Posts for November 2007

2007-11-09: remctl 2.11

Now back from vacation, I finally found time to release remctl 2.11, which includes the default port number change to the new IANA-registered port number. There is also a compilation fix that affected Mac OS X, some BSD systems, and AIX, and another segfault bug fixed in remctld thanks to Marcus Watts.

For the port number, the client tries the new port and falls back to the old port, so upgrading all of the clients first and then moving the ports of all of the servers should work. I have to figure out how we're going to do that transition at Stanford, given that we run remctl all over the place and have firewall rules and the like.

You can get the latest version from the remctl distribution page.

2007-11-09: Beach haul

This was a reading vacation. In twenty days of vacation, I read 17 books, nearly a book a day and a book a day if one doesn't count the various travelling days. So, of course, to keep the number of unread books I own from going down, I had to buy a bunch more.

Here's the haul:

Peter S. Beagle -- The Innkeeper's Song (sff)
Tobias S. Buckell -- Crystal Rain (sff)
Julie E. Czerneda -- Hidden in Sight (sff)
Julie E. Czerneda -- Changing Vision (sff)
Brian Daley -- Requiem for a Ruler of Worlds (sff)
Pamela C. Dean -- The Secret Country (sff)
Cory Doctorow -- Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (sff)
John M. Ford -- Casting Fortune (sff)
James Alan Gardner -- Hunted (sff)
Alan Garner -- The Moon of Gomrath (sff)
Alan Garner -- The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (sff)
Joe Haldeman -- Old Twentieth (sff)
John G. Hemry -- A Just Determination (sff)
Barry Hughart -- The Story of the Stone (sff)
Valery Leith -- The Way of the Rose (sff)
Severna Park -- The Annunciate (sff)
Frederik Pohl (ed.) -- The SFWA Grand Masters, Volume 2 (sff)
Robert Reed -- Sister Alice (sff)
Rainer Maria Rilke -- In Praise of Mortality (poetry)
Brandon Sanderson -- Elantris (sff)
Sharon Shinn -- The Shape-Changer's Wife (sff)
Zadie Smith -- White Teeth (mainstream)
Gene Wolfe -- The Knight (sff)
Gene Wolfe -- The Wizard (sff)
Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer -- Sorcery and Cecelia (sff)
John C. Wright -- The Phoenix Exultant (sff)
David Zindell -- Neverness (sff)

As is typical, most of the finds were from Robert's in Lincoln City, which is a spectacular used bookstore. I was particularly thrilled to find the Barry Hughart (sequel to The Bridge of Birds. The rest are from the book wholesaler in the outlet stores in Lincoln City, which has hardcovers for paperback prices and a great selection (they've doubled the size of their fiction section).

I have tons of book reviews already written and waiting for posting. Now I just have to rebuild my energy from the long travel times and get myself back into my normal routine and start posting them.

2007-11-10: Powell's haul

And, now that I'm back from vacation, time for another Powell's order.

Catherine Asaro -- The Final Key (sff)
Mark Falkoff (ed.) -- Poems from Guantánamo (poetry)
Doris Lessing -- The Golden Notebook (mainstream)
Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear -- A Companion to Wolves (sff)
Naomi Novik -- Empire of Ivory (sff)
Charles Stross -- Halting State (sff)
Jo Walton -- Ha'penny (sff)

Most of this goes into the short pile for reading soon, particularly the Stross, Walton, Monette & Bear, and Novik.

2007-11-12: pam-krb5 3.9

I think people have beaten the bugs out of other parts of my Kerberos PAM module and have finally turned to password changes. This is the part I don't use personally, so I'm not surprised there were some problems.

It turns out that some modules, like pam_cracklib, set PAM_AUTHTOK to NULL when they want to reject a password. Previously, when we retrieved the password for the use_authtok option, we only checked the return value of pam_get_item, but it happily returns success in this case. Then, since the password was NULL, we'd go on to prompt for it. This has been fixed.

pam-krb5 has also acquired the ability to set the password to NULL itself on password change failure (such as when the KDC rejects the password as insecure) so that subsequent modules with use_authtok set will fail. Just returning failure doesn't work due to PAM internals, even if the module is listed as requisite. This isn't the default since it breaks other things, but the option is now available.

There were also a variety of portability bugs in the last release in environments I don't personally use, which should now be cleaned up, and I started adding a debugging section to the README.

You can get the latest version from the pam-krb5 distribution page.

2007-11-12: The Gashlycrumb Tinies

Review: The Gashlycrumb Tinies, by Edward Gorey

Publisher: Harcourt Brace
Copyright: 1963
ISBN: 0-15-100308-4
Pages: 26

The cover features a small passle of very polite, well-dressed children looked over by Death, who is carrying a black umbrella. There is one page for each letter and each child. On every page, a child dies.

This delightful tiny book is elegant in its understated simplicity. There is no explanation, no background, only the cryptic subtitle of or, After the Outing and Gorey's beautifully detailed and darkly shaded line drawings. Each page features a cherubic youngster, often in miniature suits, dresess, or other upper-class clothing, white-faced, the center of the drawing but somehow overwhelmed by it. And the rhyming dactylic couplets, one line per picture, are hypnotically effective.

A is for Amy who fell down the stairs
B is for Basil assaulted by bears

The rhythm of the language pulls you through the book; the detail and macabre horror (or, more often, implication of horror) of the drawings makes one linger on each page. As a poem alone, it would be amusing and memorable; as a set of pictures, it's an admirable and weird collection. Together, it's well worth paying thirty-five cents a page.

I notoriously dislike children, so I take pure delight in the subject matter, but even without that inclination, this is a wonderful little book. Gorey's art is exceptional. Each picture seems simple but reveals detail of technique on closer examination. Most of the images show no direct violence, only a promise of violence to come. In some cases, that promise is very subtle, revealed only when one reads the accompanying line. But Gorey doesn't settle into patterns; at several points through the collection of endangered, risk-taking, oblivious children, Gorey shows one moment of violence in progress and one instance of the aftermath. He surprises you just when you've settled into the pattern.

This is a brilliant volume that succeeds at multiple levels simultaneously. It's deliciously ambiguous, borrowing the style of a reading primer with material that would shock anyone who produces children's pablum, but which I would have found delightful as a kid. The couplets stick in your head, and the images of woeful children and unseen risk are perfectly on the cusp between humor and horror. Find this one and read through it, several times. You won't be disappointed.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Permanent review page

2007-11-27: Surfacing

I'm finally surfacing from having company over the Thanksgiving weekend and coming down sick with a sinus infection last Wednesday. One of these years, I'll probably decide that the guaranteed annoyance and discomfort of getting a flu shot is less bad than the risk of discomfort from having the flu. I don't know when. At least I've mostly stopped coughing now.

Many games were played over the past week, particularly more of Tales of Symphonia, Final Fantasy XII (which is gorgeous and amusingly like a MMORPG), and Baten Kaitos (which is an excellent game but has a lot of annoying timing-related bits for the completist). As usual, I had a blast and the time was far too short. It's a fun Thanksgiving tradition.

I'm still not caught up with my mail and to-do lists from before vacation, but I'm closer. I'm making very slow but steady progress and hopefully I can finish that tomorrow. Then I can start working on getting things done more seriously. It's going to take me a few days to fully get my head back into things, I expect.

2007-11-28: podlators 2.0.6

Finally releasing this with the fix to automatically determining the man page title from the module path without warnings and other problems given some paths. The impetus, though, was to properly escape single quotes inside C and verbatim blocks, since groff otherwise converts them to Unicode quotes. Thanks very much to Brendan O'Dea for the help. I also fixed a roff warning when groff is run with warnings enabled.

You can get the latest version from the podlators distribution page.

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