Legroom.net General Update

Submitted by jbreland on Thu, 04/05/2012 - 04:34

There hasn't been much news posted here lately, so I wanted to give everyone an update on what's going on in regards to the website and various projects hosted here.

Website Spam
As anyone viewing the forum or old posts has undoubtedly noticed, this site has been overrun with spam. Since moving to Drupal 6 a couple years ago, the anti-spam module I used never worked quite right, resulting in a lot of extra work on my part to keep things tidy. After a while I got tired of dealing with the spam, and have simply neglected it since then. This is not good for several reasons, not the least of which is that legitimate posts got drowned out by the noise and never received any attention.

I spent just spent a couple hours deleting all of the spam I could find, so all that should be left on this site are legitimate posts. Unfortunately, at this time I have no good way to keep it that way, which leads into my next topic...

Forum, Comments, and User Accounts
Effectively immediately, the forum and news posts have been switched to read-only mode, and the ability to create new user accounts has been disabled. The end result is that no one can post new comments or topics to either the forum or website, and no one that doesn't already have an account can (automatically) create a new one. I was hoping I'd never have to resort to this, but until I get the time to upgrade my site again and implement an entirely new anti-spam system, I simply have no other way to keep the site clean.

Continuing on the topic of users, I'm also working on cleaning up all of the accounts. Some quick math showed I have about 6500 registered accounts when I started working on this, and I can guarantee that over 6400 of those are simply for spam. As I have no great way to distinguish the difference between legitimate and non-legitimate accounts when dealing in this volume, I'm taking the following approach. Any accounts meeting the following criteria will be deleted:

  • Have never logged in
  • Have not logged in for more than one year
  • Has a last access time within one week of their account creation
  • Has a suspicious looking username

I have no doubt this will include some innocent and legitimate users in the mix, and for that I apologize. As noted above, though, I don't have a better way of dealing with all the spam right now, and drastic actions are needed to get things back in order.

If you have a legitimate need to access the site, e-mail me. I can still create accounts manually. If you want to use the forum to post a question about Universal Extractor, I recommend posting to the MSFN forum instead. A bunch of great people frequent those forums, and you're more likely to get a timely response from them then from me for the foreseeable future. For anything else, e-mail me. My address isn't that hard to find if you really need it.

Software Projects
This really isn't anything new, but just to formally announce it: for now, all Legroom.net software projects are on hiatus. This does not mean that I've abandoned them or no longer plan on working on them, just that I don't have the time and/or desire to do so right now. As I said, this isn't anything new - most of this site in general has been on hiatus for a couple of years, so not much will change. When I resume development, don't worry, I'll be sure to post an update. :-)

Legroom.net SSL Certificate Changes

Submitted by jbreland on Tue, 03/06/2012 - 23:18

The SSL certificates used by this website and other related Legroom.net services are expiring soon. As a result, I'm taking this opportunity to revamp the process I use for generating and managing my certificates. The end result will (at least I hope... ) be more flexible and easier to maintain system for me, with less interruptions necessary for my visitors going forward.

Unfortunately, this change also means that all existing Legroom.net certificates are no longer valid (if you received an error when viewing the page through an "https" link today, this is the reason). If you use the SSL version of this site or Legroom.net e-mail, you will need to update your copy of the Legroom.net certificate. In order to do so, please refer to the new Legroom.net SSL Certificates page I created. It's also available through a handy link in the Navigation menu on the left side of the site.

This page covers why I use self-signed certificates on this website, what that means to you, how Legroom.net certificates work, and how to install the Legroom.net CA certificate in a few common browsers and mail clients.

Please let me know if you encounter any problems.

Mississippi River Flood Stage Pictures, 05/06/2011

Submitted by jbreland on Mon, 05/09/2011 - 23:02

Since the near-record height and flooding of the Mississippi River is all the news these days, I figured some people might be interested in seeing some pictures. I put up a small, very basic gallery of a few photos I took of the event, along with some added commentary. These are of the river itself, from up on the Chickasaw Bluff in downtown Memphis. These were taken about four days before, and three feet below, the projected crest of the river, so I'll probably take a few more and throw them up later this week.

Feel free to view the gallery if interested.

New Versions of Modify Path and CLI Help Released

Submitted by jbreland on Sat, 04/30/2011 - 00:56

I updated my two Inno Setup support scripts. This update changes the licensing under which the scripts are available to the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL), version 3 (some discussion regarding this change can be found in my Legroom.net Copyright and Licensing post). There are also some bug fixes and enhancements included as well, which are documented in the changelogs. Upgrading is recommended.

The new versions can be downloaded from each script's home page:
Modify Path
CLI Help

Universal Extractor Download Links

Submitted by jbreland on Wed, 11/17/2010 - 00:32

I've just been notified that the download links for Universal Extractor have not been functional, returning a 404 Not Found. This was the result of an inappropriate and inexcusable action taken by the shitty webhost currently hosting these files. I will consequently likely be moving the files soon to another host. In the meantime, the download links are working again. If you notice any similar problems in the future, please e-mail me ASAP.

Yay Cables!

Submitted by jbreland on Thu, 11/11/2010 - 01:18
Home Theater Cables
Mess of cables

I'm going to be changing up my home theater setup for the first time since moving to my house. I'm still using all of the same components, but they'll be interconnected differently, with several components now routed through a video switch, which will (finally!) let me hook up all of my various components and game systems at the same time and easily switch between them as desired. This will be a nice improvement over my current setup, where only my most commonly used components are hooked up, and even switching between them can involved changing inputs on multiple devices. I'm very much looking forward to making this change.

Unfortunately, this means pretty much rewiring my entire setup, and I'm not going to lie; I have a crap ton of cables. After disconnecting everything and piling up all the cables, I was so impressed I felt the need to take a picture for posterity. Shown here are (almost) all of the cables that were piled up behind my TV. This excludes a few cables that I couldn't easily remove (like speaker cables and power cords), but otherwise... yeah, that's a lot of cables. You'll want to click on the thumbnail to view the large image for the full effect.

Now, the fun will really begin this weekend when I need to put everything back together, along with the new switch and the 6 additional sets of cables I ordered for the new interconnects. Yay!

Legroom.net Copyright and Licensing

Submitted by jbreland on Tue, 10/05/2010 - 01:15

Information regarding copyright and licensing of Legroom.net content and software has always been apart of Legroom.net, but it hasn't been available in a clear or consistent manner. I'd like to change that.

Historically, all software made available through Legroom.net has been licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), version 2. All original content on the site (posts, howtos, etc.) has been copyrighted to me, with (as the saying goes) all rights reserved. This arrangement has worked pretty well for a number of years, but there are a few deficiencies I'd like to address:

  • License information for software is generally not clearly presented, often only available in the source code itself. This has lead to numerous inquiries over the years from users and developers interested in using my software.
  • A few developers have expressed concern about my choice of the GPL for some software, as the "viral" nature of it can make it difficult to use my software with other, non-GPL software.
  • I'd like other people to be able to reuse my content (with certain limitations) where beneficial, but the default copyright noticed I've displayed doesn't make this at all clear.
    • I've been giving this a lot of thought over the last few months, and have decided to make the following changes:

      • All original content (mostly text) on Legroom.net will be available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. This basically allows the content on this site to be reused for any purpose, with two restrictions:
        • Any reuse or derivation of my work must be properly attributed
        • Any reuse or derivation must be redistributed under a similar share alike license, to ensure the work remains "free"

        Complete details can be found in the link above. The copyright notice at the bottom of all Legroom.net pages has been updated to reflect this change.

      • Unless otherwise indicated, all of my software will (eventually) be relicensed under the GNU General Public License, version 3. This license change will take place on a per-application basis as new versions are released, which is why it will likely take some time to fully complete. Additionally, license information will be added to each application's web page to make this more clearly available.
      • Inno Setup CLI Help and Modify Path (Inno Setup Pascal script) will instead be relicensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL), version 3. Since these application components are meant to be used in conjunction with other programs, the use of the GPL, as noted above, can make it difficult to incorporate into programs using non-GPL-compatible licenses. Switching to the LGPL should provide a reasonable compromise between allowing these components to be more widely used, while also preserving their freedom as much as possible. New versions of each will be released shortly to make the license change official.

      In addition to the above, I also plan on creating an "about" page at some point that contains a summary of this information, as well as contact information and other appropriate information about the website. Hopefully, all of these changes will help to make Legroom.net licensing and copyright information clearer and easier to understand, and allow my work to be more easily used by others (while keeping it free for everyone).

      Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome.

New Version of Modify Path Released

Submitted by jbreland on Sat, 08/21/2010 - 14:52

I updated the Modify Path (modpath) Inno Setup script. This is the first new feature release in three years and contains one major new feature that I've been wanted to add for nearly that whole time: support for modifying either system or user paths. All prior versions modify the system path, which requires administrative privileges. My changing just the user's path, this should now be usable in packages that can be installed by non-admin users. Changing the user's path is now the preferred approach, but you can still instruct it to modify the system path if necessary. This version also includes the ability to change the name of the 'modifypath' task if desired, as well as a couple bug fixes (the most prominent of which affects multiple directory support).

All modpath users are encouraged to update to the new version. Complete changes are listed in the ChangeLog.

Please note that this version is, unfortunately, not directly compatible with older releases and will require some small modifications to your existing Inno Setup scripts. Please see the updated usage examples on the modpath home page or within modpath.iss.

The new version can be downloaded from the script's home page:
Modify Path

It Lives!

Submitted by jbreland on Sun, 08/15/2010 - 19:33

My first[1] computer was a Packard Bell Legend 418CD, which my parents bought for me toward the end of my freshman year of high school (1995). I'd always been somewhat interested in and fascinated by computers, but it wasn't until my freshman year that I began to take a strong interest in them (mostly because one of my friends in high school, Aaron Mielke (man, I hope spelled that right) was into computers himself, but unlike me actually knew what he was doing and taught me a great deal about how they work). My Packard Bell, despite the company's general reputation for cheap/poor quality, was a fantastic system that served me well for many years. When purchased, it had the following specs:

My Packard Bell
My Packard Bell (underneath the monitor)
The Gateway (right) supplanted it in 1999
  • 75 MHz Pentium CPU
  • 8 MB FPM DRAM (or maybe 4 MB - this was upgraded quite a bit and I forget the original amount)
  • 1 GB hard drive
  • 1 MB integrated Cirrus Logic GD5430 PCI video card
  • Some funky combo SoundBlaster 16-compatible sound card and 14.4 Kbps modem
  • Two (yes, two!) 2x CD-ROM drives
  • One ubiquitous 3.5" floppy disk drive
  • 14" XGA (1024x768) monitor with some pretty fly bolt-on speakers

This was a pretty pimpin' system back in 1995. It came with Windows for Workgroups 3.11 and MS-DOS 6.2, and although Windows 95 had been released a couple months earlier, I was perfectly happy with 3.11 as I really didn't like the new interface in 95 at the time (in fact, I didn't upgrade to 95 until 1998, and even then only because Final Fantasy VII PC required it, and I really wanted to play Final Fantasy VII). Retrospectively, I'm still glad it came with 3.11 because it gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about DOS and pre-95 versions of Windows that I otherwise would've missed out on.

I was really into gaming at the time, and was able to play any game I wanted on it at the time and, after some upgrades, for years to come (the last major games I can remember playing on it were Half-life and Final Fantasy VII, which were certainly not lightweight games). It served as my primary (and only) computer until the summer of 1999, when it was replaced by my Gateway P500 (Pentium III 500). By that time, my Packard Bell had been upgraded numerous times to include:

  • 133 MHz Pentium CPU
  • 40 MB FPM DRAM
  • 2 GB hard drive
  • 16 MB Creative Labs 3D Blaster Banshee PCI video card (3dfx Voodoo Banshee)
  • Creative Labs SoundBlaster AWE 64
  • 56 Kbps modem
  • Kingston KNE20BT 10 Mbps ISA NIC
  • 8x CD-ROM drive

I pretty much upgraded it as far as I possibly could, short of replacing the motherboard. After it was displaced by my Gateway in 1999, it still served a number of functions in the following years:

  1. Home computer for my parents/sister for a couple years
  2. Test box for experimenting with Linux
  3. Router/firewall for my home network, running Linux and OpenBSD at different times

This box stayed on router/firewall firewall duty all the way until 2005 or 2006, when I replaced it with a Linksys WRT54G. Getting eleven years of productive use out of a computer is an awesome accomplishment, and I was actually rather sad when I shut the thing down for good a few years ago. I simply had no other use for it at the time, so into the closet it went.

Well, fast-forward to a couple weeks ago when I pulled it out along with a couple other old computers I'd acquired to scavenge for some parts for a project I was working on. Of the three computers, my Packard Bell was by far the best maintained, still in the best shape, and the only one that was still fully functional. When I powered it on it even booted up to OpenBSD, still ready for firewall duty after all these years. :-)

I was actually so proud of it, after I finished the particular project I was working on I decided to fully revive it once more as a DOS/Win 3.11 test/play box. Granted, it serves no real useful purpose, but at fifteen years old it's still doing everything I ask of it. The most recent set of changes and upgrades included:

  • back to the integrated 1 MB PCI video card - I stupidly gave my Banshee away to an ex-girlfriend long ago
  • The 8x CD-ROM drive was dead, and the original 2x drive, while it still worked, could not read CD-RW discs, so I swapped it out for a 24x4x4 cd burner (which was the oldest/slowest drive I had that would read CD-RW discs)
  • 3com 3c905c 100 Mbps PCI NIC
  • 5.25" floppy disk drive - used to copy data off of some really old floppies I still had from elementary school
  • I replaced the system fan with a brand new one - the original had developed a nasty vibration

At this point, the box is up and running better than ever. I've had a good time fixing it up again, and given the history involved I thought I'd share this experience with my readers. Hope you enjoyed.

Also, I have another, related retrolicious post coming soon, so keep an eye out for it.

  • [1] Technically this is not the first computer we had in my home, but rather my first computer, and the first computer I had that I knew what to do with. Prior to this, we had a Commodore 64, but this was just a game machine to my brother and myself, and I was far too young (~4) to know what else could be done with it anyway. Sometime after that my parents purchased what I believe to be a 386-based PC when I was around eight, but no one in my family knew how to use it for anything more than running WordPerfect Jr., and even that required consulting a set of instructions every time we used it.