Road Trip

In a week’s time, on Sunday 1st September, I’ll be taking off to the mainland in what my car will no doubt feel is an attempt to kill it, and what I will probably come to think of as a bloody stupid idea.

Averaging about 500-odd km a day, I’m planning to drive to Calgary and back via the Okanagan, the Kootenays and the Rockies, clocking in at just over 3,000km in total. Part of the reason for doing this is that I’ve never done anything like it before – being from the UK, it’s hard to appreciate that kind of distance. I’ll be spending roughly half the nights sleeping in the car – I have a 2000-model Ford Focus station wagon, so I have just about enough space to do it in.

This week I’ll be doing all the final preparation. For those who are interested, I plan on taking some time out to do a bit of portable HF amateur radio operation as VE7CXZ/P, and whenever I’m in range of a digipeater my location should be available via APRS on sites like

Watch this space. Or listen out on the news for an Englishman going missing in the BC interior.

Bridged interfaces with Vagrant

It took me a while to work out how to specify the bridged interface in Vagrant‘s Vagrantup file so that it doesn’t prompt you for it when you run vagrant up. I can be dumb at times, so it’s probably just me, but in case you don’t know Ruby syntax (like me), this is how you do it. In your Vagrantup file, assuming eth0 is the interface you want to bridge to, specify it like this:- :bridged, :bridge => "eth0"

That’s it! If you’re not familiar with Vagrant, it’s a tool written in Ruby to provide a fast way to deploy virtual machines with VirtualBox. For more information, have a look at the overview over on the project’s website.

Far from home

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly three months since I left the UK, but it is. On July 20th I left Manchester, where yet again it was raining (which will surprise precisely nobody, at all, ever) on a 9 hour flight to Vancouver and then a short hop onwards to Victoria. Starting from scratch has been a bit weird – to put it mildly – and it’s rounded off an even weirder 12 months.

It’s hard to say what the biggest difference between here and the UK is – being a (mostly) English-speaking country tends to lull you into a false sense of things. I’ve so far managed to get used to driving on the right without any major trauma other than spending the first week punching the door with my left hand looking for a gear stick that isn’t there, although turning right on a red still makes me feel like I’m being naughty.

One of the more wonderfully amusing things though is the use of different words and phrases for things. I’ve had quizzical looks using the words ‘hoover’, ‘junction’, ‘car park’, ‘settee’, ‘skip’ and the phrase ‘knocked up’ which I should have seen coming a mile off.

The things that still blow my mind though are a) the scenery and b) just how big the country is. I could drive the equivalent of the the length of the UK and still be in BC, and for someone who comes from a country that you can drive across in a few hours, that’s insane.

The countdown begins

Last week I handed in my notice, and I’ll be leaving C&W Worldwide after nearly 9 years. I joined back in October 2003 when it was still Energis, and 4 jobs later I’m now about to leave.

My last day will be the Friday the 13th of July, amusingly enough for the superstitious. I have the best part of a week off before I then travel to Victoria to start as a Systems Engineer within the Ops team at AbeBooks.

Stay tuned…

Things are about to get very interesting

My last post talked about my then-impending trip to Canada, and I’m happy to say that I made it back in one piece, although I was pretty sick of airports and planes afterwards. Heathrow greeted me with that familiar grey drizzle before my final hop back up to Manchester where – and I’m as surprised as anyone – it wasn’t raining. Victoria was lovely – more so than I expected, and bar a bit of rain one day I seemed to get lucky with the weather. I managed to not break my camera, so there’s a few pictures up on Flickr.

The interviews (yes, plural – I had four!) seemed to go well. I got to meet a lot of the staff, including most of the people who I would be working with, who were all brilliant at putting me at ease and letting me babble on about myself. I left after spending most of the day there with a genuine feeling that it would be a cracking place to work.

After a few more days sightseeing in and around Victoria, I made the return trip back across the Atlantic. The day after I got back, I got a phone call to offer me the job. It was about 6pm, but my body had no idea where it was, so as you can imagine the rambling on was embarrassingly in full effect…

So, I’ve accepted the job, and I’m now ridiculously excited. If you know me, you’re probably laughing at that notion, but I assure you – I did get a bit giddy. Almost a month on, and I’m now in the midst of the unavoidable bureaucratic process of work permits and working out what to do with… well, everything. It’s exciting, anxiety-inducing and downright terrifying all in one go. I’m pretty certain it’ll put ten years on me by the time it’s sorted…

1 man, 6 airports and a 11,500 mile round trip

In a little over two days’ time I’ll be boarding a plane in Manchester on the first leg of a 3-flight trip to Victoria in British Columbia, via Frankfurt and Vancouver. Then, 4 days later I’ll coming back again – this time through San Francisco and Heathrow, and in the process doubling the amount of airports I’ve ever flown from in the space of just under a week.

Many of the people I’ve mentioned it to have said that I’m nuts. They’re correct, but there’s a purpose to all this catapulting around in a metal tube: I’ve got a job interview.

After a handful of ‘phone interviews, an online technical test and a scripting assignment, I’ve been asked to fly over for a panel interview. To say I’m nervous would be an understatement – I’ve not had a job interview at an external company for nearly nine years, so I’ve spent a considerable amount of time preparing for this. I’ve also never been to Canada before – I joked the other day that the furthest west I’ve ever been is Cornwall. Travelled I am not.

It’s a given that I hope it goes well, but whatever the outcome it will be an experience I’ve not had before and may not get again. I’ll have a couple of days to have a wander around Victoria, so the DSLR will definitely be getting a spot in my rucksack.

Fingers crossed…
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ca-mgmt – a simple CA management tool

After reading Kees Leune‘s guide to setting up a CA here, I thought it’d be handy to script a lot of the legwork involved. The end result after a day or two’s hacking about is ca-mgmt.

Bug reports, feature requests, etc. are more than welcome to the usual address, or to the Github Issues page.

A Prelude to better things – Open Source and IDS

A recent number of attempted break-ins to a few machines I manage has had me thinking again about the overall security of the machines, and how to get a better handle on what’s going on. This isn’t something new – anyone managing internet-facing systems ought to be aware of the dangers, and how to mitigate them. As with many things related to open source, there are a plethora of tools out there aimed at providing alerting based on network activity.

I’d wager that many people have heard of Snort, and what it does. For those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s an open source intrusion detection system (IDS)/intrusion prevention system (IPS). In a normal configuration, Snort monitors traffic and alerts based on predefined rules for such things as port scans and maliciously-crafted HTTP requests. It’s an extremely powerful tool that is also highly configurable, and with an excellent community that provide custom rules for a wide variety of situations. But alerting is one thing – being able to make sense of those alerts is something else.

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Not dead, just sleeping

It’s been a while since I posted on here. It’s been a busy year – for reasons both good and not-so-good – but I’ve got a few ideas that I’ll be posting about over the next week or two.

For those interested in amateur radio (or wonder what it’s all about) – I also have, which is where I post all my amateur radio-related thoughts and activities.

RedHat, NFS and static ports

Using NFS between two machines on the same network is usually free of hassle, so the default behaviour – on Linux, at least – is fine and can be left as it is. However, in a commercial setting (such as the ones I manage in my day job) it’s often the case that the machines might not be on the same network – or even in the same location, for that matter. It’s likely that there’s a number of network devices in between the machines, and the way NFS uses portmap can sometimes make things frustrating.

Luckily, it’s really easy to fix.

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