January 2010 Archives

It's Seminar Time Again - Tang Soo ! (Revisited)

Our semi-annual seminar took place in October, but I simply couldn't find the time to discuss it in any detail. Each time I attend seminar, I have to take stock in the messages I receive from Grandmaster Saul Kim. He usually begins each workout with some pithy philosophical teachings. After seminar I asked him about the example and he indicated that these are classical Chinese Dao philosophy
I was particularly struck by the "cat and mouse" reference. He suggested that we must choose a life role. Obviously these were not his exact words, but merely my interpretation of the message.

Some people will chose to play the cat, that is one who seeks to be the aggressor or pushes the issue. Skillful, cunning, and very often fraught with peril. These Cats are very adventurous but are not always rewarded with a meal as a by-product of risk. On the hand, if you choose to play the role of a mouse... Well life is very different. Taking no risks, the mouse must always watch its back for it could easily become the meal of an aggressive cat.

The mouse is also very hungry but typically never gets enough to eat because it is forever nervous and fearful of death. Actually, there is another position which is even more precarious than that of the mouse or cat. This would be those that take no position or simply play the fence. Why is this so dangerous and careless? Well, consider the fact that indecisiveness never tends to advance any cause. In many cases people become unrecognizable or simply dismissed because they skate through live not willing to establish a role for themselves. Hell at least a mouse understands its direction or stage in life :-)

Yes, I really enjoyed this lesson. Once this brief lesson was shared we spent the next 1.5 - 2hrs working on hand techniques. Lots of punches, ridge hand strikes and sudos. We emphasized hip rotation and using the elbow for reverse strikes while the lead fist attacks. There was also much instruction in striking will stepping backwards. Tang Soo Do is a system of no retreat, but deception is quite advantageous.

2.5hrs into the seminar, I realized that I should begin taping my feet as I never seem to be able to avoid aggravating blisters on the balls of my feet. The carpet in the dojang is not very forgiving..

Well the next seminar will take place in March or April. I expect to have more to share.

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Retiring the Smoothie

AMD K5 PR166

Image via Wikipedia

After many years of firewall happiness, I finally was forced to retire my smoothwall DIY firewall. I built this box during the time when it was sexy to create a firewall from scratch using a throw away beige box. In fact, the box had been powered by the venerable AMD K5 CPU (133Mhz).. It ran flawlessly since 2000. Well why retire it now? I simply need to reduce the thermal footprint in the lab. Secondly, I realized that the squid proxy seemed to be causing me some issues. Now that I run a managed switch Linksys SRW224P and Linksys VPN/Router RV082, I didn't see the point in running two firewalls.

Oh well, I can re-deploy the box for another purpose. It was cool to drop two NICs in the box and have complete control over the behavior of the packet filtering. The box matriculated from ipchains to iptables. How sweet it was ;-)

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Book of Eli

I really haven't had the time to discuss some of the better films or at least those that I've reached into my pockets to support. I still contend that it is probably better to get the torrent for most flicks. Anyway I digress. There have been some real jewels. This film is perhaps best in class for 2K10.
In an effort not to give away the plot, I would call it a holy crusade based in an apocalypse.
Subplots abound in this flick, ultimate faith, and conviction. Though I must say it is not Denzell Washington's best project, he did a great job with a very plausible character.

I'm not the religious fanatic, but I could see where stereotypes could be drawn and proliferated with the conversation throughout. Nuff said.

Analog Hole Musings

Component video cable with 3 RCA connectors.

Image via Wikipedia

When Comcast decided to convert its services to digital, there were several channels that I could no longer view. This problem was due to the fact that I did not have a cable set-top box. Most of the HD digital content is encrypted and can only be viewed via cable box. The move eventually forced me into trying out the AT&T U-Verse program. The U-Verse price seemed to be very good for the value, thus I participated in the trial promotion. I grabbed the U-200 pkg. Immediately I realized that you get a far better picture with IPTV. Besides having a really great picture, I also noticed that my local PEG channels had disappeared. Eventually, the anger wore off and I didn't think much about it.

Once I finally discovered the Neuros OSD, I began to record baseball games from FOX. I simply used the component video connections on the TV to captured standard definition and OTH HD (Fox, ESPN, etc). After doing this for roughly 3 - 5 months, one day component video data capturing stopped working. Very weird. I then resorted to using S-Video connection on the U-Verse DVB, but that was less than optimal. The audio was clipped and the quality of the video was horrible. Lastly, I'd horror stories of folks attempting to use MythTV with U-Verse service. Somehow you had to get two U-Verse gateways and essentially sniff the DSLAM packets and spoof an IP address. Though it sounded quite intriguing, I love a challenge. My wife would likely have a fit. Too much work for me these days. So I quickly got rid of U-Verse.

So it really is the lesser of two evils. Fool with AT&T U-Verse or Comcast. I don't believe Comcast spends too much time encrypting the data leaving it's set top boxes. I would imagine they probably use QAM, but never try to discourage folks for manipulating the analog hole.

To date, I've upgraded the Comcast set top box from the DCT-5100 to the DCX-3400 DVR QAM. I noticed the older DCT-5100 had a disabled IEEE-1394 (Firewire) port and that would be illegal.

So, once I finally get MythTV setup appropriately, I'll have commercial flagging goodness and total control over recording and channel line-up.

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Foray into DOCSIS 3.0 - Weirdness of DNS Caching

A gigabit HP-ProCurve network switch in a nest...

Image via Wikipedia

I recently upgraded to a DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem - Motorola Surfboard SB6120. After sharing the MAC address and product S/N, the unit was provisioned by Comcast. All of the LAN clients were able to ping out and resolve FQDNs without issue. However, I have one rogue winxp client that seems to be caching some weird Comcast maintenance site. It was the only box that was not using our local proxy (TOR/Privoxy). Once I setup the client to use our pseudo-local proxy the problem went away. However, this was not an elegant solution due to the decreased speed of sending traffic through TOR. Personally, I don't have a problem using TOR. Works well for me. I suppose that I could have offered foxyproxy to this particular user. However the owner of that winxp box isn't really interested in using proxies. Go figure :-)

Anyway the weird cached maintenance site can be seen here.

After a bit of head scratching I realized that I had a DNS problem. For whatever reason, none of the clients could resolve a FQDN.

Most of the time spent on the phone with Comcast help desk/support was useless. Some of the excuses were, "the cable modem was too new", "your router/firewall is the culprit".. The simple troubleshooting script for the average one-eyed droid was exhausted after I presented my problem. In fairness to Comcast, there was one tech who seemed interested. He shared all possible DNS server IPs, both public and Comcast specific. Nothing solved the issue. We even tried GOOGs public DNS servers (obviously not ideal), but did not solve the issue.

I spent a few days fooling around and eventually reverted back to my tried and true Linksys Cable modem BEFCMU010 (DOCSIS 1.0).

Some things I checked during my trouble shooting effort:

Rebooted both firewall (Smoothwall 2.0) and 1GB network switch
Rebooted with Ativa wireless G WAP
Rebooted Cable Modem
grepped through the squid access logs on Smoothwall 2.0.box

Below are snippets from my squid proxy access log. I use squid as a cheap caching server. Judging from the logs, it seems that the some sites are being re-directed others are being authorized. Not sure why. - - [07/Jan/2010:11:35:46 -0500] "GET http://actsvr.comcastonline.com/landing_filter.html? HTTP/1.0" 200 473 TCP_MISS:DIRECT - - [07/Jan/2010:11:37:09 -0500] "GET http://actsvr.comcastonline.com/landing_filter.html? HTTP/1.0" 200 473 TCP_MISS:DIRECT - - [07/Jan/2010:11:37:52 -0500] "GET http://actsvr.comcastonline.com/landing_filter.html? HTTP/1.0" 200 473 TCP_MISS:DIRECT - - [03/Jan/2010:18:05:16 -0500] "GET http://toolbarqueries.google.
com/search? HTTP/1.1" 302 500 TCP_MISS:DIRECT - - [03/Jan/2010:18:05:39 -0500] "GET http://pong1.clientapps.yahoo.com/csver/1_1 HTTP/1.1" 200 484 TCP_HIT:NONE - - [03/Jan/2010:18:06:37 -0500] "POST http://bwhome.logitech.com/B21466 HTTP/1.1" 0 0 TCP_MISS:DIRECT - - [03/Jan/2010:18:08:13 -0500] "GET http://linkhelp.clients.google.com/tbproxy/lh/fixurl? HTTP/1.1" 302 526 TCP_MISS:DIRECT

Here are some of the things I learned in this failed attempt:

  • Onion Routers are terrific - I was able to circumvent the Comcast caching issue using TOR and Privoxy
  • Never buy newly released modems without understanding how they work with various ISPs
  • Don't expect provisioning to be a simple evolution
  • DOCSIS 3.0 has some real potential once it becomes mainstream and all ISPs begin to use it.

Wonder if other people have had any success with these newer cable modems...
I will likely re-visit this experiment once I return the SB6120 back to "Worst Buy"..
Perhaps I will have a better experience next time.

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Related Entries in Movable Type

Image representing Movable Type as depicted in...

Image via CrunchBase

If you have been a frequent reader of this blog, you might notice that I am now listing top 4 entries that could possibly be related to that particular entry. At this point a strategically placed small font header which reads "Possibly Related" would likely help my readers. When I made changes to my individual entry archive template, I neglected to add this useful header. Will get to this sometime this week. *Sigh* I digress.

Anyway, I am not using any special plug-in aside from the Brad Choate's venerable mtsql plug-in, which simply creates a means to extract or parse data from a mySQL relational database. Sorry postgres folks, I've not seen plug-in for anything but mySQL. Though, I imagine it would be possible to do the same.

Basically, you must setup a full text index within your movabletype relational database. Chad Everett also wrote a very helpful blog entry on this topic. In fact my index query was similar to this one..

ALTER TABLE mt_entry ADD FULLTEXT ( entry_title, entry_text, entry_text_more );

The MT mark-up language allows you to essentially data mine your previous entries and display them under the body of all new blog entry. That is provided that you modify the appropriate movabletype design templates. Apparently, I'll need to modify additional main index template in addition to the individual entry archive.

Because I have been blogging for nearly 7yrs, I have amassed quite a bit of content.
It is not easy to search for entries of interest. So, why not aid the reader in this process?
When I rebuilt my blog early last year, I removed several of the helpful stuff from the my main index template (ie netcast/podcast RSS Feeds, Flickr URL, and much of the other social network links) and in retrospect it probably was a mistake. So, this too will be restored quite soon.

Unfortunately, as I peruse my archives I see that the results are all over the map. Not sure why the quality of these so-called related entries are not consistently relevant.
My relational database full-context query consisted of keywords, entry title, extended entry text, entry text. I will eventually discover a way to add the tags which I have been using for quite sometime. I'll need to peruse my MT database fields to determine how movable type references this "tags" field. I'm clear that this information should also be in my full text index too.

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What ails us?

Pfizer, Inc.

Image via Wikipedia

It does not take much to notice the huge deluge of pharmaceutical related commercials. You can't watch any televised sporting event without receiving a pitch for some cholesterol medication or incontinence treatment. Was it always this way? Of course not..

Bill Moyers Journal provided clarity to this particular issue in a recent segment with guest panelist Melody Petersen. The premise of the discussion was that large pharmaceutical companies have an invested billions in marketing drugs to the American people. Often times the drugs are earmarked for ailments that do not yet exist. Anyone with a critical mind was suggest that this sort of behavior is criminal, but these drug companies typically escape judgment due to their very powerful lobbyist. When I reviewed the movie Sicko in an earlier post, I remarked about the pharm lobbyists which have always had the attention of politicians of various Congressional committee chairs.

You really don't need many historical references to understand the value of manipulation.
The phenomenon called Direct-to-Consumer advertising is art form that has been perfected by drug companies. I suppose one could argue that the tobacco and fast-food industries learned and deployed this strategy decades prior to the pharmaceutical industries. However, the difference is quite remarkable. The tobacco industry no longer does any marketing due to numerous health issues attributed to cigarette smoking and other tobacco products. More specifically clinical studies have directly linked lung and throat cancer to cigarette smoking. Huge litigation and bad press ultimately forced the tobacco industry to remove ads targeting children and young adults (see Marlboro Man). Fast food companies have also been put on notice. The FDA now requires McDonald's, Burger King and others to post the caloric intake of all fast-foods served to public. The film Super-Size Me is a very sobering reminder of the gullible nature of children and adults. People will by and consume almost anything when it is marketed directly to them. This is why the blitzkrieg marketing approach of pharmaceuticals is so effectively dangerous. For instance, nail fungus and male enhancement medicines are particularly interesting cases. Drug companies created an animated character/monster which it used to entice or captivate the interest of young viewers. The male enhancement commercials used affable characters from the '60's to describe the value of an energized male with enlarged genitalia. Penile dysfunction is a brisk business these days. No wonder spammers have a field day with this subject matter. The consumer buying potential is immense and if the marketing campaigns go unchecked, the profit margins will continue to be quite significant. Over the counter drugs are not really as profitable as the prescription meds.
The prescription meds are the focal points of the large pharm giants (ie Pfizer, Merck, etc),as consumer are more likely to ask their doctors about the use of the various meds. This is particularly true now that the so-called "Baby Boomer" population has reached retirement age.

As discussed earlier, the drug lobbyists are extremely influential.

With their hoards of cash, the companies have readily handed money to patient groups, hospitals, universities, medical schools, physician societies, government agencies, and just about any organization they want on their side. [...] The industry's cash-filled coffers have given it a stranglehold on medical science.

According to Petersen, the rewards have been large. America has become the top consumer of prescription drugs in the world, with nearly 65% of the population on physician-prescribed medication. In 2005, Americans spent $250 billion dollars on such drugs. This consumption made pharmaceuticals the most profitable business sector in America from 1995-2002.

So, what is a consumer to do? With this aggressive marketing campaign one might think that they cannot withstand the onslaught from large pharm companies. One obvious solution would be to simply ignore the ads by using a PVR which skips ads (ie mythTV). The other alternative is simply use your critical mind to mitigate wasteful spending on these miracle drugs. If you have aging relatives, arm them with information. Discourage them from purchasing anything that is advertised on television. You can mitigate the FUD, by sharing truthful and timely information. Once people, are educated they are not easily scared or fearful.

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