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The Back Page, part 1

By Mike Orr (Sluggo)

It's been six months since I've been able to do a Back Page. It hasn't been for lack of material -- I've got 3 megs worth of the funniest messages from The Answer Gang and the Gazette mailbox accumulated. It's just finding time to select and format them. I wanted to leave you a good Back Page for my last issue, so I took a weekend and went through them. It came out to four articles' worth. There's two Wacko Topics of the Month ("The Shift Key FAQ", "Domestic vs Wild OSes"), the usual Not The Answer Gang (now called "The Linux Laundrette"), two long Laundrette threads I've put in separate articles (one about American vs British English, the other about buoys -- or at least it started as a thread about buoys but then it meandered to the Netherlands' history and then again to music), some Non-Linux Links, and a World of Spam. And there's still 52 KB after that for a future issue! I've put all four articles in this issue, one right after the other. Enjoy!

In this article:

The Shift Key FAQ

By Alan Meiss, ameiss from indiana.edu
Version 0.001

Unleash the Power of Shift!

Q. My shift keys have little arrows on them. Does that mean the *real* shift keys are located above them, and these keys are just little signs to point them out?

A. Nope, they're the Real McCoy. The little arrows mean "up", as in "look up at the screen". Your keyboard is telling you to learn to touch type and quit staring at your fingers.

Q. What happens if I press both shift keys?

A. Even bigger letters may show up on your screen. You should not use this feature, however, because these letters are also brighter, and may cause Screen Burn-In, which would be particularly embarrassing if you were typing something naughty at the time. You might consider obtaining the author's Shift Key Burn-In Protector program for only $139.95. Or you might not, it's your computer, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Q. my religion prohibits the use of shift keys. how can i type capital letters and punctuation.

A. Discuss alternatives to the shift key with your spiritual advisor. Perhaps your deity would not be angered by repeated use of the Caps Lock key, or maybe you can retain a consultant to depress the shift for you. You might also consider replacing punctuation marks that require the use of shift keys with lower case expressions; replace ? with "huh" and ! with "zowie".


A. Do small children with a fondness for peanut butter use your keyboard frequently? If so, you may want to clean it off for more reliable operation. First, disconnect your keyboard by gripping each of its ends firmly and pulling as hard as you can. Next, immerse the keyboard in warm water and scrub thoroughly with your favorite lemon-scented detergent and lots of steel wool. Finally, you need to dry the keyboard. Either dry it to touch with a handheld blowdryer, or place it it the dryer for not less than 60 minutes. Be sure to clean the lint screen when you are finished.

Q. Why are there are no "shift" keys on my keyboard, but there are two keys labelled "hif"?

A. Again, you may want to consider cleaning your keyboard, and washing your hands more frequently for that matter.

Q. Are there shift keys on my Macintosh?

A. Yes, although instead of the notation "shift", the key may be labelled with an excited Mac face, something like :O . Press this key to use shift, and be thankful you're using a friendly Mac instead of a mean old PC with all them confusin' words 'n stuff on it.

Q. I'm sick of pushing the shift key every single time I want big letters. Is there any other way to do this?

A. This is the Modern Age of Convenience, and you may be able to activate the shift key merely with the power of your voice! Check to see whether your computer is equippped with speech-recognition equipment by saying the word "shift" very clearly and slowly into its speaker. Then watch the keyboard closely to see if the Shift key moves down. Note that you may have to repeat this action several times to "train" the computer to recognize your voice before the feature works reliably.

Q. There are two shift keys, which should I use?

A. Avoid unnecessary wear on either shift key by alternating between the two. Keep track of your usage of each key so that you press them in equal amounts. Your keyboard may be equipped with a small notepad; you should use this to make little tally marks in two columns for each time you shift. Remember, it's better to go to a little trouble than wind up with a broken shift key.

Q. Why are the shift keys bigger than the other keys?

A. They aren't. This is simply an optical illusion. Just as the moon appears much larger when it is close to the horizon, your shift keys look larger because of their proximity to other keys. To verify this, go out in a large field at night with your keyboard, place it in an upright position, and view it from a distance of 200 yards. Sure enough, the keys all look the same size!

Q. If I press the shift key at the wrong time, or too many times, will my computer explode?

A. No. Well, generally no. Not unless you are using a NEC laptop. Or vt100 terminal emulation. But even then, hardly ever. Really, don't worry about it. Forget I mentioned it. Just type softly. Move along, next question.

Q. No matter what I do, the shift key just doesn't seem to work. What's wrong?

A. Have you ever considered that the problem may not be your keyboard, the problem may be YOU? Perhaps God Himself has suspended the operation of these keys to send you a Message that you have strayed from the path of righteousness. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on your life. Before rushing blindly ahead with a lot of shifting, consult the spiritual advisor of your choice for help in dealing with any unresolved issues in your relationship with the Almighty.

Domestic vs Wild OSes

[Thomas] I received this from my LUG. "So which OSes are wild and which are domestic? 'Jim' replied... Ok, let's see now:

MacOSX: Sort of like a pedigree persian cat. Very sleek, very sexy, but a little too prone to going cross-eyed, biting you on your thumb and then throwing up on your trousers.

Windows XP: Big cow. Stands there, not especially malevolent but constantly crapping on your carpet. Eventually you have to open a window to let the crap out or you die.

Windows 2000: Smaller cow. Just as much crap.

THEOS: Mad cow. Utterly fucking insane cow, in fact. A cow so mad it thinks it's a teapot. The swamp dragon of the OS world.

Linux: Horse. Like a wild horse, fun to ride. Also prone to throwing you and stamping you into the ground because it doesn't like your socks.

TRSDOS: Friendly old lizard. Or, at least, content to sit there eating flies.

..and continued later...

(FREE|OPEN) BSD: Shire horse. Solid, reliable, only occasionally prone to crushing you against a wall and then only because you've told it to without knowing.

Solaris: Shire horse that dreams of being a race horse, blissfully unaware that its owners don't quite know whether to put it out to grass, to stud, or to the knackers yard.

Not the Answer Gang
The Linux Laundrette

Redirection and noclobber

[Sluggo] Stray files called "!" mean I did a command in bash using zsh (csh) syntax. "COMMAND >! FILE" in zsh means "redirect to FILE and overwrite it dammit!" But in bash it creates a file called "!". The corresponding syntax in bash is "COMMAND >| FILE".

[Ben] Oh, now I get what you mean. This is only useful if you've done "set -o noclobber" or "set -C"; otherwise, "COMMAND > FILE" works fine.

[Sluggo] Of course I have 'noclobber' set. Doesn't everybody? It's a standard safety precaution. Or do you follow the "Real Men Don't Need No Stinkin 'noclobber'" theory? But considering Woomert and Frink use the -w switch in Perl more than I do, I doubt it....

[Ben] Redirection in shells is Wyrd and Arcane.

Ben's army days

[Ben] When taking the Army entry tests WBW, I found out I don't do well with red-on-green patterns. However, there was a "compensating" factor (that is, compensating for the Army, not too good for me!) - I can see OD green (and hence, all forest-pattern camouflage) against a green background as clearly as if it was, say, a light gray against black.... Care to guess who was *always* made point man in my infantry basic training and AIT??? Good thing it was only training.

[Jimmy] AIT? Damn, it stands for half a million things! I'll just assume it's "Something Something Training"

[Ben] One time I managed to prevent a buddy from tripping off a string of practice grenades by yanking him back just in time. The tripwire was colored standard Army OD green...

[Jimmy] Hmm... practise or no, I think grenades are definitely something best avoided, unless you're the one counting.

[Ben] On the other hand, my platoon was _never_ successfully ambushed...

[Jimmy] Mental note: never engage in jungle combat with Ben.

[Ben] AIT stands for "Advanced Individual Training". Basic was the same (theoretically, but not at all) for everybody; AIT was the training you got for your MOS (Military Occupational Specialty.) I went in as a grunt (11B), got retrained as a 52C (Turbine Engine/HVAC mechanic) when they found out they couldn't send me overseas (I wasn't a citizen yet!), then got snagged by the Military Intelligence (a non-sequitur) when they found out I could do Russian. A lot of history in between all of that, including being a medic for a short stretch....

[Jimmy] I realise it's a faux pas to shoot a medic, but weren't you worried about the similarity between a red cross and, say, a crosshair?

[Ben] Nah. I was unkillable back then; we all were.

[Jimmy] (If you're gonna reminisce, I'm gonna go right ahead and whip out the Full Metal Jacket quotes.) "This is my rifle, this is my gun. This is for fighting, this is for fun".

[Ben] Congrats - you've won a beer, collectable when we happen to share a geographical location! :)

[Jimmy] There's always a catch, isn't there? Sure, I'll fly a few thousand miles for a beer.

[Ben] Hey, you never know what might happen! I might be over your way visiting one day (it's a long-distance plan), or you just might end up here - and there you are, a beer all ready for you. None of that Buttweiser or Willer, either; Sam Adams at the very least. On the other hand, I'm a fan of Young's Luxury Double Chocolate Stout, so you never know what might happen...

[Jimmy] That reminds me... Arthur Guinness is in the bar in heaven, and he bumps into Eberhard Anheuser, Adolphus Busch and Carl Conrad. The four start reminiscing about their lives as beer producers while they wait for the waiter. Anheuser offers to pay for the round, and orders a Budweiser, as do Busch and Conrad. Guinness orders a milk. After a while, there's a lull in the conversation, and Anheuser turns to Guinness. "Arthur, I hope you don't mind me asking, but when we ordered, we ordered Budweiser, because that was our company. Why didn't you order a Guinness?"

Arthur looks at each man in turn, and says "I would have, but if none of you were going to have a beer, then neither was I".

Anchors aweigh!

It's blowing a full gale here in St. Augustine [Florida], and there are lots of boats dragging (the soft mud bottom here makes for lousy holding.) Early this morning, mine joined the drag race - I've fought her to a standstill, but need to get my anchors up (this is, mildly put, not easy in a gale - particularly by yourself) and get her moved to a safer location. I'm taking a break for the moment - I've been helping other folks get theirs under control - but I'll be pretty busy for a while.

[Jim Dennis] When I expressed a hope that the wind would fill your sails, THAT'S NOT WHAT I MEANT!

[Ben] Careful what you wish for, Jim. At least for me.

[Thomas] BBC Radio4 said that gales would be quite common, but they weren't sure how severe :( Seems you've hit the brunt of it, alas.

[Ben] It's still blowing 35 kt., gusting over 40; a full gale, and just a bit short of a storm. The northeasterly wind has a nice long run ("fetch") down the river, and has built up some good-sized seas; "Ulysses"' bow is heaving through (estimated) a 5' range. The surf is literally exploding against the town's seawall.

Image of seawall

[Sluggo] I've never seen a boat with a bicycle on it before.

[Thomas] ROFL... Either that, Mike, or it is one hell of an expensive pedallo to hire.

[Sluggo] A what? Checking www.m-w.com to see if pedallo is as nasty as bordello or fellatio, I see 'pedalo' (one 'l') is:

chiefly British : a small recreational paddleboat powered by pedals

[Thomas] Yes, one 'l'...damn kbdrate. Must fix that. Hmm...certainly not fellatio, Mike. Unless, that is a euphemism for which I was previously unaware?

Indeed, they're yellow and one paddles them out to sea...hence the bicycle reference. Sigh..... I doubt whether my humo[u]r will *ever* be appreciated.


On Fri, Jan 09, 2004 at 07:16:15PM -0500, Ben Okopnik wrote:

[Thomas] I hate heights.

[Ben] Perhaps you should consider taking an intro jump, then, or an intro flying lesson. I got myself over the fear of heights by dangling my legs from the edge of a 12-story high building I'd sneaked into when I was 8 or 9... and it seems to have stuck.

[Frodo] Or he could do what I did: build bridges during summer break. It wasn't so much being 40 - 80 feet off the ground that breaks you of the fear, more like walking along a beam less than a foot wide. Not on the beam per se, but rather on the half inch rebar (reinforcing bars of steel) sticking out of the beam.

[Ben] [wink] Epiphanies and recovering your life from fear are *definitely* worthwhile goals.

[Frodo] I'm still afraid of heights; it just doesn't stop me...

No acid today


% lsd
zsh: command not found: lsd

[Pete Jewell]

pete@pete:~$ apt-cache search lsd
kmerlin - Instant messaging (IM) client for the MSN messenger network
libsdl-ocaml - OCaml bindings for SDL - runtime files
libsdl-ocaml-dev - OCaml bindings for SDL - development files
lsdb - The Lovely Sister Database (email rolodex) for Emacs
patchutils - Utilities to work with patches

[Sluggo] I was just trying to type 'ls'. Really.

TAG titles of honor

[Thomas] Well, if I can have "axlzrinhjaxxtqppht ibyf celfeejrqkjhywejtbnusjmpkveedvd q cg szngmqlfglyghux n" as a string of qualifications after my name, I'm *in*.

-- Thomas Adam, axlzrinhjaxxtqppht ibyf celfeejrqkjhywejtbnusjmpkveedvd q cg szngmqlfglyghux n

[Ben] Thomas! You should be ashamed of yourself, young man. You have to _earn_ those titles before you can use them! I mean, can you imagine the chaos, the sheer anarchy of a society where people used a distinguished title like "axlzrinhjaxxtqppht ibyf celfeejrqkjhywejtbnusjmpkveedvd q cg szngmqlfglyghux n" without at least 200 credit-hours of study?

Young people nowadays. They have _no_ shame.

TAG firing squad

[Jay] Nice to know I can get *something* right today. Cause, overall, the line up-against-the-wall is growing quickly, and without bounds.

[Ben] Cheer up, Jay - that means there's an infinitely small chance that they'll pick you out.

[Jay] You misunderstand. I was the one with the gun.

[Ben] Oh. Well, what are you complaining about, then? Seems to me like the perfect entertainment on a nice day like today. Just make sure you have plenty of those explosive slugs (on sale by the billion at your local Pentagon) and remember to drag a few of the bodies home (what with the Atkins diet and all, meat prices have become outrageous!)

[Jay] Local Pentagon my eye! There's only one! And the service is horrible! They always ask you *why* you need large quantities of C4. Avoid if at all possible.

[Ben] Oh, not at all! It's very simple, actually: if you tell them it's for Freedom, or God, or Apple Pie, or Mother, their eyes glaze and they just hand it over, as much as you want. Makes you _really_ wonder about their relationship with Mom, and their apple pie must taste awful...

Polite virus detector

Subject: Warning: E-mail viruses detected

Our virus detector has just been triggered by a message you sent:-
  To: robos@muon.de
  Subject: [TAG] Status (tag@lists.linuxgazette.net)
  Date: Wed Apr  7 16:44:19 2004

One or more of the attachments are on the list of unacceptable attachments
for this site and will not have been delivered.

Consider renaming the files or putting them into a "zip" file to avoid
this constraint.

The virus detector said this about the message:
Report: Shortcuts to MS-Dos programs are very dangerous in email in message.pif

When does politeness get to be too much?

[Bradley Chapman] Mr. Okopnik,

[Ben] [blink] Am I being called on the carpet, or is this an official inquiry? I understand your desire to be polite, Brad, but "politeness" =/= "formality", which can make people uncomfortable.

"Trumpet in a herd of elephants; crow in the company of cocks; bleat in a flock of goats."
-- Malayan Proverb

[Thomas] Mr, Okopnik -
You are hereby formally invited to attend National Refuse Day. This will require a mass cleanup of the city. Please wear your best attire. You'll want to look good.

P.S. We politely request no sunglasses.

[Ben] That being the case, I Refuse.



Subject: [Lgang] Test - do not open, or you'll see dire things!

dire things!

TAG processing

[Heather Stern]

Subject: [Lgang] TAG processing has begun

[Jason] You know what a food processor does to food, right?

[Heather] Precisely that. Ask the scissors.

[Jason] Oh! You're going to process the TAG *messages*, not TAG itself! That's a relief! :-)

The fate of Thomas

[Bradley] BTW, has this mlist ever gotten any Linux spam?

[Thomas] Oh yes, I help publish all Ben's ans... I mean... oh---

[Sluggo] Ben, put Thomas down! Or at least open the window before you throw him through it.

[Ben] Yes, defenestration is too good for the likes of him!... oh, wait - he's already thrown Wind0ws out, so I suppose that qualifies. No, no, I'll just have to let Thomas live; if I rub him out by tossing him through the window, the resulting pun would be just TOO horrible.

[Sluggo] Who's gonna write the Weekend Mechanic column if you kill him?

[Heather] Besides, if bad puns get you rubbed out around here I guess I'd better defend myself, too...
/me sets phaser to "pun".
There, now I'm ready.

[Ben] Darn. Well, *OK* then. [grumble] Nobody lets me have any _fun_.

There's a reason that the Mafia doesn't toss people out of windows as a general practice.
"Thomas? Yeh, he did Da Wrong Ting. Now he's sleepin' wid da boids."


picture Mike is a Contributing Editor at Linux Gazette. He has been a Linux enthusiast since 1991, a Debian user since 1995, and now Gentoo. His favorite tool for programming is Python. Non-computer interests include martial arts, wrestling, ska and oi! and ambient music, and the international language Esperanto. He's been known to listen to Dvorak, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Khachaturian too.

Copyright © 2004, Mike Orr (Sluggo). Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 102 of Linux Gazette, May 2004

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