My Final Exam… Like… Ever

[this post has been partially damaged during a server failure on Sunday 11th July 2004, and it has been possible to recover only a part of it]

I feel kind of odd. And no, I’m not just referring to my (still kind-of burny) Lariam headache:

I’ve just had my final exam. And I mean ever.

I know I’m not a graduate yet (assuming I even pass these buggers), but… there’s something kind-of final feeling about leaving that exam room. It took me a good few minutes walking down the hill before it really hit me that this is the end of it.

Five years.

I’ve been a student here at Aberystwyth for almost five years. That’s over a fifth of my life. That’s pretty much all of my adult life (going by the legal definition of ’18’).

I’ve been in apprehensive anticipation of this moment all year. Perhaps longer. I’m not trying to cling on to it – I know when it’s time to let go and get on with other things – but I still feel a certain… sadness… at something having passed by. It’s not unlike… the death of a pet. Or a loved-one moving away. It’s just a hole in me that waits – not fearful… but: presentiment at what is to fill it.

Five years.

When I was in my first year, I talked with folks like Rory

Lariam Dream The First

I’d been warned that this stuff could give you weird dreams. Last night I dreamt entirely in anime. Which is pretty impressive, I thought. I was a character in a Studio Ghibli-esque anime flick (it was dubbed, so I was moving my mouth in Japanese and somebody else’s voice came out in English – the same was true of everybody else). Somebody had built two tall golden skyscrapers and was offering free rides up and down them in the lifts. I joined a lift packed full of people (oh yeh; I was a little boy again – forgot to mention that). It was an old-fashioned operator-controlled lift, with a big blue lever of unusual shape at either end to control the ascent/descent and doors (yes, just one lever: no; that wasn’t explained). When everybody got off I played with the lever and took the lift up and down and up and down and up and down… pretty much all night.

Hide & Seek

Claire, Paul, Bryn, Ruth, JTA, Andy and I went to the beach this evening to play frisbee and watch the sunset. We even got Bryn participating, which is somewhat a rarity for any of this fun outings that involve physical activity. Everybody seemed happy to be taking a break from exams. Aber is wonderful this time of year – why must it coincide with exam time?

Paul got some mint-choc-chip ice cream without chocolate chips. Don’t ask.

Afterwards, we all went to the Castle and played hide & seek as it got darker. Paul went first, and I was last to be found – I’d climbed over a wall to a fenced-off area, in which I was very visible, but not in a place anyone would look. I went second, and took ages to find Paul and Ruth. It shouldn’t have taken so long to find Ruth – she was just in the shadows of a tower – but Paul had a brilliant hiding place: inside the ruins of a chimney (how he squeezed in there I’ll never know). For our final game, with Ruth hunting, I hid on top of a tower – with a great view – where I could become completely concealed by lying down. I was found third-from-last, with JTA and Claire remaining hidden for ages (despite many [not particularly helpful] text-messaged clues sent by JTA to Ruth). JTA had wedged himself between two upstanding slabs of rock, and could only be seen from above. Claire, better yet, had lay down and slid herself into what appeared to be an old drainage channel from one of the buildings into the courtyard.

Finally, we all returned to the flat for a game of Chez Geek: Paul won, and deservedly so (despite us all ganging up on him quite brutally at the end.

Time for bed, methinks.

 

My Blog’s Been Kind-Of Quiet Of Late, So Here’s Some Crap

[this post has been partially damaged during a server failure on Sunday 11th July 2004, and it has been possible to recover only a part of it]

[more of this post was recovered on 13 October 2018]

You can blame Paul for this, but here we go:

1: Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4. Write down what it says: You enter these seven digits as your password. (See Figure 2.1.) If you have a password

2: Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What do you touch first?: Two bottle caps.

3: What is the last thing you watched on TV?: I can’t even remember the last time I watched TV.

4: WITHOUT LOOKING, guess what the time is: 11:40?

5: Now look at the clock, what is the actual time?: 11:37

6: With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?: The other computer. A truck backing up. A generator. A woman’s footsteps. A bus. Quiet chattering. A woman coughing.

7: When did you last step outside? Outside? That’s like here, but with lower resolution, isn’t it? I guess it must have been yesterday sometime.

8: Before you came to this website, what did you look at?: An SSH shell.

9: What are you wearing?: Black …

 

Sex, Sexuality, Friends, Family, Defecation, Unfamiliar Places, Familiar Places, Failure, And Other Things To Make Freud Blush

[this post has been partially damaged during a server failure on Sunday 11th July 2004, and it has been possible to recover only a part of it]

Oh your god. What a dream! It’s been years since I’ve dreamt anything so ‘out there’. Perhaps a result of all the Hobgoblin I drank last night. Perhaps caused by exam stress. Perhaps we really are just a product of the things we take in from the world around us – my dream seems to twist and contort …

How To Use SSH Tunnelling To Allow Services To Pass Through A Firewall

[this post has been partially damaged during a server failure on 11 July 2004; with the exception of the images, it was recovered on 13 October 2018]

Paul has been stuck with a problem of late – he’s now living in university accomodation, and he’s found that he can’t connect through the university firewall to his external mail server. I advised him that it’s possible to set up an ‘SSH Tunnel’ (through central.aber.ac.uk) to fix this problem, but he hasn’t met with much success (see his blog entry for more details). In any case, here’s my investigation (and solution) to the problem.

How To Use SSH Tunnelling To Allow Services To Pass Through A Firewall
In my example, I’m going to try the opposite to what Paul is trying to achieve. I’m going to try to allow my POP3 e-mail client to get access to the university e-mail server (pophost.aber.ac.uk). As things stand, this server is on the other side of the university firewall, and is inaccessible from outside. The server central.aber.ac.uk, however, is accessible from both sides of the firewall. So what I’ve got is this (yes, I know that this is a gross oversimplification):

As you can see, connecting from my home PC is futile:

C:\Documents and Settings\Dan>telnet pophost.aber.ac.uk 110
Connecting To pophost.aber.ac.uk...Could not open connection to the host, on por
t 110: Connect failed

But if I SSH-in to central.aber.ac.uk…

central:~ $ telnet pophost.aber.ac.uk 110
Trying 144.124.16.40...
Connected to pophost.aber.ac.uk.
Escape character is '^]'.
+OK mailsplit Oct 2000 ready

So, what I need to do is to tell my SSH client to connect to central.aber.ac.uk, and forward specific traffic through the firewall to the mail server. Here’s what I needed to know:

(a) A free TCP port number on my own computer from which I can virtually ‘pipe’ the connection. Most numbers over 1024 are fine. I chose ‘9110’.
(b) The name of the mail server – ‘pophost.aber.ac.uk’.
(c) The TCP port to which I wanted to connect – the standard port for a POP3 mail server is ‘110’.
(d) My user name on a server which: (1) I can connect to; (2) can connect to the server specified in (b). It happens to be ‘dlh9’.
(e) The name of the server specified in (d) (i.e. ‘central.aber.ac.uk’).
(f) My password on the server. Like I’m going to tell you that.

The syntax is:

ssh -L (a):(b):(c) (d)@(e)

I’m using the non-commercial version of SSH Secure Shell Client, so here’s what happens:

C:\Documents and Settings\Dan>"\Program Files\SSH Secure Shell\ssh2.exe" -L 9110
:pophost.aber.ac.uk:110 dlh9@central.aber.ac.uk
dlh9's password:
Authentication successful.

At this point, I’m ready to go. Look what happens when I connect to port 9110 on my own computer, now…

C:\Documents and Settings\Dan>telnet localhost 9110
+OK mailsplit Oct 2000 ready

I could simply point my e-mail program at the ‘mail server’ at localhost:9110, and I’d be able to collect my university e-mail (so long as my SSH connection remained open).

Hopefully this guide will help some folks out there who are struggling with this kind of thing, and in particular, help Paul.

My Very First Operating System

[this post has been partially damaged during a server failure on Sunday 11th July 2004, and it has been possible to recover only a part of it]

[more of this post was recovered on 13 October 2018]

I’ve just written my very first Operating System! And I’m putting it here, online, so that you can give it a go if you like. And no, you don’t need to install it – just put it on a floppy disk and try it from there (no, you can’t boot it from a CD yet)!

Don’t expect too much. There’s no user interface (not even a command line). All it is is a bootloader and a kernel that ‘displays pretty squares’ (I stole the ‘pretty squares’ code from somebody else – my Assesmbly needs some work!).

Hardware Requirements
386SX/25MHz or faster processessor
520K or better memory
Floppy disk drive

Instructions For Use
1. Download the floppy disk image file [34K]
2. Download and install WinImage 6.1 (this program lets you write floppy disk image files to floppy disks).
3. Open the image file in WinImage, insert a floppy disk, and select “Format And Write Floppy Disk” from the “Disk” menu. The Operating System will be written to the floppy disk.
4. To run it, you need to reboot your computer with the floppy disk in the drive. If this doesn’t …

 

I AM Scared Of Bootloaders

I’ve spent the evening looking at bootloader source code (small programs, crucial to every Operating System, which do the first fundamental steps towards loading the kernel, the ‘core’ of the OS). Just to show you quite how scary this stuff is, here’s a snippet of code to “stop the floppy drive motor from spinning”:

mov dx,3F2h
mov al,0
out dx,al

Remember Microsoft vs. Netscape?

Then you’re old enough to appreciate this: OSNews is running an article about the upcoming fight between Google and Microsoft. Where the Netscape/Microsoft battle involved web browsers, the weapons of the Google/Microsoft battle will be search engines and e-mail services.

If you’re confused as to how companies can be fighting by trying to increase the market share of their free product, read the article.

 

EU To Use Quantum Crypto-Key Passing To Beat ECHELON

[this post has been partially damaged during a server failure on Sunday 11th July 2004, and it has been possible to recover only a part of it]

[further parts of this post were recovered on 13 October 2018]

Now here’s an interesting article [security.itworld.com]. It seems that the European Union is investing €11 million over four years into developing a secure communication system based on quantum cryptography.

For those of you not in the know, quantum cryptography (for passing crypto keys) works like this:

Quantum Cryptography For Dummies

  1. Alice wants to send Bob secret message, confessing her undying love, but doesn’t want anybody else to know how she feels.
  2. She fires some photons out of a special tube, so that some of them spin in different directions.
  3. Numbers are assigned to the different directions of spin, and she multiplies these together – along with a few prime numbers, for good measure – to get a Really Big Number.
  4. Then, Alice does some clever sums on the letters in her love letter, using the Really Big Number.
  5. Alice posts the first line of the new love letter to Bob (the line that says “Dear Bob,”). This is known as the ‘message header’. If Bob sends a message back saying that he got this, Alice will send the rest of…

 

Common OS Myths Debunked

[this post has been partially damaged during a server failure on Sunday 11th July 2004, and it has been possible to recover only a part of it]

In this era of pro-Linux and pro-Windows hoo-hah, it’s good to see an article who’s writer really has his head screwed on: Common OS Myths Debunked is a wonderful piece; go read it.

Linux is not the answer!

Windows is not the answer either!

Don’t even get me started on MacOS…

Operating…

“To Test Security On Your PC, You Must First Make It Inherently Insecure”

WTF??? If you go to Symantec’s Online Virus Scanner using most browsers, you’ll be told that you need to use Microsoft Internet Explorer to continue! Isn’t this just asking for trouble? It’s like saying, “Yes, we’ll check your house is secure. Now just unlock your door…”

Just plain weird.

 

Re-Arranging The Flat

Yes, the the rumours you’ve heard are true – The Flat has been rearranged. In a mighty effort (and with the help of Claire, Paul and Bryn), we’ve pretty much ‘mirrored’ the room widthways. This change provides several benefits:

  • Space saved has been reinvested in floor space and room for two sets of shelves.
  • Computer equipment is no longer stored beside the sink.
  • Instead of not being able to reach any of the shelves in the flat, Claire can now not reach merely some of them. =o)
  • Computer monitors are now not affected by the magnetic fields of the stereo speakers.
  • Webcam has a better view of the room, and possibility has been opened for a second webcam to be added (Troma Night veterans beware!).
  • Less stacking of boxes.
  • More space for seating at Troma Night.
  • More space for games on…

[damaged post partially recovered on multiple occasions]