Team Murder No Brain No Headache.


The Insensitive Clod Speaks

After two separate people emailed me about the new banner which was kind of a ten minute thing I slapped together after getting sick of the other ten minute thing that previously occupied that space, I decided to mention here that I am working on something different. It doesn't display well on resolutions less than 1024 x 768 or if you're running a sidebar on one of the Mozilla or Opera. I won't mention a damn thing about how things display on IE because you folks have got a whole lot more to worry about than how images render.

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It’s A Feature AND A Bug

Ditherati has this as the featured quote or whatever today but since they have no permanent links that I can find (please correct me if I'm wrong) I'll just paste it in here:

"We haven't played this up a lot. but no one's written a virus in Java."

Sun COO Jonathan Schwartz, issuing a formal invitation to virus writers

which was orginally in a interview. I guess that 10 MB virtual machine download kinda clows that down. Maybe the starting point for virus writing in Java is Java Web Start. This is, of course, assuming that someone actually gets that to work consistently on different environments before our sun burns out and we all die. Sun Marketing folks can feel free to use that.

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Who Outsourced My Cheese?

Ugh. I'm not sure exactly what to do here since I'm 3/4 of the way through compiling the new version of Mozilla Firefox and a serious amount of electrical storm activity has kicked up outside in the last fifteen minutes. The old question of time versus (potential) money...

I gave the beta version of Vida Linux Desktop OS a run on the laptop tonight. It's the distribution trying to pair Gentoo with the anaconda installer. The idea is that people should be able to install a base system (in this case with Gnome as the DE) and be up and running without the sometimes too painful process of using the Gentoo manual which is not an installer per se. It didn't work very well for me: there is no package configuration in the installation whatsoever and the install actually takes a really long time. My machine is at the very bottom of the requirements so I wasn't exactly expecting to have my eyebrows singed off by the speed but still... What killed it for me was the inclusion of things like Open Office and the exclusion of things like PCMCIA support or hotplug that would've actually been useful. Of course, it is a beta1 so I can't help but pardon accordingly. You're still going to have to know a little more than your average Fedora user (I'm talking about the use of anaconda here, tough guy so don't get your hopes up for a flame war) to have an operational system for desktop use. I thought about setting things up to grab a copy of the NIC driver and many of the other options but I just shrugged my shoulders and reinstalled Debian on that machine. I'll have to give Vida another shot when it's a little closer to a release. That said, it is frustrating to have a nice looking installer that doesn't quite get the job done especially in a world where people spend more time looking at screenshots on a project site than they do reading about features or anything else that might make good criteria for deciding on a distribution to try.

The realization sunk in today that work is going to get very weird in the near future. I believe wholeheartedly in that division of labor idea in technical work and the term "team" is being thrown around. Do you know what that means when no one else knows how to do your job? Well, it means you should prepare to have your cheese moved and might as well grab your ankles and grease up in anticipation. It got me started thinking about the potential for solving the fuel shortage by burning managers. They seem to be an infinitely renewable resource...

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I’ve Had Better Ideas

While I was messing around with various content management systems a really terrible and fiendish idea gripped me. Why not import the data from a full fledged news or community site (assuming this is a site that uses a fairly standards compliant system to begin with so the exported data isn't trash to begin with) into a lump and every x number of days attempt to import that data plus the stuff generated in the interim into a new management system.

My worst case scenario invocation of this would involve a hat full of systems picked from Open Source CMS or the Open Source Content Management Matrix and a team of suckers admins would have to frantically attempt to recreate the old site in the new framework. It would be a little like Trading Spaces but minus the witty designer types and any sort of reward at the end of the day. Imagine the agonized pile of geeks scurrying around trying vainly to get partially documented hooks to function the way they're supposed to. Imagine the agony of defeat and the thrill of abandonment like a SourceForge project entombed forever in the sticky amber of Development Status: 1- Planning.


Losing Your Sea Legs

I just woke up from one of those sounds like a good idea but it's really the worst ideas ever evening naps and now I'm going to try to study like mad for a final exam that is less than ten hours away. I was also annoyed that I missed a call from Yoon. I ended up going to a show last night out of boredom (Yoon is Atlanta conferencing) and bringing home a stray band, Navies, that was really great and a bunch of really nice guys. It seems like D.C bands are generally more nice and more grounded than bands from most other places. Anyway, they needed to be up early so I dragged ass out of bed to make coffee, chit chat, and wearily wave goodbye as they rolled off in the general direction of Utah. Sometimes I forget that I really do enjoy having house guests when they're well behaved and generally interesting.

That has always been a maddening aspect of touring -- the fact that you meet people and just barely get to know them before you have to pile into a stinky van and drive for twelve hours to play for three drunk frat boys. It's a strange mixture of completely disconnected moments that all sort of congeal and become something you can fondly look back on as a fun time after you've been home for a month where people don't trip over you while you're sleeping and no one spills beer on your sleeping bag while you're in it. It's been way too long for me and it doesn't look like the current deal is going anywhere since we cancel more local shows than we play. Getting out of Denver would be something akin to miraculous. Thems the breaks and the breakups I guess.

Existential crises of small to no importance aside: Daemon News has a nice overview of what to do when you break ports in FreeBSD. It basically tells you to plan ahead but I could've used this advice during my ill fated attempts to install one of the BSDs on my machines. People I know and love swear by BSD (and performance on the server side seems to corroborate this) but I've never really been bitten by the bug. Maybe when I hit forty...

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There And Back Again

My experience thusfar with Gmail has been pretty limited although I've considered funneling some of the mail from the two active domains into it just to mess around and see how well the built in spam filtering works. I'm aleady cruising through the interface with the keyboard shortcuts and I'm generally pretty happy with how they're mapped. I'm more of an emacs guy than a vi guy but they're pretty sensibly laid out.

The point of all this is to bring up the Python scripts Adrian Holovaty hacked up for accessing Gmail. They handle both emails messages and address book entries. He's asking for help with bindings to the major mail clients. I hardly use a mail client (mainly mutt after having too many problems with the sexy but slightly flakey Evolution client) so I'm absolutely no help there. I will say that I slapped together a very simplistic Python/Tk application that grabs subject lines in a matter of twenty minutes using his code. It's good stuff.

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I Feel More Geeky Already

Elaine was kind enough to hook me up with a Gmail invite so I am now an official member of the geek Stone Cutters. Thank you Elaine. The address is exactly what you'd expect. I'm still messing around with the keyboard shortcuts in a half-assed attempt to see what keystrokes they clobber in other applications. Hey, I didn't say this was exciting...

As a side note, I really wish that the notification mail didn't have a $username, $sendername format as the subject line because I tend to automatically mark those in my mind as spam.

I submitted a bug report to the Gmail folks about the invite email subject line so hopefully it won't be so spam-like in the future.

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Everyday Living Is Terribly Demoralizing

Slipping off the face of the Earth is fairly easy to do when weblogging because when you haven't done anything marginally interesting in the last couple of weeks outside of school work (does anyone really want to hear the gory details of the Carlino house bombing from 1931?) and work work (does anyone really want to hear the gory evisceration of incompetent administration and rampant vendor party line regurgitation?) I have absolutely no desire to recount those things because they barely register in my mind of events worthy of remembrance beyond the thirty seconds or so that they occupy my mind. The normal reaction to this sort of absence is to fill in the blanks with a random link dump sort of entry but I haven't been reading a whole lot of anything that isn't a textbook or bug report or how-to for some onerous hole in Windows that is presently being exploited. It isn't worth my attention much less yours so half-assedly I will point you at a couple of interesting and/or funny things I've read lately:

Bob wrote a pretty descriptive (and I'd imagine rather cathartic) description of his woes working on .Net project. I do not envy him but it is an interesting read. I feel much the same way about the patch-patch-patch-patch-pow-reimage methodology of Windows maintenance despite the fact that my experience with it is somewhat less painful because an image and some scripts do most of the painful stuff for me.

There's an interesting article about the woes of migrating corporate installs away from Windows over at OsOpinion that is worth a glance although I have doubts about some of it. I continually deal with nightmarish compatibility problems between various patchsets of Windows 2000 and XP and internally developed kludges. This is the price of moving people away from the many quick and dirty fixes to small problems that comprise a fair amount of Windows development. While it really is more of a pain in the ass than is fair in any sense of the word to convince developers to code standards instead of flavors of the month the pain is much worse when Microsoft makes some fundamental change in the way Windows internals work that breaks applications arbitrarily. Does this point to some fundamental difference between system administration between Windows and *nix camps? I tend to think of the two warring methodologies as the "melting ice cream cone" camp and the "we're going to build this rocket ship a single bolt at a time" camp. There are obvious problems with both but the question of which I trust my asschip to is answered pretty easy. Infer, kids, infer.

via Techdirt: Another AOL employee who sold customer information is caught. What makes this so inexcusable is that they were selling the addresses to spammers. I could make some cheap crack at AOL users but that's a little like making Dan Quayle jokes or something and makes me yearn for a time when I had some kind of standards or any standards at all. 92 million is a lot of pissed off people. The real question here is what the appropriate punishment for this crime might be. I'm thinking in terms of which circle of hell as opposed to the usual fine and probation crap. Ars Technica is is also checking in with their version.

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How To Spontaneously Spit Coffee All Over Everything

Well, apparently the generators of random spam spewage are not without a sense of humor:




My life is now complete. Good to hear that he's alive, well, and typing merrily away in all caps...

Filed under: Spam Poetry 2 Comments

Broken Feeds Work (Hopefully) Now

I ended up disabling the Staticize plugin because it wasn't working quite the way it was supposed to and breaking the feeds. People actually emailed me about it instead of my usual method of discovery, the "Oh shit this hasn't worked for two months" method. So, hat tips to all that told me the site was dropping the ball. We'll just have to see if future versions are a little more feed friendly.


Write The Fine Manual

Groklaw announced Grokdoc the Wiki-based Linux documentation site intended for end users. Given the amount of energy that people have exerted on both Groklaw and the *nix history project I imagine this will soon be a pretty large source of information. Right now its somewhat sparse and already contains a bit of uninformed grousing and distribution evangelism but I can't make a real judgment because it's ridiculously new.

There will undoubtably be a rush from a Slashdot article either today or tomorrow and the pages will be filled with snippets eagerly cast in hopes of a +n Funny and cleaning up to do before things really get started. I'm hoping that the semi-retarded trolling will stop early on and people looking for help won't be confronted with more bitching about kernel compiles and wanting to have a free version of OS X out of the box. All of this is of course part of the community process and will only be corrected if people pitch in with more than rambling commentary. I'm going to try to draft some Gentoo specific stuff tonight since the shell of categories exist without any content so far. The idea of encouraging neophytes to use Debian or Gentoo makes me a little nervous.


Line Trash…

This is the Bloglines version of a post at BitWorking. I was a little startled by how broken it renders. I probably shouldn't be.

Filed under: Sights Seen 3 Comments

Spam Poetry: Slopy Gun Falls

Delivered attached to a piece of spam advertising some swinger site. Ick. I left the somewhat broken formatting intact as it only adds to the charm and bewilderment.

Their small boat stinks.
Mine tall boat show its value.
Our children tall boat makes sound.
Their smart caw makes sound.
Their well-crafted gun spit.
His slopy door smells at the place that our children bluish book run.
Our smart soda falls as soon as whose expensive cat smiles at the place that mine smart bra snores.
A shining picture looks around the time that the white exam book makes sound at the place that a given little small pensil looks around while her golden ram stands-still while a given hairy small spoon sleeps.
Their purple carpet stinks at the place that any given little little round-shaped table falls.
Mine red baby lies as soon as a red binocyles fidgeting.
Her shining picture fidgeting.
Whose white purple bra calculates at the place that her daughters smart house is thinking.
A given silver sony makes sound.
Any smart baby got an idea.
His brothers white boat snores.
The shining bra show its value.
Mine smart cat makes sound or our golden dog calculates at the place that his green paper stinks or maybe any given slopy gun falls.


Static Age

Lucky us. Photo Matt hacked up a version of the Staticize Plugin that fits WordPress better. I'm giving it a shot fulltime for the moment with future plans to leave it disabled for the most part. I'm thinking that it will be more handy for me to use when the server is stressed by a link in from one of those content farms everyone knows and loves. I'm going to mess with it a little bit and monitor the results since it was formulated to have more mercy on the database than anything else. The idea of being able to make the site static when necessary is more than enough motivation though. This would be helpful in terms of using WordPress for more than just weblogging software.

A Little Later That Very Day
Looks good so far although I'm still not clear about how well its actually working until I've got some logs to paw through and compare. First generation plugins make me a little nervous regardless of the platform.

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Shopping For A System

I've been working on a somewhat large web site that probably won't launch for a couple weeks at least and like most people with geeky tendencies who make most of their saving throws against sleep I began with the stupid, stupid notion of rolling my own content management in PHP as a sort of learning exercise. I am still working on it because what I really need is more specific than most of the open source/free ones and I'd like to minimize the pummeling that the server takes. My little framework is, of course, a nightmarish jumble of code that sort of works but makes far too many database calls to be practical. It's pretty bad when a simple authentication system and page generation gives MySQL the sort of beat down you wouldn't expect outside of the dramatic ending to a wire-fu movie. I might just relabel the thing a stress testing agent for databases and save myself some embarrassment. Eventually I will make it work but for the moment I'm CMS shopping.

I've installed a couple dozen on both my laptop machine (which gives me a good idea how the system will run in a worst case scenario) and on my desktop. For the most part I've been pleased with very few of the systems although it probably needs to be said that I'm not even considering commercial systems for the obvious reasons. I can't legitimize paying license money (although the PayPal button clicking will probably happen after I make up my mind which system to use for sure) because I'm going to back all of the data out of that system at some point and I'm probably going to need to modify the code to do that. Just thinking about jumping through the usual hoops that come along with proprietary systems gives me a headache so I'm skipping the easy route all together. I also wanted to avoid the overly complex systems because they'd be a little bit too expensive in terms of performance as compared to what I need to accomplish. Extracting the whole site would be a pain in the ass in that case as well.

e107 is the winner so far because it is fairly simple in its structure and makes sense when you start poking around in its innards. There's also an active developer community that seems pretty friendly and helpful to people like me who are poking around with no real intent to develop for the long haul. e107 is very well put together and setting it up is actually a lot more fun than most of the other content management systems I messed with. This might be true partially because the actual installation process is so stripped down and straightforward. The only real problem that I encountered were a couple of permissions snafus that were quickly resolved and in one case the script actually reported that the permissions were fucked and advised me on how to set them. It really is that good and is way ahead in the race at this point.

I played with Typo3 for a couple hours before I realized that it was insanely overpowered for my needs. It is incredibly interesting stuff although I ran into a few problems getting the sample site up and running. Typo3 is unbelievably configurable and powerful but seems a little less like an application and more like a framework that needs a little more buffering between the bare metal and the user. I'm still going to mess with my local installation of it, though, because it really is fun to explore and experiment with. AWF struck in kind of the same way although the initial install is more coherent and usable without too much mucking around.

XOOPS broke almost immediately after I made some change in the preferences. It was a pretty superficial change through the administration interface that killed it and I didn't bother trying to fix it. One of the first versions of this very site ran on XOOPS and I ran into a similar problem then. Land Down Under came highly recommended but drove me insane in its backasswards methods of accomplishing fairly simplistic tasks like setting up database tables. Why do it the simple way when you can require the user to install phpmyadmin instead. Yeah, on a Gentoo machine I'm going to set that up to handle a couple of tables, right. On the positive side, LDU hauls a whole lot more ass than you can imagine so it's worth checking out if you're less twitchy than me. It is impressive in terms of speed and that factor alone deserves more attention when I'm less focused and easily annoyed. Envolution is also pretty slick but it has a Nuke pedigree that I'm leery of and displayed warnings about the installation files still being present after I'd deleted them. This normally wouldn't have been that big a deal but those warnings were visible on the index with no way through the administration interface (remember I'm playing end user here) to rid myself of them. I left that install intact because I really want to see if it's somehow my fault and the other parts of the system are intriguing. I also had a rough time with phpwcms as it would not work with the paths I gave it and insisted that files were missing. I'm fairly certain that it's an issue with local installs but I stopped there after a few attempts at correcting it.

Fuck ups, misconfigurations, and headaches aside it was a whole lot of fun as an afternoon project and reminded me that I should have a couple test sites brewing on all of my machines.

That problem that I had with XOOPS wasn't exactly of my own incompetence but due to a pushy theme that wasn't cooperating with with anything and causing the whole script to silently fail. When your system goes belly up and starts displaying error messages that's basically OK since the idea of error messages is to give you some clue where the problem is. Blank pages, on the other hand, are pretty hard to diagnose. My apologies to the XOOPS developers.

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Like Stalin With A Delete Key

I just deleted a huge amount of mail while being blinded by the sort of rage that seeing 400 or 500 of the same subject line will fill you with. Needless to say if you had some important piece of email you were expecting me to answer please send it again if you haven't heard from me in the next couple of days. I got a little nuts with rapid deletion and fucked with Evolution's filters substantially so there are probably some pieces of mail that I'd ordinarily care about that were mercilessly wiped out by my itchy trigger finger.

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Can You Draw Tippy The Turtle?

Kenneth Hunt pointed out this Fortune article that raises a pretty obvious point for most of us who labor in the technology trenches: filling an office full of freshly minted MBAs is not a bandaid solution for either problem solving or fundamentally flawed business plans.

I can't blame anyone for enrolling in these kinds of programs which have experienced the kind of explosion of interest that say computer science had in the 1990's. But like anything else commonly pointed to as a common "get rich quick" educational path the saturation point will eventually be reached. Employers are just as much to blame as anyone else for thinking that loading any given business full of generalists is some kind of magical solution. The frustrating part is that I write this while enrolled in an undergraduate liberal arts program housed in a college that is basically on the way to eliminating anything that isn't an extension of the business school. Genius plan, no?

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Sleep Is Like A Neutron Bomb For The Soul

I took a break from studying for an exam that, due to the unfortunate pace of summer courses, is happening on the second week of classes to do a little bit of catching up. Bloglines seems about ready to break down again and I expect the plumber we all dread to see rearing his ugly head any time now so I actually visited most of the sites that I aggregate for a change. I hate to say it because I think Bloglines is a really great service but I almost relish the times when it goes down or is taken down. It seems like nearly every time this happens one of the sites I read regularly has changed design or strapped on some doo dad invisible to the aggregator. I like that.

The first place that I often visit is Note To Myself and Bob has an excellent and soundly reasoned summary of his feelings about the institution of marriage. This, of course, hits close to home since I number among the married by the wide margin of a week and it is a subject that I've thought a lot about in the context of the demonization of gay marriage (and in the typically contradictory fashion I've learned to appreciate as low comedy from the right, a condemnation of that states rights argument that is conveniently forgotten whenever issues that are important to real people are called into question) being so hotly debated. I really appreciate Bob's take on these issues because you can tell he's invested a lot of thought in them before he opens his mouth about them. This is something I could do well to learn by example because although advocating painful death for those who oppose me might occasionally be fun to grind through an emacs session the catharsis is less, uh, cathartic all the time. Then there is common sense:

It's an intriguing idea, that gay and lesbian relationships could present a different way of thinking about marriage, offering some new ideas and, shock of shocks, models for dealing with our mates. When I see the froth that folks get into trying to "beat back the heathen hordes", I have to admit wondering if the institution is really all it's cracked up to be. Sort of an echo of that old Groucho Marx joke about not wanting to belong to any club that would have me as a member, only it's not wanting to be part of an institution that engages in such ugly behaviour in the name of self-preservation. The question becomes what exactly is it preserving? And why? Of course, for me these are rhetorical questions. Just because I don't agree with what a bunch of closed-off zealots are trying to do "in the name of marriage", that doesn't mean I'm going to stop being married myself. In much the same way that I've asked how allowing gays to marry in any way affects my relationship with my wife, the same could be asked of the actions of these folks. I'm sure they believe in what they're doing, but I've yet to hear any real reason that sways me.

Then again, I've heard some pretty convincing arguments for using both barrels whenever possible lately in addition to that.

Somewhat related (and hats off to Anil Dash for the pointer to this post) is something which I directly relate to: Loving Day which celebrates the legalization of interracial marriages in the U.S (linked by Alaina) and seeks to relate this issue to that of gay marriage. It seems more than appropriate to me. I guess as one freshly confirmed in the eyes of the law as a legal race mixing traitor to the white race I ought to know more about these things. Yoon and I were talking about this earlier and decided since the vast majority of our friends are also race mixing traitors to the (insert one of many here) race we should probably have a barbecue or something. That would be a nice holiday tradition to replace the meaningless or offensive ones that we're continually confronted with.

Oh, and just so you know, plog is this months secret code word for "punch my buzzword loving ass until I bloodily lose the capacity for speech" so give the needy what they want and so richly deserve. If they win we all win.

Filed under: General 2 Comments

Excessive Absences

I'm experimenting with writing something fairly large in PHP instead of falling back on Python which is the usual default. This kills a whole flock of birds with a single stone because it allows me to do a little language expansion which is much easier than it sounds due to the simplicity of PHP, work on a big project, and reuse some of that effort to refactor an old project that I let fizzle out a while back after I started digging a little too far into Zope for my own sanity although that process made me respect the work that Plone has done immensely. This is all good for everything except time to rest. I'm still working on that sleep thing.

I also made the Movable Type to WordPress conversion for the Midcentury site. For some reason it was more complicated than the one that I made here which is hilarious since I had about 1100 more posts to import and whatnot. I really do wish that the default stylesheet was a little more readable.

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Crap Flood Migration

Cool. Just noticed that Widgetopia is moving away from Movable Type and onto Drupal after dealing with comment spam for a little too long. The new Widgetopia is already up and running and plans on becoming a more collaborative effort in the future. Regardless of how you feel about the recent changes in Six Apart's licensing for MT I'm thinking the more towards a more community oriented site especially for a weblog as tightly focused as Widgetopia is a great idea. It is too bad that the move was hastened by crap flooding. I'm looking forward to checking out the new site when it's a little more styled and refined looking because it's always been a fun distraction and most of the critical analysis is more interesting than embarrassing.

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To Infinity And Beyond In A Fucking Elevator?

LiftWatch is a site about the future of space elevators and really gave me pause for a second or two especially given the number of artfully conceived parody/humor sites out there and how many times I've been busted for being taken in by them. According to their What is a space elevator page I'm supposed to be skeptical because the technology doesn't exist yet and has its roots in the science fiction stylings of Arthur C. Clarke but that only serves to make me even more suspicious. Then again there are links to places offsite like LiftPort that are soliciting donations to finance the construction of space elevators. If this is a hoax/joke/whatnot it's waaaay out of my depth. Go kooks go!

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Administrivia Of The Dullest Kind

I created this Unsubtle Hacks category which this was be the first post included in more for the separation of technical post it notes for my own later perusal from stuff that is more intended for eyes besides my own. The idea is that it can be excluded and that is a good thing.

I moved my home desktop machine to the 2.6 kernel finally. I'd procrastinated because:

a)I have a SB Live sound card and I'd heard vague rumblings about the support for the drivers that we know and love as emu10k1 being somewhat tricky.
b)I burn too many CDs to have much down time for the CD burner.
c)Same as above for getting PPPOE working for some folks. This was a user complaint that surfaced a couple of times in the Gentoo User forums but seemed due to RTFM problems than kernel related ones.

They're probably stupid reasons but they're mine so I'm sticking with them. Sound was not a problem. Unmute mixer and rock out. CD burner was also not a problem because for some reason the IDE-SCSI driver kicked in from the modules.autoload file for 2.4. I have no idea why this happened and I'm going to check into it a little more later tonight when I have some time. I'm assuming it's due to some configuration that I hacked up to get something else working but I'll have to see where the kernel is actually grabbing those autoload directives before I take the whole blame.This another procrastination enabler since I can wait to figure out how to get native IDE CD burning working. I also failed to compile in USB support but that was more forehead slapping and less wtf. The whole process took about an hour including two pretty skinny kernel compiles so it was a pretty painless transition. I've had worse transitions between versions of the 2.4 kernel.

I'll also be turning off comment moderation at some point. WordPress now has an arguable equivalent to MT-Blacklist. I'm not sure whether I like this more or less than MT-Blacklist since things are just moved into a moderation cue if they match your blacklist. In any case, I'd love to not think about the very few legitimate comments that I get and not discourage people from commenting in the first place. I'm going to try to dig into the code that handles suspicious domain names in the next couple of weeks and try to bang out a solution that works a little better for me. This is kind of hard to gauge since most spammers aren't using 'bots that know about WordPress and I'm sure it's going to get worse before it gets better. Time to stretch my limited grasp of PHP I guess...