some other information.

However, most of the user records in the database had hostnames that needed to be resolved into ip addresses before I could do an ip address netrange search. So I created a program to do that :-)

DNS Mayhem

So, I had approximately 3,000 DNS lookups to do. I couldn't do this with my ISP's DNS servers since they might notice and shut off my net connection and that would be a bad thing ;-p Many ISPs leave their DNS servers open to anyone who happens to want to use them to do a DNS resolution, so I compiled a list of several of these servers I found in the Seattle and Denver areas. 64 of them, to be exact. I just googled for Seattle and Denver ISPs since those cities are bound to have some pretty large ISPs and probably wouldn't notice a few hundred DNS lookups :-P I found out their nameservers by, again, using the oh-so-handy whois program.

The Not-So-Exciting Conclusion

After a couple hours of dns_lookup.pl chugging along, it finished and I feverishly tried my first netrange, which was one of cablone.net's Pocatello netranges:

mysql> select * from users where ip between '' and '';
| id  | chan_id | username | hostname                        | nick      | ircname   | ip             |
| 523 |     211 | furuba   | 24-116-157-215.cpe.cableone.net | buckminst | buckminst | |
1 row in set (0.03 sec)

Sigh. It's Bucky. Well, let's try another one! This time, lets try all the Qwest hostnames for Southeast Idaho! *types madly in MySQL!*

mysql> select * from users where hostname like '%bois.qwest.net';
| id   | chan_id | username | hostname                       | nick | ircname | ip              |
| 4587 |     305 | tlp      | 168-103-130-145.bois.qwest.net | tlp  | tlp     | |
1 row in set (0.02 sec)

ARGH! It's tlp! *groan* Why can't Sexy_Linux_ChiX0r be found?!?!?

Well, in conclusion, there's a lot of people on IRC.... but not THAT many. Searchirc.com records an average of a little over 1,000,000 which, spread out over planet earth, is actually pretty sparce. Ah, well, I learned a lot of nifty things with this project, even though it was a miserable failure. Ok, maybe not totally a failure... like, I can PM Bucky and tlp on IRC and say something like "w00t! my lil channel spider scriptie thingie found you!! ARRR HAR HAR HAR HAR!!!!". *ahem*

Copyright © 2001 - 2014, Korey Pelton -- Static HTML blog generated with PeltonBlog