It's been a bad week :(

Anyone who uses my mail server will know this has been a bad week. Monday the ISP had a bad day - which meant I did too. Anyone who visited my site on Wednesday ( today ) before about 3pm (Aust EST) probably saw the message saying the database server went bang. Everything is back to normal now...but it's been a busy week. Earlier this week our ISP had a denial of service (DoS) attack launched against them which knocked out my connection for the better part of Monday. The equipment was fine, but no-one could reach it.

Then this morning I came into my study (where the servers live) and noticed it was a little warmer than normal. Then I noticed the database+mail server was hot - as in too hot to touch. Hmmm. That's not good sez I. It was running a Distributed.net client which uses any spare CPU cycles and can cause a bit more heat build up than normal....but nothing like this morning. Anyway, while I was trying to figure it out (all of about 2 minutes) the server did a thermal shutdown, meaning the CPU hit 75C!! Not good :(

When I looked into it further I found the cooling fan in the power supply had seized. As in locked up tight. Grrrr!! So off I went to the local electronics supplier, got me a new 8cm 12V ball bearing fan and fitted it to the power supply. The powered it back up whilst holding my breath and crossing fingers, toes, arms...everything. To cut a long story short, I'd fried one of the 64MB memory modules which has taken the useable RAM down to 448MB. Bummer. RAM is cheap, so I'll probably lash out an buy some nice new stuff and go all the way to 1GB or something stupid :)

Well that's the story of my week with these systems. Hopefully things will return to their normal, stable, routine and I wont have to do anything except watch the lights blink occassionally :)

IT'S HERE!!

It's happened! We're FINALLY parents!! Natalie delivered our first child at 2:15pm on Thursday 22nd July 2004; a girl :) She weighed in at 3050g (6lb, 11.5oz) and is 49cm (19in) long. Her name is ** Emily Bronwen ** The delivery was a nightmare. I wont go into too much detail here, but let's just say it was the worst day, and the best day of my life....all at the same time. It's even harder when for a while you are holding your wife's hand not knowing if either she or your unborn child were going to make it through the rest of the day. If anyone wants the blow-by-blow details, e-mail me :)

Long story short: Nat is doing great and is now officially "out of the woods" and well into her recovery. Emily is doing great too; she sleeps mostly, but cries when there's a problem (usually food and napies). She is such a good kid the nurses were happy to leave Emily in the room with Nat tonight (last night, Emily was in the nursery) which has made Natalie very happy.

Anyway, cruise on over to Emily's first photos. You can zoom in on these all the way to the raw photo as it was taken from the camera that you can copy and print out if you like (4 megapixel camera, so about 1MB per photo, but there are scaled down ones too if you just want to see them on screen).

It's about 1am here and I've slept (maybe) 3 hours in the last 3 days, so before I make any serious factual errors, just enjoy the photos and check back soon for updates :)

Go, go, go...... STOP!!!

A routine weekly visit to our obstetrician today went awry and now Nat's in hospital, I'm at home, and we're back to waiting again. So we packed off to see our doctor for a routine weekly visit. No drama, we were even early! Another couple sat in the waiting room with us, waiting (as you seem to do in those places). Anyway they were expecting their third, us our first, so we chatted. We even boasted a little that Nat's pregnancy had been "text book" so far, with a week and half to go. Then Nat's name was called and we said cheerio to our new friends.

We get into the doctor's office, and go over Nat's recent history...nothing startling there. "Text book" remember? He does his doctor thing (to save Nat any embarrassment, I'll leave the details out) and then sits us down. Basically he's worried. VERY worried. Nat's blood pressure is through the roof, there's signs of serious renal dysfunction and he wants that baby out ASAP.

I'm thinking at this point, he'll book a cesarian section some time in the next few days. Nope. The next thing he says is "I'm calling the hospital and will be inducing you tonight" - it's already about 5pm! He tells the hospital we'll be there in an hour and sends Nat off for blood tests. The next thing he says is "Natalie, I wish I could say this another way, but you are very sick, and this could affect your baby". At this point I didn't know if I wanted to vomit, cry or feint. I just WASN'T expecting it!

From the time of "boasting" about Nat's "text book" pregnancy to being told your wife is seriously ill (and possibly your unborn child) to now, is all of about 5 minutes! Well, I'm proud to say I didn't vomit, cry or feint, instead I peppered the good doctor with every question that was going through my head. He answered them all (to his credit) and was really quite calm. Calm in a way that instils confidence. The sort of calm pilot's exude when under pressure and have to tell the passengers some bad news; you know the proverbial has just hit the rotating blades, but you know you're in good hands too.

Well the next 2 hours were a blur. We raced down to the pathology lab. Then raced home, called everyone, grabbed the bags, prayed, and headed back to the hospital. When we arrived, we were expecting Nat to be in labour in the not too distant future, maybe an hour or so. Instead we were told that they were fully booked for "induced labours" and unless Nat or our baby were in real, immediate danger, they were going to wait and see. Fair enough. We waited for the blood results to come back...and waited, and waited....you get the idea. It wasn't all bad.

Nat was hooked up to a fetal monitor and we got to see the baby's heart beat get plotted on a length of paper, and listen to it at the same time. It was strangely comforting hearing that little heart patter away at about 140 beats per minute. Anyway, about 45 minutes after arriving at the hospital the blood results came through: things weren't as bad as they looked, but still far too serious to send Nat home. No induced labour tonight (...yet - the night is young, it's only midnight!). They've admitted Nat for the night and are planning to induce her tomorrow morning at 6am. So I'll be there a bit before that. Our doctor will apparently be in around 7-7:30am to check on Nat and speed things up a little if needed. So until then, we wait.

While waiting, I just sat in Nat's room and we watched a little TV together, talked, watched the fetal monitor's little squiggly line. The usual stuff (apparently). We asked the nurses a few questions about the logisitics of the hospital stay; what we need to bring for the baby, for Nat. We figured seeing as I had to go home anyway, we may as well check to see if I should bring anything extra with me in the morning when I return. We have a bag for the delivery (older clothes and stuff that can get messy and stained if necessary) and another bag for Nat and the baby's stay after the delivery - but we figured, we may as well check. Would you belive a private hospital requires you to bring your own nappies?! Well Figtree Private does! They supply your baby with clothes, blankets etc, but no nappy! How cheap is that?! So I've bunged a packet of 50 new-born nappies in the boot, ready for the morning. Time flew and before I wanted to, or was ready to, the nurses told me wind things up, and told Nat to get into bed.

So like a some sort of stinking boarding school, all the dads are evicted at 11pm and told to get some rest. Yeah right! I can't sleep so I thought I'd scratch out some news and see if I feel sleepier at the end....it's not working yet.

Tomorrow is "D" day; delivery day. So tomorrow I'll be a dad. Tomorrow I'll get to meet, face to face, my first child. Wow!! It's exciting but nerve wracking too. I just think about what Nat is going to go through and I start to feel sick. There's nothing I can do about it, she's gonna hurt, and I'll just have to watch - I'm not looking forward to that. I can't stand seeing Nat sore from arthritis when there's nothing I can do, this is going to be several orders of magnitude worse for both of us!

Well I can't think of anything else to write at the moment, so I'll sign off here and probably scratch out some more tomorrow night when they evict me at 11pm again! Grrrr.

Logins now required for comments

Well it had to happen eventually, but I'm still annoyed! Seems some low-life spam/porn a*%$ holes have been filling up my comments system with links to their filth. This in turn get's indexed by search engines and raises their filth's rankings in the search engine (not to mention, makes my site look like a filth-peddling scum pit too). So, I have no option but to delete the filth (there was LOTS of it) and switch to a more secured site. Basically, if you want to leave a comment on this site, you need to create an account and log in. Same goes for submitting links or stories. HOWEVER, despite the fact the photo albums "appear" to be part of the site, it actually is a bit of a kludge and only partially uses the main site's security system. So unfortunately, the comments in the photo albums are disabled completely - regardless of you being logged in or not. ( sorry ). You can still view everything in gallery though, just can't leave comments.

I am sorry for this, but there's no way around it other than to lock this site down a bit more. Don't blame me, blame the spam/porn peddling low-life scum that used my site as their little graffiti board!!

New ISP installed!

Well after a rather stressful 24 hours, the new ISP is installed, my network re-engineered (properly this time) and the routing glitches fixed, IT'S WORKING AGAIN!! The domain delegation is still a bit screwy; I've lost my login details to redlegate it...and it's a long weekend! So some people may have trouble reaching this site for a few more days yet.

UPDATE: 1:16pm Sun 13th June 2004 Found my login details and redelegated the domains! Now we just have to wait for a day or 2 for the changes to propogate through the Internet. But other than that, it's all done!

It's the end of the world as we know it... (Queue R.E.M.)

About 7 weeks from now (barring any complications) I'll be a real dad; not a "dad in waiting" like now. There will be a little-Nat running around (let's hope it's not a little-James OK!?!) and life will be very different, so I'm told. Not too sure how that's going work out exactly.....

Hmm, Nat's getting bigger, our bank balance is getting smaller, and the amount of sleep we're both getting is less than ever. Apparently this is all gonna get a lot worse before it gets any better - oh goodie. I'm not too worried about the kid at the moment because Nat is doing such a good job of looking after herself and the bub :) I am a little concerned about the delivery though. I know, I know, women have been doing this for eons and the human race has done pretty well so far, but dammit it's MY family this time!! Amazing how your own advice is the first thing you ignore when things affect you directly.

The pre-natal class was good (despite my earlier cynisism) and really made me feel as though I have a valuable contribution to make when the time comes for our little one to make a grand entrance. Although I can contribute, I can't control anything, especially where Nat is concerned, and although that is a fact of life, it's not something I like. I wish there was more I could do other than the usual support stuff. I know I can't have this baby myself (I'm a bloke - duh!) but there's gotta be something!? Alas, no. That's life and it's just something I'll have to go through with Nat, not for her.

I have been wondering though if this kid has formed an opinion about me yet. If it has, it's probably something like "the bastard who pushes and prods me all the time", or maybe "the doona thief", or even "dad". Who knows? Apparently it will recognise my voice as soon as it's born which is kinda nice. It will even know that I cause Nat to react differently than other voices (or so I've read). I guess I'm really looking forward to having it smile at me, not because it's reflex or something, but because it knows I'm "dad" - that's something special :)

It's nice to go into the nursery and look at the cot and all the other stuff, and know there's nothing left to do except welcome our little one home. I'm really looking forward to that too. I'm also looking forward to the bub screaming it's lungs out at 1am - that should really annoy the neighbours....pay back for their mongeral dogs! Woot.

The cat is a worry. Keep in mind we're talking about an animal that last weekend concussed itself by mis-judging a jump and slammed head- first into one of my speakers! This is the same animal that has a deep distrust of anyone unfamiliar, and a outright fear of anyone smaller than 4 foot tall. When friends bring their children over, we have to remind them that if the kids chase the cat, they may end up on the receiving end of a fear-induced cat attack :P Doesn't stop them chasing the cat, but damn it's funny when they get attacked! Not so funny if it's our kids though...hmmmm. Mental note: get valium for cat, and little extra for dad.

Downtime notice

This is a heads-up for everyone who uses my mail server. Over the long weekend my entire network is going to be offline for a while. I am transferring to a new ISP. Read on for the details. Fish Internet are installing a WiFi-based internet connection on Friday (11th June) and this will require me to take my entire network completely offline for a few hours (hopefully). However, the down-time may extend for most of the long-weekend. The other problem is I'll need to re-delegate my domains which means even though my network may be back up, you may not be able to find it. Delegations can take 2-3 days to filter through the entire Internet. If anyone REALLY needs to access anything and can't just call my home phone or mobile (those who know these numbers keep them to yourself!). MORE BANDWIDTH!

The best thing about the new connection is that it has MUCH more bandwidth than my existing 128kbps ISDN line. In fact the product is called EtherWave which is basically WiFi (Wireless Ethernet or 802.11). Sweeeeet :) Anyway, when it's all up and running again, you'll notice the website and mail server etc, are all a lot faster. Of course if you're on dial-up, you probably wont notice any difference because dial-up is still much slower than my current 128kbps ISDN line....those on broadband will notice a change :)

So what's the big deal if you PC caught the flu?

Seems a number of my friends' and relatives' computers are dangerously unpatched and unprotected. The general comment has been along the lines of "what's the big deal if I get a virus?". Well here's the explanation why I think it's a big deal and how you can protect yourself and the Internet too :)

What's a virus anyway?

A virus is a piece of software that does "bad" things to your computer. Just how bad depends on the virus. In the old days, viruses usually attempted to trash your computer by erasing the hard drive or destroying your software. Whilst some modern virii do that most don't. In fact most modern viruses try to stay as invisible as possible so the poor unsuspecting user is completely unaware they have been infected. Viruses have many variants. The most common of these are worms, trojans and mass-mailers. The methods of infection for each of these is different. The method of infection usually determines what category of virus. Spyware (malware) is another type of malicous program that's sole aim is to leak your personal information.

What do viruses do?

Modern viruses have a more sinister objective; information leakage or turning your computer into a "zombie". In this "connected" era, the new currency is information. Information about your browsing/buying/e-mail habits right through to your bank account details and passwords. Information is king. The other aim of virus writers is to hijack your computer so other people can use your PC to send spam, launch attacks on other systems, or infect other computers. When your computer is infected with a virus that allows this, your system is said to be "owned" or a "zombie". In other words, not totally under your control.

I get all that - why is it a problem?!

It may not be a particular problem to you. Sure your PC might get "owned", turned into a rouge "zombie" and be polluted with spyware, why should you care? Here's a few reasons:

  1. Owned/Zombied computers are used to relay spam and viruses to everyone else! Your machine could be inadvertantly adding to the mass of spam already flooding the internet. Your PC could also be relaying viruses to other unsuspecting users.
  2. Spyware/Malware can be used to hijack (take over) your internet connection. If someone gets hold of your username and password they can then run around pretending to be you. Imagine the grief that could cause you! Not only that, many internet accounts have download/online- time limits and excess charges are applied if the limits are exceeded. Ever wonder how much your basic "pay-as-you-go" account can cost when someone else is using your account 24 hours a day?
  3. Along the same lines as the previous problem, any personal information about you can be used to "steal" your identity. People have had bank accounts and credit cards opened in their name and stuck with the bills when it was actually someone else using their identity! All this plus the potential to "leak" other personal information like phone numbers, street address, etc.Many people enjoy the convenience of internet banking which is a good thing. Would you let a stranger stand next to you at an ATM and copy your PIN? Of course not! So why should you let anyone get access to your computer and do the same thing with your internet banking details.
  4. All this cruft on your PC does two main things (apart from the stuff above): slows it down and makes it unstable. A friend of mine recently complaind his PC would take 30 seconds just to show a letter after typing it. Turns out he had 2 spyware programs hammering his CPU in the background and chewing up his dial-up connection! Not that it matters right? All this virus stuff only affects everyone else?! Sure! (rolls eyes)

How do I protect myself?!?

This is the most irritating part - it's easy!. However, most windows systems (your PC) are so vulnerable you need to install some 3rd party tools to protect yourself. Here's a list of my favorites and what they are designed to protect you from.

  • Windows Update Software is never perfect and the bigger and more complicated it is the harder it is to secure. Consequently software needs to be updated from time to time (weekly is a good schedule). Microsoft provides this service free of charge to all registered users (and some stuff is even available to pirated copies of Windows). Keep your system patched to minimise trojan and worm attacks.

  • Virus scanners:
    1. McAfee/NAI
    2. Symantec (aka "Norton")
    3. Free AV/Antivir Personal

    A virus scanner is mandatory if you are going to use the internet. Many come with extra features like personal firewalls (see below) and other stuff to further protect your system. Virus scanners will only be useful if you keep them updated. New viruses are discovered every week and weekly updates should be done to ensure you are covered. However, virus scanners will only tell you after you've downloaded a virus (not necessarily infected with it) so in the case of worms, which attack faults in software without any intervention on your part, you really need more protection.

  • Personal Firewall
    1. See Mcafee and Norton above, they both have products you can purchase
    2. Zone Alarm (FREE!)

    A personal firewall is like a "cyber-bouncer" and controls what sort of traffic goes on and off your computer. They are the doormen, the gate keepers, the security guards. They can't tell if a particular file is a virus but they can say whether or not a type of data is allowed or not. Personal firewalls dramatically reduce the potential that your PC will "owned" or "zombied" and makes it very difficult to be infected by a worm. ZoneAlarm is about a 4.8Mb download but well worth the time it might take to get over dial-up. It's simple to install a reasonably intuitive to use. If you're not using it already (or some other personal firewall) DOWNLOAD IT NOW!!

  • SpyWare Scanner These are like a virus scanner but specifically designed to hunt down and remove spyware (which isn't technically a virus). If you value your privacy and security I'd suggest you download AdAware. This is a FREE download and does a good job of hunting down nasties that leak your personal information. Once again, this AdAware software needs updating but less frequently than the virus scanners or windows. An update about once a fortnight should keep you safe.

But dude, all this stuff costs money!

Yep, but there are some FREE alternatives that might be useful. AntiVir Personal Edition and ZoneAlarm will cover you for most virus/worm threats and the combined cost of both is zero, zilch, nadda!

So no excuses folks - get out there, spend some time getting those patches installed, virus scanners updated and firewalls running!

Easter long weekend

Wow! What a busy weekend. We went skiing went down to Chris and Nic's place for Friday and Saturday, raced home and had Tracy at our place on Sunday and Monday. In amongst all that there were garage sales, new toys, water skiing and lots of laughs. All up it was a good weekend :-)

We towed Panic (our boat) to Chris and Nic's on Friday morning after a good sleep in. I thought the trailer seemed awfully heavy to tow, but kept going anyway. Turned out the trailer brakes were left in the "parked" positioned and as a result I chewed through 1/4 of a tank of petrol in only 90km! Yikes. Not to mention the trailer's brake pads are half gone! You live and learn I guess :-/

Friday was spent sorting out mine and Chris' newest toys. Chris' 1/5 scale buggy you have to see and hear to believe. It's just insane! Chris was only "running it in" but still managed to tear up great chunks of his back lawn.

We stayed up fairly late considering we wanted to get an early start on Saturday for the traditional Easter garage sales down in Orient Point/Culburra. We all managed a bargain; Chris got a lawn mower spanner for free, Nic scored a $10 wet suit, Nat picked up some really cheap Tupperware, and I bought two crystal decanters with 6 scotch glasses and 6 port glasses.

Around lunch time we hit the water and got in a few good ski runs considering the wind was swinging around and making conditions less than ideal. It wasn't too cold and we played around with model boats between ski runs. It was a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. About 4:30pm Nat and I headed for home with Panic in tow (WITHOUT the trailer brakes in park this time) and decided to skip the $1.02/L petrol at Culburra hoping to score it cheaper in Nowra. Bad idea. The stupid fule computer in the car said 48km left in the tank but it was lying. It was more like 4km! So sure enough we get about 4km out of Culburra and everything goes very quiet. Dammit!! Lucky for us, we had mobile coverage and called Chris to rescue us with a gerry can. Soon enough we were on our way and Chris will never let me forget the time I got 20L of petrol (he paid $1.02/L) for $15. Heck - I only had $15 cash on me dude!! When we got to Nowra we filled up and continued north. We got home in the dark, parked the boat and crashed in bed! having Tracy up for the weekend was good. She was good company. Nat and Tracy did scrp booking stuff and I sailed the Sea Queen in the pond out the back. Chasing ducks is fun!

Power Outage

This morning (Wednesday 31st March, 2004) I lost all power to all my machines. This meant The Gray Matter and a few other sites were down for about 2 hours while I sorted out the mess that was caused by simultaneously pulling the plug on every machine in my network! Apologies to anyone who was bitterly disappointed not being able to access this site. If anyone has a spare UPS they want to donate - I'd be forever grateful! NULL