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Wacko Topic of the Month

[Ben] O'course, "linux" _could_ just be another type of rhubard... <sic< *that* would explain some things. :)

Not The Answer Gang

Homework assignment: reading directions

Answered By Iron

question 1. using the man page on a linux work station identify four flags that can be supplied to the shutdown command . giving the description of each flag.

question 2. using the man page on linux work station find out what three options can be used with the Is command .include a brief descrption of how the output will be formatted.

(!) [Iron] It says right in the question what to do. Which part of "using the man page" do you not understand?

But here's a hint: there is no 'Is' command. Do you mean 'ls'? But it has a lot more than three options.

Homework assignment: American colonists

Answered By Frank Rodolf, Heather Stern, Iron and Huibert Alblas

1 question

what methods did colonists use to protest actions by parliament between 1765 and 1775

(!) [Frank] Hmm... Lets see if a European can answer that...

My first guess was they dropped penguins in the parliamentary buildings. I don't think that is correct though.

I guess you did not realize you were sending this question to a list that is about helping people with problems with Linux, a computer operating system, not a homework help line. :)

You might go to a search engine - might be a good choice, and search for (for instance): rebellion 1765-1775

(!) [Heather] We (The Answer Gang) are not a study group. Most especially not a USA History 101 study group.

The only way you could have found us is because we:

  1. regularly advise people asking us questions that are poorly phrased to "do their homework first".
  2. advise people who send us pieces of their computing exams in college that they can ask us these things, but it's no substitute for doing their homework. We then welcome them to read the rest of the Gazette.

Ask instead:


What methods did high school and college students use to study the late 1700s before the internet promised them a fast answer to everything?


Books. There is probably a library near you. Failing that the textbook that was suggested by your professor may have the answer in it, or a bibliography leading to more useful books. Reading such books and thereby gaining an understanding of the question and its answers... there may be many... is called "research" and you can probably do an internet search on any buzzwords you find that way.

Good luck in your quest. And your quizzes.

(!) [Iron] The Boston tea party.

That inspired the Silicon Valley tea party some 200 years later.

(!) [Halb] Nope, actualy the colonist were sick and tired from the English trying to impose somekind off copyrightlisencefees and taxes on software,mp3,linux,_stamps_,and everything but the kitchensink.

The colonist reacted in not using M$-windows anymore and burning some MP3 cd's.

Get the real story on:

This Brittanica thing is quite good, I wish it had been there back then when I was supposed to do my history homework.....

(!) [Iron] Never mind the irony of looking up the American Revolution in a British encyclopedia!

Homework assignment: modernizing an office

Answered By Heather Stern

respected sir;(to whom it may concern) i have visited ur webpage

(!) [Heather] You may have visited them, but you haven't read them... or you'd know we don't answer for the operating systems you have asked about. Or else you don't mind taking a few flames, because you hope there will be a useful tidbit anyway. If that's so, please read onward.

ir i am student of IT and want ur help in solving my college assignment, as it is tecnically advanced ur i think u can give me help. points of the asssignments are;

With a certain amount of rolling our eyes towards the heavens... who told you to mail us? If you just found us in some search engine, that would be because the buzzword "homework" is part of the commonly used phrases here:

When we answer these sorts of questions it is nearly always with some better places to look. The Linux Documentation Project, for instance.

Shall we send a carbon copy of this message to your professor, too?

I think you can stand to read the back issues of the Linux Gazette in some detail. This is a very old practice in schools called "research". I've heard that some people get better answers from technical forums when they try to do some of it before just dumping their take-home exam in someone else's lap.

The company is tradionalist in information privacy, security, and the applications of new technologies: so

1)if i am doing job in World computer inc.and i have to upgrade the system into modern arena

Can't "up" grade until you know what you want it to do. If it is already doing its job well, "up" grading it is a waste of your time, and annoys the users.

Q1)from security point of view ...

To quote another member of The Answer Gang:

"Security is the enforcement of policy. First you must set policy, then you can try to enforce it."

Not all security policies are about computers - for those, there is only a slight amount software can do.

... which software is better Sun solaris or Windows NT.and which of them can better ...

can [verb] better? We don't care which of those two is better - FOR WHAT? - this is the LINUX Gazette. the environment of data processsing deapartmant.

I hope you would better know the context of a data processing department than I would, because those aren't the kind of sites I work with most. I have no idea if COBOL exists for either one.

But you might try Celeste Stokely's home page, it has much more general UNIX related information. And some humor.

so plz give me strengths and of the software u recommend----?

Yes, if you're used to Sun versions of UNIX, try Slackware as your Linux distribution. It's very "BSDish" which means some of its commands may be more comfortable to use. KDE or Openlook window managers might resemble the default X interfaces found on Suns. And you'll need Samba to talk to those NT domains...

Oh what the heck, here's a bonus tip: Samba works on Solaris too, so you can have that Solaris box talk to NT boxen. You could use *both*...

sir i would be very gr8ful to u if u give me some suggestions as soon possible because i have to submit this assignment after 2 days.

The Answer Gang does not promise anybody any answer at all, timely or otherwise. If we do, we can publish them on the Linux Gazette website. THE ANSWERS WILL BE ABOUT LINUX. Tell your friends we are not a college study group.


Answered By Ben Okopnik

Dear Sir: Please send infor on how to apply for a student loan.

(!) [Ben]

  1. Get the paperwork.
  2. Using a #2 pencil, fill it out.
  3. Submit it to the proper agency.

Hint: If you don't learn to spell the word "information" properly, you won't be able to apply for a number of the available courses, especially in the field of computing. Verbum sapienti, eh?


Answered By Heather Stern

I need some basic information on how pagers work. I would appreciate it if you could help me out by showing me some links on the related subject, or by mailing me any diagram or .pdf file containig any information about it. Thanks a lot.

(!) [Heather] They work just like cellphones, except that they don't eat as much, so when they are on their lunch break, they get to hang out by the coffee for a bit longer. They like that because they can catch the local buzz.

Honestly, the reason they don't eat as much is usually because the cell phones regularly "ping" their cell site to make sure they don't have to negotiate a handoff in order to keep listening, while pagers are usally passive and they get whatever signal they get. So they only use a tiny amount of juice to remember messages they already recieved, and to ding or buzz or whatever it is they do.

Two way pagers may act more like cellphones, and some cellphones are definitely pagers too, so beyond this, you need to hit the web searching on the model number. Some even let you web browse but even there, you are still not close to Linux. See the search engines, using the keyword "WAP" for more about that stuff.

Try "how pagers work" in google?

The TAG skirmish

Answered By Ben Okopnik, Heather Stern, Jim Dennis and Iron

Sudhakar An asked: Gazette's July issue was pretty interesting. Jim I assume you literally had a quarrel with Ben heh?

(!) [Ben] Yeah... he got in a fairly good lick with that bullwhip, but I'm pretty fast with the nunchucks. We'll both be out of the hospital in no time at all; the No-Holds Barred Smackdown rematch is already sold out, we're both making a fortune on the t-shirts and the pre-printed mousepads, and the crowds are screaming for blood.

I've *heard* that there are people that can disagree and remain friends... but I'm sure that it's a myth; "Death before Dishonor", I always say.

<laugh> I'm _very_ interested in how you see The Answer Gang, Sudhakar. You must have quite a colorful imagination.

ps: Cool it Jim

Hey, Jim *is* cool. Just because we try to kill each other in the ring doesn't mean we can't be the best of friends at other times, right?

(!) [Heather] Hey, I thought we agreed, no mousepads unless you send a few to his Mom...

But my problem started when I enabled services like ftp,telnet, ssh , .... under xinetd.

(!) [Jim] Yes... I can promise you that you will. We've seen lots of complaints about it here.

(!) [Heather] And it's Ben in the ring, the Answer Guy himself Jim Dennis takes off his wizard cap to much cheering, and ... xinetd gets in the first swing. Zowie!

(!) [Ben] (Psst - hey, Jim! I bet my t-shirt sales are higher than yours: I'm giving away a Genuine Ben Okopnik autograph and a set of Ginsu knives with each one!)

(!) [Heather] Yeah? I bet I can actually SELL Ginsu knives to these people! It's got g_n_u in it after all... half the donations to LinuxFund! So, you wanna bet on just the tshirts, or the whole kaboodle?

btw, most geeks have plenty of tshirts. Plus hats and the occasional change purse. Maybe we should sell something they *don't* usually get, like the rest of the wardrobe :)

Rgds Jim , I can understand that you guys dont mean to be killing each other. Just seemed so real this quarrel.

(!) [Iron] What was the original quarrel people keep on talking about? Not the "Dash it All! Coping with ---Unruly--- Filenames" thread? That's not quarreling, that's just having fun.

(!) [Ben] I have no idea - I looked through the last ish and could find no signs of quarrels, arrows, or darts flung in anger or even irritation - but I'm sure having a ball with it. :)

The finger and the Internet oracle

Answered By Iron, Nick Moffitt, Heather Stern and Ben Okopnik

Anonymous Coward asked: I have a question about the "finger" option on telnet. I know that you can find out when someone has logged in by entering "finger name" But I was wondering if it possible to find out who has tried to finger your e-mail account??

(!) [Iron] The short answer:

If you are the sysadmin, you can run "fingerd" with the "-l" option to log incoming requests; see "man fingerd". Otherwise, if you have Unix progamming experience, it *may* be possible to write a script that logs information about the requests you get. If you're merely concerned about security, the correct answer is to turn off the "fingerd" daemon or read the "finger" and "fingerd" manpages to learn how to limit what information your computer is revealing about you and about itself. However, you have some misconceptions about the nature of "finger" which we should also address.

The long answer:

"finger" and "telnet" are two distinct Internet services. "http" (WWW) and "smtp" (sending e-mail) are two other Internet services. Each service is completely independent of the others.

Depending on the command-line options given and the cooperation of the remote site, "finger user@host" may tell you:

(1) BASIC USER INFORMATION: the user's login name, real name, terminal name and write status, idle time, login time, office location and office phone number.

(2) EXTENDED USER INFORMATION: home directory, home phone number, login shell, mail status (whether they have any mail or any unread mail), and the contents of their "~/.plan" and "~/.project" and "~/.forward" files.

(3) SERVER INFORMATION: a ``Welcome to ...'' banner which also shows some informations (e.g. uptime, operat­ing system name and release)--similar to what the "uname -a" and "uptime" commands reveal on the remote system.

Normally, ".plan", ".project" and ".forward" are regular text files. ".plan" is normally a note about your general work, ".project" is a note about the status of your current project(s), and ".forward" shows whether your incoming mail is being forwarded somewhere else or whether you're using a mail filter (it also shows where it's being forwarded to and what your mail filter program is, scary).

I've heard it's possible to make one of these files a named pipe connected to a script. I'm not exactly sure how it's done. (Other TAG members, please help.) You use "mkfifo" or "mknod -p" to create the special file, then somehow have a script running whose standard output is redirected to the file. Supposedly, whenever "finger" tries to read the file, it will read your script's output. But I don't know how your script would avoid a "broken pipe" error if it writes when there's nobody to read it, how it would know when there's a reader, or how the reader would pass identifying information to the script. Each Internet connection reveal's the requestor's IP, and if the remote machine is running the "identd" daemon, one can find out the username. But how your "finger" script would access that information, I don't know, since it's not running as a subprocess of "finger", so there's no way for "finger" to pass it the information in environment variables or command-line arguments.

However, "finger" is much less useful nowadays than it was ten years ago. Part of this is due to security paranoia and part to the fact that we use servers differently nowadays.

(1) Re security, many sysadmins have rightly concluded that "finger" is a big security risk and have disabled "fingerd" on their servers, or enable it only for intranet requests (which are supposedly more trustworthy). Not only is the host information useful to crackerz and script kiddiez, but users may not realize how much information their revealing.

(2) Re how we use servers, in 1991 at my university, we had one Unix computer (Sequent/Dynix) that any student could get an account on. Users were logged in directly from hardwired text terminals, dialup or telnet. You could use "finger" to see whether your friends were logged in. Since you knew where your friends normally logged in from, you had a fair idea where they were at the moment and could meet them to hack side-by-side with them or to read (Usenet) news or to play games together. (Actually, you didn't even need to use "finger". "tcsh" and "zsh" would automatically tell you when certain "watched" users logged in and out.) You could even use "w" to find out which interactive program they were currently running. But soon demand went above 350 simultaneous users, especially when the university decided to promote universal e-mail use among its 35,000 students and 15,000 staff. The server was replaced by a cluster of servers, and every user logging in to the virtual host was automatically placed on one of the servers at random. Since "finger" and "w" information--as well as the tcsh/zsh "watch" service--are specific to a certain server, it was a pain to check all the servers to see if your friends were on any of them. About this time, people started using X-windows, and each "xterm" window would show up in "finger" as a separate logged-in user. Also, finger access became disabled outside the intranet. "finger" became a lot less convenient, so it fell into disuse.

(3) "finger" only monitors login sessions. This includes the "login" program, "telnet", "xterm", "ssh" (and its insecure cousins "rsh" and "rlogin"). It does not include web browsing, POP mail reading, irc or interactive chat, or instant messaging. These servers *could* write login entries, but they don't. Most users coming from the web-browser-IS-my-shell background never log in, wouldn't know what to do at the shell prompt if they did log in, don't think they're missing anything, and their ISPs probably don't even have shell access anyway. That was the last nail in the coffin for "finger".

So in short, "finger" still works, but its usefulness is debatable. Linus used to use his ".plan" file to inform people of the current version of Linux and where to download it. SSC used to use it to propagte its public PGP key. There are a thousand other kinds of useful information it could be used for. However, now that everybody and his dog has a home page, this ".plan" information can just as easily be put on the home page, and it's just as easy (or easier for some people) to access it via the web than via "finger".

Nick Moffitt asks another question, and somehow these two threads tie together. Then one of the Gang (whose name fell off this message) suggested:

In this case it'd be wickedly apropos to twist finger to doing what you want... so you can give some poor telnet-using sap "the finger" as it were.

(!) [Iron] And Nick would enjoy doing it, too.

(!) [Nick] Hahaha! Sheesh, I write a single TAG mail, and up crops Heather Stern, Mike Orr, and Don Marti. You folks should become the next innurnet oracle!

(!) [Ben] <aghast> You mean we're NOT? </aghast>

(!) [Heather] My caffeine must be a quart low... since I was pretty sure that we must be - otherwise we wouldn't get stupid highschooler homework questions, who invented the cardboard box, and driving instructions for spaceships who were dumb enough to install NT service packs just because their code-morphing technology was able to do that.

We could probably come up with some cute database-generated silly answer to give instead of "These Aren't The Droids You're Looking For" but I think we're okay for now.

Except we might use postgresql instead of oracle... <grin duck and run!>

(!) [Ben] <glaring> I managed to restrain myself. <grin>

(!) [Iron] Just making Linux a little bit more fun.

(!) [Nick] [In his signature:]

You are not entitled to your opinions.

(!) [Iron] Typical Moffittism.

(!) [Nick]

	01234567 <- The amazing* indent-o-meter! 
        ^	    (*: Indent-o-meter may not actually amaze.)

Backward compatibility of PC architecture

Answered By Ben Okopnik

Iron asked: Yes, but *why* is this assbackwards architecture by far the most popular computer on the market? BECAUSE of the backwards compatibility.

(!) [Ben] Yes, but "backward compatibility" does not have to mean "keeping every single piece of old garbage". Once we reached the processing power of 486DX100s, emulating DOS for complete backward compatibility was a real option - and redesigning the architecture from the ground up while still maintaining backward compatibility was a reasonable goal. That was, erm, a few years ago.


Answered By Faber Fedor and Iron

Asdi Dera wrote to Faber Fedor: thank you very much for your ram disk tutorial.. my squid run very fast. ;)

(!) [Iron] Maybe if you use a helicopter you can catch up to it. :)


Answered By Ben Okopnik and Iron

Answering some question, Ben said:

(!) [Ben] I *have* found how to make it happen again, though.

(!) [Iron] He's got just enough information to make him dangerous. We'll have to take care of... Oh, hi Ben. [laughs innocuously] I didn't realize you were here.

(!) [Ben] <muttering while slowly backing into a corner> There is no Cabal. There is no Cabal. There is no... AAAAAAAHHHH!!!! &)_*&%$%$#LOST CARRIER

World of Spam

Hi! How are you?

I send you this file in order to have your advice

See you later. Thanks

[The Answer Gang got hit with some twenty copies of the Sir Cam worm/virus in two days. Finally, we added the following stanza to all our .procmailrc's:
* (I send you this   file in order to have your advice|\
Te mando este   archivo para que me des tu punto de vista)
Which sends it to the great bit bucket in the sky, where it belongs. Remove the extra spaces in the middle of the sentances. They are just to keep LJ from being deleted by any overzealous spamfilter. The second text line is a Spanish version we also received. Of course, since most of the Gang doesn't read mail on Windows, we didn't have to worry about damage, just about the amount of disk space those buggers take up. Sir Can attaches a file to the message. It's a different file each time, but usually at least 200 KB. That means five of them take up an entire megabyte. LG's spamfile this month was a whopping 55 megabytes (!), mostly due twenty more copie of this virus. -Iron.]

Have you been considering upgrading your web site for e-commerce or upgrading your existing shopping cart program to a higher level of performance? Many on-line retailer's success or failure is determined by their e-commerce solution.

It sounds like we have some things in common. We are both interested in getting people to join our Internet businesses. Recently I found some FREE promotional software that I thought you might also like to try out.

From: igsys
Subject: the Nigeria/African money scam emails

Just to add some emails from where they sent me this scam, as mr. Justin Catterall explained in issue66 these are really bad people, they are efficient and have things well, well planned. Have a look below at their initial response which i did on purpose (fortunately i had read LG issue66) to get some more emails like XXXXX (adb stands for African Development Bank which is a "real" african bank...), this email is from http://XXXXX

i have been using Linux since 98, keep the excelent work of Linux Gazette. ps.: please do not publish my email for security reasons

From: isaacson jaide
Subject: send the application and call immediately to confirm

I get your mail these morning because,since i sent you the last lether,my mind have not find any rest.

I'm very happy about your possitive interest in these business. Regarding to what it should be used for? what i know is that i'm going to invest mine over there in your contry. Please do as directed. The letter below is what you are going to fill your correct a/c No and full address of the Bank and send it directly to the Foreign Exchange managers e-mail address:

When you send it you confirm to me that you have done that and send a copy to me.

I wait to hear from you
Isaacson shakas.

The Manager
African Development Bank.

A/C NO 202-15689-1.

Reference to the above quoted A/C No. 202-15689-1 of
Late Andreas B. Smith, with credit balance of 126
Million Point Zero - Zero US Dollars Only.

As the bonafide next of kin to the above named late
Andreas B. Smith Holder of the dormant Ref A/C, we
wish to apply for the release of the total said mount
and initial part payment of $26, 000,000.00, (Twenty
Six Million US Dollars only). in our favour
representing first phase payment from the credit
balance in the said a/c.

In accordance with National and International Laws of
inheritance kindly remit the stated amount in full to
our a/c No quoted below:


This request is predicated on the fact that since the
death of our Manager Mr. Andreas B. Smith who was
entrusted with The Management of KRUGER GOLD MINING
CO. The need for the transfer of the money in the
account becomes imperative.

We shall therefore be very grateful if this request
meets with your favourable consideration


Yours faithfully,

I am interested in speaking with you about powering career centers for your online properties. XXXXXXXXXXX is the largest network of I.T. specific Job Posting Sites. The following URL will link you into a detailed description of all of XXXXXXXXXXX's Network Partners and their corresponding Homepages and XXXXXXXXXXX Career Centers. See revenue splits below. Career Centers are fully customized to your specifications and are implemented at No Cost Whatsoever.

Our standard revenue share structure is as follows:
-You Receive 100% of banner ad revenues realized from the career center(avg. 40 imp/user)
-50/50 split on spotlight job advertising
-50/50 split on job posting received trough your sites

[And banner ads are SOOO lucrative! -Iron.]

Valerie XXXX, a patient of dentist and hypnotherapist Dr. Bruce XXXXXXXX, was trained to use hypnosis to see into the future and discovered an undiagnosed medical problem that threatened the mother's (Joann's) life.

Are you looking for your first Internet business...or your last?

If it's your first, wouldn't you like it to be your last? Your last should be like going should be the one that allows you to double your full time income on a part time basis, is stable, will be there for your heirs, and give you the lifestyle you dream of.

Listen, you don't have to tell me - I KNOW what your experiences have been marketing online. You've been in one of two places. EITHER you're fairly new on the Internet, and you KNOW that SOMEBODY makes money online - but you can't quite figure out HOW. OR MAYBE you can "sign people up" like gangbusters - and those people just SIT THERE. Those people don't just "sit there" because they are "lazy", "stupid" or "don't have the desire". The ONLY way for this to work is to do what is done in EVERY OTHER industry but ours - and that is, let the "marketers" do the "marketing" - and let the other people do what THEY do best!

Some people just STINK at marketing. And they will NEVER make money online -no matter which "HOT! NEW!" thing they jump into again THIS week! But the thing is - you don't HAVE to! Want to find out why I market for OTHER PEOPLE all day? Then you need to see my open letter about HOW we do that. Just a word to the wise. LOTS of people do it our way. Want to FINALLY make money online? Want to NEVER have to "recruit" and "motivate" and "babysit" again? Then see how YOU can succeed online even if you HATE to market! WHY IN THE WORLD would you NOT want us to do the marketing FOR you? Are you having such GREAT success trying to do it on your own? Are your people? Let US set up a totally AUTOMATED system for you where WE do all the marketing for you and we ALL make money!!

["Or your last" ... because so many people are getting out of the Internet business! -Iron.]

Update Your Income Now!
[That's it, I want to get an income upgrade. -Iron.]

Happy Linuxing!

Mike ("Iron") Orr
Editor, Linux Gazette,

Copyright © 2001, the Editors of Linux Gazette.
Copying license
Published in Issue 69 of Linux Gazette, August 2001
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