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My other weblog 2003-05-01

Those of you who are wondering why my words of wisdom have not been appearing in this weblog may be pleased to know that it is being written elsewhere. I am sure there are plenty of you with long faces ;-). Due to the convenience of the editing process of Radio of Userland I have subscribed to their service. To follow my adventures check out the my radio weblog. You will not be disappointed, guaranteed. Money back, if you are.


Indian Ocean 2002-10-31

While in India I bought the CD Kandisa by Indian Ocean and was pleasantly surprised to hear how this Indian band has unshamedly borrowed from various musical genres and created a unique blend that can stand on its own. As those who know me also know my philosphy that the most interesting ideas and notions occur at the cusp of two different cultures. Here is yet another proof of that.

Start with a thousand year-old Aramaic prayer Kandisa (=praise) from the mideast that has been sung for generations in Kerala by the Syrian Catholics there, put it through the hands of North Indians playing a mixture of Indian and Western instruments and end it with digital studio equipment. And what do you get? A pleasant piece that warms the heart and at the same time provides food for the musically-minded. Eclectic and electric!

That is just one composition. There are 6 others that I could praise. 4/4 beats gradually sliding in 7/4, an electric bass and tabla evoking the gentle rocking of a camel in the desert, and other impressions. They recorded it in 2 weeks and edited that in 5 days. The result is a highly recommended CD.


Switzerland and the UN 2002-09-10

A day before the ominous 9/11, Switzerland joined the United Nations as its 190th member. As one of the last countries to do so it has the distinction, however, of being the first and only one - so far - to join that illustrious body as a result of a referendum. Isn't that amazing? The world has many democracies but not one of them asked the people if they want their respective country to join the UN. It was moving to see the Empire State building lit up in the colors of the Switzerland and the square read and white flag being hoisted at the UN.


The eMac 2002-08-08

I never thought that I would ever be the proud owner of a Mac. Earlier, the Macs were considered user-friendly but in the same league as Windows 3.1 when it came to stability. When the Windows NT juggernaut removed any doubt that the client desktop belonged to Microsoft, there was no point trying out a Mac. But Mac OS X with its Unix layer under the hood deserved another look. I bought an eMac a week ago. And I was not disappointed. This is civilized computing; let me bask in that glow for a while. Setting it up and working with the built-in applications proved to be downright easy.

Where I did have a spot of trouble was with the firewire connection to the camcorder. The eMac did not recognize the camcorder when I plugged it in and, even worse, the menus & windows just froze when the camcorder was switched on. Trawling through the Net I noticed that my camcorder (JVC GR-DVL150) was not on the Apple-approved list. But there were people who had got other models that were not on the supported list to work. In desperation, I plugged the firewire connector in and out a few times and voila! it started to work. Since then we have been able to download a whole tape into the machine and edit it.

All the tools and programs were in their proper places and, though I had never used a Mac before, there was no trouble navigating around the OS.


Korea attacks 2002-07-10

Every morning when I check my email I perfunctorily delete a message containing the solitary word "done!". This is the result of a simple perl script that I wrote for the express purpose of checking my Raq server hosted at Datapipe. If the script emails me "done" I know that all's well with my Raq; if I do not see a message or if there is anything else in the message I know that something is wrong. Last Tuesday was one of the few days when I did not see a message.

Pinging the machine revealed that it was up and reachable. However, I could not login in ssh nor contact the web server. I tried valiantly for a while but soon realized that there was nothing I could do but get it rebooted by the Datapipe support person. While that ws happening I pondered on what could have caused the machine that had been running for months to stop responding. An attack, perhaps?

As soon as the machine was up I connected with ssh and ran fcheck to see if any of the important files had been modified. Nothing suspicious there. A quick check of the servers showed that they were all responding as expected. After starting top I returned to my other work.

Every 10 minutes I glanced at the output of top. A few hours later I could see that the number of httpd (apache) processes were rising. Netstat showed more connections than usual. Alarmingly, the swap space was approaching the limit. The idle time was down. Uh-oh. The machine was thrashing. I copied the output of netstat onto my local machine. I watched as the Raq was rapidly brought to its knees. Top no longer updated the screen and the web servers were not responding anymore. This time I was positive that I was under attack.

There was nothing I could do other than to call the Datapipe support and get the machine rebooted. This time, as soon as the machine was up, I stopped the apache web server. I had read the CERT advisory about the 'chunk encoding' vulnerability that had recently been discovered. Fortunately, NT and FreeBSD were the platforms that the vulnerability could give the attacker access to the machine. I got my raq updated with a patch. After bringing up apache I monitored it for a while. Nothing suspicious showed up the whole day. Nor the day after. It's been more than a week hence and the machine is purring away.

The output of netstat had given me a list of IP addresses that were not reverse resolvable. However, with traceroute I could get determine the rough region of the machine. They all turned out to be in Korea. Some of them were academic institutions in that country. I have not alerted any authorities nor have I seen anyone else complaining of attcks from that quarter.


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