Category Archives: Computers

Pipex – the world’s most incompetent ISP?

If you’ve been reading my messages on the Thinkbroadband BBS and the PIPEX Xtreme Support newsgroup, you’ll probably know I’m currently a PIPEX subscriber, and also that I’m leaving with intent to move to Be Unlimited. Catch is, I need a MAC code from PIPEX to do so. And PIPEX are being difficult. Why does this not surprise me?

Here’s an extract from my call logs thus far:

Thu 5/4/07, called CS, transferred to Retentions dept. MAC requested, salesperson went through spiel (8Mb for £20 w/ new contract – I don’t think so!). MAC due to be issued by AM Thu 12/4/07.

Thu 12/4/07 @ 1530 BST, called CS, spoke to “Jenny”.
Transferred to Cancellations, then back to Jenny at CS due to Cancellations not answering. MAC request not on system, no record of call on 5/4 either. MAC re-requested, escalated to team leader. MAC code due by tonight, to be sent to primary account email.

Rest assured, if that MAC isn’t in my mailbox by midnight tonight, Pipex Customer (dis)Services are going to have some hard questions to answer come 9:30 Friday morning…

RAID on an NSLU2

Hi, I’m Phil, and I’m a compulsive spendaholic…

I’ve just bought a pair of 400GB Seagate Pushbutton Backup hard drives for my Linksys NSLU2 server. Said drives are now operating in a mixed-RAID array – 1GB of striped (RAID0) swap space, and 399GB of mirrored (RAID1) data store. In other words, if one drive packs its bags and goes south, I should at least be able to recover my data from the remaining drive.

I actually got the drives from Maplins (shock horror – I never buy PC kit from Maplins) Total cost? £90 per drive, for a total of £180. Now I just need to figure out how to get the blasted things to start from cold – I figure a bit of Polymorph (mouldable plastic that melts in hot water) and a rubber band or three will probably do the trick.

And I’m blogging on Linux on my AMD64 box. Hell has frozen over 😛

The most overpowered Satpro4600 on the planet?

It’s official. I’ve just about maxed out my trusty Satellite Pro 4600 (which goes by the moniker ‘’ when it’s online, but that only works inside my LAN). Here’s the spec as of 9PM tonight:

  • 1GHz Pentium III Mobile CPU, 100MHz frontside bus
  • 512MB PC133 SDRAM (IBM-branded, made by Micron Technology, yum – bought on eBay at a decent price)
  • 40GB Seagate Momentus 5400.2 (ST94813A) PATA ATA100 hard drive, 8MB cache and FDB motor. When Seagate say ‘quiet’ they don’t lie – you can’t even hear the thing seek unless it’s being pushed really hard and your ear is within a few inches of the drive. Nice drive, bloody quick, especially in comparison to the 4200RPM IBM TravelStar the laptop came with.
  • 14.1″ TFT LCD screen – a few pressure marks and a dead pixel but otherwise good
  • Panasonic UJ-840D DVD ReWriter – despite what Toshiba say, this machine will take a rewriter
  • Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG (Centrino) 802.11B/G WiFi – yep, it’ll take a MiniPCI WiFi card too 🙂

And of course there’s the standard cluster of ports – 2x USB1.1, VGA-out, TV-out (composite and S-Video), RS232 serial, parallel, 2x CardBus, audio in/out. Oh, and the floppy drive. And the really nice 2001-era Toshiba keyboard.

On the ‘gotta buy this’ list ATM is a CardBus DVB-T (Freeview) card, and after that (maybe) a bigger HDD and a Cardbus USB2 card. Actually, the Cardbus USB2 would let me use my Freecom USB2 DVB-T card on the laptop, thus saving £30 on the Cardbus DVB-T.. Decisions, decisions…

*ANOTHER* SatPro 4600 problem

Yep, my Satellite Pro 4600 is acting up again. This time the LCD inverter (the second one I fitted) has gone intermittent. I’ve resoldered the two step-up transformers and the piezo transformer, so hopefully I’ve got the problem sorted this time. Of course, if the screen cuts out on me again, I reserve the right to scream and hurl the blasted thing out of a window.
Shopping list item #1: New laptop. Just as soon as I find one that’s Linux-compatible (read as “everything works on Linux without config file hacking or kernel patches”) and has a nice keyboard. Oh, and I like the Toshiba Accupoint ‘joystick’ mouse controller. Trackpads are awful. Of course, now I’ve said that, someone’s going to email me to tell me that I’m wrong, and proceed to insult me in the way only an obsessed Trackpad fanboy can 😀

An analysis of the Warezov (?) spam storm

Over the past few days, I’ve been getting a lot of this type of spam (read: spam where the subject of the message is the same as the first name of the sender). Just for grins I pulled apart the headers. My notes are in bold:

From – Wed Nov 15 17:58:49 2006
X-Account-Key: account3
X-UIDL: 450b0d8900017f61
X-Mozilla-Status: 0001
X-Mozilla-Status2: 00000000
Pretty standard Mozilla Thunderbird inbound message headers


These spammers are faking the return-path…
Envelope-to: *******
Delivery-date: Wed, 15 Nov 2006 17:47:36 +0000
Received: from []
by localhost with POP3 (fetchmail-6.2.5)
for *******@localhost (single-drop); Wed, 15 Nov 2006 17:50:09 +0000 (GMT)

That’s the server handling my mail –
Received: from [] (
by with esmtp (Exim 4.52)
id 1GkOrI-0002OH-8q
for *******; Wed, 15 Nov 2006 17:47:36 +0000

This suggests that the mail was sent through a spam zombie or open relay. My money’s on the former.

Received: from (HELO
by with esmtp (;O>’.00>7’15 AQY0N)
id ,5)5*1-H410XU-8D
for *******; Wed, 15 Nov 2006 17:47:46 -0540

This is faked. It seems the spam mailer is doing a DNS lookup to find out what server MXes for That just happens to be So the mailer/virus/RAT adds on this header to make it look like the zombie is relaying from a valid MX.
From: “Newton Abbott”
To: < *******>
Subject: Newton

Like I said. Subject == FirstName. A few regexps and some extensions to HAMSTER should block this rubbish quite nicely.
Date: Wed, 15 Nov 2006 17:47:46 -0540

What the hell? Five hours and 40 minutes behind GMT?! I thought the International Time Zones worked in 30-minute increments…

Content-Type: text/plain;

1252 is Central Europe.
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
X-Priority: 3 (Normal)
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
X-Mailer: Microsoft Office Outlook, Build 11.0.6353
X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.00.2800.1807

Faking M$ Outlook Express. Cute.
X-HAMSTER-Info: HAMster 0.0.1-beta1 (Atlanta) ($Rev$)
X-HAMSTER-Info: by Phil Pemberton
X-HAMSTER-Status: ham
HAMSTER is my spam filter. HAMSTER is an acronym for ‘Highly Adaptable Mail Scanner for Tracking and Eliminating Rubbish’. It’s written in C using the PCRE libraries, and is blazingly fast on my Linksys NSLU2. I really do need to add support for MIME splitting and decoding though, then maybe some method of identifying and eliminating image spam…

So as you can see, there are at least two filters I’ll be adding to HAMSTER – the ‘weird time zone’ filter, and one to detect the ‘subject == firstname’ case. Hopefully that should improve the SNR of my email inbox a little…

Fun at the Hamfest.

I’ve just finished going through the stuff I bought at this year’s Great Northern Hamfest. It was as good as usual (in that I managed to spend £50 with very little effort), but there weren’t as many folks selling components as there were last year. That still didn’t stop me spending up though!

Star of the show (so to speak) was a Tektronix 422 portable oscilloscope with the AC power module. The CRT protection screen is scratched and there’s a fair bit of scratched and chipped paint on the casing, but it’s in good working order. I just need to clean off the dust, fit a new CRT protector and then it’s good to go. Total cost? Ten quid. Would have been nice if it had the AC/DC power module (which lets you run it off a battery pack), but for ten quid I’m not grumbling.
I also decided to scrap the idea of building a battery charger. Instead, I bought a neat little ‘intelligent’ charger for £15 – a Min-Wa “MW6278 Intercept”. It’s a four-bay charger, can do AA, AAA, C, D and PP3, takes about four hours to charge a set of 2700mAh NiMH AAs (or around 2h30m for a set of 1600s) and runs each cell individually to stop one ‘lazy’ cell from overcharging the other three. I also picked up a set of Vapex Tech 2700mAh AAs and a set of 1100mAh AAAs for £9. Oh, and the strip of five CR2032s for £2 (one of my PCs is bitching about having a flat CMOS battery)…

Components next… I got another three TIL311 displays, 19 Signetics 82S129 fuse-PROMs and a single 82S23 fuse-PROM. I’m kicking myself for not buying more 82S23s (there were at least another half a dozen) on the grounds that I thought they were just milspec versions of 74LS logic gates. In future, I’m going to take my Palm VIIx and a copy of my 74LS cross reference database.

I found a nice (read: cheap) DVD rewriter for my laptop as well – it’s a Panasonic UJ-840D. No firmware support from Panasonic at all, it’s got 1.00 firmware loaded, but it was cheap and it burns Fujifilm +Rs quite happily at 8x. I still need to have a play with the CD burning side of things, though.

On a less electronic-y note, I picked up some reading material. A copy of “Digital Logic: Analysis, Application and Design” by Garrod & Borns, a copy of the Harris Semiconductor 1994 Intelligent Power ICs databook (P/N DB304.1), a copy of the Inmos “The Transputer Family” databook (March 1986 edition, P/N 72 TRN 056 00) and two copies of the Intersil “Analog Products Catalogue, Volume II”. What can I say, I’m a sucker for old databooks and electronics reference material. My bookshelf is caving under the strain of supporting so many books…

Y’know, I think I might just have a bit too much stuff. Just a bit, mind…

Getting around the “geronimo-specs” dependency issue on FC6

Seems WordPress butchered the command line I posted — I’ve turned off WYSIWYG Editing and fixed the bug. Thanks to Tim Petrowsky for pointing this out.

Problem: On Fedora Core 6 (and probably Core 5 too), if you enable the JPackage repositories and run a ‘yum update’, Yum will fail with the following error:

Error: Missing Dependency: geronimo-specs = 1.0-0.M2.2jpp.12 is needed by package geronimo-specs-compat

At a root shell, enter the following commands:

# rpm -e –nodeps geronimo-specs-compat

# yum install geronimo-specs

(optional) # yum update

Guess how long it took me to figure this out…

Recordings from HOPE6 now online

(thanks to BoingBoing for the lead on this)

Looks like nearly all of the presentations/talks that took place at HOPE 6 are available for download from the website. Shame the presentation slides aren’t available though – a lot of the more in-depth presentations (digital forensics, crypto, protocol design, etc) are pretty much unintelligible without the slides.. Designing a page can be really hard sometimes, I always use website design in Perth Western Australia for professional assistance as well as the Dallas SEO company and a SEO agency based in Cumming, GA when I’m away from home. Anyone know where I can get copies of the presentations (some or all)?

PirateBay Sunk, A Dark Day for BitTorrent?

I guess you’ve probably heard this by now, but here it is again just in case you haven’t…

The Pirate Bay BitTorrent tracker servers have been seized by Swedish police, apparently under pressure from the Media Mafia (read: Hollywood and the MPAA). Seems that not only have TPB’s servers been taken, but also other servers that were in the same datacentres — and Rix|Port80 are reporting that their sites have been raided by the police. This has taken a lot of other sites, including GameSwitch, offline… The Swedish Police, Antipiratbyran and the **AA are not going to make any friends doing this sort of thing.
The folks behind TPB are hoping to be up and running again “within a day or two”. I wish them all the best in getting their site up and running again, and hope that the arguments from the **AA and APB.

To be honest, had it not been for TPB, I’d have never bought the Firefly DVDs. I torrented the first episode from TPB a while back, watched it, and liked it enough to want to buy the DVDs… Bought the DVDs the next day and spent the rest of the week watching them. Now I’m not sure I’ll ever buy a DVD or a CD again – certainly not after this.
References: (Gameswitch) (TPB shutdown page) (proof that the **AA are involved) (Slyck news article) (alleged photos of the empty racks in the Rix|Port80 data centre) (statement from PRQ)

Bloody computers

Isn’t it funny how computers can tell when you’ve either acquired a bit of cash, or when you’re totally skint, and then pick that exact time to fail?

I’ve just had a power supply fail on my Acorn RiscPC. Cost, sir? £115 plus VAT and postage to you Sir.

I’ve just spent £140 on a Unipod! Had I known the machine was going to do this, I wouldn’t have bothered with the upgrade.