Saturday, November 27, 2010

Gurubox: MRTG for Traffic Graphing

You never know when you might have to monitor a router or switch (or even your home network, right?).  MRTG has been around for quite some time, and has matured into a VERY good traffic monitoring and graphics package.  I've used it as a long-term (daily/weekly/monthly/yearly) tool for a NOC full of Cisco routers, and a dextrous hand with configuration can produce quality tracking for just about any SNMP-enabled network device.  In fact, my test for the Gurubox build is my home DSL connection, which is controlled by a SpeedStream 4200 DSL modem.  The build from source was absolutely painless. If you're looking for a quick-and-easy "network status" webpage, MRTG is the perfect tool with which to build it.

MRTG - Tobi Oetiker's MRTG - The Multi Router Traffic Grapher


Monday, November 22, 2010

Today's Random Free MP3s: A Mountain of Indie Christmas Music

Suburban Sprawl Music is an independent label based in Michigan.  Not only have they put together a "Holiday Sampler" of their artists, but they've maintained all past efforts online as well.  It doesn't seem that there will be a 2010 edition, but here you go - this link takes you to 254 (yes, 254!) MP3s of indie/alternative Christmas music.  You'll find everything from an a cappella "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to "My Reindeer Got Drunk" and "Beards Scare Children (Unless They're Attached to Santa)"...needless to say, several of these tracks are definitely NOT for your mom's playlist or the office Christmas party, but it's all interesting stuff.  Load up.

Suburban Sprawl Music | Holiday Music Stockpile


Gurubox: netactview - A Graphical Network Activity Viewer

During troubleshooting/debugging, it's always useful to know what network connections your system is making (or failing to make, as the case may be).  In the Windows world, I've long used Mark Russinovich's TCPView for this purpose, but I knew of no such tool for Linux.  Well, now there's netactview; it shows all UDP/TCP/UDP6/TCP6 activity and autorefreshes the list.  In a very nice addition for troubleshooters, it displays connections for 3 seconds after they are closed, giving you time to catch those "no answer" SYN_SENT or "I wasn't listening" SYN_RCVD TCP states.  This nice little package should be on every troubleshooter's system.

Net Activity Viewer


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gurubox: An Open-Source Java LDAP Browser

I've used Softerra's LDAP Browser for years; it's an excellent (free) tool, but it's only available for Windows.  For the Gurubox project, I needed a similar package for a Linux platform.  A little digging, and I found JXplorer; this LDAP-browsing tool originated with Computer Associates' eTrust Directory development team, but they've thrown it into the open-source world.  A quick install--plus a few pokes at a public LDAP server (I used me that JXplorer is a great tool for the LDAP detective.  (Did I mention the 100-page user guide?  Or that it "just worked" on both Ubuntu and WindowsXP?)

If you work (or play) with LDAP, this one's worth a look.



Tonight's Random MP3s: Free Music World Holiday Sampler

I'm a music geek; there's no other way to put it.  I'll listen to anything once, and most things more than once.  Now, since I have four kids, it isn't as if I have some pile of disposable funds just sitting aroud for music purchases; as a result, I've spent the last two years or so roaming the Web for free music.  I've really become attached to label samplers, since they usually give a pretty broad range of artists/styles for their issuing labels.  This time around, it's Music World's Holiday Sampler from Amazon.  It's a small (7 tracks) but tasty selection of jazz/R&B-influenced pop, with a few rap tracks thrown in for good measure; my FLFs (First Listen Favorites) would be Micah Stampley's rendition of Angels We Have Heard On High and This Christmas from Brian Courtney Wilson.  If you're looking for holiday playlist fodder, check it out. Music World Holiday Sampler: Various Artists: MP3 Downloads


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lunchtime Scripting: Boustrophedonic text filter

Several ancient languages used a technique known as boustrophedonic writing, in which alternate lines of text ran in opposite directions.  Imagine English text in which every other line read right-to-left, instead of left-to-right.  It sounds odd--and looks bizarre at first--but studies have shown that most folks actually experience an increase in their reading speed with boustrophedonic text, once they "get used to it."  It's amazing how much speed one can gain when freed from the "reset to left margin, find next line, continue reading" overhead imposed by our writing style.

Want to try it out?  Sure you do!  If you happen to have a Unix system, here you go; just feed your text into this awk script...

awk '
   if (NF == 0) {
     NR--; print;
   } else if (NR %=2) {
   } else {
     for(x=NF;x != 0; x--) printf "%s ",$x ; printf "\n"
}' your-text-file

(Yes, I was bored...yes, I'm sure that Perl can do this in one line...)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gurubox: A "Sandbox" Laptop/Toolbox

I am often called upon to visit customer premises for purposes of debugging and/or troubleshooting.  Needless to say, my employer doesn't necessarily like the idea of plugging a "company laptop" into whatever network I may be visiting, and our customers' security folks don't necessarily like the idea of plugging anything "uncontrolled" into their network.  Thus, I'm working on something I'm calling "Gurubox"...something of a traveling toolbox for the network geek.
The basic idea is that I'm running as much open-source and/or freely-available stuff as possible, so that customers' security folks can audit this stuff to their heart's content without being exposed to any of my employer's private/proprietary stuff.  The platform (so far) is Ubuntu Desktop 10.10, and I've already installed:
  • Apache httpd 2.2.17 (HTTP server/proxy server)
  • dante 1.2.2 (SOCKS proxy)
  • squid 3.1.9 (caching proxy server)
  • Wireshark 1.4.1 (network capture/analysis)
  • kismet 2010-07-R1 (802.11 wireless network detector)
  • Zenmap 5.21 (GUI frontend to nmap - network auditing tool/port scanner)
  • Firefox 3.6.12
  • Chrome 7.0.517.44
  • Pidgin 2.7.3 (multi-service IM client)
The question is this - what would YOU add to Gurubox?

Moving right along...using yet another Firefox add-on

I'm using Scribefire to post articles here at Cognitive Buffet.  It's simple, relatively full-featured, and gives me the cross-platform stuff I like via Firefox.  If you're an occasional blogger, it's worth a look.

ScribeFire Next :: Add-ons for Firefox


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tonight's Free MP3s - Hydra Head Records

If you know me at all, you know that I'm a listen-to-anything music geek.  Well, tonight's MP3 freebie is for the heavy metal fans.  Hydra Head Records, based in Los Angeles (but formerly of Boston), specializes in metal, and they're offering a 22-track collection from across their artist roster.  My FLFs (First-Listen Favorites) are New Bombs from Clouds, Helms Alee's Lionize, and Hayaino Daisuki's full-throated Ghosts of Purgatory.  If you're in a metal mood, check it out - it's a free download from Hydra Head's online store, linked below...

Phoning It In - A Hydra Head Digital Sampler

Proxy Madness - What's YOUR Flavor?

OK, so proxies of all sorts--HTTP, SOCKS, or application-specific--are pretty much a fact of life in today's workplace.  With the advent of cloud computing, however, those heretofore lonely middlemen are once again major players in the troubleshooting/debugging world.  I'm currently working on several issues around web proxies and/or proxy authentication, so I'm curious...what proxies are you (or your customers) using?

I'll admit to an ulterior motive.  I'm in the process of building a proxy server for testing purposes, and I'd like to include as many proxies as I can.  So far, I'm ready to install Squid, Apache, and (after digging through my source code archive) the reference implementation of SOCKS5; with authenticating and anonymous instances of each.  I'll have NTLM authentication available, as well.  Can you guys add any others to the list?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Digital Divertissment from Bally Slots

In conjunction with Masque, Bally Technologies offers three play-at-home slot machine games - Hot Shot Progressive, S&H Green Stamps, and Playboy Free Games.  These are clones of Bally's actual casino machines of the same names. They're pure funny-money games, but they're an entertaining way to kill time in airport lounges, hotel rooms, et cetera (online connection required).  There's no cost to join, although you do cough up an email address to register.  Windows software is available at the link below...

Welcome to Bally Technologies, Inc.


Sunday, November 07, 2010

A Trip Down (Twisted) Memory Lane

When I was a kid, I read comics voraciously, including the ads.  One frequent advertiser was Johnson Smith Co., purveyors of all sorts of "novelties," from the infamous mousetrap gum to dirty soap and everything in between.  Needless to say, their catalogs were a highlight of our mail delivery in those days.  For some odd reason, I tossed them into Google and was delighted to find that Johnson Smith has not only survived, but is thriving.  They've branched out into a family of catalogs, but the old reliables of my childhood (2-headed quarters, fake vomit) are still there in the "Things You Never Knew Existed" catalog.  I'm wondering if my kids would properly appreciate "Poo Poo In A Can"...

Johnson Smith Co.

Tonight's Random MP3s - Deep Elm Records - "We Dream Alone"

We Dream Alone - Deep Elm RecordsI'm always on the lookout for free music.  (With four teenagers in the house, let's just say that my budget for music verges on the nonexistent.)  I recently ran across the latest sampler from Deep Elm Records, and it's a winner.  My FLFs (First-Listen Favorites) are 8105 from Moving Mountains, Ride Your Bike's The Connection, and Nomads by Les Sages.  I'm an eclectic listener, so this one will probably stay in my playlist for a while.  Grab a copy and see what you think.

Deep Elm Sampler - We Dream Alone


Freebies from the Federal Reserve

My kids learned (long ago) that if they ask me a question, they're likely to get a far more detailed answer than they expect.  In fact, they developed the habit of appending "short answer" to their questions if they were in a hurry.  What they don't realize is that their questions often provoke questions of my own.  It was one of those "followup questions" that led me to discover the publications catalog of the Federal Reserve System.  My son's question was answered by "Symbols on American Money" (available in PDF), but I wound up ordering about 15 of the Fed's publications in hardcopy.  Take a look; there's stuff ranging from the comic-book "The Story of Banks" and the historical "Panic of 1907" to the meaty, 130-page "The Federal Reserve System: Purposes and Functions."

Federal Reserve System Publications Catalog

Wireshark questions? Here you go...

If you use the Wireshark network analysis tool (and if you're interested in networking at all, you should be - check it out), the new community Q&A site will come in handy.  I've already joined, answered a few questions and asked one of my own.   A stable of knowledgeable Wireshark users, including several of the top developers, are participating...take a look.

Wireshark Q&A