I’ve always wanted a Les Paul Junior.  Single P-90 pickup in a mahogany slab body.  It’s the Telecaster of the Gibson world.  Or, the Esquire, I suppose.  Anyway, it’s a bad-ass rock and roll instrument, and I wanted one.  So when an Internet forum member that I knew lived nearby put a cheapie sunburst Epiphone Junior up for sale I jumped on it pretty quick.

It probably wasn’t the smartest purchase I’ve ever made — body and headstock beat to hell, cheap electronics and tuners that make me extremely nervous.  I probably could’ve found one on Craigslist for a few bucks less, but this was an fast, cheap and easy transaction from a guy I know and trust, so I went ahead and brought it home.

The previous owner had swapped out the original cheap plastic nut with a Graph Tech TUSQ replacement.  It was certainly an upgrade, but the nut itself required a bit of sanding and filing that hadn’t been done.  (In fact, noodling around on this guitar with the unsanded nut for a week gave me a nasty case of tendinitis that didn’t go away for a few months.  Man, I hate being old.)  Luckily, the nut came out with just a few taps of a hammer and a flathead screwdriver, and, after a couple rounds of sanding, a tiny dollop of glue, a tweak on the truss rod and a new set of strings, Junior was ready to go!

Just in time, too.  Los Padres are scheduled to play the KIP fundraiser this March.  I gave Junior a spin at last week’s rehearsal and I think I like it.  If it holds up over the next few weeks I might just keep the tele tuned to Open G and only bring it out for select numbers.  We’ll see.


This September I had the opportunity to play out again with my old friends from the the KIP Dad Band at the St. Francis of Assisi Fall Festival.  At first I begged out, since Simon had an out-of-town soccer tournament scheduled for that weekend, but it occurred to me that I really only get to play guitar and use all of my home-made effects pedals once or twice a year max.  This would be worth making a three-hour round trip.

Our pal Butch is still recovering from back surgery and was not available to play drums, so Adam invited his friend Brad to sit in, and he was a delight to play with.  Here are Vichan and I rocking out at Adam’s house.


One of my favorite parts of playing out is putting together a pedal board.  Mine was a full two-thirds DIY this year, only because I hadn’t had time to finish my JMK Super Phaser.


From front to back that’s a Madbean Sparklehorn (delay and overdrive for leads), an MXR Phase 90, a Madbean Pork Barrel chorus (Boss CE-2 clone), a Madbean Lavache (Lovepedal Les Lius derivative for Cinnamon Girl), a Madbean Ego Driver (Fulltone OCD derivative for my normal “dirt channel”) and a Boss TU-2 tuner.

And here is the whole band, Los Padres del Rock, on stage in the St. Francis courtyard.  It was a perfect night — great weather and a fantastic crowd!


Want proof?  Here’s a little bit of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl”.  My low D string is a bit flat, but do you think something like that would bother Neil?

Oh, and Tim is using SHO-TIME!, my Z.Vex SHO booster clone for his solo.  I think it sounds pretty sweet.

First thing yesterday, rumors went wild that Manchester City FC was going to sack their manager, Roberto Mancini. Later in the day, a sluggish City team lost a Cup final they were heavily favored to win. Today’s news? Manchester City set to replace their Manager. But I blame Khaldoon al-Mubarak for yesterday’s loss, since he’s the chairman and the one who let the team take the pitch with huge doubts hanging over their collective heads.

Roberto Mancini

Manchester City’s ownership behaved remarkably tactlessly this week and should be ashamed. They not only disrespected Roberto Mancini, but the players and the fans as well. They were certainly not obligated to keep Mancini on, but negotiating his replacement in full view of the media days before the FA Cup final was in remarkably poor form. I am a Manchester City fan, but this week I am much more proud of the other Manchester club’s program and legacy of tradition as they celebrate the retirement of their manager of 26 years.

I got to strap on the telecaster (and haul out the pedalboard) for the annual Keneseth Israel Preschool fundraiser party last weekend.  This year’s theme was “Sock Hop”, so the Dad Band put together a set of 14 rock’n’roll oldies.  My personal highlights were playing the harmonica on “Not Fade Away”, singing lead on “La Bamba”, and faking my way through the guitar solos on “Slow Down” and “Rock Around the Clock”.  As usual, I had a fantastic time rocking with the Dads.

KIP Sock Hop Band

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

Everything went great until I went to take a solo on “Johnny B. Goode”, stomped on my boost pedal, dug in and heard…nothing.  My first assumption was that the booster had stopped working, so I clicked it off, but still nothing.  I turned around to check the amp (a rental Blues Jr.) and the lamp was flickering wildly on and off.  Imagining a grounding fault or a short, I started to panic — I don’t want to die playing a Blues Jr.!   I switched it off and back on again.  Still nothing.  Luckily there were three other guitarists picking up the slack, so I just killed the amp, mimed along and tried to look cool for the remainder of the tune.



Shortly after the big server rebuild a few weeks back I was examining the web server logs and I noticed that several sites were stealing okcomputer.org bandwidth by linking images from the okcomputer.org Photo Gallery directly into their web sites. This is just a tacky thing to do on numerous levels. In the past, I’ve had people contact me and ask for permission to use an image from the Photo Gallery, and I’ve always been happy to direct them to the photo’s owner. If they are given permission, I expect them to download a copy of image file and serve it directly from their own server. Otherwise, every hit to www.jack.ass causes a hit on my web server and uses some of my bandwidth.

So while I was rebuilding the web server I implemented a very common Apache mod_rewrite recipe so that these bandwidth thieves would get a very different image than the one they linked to. I didn’t do anything gross — just a small version of the pic of me playing the ukulele that I drag out every now and then. I week later I checked in on one of the bandwidth thieves’ web sites — a tourism site for some city in the Netherlands — and there I was wailing away on the uke. Not only was my recipe working, but this doofus hadn’t even noticed it yet.

As usual, I (a.) didn’t think this one through very well, and (b.) forgot I had even done it. That is until my dad tried to print some Photo Gallery photos through Shutterfly the other night. Luckily I was watching over his shoulder. Still, I was stumped for at least 8 seconds when the picture of Simon that my dad had selected showed up as me and my uke on Shutterfly.

Fixed now. As much fun as implementing this type of recipe always sounds when you read about it, it’s almost always more trouble than it’s worth. Almost.

Remember a few weeks ago when I was having all the wireless troubles?  The problem seemed to go away for a bit, and then WHAMMO!  It bit me again recently…again when I was downstairs in the living room.

Jessica heard me crying about it and mentioned that she had been having the same problem for the last few weeks.  What?!  Why hadn’t she mentioned this?  Dunno, but at least now I could eliminate my own laptop as the problem and concentrate on debugging a general wifi problem in the house.

The problem really only happened at DHCP lease acquisition time.  Once either of us had a lease we could roam all over the house, but successfully acquiring a lease in the first place was really only working upstairs.  Hmmm….

Well, apologies to all you potential Encyclopedia Browns out there, but you havn’t been given all the facts — because I had forgotten about one very important one: I had installed a Linksys WRE54G Wireless Range Extender for Jessica when she moved her office to the basement about two years ago.  Honestly, I had forgotten all about it.  I mean, I saw it every now and then, but I never bothered to think about what it was doing.  Or what it wasn’t doing.

One unplugged WRE54G later and Jessica and I are both acquiring DHCP leases all over the house again.  Apparently we were trying to associate with the range extender when our wireless interfaces were reconfiguring, and it must not have been bridging correctly with the router since I installed the new firmware.

I don’t know if we even need the range extender anymore since now that I’m running DD-WRT on my WRT54G I’m transmitting at 84 mW (instead of the default 28).  I’ll play around with connectivity in the basement this weekend, and if I still need the range extender I’ll configure WDS Bridging between it and the router so that they play together nicely this time.

I’ve spent the last few days investigating Plone as a potential replacement for WordPress for the okcomputer.org web site, but, as is frequently the case when experimenting with new technology around here, I’ve been beating my head against the wall trying to get my Plone installation to work behind an Apache proxy. I could successfully pull up the main page’s content in my browser, but none of the Cascading Style Sheets or Javascript files were making it. The result was less than inspiring. So while I was waiting for the tornadoes to pass through tonight, I fired up my browser, tailed my log files and started beating on it.

First off, the mod_rewrite rule from the RewriteRuleWitch wasn’t matching. Fantastic. Here’s what it gave me:

RewriteRule ^($|/.*) \\
http/%{SERVER_NAME}:80/okcomputer/VirtualHostRoot$1 [L,P]

The root document was matching, but nothing else was. After setting my RewriteLogLevel to 9, I saw that the URI as it was being tested against the regex didn’t begin with a /. So I removed the slash from the regex and added one to the substitution pattern:

RewriteRule ^($|.*) \\
http/%{SERVER_NAME}:80/okcomputer/VirtualHostRoot/$1 [L,P]

Now the RewriteRule was matching, but the proxied requests were generating 400 errors on the Zope HTTP server. The obvious culprits were the spaces in some of the URL’s, specifically in URL’s containing the string “Plone Default”. My browser was (correctly) escaping the spaces as “%20”, but by the time mod_rewrite had processed the request and passed it on to mod_proxy the spaces were back resulting in a malformed HTTP request.

I found the fix for this last bit at Velo World. The trick is to define a RewriteMap and then use mod_rewrite’s built in escape function, like so:

RewriteMap escape int:escape
RewriteEngine On
RewriteRule ^($|.*) \\
http/%{SERVER_NAME}:80/okcomputer/VirtualHostRoot/${escape:$1} [L,P]

And success! But what a pain in the ass! I’d love to blame mod_rewrite, but I’m sure there’s some valid reason it doesn’t re-escape substitutions by default. Instead I’ll blame Plone. Why? Why do you put spaces in your %$#@! URL’s. And given the number of pages on the web explaining how to set up Plone behind an Apache server with mod_rewrite and mod_proxy — including Plone’s own documentation — how come none of them mentioned this? Very frustrated, but the problem is fixed, the tornadoes have passed, it’s going on 2:00 AM, I’m going to bed.

UPDATE 2/14/2008: Special thanks to Sascha, who’s been helping me debug my RewriteRule issue.  The Witch’s rule should work, I just can’t figure out why apache is stripping that slash of the front of my URI’s.  I’m not using a RewriteBase, and the RewriteRule isn’t an a .htaccess file, so I just have no idea what the problem is.

After the filesystem crash back in October I had 11 gigabytes worth of files without meaningful names just sitting in a lost+found directory. I was forced to come up with some creative ways to salvage data.

$ find lost+found/ -type f | wc -l
$ du -sh lost+found/
11G     lost+found/

One of the first things I thought people might want access to would be their digital photographs, so I decided to cook up a little program to sort through the entire lost+found directory, find JPEG’s with a “Camera Model” EXIF tag and then copy them into an appropriate directory based on the value of that tag.

My first attempt used the shell, but that proved unacceptably slow so I fell back to my good friend Python. I installed the Python Image Library (python-imaging in Ubuntu), which I used to identify the JPEG’s (very fast, by the way), and which also has (kludgy, experimental) support for reading EXIF tags.

Here’s the code:

#! /usr/bin/python

import sys
import os
import Image
from ExifTags import TAGS
from shutil import copyfile

INDIR = 'lost+found'
OUTDIR = 'recovered-photos'

def recover_photo(infile, outdir):
        im = Image.open(infile)

        if im.format == 'JPEG':
            tags = {}
            exif = im._getexif()

            for tag, val in exif.items():
                lookup = TAGS.get(tag, tag)
                tags[lookup] = val

            dirname = tags['Model'].strip()
            dirname = dirname.replace(' ', '_')
            outdirname = os.path.join(outdir, dirname)

            if not os.path.isdir(outdirname):

            outfile = os.path.basename(infile)

            if not outfile.endswith(('.jpg', '.JPG')):
                outfile = outfile + '.jpg'

            outfile = os.path.join(outdirname, outfile)

            copyfile(infile, outfile)
            print infile, '->', outfile

    except IOError, v:
            (errno, errmsg) = v
            errmsg = v
        print infile, errmsg
        print infile, 'unknown error'

for root, dirs, files in os.walk(INDIR):
    for name in files:
        infile = os.path.join(root, name)
        recover_photo(infile, OUTDIR)

After running for 28m18s:

$ ls -l recovered-photos/
total 492
drwxr-xr-x 2 matthew matthew  4096 2008-01-26 13:58 C2100UZ
drwxr-xr-x 2 matthew matthew  4096 2008-01-26 14:18 C3100Z,C3020Z
drwxr-xr-x 2 matthew matthew 12288 2008-01-26 14:18 C860L,D360L
drwxr-xr-x 2 matthew matthew 36864 2008-01-26 14:17 C960Z,D460Z
$ find recovered-photos/ -type f | wc -l
$ du -sh recovered-photos/
7.3G    recovered-photos/

9293 digital photographs all nicely sorted.

I’ll clean the code up, flesh it out with some handy command-line args and post a link to the updated version here as soon as I have a few spare cycles.

For some unknown reason, I got vaguely interested in Gravatars this week. I’ll spare you the Google search — Gravatars are Globally Recognized Avatars. (And for you total lame-os, avatars are the little pictures next to people’s names in some forums and blog comments.) The idea is that you upload your avatars to gravatar.com and associate them with your email address (which just happens to be a globally unique identifier that you’ve probably already provided to most systems you use), and then services that are configured to use Gravatars can always pull your latest and greatest avatar from a central repository. Rocket science it ain’t.

PG GravatarG GravatarFirst, I set up a couple of Gravatars myself: one rated PG (I’m holding a beer), another rated G of me playing the ukulele at Ian and Christine’s wedding party. I’m not sure why I bothered as I don’t really post to any forums these days, but they’re there.

Next, I spent about three minutes setting up the Easy Gravatars WordPress plugin over on Kid Amnesiac. Man, does Easy Gravatars live up to its name! Not much flexibility, but a default setting that was perfect for my needs. (The only tweaks I made were to change the URL for the default image for missing Gravatars to one being served off my own server and then to set the default maximum-naughtiness rating to PG.)

Here’s the kicker: not a single person who has posted comments to Kid Amnesiac has a Gravatar. I checked ’em all. Nothing. I even posted a comment myself (since deleted) just to see if the plugin worked (it did). I figured at least one person (*cough* Diana *cough*) would have a Gravatar. Nope. None. So that was a bummer.

I’m leaving the plugin enabled in hopes that someone might read this and go nuts and actually set up a Gravatar. Please, make me feel useful. Oh, and I suppose I should set the plugin up for matthewwhitworth.com, too.

All okcomputer.org services and accounts have been migrated to the new okcomputer.org server, firefly, for a couple of weeks now, so today I started work on decommissioning the old server, serenity. Normally I’d wipe the disks like so:

# dd infile=/dev/urandom outfile=/dev/hda1

But that has been complicated by the annoying fact that the hosting company built the OS on a single disk partition. An attempt to destroy the contents of hda1 would risk causing an
operating system crash before all the contents had been destroyed.* If I had physical access to the server I could boot from a live CD and have a free go at the hard drive, but that isn’t an option. I needed a tool that would give me some precision as to what I was destroying.

I’ve opted to use shred, a program included in the coreutils package that writes random data over a file’s bytes. Learning about shred was funny because there is a lot of misinformation out there. Its primary weakness is that it assumes that the filesystem overwrites data in-place, and not all modern filesystems do that — in fact most modern filesystems don’t do that. serenity used the ext3 filesystem, and there’s quite a number of people screaming on the ‘Net that shred is ineffective on ext3 filesystems. Well, I actually R’ed the FM, where I learned that ext3 filesystems are only problematic to shred in data=journal mode (not the default). Seems I was all clear.

I couldn’t shred the entire filesystem or I would find myself in the same conundrum as if I had used the dd method, so I decided to concentrate on user data, databases, certificates and system passwords. After that I could let loose a more dangerous (but less precise) method and call it a night.

shred’s other weakness is that it was designed to be used on single files (or whole filesystems via their device files) rather than recursing through a directory tree like “rm -Rf”. So I wrapped it in a find statement and then deleted the empty user home directory trees by hand before deleting each user’s account. Actually the whole thing can be neatly wrapped up in some awk:

# for u in `awk -F ':' '$3 <= 1000 && $3 > 65534 { print $1 }' /etc/passwd`; do
> find / -type f -user $u -exec shred -n 3 -zu {} \;
> rm -Rf /home/$u
> deluser $u
> done

So serenity has been wiped clean. I’m going to call the hosting company in just a bit and terminate service. Everything is chugging along on firefly. Our long national nightmare is over.

* I don’t really know if this is true, but it seems a good guess. Input appreciated.

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