VPNs: Hamachi

One of my co-workers gave a short presentation regarding VPNs. Pretty softball stuff – the audience (us) was technical, and mostly knew what a VPN was, but institutionally we haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about this sort of thing. Largely, that’s because our campus network is mostly unfirewalled, and we’ve not had much need for it. However, the firewalls, they be coming, and about half of CS is currently firewalled.
The built-in OS X VPN works well enough with the solution we’re currently using, but something that’s been pulling at me has been Hamachi.
Hamachi has an OS X client, and Lifehacker has an article about Hamachi itself.
I don’t know if this particular technology is really the solution for us – it appears to be aimed at our individual clients, since we’re currently without a “corporate” VPN. I don’t know if it’s meant to really *be* that corporate VPN, but it’s worth looking at anyway – several of our clients have their own private networks, and perhaps this would be useful to them.

Wiki matrix

Something else from LifeClever: the wiki matrix.
Since I started one of the more visible wikis on campus (well, I think it is anyway; certainly I’ve received queries from off-campus due to my name being attached to it) I also occasionally get questions from other staff members regarding what wiki is best. I chose twiki because at the time, the only other wiki on campus I knew of also ran that, and it was an easy install from the FreeBSD ports tree. I’ve since given up trying to maintain it using that – in fact, our twiki moved off a BSD box managed by me onto www.cs.uwaterloo.ca, a Solaris box mostly managed by a couple of other people in my working group. However, I don’t feel at all pretentious when I say that I feel that the presence of a wiki in the Math Faculty will be one of my legacies.
I just wish I’d known about this site when I was considering different technologies.

Cheap at the price

I used to run a small business, selling and repairing PCs. I had Those Customers every once in a while: everything’s a bargain, “is that your best price? are you sure? I can get it cheaper at/from (some big box store / some shop in Halifax / one of my competitors / my brother in law / mail-order from Toronto) you know.” Or, “Is that your best computer?” (What kind of a question is that? Best for what?)
Seth Godin talks about something similar. His post made me think of one of my favourite stories from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones:

When Banzan was walking through a market he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer.
“Give me the best piece of meat you have,” said the customer.
“Everything in my shop is the best,” replied the butcher. “You cannot find here any piece of meat that is not the best.”
At these words Banzan became enlightened.

(No, not really related to Seth’s post; as I said, it just reminded me of it.)
I didn’t reserve my best computers for my best customers, or my best work either; now I work equally hard for every faculty member and grad student, regardless of how I feel about them personally. You will find no work that is not my best.

Naming vendors

I named a particular vendor in a couple of posts here; at first, it was ok, but given that some more recent posts have been a bit negative with respect to them, I thought it might be best if I made the references a bit more generic. I can’t undo what’s cached in Google and such, but I figured I would at least try.
I know that this vendor is in a bit of a difficult spot with us and they’re doing the best they can, but it’s still causing us grief, so I don’t feel too too bad about having previously named them, and if anybody were to ask how things went with them on this cluster project, I would answer honestly. (“Not as well as we’d hoped.”) I’m confident that one way or another, they’ll fix our problems and we’ll be able to get to use the clusters, just not as soon as we’d wanted to start.
Still, I was tempted to leave their names in anyway.

I like Apples, but

Everybody who knows me knows I hate most Apple stuff less than anything else. Given a choice – and I have been – I’ll default to using a Mac for general purpose stuff, although best tool for the task still rules.
One of “my” profs got a Macbook Pro recently – first one I’ve seen myself. Being the curious type, the first thing I did was take as much of it apart as I could without voiding the warranty. First thing was a look inside the battery compartment.

Why is there more or less exposed circuitry in there? I mean, normally you won’t be poking around in there too much, but it’s reasonable to expect a user to have and use a spare battery, and it’s also reasonable to assume that will be in close quarters (airplane seat, say). Why expose more than needs to be exposed?