Diary of a geek

April 2007
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Andrew Pollock

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Saturday, 21 April 2007

Parental visitation

My Mum and Dad arrived today for a three week visit. We're hardly seeing them though. They fly out on Tuesday to the east coast, to see New York, Washington DC and I think the Niagara Falls for seven days.

When they get back, we're all heading to Las Vegas to check out the Grand Canyon, then they're off to Vancouver and to see the Rocky's.

After that, they're back for a few days, then they leave again. Their itinerary makes me feel tired.

[22:43] [life] [permalink]

Friday, 20 April 2007

On the right to bear arms

Steven's blog post reminded me that I had to make a note about the two email responses I received to my own.

I received one email from Pro Guns Person A quite quickly after my blog post went up. He was quite civil, and had things to say such as:

The truth is, if a few good citizens were armed and nearby, they would have had a chance to stop the killer before he could do any more harm.

and went on to say how if a person really wanted to, they'd break laws to get guns, so gun control doesn't achieve anything, except leaving the good guys unable to defend themselves.

Sure, they'd break laws to get guns. You can't stop them if they really want to, but you can make it harder. And you have to make it harder universally. It's no good if one state cracks right down, if people can just pop over to the next state and pick up a firearm instead. I agree with Steven. Leave the gun toting to the people trained in their use (i.e. law enforcement).

Frankly, it disturbs me that "defending yourself" equates to being able to shoot the attacker. I think it's Texas where you can legally shoot trespassers. Scary stuff.

Pro Guns Person A went on to say:

To close, again without intending offense, please do not call for gun control if you aren't even a citizen of this country. The real problem is the societal issues that drive people to do these things. The truth is, fifty years ago in this country, people could leave loaded guns in their unlocked cars, even in high school parking lots...and nothing like this ever happened. But now, even though we have far more restrictive gun laws, things like this do happen, because of the societal problems.

I have the right to express my opinion, irrespective of my citizenship, as do you, Mr Pro Guns Person A. You don't have to like my opinion, just as I don't have to like yours, but I respect your right to have your opinion. No offense taken, either. You were very polite in putting across your point, I appreciate it. (By the way, I agree. Society's gone to pot.)

Pro Guns Person B's email was along a similar theme: the bad people will always get their mitts on a gun, and the good people won't be able to defend themselves.

Think about these figures (I'll write about the US, since that's the nation you wrote about now): In the state of Arizona the gun per person ratio is 2,5 (on average 2,5 guns owned by 1 person, and these are the legally purchased ones). In the state of New York there is an official prohibition on guns. So why is it that New York has the higher armed crime rate among those two? (and one of the highest across the country)

I don't think reverting the entire US to a "wild wild west" scenario is really going to help matters at all.

Sarah was saying that she'd found some statistic somewhere, probably saying something like what this page is saying. Now this was done at a Federal level, so that's why it worked, whereas anything done piecemeal, is going to cause a situation like what Pro Gun Person B was describing in his email.

[21:59] [life/americania] [permalink]

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Fast Food: Ads vs Reality

This link just did the rounds at work. It's so true.

[18:14] [humour] [permalink]

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

What will it take for gun reform in the US?

This recent massacre at Virginia Tech reminds me of Australia's Port Arthur massacre.

That event was pivotal in reforming Australia's gun laws.

I wonder what it will take for similar action in the United States? One would argue it's a bigger deal, because Australia doesn't have a constitutional right to being armed, so presumably it's a bigger deal to override/amend in the US.

Still, at some point, something's got to change... This madness can't keep happening.

[20:44] [opinion] [permalink]

Saturday, 07 April 2007

Finally, arbitrary points on Google Maps

I'm so please to see that this feature has finally launched. For quite a while now, I've wanted to be able to just say, "here's home", "here's work", "here's where we do the grocery shopping", etc, on Google Maps, so I could show mainly the family back home where everything was relative to everywhere else.

I'd started looking into the Google Map API, but lost interest because it wasn't easy to do quickly. Too much lat/long stuff for my liking.

So the "My Maps" thing is great, just what I've always wanted.

[13:15] [tech] [permalink]

Wednesday, 04 April 2007

The Constant Gardener

Tonight Sarah and I watched The Constant Gardener on DVD while we babysat for Trish and James

Every now and then I end up watching a movie that I wouldn't have otherwise watched if I were the one picking the movies, and I'm really glad I did. Tonight was one of those times. This was a really good movie, and it painted the plight of Africa and in particular, foreign aid in Africa, in a completely different light. The sad thing is, I'm sure there's more than a modicum of truth in the film. I highly recommend it.

[23:56] [life] [permalink]

The Australian Government's starting to smell a bit fishy

Okay, so firstly, I thought the whole David Hicks situation (mainly the fact that it was starting to become a bit of a political hot-potato near an election so they got his trial hurried up) was a bit fishy (particularly the bit about how he's gagged until after the next election), but this morning, I learned that there's legislation to close the electoral rolls at 8pm on the day the election is called.

That stinks to high heaven! I mean how on earth could justify bringing out legislation like that? How does that improve anything? I'll be really disappointed if that just gets steamrolled through the Senate.

All this reminds me that I need to re-enroll to vote.

[23:51] [opinion] [permalink]

Tuesday, 03 April 2007

A most unusual bug

At work, I recently encountered #261107 on our distantly Debian-derived server and workstation distros. It really annoyed me because installing the mysql-server package fell over in a screaming heap when it went to create the mysql user.

I'd seen a bug filed internally, relating to this particular use case, and initially I thought, based on the output, that it was the MySQL package's pre-install script not quoting the string "MySQL Server", but upon further investigation with strace, it turned out to be adduser's internal call to chfn that was failing, all because of the lack of a controlling terminal.

Anyway, a colleague fixed the problem, and pointed me to the abovementioned bug, and this is what strikes me as so strange: the bug has been open for approaching 3 years. I can't reproduce this bug with a stock sarge or etch install, yet I can reproduce it on an Ubuntu Dapper-derived system at will, by calling chfn -f with /dev/null redirected to stdin.

If this bug was biting with any sort of regularity, there'd be people rioting, because their adduser calls would be falling over, left, right and centre.

Yet it was obviously reproducible for the bug submitter, and I can reproduce it at work. There's more to it than the lack of a controlling terminal.

The plot, it be thick.

Update

Mystery solved. Apparently if you specify terminal restrictions in /etc/security/access.conf (even explicitly restricting it to "ALL"), pam_access gets all bitter and twisted if there's no controlling terminal for the thing being authorized. Wicked.

[21:09] [debian] [permalink]