Jul 18, 2008
1007 EST5EDT: On the road, er, rail again.
Just a few scant minutes ago I boarded the Acela express train out of Union Station in Washington, DC destined for the city that never sleeps. Yes, once again New York City is my destination, and I sincerely hope that it's prepared for the advent of Hackers On Planet Earth, the biannual convention held by 2600 Magazine at the Hotel Pennsylvania.
Taking the train is probably one of my favorite ways to travel. It's quiet, it's fast, and the scenery is something that you don't often get to see in the DC metroplex, especially if it's due to the fact that you often don't have the time to watch the world go by if you're in the driver's seat, and when you're stuck in a traffic jam it's usually in a part of the country that doesn't have a whole lot to look at. It's my considered opinion that the highway, concrete embankments, and vanity license plates don't constitute scenery as such. In just five minutes I've seen a lake, a river, an abandoned warehouse the roof of which has crumbled so much that small oak trees consider the dust as soil and have grown to a height of about two feet since their seeds landed there, graffiti the likes of which you just don't get where I live, and lots and lots of green, healthy deciduous trees.
Incidentally, the security of Union Station is still pretty light since the last time I was there. The recent media fiasco about taking photographs in there aside (I saw a couple of people taking pictures in there; make of that what you will), you can walk in pretty much however you want (front doors, side doors, or by taking the Metro into the lower level) and walk around as you please. Security guards operate in teams of two there, and it's not unusual to see police dogs of some kind (I'd guess bomb or drug sniffing dogs, judging by what happened last time) with their handlers making rounds every few minutes. There are signs up in the more train-oriented areas that say that everyone is subject to random searches of their luggage, and failure to consent will result in your not being allowed to board the train. There are
also notices that state that you must produce ID to board the train, but so far as I know none of us were asked to do so this morning. Disposable plastic zipties are good for attaching a sleeping bag to one's backpack, I discovered this morning. Just bring a pair of scissors to cut them and replacements for the trip home.
I'm riding in the quiet car of the train, which requires that all sources of sound be through headphones, and conversation must be at most at the level of a whisper. It's very much like a library in here, something that I'm profoundly okay with. I don't have much time these days to hang out in the library reading, mostly because the list of books in my personal collection is quite lengthy.
I recieved a series of text messages last night from Vlad - the Vlad that I used to run with when I lived in Pittsburgh. He's staff at HOPE this year, so he and a few others went up early to get things together. net.connectivity at the Hotel Penn is spotty at best and his wireless access point shot itself last night, so in addition to a couple changes of clothes I've got a wireless access point, ethernet hub, and a few CAT-5 cables in my duffel bag to kit out the hotel room. Hasufin went up earlier this morning, if I recall correctly.
Earlier this week Laurelinde asked me to take a look at her secondary machine, an older Alienware Pentium-IV box that was having problems with Ubuntu Linux. The install went as expected, I was told, but it was also taking the machine a good ten minutes to finish POSTing (power on self-test), and even then the boot loader wasn't working properly (GRUB was throwing an error 18). As it turned out, there were a couple of small, subtle glitches that added up into a bewildering problem. Firstly, the BIOS battery was dead, meaning that system settings weren't staying set. On top of this, the hard drive, which was new, was jumpered for "master with a slave" when there was no slave drive present. End result: the system tests the drive, which passed, and spent five minutes trying to test a secondary hard drive that wasn't really there. Oops. A DVD-ROM and CD writer on the second IDE channel were jumpered properly but swapped on the cable, which in theory should not make a difference but in practice never works quite the way the spec says.
I also discovered that using the gparted live CD to shuffle partitions around on a drive isn't always going to work. I had to create a /boot partition so that GRUB would play nicely, but after moving partitions around and performing some jiggery-pokery on the partition table it still didn't work. The easiest fix was to reinstall everything, which wasn't a big deal because the box was a new install, anyway, and was hardly used.
Once again, it's the little things in life that come to mind when I sit down to write. The little things that make me happy - a quiet night hacking around in the living room, a train ride, Joy Division in my headphones, looking out the window at the reservoir, the cemetary, the back dirt roads that go off into the woods that I always want to follow to see where they lead. For once, my times aren't about deadlines, debates, arguments, traffic jams, wedding plans, politics, or the price of gas (which still pisses me off anymore, let me tell you). Life is the quiet time before adventure, and we'll see what kind of adventures HOPE brings this year.
1040 EST5EDT: I just saw someone parasailing in what I think is the Chesapeake Bay. That looks like fun.
1110 EST5EDT: The train's been stopped for about ten minutes now. The engineer just announced that there is a fault with something in the train.
1121 EST5EDT: The problem is in the power of the train (there's a power car, now? I didn't know that.) Just for fun, I turned on Windbringer's wireless card and fired up Kismet. There are only two wireless networks visible from here, and those are unconfigured ad-hoc wireless nets. In short, nothing this far out.
In case you're curious, I'm writing all of this in a text file on Windbringer, who is currently running off the grid. When I get to a secure location (i.e., one in which some subset of convention goers are unlikely to be monitoring network traffic) I'll upload the text to Leandra, do the final edits, and post the entry.
1158 EST5EDT: Back in motion.
1556 EST5EDT: Jason Scott of textfiles.com is here in full steampunk regalia. I'm sitting in I/O Error's presentation on the coldboot memory dump attack fromm earlier this year. I'm still wondering if I should inform him that someone released the software to carry it out earlier this year... he probably already knows, though.